July Fair Update

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The fair is September 22. Seems like a ton of time and no time at all. I’ve started marking items off the list that I know I won’t get to…like the cursed crocheted afghan and all the machine embroidery. It’s been sort of freeing! Here are the items I have been able to finish lately.

23 | Food | Canned Fruit | Peaches: Completed
69 | Food | Preserves | Peaches: Completed
72 | Food | Pickles | Dill: Andy Completed

The pickles are Andy’s (and the jar in the picture is an open one, not one that would go to the fair, just so you know I know), but he’s going to enter them and I figure that’s good enough for me to mark that off my list. A week ago I did the peaches and the jam. So far my fruit canning is not going so well, and the jam didn’t set up as much as I would have liked. (I don’t have to win; I just have to enter. And in the case of canned items, not kill anyone.)

119 | Needlework | Embroidery | Ribbon Embroidery: Completed

I never even knew people did embroidery with ribbons. I did a little googling to figure out how to do it, and then I came across this book at the library. (I love the library.) I definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in this craft. It has good pictures and nice examples. I made up the design I used, but I got inspiration from the ideas in the book. I like the texture and dimension of embroidering with ribbon, and I’d like to do more.

159 | Craft | Holiday Decorations | Hanukkah: Completed

I think I found this idea last fall. I bought the card stock in the winter. I kept putting it off thinking it would be a pain and tedious and blergity. Made myself start it today and got it finished fairly quickly and easily. My shapes are a bit wonky and smooshy, but I like it. I like how it floats around in the air.

171 | Craft | Ceramics/Clay | Hand-Built Item: Completed

The ceramics/clay group has been a bit intimidating for me being outside of my experience. I bought a big block of air-dry clay and made a coil pot/vase/thing. I am pretty sure I should have smooshed the coils together and flattened it all out to make it stable, but I really liked how the coils look. Anya calls it my beehive pot, so that’s why I painted it yellow.

183 | Craft | Art | Mosaic: Completed

I was inspired by this post, which I found a link to on pinterest. Here’s my helpful hint if you decide to make a mosaicy thing with paint chips: do not cut the chips into little bits in one big heap. Keep them separate by color as you cut. I think I spent two hours sorting the darned things. I do like this, but I would like to recommend the judges viewing it from a few feet back. If you look at it up close, there are little cat hairs and teeny bits of rubber cement I couldn’t get out. Eh, that’s just character, right?

How I spent my vacation

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Carol and Anya have gone to Georgia for a week, so it’s a mini-vacation for me.  Except that I still have to work.

Progress continues on the studio space.  I’ve wired all but the back wall, and since I can’t get to the back wall right now, it will have to wait until I work my way back.  But now we (I) can insulate and put paneling up on the rest of the walls.  I broke three mason jars while moving things around.  Fortunately we (Cabol) have approximately three billion.

We started getting milk again! Tonight I started cultures for yogurt and buttermilk. I can finally use my Christmas yogurt maker! I hope the living room is warm enough for the buttermilk to set. And that the cats don’t try to eat it.  Maybe I can use Anya’s room as an incubator. If only I knew where my thermometer went.

Surplus auction this weekend, they have some oak cabinets and a large wooden table, I’m hoping they go cheap.  Maybe I’ll come home with a file cabinet too. And a giant band saw.


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I felt an urge to try making lard recently, so I picked up some pork fat from Bright Farm and gave it a whirl. They suggested using a crockpot to render it rather than a stove, and it worked pretty well.

The packages of fat.

Chopped up and in the crockpot.

After a few hours.

After about 12 hours or so, it looked like the solid bits were brown enough.

About 5 pounds of fat turned into 2 quarts of lard…

…and a bag of crunchy bits. Although I think I’d fry them before using to make them crispy again.

After cooling overnight.

I put one jar in the fridge, and one in the freezer. Today I made biscuits with some, and they are definitely flakier than in the past. The pork taste was only a bit noticeable, and then only if nothing was on the biscuit.

I wonder if there is a lard category at the fair.

I can show you anything on my belly belly belly screen

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Things I’ve Learned in My Fair Quest – Months 1 and 2:

  1. Wing it.
  2. Read (and follow) the directions.
  3. As much as you want to cut the darned infernal ties off the baby bib you are cross-stitching, resist. It’s possible they may be needed at some point.
  4. Joann’s has better stitchy stuff than Michael’s.
  5. I cannot resist sparkly paper that is on sale even if I already have lots of sparkly paper and even if sparkly paper doesn’t really have anything to do with Fair stuff.
  6. Plastic mesh canvas crafts don’t have to look like the ugly kleenex box covers you remember from your youth.
  7. Just because you finish the cross-stitching doesn’t mean the item is done. You absolutely may not mark it off your list until you sew on the back and add the hanger.
  8. Apple jelly requires patience. And a thermometer.
  9. Canning apples in Virginia is more difficult than in Michigan.
  10. Apple leather should be on the Fair list. I’ll make it even if it isn’t.
  11. Chik-fil-A beverage carriers make great craft caddies.
  12. Don’t casually toss your stitching floss into your great craft caddy unless you like to either (1) keep buying new floss or (b) spend precious Fair crafting time unraveling tangles your kid’s hair would be scared of.
  13. Stitching floss is really cheap. At least the cheap kind.

No huge projects completed so far, but I have done several smaller ones. I’ve also been busy working on the bags of apples that have been living in our dining room for far too long. I made 10 or so quarts of canned apples, a ton of apple leather, and a batch of dried apple rings. The leather seems to be the winner. So, in case you’ve been eagerly hitting “refresh” on this blog to see what work I’ve done for the Fair…wait no more.

113 | Needlework | Cross-Stitch | Christmas Item: Completed
141 | Craft | Handicraft | Plastic Canvas Item: Completed

112 | Needlework | Cross-Stitch | Baby Item: Completed

64 | Food | Jelly | Misc. Jelly (Apple): Completed (No picture. Jelly is shy.)

10 Down, 180ish to go

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Days 31-35: Continued 114 | Needlework | Cross-Stitch | Wall Hanging.
Day 36: Completed 161 | Craft | Holiday Decorations | Fall; Continued 114 | Needlework | Cross-Stitch | Wall Hanging.
Day 37 (today): Completed 21 | Food | Canned Fruit | Apples.

Today I decided to work on some canning since the canning stuff is still spread out all over the kitchen. I need to redo the apple jelly and work on a mixed fruit jelly, but jelly sucks. I don’t even eat jelly often. Darn jelly. Last week I used the last of our canned apples from 2005 (Anya, these apples are older than you!!), so I decided I would can more apples today. I peeled, cored, and quartered 18 pounds of apples (Andy helped peel about half). [After making cider, dealing with only 18 pounds of apples seems like sewing doll clothes.] Although it took forever to get everything boiling and assembled and into the processor, I was pleasantly pleased with the jars when they came out of the canner. I went and had dinner and came back to oogle, and I noticed that two of the jars (including the one I planned to enter into the fair) were half empty. The lids didn’t seal, and all the liquid was gone gone gone. I had lots of liquid left over, so I filled the jars back up, put on fresh lids, and popped them back in the canner. Hopefully they behave this time around.

With less than 330 days to go, I have only completed 10 items for next year’s fair. I thought it was more. Surely it was more?? Darn cross-stitch sucking my life away. Stitch, stitch, stitch, that was 20 days of my life sucked away. At least the end is in sight for 114. I think 115 | Needlework | Cross-stitch | Afghan is going to be the last thing I work on. Whoever heard of cross-stitching on an afghan?!? I think that would not only suck a few months of my life away, but it would probably also suck out my soul and put it in a jar and make it into jelly.

Look, we got rid of our windows!

If only apple caramel were on the list…

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Day 21 (friday): Continued 114 | Needlework | Cross-Stitch | Wall Hanging.
Day 22 (saturday): Continued 114 | Needlework | Cross-Stitch | Wall Hanging [UNSTITCHING].
Day 23 (sunday): Attempted 64 | Food | Jelly | Misc. Jelly [FAILURE]; Continued 114 | Needlework | Cross-Stitch | Wall Hanging [UNSTITCHING].
Day 24 (monday): Sanity knitting.
Day 25 (today): Sleep.

Saturday, we spent all day making apple cider. Sunday, I decided to whip up 64 | Food | Jelly | Misc. Jelly — apple jelly. I figured the hardest part was getting the juice out of the fruit, and that was already done the day before. What could go wrong? My recipe didn’t include pectin because apples are so pectiny, so I had to get the gel setty part on my own. I pulled out my thermometer and brought the liquid up to “jelling” point and then some. It didn’t pass the “sheeting” test with a spoon, but I had faith it would jell. I filled the jars and processed them. When they came out, they were about as liquidy as water. I let them set for several hours, but they were still fluid. Thinking I hadn’t cooked them enough, I popped the lids, poured the stuff back into the pot, and started cooking again. Things were looking okay until I started listening to Andy and his internet apply jelly research. I added some pectin. The extra cooking or the pectin alone would probably have been fine. Together, I got The Blob. Still, I put the goop in jars and processed it thinking it would make everything better. I’m still not sure why. Reminds me of a post from the Yarn Harlot where she was knitting something and she knew the gauge/size was way off, but she kept knitting and knitting, like sticking with it will make it turn out right.

In the end, I spent a couple of hours and four cups of precious apple juice, and all I had to show for it was two and a half tiny jars of what sorta seems like apple caramel. It’s tasty, but don’t try and heat it up and pour over ice cream unless you like apple caramel plastic. Which it turns out I do.

Check, check, check!

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Day 15: Completed 146 | Craft | Handicraft | Jewelry; Completed 65 | Food | Preserves | Apple Butter; Completed 66 | Food | Preserves | Berry.


It might not look like much, but for someone who hasn’t canned in five years, those 12 little jars wore me out. During the whole process, I worried a stink bug would accidentally add itself to the ingredients. I don’t think it happened. I can’t guarantee it. I told Anya I wanted to dress up as a stink bug for Halloween and she shrieked and screamed and ran around in fear and terror. Or maybe she just said, “No. Stink bugs are scary.” Sounds like a challenge to me.

Went to the craft store today (after going to the community yard sale but before going to several other stores and arriving home and starting to can after 6pm). I picked up supplies to finish my jewelry item, fall decoration, plastic mesh needlepoint thing, and stamped item. I didn’t work on cross-stitch at all today. Hurrah! I did, however, do some lovely knitting in the car.

Did you know, 4 pints of apple butter uses about 4 pounds of apples? That leaves around 226 pounds.

It’s Fall; Let’s Party!

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Day 13: Continued 114 | Needlework | Cross-Stitch | Wall Hanging.

Day 14: Continued 114 | Needlework | Cross-Stitch | Wall Hanging; Started 161 | Craft | Holiday Decorations | Fall.

Yesterday, Anya’s school celebrated the start of Fall with a big party. The kids got to throw corn, walk in corn, make cider, drink cider, make apple cake, eat apple cake, blow bubbles, and eat bubbles. The highlight of the event was a play about Demeter and Persephone that the school’s new drama teacher and the music teacher helped the students put together (in two weeks!). Some of the middle school kids wrote a few songs, the elementary kids choreographed a dance, and the little kids learned a dance about leaves (RED RED RED!).

One of the teachers (who was a photographer in a previous life) borrowed my camera during the play. Alas, the camera battery wasn’t fully charged, so she was only able to get a few shots before darkness fell. The play was definitely the main event of the afternoon, and everyone loved it. I hope we get to have more celebrations like this one.

After the par-tay, Andy, Anya and I drove out to the house of Andy’s chiropractor’s office assistant. Andy was in for a sore neck last week, and he told about how sad we have been because our apple trees grew about three apples this year. The woman offered to let us pick apples from the four huge trees her family has in their yard. There are so many apples, she doesn’t know what to do with them all. By the time we got there, two other families had picked their fill, and the trees were still loaded. We drove away with about 230 pounds in the back of our car.

Andy really wants to make cider, but I won’t let him spend the money on a press. (I need to save the money for my fair projects!!!!) This weekend, I want to make apple butter (#65), apple jelly (64), and canned apples (21). I’d also like to (while I have all the canning stuff out) make some blackberry jelly (60), raspberry preserves (66), and possibly canned blackberries (22). The berries are all in the freezer from this summer. I’m not sure if frozen berries make bad jelly/preserves/jams. We’ll see how far I get before I collapse. Ooo, I also want to make apple sauce, and apple leather, and dried apple slices, and an apple pie, and some apple cake, and apple pancakes, and apple head dolls, and apple kebab, and apple pudding, and apple tarts, and apple pincushions, and apple skin yarn.

Today’s progress on #114 has been anti-progress. I realized I had done a whole whompin’ bunch of full stitches that were supposed to only be half stitches. I tried and tried to convince myself it would be fine, but, alas, I failed. I’ve spent quite a while this evening pulling those naughty stitches out. I will probably have to buy new floss in that color because I don’t think I’ll have enough now. I tried to pull the threads so that I could reuse them, but it was too messy where other colors had gone over/around/through.

Also, before lunch, Anya and I pulled out some craft foam sheets I bought months ago at the dollar store, and we are making a Halloween garland (161) I saw in a book from the library. All the pieces are cut out except some lettering I need black foam for, and I think I’ll be finishing this one up tomorrow…umm….after I finish all that canning. Or maybe not.

Kitchen – Before

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I tried to find a before shot of the kitchen from the same angle as the after. Eventually I realized that was not possible what with the wall that used to be there. Here are two photos of the old kitchen. The first is from when we had just moved in, and the second was from when we had begun to take down the wall. Neither properly show the hideousness that was the always-looks-dirty, cracking vinyl peel-and-stick floor.

The other side of the room, the dining room, still needs to be painted, so no pics of that now.

I am a Cupcake Warrior

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One can only watch Cupcake Warriors so many times before one must make cupcakes. I hope the judges like my Betty Crocker chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting, which was applied using a ziplock bag with the corner cut off. I’ve never made peanut butter frosting before. It is fabulous. I think everything could be made better with peanut butter frosting: stale cookies, crackers, green beans, the crime rate in DC. Andy teased me about these looking like poopie cupcakes. Hrmpf. No cupcakes for you!

My mom dusted off a bag of 30 year-old paper doilies to help spice up the photo a bit, and I decoratively sprinkled peanuts hither and yon. Hey, I could be on the Food Photo Designer Warrior show, too! (Or maybe I really should be on the World’s Worst Cook show. It’s a good thing I don’t have cable at home.)