Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mother's Day Projects, and a (former) Un Finished Object

I've been wanting to sit down and write to you again for a week.  Desperately wanted to sit down and write to you, in fact, but was unable to.  Why?  I wanted to let you see the projects the girls and I were working on for Mother's Day gifts!  However, since my mother reads this on occasion, I didn't want to ruin the surprises, so I left my computer turned off all week. 

So, without further delay, here is what we worked on last week:

Roughly 12 years ago, I came up with the idea of making concrete stepping stones with my 2 oldest daughters for my Mom's garden for Mother's Day.  Four kids later, we are still doing them, although the older 2 have stopped now.  Here is one of this year's kits.  They are really quite easy, and include everything you need.  Of course, we have accumulated other embellishments through the years, and add them as well.

Here, Abby, Katie, and Emma are waiting for Brittany to finish reading the directions.

Emma, thinking it all through.
Brittany, mixing the first batch of cement.

Katie, waiting her turn.

It's gotten harder every year to come up with inspiration, so this year I turned the girls loose to do their own. The only requirements are that they leave space for their hand print, name, and year.
Abby, looking for the letters in her name.

Katie, pushing in stones. Brittany is in the background, sorting marble colors.

Me, helping Emma make her hand print.

Katie's finished stone. Her name is visible, but not the date.
Emma's stone, before her name and date.
And Abby's.  I think they did a great job!  Maddie made one too, but she used a footprint instead of a hand print.  Unfortunately, I didn't think to take a picture of hers before giving it away.  Sigh.

Now, on to the presents I made.  My Mom is, among other things, a knitter.  (I know, big surprise, right?)  She had been saying a few things that inspired my gift to her this year.  One was that she was looking for a good way to organize her circular needles, and another was how hard it is getting to read the needle sizes stamped on the bamboo knitting needles.  And that's all I needed to be off and running.
First up was a felted needle case.  I let the 3 kids choose roughly what order the colors would be used in, and this is how it turned out before felting:
This is how it looked after felting.  The felting process makes a dense fabric that doesn't unravel or fray, which makes it perfect for pushing needles through.  This was intended for her circular needles, but I wanted to demonstrate how to push needles through, so....

 ...I got her a new pair of bamboo needles, which I did this to:

This isn't actually her pair.  I updated some of my needles too, to see if my idea would work.  It did.  This is polymer clay, which I first shaped and formed a number in.  After baking, I filled in the number with contrasting clay and re-baked it.  Then, I added a glaze for shine.  Altogether, I made...

...three pairs, but I anticipate doing many more.  As soon as Mom and I empty sets of needles, I will update them.  It does make it easier to read, and also to find pairs!

Since I was playing with various knitting implements, I decided to make a travel/emergency knitting kit.  Because everyone should have one of those. 
 Here it is.  It has a snap hook for attaching to the handle of your knitting bag, and is loaded with goodies.
Yarn needles, beaded stitch markers (another thing I played with), a travel safe yarn cutter, and stitch holders.  Everything you could possibly need on the road.  The little package in the upper right corner are some bake and shrink plastic tags for labeling her circular needles.
Overall, I was very pleased with the set, and hope Mom likes it as much as I do.  Someday, maybe I'll make one for me!
Here is a picture of the cards the 3 kids made for me. 

Don helped the girls make the square ones.  They say Happy Mom's Day, and then they colored pictures of themselves with me.  So cute!  They brought them to me in bed, with a cup of coffee and a chocolate bar!

The green ones they made in Sunday school.  They used mini cupcake liners, which they colored as flowers.  Then they drew stems and leaves.  They also each gave me a little bag full of flavored tea bags, and the most adorable little sheep candies.  Of course now they are bugging me to let them eat the sheep.
And finally, the reason that I couldn't write to you yesterday.  It was cold and rainy here yesterday, and I was going to go out and work on cleaning up my craft room.  When I got out there, one of the first things that caught my eye was a quilt top that I made a couple of years ago.  It was supposed to go in the loft, which was Brianna and Brittany's hangout room.  Now, however, it is Madison's bedroom.  I never intended for this quilt to be a showpiece, but rather a functional throw for the girls.  I was going to just tie it with brown yarn, but decided to play around with machine quilting it.  What an adventure!
First, I had to baste the whole thing, which I did with safety pins.  And wound up pinning it to the carpet in spots.  Sigh number one.  I got it onto the table and discovered the back wasn't smooth, and it all had to be re-pinned.  200+ pins.  Sigh number two.  I got it all re-pinned, and things went fairly well, until the last pass.  I accidentally sewed my dining room table cloth to the back.  Sign number three.  Fortunately, it was only about four inches before I caught and fixed that.  When I went to start ironing the binding, I discovered that I had pieced them wrong.  Sigh number four, and the end of the project for yesterday!
Today, refreshed and newly determined to finish up, I fixed the binding problem, pinned the first edge on, and learned the mystery behind mitered corners!  I ironed and pinned the second edge, and let the girls "help" me finish the last 4 seams by taking turns stepping on the "gas pedal".  They were thrilled, we finished up together, and they had a new quilt for their movie time this afternoon.  Must have turned out okay, because at least one of them fell asleep for a change.  And that is the sign of a good quilt!
And back I go to knitting baby gifts.  I will show you the progress on the first item soon!  Take care, and I hope to see you in a few days.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Birthday Girl, a Summer Garden, and a Finished Project

First off, today is my oldest daughter's birthday.  Sixteen years ago, I became a mom.  And yet, I find myself thinking occasionally, "I wonder when I will start feeling like a grownup."  Please, somebody out there, tell me that I'm not alone.  Even though I've been an adult now for longer than I was a kid, I sometimes still don't feel like it!  Not that I'm stuck in my youth, or keeping up with the teens, and I definitely wake up sore sometimes, and can't do the things that I used to do, but I'm waiting to "feel" my age.

Here are some pictures of the birthday girl.  We actually celebrated on Saturday, with a big Mexican feast and birthday cake.  Today, we are having dinner together, and she requested her favorite dessert:  rice pudding souffle with raspberry sauce.
Here is Brianna (with Abby, Katie, and Emma) opening presents.

Her favorite cake:  chocolate cake, filled with bananas and whipped cream, and topped with more whipped cream!

Getting ready to blow out candles (with a little help from Maddie!)

And here she goes!  (Looks like she is making a wish, but she said later that she forgot!  She did get all the candles out, though!)

The weekend before last, Don finished the garden.  So, we went to the nursery and bought our vegetable plants.  While Don was finishing the sprinkler system, I was clearing out the rest of the winter vegetables.  We had a couple of heads of cabbage left, (which I put in the compost bin, darn it!) and a lot of chard.  When I say a lot, I mean a LOT.  This is what it looked like when we carried it into the kitchen:
Doesn't look like so much here, does it?  But, keep in mind, there are 2 full size bath towels under it.  Not to mention, we had already had a few dinners of it and given quite a bit to my dad.  All this from 6 plants.

This is what it looked like after I washed and chopped it all:
It filled my 6 largest bowls!
The next step was to blanch it all, and then shock it, in order to put it in the freezer.  This is how it looked after that step:

That's right, it all fit in one bowl, after a 30 second bath in boiling water.

I got out my vacuum sealer, and we now have:

Eight one pound packages in the freezer.  And, the knowledge that next year, 6 plants is probably too many!

For the most part, the garden has been replanted.  We have a total of 22 various tomato plants, 8 green bean plants, 2 summer squash plants, 2 crookneck squash plants, 1 zucchini plant (still have some of last year's in the freezer!), 2 jalapeno plants, 2 banana pepper plants, 3 Anaheim chili plants, 3 bell pepper plants, 3 cuke plants, basil, cilantro, oregano, thyme, sage, mint, rosemary, parsley, chives, and leeks.  I also have seedlings on my window sill:  tomatillos, pickling cukes, and watermelon.  Plus, I left a spot for eggplant.  I'm hopeful for a lot of fresh produce this year!

And now, for the finished project I mentioned.  Today, I finished the 40 squares project.  I last showed you square 34, so here is

Square 35:
Chocolate.  All kinds.  'Cause I don't discriminate.  Enough said??

Square 36:
One of my 2 favorite holidays.

Square 37:
My other favorite holiday.

Square 38:
One possible perfect end to a long day:
a book, a cold drink, and a tub full of bubbles!

Square 39:
Representing my fairy tale life!

Square 40:
My greatest hope:

I also added a banner to the bottom.  Here is the detail of that:

And I put a simple outline around the whole thing, to unify it.  Here is the completed picture:

I'm going to frame it as soon as I can.  And this project was so fun, I will be starting another one soon.  Right after I finish the baby shower gift I'm working on.  I'll keep you posted!