Wednesday, April 29, 2009

As the Beppy Turns

It's an overcast gray day today, which is actually just perfect. After last weekend of summertime temps and bright sun, I welcome a little more cool and gray. All those summer temperatures took me (and my unshaved legs) by surprise. Good thing I wasn't out of razors or shaving cream. In the summertime, I like to shave my legs everyday, that way it's much easier and takes about two minutes. And I don't have to plan ahead to wear a shorts or a dress. I suppose I could take that to extremes and do the same in the winter. But I'm no leg shaving radical.

Pumpkin Leather Update: The parchment paper worked beautifully and the roll-ups came right off. Unfortunately, as you can see pictured above, I over-dried this batch a bit and it ended up more like pumpkin brittle. It's not burned though, just crunchy, so still plenty edible. A tip - Don't oil the parchment paper. It doesn't need it, and ends up doing more harm than good, since it just pools under the puree and never dries and just makes the finished product all oily.

I finished the bodice of the First Communion Dress yesterday, and today I my set goal is to finish the skirts and hems. That will leave Friday for putting in the zipper and getting it all packed up and ready to ship on Saturday. (I'm going to be busy at an event with the homemakers' club most of tomorrow.) I'm thinking I'll insure it for $400 or so, then, if it gets lost, that'll go a long way to easing my pain. :)

This past weekend we planted more onion starts and some potatoes. We're trying a bit of an experiment with them, using the rotted straw on top, instead of burying them. My dad says it might not work because the straw might not block the light well enough and the taters will turn green. But I've done it now, so the best I can do is to make sure and pile the straw really deep. We also built some tripod supports and planted Amish Snap Peas, Purple Podded Pole Beans, and some pickles to climb up them.

The mixed flower seeds we tossed down (well, we did till and rake, then toss, and rake again) on the chickens' winter yard started sprouting yesterday. The wet weather must have given them a push, and now we're seeing all sorts of cute little flower sprouts.

My seedlings are doing okay. I've lost some of them to damping off, but I sprinkled them all with cinnamon, put the ceiling fan on low in there all the time, and moved the grow light a bit higher, and it's been two days since any have keeled over, so I think the ones that are left are going all right. It's hard to tell though, until they just die, since they'll look fine and then boom, nothing you can do to fix it.

I'd better get to work now and sew, because I'd also like to mow some of the lawn this afternoon, but the sewing take precedence. And it always takes longer to sew things than I estimate it will! Maybe I'll time myself so I can get a better idea of how quickly/slowly it goes. I think there's generally some sort of sewing time warp that takes place, making four hours seem like one.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

First Communion Dress Project - Part 3 - Embroidered Inset

The faux wrap bodice of Julia's First Communion Dress that I'm designing has an embroidered inset, like a layer under the dress. I started the embroidery by tracing the template I'd made that represented the actual area that's going to be visible after the dress is finished. Then I drew the cross design.
I traced it onto my fabric in the embroidery hoop, centering it in the template I'd already drawn there, using my water soluble pen.
After finishing the embroidery, I used the pattern piece I'd drafted for the inset and cut out the entire thing, being sure to center the embroidery. I also cut the same piece out of the lining fabric.

I sewed the inset and the lining right sides together along the top and pressed the lining to the back side.
After trimming them, I edge stitched the top edge and finished the raw edges along the sides together.

The embroidery is done with three strands of regular cotton floss in a rope stitch (or twisted chain stitch), which I then whipped with a strand each of DMC light effects in white and pink. I did it this way, because the light effects floss is fairly rough, and tore the satin fabric when it was drawn through. By just whipping it around the regular floss stitches, I only had to draw it through the fabric a few times. It adds a subtle iridescence to the embroidery. The beads are clear iridescent seed beads. I'm planning to accent the neckline with the same beads so wanted to use them a little here to draw it all together.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Pumpkin Leather

We have a lot of pumpkin puree in the freezer still from the fall, and I'd like to get it used before the summer produce has to start getting added to the freezer, so we had pumpkin pie for breakfast all last week. And it's quite strange to eat pumpkin pie for breakfast in April. But in a good way.

Anyway, this post is about leather, not pie. I found this Pumpkin Leather recipe in the Mary Bell Dehydrator Cookbook, and figure that if it didn't actually help the pumpkin get eaten faster, it would help free up some freezer space and convert it to a different storable form.
It took about 14 hours to get completely dry and I've only got two sheets for my dehydrator, so I have lots of batches in that one bowl. Especially since I doubled the original recipe, thinking that one batch would fill one fruit roll-up sheet. Umm... more like one batch will fill three sheets.

Also, I had a terrible time getting it off the sheets. Maybe I didn't oil them enough, or maybe it's just my bad luck. I'm going to dry the next batch today, and see if parchment paper cut to fit the leather sheet might not be the answer for being able to peel them off. Because as it was, I had to soak a lot of the first batch off the plastic and it was wasted. Not my cup of tea.

Mary Bell's Pumpkin Leather

2 C. Pumpkin Puree
1 C. evaporated milk
2 C. Applesauce
1/4 C. Honey
1/4 C. Dried Shredded Coconut
1 t. Ground Cinnamon
1/2 t. Ground Nutmeg
1/2 t. Ground Allspice
2 T. finely chopped raisins

Combine all these and spread on an oiled fruit leather sheet and dehydrate for 8-20 hours.

I didn't have allspice, but figured that it was a pumpkin pie spice flavor she was going for, so I added ginger and cloves. I also didn't bother with the chopped raisins, since finely chopping raisins seems annoying, and I don't really like them.

This leather (what I could get off the sheets anyway) turned out really great. It's very much like pumpkin pie, though slightly sweeter. It's passed a couple taste tests from Ben and our friend Ken as well, though they are definately not my toughest critics. I'm planning to try it out on my family in MI next time I go home, and I'll let you know the results of that wider taste test involving children. :D

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

First Communion Dress Project - Part 2 - Supplies and Prep

Yesterday I got the pattern laid out and all cut out for Julia's dress. I absolutely think that cutting out the pattern is the very worst part of sewing. So I was disciplined and cut every piece I'll be needing yesterday, lining included. That way, I won't have to go back to it in the middle of sewing. I still have to mark them before I unpin the pattern, but that won't be annoying.

Here's the pallette of supplies. The pinks are will be much subtler accents when the dress is complete. The pink fabric will be a small band and bow around the empire waist, I still haven't decided if I'll use the pink embroidery floss in the design, and the ribbon is for trimming the inside along the zipper and lining edges. I'll use the beads as accents in the embroidery, and I'm also hoping to use them along the neckline, if I have time for extras like that.

Here's the pattern all laid out. I couldn't get the selvedge edges to be perfectly straight with out shifting the grain along the fold of fabric, so I used the fabric's grain as the guide. It's annoying how easily satin fabrics can get pulled out of grain. But I was very careful with the skirt, which is the part I want to be most sure will hang correctly.

This fabric is plain white bridal satin (polyester, I think), and I'm going to fully line the dress using plain white cotton. The pattern only calls for a bodice lining, but I think it's nicer to have an underskirt as well, and it'll make finishing the bottom edge of the bodice lining easier than stitching to the waist would be. This way, I can just serge a rolled hem on both skirt hems and have the skirt lining to finish the bodice lining waist.

I started work on the embroidery, but I had to take it all out because it looked really messy. I got some DMC Light Effects embroidery floss because I though Julia would really like the shimmer, but it's really hard to work with, and looks kind of haphazard on the fabric since it's so stiff. I'm think of using regular cotton floss, and then threading the stitches on the surface with the shimmering kind. That way, I won't have to pull that rough, stiff stuff through the satin fabric a lot.

I set up the embroidery by making a template that is the size of the area that will be showing on the inset that I drafted, then pinned it to the fabric in the hoop, and used my dissappearing pen to draw the correct shape.

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Shhhh... it's a secret.

I'm going to let you in on something.
My flowering crabapple tree has a secret hidden among its fragrant branches.
Isn't she sweet?

I'd live in there too, if I could fit. That's the best smelling tree ever.

I think there's robins nesting in the porch pillar as well or some kind of black birds. Which isn't exactly as cute, since they're making quite a mess up there and all over the porch steps. I'll have to block it up once the babies are big.

I'm going to be working on the big dress project today, since I got the go ahead from the long-distance fitting we did. I need to design the embroidery for the top inset and get it worked up today. I'm torn between hand or machine embroidery. I automatically thought hand embroidery because it seems more personal and I enjoy it more. But machine embroidery is slicker and with people being more used to it's result reads as much more professional. I think I'll work it up by hand today, and if I'm not happy with it, I can always do another with the machine.

I should also mow the lawn some. I've been doing a bit everyday, but I had worked it out with Ben that he would do the bit today, so I wouldn't have to while I'm working on the dress, because it can hurt my hands and arms and neck so much to have to mow the deep clover. But, it's going to rain late this afternoon, just before he gets home, and then we'll have missed the chance for today's bit of mowing. The ultimate goal is to mow some of the lawn every single day, so eventually, it won't be difficult to do, it'll just be maintenance every day. But we didn't get a quick enough start on it, so this initial mowing is proving to be difficult because the clover is thick and deep right now. I'm listening to a really good book right now, by Shannon Hale (Book of 1000 days) so I don't mind so much the doing of it. And once it's all been cut once, I'll go through and keep it down, so it won't be difficult to get through after this.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

My new seedlings wanted to say hello.

Here's a tray of peppers all cozy on their heating pad. The crazy leggy ones in the back? Those are tomatoes, showing off for the peppers. In here are Tommy Toe tomatoes, Opalka tomatoes, Hot Portugal pepper, Bull Nosed peppers, King of the North peppers, Hungarian Hot peppers, and some plain old green bell peppers.

This entire tray is Opalka tomatoes. Hmmmm.... tomato sauce.

This tray is quite an assortment. There's camomile, lavender, dill, luffa, more Opalka, and the crazy leggy things in this one are broccoli. I honestly have no idea if starting broccoli like this will work, but none of the seeds I sowed straight into the garden came up, so I'm willing to experiment.

Actually, all seed starting is an experiment for me, because I've never actually been able to start anything from seed like this successfully. I have high hopes for these baby little green things though. This time, they're going to live. I can just feel it.

I'm going to celebrate Earth Day by planting 11 new trees in my yard today. It's convenient that my Arbor Day Foundation trees came just in time.

I encourage you all to plant something today too. And because I tend toward the practical and I think they're more useful, plant a food source, like a tomato or some herbs or an apple tree, or start really easy and go with radishes. It's important that more people get their hands in the dirt and watch something they love grow. It'll remind everyone exactly what it is they're all about saving when they say, "Save the Earth".

Because Earth doesn't really need us much...
we sure as heck need her a lot more.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Domestic Plans

I've got some fun plans and some not so fun plans for today. The fun includes experimenting with my food dehydrator a bit, using the recipes from the cookbook I just finished reading. And working on embroidering a label for the First Communion dress. The not so fun plans involve getting started on mowing the lawn and doing all the dirty laundry I can find, down to the last sock. Not that laundry is hard, I just don't like matching socks.

I watched a movie on the Netflix instant viewer with Clive Owen in it that was a very good movie. It's called Greenfingers, and it's about a prison where the inmates start a garden and get to enter a competition with it. It had brief nudity, so heads up there, and there was lots of swearing as well, so not kid appropriate. It was a nice story, even if it was a tiny bit predictable.

It was way better than the other movie I watched last night, Made of Honor, even taking into account that that movie had Kevin McKidd in a kilt. Which was the highlight of the movie that made it worth watching.

Seed Update: The tomatoes and some of the herbs have sprouted, but the peppers have still not made an appearance. I might try rearranging the flats so that the herbs that take longer to germinate are in with the peppers, and the tomatoes with the peppers can be in an already propped open flat. We're also planning a new way to store them and get them in the sunshine and keep them away from the cats. I'll definately post about it if it works.

Right now, while I embroider, I'm watching/listening to the Ken Burns documentary on the Corps of Discovery and the Lewis and Clark expedition. It's also on the Netflix site. The best part of the netflix service is the instant viewer, and we get so much use out of it since we've hooked the computer to the television last fall. It's cheaper than having to have dish network too, since we can't get cable where we live. And between Netflix and Fancast, we're absolutely never at a loss for television entertainment.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

First Communion Dress Project - Part 1

On Friday, I got started on the initial steps for my niece's First Communion Dress. Her Communion in May 16th, so I'd like to have it finished and in the mail by May 4th, which will give me two weeks to finish it, and my sister two weeks to find shoes and a slip. It also will leave two weeks of time to solve any problems that might arise.

I'm using McCall's 2590 which has a plain scoop neckline, but Julia wants her dress to be the kind that's a faux wrap, with a layer underneath, like the shirt in McCall's 5794. The under layer will be the perfect place to showcase some embroidery.

First I cut out the pattern. I used the smallest size in the pattern, but used the largest size for the side seams, just in case I'll need extra room to let it out.

Then I traced the pattern onto plain paper, and use my french curve to draw the cutting line for the new neckline. I used my pattern making wheel to draw the style line where the finish neckline will fall.

Using the new pattern piece and knowing where the neckline will actually be, I drafted the triangle shaped piece that will fill in the neckline and look like a layer under the dress. I also added a bit to the bottom of the the pattern to help with coverage in the overlap on the bottom bodice piece. The top bodice piece will follow the original design line.

Then, I got paranoid that it might not fit her when I have it all finished, so I made a mock-up bodice out of horrendously ugly scrap fabric and set it out priority to have a bit a fitting before I cut into the bridal satin. I lowered the neckline before I sent it though, because I could already tell that it was too high here.

Today, I'm going to draft some cap sleeves, because we don't like the sleeves that came with the pattern, and I'm going to start embroidering a label for inside the dress, since I don't want to go too much farther with any cutting or designing for this particular size, since I'm not positive it will fit her yet.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Book Shelf

Those of you who know me in real life already know this. I, at any given time, can be counted on to have three to ten books in progress. They are usually scattered around the house, lying open where I've paused, or if they're lucky, with receipts or junk mail, or even magazines marking my place. They're on the arms of chairs, and the backs of the couches, on my bedside tables, on the kitchen counters, in the bathrooms on the edge of the tub, or the back of the toilet. I managed to break myself of the habit of leaving them outside when I was in grade school and I had to pay to replace one too many damaged books from the library. And now, they're packed into my mp3 player and being downloaded daily to my laptop. I'm Beppy. I'm a bibliophile.

I've gotten a lucky run lately and at the moment am reading a number of books that are good enough to recommend.

Mary Bell's Complete Dehydrator Book is one that I read about on Melonie's blog. It sounded like a good one, so I put my library reserve on it right away. I just love using the library's site for interloan and digital books! It's proving to be so informative, and very interesting! The part I'm most looking forward to, which looks like it will be very useful, is the large section of recipes using dehydrated foods. I'm always ready to dry foods when we harvest them, but usually find myself at a loss when it comes to using them for anything but snacking.

The Ruth Stout No-Work Garden Book is a fun read that has me wanting to get out into the garden. And though I don't know if the mulching method will work in our garden exclusively, I do know that it's doing wonders for my herbs and shrubs. And it'll be great to experiment with the onion and potato methods of just throwing mulch on them and letting the go.

A Midwife's Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is a really fascinating book about life in early America. So far, I've learned that communities then were much more intertwined at that time, with daughters going from house to house, and neighbors truly taking care of each other (with hard things, like nursing sickness and housekeeping and such, not just with a casserole) and expecting the same in return. I'm looking forward to really getting into this one, since I'm just in the second chapter right now.

A Pioneer Sampler by Barbara Greenwood is a book I bought last week at the gift shop under the Gateway Arch. I completely recommend it for homeschoolers and for families looking for fun historical activities. It's a mixture of stories about a pioneer family, text book style diagrams and definitions, and activities with fun crafts or ideas, that represent authentic pioneer skills. There are instructions for growing a potato plant and making butter, among lots of other fun crafts and recipes.

So that's a small sampling of the books that I'm mistreating in the name of learning at the moment.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Planting Things

Last week, the meeting I hosted also happened to be plant exchange day for the club. Anyone who wants to brings a plant, and then gets to take another home, but I guess not everyone who brought one took one away with them, because there were quite a few of them left. They've been sitting on my porch, languishing since then, because I've been so busy with my holiday company.

Today though, my company has gone home, and it's not a freezing cold, rainy day, so I decided to get those poor things into the ground. My front landscaping now has the lovely additions of a variegated hosta, a dusty miller, and some of the plant that my mom calls "Live Forever" and my dad calls "Never Die". The Live-Forever-Never-Die is a plant that gets broad bunches of pink flowers on stalks that rise from succulent looking foliage.

I put a pink aster by the back deck and added pink yarrow to the herb bed. The only thing left is a cactus/succulent type in a pot that I don't recognize or know how to care for. I left it in it's pot next to my pot of hens and chicks for now, and we'll see how it does until I can ask my plant neighbor what to do with it.

While I was looking for places to plant things, I decided to weed out the tiny bed that I'd bordered with a plastic pound in border for some chocolate mint last year. I thought the mint was dead and figured I'd clean the grass out of that spot for the aster, but as I was weeding, I found my mint had come back. I actually smelled it before I saw it. I mulched it really well with some rotted chicken bedding, so I'm hoping that I can smother the weeds and grass and give that mint a chance.

While I was mulching, I mulched around the new aster really well too, to make sure that it gets a chance without the grass choking it. And I added a thick layer to the little catnip bed as well, to smother the grass that's been encroaching on it from the side.

I also started my seeds today. I've been waiting for Ben to do it with me, since the garden is mostly his thing, but he's been so busy with work lately, we figured I had to do it myself or it wouldn't get done at all, and we'd have to buy seedlings. I used some of those jiffy plant flats with the little pellets that puff up when they get wet that Ben's mom got him for his birthday. They each hold 25 pellets and there were four of them, so I started 100 plants. Hopefully. Lots of different kinds of peppers, some broccoli, loofa, watermelon, 35 opalka tomatoes, lots of tommy toe and currant tomatoes, some sunberry, and some herbs, like lavender, dill, and camomile. I'm not usually very successful at these sorts of things, but I figure that the best way to learn is to experiment a lot and just pick it up as I go. And that I can always buy seedlings at the farmer's market, if I have to!

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Is she newsworthy?

My sister, Angie, was so excited to check my blog yesterday evening. She rushed to the computer in anticipation, had she made my site?!

With breathless hope, she scrolled down. Past the cats... past the baking... past the new herb garden... Had she made it on? Was she important enough to rate a mention on my blog?

"What's this? I practically raised her!"

"Well, I suppose the new herb garden is kinda pretty..."

(Okay, this isn't actually true at all. We've been having all sorts of fun all weekend, but I keep forgetting my camera, and she said it would be too bad that none of our antics would make it onto my blog. But soon I'll be posting my observations of little boys, and how far removed my world is from their little minds.)

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Monday, April 13, 2009

How we built our new herb bed

First, we dug a trench for the first run of bricks. We had a big piled up piece of black plastic laying out there since the fall to kill the grass. We wanted a rounded sort of bed, so we'd just piled the plastic into a general oval-type shape. It killed the grass really well, and we followed the line as we dug out the little trench for the bricks. The we layed down a thick layer of newspaper as a weed barrier, wetting it down to keep it there while we worked, and put in the first row of bricks, stepping on them to press them firmly into the ground and hold down the outside edges of the papers.

We used all the bricks we had (we got these free from a craigslist ad, and picked up about 100 of them), and built the little border wall up three courses high. We filled this in over the newspaper with potting soil, sand, topsoil, and manure.
Then I added another weed barrier of newspapers layered up. Can you tell I hate weeding?

To plant, we cut an X into the paper with a utility knife, folded back the flaps, and dug the hole. Popped the plant in, and watered everything really well.

We poked onions all around the outside as a border, and planted rosemary, basil, chives, cilantro, oregano, and parsley. I'm planning to add chamomille, lavender, dill, and fennel.

It was actually too soon to plant the basil, and it's been frost damaged even though we've covered it at night. I just cut it back and mulched it well, and maybe it'll come back when the weather heats up later on. If not, I guess I'll have to buy a new one.

After we finished planting and watering it all in, we mulched it well with straw to protect the plants, inhibit the weeds, hold the newspapers down, and keep the water in. That made it look like a big messy straw stack for now, but I'm sure it'll look much neater when the plants are big, and they're mostly what you see. Plus, the straw will mat down and start to rot on the bottom.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

They should make me chief safety officer

I'm feeling very impressed with myself and with my husband today. I can't believe I got my entire list finished yesterday, and my house is about as clean as it's going to get. Not only all that, but we managed to work together yesterday evening to put together the railing and bolt it to the porch with no swearing from him, or indignation from me. That's really going some when the two of us do anything involving tools.

I've got my drinks and desserts all set up and the cats locked away in the master bedroom suite with their food and water, so everything's all set for the meeting that I'm hosting. Now, just to figure out how to serve ice without ice tongs. I always thought they were useless little things!

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

April's Embroidered Tray Cloth and Other Doings

Here's the embroidery for my April tray cloth. I'm planning to get the edges finished today so that I can have it on my serving tray tomorrow while I'm playing hostess.

I have lots of things to do to prepare for that, baking the desserts and mopping all my floors. I also get the rearrange the furniture, which should be interesting, since I've only moved and cleaned behind one of the pieces of the sectional once. The rest get cleaned regularly, but the biggest piece probably has cat sized furballs living under it. Ugh.

I'm listening to an interesting book named Austenland on my mp3 player right now. I should finish it this morning while I clean and bake. It's about a woman who's obsessed with Mr. Darcy from the BBC Pride and Prejudice and goes on a trip to a place where they immerse you in Austen's Regency setting, in an attempt to get over her obsession. It's funny in places and pretty interesting. Julie, this is an official recomendation to you! I think you'd like it. And while the reader isn't as good as some I've heard, she's okay, and there have been places where I've laughed out loud.

We figured out the porch situation while we were at Home Depot last night, so when Ben gets home this evening, he's going to install our new railing for me. I'm glad that we'll have one, since we've both fallen down those stairs before, and they're kind of treacherous in the wet or snowy weater. And it'll be especially good to have one before the homemakers' club comes, since quite a few of those ladies have replaced knees or hips or use canes. I hope that installation goes smoothly and it's sturdy enough to hold a person. I can't even imagine what a nightmare it would be if it were to give way and make someone fall. It makes me shudder to think of it.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

A Wild Sort of Friday Night

Ben has been gone since Wednesday night. He finally got home last night, and I was super glad to see him! He very rarely has to have business trips over the weekend, but I absolutely hate it when he does.

Anyway, on Friday evening, I finally got around to a project that I've been meaning to get done for a while now. I've been wanting some small cloths to have around in place of kleenex and paper towel, and I'd saved some scraps of flannel just for that. The lighter ones are made to be handkerchiefs and the darker ones in the back are a little more than twice as big to use in place of paper towels. The scraps of flannel when a long way. The light color was just what was left after I trimmed it for the backing of the quilt I made my brother in law for Christmas. And the darker was also leftover from that quilt project, but there was much more of it because I'd cut it wrong and had to buy more.

Anyway, it was a relatively quick project, though it did take a bit longer than I'd expected. I used two methods to make these. For the smaller ones, I just used the serger to cut the pieces as I finished them, guessing as the size and shape, and for the larger ones, I tore the fabric into the correctly sized pieces and then ran them through the serger in a chain piecing style, which means you don't stop and cut the threads between each piece, you just cut them all apart at the end. So I did that four times, once for each side. The first method was faster, but if you care at all about getting them the same shape and size and staying on grain at all, the second is the way to go.

This week, I'm hosting the homemakers' club for dessert on Wed afternoon, so I'm going to be doing a lot of detail cleaning and baking before then. In general ladies who host serve a choice of two desserts at these monthly events, and I'm thinking chocolate cake with buttercream icing, and apple cake in a bundt ring. With coffee and pink lemonade and cherry kool-aid to drink. And maybe some jelly beans or cookies set out as well. What do you all think? Is that enough variety without getting carried away?

I am worried about not having a railing on the porch steps. We've been putting it off, because we don't really need one, but this group is lots of elderly ladies, some who use canes, so I absolutely have to have one. We went to Home Depot last night to buy one of the wrought iron kind that you just bolt to the steps, but they didn't have them in stock, you have to special order them. We're going to try the larger store a bit farther away, and I hope they have them, because if they don't, I'm going to have to bolt a two by four to a couple of those green fence posts pounded into the ground... and I'm afraid that'll just be in bad taste. :)

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Around the Place

Last night was quite stormy, with lots of rain and heavy wind, but this morning is fair and bright. The sun is shining, but it's much colder out than it looks from my couch, and I was really wishing I'd put on my coat when I went to put out the trash and feed the chickens earlier.

Here is a plant that I've managed not to kill yet. And it even lives in a pot! My elderly neighbor, Leeza, gave me these hens and chicks that she dug from her own garden. She's excellent at plants, so she gives me her surplus.
This is the front landscaping as it looks right now. The hydrangas are starting to get little baby leaves, but they look like dead sticks for now. I don't know what the shrubs in front of the porch are, but they're covered in those pretty white flowers this morning. Eventually, I'll put something in that hanging planter and hang it on the hook that it's meant for... but I'm the biggest procrastinator in the world when it comes to gardening.
The catnip's been growing leaps and bounds and will be gigantic by the middle of summer. I didn't realize that it would be one of the very first things back again after the winter, but it's definately one of my favorites. Especially considering that my tulips didn't bloom, it's nice to have the catnip around, cheerfully reassuring me that I can grow something.

My little brother Adam made me a mixed tape for my birthday, which was excellent and tons of fun to listen to and hear what music he thought I'd like. I'm not a big music person, I usually listen to books or podcasts, but sometimes I want to hear music, but don't know what I'd like. It was super fun to have someone else do the choosing.

Speaking of podcasts, I've been listening to SaintCast lately, and I love it! It's very well made and is just chock full of dorky facts and historical things like I really enjoy learning. Also, Grace Before Meals is lots of fun too. I know I'm desperate for cooking shows without foodnetwork, but this is a pretty good one nonetheless.

This morning, I've got some cleaning to do, the master bathroom is crying out for some spring cleaning and organizing and then, this afternoon, I'm either going to knit and embroider and read OR dig up invasive mint that I should have known better than to plant and mulch things some more.

The former sounds lazy, but I actually have some fairly important projects to get finished. I'm knitting a hat for Julie that I'd like to have sent to her before summer comes, plus I want to finish the embroidery for the April tray-cloth, so I can use it next week when I'm having lots of different company over. I also have to get started on the embroidery for the First Communion Dress that's due in May. I don't have the pattern or fabric yet, but I can get started on the design, which will go long way to having everything finished on time, if I get started as soon as I can with something.

The latter does sound important, but it's really cold out, and I'm wimpy enough just to wait and see if it won't be a bit warmer tomorrow. So I guess I talked myself right into what I'm planning to do this afternoon. Knitting sounds much cozier than digging mint out of the mud. And the whole sad mint story should be it's own post anyway. It's a woeful story of inexperience and star-crossed love. Well, not so much the love part.

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

My New Mulching Experiment

I used to think that trees and shrubs with mulch around them look silly and high-falutin'. Don't ask, just an odd prejudice I picked up, I guess. My mom never mulched her trees, and if that was good enough for her, it was good enough for me. What I never stopped to consider was that her trees were firmly established before I was even born, and baby shrubs and plants just cannot compete with grass choking them out.

So I'm turning over a new leaf, and changing my ways. From now on, I will mulch everything, enthusiastically and happily. Here's how I began:
I used a section of newspaper, tore it to about the middle and placed in on the grass around the base of the stem of each plant. You can't see it really great, but yes, there is a tiny little forsythia in there struggling for life. Then I place the straw, which was pretty heavy and wet from being outside and getting rained on since Dec., around the edges of the newspaper. I left it in the thick sort of sheet that it forms as it comes off the bale, so it would be plenty dense to block the weeds. I did this for our two blueberry bushes, our two grape vines, our four forsythia, and I'm planning to finish the other big forsythia, my rose of sharon, and the live-forever-never-die (i don't know what they're really called) flowers that I planted last fall on either side of the the end of the driveway. I have ten baby trees on their way to me from the Arbor Day Foundation as well, so when I put those in, they're definately getting the same treatment. I'm becoming a fanatic, and if I thought Ben would let me get away with it, I would line either side of the driveway its self with cardboard and wet down newspaper and bury it in straw. I am now the mad mulcher!

Also, I always thought the neighbors looked at me oddly because I'm a homemaker, so I don't work a job away from home, and I have chickens, and I have a big garden, and I mulch with newspapers and rotten straw instead of dyed wood chips, and I'm always wandering around taking pictures of things. But now I think perhaps this could have as much to do with it:

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Sometimes it's better just to get to work

So, despite my odd mood yesterday (it's pretty bad when your own mood swings can bother you), I decided to buckle down and just get some work done. I mulched very well and heavily around our grape plants, and our blueberry twigs, and the tiny little forsythia babies. It was nice to get that finished so that the grass will stop choking them all. And in the case of the forsythia, so they'll stop getting mowed over, poor babies.

I'm hoping to get a little something or other done in the garden today, like planting some lettuce and bunching onions. I know planting in mud isn't the wisest choice, but it'll be too hot for any greens pretty soon.

I have to hurry today, because Ben wants me to go with him this morning to run some errands, but I think I'll double post and show some of my activites from yesterday later on today. Have a great morning, everyone!

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