I'm a total blogging slacker these days. Summer is just moving along and we are busy just being. It's pretty great.
I said I'd be back with something crafty, but I bet you didn't think it'd be friendship bracelets. Truth is, neither did I. My girls came home from camp and raided my embroidery supplies. They started braiding bracelets for their ankles and doing hair wraps on their dolls. Jane asked me if I knew how to make different kinds of bracelets. Well, yes I do! I made the above bracelet for Jane earlier this week and am now working on a pink and orange one for Kate. I sit at the pool, completely in the shade, chatting with my friends and making bracelets. Today I gave a 30 second tutorial to a few girls. I have a feeling that we'll be seeing a lot of these in the coming weeks.
These are the kind I made when I was a kid and I am totally doing it from memory. Yay! Jane started a four string one in yellow and white. I would like to try my hand at something a bit more complex and while trolling the interwebs, I found this site. Awesome - patterns, instructions, pdfs to download. I'm going to try an arrow one next.
All right. Back to summer. Catch you next week.
How can it be Tuesday already?
Things of note:
- Sorry if you came to the blog in the last couple of days and tried to comment, or read comments, but couldn't. I tried to switch over to threaded comments, but something went awry. I have switched it back now that TypePad has seen the problem. Hopefully, they can figure out what is going wrong because I really want threaded comments. Anyhow, sorry if it was frustrating for you.
- The girls are home from camp. They had a great time. The room re-do went over so-so at first, but has now been fully embraced by Jane. More on that as we finish up some projects - pillows, framing photos and the like. She's excited to be involved and I think we will work together ok. She has definite ideas that aren't always practical, if you know what I mean.
- There's a new banner on the blog. My friend Marcia shot this photo of Fatty and me driving away from a mountain bike race last week and was kind enough to let me use it on the blog. I'm pretty much in love with this one and some others she took of the truck. It's nice to be on the other side of the camera every once in awhile.
- We picked, and ate, the first cucumber out of our garden last night. That may sound boring, but it was cause for great excitement around these parts! I also made some refrigerator pickles that were fantastic. I'm going to try another recipe and then I will let you all know which one is the winner. Now if the tomatoes would just ripen....
- Saturday night, I made the kale chips again. This time I just used olive oil and sea salt and turned the oven to 375 degrees. They cooked about 15 minutes, maybe a bit less and were perfect. Way better than the first batch and both of the kids ate them. Success!
OK - I hope to be back with something crafty soon. Chat with you later.
It's hard to admit, but I am never happy when I see kale in the CSA bag. I have tried cooking it a few different ways, but no one around here really liked it. My neighbor mentioned that she makes chips with kale that her kids love and then Jennifer gave me the link to this recipe so I gave it a go.
I mixed 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar and 2 tsp olive oil and tossed it with 1/2 bunch of kale, torn into pieces, on a parchment lined baking sheet. I seasoned them with salt and put them in to bake. I had the oven at 350 degrees and kept them in there for about 18 minutes. Next time I would up the temperature and and decrease the time a bit to see if I could get them a bit crisper that way.
Fatty and I ate the whole batch Wednesday night before dinner. They were delicious! I saved half the kale so I can make them again for the girls. My bet is that one will like them and the other won't. We pick them up from camp later this afternoon and I am so excited to see them. They have been sending letters which has been fantastic and funny. I finished painting Jane's room and got the curtains made and hanging. I didn't get to everything I had hoped to, but I think she will be surprised nonetheless. I'll share some photos when we have it all put together.
Happy weekend to you.
I made my friend Marcia a set of five market bags. Sorry for the bad photos in low light - it's been gray and rainy here and I couldn't do much better. Anyhow, I used the Jane's Market Bag pattern that Alicia is selling over at Posie gets Cozy. Totally worth the $6, in my opinion. It's well written, easy to follow and the fact that I didn't have to figure out the dimensions, add seam allowances, etc. was a plus. And they are really cute and don't advertise a particular store. Am I the only one who feels weird shopping at one place with a reusable bag from an entirely different store? Anyway, you'll look stylish carrying your groceries in these.
You could do some serious stash busting with these bags if you wanted to. I didn't buy a single piece of fabric for these - it was all on hand. I left the pocket off of one side of the bag so that saved some cutting and sewing. I would like the handles to be a smidge longer, so next time I will add an inch or two. They come together pretty quickly. I'd say it's a day long project for the first one, but that is a total guess as I made mine assembly line style. And after you make one, you will want to make more. Think holiday gifts. I am.
In other news, I have not sewn a stitch this week and it is making me cranky. It turns out that painting a bedroom with crown molding, chair rail, baseboard, four windows and three doors takes about 3 hours per coat. It's all that cutting in. Fun, huh? I'm getting ready to start coat number 3 (tinted primer plus 2 top coats) - thank goodness for no VOC paint - and plan on rocking out to my new summer music mix. Then the sewing machine is coming down to the family room where there is space and TV and hopefully a good DVD from Netflix.
Oh, and we got postcards from the girls. So funny. Kate wrote one sentence: "I like camp." Jane wrote a whole bunch of things mostly centered around dinner and the fact that she figured out there is a "vegetarian stand." Awesome.
Fatty and I dropped the girls off at summer camp yesterday. It's oddly quiet in the house this morning probably because I know that they won't be bounding down the stairs ready to fix a bowl of cereal or asking for a toasted bagel. I didn't think I would miss them so much right away! No matter - I am glad that they are at camp. I have great memories from my own stints at summer camp and really want them to have their own camp experiences. And they will be back here on Friday - I am sure five nights will fly by!
As we were going over the packing list yesterday, I realized that I had never made the laundry bags that they needed. Up to the sewing room I went and after about 20 minutes I had two complete bags!
This is a super fast and easy project. I took a piece of fabric (about 30 inches long) and sewed a seam up the selvedge side starting about 2 inches from the top. I pressed the side seam open and then folded and pressed the top edge down to make a casing. I sewed around that and stitched up the bottom seam. To finish it off, I threaded a length of ribbon through the casing. Easy.
If I had thought of it sooner, I would haved added their names to the bags - either by applique or embroidery. I think this makes a sweet graduation gift or maybe a good birthday present for camp age kids. Or maybe whip one up for your own kids so they can drag all their dirty clothes down to the laundry for you?
I'm off to exercise and then figure out what to do with my day. I think there will be more sewing involved. And definitely paint. Jane's coming home to a surprise room re-do. New wall color, new curtains, new pillows....
I have a feeling this week is going to be gone before I know it. That's just fine. I miss those girls.
My friend, Sarah, is an amazing photographer. Many of you know this already. Her use of light is wonderful and when paired with her polaroid, it's magical. I was very excited when she decided to sell some of her prints. I was over the moon when I found that they were all of ranunculus.
I had a hard time choosing because they are all so beautiful. In the end, I went with the one above. It arrived yesterday and I love it. It's 8 x 10 and I love how it looks like a gigantic polaroid. Today, I'm off to find a frame - I am thinking simple and white so the photo will really shine. Stop by Sarah's shop and see the rest of them. I bet you have a hard time choosing too.
And because I have been thinking about Sarah, I finally made my square for her month of the Virtual Quilting Bee. Sarah sent the two darker solids and asked that we make something with texture. I struggled with this assignment, mostly because both of my original ideas were used by other people in the VQB. But in the end, I went with something I know we both adore: ranunculus.
There is a high possibility that Sarah will not like this one bit. She is not a ruffly kind of girl and I know that. But she does like flowers and I had the idea so I made it. I like it, but if she doesn't, that is fine. I have lots of fabric left over.
We are easing into summer around here. Swim practices, play dates with friends, getting ready for camp, backyard barbecues, impromptu parties and just hanging out. It's been good and tiring all at the same time. I've been falling in to bed, exhausted after long, overfilled days. All good.
Tracy came to visit over the weekend. We hung out and drank beer. We took the girls swimming and chatted poolside. There were margaritas and corn salad. Caroline took the two of us on a field trip. We took lots of photos of old buildings, tramped through fields in inappropriate foot wear and had many laughs. There was a flat tire on the side of the highway and the nicest rescue ranger got us on the move quick-like. Oddly enough, the flat tire only added to the fun of the afternoon. Tracy also made me a quilt. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.
What a weekend.
Today is the girls' last day of school. Yesterday we bought gift cards for their teachers and the girls wrote thank you notes to each of them. And because a gift card in an envelope is a little ho hum, I came up with a cute way to wrap these small tokens of appreciation.
The girls helped me pick out fabrics for their teachers and I whipped up some coffee cozies. I love these because they really take very little time to make and they are practical and cute.
We tucked the gift cards inside and each girl wrote their teacher's name on the lid. Kate put her thank you notes in the cup and Jane slipped hers behind the cozy - both ways work well. We didn't wrap them any further - the girls carried them in to school just as they are.
And that's it. Another year gone by. Time sure does fly.
Back here soon. In the meantime, you'll find us at the pool.
On Saturday morning, I was up unusually early. I puttered around a bit, went for a run and then took the girls to the farmer's market. I went to get strawberries, more specifically strawberries for jam. I bought 6 quarts with the intention of making 5 batches of jam and having some left for nibbling.
I made freezer jam, just like I did last year. In my mind, I look forward to this day and I dread it all at the same time. I want to make the jam, but it is somewhat of a production. There is the gathering and washing of the jars, the trip to buy pectin and sugar and more often than not, another trip to the store when I run out of either jars or pectin or sugar. This year was different. I bought 5 boxes of pectin, 1 case of wide-mouth jars (which are my favorite, by the way) and a 10 lb. bag of sugar. I had just enough of everything.
Last year, I received lots of questions about freezer jam so I'm going to try to tell you what I do know from my experience. It doesn't make it right or wrong - it's just what I do.
1 quart of berries is about enough for 1 batch of jam. I say about enough because sometimes it's a little too much or sometimes a bit too little. I wash the berries, cut off the stems and slice them. I then mash them with a potato masher, leaving little some little chunks. I measure 2 cups of the mashed berries (and juice the mashing makes) for each batch.
Freezer jam uses a lot of sugar. I am okay with that. The recipe in the pectin box is 2 cups mashed berries to 4 cups of sugar. Yes, A LOT. But you have to use the right amount of berries and sugar or the pectin won't set up properly. There are lower sugar pectins available, but I have never used them so I can't speak to them. My mom has tried a low sugar one and did not like it. I trust her judgment and continue to do what we have always done. I use Sure Jell pectin and I buy it at the grocery store.
A canning funnel is key. It cuts down on the mess in a big way which is good since it is a very sticky mess. You can normally find one in the grocery store with the canning supplies. If your grocery doesn't have the jars or the funnel, try a small, independently owned hardware store. You know, the mom and pop kind.
I use glass jars. I always have and my mom and grandma did too. Don't worry - they will do fine in the freezer as long as you leave about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch at the top of the jar for expansion. Glass jars break in the freezer when the contents expand and there isn't any room left. If you leave the space, you will be fine. According to the recipe, the jam lasts a few weeks in the refrigerator or up to a year in the freezer. I've had jam for up to two years in my freezer and it's been just as good. In fact, we will be finishing our 2008 supply before we crack open any of the 2009 jars.
It took me one and half hours to make the five batches - I normally have two different ones going at a time. There is some finicky timing, but this is what works best for me. I clean one quart of berries, mash, add the sugar and then start on a second quart. By the time I am finished cleaning, mashing and adding the sugar to the second quart, the first quart is ready for the pectin. Once that batch is jarred, the second batch is ready for the pectin. Once I have the second batch in jars, I start over with two more quarts of berries. Make sense?
The jam has to sit for 24 hours before it goes in the freezer. It's just about time for me to take care of that last step. And then I will take a break from jam for another year.
Or maybe just until the raspberries ripen.