Saturday, November 29, 2008

Homestead Fair

We spent yesterday and last night visiting the Homestead Craft and Children's Fair. This was a really really neat festival that was right up our alley. It's put on by a little community near Waco. The group started out as a church that eventually decided it was more in line with their doctrinal beliefs to live in such a way where they are more or less dependent on their community, rather than the world. That means they complete quite a few tasks themselves. Not that everything is always done in this manner, but for example...they have the ability to grow a field of cotton, build a spindle, spin the fiber into thread, build a loom, weave the thread into fabric, and sew clothes from it. Coincidentally, we have been taking baby steps toward the goal of being as self-sufficient as possible. These people have a LOT of skills that we're interested in learning, so we had a fun time. Demonstrations ranged from quilting, weaving, broom making, pottery and leather works to metal casting, cheese making, bee keeping, baking, canning and horse farming....and lots more. It was free to attend the fair, $5 to park, and an additional $2 if you wanted to pitch a tent and stay the night. Lots of good food was available at a reasonable cost and there were also lots of children's activities available pretty cheap (bigger projects with more materials cost more). I got a few pictures before the camera batteries died:

Sierra making a candle


Learning some water-color technique:


At home with most of her goodies. She did a water color (that's supposed to be a butterfly ;-), made a candle, made a felted soap bar, and also worked a printing press to print her name on a book mark


Fun times...I'm thinking we should go back next year.

Other pictures...

Sedona with her friend, Max:


And new strawberry plants (we ended up with over 100 of them) in the ground

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

There are so many things to be thankful for...

The amazing man I married who loves me even on days I'm not so lovable, and is super involved with our kiddos

My 4 year old who is crazy smart and full of personality. Lately, I am most amazed (and thankful) that she has taken her baby sister under her wing and comes running anytime she gets hurt so she can comfort her.

My 16 month old that is so super cuddly and also so independent. We could all learn a little something from the persistence of toddlers.

My extended family--we may not always agree or get along, but when the going gets rough, our little tribe sticks together like super glue.

The huge amount of physical security and wealth I have. Some days it's hard to remember that when you see so many people with so much more, but I have a (relatively large) roof over my head, clothes on my back, and a small piece of land that provides me with food. That's really so much more than so many have.

That even with the stresses and unknowns in any given day, I live in stable, safe location. Thankfully, no one I know was in Mumbai last night. And a much less severe, but still a little scary situation is going on in Thailand. My thoughts go to all of those in both places.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Christmas Gifts

I'm at the beginning of another solid night of sewing. If you and I normally exchange gifts and you want to make any special requests, this is your only chance--you can check out the Handmade Holidays section of the Sew Mama Sew Blog and let me know if anything in particular appeals to you. If there's nothing on that list you like, they also did a list last year. If you don't like ANY of it....well, you're probably getting something off one of those lists anyway and you can choose to re-gift it to someone else if you like ;-)

Yikes

You know it's been a stressful day when you open the microwave and find the cup of tea that you warmed up...oh....9 hours ago because you needed to relax. Maybe if I hadn't "forgotten" it (translation: been summoned by a 16 month old proclaiming her need for a clean, non-stinky diaper), I'd be a little less stressed at the moment. I'm just sayin'

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fabric Love

"a quilting we will go, a quilting we will go, hi ho the dairy-o, a quilting we will go...."

Still haven't bound any quilts (can ya tell which part is my least favorite?), but I do have two done besides the trimming and binding.

First up, my own quilt. This is the one I posted about earlier--it's for my grandmother and is made mostly of old fabrics (my old clothes, old clothes from sierra/sedona, etc...). I still think this puzzle piece pattern is really nifty. I quilted around each puzzle piece, which I'm not sure I'm real happy with, but it's done now!



Next is a "family history" quilt. My great-grandmother pieced this when she was 95. I think I learned a few things about granny while quilting this---she saw quilts as mostly functional, not decorative objects. She may have just randomly grabbed whatever scrap was on top of the pile when she was piecing quilts. She did not, apparently, believe in squaring up anything. The first two facts make perfect sense to me. The third, however, makes quilting a complete pain the rear. I really don't like squaring up blocks/quilts, but the work spent doing it GREATLY reduces frustration while quilting (for me, anyway...am I missing something?). Anyways, I quilted this with invisible thread on top and pink (matching the back) thread in the bobbin, so you can't really see my quilting (which was the whole point---finish the quilt without totally detracting from what she did). I ended up deciding to just do stippling all over the whole thing


The back (easier to see the quilting)


At one point, I decided it'd be neat to add a little secret, so I put in "Kimberly, 2008" and "Annie, 2001" (her name and when she pieced it). It's fairly well hidden--I have to look for it, even though I know it's there. I tried to get pictures and had trouble with that, but here's the best one I came up with (of my name)

Friday, November 21, 2008

I'm finally back!

I'm finally back with that post I keep saying I'll make...

Let's start with the wonderful world of 4 year olds:
Me: We should just start calling you "Sierra, the omniscient"
Sierra: What's that?
Me: Omniscient means you know everything
Sierra: Well, I DO know everything!

(as we're waiting for a to-go order yesterday and a man with a full leg brace walks in)
Sierra (in her loudest voice): Momma, how did that man hurt his leg?
Me (whispering in her ear): Are you talking about people in front of them?
S: yes
M: are you supposed to do that?
S: no
M: what are you supposed to do?
S: wait until we get to the car and I can ask you questions if I have questions
[man proceeds to sit down about 5 feet away from us and Sierra stares at him]
M (again, whispering in her ear): Sierra, stop it
S (again, in her loudest voice): But momma! I'm not talking about him, I'm just looking!

Ahhh...fun, fun times.

I've gotten much better at the machine quilting, but I don't have pictures yet b/c I haven't done the binding on any of them yet. Right now I'm working on one that my great-grandmother pieced when she was about 95 years old. It's a neat project, but she was all about functionality and didn't take the time to square up anything, so that makes the quilting a bit of a challenge. I decided to do stippling all over the quilt with invisible thread on top and thread that matches the quilt backing on bottom, so it all kind of blends in and doesn't take away from her quilt. Around the middle of the quilt, I "hid" my name and her name in the stippling, and that turned out well. I will have pictures eventually.

Other things...Josh's dad made huge progress on the kitchen while he was here and Josh has stained the trim and all that good stuff. Here's a picture of my countertop with actual edges to the front!



We've also been busy with fall canning. We ended up getting something like 55 pounds of apples and made plain ol' apples in syrup (12 pints), applesauce (4.5 qts), apple juice (1.5 qts--it was an experiment that came out really tasty, but we have ideas to increase yield next time), and dried apples (a gallon baggie of apple rings and two sandwich baggies of apples dices after they were dried). Some pics of that:
Josh manning in the apple pot:

Cooked apples ready for applesauce:

Collecting juice

Making sure the applesauce and apple juice are properly heated before canning:


Things we learned: It's probably more efficient to press the apples, let the sediment settle overnight (in the fridge), then collect the juice. The book said to let them sit in cheesecloth undisturbed, but that seemed pretty wasteful. When canning apples in syrup, do not over pack. When you first put the apples in the jar, then turn around to add syrup, the apples sort of "shrink down"--don't add more apples, it overfills the jar. With looser packing, we had very little problems with spill overs (one jar, opposed to every jar when they were more tightly packed). A good food processor makes quick work of making applesauce.


We've also been working on sweet potatoes. They were 20 cents a pound this week, which means a quart of home canned potatoes (even after you buy a new lid) is somewhere around 45 cents--WAY cheaper than the store bought stuff, or buying fresh out of season.

37 pounds of sweet potatoes ($7.40 worth!):


About 16 pounds of potatoes peeled, diced, and warming in extra-light syrup:


A picture of the canner b/c these things have to sit at 11 psi for 90 minutes, which gets boring:


The final product (one canner load anyway):


Things we learned....One canner load (7 qts and 1 pint, for us) is really more like 14 pounds of potatoes, not the 17-21 the book said. One of these days we'll get better about getting the appropriate head space and have fewer spillovers. Our jars always seal, but we frequently have small spill overs (you'll notice the liquid level is a little low in these).

Last weekend was also Josh's birthday. My mother in law and I made him a yummy cake that was featured on the cover of Bon Appetit this month---it was a
4 layer chocolate cake with dark chocolate ganache and white chocolate peppermint cream between each layer and a peppermint frosting. This thing had nearly 2 pounds of chocolate and a full quart of heavy whipping cream...and that was just the fillings. It was yummy, but too rich. One half of one slice was plenty. If I make it again, I'll leave off the frosting--it's really not needed and kinda takes away from the ganache and cream (which are yummier anyway):


I also made kolaches last week. Tried out a cream cheese filling for the first time, I think it came out yummy!


And last, but not least, the fall plant sale at TAMU was yesterday. We walked away with nearly 100 strawberry plants (yay!)


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Another drive by post

I've been pretty busy while we've had visitors (doing the stuff I never get to do while I have someone to wrangle children for me). I really will post back, but highlights

*I think I FINALLY have this machine quilting thing down. I know, I know, it's pretty much cheating, but I assure you, my machine quilting (thus far) looks no better and possibly worse than my hand quilting, so it's okay, right?

*I have made great progress cleaning out the side room and am hoping to have it set up for Sierra to use before my mother in law leaves. The idea is to have a place where she can go (there is a sliding glass door so she can see us, but be separated) and use scissors, glue, small crayons, toys not safe for Sedona the hoover, "everything must be eaten" baby, etc... without being harassed by sister. Bonus points for me if I also get all my sewing supplies and fabric stash organized in the process. Oh, and there's about 4 boxes that never got unpacked when we moved in (over a year ago---yeah...probably selling most of that)

*I cooked tonight for the first time in over a week. Man, that's been nice. I've also had an excuse to make cinnamon rolls, scones and kolaches (that's baking, not cooking)

*I discovered that when you have 2 hours and no baby to get in and out of the car, you can run 8...yes, EIGHT different errands

*My kitchen is finally just about finished. I have trim on the counters, trim around the windows/doors, my curtains back up and it's ready for painting and baseboard. The plywood addition at the end of the counter is even paneled in. Thank you kind father in law for working hard last week!!!

*We canned 12 pounds of apples, dried about 8 pounds and have another 10-12 pounds to can. Then I opened the sales paper today and saw golden delicious apples are $0.50/pound this week. Of course they are, I paid $0.97/pound last week, so it only makes sense that they finally go on sale now. Oh well, this will let us try our hand at applesauce. yay for buying food in season.

pictures are coming....one day

Monday, November 10, 2008

Drive by post

Lots of things to post, just not the time to take and post pictures to go along with it. The in laws are visiting and I'll have lots to report on soon. We did finally get apples---$0.97/pound for granny smiths and galas, which is the cheapest I've seen this year. Then yesterday I saw 3 pound bags of jonagolds for $2 ($0.66/pound), so I got one bag of those. I've never eaten them before, so didn't know what to expect, but looking around the internet, it looks like they are one of the best for making applesauce, so I guess I'll get more of those and we'll try our hand at applesauce.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween

Another Halloween has come and gone! First I have to share a few more pics from the pumpkin patch last week



Sierra was a princess this year. She borrowed a very pretty dress from a friend and we made her a magic wand from a stick, some ribbon, paper plates and glitter paint. She got to wear make up (which is normally a big no-no around here):


Here's the whole ensemble:


We went trick or treating on sorority row again. I've never been a sorority person and would've rather quit school than join one when I was in college, but I have to admit, the ladies do a really good job with this, the kids always love it:


Here's Sierra very tactfully taking 2 dum-dums:


And Sedona desperately trying for the biggest handful she can get:

And once Sedona figured out what was going on, she was off and running to the next house:


But she fell down:

No worries, it was a good time for a Momma/Sedona pic anyway:


Once we got home, Sedona got to eat a reese's peanut butter cup:

And Sierra tried on Josh's costume (his whole lab dressed as the muppets this year, he went as "beaker")

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