Thursday, July 09, 2009

Things I'm Going to Do When School Starts

I know this is weird to say but in less than a month school will start. The Anchorage School District gets out in mid-May and the kids will be back at the books starting August 20th. For goodness sake, I'm still enjoying sun and summer but registration and school shopping are right around the corner.

We've had a great summer so far and while I'll kind of miss them when they go back to school there is an up side to all this: more time to do fun things. I'm a list maker and I've always got a list of things I want to try so I'm sharing some things I'll be doing once the house is quiet once again.

Can you see a hint of posts to come?

1. Trying some wood burning.
Several years ago I fell in love with the wood burned boxes at Sixth and Elm which are really spectacular little pieces of art and while I know I couldn't possibly pull off a box like Tellie's beauties I really, really want to try. Not this super-cool Hogwarts box (that would be too crazy to contemplate) but maybe one of the beautiful script boxes.

I bought a plain wooden box for $5 and it's sat in my craft closet for months now, waiting for me to get up the guts to put pen to paper (or whatever). I'm kind of afraid I'm going to mess it up badly and I've had a hard time finding a copy of the script I need but get those kids back in school and I'm ready to take a stab at it.

2. Cooking a Chinese buffet.
I saw this post at Blog Chef about cooking your own Chinese buffet and thought it would be so fun, given the way my kids love Chinese food (and it's really, really expensive to do take out with six mouths to feed). Kung Pao Chicken, Orange Chicken, Egg Rolls--it's all there in a seven-course meal that takes (you guessed it) approximately seven hours to cook but for a fun family treat I think it would be great. I was thinking it might even be fun to have the meal picnic-style on the living room rug.

The menu is a little heavy on the chicken, I think I'd replace a couple of the items with things like Sweet and Sour Pork or Mongolian Beef (a favorite) and I'd also probably try these baked egg rolls to see if they're a good substitute.

3. Making fried cheese.
And if that baked egg roll recipe works well maybe I'd try it on this fried cheese recipe that has had me drooling for half a year. Of course you realize the inherent danger of waiting until my kids are back in school to make this?

I'd eat every one all by myself. So maybe I shouldn't do this one alone.

4. Sewing some clothes.
I'm not normally someone who likes to sew but I do *ahem* like to have clothes. But, being a cheapo, I find that I can sew clothes for much less than I can buy them (usually).

I hit a $1 sale at Walmart and collected a couple cute floral prints and dug out an old skirt pattern that is still in style (if you can adjust the hem it'll never go out of style) and have cut out three skirt patterns and one dress pattern. All for under $10.

Now, of course, they sit and wait for me to get to the process of actually sewing them. I'll get them sewn and then be so burned out I won't touch my machine again for a year.

5. Brewing up some root beer.
Now this one is kind of funny and you'll see my odd side but a couple months ago I made homemade root beer using some dry ice. After it was finished I did some research and found that you can also make root beer by adding yeast which creates carbon dioxide, resulting in carbonation.

Fair enough right? Sounds like lots of fun to make and bottle except the only hangup is that the process is the same used to make real beer and just as when you make regular beer, the yeast gives off alcohol as a byproduct of the fermentation process. With the root beer the amount of alcohol you get is really small--something like .03%--but in our house we don't drink alcohol (it's a religious thing) and while I recognize that someone would have to drink over a gallon of root beer made this way in order equal the alcoholic content of one glass of regular beer it's the principle of the thing.

Yes I'm aware that other products also have alcohol: vanilla extract, Nyquil, whatever--but somehow that seems a little bit different. If I'm telling my kids that we don't drink alcohol then I'm suddenly brewing up a batch in my basement and telling the kids not to get piggish because they might get drunk (I'm kidding here) then I'm wondering if this really is the project for me.

The thing is, it sounds really fun. Am I being odd here?

6. Canning and making fruit leather.
Several years ago, in a burst of domestic euphoria, I canned a whole bunch of fruit. Peaches, cherries and applesauce to be specific. They were so pretty and so sweet, sitting like jewels on the shelves that I hesitated to eat them. You see where this is going, right?

Well the applesauce got eaten--it's popular enough around here that the kids are always pulling jars out of the pantry--but the peaches and cherries (which my husband doesn't like) weren't as popular and I kind of forgot for a year or two that I had them. So now I'm out of applesauce and stuck with jars of cherries and peaches that are past their prime which means I'm due for a big ol' canning party. I've learned my lesson and will be canning applesauce but I recently found an article describing how to make fruit leather from older canned fruit such as I have in abundance.

We have a dehydrator and we have the fruit so pretty soon I'm going to be whipping out the fruit leather. It ought to be good for a post at least, right?

7. Making fruit cordials.
Another thing I might try is making fruit cordials. I had always somehow thought that cordials were an alcoholic drink (again, with the alcohol thing!) like liqueurs but when I read that they're really just a fruit drink and saw the pictures of these pretty little bottles I thought maybe I ought to give it a try.

And with the peaches and cherries I've got I think it is just about the perfect timing. I also suspect I can puree some of the fruit and add it to things like muffins and pancakes and breads or sauces. Without pits.

8. Planting garlic.
I LOVE garlic. I pretty much add it to everything I cook, even if the recipe may not call for it so when I saw a video about how to plant your own garlic the portion of my brain that controls obsessions kicked in and thought it might be time to give that a try.

And just to clarify, I don't add garlic to things that might cause horrifying mutations--like garlic cinnamon rolls or garlic orange juice. I stick with the savory.

I'm wondering if I can get them to grow well with sunlamps on them because once the winter comes on we'll never have enough light to keep them alive.

9. Growing mushrooms.
Another gardening adventure. I've bought a box of morel spores and I have yet to plant them. They're supposed to go out in my garden but I've sat around, enjoying myself and being rather lazy so that they're still out on the back porch waiting for me to get around to sowing them.

Alaska has plenty of morels but they're rather tricky to find so I thought I'd give mother nature some help by trying my own hand at things. I'm not going to tell Andrew because if he even knew I was planting mushrooms he'd be instantly suspicious of any dish I put in front of him. What he doesn't know won't hurt him.

10. Building an outdoor fire pit.
My parents did this where they ran a gas line out to their back deck and put in a fire pit on the porch but I've seen several less-expensive, less-invasive alternatives that really sounded fun. If this video on Wonder How To for building a fire pit doesn't work then I've also seen a pit that incorporates a propane tank in its base that was going for $50 at Walmart (a sweet deal).

11. Making some beaded bracelets.
I've done a bit of beading--nothing huge you understand--but these sweet little pink bracelets look quite doable. I've seen them being sold for $50 but I bet I could make one for under $10. If I get around to it . . .

12. Knitting.
When I finally finish the seagreen sweater I'm working on then it'll be about time for warmer clothing and I'll be knitting up this pretty little scarf. Or maybe this crocheted castle (dang I wish my boys weren't too old for that kind of thing, it's really cute!)

13. Making dandelion syrup.
This is odd, I know, but then the only excuse I have is because it sounded so wild and out there that I couldn't help but be interested. Anyone ever tasted dandelions? Me neither. But syrup? That's never a bad thing and I've heard birch syrup is really good so maybe dandelion syrup wouldn't be too bad either. It will freak out the kids if nothing else. The link is here.


And congratulations to Krista of O'Fallon, Illinois for winning last weekend's Blush giveaway. What a handy little clothing gadget to have around.


Jolanthe said...

Make those bracelets!! They are too cute!

And seeing the cordials makes me think of Anne Shirley/Green Gables...and laugh. :)

Jennifer said...

I sewed up a few simple skirts recently and it gave me a bug... 2 of them were given away when we were in Nicaragua, so I need to make some more. I didn't even use a pattern, just the shape of a skirt I already owned and liked.

Can't wait to see what you whip up!

The Source said...

I'm thinking you might want to learn to make Pepto Bismol, too, what with eating all the garlic mushrooms in dandelion syrup while drinking gallons of rootbeer!

Seriously, they all sound like fun ideas. Can't wait to hear how they turn out! My twins would love trying to make the rootbeer.

Bayard said...

Wow sounds like a lot of fun! Why not have a go have a go at making some your very own skittle game - cheap, lots of fun making them and even more playing - see how many you knock down! Have fun with friends and family playing this summer

Chele said...

Ours go back on August 25th. And I completely understand the excitement of having time to do things on our own when they go back! LOL. Great ideas! I like the bracelets, are you going to sell them?! If you do, how about under $50. ha-ha:)

Kathy G said...

You're going to be busy this fall!

If you can grow bulbs (like tulips and daffodils) at your house you can grow garlic. It's the same principle; plant the cloves in the fall and next summer you'll be harvesting your own heads.

I haven't made fruit leather for many years-it was pre-dehydrator. I had to put the tray on the deck each morning and bring it in each night; a lot of work. I've been drying pieces of fruit, but maybe I'll get some peaches, puree them, and try some leather in the dehydrator.

Shelly @ Life on the Wild Side said...

My goodness, I don't think I could get all that done in the next TEN YEARS! But do report back and let us know how it's going. I'm very curious about the garlic growing.

Marielle said...

Love it and I love the randomness of your to do/interests. Sounds just like me. Dandelion syrup huh? I've got tons of "organically grown" dandelions in my back yard LOL.

Tim Appleton (Applehead) said...

Seriously girl. How much time do you have?!?I have been telling Stephanie we have enough horse manure to grow our own mushrooms. Tell where you bought your spores, please? (Doesn't that sound odd)

thediaperdiaries said...

I might catch a flight to Alaska just for some of that fried cheese. And of course to help you out so you don't have to eat alone.

Anonymous said...

I like crocheting. I knit but I think because I'm short (arms too) that the knitting needles are too big to handle.
The morle thing though we love them and the last few years in our part of Illinois has been few and far between. Love morales. J

Randy, Ally, and Wes said...

I have my reservations about brewing my own root beer, which have nothing to do with the minute alcohol content (although we don't consume alcohol either). My grandmother used to make root beer that way,and it was by all accounts a family treat. When my mom joined the family by marrying my dad, she spent her first family reunion surreptitiously watering a tree with hers--she thought it was the grossest thing ever! I think it is an acquired taste.

Neas Nuttiness said...

If you make those bracelets, would you post a turorial?

Geesh - when my youngest was about to start school...I had this big long list of all these things that I was gonna get accomplished. HA - didn't get to a 10th of the things on my list. BUT - I did discover that there were TV programs that didn't involve Muppets or cartoon characters!

Roo said...

If the dandelion syrup works out, you might want to consider dandelion greens salad next spring. You have to use the greens before the blossoms come on, so it's only a once a year thing. My Grandma used to make it with a sweet vinegrette dressing with bacon crumbled in it. I'll check around for a recipe and get it to you before next spring.

Heart2Heart said...


Once again you have come up with some great tips. I too, want to try and sew some clothes for my daughters. I thought I would try PJ's since my most favorite childhood memory involved getting these from my mom, homemade!

Love and Hugs ~ Kat

Suzie B. said...

If you decide to grow garlic, you might want to opt for planting it in the ground rather than in a container. Animals won't eat it - in fact, the deer here munch on weeds around it! (My husband would like to train them to do a better job..) We have never had a problem with any insects or disease. As Kathy G says, if you can grow a tulip bulb there, you can probably grow garlic. We've just finished our harvest and are in the process of cleaning and braiding. (A big job, in our case.) There is nothing quite like nice, fresh garlic!

Linda said...

I'm almost surprised to find that Fireweed Honey isn't on your list... it's surprisingly easy to make, delicious to taste and very desirable... We're homeschooling this year, so we get to pick the back to school date... Savannah isn't so sure she's thrilled, but I've got a whole list of things that we can do together also. Maybe we'll make some honey if I can find some clover...

Scribbit said...

Jolanthe--I think that's where I got the mistaken impression. I read that book and then Diana gets drunk on the wine and I think that's where I got my wires crossed.

Jennifer--I'm impressed that you can do that. I've been sewing for a long time and can't make up my own patterns like that. It's always a disaster when I do.

Kathy--so they're a winter bulb? Do they require a cooling period or can I just plant them outright and let them go indoors?

Tim--I'll have to look but I know I've bought mushroom kits from Fungi Perfecti before with good results. I think I Googled "growing morels" and found this site that uses a standard kit that is found on multiple sites. It doesn't say it needs manure--they better not have left that part out because I am not spreading anything that came from an animal :)

Randy--some friends of ours just brewed some and said the same thing. Gross. So I'm wondering if that will be the deciding factor. I've laughed at myself for the being so funny about it, reminds me of when I heard Hindus were up in arms because they found out McDonalds adds beef broth/seasoning to their french fries :)

Linda--I'd never heard of fireweed honey. But now I"m curious!

Suzy--I need to get your expertise then. I'm wondering what the best way to start is. The video said it's slow growing and our season is nearly over here and I don't want to wait until next year. Can I do it indoors to start out?

Melissa B. said...

You have so much planned. And just when I'll be going back to work. At least school doesn't start for us until after Labor Day!

a Tonggu Momma said...

Thank you so much for linking to the Chinese Buffet. You are my daughter's new bestest friend.

Alison Kelley said...

My kids go back to school in 26 days, but who's counting, LOL! They start on the 18th of August and I know it's going to get here fast! I have a hug list of things I want to do while they are in school too. One of those being learning how to fuse glass. Good luck and hope you can check off many or all the items on your list.

april said...

My father-in-law plucks dandelions from his yard and eats them straight! (Doesn't even wash them!)

~3 Sides of Crazy~ said...

Ambitious, but fun list!

illahee said...

beautiful box! and i'm totally making that castle bag! too cute!

(do you ever post anything over at ravelry??)

Twinsmom said...

We've done the root beer and garlic. Never, ever thought about root beer having actual alcohol in it. I guess you learn something new every day. Garlic - that has a story. Exhub and I worked different shifts. I got home one day, and there is a clove - a CLOVE, mind you - on the counter, saying "here is your harvest." Well, not worth growing it if that's all we're going to get, I'm thinking. Turns out, there was a lot more that was supposed to be there - the cat got on the counter, ATE some and then hid a ton of cloves, which we were finding for months later, whenever she brought them out for something to play with! Lesson: Keep garlic away from cats! :-) Have fun!

Lori said...

We've got some similar goals! The woodburning is easier than you think, though, don't lock yourself in the craft closet! Work in a ventilated area! Try graphite transfers if you need the accuracy.

I think you need to make a friend who loves to sew. I've got my mother in law. I find projects and set her to work like she's in a sweat shop! Currently she's got my husband's Halloween costume on her plate and then some art smocks for the kids.

I'm not a fryer--I get distracted and a grease fire scares the heck out of me. Baked cheese is pretty good. Get canned breadsticks and roll the dough out flat (I keep all the sticks together because I'm lazy) and wrap it around a hunk of cheese (havarti's my favorite) season the outside and bake it until golden brown. It's nice to tear off pieces.

Daisy said...

Sigh. I always feel a little melancholy when moms start to plan what they'll do when the kids start school. I won't be canning my tomatoes; I'll be writing lesson plans and convincing a new set of parents that yes, homework is important.

LJohnson said...

Thanks for the idea of the crocheted castle - I made it this week, and the puppets to go with it - the kids love it.

As to dandelion syrup - we made that in the spring - if you're looking for something interesting, that has a good freek out factor for the kids - go straight for the dandelion cookies!

(I'll link to your post from Almost Unschoolers - if you don't mind.)

Chantelle Finley said...

Aww, Michelle.. thanks for the compliment! Let me know if I can help at all with the script box - maybe we can even do a tutorial for your readers about the heat transfer of the design or what tips are easiest to burn script with.

Not sure if this helps you, but I used Palace script for the font, and I think I had 22 pt size. I can't remember, but I can look it up for you. It is hard to get the font size right - too big and it looks silly, too small and it gets all muddled together. I could send you the graphic I made of the finished poem if you want or to offer it to your readers, but you might enjoy it more if you did it all from start to finish. I certainly don't want to step on your toes because it'll be the differences in our techniques that will make it interesting.

Looking forward to seeing how it turns out! I suggest doing a sheet music one after because it is sort of the next step up in difficulty.

Sorry for the novel.

Neese Family said...

Could you please post the recipes or links to how to make the fruit leather and cordials. I have peaches also that I would love to do something with. I have a recipe for "Any old fruit will do cake" that you use bottled old fruit in, but would like something else also!

alotalot said...

My parents used to make root beer with yeast all the time. We would save glass coke bottles so we could bottle the root beer; they even had a machine that would cap the root beer. It was part of our food storage. I bet they had no idea it had alcohol content! HAHA It is the best root beer though. :)

Terresa said...

Sweet ideas! When school starts I'm all about 3 things:

napping more
reading more
writing more

jubilee said...

This is quite an ambitious list. I have no doubt that you'll "get 'er done," if you'll pardon the expression. Can't wait to read the posts that'll come about as a result of your endeavors.

Melissa-Mc said...

That is a long list of things to do. You are always so busy doing good things. I look forward to your posts about them.