Thursday, April 30, 2015

Getting the Garden Ready

 After a very long and cold winter, I am really appreciating the sunshine, warmer weather and beautiful colors that spring offers....

As I shared last week, the vegetable seeds we had planted indoors are doing well. We faithfully carry the tiny plants out onto our deck to bask in the sunshine on warm days, but bring them in each night as it is still to cold in our neck of the woods for the little seedlings yet. However, we did spend time this week using our rototiller to get the garden area ready for planting. The soil looked so rich and I can't wait till it is safe to permanently move our tiny plants to their outdoor home.
I also spent time clearing and weeding the raised herb gardens. The perennial herbs we have (oregano, thyme, lemon thyme and chives) are starting to look wonderful and they smell great!

 I love the aroma that herbs have! When I was weeding out the annual plants from last year, even the dead basil plants still had a great scent. I am looking forward to adding some fresh annual herb plants to this section of the garden.
Normally onions would be planted in March or April in our area, but it has been so cold and the ground has been so hard that we haven't done ours yet, but it is on the agenda for this weekend. I purchased some onion sets to plant but also found these 2 bulbs in a bag of onions I purchased recently, so they will be going in the garden as well...
 To our surprise, we have some onions from last year that have already resurfaced in the garden.
  ...and surprisingly, some carrots are starting to sprout too...
Have you started your garden yet, and how is it going? It's a great way to welcome in the new season, enjoy the warm weather and anticipate all the fresh produce that is to come.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Fabric Gift Basket

I recently created some birthday gifts for a dear friend, and one of the items I made was this little fabric basket / bowl. You can make the basket any size you choose, and it is a really beautiful way to present a gift.
 To make the bowl, you will need two coordinating squares of fabric, some fusible interfacing, four buttons and basic sewing supplies such as a sewing machine, thread, scissors, pins, and a fabric safe marking pen or pencil.
You can adjust the size of the basket or bowl that you want to make, based on how large you cut your fabric squares. After cutting your squares of fabric, you iron the fusible interfacing onto the back of one of the squares. Then sew the two pieces of fabric together, with the right sides facing each other, being sure to leave a small opening where you can the turn the fabric right side out. Once you turn the fabric right side out, you then sew around the perimeter of the entire square. I used a zig zag stitch on my piece but you can use a regular straight stitch or a more decorative one if you prefer. The fusible interfacing adds some stiffness to the fabric that will help it keep it's finished shape.
At this point, you will need to measure down an equal distance from both sides of each corner, and mark the point with a pencil or piece of chalk. For my project I think I cut my fabric 11 inches square and measured down 3 inches form each corner (my daughter and I experimented with various sizes and measurements as we were creating this, and neither one of us could definitely remember what size we ultimately decided on...that will teach us to keep notes next time :( )
You then hand sew the two markings together at each corner...
and then turn the project "inside out". Each corner gets folded down and tacked in place and then you sew a decorative button in place. I know it sounds confusing, and it is a a bit hard to explain, so for a better explanation you can view the You Tube video that I followed here. I will admit, my daughter and I watched the video several times while we were making our bowl, but in the end, it really wasn't hard to do.
The friend that I was making the gift for loves her gardens as much as I do, so I had chosen fabric with a lavender print, and the candles that I put in the basket were lemon lavender scented. Pretty coordinated don't you think? The adorable bee buttons were the perfect whimsical finishing touch. Why use a plain old paper gift bag when you can create this sweet little basket that becomes part of the gift itself? I'll be sharing some other fun projects I made with this beautiful fabric soon, so please be sure to check back.

Linking with: The 36th Avenue Best DIY and Recipe Party
The Enchanting Rose: Roses of Inspiration Link Up 
Confessions of a Serial Do-it-Yourselfer

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Spring is Finally Here

I don't know about where you live, but this past winter just seemed especially long here in northwest NJ. I really enjoy living in a part of the country that gets to experience the beauty and differences that each of the four seasons has to offer. Winter afforded us time to cuddle and bond as a family in front of a roaring fire, and I had fun preparing warm comfort foods for everyone. Despite the sometimes frigid outdoor temperatures, the snow and ice created some beautiful crystal scenes in our yard. However, I was ready to welcome the next season and all of the beauty spring has to offer. We had recently been getting some warmer and sunnier days, but today was a bit more cold, gray and dreary, and the skies opened up with some snow showers. It was 70 degrees yesterday, and there we were getting snow today! Luckily the flurries were very brief and didn't accumulate, but snow on April 23rd just doesn't seem fair. I know other parts of the country have been hit with much more late season snow, as we have a friend who recently moved from NJ to Colorado and she went snowboarding this past weekend. Therefore, I really have no right to complain about a brief passing snow squall. Still, I am ready to move onto the warmer weather and activities.

Today I am going to think positively and focus on the warm sunny weather we recently had, by sharing some garden updates and photos with you. It seems like a long time since I've done a garden post, so I think it's due. In the past we planted are vegetable garden with plants that we bought from local garden centers. However, for the past several years, my husband expanded his gardening hobby and began planting our vegetables from seed. This can be a bit of a challenge for us, as our house does not get a ton of natural light. We manage by moving the seedlings in front of our sunniest windows daily, and utilizing grow lights when the light is not at it's brightest. In mid March, Dave began planting our first round of seeds utilizing a supply of pea pellets.
Water was placed on the pellets and then once expanded, the seeds were planted.
Before long, the tiny seedlings began to grow.
Once the roots started to outgrow the pellets, he transplanted the seedlings to cups.
When we were experiencing the brief stretch of warmer weather we recently had, we would move the seedlings out onto our sunny deck during the day.
The vegetable seedlings weren't the only sign that spring was in the air. Some of our bulbs finally decided to bless our yard with some pretty color.

Since I am sharing some pretty spring photos with you as a way to help brighten this somewhat dreary day, I also want to show you some pictures my daughter took this past weekend. We are fortunate enough to live near parts of the Appalachian Trail  and my daughter and her boyfriend hiked on part of the trail that passes through our town. This section is known as 'stairway to heaven', and this is the amazing scenery they got to enjoy. Hopefully these help put you in the mood for spring and all the fun activities that the warmer weather has to offer.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Fabric Soccer Balls

Both of my children played on various sports teams from the time they were in kindergarten through high school. Although they both love playing and watching many different sports, soccer holds a special place in my son's heart. Therefore, it really shouldn't have surprised me when David said he wanted to  create a soccer themed gift for his girlfriend's twin nephews. The boys recently celebrated their first birthday, so regular soccer balls may be a bit too much for them to comfortably handle just yet. David came up with the idea of creating "stuffed fabric" ones, and I must admit, when he first presented the idea to me, I didn't think it would be something we could do. However, with his encouragement (aka "persistence"), I decided to attempt it, and purchased the fabric and stuffing.. The first step involved creating hexagon and pentagon templates. We measured the ones on a regular soccer ball and created similar sized ones for this project. I then used a rotary cutter to create 20 hexagons and 12 pentagons for each soccer ball.

We honestly had no specific plan when I began sewing the first ball together.David kept one of his soccer balls nearby for reference and would place the cut out shapes in a pattern for me to pin together before moving over to the sewing machine. I wish I could tell you the project went smoothly, but there were a few times that we had to rip out a a seam (or two or three) as the ball was under construction because I joined the wrong sides together. Once we finished the first ball, we were sure there had to be a more systematic way to join the shapes. David ended up finding a pattern on line that we decided to try to follow before beginning the second ball. I don't know the site that this pattern is originally from, so I can't give credit to the source. This is unfortunate as I would love to thank the creator of the pattern, because the second ball came together without one seam needing to be redone! 

I'll be the first to admit that the pattern was a bit overwhelming at first, but I began to number the shapes and mark them off on the pattern as I joined them together. I also kept the first ball we made nearby as a reference.

It gets a little tricky as the ball starts to take shape, but I kept referring back to the pattern before pinning more sides together.

Before long, the second soccer ball was complete...

The twins haven't been given their new handmade toys yet, but  Uncle Dave was sure to "test" each one out by dribbling the soccer balls around the house a bit. Although far from perfect, they were sort of cute when they were complete...and much softer, safer, and easier for toddlers to handle than real soccer balls.

Linking up with: Tabler Party of Two: Sunday Features Link Party
Love of Home: Sundays at Home Link Party,
 The 36th Avenue Best DIY and Recipe Party
The Enchanting Rose Roses of Inspiration Link Up
Confessions of a Serial Do-it-Yourselfer
The Creative Exchange Link Party

Addendum 10/9/15:
Here are the dimensions of the template I used for the hexagons and pentagons in this project