How common are you ? It’s all in the name …

Years ago, when the internet was relatively new, I found a list of the most common names in the United States. At that time, my last name (by marriage – Braun) was relatively high on the list – meaning it was relatively common. Recently, I found an article that features a link where you can actually search by name – far easier than reading through a list of several thousand names. I immediately started searching.

According to this list, Braun is now ranked #1,102 or, in another measure, there are about 12 Brauns for every 100,000 people in the United States.  I should note that Braun is actually the german language version of Brown. Next I checked for Brown. The Brown name ranks #4 with 487 Browns per 100,000 and therefore is very common.

Next I checked the other ancestral name on the Braun side of the family – Becker. (I am just using our parents last names.) It turns out that Becker is far more common than Braun. It ranks #357 with about 30 Beckers for every 100,000 U. S. residents.

That’s a brief look at the paternal side of the family.

Next I tried my side of the family – the surnames for my parents. The names are Fadden and Olene.

Fadden – which is the Americanized version of McFadden, McFadyen, McPhaidin,  ranks #18,286  or .5 (1/2 person) Fadden for every 100,000. The name Olene is not ranked – because the search does not rank those names for which there are less than 100 occurrences. However, Olene was originally ‘Olin’ when they immigrated from Sweden but was subsequently spelled differently. A search for Olin shows that is its ranked #7950 or 1.41 for every 100,000 people.

So, with a very basic first analysis, my husband’s family surnames are far more common than those on my side of the family. However, you can also carry this to the next generation back – the grandparent’s names. At least one of those names on my side of the family – Moody – ranks #519 or 22 out of every 100,000 – and is fairly common.

Of course, you could take this even further and find similar listings for the names in their country of origin. I haven’t found those lists … yet.

If you want to have some fun you can search this list HERE.

Thanks for reading! I hope you will return.

The scary part of Christmas …

As each year goes by, I get more and more nervous about getting the ‘right’ gift for everyone. In general, people already have a lot of ‘stuff’ – and it’s very hard to know – even if you have an idea of what they might want or need – which model, color, size, brand, etc. is the RIGHT one. In addition, it gets harder and harder to spend days shopping. And this year, the weather didn’t cooperate – at least on the days I wanted to go shopping.

What to do? I decided to make a lot of the gifts this year. That itself is risky business. Some people like handmade gifts; some don’t.  Now, for any guys reading this, you may think this a girly post – but just bear with me.


For my friends, I made candy jars using pint canning jars decorated with ribbon and other decorations and fill with chocolate treats. Once the jar is empty, it converts to a low-light candle by inserting a LED votive candle. I used papercrafting and stamping sdkills and enjoyed every minute of the major mess I made to my desk.

For many of my friends and family, I simply gave a ‘cash’ gift card. Using papercraft skills, I created the holders, a ‘Happy Christmas’ tag for the front (which were hand stamped ) and a card for the inside (computer skills) which simply reads “Treat Yourself or Someone Else.” This gift was probably the best of all worlds – hand made but with cash that lets you get anything you like.

hatscollage.jpgFor family members, I put my knitting skills into high gear. This is also a gift for me – because I enjoy my time knitting. I made hats, scarves and doll clothes. The bonus – I already have requests for more – but chances are they won’t have to wait until next Christmas.


Lastly, GUYS –  you, too,  can make gifts. Woodcraft gifts are always good. Or you can simply take some time to fix something or help with a household project. For those of us who aren’t as agile as we once were, a helping hand is greatly appreciated. As we get older, gifts of time often mean much more than a physical gift.


I hope you had a Happy Christmas! As for me, I’ve already started the next knitting project and have lots of other gift ideas for the next year. It’s never too early to get started.


A Christmas of plaids …

This year I decided to use a plaid theme for decorating – so a bit of a Scottish touch. Plaid cloth in Scotland is called tartan. Being of Scottish descent, our family has a particular tartan. The plaids I used for decorating, however, are those that are available commercially and are not the same as our tartans.

This year my rustic (Charlie Brown type) tree is decorated with white twinkle lights, a few old-fashioned bubble lights (replicas of the ones on our tree when we were young kids), small red bulbs and plaid bows.


The mantel also is sporting plaid – along with my new Polish Santa figurine and the nativity figurine that belonged to Grandma Edna – all highlighted with red decorations.


The kitchen table – you guessed it – has a plaid tablecloth. Also note the large houseplant in the background (that looks like a stock of corn) is decorated with a plaid bow.


The dining room table has a plaid tablecoth with a crochet-type white cloth Christmas tree providing the centerpiece for a clear glass bowl  full of colorful red and blue bulbs.


And, last, the final touch for the tree – our new ornament for our granddaughter, who passed away this year. Truly an angel.



Thanks for reading!!  I hope you will return. 

Another it could only happen to me story …

Yesterday morning it was cold (around 0 degrees) but very windy. While I needed gas the night before, I didn’t stop because I thought my husband was going to fill the tank for me. He wasn’t feeling well, however, so no gas.

As I climbed into the car, I remembered that I needed to get gas. Already in the car, I chose not to go back to get my ear muffs. Not a good choice.

The gas station is just a couple miles from our house – but it’s down in a hollow area so the wind really whips through there. As I opened the car door, my scarf was flying, my hair was standing out in every direction, and soon after my ears were stinging. But I managed to get the gas in the tank.


Back in the car, a few minutes later, my cell phone rang. I have hearing aids which automatically work with my phone. I soon realized that the right ear hearing aid was not working. I reached up – and you may have guessed – it was not there. My hearing aid was gone. It is the kind that hooks around and sits behind your ear with the piece that plugs into the ear channel. Now I was not happy. I called home and my husband called the station to ask them to look for it – thinking that it was likely run over or blown away.

When I arrived at work in Anoka, I opened my door and stepped out. As I did so, I looked down. And then I looked again. There, on my running board, near the middle, sat my HEARING AID, secure in a small clump of snow/ice. It rode 35 miles on that running board! I wiped it off, put it in my ear, and it is working just fine.

Now I need to take a treat to the gas station employee who put on her parka and went out in that horrible wind, looking for my hearing aid.

It could only happen to me!

Thanks for reading!

Another fun gift idea … for anyone and everyone

I don’t know if it is my age or what, but now I prefer to give fun gifts that people can really use. For co-workers, that is quite an order – since I don’t know what they like or can use. So, I decided to make it their choice by creating a new kind of gift card … one that lets the recipient decide – what and who the gift is for …

Rather than being pre-made card holders, I decided to make my own. There’s many online sites with directions, such as this one – CLICK HERE.

The first step – finding and folding paper. Finding holiday paper is a bit of a task for me because I have so much paper – and it isn’t necessarily organized.

  1.  I cut the paper into 8 3/4 inch squares, slightly larger than my directions. I found they folded better.
  2. Fold each side to the center.
  3. Fold in all four corners.
  4. Fold again to the center, tucking in the folded corners.

collage 1a.jpg

Next step – finishing the folding and decorating.

  1. Turn the already folded paper to the bottom and fold up to the center.
  2. Fold the other half to the center, slightly overlapping so you can tuck in the corners
  3. Turn the folded paper over and fold the other direction (the long way). Now you have a card holder.
  4. I then made decorative strips for the cover.

I didn’t do this project all at one time. I did it in several steps – doing all of one task – such as the decorative tags (which were stamped) at one time, or all of the folding at one time.


The final step – inserting gift cards or not …

  1.  First I decorated the covers.
  2. Then – I printed notes on blank business cards that simply says “Treat yourself or someone else.” So, the recipient can pass it forward, share a treat or treat themself – whatever their pleasure.
  3. Instead of me deciding where they should get a treat, I simply inserted cash.
  4. Finally, I tied the card holder shut with a decorative ribbon.


I made several gift holders – a mini-manufacturing line on my desk.


The best part – you can do this anytime of the year. Simply change the paper to something more generic or appropriate to the season and decorate accordingly. Make several at a time so you have them on hand. Gifting treats can happen any time.

Thanks for reading! I hope you will return.









When gifting is fun … the Care Jars

I love crafting – designing and making things. This week’s mission: to create gifts for our needlecraft group – something fun but not crazy expensive  – using crafting skills. So I cut paper, stamped paper, glued ribbon, attached bows, used the computer for gift info tags, filled jars, made gift bags, and so on …

I took pictures for each step. I worked at it little by little, completing one or more steps at a time … so it didn’t become overwhelming. The results – here are my CARE JARS. Each jar takes care of your sweet tooth needs and more …

The First Step – Making gift bags – (see photo below)

1 – Out comes the traditional Christmas colored paper and the Christmas stamps. Of course, I don’t have my stamps cataloged yet so it was quite the search to find a stamp – and to find paper in the stacks (three-foot tall) of paper. I tried red, green and black ink but decided the black shows up best.

2 – After cutting out the stamped pieces, I cut contrasting striped paper for a backing and glued the stamped pieces to the striped pieces.

3 – Next I added a decoration to the tags (see the Elf in the photo) and glued a tag to plain brown paper sandwich bags.

Then I set the gift bags aside.

labels 1.jpg

Next – The care jar in progress – (see photo below)

1 – For the jars, I used a pint-sized clear canning jar. I used the lid to trace circles on Christmas paper which are then used to decorate the top of the jar.

2-  I cut all of the pieces needed for all of the jars at the same time. (You will see later, however, that I changed my choice of decorative ribbon around the top of the jar – that’s a designer’s perogative.)

3- I used a plaid/burlap ribbon to decorate the jars.

4- Mod Podge is applied with a brush to the back of the plaid part of the ribbon, then wrapped around the jar, overlapping the ends. I held the ribbon in place for just a few minutes and the ribbon was secure. I followed that by tying a piece of ribbon around the top of the jar.

work in progress 2.jpg

And last – Filling and bagging the jars – (see photo below)

1- Now for the fun part – filling the jar with various chocolates and other Christmas season candy. (And just a little taste testing.)

2-  Once filled, I added the jar lid, placing the paper decorative lid between the ring and the lid.

3-  The jars were then placed in the decorated sandwich bags and sealed with a festive ribbon.

filling the jars.jpg

And, the bonus – Once the candy is gone, you place an LED candle in the bottom; put the paper cover and ring back on (not the metal lid) and now you have a candle.


I hope the ladies enjoy the care jars as much as I did making them. I didn’t take pictures of my desk during this project; that’s my next project – cleaning off my desk and putting everything away – so I can start the next project.

Thanks for reading!





Taking the back roads … while shopping locally

In the spirit of shopping locally, today we took a short trip to a local furniture store about ten or so miles from home – in search of a reclining loveseat. Over the years, most of our furniture has been purchased from this store. They are responsive, friendly, kind and they deliver. (In case you are wondering, the store is Country Sales Furniture near Milaca, Mn. (Click HERE) As an unexpected bonus, the First National Bank of Milaca will refund 5% – up to $50 – as a reward for shopping locally. Our next task will be to decide where we donate that 5%.  (I’ll post a photo of the loveseat after it is delivered next week.)

On the way home, after a wonderful breakfast at the Pease Cafe, a very small town restaurant, we drove the back roads home. We first came across a deer standing in the middle of the road – but he was camera shy – so I only have a picture of the area.



Next we found a field of sand hill cranes – who were not camera shy at all. I think they were far more interested in picking corn from a recently harvested field. You might have to look closely – they blend in very well.



All in all, not a bad way to start out the weekend.