Monday, August 30, 2010

Ad lib Baby Dress Pattern

This is a little dress I recently made from combining three different patterns; I was feeling particularly fussy, and pieced and cobbled the neckline, sleeves, and shape of the dress together based on all the patterns, all sized for 18 months. And given my problems with sizing on the last dress, I did not "wing it" in regards to correct sizing this time.

I was going for the Mennonite-simplicity, that so many of the baby dresses have that were mine, (I do originate from Lancaster County) when I was a baby (kudoos to Mom for saving the best ones for me to use someday, which has come, for my own little girl :) ).

It's simple, though it took a long time to pull the patterns together. Some changes for next time: I'd prefer a slightly higher, more old-fashioned neckline and incorporate a fuller skirt, for the ideal image that I had in my mind. And that ideal image being, a slightly grubby little girl with tanned bare feet toddling around while stuffing who-knows-what in the pocket. Maybe riding our older-than-dirt pony through the field...

I kind of dig the pocket. It's from a doily, that I deconstructed, that my Mema had made. And the back is button-up for easy in and out.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I stand corrected..

Remember the wee little dress I threw together for our daughter..for next spring...? Well, the other day, I was slightly alarmed that she fits into a few outfits I, hereunto, had assumed were much too large for her..

So I tried the dress that I just made, on her. It is a touch big, but it appears that my guess-for-sizing (remember, I said that's a challenge for me without a pattern) at a "size 12 months" is more accurately a "size 3-6 months."

No matter. She'll just have to wear it this fall with a long-sleeved shirt underneath. :)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Sunflower House (continued)

The sunflower house situation is less grim than we had feared. The morning glories have been working overtime and with the help of strategically-placed baling twine; they've been twining enough to form an adequate, if not slightly patchy, roof.

Hubby is smirking over my shoulder insisting that the "roof" (the morning glory roof) is "inadequate", but frankly, I'm content that there's a roof at all. Next year, we'll grow the flower house over the sandbox, where it will ultimately be safer from miscellaneous varmints that would aspire to contribute to a premature demise.
We're looking forward to see what another month will bring for the sunflower house. Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Another baby dress..can't resist

I've been itching to play with fabric, but have been too busy with animal training, gardening, and keeping the goods comin' from my kitchen (hey, we have two hungry men at our house), in addition to spending time with the family.

At any rate, today I finally threw together a little dress for the Little Miss (won't fit til next year). This is the apron tutorial I used, but I made a few adaptations to the dress I made (tie ribbon back, mine less apron/more dress). With the slight changes I made from the tutorial, this will be nice over little panty-shorts, leggings, or even pants.

I really enjoy this lady's blog, check it out. I've made one of these before, and the most annoying part for me is trying to figure out the measurements...since I simply wanted to make the dresses a generic size 12 months, 2T, and so on.

So if you have an afternoon to play, this is a simple little project to jump into.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Our own Reality TV Show

Hubby and I enjoy speculating and discussing buildings and projects that we pass by during our travels. He enjoys the design aspect and I get caught up in what-color-schemes-should-have-been-employed and other similar issues involving materials types and selection.

I guilelessly commented one day, during such an en route critique, that "wouldn't it be great if we were independently wealthy, and I could just take a little pet project, such as a little weekender cottage plan, and run with it and see what happens?! I could really hammer a project out..." (Keep in mind, Hubby successfully has coordinated his own his-job-depends-on-it building projects)

At which point, Hubby suggested the following timeline of highlights for my project because "come hell or high water", I am a get-it-done and don't-sweat-the-details kind of a gal:

Day 2: DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) shuts down the construction site b/c I started excavating a wetland.

Day 16: Finally got engineer to finish design to fix wetland and secure appropriate permits. DEP now off my case and building may commence after paying thousands of dollars in fines and wetland restoration costs.

Day 17: Wetland is restored to DEP's specifications.

Day 18: Work resumed on excavating for new building site.

Day 19: Find and purchase Italian clay roofing tile online.

Day 20: Excavator re-digs footings for the 2nd time, b/c I failed to square up the footing trenches.

Day 22: Poured concrete footings.

Day 23: Jack hammered concrete footings out. (Forgot to set grade stakes to ensure that they'd be level.)

Day 26: Re-poured level footings.

Day 37: Cut trenches in concrete slab. (Forgot to plan for electrical/plumbing.)

Day 42: Jack hammered plumbing lines out. (Forgot to glue PVC together.)

Day 80: Set built-on-site roof trusses.

Day 87: Roof collapsed while installing special-order Italian roofing tile, due to inadequate home-made truss design. Re-ordered special Italian tile.

Day 88: Employed reputable lawyer to defend me in lawsuit from roofers.

Day 115: Pre-manufactured trusses arrived on site. Newly-hired contractor informs me that he's unsure if they can be set due to the building being out of square.

Day 126: Contractor finished adjusting the plumb and squareness of walls in preparation for setting the new trusses.

Day 135: Roof has been finished. Special imported tile is stunning.

Day 156: Finally finished installing doors and windows after customizing to fit incorrectly-built studded openings.

Day 157: Plumbing/electrical fixtures arrive. Realized forgot to run electrical/plumbing within the walls.

Day 178: Just finished patching holes from running electrical/plumbing lines.

Day 185: Power hooked to building.

Day 186: Building pet project burnt down. Suspected cause: Improper wiring.

Day 187: Begged Hubby to bail me out of complications from said pet project.

Huh. So much for the profitable entrepreneurial scheme, I do, however, think that it may be quite suited for our own reality TV show. We're still looking for sponsors...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Morning Effervescence

Mornings here are very effervescent..less involving us, and more the insatiable enthusiasm of our three canines: one being my sour 10-years-old-plus black mutt that I adore and whom has time for no one else except me, one being the 10-years-old-plus elegant, loyal and deserving wolf-like creature adopted this winter, and, lastly, one being the 3-years-old scruffy French Spaniel who-is-supposed-to-bird-hunt-but-does-not whom we also adopted this winter (Already very compassionate, pregnancy pushed me over the edge and landed our family two "rescues" in one winter.)

At its peak, the morning effervescing was almost more than we could bear. Being used to one dog (my black mutt), who would get out of bed when she was good and ready, after I had already risen, adjusting to a grand total of three dogs this winter was a change. They all sleep in our loft bedroom which has hardwood floors.

At the slightest sign of my or Hubby stirring from sleep in the morning, what we call the "clacking", would begin. Clacking is the sound produced from enthusiastic doggy paws dancing with the uncontainable fervor regarding a new day, on a hardwood floor. Between peer pressure and group thinking, 3 sets of doggy paws (that is, 12 individual paws...12 individual clacking producers) went "clack, clack, clack". Over joyful. Exuberant. Delighted. Zealous. Clack, clack, clack.

One of us (Hubby or I), would drag ourselves from the warm bed and struggle downstairs with the three clackers in order to hustle the clamorous joy directly out the front door, before the exuberance had a chance to awaken our young son, whose bedroom is directly below ours. I must say, it is impossible to hold a grudge against such guileless greeting of a new day, though the clacking throughout the process was a tad grating, if not bordering on thunderous.

Fortunately, now with the passage of some time, we have encouraged our clackers to keep things down to a low hum (or roar, perhaps), until the entire household is ready to rise. Now, they (the said clackers) merely sigh and perhaps switch positions on their "luxe" home-made/made-with-love doggy beds, and stretch a little, while I throw on some clothes and dab on make up. One or two may stroll over to the stairs and regally contemplate a leisurely descent... And when I whisper, "Come!", they rise as one and descend calmly to the first floor where they exit via the front door serenely to begin their morning constitutionals...

Monday, August 9, 2010

How To Freeze Corn From Your Garden

If you have corn in your garden and have a pile more than you can eat fresh, creaming it to freeze is a simple way to put it up for the winter.

We always take and keep the mess outside, and generally make it a family affair by going across the path between our houses and doing it with my parents. Now that I've written that, actually, there has never been a time that I've "creamed corn" without my parents. Many hands make quick work, so go ahead and make it a party.

What you'll need:
-Some kind of cooking station (a fire, an outdoor stove, etc.)
- A pot to cook in, and a pot or bucket to cool the corn
-A knife or corn creaming tool
-Tub to cut/cream the corn into
-Table to bag the creamed corn with measuring cups and freezer baggies and permanent marker
-A wheelbarrow is nice, but not necessary, for ferrying corn between work stations

First, set up the cooking situation. We build a fire with cinder blocks as a base to put the cooking pot on. Keep another pot or bucket close by with cold water to dump the cooked corn into.

Start heating water in a big pot over the fire, while everyone husks the corn. Set aside choice corn ears for immediate consumption after the work is done (The promise of good food is always incentive to any would-be slackers).

The work flows nicely if each station is assigned personnel. Someone needs to man the fire, someone needs to man the cutting station, and someone needs to man the bagging station. Assign extra helping hands as needed. Little people are perfect for responsibilities such as manning the hose and cold-water-replacement.

When the water is boiling, throw in corn in the amount that your pot can handle. Allow to return to a boil, and cook for 4-6 minutes. Supposedly if it takes more than 1 minute for the water to return to boiling, than you don't have enough water, or you're putting too much corn in the pot. But in a perfect world...

At any rate, immediately dump corn into the cold water after cooking to stop the cooking process. Blanching in this way stops the enzymes from doing their work and consequently will keep the texture and taste of your corn more like fresh, than otherwise. Transfer the blanched corn to the cutting station and cut or cream it into a tub or pot.
Once you have a pile of creamed corn, transfer it to the bagging station, where willing hands should be waiting to bag and mark it for the freezer. Measuring it doesn't take that much longer, because you must scoop with something and it may as well be a measuring cup. And it's nice to know how much is in the freezer bags for use later in recipes. Pack, date, and freeze as soon as possible.

And don't forget the party part! When all the work is done, don't be stingy with butter and salt and enjoy some fresh corncobs.

And on a final note, if you have a fairly large amount of corn to process, may I recommend investing in some type of corn creaming tool (please note picture), rather than resorting to cutting it all off with a common kitchen knife...if you go the knife route with large quantities, you'll be more apt to say "Aw, shucks", and toss all of your bounteous produce to the hogs/donkeys/chickens/or whatever-you-happen-to-have, and you'll just end up at Aldi's or Walmart stocking up on frozen corn sales this winter...

Friday, August 6, 2010

Homemade "Brew" (ie Tea)

This past week, I felt a bit run-down and a touch "under the weather", and then our son also seemed to have caught whatever was ailing me. I made this tea from the herbs growing rampantly on our property, and I give the tea much of the credit for our symptons not turning into full-blown-misery. :)

Spearmint and Lemon Balm Tea

4 sprigs spearmint
4 sprigs lemon balm

Wash the herbs in cool water and put the entire sprigs, leaves on the stalk, into the container of your choice (I like to use a big enamel pitcher). Boil enough water to fill said container, allow to steep for at least 10 minutes.

Strain, add honey, and enjoy.

Add enough honey to taste, now for the entire batch while the water is still warm, or do as we do and add it per the cup as you drink it.

I was overwhelmingly pleased by this simple recipe. It tastes as good as, or better than, the expensive herbal (and organic) teas bought at the supermarket. My son chugs his (when it cools enough to do so) and requests more. And I'd much rather treat his cold symptons naturally than with drugs

In the past, I've had sporadic success with my own home-grown concoctions (I've been known to serve my mother "mint tea" brewed from some random weed, while I was working and living at our family's a wonder, I didn't kill us all.), but the tea was so good and so easy to make, I'm drying some spearmint and lemon balm for the winter. Drying is simple, just wash and hang in bunches, somewhere with good air flow preferably.

Also, chamomile is a nice addition to any tea (about 1T per cup), and easy to dry, if your husband doesn't, um, decide to deadhead your chamomile plant for you (Hubby, I love you!). For those of you who may not know, the flower head is the useable part of the chamomile plant, just add it fresh/dried to the tea during the steeping process. Dry it by hanging in bunches, or spreading the flower heads out in one layer on a paper towel.

Oh and if you'd like a spearmint or lemon balm "start"...I share. :)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sunflower House Update

We have fought the fight. And kept the faith. We have lost several battles, but it appears that we may win the war. Two layers of fencing (one for rabbits, the other for deer), and some rodent poison, later, we have a lovely, if not, "patchy" (due to casualties. plants, that is) stand of sunflowers with a few surviving purple morning glories to form the roof of the sunflower house.

Something pesky was taking out the sunflowers one by one and had nailed at least 3/4 of the morning glories, but we rallied with rat poison and the remaining planted survivors still form some semblance of a house for the young man of our household. At the very least, it is still acceptable for truck parking.
And for the faint of heart to keep in mind, though I just twined the very few surviving morning glories to start forming the roof, we still have quite a bit of growing season left. :)

More updates (success or failure) to come.