Practical projects and crafts

Author: Louise (Page 1 of 4)

Books, and a cozy winter

I decided to make a stack of books for this winter. Since winter means being at home these days I thought it would be fun to have a big stack to work my way through.

So far I’m making great progress!

I decided on a mix of non-fiction, fun books, old favorites, poems, entirely new ones, project ideas and serious things to think about. This way I can pick depending on what I feel like and by the time it’s spring I will have learned a lot, had fun and have cool new ideas.

Also having a happy stack to look at reminds me that there are happy and interesting and important things to learn about, which for the season of being home, helps. It’s like a bookstore that just happens to have all of my favorites right there in front. I love home and it’s great not to have to go anywhere. And hey, being safe is a major plus in my situation! But wow, I miss going places sometimes and seeing people and new things. So, awesome pile of books! And as the kids get bigger and I work harder pushing the RA into remission (and hopefully there are fewer things setting it off all the time, darn climate change) there can be winter hikes too.

Anyway, I’ve read a bunch of my books and thought it be fun to write down what I thought as I’ve gone through them.

Good Bones
This was a book of poems, mostly themed around being a parent with themes on nature and babies and things but from the perspective of the present world, not in a soft focus pretty way. It’s very good. The author puts a lot of the feelings of determination, fear, desperate love and frustration into words. It makes some of these experiences less lonely. It’s an awesome book of poems.

The Water Will Come & The Heat Will Kill You First
Yeah, this one. It was written in 2017. It’s terrifying but also has hope. The first chapter captures one of my greatest fears from my professional life, the interview on the plane in a later chapter covers one of the great frustrations of my professional life. (Why didn’t they push harder?!) It’s very good, and very important. I agree that this is what’s coming.

The second one was written this year, 2023. It’s terrifying and there’s a lot less hope. There’s a vibe, of “thankfully I’m aged and won’t be here to see this, at least I’ve had a good life” to me. That’s how it feels at least. This time I had to skip the first chapter after a couple of paragraphs. I read about that when it happened, and it’s one of my greatest personal fears. Not the exact circumstances, but having the rules change and not realizing and that putting my family and kids in danger and me not realizing or being able to save them. The rest is like The Water Will Come but with less hope, just the danger on the horizon, waiting. And oh wow is the lack of action so hard and angry making.

A City on Mars
I got this one because I like SMBC and Soonish was great. The book was great in terms of the science. The parts speaking to the community around space colonization were hard though. The same people who seem to inhabit that community based on those sections are the same reasons I’ve left a whole bunch of online communities in the last 5-ish years. Also, re-reading Soonish to try and forget the reminder of frustration and anger that provoked didn’t help either. Because Soonish was also written in 2017 and man, the last 5 years and especially the last 6-12 months have really shown how things can degrade fast. Especially after the books above. It’s hard to look at these and say, “Yes, those awesome future things will come and be cool for everyone!” Sigh.

Heartbreaker Series & With a Golden Sword
Dragons, magic, awesomeness. These are so fun to re-read again. This time in hard copy. Yay for these. 🙂

System Collapse
This was a great read while struggling with the sadness and frustration looking at potential future scenarios for personal and professional reasons. For me the Murderbot series has always been about seeing a character with a non-standard look at the world (popular words: non-neuro-typical) and seeing that character find acceptance as they are even as they struggle there is friendship, partnership and even casual relationships with their core relationships accepting them as they are, offering ways and ideas to interface with the world as they are but not to change them except helping when healing is needed.

Not a common thing in the usual day to day. Or in literature.

So being reminded that that can exist in the face of everything-else-that’s-going-on is good.

Also it’s a cool story about robots and space colonies and adventures and it picks up right after the last one and they all read like my absolute favorite sci-fi movies from the 80s, 90s and 00s.

So yay!

I really like Mary Oliver. This is my other book of poems. While Good Bones was like finding a voice about that matches my feelings, Mary Oliver is like remembering to take a breath. Which also helps with everything-else-that’s-going-on. I’m reading through it a bit at a time. I have a number of her books of poems but this new compilation puts together poems from all through her life really well.

Yuletide Gems
It’s a romance, there are cats and libraries and books. Yep, it’s fun. I like historical romances sometimes, it’s like a fantasy novel that way since it’s in a different world than the one I live in. And books, cats and libraries are nice.

And those are my thoughts so far. More reading to go!

A different world


The last update was in 2019, and now it’s 2023. Still summer though! I guess summer makes sense for putting in a new post. There are (usually) fewer things to keep track of and worry about. And late summer also tends to be a transition time.

And wow, have there been a lot of changes between 2019 and now. Some were already in progress, some were surprises (I’m looking at you, the MANY world changing events of 2020…), but it is definitely, completely, absolutely, a whole new world. And not one I would have been able to predict. And the changes are likely to keep right on rolling! So in order to have my own sense of that, and what I’m doing and where I’m going and what I plan to do with and about all of this, writing updates on my blog seems like one good thing to add back to my life.

Of course the world of the Internet has changed too. So, how to format my blog, how much to let it connect (or not) to the outside world is an open question. But for now, it’s here, and I’m here, and having a place to talk that is mine is nice.

My projects are pretty similar by theme, though a lot of the details have changed!

For one I’m now back in the Upper Midwest instead of the Mid-Atlantic which is a big change, for another given my health constraints and the choices the world at large has made, I am basically at home all the time now, with all the pros and cons that entails, and only see my family in terms of in person stuff. At least I love my family a lot and my home is a place I love and it’s surrounded by trees, so that helps.


It’s been a tough summer for gardening! First we had a cold wet spring and now we have a hot and super dry summer. Lots of soaker hoses have been deployed as a results. There are some happy spots though.

In the front ‘kitchen garden’ our slicing and cherry tomatoes are doing great! So that’s a big improvement! Next year I’m going to run a row of basil down the front of that bed. The lettuce and radishes kind of worked and kind of didn’t. Mostly because of the weather, and the wildfire smoke, and so on…. I am going to do some fall planting there though. Probably radishes and some cold weather greens.

And in front of the ‘kitchen garden’ (which is 3 3’x5′ raised beds) things are doing pretty good too. I planted a rugosa rose there last year and it’s growing! Also my tiny baby coneflowers have bloomed some, so hopefully they keep expanding! My herbs, the sage, lavender and our original chives plant (carried all the way from Maryland in the car!) are all looking good.

Some of the existing landscaping plants are having a tough time with the weather. I’m hoping to replace the ones that don’t like the weather with some native flowers and grasses: asters, coneflowers, rudbeckia, prairie blazing star for flowers and some native grasses. That’s a next year plan though…

The other goal is to make some space for the cold frames in front of the porch. I’m hoping to use the moveable cold frames there this fall/winter and then if it works well build permanent ones next spring/summer. I have to move some landscaping plants and probably add some compost to plant this fall (the soil is rock hard with the current weather). I want to see how long I can keep things like parsley and mustard greens and cold weather lettuce and carrots going in there.

The other garden on the opposite side of the porch is my garden. It has my rocking chair and a table and my bird feeder and a bird bath. It has most of our herbs (thyme, rosemary, sage, lavender, mint, tarragon, catnip, etc) and some coneflowers, grasses, coreopsis and a rose bush that was a present from P and the kids. It’s surrounded by my northern cherry bushes (romeo, juliet and jubilee) and some older lilac bushes.

Eventually I want it to be full of herbs, and flowers and native plants that birds like so it’s a sanctuary kind of place, for me and the birds.

I’m planning to make the space in front of it into a second garden for the more well behaved heat loving vegetables, specifically peppers and hopefully some salad ingredients (colorful lettuce, cucumber vines, etc). That will make an arc with longer narrower raised beds without sides (layers of sticks and leaves topped with compost). This will all be behind the deer fence!

And then around that will be a wide border of native flowers and grasses, this time a pollinator mix, which I think will look really cool.

The other bit in the front is a landscaping spot that buckthorn tried to consume and the deer have also tried to eat. It’s really shaded so the plan is to fence it and then plant deer resistant shade plants (ferns, spring plants, some grasses) and let them get established, plus some smaller trees like hazelnuts and witch hazel.

To the side is the two big apple trees, the baby apple and hazel nuts and the giant logs from my old tree (it came down when I was a teenager but it was huge and so it’s sort of like a log based art piece). I want to plant hazel nuts, wild strawberries and some fun plants there to make it a fun spot to be.

The back landscaping garden by the patio I’m hoping to add more flowers and berries (strawberries, blueberries, currants, cranberries, blackberries).

The orchard needs a few peach trees yet and some pollinator plants but it’s off to a good start now that the deer can’t ‘prune’ the trees.

The way back garden for the big vegetables is all in place but my plans got derailed by the smoke and the weather. It’s still producing good vegetables if not as many as I hoped though! I want this one to be surrounded by flowers (native and annuals) and have all the bulk vegetables (squash, asparagus, green beans, potatoes, canning tomatoes, etc.).


Sewing has happened a little! H has her Christmas stocking. And I have fabric to make the kids fun shirts and me a dress and Christmas presents for H (a soft book and a blanket). Just have to find the time.

I did get the patterns for the shirts cut out at least and I’m using a favorite dress pattern so I’m inching towards actual sewing…

I really want to sew clothes again. Buying clothes is even worse than it used to be and I’d rather sew my own.


Since knitting can happen while other things are going on and even when I’m tired (as long as the arthritis doesn’t get my fingers!) there’s been a decent amount of knitting!

I’ve got W’s sweater for this year all done and I’ve got a bunch done on small P’s too.

After I finish those I want to make hats and mittens for my parents, P and the kids for Christmas.

There’s also a pattern for a wool blanket with holiday color work patterns I really want to knit but I think I have more than enough to keep me busy. Someday!

I should also knit myself more sweaters, this is the Upper Midwest, sweaters are needed!

Food Preservation

So food preservation is a long term hobby and one that can be a challenge with three tiny people, but an increasingly useful and important one these days!

I’ve got pecans I ordered from a pecan farm in the freezer. Canning jars are pretty great for freezing dry stuff like nuts! And I found a place that sells buckwheat flour here too. It turns out fresh is pretty nice when it comes to buckwheat flour. Maybe I can grow my own someday…

We’ve also frozen our years supply of blueberries! All 70 qts of them (would have been 72 but have to save a few to eat fresh… 😀 ).

Plus we got our 10 chickens from the farm north of us, probably should have gotten 15, but this year the chickens were small and last year they were huge. Next year we’ll get more, and maybe they’ll be huge and then I’ll have all the chicken I could ever want. 🙂

Next up from the bulk farm order is beef and then the pig. Doing our meat buying this way has been nice (and beats the grocery prices overall!). Also it’s kind of terrifying how much meat (flavor, texture, all the rest) has changed since childhood, just wow. Going to be exciting figuring out how to fit a year’s supply in the freezer as the kids get bigger, but I like this method.

Oh and we froze peas, need to remember to count how many and write it down.

Corn is in progress (buy some fresh corn, cook some corn, cut off and freeze what we don’t eat with dinner).

Tomatoes will hopefully be canning. Lots and lots of canning. Probably from the farm (different farm, this one to the west of us) because between the cold spring and the super dry summer my paste tomatoes are alive and have produced but 50 lb of canning tomatoes it is not. At least the slicers and some of the cherry tomatoes in front are at least making nice fresh eating tomatoes! So that’s something!

We’re also going to buy a 50 lb sack of onions and one of potatoes. We’ve done that the last two years and it’s awesome. Doesn’t last us to the next year on potatoes but it came really close on onions! Garlic is producing super nicely so I’m really hopefully we’ll have plenty of our own garlic. Some is getting run through the dehydrator (it’s mostly hardneck so only lasts so long) and some is getting replanted (got to adapt our own types 🙂 ). But there’s still a lot. Plus all the occasional missed ones that will come up next year. I think my onion production this year also falls under “fresh eating”. Sigh.

I’m also hoping to bulk buy winter squash and stick it in the basement too. This will be a first try. Hopefully it works nice! (didn’t even plant my squash seeds this year it was so dry…)

Other than that, going to need to buy basil to freeze pesto. There’s some basil out there, but yeah, not much better than the tomato situation. The weather has not been great.

Oh, and apples, need to make applesauce, and then probably can it? The apple tree(s) have lots of apples, and there are a bunch orchards here. So probably some of each. We have 3 trees, 2 older ones and a baby tree. The older trees are a bit shaded so production varies… And the baby is a baby tree so no apples yet.


I really want to write again. This is more of a wish than a likely thing I can do right now given the number of other goals! I am reading again though and that is something that makes me happy. Being back where I have access to my favorite library helps! It’s a mix of science fiction, non-fiction and essays and things.

I’ve found a lot of great new books and learned some fun things so far.

My most recent books have been reading Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi and the Muderbot series by Martha Wells. Hard to go wrong with excellent science fiction. 🙂

House Plans

And another example of things that are still on the list, house projects! We’ve made a lot of progress since moving, and this post-moving organizing has been faster and better than last time, which is a relief, but I’m still going to be glad when it’s done. Like last time, having a baby adds to the challenge, but being determined helps!

We’ve got most of the rooms set up now and the basement is almost all sorted out which is nice. Our next projects are setting up the little lean to greenhouse and making a shelf in the living room for books and movies (because all rooms should have shelves of books and fun things!).

It’s neat living in the house I grew up in. It’s layers of home, home from when I was small, home now with my family, it’s a good feeling.

Holiday Plans

The first holiday to work on right now is Halloween costumes. H will be a witch, W will be a ninja and P will be a Frankenstein monster. H has a little black dress and I’m making her a purple felt hat. W has a black sweatshirt and sweatpants and a purple silk scarf and I’m making him a bandoleer for ninja swords we can make out of tinfoil. P has a green PJ shirt and pants and bigger shorts and jacket to wear over them. And I’m making him a green hat with black ‘hair’ for his Frankenstein outfit.

We are going to knock on our neighbor’s door for trick-or-treat, plus do our Great Pumpkin scavenger hunt and visit their grandparents. Which is hopefully the right balance for Halloween.

Thanksgiving we’re going to have a week of family time. We’re going to cook a bunch of food on Wednesday, some for us and some to share. Then we’ll have Thanksgiving with my parents and then we’ll have our own Leftover Party on Friday with movies and board games and lots of food too. (And of course Die Hard 2 after the kids are asleep… 🙂 )

And I have plans for Christmas, this year’s goals are a trip to a Christmas tree farm (I’m going to find us a new one this year!) and a night time drive to look at the lights. And decorating together and lots of stories to read. The kids will make cookies with their grandparents (sometimes not being able to be around sugar and flour courtesy of the autoimmune things is really hard). And maybe we can make me safe cookies too. I’m hoping for making stollen I can have too, fingers crossed.

I have things to sew for Christmas for Helen, I want to make her quilt and soft book.

I like fall and winter holidays. There are lots of good ones to plan for.

There, that’s a list of fun things to work on and look forward to.

Time Flies

And it’s already the middle of August… July went somewhere? Well, July went by so fast it feels like it was only a couple days long, probably because there was a lot going on (as is often the case). But it was largely good and fun things. A lot of it was even things we haven’t done in a long time or things I’ve really wanted to do for a long time.

We went to the regional park and everyone got a ride on the carousel, we went to the Takoma Farmer’s Market for the first time in years, we even went to places that are ‘farther’ away be current definitions (which at the moment means the Ikea and the Lowes 30 minutes north of here…). None of them sound very big, but given how long it’s been since anything like that has been possible, those are a pretty big deal.

And there were fun things, the little guys got to see geese and a heron at the lake near one of the best parks, we went to the toy store west of here just for having a fun drive. We all got up early and walked to the ‘new’ (it’s been there for at least a year, but it’s new to us!) coffee shop. There have been a lot of good summer things.

There have also been projects, we had two weekends with over 40 lb of tomatoes each weekend that got turned into sauce and probably over 100 lb overall. We’ve gotten lots of squash, beans, hot peppers and bell peppers this year and fun tomatoes. We got lots of nice garlic, onions and potatoes too and even a measurable number of cucumbers from the garden. Oh, and the blackberries and raspberries have finally gotten going and they taste really good.

I’ve got a whole bunch of fun Christmas sewing done (everyone has homemade Christmas stockings this year!). Maybe I can do a few more things soon, like Halloween costumes and a few more Christmas decorations or gifts. I have pumpkin and astronaut costumes to make!

Knitting also has a lot of things that got done, the little guys have new hats, the smaller Patrick has a new sweater and soon there will be one for Will. After that, maybe Christmas gifts? I’ll have to come up with something fun.

And the majority of my Christmas shopping is done too. I like to do it early since then I can get them from a wide variety of places. I think the holidays will be fun this year!

And there have been a bunch of random house projects, we put up a new kitchen cabinet and shelves, moved things around in the living room, did more work on the landscaping, the grown up Patrick built the little guys a set of shelves/box for their stuffed animals, we finally got the exterior faucets fixed…just a whole bunch of random things. Hopefully before the weather gets properly cold this fall we can get some of the random electrical stuff done (maybe even an exterior outlet, I want to try holiday decorations…) and winterize some things and maybe paint the front door (I’m voting for a nice bright yellow).

I will also have a whole bunch of tulips and daffodil bulbs to plant for next spring and more fall veggies to plant too. And the updating on the playground at the park should be done soon (it’s going to be way bigger and really nice!) and the library/rec center combo building will reopen soon too. So there should be plenty to keep us busy for awhile…

Summer Sun

Flowers from the garden!

It’s almost officially summer! So it’s time to start thinking about projects and plans. I want to do some sewing, knitting, gardening and food preservation.

I want to do some more Christmas sewing. I have 2 stockings to go (mine and the cats) and I have a fabric panel with birds and a wreath I might want to make into a wall hanging. I also want to see what I can do for Halloween this year… I have done some sewing recently. I did stockings for Will and the older Patrick. And I replaced our bedroom curtains (4 new ones) and added two to the dining room (now there are two on the back window and a new matching curtain for the back door).

I’d like to sew a dress, but…I think that’s asking too much at the moment, and I do have a nice collection of dresses. So I think that will wait until later or next summer.

I’d also like to do a summer wall hanging for the living room and new pillowcases for the living room.

This one’s easy, I’m currently knitting a sweater for the tiny Patrick. It’s green and brown (Plymouth Yarns Fern and Fox) and it has a chevron pattern around the yoke that looks like tree branches to me. Next up will be a sweater for Will. I’m thinking probably one with color work.

I’d also like to knit myself a hat since the last one never fit right. And maybe make Matthew a new one for Christmas. And at current speeds, that should cover knitting through the end of the year…

I need to plant a couple more cucumbers, and do something to replace the arugula which is bolting. Beans are a good option, or I could wait and do some sort of fall plants like beats or broccoli. I do have space for fall plants where the potatoes are though and where the determinant tomatoes are too… So probably it will be beans.

Harvesting should pick up soon too since it’s almost time for tomatoes, peppers and beans!

There probably won’t be too much more planting until late July/early August when the fall things will go in. And then in late fall, probably after Halloween I’ll do the spring bulbs. I’m going to plant a bunch this year, and hopefully I’ll actually be planting them myself!

Food Preservation
The next round of stuff from the garden will mean it’s time for food preservation. The early stuff either doesn’t preserve well (radishes and lettuce) or gets eaten fresh (strawberries and blueberries).

  • Canning – I’m doing crushed tomatoes with the determinant paste tomatoes (I’m growing Mariana paste tomatoes). I’m also planning to do pickled jalapenos and dill pickles.
  • Dehydrating – I’m going to do cherry tomatoes, maybe some slicing tomatoes and probably summer squash and eggplant. I like dehydrating them before freezing since they freeze better and thaw faster. And I might dehydrate some herbs and chamomile too, we’ll see. And next year there should be lavender!
  • Freezing – If there are extra blackberries and raspberries I’m going to freeze them. I’m also planning to freeze beans and peppers (hopefully both hot peppers and bell peppers this year!).
  • General – I will also hopefully have potatoes, garlic, onions and shallots to store too.

There are always plenty of house projects. We did the big stuff at the start of the year with replacing the bathroom vanity and the roof. And this month we got the outdoor faucets fixed.

I’d really like to get some small electrical stuff done before this winter (utility size outlet for the freezers in the basement, outside outlets for yard work and Christmas lights, outlets by my desk in the sewing room and by the TV in the den). So that’s on the project list. And I’d like to get a screen door for the back door. The one that was there when we moved in was damaged so we took that off, but it would be nice to have one to protect the main door and also be able to leave the main door open when the weather’s nice and have a breeze.

I also really want to paint the kitchen. There’s not a lot of surface area in there, but it’s concrete gray (the previous owners really liked gray). And I’d like a light teal to match the dark teal tiles and set off the white cabinets. I also think it would feel more cheerful.

The other thing I want to do before winter is replace the couch and chair in the living room. Ideally, I think a new loveseat and the glider from the small Patrick’s bedroom would be nice. It would free up space and we could put a cabinet thing (like a china cabinet with cabinets on the bottom and shelves with glass doors on top) along the wall between the living room and dining rooms. Then we’d have nice storage space too. Of course that means actually dealing with the decorative half wall thing that’s there… but it would be nice when it was done I think.

General Life
I want to take the little guys to the pool (we got our pool membership this year!) and to the library. I’d also like to take walks with the little guys and the older Patrick now that that is feasible again.

Maybe I’ll even get my bike tuned up and see if I can ride it…

I’d also like to take the little guys to the zoo or a museum. Will still prefers a morning nap but sometimes he’s willing to wait until the afternoon so that might be an option now. Of course summer weather is here now too, so figuring out when would be a good time is a little tricky.

Driving up to the pick-your-own place, even if we’re not picking fruit, and just going to the farm stand and enjoying a drive could be fun too.

And it’s almost 4th of July, Patrick might be big enough to enjoy the fireworks this year, but Will is probably still too small, so we’ll have to see what might work for that.

So there should be a lot of fun things to do this summer.

New Month, New Projects

And it’s August already…time goes quickly when you have lots to do!  I’ve started the next round of the garden.  I cleared out the cucumbers (the last plants were giving in to the beetles) and the New Zealand spinach (it was too much of a succulent for me, I wasn’t a fan) and started putting in the fall vegetables.  So far I’ve got carrots, scallions and beets planted.  I’m planning to add some turnips too and probably some fall radishes and lettuce.  I think the yellow beans are winding down, so I’m probably going to plant some more over there too.  The purple beans are almost ready though, so we’ll have those soon.

I’ve got more beans to freeze too and lots of peppers.  I might be canning tomatoes this weekend too!  I figure it’s about 7 tomatoes per quart (more or less) so we’ll see…  It’s tomatoes, so canning them is extra useful, but they’re definitely more work than pickles and hot peppers.  Hopefully this time my jars don’t break (I guess I’m going to be sticking with boiling the heck out of them before filling them after all).  I’m hoping we get enough tomatoes for me to can a bunch (ideally 10 to 15, but we’ll see).  At least I’m definitely getting plenty of cherry tomatoes to dehydrate!  I’ve done two batches already.  I suppose I should also remember that they just started producing and with any luck will be going right up to Halloween, which is 3 more months of production, so I shouldn’t be too impatient…

My other projects are going well, I’m almost done with the first sleeve on the tiny Patrick’s green Bowline sweater and I’m very happy with how it looks so far.  I think maybe I’ll be able to start his Campfire sweater this weekend.

I also want to finish sewing his Christmas stocking and also plan out some sewing for me and the tiny Patrick.  Maybe the grown up Patrick too… I have the fall issues for Ottobre and I’d like to pick some projects from those.

I’d like to do some knit shirts and pants for the tiny Patrick and do a cardigan and a knit dress for me from the most recent Ottobre issue.  I have fabric for shirts for the grown up Patrick too.  And I’d like to make the tiny Patrick a Halloween costume (better to  start planning now so I finish it in time!).  I think it’s time to get a coverstitch machine too.  They fill a similar role for knit fabrics that sergers do for wovens (more or less) and I think there’s a lot of knit fabrics in my future…

So I’m going to try and plan those projects out and then see if maybe I can start one.  So goals for this weekend:

  • Freeze lots of peppers!
  • Freeze lots of beans!
  • Dehydrate (and then freeze!) lots of cherry tomatoes
  • Can larger tomatoes as crushed tomatoes?
  • Bake bread
  • Knit baby sweaters!
  • Finish Christmas stocking
  • Make sewing plans

Summer Rain Means Plans

So the last couple of days included a lot of rain, as in at least 4 inches of it (most of it in a couple hours). In order to deal with all that rain a lot of stuff had to happen really fast (largely because the previous owner’s drainage solution did not successfully drain since it had gotten blocked at some point).  Luckily the grown up Patrick is awesome and dug it up really fast, fixed it, re arranged it on the path he built as an alternative drain and bailed out the basement window well area.  So cleaning up involved a few towels not buckets.  Which is a massive relief, flooded basements are awful.

So everyone needed some recovery time after that.

So planning was something relaxing to do.  So there was some garden planning and food preservation planning and sewing planning…  I have the layout worked out for how I want to do the garden beds next year.  I think it’ll fix the things that didn’t work as well this year (like fights between green peppers and cucumbers…) so I’m looking forward to trying that out next year.  Also, it turns out that half of the flower bed on the property line is ours (it’s all orange day lilies on both sides).  Looking at it I knew it was ours officially, but it was all the same flowers on both sides so I thought maybe the neighbors just looked at it all as their flower bed.  Since I’m not really an orange day lily sort of person I’m glad half is ours.

I’m going to plant Cheyenne Spirit coneflowers instead.  There’s a lot to like.  They’re about the same height as the day lilies, they will fill the bed in summer, they bloom all summer without needing deadheading, they’re safe for kids, they feed the birds and while the plants live about 3-5 years, they reseed themselves in the bed.  They’re also a nice mix of colors.  So I think they’ll be great.  And that part of the yard is sunny and on a slope so I think it’ll drain pretty well.  Also, since they bloom in summer I can have tulips and daffodils mixed in too.

Also on the topic of gardens, I think I’m going to freeze and dehydrate this week’s garden produce.  Since I’ve got 18 pints of jalapenos I think freezing the next batch is a good plan, and we can freeze some beans and eggplant and dehydrate the cherry tomatoes.  The big ones are starting to ripen now so maybe next week I can can some tomatoes.  I’m going to try crushed tomatoes this year.

I also finished the tiny Patrick’s play mat with the map of the US.  I realized that I don’t have to put a binding on it (and I think it turned out nicely without one) and he enjoys it.  He likes to point at all the different shapes.  It’s also fun to tell him stories about all the different places.

Next up is Christmas stockings.  I’ve got the tiny Patrick’s all cut out and I started sewing it together.  So far so good!

Summer Weather Means Projects

Well, it’s been a week or two, so there’s been a lot of projects going on. The biggest ones are the garden projects but there’s been some knitting and sewing too.

For the garden there are the usual summer challenges related to living here (squash vine borers, cucumber beetles, etc.). If it eats vegetable plants it lives here. So the zucchini met its demise once again and the cucumbers have had a tough time, but it’s something to learn from for next year. Next time I’m going to plant the zucchini and then just pull the plant before the vine borers get going (end of June) which should be enough time to get some zucchini at least. And I’m going to plant County Fair cucumbers next year which will hopefully stand up to the beetles better (this year I tried ones the beetles aren’t supposed to like, turns out our beetles think they’re great).

Despite the challenges we’re getting lots of beans and peppers. I canned 18 pints of hot peppers. I would have also gotten 3 more quarts of pickles but my jars broke. I’m not sure if the cucumbers cooled them down too much or if they were old. It was definitely disappointing though. Still, 18 pints of hot peppers is pretty good!

We’ve also gotten a bunch of eggplants and it looks like we’re going to be getting some squash with any luck (I also planted mini-butternut squash and crookneck squash since the vine borers have a tough time with those). And maybe even some mini-pumpkins for the tiny Patrick…

It’s also time for switching over another section of the garden. I’m going to clear out the New Zealand spinach and switch it over to fall plants (scallions and beets to start, then more carrots, lettuce, radishes and mizuna). I wasn’t a fan of the New Zealand spinach, it looks like a weed to me and the fact that it’s a succulent is just weird. So the plan for next year is bush beans instead.

There should also be more cherry tomatoes and beans to pick this weekend, which should be fun.

I’m hoping to make a Christmas stocking for the tiny Patrick this weekend and maybe make some progress on his play mat.  I’ve got it assembled, I just need to make some binding tape.  I didn’t get any extra fabric for that so I’m going to look through the fabric I’ve got and see if I find anything I like.

And there’s knitting too.  I’m up to the sleeves on the tiny Patrick’s sweater so I’d like to see if I can finish it so I can start his next sweater.  I have my yarn for his Campfire sweater and for the Waffle blanket.  I think I might save the blanket for when the weather cools off a little though…

I think I’m also going to have to knit a new hat, or maybe pull out the yarn and re-knit it?  I was comparing pictures of my replacement hat to pictures of the original and while the original was shaped mostly like a square the replacement is more like a triangle, which is probably why it doesn’t stay on…  Of course if I rip it out and redo it I may be without a hat if I’m not prompt about knitting a replacement… I’ll have to think about it.

Oh and I want to make bread this weekend.  Home made bread is always the best kind.


And it’s hot, today it’s just in the 90s, but tomorrow it’ll be up near 100 (and feel like more than that courtesy of the humidity).

Of course this means it’s time to think about Christmas projects and knit sweaters. 🙂 (what can I say the AC is *cold*, especially at work!) I have two sweaters picked out for the tiny Patrick, Bowline and Campfire by TinCanKnits. I’m going to do Bowline in green and Campfire in brown I think. I’m also planning to do a new blanket. I think I’m going to use TinCanKnits Waffles pattern but expand it 2.5 times in either direction which will be about the equivalent of ~6.25 stroller blankets. It looks warm and comfy. I’m going to use Berocco Vintage Chunky in Mistletoe which I think will be a happy color.

This weekend I’m also going to see about maybe doing some canning. I’ve got 10 cucumbers waiting for me, so maybe the time for pickles is here at last… Well, I already have fridge pickles, but I really want to try canning them too. Tomatoes are coming, but aren’t ready yet, so for this weekend it’s canning pickles (hopefully!) and freezing peppers and beans. Or maybe canning peppers? There are a lot of peppers and they’re really good pickled…

Maybe I’ll make bread or waffles too. There were cookies last week after all, so I’ll have to see if I can keep up the baking!

Summer Days

So it’s now very much summer, warm humid air, weeds and the garden growing like crazy, lots of projects to do, food preservation questions to consider…  Yep, definitely summer.  I have gotten a bunch of things done though!  First, I finished the soft book from the fabric panel, which ended up turning out very nicely.  It’s cute and using the fluffy batting made it really nice and cuddly.  The tiny Patrick approves.

I also finished my 4th of July dress and it turned out great.  The pockets fit in nicely and the fit is perfect (extra yay!).  And I have officially decided that the answer is to sew the facing down under the collar (you can’t see the line of stitching that way).  I was really careful to do everything right with the facing, even grading the seam allowances and using a pinking shears (which was tricky and annoying!) and it still wouldn’t lay flat.  I think it’s just the result of the shape of my back/shoulders.  So!  It got sewn down and that’s what I’ll do in the future.  It looks fine that way.

I also started the advent calendar.  That’s been a fun project, just enough detail to be interesting without being fiddly.  I would be working on that now, but there’s a fluffy white cat sleeping on it.  Also, it looks like the dense cotton batting was the right choice for that one.  It gives it more of a tapestry type weight that I think will help it hang nicely.  I haven’t decided if I’m going to use a dowel or rings to hang it….Probably the dowel since I think that will make it straighter, the only downside is then I’ll have to store said dowel, but if I roll the advent calendar around it, that shouldn’t be too bad.

I also did my lavender packets!   I picked some lavender flowers (a nice little mini bouquet) which was enough for 3 layers in the dehydrator without crowding them.  I set it to 95 degrees for about 2 hours and they came out nice and dry.  It also made the house smell pretty nice!  Then I cut up some of the smaller bits of fabric from my grandma and made 4 little ‘pillows’ each about the size of my hand.  I thought about adding stuffing too, but I decided flat packets would do a better job at letting the scent into the surrounding area and not take up as much space in the closet/drawer/etc.  I also only used the flowers and not the stems.  The stems also have scent but a lot less and the flowers were enough to give each packet plenty of lavender.  They’re also crazy strong.  They’re sitting on our kitchen table now and you can smell them from the next room over.  So maybe that will be enough to defeat the closet that’s permeated with 50+ years of shampoo and fabric softener…

I also finished knitting the tiny Patrick’s new fall/winter hat.  I did “Bumble” by Tin Can Knits.  It’s very cute but I think the stitch work is a little open for being a nice heavy duty winter hat.  Then again a toddler probably isn’t going to be outside outside much in really cold weather so maybe this is the best way to do it?  The best part is the pompom.  I remember making one at some point (I don’t know when, like childhood sometime) and it turning out sad and not fluffy so I got a proper pompom maker (they’re like $5) and put a ton of yarn (as much as I could fit!) into it and it turned out great!  It’s super soft and fluffy.  So I’m really happy about that.  Also I did extra repeats so it covers his ears properly!

I’m still working on re-knitting the top of my Apple Pie hat.  I think I did an extra repeat the first time but didn’t write it down, so when I made my replacement I just did the recommended length.  It spent all winter sliding off my head, which was massively annoying.  So!  I cut the yarn at the top and ripped back to wear the decreases started (since there’s only 1 spot in the pattern with purl stitches and the first decrease is purl-two-together this was easier than expected…).  So I dug out the tiny ball of extra yarn and am now knitting an extra repeat before doing the decreases.  Hopefully it will stay on this time around!

The garden has also been busy.  We’ve picked lots and lots of beans so far (and I have lots more to pick today!).  These are yellow beans (my favorite) and Romano beans (Patrick’s favorite).  I think I might also plant some purple beans so we have some regular green beans around too.  Pole beans was definitely the way to go with the Romano beans, they produce so much better than the bush bean version.

We’ve also got our first round of peppers.  I don’t think the bell peppers liked their proximity to the cucumbers or the weather but we’re still getting some.  The jalapenos are doing great.  I’m hoping to freeze a bunch of those and then start pickling them.

We’ve also gotten cucumbers!  Yay!  I’ve made two jars of fridge pickles and I’ll still have plenty for cucumber sandwiches this week!  Hopefully they’ll keep going and I’ll be able to can pickles too.

We’ve gotten the first couple tomatoes (the cherry ones) too and there are lots that are almost ready.  I’m planning to dehydrate the cherry ones (I got an egg slicer to hopefully make that more manageable).  I’m also hoping if the full sized ones come through for me this year I can can small batches of crushed tomatoes.  We’ll see…

We might even get a few blackberries to try this year if I manage to beat the birds to them…   (fruit + birds is a challenge I have yet to fully resolve, bird netting has some serious downsides after all)

I also want to make jam, but I’m going to need to get the fruit to do that I think.  Our strawberries are producing enough for snacks (even with squirrel theft) but not jam and we won’t get more than a couple from the rest of the fruit for a year or three.  So jam requires a Costco or farmer’s market visit.  So we’ll see…

Oh and I cleared out the bolting lettuce (and 4 wheelbarrows of weeds from around the yard…) and planted pumpkins and yellow squash.  Hopefully those work out, that would make me happy.

Still though, plenty to do.  Next goals:

  • Finish Apple Pie hat
  • Finish Advent calendar
  • Start USA play mat
  • Start blue dress (Hawthorn again?  Something new?)
  • Start baby clothes (probably from Ottobre)
  • Start grown up Patrick shirts
  • Freeze/Can/Dry peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, beans
  • Plant purple beans?
  • Clear out garden bed by the shed
  • Finish attaching tomato cage tops
  • Hang reflective anti-bird tape
  • Continue cleaning/organizing the house (my room, the closet of doom, the basement, etc…)
  • Stick to goal of one slow cooker meal a week

First (Official!) Summer Weekend

So…now that I have long term plans figured out (at least a little bit) there’s the chance to think about what I want to do this weekend.

First I want to bake bread.  We’re on the last loaf of Costco bread and I like mine better so it’s time to bake more.  Maybe I’ll also fulfill my months long goal of making cookies.  It’s always possible. 🙂  And while we’re on the subject of wishlist baking, I’d also like to make waffles because it’s been awhile and they’re great.

For cooking I’d like to do something in the slow cooker.  I think there’s a pork shoulder lurking in the freezer and pulled pork sounds like a good lunch option…  And there’s another project too, pre-chopping veggies and meat and things for easier dinner preparation…  That’ll happen when there’s time and we next go to the Costco probably.

The garden also needs some attention this weekend.  There’s weeding to do and the peppers need stakes to stay upright.  There will also be beans to pick (and soon peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes with any luck!).

And I want to finish my dress, it just needs buttons and button holes so I’m almost done.  If I can finish that it would also be nice to do one of the small fabric panel projects like maybe the soft book for the tiny Patrick.  Of course it depends on time. 🙂

In terms of general projects, hopefully I’ll finally get the brakes fixed on my bike (either by following the guidance of the Internet or bribing the grown up Patrick, we’ll see…).  I’d also like to sort the kitchen, but that depends on general motivation and how energetic/tired everyone is.

And I’d like to go to the big park with the Patricks, it’s got a carousel and a train and a butterfly garden and is huge.  I think that would be relaxing and fun (it’s really close so it’d be easy to get to).  And maybe I could go to the farmer’s market, that could be fun.  If I got my bike brakes fixed or if the Patricks want to go too… Or maybe go to the thrift stores?  Those are fun.

So, there’s plenty to do, and it should be fun. 🙂


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