Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!!

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, filled with lots of loving family.  I hope you also know about Christ, who's birth we celebrate this time of year, with thankfulness that He came and was willing to sacrifice His life for all of us.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Two and a half weeks 'til Christmas, and...

we're sick.  Yuck!  I've been very negligent with my posting lately, but I have been very busy and had hoped to have some cute posts up about crafts or projects we've got going for Christmas.  The problem is, I don't feel like doing anything.  Don't even feel like posting right now, but I figure I might feel a bit better if I stay upright for at least a little while.  With any luck I'll feel better in a day or two and may be able to do a few things around the house.  I might even work on a project and get around to posting about it before Christmas.  Let's hope anyway.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I had to be out driving most of yesterday, and heard about, had to reroute my own driving on account of, and even saw accidents all over.   Please be very careful and have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Quick and easy bread warmer.

Several years ago I received a bread warmer for Christmas.  That particular one was a large piece of fabric with a pocket in the middle that held a rice filled sack.  The sack was to be heated in the microwave and then slipped into the pocket before placing the whole thing in a bread basket, where you would ultimately fold the ends of the fabric over the bread.  It was a great idea, but after burning my fingers several times while trying to get that hot sack in the pocket (it was too close a fit to use a bulky oven mitt to protect my hands), I just resorted to putting the rice pack in the bottom of the basket by itself and then putting a towel on top to wrap the bread in.  Much simpler.
Fast forward many years and you'd find me in the sewing room, whipping up a whole bunch of them to put in the bread baskets we'll have on the tables this coming Saturday, for our big Thanksgiving dinner.  Y'all remember we do that for my mom's side of the family the Saturday before don't you?  Well, we do.  When I started to make them, I thought how great it would be as a gift.  You could buy a really inexpensive basket, make a little warmer for it (with heating instructions pinned on), bake up some goodie, and then wrap it all up in some cellophane and a ribbon, and voila - simple, inexpensive, but usually well appreciated.  At least, most of the people I know like to get baked goods as a gift and if they come with a little something more, then all the better.  So here's how to do it if you know someone who would appreciate that kind of thing.

You'll need to start by making a pattern by tracing around the bottom of your basket.
Cut out around the area you traced.  Make it a little larger so you can cut it down if you need in order to make it fit well.  You don't have to be absolutely perfect.  You're filling the pocket with rice - it won't always be shaped perfectly.
You'll need to cut 2 layers of a lining - mine was just unbleached muslin, and 2 layers of your outer fabric.
I stacked mine together and cut them at the same time.  I also cut it out with a pair of pinking shears to leave a raw, zig-zag edge.  I did this both because I thought it would be cute, and because it would save a lot of time since I wouldn't need to clip the curves and turn it right side out later.
Lining is not absolutely necessary, but the bag will be more durable if you use it.
Then you'll sandwich the 2 lining layers between the 2 outer layers.  Make sure the fabric is right side out.
Stitch around the edge using a 1/4" seam, and make sure you leave a small opening to add the rice.
For the record, I stitched around it twice, just to reinforce the seam.
The opening only needs to be large enough to fit the end of a funnel.
Make sure the tip of the funnel is in between the two lining pieces.
Add plain, white rice until the bag is a little more than half full.  It's best if it will lay fairly flat in the bottom of the basket.
Finally, stitch the opening closed.
T.Lynn wanted a picture of the group I had waiting to have the final stitching done.
She was helping me fill the bags with rice, so how could I refuse?
There you go.  Heat it up, put in a flour sack towel and it's ready for some biscuits.

How long your bag will need to be heated will depend on it's size.  Start by putting it in the microwave for 30 seconds and then increasing by 30 second intervals until the bag is hot.  Next time you'll know how long it will take and you can just start with that amount of time in the settings.  Use an oven mitt to get it out of the microwave.  These rice bags hold heat for a long time, and if you want a moist heat, you can put a cup of hot water in the microwave with it while you heat it up.
Allow to cool and make sure it's dry before storing in a dry area.

I've linked this post with the Farm Girl Friday Blog Fest,

The Chicken Chick

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Butternut Squash Soup

This is an absolutely delicious soup, and perfect for fall.  It's thick, and has a creamy quality to it, without actually adding any cream.  It's not one that most of the family likes though, so this recipe only makes enough for about 4 or 5 people.  It could easily be adjusted for more by using larger veggies and more broth.

Butternut Squash Soup
1 smallish butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into cubes
1 medium onion, diced
2 Tbls. butter
1 qt. chicken broth, or stock
salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste

Melt your butter in a large pot, and cooked the onions until they are translucent.  Add the squash and the chicken broth and simmer until the squash is very soft.  About 20-30 min., depending on how big your chucks were.  Remove from heat and blend.  I just used my immersion blender and mixed it up right in the pot, but if you don't have one, you could put it through your regular blender in batches.  If you use a regular blender, return it to the pan and heat it up again if it cooled too much.  After it's been blended you just add salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste and your all done.

Super easy, and delicious.  What more could you ask for?

I've linked this post with the Farm Girl Friday Blog Fest.

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Friday, November 2, 2012

Nasturtium Vinegar

I love nasturtiums.  They are among some of the prettiest flowers.  I've grown them before; usually the jewel mix, but I like the Alaska mix too - the foliage for those is mottled with white.  This year however, I found a pack of mahogany nasturtium seeds.  Oh - I wanted to grow those.  I've made nasturtium vinegar with the other varieties, and I liked the reddish orange color it turned out, but I could just picture the lovely red that would most likely result from using the mahogany flowers.
They are absolutely gorgeous, don't you think?
To make the vinegar, you'll want to cut off a bunch of the flowers, but beware, bees and other stinging things love nasturtium as much as you do.  I received a very painful reminder of this as I was picking.  And once I had them inside and was giving them a rinse, I discovered another little stinging critter, this time a bumble bee, in among the flower heads.  I took the whole bowl back outside to coax him out of there.  I don't use chemicals on my garden, but I rinse off the flowers just to make sure there aren't any creepy crawlies in there.
Once you've divested the flowers of all of their little hitch-hikers, put them in a quart jar and pour in enough white vinegar to cover them.  You'll have to push them down, as they like to float.  You could use white wine vinegar if you like.
Let it sit for about a week and then strain off the flowers.  I lined a small, fine mesh strainer with several layers of cheesecloth and set it directly on top of a wide mouth pint jar.
Warning - it smells pretty yucky when you first take off the lid, but once the spent flowers are out it will be fine.
There you go.  It did turn out a beautiful color, and I can't wait to use it in a vinaigrette. 
 Another reason to love nasturtiums - they taste peppery, and I like pepper.

I've linked this post with the Farm Girl Friday Blog Fest.

I've also linked with the Homestead Barn Hop,

There are plenty of great ideas and useful information being shared through these blog hops.  I hope you get a chance to check some of them out.

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Putting the garden to bed.

We recently spent an afternoon in the garden cleaning things up, pulling out spent plants and weeding.  We've pulled our supports out to store for the winter, and have gotten rid of anything that's not in good enough shape to use again next year.  We still have a bit of work left to do, such as spreading fresh pine needles in the walk ways, finishing up some weeding, and pulling out what's left of plants that are still currently producing, but the vast majority of the work is done.

In addition to cleaning out the garden areas, fall is also a good time to update your garden notebook with information about how well plants produced, or any additional problems you may have faced during the year.  While we're pulling our hair out over some particular difficulty, we all think we'll remember the problem(s) that we faced, but by next year, things won't be as clear.  It's much better to jot anything down now that you may have forgotten to put in earlier in the year.

So now's the time to hop on out there, get things all cleaned out, written down and ready for next year.

I've linked this post with the Farm Girl Friday Blog Fest.

I've also linked with the Homestead Barn Hop.

And with the Backyard Farming Connection Hop.

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Keep a gardening notebook.

I've always flown by the seat of my pants with regard to my garden, but since we added so many beds this year, I decided it was getting beyond my ability to just remember where everything has been planted.  I also thought it would be a good idea to consolidate all the tips and miscellaneous information I've collected that deal with things like spacing, companion planting, pests, or other problems, and planting time tables.

It's fairly simple to construct your own.  I wish I could add pictures of mine, but our main computer is down right now, so you'll just have to use your imagination. :)

I bought an inexpensive, three ring binder and used dividers that have pockets on them to mark the sections.  I use page protectors for everything so the paper is protected if I decide to take it out in the garden with me when I'm planting. The reason I use dividers that have pockets is so I have a place to stick notes, or articles if I happen to be out of page protectors.  That way they are already organized and ready to file after my next trip to the office supply store, instead of sitting on a desk, or in a drawer somewhere.

I have the following sections in my notebook:
Garden plans - I literally draw the layout of the garden (you could use graph paper) and
                        write in where things are planted.  I write notes on the back of the "map".
                        Things like, how a particular variety performed, or whether or not you
                        saw a benefit from a companion planting.
Tips - This is where I store charts for crop rotation, spacing, and compainion planting.
Pests - Info. on pest problems and organic solutions/suggestions.
Other problems - How to diagnose, and organically treat other problems that you may
                          run into, like fungal diseases or nutrient deficiencies.
Articles - Sometimes I run across an article that covers a wide range of information, which
                          makes it difficult to file in any one section.  This is where those go.

I've seen many people talk about keeping a gardening journal and I can wholeheartedly agree that it is enormously helpful.  If you're not already keeping one, it'd be a great idea to get one ready before the next planting season.

I've linked this post with the Farm Girl Friday Blog Fest.

I've also linked with the Homestead Barn Hop.

And with the Backyard Farming Connection Hop at Simple and Joyful.

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

So, lets try out the title of Grandma.

That's right.  Congratulations to my lovely daughter Ri and her hubby, who are making me a Grandma!!

We've know for a couple of weeks now, but were respecting their wish to keep it fairly quiet until they made the announcement at church.  Since that happened this morning, I'm free to shout it to the rest of the world.

Yay!!  Grandbaby number 1.  I expect to have a lot, but I'll let them start with one. :D

We're all extremely excited, as you can probably tell, and I will certainly post updates.  I can hardly wait, but now that I'm older, and not the one who's pregnant, I know it will pass rather quickly.  So, I'd better decide what I'm going to sew, knit, or stitch for the baby and get to work on it pronto.

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Oh, the peppers!!

While the garden was, for the most part, pretty challenging, and not as productive as I would have liked it to be, one of the things that did great was the peppers.

We've had peppers to eat, peppers to give away, peppers to use in canning and peppers that (unfortunately) went bad because we just couldn't eat anymore peppers.  I did get worried at one point not too long ago though.  I had told most of the girls that I wanted to leave the cayenne peppers on the plants to turn red so I could dry them, but then the one person I didn't tell was the one out picking a couple of weeks ago, and she picked all the long green ones.  I was afraid the others wouldn't have enough time to finish growing and turn red before it turned off cold.  My fear was unfounded.
This is only a portion of the string of peppers.  It's quite long.  We just use regular thread and put the needle through the green cap, close to the top of the pepper.  If you ever wanted to do it for decorative purposes, you could string the peppers closer together, but I wanted them to dry as quickly as possible, so Bre left spaces between the peppers.  Once they are dry, we'll be able to grind them up and store them in an airtight container.

I've linked this post with the Farm Girl Friday Blog Fest.

I've also linked with the Homestead Barn Hop.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Do I need blessing, or am I already blessed?

We were at a wedding just a few weeks ago for someone very close to our family.  It was a lovely wedding, but unfortunately, not without a bit of drama preceding the ceremony.  When I intervened in an altercation that was underway, merely to point out that it wasn't the time or place for such a display, I understandably ruffled a few feathers.  Thankfully, the participants went their separate ways, but I did receive a rather pointed look later on in the day from one of them in particular.  This made me a little wary when, just as we are about to leave, this person approached me.  I won't go into details, but this was a very odd encounter.  It seemed as though she felt the need to pray for me, which I wouldn't ordinarily balk at, but given the previous events, and her, ahhh, unusual manner, I wasn't as thrilled as I could have been.  She encouraged me to relax and said that I needed to be blessed because I had so many girls.  I assured her that I had already been blessed by having those girls.  In the end I just let her say her prayer so that I could leave without making another huge scene, but I was not at all comfortable with it.

So what do you do when someone wants to "bless" you, but you aren't certain of their heart?  Many times these people do not mean any harm, so it's not a problem to humor them.  At other times, the person may make you feel uncomfortable.  And worst of all are times when you seriously question their intent.  Most of the time I will allow someone to pray for me; as I said, people usually do so with the best intentions.  Occasionally, if I feel uncomfortable, I try to excuse myself from the situation if I can do so gracefully.  If not, I will do as I did on this occasion and allow the person their prayer, excusing myself as quickly as possible afterward.  I certainly won't allow something that's making me uncomfortable drag on very long.  And last of all are the times when you get a really bad "vibe" off the person offering to pray.  In those cases it's best to excuse yourself as quickly as possible.  For the most part, these are usually people you don't know anyway, so although you risk offending them, you probably won't see them again.  If you do, and get to know them, then you can always apologize later if necessary.

People have all sorts of beliefs, and if they are determined to pray for you they will, even if you don't stand around while they do it, and there are weird people in the world who give you the creeps when they approach you offering to pray.   But, my God is bigger than creepy people and misguided prayers.  When in doubt, pray while they are praying - louder, if necessary to get your point across.  Finally, I would add that you need to take into account the age of the person offering the prayer.  Older people may be suffering from some sort of dementia which can make a well intended prayer seem confusing or uncomfortable.  In the end, the age of the person who wanted to pray for me this time is partially why I allowed the prayer instead of excusing myself beforehand.

So, do I need blessing, or am I already blessed?  Of course the answer to that is, both.

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Sew an old-fashioned tomato pincushion.

You can make all sorts of pincushions from scrap fabric you happen to have on hand.  They make a beautiful gift for anyone you know who likes to sew.  And don't think that just because they have one, they don't need another.  I have one near my regular sewing machine, one near my serger and one in my sewing basket, and there are still times when I feel like that isn't enough.  Of course, that's usually when I've forgotten to take one to whatever table I'm working at, but I digress.  The point is, anyone who sews would love another pincushion, and by raiding your fabric stash you can make one in their favorite color, or maybe in a color that would match their sewing box.  

Here's how to do it.
Start by cutting a piece of fabric on the bias. 
You can make it any size, just make sure it's twice as long as it is wide.
Mine was 6" x 12"
Fold it in half, right sides together and sew along the side using a 1/4" seam.
This forms the fabric into a tube, open at the top and the bottom.
Sew a running stitch around one end.
Pull this closed and knot it off.
Then run a few stitches through this gather.
This just reinforces it.
Next, turn it around and make running stitches around the other end.
Just make sure the thread comes out on the right side of the fabric.
Turn it right side out and fill with stuffing.
You can use regular fiber fill, but natural fiber fillings are kinder to your pins and needles.
When filling it, make sure you don't put too much in.  You want it nice and plump, but if you pack in too much it can become difficult to get the pins in quickly while you're sewing.
To help gauge, fill it as full as you want and then pull the threads to close the top.  If it's not full enough, open it up and add some more filling.  If you think it is full enough, stick a few pins in various places to make sure there's not too much stuffing for them to go in well.
Once you have it where you want, knot it off.
Then thread a long needle (I'm using a doll needle - available at places like Joann's or Hancock Fabrics) with some sort of thick thread.  I'm using pearl cotton embroidery thread.
Take off a nice long piece because you will be wrapping this around the pincushion to form the sections.
Draw the needle through the center of the pincushion, leaving a long enough tail on the other end that you won't risk pulling it through by mistake, and so you can tie the other end off.
*My thread was cut off the skein.  I just put the thread there so you could see it better.  I didn't realize until later that it looked like I had left it attached to the skein as I sewed.
Once you pull the thread through the pincushion, put the needle back through, slightly to the side of where you came out, pulling the thread until you flatten the pincushion slightly. Using the tail you left, knot it off, but don't cut either end of the thread yet.
Now we'll form the sections.  
Take the needle, that is now at the top of the pincushion, and wrapping the thread around the side, insert the needle back in the bottom of the pincushion.  Do this several times around the body of the pincushion, forming the sections. Odd numbers seam to be the most visually appealing, so I made five sections around this pincushion.  Knot it off using your tail.  Do not cut the threads yet, and leave your needle in as well.
Cut a star shaped piece of felt to make the cap for the top. Don't worry about being precise. In fact, it looks better if it's not perfect.
This is just an example - I didn't actually like any of the shades of green felt I had, so I made a cap out of another scrap of green fabric that better complimented the color of the "tomato".

If you want to do it the way I did, you need to apply fusible fleece to the wrong side of a small piece of fabric (about 4"x4") and, using fusible web, attach the wrong side of another piece of the fabric to the fleece side of the part you just made; in essence, sandwiching the fleece between the two layers of fabric.  Draw a star and use a narrow, close zig-zag, or a satin stitch to sew around the star, then cut it out. 
In all honesty though, if I had the right color of felt, I certainly wouldn't have gone to this much trouble for the cap, despite how nice I thought it turned out.
I'm sorry - please excuse the lighting change, which resulted in poorer photos.  A storm blew in and I lost all of my natural light.
To attach the cap, put your needle through the center of the cap and then push the cap onto the top of the tomato.  The tail thread will hang out from between the cap and cushion.  
Stitch the cap in place (I just go back through the entire tomato a couple of times).
For the record, if you ever have trouble getting the needle through, you can use something firm to help.  
Here I turned the pincushion over in order to use the table to push the cushion down onto the needle.  I wouldn't do this on a nice table top though. :)
You may also have a bit of trouble on occasion with pulling the needle out.  If you do, a needle pull (the small disk to the right in the picture) can help you get a better grasp on the needle.  If you don't have one (I've found them in the quilting section of the fabric store) you could use a small piece of non-slip shelf liner.
On the last stitch, push the needle out between the cap and the cushion, near where your tail is,
and knot it off, clipping the ends of the thread close to the knot.
Add a couple of pins and it's ready to go.

Now, while I was busy in the sewing room, Bree was busy in the kitchen.
Don't these look delicious?
You will just have to excuse me - this one has my name all over it.

I've linked this post with the Farm Girl Friday Blog Fest
I'm so pleased to have been chosen as one of their featured posts last week.  You should check it out.  There are plenty of good ideas being shared over there. 

I've also linked with the Homestead Barn Hop.  There is always plenty to be learned there too.

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