Wednesday, September 16, 2009

WIP Wednesday

Today begins the second new feature I'm planning to post regularly—WIP Wednesday. For those of you who are not crafters, WIP stands for work in progress.

This week's featured WIP is a knitted feather-and-fan scarf that I begin months ago with the intention of it being my travel knitting. It has traveled to North Carolina and to Montana and Wyoming as well as on shorter trips within my home state. Unfortunately, I finished traveling before I finished the project! I haven't picked it up in weeks as I have been occupied with other projects, but now that I know who I am knitting it for and for what occasion, I am more motivated to get it done. For now, at least.

This is the second feather-and-fan scarf I have knitted. This one is different from the first one in that it uses one skein of sock yarn rather than three balls of a heavier weight yarn—perfect for portability. It also includes a purl row within the pattern repeat. IF there is a next time, I will not purl that row!

I am using Tiennie's Old Shale Scarf pattern and Sweet Grass Wool Toe Jammies yarn. Isn't it pretty?

Update 7-21-11: Pretty or no, I finally frogged it. I am not a scarf knitter! :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Homemade Bath Salts

Last week, I made a lunch date via email with a friend that I haven't seen in months. Later that day, I realized I had missed her birthday earlier in the month. She is the type of person who can appreciate a handmade gift because she makes them herself, so I decided to make her something. Because I was short on time and resources, I decided on bath salts.

I Google'd, and there is an abundance of recipes. From looking at a number of them, this is what I came up with:

4 cups of Epsom Salt
10 drops of lavender essential oil (I got mine here.)
1/2 cup lavender buds, optional

Place Epsom Salts in a bowl, and add essential oil. Mix thoroughly. Add lavender buds, and mix again. That's it! This recipe makes enough for several gifts.

For packaging, I filled up a mason jar and wrapped it in lavender gingham. (To learn more about wrapping with fabric, see Sonia's post here.) I was very pleased with the result, and I hope my friend is too!

Added bonus: I'm still enjoying the scent of lavender in the kitchen!

Monday, September 14, 2009

"Good Weekend" Defined

It was a good weekend. For some people, a good weekend may consist of a great trip or some special adventure, maybe shopping and a movie; but for me, a good weekend is one wherein I am able to stay home, accomplish much, AND enjoy myself and my family. I had hoped to complete a crochet project that I have been working on for months, which would give me a much needed FO to share here, but it didn't happen.

A few things that DID happen:
(1) Lots of housework on Saturday, including dish washing! I must have exorcised some kind of dish washing demon with my confession on Friday because I washed dishes BY HAND three times on Saturday! This was prompted by my frustration with the dishwasher. Not only has it never worked really well, but I have never been able to master the flow of loading and unloading. There was a never-ending accumulation of dishes on the counter waiting to be loaded, and I rarely seemed to be able to run the dishwasher fewer than two times a day—definitely not green! I decided that to maintain the kitchen as I would like, some hand washing would be required, so I invested in a dish rack. It says a lot about how much I have cut back on my consumption when the purchase of a dish rack can bring so much pleasure! LOL

(2) We made homemade dog treats. Easy recipe. Four ingredients. Lots of fun for the girl. And the dog loves them. Highly recommended!

(3) We had a visitor. He was in the back yard when we came home from church on Sunday. His timing was perfect since his photo is needed for the reptile section of my son's animal notebook for school. Isn't he/she cute?

I hope your weekend was just a nice as ours!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cookin' from Scratch

My life has continued to revolve around food this week. I am taking charge of my health and striving to live more simply and frugally, and all of this requires a great deal more attention to food than I have been accustomed to for some time. Bascially, we are eliminating processed and convenience foods and trying to eat whole foods as much as possible. (I am also currently forgoing sugar, caffeine, and most starches.) Therefore, I have been thinking about food, shopping for food, cooking food, and cleaning up the kitchen much more than I am used to, and it has taken up a great deal of my time.

I generally enjoy cooking, and have had periods of intense interest in cookbooks and watching Food Network. But my passion subsided with the realization that the other three people in my home are very picky eaters and often do not appreciate the things I cook for them. This limited my motivation to cook, and we gradually began eating out more and relying on convenience foods.

Two other factors I am up against are my lack of enthusiasm for grocery shopping and for dish washing. If I lived somewhere with a farmer's market and a well-stocked grocery store, the shopping thing would not be so much of an issue, but I live in a rural area where tomato paste in a tube is unheard of, and I can count on one hand the organic vegetables that are available.

The dish washing aversion is most likely due to the fact the I had to wash dishes as a child. My mom had excema on her hands, so it was my job to wash the dishes every night after dinner. I do have a dishwasher now, but that doesn't seem to make much difference. For me it doesn't appear to be the time involved but the task itself. We all have these types of aversions, I suppose. (For the record, among home keeping tasks, I also dislike dusting, sweeping, vacuuming, and ironing.)

For inspiration and information, I have been reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle in the evenings before bed. As I revisit the issues I originally familiarized myself with years ago by reading Wendell Berry's essays, I hope that the changes I am making are for good this time, and that I will not allow myself to fall back into the typical American mode of mindless consumption.

Top photo: Breakfast focaccia from No Need to Knead. (For my children!)
Bottom photo: Lentil stew based on the recipe from The All New Joy of Cooking (1997).

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Puttin' Up Pears

Right now, there are pear preserves on the stove. Earlier this week, I made pear honey. And later today, I'm making peach jam.

I haven't done any canning for the past couple of years, but this year I was determined to take advantage of the abundance of Kieffer pears from my in-laws' trees. Kieffer pears are common in older Southern gardens. They are very firm and little bit gritty, so a long slow simmer is required to make good preserves. Recipes are hard to find, but I think I have the confidence now to experiment a little bit. If my efforts are successful, I will report on it here and provide a recipe.

My first canning lessons were more than eleven years ago with my friend, Debbie. She came over to my house and walked me through the process of making strawberry jam. Since that time, I've put up blueberries and peaches, in addition to pears.

Canning is one of those things that the thinking about is actually harder than the doing. Once you get the necessary equipment and practice needed to determine the setup that works for you, all it requires is time and the availability of good produce. To get started, get a copy of the Ball Blue Book. Follow the instructions, and you will be fine.

Do you do any canning? If so, what is your favorite thing to put up? Do you have any favorite books or other resources on canning and preserving?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Crochet & Aromatherapy

Yesterday during piano lessons I finished the little crochet project I started over the weekend. It is a tumbler cover from the book Vintage Crochet. This was my first project using beads and Paton's Grace, and I plan on working with both again.

Crocheting with beads is simple, as long as you count out the correct number of beads, which I did not do, and follow the pattern correctly, which I also did not do. This resulted in my having to make some adjustments towards the end, but it being a small project made it an easy task. Paton's Grace is a DK weight cotton yarn that is relatively soft, doesn't separate too easily, and provides nice stitch definition. I highly recommend it for projects like this one, especially for anyone like me who wants to do thread crochet type projects without actually working with thread!

Months ago, the lovely and very talented, Anna, sent me some lavender from her home in the South of France. I had intended to use it to make sachets, but since one of the issues I have been dealing with recently is sleeplessness, I thought that perhaps some lavender at my bedside would help.

I emptied the buds into a vintage Ball canning jar whose lid is no more, placed my little crocheted tumbler cover on top, and, voila! Aromatherapy! I don't know if it's helping me sleep, but it sure is pretty! Thanks again, Anna!