Friday, July 22, 2011

Lest you think I’ve become a slacker…

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I know, I know. I up and disappeared on you. Sorry about that. It simply couldn’t be helped. My husband has spent a lot of time out of town over the past several months helping with the storm cleanup and repairs. Sometimes a mama just has to prioritize to get the important stuff done.

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Like oven-drying figs…

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These babies are divine!

(They’ll keep for up to a week at room temperature, and for a month or so in the fridge. Remove stems, halve, and dry in the oven on a parchment lined cookie sheet for 12-24 hours or until they reach desired doneness. Use your lowest oven setting – mine is 170 degrees.)

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Apple and pear picking…

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And, of course, canning.

(Fig preserves and spiced applesauce.)

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Making fresh homemade pico de gallo (heavy on the onions and jalapeƱos) is a given for us.

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And check out this Hill Country Red Okra that I just picked this morning.

Gorgeous. I know what’s for dinner tonight.

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And lest you think my work is done… Not even close!

But, I missed you guys.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Checking in…

I appreciate all the thoughts and prayers you’ve sent our way in light of the awful weather event that occurred in Alabama (and elsewhere in the South) last night. There are no words for something like this. We’re fortunate that the most severe storms stayed slightly to the north of us. It was absolutely horrifying to watch it all unfold last night knowing that many friends and loved ones were in harm’s way, and that at any moment it could happen to us, too. We live just outside of Montgomery, Alabama. The county directly north of ours, Elmore County, was hit particularly hard. My husband is (at this moment) taking part in the search and recovery effort. The death toll is absolutely staggering. I type this message with tears and humbly ask for your continued prayers throughout this ordeal. I can’t even wrap my mind around the devastation that has occurred. In Tuscaloosa, in Birmingham, in Cullman, and the list goes on and on. Entire city blocks with buildings and homes have been completely leveled.  We have friends who have lost homes, but fortunately, no confirmed deaths among anyone that we know at this point.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” ~ Phillipians 4:6-7

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The BEST Gluten Free Sandwich Bread EVER!

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If you’ve been around here for a while, you know that I discovered last year that cutting gluten from my diet helped tremendously with my Crohn’s symptoms. You also know that I tried and tried to find a suitable gluten free sandwich loaf and was disappointed time and time again. My loaves were passable, but they weren’t great. They were either too crumbly or too gummy, or they had that off-flavor which characterizes so many gluten free breads. I’ve done my share of whining about the cost of store-bought gluten free sandwich loaves, and what’s worse, these loaves were not wonderful either. Far from it. We even did sourdough for a while, but I found that it sometimes gave me trouble. 

I am so happy to tell you that I stumbled upon a recipe for the most delicious and versatile gluten free bread dough. We’ve made loaves for sandwiches with this dough. We’ve made pizza. (Yes, very good pizza!) This bread pairs well with a bowl of soup or stew. It would make fabulous buns for burgers or hot dogs. Cinnamon rolls are next up on the agenda. You can even roll it thin for crackers. You see, this dough isn’t like all the others I’ve tried. It’s not runny like cake batter. It’s dough. You can shape it. And it’s absolutely delicious! There’s nothing about this dough that screams gluten free. It’s incredibly crusty on the outside and moist and chewy on the inside (without being gummy). It reminds me of a nice loaf of Italian bread. My kids are begging me for a piece of this bread every time they think about it. The best part? You can mix up 4 loaves of this bread and store it in the refrigerator (for up to 5 days) until you’re ready for it. Hallelujah! We now have good bread again folks. And it costs me roughly $1 per loaf to make. I had to share it with you.

For me, the sad part is that I’ve owned this cookbook for quite a while. I bought it before we were eating gluten free. I used it for whole wheat bread and didn’t give the book a second thought when we switched to gluten free. I wish I had. There’s no telling how much money and time I’d have saved. Store-bought gluten free loaves are a thing of the past for this family. This is the only recipe I’ll ever need. No more failed attempts!

Monday, March 28, 2011

The farmhouse kitchen table

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I adore this farmhouse kitchen table. We’ve actually owned this table for almost ten years, but were unable to fully utilize it until we moved to the homestead 2 years ago. The ends of the table are actually comprised of 2 leaves which spent the majority of their lives in storage. The moment we walked through that front door I fell in love with this room because I knew it would hold my beloved table in it’s entirety. This baby seats 12 and is a dream to have when entertaining (which we do regularly – wouldn’t you with that huge inviting table?)

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This house is pretty well suited for entertaining guests. I love that the kitchen is open to both the living room and the dining room. That probably has something to do with why I spend so much time in my kitchen. It’s always right there beckoning me. And I never feel left out of what the others are doing when I’m in there. I can see everybody from my workspace.

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This is the view from the kitchen open to the living room. The dining room is separated from the living room by the staircase. Beneath the staircase is a nice pantry that for the life of me I can’t figure out how I ever lived without it. These rooms are connected by a loop which goes from the front door all the way around and back to the front door on the other side. That loop has made for some interesting games of tag on rainy days. We love it here. I feel truly blessed and thank God for bringing us to this place. If you would like to see the house as it was before we started renovating, you can click here and here.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Upstairs Renovation: Kids rooms & Playroom

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I always enjoy seeing other people’s remodeling projects, and I thought you might like to see our latest completion. Remember this trip when we left the project in full swing? Well, we actually finished the renovation just after Christmas. I just never got around to posting pictures. And since I’m still mending, I haven’t got anything else to do today. ; )

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Before the renovation, the upstairs was actually a huge master suite. It was a wonderful space. You can see the before shots here if you scroll down through my old sewing posts. My sewing machine was parked in front of those gorgeous windows in Sara Lynn’s room.

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You may be wondering what would make a person be willing to give up such a wonderful space. One word: STAIRS. My bones need all the TLC they can get these days. And the kids aren’t complaining about the swap one bit. Everyone’s happy with their rooms now.

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Every piece of furniture in both of these rooms came from estate sales, yard sales, or flea markets. I much prefer the character and craftsmanship in older pieces. And the money I save buying things secondhand is a nice bonus. But mostly, thrifting is just plain fun. It just takes a little patience waiting to find the right piece at the right price.

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Daniel’s bedding came from TJ Maxx on clearance and Sara Lynn’s came from an estate sale. It looks brand new and was obviously barely used on someone’s guest bed. I still need to deal with the walls and windows in both of these rooms, but they are for the most part done. Whew!

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Are you familiar with Quercetti? Daniel received this gift for Christmas and he and all his friends love it.

It was just the right gift for a boy who feels he’s getting too old for toys but enjoys games and building things.

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This is the view of the playroom from Daniel’s bedroom door. It’s never this clean, which has a great deal to do with why I never posted pictures before.

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We have lots of books. (Mostly thrifted books). I can never seem to get enough of them, either for myself or the kidlets. We do use our local library frequently, but I don’t mind buying books either. Come to think of it, I can never have enough books, fabric, or seeds. Oh, and put a gardening book or crafting book in my hand and I’m in heaven!

With this remodel done, we have only the bathrooms left to tackle. Here’s what we’ve done so far:

Living room & Kitchen

Dining room (I don’t have a decent shot of this room – how did that happen? This is the before shot. Basically all that changed in this room was the installation of wood floors. But I can’t wait to show you my farmhouse table that seats 12! Next post?)

Sewing studio (Did I mention that this was the garage in it’s previous life?)

And of coarse, the upstairs. I’d love to see what you’ve been up to around your house lately!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Homestead Revival–Giveaway: Keeping Bees

Head on over to Homestead Revival for a chance to win this fabulous book.

(It still hurts to type, so I won’t be doing much of it right now. But, I’m on the mend!)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Alive, but not (yet) kicking

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I just wanted to pop in and let you know that my surgery went as planned. No major complications.

I now have part of my right hip bone residing in my neck (an odd thought, for sure) and I’m taking it easy praying that the bones mend properly this time. And that they mend sooner rather than later.

Your well wishes and prayers have been most appreciated! Please keep them coming.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Gluten Free Pound Cake (Soaked)

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Oh me, oh my! This gluten free pound cake is crazy good. The wheat noshers in my family didn’t even balk a bit. That said, it isn’t exactly like my grandma’s pound cake (which is made with white flour and white sugar, of course.) This version is made with whole grains and Sucanat (natural sugar), but don’t let that scare you off. I made this cake last night and it’s already half eaten by my family of four. It was fabulous this morning with a cup of coffee and some fresh fruit. Bliss. I’m absolutely thrilled to have pound cake again!

I converted this recipe from here to be soaked in the Nourishing Traditions fashion.

 

Gluten Free Pound Cake (Soaked)

2 cups brown rice flour

1 cup kefir (OR buttermilk OR yogurt diluted with water to the consistency of buttermilk)

Combine brown rice flour and kefir. Soak overnight. (12 – 24 hours)

3 sticks of butter, softened but not melted

2 cups Sucanat

5 eggs

1 cup tapioca flour

1/2 tsp. salt (omit if using salted butter)

2/3 tsp baking powder

1  tsp xanthan gum

1 tsp pure vanilla extract (OR almond, lemon, orange…)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour a tube pan or 2 loaf pans.

With a mixer, cream butter and sugar together.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Add tapioca flour, baking powder, and xanthan gum to the soaked brown rice flour and mix until moistened. Slowly add this mixture to the creamed mixture. Mix until smooth. Add in almond extract (or your choice).  Pour into prepared pan and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  If the top of the cake starts to get really brown, you will need to lay a piece of foil loosely over it so that it can keep cooking internally without burning the top.

When it is done, remove it from the oven and let it sit in the pan for 10 minutes before inverting it onto a plate.  If you do it sooner, your cake might fall slightly. Unlike most gluten free baked goods, I have found that this cake is even better when enjoyed the next day. It is VERY moist on the first day. Enjoy!

(Well, tomorrow is the big day for me. Any and all prayers would be most appreciated. I am very optimistic that this surgery will be successful. Blessings to you!)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Nesting??? (A tour of new my sewing studio)

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I think this impulse of mine to clean and organize has something to do with the appearance of these.

Daffodils… Hooray!

It’s official – I have spring fever. We’ve been extremely blessed with temps in the mid-70’s for the last couple of weeks. I’ve been soaking up sunshine and airing out the house with all of the windows open. Ahhhh… It’s so nice.

In other news, I’m scheduled for surgery on Monday. M-O-N-D-A-Y! I’ve been cleaning and organizing like a mad woman knowing I’ll be very much handicapped for weeks. Somebody should tell my bones it’s almost Spring, for crying out loud! They don’t have permission to misbehave this time of year. I’m yearning to get my hands dirty. But, that’ll have to wait. This time, my new neurosurgeon will be using bone from my hip to give my neck some extra help with the mending process. I’m hoping this will be my last surgery.

Enough of that… would you like a peak at my new sewing studio?

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I’m not quite finished with it, but I’m happy with how it’s looking so far.

The paint color is Faded Ink by Martha Stewart. I adore the color for these walls.

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I pulled out my favorite fabrics from my stash for display (and hopefully some inspiration.)There’s so many projects I’ve been wanting to tackle, but my neck hasn’t been cooperative. I’m optimistic that’ll change soon.

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If you don’t yet have one of these nifty storage caddies, go out right now and get one. They’re perfect for holding sewing notions and patterns. The best part? I can roll it right over to where I need it. Bliss.

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I love looking at everything all organized and color coded. It brings me joy.

It’s all about the simple things people.

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This little gem has wheels, too. I am a blessed seamstress.

The bottom shelf holds all of my knitting needles, and the black cabinets hold my children’s art supplies.

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Wonder of wonders, I actually enjoy sitting here again! This space has been in disarray for months.

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I don’t know why I waited so long to do this…

Oh wait, that’s right. My neck. But now that I know they’ll be fixing me up Monday, I figured it didn’t matter if I wiggled something out of place!

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I adore old mason jars. They’re wonderful for storing so many things.

I actually use them to store dry food goods as well. (With new lids, of course.)

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If I happen to be sitting here, I most certainly have Pandora blaring. Coldplay radio. Give it a listen.

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First up when I get my neck in working order is this precious memory game. That Alicia Paulson is one crafty chic!

I highly recommend Stitched in Time if you enjoy sewing for your family. Love it.

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Before I let you slip away, I just have to show off this bench and shelf my sweetheart made for me.

Isn’t it wonderful? I think so. And best of all, we now have a proper place for our shoes and coats.

(And a temporary place to put sleeping bags until they make it to our weekend backyard campout.)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I could never be a vegetarian

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… and this is why. Oh-so-yummy, grass-fed, locally raised beef. Enough said.

Not only does it taste divine, but I also believe grass-fed meat (bone broth and butter in particular) has many health benefits. That’s not to say that we eat a large slab of meat at every meal. I’m also very frugal, and steak is a rare treat. We enjoy beans and locally grown organic produce in abundance.

I make just about everything we eat from scratch. Yes, it takes up a good portion of my day, but I look at is as an investment in our health. I use my crockpot on the days I lack inspiration (or energy). It just feels right for me to be in the kitchen. I mill my own grain into flour, and I’m sure to soak all grains (and nuts and beans) before we consume them. We drive a considerable distance to obtain raw milk. I could go on and on about nourishing food and traditional food preparation methods, but I won’t. Suffice it to say that I really wish we’d been eating this way all along. Maybe then I wouldn’t have Crohn’s disease (DO NOT click if you are faint of heart!)… or be suffering with degenerative discs in my neck… or need 2 more cervical spine surgeries. Ugh!

Enough looking back. I’m moving forward these days. I’ve been eating this way for a little over a year now. My digestive system is healthier than it’s been in a long time. We regenerate our bones at the rate of 20% per year. The way I see it, if I keep eating nourishing foods, in 5 years I can have new, nourished, healthy bones!

Allow me to be a blessing to you – take my advice: get your own copy of Nourishing Traditions. Please don’t wait until you are sick to think about what you are putting into your mouth. My grandmother always told me, “You are what you eat.” And that’s the truth, my friends.

“When you eat the labor of your hands,

You shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.”

~Psalm 128:2 (NKJV)

Monday, January 31, 2011

“Peasant food” at it’s finest

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I don’t know what it is about winter that makes me crave soups and stews, but I don’t fight it. My crockpot sees a lot of use this time of year. I throw in whatever meat I have on hand (yes, we eat meat almost everyday – but we keep our portions small) and pile on the root veggies, herbs, and seasonings. By that evening, our mouths are watering and the entire house is filled with the aroma of a good, wholesome meal. The best part? I haven’t had to slave over the stove all afternoon.

I also crave beans and greens more this time of year. Beans are a wonderfully frugal meal option and they’re so easy to prepare. I soak dry beans overnight with a little ACV (to neutralize the phytates) and rinse them the next morning. Once they’ve simmered for several hours with a little sea salt, EVOO, onion, and garlic, they simply can’t be beat. I like to eat mine with a bit of sauerkraut. So delicious and nutritious!

My digestive systems really appreciates it when I eat this way. It rewards me by not getting bloated, crampy, and miserable. A return to traditional foods and preparation techniques has benefitted the whole family. We rarely get sick with those nasty viral bugs that seem to go on a rampage this time of year. And, I believe I would have healthier bones if I’d been eating this way all along. But alas, all I can do is move forward. I’m grateful for the wake-up call of Crohn’s disease which made me realize that all the processed foods were harming my family. Now, I know. Now, I can nourish my little ones. And myself.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tea party time

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I stumbled upon this little tea party Sara Lynn had set up for her babies. My heart melts.

To see my sweet babe caring for her babes... doing what mamas do. My cup runs over.

It swims around in my head from time to time… this desire to be a good mother. A good example to follow.

My hope is to give the best parts of myself to my family. And to hold back those things that are less fruitful.

It keeps me on my knees… not a bad place to find oneself.

Blessings to you as you journey through your days. Let’s make the most of them.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Happy Starter

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Happy starter makes mama happy…

We’ve I’ve been making lots of sourdough bread lately. I’m happy to report that I tolerate wheat/spelt very well as long as it is allowed a long fermentation period. And really, this is the most nutritious way for anyone to enjoy bread. It can be soooo yummy! You just need to learn how to make it.

Here are the instructions I used for making starter (which worked so well).

Here is Wardeh’s (delicious!) recipe and instructions for making sourdough sandwich bread.

And in case your wondering, here’s why sourdough is so nutritious

No more high-dollar gluten free bread from the health foods store for this family. And admittedly, I was never completely comfortable with the ingredients list on those packages. I really tried, but I was never able to master baking gluten free sandwich loaves (with nutritious ingredients). I feel good about our bread again.

I have an appointment tomorrow. I’m not very excited about it. I’ll be having a painful procedure (you know it’s going to be bad when the doctor forewarns you that it will be painful and you will not be able to have anesthesia! Sigh.) but hopefully we’ll have a better idea about what is going on with the discs in my neck/back. On a better note, my Crohn’s flare seems to have finally subsided. I have traded my oral pain medication for a topical cream that is giving me some relief. I appreciate all your well wishes and prayers more than you can know. Blessings to you!

Monday, January 24, 2011

As promised: quilt pics

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It’s been a long time coming, but here are the promised pictures of the whole cloth quilts I made for Daniel and Sara Lynn this past Christmas. I really enjoyed the entire process of making my first quilts, even if there was no actual piecing involved. I have to say, I was feeling much better this time last month, and I am ever so glad I took advantage of those days to give my little loves something mama-made. It feels so right.

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Here’s a close-up of the quilting. I chose to do a grid pattern on Daniel’s quilt and straight lines for Sara Lynn’s quilt. I couldn’t be more pleased with how they turned out. I just adore the puckered, antique look. It’s exactly what I was going for. And I’m happy to report they were very well received.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Give Away: Levi's Lye Soap

Check this out…

http://homesteadrevival.blogspot.com/2011/01/give-away-levis-lye-soap.html

I love a giveaway, and since I’m not making my own soap right now, this looks good to me!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Some days are better than others

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Can I be honest here? I’m having a really tough time lately. And that’s okay. Sometimes life doesn’t make sense, but there’s no use crying over spilt milk. I’ve learned that the hard way. We’re in God’s hands and only He can see the big picture of our lives. So, we must keep going - putting one foot in front of the other, and praying for better days.

Sometimes, everybody hurts. Everybody hurts, sometimes. ~REM

I’ve found that the key to surviving the difficult times is to focus on today. What can I do right now? I try not to think about all those things I can’t do. I try not to worry about tomorrow, because honestly, today has enough trouble of it’s own. Right now, these words are very real to me. I trust that the Lord will not put on my plate any more than I can bear. I remind myself of Paul’s words:

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

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So, I cook for my family. Gluten free peach crisp.

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I make sauerkraut.

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I marvel at 2 cabbages that barely half-fill two quart-size mason jars.

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I prepare sourdough bread for my loved ones.

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And on the days when mama hurts too much to move, we eat take-out pizza by candlelight.

I find myself in the midst of a severe Crohn’s flare-up and unable to take medication to ease the pain of two more degenerative discs in my spine.

But, I know that there’s a better day coming…

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Handmade Christmas (and my first whole cloth quilt)

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I’ve wanted to learn to quilt for what seems like forever. This Christmas, with one week to spare, I finally decided it was time to bite the bullet. I made each of my children a whole cloth quilt (mostly because I had no time to make a proper quilt and partly because I was scared I’d mess it up) as an early Christmas gift. We took them with us on the long drive to Disney and now the quilts have been rightfully dubbed our “Road Trip” quilts.

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I really love the way they turned out. Unfortunately, I haven’t taken the time to photograph the finished quilts and it’s raining out. More pictures will come later. I’m most in love with Daniel’s quilt. I simply adore the fabric combo and colors. All of it was purchased at Hobby Lobby where you can print out a coupon online that’s good for 40% off (in-store purchases) most weeks. Oh, yes. I’m nothing if not frugal.

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I really enjoyed making my first two quilts, even if I was a bit pressed for time. I completed both quilts in less than one week. I finished the binding of my baby girl’s quilt on the oh-so-long trip down. I believe hand-finishing the binding was actually my most favorite part. Stress relief at it’s finest I tell you.

There was also a good bit of knitting done on this trip, but I only have one UFO to show for it. I’m still trying to get the hang of knitting, and I can’t tell you how many dropped stitches I’ve had to deal with. I should probably frog it and start over. It sits abandoned in my knitting basket for now.

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This is exactly what I felt like when I was halfway through marking the lines on Daniel’s quilt.

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And this is what I felt like when I finished. My mom gave me this cute pencil sharpener. I love it.

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Good gravy… that was a lot of marking!

In case you’re interested on getting started in quilting, here are some tutorials which helped me tremendously:

http://www.crazymomquilts.blogspot.com/ You’ll find links to picture tutorials of all the basics in Amanda Jean’s sidebar.

http://anyonecanquilt.typepad.com/my_weblog/machine-quilting-tutorial/ This is the method I used for basting - easy.