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Handmade Occasions – Week 1

August 27, 2013

  Handmade Occasion W1

It’s true. I’m thinking about it. For those who like to DIY the holidays and make it to the deadline, it’s time to consider what we’ll be putting together. August rolls around and I start listing out possibilities for friends and family. The last few years, I made a few promises that haven’t been kept… This year I plan on getting back on track.

However it isn’t even just the holidays that I’m thinking about. There are lots of babies coming into our lives, friends having celebrations, thank you gifts, etc. I can think of a ton of reasons for gifts and handmade gifts are always my favorite.

I’m always browsing for great tutorials so I decided to start a series called Handmade Occasions. I figured while I’m browsing tutorials and patterns I might as well share what I’m finding. I’m going to attempt to get this post up with DIY ideas every Tuesday.

Handmade Occasions – Week 1

Apple Cider CarmelsIn our house, we often give food gifts. As apples are showing up at local farms, it’s a perfect time to make these Apple Cider Caramels by Smitten Kitchen. I can vouch for these. They are just as amazing as they sound.

Art DiceConnor isn’t quite old enough for these yet, but these awesome Art Dice by Tinkerlab are on my list of things to do when he’s older. So many creative avenues to do with this concept and a fantastic gift for a kid on your list

Scrappy Rainbow PlacematsI love giving a set of placemats. Useful, beautiful, handmade. A fantastic housewarming gift. I think there are a lot of different possibilities to the Scrappy Rainbow Placemats by Freshly Pieced.

zig zag bag2Bags are also a go to for my gift giving and this one is fun and looks fairly easy. I would be interested in maybe trying a polka dot version of the Zig Zag Bag by  I am Momma Hear Me Roar.

Wetbag TutorialI wanted to try and mix a few tutorials that I’ve actually used. Any parent could use one of these Wet Bags. We use cloth diapers, so it’s always in our diaper bag. They are great for swim and water play, messy clothes, etc. This tutorial was done by Lemon Squeezy Home.

Want to join me? Compile 5 tutorials, recipes, or patterns that would make good DIY gifts and insert your link to the collection below by September 1 at midnight PST.

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Spiced Pear Leather

August 26, 2013

Right now we are in the middle of the summer bounty and this abundance of fresh amazing food is definitely one of the reasons I love living in the Northwest.

Pears

These were the best kind of pears. They were free from a friends tree and totally organic.

Food Mill and the Pears

The down side to these organic pears. They are more work and not good for very many things. We have a similar apple tree in our yard. We don’t treat the apples and that means they have worms. They are mostly in the core and the worms have already left (thank goodness because that does wig me out a little) however, it’s not really fruit you just want to chomp into.

After the Mill - Pears cooking down

We had plenty of pear butter left over from previous years so this year it was time to do some leather.

Pear mush getting ready to be dried

It’s impossible to make pear mush look very attractive.

We have a dehydrator (affiliate link) so that’s what we use. I was able to make 4 trays similar to the one above. However, you don’t need a dehydrator to make this. You can do it just as easily with your oven.

Fruit leather is super easy to do. This is a guide, but you can spice and sweeten it however you want. Get creative!

Pear Roll Ups

Once the leather is finished I simply took kitchen sheers and cut it on the parchment. Then you still get all the fun of peeling a fruit roll up.

Spiced Pear Fruit Leather

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs Pears
  • 1 – 2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon clove
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

Instructions

Core and quarter pears. If you’re going to use a food mill you don’t need to peal them but if not peel now.

Place in large pot and pour lemon juice over the pears. Cook on Medium-Low stirring frequently. Cook until fruit is soft.

Place pears in food mill and process to get rid of peels.

Place pear sauce back in the pot and simmer to reduce down. It should look like applesauce. Add spices and sugar to taste. Remember that flavors will intensify more as moisture is removed.

Spread out on parchment paper on a cookie sheet or dehydrator rack. Get it as even as possible. Dry in the oven at 170° or follow your dehydrator manual. Dehydrate for 4-8 hours.

Will store in room temperature for several weeks, the fridge for 6 months and the freezer for a year.

Further Reading

I had an awesome little helper for the project. He definitely thinks the pear leather is a winner.

 Little Kitchen Helper

Can-it-Forward Day – Peaches

August 20, 2013

I’ve been flipping through blogs lately again, and of course seeing other people’s projects and posts is inspiring. That’s why when I saw Food in Jars post about Can-it-Forward Day, I immediately emailed a fellow food preservationist! Luckily she also noticed that Lone Pine Farms was having a sale on Sun Crest Peaches.

I’ve never canned peaches before, but luckily Shannon has. The Sun Crest variety are freestone, a must for canning. We had a lot of peaches so we picked through to find the ripest ones. Most of them peeled easily, and all of them pitted quickly. We didn’t even have to blanch them to peel the skins. Most we could just pull off. Occasionally we had to use a potato peeler for tough ones.

Canning Peaches – Picture curtesy of Shannon since I forgot!

Since I like to make canned things a little special and different from what you can purchase at the store, we added vanilla beans to most of the jars. We did a modification of the recipe in Canning for a New Generation (affiliate link). I recently purchased vanilla beans here. Since we got “chef’s quality” several of them were already split, and this was a perfect way to use a few up quickly so they don’t dry out! Plus peaches and vanilla? One of the divine food combinations.

Canned Vanilla Peaches

Ingredients

  • 8 lbs. of peaches (freestone)
  • 2 quarts of water
  • 3 cups of sugar
  • 4-5 vanilla beans
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar

Instructions

I’m not going to go over basic canning technique here. If you are new to canning, you can get a good primer here or here.

Prepare your jars and lids. Peel, pit and quarter your peaches. Once peaches are quartered, place them in a bowl of water and lemon juice/vinegar. This will help them stay a nice color.

Split your vanilla beans and cut in half.

Combine 2 quarts water and sugar in a pot and boil.

Pack quart jars with peaches. You’ll want to get as many as you can in there. We started with halves but found out that we could get a lot more in if we quartered them. Slip your vanilla bean along the side of the jar. Pour hot syrup filling the jar to 1/2 inch headspace.

Stick a small spatula along the side of the jar to try and get any air bubbles out and add syrup as necessary.

Place in the canning pot. Process for 20 minutes.

Pull out and see the beautiful golden peaches waiting for you during the winter fruit doldrums!

Since this is a cold pack method you will probably have some space in the bottom of your jars when they are done. There are other methods that help negate this, but that adds extra steps. Quite frankly, I’m just too lazy for this.

This was the first time we had canned with friends, and it made a lot of work much easier than if we had been doing it on our own. Adults split up between watching the little ones and working on peaches. Between the great conversation and the extra hands, we probably went through around 32 lbs. of peaches!

Happy Valentine’s to my Valentine

February 15, 2012

KandKwedding

To the beautiful life we have created. To the partnership that we share. I love you.

Connor’s Birth Story

February 13, 2012

I’ve thought a lot about this post. I’ve wanted to write it, but it also seems to big for my little words. How do I share such a crazy, beautiful, scary, life changing experience? I’ve finally come to the conclusion that I can’t fully, but I’m going to try anyway. To share and to remember many years down the road.

Let’s just start with I was more than ready to have this baby. This is me on December 19th. Our due date had been December 12th. At this point we had tried everything we could. I had eaten various foods, bounced on the yoga ball, tried acupuncture for the first time. (Which was an amazing experience on its own.) I was ready for this baby to get here. I also felt like the baby was ready, but for whatever reason my body wouldn’t kick into gear. We would go into labor for a few hours, and it would stop. So we decided to be induced starting the evening of December 22nd.

Anthony and I arrived at the hospital ready to get going. Even though we were electing for the induction, we wanted a natural childbirth. No pain medications and minimal interventions. First we were put on the monitor to check the baby’s heart rate. Right away, baby failed the Non-stress test. His heart rate was good, steady, but didn’t spike high enough or long enough with movements. It meant that we ended up waiting at the hospital, trying to sleep while being monitored.

In the morning we started the induction by inserting a Foley bulb. This got labor going. It felt great to be making progress. After about 4 hours of labor we checked to find out I had dilated 2.5 cms. (I had started at 0 cm) His heart rate was almost passing the Non-stress test, so we decided to do an internal monitor to get a clearer picture. Maybe his heart rate would pass with more direct monitoring.

Placing the internal monitor was the hardest part of the whole deal. Since he was still so high, they had to do quite a bit of manipulation to get it placed. After trying several times, they finally got it placed and the waters were broken. That’s when we found out there was meconium in the fluid. Another stress indicator. Plus, the heart rate was the same. I stayed calm, but definitely started to worry about the baby’s health.

They started the pitocin to keep labor going, and I labored for another 7-8 hours. I have to say, I loved labor. I loved the hard work of it, the mental challenge of keeping the pain in check and the feeling that I was making progress to getting this little person in the world. Plus I had the best team. Anthony and our doula Abi were amazing. They helped me stay focused and handle the intensity of the experience. The pitocin was slowly increasing, and towards the end there was only 1 minute between contractions.

The doctor checked, and when I was still 2.5 cms, I lost all my fight. I had been working hard, changing positions, and no progress had been made. Now I was seriously worried about the baby and felt that it would be best to get him out sooner rather than later. Plus, we had seen some dips in his heart rate following contractions. Again, nothing horrible, just enough to show some more signs of stress. We decided to have a C-section.

I entered the OR, and was given the epidural. They started the incision and Anthony was allowed to join me. The C-section was a very strange experience. First, it felt weird. Second, they keep everything light hearted and jovial, which feels a little weird because they are also slicing you open. However, it makes sense. Even though it wasn’t the process we had anticipated, we were going to have our baby soon!

I could hear that they could see the baby and they exclaimed that he was big. I waited and heard one of the most wondrous sounds. Two large wails signifying our son’s entry into the world. Anthony announced that he was a boy (we hadn’t found out) and I sobbed. They were wonderful full body sobs of exhaustion, relief and most of all joy. Anthony also cut a piece of the cord. Our boy was wrapped up, and Anthony held him for the first time. He brought him over to me, and placed his cheek against mine. “We picked the right name” he said to me. All I could do was let my tears of joy run onto our boy’s cheeks.

As soon as I was stitched up and back in our room we got our skin-to-skin time. He nursed right away.

Connor Everett was born on December 23rd at 9:23 pm. He was 8 lbs 5 oz and 20 3/4 inches long.

We were able to leave the hospital a little early and got home on Christmas day. My recovery has overall been smooth and Connor was born healthy and strong. Now that he’s been with us for nearly 2 months, I can hardly remember life without him.

Baby’s Coming Home Outfit

December 14, 2011

First, thank you for all the nice comments on the last post. It as important to me to write about my experience, and it’s nice to have such a warm response.

We’ve been getting ready for Kiddo St. Clair in this house, and of course as a knitter, I had to make sure Kiddo had a sufficient outfit for coming home. Not only because I’m a knitter, but because this baby is going to be born in December! So without further ado, here’s the ensemble!

Baby's Coming Home Outfit

We’ll start with the top, shall we?

Aviatrix Hat

I couldn’t resist the Aviatrix hat that I’d seen knit up all over the internets. Gender neutral, practical and cute. It fits our style nicely. I knit this out of a little tiny skein of handspun that I had. First the singles were leftovers from a different project. I chain-plyed the singles and didn’t really like the result. Whenever I’ve chain-plyed, I’ve felt that the yarn was over plyed and hard. In general I’ve just avoided it since I didn’t love the results. However, now that I’ve knit with this yarn, my mind has been changed. After washing, the yarn softened quite a bit. I wasn’t fully convinced though until I knit with it, and it is a beautiful springy yarn. Definitely time to try some more chain-plying.

Puerperium Cardigan

For the sweater, I made Puerperium Cardigan. I made this out of some Ultra Alpaca that I had planned using for a sweater for me. However, I always knew I probably had one skein too few so it’ll be good to use these skeins for other projects. I had actually knit a sweater front that was two short out of my own design.

IMG_2012

Much better as a baby sweater if you ask me. This front was WAY to short, so I would have needed to frog it anyway. It’s been sitting in the pile of unfinished projects for years so it felt great to repurpose the yarn.

Lastly, the baby pants!

Baby Pants
I do love saying baby pants. :) I used this awesome tutorial/pattern from Made by Rae. However, my baby pants turned out a lot more leg and only a little butt. I actually think I sewed these upside down, and may be sewing another pair. Not sure a diaper is going to fit in that little butt.

I’ve also considered whipping up a quick pair of booties for the little one. This baby will never have to worry about being cold.

 

Pregnancy as an Amputee

December 5, 2011

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while now. It’s one of those posts that is so personal, it just doesn’t write itself in 15 minutes.

We're 13 weeks and due in December!

October was the month that marks 15 years of remission from osteosarcoma or bone cancer. That means I have now been an amputee for 16 years, over half my  lifetime. When Anthony and I decided to head down this road of starting our family, I didn’t know quite what to expect being an amputee while pregnant. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. There are not a ton of female amputees.
  2. In that group, there are even fewer that are of the age to have children.
  3. Even fewer of those have my specific amputation.

In my search to find information on pregnancy and being an amputee, I looked at the library and online. The most I could find was that I could maybe expect some carpel tunnel. I guess this was from using crutches and the swelling that often happens during pregnancy. So I figured it would be good to write about my experience as an above-the-knee amputee. Now that I’m entering the last week (or so) I’ve learned some things along the way.

First, I want to start with my overall lifestyle. I’m fairly active and very mobile. Anyone who has spent time with me when my leg isn’t working or uncomfortable knows how much I hate giving up my hands while on crutches. I’m willing to live with quite a bit of pain before I’ll take off my leg and be stuck on my crutches.

So one of my first fears was that I would quickly grow out of my leg, and be stuck on crutches for most of the pregnancy.  I feel really grateful that this was not the case. I did grow out of my leg, but not until the 6-month mark. I ended up getting a new socket (the part I fit into) and maintained both my mobility and the health of my back. When a leg is not fitting properly, I often compensate by using my back muscles more than what is good for them. It has been important to me not to put any additional strain on my back during the pregnancy and maintain the long-term health of such an important part of my body.

Baby Hat

I also had a few problems with water retention. When I retain water, my leg is one of the first places it shows up. Of course, that affects the fit of my suction socket. For the first time since I first had my amputation I was forced to wear what is called a shrinker, a compression stocking for an amputated limb.

I’ve had to think a lot about contracture. This is when the front muscles of the limb contract because they are not getting stretched with the weight of a leg. I usually stretch these muscles while laying on my stomach. Since that is no longer an option, I’ve had to find some different ways to stretch the front of my limb.

In the last month of my pregnancy, I can feel my hips and joints relaxing. Since I bear my weight on my sitting bone, this has also started to create some discomfort. Mostly, my hip seems to get very sore, and feels like it’s been pulled out of joint during the day. My hip muscles also have gotten very sore and tight over the course of the day. Since I have a very sweet husband, he usually helps me work out the knots.

37 weeks

There are several things I’ve been very surprised I can still do. First, I’m very thankful I haven’t had to use my crutches more than usual. I am also surprised at how I can get up and down off the floor easily. I’m a lot slower than usual, but it isn’t a problem. This is especially great because I am often on the floor as I teach.

Even though I wasn’t sure what to expect, there were a few things I did to help it go smoothly. I was lucky enough to get monthly massages from a wonderful massage therapist. She often was able to help me know what was going on with my muscles so I could make sure to stretch or massage them in between appointments. I also worked closely with my prosthetist. She made a huge difference in this experience and definitely helped to make my life more comfortable.

Overall, I have had a very smooth pregnancy (hello: no morning sickness!) and sometimes feel I’ve cheated in some way to have it go so smoothly. Here’s to a smooth birth!