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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I_Blog Conference

See my new badge in the right-hand sidebar? I'm attending the I_Blog Conference this year! I would love to meet some of you at the conference. I won't be staying at the hotel, but I will attend each day's programming.

I read tweets about the conference last year, and as I've grown as a blogger here and as a webmaster for my homeschool business (gosh that sounds bigger than what I do), I really see the need to learn some things in order to be more effective. I'm also watching a lot of blogs evolve and thinking about my own blogs --  how could I make some elements of other blogs work for me? Similar to home schooling support groups, this is my continuing ed.

To attend the I_Blog Conference, I will miss the Iowa Honey Producers Association's annual conference (yes, we keep bees in our back yard), but I've never found much there for the recreational beekeeper.

Now for the obligatory photo. This is my youngest, a few minutes after she completed the Ankeny Youth Triathlon in 18:51.

Doesn't she look great with her chocolate milk? She wore this smile almost the entire race.

This shot is part of Darcy's Sweet Shot Tuesday. (I know, I'm always behind. It's Wednesday.)

Sweet Shot Day

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Justify the bargain

A favorite and frequently used quote from my early married days (17 years!) came from a dear gal in Texas, the one who told me that sure, I could home school. Love her. She said, "Just because something's on sale, doesn't make it right to buy."  So true.

So what adult-sized person in their right mind would wear a onesie romper? Um, hopefully no one. But we would buy one, as in my oldest child and I, because the price was right. She asked me, "Do embellished tank tops ever sell this low? It's cheaper than the ugly ones on the rack." $5 is excellent for a brand new shirt.
Knowing that this garment was made of knit T-shirt fabric helped make this purchase worthwhile. It means that once you cut it, it won't fray, maybe just curl up a bit. I told "A" of GAIN to buy it, then cut it once we got home. She had to try it on to check the length of the shirt. She reports feeling rather silly, like she was 2 years old. It took extra time to try it on because you have totally undress to put it on. And it would be long enough to work as a top. So she bought it, took it home, then cut it up. Sorry about Blogger rotating my pics.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Flannel it is

I chose to work with my stash and make the flannel comforter that I planned on making months ago. I didn't get all the fabrics in this shot. There are more than what you see here, including a blue camouflage, two dark pink prints, a pastel baby grid pattern, and a darling cow/farm print that was 75% off in the remnant rack at a chain store.

Cutting went pretty fast. I had more fabric than I thought I had. LOL I decided to cut 8" squares for two comforters/quilts. I will sew one and my youngest, "I" of GAIN, will sew the other. They will not be identical.

I thought I ought to start the flannel before the t-shirt quilt top because a baby gift should get priority over something that I want to make just for the heck of it. Also, I have all the supplies for flannel quilt top on hand. I need to constantly reduce my scrap pile. The pile is made of leftovers from things like pajama pants that "N" of GAIN smelted for Christmas 2009, other baby quilts, a Phrygian cap that I made for the fun of it, and jammy shorts from many years ago.

Why am I sewing? For baby gifts. To remain near my children instead of shopping at a store and overspending on an item that I'm not happy about. The act of creating a quilt defines my simple living today.

This post is part of the Simple Lives bloghop hosted in part by A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa.

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Decision Seize

I've stalled in my crafting for a while. I knitted for a couple weeks, then had a straight pin get taken to the underworld of my sewing machine. The nice man at Midwest on E. 14th  told me how to fix the machine, and I'm ready to sew now. (It took a _long_ time to file out that nick.) I have a flannel quilt I'd like to make since I conceived the idea several months ago. I even dreamed about it last night, and considered cutting fabric this morning, but this other idea keeps coming to mind. Since I first saw it Sunday, I LOVED IT. It's T-shirt material! Both sides of the quilt top look divine. I think I would stitch it by hand. I'm frozen in my decision!

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

More Wood Carving

My kids have done more crafting than I have this July.

The main project this week was a turtle. They retail, when finished, for $18 - 20. Some people carve the carapace and facial features, other do wood burning. Ours will be wood-burned later this weekend.

One more week to go with wood carving. Everyone has had a good time.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

For the love of carrots

Garden crafting has been on my mind a lot in the last month. I've watched my own garden struggle in its small space, and have been looking for other sunny areas to expand next year. Crop rotation and more diversity are on my mind. Mother Earth News had an article or two on edible landscapes/estates this year, and the concept really seems like the solution to increase the size of my kitchen garden.

I've grown onions along the driveway before, but that was just one year. That was as close as I've gotten to having an edible front yard. I replaced the veggies with perennials the next year. My perennials are taking more room, little by little, every year. When we moved here in 1999, my goal was to slowly decrease the amount of yard that needed mowing so that there would be less and less maintenance. Oh, I guess the chives count as both perennial and herb.

After I read about edible landscaping, my kids began wood carving class. While shopping for supplies at the Woodsmith Store, I HAD to walk through the garden section. I RESCUED transplants for "I" of GAIN's long-dreamed of herb garden, Thai basil,.and tomato plants from ending their lives prematurely. I had no idea where to put them, so I took only a few plants, but I had to do my part and keep them from perishing in their pots. I also noticed that the end of June meant that all of my town's HyVee Garden Centers were closing out merchandise in order to be gone in a couple weeks. I freed a couple heirloom tomatoes and 4 sweet potato transplants from their plastic pot confines for $1.50 total.

But where to put all those plants? Some of them ended up along the driveway. I'm thinking that this is a handy spot because I can walk out there and not worry about getting muddy feet. The rest were squeezed into the current kitchen garden.

I just finished Suddenly Frugal, by Leah Ingram. The section on 'lasagna gardening' looked like it would be a good way to transition into 2011's garden, while giving me a peek this year as to what the yard will look like. For a lasagna garden, you begin a season (or growing year) before you plant, by putting down damp newspaper, followed by layers of green and brown material. These layers (the lasagna) mellow and you get a nice planting bed once spring arrives. The plot is laid out before plants go in so you can visualize the space. "I" doesn't like change at all, so this is very good for us.

Here are my first photos of a small bed near her flower garden. It will be used for carrots, the only vegetable that she can stand to have there. Not that she eats carrots, but she likes the ferny leaves to play in. Yes, she is a kinesthetic/tactile child.

First, we laid newspaper on the ground, then added compost from our pile in the back yard. We didn't used to filter out sticks in the early days. We leave them out now, because they get in the way when we're retrieving compost from the pile. But we're not keeping out the pine cones. Pine cones will never be totally excluded from the pile because there are too many of them in the trees above to control their input.

I had to take a break after this layer was down. I had to visit a nearby Starbucks. Thank you, Suddenly Frugal for this tip. I knew from an area homeschool momma that businesses might give you their grounds to use in the garden, but the book put Starbucks on my radar. Starbucks recycles their coffee grounds.

This is the bag I was given. It was heavy. Yay for the double sacking.

And it's label was a nice touch.

Typically, the grounds are scooped into silver 5 pound bullet bags and deposited in a bucket near the front door. Calling a few different Starbucks locations showed me that every store handles grounds distribution differently.

"I" had fun with these coffee ground pellets.

Here is layer of coffee grounds on top of the composted material. I'll repeat as needed. Yay for an unflipped photo!


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Wood carving

Yay for me! I remembered to pack my camera. Forgot my broom though.

This is Jerry showing "G" of GAIN how to begin working on his Christmas tree. He also handed out extra trees and projects to my nephew and youngest child. You can see another instructor in the background with the other table of students. I think everyone is liking the class, instructors and students. I've gotten positive comments from both sides.

The boys working side by side.

They brought their geese along to show the instructors their work and to finish them with wax, spray, paint, etc. Our instructors have just gone the extra mile for us. We've gotten discounted tools ($10 vs. $17), sharpening and regrinding our tools, and sharing their tools. We're very happy.


Friday, July 2, 2010

Wood carving

If you're a home schooler in Iowa, I'm sure you've seen my numerous tweets (@threesisjulia) and posts about wood carving.(Three Sisters blog here) We had lots of lead time on this particular program. (That almost never happens.)

Last Tuesday, June 29, was our first class. It was excellent. Except that I forgot my camera. Next week I'll remember. >cross your fingers< The moms were very happy, as was I -- I've wanted to give this experience to my kids for years. Boy Scout camp give my sons 6 hours total over a week in its wood carving class. Girl Scouts used to offer wood carving at 6 hours a day for five days. But what if you want move beyond that? Enter the retirees.

Three retirees lead our workshops. They sit at your side if you need, and they have all kinds of experience. If you are looking to take up a hobby or to increase your knowledge about a hobby, seek out retired folks in your area. They like extra money, and it doesn't have to be much. They typically have tons of stash to give away. And they share their tools and have lots of connections for you to take advantage of.