Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Work in Progress: The Beekeeper's Quilt

I love to knit, and for a while now I have been looking for a good, long-term project. Something portable, so I could work on it in the car or on the bus, but still substantial, and easy enough to pick up and knit while talking or watching a movie. Finally, I found this: The Beekeeper's Quilt.
photograph from tinyowlknits.com; click on the link above to see
the full pattern and information about the project on her website.
Each hexagon is knitted separately, stuffed with wool batting, and then stitched together, so this is a definite long term project. I started knitting the small hexagons (the designer calls them "hexapuffs," which I think is adorable) two days ago, and they are totally addictive! Here's my progress so far:

I've only knit about a dozen so far, but they all use scrap yarn that I've had lying around the house for a while - I'm excited to finally get around to using some of it! Its perfect for small amounts of yarn that are leftover from other projects. There's a real satisfaction that comes with finishing each one, and I can't wait to make some more. Here's how they look all laid out:

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Book Review - Make Your Place: Affordable, Sustainable Nesting Skills

To be honest with you, I had planned a quite different blog post for today. My weekend, however, got a little sidetracked by food poisoning. When I realized that I wasn't feeling well, my first instinct was to grab Make Your Place: Affordable, Sustainable Nesting Skills. Its one of many reference books that we keep in the house, but it's by far the one we go to the most, so I thought that I would share it with you here. There are tons of great tips on how to make your own, natural cleaning supplies, and as I mentioned above, this is the first book I'll look to when I'm not feeling well.              
 Make Your Place is a small, handwritten book that covers three main areas: health, cleaning, and gardening. I use the health section the most, by far. From this book, I have learned how to make tinctures, salves, and teas to treat many medical conditions. You do have to put some time in upfront to source the plants and supplies you'll need, but it has definitely been worth it for me. My husband and I have used ideas from this book to treat first aid emergencies as well as to manage chronic conditions - for instance, my husband's eczema, which haunted him throughout his childhood and young adulthood, and which has now disappeared. These natural remedies have really worked for us!

The cleaning and gardening sections are also great - there are tons of great ideas, and they're presented in a very doable way. If you're just looking to get started in making the switch to more natural cleaning, there are plenty of easy and cheap ideas to try out, even if you don't want to jump in with both feet just yet.

The tone of the book is fun, light, and conversational, and all in all, it makes a great addition to your home library. The copy I own has been dog eared and pretty beaten up - which for me, is a sign of a well-loved book. Which books do you find yourself referencing again and again? Let me know in the comment section below!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Easy Whole Wheat Biscuits

I remember waking up many mornings as a child to find my mother baking these biscuits for breakfast.   They're easy and very quick to make, and they use ingredients that you likely already have on hand (my favorite kind of recipe).I modified my mother's recipe by substituting whole wheat flour for some of the all purpose flour  any by using butter instead of shortening - otherwise, these are just the same as Mom always made.
 Easy Whole Wheat Biscuits
*1 cup all purpose flour
*1 cup whole wheat flour
*2 tsp baking powder
*1 tsp salt
*2 TB cold butter
*1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flours, baking soda, and salt. Cut in the cold butter using a pastry cutter (or, to cut in butter without a pastry cutter, simply put the butter in the bowl and pinch it into the flour until it is the size of small peas). Stir in a cup of milk, adding more if needed to make the dough hold together.

Turn out the dough and roll it about 1 1/4 inches thick. Cut it with a biscuit cutter or with the top of a wine glass. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 10 - 12 minutes, or until golden brown. This makes about 8 good sized biscuits.

I eat my biscuits with butter and jam, but you could also serve these with herbed butter for a delicious savory side dish. These only take about 15 - 20 minutes total to prepare, including cooking time, so they are a great last minute addition to your meal.

What recipes do you make that have been passed down from your family? Let me know in the comments below!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sweet and Simple Valentine's Day Wreath

As Valentine's Day is getting closer, the children I work with are getting more and more excited. They are always clamoring for more crafts, and so we try to get creative in our (fairly low-budget) after-school program. These wreathes are simple to make and require very few supplies, all of which you probably already have on hand - cardstock (or any stiff paper), scissors, and a stapler. This makes it a great last minute craft, and its definitely one that the kids love.

First, cut several 1" x 4" strips of paper (I used 16 of these strips to make my wreath, but you could use however many you'd like). These strips don't have to be perfect, so even young children can cut them independently.  Next, staple two of these strips of cardstock together at one end.

Pull the opposite ends of the strips together beneath the stapled end, and sandwich them together between two more strips of paper as seen below.

Continue stapling strips together this way until you have as many hearts as you'd like.

Then form into a circle and add one more staple to attach the last heart to the first one.

I had about 20 children ages  6 - 11 doing this craft with me, and only three staplers on hand. To help them be patient while they waited for their turn with the stapler, I gave them markers so that they could  decorate both sides of their strips of paper. Older kids helped the younger ones with the stapling, and in the end it was a great collaborative project!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Rise and Shine Coffee Sugar Scrub

In the winter especially, I love using facial scrubs. My skin often gets very dry in the winter, and scrubs help fight dry skin by removing old, dead skin cells to expose the new, healthy skin cells underneath. These healthy skin cells absorb moisture better and help your skin to look and feel healthier.

Store bought scrubs are often very expensive, but you probably already have everything you need to make your own homemade version. While there are tons of versions out there, this coffee sugar scrub has quickly become my new favorite. The coffee helps to improve circulation and is also an antioxidant, and the sugar provides great, gentle exfoliation - sugar begins to melt as soon as it hits the water, so this isn't an overly abrasive scrub.

To make your own scrub at home, you'll need:
*3/4 cup ground coffee
*3/4 cup white sugar
*1 TB vanilla
*1 cup oil (you can use any kind you like - I'd recommend grapeseed oil for very greasy skin, and olive oil for normal - dry skin)
*1/4 cup dry oatmeal, ground in a coffee grinder or food processor (optional. This is a great and very soothing option if you have breakouts on your skin)

Mix all these ingredients together. To use, massage the scrub over damp skin, then rinse and pat dry.

These scrubs can be anywhere on your body that dry skin is a problem, and they also make great gifts! Use some creative packaging, and it would make a great Valentines Day gift for friends or family, or a wonderful teacher appreciation gift!
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