Trying to Find a Balance

I decided this past fall that I simply couldn’t keep up with posting daily–real life had to come first.  Yet, as I was looking through my blog today, I realized I really missed it.  So I guess the answer is balance.  I am going to try to post at least once a week.  This may be crazy, as garden season is right around the corner, but I’ll figure it out.  It might just mean one less thing gets knitted each week.

Speaking of knitting, I just opened an Etsy shop called Sixth Street Knits–just for the extra stuff I make.  I feel a little silly because I’m not sure my knitting is good enough for someone to actually give me money for it, but people seem to like what I’ve been making.  We’ll see what happens.  One thing that I listed is the finally finished “Fiona’s Top” pattern.  (See the post:  The Saga of Fiona’s Top).  It took me two years to get that sucker done–I frogged and reknit that thing so many times I should have at least half a dozen of them now.  It may be a while before I attempt another–small needles + light yarn do not satisfy my instant gratification needs.  Right now, I am making another little sundress for my cousin’s baby–bigger needles and less lace make for a quicker knit.

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 This year I want to find some balance between knitting and gardening.  Last summer I hardly picked up any knitting because I was so into working on my garden plot and yard.

So there it is…a short post to get back into the swing of things on From Michigan to Montana. Feels good to be back!

Would You Like to Join the Columbia Falls Community Garden?

Hi!

There will be at least 4 plots available for the 2014 season.  These organic plots are approximately 12′ x 12′, and are available for just a $20 cleaning deposit.  If you are interested in putting your name in for the lottery, please click on the link below and fill out the form.  The drawing will take place toward the end of March.  Hope to see you in the garden!

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?usp=drive_web&formkey=dGhDeWNEZ1FqVXRHdnVjdVBrMlJ4b3c6MA#gid=0

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A Very Crafty Christmas

Pinterest makes you feel like you can craft anything, doesn’t it?  Its “DIY” category was the basis for most of my Christmas presents and decorations this year.

My first project was a yarn ball wreath.  My husband fashioned a ring for me from coaxial cable, which I wrapped with yarn.  I used foam balls from JoAnn’s as the center for each “yarn” ball and Red Heart Super Saver yarn, which is pretty inexpensive. It took me a while to determine the best way to secure the balls to the ring.  After experimenting, I used floral U shaped pins, and then my handy glue gun.  I added some inexpensive silver gaudy balls (as my husband calls them).

The final result:

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Next year I may add more of the smaller balls to the outside ring.

For my front door, I made a quick, inexpensive wreath with gaudy balls, a wire hanger and ribbon.  The picture is a bit blurry, but you get the idea.

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Of course I knitted a few things to gift, including ear warmers, boot cuffs and a beer cozy (didn’t want my brother-in-law to feel left out).  I also made some fingerless gloves, but I didn’t get a picture of them.

bootcuffs:

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I made body spray from distilled water, witch hazel, vegetable glycerin and essential oils:

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I crafted ornaments:

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But what I was most excited about making was the lip balm.  For the majority of my life, if I discovered I didn’t have a ChapStik in my pocket, I swear I could feel my lips immediately drying and cracking.  Now I can’t imagine ever purchasing it again.  I bought the tubes through Amazon, but the first batch I received was awful–not a single cap stayed on.  So as not to waste them, I put a small dot of hot glue on the tube to make them fit.  Subsequent orders from different vendors produced appropriately sized lids.

There are many recipes for lip balm on the Internet, and I settled on one that combined beeswax, shea butter, sunflower oil and essential oils.  I made peppermint, citrus (orange and grapfruit) and lemon batches.

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In addition to these items, my husband made strawberry bread, pumpkin bread, and zucchini bread.  It was a very crafty Christmas indeed, and even though my family in Florida pokes fun at me, wondering if my children are being used as sweat shop labor, I had fun and I’m even a little bit proud of myself.  :)

Currently on the agenda:  I am knitting a wall hanging thingy–the idea came from Pinterest, of course.  I am also making t-shirt yarn out of tank tops that I dont wear anymore–I eventually want to crochet it into a rug or a basket.

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Are you making anything right now?

Bring on 2014!

It has been ages since I’ve written on this blog, but it has truly been a very busy fall and early winter.  In addition trying to keep up with my kids, husband and the Giant Newfoundland, I took on some new projects.

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Such a pretty girl.

In October, we put the Columbia Falls Community Garden to bed for the winter.  We planted flower bulbs and garlic. It was definitely a successful season.  Our growing season was amazingly long, and we were able to donate nearly 260 pounds of fresh produce to the Columbia Falls Food Bank.  I feel like I spent the better part of September and October in the kitchen, processing tomatoes.  I was able to put up 74 jars of tomato products though–should last until next year.

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74 jars of tomatoes on the wall…

I started teaching a new course at the high school called History through Literature, which fulfills the required credits for both US History and English 11.  Those of you who are teachers know how time-consuming it is to craft a new course.  For this one, I have the same set of students twice a day, and I am trying to implement student-centered and inquiry-based learning.  There have been some successes and some things that definitely needs reworking for next year.

In addition to my full schedule at the high school, I also began teaching World History for the Montana Digital Academy. MTDA is a fantastic program that offers (free) courses for high school age kids throughout the state of Montana.  Montana high schools are often very small and far away from one another (the state is just barely under 150,000 square miles with just barely over a million people) and they can’t always offer the same buffet of courses for their students; this helps to fill that need. I have students from Columbia Falls to Wibaux, and from Shelby to Red Lodge and everywhere in between.  Some are home-schooled, while others are trying to get caught back up so they can graduate.  Many of my students this past semester are taking World History in addition to a full class load at school.  So far it has been very rewarding.

Finally, I was elected to the Columbia Falls City Council this past November.  I have my first meeting on my birthday, January 6th.  I’m excited–I have an orientation with the city manager on Thursday morning so I I’ll know what to expect.

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Other than these exciting additions to my life/schedule, I taught myself, with the help of my mother-in-law, the basics of crochet.  This will accompany my knitting–there are just certain things that are better crocheted than knitted.  Like baskets.  I still find crocheting awkward and much more difficult that knitting–but I assume it will get easier.

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My first attempt. It has issues.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to.  It’s a full plate, but someone told me that I must like it that way, or it wouldn’t be.  Very wise, very wise.    My next post will be about my “Very Crafty Christmas”.  Stay tuned!

A Few Pinterest Projects

I have been pretty busy this summer.  I’ve accomplished a lot, but I have certainly been neglecting my blog.  Sorry!

Those of us who are Pinterest users know that the site is a mixed blessing.  On one hand, it provided thousands of amazing projects and recipes and excellent tips.  On the other, browsing Pinterest can also make a person feel insecure and totally unaccomplished.  Who really has time to do all of that exercise, cook all of those amazing meals, entertain your kids every moment with clever and funtastic projects, and decorate your entire house in perfect nature hues and with pallets?

I certainly don’t.   I often turn to those “Pinterest fails” websites–they make me feel so much better.  But I have come to terms with Pinterest, to some degree.  I pin projects and recipes that are achievable in my world–and have attempted a few of them with differing levels of success.  For instance, I love the zucchini enchiladas.  They are amazing every time I make them.    The white chicken enchilada is also wonderful.  I have made the Panera knock-off broccoli cheddar soup.  I have been regularly making the Skinnytaste pesto and freezing it into cubes.  Other things I’ve tried, such as the breaded string cheese  didn’t turn out quite as well.

The kool-aid dyed Easter eggs were awesome, if a bit messy.  The knitting patterns were great (though they usually led me back to Ravelry…where I had already been).  For Christmas, I transferred pictures to wood blocks for my sister.  Recently, I tried my hand at a few more:  the penny covered bowling ball yard art, the pallet garden bed, and a reconfiguring of a t-shirt.

The bowling ball project was fun, and allegedly, and especially if you use enough pre-1982 pennies, it will help deter slugs and snails from your garden.  Good enough reason to try it for me!

Here is the “pin” I was working from:

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I went to the thrift shop (with $20 in my pocket…no…just kidding) and purchased a $2 pink bowling ball.  I collected all the pennies in the house, and gave them a bath in vinegar.  I wouldn’t recommend this course of action for cleaning the pennies.  It took a really long time, and didn’t seem terribly effective.  I used a DAP silicone rubber sealant and attached the pennies face-up to the bowling ball.  In order to prove to myself that I have some control over my OCPD, I glued just one face down.   Ha!  In your face, perfectionism!  The original pinner said to fill the finger holes with caulk, but I didn’t.  After the adhesive dried, and the pennies were securely fastened, I took a few erasers and systematically cleaned up the pennies.  That worked better for me than the vinegar–although it took me the length of a movie to do it.

Voila!  Yard art and hopeful slug deterrent:

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I’m happy with that!

I used another pin in my garden–pallets for easy, nearly ready-made raised beds.  I write “nearly” because my husband had to nail boards to the sides to keep the soil in.

Here is the original pin:

Here is my attempt:

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I’m pleased with the results, but I think next year I will limit what I grow in the pallet, and I will only use one (I had two this year).  The kale, romaine, spinach and radishes did really well.  You just have to be careful when planting because the seeds wash under the boards.  Also–I will loop my drip line over the pallets instead of hand-watering.

And finally, I attempted to redesign a t-shirt that I’ve had forever by never wear because I don’t like its fit.

Here is the original pin:

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I didn’t take a picture of my original shirt, but, it was just a basic t-shirt.  I fought with my sewing machine for a while, and had to redo the straps to make them a little longer, but this is what I came up with:

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Again…not too shabby.  It is not meant to be a “finished” shirt, although it certainly could be with some hemming of edges.  I just cut the pieces and left it at that.  If they fray, they fray.  But I will actually wear this now…even if it is just for working in the garden.

Thank you for coming along on my Pinterest adventures tonight!

The Columbia Falls Community Garden – Mid July

It is unbelievable how much a garden can grow in two short weeks.  Take a peek at just a few pictures of our progress.

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Andrew and Lucy have a ripe tomato! Call me jealous!

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OK…and they have this perfect looking little cabbage patch. Precious!!

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A glimpse down my garden rows

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A good looking onion!

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I have so much kale…and so many kale chips to make…
Who has a great recipe for kale chips out there? I’ve tried garlic and sea salt, salt and vinegar, and sriracha.

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Climb, little cukes…climb, climb!

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Some hail damage on the zukes, but they are still producing like crazy. We ate zucchini boat enchiladas last night, and zuke slices sautéed in balsamic vinegar. Yum. What will it be tomorrow? Fritters?

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Again, the hail upset some of the aesthetic qualities of the squash, but not the production!

 

I forgot to take pictures of the cauliflower that I planted thinking they were cabbage (I received them from a friend).  They are gorgeous–bright purple and yellow.  I will add some shots of them tomorrow.  And…since I have never eaten cauliflower, what exactly does one do with it?

I want to thank Jesse and Lauren for making some wonderful signs for the garden.  They look great! For some reason I missed taking a picture of the garlic and onion signs…sidetracked by a garden visitor.  I’ll get it posted tomorrow.

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That’s all for now!

The Columbia Falls Community Garden at the End of June

I have definitely realized that I am a “cold-weather blogger”.  When winter lasts as long as it does in NW Montana, it seems silly to spend those few nice months inside at a computer.  Still, I want you to see the progress of our community garden.  It has truly never looked better.  

Warning:  if you don’t like pictures of vegetables, stop here.  

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This is the Boys & Girls Club plot

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Starting to look like the Pinterest project that inspired it…

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Desert Mountain Brewing is growing hops in the garden. Aren’t they pretty?

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More hops

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Thanks to Arnold and Naomi for making the compost bins!

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This is the Food Bank plot. Thanks to Robbie and all the work she has done!

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If you’ve made it this far, thanks for checking on our progress this season!