Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Day -- Peace on Earth to All

Merry Christmas!

It was a smaller Christmas for us this year (gift-wise), but I hope it's small every year because it allowed us to appreciate each gift. 

Here's my brother in his new pajama pants (homemade by mom), his new shoes, and his new bow from Grandma. Later that day we went over to our Amish friend's home, played games and ate snacks until late.

I'm grateful for my family, friends and my Savior. I feel His love every day and I see His hand guiding my life, bringing me the trials and the blessings that will bring be closer to Him.

Merry Christmas to everyone everywhere
(John 3:16) (2 Nephi 11:7)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sprinkles + Brothers = Morse Code Messages

.... .. / - .... .. ... / -.-. --- --- -.- .. . / .. ... / ..-. --- .-. / -.-- --- ..-

Christmas is upon us! This year we have sent out 96 Christmas cards and caroled and dropped off cookies to about thirty differnet families. We are feeling blessed and want to share that feeling with as many people as we possibly can. 

One of the cookies on our cookie plate was a very special cookie with a very special message on it. My brother took about twenty minutes decorating that candy cane because he used the sprinkles to write "Hello this is a cookie for you" on it in Morse code. The family we gave it to probably had no idea what they were getting. 

My brother is so smart and so fun I love him to pieces. I love my whole family. This is the season for love.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Making Memories by Making a Memory Quilt

During my senior year of high school, I decided to make a memory quilt for each of my friends.

Well, here I am, a junior in college and I finally finished the last one.

What Goes in to Making a Memory Quilt?

First: I go through my journals and decide the scenes that I want to depict on the quit 

    Yes - I write in a journal. I've written in one since I was eight years old and I have eleven full 8.5x11 journals and ... Yes - I type them once I've filled them so they are very searchable. I usually choose about a dozen scenes and write them in a list.

Second: I draw a rough draft on a scrap paper and then a detailed version on my white fabric.

    It usually takes a long time to draw and I get tired of it by the end -- as you can see in the top photo. The quit size was different for every quit I did -- but my people drawing style didn't change because I'm not the fantastic artist my sister is :)

Third: Using twenty-five different thread colors, a hoop and a needle, I back stitch everything.

This step takes the longest. Usually six months at least with me doing a little every day. I hand sew everything except any hills, mountains or rivers because I do those on a machine after it's done to hold the front, batting, and backing together. 

After the third step, all of the others go pretty quickly and before you know it the quilt is finished

Fourth: Sew a border onto the quilt

Fifth: pin the front, batting and back together

Sixth: Machine sew the big things: rivers, mountains, waterfalls, roads, hills etc.

    My little brother loves to watch me sew and every time I make a quit he asks to make one too. So I set him up with a hoop and some thread. He's never actually finished an entire picture, but he's sure enjoyed himself.

Seventh: Make and sew on the binding / top loops (if it's a hang-on-the-wall-quilt)

I make my own thick one-sided bias tape and use it bind my quilts. For this last quit, I got to step seven and seam ripped it all the way back to step three. I did that twice. My family is very supportive. Above is a picture of my brother, mother and I seam ripping around the breakfast table. 

I eventually decided it was the machine's fault that I wasn't liking the end product ( I had tried my machine and my mother's) so I called up a sister in my ward (a member of my congregation) and asked if I could use her machine. Not only is this sister super creative and creates the most amazing looking projects (go visit her blog to see for yourself)-- but she has the best machine I have ever worked on. 

She was kind and helped me and before I knew it I had the binding on my quilt.

Eighth: Hidden stitch the binding along the back

Ninth: Hang it up and take lots of pictures before sending it to your friend

    I love making these quilts because I get to relive all the fun things I have done, and I'm constantly thinking about what my friends are going to think when they see them. It makes me happy. Below are some pictures from past quits and this quilt that I loved.

Tubing down the river when it was shallow enough to walk in

White water rafting in the New River in West Virginia and falling out

Hiking up to Lion's Head Rock in West Virginia with my friend who wore terrible boots

Getting lost nearly everywhere we ever drove together

Tenth: Start planning the next quit.

    My next one is going to be fore my sister who is on a mission. I'm going to be up at school a lot so I don't think that I'll be able to finish it before she gets home -- but I thought that I'd better get started because it's going to be a big one.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Harvesting Oaks & Maples

    One of the last things we knew we had to get done was harvest some oaks and maples from the forest. Every year we like to find a couple int he woods and transplant them into the front and side yard where we're trying to nurture a tree line to block us from the neighbor's view. It doesn't cost us anything and most of the trees have survived.

    It makes you feel like a true hunter-gatherer when you're out harvesting trees at this time of year because, without leaves on the trees you have two things to go of:
     1.) The bark - which is easier to tell on a larger tree
     2.) The leaves around the tree - which is easier for big tree because they drop more leaves. 

Still, it's possible, and my brothers and their friend -- are pretty observant so they don't have too much trouble finding all the trees we need. 

Here's a little maple that they found. 
It's the perfect size, any bigger and the root-ball would have been too big to transplant.

    We have to be careful digging up these baby trees because their root systems are fragile and if they're hurt they won't grow no matter how much sunlight, water and fertilizer they get.

Each tree is placed in it's own bucket int the wagon, 
ready to be hauled up to the house and replanted.

    We love our friends, they make the work so much easier and the fun so much better. Everyone needs a set of friends they can count on for both a day of fun and a day of work.
    Dogs help to make the work more enjoyable too :)

    After we've found all the trees that we need we wheel the wagon to the house and transplant them. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of that part. But -- that means that there's going to be a future follow-up post next year when we do this again.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Day in the Raspberries - Weeding Away!

    Finally! A post with a few picture of me! :)
    Yes, we're still at it. We were sure that once December rolled around it would be way too cold for yard work. But the ground isn't frozen so we're still digging around in it. Today we're in the raspberries again. We already pruned them and burned the stocks, which makes weeding a lot easier.
     We hit it hard for about three hours today, knowing that if we finished all the weeding we wouldn't have to climb that hill again until spring.

  Here's an interesting lesson that we've learned:
Take Note: If you want to buy gardening stools (which are really nice when the ground is cold and soggy) don't search for "gardening stools" online or in the store. Search for "bathroom stools" because they are basically the same thing and cost half as much.

    We are never alone when we do yard work. Our lab puppy isn't so puppyish on the outside, but still quite so on the inside. He loves to be under-foot, under-hand wherever we are, which is cute and fun for the first five minutes and then a little irksome.
    Mom especially doesn't like it when Lucky lays down right where she needs to weed.
    Yes, she does throw her weeds on him :) ...

    Do you see those ear warmers that I'm wearing?
    Well that's the last time I ever wear them because I left them on my gardening stool for one second and the next thing I knew they were a dog toy. I'm going to have to get new ones before heading out to school in a few weeks because the winds in Rexburg are fierce.

Lucky roamed from person to person all day.
My younger sister (pictured above) is in charge of feeding Our two dogs: Lucky & Shaska and our two cats: Midnight & Mirage, every morning so the animals have a special love for her.

Even the cats get in the way a little bit as they look for attention. 

Here's another interesting lesson we've learned:
See the knife that my mom is using to weed? It's called a Hori-Hori Knife (no kidding) and it is every gardener's dream tool. We love it. We don't use spades or handrakes or spikes anymore. 
Give me a Hori-Hori knife any day.

    After we get done weeding, we mulch the rows so no more weeds grow before the raspberries do in spring. We take our bales of straw and put them through the chipper-shredder so that the bits are pretty fine. We rake that together, wheel it up the hill in a wheelbarrow and lay it pretty thick on every row. We've found that this chipper-shredded stuff lays denser and keeps the weeds down a Whole Lot Better than just the straight stuff.
    My mom does the chipper shredding and she wears a painting mask so she doesn't breath in the straw. I'm still pulling little flecks of straw out of my sweatshirt. 

    I takes a lot of bales, and it takes a lot of working hands to make it all happen -- but today we had both so everything went well. I love my family. I love doing hard things with them because every time we do, we become closer. I know I can count on them. They know they can count on me.
    That's what family is ...

Monday, December 8, 2014

What Comes AFTER the Raspberries are Pruned?

    Well, we thought we were finished but as long as the weather stays this nice, there's nothing to stop us from doing more yard work. Today we pruned two rows (out of four) in the raspberries. I didn't get any pictures of us actually doing the pruning, but I got lots of what happened next ...
    One thing to know -- for all those amateur raspberry pruners out there: after you clip the stocks,don't leave them lying between the rows because when the new plants come up int eh spring, the dead ones lying in the grass will disease them. Diseased plants means to harvest for a long long time. So, what do you do instead? You burn take the stocks down to your fire-pit and burn them. 

    We had a lot of helpers today, and they all had a lot of fun building their own little fires in the raspberry stocks. Our boy scouts made the fires that actually lasted, but they enjoyed helping the others get their fires off the ground.
    The smoke off those raspberry stocks was incredible! We hoped that the neighbors wouldn't call the fire department. We all went caroling later that evening together, but all of us had to change because we all reeked of campfire smoke.

    After a long day of yard work (we pruned, and weeded, harvested maple trees, and mulched) it's nice to just sit around a campfire. We roasted hot-dogs and had them with chips and veggies afterwards. It was a great day!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Keeing Warm in the Winter

    In the winter months we sure rely on out little man. He has three household chores that he gets done every morning before breakfast: (1.) Gather & take out the garbage, (2.) Vacuum different rooms in the house (we have a chart for what rooms on what days), and (3.) Bring in a load of wood. That's a lot, but he does it well ...
                           ... especially the bring-in-the-wood-part.

    We have a woodshed in the side-yard next to garage. We get our wood a two different ways:
        (1.) We find dead trees in the woods, cut it down and split the logs ourselves,
        (2.) We buy pre-split wood from the local Amish youth-group or other friends.

Here are some related posts ...
         - Splitting Wood & Building Men
         - Gathering in the Wood as a Family
         - Brothers Do Grow Up

   My brother fills the wheelbarrow with a load, wheels it over to the garage where he puts all of the wood into our wagon. The wagon is cleaner than the wheelbarrow because the closest it ever gets to mud is the garage steps -- that's why the wagon is allowed inside and not the wheelbarrow.

    The wagon is carefully navigated through the laundry room and the nook hallway into the kitchen where the masonry heater is. Then my brother takes the wood out of the wagon and stacks it in the wood-box -- well, it's more like a wood-cave, but same idea :)
    It's a big job and I'm proud of him every morning -- and grateful because the house gets cold without the wood. 
    Sometimes, if he gets all of his chores done with time to spare, my brother also builds the fire and he's very good at it.

    Our masonry heater is a conversational piece. It completely heats the upper story of the house with one burn a day -- which is unheard of it you don't know much about wood-burning stoves or fireplaces. When we build the house, my Dad worked with our mason to design it around a kit we had bought from Europe.
    We can bake in it and cook on top of it as well as watch the fie dance from both the kitchen as the living room. There's a trap door inside the fireplace itself so, in the morning, when everything is cold inside, we just have to open that trap door and push all the ash down the chute. All of the ash goes into a cinder block enclosure int eh basement that we open and clean out once a year. 

    Self reliance. It's what my family loves. Part of self-reliance is being confident and able enough to do do hard things. I think my little brother is on the right track.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Merry Christmas Package for our Missionary

I don't know if my brother's face was a planned or an accidental thing, 
but whatever happened, happened right :)

    It's the season for gifts and packages. My sister is on a mission right now in California -- I think I've said that on here before -- so we had a grand day putting a packages (no, TWO packages) together for her. We gathered everything onto the kitchen table and that eventually spilled out over onto the floor and we spent the best afternoon wrapping gift.

I think we need to learn about paper to gift ratios :)

    Merry Christmas to everyone, especially my sister who's on a mission, who can't read this for another seventeen months. I hope the package reaches her before Christmas.