Saturday, July 30, 2011

Summer means........

and happy bees on the sunflowers.
(He's up there near the top.)
It means tomatoes all over the windowsills,
and piano bench.
(Don't tell Ri I used some of these photos before she got a chance to tweak them.)
It means putting extra produce everywhere you can.
When you're doubly blessed it means volunteers, like this roma, that nearly outproduce everything you planted on purpose.
It means okra blossoms - which I happen to love.
It means getting the opportunity to watch a tomato go from a bloom... a baby...
...and then to a delicious tomato.
This is a purple calabash. You can see the progression from the uniquely shaped flower, to the fluted tomato.
Summer means you get the chance to see that progression frequently.
It means canning the wonderful abundance of tomatoes God has blessed you with.
For my brother, who isn't allowed to plant,
it means getting creative in order to find more room to help produce some of his own food.

Unfortunately, summer can also mean excessive heat, which limits what we are willing to do outside to just the bare necessities. I've spent the last several days in the air conditioning, creating my own sunflowers. 
These are the dresden plates for Ri's quilt. Once I laid out all the little piles of petals I didn't want to keep moving them, so I settled in and got them all finished in just a few days. Finished sewing that is. The top six have been ironed, the 32 at the bottom haven't - and they're much easier to move around than all those stacks of petals, so the ironing may be longer in coming than the sewing.

As with all the seasons, there are parts to like and parts to dislike. Our job is to focus on the parts we like, and try not to grumble about the parts we don't like. Grumbling won't keep them from happening, it'll just make us more conscience of the miserable moments and allow them to steal some of our joy.

*Most of these photos (certainly the good ones - like the sunflowers) are the property of my sweet daughter, Ri.
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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mouse Pad Re-make

My mouse pad was looking, well, blah. Actually it looked pretty blah right from the beginning, but now it was looking dingy, diry, and blah. I've seen some really pretty mouse pads for sell, with toile or calico prints, but a new mouse pad was always way down on my list of things we needed for the house.

What can I say?
It was a freebie they gave us when they came to hook up our internet access.
I started by pulling off the old cover.
I tore apart a paper shopping bag so I could protect my work surface, then I sprayed the back of the fabric and the top of the mouse pad with a heavyweight spray adhesive. I waited 2 minutes and then sprayed a second coat. After 2 more minutes I flipped the mouse pad over on the fabric, turned it over and smoothed it out, pressing firmly. You can't reposition the pad once initial contact is made, so you have to make sure any pattern you have in the fabric is turned the way you want it when you lay the pad down.
When I first picked the mouse pad up to turn it over, I folded the bag so I wouldn't lay the pad back down on any adhesive. After I'd smoothed it out and pressed it firmly for a few minutes I used the rotary cutter I use only for crafting to cut away the excess fabric. As you can see, the paper bag is sitting on top of my cutting mat.

I took a second to clean any adhesive off my rotary cutter and then I applied fray check to the edges of the mouse pad.
Voila!! A beautiful 'new' mouse pad.
By pressing the pad firmly as I was laying it down, I was able to drastically minimize the bubble/ripple that was along one edge of the pad. You can see it clearly in the second photo, and not so clearly along the top of the mouse pad in this photo.

I let the mouse pad sit for an hour or so before we used it. You can kind of feel the difference in the surface once the adhesive is set and the fray check is dry. All in all, I'm quite satisfied with the results. Even if you have to go buy a can of spray adhesive it's cheaper than one of the decorative mouse pads which can run from $10 to $16. And then you have the spray adhesive on hand for all kinds of other crafty things. It's great stuff. Everyone should keep some around.
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Monday, July 25, 2011

Raised (Overnight) Waffles

This is my favorite waffle recipe for a couple of reasons. The waffles are crisp on the outside, without having to separate your eggs, then beat and fold in the egg whites, and you mix this batter the night before so it's ready to go as soon as you walk in the kitchen the next morning. I've used this recipe the most for the past several years. I have a sourdough recipe I also like, but you have to keep up with the starter for that one, so this is a little easier. I can't remember where I first got this recipe, but I've only made a couple of small changes to the original.

Raised Waffles

1 stick butter (do not subsitute margarine in this - it won't cook the same)
1 & 3/4 c. milk
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour*
1 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour*
1 Tbls. sugar
2 & 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

*You can use regular whole wheat instead of whole wheat pastry flour, or if you like you can use all-purpose for both cups of flour. I use half and half because the whole wheat is better for you, but I don't like the texture of the waffles if I use whole wheat for all the flour in this recipe. Half and half is a compromise between healthy and taste, or in this case texture. I doesn't do any good to make ultra healthy food if nobody will eat it.

Whisk together the flour(s), sugar (ours is raw, so it's light brown), salt, and yeast.
Use a large bowl because it will rise overnight.
Melt your butter in a small saucepan.
In the interest of time, you can melt the butter while you're mixing the dry ingredients.
Once the butter is melted add the milk and heat just until it's warm to the touch.
Slowly pour the milk and butter into the dry mixture while whisking.
Beat together the eggs and vanilla.
To minimize dirty dishes I do this in the measuring cup I used for the milk.
Then whisk the egg mixture into the batter.
Cover and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, preheat your waffle iron and pull out your batter; it will have poofed quite a bit.
There was more batter than this - I had already started cooking before I remembered the camera.
I usually only have to spray my iron before cooking the first set of waffles. There is enough butter in the waffles to keep the iron greased during cooking.
Pour on the batter...
...and cook 'til they're a nice golden brown.
They are so good.

One of the changes I made to the original recipe was that it told you to stir the batter before cooking the next morning. The waffles still taste the same, but they are more dense when you do that, and not as crisp. Since I like my waffles to be crispy on the outside and light and airy on the inside, I try to disturb the batter as little as possible when I'm scooping it out to pour on the waffle iron, but you can do as you please.

This works well for us on Sunday mornings because I don't have to spend the time to mix anything up. I just preheat the waffle iron while I finish getting ready for church, then walk in the kitchen and start cooking. I'll heat the syrup while the first batch of waffles is cooking and call the girls to set the table. Waffles only come out a few at a time, so it works well since everyone is taking turns through the bathrooms. I know, not the kind of thing you'd normally want to talk about when sharing a recipe, but it's one of the real-life problems you have to work through in a larger-than-average familiy.

Leftover waffles can be frozen and reheated under the broiler in the oven. This will warm them and allow them get crisp again. Just keep a close eye because they will burn quickly.
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Saturday, July 23, 2011


I finished sewing together the blocks for Beenie's quilt.

I know - not the best picture. What can I say? Yours truly was too impatient to wait on someone else, who would have done a much better job. 'Someone' (hint, hint, Ri) can take a photo once it's finished.
I'd like to contine the smaller pinwheels into the border, but I'll have to see if I have enough of the brighter blue fabric left to do that. I sure hope so; I think it would be adorable with the little pinwheels overhanging into the border.

In other sewing, all three of the younger girls have decided to make homemade gifts for Ri's hope chest. Despite claims by Bree that hope chest items are taking over their room, and repeated objections to Ri bringing in more things, Bree's contribution was one of the first. T.Lynn made the very first; a nylon pot holder she made from a loom she received as a gift, but she also plans on making a decorative pillow for Ri's bed. We're still deciding on what Beenie will make.

The clothespins holder Bree made turned out very well. The project was a little more detailed than it appears because we had to re-invent the hanger. I like to use small hangers that swivel at the hook, but the only one we had that was the right size was a skirt/pants hanger; the type with the clips on the ends. To keep the clips from making the bag hang funny, or possibly (because of the weight of the pins) poke through the fabric, I wrapped the hanger in quilt batting and Bree sewed fabric around it. After that it was ready for the bag. Bree sewed across the corners of the bag so that they would be squared off, allowing the bag to fit perfectly across the padded hanger. The fabric is some that was leftover after making the petals for Ri's quilt, embelllished with a bit of leftover lace.

I plan on posting my favorite waffle recipe tomorrow or Monday. I love to make these for breakfast on Sunday.

Until then, have a blessed Lord's Day!
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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Still sewing

Maybe I should just say, always sewing.

My sewing "in box" is officially empty.
See it sitting there, perfectly empty?
Yeah - that doesn't really mean much of anything. It simply means I have no projects (other than quilting, which has it's own basket and box) currently cut out, waiting for me to sew up.
I often cut out several projects at once so that I can just sit down and start sewing on things as I find the time. But I also cut out as I go, and I've done quite a bit of that recently.
I've finished sewing all the blocks for Beenie's quilt.
Now I just have to finish pressing the last two seams on the blocks and then I can start sewing the blocks together. The quilt will be a little on the large side for a twin sized bed, but I think I've mentioned before my distaste for having to tuck the sides of the sheets in, so this should hang down far enough to avoid that. I'm playing around with what I may do for the border around the blocks. I've got a cute idea in mind, but I want to see the finished size of the top first.
Hanging towels were one of the assignments I gave my sewing class. These were a couple of the last things to finish up in my in box.
Ri and I each made one of these pincushions as gifts recently.
And then there's Ri's quilt that I'm also working on.
I stacked several pieces of fabric together each time I drew the wedges, so everytime I cut I was actually cutting out several wedges.
The wedges were folded, right sides together and stitched across the top. Then they were turned and I used an old knitting needle to poke the little point out. The last step is to press them. Bree helped turn them and poke out the point and T.Lynn helped me lay them out to press.
Beenie, with a little help from T.Lynn, finished sorting them all out.
About 800 wedges (they're not all in the photo) - all finished and ready to sew together.
This is a rough preview of what each flower will look like.
Of course there will be a brown center in each one, but those aren't cut out yet.

There have been many other things that have been sewn - several skirts, including some that we made from blue jeans we bought at the second hand store for about $4.00, a painting apron for Bree and a couple of over the shoulder bags. And I do get around to mending things from time to time. :D

There's always something to sew.
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Monday, July 18, 2011

Just what I've always wanted to do.

Yeah, right.

I have to admit that I was secretly hoping that caulk was really viscous and difficult to squeeze out of the caulk gun. Then I would have begged asked Superman, or maybe one of my brothers to come do it for me. But alas, it's really easy to squeeze it out, so the girls and I removed and replaced all the caulk in the kitchen last week. Other parts of the job, like scraping off the old caulk, getting the hang of putting enough, but not too much caulk on, and smoothing it all out evenly, were not quite as easy.

If you're not exactly tall, reaching into the corners proves a little of a challenge as well. Ri opted for just laying on the counters. She was wiping any excess caulk off the countertop and backspash. Kay had taken over the scraping after I finished the first side, so with her scraping, me applying and smoothing the caulk, and Ri cleaning up, it didn't really take all that long to complete the job.

Pretty good for first timers, if I do say so myself. I do wish the caulk were a little darker. It appeared so at the store, but it isn't white so it will do. Plus, I don't plan on redoing it just because it's a little lighter than I thought it would be. With all the stuff back on the counters you don't really pay that much attention to it anyway.

The thing Ri and I disliked the most about the whole job was the feel of the caulking. We used a silicone for water resistance and because it also resists shrinking (which was why we were having to replace it), and it kind of had a greasy, sticky feel to it. Yuck!! I really hate for my hands to be/feel dirty in any way. Stickiness, in particular is something I have a hard time with, so I REALLY disliked the feel of it. Hence being unwilling to redo it just because the caulk was a little lighter than I would have liked. That stuff will just have to stay right there until it's absolutely necessary to replace it. And even then I might have to beg ask someone else to do it for me next time. It really does feel gross. Give me scales and fish guts any day - at least they're easier to wash off.
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