This is the Himalayan Blackberry, or as I like to call it, the Kudzu of the Northwest.  Several years ago this non-native bramble found its way into Washington state and now covers practically every non-mown square inch of land.  We looked at a house here where the backyard was seriously, no lie, so packed with these things that you couldn’t go in.IMG_0484

This is my husband picking said blackberries while we were out riding bikes on the edge of town.  I think he’s so hot when he’s out foraging food.  Hahaha, he will kill me when he sees I’ve posted that he was “foraging food.”IMG_0487

This is the juice of those berries coupled with some sugar (ok, a lot of sugar), and some pectin.IMG_0490

I didn’t feel like digging out my water-bath canner so this is the pot with a folded tea towel in the bottom that I used to can the delicious black jellied bounty.  One of the greatest and most discouraging myths about canning your own food, especially high acid food like jellies, jams, and pickles is that it is difficult to do and requires large amounts of equipment.  It doesn’t.  If more people would learn that this is not true the world would be a better place I believe.  It’s tough to be mad at the world when you’re licking sweet blackberry juice off a spoon.  I mean really.IMG_0492

And this, this is wondrousness in a jar.  Gift of mother earth and some thoughtless horticulturalist.  Life is beautiful and sweet if you just take the time to pick the free berries.IMG_0497


Church Rummage Sale: SCORE!

This past Friday and Saturday the Desert Heritage Women held a rummage sale and oh the treasures they had! I, however, was the model of self-restraint. I did not buy the black velvet “Jesus in the Garden” picture. I did not buy the Lassie pic (which in hindsight was probably stupid). I did not buy the friendship recipe decorative plate because I have beer and if you have beer you have friends.

I did buy the following two indispensible items:

My fabulous folding sewing table

Yes, that’s a folding sewing table. It folds up to about 4 inches thick but it doesn’t wobble and it has a second shelf that put’s the sewing surface of my machine even with the desk top. Cost – $2. Yes, that’s a 2. Man I love second hand. Just in case you haven’t drooled enough, here’s a second pic.

Another pic of my great find.

I also got this…

Ice Cream Maker

Oh yeah! Cost – $3. I know. It was extravagent but…

The Cosmopoliton Ice Cream Maker by Salton Inc.

I used it to make this!

Yummy vanilla ice cream!

It was incredibly simple and turned out to be pretty tasty. It was a little heavy on the cream. Turns out that the best tasting ice cream is not pure cream. It’s a subtle balance between cream and milk. It’s ok though cause I have a new hobby… and I get to eat the mistakes.

How To Make Sugar Video Link

Behold the humble sugar beet
Behold the humble sugar beet.

From this ugly root crop comes a big portion of this country’s sugar supply. I have often wondered how to turn this simple plant into the white sugar that sits on my shelf.


Well, I have an interest… ok an obsession with self sufficiency. I don’t know where it comes from. I certainly wouldn’t label myself a survivalist – I don’t think the country is going to collapse in the next few days, months, or years. Maybe it’s my frustrated desire to be a farmer. Or maybe it grew out of my early discovery/absolute love of fantasy novels. Every epic fantasy novel has a cottage scene. A cottage scene is always a resting scene. Sometimes it occurs at night when the honey-golden light of oil lamps and candles spills out windows decorated with lacy, homemade, well-made curtains. That light is so warm and pure you just know that the people who live there are good and safe. Usually a cottage scene involves food and drink. Crispy fowl roasts on the spit in the fireplace and a warm pie bubbles somewhere. Isn’t that somwhere you would want to stay? I certainly would and I think maybe I keep trying to recreate those feelings in my life.

Wow. That paragraph certainly got out of hand. hahaha The whole point, and I do have one, is I’ve finally found a piece of information for which I have long searched. (That’s an awkward sentence to avoid a prepositional ending.)

This video shows how to make sugar at home. It’s a lot simpler than I thought but not as straightforward as I imagined. It’s not like boiling maple sap to make maple syrup or sugar, but it’s not like you have to have equipment any more expensive than a modified juicer. I really think that with a little ingeniuty a self sufficient-ish person could make all their own sugar. How cool would that be.

Amusement Doily… Doilie… Doillie… Tatted Thing

Amusement Doily
Amusement Doily
Yesterday I said I was going to find a doilie (How do you spell that?!?) pattern and I did. It was surprisingly NOT easy. I guess people like to bogart their doilie patterns. This one is called Amusement Doilie and I found it online. The best part about it is IT’S BIG. This is only 2 rounds and it’s already 8 inches in diameter. That’s my kind of fiber craft! 🙂

Here’s another shot so you can kind of judge the size.

Amusement Doily 2
Amusement Doily 2

Yarn Holder

There’s been one thing that has frustrated me since I started needle tatting (all of 3 days ago) and that is keeping the ball of yarn in one place. Nothing is more aggravating than pulling on thread that won’t move because it’s stuck under the recliner, or in the recliner, or behind the recliner.

So here is my answer:

Yarn Holder 6
Everything is safe and sound.

It’s easy, it’s cheap, and best of all – it works.

You will need a coffee can and,

Yarn Holder 1
Coffee can for mucho cheapo yarn holder.

Some cheap eyelets

Yarn Holder 2
Cheap eyelets.

And a hammer of course, but I figure you know what that looks like.

Put an eyelet in the center of the lid like so.

Yarn Holder 3
The magic lid.

Put the yarn in the coffee can.

Yarn Holder 4
The yarn has a home at last!

Thread the yarn through the eyelet.

Yarn Holder 5
It's so simple a cave man can do it.

Then pop the lid on.

Yarn Holder 6
Everything is safe and sound.

That’s it. All total I spent $1.67 for the eyelets at the evil big box store which shall remain nameless. They came with an eyelet tool. It’s all good.

More Needle Tatting, I’m Sick, and Smoking Update

Tatted Medallion #3 needle, Pearl Cotton #3
Said to the husband last night, “Gee I hope I’m not getting sick.” Well I am. I woke up this morning with that “feels like my lungs are plum packed full of phlegm Aint Bee” feeling. Dry gravelly eyes, scratchy throat, general body malais – yes I’ve got it all this morning. So I decided to soothe myself with some needle tatting. This is “off the ball” needle tatting. You don’t have to leave thread spaces like in the previous two examples so you don’t have to cut off 2-5 yard pieces of thread. You can continually pull off the ball, at least until you run out of the loop on your needle. I think the end product looks a lot more substantial too. Now that I’ve done something round I’m itching to go find a doily pattern.

    Smoking Update

I’m doing well on quitting. I’m in week 9 and not smoking at all anymore. I’ve started going to the fitness center 4-5 times a week and working out on the eliptical or treadmill for an hour. My lungs don’t hurt anymore when I’m doing it either!! Woo-hoo! That is such a great feeling. The Chantix really helps. It’s actually time for a refill.

Well, off to search the world wide web for a doily pattern. I’m sure I’ll be back here before the day is over. Hope your day is splendiferous!

Needle Tatting Lace … More

More first try tatting.
The top piece is the second project in my new book. It can either be a bookmark or towel edging. I’m thinking since I can’t quite get the center spacing consistent, it will probably be a bookmark. 🙂 I also think some of this would be too cool appliqued to the next quilt I make.

Fun New Craft

Worked half a day this morning and actually got some stuff done at work so as a reward I went to Bookman’s, a used book store in Mesa, and then set out to find a Tatting needle. Well four stores and four hours later I finally found one at Hobby Lobby. Actually I bought 4. They came with an instruction book. Hobby Lobby had ony one other set of needles. Let’s face it, needle tatting lace is not as popular as it once was but as fate would have it as I turned away with my incredible find I heard a woman and her daughter talking about needle tatting. I went back and spoke with probably the only other two needle tatters in Arizona – they were very nice and as surprised as I that someone else was interested in the craft. The mother told me she and her sisters used to make lace on their fingers.

Anyway, as soon as I got home I had to give it a go. This is what I’ve done so far.

First attempt at Needle Tatting
Isn’t that cool?!! It’s so easy to do! There’s really just one “stitch” or knot that you have to learn and then it’s all downhill. Here’s a good beginning tutorial.