July 16, 2014

Summer has Begun

 It's officially summer. It's hot and we just finished school (mostly) for the year, so that makes it official. I'm loving the slower pace. June was a whirlwind of company and hosting and camping and fun. But to be honest, I'm ready to slow down a bit and relax. I have plans to sew and hike and work out in our much neglected garden.  

  On my birthday, we made a trip to the Portland Rose Garden. I try to go every June when the flowers are perfectly in bloom. 




  These artists make me wish I could draw. Dang it. I've come to accept it's not where my talent lies. Let's just be honest!



 One of my favorite birthday gifts was this act of service from my father-in-law. He put up the bead board I've been planning for the kitchen. Thanks, Gramps!


  I know this is random, but I had to share these flowers from the garden. The top photo is a flower my neighbor gave me from his garden last year. They are so vibrant and amazing. The second pic is of the limelight hydrangeas my hubby got for my birthday our first year in our new home. So, I guess this isn't random. It's all about flowers and birthday gifts!




I hope you guys are enjoying some sun and good times with family and friends. Ahh, summer. Please, stay a while. We've missed you! 

June 18, 2014

Anna Maria Horner's Piece of Cake Dress

 Things have been busy around here. We just got back from a wedding in Park City, Utah. I can't stop daydreaming about the beautiful scenery. Incredibly beautiful. But here we are, back to work, and in a whirlwind. Like always. At least lately. My checklists each day seem to get longer and longer. Let me show you what I've been up to. 

 First on the list: make a dress for Evelyn to wear for the wedding. The last two sewing projects I tried, following my own patterns, did not turn out as I hoped. Both are awaiting readjustments. So when I chose to make a baby dress, I decided to follow a pattern rather than risk wasting time and fabric. I usually don't like following patterns. But Anna Maria Horner's Piece of Cake Dress did not fail me.  It's a quick sew, and what's even better, she has a video on You Tube you can follow if you get stuck. I was excited about this one. 



 Second on the list: make raspberry muffins with raspberries from the raspberry forest in our backyard. 


 Last cool thing on the list worth mentioning: loads and loads of laundry. One of my least favorite chores. And these pants were both grass stained. To remove them, I used some powder Oxy Clean, and some liquid gel Resolve. If a grass stain is dry, wet it to reactivate the stain. Then treat and let sit a few minutes before washing according to the garment's instructions. Here's the thing. When in doubt, I air dry any items in question. That way I won't set any stains in the dryer and can treat them again if necessary. This time, it worked like a charm. Two pair of pants were saved! On to the next. list of chores. It's seriously a challenge to keep up around this place. 

June 2, 2014

From the Garden

 I've been waiting months to make Roasted Veggie Tacos with Avocado Cream and Feta. Seriously nummy. It's easy to make, just takes a little time chopping all the veggies. Since I'm eating foods that won't trigger another gallstone attack, I substituted red quinoa for the tortilla. 



So fresh. I love spring. It's pretty much awesome. 









  We spent the day working outside, and still, there's so much to do. And we're on just 1/4 acre. Some days I think I'd love to have a small farm with a white farmhouse, and some open fields lined with evergreens. We'd grow lots of dahlias, geraniums, hydrangeas, pumpkins, tomatoes, kale and zucchini. There'd be lots of fruit trees and chickens. And then I think, "You're crazy." When would we have time? And I love our yard, imperfect as it may be.

So we just keep working on it. And I love it. It's so relaxing working in the dirt. Today I planted more salvia to replace the ones my shasta daisies insanely took over. And harvested all the rhubarb. I'm planning on more strawberry rhubarb crisp and  rhubarb jam. I just have to learn how to make it first. Anyone have any pointers on canning? Or good resources?

May 14, 2014

Sewing Basics: Grain of Fabric

Getting started in sewing can feel a little overwhelming. I'm still learning how to read patterns and often prefer to come up with my own design. But whether I am following someone else's directions or my own, there are some things to know before cutting out a pattern.

You've probably heard the terms grain and selvage.  Fabric works best when it's cut correctly in relation to the grain, so this is how to find the grain. 

Selvage edge
First, fabrics usually come in 44/45, 54 or 60 in. widths. They are measured from selvage to selvage. Selvage is the finished, uncut edge of fabric. If you've purchased fabric with a print, you might notice a white strip along the edge with all the info and coordinating color circles along the edge. Or there might be tiny holes along a solid colored fabric. This is the selvage edge. 

The grain of fabric refers to the threads used to weave the fabric together. 

The straight, or lengthwise grain runs parallel to the selvage. Sometimes it is simply referred to as the grain. The threads running in this direction have been pulled tightly while the fabric was woven, so it doesn't have much stretch. 

The width is called the crossgrain. It runs perpendicular to the selvage and has more stretch. 
So if you purchase a yard of 45 in. wide fabric, you will have a cut piece that measures 1 yard (36 in.) in length and 45 in. in width. Okay, one more. 


Bias is cut at a 45 degree angle to the grain (straight) or crossgrain of fabric. There are no threads woven in this direction, so cutting along the bias will give you the most stretch.

  Hopefully this will get you started, either in reading patterns or creating your own!






















April 26, 2014

Spring Cleaning, Naturally


 We planted some seeds several weeks back, and the parsley, peppers, and kale are sprouting. My echinacea doesn't look like it's going to grow. I think we took the starters out too soon. Oh well, we're learning. 



I made this Easter gift, which I call "The Beachcomber's Skirt," for my 7 year old sister-in-law who lives minutes from California beaches. The large pockets are designed to be filled with shells and sand dollars. 


And, the other spring related news is that I have been experimenting with my own homemade surface cleaning spray. I've tried just vinegar and water or vinegar, water, and essential oils. Around Christmas time I used peppermint oil, but for spring I love grapefruit. But the trick, at least for me, is to mix in a little rubbing alcohol so it doesn't have such a strong vinegar smell. And the combination of white distilled vinegar and the rubbing alcohol makes a great disinfectant. 



In a spray bottle I mix about:
1 c. white distilled vinegar
3 c. water
1/4 c. rubbing alcohol
about 20 drops Grapefruit essential oil

And that's it. We buy the baking soda and vinegar at Costco, so it's pretty inexpensive, especially considering what I would pay for store-bought natural cleaners. The oil I purchased at Chuck's Produce, but you can find them at Whole Foods as well. I've smelled lots of different oil scents, and my favorites beside grapefruit are the lemon and lavender. 
When I clean sinks, the shower and the toilets, I first sprinkle in baking soda and then spray the surfaces before wiping it clean. I use the spray almost daily on the counter tops in the bathroom and kitchen to keep things clean. And I know its safe around food and babies. They usually come along and spray everything for me. Just make sure if you let the kids help they don't take a full bottle and jar of baking soda or your supplies might disappear. I'm just saying! 

Happy Easter!

April 5, 2014

Freezer Paper Stencils and Other Gift Ideas

 Making gifts is one of my all-time favorite hobbies.  So when a birthday, Christmas, or wedding or baby shower comes around, I get excited coming up with ideas to suit the occasion. I usually take it as an excuse to learn a new sewing trick or go look at pretty fabric. That way, I can justify my crafting obsession and make a personalized gift.

Here's a few things to consider when coming up with a gift idea.
First, is there something you know the recipient needs but wouldn't necessarily spend money on themselves?

Second, what hobbies or interests does the receiver have? Gardeners might appreciate some chalkboard seed markers or vintage bird-feeder. Readers who drive a lot might like an audio book from their favorite author. If you know someone who loves throwing parties, handmade bunting or napkins are fun. You could compile energizing tunes for someone who loves to bust out the music while exercising.  If your recipient loves organic products, you could make soy or beeswax candles with lavender or grapefruit essential oils, or natural soaps.

Offering acts of service are awesome, especially when the budget is tight. I know as a busy momma of four, I deeply appreciate all the help in the yard, scrubbed floors, and home cooked meals we've received.

Another thing to keep in mind when coming up with gift ideas are some of your favorite things you enjoy wearing or using. For example, my sister gave me a cute headband with a print she saw that "looked like Jessica." Scarves are another favorite I've received.

One last thing. You know how when you're talking on the phone or hanging out together, people mention what they are trying to find or things they want. Keep tabs. Last June, when she came out to visit, my friend mentioned how much she liked my blue mason jars, but she wished they came in green  for a kitchen soap dispenser. When I was putting together her birthday present, I found one and snatched it.

 I just finished her gift and it's ready to send off in the mail today (if I can manage to get to the post office before closing time.) Em, if you see this post, stop reading this until you've opened your package. She's a talented writer and exceptional cook, so this is what I came up with:


Two kitchen towels, a soap dispenser and two knit potholders. The potholders were simple, just something I've never made. Working with two strands of yarn in different colors on size 7 needles made them thicker. 

I also picked up some of my favorite kitchen towels and stenciled this vintage typewriter onto the white one. It's easy to do, it just takes a little time cutting the image out of freezer paper with an exacto knife. 
Once you've cut the image out, iron the freezer paper to your fabric using a lower heat setting, with the shiny side of the paper down. It will adhere to the fabric. Lay your materials on a newspaper in case any paint bleeds through. Then, using your sponge brush, dab the fabric paint directly onto the stencil cutout.  Once it's dry, peel off the freezer paper, turn the fabric right side down, and iron the fabric, preferably on an old rag or something you don't care about, to set the paint. 




 Happy Birthday Em! 

March 15, 2014

"Spoiled" Vacations

 I don't remember staying in a hotel until I was maybe thirteen. Our vacations were always spent tent camping for two weeks every August. One week at the mountains for dad and a week at the beach for mom. And I loved every minute of it, except being cold in the night and not wanting to emerge from under the covers in the morning. I remember waking to the sound of crackling fire and a kerosene stove, which, I knew was warming water for hot chocolate. Dad was always up first getting things ready for us to warm ourselves by the fire before we went exploring.

I haven't given up tenting it, not yet. It gets harder with babies in a sleeping bag and trying not to wake the entire campsite, but it's so worth it. I want the kids to grow up with that experience. But that's not to say I don't appreciate what a nice indoor vacation has to offer, especially during the winter months when we could not otherwise venture out.
 We just spent several days at one of our favorite vacation spots in Washington. On the drive to Port Townsend, as we crossed a beautiful bridge over the Puget Sound, I saw my first whale. It was incredible. 

 This was the view from my window. I went to sleep with the stars reflecting on the still water at night. There was even a shooting star bidding me goodnight and the sound of water lapping on the shore just a few steps from my room greeting me in the morning. 




  This fellow was just outside our front door. I wish I had a better zoom on my camera!


We combed the beach for shells, crabs, and other treasures. We made friends with seagulls. We watched for seals.



And headed back to the room to read and knit. 


It was relaxing and beautiful and peaceful. Now, our next major family vacation will be spent in a tent. Maybe not as relaxing now that I am on the parent end of things, responsible for all the packing, but definitely worth it.