Friday, June 20, 2008

Farm Girl Cute

For those who read my Katie's Calamities blog, here is the sewing tutorial I promised weeks ago. I worked very, very hard ( Pffft! ) on this so, I hope that y'all gain some enjoyment and knowledge from this.

For this particular project, I fished deep into the briny depths of my very illustrious, Goodwill bag and produced 2 items to make-over. First, I dug out these cute short-alls. Super cute, but lo, they were missing a clasp, as you can see in the picture below.

Next, I pulled out a once uber adorable little tube dress ( I am assuming that is what it's called ) and lo again, this little cutie patudie had lost it's stretch. All of the elastic in the top had come out in the wash.

So, I took out my trusty scissors and hacked away the straps and ironed out the wrinkles. Next I folded the dress in half top to bottom, then cut the whole thing in half. Producing two tubes with one raw and one finished edge. I then opened the side seam of each piece, making two long strips.

In this next step I laid the strips wrong sides together, making sure that the hemmed edges laid on top of each other. I stitched these two pieces together, making one fairly long strip of fabric. This will be the ruffle of the dress.

In order to make a dress from shorts you need to do a little trimming. I wanted to keep the pockets in tact for this dress so I cut off the bottom/crotch portion of the shorts but left the pockets as you can see. If you aren't in dire need of pockets I would recommend that you just whack those little buggers right off and avoid all the hassle that they bring. I sewed them to them to the body of the dress twice and to the ruffle once. might think ahead and just pin them out of the way. You might think that I would have thought of that before hand, especially after sewing them into other parts of the dress several times and cursing like a fish monger. But I digress.......

(READ: I did not need to iron the hem up as it is in this picture, I did it for a better visual)

For this next step we move back to the ruffle. The easiest way to make ruffles is to use a basting stitch. In order to do this the super easy way, you must set your sewing machine stitch length to it's longest length, for me this was 4. Start stitching on the raw edge of the fabric strip. We are not doubling the fabric, stitch only a single layer of the ruffle. Stitch about a quarter of an inch from the edge, all the way around. When you are done leave a long piece of thread attached to the ruffle. You will then firmly grasp the cloth in one hand and the thread in the other and GENTLY pull the thread making the fabric gather. Do this all along the edge you just stitched. You may have to gather till you reach mid point in the fabric then switch to the other end. Just remember not to pull on the thread too hard or it will break.

Next we need to close our ruffle circle. This is as simple as it sounds. Place the two ends, wrong sides together and zip across the edge. After you have gathered and stitched your circle, turn it right side out. Now we need to divide this circle into quarters with stick pins, this is not a precision division, just eyeball it.

Grab your shorts and turn them wrong side out. Carefully place the gathered ruffle inside of the shorts, as in the picture below, (with the ruffle inside the shorts) the right sides of the fabric will be together. Now this is the hardest part of the whole ordeal, pinning the ruffle so that it gathers evenly around the edge of the skirt. This is where the pins we placed at quarter intervals come in. Using those pins, attach the ruffle to the shorts, then adjust the ruffle so that it fits the inside profile of the shorts. Gently adjusting the gathering as needed. I suggest inserting pins from the raw edge down into the fabric and letting them stick out. This makes it much easier to remove them when you are actually stitching.

Now you are ready to stitch down the ruffle. If you have saved the pockets of the shorts be sure to watch out for them, it is a real pain to remove stitches at this point. Make sure that you take a seam allowance big enough to hide the basting stitches from the gathering process, it is no fun to try and pull these out later. Be sure to watch your fingers closely! Do NOT turn your head to yell at fighting children. Do NOT look away to see whose shoes the dog is eating, as this will result in dire injuries to your little fingers. Trust me on this one!

Be sure to take breaks often so as not to wear yourself out. I had a lovely assistant bring me a little sugar boost. Doesn't it look lip-smackity-de'lishioso?? Try not to get too involved with the snacking or think that you could totally stitch that seam one handed. Because if you do you will have issues like this......... daughter thought it was fancy butt stitching. Bwahahaha! Well it was pretty fancy alright, that little slip made a huge pucker right on the behind of the dress. NOT a good thing. So, lesson learned, don't snack and sew.

After you have the ruffle attached, ahem.... properly, turn the whole get-up right side out. Since I had a missing clasp on one shoulder strap, I needed to rectify that. I decided to make buttonholes in the straps. Aren't I just a Mrs. Smarty Pants?! I hear that you can purchase replacement hooks for over-alls, but I didn't want to make a special trip to town when I could just use what I had available.

Here is the finished product. My daughter thinks I am THE coolest Mommy in the whole world because I made her one cute dress out of garbage. Who'da thunk??

Hopefully, you enjoyed this farm girl re-do. Hopefully, I didn't confound the day-lights outta ya. ;P

Do you have a Farm Girl "re-do" up your sleeves? Leave us a comment, we would love to see what your working on.

Happy Stitchin'!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Child's Garden "Room"

"Garden rooms" are all the rage in city lots, suburban yards and my rural back yard too. We like to make destination spots, complete with reading nooks on teak benches and focal points in burbling fountains. But before I ever read a garden magazine or took a tour of Butchart Gardens with my book club, my mom taught me how to make a room of my own in the great outdoors.

You can make this fun hiding spot for your children this summer.

You will need:

Two or three sampler packets of sunflower seeds. I like to mix it up: Mammoth Russian for the classic eight- to 10-foot-tall yellow sunflower with a brown-black center, closely alternated with Evening Sun for variations in russet, red, brown and yellow, also eight to 10 feet tall. The height range should be close if you mix up the varieties.

Two or three sampler packets of annual morning glory vines. Go crazy with color if you want, but blue is our favorite.

A plot of dirt that's tilled or weeded and loosened with a rake. If you want to use a grassy area, that'll work, as long as you don't mow it once the seedlings start coming up!

Mark out a square, rectangle or other shape (creativity counts!). Let your little ones help with the shape.

Next divide up your seeds so you have an equal number of each type and variety of seed for each "wall" of the room.

Time to plant!

Alternate varieties if you have more than one. The Mammoth Russian is a single-stalk variety, and the Evening Sun has multiple stalks, so this helps fill in the lower areas of the "walls."

Now, the only tricky part of this whole procedure is to make sure that you plant them close enough together to form a wall, but not so close that they don't get big and strong.

We have found that four to five inches apart works pretty well.

Important! In each hole or spot in the row that you plant a sunflower seed, place two morning glory seeds in that same spot. Right alongside.

Check your children's placement of seeds... this will be vital to the roof of the house.

After all the seeds are lined up in the shape of your walls, make sure you left a hole on at least one side for a door!

Finally, cover the seeds with soil, water well, and watch them grow.

As the morning glory vines start, twine them up the stalk of their sunflower pals. After about six weeks you should be able to string a network of twine between the sunflower heads.

The morning glories will twine along the string ceiling and form a beautiful blue canopy for the sunflower house.

I will post pictures of my children's sunflower room as soon as the seedlings poke their heads up.

Hope you have fun with this project. And tell us your kid gardening tips!

Monday, June 9, 2008

You're not alone, country girl!

So if nobody else has noticed, being a farm girl or country girl or pioneer woman just isn't the same as it used to be. Back in the day, socializing came about on Sunday afternoons and during the seasonal barn building and hoe down events. Well for us, things have definitely changed for the better. We have things like - blogs, forums, chat rooms and, dare I say it, Instant Messenger to keep us from going insane. These are also very helpful tools for keeping the country girl "in the know".

A couple of my favorite knowledge base forums have proved to be quite valuable to me over the last year or so. It has been almost two years since I was fired from my rootin' tootin' job as a financial services consultant and I truly believe it was God kickin' me in the patootey and putting me back in my place. That place is on the home front with the kids and the critters and the roasted chicken in the oven. Seriously, I have a chicken in the oven. It's a miracle. I think a press conference is in order for this shocking news. (And no, it's not one of my beloved hens!)

But really - when I decided I wanted chickens in my backyard again, where else would one go but Talk about a plethora of advice! Need pictures of breeds? Need to know what kind of chick you got mailed to you? When do your chicks no longer need a heat lamp? Does your chicken have a rectal protrusion real emergency that you need advice about NOW? It's ALL on there. And seriously people, I have never found a forum with such a nice, down to earth group of people. Ever. They are fantastic. Intelligent. HILARIOUSLY funny - (especially on April 1, 2008!). And real.

Nifty, the super neato administrator for the BYC forum, has also started up a sister site that I have visited a lot recently. is a nice complement to BYC because we all know that people who have chickens, have a tendency to act like chickens and scratch in the dirt from time to time. TheEasyGarden forum is growing like a weed (pun certainly intended) and has been very helpful to me when I didn't have a clue how to plant my potatoes or when to prune my plum tree. I also found out we have some weeds that I'll probably never get rid of, but at least I don't feel like I'm alone in the battle of ME vs. the THISTLE!

If you have any other VERY helpful websites that this country girl can review, just give me a holler. You know I have all sorts of time to sit and have therapy blog now that my garden is in place!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Not Your Grandpa's PBandH

When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time with my Grandpa. Well, my Grandma was around a lot too, but it was my Grandpa who introduced me to the finer things in life. One of them was fishing off the docks at Winchester Bay with hot dogs and marshmallows. The second finest thing was the famous Peanut Butter and Honey sandwich. Now, I doubt I have to tell anyone how to make that, because it's sort of self-explanitory. But just for kicks - and to pass on some of my inherited wisdom, I decided to help my son make some first class PB&H. This was so he could stop having to be bored playing with the chickens.

Now listen closely. I have found the secret to not having that crusty, nasty block of honey in the bottom of the jar. Seriously. Bet you didn't know there was a secret. But really - just buy less honey more often. It's that easy! The guy around the corner from my little farm sells clover honey, but I haven't tried to buy it from him yet. I'm afraid of strangers. So, I get it at Winco. If you don't have a Winco, maybe you have some other larger grocery store with bulk food or a "gourmet" section. If you're lucky, you can also score your peanut butter there too. Ours are right next to each other. The nice thing is, it costs the same per pound whether you're getting half of a pound or ten pounds. If you're a price tag reader like me, this will make sense.

First you find the kind of honey that just sounds dang good to you. Or tastes good. That helps too. My pick was Blackberry Honey. At first I didn't want to stop the dispenser because it was jut too dang beautiful. But eventually I did. At about 2/3 of a pound. I put a lid on it, and dated it, that way I could do a little science experiment to see 1. How long before it started to crystalize or 2. How long before it got empty.

Then, I ground up some peanut butter. Dry roasted peanuts in a little machine. Voila!
You must use fresh peanuts, preferrably from a source of origin you wouldn't mind getting eggs from. Old peanuts have lots more mold. You can't see this mold, but it is there. Especially if they traveled a dozen weeks from China in not-well-sealed shipping containers. This particular mold is a carcinogen. Ok, enough about that. Just use fresh peanuts and use the fresh ground peanut butter faster than you would the processed Jif in your cupboard. Plus, your kids will think you're cool and you'll have less sugars, salts and oils to feed them.

So basically, you put a big (we're talking BIG) scoop of this fresh ground peanut butter in a medium mixing bowl. You can use a small bowl, but this is a messy job, so use a medium one.
Then, if you're not concerned about fat and calories, toss in a smaller blob of plain ol' margarine. It makes the peanut butter smoother and, well, buttery tasting and it adds back those oils you saved yourself from with the peanut butter. Ok, you can use Jif, but hey, this is my blog. Or at least my turn to blog.

Then, put a hefty sized dollop of honey in. Isn't this honey beautiful? It makes me want to have bees. But not really. That's like getting sheep to have a nice wool coat. It's not all that easy and glamorous. Did you know you can get bees without stingers? I just learned that yesterday when my husband was introducing the thought of hydroponics to me. Does anyone else think he's insane?

By the way - let your kid dollop the honey into the bowl after you have done the scoop and twirl. This way you don't get honey all over the entire planet.

Now, stir the lovely concoction. I mean, let your kid do the stirring. Then, while he goes to get a damp washcloth, secretly stir like mad behind him to get it all blended nicely. Then tell him what a wonderful job he has done. He will be very proud.

After you have blended everything into a nice, creamy dream, give one piece of WHOLE WHEAT WHITE bread (every mother's dream come true) a giant helping of the peanut butter and honey. Spread it so it looks like something out of a commerical, and top with another piece of nutritious white bread.

I prefer to put some honey straight on my bread. I think it comes from years of being lazy and not wanting to mix it all up ahead of time, but after it sits for a few minutes, it crystalizes a tiny bit into the bread and gives that delightful crunching sensation as the honey bursts into your mouth. I'm drooling.

Then, find someone to lick off the honey spoon.
I found this little squirt to be quite willing.
He is a good boy. Unless he's shrieking.

Assemble your sandwich however you wish.
Just because triangles are the rule in my house, doesn't mean you can't use squares.

I find the lightly salted Kettle Chips to be a delightful accompaniment to any food that is lacking salt to begin with. Toss a few slices of melon on the plate and you're good to go.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Cup full of cheer.....

Just a little something to help with the mid-week slump.............Hope this bit of farm cheer does the trick.

Farmy or Fanatic?

The green lifestyle is upon us. Even HGTV is giving away a "green" house. So in the spirit of all things green, three girls from Oregon (the greenest state in the U.S. of A.) thought they'd give you periodic glimpses into life on the farm.

Where most things are green. Unless we forgot to water them in August.