Friday, April 30, 2010

A Cuddly Pillow for J

This morning it was just little J and I.  We worked together and made him this cuddly pillow.  We got it all done.  He is a happy little camper and an excellent pillow stuffer.  I did the embroidery first.  Then J. colored the ladybug in with Fabric Fun Pastel Dye Sticks.  It was easy for him to color inside the embroidery and he was very careful.  We heat set the cloth pastels by ironing it with a piece of paper over top.  It worked like a dream.  We'll use these again!  The embroidery pattern is by Jack Dempsey Needle Art of St. Louis, MO. (Made in the USA since 1949).  This is not an ad.  I just like to give credit where credit is due.  They have lots of easy patterns for beginners.

 I haven't sewn or stitiched in awhile so my blanket stitch is quite rusty.  But we had lots of fun.  James rolled in the stuffing and said, "It is like being in a cloud."  I agree.

  The cloth is part of a set of fabric bits from the 1930's.  We'll have to make a few more.  :)Yay!  I love completing a project.  Have a nice weekend! 

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Spring Gathering...

Yesterday, little N and I checked the buds on the cottonwood trees.  They were ready, firm, slightly sticky with thick yellow resin, and barely opened.  We live on a parcel with quite a few cottonwood trees.  You can spot them by their very rough bark.

I have heard several opinions on when to gather the cottonwood buds.  One person said that you should get them before they open and are still slightly frozen.  Another said that they should be half-open.  I decided to go with the middle of the road.  We gently threw a rope up and over the lower branches and pulled them to our height.  (These are some tall trees.)
And more branches....I love these trees!  We are always careful to take only a few buds from each of the branches and to spread our "gathering" out over quite a few trees.  We don't want to hurt the trees.

Here are the buds, ready to pick!

The resin (sap-like) is very yellow and sticky.  It is also very aromatic.  To me it smells a bit like tea tree oil.  My kitchen still smells springy :).  If you don't wear gloves be prepared to get sticky, yellow fingers.

I pick carefully through the cottonwood buds.  I put about a cup full of cottonwood buds into the top of my funky homemade double broiler.  This time I added about 1 1/4 c. almond oil.  (I have made this with olive oil and added a bit of beeswax after it simmers.  It ends up more like a salve.)  Cover and simmer on lowest heat for at least 2 hours.  Do not make this in your favorite pan!  It is a sticky mess to scrub when you're done.
Here is the double broiler and the cottonwood buds are ready to simmer.

When it cools I strain it into a clean jar.  You can use it on small cuts, scrapes, rashes and skin abrasions.  I like best to warm the oil and massage it into my wrists and hands when they get achy.  Hi family.  Are you picking your cottonwood buds there?  I hope so. :)  I now feel like spring is here.  Here is the finished oil.  I cap mine and store it in the fridge.  When I make the salve w/olive oil I store it in a cleaned, recycled tin also in the fridge.  My fridge is an exciting destination. :)  Try warming gently and massaging into achy wrists.  Happy Spring!
Finished Oil

Monday, April 19, 2010

Hooray! It rained!

Today raindrops were falling on my window pane and I loved every single watery droplet.  What a nice day to work on projects.  I finished up three things that have been waiting for me to get around to them.  First of all, here are some pretties from my desk.  Pink and green have been my favorites for awhile.  The inlaid stone came from Russia.  The piggybank was my Grandma Eloise's, the green glass vase, too.  The geraniums are from my inside window ledge.  All of my boys helped collect the pink and green stones from one of the local beaches and sweetly brought them to Mama.  The glass decanter in pink is an antique.  We got it in Seldovia, AK.  It says, "Courage," and is filled with agates from another beach.

Cheerful things on a Sunday afternoon.  I completed a saying that I found and wanted to hang.  Here it is:

 Sometimes I remind myself that good enough is plenty good. :)  and then breathe a sigh of relief. 

The boys love costumes..  There's nothing like a fake fur moustache to give you that macho old-time feel.  Here is young Zorro

Don't forget Wyatt Earp

And, a cleeew, Inspector Clousseau

I saw on the news that Fairbanks was 67* today.  Bring on the Spring!  Hope everyone has a good week.  Tomorrow I'm meal-planning for the week.  I can guarantee that we'll be eating fish since it is time to eat down the freezer before things go bad.  I love fish and feel blessed to have such good fishermen.  I'm down to my last bit of blueberries.  Wah.  This year I'll have to pick extra so I 'm hoping for a good berry year.  There was an article about making birch napkin rings in the paper today.  I think it involves powertools. :) 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Yogurt On the Cheap!

Hi, Sis, this one is for you.  For homemade yogurt I use a clean pyrex bowl with tight-fitting lid or corelle-type dish with lid.  The rubber lids are best.  Mix up 2 c. powdered milk into about 1 1/3 qt. water.  I also add a little whole milk (1/2 c.) because I like my finished yogurt to be a little creamy.  Add 3 tablespoons fresh yogurt (preferably plain).  Make sure that the yogurt you add as starter has lots of fresh and active yogurt cultures.  Whisk this all together really well.  You are spreading those cultures around and getting rid of the powdered milk lumps.  Fill your glass bowl or container almost all of the way to the top.  Like you would for jelly or jam.  Put it in a warm place for 12 hours.  If it is too runny let it sit longer.  You can put it on a heating pad set on low.  (If you're like me :) , make sure that your very old heating pad is not a fire hazard.  I'm on very old heating pad #2.)  Today, I'm trying mine on a trivet on the woodstove.  You want it to be pretty warm but not too hot.  You can double-up by using your crock pot to cook, leave more space in your crock pot and turn the lid upside down.   You can set your yogurt container on top of the upside down lid.  If I am baking I put my container on top of the stove burner that lets the heat out of the oven.  It should be hot enough that you can rest your hand there for a quick moment.  If it is too hot to do that, it is too hot.  When you're done let your yogurt cool and then stick it in the fridge.  You can use the yogurt you made as the start to a new batch.  After about 5 batches I get a fresh start.  Some people go more batches, but I like lots of cultures.  I mix this with juice for the boys sometimes too.  Sorry, lots of gab and little recipie.  Hope you are having a happy Saturday.  I'm off to label my soaps.     

Friday, April 16, 2010

Could It Be the Last Snowman of the Season?

The other day we received what we hope is one of the last big snows of the season.  There was enough new snow to make snow people.  Nico and Uncle John worked together and made snowmen.  The sun that came after the snow was very welcome. 
And yet another
photo with both happy snow sculptures...

By afternoon the large snowman's head had melted away.  Yep, it is Springtime!  We had some yummy food projects today.  The boys squeezed their own fresh orange juice and I made honey and whole wheat brownies and even snuck in some wheat germ.  Thanks to my sister, Rose, for the awesome honey.  It made lovely brownies.  We enjoyed our visit from Grandma and Uncle John and can't wait till they come again.  Lots of fun, food, card games, board games and good company.  Relatives are great!  Wish everyone lived even closer!  Happy Friday!

The boys had fun making juice.  I love it when they're so industrious.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Friday Before Easter

It's Friday night.  The woodstove is keeping it very toasty.  I only need to light it at night now.  In one more month I won't even have to light it at all!  The boys are all looking forward to Easter.  We'll color our eggs tomorrow night.  I hope the Easter Bunny has LOTS of extra chocolate for good mommys.  My soap came out very nicely.  I had figured out a lovely shade of pink, but forgot that my dried rose petals would change the color.  So, they're a lovely tomato red.  It is all for the best though because I mixed rose scent, apple and spices.  I'm naming this batch of soap "Spicy Love Apple."  I really like this organic soap base, a mix of palm and coconut oils.  I'm still getting bubbles.  I think I'm greasing the mold a little too heavily.  If anyone knows the answer, let me know.  Right now these little soap gems are curing on a rack in my bedroom.  Really enjoy the smell of scented soap.

What a beautiful evening.  It was 45 degrees F.  That's sure nice for Alaska in early April.  The sun felt warm and snow is melting.  I see that the squirrels have chewed my clothesline.  I don't mind much.  It isn't hard to fix and the winter is long.  Can't get to it yet anyway.  More snow has to go first.  I can tell that Spring is on her way.  The birds are happily chirping.  The large flies are hatching out up against the sunny side of the house and there are giant mud floodles (huge puddles) forming during the day.

James cuddled with Ratty today on the couch.  They're buddies.  Rats actually make very good pets.  They aren't as smelly as many rodents.  They're smart and aim to please.  We don't have them up here naturally so I'm not used to them being vermin.  We've seen three wild hares in the last few days.  The peninsula here is very much overpopulated by the Snowshoe Hare.  I really like to see them jump because with their extra long feet they can jump both high and far.  Here's James and Ratty.

In the winter sometimes the sunrises surpass the sunsets.  Here is a January sunrise from the backdoor.
  Hope everyone has a Happy and Blessed Easter.  He is risen!