Tuesday, January 31, 2017

How 'Bout Them Apples?

After lunch today, our daughter (otherwise known as Chicken Mama to some) and I attacked two and a half 5-gallon pickle buckets full of apples in an attempt to turn them into applesauce.  I'm happy to report the mission was accomplished.

We used my new Victorio Johnny Apple Peeler for the first time.  Turned out to be a great little tool.

It did a jam-dandy job of peeling and coring the apples, no matter whether they were big, medium or small.

It also sliced the apple at the same time.

We got a little carried away trying to think of ways we could use the long lengths of apple peelings.  Chicken Mama suggested we dry them and use them as garlands on next year's Christmas tree.  I said we should just drape them outside on the trees as they are and the birds would love them.  (Or not, and they would start looking really bad really fast.) In reality, the peelings and cores went out to our poultry yard and a full bucketful went home with Chicken Mama for her chickens.

Okay, here's something for you to ponder.  How long is the continuous peeling from one medium sized apple, the peel being 1/4" wide?  Yep, we measured so we know.  How long would you guess?

As I was bottling up the first of the two batches of applesauce to go into the canner, I commented I'd always wanted to make homemade apple jelly, but had never done it.  Chicken Mama was still game for playing with more apples so I suggested she look up a recipe that appealed to her and go for it.

Unfortunately, we ran short of time before completing the jelly (pot of the simmering apple chunks above) but she got it to the point of draining the cooked apples in cheesecloth overnight to extract the juice.  Fortunately, tomorrow she's coming back, the juice gets reduced, and jelly gets made.  I can hardly wait to sample it on some toasted bread!

Monday, January 30, 2017

A New Apron Thanks to Sandy in California

After my post of January 12th, one of my readers, Saundra (Sandy) in California, sent me a note saying she had used the same "Winter Birds" fabric along with some of the companion fabric in the line.  She said she had leftovers of the companion fabric and didn't wish to keep it.  Would I like it?  If so, she would send it to me.

What a kind and generous offer!  I told her I'd be delighted to have it and a short time later, yards (yes, yards) of the companion fabric arrived here in Minnesota.

Last Saturday I spent several hours in my quilt room making an apron using some of Sandy's fabric and a pattern I'd been wanting to make.

The apron is reversible so I searched in my stash and found a brown that perfectly matched the brown stems in the berry fabric.

The idea of this apron with no strings, ties, buttons or snaps appealed to me, but I have to admit while attempting to try it on a couple of times to check for strap length, etc. during construction, I found myself feeling like I was tied in a straight jacket.  I was home alone and feared I was going to have to lie down on my quilt room floor trussed up like a turkey ready for the oven until someone came home and rescued me.  Truth to tell, once I figured out where my arms and head should be inserted, it was an easy on and off.  (Some of us are slower learners than others.)

Here's the front of the finished apron.  I didn't notice that those two straight branches down the front of the apron would stand out as they do until I saw this picture.  I should have centered them.  My bad.  Darn.

This is the reverse side of the brown fabric.  Looks kind of muddy in this picture . . . but then mud brown is one of my best colors.

And here's the back with the crisscrossing straps.

So, many, many thanks, Sandy, for your generosity in sharing this fabric with me.  I still have plenty of it left.  Hmmmmm, potholders?  Lots of potholders??

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Wanna See My (Belated) Christmas Present?

My dear, sweet, kind husband made me a quilt rack for Christmas.  He mounted it on the wall yesterday.  Okay, so it was a tad bit late.  He really, really wanted to have it done by Christmas, but so much was going on at that time (anybody relate to that?) that I talked him out of pushing himself to get it done.

For a long time I've wanted some kind of a rack on which to hang a quilt on this (what was a) bare wall at the bottom of the stairs from Papa Pea's second story office.

It isn't a large space so we were limited as to what would fit there.  After designing a couple/few racks that were too large (and could possibly inflict head wounds or whole body splats from tripping), we came up with this.

View of space where rack is from the living room.  Stairway to upstairs is to the left, doorway to my quilt room is straight ahead.

The view from my quilt room into the living room.

I am happy with it.  Very, very happy!  Thank you, Santa! 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Always New Things To Learn

I've been experimenting with einkorn flour in order to get a bread that holds together better and doesn't crumble as much as the Two-Hour Dairy-Free Sandwich Loaf on the label of the einkorn flour bag and also printed in the "Einkorn" book by Carla Bartolucci.  (See picture of cover below.)

But a little background.  We got turned on to einkorn wheat because it's touted as the most ancient wheat, and the only wheat that's never been hybridized.  It has more nutrients, vitamins and dietary minerals than the commonly available regular wheat.  Having 30% more protein and 15% less starch ranked it high in our quest for the best nutrition we can put in our bodies.  It also has a low gluten content which makes it desirable for those with a wheat intolerance.  (Just ask Susan and she will verify that fact.)  Although there isn't a gluten intolerance in our family, the other attributes of einkorn make it a grain I'm trying to incorporate into our diet.

Last night I made my favorite white bread recipe substituting half of the unbleached white flour with einkorn.  It rose well and came out of the oven looking good.

This morning we sliced it for breakfast.  The texture was as good as that made with all "regular" wheat flour.  (But, of course, I used only half einkorn flour in it.)  You can see by looking at the loaf (too much glare on the slices to show their true color) that the bread is more golden in color than white, and that's because the einkorn wheat berries are a lovely golden color producing a flour with a pleasant yellow/gold tint to it.

The flavor was great.  Einkorn flour is very rich and "buttery" tasting in everything I've made with it.

I was successful in making my pie crust using all einkorn flour last week.  My usual recipe, using all unbleached white flour, is flaky and tender.  The einkorn crusts when baked into a pie were very tender, but I wouldn't call them flaky.  They had more of a "solid" texture (lacking a better word to describe it) while still being tender and quite acceptable.

I need to keep experimenting, and if I learned all that is presented in this very informative book, I'd be a success.  I might even maybe be able to learn to make and bake bread with an einkorn sourdough starter which would make my husband very, very happy.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Addicted to Making Potholders (Could Be Worse!)

What can I say?  I love making them.  They're quick, useful and eat up small scraps of fabric.

I made two sets using bits of the fabric I had left over from the material I used in making the valances for our entry porch.

The fronts.

The backs.

I like this fabric so much!

The birds on bare branches in a wintery scene brighten up our old, gray, melting snow, ice and puddles.  And yes, navigating out there, whether on foot or in a vehicle, is treacherous at the present time.

Hey, Mother Nature!  This is January in northern Minnesota.  What's with this 30+ degree melty, rainy weather??

Thursday, January 19, 2017

How Depressing!

I went into our organic co-op (full-sized grocery store, really) this afternoon to pick up a few things along with a special order that had come in for me.

Strolling up and down the aisles, I saw something on a very bottom shelf that I wanted to check out.  Because I need a new prescription in my "up close" glasses (which I have been very neglectful about obtaining in a timely manner), I knelt down on the floor so I could check out the fine print and pricing of the item in which I was interest.

There I was trying to do some figuring in my head, and I suppose I must have had a concerned look on my face (thinking, you know) when a sweet gal who works in the produce section came scurrying down the aisle and said, "Mama Pea (she used my given name, of course), do you need some help?"

"Huh?" I looked up at her and rather stupidly replied.

"Can I, um--uh, help you . . . do you . . . need some help?" the dear girl asked. 

"Oh!  Did you think I needed help getting up?"

Now I could tell she was a bit embarrassed.  "Well . . . I mean, oh no, I just thought . . . " she mumbled.

For the record, although there are those who may think a portion of my brain cells are no longer firing reliably, I'm still in good shape physically and don't yet have any trouble getting up off the floor.  Or ground.  Or from peering onto the bottom shelf of a grocery store.

This whole little incident has convinced me that, vain though you may label it, I'm immediately starting a GoFundMe website so I can get a face lift.  And perhaps some body shaping in the lift and tuck and rearrangement departments.  Maybe even . . . a new prescription for my glasses.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

It's Hard to Potty Train A Honey Bee

Like everyone else, we've been struggling with our honey bees.  It's been quite difficult to build up strong hives which will consistently survive our rather long, and sometimes frigid, winters let alone simply keep them alive at this time in history when whole apiaries are being decimated.

Going into this winter we had a few strong hives along with two nucs about which Papa Pea was concerned.  Neither of the nucs contained a large population of bees, and he was afraid they might not be able to generate enough warmth to keep them alive over our coldest months.

To help them along through any possible winter time difficulties, he moved them onto our south facing deck and up against the house.

For the last three days, we've been experiencing a fantastic reprieve from the cold with lovely sunshine and temperatures hovering in the low 30s.

A great time for the bees as it's made conditions opportune for them to get out of the hives for cleansing flights and needed housecleaning (hive cleaning?).

And have they ever been taking advantage of the opportunity.

The deck area in front of the two nucs is plastered with . . . well, bee poop.  You would think the least they could do was go into the nearby woods to . . . umm, do what needs to be done.

All in all, it's a very good thing for the health and happiness of the bees.  For the surface of our deck boards, not so much.  Seriously, we're very grateful for this break in the weather and for great indications that these two little nucs are currently alive and well.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Porch Has Been Valanced

I can't tell you how many years (yes, years) I've been looking at the windows on our enclosed back entry porch and thinking how much better the whole (small) area would look (softer, cozier, more welcoming) with valances across the top of the windows.

Last time we were in the big city, I went into a Jo-Ann Fabrics store that had recently opened there and found this fabric I couldn't pass up.  Just the thing for the valances.

Here's a Before shot  of the porch windows.
(Taken on a very frosty morning.)

And the After picture.

This little touch makes me happy every time I see it!

This is also the time of year that I put up this sign next to the door into the house proper.  Maybe it's just me, but I get a chuckle every time I imagine someone going across the kitchen floor with snowshoes on.  Ga-lump-shuffle, ga-lump-shuffle, ga-lump-shuffle . . . 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Where Am I, Who Am I, What's Happening?

Ever have one of those periods when The List is just too long, the days are too short, you go, go, go all day but feel like you never get anything done?  Yep, me too.

I had this silly idea that once the holidays were over, my long, slow winter would begin.  Not happening.

We've been fortunate enough to have our dear daughter and her fella volunteer (okay, we're paying them extremely high wages -- haha) to help us on some projects that have been in the works forever, but have just not gotten done.

They assembled this temporary car port we purchased used years ago, but never got erected.  We needed a place for my new-to-me, little runabout car to live in this winter.  (It's in pristine condition and we decided not to subject it to the damaging salt on the roads during the winter months.)  Turns out putting this thing up was not an easy task.  I think they took it nearly completely apart at least twice to sew on reinforcing strips, put in grommets for tie-downs and in other ways secure it so the wind didn't tear it to shreds.  A simple, easy project it was not.

Daughter's fella is mechanically talented (among other things) and seems we've found several jobs to keep his hands constantly "greased up."  No doubt about it, things are getting done, big time.  But this wonderful help means we have to be on top of it enough to know which projects should be tackled first, second and third plus making sure we have the needed materials, repair parts, etc. on hand so progress flows smoothly.

My freezer stash of "convenience" foods is B.A.R.E.  Oh, I still have all the raw ingredients there or on pantry shelves but I get to feeling very uneasy when I don't have any prepared soups, stews, casseroles, cooked meats, breads, etc., etc. on hand with which to whip up a tasty meal with short notice.  I still haven't made my year's supply of applesauce.  Someone needs to get an experienced cook in here with about three day's worth of time to make hay while the suns shines.  (Or meat balls when it's snowing.)

Wouldn't ya know it, I've recently come across some new-to-me blogs that look just too good not to follow.  Thus far, they're still on my "wanna do" list as I haven't found the time to start reading them regularly.

I haven't managed to get to our organic foods co-op to shop in a couple of weeks.  They're running great after-the-holidays specials on many things I want to stock up on from organically raised turkeys to oats to laundry detergent.  (Dear daughter has for the past several years been making laundry detergent for both of us, but at the present since she's taken on a third -- or is it her fourth or fifth? -- part-time job [that would be helping us] she hasn't had a spare moment to whip up a batch.)

I've taken on a commissioned project (making a crocheted rug from heavy duty rug yarn) for our daughter.  She needs it by a week from this coming Sunday as a birthday present for a good friend.  I started the foundation row (the trickiest) and got two beginning rows done last night but, just before realizing how late it was and that I really should go to bed, did a measurement check and now will have to tear it out and start over as the way it is will be too, too wide.  Just goes to prove I shouldn't wield a crochet hook and try to count at the same time after 10 o'clock in the evening.

The view of the Fowl Compound as I
approached it this morning.

We got about 3-4" of new snow overnight.  We've yet to have a really big snowfall but I guess frequent smaller amounts do add up.

You can see we don't suffer from boredom around here even in the long, slow winter months.  (Say again when they start?)  

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Just Socks

Don't know how much creativeness I used on this project.  It's just socks, and all I did was pick out some jazzy yarn and follow a pattern.

Yes, they are pretty wild with color . . . dark green, brown, orange and even some mauve and white thrown in.

But since I do wear a lot of brown and orange, I'm pretty sure I'll find myself picking them out of my sock drawer often.

I've already got another sock (new, different yarn) cast on my needles.  Other than turning the heel on a sock (when I have to pay attention and think), it's kind of mindless knitting that's handy to have available as I can pick it up and knit when visiting or passing time profitably while I'm sitting for a few minutes.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Winter Shower Curtain Saga

Back in December of 2014 I decided I simply had to replace the quilted "winter" shower curtain I'd used for several years.  I've mentioned before that the one window in our small bathroom faces south, is at right angles to the shower stall, and because sunlight streams in this window, the shower curtain fades and doesn't look so purdy good after a few years.

So I dug into my stash of (mostly) blue fabrics and proceeded to make this "new" winter shower curtain.

Got it finished and put up in January of 2015.

Didn't like it.  At all.  Our toilet sits directly across from the front of the shower so I had plenty of time to scrutinize it and try to talk myself into liking it.

Never happened.  Matter of fact, in January of last year, 2016, I actually dug out the old faded blue and white curtain and used it instead of the "new" one.

Well, you can guess what was on my mind this past December.  Yep.  Another attempt at a winter shower curtain I was happy with.

I've had this book of quilt patterns by Evelyn Sloppy (I'm sorry, but that is such a bad name for an expert quilt maker!) for a while but never made anything from it.

The idea of the book is that you make one HUGE quilt block . . . and that's your quilt.   Sounded good to me.  Of course, the quilt pattern that I chose finished out at only 48" x 48".  I needed something 61" x 71" for my shower curtain.

After I constructed the big block, I added a border 6" wide of the dark blue fabric all around the perimeter.

Okay, so I then had the width of 60" (or close enough) that I wanted.

Then I played around with triangles and squares to find a pieced border to put on the top and bottom that would give me the 71" length.  (You have no idea how crazy I made myself auditioning different combinations before I settled on this one.)

I never put a "nice" backing on my shower curtains because . . . well, no one ever sees the back.  (The back faces in toward the shower and there is a plain white plastic curtain between that and the inside of the shower.  Or the person in the shower.)

This time I decided to use two good sized pieces of gray-ish fabrics I'd had forever and never used.

If you look closely, you can see where (about 3/4 of the way down the center star) I seamed the two different pieces together.  

The piecing of this quilt top went very fast (big pieces), but the quilting seemed to take for-evah.

This picture gives you a better view of the three fabrics I used.

Whew, so ends the saga of the winter shower curtain.  And ya know what?  I really, really like this one.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2017 The Creative Year

Have you ever experienced a time when several things you've read or heard have "come together" and seem to be trying to tell you something?

Since we are at the beginning of a new year, and New Year's Resolutions are on many peoples' minds, I've been giving the concept some thought of my own.

Any day is a fresh beginning, a new start.  However, in keeping with tradition, I'll give credit to the new year as being a good time for finding a way of a general "house cleaning" of my habits and routines and being able to make some changes.

I recently read this quote by Debbie Millman, Writer, Artist, Educator, and Radio Host.  She said:

"Busy is a decision.  We do the things we want 
to do, period.  If we say we are too busy, 
it is just shorthand for the thing being 
"not important enough" or "not a priority."

Now, I found that to be a truth that smacked me upside the head.

Next, I think I've recently read or heard on three different occasions the question:  What did you enjoy doing as a child?

As a child, I was nearly obsessed making things with my hands.  Drawing, painting, constructing paper mache dolls and animals, creating banners, drawing and cutting out different styles of letters and creating signs/sayings, making paper hats for different special occasions, making outfits for my paper dolls, designing clothes for my doll (which a loving aunt sewed for me), making party favors, name tags and place cards, greeting cards, elaborate paper chains, "sculpting" with clay, and on and on.

Lastly, I read but have lost track of where I saw this query (or to whom it should be attributed, sorry).  The question posed was:  What does success mean to you?  The answer:  To do something one is fulfilled and energized by.

Whoa, Nellie.  To feel fulfilled and energized!  Attainable?  Pretty exciting to think about, to my mind.

I've been whining saying for I-don't-know-how-many years that I don't have time to do all the creative things I want to do that would feed my soul which in turn would make me an all-'round better person.

Time to stop making excuses.  Time to use my creativity, which I've known was a need of mine since childhood, to fulfill and energize me.

The new year of 2017 is going to be my Year of Creativity. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year's Day Hike

A gorgeous weather day to start this new year.  Temperature almost reaching 20°, vivid blue sky with puffy white clouds, no wind, pristine snow cover, complete silence in the woods.

We strapped on our snowshoes and went for a hike
to the top of our property.

This is the highest point, the northwest corner.

We saw hundreds of tracks in the new snow.  
Fox, wolf, rabbit and deer.

A perfect outing.