Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I am planning on saying even less over the course of the next week as I launch into the holidays but I wanted to wish you all a very pleasant holiday how ever it is that you choose to spend it!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Top 10 Gifts for Gardeners

Sorry for the unannounced hiatus! I have been diligently studying grading, drainage and storm water management for one of my LA licensing exams! I am happy to say that is over and I am moving on to Holiday cheer! Here's my top 10 well actually top 13 gardener gifts!

Sloggers garden boots
Diggers garden trowel
Seed gift certificates: Seeds of Change
Mandarins: S&J Mandarin Farms
Heat mats for starting seeds
Special items you have preserved and are willing to share
Share some of your own seed stores
Nursery gift certificates
Watering can...vintage is nice!
Garden Journal
Bypass Pruners
Herb trees
Book: Four Season Gardening

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Top Make it Gift List

I am a lister by nature. I have whole sketchbooks of lists. They are like documentaries of my life in list form! Since it is the gifting season, I am going to share with you my list of favorite gifts to make. Maybe you will be inspired for the gift giving season! The majority of these you can find patterns or ideas for from many of the talented crafters on the internet. As I love to say "Google It!"

Grocery Bags
Scarf: knitted, sewn, crocheted
Pillowcases(kids love em)
Quilted wall hanging
Purse/bags Amy Butler has some of my favs but the possibilities are endless
Lap Quilts
Place mats/napkins
Covered/decorated journals
Monogrammed card set/thank you notes etc.
Kitchen Aprons
Digital Device Cover(haven't made one yet but love the idea)
Pajama Pants

Monday, December 6, 2010

Just One More Please

I don't know if you are like me or not; but when you see a box like this on the porch the little kid takes over and you are suddenly giddy with anticipation! Once I picked it up, I knew what was inside. This particular box has gleefully landed on my porch three years in a row now! My cousin sends them out from SandJ Mandarin Grove. They are truly a treat!

It is like an entire box of mandarin sweetness delivered to the door! Every one is just as sweet as the last and never disappoints. Sure, they may not come in fancy wrap or me, that stuff will just get in the way! You will be eating them straight out of the box! If you are looking for a thoughtful gift this season, don't forget the fruits of others hard labor!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Holiday Sewing Ideas

For lots of cool holday gift ideas visit Sewmamasew. There are a bunch of ideas for gifts to sew so if working on that handmade holiday don't miss it!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Simple Details

This year my family was lucky enough to get to host eight of our closest friends for the Thanksgiving meal. I didn't want to spend a lot on decor and really prefer things simple so I took this approach. I didn't have 10 matching place settings so I headed to the local box store for plain glass plates. For a large plate and small plate I spent $2.50 per place setting. I am actually going to clean out my hodge podge table ware and use these from now on. Napkins were $1.50 for two. The rest I already had on hand. The grass center piece is cut from the yard while gourds, pumpkins, and corn were from friends and the garden.

For the center of the table I chose unbleached parchment paper and scrapbook paper for place mats. The little bit of raffia makes it all look complete.

Lastly I used my leaf punch and some thread to label wine glasses for table assignments. In the past I have had a lot of anxiety about hosting. This simple set up could be used any time of year for a nice touch and not a lot of expense. With the help of my husband, sister and brother in law; it was really pretty low stress. I also had guests pitch in and bring something. Even though I forgot to make the gravy; it was fabulous!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Brussel Sprouts

One of the last lonely plants in the garden is this brussel sprout. It takes a very long time to actually get the sprouts ready to eat. I probably should have started this one earlier but it still seems to be holding its own out there despite the frost. The sprouts themselves are actually nestled in the axils of the leaves. Soon I will have to harvest and make myself a special treat! No one else in my house enjoys them quite like I do!


I used this intimidating machine to iron my table cloths for the holiday. It worked famously. In case you do not know what this beast is called a mangle. Translation: industrial sheet iron! My grandfather worked for Hilton Hotels back in the day so that is how it came to me. Pre wrinkle free fabrics the bed sheets in hotels and all the other linens were ironed by some poor sole who had to stand over this hot, heat generating beast.

It makes me laugh that it is called a Speed Queen. I suppose it is faster than the ironing board and definitely gets hotter! This thing will burn your flesh off in a hot second. So here's a post to doing things the old way, enjoying its simplicity, and remembering those family members long past. Is there something you enjoy doing "the old way"?

Mama Said Sew

I followed up on a lead from my friend Morgan this weekend and explored this little fabric shop in old town Ft. Collins. I was super happy I did! There were lots of cute things and the fabric options were fabulous! A lot of stuff in the vintage modern category that is my personal fav.

They had a super selection of Amy Butler and Oliver + S patterns. Several of the books on my wish list were right there on the shelf and probably the best part was they had an area for toddlers so mommy could shop uninterrupted! I love how these ladies think. It was like the fabric shop of my dreams came to life!

The shop has only been open 8 months. I want to make sure it stays around so please go visit them at Mama Said Sew.

Sunday, November 14, 2010



Golden Sage

Burning Bush

It would appear that winter is finally here. I have been very spoiled by the prolonged 70 degree fall days! We have now had two snows in five days. Sigh. I am somewhat of a warm weather lover. The cold makes me well, grumpy. I need to be able to feel the sun on my face and warming my body. The running furnace dries out my hair, skin, throat, nose......sigh. The only plus I can see it that it is soup season! One large pot of something warming and hydrating to last the better part of the week. My kind of cooking I say! What is you favorite winter food?

New Gear

It is finally here! I am the proud owner of a Canon Rebel XS and I could not be happier about the idea of learning photography.....again! Quite a few of the photos from my senior year book are mine but that is probably the last time I took the art seriously. A point and shoot is fun but I really wanted to take it a bit further especially since I know what I am capable of! You can see that I did not have it long before fashioning a more appropriate camera strap! Now to read the manual.....

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Leaf Collection

We were finally able to get to filling up the leaf bin this past weekend. I wanted to share this image with you because it helps to illustrate how truly simple the set up is.

Pumpkin Puree

I was recently looking for an easy way to do pumpkin puree and found this insanely easy technique. All you need to do is use a sharp knife to poke four holes in a whole pumpkin. Put it in an oven proof baking dish with a quarter inch of water, slide into the oven at 350 for about an hour depending on the size of the pumpkin.

Once you can easily stick a fork in it and turn, take it out and let it cool for a bit. Cut the top off, scrap out the seeds and then scrape the flesh from the skin. It should be really easy and almost creamy.

You can puree it before you bag it or puree it later. I went straight to the freezer bag. After cooling and labeling, I put it in the freezer. Can you say pumpkin pie?

For the Birds

Today we harvested sunflower seed heads. I plan to store them for winter and bring them out for the birds when food sources are low. It takes little more than cutting them off and carrying them to the garage. They are sure to bring pleasure this winter not only to the birds but for bird watchers as well!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Shower Gifts

I love to make handmade gifts. Even if the person receiving it doesn't realize it, I have more satisfaction in giving it. I am going to call this the "Shower Gift Package". Two changing pads, two pacifier/toy clips, one quilt and two bibs all for welcoming that special little one. I was lucky to find this fabulous fabric as a discount package at a local quilt shop. I actually had my heart set on some splendid organic cotton until I realized I couldn't afford to make what I wanted at $16/yard. That was quite frankly, ridiculous. I made all of these items excluding the bibs for a grand total of $15 in fabric. Add notions and we are probably at about $17. Maybe this will be the making of my first tutorial!

Leaf Mulch

Every fall I try to get as many leaves as I can from the yard, the neighbors and anyone else who is willing to provide them. After cleaning the garden, I like to spread a nice thick layer over the soil and till them in, apply some water and let winter do her work of breaking them down and adding vital soil nutrients. It is almost too easy. The extras are then dumped into a wire "bin" for spring use as compost and mulch.

The ones at the bottom of the pile will break down while the ones on top are good for further tilling in the spring or to mulch around the plants. Collecting leaves is truly a task where you can get something for nothing. I have been known to rake and bag the public right of way just to get some of this fabulous stuff! I think you will find that most of your friends are willing to drop them off to avoid the dump. A few words to the wise: avoid pine needles, they can make the soil acidic over time. Cottonwood leaves are not the best. Their waxy leaves take longer to break down. A nice mix is good.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On the Wall

One of the coolest things I have done most recently for my craft room is to hang a large piece on flannel on the wall for a design board. Quilt blocks or color swatches stick to it like magic. If you have a small crafting space this is a great trick making it so you can lay something out vertically on the wall and still have room for cutting on the table and walking on the floor! I tacked this piece to the wall but I could see it on a curtain rod as well allowing you to tuck it back if needed. You can see about 3 different projects on the wall as well as something in the bottom left corner that my 3 year is working on! I used about 4 yards of flannel sewn together on the long edge for a work space that is about 6'x6'.

Happy Jack

Sometimes your friends egg you on and make you do things you shouldn't be doing. Things like start another project before you finish the 12 that are already in the hopper! Say hello to Happy Jack; forever to make appearances at Halloween from now until the end of time! The original is from Sandy Gervais of Pieces From my Heart. This is my own extrapolated rendition. Tis the season when blustery days make gardening is unpleasant and the sewing machine is oh so inviting! Thanks for sharing my friends, now will you please let me get on with the baby quilt I need for that upcoming shower!

Friday, October 22, 2010


The mystery vegetable is a rutabaga. It is a root crop in the same family as turnips and radishes. I personally have never partaken of it until this one came my way. Whilst my sis was out of town I was the recipient of her crop share. After a little research I decided to julienne it with some fresh carrots dug from the garden. After steaming the concoction was glazed with butter, brown sugar, lemon juice and dill. Well the results are in and I found it to be very pleasant and mild. This one seemed to have gotten a bit big and was a bit fibrous in spots but generally good giving credence to my theory that either butter or bacon will make anything better, good or great!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Vegetable Intimidation/Identification

This is a quiz. Do you know what the vegetable in the photo is? It is a bit larger than a softball. Do you know what to do with it? I can't wait to hear your answers! No Googling for answers!!


I really love gourds. They come in any number of beautiful shapes and sizes. Green, white, stripy, orange, yellow, warty....their only real purpose is to look good. Yes, I know if you get the right one, birdhouse, luffa or spoon gourd you can actually make something but I think the real pleasure is in how they look and feel. They grow very easily and would look and home dangling from an arbor or snaking through your flowers. This year, I put mine on a 5' trellis. They probably would have covered at least 10' of trellis easily but none the less it took minimal training to get them to climb on up. If you want to keep them, care is simple and there are any number of authorities out there on how to do that... I suggest you just pick, clean, dry, display and enjoy! If you want more information follow this link to the Cornell University Cooperative Extension

Teach Your Children Well

In my opinion one of the biggest tragedies of urban living is the distance that is put between us and our food. If you do not garden or keep small animals all your food comes from the grocery store, not the the cow, chicken, pig, stream or earth. It is a separation that I feel has caused us to become callous and removed from the cycle of life and each other. The distance fosters little appreciation for the hard work of the farmer and laborer when in fact these are the very people who are at the heart of your dinner table. Municipalities often make it difficult to even sustain for yourself through strict covenants and city rules. I would challenge you that even if you don't have the room or will to raise your own food there are plenty of ways to foster this relationship. Take your kids fishing, visit the local farmers' market and check into many of the "agritainment" opportunities out there. You never know what you will find. And above all, be sure to foster this relationship for you children. They need to know where their food comes from and they need care about it!
Oh, and congratulations A, for bringing your first meal to the table!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Butterick 4842

I took a garden hiatus and made this dress for A last weekend. This is a Butterick 4842 dress and pant pattern for girls and boys. I have only made the dress shown. A few skulls seemed appropriate for fall! I found the pattern to be moderate on the clarity of instructions. Figuring out how to do the collar took a bit of thought but I think the dress turned out nicely. I will definitely make another one! I made the size 3 for a small 3 year old. Plenty of room to grow. It took me about 4 hours from pattern cut to finish product. I am sure second time around will get you there in 1-1.5 hrs.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Looking for some fun sewing ideas? Check out Dana of MADE! She has some of the cutest tutorials for both girls and boys!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mum's the Word

Bargain Alert!!
Run, don't walk to the closest big box store and get your fill of cheap garden mums! They are a must have to make that transition into winter! I picked up several of the gallon size for $2.50 each since they are starting to clear them out of the stores!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Further Reading

Every once in a while I try to reward myself with something besides food and I have to say this was a great reward! The magazine is called Urban Farm and the "starter" edition is on the stands. I was trying of figure out how to order this magazine when I realized its not out yet! It seems to be an offshoot of the magazine Hobby Farm. Lots of terrific articles centered on urban sustainability. I think it is going to be something to watch for!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bulbs: The follow up

Since a question was asked about which bulbs, I thought it appropriate to follow up on that topic. If you have nothing and want to get the biggest bang for your buck I would always go with the daffodil. There are tons of options ranging from yellow on yellow to peachy colors that don't even remind you of daffodils. Daffodils do a fabulous job of multiplying from year to year and make an excellent choice for cutting and bringing inside. Crocus and Grape Hyacinth together run a close second. They are typically the earliest arrivals in the spring but don't have quite the impact of a daffodil. As a result they are best planted where they can be noticed i.e. close to front door or walk. Third I would put the tulip. There are many splendid options. Some don't even look like what you would call a tulip. I run tulips as my third favorite as they have a habit of petering out after several years and are not quite as reliable. That said, pleas don't resist the urge to experiment! Sometimes the "lets wait and see" of it all can be the most exciting part!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Think Spring

BULBS! Its time to order your BULBS! I know its hard to think about spring, but unless you plan ahead you miss out on one of the delights that will most certainly keep you going in the dark of winter! I try to order and plant 100 bulbs each season. Up to this point I have had about zero luck with the bulbs you pick up in the big box stores. As a result, I always go with catalog ordering. One of the best benefits is that they ship when it is time for you to plant! I quite commonly use BRECKS and have been very satisfied with their product. NEW HOLLAND BULB COMPANY looks promising but a bit out of my price range. There are lots of companies to choose from! Just make sure you choose one and order right away!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Anticipating Frost

Average first frost around here is typically the first week of October but can come as early as the end of September. Believe it or not that is only about two weeks away! As a result we spent some time today harvesting and trying to make the most of what is left in the garden. I am pleased to announce that I harvested nearly 6.5 lbs of grapes! This is my first real grape harvest as my plants are officially 3 years old! Concord grapes are a delectable treat and will grow on any sturdy fence. You just have to be patient to reap the rewards! I did not have the time today to get right to the jelly making so I cleaned and froze the grapes. I'll wait for a nice cold day to begin that jelly making. Earlier this month I was lucky enough to get the gift of some peach jam that a friend had made. To me, there is no gift as special as a homemade one! Thanks for sharing Michelle!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fabulous Fabric Options

In case you are looking for some sewing fun check out the following websites:
Lola Pink Fabrics
Sew Fresh Fabrics
Free Spirit Fabric
Ordering online is easy and fun. You can do it, don't be may find you like the adventure!

Monday, September 6, 2010

New Beginnings

In light of the recent commercial egg crisis we have been particularly sad that we do not have "safe" eggs of our own to eat. Hopefully that is changing! The baby chicks that we purchased this spring are just starting to lay eggs! They are still a little small but truly a sight for sore eyes. You can see how tiny they look with the commercial eggs in the picture above. When chickens lay their first eggs, they lay what is typically called a pullet egg. Its sort of a starter egg. Sometimes not much bigger than the circumference of a quarter. It only takes one or two before they are up to speed. Depending on the breed, new hens will lay any where from 250 to 300 eggs per year. The Rhode Island Red and the Australorp are at the top of the list! My personal favorite is the Barred Rock or Buff Orpington.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Chicken Hooks and Funny Looks

With the chicken coop reinforced it is time to move the 3 surviving hens back to their real home and out of my greenhouse! Not only do they do a tremendous amount of damage as they indiscriminately eat things, but I prefer not to have it smell like a coop! We quickly realized it was going to be very difficult to extract the ladies from deep under the plant benches. So, I grabbed a hanger and fashioned a leg hook. This brought quizzical looks from my husband. "A leg hook?" he inquired. Yes, a leg hook. Commonly used for catching different types of foul that frequently will not let you get close. Just loop a leg and pull them in close! No pain, easy catch. It was still difficult to reach them under the benches but alas they have been returned to their home and I can now start a list of 101 creative things to do with a hanger.....

Monday, August 30, 2010

Good Morning

This morning feels really good. I think it may be because the weekend was really productive due to some serendipitous events. Due to car trouble, we had house guests for the majority of the weekend. These are not just any house guests, but special house guests. We typically only see Billy and Bec once a year as they travel across the state selling Livingston Pottery. This time we had the opportunity to enjoy an extended stay filled with good food and wonderful company. These are truly people we wish lived closer. Since we were all just "hanging out" they helped us to get the garden to a state that looked more like a garden than a weed patch, entertain A while I did other tasks, and install the last two basement windows. They seem like little things but the two of them probably have no idea of the enormous gift they have given through these small gestures. When you have a 3 year old, projects are a bit more challenging and little things can take days. I can now check some things off of my list and move forward into the week a little less overwhelmed. Thank you house guests, please come again! Please visit the website of Livingston Pottery. Bec is a truly talented lady. I am lucky to own several of her pieces including a clock that she gifted me this weekend!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Five Reasons to Eat Heirloom

Check out the following link. I can't say it better myself though I might add one more reason.....seed saving!
Five Reasons to Use Heirloom Ingredients: Sean Brock
This summer I chose Cherokee Purple, Brandywine, Yellow Pear, Green Zebra, and Riesentraube. Eat and be merry!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Worth Waiting For

Nothing says summer like big beautiful sunflowers! You must be patient and wait the entire summer but I think it is worth it to have the sunny smile of a sunflower cast on you! I know they are not worth much more than bird food but they seem to add an element of surprise that is needed late in the season. They don't require much effort and come in zillions of fabulous varieties. This summer I walked the perimeter of the garden and planted them here and the chicken coop, the compost bin, the outhouse pretty much just wherever. Some didn't make it as I never actually made an effort to water them so they only survived in places that were suitable. They stand proudly over the garden and looking at them makes me happy! You can collect their seeds for next year and as long as they are not hybridized varieties you will have seeds for the same flowers next year!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Seed Saving

Poppy Seeds
It hardly seems like fall but it is already time to think about next year! Many of your flowers are beginning to set seed already. A cheap and easy way to get a jump on next year is to begin collecting seeds. For a lot of plants it is really not that hard and you can let nature do a lot of the work. Just don't wait too long! Typically the key is to make sure you allow the seeds to become mature on the plant before you pick them. If you are too early they will not be viable, if you are too late they will blow away! Typically I judge this by touching them. If they crumble in your hand at the slightest pressure they are ready. Old herb jars work great for keeping them till next year. Don't forget to label with the date and variety. Seeds that I typically collect include:cosmos, marigold, poppies, cleome, bachelor button and morning glory. What seeds do you collect?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Meeting the Enemy

For the second time this year I have lost more chickens to a predator. It is with unbelievable disappointment that we no longer have hens laying eggs. Despite being an urban dweller, we must still deal with these seemingly uncivil things. I remember on numerous occasions my father waking up in the night to shoot stray dogs, coyotes or what ever it was that was preying in our yard. At least on the farm we had 20-30 hens. When you only have 5, the loss of the two that were laying is almost devastating. This spring it was a fox, now we have met a mink. Yes, a mink. I have never seen one myself but this unlikely urban dweller seems to have found me. They are the size and shape of a ferret leading me to wonder how on earth I am going to secure a coop that will keep out something that can squeeze through a two inch hole. He will undoubtedly be back as he didn't get to make off with his loot because my husband interrupted him. He would of met his demise then but alas it is a little against the law to discharge a weapon within city limits. So we will have to move on to more creative methods as we morn the loss of not only some beautiful hens, but out favorite treat of fresh eggs.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Finding Inspiration

Around this time of the year gardening can get to be a bit of a drag. The weeds seem to be winning, watering is constant, and yesterdays almost perfect zucchini is the size of your leg today. It all begins to cast doubt on your gardening prowess. Especially when you ponder Martha's perfectly manicured and bug free cabbage heads. Well friends, I am here to tell you that if we could hire staff and gardening was our full time job, we too could boast a weed free garden worthy of awards! Regardless I am going to guess that despite the weeds, bugs and unstaked tomato's you still have more squash than you can handle and the tomato's are to die for! So reward yourself. Spend the heat of the day looking through garden books for ideas and not a reason to criticize yourself. Another option: your local botanical garden. Look for ideas, plant combinations, artistic placement and something to remind you why you like to garden.

Monday, August 9, 2010


There is something really sublime about watching mother nature do your chores. A fabulous rain brings lots of nutrients and growth! Thank you, I needed a break from my chores! Maybe now I can spend some time on preservation of garden crops. I wish you all a very full rain barrel!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Plants on Sale

One of my favorite frugal outings is to scan the clearance rack at the big box stores for plants. This is really nothing to be afraid of if you know what you are doing. 1) Know your plant material. Never buy something that you are not sure will survive your climate in the first place. 2) Take a look at the roots.

Often the plant material can look pretty sad up on top due to irregular watering or just being past its seasonal prime. I always recommend you pop the plant out of its pot and take a look at the root ball. Healthy plants will show some white root growth and will never smell rotten. Today I picked up three sedum for $1.00 each and 1 basket geranium for $2.75. The sedum were a steal. The only reason they look bad is because they are just past their flowering season and look rangy as a result. The geranium just needs a little dead heading to replace one of my peat baskets that got too dry and died. The geranium will also over winter nicely in the greenhouse! Go forth and save!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Old School Cucumber Salad

Just like my mom made it.

Slice up about 6 lg cucumbers not too thick
Slice up a small onion real thin
Add some ground pepper
Approximately 3/4 to one cup sugar
White Vinegar to cover

Put in fridge to "cure" a day or two (that is of course if you can wait that long!)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I spent quite a bit of time at home last week with a sick little one. As a result I decided to tackle a few nagging projects. Often I put things off because I think I don't know what I am doing. Its a lot easier to just drown yourself in research and thought then actually tackle the project. My week of action resulted in the replacement of the outer door trim where it had rotted away. It took all of about 30 minutes to remove, replace and caulk. I probably spent more time painting it to look nice which then resulted in painting of the door to make it look nice too. Now the side entry is back to looking like something besides a ramshackle shack! I also replaced the faucet in the kitchen sink. Another item that had taken to dripping. If you have paid a plumber to do this you would be embarrassed at how easy it was. Turn off water. Remove everything in pretty much logical order and then replace. The new faucet comes with instructions in case you need them. I only had a little bit of mystery surrounding the plumbers putty. In the end. I probably didn't even need it. I'll have some for next time! Now I have no excuses for not tackling the bathroom faucet! I also spent quite a bit of time painting the trim from the window replacements that were done over two years ago. I don't think we realize how all these unfinished things cause stress in our lives. My door is beautiful. My faucet is awesome. My windows are worthy of opening the drapes. Life is good and I am empowered! What's the longest you have left something unfinished?