Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day -- A Busy End to Quite A Week

This week, after helping our neighbors celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary,

we remembered my mom on her birthday, 

determined that it's a lot easier to make tomato juice (left -- 12 quarts in about 3 hours) than tomato sauce (right-- 6 quarts in 6 hours),

cooked for a beautifully unique wedding with 300 guests,

and made a cake.

Plus, after many years of thinking about it, we're replacing our flooring downstairs.
And yippee!  Pictures to follow.

I am one happy, but tired, girl.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tomato Powder. Huh?

Maggie and Nate planted our little garden this spring -- they are much better gardeners than we are.  
They garden, I can.

They have tomatoes like crazy, and on Monday, I put up 10 quarts of juice, using my cool new Norpro Sauce Master strainer: 
which you can purchase here at Amazon, or at the Ace Hardware if you live in my town!
(I really need to monetize my blog, don't I?  I just made a commercial.)

Anyway, you get this fantastic juice after you put the tomatoes through the strainer, and you get a mess of seeds and skins, which would be perfect for the compost.

But I had read on other blogs about dehydrating the skins and re-using them.  So that's what I did.

I don't have a dehydrator, so I just spread the refuse out on a  Silpat and put the cookie sheet in a low oven for many hours (probably around 6) with the door held ajar with a kitchen towel until the mess seemed nice and dry.  (It was suggested to dry them at 140 degrees -- my oven only goes down to 170, but it seemed to work just fine.)

Then I put the dry bits into the Cuisinart and pulverized the crap out of them:

I tossed this stuff around in a sieve, separating the powder from the seeds, which were really bitter.  (Are tomato seeds always bitter, or is that a result of the cooking and drying process?  Do we just not notice because the tomato is so delicious?  Further research warranted ...)

Then I processed the mix once more, sieved again, and got this:

Tomato powder.
It is really delicious and extra tomato-y, and I am looking forward to trying it out this winter.
I don't know, but I am open to suggestions ...


Monday, August 18, 2014

A Volunteer Quilt

It's been a lovely summer.

I had hoped to have 3 graduation quilts completed before we went on vacation with the graduation boys and their families in early July.

One was completed last week.

Luckily, the moms of these boys are my dear friends and completely understand me and how it is that I roll.

This first one is Tim's.  He graduated from the University of Tennessee with an engineering degree in May.  I had been thinking about this quilt and collecting oranges for a few months.  5" squares set in a checkerboard, (a la the UT end zones) machine quilted with an X.  Then, because Tim is also a Chicago Bears fan, I bound the quilt in deep navy blue

and added blue strips on the back side.

Happy graduation, sweet guy.

PS  I took these pictures at my sister's house.  How cute is that bike?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Blackberry Summer

In July, we did this.  

Probably about 4 gallons of blackberries there, picked in about an hour.

Yep.  That's how awesome that blackberry patch is.
(Lots of pretty little jars of blackberry jam and a couple of cobblers from this picking.)

I posted this picture on facebook, and everyone wanted blackberries!  But I couldn't help anyone out, because these aren't from my patch.  I don't have a patch.


Do now.  Or at least we have the beginnings of one.

Jenny had the space out on her sweet little farm, she has parents with blackberry expertise, and parents who were willing to give us starts off of their blackberries.

I had enthusiasm.

Saturday (because we had time and because the Farmer's Almanac and Jenny's dad said it was the right phase of the moon) with the help of our husbands, we did this:

We plotted out two nice straight rows (far enough apart to mow between) then dug holes 36" apart.
We filled in those holes with some dry sweet corn shucks and sand.

Because we both hate to weed, we covered the sand mounds with landscape fabric,

which Jenny's dad later told us was a mistake, because we want the vines to fill in between the holes.  So we peeled back the fabric between the holes so that the vines can spread.  

Then we loaded up and went to gather blackberry plants, which was a huge job, and made us glad we married strong men who don't complain at their wives' schemes.  Much.

Here's a nice little row.  Isn't that beautiful?    

Jenny's dad says the key to good blackberries is lots of sand and lots of dry matter.  So we piled on lots of sand from his sand farm.  Which is a whole other interesting story.

We helped Brian put in the fence posts and wire supports, had a beer, a nice supper and a good night's sleep.
Dreaming of blackberries next summer . . .


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Canning Club - The Work of Our Hands

Canning is hard work, and much more fun when done with others.

Luckily, I have friends who agree, and we've been canning together.  I call it Canning Club, but Will thinks Little House on the Prairie Club is a better name (although I told him I don't remember reading about Carolyn Ingalls using a pressure cooker.)

So far this year, Club meetings have been held on strawberry jam day, raspberry jam day, frozen corn day and blackberry jam day.  Next week, it's green bean day.  5 bushels of green beans day.

To practice for green bean day, Clay and I did up 17 quarts last weekend.  We were proud of ourselves, but that's a pretty measly accomplishment compared to my mom's 100-quarts-a-year habit.

On Monday, Jenny and I went to visit Margaret, who was a dear friend of my mom and dad.  Jenny had told her about our canning aspirations, and since she doesn't can anymore, Margaret offered us all her jars.  We came home with a car full of jars, so I was inspired, got out my Ball Blue Book and put up a few more jars.

Dilly beans were always #1 on my mom's canning hit list, so I thought I would try them.   My first batch looked very wrinkly (Maggie says, "Think witch fingers") so I looked to Google for some answers.  Turns out you need to use very fresh green beans for dilly beans.  I tried again with very fresh beans from my neighbor, Mike, down the road.  Still a few wrinkly ones in there, but I was happier.  My first 5 pints have already been given to friends and family, and I have 7 from the second batch -- one is earmarked for Laura, a CC member and dilly bean lover.

We love to cook Indian food, and I love chutneys.  I think I am the only one here who loves chutneys, so the 7 half-pints of peach chutney will probably last quite a while.  Would you like one?

I'm thinking of putting Chicken Masala on the menu this week just to pop open a jar, but I'd eat this chutney with just a nice plate of brown rice or quinoa.  

Will approves of this corn relish -- it's sweet and snappy, kind of like him.  I used 15 ears of corn, an onion, 1 red pepper, 1 green pepper and lots of sugar and vinegar to get 6 pints.  I'll probably be gifting most of these jars, too, or Googling "What to eat with corn relish."  

Finally, ketchup.  Once, many years ago, we were at a restaurant in Indianapolis where they served homemade ketchup with their fries.  It was so good and so much like my mom's, it made me cry.  

Making ketchup was such a big deal in our family, I've blogged about it before.  

I wish I knew my mom's recipe, but since she used the Ball Blue Book, I'm guessing this is close.  I've given a jar to each of my sisters, and am awaiting their assessment before I make more.  And I will be making more, as there are about a billion green tomatoes out in the garden.  

The 6 little half pints of ketchup took 4 quarts of tomatoes and about 4 hours of messy boiling and simmering (you reduce it by half twice!)  Clay, my kitchen cleaner, said he was glad he knew I made ketchup or he would have thought there had been a knife fight around the stove.  

As Carrie Newcomer wrote in her song, Work of Our Hands,

Twenty jars of dill beans canned
From an old recipe that my mother gave to me,
Because it's good to put a little bit by,
For when the late snow flies,
All that love so neatly canned,
By the work of our hands.

Peace.  In the world, and in jars.  

Friday, August 8, 2014

Paul's First Day of Kindergarten

Because he didn't cooperate in the morning, Maggie brought Paul over so I could take his first day of school picture with my good camera.

He didn't cooperate much here, either:

 until I bribed him with a trip to Orange Leaf:

 Hey.  A Mimi's got to do what a Mimi's got to do.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Fair Things - Joannie's Shawl

Last year, for Joannie's birthday, I gave her a skein of sock yarn and promised a pair of socks.

This year, I showed her sock #1 and promised sock #2.

But that's getting ridiculous.  And I am rotten at socks.
So I made her something else:

The pattern is Over the Willamette, from the Life Adorned blog and is available as a Ravelry download.  I used a fingering yarn from Araucania Yarns.

It won't be warm like socks, but it's pretty.  And done.


PS Blue ribbon at the fair on this, too.  I took Annie's Shawl to the fair, and received a red ribbon -- it was a good year.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Fair Things - Matroyshka Dolls

This is my friend, Bella.

When she comes to visit, Bella loves run, color, wear funky glasses and play with my matroyshka dolls.

Clay promised that the next time he goes to Russia, he'll bring her back a set of her own, but when I saw a crochet pattern for stacking dolls, I knew I had to make them for her.

 I purchased the pattern from the CHD Shop on etsy, and I was so pleased with the clear, thorough instructions.  My dolls came out a bit bigger than those in the pattern, but I didn't stop to check gauge -- I was just excited to get started, and for a lot of projects, gauge isn't critical.

I used Vanna's Choice worsted weight acrylic and a size H crochet hook, and added the details with felt and embroidery.  I took them to the fair, where the dolls won a blue ribbon.

Mir.  And peace.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Messy Organization

When a sweet little girl wants to come over to learn to knit, crochet and sew (and maybe cook a little, too), it's time to clean your workroom.   (I say, don't let people know how messy you are until after they decide they like you.  Then it won't matter as much.  I hope.)

This was my sewing area before:

Ugh.  I needed to get better organized before our lessons.

Actually, I like to organize.  I organize and organize and organize, but them things get busy and I get too many projects going at once and I make a big mess and then I get frustrated because I can't find anything.  I know they say creativity is messy, but so is frustration.

So this is what I did -- I sewed up an organizer thingie:

It's not perfect, but it works, and all my tools are close at hand.  There are pockets for scissors, bobbins, sewing machine feet and all the things I need when I sit down to sew except for a cup of tea.  I tied my mom's little stork scissors to some cool measuring-tape ribbon (that was tied around a stack of fat quarters from Crimson Tate) so I would always have them handy.  And I sewed up a little scrap bag to have close -- I toss threads and scraps toward the trash can across the table, but usually miss.  There is a sleeve on the back for hanging the organizer from a curtain rod.

 And, of course, I didn't make up a pattern or write down my steps.  Awesome, pin-worthy craft tutorials are not really turning out to be my thing.  If you want to make one of these, just come over and we'll work it out together.

I did, however, want to share one thing.  Part of my problem is that my sewing tools get covered with stuff.  Fabric, patterns, stuff.  I thought if the pockets in my organizer were clear, I could find my stuff better, so I decided to use some clear vinyl.  And I wanted to bind the edges of the vinyl pockets so that the scissors wouldn't poke through.  So here are my vinyl sewing tips:

1)  For a huge piece of cheap vinyl, go get a clear shower curtain at the dollar store.  I wish I could say this is my original genius idea, but I'm pretty sure I read it somewhere else.

2)  You don't want to pin the vinyl, but these little clips work great:
Regular old paper clips would work, too.

3)  And since the vinyl will get sticky and not move too well under your presser foot, a simple solution is to put some tissue paper under the vinyl as you sew, then tear it away later.

I ended up moving the bulletin board to the workroom door, hanging up my mom's thread holder, and moving the washi tape to the basket where I used to keep my thread.  I folded fabric, picked up pins, swept the floor, took apart the vacuum after I clogged it with thread and dog hair, finished sweeping and generally gussied up the joint.

I think I can be much more creative in a neat space.  At least that's what I've been telling myself.