Friday, December 14, 2012

first snow of the season!

No pictures, but wanted to share my excitement with a quick post about the snow.  When I looked outside this morning, my first thought was "Wow - that's a serious frost!".  A closer look showed white flakes falling gently from the sky and adding to the whiteness already accumulating on the ground.

I'm so excited!!!  It's feeling like Christmas!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

cork it

When the boys came home from their visit up north, big J. handed me a bag of corks from my Mom-in-Law.  I was intrigued with the possibilities.  I saw this idea awhile ago at the blog Ninth and Bird, and thought it was very cute!

In the wide mouth jar, the candle sits on top of the cork, while in the regular jar, it is held up by the lip of the jar.

I immediately knew that I wanted to copy her idea, and went to work.

Supplies needed:

  • A jar or more - I used quart sized canning jars - both wide and regular mouthed
  • Extra large tea lights - I found mine at Fred Meyer in their Every Day Living brand
  • a lot of corks - thanks Momsie!!

Directions (ha - I bet you can see what to do from the pictures!!)

  • Fill jars with corks
  • Set candle on top of corks, or wedge it in to opening of jar, depending on what size you use

Voila, almost instant decoration for your table.  And when you get tired of it, simple take it apart and use the corks and jars for other projects.  I like the look of this so much, I think I'll be keeping it through the season, if not longer.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

game time

J. loves playing games.  Board games, strategy games, card games, etc. - they all work for him.  Lucky for him, Great Grandpa is willing to be a regular gaming opponent when he visits.

enjoying some friendly competition

I can't remember who won this bout, but from the looks of things, they both enjoyed themselves.  I think J's appetite for playing games was whetted by getting to play chess this past weekend with Grandpa J, which he eagerly talked about.  After thinking on the fun a bit, J. mentioned today that he was missing Great Grandpa, and that G.G. was way overdue for a visit.   Along with a much anticipated visit, I believe J. is also looking forward to playing a round or five with him.  Let the games commence!

Monday, November 26, 2012

fun for all

The Thanksgiving weekend was a great one for all of us.  The boys of the house headed north for a much anticipated visit with the grandparents.  There, they worked on bows, embroidered towels, went thrifting, out for dinner, and got to see some movies.  They came back very happy and eager to share all the excitement of their holiday with me.

While they were away, I did my usual Black Friday shopping with my mom, but this go round my brothers joined for some of it and we all had lunch together - very fun.  This was followed by seeing Lincoln, which I now want to take the boys to.  In the downtime between these events, I wrapped gifts, got things done around the house, and had a glass or three of wine.  It is very rare to have this much time to myself, and I took full advantage of it!

At the end of the weekend, it was obvious that we all enjoyed ourselves thoroughly - and I couldn't ask for a better way to celebrate the holiday.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Turkey Washcloth

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  In honor of the holiday, the RentonKayaker and I tackled this fun turkey washcloth.  It turned out pretty cute, and will make dish cleanup from the feast that much more enjoyable.  If you wish to make it yourself, you can find the pattern at OneCraftyMomma.  It is very well written and easy to follow.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

gifts for baby girl and little girl

Recently I attended a baby shower for a friend of mine.  She is expecting a baby girl, and so I got to make a few fun girly things for her.

This bunny was a pattern I received by joining the Let's Stitch at QFD.  I embroidered the body with flowers and a face, and amazingly, the fabric for the ears that I pulled out of my stash blended wonderfully with the body.  This is a soft, small toy for the baby to cuddle and chew on.

long with the toy, I couldn't resist some baby booties.  If you feel like making a pair, I found the pattern  over at Tao of Craft.  Since making these, I've stumbled across how to make them so the seams don't show.  If anyone else ends up having a girl, I might tackle this again and go seamless.

I didn't want Big Sister to feel left out, so I pulled out the above purse pattern from my binder.  If you wish to make it, the pattern is 065 from Favorite Things. This is a very fun purse with little pockets to store treasures in.  I've made this before, and I find myself going back to this pattern again due to it's ease, and how much little girls seam to love it.

Lastly, for Big Sister, I pulled out another tried and true craft and made some ribbon barrettes.  These are very simple to make.

Ribbon Barrette Supplies:
Barrettes (I used 1/4 inch metal ones)
Ribbon the same width as the barrette
Ribbon flowers for adornment
Glue Gun

Glue ribbon onto barrette, tucking ends of ribbon and gluing them to the underside of the barrette
Glue decorative flowers on the barrette
That easy!

A tip - work quickly with the hot glue and smooth the ribbon onto the barrette, or you will get a lumpy look.  Since it is hot to the touch, I used the back of a butter knife to help smooth.

Also, don't cut the ribbon's length until you have the top glued on.  It makes it much easier to turn over and trim it to the desired length, than trying to align and glue at the same time.

All the above gifts came from my fabric/craft stash.  Most of my stash is leftovers from previous projects.  Putting it to good use has been sometimes as much, if not more fun, than than the original item that I was making.  And making these cute little gifts was a blast!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

pulla bread

I made Pulla bread, which is a Finnish sweet cardamon bread for the grange bake table this weekend.  Every year I make 6-12 loaves for the sale, and it is almost always gone before lunch.  My kids look forward to this tradition and eagerly wait to tear into one of the loaves as soon as it is cool enough to touch.  This year they had it with homemade cocoa, and half the loaf was gone within 30 minutes.

As I only make it at this time of year, I'm contemplating making another few and freezing the bread.  I've researched how to properly freeze it to keep it fresh for a few months, but regardless of the sites saying it will taste fresh, I remain dubious.  Still, it would be nice to have on the breakfast table Christmas morning, and you can bet I won't be doing any cooking like this that day.  So, maybe I'll give it a whirl, and then I'll know one way or the other.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

a bit of sewing

I started this project awhile ago, but only recently have gotten around to completing it.  These lavender sachets were fun and quick using items around the house.  The embroidery pattern was found here.  The thread came from my stash, and the fabric was an old shirt that I re-purposed.  Finally the lavender was from my flower bed that I had dried earlier in the summer.

One thing that I like to do with these sachets is to throw them in the dryer.  They make the laundry come out smelling wonderful!  I love the smell of lined dried clothing, but when it is too rainy to put anything outside, the sachets are definitely my go-to for a clean fresh scent.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

oddities in the jelly world

Usually when I make jams and jellies, I go about it with the following criteria:

  • made from home grown ingredients
  • pesticide free
  • low/no sugar
  • no dyes
But, after overhearing a comment from J. one morning, I was set upon a new path.  He mentioned that he thought it would be cool if jam came in weird flavors - instead of always berries and fruit and such.  This got me thinking about weird flavors, and what would kids like.  After mulling it over for a while, I did indeed come up with some kid friendly, unusual jelly flavors.

cotton candy, blue raspberry, bubble gum

I ordered some candy flavorings and went to work.  Sure enough - you can make candy flavored jellies!  And they really do taste like the real thing!  The kids liked the uniqueness, but promptly have gone back to the normal berry and fruit flavors.  I can't blame them - it's pretty disconcerting to have bubble gum flavored toast.  Still for the novelty of it all, I'm glad I experimented!  

Monday, October 29, 2012

little pumpkins

My mom grew these pumpkins in her garden this year, and the kids have been having a lot of fun decorating for the season with them.  They have been in a row across the table, clustered at the ends, on the window bench, stacked, sorted, and in orderly patterns.

Excitement is mounting as the holiday draws closer.

A. has been spending every free hour working on a costume he is designing.  He is going as the Steve character in MineCraft. We had the grange Halloween party this Saturday to kick things off, and A. was able to go with all but the arms of the costume done. J. also made his costume, and is pleased to be the Blue Screen of Death.  At Saturday's party, he was a bit frustrated that everyone thought he was only a computer.  He had to tell them to look at the screen.  I'm sure there will be pictures to share soon.

I have to say, I am really enjoying that the boys have come up with their own costume ideas, and are making them mostly by themselves, and completely from items we have on hand along with some free boxes we gleaned.  It's been great seeing their creativity shine through.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

harvest time - take 2

or three, or four. We have had a bumper year, and are still picking from the gardens.  Recently we picked the last of our Asian Pears, another 40 pounds of tomatoes, and approx. 100 pounds of apples.  Still in the garden are a few more ears of corn on the cob (can you believe it?!), carrots, beets, beans, chard, lettuce, mizune,  kohlrabi, various herbs, and - more tomatoes!

two types of Asian Pears

20 pounds of produce from leftover plants given to us

I have been watching the weather closely wondering when the frost will hit.  I plan on hooping some crops this weekend to extend the season.  And, I'll need to cut and pull in all remaining tomatoes and beans soon - probably also this weekend if the weather doesn't force my hand sooner.

The root vegetables can wait, as frost improves their flavor.  This is giving me time to process what we have already brought in.  We are eating fresh produce with every meal.  What we can't keep up with is becoming sauces and cider.

this morning's meal - apple cornbread

What a year for the garden!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

cranberry coffee cake

This is currently our favorite coffee cake.  Very easy to make, and such a good flavor between the tart and the sweet.  Check out the recipe here and try it out.  I think you'll love it too!

Monday, October 1, 2012

harvest time

Frost Peaches

This year has been a bumper crop at our place.  Between the fruit trees starting be old enough to bear fruit, and the weather, we have had our hands full with: cherries, plums, peaches, apples, and asian pears.  Then, Big J. found three pear trees on our property (where we live once had an old farm on it), which have never produced before, and now have wonderful small red pears on them that I look forward to trying.

When you have this much of a fruit windfall, combined with a good amount from the gardens and eggs from the chickens, almost every meal and snack is putting these items to use.  Even with all the fresh eating, there comes a point where you just can't keep up - and that's when I pull out my preserving books.  Big J. assembled a 5 level heavy duty canning shelf for me, and it is already loaded for bear with canned goods, and produce is still coming!  I've began drying and starting to fill the freezer, which we completely emptied by the end of June from last year's harvest.

I am feeling very squirrel-y as I stock up for winter, and I look forward to both getting to use all these wonderful treats in the cold months, and being done with the preparation of said treats.  Perversely, what I don't look forward to is when it is no longer possible for me to waltz outside and pluck what I wish for our meals.  Fresh is always best - and what a year for it!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

honeysuckle jelly

We have been attempting to utilize our place more.  Growing more fruit, berries - having herbs and veggie gardens - planting succession crops, are ideas and actions that have been on my mind a lot lately.  One goal I made for myself, was that I didn't want to go out and  buy much produce for putting up.  I do a lot of gleaning from generous friends and family, and combining this with what I am producing really helps stock the shelves and keeps the cost very minimal - besides being fresh, organic, and tasty!

When I learn about being able to use plants that are already growing at our place for preserving - well, I get very excited.  I recently found out that you can make jelly out of honeysuckle flowers.  And, I have a huge honeysuckle bush that has been loaded with flowers all summer.  I tried it out, and it is a wonderfully mild jelly with a bit of honey flavor.  

I'm thrilled to try out another type of jelly, and am tickled that it turned out so well!

Friday, September 28, 2012


Do you remember me talking about the dahlias that I got from my aunt, who got them from a neighbor last year, and how anxious I was to find out what they look like. Well, they bloomed magnificently for me this year!  I am giddy with dahlia goodness!

This was the only that bloomed before winter last year.  Now, I have two plants producing these huge, gorgeous purple blooms.  And another plant is similar, expect the flowers are white (no pic for some reason!).

I love the streaked petals of this dahlia.  

This little fellow is so cheerful to look at! Not adequately captured in the photo is the contrast between the very bright yellow center and the cherry red petals.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

breakfast time

I have been trying to make breakfast time more interesting.  We all are somewhat tired of yogurt/fruit, toast, oatmeal, and even pancakes/waffles (and don't even get me started on egg dishes - we are totally egged out).  So, for this breakfast, I dusted off my Grand Central Cookbook, and made their scone recipe (as usual, mixing 1/2 and 1/2 whole wheat flour with regular flour).  It was delectable!  Since we have tomatoes coming out of our ears, I served them as an odd side with the scones.  Add a hot cup of tea - a perfect start to the day!

I hope to explore more recipes, and with a little luck, I'll find some new ideas that are as easy and tasty as this one turned out!

Monday, September 24, 2012

soccer in full swing

A. is enjoying another year of soccer, and is especially pleased to be on his team from last year.  The kids are great, the coach is great, and that makes the entire experience fantastic.  At this last game, A. scored his first goal! The head coach specifically told him to put one in the while they were coming out of the first half.  A. responded by doing so in less than 2 minutes.  It was a difficult shot coming at a sharp angle, and with the goalie occupying a fairly large area.  He managed to tuck it by, much to his surprise and delight.  After much after game fussing over his accomplishments, A. stated that he hopes to get another goal in.  We are all rooting for him.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

a few pretty things

These pictures are random, but I thought I'd share them with you.  I took these during late July/early August, and they depict a few things happening at out place.  Simple things, but very pleasurable.

cherries freshly picked

drying lavender for winter time

mint for tea

a quick visit

Friday, September 21, 2012

another skirt

J. and A. were invited to a friend's birthday last weekend.  Her favorite colors are purple and pink, so after some scrounging through my fabric boxes, I assembled the prerequisite colors into the skirt you see above.  I still love this pattern, and I'll probably wear it out with my plans for making many more skirts from it.  Do you think any girls will mind getting inundated with skirts?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

a new school year

The boys are growing so fast, and I am amazed that another school year has began for us.  We started last week with some gentle, easing-into assignments, and have picked up the pace this week.  Spirits are relaxed and happy - and keeping them as such is one of my personal goals for the year.  Here are our back to school photos:

A: 6th grade

J: 8th grade

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

the redwoods

At the end of summer, we did the classic family road trip and headed for the redwoods.  It was a great vacation!  Lots of camping, hiking, lounging, card/board games, and plenty of sight seeing.  When we came back, we all felt restored, and curious to explore more areas sometime in the future.  Funny how going to a place makes you want to check out everything else around it.

At the campground, big J. fixed breakfast every morning, and had plenty of supervision while doing so.  In this picture, he is busy making beer pancakes.  Yuuumm!

While exploring Jedediah Smith State Park, J. and A. got to crawl in a few big trees.

And, I do mean big trees!

Chilling by the river.

The boys added to the rock statues people made along the shore.

At the Lady Bird Grove, J. got this amazing picture while standing inside a redwood.

A. relaxing on a knoll of a tree.

A fun house built out of a redwood stump.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

fishing and smoking

Last weekend, we all decided to try out luck at a local trout farm.  A. received a birthday certificate from Big J. for a day of fishing, and when A. found out Great Grandpa would be down, he decided to celebrate by cashing it in so Great Grandpa could join in the fun.

After coming home with six (six!!) big rainbow trout from the clunkers pond, Big J. and Great Grandpa dug into our side hill and fixed up a smoker for the fish that we weren't having for dinner.  I am amazed at what they concocted with just out of what was around the property.  They used alder for flavoring, and blocked the rising smoke so it channeled up to where the fish lay on a rack made of alder dowels and fencing wire.

After smoking overnight and the next morning, the fish was ready to be removed and eaten.

I grabbed some salad fixings from the garden and we were set!  This was definitely the best smoked fish I have ever had, making the meal as memorable as the great day spent fishing, and watching the amazing process of a smoker being constructed.