What's on My Food?

Find out what's on your food at: whatsonmyfood.org

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Garden for Herbal Skin Care

Hi Boys and Girls!

What a great learning experience I had from the Comal Master Gardeners. They had a SIG (special interest group) that taught me about making skin care products for men and women. The ingredients are herbs and other household items that are really easy to obtain. These SIG presentations are open to the public so just read the Herald Zeitung http://www.herald-zeitung.com/ for these monthly presentations. This meeting was held in the historic Forke Store. http://www.nbconservation.org/forkestore.htm

Many items use ordinary ingredients such as corn starch, honey, oatmeal witch hazel, borax, baking soda, apple cider and beeswax. Natural Beauty from the Garden by Janice Cox is where most of the recipes came from. She has several books published on using herbs as skin care and making gifts. The cute little soap below are made in cookie molds or even ice trays. They are then wrapped in tule and tied with a lable.

Super-Easy Oatmeal Soap
1 cup grated castile soap (1 3-oz bar will yield this amount
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons oatmeal

Place the grated soap in a double boiler on the stove top. Pour the water over the soap and stir over medium heat to dissolve all of the soap in the water. When the soap and water are combined, add the oatmeal and stir well. Pour the mixture into a greased mold (coat the mold with petroleum jelly or vegetable oil). Let cool completely and unmold by turning the mold over and gently tapping it on a table or countertop. Let the soap dry for a few days. (Yield: 8 ounces, 1 large bar or 4 smaller bars)
Another idea is to use sliced loofah pieces as molds. Just push the soap into the spaces of the loofah and set. See this picture on Amazon to get an idea.  3 pcs/Set Loofah Bath Sponge-100% Natural Fiber,To Soften,Wet the Loofah Sponge in Water,Apply Your Favorite Shower Gel ,Gently Massage the Skin and Enjoy .As you can see, if you slice these into 1/2 inch slices they would make nice molds for soap. They would be perfect as a gift or in the guest bathroom.

This was a real big hit with my husband and a few other guys that attended. It is Old West Aftershave.
1/2 cup witch hazel
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dried sage leaves
1/8 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon whole allspice
1/8 teaspoon alum powder (optional)
Mix together all ingredients. Pour into a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid. Place the jar in a dark, cool place and steep for 2 weeks. At the end of 2 weeks, strain of the liquid, discard any solids and pour into a clean container. To use: Splash on your face after shaving. (Yield: 4 ounces)

Some of the items would make a lovely gift. Look how pretty all these things are in this pot.

Add some of the goodies you made and include seeds and maybe a plant. The pot does not have to be this big. If you have a garden gift to give here is a really great hand cream for dry skin. I have dry skin not only from gardening but from handling fabric all day!
Green Thumb Hand Cream
3 tablespoons grated beeswas
1/2 cup dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons strong calendula tea
2-3 drops EO (essential oil) of lavender
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
Combine all ingredients in a glass, heat-resistant container or double boiler. Heat in the microwave or over medium heat on the stove until all the wax and oils are melted (do not boil), stirring well. Pour the melted mixture into a container or jar and allow to cool completely. Stir again when the mixture has cooled. (Yield: 4 ounces) This is really heavenly. I have an idea to spread this on my hands just before bed and put on a pair of gloves so it can soak in all night!

There were so many skin recipes. You will have to read the books to get them all. Another favorite was the Southwest Scrub. I also really liked the Lavender Dry Perfume. It was not heavy with lavender and it can be placed in a closet or drawer to freshen the air.

Save empty bottles or buy some unusual salt shakers at the thrift store. It is amazing how cute these can look with a ribbon and tag attached. I save pure maple syrup bottles. They are small and have a little handle in which to tie a tag. The tag would identify the ingredients. Look at these coffee mugs. They are all different but filled with Tub Tea or could be filled with soap balls. The mugs were most likely purchased at a thrift store.

Tub Tea (from Herb Companion Nov 2008)
Large tea ball, muslin sack or square of cheesecloth
1/4 cup dried herbs or 1/2 cup fresh herbs
Fill container with desired herbs; use either a blend of your choice or individula herbs. Hang tea-filled container under the spout as you run your bath, letting the water flow through it. Gently squeeze the bag or allow tea ball to float in the water as you bathe. (Yield: 2-4 ounces--enough for one bath.
For a Foot Spa: Let the bundle steep in a small tub or large bowl of boiling hot water until the water is cool enough for your feet.

What herbs to use in your Tub Tea you ask? Well, here are some suggestions:
Stimulating--rosemary, lavender, mint
Relaxing--chamomile, elderflower, angelica
Refreshing--basil, lemon balm, mint
Invigorating--raspberry leaves, bay leaves, mugwort
Cleansing--sage, thyme, lemon verbena

We also got some really good food treats!
Pesto-Garbanzo Dip
1 (7 ounce) container pesto sauce (for testing purposes, DiGiorno Basil Pesto Sauce was used)
1 (15.5 ounce) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
Pita chips or assorted veggies
Remove and discard top layer of oil from prepared pesto sauce. Process beans and garlic in a food processor or blender until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides. With processor running, pour pesto sauce, olive oil and lemon juice through food chute, blending well. Transfer to serving bowl; stir in cilantro and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with pita chips and assorted vegetables. (Southern Living, December 2003)

New Year's Punch
1 can (46 ounces) pineapple juice
4 cups brewed tea
3 cups apple juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 cups ginger ale
In a gallon container, combine pineapple juice, tea , apple juice and lemon juice; mix well. Store in the refrigerator. Add the ginger ale just before serving. Yield: about 30 servings

Oh, another treat was seeing Karen's "new" boots that she bought from the Boot Whisperer in Wimberley. http://www.wimberley.org/ These are raspberry not red! Oh so cute.

So, have I got you itch'n to start your Christmas presents? This will get you started and you will have a hard time giving them away! Stop by your nearest re-sale shop or thrift store and pick up some cute bottles, salt shakers or jars to make your wonderful skin care products.
Natural Beauty at Home, Janice Cox
Natural Beauty from the Garden, Janice Cox
Natural Beauty for All Seasons, Janice Cox

Until next time, kick up a good time in your new boots and kiss a cowboy or a cowgirl!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What's for Dinner?

Hi Boys and Girls!!

This is what I had in my refrigerator. I was hungry and it was time for dinner. Roberto ate leftover risotto/sausage and added mushrooms. He liked it. But I did not want to eat that. Besides it was only enough for one!

So here is what I had to work with:
  • leftover grilled Brussels sprouts. They were grilled with olive oil and garlic
  • half of one sweet red pepper
  • handful of organic tiny squash, some yellow, some green
  • one small uncooked sweet potato
So, I sauteed the chopped up sweet potato in 1 tablespoon olive oil. I then added the veggies and Brussel sprouts. I let this simmer for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, I made a pot of brown rice using leftover organic chicken broth for the liquid http://www.pacificfoods.com/our-foods/broths/natural-free-range-chicken-broth The veggies were served on a bed of rice.
I had to have some nice wine with it so I chose
Chateau Ste Michelle http://www.ste-michelle.com/
Harvest Select Riesling that I had bought at Costco http://www.costco.com/ They have a great wine department.
So, I had a very good dinner despite the fact that I had very little to work with.
Here is my dinner:
Be creative. Look and see what you have in the fridge. You will be suprised what you can make of it!
Always keep on hand organic chicken broth, canned mushrooms, brown rice, canned beans and of course,
good wine!

Until next time...be good to yourself and kiss a baby.

Monday, September 6, 2010

I'm Not a New Mother...Should I Be This Tired?

Hi Boys and Girls!

Well, today I got to give little Isaac his first bath. It all came back to me as if it were yesterday. I couldn't give my own daughter her very first bath because I was scared. So, her daddy got the honor. It was great. Roberto was all of 29 year's old and he had no fear. I was the back-up support documenting this historic event. (Actually, I really was scared of dropping her!)

Today, I was not scared. Little Isaac cried at first but when that warm water took effect, he settled down and had a good time. The look of trust in his eyes really humbled me. This little guy knows I love him and he is safe with me. So, after the bath with all new clothes and being warm and snuggy, Isaac got to sleep. He is sleeping under Shannon's baby blanket which was made by Julie Goncho in San Diego, CA.

With babe asleep and Shannon taking a nap, I had a chance to work on a Block of the Month (BOM) call Le Jardin by Moda. http://fatquartershop.blogspot.com/2009/10/le-jardin-block-of-month-by-anne-sutton.html It is the most fabulous fabric! The fabric is called French General. I will machine applique each block but the pattern is designed for hand applique. With machine applique, you cut out your pieces without an extra 1/4" seam. The piece is fused on the backing and then machine applique with matching thread or invisible thread. I am using invisible thread for this particular BOM. Isn't it gorgeous?

Before coming to Lexington, I was working on a quilt for the baby. I wanted something special but a quilt that would be used. I decided on a blue and white motif of angels. This was not overly fussy and yet it was sweet. The front panel is 1 1/2 yards or cut so as not to lose the major designs. The borders are made by rouching, or gathering. The backing and binding was the same print as the rouching.

I really like how it turned out.

You have to allow extra fabric for rouching. Plan on twice or a bit more of fabric for the border. When you gather the fabric you can do so by hand or by machine. It is more consistently gathered with machine but the attachment for the Bernina is very expensive. This quilt was done by hand.
This little girl's quilt below was commissioned. I borrowed a friend's Bernina gathering foot #57. You may not see the difference but the rouching goes much quicker with a foot. It is consistently rouched at every 6 stitches.

If you have the time, you can get the same results by gathering by hand. Use a long running stitch on your border fabric and just start pulling one thread to gather. On this pink one, I used water-soluable thread. It will wash away. Of course, I had to remember to change the thread when it was time to permanently attached the borders and use matching thread. Store the water-soluable thread in a baggie to keep it air tight. Label the baggie for this thread can easily be mistaken for regular cotton thread.

So good luck on your next project. Try something new. Let me know what project you are working on.

Until next time, give something away you love. Share your love with others. But most important...
sleep when the baby sleeps or believe me, you will be tired!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

West Virginia, Welcome Home, Mountain Mamma...

Hello Boys and Girls:

I am back after a brief hiatus. It has been a long, hot summer but not as bad as last year. True, last year we lost 5 trees and most of our roses. Before the drought, we even had a flood! So, I really cannot complain too much about this summer. I played it smart and only planted herbs, basil and tomatoes.

Did I tell you about my 4-day quilt seminar with Harriet Hargrave? http://www.harriethargrave.com/
It was very intense and I learned so much.
I actually learned how to quilt feathers and so much more.
Harriet and her daughter have published a series of quilting books called Quilter's Acadamy. Each publication is like a year in college...Freshman, Sophomore, etc. This is a GREAT BOOK! I highly recommend this series, starting with Vol. 1 for the novice quilter and the seasoned quilter to learn and refresh our skills. Go to http://www.amazon.com/ or Harriet's web site.

Now, back to the title of this blog...I am in Lexington, VA. It is not really West Virginia but I think of John Denver and his song Take Me Home, Country Roads. http://www.johndenver.com/music/music.html
My daughter moved here with her husband and had a baby two weeks ago. I had to fly from Austin to Charleston, South Carolina first.

That was on a CRJ900. Great plane but I did not feel comfortable with the name Bombadier.
The flight from Austin to Chaleston was smooth and very fast. In Charleston, I changed planes (still on US Airways) for Roanoke, VA. The Charleston terminal is a nightmare. First of all, I could not get the hang of the southern accent. And they talk so fast! I really thought I was in another country. It almost became hysterical, especially after the announcement, "Would the person who left their garage door opener at the ticket counter please come back and pick it up." That is not the only thing lost and announced...someone left their cell phone in the woman's restroom and someone left a "green and white" suitcase at the ticket counter. Well, I finally asked a military guy what was being announced about my flight boarding and he said he could not understand the announcement but was going to just follow the crowd and ask when he got to the gate. So, I followed him...to this CRJ 900.  This is when the word "Bombadier" really bothered me. It was so small, we loaded on the tarmac. We only flew at 14,000 feet. The attendant
did not use a microphone. She said, "If y'all want anything to drink, just let me know." She sat down, buckled up and we were off.  Forty-five minutes later I landed in Roanoke, VA.After another 45 minutes I arrived in Lexington, VA and was greeted by my daughter and baby Isaac Henry Haas. Now, you tell me...was the trip worth it? Was reading this tedious story justification for this final picture?
You are so right!! Yes!

Until next time, rock a baby to sleep (young or old baby), whisper sweet words to someone you love and
take a chance every now and then.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday Blessings

Hi Boys and Girls!

Ahhhh...the joy of Sunday mornings...No, I don't mean sleeping in or even breakfast in bed, although that would be Heaven! I am talking about a cool breeze and taking a walk just as the sun is coming up. That is pretty amazing. We are in the throes of summer and a cool breeze is rare! I put on my walking shoes and sun hat along with my favorite walking music, Mano Chao http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clandestino and took off for my 3-mile walk. It was good.

Upon arriving back home, I noticed how inviting my back yard was. There must have been something in the air this morning. I grabbed my camera to see if I could capture some of the experiences for you!

This little guy is a Bordered Patch butterfly I believe. He is sunning himself on the Mexican Lime tree.http://www.thedauphins.net/bordered_patch_life_cycle_study.html Go to this site and see pictures of the stages of his life. Yup! That caterpillar is all over our yard. Well, I think the butterfly is beautiful.

Another experience was watching the newly hatched Giant Swallowtail. I missed him hatching by a few minutes! Next picture is him drying off. They flutter their wings back and forth slowly so their wings can dry before taking off exploring.
Well, by this time I was on the hunt for more exciting life in my yard. I nearly jumped for joy when I discovered the Garden Spider. Yes, this is his/her name. To think I used to be deathly afraid of spiders! My screams when finding a spider could shatter crystal! But these guys are my friends!

This looks like a male but there must be a female close by. If you have any plants with flowers you will want some of these spiders in your yard. They LOVE grasshoppers. And grasshoppers suck the life out of my roses, turk's cap and even my lavendar! So, I was thrilled to find this guy. For many years we had tons of them in the yard and then they disappeared. We do not spray our yard with pesticides. I don't know why they left, but I am sure glad they are back.

In fact, I was so excited, I got the butterfly net and captured a grasshopper for his breakfast. It is amazing what hate can drive me to do! I held the disgusting, sap-sucking grasshopper by both hind legs and placed him in the web! By the time I picked up my camera, I had missed the show.

That grasshopper was all wrapped up but I could still see him wiggling inside. Oh, I am so sadistic! By the way, this Garden Spider is not harmful to humans. And did you know each evening the male and female eat their web (and whatever is in it) and build a new one in the morning? I read that their web is so strong, it is used as a fishing net in some countries! I can tell you that I have walked into one and did not break it! Creepy.
I could not resist taking a picture of the Mexican Spider Lily in my moonlit garden. I planted this night blooming plant so bats and large moths can have nectar at night. The scent is very attractive to night critters.

Now, doesn't this look delish? When the morning heats up, the blooms fade. http://www.epimediums.net/Catalog/Current/Detail/05563.html
There are so many spider lilies, I could be wrong about this one. So, if anyone knows I am wrong please let me know.
My morning walk around the yard would not be complete without a picture of my side kick, Angie. She loves it outside and does not run away. 
Oh, I must share my dinner with you. It was great and so easy!
I had fresh tomatoes and zucchini from the Farmer's Market here in New Braunfels. http://www.farmersmarketonline.com/fm/NewBraunfelsFarmersMarket.html 
Roberto loves pasta so I wanted to give this a try. You will not believe how good raisins and pecans are when sauteed!
Here is the recipe. Sorry, no picture but find the recipe and picture in Real Simple, July 2010.
The recipe called for walnuts but I substituted pecans. I also added the fresh tomatoes. I think you will like it.
That's all for now. In the meantime, shake your booty for at least 15 minutes each day. Your booty will thank you for it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Summer is Basil Time

Hi Boys and Girls!

It is summer and you know what that means....BASIL!! But first, I want to show you a picture of last night's dinner.
Looks good, right? It was so easy...All ingredients are organic and the blueberries are from my yard. Everything can be purchased at your local grocery store.
  • roughly tear bite-size pieces of lettuce (red tipped or Rommaine
  • chop up one peeled orange
  • slice several strawberries
  • toss in blueberries
  • Make a salad dressing of 1 TBL olive oil, 1 TBL vinegar (I used homemade rosemary/garlic but any light vinegar will work). Whisk this in a small bowl with a wire whisk until creamy.
  • Pour over salad and serve!
Now for the basil. My bumper crop of 3 basil plants are about to bolt. http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/vegetable/what-is-bolting-what-it-means-when-a-plant-bolts.htm
So, that means it is time to make pesto! Pesto can be used for many things. Dipping French bread into pesto and downing with a nice red wine is HEAVEN! But you can also use pesto as your base for margarita pizza. http://papamurphys.com/?gclid=CI_7vs3TuaICFQ0hnAodfmFJ4g You can make it like Papa Murphy's or make it even better with the pesto as your tomato base.

First cut basil leaving more to grow. Wash and rinse basil to remove bugs. I like using the salad spinner.

Then, I assemble
the rest of the ingredients...virgin olive oil, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts and garlic.

We love garlic
so I always add more than the recipe calls for. Recipe to follow.
Measure the rinsed and spinned basil into a measuring cup. The basil needs to be packed down in the cup.

After all the ingredients are placed in your blender or food processor, puree until this becomes smooth. Stop and stir the basil mixture. Be careful not to stir while the puree is spinning...it will splatter on you and may break your spoon or spatula. The recipe calls for walnuts but I substituted pine nuts. I used Parmesan cheese and increased the garlic.
I made one batch at a time and put the mixture in a freezer bag. I needed help from hubby to keep the bag open. I labeled the bag Basil Pesto, 6/10. So, in December when I am craving some pesto I can go to the freezer and see the date when this was made.

Here is the recipe.
Easy Basil Pesto
(Adapted from Southern Herb Growing)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 or more cloves garlic
2 cups fresh basil leaves, hard packed
1/4 cup lightly toasted walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese (optional)
Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and purree. Use immediately for best flavor. Pesto can be frozen in small containers for later use. To have tablespoon-sized portions ready to use, freeze in ice cube trays. Package in plastic freezer bags to keep from drying out.
Yield: 2 cups

Have fun! Tell me how you like it. What do you have in your garden now? What are you doing with all your tomatoes? Herbs? Cucumbers? Beans?

Until next time...spend time getting dirt under your fingernails.

Friday, June 11, 2010

It All Started With Asparagus!

Hi Boys and Girls!

Yes, that delish veggie asparagus started the whole thing: What to make for dinner?

That age-old question pops up every day. Well, today was no different. However, I did have asparagus in the fridge.

I went to Costco the other day and discovered fresh asparagus from Washington State. You read this web site and you will do what I do...buy all I can and freeze it for winter recipes. http://www.washingtonasparagus.com/ I knew it would not be available for long so I bought a big package. That evening I steamed some to go with grilled salmon. Oh so good! OK, what to do with the rest....

  • So, today I boiled two eggs, chopped them and chilled in fridge;
  • opened a can of chicken breast meat (from Costco) drained of course;
  • cut up leftover spaghetti pasta into small pieces;
  • sliced fresh tomatoes from the garden; and,
  • I steamed the asparagus and cut into 1/2 inch slices;
  • All this got tossed with 1 head of Rommaine lettuce, roughly chopped.

The finishing touch was my homemade dressing:
  • 2 TBLS of Kirkland Extra Virgin olive oil http://www.costco.com/
  • 2 TBLS of rosemary garlic vinegar (my own)
  • Whisk until creamy and pour on salad.
Oh man what a treat!

Of course, a glass of Clean Slate was the perfect wine for this dinner. This wine comes from Mosel Valley, Germany. Water rushing over slate gives this wine a unique, fresh taste. It is somewhat hard to find. When you do find it, buy a case and let me know about it!

I didn't even need bread although fresh bread from The Groumage in New Braunfels would have been fabulous. http://gourmagetx.com/  They will bake the bread for you 30 minutes before you arrive to pick it up. Oh, it is so good you may just add butter and eat it all before dinner...that is, if the bread makes it home!
Oh, have you tried their fresh blueberry scones?

So, there you have it...a dinner based on one key ingredient...a veggie!
When you hit your farmer's market Saturday, keep an open mind. It only takes one ingredient to be the base of a great meal. Be open to something new and different. Beets? Oh my...have you grilled these yet??

Until next time, keep your hummingbird feeders fresh. Those hummers are on the move and building nests. They are hungry!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Getting Back to Basics

Hi Boys and Girls!

We are in the age of aquarius...uh-oh...I am showing my age! Really, we hear a lot about "going green," "getting back to basics," "living a green lifesyle," "quality of life rather than quantity," and on and on. What does all this mean? Well, from my viewpoint, we as humans are seeking a simple life filled with all that is good and things that truly make us happy. Look at the revolution of cooking meals together? Hasn't that really made a resurgence? You know in your own life it has. Turning the TV off during dinner and playing a board game after dinner keeps the family interacting. Well, we do see a change in our world...Speaking of world...how about the quilting world?

My world was rocked last weekend! I attended a 2 1/2 day machine quilting seminar with the Mother of Machine Quilting, Harriet Hargrave http://www.harriethargrave.com/. She is the guru of quilting and I am in awe of her work. Harriet is sort of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Cady_Stanton of the quilting world. That may seem like comparing apples to oranges to many of you but just think about it. Thirty year's ago machine quilted quilts were not accepted for judging at the Houston International Quilt Festival http://www.quilts.com/. All of you young'ns out there may not realize it, but machine quilting is relatively new. Elizabeth Cady Stanton initiated the first women's rights movement in 1848. Where would we women be today without women's suffrage? She was a daring woman!

Harriet Hargrave is the first woman to have a quilt accepted for judging at the Houston Quilt Festival that was machine quilted! That was a big thing and caused quite a stir in the quilting world! Trail Blazer...that is what Harriet was and still is. She was a brave woman!

Well, this machine quilting seminar was sponsored by Common Threads in Waxahachie, Texas. http://www.commonthreadsquilting.com/ Not only is this a fantastic quilt shop, it is in the cutest, old town you would ever want to visit! http://waxahachietxcoc.weblinkconnect.com/cwt/External/WCPages/
This is really a cool town! Just look at this beautiful courthouse. This is an old, historic town.

 I am getting off track, right? And you are saying, "What does this have to do with getting back to basics?"
Well, I will tell you. Harriet Hargrave is old school. She believes if you are going to do something, do it right. My dad ALWAYS said that! Harriet has been sewing all her life and learned from her mother. Where they differed is in the quilting world, Harriet's mom was a hand-quilter and Harriet wanted to use her sewing machine. And so it goes...brilliant minds with different ideas. But they both had a common ethical thread or value of quilting...do your own work and do it well. And so evolved the mission of Harriet Hargrave: to teach the love of quilting using a sewing machine. Here is the dedication in her book Heirloom Machine Quilting: As always, this book is dedicated to my mother for the love of quilting and sewing that she shared with me throughout my life, and to the many thousands of students who have shared their time with me these past 25 years of teaching. Together we have brought machine quilting to standards of skill that we couldn't have imagined in the beginning. This sounds like a dedicated person to me. You can find this book on Amazon. Be sure to purchase the 4th edition. You can experience the workshop like I did but without Harriet. She actually taught the book.

The retreat center where the workshop was held was actually in Milford, about 20 minutes south of Common Threads. It is a lovely house with lots of beautiful rooms, a full kitchen (off limits to us in attendance), dining area, massage room and a huge work area.

Each room had a theme. This picture is the Thirties Theme. There was also the Civil War theme, Thimbleberries theme, Batik theme and a lot more. Each bed had a homemade quilt. The bathrooms were spacious and shared by 4 roomies. All the food was homemade and served to us in the dining room. We did not even have to take our plates to the kitchen! Boy, it did not take us long to start loving that!

The work area was huge. This picture only shows 1/3 of the space. Work chairs were provided so we did not have to bring our own from home. This is very important especially for machine quilting. Often we sit for hours at our machines and lose track of time. Harriet suggested we stop, look up and out the window for a few seconds and then get back to work.

Each day started with breakfast at 8 am. Then Harriet started her
lesson at 9 am. We stopped for lunch and dinner. The evening lesson stopped at 9 pm. But one night it went on until 9:30 pm. The first half day was mainly lecture. I took 10 pages of notes! Harriet started with the basics which is constructing the quilt properly. Accurate 1/4" seam allowances are crucial. See my earlier blog lesson on this.
Harriet discussed how we as quilters are pushed too fast to get a project done and start on another one. This is business. Quilting is a billion dollar industry. But in the pressure to finish one project and start another project many quilters leave out an important step...the quilting! So what do we do? We pile up quilt top after quilt top until we finally give them to a long-arm quilter to finish for us. Are we really quilters if we do this? Technically, the answer is no. We have become piecers. Nothing wrong with this except that we lost something along the way. We lost the reason we went into quilting in the first place.

If you love fabric, sewing, quilting whether it be with machine or by hand, you know the relationship between your hands and fabric. It is almost spiritual. You become "one with the cloth." In our rush to finish a project so we can start another one, we have lost this lovely relationship with the skill of quilting.

Quilting gives a quilt life. The soul of quilting is quilting yourself.
A lot of my quilting friends say they hate binding their quilt. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buCKs-Fgvb4

This video on YouTube will show you how to bind a quilt. Well, some people hate this part of the construction. I love it. To me it is the final stage and my way of saying good-bye to this quilt that has been my friend for months. Yes, I have cried during this stage!

It is hard to describe what an enlightening weekend I had with Harriet Hargrave. She not only taught me the basics of machine quilting but also gave the real story behind batting, threads, needles and the fabric world that we all love.
 No, I will not be quilting my own quilts right away. Some of us made a commitment not to start another project for 6 months! Yes, you heard correctly....This does not mean no shopping! Of course, we can continue to work on our current projects. But the theory is this: if you start another project machine quilting will be pushed back a bit more. Each day it is pushed back makes that pile of unfinished quilts a little higher. So, I made that commitment. I want to own my quilt that I started. I want to say "I created this work of art from the beginning to the end."
Thank you Harriet Hargrave!

So go out there and do what you love doing! Make it yours...if it is worth doing, it is worth doing right.
Until next time...call your mother, give something away that you really love, stop and smell a flower,
feed the squirrels, take your kids to the park, love yourself!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Herbal Pest Discourager

Here is a recipe to discourage pests from biting and annoying you while outside.

Herbal Pest Discourager

15 drops lemon eucalyptus essential oil
10 drops pennyroyal (or peppermint, but pennyroyal works best) essential oil
10 drops white thyme essential oil
10 drops lavender 40/42 essential oil
5 drops basil essential oil
3 drops tea tree essential oil

Combine essential oils in a glass or PET bottle with 3 oz. of jojoba oil, cap and shake or mix with 3 oz. distilled water and 1 TBLS of polysorbate 20.

Dispense water-based solution with fine mist sprayer.

I think this is from The Herb Companion. You can get these ingredients from a health food store.

Fun Shopping at Farmer's Market

Hi Boys and Girls!

Today is Saturday and I do not have a quilt guild meeting or Pilates! So I got to go to my local Farmer's Market! Yeah!

I only had hot tea in the morning before I left. I wanted to save my appetite for the warm blueberry scones that our local cheese store sells. ACKKKK!!! She was not there this morning! Oh well...I wandered around looking at the possibilities for dinner. Most FM's do not start selling before the appointed time. For me, that would be 9 am. I got there at 8:45. It is a good idea to get there early and check out the supplies and formulate your dinner menu in your mind. I was comparison shopping too. I was looking for the best deal.

Don't go to your FM with a set list in hand. Look to see what is being offered and make your dinner menu from that. Buying fruits and veggies in season is the healthiest way to eat! If you buy tomatoes in November you know they are from a warm climate country which sprays with insecticides. Same thing with grapes and strawberries. You cannot buy organic grapes or strawberries in December...wait until they are in season and you will buy really fresh and healthy products!

I found some beautiful squash at $2 a basket. Everyone else had them for $3 a basket. So of course, I bought some.

OK, now I had a plan. This same booth had gorgeous fresh carrots cheaper than other vendors. So I bought some carrots. My dinner is coming together! String beans! Yes! Mushrooms! Yes!

I have tomatoes on the vine ready to pick and fresh basil. OK. My dinner this evening was planned....Pasta Primavera. All I needed was there.

Fresh herbs ready to plant! I have most of these herbs but I asked for cilantro knowing it is too hot for it now. However, the farmer told me he has one but it is too late to plant. I told him I want it to "go to seed" or flower for the bees and butterflies. So he gave it to me free! I also bought a few herbs that I want for the flowers. If you let your herbs go to seed, they provide nector for hummingbirds and butterflies. Basil is an exception. I pinch off all the blooms that are forming. I am still using it on a daily basis and when it blooms the leaves may be bitter. I have 4 basil plants so I will probably let one plant flower.

How can one resist fresh flowers? Well, I did...this time. I was on a mission. As you can see, there is a vendor selling fruit cups next to the fresh flowers. Boy, my daughter would love that! As I went on, I purchased 4 loaves of homemade bread. Three of the loaves go in the freezer and one will be gone in 24 hours! I bought cranberry bread, rye bread, sourdough bread and chiabatta.

So, now I have everything for dinner...but wait, I see fresh blackberries! Oh my, I must have some for my blackberry cobbler.
This recipe is from Whole Foods and is so good and easy. So, I ask if I can order 4 containers of blackberries. I did not want to seem selfish and take from other customers. They had plenty so I got my 4 baskets.
My Farmer's Market also had fresh, organic tamales, organic brownies, fresh honey, goat cheese, organic meat, cabbage, kale, strawberries, smoothies, and lots of arts and crafts pertaining to birds and outdoor living. There is even live music.

Here are some tips to remember:
  • wear comfortable shoes
  • go early to check out choices
  • take cash
  • take shopping bags or totes...better yet, a small wagon or cart
  • don't take a list...plan your menu on the choices available.
Until next time, have fun! Be spontaneous and cook something you never thought you would!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Better Than Drugs

Hi Boys and Girls!

Two posts in as many days! Who would have thunk?? Well, I just have to share some of the joy of my garden wilderness with you.

This morning was a ho-hum awakening...I was thinking of all I had to do...and that really bummed me out. So, I made my tea (Zhi, of course...http://www.zhitea.com/) and stepped outside to enjoy the morning. The birds needed some sunflower seeds so I proceeded to do that little chore. While I was at one feeder, I noticed the fennel bush. It was loaded with caterpillars!
Well, seeing these little puppies perked me right up! I ran into the house and grabbed my wonderful new camera...Panasonic Lumix 12x http://amzn.com/B001QFZMCO
I just started shooting thinking one or two would come out. Here are a couple more.

This is the Black Swallowtail caterpillar.

Where is this guy going on the right? I think he wants to make his cacoon. Catterpillars feed on leaves of specific plants for their development. These fellas are on fennel. But they also love dill, carrot, parsnip and parsley.

This little guy above is forming his cacoon. He was still moving about and I was captivated with the activity. I must have watched him for a full 5 minutes! Tomorrow, he will be motionless and transforming himself into this.
I just missed him coming out. However, I watched as this Black Swallowtail slowly flapped his wings to warm up. Butterflies are cold-blooded and must warm their bodies before they can fly. They do this by basking in the sun and by beating their wings. This guy was drying off...he was just reborn.

Another fella wreaking havoc in the garden is the Gulf Fritillary http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species?l=1664
I don't mind. They are beautiful. Well, this guy isn't so cute yet. Just wait until he and 50 of his cousins eat my Passion Flower vine to thin stalks!

Gulf Fritillary larva eating the Passion vine.
This is a good thing. This plant is the host plant for the Gulf Fritillary. These babies will eat every leaf off this plant but they will not kill it. When they become butterflies, they eat the nectar of the passion flower. So, the Passion Flower does double duty. Photo courtesy of http://www.thegardenhelper.com/

So, you must know by now that I plant things for the butterflies, humming birds and any other little creature that will visit my garden. We have mostly Texas Natives. After spending about 30 minutes watching all the life in my Texas Wildscape, I decided I better get back to mine. But, as I was walking back towards the house, I captured this little guy getting his minute-by-minute nourishment.

Do you want to see life in action? Do you need a few minutes each day to let your worries fade away? This is how you do it. Buy one plant that is a host plant for a butterfly. Here are some choices: Blue Mist flower; Lantana; Passion Flower; Mexican mint marigold; Butterfly bush. Plant in a pot twice the size of the plant and use good soil such as Lady Bug Potting Soil http://www.ladybugbrand.com/soils.htm.  You can find this at nursuries or feed stores.Place your plant in a sunny spot on your porch or patio. Do not spray with pesticides. Don't overwater. If you stick your finger in the pot and the soil is moist, the plant does not need water. You will attract hummingbirds to the blooms. You will have butterflies too. Check out more information by reading A Field Guide to Butterflies of Texas by Raymond W. Neck. http://www.amazon.com/Texas-Butterflies-Moths-Introduction-Familiar/dp/1583553681/ref=pd_cp_b_1

Good luck! Give yourself a real treat and plant a host plant for butterflies...even if you plant basil and let it go to seed, it will flower and attract butterflies! Give it a try...what have you got to lose but stress?
Until next time...happy planting!