I decided to get an iPad when the most recent one was released. I don’t have a laptop of my own, Jacob and I share one, so I planned to use it mostly for work stuff. It has been awesome. I read and annotate papers, show presentations, and while I’m presenting can easily switch between my papers and presentation. I like typing notes from a meeting on it but haven’t yet figured out how to best take notes, if I want to hand write or draw it is a little more difficult. But I’m really enjoying my new toy, I mean tool.

I bought the smart cover at the same time but didn’t feel comfortable putting it in my bag with all my spiral-bound notebooks. This was made apparent by the trip Jacob took into new York city with my iPad, I was worried about him not having a good way to store it during his travels. So while he was gone, and Anna was napping, I whipped up a little pouch for it. I quilted some beautiful fabric together and just sewed up the sides. I attached some sew-on Velcro and made a flap to keep in the iPad. I love it, my iPad is always in it. I feel more comfortable about carrying my iPad around and acting normal with my bag rather than treating it delicately. I didn’t put an extra layer of felt and some lining in like I have seen done because I’m not trying to protect it from a drop or anything, just from typical scrapes and scratches.

iPad Case

One friend at work asked if I made my cover, then followed up the question by saying that it looked like one of those items made to look homemade, I’ll take that as a compliment because of course my off-center closure was on purpose!

Jacob has been reading a lot more recently and was reading on my iPad every second I wasn’t using it. So we got him a kindle fire to read on and he loves the convenience and all the free books he can now get a hold of relatively easily. He asked me to make him a case too so I did.

He didn’t want any closures so I had to make it a tight fit and stiff enough to hold the kindle but with enough give to release it with easy. Explaining it makes it sound like I did a lot of measuring, on the contrary I did a lot of eyeballing and finger crossing, but it turned out just right. A few weeks back Jacob accidentally felted a sweater in the dryer. It was way too small to ever wear again but I saved it from the trash with a promise to find a nice use for it. He requested that I make his cover out of it, I have to agree the colors and pattern are perfectly masculine. Instead of quilting, Jacob’s cover is based around a very stiff felt pocket and lined with a canvas-esq material. I struggled figuring out how to sew the sweater without stretching it. I ended up using a basting stitch to keep things straight then going over it and zigzagging beside it.

The tight fit of the lining combined with the bulk of the sweater made for a very pin-full connection of the two, which just goes to show how much I love my husband. On top of that I had to pin it up twice because I sewed the lining to the wrong side of the sweater. Wait, this project involved pins and seam rippers and Jacob still ended up with a kindle sleeve? Yep I’m just as amazed as you are, must’ve been the manageability of such a small project that kept me going; I finished it in just a couple of hours mostly during a nap of Anna’s on a Sunday afternoon. Miraculously, everything fit together and Jacob is very happy with his new accessory, and I love how much padding the sweater provides. Our devices are useful and fun but now look great in a pinch of homemade love.

I now have an allowance.  My husband quits his job and all of a sudden my crafting is the first thing to be budgeted, sheesh.  Ok so it isn’t really like that.  This last week at home has had me torn several ways: excited to go back to work next week, depressed my “summer vacation” is ending, enjoying my child’s smiles, hating my child’s screams, feeling like I should have a clean home before I go back but wanting to craft all over ever inch of the apartment…you get the idea.  Well, Jacob cheered me up with some guilt-free spend money, the catch was that it was only a few dollars.  See his post to get the details on my new allowance, but the just of it is that we each get $6 a week (handed out at FHE) to spend on goodies like vending machine treats or small projects.

I had a blast finding ways to stretch my little amount of money.  My first day I spent 36 cents on a piece of felt to make a horse for the book I’m making.

On Tuesday, we went to Michael’s to see what else we could find to splurge on.  Jacob got the equipment to make a cup out of plastic canvas that we’ve been planning for a while and I found some knitting needles in the clearance section for only $2.  It inspired me to run home and cut up some t-shirts, make yarn and figure out how to knit.  Last week we had a wonderful Relief Society activity about finding teaching moments in our lives and she used crafts as her object for the lesson.  We made a vase out of lightbulbs and finger-knitted some bracelets.  It really revived my love of wrist decorations, so I ran out and got some shirts to make yarn to make some more bracelets, but I can also use the yarn to knit with.

I watched some videos on knittinghelp.com and off I went a-knittin’ away.  Using two needles, neither of which have a hook, is a bit harder for me than crocheting but I love the way the stitches look.

With all this excitement over my new allowance, I decided that spending my dollar coins out of a plastic bag was just silly; a coin purse was required for money handling.  I saw this tutorial ages ago but wasn’t sure I needed a purse that size.  Now I know I do.  It is just perfect for my little bit of change.   I didn’t quite have enough money to pay for the purse frame but Jacob printed off a JoAnn’s coupon for me which cut the price down to $2.40.  Now I still have some coins left over after a week of crafting.  I’m thankful too, because who would want an empty change purse, even if it is a cute as this one?

I was amazed to see how far my $6 went.  It helped with three different projects. At first I laughed at the amount but half the fun of the money was getting the most out of it.  I’m sure I’ll still enjoy spending it on a soda every now and then but this week I really got my money’s worth.

My husband encouraged me to start writing down my ideas. I have a bad habit of telling myself I lack creativity. I decided to start a mini blog to collect some ideas, mainly for projects of a crafty nature but I might put other things up as well.   While perusing etsy, one of my favorite places for inspiration, a seller named PaperFish caught my eye with her felt needle books held together with a book ring.  They are super cute and I felt the need to make a little book for Anna just like some of hers.

I decided to make a little book of animals.  I’m still not sure how many pages my book will have or even any of the details of the final result.  But I’m starting small by a little bit of embroidery and applique (when I can squeeze it in between feedings and cuddle time with my newborn).

I’m so grateful for Jacob who encourages me in all my creative endeavors.  I probably would not have run out and bought my very first set of felt sheets without him.  I bought about $4 worth of felt and set out to make my own patterns for the animals.  I also invested in a new thread organization system for my collection.  My plastic baggie was just not cutting it.  I love the ring, and how compact yet accessible my collection is and especially the fact that I don’t loose the second piece of 3 strands to a tangled mess but can just put it back on the spool.

Plus, it looks quite pretty, eh?  Anna and I had a good time designing some cartoony animals and stitching them down.  I think it will be so much fun to have a little book of animals.  I’m really enjoying the simplicity of working with felt, no seam allowances and the fabric is very forgiving for aplique.  However, a pretty running stitch has eluded my work as the thickness prevents multiple stitches to be made a once.  Maybe with practice I will gain the confidence to use contrasting thread colors, who knows.

Jacob and I decided to switch around our extra rooms in our house.  He had a cute dark work room outside our bedroom which we kept warm via a curtain hung between the office and kitchen as there is no door.  But we decided we wanted our cute baby (ETA May) to be closer to us than through the office and the kitchen and the dining room.  I hope to get more creative than a sheet hung for quiet and warmth for our baby but we have a bit of time to plan for that.

Jacob took over half of the second bedroom, easily the largest room in the house which is our craft room/guest room/everything else room.  But we cleaned it out so it is just my sewing things, our “media center” (aka wii station + radio), and his office.  The room looks amazing now that we’ve hung some pictures and even Jacob’s plant.  And with the two large windows will do great wonders for our moods I believe.

I couldn’t help much as my pregnant back gets tired easier than it used to,  so I just covered his “monitor stand”, which is a fancy term for a ream of paper.  But who wants to stare at a pile of paper? Inspired by all my Christmas wrapping, I just folded a piece of fabric around the ream and taped it with packing tape on the bottom so it isn’t too visible.  He is happy with the slight kludge, and it was the least I could do for all his hard work.

I started back to school today, so this will probably be the most crafting I do any time soon but Jacob just got some new woodworking tools so maybe I’ll share any fun thing he gets around to making.  Happy New Year!

When I first unpacked my sewing materials I cranked out a few cute birds.  I have yet to write about them because I have yet to perfect them but I decided they would make good Christmas ornaments (once I figure out how to attach them to a tree…).  That got my mind thinking about other ornaments I could make.

Jacob bought me a giraffe ornament for our very first Christmas when we were dating.  And our first Christmas after we were married he got me a jiggly turtle ornament.  I love my ornaments but in the hecticness of the holiday right before we were married there was not an exchange of ornament.  So I made one to remind us of that beautiful January a year and a half ago.

I don’t remember doing much hand embroidery as a child.  I wasn’t quite patient enough for almost any kind of handwork.  But I did remember some stitches my mother (who is AMAZING at embroidery!) taught me so I just took an idea and drawing I made and drew it with thread, freestyle.  It was really fun!  The stitching took me so long, all of one morning actually.  But I think we look adorable in stick-figure form.

Once I made up for our missing year of ornaments I decided I’d better get a jump start on this year, especially considering we are actually going to have a tree this year, yay!   The second ornament is inspired by these amazing ornaments. I’m not quite that pro yet; I can’t really sew a decent circle.  But I had fun making my wonky version and love the outcome.  Although I machine stitched the larger heart ornament, I practiced my hand-work by attaching the back of this one by hand.

I love ornament that have a personal touch, either homemade, a gift, or something I like, animals, sports, pictures (is it weird to have pictures on the tree?).  My sister collects older ornaments from garage sales and thrift stores.  She finds the cutest stuff like bears on sleds.  I also have a friend who collects ornaments from all her vacations.  I would love to hear how you like to decorate your tree.  Do you like it all to match?  Do you have a theme like festive wreaths and stockings or a color like blue?

Jacob has been dreaming of a use for all the free electronics he snagged a few weeks ago on freecycle.  The collection included a tape deck, a retro reciever, and a pair of speakers.  This past weekend we searched our local thrift stores for a bookcase or a desk maybe with a hutch to set up our new digs on.  At a local goodwill we found an old entertainment center.  It wasn’t too impressive but it was just the right height to put a monitor on for some video game action (for all two of the video games we own, ha).  So we brought it home and decided to freshen it up with a few coats of paint.

Here is the before, minus the cabinet doors on the bottom.  We had already yanked them off and tried to spray paint them.  The red spray paint looked pink so we switched up the game plan and painted it with brushes.  In the home improvement store the paint shopping went like this:

Me: How about this one? (dark red)

Jacob: Ok.

Me: Oooh what about this? (Dark blue)

Jacob: That looks great.

Me: I am quite a fan of this though… (Bright Bright Bright Blue)

Jacob: I like that one better than the one before.

And in 30 seconds flat we picked the brightest color our house has ever seen not on a canvas.  I made sure, though, to in my head blame Jacob for the color choice since he made the “decision” (i.e. made a comment that encouraged me to stop picking up color samples), just in case it turned out to be horrible.

After

Thankfully, it did not.  I love how the hardware looks on the front.  And now that Jacob has set it all up with our radio and such sometimes we just walk in there to admire our handiwork, haha.  Our second bedroom has now be renamed our “play room”.  Maybe just because of the color choice alone.

We are now really happy with this purchase.  At first we were worried about another piece of used furniture to add to the apartment of misfit toys but with a bit of love and attention this turned out great for two reasons 1) it isn’t ikea (boxy particle board with a paper front) and 2) that blue goes with everything, or rather nothing and by doing so everything! Well and maybe a 3) Jacob and I worked on it together, we love team work.

I was browsing the web just yesterday, while my Jacob was napping all afternoon and evening, and started falling in love with handmade purses.  Now I’m not really a purse girl, I mean I use one but by one I mean one.  I don’t have a crazy collection, one for every outfit or anything.  But some of the purses I saw are so cute and useful.  During my browsing I found a simple tote bag tutorial on Sew Mama Sew.  Since I’ve never made a bag before simple was important.

I haven’t yet unpacked my craft corner.  I’ve been looking for a sewing desk since I arrived here in Connecticut but haven’t found an acceptable one yet.  But today, after church, my man fell back to sleep for the afternoon again so I decided to rip apart our second bedroom looking for all the equipment for this simple project.  The only thing I never found (yet) was my long 6″x24″ quilting ruler, which would have been uber handy.  So my project may not have ended up perfectly square but that’s alright for my first try.

I whipped this up during Jacob’s nap.  It was hours long so don’t think I’m bragging but some instant gratification is an awesome motivator to get back into project mode.  The tutorial was great and easy to follow.  I left out the pocket for simplicity.  And although I had never used french seams before, I didn’t feel like pulling out my serger too yet so I went along with them.  I actually really love how they look in this unlined tote, definitely the way to go.

I think I’m going to use this as my new Sunday bag.  I’ll be teaching a primary class again so I need something for my binder and crayons.  I really love how the handles are the perfect length to fit over my shoulder for a purse feel or I can hold it by my side without it dragging like a typical tote.  Happy Sunday!

Gravy = 1 part butter + 1 part flour + all the flavor you can stand!

Today I made a crock-pot chicken.  Whenever you cook a whole bird or a large cut of beef or pork, there are plenty of juices left over.  I try to save these juices for use in soups, stews and gravies.

I removed the bird from the pot and deboned the meat.  But all of the juice was still in the pot, I just strained it (so I don’t get large chunks of skin or bone) and did my best to scoop the fat off the top.  Using the juices the next day is optimal because the fat solidifies in the refrigerator and is very easy to just scrape off; but who makes turkey the day before Thanksgiving, for instance? So just get creative or ignore the fact that the liquid is nearly half fat, eek.

But that juice is approximately 100% flavor.  Amazing, I say.  You won’t need chicken broth for chicken soup if you have a cup or so of that goodness.  But gravy is not just flavor you see, it is also texture.  And the perfect texture, for this house at least is a 1:1 ratio of butter to flour.

2 Tablespoons of each butter and flour will make a meals worth of gravy for a small family.  Just melt the 2 T of butter in an omelete pan (or whatever you heat up your spaghetti sauce in) using medium to medium low heat.  Once it is melted add your 2 T of flour, and WHISK!  This is the base for a white sauce but instead of milk or cream, we’ll add that flavor, the meat juices.  Milk does increase the creaminess of the gravy and spices can be added (if your meat wasn’t heavily seasoned), but I tend to just leave it be.  Add as much juice as you want to attain the desired consistency, and that you will have to find out for yourself.  Jacob likes it quite thick so I’ll only add a cup or so of liquid, but I would say 2 is more normal.   This is another kind of food I love because I always have the ingredients on hand.

I grew up on the taco seasoning packets.  You just dump it into your cooked meat and bam, the smell of tacos fills the whole kitchen.  Very convenient, however last night as I was browning the meat I realized two things: 1) I don’t have a packet, and 2) I probably have all the right stuff to make it anyway.  I know I have cumin the main flavor of Mexican food (at least the variation I’m inclined to) and so I decided to find a decent replacement.  Why pay for stuff I already have in my home?  And it was easy to get it together while the meat was browning.

Ingredients:

  • 2 t dehydrated onion (or heaping 1/2 t of onion powder – 1:3 ratio of powder to flakes)
  • 1 t chili powder
  • 1/2 t red pepper (I didn’t have any so I used cayenne pepper)
  • 1/4 oregano
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 t cornstarch
  • 1 t garlic (that jarred minced stuff) (or 1/2 t of garlic powder)
  • 1 t cumin

Directions:

  • mix all the ingredients in a bowl
  • add mixture and 1/2 c of water to cooked meat, simmer for 10 minutes (or so)

Source: The Homesteading Housewife’s recipe

Jacob loved it.  I found it a bit spicy but Jacob didn’t taste any bite at all.  I won’t change a thing about it. Plus, I really like finding uses for my dehydrated onions from the cannery as well as for the jarred minced garlic, both add more flavor, I think, than their powdered counterparts.  You should try making your own, and feel liberated from packets!

My husband sometimes has a hard time waking up in the mornings.  To be honest I sleep through his shower, so I suppose I have a harder time getting up.  But early in the marriage it was important for us to share our mornings (like every other moment of our day) so we would get up together, I would pack lunches and get breakfast together while Jacob got ready for work.

Things haven’t changed much, except that we really tired of boxed cereal.  So we tried other things like eggs, oatmeal, bagels, and muffins.  I think we really like the convenience aspect of the latter two.  Jacob can grab his lunch and breakfast and eat them on his way or when he gets to work.  Yes we loose a bit of together time in the mornings but we agree that we get more out of our evenings together and if he leaves early he can get home earlier.

Back in August, when we were road-tripping through Pennsylvania we picked up a giant muffin tin.  It makes 6 muffins.  This doesn’t quite get us through the week but we don’t want to eat the same thing everyday anyway.  Be warned these muffins are more than one meal.  They are huge and we both usually break up our breakfast muffin into a 6:30 am meal and a 9:30ish snack.

We are still experimenting with recipes, they don’t all translate well from regular muffin size to giant size.  I think more structure (i.e. dry ingredients like flour and oats) and additional leavening (baking powder etc) are necessary.

We have tried a variety of recipes but haven’t had much luck.  This week we made some chocolate chip muffins.  They were really good! So here’s the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups bleached all-purpose flour (I never use straight white flour)
  • 2¾ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (this was way too many!)
  • 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk

Directions:

  • Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.  (Feel free to go wild with your 3 cups.  I keep oats, wheat bran, wheat flour, and flax around and I am never shy to substitute parts of the flour amount with any of these.  I think this time I used about 2/3 a cups of wheat bran with a few table spoons of flax.  This always gives body and flavor to the baked good)
  • Toss the chocolate chips with a tablespoon of the dry ingredients.  I have no idea what this does but Jacob liked the results (not that we have anything to compare to, I forgot to run a control experiment).  Remember to cut the chocolate if this is not a treat but a meal, 1/3 cup of chocolate per muffin is quite a lot!
  • Mix the sugar and butter, by hand or mixer.  Add the vanilla extract and add the eggs one at a time.  Whip or beat until well mixed.
  • Alternately add the dry ingredients and milk.  3 additions of the former and 2 of the latter (i.e. dry, milk, dry, milk, dry).  This mixes everything consistently.  And remember to scrape those sides.
  • Finally, toss in the chocolate.
  • Evenly distribute batter into lined muffin tin.
  • Bake the muffins at 375˚F for 30 minutes, or until risen, set and a toothpick inserted into the center of each muffin withdraws clean. It’ll be hard to tell with all the chocolate but look for gooey light colored stuff and ignore the dark.
  • Enjoy muffins for days on end!!