Tuesday, March 31, 2009

We Have a Winner!

From twelve comments, random.org gave me lucky #11...Elizabeth G. over at Home Musings!

  I'm pleased as punch for her, and so Congratulations Elizabeth!  (FYI, her blog will play music.  It's gorgeous, it's Saint-Saens "The Swan" but make sure you're ready for it :o)  

True Random Number Generator  11

Write back and we'll talk shop :o)

Monday, March 30, 2009

In the Which We Discover the Buffet

Alright, maybe not a "buffet" per say, but definitely and indication of why this guy is hanging around the neighborhood.



Do you see him?



Here, look a little closer.



Hello Thumper. Good bye garden. (Looks like I have some work to do before planting!)

How are your garden plans coming? Any particular critters or bugs you're on the watch for this year?

***Have you entered the giveaway yet? Look for a winner tomorrow night!*****

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Beautiful Life: Easter Finery and a Giveaway


It's time for Melissa's Beautiful Life linky fest once again! I've learned a lot of new skills over the past year, but I believe one of my favorites is something that I've always known how to do, but didn't do very often. I love to make tiny skirts for my daughters and nieces- you don't need much in the way of pattern, fabric, or even time but they are so cute and the girls love them. So there you go: I'm making our lives more beautiful one Easter skirt at a time.

I told y'all about the fabulous fabric stash I came into, however curious the circumstances. I showed you the first stash-busting project . Meet projects 2 and 3.

The smaller skirt was meant for Ernie, but I didn't take into account that her back side CURVES, which means knee-length in front is definitely a little more party in the back than Easter Sunday would generally dictate. So it's been assigned BBJ status, and BBJ's to Baby Aurora (as Ernie calls our newest niece.) When I tried Ernie's original skirt on her, she said "Too small Mommy! My legs cold!" So, Ernie's was lengthened somewhat. Quite a lot, actually. I made it after she went to bed, and we might hem a little bit. *smile*

Lucky for you guys, I am in love with these skirts and have extra fabric!

So, the giveaway: one custom spring skirt for your little girl!

Who would you put this skirt on. A daughter? A doll? An infant? Would you just zip some elastic in and whiz up a side seam and call it a day like I did? Smock the top and put should straps for a tiny sun dress? Something else?

Leave a comment with your ideas, and if you're the winner THAT'S WHAT I'LL DO (if I can :o) Make sure you leave an e-mail address or blog address so I can reach you, and have a measuring tape handy because I'll need measurements :)

I'll choose a winner on Tuesday, March 31st to get this in the mail, so it will be in your hands in time for Easter.

Good luck everybody!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Beautiful Bedding

I remembered the other day I'd never showed you guys a few things. They're in Ernie's room, so it's a rare day that favorable picture conditions (sunny, kids are awake, her room is clean, and I have a few minutes to sneak away and snap photos) happen.



My exceptionally talented mother-in-law (Nana) made a gorgeous bedding set for Ernie when the baby was born. She found the pattern in a picture online, and then free handed it from there. What an amazing act of love! Ernie loves her pillowcase and blanket, and the wall hanging with her name on it.

Ernie also needed new sheets, so I picked up an inexpensive white set at Ikea before Christmas, and gussied them up a bit. (Are these upside down? I wanted her to be able to see them when she laid down...but they look a bit odd. What do you think?)

I fell in love with Sublime Stitching patterns last year, and was thrilled when I got an entire book of iron-on transfers for my birthday last Fall. I simply trace them, though- it's easy enough on white fabric, and makes them last longer. (I also appreciate disappearing ink when my stitches aren't so straight as they ought to be!)


I thought it would be funny to put sweets on her sheets...you know, "sweet dreams"?


She didn't get quite as big a kick out of them as I did, but I really enjoyed stitching these up. So yummy!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why I Can't Have Chickens

Guess who I found in my back yard this afternoon?




He left when he saw me in the window.







So we have coyotes sunning themselves in the Spring, and racoons and squirrels hanging upside down from the plum tree in the summer (eating all the plums.)

I'd really love to have a compost pile and a small flock of chickens, but I don't want to ENCOURAGE these critters to come around . Any suggestions? Advice?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Easter Skirt for the Babe

My Dad chuckled when he saw this- "Whose doll is this for?"

Mine of course! One skirt down, three to go. We are going to look sharp on Easter!
This is based on the "Swing Your Partner" tiered skirt in the fabulous and often blogged-about "Sew What! Skirts" book, although in a MUCH smaller form *grin*

This is my first serging project, and I'm loving it. I received a Brother 1034D as a Christmas gift from my (very kind) parents, and it's taken me until now to break it out. I'm glad I spent a week reading the manual, researching online, and watching the two DVD's that came with the machine. I know it sounds like overkill, but I like to know ALL the rules before I start a game, and there are a lot of rules to serging! At least, there are a multitude of things the serger can do, and I wanted to know about a good chunk of them before I started.

The serger came with a gathering foot, which I love. I was able to put one layer under the foot, feed another through a slot in the foot itself, and gather the bottom layer while serging it to the upper straight layer AT THE SAME TIME. The mind reels. All the layers and seams are serged, and the elastic is sewn to the waist using a sewing machine elastic/zig zag stitch. (Speaking of which, WHY did I never notice in the manual that there is a special zig zag stitch for elastic? It works so much better than the regular zig zag!)

I have all the pieces cut out for two more Easter skirts, for my daughter and niece, and then need to sew up something cute for my nephew and find measurements for my other niece...and we'll all match, which is fun considering we're in three different states!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It Needs To Be Said

I wasn't going to say anything, was just going to let it slide by. But I can't. I've been having heart burn all week, and something must be said.

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I'm a Mormon, if you will. Besides the Muslim faith, I'm not aware of many other churches or faiths on this green earth that elicit such strong reactions. People love us- we're good neighbors, we're Boy Scouts, we make casseroles. People hate us- we stick to our own, we have a weird religion, we don't vote like they do. Are any of those stereotypes true? Yes. No. Maybe. Depends. It's hard to characterize over 10 million people based on a handful of people you happen to have met in your life.

We've gotten a lot of publicity the last year. Mitt Romney, Proposition 8, Big Love, among others. Three things that have very little to do with the Church and what we believe, but rather more to do with individuals who have joined or left our church.

And so, as a favor to me, can you do this? Next time you hear something you don't understand or think is wrong...go find someone to ask. Shoot me an e-mail. Flag down a missionary- they'll answer any question you can throw at them, and have fun doing it. Heck, you'll make their day if you just make eye contact!

Most of what's smeared around out there is just gossip, half-truths, misunderstandings, or just lies. And it hurts to see something that I believe in and love so strongly bandied around like playground gossip.

And for the record, I don't make casseroles. *smile*

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Here are a few links if you have questions.

The Church's response to Big Love preparing to air an episode showing our most sacred and holy temple ordinances. Things that we promise Heavenly Father himself that we'll never share, outside of the temple. What they're doing quite honestly makes me cry.

If you're curious about temples, those beautiful buildings all over the world, check out this 3 minute video regarding why we build them.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

2009 Garden Rundown

The seeds are purchased! I went a little crazy at the store with my half-off coupon. And I'm in denial that the ONLY things that grew last year were seeds planted directly in the garden. My mom and I are splitting seeds, and she offered to start them in her green house.

Here is what we're growing this year:

Ambassador ZUCCHINI (50 days, hybrid, disease resistant, high yield, bush-type)

Celebrity Hybrid TOMATO (70 days, heavy yields, disease resistant, 8 oz fruits, short vines.)

White Sensation Hybrid SWEET CORN (70 days, 8-inch ears, 6' plants)

Dow Gauk/Yard-Long BEAN (70 days, 12-18" beans. Pick at 12" for fresh, or leave until yellow for shelled. Tastes like asparagus? Needs trellis.)

Lemon CUCUMBER (65 days, looks like a lemon, good for slicing and pickling. "Burpless." Just what does that mean?)

Genovese BASIL (75 days, good for pesto)

Early Wonder BEET (60 days, stores well, good fresh or canned, flavorful greens)

Globe Purple Top TURNIP (55 days, good greens, very tasty when young too.)

Bright Lights SWISS CHARD (35-56 days, multi-colored. I grew this last year from seed in the ground- YUMMY and easy to grow!)

GROUND TOMATO/HUSK CHERRY (70 days, smaller and sweeter than a tomatillo. Can be eaten raw or made into pie/preserves. Anyone had these before??)

Scallop Bush Mix SQUASH (50 days, patty pan type squash)

RADISH (don't know the type, it was a freebie in the mail.)

Blue Lake BUSH BEANS (Seeds of Change, organic seeds.)

So that's where I'll be this summer.

What about you? Any big plans this year?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Fail

In the tradition of showcasing flops and smashing my, hmm, "rosy" image, I present my marmalade.


Fail. Massive Fail.

This, my friends, is what happens when you scoop a bit of extra-firm marmalade into a pan with some water, to try and soften it up a bit over low heat.

Then take a 3 hour Sunday nap.

I'm surprised I didn't burn the house down! Until I get my head on straight, I'm going to be limiting my stove top cooking. If you can't tell, that is one solid, rock-hard, mass. I can lift the entire pan using only the spoon.

When You Find Lemons...

This was cross-posted at The Chow Review.

I love marmalade. I know I'm not alone in this, because I see it at the grocery store. Someone else must love it to. And for you, I'm posting this recipe.



I've heard so much about Meyer Lemons, and drooled over Meyer Lemon trees in my plant catalogs (mostly because I COULD, if I wanted, grow a lemon tree in my living room. Sigh.) but I'd never actually tasted a Meyer Lemon. So, when I found a bag for $5 at my grocery store, I blithely brought it home, where it was stuffed in the fridge and "saved" for something special.

Hello? They're lemons. We don't save lemons for a sentimental occasion to present itself.



So I sliced those 5 lemons whisper thin this morning, plopped 'em in a bowl with enough water to cover, threw a tea towel over the whole thing and walked away until the girls went to sleep.

Now, remember that I only had FIVE lemons. This didn't make a lot of marmalade. In fact, it made one pint, and maybe a 1/4 pint left over after that. So basically, I paid $5 plus sugar, and spent about 2 hours, making 1 jar of marmalade. If you do this, PLEASE start out with more than five lemons or you'll feel like you've lost 3 hours of your life. And marmalade deserves more respect than that. Oh, and maybe start with a lemon that's cheaper than a Meyer. Just sayin'.



This recipe is originally from my good friend, and partner in crime/scheming about homeschooling/fantasizing about vegetable gardens/buying way too many seeds and swapping/canning all summer long. We were even pregnant at the same time. She's a good friend, and in this world that can be hard to come by! So enjoy her fantastic marmalade recipe.

One quick note: my favorite way to sterilize jars is to wash them in the dishwasher, and leave it shut until you're ready to fill them. I boiled mine tonight, and they weren't ready when my jam was. Sadly, my marmalade is overcooked. See how dark it turned? It set up really stiff, when I like a looser marmalade. So be warned: have your jars ready! Of course, if I'd been cooking more than 5 lemons, I think the water bath would have been ready in plenty of time. If you're not sure WHAT I'm talking about, go find the Ball Blue Book of Canning at your local library. It's a fabulous resource, and easy to follow. Tons of yummy recipes, too. Since I've only just started canning, I really don't know what I'm doing yet. But, amazingly, it still works. So if I can churn out yummy jams, certainly YOU can too!



Lemon Marmalade

Ingredients:
Lemons
Water
Sugar

Slice off both ends of each lemon, and slice as thinly as possible. Be sure to scoop the seeds out when you see them.

Put all your lemons in a non-reactive bowl and add water to cover. Let stand overnight.

Measure out water and lemons, and pour into a pot. Add an equal amount of sugar to pan. (i.e. if lemons+water= 5 cups, add 5 cups sugar.)

Stir to dissolve sugar over low heat, then raise heat to medium and cook to gelling point.

Ladle into hot jars (leave 1/4" headspace) and process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Struck down by Cute

This doesn't happen to me often, but how adorable is this Princess Panda? (Tonggu Momma? Are you hearing this?) I had to share her amazing work with everyone.
All from The Toymaker- she has an adorable array of paper toys to print, cut, and glue.

Go ahead- click here to go and grab an adorable pdf file to print out- she has a house, and a whole panda family! Marilyn recommends printing on paper, but what if you printed all the critters on heat transfer paper and made little stuffed dolls? Teeny tiny stuffed pandas..with their very own cottage palace? The mind reels. She has a marvelous and generous "free toy" section, along with links to places to purchase her books and "for sale" pieces.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Forgive Me An Evil Chuckle

mwahaha.

It's alive!




After 3 months of avoiding the box, 1 week of staring at it while it sat on my craft desk, and three days of letting it sit on the kitchen table while I memorized the manual and DVD backwards and forwards.

It's threaded.

And I'm a pansy.

A Fun Story for His Kids

"Police chased and apprehended a man after he sped away from a traffic stop on Wednesday. Upon advising the driver he was under arrest for a traffic offense, the 43-year-old man fled in his vehicle.

The suspect drove in a reckless manner on [surface streets] and [freeway].

Officers went to the suspect's residence and located the unoccupied vehicle. The suspect was taken into custody after being located in a crawlspace above the garage of the residence, and booked into jail."

Pertinent details were changed to obscure such a local matter, but GEE. What a great story to tell his kids!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Everyone needs cake!


Since I discovered that my baby is lactose intolerant (hopefully she'll grow out of it) I've had to restrict what I eat if we're going to have a happy baby. However, since I'm the family baker I've started branching out with my recipes, trying to find treats that everyone can enjoy. This recipe was cross-posted at The Chow Review.


This recipe is adapted from Better Homes and Garden's 75th Anniversary Edition cookbook. Originally, this was the Yellow Cake recipe, with the Simple White Frosting. My family liked how the edges of the cake were a little crispy, but the cake itself was moist like a breakfast muffin, but not as dense. If the only yellow cake you've had is from a box, try this one! I'm always surprised how it's not very much extra work to make a cake from scratch, but the quality is so much improved that it's almost unrecognizable when compared to a mix.

The frosting is from the same cookbook, their "Creamy White Frosting." It already called for shortening, so I just subbed non-dairy creamer for the milk.



This is the first time I've tried subbing non-dairy creamer for milk, and it worked well. Definitely a different taste from dairy, but also a different taste from soy milk (which can be a good thing in baking.) A friend with Crohn's disease taught me- she uses non dairy cream and water in a 1:3 or 1:1 ratio for her baking. It's inexpensive, and a good substitute for dairy in most recipes. She even uses it for crepes.

Oh. And about the very green frosting. You see, Ernie managed to fill up her ball jar on Saturday, and chose a cake for her treat. With green frosting. It's St. Patrick's Day, a little early!



Yellow Cake

Ingredients:
3/4 cup shortening
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 to 3/4 cups non-dairy creamer plus enough water to equal 1 1/4 cups total

Sift together dry ingredients and set aside.

In stand mixer, cream shortening and gradually add sugar. Beat on medium for minutes more, and add eggs one at a time, then beat in vanilla.

Alternately add non-dairy creamer mixture and dry ingredients, beating just enough to mix after each addition.

Spread batter into greased and floured pans.

Bake at 375 degrees. 20-25 minutes for 9" pans, 30-35 minutes for 8" pans, or 25-30 minutes for a 13x9" pan, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (I used square pans, and needed 30 minutes- I don't know if it was my pan size or the substitutions. Just a heads up.)

Creamy White Frosting

Ingredients:
1 cup shortening
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon, orange, or almond extract (I just used more vanilla)
8 drops food coloring
4 1/2 cups SIFTED powdered sugar
3-4 Tbsp non-dairy creamer

Cream shortening in mixer bowl, then add vanilla and other extract, and food coloring. Slowly add half the powdered sugar. Add 2 Tablespoons non-dairy creamer, and gradually beat in remaining powdered sugar. Add more non-dairy creamer to reach spreading consistency.

This makes enough to frost top and sides or two 8- or 9-inch cake layers. (Halve the recipe to frost a 13x9x2- inch cake.)