Friday, May 31, 2013

Rosy Vision

I love to make jelly that is not standard fare.  So I decided since I have a wedding shower coming up I would make some new jelly for the bride and groom. So I started with these beautiful bright pink roses from my mom's bush.

My bowl of prepped  petals
I started by picking two gallon Ziploc bags of rose petals.  It was almost dark so I didn't stop to strip the bottom end of the petals.  The directions that I had said to clip the bottom white part of the petals, because they would be bitter.  I simply pulled off the petals and bagged them filling the bags as full as possible.

The color change with the boiling water
I took them home and the next night I spent about four hours clipping off the white part of the petals.  After I completed this task, I boiled about a quart and a half of water to steep the rose petals. Next time I will take the time to clip off the ends as I harvest the rose petals.  I washed the rose petals in a full sink of water fishing them out by hand after swishing them around in the water for a few seconds.

The jelly started
I put the petals in a good size bowl, and poured the water over the petals.  They immediately changed from very bright pink to a very faded pinkish purple.  After I got the petals on to steep I went to bed.  The next day, I strained the liquid and petals through my own jelly cloth.  I squeezed every bit of liquid I could out of the petals before discarding them.

My work station
I love the color of this jelly
I took the liquid and poured it into a large heavy pot.  Unfortunately, for everybody, I am an old fashioned cook and I don't measure as much as I probably should.  As a result I am not sure how much sugar I put into this batch.  I only added sugar to taste, and I don't like jelly that is overly sweet.  I do know that I added 3/4 cup of powdered pectin and about 2 TBS of lime juice.  I like lime juice because I found that it is not as sharp.  Also so you get and idea of amount, my pot is a five quart. and it almost boiled over.  It really was a big batch of jelly.

I then cooked the jelly until I could put a spoonful of jelly on a plate to the side and have it jell as it cooled.  At the same time, I was sterilizing my jars in another pot.  As soon as I was happy with the level of jelling, I started to fill my jars.  I would fill one, wipe the rim, boil the lid, tighten the ring, and flip the jar upside down on the counter.

When I was all finished, I had 4 half cups, six half pints and half of a pint jar.  When I tasted the finished jelly I was thrilled with the flavor.  It was sweet and floral without being overwhelming.

All in all, it was a wonderful experiment that I will definitely be repeating this year.  Everyone that has tried it so far has liked it.

Almost finished
Ok, so my nieces wanted something to do today while they were with me.  I told them that if they would pick me roses I would make jelly for them to take home with them.  So my oldest niece brought in about a gallon bag worth maybe more.  She just cut the flowers off the bush like I told her and I trimmed them as I separated them,  This difference is huge!  The time required for this step was about a quarter of what I originally spent.

This is totally worth the time and effort if you like to give homemade gifts or just really like jelly.  It would go perfectly with  tea and toast, or scones.
Isn't it pretty with the sun coming through

Monday, May 27, 2013

Spring Fling

I found out that I have some strawberries in my backyard that are in a shady spot.  They are also not in a spot that is convenient to keep an eye out for ripe berries.  So I thought that I would try an idea I saw on Pinterest.  So I bought clay pots that I can use to make a stacking planter.  I am painting them so they will hold more moisture, i.e. not have to be watered quite so often. Anything that works to make life easier is a plus in my book.  I got enough for two stacking planters.

After I got my paint, between rain and a migraine  it took me about two weeks to get my pots painted.  After they were painted I still had to get my potting mix.  This was fairly easy to make myself.  My father has about three dump truck loads of leaves that have been sitting for three years.  This means they are wonderfully broken down and are more like dirt than leaves.  So I mixed about 1 part vermiculite to 2 - 3 parts leaves.  I don't have pictures of this step because I was working late in the evening and it got too dark for pictures.  I mixed everything up in my kids plastic wading pool which worker really well.  Each pot has to be stacked after the one under it is full of course.  This makes it possible for you to place the pots at an angle.  Unfortunately By the time I got my pots all done, the strawberries already had berries on them.  Since I don't want to kill them I am going to wait until the strawberries have ripened to move them.  In the mean time I am planting nasturtiums in their place.

So to spruce up things this spring I decided that I needed a table for the front porch.  Well, I didn't want to spend any money, and my dad has all of the wire spools that he just has to dispose of eventually.  So I rescued one of them from the trash pile.  However I didn't want to end up with it rotted on my porch, so I used the leftover paint from the pots to paint the spool as well.

 I think that it will work quite well, and it won't blow off the porch in a stiff wind.  I have to consider this since the rest of my furniture for my porch is folding chairs.  On top of the spool, I have a 12 inch pot planted with pansies sunk in an 18 inch pot also planted with pansies planted around the sunken pot.  I think in about a month it will be truly beautiful.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Caving Adventures

the entrance
We will start with some background.  My children have been doing school this year through Tennessee Virtual Academy.  TNVA is an online public school.  So last week we took a trip to Cumberland Caverns as a field trip for my kids.  They had never been to a cave before so it was an adventure.  This was our only field trip with TNVA.

Saltpeter room with donated still (non-operational)

S looking at the water
We met at 9:30 on the 17th of May.  When we arrived it was cloudy, but not raining.  We had some time before our tour started for the kids to play and introduce themselves to the other kids.  Of course, it started raining before we headed to the cave.  Fortunately it had tapered off a lot before we started out.  It was a 10 minute walk from the gift shop to the cave entrance.

the pool under "Moby Dick"
After we were all gathered inside our guide began to tell us some of the history of the cave system.  We started off in the saltpeter room.  This part of the cave, the Henshaw system, was initially relatively small and was used during the War of 1812 and the Civil War to mine saltpeter for making gunpowder.  We were told that 1 ton of earth produced approximately 2 pounds of saltpeter which would make enough gunpowder to fire a cannon twice.  The next room contains the water source for this cave.  It is formed by a constant waterfall that forms into two clear, pure pools of water.  The biggest formation in this room is the "Moby Dick" between the two pools.  It doesn't look like it, but our guide said that the deepest point in the pool in the picture is eight feet.  It didn't look like it would be more than about three feet.

Oasis room - small pool at the arrow
holds about a gallon & a half
From here we went through the "Meat-grinder" passage.  It is called this because the man that found and first traversed the passage between the two cave systems looked like he had been through a meat grinder when he came out the other end.  Now, however, the passage is wider and quite smooth.  This passage connects the Henshaw system to the Higgenbotham system.  The Higgenbotham section is much larger.  It is also much drier.  The only natural water in this section is in the Oasis Room.  Many of the natural formations in this room are broken, presumably by cavers racing for the water in a small pool in the corner of the room (marked by the arrow in the picture to the right).  This pool only holds a little over a gallon and takes about two days to refill when emptied.

Graffiti from first "field trip" in 1903 
The next room is called the Bone room, due to the number of broken formations found here.  There is also some graffiti to be found here, including this rock on which is documented one of the first "field trips" into the cave.  Our guide informed us that this particular group stayed in the cave exploring for three days.  Even after 110 years the names were remarkably clear.

The three chessmen in the room "Hall of the Mountain King"
From the Bone room we next went to the "Hall of the Mountain King".  There are stone stairs cut now that make the trek up the 100 feet in elevation across the length of the room easier.  There are several formations in this room including the three chess men.  From here we traveled down a stairway and through a narrow passage to the Ten Acre room.  In this room their overnight tours camp.  There is also a large assortment of graffiti in this room including the oldest known signature.
The chandelier in the volcano room

From this room we traveled trough a wide passageway to the volcano room with it's chandelier to eat the lunches we brought with us.  The chandelier is over 100 years old and was salvaged from a hotel in New York City.  This room is also where they do underground bluegrass concerts.  The acoustics in this room are amazing.

R and boys walking down a passage
After lunch we all went back up to the gift shop where each of the kids were given a bag of sand with semi-precious stones mixed in.  Then we all went out beside the gift shop to the sluices that line the sidewalk.  Most of the kids just picked out the big stones and left anything small.  B and I, however, had a lot of fun going thru the sand in the bottom of the sluice and picking out the little stones.  We found lots of little bitty stones that are really neat.  Of course, I love little bitty things so I was too busy looking for "treasures" to take any pictures of this part.  But my daughter and I did have a lot of fun finding the little ones that others had discarded.
S's bag of treasures

As I said I love little things

Monday, May 20, 2013

All Sufficient Grace

I have struggled for years with health issues.  Yes, it is frequently tempting and more to run headlong into a drippy pity party.  However much it is tempting, this would not be a reaction that would honor my Lord and Savior.  Now, don't misunderstand.  I am not some great spiritual guru, nor am I a particularly saintly person.  I struggle sometimes daily with depression, frustration, hopelessness and defeat.

Now, I know that my struggles are not unusual or unique in any way.  I know people that have greater physical problems than myself, but I also know that God has put me in this situation for a reason.  I am not uniquely gifted or extraordinarily capable to deal with this situation.  However, God has taught me a great deal about myself and about His amazing grace, provision and strength.   Without these I would not have made it to this point in my life.  Even on the days when I have to take just a minute at a time, He is always there to give me the strength and grace to make it through that minute, and then on to the next, and the next.

Our Father has so much love for His children and He is not blind to our troubles and hurts.  After all if He knows the number of hairs on our heads, surely he knows the grief and cares of our hearts.

One of the greatest tools that God has given us, in addition to the Bible, to help us through these times is our local churches and Christian brothers and sisters.  Whether our help comes from participating in your regular services or from the fellowship with fellow members, your local church is a recourse that cannot be too highly regarded.  If your church is like mine, your fellow members are kind and caring and a huge source of encouragement.  I believe that this is part of God's purpose for the local church.

So if you have a friend that you haven't seen  as much as you would like, remember that there may be trials in his or her life that are too personal or painful to share.  Remember that you could be the one that they need encouragement from today.  You can be either a help or a hindrance to others, so let us all endeavor to be the caring person that God would have us to be and offer a word of encouragement where we can.

So on the days when I am really dragging, emotionally or physically, I have learned to lean on the only One who can  give me the strength and grace to make each and every day one to be lived with joy.  Yes, there are still days when I stumble and fall on my face, but my Savior is there to pick me up and set me on my feet again.  So don't give up.  Don't give in to the fear or the feelings.  Do live each day to the fullest!  May God bless you richly and help you to see them too.  And may we all remember to lift up those around us every chance that we are given.

By the way, all of the pictures here were taken by me.  I have not used my blog name on them so that if you want to print and use them in your decorating scheme you can.  I hope that you enjoy them.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Dress Makeover

My daughter in her new dress
A piece of the original dress
Now this post is not about fashion.  It is about using things that are available.  I have been given some of my grandmothers dresses that are too large for me.  I had a thought that I might be able to cut them down and make dresses for my daughter.  I started with the pattern that she chose, then I matched it with the dress that I would be able to cut it from.

The pattern piece pinned to the dress section
The pattern that she chose was of course a princess cut.  There was only one dress that would work for this pattern.  Of course, I had taken the dress apart before I thought about  taking pictures.

It took me two sessions to get everything all cut out.  I cut out a size 10 knowing it would be a little big right now, but it probably won't be for long.  The work of a mother is truly never finished.  As I was cutting the front panel out I realized that I couldn't cut the pattern out as it was designed.  Because my grandmother's dress had a V neck with a dickey, I had to cut this dress out with a V neck.  Fortunately, my grandmother's collar and dickey were still usable   So I can just cut the collar down a little because it is too wide for a little girl's dress.  The collar and dickey were very nicely made with decorative stitching along the edge.
Cut to pattern piece

Back of the dress
I started by sewing the sides to the middle sections.  Then I sewed the middle seam up the back, using a wide basting stitch through the section where I will install the zipper.  After that I pinned and sewed the zipper down.  After the zipper was sewn I had to pick out the stitches that I had used to keep the zipper centered.  Then I sewed the collar pieces onto the appropriate front section with the facing.  After I got the collar pieces sewn down to the main piece, I sewed the two front sections together making sure that I matched the edges at the collar.  After I sewed the pieces together I sewed in the dickey.

Front of the dress
At this point the front and back are still separate.  I laid the back section down on a piece if scrap material and cut facing for the back.  After sewing in the facing on the back, I pinned and sewed the shoulder seams. I still had the sleeves to put in.  However, I was able to leave them hemmed from the original dress, so I didn't have to put hems on them.  After the shoulder seams were finished, I pinned, eased  and sewed the sleeves into the dress.

Now all I had left was the side seams and the hem.  I did add a small tie to the sides of the dress, because I knew it would be loose through the waist.   After I finished the side seams, I had my daughter try on the dress.  I wanted to make sure that the hem was the right length.  I pinned the hem and started sewing.  As I was finishing up the hem I was trying to figure out what I could do to make the dress a little more fun.  I thought of all of the white 1/4 inch satin ribbon I have and thought that it would do the job.  So I added one row to the sleeves and three rows at the hem.

I think that this dress turned out very nicely and am looking forward to the next one.  Oh, and my daughter really likes it also, always a plus.  ;)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Soap Suds

Mixing to Trace
Now I have made 3 batches of hot process soap.  I have also made one batch of cold process.  I made my first batch of cold process (Hereafter CP) at the same time as I made my third batch of hot process (hereafter CPHP). 
I got the batch of CPHP traced in the crock pot and then started mixing the CP with my immersion blender.  By the way, don't try to trace 2 batches one right after the other.  It gets the blender to hot to hold.  So I get the CPHP to trace and started it cooking while I got the CP to trace. 
Medium Trace

Bars all trimmed and drying
After I got to medium trace I poured it into molds, put the lids on and wrapped them in blankets.  This is supposed to help the soap "gel."  Well, apparently, if you use ice cream buckets as molds and don't fill them most of the way up, they do not keep enough heat to get to the gel stage.  When I unwrapped them on day 2 after I molded them, they looked almost exactly the same.  So since I had heard that you can put molds in the oven to accelerate the gelling process, I thought I would try to see if it would work to save my batch of soap.  I pre-heated the oven to 200.  Since these containers can handle boiling water, I figured that this temperature would be safe with the plastic.  I did not want melted plastic and raw soap all over my oven!  It worked!!!!  I put them in the oven and left it on for about 20 minutes and then turned it off, but I left the door closed and the soap inside overnight. 

All the scraps from trimming the soap.  I will
probably use for liquid soap later.
So at this point I was ready to get it started on the curing process.  (CP needs about 4 weeks cut and with air circulation in order to harden nicely.)  Well, I forgot one critical piece of the puzzle.  I forgot to line my molds with freezer paper or anything else for that matter.  Let me tell you, it was a huge mistake time wise.  I could not get the soap out for anything.  There was just no getting it to budge.  I had also read that you can stick the molds in the freezer to help them release the soap.  Well, of course this was for silicone molds and mine are plastic, but I tried it anyway.  An hour made no noticeable difference, so I left them in the freezer overnight.  It worked, of course I had used two ice cream buckets and I only had room in my freezer for one, so they had to take turns. 

So I cut the soap.  Not to self, next time try a wire!  Cutting bars of soap with a paring knife is not an easy task although trimming the soap is not a problem.  Now my soap is all cut into bars and I just have to be patient (anyone in my family will tell you that this is NOT my strong suit.) and wait for the bars to cure.  I definitely don't want all of my hard work to dissolve into a puddle and go down the drain.  However, I do have the soap that I made for my sister's shower and that is keeping me company until my new batch is ready.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Artful Camera

So my husband bought me a really nice camera for my birthday/ Mother's Day/ anniversary/ Christmas.  His comment was 'It took me 10 years, but I didn't forget."  He really is a keeper! 

So I have been having lots of fun with my new "toy."  And one of the things that I have found is that the camera straps that come with the camera are not very comfortable.  So after finding a tutorial on Pinterest about making your own camera straps, I decided that I could do this.  So I am going to make a camera strap to replace the one that came with the camera.  I don't like have the strap on all of the time, but it is nice when I don't have somewhere safe to put it down. 

So I am using a bunch of blue scraps left over from my sister's quilt and I am going to make 2' pineapple blocks and sew them together for the outside of the strap.  I am going to back it with some white flannel.  I decided  to use a layer of flannel as batting instead  of adding bulk with the regular batting.

This is the last piece of the second round 
 This was definitely an interesting project.  To begin with, the finished size of my blocks was 2 inches.  Needless to say, this means working with very small pieces of fabric and in very tight spacing.  To start off, I had seen a blog post about a lady (Connie from QuiltWorks in TX) who was making a quilt with blocks this size.  Now I don't have that much patience, but I do love tiny things.  So I decided to give it a go.  I will admit that my blocks only have 32 pieces while hers have over 40.  However I have three kids to keep out of my hair while I work.  This always makes life interesting.  It is also why I do a lot of my work like this after they are in bed.  ;)  After seeing her picture with a 2 block wide strip around her neck, I thought that these would be perfect for a camera strap.

Finished block
To begin I found a pineapple block layout and used my computer to shrink it down to the correct size.  Next, I used tissue paper cut down to about 4 inch pieces and laid the first one directly on my screen and traced the pattern onto the tissue paper with an ultra fine sharpy pen.  The next step was easy.   I used my rotary cutter to cut 3/4 inch strips of white and colored fabric.  I cut enough for about thirty, because I wasn't sure what would look good all laid out.  It took about 20 minutes to put each block together.  After the forth or fifth round I was able to sew the opposite sides before stopping to trim the seams and iron them.  If I hadn't done this it probably would have taken me another 5 to 10 minutes per block.  I laid them out so that the dark and light blocks alternated.

 As I finished blocks, I sewed them together.  This way I didn't have to worry as much about my youngest son trying to carry them off on me.  He does love to get the "skinny" on all of my projects.  I made a total of 15 blocks for this project.  After I got all of the blocks assembled, I then took 2 layers of white flannel, and pinned them to the back side of the blocks.  After I cut them down to the right size, I stitched an X shape with my machine over the center of each block.  This way I get the quilted appearance.  After I trimmed the flannel and the blocks down to the right width, I used double fold 1/4 inch bias tape to finish the edges off all nice and neat.  After I finished the strap itself, I sewed a large key ring to each end of the strap and added a swivel spring clip to that so I can clip the strap to my camera.   I have been using it now for a couple of weeks and I must say that I absolutely love it.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

New Flock Mates

Current home
So we have new chicks!  We have 7 Rhode Island Reds and 2 Bantys.  We has 3 banty but one of them didn't make it.  We have been keeping them inside except for short forays outside on warm days.  We actually need to get a tall box for them because they are starting to sprout some wing feathers and are trying to fly.

Sean and my youngest sister with chicks
Peter and the chicks
Sean, my youngest, is not so sure about getting close to the little creatures that move so fast.  And yes they do move very quickly.   My older two, Peter and BethAnn, however, are not so hesitant.  They both think the chicks are pretty cool.  Almost all of the grandkids are enthralled by the chicks.

They are starting to get their adult feathers.  Until they get all of them, they have to stay indoors at night.  We have already added a little perch to thier little enclosure.  It is only about an inch off of the floor, but it will get them used to perching somewhere.  I am hopeful that this will help keep them from trying to roost in the nest boxes when we eventually move them in with the rest of the flock.

I am including some gratuitous chick pictures, because they are just too stinkin' cute.  As you can see these little guys have absolutely no fear, and they are thrilled when they are invited to "help" in the garden while my mom weeds.  As you can see they are also getting their real feathers.
They literally walk all over her.  ;)
Enjoying the weeding, they love all of the little critters
that are unearthed in the process.