Monday, 30 April 2012

Slow Living

A few weeks ago, I was reading Kathryn's blog post about slow living and thought it was a great idea.  So I clicked on the link and it turns out there are a bunch of people doing it.  I thought I might join in this month too.

Original source: I think this is the first has the details
And to link up this month: slow living essentials

So here we go:
Nourish:  Make and bake as much as possible from scratch. Ditch overpackaged, overprocessed convenience foods and opt for 'real' food instead. Share favourite links/recipes/tips from the month here.
I always try to cook as much as possible from scratch.  I try to add new things all of the time.  I have been using the farmer's market a lot more as more items are brought in.  We are very lucky to have a dedicated group of farmers that come twice a week, even through the winter.  Right now, mostly it is produce that stores well in cold storage (apples especially) and root vegetables, but we also have two butchers, two "egg farmers" a baker, and a few that grow everything in green houses so that we still have quite a variety to choose from.  I am down to going to the grocery store every 2 or 3 weeks, except for dairy...we still don't have dairy at the market.  This means that my fridge is full of ingredients rather than ready food.  I am trying to keep things on hand that the boys can have for snacks when they come home from school, like muffins and such.
Inspired by the market on Saturday, I made a "pizza, panzerotti, pie"
Home made, whole wheat pizza dough, in a deep dish pie plate (make sure you lightly oil your pie pan first), loaded with sauce, smoked kolbassa from the market (which I browned in a skillet), mushrooms from the market (which I sauteed in a skillet), broccoli from the market, and cheese, topped with another pizza dough and sealed shut.  Bake at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes, until the dough is nice and golden.
I served it with a side of sauteed kale, sprinkled with salt and lemon juice.
One piece had pineapple instead of mushroom (not from the market, but what can you do).  The boys thoroughly enjoyed this as leftovers for lunch the next day.

Prepare:Stockpile and preserve. Freeze extra meals or excess garden/market produce. Bottle/can, dehydrate or pickle foods to enjoy when they are not in season.
The school the boys attend has a peanut fact I believe it is now district wide.  So, tonight, I made almond butter to replace the peanut butter they so miss.  I had a big bag of almonds in the freezer that I picked up when it was on sale.  I will let everyone know how it turns out.

Reduce:  Cut down on household waste by re-using, re-purposing and repairing. A ladder into a strawberry planter? A sheet into a dress? Share ideas and project links here, allowing others to be inspired.
I am constantly trying to reduce, re-use, re-purpose...This week, I cut up an old towel that was still in pretty good shape but had blue paint splatters all over it.  I serged the edges (you can see I still have to sew in the ends) and ta-da...I have 9 new dishclothes.  I have a friend reading this right now who is thinking I could just go to the dollar store and buy 3 for a dollar, but I actually like making things from items that would normally be thrown away.  

Green: Start (or continue!) using homemade cleaners, body products and basic herbal remedies. The options are endless, the savings huge and the health benefits enormous.
Nothing new on these three items, however, I have printed out the directions for a homemade all purpose cleaner (just need to pick up some castille soap) and a homemade bug spray.

Grow: plant/harvest. What's growing this month? What's being eaten from the garden? Herbs in a pot, sprouts on a windowsill or and entire fruit/vegetable garden -opt for what fits space and time constraints.
 There is always something new being planted around here.  Right now, I am trying this new (to me) celery trick where you plant the heart of the celery and regrow a whole new plant...
and my chamomile seedlings are actually doing all right.  We haven't been getting much sun, so some of the seedlings are looking a might bit sad. These, I think, will actually make it to the garden.

Create:  To fill a need or feed the soul. Create for ourselves or for others. Create something as simple as a handmade gift tag or something as extravagant as a fine knit shawl. Share project details and any new skills learnt here.
I am always making things...I NEED to make things.
This month, I came up with the treasure collecting pouch.  All the instructions and the pattern are on my last post.

Discover:   Feed the mind by reading texts relevant to current interests. Trawl libraries, second hand shops or local book shops to find titles that fill the need. Share titles/authors of what is being read this month.
This week, I am reading "can it, bottle it, smoke it" by Karen Solomon.  It's a fantastic cookbook (yes, I am actually reading the cookbook) with great homemade snacks, sodas, preserves and things you can make at home that you wouldn't think of.  I will be testing out the bagel recipe this week hopefully.

Enhance:  Community: Possibilities include supporting local growers & producers, help out at a local school/kindergarten, barter or foodswap, joining a playgroup or forming a walking or craft group.
This month I made a few pockets for Lori to take on her trip to Africa.  I didn't think to take a picture before sending them off, but if you YARN ALONG with Ginny on Wednesdays, you probably saw several last week.

Enjoy:   Life! Embrace moments with friends and family. Marking the seasons, celebrations and new arrivals are all cause for enjoyment. Share a moment to be remembered from the month here.
This may be the hardest part.  Our everyday lives are so full of what we NEED to do, what other people NEED us to do, and what SHOULD be done, that I think it is important to document the things we do just for fun.

Phew...that was a lot...but I have been thinking about each part for a few days now, so I just had to put it together.  I am pretty sure I will keep this up, and maybe do a bit here and there as well.

Now, I'm gonna help my son with his homework and then go check what everyone else posted.
I will also be linking this up with Frontier Dreams for Keep calm craft on.

Also, I am having a 20% off sale in my etsy shop...use the 
code MAMA20 to get 20% off everything (except shipping)

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Problem Solved!

My children collect treasures.  Rocks, acorn caps (OK, that might be me), sticks they like, "cool things", rocks, rocks, and rocks.  Whenever we go on one of our "adventures", even when we just go for a walk, someone has something in his pockets when we get home.  One of his twelve thousand pockets.

Enter, stage left, the treasure collecting pouch:

First, the story, then the pattern.
About three years ago, I thought I had solved this problem:
I told them that on our family vacation, they could each bring home whatever treasures fit in their container.  I drilled holes in the lid, hammered in two grommets, and threaded this awesome slipper trim (that I bought in a roll of 100s of meters for 50 cents) through the holes.  It worked perfectly well the first day...and then I realized their plan was to fill it with rocks.  So they had to carry it from the bottom instead of using the strap (incidentally, this does work very well if you are carting around, say, snacks).

So, this week after threatening to sew all of a certain little boy's pockets shut I got to work making this pouch, because it is much much stronger.

So I present you with the 
Treasure Collecting Pouch:
This will fit a standard 1kg peanut butter jar (Brand name or Store Brand)
Gauge:  18 sts, 26 rows = 4"
Needles:  4.5 mm straight needles
Yarn:  Bernat Cotton (I had a jumbo ball so I am not sure how much I used, I really do think a 100g ball would do it...I will test and let you know) - sorry...but it would also be a great way to use up all kinds of odds and ends

Mine has a small pocket on the back (about the size to fit a house key or a car key).  If you do not want the pocket, follow the instructions in brackets for the tube.

Tube Portion:
Cast on 62 stitches (52 stitches).
Knit in stockinette stitch (knit one row, purl one row) for 18 rows.  Bind off 10 stitches at the beginning of the next row, and then continue knitting in stockinette stitch for 7" (Knit in stockinette stitch for 7").
Bind off.
Cast on 8 stitches.
Row 1:  purl
Row 2: Knit into the back and front of the first stitch to add a stitch, knit to last stitch, knit into the back and front of the last stitch.
Rows 3 - 10: Repeat rows 1 and 2 until you have 18 stitches.
Row 11: purl
Row 12: knit
Row 13-14: Repeat rows 1 and 2 (20 stitches)
Row 15: purl
Row 16: knit
Row 17: purl 2 together, purl to second last stitch, purl 2 together
Rows 18-27: Repeat rows 16 and 17 until you have 8 stitches
Bind off
Strap:  Crochet a chain until you have a chain 44" long.  Single crochet back and forth along the row until your strap is 2" thick.  (You could also cast on 10 stitches and knit back and forth until you have a strap that is 44" long).

Weave in all of your ends.  Right sides together, sew up the seam for the tube portion of the body.  If you have knit the pocket portion, make sure that it is overlapping so that it will be on the side you want when you turn it right side out again (ie/ are you trying to hide your pocket on the inside or have it easily accessible on the outside?). Turn the tube right side out.  Sew the side of the pocket to the tube.
Sew the bottom seam along the bottom of the pocket and the bottom of the tube.
Turn it inside out again and sew the bottom circle to the bottom of the tube (the end that does not have a pocket)
Turn it right side out again to add the strap.  Line up one end of the strap so that it hides your seam and overlaps the tube portion 4".  This puts the strap right next to the pocket opening.
Sew the strap to the tube up one side, across the top, down the other side, and across the bottom.

Do the same for the other end of the strap, lining up the strap and making sure that it is not twisted.
Weave in your ends.
Insert your peanut butter jar.  Fill with snacks, take it on your adventure, eat your snack, and fill it up with "treasures".

Friday I will be linking up with Natural Suburbia for Creative Friday and
Wisdom Begins in Wonder for Fiber Arts Friday.

                                Eat Make Grow at Pocket Pause

In Honour of Mothers

With Mother's Day not too far away, I have been thinking about mom's in general...

I thought I would feature some items made by moms...women whose blogs I read, women who make things I think other people would enjoy, women who seem to be so creative and nurturing (even though I don't know them personally) and who share so much on their blogs.  (Note:  these women are not my sponsors or anything of that sort)

So here we go...please, oh please, add some of your favourites in the comments.  Introduce us to someone new, or someone who has something lovely to offer, or even yourself - but remember it is all about moms!
(Note: I realize some of these items are made by husband and wife teams but today it is all about the women)

Tonya over at Plain and Joyful Living offers many lovely items in her etsy shop Vermont Branch Company, but this is my favorite right now:

Nadja at Patch O' Dirt Farm has these fantastic sketchbooks in her etsy shop Frost Lane:
sketch books

"MummaMarie" at Old Gates Farm offers this fantastic gift set in her etsy shop oldgatesfarm along with some delightful looking soaps and maple syrup in a fantastic bottle.
Taryn over at Wooly Moss Roots with an etsy shop of the same name offers these:

And I am going to add myself, just because, and this is my pick today:

And also, because I missed my 100th post celebration, and because I have 20 followers now! and because I want to celebrate women and fellow bloggers/readers, I am offering a shop discount.
20% of everything (except shipping) in my shop for a whole week.
Use the discount code MAMA20 until May 3 (and although I can't guarantee delivery for mother's day, I can sure try)

Now, if you will, feel free to leave a link in the comments.  

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Yarn along

 Today, I am crocheting a strap for my latest project...I hope to be able to share the finished item on Friday, but it turns out...I pretty much suck at crochet (please excuse my language...I would give the boys trouble for saying that, but it pretty much sums it up here).  I have had to rip it out and start over multiple times and it is just single crochet back and forth and back and forth.  It makes my hands do you all do it?  I thought the strap would be less stretchy crocheted instead of knitted, but it turns out I might have to line it with fabric.  I will have to see when I put the pieces all together.
And look what arrived in the mail today!  My jar cozy from Melissa at Wild Faerie Caps.  Aren't the colours fantastic!!!  And (you can't really tell in the picture but ) the colours really match the shawl the girl is wearing on the cover of my current read.

Speaking of which, the book is Tattycoram by Audrey Thomas.  Really good so far.  I had to give up on the book from last week...I had such high hopes for it but I kept having to reread sentences over and over and it was hard to keep straight.  It is going back to the library unread.  (Arthur Conan Doyle is a character in the book, he is a doctor, but there is also a detective in the book...hence the confusion.  I keep thinking of Arthur Conan Doyle as Sherlock own fault, not the author's, but was frustrating.)

In other news, my Mother's Day present arrived of course I opened it!  A full pound of white undyed roving.  So I get to spin, AND dye, AND knit.  How cool is that!
And (totally not my style) I did a test BEFORE using up my brand new roving.  Yep...I have finally learned to do a test run:

 Blue and Green Easter egg dye
Yellow and Orange Easter egg dye

And I learned that next time, I should separate the colours because moving it in and out of the microwave made the colours mingle too much...oh, the instructions are over here at Would you like yarn with that?.

I ended up with this:
The two colours still show up, but they are pretty blended.  Maybe I need to pick colours that are farther apart, or maybe break the yarn up into separate containers.  Anyways...I will try this again, because I think they came out pretty.  I am particularly fond of the orange (even though I should have followed my instinct and not poured in the would have been much more creamsickle as orange and white...I will do that next time)

Joining up with Ginny at small things for yarn along tomorrow, because as usual I am writing this up on Tuesday night!

Monday, 23 April 2012

When children stay home from school...

N was not feeling very well today at all.  Not the croup this time (I'm still telling myself that he won't wake up with it tomorrow), but enough to stay, of course some crafting was in order.

In about 18 days there will be an art show at the boys' school, where they display their art made out of recycled/repurposed materials.  This is N's project. He is making his initials out of buttons.  Years ago...about 10 years ago in fact, I had made a project similar to this with white buttons on a piece of cream toile in the shape of a heart and framed in a vintage wooden frame for a customer.  I had kind of forgotten about it until I came across these button initials on etsy and decided the boys could probably manage this project.  The N is drawn on in chalk so that it can be erased after.  The buttons have come off various clothes not good enough to donate (rag bin clothes) and buttons saved from a variety of sources (my grandmother's button jar and my brother-in-law's grandmother's button jar have been added to my own collection).  

This is how far he got today, in about 4 sittings...
I have to say he is really enjoying this project.  In fact, I am the one holding him up a bit... he still needs my help to thread the needle.  The colours aren't quite right in this photo, but the buttons are all green on a dark olive green/black background.  He plans to make the S in all blue buttons.

On a side note:  yesterday I posted about how much fun they were having with giant grasses they picked while on our walk...Today, we came across some tops I had made for them back when they were maybe 3 and 6 or 4 and 7.  Simple toys really are so much better (straight out of S's mouth today).  They played with these for hours today!  Easy peasy to make...I cut a thin wooden dowel and sharpened the end in a pencil sharpener and poked it through a wooden bead that I had painted.  That's glue, no nails/screws, nothing.  You could probably make these with all different shapes of wooden beads (Sorry, I don't have a source, they were just in a bag of bits I had around...and that was 5 or so years ago).

Competitions ensued...S can make his spin in his hand, and then drop it, still spinning on the table.
N can make his spin on the sofa...upside down...and hit it with something and watch it recover.
A quilting hoop was turned into a stadium (or battleground depending on who you ask).  

I can't wait to see how everyone else is getting their craft on with KEEP CALM CRAFT ON over at Frontier Dreams (Tuesdays).  Wanna come join?

Sunday, 22 April 2012

When you go out in the woods today...

That's N on the right.  If you look closely, you will see that neither of his feet are on the ground.  That boys doesn't walk anywhere!
 Don't know what this is with the little white flowers, but it was pretty.
S wanted me to take this picture, because there were masses of this plant...don't know what it is either though.  Time to get an identification guide from the library, perhaps?
The palest purple violets I have ever seen.
And when a tree grows like this...I believe it is actually asking to be climbed.

I don't know if you can see the super tall grasses they are carrying.  I  can tell you they had buckets and buckets of fun with this particular little item.  S felt "very Dr. Suessish" and N spent a whole lot of time being "Horton".  Then trying to convince me there was a spider coming down on my head, and telling a particular donkey to catch the furry carrot.  Why do this children still have a toy bin under their bed, when a piece of wild grass is so much more entertaining?

I hope you all had a lovely weekend...and yes, you are seeing correctly there...we are still in winter coats and hats and gloves.  It was a lovely 3 degrees all weekend, but the wind...oh the wind... my poor garden plants were darn near laying flat on the ground with all the wind.

Friday, 20 April 2012

In which I am pleasantly surprised...

...a child's homework assignment.
My oldest son (he's 12) received a homework assignment in which he had to write "a narrative".  Whenever he was working on it, he would say he was working on his "book".  It only stood to reason, then, that when it was time to turn it in, he wanted to turn it in as an actual book.
I didn't take pictures of him during the process but I wanted to give the instructions in case anyone wanted to do this with their child...he was so thrilled with the results:

 The hardest part was printing out the pages...and I have to admit, I did have to help him with this step because he is not overly familiar with the features of the Word Processor.

-Basically, you count out the pages on the screen, determine how many pages you will need to print out the entire story, and number the blank pages lightly in pencil.
-Take the numbered sheets and fiddle around with the spacing on the word processor until you get the pages to line up the way you want them.  We printed each half of each page one at a time rather than try to line up, say, page 4 with page 11, etc.  Each page went through 4 times to get the writing properly aligned, front and back.  Some processors will automatically do this for you, but we are not that advanced.

-Mark each page down the middle where you will be punching the holes to bind it up.  He punched each page one at a time using a metal punch.  A nail would work just as well, I believe.

-For the cover, he cut two panels from a cereal box, cut them 1/2" larger than the paper in each direction so there would be 1/4" overlap all around.  He glued them together with Carpenter's glue (we weren't sure if white glue would dry smooth, or make the cardboard all wrinkly) pattern side to pattern side.

-He chose a piece of thin faux suede for the cover (which was cut to leave a 1" border all around the cereal box cover).  He modge podged the entire cereal box cover on one side only, applied the faux suede and applied another layer of modge podge over that.  Note:  it will start to curve, but will fix itself in the next step.

-We had one sheet of parchment paper left from some other project.  He folded the edges of the faux suede back over the other side of the cereal box cover and glued them extra set of hands helps here to get the corners to line up nicely.  Then he modge podged the parchment paper to the inside cover of the cereal box, hiding his overlap of faux suede.  Now, both sides of the cardboard are equally wet, so it flattens itself out.  He let it dry about 10-15 minutes and then we wrapped it in a garbage bag and pressed it with a few heavy books over night.

-He used one of the pages to mark where the holes should be punched in the cover, and punched them with the metal punch.  Note:  a hammer and nail may work for this, but I think a drill might work better...we did not test either method though.
Then he threaded two pieces of crochet cotton onto a needle and just sewed up the spine of the book (in one whole, out the next hole - all the way down, and then back up the opposite way) tied it off at the top, and left the long overhang for the bookmark.

Now the pleasantly surprised part...He got it back from his teacher yesterday, so I read it last night for the first time (I didn't even read it while it was printing) and it was really really good.  Now, he's a smart kid, I know, but I kept telling my husband "I can't believe he wrote this".  I laughed out loud at least 3 times.  I am super impressed.  Next time he asks me "what should I be when I grow up" (they both still do, on occasion) I think my reply might just be "an author".  Mama brag over now

And for those of you related to me, you just might receive an email in the next couple of days with this story attached.   

Linking up with Linda at Natural Suburbia for Creative Friday, cuz yes, he was creative!  And with Crafty Moms Share for Sharing Saturdays.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Yarn along and some new growth

Keeping it super brief this morning so that I can get to the farmer's market...did you get that?  I am writing my yarn along on Wednesday for a change.

Oooh, sorry, my kitchen is dark in the morning, but I couldn't take the picture in the dining room where I usually do because N was eating his breakfast in there and this is a surprise for him.  Mr. N requested a new hat (for next fall) and this is the yarn I spun up for it.  The scarf from last week's yarn along is on hold until I can decide what to do with the darn thing (yesterday's post I think).  The book I picked up at the library last night but I haven't started it yet.  It is set in 1881 and one of the characters is Arthur Conan Doyle, but it is fiction.  I will let you know.

And now....look what is happening in my kitchen:
Now I just need to plant it up in some dirt.  Thank you very much to Tricia at Crunchy Catholic Momma for this one.  She has posted a bunch of garden things I have never heard in the last little while.  I just love her blog.

And in the dining room: 

A couple of new things was too small to even take the picture.  I would love to tell you what they are but in true Natalie style I forgot to label a gosh darn thing in my rush to get things planted.  These are to replace the seedlings that I tried to plant early outside under row covers.    Note to self...start them inside next year and then move them out.

And this morning my cat is very happy:
and I caught the boys eating their breakfast:
Where do they get this?  I think this is actually the first time I have caught N reading at breakfast...he is not usually the reader of the family but he loves the new book he is reading.  N is reading Cirque de Freak by Darren Shan and S is reading Eragon by Christopher Paolini.

Joining up with Yarn Along at small things