Friday, July 29, 2011

I love felt and making an easy summer wreath

I recently made (or actually upgraded) a wreath for a front door.  This weaved twig wreath has been on our front door since winter.  Back in the holiday months, it sported some festive ribbon and tiny glass balls.  After Christmas, I removed the decorations and just kept the bare wreath up.  Everyday it seemed to be saying to me, "Cloth me!  Decorate me again!"
I finally listened.

 And one of the best parts is, I already had everything I needed for the project!

The supplies needed are very few.  Felt (any felt will do really, even the cheaper sheets available at craft stores are great for making these flowers, so there's no need to buy the expensive felt.), glue gun, and wreath.  That's it.  I already had the wreath and a glue gun and felt are pretty much staples in our house.  So the total cost of this project = $0.

 First step is to cut out circles of felt.  Then, cut in to the circle making a spiral shape.  At the beginning, cut a normal strip and gradually have the strip get thicker.  You'll end up with a little circle "knob" in the middle.  It should look something like this:

Starting at the narrow end of the spiral, roll the felt up.  Be sure to keep the bottom of the felt lined up straight.  

As you keep going, little "petals" will form.  It will start looking a little something like this:

 Here's where the glue gun comes in.  When you roll up all the felt and get to the center, put a dollop of glue on the felt right before the spiral gets to the center "knob".  

The last step is putting a few more dollops of glue along the flower back and then pressing the center down.  

Hello finished felt flower!

Making these flowers can be very addicting.  It's super easy to do and you can make them in all different colors and even in multiple tones.  If you're like me, you'll make more than enough for your wreath.

Next, comes placement.  I recommend laying them on the wreath before gluing to get the design and composition that you want.  

Once you're happy with the placement, hot glue the flowers on.  You can always add things like ribbon or buttons to the wreath, too.  

And the finished wreath hanging:

A lovely and incredibly easy summer wreath.  You'd be foolish not to make one yourself!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

remember that book...?

I'm the manager of a bookstore/cafe during the day and often get asked the following questions: 1) Can you recommend a good book for me to read?, 2) What are you reading now?, 3)Do you read a lot?, and 4)Do you sell lottery tickets here? (The last one gets asked more than you'd believe.)

Anyhow, by the nature of my job, I come in contact with more books than anyone could ever read or even remember seeing. I read fairly regularly and usually have a book or two (or three) I'm in the middle of. I am not, however, good at remembering all the books I have read. So I decided to make a list of the books I have read (so far) in 2011. Of course, I didn't officially start keeping track until March, so I may have already forgotten a book or two.

This isn't for really any purpose other than just my personal knowledge of what I've read this year. I don't have any book goals or a certain number of books that I'm aiming for, I just wanted to see what types of books I usually read.

I'd say by looking at the list below, if you know me, these titles seem like things I'd read. If you have any interest in seeing my progress, I've included a "Book" tab at the top of the blog. I'll continue to update books I read on that page. Also, I'll include some of my favorite craft and cooking books I've come across lately.
Books I've Read in 2011 (as of July 27th):

1- The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride- Daniel James Brown
2- The Coast of Maine – Louise Rich Dickinson
3- The Orchard: A Memoir – Adele Crockett Robertson
4- From Off Island – Dionis Coffin Riggs
5- How Did You Get This Number – Sloane Crosley
6- The Blueberry Years: A Memoir of Farm and Family – Jim Minick
7- The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love – Kristin Kimball
8- Mary: A Flesh and Blood Biography of the Virgin Mary – Lesley Hazleton
9- Hay Fever: How Chasing a Dream on a Vermont Farm Changed My Life – Angela Miller
10- Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide – Brett McCracken
11- Spencer’s Mountain – Earl Hamner (reread)
12- Olive Kitteridge – Elizabeth Strout
13- Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World –Suzanna Woods Fisher
14- Growing A Farmer –Kurt Timmermeister
15- The Salt House – Cynthia Huntington
16- Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World – Mark Frauenfelder
17- Mirror Mirror- Gregory Maguire
18- We Took To the Woods – Louise Rich Dickinson
19- That Summer on Catalpa Street – Louise Pliss
20- Adventures With Hal – Gladys Baker Bond
21- Lemon Jelly Cake- Madeline Babcock Smith

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

garden destruction

Before we bought our house in 2009, we had a vegetable garden for a few years at my parents house.  Their house is situated near farmland and isn't fenced in at all.  We grew a variety of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, melon, eggplant, peas, beans, and other edibles in the garden and had a pretty good success rate.  We'd harvest pounds and pounds of tomatoes during our twice weekly visits during the growing season. 
When we were looking for a house, we had a lot in mind for our backyard.  The major thing was a fairly decent area for a garden.  Our house had a nice size backyard for our area, but it was on a slope.  We set to making raised beds and bought in nice blend of soil and made sure everything was healthy.
Our first growing season (2010), was off to a good start.  Our tomatoes shot up and grew tall and prolific.  

Then, one day we noticed the leaves started to curl up and wilt.  The next day they took a yellow and brown appearance.  The flowers stopped blooming and no more fruit was produced.  We picked maybe 8 tomatoes from those plants before they died off completely.  What was the cause of this?  Blight? Wilt?  
We took a leaf sample and went to our local nursery to talk to the experts.  While they couldn't say for sure, they did ask us if we had any Black Walnut trees close to our property.  We did.  Our neighbors have two Black Walnut trees which are maybe 7 feet from where our tomatoes were.  Evidently, these trees have a chemical called juglone that can be toxic to certain plants, especially tomatoes.  There wasn't much that could be done at that point as we were told you'd need to plant the tomatoes 25 feet away from the trees and even that might not work.  

Despite all this tomato devastation,  we planted a new round this summer.  We love the idea of growing fresh vegetables right outside our door and decided to plant them in a bed even further away from the Black Walnut tree.  Everything was going well until a few weeks again, we noticed the "Walnut Wilt" reappearing.  We didn't panic, we could still get some fruit off the plants if they succumbed again to juglone.  

However, we didn't plan on animals attacking our tomatoes constantly.   The other day, I walked out to check our garden and found this:
This tomato was about the size of two golf ball and we were eagerly awaiting the day to pick it.  But something else got to it first.

So we decided we needed to fence the bed in.  We had some chicken wire left over from a previous project so we used that.  The holes we a little bigger than we wanted, but we figured it would still keep out the critters eying up our produce.  

We were feeling good about this until the following morning:
Obviously we were dealing with a smaller animal or a bird.  We have a family of chipmunks that live in our neighbors yard (or ours it seems), so I leaning towards chipmunks.  (They dig holes all over our flower beds and we can't seem to get rid of them.)  We have since bought new chicken wire with incredibly tiny holes, so nothing can possibly get in through the holes.  So far, so good (fingers crossed).  However, we did witness a hungry squirrel running around the fenced in bed trying to figure a way to get up.  Luckily, he got frustrated and jumped around frantically before running his usual exercise course along our fence and taking off to another yard.  

If only critters and Black Walnut trees attacking our tomatoes were the only gardening problem we have.  
On Friday morning, after Kinsey got back from his morning run, he checked on our garden and everything was fine.  Less than 40 minutes later, I went out to water before we left for work and was met with complete pepper massacre:

In all, our two tallest and most flowered pepper plants were snapped in half, two more were pulled straight up from the ground, and the remaining six were fallen over and trampled on.  We have no idea what happened.  A little chipmunk (our usual garden suspect) couldn't have done this massive work.  A squirrel doesn't seem likely either.  A rabid raccoon?  A skunk?  A bear? (We haven't seen any of these in our yard ever.  I doubt the bear, but there have been bear sightings in the boro we live in about 5 times in the last 18 months.)

So we're down to 8 peppers still in the ground (we started with 13 at the beginning).  I'm not sure how damaged these remaining ones are, but hopefully we get a pepper or two.  This bed will obviously be fenced in immediately.