...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


Simple Gifts

Baby Carston's vest

'Tis the season for births.  So many friends or family members have had babies in the last couple of months or are expecting this summer.  I count a half dozen born since spring and at least a couple more on the way.  I wish I had time and resources to give them all handmade gifts.  I don't mind shopping from someone's registry if it's something they feel they truly need, but I would much rather give something homemade (or at least handed down).  I simply lack the time to do so.  So if you've received a handmade baby gift from me in the last few years, consider yourself lucky.  :)  My cousin was one of those who recently gave birth (to her second child--a boy) so I couldn't pass up the chance to make him something.  I don't knit as frequently in the summer, but since the weather's been cool, I don't mind having a pile of yarn on my lap.  I love knitting baby gifts because they go quickly and I can often use ends of skeins to complete them.  Months ago I was poking around online trying to find free knit project patterns I could make for Vera and found an adorable pattern for a toddler vest.  Many people say it's not as much fun to dress boys as it is girls.  There could be some truth in that, but I think this will make any little guy look pretty darn cute.  As I've knit sweaters before I've learned that I'd much rather follow a pattern with raglan versus set-in sleeves--I heard my grandmother (my knitting guru) utter this phrase once and didn't understand her preference until recently.  I'm still not great at knitting seams so this was the perfect project to avoid all that.  It's knit in the round without any extensive finishing to do.  It was so easy and adorable that I immediately started making one for Vera, who was my model for baby Carston's version and almost wouldn't take it off.  I needed a knitting confidence boost after some projects I really struggled with over the winter.

Vera's potential toddler vest--bright yellow-orange from my stash

On a "fashion" note, I was on the rummage trail today and scooped up a "Fashion Plates" toy that I remembered from childhood.  Though we were certainly not haute couture and name brand as kids as we were clothed via hand-me-downs, rummages, and handmade outfits my sister and I certainly had an interest in fashion.  We'd spend hours "designing" our own outfits with the "Fashion Plates" before I became familiar with any other meaning for that phrase.  And we also experimented with a similar toy--whose name I cannot find with any internet search--similar to "Fashion Plates" only with fabric scraps, which my mom was easily able to provide via her sewing hobby.  My sister and I would also--as I believe I've mentioned before--draw our own catalogs (with prices, descriptions, sizes, and all) and I'd spend hours cutting out patterns of Barbie clothes faster than my mom could sew them together.  I'm still not high fashion nor do I see myself as a trendsetter, but I think this early exposure to design helped me develop my unique styles--vintage, thrift, simple, and sometimes funky.

Favorite toy circa 1983
I can't wait to play!
This desire to make things from scratch and draw things by hand is woven into my daily life.  I feel like I'm finally at a point where I can--as my blog description says--create something every day whether it's in the kitchen, in the garden, or in my basement craft corner.  This past week I made Play Dough with Vera.  She had so much fun sharing her friend's Play-Doh on our camping trip that I thought we'd try to make our own.  She chose green out of the few food colorings I was able to dig out of my cake decorating tackle box.  At first I was leery about the recipe actually coming together, but sure enough it did and Voila! we have play dough.  It keeps her entertained for a while as she rolls, cuts, and shapes it and makes for a fun Daddy toy as well.  Now if I can just make sure it stays out of the living room carpet (still finding bits from an adult game of "Cranium" on New Year's Eve.)

Play Dough

You can also add scents using essential oils.  Not edible.  Can be used over and over again.  Keeps 3 months unrefrigerated.

1 c. flour
1 c. water
3 T. oil
1/2 c. salt
2 t. cream of tartar
food coloring (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a pan.  Cook over medium heat until mixture pulls away from sides of pan and becomes doughy in consistency.  Knead until cool.

Before cheese was added
Last night I savored my first cheese pizza in several months.  I've been feeling so-so as I've added dairy and egg back to my diet.  Still trying to pinpoint what and how much is okay for now.  We're way out of tomato sauce until late summer/fall so I used some frozen eggplant/garlic puree I had on hand.  Added black olives, dried/soaked/sliced shiitake mushrooms, white beans, ramp/sorrel pesto, chopped radish greens.  I still had my separate gluten-free pizza, but it was heaven to add cheese.  I also like to top my hot-out-of-the-oven 'za with fresh arugula, which is plentiful in our garden right now.

The garden has busted out over the last couple of weeks with all the rain so I thought I'd give you a little tour.  The last photo is taken from an upstairs window as an attempt to show the whole picture, which didn't exactly happen.  Hopefully you can get a sense of our space and what's growing.  This is why green is my favorite color!

Carrots, Parsnips, Salsify, Parsley
Crazy Radish and Turnip Bed
Thriving Garlic
V's path between chard and cilantro/dill
Rainbow Chard and Red Russian Kale
Nasturtiums border the tomato bed
Pole Bean Teepee, Winter Squash, Cukes in back in pot
Pole Beans and Rudbeckia
Kentucky Wonder Wax Pole Beans
Looking towards the front of the house/street
Looking towards the backyard
The big picture--with my lovely clover-infested "lawn"
Weakling pea shoots in the foreground with beets in between
Original raised bed: kohlrabi, pattypans, spinach, tatsoi, bush beans, scallions, etc., herbs along edge
From staircase 1 1/2 story window ("living fence" on R with grapevines)

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