Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Chicken Coop, Relocated

Fresh from high school.
Ok so you may or may not remember the old chicken tractor coop. It was built by high school students from Lampasas, Texas and it actually has held up pretty well given all the extreme weather central Texas has to offer. We are in the process of moving to a more suburban city setting.


And people nearby!

And convenience!


Sorry I have just been living far from a city for so long (7 years to be exact) i am just ready to love this new place. But I still have a little country. There IS a red wheel barrow on my front lawn filled with pansies and violas right now so there.

Back to our chickens. That coop is not a tractor. It looks like it might want to be one, but yeah no those wheels are mostly decorative. It was not easy just painful to move it. I don't know how we did it but it involved a yellow wagon/dolly device, a ramp, prayers, curses, tears, and near muscle injury. But we got it into the yard. And also the 15 cinderblocks its resting on. And also the dog kennel that is constructed around it (that we have had for years, since Elsie was a wee puppy).

And then we constructed a ramshackle roof covering. It was 90 degrees. A new record. And the sun was going down. And the mosquitos were out in force. But we finished somehow!

The railroad ties in the yard we added for additional predator control. Work in progress here.
As far as renovations I bought this ready made egg box attachment (ebay!) which is just perfect. Here it is just primed I still need to paint it to match the rest of the coop. The egg boxes inside the coop were taking up too much space and got soiled far too easily from hens going in and out. So I reconfigured the original exit/entry door and attached the new egg box. And we have some eggs!

The dummy eggs tell them "Eggs go here"
Taking out the old nest boxes now means more room to put up a second roost (coming soon, you can see all the room and the roost bar waiting for installation in the second photo above). So now we can accommodate 2-3 more hens, which would be ideal this upcoming spring as egg production slows for the current crew, which would be expected then to use the nest box less. The door made to access the old nest boxes previously is now the cleaning access panel (open in all photos). I just today cut a smaller door within that panel so they could exit/enter without losing major heat from the coop since a cold front is coming tomorrow. Nevermind the 90 degree record of Sunday we may get snow and ice?!?! Oh Texas. 

Three cinder blocks high. Nice space for dust baths under the coop. Gotta hang those feeders.

They went out in the yard today for the first time for some free ranging and seemed to be in heaven. New bugs! New dirt! The neighbor's ancient dog was so thrilled by the spectacle he actually barked once and stood up to look before collapsing back into what looks like an old shag rug piled up by their house.

Let us out again! We see bugs!
So there you have it. Chicken coop renovations. I think they are going to be just fine. I'll be back after the muscle soreness subsides, probably sometime in December. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Peppa pig

Peppa pig! Da dada da da dada dada da da! And now for my extra late Halloween costume post.

She's a cute pig who loves to jump in muddy puddles. The only acceptable halloween costume this year was one of Peppa Pig naturally, and while she is on cable tv (and youtube) she is from the UK, so not seeing too much merchandise here in the U.S....


So Mama Pig was on a mission to recreate this cute pig. Dada Pig purchased one of the few remaining toy sets from ToysRUs (now they are all sold out!) and I used this as my model. I decided from the beginning I was going to modify the Oliver+S cozy winter hood in pink fleece. There is my somewhat hideous pink lining fabric. Just because I am not buying plain pink lining fabric when I have perfectly good rose fabric.

Can you make out the various death curses in hieroglyphics on my fabric only scissors?
It's a cute hood and I've made the pattern once before. I modified the ears by attaching them just behind where they are indicated to be attached as per the pattern. I also just added a snout! Here are some in progress photos. Really I just made the snout and added felt details.

I don't know what I'm doing here. I just thought..a tube?
And a snout needs to be round so...


I just tried to sew the snout on so that it would be like a visor above her eyes. I stuffed it with polyfill and then put a flat piece of fabric under it so its not truly a tube. I did it all very haphazardly but magically it came together just as it should. I have no pattern or measurements unfortunately. BUT...Really Peppa is in the details. It didn't come together until I cut out the felt eyes, blush and little happy face.


Me trying it on at like 10:30 pm after having worked on it all evening. Costume making is hard work!

But it pays off. She is in full Peppa pig snorting oinking mode:


I also made her little fleece dress/pinafore and the idea was, yay! it has a fun print on the back! so I can reverse it! and have her wear it for other occasions! However she grew about 2 sizes since I last had time to sit down and draft a pattern (I even used a new dress to copy) and still she is nearly bursting out of it. Oh well, an excuse to make more :)


Overall Halloween was awesome! I'll leave you with a million more photos that capture that day before we move into full "New House Photos" Mode. It's coming people. I've been painting for weeks and weeks. Enjoy!

At work. I love my job.
Our night's haul
Miss you, Mima

Friday, October 25, 2013

Honey Tangerine Marmalade

I made this honey tangerine one time and it was so good I *needed* to make it again. On a Sunday night at 8pm...Sure it's a little time consuming but it's marmalaaaade! I don't need an excuse. I made about a cup of it for our house in a large jar (to go straight in the fridge) and four 4oz jars to give away to friends and family.You know who you are :)

The recipe I used calls for:
2 cups sugar
7-8 Medium tangerines
1 cup honey
4 TB of sugar free pectin (I omitted the pectin since citrus usually has a ton of it and it set up just fine)
Juice of one lemon and zest of one lemon (also pectin here!)

To make peeling/de-pithing easier, I simmered the tangerines for an hour in water with cinnamon sticks. Yum the house smelled pretty good! Then I gave them an ice bath, peeled the rinds off and chopped them up after scraping off any pith stuck to the skins. Then the tedious de-seeding and de-pithing process. I think kitchen shears work pretty good. You can snip off the hard pith of each wedge and then squeeze the seeds out. Put the flesh/pulp into a food processor to break it up a bit. Or not. You can just smash it up in the pot when you add all the sugar and honey. You just bring it to a boil and then simmer it and wait. And stir.

First it looks kinda foamy. Then the foam goes away (or you can remove it, whatever) and it looks kinda bubbly and thick. I won't lie it takes awhile. You don't have to hover over it but don't take a nap or anything. Pectin speeds things up so I only know how it works for non-pectin marmalade. Once it starts looking a little thick drop some on a cold saucer and if its not too runny its pretty much done. Since I canned it I had the additional steps of prepping jars in the dishwasher to keep them hot, processing lids, and boiling the jarred marmalade for about 10 minutes. The lids all popped woohoo!

Right after the lids popped. It's kinda blurry sorry.
Ready to give away!
I understand people not having time or inclination to can/preserve. It is messy and time consuming but not really difficult. However, you need to make some small batch marmalade. Cut the recipe by half and you can make a jar for you and a friend to eat within the month (be sure to refridgerate it). So worth it.

I'm making some buttermilk biscuits tomorrow. Should go good with some marmalade..

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Las Puertas

Ok so I finally got around to uploading all 2,700 something photos off of my phone! I'm free! I have some here for you of our new house. I watch a lot of Mexican/Spanish language soap operas or 'novelas' and they typically involve a giant ranch home of some sort with a name characteristic of its character. Names like "El Abuelo" for an old ranch, you get the idea. Well this house is "Las Puertas" since it has more doors than I've ever seen in a house. There are at least 20 doors! And its not a huge home there are only 2 bathrooms. Cute late 50's style bathrooms. One is pink and one is blue!

Shut up already and show us some photos!


Just kidding! I wish that was my house. I did use the color inspiration for my breakfast nook area. It's a house for lease as a store in our new town.

 Did someone say breakfast? Where's the bacon?

Here is one less door...

Here are a few photos of Elena's room in various stage of progress. First thing I did was paint the walls. They were a dingy white now they are "Peppa Pig" pink, according to Elena. You'll see more Peppa Pig soon I promise! The carpet had to go...but I like the old roller shades.


I actually had to repaint the baseboards. What a pain. And I have to do it in the master bedroom too. Flooring is ready to install but not quite there yet.


I also needed to paint the back of this door since it had some blemishes. What do you think of the color? It's called "brushed lavender".

It's typical that we've not moved in yet and I already have a little Halloween decor set up on our mantle.

I'll leave you with some before and after photos of the front yard area. this is just the side by our driveway. The front yard proper is very formal (well, compared with where we were living previously it's formal!) with pruned boxwoods, columns and all. After it was cleared (Thanks honey) I moved in the old wheelbarrow and some transplants.
The worst was that poor crepe myrtle that is suffocating the medium aged pecan tree behind it. You can see the tree in the below photos. There is a lot of useless (and suffering) shrubbery at this house that is getting systematically butchered. 

Super happy with the product so far. There are some annuals, irises, a yucca, roses, and going to add salvia soon.

Stay tuned I also made some marmalade...drool...and I have Elena's halloween costume to come.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Bib Dress Redux

So so busy. Like zero time to sew. But I do have time to take photos of things we're already doing. One thing was dragging out this bib dress while it still fits. Remember I made it ages ago!? And it was huge. Well Elena has apparently grown like 10 feet since then (it was over a year ago...) and it now fits her perfectly. Just a few photos so you can appreciate how much she is growing.

There is a resurgence in fall of our backyard wildflowers. Right now there are these little yellow flowers that look like yellow baby's breath. And also there are various purple flowers enjoying a last hurrah! 

Is she looking at her shadow or the butterfly?
I'm working on lots of things right now and I'm overwhelmed! Mostly work and getting to work and doing homework for work. Yay gainful employment! During free time I've been doing things at the new house we just closed on. I have some before and after pics but of course they are stuck on my phone. Once I free them I will be posting some home reno/decor type stuff. Also planning on working on Elena's halloween costume pretty soon. And chicken coop renovations!!!! That will be a blast. So I hope to have more things to show you soon! Check back soon. I leave you with...the cheese face. Know it. Love it. Accept it.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Fun with Trompe l'oeil

So, I have been looking at tons and tons of decorating books in preparation for our upcoming move to a new home. I will write more about that later but I keep finding these lovely examples of trompe l'oeil, which is a decorative painting technique that makes you think something is there when it is not. There are some really realistic examples out there (google it), but in the decorator books I've been looking at I have seen a lot of false windows and murals of landscapes and such to make it appear that you have trees and a villa far away in your room. There are some really lovely examples out there!

I found this photo of a door and really love it. I have always wanted to paint a door with some decorative design. So before I just go paint a door I wanted to practice a bit. Here's a little study I did on a wood plaque. And hopefully pretty soon I will be painting everything. I took photos in stages in case you wanted to try it too.

First I just painted a small wood plaque with some white acrylic. I used all acrylic paint for this project. The acrylic in the fancy pants art section doesn't turn immediately to plastic goo is a little better than the crafts section. But I know you can make it work either way.


Then I just did a wash of the basic colors I wanted, by adding water and then some acrylic. I played around with colors at this point and was pretty satisfied.

Next I drew the outline of the tree in pencil. You can somewhat make it out.


Then I went outside while Elena was playing and I just painted the rest. I pretended to be a real artist painting al fresco or something. The hens clucked encouragingly.

 I like it but I think the colors are a bit too saturated. It's because I am too impatient. A wash (water + acrylic) takes longer to dry then just acrylic and I just wanted to finish. So that tells me I will have to take my time on the real thing. I was also working with basic colors, so I think for the real thing I will select more muted colors. Lastly, I just like saturated colors! If you look through this blog you will know this immediately. So try as I might for muted, not sure if it will really happen.

By the time I realized it was so darn bright I said well it needs a really obvious owl to hoot in the tree. You know who is really good at telling you if something really looks like what you're trying to paint? Elena. Probably any three year old will do. Just ask them they won't lie! It was a bat at first according to her. I persevered and behold she hooted in assent that it was in fact an owl.

Now I have to try painting some little mice in corners of walls or a deck of cards on a table, you know real advanced stuff. But first, it's your turn.
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