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One Small Change March March 1, 2010

I have been so excited to share with you all our many small changes we’ve made for March!  We have been guilty of being huge paper hogs around here…but not anymore…we are now a paper conserving family!

I started in the kitchen with cloth napkins (we would actually use paper towels ~ ick!) that I am embarrassed to say we already had.  We moved into our house about 3 1/2 years ago…a big move from the West Coast to the East…and I knew we had some packed in a box in the attic somewhere (from many years and several moves ago)…and unbeknownst to me (I thought we had maybe a dozen, ha ha) we had 36 napkins up there!!  When R. was a toddler I picked up a morning shift once a week at a very posh Italian linen store (my good friend was a manager there), so I could send her to playschool with her friends for a few hours, and let’s say I spent way more than I made, ha ha (the discount was 40% off wholesale ~ how could I not???)  I can’t believe I bought so many beautiful linens and stopped using them…and even worse, forgot about them!

Next I had to defeat the paper towel hogs, mainly D. and R., so I bought an inexpensive set of kitchen dishcloths and put them in a basket near the sink.  Mind you I bought these to clean up yucky messes, but I still kept finding paper towels wadded up everywhere, arghhh!  D. said, “Well I didn’t want to get goop all over your new cloths and I keep forgetting we have them.”  So I stacked them on top of the paper towels (so not aesthetically pleasing, I know!) so no one would forget, and reassured them that they could get them as messy as they would like.  (We are still keeping the paper towels for the really yucky stuff like when the dog gets an upset stomach, etc.)

In the the little girls room (aka the bathroom) where we have put a stack of family cloths (well for me and R. anyways…for just the clean stuff)) and a lidded trash can w/ a removable insert to dispose of them till I get them washed.  Our little family of three was going through an entire roll of tp a day (and I can’t blame that one on D.!)  I got these organic hemp/cotton terry “handy hemps” family cloths from the Etsy shop Country Life Naturals (here).  They are so soft and so cute ~ we love them!  I actually ordered just one set to try and then went and ordered another 4 sets!  I figure that within 3 months of using them they will have paid for themselves.

And finally, I am sorry to say that I have gathered all of the stuff to make several of the “Women’s Cloth” from Amanda Soule’s (SouleMama’s) Handmade Home but haven’t actually gotten around to sewing them.  I’ve gathered some organic cotton prints (from Modern Organic Fabrics here) for the underside, and some organic bamboo velour and hemp/organic cotton fleece for the linings (from Nappy Shoppe here).

We have also stopped buying tissues, we are exclusively using the flannel hankies I made up last month, and we haven’t had any red noses around here because they are so soft!

I am sorry to see this One Small Change challenge come to an end.  I am so indebted to Hip Mountain Mama (see her great blog here) for inspiring us to make these changes…we are indeed much improved by them!  I know that my family and I will continue making small changes to help the environment (and our pocket books!) wherever we can.  We have plans to plant a larger garden this spring, to start a compost pile, to build a coop and get chickens, and to remember to bring our reusable bags to the grocery store!

Happy “greening”,



Valentine Hankies February 6, 2010

Filed under: February 2010,One Small Change,Sewing,Tutorials,Valentine Projects — The Threaded Nest @ 2:11 pm

In preparation for our March One Small Change we are trying to get things ready to use less paper in our house.  One of our biggest culprits around here is tissues.  I mentioned to Molly that I wanted to make some hankies and she suggested using flannel as it makes for really soft and very absorbent hankies.

R. and I looked through our bag of scrap flannel — left over from pillow cases we gave wrapped around a book and tied with a ribbon (we used it as our wrapping paper!) for my niece and nephews and a few friends from a previous Christmas.  Using these scraps we whipped up some really quick hankies and R. decided that she wanted to send a few as Valentine gifts to her best friends in California.

We cut the scrap flannel into 8″ squares (I cut 10″ squares for D.’s and mine) and then used a quick decorative stitch on my sewing machine around the edges to prevent unraveling.

R. was very excited to personalize her gifts by picking just the right fabrics for her friends.

We chose three girly prints for Samantha…

…and three boyish prints for Nate.

R. made a couple of little Valentine cards out of card stock and stamps and wrote a heartfelt message on the back of each.  We folded the hankies up and tied with scrap flannel and adorned with a couple of recycled paper flowers.  Sew easy!!

This completes gifts 3 and 4.  Now I just have to make it down to the post office to drop them in the mail…

Happy sewing,



Peaches n’ Yogurt February 3, 2010

A lot of interest has been expressed regarding making your own yogurt.  I have to admit I was terribly intimidated to try my hand at making my own yogurt, but really it is so easy if you have a yogurt maker.  I purchased the Cuisipro Donvier Electronic Yogurt Maker from Amazon (I would have preferred to purchase it locally, but it was not an option) along with the yogurt culture 2-pack (starter).  You don’t necessarily have to purchase the starter, you can just use one heaping tablespoons of plain commercial yogurt (and after you get your first batch you can just use one heaping tablespoon of your plain homemade to start it), but I wanted to ensure that I had a really good live starter because you never know if the yogurt was properly cared for once it left the factory.

Once you have your yogurt maker and starter, I highly recommend getting an 2 quart glass measuring cup for heating the milk in the microwave.  I did try heating it up per the directions in the machine’s manual on top of the stove, but I don’t think it heated quite evenly and I was so afraid the milk would burn on the bottom of the pan.  It just didn’t quite set the same as when I used the microwave (and it was easier too!)  You simply add 1 quart of milk (we are into whole foods so naturally we used local organic whole milk…did you know that many of the nutrients are stripped when reducing the fat?) to your glass measuring cup and microwave on high stirring occasionally until it is steaming 8-10 minutes (8 was perfect for me).  Pull it out and set the thermometer that comes with the machine into the measuring cup and wait (patiently…not that word again!) for the milk to cool to the temperature between the two lines marked on the thermometer.  Once at the desired temperature, add your starter to one of the jars from the machine and pour in some of the milk and stir, then pour it all into the glass measuring cup, stir again, pour evenly (about 3/4 full) into all 8 jars, and put the lids on .  Put the jars into the machine, put on the lid, and set your machine (10 hours is perfect for me) according to your texture preference in the machine manual and press start.  Once the timer goes off the jars need to go into the refrigerator right away and will be ready to eat in a few hours.  I find it easiest to make the yogurt in the morning and throw it into the fridge before bed so I can enjoy the next morning.

So far we have only made plain yogurt and flavored them individually.  You can make a whole batch of flavored before you put it into the jars (say for frozen yogurt) but I use it for cooking and instead of sour cream and it has been fun experimenting wih different flavors.  We have tried honey and vanilla, maple syrup, honey or maple syrup with the french chocolate granola, honey and pureed berries, but my most favorite was the peaches n’ yogurt I made yesterday.  I had a jar of peaches that needed to be eaten, so I added a few to my yogurt with some of their juice, a tiny bit of maple syrup, and sprinkled some cinnamon on top….yummm!  Strange (D. thought so)?  Not really, think of it as peach cobbler with cream minus the cobbler…thinking it would be really good with some plain granola in there too.  I was working on Literature with R. at the time and had only a quick second to grab a snack so this was thrown together in a bit of a hurry…next time I think I would cut the peaches up into bite-sized pieces.

I am a tad bit excited to try making cream cheese, sour cream, and mayonnaise using the Cuisipro Donvier Yogurt Cheese Maker … I will let you know how that goes.

Happy yogurt making,



One Small Change February February 1, 2010

I am happy to report that I got all of the pieces for R.’s “Far Far Away Charm School” quilt cut and the blocks somewhat laid out yesterday.  It was tedious work, but I actually kind of enjoyed fussy cutting the blocks as I felt like an artist capturing the exact images desired.  I tend to be a follow the rules — follow the pattern exactly — kind of gal, and am quite proud of myself for stepping outside my comfort zone and using my own artistic talents (I have to have some in there somewhere, right?) to create the different blocks.  Now if only that quilting thread would hurry on its merry way to my house a bit quicker I could start sewing it together…

I am thrilled to share my February One Small Change commitment with you!  We consume tons of yogurt around here, and I do mean tons (R. may be wiry, but she eats more than me!), we also go through a lot of bread and I can’t help feeling bad about all of that wasted packaging.  For February, I am committing to make all of my own yogurt and all of our bread for the entire month.  I purchased the Cuisipro Donvier Yogurt Maker and I can’t wait to see the reduction in non-recyclable plastic yogurt cups around here this month.  Not to mention how much healthier it is to make your own.  Pictured above is my first batch of yogurt and the homemade French Chocolate Granola from Orangette drizzled with honey.  I can’t tell you how divine this is (and I saved on the packaging of the granola too)!

R. and I also had fun baking this loaf of Carrot Papaya bread from the “Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day” cookbook.  The Waldorf tradition is very big into baking bread with children so this will be a regular part of our weekly homeschool schedule.  Between the Healthy Bread cookbook and their other “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” we have hundreds of recipes to experiment with.  It really is so easy and the reward is wonderful healthy bread (minus the plastic packaging and all of the chemicals and preservatives).  The idea is that you whip up a big batch of dough and keep it in the refrigerator (or freeze it) to use over the next 5-7 days.  We also made the Challah bread from Artisan Bread but changed out half of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat and it was very yummy (we made some of it into french toast and some of it into cinnamon raisin bread they were incredible!) and moist.

We also whipped up a honey cream cheese spread (also from Healthy Bread) for the carrot bread to make it into a little desert.  Not as good as my pineapple carrot cake…but unlike the carrot cake that is loaded with fat and sugar, this bread has no oil or butter added to it so you can enjoy it guilt free.

Think of the difference we can make if we all just commit to One Small Change?  Drop by Hip Mountain Mama’s blog for more inspiration and to sign up for the challenge!

Happy sewing,



My Challenge January 6, 2010

Filed under: Gifts,January 2010,One Small Change,Sewing,Softies — The Threaded Nest @ 3:07 pm
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Hello and welcome to YearofHandmade!  I recently finished reading “Julie and Julia” and was inspired to embark on my own adventure this 2010 year.  I figure if she could spend a year with “MTAOFC” I could certainly hand make all of my gifts for a year.  I love making things, baking, needlework, knitting, and my new passion sewing.  So here I am!

I did indeed make many gifts over Christmas (2009) and helped my daughter make quite a few as well, but we fell well short of making gifts for everyone.  Meet the Waldorf-inspired doll (named by said daughter “Chloe”) I spent 2 weeks of every spare minute of every day locked in my room working on to give her Christmas morning.

I also made her dresses and hat.  Sweet satisfaction was mine when she fell completely in love with her even after receiving “Emily” an American Girl Doll given to her by her Pappy!  Goes to show handmade with love trumps commercial.

I was also inspired by Hip Mountain Mama’s One Small Change Project.  My January change is to commit to making and giving only handmade gifts this year. My hope is that these items will be used (or eaten!) and treasured and not end up in a landfill.  Added bonus…I hope to master (well at least better my skills) the art of sewing in this year long process!

My first gift will be a project for my cousins’ son’s first birthday. I have looked at several great ideas including Counting Bean Bags (tutorial and pattern on Chez Beeper Bebe ), a Baby’s First Book (from “Sew Liberated” by Meg McElwee), and a Memory Game (from “Stitched in Time” by Alicia Paulson).  All of these look like fun but I am leaning towards making a Soft Turtle Buddy (from “bend-the-rules SEWING” by Amy karol).  This project doesn’t require much in the way of having to purchase things…I could in fact make it from items all found in my craft stash…but all of my fabric is really girlie and this is for a little boy.  With that said, I have found the most adorable fabric from Cloud9 Fabrics (they are organic!) that I really want to use and will only need 2 fat quarters.  I still have a few days to think about it.  It is coming up on January 17th and I know there is no way I will have it finished before then.  That’s O.K.  I have resigned to the fact that many of my handmade gifts will be late.  I am sure (well…I at least hope) the recipients will understand.