Sunday, October 28, 2012

Random Household Hints: Home Made Bees Wax Fire Starters!

Just thought I'd share a random household hint that I have found to be successful! If you follow my blog posts you may remember me mentioning how I felt guilty at not using my beeswax cappings "properly". (Basically I didn't know how to purify/render it down so I just melted it and used it to make fire starters.) Well I'm here today to tell you how well those fire starters work! I had heard of this idea at a preparedness fair at my church. (Mormons are really great at learning to be prepared!!) It was suggested to use dryer lint, (who doesn't have an endless supply of that?!) egg cartons (very easy to find) and they said to use some kind of wax. At the time I thought; there's something I could do with my beeswax cappings. So last year that is what I did with my left over bees wax. But I didn't get around to using the fire starters until this year. It's cold here and I couldn't stand it any longer, I needed a fire! But I didn't have any newspaper to get it started. (Which is what I usually use.) So I decided to try the fire starters I made last year. I only used one of my home made fire starters and one piece of newspaper, (I managed to find one piece!) And I used small pieces of wood (cedar logs about 2" around.) It worked the first time with no other flammables needed. I'm very impressed with how easily these fire starters work! (And it only took 1!) So even though I felt guilty about not using last years bees wax for a better purpose, I love the way that it makes the fire start easily!!

Here's what I did to make these easy Home Made Fire Starters:

You will need:

Dryer Lint
Egg Cartons
Bees Wax Cappings, melted

Push dryer lint down into the egg cartons, pack as much as you can into the egg carton dividers leaving about 1/2" head space. Melt the bees wax cappings down in a double boiler (remember bees wax is very flammable so use low/med. heat and watch it at all times!) Once the wax is melted, carefully pour it over top of the dryer lint. I poured it about a 1/4" thick into each egg carton divider. Once the wax had hardened I cut the egg carton into individual pieces using each egg holder as a piece (using scissors.)
This is what an egg carton full looks like, then I just cut them into individuals with scissors after they hardened.

I also decided that next year I will save the pieces of cheesecloth that I used to purify the beeswax and let it harden, then cut that into smaller pieces to be used as fire starters as well. (As you pour the hot bees wax through the cheesecloth layers to remove impurities from the wax, it hardens into the cheesecloth. And when hardened I believe will serve as a good fire starter.)
This is an example of the cheesecloth I will allow to harden and cut into squares and use it to start fires next year.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Merida from Brave Costume Idea and How to sew a simple Halloween Cape, Tutorial.

Miss Merida and her trusty steed!
I mentioned in an earlier post that one of my daughters wants to be Merida from the Disney/Pixar's Brave. So I made her a dress and a cape out of a beautiful cobalt blue taffeta with gold trim. I decided to share how I did it in case there are any last minute mom's out there in need of some help.
First step, cut a rectangle out of your fabric using the person you are making it for as a guide. I started with a rectangle about 27" wide and 34" long. Then I held it up to my 7 year old to see how much shorter I wanted it, trimmed it. Then I finished all the edges all the way around so they don't fray. (You could do this many ways such as serge them, fold over, press, sew down, I opted for using my rolled edge hemmer foot that hems as you sew, very easy!) Then I folded the top of the cape over about 2" and pressed to hold it there. Then I made a stitch along the bottom of this fold to make the sheath that the bow/ribbon that holds the cape on goes through. Once that is sewn, make a tie or use ribbon to be tied in a bow to hold cape on. I used the same fabric as I made the cape out of. For more instructions on how to make this tie you can view my tutorial on making a belt that I have already given detailed instructions, just go to the search bar on my blog and type in Smocked/shirred maxi skirts for little girls and that tutorial will show you how to make a simple belt that works well for this cape tie. Once you have finished the tie pull it through the sheath you made in the cape either by attaching a safety pin to one end of tie and feeding the pin through the sheath or I prefer my handy "grabber thingy" that I feed through the sheath, grab the end of the tie and pull through. This makes a simple cape, but you can take it a step further and add a hood to the cape by simply cutting a square out of your fabric using the folded edge as one side of the square. (so you are  making a doubled fabric square). Finish all edges (so they don't fray). Since the folded side is already together you just need to sew down one of the other sides so that when opened looks like a triangle and then you would stitch the open end down to the cape top.(the seam is in the back and folded edge is on top) I also put the cape on to the child, cinched the tie up where it should be and then pinned and then stitched it so it wouldn't come out. This is very simple and takes little time to make.

This is the end result, looking at the inside of the cape with a hood attached.

This is the square piece I made the hood out of. It is doubled. This one I did not cut on the fold so I would need to sew down 2 of the four sides. If you use the center fold of the fabric for one side you won't have a seam at the top, if you use the center fold at the top and the sewn seam at the back of the hood.

Close up of where the hood attaches to the top of cape and what the sheath looks like with the tie gathered through it. (Again once I knew where the tie fit my daughter I stitched the tie in place at both ends to it wouldn't come out.)

This shows the cape with hood down and the dress I made for "Merida" costume. I used an old Little Bo Peep dress costume pattern I already had from years ago and "tweaked" it into Merida. I added a gold front piece, gold ruffles at neck, sleeves and hem of dress. (As well as making the pattern bigger, it was a size 4 pattern, I needed an 8.) Along with adding gold puffy elbows in the sleeves.

Here is a close up to the dress neck detail and the cape tied around the neck.

Close up of ruffled detail added to the bottoms of sleeves and dress hem.

Close up to elbow puffy cuffs I added into sleeves. I just laid out the sleeve pattern and continued it in the same angles, but I gathered the edges of the middle panel with my ruffling foot to make the gathered look as seen. The only thing I would have done different is I would have made the middle (gold) panel about a half inch wider in each side, when you add the gathering it shrinks it up a bit. Then added a bottom (blue) panel, again staying in the original angle of the sleeve pattern, sewed them all together and added a ruffle at the bottom.

The finished product, (minus a real model, they were all at school!) So don't mind the creepy head!

Friday, October 19, 2012

My kids favorite Halloween costumes I've made.

I think this is one of my very favorite, the Mad Hatter!
Well, I must say I'm sorry! I have neglected you for days. I don't mean to and I promise, I do love you, but...I am a wife, mommy and part-time business person. I just have not had time to post. You have, however been in my thoughts. Here's a catch up to what's been going on here: dinner's were made, diapers changed, school pictures and family pictures taken, grape jelly and pear jam were put up, the garden was froze and therefore ripped out, the lambs were sold, homework was done, my kindergarten-er read her first sentence books, dress fabrics were sourced and swatches ordered, oh and I hate to mention we all got the stomach flu, which if you are a mommy know brings lots of other eminent chores, such as extra dirty laundry, sterilization and disinfection of home, car and other things. I must also say that it should really be against the rules for mommies to get the stomach flu! How on earth can you take care of a husband and children when you can't even get out of bed for fear of passing out? Oh...well, you call in your mommy! And that's just what I did!! Poor Grandma got a text at 6 am the other morning, with a plea, "if you aren't too busy I could really use a babysitter" and I didn't mean for the kids, I really meant for me! As my hubby got ready to leave for work he said to me, "should I stay until the kids are off to school?" I thought, that is, you have so much work to do, go, I will figure it out. (This might sound strange, the fact that I can't handle being sick on my own, but I must explain further with fear of totally grossing you all out!) He was asking if he should stay due to the fact that he found me in a pile on the bathroom floor covered in my own emesis in a full on seizure at 3 AM the night before. I can't really explain why, other than my body cannot handle the process of severe vomiting without passing out! I have done this since I was a teenager, yes...I have seen a doctor. Unfortunately I have done this at the most inopportune times which have landed me emergency room visits and tests which have concluded: I have an over-active vaso-vagal response. Over-active? Ya-think? I know it's coming and I don't know why at that last minute I don't ask for help, but apparently I passed out while vomiting, hit my head on the toilet and he heard the commotion and found me on the floor. I really hate the way his face looks when I open my eyes and see his face (he looks really scared!) But long story short, I have a fantastic husband, who is handy and also very caring. He picked my mess up off the floor, got me in the tub, washed the nasty out of my hair, (keeping in mind at this point my body would not even do it's most fundamental functions like taking care of oneself!) I have a feeling of what it is like to not be able to care for yourself, not a feeling I enjoy. But very glad to have the love and help of those around me to pick me up and dust me off! So this is why mom, being my mom was called in as a re-enforcement! I think he thought I might pass out while home alone with the kids, not a good thing! So luckily my sweet mother was already awake and responded immediately to my text and was on her way down. She does live about an hour away and that made her arrival perfect to get the kids to school on time! Bless her, I don't know what I would do without such a sweet lady in my life! After all that I have been planning for Halloween which brings me to today's blog topic (after a long detour!) Sorry, it has been days...I felt I had some 'splaining to do. I have been playing room mom and planning a kindergarten party and our family is hosting another annual Halloween party. So costumes were a priority also. But for some reason this year it was not as easy to figure out what we all wanted to be. I love the times when it all meshes and the whole family has a theme (like last year we all dressed up as the characters from Alice in Wonderland.) This one could decide! I have learned as a mommy to also kind of wait until what you might say is the last minute, not because I'm lazy or not getting around to it. But I have also gotten a costume done only to have a child change their mind and throw a giant fit about another costume seen at Walmart on a visit for groceries! So I tend to make sure their choice sticks!! My kids finally decided on Bat Girl and Merida from Brave. So my youngest daughter found a costume at Walmart that I thought was cute and needs little embellishing to make a cute frock. The Merida however, needed to be made by mom. So yesterday after feeling all better I ventured to Joann's for some fabric. (Along with every other mom in Utah County!) I found the perfect cobalt blue taffeta and some gold trim, spent about $20 on everything I needed to get the job done. The one thing I didn't buy was a new pattern. I sometimes have a hard time shelling out another $15 for a pattern. I like the costumes to be custom made but I hate them to cost more than something at Walmart already made. So I went sans pattern. Which might frighten some! I knew I had a pattern at home that I once used for a Little Bo Peep dress that could work. But it was for sizes 1-4 and my girl is now 7 so it did take some tweaking. I ended up loving the Merida costume and will probably post individually how to make it in case it helps another last minute mommy out there!
Here are some photos of my favorite Halloween costumes that I've done over the years:

Here is Pascal from Disney's Tangled.

Rapunzel also from Tangled. (As you may notice the same Bo Peep dress pattern gets used a lot!)

The Queen of Hearts, Knave of Hearts, Mad Hatter and Little Alice!

Little Bo Peep and her little sheep too!

Mad Hatter doing a little "Fudderwacking"

A better look at the fronts of these two Rapunzel dresses, yes these were made for a birthday party, but would work well for Halloween also.

Bo Peep and the Rodeo Clown.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Adventures of a Stay-at-Home Mom, episode 3: Raising Lambs!

Their first day out in the pasture!

A couple of my newborns enjoying their heat lamp! 
It's been a dusty whirlwind around here lately! I haven't taken a break to even post a blog entry. The kids are in school and it's lamb market season! I love sheep and lambs and I raise some every year. I take my dad's bummer (orphan) lambs and raise them on the bottle, wean them, get them eating grain and pasture and then this time of year I sell them. As a stay at home mommy I don't have a job outside my home. Everything I do that earns money is done here on "Patch A Heaven". Raising bummer lambs is one of those ways I make extra spending money. Many people have asked me how I can sell these little lambies after I have treated them like my babies. Well...I must tell you, I had a hard time once! I know in the end of the season they will be sold and I know that they will make someone a delicious dinner. And I don't let myself get emotionally attached to them to the point where I can't let them go. When I get them they are barely born, either their moms died during birth, had triplets and not enough milk to feed them all or some other circumstance that requires them to become orphans. In this newborn stage they are very delicate and weak. They require constant feeding, nurturing and watch care in those first few days to weeks or else they will die. I spend much time teaching them to drink from a bottle, feeding them by stomach tube if necessary (sometimes they are so weak or don't want to eat and will die if I don't intervene in a timely manner), and getting them old enough to graze on their own. They are like having a newborn child, they take that much care at first. And I care for them like their moms would, but in the back of my mind I know what my objective is and that is to get them to market. I want them to get to at least 100 lb each before market day. As I mentioned above I had one time that I got emotionally attached to a lamb. His name was Tiny Tim, (yes I even give them all names), Tiny Tim was the smallest little runt and so weak but the little guy had nine lives and I saved every one, but his very last! He was my little trouble maker and he had a will to live like I'd never seen in a lamb before! One time I went out to feed that years crop of lambs and Tim didn't come, so as the good shepherd does, I went looking for him. I found him in the irrigation ditch in front of my pasture, he was so small he somehow slid underneath the fence. He was wet and weak, I brought him in, dried him off, warmed him up, fed him and got him back to health. Another time I went to feed and again he was missing, so I went looking. I could hear him, but I couldn't see him. I followed his baas and he had fallen into a pipe that stands on end that had our irrigation on/off valve in it. I fished him out, again he was wet and weak. I nursed him back to health and he was fine. These escapades of him getting into trouble and almost dead and me bringing him back to life continued to the point where I said I think you are just going to have to be my pet. I had saved his life too many times and we had grown quite close! Unfortunately he did pass away one day. And yes...I was sad. We had become friends and no I would not have been able to eat him. Normally I don't let myself become emotionally attached to them because then it would just be torture at the end of every season. Yes, I understand many may not be able to do this, but it works for me. So far my kids have been okay with it too. They love the lambs, they feed them, love them, chase and play with them, name them, but also realize that at the end of the summer they will be sold and become some one's dinner. It's an important lesson I think for children to know where their food comes from, how to take good ethical care of those animals and that meat should not be wasted or taken for granted. My lambs have been grazing on pasture all summer and have grown to market weight and market day is Saturday. I loaded them into the trailer for their trip to Sanpete where the buyer will pick them up. The market price is not as good as it was last year, but I was still able to make a good profit. Dad's herds came off the summer mountain range on Monday and we went down to help separate the lambs from the ewes. This means we run them all through the chute and separate them. Then the ewes go back up into the foot hills and the lambs into the hay pasture to graze until the buyer and shipping trucks come for them on Saturday. It was a lot of work to run 4,000 sheep through and separate them one by one, but it's work that I find enjoyable. It's a place where phrases like "Skit 'em up!" and "That'll do!" are frequent and there's lots of dust and hollering. Good old fashioned ranch work! You know I read an article in the Farm Bureau news this week that talked about PETA being present at the State Fair and trying to tell people how terrible farms and people that raise animals for meat are. And I thought it's too bad they have a such a skewed view of what the family farm is really like. We love our animals, we take good care of them and we appreciate the opportunity to bring good, healthy, ethically raised meat to the American table. Well gotta go, (we need to check each other for ticks!) Probably won't be back until next week since we are busy shipping lambs Saturday. Thanks as always for reading my random posts! And Happy Fall!!
The chase is on! Young lambs love to buck, run and play. (And so do young kids!)

Cleaning out my lamb feeder.

Handy Husband made this feeder for me a few years ago. I told him he should patent it, it is the best!
 I can feed 7 lambs at a time, huge time saver!

Dad's herds coming down the lane to the farm.They have been grazing on the mountain all summer.

The kids are the best little herders!

"Atta girl Jill" Dad's Border Collie dog. She's a necessity on a job like this and she knows just what to do.

This is a view of the sorting. The sheep go single file through this chute where they are let out little doors into separate corrals.

Everyone on a ranch has a job and this little darlin' is the head dog wrangler. These super smart, super energetic Border Collie dogs are eager to do their job. They have gotten the sheep where they want them for now and she is keeping the dog calm and pulled back off the sheep. (If you push them too much they will bunch up and smother each other.)

Two cousins, playing lost in a sea of sheep!
This years crop of lambs, eleven total for me. (1275 for dad), Happy to say they all made it to market day! I'm getting better at raising these little guys.