Sunday, September 20, 2009

Calendar on a Dime




We decided mid-year that it would be a good idea to have a centrally located family calendar. It is much harder than you would think to find a calendar in June. After checking all the bookstores in the area I decided it was time to make my own. (I should have thought of that in the first place.) The corkboards (only $1.25 at Michaels) make it easier to rotate calendars each month and are easier on the wall. Maybe I'll use the old calendar pages in a family scrapbook or something. hmmm.

"Grandma" Picture Book






I made these books for the Grandmas...my mom and Nick's mom. I really liked the idea of a mini scrapbook with a page per month. I'm particuluarly excited about sending new photos each month, it keeps the gift alive and lets us celebrate Lyla again and again each time the new photos are sent. (The album only goes up to 12 months.)
Bartells (and probably lots of other photo places) has a great photo printing system...when you want 2x3s and 3x4s (which are printed 4 or 2 to a page, respectively) you don't have to have a whole page of the same photo. That way you can purchase small pictures, but don't end up with a lot of extra pics you don't need. Perfect.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wheatgrass

The miracle supplement that you can grow in your own kitchen.

So, I got all excited about the benefits of wheatgrass juice and have established a full blown production process in the corner of our dining room...check out what it takes to make it happen:

Day 1, soak grain overnight (8-10 hours)

Day 2, transfer to cheesecloth bag, hang, rinse several times a day
(Sew your bags out of tight-weave cheesecloth. The stuff at Joann Fabric is too loose and the grains escape. The tighter weave we found at Pacific Fabric was more expensive ($2.50 a yard) but MUCH better for the job.)

Day 3, keep rinsing and hanging

Day 4, plant your lovely little sprouts in about 1 inch of soil (half peat moss, half compost)


I sprinkle Azomite (purchased here: http://www.wheatgrasskits.com) on the soil...supposed to provide great nutrients and also prevent mold.
Cover and place in dark cool place until sprouts are about 1 inch tall. I plant my wheatgrass in sprout trays (11x21 inches), then nest another tray over the top of the sprouts to keep them dark.

Day 5, wait patiently

Day 6, transfer to sunny location (remove the top tray), keep watered, watch your grass grow

Day 7-14, wait patiently, talk to your grass, sing it growing songs, water it occasionally, wait, watch, and sing some more...when grass is about 7 inches tall it is ready to harvest.

Trim an inch or so above the root. Rinse, juice and drink! (Drink quickly with your nose plugged...kind of gross tasting!...BUT don't let that stop you...short term pain=long term gain!)


Now, I am by no means an expert. These are my very first trays of grass and I only harvested my very first shot of it yesterday.

I have three major problems I need to figure out a solution for:

1. MOLD, MOLD, MOLD!!! The mold is alive and well on my wheatgrass. A few of the things that might help include super cautious watering, airflow (little fan), and the azomite, although it didn't seem to do much so far. We'll keep trying.

2. Fruit Flies! Fruit Flies! Fruit Flies! I guess they eat mold, so I'm providing a banquet. My husband suggested to attack them with our little shopvac, which I tried this morning. Do you think they survive the trip and escape? There seems to be just as many flying around this evening. So, my great wheatgrass mentor, Rachel, told me about putting out a bowl of apple cider vinegar with a little dish soap and that definitely works. There are about 50 flies trapped in the stuff, but another 100 still buzzing around the kitchen.

3. Low yield. My first tray only juiced about 3 ounces. Definitely not enough to make this do-able. It's tricky, because you want to water enough that the grass is rich and juicy, but not so much that the mold moves in.

Let me know if you have any advise, and I'll definitely let you know if I figure anything out.
A HUGE thank you to my wheatgrass mentor, Rachel!!!!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Piggybank Dragons


My brother made this dragon piggybank (back in middle school, I think) and I always thought it was such a clever, fun idea.

So when I took a pottery class last year, and the instructor showed us how to make hollow spheres out of two pinch pots (great for sculpture), naturally the first thing that came to mind was to make my own pot-bellied piggybank dragon. Here he is...

Dehydrating Fruit



I always know fall is fast approaching when it's time to start preserving food. This is the first year I have really put my dehydrater to work. Here's my work on a box of pears.
It really doesn't take much at all. Slice pears about 1/2 in thick. Soak them in lemon water for a few minutes. Lay them out on the dehydrator (about $50 at Bed Bath and Beyond, big investment, we got ours as a wedding gift)...I can fit about 12 pears at a time (3 to a tray). Then leave them to dry for about 8 hours. They come out just as sweet as can be. Great snacks.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Composting

So, now that I'm growing wheatgrass, I need to have a way to recycle all the root-riddled soil mats that are left over after the grass is harvested (not to mention that it's a good idea to composte all your kitchen scraps anyway). I've done a bit of research and decided that the cheap, easy-to-set-up "Soil Circle" is the system for me.

It took me just a half hour to set this thing up, ta-dah!

Instructions say to blend you sticky, moist kitchen scraps with some dry yard waste and a little composte (if you already have some) for optimal break down. It's a good idea to bag up several large black garbage bags of dried fall leaves to use for mixing throughout the year. That way everytime you toss in your kitchen scraps you have a couple handfuls of the necessary dry yard waste available. I'll keep you posted on how it's going.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Painted Nutcrackers


I painted these as a gift last Christmas. It was slow, maticulous work, but really rewarding. My mom had this unpainted set from years ago. I wish I could track down where to buy more.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Simple Scarf


Simple Scarf Crochet Pattern:
This is my first attempt at writing crochet directions, let me know if any of this is confusing.

Step 1:chain 19

Step 2: In 3rd chain from hook *2 dc, ch 2, sc* skip two chains, repeat ** in next chain...continue to end. (You should end with exactly 6 **)

Step 3: chain 2, turn (this counts as your first dc of the next **, so continue with 1 dc, ch 2, sc to complete your first **, THEN stitch a ** in the hole of each ch2 of the previous row.

Repeat Step 3 until you like the length (or run out our yarn, in my case...I often make one-skein-scarves).

video

I like to use Red Heart Soft Yarn ...affordable (but still quality enough to be soft on the skin) with a good selection of colors. I also find that solid colors work best. When I tried this pattern with variegated yarn the beauty of this simple pattern got lost in all the color.

I made these for my mom and sisters for Christmas 08, I found it took a little under 2 movies per scarf :) ...about 2 1/2 hours each. The scarf pictured is the one I am finally making for myself.

Pie in a Jar




My sister, Katie, and I get together about once a month to cook and craft...or just chill. Last week we decided to try out this fun idea we ran across...individual mini pies in jam jars! Check out our inspiration at: http://www.notmartha.org/tomake/piesbakedintinyjars/.
We made 3 different pie fillings just for fun, and used the classic Betty Crocker dough recipe with a few tweaks, I liked it enough to use it again for my second batch (yes, I had to make more after Nick and I finished off the first round):

Dough Recipe:
2 2/3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 T sugar
1 cup butter flavored shorting
7-9 tsp water
Combine dry ingredients, cut in shorting, add water and mix just until blended.
This recipe was perfect for 6 pies.

I love the jars we picked out...nice wide mouth jars, but very short and squatty like cupcakes.

When shaping the pie dough into the jars, we cut large circles then brought the edges up together gently forming a cup shape and slid it into the jar. This creats a ton of extra folds of dough inside, so we just pinched off the overlapping folds (sealing the torn edges) and used that to roll our for the top of the pie.

Bake at 375 until crust becomes golden...40 minutes out of the fridge, 1 hour out of the freezer. Don't forget to poke holes in the top to prevent eruptions.

For my second round I made blackberry filling from the zillions of berries we have picked from Gramma's yard (the berries are still coming and I can hardly keep up with them, it's wonderful!).
I made a quick, easy filling (just toss fresh berries with sugar and flour) that I'm a little disappointed with, next time I'm going to take the time to cook up my filling using the recipe that wonderful, talented, brilliant Ida showed me.

Ida's Berry Pie Filling:
On med heat, blend 6 cups berries and one cup sugar.
Bring mixture to boil, stirring constantly but gently...careful not to mush berries completely.
Add 1/3 cup cornstarch mixed with 1/3 cup water.
Stir until thickened.
Remove from heat.

This makes a thick, goey filling that I just love.

Happy Baking!