I made a little nap blanket for the 5-year old to bring to preschool with her.  I found some great lavender chenille that I planned to back with a printed flannel.

When I started sewing I always used to skip pre-washing.  I didn’t really think it made that much of a difference.  But it really does.  Especially when you are working with 2 fabrics that behave very differently.  I had the fabric store cut both of these fabrics to be the same size.  I washed and dried them before stitching them together because I knew that one would shrink more than the other.  I really didn’t realize how much more, but take a look for yourself.  (Sorry for the terrible photography.  My camera doesn’t like night time)

The picture above is the crazy amount of lint that the piece of chenille released in the dryer.  It was rather beastly.

So after all that, it was quite easy to stitch the 2 pieces together to make a very nice, cozy nap blanket for school.  Check it out…

More pickles.

October 28, 2009

I’ve been so busy making pickles that I have had no time for blogging!  My pantry shelves are overflowing and I’ve spent way too much money on canning jars.  It’s a problem.

Just kidding.  The truth is that sometimes my life gets whirling away and my internet life suffers for a while.  Which I think is OK.  I’m sorry if I have disappointed anyone.  But I’m quite sure it will happen again sometime.  Usually in summer.

But… getting back to pickles!  I have a recipe for pickled pears that I got out of my trusty Joy of Pickling book by Linda Zeidrich.  And have been meaning to post it for months now.  (Sorry Abby)  so here goes.  Hopefully not to late.  there are still pears out there right?  Here goes:

Pickled Pears

4 3″ cinnamon sticks

2 tbs whole cloves

1 1″ piece fresh ginger, sliced thin

3 c water

2 c distilled white vinegar or white wine vinegar

4 c sugar

6 lb pears, peeled.  (I like to cut them in quarters and remove the core.)

1: Tie the dry spices and ginger in a spice bag or piece of cheesecloth.  In a large, nonreactive pot, combine the water, vinegar, and sugar, and add the spice bag.  Bring the syrup to a boil, stirring ot dissolve the sugar, then reduce the heat.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Add a single layer of pears and cook them gently until they are just tender, about 5-25 min, depending on size.

2: Transfer the pears to quart or pint jars and cook the rest in the same manner.  When all the pears are cooked, pour the hot pickling liquid over them, leaving 1/4 ” headspace.  Close the jars and process in a hot bath for 15 minutes.

3: Store in a cool, dry place.

note: when I purged my pantry shelves of all the old pickles, I kept these.  They are still yummy one year later.   And with all that sugar, vinegar, and heat, it is no wonder.

Putting up pickles.

August 25, 2009

It’s the height of summer!  My garden is producing cucumbers and tomatoes like wildfire.  I love taking some time out to preserve the bounty of summer.  Cucumbers are my favorite thing to preserve, but I also can pears from our pear tree, and make Quince jam from the Quince bushes that were here when I bought the house 10 years ago.

My husband and I have been pickling for a few years now, and are still getting the hang of it.  There certainly is a learning curve to produce pickles that are not soft and will keep a few months.  Our favorite book on the subject is The Joy of Pickling by Linda Zeidrich. This year I am taking to heart her admonition that “Vinegar is not embalming fluid” and throwing out all the pickles from previous years.  I don’t know why I let old jars of pickles stack up but I resolve not to do it anymore.  I’m also resolved to get all our pickles consumed by us and our friends and neighbors by spring of next year.  The point of canning is to prolong the harvest, and enjoy your garden veggies through the winter.  When spring comes I will be ready to eat fresh again!

Here’s a pic of this year’s crop so far.  I’ve made pickle relish, olive oil pickles, dill pickles, and some cornishons I am very excited to try in a couple weeks when they are fully pickled.  I put up a batch of 14 pounds of fermented pickles in a crock and they all ended up in the compost.  I just can’t get the hang of fermenting pickles.  They always taste awful. I made the dutch lunch spears and LOVE them.  I made a batch of four quarts, gave 2 away, and am almost through the last jar.  I’ll probably make more next week.  They are refrigerator pickles, ready in only a week and last a few months in the fridge.  Also pictured are the quince jam and pickled pears from last year.  The fruit seems to last longer but I promise to throw them out before I harvest this year’s pears and quince!

I am switching over from my ball jars to glass jars with rubber rings.  I’m concerned because the dome lids on Kerr or Ball jars contain BPA, which releases nasty stuff into my home-grown produce when heated.  I do still have an inventory of these jars, and use them when cold-packing pickles.  Anything that calls for hot pack I will use my Weck jars. The only trouble I have with those is that the jars are so beautiful I am hesitant to give them away!

I have also been using some old style ball jars with rubber rings and glass tops.  They seem to work fine but I am a little suspicious of the rubber rings, as they are made by the same company that makes the BPA dome lids.

yum!

yum!

Reel Mower

10: Exercise!

No need to go to the gym after mowing the lawn with  reel mower.  Truth be told, they are only a little bit harder to use than a powered mower.  I also have a plug-in electric mower which I use when the grass gets too tall for the reel.  I get just as much of a workout using that one.

9: Cheap!

You will spend is hundreds of dollars less on the purchase of a high-quality reel mower than a high quality power mower.  In addition, you don’t have to buy gasoline, or oil, or take the thing in for repairs anywhere near as often.

8: Kid-friendly!

I can mow while my little girls are playing in the yard.  There is no loud scary noise, nor danger of them being whacked by fast-flying sticks or rocks that get caught in the mower.  It’s also less frightening to dogs.

7: It’s actually kind of relaxing!

I’d never say that about a power mower.  But the simplicity of the reel, the spinning blades, it’s sort of meditative.

6: Quiet!

I can have a conversation while mowing the lawn.  And I can hear when the kids get into trouble.

5: Easy start up!

For so many years as a teenager, I wrestled with my dad’s pull-start gas mower.  I am glad to be rid of that struggle. VERY glad.  In addition, for some reason it feels easier to just pick up the mower and work for 15 minutes if I only have a little time available to go out and mow 1/3 of the lawn when using the reel.  I think it is because I don’t have to deal with the production of start up that the power mowers require.

4: Low Maintenance!

No spark plugs, no oil, no extension cords (as is the case with our plug-in electric push mower), no air filters, no gas cans spilling in your car on the way home from the gas station.  You may need to adjust your blades periodically, but it is easy to do yourself.  And you may need to have the blades sharpened every few years.

3: Lightweight!

Those engines are heavy things to push around.  And to haul in and out of the basement.

2: Clean Air!

It’s not stinky to walk behind a reel mower.  Most gas mowers do not have catlytic converters, and belch out nasty smoke at you and your family and all your neighbors.  Yuck.

1: Reduces your carbon footprint!

I think we all understand the importance of weaning ourselves off of Petroleum products now, right?  I don’t need to explain this one.

clean air gardening has some good info on reel mowers.  You could buy one from them, or get a used one for cheap.  I think we paid $50 for ours on craigslist.

I haven’t yet figured out how to embed vidoe files, but here’s a link to a video I made of the reel mower.  You can see it slicing the grass and sending the little bits flying through the air.  ( I love that)  And you can hear how quiet it is.

The dress-up drawer.

June 13, 2009

princessesI have to say… I’m really not so into the princess thing. I chafe against all the commercial images of perfect little Disney princesses that are crammed into my daughter’s brain by the power of mass marketing. (We don’t even own a TV but it still gets through) However, I do remember how magical pretty froofy dresses were to me as a child.

Recently my older daughter has started showing interest in the pretty dress-up stuff that she has found at friends’ houses. So I decided she needed a dress-up drawer. We designated a drawer that had previously contained baby blankets and I set to work collecting froofy things. We went to our local Savers and stocked up on stuff, but I was surprised at how expensive things were, even second hand. A bridal veil for $15 seems a little too much to pay for a plaything.

Then I remembered that I still owned my old prom dress. I bought it at a vintage shop in Boston and wore it to the 1986 prom. It was still hanging in a closet at my mother’s house. It was strapless, so I removed all the vertical boning from the bodice and stitched in 3 bands of elastic around it horizontally. I re-purposed the hanging straps (intended to hang the dress on a hanger) as spaghetti straps and cut about 12 inches off the bottom. I used the excess to make “arm puffs” to go with the dress, plus a smaller little shift dress for the baby sister.

It has been a huuuuuge success. They want to wear them every day. What fun.  I’m on the lookout for more stuff hanging in my mother’s closets to add to the dress-up drawer.  All those bridesmaid dresses will finally get worn a second time!

10: It ever-so-slightly increases my daily physical activity, which is good for my health.

9: It keeps my family safer. Did you know that approximately 15,500 fires per year are started by clothes dryers?

8: I am outside, listening to birds. Instead of in the basement, listening to the dryer.

7: It is easier on my clothes than being tumbled about in very hot temperatures. No shrinkage!

6: The smell. Clothes and sheets that have been dried on the line smell like summer. They smell like air. I also use scent free detergent, so this smell is as unadulterated as it gets. I have become so accustomed to this smell that now the perfumes used in most laundry detergents make me feel a little sick.

5: No ironing. I’ve learned how to hang items of clothing so that they dry flat and relatively wrinkle free. Especially men’s shirts. If you unbutton them and hang them by the tips of the collar they dry smooth enough for casual wear. Dress shirts will still need a light press. But cotton sheets dry flat, instead of all bunched up by the tumbler. Whatever you hang, it will dry in that shape, so if you spread things out cleverly you can avoid a lot of ironing.

4: No starch. You probably don’t use starch in your laundry. But the dryer does leave clothes all soft and puddingy. This does feel nice to some. However, I prefer the stiffer feeling that comes from line dried clothes. Especially in bath towels. They get a little scratchy and feel like they are more absorbent.

3: Natural bleaching. The sun will bleach light yellowing out of your clothes. Chemical free!

2: A smaller electricity bill. An electric dryer is one of the biggest power guzzlers in the house. Eliminating it’s use can save around $25 per month.

1: A smaller carbon footprint. Seriously. Why burn oil (or use electricity generated from coal or oil) to dry my clothes when the sun is right there, willing to do it for nothing?