Scrap Crazy

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It has been all about scrappy quilts around here. I’ve finished my second one and almost done with the third.  I made a decision to clean out my fabric and use up some scraps. It certainly did use up quite a bit of my stash which I am happy about but I think it added more scraps in the end. I am thinking I may need to make a few mug rugs and table runners to finish off those scraps.

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I decided on an Hour Glass block for my daughter’s quilt. Searching online I saw the best tutorial ever at Rita’s blog. This tutorial was just the step by step instruction that I needed. I didn’t have a pattern. I just made many little hourglass blocks and then sewed them together and kept going until I felt it was big enough for my daughter’s small bed. At one time I had bought yards and yards of the white border fabric on sale and still had enough left for this quilt. So technically, I didn’t buy any new fabric for this scrappy quilt.

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The second quilt was also purely a scrap quilt. Everything I used was in my stash. This is a huge quilt and is for my (and my husband’s) bed. I wanted something heavy because we heat with only wood and our room is on the top level of the house which means it is chilly at night. I used a thick cotton batting and a nice piece of flannel.  I tied this quilt because I liked the old fashion look to it.

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This quilt is made up of 9 square blocks. I kept going, using up my stash until it seemed big enough. I purposely taught myself not to care about the colors matching up. I literally had hundreds of squares in a bag and just pulled them out to sew them together. The only thing I did obsess about was putting two of the same fabrics together. Making this quilt was good for me because sometimes I can get a little too obsessive about patterns and colors and it will slow down my progress of getting things finished. So this was a little bit of a therapy quilt for me.

I am joining Amanda Jean for Finish it Friday today. Happy (Scrap) Quilting!

 

 

 

 

 

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Porcupine Poop

It was a beautiful day today and I couldn’t resist heading outside with the girls. Walking in the woods never bores me. Them yes, but not me. Today I thought it would be good to go into part of the woods we have not walked in a while. “It has a hill! You could bring the sled and slide!”, I said most persuasively. They loved that idea so we set out. Unfortunately there was a big tree that had fallen right in the middle of that hill that would have been awesome to slide down. We crossed a small stream and walked up the hill. The girls sat down for a rest and we all looked over at a huge rotten tree that had brown stuff all around the bottom of it.

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Can you see the brown stuff? Do you know what it is? Of course you do because you read the title of this post. Yes lots and lots of poop. From a porcupine.

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We didn’t see the porcupine but it was quite obvious one was living in that tree.  See the hole up there? This hole was toward the top of the tree. I think that is where the porcupine was sleeping.

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There were quills nearby too.

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It ended up being a nice walk, even though the sledding couldn’t happen. As tired as the girls acted while walking they stayed outside for another hour after I went inside. Hope you are getting a chance to be outside today!

Pink and Blue

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Joining Ginny again for a Yarn Along. I am working on these blue and white socks. I am using some self striping yarn on size 2 needles. I’ve been reading through this Nourishing Traditions book. It is pack full of little nutritional tips and recipes. There are collections of quotes, studies and opinions from many different scientists, doctors and other nutritional experts. I don’t agree with all the different philosophies but there is a lot of great information.  The recipes use whole foods and are very healthy looking.

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Here is a pink, white and gray pair of socks that I finished. These are for me. I am knitting the blue ones up for the girls. They like the short socks for the summer time. It is no where near summer right now so I think I have more time to finish them up.  Happy Knitting!

 

My Friends the Crock-pot and Freezer

Eat healthy, save money and make it quick! Easy, right? Not always, but I have a secret. With a crock pot and a freezer you can do all three. You are probably wondering right now how a crock pot, which is a SLOOOW cooker could be quick. With a small amount of planning ahead you can create quick, healthy meals to store away in your freezer for just those times that you need a quick easy meal. I do it all the time.

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I have a really big crock pot. You don’t necessarily need a big one. You could use two or three small ones. I often see small crock pots at Goodwill that are very cheap. The main idea here is to make enough for a meal and then some. The ‘and then some’ is going in the freezer for another day. Depending on how much more you make you could have yourself a healthy lunch or another supper. When you have a large family and you love to craft you need to have these little secrets to save yourself time. I also prepare foods in this manner that I don’t want to buy, for instance I don’t want to buy canned beans. They cost much more than the dried beans in a bag and they are loaded with extra salt.  There are studies out there about the lining of the cans too, but that is a whole other can of worms. I did not just write that, did I?

When I go grocery shopping I have a little rule I run over in my head. If I can make it, don’t buy it. This rule has saved us so much money on our grocery bill. It is also the best way to eat whole foods without the preservatives, chemicals, extra salt, and all that sugar! When you make it yourself you have all the control which is what I like. I won’t buy broth. I can make it myself. I won’t buy canned prepared soups. I can make them myself. Okay, you get it.

Here is a small list of things I make in my crock pot to put in the freezer.

Baked Beans

Chicken noodle soup

Black bean soup

Pea soup

Spaghetti Sauce

Pulled pork

Squash soup

Beef Stew

Chicken Marsala

Chili

Broth

 

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Above is a small collection of what I have waiting in my freezer. I have more in my deep freeze in the basement. Just make much more than a meal and put the rest away. When freezing, there are a few things to keep in mind. If you are using jars, as I do, do not fill to the top and do not cover until the contents are frozen. As you probably know things expand when they freeze. Plastic is an option if you cool the food completely before you pour it into the containers. Again, do not cover until frozen. Another tip when making soups is do not add any pasta until you are re-heating for your meal. I have made this mistake and the pasta gets gooey and overcooked.

If you have kids and they do activities or you work all day and get home tired or you just want more time to enjoy your day and night with your family try making a meal ‘and then some’ with your crock pot.The only thing you will have to do is remember to take out the jars in the morning. Put the jars in a pot with warm water and in a few hours you will have a meal.  I would love to share all my recipes with you and will, but not all in one post. For now, I will tell you how I make broth.

Ingredients:

A whole chicken, or two or three beef soup bones that have lots of meat on them. I get my beef by the half cow and I always get several soup bones. If you don’t have a half a cow in your freezer you could probably ask your local butcher or maybe even ask at the meat counter at the grocery store.

Water

Salt, pepper, herbs or spices to your liking.

Directions:

Throw everything in the crock pot. Turn on low and let it sit over night. Be prepared to be very hungry in the middle of the night because the most amazing smell will wake you.

Remove meat and bones. Use the meat for a variety of things. My favorite is beef or chicken pot pie. Yum!

Using a strainer, take ladle full amounts of broth and transfer to glass jars. If you want to use plastic you can transfer hot broth into a bowl and wait for it to cool. Using the strainer gives you a clear broth that if free of all the skin and small pieces from the meat. A clear broth is nice for things like making a white sauce for seafood.

Put in freezer uncovered. After it freezes put covers on and you are done!

The cast iron pot and bread maker are two more friends I have. I’ll introduce you to them another day.

 

New Fabric!!

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Oh my goodness I am in love with this new fabric I picked up this weekend. I have been eyeing it for a while, almost a year. I am also very excited about this new book The Farmer’s Wife 1930’s. I got this lovely bunch of fabrics at a shop here in Maine called The Busy Thimble. Most of the fabrics in this stack are from a line called Alexandria by Jo Morton. I was drawn to them throughout the store. The owner was so helpful. I showed her the book and the block I wanted to start with and she answered questions I had about color and patterns. My husband gave me a gift certificate to her shop for Christmas and I spent the whole thing!

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It is hard to describe the feeling of love I have for fabric.  Do you know the feeling you get when you hold a new baby, or when you hold a baby kitten or puppy? You know that feeling where you want to squeeze them? That is the feeling I have for new fabric. Especially beautifully made, quality fabric. Even my young daughters felt the difference in this fabric. It is soft and silky and I haven’t even washed it. I just love fabric, don’t you? I cannot wait to get started on this new project. I am making a shirt for myself right now though and I want to finish it first. A while ago I decided I really needed to reign in my UFO’s and make a pact with myself to do one sewing project at a time. So shirt and then quilt.

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I want to start with “Take to the Woods” or “Em”  from the Farmer’s Wife 1930’s  book. I like the pattern and I live in the woods so I felt it was a good one to start with. I know there are a lot of Quilt Alongs out on the web these days having to do with this book. Many are quite helpful with tutorials and flicker groups. Not sure if I will join them or not, we shall see.

Winter Is Here, Finally

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Winter in Maine is here. It did take its sweet time this year. I am sure there would be some that wouldn’t admit it but I think most of us were relieved that it did come. Snowshoeing is a soft slow walk. The trees are bare, the sky bright blue, the air fresh and still. It is so quiet out there today I didn’t even hear the birds. (Except the chickens of course) Nests have been abandoned. Forts in the woods are empty, the occupants moving to snow caves. The chickens are not so happy but they get out when they can. The raised beds are buried and the hoops are covered. I sure hope there are greens under there waiting for the thaw and the light. Color from the fungus and mushrooms is stark out there in all the white. I believe I discovered some Chaga out there! I walked until the sun started to set. It was a most lovely walk. I am so glad winter is here!

Yarn Along

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I have been reading Ginny’s Yarn Along  posts and couldn’t wait to join in.

I just started the book Christmas Bells by Jennifer Chiaverini. She is the author of all the Elm Creek Quilt novels. I loved them and so I saw this book on the shelf at the library and decided to give it a try. So far so good. It is a mixture of past and present. So far the book switches between present and past.  The past part of the story takes place during Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s life in the 1800’s. I didn’t see the book around Christmas time but a Christmas book is good any time of the year, don’t you think?

My knitting project is quite a story itself. I have been working on the above sweater for two years now. I actually finished it once! When I tried it on it was very bumpy and loose up on top in the chest region. The pattern does say for a “grown ass woman” and I am quite petite and have small breasts. My knitting teacher is so much better at knitting and patterns and such that she said we could sort of re-write the pattern for my small size. So again I knitted up the body of the sweater and brought it to class and tried it on. The bumps were gone and it looked great up top. It didn’t seem to fit around my middle as well as I had hoped. I was fine with it and everyone agreed that when I blocked the sweater it may stretch and it would be fine. So my teacher started showing me how to start the sleeves and I heard her groan. My heart dropped a beat. She then explained that after I tied off the sleeves with scrap yarn and started the lace pattern back up for the body I forgot to pick up the stitches for one sleeve. In my mind I hoped that there was something we were going to be able to do to fix it. I was wrong. My teacher told me that this was a reason the sweater did not fit right around the middle. I was missing about 3 inches of width in my sweater because of those sleeve stitches. So, out came the sweater again. I am fine with it because the yarn is so beautiful, it was expensive, and I’m knitting this sweater so I can actually wear it. I can’t imagine spending that amount of money and time on something that will just sit on my shelf. So, I am now knitting it for the third time.

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Isn’t that just beautiful yarn? I got it at a fair here in Maine.

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I  love the gull lace pattern that this sweater has. I have only been knitting for a few years and when I started this sweater that gull lace pattern seemed so hard. Now I can do it in my sleep. Practice makes perfect!

Super Easy, Delicious Crusty Bread

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I cannot remember where I found this recipe. Somewhere online. Maybe Mother Earth News. Anyway it is utterly the best crusty bread recipe. I usually make two loaves at a time. Sometimes I bake them in ceramic or cast iron pots and sometimes I bake them on my bread stone. They always come out perfectly yummy. (Except when I forget to add the salt to the dough!)

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This bread can be served for so many meals. We toast it and serve with eggs at breakfast. It is an amazing soup bread. We have used it for sandwiches and it is amazing. A little chewy on the crust but still delightful. I do freeze a loaf occasionally, but after it thaws it isn’t as crispy. It still keeps its great taste though.

Here is the recipe I use:

1/2 tsp. yeast

3 cups of warm water

6 cups of white bread flour (feel free to mix other types of flours)

3 tsp. salt

Mix all ingredients into a large bowl. (Don’t forget the salt) It won’t look like regular bread dough. It will look a little wet and sticky. That is fine. Cover with plastic wrap. Let sit overnight. I have let it sit for two days before when I got busy and the flavor is even better. Sprinkle flour on your counter. Dump dough onto flour. You do not have to knead this dough, but you will want to make it a little less sticky. I just roll it around in the flour until it isn’t so wet. Form it into two mounds. Cut a piece of parchment paper. Sprinkle more flour or corn meal down on the paper. Lay the mounds on the paper so they are not touching. Sprinkle a little more flour on the tops of the mounds. Cover with a light towel. Let sit for about an hour, maybe less. About 15 minutes before you are ready to bake preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place your two cast or ceramic pots inside the oven uncovered while the oven preheats. If you are using a stone place it inside now as well. When the oven is preheated place the mounds in the pots. This can be kind of tricky because the dough is so soft. Also be careful because the pots are very hot! Don’t worry about messing up the nice little mound because it will form again in the oven as it bakes. After you plop it in the pot give the pot a little shake to spread the bread out a bit. If you are using a stone this is not necessary. Cover pots and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15 minutes. If you are using the stone there is no need to cover. After the 45 minutes of bake time you should have yourself a wonderfully delicious loaf of bread! Now just try not to cut into it right away and have a bite. I dare you.