Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter skirts

We had a lovely Easter weekend!  We celebrated as a family and enjoyed the beautiful spirit of the day, as we talked about our Savior and his great love for us.  We watched a touching film made by the LDS Church, called To This End Was I Born.  It's on youtube in three parts here, here, and here.  Watch it if you haven't...so well done!  I felt moved and loved and grateful.

I was planning on making each of the boys a tie, but didn't get to it...bummer!  And these layered ruffle skirts for the girls had been collecting dust in my project basket...half done a few years ago, and needing to be finished.  I love how they turned out...some of my favorite fabric ever!  And it only took an hour or so to finish all three...perfect!

I'll post a tutorial soon...I've made a few like these, and they're so so simple and fun!

I'm trying to finish my dress for Women's Conference this week,
getting ready for mom-in-law, sister-in-law, and neice to arrive this afternoon,
washing sheets,
quizzing math facts,
and cooking soup.

Hope you had a wonderful Easter weekend!

Friday, April 22, 2011

on a friday

we are...
  • sleeping in, recovering from two weeks of Much Ado About Nothing performances.  The big boys have been involved in a local homeschool Shakespeare class for two years.  Each school year, they study Shakespeare and his works, participate in actors' training, and then put on a play.  At home, we read from this excellent book, or this one, and watch the plays they study on DVD or Netflix.  We love this version of Much Ado.  (minus the communal shower scene at the beginning...fast-forward through that one!)  Their amazing mentor sewed all of the beautiful costumes herself.  And taught.  And directed.  And loved.  She's such a wonderful, patient person and so generous with her time and talents!  Thank you, Andrea! 

  • We'll also be staring at these new kittens, discovered in a corner of the barn last night.  Sweet, sweet.
  • The boys will spend the afternoon with their science mentor, Ben.  He runs a museum, owns and trains real falcons, and knows pretty much everything about everything when it comes to science.  And he's so entertaining...his quick wit keeps us on our toes!  Today they're learning about Dinosaurs.
  • The girls will play all day, after they clean their rooms.  (They're already in their Felicity dresses having tea.)

As for the mama, I'll spend the day:
  • finishing my power point presentation for BYU Women's Conference.  I'll be speaking next Friday, April 29th, from 2-3 pm in the Ballroom, for those of you who will be there.  Come see me, and make sure to say hello!  (more info. here
  • cleaning up for the houseguests coming next week
  • making something pretty to wear to Women's Conference
  • sewing pretty Easter things for the girls  
  • and getting ready for weekend Easter festivities, of course!

Speaking of pretty things, have you visited Sugar City Journal lately?  It's one of my very favorite places on the web.  And my very favorite girly clothing patterns have come from there.  They featured my kitchen this week, and said some very nice things...way too nice, if you ask me.  Thanks Lynne!

Hope you all have a lovely weekend full of pretty things!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

homemade yogurt recipe and good fats

Hello friends!

I just finished my early spin class and my morning yogurt.  It's going to be a good day.

I've had some requests for my yogurt recipe, so today I'm going to share with you how I make it.  There are lots of recipes out there...this is what works for me.  It's super easy and absolutely delicious!

What you need:
  • 1 gallon whole milk (We use raw milk, but you can use pasteurized if that's what you have.  Make sure it's not ultra-pasteurized...ultra-pasteurized dairy products have a hard time culturing.)
  • 2 cups very good quality whole milk plain yogurt, with live cultures (we use Stonyfield brand).  You may also use yogurt from your last batch.  I leave the yogurt out at room temperature for a few hours before using it to make more yogurt.
  • candy thermometer
  • clean glass jars

Heat the milk over medium/low heat until it reaches 110 degrees (so as not to kill the live cultures).  If you use pasteurized milk, heat to 180 degrees.  Stir often while heating.

(If using pasteurized milk, wait until milk cools to 110 degrees before next steps.)

Temper the yogurt by adding a few tablespoons of warmed milk and stirring.  Then stir the 2 cups yogurt into the milk.  Stir gently with a whisk until smooth and mixed well.

Quickly pour mixture into jars.  You want to maintain the 110 degree temperature, so work quickly.  Put lids on, sealing tightly.  (Large jars photographed above are from IKEA.  Quart mason jars work great too...remember, the yogurt will yield a little more than a gallon, as you are adding 2 cups of yogurt to the milk.  So you'll need 5 quart-sized jars, or the equivilent in larger jars.  Be sure to have clean jars and lids ready.)

Place in preheated oven set to 110 degrees, and culture for at least 8 hours or overnight.  If your oven doesn't go that low, you can use a cooler.  I've used both methods, and both work fine.  Fill cooler with 110 degree water, to just below the lids of your jars.  Close cooler and cover with towels.  Leave yogurt in cooler for 8 hours or overnight.

Refrigerate, and enjoy!  (Not sure how long this keeps in the fridge...ours always gets eaten within a few days!!)

And, for those of you who wonder...we use raw, whole dairy products, lots of unrefined coconut oil, and cultured, pasture-fed butter in our diet.  Very high in the good, nourishing fats.

For a great article on good fats, go herehere, or here.  These articles debunk the popular myths about fats and nutrition in the Western Diet.
For info. on raw milk go here or here.
Or read anything by Nina Planck, or Michael Pollan.  And I highly recommend Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig.
And if you haven't seen Food, Inc...hop to it!  It will change the way you think about food.  A good start for researching real foods.

Monday, April 18, 2011

merit badge frenzy and a tutorial

With three boys, the constant flow of Cub Scout patches and Merit Badges earned are ever needing to be sewn onto shirts and sashes.  Seriously, I haven't been able to keep up.  Or haven't wanted to (while there are so many other fun projects to be working on!!).  So my boys go to their activities, campouts, Pack Meetings, and even Court of Honors, shabbily clad in half-patched uniforms.  It's pathetic.  Especially when these boys have a sewing-fanatic mother...

I have a large jar dedicated to housing every pin, patch, and award collected at the meetings.  It was overflowing, and the boys and I decided to do something about it last weekend.  

I've tried hand-sewing and machine-sewing, invisible thread and regular thread, and even some horrible stick-on stuff from the Scout Shop.  And I usually have the boys sew on one patch themselves, every time I sit down to attach patches to shirts.  This way, they learn basic hand-sewing skills, and contribute to keeping their uniforms nice and updated.  However, this method can hardly be effective if I never sit down to attach patches, now can it?

We decided on another method this time (ahem...since we had about 20 badges to attach).  I had some Pellon fusible web hanging around, and thought this might be the best way to make the process quick and painless.  And it worked so great I thought I'd share it with you!

1.  Trace patch shapes onto the Pellon.

2.  Cut out shapes, cutting slightly inside the tracing lines.  (The pellon has layers that may pull apart while you cut.  Just lay them flat, with layers lined up, on a flat surface for now.  Or just cut in a different spot on the Pellon that isn't peeling.)

3.  Lay patch, face down, on ironing board.  Lay coordinating pellon piece (or layers, if seperated) on top of patch, with rough, adhesive side down, against patch, and paper side on top.  Iron on paper side on high for about 10 seconds.  Make sure Pellon has completely adhered to patch.

4.  Peel off paper from the Pellon on patch.

5.  Place patch in correct position on uniform or sash, and iron right side of patch, pressing down, for 10-20 seconds (I use the steam setting), lifting every 5 seconds so patch does not get too hot.  Then turn over, and iron back of uniform fabric, to make sure patch is firmly adhered.

6.  ***Make sure your scouts help trace/cut out patch shapes.  They'll appreciate so much more the work you put into keeping their uniforms nice!  And it will save you some time, if you let the patches pile up like we did...

So, while your handsome boys are slaving away on merit badges, or morphing from Wolf into Bear, you needn't slave away on the rewards of their labor.  Pellon is the answer!!

Have any other fast, easy ways of dealing with scout badges?  Do share!

Friday, April 15, 2011

more white home love

Welcome to our living room.  It's where we spend the most time...gathered around the fire, reading and studying together, watching a good movie, playing board games, or just relaxing.  It's my favorite place in the house (my new studio a close second!).  

With all the stuff we have crammed into this very functional room, I think the white walls make it feel more open and less cluttered.  The white also gives it a peaceful, serene feel...which, with eight of us wandering in and out, is a good thing indeed.

 Living room before we moved in:

Living room after recent re-do, with Benjamin Moore's Mellowed Ivory on the walls:

Living room with Benjamin Moore's Moonlight White on the walls, the way it is now:

Happy weekend to you all!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

homemade creme fraiche and recipes

A staple in french cuisine, and widely used throughout Europe, creme fraiche is similar to sour cream with a superior full, rich flavor.  It can be reduced and thickened without curdling, and can also be whipped like double cream.  It is an excellent addition to all sorts of soups and sauces.  And any kind of cultured milk product has beneficial bacteria that heals the gut and helps with digestion and nutrient absorption, so eat up!  It's good for you!!

(Read more about the benefits of cultured dairy as a traditional food here.)

To make homemade creme fraiche:

  • 1 pint good-quality cream (raw cream is best, but pasteurized works.  Do not use ultrapasteurized.)
  • 1 tablespoon whole-milk buttermilk (not ultrapasteurized, and without additives)

Stir buttermilk into cream in a clean glass jar.  Cover tightly and leave at room temperature to culture for 24-48 hours, until thick, slightly sour, and creamy.

We love creme fraiche in so many tasty dishes.   Here are a couple of our favorites:

Augratin potatoes:
Peel and thinly slice 8-10 potatoes.  (We like yukon gold.)
Stir fry potato slices in pastured butter or olive oil until soft, but still slightly firm.  Do not overcook, or they will be mushy!
In a buttered casserole dish, spread half the potatoes, and sprinkle with salt and fresh pepper.  Cover with a layer of creme fraiche, then a generous amount of shredded gruyere cheese (or any cheese you like).  Repeat the three layers once more, ending with the cheese.  Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, and then reduce to 350, and bake until potatoes are tender, and top is golden.  YUMMMMM!!!

Comfort Macaroni and Cheese:
Start with a good-quality whole-grain pasta.  We like Tinkyada Rice Pasta:
Or Ancient Harvest Quinoa Pasta:
Boil pasta al dente according to package instructions.  Drain pasta, then stir in creme fraiche and your favorite shredded cheese to taste, while pasta is still warm.  Serve with real salt and freshly ground pepper.  This is so delicious and much better than processed boxed Mac-n-cheese.

Our most popular creme fraiche menu item is Creamy Garlic Herb Dip:
Scoop some creme fraiche into a bowl.  
Stir in generous pinches of the following seasonings, to taste:
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • salt 
  • freshly ground pepper
  • dill, or other dried herbs  
Enjoy with fresh veggies.  This is much, much, MUCH better for you than commercial Ranch Dressing (which we completely avoid, because it is full of preservatives and other non-food additives).  Serve also on salads and baked potatoes.

 The kids love it, and so will you!

Monday, April 11, 2011

dishwashers, snow, and happy things

Santa Claus here was supposed to be washing dishes.
Our dishwasher is busted.  Again.  Might be time to replace it...
In the mean time, I have 6 little dishwashers who are happy to wash by hand.  
And face...  

Other things making me happy during an April weekend full of slushy, dreary, muddy snow:

1) Hot chocolate and a fire in the woodstove.

2) Sewing in my new room.  Love!
Oh, and knowing you love it too!  Thanks for all the sweet comments and emails, everyone.
That cute and talented Liz at say yes! to hoboken included my studio in her weekend roundup...thanks, Liz!  (I've had a secret crush on her striped skirt ever since I laid eyes on it.  I want to make one.  Isn't it perfect?)  A warm hello! to all her readers.  So glad you stopped by!

3) These.

4) Hearing my three-year-old brush off and spout out the rusty old phrase: Mom, you're amazin'!--long shelved and likely forgotten by its previous owners, who have entered the realm of teenager.

5) Watching this excellent film again for history.  (On sale here.)  So well done...a must see.  And this too.  Both brought me to tears...multiple times.  I love America, and the people who have fought to make it great!  (we need a James Madison today...)

6) Watching this with my girls.  Twice.  Love the music.  And the scenery.  And the wardrobes.  And the story.  And the message.

7) This Russian novel.  Spent the entire morning Saturday with my nose in it, while waiting for piles of laundry to fold themselves...which, of course, never happened.  But the dear Mr. came to the rescue and folded a few loads.  Like Vronsky, he knows how to get the girl.  Love that man.  (My man, that is--not Vronsky.  Dashing fellow, but he should've stuck with Kitty.  She wasn't his first choice, but at least she wasn't already married!)

8) Re-reading two of my favorite speeches, and the way they inspired me while working on my presentation for BYU Women's Conference.  Which is coming along.  (biting fingernails...)  I've been digging through these three books as well.  Great information about real food.  And studying this, of course.

10) My two oldest rocking another Speech and Debate Tournament.  Romney placed second in Student Congress, and Taylor placed third in Spar.  After having watched two tournaments, I am in awe.  I would wet my pants having to speak impromptu and debate and opponent in front of judges.  And they seem to thrive under the pressure.  Seriously amazing.  Makes a mama proud.  (sniff, sniff)

11) Cafe Rio with great friends.  (Note: despite my numbering, this list is not in any particular order, friends.  I love you just as much as Anna Karenina.  And that handsome devil, Vronsky.  Promise.)

12) Going to a wedding reception.  Is it just me, or do you sometimes envy a new bride?  So young and fresh and in love...full of dreams and hope?  I get nostalgic for that phase of life, and almost want to go back in time (perhaps these romantic novels and movies are getting to me...), and then I think of birthing six kids all over again, and I snap right back into the present.  And feel so satisfied and content.  I am truly blessed.  And I didn't even know back then how great he'd be at folding laundry...

 How was your weekend?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

spring chicks

 Meet our fuzzy new friends!
Oh my...aren't they adorable?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


First of all...
thank you for all the sweet comments and emails about my new studio!
I'm so glad you love it too!

Let's talk white.

I have a little obsession with white.  Okay...a not so little obsession.
I'm over the moon crazy about white.

I love it
on my walls, 
my wood furniture, 
my kitchen cabinets and shelves, 
my mantle, 
my bed, 
and even my patio.

It has become the foundation for my decorating palette.
And here are some of the reasons it works for me:

1. A monochromatic scheme is easy on the eye, and gives a peaceful, airy vibe.

I am, by nature, a visual person.  My mind puts things together through physical and mental pictures.  When I look over a room, I enjoy seeing a sense of fluidity and cohesiveness, where all of its pieces flow together.  This doesn't mean that everything needs to be matchy-matchy or mathematically placed.  On the contrary...I love texture and whimsy in a space.  But I also need to feel that visually, everything ties together in some way.  With whites and neutrals, items in a space easily flow together, and feel tied to one another, giving a room a completed, finished look, for a calm, fluid feel.  Visually soothing.

2. White makes a space seem larger and more open than it actually is.

Look at my kitchen before we moved in:
And now: 
When we bought the house, we had new flooring put in, and I painted the cabinets white.  (Benjamin Moore's White Dove in oil.  Oil paint is painful to work with...long drying times and tricky clean-up, but I'm glad I went with it, as it holds up well in a kitchen area.)  The white on the cabinets brightened everything up, and made the kitchen and eating area seem more open and roomy.  

I recently painted the walls white as well, which brightened everything up even more.  (See the former blue/green walls here.)  For the walls, I used Benjamin Moore's Moonlight White in a Regal satin finish.  It's the perfect warm white--used also in my studio and living room in a matte finish.

3.  White is a blank palette, inviting any array of accessories and textures, while maintaining a clutter-free feel.

I love beginning with white walls, and adding accent colors and pieces.  It's much easier than trying to match everything in a room to the color of the walls!  And I think a room looks cleaner and less cluttered, when collectables, art, and furniture are up against a white background.  This is very helpful for me in our relatively small rooms...I feel like I am able to fit more into a room, without the room feeling too crowded and cluttered.

For example, the storage space in our kitchen is limited, so I store much of my stoneware, dish collections, and other items on open shelving.
I think the white dishes blend in with the walls, and make it seem as though I have fewer items on display, with a cleaner feel.  But really, with a neutral background, any color dishes would look great!
We also keep vegetables and fruits in baskets on our butcher block unit.  These add color to the kitchen, but do not look too busy or clash with surrounding features, because of the neutral palette.
Even a stash of not-so-attractive cookbooks lined up on the counter blend right in:
And how about a black vintage mirror?  I think it's a charming contrast to the white walls and the bright window light.
So, in a room that's necessarily crowded with lots of dishes, supplies, books, art, knick-knacks etc, go for a neutral backdrop, and it will feel much less cluttered.
Even when a room's utilitarian accessories need to be family and farm-friendly...
like this old pail, which holds leftover food for the chickens and goats:
And these boots and lanterns, which are big players in morning and evening animal chores, and must be easily accessible.
(Note: messy floor and baseboards not included in design scheme, just a by-product of the living that inevitably goes on in designed spaces...in case you were wondering!)

4.  A neutral palette is easily freshened up with seasonal attire, or new accent colors.

Since I love to change my surroundings with new colors now and then, a neutral foundation makes it simple.  When I want a new look, I can sew up a few new pillow covers for the sofa, add some curtains or a pretty rug, or display seasonal accent pieces around the house.  New textures, fabrics and colors will always fit right in, without changing the entire space around.  
( I needed to put this one in writing--I have been know to change a room's entire layout and color scheme on a whim, in order to add in a new piece of furniture or accent piece.  I'm purposefully counting on that waning a bit, with the newly arranged furniture and freshly painted whites all over the house.  I hope my dear hubby reads this--surely he has his fingers crossed, after this recent fury of painting and remodeling!)

So, there you have it.  Why I'm digging a monochromatic design scheme in my home.
What sort of design palette are you loving in your space?  Leave a comment and share!  

Soon, I'll show you a few photos of the other rooms I've recently freshened up around here.

But first...
I'll introduce you to our brand new baby farm friends, currently residing in the garage, under a heat lamp.  Cute little things!!!

See you tomorrow!