He Called Her Pamela

dd2The last month or so has been an emotional roller-coaster for my mother, and by extension, me.  Last Friday, September 9th, our hearts were both eased when her significant other of more than 25 years was able to peacefully pass into his final rest.  Dewey was 87 years old, and died from complications after surgery on an abdominal aneurysm.

He called her Pamela.  The only names I’d ever known my mother by were Mom, Pam, and Meemaw/Grandma.  I had never heard anyone call her by her “big name.”  He would be trying to explain something to her, or calm her down when she was in a tizzy.  “Now, Pamela,” he’d say, with the patience of a stone.  When I hear him talk in my mind, I hear him say that to her.  And it makes me smile.

dd1Dewey was a good man.  He and my mother were never married, but they were companions for so long that they might as well have been. They owned property together over the years, traveled all over the United States, retired together to Florida, where they still traveled and enjoyed each other’s company.  He was my mother’s “port in a storm,” and the person she talked to the most.

dd3He loved fiercely.  He loved his kids and grandkids, even his pseudo grandkids (my children).  He loved their little dog, Willy.  He loved my mother.  He could make my kids belly laugh with a silly face or a “boogety-boogety” shaking of his lips.  He was a tinker, and my son would follow him around learning how to fix things or build things.  He was generous to a fault, a trite phrase, I know, but it is so true.  He would buy things for us, make sure my mom was always comfortable, took my kids out to eat.

Dewey

He served in the Korean War, and read voraciously.  I would often send a box of books – always nonfiction biographies or history – and he would call me to thank me.  The Perfect Child had subscriptions to Popular Mechanics and Popular Science, and we’d pass those on to him when we were done with them.  I have a small stack of them, and a couple books, right now in my storage room, that I was gathering to send him.  Throughout his life he had been many things – a butcher, worked in construction, did maintenance work at a university.

But he was always a good man.  A kind man.  A man more men should be like.  I and my kids will miss him in our lives.  I cannot help but to remember him with a smile, although the tears flow today, they will not flow forever.

They say your legacy will be how they remember you.  I will remember him as kind, good, honest, and caring.

RIP Dewey.  Thank you for all you did for us.

dd5

Posted on September 17th, 2016 by Momilies  |  3 Comments »

Bowl Lifters

Bowl Lifter

I’ve had a couple of requests for the instructions for making these.  I like to give them as gifts, and they are a quick project to put together.  You don’t even need to go to the fabric store, since you may have what you need for this project right in your own stash!  What is a “bowl lifter,” you ask?  It is a nifty cloth holder to go under your bowl when you put it in the microwave, and you can lift your too-hot-to-touch food by the corners of the “lifter” and not burn your hands.  It’s also a cozy way to hold a bowl of soup or something else warm while sitting outside by a fire.  And for those of you in warm places, it’s a great tool for holding that freezing bowl of ice cream so your fingers don’t get cold!

I promise, these are simple to make.  They go quickly, too.  I can usually do a set of four in an hour.  They make great housewarming gifts, or “I’m thinking of you” gifts.  They also sell well at craft fairs, and because the materials are cheap or “found,” they don’t cost much to make.  That’s a win-win, right?

There are lots of pictures in this post, but I wanted to give clear instructions.  Please feel free to comment if you need better instructions.  I read all comments!  Also, if you like this tutorial, please share this blog address!

Let’s talk first about fabric. I’ve seen these made with all kinds of things – terrycloth, simple cotton, old quilt pieces, you name it.  After making several, I came to the conclusion that I wanted a certain look for my lifters.  They need to keep their “shape” and cup around the bowl without me having to hold it there.  That meant taking some care with my fabrics.  So, I prefer a duck-style fabric for the top, and the bottom will be a cotton-covered batting.  The fabric-covered batting goes on sale pretty often, and I buy it several yards at a time, in a color that I know I will use.  Right now I have a selection of navy blue, chocolate brown, black, cream, and light brown.  The duck I buy as remnants or find at thrift stores.  The fabric in this tutorial came from the thrift store and cost a dollar.  There was enough fabric to make four bowl lifters.   Oftentimes, I can find small pieces of duck that will work great for this project.  Vintage is even better, which is what this blue “bandana” fabric is. It is a nice sturdy duck.

Whatever fabric you choose, be sure it is cotton, and washable.  These lifters can get dirty with spilled food, so they need to be washable.

Bowl Lifter fabric

 

You will need enough fabric to make 11-inch squares.  I’ve experimented with other sizes.  You can go a bit smaller, but bigger becomes unwieldy for its intended use.  I’m making a set of four, so I needed fabric that was at least 22 inches long, and 44 inches wide.  Most fabric is 42-44 inches wide, including the quilted fabric I buy.  So one 22-inch cut of quilted fabric will give me four bottoms.  As with anything, use the right tools for the job.  I cut these with my self-healing cutting board, a quilt ruler, and my rotary cutter.  Grain is not super-important on this project – I treat it like I do quilting.  I pretty much ignore the grain.  These work out fine regardless.  I’ve never made less than 2 bowl lifters, although I suppose I could give a single one to a single person.  I use the ones that were made for me, so one is always dirty.  I like having at least two.

the right tools for the job - self-healing quilt cutting board, ruler, and rotary cutter

 

So the construction works with darts, and some seams.  Pretty basic.  The darts are what create the “crater” in the middle intended to hold your bowl.  The darts don’t have to be perfect or pretty, but it helps to make them all the same.  Randomly, I settled on 3-inch darts, but these seem to work well.  Fold your fabric square in half, right sides together.  Make a small mark with a marking pen or sharpie (make sure it doesn’t bleed through!) 3 inches from the raw edge, on the fold.  Do this for both ends of your folded square.  Then unfold your square and fold it the opposite way (90 degrees from where you just folded), and mark again.

bowllifter04Dart Marks for bowl lifters

When you get done you should have something that looks like this:

Dart marksDo the same with the backing fabric.  Remember that you will be sewing darts with right sides together, so only mark on the back of your fabric.  For the double-fabric batting, both right and wrong sides look the same.

Now it’s time to sew!  Fold your fabric in half again, right sides together.  I find I don’t need to pin, but if you feel the need to pin, do so.  The duck is pretty easy to work with and I don’t find it sliding around too much.  Also, this is not a “fussy” project and small mistakes are not going to show.  In other words, just go with it!  Place your fabric under your pressure foot and be sure your seam width is at least 1/4th inch.  Mine gives me a 3/8ths inch width, which is fine as well.  Line up the right side of your presser foot with the edge of your fabric (see picture).

Sewing the dart

Using a medium stitch, sew towards your mark, creating a diagonal line of stitching down to the end of the dart.  Back stitch at the end of the dart.  Repeat on the other end of the fold, then open the fabric and refold the opposite way.  Create both darts.  When finished, you should have four darts, each in the center of the sides.

Finished dart

The “bowl” shape is already taking affect!  Repeat these steps with the backing fabric.  Trim all your threads.

bowl lifter after dartsBowl lifter after dartsPut the back and the front right sides together. Again, if you feel the need to pin, do so.  I am not much of a fussy sewist, so I just go with it.  I usually do a 3/8ths inch seam for these.  Starting in the middle of one side (near a dart), I start stitching, turning sharp corners.  When I get to the fourth corner, I turn the corner, but only sew about 3/5ths of an inch, then back stitch a bit.  Remove the piece from the sewing machine and trim threads.  Bowl lifter after seamsbowllifter13Make sure you trim the corners!

bowllifter14

Using the opening you left, turn the fabric pocket right side out.  I usually just reach in with two fingers and grab the furthest corner, working it all through.  Once you have it pulled through, take time to poke out the corners.  I use my fingers, but you can use the end of a pen or a large crochet needle. When you have it completely turned, you will need to stitch up the opening you left for turning.

Bowl lifter with openingYou can do this by hand, but you should do it by machine for sturdiness.  Fold in the edges and smooth tightly with your fingers. Stitching as close to the edge as possible, stitch that remaining opening closed.  You can also top-stitch all the way around, if you like, but I find the bulk of these makes it difficult to get a nice straight line.

bowllifter16And voila, you have your very own bowl lifter!

bowllifter17bowllifter18

 

 

Posted on August 28th, 2016 by Momilies  |  1 Comment »

My New Favorite Pot

I collect the weirdest things sometimes.  Chicken figurines.  Placemats.  Porcelain pans.  Potted plants.  Worn out quilts.

My favorite potAnd pots of a certain type.  I fell in love with this style of pot/pan many years ago, when I stumbled upon one at a thrift store some 30 years ago.  That pot is still in my possession and gets used regularly.  I paid $8 for it.  I’ve since added at least six others:  a small saucepan, a small oval roaster, a mid-sized saucepan, and a very large roaster.  They are all still my go-to pots for everything from boiling potatoes to making stove-top pot-roast and roasted fowl.  When I find one for sale, there is a good ten minute back-and-forth discussion with myself about whether or not I should buy it.

And the answer is usually yes.

What is so special about these?  They are thick cast aluminum, similar to a pressure canner or pressure cooker.  They have a variety of brand names as the company has changed over the years, but they are all the same manufacturer.  They go by MagnaWare, Wearever and Ware.  All of my pots boast one of these brand names.  The newer ones are Magna Ware.  The older ones carry the Ware or Wearever name.

These pots are heavy.  They distribute heat beautifully.  The caramelize an onion on low heat like nothing you’ve ever seen.  Their heavy lids hold in moisture, something critical in the dry environment I live in.  The handles are composite or wood (depending on the age of the pot) and don’t get hot.  I have made countless batches stews, pot roasts, soups, mashed potatoes, kale, cabbage, you name it.  I have never had a failed dish in one of these.

My newest acquisition is a 12″ deep fry pan.  It is at this moment my favorite pot.  I have made pork chops and cabbage, mushroom steak, strawberry jam, kale and bacon, cabbage and bacon, mashed potatoes, and soup.  I use it at least once a week, but if I’m cooking a lot, it gets used 3 or 4 times a week.  I LOVE this pot.  The single handle makes it easy to move the pot around and to empty it if needed.  The heavy lid seals in moisture and provides the best result of my cooking.

The bonus?  I found it at a flea market, marked for $35.  This pan would have been over $150 brand new in the store.  My big roaster would have been about $250, but I paid $35 for it at a church rummage sale.  I’d have gladly paid more.  Sometimes, I get a wild hair and look at other cookware.  But I always turn away when I see how cheap, flimsy, thin, and brittle they are.

Give me my Wearever any day. :)

Do you have a favorite pot or pots?  What do you like about them?

Posted on August 13th, 2016 by Momilies  |  2 Comments »

New Toy

Earlier this month, my oldest-youngest brother came to visit for a couple of days.  He was traveling to a blacksmith’s convention in Salt Lake City.  We were naturally a perfect stop along the way.  The older I get, the more I appreciate my siblings.  Sometimes, I really regret being so far away, but then I’ll get a nice visit, or be able to make a trip home, and it is all better.

My brother is an interesting and busy guy, kind of like me.  He travels for work, but also travels for fun.  He is the one of us who has the most wandering feet.  The travel for his job helps keep those feet happy, yet he has a house, and a big workshop, that he spends his free time in.  He’s been blacksmithing for close to 20 years, I think.  And his most recent hobby is working on old sewing machines.  Not sort-of old.  Old. Treadle machines, some early electric machines.  He knows more about sewing machines and how they work than I could ever catalog.  He buys them, fixes them up, and then either sells them or gifts them.  He always has a handful in various stages of rebuilding.  I got to see some of them at Christmas when I went home for my dad’s birthday.

Kenmore art deco sewing machineAnd this year, for my birthday, he gave me the one machine I had pretty much slobbered over.  It is an art-deco masterpiece.  And it runs like a dream. My mother brought it with her when she came in late May, and I set it up in the sewing room but because of all the shuffling around and the fact that that room was being used as someone’s bedroom, I didn’t have a chance to play with it until after my brother’s visit some 7 weeks later.  I am in love with this machine.  That is despite the fact that the threading pattern is crazy and not quite what I expected, and that putting a bobbin in takes some acrobatic hand maneuvering.

It sewed through the thickness of a flannel baby quilt with extreme batting, and didn’t skip a stitch.  It stitches so smoothly that the table barely vibrates.  It is set in a custom-made hard-wood table my brother built for it.  The table was built for his height (he is well over 6 foot tall) but works fine for me.  In his blacksmith shop, he hand-made the pedal assembly.  This thing is so much fun to sew on, that I’ve been looking for projects to work on!  Not that I don’t already have enough of them!

Spending time with my brother a few weeks ago was wonderful.  And I won’t be able to sit down at this machine without thinking about those wonderful two days.  I may be biased, but my brother is amazing. :)

The art shot…all shiny!

Kenmore art-deco sewing machineYou only get frontward and backward, but you can set the stitch length for each one separately.  Kind of a nifty trick!

Kenmore art-deco sewing machineTension adjustment. 

Kenmre art-deco sewing machineCrazy threading pattern.  Fortunately, my brother found instructions and included a copy of them with the little tin of tools and feet.

Kenmre art-deco sewing machine

The hand-made pedal assembly.

Kenmre art-deco sewing machine

The baby quilt pics…you can see how thick the fabric was, and it sewed it just fine! This baby quilt went to the new mom and dad  who lives across the street from us.  Emily and Matthew’s baby boy Grayson was born on July 7th.

Baby quilt stitchingBaby quilt stitching

Baby quilt stitchingIf you got this far…I’d love to hear about some wonderful gift you’ve received from a family member, or maybe you have a story about your sibling(s) you’d like to share.  Leave it in the comments!

 

Posted on July 31st, 2016 by Momilies  |  2 Comments »

The Domestic, and a Recipe!

Goodness it’s been a long time since I posted!  The whole of my energy for the last several months has been taken up with preparing for family to visit, and preparing for the wedding.  Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the wedding never happened.  My daughter called it off two weeks before, and as we are processing through everything, it is obvious this was the right move to make.  However, there was still all that wedding stuff sitting in bins in my bedroom, and the wedding dress hanging in my closet, and the rental of the all and the limo and the chairs and tables to cancel.  And all that family still came to visit, so there was still housecleaning and keeping up with the day to day of feeding more than just us.  I have had a constant stream of people in my house since before Memorial Day.  I have worked my day job much of that time, and also my side work, in addition to everything else.  And as organized as I am, as pulled together as I am, I was overwhelmed.  The last of the guests left a week ago, and I am finally settling back into something of a “normal.”

Through it all, I was able to use my domestic side so thoroughly that I am not sure why I wasn’t burnt down to a nub.  There was cooking, cleaning, keeping up with the washing of linens, pulling weeds in the garden, picking veggies, keeping the flowers watered, etc.  I am thankful that I had some help along the way.  But I am in my element when doing these things, so there is some measure of happiness and peace there.  In the past 10 days, I started and finished a baby quilt, made a stack of bowl lifters, worked on my sheet rug (oval, because my mom said so), hemmed pants for Klown, made two batches of strawberry jam, cooked up veggies from my garden, kept all of the potted flowers alive, planted some new perennials in the perennial flower bed, hung clothes on the line, and worked on my novel.  And sometimes, I slept. :)

Today, with everyone gone, you would think I’d have taken the day off.  But I don’t know how to do that, so as usual, I was busy.  I made strawberry jam, delivered the baby quilt and some homemade goodies to the new mom across the street, picked apples from our tree, and pulled up a bucket-full of purslaine from my garden (danged weed!!).  And all the laundry got done.  Then I made a really great old-fashioned dinner that I only make about once a year.  It is so good, I don’t know why I don’t do it more often.  Both Klown and I have good memories of similar meals, although I’ve added my own touches over the years.  I wish I’d gotten a chance to make it for my mom when she was here for the wedding-that-never-happened.  I’ll have to be sure I do it when she visits next year!

Pork, Kraut, and Apple

(This is a one-pot meal, and you can do it in the crock pot, but I think it turns out better on the stove. This dish is sweet and tangy, filling, and not too sour.  Bavarian-style kraut is the key.)

  • 2 pounds good, thick-cut pork chops.  You can also use country-style ribs if they are available
  • 2 cans Bavarian-style kraut
  • 3 or 4 medium white potatoes, peeled and diced large
  • 3 apples, peeled, cored, and diced large
  • 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 T. oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Using a large dutch oven or other type broad-bottomed pot with a lid, brown the pork chops on both sides in the oil.  Season LIGHTLY as kraut is very salty and you shouldn’t need much extra salt.  Once they are brown, add in the apple cider vinegar.

Toss in the potatoes and apples.  Spread on the kraut.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer.  Cover tightly and cook for 1 hour, or until potatoes and meat are tender.  The apples should pretty much disappear in the cooking process.

Feeds 4-6.

 

Posted on July 17th, 2016 by Momilies  |  No Comments »

I Can’t Drive 55

Here in Colorado, our driver’s licenses renew on our birthdays.  I guess that makes it easy to remember.  We will have been here five years in a few weeks, so it was just short of five years.  After attempting to do my renewal online in April, and failing, I scheduled an appointment with the DMV to get it renewed on my birthday.

It turned out not to be so simple.  When I presented my license to the clerk, I was told I hadn’t had a valid license in more than four years.  It had been suspended.  I’d been driving all this time without a valid license.  How did this all happen?  Well, it was my fault.  But I’m going to place some of the blame on the State of Colorado, as well.

You see, not too long after we moved here, I got a ridiculous ticket for “running a stop sign.”  I didn’t run a stop sign, but the cop was not amused by having to work on a Sunday morning, and was pulling virtually everyone over at a small intersection west of town.  I was on my way back from walking around the Ponds at Pella Crossing, and he was right behind me.  I stopped, counted to three, and turned right.

I could have argued the ticket, I suppose, but I just paid it, because it wasn’t that much money.  I did, however, pay it late.  About three weeks late.  I paid the late fee.  The deal was done, I moved on.

But apparently, in that three week time period, the state of Colorado moved to suspend my license for non-payment of the ticket.  I was never notified of the suspension, so I never knew.  No one caught it.  I’ve renewed license plates on cars twice, I’ve changed insurance companies once, I changed my voter registration three times, and no one caught it.  When I asked the clerk why I wouldn’t have been notified, he asked if I had moved.  No, at the time I got the ticket, and paid for the ticket, and for the next six months after the ticket, I lived in the same place, the same address that is on my license.  But he did tell me “you are not alone.”  I guess this happens frequently.

Anyway, I’m thinking, no big deal, just get it reinstated, we move on.   Well, not so fast, apparently.  Because I had been without a license for so long, I was no longer renewable.  I had to start over.  Like I was 15 again.  Only that was forty years ago.  At the ripe old age of 55, I now need to take the written test to get a permit, then take a driving test.  I have to pass both.  I also have to give them some money, even if I don’t pass.

I wrote a check for $95 (they don’t take cards) to reinstate from the suspension.

Then I write a check for $16.80 so I would be allowed to take the permit test.  The clerk sends me over to the bank of computers where all the 15 year olds are taking their permit tests.  I have to answer at least 20 of 25 questions correctly.  I got to question 8 before I missed one (it tells you as you go).  Then I missed another, and another.  In the end, I got my 20 correct, but only by sheer luck.  Whew.

Sit in line to get my picture taken.  Get my permit.  Now it’s time to drive.  Only they have a four-week wait for driving tests, and I have to go home and make an appointment online.  In the meantime, I’m not legally allowed to drive without a licensed adult in the car.

Huh.  Now what?

Fortunately for me, there are a list of authorized contractors who can conduct driving exams.  The cost is anywhere from $40 to $200 for that privilege. There is one right there in the same plaza with the DMV.  Turns out he was the cheapest, he could take  me right away, but oh yeah, you need cash.  So, I take my illegal self to my car, drive illegally across the street to the ATM to get cash.  He does a quick safety inspection of the car (tail/brake lights, horn, turn signals) and we head out.  The driving test takes about four minutes.  They don’t do parallel parking any more, so I couldn’t get the easy points.  I had to do it the hard way.  I was dinged for not stopping quite right at stop signs, and not looking at side streets as we passed them.  But I passed.

Back to the DMV I went, paid my $25 fee for my full license, and sat in line again waiting to get my picture taken.  Because the can’t just use that permit one they took 30 minutes ago.  Click/flash, and I walked out with a valid license.  Total time elapsed:  2 hours and 40 minutes.

I can now drive 55 again.

I’m pretty surprised, and proud, that I could pass both the written and driving tests some 35-40 years after I last did it.  I was mildly worried, but just tried to stay positive, and I survived it.

But I hope I never have to do that again.  And I’m darned lucky I didn’t get pulled over or have an accident at any point over the last four years.  Very very lucky.

Posted on June 4th, 2016 by Momilies  |  3 Comments »

The Early Gardener

After a relatively mild winter (although we have had plenty of moisture, more than our average), by mid-February, it was obvious that we were going to have an early spring.  By first of March, I was able to walk around in my back yard barefoot without getting cold, which in my mind means the ground is just about warm enough to plant.

In a previous post, I talked about some of what I was doing, and included some pictures.  I added a new raised bed last fall (about 4 foot by 12 food), and added manure to both the existing raised bed and the small garden bed by the back door.  Then I got really crazy and planted seed for kale, peas, lettuce, and radishes.

A month later, I have kale, peas, and lettuce seedlings, although the radishes seem to be a no-show.  I also have herbs starting to show life.  The lemon balm is already looking good (even though it’s supposed to be an annual), the thyme is starting to show new green leaves, and the chives never even died back.  The rosemary still looks like a dried up stick, but the parsley that re-seeded itself is doing great.

This is not to say that we haven’t had some return of winter along the way.  We had 7 inches of snow in mid-March, then another 17 inches of snow on March 23.  What we haven’t had is temps lower than about 24 degrees.  Most of my cold-weather seedlings are in the warmest bed – the one next to the house that gets all the reflected heat from the southern sun.  The snow melts, nice and slow, and all that mineral-rich moisture just soaks in and gives those cold-weather seedlings just what they need.

Having this mild of a late winter/spring is not the norm, at least in the five years I’ve been in Colorado.  Two years ago, it snowed heavily and was bitterly cold every Tuesday into Wednesday in the month of April, and the first Tuesday into Wednesday in May.  It even snowed on Memorial Day that year.  Most of the time, I don’t even think about doing anything outside with the gardens until mid-April.  There’s no point to doing it.  I know I took a big risk this year declaring that spring had come.  But I think I made the right call.  I know it is rather unscientific to judge readiness of the ground and arrival of spring by the feel of the ground under my bare feet, but it seems to work, so why not?

This morning I woke up and it was 58 degrees, and humid.  We are supposed to get rain later, as much as a half-inch.  My seedlings are going to love that, even if the temps are going to drop a bit for the next couple of days (lows in the low 30’s).  I planted beet seed a week ago, and will be putting in turnip and basil seed today, and probably more lettuce seed.  I will start indoor seeds now (squash, mostly).

It feels good to be gardening again.  It is the only thing I miss about winter – no gardening!  And yes, my garden is messy and I have allowed the leaves, leftover straw, and whatever other winter detritus that has come along to remain.  I think it adds to the nutrients already in the soil.  And if you’re paying attention, you will see the rabbit poo sprinkled all over. :)

Lemon balm (left) and my chives, which have been with me for about 10 years now)

Lemon Balm and ChivesThyme.  It is finally starting to show some leaves.  I actually dug it up from its previous location and moved it about a month ago, which I knew was a dangerous act.  But it seems like it is fine! Funny how something that is an “annual” can end up being a perennial after all.

ThymeParsley seedlings.  I let them reseed every year, because they are a biannual, they just keep coming back this way and I never have to actually buy another parsley plant.

Parsley seedlingsKale.

kale seedlingsPeas.

Pea seedlings

Butter Lettuce Seedlings.

Butter lettuce seedlingsApple tree getting ready to bloom.Apple Tree budding outWith spring comes the dandelions.  I fight these things all the time.  Yes, I know about the bee/dandelion thing, but it doesn’t matter.  I’m in an urban area and I need to get rid of them because I don’t need to be spreading them to my garden OR to my neighbors.

spring dandelionA sure sign of spring – daffodils!

DaffodilsBonus if you made it this far… My mother comes to stay with us every summer or fall, for a few weeks.  I love having her here, and she helps with the gardening.  The garden along the side of the house is where I put pole beans on a trellis.  It provides shade for the southern-facing window there.  Her responsibility while she is here, since her bedroom is on the other side of that window, is to pick the beans.  Invariably, some get missed, because pole beans are notoriously known for being able to camouflage beans.  Last summer was no exception, and I guess one of those unpicked bean pods made it to the ground.  We have a volunteer pole bean.  I sent her a picture of it in email, and this was our email exchange:

Me: You missed a bean last summer.  Now look what’s happened!  Any day now, the Giant is going to climb down that thing, looking for Jack.

Mom: Oh Gad! It will pull down the house!

Rogue volunteer pole bean seedling.

Pole bean seedling

Posted on April 10th, 2016 by Momilies  |  No Comments »

Spring? Maybe?

I have declared that it is spring.  I can walk around in my back yard with bare feet and not get cold.  Not that we haven’t had winter here.  We definitely have had winter.   The apple tree is showing fat buds on the ends of the branches, the daffodils are up, and the roses are sprouting.  We will have more snow, and rain.  It isn’t over yet.  But the warmth of the ground says a lot, and I’ve been busy starting to gear up for gardening season.  Mother Nature may have other ideas, but my gut says spring is here.  We may get moisture, but we won’t get deep cold.

Two weeks ago I picked up six big bags of alpaca poo, and five big bags of rabbit poo from local animal-raisers. Not free, but reasonably priced. With the new raised bed I had my future son-in-law build last fall, I have one more space that needs to be filled.  That bed, 4 foot by 12 feet, was initially filled with leaves from our yard, and some leftover Halloween decorations (pumpkins, gourds, and corn stalks).  I laid down some newspaper on top of all that stuff, and then managed to put about six inches of alpaca manure on top.  The rabbit manure ended up in the two other garden beds – one is raised and on its second season, the other is the small bed near the house, which I’ve used as-is for the last two years without amendments. That first raised bed gave me lots of eggplant last year, as well as a pumpkin and a lot of cucumbers and squash, and it was only filled with leaves, some raw compost (kitchen scraps), and six inches of bunny poo.  I’m hoping for the same results from the new raised bed.

RocksToday, I dug out the edges of that smaller garden (it is about 3 foot by 12 foot) and put in scalloped concrete edging.  The intent was to be able to put a bit more dirt/compost/poo in there so it could fill up, and amend the existing soil.  This actually took me less time than I thought it would, not counting the repair I had to do when I poked the digging fork right through the sprinkler line that goes to the back yard.  Yeah, I’m bright like that.  But overall, laying the edging and backfilling in everything took less than two hours. Like all good Colorado gardeners, I spent plenty of time picking rocks out of the dirt I was digging up.  We grow great rocks here, apparently.

Then I got really brave, and planted kale, two kinds of lettuce, mache, and radishes (all seed) in the sunniest end of that garden.  Last year I grew kohlrabi and green beans in that spot.  I also planted peas along the trellises I usually use for pole beans.  They’ll be done and gone before I need to put in beans.  I also relocated the thyme and rosemary, both of which have survived the winter.  The lemon balm also appeared to survive the winter, which is surprising.  I placed it all closer to the door, where the chives are.  I’ll put in some nasturtium seeds along that edge, and that area will be the herb garden.  I’ll add basil and parsley once the weather is truly warm, which is still months away.

As the weather warms, I’ll add more things.  I have room for cabbages and kohlrabi, which can go out in a few weeks as well.  Squash, tomatoes, beans, and eggplant will have to wait until late May.  And unless we get some rain or snow, the seed I put down today will be slow to germinate.  But that’s okay.  They’ll come up eventually.  I’ll be prepared with row cover and plastic if needed.  One of these days, I’ll get ambitious and build the hoop structure for that area, so I can guarantee an early harvest.  I’ve seen several hoop houses go up around town in the last few weeks.

It felt good to get out there and work the dirt, and to put seeds in the ground.  The last month or so I’ve been itching to be back out there doing stuff.  I’ve had my winter to laze around.  Time to get back to work!

Daffodiles (left), roses starting to bud out (right).

DaffodilsRoses are budding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second-year raised bed.  It’s full of bunny poo!  You can see my compost basket at the end, and the pot that holds the mint.  This bed is about 3 feet by 16 feet.

Raised bedThe new raised bed, about 4 feet by 12 feet.  Doesn’t it look like its just ready and waiting for something to be planted in it?  Most of it is still in shade form the neighbor’s pine tree, so this will only be used for hot-weather veggies.

The newest raised bedThe original bed, with the new concrete edging.  Yes, I know it is a bit curvy, but it follows the sidewalk, which is not straight! Notice the trellises right next to the window.  These hold pole beans in the summer and provide great shade for that window.

New edging

New concrete edging

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hard to see the herbs, but the chives are the green clump, to the left of them is the rosemary, and the thyme is in the front.  The lemon balm is still under a pile of leaves.

Herb space

Each of the sticks is a row of seeds.  from left to right – radishes, mache, black-seeded simpson (lettuce), butter lettuce, and two rows of curly blue kale.

Spring planting

 

Posted on March 5th, 2016 by Momilies  |  1 Comment »

Epic Rag Rugging

Rug at medium size

(Note:  If you click the pictures, they will show their larger form)

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a tutorial and some videos for making enormous, chunky, rustic rag rugs from sheets.  I’ve seen crocheted rag rugs for years, and was never really impressed all that much with them.  They looked scrappy (not in a good way), ravelly, and the stitches weren’t pretty.  I realize, they were just rugs, and you were going to stomp muddy feet all over them, but still.  I like things to look nice.

The rug in this woman’s tutorial was scrappy, but in a good way, and she was using a large crochet hook and loose stitches, which allowed the beauty of the stitches to show.  And I decided I could go one better, create a neatly-created project with colors that made sense and went together, and with stitches you could see easily, and therefore, appreciate the beauty of.  After having almost completed the first one, I can say I’m hooked.  Yes, bad pun. :)  This rug is super-chunky, thick, and comes together really fast.  And it is the most cushy, comfortable rug under your feet.  I’m just thrilled with how it has turned out.  And when I say fast, I mean fast.  I prepared strips, and crocheted a 40″ diameter rug in about 4 hours.

I’m going to include links to Flight of the Pooka’s little videos at the end of this post.  I encourage you to watch them if you are a visual learner.  Seeing is sometimes better than reading a description.  But I’m going to give it my best attempt, with pictures.

First, you need a lot of sheets.  I started with six flat and fitted sheets I got at the thrift store.  I tried to think about what colors would go together.  I ended up with cream, a pretty blue/green/white stripe, a pale grass green, white with purple and green polkadots, and a dark purple.  The sheets with patterns actually look great when crocheted into a rug, and you can build off the colors in the color scheme of the print pattern.  I will say that even though I used all six sheets, the rug isn’t as big as I want, so I’m keeping my eyes peeled for sheets that will help me finish the project.  In the meantime, I’m using other sheets to start new rugs.  Also, use cotton or cotton blend WOVEN sheets.  Not jersey and not satin or other silkies.  Not that there is anything wrong with those, but if you’re going to make a rug using this method, you want woven.

Sheet balls and small rugI did figure out pretty early on that if the sheets weren’t queen or king size, they weren’t worth tearing up into strips.  You just don’t get much out of a twin or full sheet.  I used both flat and fitted, and I tore them, rather than to waste time cutting.  I’m lazy like that.  Flight of the Pook shows how to tear the sheets quickly and easily, and it’s in her first video.  In my case, I went a couple steps further than she did.  I cut/tore off the hems of the sheets before I started, because I didn’t want the bulk of them messing up the look of my rug.  But like her, I did the tearing while sitting in my comfortable chair, so nothing fancy was required in the way of seating or a table or anything.  I snipped the top of the sheet about 3 inches from the edge, then tore the strip to the other end, stopping about an inch before I reached he bottom.  I then snipped another 3 inches over on that bottom edge, and started tearing toward the top, again stopping about an inch before I got to the top.  I continued this pattern until the whole sheet was torn into one long strip.  Yes, it means there is some weirdness where you make that turn, but in crocheting, I found that it really didn’t matter, it came right into the stitches and didn’t show.  The Flight of the Pook’s tutorial shows wrapping the sheet strips into a ball, but I found that thisBasket of sheet strips was not only an unnecessary step, but made crocheting with the printed sheets more difficult.  In a ball, the sheets came off twisted like yarn, instead of flat, and the print usually ended up inside out, so it wouldn’t show on the rug.  So I just tore the strips directly into a big basket.  That way I could manipulate the strips to keep them mostly flat, and not twisted, as I went.   I wanted those big stitches, and twisted sheets make smaller stitches.

Giant crochet hookI used my largest crochet hook.  I bought it more than a year ago because I was fascinated with its size.  I had no purpose for it, but bought it anyway.  And there it was, just waiting for me to use it on this project!  It is not classified with a letter designation, like regular hooks.  The biggest letter hook I have is, I think, a Q, and I use that one all the time.  And I think that’s the size hook that most of the rug tutorials suggest you use.  Flight of the Pook uses a Q.  But I wanted to go bigger.  Way bigger.  So, 25 mm it is!  This thing is as big around as a quarter.  I have large hands, so handling it is not really a problem.  I like the smooth wood of it, and can grab it in a fist to pull it through a stitch even if the stitch is a little too tight and reluctant.  The only way to manipulate a hook like this is by fist, not like a pencil the way you were taught with regular crochet hooks.  Using a big hook like this means that every row of stitches is about 1.5 inches deep.  This is why the rug builds so fast – the stitches are huge.

To start the crochet, chain 6.  Chain LOOSELY.  Loose is important, because sheets, unlike yarn, do NOT stretch.  If your stitches are too tight, you’ll not only not be able to pull the strips through each stitch, you will find your arms very very sore.  Once you have chained 6, slip stitch them together in a loop (pull the slip stitch through the last and the first chain).  From this point on, leave the tail (back) facing away from you, so you get the best look on the “front” of the rug.  Start single crochet stitches in your chain stitches.  You may want to do two single crochet stitches in each chain, to build the circle bigger.

Rug stitches in the beginningContinue crocheting around the circle.  It will start to look like a rug after about four or five rows, and you will have a better feel for how many “extra” stitches you will need to keep it getting larger without curling up like a bowl, or floppy with a ruffle around the edge.  The goal is smooth, flat, and round.  I am not good at crocheting circles, and found myself with a “ruffle” and had to take out four rows and try again (see picture below).  The picture to the left shows some of those early stitches.  It doesn’t look all that pretty at that stage, but keep with it, and you will do fine.  And you can always rip it out and go back if it isn’t quite right.  And like I said, this went fast.  I had a 15 inch circle in an hour.

Ruffly rug – had to rip it back about four rows and re-start).

rugrufflededgesI crocheted until I ran out of sheet, then tore more sheet, tied a very tight square knot to the old sheet, and kept going.  Every time I had to tie a knot, I tucked that knot Rug at medium sizeto the back, so it wouldn’t be on the top.  As the rug got bigger, I needed fewer and fewer extra stitches.  At its largest, I was adding an extra stitch about every 7th or 8th stitch.  This means I put two single crochets in one “V” from the previous row.  This seemed to work well.  As you go, you’ll notice it getting ruffly, or the edge curling up toward you, and that means you need to rip back a few stitches and add an extra or skip a stitch to keep it smooth.

The picture below shows the rug at 40 inches, but I’ve run out of purple.  This will be a problem for me as I go forward making more rugs.  The purple sheet was a double size, and you can see as you get to the outside, you don’t get as many rows of a particular color because of not really having enough sheet.  I’m contemplating taking out the purple and choosing something else, since it looks rather odd the way it is, and I’m not sure that odd look would go away even if I just kept going with another color.  Still deciding, but whatever I decide, it will be a king-sized sheet that gets used!  (The paperback is on the rug to give you perspective on size.)

rug almost finishedI am loving this project, and have sheets torn for two more large rugs.  I’ll be working on one of them while watching football this afternoon.  Go Broncos!

P.S. I said not to use Jersey or knit sheets.  This isn’t strictly true, they can be used.  A friend of mine gave me a big box of Jersey sheets, and I will make rugs from them, too, but you cannot tear them, so more time will be spent cutting them into strips for use.  I would not mix jersey with woven in the same rug, however.

Links to Flight of the Pook’s video tutorials, and her original blog on the topic:

Flight of the Pook blog post

Flight of the Pook Video 1 (sheet tearing and getting started)

Flight of the Pook Video 2 (the rug is growing)

Flight of the Pook Video 3 (the big finish!)

 

Posted on January 24th, 2016 by Momilies  |  2 Comments »

Susabelle’s Nine Blossom Steak Chili

I had a request for this recipe from a friend on facebook, and that’s when I realized I’d never posted this one.  This is a great, flavorful way to have chili.  Not that thick, gloopy stuff that makes you feel like a bloated buffalo within ten minutes of finishing it.  It is more like a soup, with lots of different flavors melded together.  As with most chilis and soups, it tastes much better the second day, so if you can cook it one day, and serve it the next, you will be a lot happier with it.  All measurements are approximate, and you can size this recipe up and down as needed for the size of your eating crew.  The recipe below will serve about 10 people, give or take. The “Nine Blossom” in the title of this chili refer to the nine blooming things that are in the ingredient list – all of the spices including the cocoa. :)

Susabelle’s Nine Blossom Steak Chili

1 pound steak, any kind, cut into small pieces (1/2 inch or smaller) (You can use ground beef/elk/bison if you like)

1 large white or yellow onion, chopped

1 sweet red pepper, seeded and chopped

1 sweet yellow or orange pepper, seeded and chopped

2 T. olive oil

1 t. minced garlic, or 1 T. garlic powder

1 can canelloni or white navy beans

1 can red kidney beans, drained

1 can black beans, drained

1 can pinto beans, drained

1 can (smaller) chili hot beans (do not drain)

2 14 oz. cans diced tomatoes (do not drain)

1/2 t. cumin

2 T. chili powder

red pepper flakes to taste (or use hot sauce, or add a chile/jalapeno/ghost pepper of your choice)

Salt and pepper to taste

3 T. cocoa powder

In a large, heavy pot (don’t use a flimsy pot for this), brown the steak, onion, and peppers in olive oil until vegetables are tender.  Add in the garlic (if using fresh) and sautee for one minute.  Add in all remaining ingredients except the cocoa powder.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for at least two hours.  Stir every once in a while.  If chili becomes dry or too thick, add hot water or warmed plain tomato juice (cold will lower the cooking temperature so try not to do that to keep this cooking consistently).  This should not ever look thick or gloopy; it should be more like a stew-type soup.  Everything should move around fairly freely in the broth.  Add in the cocoa powder, and taste for spice level.  Adjust as needed.  Do not overspice, as the spices become more concentrated as the chili progresses.  Cook for an additional hour before serving.

Serve this with toppings like scallions, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, sour cream, oyster crackers, etc.  This will taste better if it can refrigerate overnight and be reheated the next day.

Enjoy!

 

Posted on January 17th, 2016 by Momilies  |  1 Comment »