Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Here it is, a new year.  Watch the ball drop.  Kiss your honey, blow some horns and sing "Auld Lang Syne."

Remember to write the correct year on your checks.  Start gathering the tax information.  Watch the endless commercials for weight loss plans and gyms.  Make a resolution.

No thank you.  I'm fine.  I've been thinking about it for days.  I can't think of a single thing I want to define my 2015.  Last year I said "peace."  If that's still my resolution, do I need to say it again?

I guess we need a stopping point every now and then.  I like the idea of looking back to remember important things that happened, people we lost and lessons we learned.  January 1 is a good day for that.  I'm just not a resolution kind of girl.  I have things I resolve to do daily, weekly and monthly, but I can't in good faith try to think of one thing I resolve to do for an entire year.

So Happy New Year!  I'm thinking back through 2014 and looking forward to life in 2015.  I'm having a big birthday this year.  My son will start high school {gasp!} and a dear friend is having a miracle baby.  I will spend much of the year working toward getting our youth choir to Rome for New Years 2016.  I'm looking forward to all of it.

2015 is bound to be a year full of joy and sorrow, hopefully more of the former and less of the latter.  I'm still praying for peace, both for myself and the world.  I'm also praying for wisdom so I can discern more of God's plans for me.

Happy New Year.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

So What's Up With You?

I haven't been around these parts in a little while, but Straddling the Gap still lives.  The last 9 months have been occupied with fundraising, planning, stressing and looking for donors.  Why?  My husband's children's choir, Pueri Cantores St. Bernard of Clairvaux, is going to Rome at this time next year to participate in the International Congress of Pueri Cantores.  Huh?  We get to sing for Pope Francis on New Year's Day 2016!!

It's an amazing opportunity to join nearly 5,000 other children from all over the world singing together in the Catholic Church's official language - Latin.  We are the only group from Arizona that is going and we're very proud of our kids - ages 9 through 18.  So was it enough to have this enormous endeavor on his plate?  Oh no.  I volunteered to be the chairperson of a $150,000 development campaign to fund the trip.  Yikes!

It has been a whirlwind to say the least.  We've had some adventures in fundraising and learned about development campaigns.  We're still learning.  Daily.  Sometimes I think we are learning by osmosis - constantly absorbing.  It's been thrilling but frustrating.  Scary and exhilarating all at the same time.  And we're only halfway through.

This has left me with little time to write Straddling the Gap and I do miss it.  So, for 2015 I'm going to write about what I'm doing.  Unfortunately it's not much crafting or sewing, but our fundraisers are interesting.  Next time I'll tell you about our newest fundraising endeavor - we have a tiger by the tail and a trip for two on the line.

In the meantime, if you want to hear more about our choir, please visit our website at or like Pueri Cantores St. Bernard of Clairvaux on Facebook.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Easy Thanksgiving Turkey Cookies

Thanksgiving is almost here and everyone is making cute stuff for their tables.  Turkeys abound!  These are my favorite Thanksgiving decorations that are also tasty little cookie treats.  Kids love them!  Best of all - no baking or cooking of any kind - just assembly!  I originally posted this in 2011, but the recipe never gets old.

I love doing DIYs, but the best DIYs have pictures.  I'm going one step further here, and doing this DIY with JUST PICTURES.  Enough words - on with the directions:

Step 1:

Step 2:

Step 3:

Step 4:

Step 5:


Turkeys quickly multiply . . .

until they are a flock!

BTW, you can use either the chocolate covered cherries or mint drops for the body.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies!

O.K., by now pumpkin might be getting a little old for most of you, but here's one more recipe I'll throw at you.  The pumpkin taste isn't as prevalent and there are chocolate and cheesecake tastes to boot!   I will admit that instead of being a purist by making the homemade portion of these brownies, I took the easy way out and used a box brownie mix and kept the recipe limited to the yummy pumpkin cheesecake topping.  Without further delay, here is the recipe for Pumpkin Cheesecake Swirl Brownies from Table for Two Blog:


1 box brownie mix (and all the ingredients required to make them) (I would suggest a "moist" brownie mix - advertised as extra fudge or rich)
4 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/3 c. pumpkin puree (you can use canned pumpkin and puree it with a blender)
1 large egg (in addition to any that might be required for the brownie mix)
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Prepare oven according to brownie mix directions.  For best results, use a parchment lined pan and spray it with non-stick spray.  After preparing brownie mix and pouring it into the pan, set aside and make the topping:

Beat together cream cheese and sugar until fluffy.  Add pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice and egg and beat until well mixed.  Using a tablespoon put spoonfuls of the topping onto the brownie batter.  Using a toothpick or knife, swirl it around into the batter.  Don't forget to make some pretty patterns!
Bake the brownies according to directions (about 35-40 minutes).  Definitely don't over bake.  If your mix offers you the difference between a chewy brownie or a more cake-like brownie, choose the chewy - you don't want these like cake.  After baking the center should still be jiggly.  Let cool 20 minutes and then use the parchment paper to lift out of the pan onto a wire rack to cool completely.  After cool, put them in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before cutting.

Here they are.  (Again, photographing food is not by best skill):

Enjoy for the holidays or anytime during the year!


Friday, October 17, 2014

Still the BEST Pumpkin Bars!

It's Pumpkin Palooza week and here is a recipe that lives up to its name.

The BEST Pumpkin Bars Ever

No kidding - these are the ones!  I don't know if I ever tasted a pumpkin "bar", but these things are the bomb!  I can't take credit for any part of this - not the title, the recipe or the awesomeness, but I do want to introduce you to one of the most fabulous pumpkin things I have ever eaten.

I found this recipe through a beautiful photograph on Pinterest.  That led me to Mique at 30 Handmade Days and her great recipe.  Click through the link to her post and the recipe; it's written out in a way you can print it or save it.

These bars are definitely not for those on a diet - they are made with oil, eggs, sugar, pumpkin and a few other ingredients.  They have a consistency almost like a moist brownie.  The frosting is a homemade cream cheese frosting (which I plan to use on many more recipes).  They can be baked in a shallow pan like a cookie sheet.  I chose to use a 9 x 13" pan, so mine are deeper and denser.

The taste?  You can eat them cold, or better yet, warmed with the frosting melting slightly.  When they're cold, they taste like a wedge of pumpkin pie, but with a firmer consistency.  When they are warmed up, they melt in your mouth.  They stay firm and moist, even after a couple of days.  We stored them open in the refrigerator and cut them as we ate them, and they never dried out.

These pumpkin bars passed the picky test with my kids and husband, which is impressive for a pumpkin dish.  This recipe is definitely a keeper and one I plan to pull out for a party this weekend.



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Our first entry on Pumpkin Palooza is an EASY recipe.  I originally published this as part of a Pinterest Challenge and I ended up using several different cake mixes.  I would recommend spice cake for best taste.

Start with a box cake mix and a 15 ounce can of pumpkin.  You add - NOTHING!  That's right, two ingredients.  No eggs, oil, water or vanilla extract - NADA!

There must be more ingredients.  The result is probably dry.  The whole thing will taste like pumpkin.  NOPE.  You can use any kind of cake mix you want.  I wanted to make a bunch of cupcake/muffins, so I tried spice, yellow and devil's food cake mixes.  (I understand these are considered fairly healthy and even have a Weight Watcher point value somewhere.)

Just mix the pumpkin and the cake mix with an electric beater

Spoon into muffin/cupcake tins lined with cupcake papers, and after 23 minutes at 350 degrees, you get this for the spice muffins:

As for taste - excellent!  The pumpkin taste comes through in the spice muffins, but hardly at all with the yellow and devil's food cake mixes.  For an even more flavorful spice version, try adding a little cinnamon or a dash of nutmeg or allspice to the mix.  Chocolate chips are an awesome addition to the chocolate cupcakes/muffins.  The spice or yellow cake muffins are great topped with cream cheese frosting and you can try drizzling warm frosting over the muffins for a fancier look.  A note - I keep referring to these as muffins/cupcakes because the consistency is a cross between both.  It's not a cake, but a very moist muffin.  The best part for me was that they were so quick and easy to make, and the yield is about 18 cupcake/muffins.

Success!  Pumpkin Palooza is on!


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Pumpkin Palooza Redux

We did this a year ago and it was so much fun!  This year pumpkin is even more popular - if that's possible.

Have you had enough pumpkin yet with Halloween coming?  It's time to stop looking at it like a porch decoration and bring it into the kitchen!

Seriously, now is the time of year for pumpkin recipes and here at Straddling the Gap I'm trying some recipes and a decorating technique I've found in various places - Pinterest, Facebook and family recipes.  I can't guarantee they will all be great, but I promise to let you know if they aren't.  If you find the right recipes, add them to Thanksgiving or other holiday festivities.

The four recipes I'm making are all desserts.  I'm just not adventurous enough to make savory pumpkin dishes because I know my family won't give them a second glance.  Truthfully, they will be the picky taste testers on the pumpkin desserts.

So, get some cans of pumpkins, sugar, eggs, flour and a couple of mixes and get ready!

Pumpkin Palooza!


Monday, September 1, 2014

Fuzzy Pink Stashbuster Blanket!

I was clearing out some yarn and made this.  I really like it.  It makes me happy when I look at it.

It was so easy to make.  Just gather up a bunch of leftover yarn in similar colors.  I used regular worsted weight, bulky novelty yarn, fun fur yarn and bouncle yarn.  I combined them three strands at a time and just used single crochet.

Whenever I was tired of a particular yarn, I cut it and tied on a new one.  I didn't always wait until the end of the row and I didn't change out each of the three strands at the same time.  That kept the pattern fun and random.  The hardest part was the most basic problem of making an afghan - counting, counting, counting.  There were several times when I had to rip out rows of stitches because I miscounted and saw that telltale wavy side - yuck.

The specifics on this - chain 61 and 60 stitches per row.  It's 33" x 45" - kind of the size of a lap blanket.  This was really freeform, so I didn't make it to a certain size specification.  I'm going to be raffling this blanket as part of a raffle basket to benefit Pueri Cantores St. Bernard of Clairvaux youth choirs later this fall and I'll let everyone know when that is happening just in case you want to buy a raffle ticket.  Maybe it will be part of a "girly-girl" basket.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

College Organization Tips - Just In Time!

You're off to college with all your stuff!  Now where are you going to put it?  That is perhaps the most important question you will answer during the first week and it may define how well you coexist with the stranger with whom you will share a room for the next 9 months.  Here's a compilation of some of the best ones I have found.  Some even have a tutorial to show you how to make/do what you see in the picture.

1.  The key to dorm room (or small apartment bedroom) organization is maximizing space - storing as many things as possible in the smallest amount of space.  In a room with limited square footage, the key is using the vertical space.  Here is a great article from BuzzFeed that has some great ideas:

2.  Bedside Solutions - Keep your reading materials, phone, remote and other things close without a bedside table.  The second caddy hangs between the mattress and base of bed.  You can make lots of those caddies to go around the bed for odd storage.

3. Keep your electronics charged without losing cords or small items.

4.  Keep your desk space clear.  Here's a clever way to move your desk supplies up on the wall by attaching small magnets to your desk items and putting them on a metal board.

5.  Over the door storage - the back of the closet door is prime real estate.  You can use the clear plastic bags or baskets that hang behind the door.  If you keep the storage high enough you will still have room for some hooks toward the bottom of the door for wet towels, etc.  Click on the first picture for more over the door storage ideas.

6.  Maximize the space under the bed.  The higher up the bed, the more space you will have under it for storage (or living).  Warning - be careful not to prop up a bed in an unsafe way!  Depending on how much space you can get under the bed, you can put things as big as your desk or as small as under the bed plastic storage bins.  Use a flat sheet to create a decorative "curtain" to hide stuff under a raised bed.

7.  Closet organization.  In addition to the over the door storage I already mentioned, you need to use hangers that maximize the vertical space.  Try a skirt hanger that can handle six items at once, or soda can tabs or chains to stagger multiple hangers.  Use a tie rack for camisoles or tension rods on the sides of the closet for shoes.


Strategic planning is best for the dorm room, but don't forget to involve your room mate in the process! Good luck at school.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Everybody is Back

They're baaaaacck.


Who is Everybody?  Or should I say who are Everybody?  I think they are related to Everyone.

I'm not sure who they are, but I do know my kids go to school with them.  They are on every child's sports team, school club or just hanging out at friends' houses.  I bet your kid knows them too.  But who are they?

You've heard your kid talk about them:  "Everybody has a backpack like that."  "I am the only kid without a cell phone!  Everybody has one!"  "Everybody gets to go hang out at the park, why can't I?"

School has seemed to flush Everybody out.

I just want to know who Everybody is.  They definitely aren't my kids and it's doubtful they are yours.  Who are the parents of Everybody?  Someone might need to report them to the child welfare services because they are doing some questionable things.

When I figure out who Everybody is, I intend to get to the bottom of who Everyone and Nobody are.  Clearly children know who they are, but they won't tell you their names.  However, Everyone knows the names of Everybody and Nobody because Everyone knows that!  I think there might be a need to call child welfare services to investigate the parents of Nobody, because they seem to be the kids lacking safety equipment, warm clothes and sensible shoes.

Just remember - now that school is back in session, drive carefully.  You need to watch out for Everybody.  And if your kids want to bring them home, get their names.

And let me know who they are.


Monday, July 14, 2014

The Bachelorette - I Don't Get It

I know I'll probably get flamed for this, but tonight I watched "The Bachelorette" and I don't get it.  I watched the first episode where our heroine, Andi, greeted about 25 guys (I'm not savvy enough to know exactly how many).  That was interesting and fun.  I thought it was cute that she could weed through a few guys at a time.  After all, a girl should be able to know that not all 25 guys can be her "soulmate."

Fast forward a couple of weeks and she's going on "dates" with groups of guys.  I'm still with that.  It's probably fun to walk around with a group of guys following you like a pack of hungry dogs.  No, seriously, a girl can have fun in a group.  There's no pressure to focus on just one.

Again, I have to admit that I don't regularly watch this show; in fact, I've only seen about 2 episodes total and a few glimpses of another.  Tonight I noticed that Andi is down to 3 guys.  I understand - she's still dating and making decisions.  Here's where I am confused.  She's kissing and spending the night with two of the three guys, although I'm not assuming anything went on behind closed doors because then I would have to assume she's a tramp.  I don't think that badly of Andi the Bachelorette.

By the end of the episode, she's ready to take two guys home to meet the parents and she's talking about how within a week she's expecting a proposal from one of them.  I watched the face of the baseball player as she offered the rose to the cute shy guy.  He didn't look too thrilled at the possibility of losing the game.  It is definitely a reality competition.

As I watched it with my daughter sitting close by, I couldn't help but contrast it with some recent episodes of "19 Kids and Counting" in which one of the daughters found a husband.  You know, those people who are "freaks" because they have 19 kids, dress modestly and "court" before marrying?  How could a girl possibly marry a guy she's only been out with a couple of times and always with chaperones?  Now I'm not suggesting that we start lining up chaperoned dates for our daughters, but I do have to admit I was less confused watching that instead of Andi and her "soulmates."

I truly hope Andi finds the lifelong love she so desperately wants.  I'd like to think it might be one of these two guys she is taking home.  I'm just not sure a television show is the right place to look for love.  Either way, we will enjoy watching.

I just won't get it.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Butter Tomato Sauce

It's summer and so many people are buried in homegrown tomatoes.  I miss those big beefy tomatoes from the Midwest, but love the Roma tomatoes we get from Yuma and California.  A couple of months ago I acquired pounds (I don't even know how many) of Roma tomatoes and thought I would try some homemade tomato sauce.  I found this recipe for tomato sauce made with butter and after reading the reviews, I gave it a try.

Before making the sauce I had to peel the Roma tomatoes.  (Some people don't peel Roma tomatoes to make sauce, but I wanted to give this technique a try.)  First, score the ends of the tomatoes like this:

Place the tomatoes in a pot of water and heat to boiling.  Watch for the skins to slightly peel back and immediately remove the tomatoes to a bowl of ice cold water.  Leave them in the cold water for a minute or two and remove them to dry.  You've just blanched your tomatoes.
See how the ends look a little bulgy?  You are ready to peel.  Carefully pull back the peel at the places where you scored the tomatoes.  If you get stuck, score them again anywhere on the peel and pull back the skin.

After your tomatoes are peeled, cut them up a bit or blend them if you really like smooth sauce.  Following the recipe I linked above, combine 2 pounds of fresh tomatoes with a peeled sweet onion cut in half. (Yes, you just float that onion in the pot with the tomatoes.)  Add 5 tablespoons of butter.
Cook it over medium heat until the tomatoes are reduced and not so watery and the butter is melted.  You won't be able to resist tasting it after the first couple of minutes and you won't believe how rich it tastes!  I added some chopped green and red peppers and minced garlic that was sautéed in a little olive oil.

At the end, remove the onion and you are ready to go!  It is so good and also freezes very well in Ziploc freezer bags.  Your family will love it, although you might not want to tell your older children there is butter in it because they tend to freak out over "weird" food combinations.
Enjoy those summer tomatoes!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dressing It Up

The creative log jam has finally broken and I'm sewing again!  I love making little girl dresses.  Unfortunately, my little girl isn't that little anymore, so my Etsy store, Pretty Pretty Cindy, was born as an outlet for the "little girl" sewing (and crochet and whatever else I want to make).  I'm especially tickled about "upcycling," or using existing items to make new ones.  Without further ado, I'm excited to show you what I've been doing:

This is a pretty little cotton A-line I made in a size 4.  I added a little hot pink tulle at the hem.  I love these little A-line dresses.  I know I've mentioned it before, but Wendy Gratz has an adorable book "Absolutely A-Line" that will open your mind to lots of new ways to improve on a simple A-line pattern.

Although I do love the A-lines, I did try a couple of new things:

This is a pretty peachy cotton long dress in a size 5.  I will probably end up shortening this for someone because it's pretty long - the lace ruffle added a little too much length except for those tall girls.  I love the Peter Pan collar, but I can't say I liked making it!

Continuing my quest to do something new, I tried out a twirl tiered dress.  A friend of mine said it reminded her of Provence in France because it's so sunny and bright.  I think if I did another, I would make the straps knotted so they are a little more adjustable.  This one is a size 6.

I felt pretty clever with this little A-line dress.  This dress is made from two pillowcases.  The clever part is that when I cut the dress initially, I accidentally left a pillowcase seam right down the middle of the front of the dress.  That resulted in the pattern pieces being pushed aside for a long time.  When I finally found them again a couple weeks ago, I decided to give the dress a faux front closure with little buttons.  Staying with the closure theme, I devised something a little different for the back closure:

I created the largest button holes my machine would make and then threaded a sash through them for this cute tie.  This little dress is a size 3 and definitely one of a kind.

If you want to see any of these dresses as specific listings on Etsy, click the small pictures on the right -->

When the creative streak gets started, it's hard to know when it will stop, so I'm still working on more dresses.  Watch for them on Pinterest on my "Things I've Made" board or on the right Etsy column here.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Easy Homemade Father's Day

It's the Monday before Father's Day and you still don't have anything?  Well join the club!  I'm still thinking about what we're going to do this year, but I do have a couple of easy ideas to share with you that are great for your younger kids.  My husband always complained that he didn't get the cool personalized gifts I get because Mother's Day is during the school year.  We did some of these to address that and now that the kids are 11 and 13, I don't think he minds as much that the gifts aren't as personalized.

Here's an easy one you can do with a couple of markers and a small stretched canvas you can find at Michael's, Hobby Lobby or any local craft store.

I used alternating colored markers on the stretch canvas.  I outlined the letters for DAD and then had the kids come up with words to describe their dad.  Then I wrote the words to make the shape.  I made sure the kids wrote their own names and put the occasion and date on the bottom.  (I hate when you find things made by kids, but don't know what year it was.)

Another gift dad really loves are the homemade coasters.

So easy!  You use plain absorbent stone coasters, some phones printed on paper and modge podge.  We didn't try photos printed on photopaper because I'm not sure how well the modge podge works on that type of paper.  The one mistake difficulty we had was getting the head shot close enough and still being able to cut a complete circle to fit the coaster.  You can see that my kids didn't succeed in that task, but I still love how they turned out.  The modge podge mades them nice and smooth and completely water resistant.

Last year we did a barbecue theme (we aren't terribly original around here).  To add to the implements, spices and apron, we made a tray to carry items to and from the barbecue grill.

You can get a plain unfinished wood tray at Michael's or Hobby Lobby.  Using scrapbook paper and modge podge, we decorated the inside of the tray and then painted the rest.  I made sure to put a clear epoxy or shellac coat over everything to make it water resistant.  This project was a little more tricky for my 10 year old and we did struggle with the seam on the paper (you can see it above).  However, the fact that homemade things aren't "perfect" makes them the most precious gifts because it shows how much the kids worked at it.

The last one we wanted to make last year (and might this year) is a valet tray made from varying sizes of small boxes.  We found a set last year at the Container Store.  You can again use scrapbook paper to cover the boxes and then glue them together to make this configuration.  As a sharp touch you can use the "file markers" to identify the various compartments.  You can find the metal frames for those in any scrapbook section of a craft store.

Good luck with your homemade treasures and Happy Father's Day!