Monday, November 30, 2009

CONGRATULATIONS LIZ!

Liz from The Reed Family is my newest giveaway winner!

For all of you who were hoping, I will have a tutorial up soon so you can make your own sweater hats! Liz's hats are going to be the photos for the sew-a-long. :)

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Last Chance

Last chance for the giveaway peoples... send your comments here.

I'll announce the winner tomorrow! :)

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Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

I knew the song of course, but I had never done this or seen this done until this year. A few weeks ago we were at a craft fair, where my friend Annie was outside roasting chestnuts on a gas grill. She grows them about 50 miles from me in an orchard that she herself planted 16 years ago. It has been a labor of love for this is the first year she has gotten a crop big enough to sell any. A die hard fan, she brought them from Italy, and I have to say, I am completely sold! I stood there watching and helping her for about an hour just enthralled by what she was doing. This is what I learned:

First off, chestnuts are picky and will go bad rather quickly. Most often people who don't like chestnuts have had a bad one that tasted bitter and gross. Chestnuts really like damp and cold temperatures to stay good and sweet. Annie says the nuts that stay under the leaf litter in the chestnut orchard are the ones that stay good for the longest... but a fridge crisper drawer with the fruit (highest setting of moisture) is good as well and will keep them for several weeks.

Too cook them, you need to first score the skins like this:

Then put them in a wire basket and agitate them over an open flame until the skins start to come off. This happens on their own. Like popcorn. You will see sparks, hear pops, and then you will see free chestnut meats rolling around in your basket. When more are free than not, it is time to stop roasting them. (I got this wire basket from Value Village for $1.99, it is an old basket from a deep fat fryer... one trip through a hot dishwasher, and I was ready to put it over the flames.)

This is what they look like when they are done roasting:

Then comes the pealing. Be careful! They are hot. ;) The meats taste like sweet potatoes. Not what we call 'yams', but the actual yellow sweet potato. They have a nutty flavor and taste as though they are already lightly sweet and perfectly salted when roasted. I would have eaten many of them as soon as I skinned them had I not had better plans.

Here is my beautiful skinning helper with our heaping plate of chestnut meats.

Fresh Chestnuts with Fennel and Shallots

2 lbs fresh chestnuts in the hull
3 lg bulbs fennel
3 lg shallots
5 Tbs butter
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the fennel and the shallots in the butter until they start to go clear. Add the chestnut meats and agitate frequently until piping hot. Salt and pepper to taste.

It was an amazing side dish for our Thanksgiving feast!

This is what traditions are made of.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Handcrafted Holiday ~ Recycled Pennant Flag Garland

A couple months ago my Aunt Pat sent me a package. When I opened it, I was thrilled to find tons of paper scraps. Magazine pictures, calendar pieces, art postcards, and the fronts of greeting cards she liked... tucked away lovingly in plastic bags or envelopes. Just like I do.

My two aunts and my mom all have a similar love for the simple things. Paper, lace, bits of fabric... they have all collected these things, and when the collections are no longer useful to them, they ask me if I want them.

I think these are the most precious of 'vintage' collections. I feel a connection to the women in my family as I store away the scraps of sweaters, bits of lace from old pillow cases, and words I found inspirational cut out of my favorite magazines. We are kindred spirits... the few of us that create these life/love collections. And I find so much joy in getting to know the mamas that have come before me through using their collections to make beautiful things for my spaces.

This week it is a garland. I had SO much fun going through all my aunt's favorite bits of paper and cutting them into these triangles. First I made a pattern out of a piece of thick card. Then I cut out as many as I could of these tiny triangles (each one is about 2 inches long at the point) and then sewed them together on my sewing machine, one at a time.

I made it long enough for the tree, but we don't have a tree yet, so currently it is hanging down our hallway. Making another space brighter because of what was essentially garbage. I love it.

I love the look of it, and I love that I got to go through each piece that my aunt loved, and find the ones that I love. I got to know her a little bit more; sitting on my bed, listening to music, quietly cutting out tiny triangles out of the bits and pieces of paper she had collected.

I think it turned out rather beautiful. I can't wait to see it on the tree!

Don't forget to come comment on my Giveaway. Only three days left!

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Handcrafted Holiday ~ How to make a wreath out of fallen tree boughs

Mother Nature has chosen to grant us with lots of windy, rainy nights lately. Big storms have been the norm so far this season. In the middle of each tempest I thought about all the tree limbs I will have to pick up the next day, and tried to think about what I could do with them instead of just dumping them into the yard waste bin. The first craft that came to mind was a wreath!

You need:

  • 20lb fishing line (I recommend that everyone have some of this... for crafters, it really lasts forever and I use it all the time!)
  • Floral wire (or any wire you have lying around)
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Boughs off an evergreen tree
  • Decorations such as pine cones, holly branches, acorns, etc.
  • A wreath form (optional, I didn't use one for this wreath)
1. Gather your materials.

2. Take the largest branches and tie them together with the wire, tightening well with the pliers.

3. Form your wreath in to a circle by taking the larger branches and putting them together in a round. Make sure that each point where you are tying the branches together is secure so when you lift the wreath, the branch doesn't slip out of the wire.

4. Flip the wreath over to secure the rest of the smaller twigs to the basic form you have made with the larger branches. You can use wire for the larger ones, and then the fishing line for the smaller. Tuck the stray twigs in and tie as many as you can to the center tightly.

5. Add smaller branches to the wreath in the places where the wreath looks bare. Tie them securely to the main form. Tuck in any stray twigs and tie with the fishing line. I like my wreaths to be very lush and full looking, so I add many smaller branches at this stage to fill in the gaps.

6. Flip over and decorate by tying the natural items to the wreath with the fishing line.

7. If you wreath doesn't hang in a circle, you can put two cross supports of wire through the center of the wreath to keep it in form. (This is where I thought that the wreath form would have been a good idea, but it looks beautiful without the form, and this way, it was free!)


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Happy Buy Nothing Day!


I firmly believe that Black Friday is the worst holiday ever created. It breeds greed, consumerism, and overindulgence. I participated once back in the 90's with a friend of mine. I think I got a remote control car for Alex for $12 or something. A nice one. Made in China, by slaves or workers making $1 a day or less. It broke within a week of Christmas.

That same Black Friday was the day that someone got trampled in a Walmart somewhere on the other side of the country. That same tragedy has happened a couple times since. I have decided to pull myself out of that game for the last decade or so. I stay at home the day after Thanksgiving... make crafts and play with my kids.

I will be adding a few Buy Nothing crafts over the next few days. All of them are created from used, found, or recycled things. Stay tuned for these fun crafts. No cash required.

Happy Buy Nothing Day!

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

It is another stormy day, and I can feel Jack Frost when I walk outside. The days are getting as short as they ever get around here. About 6 hours. We woke just after 7 am to pitch blackness.

The long nights are giving us time for lots of crafting, story telling, and cocoa drinking. Today the family and I are making pies, roasting chestnuts and sauteing fennel for a feast at my dad's house this afternoon.

I hope you all have a beautiful holiday!

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Giveaway!

In honor of my 100 (and 101st) followers, I would like to host a giveaway!

On Monday, Nov 30th, I will choose at random, some lucky winner from the comments on this post, to send a pair of beautiful (and warm!) recycled sweater hats! (Custom sizes, of course.)

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

99 Followers!

OMgoodness! I just realised that I have 99 followers!

When I reach 100 I will have to do something big. What should I do? A giveaway seems the most appropriate thing.

What shall it be? Bowl covers? Christmas tree ornaments? Wool sweater hats? Felt crowns? Hmmmmm...

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Broken Truck, Rainy Morning

This morning, I woke at 5:30 for work and heard a storm outside. As I lay there, I wondered how we would get through this day with our tents without getting soaked. I mentally made a list of extra things to pack to stay warm and dry. I got up, took a shower, got dressed with extra layers on every surface of my person and went to make myself breakfast. Just as I was getting ready to leave for the park and ride, my phone rings. The truck has broken down on her way to pick me up. We will not be going to market today.

A bit of me was thrilled... but most of me was upset. This is the busiest market day of the year! The Sunday before Thanksgiving... everyone wants the basics we provide: Celery, onions, garlic, carrots, mushrooms, etc. They come in droves on this day each year for the staples that they will need for the celebratory meal.

The truck is broken though. Nothing much to be done. I am home, and the more I watch the storm outside the happier I am to be here. It is raging and I am glad to not be in it... as nice as it would have been to have this day at market. Each gust of the wind makes me grateful for this warm room in which I sit... fire blazing and felt in my hands.

Alex is making pancakes with maple syrup and I am working on Christmas tree ornaments for our nature tree theme this year. The pressed leaves are hung in the windows and a fire is going. The storm outside can stay there. This mama is staying home today.

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Ecolovies ~ Wool Felted Sweaters!

In the last few weeks I have thought of turning wool felted sweaters into a lot of things... but I never thought of turning them into another sweater! Until this one. I got this 'Men's Large' beauty at the Value Village half off sale and was thinking this nice pattern would make some sweet hats... but when I pulled it out of the dryer, it looked an awful lot like a sweater I used to have. In fact, it was even the same size... so I put it on... and low and behold, it was just slightly big for me... and because it was a Men's, the arms were long enough! I don't know how many of you are tall ladies, but for me, that is a HUGE deal. All women's sleeves are too short. So most of my outerwear is men's small and most of my casual shirts I have at 3/4 length. If I want to get the sleeves long enough, I need to buy specialty clothes or buy at least one size too big. These sleeves touch my fingers... :) and I can pull them down over my hands like I have seen so many other mamas do.

Another thing. I have never been able to wear 100% wool without a rash or itchiness. But the felted wool doesn't cause that itchiness that the unfelted has in the past. I thought that was curious.... and would love to see other mamas try this and let me know how it works out for them!

So, in my estimation, I got the best deal I could have. I got an amazing work sweater, for $3.59 that the sleeves actually are long enough on, and when I am done with work, I have another sweater to cut up and make into adorable hats! It's a win/win!

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Trip to the Olympic Game Farm

The Olympic Game Farm

That is where we went to yesterday. We drove slowly through these herds of animals that I have never even seen this closely before and they stuck their noses right inside the car for a piece of bread! It was so neat. Many of the animals are old animal actors or descendants of animal actors. Wild herds and savage beasts in movies like "Grizzly Adams" and "Homeward Bound; The Incredible Journey" retire here.

To see these animals up close was amazing. Bears waved at us, elk stuck their face in our car, a bison stuck his whole head in and got us all dirty (and few! Did he smell!). The kids didn't know what to think. Most of them were fine, but Logan was curled up in my lap with his hands over his face for the larger, more insistent critters. Poor kid was scared to death! He loved the bears though. Safely behind fences, the bears have huge roaming areas and will come to the fence for a snack. They caught bread in their mouths and then waved at us. I think that one was a retired circus bear or something because he really liked to perform.

I did have some issues with the small cages the carnivores were in. The 'performance' critters were all in these huge pens, and then the ones that didn't really perform, like the lions and cougars, were in these small pens with a tiny barn type structure that was spaced as their sleeping quarters. That part was sad, and it detracted from the whole thing for me.

Even with all of this... it was a once in a lifetime experience. And to think, it is only 3 hours away! It was a very long day... but we all enjoyed it.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

A field trip to remember. For sure.

Hey kids! It's field trip day... Lets go feed some animals!

How about a Fallow Deer buck?

Or a Elk cow?

Oh yes... that is Bison slobber.

I'll fill you in more tomorrow. For now... just pictures.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Spontaneous Gratitude for a not-sick day

I know I just had one of these, but I have to have another. I have been sick. Let me rephrase, I made myself sick. Ate things I knew I could not eat, and ended up with nasty tummy stuff and a migraine for the last three days. It stunk! But tonight, I feel better. Good enough to clean, and cook and do all of those things that a mama is supposed to do. And I have never been so grateful to feel healthy in my life! It is one thing when you come down with something and you get sick, but it is a whole other thing when you eat something you know may make you sick... and then it does. Guilt wrapped up with feeling like crap. Just not a good combo. So here is my spontaneous gratitude post for this evening... and then I will be going to watch the double feature with my family.

Fun games that teach.
(I made this die by coloring each side the same color as the glass pearls. We rolled and Logan found the color and put it on the puddle of the same color.)

Good mail.

Popcorn with brewers yeast, dried basil, and sharp white cheddar.

The world's best soup for a cold and rainy day.

More crafts for Rainbow school.

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Doing fun things with rainbows

All we see is this:

So we are making rainbows out of the rain. :)


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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Spontaneous Gratitude


For today:

Wool yarn from a local producer to learn new fun crafts.

More wool felt crowns.

Working on new skills with my baby.

Cinnamon bread toast, with butter.

New (completely unnecessary) technology...

That I love. ;)

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