We all love doing our repurposing projects, ranging from the practical …


Photo of an antique dresser reborn as a bathroom sink by Victorgrigas via Wikimedia Commons

to the playfully unpretentious …


Photo of soup cans used as stool legs by Victorgrigas via Wikimedia Commons

to the positively … perfunctory?


Photo of a commode planter by Jean Luc Henryplanter via Wikimedia Commons

Anyway, whatever the (re)purpose, we love ’em!

But you must admit that there’s something stupendously special (and infinitely inspiring) when someone elevates repurposing to the heights of entrepreneurial artistry—someone like Traci Claussen of REpurposingNOLA Piece by Peace.

If you’re wondering who NOLA is, you’re probably not from the South (neither am I). NOLA, I learned, is the shiny new acronym for that legendary city that has risen from the floods of Katrina: New Orleans, Louisiana.

And Traci Claussen has put her fashion sense to repurposing her city “Piece by Peace,” using castaway fabric from urban industries to craft couture items with a conscience. Traci talks about her business in this video interview:

Traci started making bags from burlap coffee sacks and old carpet in 2009.


Photo by Jkafader via Wikimedia Commons

 “She began designing bags for her own travels: an eco-duffel for a trip to the Jurassic Coast of England; a burlap HoBo handbag for running around town; a RE-weekender Bag for trips to the coast,” explains her blog. “She made adjustments to the prototype after each trip, to add or edit options that would make it more useful for the next trip.”

Now, Traci tailors her designs to meet the needs of her travel-savvy customers. She offers a BURLAP line, featuring her original three designs and seasonal favorites, as well as a signature CARPETBAGGER line and a VEGAN line of totes. She also stocks her online store and physical shop at 604 Julia Street with gorgeous, eclectic goodies, including clothing, candles, and cosmetic collections—all locally made and mostly repurposed, of course.

“I design for the wanderlust in my heart,” says Traci, “because people with innate wanderlust share a compassion, a thirst for local people and the planet. That chronic thirst to grow and learn, help others, bring people together, celebrate appreciation for the individual—it inspires communities.”

Hop on over to to pick up a little more inspiration—and maybe even a Christmas gift or two!


  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Traci is quite the entrepreneur. I love how she incorporates charity with commerce in her business too. That first photo of repurposing an old chest into a sink has always intrigued me. What a great idea. I wonder if the drawers can still function to hold necessary items or if the plumbing eliminates being able to do that.

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The Great British Bake Off

Many of us are fans of British television. Think Downton Abby, Sherlock, and the recent Dr. Who revival. So I was intrigued to learn about Britain’s most popular show, The Great British Bake Off, a reality-based, amateur baking competition that’s quickly becoming a cultural phenomenon. Now ending its fifth season, The Great British Bake Off displays none of the hallmarks of American reality television; the majority of the show is set inside tents filled with cooking stations, and the contestants themselves are regular people who just love baking and live in their own homes during the filming of the show.


The biggest difference? There’s no prize money. So why do people love it? From what I can gather, the contestants’ lack of glamour makes them relatable to viewers. There are no ulterior motives, and because there’s no prize money, contestants aren’t sabotaging each other to get ahead. And the parts of a baking show you might think would be boring, like waiting for pastry to bake or bread to rise, actually end up building great suspense.


Chief executive Richard McKerrow says, “Bakers are really good people. The very act of what they do is to make something for lots of other people. That makes them really refreshing.”

I couldn’t agree more, and I hope our American television execs soon take a cue from our British friends across the pond.

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    What a breath of fresh air from the Food Network shows about cupcake bake-offs!

  2. Karlyne says:

    My favorite cooking show is the Master Chef Kids, because the judges are gentler, and the kids are seriously amazing. I think I’m a decent baker/cook, but they put me to the blush! I would love to see this one. It sounds right up my cookie sheet!

  3. Yes, as always ,the British are oh so much more civilized than us ” Yanks” ( that’s what they call us ), what a refreshing concept !! I grew up watching cooking shows on tv with my hobbiest chef stepfather. He would have loved this one.

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Knitting Glass

These darker, shorter days tend to veer my crafting to projects that might keep my hands happily busy for the winter months. Knitting and embroidery are hands-down my favorites. On a recent foray into cyberspace for some ideas, I happened upon Carol Milne, a Seattle-based artist from Canada who knits with glass. Yes, you heard that exactly right, she knits with glass!


Milne has developed a technique for pouring glass into molds of designs made from wax, a new twist on the ancient art of lost wax casting. She uses a slender and very elastic candle to make different patterns, then surrounds them with a high-temperature plaster to make a mold. Each stitch of her knitted design must be carefully created by hand because using needles tends to stretch the wax. After the molds are dry, the wax is melted with hot steam and replaced by liquid glass. When the glass has slowly cooled, the molds are chiseled away in archeological fashion to reveal intricately knitted structures.

Milne first embarked on this technically challenging journey back in 2002 as a way to couple her knitting passion (she’s been wielding needles since she was 10) with her love for cast glass sculpture. I think I’ll have to stick with yarn, but how inspiring to combine her two passions into timeless art.


  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Amazing and Beautiful!! I can hardly imagine anything more difficult that trying to knit with yarn, let alone glass. I bet Milne’s art displays are incredible to see.

  2. Cindi Johnson says:

    That is amazing work! I could sit and look at it for hours just tracing the patterns of the stitches and marveling at the interlocking of each strand of glass. Thanks for putting the link in. I will keep an eye on her showings for the next time I’m in the Seattle area. Maybe dare to hope she travels east and shows in Spokane {hint, hint}.

  3. connie-killarney says:

    Wow!! so beautiful to behold!!

  4. Yep, amazing is the only word to describe this !

  5. Marga says:

    Wow! What active and cool thing to think of . I would love to see one of her pieces up close.

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Milkmaid Beauty Queen

Step aside Miss America,


Photo by Staff Sgt. Jessica Barnett, Kansas Adjutant General’s Department Public Affairs Office via Wikimedia Commons

you’ll need a bucket if you want to compete with Miss Uganda …



a milk bucket, that is.

This year, hopefuls vying for the title of Miss Uganda had to show their talents in an unusual realm for a beauty pageant—a milking contest. And that’s not all; they also had to handle sheep and goats and answer pertinent questions about agriculture—no tapping cup tricks for these ladies … and no swimsuits.

“Why all this emphasis on farming?” you might ask. The current Ugandan president apparently thought it would be a good way to spotlight agriculture, the country’s economic backbone. “We are here to change the perception that agriculture cannot co-exist with beauty. The contestants have been taken through 25 modules of agriculture and have had their hands dirty at some points to get to know how things are done. The regional winners, together with the overall winner, will champion agricultural projects in the next one year,” said Brenda Nanyonjo, Miss Uganda spokeswoman.

You go, farmgirls!


  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I love this idea! Miss FarmGirl America where the contest includes miking, tractor driving, gardening, canning, and soft skills like embroidery and sewing. Of course, you and Daizy(?) take the prize! Maybe next year’s FSOTM should include some competition like Miss Uganda?? It could be a ton of fun!

  2. Ron and Elaine Silverman says:

    We love it! What a wonderful idea that was. They are all winners in our book.

  3. Most of the FFA competitions do that now, altho not really as a beauty contest. Also, here in Pennsylvania, Dairy Queens and Princesses and even Milkmaids ( for the younger set) compete and spend their year of royalty travelling and promoting dairy bigtime. Most of these gals come from dairying families and farms. I know I have sent you articles on them, MaryJane.
    Beauty contests are huge in Africa and a great way for underprivileged girls to get ahead, and further their education, which is out of reach for most. It is especially refreshing to see that traditional African beauty is honored, ie not lighter skin , not western” straightened” hair.

  4. CJ Armstrong says:

    I grew up on a farm where we milked cows. We just had one or two at a time to provide milk for our family (I’m one of six siblings). As teenagers we all had our turn at milking, but my oldest sister, as a 4-H participant, was entered in the Colorado State Fair “Milkmaid Contest”. I do not know what year, but I’m guessing in the mid-50s. She had to go to compete at the fair in Pueblo, Colorado, milk a cow that she’d never milked and who didn’t know her.
    She won!! She was Colorado State “Milkmaid” that year!

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If You Want My Opinion … Which I’m Sure You Don’t!

Who says it? Can you name that character?

I’ve been hearing it from our bathroom while the girls brush their teeth, from the dining room while we eat dinner, hollered from the girls’ bedrooms, and muttered by the front entry while we pile our winter layers on. But who else says it?

Nanny Jane took us girls to the theater last weekend to see a live performance of Anne of Green Gables. We are so lucky to have a great little theater with great little productions in our small town.

Photo Nov 09, 2 07 34 PM

It was definitely a cold and rainy November day. A perfect day spent with Anne Shirley and a bag of popcorn. The cast was wonderful and catered to a younger crowd, so the girls loved it.

Photo Nov 09, 2 10 27 PMThe girls’ favorite line wasn’t one of Anne’s, but the rather nosy BFF to Marilla Cuthbert (Anne’s adopted Mum), Rachel Lynde.

“If you want my opinion … which I am sure you don’t!” is a perfectly fitting thing for two sisters to tell each other pretty much … constantly.


  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    What a fantastic opportunity for your family last weekend to see a live performance of this play. There is something so real and special about a live show that leaves big impressions on each of us. I am glad you all had the chance to do this together! I, for one, had never heard this saying, but I must admit it is a keeper to use!!

  2. Karlyne says:

    Moscow is such a lovely little town, if you want my thoughts, which I’m sure you don’t…

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Crafty Brains

Hold on to your needles and yarn because science is proving what we farmgirls have known for generations … that crafting is good for the brain! Cooking, sewing, drawing, painting, taking photos, listening to music—any creative endeavor—is beneficial, and its physical effects are similar to those of meditation.

Photo Oct 09, 4 35 44 PM

When we’re involved with a craft, we enter a special zone that psychologists refer to as “flow”—that place where we are so focused on the task at hand that we don’t notice hunger or fatigue or the passing of time. Being in a creative flow reduces stress and helps fight inflammation, and when we engage in activities that we find pleasurable, our bodies also release dopamine, nature’s own antidepressant.

And just like playing brain games or working crossword puzzles, crafting can protect us against aging and dementia by working different areas of our brains at the same time, using memory, attention span, visual processing, and problem-solving in tandem.

Whew, all that from a little old embroidery needle. So the next time you’re enjoying a little quilting instead of say, chasing dust bunnies, you can feel a little less guilty knowing you’re taking good care of your health.

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I like this research. Finally a reason to indulge regularly and without guilt in making whatever interests me that day. It’s like a free pass!

    • MaryJane says:

      How’s your sweater vest coming along??? Sooooooo knit happy.

      • Karlyne says:

        Sweater vest?!? I love sweater vests! Winnie, you’re just so multi-faceted!

        • Winnie Nielsen says:

          Karlyne, this is my very first attempt at a vest and so I am a bit nervous about getting all of the arms and neck done correctly. It has to be just right in order to wear it. Keeping my fingers crossed!

          Your embroidered sock project sounds fun. I bet they are cute!

      • Winnie Nielsen says:

        Well, I have not knitted on it since Monday night but hope to spend time this afternoon doing some more. Did you find your family vest yet?

        I also signed up for this sock swap on the Forum and decided instead of making a stocking, I would knit a pair of Christmas colored socks that were thick and could be worn in boots. They are turning out so cute and I am almost done both of them! They are going to have some little jingle bells on the sides too. So my knitting time the past few days has been split up between projects. Heheh, I used up yarn scraps and the socks are so cute, I might make myself a pair!

  2. Would that I had the time to craft these days !! Just started a second business,( back to selling antiques again which I did years ago – got boxes of neat old things piled up in 2 of my bedrooms + the 2nd story of my stone cottage -yep lots of inventory ) to help with the diminishing cash flow. At this time of year I also do all the upgrading of my website to reflect my growing season’s hard work of raising plants for seeds for my heirloom seed business. I am currently writing new and hopefully zippy descriptions for about 30 varieties of rare tomatoes, 15 sorts of beans, 8 peppers, and 5 heirloom melons too. yep a little too busy to be ” in the flow” for now. Maybe come winter…..?

  3. Karlyne says:

    My nine-year-old granddaughter will turn 10 in January, and we’re already planning her birthday party. For party favors, we’re going to get embroidery hoops, floss and little scissors. Then we’ll draw each girl’s initial on a quilt block which we’ll embroider during the party. I’ve been embroidering her little brother’s blocks while waiting for her at dance class, and all of the girls (and their moms) who come by are fascinated. Won’t we have fun?!?

  4. Nancy Coughlin says:

    How wonderful to realize that what we have known for so long is finally being given credence. What we make with our own hands comes from the heart and by extension has to have that brain and soul link that is important for us. THanks for sharing.

  5. Marge Hofknecht says:

    I just love to read stuff like this. And it’s so true. I feel so refreshed when I’ve worked on and finished a knitting project or crochet project.

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  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Carol finds the coolest stuff!

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Good for the Soul

Photo Oct 25, 10 54 33 AM

We did it! Hubby and I have been quietly training for another half marathon. In 2013, I completed my first half marathon. Becoming a runner has changed my life. It’s a form of meditation, a reminder to appreciate the body I have, to be thankful I am able to run. I certainly don’t do it quickly, but this allows me to enjoy the world around me.

Photo Oct 25, 12 00 26 PM

Of course, we were happy to abide by the suggestion to dress in costume. Hubby Lucas, myself, my dad, and my stepmom were maybe not as fast as Batman, but we sure enjoyed the journey!

Photo Oct 25, 10 48 11 AM

Our girls were there to cheer us on, and we finished the weekend with a jaunt over to Point Reyes National Seashore. It’s good for the soles of tired feet to soak in the salt water.

Photo Oct 26, 3 14 50 PM

And good for the soul to soak in the sounds of the ocean.

Photo Oct 26, 3 30 11 PM

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Congratulations Megan! Running long distances is a major accomplishment . So happy for you and your success!

  2. Kudos to you Megan and Lucas for your running!

  3. Kristine Wildung says:

    Good for you! I had no idea you were training FOR something 🙂

    • Megan says:

      I am cracking up at this! How did we miss this in all the conversations we have. Maybe we are diligently working?? Most of the time. 🙂

  4. CJ Armstrong says:

    Congratulations to all of you! Batman is a “nickname” for our son-in-law. . 😀 He is an athlete as well!
    Glad you got to enjoy the ocean as well. I’m sure ready for some beachcombing, but it’ll be a while!

    • Megan says:

      It was an extra three hours of driving on top of the many hours we were already driving but for an Idaho or Colorado girl a few hours on the beach makes it entirely worth it! 🙂

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