Thursday, February 12, 2015

Little Gift For Valentine's Day

I thought I'd show you this little gift I put together for my co-teacher for Valentine's Day. 

Ummm, I was at the store earlier today but totally forgot about getting her a little something! So tonight, I looked through my  gift stash to see if I had anything that she would enjoy. We are celebrating Valentine's Day at work tomorrow.

So I found a pink set of homemade hand warmers, some strawberry gum in my pantry (it's fresh!) and a couple candy canes I hot glued together to make a heart.

She loves pink, her hands are often cold and she likes peppermint and chewing gum. 

How's that for gift giving rationale? Ha! 

I dressed up a plain tiny gift bag with some trim and a thrifted crocheted flower (like I used here). Hot glue gun to the rescue! 

A small gift but something cute that says, "I'm thinking of you!" 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Lasagna Gardening, Take 1

Saturday was a beautiful sunny day, perfect for working in our garden!

I've been interested in lasagna gardening for several years. Lasagna gardening is a no dig, no till method of gardening. Instead of digging and tilling dirt, one makes layers of peat moss and other soil enriching components. Basically, you can take a hard piece of ground, put newspapers down to kill the existing grass/weeds, then layer the other stuff on top--within months you will have a lovely rich soil to plant in.

Andy gave me the book Lasagna Gardening for my birthday last year. So I've been itching to get started!

We started with our existing garden plot which has wonderful soil but lots of aggressive weeds.

First step is to soak newspapers and then put thick pads of them all over the soil. I had Andy's parents save newspapers for me and also got a big box of them from a lady via Freecycle.

 The second step was to pour a layer of peat moss down. I sectioned the garden into quarters and used cardboard to mark off a path.  Looks like a cross, doesn't it? I had to make another trip to Farmer's Exchange to pick up an additional bale of peat moss. By the time this is done, we'll be on first name basis. ;-)
Next, I made layers of compost, grass clippings and a sprinkling of bonemeal--all stuff we had already. No picture of these layers, because....ewww! Not all my compost is fully decomposed. I covered this with a thick layer of straw. I only used about 1/2 a bale so straw is a cost effective addition to the lasagna garden at only $5 a bale.

The garden is smelling lovely at this point...

 I started putting mulch that we already had on hand over the path area to make it look nicer. Apparently, I didn't get a picture of that...

Done for today with layering. Last step is to cover everything with black plastic and secure it. Not only will covering it help the layers to "cook" and decompose, it will also help to deter a very nosy dog who finds compost and bonemeal to be quite delightful.;-)

I'll be adding more layers in the coming weeks--more peat moss, compost, straw, etc.

Stay tuned for more adventures in Lasagna gardening!

This is our first time using this method so if you have experience with this, please share!

And my sincere apologies to my readers who are covered in snow...;-)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I'm Still Here

For the past six months, I've been working full time hours at work. The first 3-4 weeks were substituting for a coworker who was out for surgery. The rest of the time has been in the 3 year old room filling in for the assistant teacher until a replacement has been found.

I was offered the job and for a short time felt God wanted me to take the position but through the interview process and continuing to pray, it was clear I was not to take the job. However, I am filling in until the position is filled. It has taken longer than planned.

They had an assistant hired to start December 1st but that person did not end up starting due to various circumstances. They now have another teacher hired and slated to start Feb. 16. Praying that all goes well! I really want to go back to my part-time hours.

The main reason this has taken so long is that this is a government job. :-) The time frame from posting the position on the web site to interviewing to hiring is about a 6-8 week process. It is a very time-consuming process. Add to that the fact that we were closed for 2 weeks around Christmas and New Year's.

This has not been the easiest assignment ever and I am exhausted beyond words most evenings. But God has been faithful through it!

In case you wonder why blogging has been so sporadic, that is why. :-)

No picture today. Hopefully more blogging to come before too long. I need to finish my vacation posts plus I have lots of other posts waiting in the wings.

Love you all and will talk more soon!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Small Gifts To Save On Shipping

We live a good distance from any of our family members with the closest being a 5 1/2 hour drive away. 

So every Christmas, we ship at least one box of gifts to someone! This year we are sending two: one to my sister's family in Texas and one to my parents in Oregon. 

I don't mind shipping boxes and always love packing them up-- so much fun! But when the cost of shipping is about the same or more than what the gifts cost? No thank you! 

So this year, I focused on gifts that were compact and easy to ship. By doing this, I was able to pack each family's gifts in a small flat rate box! 

This saved us a lot of money this year! 

**Note: We keep our gifts to family members pretty low-cost; usually in the $5-$10 range per person. We also try to do useful or clutter-free gifts as much as we can. I will share some of the specifics of our gift-giving after Christmas so as not to spoil the surprise for our family members that read here!**

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Finishing Fall Stuff & Cranberry Apple Preserves

I felt like I needed to finish up fall before I could decorate the house for Christmas!

We got our apples for applesauce late this year so I had to push it to get them done by Thanksgiving. But I made it-- around 42 quarts. Whew! 

I'd also purchased a bushel of apples for a friend who is learning to make and can applesauce this year. She wasn't able to get together until last week. So those apples are done now too--around 15 quart for her. 

saved 3 apples from all our applesauce, jelly and dried apple making to make Cranberry Apple Preserves. I had some cranberries in the freezer and a coworker offered me a couple oranges she wasn't going to eat. I had just seen the recipe in the canning book and put an orange on my shopping list--I had all the other ingredients on hand. So the oranges came in perfect timing! 

This smelled wonderful while cooking. Everything cooked down nicely and made a lovely red color.

I got 6 jars of preserves. I will use some of these for Christmas gifts. 

Cranberry Apple Preserves
 Recipe from The Ball Book of Canning
 Yield: about 9 half-pints

2 pounds cranberries
3 green apples, cored, peeled and chopped
1 orange, seeded and chopped 
3 cups sugar
2 cups water
1/2 cup honey

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring slowly to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil gently almost to gelling point. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Ladle hot preserves into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. process in boiling water canner 15 minutes.

Our fall pumpkins needed to be cooked. I like decor that can do double duty--pretty to look at and yummy to eat later! 

I used this method again for cooking whole pumpkins. It's so easy! Just wash your pumpkins, poke them several times all over with a knife and bake for about 1 1/2 hours at 350 degrees. Let cool a little before handling.

Ended up with a huge bowl of pumpkin puree to freeze. I froze it in freezer bags in 2 cup portions. Yield was 16 cups--equivalent to 8 cans of pumpkin.  

Now that those things are checked off, I'm ready to move on to Christmas!

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Mending A Tablecloth The Scrappy Way

Last Christmas, a candle burned a hole in my festive tablecloth.

The hole is right in the middle of the tablecloth. Instead of tossing it or making it into something else, I opted to give it a little scrappy makeover by just patching it over. 

I used a few Christmas scraps to cover the hole and make a cute little patchwork thing in the middle. 

I finished the patch off with a scrappy Christmas tree featuring red polka dots and some candy cane stripe-- a combo that never fails to make me happy to look at! 

While not perfect, we love the look this embellishment adds!

One tablecloth saved from uselessness!

Monday, December 01, 2014

After Thanksgiving

This is what Rock looks like after his party weekend at puppy camp. 

In fact, I kind of feel that way myself after Thanksgiving! 

My mother-in-law graciously sent the HUGE turkey carcass (with lots of dark meat still on, which we love) home with me. So I'll be making broth and soup this week. I'm scouring my soup cookbooks for a good and maybe more unusual turkey soup recipe. If you have a good method or recipe, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

I made this Turkey Dinner Soup a couple of years ago which we enjoyed a lot. 

These are setting on my counter after a jelly making session right before we left for Thanksgiving. This apple jelly was made with apple peelings and cores from some dried apples I made earlier. Waste not, want not!

I got the idea from Wendi's blog and then followed the directions for apple jelly included in my box of pectin--I used Certo.

Have a great week and enjoy the first week of December!