Friday, September 28, 2012

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ezra's Special Spot

We have this funny little "cubby" next to our dishwasher.  I'm thinking that, since our house was built in the 20's, there used to be cupboards there, and when they installed the dishwasher, there was just a little bit of space left over.  Anyway, I've never really known what to do with the space, so it just sits, empty, sometimes.  Lately, though, it's been looking like this:

Ezra has decided that it's his little special spot.  He fits in there perfectly, so many times during the day I'll see him going in there and just hanging out for a few minutes.  Often he'll bring a toy or two with him, sometimes his hammer, which he'll bang around in there, or he'll just put his toy in there and come back out, like he's keeping it safe.  I like to play peek-a-boo with him when he's in there; his smile is so precious!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Preserving 2012

My goal this summer was to have enough food preserved that I needed to use my chest freezer.  I happily reached that goal, but I didn't realize just how much I had in there until I made a list.  Then I found it even more encouraging when I listed all my preserving for the year so far:

Peas: 9 quart bags, frozen
Blueberries: 4 (stuffed) quart bags, frozen
Zucchini: 1 quart bag chopped, frozen
                10 quart bags shredded, frozen
Tomatoes: 7 quart bags, frozen (more coming!)
Peppers: 3 quart bags, frozen
Blackberries: 11 (stuffed) quart bags, frozen (and counting!)
                      4 jars jam, frozen (we made more but we've eaten some already)
Peaches: 12 quart bags, frozen
               6 pint jars, canned
Strawberries: 1/2 of a gallon bag, frozen
                      5 jars jam, frozen (again, we made more but...)
                      3 jars strawberry/rhubarb jam, frozen (again....)
Plums: 1 quart bag, frozen
            4 jars jam, frozen
            2 jars jam, canned
            3 quart jars of dehydrated plums
Cucumbers: 13 quart jars pickles, canned

I know it's not as much as many people preserve, but it's more than I've ever done before.  Progress!  And now that I've had one garden season here, I know what I want to plant more of next year so I'll have more for freezing.  Wouldn't it be cool to hardly have to buy any produce during the winter?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Little Bit of Canning

A couple of years ago I had my first experience with canning - pickles!  I've done them again a few times since, including a couple of weeks ago.

I usually stick to freezing for most of my preserving, just because it's easy.  But I love how jars of fresh food look on the shelf, and it's nice to have some things that don't have to go in the freezer and don't need to be thawed.  I've really been wanting to try canning a few other things.  

Last weekend I had a big box of peaches that I was slicing for the freezer.  Then I thought I'd really like to try canning some of them.  I decided to keep it easy and try canning just a few jars, to see how they turned out, and if it was something I wanted to pursue more next year.  I don't have a canner, but for what I was doing, I was able to get an inexpensive stock pot at the thrift store, put a towel on the bottom, and do a water bath that way.  My pot fit three pint jars at a time, so I canned six jars total, and it didn't take me very long, especially since I was already slicing up all the peaches!

The jars look awesome; hopefully they taste just as good!

I'm hoping to try a few jars of tomatoes next, since they're starting to ripen in the garden!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Last Bit of Summertime

We celebrated the end of summer with a camping trip with Seth's family.  Our original location turned out to be no good due to wildfires, but we found a nice alternative.

It was so nice to spend a few days relaxing and doing nothing much at all.  Very restful and peaceful!

Check out Benjamin's new haircut!  After cutting it, we told him to go look in the mirror.
When he did, he said, "I want my hair back!"  

Seth and I snuck off for a little date - and we went out on the lake in an Aqua Cycle!  Very fun!  It was even better with some ice cream afterwards!

We got this barely-used bike trailer off Craigslist a month ago, and with the bike seat that we also got super cheap, we were able to have a family bike ride!  We're looking forward to doing more of that this fall!

It's always fun to break up routine and get away for a bit!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Benjamin's $15 Summer Wardrobe or Why Kids Don't Need a Lot of Clothes

We have been very blessed to have had to buy very little clothes for our kids.  Our kids get clothes for gifts a lot (I am all for practical gifts!), and we've gotten hand-me-downs, too.  We've purchased the most for Benjamin - and that's still not a lot - and just a few things for Joanna and Ezra.
So it was a little strange for me when at the beginning of summer I realized Benjamin had nothing to wear for the coming season (well, okay, he had one short-sleeved shirt).  I wasn't going to go out and spend a bunch of money for a new wardrobe, and I've always believed that kids don't need a ton of clothes, so I was kind of curious to see just how much he actually needed for the summer.

I started out by looking through my fabric stash (including clothing I'd saved for repurposing) and found a few fabrics that were boy-friendly.  I made Benjamin three pairs of shorts, but he didn't like one pair for some reason, so that brought us down to two.

I purchased two plain t-shirts ($4 each), and with the one he already had, that made three shirts.  I chose plain t-shirts so that he would be able to mix and match them with his shorts.

He also had a pair of sandals that had been given to us.

After a couple of weeks, I felt that two pairs of shorts and three shirts weren't quite enough, so I found an inexpensive shirt/shorts set for $7 and added that to his wardrobe.  With those, I feel like he had the perfect amount of clothes for the summer.

While this small amount of clothes might not work for everyone, here's why it worked for us and why I think kids don't need very many clothes:

- I wash clothes every 2-3 days, mainly just to keep the laundry pile under control, and because I line-dry, which takes longer than the dryer.  However, washing every few days also allows you to have fewer clothes, because you don't need a week's worth of clothes.  Also, I don't put clothes in the laundry if they aren't actually dirty, we wear them again.

- I rarely change my kids' clothes during the day, even if they get a little dirty.  I no longer use bibs on Benjamin, but I would if he were still a messy eater.  Also, I don't worry too much about little stains on kids clothes, for a few reasons:
a) Kids are messy.
b) I can't spend all day changing clothes (nor do I want to spend all day arguing with the child who hates changing clothes).
c) Their clothes would likely get stained no matter what I did.
d) I have enough things to worry about!

- Benjamin rarely needs to change clothes during the day.  Being potty-trained for well over a year now, Benjamin almost never has an accident, so he doesn't really need "back-up" clothes.  However, I couldn't have gotten away with just three pairs of shorts with Joanna, because, being newly potty-trained, she still has accidents and sometimes goes through two or three pairs of shorts in a day.

- Kids don't feel the need to wear different clothes all the time; in fact, they usually love wearing the same things over and over!  I remember having a couple of favorite outfits as a kid - things I wore pretty much every day!  Joanna received a bunch of hand-me-downs from a friend, so she has about 8 or 9 summer outfits, but even still, she has a couple of things that she wants to wear all the time.

- I have found that only having 1-2 pairs of shoes at a time (depending on the season) is ideal for a few reasons:
a) Again, kids like wearing the same thing over and over.
b) Kids outgrow shoes quickly.  Joanna is on her 4th shoe size in less than a year and a half.  They are barely worn before they're outgrown.
c) Kids usually don't need different shoes for different occasions.  A plain, nicer pair of tennis shoes can work for both play and church.  For Joanna's first three sizes of shoes, we had a pair of cute, sturdy Mary-Jane style shoes that went with both jeans and dresses.

- Having fewer clothes makes it easier for kids to get dressed.  Children can get overwhelmed easily, so having fewer choices helps them make a decision and get dressed more quickly.  It helps me, too, when I'm the one choosing clothes!

Of course, having a small wardrobe is great for other reasons, too:

- Having fewer things reinforces our values.  I'm not saying that having things is necessarily bad (I like my things and I definitely have more than I need), but I want to teach our kids that we don't need a lot of stuff, and that we can and should be happy and content with what we have.  Kids are naturally like this anyway, and it's my hope that they can stay that way.

- Having only a minimal amount of clothes is something anyone can do to reduce their clothes budget.  Not everyone sews, and not everyone has friends or family to give them clothes, but anyone can limit how much they buy.

- When you buy less, you can sometimes afford to buy better quality, so your clothes will last longer.  This is something I'm still learning!  Just keep in mind that more expensive doesn't always mean better quality!

- Less stuff takes up less room.  This is very important when three children share a bedroom!  It's also important when you are storing outgrown clothes for siblings (we're currently at 10 boxes and counting!).

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Trying out the Fire Pit

We used our new fire pit for the first time the other night - and we had to make s'mores, of course!  The fire pit worked wonderfully, and it was so fun to have a cozy summer's night fire in our backyard!  I predict many more s'more nights in our future!  We probably won't get to use it too much more this year, unfortunately, but I'm already looking forward to next summer when we'll really get a chance to enjoy it!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Easy Way to Make a Narrow Hem

I've always thought about making a pile of cute cloth napkins.  What's stopped me?  The thought of making all those narrow hems - the ironing!

However, I've been making lots of receiving blankets lately, which has meant lots of narrow hems.  Thankfully, I quickly discovered an easy and quick way to do it.

Instructions for narrow hems usually say to fold the edge over a little bit, iron down, fold it over again, and iron it down again.  That takes forever!  So, here's a better way to do it:

Fold the edge over a little bit and iron down.  Try to fold over less than 1/4 inch, if you can.  Don't try to measure your hem while you're folding - that takes way too long!  Just eyeball it, and it will turn out just fine.

Then, instead of ironing the second fold, you're just going to sew it!  Starting on one side, and folding the hem over as you go, start sewing your hem down.  I have found that it works really well to fold it over and hold it with my right hand to apply a little tension while I sew.  Don't pull it and make it hard for the machine to sew, but applying just a little tension keeps the hem straight and neat.

Don't bother with fancy mitered corners or anything like that - just fold it over on one side....

...then the other side, and sew.

While it may not be fancy, it looks good, and it's quick and easy.

Another trick I discovered - a zigzag stitch is perfect for narrow hems.  Not only does it add interest, but it is great for hiding minor flaws.  No one will notice if your stitching isn't perfectly straight!

I was so happy to discover this simple way to hem!  It is seriously to fast that I can make a nice big receiving blanket, from start to finish, in about 20 minutes.

I may just get to that pile of cloth napkins one of these days after all!

A peek at what we've been doing!