Saturday, January 30, 2010

it was a stroke of genius on my part!

this morning we made play-dough. we had some previously, but it's all dried out and yucky now, so it was time for a new batch.

first, mix together the dry ingredients. try not to get them all over the place and make a huge mess!

next, mix together the wet ingredients, adding the food coloring BEFORE the oil. then cook the mixture on the stove, stirring constantly. don't burn the play-dough, and don't burn yourself!

when it's done, the play-do will form a ball in the pan. turn out onto a plate to cool.

now it's ready to play with. gather dull butter knives, rolling pins and cookie cutters.

an added benefit is the play-dough is the same color as the mud room floor! (or nearly so...)

Home made Play-dough

1 cup white flour
1/4 cup salt
2 T cream of tartar

mix together.

in sauce pan mix:
2 cups water
10 drops food coloring
2 T oil

cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. will form up into a ball. knead, cool and have fun! store in an airtight container.

Friday, January 29, 2010

i don't think he's going to be wearing this anymore...

recently Dave started drywalling upstairs. or more accurately, we started the 17 projects that need to be done before Dave can start drywalling upstairs.

one of those projects was assigned to me: cleaning out the attic.

back when my 4 older children were all small and we lived in a tiny house with an outhouse, wringer washer and cook stove, i had lots of time to knit sweaters for all of them.

i made G this really cool elephant sweater, which he loved. i gave it to him for his 3rd birthday.

when i came across it in the attic recently, i passed it down to A. she seems to like it just as well as her older brother did when he was 3!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

the multitudes have spoken...

a few weeks ago i asked for help in deciding on a layout for a quilt that i was working on.

thousands of you generously responded to let me know that you liked the layout "Sunshine and Shadows" the best.

I'm glad that i listened to you! this is acually not the layout that i wouild have first chosen, but I'm pleased with the way it turned out.

in other news, Henny Penny (our broody hen) has failed miserably at her appointed task. apparently, there are fowl stupider than ducks, and that's saying alot! (I'm referring to the very ducks that can be herded into their cage at night with a flashlight and strategically placed snowman...) so, no peeps for us as an early valentine's day present...

and the creek flooded yesterday. no danger to us- but the tractor narrowly escaped, thanks to my brave and only slightly exaggerated heroics.

the other good news is that we now have approximately half of the firewood that we'll need for next year. it all floated down the creek and got hung up right on our creek bank.

and it was only 10 of you who voted. (and i confess that one of those was me) but you're sure a faithful bunch, and i appreciate you!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

January: Jesus in our hearts and home

it's hard to believe, but just one short month ago we were all in a flurry of preparations for Christmas. although the birthday of our Saviour has now come and gone, I want Jesus to be relevant in my daily life and activities.

it's not about "gearing up" for the holiday hub-bub, and then returning to life as normal. or, at least for me and my family, i want the worship and anticipation to continue.

our family (read: me) collects nativity scenes. all these this month are from my brother Josh and his wife Christina. (the wooden one even hails all the way from Greece. as in- they bought it there!)

every month, on the 23rd, I'll be posting another selection from our collection. just as a reminder to myself of what i want to remember every day; and what i want to teach my children above all other things:

that Jesus came at Christmas time, to die for our sins at Easter time. that every day i will serve Him and love Him. with all my heart, soul and strength.

join me in remembering.

Friday, January 15, 2010

ready or not, here we go!

even though it's only the middle of January (already!) one of our buff orpington hens has gone broody.

yesterday when the girls collected the eggs, Dave noticed that this hen was broody. we took her eggs yesterday, but today she was sitting on 7 more! even though we had some broody hens last year, we were not able to successfully hatch out any peeps. (A and B still think that chickens come from the post office...) the failure was partly because we did not move the hen out from the flock soon enough. one broody hen we let sit on her eggs too long before moving her, and then she would not set back. another hen successfully hatched out (only) one peep, but it was soon trampled and muddy in the chicken tractor.

perhaps the key is in several things: removing the hen shortly after she begins to set, and putting her somewhere safe that she can care for her chicks after they hatch out, until they are old enough to fend for themselves. buff orpingtons are known for their broody nature and good mothering, so it seems that the success of hatching out our own peeps lies in the management of the flock.

today i took this hen from the chicken tractor and put her in the high tunnel. she has a little corner with lots of hay, and also fresh water and feed close by. the temperature in there will keep her adequately warm and she'll also be able to scratch around in the greens that are still there from last year. (we never harvested the abundant crop of broccoli and cauliflower that i was hoping for...)

when i checked on her this evening, she seemed very content. i gave her 7 more eggs for a total of 14. we'll see how she does.

I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

another quilt for you to try...

i recently had the wonderful opportunity to spend an afternoon with some of my quilting friends. we gathered together at Cathy's house, and she showed us how to piece these blocks, Trip X Two. (and she and her husband also made us some amazing Italian wedding soup!)

these blocks are a smaller version of Trip Around the World. (the blocks finish around 15" square) they look more complicated than they actually are. i won't delude you into thinking that they are simple, however, the challenge of making these blocks is relatively easy to master.

so here goes! if you'd like to make these yourself you'll need 1/8 yard of 8 different fabrics to get started. (that will make you two blocks: one shaded light to dark, and the other shaded dark to light) any color combination will do, just make sure that the color changing is gradual, with no abrupt changes from one color/shade to the next.

i purchased all my fabrics at Joann's, and i must have walked up and down that wall of bolts 14 times! in the end, i did manage to find fabrics that i was pleased with- 16 different bolts worth! then i took them to the cutting table and asked for 1/4 yard of each. the cutting ladies just love it when we do that...

after you've purchased the fabric/rummaged through your stash, cut each of the 8 colors into 2, 2" strips. sew the strips together into two separate strip sets, graduating from light to dark. use a slightly longer stitch than you normally would, since we'll be ripping out some seams as we o along. but don't use a basting stitch- that's too long! (both strip sets will be exactly the same) then press: on one strip set press the seam allowance (SA) to the dark side. on the second strip set, press the SA to the light side. (sorry i don't have a picture of that)

then, separately, cut both strip sets into 2" strips. it's important to keep these 2" strips separate from each other. make 2 piles- one for the pieces with the SA going up, and the other for the SA going down.

now for the pictures!
on your working surface, lay out the strips starting with the middle and then going down the sides, like an upside down V, staggering each strip down from the one before. (lay out 15 strips.) this block will be the one that shades from dark on the outside to light on the inside. pick first from your strip set with the SA going up, and then from the set with SA going down. alternate as you go. (this will ensure that your blocks go together nicely, as the SA will nestle right into each other, giving you accurately matching points.)

next, we're going to take off a portion of each strip set, to begin forming the first half of the block. don't do anything to the center strip. (number 8) on strips 7 and 9, take off one bottom block, (using a seam ripper). on strips 6 and 10, take off the 2 bottom blocks. on strips 5 and 11, take off the 3 bottom strips. continue this way until all the pieces are removed. now you can see the block beginning to take shape. although all the seams are sewn on the straight grain, the block is formed on the diagonal. (if that makes any sense at all...)

neatly stack all the pieces that you took off, and set them aside for the moment. you'll be using them later for the block that shades light to dark. sew the remaining strips together, using a 1/4" SA. (keep the bottom edges lined up.) do not press when you're done!

now for the other half...

line up another set of strip sets. (take from your pile of unused strips, not the ones you removed for the other half of the block) these strips are laid out much like the first half, only now the V is pointing down. lay out 13 strips, alternating the direction of the pressed SA. (center one down, next two up...)

again we're going to remove some of the blocks from each strip set. on the center strip (number 7) take off, using a seam ripper, the one lightest square. (that one is already in our block, on the other half) on strips 6 and 8, take off 2 squares. on strips 5 and 9, take off 3 squares. continue in this pattern...

stack the strips that you took off neatly to the side. you'll be using them in the light to dark square.

here you can visualize how the block is coming together. remember, you can double click on any of the pictures to make them larger. maybe that will help!

sew the bottom half of the block together, again using 1/4" SA. from the back, press the two halves, with one set of SA going one way, and the other half with the SA going the opposite way.

sew the block together, and press again.


you're done with the first block! and believe it or not, the second is MUCH easier, since you've already got most of the pieces prepped!

here I've laid them out on the table so you can see what it will look like. with the exception of 2 seams, i didn't have to do any ripping on this block! i just laid it out (using the piles that i had stacked neatly and set aside before) and then sewed it together.

here are the two companion blocks, laid out side by side. when you're ready to sew your blocks together, they get squared up to (15"?) the outer edges will be trimmed, allowing for a 1/4" SA to sew them together.

I'm very happy with how they turned out, and look forward to completing this quilt.

as soon as I'm done with some other projects that I'm working on, that is...

Monday, January 04, 2010

looks like somebody decided to take the day off!

it's been very cold here~ the thermostat is stuck at 10 degrees, it seems.

dave came up from the chicken coop thsi morning with this tiny egg.

maybe the chicken decided to take a "half day" ?

it's a good thing that we have this tiny frying pan. it's just the right size!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

it's getting late and i'm indecisive... maybe you can help?

i finished piecing and pressing all the squares for my string quilt. i was fairly certain how i wanted to lay it out, but after seeing how it looks in real life, a wave of indecision hit.

I've posted pictures of 3 possibilities, and added a poll on the side bar. you can tell me which layout you think looks the best; either in the comments or in the poll.

A. this is the original layout i had in mind, but now I'm not sure that i like the contemporary look with the civil war era fabrics.

B. Roman stripes

C. traditional Sunshine and Shadows

I'll leave the poll up for a few days. i have to get another quilt basted and quilted anyway, so i need to set this one aside for now.

thanks for voting!

Stringing right along...

I'm enjoying the slightly less demanding (although no less busy) time that early winter brings. i have several quilting projects going, and i want to share my most recent project with you.

this is a strip quilt, and great for using up all those scraps from your stash! but of course, if you'd like to go out and buy more fabric, don't let me stop you...

for this quilt, you'll need several different kinds of fabrics:

* the foundation (PREWASHED muslin or equivalent)
* the strips (1/3 yard of 6-9 coordinating fabrics)
* the background triangles (neutral is best)
* the center strip (your darkest or most dominant fabric)

start by prewashing your muslin and cutting into squares. i cut my prewashed muslin squares 14". next, cut the center strip. (i cut mine 3 ½" wide) finally, cut all the remaining strip fabrics into a variety of widths. ( 1 @ 1¼", 2 @ 1 ½", 2 @ 2" and 1 @ 2½" is a nice assortment of wide and narrow widths)

lay out your center strip onto the (did i mention prewashed?) muslin square. i ironed the black strip on, just to give it that extra "stick".

choose one of your fabrics, and sew it onto one side of the center strip, using a ¼" seam. you'll only need to extend it over the muslin foundation a tiny bit. this block will be trimmed at the end.

also, if you could see it in your heart to ignore my very ugly ironing board cover, I'd really appreciate it. thankyouverymuch.

set your seam, and press the first strip to one side. (towards the corner of the square)

choose another color, and sew this strip to both sides of the center strip. starting your strips out "lopsided" gives you an extra boost on the scrappy look that many like. if you did both sides the same, the blocks would all be a matched pair.

set your seam, and press the strips to one side.

continue in this manner (sew, trim, set and press) until all of the muslin base is covered with strips. you can see from this square that even though i used the same sewing sequence in sewing on the strips, the lonely first strip makes the two sides look very different.

this is what the muslin base looks like from the back.

i squared up my block to 13", making sure to center the cutting with the black center strip.

next, cut out your neutral background fabric the same size as your trimmed, strip squares.

now you'll need to mark a line from corner to corner on the background square. i use a crayola marker; gray in this case. pin the background square onto the strip square, making sure that the diagonal line is going the same way as your center (black) strip.

sew ¼" to the right and left of this line. i should have mentioned before that a walking foot is very helpful in this project. I'll stop just short of saying that it's a necessity.

using scissors, or a rotary cutter and ruler if you'd prefer, cut along the line that you drew. now you'll have two half-square triangle units.

set your seam, and press open. iron the seam allowance towards the background fabric, to help reduce bulk.

you can see that for each square that you piece, you'll get 2 blocks. i plan on making my quilt 4 blocks wide and 5 blocks long, so i only needed to piece 10 strip foundations. (with 6" borders this quilt should finish approximately 60" x 72") i was pleased with how quickly these squares went together- easily done in an evening of relaxing sewing!

let me know if you decide to piece a string quilt. I'll link up to you in this post~ we'd all like to see what you made!

and as soon as my quilt is done, I'll post a picture up here, too. as soon as I'm done blogging about it, that is!


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