Sunday, 29 January 2012

30 Second LEGO Cleanup

I've been stepping on LEGO parts for the better part of 20 years.  Oh yes, you heard that right.  

 20 YEARS!!!!!

After looking online at some creative (and intricate!) sewing solutions, I ultimately decided to stick to the K.I.S.S. method.  

Simplicity really IS best.

A simple circle cut from cotton twill (bought cheaply from a remnant bin), edged with bias binding to form a casing (a repurposed cotton curtain bought at the charity shop) was all it took.

We scrounged some cording from the garage and threaded it through to form a drawstring (Reece's contribution to the project).   The toggle was harvested off of a casted off garment ages ago and was put back into useful service on this project.

The mat forms a great play surface as it's a nice solid colour, making it easy to spot all those tiny little parts...  but the magic truly happens when it's time to clean up!

A 30 second fix - simply gather up the cording (drawstring fashion), secure the toggle to keep it closed, and store the closed bag (now sack) lickety split!

What I would have given 15 years ago to have something like this....

Edited to add:


Friday, 27 January 2012

Re-Working The Stockpile

We've had some change 'round these parts over the past few months with our 2 oldest boys leaving the nest.  I was faced with the reality of 3 VERY large pastured beef pot roasts in the freezer that I knew we wouldn't use up anytime soon.  They had been languishing in said freezer for close to a year so it was time to use it up before freezer burn set in.  Excuse the darkish photos, but I started this project late afternoon...

I used the meat grinder attachment for our Bosch mixer and quickly ground up all the meat.  There was this whole large cookie sheet plus half of another one.  Because I couldn't re-freeze it raw, I chose to fry it all up and freeze it in meal size portions.   All told, this project took me 90 minutes (not hands on the whole time) but will save me LOTS more time over the next 3 months.

I ended up with 12 packets of cooked ground beef for the freezer (approximately 1.5lb each), not including the amount we reserved and mixed with my home canned spaghetti sauce for supper that night.  I chose not to season the meat when I fried it up so that I could easily use it for any purpose, seasoning it at the time of incorporation into a meal.

These little packets will make suppertime a breeze on busy nights...  they'll defrost quickly due to their shape, and I can pop them into casseroles, chilli, stroganoff, pastas, tacos, etc.  Such a time saver!

We've ground our own meat many times before and I love doing it.  It's a great way to control what goes into the finished product (quantities of fat, cuts of meat, etc) and we have total control over cleanliness.   No fillers, no nasties...  just lean, healthy meat.

We've also ground our own meat for sausage making which is wildly successful and frankly really easy, not to mention D.E.L.I.C.I.O.U.S.     But... that's another post for another day :)

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Winter Breakfast

Oh the simple joy of topping morning oatmeal with home canned peaches eaten by the soft glow of candles...  such decadence first thing in the morning!  I had the forethought to save the peaches for January when I knew we'd be desperate for the sunny flavour of summer.   Talk about starting the day off with a smile :)

Joining us at the table was Squeaker the cat and Melissa and Rosie (the ever present dollies wearing hand knits make by Grandma Lynne).

And let us not forget Lincoln....  watching carefully for the inevitable crumbs :)

Oh, and yes, these are the chairs!  I did get them finished in December - all 10 of them....

Monday, 23 January 2012

Meeting Needs

One of my goals for 2012 is to make more of the items we need.  I'm slowly breaking the habit of heading to the store when we need something - instead, I'm heading downstairs to the sewing table to try to create something to serve the purpose - like Grandma used to do :)

I created this tea cozy by loosely following a Christmas patterned one that I already had.  
I used leftover fabric from the apron I made for myself a few weeks back and I insulated it with new cotton quilt batting that I bought at the second hand shop recently.

 Next up was pot holders.  Mine are so stained from years of use and thin from much laundering.   These new ones were lined with flannel from an old baby receiving blanket simply cut into squares and stacked until the thickness felt right.

 I quilted in straight lines, along the lines of the fabric, so the whole project was pretty quick.  The hardest part was the bias binding, but I'm slowly getting the hang of that.  Practice, practice, practice ~ I'm not sure how to make mitred corners though...

It feels really good to make instead of buy.  Control over materials used, cost and function... it all adds up to produce a quality end result that brings great satisfaction!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Mending a GREAT Find!

A recent valuable find at the thrift shop...  a Youth MEC down coat in nearly new condition!   These coats sell for well over $100, so I was thrilled to pay just $14.99 as it will be in use for 3-4 years between our 2 youngest kids.  With our frigid winters (-40C recently!), down is the absolute BEST for keeping warm while being lightweight and comfortable.

The only flaw - 3 TINY holes from fire sparks landing on the nylon...  easily repairable!

I hauled out the manuals for my machine (Mom's old 1970's Husqvarna) and got busy learning how to use the darning foot.

Turns out it was WAY easier than I thought and the whole operation took less than 5 minutes!  It's truly shocking how I can make these tasks out to seem so "hard" in my mind ~ fuelling my procrastination.

You can see the stitching in this close up, but from any distance, none of the 3 repairs are visible :)

The coat is now repaired, washed and put away for next winter when it will likely begin it's faithful service.  The weird looking sheen on the coat is purely from the flash - the coast is in pristine condition!  

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Care Package

   3 hours baking 3 kinds of cookies = ONE happy son

             Sent via Ian's friend who decided to join him in the Land Down Under!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

A Spot Of Sewing

Hair ties (can anyone tell me HOW to sew in a perfect tiny circle?) 

A blanket for Ciara (sorry, it took so long!)

and at long last, Paige's Mrs. Claus nightie...  a bout of bronchitis right before Christmas levelled me out and I couldn't finish it.

More in the "nearly finished" lineup...


Sunday, 15 January 2012

Serving Rainbows For Supper

Roast (locally raised) pastured chicken with gravy, our garden Chantenay carrots from the "cellar", purple potatoes once again from the "cellar" (courtesy of our "Blue" potatoes cooked and mashed with the skins on), and peas (sadly store-bought as we've eaten our garden pea freezer stash).

Served with bright red raspberry cordial (homemade) I'd say we made a colourful show of the meal!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Vintage Thread Love

Have you ever handled vintage thread?  My, my, my...  such quality.  Even the best shop brands pale in comparison to this lovely stuff... and the wooden spools?



 I was given Grandma's sewing kit when she moved 2 years ago.   She can't see well enough (at nearly 92!) plus she has us to mend for her now  :)

Even the pins are better quality.  Straight as an arrow, strong, sturdy and serviceable.  Nothing at the shops comes even remotely close.  

That's it - I'm on a quest for vintage sewing supplies...  thrift shops, here I come!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Effective Homemade Deodorant

As part of my plan for stretching myself in 2012 and continuing to reduce the chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis - I'm working to create more of the things that we use regularly.  Deodorant was one of those items that I really wanted to try making, but never seemed to get around to doing.  Oh, that procrastination and how it has held me back!

This project could NOT have been easier.  It took me less than 5 minutes of hands on time, and the result is way beyond my expectations.  My 14 daughter was very hesitant to try it but even SHE is converted!  I can honestly say that this recipe works better than store bought, and all without nasty chemicals.  Yeah!

Give it a whirl and let me know what you think :)

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Eye Candy

Beauty abounds in the kitchen today :)

                    hearty soup simmering with nearly all homegrown ingredients...
(I'm still astounded each time I pull home canned broth and stewed tomatoes from my pantry shelves!)

whole wheat banana muffins and bread made from organic wheat harvested a stone's throw from my kitchen

Kascha Rolls (Cherry Rolls) from my vintage Mennonite Country Cooking book using our canned cherries (again from the bounty of the pantry)

                              fresh citrus cleaner "brewing" on the windowsill

It's the simple things that please me now... the natural beauty in handmade things is incomparable..... this really IS the good life :)

Friday, 6 January 2012


Staying on top of mending has never been a strength of mine.  Once again, I procrastinate and when I finally get to it, usually the children have outgrown the clothes! I challenged myself to do it yesterday before the pile got any bigger...

                                           a missing button back in place

                                     my very first attempt at darning a sock

                                                 hubby's sweater repaired

 This old blue heating pad cover was pilled and stained and reminded me of a hospital,

                                      so a new one was made.  Much better :)

          At long last, a decent hem job on my new jeans that I bought in the FALL!

Overcoming procrastination is a huge challenge for me.  I have lots of good intentions, but never see them through, so it's high time I broke that habit!

Have you done something "hard" today?

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Raspberry Cordial

In keeping with my goal of doing new/hard/unfamiliar things in 2012, I bit the bullet and made Raspberry Cordial yesterday.  I used Rhonda's Recipe and I couldn't have been more surprised as to how fast and easy the whole process was.  It confirms what I've suspected for a while now - that thinking about and fretting over doing something new is actually MORE time consuming and difficult than actually DOING something new!


The berries were picked free of charge this past summer in response to the "Fruit Wanted" ad that I placed on our Freecycle network.  Once I had picked enough for jam, I continued picking to freeze some for winter use.

After just a few minutes of actual hand on work, the resultant cordial was richly coloured and full of flavour - perfect for delicious and refreshing drinks.  It's teen approved - which is great news for the budget and our health. Commercial pop is full of nasty things I'd rather we not ingest, so I'm highly motivated to expand my efforts in making a variety of homemade drinks, eliminating the need for buying sodas, pop and other commercially prepared drinks.

We re-used an orange juice jug leftover from Christmas brunch and filled it halfway with our cordial - all in all close to 2 litres of concentrate was the result of our efforts.  Diluted in tap water or sparkling mineral water, I'm hoping it will last the 2 week fridge life although I have my doubts ~ it's DELICIOUS!

Monday, 2 January 2012


Ushering in a New Year has long been a much loved process for me.  It is a time of natural renewal and reflection and I LOVE the fresh breath of energy and creative thinking that comes as the result of the natural pause at the end of the calendar year.

Reflection is so much more than a fond look back... for me, it is an important catalyst for change... an inventory of mind, body and spirit.  I use this time of natural reflection to dissect the year and make decisions about what I need to do differently in the year ahead.  Not just in my own personal life, but also for the family, the household and our land.

I firmly believe that we have tremendous power to change. Instead of hopping right back onto the "hamster wheel" that my days can sometimes feel like, I am purposing to make thoughtful changes in my days.  Changes that will improve efficiency, create more peace and margin and most importantly STRETCH me in new ways.

I am hungry for more.

More learning, more experiences, more energy, more joy, more purpose, more confidence, more challenge, more skills, more meaning, more independence, more success, more passion!

My one and only change this year is to Do Hard Things.

Instead of doing what's comfortable, I'm going to do what's UNcomfortable.

Instead of reaching for the familiar, I'm going to reach boldly into the unknown.

Instead of sticking to what is safe, I'm going to take a few chances at trying new things...

That should do very nicely :)

Well, hello 2012 :)  Let's see what we can get up to, shall we?