Sunday, September 13, 2015

Smith Mountain Morning progress; Country Cozy afghan (new start!)

Hi everyone!!!!!!
Yes, you betcha, absolutely.....
Can you believe it??  Amy spent some time back in the quilting room!!!!!!
Before I started up the official 'tracking clock,' I spent about 15 minutes cleaning up other crafting messes that my girls and myself have made over the past month.  I've been using my cutting mat to trim the labels for my crochet items, and my girls have been digging into my 'not-so-good' stash, making small pillows and bags.  There were cluttery messes all over!

My only focus today was to try to finish up all 28 connector blocks in the Smith Mountain Morning - greens project.  There were a few final brown strips that I needed to cut from scraps in order to complete the two brown 7.5" side strips before being able to press and move to the greens.

Hour 16 came and went, all the while pressing and cutting 56 green strips, piecing the 112 small white squares, and finally sewing them onto the blocks.  

16 and a half hours in -- all 28 connectors blocks and star blocks are sewn, pressed and ready for assembly into a quilt top center!

In typical Amy fashion, while sitting and looking around my crochet area last week, I was feeling burned out with my smaller cotton-yarn projects.  I have plenty of washcloths, the hat pattern mojo was wearing off, and my king-size manghan for Paul was giving me a small "I'm-done-with-you-for-now" moment.
So... off to Ravelry I went for a little inspiration...
The Country Cozy afghan pattern had been in my favorites for quite some time.  The examples shown weren't really sparking any magic, but when I started looking over some of the completed projects.... the single color finishes were fabulous!!!
I've been wanting a creamy-ish colored, single color afghan ever since I first learned in 2013.  With a full skein of Caron's Simply Soft 'Bone' sitting on my shelf, I was set (albeit, short lived.  The skein was emptied by day's end).

The garden has been processed for the week already, with much thanks to my MIL.  She processed up a case of potatoes (quarts) and a couple cases of carrots (pints).  The tomatoes are kinda stalled, so I don't have any of those to worry about today.  Digging potatoes hasn't really been on my todo list for all the years we've had a garden;  Paul usually handles that duty, so I'll continue thinking he'll take care of them.  The remaining carrots can wait until we decide what we want to do with them all.  The cabbage also awaits Paul's decision.

So.... with the Packer game coming on shortly, and ALL of my school work already finished for the weekend... I simply hope to kick back with some crochet and cheer the Pack to a victory over the Bears.  (and fret not -- I have some newly acquired Bone yarn for my Country Cozy!) ;)

Happy Sunday everyone!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Beginnings: school, running, tomatoes, and some crochet

Rather than thinking that the summer has come to an end, I've accepted this time change as "School begins!"
This year we have a Freshman, 6th and 4th graders.  A friend asked what grade I was in, so... after 12HS + 5BS + 5MS + 18 years teaching... I am in 40th grade. ;)
The morale around the 7-12 wing is on the up-n-up; we have new administration, and so far, the change has been for the better!  We are so hopeful and optimistic!!!!  It feels good to be hopeful again!

I've even started running again!!!!
Mind you, PART of that decision came when I organized my closet two weeks ago, trying EVERY item on.  I parted with quite a bit, but also added a lil' bit due to a Goodwill shopping spree.  SOME of my pants are a bit too snuggy-snug right now, so...... back to running to burn that lil' layer of pudgy-pudge!


The face on the picture really says most of it so far;  :\.  I really haven't run a training program for the past two years, so I'm 100% back to square-1.  Many walks, and slow pace... perhaps I'll get back down to my 9:30/mile average that I ran in 2013 for one of my half-marathons.
Baby steps for now...

 Last weekend a small collection of tomatoes were ripe for the picking, and I made up a batch of salsa.  After a week of HEAT and HEAT and more HEAT, mixed with loads of HUMIDITY, our tomatoes started taking off.  (um yah, that heat in a classroom with zero AC this past week ---- UGGGERS!)

Caitlyn and I gathered up what was ripe;  it ended up being a decent ~70 pounds, with lots more out on the plants yet!     Since the heat is still barring down on us, I was NOT interested in having the stove/oven on for much of the weekend in order to reduce these babies down to a sauce, so instead... Vegetable juice was the plan!  We'll save the sauce-making for next weekend with our next ripe pickings; it looks like this heat is finally breaking this week.  Whew!

I have a few different varieties out there:  Abe Lincoln, Polish Linguisa, Red Oxheart, Viva Italia (my FAVORITE for sauce), and a few IDK heirlooms that we received as seed from our neighbor two years ago.  We've planted a few of the 'mystery seeds' each year since we've had them;  they make LARGE tomatoes.  I didn't weigh any last year, but I want to believe that this is close to the largest we've had.  There have been two others I've weighed as well:  one was 1 lb 10oz, the other was 1 lb 12 oz.    It doesn't take many of those tomatoes to add up to a lot of juice in a little time.  ;)

After the morning of processing, we filled two full cases of quarts of Vegetable juice (tomatoes, carrots, onions, celery, parsley, peppers).  We no longer preserve straight tomato juice; we prefer the flavor of the veggie juice.  My in-laws like using the juice in Bloody Marys; I'm not much of a fan, but I LOVE using this juice throughout the year for Chili!

I'm SO thankful for the long holiday weekend;  it's always nice having a slow 4-day week start to the school year;  this year we have TWO 4-day weeks to start since we didn't start until this past Tuesday, Sept. 1.
I've used a bit of the available time to organize a bunch of my recent crochet finishes in order to have them ready for my MIL and some craft fairs she'll be participating in.

Lots of 100% USA-grown cotton washcloths;  8" and 10" with a couple 7"x9".

Bath Poufs have been a new addition to my collection: small and large sizes

Hats have also been a new addition this year, in a variety of sizes ranging from youth M to adult S.

A bunch of the frilly yarn was still sitting on my shelves, so I found time to get those made into the frilly scarves, plus I still have some left;  I may just bite the bullet to buckle down and clear this yarn out completely.

However, I really really really am thinking of getting downstairs into the sewing room later today.  It's been a month since I've quilted!  If not even longer!  I've fallen behind in the RSC'15, and I can't let Andee down seeing that we decided to team up in a project together :D  And my Smith Mountain Morning in greens is still sitting, waiting for its 14th hour of progress.

For those in the USA, I hope you are enjoying the holiday weekend!!!  For everyone else, I hope you are enjoying your Sunday afternoon before heading back to the workweek tomorrow.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Summer winding down; chicks, harvest, soaping, and a smidgen of quilting

The newest, and FINAL, chicks of the season joined us this past week.  

I had been peeking in on Mama daily seeing we didn't really know when she started sitting on her clutch of eggs.  Do you see the little guy tucked in right by her breast?  
Since the hatch, we've been trying to get an accurate count, but have simply decided to shrug and wait until we graduate Mama and chicks to a ground brooder, that way we'll count as we remove them from the brooder house. We THINK there are 12-14 in there, which brings our total number of chickens on the property to..........

somewhere around 85-90.  LOL.  However, not all of them will spend the winter with us.  Many of the hatched chicks this year are roosters, and we simply don't need a whole lotta roosters around the property.  Two have already been claimed by a neighbor; we're hoping to find houses for others just as easily!

Goodness, WHERE to even start with this catchup...

Well, it IS breakfast time around here.  Hungry?  Paul shared an Apple Fritter recipe to my FB page a few weeks ago, so last weekend, I gave it a try.  Soooo yummy!  See the icing drip onto my thumb?  Yuppers, folks!  Finger-lickin' good! Recipe here.

And yes!  It is that time of year again;  the annual pollinating of Ragweed!
*whispering*  But crazy enough, I have not been overwhelmed with itchy eyes or runny nose this year.  Could it be that I'm finally growing out of this allergy????  Candace, on the other hand, continues to be miserable;  allergy medicines we've tried barely take the edge off.  

So that means I've been able to be in the garden without too much discomfort.  Yay!
The tomatoes are slowly starting to ripen; about 20 pounds harvested so far, with HUNDREDS of pounds yet to come.  No lie!  HUNDREDS!!!!!!  Holy tomatoes, batman!  I guess 78 plants will do that, huh?  LOL.....

One monster so far....

The excess basil from the Pesto making a few weeks ago has been drying and waiting for processing. 
It doesn't take much basil to fill a spice container, so we're reserving the rest to make some tomato-basil seasoning once we've dried some tomatoes.

A coffee filter worked great as a collection device and then again as a pour-spout, only after sifting out some larger stems by hand.

Coffee filters were also used to keep dirt from falling out of some pots that were used for my plant clippings.  
I find it quite cool watching the root systems grow!  I don't know what kind of houseplant this is, but it is SO easy to care for AND propagate!

Much of our living room has been taken over by plants, which doesn't bother me at all... sorta!  
An opportunity was given to me to add two more mini-greenhouses to my lot (thanks Karen!!!!), all in exchange for some homemade lotions and soaps.  

For now, the greenhouse plastic was set aside, and they are being used as organizational shelving for our (ever-growing) collection of plants.  Weird, maybe, but I can't help but smile when I look at the showcase of plants and photos!

Some more soaps have been added to the curing shelves:  Oatmeal, Milk and Honey, and Hazelnut coffee (my NEW favorite!!!!!)  I love walking through my curing room (which also happens to by my quilting room).  The smells are yummy, yummy, yummy!  What a fun adventure this has been this summer!

Caitlyn's Lemon yogurt "Energy" soap has been in the bathroom for the past couple of weeks.  After trying it out, I accepted that a simple recipe is truly sufficient to make a great bar of soap!  This was one of the first batches we made this summer:  70% olive oil and 30% coconut oil, and then some fragrance.  Quick and easy to mix up; lathers and bubbles wonderfully, and does its job!

The corn harvest has been underway for us for the past week, and two weeks ago, when visiting my parents, I allowed myself to kick back while waiting for the grilled corn.  (Hmmm... another picture with a glass of wine.... )
Have I mentioned how thankful I am for the help I get with the Fall harvests????
Amidst a harvest, when time doesn't allow for large time-consuming meals, it IS okay to simply place a jar of fresh salsa and a plate of fresh corn-on-the-cob on the table.  

We ARE finding time for fun and relaxing, too!
Last week, Paul and I finally buckled down and hired a crew to pour a 30x30 concrete slab, with intentions of using it as an "activity" area for the girls.  Basketball, volleyball, skating...


....wait for it.....

I found a couple hours of time to work a little more on the Smith Mountain Morning quilt!  Hours 13 and 14 (no pic) were completed.

School schedules are almost back in full swing.  Cassie has made the starting lineup on the JV volleyball squad; I'm not sure who loves the sport more, her or me!  We're off to watch the Varsity play in their first tournament of the season in a little bit.  
The first day of school is Tuesday (9/1).  I think we're ready. ;)

Happy Saturday!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Early August happenings...

I took a moment to go through my phone pics to see what I've been up to lately... 

Part of the basil patch was harvested to make some Pesto.  Paul, Cassie and myself are quite fond of Pesto... on crackers, on toast, on pizza.  When planting in the spring, I elected to plant an entire package of seed.  Heehehehe.... I don't think we need to do THAT again!  We literally have basil growing out of our ears.  Some friends were invited over to help manage the basil;  we still have LOTS left over.

Excitement in the mail!!!!!  KatieZ contacted me earlier about some cotton yarn she had in excess and wondered if I was interested in working out a deal.
?!?!?!!   Ah--yah!  Candance and I were both excited to tear into the box of goodies!
And later that day, while the girls swam, I elected to finish crocheting up some Crochet-top kitchen towels.
Also on the mail-front....
Cassie gandered out to the mailbox one day...

... to be followed home by her posse!

Some shifting of chicken houses needed attention due to the newest (and FINAL) hatchlings of the season.

Big Mama with our 22 youngest hatchlings (first week of August).  She is protecting them nicely in the ground brooder, which was NOT the original plan, BTW!
Nope, nope.  Originally, we were going to have her start brooding them in the house-brooder.
But..... it seems that another Mama was interested in even MORE chickens on the Skattebo ranch!

*forehead slap!*
Yes folks---there is a chance to have another dozen or so chicks on the property in another week or so!  And, I KNEW there was a reason for the dwindle in egg production in the upper coops!

Anyway, yah, so the house-shifting started!
We started by kicking Carlos (rooster) out of the 'new' coop in order to allow the 27 oldest chicks of the season to have safe access to their permanent housing.  Together with two other year-old hens, they are now housed.  (29 birds there).
Carlos and two other older hens departed the 'new' coop together and are now mingling quite nicely with our main rooster, Steve, and his posse of 9 hens.  So...., what is that?.....another 13 birds.  (42 so far).
Then, the 14 'teenager' that had been in the ground brooder were moved into the temporary housing that the older chicks HAD been in.  (we're up to.... 56).
At that point, we were able to move Big Mama and her 22 chickies into the ground brooder (78 now; I already counted Mama as one that belonged to Steve).
So... I THINK I've taken care of counting everyone..... add to that another dozen or so that the newest Mama will hatch.... Yah.  About 90 birds.  That's fun, right?!?!!?

Oh yah... one other little minor happening in early August...
I turned 40.  

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Lotion Bars and Whipped Lotions

Last month, hard lotion bars were given a try in the DIY Skattebo kitchen.  
I was AMAZED at the fragrance that the cocoa butter gave the lotion bars!!  So amazed that I've decided to simply NOT add scent when using cocoa butter anymore.  Ever!  Shea butter will be used when I know I want to add fragrance ;)

Simple recipe for a lotion bar (using cocoa butter):
Equal parts by weight:  Cocoa butter,  Olive oil,  Beeswax
For 1 ounce parts, I added 1/2 tsp Vitamin E.

I found this recipe makes for quite a hard bar;  perfect for hands, elbows, knees and the like, but it wasn't easy to use on the larger body parts (arms, legs...).  The bar didn't glide nicely.

Fast forward a week:
Trial #2
Equal parts by weight: Cocoa butter, Olive oil
Beeswax part was cut in half
ie: 1 ounce each Cocoa butter and Olive oil, 1/2 ounce beeswax.

Now, the bars were too soft.
{{This was kinda taking on a Goldilocks feel}}

So, I melted the bars back down, and added some more beeswax.
When I need to make up more bars, I will try a 1:1:.75 ratio of cocoa butter, olive oil and beeswax.
(ie: 1 ounce each of cocoa butter, olive oil, and 3/4 ounce beeswax.

Simple recipe for a lotion bar (using Shea butter)
Since Shea butter is a bit softer at room temperature than Cocoa butter, I kept this trial's recipe following the ideal of equal parts (by weight) Shea butter, Olive oil and beeswax.
Although, as I've been researching more on oils and butters for soaps, I elected to play a little bit with the liquid oils.
30g Shea butter (30g is just a smidgen more than an ounce)
15g Olive oil
15g Sunflower oil
30g Beeswax
1/2 tsp Vitamin E
1/2 tsp fragrance/essential oil

Outcome:  The jury is still out.  A couple bars were shared with Karen, a reader of the blog. (HI KAREN!!!!)  She and I arranged a lil' swap (lotions for mini greenhouses), so I asked her if she'd be willing to share feedback with me once she's had the opportunity to try out the bars.  I'm HOPING the bars glide a little bit better than the equal-part cocoa butter bars did.

This truly has been a summer of DIY beauty products in the Skattebo kitchen!
Homemade soaps -- more evaluations to come on all of those now that they've cured long enough.
Lip balm -- loving it!
Liquid soaps -- nothing blogged on that yet.  Eh -- not sold on any recipe I've tried yet, though.
Sugar scrubs -- nothing blogged yet.  But----OMGOODNESS!!!! I made a Spiced Pumpkin sugar scrub last week.  Heaven!!!!!

Today, I've added the newest product to the family:  whipped lotion/body butter

Simple recipe for whipped lotion
120g (~1/2 cup) coconut oil
120g (~1/2 cup) Shea butter
4g beeswax
1/2 tsp Vitamin E
Melt oil, butter and beeswax together.  Mix, add vitamin E, and then chill in fridge for ~30 minutes
Whip to desired consistency...

I then divided the batch into 5 baby food jars, allowing the girls to have personalized lotions using a fragrance each of them selected.

Fragrance:  1mL fragrance added to each jar

being silly, she joked about licking the mixing spoon!

couldn't stop smelling her hands once the fragrance was added

I am finally happy I have homemade lotion available that is partially liquid, without having to rely only on the lotion bars.  I'm HOOKED!
As for cost effectiveness.... I haven't performed any analysis.  The coconut oil cost ~$7.50 for the entire jar (I only used 1/2 cup).  The Shea butter was also ~&7.50 for the pound (we used 120g).  Vitamin E...ummm; I think it was $2-3; I can't remember anymore, but we barely made a dent in it. Each fragrance ran about $4-6 for 60mL, but again, we barely made a dent, using only 1mL.  The beeswax came from our hives.
Yeah, I'm thinking the cost effectiveness is there.

So, it's been awhile since I've posted.  Yah.  Sorry about that.  I've been busy though, as I'm sure you all can well imagine.
Gardening, harvesting, and lots of crocheting, a little bit of quilting, and a decent amount of soaping.  The summer is not-so-slowly dwindling into its final weeks before the start of the new school year hits on September 1.
Happy Sunday everyone!