Monday, August 31, 2009

Canning (Finally!)

I have been complaining quite a bit this summer about how lousy the harvest has been from our garden. I know, I know: we are incredibly lucky the tomato blight has blessedly missed us. I know, I know: last summer was the once-in-a-lifetime perfect year for the harvest. Still. I'm bitter.

But we finally (and I do mean, finally) raked in enough tomatoes to put up 6 pints. True, we've been enjoying the harvest of fresh tomatoes too; as they come in we gobble them right up. But I am ecstatic over these measly 6 pints! I am hoping for a few more before the frost gets the rest of the plants. Could we be so lucky? Hope springs eternal.

To compensate for our lack of produce at home, we've been hitting every farm market from here to Michigan. And apparently, even though the season has been tough on all our local farmers, some folks have been able to harvest a bit more than we have.
So when my hubby brought back some peaches from a recent venture up north, we knew we were finally going to get to do some canning! See that brown stuff up there? It's actually peach chutney. I don't know about your family, but around here we are ga-ga for Indian food. And this is the perfect accompaniment to a hot and spicy curry. The house smelled amazing while it was simmering on the stove. If you're interested in the recipe, you can head on over to and see the recipe and photos of what it should look like as you go. I love that! Oh, and while you are there, you can find out where in your county (and surrounding counties if you are like me) you can pick your own produce. It's a very economical way to preserve your own foods.

Here's to more canning before the year is out. I'm banking on pickles next.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Attempting A Quilt

I seem to always take on a bit more than I can chew. It is the way of my people. So once I decided that those lockers were going to house my fabrics, I went to assess the amount of space that would require and realized I had been carrying around some of these fabrics for more that 14 years. Can you say "pack rat?" I had been sure (at the time they were collected) that they would be useful at some point. I supposed now was that point. And with that impetus upon me, I decided to tackle a quilt. It would definitely free up some room for more fabric, right?

Naturally, I didn't look for a pattern. I just cut up my fabric into 5 inch squares and sewed them all together. I realized too, that I have no patience for such exacting work. My patches line up in no particular order and with no respect for the row ahead of or behind them. But that's SO my personality anyway. It's cute, in an Amy sort of way.

And then I realized that I would have to figure out the actual construction of a quilt. And that by not following a pattern, I hadn't made a standard sized quilt by any stretch. And that I wasn't even sure if my machine (being 14 years old itself and only the very basic model I could afford at the time) would even be capable of creating such a thing. I measured the top and went out and bought batting that would work behind it and scoured the internet for directions for constructing a quilt. (Yeah, in that order.) Much has been learned.

And so now I am to the point at which I stare at this quilting project and think to myself, "you know, Amy, those tomatoes really MUST get canned today, and the peach chutney too, and possibly more blueberries dried, and then dinner made (which, by the way, I don't usually do), so you have FAR too much to do today to get to that quilt. It'll wait." And I am sure that if my powers of procrastination hold as much sway as I am convinced they can, the quilt will wait. I predict I'll be getting back to it somewhere in the neighborhood of Halloween. You know, when I have been able to can everything in the garden, and the lockers are done, and I HAVE to move the fabric into them. See you in the fall dear quilt.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

My Gift Larder

I heard this idea about a gift larder from a couple different places. It's essentially a dresser drawer full of gifts for birthdays and Christmas. (So helpful when you have a child who has trouble making choices in the store!) Sounds so much fancier when you name it a "larder." And I have started adding items for Christmas to mine.

So here are the latest items I've added:

I am really into these pot holders lately - they remind me of youth and arts & crafts. They are not the easiest things to get together, but they are tons of fun and who doesn't need another pot holder?

And then these socks just kill me! I love the colors and the fun ruffly edge. I thought I would be making them for Grandmom, but they are so loud and not as soft as I originally planned, so I am thinking they will be going to another home this year. I might even take the for myself!

And then there are the jams and other goodies we've been putting up that will be heading out and about this Christmas. I love storing up homemade goodness. I'll take it any way I can get it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sewing Again

It seems like every so often I pull out the sewing machine and tackle another new project. I have to say, I've been very inspired by a good friend and some of the most lovely sewing blogs I can find. I swoon every time I see Amy Butler fabrics. And don't even get me started on Moda!

I've not only discovered that quilt shops seem to be the best place to purchase the most mouth-watering fabrics, but there is a world of patterns out there that don't require you to actually have a size. This, my dear friends, is very important. I already blogged about the cutest little summer tunic - I've made two. I also discovered this tutorial on how to make a gored skirt (I had to look it up too) that actually fits MY body. That is no small task. The thing is, I love the skirt and have been wearing it repeatedly this summer. Never have I actually had a skirt that falls away from my body the way it was intended to. SO happy to have discovered this. Incidentally, I created my pattern from paper grocery sacks.

I even purchased a book (because our library in podunk USA is crappy when it comes to crafting books and the interlibrary loan seems to be a mystery to them) called Weekend Sewing. I was psyched to see the entry on PJs for everyone. I had to try it. (Caveat: the patterns DO have sizes and the largest is barely my size.) I was debating about what fabric to purchase for these lovely pajama bottoms, and just happened to walk into hobby lobby (on a different mission) and stumbled onto some fantastic quilting fabric that was on sale to boot! I snagged the last 2 1/2 yards of some super fun floral and came up with these:

I know, I know, I slept in them first. But I love them and can see many more in the future for our family. And they really did only take an afternoon to put them together. I am sure my neighbors were wondering what the hee-ho I was up to as I was tracing the pattern from the book onto newsprint I stole from my child -- the pattern was taped to the window as I don't have a giant light box and was out of pattern tracing paper (I have remedied that situation now).

I forgot how exhilarating it is to sew a project up, quite literally. There will be much more to come.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Felting Firsts

I've been thinking about felting something for a while now. I have a ton of left over wool from the lovely poncho I made several months ago. And recently a small boy came to me claiming that he absolutely NEEDED a guitar strap for his new guitar. Well, what's a mother to do?

I started looking for a sewing pattern to use -- not much out there unless you'd like to recycle a belt and then THAT pattern seems to have made it's way in various forms all across the internet. Trust me. I also found loads of covers for existing straps. Not what I needed either. I finally found a pattern for knitting and felting a belt (in one of my favorite Half Price Books finds: Knitting With Balls) that was exactly what I needed.

Essentially, used Cascade 220 wool and a width of 3 inches prior to felting for the strap. I measured the boy with the guitar to figure out what length it had to be (about 36 inches). I told myself I should write this stuff down and I forgot to, but I think I used size 13 needles and 9 stitches, but as they say, you should check your gauge before you begin. I use a garter stitch with two strands of wool together. I love the ridged pattern it produced! I wasn't sure how long to go, and I tell ya, 44 inches was a bit too long -- you can see the tail there sticking out from under the guitar. The wool didn't shrink in length very much during the felting process. (I probably should have followed the advice to knit and felt a swatch ahead of time, but really? I was WAY to eager to start the project.)

Hayes and I were able to just cut a couple of holes in the strap once it was felted and Voila! At least it prevents more dings and scratches on the poor guitar. It's practical and he loves it that I made it for him. I'm enjoying THAT while it lasts.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Locker Love

I have this thing about reusing items. It actually may be more like an obsession. I just think most things have more than one life in them and it's such a shame to waste that. I suppose that's were my artwork is born, that idea that the old can be made useful and new again.

Enter my latest project:

These used to belong to a school, obviously, but then a local photographer picked them up and used them as a studio prop. And when I saw some in his studio on a recent (and reluctant) visit, I commented about how cool they would be in my studio. He mentioned that he had two more bays in the barn and would I want one? So for $25 I have my very own set of lockers for the studio.

I forgot (as usual) to take pictures of the before item, but this is only the first step in many. They had to be washed of cobwebs and mold and other unspeakable yuckiness. I have been sanding the blemishes and rust spots on days when it's not so muggy to think you might expire. I am FINALLY to the point that I can wash them down again and start painting! They will be a nice shiny black when I'm done with them. I'll keep the wonderful metal handles on the fronts as-is. I like how they look. I'm hoping that all my knitting and sewing materials will fit nicely inside along with some of my other art sh... ephemera.

And I can finally get rid of the entertainment center that I recycled a couple of years ago to hold some arty items. Perhaps it can live another life in the neighborhood if we put it out with a sign that says: FREE. Perhaps.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

That Didn't Take Long

Ah yes, the sound of crying over homework. The frustration of sitting down to do another unfinished assignment from school. I see you are back. We thought we had bannished you from our home; but you found some small, cobwebby crack and crawled right back in! Damn you.

Two days into school and already a battle (and many tears, and ever so many hearty sobs) over homework. Is this an omen? I pray it is not. Is it a manipulation tactic? Probably on some level. Is this a reaction from the sudden rush into a structured (and I do mean very structured) environment? I can only hope.

Dear gods of education and homework and self worth, we pray that you would grant us peace and the strength to endure. And if you could see your way to a little grace and mercy, we would be ever so grateful. So say we all.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

End of Summer

I can't believe we are here already. I know, I know, everyone always says the same thing. But it truly hits me upside the head every year -- the going back to school. I am never ready to see summer come to an end. Don't get me wrong, I am happy to see the humidity die down, the heat come under control, the mosquitoes go into hibernation. But I am never ready for school to start. I mean, it feels like my kid just ran all the way from the bus stop screaming, "no more school!" Wasn't that yesterday? We've been having so much fun in the garden, and at the lake, holding camp, playing games, and doing puzzles (ok, I was the one that did the puzzle). And now it's coming to a screeching halt. Our back-to-school social is Thursday. THURSDAY!

School will bring with it its own rewards (and hardships). And fall; I have a love affair with fall too. Just thinking about new school supplies, pumpkins, bon fires, crock pots bubbling, and piles and piles of leaves makes me swoon. I can already smell it in the air.

But there is nothing like the lazy days of summer. Good bye old friend. We'll miss you. (You should probably rest up; we'll be playing harder and faster next summer, I have no doubt.)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Football Scrimmage

Hayes got to play his first game - a scrimmage - where he FINALLY got to hit the other team. It was spectacular! I have to confess, I love this game.

See that Colt, #10? That's my boy! He took his man down.

And there's the coach, letting him know the play and that he has to watch the play before he runs. It's a hard lesson to learn, but we're getting there.

And there's Daddy and Hayes. We have a lot to learn, but it's going to be a great year. After all, we're on the Colts!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Little Project

These bread bags were inspired by one of my favorite blogs, Soule Mama.

We have been making our own bread as of late, an effort to eat better and save a few pennies. I stumbled across the advise, over at Soule Mama, that if you wrap your bread in linen towels it helps it to last a bit longer. I got online and purchased these two vintage linen tea towels and, voila! I love 'em. It makes it that much better baking the bread. Who could resist a slice from one of these cuties?

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Sunrise Earth- Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore

Occasionally I will watch this delightful show: Sunrise Earth. It’s so quiet and slow and beautiful. If you’ve never watched it, you should. It’s a great way to start your morning. The premise is very simple. You get to watch the sunrise from various places on earth, see the wildlife awaken, the sky change, the details become clearer.

You can imagine then, how delighted I was to discover a gorgeous sunrise here at the lake this morning upon letting the dogs out. I don’t think I’d ever seen the clouds look so pink or the lake look so blue. After I took care of the girls, I made myself some tea and spent the better part of half an hour just watching the lake wake up. My first thought of course, was to grab my camera, but I realized that I wanted the moment to myself. It was exactly the sort of thing I came up here to do. I’m so glad I was the one privileged enough to see it. Lucky me.