Thursday, January 31, 2008

Machine Embroidery

For more crafting and crafters, check out The Blogger Craft Club. Thanks Hadias for hosting!

Before, I got my embroidery machine, I was always wondering what they were and how they worked and whether I should get one. Since I've finished the embroidery on the apron my brother, Adam, commissioned, I decided I'd do a post demonstrating that process. Later I will do a post about the sewing of the apron, and that way I'll have a straight forward post demonstrating the construction process that's not muddied by the embroidery.

A warning about machine embroidery. It is a very expensive hobby! My machine (which is a dual embroidery/sewing machine, meaning it converts) cost about $700 five years ago. I then spent quite a bit to buy the digitizing software so I could create custom embroidery designs. Then I bought $100 drawing software to better use the digitizing software. In all, I've spent more on my equipment than I ever would now, but since I own it and the money is gone, I try to get the most out of it and use it when I can. It is so much fun, and if you're looking for something that you don't mind spending big money on, you can do much worse.

Anyway, even if you're not planning to buy one, it is fun to see all that you can do with an embroidery machine.

This project is something my brother requested I make him to give to a friend for his birthday. They're all in this club and the embroidery is parts of the logo of the club they formed.

The first step in a project like this is to digitize the embroidery design. I do this by using screen captures of the logo and the special drawing software to trace the parts I need and make them into a file the digitizing software can work with. Then I use the digitizing software to create the information about stitch length and density and placement. After that, it's loaded on a special card that goes into my machine and I'm ready to set up for the embroidery.

Here's my sewing machine set up for embroidery mode. The embroidery unit hooks to the machine and holds the hoop. It then moves the hoop under the needle to make the machine sew what is in the embroidery file.

Here it is in action embroidering one of the pockets of the apron. A regular machine can be used for machine embroidery too, but then it is called free motion embroidery or thread painting, since the user manually moves the hoop around to "draw" with the needle and thread.

Machine embroidery needs stabilizer to help support the fabric under the dense stitching. Here I am tearing away the tear away version. The other stabilizer is a cut away style that you cut around the design and it stays permanently.

Here is the finished pocket, embroidered and cut to shape.

In order to get the correct placement on the apron front, I print out a template of the design.

Using the cross hairs on the template, I mark the placement.

Then I use the guide insert for the hoop to get the hoop in the right position.

Here is the monogram on the bottom corner of the apron.

And this is the finished embroidery of the central design on the chest. Yes, I know it's spelled wrong. No, it's not my club. Yes, I was tempted to spell it right. No, Adam wouldn't let me.

I hope you've all enjoyed my little demonstration of embroidery machines and what exactly they do. I've really enjoyed owning mine, and it has made me some extra money when I've done custom digitizing or embroidery for others. I also use it to make gifts fairly often. It's very fun to be able to do something on the computer and have it in thread only a short time later.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Cold Front

I never did get to update with pictures, and I didn't completely finish my list, because there were big storms and high winds that went through yesterday afternoon and through the evening, knocking the power out for most of that time.

I decided not to put the chicken in the oven to roast because I was concerned that the power would go out and I'd be stuck with lukewarm poultry to throw away. Ben brought some cheesesticks from Papa John's for dinner instead. Not exactly good for our health or our wallet, but since pizza is inherently fun, it helped cheer us when the storm was seeming so bad. I'm planning to do roast chicken, broccoli, and mashed potatoes for dinner tonight, and we'll just save the fajitas for next week.

I didn't test the embroidery, and I didn't cut Ben's hair either, because both of those things need electricity. But they're both on the list for today. In fact, I have a short list today. I have to send some greeting cards, sort my coupons, wash a load of laundry, cut Ben's hair tonight, and make the apron. I'm planning to take pictures of the apron making process, because I thought those of you who are interested in sewing or learning to sew might like to see the different steps.

I didn't sleep well last night. It's strange. I felt like I was relaxing and settling in here at our new house, but the storm yesterday unsettled me, and my anxiety was pretty high.

And I've been waking up at three or four, feeling wide awake and not being able to fall back to sleep very well. That happened this last spring while we lived in Phoenix, and went on for about a month before I was so worn out from it that I talked to my doctor. She prescribed Ambien, which I took in quarters of pills for about two months, and then stopped taking it. I've slept fairly well since then, with the exception of the nights when we first moved in here.
I'm sure it's related much more to my emotions than to any physical problem though, and so hope to work on relaxing more before sleep. I think getting some exercise again will help as well, so about twenty minutes on the treadmill a day is in the plan too.

I also did a novena when we moved in that helped a lot. It is a scripturally based novena about fear. I plan to start it again, as the verses were very comforting and served to ease my anxiety by reminding me that nothing can separate us from God's love.

It's also a beautiful day today, and the sun is shining golden on the field across the street. That's do more to calm me than anything else. I'm grateful for sunshine today after a stormy cold evening and night.
Here is the result of all the sauce and lasagna making on Monday. I've got a big lasgana and two personal ones to freeze, one for dinner that night, and lots of sauce for quick meals. I like to freeze the sauce in the silicon muffin pan, because they pop right out after freezing. Then I can store the frozen "sauce muffins" in a freezer bag and thaw them one at a time as needed. It makes having pasta for dinner very easy.
I took pictures of all the pictures I hung on Monday, but I'm having trouble with blogger's picture hosting, so this is the only one I got to load. I bought Ben this cross with the Risen Jesus on it for his confirmation two years ago. I'm deciding whether or not I should hang some other things on this wall as well, maybe family pictures. This is right across from the front door.
Notice the cd's. I'd guess that about ten of them are mine. Two Christmases ago, I mp3'ed all of Ben's cd's and got him an adapter to listen to his ipod in the car. He never did use the ipod, and we ended up giving it to my nephew. But it was still worth getting all the music into the computer, because I listen to it as I want now. I think he's got a cd addiction.

Here's the fabric for the apron I'm making for Adam's friend. The black is the front and will have the custom embroidery on it, and the hound's tooth check is the lining. It is going to sharp looking. I think I might even put pockets on the checked side, and then it will be reversible. More on that later today.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Back in the Saddle

I finished everything on my list yesterday except sorting my coupons. I forgot that I left my coupon box in the car, so it was in St. Louis. I forgot to get it out of the car last night, so I'll bring it in tonight, and sorting the coupons is on the list for tomorrow.

For today, my list looks like this:
1. Pay all the bills, take care of misc. correspondence done!
2. Unpack the last box left downstairs. woohoo! done!
3. Test the embroidery design I digitized yesterday.
4. Finish two loads of laundry. done!
5. Bake banana muffins.
6. Decide how to cook chicken and make dinner.
7. Cut Ben's hair.

We had some changes to our menu this week. We couldn't find a beef roast for a good price, so we got a couple of small chickens instead. I'm not sure yet how I'll cook them yet, I think I'll probable just roast them. Whole chickens are an ingredient that aren't all that familiar to me, so we'll just have to see how dinner turns out.

My lasagna yesterday turned out much better than usual! I'd contribute that to two different things, and I'll have to remember that so I can try to get as good results in the future. One, I forgot to buy tomato paste, so the sauce was thinner than usual, but that worked well in the lasagna, since the noodles seemed to soak up the extra liquid. And second, I remembered to salt the pasta water, which is something I usually just forget. I think that both or either of these is what made it better than all the other times I've made it.

I'm planning to update with some pictures later. Adam says he can't wait to see pictures of the apron making process. I've got to fix my cutting table before I can get started on sewing the apron, so I'll add that to the list, and then with the design tested and the cutting table fixed, I should be able to get it mostly finished tomorrow. It depends on if I want to work straight through on it. It's funny how Adam has a knack for adding enough details to a project to make a two hour project into a week long one.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Christmas in My Heart: Reflecting on Christmas Past

"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach."- A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

For this first in the Christmas in My Heart series, I’d like to begin by thinking about the Christmas season that just recently finished. Many of us may feel worn out from Christmas and may not even want to think about it, but I think it is best to evaluate the Holiday while it is still relatively fresh in our minds, so we are better able to plan for next year a little at a time while it comes. That said, here are some questions to help you find what your priorities are for next year.

1. Did you get the chance to reflect on the meaning of Christmas? For Christians, we celebrate Jesus’ birth and willingness to sacrifice Himself for us, but I feel it is wrong to leave non-Christians out of this message. Be a shining example of the Peace that God’s love can bring to your life. If you are not Christian, Christmas is a beautiful and meaningful time to reflect on what you do believe or perhaps learn more about the Church.

I know that I was pretty busy this season with moving into our new home, and so did do as much Bible study and advent preparation as I would have liked. I’d like to say that I’ll never move at Christmas time again, but it wasn’t particularly my choice, and if we move again, it most likely won’t be up to me then either. So I’ll say that I’m very grateful that next year we most likely won’t be moving, and I’ll have had a whole year to make my new house our home and to plan for the holidays here.

2. Were you happy with the gifts that your gave others? Did the gifts reflect your priorities in life? Did you overspend or rack up credit card debt in order to give others gifts? Would you have rather made more of your gifts yourself?

I wanted to give gifts that would please the recipients and also would reflect my values, but I’m afraid that I was too preoccupied this year to really achieve this. Through the year, I plan to look for opportunities that might come up to buy in a charitable way, such as at the church sales in order to find gifts that will help others as well as be appreciated by my family. I’m also planning to make some things as the year goes on that will be for gifts or Christmas decorations so I won’t be trying to finish all these things at once. To avoid last minute gift shopping and stress, I’d like to have all of my gifts bought by Thanksgiving, and any goodie packages or candy gifts made and sent by the first week in Dec.

3. Did you put too much stress on yourself decorating or un-decorating your house? Did you tire out or lose your temper over putting up the tree or other decorations?

It’s easy to get frustrated when you have too many decorations! Every year, as I put my Christmas things away, I sort out which things are not favorites or don’t have specific meaning. I find this is especially important if the decorations won’t fit back into the storage totes. If you have to buy more totes every year to store your Christmas things, it might be time to be ruthless in sorting things out. Find a newly married couple or perhaps a charity that works with victims of house fires to donate some of your extra decorations.

4. What traditions did you enjoy the most? If there are particular traditions that you and your family enjoy every year, put these right at the top of your priority list, and make sure that nothing else gets in the way.

We have too many traditions to name them all here, and we’re starting new ones every year as well. Our favorites are cooking and baking together and relaxing together after we open gifts.
Every year, no matter where we are for Christmas, we’ve found it very important to go to Mass together. Some years we’ve gone to Midnight Mass with my night owl brother and sister. Or we go to Christmas Day Mass with my parents. This year, it was just the two of us at Christmas Eve Mass, but it was special and it serves to remind us of God’s love demonstrated by Jesus becoming man.

We also enjoy watching certain movies every year. My favorite is The Muppet Christmas Carol. This year we added some unconventional Christmas movies, Die Hard, Die Hard 2, and Gremlins. This was pretty fun as well, so I think we’ve started a yet another new tradition.

5. Was there anything you would change about this last Christmas? Anything at all you would love to do again and again? Share your final thoughts about how you feel now that another Christmas season is over. Make a short priority list of what you might like more of next year.

I’d like more time with our families, and more of a chance to visit with all our brothers and sisters. I’d like more planning when it comes to food gifts and gifts for friends out of state, so they’ll get things on time. I’d like more forethought in writing Christmas cards, and I’d like to send more of them out and have them sent by the second week of December.
Please join me in honouring Christmas all through the year and share your own reflections on Christmas Past in a post on your blog. If you don't have a blog, feel free to answer in the comments section. Link to your post here with the Mr. Linky.

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Someone's Got a Case of the Mondays (Name that Movie!)

I woke up this morning feeling kind of tired and unmotivated. I guess I'm not really a morning person, more of a stare at nothing to 8 or 9 person. Anyway, Monday is always a busy sort of day, and I need to stay moving, so I'm making sure to post my list early in order to get some things done.

My morning routine:
1. Get up, get clean, get dressed
2. See Ben off with Coffee, Breakfast and Lunch / Listen to today's Bible readings while I
3. Empty the dishwasher/drainer/clean the sink/wipe the counters
4. Make the bed and tidy the bedroom
5. Clean the litter and take out the trash and feed/water the cats

Then I'll eat breakfast while I make up the list for the day.

Today I asked Ben what he'd like me to get done this week, and he suggested hanging the pictures that are left to hang and working on unpacking the few things that are left upstairs. So I'll start my list with those.

1. Hang pictures
2. Work upstairs/unbury treadmill
3. Make sauce this morning and put lasagna together this afternoon
4. Get the embroidery design for Adam's apron layed out
5. Wash the fabric for the apron and iron if needed
6. Write and post first Christmas in My Heart Post
7. Shave my legs (I know, I should hardly have to put it on a to do list, but there you go)
8. Organize coupons/gather reciepts/price some menu meals

I'm tempted to add "Take a nap" to my list, but I don't think I'll need reminding. And if I actually get everything on my list finished today and there's time, I may just reward myself with a nap. I caught a bug in MI, and while I'm not actually feeling too sick anymore, I am feeling slightly run down, and I don't want to get sicker, so I'll leave the more heavy cleaning and moving the bedroom furniture around that needs to get done for a little later in the week. The things on today's list all need to get done, but aren't too physical, so that seems just about right for a day like today.

I'm feeling a lot more motivated now, and I'm hoping to have my list done by early afternoon. If you'd like to read about how others are getting motivated today, there are lots of links here.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Menu for 1-27 to 2-2

B: Cereal
L: Leftover Pizza
D: Omaha Steak, Biscuits, Asparagus, and Twice Baked Potatoes

B: Steak Scramble Burrito
L: Sandwiches
D: Lasagna and Salad

B: Banana Muffins
L: Leftover Lasagna
D: Roast Beef and Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans

B: Muffins
L: Lasagna
D: Black Bean and Chicken Fajitas

B: Muffins
L: Nachos
D: Bacon and Eggs

B: Muffins
L: Sandwiches
D: Pizza Night!

B: Cereal
L: Leftover Pizza
D: Roast Beef Sandwiches

This week baking will be the Banana Muffins for breakfasts, buttermilk biscuits, bread for sandwiches, and rolls or baguettes for the roast beef sandwiches. Desserts this week will be pudding and fruit.

I'm planning to do my best to figure the costs of all the meals as I go, and I'll add the prices in as the week progresses.

Lots more menu inspiration here.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

I'm Back!

I had a very nice trip home to visit all of my family in MI. I was gone for just about a week, since we got back yesterday afternoon. I wish I could visit so much more often, but at the same time, I love being home and tending to my work so much that it's hard to be away for so long as well. It's also hard to catch up sometimes too! I've got lots of laundry to do and lots of cleaning too.

I've gotten a pretty good start on catching up so far today though. I skipped making my to do list this morning, settling for putting the house back together after my absence and the extended morning routine. (Same things as my regular morning routine, but they take so much longer since they haven't been done for so long.) I've pretty much caught up on the cleaning that I want to get finished today, except for emptying the dishwasher when it finishes running and doing about five more loads of laundry. I started with the most important laundry though, like the sheets, so if it takes into the weekend to get that all caught up, no problem.

I'm definately planning to start back up with the to do lists on Monday. It worked so well for last week to sit down in the morning and plan out which things had to get done that day. I feel like it will help a lot when it comes to getting things done that I forget to do because they're not done often. It was also good to be able to, when I ran across a job that had to get done but didn't want to interupt myself to do it immediately, just jot it down on the next page so I'd remember to do it the next day. I've always resisted doing this, since it seems like a waste of paper to use a sheet every day just to write things down, but I've been using the back of the page a day calendar pages, so I don't feel like I'm wasting. Plus, it's so worth it to have the chance to get a little more organized in my work!

The dinner I cooked was a success. It was so pleasurable for me to get to cook so much food! And so satisfying to see it all disappear so quickly! There weren't many leftovers at all, perhaps just a cup of so of potatoes and some gravy and roasted carrots. I actually bought more meat to make a roast to shred up and make into shepherds' pie for Ben when he got there. I was glad to know that I've learned to cook well enough to make dinner for 20 people and get everything finished and warm at the same time! I don't think I could have done that even a year ago.

Unfortunately, I got so wrapped up in the cooking that I completely forgot to take pictures. So I don't have any pictures of people eating my food, or even the food, to post. I'll just have to do it all over again sometime. Maybe this summer I'll try fried chicken for all 20 of us.

I did buy some fun new things at the Amish stores in Clare. I just love going into those stores because it seems like they're the only places you can buy some serious homemaking supplies, lol. I got a two pound bag of yest for $4.60. I don't know what the Sam's price is, but Ben and I don't usually enjoy going in there, so since I was already at the Amish grocery, I figured I'd save us the trip to O'Fallon. I do know that we pay about $6 for 8oz of yeast at ShopnSave, so this purchase saved me about $20 in the long run! I got some things that are more on the frivilous side too, like dough scoops, at the Amish hardware store, but they're a good value compared to what I'd pay at a specialty shop, and I'm definately not the type to buy kitchen gadgets and not use them, so I wouldn't consider it wasted money, but more under the category of entertainment than of household necessity.

I've got projects to keep me busy this afternoon and through next week. I'm making an apron that Adam has requested. We fabric shopped while I was visiting, so now I have all the supplies to get started. And I'm also hoping to start a new knitting project, since I'm between things right now. The pi shawl was great travel knitting, and it's coming along well, but I think I will reserve that to be travel only knitting, since it's ideal not having to refer to a pattern or do anythinking at all, and not needing to have lots of balls of yarn with me the way I would with dishcloths or something else easy. Anyway, since I'm not finishing the shawl quite yet, and I'm planning some dishcloths for tv and movie knitting here at home, I want to pick out a project that's slightly more complicated and requires a pattern for afternoon quiet time/book listening.

Ben would like a vest or cardigan, I think, and I know I'd like a pair of thick socks. I should also make myself a cardigan or shrug, and Ben can always use warm socks as well. I think that my first step will be to check out the stash closet and see what's available. I did break my yarn diet by buying some sugar and cream cotton for dishcloths, but that doesn't actually count because I had knit up every bit of sugar and cream before we moved, so I couldn't make new dishcloths (and I have promised black ones to Adam to go with the apron) without buying some more. Anyway, since the yarn diet is still strongly in effect, I will be playing with my stash and digging through patterns this afternoon to decide what to make next.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

On My Way

I'm headed off to MI for a visit with my family. It'll be so nice to get to spend time with everyone this weekend! I'm planning to cook a big family dinner on Sunday. I think I'll make pot roast with mashed potatoes and veggies and biscuits and maybe a pie for dessert. I'll be sure to take lots of pictures! But I'll get some people in them this time, it'll be more interesting than just my food shots.

I got great news yesterday. Next month Ben's team at work is having a meeting in Orlando and going to DisneyWorld as an activity, and I get to go along! We get to stay during the meeting, Tueday to Thursday, and then we'll be staying on our own over the weekend. I've never been to DisneyWorld before, I can't wait!

I finished the hat and scarf for Angie's friend last night. Well, I finished the hat on Thursday and finished the scarf last night. They turned out pretty cute. I'll see if I can get Angie to model them for a picture. I cast on for a Pi Shawl from the Knitter's Almanac by Elizabeth Zimmerman last night to take with me. All of EZ's great reasons for taking a shawl as travel knitting convinced me. I'm doing the plain version, so it's mostly just knitting and knitting and knitting. Which is good for visiting and such. I wanted to get it big enough to just have to bring one set of needles with me, but it's still on the 16 inch one. I packed my KnitPicks 24 inch cable and needle tips as well, so I get it on that one after the next increase round. At first I was surprised how quickly it went, but then I realized that with the project, the rounds get bigger and bigger, so it'll seem pretty endless by the time I have almost 500 stitches on the needles. I'm using some wool/angora blend yarn that's recycled from a thrift store sweater. It's a dusty light purple color.

I'd better get going and get the computer packed up so I can be on the way to the airport. But I'll do some mobile posts to update during the weekend!


Happy Birthday, Julie!

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Recipe Tuesday - Apple Pie

For today's Recipe Tuesday, I've decided to do a little show and tell of my apple pie making. The recipes that I use for both the crust and the apples are from the Betty Crocker Cookbook, so they're pretty standard.

I'd like to credit the Pioneer Woman Cooks Blog for inspiring me to take some more detailed pics of my cooking and to try out this format.

The crust recipe in Betty Crocker has just flour, salt, shortening, and water.

I like to measure the shortening with the kitchen scale to avoid having to wash it out of a measuring cup. Lucky for me, shortening is like butter in that it's the same in volume as it is by weight.

I add a little butter in for some of the shortening too. I think it adds a little flavor and helps it brown nicely.

I love my pastry cutter. It was a wedding gift. I plan on passing it down to future generations. Someday, even a plastic handle will look vintage.

I divide the dough into two and flatten it out a little between waxed paper. I put it in the fridge to chill while I deal with the apples.

And here is how I deal with the apples. I also love my apple peeler/corer. I got it at a rummage sale for a dollar. And since it already looks vintage, it'll be easier to pass it off as an heirloom to those future generations.

See how evenly it slices?

How lovely a line it makes of the peel?

I won't claim that the only reason I got it out was because I had so many apples. But I did do three pies worth of apples, so it helped make the peeling much faster.

Here's my microplane with a nutmeg. I'm sure I don't need to tell you how I feel about my microplane.

After the filling is all mixed up, I split it into three, putting two of the portions into freezer bags. Squeeze out all the air and mush them flat to stack in the freezer. To use the frozen ones, I just let them thaw on the counter or overnight in the fridge and then dump them into the pie crust to bake.

Here is my pretty pretty Fire King pie plate. I'm going to run away with it, and we'll be married.

It's a little smaller than modern pie plates, but I like a higher crust to filling ratio, so it's perfect for me. A little less then two pounds of apples fills it right up.
I forgot to take pictures of it all put together, I was that excited to bake it, but I'll take some pictures after it comes out of the oven. If I don't get too excited about eating it.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Monday's Progress

Well, I finished everything on my list except printing the shipping labels and baking pies.

I couldn't print the shipping labels because the usps site kept giving me erroes. So I'll have to try again in the morning. If it won't work then, I'll try to get down to the post office this week and ship it out from there. Or maybe I could buy the postage from the mail person. I don't know if they do that for sure, but the rural route info thing they sent said they could.

And I couldn't bake my pies because after I'd mixed up the pancakes, I realized I didn't have enough flour left to do the crusts. We'll probably pick up flour today because Ben's wanting to go to Best Buy tonight after dinner. So the pie will be first on my list for tomorrow afternoon.

I finished Ali's mitten set! I'm very glad with how cute it all turned out. I've posted a picture at my other blog here. So don't click the link if you want to be surprised Ali!

This evening, I'm planning to implement a very simple evening routine to help things run a little more smoothly in the morning. Also, I got so much done on my list today, that I'm really looking forward to organizing some knitting projects and picking something out of my stash to work on, especially some travel knitting for my upcoming trip to MI.

Tomorrow, pictures of pies! And hopefully the crocheted hat promised to Angie!

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Getting on Track for the Week

I started out kind of slowly today. I guess I didn't sleep very well, so I've been pretty foggy this morning. Since I had a hard time getting moving, I included some of my morning routine into my to do list for the day, just to make sure it got done.

My morning routine is usually:
1. Get Up, Get Clean, Get Dressed
2. Get Ben's lunch together and say goodbye then sit and read today's Bible readings
3. Clean litter boxes, change trash, and feed and water cats.
4. Make bed and tidy bedroom.
5. Put away all clean dishes and clean out sink of any others.

Since I finished all my morning routine but #5 right away, today my to do list looks like this:
1. Empty Dishwasher & Drainer
2. Wipe down counters, sink, stove, and inside of oven
3. Mix up pancake batter for tonight's dinner (this week's menu is here)
4. Finish Ali's mittens
5. Pack up boxes to ship
6. Print labels & email for Ben
7. Write & send thank you note
8. Clean guest bathroom
9. Bake apple pies
10. Read the first part of the Blogger Book Club book
11. Call phone company
12. Sweep kitchen & living room
13. Send check to library

So far today, I've finished 1, 2, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13. I started with the harder things that weren't as much fun, and now I'm sitting down to read the beginning of the book club book and knit the pocket for Alison's mitten. When that's done, I'll sew it on, and I'll be completely ready to pack up her box and send it. Then I'll be able to print out mailing labels, so that'll take care of those four items. That'll leave the baking and getting the batter ready for dinner to take care of after lunch and this late afternoon. I like to bake in the afternoon, because then the house will smell extra good when Ben comes home.

I'll post later with pictures to show my progress!

*Edit: Check out how it all turned out here.

If you're interested in some motivation with making your home a haven, visit Crystal's blog every Monday.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Menu for 1-13 to 1-19

B: Ham & Egg Scramble
L: Fruit Salad and Veggies
D: Beans & Rice

B: Oat & Blueberry Muffin and Yogurt
L: Tamales and Crudite
D: Breakfast for Dinner: Bacon & Pancakes

B: Muffins, Yogurt
L: Grilled Chicken Salad
D: Chicken & Bean Fajitas

B: Muffins, Yogurt
L: Burrito, Fruit Salad
D: Noodles & Sauce, Salad

B: Oatmeal, Fruit Salad
L: Tamales, Crudite
D: Baked Potato Bar

B: Oatmeal, Fruit Salad
L: Leftovers
D: Pizza Night

B: Oatmeal, Fruit Salad
L: Leftover Pizza
D: Pasta Salad

Dessert this week will be Apple Pie or maybe Apple Crisp. I'll also bake a loaf of bread and some buttermilk biscuits. We bought a jug of buttermilk last week for the pancakes and biscuits, but I never did the biscuits because I wasn't feeling well last Thurs and I didn't do the pancakes because we didn't want a sweet dinner that night. So, I'm planning to move buttermilk using things to this week.

I'm leaving to visit MI for the weekend on Friday morning, so Ben's on his own till I get home. I think he's looking forward to cooking some things himself, but I'm sad to miss out on pizza night. Maybe my parents and I will do pizza night together Friday night when I get to Pinconning!

For more menu fun, click here!

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Thursday, January 10, 2008


Well, I did get a lot of my list of goals accomplished today. I still have the knitting and crocheting to work on this evening and tomorrow, but I did finish all the rest. Here are the pics.

Ah, clean sheets. (and a naughty cat)
I didn't actually use any glue to put it together. It seemed to be staying this time. But I'll just glue it if it starts falling apart again.

Here's the wall that is opposite the door of my sewing room. The tubs and two cardboard boxes are holding all my fabric. I'm hoping to figure out a more accessible solution soon. But like I told Julie, maybe you don't have to keep extra projects on hand all the time, so as I work through it making stuff, I'll try not to have so much at once in the future.

Here's the adjacent wall. I use cup hooks and binder clips to hang all my patterns and rulers and such. My cutting table is really broken because of the movers, there's even an entire leg missing, so I'll have to replace it when the moving company gives us the reimbursement for all the missing and broken things. The yellow shelves will go on the wall above my sewing machine.

Here's the wall opposite that one. The dresser has interfacing, fat quarters and things, and all that quilt batting and stuffing. All the boxes seem messy right now, but they're actually all organized and labeled. They'll end up on the shelves so I can use the dresser as a work surface. The mask isn't exactly my taste anymore, but it was a present from a special high school teacher, so it's a special momento.

And here is the wall with the door, with my sewing machine and serger. My father-in-law made the table for my husband's grandmother, and then my mother-in-law owned it, and she gave it to me soon after Ben and I got married. I love having it, and I'm really glad it managed to survive the movers!

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Have you ever

...taken a good long look at your life and really stopped to ask yourself very seriously...

why you own so much quilt batting and stuffing when you neither quilt nor make toys regularly?

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Goals for Today

I had a very nice time yesterday at the homemaker's club meeting. I think that I'll join. It'll be very nice to know some people in the area.

I'm not feeling very well though, I think I may have some sort of flu. But I don't actually have to go anywhere or anything, so I'll just rest as I go.

I'm posting my goals for today so I can track my progress a bit better, as I've been feeling a little like things aren't getting done. But I know I'm doing stuff, so maybe keeping track will help me feel a little better about how I'm spending my days. I've done my morning routine, so these goals are beyond the vital things that get done everyday.

1. Do all the laundry, including sheets and towels.
2. Put together the hamper, super gluing if necessary.
3. Finish unpacking my sewing room. Organize as much as possible without knowing where fabric will be stored (think about fabric storage), and set up machines and sewing table. Eliminate all boxes from the sewing room, leaving only things that will stay permenantly.
4. Finish up all of the things for Ali's Christmas gift and pack up to send. Pack two other boxes that have to be shipped as well.
5. Start crocheting the hat promised to Angie. (And probably finish as well, since they only take an hour or so.)
6. Take pictures along the way and post my progress.

I think that's good for now. If I actually manage to finish all this, I'll take stock and set some more this afternoon.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Yarn Closet

I spent yesterday morning and this morning working on unpacking my sewing room. I've decided that since I have the extra room at this house, I'm going to try to keep my different hobbies more separated. I made one of the hall closets into storage for scrapbooking, cardmaking and stamping, with construction paper, crayons and that sort of thing in there. And I took a shelf of the other hall closet by the bathroom for embroidery supplies and tatting. I can do that because the master closet is so big that I'll never in a million years own that many clothes, so I am storing all first aid type things and linens in there as well.

Anyway, I decided to try to store all my yarn in one place, so then I can more easily see and remember what I have to work with. After unpacking all of my yarn and putting it all away in the closet in my sewing room, I have to say, I kind of disappointed in myself. I have way too much yarn! The thing is that a lot of it, I may never use, because it's odd balls or stuff I picked up on sale or "inherited". I have it really organized now, but I'm going to have to have a serious talk with myself about not buying new yarn.

Anyway, I took a picture to post here for two reasons. One, I'm kind of proud that I got it done and it's fairly neat. And two, to keep myself honest about using yarn from my stash instead of buying new yarn.

For now, I've just put it all away, and it's not really anymore sorted than it was in AZ when it got packed, but after I've gotten the rest of the house sorted and put together, I'll come back to this closet and really be ruthless. I'm hoping to eliminate about half of it, and I'm planning on doing some giveaways and contests with some of the nicer stuff as prizes. I want to really be able to enjoy the yarn I love, and not have it crowded out by the yarn that's leftovers or odd balls.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Google Ads Update

Since this post, back in Dec. I've made about $30 more with my google ads. I'm at $90 and looking forward to hitting my payout of $100. I'm planning to put this money toward a dress form so I can more easily make clothes for myself.

I'd attribute this quick increase to two things. One, I've had increased traffic on my blog and site in the last few months. This is because I've been commenting more on other blogs, but it has mostly come from the carnivals and challenges I've joined and left my link in. Much like Crystal's Money Making Monday linkys and Menu Planning Monday at This increased traffic has really improved my page impression numbers and made the chances much higher that someone will happen by and see an ad link thay interests them and click it.

The second reason I see for the big jump in income is just that mentioning the ads in that first post made my readers more aware of them and interested in the links they provide. The day of my first post about making money with the Google Ads program was my highest payout day, and I think this is because mentioning them allowed my readers to actually see the ads and look at what they offer and not just skim by them like most of us do usually.

I'd recommend the program to anyone with a blog or website, especially if you update and post regularly in the first place. When your $100 check comes it it can be pretty exciting, and it's nice to have the extra money adding up for a rainy day. Or for a dress form! :D

Click here to sign up.

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Blogger Book Club

Hadias is hosting a Blogger Book Club on her blog, and I'm pretty excited about it, since the last one was so interesting and so much fun.

The book this time is Thrift in the Household and it can be read free online by clicking the link.

Every week we'll read and then answer discussion questions on our own blogs, adding links at her blog so we can all find each other's answers.

If you'd like more information and to join in the fun, visit here.

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Recipe Tuesday - Brownies with Fudge Frosting

Yes, today is a two for one Recipe Tuesday day. I'm sharing my mom's famous brownie recipe. I remember these brownies being very popular with my cousins and my older sister's friends when we were growing up. And I know for a fact that my older brother would walk over all of us to get some when he's got one of his chocolate cravings. I like them even more with fudge frosting on them. The frosting recipe I got from my friend Diane, and I think she got it from a chocolate lover's cook book.

(Sure I'm posting two recipes in an attempt to make up for forgetting Recipe Tuesday last week. It's distracting to you, right? Look, something shiny! Fudge frosting!)

3/4 C. Flour
7 T. Cocoa
3/4 t. Salt
1 C. Sugar
1/2 t. Baking Powder

2/3 C. Shortening
1 t. Vanilla
2 Eggs
1 T. Corn Syrup

Mix together the dry ingredients, then add the shortening, vanilla, eggs, and corn syrup. Mix this all together well. It will be much more like a dough than a batter. This is good, go with it.
Grease and flour an 8X8 baking dish well, and spread the brownies into it. Try to get it around to the edges and corners, but it doesn't have to be perfect. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 -45 mins. Cool completely in the dish on a wire rack before frosting.

When I double this recipe, I find that it's best to bake it in two 8X8 pans rather than one 9X13 pan. This way the edges won't get too done before the middle is set.

Fudge Frosting
1/2 C. Butter
1/2 C. Cocoa
1 lb. of Powdered Sugar
1 1/2 t. Vanilla
dash of salt
1/3 C. Water

Melt the butter over low heat, add the cocoa, and stir until smooth and well blended. Remove from heat. Put mixture into a mixing bowl. Add sugar, vanilla, and salt, alterately with the water, beating each addition well. Beat until smooth and creamy.
This recipe makes enough to cover two 8X8 pans of brownies. So if you're making a regular batch of brownies, you could halve the frosting recipe, or you can just use the other half on something else within a few weeks. Store the leftover portion in the fridge in the meantime.

I usually put the salt in right away, and add the vanilla to the water to make things easier to add in. Also, make sure you just melt the butter in the beginning. You don't want it to bubble or anything.
This frosting is so super yummy with the brownies, but you can use it on anything you'd like. It's great on yellow cake, and if you'd really like to impress your friends, you can fill a yellow layer cake with cherry jam or preserves, then frost it with the fudge frosting. Yummy, a chocolate covered cherries cake.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Back on Track Monday

I tried to hit the floor running this morning, but it wasn't easy because we had some restless sleep last night. A piece of the siding on the wall outside our bedroom came loose and was banging around against the wall all night. Ben was worried about it being a lot of damage, but he fixed it pretty easily once we got a ladder today.

I did get all the Christmas boxes carried upstairs and put away in the storage room. And I got a ton of stuff carried up that belongs up there. I'm still working out which things should go where in the house. I know I have room for everything, but I'm feeling like I want to get everything just right as I put it away. I might have to resign myself to just getting everything put away, and then re-arranging things as I live with them and know where I want stuff more.

I did clean and sanatize the whole kitchen this morning, which I'm glad to have gotten the chance to do, since I haven't done a real deep cleaning of the counters and sink since we moved in. I've just been wiping clean the open areas, but today I moved all the stuff off and cleaned all the corners and edges. It's good to have that done at least once a week, so the dust and cat fur doesn't build up. Yeah, cat fur. It's absolutely everywhere in this house.

Ben's friend Ken came over for dinner tonight. I was glad to have company, it's always lots of fun to get to cook for someone new. I think he really liked dinner and I kind of made things a little more fancy than usual. I made mashed potatoes and cornbread with corn and cheese in it, and roasted brussels sprouts with carrots, and the steaks. And for dessert, I made the brownies, so Ben can take some to work tomorrow. We had some of Ben's brandied cherries with our brownies. Those are so yummy!

I sent him home with a bag of food. I'm so like someone's grandma. I seriously put a brownie in a cleaned out butter tub and put everything in a little brown bag. But you know what? Even if it is a little lame, I'm so glad to get to share food with someone!

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A good weekend

We had a very nice weekend. On Saturday, our dryer was finally delivered. Yay! So I spent a lot of the late morning and afternoon washing all the laundry that was all over the closet floor. We went out and did some grocery shopping after that, and then came home and watched movies while I finished up some more laundry. We watched Babel, and both that it was pretty good. I enjoyed the movie, but I have to say, I don't like it when they don't tell you absolutely everything at the end of a movie.

On Sunday after Mass, they had coffee and donuts in the social hall, so we headed on down for that. We met a very nice couple and also an older lady. The older lady's name is Dorothy, and she invited me to join the Hamel home extension homemakers' club. I gave her my number and she called me already today to invite me to the meeting on Wed. I'm pretty excited about it, it'll be so nice to meet some other ladies in the area. It's an early afternoon meeting, which is perfect since I don't usually enjoy evening meetings very much since that's couples time for us. And she offered to pick me up as well, since I don't have the car during the days. I thought that was just so nice of her!

After the coffee and donuts we went to Best Buy so Ben could use some of his gift card. And we stopped at Michael's, and I used my 40% to buy Mason-Dixon Knitting. I also picked up some clearance Patons Wool for $3 for a 100gram ball. I got one ball of gold and one of burnt orange. So I can make myself some super warm fall socks.

All in all, it was a great weekend.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Menu Plan 1-6 thru 1-12

Last week's plan was done using all leftovers and things we'd stocked up on, so there wasn't a shopping trip last week. (Unless you count the fact I had to run and get a can of tomato sauce for last night's pizza sauce.) This week though, we're out of bread flour, all purpose flour, and have just a tiny bit of wheat flour left. I'm also out of yeast and potatoes. So it's a shopping trip for us this weekend. We'll probably go to Sam's because I've heard that the yeast there is an excellent value, and I'm thinking all the flour will be a better deal there too. I am still trying to use leftovers and things in the freezer as much as possible this week, so as not to add too much more expensive to a baking supplies stock up week.

B: Toast with PB
L: Grilled Chicken Salad
D: Noodles and Sauce

B: Oatmeal
L: Lunch Meeting for Ben, leftovers from Sunday for me
D: Those Dang Omaha Steaks (Ben took them off the menu today because he wants to go out for bbq), mashed potatoes, carrots, and cornbread

B: Bagels
L: Steak and Egg Fajitas
D: Porcupine Balls, green beans and dinner rolls

B: Bagels
L: Leftovers and salad
D: Pancakes, eggs, and juice

B: Bagels
L: Nachos for Me, Tamale for Ben
D: Ham, Mashed Potatoes, Corn and Biscuits

B: Biscuit Sandwiches
L: Ham Sandwiches
D: Homemade Pizza Night!

B: Cereal
D: Leftover Pizza

Breakfasts and Lunches include fruit salad and cut up veggies to go with whatever is listed. Baking plans include bread, biscuits, rolls, brownies (a couple for us and some for Ben to take to work) and cornbread. Snacks are veggies or trail mix or yogurt or cottage cheese, etc. Dessert a
couple of nights will be the brownies with fudge frosting.

Check out for tons for menus!

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Composting Cat Litter

I was thinking yesterday about recycling or composting all of our trash and we had a discussion in the comments about compostable cat litter. I've learned that even if the litter it's self is compostable (like Yesterday's News would be, since it's just made from newpapers), you can't add the cat waste to a compost pile. Cat waste often contains a harmful bacteria, and so it isn't good to use as fertilizer. That's also why pregnant women and people with immune definciencies should never clean a cat box.

Here is a site on composting and a little down the page is a chart of what can be composted and what should not be.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

still hoping

Well, I didn't get quite as much done today as I would have liked, but I did get things done. I unpacked and put away about five boxes from my sewing room (and all the assorted clutter that got stowed there over the last few weeks), but I can see that I'm going to have to do some serious thinking about the set up in that room. And maybe purge even more yarn and fabric. I'd much rather use my yarn and fabric, but if I can't even use the room for want of space, I might have to be ruthless. We'll see what kind of storage solutions I might be able to come up with.

The dryer still has not come yet! We've been waiting for it for a month now. I washed the sheets anyway and put them out on the deck to dry. Then, around two, I brought them in to thaw. I might bring the drying racks out here to the living room and turn the fireplace on if they're not completely dry by dinner.

I had to run to the store to get some tomato sauce for pizza night. I'll be so glad when I have a big supply of my own homemade sauce. Ben and I have big ambitions for the garden this year. I hope we can really produce as much as we've been talking about. I'm planning to plant enough tomatoes to get at least a few months' worth of sauce. Some day I'd like to be able to grow enough so I can have enough canned in the fall to last all year till the next fall. I've never had a garden before, but I pray God will bless this endeavor.

I swept all the floors, and wished that my swiffer hadn't been lost in the move. These floors need mopping too. They will replace it though, so I'll get a new one this weekend. I've got about four or five wet swiffer cloths left, and after those are used, I've decided that I'm not going to buy new ones. I'm going to make cotton knitted cloths of the right size to button onto the swiffer, and then just spray the floors with cleaner and go over them. That way, I'm cutting down on waste and saving money too.

Speaking of cutting down on waste and saving money, Ben and I were discussing whether it would be possible to compost and recyle enough to eliminate the need to pay the trash pickup service. It's $25 dollars a month. If we were to recycle, we'd have to take everything to drop off places ourselves, they don't offer recycling. But there's drop off's at church, and we'd be going there once a week anyway. We pretty much decided that it would be impossible to cut back trash that much, but I'd love to here what everyone else thinks. Is it possible to only produce recyclable or compostable trash?

In our case, the cat litter would be a problem. I don't think they make a compostable litter, so short of burying it somewhere (which would probably be a problem, because of the chemicals in litter), we there's not really a solution to that one other than the landfills. Or is there? Anyone have any insight on this?

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Hoping for a productive day

The last two days, I got some things finished, but I didn't seem to use my time quite as well as I could have. So, today the plan is that I will unpack and organize in my sewing room straight through till lunch, and then I'll spend another hour finishing up what I can depending how far I've gotten. At two, I'm planning to sit down and knit and knit. I've been easily distracted the last few days and in spite of planning to devote an hour or two to knitting, I've not made much progress at all. But I want to get to the post office this weekend to send stuff out, so Ali's presents must be finished! I've got a long movie from netflix, so I'll watch that and knit.

Ben's working from home today because he has some conference calls this afternoon that will probably go long, and he didn't want to add the commute on top of that till he gets home. This way he'll "get" home when he hangs up the phone. I'm planning to do my best to ignore him and pretend that he's not home. I want him to feel comfortable working here so he'll do it more. Not distracting him is the first point in my plan. Getting the upstairs set up to be his office is the big part of it. We'll probably do that this weekend.

In addition to unpacking my sewing room, I'm planning to sweep all the floors today, and I'm praying that our dryer will finally be delivered. I have so much laundry to do! I've been doing laundry and drying on drying racks, and I still will do that, but it's gotten so far behind because everything's taking a day and half or two days to dry. The sheets are the first in line as soon as the dryer men leave!

I'll post some updates later today, but for now, enough bloggin, it's time to get moving!

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Thursday, January 03, 2008


Yesterday, Adam called me Toto and told me I don't live in AZ anymore. Just because I was telling him that it is bone cracking, fridigly, icily, never be warm again, cold here. He may think I'm a wimp, but I took some pictures yesterday morning to prove that it's too cold. These are of the edges of my back door.

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Riding Up the Arch

Here are some pictures from our trip to the arch last week.

The Arch

Joyce and Howard at the top of the Arch

The terrifying littler car we all smashed into to get to the top of the Arch.

We were here. You can see the little windows.

Here is a picture of the stadium the Cardinals play in. Yes, I know, Adam, we don't talk about the Cardinals. But look at the pretty stadium. You want to come visit, don't you?

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Sunday's CVS Trip

On Sunday we took my inlaws to CVS so I could show Joyce how the extra care program works. I have to admit, when I go to CVS and hand over all my coupons, it's always a surprise to me what the total will be. Yes, I try to figure it out before hand, but I seem to always be wrong anyway. Okay, here is what we bought:

2 vitamin C (bogo)
2 fish oil vitamin (bogo)
a four pack of wrapping paper
a new star for the tree
a coke
a gallon of milk
some greeting cards joyce picked out
2 tubes of colgate (bogo)

I used coupons on the colgate and the vitamins, the Christmas stuff was 75% off, I also used $5 off $15 and $2 off $10 CVS coupons, and 7 dollars in extra care bucks.

The total before all the discounts and coupons was about fifty dollars. The total after all my coupons and ECB's was $1.50. So, only a dollar and change out of pocket for all those things, and I got 6 ECB's back.

There was some confusion with the Christmas star not ringing up at 75% off, and I had to go back in and get the difference, so those figures are how it all came out in the end.

I was very happy with this trip, since I was able to get Howard and Joyce some things they were buying anyway for free. I'm going to have to try one of the deals that I see going on this week, there are some really good coupons out there for money off when you spend so much.

To learn about the CVS extra care program, check out this great explanation by Angie Hopkins.

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Bagel Making

Yesterday, Ben and I went to mass and then to lunch at the Chinese Buffet. Traditional new year's day Chinese Food. :D We made bagels after we got back home, and then later in the afternoon, Angie and Cruz stopped by on their way back to MI to drop off some homemade tamales for Ben. He was really excited about that. Unfortunately, they couldn't stay because Angie was feeling ill and the kids were very homesick. But it was nice to visit a little, and I can't wait till she or all of them can come by some time for a longer visit.

Here are a few pictures of the bagel making process. We used the recipe found here. Btw, if you're at all interested in homesteading or just learning valuable homemaking skills you should definately browse the rest of her site. She's put a ton of work into it, and it's packed with lots of interesting info.

Kneading the dough.

Action kneading!

More Kneading

After shaping and before rising.

After Rising

After Boiling


After Baking, the finished product!

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