Kentucky seems to have received a (temporary?) reprieve from this summer’s blistering heat so everyone here is running around in the warm-but-not-sweltering sunshine trying to check outdoor activities off summer bucket lists before school resumes next week. My family is no exception. We made an outing to our local u-pick farm with my aunt last Friday. The weather was perfect. I’d envisioned picking strawberries, then blueberries, then…well, we finally got the right weather during grape season.
Most of the grapes were up too high for Worth so he was our official taste-tester and loader of the boxes. Dorothy picked until I was stung by a bee, then she mostly chose to point out good clusters and let my aunt risk her fingers for them. We picked a lot of grapes, and I admit that the quantity seemed much greater back in my kitchen than it had in the vineyard. Rob made fun of me and suggested that I’d never use them all…
…but I proved him wrong! After a grape-scented Saturday in the kitchen I ended up with eight quarts of jam (one batch is pictured here, cooling on one of my crochet-edged dishcloths), which we’ll probably have eaten by next Tuesday at the rate we go through jam, one grape pie, one gluten-free grape crisp to share with Nana, three big bags of washed and cookie-sheet frozen grapes for fall smoothies, and one rather modest container of leftover grapes just for snacking. I have no idea what type of grapes they are; they are delicious like concord grapes but are thin-skinned and seedless like their more bland and tart supermarket cousins. I used the old-fashioned recipe for jam, which basically just involves combining 2 parts grapes with 3 parts sugar and cooking the crap out of it (that’s a technical term) until it reaches the slightly mysterious gelling stage, at which point you pour it into clean jars. I usually make jam this way, without pectin, although it takes longer and uses more sugar. It just tastes jammier to me and feels more like channeling my foremothers, which seems like a legitimate goal of making jam in the age of Costco. Dorothy and Worth set up a lemonade stand out in front of our house under the guidance of their father while I made jam and raked in more than $20.00 in profits over the course of the gorgeous late-morning, which they spent on plush foxes at the zoo next day. So glad we’ve finally been able to crawl out from under the air conditioning for a few days!
I listed it on craigslist a few days ago, but because I’m, um, emotionally attached to the item it took me a few days to get the courage to own up to it on here. Don’t laugh–the next owner is going to love it too. And of course I’m not getting out of the vintage camper business, I just have my eye on a new one with an extra bed so my son can get booted to his own sleep space and will quit kicking me in the ribs all night. I think an extra two feet or so of camper will serve us well. So hurry up and share the link to mine, so I can sell it and buy the “new” one! Eek!
ETA: Camper is now sold and listing is no longer active. Thanks!
I have been looking for a camera bag. Standard-issue camera bags are both ugly and very expensive. There are some fantastic ones on Etsy, but those are beautiful and very expensive. I’d been considering making a camera bag but the construction of a sturdy enough bag to protect my camera in transit had me a little worried. Then yesterday I found this red vinyl case at a thrift store. It’s got the look of something that might have been a gift with makeup purchase twenty years ago but it’s in perfect condition. It is sturdy, with hard sides and strong handles, and it is just the perfect size for my little DSLR with the flash attached. It was kind of awesome in it’s own right, in a red lipstick kind of way, but wasn’t my style. I thought I could make it better if I had different colored old vinyl bags to cut up and make into flowers, but, well, I didn’t have any of those, and thrifting more bags just to cut up to decorate this one didn’t really fit my project schedule or budget so I improvised with what I had on hand–felt.
I used more of the felted wool blanket I’d used to make my Kindle case, plus other felt from my stash and some cool buttons to make flowers. I used hot glue to attach the pieces to each other and to the case. This project took less than a half an hour and I think I paid $2.50 for the case. Now this case is the kind of awesome that fits my style and I’m looking forward to using it for my camera. I’m also pretty sure that if I get tired of the decorations or want to change them that I can just peel off the glue.
I’m also going to share a review of a recent purchase from My Pix 2 Canvas. I’d purchased a Groupon (or was it Living Social?) deal for this company and finally took just the right photo to try out their services. I snapped this picture of the kids in front of my brother and sister-in-law’s barn last week and I really like it. Both kids look like themselves, the weathered barn siding looks cool, and the colors the kids are wearing just happen to work really well in my bedroom, which is where I’d envisioned hanging my bargain canvas. Uploading and ordering the canvas was easy and it arrived fast. The print quality seems very good, although I’m less than impressed with the way the extra canvas hangs off loose in the back. There is also no hook or wire to hang it with. I’m still very pleased, though, and I’d probably order from this company again. The actual image quality and color faithfulness just seems a lot better than those I’ve seen at, ahem, large warehouse club stores, for example. Their regular prices are a bit high but it appears that discount codes are easily available with a little Googling. I like the look of traditional, framed prints but this is an inexpensive nod to this current photo-display trend, so I’m sold.
When I did the bat pillows last month I also cut out pillowcases for my family room sofa. I wanted something that could stay out all fall, not just for Halloween. I vaguely remembered seeing something in a magazine that used a similar style for a felt leaf applique and I liked that idea, so I went with it. I didn’t want these pillows to match so I put an acorn on the other. These pillows have been nice projects because they are quick but make a nice impact. I used really inexpensive clearance fabric for the pillow cases, attached the felt cutouts with fabric glue, then stitched around them with embroidery floss. I printed out some internet clip art to look at while I cut out the shapes. The only problem with these was that in a couple places the fabric glue soaked through the felt and left dark splotches. If I did this again I’d use less glue and not handle the pillowcase at all until the glue was dry. After these were done I thought that if I was going to blog about it I should try to look up that magazine reference and I found it. I love the shiny fabric they used but that wouldn’t be so practical in a home full of peanut-buttery fingers.
This autumn has been so erratic with the temperatures. Right when I get settled into fires in the fireplace, homemade wool socks and hot spiced apple cider (with brandy after 6 pm!) it turns warm again and I need something refreshingly cool. One day I experimented by stirring some maple syrup into sparkling water and pouring it over ice and I was so happy. Yum. Since that day I have experimented with the syrup, cream and milk and determined that the perfect maple cream cooler is this: 1 TB real maple syrup + 1 TB whole milk + glass full of iced sparkling water. This is what warm autumn days are for.
And while I’m on fall snacks, it annoys me that the popular consciousness considers peeled apple slices dipped in sugar syrup (caramel, whatever) to be a “snack.” I hate to break it to anyone, but peeled fruit with a side of sugar is dessert. But the dipping of apple slices is kind of awesome, and I’m pleased to have landed on a new apple dip for the days when we’re tired of our usual almond or peanut butters. I stirred a dollop of honey and a pinch of pumpkin pie spice into plain yogurt and it’s very good. Fallish and creamy and reminiscent of pie. And much more virtuous than caramel! If you don’t have pumpkin (or apple) pie spice you can easily make your own. Here’s a recipe that turned up in a quick google search, or you can create your own based on your favorite fall spices. I use it in everything this time of year from pancakes to yogurt to sprinkling it on top of my coffee grounds before brewing. The local schools are on fall break today so my little homeschooler took the morning off as well. Our neighbor friend came over to play with Dorothy and I helped them have a crafty morning together. The girls decorated treasure boxes out of old yogurt containers that seem very much like some flower pots we made once before, and they sewed dolls inspired by the ones I saw in Martha Stewart Living this past month. They made theirs out of old white napkins because they didn’t like the idea of a doll made from printed fabric. They have big plans for sewing doll dresses next but have now taken an extended break to dig in the dirt out in this lovely fall sunshine.
It has been my goal to have the unfinished, storage part of our basement clean and organized before the time came to put out Halloween decorations this year. I adore Halloween decorations and have blogged about a couple of my favorites in the past. We moved right before Christmas last year, which was nuts, and unpacking and reorganizing for this house has been a long and gradual task. The basement had finally climbed up on my priority list and I was making good progress on it right before Rob’s injury, but now it has taken a back seat. I think I’m going to mostly let the Halloween decorating go this year because I just can’t stomach the task of locating and dragging up boxes of decorations from a messy, disorganized space and plopping them back down there the same way. But I still can’t let my favorite season go by without a little festively spooky fun. I made cushions for my front porch chairs over the summer but the floral fabric no longer seemed appropriate to the season. I sewed these new Halloween pillow covers (only one is pictured) in a neutral fabric, then used fabric glue to attach a black felt bat cutout to the front and made stitching around the bat with white embroidery floss. The shams were a quick but satisfying project made with inexpensive materials and a design that is strong enough to be noticed from the street. Now all I have to do after Halloween is launder them and tuck them into the right box downstairs–not such a bad job.Rob’s injury has increased the time I’ve been able to spend knooking and crocheting. Waiting rooms are really the perfect spots for yarn crafts. I knooked this hat, but modified to have a fold-up brim like this one. I love the classic look of the Irish cable pattern and it was surprisingly simple to do. In my head knitted cables have always been swathed in some sort of unapproachable crafty mystic, but some basic internet instructions explained the process quite clearly and it didn’t end up being any more difficult than regular ribbing. I think this hat might want to be finished off with a faux-fur pom-pom kind of like this one but I’m not sure where to buy one. Maybe I will just make a trip to Claire’s and purchase an inexpensive accessory that includes a fur pom-pom and use that. Seems kind of wasteful but I’ve not seen them for sale on their own. I used this yarn from Joann and it’s okay. Soft but unexciting. The hat turned out a bit big, either because my gauge was off with such lofty yarn (I didn’t check) or because I have a small head, but I kind of like it that way–it won’t squish my curls.
And my knooking set came in! I’m thrilled. It was totally worth the wait to order this set from China via eBay. The price was terrific and I now have all the basic sizes. The quality seems good, the holes are just the right width and the sizes all clearly labeled. Plus it was just fun to get a parcel sent directly from China. Dorothy studied all the unfamiliar characters on the customs sheet and we traced the path the package traveled around the globe.
It was so lame that my blog title didn’t match my address. Now it does. This address should be easier to remember. Thanks for joining me!
My gorgeous nieces appear courtesy of Life on the Farm.
We’re growing attached to this pup but haven’t settled on a name. I created a poll. Want to help?
Click here to take survey
We’re a mess of boxes and dirty laundry over here, but the move is over. We had a rick of wood delivered today, and friends came to help us drag boxes to one side of the room (under that window, see?) so that at least the cozy space around the family room fire looks habitable, and we are enjoying it! We bought one of the last live Christmas trees available at our local lot, and though it’s a bit sad looking and uneven Dorothy loves it. She was so eager to put on ornaments that she started decorating the tree at once–before we put on lights. Skipping lights at least means there is one less thing to put away after Christmas! The empty table on the other side of the fireplace is my sewing table. I am so excited about the happy hours I will spend under that beautiful picture window (which will be replaced with one I can slide open when our new window order is installed in 4-6 weeks), and Dorothy’s wee desk next to mine will (she hopes) get a little starter sewing machine on it after Santa arrives on Saturday.
Hope everyone else is feeling like they are occupying the right space this Christmas.
We have a house! Hooray! To our great surprise and delight, the owner of the Good Memories house (see below) accepted our offer outright. Now we’re feeling a little foolish that we didn’t just give that a try a week ago and save ourselves the anxiety. We have the housing inspection and tests yet to get through, but we’re hoping for the best. I’m so excited about this new house and I think it’s going to be a great fit for our family. There is such a terrific crafty space with a cozy wood-burning stove in the basement! There is also all the crazy wallpaper, outdated fixtures, and appliances that might be as old as me, but we’ll deal with those in time. It’ll be like the camper project but on a large scale. This house it the one I had in mind months ago when I bought all the yellow florals to make Dorothy a quilt. The wallpaper will stay up in her new room at her insistence, and I’ll finally give those sheets a second life once my sewing space is unpacked at our new address.
The kitchen in this house is so bad right now, with a wallpaper wharf scene, outdated cabinetry, and brown appliances, but I can already picture the makeover in my mind. The whole house has a real World War II vibe (it was built in ’41) and I’m going to accessorize the kitchen with a vintage Kentucky tourism theme in mind. I have already picked up a few charmingly hokey vintage plates that were sold at Kentucky tourist destinations decades ago (eBay and local thrift shops) and these sweet salt and pepper shakers. And out of respect for the home’s time period Rob and I have vowed to drink more martinis and listen to more Frank Sinatra.
This scene was from my kitchen this morning. Worth scooted over to Dorothy’s chair and was gruntingly begging her for food. Dorothy asked if she could feed him, and my first reaction was, “if you feed him, he’ll never leave you alone.” But then it occurred to me that he’s a baby not a dog, so I said she could. So she fed him bits of cereal from her cup, and well, now he’ll probably never leave her alone.
Three sides are painted! The camper is looking so adorable in cherry red that I’m getting nervous about my planned embellishment. I guess once I’m to that point I’ll just take a deep breath and do it, knowing I can always paint over it if it looks sillly.
photo courtesy of icesk8r on Etsy.com
How cute are these earrings? I wish I’d made them, but I didn’t. I found them on Etsy, and I’m going to have to forward this post to my husband so he’ll get them for me for Christmas. Or mabye this? Who said I wanted a hitch instead of jewelry? I want camper jewerly!
And chocolate cupcakes! The legend goes like this: circa 1980 a four-year-old big sister was jealous of a new brother’s myriad baby milestones, whereas she only had a birthday once a year. The girl’s wise mother told her that she, too, had more than one birthday–she had a half birthday that marked the six-month point in between regular birthdays, and they could have cupcakes to celebrate. So a tradition was born. Now that little girl’s own little girl gets cupcakes on her half birthday, too. (Ahem.) So these are the cupcakes Dorothy helped me bake and decorate on Tuesday, marking the important passage to 4-and-a-half. I’m sorry to report that I caught her acting exactly like a 4-and-a-half-year-old; eating sprinkles right from the can during cupcake decorating, told her she had to stop, then saw her crawl under the table and hide for a moment, only to emerge with very red lips and the pronouncement, “the pink sprinkles are all gone!” I didn’t let her decorate any more cupcakes, and she pitched a huge fit. But we had a nice half birthday celebration anyway.