Monday, January 24, 2011

Today is full of promise...

Every day is special...

and every day is short. 

Every day is the only one of that day that you will get. 

Do something to honor today, even if it is a sad or difficult day. And remember that without today, there is no tomorrow.  

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Make it Better Yourself- Breakfast Goodies

I am always ogling the breakfast goodies on my way through the grocery store, but I resist them as I know they are positively loaded with garbage. I forget how easy it is to make your own at home, and how much better they are and taste. 
Yes, there were six, but I ate one right up!

Today I made scones using Vegan Joy's pumpkin scone recipe. I have made these several times, and they only take a few minutes to mix plus about 12 to bake. I omit the glaze, as I prefer butter and jam. Glaze and jam would just be too much sweet. I think next time I may try a simple sprinkle of sugar on the top. Oh, and I improvised with banana scones instead of pumpkin- I had to add about another 1/2 cup of flour. Plus, I was out of brown sugar, but you can easily make your own. I have also made blueberry scones with this recipe before. Play with the recipe- it is versatile. Oh and these scones are way, way better for you than a grocery store danish, but not tooooo good for you, if you know what I mean! 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Jump-a-roo for a Dump-a-roo

My husband calls the baby his little "gator dump-a-roo." I don't get it, but it's cute, and that's okay. Anyhow, here is the little dump-a-roo in the jump-a-roo I made her with the leftover paisley fabric. I finished up a bit ago, but I just got the snap tape sewed in at the bottom today before finishing up my last couple bound button-hells. Ha ha. Just kidding. They weren't thaaaat bad. 
This kid is a smiler :) I'm glad she is so happy. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Learning New Things

I'm happiest when I am learning. Especially right now, as happy as I am with my life and the baby, there are parts of my day that are monotonous. Like picking up the same toys for the gazillionth time. Yeah. Washing those dishes. How do we manage to dirty so many of them every day? Blah.

This is how/why I have submerged myself into the world of sewing. It is really the perfect creative outlet- there is almost never anything that I am doing that I can't drop at a moment's notice to change a diaper or read a book with the baby, and the 5 minutes here and there that I manage to snatch add up to new clothes over the course of days and sometimes weeks. It's a good trade off. I have to say, though, that just as much as having something new that I made to wear, I enjoy the learning process and adding new and exciting(!) skills to my cache. Each day I am becoming more comfortable with the machines themselves- I think taking apart and reassembling parts of my Singer 66 has contributed to that. I am also beginning to trust my ability to work things out. I am sure there are more mistakes in my sewing future, but that is because I am not relegating myself to square pillows. It's onward and upward for me!

Yeeaah! That is my first bound buttonhole. I am working on Simplicity something-or-other, a sixties pattern for a suit that includes a simple shell that buttons up the back. The directions instruct you to make bound buttonholes. In one sentence. Like it's that easy. Just "make bound buttonholes." My first thought was, "It's a simple shell. Why the hell would I go to all that trouble?" And the answer is because I don't know how to make bound buttonholes. Or should I say "didn't." And it was high time for me to learn. So, I did! This was the first, and the two practice buttonholes after that came out awfully! Then the fourth was okay, and the fifth okay too. So I have done three out of five on my shirt back, and they are all okay! I don't want to puke just looking at them! The gouge-y thing the thread basting has done to my blouse fabric, now that is another story...

Oh well. At least it's on the back of the blouse, right? 

In thrifty news, I found a little baggy of patterns at a local antique mall the other day and they were pretty cheap! It was labeled as "patterns from the 1960s," but had two patterns from the forties, two from the fifties, and two more from the sixties! I will be passing these pretties along (I know, I said that about the box of two hundred and I have barely listed any of those! I need to get to work!) via eBay and Etsy, so if you are on the look out for some vintage pattern deals, check back from time to time. Ta ta for now!


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mommy & Me Vintage Outfits

So, what do you think of "Mommy & Me" outfits? I think it's a cute idea, although I confess I like camp. I mean, I was practically swept into an eBay bidding war over this western wear number.

Anyway, my MIL half jokingly suggested that I make Baby A a matching dress to go with my Paisley Dress.Well, I didn't do exactly that, but I did have enough fabric to make her a onesie from Simplicity 9128- the same pattern I used for her 10 Cent Christmas Dress. It was just as easy, and it came out just as cute. I still need to put snaps in for quick diaper access, but aside from that I am all done. I will get a photo of us in our matching get ups as soon as I get a chance.

I enjoyed sewing this little onesie, and I was about halfway done yesterday when we ran over to our local Wal Mart for some diapers. A woman ahead of us at the check out was clearly buying sewing materials, so I asked her if she sews a lot and what. She replied that she sewed aprons, and we talked for a couple minutes about sewing in general. Then she offered "Just a word of advice, not that you asked. Don't bother sewing for her," she said, gesturing to the baby. "They just grow so fast; it's not worth it." Well guys, this used to be my opinion too, although I didn't have much experience with sewing carefully until after she was born. Now, I find that it is nice to use up small bits of fabric on clothes for her, and it provides me with the opportunity to do a short, instantly gratifying project in between longer stretches of sewing for myself. What do you think about sewing for babies and children? I have to say too that I hope when Baby A grows out of her goodies that, as I have five sisters, there will be someone for me to pass those special clothes along to.

Anyway, here is Baby A's half of the Mommy and Me ensemble:

I used some thrifted Dritz Halo buttons- perfect, huh?
I got to use some more vintage notions and put my recently acquired Singer buttonholer to work. I love that thing- way better than the three step on my Brother. If anyone else has this pattern or plans to sew with it, the only bit of caution I would give is regarding the button/buttonhole area. The instructions don't call for any interfacing, but if you are going to use those buttons at all, you need it. I realized that with the dress, but I forgot to do it again this time. I am going to put a note in with the pattern- it is so cute and easy, I am sure I will use it again! 

I spent the rest of the day today organizing my (out of control!) stash, and I can't believe how much stuff I have amassed in such a short time, almost all of it from thrifting. Well, now I know what I have, and it is all visible, and there is so much amazingly gorgeous fabric and trimming. I am refreshed and ready to on to the next project. I also bid on a few patterns on eBay, one is for my Matron of Honor dress for my sister's wedding, and it is on the way:
I'm thinking view 3. It'll be cranberry silk with the lace overblouse! Excitement!

I also have a few tricks up my sleeve for the surrounding festivities, as I will be throwing her a shower in July. I hope I win the pattern I have selected for the shower! I already have the fabric picked out....all in the name of stashbusting I tell you! It is a sweet, sweet sickness I have!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

All Dressed Up and No Place to Go- Vintage Paisley Dress

Around Thanksgiving my mother in law sent us a package from our late Grandma’s house of a few odds and ends she thought we might like to have. Among them was a piece of paisley fabric, 45” by about 3 ½ yards. I loved it immediately and knew I would want to use it for my next project, a long sleeved blouse, Simplicity 4606. 

I sewed view 3 in a detailed muslin because I figure I need all of the practice I can get. Well, although I sewed it to (very near) completion, and I do like the look and fit, it was still a fiasco, and I am saving it for another day as there is still work to be done. I was trying to do this thing where I sewed practical stuff that is needed in my wardrobe, but it turns out that just isn't where my heart is. 

So, along the way I decided I wanted to do something more special with the paisley fabric and determined that I had enough for a dress. “Wouldn’t it be cute,” I thought, “to sew a Christmas dress for me too, and baby A and I could have our photo together with her in hers?” I hatched this plan a few days before Christmas, and rooting through my patterns 10 times, I found a suitable dress, Simplicity 5914 from 1965.
 The pattern was a bit too small at a 34" bust and needed to be sized up to accommodate my still there baby belly. So, I did some pattern work. I sewed up a mini muslin with a shortish skirt, and found that I had over sized the pattern and it needed to be sized down again. Plus there was this weird wrinkly thing going on over my butt. I dismissed it as a poor zipper basting job and charged on.

After making the mock up, I found that the dress went together without too much ado- I am not an extremely experienced seamstress, and I did a fair amount of seam ripping, but I did remember to back up on my darts correctly, the facings came out very pretty, and the collar gave me very little trouble. I was excited to see the dress going together as I had envisioned it. Then I sewed the skirt on. Ick. Again I had that dreaded “v” shape over my rear and below the zipper. I referred to my 80’s Vogue Sewing Guide, and was diagnosed with a “flat derriere.” Right. Whatever. I don't remember having a flat butt, but if Vogue says it, it must be so. So I pulled out the stitching and took out some of the bulk from the skirt back redistributing the gathers. I re-basted. The dreaded “v” was still there, but the skirt fit everywhere else. I finally got the idea that if I had too much fabric in that area, I needed to pull some from the waist seam to get the back to lay flat. I tried it, and voila! No v-butt.
Next I took on the self fabric belt. This was a first, and I used a belt kit. It was really freaking easy , and it came out really well. The bonus was that I got to use one of my hoarded vintage belt slides. It goes beautifully with the fabric. Then, I sewed in twill tape for a waist stay, another first. I also hand picked the zipper following the Threads tutorial I have seen other blogging seamstresses rave about, and I understand the hype- mine’s not perfect, but it's not puckery, and I am sure I would have had pucker problems if I had sewed it by machine. I attached a hook and eye at the top of the zip, and Threads Magazine diagram be damned, mine looks nothing like that. Nothing. But it’s in. Finally I slip stitched the facings together and hemmed the skirt up with some pretty, hoarded hem lace. I love thrift stores for this stuff.Oh yeah- I forgot to mention that all of my notions, excepting the thread, were vintage and possibly from the correct era. I used seam binding, hem tape, and a metal zip that cost me pocket change. So, with the gift of fabric, this dress cost me almost nothing but my time, and I that was all fun to me, a true nerf-herder. So, without further ado, here are some shots of my finished dress.   
The reel to reel is not a prop- it sits there in our living room all the time.
We have no TV, but we have the reel to reel. Are we living in the past?
The lighting with the candles makes me look nice and glowy, but you can't see any of the details of the dress.
That is why we later moved outside...

These are the shots we get when I follow my husband's directions ;)
Baby A, a.k.a. "Gremel" always wants in on the excitement. 
I guess it's art-fart of me, but I always thought it would be neat to have a photo where I am
 dressed formally, and Gremel is in her diaper.
I can now cross that one off the list!
We moved outside, where it was frickin' cold, but the lighting was way better.
 See? The dress has a collar.

Keeping it real country with the cold frame and dead fall garden in these shots.

Love that barn!
Here is a back view showing the zip and back collar. Neither of us realized my hook and eye were undone,
 so the facing does not actually hang out like that. Too cold for a redo!
A close up on the belt and slide
Hem tape- ooh la la!
All in all, I had a wonderful time making this dress. I learned so much and gained a ton of confidence in my sewing ability. I now know I can almost fit things, and I can sew beyond just casual house wear. At least a little. I still need to work on my finishing skills- like all of you other dedicated seamstresses and seamsters out there, I am working toward having clothes that look polished on the inside too (lining next time?). And I realized along the way that, for me, it is not about utility, or I'd be sewing only t-shirts and underwear. I want to sew what I want to sew, and I want to sew the pretty. I want to sew the impractical. That's kinda what makes it a hobby- sewing out of necessity sounds a lot like work!

Make it Better Yourself- Fresh Corn Tortillas

This will be the first of a regular series of blog posts about making your own food items at home. Sure, you can buy corn tortillas in the store and they really aren’t too expensive, but I honestly don’t love how they taste. I think most store tortillas have a strong hominy-ish flavor and are too soggy and soft. When I make fresh tortillas they are a little bit crisp, and they are always better when they are still warm. 

Is that enough of a reason to bother to make my own corn tortillas? Maybe not- but there is another big reason why I make some foods at home that I could easily purchase in the store. Do you ever read ingredient labels on the foods you buy? I do. I like to know what I’m eating. I looked on the Ole Mexican foods website, and here are the ingredients listed for white corn tortillas: Corn (ground treated with calcium hydroxide and water), Water, sodium propionate (propionic acid, sodium hydroxide), methylparaben, propylparaben, gum blend, sorbic acid, dextrose.  Yeah, I knew I didn’t want to eat those. Why not? Read here about parabens being found in breast cancer tumors. Yum.  If you need any other reason,  I always consider the fact that the more food I prepare and cook at home, the less likely I am to be the recipient of contaminated food. If you think this sounds a little to conspiracy theorist for your tastes, read here about a recent recall on foods containing hydrolyzed vegetable protein that includes everything from crab cheese spreads to onion soup mix to all Tom’s barbeque flavored chips. 

Anyway, I like tortillas that are made of salt, water, and maize, also known as corn flour. Pretty basic.  In addition to these few ingredients, I also own a tortilla press for shaping (but you could use two flat bottom plates), and I use plastic wrap to line the press for easy tortilla removal. 

The tortilla flour is easy to prepare. On the bag, you will find a chart indicating how much water and salt to mix with the flour. The dough might be crumbly, and this is normal. Use your hands to squeeze it into a large ball. If it won't hold together, add a bit more water, but you want it to be kind of dry. When you have formed the ball, you can divide it according to how many tortillas you are making, or you can do it as you go. You want to keep a clean, damp paper towel or dish towel on top of the flour bowl so your dough does not dry out. Put a ball of maize on the press between the sheets of plastic wrap, and press away!
Next is the slightly tricky part. The raw tortilla will be a bit brittle and is easy to break. Hold the top sheet of plastic wrap down and lift the top plate so it comes up alone without the plastic wrap or the dough. Gingerly remove the top sheet from the tortilla...
 and use the bottom sheet to flip the tortilla into the palm of your hand. Have a dry skillet heated on medium waiting and throw that sucker in. 

Leave it for about 50 seconds and admire your adorable kitchen helper and her dino buddy.

When you flip the tortilla, it will look different. There may be some slightly browned areas, and it will look dry like the tortillas you have purchased before, only more delicious. It will now hold together well. Cook it on the other side for 40 to 50 seconds, and then throw it in a folded clean kitchen towel to keep it warm while you cook the others. You can stack them as you go; they will not stick together. 
So what do you make with them? The only thing limiting you is your culinary imagination. You can round up the usual suspects- beef or chicken, cheese, iceberg lettuce, sour cream, etc. and make any number of Mexican delights. Here on the farm, we like to veg out:

I topped ours with chopped garlic, onions, and cabbage, and threw some cauliflower and black beans into the mix. I grated a bit of parmesan cheese on top and put them on our pizza stone in a 400 degree oven for about 5-7 minutes (until brown at edges).  
My husband chopped some fresh avocado and tomato for the top, and we dressed them up with a little hot sauce. I also love to use plain, fresh yogurt, but the batch I had started was not yet ready to eat. This is the kind of food that makes me feel good when I eat it, and I feel good feeding it to my husband too. The baby isn't there yet...but those teeth are threatening to poke through any day now, and then all bets are off!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Paisley Dress Teaser

Tonight, to my delight, I managed to get in my waist stay, pink my
remaining seams, and sew in my first hand picked zipper...oh, and
finish my first self fabric belt. I got a lot done! All that remains
is to tack facings and hem the skirt. Here is a little teaser photo of
my dress, because after all of that work I am going to FINISH and do
some proper styling, not pose without make up next to a sink full of
dirty dishes like I usually do! I am excited to share though!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Garden 2011

I received two seed catalogs in the mail this week  from Johnny’s (out of Maine and with an excellent selection) and Burpee, and I am getting excited about planning our summer garden. Last year, with a new baby on the scene, we were not able to keep up with the maintenance, and although we did eat a lot of homegrown veggies, the garden was at least as much a source of stress as it was a source of enjoyment. Here are some photos from our first summer garden two years ago. We were more than a little over ambitious, and it did get out of control, but we ate so well, and felt so healthy and accomplished.
Some finger on the lens action- these are the onions, chard, and tomatoes...before the takeover

I made a little sign, and that is where the blog got it's name

Peppers, Marigolds, tomatoes, and herbs, all in a beautiful green mish-mash

So many squash and cukes

Even more squash and cukes- we made the mistake of leaving town for a few days...and the veggies grew to gigantor sizes

Just the very end of the pepper crop. We accidentally grew at least 3 times that amount!

Beets, my true veggie love. And beet greens, also delicious sauteed in oil.

Tzatziki, Tzatziki, Tzatziki

We had so much squash it became a nuisance- we used the patty pan for skeet!

The Beanstalk

Black Krim = so delicious

I am really looking forward to taking baby A out in the garden to pick fresh veggies and eat them straight from the plant. We always grow organically, which means the garden isn’t as groomed as it could be, but we still have plenty to eat after the buggies take their share.

We did grow a pretty decent fall garden our first year here, and having grown for a few years now, I am getting to know what does best in our soil, and what doesn’t grow so well. I am okay with not growing broccoli, cabbage, and collards, all of which get eaten right up by cabbage worms. What I am not okay with is what happens to our tomatoes every year, as blight kills the plants, and turns all of the lovely young fruits to mush on the vine. We always get some, but we watch a ton just rot, and it is unpleasant to reach for a tomato that is lovely red on one side, and find that it is cankered on the other. So, this year we are building a raised bed for the tomatoes. We will probably fill it with a soil and mushroom compost blend, and we will again try growing hybrids as well as heirlooms for variety. I intend to install weep hoses for watering, as uneven wetting has caused splitting in the past. Look out, blight. You are going down. 

The crop that always grows out of control, even when ignored, is our pepper crop. Last year, even with our lack of tending, we had more peppers than we knew what to do with. We grow bell, a hot mix, and poblano, and B makes tons of pepper sauces and dried cayennes to eat the rest of the year.

In addition to those two, some of my favorite garden veggies are carrots (which grow surprisingly well in our clay), beets, beets, and more beets (I can never get enough fresh beets), cucumbers (gotta love that tzatziki…on everything!), and green beans.  Some things I would like to try to grow better are corn, peas, melons, and winter squash.  Oh, and this year I would like to realize my goal from last year of having a dedicated herb garden with lots of rosemary, stevia, oregano, sage, thyme, basil, cilantro, etc. Perhaps my favorite summer meal is a pasta salad with any mix of fresh veggies, tons of herbs, a little crumbly cheese, and the requisite oil and vinegar. Yum. I am in trouble. Winter has only just begun….

Aside from the veggies and fruits, I always like to grow tons of marigolds, and usually try to get to other flowers less successfully. This year my MIL brought me flower seeds from our great aunt’s garden. She is a master gardener, and I am excited to try some of her seeds this year. I am very interested in edible blooms, and hope to incorporate those in the garden to make for some interesting summer eats. 
It is so funny that as I am writing this, the forecast calls for snow for most of the week to come. That is okay, I know better in my ripe old age than to wish any time away, and I am excited to use the next couple months for the leisurely planning of Garden 2011! May it be totally off the chain!

So, do any of you do any gardening? What are your favorite things to grow? Any suggestions? Are you gardening in another part of the world? In an urban garden? What challenges do you face? Please, please, tell me all about it!