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.

Flip Flop Fix

The other day I bought a pair of cheap flip flops from Walmart for my 2 year old. You know, the kind with the elastic strap on the back. I knew that, for 2 bucks, they weren't going to be great. But I was just hoping they would get us through the rest of the summer. 

Right away there was a problem. They had connected the elastic with big plastic "clips" (my little one called them "cameras" because they were rectangular with a round silver grommet, or "lens", in the center). When I asked her to put her shoes on, she would tell me "Not the one with the cameras!" I think the little clips rubbed on her foot and hurt her. 

So I did what any reasonable person would do. I cut them off. This left us with a flip flop with no elastic strap. We tried to use them like that, but 2 year olds have a really hard time walking in shoes with no back strap.

Then it hit me. Rubber bands! 

 I love my baby's chunky little feet.

 Find rubber band that are not too small or tight. Hopefully you have two of the same size. (mine were not the same color, but that didn't bother me)

Put the rubber band around the base of the flip flop straps.

 When you put them on, make sure that their toes are on TOP of the rubber band in the front so that the band won't slip off. Then just pull up the band in the back onto their heel.

Obviously, I wouldn't CHOOSE to do this as a permanent shoe. But in a pinch, it works like a charm. I think I'll start carrying rubber bands in my purse, just in case.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Homemade Fabric Softener

I just got back from a week away, and with three kids you can imagine the pile of laundry I had to do. I started a load and realized that I was out of fabric softener. It's not a big deal since I often just use vinegar (which works great, by the way), but I decided that this was the perfect time to try a project I'd been wanting to do: Homemade Fabric Softener. I already make my own laundry detergent, so how hard could it be? It turns out that it is even easier that I had imagined.

I got the recipe here, but I cut it down because I didn't want to make a huge batch in case I didn't like it.

Here is what I did (actually, my 4 year old did it..... that's how easy it is):

1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup hair conditioner

That's it. Really. Put the water and vinegar in a bowl (or directly into your storage container, old softener bottle, etc), add conditioner, and stir until mixed. DO NOT SHAKE because it will foam up. At first I thought I was doing something wrong because my mixture looked like this:

But after I stirred it for a few minutes, all the conditioner dissolved and it looked more like liquid soap. I read that if you heat up the water and vinegar a little before adding the conditioner it will mix faster. I might try that next time. I poured my mix into an old pickle jar. I'm not sure exactly how much you are supposed to use, but some people say 1/2 cup.... I think that is too much. I just poured a little into the fabric softener dispenser in my machine. I've only used it on one load, but so far so good!

I used Suave Naturals Ocean Breeze. You could use any conditioner you have.

I don't foresee any problems, but I have to cover myself. So: **Use this at your own risk. I am not responsible for damage to you, your clothes, or your washing machine**  :-)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Oversized Beach Tote

It's time for our annual beach trip. Yay! Our beach house is only a few blocks from the beach, but that means that we have to tote all of our "stuff" there each day. And with three little kids, you can imaging the amount of "stuff" I lug around. Towels, sand toys, diapers, sunscreen, water bottles, beach chair, beach umbrella, etc. My kids are still too little to be able to carry anything themselves. It's enough right now if they can make it all the way there and home without having to be carried. 

Last year, I had a bag (of diapers, water, snacks, and sunscreen), an umbrella slung over my shoulder (thankfully it has a case with a strap), towels under my arm (4 of them), and a bucket of sand toys in my hand. My other hand was free to grab three little hands to cross the street. I was a sight. I'm sure the people that saw me walking with my three kids to the beach felt really sorry for me. Ha!

I decided, then, that I would get a big beach bag for this year. And of course, being a do it yourself gal, I had to make one. I found a piece of canvas type fabric on clearance at JoAnn's for about 7 bucks. I knew I wanted a BIG bag, but I didn't want it so big that I wouldn't be able to actually carry it once it was full of stuff. I based my bag on the one on this site, but as you will see, I made some changes.

I was shocked at how quickly this bag came together. I completed it, including taking pictures of each step for this blog, before my kids were finished watching Dora the Explorer's Pirate Adventure. (For those of you without kids, that translates to "less than an hour.")

Please feel free to make this bag and post about it. Just remember to credit me and link back to this post! Enjoy!!

1 1/2 yards of fabric (44" wide)..... less if your fabric is 54" wide
     ***Please note that you may have to adjust the amount of fabric you buy depending on the print on your fabric. Make sure you have enough fabric to fold it in half, resulting in a piece that is 27 inches tall and 30 inches wide. 

2 yards cotton webbing (for straps).... you could make these straps out of fabric if you do          
                                                                     not have webbing

Fold your fabric in half so that the fold is the bottom of the bag. If you have to sew two pieces, rather than fold the fabric, just sew it together while you are sewing the side seams.

Cut your fabric 30 inches wide. Cut off the top (not the folded edge) to make the bag 27 inches tall.

Fold the fabric the same way but right sides together. Pin the sides.

Sew the sides with a 1/2 inch seam. Then, zigzag along the edge to keep the seams from fraying.

At the bottom corner (where the folded edge meets the side seam), spread out the fabric to make a triangle. This step is hard to describe, but you pull on the fabric on either side of the seam and then lay it flat on the table. You can see in the picture below that the "side seam" is in the center and on top of the rest of the fabric. Pull on the sides until there is an equal amount of fabric on either side of the seam.

Find the spot that is 9 inches across the triangle that you just made (adjusting the fabric to make sure that it is 4.5 inches on either side of the seam (aka. the seam in centered).

Mark this line and then pin it so the fabric won't move.

Sew along the line. Then, zigzag right next to the line (on the side of the line closes to the point of the triangle).

Trim off the extra fabric past your new zigzag line.

I turned my bag right side out at this point. Here is a picture of the new bottom "corner" looking down into the bag.

Here is a picture of the new bottom "corner" from the outside.

Now fold down 3 inches along the top edge to the inside of the bag. Pin it.

Fold under 1/2 inch along the raw edge. Pin it.

Sew close to the folded edge. (The LOWER edge, not the top edge of the bag). You can't really see the seam in this picture, but there is a faint red stitch line in the first yellow stripe.

Cut your webbing into two straps. I didn't have quite 2 yards, but it worked just fine. Adjust the length if you want longer or shorter straps. Fold under each edge of the webbing and stitch to finish the edge and keep it from fraying. (My stitching in this picture is VERY crooked. But I'm not worried since it's just a beach bag and this stitching is on the inside.) Mark on the INSIDE top edge of the bag, 8 inches from the seam on each side. On the INSIDE of the bag, position your straps on the "inside" (toward the center of the side) of these marks, making sure that your webbing is not twisted from one side to the next. Pin in place.

Tack the straps in place by sewing around the four sides and then make an X across for stability and strength. You do not want your straps to fall off.

Topstitch around the entire bag close to the top edge. I then topstitched around at the bottom of my X marks for extra stability. (This makes 3 stitch lines at the top of your bag).

Tada!! This picture shows the bag with 6 towels in it!! And plenty of room to spare!

And just so you can get an idea of the actual size of the bag, my 6 year old son was kind enough to take this picture of me holding the bag. (Please ignore the dress that COMPLETELY clashes with the bag, LOL!)