Around 20 years ago, my niece Alissa joined our family. I sewed her a baby blanket. She named it “Animal.” Somehow, all these years later, I still had scraps left over and, at her request, made her a new, grown-up “Animal.” (She spotted those scraps one day (over 2 years ago), when I was cleaning a bit during homeschooling her, and remembered I had them.)
The patterned fabric, blue with stars, deep rose blender, green with little flowers, and yellow were the scraps. I kept with the theme of squares, as there were squares in the print, and just tried to match the colors in the print with fabric I had in my stash. My goal was to make a blanket that was grown-up enough that she could use it without feeling like she was carrying her baby blanket around with her, and large enough to wrap around her shoulders and use when she’s cold. Since she’s working at a Christian camp these days, I know she can use a blanket for her bed, as well, and this one will hopefully bring her lots of love since it will remind her of her childhood and many wonderful memories. I’m going to give it to her for Christmas. She knows about it, as I checked with her while I was making it to make sure it was what she had in mind after she asked me to make it.
Project #2: Lovana’s Garden
About a year after sweet Alissa came to live with her parents, Lovana and Ja’Ana came to live with us. Before they moved in, I started a quilt for Lovana. Yes. This quilt. I finished it this weekend. You could say it took a while for this garden to grow.
I’ve actually been working on this one for the last several months, since I’ve been home more because of Covid. I decided it was the perfect time to finish up some projects that have been around for far too long. I finally finished yesterday. She’s seen pieces of it over the years and has been told it was for her. I know she’s going to be very surprised when she sees it’s finally finished! This one will be a surprise, for sure, as I’m positive she’s long given up that she was going to ever get her quilt!
Since we are staying home as much as possible because of our Covid restrictions, I didn’t want to shop to finish these quilts. Even though Lovana’s was larger than I’ve ever done before, I machine quilted both of them, using one large piece of batting (cut in half) that was in storage in the loft above the shop. This close to Christmas, I’m sure the machine quilters are already booked up, and besides, I’m not going places right now, including quilt shops. I will admit, it was hard for me to keep things flat and smooth while I sewed simple lines across the quilt and there was ripping involved. I did prevail, and then hand-sewed the bindings down while watching more t.v. in one weekend than ever before:)
There was just enough fabric left over from 3 of the prints used in the quilt, and I sewed them together to make a back for Lovana’s. There was plenty of the green dot for her binding.
I had a large piece of muslin we had picked up from a yard sale and used it for the back and binding of Alissa’s.
I used up the batting from the shop loft, and even finished up a spool of thread and most of another one. One of these days, I will need to replace some of my sewing items, but for now, I’m rejoicing that I’ve been able to use up some things that have been taking up space for a long, long time.
Both quilts are showing up a little darker in these pictures than they are in real life. They are both a little brighter. Both turned out lovely. I am super happy that I got them both done, quilted, and finished in time for Christmas!
The past few weeks, I’ve been doing some menu-planning. I don’t always do this, but I want to be sure to rotate the canned and frozen foods I have on hand, with the fresh ones, and use my summer’s bounty as wisely as possible. We also have some food-challenges I need to work with. Rob watches his weight, and doesn’t want to gain back the large amount of weight he has lost over the past couple of years. I am diabetic, so watch my carbs. I am also completely gluten-free, as wheat makes me very sick.
On Friday, the governor of Oregon declared that we would have a Covid “freeze” starting Wednesday, Nov. 18. Basically, this means stay home as much as possible like we did last spring, with a few differences. This made my planning slightly different. It’s not like we’ve been going lots of places or visiting around the state, but we will stay home even more, including on Thanksgiving Day. It will be the smallest Thanksgiving dinner I can remember, with only Rob, Patsy and myself on the guest list at this time.
I had done my planned shopping last Tuesday. It was the first shopping I’d done for over 10 days, as we have been utilizing our food storage, and I just needed a few things. Once this “freeze” was announced, our daughter asked Rob to take her shopping, as she doesn’t drive, and she wanted him and his car to haul it home. I had him pick up a few more items while he was out and about with her Saturday morning. They were necessities, like a couple more gallons of milk, more carrots, a couple extra cartons of eggs, and…… a bucket of vanilla ice cream….I had to scoop it into quart cartons to fit it in my bulging freezers, but I did it! We should easily be set for a couple of weeks. Then, when picking up prescriptions Saturday, I grabbed a little more produce to top things off. I’m missing my garden this week, that’s for sure.
Thankfully, we are loaded up with toilet paper and cleaning supplies. Our neighbor behind us told us today that he had just been to Costco today, and they were wiped out of t.p. and the place was “swarming” with people grabbing everything they could.
I’ve been to JoAnn’s and have plenty of elastic:) and projects to sew. (Priorities, right?)
I have powdered milk to use in a pinch, and lots of dry goods and cans in the garage, and all my home-canned and frozen foods, my 1/4 beef we just picked up last week and 3 turkeys and 2 hams. I have some other meat and fish, chicken and a little bit of pork. I have scads of frozen butter, as it has been on sale a lot lately. In fact, my autistic niece Michaela things I’m hilarious to have so many boxes of butter. She laughed and laughed when she saw them. It made her very happy. I think she likes knowing where to come for one of her preferred foods:)
I’m actually in better shape with my food storage than I was last spring. Now’s the time to use it. If I don’t manage my food storage, things might get too old, forgotten, or otherwise wasted. I don’t want that. I’ve worked too hard for this food.
When I menu plan, I use a very old-fashioned composition book and a pencil, as I have for years. I look on the shelves and in the freezers to see what’s there, especially if it has been there for a while and needs to be targeted, and look at our schedule for the week to know when I have time for long-cooking things like dry beans or making bread. This used to be more important when I was going more places, but it is still nice to have some days with less cooking than others. I make out suggestions for myself, always knowing I will add canned and frozen fruit each day, and I do it in pencil because I often change my mind!
In case you don’t have a magnifying glass to read the menu plan above, it is a loose, working framework of a menu plan with lots of ideas, many of which will get changed before the week is over, but most will be eaten as planned. I include lists of things to buy, make or do.
Soups include: Ham and bean, split pea, Oriental Pork Soup, Chicken Stew with Peppers, Black Bean Taco Soup (Not listed, but Patsy decided to cook that for her school cooking lesson on Wednesday) and Potato Soup (not listed, but made).
Breakfasts: pancakes, muffins, eggs, hot cereal, cold cereal, fruit
Lunches: sandwiches, salads, leftovers/soups
Main dishes: frozen salmon, spaghetti pie, tamale pie and pizza, leftovers. I try to vary the protein during the week, using beef, chicken, occasional pork and fish, and dry beans.
This week’s menu contains more casseroles than normal. Rob and I usually eat much more low-carb than this. Patsy likes things like pizza, Mexican food and spaghetti better. So, it’s a balance to please everyone. I expect if I post any more menus in weeks to follow, you will see more meals such as chicken with salad, green beans and a baked potato for those who want one, instead of spaghetti pie, as that is more typical for us.
At every lunch and dinner, I usually serve 1 or 2 vegetables, rotating between broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, green beans and any other veggie I can come up with. I often use cabbage or lettuce for salads as one of the veggies. Rob often makes salad with some bits of chicken on top his main meal, even if a casserole is available, and 1/3 to 1/2 or even more of our plates are normally full of some kind of vegetable or salad. Fruit is always available, canned or fresh. I rotate starches. Rice, potatoes, pasta, etc. are our go-to choices. Gluten-free pasta is not inexpensive like the wheat kind, so it’s a good thing we want small portions of it anyway, and we eat it only 2-3 times per month, on average. Potatoes and rice make the list more often, but a 10-pound bag of potatoes can easily last a month around here most of the time.
Sunday, for instance, I wrote muffins and apple crisp to go with our split pea soup. I got the split pea soup made, got sucked into a tree-falling project, and didn’t cook anything else from the list. It filled us up just fine. On Tuesday, I changed from meatloaf to spaghetti pie when I realized that there was sauce to use up in the fridge. Still, planning ahead reminds me of what I need to use up. It gives me a written list to refer to when I’m in a hurry to get started cooking and also helps me remember what to thaw out or if I’m supposed to soak beans ahead of when I need them. The age-old problem of “what shall I cook today” only has to be faced once a week, not daily, but I don’t feel locked into the list. If I feel like cooking something else, I just use my eraser.
I also write a list of things to cook or bake and often make things ahead of when they are needed, when I have spare moments. My freezer is usually filled with little cartons of broth, baggies of cooked brown rice and cooked pinto and other beans, containers of cornbread, baggies of bread or muffins, and so forth, for quick meals. There’s always a frozen casserole or two and soup to warm up in a pinch, since life doesn’t always read the list before throwing things our way:)
This week, I wanted to use dry beans a time or two, as I want to target stored foods, so I put down split pea soup and ham and beans, using the ham bone/broth/bits I made last week from a ham bone. The split pea soup met my criteria for at least one meatless meal each week. Rob and I have been doing that since last spring. It isn’t vegetarian, because I used ham broth, but is close enough for our purposes. I find that if I don’t plan to use the beans, we don’t use them often enough.
Last spring, when the pandemic started, dry beans were very hard to get around here. Rob finally found some pinto beans we needed after searching several stores, but the only way to buy them was in a 50 pound bag. We didn’t need that many, but it was that or nothing. So, he paid around $22 or so for that huge bag of beans, which seemed very inexpensive to me. You understand, then, why we have pinto beans so frequently. Even though I’ve shared small amounts with any family members who want them, I still have a lot left. I’m not afraid of buying in bulk, though. I re-package bulk items into glass jars and plastic ice-cream tubs and things last a long time in our cool garage. The key is to regularly use those bulk items so they don’t get too old.
He also picked up a 25 pound bag of gluten-free rolled oats for $5 and a 50 pound bag of Jasmine rice for $10, and 25 pounds of powdered sugar for $5, during the summer, because they were damaged (not all on the same trip). My brother-in-law jokes that when Rob goes to the store, God calls down to the workers, “break that bag NOW, cut that open on accident right now, mark it down quick! Here comes Rob.” I just know He takes really good care of us and our needs are always met.
I wanted a couple of crock pot meals, and especially one on Thursday when we care for both my niece and nephew all day. I found a recipe for an Oriental pork soup in one of my cookbooks, which I am changing to use up some canned baby corn we were given in a box of canned goods a while back. They were things Rob’s mother was given and couldn’t use, so I’ve been trying to target them. Since baby corn is not something I buy or regularly use, if I don’t make the effort to use the can, it will still be there next spring! I’m going to make it more like Chinese chow mien instead of soup, and am going to use a can of bean sprouts and some ground pork I have had for quite some time. When someone offers me food, I always say, “yes, please” and “thank you” and then find a way to use it. If I absolutely cannot, I pass it on to someone else.
I still have cabbage in the garden. I got a good amount of winter lettuce on Monday morning, some leafy celery, a little kale, some cilantro, and left some other things out there that I fear will not ripen before spring, if then. Rob’s tissue-wrapped green tomatoes are still ripening, and my cherry tomatoes that were picked green are ripening as well. There are still apples from my sister and lots and lots of onions in the back shed. I plan to use frozen and canned veggies frequently, and perk things up with the fresh ones here and there. I have fresh celery, carrots, potatoes, head lettuce to mix with the leafy lettuce from the garden, some mushrooms, a couple of cucumbers and zucchinis and some bananas and mandarins from the store. Much of that will easily last 2 weeks. We will use anything that might rot this week, and switch over to more preserved foods next week.
We will eat our way through the menu I wrote this week, then I will make another one for next week, moving any meals over to the next week that were not cooked or eaten this week. I planned lots of meals with leftovers since I don’t want to waste food. If there aren’t enough leftovers, I have frozen burritos I made for Patsy, and she loves peanut butter sandwiches. Rob and I love salad or soup, so I can always made another pot of soup if needed or try another recipe from a cookbook or magazine.
One other thing we tried last week was picking up a “to-go” lunch at the local school. We had not done that yet, although they have been available since last March. I had Jake and Patsy last Wednesday and wanted an activity for them, so I suggested taking them to get a bag of lunch, and they could see if they liked any of the things in it. We drove to the school and…..whoops!–Veteran’s Day–no lunches. So, the next day Rob drove them down and they each got a lunch. Each bag had a carton of milk, a carton of chocolate milk, a piece of pizza, an apple, an orange, some baby carrots, and one had a corn dog and the other had a hot dog. That was an awful lot of food, I thought! They ate what they wanted. They shared the rest. Michaela was thrilled to drink some milk from a little carton, and I was so happy she actually ate an apple, once I sliced it and added some peanut butter. She’s too old for the program, but the other kids shared their excess with her. I was glad there was some extra for her, since she was feeling left out. (I have apples and milk here for her, but I think it was the little carton….). Jake can’t have milk anyway, so it all worked out. Besides, he wanted cornbread, his favorite right now. So, everyone was happy. I think I will take them back at least once this week, and stretch those groceries just a little farther.
I’ll be the first one to admit that managing my food storage is a big job. Planning, home-preserving, rotating the food, cooking mainly from scratch…it’s all work. But, it’s worth it to me. I can keep my grocery bill much lower than many people can, and we can stick to our specialized diets while doing so. We are able to eat a healthy, varied diet that is far beyond the ramen noodles typically thought of as “budget food” and it tastes much better to us. Jake, on the other hand, LOVES ramen noodles, so I don’t have to worry about budgeting large sums to feed him when he’s here:). So, when planning your menu, find what works for you, and go for it! We are all different in what we like, want or need, but a little planning can keep everyone happy, healthy and well fed, even during a Covid freeze:)
Does it look like I have ripe strawberries? Well, I don’t! Those are rocks that Patsy painted red. We hope they fool the birds and stop them from pecking the strawberries once they get ripe. Let’s hope it works!
I spent hours in the garden and yard this week. Everything is growing, including the weeds, so I’ve pulled weeds and hoed.
I also cut and trimmed in the front yard. The people who lived here before us planted many bushes, such as rhododendron, azalea, peonies, Oregon grape, and sadly, ivy, that have all grown greatly over the years. Over the past 2 years I have tried to cut some of it back to more manageable proportions, one yard debris bin at a time. The latest project was to have Rob take a chain saw to some rogue blossoming cherry tree suckers that were now about 15 feet tall and chop them down. I removed ivy from below and harshly trimmed the bushes under the remaining main tree. Then, I hoed out grass and weeds and roughly edged the area. It looks a lot better now, but there will be on-going work to do. I was glad to finish as we have been working on it for 2 weeks and filled 2 yard debris bins from that one area alone.
Rob covered my lettuce with netting. The birds took part of one row down to the stubs! I notice they leave it alone after it gets to a certain size and I’ve planted a lot, so it will work out ok in the end. (And, yes, that’s a renegade potato plant on the end. I didn’t plant any this year, but a few volunteers came up anyway.)
I’ve been harvesting from the garden and making lots of stir-fries. Rob’s been eating vegetables for breakfast each day, as well, so the harvest has come in handy.
I made a batch of bread and buns. I am still using up odds and ends of gluten-free flours, some of which are literally a couple of years old. I am happy to report that I used 3 partial packages of flour all the way up! I don’t normally eat a lot of bread, so I froze most of these items. I have eaten more sandwiches then usual lately after working in the garden, because I sometimes don’t feel like cooking. It’s easy to pop off a couple of frozen slices, slide them into the dedicated gluten-free toaster, and always have fresh bread when I want it.
We cooked black bean/pinto bean chicken chili, Patsy’s peanut-chicken stir fry, smoothies, pancakes, boiled, fried and scrambled eggs, millet-crust pizza, lots of salads, brownies, pear-raspberry popsicles, and many stir-fries. Lovana came over and made coconut shrimp. It was so good! We also worked on a ham we bought right after Easter. We had ham sandwiches, ham with eggs, and just ate ham. Some packages were frozen for later use, as well.
We did our grocery shopping for the next 2 weeks and ordered and received an Azure Standard order. Eggs were 4/$5. We got many dozens. I purchased a lot of produce such as cucumbers, mushrooms, baby carrots, celery and peppers, along with whatever was on the list. There were a few good deals, otherwise, the prices seemed to be the same or a little higher than they have been in the past. Overall, the bill is higher than what it was a year ago. It is not possible to shop several stores for deals right now, so if it’s there, I buy it, or I just pass it by if it’s unreasonable. I was pleasantly surprised to received most of what I ordered from Azure.
We worked with Jake and Michaela for more hours this past week. We had a French fry party one day. It was fun for everyone to make our own curly fries outside.
We also fried up some battered cod fish and onion rings, just to add to the fun.
We used a fryer we purchased from a garage sale a couple of years ago for a few dollars and then spent literally hours scrubbing to insure it was gluten-free and no wheat crumbs were left on it. Thankfully, it looked almost new when we bought it. The curly fry cutter was also from a garage sale and normally lives in the camper. Every few years, we make fries on a picnic table at a campground. We make fries so rarely that it’s an event and made an ordinary day into a party. Better yet, we kept the mess outside!
Did you do anything unusual to break up the monotony of Covid 19 with your kids or for yourself?
We have had an absolutely gorgeous week. In fact, my garden became dry enough to till! This is much earlier in the year than I can usually get that job done. I have 2 raised beds near the house, because that enables me to plant early, even on a wet year. One is full of strawberries. Patsy added a bag of compost/manure to top dress that one. The other one was prepared with another layer of compost, and Jake planted some snow peas.
This year, we were not feeling up to the task of having someone dump a load of compost and bringing it to the back yard garden one wheelbarrow load at a time. So, Rob, Patsy and Lovana went and got these bags of steer manure/compost. The girls wheeled the bags back and spread them all over. There were more than this picture shows. I helped empty the bags all over the garden.
Jake’s daddy came over to help us till the garden, and the weeds and compost were tilled in. At one point, Rob and I each had a tiny tiller, and Ron had the big one going. It’s just too big for me to handle and Rob can’t do it right now, with his hip problem. So, that was super nice of Ron to come and do. It is now supposed to rain for several days, so I was delighted to catch this window of opportunity.
I got little broccoli and cabbage plants put in. I also got a few tiny onion plants transplanted.
The snow peas, beets, carrots, chard and boc choi are all growing in the tiny patch I planted a couple of weeks ago.
I feel that the garden will be more important than ever this year. We are going to be feeding 2 families, plus extras. With less frequent grocery store trips expected, we can use the home-preserved foods, and the fresh food once it gets ripe. We are going to have plenty to share with both families and other family and friends who can use produce. I plan to preserve quite a bit this year. We especially need a lot of green beans between the 3 families (myself and both sisters). My older sister has a huge garden, too, so will grow all of her own produce, plus extra green beans to supplement what I can grow here. We are sending cabbage plants to her very soon to grow up there. She and I always swap stuff–both plants, seeds and produce. This year may be a little more challenging, but we will manage. Rob has done an excellent job growing the transplants this year, and was even able to hand a few extra cabbages over the fence to our neighbor who was starting a garden today.
So what else have we been doing during this week that just keeps getting stranger and stranger with all the Covid-19 chaos?
The campgrounds are closed now, so Rob built a fire in our yard and we roasted hot dogs and marshmallows. It was a beautiful evening.
Patsy made another one of her sidewalk chalk drawings.
We started homeschooling Jake, a joint effort between the 2 families.
I cleaned up a bookcase in my bedroom that was not only cluttered, but actually filthy with dust. I discarded many, many old magazines I did not need anymore.
I cut out a skirt for Patsy.
Rob got the television in our room working–it hasn’t for months, but I wanted to watch the news where the kids couldn’t hear a couple of times. They don’t need the stress.
We are very happy that we can still work with Jake and Michaela. So many are unable to work right now. We did school, but also made it fun!
Patsy was not able to go on her planned missions trip. She is so sad, and cried a lot. I understand that. She worked so hard preparing for this, but we all assured her that she will get another opportunity. This crazy time will pass and life will get back to normal, given time. They are waiting to see how things pan out before trying to make new plans of any kind for the kids. The youth pastor did figure out a way for them to all get on a certain app this morning during Sunday school time, so they could all visit with each other and they have plans to do Sunday school on there next week, I think. We all watched the live stream of our church service before that. It’s so nice they did that, but very odd to not attend.
So, since Patsy has all this extra time on her hands, I ordered her a Biology curriculum. She needs to do it next year, but we will get started with it now. She will be finished with the schoolwork we have in a few short weeks ….I will try hard to not make her feel punished for doing so well, but we can’t do the field trips I had planned, and she is missing countless youth group activities and times with her friends–she will soon be bored if we don’t find things for her to do. I plan to do quite a few home-making activities with her as well. We can’t have 4H meetings right now, but we can do projects here at home.
It’s amazing the changes a week has made.
We are more fortunate than many. We are exceedingly well stocked with food, since we had been working on that project before this crisis began, so were able to get what we needed before it was in short supply, and the garden is already starting to grow more food. We still are able to work, since the kids still need care, and Jake needs schooling. We will go to their house to do that most of the time, as their parents need to be out early at least 3 days per week, but they can also come here at times to give us all a change of pace. We have our small circle of family –and 2 houses we will alternate between–ours and theirs. There are many nice walks to take near both houses, and I’ve been on some of them already. We have a dog that needs walking and the garden to exercise in.
Our daughter, Lovana, works at a coffee/crepe shop. This week, they went to take-out only, as restaurants were ordered to do. Business has been dismal. Today, they let all the baristas go except her and one other. They drastically shortened the hours they will stay open. She will do M-Th and the other one will do F-Sunday. There is still a cook to make the crepes each day, and they will try to keep the business going with a smaller menu. Hopefully, they will be able to. She hopes to be able to stay in her little house she and a room-mate are renting, with just an occasional overnight visit home. We want to keep her with us enough to stay in our “little circle” so she won’t be alone all the time if we are put under a “stay-at-home” order, which I actually expect to happen tomorrow. Some of the things I’ve been reading lately say this may last quite a while, and she doesn’t want to be isolated from the family and all alone for a long period of time. That thought makes her anxious. Thankfully, the college class she was taking was on-line anyway, so that worked out.
Rob’s mom is quite elderly. He is choosing not to visit her at this time. So, he’s calling her daily, and we both were able to talk to her tonight, while relaxing by our campfire pit. His sisters are close to her house, and will see she has what she needs physically, but he can take things and drop them on her doorstep if she needs more.
He’s been able to get groceries for several family members when needed, requiring less of us to be in the stores.
We are being super careful, using lots of Chlorox wipes on everything from our phones to the chairs. I mixed bleach water and disinfected the bathroom after I cleaned it, letting the mixture dry on everything for at least 10 minutes, as instructed. We’ve washed our hands so much, I’m surprised we still have skin:). I’m sure I drove Jake crazy, following him around with a wipe all weekend, cleaning anything he touched! We stayed home. We’ve done what we can do. Now, it’s in God’s hands. Thankfully, they are very big, powerful hands. I know He has this in control, and I take comfort in that.
This is a summer nightie for Patsy from Simplicity 2819. I modified it in several ways.
First of all, the pants on the pattern fit just fine, once we made sure we had the correct measurements. She made some p.j. pants a couple of weeks ago, using this pattern, and they fit well.
I decided to re-use the pattern and make a summer nightie with some thin cotton I had on hand.
I ran into trouble immediately. I cut the nightie out using the same size as we had used for the pants. The neck opening was barely big enough for her to get over her head when I tested it. It looked small, so I was nervous, and thankfully had her try to pull it over before I went any further. I made sure that worked, and moved on.
I immediately realized that the back and front were going to be so narrow, and there was no opening, so she was never going to be able to get it on and off with comfort, much less feeling that loose, comfortable feeling we all like to enjoy while sleeping. Instead, it was going to be constricting and tight, and therefore was going to get ripped right away. This is a problem I’ve had before with both nighties and jumpers/dresses when I’ve sewed for some of my other children when they were younger.
I was in trouble, as I was out of pink fabric, so I dug into the drawer and found some white cotton. I split the front piece up the middle, added a panel of white, gathered it all up to fit the yoke piece, and then proceeded. It added several inches of fabric to the front of the nightgown. It made all the difference, and saved the project. Now its looks and comfortable, fits her really well, and looks great. Whew!!!
I have several projects planned for my Covid-19 stay-at-home time. Sewing several items is high on my list. It felt good to get the first one done!