Halloween Cards 2014

September 19th, 2014

Maybe I’m jumping the gun a little on the whole fall thing, but after all it is my favorite time of the year. I added two new Halloween cards to the shop today, and I’ve already polished off a bag of candy corn. Bring on the cider and pumpkins!

Wit & Whistle Halloween Cards

Wit & Whistle Halloween Cards

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Taking a Break

September 16th, 2014

I worked on a some new card designs yesterday, but by late last night I felt like I still hadn’t made much progress. None of the new designs were coming together as well as I hoped. Forcing myself to create when I feel discouraged never yields good results, so today I stepped away from work for a bit and took Oliver for a hike (Mabel is spending the day at the vet for a checkup).

Oliver is the perfect hiking buddy. He prances along next to me heeling like a champ. If I trip on a root or scuff my toe on a rock, he’ll nudge my leg with his nose and check on me with a questioning look. If I want to wander off the trail to look at a weird mushroom on a rotten log, he will happily accompany me and pee on all the trees in the vicinity to ward off danger. He constantly looks up at me with this adoring face as we walk along. I don’t know how he keeps from running into stuff, since he doesn’t watch the path most of the time. It’s a nice feeling, to be a dog’s favorite person.

What do you do when a project isn’t working out, and you’re feeling uninspired and drained? Taking a break and doing something else for a while usually helps me get back on track. Does that work for you too?

take a break

take a break

(Please excuse the iPhone photos… I forgot to bring my real camera!)

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Homemade Blackberry Wine

September 11th, 2014

homemade blackberry wine

I made blackberry wine! It took two months to get it ready to bottle. Two months of sanitizing things, smashing berries, measuring sugar levels with a hydrometer, watching yeast bubble, stirring, adding mysterious ingredients, siphoning, and wondering if I was doing everything right. It was all very science-y.

homemade blackberry wine

I bottled my wine earlier this week, and it took every ounce of my strength to get the corks into the bottles. After corking I realized I hadn’t even tasted it, so I poured some of the overflow into a glass and sniffed it like a fancy wine tasting person. It smelled like… farts.

As you can imagine, I was bummed that my 2 months of work had yielded fart wine. I figured I’d never drink it, although it did taste better than it smelled. I’d been dreaming up my wine bottle packaging all summer, so I went ahead and designed labels just to cheer myself up.

homemade blackberry wine

After stepping away for a day and letting my frustration fade, I did some more sniffing and googling. I realized the smell was actually sulfur. Hydrogen sulfide is produced during the fermenting process naturally, but if something is a little off you can end up with sulfur scented wine. I read that decanting the wine could cause the sulfur smell to fade and make it taste better. I figured it was worth a try, so I set a glass of wine out on the counter and kept sniffing it every hour or so. Roughly 5 hours later it smelled like wine and tasted decent too. Even Daniel approved. Whew!

homemade blackberry wine

As I made my wine I jotted down the process, but I’m not going to share the instructions since it didn’t turn out as well as I hoped. I mean, when have you ever bought a bottle of wine that needed to air out for 5 hours so the fart smell could dissipate? I’m guessing never.

homemade blackberry wine

I will say that I started with this kit to make 1 gallon of wine. The kit came with booklet of recipes to make a bunch of different fruit wines, but the instructions are incredibly vague. I had to piece together the process from YouTube videos, blogs, and winemaking forums. So, maybe I should just be happy my wine turned out as well as it did!

homemade blackberry wine

Have you ever made wine or beer… or moonshine? ;) I don’t know if I’ll try it again, but I like having a better understanding of the process and an appreciation for how much work goes into a bottle of wine. Now that it’s all said and done, designing the label was absolutely my favorite part!

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Chickens + Coop

September 9th, 2014

Did ya miss me? Last week I had to abandon my blog, because I was overwhelmed with the logistics of shipping out an order of over 500 pounds of notebooks and jotters! I’ll share more details about that later this fall. Now I’m back to blogging with a backyard chicken update.

My parents and I finished up the coop back in June, and I think it coordinates with the house perfectly. Here you can see the coop door peeking through the carport. I planted a climbing hydrangea to the right of the door. Hopefully in a few years it will fill out nicely!

backyard chickens

We built an open-air coop and run combo, because it doesn’t get very cold here in the winter, but it is hot and humid in the summer. My mom took photos while we built the coop, and my dad wrote a detailed description of how we built it here on his website. Check it out if you’re thinking of building one, or if you want to see more detailed photos of my coop.

I’ve been a chicken keeper for almost three months now, and so far caring for them has been enjoyable and easy. I’ll have to post an update after a year or so to let you know if my opinion has changed at all.

backyard chickens

Here are Margo, Roberta, and Millie at 2 weeks old when I first took them out to see their coop. They were terrified of the ground and wouldn’t get off my hand. The girls lived in our bathtub under a heat lamp until they were about 7 weeks old. At that point they had most of their feathers, so they could stay warm enough outside on their own. Sometimes we still miss our bathroom entertainment.

backyard chickens

It’s crazy how much the chicks changed in just a few months. Here’s Margo at 2 weeks old—barely a handful.

backyard chickens

Now at almost 3 months old she’s two handfuls!

backyard chickens

I sing a little chicken song I made up (to the tune of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”) when I go outside, and the chickens all run to the coop door to see me. I’m amazed by each bird’s distinct personality. They even have different food preferences.

Roberta (a Barnevelder) is the most independent of my three hens. She’d rather be finding bugs than hanging around to see what the human is up to, but if I bring fruit she’ll be my best friend. She’s a great flier compared to the other two. The first few weeks living in the coop she was afraid of the dark, and if I went out to there at dusk she would fly up onto my shoulder, burrow into my hair, and try to sleep there for the night. Getting a sleeping chicken untangled from your hair is just as hard as you’d think!

backyard chickens

Margo (a Speckled Sussex) would follow me around the yard like a dog if I’d let her. She’s my right hand bird, and she has been the most inquisitive since she hatched. She’s always hungry, so to her I’m just a big treat dispenser, but I’ll take it. She has terrible aim with her pecking, so I really have to watch myself when I hand her something delicious to munch. Once she gets a beakful of my skin in her mouth, she’ll pull on it for a while before figuring out she missed the worm. Ouch.

backyard chickens

I can always find Margo, because her favorite spot to stand is right on top of my foot. You know, just so she doesn’t miss out on any tasty morsels. If I don’t offer her anything edible after a while, she will happily attempt to eat my pants, shirt, or whatever else she can reach. It’s unsettling when you squat down to reach something and feel a pointy chicken beak exploring your butt crack!

backyard chickens

Millie (a Blue Orpington) loves digging holes. Sometimes she digs them so deep that I can’t even see her, I can only see dirt shooting through the air as she kicks it up behind her. Millie has the most luxurious, fluffy feathers. She feels (and looks) like a cloud. She was a snuggler when the girls were living inside. Once I took the lid off the brooder and asked, “Who wants to cuddle me?” Millie clumsily flew out, landed in my lap, puffed up her feathers, and went to sleep. Now she’s less interested in being loved on, but she’s the first to jump up onto my knee if I sit down with a jar of mealworms.

backyard chickens

Watching the chickens interact is hilarious. I just have to throw a big juicy slug to them, and they will run around for an hour squawking and stealing it from one another. Even in the quieter moments it’s obvious how much they enjoy each other’s company. I definitely wouldn’t call them intelligent, but there’s a lot more going on in those little bird brains than I thought there would be.

backyard chickens

After getting to know these birds I can hardly bring myself to eat chicken anymore. I may give it up entirely. Eggs are another story! I can’t wait to compare store-bought eggs to freshly-laid-in-my-backyard eggs. My chickens should be old enough lay in another 3 months or so, but they may not start until spring. Even if they never lay a single egg I’ll be happy. They’ve been great pets.

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Pie Crust from Scratch

August 28th, 2014

Today I made my rhubarb pie recipe, and for the first time I made pie crust from scratch. I’ll admit it was kind of a pain in the butt, but it tasted much better than the store bought pie crusts I normally use!

pie crust from scratch recipe

pie crust from scratch recipe

pie crust from scratch recipe

This is what Oliver looks like when he is scheming.

pie crust from scratch recipe

Flaky Butter Pie Crust (adapted from allrecipes.com)

This recipe makes one 9″ pie crust. Double it if you need a bottom crust and a top crust.

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, chilled and diced
1/4 cup iced water

Combine the flour, salt, and butter in a food processor and pulse until it resembles coarse crumbs. Dump the mixture into a bowl and stir in the iced water one tablespoon at a time. Make sure you don’t over mix it. The dough will seem too dry and crumbly at this point, but just go with it. Squish it all together into a ball-ish shape and wrap it in plastic. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

After refrigerating, roll the dough out on a floured surface. The first roll out it will probably crumble into a floury mess (mine did), so just knead it a little and things will work better on the second try. Press the dough into a pie pan, and make whatever pie you’re craving.

By the way, this lattice pie crust tutorial is great!

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