Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Yarn Along

For Yarn Along this week, I'm working on a very bright balaclava that I started a few weeks ago.  I actually only just picked it up again last night as I've been working on other projects. I've been reading Cleopatra aloud to the kids lately since we've spent a few weeks now studying ancient Egypt (more on that tomorrow, maybe). I've also been reading Unmeasured Strength in my own time, but it's on Kindle thus no photos.

The bulk of my crafting time over the last week has been with these cute little kitchen towels.  I'm still trying to get a jump start on Christmas gifts and these free embroidery patterns from Wee Wonderfuls grabbed my attention as the perfect little decoration for a few floursack towels that have been sitting in my closet for too long.

They look so cute hanging in my own kitchen that I just may have to make a second set for myself!

Monday, July 29, 2013


This past week has been so full of making that I didn't really have time to even blog about it. The making continues but hopefully I'll pause a bit more in between for a few updates here.

::blanching tomatoes for 10 more quarts of spaghetti sauce::

::enjoying beet-carrot-apple juice as often as possible::

::piecing a new quilt, Winter's Lane by Moda::

::finishing a shrug for a friend's daughter::

::roasting tomatoes, onions, and herbs for pizza sauce::

::stitching a Christmas project::

::starting the morning right with peach pancakes::

Monday, July 22, 2013

weekend canning

This weekend found me home with just Finn for the weekend. I decided to take advantage of that opportunity and start the tomato canning for the season.  As luck would have it, I also found cherries on sale and decided to make a batch of cherry butter as well. (While my cherry canning last year was quite extensive, this year's local cherry season lasted only about 3 weeks, mostly while we were on our road trip.  By the time we arrived home, we'd missed it.) If you ever find yourself with 10 lbs of cherries that you've no plans for, you should definitely pull out a crock pot and turn them into cherry vanilla butter. Slathered on warm biscuits, it's one of our favorite winter treats! If you find yourself gasping at the thought of using 6-7 tablespoons of expensive vanilla (on top of the usually expensive cherries), a vanilla bean or two that has been slit and scraped will work.  I just fish the beans out of the butter before canning. (Or you can make your own vanilla and save some dough that way.)

As for the tomato canning, I picked about 15 lbs of tomatoes from my own garden on Friday, then bought about 60 lbs of canning tomatoes from a vendor at our farmer's market. I've gotten quite a few questions about tomato canning recently. I'll try to answer a few of them here. I do have specific recipes that I follow for making both canned spaghetti sauce and canned pizza sauce. You cannot just take a recipe that you generally use for making sauce and can it in a water bath (pressure canning is a different story). Food in Jars has a great post on why it is unsafe to use a regular recipe for canning rather than a recipe that is meant to be canned. Here are the links for the recipes I use for pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce. I've used each of them for a few years although I adjust the seasonings.

Another tip that my mom told me a couple of years ago that has worked beautifully: after you blanch and peel the tomatoes, dice or break them apart then drain them in a colander that drains into a bowl. I do this with all of the tomatoes that I use in my spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce. Once the tomatoes are drained, I put them in the pot to make the sauce and pour the leftover juice into freezer containers. The two benefits to this are that the sauce needs less simmering to cook down into a thick sauce and the frozen juice is perfect to add to soups and chilis in the winter.

About half the jars you see in the photo above are just diced tomatoes. I do not drain those, but just dice, heat in a pot to bubbling, then add to sterilized jars, and pressure can for 15 minutes at 11 lbs of pressure. It seems like a lot of work, but even if you just start with diced tomatoes, which are simple and take little time, I think you'll find the value in turning seasonally fresh tomatoes into a very useful product for fall and winter.

Friday, July 19, 2013

{this moment} - pain au chocolate break

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. See Soulemama to play along.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

camping in summer

A mere 24 hours after Elizabeth, Finn, and I returned from visiting friends last week, we laundered our clothes, gathered our gear, packed some food, and headed for the mountains to camp. We met up with other friends, who also have 4 kids, and crossed our fingers that we wouldn't have as much rain as this summer has brought so far.

It was largely a weekend of...

feeding littles,

chopping logs,

playing hide-and-seek,

playing with a dirty baby,

watching a roaring river (that was several feet above normal and very swiftly moving),

building and rebuilding fires,

hanging from trees,

laughing with friends,

seeing the local sights,

climbing large rocks,

soaking in water from the natural hot springs,

cooking over the fire,

and staying dry.

As much work as it is to take 8 children camping, I always look back with fondness and forward with excitement to the next trip.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Yarn Along and a visitor

For this week's Yarn Along, I actually have several works-in-progress.  My box of yarn for Christmas present knitting arrived recently and I've started on a couple of those works.  I also just began this white shrug for a friend who needed one for her little girl. I recently finished reading Wonder aloud to Elizabeth and Finn.  Paulie's finished it and Philip is reading it now.  We all agree it's one of our favorite middle grade reads that we've read in a while. I hope all of my kids will benefit from reading this exploration of humanity, courage, and kindness.

Other works-in-progress: a sport weight version of Mr. Pitt's socks, which I plan to make notes about on Ravelry, and a balaclava for Philip (he picked out the bright green yarn which will certainly make him...ahem, noticeable, if not frog-like)

As I was trying to take photos for Yarn Along this morning, our resident cat jumped up for some petting action.  We didn't actually *get* a cat, but this one has apparently adopted us.  For several days now, it has been showing up around 8 am and staying until after 9 pm. The kids go out on the deck and pet it occasionally and ask if we can keep it. I assume it's not lost since it does disappear for the evening although it tries to come into our house anytime we open the door. He/she is quite cute!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

at the goat farm

While we were down visiting my friend, Jenni, last week, we also made the short trek out to a nearby goat farm.  

Jenni and her family have actually purchased 2 of the baby female goats and are waiting for them to wean before bringing them home.  We were so excited to meet the newest members of their homestead!

Yep, they're still nurslings.

Elizabeth was head over heels for the baby goats.  She's now decided that she wants a small breed goat as a pet too.

The farm we visited primarily sells goat milk, but they keep a few sheep and horses as well. These sheep were a bit too far away to pet, but that didn't stop me from imagining their fluffy wool spun into yarn.

The baby goats were so funny to watch.  The kids were hand feeding them weeds from just over the fence. When the weeds disappeared, the baby goats were trying to nibble part of the fence.

(The baby we brought with us was pretty cute too.)

We arrived at the farm at milking time, which was fascinating to watch. The last time Jenni visited, the farmer taught her how to hand-milk the goats, but this time we watched them being milked by a small pump, which was remarkably similar to a breast pump. (Go figure!) For the most part, the goats just happily ate their feed while they were pumped, although occasionally they would kick off the pumps.

Shortly before we left, the kids took a few minutes to admire the horses.  They were certainly beautiful!