The last days of summer

We’re down to the last week until school starts, which is rather late compared to most public schools. As much as I will miss our lazy mornings, I am looking forward to getting back into the school routine. My girls seem to benefit from routine as well, and they’re excited to get back to seeing their friends everyday. 

Nevertheless, we’re spending these last days the best we can.


It’s pretty incredible what Todd has accomplished in the garden this year. I’m sure there are a few things that will be changed for next summer, but overall we’ve had great results!
The tomatoes are brimming. We have 16 tomato plants, most of which are larger varieties that will be canned for soups and sauces


Our sunflowers have hit 12ft!


Green beans galore…


Some sweet peas with sweet potatoes…


Lettuce crop #4

And that mystery squash turned out to be buttercup squash, of which we now have quite a few. We’ll be curing these for eating throughout the winter.


We’ve also been faced with a new food challenge. Our oldest daughter has been suffering from eczema on her hands for a few years now. Per recommendation we are starting her on a wheat free and sugar free diet for who knows how long. Though this is a piece of cake for Todd, who is an excellent home cook and thrives on fresh ingredient, I’m in charge of breakfast and lunch and am generally more dependent on packaged foods (breads, crackers, etc). Our little lady is a bread lover, and though I’ve always tried to satisfy her cravings with whole grains and minimal processed wheat, apparently that’s just not enough. The “summer diet” of frequent burger meals and ice cream was certainly not helping either…

It’s been three weeks and one thing I have discovered thus far is that most “wheat free” supermarket foods still have sugar in them (especially breads!). Therefore it takes me twice as long to go grocery shopping, as I’m constantly reading food labels and putting stuff back. I am allowing her to have some honey or maple syrup here and there, and we’ve found that homemade ice cream with honey is just as delicious as regular ice cream. I also tried my first cauliflower pizza crust today with success. Feast your eyes on this yumminess! I went a little heavy on the cheese, but it was my first attempt and I’m damn proud!


It will be fun to share more of this adventure as we go along. How have you finished out your summer?

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The squash that took over the world

I seriously think this squash plant has world domination plans…

squash climbsquash garden

The funny thing is, we still can’t determine if we’re going to get anything off of it.  There are little squash buds just sitting there, not getting any bigger. Grow, damn you! We’ve even taken to pollinating each one by hand, so hopefully that helps. at least we know the plant itself is happy…

squash buds

Marin is very excited that the sunflowers she planted are now taller than her daddy. We’re looking at 8ft at LEAST right now.

sunflower todd

Gardening aside, the week has been an eventful one. With the kids in camp last week, immediately following our trip to SF, we’ve decided to make this one as chill as possible. As much as I’d love to explore and/or hit the pool every single day, the girls have actually asked to simply hang at home with the occasional play date. Such a request is always welcomed, but also requires a few projects to pass the time a little easier.

One such request that I get a lot lately is making cupcakes. Maybe it’s because my kids have discovered the show “Cupcake Wars”, which is extremely difficult to watch without having cupcake in hand, but I usually am able to find some excuse to make something else with them instead. After fielding the cupcake request for a solid five weeks, I finally caved. But why make a boring ole vanilla cupcake when you can make peanut butter ones. Yes, we went there…

cupcakes

I found the recipe here and followed it completely. I’m not a fan of shortening and had planned to sub it with applesauce and oil, but I found a red palm oil shortening at our local coop grocer and it worked great! The chocolate frosting was a huge success as well, though I think I’d like to try a berry frosting next time… kind of a peanut butter and jelly concept. The candy hearts were a local score from months ago, we have a shop in town that sells nothing but cake decorating supplies, I kid you not. As a result, we now have a ridiculous amount of these little sugar bombs in our fridge and I plan to start pawning them off on the neighbors within the next few hours.

Marin had wanted to make a splatter paint pillow that she has a pattern for in one of her sewing books. We had the fabric needed for such a project, but no fabric paint (I read online that you can make fabric paint from acrylics, but I didn’t have the Liquitex or glycerol to do so…). Keeping with our just chill in the house plan, we decided to break out a craft we haven’t done in years. Sharpie tie dye!

marin pillow2

I forgot how much I love doing this. It’s so easy too, you just need Sharpies, rubbing alcohol, a dropper, a plastic cup, a rubber band, and some 100% cotton fabric (t-shirts work too).

anja sharpie

I didn’t have a dropper, so I used a syringe.

sharpie td2sharpie td3

Though the temperatures are climbing once again, I’m trying to find time here and there to get some me-crafts in as well. No better time to knit than when the kids have their tablet time…

knitting coffee

And I’m still trying to decide if I like this shirt I made. I’ve made one for myself before (see Me Made May post here) and I absolutely love it, but something about this print isn’t feeling quite right. Even my nine year old thinks it’s too flowery.

blouse flower

I don’t know… what do you think?

 

How things grow while you’re away…

Good gravy! We’re gone for one week and the garden goes nuts!


We can’t even remember what kind of squash that is on the right, but I guess we’ll soon find out, eh?! 

SF was glorious. Another trip where I had too much fun to take many pictures. The cool, foggy weather was just what we needed, for as fate would have it, we missed a crazy hot and sticky week in Wisconsin! Sausalito is a wonderful town, and though I still believe we made the right move to leave when we did, I’ll always love coming back.

I did manage to snap some pics of my old stomping ground, Once Around. I had the extreme fortune to work here for almost 5 years, working my way up to sewing manager. It was by far the best job I’ve ever had. Who doesn’t love getting paid to shop for fabric? Alas, Once Around will be closing its doors on August 1st. Though my dream is to someday open a craft shop as happy as this one, that would be a huge feat…


The girls and I decided to bring home some souvenirs…


Fabric close up! The left pile is all quilting cotton. The right is a mix of canvas, denim, voile, and laminated cotton. 


And now we’re back, and baffled by how much a garden can grow in one week. Marin’s sunflowers are now about 8ft tall.


And the veggies we planted late are really catching up!


Oh, and I think these ladies missed us…

The making of a barn quilt

Barn quilts are awesome, and if you don’t know what they are, you probably don’t see as many barns as we do. Out here in Wisconsin they are relatively common, though I still encounter folks who don’t know what they are. Look out your car window, yo! Enjoy the scenery!

Anywho, I’d always told Todd that if we ever owned a barn I would hang a barn quilt on it… The barn hasn’t happened yet (maybe someday), but we have a chicken coop and that’s close enough!


Contrary to their name, these aren’t actually “quilts”, they’re wooden boards painted to look like quilts. Do a quick Google search and you’ll find an amazing variety of colors and patterns. Some even have images of flowers or animals. Anja wanted me to paint a chicken on this one… I patted her head and thanked her for the suggestion.

My barn quilt happened in stages. I’d originally wanted to use colors that signified San Francisco Bay. My colors were dark blue (for the water), light blue (for the sky), deep orange-red (for the Golden Gate Bridge), and light gray (for the fog). After sketching it out, Todd and I both decided the colors wouldn’t do…


The gray was too… Gray! And I didn’t love the red either. I wanted bright color, and more of it! After a few more test sketches I found something I was really proud of, and I got to work.

Todd graciously trimmed some scrap plywood to a 20″ x 20″ square. I would have liked it to be a bit bigger, but the sides needed to be easily divisible by 4 and using free plywood is better than buying a whole new piece. After sanding and priming the whole board, I set about laying down the quilt lines, using the sketch as a reference.


Once the lines were drawn, I used Frog Tape to block out certain sections. I blocked out the light orange and dark blue first, so I could easily paint the dark orange and light blue sections at the same time.


Wondering how I managed to get such neat angles cut in my tape? Why, I have a trick for that! I found that when I laid the tape over my pencil lines…


The tape picked up the line!


A little snip snip with the scissors, and voilà!


The painting was the fun part, I let the kids in on this one. I used exterior paints, since this baby is going to face the elements. Marin got a little crazy with the dark orange, but it was okay because I could just cover the mistakes with the next color.


Once the first colors were very dry (I waited at least a few hours), I just repeated the taping process, covering the now painted sections and revealing the blank ones.

I then forgot I was taking pictures of this… Oh, well.

After letting the whole thing dry, I coated it with a layer of polyurethane, just to be safe. Todd mounted it to the coop with two big screws, and there you have it.


The beautiful boat on our chicken run, the “Tiny Take III”, was built by my grandfather many years ago. We like that we can display it here and it also provides shade for the hens. Win win!

I also was able to make this little pouch for my cousin, Ginny, this week. Zipper pouches are such a great go-to gift, and the free tutorial from Noodlehead is my favorite.


Thanks for letting me share!

The busy summer (mostly in pics)

What a whirlwind. We’ve already spent a week away up north with family and are now gearing up for our big trip back to CA to visit friends. I won’t be blogging too much detail in the coming weeks, but will be posting pics along the way. 



Todd is busily pickling anything our garden grows in excess. It’s quite appropriate since Marin and I are deep into another Little House book series, where the Quiner family spends the cold Wisconsin winter eating pickled veggies from their root cellar.


There are endless opportunities for passing the time…



And then there are the gardens…


New Garden Bliss

It’s been so long! I am a bad bad blogger lately, but all for good reasons. Last week we had some of our closest friends from California come stay with us. My friend Erika later admitted that she had intended to lure us back to the Bay Area, but upon seeing our new home and town, she promptly gave up. We spent the week exploring what our region had to offer and, by the end of the week, they were Wisconsin smitten… Not enough to join us out here, but smitten nonetheless. It was a fun week indeed.

On a gardening note, it’s just about done…


We owe it all to our amazing builder friend, Pete, who cranked this all out in two weeks! And, though it’s a bit late in the planting season, we’re not wasting any time. Todd is filling all our new beds with cucumbers and peppers for pickling, San Marzano tomatoes for canning, berry bushes, late harvest greens and squash, and zinnias… Just because. 


We have a nice backdrop too. The mock orange and roses are open and fragrant right now.


I was able to make Erika a nice birthday bouquet right when the mock orange and elderberry bloomed. Good gravy, these smell awesome.


While most of the garden is still very new, we’ve been able to start enjoying what was planted in the original four beds. Our radishes are now the size of golf balls, and Anja has been gobbling them up like they’re going extinct.

It’s a happy garden 


That’s basil under our tomato plants. They like each other both in the soil and on the plate 😉.

On the craft front, I’ve been too busy enjoying our visiting friends to tackle any ongoing projects, but this week we were able to slow down and the girls and I have played around a bit. Old crafts were rediscovered…


Otter got some much needed play time…


And I’m still working on something special. I think I’ve revised it four or five times now, but it’s starting to look how I want it to look.


Happy Thursday. 

Summer is here!

That feeling of relief when you don’t have to get up early to make school lunches? Priceless. We have almost a full 3 month summer break and I am beyond excited. Pool, trips, visitors, lake… Not always in that order.

This past week was all about winding down


And finishing up some crafty projects


I finished the Wiksten tank in Nani Iro just in time for some 90 degree temps!


And I finished the throw pillow I made from the half square triangle block.


We now have a complete set of me made pillows in the living room. As much as I like the new one, the two made from Anna Maria Horner velveteen are still my fave. I would love to see her come out with velveteen again! So squishy…


Our builder friend has arrived and our garden is looking better by the minute!


Happy summer!

Venturing Out

Though it’s a little chilly today, Todd and I couldn’t wait to get the run finished on the new chicken coop. Granted, the coop is still not totally done, it needs some indoor and outdoor roosts and nest boxes. We also plan to add window boxes and a little special something  (stay tuned). So far I’m happy with the results.

finished run

It took the little ladies a little while to gather the courage to head out. I don’t blame them, they’ve technically never seen the light of day! After 10 minutes or so we finally saw some little heads poking out.

chicken explore

As you can see, we had to lure them with their chick feed a bit. As I type, there are a few out there right now enjoying the new space.

 

The peonies are finally in bloom

peopnies

I’m having fun with the arrangements, of which I am a complete novice, so be kind.

peony

In honor of our previous hometown of Sausalito, I posed a few with some of our Heath ceramics…

peony heath

Other new things growing around the yard… wisteria buds

wisteria

Day lily buds (and they are many)

day lily buds

Asparagus and garlic coming along nicely

asparagusgarlic

Now that the coop is functioning and the house is (mostly) clean, I have a date with my sewing machine and a few yards of Nani Iro double gauze… but that’s for another post.

Happy Tuesday 🙂

 

Playing around

It’s amazing what one can do with some half square triangles…

block7

I had a little time to spend in the sewing room yesterday and I’ve been meaning to make one more pillow cover for our family room. I liked the idea of just making a bunch of half square triangles with my scraps and then playing around with them until I found a layout I liked. The only problem with this plan is that I then get really indecisive on the layout. I should have known too, this is not the first spontaneous quilt block plan that has caused problems.

This is not even half of the blocks I came up with, but I kind of gave up taking pictures after a while. Although I had my heart set on something wild and elaborate, I decided on the top row middle block. I’m not sure why… call it a vibe? I also loved the look of the bottom middle block, but I think I’d like to try it with different colors. Another pillow! Anyway, I think the new block looks nice, now that it’s pieced and bordered with the last of my precious Merchant and Mills linen.

pillow top

 

Also new, THE CHICKEN COOP ARRIVED! Can you tell I’m very excited? It’s such a sigh of relief, being able to walk through my basement without wrinkling my nose in disgust. Word to anyone thinking of raising backyard chickens, it’s a wonderful and rewarding experience, but not for the squeamish. They poop… a lot… and it smells really really bad. I’m much happier dealing with poop outdoors than indoors, so you can imagine my elation.

coopTodd still needs to build their run (where the flags are). As much as I love the idea of free ranging our chickens, it’s not allowed in our town. I don’t mind, as I’ve seen how chickens can devastate a garden in minutes, and not all of our gardens will be fenced. We also won’t have to worry as much about predators this way, so it’s all good :). The birds don’t seem to mind, they have a bitchin’ new pad!

chicks in coop

I also made a few new discoveries in the garden today. Poppies! And these are the big kind, not the little California poppies that grow out of sidewalk cracks.

poppy

And I haven’t looked this one up yet, but I’m rather excited about it.

purple flower

Ah, Spring…