Friday, June 29, 2012

Have Berries, Make Jam

I have a new addiction.  And it is all thanks to that splendid summer day on the farm picking berries.   I finally got up the nerve to try canning some real jam...blackberry jam.

Jammy Jam

Oh my, this stuff is jammin (har, har)!  I went back-n-forth between doing freezer jam, which sounded nice and practical, and traditional canning, which sounded dicey.  Then, I read way too much on the internet on the subject and got confused.  In the end, I did what I usually do and went with the more complicated ("dicey") method.  It doesn't help that this is on my bucket list for the year 2012

Jam Prep

Anyway, in the end, a friend gave me some pointers and told me about Pomona Pectin (which I found at Whole Foods), and convinced me I could "rig" my regular pot and not have to buy a water bath canner just yet (although I will be adding one to my Amazon list very soon).  For the record, I just used my steamer insert in the bottom of my stock pot in place of a canning rack (to keep the jars upright and from touching the bottom of the pot).    

Yum

I got this great book for Christmas as well and used it to figure things out, although mostly I just used the instructions with the pectin for low-sugar jam.  I de-seeded most,  but not all, of the blackberries, by pureeing them in a small food processor and passing through a sieve.  The remainder I just mashed and combined with the juice/pulp to give the jam a bit of chunkiness.  I only had enough to make 5 jars of jam, so this all worked out fine! 

Spiderman approves and so do I!  I can't wait to try something else! 


Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Scrap Challenge

So, this week my sewing time has been spent on a fun little challenge!  A week ago, I learned that Rachel of Stitched In Color picked me to participate in a scrap challenge which involves making something (anything!) from this lovely little bundle.  This "Summer Breeze" bundle comes from Bloomerie Fabrics and includes fat sixteenths in 7 different prints.



The rules of the game?  I can add one additional fabric of my choice, I must use all of the prints in the bundle (but not all of the fabric), and it must be done and featured on my blog by July 8th (Rachel will be featuring all of the challengers' projects on her blog on July 9th).  

I LOVE a good challenge, especially when it involves sewing, so I am absolutely psyched that I was chosen to participate!  Thank you, Rachel and thank you, Bloomerie Fabrics!

I had some immediate ideas of what I would make with these pieces when I first put my name in the hat.  But it all really came together in my mind in the middle of a sleepless night (*sigh*) last week.  It was one of those nights where one kid rolled in and woke me up to be followed by the next an hour later and then a barking dog.  Since I've been pregnant I've had an impossible time falling back to sleep when woken up.  So, on this particular night, I lay awake considering this challenge, configuring little patchwork patterns in my brain and trying on embellishments.  At least something good came of it, I suppose?

I've so enjoyed working with this little bundle!  The colors are quite different from what I am typically drawn to, and I'm finding that to be a welcome change!  My project is going great - here's a teensy sneak peek, hiding behind these beautiful flowers.  I rescued those flowers from our yard, just before the sweltering heat arrives tomorrow (105 degrees!). 

Scrap Challenge Sneak Peek

I can't wait to share what I come up with...stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

{Speaking of Summer}

I first went blueberry picking with a friend many years ago at the crrraaack of dawn on a very hot July morning.  Loads of blueberries, lots of fun...I think we went twice that year.  In recent years, I always try to take the kids strawberry picking.  Lots of great memories of those outings reside on this blog, but more importantly deep in my heart.  I know it sounds cheesy, but they were really, really memorable.

When I heard that we were going to have this freakishly awesome day today weather wise (think highs in the 70s and sunny awesome), I sought out a place to go pick some berries.  As it turned out, our favorite farm had both blueberries and blackberries for picking.  The kids were not so thrilled when I told them what we were doing and I worried that they were over the whole berry picking thing.  


But, once we got out there, they fell into a happy, almost giddy rhythm.  It was beautiful and so quiet and we had what felt like the whole farm to ourselves.  At one point one of them shouted "Mommy, this is the greatest day ever!".  They picked and ate and talked about what we would do with it all and how Daddy would eat all the blackberries before "bednight".  We had real conversations, as if being out in this open clear air away from all distractions, suddenly allowed us all to open up.
     

In that short hour out in the fields, we connected in a wonderful and mysterious way.  I have to admit, I wasn't expecting that to happen.


On our way out, we stopped at the farm stand for some homemade ice cream (a must!).  I made a comment to the lady working there that I couldn't believe how beautiful of day it was and how quiet it was on their farm.  She responded, saying she didn't know what we did to deserve such a beautiful day like this, but she was going to take it all in.  My feelings exactly...   

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Quilting

A late day thunderstorm canceled our pool plans and allowed me to sit down and enjoy the pleasure of quilting again.  It's been a while since I've quilted something big.  And it felt really, really good...

Quilting

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Highs and Lows

:: I will be 6 months pregnant on Thursday...Hello 3rd trimester.
:: I've had a happy, healthy pregnancy so far and that is a true blessing!
:: How-ev-errrrr - and I know I've already said this - I'm getting really, really tired and cranky.
:: Might have something to do with this ginormous protruding belly.
    Six Months  

    :: Or those two knuckleheads who have not learned yet that summertime is for sleeping in.
    :: Or the fact that they have so much fun just playing with each other and their stuffed animals, BUT their stuffed animals have these insanely loud high-pitched voices and they (the stuffed animals) like to go outside and hang in trees, eat chocolate chip cookies, put on Mom's clothes and jewelry...you know, basic stuff. 
    ::  Thankfully, they have not muttered the words "I'm bored" yet (the kids, of course).  
    :: Side note: when it's pouring rain outside Maggie says "Mom, it's SOOO BORING...".  She is so stubborn, she refuses to admit that it's "pouring", not "boring".  Silly girl...
    :: Anyway, point being...we keep busy, kids are happy (I think), I have not had much time to sew, my ankles hurt, I can't drink coffee or alcohol, and I'm getting cranky about it!
    :: Not to mention I had a seriously embarrassing wardrobe malfunction episode at the pool today.  I won't go into the details but let's just say an old maternity bathing suit was deteriorating and I didn't realize until I -- wait for it -- got home from the pool!!!  Yup.   
    :: I did make a superb dinner tonight...shrimp salad with pasta (got the idea here) and a cucumber, tomato, red onion, and mozzarella salad (with some dill, white wine vinegar, and olive oil), bread and corn on the cob.  Happy people all around.


    ::  Aaaaaand, tomorrow I have a sitter for the morning.  Double score!
    :: I'll be at the doctor for most of it, but might squeeze in a pedicure or a trip to Joanns.
    :: It's sad that a trip to Joanns sometimes outweighs a pedicure.
    :: I actually hate getting pedicures, but I love the finished product.  I'm weird that way.
    :: So, like I said, I have maybe spent an hour behind my sewing machine in a week.
    :: Thankfully, I am embracing my new project...English Paper Piecing!  This is my progress so far on my Hexy MF quilt.


    :: Honestly, it was really frustrating at first, but I *think* I got the hang of it now.
    :: I bought my fabric and paper pieces and planned some sort of hexagon quilt just before Katy announced the quilt along.  So, my hexies are smaller (1") and my quilt will be smaller. But, I'm enjoying it! 
    ::  It is slow going and I can recline and prop my feet up while I do it.
    :: At least for as long as these knuckleheads let me...

    Knuckleheads 

    Thursday, June 14, 2012

    {Speaking of Summer}

    Speaking of Summer...A new series where I will share those snippets that make summer what it is meant to be.  I talked about it before...there is a reason why I just let summer happen and see what comes our way. 


     
    root beer floats

    visiting favorite animals at our favorite museum 

    no big deal, just some stuffed animals hanging in the tree

    superstars

    There's a reason why I'm so exhausted at the end of the day.  

    Care to share your snippets of summer?  Leave a comment with a link to your posts.  I'd love to see what you're up to!     

    Wednesday, June 13, 2012

    Slow Stitching...

    Summertime is in full effect here with pool time, museums, play dates, crafts, and all around craziness.  It's fun, I'm loving it.  But, I haven't had much energy to sew at night lately.  So, I started a new project that pairs well with sitting on the couch and re-watching the Friday Night Lights series.

    Hexies

    I've always wanted to try English Paper Piecing and found a recent pile of fabric screaming to be cut into little hexagons.  The fabric includes some Summersville prints and some colorful Essex linens.  Do you see the two little that I finished?  They will make their way into a quilt for our little girl on the way.  It just so happens that as I was beginning this project Katy announced this quilt along on her blog.  Her Hexy MF quilt (yup, it stands for what you think it does - ha) has always been an absolute favorite of mine - it uses my favorite fabric collection of all time (Little Folks) and it's just so stinking beautiful.  So, quilt along, I shall!  I will be doing a much smaller quilt - baby size.  But, I am going to embrace this slow stitching in the evenings and give my feet and back a break.

    By the way, that amazing little zipper pouch holding all my stuff is from Amber's Etsy shop - One Shabby Chick.  She stitches up some fantastic items and is having a great sale right now!  We share the typewriter love.  And speaking of typewriters, I have a bunch of new list-takers in my shop!  These are probably my favorite so far!

    List-takers

    Now back to some more slow stitching...
     

    Thursday, June 7, 2012

    Shop Talk

    Just popping in with some quick shop talk.

    I'm working on new list-takers.  I thought I was done with the typewriters, but I'm loving these new combos, especially the pink!!


    I plan to make some envelope clutches for my shop soon, using another great pattern by Anna of Noodlehead.  I'm thinking Simpatico by Michelle Engel Bencsko will be perfect for these clutches...if I can stand waiting until it comes out!  

    I'm also planning to make some patchwork pillows with the blocks I have remaining from this quilt.

    And last but not least, I finally set up Sing All You Want on Facebook.  As it turns out, Facebook seems to be a better place for me than twitter!!  So, pop over and take a look at my page and be sure to say Hello!         

    Monday, June 4, 2012

    Quilts and Flowers

    We've been a busy crew around here and I've been sewing a ton.  I felt pretty exhausted and achy at the end of the weekend.  I have to remind myself sometimes that I'm growing a baby too!  So, today the kiddos and I just hung at the pool, went out for gelato, and took it easy.  Although, somehow those hours in the sun at the pool always leave me just as exhausted.

    Anyway, I did take some time this afternoon to photograph two quilts I'm working on.  The first is a quilt top I finished up over the weekend.  I finished putting together and piecing the four large blocks I talked about in my last post and added a bright aqua border.  Now, I'm in a pickle about large square-ish quilts.  Obviously, they don't really work for beds, other than as a throw at the end of a bed.  They could work as a lap quilt, but are they then too wide or too short (guess it depends on the person)?  They could definitely work as a floor quilt for a baby, but this one might be on the big side.  Anyway, oddly enough the last quilt I finished was also a square quilt.  So I'm curious how others feel about them?  

    Pinapple Log-Cabin Quilt Top

    This quilt top is on the bigger side - about 65" x 75".  I intentionally made the borders on the top and bottom wider because I didn't want it to be square.  I just thought for this size of quilt it would be more functional if it were somewhat longer.  But, now I think it looks a bit odd and am considering evening up all the borders.   

    Patchwork Closeup

    Square or not, I do love how the aqua border frames the quilt and makes it all pop a bit (excuse all the wrinkles)!  And I loved seeing this quilt as a backdrop to some of the color in our yard.

    In the Flowers

    This *sigh* is about half of Maggie's quilt top.  I haven't worked on it in a while, so I had to pull it out to remind myself to get back to it!  I really, really love this quilt.  It fits her perfectly and I can't wait to get it finished!  And, again it just fits right in with the blooms in our yard. 

    Maggie's Quilt - Halfway There


    That's all for now.  Please do share your thoughts, especially if you have some on square quilts.  Or call me a dork for even thinking it's something worth considering.  I won't mind!  

    Friday, June 1, 2012

    Clear Head, Full Mind

    That's my spin for the day on the famous Friday Night Lights phrase "clear eyes, full hearts"...wow, do I miss that show!!  This morning I crossed a couple of things off my sewing list - some custom pillows and a skirt for Maggie I needed to finish - and immediately the floodgates opened and my mind started filling with new ideas.  Does that ever happen to you?  I spent a few minutes sketching out a pattern for a dress for Maggie that was on my brain.  But, before I even cut any fabric, two other ideas converged and I found myself making a new quilt top.

    So, I mentioned recently that I wanted to make some round patchwork placemats to list in my shop.   I pieced about 8 patchwork blocks for two placemat sets.  Since then, I've been waiting on backing fabric to arrive to finish them (it came today).  But, I've also been thinking that making placemat sets for my shop might not be the best "use" of those blocks and began contemplating quilt tops.  Yesterday, Amber posted this awesome tutorial on her blog for a "pineapple log-cabin block".  It's one of those methods that I'd file under "you've got to be kidding me, is it really that easy?!".  Anyway, long story short...I took my patchwork blocks (well, 2 of them so far) and used her tutorial to make some super-duper sized pineapple log-cabin blocks - these are about 30" finished.  I think I'll make two more and I'll have a quilt top.

    Pineapple Log-Cabin Block1

    Pineapple Log-Cabin Block1 Closeup

    I decided to frame the patchwork centers with Essex linen in natural and then the white Kona cotton.   I don't often use a lot of white or have a lot of negative space (is that the proper term?) in anything I sew or quilt, so I'm excited to see how this looks as a quilt top. 

    Pineapple Log-Cabin Block2

    Pineapple Log-Cabin Block2 Closeup

    Now, I must share the aforementioned skirt I finished for Maggie today.  I have a friend who makes and sells children's clothes here and we have "sewing playdates" where we try out new patterns.  It's purely for fun for me, meaning I have no intentions of selling clothes.  But, I love making things for my kiddos every once in a while and I love that I can knock out something while hanging with a friend.  Plus, she has a serger - whoop!  This week we made ruffle skirts - they took a lot longer than we expected and we were both pretty much ruffled out by the end.  I finished Maggie's up this morning and she loves it.  It is not totally me but it IS totally her.

    Little Miss Ruffles2

    Little Miss Ruffles

    I added a cute hand-stamped tag, since I don't have clothing tags.  I'm interested to see whether this washes out.  It sure looks cute!

    hand-stamped tag

    personal tags

    It felt good to cross some things off my list and to feel creative again..now if there was just enough time for it all!