Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Baby Shower Decorations

My dear friend Heather is expecting her first baby this fall. Isn't she adorable. She totally humors me and will pose whenever and wherever I want for a photo. The best!

I am truly giddy for her. Babies are my favorite with parties as a close second, as if you couldn't tell. So of course I wanted to help in any (creative) way possible and basically begged her to let me put together some pretty things for her baby shower. With only a handful of ribbons, a stack of scrapbook paper and a few odds and ends, here is what I came up with.

All baby showers need cupcakes, or so I'm told. Maybe its the similarity of size between the bite sized cakes and the baby to be... who knows? But they will look cute stacked high on these spiffed up cardboard towers.

And if there are cupcakes there must be cupcake toppers...

I thought it would be fun to have pinwheels. So first I made big ones...

and then more... slightly smaller....

and even more... even smaller....

They were a breeze to make. Start with a square. Cut from the points towards the middle, leaving about a square inch in the middle not cut. Put a generous dot of hot glue in the center and pull the same pointed end of each quarter towards it. Secure on top with a button. Turn it over and use another dot of glue to stick a skewer to the pinwheel. Cover the pointy end with paper.

Safety first... cover that pointy end!

Medium -- Small -- Large

Heather wanted to showcase some of her mom's cut flowers at the shower as centerpieces. Rather than use vases, we decided on mason jars.

There are a dozen jars adorned with ribbons, buttons and stickers (from the scrapbook paper).

She loved the paper garland I made for the boys birthday party this summer so I thought I would sew up a ton to put some color on the walls too.

I had a huge stack of paper circles sitting next to my sewing machine and I would randomly grab them and stitch them together. I was also reading books to the little one, discussing supper ideas, and probably playing cards with the boys so my sewing wasn't at its best...

There are 2 - 20ft long strands for the walls and a couple shorter 6-8 ft strands for tables. To store and travel, I secure one end of the strand to a box or piece of cardboard with tape and wrap up and down the box. For the second strand, I wrap the other way, side to side, securing the other end with tape to finish. I alternate until all the garland strands are on the box.

Now just to keep all of these delicate paper creations out of little hands until this weekend...

Hope you love them, Aunt Feather (as Eden calls her).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

We Make Our Own Cough Syrup, too...

I am a big believer in food as medicine. I believe food is taken into the body and then treated as either a medicine with incredible healing powers, as a food for general energy, or as a poison that can weaken. That being said I am also into medicinal herbs and edible weeds. I have eaten dandelion in salads, tasted a edible weed that is incredibly similar to pepper (yarrow - old man's pepper), and two years ago we made our first batch of homemade cough syrup. It was a learning experience and after a couple Ohio winters our stash has dwindled and we set to make another batch.

The commercial name for elderberry syrup is sambucol and it is marketed to support the immune system. Even being in the natural foods industry, this product is never cheap. If you had to harvest the flowers and berries at the exact right time and pick the itsy bitsy berries off their delicate stems, you would definitely understand why. (I have the kids do it on the porch.) With a family of seven boosting our immune systems sounds like a great idea until you have to pay an arm and a leg for it. But if it was growing in my backyard for free and just needed a little attention, I could do that.

Granted we only use berries, sugar and water while most commercial brands of elderberry syrups also contain the actual flower, I am still happy with the results. (I am not writing this post as a recipe or a how-to but more as another way to use what you have. This is something we have studied and researched and we never eat anything we are not 100% sure of its identity.) A few warnings about elderberries. The seeds contain cyanide so you don't want to eat them raw. Elderberries also can be easily confused with other less tasty and potentially harmful berries.

Today I have 10 pints up in the cupboard and one open in the fridge. A teaspoon a day for general immune system support and a tablespoon for when our bodies are actually in battle against nasty winter sicknesses.

If you don't have this tiny fruit populating your property, elderberries are made into jams and jellies sometimes found at apple houses or farmers markets. I have not tried them as a preserve so if you do let me know if it's worth trying that next summer.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Farm Sights

Last weekend we spent an afternoon into evening bailing hay. It is a day I look forward to several times a season living in the country. (Maybe I enjoy it because I'm in charge of counting kids and taking pretty pictures rather than being dressed in long sleeves and pants in 90 degree weather throwing 40lb square bales into an even hotter hay loft. Maybe...) As I was sitting on the wagon behind the baler with a half naked toddler on my lap, I looked north and saw my older children on a tall pile of hay swaying back and forth on another wagon. Further north I saw more family unloading bales into the barn and even further north I saw the cows grazing on a field. It was a magical feeling, seeing all my family actively involved, smelling all the smells in the beautiful late afternoon sun. It can't even be conveyed in words... maybe pictures.

Kids eating unripe (super sour) apples in the orchard

Finding a butterfly in Grandma's herb and flower garden

Rustic farm stuff

All the cut hay raked into rows waiting to be baled

Kids seeking shade

Fresh cut alfalfa hay... wish this was a scratch and sniff

Burdock - nature's velcro

oh no! BURDOCK FIGHT!!!!

Old grainary and a beautiful blue sky!

Most of my memories are recorded in pictures, either mental or with my camera. I literally think in images. Try and get me away from my desk without my camera. I feel naked without its weight slung across my shoulder! This group of pictures (plus the hundreds, thousands you don't see) is how I see life through my eyes. So many good memories and feelings. And I want to remember each moment. Every single one. Therefore, I take pictures of every day life. A life full of simple pleasures and big ideas, dotted with plenty of accomplishments and plenty of setbacks. I feel incredibly lucky to live this life here this way and give my children these experiences, hoping they never take them for granted, which I'm sure they will. Hoping they will always find a sort of peace helping on the farm, perhaps escaping temporarily from a busy life, like I once did. Always seeking peace and finding it in something as simple and family and the land.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Good Food Friday : Asian Style (Super Quick) Green Beans

Incredible how many beans a 30 ft row of plants can produce isn't it. And this was just one picking!

So far I have frozen 25 quarts, fermented a gallon and given away countless grocery bags, not to mention the ones that have been served at our supper table or brought to picnics. We sure do enjoy the foods of the season but boiled beans can get old real quick especially when cooking for a bunch of kids who can remember everything they have put in their bellies for the past week. So I found this recipe (and others, but this is my favorite). I always loved the green beans at any Asian buffet but it never occurred to me to try and make them at home. The ingredients could not be simpler and the results could not be more delicious. And my favorite? The beans still have a nice crunch!

  • 6 cups fresh green beans, ends trimmed
  • Braggs Liquid aminos (you could use soy sauce or tamari)
  • sugar
  • olive oil
  • minced garlic

  • In a large lidded frying pan saute garlic (3 cloves) in oil until very lightly brown.
  • Add green beans and saute until they start to brown, about 5 minutes.
  • Swirl some Braggs liquid aminos (I did three circles around the pan) on the green beans then sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of sugar. Stir and cover. Reduce heat to low. A glaze will form on the bottom of the pan so return to the stove every couple minutes to stir. Since the pan is covered the beans will steam themselves.
  • After ten minutes the beans will be cooked but still snappy. Stir the glaze and green beans one more time. If at any time the beans start to burn, add 1/4 cup water to deglaze the pan and save supper!
  • Serve immediately, or in a bit or cold. Good anytime. For that extra Asian kick, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The New Lives of Old Fencing

I was wandering around the house the other afternoon, procrastinating I'm sure, I noticed something. Fencing. And all the ways a neighbors torn down fencing has made a second home around here.

You have seen it as a trellis...

A garden shed...

Gate for our (now empty) chicken coop...

Plant markers in the herb garden...

Two rustic signs, patiently waiting for inspiration to be painted...

And the newest addition: a glider, when the old cushions died the bench was empty for far too long. The project was attempted after dark (which explains the odd and uneven spacing of the planks) and a new seat was added to the farm. (Ha! like I ever sit...)

It is gratifying to see something that was perceived as trash to be used again in so many useful and beautiful ways. Projects like these speak recycling softly and fit my decorating style, too. Does your home have and second-hand success stories?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Toddler Rock Backpack

First let me say this: girls are different than boys. From the womb. My boys are loud, messy and in constant motion. What a change when I had the girls. Eden at a very young age could barely walk but still knew to get a towel when something had spilled. She and Alette play babies in their room quietly for hours and days. Their fascination with dolls alone is a stark difference from their brothers. With all the contrast there is much in common to. Insatiable hunger. Seriously, these girls can hold their own with their big brothers. Fearless. All my kids have no sense of what could possibly cause serious bodily harm to themselves and/or others.

And rocks. What kid could resist. I remember even into my college years gathering a shoe box of rocks. Of course, I was a geology major. Anyway, the girls are definitely into rocks. Climbing, tossing into puddles, and of course collecting. While the boys have experimented and pushed my limits of where to keep their rocks, they are finally at the age where they know and understand where it is appropriate to hoard them. As a toddler, Eden would just pop them into her mouth, lick them clean and spit them out. I know, disgusting. But my littlest one, her obsession with rocks goes beyond normal. Everywhere. I find them everywhere. Drawers. Closets. Piles on the edges of counters. Cupboards. Cups. Pockets and therefore in the washer. Cuffs of my jeans! This last one is what finally drove me to make something of her own to drag around full of "baby" rocks, as she calls them.

Between projects on an already busy day, I made her this little backpack. Scrap fabric, both inside and out and two strips of jersey for the drawstring and she's an (adorable) happy camper.
She wears it all. the. time. And she's also at that stage where she spends plenty of time, ahem, without clothes, so sometimes it is all she is wearing. I'll spare you that photo... for mommy's eyes only!

The soft drawstring lets her feel accomplished opening and closing it all by herself.

Let me tell you, that little bag can hold quite a few pounds of rocks. We will see how long this lasts.

And the print is so cute. I can see her toting this little bag around filled with other things she adores... like strawberries, frogs and grasshoppers. Just not all at the same time...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hello Yellow!

I did it. After months of contemplating and weeks of actually owning the paint, I finally changed the color of my front door to my favorite color...

Yellow! Actually "zesty yellow." Pretty bold, huh. But I LOVE it. It inspired a porch and patio remodel. Can I show you around a bit... (fair warning, lots of pictures...)

Well the birch has been around for a good year, it's kind of a four seasons thing for me. It never really goes anywhere just gets updates for the season. The pots and wreath are from my spring porch. Yes, it is the same wreath, minus the flowers and with strips of torn fraying fabric wrapped around it. Since the new color is so striking, I decided to not hang a wreath on the new door, at least not yet. The chair got a new coat of paint and is now home to the wreath, and old school chalkboard (literally, and the original art is courtesy of my six year old) and potted plant in an old kettle. The egg basket was purchased at a yard sale for $.50 and spray painted black. The colors, meh, but it works for me.

Oh and I finally found a worthy place to hang the wicker hanging basket, no flowers but a terra cotta candle instead.

This is my front patio. My brother decided we needed a "sunrise porch" and put this in last summer and it hasn't changed. Same bench. Same ugly black greenhouse pots with Blake's attempts to grow tropical plants in Ohio... yes, Ohio. It was definitely not calling me to spend any time there. So I spruced it up, again with stuff I have...

The little dresser was from my grandpa's tool shed. He kept all kinds of rusty random objects in it. Now it holds the kids chalk and a few squirt guns. I took out the middle drawer and turned it upside down to use as a plant shelf.

The basket on top hold a few mason jars that are empty most of the time and filled with queen ann's lace when guests are expected.

All of the pots were bought at a local community yard sale for $2, as in about 20 of them. Plastic is not my favorite but I needed an affordable solution until I can splurge on some beautiful glazed ceramic. At least now I don't have to look at all that black plastic.

And the section of fence 1) needed a new home that didn't involve the garage or the wood pile 2) adds depth to the porch and balances the height of the dresser and most importantly 3) serves as a rustic trellis to the kiwi. (Until recently it was climbing ugly white metal closet shelving. ) I think this looks much better.

Most times I park the van, unload kids and things, and trudge through the front door, ignoring everything else. Now when I pull up to the house and see the yellow door I smile. I have sat on that bench and enjoyed an afternoon tea and a quite moment away from the chaos around back where the kids play. It is a treat to have a pretty place. (I am using the word "pretty" way to much lately. I may actually become a real girl. Forget that, I will NEVER carry a purse.)

Enjoy one last shot of that happy yellow that will be my sunshine in the monochromatic winter months. There will *hopefully* be many calm moments drinking tea on my gorgeous sunrise porch before that winter gets here!

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