Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Turkey Crayon Holders

It's been a VERY long time since I've done a blog post. So, I'm sorry to those who have been waiting...... I have lots of ideas, and even some drafts, but I've been so busy with Halloween and working at the kids' schools that I just haven't had time to finish a post. With three kids, a business, and endless housework, there just isn't a lot of time left for other stuff. Add in the holidays and FORGET IT! 

So I told myself that this week, since the kids are out of school, I would find the time to finish a post. ANY post. Of course, just as I sat down at the computer, I realized that I really should be getting ready for the 22 people coming for dinner on Thursday, and that I still haven't done any fun Thanksgiving crafts with the kids! (BTW, I will be posting, in the near future, the recipes for my husband's Bleu Cheese Pear Vinaigrette and Red Bean Tasso Soup that we will be having for Thanksgiving dinner. YUM!)

So, back to the craft..... 

I have decide to put butcher paper and crayons on the kids' table this year so that they will have something to do during dinner. Of course, I can't just throw crayons on the table! I looked for little baskets or bowls or something, but couldn't find anything just right. Then I saw some little baby food jars that were just the right size. But really, really ugly! So, we decided to turn them into Turkeys! They are really easy, but I will give step by step instructions below. Here is one of them finished. Isn't he adorable?

My 6 year old said, while we were making them, "Mom, these are so cute! We should put this on Pinterest!" Haha! He knows me so well.

Here's what we did.

Step 1: Cut a strip of brown paper the height of your jar (we used a plain lunch bag because we were out of brown construction paper). Using hot glue, glue the strip around the jar as shown below.

 Step 2: Cut a circle shape out of brown paper for the head. Add eyes, a beak, and a waddle (the red dangly thing). Then hot glue the head to the jar.

Step 3: Glue feathers to the opposite side of the jar as the head. And voila! Cute Turkey Crayon Holders!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Adding New Chicks to the Flock

I am fairly new to chicken ownership, and I've been having to kind of "learn as I go." Our feed store is helpful with teaching me what food and bedding materials to use, but when it comes to the actual care of the chickens, I'm on my own. (Thankfully I have the internet to guide me.... though some things you just have to figure out on your own).

My first obstacle came when one of my original chicks turned out to be a rooster. I don't have anything against roosters, but I wasn't about to have him crow each morning and wake the neighbors (I live in town, not in the country). The other reason I couldn't keep the rooster is a mental thing. I am fine eating fresh eggs as long as I am SURE that they are not fertilized. I do not EVER want to crack open an egg and see part of a chick forming. Eww.

See my post here for how I dealt with that situation.

Everything went along smoothly and my chicks started laying beautiful and delicious eggs. With three hens, I was getting about a dozen eggs a week. This amount was just about right for my family of five. 

My next obstacle came when I decided to get a few more chickens so I could have extra eggs to sell or give away. I got some more chicks and kept them in the garage to grow big enough to add to the flock. They grew, and soon it was time to put them outside with the others. Easy, right? Wrong.

My lead hen, Flag (the red one in the pictures below) was a little upset at my wanting to disturb her pecking order and decided that she would attack the little ones. 

I was stuck. The little ones were too big to keep in the garage and too little to put in with the other hens.

Long story short, I ended up putting the little chicks in an enclosed area within the fenced area where the other hens are. You can see in the first picture the coop on the right and the little chicks' enclosure on the left (baby gate type enclosure with  cardboard top). 

After about two weeks, the hens got used to the chicks being around and I was able to integrate them. My red hen still pecked them, but they quickly fell into line in her "pecking order" and now all six are getting along fine. Well, almost. The three little ones (who aren't little any more) still don't roost inside the coop, but rather on the roof! And when I feed I have to make two food areas because Flag chases the chicks away from her food. Oh well, at least she isn't trying to peck them to death any more, right?

Coke in the Toilet

I like my toilets to be clean. (I think everyone does.) In fact, even though I don't use a lot of chemicals to clean my house, the toilets are a place that I'm not afraid to use bleach. I want to know that they are REALLY clean. You know what I mean?

With three little kids, it is extra important to keep the germs away. 

When we bought our house, the whole place was nasty. The first thing I did was scrub the bathrooms. I mean, I REALLY scrubbed them. With bleach. 

All of the main bathrooms got clean, but there was one stubborn toilet in the basement that just didn't want to cooperate. I knew it was disinfected, but it just wasn't clean. It's not a bathroom we use often (it's in a room that is being renovated), so I wasn't that worried about it. But over the past few months it has started to bug me. No matter how much I scrubbed, it still looked dirty! I knew there must be a way to get rid of the rust and hard water stains (without spending a lot of money or using crazy harsh chemicals).

While looking for recipes for homemade bathroom cleaners, I came across this post HERE. Coke in your toilet? What?!?

Of course I HAD to give it a try. I mean, what did I have to lose? I didn't have any Coke, but I did have some Diet Dr Pepper. I've seen what Diet Dr Pepper can do with a Mentos....... and to a penny..... so I was confident that it would work as well as a Coke. 

Here is the before picture. I cleaned this toilet. I swear. That discoloration is from the rust stains. Eww.

I dumped a can of Dr Pepper in the bowl, and then dumped another one in just to be sure there was enough soda to do the work. (The website linked above used a 2-liter, so I probably should have used more, but this is all I had.)

Toilet looks even nastier with the soda in it. Bleh.

I let the soda sit for 30 minutes and then gave it a quick scrub with a toilet brush. One flush later and WOW!

Ok, now THAT is clean. Yay! (There is still one tiny ring of rust around the top of the water line, but overall I would consider this a success. I might try again with a 2-liter of actual Coke, just to see.)

Kinda makes you wonder what soda does to your insides.......

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Canned Tomato Fail

Argh! I get so frustrated when something doesn't work out. 

I've been getting tons of tomatoes off my plants. Yay! This is just two days worth:

Then, to prepare them for canning, I spend hours blanching and peeling them:

I've canned a thousand tomatoes without any problems. Today? I wasted 3 hours of peeling, coring, chopping, and boiling. And it wasn't just time that got wasted......I wasted 20 POUNDS of tomatoes!! I don't know what I did wrong, but ALL eight of my pint jars leaked when I took them out of the canner. And that means that ALL eight jars are not sealed properly and have to be tossed. What a waste!

See the red on the towel under the jars? That shouldn't be there. As soon as I pulled the jars out of the canner, they bubbled out through the seals. That means that there is food between the lid and the jar which can spoil and ruin the seal.

And not only that, the juice/water is on the bottom and all of the tomatoes floated to the top. Now they are not submerged under liquid like they are supposed to be.

What did I do wrong? Did I over or under tighten the lids? Did I boil them too short or too long? I'll never know. I thought I did everything the same as the last time (when all the jars sealed with no problems).

I'm glad that summer is coming to an end. I love the warm weather, but I'm ready for crisp fall air and sweaters. And most of all, I'm ready for NO MORE TOMATOES to can. I think I'm "canned out" for the year. I know I shouldn't focus on this one failure, but I hate wasting my time. Grrr!

It turns out I didn't have to waste my tomatoes. All of the jars sealed, though with tomato juice in between the lid and jar. So, as long as I used them quickly (before the juice in the seal broke down), I didn't have to toss the tomatoes. (I hate to waste food). I made salsa, tomato sauce, sweet and sour sauce, and fed tomato based meals to my family all week. I don't feel so bad about my Tomato Fail anymore. :-)

Cleaning the Stove Hood Filter

Okay. I'm a little embarrassed to post these pictures for all to see.  This is my stove hood filter.

In my defense, we had some brick work done in the kitchen and the brick dust stuck to the oil, making it look even worse. Gross!

I've tried scrubbing it, but that oil is really hard to get off. I hate washing normal dishes. Washing this was a hundred times worse.

Until now.

All you need is a big pot and some baking soda! NO SCRUBBING!!!!

Fill your biggest pot with water. Just as it comes to a boil, add 1/2 cup baking soda.

You probably don't have a pot big enough for your whole filter, so just boil half and then turn it over and boil the other side. Here is a picture of my filter in the pot. You can already start to see the water getting dirty!

After a few minutes, and NO SCRUBBING, this is what my filter looked like. See that nasty stuff on the left side? That was the part sticking out of the water. See the right side? It's COMPLETELY CLEAN!

Wow! I wish all cleaning projects were this easy. No chemicals, no scrubbing (except the pot when I was done), and no more grease! 

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Curse of the Zucchini

I love gardening. Especially when the time comes to harvest the veggies. This year, my peppers didn't produce ANYTHING, but my tomatoes did well enough for me to can a few batches of sauce, salsa, and just plain chopped tomatoes.

And then there was the zucchini plant.

The first few harvests made me so happy. Sauteed zucchini for dinner and zucchini bread for breakfast. Yum!

And then they kept coming. And coming. And coming!

And no matter how fast I picked them, they just kept getting bigger and bigger! I would see one the size of my finger and think to myself, "Oh, good, it will be the perfect size for picking tomorrow." And then tomorrow comes and WOW! It's the size of my foot! How the heck did it grow that much in ONE NIGHT?!?!

For the last month I have had a bowl of zucchini on the counter that never gets empty. I even have to throw some away because they start to go bad! I tried keeping them in my fridge, but they started to take over (like no more room for milk or eggs), and some of them were just too big to fit at all.

Needless to say, I just CAN'T eat any more sautéed zucchini. And you can only have so much shredded zucchini and zucchini bread in the freezer.

I needed a few new things to make with the overload of zucchini we were picking. (Note to self: DEFINITELY never plant more than one zucchini plant. I don't know what we would do if we had even MORE zucchini.)

Here are some of the ideas I found, and the recipes to go with them.

Fried Zucchini Cakes I found the recipe here. Basically, you shred up some zucchini and toss it with seasonings and breadcrumbs (and an egg to hold it together). Form it into little round "cakes" and fry it in a pan until brown (I like to finish them in the oven). Great as a main course with some dipping sauce, or as a side dish.

Zucchini Bread with Pineapple I have made many different versions of zucchini bread (using milk, orange juice, nuts, chocolate chips, etc.), but never with pineapple chunks. I had to leave out the raisins and nuts so my kids will eat it, but other than that I followed the recipe found here.

Quinoa Salad with Zucchini Cook quinoa according to directions, but use chicken broth instead of plain water. Cube zucchini and sauté it quickly (just enough to make it not raw). Blanch some corn and peas (fresh or frozen). Slice a red onion. Dice tomatoes (fresh or sun dried). After the quinoa is cooked and cooled some, mix in the veggies that you prepped (whatever ratio you like, but having more quinoa than veggies for best results). Mix in chopped fresh herbs of your choice (I like oregano, thyme, and mint). Toss with you favorite vinaigrette. Add goat cheese on top of each serving. YUM!

Curried Zucchini Soup This is a really quick and easy soup to make. We ate it as a mail course with some fresh baked bread. I think I like it better warm than cold, but you can eat it either way. See the recipe here.

Zucchini Chips I didn't actually try these, because I am seriously zucchini'd out this year. But I plan to try these next year. They seem pretty easy, and maybe my kids would eat them. (Ha! Yeah right!) Slice zucchini and spread out evenly over sheet pan. Spray with oil, season with salt and pepper (and in my house we would use cajun or mexican seasoning too), and bake at 225 degrees for 45 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for another 30-35 more minutes until browned.

Zucchini Chocolate Brownies I was pretty skeptical about this recipe. I mean, zucchini brownies? Sounds gross. But I was desperate to find new ways to use my over abundance of zucchini, so I tried it. At first I thought we would eat it without the frosting, as a way to make it more healthy. Ew. It tasted like zucchini dipped in chocolate. And it wasn't even CLOSE to having brownie texture. Bleh. So I went ahead and made the frosting, hoping it would at least make them edible enough that I didn't have to waste them. Oh. My. Gosh. Add a little homemade whipped cream? YUM! Seriously good! Not just "good enough." But actually good! Chocolatey and gooey (and sort of healthy, I guess). I made another batch and froze it for future "chocolate emergencies."

(I'm sorry, I forget where I got the recipe. Luckily I had it printed out so I can give it to you here.)

   2 cups chopped raw zucchini
  1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
  1/2 cup low fat yogurt (I used greek, but regular would work too)
  1 1/4 cup sugar
  1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (I used all purpose white flour)
  1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  1 tsp salt (not iodized)

Frosting ingredients:
  1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  1/4 cup canned evaporated milk
  2 Tbsp butter
  1/2 tsp vanilla
  1 cup powdered sugar
  1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (I didn't use nuts)

  Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9x13 inch pan. In blender, puree zucchini, oil, yogurt, sugar, and vanilla. Set aside. In a large bowl, disk together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Add puree to dry ingredients and stir until moist throughout. Pour into greased pan, spread evenly, and bake 20-25 minutes until toothpick comes out clean (do not overcook!). Remove and place on cooling rack.

Frosting directions:
  Combine chocolate chips, evaporated milk, butter and vanilla in a microwave proof bowl. Microwave on flu 30-40 seconds. Remove and whisk until melted and smooth (return to microwave for a few seconds if necessary). Add powdered sugar and continue to whisk until smooth. Spread evenly over brownies. Sprinkle with nuts if desired. (You can also melt the chocolate mixture over a double boiler if desired).

*****I had extra frosting left over. I put it on some plastic spoons and then put the spoons in the freezer. Perfect for adding a little chocolate to your coffee or just to eat when you need a quick chocolate fix! My kids LOVE them. Ok, so do I.*****

Zucchini Pickles (refrigerated and hot water bath canned)

     Refrigerator Pickles: These pickles are nice and crisp. A little sweet for my taste, but delicious anyway. You can get the full recipe here.

To prepare for pickling, you need to toss the zucchini (or cucumber, or whatever) with salt to draw out some of the moisture. Add ice and let it sit for a few hours. You can put the veggies in a colander in a bowl to separate out the water, or just drain them when they are done. The veggies will then be able to absorb the flavors in the vinegar better.

**Although I put these pickles in canning jars, they must be refrigerated. I did not process them in a canner, so they are not shelf stable.**

     Hot Water Bath Canned Pickles: I got this recipe from my local Master Preservers class.

            5 lbs medium zucchini cut into 1/4 inch slices
            2 lbs mild white onion, thinly sliced
            1/4 cup salt (NOT IODIZED)
            ice water

            4 cups cider vinegar
            2 cups sugar
            2 Tbsp mustard seed
            1 Tbsp each celery seed AND ground turmeric
            2 tsp ground ginger
            3 cloves garlic, minced

            Place zucchini, onions, and salt in a large bowl and cover with ice water. Let stand for 1-2 hours. Drain, rinse, and drain again. In a large kettle mix vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds, turmeric, ginger, and garlic. Bring to a boil over high heat and stir to dissolve sugar. Boil for 2-3 minutes.

Stir in zucchini mixture, return to a boil and boil for 2 more minutes. Pack hot mixture into hot pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles, wipe rims, and places lids on jars. Process for 10 minutes in boiling water bath. Makes 8 pints.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Homemade Bathroom Cleaners

There is really only one thing that I hate more than cleaning the bathroom: Washing Dishes. 

And since there was a nice big pile of dirty pots and pans in the sink from my canning project yesterday, I thought today would be the perfect day to clean the bathrooms (and then spend more time blogging about it). The dishes will still be there later, right? The unfortunate answer to that question is always "yes." 

Off I headed to the FOUR bathrooms in the house to scrub and clean. My usual weekly regimen is to just wipe down everything with a disinfectant wipe and scrub the toilet with bleach. But, since it's been at least a week since I really scrubbed them down (ok, more like three weeks...... don't judge me), I decided to do a really good job. Besides, I have this really big pile of dishes waiting for me, so the longer it takes to clean the bathrooms, the better. 

I've been learning all about the natural germ killers, like vinegar, so I've been trying to use less and less commercial cleaners.

According to Wikipedia, 
"Vineagar is reputed to have strong antibacterial properties. One test by Good Housekeeping's microbiologist found that 5% vinegar is 90% effective against mold and 99.9% effective against bacteria,[48]

I make a cleaner that I use for just about everything. (See original post HERE ) 

All Purpose Cleaner
16 oz spray bottle
add 2 Tbsp vinegar, 1 tsp Borax, and some warm water
swirl until borax is dissolved
add a few drops of dish soap (Dawn)
fill the bottle with warm water

(I use a 32 oz bottle from an old cleaner that I had, so I just double the recipe. You can adjust for the size spray bottle you have).

Nice fancy label, right?

I even made my own Orange Infused Vinegar to add the cleaning power of orange oil to the concoction. 

Orange oil "is also an effective, environmentally friendly, and relatively safe solvent, which makes it an active ingredient of choice in many applications, such as, but not limited to, adhesive and stain removers, cleaners of various sorts, and strippers."  Wikipedia.

Orange Vinegar
Collect orange peels and allow them to air dry (toss any that grow mold)
Break up the orange peels and put them in a jar
Fill jar with vinegar
Seal jar and set aside for 2 weeks
Strain orange peels out and keep sealed in a dark location

 I use this spray to clean countertops, showers, and the floor. So far I've been really happy with it. I ran out of it today, so my 4 year old daughter helped me make some more (she loves to stir and mix things). 

Before I knew it, the bathrooms were clean. I couldn't stop there, though, because I needed to put off the dishes for just a bit longer.

I'm always on the lookout for new cleaning recipes to try, and I've been looking for a new disinfectant spray. I came across a recipe for a thyme based disinfectant. (See original post HERE)  

"Oil of thyme, the essential oil of common thyme (Thymus vulgaris), contains 20-54% thymol.[5] Thyme essential oil also contains a range of additional compounds, such as p-Cymenemyrceneborneol and linalool.[6] Thymol, anantiseptic, is the main active ingredient in various commercially produced mouthwashes such as Listerine.[7] Before the advent of modern antibiotics, oil of thyme was used to medicate bandages.[1] Thymol has also been shown to be effective against various fungi that commonly infect toenails.[8] Thymol can also be found as the active ingredient in some all-natural, alcohol-free hand sanitizers." Wikipedia.

Since I have a TON of thyme in my garden, it was really easy and cheap to whip up. 

Thyme Disinfectant
Boil 5 sprigs of thyme in 2 cups of water
Turn off heat and cover, allowing the thyme to soak in hot water for 30 minutes.
Pour in a spray bottle and add 1/4 cup Borax (shake to dissolve).

How much is a sprig? I don't really know... I just grabbed a bunch. More is better when it comes to disinfecting power (in my opinion).

How easy is THAT? And is smells really nice too. 

So, my bathrooms are clean and I have a new disinfectant spray to try. These cleaners are so easy to make and do such a good job, that I still have enough time to do all of my dishes before picking up my son at school. 

Darn it!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Homemade Sauerkraut

I LOVE sauerkraut. 

When I found out that I could make it at home, I was SO excited!! And SO scared! What do you mean I put cabbage in salt water and let it sit for 3 weeks? Really? You just let it sit there at room temperature? I was overwhelmed and too chicken to try it.

Lucky for me, though, my mom made me aware of some free classes nearby that were all about canning. In particular, there was a class on making pickles and sauerkraut! I attended the class given by the Master Food Preservers, and got to see just how easy it is to make sauerkraut. I've got my first batch going, and now, so can you!

You will need 6 lbs of shredded cabbage, 3 1/2 Tbsp salt (with no additives), water, and a large jar or crock for fermenting.

Step 1: Shred the cabbage.

Step 2: Put cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle salt on top. 

Step 3: Using your hands, gently toss the cabbage and salt until the cabbage becomes limp and wet like the picture below (this is the same amount of cabbage as the above picture, so you can see how much it shrinks).

Step 4: Wash and dry a large jar or crock. I used a jar from pickled jalapeños (about a gallon size).

Step 5: Begin putting the cabbage in the jar (crock) a handful at a time. Each time, pack it down with your fist to release more liquid from the cabbage.

Step 6: On top of all of the shredded cabbage, place a few whole cabbage leaves to prevent the little pieces from floating up.

Step 7: In a saucepan, mix 1 quart water and 1 1/2 Tbsp salt. Bring to a boil. Cool completely. Use this mixture to add brine to your cabbage if the moisture from packing it down is not enough to completely cover the cabbage leaves. You do not want any cabbage exposed to the air.

Step 8: Fill a ziplock bag with brine to act as a weight to help keep the cabbage down. Place the bag on top of the cabbage. Cover the jar loosely with plastic wrap (you want the gases from fermentation to be able to escape).

Place the entire jar into a bucket or other large container to catch any spillage or fermentation overflow.
Put the bucket into a basement or other area that maintains a constant temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. 

That's it! Leave it for 3 weeks, then refrigerate, can, or enjoy! Be sure to check the kraut daily to make sure that there is enough liquid in it. If the liquid is low, just add more brine mixture. And remove any scum or mold that forms.

I have my batch going and it will be ready in a few days. I will post an update with pictures of the finished product!

**UPDATE  8/21/2012**

I just processed my first batch of sauerkraut! 

To can the finished kraut, you put it in a pan in it's own juices and heat it to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Put it into clean hot jars, and process in hot water canner for 15 minutes.

**UPDATE 7/20/2013**

We ate our sauerkraut this past winter and shared some with friends and family. My favorite was on New Year's Day when we cooked a pork loin in it. YUM! (It is amazing with my Caraway Pork Rub). I have been told over and over by my family that my sauerkraut is the BEST they've ever had (and I don't think they are just being nice. Haha!) I just finished a batch, but this year I'll be making two or three so we don't run out of it like we did last year. This is SO EASY and SO GOOD! I hope you try it!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cilantro to Coriander

Just a little tip I learned last year. When your cilantro bolts...... which it ALWAY will (especially right when you want to use it), DON'T pull it out!! (By the way, "bolting" is when the herb suddenly grows really tall and flowers). Let it go, watering lightly, until the flowers are gone and turn into little balls on the end of the branches. As soon as most of these balls are brownish in color, cut the stalks and put them upside down in a paper bag. 

When they are all dried, you take all of the balls off the stems. Then, gently rub over them with your hand to get any extra stem or leaf off. Bottle them up and store with your spices. When it is time you use them, you can grind them up or just crack them with the back of a spoon (for coarser uses). They smell so good.... and are great to use in cooking. Grow one plant and harvest two different products. Double duty herb!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Replacement Chicks

I decided that I needed more eggs. I have enough for us right now, but I want to have enough so that I can sell them or give them away to friends. Right now I only have three hens, which amounts to about a dozen eggs a week. My coop is big enough for a few more, so a month ago my kids and I headed off to the feed store and got three new chicks.

Cute, right? We currently have one brown egg layer and two green/blue layers. These new gals will lay white, brown, and chocolate brown.

Well, they would have. :-(

After having them about a week, we accidentally left the garage door open. (The chicks were in the garage in a baby gate type play pen. Completely safe...... as long as the garage door stayed closed.)

My husband went to get something in the garage and yelled, "Your chicks are gone!" With further inspection, we could see three little piles of bloody feathers and little bloody kitty prints. Poor little chicks. I felt AWFUL!

So, after explaining to my kids what had happened, we trekked off to the feed store for some more chicks. They were out of one of the kinds we'd had, so we had to pick a new one. My kids were happy, though, because it was similar enough that we were able to keep the same names (because, you know, that is what matters most). And I am happy to report that I have remembered to close the garage door EVERY night. (And I put a top on their enclosure, just in case).

Meet our replacement chicks:  Zebra, Speckles, and Taxi

This photo is after a few weeks of having them. They are about 5 weeks old here.

I am crossing my fingers that none of these "hens" are actually roosters. Because we all know what happens to roosters at my house...... (See rooster story here). 

Watermelon Fail

When I started blogging, I told myself that I would post about my failures as well as my successes. After all, no one is perfect. And I have learned a lot from reading about other peoples "failures," so hopefully this will help YOU.

I consider myself an average gardener. I am learning quickly, but I still don't know everything. This year, I FINALLY had success growing pumpkins and melons. Yay! Watching and waiting for them to ripen, though, is hard. And how do you know if it is really ripe?

I had a wonderful little watermelon on my vine that I had been watching grow for weeks. I went away for a week on vacation, and when I returned, it looked exactly like the picture on the plant label! Hurray! It's time! So I thought. I read the label, and then read it again to be sure that it was ready. "Dark green fruit, firm, 6" in diameter." Yep. Yep. Yep. Then I tapped it and it sounded hollow, just like it's supposed to.

So I picked it.

I used my hand to show you the size. My hand is about 6 1/2 inches from heel to tip of fingers. (Ignore the green paint on my thumb..... I guess I should have worn gloves while painting my daughter's light.)

I was so excited to cut into it. I grabbed my kids and hurried to the kitchen. I got out my knife and sliced it open.......

Darn it. I guess it wasn't ready. :-(

I will post again when the next melon is ripe...... wish me luck.

Quick Tote Bag

When I was little, we went on vacation and my mom surprised my brother and me with handmade tote bags with activities inside. They were really cute, with our name on the outside in iron on letters. I loved it so much that I decided I would do the same thing when I had kids.

This year, for our annual beach trip, I finally got around to making them. With three little kids, I don't have a lot of spare time, so I needed this project to be pretty quick and easy. I searched the internet and was inspired by this tote. I dug into my fabric stash and luckily had fabric to suit all three of my kids. Yay! Free project!

In this tutorial, I will show how to make the dinosaur bag. The other two bags were made the same way.

1/2 yard fabric for outside
1/2 yard fabric for lining
1/4 yard fabric for handles

Cut 2 pieces 14" wide and 16" tall for the outside of the bag..... making sure that your pattern is going the correct direction. The dinosaur fabric in these pictures. (If your pattern is random, like all of mine, you can cut one piece 14" wide and 32" tall and just fold it so you won't have a seam at the bottom).

Cut 2 pieces 14" wide and 16" tall for the lining. The fabric with words.

Cut 2 pieces 4" wide and 22 1/2" long for the handles. The fabric with words.

This picture has an extra small piece of word fabric that I didn't end up using. I thought about putting a pocket on the outside, but I decided that I just wanted a plain tote bag. You could add pockets to the inside or outside if you wanted to.

Step 1: Make main bag portion.

Layer your fabric for the main bag. Starting at the bottom you should have a lining piece WRONG side up, an outside piece RIGHT side up, an outside piece WRONG side up, and lastly a lining piece RIGHT side up. (If you are folding your fabric to avoid a bottom seam, put the outside fabric and lining fabrics wrong sides together and then fold them so that the outside fabric is on the inside).

Pin and sew the side seams (and bottom seam if needed) with a 1/2 inch seam. Then zigzag stitch along each seam and trim any excess fabric.

Turn the bag right side out and press. Along the top edge, press under 1 1/2 inches. Set aside.

Step 2:  Make handles. 

Press the fabric in half lengthwise. Then open and press each long edge into the center fold. 

Fold the fabric in half again so that you now have 4 layers of fabric with no raw edge showing.

Sew close to the edge all the way around. Zigzag the ends.

Step 3: Attach handles to bag.

On the bag portion, open up the top edge that you pressed. (you can see my ironing crease in the photo below). Lay the bag flat on the table. Being careful that your handle is not twisted, pin the handle to the bag matching raw edges. The side edge of the handle should be about 2 1/2 inches from the side edge of the bag. When pinning, be careful to ONLY go through two layers of the bag. Otherwise you will sew your bag closed. (you will be sewing through the handle, the outer layer, and the lining).

Sew with a zigzag stitch all the way around the top edge of the bag.

Keeping the handle pinned, fold in the top edge of the bag along your crease. Pin.

Sew around the entire top edge of the bag, close to the edge. Then sew around again, close to the zigzag edge. Then, if you want, sew an "X" on each handle to give it extra strength.

Here is the bag on my cute little 2 year old model.... just so you can get an idea about the actual size of the bag. It fits coloring books, crayons, and snacks perfectly without being too heavy or bulky for my kids to carry it themselves.