Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Few Good Things for June

Those of you that read my blog on a regular basis know that I've sprinkled in a few "Good Things" for June here and there throughout the June blog.  Since June is now drawing to a close, I'd like to include these last few creative ideas before moving into the month of July.

I have yet to make something from this section of the magazine that failed to be really useful in our daily living.  Most everything in the "Good Things" section of the magazine is easy to make too-even better!  I hope that some of these ideas inspire you as well.  Enjoy!

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Finishing Touch- I purchased these flower pots from a craft store for under $3.00, and I purchased the string for $1.50. I couldn't find painted pots with bases so I opted for Terra cotta instead.  I suppose I could decorate the Terra cotta too.  These pots have been very useful in our outdoor dining because they keep our dips cool and bug-free.   
The long handle makes lifting really easy.
Quick Chill- This Good Thing is very helpful when you're trying to keep the wine chilled.  I found these great dish towels at the grocery store.  They are made from bamboo and are eco-friendly.
Just chillin'... it kind of resembles a bath robe for wine... or something.
Pocket Treasures- I had an old apron (the very first apron that I had ever made) in my closet and so I decided to use it for this project.  I'm nostalgic about so many things, including my first apron.  Reusing this apron to make a large, deep pocket for harvesting produce was a terrific idea! 
I had some burlap in my fabric closet that I pulled out for this project. 
After sewing for only a few minutes I had myself a repurposed apron.  This is perfect for holding my veggies and flowers from the garden while I'm harvesting.
Hands free is the way to be in the garden- as much as possible.
I put two large zucchinis in the apron pocket along with some zinnias and I still had more room.  This would make a nice gift for someone that is an avid gardener and that appreciates upcylced gifts.

~It's A Good Thing!~

~To Build a Campfire~

*This project is from Martha Stewart Living magazine June 2011 page 134*

1. You'll need to gather three types of firewood. The first group is called tinder, or twigs, which will burn quickly and easily. Crumple several balls of newspaper (traditionalists can opt for pieces of dried birch bark), and pile them in the pit. Then use the tinder to build a tepee around the pile.
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2.  Kindling, or medium, thicker sticks, will produce the heat necessary to get heavier pieces of wood burning. Use kindling to build out the tepee.
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3. The last group, known as fuel, consists of logs. Aged logs are a good choice; they'll catch fire faster than greener ones. Expand the tepee with smaller logs -- adding "fuel to the fire."
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4.  Finish off the structure with the biggest logs.
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5.  Light the newspaper at the bottom of the pile to ignite the outer layers. (The fire shown here was lighted with one match and cooked many of the dishes in this story!)
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Fire pits, camping and summertime go together like graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows.  What I enjoy most about the warmer weather of summer is the added bonus of camping.  I've been a lover of camping ever since I was a very small child.  My family and I would camp and explore the beautiful open space of the Bay Area and on occasion we'd make our way up to the Sierras for some light backpacking. I grew up in a home where my father treasured his camping equipment the way some father's treasure their tools.  Everything was neatly organized, reorganized and very carefully thought-out before every family camping trip. 

As an adult, I now have developed a similar respect and love for camping. However, this blog is not about camping, it's about building a fire pit. I can't help but associate fire pits with camping because that's what most of us do when we camp- we have a fire.  The cool thing about this project is that if you have the space, you can make a place for your own campfire right in your very own backyard!

If you have the space, I definitely suggest making a fire pit for your own backyard.  This was so much fun to create! Recently, I've been talking about the feeling that one gets when something is built with the hands and spirit.  This feeling also applies to making a campfire.  There's just something about building a fire that takes us way, way back to long ago when we used to build these things for warmth and food. In some sort of funny way, I felt that ancestral connection as I hunted and gathered for the perfect rocks for the fire pit. 

Sitting around the fire as a family, laughing, singing campfire songs, playing games and just enjoying the particularly cool, summer evening is something that we should all experience.  This should be on your bucket list, if you haven't done this already.  I saw a $20 small BBQ at Cost Plus that would be perfect for making smores if you have limited space at home. Imagine pulling a few chairs around that little BBQ to make both smores and memories with your own family.  The ideas are limitless, and it only requires a  little creativity.

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It all started with some sand.  Jordan made several trips to the sandbox to create a place for the fire itself.
While he was doing that, I removed all existing debris around the pit to a distance of about six feet in all directions from the center.
Jordan helped me rake the debris away from the campfire location. 
We found some existing concrete stones on the property.  We also drove around and "foraged" for rocks on the side of the road. 
We brought over a few tree stumps in order to create a comfortable seating area around the fire. 
Jordan found us a few long branches that we used as roasting sticks for our marshmallows. 

The making of the fire begins.  We had a fire extinguisher placed to the side just to be safe.  He followed the directions for building the fire from Martha Stewart Living magazine page 134 (June 2011 issue).
 Gabriel patiently awaits the fire and eats some chocolate.
Here is the snack tray that I set out.  I made sure to include plenty of napkins too.
Jordan added the newspaper and is making a tent out of small twigs.
He took a break to read about what to do next.
Gabriel came back for more snacks.
Maybe we don't even need the fire after all? Hey, that's an idea.  If you don't have the space for a fire, just pretend! 
The larger pieces of wood are added after the medium size logs...
Jordan was exercising extreme caution while lighting the fire.
And so it starts...
Hooray for Jordan!  He built his first fire.
Here is Sarah eating her smore.
Jordan and his ooey gooey smore.
Roasting some more smores.
The fire
Gabriel is really enjoying the campfire thing.
Here is a picture of all three nature lovers.  I foresee many a campfire over the summer out here at Paradise Basin. 
Campfires bring out our primitive sides so watch out!
Chester even had his own tree stump and enjoyed spending time with the family around the fire too.
Chester leapt into my lap!  That was his way of telling me how much fun he was having. 
Ben made it home from work to find us all around the campfire.  What a surprise!  He enjoyed coming home to to some yummy smores and some campfire fun.
What a day!  I enjoyed watching my three children create a special place for us to gather.  And the coffee was a nice way to polish off the evening before coming inside.
The awesome man that works behind the scenes most of the time.  Thanks, Ben for all that you do!
Thank you again Jordan for making such a wonderful place for us to gather together as a family.  Friends are welcome too! You did a fantastic job building the fire.  The fire burned strong for several hours! 
The day had drawn to a close...
Everyone went inside except for Jordan and me.  We glanced back at the house and realized that it was time to put out the fire. 

~Just Dessert~

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Reversible Purse

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Project from

Tools and Materials

Bag template- just take it to a print shop to enlarge. 

Heavy paper or cardstock
1/2 yard of patterned fabric
1/2 yard of solid fabric
Fabric scissors
Sewing machine
Coordinating machine-sewing thread
Needle and thread for basting stitch

Reversible Purse How-To1. Download, enlarge, and print template on heavy paper or card stock. Trace template twice on each fabric and cut out.

2. Align and pin the two solid pieces together, right sides facing. Do the same with the two patterned pieces.

3. Using 1/4-inch seam allowance, sew along the top of each handle and along the bottom curve of each pinned piece, leaving both sides of both handles open.

4. Turn the solid piece right side out, and insert the solid piece into the inside-out patterned piece. Line up seams, raw edges, and handles.

5. Pin the edges of the "neckline" of the bag and sew with a 1/4-inch seam.

6. Going through the longer handle, turn the entire bag right side out (patterned fabric on the outside). Press all seams.

7. Fold raw edges of "armholes" in 1/4 inch and press. Baste together. Topstitch 1/8 inch around bag handles to finish.

ResourcesMartha used a sewing machine from the Singer Sewing Company.

When I sew, I'm not just sewing.  I am in my head wrestling with my innermost thoughts.  Childhood flashbacks to horrible sewing lessons cross my mind, bouts with giving up cross the threshold of my thoughts about a thousand times- especially when a project is not going the way that I had expected.  Occasionally, I feel like leaping out of my seat and lying flat on my back and flailing my arms and legs and screaming at the very top of my lungs, " I quit!"  Funny thing is, I think sewing parallels our existence pretty well, don't you think so?

You see, I'm a self-taught sewer.  Often I hear about a person learning to sew from a family member or from a teacher.  Nope. Not me.  I learn from trial and error.  The good ol' seam ripper has become my closest friend these days as I completely have to rip out almost every stitch when I screw it up.  Real life on the other hand does not come with a seam ripper.  We can't take rip away seams when we make a mistake.  With that in mind, I don't mind making mistakes with my needle and thread. I celebrate mistakes made while at the sewing machine because these can be undone.  And besides, I've learned something new every time I make a with life.

This bag took me quite some time to finish because of complicated printing issues, and being "sew" naive about sewing.  Once I complete a sewing project and I step back, I'm the happiest woman alive.  Now to some it may sound cliche but really, there is something about making something with your own hands.  I've found sewing to be very therapeutic. Sewing mends the mind.  By the time a project has been completed different parts of my mind that needed mending have been fixed with my own two hands!  Sew away, even if you have to fake it.  That's what I do.  I get behind this machine, follow the directions, and if it doesn't work the way that I thought it would, well then I invent my own path of least resistance that will take me to the end.  It never fails to work.  The rewards are tremendous, but the tears may be many.  Sew What! 

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Ben has an HP designjet printer for his landscape design company.  He was able to help me print without having to go to a print shop.  Thanks, Ben!

Next I pinned the pattern to the fabric and cut.  I folded fabric in half so that I only had to cut once.  This way I was able to get two solid pieces with only one cut. 
 Do the same with the solid fabric.
Here are the fabric pieces once they have been cut out.
Put right sides together of both the patterned fabric and the solid and follow instructions.  I got a bit carried away and I sewed the whole thing shut! 
I gave Sarah her purse and she was thrilled.  Here she is before I gave it to her. 
Happy as can be, Sarah now has a hip, new baby carrier for her favorite doll.  As you can see, enlarging the pattern to 200% is great if you are making the purse for a small child.  If you wish to use this purse yourself, then I suggest enlarging it to 400%. 

~Happy Sewing~

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