Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Vintage Look Dresses

When I wanted to make my Grand-girls matching dresses, my daughter requested something a little old fashioned and vintage.  

I looked at so many hundreds of patterns and  I just could not find the right look.  

I follow a sewing blog that I absolutely love called MADE.  She designed this pattern and it became available on her blog a couple weeks ago.  I knew immediately it was it!  

It's called the First Day Pattern.  It is a downloadable pattern so you get it immediately.  It is very simple to sew, her instructions are excellent and the sizing is spot on.  

I changed it up a little and added piping to the hemline, simply because I love the detail that piping adds. 

It has a very simple back button and loop closure.  I wanted the button to blend in so I used the same fabric and made a covered button.  

The dress is also fully lined so it makes things like the cap sleeves and back opening very neat and tidy.  

It's just full enough to give the little girls a good swingy twirl!  

Perfect for cartwheels...

And hoola-hoops!  

I love it!  

The fabric is by Fabric Traditions and is in the Heritage Studio Collection.   

To purchase the pattern go to Dana's blog here.  (There are several variations, this is the fully lined Swing Top Dress.)

Happy Sewing!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

July Monthly Moos {I Always Dreamed Of A Farm Stand}

Back in February my daughter and I were brainstorming ideas to make a little money, not leave the comfort of our gardens (smile!), and involve the whole family in the process.  I've always dreamed of a farm stand and we've talked about it a whole lot in our family.  

We always come back to this, "We have too much to do to man a farm stand every day.  And selling vegetables has tremendous challenges." 

So, in February when Andrea said, "Mom, how about cut flowers?  We could grow and sell cut flowers".   And once that idea was out, there was no going back!

We chose and purchased all heirloom seeds from Baker Creek Seeds.  We walked the farm with Eldon and he pointed out some options on where we could grow our flowers.  We chose a location and he tilled and prepped the soil for us.  We showed Justus (Andrea's husband) pictures of every cute farm stand on internet.  We researched running a farm stand on the self serve, honor system.  We talked about how to do it with hardly any money going out.  We went to auctions and looked at farm wagons.  And we talked and talked and talked flowers.   I even attended a Farmers Market Boot Camp Class!

One day in March Justus got a phone call from his parents, "We think we have the perfect farm stand wagon for you".   Andrea and Justus were already headed there for the weekend and when they got there they agreed that yes, it was perfect.  Eldon and I hitched up the truck and trailer and away we went and brought home this old truck bed.   It was a bit beat up with red paint chipping off to the yellow paint beneath it.  The tires were worthless.  It didn't have a hitch on it.  It needed a lot of work.  IT WAS PERFECT!  

New tires, a hitch welded on, and Justus's creative imagination and willingness to put ideas to reality, (along with all salvaged things from his parents farm), and we have a farm stand!  We can even move it down the road if we want!

I painted some signs, Andrea designed the labels, blog, and Facebook page.  Eldon and Justus positioned the flower cart at our farm entrance and we went to work on our first cut flower arrangements!  (We even bagged up some left over garden veggies!)

And we are in business!  

It's a huge learning process and fun?  WOW!  We hang out down in the flower garden bright and early every morning listening to the bees buzz around us, the bull frogs bellering in the pond, butterflies everywhere and my darling little grand-girls running around helping us.  (Jillian is catching on fast.  She said, "Gram don't you think this bouquet needs some Cosmos?"!)

We've been in business a week.  It was pretty crazy how quickly the word started spreading.  We actually made many special order bouquets and it was so much fun.  

We sold many bouquets off the farm stand and discovered that so far, the honor system works.   People are amazing.  

We've learned a lot about flowers.  What works, what doesn't.  What we need to plant for next year (yes, we are already planning for next year!).  

Please visit our Farm Fresh blog here and follow along with the flower business (Andrea and I take turns writing)!  That's where we'll be posting updates and pictures!  

And we're open to any suggestions on heirloom flowers for next year!  We are learning as we go and appreciate all the help we can get!  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Oh The Food!

I promised to tell you about our favorite eating places on our Gulf Coast Vacation.  So here it is!

 We went with plans to purchase fresh Gulf Shrimp from the two seafood markets that were right near our cottage.  Billy's Seafood was a short walk on one side of the cottage. 

And Aquila's was a short walk on the other side!

Both of these seafood stores were very busy with the boats coming in off the Bay every morning with their catch.   We bought a pound of jumbo shrimp the first night and cooked it in our little cottage and it was very good.  But, not quite the price I had hoped for so I decided to shop around a bit before I bought the 20 pounds of shrimp I wanted to bring home with me! 

 So the next day when we saw a tiny little sign on the side of the road that said,  "Freddie Stewart Shrimp", we followed the sign!  

Just a short little side road to the bend in the Bon Secour River, we came upon this little building where they advertised "Fresh Shrimp Off The Boat".  The man and his wife were the neatest couple and we picked their brains for a good thirty minutes about the shrimping business!  Their prices were almost half what the seafood market was and the shrimp they had was a tiny bit smaller but still very good size.    We had some for supper that night and I cannot even describe the taste of that amazing shrimp!  So we were thrilled to be able to bring home 20 pounds of lovely fresh Gulf Shrimp.  We were also really happy to be able to buy directly from the person that caught it.  

The next thing we did that was completely new to us was Crabbing!  The lady we rented the cottage from called me while we were there to tell us about her crab pot around the back of the house.  She told us where to get the bait (fish carcass from Aquila's Seafood Market) and how to set it (stick as much dead fish as possible in the center cylinder of the trap).   We were so excited!  

We lowered the trap in the water and ignored it.  Well kind of.  For an hour or so!  We couldn't resist pulling it up to see what we had.   Through the course of a few days we kept adding bait so the crabs we were catching had food to eat and we continued to catch these amazing Blue Crabs.

We ended up with about a dozen male crabs that were very good size.  

Trapping, steaming, and eating fresh crab was definitely a new experience for us but probably one of the highlights of our trip.  There is not a lot of meat on one crab, but it is very rich and very filling and we were stuffed!

Now to tell you about our two favorite places we ate at.  

The first one was Big Daddy's Grill on the Fish River.    This place was recommended to us by some friends in the area and we loved it.  We actually ate here twice!  

The location was so awesome.  A few backroads here and there and about the time you think you are good and lost, there it is!  The ambiance of the location right on the river makes it a super fun place to eat.  

They have their own private dock so that boats coming up and down the river can stop in and eat!  The food was so incredibly good.  They have a blackened Mahi Mahi served with a sauce that was just incredible.  That was why we had to go back twice! 

Our very favorite place that we ate was Lulu's in Gulf Shores.  It is owned by Lucy Buffet, who is Jimmy Buffet's sister.  (Just a bit of trivia there.)   

Lulu's is located on the Intracoastal Waterway with tables right along the water's edge.  Boats travel up and down that waterway and Lulu's creates your own front row seating!

It is an extremely popular place, so be prepared for long waits before you are seated to your meal.  However, she has provided all kinds of entertainment.  There are tables and umbrellas set up all over the place for sitting and people watching.

There are all sorts of things to entertain children.  I love the above water fountain that is made just for kids.  She has beautiful white sandy beaches with all sorts of sand toys for kids to play in.  

You can buy popsicles, have a special drink made, get your face painted, hair braided, shop in the gift store, watch the boats, or just sit in the shade with a bottle of cold water and people watch.  

There is shady seating everywhere.  Oh, and live music piped throughout the property!  So, the 1 - 2 hour wait to be seated flies right on by!   

And just a little bit about the food.   Normally we are the type of people that stay away from the big crowded restaurants, but we had heard that over 90% of the food Lulu's serves is prepared onsite from scratch, that the seafood is fresh caught in local waters, that all the produce and meat is from local farms (and surprisingly there are a lot of local farms along the Gulf Coast).  That was enough of a draw for us to give it a try.  It was absolutely worth it.  The food was amazing.  The fish Eldon ordered actually came with a postcard where we could track it...  when I looked it up on my phone it was very fun to see where it was caught (right there in the Gulf).  It even had a picture of the fisherman and his boat.  Then it took it one step further and had a photo of the cook at Lulu's that prepared it!   

I would completely and totally  recommend Lulu's as the best place to eat in Gulf Shores.  If we didn't "save" it for the last day there, we would've eaten there more than once!  

(Lucy Buffet has a very fun story about how the restaurant came to be.  You can read about it on her website here.)

Check back in a few days for the fun things we did in the Gulf Coast area - both the Alabama and Florida sides!  And if you missed the post on where we stayed, you can read it here.  

Saturday, June 28, 2014

June Monthly Moos {Welcome To My Garden}

My garden is growing by leaps and bounds and starting to produce.  I thought I would tell you a little bit about how I choose to prep, plant and care for my garden!

(If you are a new reader, or haven't read the story of my garden you can read about it here.)

We started back in the middle of March getting the soil prepped and ready.  Eldon has a tiller he can pull behind the tractor and that takes the hard work out of turning the soil.  Then I plot it all out on paper and figure out where I want everything to go.  I try to rotate the vegetables around each year.  

I have a trick that I use for weed control.  Here it is.  After I form my rows, but before I plant, I purchase a roll of "end roll" paper from our local newspaper office.  (It is what is left on the end of the roll after printing.  It has no ink on it and is just simply paper.  And it is very cheap.  This 30# roll was $6.00.)  I roll this out over each row and then cover the paper with straw.

It is a really huge, back breaking job.  BUT, it saves me hours and hours of hoeing and weeding all summer.  It does not completely stop the weeds and Johnson grass from pushing their way through the paper and straw, but it certainly limits it.  And because the straw absorbs the rain and dew, the ground is always moist underneath so any weeds that do make it through are just a quick pull to remove.  

I love that the straw and paper is just naturally absorbed back into the soil by summer's end.  It isn't a plastic product that has to be removed and disposed of, or a product that adds things to the soil that are undesirable.  The draw back is that in order for the soil to break down the straw it uses nitrogen to do that, so nitrogen must be added back to the soil in the spring, which we do in the form of cow manure.  One of the advantages, besides the weed control, is that since the straw absorbs any moisture, the plants always have moisture underneath the straw.  And the ground is full of earth worms!

I plant the seeds by just poking through the straw, paper and into the soil.  It is actually quite easy.  The above picture was back in the middles of May when things were just starting to take hold.

I love that the straw gives the garden a very neat and tidy look.  

This is what my garden looks like from the top of the hill.  I think I mentioned before that we have the garden down in our bottom pasture because the soil is rich and fairly rock free.   (The above picture was my garden just a month ago.)

This is my garden today, about 8 weeks since laying the straw.  You can see that I keep a center walkway that I don't lay straw down, the grass grows and I just use my wonderful string trimmer (weed whacker!) and keep it mowed down.  You can see bits of grass and weeds coming through the straw; about once a week I spend an hour or so going through and pulling them out.  

I'm super excited about our corn.  It is heirloom, non GMO corn and it is gorgeous.  Some of it must be over eight feet tall.  

The first ears are starting to form.  I'm a little worried about the raccoons getting to the corn.  We think we will put our dog Belle in the garden at night when the ears are getting ready to pick!  She'll keep those raccoons away!

My tomato plants seems a little delayed but they are starting to produce now. 

And there is my cucumber patch.  I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I got quite carried away.  I happen to love cucumbers.  Last year I didn't end up with even enough cucumbers to make very many pickles, so you can be sure I planted enough this year!!!  (I actually planted three different Heirloom varieties and love them all.)

Jillian and Rosetta spent the night with us last night and we had baths and were in pajamas ready to play a game of monopoly before bed when the girls asked Gramps for a ride in the Ranger.  So off we went for our Ranger ride and stopped off at the garden.  Jillian was picking cucumbers like a pro.  (She's the official cucumber and green bean picker in her Momma's garden.)

Rosy was happy to be in charge of the bucket!  (See those round yellow squash, they are an Heirloom squash called Lemon Squash - shaped like a lemon and taste just like the crooked neck but are supposed to be resistant to squash bugs.  I'll let you know if they really are!)

And tonight I made my first 10 pints of pickles.  I have a feeling that my pantry will be full of pickles at the end of the summer!

And here it is... the end of June already.  I realized that I started my Monthly Moos Posts exactly a year ago this month and I'm a little sad to look back at how quickly the time has gone.  

(If you've missed any of those and want to read them, they are all located here.  They seem to generate the most amount of traffic on my blog, so I will continue them as long as I have something from the farm to write about!)

I hope your summer is hot and wonderful like ours is.   I am very happy to admit that I have completely adapted to the humidity and I honestly love it!  I've had quite a few people ask if I miss the dry heat of the desert where we were from out West and the answer is NO.  I do not miss it one bit.  I just love the rain, the dew every morning, the green grass... and yes, the cucumbers!

Hopping over to the FarmGirl Blog Hop - join me!