I was thinking about a 2013 "Year in review" but I don't really have that much to report. The garden was "meh" this year, the chickens were "meh" except for the addition of 4 new ladies. Life was just kind of Meh! Except for the zombie run... that was awesome!
So farewell to 2013, the year of MEH. And welcome 2014!!! May it hold exciting challenges for us all.
The Winter Solstice is behind us! Finally the days will start getting longer. I, for one, can't wait! This dark time of year is always so hard for me. But, we have been working to fill it with love and light.
My darling baby girl came home from college this week. She managed to fly in between storm systems. Whew!
We have had ice, we have had snow. We've had cold weather with colder to come in the next few days. But, it's winter so what else should I expect.
We had a gathering of friends last night. Sadly, because of illness and the impending snow storm, we had fewer than we had hoped, but we still had a lovely time during the longest night of the year. We sent most everyone home early when it started snowing because the roads were quickly becoming treacherous. But still, we had a great time.
This morning, it is a winter wonderland out there. It looks like we got about 6 inches. But the sun is shining this morning so soon it will be time to dig out.
But for right now... it's quiet. There is hardly any traffic on the highway outside and every one is still asleep.
I think I'll go get a cup of coffee and enjoy the peace and quiet....
Whatever holidays you celebrate, may they be filled with love, light and joy.
Winter is that time when you appreciate the little things in life....
Not having to use the ice scraper to chisel off the frozen chicken poop so you can close the coop door.
Not falling on your butt on the ice.
Discovering a kleenex in your pocket when you really needed it!
A warm kettle of soup simmering on the stove.
Freshly baked cookies.
Family coming home for the holidays. (Justine will be home TOMORROW!!)
Cards from relatives.
Mysterious packages appearing on the doorstep from delivery people.
Seed catalogs arriving!!!
Time to sew.
And all of you! Not that you are at all unimportant....
...but it sure feels like it!!!
We've had snow a couple of times in the past week and it has been cold! Of course... today on my way home I saw one of those things that just made me shake my head and think "You can't fix stupid." There at the bus stop on campus was a pretty young girl wearing short shorts and Ugg boots, jumping up and down complaining about the cold. Well... it was 4 F at the time. But, you know, I think that if you choose to dress like that when there is a wind chill advisory, you lose your right to complain. really....
But, in happier things associated with cold weather, I've been keeping the bird feeders filled. Or, as we prefer to call them, the cat entertainment system. Interestingly enough, the birds weren't really all that interested in them until it snowed on Sunday. Now, with snow cover, they are suddenly flocking to eat. But I've gotten some awesome photos.
A white breasted nuthatch
Northern Cardinal- male
Northern Cardinal- female
Black capped chickadee. These are so hard to photograph, they rarely stay still long enough!
The male goldfinches have lost their brilliant summer plumage. But they're still fun to watch.
We missed the heavy snows that many got but we haven't missed the wind and frigid temperatures. When I got up this morning, it was 2 F outside (about -17 C). Brrrr!!
But the chickens are (hopefully) faring well outside. We've got the heated base on the waterer and the infra-red ceramic bulb deployed over the roost. I like it much better than a traditional heat lamp because it doesn't produce light. It only emits infra-red waves and it warms the surfaces (and chickens) rather than the air. We used it last year with good success so hopefully this year we will be as lucky.
V is busy writing. The business he used to write for has been bought out. Fortunately, he was kept on in the merger so now he is writing for Direct Energy, even writing articles for Canadians, LOL! The boys are busy as ever with school stuff and Justine is winding down the semester out east and eagerly waiting to fly home on the 18th.
Me... I've been sewing and cooking and all that usual stuff.
But I leave you with a cute photo of Spaz. People talk about letting the cat out of the bag...
Don't I wish... At least he's in the bag and not on the tablecloth.....
Above is a little educational offering: my daughter's final project for her color theory class. I guess this is why we pay the big bucks to send her to art school!
I've been busy sewing recently. I managed to finish the overcoat I was making for my son, a brocade vest for my future son-in-law (that sounds SO bizarre to say!!) and made a bow tie. Now I've got a few other irons in the fire and I'll be ready for the holidays.
To all in the US: Have a wonderful day today! I hope you all are able to spend time with friends and family and enjoy their company. Try to take a little time to reflect on all the things you have to be grateful for.
Me, I'm Thankful that I have been lucky enough to be married to my husband for over 25 years and have three wonderful children. I"m thankful that my parents are still with us and that we'll get to spend time with them and other family today. Glad that our daughter, going to school in Philadelphia half the country away, is able to spend the holiday with my husband's family out there. Grateful for our friend Mike who is in town for the week, even though he kept me up until 2 last night talking and I had to get up early to start cooking a few things.
Grateful as well: for my job and wonderful co-workers, my comfortable home and all the luxuries we have that others can't afford, my wonderful furry family of dog and cats and very, very grateful for my health.
And finally, I'm thankful that you all grace me with the honor of your presence here. Thanks for being along on this wild ride of life.
I'm glad I had today off. I managed to get a lot accomplished for a Monday. My weekend was shorter than planned since I ended up working on Saturday so a co-worker could be with her critically ill father. At least none of my Saturday plans were critical things.
But today was a good day. It is cold and snowy outside, the perfect day to make a big pot of chili so that is simmering away in the crockpot. I didn't have any big projects for the day, it was a day to get all those pesky little things done. You know the kind of things. Those things that, in and of themselves, don't really take much time, you just need to MAKE time to get them done. So, today I: made a trip to the bank and grocery store, mailing a few letters along the way, sorted and put away laundry (a chore since it tends to live in the laundry baskets once it's washed and folded- oops), made more laundry detergent, watered plants, gave the stove a good scrubbing (you know, more than the cursory wiping up spills), sorted through the junk mail that had piled up on the corner of my desk and did a bit of pre-holiday cooking.
We've got a friend coming into town for the week on business and I'm looking forward to having time off to see him. And, yes, he's in town on business over Thanksgiving. He lives out of town but maintains an office here that houses his computer servers for his business and he's needing to do some maintenance. This is about the only time he can get away from his OTHER job to come do it. So, we'll be having, I'm sure, many late nights. I'm not sure what his plans are for the holiday but I've gotten the go-ahead from my brother (who is hosting our family feed this year) to bring him along if he wants.
I'm so, so glad that I have an extremely short work week at my job. I, in fact, have to work only ONE day this week- tomorrow. I took today as a vacation day a while ago for several reasons: I'm working on several sewing projects for holiday gifts and thought I could use some extra sewing time, plus, I"m dangerously close to maxing out my vacation time at work and if I don't use it, I lose it. So, I scheduled a few days off here and there. Anyway, back to my extra-short work week. I would have had to work both Tuesday and Wednesday but since I ended up working Saturday, I get Wednesday as my comp and Thursday and Friday are holidays for me. Add this onto my usual Monday off next week and I will end up working only one day in an 8 day stretch. Heavenly!
Not that I don't like my job! Let's get that straight. I love my job. It's just that I've got so many other irons in the fire that it's hard to relax. And I plan to get a lot done in those 7 days- as well as some much needed 'down time'.
I hope all of you in the US have a fabulous Thanksgiving holiday this week.
I haven't forgotten about you all! It has just been insanely busy around here. Nothing spectacular, just life. I16 will finally be starting Driver's Ed tomorrow, Justine will be home from school in a month, K13 is plugging along in the 8th grade, V is busy with his freelance writing and working on the house, I'm busy, busy, busy with work and sewing.
Today, Justine's boyfriend J came over for a while (don't say anything because it's not common knowledge- but they're ENGAGED!!!!!). He hung out with the boys for a while and I was able to get his measurements so I can make a holiday gift for him. I would have just estimated on the size for a vest but he's 6'6" so I wasn't sure I could estimate the appropriate size. He is such a nice guy and we approve whole heartedly!
I've been busy on sewing projects. A couple of chicken bags, a coat for I16, a vest for J, and a few bow ties are in the offing.
In the farm/garden world:
The chickens are barely laying. Only the new girls are giving us eggs. Many of the older girls are moulting and look pretty pathetic. V spent a little time yesterday clipping Magnus' toenails- A couple had gotten so long that the toes were starting to turn sideways. They both handled it well.
I've got little seedlings in the greenhouse, they're growing slowly. I still need to finish clearing out the garden but it was a rainy, windy weekend. Maybe next weekend....
Now... I've gotta go. Tomorrow is another day that will come all too soon.
Yes... I've been absent for far, far too long. Life has been hectic, work has been awful and I've been over-run with apples.
We have had a killing frost here so it's finally time to shift from gardening season to sewing season. Maybe that also means I'll be blogging more often... although I feel that I don't have a lot left to say sometimes.
So... at long last, the tutorial on turning feed sacks into tote bags.
Now, this will only work with the plastic/fiber sacks. The paper ones are great for mulch but wouldn't hold up. The bag I made today has a few 'special modifications' as it is a request from Justine for hauling art supplies in college. This one is much large than I think would be practical for shopping.
First, select your feed sack and make sure it is clean and reasonably dust free. This is a 50 lb sack so it makes a hugs bag when finished. I think the final dimensions are 17x6x20.
Flatten the bag and determine how big you want it to be and how you want the front panel centered. I used my rotary cutter (with an old blade) to cut off the top and the bottom. You want to cut about 3 1/2 inches below where you want the bottom edge of the bag to be and about 1 1/2 to 2 inches above the top edge.
From the remaining bag top or bottom, cut one or two strips about 3 1/2 inches wide. These will become the handles. Generally, you can cut just one strip and cut it in half for the two handles. Since this is a bigger bag, I wanted the handles longer so it can be slung over the shoulder, so I used two strips and cut a 30 inch long piece of each.
OPTIONAL STEP. For this bag, I made a pocket! I used a scrap of pet screen material that I have lying around, It is a great flexible fiberglass product that is incredibly sturdy. I've used it for the bottom of beach bags before (to let out the sand). Anyway, I used a 10x13 inch piece, folded up 5 inches to make a pocket. I covered the raw edge with bias tape first and also the sides to give a finished look. If you're going for this, set it aside when finished.
Now on to the handles. Take your strips and fold them into thirds lengthwise. You can pin them to get then to stay in place. I'm not sure I would want to try to iron this. For these, Justine wanted them to be padded so I layered in a 2 inch wide strip of quilt batting before I folded. If you do this, don't pad it all the way to the end or you will end up with too much bulk when you try to attach the handles to the bag later. Stitch the handles lengthwise down the raw edge. I use a zigzag stitch for extra strength. Set you completed handles aside,
Now, turn the body of the bag inside out, flattening it out. Make sure that the front and back are lined up correctly. Stitch the bottom of the bag. I used about a half inch seam but you can do wider or narrower as you prefer. I wouldn't go much narrower for strength reasons.
Here's the tricky part. Pull the front and back away from each other and form the corners to a triangle. Be sure to line up your seam with the side crease of the bag so it is even. Make sure your seam is turned one direction uniformly across the bag (not that it would be the end of the world if it wasn't).
This is where having some quilting tools comes in handy, but a ruler will do. Use your straight edge and pencil to draw a line across the corner, making sure to keep it even. I tend to make it about half an inch (on each side) wider than the creases for the sides of the bag. It's about 5 and a half inches. Pin the corner to keep it from slipping and stitch each corner on the line you drew.
Turn the bag right side out, paying special attention to the corners. The little triangles will just kind of float in the bottom. You could probably tack them down or cut them off if they bother you but they're just kind of there.
Now... fold the top edge twice to the inside- once about half an inch and then again about an inch- so you're rolling that raw edge under all the way around the top of the bag, making a band at the top.. Pin it in place to keep it from unrolling while you work.
ANOTHER OPTIONAL STEP!! Attaching the pocket. If you have chosen to attach a pocket, unpin a bit of the top edge at the back of the bag. Slip the raw edge of the pocket under the band all the way to the top, pin in place. The pocket will dangle inside the bag.
Stitch the top band close to the lower folded edge to secure it.
Attaching the handles. Handle placement is a pretty personal thing. Depending on the size of the bag and its intended use you can place them where you like them- just make sure they are evenly spaced and centered on the bag. Since this is a big bag, I spaced them 7 inches apart- 3 1/2 inches from the center of the bag front/back. Make sure they handles aren't twisted when you pin them in place to the inside of the top band.
Finally..... stitch the handles onto the bag. I use the square with an x through it for strength since there is a lot of pressure on those handles. You could also use strapping if you didn't want to use the sack handles. Strapping would be softer and not so stiff.
And... It's a big chicken tote! This one is big enough to hold several blank canvases that Justine left here.
Hope this helps. It's not too late to make a few for the holidays. Who knows... maybe I'll talk V into getting goats since they have some really cool goat feed bags. He was suggesting that we get a different feed last weekend so we could get a different color bag. Too funny.
Yeah.... I've been absent for a while again. My bad.
But it's been super busy here. Work has been stressful and hectic, the garden is beginning to wind down as the greenhouse winds up. Fall tasks have been much to the forefront of my mind.
A few photos of the past two weeks to tide you over....
Last weekend, we went to the Little Hawk Marching Invitational. Our school hosted a band competition for schools from around the area. Above is the daughter of a friend of ours from a neighboring school. Isn't she lovely?
Not to be outdone by I16.:
I love a man in uniform- even if he is my own son.
I must say, their uniforms are sharp.
While we were watching, we noticed the bees were all over a lost Starburst. They moved it several feet in the time we were there.
And V, looking quite dapper.
Bur fast forward to this weekend. K13 and I paid a visit to my parents today. V didn't go because he has an article due on Monday that he needed to work on and I16 was still asleep when we left (he had state marching band competition all day yesterday).
We picked apples today! Where to start??
The trees were absolutely loaded. Not that we really need any more apples after picking all from our tree, but variety is good.. right?
And I got to visit my favorite tree of all time- the huge cottonwood on the farm.
My parents supervised while K13 and I were up the ladders.
That's a LOT of apples!
Mom gave me a juicer so now I can make some cider. Evidently, my BIL, Dave got it and didn't like it- so he gave it to them. They didn't like it either (at least not as much as their old one) so, Mom gave it to me since we don't have one.
So, I know how my evenings will be spent this week. I've got apples to dehydrate, cider to press, applesauce to make and still, I need to find room for storage for apples.
Oh, what a dilemma....
Well, that's the current favorite name for tonight's creation.
I finally broke down and ordered a jar of squid ink. We love squid ink pasta but hate paying the super-expensive prices they ask for in the store- if you can find it at all. And, since we have lots of ghost chili peppers from the garden. I decided to make a ghost chili/squid ink creation.
The dough rests.
I do have a hand crank machine. But for quick work, I use the pasta attachment for the stand mixer.
And, yes, I wore gloves during the process. I do have to take out my contact lenses tonight and am wary of ghost chile peppers. Ghost chilis are the Naga Jolokia (rated at about 1,000,000 on the Scoville scale!) I used only a half of one in this recipe.
Mmm.... Black Death Pasta with alfredo sauce and chicken. Awesome!!!
Pasta recipe for Black Death Pasta:
Blend in blender:
Half of a ghost chile and a scant 1/4 cup water
Add 3 eggs a teaspoon of squid ink, a tablespoon of olive oil and give a quick blend.
Sift 2 1/4 cups unbleached flour (can also use some semolina) with 3/4 tsp salt. Make a well in the center and add liquid ingredients. Mix and then knead until silky. Let rest for 20 minutes and then roll to desired thickness with pasta roller and cut into noodles.
This can be used fresh or dried and/or frozen for later use.
We had a busy, busy weekend. This weekend, we finally replaced our leaky kitchen window. Hurrah!
The trim comes off! Justine's boyfriend came over to help, even though she is half the country away. (we think he's a keeper!!)
Masks on, the siding comes off. We were really worried about how much rot there would be in the wall since the window has been leaking longer than we've owned the house. We were relieved that it wasn't as bad as we had feared.
The old window comes out.
Why, oh why, didn't we get a big picture window? The view is wonderful!
New window goes in.
Roughed in from the inside but too dark to continue outside
Today new siding goes up.
The last piece in place.
And the vent pipe for the kitchen and downstairs bath is back in place. Finally, I can do laundry again.
And time for a nap! The final trim has been purchased. The outside trim will go up tomorrow. The inside woodwork will take a bit because it has to be finished.
This is the last part of the kitchen remodel that we did a few years ago. Finally, the kitchen will be DONE!