Thursday, July 29, 2010

Simple Lives Thursday - Family Work

On our journey toward a more deliberate life, one of our goals is to include our children in our work. To be home more, to be with them more, and to give them the opportunity to share in our work. Our handcraft business has grown in leaps and bounds over the past couple of months and we are excited that we are at a place where we can pay our teenage boys an hourly rate. Even Sarah, at six years old, asks to help. This picture is her helping Mike make the lacing set pieces by putting one piece at a time in the clamp for her father and then putting them in the bucket once the hole is drilled out of the middle.

No workshop for us yet, it may have to wait until next year. But it is amazing what can be done just making do with what we have.

The message is that if you wait to go for your dream until everything is in place, you may never get to that perfect place "first". For example, if we had not begun our business in earnest until we had all the best equipment and a workshop then we would still be so far from our dream or deep in debt (which we deliberately avoided while building our business - we never borrowed money, nor did we have start-up money). Taking small steps and working hard while keeping our thoughts on our goals has worked for our family.

Warm wishes, Tonya

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Picking, Gathering, Baking, Preserving

I just love preparing food this time of year - both cooking and baking. The delicious flavors and varieties.

The children have been having fun collecting raspberries from our woods and Abby found a recipe in the King Arthur Catalog (which she loves to look through but we don't generally buy from) for scones and she added raspberries instead and most of the children loved it so she baked some more just two days later.

We have been collecting the chamomile blossoms each day to dry and use for our tea this winter

~chamomile growing in our garden~

~collected and left to dry~

Our neighbor has generously offered to allow our family to pick from their amazing blackberry patch. Many are probably about 10 feet tall. After our first picking, we will be sure to dress better, in long pants and long sleeves with gloves. The thorns are a bit tough. But the work is all worthwhile. We will be going back at least two more times. So far one pie and one blackberry crumb have been made. After buying some organic lemons at the natural foods store today, I will make blackberry jam.

~my favorite pie crust, from one my favorite cookbooks ~ The Amish Cook, by Coblentz & Williams~

~waiting for the bread to rise to put both in the oven~

What are you picking?
Warm wishes,

Monday, July 26, 2010

Handmade Holiday - for Men

Well, I haven't actually started a project that will become a Christmas gift yet. However, having my notebook/journal devoted to my ideas and divided up by recipients, has been wonderful. As an idea comes to me, I reach for it and write it down.

This week I am summarizing some of the ideas that were shared for teenage boys and then requesting ideas for the second hardest category ~ men.

Julie suggested fleece throws.

Elizabeth mentioned knitting hats and socks.

Erin left a link for a handmade laptop cover.

Finally, another reader mentioned making a sunglass case, ipod cover, mp3 player holder, cell phone holder of a recycled felted wool sweater and using velcro to close it.

I came across this free knitting pattern for a men's or teenage boy's scarf that I look. I think it would look great in a brown or grey tweed.

I would love to share some images and stories of readers' projects next week. Just leave a comment letting me know about them - and, please leave ideas for homemade gifts for men.
And don't forget to visit the Handmade Holiday page to visit the blogs of those joining in. (Just leave a comment if you would like your blog added.)

Warm wishes, Tonya

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Skort Capri Tutorial of a Pillowcase

I am not sure what to call these pants/shorts/capris/skorts, but I stumbled across this idea after making a pair of shorts for Abraham following the guide in Amanda Blake Soule's first book, The Creative Family, using an old t-shirt.

~Abraham's shorts~

Super easy to make. Then I knew that Sarah needed some more shorts and I had not been able to find any at the thrift stores of late (nor have I had much time to get to the thrift store). In addition, she has a tiny waist and we prefer longer shorts or skort style pants. I did have some thrifted pillowcases (25 cents each!) and realized I could basically do the same thing that I had done with a t-shirt.

Here is how ~

Holding the pillowcase the long way, take a pair of shorts the approximate size of the person you are sewing for, and with the shorts folded in half, line the sides up like in the picture below. The bottom edge of the shorts will be the already hemmed opening of the pillow case, so plan accordingly.

~I used chalk to draw the line. The pillow case is not turned inside out.~

Next, cut out on the purple line and then use what you just cut out, flip it over and line it up on the other edge, pin and cut out.

Next, open up both pieces and place right sides together and pin. Then sew from top down to crotch on both sides.

Now open piece up so seams are in middle of front and back and place pins down leg sides and then sew from crotch down to bottom of leg for both sides.

Roll down the top waistband 1/4" and press and then fold over another 1 1/2 inches, press. Sew around, leaving a 1 inch opening where you will insert the elastic.

Using a safety pin, pull the elastic around the waist opening. Be sure to measure your child's waist. Cut and sew two ends of elastic together. You can hand sew the opening closed.

That is it. I am not an experienced seamstress, but was happy to make these in only about 20 minutes or so.

Warm wishes,

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wednesday Wanderings

Joining in with Garden Mama, just this morning I snapped a photo looking down at my feet as I went about my morning routine.

~Here I stand, although usually these feet of mine are not still. Back and forth, inside and outside travelling many miles each day, from morning baking in the kitchen to wiping the table after each meal and snack, running to the bathroom to help with potty training to dancing to classical music with my children. They travel over these worn wooden floors in our rustic cottage.~

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Femivore ....

When I arrived home Saturday afternoon, Mike (dear husband) informed me that I now had a label - that I am a femivor. He had heard about this new word on NPR.

He told me that a femivor was a homemaker ~

gardener ~

makes things from scratch~

... is a canner, lives simply and frugally, spins, knits, and is usually an educated women who chooses home and family over a career outside the home.

That describes much of what I strive to be in addition to wife and mother of course. These are all of the skills and more that Plain and Joyful Living strives to promote, share, support and encourage. A new word, femivore, that maybe we'll be hearing more often in the days to come.
Here are some links to read more.
And here's a link to the blog of the woman who wrote the book that recognized this trend:
Warm wishes,
(Because our internet isn't working at home, I have had to postpone the Handmade Holiday post until next Monday. If anyone else would like to add their blog to the Handmade Holiday page, please let me know.)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Just Being....

... I envy her ability to do just that.

Friday, July 16, 2010

{this moment}

I've decided to join in with Soulemama ~

"A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. "

The Winner Is....

...using the random number generator, Laura Jeanne of Getting There.

Thanks again for all the wonderful comments and to Maya of Springtree Road.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Isaac Turns 12

Our sweet Isaac, caring and gentle, happy and confident, a lover of all things related to science, engines and gizmos. An avid reader - (enjoys the Warriors series, all of Beverly Cleary's books, National Geographic, Muse, Gary Paulsen books and so much more).

We are abundantly blessed to be celebrating this special day today - his twelfth year.

After his birthday breakfast out with Dad, he made his own birthday cake (which seemed to be lacking a bit of size once baked - hmm... wonder where some of that batter went), and now is off to the lake with family and two friends on this very hot, sunny, beautiful day. Chinese food (Isaac's favorite) will be picked up on the way home and his grandfather (my father) will have arrived from Massachusetts to join in on the celebration.

Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Poop - Fertilizer and Potty Training

There is lots of it around our home these days - you can hear various family members reminding guests, "Don't step in the chicken poop."

One of my tasks is to gather their wonderful droppings. I scrape the top of the chicken boxes as shown below ~

I also walk around and gather the poop droppings from the yard area ~

This is so important to enhance our gardens in the coming years.

There has also been a lot of the "p" word being uttered around here as Abraham is no longer wearing diapers - you can often hear my voice throughout the day, "Abraham, do you have to go sit on the toilet, do you have to go poop?"

(Thank you so much for all of the input in the handmade holiday post about teenage boys. I will compile a summary for next Monday as well as share from other's blogs and post a new topic.)

Warm wishes,

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Handmade Holiday - Teenage Boys

This is a topic near and dear to my heart as I have two teenage sons, ages 16 and 14 and another son that turning 12 this Thursday.
I have heard from others that are joining in that is hard to come up with things to make for this group. I agree!

Both of my older sons saved up their money and with the help of their grandfather, each bought themselves a lap top. My fourteen year old needs a carrier bag for his. I am imagining a crocheted bag in browns with a thick shoulder strap.

My sixteen year old loves scarves, so I will be searching for a nice pattern to knit up for him.

In addition, both boys have oodles of photographs from the last two years on their lap tops but they have never been made into photos. I will ask them to load up about 100 of their favorite photos on one of those little tiny memory holders (I don't know the correct term). Then load them up on my computer and when I am at the library, order about 50 photos each for them from an online photo shop and then put them in a photo album with a hand crocheted cover.
(so part handmade for this one)

They love food, at least they eat lots of it:) I will make them each a batch of their favorite recipe. Usually they have to share with everyone.

I do need more ideas, though.
If everyone will leave ideas in the comments and links to projects that will be wonderful. Also, if you would like me to add your blog to the list of contributing blogs, let me know that in your comment as well. Feel free to add the Handmade Holiday button to your blog. Next week's post, I would like to share some of your ideas for Teenage Boys and more links to projects.

Assignment: Fill in your Holiday Notebook with your ideas and write them in under the list of people you already made last week, and start working on one of the projects. If you don't have a teenager in your life to make for, please start researching handmade ideas for men.

:: Don't forget to enter the giveaway for a baby's vest hand knit of handspun wool as well as the leftover yarn ::

Thanks and warm wishes,

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Giveaway - Knit Vest with Hand Spun Yarn from Springtree Road

This was lots of fun!

I came upon this lovely blog and left a comment when Maya was offering a free skein of her beautiful handspun and hand dyed yarn to someone who would knit something from it from a free pattern found online and then blog about it. I have decided to take the giving one step further and offer the finished work to one of my blog readers.

First, let me introduce you to Maya, of Springtree Road, in her words ~
Springtree Road is about family and feeling connected to both the past and present. The actual Springtree Road is where I grew up: my grandparents’ house in Athens, Georgia, where I stayed after school and on most summer days. My grandparents were simple folks who gardened and built things, cooked and crafted. Before retiring, they both worked at the same textile mill together. My grandfather tended to the machines and my grandmother worked them to spin the fabric for the little bandages on Band-Aids.

So it feels like a lovely coincidence, a happy accident, a full-circle, good karma kind of thing that I would happen onto spinning yarn. I was looking for a way to ensure that I could stay home with my daughter and it fell right into my lap. Before that, spinning was always on my list of things I wanted to learn someday. Of course someday almost never comes, so I’m thankful for the unforeseen push that led me to pursue fiber as both an art and a business.

The best part is that I love it. I do it all myself – the yarn that you see in my shop usually starts as either commercial wool top or fresh off the sheep. I dye it here at home in very small batches (usually 4-6 at a time), spin it in my living room, photograph it in my backyard, and mail it out to you in yummy little yarn cakes that I wind up on the ball winder I keep in my fiber room. My 4-year-old personally hugs each package before we send it on its way. There’s a lot of love in what I do.

Next, let me show you which skein of yarn I chose from her beautiful shop - this was not easy.

~the yarn I chose, so amazingly soft and beautiful~

I knew that I would use one of my favorite patterns. This so simple baby vest found at the Thrifty Knitter. It was such a joy to knit with this yarn.

Here is the finished vest. It will fit an infant about 3 months - 12 months. Our family made the natural birch buttons.
To win the vest and a the leftover yarn that would be enough to knit a little gnome or baby hat, just leave a comment and to be entered twice, blog about the giveaway and leave another comment after you do.

The drawing will be Friday morning, July 16 at 7:00 am EST.

Many thanks to Maya for offering me the opportunity to knit with her beautiful yarn and The Thrifty Knitter for sharing the pattern.

Friday, July 9, 2010

From Garden to Table

We had purchased some organic bulghar wheat at the natural food store and I had Tabouli on my mind on this very hot day.

Skimming through my favorite cookbooks I came across a great recipe in the Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen.

So I took a stroll through our gardens to see what else I could find to include in the tabouli.

Here is what I found after a brief walk. I had already pulled, washed and grated some carrots earlier in the day to include in the salad.

~pepper, parsley and chives for the salad, the lavender and egg I put aside for other uses~

Here is the recipe I used for the Tabouli :

You should begin to soak the bulghar at least 3 hours before serving time. It needs to thoroughly marinate and chill.

1 cup dry bulghar wheat
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 heaping tsp. crushed, fresh garlic
1/2 cup chopped scallions (I used chives)
1/2 t. dried mint (I used finely chopped fresh mint, about 2 Tablespoons)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium tomatoes , diced (we didn't have these yet, so no tomatoes but soon)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup chopped cucumbers (didn't have these ready yet either)
1 chopped green pepper

1) Combine bulghar, boiling water and salt in a bowl. Cover and let stand 15 - 20 minutes.
2) Add lemon juice, garlic, oil and mint and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate 2 -3 hours.
3) Just before serving add the vegetables and mix gently.

Warm wishes, Tonya

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Branch Suns

We embarked on our own creative process. I encouraged the children to paint their own circles. We used birch slices.

As they painted their branches, my brain was swirling with the possibilities. The very tips of birch branches are these lovely multi-branch pieces. With holes drilled closely together around the slice, maybe a fuller branch wreath might take shape.

Here are the children's finished painted pieces. Today they are going to finish them up and we will screw them on the top of our rustic branch fence that borders a small portion of the pond.

Here is my piece that I left unpainted and applied our homemade beeswax oil finish to the faces.

~ I applied a bit of wood glue to the ends of the each branch before putting in the drilled hole. ~

Here it is finished and hung on the side of our home (the side you see as you drive up our driveway.

Warm wishes, Tonya

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hot, Hot, Hot

....but I am not complaining, no, we get very few days like these so no complaining is allowed.

So what do we do when it gets really hot?

Get motivated enough to make screens for the older french style windows that have heavy wooden storms without any screens.

Mike used some left over wood scraps and a roll of screen that was left here when we moved in.
Nothing fancy, but oh, to have more air flowing through our home.

Visit a craft and music fair and spend most of the time under the mist from the fountain.

Wash wool outside... the chicken is finding the wash tub handy for taking a drink from.

Play in our well's overflow water.

Stay comfortable and as cool as possible during these hot days but remember to enjoy the moments as well.

Warm wishes, Tonya

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Handmade Holiday

Every Monday I will be posting some thoughts, plans, projects, and links to other blogs that are joining in on making this upcoming holiday season one that is simple, light on the earth, and as handmade as possible.

I think a good place to start is with organization. Identify what works best for you. For me, putting pen to paper, cutting and pasting, and sketching helps me to solidify ideas, keep them orderly and also to remember them better. In high school and college I would hand write facts over and over again to study for exams.

Even while making things, I plan to buy as little as possible and when I do buy I will choose eco friendly products. Our family lives on a very low budget (below poverty level for a family of eight - but I can tell you, we are doing just fine). However, we do keep spending to a minimum. In addition, by buying less we are also being mindful of the environment. So, I am going to use an empty sketch book that I have had for some time.

This week I will be making my master list in the sketch book of those I would like to give gifts to. Even neighbors that may receive a basket of baked goods.

I will leave three pages blank for each of our children so that I can jot down ideas, cut and paste patterns, etc....

Throughout the upcoming weeks, as a thought emerges about something I think someone might like, or I see the perfect idea in a magazine or online, I will write it down under their name in my notebook and the source of the idea and possibly cut and paste or draw a picture if possible.

That's it for this week - get organized and make your list. Use your notebook or computer or whatever works for you, but the key is - use it!

Please leave a comment if you would like me to add your blog to the Handmade Holiday Page.

Warm wishes,

Spiritual Sunday

I am just loving, really really loving this book, "Strength to Love" by Martin Luther King, Jr. As I travel on my journey of being Quaker, I am in more and more awe of people like Martin Luther King Jr. who followed their leadings despite the incredible obstacles and dangers. Martin Luther King Jr., of course, was not a Quaker, but a baptist minister, however there are many parallels between his work for civil rights and the many Quakers that spoke out and actively opposed slavery.

The book I mentioned above, is filled with Martin Luther King Jr.'s sermons and I have been reading through them, absorbing them, and truly being filled with awe and admiration and I can feel the spirit moving in me that I must also listen and learn and act.

Here is an excerpt ~
The hope of a secure and livable world likes with disciplined nonconformists, who are dedicated to justice, peace, and brotherhood. The trailblazers in human, academic, scientific, and religious freedom have always been nonconformists. In any cause that concerns the progress of mankind, put your faith in the nonconformist!

In his essay Self- Reliance Emerson wrote, "Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist." The Apostle Paul reminds us that whoso would be a Christian must also be a nonconformist. Any Christian who blindly accepts the opinions of the majority and in fear and timidity follows a path of expediency and social approval is a mental and spiritual slave. Mark well these words from the pen of James Russell Lowell:

They are slaves who fear to speak
For the fallen and the weak;
They are slaves who will not choose
Hatred, scoffing, and abuse,
Rather than in silence shrink
From the truth they needs must think;
They are slaves who dare not be
In the right with two or three.

From Strength to Love, by Martin Luther King, Jr.1963

Friday, July 2, 2010

Summer Issue of Plain and Joyful Living

is done and copied...
so sorry for the delay.

This issue includes three guest writers - Elizabeth of Heartfelt Homemaking - writes about Oats; Suzanne of Blueberry Cottage - writes in her column, Over My Garden Gate; and my dear homesteading neighbor and friend, Pati, writes about poop:) Other articles include filling a hope chest and finding joy.

All new subscribers receive a little handmade goodness with their summer issue.
May it be a blessing to those that read it and please consider handwriting and mailing your thoughts and questions to share in the autumn issue.

Warm wishes, Tonya