Monday, July 25, 2011

Motivated and Inspired

Something has triggered my creative brain and kicked it into high gear. Maybe it was helping my mama paint her bathroom, or the shopping that we're doing to decorate it. It may be the ninety degree temperatures telling me to stay inside where it's cool. Whatever the reason, decorating and sewing ideas have been flowing in my head. I want to repaint the design wall and rearrange my craft room.

Last week I created designs for tote bags, table runners and wall hangings. I designed and quilted this one, Love My Coffee, on Friday. I'm halfway through with a table runner for my dining room that I started yesterday. I got a little distracted searching my fabric stash for the right colors of sage green, pale yellow, rust and gold. And, darn it, I had to stop to fix a sandwich for supper.

I love the sound of my sewing machine humming through yard after yard of material. I truly believe I am addicted to fabric...the variations of color, texture, weave and print designs. If you asked what's my favorite color, I'd say all of them! But I do have a pretty paint chip selected for my design wall. It's called Grape Jelly and it matches my chair. I can't wait to paint, but I have to finish that table runner first.

Useful Notion: Notice the colors and textures of nature as you go about your daily routine.  Browse through magazines and stores for ideas to stimulate the creative portion of your brain.

I keep my tables full of needlework and quilting so I don't have to dust them.”
~Author Unknown

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sweet As Sugar Vintage Apron & Feed Sack History

Grain, flour and sugar sacks have been put to use for years by thrifty women. They've been incorporated into quilts, used for embroidery samplers, and made into dishcloths, aprons, laundry bags, curtains, tablecloths, diapers, or dresses. I bought an antique sugar sack about a year ago with the intention of making an apron or a tote bag. While cleaning my sewing room this weekend, I was suddenly inspired to sew something. I may have been trying to avoid further cleaning. Anyway, I enjoyed a nice relaxing hour stitching up this vintage apron.

Feed sacks were originally made of heavy canvas for flour, sugar, meal, grain, salt and feed from the mill. They were reusable, with the farmer bringing an empty sack stamped with his mark or brand to the mill to be filled. How's that for recycling? This changed when mills began weaving inexpensive cotton fabric in the late 1800's. The bags were initially printed on plain white cloth and the brand name of the product was printed on the side of the bag. Sacks for flour, sugar and salt were a finer weave.

Granny Rose's feed sack quilt
Manufacturers soon recognized the appeal to women, so they began to use colors and pretty prints. It was a great marketing idea to sell more product, because it took three identical flour sacks to make a woman's dress. There were themes and collections of coordinating, animals, Mickey Mouse, Gone With The Wind, Buck Rogers, nursery rhymes and more. Magazines published patterns for dresses, quilts, pajamas, dolls, and even crochet instructions for the strings that held the bags together.

In 1942, it is estimated that three million women and children were wearing print feed sack garments. Not long after WWII, the change to paper and plastic bags began, since they were less expensive than fabric.  After years of being frugal, women wanted store-bought clothing instead of homemade.  However, well into the 1950's farm women continued to use old feed sack scraps for quilts.   

Useful Notion:  Browse yard sales and thrift stores for discarded vintage quilts.  Watch online for old feed sacks or even reproductions to make home decor and kitchen accessories.  

"The only place where housework comes before needlework is in the dictionary."  ~Mary Kurtz



Monday, July 11, 2011

Preserving Summer's Bounty

This year we had decided to just plant enough that we could eat out of the garden, and maybe freeze a little bit. We were going to be camping and having fun, so I didn't want to spend time canning food (except for our famous salsa). Spring rains delayed our planting, but we finally got tomatoes, peppers and okra in the ground. My sweet mama planted some seeds while we were gone camping. “Just a few,” she said. Now we have cucumbers and zucchini growing like there's no tomorrow.

Friday, we sliced up cucumbers to soak overnight in lime and water to make them extra crisp. Saturday, we chopped them and mixed up sugar, vinegar and spices for another overnight dip. Yesterday I heated the mixture, sterilized jars, and canned eight half-pint jars of sweet relish. It's a recipe from I got from a co-worker over 30 years ago, and the only one I use for sweet pickles.

Funny thing, once I get started, I really enjoy the whole process. It's relaxing and satisfying to grow, preserve and eat your own food. It reminds me of my grandmothers, who had to can their own food in order to feed their large families over the winter. There are no artificial preservatives, only natural ingredients.

I'm sure if I calculated the cost per jar, based on my time and effort spent, it would be cheaper to buy them at the grocery. That's ok...I like carrying on family traditions, spending time outdoors, and seeing these pretty jars lined up on the shelf. For the next batch, though, I'm going to call my mama to come help me with these “few” cucumbers she planted!

Sweet Lime Pickles

           4 lbs. Cucumbers                               4 cups distilled white vinegar (5%)
           1/2 cup pickling lime                         4 cups sugar
           1 gallon water                                    2 tsp. pickling salt (non-iodized)
                                                                       2 tsp. pickling spices

Soak sliced cucumbers in water and lime mixture in a crock or enamel pan for 2 hours or overnight. (Do not use aluminum pan)

Pour off lime water, rinse cucumbers 3 times in fresh cold water. Soak 3 hours in fresh ice water.

Combine vinegar, sugar, salt and spices in a large stainless steel or enamel pot. For relish, chop the slices here and put spices in a muslin bag. Bring to a boil to dissolve sugar. Add cucumbers and remove from heat; soak 5-6 hours or overnight.

Boil mixture 20 minutes. Fill sterilized jars with hot mixture to ½ inch head space. Wipe jar rims and cap. Process pints and half-pints 10 minutes, quarts 15 minutes in a water-bath canner. Set jars on a towel until cool. Check lids and wipe jars with damp rag when cool. Refrigerate any jars that didn't seal; store others in a cool, dry place.

The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.  ~Hanna Rion


Monday, July 4, 2011

A Good Summer For Flowers...And Weeds...And Bugs

There's a lot of color and green in my yard right now from all the rain this spring. Some of my favorite plants are showing off for Independence Day. Luscious roses with blooms of yellow, red, coral, and magenta create heavenly fragrances. Standard orange naturalized daylillies are scattered around the front and back of our house, and the hybrid ones are blooming vigorously in shades of peach, bright yellow, dusty rose, plum, and burgundy. Wildflowers like black-eyed susan, queen anne's lace, purple coneflower, butterfly weed, and yarrow are colorful and keep the bees, butterflies and hummingbirds happy.
I enjoy these perennials that come back every year without much fuss. All I do to them is water and feed. And of course, weed around them. The rains have resulted in healthy green leaves and spectacular blooms on the flowers but the weeds are killing me. I'm a fairly lazy gardener in the summertime. I get all fired up in spring and love to move, divide, and plant new flowers. I want to be outside in the sunshine and fresh air. Come summer, if I don't get out early in the morning, that's it. I don't mind hard work or getting dirty...I just mind high humidity with temps over 90 degrees, and being hot and sweaty.

The thing about my yard is that it's not manicured or perfectly landscaped. That's just not my style. It's a brick ranch home out in the country with natural looking plantings tucked under trees, between shrubs, and around the perimeter of the house. If a volunteer plant pops up, that's where it stays unless it's in the path of the mower, then I'll move it somewhere safe. Grass and weeds creep around and jump right in with the flowers, even though I mulch with pine needles from our trees. And once they get going, it's hard to get rid of weeds, especially pesky bermuda grass and wild ginger vine.

My annual July garden enemy is the Japanese beetle. Those tiny beasts are devouring my roses and hollyhocks, apple trees and okra plants. After spraying with Sevin, I have to say that I really love seeing the horrible bugs lying dead on their backs with their little feet stuck up in the air. Unfortunately we seem to have a never-ending supply of them, because more appear a few days after spraying, so my bug battle continues.

I hope you're enjoying the long holiday weekend. If you want to help weed or spray for bugs, I'll be outside as soon as this morning thunderstorm passes.  It's really not that bad once I get started. The satisfaction of seeing these gorgeous blooms is worth the occasional aggravation of tending to them on a hot July day.

Useful Notion: Plant more perennials, bulbs, hosta, and flowering shrubs for less work in the garden. Mulch well, and scatter around a few clumps of annuals like zinnas and geraniums to add bright color and texture to your flower beds.

Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity.” ~Lindley Karstens



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