Archive for the ‘Creative Pursuits’ Category

Are you inspired by all the great handmade gifts our writers have been making? We like to cook things for the ones we love as well! Here’s some handmade recipes for holiday giving!


Of course, sweets are the mainstay of homemade holidays, but this year I decided to go savory. Every year I grow tomatillos, make pints and pints of salsa verde, and then it sits on the shelf because no one eats it. Naturally, this year I decided I’ll make it in half-pint sizes, and then use it for gifts. I made 20 half-pints. When I went to check for this photo, I was down to 11; I think my husband has been eating it because of the nice small sizes. I used Rick Bayless’ wonderful recipe, and grew everything myself except the limes. By the way, this stuff is great on pizza!Salsa


Well, Xan has me drooling over her salsa verde.

With the successful zucchini growing season this fall, I (Sincerely, Emily) knew exactly what some people were going to be getting this year for gifts! Zucchini Relish!  I started making this recipe back in the fall of 2009 with a few zucchini from my garden (before the nasty borer got to it!) and more from the farmers market. Now I am thrilled I can use all of my own, homegrown zucchini for the recipe. I have not harvested my horseradish yet, or I would have used that too!) I found the recipe over at Homesteading in Maine and I also have the zucchini relish recipe posted (with permission) over at my blog too.

Zucchini Relish 2We love this relish on sandwiches in place of mayo.


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A very common reaction I get when people first see my garden is, “wow, isn’t that an awful lot of work?” They say this partly in admiration, but there’s an undertone of criticism sometimes– yeah you’ve got a gorgeous garden, but look what you have to do to get it.

I’ve been trying to imagine someone with a hobby or a livelihood that isn’t “a lot of work.” Do you jog or work out? Sing in a choir? Tutor on the weekends?

Wow, isn’t that an awful lot of work?

First of all, if I didn’t do a lot of work, it wouldn’t look like it does. Secondly, I enjoy it, and sometimes I get paid for it. I don’t really think of it as “work.”  I think of it as something I need to do to get the result I want– a beautiful garden, personal satisfaction, admiration, food.

Having grown up on the Puritan east coast, I am more suspicious of someone who doesn’t have a hobby or beloved activity that isn’t a lot of work. Whether it’s cooking meals for your family, or the homeless, tutoring your kids or others’, jogging to stay thin or teaching yoga so others can do so, the “work” we do by our own choice and on our own time is not just physical labor or drudgery, even when it is. It’s what keeps our spirits healthy and the holy close.

Most of us spend hours and hours doing “work” that brings us only pay, and not fulfillment, or fun, or well-being.

I like to lie on the beach as much as the next guy.

Okay, no I don’t. But I like to read, and shop, and go hiking; have drinks with a friend or toss a ball to a dog, or just sit on the porch and admire a flower. But I also like to “work”–to sweat and labor for something wonderful.

So yes, it’s a lot of work. Join me sometime.

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I’m a brand new knitter. I love it. I love the stockinette stitch: it makes me giggle all over with happiness. I’m new to knitting, but i’m not new to crafting with yarn: i originally learned that ‘other’ yarn art: crochet. Some deem crochet low brow, kitchy, less advanced or somehow just not as refined as knitting. But you know what? Crochet is just as good as knitting, it’s just DIFFERENT (and usually way faster!)

Although i’ve been spending most of my time working on knitted hats, scarves and recently trying out lace (all with my handspun yarn) i took the time to write out a pattern of sorts to help folks reintroduce themselves to the functional art of crochet. Ever seen someone shopping at the farmer’s market carrying one of these sexy market bags? Want one for yourself? You could spend $25 on one of them and support an artisan, which is nice in its own way. OR you could learn how to make one yourself, and them make dozens of them in all sorts of sizes and colors for mere pocket change! Hold your onions in the kitchen, shop for tomatoes at the market, throw in some paperbacks for a day at the beach: the possibilities are endless! *Disclaimer: i am not a master crochet pattern writer, and i usually just ‘wing’ these bags. The pattern i wrote out is not the end and be all of the best way to make them, in fact – if i did it over i would have all the mesh holes be much smaller – so learn this pattern, then fiddle with it to suit your needs.

Visit my two part series (one, two) over at An Austin Homestead for the tutorial, and post photos of your crochet craft at my Flickr group. Just want the quick basics? Already know how to crochet? Make an easy crocheted market or produce bag by following these basic guidelines:

  1. Crochet a flat circle, first using single crochets, then doubles, then triples until you have a circle about 9-10 inches wide
  2. Build the height of the bag by alternating triple crochets with simple chain stitches, crocheting around the chain below, in between two crochet stitches to create a mesh
  3. Keep going until you get as tall as you like!
  4. Finish by alternating double crochet and chain 1 several times per mesh hole, then weaving a draw string through the top

Visit An Austin Homestead for the full shabang!

Do you crochet or knit? Do you ever ‘wing-it’ or are you a strict pattern follower?

*This market bag pattern, and all tutorials found on An Austin Homestead, or re-published at Not Dabbling in Normal are presented for your personal use only. Tutorials and/or objects made from my tutorials may not be sold commercially (that includes Etsy or Ravelry!). If you want to sell something based on one of my tutorials, please email me at gonudesoap at gmail dot com and we’ll try to work out a fair deal. Please play nicely!

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It was a matter of course that the lucky one whose holiday (birthday) came around could expect a present from everyone in the house; and of course, one didn’t just go to the store and buy with cold money something turned out by a factory with no relationship at all to the young sister or brother. A loving heart and gifted fingers can produce a wonderful of little miracles.

Maria Augusta Trapp The Story of the Trapp Family Singers

One of the things I love about Chiot’s Run being in a northern climate is winter. I love the reduction in the amount of activity starting mid-November. This is perfect timing for those of us that like to spend time making holiday gifts for friends & family. This year I was wondering if I’d end up having time to make a lot of holiday gifts because I got a new part-time job at the beginning of October. Lucky for me, the job is one in which I’m encouraged to be creative and to make videos about the creative things I’m doing. Thus, it has allowed me to not only make some wonderful Christmas gift, but to make how-to videos and write blog posts about it. Here’s a round up of all the crafty things I’ve been making & doing for my holiday gifts this year.

Of course I talked about my calendars before, which everyone is excited to receive once again. This year I purchased 15 of these and just about everyone on my list is getting one.

I also made photo canvases featuring some of my photos for some of the members of my family (and I made some for myself as well). This is such a wonderful project and I had a lot of fun doing it. I made a how-to video for the Your Day Blog at Ethel, head on over & watch the video if you want to see how it’s done.

I also made a bunch of these little chalkboard and wooden tile gift tags for my gifts that I’m planning on saving and reusing year after year. A batch of these would make great gifts too or you could use them as ornaments for your tree. Using scrabble tiles to spell out words like NOEL and PEACE would be lovely as Christmas tree ornaments. Head on over to the Your Day Blog and watch this video about how I made these.

There are also a few gifts coming from my kitchen. Every year I make up a few batches of caramel corn and hand them out to all the people we come in contact with throughout the year; this includes the friendly people at the bank, library and post office. We certainly appreciate that all these folks do their jobs so well throughout the year we want to make sure they know how much we appreciate it!

I didn’t make all my gifts myself. The boy from the farm we get our raw milk from were making suet bird feeders this summer and selling them to raise money to be able to attend their uncle’s wedding. I purchased a bunch of these to give to everyone on my list as well. They used fallen branches from the farm and suet from their pastured cows. The suet is in the freezer and I’ll stuff the feeders a day before I give them out. I’m going to make some nice tags for them explaining where I got them and put a nice ribbon on them for gifting (I’m not about to wrap them since they’re so beautiful as is). I might tie a pine sprig to the top.

What gift under your tree have you crafted with your own hands?

I can also be found at Chiot’s Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, maple sugaring, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Your Day Magazine and you can follow me on Twitter and on Facebook.

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I’m so excited to have been asked by the wonderful contributors here at Not Dabbling in Normal to be part of this venture. For the past 5ish years I have been living and urban-homesteading in Austin, TX. For the past 2.5 years, my blog An Austin Homestead has been my outlet and journal of my ventures in DIY, gardening, cooking and sustainable/frugal living. While working (on and off, bah humbug to this infernally poor economy!) as a freelance illustrator, soap maker and taking the occasional part time job as needed, i make time to cook dinner for my family every night. In Austin, i tried to grow as many of our veggies as possible and got much of our protein from 4 laying hens’ eggs. Here in Oregon, my husband has been lucky enough to work on an organic farm that pays in part in organic vegetables. I’m passionate about serving Real Food every day, including to our 1 and a half year old corgi, Pocket who gets grain free kibble mixed with raw meat and vegetables. I have dabbled in cheesemaking, canning, and my personal favorite: fermenting, in order to extend our harvests and nourish our bodies with wholesome foods during all seasons. We drink raw milk, and have big plans for dairy goats, meat/milk/fiber sheep and pastured Guinea Hogs.

making spicy, herby cheese

We miss our urban homestead, but I can’t say that we miss 90+ days in a row of 100+ degrees. I’m sure the rainy Winters will take some re-acclimating for both myself who was raised in this state, and for my husband who was raised in balmy Houstin, Tx. While we’re without land to till, I have been focusing my homesteading time on the fiber arts and on providing for our family in ways other than food production. I’m still doing plenty of canning and dehydrating of foraged local fruits and veggies, but my biggest passion right now is developing my skills as a spinner and learning to knit.
My drop spindles

Yes, i spin yarn. No, my wheel is not an antique and neither are the robust group of friends i’ve made here in Oregon who are part of the even more robust fiber community. I am often asked “you spin yarn? can you spin hay into gold?” or “people DO that?” or “why would you spin yarn when you could just buy it in the store?” or “why would you want to knit a hat when you could just buy one in the store?” I believe those people are missing the point. But in case you too are wondering, check back in 2 weeks and i’ll wax on some more about the joys (and pains) of spinning.

I look forward to posting more about spinning, knitting, cooking and crafting up handmade holiday gifts, some easy and some more time consuming. I will probably be posting some tutorials and may invite you to a sew along. I’ll be “not dabbling” every other friday, and you can generally find a new post from me every weekday at An Austin Homestead. I hope you’ll join me there as well as here, and will come along for the ride as I post updates and make my eventual transition to a whole new blog and homestead somewhere in this fertile Willamette Valley.

Dabble on,

Miranda R.

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During the month of August I’m doing a special at Chiot’s Run called “Alphabet in August”. Every day we’ll focus on one letter of the alphabet and try to come up with words or phrases that describe us. It’s a great way to excercise your creativity, both verbally and with images if you can come up with them. They can be serious, funny, good, bad, things you love, things you hate. Grab a piece of paper and a pencil and start adding words and phrases to the list when you can think of it.

If you’d like to join in on your blog you can grab the image from my Flickr Photostream and link in the comments below or on my blog. I’ll be including a list of everyone that’s following along. We’ll be officially kicking it off on Monday, August 1st and starting with the letter A on Tuesday, August 2nd. We’ll take Sunday’s off for a bit of a break.

So who wants to stretch those creative muscles?

I can also be found at Chiot’s Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, maple sugaring, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Ethel Gloves, Simple, Green, Frugal, Co-op, and you can follow me on Twitter.

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Why hello! I am Emily’s husband, Jeremy.  You might’ve seen pictures of me doing various farmy type stuff.  I like to be very supportive towards any and all of Emily’s flora and fauna vices.  I love animals and I like to eat vegetables, but I’m really whiny when it comes to physical labor. I’m really appreciative that Emily puts up with it.

I draw for a living, which is easier to do from the inside of a house, so about 94.78% of everything Emily posts about is all her.  I know it bums her out a little and she covers it up really well.  When she does tap me on the shoulder and say “I need you outside” I drop my brush and try not to be a poop head.  I do love the out-of-doors and we do make several camping trips throughout the summer.  The things I love to draw the most are organic in nature and are influenced by artists like Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Walter Crane, and Winsor McKay to name a few.

I, myself, like to be a bit creative in the kitchen [not as successfully as Emily] and I appreciate her exotic layering of different flavors to entice the palette.  I do the majority of the cooking though and usually that means a meal that is less thought out and quicker in prep time.  Emily is outrageously good at preparing special suppers and the like, when she has a goal in mind. She’s getting a lot better with multi-tasking several dishes at the same time too, but she sure can fill up an empty sink with dirty dishes afterward! 😉 HahAAaa!

I never saw myself as a farmer when I was little, I’ve known I wanted to be an artist since I was like 6 or something, but I did not see this coming.  Still, I help put the critters out and feed them, and then put them up for the night. It’s not really that hard.  I’ve promised Emily an hour a day to help her in the garden when she needs me.  I know that doesn’t really sound like much but it takes a lot of time to do what I do so that I can pull my weight with bills and things.

I reeeeeaaally enjoy living where we live right now and hopefully we will be here for a while.  You should see the gardens Emily has sweated over; they are really beautiful.  She has an incredible stamina for working outside, I know I couldn’t do that.  But then again I sit at a drawing table for 10 hours a day.

When Emily and I first met she knew me as that art snob that worked at the art store and she totally had a crush on me.  I remember seeing a really pretty girl that I thought was out of my league.  Then, a year later I eavesdropped on a conversation between her and a coworker of mine about Terry Gilliam and I had to put my two cents in about his brilliance and that’s how the ball started rolling.  I think the thing that really cinched it was our mutual love of childrens’ books.

While she is trying her best to become the next Tasha Tudor I am working hard to be somewhat of an Arthur Rackham with the line work of Gustave Dore.  Now when Emily posts pictures she usually does really nice photos of her gardens or the animals or something she conjured in the kitchen; I don’t really do so much of that.  Soooooo I will put up some of the stuff I dabble in. So here you go.  Hope you like it and can sympathize with why I spend so much of my time avoiding going outside.

I too have my own blog. I am not as efficient as Emily at loading it with good stuff on a regular schedule but you can see more of what I do, while Emily is earning her callouses outside.  You can visit me at jeremybastian.blogspot.com.  Thank you all for taking the time.


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