Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Making Cheese - A New Adventure

Ever since I found a local supplier of raw milk, I have been wanting to try my hand at cheese making. I thought I would start with mozzarella but had a hard time finding rennet and citric acid. The rennet I eventually purchased on-line and the citric acid appeared in stores as canning season kicked into full swing. By the time I had my supplies I didn't have the time. Go figure.

Jump forward a few months and the cheese inspiration was back after reading about the success of some of my favorite bloggers. So when I had an abundance of milk due to being away for Christmas I knew it was time to give it a whirl.

Following this recipe for farmer's cheese I gathered all my ingredients and supplies and got straight to work.

From what I have read, temperature is extremely important in the cheese making process. Thank goodness for an instant read thermometer.

Once the milk was up to temperature, the rennet was added. Then it was time to wait. This was kind of like watch a pot never boil. You couldn't see much happening.

But like magic, after about an hour the milk was now a solid mass - kind of like tofu. Time to cut the curds. This was really cool! As the curds and whey were heated the curds shrunk and the whey increased.

Then like magic the milk had turned into a solid mass - like tofu. The next step was to cut the curds. This was really cool! As the curds and whey was heated, the curds shrank and the whey increased.

Then the curds and whey needed to be separated. This was funny because the more whey you removed the more appeared. Not a big deal because the remaining whey will be drained off later.

Next, add the seasoning. Salt - lots of it as most of it drains away with the whey - garlic and rosemary.

Now it was time to hang the cheese. Wrapped in cheese cloth it hung for an hour above a bucket to collect the last of the whey.

Not having a cheese press I made due with a couple of plates, a heavy cast iron pan, and a bucket of water. Here our cheese sat for the next 17 hours.

A long process but a huge success! Everyone love the cheese! I may even buy extra milk just to make cheese. And you can bet I will be trying my hand a mozzarella and ricotta soon.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Needle Book

After all the Christmas crafting it became quite clear that we needed a few new ways to organize our supplies. And while needles are really the least of my organizing woes, I couldn't resist making my own needle book after seeing these. I searched the web and found many tutorials for many lovely needle books, however, I didn't have the supplies for any of them. The solution . . . make up my own. I am truly pleased with how it came out.

And now my needles and a few pins have a home of their very own, and one that is easy to take along I am happy to say.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Warm and Crafty

The mercury has been steadily dropping after an unusually warm November. And I have been looking for ways to keep both hands and home warm. Well someone must have been thinking along the same lines because the latest issue of rhythm of the home was packed full of wonderfully warm ideas.

The minute I saw these wool felt handwarmers I just knew I have to make a bunch. I don't think there has been a winter in NH where my hands have been warm. Hopefully that will change. Thanks to this tutorial I was able to embroider these cute snowflakes without much trouble.

And of course living in a house that is over 100 years old we have our fair share of drafts! So next on the list was the patchwork draft snake. Simple, efficient, cute and frugal. Who could ask for anything more?

Be sure to check out

for lots of inspiration!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Felting Fun

Needle felting is one of those crafts that keeps popping up every where I go. Craft fairs, agricultural fairs, yarn shops, catalogs and blogs. and of course every time I see it I think - WOW! that is so cool. I've got to give it a try. So while at the Fryeburg Fair back in October I bought two felting kits and some extra dyed fleece. I wasn't sure how to get started so it all sat at the back of my yarn bin. Jump to December and the Christmas crafting inspiration and the felting supplies just had to come out.

The fleece is so soft and fluffy. It is fun just to twirl it in between your fingers. We have some great colors including some natural fleece.

We started with an easy project. Cookie cutter ornaments. It really is easy. Place the cookie cutter on the foam pad and fill with the color fleece of your choice. Carefully start poking it with the needle. Now here is where you must be very careful. These needles are SHARP!

You keep poking the fleece. This motion mattes the fibers making felt! How cool is that? You need to be careful to flip and move your piece otherwise it will get felted to your foam pad. Keep poking and felting until your piece is the thickness and density that you want.

Here are some of our completed ornaments. You can leave them as is or embellish them with embroidery floss, buttons or beads.

I can already see so many applications for felting. I think you will be seeing little felted treasures adorning some of my next projects - hats, mittens, bookmarks, . . . What would you adorne?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Gratitude in a Wrap

Another gift checked off the list. Sarah made this for someone special and I just had to share. Luckily the special lady doesn't check the blog.

This lovely wrap came from one of our favorite crafty ladies, Amanda Soule. You can find the pdf directions on her blog, Soule Mama. Look on the left hand side under For You.

The best part is when you open this lovely wrap up. It holds all you need to write those thank you notes for all the thoughtful Christmas gifts you received. There is a small address book and pen, card and envelopes, and stamps.

Sarah added the embroidered block for a personal touch. Thanks to the Richardson and Kelley ladies for help with the embroidery.

Now I know this wont be under the tree for me, but . . . hint, hint. You could make another one Sarah. Couldn't you?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Caroling

Our homeschool group went caroling at the local nursing home to help spread some holiday cheer. We sang about six traditional carols as well as some contemporary favorites. Then all the children then handed out handmade Christmas cards and shared snack with the residents. Everyone had a good time, and I know the children made many of the resident's day.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Homegrown Explorer's Christmas Crafts

Every year our homeschool group gets together to make Christmas ornaments, cards, and crafts. It is always a good time, and this year was no exception. We had a great variety of crafts. Some easy for the little ones and some more difficult for the more crafty in the group. Check out some of the fun.

Rebekah had a WONDERFUL time gluing her felt tree together and then decorating it. I think the glitter glue was her favorite.

She thought very carefully about every decoration and where it should be placed.

I was able to catch Sarah unaware as she made a Christmas card that would be delivered to a lucky resident of the local nursing home when we go Christmas Carolling later.

Hannah, Maggie and James hard at work cutting and creating.

Thanks to all the families that brought such awesome crafts for the kids to make. It was tons of fun!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Growing Snowflakes

Hannah had one of her best friends over the other day and wanted to do something cool. Well what could be cooler than growing your own snowflake?

Above are the materials needed for this simple yet way cool craft/science project.

Below you can see the pipe cleaner snowflake the kids came up with. Any design will do.

Here is the snowflake submerged in the borax solution.

All done! It didn't take our crystals long to form. Really just a few hours NOT overnight like the directions say. And if you aren't careful and watch your snowflake, it will grow too large to get out of the jar!

You can find the complete directions and a scientific explanation here.

We hung our snowflakes from the light over our kitchen table. However, these beauties would make great Christmas tree ornaments or window sun catchers too.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Handmade Candles

Everyone in the family has had a wonderful time crafting for our family and friends. Hannah was really excited to try her hand at candle making. So we headed to the craft store to pick up some supplies - wax, wick, scents, colors, and jars.

Hannah did a great job figuring out the whole process. Here she gets the wicks and jars set up before she starts to melt the wax.

We used a bees wax which melted so nicely. The color was added at the beginning, but the scent wasn't added until it was completely melted. Boy did it smell wonderful when it was added.

Mom had to help pour the hot wax while Hannah held the wick in place with a long skewer. Then they were left to cool while Hannah made tags

Here are the finished candles with their adorable tags. I sure hope I find some of these under the tree.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas Food Fun

For the last few years our homeschool group has forgone the monthly mom's meeting in December and hosted a family Christmas Party instead. It is always a ton of fun with lots of food and fellowship. This year was one of the best.

The girls wanted to make our contribution to the food themselves. And of course that was just fine with me. Sarah would make an appetizer and Hannah, you guessed it, a desert.

We found both of the cute recipes in the December issue of Family Fun magazine.

Snowman Cheese Balls

So cute and so easy. And if you don't mind me saying so myself, very tasty. Sarah did a great job dressing her snowman and snowlady with cracker hats, carrot scarf and bow tie. The gentleman even has his pipe made from baby corn.

Christmas Tree Cake

This cake was right up Hannah's alley. Not only was it cake, but it is decorated with candy to look like ornaments. She added the leftover frosting and coconut to look like snow.

Christmas Handiwork Update

If you have been following my blog, you know that we are having a handmade Christmas this year. Many of you have ask me to keep you updated on our progress. So here is another peek.

Rebekah's Princess and the Pea set is finally done. Although I may add a bit of a face to the doll. Above you can see the mattresses all tucked in little tote. Below, the front of the tote has two pockets. One for the princess and a little one for the pea.

Here is a little knitted bowl and I am going to felt. I can't tell you any more than that or I will give it all away.

And yet another hat. But who is it for? That is the question.

There is still more knitting, sewing, felting, crafting and general making. So as you can see there are a bunch of busy little elves hard at work.

Christmas Candy Making

Growing up, making hard Christmas candy with my Grandmother, Mom, and Brother was one of my favorite traditions. It was even my first entrepreneurial adventure. I sold it one year when I was in middle school to buy Christmas gifts for the family and friends.

Fast forward a few years. I found myself a stay at home mom with children not quite old enough to help make the wonderful hard candy. So I enlisted the help of our homeschool group. And a new tradition was formed.

When the homeschool group first started making Christmas candy it was just a few families around our kitchen table with the mom's doing most of the work. Boy have we come a long way.

This year the kids took over the project almost completely!

Above Sarah and Shannon cook the first batch. Below the fun begins as everyone helps to cut the candy into bite size pieces before it hardens.

Hannah, Chase and Alexis mixing their batch. In all we made 6 batches of the sweet stuff. Cherry, Watermelon, Root beer, Butterscotch, Cinnamon, Wintergreen!

Of course no one could resist tasting!

I love all the colors. And the dusting of powdered sugar adds a snowy touch!

Thanks to everyone who has helped keep this tradition alive for my family!

Ada's Old Fashion Christmas Candy

3 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 cup water
1 tsp candy oil flavoring
food coloring of choice

Mix the first three ingredients in a heavy bottom pot. Heat on med-high heat until it reached 290 degrees. Remove from heat immediately and stir in flavoring and coloring. Pour into a well butter pan. (We like to use an electric skillet as air can circulate under the pan.) Allow the candy to cool for just a few minutes until you can lift and cut strips. Toss the strips into powdered sugar and let your helpers cut the strips into bite size pieces. When cool shake off the excess powdered sugar. Store in an aire tight container.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Wreath Making

The Homegrown Explorers Third Annual Wreath Making was a huge success. Over forty of us headed into the woods up at the Chamberlain Christmas Tree Farm in search of the boughs. Armed with wagons, pruners, and saws we made quick work collecting enough greens for every one to make a wreath or swag.

Tiffany, Hannah and Chase cutting beautiful boughs.

Bekah gave mom a helping hand. And after she felt she had practiced enough she got to cut her own - All By Myself!

Back at the church the kids received a quick lesson on wreath assembly and then set to work.

You can see more pictures from the day at the

Homegrown Explorers Blog.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Little More Handmade Christmas

After pouring through pages of craft books and scouring crafting blogs, Sarah settled on an idea from The Creative Family for Rebekah's Christmas gift - a set of lacing cards.

Here she sews a fabric drawstring bag to keep them in. Below you can see all the wonderful drawing she did. All that is left is to cut them out and punch the holes. She also has to label the bag.

This little knitting project is a secret that she is not sharing. Any guesses?