Thursday, April 28, 2011

After a night of tornadoes

Our neighborhood

Today we assess the damage after a night of tornadoes ripped through the South including straight through Tennessee and our backyard.  We were in the middle of it, although sparingly we didn't see the worst of it.  It was a terrifying experience of hunkering down beneath the stairs in our lower level with a flashlight and a crank radio.  We hugged and I kept saying, "It will be okay."  The worst part was a tornadic-thunderstorm that rolled through in about 5 minutes doing most of the damage with tennis ball sized hail.  We could see the windows from the stairs and it was like being in a slow motion movie.  You couldn't hear yourself think.  The hail pummeled the house and the outside lit up like a fireworks show from lightening.  It was like, if not the real thing, being in a tornado.  It was one of the scariest things I've experienced.

Window damage


After the first wave of storms passed and we lost power, we listened on our crank radio of people describing what they just experienced.  Some called it, 'canned-ham sized hail', others, 'grapefruit sized hail'.  Either way it was big and it did some damage.  Lewie's truck is covered in dents from the hail and his mirror is broken.  The 70 mile winds ripped the gutter guards off our house and our new soffit and fascia that we just had put on is dimpled with hail dents.  Our bedroom window broke as well.  All the hard work Lewie has put into the driveway ditches is covered in mud and debris.  But, we are okay, the cats are okay and the chickens are okay.

Roof damage

What's left of our tomatoes

Hail damage

I guess in times like this you realize what's most important to you and the thing I seem most upset about isn't a monetary thing at all.  Our garden was almost flattened by the storm and after all the hard work we've put into it it's heartbreaking to see it now.  Our tomatoes, peas and peppers were practically ripped out of the ground.   It could always be worse.  We have a roof over our head and no one here was hurt.  Life will go on, things will be fixed and the garden can be replanted, today however is a strange day of silence as everyone in the South wakes up after a night of tornadoes.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Graduation Cap Card

Last year I made this graduation card and this year we have another graduation to celebrate.  I opted for something a bit simpler with this card but also still creative.

Cricut Machine or access to one such as in a scrapbooking store
Cartridge - Wild Card
Cardstock paper in three colors [White, Black & Red (or whatever school colors you need)]
Craft glue
1 gold brad
String in two colors (matching the school, I used white and red)
Bone folder
Edge scissors
Poster paint pens (optional)


Using your Cricut machine and the cartridge Wild Card, cut one 5 1/2" graduatn in black.  Instead of folding your graduation cap into a card, cut out the top hat so it looks like above.  Next, cut out one 5 1/2" liner graduatn in red.  This will make the tassel.  I used poster paint pens to make the white streaks in my tassel because those are the school colors I needed, but you don't have to.  For the phrase, cut out one 6 1/2" phrase graduatn in read.  Next, cut out one 1 1/2" alphabet argyle, alphabet joy and twp 1 1/2"alphabet scallop in red.  This will make the '2011'.  For the card, I simply cut out one 6 1/2" x 10" rectangle from white paper and using a bone folder, folded it in half.  I used edge scissors on the corners for a fancier look.  Glue the hat, tassel and phrase to the front.  Using a brad holer or a knife, make a slit where the tassel meets the center of the hat and put your brad there.

For the inside I used a 4 1/2" x 6" red cardstock as the liner that I cut out with fancy edging scissors.  I also used the other phrase from the Cricut to say, For the Graduate, in black.  Our gift for this grad was money so I completed the card by rolling up a few bills and tying them with yarn that matched the card.  I used removable tape to apply it to the card like it was a mini diploma.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Simplicity 9958

Argyle undies anyone?

Yes, I do in fact make my husbands boxer shorts.  If I can find discounted cotton fabric it usually ends up being cheaper then the store bought, but with some of the nicer fabrics it's about the same or over what you'd pay for boxers at a big box store.  However, you don't get the quality of a homemade sewn item with shorts from store.

My favorite pattern for boxer shorts so far has been Simplicity 9958.  It's a pattern of only boxer shorts not a pattern of a robe plus shorts plus whatever so it's all about the pants which I like.  It's also the easiest and most practical pattern I've found.  Unlike some other patterns I have for boxer shorts (I have a boxer shorts pattern with no pee hole!) this is the most wearable pattern I have.  I can usually get about one short per yard so last week I whipped out four shorts from some great fabric I got from Hobby Lobby by Brother Sister Designs.  Once you've made a few it's easy to customize the pattern to what you need, make it longer, wider, smaller etc.

A pile of homemade boxer shorts make a great present for birthday's or Christmas too.  It is a challenge though to find fabric that is suitable for men (usually I can only find girlish fabrics or little boys fabric) Does anyone else have a good pattern they use for guys clothing or know of a good place to find men's fabric?  It's certainly nice to be back to sewing a few things besides Ash Tree Organics items.  I forget how much I enjoy seeing a finished sewn item!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Before & After: Bathroom

One of the many things we've updated since living in our new house is the bathroom. The bathroom seemed somewhat unfinished when we moved in. The whole room had no baseboards, it had patched holes in the walls and the door was painted in a patriotic red, white and blue complete with stars. I don't mind that, I just didn't want it on our bathroom door. So, we did a little sanding, painting and rearranging and ended up with a nice space that I now love.  Here are the before pictures:

Before:  bathroom door with wild colors and no baseboards
Before: Sink with no baseboards and wall that needed painted to right

Before: commode area, no baseboards
And here are the after pictures:

After:  Added shelf with towel rack and newly painted door

After:  Sink with added towel rack and baseboards

After:  commode area with baseboards

After:  wall art, South Carolina basket weavers

After:  South Carolina basket being used as a wash cloth holder

I love our bathroom sink which was an antique dresser that the previous owner turned into a sink and I think it really stands out now that it's not competing with the red, white and blue door.  The door was painted the same color as the baseboards and having those up along with a fresh coat of paint on the door and walls really makes a difference.  We bought a small 'floating' shelf that we got for under $15 at a home improvement store that we put on the wall opposite of the commode.  It's a nice area to put our wedding pictures and a few neat stones we've collected.  Under it we added a towel bar.  We didn't do much to the commode area besides a sand job to the walls and fresh paint.  I added two pictures above it that were a gift from my Mother-in-law of South Carolina basket weavers, along with a South Carolina basket below that I keep clean wash cloths in.  All in all the bathroom redo was a success and I'm enjoying the new space. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Introducing Ruby

Let me introduce you to Ruby, my new single treadle single drive Ashford Traveller spinning wheel.  Isn't she a beauty?  She took a detour on her way to our house from New Zealand at some lady's house who didn't want her and sold her on eBay after only 2 hours of use.  Good things come to those that wait.  I've been wanting a spinning wheel since I took spinning lessons last year in New Mexico but have been putting it off because of price and because Ashford doesn't make the Traveller in a single treadle anymore.  I learned on a single treadle and like it the best and love the Traveller because it's small enough to fit in a car and take to spinning groups.  So I waited and last month this wonder popped up on eBay and because I have a great husband who agreed to an early birthday present for me she now sits in our house newly waxed and wonderful.

Remember this?  I've been spinning it on Ruby and  I've already successfully spun a bobbin of it into 2ply yarn that I plan on using to make a shaw:

Is it silly to name your wheel?  Is it silly to take this many pictures of it?  Probably, but she is pretty and so important to me.  It feels so nice to be back to spinning regularly.  I see fields of cotton in my future and maybe a sheep or two with this wheel!

Friday, April 15, 2011

How to: Make an Easter Tree

Growing up, we always had an Easter tree around Easter which consisted of decorated chicken eggs.  I wanted to continue this tradition in our house.  We are bless with about 4-6 eggs a day from our chickens.  Lewie sells some at work, but I've been saving some of the neat ones for the past few months for our Easter tree.  I didn't want to decorate them or paint them in any way because some of them are so pretty just as is.  Each one is different.  Some are white with brown speckles, some are brown with white speckles, others short and some tall.

To make our egg tree I simply made a hole in each end of a raw egg then blew out the egg by blowing through one hole.  We cooked with the egg I blew out then I rinsed the empty egg and saved it until I had enough to add ribbons.  To make the ribbon attachment I cut several strands of ribbon and taped the two ends to a toothpick I cut in half.  Then I rolled part of the ribbon and tape around the toothpick and put it in the top hole of the egg.  Once the toothpick is inside the egg I let the toothpick slide up the egg until it stuck.  When done right the ribbon flows out of the top of the egg making a perfect hanger.  I gather some branches from our woods and used a mason jar with glass beads to make the tree.

Our Easter tree is a simple reminder of spring and how thankful I am of our chickens.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cinnamon Raisin Bread - my new attempt at bread

What's this?  I made bread?  And it was semi-successful?  It's a miracle!  It was only semi-successful because while it came out like a regular size loaf and actually did rise, I had to double the recipe to make it work.  This recipe was suppose to make two loafs but mine only made one.  It was delicious though.  I made cinnamon swirl bread and added raisins making cinnamon raisin bread.  I used the recipe in my trusty Better Homes and Gardens Red Cook Book.  Anyone with this book want to try and make it come out as two loaves?  I was certainly happy to see it rise though and followed Emma's advice and preheated my oven good and long before I cooked the bread.  I do love dessert breads.  Yum.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Nursery Construction

As you may already know we are expecting a little surprise this summer and Lewie has been hard at work building a nursery.  When we moved into this house it only had one bedroom:  ours.  Our house is actually two stories.  The first is at ground level and we call it the basement, which is where my crafting room is, the laundry room and then a huge room that is unfinished.  The second floor is the living floor which consists of a very large room that is an open kitchen, fireplace nook, dinning room and living room.  This big room opens out onto a small deck in the back.  The other room on the second floor is our bedroom/bathroom/closet.  Eventually, the plan is to redo the basement into the bedrooms and make our current bedroom upstairs the living room.  So, in our rush to make a room ready for the baby Lewie built a pantry off the kitchen that is about 6.5x7.5.  So someday when we have the living room, dinning room, and kitchen upstairs we'll have a nice walk-in pantry which will be great for all of our canning supplies which right now are stored in several different places.  In the meantime though it will be the nursery right by our bedroom.  I know that when she's older she'll be like, "You made me sleep in the pantry?!" but it will make for a good story.  I'm so lucky that I married a genuine handyman who can just throw up a room like a professional.  Although I wish I did, I don't know the first thing about construction but for him it's like it comes naturally.  Every weekend the room gets more complete and I get more excited about meeting our daughter.  Here are some photos so far:

The frame work for the nursery
Drywall and installation going up
Mudding the drywall
As an added bonus we decided to take out the faux fireplace that had a propane heater in it and discovered about 8 more feet of usable space behind it - it even has hardwood floor!  We bought a great little wood burner off Craigslist and have decided to build a small corner wood burner area with tiles in the same spot.  So, while we are taking away from the room with the nursery, we gained space on the other side of the room with the fireplace being torn down.  It's important to us to be as off the grid as possible so a wood burner was the way to go - plus we are surround by free fuel, our woods!  Hopefully this will help with the bills this next winter and if the electricity ever goes out as least we can still cook and be warm.  Here is a look at the hidden room behind the fireplace:

Hidden room behind fireplace
Where the painted drywall begins is where there was a wall with a fireplace that closed off that extra 8 feet behind it.  As progress continues on both projects I will post more pictures.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

First harvest of 2011

We have our first harvest of this year: radishes!  I was able to pick a few for taste testing last week and this week we are radish central.

I can just eat them as is but last night with our first real harvest we had spicy turkey tacos with pepper-jack cheese, avocado and radish from the garden.  It was wonderful.  Along with the radishes, our lettuce is getting bigger by the day and our snap peas are about 1 foot tall now. And along with the garden, weeds are growing like crazy too.  We have dandelions all over and a few bad non-native plants taking over:  Japanese Honeysuckle, Multiflora Rose and Periwinkle.   Lewie's been working hard to erratic these plants from our acreage although this will be a few years struggle and constant battle.  And while it seems like the honeysuckle is everywhere, it could be worse, we could have kudzu, thank goodness we don't.  Unfortunately, while these plants looks nice because they are some of the first to green in the spring and really make things colorful they are making it hard for our native plants to grow so by pulling up each one and planting a mix of native seeds in its place we are hoping to better our woods and Tennessee.  Besides planting native seeds, we'll soon be planting more in the garden too.  Our last frost date is April 15 and our zone is 7a so pretty soon we'll be adding our tomatoes/peppers/eggplant to the outside garden.  I also started most of our herbs inside but they aren't doing very well.  I can always start them by seed outside but I wanted to see what would happen if I tried to start them inside.  I don't mind experimenting, in fact, I enjoy it and we'll be doing a lot of experimenting this summer because it's a new house with new soil in a new zone. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Special Announcement!

I have a special announcement:  we are expecting our first child!  It came as a complete surprise but we are so thrilled.  I'm due in August and just this past week we found out we are having a baby girl.  Lewie has been busy building a nursery from scratch because we only have one bedroom in our house.  It is off the kitchen and our bedroom and will some day (when we move the bedrooms downstairs and redo the basement) become a large pantry.  I'm lucky enough to live in an area where midwifes are available and will be planning a natural birth.  I would like our baby to start life as simple as possible, no drugs and no intervention.  Besides being tired more and wanting to eat more, I feel great and actually in the last couple of weeks I've had a lot of energy.  Here is the ultrasound from our last visit.  She does a neat thing around 4:40 where it looks like she's chewing gum and then she kind of waves her hands.

Now that I know that it's a girl I can't wait to start on a few craft projects.  I'm sure I'll be sharing those as I work on them.  Anyway, just thought I'd share the good news!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Make It Yourself: Wrapping up...

March is over and so it Make It Yourself.  I had a lot of fun coming up with things that I use a lot or needed that instead of buying I could make myself.  I believe it's so important to invest your time in things like this to save money, the planet and better your health.  Thanks to my guest bloggers:

Susy from Chiot's Run

Here are some more homemade and handmade guides if you are interested in more things to make:

I own the book Homemade by the Editors of the Reader's Digest.  It does have some strange things in it (like beer shampoo) but it also as a few things that work and a lot of diy food recipes.

Homemade: How-to Make Hundreds of Everyday Products Fast, Fresh, and More Naturally

This is one of my favorite books:  County Wisdom & Know-How by the Editors of Storey Publishing's Country Wisdom Boards.  It's a huge book, could be a coffee table add, but it has tons of useful information in it and a lot of diy tips and recipes from everything to soap to birdhouses. 

Country Wisdom & Know-How

Of course, every diy home needs a copy of this book:  Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  Want to make your own ketchup?  Mustard?  Relish?  This book has everything.  The recipes are for canning but you can also make small batches with it.  It is really like a bible in our house.  Every page is marked or written on.  A must. 

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

Martha books are always close by to inspire me to create homemade presents.  That's something we really try to do in our house. A homemade gift really means something special.  There are some great ideas in her Encyclopedia of Crafts book as well as her newest one, Encyclopedia of Fabric Crafts.  

Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Crafts: An A-to-Z Guide with Detailed Instructions and Endless Inspiration
Those are just a few of the books that I turn to when I need to buy something and see if I can make it instead.  Do you have any that I should add to the collection? 

Now it's April and I'm looking forward to getting back into the blog swing of things.  I have several exciting announcements to share this month, garden updates, bees updates, and new products to share from Ash Tree Organics.  Stay tuned!