Funny Things #16

It's not every day you see a motor home pulling a helicopter on a trailer.

#sqpinnieswap and Thoughts on Swaps

I have been participating in swaps on Instagram this summer.  The #sqpinnieswap is the first one that I have sent and received my item.  This was a blind swap, so the person I was making for isn't who I would receive from.  And it was kept secret who your partners were.  I received my pin cushion from the host of the swap, Carmen at Seaschell Quilts.
Everything was packaged inside the drawstring bag.
Here is my pincushion, a needle minder, a mustache pin, and a tiny seashell quilts pin.
There was also a package of rainbow Wonder Clips and a lip balm (which my daughter stole!).
My partner indicated that she really liked Heather Ross's Far, Far Away fabric line and that she liked gummies.  From looking at her IG feed, I determined that she also likes Disney princesses and cross stitch.  I also found her Pinterest and tried to get a sense of her style.  I agonized over what to make her forever.  It's pretty daunting to make something for someone you don't know.  You're pouring time and money into something and hoping they like it in the end.  

In the end, I made her a wonky log cabin pincushion.  It is about 5" square because I really wanted to use an entire unicorn from one of the prints for the backing.  I lined the backing with Pellon SF101 Shape-Flex and the front with cotton batting.  I got both these ideas from Amanda at Crazy Mom Quilts.  I stuffed the pincushion with a mixture of fiberfill and crushed walnut shells and closed it with a ladder stitch. Seems hard to believe, but I didn't learn ladder stitch until last year when my daughter was taking home ec and showed me (sorta) how to do it.  
The front.
The back.
I cross stitched a little Ariel onto some Irish linen with the idea of making a needle minder.  Ariel ended up being too large to fit on any of the cover buttons that JoAnn stocks, so I had to special order some huge cover buttons.  Shipping was more than my order amount.  :(  And it took FOREVER for them to ship to me.  I was a little worried that the swap ship date would come before the order, but luckily I got them with about a week to go.  I think this ended up being like the largest, most impractical needle minder EVER, but oh well, I worked really hard on it.  I printed off some Heather Ross tags and a card from her Prints book to use for packaging.

After completing this cross stitch, I have determined that middle age is really hitting me and I need to pull out my clip-on magnifying lens next time I try to do close up work.  Ha!  

I also included some pins that match the pin cushion, some Wonder Clips in coordinating colors, a mechanical pencil (love those things!), a Frixion marker, and a bag of Indiana-made gummies.

After watching a lot of swap reveals, here are some thoughts on swaps:  Please take the time to figure out what your partner likes.  They may not give you much to go on, or they may give very specific likes (that are probably totally different than yours), but at least look through their feed, try to find their Pinterest boards, and try to make something to their taste.  When you are filling out a swap sign-up form, if you really dislike something, say so.  Be honest about your skill level.  I admit I never know what to say, so I usually say intermediate because I'm definitely not a beginner, but don't know really what would constitute advanced--I'm not an expert at anything.  Even if a mosaic isn't required for the swap, do one anyway so your partner can see what you like. Check in when you're supposed to.  Ship on time.  You've been given a ton of time to make something.  No one wants to be left wondering if they will receive a package because the shipping deadline has passed and it's been weeks and they haven't yet received something.  Stay in contact with your host/swap mama.  Finally, please, please thank your person right away.  Nothing worse than seeing the package has been delivered and they don't acknowledge it for what seems like forever.  You're left hanging and it's not a great feeling, for sure.  Overall:  be considerate and treat others how you wish to be treated.  Good advice in life and good advice for swaps too.  :)


This summer I have been participating in the #HughJassPineappleQA hosted by Amanda at What the Bobbin.  I love pineapples, loved the quilt design, and loved the play on words. My kids helped me pick out the fabric for the pineapple body (probably since I dragged them to the quilt shop with me).  I chose the background color and the fun pineapple print fabric for the back. All the fabrics are much more vivid than I could capture with my camera.
My fabric choices
If you aren't sure what a QA is--it's a quilt-along.  It's basically just what the name says--you quilt along with the host.  I found this QA on Instagram.  The directions were posted every few weeks at the What the Bobbin website.

The first step was to assemble the pineapple blocks.  You could either paper piece or traditionally piece them.  I actually chose to do the paper piecing and it went fairly fast. I liked that I didn't need to spend a lot of time matching points. As long as I lined up the paper pieced units top to bottom, it all came out well.

Next, directions were given to piece the leaves.  This part was super fast and easy.

Finally, directions for piecing the top were provided.
I seem to be unable to get a decent photo of the whole top.  I think I've taken 20 pictures so far.  :(

I am anxious to get this one quilted.  I want to use a bright color thread to quilt with and local stores only carry neutrals, so I will need to order some thread online.  And I forgot to buy binding, so hopefully I'll have enough pineapple print left to use.  I think my kids are going to fight over the finished product!

A note about the pineapple print-- it is Pineapple & Coconut #2142206SC Celessence by Camelot Fabrics. It was pina colada scented.  In the description online it said the scent would last 30 washes.  Thankfully, the smell was all but gone after one wash and dry.

Apples and Cucumbers and Pickles, OH MY!

Being a Michigan native, I'm accustomed to having lots of u-pick orchards offering many different fruits and berries.  I no longer live in Michigan, and it's much harder to find places in my current location.  Two falls ago we did find a u-pick apple orchard about an hour from us (thanks to a Girl Scouts program).  We picked lots of apples and ate them.

Last fall I got it into my head that I wanted to pick a bunch of apples and try my hand at canning applesauce.  I thought maybe my picky eater son would eat it.  His only fruits are cinnamon (never plain) applesauce and bananas.  (NOPE!  Thought wrong.) I've made applesauce plenty of times, but never to can.  I have frozen it, but I really don't care for the texture once it's thawed out.  So, anyway, I gathered some canning supplies (including a pot that would work on my induction cooktop) and we went off to the orchard to pick apples.
Here's my nice pot from Meijer on my GE induction cooktop.

It was only-mid September, but that was apparently late in the orchard's season last year. There wasn't much left to choose from, but we did get about a half-bushel.  I quickly found that that is A LOT of apples!!  I tried not peeling the apples and then running the cooked apples through a food mill.  I tried peeling the apples.  Either way, it is a ton of work and not cheap.  After a week or two, I ended up with 12 quarts of applesauce.  Nothing added but a little cinnamon (no sugar).  Some of the batches ended up really yummy and others were just okay.  I guess we did better mixing the varieties in some batches versus others.  If I recall correctly, we only had two or three types of apples.  Like I said, slim pickings.  I was unsure if I did the canning correctly, but they seem to have turned out and I was pretty proud of myself!  I'm seriously considering making more this year.  One tip:  Use an immersion blender to quickly knock down any extra lumps in your applesauce.  Works great!  I just saw an apple peeling attachment for the KitchenAid mixer that I'm very interested in.  Too bad it's pretty pricy.  Maybe next year.
My first canning batch EVER!
Second batch of applesauce, 9/2014

This year we decided to plant a garden.  We made a special one using an animal watering tank with drain tile in the bottom.  It is supposed to be self-watering.  We planted carrots, four broccoli plants, green beans, lettuce, one tomato, and a bunch of climbing pickling cucumbers.  The broccoli never produced anything edible and worms had pretty much eaten all the leaves, so we pulled that out this week.  The deer got the bean plants, the lettuce--thankfully we'd already been harvesting it for a month at that point, and part of the carrots.  We do have a ton of cucumbers though!  Oh, and I picked ONE green bean this week!  Ha!  

I brought my first harvest of about 10 cucumbers to my parents in Michigan at the beginning of July.  I made some refrigerator pickles with my next harvest.  They were okay, but I'd use a different recipe next time--too vinegary and not enough dill for our taste--have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE dill?  Next I tried making sweet pickles.  I made four pints plus a bit left over for the fridge.  Those came out really well, but I'm thinking I was probably not supposed to put all the seasonings in the jar.  Maybe those should have been filtered out??  It's kinda gross to bite into a hard chunk of clove attached to the pickle.  The other thing I would do differently is slice my cucumbers a little thicker.
Sweet pickles, 7/22/2015

My husband wanted me to make dill pickles next, so I made three pints of those with my next harvest.  We haven't tried any of those yet, but I did read a tip that really was a game-changer.  The recipe I used was from Simply Canning and the author suggests making the brine in a stainless tea kettle.  Wow!  That was such an amazing tip.  You just pour the brine right in--no mess like when I did the sweet pickles!  

{Update 9-2-15:  we opened a jar of dill pickles this week and they were pretty awful!  :(  The predominant flavor was SALT!  Like, so much salt you didn't even have to get the pickle to your mouth to taste the salt!!!  Either the author of the recipe really likes uber-salty things or the recipe needs to be clarified.  I suppose it's possible I did something wrong, but man, what a disappointment.}
Dill pickles, 8/6/15

We had a little rain last week and we had an explosion of cucumbers!  We also found one we'd missed for several harvests.  I called her Big Bertha.  She was 1.5 pounds!!  I decided to try sweet pickle relish next and I used Big Bertha (with the seeds removed, of course)!  I'm a little confused by things I'm reading on the Internet as to whether or not recipes not in certain guides are safe to use.  So even though I found a recipe that looked intriguing on a blog, I ended up using a recipe out of my Ball canning guide.  
Big Bertha, the 1.5 lb pickling cucumber!
I made eight half pints plus a little left over.  I tried a bit of the leftover and it seemed really vinegary, not sweet at all.  I'm the only one in the house who eats relish (and tomatoes and avocados), so I was really disappointed.  My husband took the leftovers plus one of the canned jars to his work cookout today.  He didn't try any, but he said everyone liked it and thought it tasted sweet.  I'm going to let it sit for a few weeks and then try it again.
Sweet pickle relish, 8/10/15

So, how do you know who to trust as to whether or not a canning recipe is safe and in the correct proportions to avoid food-borne illness?  Do you have a favorite canning recipe?  I'd love to hear from you.