Friday, June 26, 2009

Cherries, Strawberries, Raspberries and Blueberries (oh my!)

I've been busy turning these:

and these:

into these:

We were lucky enough to inherit a sour cherry tree when we bought our home 2 years ago. The yield is incredible, although the lack of pruning over the past 10 years has caused many of the berries to be out of reach. I've found that a 2x4 works well and I can get many of the ripe berries to fall to a tarp on the ground. It causes bruising on the fruit, but when it's turned into jam no one is the wiser, and it still tastes amazing. Last year I only froze them or dried them. I think I already like the jam option much better. You had better believe that we'll be planing another sour cherry tree in the future. The fruit is so delicious.

We also went strawberry picking earlier this week before the heat got unbearable. Between my mom and my older girls we picked about 25 lbs. of berries. Unbelievable! I only had a few jars on hand so most of the berries are frozen for now. They'll make great smoothies come the fall. The farm we went to also has raspberries for picking so I know I'll be back in a few weeks. And u-pick blueberries will be ripening soon too. I'm feeling pretty inspired to give blueberry/raspberry jam a whirl.

I'm new to picking and new to canning. In fact, this was the first time I'd ever gone strawberry picking and the first time I've ever made jam. There were two things that kept me from trying it before: 1) no equipment, and 2) the incredible amount of sugar I knew I'd need to make jam. My neighbors helped me out with the first by letting my borrow their big pot, jar lifter and funnel. And my sister-in-law clued me into this, no sugar pectin. Now I only add as much as I like, to taste. My parents also found a stash of extra jelly-sized canning jars their basement - left over from our wedding (they were our candle holders).

Between the fresh-baked artisan bread and sour cherry jam we're a pretty content family these days.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Quilts are done!

The quilts are done, and [insert drum roll] the girls actually love them!

I hadn't worried too much about them loving them or not at the beginning of the project. They were excited about the idea of having new blankets and were more than happy to check on my progress sewing; all the while asking, "Are our quilts almost done mama?" I also admit to reading this book to them a few times to get them warmed up to the idea of a quilt that they can call their own.

But as the binding went on I did start to worry. Over the past few weeks they have both become very picky about what they wear (dresses or skirts ONLY), when they wear it (wardrobe changes happen approximately 3x/day) and how it's worn (dirty, straight from the hamper). They have also been very reluctant to give up their winter blankets, preferring to literally sweat out the spring nights under three layers of polar fleece.

So, while they were at the park one morning with a sitter I snuck into their room, switched out the blankets and hoped for the best. There have been a few stray questions about where the fuzzy blankets went, but overall they are loving these quilts and snuggling under them. Whew.

The quilting is very minimal as I have yet to purchase and learn how to use a free-motion foot. Just straight-ish lines that mostly make boxes around the printed coins. I like how it highlights the different fabrics and gives each one a little frame. If I had to re-do the project I probably would have added a fourth row of coins just to make them a bit wider. They cover the top of the beds, but only hang down about 2 inches on each side. A little more width might have been nice. The backs are pieced from the larger pieces of fabric I had in my stash, as are the binding strips.

In other sewing-related news, my husband and I are caring for our nieces and nephew this weekend while their parents have some time away. Don't call me crazy yet. We're doing a weekend-swap. Our three kids are going to their place later this summer! So, I made a special trip to the store to pick up some fun cotton prints in hopes of having each girl help in making a skirt for herself. My nieces are also three-and-a half-year-old twins. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Weekend sewing

Over the weekend the girls and I found ourselves with a 50-degree, rainy day and Dad gone for work. What were we to do? The girls declared it a sewing day, and I happily obliged. It wasn't weekend sewing with Heather Ross (that book is arriving later this week!), but it was weekend sewing to be sure.

Last time I sewed with the girls I had each one sit in my lap and work the fabric into the machine. This time, I showed them how to use the foot pedal - with their hands.

Olivia has sometimes complained of her back hurting while we drive in the car (but at no other time?!?), so she asked that we make a car pillow for her back. Abby wanted one too. They picked out the fabric themselves, and I cut it. I started the stitching, but they completed it. I got out the poly-fil, but they stuffed the pillows themselves (all the while claiming that tutus, princess slippers and swim goggles were the required wardrobe for the project). I sewed them closed, but they will be the ones to use and love them.

To distinguish the pillows from one another - since they picked out identical fabrics - we used their first inital on the back of the pillows. I cut out the first letter of their names from an extra iron-on patch I had lying around.

Once the girls had their pillows I knew I'd have an extra 20 minutes while they immediately played with them. I got to work on a small, quick project that I've been wanting to try for some time - a coffee sleeve. Thanks to Erin of House on Hill Road for making the project so quick and so easy to pull together. You can find her tutorial here.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The sewing machine has been humming

Two quilts are in process and the tops are finished! I'm currently piecing the back of the second one and working on the binding strips. With any luck, they should be quilted and bound by the middle or end of this month. Then they can take their permanent place on these beds. I'm not too sure of the final sizes yet, but they are looking like a good fit for the twin beds. I would have preferred them to be a bit wider, but since I didn't follow a pattern, I'm just happy that they cover the beds, period.

The 'coins' were cut at 2 x 7 inches, with the white spacers 3 x 7 inches. There is also a 7 inch border around the entire quilt.

I hope to get better photos of these once they are finished - its been cloudy and cool 'round these parts lately.

I think some some smaller projects are coming up next, more pillows and bags for the girls. And maybe I'll finally tackle putting in a zipper...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

On the needles

This is the essential sock yarn by knit picks. I finally started to knit with the the last of three colorways I purchased last year. I think they got this color name just right: grass. Can't post too much about these socks as they are intended as a gift - and I think that she reads this blog.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Giveaway Winners!!

Congratulations to Liz and Jessica - the winners of the knitting patterns and biscotti. Please check your e-mail inbox for a message from me.

Thanks to everyone else that visited my blog over the past few days. It was amazing to read through your replies and learn so much about the origins of creativity. I will be reading through the comments again this week and hope to post a summary soon.

Thanks also to Sew, Mama, Sew! for hosting such an amazing collection of blogs for their giveaway day.