Teish Knits Summer Reading Challenge

I love books! I wish I could read all of the books, the cool books anyway. Life is too short to read boring books that you don’t like, at least once you’re out of school. The fun thing about reading challenges is that I have to hunt for books to fit the challenge prompts, and this often reminds me of books that have been in my TBR list for way too long. Also, I’m a little bit obsessed with checking things off on a list.

I thought that it would be fun to do a Teish Knits Reading Challenge this summer on the blog! You can download a pdf of the list here. I’ve also created some fun bookmarks with lines for keeping track of the books that you’ve read for the challenge! You can download the bookmarks here. Since there are 13 weeks in June through August, I included 13 prompts for choosing books. I want this to be a no-stress challenge though. If a book a week sounds like more than your schedule can handle, then pick a number of books that you want to read over the summer and highlight that many prompts on the list any only do those.

I picked ideas for the Teish Knits Reading Challenge that can be broadly interpreted. For example, a book about health can be related to any kind of health topic, or even a fiction book featuring a healthcare setting or character. The book related to your career or goals might be a non-fiction book on the topic, or it could be a novel where the main character has the same kind of career or goals that you do. I’m planning to try for a mix of fiction and non-fiction, but you could interpret the prompts to best fit the kind of books you like to read.

Given that this July is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, I had to include a prompt for a book related to astronomy or space exploration. There are so many wonderful books about the people involved in space exploration, but you could pick something focused on the science, or even science fiction if you prefer. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth and Hidden Figures are both wonderful non-fiction choices that would fit this prompt if you’d need an idea!

I also included an audiobook, paper book, and e-book in the list. I like all three formats, but sometimes I end up sort of stuck in a format rut. I wanted to remind myself to enjoy books across all three formats this summer.

Of course, I had to include a favorite that you want to re-read. Mom used to say that she was going to quit buying me books for my birthday and Christmas because I always had the stack read within a week or two. I was horrified at the thought and pointed out that since I re-read books, it was hardly a waste of money. Re-reading my favorite books is like comfort food.

Instead of my usual Thoughts for Tuesday posts this summer, I’ll do a Reading Challenge Update each Tuesday. I’ll share which book I’m reading, thoughts on ones I’ve finished, and maybe chat about some of the books I’ll be reading next. I hope you’ll join in with the Teish Knits Summer Reading Challenge. Let me know what books you’re reading, and what you think of them throughout the summer! You can comment on the blog, or on my Facebook or Instagram pages. I’ll have weekly Reading Challenge Update posts on both platforms where we can talk about what we’re reading this summer!

Don’t forget to download your Teish Knits Summer Reading Challenge list, so you’re all ready to go!

Why Not?

This morning the kids asked me if they could stack up some of the wood pallets our coal is delivered on to use them for a picnic table. In a fit of insanity, I thought, “We could do better than that.” While rummaging around for solid wood to use as table legs, we came across the pieces from an old bed frame. The headboard seemed just about perfect for a table top.

We dragged the pieces outside along with my tool box and my IT staff’s circular saw. Measuring, cutting, building, improvising when plans A through C didn’t go exactly as expected… It was actually a fun project! It is by no means perfect. A real carpenter would cringe at my MacGyver’d table, but I’ve never let that stop me from attempting a project in the past.

It’s not pressure treated wood, or a composite, so we’ll need some outdoor paint to seal it. I told the kids that they can paint it themselves, which will be interesting since only one of them has any experience helping me paint furniture. Since a wonky paint job isn’t exactly going to make the table worse, I figured it was a good practice project.

I’m more likely to say, “Why?” than “Why not?” when the kids come up with a project idea. I’m trying to change that to some degree. Admittedly, sometimes the projects crash and burn. (In the case of a science experiment in the microwave, the burning can be literal.) There are times that the projects turn out fantastic, and then there are times like today when the project isn’t quite fantastic, but it’s still cool. It may have been in a fit of insanity, but I’m glad that my response today was, “Why not?”

Thoughts for Tuesday on Wednesday, May 29th

Outside my windows… it’s cloudy and cold. The lawn is growing nicely, but I’m not sure if it’s still too cold to be planting outside in my flower beds.

Inside my house… the seedlings I started this spring are not exactly thriving. some of them gave up before sprouting. I may have to go visit the greenhouse at some point.

Counting 1000 gifts… thankful that my kiddos enjoy being outside and exploring nature!

Prayers of the heart… for the busy summer coming; that we’ll be able to fit in everything we need to and let go of the rest.

What the (not quite so) little ones are up to… Munchkin is trying out my favorite baked mac&cheese recipe, while her brothers are playing a new board game that Grandma introduced us to!

From my playlist… Catchy Song from the LEGO Movie 2. My kids have mixed feelings about this.

From my reading list… I’m actually thinking about which books I want to read for the Teish Knits Summer Reading Challenge! Post about that coming next week, so don’t miss it! (Get a sneak peek at the printables by clicking on the Downloads tab in the main menu.)

From my needlework basket… I’m knitting the hood of my hooded sweater. Once that’s done I’ll just have the sleeves left to do. I’m still undecided about whether I’ll knit them on double-point needles or circular needles.

In the learning room… the kiddos have finished up more subjects for the year, so they are enjoying a little extra free time. They’re hoping for better weather soon!

Random ramblings… Tuesday this week was a little crazy. Thoughts for Tuesday posts are going away for the summer, so I wanted to do one last post in the series, even if it’s very, very late!

Profound ponderings… “I am and always will be–the optimist. The hoper of far-flung hopes. The dreamer of improbable dreams.” — Quote from Doctor Who

Caught on film…

T-shirt Quilt DIY

I love graphic tees! I had a stack of them that had worn out, had stains, or weren’t very comfortable that I couldn’t bear to part with because, nostalgia! I kept telling myself that I’d make a t-shirt quilt with them. I’ve been saving t-shirts for this quilt for over 15 years. Still no quilt.

Here’s the thing: to do it the “right” way, you need to use woven fusible interfacing to stabilize the t-shirt material, then sew them together with sashing or boarders of some kind, and then you quilt and bind it like a regular quilt. During the Great Sewing Room Clean-Up of 2019, I came across all of those t-shirts and was reminded that I should really make that quilt someday. Then I came across a couple of t-shirt material twin sheets I’d been saving for an undetermined project, and started thinking…

What if I just cut the t-shirts into squares, sewed them together with no interfacing or sashing, skipped the batting, and just used the t-shirt sheets for the backing. It would break all of the “rules” for t-shirt quilts, but they would be nice summer blankets for the living room. I decided that in this case, done was better than perfect.

I grabbed my 12 1/2″ quilting square, centered the t-shirt design, and cut around them with my rotary cutter. I had 40 squares, so I made two t-shirt quilts. One of them, I just grabbed whatever square was next and sewed it onto the row then sewed the rows together without paying much attention to placement. The second one, I laid out the squares and then sewed them together in a particular order. Honestly, I like the way both turned out, so pick which method you like better.

I find that sewing knit material with the even-feed foot on my machine keeps the stretching to a minimum, but you can skip it if you don’t have one or don’t like using it with knits. I did one quilt with a 1/4″ seam allowance and one with a 1/2″ seam allowance. Either one works, just be sure that you keep your seam allowance consistent through the whole quilt. Don’t switch halfway through or it will make things turn out wonky.

After sewing the blocks in a 4 by 5 square layout, I spread the t-shirt sheet on the table with the right side up. Then I layered the quilt on top of it with the right side down. Make sure the right sides of the quilt and backing are touching each other. Pin well along the edge and then sew along the outside using your preferred seam allowance. Leave about an 8″ opening so you can turn the whole thing right side out.

Once you’ve sewed the edges, and turned the quilt right side out, pin the opening closed and top-stitch around the whole quilt. I prefer top-stitching about 1/4″ from the edge, but use what you like best. If you don’t catch the edges of the opening in the top-stitching, you’ll need to hand-sew that closed.

Next, you’ll be sewing “in the ditch” or on the line where the squares meet. This will sort of hold the blanket together while you’re using it. You can do this without pinning the two layers together first. However, I still had some shifting of the backing when I tried this without pinning. It’s not bad, but the quilt where I used safety pins along the edges of the blocks definitely worked better.

And you’re done! This is one of those projects you can easily do in a weekend or just a few evenings. You could make a bigger quilt or smaller one, but I found this size to be perfect for curling up under while watching a movie. Camo was happy to test out this one hot off the sewing machine! I’d just packed up a couple of our winter quilts, so the timing on these was perfect. Nothing says “warm weather” like t-shirts, or a quilt made of them, right?

If you end up making a t-shirt quilt of your own, head over to the Teish Knits Facebook page and share a photo. I’d love to see other examples!

Thoughts for Tuesday, May 21st

Outside my windows… the weather today can’t decide whether it’s going to be rainy or sunny.

Inside my house… I can smell the cookies that Munchkin baked this afternoon.

Counting 1000 gifts… thankful for cookies that someone else baked while I worked!

What the (not quite so) little ones are up to… going a bit stir-crazy with all of the rain! These kids want to be outside, but the weather isn’t cooperating.

From my playlist… 50s music. There are some unusual hits from that decade.

From my reading list… Grace, Grit, Guts by Tracy O’Malley

From my needlework basket… either sewing in ends on the shawl I finished knitting, or working on a sweater. Depends on which I feel more like working on at the time.

In the learning room… the three younger kiddos have wrapped up their Math curriculum for the year, and all three of the older ones have wrapped up Language Arts. We’ll be working on things through July, but it’s nice to have a lighter schedule for summer.

Random ramblings… “When life’s flight is over, and we unload our cargo at the other end, the fellow who got rid of unnecessary weight will have the most valuable cargo to present the Lord.” — Nate Saint

Profound ponderings… I found a new podcast! It’s perfect for readers or writers of speculative fiction. I’m enjoying the author chats, and learning a lot from listening. Tune in: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-christian-speculative-fiction-podcast/id1463468309

Caught on film…

Sun Tea Season Is Back!

Note: As I’m a Plum Deluxe Ambassador, the links in this article are affiliate links. I’ve found their teas to be some of the best blends I’ve tried over the years, and would not suggest them to my readers if I didn’t drink Plum Deluxe teas myself!

One of my fond childhood memories is of the gallon jar of sun tea that was a constant fixture on my great-grandmother’s porch during the warm months. If you visited Grammy Lila in the summer, sitting around her kitchen table sipping sun tea was a given. (And if you were one of the grandkids, she’d bring down the candy jar that she kept stocked with everyone’s favorites!)

I have one of the big glass jars that used to be Grammy’s, and I use it to brew my own sun tea as soon as it warms up enough so that the tea will brew and not freeze on my front steps.

Grammy Lila used regular old Lipton black tea for her sun tea, and that works just fine. I started out using that for my own sun tea, but soon branched out to green tea. Green tea has a little less caffeine and I’m particularly fond of green teas that are fruit flavored. Blueberry, peach, and pomegranate are favorites, but we’ve tried a number of varieties of Lipton and Bigelow green teas and they’ve all been good. You can use any kind of tea you like though. I brew a batch of Earl Grey now and then, and I’ve tried a lot of herbal teas that were delicious iced. I tried out the newest club blend from Plum Deluxe and it was delicious iced! I’ll definitely be trying some more of their blends in my sun tea brewing this summer.

You’ll need a big glass jar or pitcher. I suggest combing the yard sales or your grandmother’s basement to see if you can find one of these heavy gallon jars, but anything glass with a secure cover will do. The important thing is to brew it in glass, and not plastic. (Brewing in plastic can leach stuff from the heated plastic into your tea and affect the taste. Yuck!) Fill the jar or pitcher with cold water, and then add tea bags or loose tea. I use about 10 of the green tea bags or 4 heaping tablespoons of loose tea for one gallon of water, but you may need to play around with the amount of tea to get the right proportions for the tea you’re using. Put the lid on the jar and set it in the sun in the morning. I leave it on my steps until late afternoon, or bedtime if I forget about it! Remove the tea bags and chill in the fridge. I transfer my tea to a pitcher for easier pouring, and so I can have another batch ready before we run out.

If you like to sweeten your tea, I suggest using honey or a simple syrup as they will mix in better than just granulated sugar. I switched to drinking my iced tea unsweetened several years back, and I honestly don’t miss the sugar, particularly when I brew a tea that includes fruit.

I read an article a couple of years back about concerns over whether sun tea is safe to store in the fridge and drink later. The suggestion in the article was that it may be safer to brew traditionally with boiling water to minimize any contaminants that could make you sick, and to drink the iced tea immediately, and not store leftovers for later. We typically drink a batch within a few days, and it always seems to keep in the fridge OK. I do make sure the jar is thoroughly cleaned between brewing batches as well. However, brew and drink at your own risk. I figure that we grew up drinking the sun tea Grammy Lila kept in her fridge and survived, so I’m not going to stress over it.

Are you an iced tea fan? What kind do you like brewing best in the summer?

If you’re interested in trying Plum Deluxe teas for your summer iced tea brewing, they’ve offered a coupon code for 10% off tea purchases for my readers! Just use this code in the VIP Code field when placing your order: teishknitsreaders

Thoughts for Tuesday, May 14th

Outside my windows… the promised nor’easter has amounted to only rain at our house. I’m hoping it stays that way because snow in May is always a little depressing. (This is also why we don’t plant anything outside before Memorial Day!)

Inside my house… Espresso Brownies just came out of the oven. It’s a recipe from Mary DeMuth’s Irresistible Table cookbook. This recipe alone is worth buying the cookbook for!

Counting 1000 gifts… I’m thankful that despite the rain and cold, we have a stove and coal to keep our house warm.

Prayers of the heart… about exciting things on the horizon, and for wisdom when deciding where to go next.

What the (not quite so) little ones are up to… playing a rousing round of Cheaters Monopoly. Normally, we don’t allow cheating when playing a game, but this one is really funny! It’s hilarious when everyone is trying to be sneaky while keeping an eye on everyone else. Watch out for the quiet ones though, they sometimes take you by surprise and get away with more than anyone else!

From my playlist… Main Theme from “The Right Stuff” by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.

From my reading list… I’m going back through Tamara Leigh’s Age of Faith series. I’ve read the books before, but every now and then I go back and read through them again because they are an enjoyable and relaxing read.

From my needlework basket… when I feel like quilting, I have another quilt that I decided to hand quilt in a moment of insanity. If I prefer to knit, I’ve got a lovely summer shawl knit out of cotton that’s getting close to being done.

In the learning room… the end of this week will see kids finishing their math and language arts curriculum for the year. We’ll be working on other subjects through July, and doing a few things to practice math and language arts skills. It’s nice to know that we have a somewhat lighter study load for the summer months though.

Random ramblings… writing an author bio is harder than writing actual articles, blog posts, or stories. I don’t know why, but this is absolutely true. My IT Staff agrees that photographer bios are harder to write than the most technical articles relating to advanced photography. Bios are hard!

Profound ponderings… “I have loved the stars to fondly to be fearful of the night.” — Line from “The Old Astronomer”

Caught on film…

View this post on Instagram

Desk rocket ship courtesy of Camo! #workspace #teishknits

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Rag Basket

I recall Mom joking that by your 15th anniversary, you needed another wedding shower because all of the towels from your wedding had worn out. I recently picked up some new towels and washcloths at Walmart because ours were rather threadbare in spots. When I went through and removed all of the hole-y and badly stained towels to make room for the new ones, I pondered what to do with the old ones. Sure, they had some holes and were wearing thin in places, but it seemed a waste to simply throw them away.

I think almost everyone’s grandmother had a stash of rags for cleaning, and it occurred to me that my old towels would be perfect for that. I’ve been thinking about options that would help us cut back on the number of paper towels we use for a while. A rag basket under the sink is the perfect solution.

I considered cutting up the bath towels into smaller pieces since they are a little too big for cleaning tasks. In the end, I decided to leave them whole for now. With four kids and a very large German Shepherd in the house, there are some pretty big spills at times. Old bath towels are a much better option than half a roll of paper towels when it comes to soaking up a sizable spill on the kitchen floor. Since my collection included some hand towels and washcloths, I’ve got a pretty good selection of sizes to use for any task.

I grabbed an empty basket, rolled up the towels and stashed them under the kitchen sink. Now when I need a cloth for cleaning, or something to soak up a spilled glass of water, I can walk past the paper towels and right to my rag basket. Since they are old towels that are already partially worn out, I won’t bad if we use it to clean up something that ruins the towel.

A rag basket may be an old-fashioned idea, but it’s definitely one that’s stuck around this long for a reason! What’s one of your favorite “life hacks” from grandma’s day?

Thoughts for Tuesday, May 7th

Outside my windows… the sunny skies from yesterday have clouded over, and there may be rain on the horizon. The orange lilies that are beginning to sprout would appreciate the rain though.

Inside my house… Some things are sprouting, and others are not. There’s one thing about my gardening methods that I’m absolutely sure of: I have no idea what I’m doing.

Counting 1000 gifts… thankful for spring, and for the hard stuff.

Prayers of the heart… for wisdom navigating new seasons. I’m praying for wisdom a lot lately.

What the (not quite so) little ones are up to… Lunch Break + LEGOs + Tub of Water = I’m staying at my desk till the mess has been cleaned up!

From my playlist… “Wolf Totem” by The Hu. I’m fascinated by interesting style of the music, and now I want to study more about Mongolian culture and their forms of art.

From my reading list… I finished Tamara Leigh’s newest addition to the Age of Conquest series: Fearless. I’m glad that she’s exploring some of the roots of the family we met in her Age of Faith series, and it’s sparked an interest in that particular period of history as well.

From my needlework basket… a summer shawl from the current issue of Knit Simple. It’s the one featured on the cover for anyone who’s curious. I’ll have to post a photo once I get it finished and blocked.

In the learning room… I finally nailed down my curriculum list for the 2019-2020 year. I think… High school elective options are seemingly endless, and a plethora of choices is a double-edged sword!

Random ramblings… Listening to the Free to Focus audiobook has been thought-provoking. It’s one of those books that you need to take a chapter at a time. In thinking about what priorities I should focus on, I started thinking long-term. Right not, home educating is a big priority that does take a fair bit of my time. Ten years from now, I’ll be finished with that chapter of my life. Maybe things that I’ll be doing past this current season need a little bit of my focus too.

Profound ponderings…

“Then I made a path. And I succeeded.

And I’m here to tell other visionary authors that yes, you can follow your heart and take your brain with you. You can write that book, finish it, publish it, and reach your readers without burnout, and without marketing taking over your whole life.

Your book does have a valued place in your life and in the world. Don’t give up. Own those unique words.”

— Janeen Ippolito

Caught on film…

Weekend Teatime: My Favorite Tea Subscription

Note: The links in this post are affiliate links. I’ve been a Plum Deluxe subscriber for a year, and it’s truly the best tea subscription I’ve tried. As always, I do not share affiliate links for any product that I don’t use and love myself.

The ever-present tea on my desk!

Anyone who follows my Instagram account knows that I love tea. My collection of tea cups inherited from various relatives gets plenty of use! It’s not unusual to find a pot of tea sitting on my desk next to me while I’m working.

I tried out a couple of tea subscription boxes, but didn’t find one that I particularly liked. I’d pretty much decided that I wouldn’t bother trying another when I came across an ad for Plum Deluxe. Ten dollars a month was the most reasonable tea subscription I’d seen, and it appealed to me that the teas were fair trade, and all blended in Oregon by people who loved tea as much as I do. I decided to give a tea subscription one more try, and I am so glad that I did!

May’s club blend is turned around so as not to spoil the surprise! This shipment included a couple extra bags that were ordered separately.

Each month, I receive an exclusive club blend in the mail. The shipment arrives in a distinctive purple package, and includes both a sample of another Plum Deluxe tea and a card with an inspirational quote on one side, and information about this month’s blend on the other. Subscriptions are available in caffeine and non-caffeine options. If you have an allergy to a particular ingredient, or if there’s a particular tea ingredient that you dislike, you can simply e-mail the folks at Plum Deluxe, and they’ll substitute something different if a month’s club blend includes that ingredient.

Honestly, their customer service is fantastic. One monthly blend I received included black pepper. It was delicious, but I discovered that my stomach couldn’t tolerate black pepper in my tea. I e-mailed the company, and they’ve made a note so that if any future club blends contain black pepper, they’ll substitute a different tea in my shipment that month. I love the personal touch, and it absolutely sets Plum Deluxe apart from the other subscriptions I tried out.

Scones paired with the May club blend.

Plum Deluxe isn’t only a tea subscription company though. Anyone can shop their regular selection of teas via the website. Sweet Spot Black Tea and Chocolate Hazelnut Dessert Tea are two of my absolute favorites. Another nice club perk is the option to receive free shipping on additional purchases if you opt to have them shipped with your regular club shipment.

The folks at Plum Deluxe have been kind enough to offer a 10% off coupon for my readers! The coupon doesn’t apply to club subscriptions, but you can apply it to an order for some of the wonderful tea blends on their website. Just enter this in the VIP Code field when you place your order: teishknitsreaders

If you do try out some of the delicious teas by Plum Deluxe, do let me know which ones you tried, and what you thought!