Book Review: “My Crazy Life Stories from A to Z” by Marilyn Linkul Winka

My Crazy Life Stories from A to Z by Marilyn Linkul Winka
“My Crazy Life Stories from A to Z” by Marilyn Linkul Winka

This is going to be a challenging review for me to write. The author is my aunt and the book is a memoir. Many of the stories are about my family and I was there for some of the incidents so there is no way to read it the same way a typical reader will.

My late Mom Lois was the oldest of three sisters. The middle sister, Marilyn, shares in this book a lot of funny stories about pranks, silly and embarrassing personal foibles, humorous Catholic guilt, plus touching anecdotes and observations. My Mom was not serious all the time but she was far more serious than Marilyn – many people have wondered aloud how they could be related! We know they are though, because they were not totally different. Both enjoyed teaching. Both were hardworking. Both were sincere about their faith. Both were tolerant and compassionate. Both enjoyed self-expression in the forms of writing, singing, dancing and acting.

All our lives the whole family has acknowledged that Marilyn is “crazy” – in the wacky sense, not the mentally ill sense. Most of my favorite parts of the book are about pranks and silliness. Some of the stories made me laugh so hard I was choking on my own snot. (It’s ok to say “snot” now and then, right Marilyn?)

Marilyn is not afraid to poke fun at herself in this book. Some of her prank anecdotes show that she has historically not always been shy about poking fun at others either. I don’t get the impression it was done maliciously. She can forgive herself for occurences that were thoughtless, silly or outrageously obtuse. If you’ve ever had experiences like that, you can laugh along with Marilyn and at yourself as she acknowledges some of her weirdness. Hopefully you can also pick up some of her forgiving attitude. It’s ok to own up to what you did and then let yourself off the hook. She lets a lot of other people off the hook for stuff they did to her too. Opportunities to throw other people under the bus have been passed by. That’s a sign of maturity, perhaps – from someone who has worked hard all her life to teach us that being mature is not always required! For example a bodily function reference is not the end of the world, right?

Life is too short not to bring out your inner child out to play sometimes. I’m in no way as uninhibited in my behavior as my Aunt but I’m unconventional in different ways and I have a high tolerance for and appreciation of eccentricity! Some of the stories in the book are about Marilyn’s father (my Grandfather) and his two brothers. See this picture and explanatory caption below to get a glimpse of the family that produced such as we…

Close up of a diorama I made featuring one of my all-time favorite photos – my Grandfather, Bill, with the corn-cob pipe, pretending to play baseball with his two brothers. They are using an air hockey puck, a racing helmet, a fire helmet and a beggar’s tin cup. You can’t see it in the diorama but Uncle Jack is holding a lollipop. Their front teeth are blacked out with construction paper. Why? Because Linkul, that’s why!

This book is a gift to my family because it preserves a lot of family history. I learned some things about my grandparents, my Mom and others that I did not know before. What is the average reader going to get out of it? Besides some encouragement to laugh at and forgive yourself, this book provides a glimpse of life, culture and history in the greater St. Louis area, especially South St. Louis. It may also inspire you to give a gift to your own family by preserving your favorite stories for future generations to enjoy!

Click here to buy “My Crazy Life Stories from A to Z”.

Disguise Problem Spots with Containers

When choosing containers, first keep in mind what style of garden you have. You can break design “rules” but you will have more predictable success if you try to match the style of pots to the style of home and garden you have.

Read more about container gardening on the Schnarr’s Hardware Blog.


Raising containers off the ground with decorative sandstone pieces
Starting a new container grouping in a bare spot.

Let’s Purge the Spurge! Part 1

One of my frequent landscaping tasks in summer is weeding at clients’ properties. Many of the weeds can be hand-pulled, but on a recent occasion there was such an abundance of Prostrate Spurge (Euphorbia maculata) that it was hopeless to try to pull it in a reasonable amount of time.

Read about how we decided to deal with the Spurge on the Schnarr’s Hardware Blog!


Controlling Prostrate Spurge

At the left is a spurge-infested patch, and on the right is how it looks after the soil is turned over with a spade. Since we are not going to plant anything here, we don’t need to take the time to break up the clay chunks – nature will do the job over time.

Using paint as a background for journaling pages

I recently made some abstract painted backgrounds for a class I’m going to be teaching at JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts. I will be demonstrating how to make mixed media pages for journaling with acrylic paint, watercolor paint, assorted markers and Fiskars gel pens. I embellished my sample pages further with decorative scrapbooking paper, stickers, paper tape and rubber stamps. The binding rings I used in these samples are by 7gypsies.

On the left is one of the pages I painted with acrylic paint using a water wash technique. Besides some painted paper scraps, on the right I also used some scrapbooking paper, decorative paper tape, and a word from the rubber stamp set “B Journal Stamps” by Teresa Collins.
I emphasized a paint splotch with a die-cut circle embellished with gel pen doodling. On the right side page I used a couple of Heidi Swap stickers over some doodled circles and small die-cut circles. The paper patterns and colors in the paper pad The Everyday Essentials Stack by DCWV blend really well with the painted backgrounds so I used a lot of designs from that stack in this project.
Product used on these pages: markers, gel pens, Heidi Swapp stickers, punched out paper shapes, Everyday Essentials paper, Mrs. Sparkle & Co. planner stamps.
Product used on these pages: translucent vellum scrapbooking paper with gold designs, Heidi Swapp Stickers, B Journal Stamps, markers and Everyday Essentials paper.
Product used on these pages: markers, B Journal Stamps, paper tape.
Product used on these pages: Everyday Essentials paper, B Journal Stamps, paper tape, punched out paper circles, markers.
Product used on these pages: Mrs. Sparkle & Co. planner stamps, paper tape, Heidi Swapp Sticker, a sheet from the stack Heidi Swapp Memory Planner Journaling Pages, punched out card stock circles.
Product used on these pages: B Journal Stamps, Everyday Essentials paper, markers, Heidi Swapp sticker, a cut up Heidi Swapp journaling page, punched out circles.
Product used on these pages: Punched out circles, a cut down Heidi Swapp journaling page and sticker, B Journal Stamps, Mrs. Sparkle & Co. planner stamps, metallic paper tape, markers, Everyday Essentials paper.
Product used on these pages: Everyday Essentials paper, gel pens, markers, translucent vellum paper with metallic designs, Mrs. Sparkle & Co. planner stamps, punched out circles, B Journal Stamps, paper tape Heidi Swapp stickers..

I hope these samples inspire you to take a class with JoAnn or experiment with mixed media journal and planner pages on your own!

See these Pinterest Boards for more ideas:

Planners, Journals, Albums, Scrapbooks and Handmade Books

Art Journaling

Make Laundry Detergent From Soap Bar Scraps

When a bar of soap gets worn down and is near the end of its usefulness, it’s considerably less appealing than when it was new. The scent has faded, it’s brittle or soggy – time to throw it out, right? Do you have some soap bars you don’t like? Do you have a collection of little motel soaps that you don’t know what to do with? You could throw these soaps out, but I prefer to save up my soap scraps and make them into laundry soap.

Read about how to do it on the Schnarr’s Hardware Blog.

Upcycling with scrap fabric, trim, buttons and beads

Over the years I’ve collected a lot of recycled fabric, trim, beads and buttons. Some of it comes from thrift stores or places that specialize in teaching the reuse of materials. Two such places where you can score fabric and related items at a low price are Leftovers, Etc. and Perennial. I teach classes at Perennial so be sure to check my schedule to see what I’m doing there in the near future!

I also get scrap fabric and sewing items from people who know that I collect it. In addition I made a big score a few years ago when a local interior design studio allowed me to salvage some samples and scraps that were being discarded. I’ve thought of a lot of ways to use these pieces over the years. Pictured below is a fanny pack that I’ve been using for over 20 years. The zipper went out on it recently but the rest of it was still in good shape. I decided to purchase a replacement zipper from JoAnn Fabrics and crafts (where I also teach classes) and repair the bag while adding a pocket to the front made of upcycled upholstery fabric and trim. I added some snaps to keep the new front pocket closed and some buttons given to me by fellow teacher Kate. My old fanny pack is better than new now!

Fabric pouch refurbished by repairing the zipper and adding a front pocket made from salvaged materials.
Fabric pouch refurbished by repairing the zipper and adding a front pocket made from salvaged materials.

I also recently took three plain solid color tank tops and made them more interesting by sewing strips of fabric and trim to the fronts. Much of the trim was salvaged and I also purchased a couple of new rolls from JoAnn. To the coral colored tank top I also added some buttons and beads.

Tank tops embellished with upcycled fabric, trim, beads and buttons.
Tank tops embellished with upcycled fabric, trim, beads and buttons.

My wardrobe is a little more colorful and interesting now thanks to my stash of upcycled materials!

Help – My Pond is Full of Algae!

This is the time of year when small lakes, ponds and water gardens sometimes get green “pea soup” water or mats of algae floating on the surface. The limiting factors for algae growth are mainly food and sunlight. If you can reduce the amount of sunlight and nutrients getting into the water, you can reduce algae growth in your water feature.

Read more on the Schnarr’s blog! Help – My Pond is Full of Algae!

More Pop Art – Poop Emoji Patch and Pillow

I started seeing poop emoji pillows for sale in mall kiosks last fall. Ever since then I’ve been tempted to buy one – why? They make me laugh, that’s why, and I like to laugh! But I have been too embarrassed to buy one. It’s kind of hard to justify at my age! At JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts, where I teach classes, they have started selling emoji merchandise. You can buy patches, pillows, pillow kits, suncatcher kits and more. The poop designs seem to sell out a lot faster than the other emojis, so I guess I don’t need to be embarrassed. Still, I feel better about making a poop patch and poop pillow rather than buying one. I can always justify it as sewing practice, right?

When I was in seventh grade, my Mom made a duffel bag for me out of an old pair of my jeans. I used to use it for Girl Scout camping trips. It’s a good size for transporting a sleeping bag, pillow, air mattress and sheets. When I was older, for nostalgia reasons I got it out again and I decided it would be a good place to display my growing collection of patches. Over the last several years I’ve been sewing on old patches and collecting new ones and adding them to the duffel bag. It’s a great conversation starter on trips and reminds me of fun times!

Duffel bag with some of my patches

To make the poop patch, I downloaded a pattern and used Photoshop to size it for a patch. I printed out the design and traced it onto tracing paper. I made extra tracings to use for cutting and lining up.

To make a poop patch like mine, transfer a tracing of the outline of the poop, the white smile and the white part of the eyeballs onto scrap chipboard. Cut out the chipboard.

Place the poop outline chipboard template onto a piece of medium brown felt. Trace around the chipboard with a ball-point pen and cut out the brown poop piece. Trace around the smile and eyeball pieces on white felt and cut out.

Take a tracing on tracing paper of the whole poop design, with the brown lines and facial features indicated and pin it to the front of the brown felt piece. Use it as a guide for where to pin the white smile and eyeball pieces. Using white thread, sew around the edges of the white pieces to hold them in place.

Using dark brown embroidery thread, sew the brown diagonal lines using a running stitch. Don’t sew the outline yet – you’ll sew the outline when you sew your patch where it’s going to go. Carefully tear the paper away. A pair of tweezers is helpful for removing tiny bits of paper that might stick in small crevices.

Make a tracing on tracing paper of only the eyes, including the pupils and cut out, leaving some space around the eyes for pinning in place. Pin your tracing over the eyes so you can see exactly where to sew the pupils. With black embroidery thread, outline the pupils then fill them in solid with a satin stitch. Tear away the paper.

When you sew on your patch, use brown embroidery thread around the edge. You’re done!

handmade felt poop pillow

Pictured above is the small pillow I made from the same pattern at a larger size. Because of the larger size I sewed on black felt ovals for the pupils instead of using stitching only to fill them in. I used two pieces of dark brown felt as the pillow body. Cut a little larger, they made a nice outline. I sewed the medium brown felt portion with all the details onto the front.

Heisenberg Pillow

Heisenberg pillow inspired by Breaking Bad
Heisenberg pillow inspired by Breaking Bad

A therapist recently suggested the use of a talking globe for family discussions. This reminded me of the family intervention scene with the talking pillow in the TV show Breaking Bad. In my immediate family we are all fans of the show and I thought it would be funny to make a talking pillow and have a portrait of the main character Walter White aka Heisenberg on it. That should create a more convivial atmosphere for us. I feel a little silly making fan art at my age but if I call it Pop Art it’s more legit, right?

I traced a drawing of the character at the size I wanted onto translucent tracing paper. I decided to applique felt onto the dark hat and sunglasses areas so I used my tracing to make additional outlines for the hat and glasses on scrap paper. I pinned the scrap paper to the felt and cut the shapes out. Another method for transferring a shape design to felt is to make a chipboard template and trace around it with a ball point pen or graphite pencil for light colors or a light colored chalk pencil for dark felt colors.

Next I cut out two square pieces for the front and back of the pillow from scrap knit white fabric with a texture to it that was suggestive of cross stitch backing fabric. I ironed fusible webbing onto the backs of each piece because stretchy fabric like this knit is sometimes hard to keep square.

I pinned my tracing to the front of the pillow and fastened my felt pieces in place over the sunglasses and hat areas. I stitched the felt pieces around the edges with black embroidery thread to hold the applied pieces in place. I then stitched the rest of the design with two different weights of embroidery thread through the tracing paper. When I was finished stitching I carefully tore the tracing paper away. In places where the stitching was close together I used a pair of tweezers to tear out some small remaining tracing paper bits.

I pinned the pillow halves together with the good sides facing out since I was not planning to turn the pillow inside out. I stitched the halves together with more of the black embroidery thread leaving a gap at the bottom edge for stuffing. I stuffed he pillow with fiberfill then sewed the gap shut. The last step to finish the pillow was to trim the raw fabric edges with pinking shears.

Handmade greeting cards with geometric designs

Handmade greeting cards made with hexagon paper punches

To design these handmade cards, first from assorted paper scraps I punched out a whole bunch of hexagons in two sizes. I used a lot of geometric patterns and for extra interest some vellum paper printed with black and gold designs. Then I cut out some 1″ wide strips of paper and stamped on the the word “congratulations” from a rubber stamp set made by Tim Holtz.

To the front of my cards, I added other paper accents then glued everything down with glue sticks. I’m pleased with how a touch of translucency here and there from the vellum paper helps add some depth and interest to the simple card designs.

The cards you see here are currently offered for sale in the shipping department at Schnarr’s Hardware in Ladue, MO.