Announcing December’s Winner!

Ten days till Christmas! That explains, in part, why I’m a little slow with the announcement. One of the things that helps me thrive is blessing others, so I love giving away gifts! Midwest Storyteller offers a monthly free gift to a faithful subscriber and December’s winner is –

Freebie Winner December 2017 www.midweststoryteller.com

Sharon of Boonville, Missouri!

Remember, the First Friday Freebie rules have changed, so Sharon’s name was drawn using our new scientific and impartial method. (I put all the entries on cards, placed them face-down and had Smuffy pick one.)

These EchoTouch ladies’ gloves by Echo Design should keep Sharon’s hands warm if the forecasted “snowmageddon” hits the Midwest as the long range forecast models predict. I wouldn’t count on that prediction as things change here in the blink of an eye.  Maybe I just don’t want to think about it.

Freebie EchoTouch Gloves www.midweststoryteller.com

The gloves come equipped with those amazing little fingertip additions that enable you to operate your smart phone and other devices without taking them off – an awesome invention, if you ask me. Similar styles are available on the EchoDesign web site, so their other styles here.

The next First Friday Freebie drawing will be on Friday, January 5, 2018. SUBSCRIBE and share this post with all your friends so they can enter also. 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.

And now, here are the revised Freebie Rules.

  1. First Friday Freebies are available to SUBSCRIBERS ONLY. That means if you come to the post through social media or someone has emailed you a link to it and you haven’t become a subscriber yet, you’ll need to hop on over to the right sidebar and do that really quick. If you are on a phone or tablet, the easiest way is to go to the “About Me” page. All it means to be a subscriber is that you’ll receive an email each time Midwest Storyteller has something new, which won’t likely be more than once or twice a week. It keeps you from missing out on all the fun and FREE STUFF! And, I’m not sharing your emails with anybody.
  2. IMPORTANT: After subscribing, you MUST check your email to confirm the subscription or it will not appear. Then, sadly, you won’t be eligible to enter.
  3. To enter the drawing, scroll back up to the top of this post and under the title, click on “Leave a Comment”. Subscribers who comment as directed before midnight on the first Friday of the month will enter the drawing, provided they are already on the subscribers list and live within the continental United States.

Three simple steps! Subscribe now, before you forget, and you might start the new year by winning a free gift!

Take a look at some of the other goodies and their winners here and here!

The Midwest Storyteller household has been turned upside-down and we’ll cover that story next time, so get ready to join the adventure and “share”, “like” and “pin” so all your friends don’t miss out.

I love it when you “Leave a Comment” and let me know your thoughts. Scroll back up under the title of this post and let me know what you think of the freebies so far and which features of the blog you’d like to receive more of in the future.

Have a wonderful time and enjoy the coming days as you prepare your home and your heart for Christmas. What a glorious season we celebrate!

First Friday Freebie: Because There’s a Nip in the Air – Somewhere.

Only 24 more days till Christmas! How exciting! In case you’re having a difficult time with all the suspense, keep in mind that there are 0 – yes, ZERO – days until the First Friday Freebie. That’s right! You get to open this package today!

Mystery Freebie December 2017 www.midweststoryteller.com

It’s December and there’s a nip in the air – somewhere. Strangely, it’s not happening yet in our part of the Midwest. We seem to be getting someone else’s weather. The scary part is – someone else might be getting ours! I chose this gift for you with the hope of keeping you warm and cozy while you’re out and about finishing (or starting – breathe, just breathe) your Christmas shopping. It’s unseasonably warm here, but in this neck of the woods, that could change drastically in a matter of…say, 30 minutes?

Oh, come on! Don’t scroll at such a snail’s pace, like Great-Aunt Fannie trying to save the paper – rip it off and take a peek.

Freebie EchoTouch Gloves www.midweststoryteller.com

These EchoTouch ladies’ gloves “keep your hands warm while you keep in touch”. It seems that most everyone (excluding Smuffy) carries a smart phone these days. Though we enjoy the amazing technology that lets us navigate its depths with a tap or swipe of a finger, there’s that annoying fact that it can’t be done with gloves on! A few years ago, I received a pair of touch gloves as a gift and I’m hooked! I always seem to have cold hands and this helps me use my phone when I’m out and about without the hassle of taking my gloves on and off all the time. I find myself avoiding the “old style” gloves now in favor of this great invention.

Another problem with gloves, in a general sense, is keeping track of them. Although I don’t want to be seen running around like a toddler with a string running through my coat sleeves, it sometimes seems like a plan. If all the gloves I’ve lost were scraped from the parking lots upon which I’ve scattered them and were then placed end-to-end… Oh, never mind – back to the FREE gloves!

This neutral heather-gray pair of gloves are a Size LARGE. While I don’t consider myself to have large hands, I do have long fingers, so this is the size that always works for me. Not your size? They’ll make a great gift. And to all you guys out there – I know what your doing and the stores will be empty by the time you get finished doing it. Win the gloves and at least she’ll have something.

Similar gloves retail on the Echo web site for $39.00. (You have no idea how tempted I am to keep these for myself!) You can check out there other styles here.

The “Freebie Rules” have just changed to make it easier for you to win, so read on, SUBSCRIBE and share this post with all your friends so they can enter also. A winner will be chosen at random from those subscribers who enter today by leaving a comment which says, “I love the gloves!”

And now, here are the revised rules.

  1. First Friday Freebies are available to SUBSCRIBERS ONLY. That means if you have come to this post through social media or someone has emailed you a link to it and you haven’t become a subscriber yet, you’ll need to hop on over to the right sidebar and do that really quick. If you are on a phone or tablet, the easiest way is to go to the “About Me” page. All it means to be a subscriber is that you’ll receive an email each time Midwest Storyteller has something new, which won’t likely be more than once or twice a week. It keeps you from missing out on all the fun and FREE STUFF! And, I’m not sharing your emails with anybody.
  2. IMPORTANT: After subscribing, you MUST check your email to confirm the subscription or it will not appear. Then, sadly, you won’t be eligible to enter.
  3. To enter the drawing, scroll back up to the top of this post and under the title, click on “Leave a Comment”. Subscribers who comment as directed in the post before midnight on Friday, December 1, 2017 will enter the drawing, provided they are already on the subscribers list and live within the continental United States.

Three simple steps!

Now hurry! Go! Go! Go! Subscribe, Confirm and Enter before midnight tonight!

Want to see some past Freebies and their winners?  Take a peek here and here.

First Friday Freebie: Just like Christmas – It’ll be Here Before You Know It!

In case you haven’t heard, Midwest Storyteller offers FREEBIES! They happen on the first Friday of every month, which means you have only two more days to wait before entering the drawing for the December Freebie! The “Freebie Rules” have just changed to make it easier for you to win, so read on, SUBSCRIBE and share this post with all your friends so they can enter also.

Ooh…and what might this be?

Mystery Freebie December 2017 www.midweststoryteller.com‘Tis the season for secrets and surprises, so I’m keeping this secret till Friday, December 1st!  I thrive on keeping fun little secrets this time of year, don’t you?  It keeps the wonder in our world. 

Once you see Friday’s post, feel free to pounce on it! No pushing – no shoving – the nicest thing about lining up in cyber-land is that nobody gets hurt.

And now, here are the revised rules.

  1. First Friday Freebies are available to SUBSCRIBERS ONLY. That means if you have come to this post through social media or someone has emailed you a link to it and you haven’t become a subscriber yet, you’ll need to hop on over to the right sidebar and do that really quick. If you are on a phone or tablet, the easiest way is to go to the “About Me” page. All it means to be a subscriber is that you’ll receive an email each time Midwest Storyteller has something new, which won’t likely be more than once or twice a week. It keeps you from missing out on all the fun and FREE STUFF! And, I’m not sharing your emails with anybody.
  2. IMPORTANT: After subscribing, you MUST check your email to confirm the subscription or it will not appear. Then, sadly, you won’t be eligible to enter.
  3. When the Freebie is revealed on Friday, you’ll need to scroll back up to the top of the post and under the title, click on “Leave a Comment”. Subscribers who comment as directed before midnight on Friday will enter the drawing, provided they are already on the subscribers list and live within the continental United States.

Three simple steps! And now we wait…are you starting to get a little excited? It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Take a look at a couple of other gifts I’ve given away recently here and here.

Now hurry! Go! Go! Go! Subscribe, Confirm and Enter on Friday!

It’s the Most Pumpkiny Time of the Year!

America’s annual love affair with pumpkin begins where Labor Day ends and soothes us all with it’s warm flavor through Thanksgiving and its weekend of yummy leftovers. I thought I’d share this recipe to give you just one more pumpkiny thing to delight in before the season comes to a halt and all our fickle hearts leave it behind in search of the perfect Christmas cookie.Zesty Pumpkin Soup with Billy's Biscuits www.midweststoryteller.com

Let me introduce you to Zesty Pumpkin Soup – a favorite of mine that I make at least a couple of times during the fall. Why I don’t make it year-round is a mystery because it’s so yummy. To go along with it, I’m going to give you my recipe for Billy’s Biscuits, because what’s better than a great bowl of soup and a light and airy, buttery biscuit?

I’ve had the Recipe for Zesty Pumpkin Soup for years and years and I’ve tried my best to remember the source so that I can give credit where credit is due. I think I’ve finally remembered where I got it! Years ago, at a local shop, I picked up a super-cheap set of four paperback cookbooks which I believe were called, “Home Cooks’ Easy Recipes”. The pages were printed on newsprint and other than the cover, there were no photos. I tried all sorts of recipes in those books, but eventually parted with them in a garage sale – I think. I’ve looked online and can’t find any such books to reference here, or I would be happy to do so.

The interesting thing about Zesty Pumpkin Soup is that it is savory! Almost all pumpkin recipes are some variation that requires brown sugar and reminds you in some way of the eternal favorite, pumpkin pie. This is really different, but absolutely delicious. The original recipe called for the finished soup to be pureed until smooth. However, I forgot to do this once and ended up discovering that I actually preferred the “bits”, as long as they are finely chopped.

Billy’s Biscuits?” you ask. “Who on earth is Billy?” I believe these biscuits began with a recipe known to some folks as “Southern Gal Biscuits”, but I got the recipe from my friend, Billy, after he served them up for breakfast when I was a houseguest. They were the best biscuits I’d ever had.

Here’s Billy –

Remembering Billy www.midweststoryteller.com

I miss Billy, but know that breakfast in Heaven has been kicked up a notch ever since he arrived. I admit to tweaking the recipe for my own use, because I steer clear of shortening and refined sugars, but I’m sure if Billy were here to taste them, he’d approve! Normally, I also steer clear of wheat, but I do have an occasional cheat day. I’d sooner cheat and have these biscuits than almost any other treat. They’re worth it!  Since I’ve never made these without thinking of Billy while I’m doing it, I can’t call them by any other name.

I see you shaking your head and muttering, “Soup – maybe. Homemade biscuits – no way! Where’s the can?” I’m about to take away all your fears about not having enough time or know-how to make these. They are lightning-fast and fool-proof, due to a few little tricks I’ll share with you.

And, best of all, there’s a FREE printable recipe.

Let’s get started –

Zesty Pumpkin Soup

1/4 cup real butter

1 cup chopped onion (chop this fairly small)

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

3 cups chicken broth or stock (sugar free) 

2 (14 ounce) cans pumpkin puree

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Sour cream

Chopped fresh chives

Saute onion in butter until soft. Add garlic, curry powder, sald, coriander and red pepper; cook 1 minute longer.

Zesty Pumpkin Soup Step 1 www.midweststoryteller.com

Add broth; boil gently, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes.

Zesty Pumpkin Soup Ingredients www.midweststoryteller.com

Stir in pumpkin, milk and heavy cream. Cook an additional five minutes.

(As you can see in the photo, I tend to use my favorite ingredients from Aldi and Costco.  Finding broth without added sugar is sometimes more difficult than catching the chicken and making your own, so I really appreciate Costco carrying the Kirkland Signature Organic Chicken Stock.)

Garnish each bowl of soup with a dollop of sour cream and chopped chives.

Makes a 3-quart saucepan of soup.

Now, before you nix the idea of making biscuits to go with this quick soup recipe, let me give you four fabulous tips that will make life so much easier!

  1. Mix your dry ingredients ahead of time! If you know you’ll be preparing the biscuits for breakfast (when you are not exactly wide awake and ready to read a recipe and fumble around for ingredients) or if you want them hot and fresh for company, but don’t want to mess up your kitchen and be separated from your guests, this can save time and temper! Just measure all the dry ingredients into a medium-sized mixing bowl and set aside until biscuit time.

  2. Grate the butter! I saw this tip somewhere gave it a try. I could kiss the hand of the genius who thought of it! Whether biscuits, pie crust or any other recipe, I’ll never “cut in” the fat again! All I do is grab a stick of frozen butter and my handy-dandy grater that catches all the bits and work fast. Peel back the paper on the butter and grate it against the grater with the small holes. Pop the lid onto the container and put it immediately back into the freezer! All those frozen little curls of butter will stir into your dry ingredients in about three seconds and you’ll be thanking me for passing on this grand idea. Seriously – always grate the butter!
  3. Invest in a large silicone countertop rolling mat. Oh my goodness! I still dust with flour, but nothing sticks! You can roll out and cut cookies, biscuits – whatever you like – directly on the mat and best of all, when guests arrive,  you can just roll it up, tuck it away and clean it later. No messy counters! I got mine at Aldi for a really reasonable price and the holiday baking season would be a good time to check there. Big name brands tend to be super expensive.
  4. A dough scraper. I mean – really – where have these been all my life? Also, I have a marble rolling pin and I freeze it ahead of time if I know I’ll be making biscuits, cookies, etc. Nothing sticks!

Billy’s Biscuits

1 1/2 cups all purpose non-GMO wheat flour

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

4 teaspoons non-aluminum baking powder

2 Tablespoons coconut sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

7 Tablespoons real butter, grated and re-frozen

1 egg

2/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine dry ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Quickly add the frozen, grated butter and stir to coat the butter with the flour mixture before the butter begins to melt.

GRATE the Butter! www.midweststoryteller.com

Beat egg in milk; stir into dry ingredients, just until moistened.

Turn dough onto a floured surface. Knead the dough 15 times by folding the entire ball of dough in half, giving it a quarter turn and folding it again. Roll out the dough to 3/4” thickness. Cut into circles with a large 3” biscuit cutter.

Biscuits Ready for the Oven www.midweststoryteller.com

Transfer biscuits to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until tops are golden brown.

Yield: About 8-10 biscuits.

Enjoy your quick and heart-warming autumn meal. If you’ve prepared your dry ingredients and butter for the biscuits ahead of time, you can whip up the biscuits while the soup is simmering and have them ready to serve!

Savor the Flavors of Fall www.midweststoryteller.com

Have a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving with your family and friends! And…don’t forget your free printable recipes below.

Free Printable Banner www.midweststoryteller.com

Questions? Comments? If you make the soup and/or the biscuits, let me know how you liked it! Scroll back up to the title of this post and “Leave a Comment”. And why not SUBSCRIBE, so you’ll receive an email reminder each time Midwest Storyteller has something new.

 

 

Be the Hostess with the Mostest (and the Cheapest)!

They’re coming! You can hear their expectant panting from miles away as they prepare to descend on your home for Thanksgiving. You make a frantic dart through the house and decide it’s time to throw away the 4th of July balloons and take down the seashell jar that’s been welcoming everyone to your home with its shades of summery pastels.

Now what? There’s enough money to be spent on the turkey and ingredients for the traditional side dishes.

Been there – done all that. One thing I’m thankful for is the fact that my mother handed down to me the ability to make something out of nothing. Another quality we share is “squirrely-ness”. I’m not talking about that tendency to be just a tad odd – you know, the type of person that makes other people tilt their head to one side and blink – I’m talking about the ability to squirrel away cool stuff, small stuff, odd stuff and “sooner or later I’m gonna use that for something and when I do, it’s gonna be really cool” stuff.

I love to decorate and hate throwing good stuff away, so I’ve learned to stare at things and ponder how I might recycle them into something new and different without having to go out and spend more than a few dollars to put a new twist on things.

I get the urge to decorate for fall at sundown on Labor Day. I ran a week or two late this year, but in case you’re way behind and wanting to “lovelify” everything before the doorbell rings and the turkey timer goes off, I thought we’d brainstorm.

Here’s my fall fireplace. I took the photo with all the candles lit so you could see how we like to enjoy it on these long fall evenings.

Fall Fireplace www.midweststoryteller.com

Here’s a close-up of the mantle.

Fall Mantle 2017 www.midweststoryteller.com

Now, let’s take a look at the individual elements. Aside from batteries for flameless candles and string lights, I don’t think I spent a single dime this year!  Even the votive candles are leftovers from a bulk purchase I made at my local thrift shop a year or two ago.

Fall Mantle Elements www.midweststoryteller.com

I hope I’ve gotten your cogs turning. Somewhere, tucked into a bookshelf, stored in a tub in the basement or perhaps still in a sack in the trunk from when a friend passed it on to you, there are things you can round up and experiment with.

Admittedly, I did some degree of head-shaking and standing around with my hands on my hips as I tapped my chin. Then, I’d arrange and re-arrange, and before long I found myself content.

Is it super-trendy? No. That would have taken a trip to the store for chalkboards and things covered in burlap and chevron prints.  Somehow, I just wasn’t tempted to go there.

Once I’d completed my “design remix”, I was free to get out an enjoy fall and do my usual thing, perhaps causing not a few people to tilt their heads to one side and blink, but that’s my normal and I don’t think I got it from Mom. 

As you can see from the photo, all you really need is family, friends, a mixture of garage sales and flea markets, a willingness to build your stash and a nice set of working blinkers so that you can zip into the stores with the best prices.  Obviously, I’ve done more than a little “squirreling” in Hobby Lobby, Tuesday Morning and Big Lots.  I can’t say enough about the great quality of QVC’s Bethlehem Lights collection!  Seems they always have something great on clearance.

I had a group of ladies over for an annual Pumpkin Night event and we enjoyed a buffet of recipes containing pumpkin.  I didn’t spend any money on table-scape either.  I just dove into my stash!  Take a look – as long as you don’t mind that guests had already arrived before I got the photo taken and things look just a trifle askew.  Trifle!  Now, why didn’t somebody bring a pumpkin trifle?  Great idea for next year!

Fall Tablescape www.midweststoryteller.com

I’d love to hear from you. Just under the title of this post, you can “Leave a Comment”, letting me know your thoughts and ideas. What kind of things have you pulled together to decorate that will inspire the rest of us?

More inspiration for quick fall décor can be found here. You might enjoy getting to know my mom here. Need inspiration from me and my mom to help you rescue and recycle the poor, the tired and the pretty-much-trash stuff around the house? Check it out here

Coming up next:  Two fabulous free recipes for a heartwarming fall meal.  SUBSCRIBE so you don’t miss it!

November’s Freebie Winner! You might be next!

I’m excited to announce the winner of November’s “First Friday Freebie”. A fabulous free gift is offered each month, on the first Friday, to a faithful subscriber. (Hooray for the letter, “f”!)

Subscribe now and you’ll be ready to enter to win in December! Instructions on how to do that are below.

Our November winner is…

November 2017 Freebie Winner www.midweststoryteller.com

Ginger from Prairie Home, Missouri!

Ginger left a comment on the post, saying, “I’ll take the Blessings Jar!” and she won!

You can see the Blessings Jar and it’s contents a  little better in this photo –

Free Blessing Jar www.midweststoryteller.com

I’m also announcing a change-up in the rules. From now on, the Freebie winner will be chosen from a drawing of the subscribers who leave a comment before midnight on the day the post appears.

I’m following the suggestion of subscriber, Liz, who was feeling that perhaps people who are busy or at work may not be able to comment until later in the day. So, a drawing will be!

If you’d like to enter the monthly give-a-way, do a few things to be sure you don’t miss out.

  1. SUBSCRIBE! On your computer, you can do that in the right side-bar. On a phone or tablet, you may need to go to the “Contact” page. Only subscribers are eligible to win. If you do not confirm your subscription by clicking on the confirmation email you receive, you are STILL not a subscriber, so don’t forget that. You’ll get an email when there’s a new post or freebie.
  2. Follow” Midwest Storyteller on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Even if you forget to check your email on the first Friday, the offer will show up in your feed.
  3. Spread the love – and the FREEBIES! “Share” Midwest Storyteller with your friends on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. Pin this post to Pinterest and send the pin to friends you’d like to see enter to win.

You’ll be eligible to win if you are a subscriber at the time of the offer and if you live in the continental United States. Then all you’ll need to do is read the post and leave a comment as instructed!

Simple, right?

Get ready! The next free gift will be given away on Friday, December 1st!

How are you liking the freebies so far? Please scroll back up and click on “Leave a Comment” under the title of this post and let me know.

If you’d like to see who won the First Friday Freebie for October, click here.

First Friday Freebie! Blessings Abound!

My, how time flies! Today is the first Friday in November and time for Midwest Storyteller’s First Friday Freebie. If you missed seeing my last freebie give-a-way, you can take a look at it here. If you’re wondering who won, check it out here.

Each month, I offer a gift to one of the loyal and loveable fans of Midwest Storyteller. It’s absolutely free and the rules are, oh, so simple.

This is truly the season to be thankful. As we all prepare our hearts and minds for the holiday season ahead, we know what makes us thrive! It’s our family, friends and the simple things in life that make us rich.

I’ve chosen this gift to help you and your family remember what matters most.

Free Blessing Jar www.midweststoryteller.com

I just want you to know that I had a pretty tough time not keeping this gift for myself!

This beautiful Blessings Jar is perfect for this time of year. Included is an organza bag filled with blank “My Blessing” cards for family members and guests to fill out and drop into the jar. Also included are ten additional cards with inspirational quotes such as the one you can see in the photo by C. S. Lewis which says, “When we lose one blessing, another is often, most unexpectedly, given in its place.”

Wouldn’t it be great to have each of your Thanksgiving guests drop their card into the jar when arrive? Later, gathered at the feast, you can draw the cards out of the jar and read them aloud.

Another great idea is to place the jar in a prominent place this month and have family members jot down a blessing every day to add to the jar.

And the Number 1 thing to be thankful for? The Blessing Jar is FREE!

Another thing I loved about this gift is that it matches any décor and is not limited to seasonal display. It serves as a year-round reminder and can always be used to store a few other things you’re thankful for.  Hmmm… Let me think… Cookies… Vacation money… the list goes on and on.

Ooooh! I almost forgot – it would make a lovely gift, wouldn’t it?

And now, here are the rules.

  1. First Friday Freebies are available to SUBSCRIBERS ONLY. That means if you have come to this post through social media or someone has emailed you a link to it and you haven’t become a subscriber yet, you’ll need to hop on over to the right sidebar and do that really quick. If you are on a phone or tablet, the easiest way is to go to the “About Me” page. All it means to be a subscriber is that you’ll receive an email each time Midwest Storyteller has something new, which won’t likely be more than once or twice a week. It keeps you from missing out on all the helpful, fun and FREE stuff! And, I’m not sharing your emails with anybody.
  2. IMPORTANT: After subscribing, you MUST check your email to confirm the subscription or it will not appear. Then, sadly, you are not eligible to enter.
  3. You’ll need to scroll back up to the top of this post and under the title, click on “Leave a Comment”. The first subscriber to comment with, “I’ll take the Blessing Jar!” will win, provided that you’re already on the subscribers list and that you live within the continental United States.

Three simple steps! Have a wonderful and blessed First Friday of the month!

Now hurry! Go! Go! Go! Subscribe, Confirm and Enter!  Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest and let’s get the word out!  It’s crazy not to spread free stuff around!

Crafty, But Not Crazy: Three Easy Projects to Do On Your Own or With the Kids

It’s time for true confessions. It’s embarrassing, but true. I’ll try anything artsy once. Well…just about anything. Here’s the part that’s embarrassing: My successes have made me fearless – and rather messy. I wouldn’t want to throw that nifty scrap or tidbit away because I will, most definitely, encounter a friend, TV show, YouTube video or Pinterest pin that shows me exactly what to do with it. Then, believe it or not – I actually do it.

The house is full of things I’ve tackled in a fit of crafting passion and many of them, I might humbly state, are masterpieces in their own way. Some are just plain odd. Others – the ones that dragged me way too deep into the crafting waters – nearly got shoved under the sofa and never completed, but that’s fine, as they can always keep my marbles company under there, if you know what I mean.

Now we approach the time of year when I get super excited about making gifts. It’s also the time of year, at least in our neck of the woods, when falling temperatures bring us indoors more and it begins getting dark earlier…and earlier…and earlier. Before long we’ll have darkness by five o’clock, which leaves you with long evenings to fill if you’re not a writer or blogger or if you’re not Smuffy.

Smuffy has an organized series – yes, series – of to-do lists so detailed that they are filed neatly behind his master list, entitled, “LISTS”, which is, as the name implies, a list of his lists. I am not making this up, folks! I’ve known him to misplace this on rare occasions and it’s traumatic, to say the least.  I have lists, too – somewhere.

Sometimes, we all need something quick and fool-proof to spruce up the place, get ourselves organized or give as a hand-made gift. At other times, we need something to do with the kids or grandkids that doesn’t take forever or tear the whole house apart – something that keeps that last little marble from rolling under the sofa to join all the others.

I’m going go share some photos of three easy projects – and I mean falling-off-a-log-easy projects. So easy, in fact that you could make them on your own just by taking a quick look at the photo and pretty much ignoring any written instructions.

Get your creative self in gear and let’s go!

First, take a look at this photo and guess what this cute pumpkin was before it was a pumpkin:

Scrap Fabric Pumpkin www.midweststoryteller.com

Pat yourself on the back (or, backside, perhaps?) if you guessed –

TP Roll www.midweststoryteller.com

Yep, toilet tissue!

Once you have gathered some supplies, this project takes just a couple of minutes to complete. All you need is a roll of toilet tissue, an 18 inch (or ½ yard) square of fabric and some leftover fluff such as raffia, ribbon, greenery and a stick or what I thought made the ideal stem – a dried okra pod! Let’s give a round of cyber-applause to my friend, Robin, who demonstrated this last week to a gathering of ladies who promptly pounced on the table full of goodies and turned out some really cute pumpkins! Imagine how cute this would be wrapped in burlap or an orange polka-dot or chevron print! You could also use a little polyester fiberfill around the toilet tissue before you pull the fabric up and stuff it into the center of the roll in order to make your pumpkin a little fatter.  

What a cute idea for anywhere in the house or perhaps on the bathroom vanity as a spare hiding in plain sight!

Go ahead – say it: “This craft project is not too hard for me.” Seriously, if you mess this one up, I’m not sure I want you fixing me dinner or driving anywhere near me in a motor vehicle! You might just be dangerous.

Next up – a set of candle-holders made with your very own little hands! Don’t get all worked up about it. The pumpkin thing should have you feeling like an awesome artiste by now. All you need to do is see the “after” photo of this one –

Lentil Candle Holders www.midweststoryteller.com

Start with a trip to a well-stocked grocery store for three bags of lentils. They come in the usual tan, but also in red, green and orange. Choose the three colors you want. Stop at your local discount store or Hobby Lobby and get a skein of twine, some varied-sized canning jars and some votive candles.

I also chose to paint the canning rings with Krylon Fusion paint (also available at Hobby Lobby) in a hammered metal finish in order to “antique” them a bit. I chose the chocolate brown color, but I think the black or copper would also look great.

Next, go home and raid Grandma’s button box and choose some colors to go along with your candles and lentils. String them together and tie them to the twine you’ve wrapped around the rings. Pour the lentils into the jars and nestle the votives into the lentils. What a cute an inexpensive gift or a quick way to switch up your own décor!

TIPS: If you are giving these as gifts, I recommend giving them with the canning lid on top as well as the ring to keep from spilling all your lentils before the gift is opened. Also a tiny dot of hot glue goes a long way in keeping the twine in place when you’re wrapping it around the ring.

I know you’ve got to be feeling unstoppable now, so let’s move on to something that is super-simple but may take just a little more time. Repeat after me, “I can. I know I can. Yes, I can, can, can!”

I’m talkin’ about cans!

Crafting Cans www.midweststoryteller.com

Most households seem to end up with these, whether it’s from mixed nuts, protein shakes or, in my case, whole food nutrition. They seem to be pretty easy to accumulate. Instead of sending them all to the trash or recycle bin, why not save a few in varied sizes and give this a try –

Chic Recycled Cans www.midweststoryteller.com

All I did was clean the cans out well and remove the labels. Then, I dug around in my stash of leftover pre-pasted wallpaper rolls for some coordinating prints and colors. You can always use scrap-booking paper, but keep in mind that it will not have its own adhesive and you’ll have to glue it on.

The only time-consuming part of this project is measuring and cutting the paper to fit exactly to the inside and outside of the cans. You’ll want to do this before wetting the wallpaper or applying glue to the paper. I also chose to spray paint the metal rims of the cans to coordinate with my paper choices. I used the drying time to do all my paper cutting. I received the added bonus of using up several of the almost empty cans of spray paint that accumulate in the basement cupboard! Hooray for wiggle room!

Once all the adhesive is dry, apply coordinating ribbon around the can, securing it with a dot of hot glue. I like fashioning a “faux bow” to the front to cover the seam in the ribbon.

Again, raid the button box or pick up a package of scrap-booking embellishments at Hobby Lobby. They add just the right final touch.

You can keep the plastic lids if you want to use the cans for giving out goodies this holiday season. If you do this, you’ll need to wrap the treats in plastic wrap or put them in a food-safe bag before inserting them into the cans to keep them from coming in contact with the glue and wallpaper.

These sets of three cans make a great way to organize the supplies on your desk or keep hair and make-up supplies from becoming out of control. Kids and teens will love receiving them or making them for a friend, especially when they are done in trendy prints or playful character papers. See how just a simple switching of the buttons changes the look.

I suppose some kid will get the bright idea of poking holes in the lids and inserting a frog or something with even more appendages, but I, in no way, advise or condone such usage. Just so you know.

Now that I’ve filled your head with creative, and – let’s be real – CHEAP ideas, get busy and start having fun! Be sure to post in the comments your photos and ideas for how you’ve completed and used the projects.

I’m sure you have some great ideas of your own. I’d love to hear them, even if it’s a tale of a crafty disaster! Just scroll back up to the top of this post and click on “LEAVE A COMMENT”.

Next up! First Friday Freebies. November is upon us and so is the next give-a-way. Check out last month’s gift and winner here. Freebies happen on the first Friday of every month and you must be a subscriber to win. You’ll get an email telling you how to enter to win. If you’ve not yet subscribed to Midwest Storyteller, do that here so you don’t miss the Friday’s Freebie.

And the Winner is… First Friday Freebies – and you might be next!

I’m excited to announce the winner of our first “First Friday Freebie” winner.  As you may recall from last time, Midwest Storyteller will be giving a free gift each month to a faithful subscriber.  This happens on the first Friday of the month, so subscribe now and you’ll be ready to enter to win in November!

Our October winner is…

October 2017 Freebie Winner www.midweststoryteller.com

Donna from Bunceton, Missouri!

All Donna did was leave a comment on the post, saying, “I’ll take the wreath!” and she won!

You can see the wreath a little better in this photo –

Free Wreath www.midweststoryteller.com

If you’d like to partake in the monthly give-a-way, do a few things to be sure you don’t miss out.

  1. SUBSCRIBE! On your computer, you can do that in the right side-bar.  On a phone or tablet, you may need to go to the “Contact” page.  Only subscribers are eligible to win.  You’ll get an email when there’s a new post or freebie.
  2. Follow” Midwest Storyteller on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Even if you forget to check your email, you’ll still see the offer.
  3. Spread the love – and the FREEBIES! “Share” Midwest Storyteller with your friends on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.  Pin this post to Pinterest and send the pin to friends you’d like to see enter to win.

Take a look at the rules on our last First Friday Freebie post here.  It includes a tutorial on making the Sweet Annie wreath.  For a look at other things I grow in the great outdoors, take a tour here.

Get ready!  The next free gift will be given away on Friday, November 3rd!

Introducing: First Friday Freebies!

There’s nothing like getting something for nothing! Oh, that glorious word – F R E E !

I’ve been wanting to do this for a while and so I’m happy to announce (drum roll, please) First Friday Freebies! Each month, on the first Friday – I did that on purpose to make it easy for you to remember and wasn’t that clever of me – I’ll be offering a gift to one of the loyal and loveable fans of Midwest Storyteller. All you have to do is: Don’t dawdle!

First, let’s take a look at our first gift –

In my last post, I gave a “2017 Tour of the Estate” in which I mentioned Sweet Annie and posted a photo. I’m offering a wreath today (hand-made by me) of Sweet Annie. Let’s look a little further into what it is and what I do with it and you can decide if you want to win!

As mentioned in the last post, Sweet Annie is a fragrant herb that grows tall and is happy in a sunny place. It smells “like fall”, so this is the perfect time of the year to decorate with it. I’ve filled my wicker planter with it to give it a fall “weedy” look and make my porch smell nice and I’ve also used it around this little bucket next to Hermie.  I am lagging behind in decorating my side porch, but at least I’ve got my “weeds” as Smuffy likes to call them, in place.  You get the idea.

Weedy Porch www.midweststoryteller.com

Here’s a photo showing how I make a wreath.

Sweet Annie Tutorial www.midweststoryteller.com

Let me state this clearly. Sweet Annie, like any other plant, is organic. That means it’s been in the great outdoors. That means that other little “organic things” once strolled through it’s branches saying hello to their little organic friends. This wreath has been drying under my porch for a couple of weeks and should now be free of all the critters that may have liked to munch on it while it was green.  I make no promises.  However, I’ve never had anything on my wreaths once they dried.  (If I’d brought “creepies” into my house, you would have heard my screams.)  

Also, dried plants are exactly that – dried. I use Sweet Annie as a candle ring or a wreath on a wall or mantle-piece, but I don’t place it on a door that we’ll be opening and closing, as that shakes it around and causes it to shed.

Here’s the wreath I’m offering as Today’s Friday Freebie.  You can easily remove the burlap ribbon and replace it with anything you like.

Free Wreath www.midweststoryteller.com

And now, here are the rules. There are always rules, aren’t there?

  1. First Friday Freebies are available to SUBSCRIBERS ONLY. That means if you have come to this post through social media or someone has emailed you a link to it and you haven’t become a subscriber yet, you’ll need to hop on over to the right sidebar and do that really quick. If you are on a phone or tablet, the easiest way is to go to the “About Me” page. As a subscriber,  you’ll receive an email each time Midwest Storyteller has something new, which won’t likely be more than once or twice a week. It keeps you from missing out on all the fun and FREE STUFF!  And, I’m not sharing your emails with anybody.
  2. You’ll need to scroll back up to the top of this post and under the title, “Leave a Comment”. The first subscriber to comment with, “I’ll take the wreath!” will win, provided that you’re already on the subscribers list and that you live within the continental United States.

Two rules. So simple. Have a wonderful and blessed First Friday of the month!  Now, go!  Subscribe!  Comment!  Go!