Thursday, April 24, 2014

U is for Under-Ripe

I don't know why I had such a difficult time thinking of a "U" word. I'm sure a dozen will come to me in May. I settled on sharing with you the under-ripeness of fruits and vegetables. In my [limited] gardening experience, I realize there are some fruits and veggies you can pick early, or when they are under-ripe, and there are others that you must wait until they are fully ripe to pick. 

Let's start with many people's favorite go-to fruit (or is it a vegetable? :): tomatoes. Tomatoes are one crop you can pick early and will continue to ripen off the vine. If I know I will be going out-of-town for a few days and a bunch of my tomatoes are about to ripen, I will pick these early and let them fully mature inside. Also, I sometimes pick them early before the birds or rodents get to them. In my opinion, the tomato's flavor is the best fully ripened on the vine, but it's nice to know you have the option of picking early without ruining the fruit. 

Onions, carrots, potatoes, and other root vegetables are fairly forgiving. You can move away the dirt around the top of the veggie and check to see how it's progressing. If they don't look big enough or the right color, just put the dirt back over it and allow it to mature further. 


Now, watermelons on the other hand -- and all melons for that matter, must be fully ripe before you pick them. They will not continue to ripen off the vine. So, once you pick it, it's a done deal. Check out my watermelon post for details on how you can tell when a watermelon is ready to pick.

If all else fails, pick one of the fruits or vegetables and give it a taste before picking an entire crop. If you don't think it's ripe enough, let it set for a few more days and try again. 

Happy gardening!

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T is for Thinning Tomatoes (My Tomatoes' Journey - Part 7)

If you have been following along My Tomatoes' Journey, you know that I started some tomato plants from seed this year and am tracking their progress on my blog. I planted my seeds in mid-February, and now it's time (although I may be a little late) for thinning the tomatoes.

Now, thinning is not the process many of us go through to get ready for swimsuit season. Rather, I'm referring to a gardening term. When I sowed my seeds, I planted two seeds per container. Sometimes the seeds are duds, so you plant multiples to ensure success [hopefully]. You don't want to keep both plants growing, so you need to "thin" the plants by cutting (NOT pulling) the weaker plant. If you kept both plants growing, you wouldn't yield as much fruit from the plant later on. You snip the plant and not pull because the root systems are intertwined, and you risk killing the plant altogether if you pull out the root system.

Jagged-Shaped "Tomato" Leaves

Use scissors to snip the stem.
The "weaker" stem is on
the right, so I snipped that plant.
You know it's time to thin the plants when you no longer see only the initial rounded leaves but also jagged-shaped, "tomato" leaves. So, grab a pair of scissors and clip the weaker, thinner, stem at the base of the soil. Note that the stronger plant may not always be the taller plant; keep the plant with the thickest, strongest stem. 

Continue to water your plants when the soil is dry, and keep the plants in as much sunlight as possible. I'll probably be transplanting my plants outdoors in the next two or three weeks. 

Check out more posts on My Tomatoes' Journey
and keep me posted on how your tomatoes are doing!

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S is for Sewing Machine

If you are a beginner sewer or perhaps recently received/bought a sewing machine, you may feel overwhelmed getting started. In this post I will describe and show you the various parts of a sewing machine. I use a basic Singer Machine; however, most of these parts are transferable across machines. Hopefully, this provides you with the resources and confidence to get started using your machine!

For instructions on how to thread your sewing machine, visit my previous post: Threading a Sewing Machine.

Top of the Sewing Machine

First, here are the sewing machine parts on the top of the machine. 

Spool Pin: a plastic (or metal) "pin" where you place the spool of thread.

Spool Pin Cap: plastic cover placed on the spool pin to secure the spool of thread in place.

Thread Guides: devices on the top of the machine that carry the top thread from the spool to the needle.

Bobbin Winder Shaft: a pin used to hold the bobbin while winding the thread onto the bobbin. The left position is its default position. Refer to my post on Threading a Sewing Machine for instructions on how to wind the bobbin thread. 

Tension Control: dial that adjusts the tightness or looseness of the stitch.

Front of the Sewing Machine

Here is a description of the sewing machine's parts as seen from the front.

Bobbin Case Chamber: area where bobbin is placed. 

Bobbin: small plastic or metal spool where thread is wound; this thread will be used for the back-side of the stitch. 

Pressure Foot: place in the down position when sewing to hold fabric in place. 

Needle: thread goes through the needle and creates the front-side of the stitch. 

Eye of Needle: hole in the needle where the thread goes through.

Example of a Top-Loading Bobbin
(as opposed to a Front-Loading)

Bobbin Cover Plate: plastic piece that goes over the bobbin chamber. 

Release Button: button that releases the bobbin cover plate. 

Pressure Foot Lifter: lever that moves the pressure foot in the up or down position. 

Tension Discs: regulates the looseness or tightness of the stitch; this can be adjusted using the tension control. 

Thread Take-Up Lever: feeds the thread from the spool to the needle and will go up and down when the needle is in motion.

Reverse Stitch Button: allows the machine to stitch backwards in order to create a backstitch, or a "knot". 

Stitch Control Panel: adjusts the length, width, and type of stitch (i.e., straight, zig-zag, button hole etc.)

Other Parts of the Machine 

Here are a few other parts to the sewing machine.

Hand Wheel: round knob that manually raises and lowers the needle. 

Foot Control: device controlled by the foot that determines the speed of the needle. 

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Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for Rest

My Brothers and I (probably) on a Sunday Afternoon
My parents not only taught me practical life skills, but they instilled in me the importance of faith and family. One main way they did this was through rest, which played out each week on Sundays. My family was very active in school, work, and our community, but we took a break from these commitments each Sunday. Even as I got older and into my teens, I looked forward to this time together with my family (even though I don't think my brothers liked it as much as I did:). 

Sundays were a day when we didn't do housework or yard work; we didn't plan activities; and we didn't have friends over/go to friends' houses. But it really wasn't a day about things we couldn't do; rather, it was about truly resting and spending uninterrupted time together as family. Growing up, this looked like attending church in the morning, eating a big mid-day meal, and then falling asleep to whatever seasonal sport was on television (football, golf, baseball, etc.). 

Now as a parent, my husband and I try to observe this same rest each week with our children. Of course, it looks different than when I was growing up (as it would for any family). We attend church on Saturday nights, so on Sundays we generally eat a big breakfast together, go for a walk if the weather is nice, or just lounge around in our pajamas watching a little television. No matter what we do, the same core principle applies: rest. We work quite hard six days a week, and I always look forward to that seventh day to enjoy God, His creation, and my family.

Check out more posts on my 2014 A to Z Challenge!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q is for Quilts

As you've been reading in my posts, my mom taught me many "domestic" skills throughout my life. But I would say that my mom's greatest skill is her quilt-making. So, today's post showcases just a couple of the many quilts my mom has made in her lifetime. 

I would guess my mom made this quilt in the early 1990s. This is called a "bear claw" design. (I can't believe I just recalled the name of this quilt design. Wow...I'm an uber nerd...or I just have a mom that loves to quilt.) She hand-quilted this (as opposed to machine-quilted or tied, which you will see examples of as well).

My mom made this quilt on the right for me about 20 years ago. I thought this was a windmill pattern, but I'm not sure if that's correct. This is not quilted but rather tied-off

My mom machined quilted this baby blanket for my first son. This is a nine-patch design. The name comes from the three-by-three blocks. 

I also want to show-off a quilt my great-grandmother made me about 20 years ago. She was in her 80s at the time. She was a spry, joyful woman who is the inspiration to many things my mother taught me. This is a log cabin design made of scrap material. 

Finally, here is a quilt I'm in the process of making: a "chevron" (or zig-zag) baby blanket. I plan to machine quilt this one. 

Last year I provided a tutorial on how to made modern-striped, twin size quilt for those of you interested in delving into the world of quilt-making!

Check out more posts on my 2014 A to Z Challenge!

Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for Patching Pants

Skill Level: Beginner
Skills Attained: Patching 
  • Iron-On Mending Fabric
  • Paper
  • Iron & Ironing Board
  • Scissors
If you have a little boy in your life, you will most certainly want to tune into this post on how to patch holes in pants. There is something about the way the boys play and rough house that creates such a great opportunity to ruin their clothes. I find it helpful to have a few mending techniques in my back pocket that allow me to save a few dollars by repairing rather than buying new. 

Just last month, my three year old son put his first hole in his pants. So I will walk you through the first time I put a patch on my son's pants. It's very simple and requires no sewing!

You will need iron-on mending fabric that you can get at a local fabric store. You'll want to get a color that matches the article of clothing that you are mending. Keep in mind that this patch will be visible even if the colors match. This type of patch is more for functional purposes rather than aesthetic purposes.

Cut the mending fabric, or patch, slightly larger than the size of the hole. I like to round the corners of the patch. Place a piece of paper behind the layer of fabric you are patching so that the adhesive material on the patch doesn't stick to other parts of the article of clothing. Set the patch with the shiny side down over the hole. Use a hot iron and press the patch for 20-30 seconds to ensure a bond.

There you have it! The hole is fixed, and your child can get back to rough housing. 

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for Oatmeal Bake

Skill Level: Beginner
Skills Attained: --
  • 2/3 c. vegetable oil
  • 2/3 c. brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 4 1/4 c. old-fashion oats
  • 1 1/2 c. milk (plus additional for serving)
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 apple (peeled, cored, and diced)
  • 1/2 c. raisins
  • 1/2 c. pecans (chopped)
  • 9" x 13" baking dish
  • Cooking spray
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Wooden spoon

My in-laws get credit for today's post. Actually, I believe this is my sister-in-law's husband's family's recipe. (Is it possible for me to use more possessive apostrophes in that sentence? Ha!) I first tasted this warm and comforting breakfast dish when we were all together as family one weekend. I love oatmeal, and I love finding new ways to prepare it. This recipe is a great twist on an old favorite. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does! 

Oatmeal Bake

In a large mixing bowl, mix the vegetable oil, brown sugar, and eggs.

Then, add the baking powder and salt. Stir to combine.

Add the oats and milk. Stir to combine.

Add mix-ins of your choice: dried fruit, nuts, apples, cinnamon, etc.

Pour mixture into a 9" x 13" greased baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve with warm milk. Enjoy!

Check out more posts on my 2014 A to Z Challenge!