A Last Minute DIY Valentine Gift You Can Whip Up in 1 Minute!

Sugar Scrub 1 Minute Homemade Gift midweststoryteller.com

If ever a holiday had a tendency to sneak up on you unexpectedly, it’s Valentine’s Day.  Somehow, when Christmas is over and the last Happy New Year is wished, we tend to hunker down for winter and take on the attitude that there won’t be a single bright spot in our lives until spring.

So, I’m wondering, are you ready for it?

I know, I know.  So much is said about how commercialized Valentine’s Day has become and how it was given a big build-up by the retail world in order to suck us all in to their stores so they could empty our pockets, leaving us to stagger out in a daze wondering if we’d just done too much or too little when all we really wanted was to say, “I love you”, or “You’re special to me.” We resist the nudge to fall into such traps, but let’s ask ourselves one thing – What could be better than a special day to remind us (because we so often forget) to offer someone a loving gesture?

I love old-fashioned, sappy Valentines.  Here are some that I’ve made and you can see more about that here.

Handmade Victorian Valentines midweststoryteller.com

A card will do just fine, but as for gifts, I love to give a few special people a simple token of affection without going on a spending spree.  Let’s face it, a homemade gift always means more and if you go overboard you can send the person you’re trying to bless on a guilt trip if they think they need to reciprocate.  Or, even worse, you’ll start that horror of horrors – the yearly contest to see who can outdo the other – an uncomfortable situation that empties everyone’s bank account and does little to fill the heart.

Homemade Sugar Scrub midweststoryteller.com

If you’re feeling a twinge of panic and wishing you had a few tokens of affection to offer, try making this homemade sugar scrub.  You’ll have it whipped up in one minute and have nothing left to do but fashion a cute tag declaring that the gift is “Because You Are So Sweet”!  I wish I could remember where I found this great idea and recipe so I could give credit where credit is due, but it’s been a while and a Pinterest search is not bringing it back to me, so I have no idea.  If anyone can send me the info or a link to it, I’m happy to include it here.

Homemade Sugar Scrub Ingredients midweststoryteller.com

If you have a stash of stuff like I do, you probably won’t even have to leave the house for supplies.  You’ll need a mixing bowl, spatula, small jars, extra virgin coconut oil, white table sugar, 5-10 drops fragrance oil  (rose or lavender is nice), red food coloring, ribbon and/or fabric scraps, paper tags, cardstock you can fashion into tags or, better yet, the FREE PRINTABLE TAGS you’ll find at the end of this post!  This recipe made three gifts, but it all depends on the size of your containers.  Clear ones are best, because the sugar scrub is really pretty!

Instructions: 

With a spatula, blend ½ cup extra virgin coconut oil, 1 ½ to 2 cups white sugar, 5-10 drops fragrance oil and five drops food coloring together in a mixing bowl.  Fill jars and add a cute tag or label. 

I hope you didn’t nod off during that lengthy description.  Coconut oil softens at 76 degrees Fahrenheit, so if your work area is colder than that you may have to put the bowl in the microwave for a few seconds to bring it to the point where it mixes easily.

I got into my Printmaster program and designed a tag that suited the look I wanted to achieve.  You can always make this quick gift for a birthday or any other occasion by using different colors of food coloring and changing the look of your tags or labels. Again, I used various jars, ribbon scraps and bags I had on hand.

Sugar Scrubs in Varied Jars midweststoryteller.com

Why give sugar scrub, other than the fact that scrubs are popular and can be expensive?  My main concern was whether or not they are good for you or pose some sort of health risk or cause skin damage.  I am not your doctor or your licensed skin care specialist, so I am only passing on a little of what I know in order to help you continue with your own research.

What I discovered in my limited studies is that some body and facial scrubs are not so good for you.  Their exfoliating ingredients range from nut shells to polymer beads to salt and sugar.  Let’s face it, exfoliating feels wonderful!  However, nut shells and other ground matter have sharp edges and who wants to be scratched?  Polymer beads are round and smooth and leave the skin much more intact, but they’ve been found to last forever, making their way into the rivers and oceans and harming marine life.  As for salt, it’s a great option, but the edges of salt crystals are still sharper than that of sugar and it may not be what you want for use on delicate areas of the body or if you have sensitive skin.

That leaves sugar!  While I would recommend removing as much of it from your diet as possible, I’m giving it my approval , so far, as a scrub.  The coconut oil is just about the most wonderful thing you can put on your skin and the combination will leave you soft, moisturized and much, much smoother.

A natural source of glycolic acid, sugar already contains the ingredient that a lot of over-the-counter, spas and dermatologists offer to remove dead skin cells and encourage cellular turnover.  It’s an alpha hydroxy acid, and since your homemade scrub is mild, it will be safe to use a couple of times a week in the evenings.  Some stronger formulas, available in stores and from spas and professionals, will recommend wearing a sunscreen if using alpha hydroxyy acid formulas during the day.  You can read more about that in this article from Huffington Post here.

Sugar is also a natural humectant, meaning that it draws moisture from the air into your skin – and that’s a good thing.

Some scrubs can do your skin more harm than good and you can learn more about that in this article from The Sidney Morning Herald.  More info, including safe recipes for sugar scrubs that include honey, avocado oil and other natural ingredients can be found in this ETimes article.

If someone needs to hear you say, “This is for you, ‘because you are so sweet!’”, homemade sugar scrub might just be the perfect token of your affection.

Now for those FREE printable tags – just click below and you have a whole sheet of tags that you can print on cardstock. Attach a pretty ribbon and tie to your jars of sugar scrub! Could I have made it any easier, folks?

Free Printable Banner Sugar Scrub Gift Tags midweststoryteller.com

Questions?  Comments?  I’m happy to chat, because you are so sweet!

Winter’s Last Stand

Laughter is the Sun midweststoryteller.com

As winter lifts her white robes and moves around the stage prior to her big exit, the audience here in the Midwest is waving the back of its hand at her to shoo her behind the curtain and out the stage door before they give way to applause.

Nevertheless, we cannot deny her beauty at times.  She does put on some stunning performances to help us tolerate the bleak tragedies that seem to play out day after frozen, cold day.

When a heavy snow falls, creating an etching from the usual blur of the woods behind our house, we do have to stop and view it as a winter paradise.

Snowy Woods midweststoryteller.com

Branches laden with heavy snow droop down to display their beauty right at eye level, begging us to take a few moments to notice that they’ve turned to lace.

Snow Laden Branches midweststoryteller.com

I hate winter.  My preference would be to have beautiful fall colors and jacket weather right up until dusk on Christmas Eve, at which time around two inches of snowfall would blanket the earth, bringing a respectful hush over all creation.  Then, just to be fair, I’d allow it to do it’s thing right up until January 2nd and then we’d all go back to sunshine and jackets again.

Though we long for outdoor activities and that roasty-toasty feeling of the sun warming our backs as we bend over new growth in flower beds, our last round of snow reminded us that we will be waiting a little while for those joys.

We'll Swing Later midwetstoryteller.com

It’s difficult for me to feel like I’m thriving in winter.  At times, it takes its toll.  There are only so many gray days I can take in a row before a gloomy mood sets in.  Phoebe June’s antics keep me cheery, along with outings for lunch with friends or Smuffy on decent days and a stack of giggle-inducing P. G. Wodehouse books.

There have been winters that left me feeling like I’ve taken a hit – a bit like our big pine tree is feeling right now.

Broken Snowy Pine midweststoryteller.com

Like the tree, I suppose it might do me good to have some weak areas fall away to allow light and air enter and new growth to fill in the empty places when spring arrives.

Even now, as I conclude these observations, I realize what a terrific writer I must be, because if I can romanticize this awful stuff, I can romanticize anything!  I’ve spent this afternoon writing, ignoring the fact that there is an ice storm warning going on out there!

Upon hearing Smuffy’s truck in the driveway just now, I left my lair to greet him.  He entered the back door, telling me he’d just had a bit of excitement.  He’d parked the truck at the top of our driveway’s hill in hopes of being able to leave for work in the morning and while moving the car out of range of an ice-laden tree limb that made him a little nervous, he heard a scrunching sound.

We’re blessed that he’d parked the truck with the wheels turned, because it missed the car, three trees and Smuffy as it slid all the way down the driveway and into the neighbors’ yard.  If a fallen limb left over from the last round of nasty weather hadn’t stopped it, who knows where it might have ended up! I could use another chapter of Wodehouse after that.

Ice Skating Truck midweststoryteller.com

My little afternoon romantic fling with winter’s beauty is over now.  It’s lost its appeal again and it’s time for a break-up!  It’s time for SPRING! 

To all my readers who live in winter’s grip – hang in there!  Try to think of March as only days away.

To all my hyacinths – you should have listened last week when I told you to pull your heads back below ground because those two sixty degree days were just a cruel joke!

Need a spring preview to chase away the gray? Take a tour through my garden in full bloom here!

If the gloom requires a good laugh, make a cup of tea and settle down with the stories on my “Life With Smuffy” page. You’ll feel better in no time. He isn’t the only one who’s here to entertain – the “Laugh” page has more!

Questions?  Comments?  Click on “Leave a comment”.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on winter, wherever you live!

Love (and a Freebie) is in the Air!

Welcome to February!  I love gift-giving and I wish I could send this First Friday Freebie out to all my subscribers as my Valentine to you.  Ah, if only…

But, I can send it out, as always, to the winner of the February drawing!

Let’s take a look –

Love Deeply Plaque miidweststoryteller.com

During this month when we celebrate love and take special time out to tell people how much they mean to us, this wooden plaque serves as a great reminder.  It measures 5.91”X7.87” and has a hinged easel attached so you’ll be able to tuck it in amongst the décor on your mantle or anywhere else you choose.

I love that it is not “seasonal”.  After all, love never goes out of style or out of season, does it?  You can display it year round and it will add a great “farmhouse touch” to your home’s décor.

Roaming through aisles of home décor never goes out of style either and I hope you enjoy this Hobby Lobby find.

To enter to win the “Love Deeply” plaque, all you need to do is “Leave a Comment” on this post, saying, “I LOVE First Friday Freebies!”  You’ll need to do that before midnight TONIGHT, February 1st, 2019!

First Friday Freebies are for email SUBSCRIBERS ONLY, so if you’ve not become a subscriber to Midwest Storyteller yet, give yourself a little love gift by heading over to the right sidebar or using the menu to get to the “Contact Me” page and subscribe if you haven’t done so already.

Share Midwest Storyteller with all your friends and family through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest so they can enter to win and begin enjoying all the great stories, recipes, tips for healthy living, product reviews and more!

Subscribers win every single month!  Visit the “Freebies” page to see what they’ve been winning.

Once again, a winner will be chosen at random from those subscribers who enter before midnight tonight by leaving a comment which says, “I LOVE First Friday Freebies!”

And now, here are the complete rules: 

Freebie Rules www.midweststoryteller.com

Four simple steps!

The clock is ticking!  Subscribe if you haven’t already, confirm in your email and comment to enter before midnight tonight, February 1st

Enjoy this sparkling winter month by letting those you love know just how special they are to you.  Hint:  This First Friday Freebie would make a great gift for your Valentine!

Happy National Hot Chocolate Day!

Be Still Hot Chocolate midweststoryteller.com

I’ll be honest. If the super bowl failed to take place, I probably wouldn’t know it until I got out and about and some grief-stricken fan informed me and even at that, I’d give it a shrug, try my best to register sympathy and concern and force myself to say, “Really? Oh, my!”

But they had better not cancel National Hot Chocolate Day! I’m into this one – big time! I can hear your shouts of “Amen!” to that. It gives us all permission to stop, smell the cocoa and just be still for a bit while we enjoy that mug (or, in my case, tankard, says Smuffy) of smooth chocolate wonderfulness.

But what about those of us who are watching the waistline or those who have come to the realization that, if we care about our health, sugar has got to go?

Celebrate with me! Follow this link to my original post entitled, “Did Someone Say Chocolate” for a healthy version of Not Apologizin’ Hot Chocolate that those of us who love that deep, dark chocolate flavor will fall in love with.

Speaking of love, within that post is a great recipe for Eat ‘Em All Chocolate Covered Strawberries – another way to indulge without the sugar and without sacrificing yummy flavor. This recipe will carry you through Valentine’s Day without the guilt.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries and a Cup of Tea www.midweststoryteller.com

Click on the FREE PRINTABLE banner at the bottom of the original post and you’ll be able to easily print those out to add to your recipe collection.

I’m off now to find my tankard and indulge. In case you’re a little foggy on where to begin, let me show you the ingredients that will help you get the most out of National Hot Chocolate Day –

Hot Chocolate and Kitten Time www.midweststoryteller.com

That’s right! All you need to make your day complete:

  1. Cozy Chair
  2. Furry Throw
  3. One Tankard (or maybe two) Not Apologizin’ Hot Chocolate
  4. One Sleepy Kitten

Gather your supplies and enjoy!

SUBSCRIBE NOW – First Friday Freebie Day is on the way for subscribers only!

Creamy Leek Soup with Chicken and Sweet Potato – an Two-time Award Winner!

Bowl of Creamy Leek Soup midweststoryteller.com

For those of you who read my earlier post about this fabulous soup but never took the time to stir up a batch – this is for you!

Each year for the last six years, I enter a soup in a contest that our church sponsors for the benefit of the area food bank. Soups – LOTS of soups – are judged (rather scientifically, I must say) on taste/flavor/texture, appearance, Originality/Creativity, Appeal (Would a wide variety of the general population want to try this soup?) and Aroma. “Golden” (but most certainly not food safe) ladles are awarded to the top five soups. Then, the soups are served to the throng of two hundred or so salivating soup lovers at $5 per cup for the winners and $1 per cup for all the others. I’ve taken home five golden ladles so far.

So, what can I say? I am some sort of Soup Queen, I suppose. Just don’t ask me to make gravy. I mean that – never let me make the gravy!

This year, I decided to re-enter my soup that won five years ago. I invented this soup just after I made changes to my eating plan that included getting all sugars and grains out of my diet, so if you are looking for gluten-free recipes that won’t make you feel that you are missing out on a thing – this one’s for you! It’s a winner twice over for a very good reason. It is fabulous!

The original post gives detailed instructions on how to make Creamy Leek Soup with Chicken and Sweet Potato here, and it also offers a free printable recipe so check it out and, by all means, make a batch!

I did have a friend tell me that she used a substitute for the cream to accommodate her dairy-free diet and still her husband said it was the best soup he’d ever eaten in his life!

Here I am, honored to stand with the other winners (minus Larry, who somehow wandered off just before the announcement).

All the great recipes on my Feed Me! page come with free printables, so you can put them all in a notebook and try them out soon. I do my best to offer you healthy recipes that won’t make you feel deprived or overworked.

We are due to have a high temperature here tomorrow of 4 degrees. Sounds like soup weather to me!

Happy cooking!


Welcome to Timber Hill – Beans! (with a little cornbread)

Timber Hill Beans midweststoryteller.com

I promised to share this “award winning” recipe.  I believe it was back when the trees were shedding their leaves of red and gold.  Lately they’ve been laden with heavy snow – perfect weather to cozy up with some real comfort food and a bean story!

This recipe is an old favorite for my family.  I found the original in one of those tiny booklets that came with the old-style Crock-pots.  You know the kind I mean – the tall, skinny crock that did not lift away from the heating base, making it very difficult to clean.  Their thermostats seemed to come with unexplained variances.  My mom’s didn’t seem to have a LOW setting.  It just boiled away no matter how you adjusted the knob while mine, on the same setting, would make you wait a couple of days for your dinner. 

That little book contained an entry that did little to tempt the imagination or the palate.  It offered up, simply, the “One Pot Dinner”.  I’d never tried the recipe because, frankly, it just didn’t strike a chord within my romantic nature.  I’m the “Anne of Green Gables” type and am inclined to agree with her theories on naming things.  (Example:  Why call it Barry’s Pond when you can call it The Lake of Shining Waters?)

I have always been this way.

Anyhow, a dear friend of mine, upon hearing me say that I’d been in one of those moods that leaves me only two options – escape for a change of pace or give in to a crying jag – took pity on me and offered the use of her cabin in the woods.  It may not have been a villa perched on the Italian coastline, but it had three gleaming attractions.  It was free.  It had indoor plumbing.  It wasn’t my house.  I jumped at the offer.

Welcome to Timber Hill midweststoryteller.com

I got excited.  I wanted to crawl into Timber Hill and forget about the rest of the world. Our daughter would take a friend.  There would be no TV and one emergency cell phone.  We’d play a few board games. Smuffy would fish, explore and read books.  I would read and take naps. 

Comfy and Cozy Cabin midweststoryteller.com

Ahh!  Thanks, DeDe, for the memories (and the sanity check).

The last thing I wanted was to make endless trips to town for restaurant meals or supplies.  I started charting meals like a paid planner.  I wanted everything we ate to fit in with that log cabin feel.  We would make homemade pancakes.  I’d take homemade cinnamon rolls along to warm.  Cornbread sounded good.  For a main dish that would leave us lots of great-tasting leftovers, I wanted something special – something new.  Research led me back to the lack-luster little Crock-pot book.

If these beans, which sounded like they had possibilities, were going along on my grand adventure, they simply couldn’t go as the “One Pot Dinner”.  I re-named them “Timber Hill Beans” and they were a huge hit, especially with Smuffy.  In all the years we were graciously invited to spend our fall retreat at Timber Hill, we never left home without the namesake beans.

When our church began to sponsor an annual “Souper Bowl of Caring” as a benefit for the area food bank, they asked for soup – a lot of soup.  People brought in slow-cookers full of deliciousness in hopes of taking home a golden ladle in a contest for top soups.

Smuffy gave me a meaningful look and prophesied, “If you take Timber Hill Beans, you’ll win!”

“You think so?”  I hadn’t given much thought to entering the contest and I’d never really thought of those thick, hearty Timber Hill Beans as “soup”.

“I know so!”  He seemed certain of it.

I did come home with a golden ladle, thanks to Timber Hill Beans and Smuffy’s encouragement!

I can’t help but wonder, though, if “One Pot Dinner” would have ranked a little lower with the judges.

You may remember our educational and slightly embarrassing discussion on the subject of beans.  You can refresh your memory here.  Along with tips on cooking beans and avoiding their after-effects, I shared my own recipe for “Hearty, Healthy, Homemade Pork and Beans”.  You’ll find a free printable recipe in the post. I now use these in my Timber Hill Beans to avoid the mushiness that usually results from overcooking canned beans, not to mention all the sugar and other nonsense that the canned versions contain. You can prepare these and the bacon a day or two before assembling this recipe.  If you choose not to follow this simple, from-scratch step, you’ll need to substitute 4 (14 ounce) cans of pork ‘n beans and use care to avoid over-cooking them. 

The other beans in this recipe are also not of the canned variety.  If you absolutely do not want to rinse and soak your beans, you can use one can of kidney beans and one can of butter beans (drained and rinsed), but – I promise – you’ll be happier with the end results if you avoid the cans.

Preparing Dried Beans midweststoryteller.com

If you’re planning meals and feeding supper to hungry people, the best way is to brown the meat, prep the bacon and pork and beans a day or two before.  Then, soak the beans overnight, get up in the morning dump everything into the Crock-pot, set it on LOW and don’t give it another thought until supper other than checking it when you get home to see if you need to adjust it to the WARM setting.

Let’s get cooking!

Timber Hill Beans midweststoryteller.com

Timber Hill Beans

Ingredients:

1 pound ground beef or venison

1/2 pound uncured bacon, baked on a broiler pan in a 200-250 degree oven for about an hour.  (Should not be crispy, but have the better portion of the fat cooked out.)

1 cup chopped onion

1 recipe Hearty, Healthy, Homemade Pork and Beans (or 4 (14-ounce) cans pork ‘n beans

3/4 cup red kidney beans, rinsed and soaked overnight

3/4 cup butter beans, rinsed and soaked overnight

1 cup catsup

1/4 cup palm sugar or raw honey

1 Tablespoon liquid smoke (or to taste)

1/4 cup white vinegar

1 Tablespoon Celtic sea salt

Instructions:

Drain beans and rinse well.  Brown ground meat and onion in skillet.  Drain off fat.  Cut bacon into one inch pieces.  Place all ingredients in slow cooker.  Stir well.

Cover and cook on LOW for 5-9 hours or on HIGH for 3 hours.  LOW is best in order to avoid sticking.

Makes 14 cups.

Over the years, I’ve tweaked this recipe to take out refined sugars, avoid mushy canned beans and bring it to “golden ladle standards”, so please comment and let me know how you like it.

Normally, I steer away from adding corn to our diets anymore, mostly for the reasons given in this article by Dr. Axe and at the advice of my holistic M.D.  Once in a while, however, Smuffy says the occasion calls for cornbread, I give in and we cheat.  I’m giving you my Gluten-free cornbread recipe which includes a dry mix that you can whip up in a “jiffy”, if you get my drift.  (Perhaps you don’t if that little item is available only here in the Midwest.)  I hate having my cupboards full of endless little boxes and packets and feeling like I have to run to the store for something as simple as cornbread mix.  Years ago, I figured out the secret to that little box mix everyone uses and I’m sharing it with you today.

A word about buttermilk:  Smuffy and I often have differences of opinion on foods, but on buttermilk, we agree.  We hate the stuff!  It does make a fabulous batch of pancakes or cornbread, but we always had to throw out the leftovers.  Keeping a dry buttermilk mix on hand solves the problem beautifully.  Grocery stores will most likely have Saco“ Buttermilk Blend” in their baking section and if you can find a way to order in bulk, you can get a great price on a one-pound bag of buttermilk powder from Frontier Co-op Wholesale Store, where they have member and non/member pricing.  They both keep well on the back bottom shelf of the refrigerator for what seems like forever.

Gluten-Free Cornbread or Corn Muffins

(You may use all-purpose wheat flour rather than corn flour in these recipes.  If so, omit the xanthan gum and one of the eggs.  This option will, of course, not be gluten-free.)

Ingredients:

1 cup yellow organic, non-GMO cornmeal

1 cup organic, non-GMO corn flour

1/4 cup dry buttermilk powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon Celtic sea salt

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup water

1/4 cup raw honey

2 tablespoons melted butter

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.    

Mix dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.  Stir in the beaten eggs, water, honey and melted butter, mixing just until there are no dry areas.

Pour into greased muffin tins or a 9″X9″ baking pan.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes.  Remove from pan immediately.

Now for that mix to keep help you whip up things in a “jiffy”.

Cornbread Mix for Recipes in a “Jiffy”

Mix the following ingredients together and in a “jiffy”,you’ll have the equivalent of the commonly used boxed mix.

1/2 cup yellow organic, non-GMO cornmeal

1/2 cup organic, non-GMO corn flour

2 Tablespoons dry buttermilk powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt

1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

Add 2 Tablespoons raw honey to the recipe’s wet ingredients.

Thanks to the great folks at Crock-Pot.com for the original “One Pot Dinner” recipe and for all the improvements to the Crock-pot over the years.  The newer versions, with their removable crockery, warming features, digital settings and – best of all – those clamp-on lids that put an end to nasty spills in the car have made life so much easier.  Check out their latest products here. Hey there, sports fans! They even have NFL logo pots!

I confess to having four slow-cookers. My new favorite is this in-between size I found one day out flea-marketing. I like to think of it as a casserole. I find myself using it all the time.

Medium Crock-pot midweststoryteller.com

Click below for your free printable for Timber Hill Beans and Gluten-free Cornbread!

Free Printable Recipe Banner midweststoryteller.com

Today, I am linking up with Weekend Potluck at The Country Cook, so be sure to check out all the great recipes there!

Looking for more delicious soups?  Keep it super-simple and impress your family with another “Golden Ladle Winner”, Creamy Leek Soup with Chicken and Sweet Potato.

If you prefer biscuits over cornbread, check out my Zesty Pumpkin Soup which comes with a bonus recipe for Billy’s Biscuits.  This savory soup is not what you’re expecting!

Questions?  Comments?  “Leave a Comment”.  And why not SUBSCRIBE, so you’ll receive an email reminder each time Midwest Storyteller has something new.

2019’s First First Friday Freebie Winner!

Sometimes it pays to speak up!  The squeaky wheel gets the grease – right?

That’s how this month’s First Friday Freebie winner managed to enter the drawing!

Let’s meet –  

Freebie Winner Carol midweststoryteller.com

Carol from Boonville, Missouri!

Carol contacted me to say that she’d been having trouble trying to subscribe to the blog.  She’d wanted to enter the drawing for the freebie, but hadn’t been able to get her subscription to go through, receive her confirmation email, confirm through the email and so on.

I told her to fear not, give it another try, and if for some reason I still didn’t see her pop up as a subscriber, I would be sure to put her name into the drawing along with everyone else who entered.

I’m not going to exclude anyone who’s trying on account of a technicality.

Technology – marvelous when it’s working – maddening when it’s not!

This has happened to a couple of other people and I only know this, of course, because they contacted me and let me know.  I have no way of knowing how many others may have had the same experience but didn’t speak up, so if this has happened to you, please email me at barb@midweststoryteller.com and let me know.

It all paid off in the end for Carol, because when Smuffy reached in, he plucked her name out of all the others! I can also see now that her subscription went through as it should.

Congratulations, Carol!  I hope you enjoy your necklace!

Here’s a close-up view of the handmade paper necklace Carol won.

Paper Jewelry midweststoryteller.com

I know it looks like metal under glass, but it’s not! “Paper Jewelry” is a unique creation of mine. If you’d like to see the original freebie offer and get a better description, click here.

I’ve given away lots of great gifts, so check out the freebie page to see what people have been winning here.

 Subscribe now so you can be ready for February’s drawing.  It’ll be a freebie you’ll love!

The next First Friday Freebie drawing will be on Friday, February 1, 2019 and only SUBSCRIBERS can win (and, of course, those who are trying their doggoned-est)!

A winner will be chosen at random from those subscribers who enter before midnight on the day of the drawing by leaving a comment as instructed in the post.  See the recently revised rules below.

And now, here are the Freebie Rules.

Freebie Rules www.midweststoryteller.com

Follow these four simple steps and subscribe now.  Then, you’ll be ready for February 1st.

“Share”, “like” and “pin”  this post!  You’re friends will want to enter to win, too!

Have an opinion on the Freebies?  Leave a comment!  If you’re on your computer, scroll back up under the title of this post and let me know what you’re thinking.  On various devices, you may find “Leave a Comment” at the bottom of the post.

Fresh New Freebie for a Fresh New Year!

My cogs have been turning.  My creativity seems to kick in and do double-time over the holidays and for my January First Friday Freebie, I wanted to offer you one of my recent works of art.

Not every creative idea of mine is a hit, as they say, “first crack out of the box”.  There are days when I feel like the Queen of the Do-overs.  This one, however, turned out great the first time!  So, (…drumroll…)  I now present my latest invention –

Paper Jewelry! 

I know, I know – you’re thinking, “Paper?  No Way!”  I’ve been brooding on this idea for months and I’ve searched online many times, thinking that some pioneer must have already blazed the trail, but I found absolutely nothing, even on Pinterest, that resembled the materials, techniques or results I was hoping would give me the type of thing I envisioned.

There are two reasons for my vision in the first place.  One is that I compulsively invent things in my head all the time and then can’t resist piddling with them.  The other is that I hate heavy jewelry, especially earrings, but I love big jewelry.

Finally, I had to ask myself one of those questions like, “If I were paper jewelry, how would I be made?” 

The results are these beautiful cut-out pieces, specially treated so that you’ll never believe they are made of paper.  The appearance is more like metal or wood under glass.  Their featherweight quality is only discovered when you reach out and touch!

Are they durable, you ask? I’ve been pleased with how sturdy my technique has made the end product. I wouldn’t recommend sleeping in this type of jewelry, but I think it will do as well as much of the other costume jewelry found in stores (some of which I could crush in my bare hands even though they were metal or plastic).

I couldn’t wait to give this one to you as January’s First Friday Freebie!  This pendant is around 1 ¾ inches with a 16-18 inch chain.  I know you’re going to love the patina that gives it the somewhat the look of aged copper under glass.  Though the cut-out areas may look open in the photo, they are not.  They are filled, yet crystal clear!

To enter to win the paper pendant, all you need to do is “Leave a Comment” on this post, saying, “I’m ready for a brand new freebie!”  You’ll need to do that before midnight TONIGHT, January 4th, 2019!

First Friday Freebies are for email SUBSCRIBERS ONLY, so if you’ve not become a subscriber to Midwest Storyteller yet, give yourself a another free gift by heading over to the right sidebar or using the menu to get to the “Contact Me” page and subscribe if you haven’t done so already.

Share this blog with all your friends and family through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or by copying the link into an email so they can enter to win and begin enjoying everything else on the blog as well!

Subscribers win every single month!  Take a look at past freebies on the “Freebies” page to see what they’ve been winning.

If you’d like to take a look at some of the other creative ideas here on my blog, check out my “Create!” page!

Once again, a winner will be chosen at random from those subscribers who enter before midnight tonight by leaving a comment which says, “I’m ready for a brand new freebie!”

And now, here are the complete rules: 

Freebie Rules www.midweststoryteller.com

Four simple steps!

Don’t delay!  Time is running out!  Subscribe if you haven’t already, confirm in your email and comment to enter before midnight tonight, December 7th

I pray you have a marvelous, fabulous, bright, happy and prosperous New Year!  And for one of you, may it start off with a First Friday Freebie!

The Phoebe June Diaries: (Stolen Entries #2) Holiday Hits and Misses

Ever wondered what sort of vibes your pets pick up on during the holidays?  At times, they seem to know that something’s up – something’s different.  Well, wonder no longer – Phoebe June’s diary has the blow-by-blow.

She’s now experienced her second Christmas and as I peek into her ponderings, see that she finds the holiday season full of ups and downs regardless of whether she’s a tiny puff-ball or a full grown epitome of feline perfection. Shortly after her adoption, she became aware of a certain something special in the air.  Here are a few of her thoughts along with some photo art you and the kiddos might enjoy.

Phoebe Warm Phuzzies midweststoryteller.com

Friday, December 8, 2017

Mommy and I played so many games and toys when I got ‘dopted that I had to take naps and naps so I could grow fine and fancy.

Best Naps Ever midweststoryteller.com

She told me that Jesus was having a birthday and she had to do sneaky stuff so after she’d snuggle me to sleep, I’d finish my naps on the furry thing. I hoped I wouldn’t miss the big day, but Mommy said I’d get a special feeling and know when it happened because He was the one who made me so furry and cute and made sure I didn’t turn out to be a dog. I’m already liking this holiday.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017:

Yesterday, Mommy left me all alone and I cried. I cried a lot until I fell asleep. When she came home, she said I had accessories. Whatever they are, they had a funny smell so I sat on them and today she got me all accessorized and ready for the road. I thought we were going Christmas shopping.

We didn’t. We visited a man called Doctor Fray. He was nice and thought I was ‘dorable, but he smelled like all kinds of critters. It worried me at first but after a little bit I got bored and konked out on his table – most boring place ever and no special Christmas feeling here. Before I knew what was happening he gave me a pill and did a bad thing he called taking my temperature. It didn’t give me a warm and cozy Christmas feeling and next year I think I’ll give it a miss.

Phoebe's Not Shopping midweststoryteller.com

Thursday, December 14, 2017:

It got all snowy and blowy out the windows today and cold air whooshed my nose when Daddy came in and went out. Mommy calls it winter weather, but I don’t think it’s for kittens. Giving this part of Christmas a miss.

Wake Me in Spring midweststoryteller.com

Friday, December 15, 2017:

Mommy says if you don’t work out you’ll get a Christmas pudge so I went along to visit Gym. Since Dr. Fray says I only weigh a couple of pounds myself, I don’t know what she expected me to do with Gym’s toys, so I think I’ll settle for the pudge. All Gym’s people thought I was cute as a button and gave me treats, so it was a hit after all.

How Strong You Are midweststoryteller.com

After Gym, we picked up lunch for Daddy from some nice people who just hand the smelly stuff out in bags if you ask them nice. It was a hit with me and I gave the lady my best Christmas smile. She seemed surprised. I don’t know why – I smile at everybody.

Drive Thru Kitten midweststoryteller.com

Saturday, December 16, 2017:

We went to a birthday party – not Jesus’ party – one for Mommy’s and Daddy’s other sweetie-pie. They had a nice furry thing and that was a hit, but they told me afterward that they set their treats on fire before they ate them and if they do that again next year, I’m giving it a miss.

Kitten Call 911 midweststoryteller.com

Monday, December 18, 2017:

Time (whatever that is) is running out, Mommy says, and that’s why we couldn’t snuggle much today. A kitten has to do what a kitten has to do. I’d rather have Mommy and give this new kid a miss.

No Creature Stirring midweststoryteller.com

When I woke up Mommy was wrapping boxes. That crinkly stuff is a hit with me! I tried to get onto the table where the action was, but for some reason I got in trouble with Mommy.

Furry Helper midweststoryteller.com

Wednesday, December 20, 2017:

Whatever hustle and bustle means, it keeps Mommy hopping. It’s a hit with me, though, ‘cause new stuff happens every minute, like boxes just my size, runs for the border and baskets of warm laundry.

Phoebe's Great Day midweststoryteller.com

Sunday, December 24, 2017

You never know about Daddy. He says it’s Christmas Eve and that’s special. One minute, we’re snuggling in the chair with our feet up. A kitten could get a cramp doing it like he does. The next minute he’s plunking me right into the cold, white stuff. There are some days I’m not sure Mommy should let him watch me!

Snow Kitten midweststoryteller.com

Monday, December 25, 2017:

Christmas came today and Mommy was right – I could feel it.

Christmas Kitten midweststoryteller.com

I sniffed specialness (and a roast duck) in the air all day! I got toys and treats and that was a hit. I heard people say that that when there was no room for Jesus He got to have His birthday in a stable with all the animals and that they all got to talk that day and tell Him how special He was. The stable cat must have been what they call an ancestor of mine because I come from a long line of talkers who put the Mew in Mewey Christmas!

In the last year, Phoebe June has grown into a shining and elegant example of cathood.  Her catitudes fluctuate wildly between those of that small kitten of a year ago to those of a demanding adolescent who’s convinced that parental standards are archaic and unnecessary. 

She had, of course, strong opinions during the 2018 Christmas season and they mirror, to a degree, those of the previous year.  I managed to snatch three snippets from her diary.

Thursday, November 29, 2018:

Mommy has ignored me off and on since Thanksgiving, but I’m forgiving her because she’s filled the whole place with wiggly, crinkly, rustly toys and the best one is this thing she thinks is a real tree but it’s not.  She even put a special blanky under it for me to nap on so all I have to do is reach up and pull off the pretties I want!  This thing is a HIT!  Why they distract me with that stupid squirt bottle is a mystery, but you never can tell with Mommy and Daddy.  Wish they’d give that thing a miss – it’s messing up my whole holiday season.

Comfort and Joy midweststoryteller.com

Monday, December 14, 2018:

Awesomeness popped out of a big box today and I got one of my Christmas presents early.  It almost makes me want to forgive them for the squirt bottle.  A jungle gym, scratcher-upper, flying mouse-birds, all combined with a napping cubby – this thing is better than Mommy’s tree – almost.  Anyway, it’s a big hit!

Phoebe's Christmas Gift midweststoryteller.com

Tuesday, December 25, 2018:

I had that warm and special feeling all day that you get just thinking about how Jesus came to live with us.  They hand out treats and gifts because He is such a Gift, so I figured I may as well snooze until we got to that part.  I wonder about Mommy sometimes.  She gets tired getting ready for the big day and it makes her do the strangest things. 

Don't Blame Mommy midweststoryteller.com

She dangled a sock for me – just one, mind you – not two or four.  I guess the poor thing misplaced the others.  It’s just as well.  I wouldn’t have wanted to be seen wearing the gaudy things in public. Anyone could tell just by looking that she bought the wrong size.  Later we peeked inside it and out popped a very interesting rodent.  I ignored it just for show.  That’s what I do. 

I played in tissue and crawled in and out of boxes and bags for hours and not one squirt from that stupid water bottle!  Ah, THIS is Christmas!  Later, I found my new toy, named her Rhoda and gave her the bath she needed if she’s going to be living here. 

People keep talking about coming up with resolutions for 2019.  I have one.  Somehow, before the next time the tree goes up, I’m going to track down that squirt bottle and give it a miss!  I wonder how much litter it will take to bury that thing.

Loud-mouthed, opinionated and completely loveable – that’s our Phoebe June!  “Share”, “Like” and “Pin” her thoughts and adventures with the cat-lovers in your life and stick around – she’ll have more to say soon!

If you missed the first installment of “The Phoebe June Diaries”, you can catch up by clicking here.  See how she celebrated National Cat Day here, and learn about how we became her forever family here!

I’d love to hear from you and so would Phoebe June so please LEAVE A COMMENT!