Thursday, September 26, 2013

White Stars Quilt

I have been canning like crazy last week and this week.  I plan on posting my tomato madness here tomorrow or Monday, but today I need a break from it all---and some of the tomatoes need to ripen a bit more.  Anyway, I thought I'd post a little progress on a project that came together rather quickly a week ago.

So a little over a year ago we made a quilt for our brother for his 40th birthday.

This past summer while heading out to Utah on vacation, we stopped at their house in Nebraska and his wife Tonya mentioned that she needs a quilt because he loves his AND he doesn't share.  Not even with her. Travis, rude!

Anyway, we missed her 40th birthday this year due to all sorts of craziness for all involved, but we're making up for it now.  Here is the quilt top I put together for her.  She doesn't know it is coming her way, so it will still be a nice surprise.

The only thing Travis said was to make it "girly" as his is definitely not.
I like how the top turned out.  These blocks come together rather quickly (16" square)
Now it is ready to send to Lynn to work her quilty magic on it.

  • Pattern "White Stars" from Skip The Borders by Julie Herman, pg.26-28.
  • Used 7 different fabrics for 20 blocks.  Need a fat quarter worth of fabric per block.

A couple other versions of this pattern if you want to check them out.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday Finds

I'm so glad that school is back in session.  I feel like my life can normalize a little bit now. It has been hard to do blog stuff when we've been working through some medical stuff with 2 of the kids: including new braces, high BP medication, a previous undiagnosed congenital kidney defect, an angiogram/angioplasty, medication changes, a colonoscopy/upper endoscopy, ultrasound, HIDA scan and a couple CT scans on various body parts.  I feel like I've been a crazy woman running to this or that appointment and at times turning into the mean mother bear who wants answers about her cubs---NOW---and who wants them fixed and healthy. Fortunately for us at least one of the kids now has a plan in place and things are good.  Still working on the other one and have more appointments down the road.  I'd really like to find a solution for her...soon.

Anyway, I think one of the things that has helped keep me sane through this is my time being able to wander thru the aisles at the thrift store.  Yeah, I know, probably lame, but I like it.  And my kids usually don't want to go, so even better, I get to go by myself.

This is a partial list of some of the goodies I've found recently or earlier this summer.
  • 2 yds. of very PINK swim fabric for $1.50.  Hello more baby swimsuits with ruffle bums!
  • Porch swing for $30 that we hung on the swing set for all to enjoy this summer.
  • Two Land's End swim skirts from the thrift store.  Both brand new (with the crotch lining protector still intact) in the style we love. Black one for $3 and turquoise one for daughter #1 for $3.75.  WooHoo!!
  • Almost 10 yds. of 1 1/4 inch drawstring elastic for $1.87.  So happy about that one as I have a bunch of sweatshirt material for pants in the Fall for the kids....and me.
  • Gorgeous navy and white swim fabric for under $3.
  • Chicken wire and twig ball thingy that I want to use on a lamp somewhere for $2.24.  I actually got 2 of them on 2 different occasions.  Not exactly the same sizes, but close enough.
  • Last week I found a Pampered Chef Apple/Peeler/Corer/Slicer for $4.50.  Retails new for $32.00! And it appears that it's never been used.  This find really makes me happy because my previous PC peeler is dead.  It is old and has served us really well.  The replacement peeler I bought elsewhere isn't as good.  So back to Pampered Chef we go.  Yeah!
  • Sauce Master Food Strainer for $3.50 (minus 2 parts, but I can order them new for $10.)  This retails for $50 new.  I don't know that I "need" 2 of these, but seriously for this price it beats any replacement parts I may need to buy down the road.
  • Just this morning I picked up another Kenmore sewing machine for $15.00.  It is super similar to this one that I got for free.  Same options, etc. though probably a slightly older model.  I think my friend Jenny is going to buy it from me as her machine is junk (really, it is) and she has the sewing bug.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Quilt Top Completion--Candy Coated

One afternoon last week I pulled out one of my quilts in progress and determined that I would finish it. Period.

Here it is in progress earlier this year.

These colors aren't necessarily my first choice though I do love red.  But I scored all these fat quarters at the thrift store.  I have, to date, mostly made any quilts from scraps and not too many that were already coordinated and picked out for me.  I decided this would be a personal challenge to make it into something fun and interesting and not fuddy-duddy.

I ended up with 11 rows instead of 14 as the pattern calls for.  However, I also made my strips a little longer than Amanda Jean's.  I was trying to eek out as much as possible from my fat quarters.

  • Final quilt top dimensions: 66 inches by 79 inches.
  • Used 23 Marcus Brothers Civil War Print fat quarters

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A couple yummy recipes

I've been trying to change up my diet a bit--much to the chagrin of my family.
Have I ever mentioned how I like change, and they don't?
Anyway, here are a couple recipes I've found and tried, and liked.

Avocado Smoothie from BHG.

Avocado Smoothie

Super delicious.  My kids don't love it, but hubby does.
At times I throw in a bit of kale or spinach too.
I think the ginger is the key ingredient in this.

Pumpkin Bran Muffins from Woman's Day Magazine

Really liked these.  We froze 2 per baggie and hubby pulls a bag out the night before so he can eat them on the way to work the next morning.  I like these with honey as well as the orange cream included in the recipe.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Scripture Totes--Camo Style

Our youngest son is turning 8 later this Fall and that when we make sure our kids have their own set of scriptures to take with them to Church.  Even though he doesn't yet have his new set of scriptures he has been bugging me about making him a scripture tote like everyone else in the family so he can bring them with.

Out of my stash he chose some camo fabric for his scripture tote.  And then I just picked whatever else to go inside.  He didn't care.

And then when that was done, hubby batted his baby browns at me and asked if he could have a new scripture tote too--in a different camo pattern.

O.K. fine.  Not what I really wanted to do at the time, but I did it anyway.

Both guys are now happy.
And I am done with this project.

  • I don't really have a pattern for this, the basic side piece I use measures 9 1/4 inches by 6 3/4 inches with the corners rounded out.
  • Zipper section cut to 3" wide at the length you prefer.  I like the zipper to cover almost 3 sides completely, if not a little longer so you can easier get your scriptures in and out.
  • All but 1 zipper I used from my stash.
  • Made to fit this size of scriptures.
  • Embellish with a front pocket if desired.  I kind of like the slanted zipper.  Then you don't have to worry about being so even, and perfect.
  • You can also add an inner pocket if you like.
  • Inside seams enclosed with 1/2 inch double fold bias tape.
  • Handles are approximately 1 1/4" wide and 10 inches long--finished.
  • On hubby's tote I interfaced almost all the pieces because the fabric was a bit thin.  

Friday, September 13, 2013

Canning Frenzy

In the past 2 weeks or so I have been canning A LOT!

It seems to have all hit at once and coinciding with the start of school.
Oh well, it is what it is.
And with canning sometimes most times you just can't ignore it or you will miss your window of opportunity.
That is what has been occurring with us.

The last week of August (and the week before school started) there were FREE apples.

And I even ended up tossing some out because I just couldn't handle doing any more.  I'm a bit ashamed to say that because usually I just suck it up and do it, but not this time.  I felt like we had plenty and I was done.

Then came Jalapeño Salsa.  

I will need to do more but for the moment we have enough that we don't run out next week or in the next couple months.  And once again, we received a nice little bunch of free tomatoes and were able to use them for this recipe.

Throw in a quick batch of Maple Syrup after opening the last bottle on a pancake morning.

Next up peaches.

Usually in our area you can peaches during the first couple weeks of August.  I am finding that my previous sources to find canning peaches are no longer doing that.  I kept checking and they kept not having anything. Then last week I happened to stop by this smaller grocery store that I rarely use to grab one item quick. And lo and behold there were 10 boxes of Colorado peaches sitting there.  Cue the chorus!

I spoke with the produce manager and he informed me that this was the end and they wouldn't be getting any more and yes, their pears were already over and done.  

I left with 3 - 17 pound boxes of peaches.  I paid a premium, but with peaches, at least around here, you usually do.

Next up were dried beans.

Went down to our pantry to grab some pinto beans for tacos one night and found we had only 2 pints left.
Needed to remedy that in a hurry.

Finally a lucky break, albeit not the timing I would've liked, one of grocery stores advertised $.68/lb pears.

Not specifically canning pears, those are a little smaller in size, but for the price and since I missed everything else earlier in August I bought a 40 pound box.  I know the grocery guys thought I was a bit nutso asking for a full case of pears, and the young lady cashier probably did too, but hubby was beyond thrilled.  He prefers canned pears over peaches and literally we didn't have one jar of pears in our storage.  It has been that way for months.  Thankfully those pears were green and it gave me a few days to recover in between canning sessions before I had to can those.

All the above has netted us:
  • And finally one tired me
Here's to a fuller storage pantry and some time off to do other creative things.
Enjoy your weekend!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Projects I shouldn't be starting right now

I have sooooo many projects that I really should be working on.

Last week I spent a little time in my sewing room combining fabric, patterns, and notions together in big ziplocs so that each project is all in one place.  I actually went back to the store and bought more.  That is how bad it was getting.  And really, I need more bags.  So, so sad.

But sometimes I don't want to do what I should.
I'd rather do what I want.
Do you ever get like that?

So when I should have been working on other things I was making quilt blocks instead.  

Here are the 2 different quilts that I started.

First up some snowball blocks--in Fall prints and colors from some charm packs I bought at the thrift store.

I think I might put a border around each snowball so that I can get a bigger quilt.
Kinda excited about this one.

Then secondly I started some blocks that I have been mentally planning for a time.  Originally I was going to try and recruit some friends and make another collaborative quilt.  I changed my mind.  At the time it felt too difficult to get people together and so I just started them myself.

This quilt pattern is from Block Party--The Modern Quilting Bee, Wonky Roman Stripe Block, pg. 50-56.

I need more blocks and have 2 other base colors in a lighter blue and a grey to combine all together.  I think it will be nice when it is all said and done.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Juicing {The Smell of Fall}

One thing we haven't mentioned on the blog yet is juicing.  Apple season is just about here depending on where you live.  So in preparation for all those yummy apples here is a little insight today on juicing your own.

And just so you know we're not going to reinvent the process.  At the end of this post are a couple links that have good step-by-step instructions, along with pictures to get you going.  We'll just add some of our thoughts on making it as easy and painless as possible.  

Mixing a couple different varieties of apples together tends to make a better juice, applesauce or pie filling. We don't use any specific types exclusively.  Honestly, whatever type of apple we can get free or very cheap is what we use.  Buying "seconds" from an orchard can help you reduce the cost.  These are apples that aren't perfect looking, but work great for juicing or making sauce. The color of the juice (or applesauce) will be slightly different depending on what varieties you use.  It could be a slightly pink or more yellow--we've even had "alien" applesauce as the kids call it because it was slightly more green in color.

We prefer any method of juicing that only requires you to chunk up your fruit.
No peeling or coring involved.  Just cut off any bad spots there may be.

Our equipment of choice for juicing is an aluminum Steamer Juicer (shown below).  Emily owns two of them thanks to one of her quilter ladies who upgraded to stainless steel.

The thing about equipment is sometimes the price can be intimidating.  There is an initial investment, but we feel like the cost is quickly recovered.  The ease of use of some of these items are just so phenomenal that it can't be measured.  And certainly we have bought equipment slowly over the years. Once you know what you are looking for you can keep an eye out at thrift stores and estate sales.  And once people know you can you will more than likely be the first person they contact when cleaning out their relative's home.  Renae has scored items on both those accounts.

When canning with a steamer juicer (per their instructions, pg. 4) there is no need to process the jars any further. Sweet!  Adding boiling juice into hot jars is enough to seal it.  If you are concerned, then per Ball® you would hot water bath for 10 minutes.

When we juice apples we also make our applesauce at the same time.  The applesauce is made from your leftover pulp.  So there is literally minimal waste.  We just throw the pulp into our food strainer and the sauce comes out one end and the little amount of gunk the other end.  

Super slick.  Once again, no peeling or coring involved.
Then depending on the thickness of your sauce you can add back either some water or apple juice to get it the consistency your family prefers.

Without a food strainer you would place the hot pulp in a colander of some type and strain until the sauce is extracted.  Renae usually refrigerates hers and then cans it the next day or depending on the amount you make you can just eat it within a few days.  Here is how to hot water bath applesauce per the Ball® directions.  If you prefer your applesauce more sweet than it naturally is you can add sugar and/or cinnamon to taste.  This year we did 7 few pints of cinnamon sugared applesauce, based on the sweetness the kids liked and tasted beforehand.  The remaining 16 pints we just left as is--possibly slightly tart, but that is the way they all prefer it.  A big thanks to Jo and Frank from Renae for the freebie apples this year.

More Notes:
  • We use the aluminum Back to Basics Steamer Juicer.  They are between $60 - $70 depending on where you find them.  Renae buys the majority of her canning supplies locally at Mills Fleet Farm.  The food strainer runs around $35-45.
  • A tutorial with pics using a steamer juicer can be found here.  This is basically how we do it.
  • If you don't have one of these awesome steamer juicers you can still make your own apple juice. Ball
    ® Canning has a recipe for Homemade Apple Juice.
  • Here is another link that will show you how to do it without having to peel and core all your apples--which really is the deterrent, we think, to people canning apples in any form.
  • Making your own grape juice with a steamer juicer.  Emily has a nice free source where she lives and make lots of grape juice for her family.  

Monday, September 2, 2013

Basic Knit Skirt Pattern

Tomorow is the first day of school for my kids.
Oh happy day!
A friend of mine said that the first day of school is actually the real Mother's Day.
So true.
It feels like it has been a very long and unproductive summer for me.
My "to do" list is long, both actual and in my mind.
And the truth of the matter is I can't get nearly as much done when the kids are home.
You all know that is true at your own homes too.
So hopefully I can get back into the swing of things and reduce my piles of projects.

In case you haven't noticed, if there is a pattern available, especially for $1 on sale, I use that instead of trying to figure out a pattern on my own.  I figure why torture myself when someone else has already done the work for me.  I can embellish it as I like with a good basic pattern.

Sometime this summer I purchased McCall's 6654 at Jo-Ann's for $1 even though I probably have a couple others that are similar.  It is just nice to have a couple different styles and lengths in one pattern--4 lengths of a knit A-line skirt and 5 lengths of a straight knit skirt.

I've already used this pattern a couple times, but wanted to show this fun skirt that I made from a thrift store piece of fabric I found for about $3.  It is a little like a sweater knit, but I just loved the color and texture of the design.  There was enough that I was able to make one for both me and daughter #2.  Here she is showing off hers.

  • To make a knee length skirt for my 6 foot + body I had to used view D to get it long enough.  We also lengthened hers too so that it would hit right at the knee.
  • For the waistband we bought wide elastic and used it on the outside.  Basically just topstitching it with a double needle to the top of the waist edge.  This was mainly to reduce the bulk at the waist.
  • Daughter #2's cool bracelet she made with beads bought at Jo-Ann's.


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