Thursday, September 30, 2010

Handmade Christmas 2010

Remember, just like last year, if you are one of my sisters-in-law, don't read any farther!

OK, for the rest of you, I'll share what I'm planning to make for Christmas presents. If you're doing handmade this year, I'd love to see what you're working on in the comments!

Last year, I picked up a bunch of Christmas fabric and ribbon on clearance in anticipation of making fabric bags to use for wrapping this year. I made several bags then realized how tedious it is and ended up wrapping most of the gifts in a piece of fabric not really unlike how I wrap with paper. The exception is that I didn't use tape, I just used ribbon and a bow (or bows...) to hold things together. I'm quite pleased with how they turned out, and surprised that I have quite a bit of fabric left over! I also would like to mention that I made tags from last year's Christmas cards. I cut out any pretty picture and even some of the wording, punched a hole in them, and added a reinforcement sticker just in case I want to use them next year, too.

Let's start with my nieces. The oldest is 11, and she isn't getting much in the way of handmade. Right now, she's into all things peace sign and her favorite color is green. I found some big signs at Hobby Lobby, one that says Peace and one that is a peace sign, that were in every color *except* green. So I bought a can of spray paint and painted them! She is also getting an electronic Phase 10 game that I picked up for a few bucks on an sale last year.

Next niece is 7. She'll be getting a Husker sweatshirt (thrifted, 'cause I'm like that and her mom is OK with it), a Geoboard (No Time For Flash Cards), and a tiny fairy doll, including the "fairy catcher necklace" as seen here (both Treasures for Tots).

Niece #3 is 6. She'll also get a geoboard, tiny fairy doll (maybe something like the fairy house that is linked from the doll post above), and velcro catch ball. (Craftzine)

My fourth niece is 3. She'll be getting some lacing beads, a preschool sewing kit (The Adventures of Bear) or like this one at Frugal Family Fun Blog, and a toss & catch toy. (Chasing Cheerios). Her birthday just passed, and one of her gifts for that was a beauty shop in a box (see mine at that link). (Chasing Cheerios - see the one that inspired me at this link.)

We usually give my brother and sister-in-law meat from our cattle. My brother will also be getting some lego cards (Filth Wizardry) which will be used by my nieces with his enormous set of legos that still reside at our parents' house. I also made him some poppers out of a pool noodle (clearanced!). We had something similar when we were kids, and I got a kick out of making them. I also made a simple drawstring bag to store them in. There are 88 poppers, which means each of my nieces will have to pick up 22 after the mayhem is over...

All mothers and sisters-in-law will be getting homemade vanilla (Heavenly Homemakers), though I am making mine a bit differently. I read in the comments that bourbon makes a better vanilla than vodka, so I bought that instead. It is more expensive, and I haven't ran the numbers yet but I think it's still cheaper than buying vanilla at the store. I got a late start on the vanilla, but I think things are going to work out fine - I ended up with more beans than I needed, plus the bottle I am using doesn't hold quite a gallon. I'm hoping that by using extra beans and less booze, it'll be extra strong and will cancel out the shortened brew time. Plus, since it won't be "steeping" for as long, I plan to add more bourbon and let it keep on keeping on.

We got family pictures taken as Hubs's parents' gift.

Hubs' two sisters will get vanilla, of course. One is getting an initial kind of like this one from Flamingo Toes for one of them, perhaps stealing an idea from the fabric wrapped initial at goody-goody. Luckily, said sister-in-law painted her room based on something I made her and I have leftover supplies from it, so that helps! I found most of the letters of the other SIL's last name in the clearance section at Hobby Lobby. I'll paint them and fashion the missing letter similarly enough to pass muster. (Update, I broke my craft knife blade, but I turned a g into an s!)

I attempted to recreate something like this necklace from Catherines. As usual, my theory is great but my process is not so much. My flowers are not looking like flowers... Instead, I'm looking at something like this fabric bead necklace from froo*gal.

It floors me that my nephew is a year and a half old. Where does time go?? He will be getting a couple of toys that I got during a huge Amazon sale, a button snake (Counting Coconuts) and a tie rattlesnake (Skip to My Lou).

Last but not least, Goose is actually getting more store-bought presents than homemade ones. I found some Lincoln Logs (well, Frontier Logs, but same thing) on clearance, a pair of kitty slippers from Target's dollar aisle, a thrifted Snow White dress up dress, a thrifted book about kitties (it's in brand new condition, though), and a toss & catch toy like her cousin above. Though I have ideas to make her a fabric "book" of sorts with different scenes for her Care Bears, along with some elastic loops to store said Care Bears. We'll see how that turns out.

I don't have much for Hubs yet, though we have discussed pooling our resources and getting an elliptical as our gift to each other. Thanks to hubs's genius, we'll be getting some college hockey tickets for our brother-in-law, and he's getting a set of poppers as seen above as well. Men are much more difficult to stitch for! (My parents get meat from our cattle, too, by the way.) As I said above, I'd love to know what you're doing if you're making Christmas presents - let me know in the comments. You can see what I made for Christmas last year at this post.

For tons of frugal ideas, visit Life As Mom, where Jessica is also talking about gifts!

Monday, September 27, 2010

How Much Is Double Bread Dough?

I enjoy making bread-sorts-of-things from scratch, though I have a lot of practicing to do before I get very good at it. One thing that has given me pause is how to figure out when dough has risen to double. Usually it's in a bowl that is smaller at the bottom than the top, and my eyeball is not very accurate at measuring stuff anyway. Enter this tip from Alton Brown:

I use a container like this that is nearly the same size at the bottom as it is at the top. I also actually use a ruler to figure out how tall the dough is, and place a rubber band where the dough needs to get to be double. It's easy to tell at a glance as I'm walking by if it's there or not. Since there is a whole lot of air between the dough and the lid, I still use a piece of plastic wrap to cover my dough and make sure it doesn't dry out.

For more kitchen tips, visit Tammy's Recipes.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Link Roundup - Ahh, Fall Edition

Goose and I went outside for a while tonight before her bedtime and enjoyed the beautiful weather. While it's tough to dress a little one (pants and jacket in the morning, shorts and short sleeves by noon!), I so dearly love this time of year.

Still trying to catch up on the links, so let's get to it.

This woven Headband Refashion at Skip To My Lou is really, really neat.

Oh, MERCIFUL HEAVENS, I am dying of cuteness from this Old MacDonald Puppet Tutorial and Pattern at Just Another Day in Paradise.

This Braided Neck Tutorial at Just Another Day in Paradise is a very cute way to customize, and I'm thinking it could be done with spare fabric or thrifted shirts and could really make an outfit pop!

Tee hee, I am loving this Kids Craft that uses recycled pencil shavings at Kala Nirmitee.

Little Miss Momma has a tutorial for a cute and simple Sew Button Headband.

Also cute and simple is this Ribbon and Bead Bracelet at Live Laugh Craft.

Oh, mercy, I am loving this Diaper Cover Tutorial and Free Pattern at MADE. Goose is long out of diapers, but she isn't so good at the whole modesty thing when wearing a dress.

Another thing I never knew I wanted to do - My Way To Make Fabric Stickers, at mairuru.

Well done, Paint Me Plaid - this Cherry Shelf is adorable!

Three of my favorite things: Homemade. Cinnamon. Bread. No surprise, coming from The Pioneer Woman.

Not quite as exciting, but still a good idea is Homemade French Dressing at Heavenly Homemakers.

I had been passing by recipes that include bisquick, but Plate by Plate has a recipe for Homemade Quick Baking Mix, and it uses butter, much healthier than shortening.

Though it takes a whole lotta tomatoes and doesn't yield much paste, I'm really thinking about trying this recipe for Homemade Tomato Paste from Group Recipes. (Thanks, Kim!)

I've given up on the boxed stuff, so I can't help collect recipes for Homemade Macaroni and Cheese, this one from Kuzak's Closet.

Losing Creek Farm is talking about Frying Potatoes.

You know those posts that you gain ten pounds just by reading? Click through at your own risk... Dough Boys, at Making Memories ... One Fun Thing After Another.

And again, Maple Glazed Walnuts at Tammy's Recipes.

There's another ten pounds... Lemon Lush, at Me And My Pink Mixer.

More shirring advice, this time Shirring With Your Brother - that's a sewing machine, not a sibling. :>) (@ Grosgrain)

I haven't checked it out at all, but someone somewhere recommended Homeschool Skedtrack, which "is a FREE online lesson planner, scheduler, and tracking system rolled into one. The heart of the system is the automated scheduling of activities that frees you from the headache of rescheduling everything once an activity/lesson is missed."

Not only is the post itself interesting, but Dana at MADE has one of the longest post titles ever Home Improvement: Everything You Need To Know About Painting Walls, Vertical Stripes, Paint Tools, and A Little Crown Molding. Whew.

This is one of those posts that you hope you never need to know. It's Almost Naptime!! explains How to Help a Friend Who Has Lost a Child.

Though we didn't find out if Goose was a boy or a girl, I love the idea of this Gender Reveal Party, at Joyful Adorations. I think there was a video when I first saw it but it's not there anymore. The pictures are super cute, still. Very fun!

Check out what is Behind Closet Doors at Ana White, aka Knock Off Wood.

This Cereal Box Marble Run at Made by Joel is keeping the theme of simple and very fun.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Link Roundup - Stuffed Folder Edition

I did a quick count, and it seems there are well over 100 links in my folder to share. Guess that's what I get for skipping a few weeks! I didn't mean to take a break, but here we are. Don't worry, I'll put them up in chunks... no hugely ginormous link posts. Let's get started - lots to do!

Crafty friends, check out Amy's Finer Things for a chance to win a Silhouette Craft Cutter - wow!

A girl and a glue gun has a category of several things to make with little tins. Whether you eat a lot of those fancy mints or picked some up on clearance after Christmas last year like I did, there are some cute ideas to help use them up.

Not to be confused with the title of this section, {Make} has a Teeny Tiny Tote Tutorial that lives up to its name (as well as the description CUTE CUTE CUTE!).

Frugal Family Fun Blog wants to help you keep tabs on your stuff with Back To School Photo Name Labels.

Attagirl, Boy, Oh, Boy, Oh, Boy! (hee) She came up with her own Fire Truck Pillow to go with a car pillow she made from another tutorial. Big thumbs up!

I've linked to Filth Wizardry before, and here's another good one: Fairy Houses and Fairy Wings for Your Dolls.

from blank pages shows us how to make very cute Name Mobiles.

It must be fall! Tipnut posted links to recipes for 24 Apple Cakes to Make.

There is an Actual Caramel Recipe on Chickiepea's blog that sounds divine - and real!

Oh, how fun (and delicious-sounding): Frosted (JUMBO) Animal Cookies at Bake at 350, which I must say is an adorable blog title.

The Pioneer Woman tells us how to make Fried Round Steak.

Want to make your own egg noodles? Check out this recipe by Sarah at Heartland Renaissance. Hers are made from sprouted spelt, but you can use regular flour, too.

A guest post at Money Saving Mom tells us 10 Ways to Protect Your Identity Online.

Heh - a thousand words has a great idea of what to do with a Bleached Top (or any other item of clothing which has some accidental bleach spots).

I've posted about something similar before, but it involved actual tools. I hadn't thought of modifying Excavating Objects From Ice like Chasing Cheerios did.

Though the music is annoying, I really like the concept behind Crayola's Play Zone where you can upload digital photos and turn them into coloring pages for the kiddos.

Oh, Couturier Mommy is a brave lady to have this (super fun looking!) Paint Party.

If you're a traveler and a plant lover, check out this How To: Create a Simple Houseplant Wicking System at Craftzine.

Admittedly I still haven't gotten brave enough to try it on my machine, but this gives me confidence: Shirring Problems - I Cracked It! at Creative Heart.

Skip to My Lou shows us how to make Crochet Mosaics with little ones. Very fun!

We don't plan vacations very often, but once in a blue moon we find ourselves with a little time. has "great last minute deals on vacation rentals that might help.

So it's getting too cold for such things, but for next year, think about Valerie's DIY Slip & Slide at Frugal Family Fun Blog.

Doubly Blessed +1 tells us about the Little Man Party she threw for her son. Very cute!

Also to file away for next summer, Faith & Family Live explains Shakespeare in the Summertime.

I think I've linked to something similar before, but from Creative Mama, here is Free Printable Traceable Stationary For Kids.

No Time for Flash Cards posted a sanity-saver in Glue Tracing.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Few Canning Tips

It's been forever since I've posted for Kitchen Tip Tuesday, but this week I came up with TWO tips to share! (You'll have to come back next week for the second one.)

Though my garden seems to be calmed down a bit this year versus last year (or maybe I planted different stuff? Dunno...), I have been doing a fair amount of preserving. There are a few things that I've figured out from last year, my first year of canning, to this year.

1) Use rubber dishwashing gloves to protect your hands from scalding steam, blurping jam, hot jars, and anything else that can and will burn you. I figured this out the hard way when I was stirring strawberry preserves and it blurped up on my hand - and of course I had both sinks full of hot water warming my jars - a blast of cold water would have felt so much better!

2) Use plates instead of dishtowels to line your countertop. Last year, I used dish towels, and they ended up soaked from wet hot jars, and they soaked all the other stuff that cluttered my countertop (I get messy when I can, and cook, and bake...). By using plates, I keep the water contained, and they just go in the dishwasher when I'm done, rather than dishtowels that need to be washed and may end up stained. Plus, the good stuff that dripped off my funnel could be scraped into a jar and not lost.

3) I have also experimented some with using a propane cooker outdoors for canning. It gets the heat out of the kitchen, and since the pot is deeper, I stack jars on top of each other. (I'm not sure if that's a legitimate practice, but Laura does it, so I do, too.) I can't take credit for the idea of using the cooker outside, my friend Kim posted about it a while back. [And I can't remember if her blog is private now or not, so my apologies if you are not able to view it.] My canner rack doesn't fit in the pot, so I line it with a clean dish towel or a couple of dish cloths first. It is a bit more dificult to keep an eye on, but keeping that heat and humidity out of the house is quite worth it.

My tips from last year to help keep the heat out of the kitchen were:
* setting a fan in the doorway to blow cool air in (while Goose was in her room for quiet time) OR blowing the warm air out of the kitchen.
* dumping my hot water as soon as I was done with it (I would also recommend taking it outside to cool and then using it on your garden or reusing it the next time you can).
* taking my jars from the water bath into the bathroom to cool - I lined the tub with a towel and set them in there. I also put the pot in there until it cooled down.

Kim's post linked above also describes her experience with reusable canning lids, which I'm quite seriously thinking about giving a try next year. Especially since I always seem to run out of lids! Maybe if I took a count at the beginning of the year and planned ahead, I could avoid that... but I'm not sure I see that happening. :>)

So far, I have canned blueberry syrup, strawberry preserves, peach jam (from the Blue Ball book), some strawberry peach "jam" (it was kind of an accident), salsa (recipe at Kim's post above - make sure to wear gloves while cutting peppers!), and tomato sauce. I prefer to do enormous batches of tomato sauce, so I freeze the tomatoes until I have a lot. For smaller batches, I cook them down in the crock pot overnight with the lid off plus however long it takes to get down to the consistency I want; for larger batches, I cook them down in the biggest pot I have. This year, I have borrowed my dad's food strainer. You dump the sauce (or whatever) in the hopper, and turn the crank. The good stuff comes out one spout, the bad stuff another. I often send the "bad stuff' (seeds, skin, etc.) through one more time to get all the good stuff out that I can. And yes, this year I remembered to add lemon juice to my tomato sauce. I still need to make applesauce (no apples from my dad this year, sniff, so I bought some) and I want to re-do my spicy tomato juice from last year with the food strainer so poor hubs doesn't have to chew it as he drinks it.

What are you preserving? Any tips for me?

Head over to Tammy's Recipes for more Kitchen Tips.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Daybook for September 7, 2010

Wow, it's been a while since I've posted a daybook. My links folder is growing, I just need to finish a couple other projects before I put a chunk of time toward a link post. I know you're on the edge of your seats. :>)

Outside my window... It feels like fall. Mornings are all of a sudden crisp and chilly. The windows are only closed if it's too cold.

I am thinking... that I need to work on write-ups for the saints on the stained glass windows at church. There's just so much to say about each of them, and I don't want to be too long winded!

I am thankful for... the decision to purchase a used jogging stroller/bike trailer. I haven't used it as a trailer yet, but we've walked over to the farm a number of times with it and I really like it. I waffled on spending the money, not sure that I'd use it, but so far it seems like a great decision.

From the learning rooms... PRESCHOOL! We are participating in a pre-school co-op with seven or so other moms and 3 year olds (final numbers are still pending). It's a great opportunity for us and I'm really excited about it.

From the kitchen... I offered to make snacks for the first month of preschool. So far, I've done butterscotch bars and vanilla wafers, except the cookies ended up completely flat and melded together. So I used a pizza cutter on them. There was a small kitchen fire while I was working on macaroni and cheese from the book How To Cook Everything, but I just blew it out like a birthday candle. (I don't think that's what "from the kitchen" means, but still...) Um, I made some chicken fried rice that wasn't great; tortillas/taco meat/beans etc., but the tortillas didn't turn out so well; and baked spaghetti.

I am wearing... an old softball t-shirt jersey and knit pants.

I am creating... plans for preschool stations. Since I have so many ideas, they put me in charge - now I have to narrow them down.

I am pondering... what life is going to be like. My father-in-law was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) and the future is not at all what we expected.

I am reading... He Leadeth Me by Fr. Walter Ciszek. So far, it isn't grabbing me like it has so many others.

I am hoping... to finish a baby gift for a special friend before the little one starts walking!

I am hearing... Hubs watching Animal House - we just changed satellite providers and he's enjoying figuring out the new system.

Around the house... things are needing some love. The back screen door is falling apart bit by bit and one bathroom is having some troubles. Not sure what to do since Hubs is embarking on a stretch of weeks where he spends many, many hours each day in a tractor.

One of my favorite things... I gave Goose a toy donkey today, and she has been playing with it, a donkey from her Little People Nativity, and a donkey from her Resurrection Eggs - a Papa donkey, Mama donkey, and Goose donkey. :>)

A few plans for the rest of the week... preschool tomorrow, meeting for our church anniversary celebration Thursday morning, Altar Society Thursday evening, work on Friday and maybe hit a church rummage sale, Husker football game on Saturday (Go Big Red! It's been years since I've been in Memorial Stadium), and I think my parents are coming on Sunday. Upcoming is the semi-annual children's consignment sale where I get most of Goose's clothing.

A picture thought I am sharing... first day of preschool last week.