Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bee Fest 2010

This weekend we are holding the Southeastern PAHoneybee Symposium- "Bee Fest"- on Saturday, October 2nd at Temple Ambler.  This event, hosted by the Montgomery County Beekeeper's Association (MCBA) will feature Honeybee experts from the Florida Department of Agriculture, Penn State, and the Eastern Apiculture Society.  There is also a full day beginner's beekeeping course taught by Jim Bobb, a member of MCBA.

I'll be in charge of the honey table where we will feature liquid and comb honey from our members and we will also be selling bee themed T-shirts and other merchandise.

Registration is only $30 per person, $15 for students and can be found here.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Beekeeping at Bartram's Garden

Last weekend I did a beekeeping demo at Bartram's Garden.  This was one of the events of the Philadelphia Honey Fest.  Thanks, Andrew for taking the great photos!
Showing a frame with capped drone brood (Photo credit: Andrew Kirkpatrick)
My beekeeping gear (Photo credit: Andrew Kirkpatrick)
Showing the parts of a hive (Photo credit: Andrew Kirkpatrick)
Holding a queen excluder and rocking my super cool boot bands (Photo credit: Andrew Kirkpatrick)
Holding a frame of bees (Photo credit: Andrew Kirkpatrick)
Showing capped honey at the bottom of the frame (Photo credit: Andrew Kirkpatrick)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Quilt Extravaganza!

Last weekend, Cindy and I went to the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravagnaza XVII.  It was my first quilt show and I was soooo excited!  There were so many amazing quilts and I took way too many photos.   I won't bore all of you with all of my quilt pictures, so here are my top 10.  By the way- it was really really hard to narrow it down to 10...

Love the purple and black

Two of my obsessions- trees and little birds- of course this was one of my favorites!
I think this one was trying to describe the quilters different personalities or something like that
This one was layered squares of fabric
This one was inspired by a biology book... think red blood cells...
A poem
This may not look spectacular, but the dark lines were burned into the fabric with a soldering iron
Close up of the soldered fabric
I love all of the bright colors, curves, and points
I love the panels that separate the different styles- especially the different techniques that are used to make the trees
Light and dark diamonds

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Project Pure Update

I finally finished the quilting and binding on my Project Pure challenge quilt.  I don't normally machine quilt, but I thought this was a good way to practice since it was a smaller quilt.  I had to do straight lines because my antique machine doesn't have the ability to lower the feed dogs (these are the little teeth that pull material past the needle).  I replicated the vertical pattern horizontally in the quilting (thanks for the idea Cindy!). 

Quilting pattern is taped out using blue painter's tape
Quilt is layered (top, binding, backing) and pinned together every few inches with safety pins
The blue tape is used as a guide for machine quilting
The finished product!
We had a meeting of the Philadelphia Modern Quilt Guild this week where everyone was able to show off their creations using the Pure fabric.  It is amazing what different quilts result from the same fabric.
Photo: PMQG
Photo: PMQG

Thursday, September 16, 2010

G is for Grace

Lately I have been seeing a lot of cute monogrammed craft ideas.  I love the idea of personalizing hand made gifts!

I saw this fun "G" lamp on a blog post from Design Sponge.  Dad- there are detailed instructions, but it involves woodworking, so I'm throwing the ball in your court.  You know when my birthday is...

Letter Lamp (Photo credit and instructions: Design Sponge)

Quilted letters:  These blocks say "live" and "love."  I'm a very straight lines kind of girl, so this styles makes me a little nervous, but when I see other people pull it off so well, it makes me want to give it a shot!
Word Blocks (Photo credit: Lazy Gal Quilting)

When we graduated from graduate school, our office manager, Kathryn, gave the girls each a monogrammed mug from Anthropologie.  We currently have a "G" and an "A" mug living in our cupboard.  Okay- maybe they aren't hand made, but they are pretty cute!  Fill them with some home made candy or wrap them in a hand sewn bag and it still counts as a hand made gift in my book- or maybe semi-homemade... Sandra Lee would approve.
Monogrammed mug from Anthropologie (Photo credit: Anthropologie)

Of course I should have known that Martha would pull through with many monogrammed crafts.  On, there are free downloadable monogrammed labels, boxes, party favors, napkins, pillow cases, etc.

Monogrammed Labels (Photo credit and free downloads: Martha Stewart)
Monogrammed boxes (Photo credit and free downloads: Martha Stewart)
Monogrammed gift tags made from old holiday cards (Photo credit and free download: Martha Stewart)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

BBQ Treats

On Friday, Amy and I had a BBQ for the Temple horticulture staff and a few other friends.  The event was a pot-luck and everyone brought fantastic dishes! 
Our great spread!
The BBQ was also a chance for us to try a few new things and use a lot of the produce that we have been harvesting lately.

I had more rhubarb to use, so I tried a different type of rhubarb bar.  I wanted to try one that was a little more solid, so the guests could pick them up rather than eating them with a fork.  Like the last rhubarb bars, I found this recipe on the Rhubarb Compendium web site.

Rhubarb Dream Bars

2 cups flour, all-purpose
2/3 cups sugar, powdered
1 cup unsalted butter

4 eggs
2 cups sugar, granulated
1/2 cup flour, all-purpose
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups rhubarb

Combine flour and sugar.  Cut in butter, until crumbs form.  Press in bottom of jelly roll pan.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 mins.  Blend eggs, sugar, flour, and salt.  Fold in rhubarb.  Spread on crust.  Bake 40-55 mins in 350 degree F oven.  Cut into squares.

I cut the recipe in half and baked in a 9" square pan.  I also just noticed that the crust ingredients call for powdered sugar; I used granulated because I didn't notice this.  The cooking time was at least and hour and 15 mins and they were still pretty moist inside when we cut the bars the next day for the BBQ.  They tasted great.  Tart rhubarb with a sweet base.  Rhubarb is my new favorite ingredient!
Pre-bake the crust for 15 minutes before adding the filling
Adding the filling
Finished Rhubarb Dream Bars, yum!
Amy also decided to use some of the very ripe bananas that we have in the freezer.  Okay, we didn't grow them, but the bread was really tasty so I thought it deserved a mention!  We used a recipe called "Boy's Favorite Banana Bread" from Kim Yeffer.  I can't remember where I got this recipe, but I'm sure Kim is a relative or friend of someone that I know.  Either way, thanks for the recipe, Kim, the bread is great!

Boy's Favorite Banana Bread
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 bananas, mashed
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp lemon juice
Chopped nuts (optional)

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt.  Cream the butter and gradually add the sugar.  Mix well.  Add the eggs and bananas; blend thoroughly.  Combine the milk and lemon juice.  Alternately fold in the flour mixture and mild mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Blend well after each addition.  Pour batter into a buttered 9x5x3 inch pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour, or until the bread springs back when lightly touched in the center.
Amy's fabulous banana bread

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Garden Harvest Event- Sept 19th

On Sunday, September 19th, we are having a harvest event at the community garden.  It is in celebration of John Paul Endicott, who's life was cut tragically short in July.  We had a volunteer work day in August with John Paul's friends and family.  This weekend's event will be a birthday celebration for John Paul.  It will also be a chance for guests to learn about organizations that support growing vegetables for those in need and eating local such as  Plant a Row for the Hungry, Weaver's Way Co-op, Whole Foods Market, and Mattie Dixon Community Cupboard.  More information about Sunday's event can be found on the John Paul Endicott memorial website.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Garden Plot Photos

Sunflowers in my community garden plot
Starting as just a little weed patch, my community garden plot has been giving me lots of yummy treats all season that I have been blogging about.  Here are a few shots of the garden.
Tomatoes, marigolds, scallions, and morning glory on the trellis
Amy helping me remove old corn stalks
Huge sunflower!

The butternut squash that wants to eat the rest of my garden... I'm attempting to control it in a raised bed.

Merlot peppers
 Butternut squash

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Making Oatmeal Honey Soap

This summer in Michigan, we visited Bee Dazzled in Benzonia, MI.  The owners are beekeepers who utilize products from the hive.  They make candles, soaps, and body care products as well as selling honey from their hives and books.  During my visit, I was able to talk to the owner, Sharon Jones, who gave me great advice on making my own soaps.  I bought The Natural Soap Book by Susan Miller Cavitch.  This books explains how to make cold-processed soap which utilizes the heat of the chemical reaction rather than an external heat source.
For the past few months, I have been collecting equipment from multiple thrift store and Ikea visits based on Cavitch's recommendations. 

8-12  quart enamel or stainless steel pot with lid (the "soap-making pot")
3 quart suacepan
2-3 quart heat-resistant glass bowl or pitcher
2-3 heavy-duty rubber or silicone spatulas
2 thermometers
Molds (1 wooden tray 25.5"x13.5"x4"- for a 12 lb batch)
Heavy-duty waxed paper for lining trays
Masking tape
Sharp, thin paring knife
Safety goggles and gloves
Some of my soap making equipment

I used a recipe for Oatmeal Honey Soap from Cavitch's book.  I used her "soap essentials bar" as a base.  This recipe makes 40 bars, but I cut everything in 1/4 to make10 bars for my first try.  Also, I have no idea what I would do with 40 bars of the same type of soap... I guess I would have some very clean friends!

Soap Essentials Bar
3 pounds cold distilled water
473 grams sodium hydroxide
4 pounds olive oil
2 pounds 8 oz coconut oil
1 pound 8 oz palm oil
30 grams grapeseed extract (natural preservative)- optional
40-50 grams pure essential oil- optional

1/2-1 cup finely ground oatmeal
4 tbsp honey, slightly warmed
45 grams essential oil- optional

I found a great resource for ingredients, Alabama Soap Works.  They have a great selection and shipped quickly.
Ingredients from Alabama Soap Works, plus my essential (and fashionable) safety goggles and gloves
So, I was all set up for soap making.  I had my work area prepared and my ingredients measured.  I decided to mix the lye solution (sodium hydroxide and water) outside on my patio because I have read that it produces fumes and needs ventilation.  I slowly poured the sodium hydroxide into the water and witnessed the fumes and steam from the temperature rise that I expected.  Then I stood back and the solution started to boil violently, while it starting spewing out of the metal pitcher, and turned this horrible black color.  I started to realize that something was wrong.  Referring back to my book, I read the important note that lye should only be mixed in glass or ceramic because it can react violently with metals... hmmm.  I think they were right!
The black sludge from my first attempt at mixing a lye solution
So, now I had hazardous waste to deal with.  After consulting with my dad who worked as a chemist, and doing a lot of googling, I found that a 1:15 dilution of lye to diluted vinegar would neutralize the very high pH of lye.

So, after neutralization and proper disposal of the first batch of lye (and the ruined container), I was determined to give it another try.  I bought an 8 cup pyrex measuring cup and started the process again.  Pouring the sodium hydroxide into the water produced fumes, but nothing like the first try.  The solution became a little cloudy, but quickly cleared and heated up to about 200 degrees F.  Perfect!
The clear lye solution- brought inside when the temperature dropped below 100 degrees F
Melted fats and oils
Adding the lye solution to the melted fats and oils
After melting the fats and oils on the stove, I added the grape seed oil which will act as a natural preservative.  Then I let the mixture cool to 90 degrees F.  Then I slowly added the lye solution to the fats and oils.  Although the book advised against it, many soap making how-to's online suggest using an immersion blender to speed up the saponification reaction.  Hand mixing might take hours of stirring before saponification occurs, and since I'm impatient, I chose the immersion blender method which took about 7 minutes of mixing.  I mixed in quick bursts rather than a continuous mixing.  I found this article to be very helpful: How to Make Cold Process Soap from Scratch.

I made a small mold out of cardboard lined with thick wax paper.  It measured 12"x7.5"x4".
Soap in the mold
After the soap is poured in the mold, it must sit undisturbed for 18-24 hours before you can cut it into bars.  I put it in my cold oven so it would cool down slowly and remain undisturbed.

Peeling the wax paper off and cutting the bars was a messy (yet clean!) job.  There is a layer of soda ash on top of the bars that also must be cut off.  Soda ash (sodium carbonate) is formed with the sodium hydroxide reacts with carbon dioxide in the air.  It is drying and irritating to the skin.  It was very hard to cut straight because I was using a small paring knife, so next time I'll use a larger knife.  After cutting, the bars were placed on a brown paper bag and must dry for 4-6 weeks, so I'll report back in a month.  In all, I'm very excited about my first attempt at making soap!
Gruide lines drawn on bars just about to be cut with a layer of soda ash still on top

Cut bars... a little crooked, but they look like soap!
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