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You might remember that I’ve got an ongoing organization project going on in my house. One thing that had really been getting to me was my flour collection. It was contained in a smaller cupboard (we have no pantry, sigh), and was basically a pile of flours that look like this, but much bigger:

It’s not that I have a flour hoarding problem, (ok, maybe I do, but it’s nothing like my toiletry issue!), but I need a variety of them because I’m always making goodies to share with my sister, who can’t tolerate gluten. I would reach for fava/garbanzo flour and find that the bag has been punctured. I’d pull out my spelt flour and find that the clip had popped off in the shuffle, and now it was stale. Ugh! Finally, we inherited a mid-century buffet, and were granted some more space. I have a little pantry! Time to act. I went out to the local home and garden store, Down to Earth, where I buy adorable little dishes, and found some canning jars. I bought a pack of 12, and they gave me a bulk discount! I also bought some labels, so that I wouldn’t get my flours mixed up. I dumped each flour into a jar, which was a bit messy, and discovered that Cleo has a taste for buckwheat flour. By itself. Anyway, here are my labeled jars:

This project was really easy, but it made such a huge difference in how I approach baking. No longer do I have to gingerly sift through a pile of bags, hoping that I won’t make a huge mess when I rip it accidentally, and now it’s so much easier to see what I have on hand before I head out to the market. Before tucking them into the buffet, I lined them up on the windowsill for a pretty moment, and relished in their neatness.

Finally! Order has come to my flour collection. What a relief.

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So, this was a collaborative project that I worked on with my mom and husband, that my grandparents started. They had this huge three ring binder full of photos and stories and ephemera collected over the years. There are all of these great stories from the lives of my grandparents- growing up on farms during the depression, experiences they had while stationed with the Air Force in various foreign countries, as well as many stories of people they met. The problem was that there was only one copy of this cumbersome treasure. My mom had the idea to have it bound, and to have a few copies made, so that each grandchild could have a copy, as well as one for my grandparents. So she sent me to ubuildabook.com to see if I was interested in helping her make it happen. And I was! Here’s the final product:

We are all so happy with the books. My grandparents especially- they were so touched and amazed that we organized their memories in such a permanent way, and made it so that they can share them with others- there is an option with ubuildabook to order more copies without an extra fee, with a few reasonable restrictions. And the turnaround time was surprisingly fast! We received the books within a week of placing the order. It was amazing!
Making the book itself was pretty easy. We decided to scan the pages as they were found in the book, instead of re-typing and editing them; I didn’t feel that it was our place, and my grandfather had spent a lot of time working on his own layout (and page numbering system!) that we felt it was charming the way it was. Basically, you download the layout software from the ubuildabook website, and start at it! My mom and husband did all of the scanning- there were about 120 pages in all. Then I uploaded each image (page) into the program, and made each double page spread using those images. Making the pages themselves was really pretty easy… perhaps more so because I was on my high school’s award-winning yearbook staff, but I think that most people could figure out what to do. If not, you can call them, and they are quite helpful (I had a question after I placed my order). There are so many options for the layout and design of your book, which I didn’t really use, other than for the cover. It makes me want to go back and design a baby book, or perhaps compile my favorite recipes! Really the options are endless.
Here are a few of my favorite pages:

Those are my Great Grandparents Mary and Pete. Included in the book is a recipe for bread that she would make often- we called it G’Mary Bread. I was pretty excited to try out the recipe, and made it within the first 24 hours of having the printed book in my hot little hands. Now, you might remember that I’m not an experienced bread baker. Let’s just say I need a few more tries. Here’s what came out of it:

G’Mary Bread

1 qt (4 c) potato water
2 tbsp shortening
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp dark molasses
1 tbsp anise seed
1 pkg granulated yeast soaked in a little water with sugar
1 c rye meal
white flour

Stir everything but the flours together, add the rye meal. Keep adding white flour to the right consistency, and until it loosens from hands.

Let it rise until it raises double in bulk.

Punch down and let rise a second time.

Make into loaves and let rise.

Bake on a hot cookie sheet for 1 hour at 375F.

Perhaps you can see where and why I ran into trouble. The recipe is just a little vague. First off, potato water?!? I boiled some potatoes to mash up for my daughter, and was pleased to not have to waste that good potato water… but I was a little uncertain when I got to the yeast-water-sugar action. I ended up putting the yeast in a little dish, adding about a 1/4 teaspoon sugar, and 2 tablespoons warm water. I stirred it let it sit for a few minutes, and it got bubbly and thick so I figured I was off to a good start. I added the rest of the ingredients up to the rye flour, and then I got a little worried. It was so watery! Shouldn’t there be more rye flour? I remember this being a very savory bread… I started adding the white flour. Things got really sticky really fast, and about 3 cups in I abandoned the wooden spoon and started kneading with my hands. By the time I got to cup 5 or 6, I lost count. The dough just wasn’t pulling away from my hands, and I had no idea what the “right consistency” looked or felt like. I think there ended up being about 8 cups of white flour total in there! The dough was DENSE. Good thing I ran out of flour. Who knows how many more cups I would have added, before deciding it was never going to pull away from my hands? I put it in a warm oven that I’d turned off, in a bowl covered with a towel.
Then I went to bed.
I got up at 4:30 the next morning and gave it a few good punches (should I only have punched it once?), and went back to bed.
Then, at 9, my daughter supervised with a critical face as I divided the dough into two huge and heavy balls to let rise once more, for about an hour. (There was no moving those loaves to the preheated cookie sheet, but I think that would’ve been too much because the loaves were a bit brown on the underside anyway.) Then we baked! The bread smelled delicious and at the end of the hour, my mouth was so ready for some fresh bread action, and I was so curious as to how I did. I sawed at one of the hot loaves- the crust was really hard- but got a nice thick (and yes, dense) slice.  Oh my. Much heavier than I remembered, but really good!
I took the uncut loaf over to my grandparents to see how it measured up to the bread in their memories, and they admitted that mine was much heavier, but that “it’s hard to get the amount of flour right,” said my grandma. Fair enough. My mom said that we’d make the next batch together when we’ve got my great aunt on the phone, who’s made it several times before. I can’t wait, because I think that it would make a really tasty grilled Daiya and Fieldroast sandwich! Here are my warm slices, covered in Earth Balance:

I discovered with the next slice that olive oil makes an even better topper! I’m really happy that we were able to give this gift to my grandparents, and that I now have this recipe to work on my bread skills with. My great grandma was a true animal lover, and I’m so happy that I was able to keep that spirit alive with some tasty vegan bread. If you try this recipe, let me know how it goes.

My little girl and I are going on a trip next week, to see my best friend in California! We will be traveling by plane, which is FREAKING ME THE F*CK OUT. I picture my little terror sweet bebe, screaming and whining and squirming throughout the entire flight each way as I am the meanest mommy EVER to not let her roam freely throughout the cabin, greeting the other passengers. So, I’ve armed myself with a sack full of never-before-seen toys and books to pull out one by one as the minutes creep by while we are confined in the air- one for each flight, actually! Of course, I needed some fresh new containers for this trip- I have a reputation for being “well-contained” to hold up. Enter the Simple Drawstring Sack. I have been making such sacks for various occasions over the last few years (lunch sacks, snack sacks, camera accessory sacks, dirty clothes while traveling sacks, lingerie/sock sacks, gift sacks…), after my friend in Japan sent me 2 small ones that she’d made.
This is the most easily modified to suit your needs project that one could think up. Each one that I do is different, depending on whether or not I have finished selvage edges (like I did this time), whether or not my fabric is one piece or two (here I had one)… and so on. I was able to make these 2 bags in about 45 minutes while watching a show and taking photos between most of the steps. Let’s get started!

Here’s what you’ll need:

fabric- just a bit more (by a few inches) than double the size you want your sack to be
drawstring material- double the width of your sack (I usually use bias tape because I like the colors that are available, and it’s sturdy)
coordinating thread
pins (optional)
scissors
2 safety pins
sewing machine
ironing situation
For all seams I used a half-inch seam allowance. Really, you can do whatever you want to though. French seams would be really nice!
First off, if you are working with two panels (instead of just folding one large panel in half to make the sack like I did), stitch them together right sides together down one side. Press open the seam. If the edges are unfinished on the other sides, you’ll want to finish the top edge where the drawstring will come out. I usually will do this to the top 2 inches, folding over 1/4″ from the side edge, and then another 1/4″, pressing and then top stitching.
If you are working with just one panel with finished edges like I was, here we go! Start out by making the channel at the top of the sack for the drawstring: fold over and press 1/2″ or so (just make sure it’s wider than whatever you’re using for the drawstring! I like to be generous here. Why not?) along the top unfinished edge of your fabric. Fold over another 1/2-3/4″ and press. Pin it down if it makes you feel better… And don’t mind my cat.

Zip on over to your sewing machine and top stitch that puppy down! As you can see here, I’m using a generous 5/8″ seam allowance. Of course, if you have a thin cord that you’re using to cinch your sack, this might be considered excessive. MAYBE. Be sure to back stitch at each end to reinforce the seam. It sure would be sad if you lost your contents!

Now that you have your channel all finished and pretty, let’s spread it out and take stock. As you can see here, I took the easy road. This is a half-yard of fabric, folded in half lengthwise. If you’d not had those finished edges and needed to turn in the upper edge, now would be the time to make a little snip in the fabric just below the channel so that it’ll smooth out nicely when you stitch up the side. Clip in just to the point where the seam allowance will be… Once you do that, the fabric will lay flat when it’s sprawled out on your rug (or table if you’re fancy). If you’re extra fancy, you’ll probably use pins. Again, I winged it. Is that why my seam ripper and I are so tight?

Now you’re ready to turn this into the sack it’s destined to be! Start right where that channel stitch hits (or right where you’ve clipped they should be really close), and go down the side and along the bottom edge. Again, be sure to back stitch at the beginning and end.

Clip the corners at the bottom of the sack to keep it from getting bulky, especially if you’re making a wee sack:

Now it’s time to install your drawstring. I cut mine to be just a bit longer than double the width of my sack- so that when it’s open all the way, the only part of the drawstring visible is the knot. Attach one end of the drawstring to the bag just below the channel using a safety pin. Attach a safety pin to the other end of the drawstring.

Thread the loose end with the safety pin through one of the channel ends of the bag. Since I used bias tape, and one edge of it has an open fold, I positioned my tape so that the opening would face the bottom of the channel, giving it a more finished look with the folded edge being at the top. Feel the safety pin on the inside of the channel and work it through, gathering up the fabric around the pin, and then pulling the fabric over the drawstring while keeping the safety pin moving forward in the channel, like this:

Eventually the safety pin and the drawstring will emerge out the other end of the channel, right next to where you began. Snazzy huh? I am really good at this thanks to all of the scrunchie making I did in middle school.

The hard work is done! And it wasn’t even that hard, was it? Tie a (simple overhand) knot using both ends of the drawstring lined up together. Turn the bag inside out and press. You’re done! All that’s left to do is fill it with toys and snacks and underwear and head out for your adventure! Wish us luck.

Oof. It may not look like much, but this is a biggie. I say that because it’s not just my bedroom closet- I’m working on ALL of the closets in our house. After a few trips to Goodwill, a trip to Buffalo Exchange, much sorting and tossing, here we are. It all started with my childproofing efforts- my need to get those cleaning supplies, plastic bags, cat hair tumbleweeds, and bottles of wine out of my speedy daughter’s reach. Yes, I know that there’s nothing like adult supervision to keep a baby safe, but I have visions of myself losing consciousness and her gnawing her way into a lower cabinet (those little teeth have needs…) to get to those lemon fresh cleaning supplies. Hence the big clean. I’m sure the checkers at Target saw me coming and whispered to each other: It’s her- the Itso bin collector. I bet she’s got a crazy hoard! Well, it’s true. But my hoard is organized, and it’s much smaller than it used to be. I put five of the Itso bins on that upper shelf there- on either side of the jeans stack, and they house out-of-season shoes, scarves, and handbags. Lots of handbags. I found that snazzy hanging shoe holder at The Container Store, and the (double sided and double awesome) jewelry organizer is from Mary Kay. Here’s a closer look at that action:
This project went beyond the bedroom. I did the laundry closet, both hall closets, and all of the cabinets in the bathrooms and kitchen. The only thing that I wish I could change at this point is the closet wall color! They look so blank and ugly compared to all of my pretty and organized bins. I still have a lot of work to do- various bookshelves throughout the house are full of boxes of old photographs and art supplies. Knowing that I don’t have huge messes piled up in my closets is such a relief. Having started the project and working on it slowly (I started in March!), one closet at a time, made this project so easy to handle.
Here’s the hall closet. Sorry about the sad photos; there is a wall where I would have liked to have stood in order to have taken the ideal photo. Sigh.

This one really drove home the fact that I don’t need so much in the way of toiletry back stock! I don’t know what it is, but I have a fear that I’m going to run out of lotion and that will be my fate- dry skin forever! Silly me. Perhaps one bottle in my stock would suffice, not three. I’m working on it. And can we talk about lip gloss and eye shadow? I’d better start piling it on if I’m going to use it all in this life time.
Well, if you wonder where I am in the next few weeks, I’ll be tackling my craft supply mayhem. Before this it was a task that the thought gave me such anxiety. But now I think I can handle it.