Tuesday, December 10, 2013


As I mentioned in my last post, I've been sewing a lot lately, and one of my recent projects was Simplicity pattern 2246, the Lisette Traveler Dress.  If you do a google images search, you'll see that it was a popular dress pattern among home sewers.  There was one blogger in particular who made a very cute version. Although I don't often wear button down shirts, I somehow decided that I should make this dress. 


Because I knew this would take a good chunk of time and energy, and I really didn't want to make a dress I wouldn't wear (this has happened on more than one occasion, unfortunately), I made a muslin. Meaning, I made a sample dress in some random fabric I had on hand. Maybe I'll work up the nerve to show you that dress. The sample dress is hideous, mostly because the fabric looks like wallpaper. But I like my finished product. 

As you will see from my pictures, I didn't stray too far from the pattern when it comes to fabric choice. I'm not very good at choosing the right fabric for dresses (the main reason some previously sewn dresses did not look so great), so I decided to play it safe.


I bought a very lightweight denim and used the "wrong" side of the fabric (according to the way it was on the bolt) as my right side. Overall, I'm pleased with the result. I did make a couple alterations as well. I added darts in the back so that there would be a more fitted shape and I used 5/8 inch buttons instead of standard 1/2 inch buttons. One thing I would change if I made another is to widen the upper part of the back pattern piece. This is the second fitted garment I've made that is a bit too tight across my shoulder blades. So now I know for the next project.


The pictures aren't the greatest quality, but I'm not too picky. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013


I have been sewing like a mad woman lately. Canning season ended the other month and Dan has been working a lot of evenings, so I've been filling my time with some garment altering and sewing. As soon as I get some pictures, I'll show you my latest project (click here to see what pattern I used). Until then, let me show you one of my projects over the summer.

I spent some time this summer refashioning some of my skirts and dresses so that I would actually wear them. I had two in particular that I wasn't wearing at all, and I figured if I hemmed them shorter, I'd probably actually wear them.

Above is one of the skirts I shortened. I generally like maxi length skirts, but it was the wrong fabric for a long skirt. It's Shwe Shwe, purchased in Swaziland 10 years ago, and I sewed this skirt not too long after that. It's fairly heavy, because it has a tight weave and lots of white printing on top. Long summery skirts need to be lightweight and airy or else they're just too hot for me to wear in the humidity. Plus, it felt too loose and bulky at the hips. So I took it apart and made a shorter skirt with a different pattern. And here's the new version: 

It was a success! I wore it to a family wedding soon after finishing it.

And as a side note, I had to laugh at myself while I was shortening some of my skirts and dresses this summer. Remember when all those postings about modesty were flying around facebook? Here people were talking about how they began to dress more modestly, and I was baring more skin!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


I got my hair cut. I didn't actually cut off as much as I'd planned. Somehow I let the hairdresser convince me that since I like the freedom to not spend much time on my hair, I should keep it long enough to pull back into a pony tail. I think she was right, but part of me was really feeling like having short-ish hair again.

I go in spurts with my hair and over the past decade and a half I have alternately grown my hair out and then cut it short (I even cut my hair myself from time to time. I actually trimmed it the week before our wedding because I didn't have a hairdresser I trusted back then.). These past couple years have been the longest that I've had long hair.

A few hair cuts ago, I realized that I use hair cuts as a form of stress relief. Something about the change and having control over something. And sitting in a chair while some one washes, cuts, dries and styles my hair. I love it. My hair cuts are also fairly spur-of-the-moment. I go about twice a year, and I rarely schedule the appointment more than a few days in advance. So I was feeling antsy last week and so, voila!



Tuesday, November 5, 2013

For My Brother

A few weeks ago my brother asked me what my typical day or week is like. I found myself stuck trying to explain it, and when I did, I felt like I sounded like I don't do all that much. I know that's not true, so last week I decided to write down my activities for a day. Here goes.

6:30 - Alarm went off.
6:35 - Got up to exercise (Good morning, Shaun T!)
7:00 - Put towels in washer, hung up diapers inside on drying rack
7:15 - Mixed up baked oatmeal. Put in oven.
7:30 - Shower, get dressed, make bed. Elena wakes up.
8:00 - Oatmeal is done. Take out of oven.
8:01 - Pick most of the basil from the garden.
8:10 - Went back upstairs with Elena to get her changed after she used the potty.
8:25 - Ate breakfast with Elena (Edwin is still sleeping!).
8:30 - Edwin wakes up. Get him dressed. Strip sheets off bed so they can be washed. He eats breakfast.
8:45 - I start cleaning up from breakfast.
9:00 - Begin making pesto. (Kids help pick the leaves off the stem and wash the leaves. Elena escapes to her bed with Blankie Bunny when I start using the blender.
9:55 - Finished with pesto making/cleaned up. (We got over a quart!)
9:57 - Put the wet wash in the dryer.
10:00 - Redd up. Start getting ready to go to the Delaware Children's Museum (DCM).
10:05 - Kids eat a snack while I finish getting ready.
10:15 - Put sheets in washer. Make "to do" list for the afternoon.
10:30 - Leave for DCM.
12:00 - Return from DCM.
12:30 - Eat lunch.
12:55 - Clean up lunch.
1:25 - Clean up toys.
1:30 - Put chicken on to cook for broth.
1:40 - Put Elena down for a nap (diaper change, read a story, etc.)
1:55 - Naptime for Edwin. (also known as awake-playing-quietly-in-his-room-time) Read a story.
2:05 - Computer time for me. E-mail, pay bills, read blog postsetc. (sometimes also known as "waste time on facebook)
3:15 - Put sheets in dryer. Eat a snack while sitting and reading.
3:45 - Elena is awake. Kids get up. Eat a snack.
4:00 - Letter activity with kids. "E"
4:35 - Redd up again (I had to use this PA Dutch term, of course!). Tape some broken kids' books
5:00 - Patched moth holes in cashmere cardigan while kids played. Read a book to Elena. Spun Edwin around in the desk chair one time.

I stopped writing things down at this point. I can pretty much tell you that after that I probably took care of the laundry (meaning, it got piled onto the futon and remained unfolded for a few days), and started supper prep. Dan had been gone all day and was working that evening (residency is so much more than just the shifts he needs to work), so we had leftovers of some kind or another for supper. After supper, I cleaned up the kitchen, played with the kids or read to them and then we went upstairs for the bedtime routine which includes a bath (some nights), brushing teeth, pajamas, reading a story and singing a song. I would've had the kids in bed by 8 pm. I'm pretty sure I had a nice list of things to do for the evening, but I can't remember what it was at this point. Either way,  I don't think I did them. I sat on the couch and read instead.

So, there you go, brother!

Thursday, October 24, 2013


I've been bitten by the sewing and mending bug lately. Stitching up holes in Edwin's pants, mending torn seams in Elena's shirts and taking apart failed sewing projects from previous years in order to make something better.

The multi-tasking part comes into play because of where I've been doing this mending and seam ripping. Since we don't have much of a back yard to speak of we go to the park for a chunk of time every morning when we're home. The productive side of me does not like to sit on a bench doing nothing while my kids play in the leaves and dirt for a while, and I don't feel the need to join right in with their playing (I admit I have opinions about parent-free child play). So a while back I came up with a fabulous solution. I take along my crochet, or mending or seam ripping project, and after we're done hiking to what ever part of the park we're going to play in, I sit down and get to business while the kids run around, collect things, roll in the leaves and dig in the sand and dirt.

It's great because this is stuff I don't want to sit around doing at home (except maybe in the evenings) but it's perfect to be done in smaller amounts of time and it's okay if I get interrupted, which inevitably happens. And the kids are engaged with their surroundings and not clamoring all over me trying to "help." (No, sorry, you can't play with the seam ripper even though it looks like so much fun.)

I know this idea is nothing new: women have been using their sitting down time for knitting, sewing, etc. for centuries, but it was a new concept for me to take it to the park. Elena is now old enough to know what she's doing on a playground, so I don't need to be right next to her anymore and I have the freedom to sit and do handwork, if I so desire. So far the only time I've regretting taking my work to the park is the time when I forgot to bring it back home with me and lost an almost completed baby afghan and all but two of my crochet hooks. Otherwise, it's been really nice to use that time to be outside, give my kids exercise and get small projects done.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Tomato Canning

I have memories of my mom canning tomatoes and peaches when I was younger, but I don't remember helping with the process and I never thought much about canning until after getting married and having my own kitchen. Then suddenly, that Pennsylvania Dutch canning/preserving gene kicked in and I've been adding to the canning list ever since.

When Dan and I first started canning we consulted 3 resources: the Internet, my mom and his mom. And I must confess, when the information differs between sources, the mom methods usually win out (you'll see what I mean later.)

A friend recently asked me about how I can chopped tomatoes and tomato juice, so I thought I'd write a post in case any one else out there is interested. Unfortunately, I don't have pictures. I didn't take any while canning my most recent. Here's what I do.

Gather tomatoes and supplies:

Jars, lids, rings, salt, vinegar or lemon juice, canner, stockpot, basin, food mill (I have my mom's old cone-shaped one), funnel, large spoon and/ladle, cutting board and knife and a couple of bowls for holding the tomatoes as well as a smaller bowl for the skins and cores.

I first wash the jars I'll be using and have them ready. I put the lids in a small sauce pan and heat the water to almost boiling to soften the rubber. And you may want to note that I don't technically sterilize my jars. So far we've never had an issue, but I know I'm breaking a canning rule here.

Before canning chopped tomatoes, I remove the skins (although one year I didn't and the tomatoes were fine) by blanching them in boiling water for about 30 seconds. I then move them directly to a basin filled with ice water.

Then I cut the core out of the tomato and slip off the skins. Next, I chop the tomatoes. You'll notice I don't remove the seeds. I don't mind seeds in chopped tomatoes, and when I use the food mill most of the seeds don't get in the tomato juice.

If you are making sauce or juice, you don't need to skin the tomatoes. Just remove the core, and chop them up a little bit. Then put them in a stock pot and cook them until they are heated through. If it's juice, just put everything directly through the food mill. If you want sauce, let the heated tomatoes drain multiple times in a colander so that you can drain off the juice before making sauce (the more you drain, the thicker the sauce).Then you put them through the food mill. The food mill will remove the skins and seeds for you.

After I've chopped, sauced or juiced enough to fill my canner (7 quart jars), I start filling the jars. I fill them up to the neck of the jar. Then I usually add about a teaspoon of vinegar and a few grains of salt. My mom recommends the salt. She says her mom said tomatoes need a little bit so they seal better, so I do this partly just because my grandmother did it too. However, my mom maintains that some years when she skipped the mini dash of salt, her tomatoes didn't all seal.

I put the lids and rings on tight and place the jars in the canner. Here's where I break more rules. I only put water up to the neck of the jar. Just below the ring. Most canning directions tell you 2 inches above the jars. My experience (gleaned from past generations as well) tells me that's not necessary. And apparently, my great aunt used to only put a few inches of water in the bottom of the canner and would have to check to see if it was boiling by using a flashlight because she didn't want to take the lid off the whole way to check.

I bring the water to a full, rolling boil and then set a timer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes (for both chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce and juice), I take the jars out and let them sit, undisturbed, for 24

Here also, my mom recommends taking the jars out in a draftless room. So I close the windows and shut off any fans. I think I actually read this on some canning website, but otherwise, I never heard of it from anyone else. But, in honor of tradition and generational wisdom, I do it too. (Call me silly, if you want to.)

Want to know how the kids help? Edwin can take the blanched tomatoes from the cold water and put them in a bowl. He can put more ice in the cold water. He then helps set out lids and rings for each jar I've set out. He also likes to put the tomatoes into the jar using the spoon and funnel, and he's getting good at putting on lids and rings. Elena, well, she was able to bring me tomatoes to blanch. I actually saved most of the work for when it was nap time.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Putting Up

Well. Hello. It's been a long time. Anyone still out there? I'm actually sitting at the computer tonight, uploading pictures from the camera, and so I decided I should take the time to write something here and let you know what's been going on around here.

Summer season is in full swing. And by this I mean the preserving season. So far we've canned some sour cherries and frozen a boat load of strawberries and blueberries and a few boxes of roma beans. I'd have frozen the green beans by now too, but I forgot them at my mom's house earlier this week, so I have to wait until Dan brings them back here tonight.

If it wasn't for the fresh produce and the satisfaction I gain from "putting up" food for us to eat later on in the year, I think I'd struggle to enjoy the heat of summer. I can handle the cold of winter with a lot more cheerfulness than the mugginess. (Sorry LJL, I know we're opposites here!).

This year's freezing and canning process will most likely be a little crazier thanks to my two eager helpers. The last two years I only had one helper, so now I have to figure out how to do what needs done productively while preventing all the fresh food from being devoured before I can or freeze it. I figure, maybe if I let them "help" now, they won't know any different, so in the years to come, when they are actually capable of real help (Edwin's actually getting there this year - he competently filled the jars with sour cherries.), they'll just think it's normal. Right? Maybe?

Saturday, February 23, 2013


This could've just been a post on facebook, but since a very few of you might still check this blog every now and again, I thought I might as well put it here.

Yesterday morning this quart jar was filled with fresh, raw cow's milk. By yesterday evening, it was filled with yogurt. I haven't tasted it yet, but I'm excited about the prospect. Frankly, I'm just excited about the fact that I have yogurt sitting in my fridge that was made here at home All it required was 1/3. c. plain yogurt (the very last of a container I bought at the store) and a quart of milk we got from the farm last weekend. I used the candy thermometer I got for Christmas (so glad to have an accurate thermometer) when heating up and cooling down the milk, and then the jar sat in a warm oven for most of the day. And voila! Milk became yogurt.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Silence Unbroken

I've been silent on the blogging front recently. Is it silly that I find it too much "work" to sit down, upload pictures and then write about stuff? The things in front of me - the dishes, a sewing project, the mountain of laundry sitting on the chair in our bedroom, a braided rug that's taking me forever to finish, cooking a meal, etc - are what get first dibs (after kids, of course, can't forget about them.). I also don't use this as my spill-all outlet for my life. So some things that others might write about, I save for my pen and paper journal. Those are the real goods, but not for the public domain. :)

I also question the value of posting my crafts and projects. Don't get me wrong, I really like reading about and seeing what others are doing because I get great ideas or tips, but I find myself questioning the worth of sitting myself down to post my projects when I could be working on other projects or just doing what needs to be done. Or reading a book. Or exercising. Or watching Downton Abbey. I save so many things for nap time or after the kids are in bed and it just gets swept aside.

But Dan is at work right now, it's Sunday night so the laundry can wait, the kids are sleeping, Downton Abbey is over for this week (and it's a sad one, let me tell you), I had a nap this afternoon and don't feel tired yet, and I realized I can post about multiple things with the same photos. Perfect. I do like being efficient although I can't claim that skill in many other areas of life.

Anyway, Dan and I actually spent the better part of 4 days and 3 nights away, on our own while our kids hung out with our parents. This was a first for us. We hadn't been away alone since Edwin came along. So it was quite exciting. Dan had a conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico and when it was being planned I flippantly  (but not really flippantly) said he could go if I could come along. And that's just what we did. So here area few pictures to prove we were there. Now that we're back in cold northeast, balmy Puerto Rico seems like a dream.

Below you'll see us in old San Juan. Behind us is an old fort (el Morro). Old San Juan has a wall around most of it. It's a charming city that reminds me of an old European city. It's over 400 years old. We ate so much good Puerto Rican food while there. I'm hoping to find some recipes and make some here at home.

You'll also see two of my projects in this picture and the one below. I bought some knit fabric a while back (for no reason other than it was a cheap remnant and feels so soft), found a tutorial and free pattern online and so I made a simple skirt. I think it's one I'll wear a lot this summer. It's as comfortable as my yoga pants and will be so much cooler. I also made a maxi skirt using the same pattern but different fabric. Also incredibly comfortable. I don't have a closer picture but you can get an idea of what it's like from the website I got it from. Just a sewing side note: the knit fabric I used is pretty thin, so I followed the pattern creator's advice and cut the waist band on the small side (because thinner knit fabric stretches more) and cut the skirt pieces larger (because a thinner fabric will cling more. It turned out great.

Project 2 is the shoulder bag. It's reversible, but I don't have a picture of it the other way around. The paisley fabric is what is on the inside. I carried this bag on the plane and used it while walking around town in San Juan. The only down side I discovered is that the solid pink fabric bled some color onto my clothes. I did prewash the fabric, but perhaps I should've washed it at least one more time before using it. I got the pattern from this site but tweaked it. I widened the bag and slightly lengthened the straps. Then I put two tucks on each side so that the top is narrower than the bottom. I also added some interior and exterior pockets.

A street in Old San Juan. Many of them are cobblestones, but this one below happens to be paved.

A sunrise I didn't see because I chose to sleep in when I had the chance!


And just to prove I spent some time on the beach. Reading "7" by Jen Hatmaker. Pretty ironic to be reading that book while on a mini vacation in the Caribbean. 

A new sun hat.

The beach we sat on the morning before we flew back home.

 And I think that's all I'm going to take time for tonight.
Now you know a little about what's been happening around here.

Friday, January 11, 2013

One Year

This girl turned a year old a couple weeks ago, and I can hardly believe that her first year has gone by so quickly. What would I like you to know about Elena?

She's a busy girl. She's determined. And when she decides to do something, she does it. I'd say she knows her mind. Nursing is an example of that. She just up and quit a short time before her birthday. It's as if one day, she just decided that she was done. One day she wanted to nurse, the next day, not at all.

She's crawling everywhere but doesn't show much interest in walking. I'm figuring she'll start walking whenever she decides to, and until then, she's happy to zip around on hands and knees. She has no problem climbing, and if the stairs are open, she makes a beeline for them. I've also found her on top of the kids' table and the coffee table.

She's so aware of what's going on around her and doesn't hesitate to ask for what she wants. And when she crawls over to me and hold her hands up to me (her way of saying "pick me up"), it's basically impossible for me to not pick her up.

Elena freely gives me kisses and snuggles and is nice and cuddly. She's waving  and saying "bye" when Dan goes to work or when we leave her favorite stuffed animal in her crib. She's generally a cheerful, happy girl who occasionally throws in a temper tantrum just to let us know she's really serious about what she doesn't like.

I am so thankful she's part of our family.