September 27, 2013

Fall/Winter Garden

Do you have a garden in the fall/winter? If not you should try it sometime. It's easier than you think! A lot of the plants that grow during this time are so hardy they're practically full proof. My Red Russian Kale is coming along beautifully. 

In the beginning of September I planted Red Russian Kale, Dwarf Kale, Broccoli & Cauliflower from seed. You might be surprised at how many plants can be planted in the fall.  I'm really looking forward to seeing how much will be harvested and for how long. This is my first time planting in the fall. I used the same yellow raised garden beds to plant in I just moved them to where the sun hits most often. 

September 24, 2013

Pickled Apples

Yes you read that correctly. I'm talking about apples that are pickled. You really can pickle just about anything. Pickled fruit is awesome! We had tons of apples this year which means I could try out some new recipes. 

These Apple Pickles were such a surprise. At first bite they taste like a pickle but at the end they finish like an apple. I know some of you are thinking that sounds weird but it's really good. They take cheese & crackers to the next level. They are also delicious in a cabbage slaw with pork chops. You can find the recipe I used HERE. I did do a couple different things 1) I used cider vinegar 2) I didn't use anise pods.
So are you intrigued? Would you be willing to try it or does it freak you out? 

September 20, 2013

DIY Ironing Table

I haven't had a proper ironing surface in a long time. I think the cheep ironing board we had broke in the move from Colorado to Nebraska. Since I got my sewing machine I've been working on a space to create in. From what I understand ironing is an important step when sewing. Therefore I needed a place to iron and I wanted it to be big so that I could lay out a good amount of fabric. I used that hutch/desk from yesterdays post, the one under the craft screen organizer, to make an ironing table. Now I realize that it's not exactly ironing board height but it's what I had so I just pull a chair up and sit down when I'm ironing, it's quite nice.

You could really use any table. Our hutch/desk was starting to fall apart so I gave it a new life. I also like that it has storage underneath. Here is another tutorial to give you more inspiration she actually uses a table with adjustable legs. 

It's pretty simple to make an ironing table. You need to get some fabric. I used batting (warm & natural), muslin and a printed canvas. I liked the durable feel of the canvas. You could use any type of printed cotton for the final layer. 

The batting is the first layer and you actually need to double it up. Lay out the fabric and cut it to the size of your table leaving enough to pull around the edges and staple it. I found that it works best to staple in the middle and work your way out to the edges. 
If you've ever reupholstered a seat cushion it's a lot like that. You keep folding over the edges and pulling them tight stapling underneath as you go. After the bunting you put a layer or 2 of muslin then finally the patterned fabric. 

I'm really happy with how my table turned out. I've used it for a few projects already. 

If you're in need of an ironing surface you've gotta try this project. 

Before I go I have an exciting announcement. Raven and I signed up for an online sewing class! Have you ever heard of Craftsy? You might have seen the orange Craftsy button in the sidebar, they are my newest sponsor. They've been having a sale and I feel awful that I'm just now telling you about it. Right now all classes and supplies are 75% off. That means you can take a class for $9.99. I'm taking my first one now, although I haven't started yet. What's great about it is that you can watch the class video whenever it's convenient for you and you get to interact with a real instructor and community of other students. You learn new techniques and make projects. They offer so many fun classes from cooking & baking to sewing & quilting. You really should check it out. There's not much time left!


September 19, 2013

Screen Craft Organizer

Did you hear about my new sewing machine? She's gorgeous! I decided to name her Raven. I'm starting to get the hang of working with her. Thanks to the advice from a reader, I started getting a feel for things with a piece of paper and no thread. Then next thing ya know I made a headband which is a great project for beginners.

Raven inspired me to put together a new space to create. I guess I've never really had a space just for creating. We've rented before living here so it always felt like we couldn't do whatever we wanted and space was generally more limited. I always managed though since I can't go very long with out making something. Now I didn't go crazy buying new stuff like shelves, baskets and other fun things to organize all the crafty goodness, although that would have been really fun. I pretty much went shopping in our yard, basement and attic then pieced together a space that would work for me.

There has been this screen thing in our yard since we moved in. It was leaning up against the garage near one of the garden beds. I have no idea what it was used for. Although my husband thought maybe it was what the chickens stood on. I cleaned it off real good.

I always wanted to do something with it. I've often envisioned a flowering plant growing up it. One day it's purpose just came to me. It belonged inside!

I decided to leave it in it's rustic glory since I was going to hang all sorts of colorful items from it. If you ever see something like this at a junk shop you should pick it up.  Just add a couple S-hooks and you've got a great way to organize your stuff. It would also be easy to make one yourself with just a few items.

I LOVE being able to see what supplies I have to use. I can't tell you how many times I've bought another spool of ribbon because I thought I didn't have any.

That hutch/desk piece of furniture that I took apart, I turned into something really handy. So be sure to come back and check it out.

September 18, 2013

Gluten Free Girl Potluck

Shauna a.k.a. The Gluten Free Girl is taking a road trip and hosting potlucks you can read all about it HERE. I can't remember exactly where I first found her. I know it was when I was desperately searching for anything and everything I could find on gluten free eating. I purchased her book (Gluten Free Girl Everyday) and started reading her blog. She has written so much helpful information and delicious recipes. Not to mention she and her family are an absolute delight to keep up with. So of course I was thrilled to find out they would be hosting a potluck in Bowmansville, PA only a few hours away from where I live.

I don't know why I was so nervous about going. It's quite silly that these human emotions creep in such as fear and nervousness. They can really hold us back. I suppose it was partly because I was excited to meet Shauna and her family but I didn't want to seem too excited (crazy).  Also I went alone and drove 2 hours to a place I had never been before. It was a beautiful drive from the Poconos to Amish Country. I brought my camera (I hardly go anywhere without it), my Gluten Free Girl Everyday Book (hoping to get it signed) and food to share.

The potluck was held at a church and was an intimate gathering. The idea was to bring Pennsylvania foods to share. Since I'm not originally from Pennsylvania I struggled with what to bring. Also whatever I brought needed to hold up during a couple hour drive. I ended up bringing Apple Butter made from PA apples, right from my backyard and an Autumn Salad. I made a version of this salad before being gluten free so this time I altered the recipe. It was chocked full of apples from my backyard and other local ingredients. It's a salad that I really enjoy. Give it a try, it might surprise you.

I was hesitant to whip out my camera I always get nervous taking too many pictures at things like this, I don't want to impose. I ended up getting a few shots of the event though. 
Those who helped to host the event did a lovely job adding Fall touches to each table. A sweet group of ladies invited me to sit with them. I appreciated that since I was alone. It was fun talking with them; they seemed quite surprised that I drove so far to attend the potluck. It really wasn't a bad drive at all and I like to seize the moment; who know's if I'll ever get another one like it again.  I can't even imagine how Shauna and her family must be feeling after all their travels. 

There was a great selection of gluten free foods! It was refreshing to have so many different options to choose from. I wanted to try everything. 

This was my first plate:
Wow I just realized everything on my first plate was just about the same color.  I wonder if this event was a good representation of what foods Pennsylvania is known for? I noticed there weren't many, if any, meat dishes although there could have been some on the gluten side of the room. It seemed that there were quite a few squash and cabbage dishes. I did go back for a second plate but didn't get a picture. 
I enjoyed all the foods very much. 

They also had a few goodies to share from their sponsors.
I was excited to leave with a box of pasta. I've been wanting to try jovial pasta for sometime but had difficulty locating it. Also I left with a Walnut Cappuccino Truebar which I'm looking forward to trying. 

The best thing I left with though was a full belly and a signed book. I was actually nervous to ask to have my book signed. I wondered if Shauna was sick of signing books and just wanted to enjoy the Potluck and I honestly just didn't know how to approach it. I'm a weirdo right? Well that was all taken care of for me by their sweet daughter Lucy who ran up to me and actually grabbed the book from my hands. It made me laugh and I also didn't know why she grabbed the book. I thought maybe she was playing a game or didn't know it was my book and she was putting it back on the table. No actually she wanted to sign it. She knew right what to do to and so did her dad. After she signed it he signed it too then it was just a natural progression to get the third signature from the Gluten Free Girl herself.

It was a great evening and it was such a joy to meet Shauna and her family. They are so down-to-earth and authentic. I hope that if you get the chance to attend one of her future potlucks you will. If you're not familiar with her already take some time to find out more about her on her blog. I can't wait to see what she comes up with after traveling around America. Can you imagine how much fun that would be to travel around America trying all the different foods from each region? 

September 16, 2013

Facing a Challenge

I just completed my first race over the weekend! I still can't believe I did it.

Originally I was planning to complete a half marathon. I began training and my husband was right there along with me. Once we starting running over 5 miles we got bored. My husband heard about the Pocono Challenge, a triathlon of sorts so we signed up for that instead. It consisted of biking 14.5 miles,

 paddling 10 miles
 and running 3 miles.

It was definitely a challenge and there wasn't any part of the process that was easy. Except for maybe the fact that my husband got everything ready in the early morning while we waited for the race to start.

Yeah this was me before it started cuddled in a cozy fleece blanket.
Oh but he got me back by relaxing during the paddling section. 

We actually thought the paddling section was going to be the easiest. We thought we would get to relax while we floated down the Delaware River. Those 10 miles felt like forever. No matter how hard we paddled we moved so slow. It got old really fast, it was so monotonous. We were actually looking forward to running. That was until we unfolded ourselves from the canoe and felt the stiffness in our bodies and realized our legs didn't want to work for us. 

Part of the reason why this was so challenging for me and I'm so amazed that I finished is because in the last three years I've had 3 different surgeries. The 1st surgery three years ago was on my right knee.

My husband took this lovely picture and no I don't remember him taking it. When I tell people why I had knee surgery they think it sounds terrible but at least an exciting way that it happened. It happened when I was skiing in Colorado. I don't usually add any other details to the story. Like the fact that I wasn't really doing anything exciting and I wasn't even on a difficult part of the slope that I can remember. The pain from this entire ordeal goes much deeper than what you see in that picture. Here's the whole story.

I had lived in Colorado for a few years before this accident happened and still never went skiing. We did plenty of other activities but skiing was expensive and involved lots of traffic and time to make it worth while.

It's something I dreamed about doing though, I longed for it so badly. I skied growing up and loved it. The only skiing I ever did was in the Appalachian mountains in Virginia. I was pretty good, always in control even on ice, therefore I thought Colorado skiing shouldn't be hard. Of course you had those negative people joking that you don't know what skiing is. We finally got ski passes and went out a few times.
It was awesome and so beautiful. There were a number of things that were different about skiing in Colorado one was how powdery and deep the snow was. Another difference was not getting in nearly as many runs but the average run being much longer.

One weekend we decided to meet up with some friends. I was a little nervous considering they were "experts." The boys split up from us girls. As were riding on the lift up the mountain my girlfriend and I started having a very honest conversation. She told me that at the last group Bible study they were disusing the group dynamic and the goals of the group and the group's future. Apparently I was the topic of conversation and not in a good way. They discussed how I was too opinionated and one of the girls in the group apparently disliked me. How I was constantly offering up advice about children that was annoying and based on no experience or knowledge. It hurt so badly to find out that others were talking so negatively behind my back. I think my friend did have positive intentions in telling me all this and I also think I probably only heard the bad stuff from the conversation and it got distorted in my own head.

Back story on this group of people. They were amazing. They taught me how to be a friend. I loved (LOVE) them and wanted desperately to fit into their group and feel valued and to contribute. They were the smartest group of people I've ever been a part of. The group was made up of doctors, a lawyer, a dentist, a graphic designer, a pilot, a financial analyst, a psychologist, a high school teacher...lets just say really successful people. They started as a group of young  married people without children. We came into the group after they had already formed strong bonds. We had just moved across the country for my husband's career. I had just finished my student teaching and said "no" to my first teaching job offer because I had to move. I was jobless and lets just say felt very unsuccessful compared to these people.

The group dynamic started changing soon after we arrived. Some of the couples were starting to want children. I felt like some of them looked at us as the newly married couple who had a whole lot to learn and they were so much further along in life than we were. I can remember frequent "you'll see" comments or "just wait until you're married for 5 years."  In many ways we did have a lot to learn (and still do) but I so desperately wanted to be valued and to contribute to this group.

I finally landed a teaching job and was feeling confident in my profession and the experiences I had. When friends in the group started having children and were asking for advice or just venting I wanted to help them find solutions and encourage them. I wanted to belong and be a part of the conversation. Never once did I say anything with a negative intention. I'm a brainstormer and a helper by nature which when combined with my very passionate personality can be taken in a negative way. She talks too much, she's too opinionated.... I've heard these things my whole life and they play in my head constantly.

Back to the ski accident. My friend had just told me that at small group everyone was talking about me. After hearing this all I wanted to do was cry and on top of that I had to pee really bad. It was all such a bad combination for safe skiing. I was so distracted. I had so many things running through my mind. Where was the closest bathroom? Why does it feel like I can't form close, healthy relationships? Why don't people like me? What's wrong with me? Will I be able to get all these layers off fast enough before peeing on myself? Why do I always have to go to the bathroom? What's wrong with me? I've got to get off this mountain! What's the fastest way down?

Did I mention I'm blind in one eye? I think that all my distracted thoughts along with wanting to get off the slope immediately, combined with bad depth perception led me to uneven terrain resulting in the crash which tore my ACL. After crashing I thought I might still be able to make my way down the mountain after the crash. Only I discovered I couldn't even stand up on my own which led to the scariest ride of my life down the mountain by a person pulling me on a sled at very high speeds.  The next few months I went through various tests to determine if surgery was necessary. I hobbled around and continued to teach full time and then found out my husband's job was moving us to Nebraska. I believe I injured my knee worse hobbling around on it for as long as I did and then driving from Colorado to Nebraska where in that new strange land I immediately required knee surgery. Knee surgery was scary. It was the first surgery I ever had. The recovery was long. Three years later my knee is still numb and sore but feels better than it ever has.

My 2nd surgery was for a cyst in my abdomen. This caused me a great deal of discomfort and pain. It took them time to figure out exactly what it was and to determine surgery was necessary. After the surgery the doctor concluded it was a cyst that may have been growing since birth and attached it's self to my ovary but didn't derive from there. It was the size of a grapefruit. It could have been what contributed to my constant need to pee or my exhaustion or other things throughout my life I wondered about.

My 3rd surgery took place exactly a year after the 2nd surgery. It was another cyst. It was causing discomfort but this one was different. The doctor said it looked strange. It wasn't just one cyst but a mass of multiple, divided cysts. They sent me to an Oncologist. The C word was used many times. The possibility of having cancer was real. After many invasive tests the results were all the same, surgery was necessary. I still don't know exactly what happened but it was nothing short of a miracle. The doctor didn't find what he thought he would when he got inside, instead he diagnosed me with endometriosis. This has no cure it's something you just live with. This diagnosis explained a lot for me and made me realize that different things that happened throughout my life weren't normal and were probably because of this disease.

After the cancer scare and 3rd surgery I was determined to research and find out what I needed to do to be healthy. What I discovered was quite simple. I believe that in order for my body to heal and be whole I need to provide for it what it needs. My body needs certain nutrients and those nutrients can't be absorbed if my body is full of stuff it doesn't need. That's when I decided I wanted to change my diet and exercise regularly. I wasn't going to let my knee hold me back any longer. I wasn't going to let any negative thoughts hold me back. My mind is my own worst enemy and it's true that fear can be the biggest thing that holds us back.

I decided I wanted to train for a race. I thought having a goal would help me accomplish exercising regularly and it did. No it wasn't easy. The first mile I ran I walked most of it. Some days I just wanted to curl up in a little ball. There were tears and the shouting, "I can't do this!" The worst words that were shouted were in my mind. "You're so slow, why bother; you will never be able to run a mile under 12 minutes; you're not built like a runner so you shouldn't be running..."

Guess what I still run 12 minute miles and I'm still not built like a runner BUT I feel good. I really do feel good and healthy. Just like anyone I  have my share of bad days it's not all sunshine and rainbows but overall I feel really good. And it's true that voice in my head says, "when will the good health card run out again?  "It will all be over soon, just wait." I still keep pushing through and I keep doing my best because that's all I can do. I know with all my heart that I can't really do anything on my own. I can only do things because of Christ who strengthens me. I find myself saying those words often and with every step I run.

It also helps to have this guy by my side.

I don't know what I would do without him. He's been by my side every-step of the way through the good, bad and ugly.

Have you ever heard the song Gone, Gone, Gone by Phillip Phillips?
It brings me to tears every time I hear it.

I can't tell you how many times my husband has caught me when I fallen, been my crutch when my legs can't move and never once have I had to sleep alone. Even though I couldn't bathe and was bleeding and oozing he always stayed right by my side.

It's been therapeutic to write all this out but the main reason is to encourage and remind. No I don't want acclimation for completing the race or anyone to feel sorry for me.

I want to
                                                               Go 2 Old Western Regular
you to pursue good health. Everyone has different challenges they face. All of us need something different, start on the journey to finding out what your body needs.
                                                Kenzie Medium
I fully believe God has provided us with everything necessary to accomplish feeling healthy.

I want to
                                                                KG A Little Swag Regular
you that everyone you meet is fighting a battle. It doesn't matter how pretty or perfect people's lives appear on the outside. Treat others with kindness, try to remember that even though they might appear like they have everything going for them, they don't. No one really does. Get to know people, don't automatically label them. Build relationships, enjoy everyone for the different qualities they bring.

Are you facing a challenge right now? Do you feel healthy?  You can get through it! You can feel healthy!            Sketch Nothing Regular

September 10, 2013

Apple & Elderberry Jelly

This recipe came about because we have a few apple trees on our property and we had a big harvest this year. It's been fun making different recipes with the apples. I've made quite a few jars of apple butter so that I can enjoy these yummy grilled sandwiches. So I'm very familiar with the apple. I eat one just about everyday and lately sometimes more. Something I'm not so familiar with is the elderberry. We've discovered that where we live has an abundance of wild berries.  Although I felt like I had heard the word elderberry before I couldn't put my finger on it. Then I read that the wand Harry Potter used was known as the Elder Wand, that must be where I remember it from. 

I did lots of research about these little berries and learned they pack quite the health punch. They are very rich in antioxidants, potassium and vitamin C. Apparently there is an elderberry supplement that people take for colds and the flu. The elderberry tree has been used medicinally for a long time and is referred to as the "people's medicine chest." You need to cook the berries though, too many raw can be poisonous. What's better than a supplement though? The fresh stuff! So people often make syrups and wine with them. I decided to try my hand at making jelly and since I had lots of apples I thought I would make apple & elderberry jelly. 

Before I could get those beautiful results above I had to figure out how to de-stem the elderberries. A lot of people recommend using a fork and then I read somewhere that the freezing them works really well. So I tried the freezing method. Here's what I did: 

I grabbed the biggest, containers I had that could go in the freezer. Then I went outside and cut off as much of the main stem from the elderberries as I could. This took a while. I left the remaining elderberries and stems in the container with a few inches of room at the top. Then I put the lid on and froze them. I had about 5 containers full. The next day I took one container of berries out of the freezer and shook them like crazy. Sure enough the stems came off the berries, then I just had to fish out the berries leaving the stem behind. I did read that someone put them in water and the berries floated to the top. No matter what you do some stems still remain. You are working with some very tiny berries, with some very tiny stems. The good thing about making jelly though is that you just need the juice, so all the remaining stem gets left behind in the draining process. The results of the remaining juice are such a magnificent red color. 
So for the jelly I took a basic apple recipe and added elderberries. The recipe doesn't call for Pectin since apples apparently are so full of it already. Truth be told my recipe didn't make jelly for me it made more of a syrup. Has that ever happened to you before? There are a number of reasons why this could have happened. Maybe the apples from our trees aren't that full of pectin? Maybe the elderberries messed it up? 
If you really want to be sure to have jelly just add pectin to my recipe below and it should work for you. I'm actually really happy we ended up with syrup. Now I have a ready made cold medicine stored away. It's also so good in tea and amazing drizzled over pancakes. 

I would love to hear if you try the recipe and how it turns out for you. Enjoy!

September 5, 2013

Sew Lovely

I was given something. All I had to do was ask. It's absolutely beautiful. I haven't used it yet because it's sew lovely. All I do is stare at it.

This cabinet is marvelous. It tells a story. Tucked safely inside is this piece of art. 

Maybe you're not as amazed as I am. I'm new to the world of sewing and I never imagined I would learn to sew on such a gem. I'm a part of a Freecycle group. Please tell me you've heard of it. It's a group of people in your area that post items for FREE all in an effort to share with others and keep things from filling up our landfills. People not only post things they can no longer use on Freecycle but they also request things they need or could use. I was on the site one day posting some pots that I no longer use when I decided that I would ask for something. Yes I felt weird but I did it. I asked if anyone had a sewing machine that they no longer use. I've been wanting to learn for years, I only got a small taste for it in a home ec class. Sure enough someone answered. 

This someone was very special. They have been repairing and loving sewing machines for over 30 years. She handpicked this machine just for me! She said it was perfect for learning on because it's simple and you couldn't break it if you tried, which I'm still nervous about. She has a variety of machines, antique cabinets and a wealth of knowledge. She said that the new machines are fun with all the 100's of stitches but that they are constantly having problems and just don't last. She even offered to teach me and help whenever I needed it. I feel so blessed! 

This machine is from 1950. Isn't it gorgeous? 

It even came with a manual and an old Singer box full of stuff.
I have no idea what most of these things are or what they do.

I've been working on setting up a new space to create in. I wanted a chair for my new sewing machine 
so I headed to the thrift shop where I found the perfect one for $10; the only thing it needed was a reupholstered the seat. I'm thrilled with how nicely it goes with the machine and cabinet. 

Setting up a new space means going through all my collected stuff and getting rid of things I probably won't use, which is not easy. I had fun going through my great grandmothers sewing basket and sorting through what was originally in it, treasures that I will never get rid of.

It's hard to imagine spending an ENTIRE day ironing but it happened. From what I understand my great grandmother would iron everything from the sheets to the underwear. 

I can't remember when I got this sewing basket but I've always adored it
 and enjoyed using some of the tools inside. 

I've always been fascinated by this thimble. It's so tiny and full of detail. 

If you're wondering what's up with my dirty looking fingers. They've been stained for days from apple butter making! Who knew peeling apples stains your hands? 

Do they even put thread on wood spools anymore? 
 I might be forming an obsession for wooden spools, I just love them. 

It's so special not only having these pieces of history but to use them. I think about my great grandmother and how the yellow thread was used the most and I try to remember what she looked like and the clothes she wore. To think about who used this sewing machine before me and how they probably weren't sewing for fun or as a hobby but because it was a way of life. 

I'm so excited about learning to sew. I've got a few books from the library and have enjoyed looking at projects on Pinterest. If you have any good resources or tips for me please share. This is gonna be fun!