Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tonight's Dinner...mmmmmmm.

Homemade fettuccine- it has been way too long since I made pasta. It
is sooooo much better fresh. We still have home canned sauce from last
year to go with it. Now I'm just waiting for the other half to get
home from work...I'm starving!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Romp in the Garden

I am planning on doing some serious gardening this year, and as I wouldn't want to be hot or get an actual farmer's tan, I am making up some clothing appropriate for a romp in the garden.

Here is my version of McCall's 8044:

I chose view C, as I felt it was the most stylized for the era, although I have not yet attached the waist tie. I am also contemplating shoulder straps...we wouldn't want any mishaps.

This romper is rather scandalously short, as you can imagine from the side overlap and the fact that I am photographing it on the dress form. Honestly, that is kind of what I was going for, and the rabbits and chickens on the farm won't mind at all...I doubt it will bother my husband either :)! Still, for running around in I am thinking about doing an 80s meets 50s mash up and using the leftover fabric to make a basic wrap skirt with the bias tie. Hooray play suit! We'll see- I am on to a swimsuit mock up, so I never know what I will get to. Oh, and this romper cost me about 25 cents in materials to make- the fabric was free, the bias tape (I made) from a large roll that cost me 50 cents, and the elastic was free as well. I love sewing on the cheap! 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Chemical Free Spring Cleaning- Furniture Polish

It's nearing that time again! Temps in the 60's yesterday with the sun shining brightly made it feel just like springtime. I know we are still a little ways off here, but I like to get a jump start on just about everything. So, yesterday I made some furniture polish and set about cleaning a few of the dusty nooks in our house. My homemade polish is easy to make and works best on darker stained wood finishes. Why would I bother to make my own furniture polish when it is cheap and easy to get?

I have a beautiful, crawling, 11 month old baby at home. She is teething and puts her mouth on everything. I don't want her swallowing commercial furniture polish. Isn't that a good enough reason? :)

So, here is how to make it. I use black sesame seed oil and regular coffee grounds.

Weird huh?
I put a couple of tablespoons of the oil in a saucepan with a tablespoon of coffee grounds. Sorry, this is not an exact science.
 Get the oil hot, take it off of the burner, and allow it to cool a bit.
 I strain it through a fine metal sieve lined with a paper towel or coffee filter. When the oil has mostly run through, gather the top edge of the filter and squeeze the rest of the oil through (like you might squeeze a tea bag).
You will have a rich brown oil, as some of the color from the coffee will have leached into the oil. 
 So, here is how it works. I use a paper towel and dip it in the oil. I just buff the scratches with a good bit of oil, wiping off excess. When the piece of furniture is not scratched or nicked, you can use a lot less.

I didn't mess with these photos at all, they were taken with my iPhone. The polish works well on dark wood. And of course, because I was doing something, the little bunny was there in a heartbeat with her hands in it. No matter though, it won't hurt her a bit!

Here is my disclaimer: The polish smells strongly at coffee and sesame seed oil. If you don't like the smell, you could try another oil, or use lemon fresh Pledge. Please try this in an inconspicuous place on your furniture first. It works for me, but I don't want to be responsible for the ruin of your Great Grand Aunt Myrtle's dining table. Also, it is oil, so if you apply it to a chair or something you might brush against, make sure you polish it off well so it doesn't stain your favorite skirt. And finally (wheew! Thank goodness for the legal team here at Farmhouse Garden!) I don't know if sesame seed oil is a common allergen, but do find out if anyone in your house is allergic before you let your child gum it off of the coffee table. 

Hope you like it! I have other non chemical cleaning tricks up my sleeve- so there is more to come. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Chicken Love, Farm Studio, and My First Lined Skirt!

I made McCall's 4217 again- but it's not really like the pattern illustration here. 

And neither am I, even in my best pattern model pose :)
 I removed the lap from the front, moved the zipper to center back, and removed the waistband. I made a matching belt with one of my thrifted belt slides, and I lined it. Basically, I used this pattern because I knew it fit without any modification. Turns out it is now a little too big, but that's for dinner. I was all ready to sew a different pattern up, and then I measured and saw it had a ton of flare. I think this is all the flare I can stand in an a-line skirt. I got my husband to snap a few shots out by the barn.
 Then he wanted me to pose with a chicken. He tried to get me to hug it. Well, I don't hug chickens.
But I might kiss one....
The big deal for me here, as this is a very basic skirt pattern, was the lining, as well as the fact that even with all of the changes I made, I managed to put together a decent skirt. I used a bias band at the waist and simply turned it, pressed it, and slip stitched it to the lining. 

 I left the part around the zipper free. From here I will move on to a more complicated lining, but hey- you've gotta start somewhere. I know the lining is short too, but I used what was left of the pink stuff from baby's rainbow coat, and that was how long it was.

 I like how it's all crazy underneath. It's like a conservative skirt with a little secret...
 It was lovely out this weekend.
We spent some time out picnicking with bunny, and B got his practice area together in what used to be the shed.

I am so happy that he has a space now to practice what he loves to do. I took over half of the living room with my sewing stuff :)- so now he has his spot too! He plays trumpet, as well as just about everything else, and is one of those naturally talented musicians that drives all of us tone deaf people crazy. Just one of the gazillion reasons I love him!
Well, ta ta for now!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Deal of the Day

The sewists will appreciate a full, new cone of light brown Gutermann
thread for $1. :)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Make it Better Yourself- Fresh Yogurt

Several months ago I was in a thrift store I commonly haunt, when I spotted a Salton yogurt maker. It consisted of an oblong main unit with 5 cups in which lidded containers rested. It plugged in and presumably, as I had never seen or used one before, kept milk at the proper temperature to produce yogurt. It looked simple enough, but it was $8 dollars and I am wary of plastic, especially old plastic, so I passed it by.

Well I had wanted to make yogurt for a long time, but it seemed like such a tedious process as you have to incubate the bacteria in your milk at a constant 110 degrees for something like 10 hours. The idea of having a gizmo that could do that for me still sounded good after a few days, and the next time I visited that shop, the yogurt maker was still there. I peeled off the tape that held the lid down to get a better look at the plastic containers inside, and they weren’t plastic at all, but a pretty milk glass! The price sticker on the gizmo said that it had been tested and worked, so I paid for it and headed to the health food store for some culture.  I made the first batch with organic milk, and I am now positively hooked.

Why would I bother to make yogurt at home when it is so easy to buy? I have a few reasons. Homemade yogurt is light years beyond store bought in flavor, consistency, and healthiness. I make it plain, and I flavor each cup as I eat it with homemade or high end jam of simple ingredients, like Bonne Maman. 

Sometimes I use honey. Homemade yogurt is not as thick as store bought, because there are no thickeners added to the mix, although if you prefer it thick I have read that you can add powdered milk or arrowroot on the stove. I love it exactly as it is. Also, because my yogurt has not been hanging around plants, trucks, and stores for weeks, it is much higher in the gut friendly bacteria that are so good for your system. Another plus is that it is versatile- we use our plain yogurt anywhere one might use sour cream—on Mexican food and baked potatoes. We sometimes make delicious dips and sauces with it. Finally, it is cost effective. I can make a cup of organic yogurt for about 35 cents.

So, how do you make yogurt at home? Believe it or not, it is really, really freaking easy. In fact, it is so easy that you might forget you are doing it and scald the milk on the bottom of the pan a time or two. Your sweet husband might clean it out for you, which is really nice because it is a major pain in the caboose. You might scald it again on accident, and your husband might make threats that he is not going to wash your pan if you do it again. After that, you will be careful and set a timer to check the milk regularly during the prep process. Or, you could skip all of that hoopla and just start out with the kitchen timer. Yeah. So this is how you do it with a yogurt maker.

1. Get a large pot, a liquid/candy thermometer (optional, but handy), milk, your culture, and a whisk out.

2. I do a quart at a time- pour a quart milk in the pot, stick the thermo on the side, and set the burner at medium.  Watch the pot and stir it frequently. If you are easily distracted by an adorable and small tyrant, set a kitchen timer for 3 minutes as a reminder to check the milk. It needs to get to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. If it forms a skin, skim it off and toss it. Reset the timer and check again in a couple min. Stir regularly

3. When the milk reaches 180, shut it off and move it off of the hot burner to cool to about 108 to 112 degrees Fahrenheit. When it does, stir in your culture well with the whisk, ladle it into the yogurt maker cups, put the lids on, and plug the yogurt maker in. Set the little reminder on the top for ten hours. Then stare at it and will it to turn to yogurt faster. Just kidding.

If you make it shortly before bed, it will be ready in the morning. When the ten hours are up you just refrigerate the cups. Voila. And Yum.
Yogurt and honey = breakfast of champions :)

Just for the record, my yogurt has been better since I broke my thermometer. I just heat the milk until it almost starts to boil (without scalding!) and then cool it until it feels just over 100 degrees to me. I can test this by hand because I have now filled a lot of baths for little Miss Mouskewitz. It is the same process, but a little more lax, and the yogurt is still great.

ALSO, you do not have to use new culture for each batch. I use Yogourmet

It is four something for a box, but a box makes many batches. I save a heaping tablespoon of yogurt from each batch, and I use that as my starter culture for the next batch, stirring it in with the whisk in place of the powder. You can use yogurt for five batches or so before you need a fresh culture again. 

ALSO ALSO you do not need a Salton yogurt maker. Yogurt has been around a long time, whereas Salton yogurt thing-a-ma-jigs have only been around for a few decades. I'm guessing you can find other methods via the all knowing Google search. That said, I love my yogurt maker, and I know they are available on eBay. If you are going to make it a lot, as I do, you may want to go ahead and buy one. And then you might want to buy one of these
It's a pint sized hand ice cream churn!

Because then you will be able to make this.

Blueberry Frogurt!
 So there you have it! As my parents used to say, “Delicious and nutritious!”   

Sunday, February 6, 2011

New Haircut, New Attitude

Saturday I had one of the worst salon experiences ever. I went to
Dragonfly in Asheville (a wonderful salon with an amazingly sweet
owner), and as I didn't request a stylist, I got L- the grumpiest,
most know it all hairdresser I've seen yet. I brought a photo, and she
said what I have heard before. "Wow. Dat vury short." (L is from the
Ukraine.) Yes hair cutters. I know this. The photo shows short hair,
because I want short hair. Well, she told me all about what I wanted,
and then cut my hair her way, and then seemed miffed about spending
the extra half hour as I told her to please shorten, thin, and layer
it more. Well, despite her best efforts to the contrary, L gave me a
cut I really like. If only the cutting had been pleasant! I left
feeling totally stressed out, and she didn't give me the good Aveda
scalp massage they usually do. Hmmph. And to clarify, I don't have any
problem with immigrants, or people who are learning to speak English,
however, in the future I won't let someone who can't understand me cut
my hair. I think that is one service where it is reasonable to
discriminate a bit. Anyway, thanks L. Next time skip the lecture you
gave me on how I said "chunky" when I should have said "short layers."

Wait, did I just write a bitchy rant about the lady who cut my hair?
Okay, maybe it's the same old me- calling it as I see it, but now I
can do it more stylishly! :)

Goodbye, Hello!

So, for the last week or two I’ve been in a bad sewing rut. See, I was working on this shell blouse in a vintage synthetic fabric, and at first I was excited about it. It’s a staple garment, and I thought I needed staple garments. I do need staple garments but not hideous, shapeless ones. Holy cannoli is that thing UGLY. I think under normal circumstances, I would have just pitched it in the bottom of my stash closet, in the “finish later (never)” pile and not worried about it much. That is what happened with my wrap blouse that was incorrectly graded. But the wrap blouse didn’t have five bound buttonholes. I really toiled on those suckers, and I am not ready to admit defeat just yet, despite the fact that the blouse truly is hideous. I also don’t want to spend any more time on a fugly sewing project. So, I took a break- I did yoga at night instead, and that was good. I also did some pattern work- tracing and cutting, listing and selling via eBay and Etsy. That was good too. But I love to sew. I missed it, and so I jumped back in with a quickie project that I hoped would be as easy as the shell was supposed to be.

Which view? Of course the one with the cute bow detail!
I did a truly lazy pattern alteration- mine was a size 12 (who has a 30 inch bust?) so when I placed it on the fabric for cutting, I spaced it ¼ inch from the fold to add ½ inch at center front. I did the same on the back, and I used a sewing curve tool to add 5/8 inch at either side for an overall addition of 3 inches to the waistline. It is fitted somewhat snugly, but  I am making all of my blouses and dresses to the smaller side, because I am still nursing baby A and still losing baby weight, and I want the clothes I sew to fit me when this chapter of mommyhood is over. 

 I sewed it up quick and dirty in a blue twill I found thrifting (I love this fabric- it is of a nice weight and drape- must find more!) I pinked seams, and my pinkers are old, and it looks like a possum gnawed the inside of the blouse. I used some vintage thrifted hem tape, as well as one of my 6 navy vintage metal zips (I had 6 hoarded away!). That was the part I was most pleased with- I again used the hand picked zipper method from Threads, and they are right, it really is worth the effort. The sides don’t gape open, and the stitches are barely visible. There are no puckers. I’m hooked and probably won’t be machine sewing too many zippers anymore. 

I did veer away from the pattern instructions in a few ways. For one, I thought it would be kind of weird to have a bias bound neckline but have facings at the armholes. So, I made bias tape using a nifty little method shared at Creative Little Daisy, and used it on the neck and armholes. I cheated and left the shoulder opening off of my blouse- the only opening is at the right bottom side seam. I cut the neck hole just a wee bit bigger, but this might not be necessary for anyone who doesn't have a huge head. Then, because my ric rac was too big, I decided to outline the neck and bow with embroidery floss. Here is how it all came together. 
Close up of the neckline and bow detail. 

Sorry about the photos, and the rest of my outfit.
But, as you may  know, I live on a farm and have a ten month old.
Still, sorry about the photos and the rest of my outfit.
What is up with this weird, warpy iPhone pic?
The pictures are crummy- but I took them with my iPhone, and we were headed off to Asheville for the day. Anyway, I really like this blouse. I think it is cute, and reasonably flattering, and I will probably sew several more variations in the upcoming months. I might work on grading it a little better though. The darts seem really high....and they are kinda way off to the side. But, I looked at the pattern illustration, and they are kinda placed that way there too.

Is this an intentional design with the darts, or am I just trying to justify my cheeseball  pattern work?

Anyway, I'M BACK Y'ALL! I'm feeling better and ready to get sewing my dresses for my sister's wedding and shower this year, and a whole bunch of other stuff just for the fun of it. I'm feeling good. I got my hair cut today (goodbye tired mommy-tail) and bought myself some new underwear. I also filled a trash bag with old, ill fitting clothes and brought it to the thrift for donation. It was so much easier to get dressed without all of that crap-o-la cluttering up my closet. Well, enough rambling for one night. I am exhausted and off to bed so I can get some mad work done tomorrow. It is so hard to fit all that I want to do in a day, month, year, and lifetime!