December 29, 2012

Repurpose, Reuse, Recycle: Eco-Friendly Map Necklace

Necessity really is the mother of invention.  Finding new uses for old things has always been my thing.  When I was a kid, I would paint rocks and add felt to bring them to life as alligators, or turtles, or ladybugs.  These days I am collecting prescription pill bottles with plans to design a piece of furniture.  [Be sure to watch this space.]

One recent creation from an everyday item is my map necklace, available in my Etsy shop, Ivy Lane Designs, that I crafted from pages of a vintage road atlas.  The necklace currently has over 8,000 views on Etsy, which is quite a lot. 

My map necklace has also been featured on the front page of Etsy several times, which always makes me do a little happy dance.

... and it was chosen out of thousands of entries to be a finalist in GOOD Magazine's "Take a Picture of Something Repurposed" challenge. 

Creative repurposing is fun AND eco-friendly!


December 19, 2012

O Christmas Tree

Over the years, my family has delivered hundreds and hundreds of small living Christmas trees to teachers, therapists, neighbors, family members and friends.  Because our son, Justin, has autism, there have been scads of people who have needed a sign of appreciation at the holidays (and other times, too).  Now that Justin has graduated high school, he no longer has that wonderful support network.  In fact, the lack of accessible services for those with mental health and neurological challenges in the United States is heartbreaking.  If you haven't yet read "I Am Adam Lanza's Mother," you should.  It will take you less than five minutes.  Something must be done.

If you don't like how things are, change it! You're not a [Christmas] tree. - Jim Rohn 

This year, we focused our tree efforts on those who live alone and do not have family members nearby.  These are people who would not likely otherwise have a Christmas tree.

Each package included one live tree, a sparkly frame with a picture of our kids, mini ornaments, ornament hangers, LED battery operated lights and AA batteries.

Small trees are available at nurseries, and even grocery stores.

The mini ornaments and hangers were from Target.

 The battery operated LED lights were also from Target.

If the recipient lived far away, we packed everything inside a free Priority Mail shoe box, available online from the United States Parcel Service HERE, and mailed it.  The USPS will deliver shipping boxes to your home for free.  

This is Justin last year at a nursing home, delivering trees.

This holiday season (and throughout the year), surprise someone who needs it.

Merry Christmas! 


December 16, 2012

Tabasco Cheese Cookies

Our Pottstown Mercury's Town Square community bloggers' group recently asked for our favorite cookie recipes.  Here is mine.

My mom bakes Tabasco cheese cookies for me every Christmas.  I hide my cookies from everyone so that I won't have to share.  Sometimes I hide them too well and have to decide, months later, if I should still eat them.  That is a sad moment.  But then I make a batch for myself and “God’s in is Heaven – all’s right with the world” (thank you, Robert Browning).  

Now that we have adopted a plant-based diet (my beloved has gone all-the-way vegan, and lost 40 lbs. in the process, see: and I am almost vegan), I adapted my mom’s recipe to suit.  I am including a version for those who eat dairy and gluten and those who do not.

There are only six ingredients. 


One of the ingredients is Tabasco, of which I am a huge fan.  These are individual serving size bottles that I acquired while in New Orleans.  Adorable!



1 cup grated sharp cheddar (for dairy-free use Daiya shredder cheddar cheese)
1 stick butter (for dairy-free use Earth Balance)
1 cup Rice Krispies
1 cup flour (gluten-free use King Arthur Flour gluten-free multi-purpose flour)
1 pinch (ouch!) salt
2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce  


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Allow cheese and butter to come to room temperature.  Combine and blend well.

Mix in remaining ingredients until dough forms.

Pinch off walnut-size pieces and roll into balls ... or use your handy dandy cookie scoop (I bought mine at Bed, Bath and Beyond, but they do not have it available online).

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes for walnut-size, or 25 to 30 minutes if you use a cookie scoop.

Thanks, Mom!  XO.


Happy Holidays!


December 14, 2012

A Wig Spin of a Week

When I was a flight attendant for Pan Am, we would call short somewhat harried trips "wig spins."  JFK to Mexico City, for instance, would be a wig spin ... just long and a bit nutty enough to spin your [figurative] wig around.  Now, whenever I have a week filled to the gills with projects and deadlines, I immediately think "wig spin."

Here is my wig spin of a week in review:  This week I ate chocolate for breakfast, sailed past 5,000 sales in my Ivy Lane Designs shop on Etsy (yippee!), was featured in House Beautiful Magazine's 10 Cool Kids' Gifts Under $10 (dinosaur crayons) and Young House Love's Kids' Holiday Gift Guide (people crayons), celebrated 12/12/12, mourned the loss of our microwave, shipped over 100 orders and sang loudly to AC/DC's Back in Black.  My work here is [almost] done.

A big thanks to my beloved for understanding why every waking moment has been spent filling orders, and why our house isn't tidy ... and why the Christmas ornaments remain in their boxes. <big hug!>  

Yay, 5,000!

 House Beautiful Magazine featured my dinosaur crayons.

Young House Love featured my people crayons.

We celebrated 12/12/12.

Over 100 orders are off to their destinations.

Wishing you and yours many happy weeks of wig spins,


December 10, 2012

5,000 Etsy Sales at Ivy Lane Designs

I am proud and delighted to report that today I made my 5,000th sale in my eco-friendly Etsy shop, Ivy Lane Designs.  Pinch me!    

It seemed like not long ago that I was voicing to my beloved how much I was looking forward to reaching 100 sales.  One thousand sounds like a lot, but 5,000 ... WOW!  As a happy-as-a-lark Etsy shop owner, I thank you.  

Be sure to check out all of the eco-friendly goodies, including matchbox party favors (as featured in BRIDES magazine), food journals, drink journals, miscellaneous fun journals, record album journals, the ever-popular recycled crayons and mini jot-and-go journals


December 5, 2012

What's in a Name? Creativity, of Course!

When a child's name is spelled out in letter crayons, creativity abounds!  I have been working fast and furiously creating kids' chunky handcrafted letter crayons for a teacher in Virginia who ordered them for her entire class! <BIG HUG for teachers!> They are the perfect size for little hands.  

A cellophane bag, shredded recycled (natch) paper, personalized tag and ribbon are included at no additional charge.  Ready for giving.  Colors are representative.  Big letter crayons make the perfect party favor or stocking stuffer!  Brought to you by Ivy Lane Designs on Etsy. 

Size varies by letter. The dimensions of the letter M, for example, are appx.: 1.75" x 1.6" x .7". CHOKING HAZARD-Small parts. Not for children under 3 years.

All eco-friendly crayons from Ivy Lane Designs are handcrafted from repurposed, non-toxic crayons.  It is never too early to teach our children about helping the environment.

7, 8 and 9 letter names on request, so don't be shy! <winkie face>

Happy Holidays!


November 27, 2012

Handmade Dinosaur Crayons: As Featured in Etsy's Eco-Friendly Kids' Gift Guide

Say hello to the Tyrannosaurus Rex, Stegosaurus and Triceratops. Gift boxes of six (6) handmade dinosaur-shaped crayons are available at Ivy Lane DesignsThese handmade crayon gift sets were featured on the front page of Etsy's kids' eco-friendly gift guide, and have been selling like hotcakes ever since!  They are definitely the #1 nifty giftie this holiday season.  

Each dinosaur crayon is the perfect size (T-Rex is appx. 1.4" x 1.5" - or 3.5cm x 3.8cm) for little hands. Purchase two sets and get 12 different colorsGreat holiday gifts and/or party favors! 

Check out all of the eco-friendly holiday gift boxed crayon sets offered at Ivy Lane Designs HERE.

Happy Holidays!


November 19, 2012

Mexican Casserole with Cornbread Crust

I love casseroles, Mexican food and cornbread!  This Mexican casserole with cornbread crust is a marriage made in heaven.  My beloved declared that he could eat it three or four times a week.  Need I say more?  It is super easy to make, and yummy!

I will share with you from the get-go that I made my Mexican casserole vegan style, but do not freak out as meat eater instructions are included as well.  My vegan version is for my husband who took the plant-based plunge about four months ago.  At last count, he had lost 39 lbs. and feels like a million bucks!  Read my blog post about why and how he did it.


  • 1/2 cup milk (I used soy.  We drink almond milk and use it in our cereal, but it's a tad on the sweet side.  For savory dishes, I prefer soy milk)
  • 1/4 cup apple sauce OR 1 egg, lightly beaten (use one or the other.  Not both!)
  • 1 can (14 oz.) cream of corn
  • 1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chilies, drained
  • 1 packet of taco seasoning, divided
  • 1 cup (8 oz.) shredded cheddar and/or Jack (I used Daiya brand, equal parts pepper jack and cheddar - melts like a dream)
  • 8 1/2 oz. corn muffin mix - Jiffy contains lard (pig fat), just so you know.  If that's okay with you, then use one box.  I use appx. 2/3 of a box of Yankee Cornbread & Muffin Mix by Gluten Free Pantry, owned by Glutino. 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 1 can (10 oz.) enchilada sauce, divided
  • 1 can (14 oz.) chili beans
  • 3 cups cooked meat (like shredded rotisserie chicken or ground beef), or meat substitute.  I used fake chicken, but Boca crumbles work nicely, too.
  • Fresh cilantro for garnish, chopped


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease 9" x 13" baking dish.
  • In a bowl, combine milk, egg OR applesauce, cream of corn, chopped green chilies, 1 1/2 teaspoons of taco seasoning and 1/2 cup of shredded cheese.  Add dry corn muffin mix and stir until just combined.  Pour into greased 9" x 13" baking dish and spread evenly.  Bake for 20 minutes.
  • While the corn bread is baking, heat olive oil and brown onions over medium high heat.  Add meat or meat substitute the remaining taco seasoning, chili beans (don't drain them) and 1/4 cup of enchilada sauce.
  • When the corn bread is ready, it will barely set and still be miost.  That is okay.  Pierce the entire surface with a fork.  Pour remaining enchilada sauce over the cornbread and use the back of a spoon to spread evenly over the top.
  • Evenly top with the meat (real/fake) and bean mixture and remaining cheese.
  • Return to oven for 15 minutes until it is warm and cheese is melted.
  • Top with chopped cilantro.



November 15, 2012

Turning 20, A Horse Named Rex, Hurricane Sandy, Chicken Pot Pie and Birthday Cake

My baby girl said goodbye to her teens and is now 20 ... the start of a new decade in her life when she'll get her first apartment, graduate college and achieve so very much.  It is our hope that she will move joyfully and effortlessly through life, leaping from success to success, from one wonderfully positive experience to the next - and we will be there cheering her on.

Birthdays in our house are huge and are celebrated with food, family and friends.  This year Lauren wished for a trail ride, boots, chicken pot pie and dairy-free cake.  Mission accomplished.

My dear friend Susan, who you first read about HERE, gifted Lauren with a trail ride at Kross Creek Farm on her trusty stead Rex.  Rex and Lauren immediately hit it off.  Thank you, Susan!  

For her birthday dinner, Lauren had only one wish and that was for chicken pot pie.  One was tucked away in her tiny dorm room freezer in anticipation of the big day.  Then Hurricane Sandy came to town and dinner plans were out the window, along with electricity for a week for an entire university. 

So, I prepared belated celebratory homemade mini chicken pot pies for her to take back with her to school.  I bought small aluminum pans at the grocery store, the perfect size for a hungry student.  Yum!  Crisis averted.

A birthday would not be complete without cake!  This year's celebratory cakes were provided by Vegan Treats.  We happened to be there the same day they had shipped a cake to Ellen DeGeneres who is vegan.

Another rite of passage.  Happy Birthday, dear Lauren.


November 12, 2012

Dora the Explorer-Inspired Chunky Crayons

I love the way these Dora the Explorer-inspired chunky crayons turned out.  Because they stand, little ones can play dolls when not coloring.  Best idea ever:  Cover a table with butcher block paper and let kids' (and adults') imaginations flow!  Sold in sets of six (6) at Ivy Lane Designs on Etsy HERE.

Check out all of the recycled nifty gifties at Ivy Lane Designs on Etsy.


November 9, 2012

My Daughter's First Time Voting: A Rite of Passage

There are so many firsts in our children's lives.  For me, my daughter's first time voting in a presidential election was right up there with her first baby steps.  We were both so excited as we traveled to our polling place.  She smiled proudly as I took her picture, not unlike when she took her first steps.  This time, though, they were steps into adulthood.

She knew what issues were important to her and continues to debate them passionately.  I am so proud of the young woman my baby girl has grown up to be. ♥ 


November 4, 2012

Good Food for a Good Cause

My beloved and I recently attended a fundraiser for Silver Springs - Martin Luther School, an agency that provides trauma recovery and treatment for abused children.  Philadelphia Superstar and Iron Chef Jose Garces selected the menu items, paired the wines and was on hand with his personal team of 14 to supervise the preparation of the dinner.  The sopa de castano, a truffle chestnut soup with duck and wild mushroom hash, was my favorite.  I understand they serve this at Tinto, one of his 15 restaurants.  I'm going!

Three boys served by Silver Springs.

Chef Garces autographed "The Latin Road Home," his new cookbook, travelogue and memoir which takes us to Spain, Cuba, Mexico and Peru.

Chef Garces and his wife, Dr. Beatriz Garces, run The Garces Family Foundation, dedicated to improving the health and education of the underprivileged migrant population of the Greater Philadelphia Area.  Excellent!


October 25, 2012

Vegan Treats

★ How do you rate perfection?  With five stars, natch.   

It is no secret that birthday cake is my all-time favorite guilty pleasure food.  So it was no surprise that the celebration of my beloved's birthday led us on a pilgrimage to Vegan Treats in Bethlehem, PA to find the perfect cake.  Although we didn't see Jesus during our brief stay in Bethlehem, I am pretty sure we heard angels singing while enjoying our tasty treats. 

So many selections.  All treats were vegan, but the third row was also gluten-free, which made Justin super happy.  Check out their latest menu HERE.

Vegan Treats also has vegan soft-serve ice cream, to the delight of Lauren and Justin who can't have dairy.  Vegan Treats, if you are reading this, please BRING BACK PUMPKIN!  And, a cook book would be terrific.  Thank you.

Lauren preparing to dive into her chocolate peanut butter cake.

Justin and Lauren, getting busy.

 Here is a close-up of Lauren's luscious cake.  She let me try it.  Deelish!

Justin selected a pumpkin parfait.  It was gone lickety split!

Here is my supernaturally delicious chocolate cake.  Yum!  I had to take half of it home in a box, it was so rich and delightful.  Justin, who has autism, later dropped the box in our driveway spilling its contents.  This made me sad, so we went back a few days later for more treats! 

Boo treats for Halloween.  Too cute!

If you plan to be anywhere near Bethlehem, do yourself a favor and visit Vegan Treats.  It is worth the drive.  Vegan or not, your tastebuds will do the happy dance. <pinkie swear>

Vegan Treats
1444 Linden Street
Bethlehem, PA  18018

For a list of retail locations that carry Vegan Treats, click HERE.

Happy, happy, joy, joy!