Etsy Shop

It’s finally open!

I’ve been preparing for some time to reopen my Etsy shop.  I’ve had a few roadblocks along the way… mainly summer, moving and (still) having trouble finding the boxes of supplies and handmade things that are ready to sell.  The first item listed is one of my favourites and more handmade items and custom designs will be added throughout the next few weeks.

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The first item is a handmade silk ring pillow, the same design as I made for our own wedding a few years ago.  The pillow itself is approximately 6-inches square and it has a large beautiful handmade silk flower on top.  The rings tie to a satin ribbon in the center of the flower.  And yes, we let our ring bearer carry the actual rings down the aisle with him and he did a fantastic job!

If you have any ideas for things you’d like to see for sale in my shop or if you’d like a custom item, please let me know!

My shop can be found by clicking on the image above, or going to undertheredwoodtree.etsy.com

Strawberry Jam & My Adventures in Canning

Yesterday I was at the store buying canning jars (for drinking glasses, not canning food) and by the time I came home I decided that it was time to finally try canning something.  I asked friends on facebook where a good place to start would be and my favourite comment was “make something you like.”  So I did.

The three of us went to Mills Fleet Farm today and bought a great big canning pot and a few supplies, then to Costco to buy the strawberries (not quite the same as home grown or even the Farmer’s Market – but we’re on a budget and buying a mass quantity of berries).  A side note, Fleet Farm is one of the most interesting stores I’ve ever been to.  As someone who is not from the midwest, is afraid of hunting and has only successfully grown basil and 10 tomatoes, it is quite the experience!  I also never thought about where to go if I needed to build a dock for my lake house, buy every kitchen gadget ever invented and pick up a rifle and a bag of m&m’s on the way out the door.

Anyway… back to the berries.  We listened to a segment on NPR this morning about canning and preserving the season’s fruits.  The conversation made canning sound romantic and inspiring so I thought I’d try Kevin West’s strawberry jam recipe.  The segment isn’t long, I’d recommend you listen to it.  You can find the audio link here.

As I share this recipe and my photos, keep in mind that this was my first time canning and I am no expert.  If you’ve never done this before, I am only about 45 minutes worth of blog reading ahead of you in experience.

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Strawberry Jam
Yields 2 pints

2 pounds ripe strawberries
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Optional: a few scrapings of lemon zest

The original recipe says “To get started, go shopping at a farmers market or roadside farm stand if at all possible, and seek out the smallest, reddest berries. Fragrance is a good indicator of quality, but tasting is better still. The giant strawberries favored by supermarket produce managers are not a good choice. I call them “Pamela Anderson fruit,” artificially enhanced and tasteless.”  I suppose Pamela Anderson fruit it is for us.  Ha!

  1. Get all your canning supplies and canning instructions ready.  I found the instructions on the blog Food in Jars to be very helpful.   Briefly rinse the berries and remove their caps. Combine with the sugar, lemon juice, and zest in a large bowl, and crush with your hands.
  2. Turn the fruit-sugar mixture into a stainless steel saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring regularly. Reduce at a full rolling boil, stirring all the while, to the gel point, 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of your pan and the strength of the heat source.  This took much longer than 8-10 minutes for me, and I’m guessing it is because I had to use a smaller burner, even with high heat.  The gel point was more like 20-25 minutes at a rolling boil.  The Ball Blue Book has a good description of what the gel point is.  (Hint: don’t buy this on Amazon.  It’s pretty pricey.  It was only $4 at Fleet Farm)
  3. Once a gel set has been achieved, skim the foam off, and ladle the hot jam into four prepared 1/2-pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. I didn’t have enough 1/2 pint jars available, so I used a few 4oz jars too.  Seal, and process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes.

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Sterilizing the jars in our large canning potnoname-2 noname-3 noname-4 noname-5 noname-6

A little helper wandered into the kitchen after his nap

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The strawberry, sugar and lemon juice bubbling away on the stove noname-9

Our kitchen was VERY hot.  I should have picked a non 90-something degree day to do this.noname-10 noname-11

Filling the jars with jam

photo 1 photo 2And back into the giant pot they go for 10 minutes
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I thought the jam was delicious, but the real taste test was giving it to Willnoname-14 noname-15I think he approved!

Jar Cozies

 I don’t know how to crochet.  Well, that’s not entirely true. I can do something that resembles crochet, but I never knew what the names of the stitches were, just a few variations on the same thing and I could go back and forth in a line.  I saw this free pattern for a Jar Cozy on The Handmade Girl and thought I’d give it a try. It’s my first time following a pattern and I had to watch a few youtube videos to learn basically everything in the pattern, but it was super simple and I love the result!  Now I can enjoy hot drinks in my jars!

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Technically this is inside out (I think).  When I finished it I liked the pattern on the inside better than the outside, at least when it was stretched over the jar.

ImageNow I have an even better use for my Cuppow lid (above).  These are fantastic.  They take any mason jar and turn it into a travel mug.  These lids have also come in handy for feeding Will smoothies.  The hole in the top is the perfect size for a straw and this fits on any regular mouth canning jar.  They also make a wide mouth version if you prefer!

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Teepee!

I don’t know if I can blame pinterest or some of the blogs that I read, but for a while I have wanted to get Will a teepee.  There was one in particular I’ve seen on Etsy, but the $180 price tag was a little steep for something I wasn’t sure if he’d like or not.  So, I thought I’d put my novice sewing skills to the test and make him one.  (By the way, when I say “novice sewing skills” I am not being humble, rather I’m being optimistic.  I just found out a few days ago I’ve been threading my machine wrong since my mom gave it to me… 13 years ago.  But I digress).

I looked at a few tutorials I found online that had measurements that made for a good starting point, but I wanted the teepee to look more like this one.  I preferred the ones that had four sides and would be easy to collapse, since we don’t have a huge space to store it or to keep it up all the time.  I made many mistakes and my estimated two evening project took four or five evenings, but I LOVE the result.  Plus the mistakes kind of look intentional (specifically, the added 12 inches to the bottom of the teepee).

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I got the fabric at SR Harris, a discount fabric store in the Twin Cities.  It’s huge and overwhelming, but I find it fun to sift through their stuff, especially if you have a lot of time on your hands.  The fabric is 100% cotton and seems to be coated with something, although I don’t know what.  I got a TON of  fabric for $30.  I believe it was 3 1/2 yards and super wide (120″ maybe?).  This was helpful since I did make so many mistakes I was able to compensate with the large amount of fabric.
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Grant critiqued my teepee for not being accurate since I added a “cottage window” but I think it’s cute! IMG_1290

I used PVC pipe and have plans to spray paint it to cover up the writing, but I’m having trouble picking a colour. We drilled holes into the top of the poles about 14″ from the top to thread the yarn through.  Without the holes the tie had a tendency to slip down and cause the teepee to close.  This way, it has no problems staying open, even with an almost-walker pulling himself up on the poles.  The poles are 6′ long and were less than $2 each.  I wanted wood poles, but they were hard to find in the length I wanted and were much more expensive.IMG_1296

IMG_1127 IMG_1126Will isn’t quite sure what to do with the teepee yet.  He likes it if we sit in there with him.  The other day his friend Zoe (who is about 7 months older than Will) LOVED it.  She ran in and out of the teepee and squealed with delight each time she emerged.  When do kids start to enjoy hiding so much?  I’m looking forward to that phase with Will.

The total for the project was less than $40, and that includes all the extra fabric, an extra PVC pipe (which we used to make his birthday sailboat) and the little caps that go on the bottom of the poles.  If you know what you’re doing this project could be even cheaper!

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I have made my own laundry detergent before and it is so easy and so inexpensive.  I’m not sure why I stopped for the past few years but I was recently inspired to make it again.  Most of the recipes for liquid detergent use Fels Naptha and I wanted to try something new.  I found this recipe using Zote Soap, something I had never heard of before so I decided to try it.  I was able to find all the ingredients (including the large 5 gallon bucket with lid) at Wal-Mart, a trip I made especially to try and find the soap.  One bar makes 10 gallons of soap and was $0.97… unbelievable!  This recipe is found from Becky’s Homestead, a website I stumbled upon when searching for laundry detergent recipes.

What you need:
1 bar of Pink Zote Soap, 400 grams
Cheese grater
5 gallon bucket
5-10 gallons of water… just not all at once
Something long to stir your soap like a paint stir stick or wooden spoon
1 cup measuring cup
Something to store your finished soap in
1 cup of Borax

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Start with your bar of soap.

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We have a regular cheese grater, but I LOVE to grate cheese in the food processor using the special attachment to do so.  If you’ve never done this before and need a whole block of cheese grated, I highly recommend it.  There is something about grating an entire block of cheese in 2 seconds that is so satisfying… especially if you hate to do that task by hand.

I wondered if it would work with the soap and since it is softer than a block of cheddar cheese, I thought I’d try it out.

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Voi la… 2 seconds later I had the whole large bar of soap grated.

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Seriously, this is surprisingly fun.
(I won’t mention having to wash all the parts afterwards though.)

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Put your freshly grated soap into the bottom of your 5 gallon bucket.

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Start filling your bucket with warm water from the tap.  After each gallon, stir the water and soap.  After you have put 3 gallons in, stir well, put your lid on the bucket and wait 24 hours.

After 24 hours you will have a thick, jell-o like gel.  My photo of this stage didn’t turn out well so you’ll have to use your imagination.  You’ll need to stir it for 5 minutes or so to break up the gel and it becomes a very interesting texture, kind of mucus like.  Gross, I know.  After you have successfully stirred your soap up, add one cup of Borax, 2 more gallons of water and stir some more.  The borax will dissolve and your soap will be runny and still a little gel like.  Borax is a water softener and helps whiten your clothes.  If you want an extra gentle soap, just leave the borax out.

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Now your soap is ready to use.  The original recipe suggested putting 1/2 gallon into old 1 gallon milk containers and then filling the rest of the container with warm water, shake to mix.  You then use 1 cup of detergent for a large load.  I decided to keep it the original strength and just use 1/2 cup of soap per load.  5 gallons is still a lot of soap, so I can’t imagine storing 10 gallons!  So far, so good.

I put the laundry soap into a canning jar because it’s what I had on hand and it pours and seals well.  The remaining soap is in it’s original bucket waiting to refill the jars once I run out.

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Again, since I left it full strength without diluting it with another 5 gallons of water, I just use half the amount of soap per load.

One thing to add, Zote soap doesn’t smell great.  It’s a very strong soapy smell which I was worried about staying in our clothes, but the scent seems to rinse out completely and our clothes come out smelling fresh and clean.  It also has done a great job so far at getting stains out and our icky kitchen towels and wash cloths came out cleaner than they do when I use bleach.  It’s not a chemical free soap by any means, but it seems to do a great job getting our clothes clean and was just over $1.00 to create 5 gallons of double strength soap.  Not too bad, if you ask me.

 

 

The Beginning!

I have had it in my mind to start this blog for a long time.  Last November I decided to go for it and finally open the Etsy shop that I had been dreaming about.  I had such a great time coming up with ideas, planning and anticipating.  It was a blast!  This was right around the time that we found out that we were expecting a baby!  Unfortunately this meant that soon after my all-day-sickness would set in and remain as my constant companion through the spring making it difficult to maintain the shop, grad school internship and work.  A lot has happened since then including my graduation, moving from Illinois to Minnesota, welcoming our incredible baby boy into the family and beginning my new role as a mum and a Residence Life spouse.

My excitement to re-open my Etsy shop has only increased and I see this blog as a place for me to share my ideas and inspiration as well as some of our day to day life.

I’ll leave you with this picture of one of Will’s first smiles.  This is what I spend majority of my time doing these days and I love it!

Projects, Projects, Projects!

Unemployment has been great to me!  Perhaps I am enjoying it a little too much and thus the lack of motivation to look for a job.  I’ve been keeping myself busy this summer with a trip to Colorado, accompanying our youth group on a trip to New Orleans, helping with VBS at church and many, many, projects around the house.

Trip to Colorado with good friends – I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time!

Dining room chairs – Before

Dining room chairs after!

We celebrated our first anniversary!  Our anniversary date started as a picnic and then it started to rain.  We moved it to our porch and the rain became a tornado warning with no power.  So… we spent the rest of the evening sitting on old chairs in the basement with no power.  The candles are sitting on top of the de-humidifier.

Our living room is now complete (and no longer has folding camp chairs in place of the sofa)

And SURPRISE!  It’s also a bed. (Which we didn’t order, but have decided is very nice to have)

The whole crew in New Orleans

Our backyard.

We have spent an abundance of time enjoying the porch!
I painted our front door.  Once I can find a long enough ladder, the shutters will be next!

And, this week I re-grouted our bathroom floor. 

Even though I still have some clean-up to do, it is looking much better!
And, in the midst of all of this, I’ve even found some time to do a little knitting…

A friend of mine had a baby in May and she asked me to knit her daughter a baby cocoon for their newborn photos.  Isn’t she precious?  I think she deserves her own post.  I am excited to meet her next week!
Gosh, I love days like these!

Art in Ministry

I took a course called “Art in Ministry” this semester.  It was a 1-credit independent study course that we made up essentially as my “I don’t want to be deported” class.  (I needed one credit to bump me up to full-time status in order to meet the requirements of my student visa).  It was actually a great class and a change from all the paper-writing that I do in every other class.  I read a few books (Art for God’s Sake by Philip Ryken and Amazing Grace by Jonathan Kozol).  I was asked to submit some of my thoughts from the readings and to create an art piece in response to both of them.  This is it:

I’ll write more on that later.  For now, I need to study for the final I have tonight!