Friday, August 16, 2013

How to trace a sewing pattern, and why you should do it

Undoubtedly other, better sewing blogs have covered this topic before, but I'm gonna DO IT MASELF.  The whole point is to chronicle what I'm doing anyway.

So, you should be tracing sewing patterns before you start sewing them. Why? Several reasons. If you need to cut a size any smaller than the biggest on the pattern, you'll never be able to make a bigger size. Not that you'll necessarily need to, but if you make a smaller size for a child, your pattern won't be any good as they grow. Tracing also makes it easier to make adjustments to the pattern, without risking the original pattern. Basically, saving the original is always a good idea.

So, how? What do we use to trace? I use tissue paper from the Dollar Tree. If you want to make things a little faster, you can use pattern tracing paper and a tracing wheel. They're quicker and easier, but the paper costs actual money, and 40 sheets of tissue paper from the Dollar Tree is more worth it for me.

My pattern, tissue, and a pencil. Simple.
I happen to be tracing the bodice of a dress now. Shockingly, tracing a pattern isn't much more complicated than tracing anything else. Put the pattern under the tissue, and trace.

I happen to be using tuna cans to hold everything in place.
A ruler makes it quicker and more accurate to trace straight lines.
Very simple, yeah? Just make sure to trace ALL the pattern markings. And double check. Twice. And make sure to record the piece numbers and the name of the pattern piece. The pattern names are really handy for when you're putting them together later.

So it's really easy to trace patterns, and it's a really good idea to do. Trace your patterns!

Monday, August 12, 2013

The BEST way to eat berries

Seriously, yum. This is by FAR my favorite way to eat berries of any kind. AND it's reasonably healthy. As a dessert, heck, sometimes just for lunch.

And it's SO easy, and you can use whatever kind of berries you have, or even any other fruit you have on hand. Peaches would be good (if you like peaches. I don't.), or maybe mangos, possibly even pineapple. I always have to have strawberries, because duh. This time I did six or seven strawberries, sliced, a handful of blueberries, and a handful of blackberries. I wish I had some raspberries to toss in, but they're too expensive to buy regularly, and sadly I don't have anywhere to put raspberry plants.

The berries are followed with a teaspoon or two of sugar. Not much, just enough to enhance the sweetness of the berries, and a tablespoon or two of cream. Yep, cream. Heavy cream, if possible.

Then, eat. Enjoy. Yum.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What to do with leftover pie crust

Every time I make pie (not often enough) I have a handful of pie crust dough leftover that I trim off the edges of the pie. Now, one could cut out small shapes and put them on top of the pie with an egg wash, which would make a lovely pie, but wouldn't use ALL the crust dough, and I just can't toss it! That's wasteful! Ok, I may be a little crazy, but these cinnamon-sugar buttery pie crust bites are tasty, and totally worth it to me!

What you need:

  • Pie crust trimmings
  • Butter, melted (1-2 Tbs, depending on exactly how much pie crust you have leftover)
  • Cinnamon sugar 
  • Pastry brush (You can easily use your fingers if you don't have one though)
I only line my baking pans with foil because they're old and gross and I'm lazy.
I wouldn't go out and buy already mixed cinnamon and sugar. That's just silly. Just put 1-2 Tbs of sugar in a little bowl and sprinkle in cinnamon and mix until it looks about right. Taste if you like. Actually, you should taste it so you'll know if you've got a good mix.

Simply tear/cut the pie crust into larger than bite size pieces. You can do bite size too, but it's really hard to butter them without making an enormous buttery mess. If you have some that are thin or just too small to really be useful, smush them together and roll out again. They'll be the slightly tougher ones, but it's pretty hard to tell unless you're looking for them.

Brush those puppies with melted butter. Don't skimp, but don't make a huge mess either or they'll just be greasy.

Sprinkle everything with cinnamon sugar. At first I tried to keep it all on the pie crust, but that was nearly impossible, so it went everywhere. I'm much more at peace with wasting a couple teaspoons of sugar than wasting pie crust. I mean, pie crust is good.

Bake it right alongside your pie for about 10-15 minutes. If you're just making pie crust yumminess that'd be 375F for 10-15 minutes. Just keep an eye on it and pull it out when it gets lovely and brown.

I failed to get a picture of the baked bites before they were devoured, sorry. They were really good.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Makin' Yogurt!

We eat a lot of fermented milk products in our house. My kids LOVE yogurt, sour cream, and cheese. But yogurt is crazy spendy if you eat as much as we do, so I most often make it. It's really easy! Granted, it requires a good bit of attention at the beginning of the process, and it's really disappointing when you wait for a gallon of milk to ferment and something goes wrong. But after you've made your own yogurt a few times you get a good feel for what works, what doesn't, and how much attention you really need to pay to it.

You don't need any fancy yogurt makers or other special equipment. A heating pad, like one you'd get for sore muscles, is handy, but if you can do without your oven for 6-8 hours that'll work just as well.

So, what you do need is a pot big enough to hold the milk, a whisk, a spatula, and a candy thermometer. You could get by with a meat thermometer too, actually, but the candy thermometer will clip to the side of your pot, and that's really handy. You also need the milk and a yogurt starter. We like to use whole milk, because it's more filling, richer, and makes a thicker yogurt. You'll need to make sure that the yogurt you buy has live active cultures in it, and that it's one you like. Your homemade yogurt is going to have the same flavor and texture as you starter, so you don't want to waste your time making yogurt from one you won't even eat. Our favorite is Nancy's, partly because it's local for us, but I know others use Dannon, or even some types of Greek yogurt. Just read the ingredients; it'll say live active cultures on it, or it'll have a list of crazy Latin sounding names at the end.

The yogurt I'm using this time is Nancy's vanilla. I recommend using either plain or vanilla yogurt, so that you can flavor it however you want later. 

First you want to sanitize your pot. I just put an inch or so of water in it, toss in my whisk, spatula, and thermometer, and boil for 5 minutes or so. I put the lid on top (even though everything sticks out) to help hold the steam in. 

When that's done, dump out the water and pour in the milk. Set it back on the stove, this time on medium low heat. You want to get the milk up to 185F, but do so slowly. Heating it too fast will make it cook and stick on the bottom, and your yogurt will end up with a cooked milk flavor. You don't have to stir it constantly, but give it a good whisk every few minutes to keep it from cooking on the bottom.

While it's heating, make sure your sink is empty and at least mostly clean. Maybe do the dishes while it's getting hot. I don't know, do whatever you need to do. :D Once your milk is 185F, you want to cool it down quickly. I put in a sinkfull of water with a bunch of ice. Stir it while it cools, so you get an accurate reading. Get your yogurt out of the fridge and let it warm up a bit while your milk is cooling off. When it's right about 120F is when you add your yogurt. If you dip your pinkie in it should feel like a nice warm bath, not hot. Definitely hotter than a baby bottle should be.

Pour a bit of the warm milk into the yogurt and whisk it up. This makes it easier to mix the yogurt into the whole thing. 

Whisk that well, get it nice and uniform. Then pour it back into the warm milk.

Hey, counter, your 1970's is showing.

Slap a lid on that puppy and leave it somewhere to warm. I set it on top of a heating pad like thus:

and wrap it in a towel:

Leave it there for 6-8 hours, until it smells like delicious yogurt and is thickened. You can also put it in your turned-off oven, and just leave the light on. That'll keep it at just about the right temperature for yogurt. Don't forget to turn your heating pad off and back on every couple hours or so if you have one like mine that automatically turns off. That's why I normally opt for the oven method, but I needed my oven today so heating pad it is!

You may notice I didn't give any measurements. That was intentional. The measurements aren't super important. This time I happened to use 1/2 gallon of milk and about 1/2 cup of yogurt. You can easily make a whole gallon of yogurt if you eat a lot (we normally do), or make just a quart. You want to have at least 1/4 cup of yogurt no matter how much milk you use, but the precise amount isn't critically important.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Knit Cashmere Dice Bag

I knit this dice bag about a year ago from some cashmere I got from a thrifted sweater.

This yarn is probably my most exciting thrift store find ever. 100% cashmere sweater, lovely crocheted seams (rather than serged), and originally very pale pink.

I dyed the bag with kool aid. Unfortunately I forget exactly what I used, but I'm pretty sure I used cherry flavored, with just a pinch of grape to get that dark blood-soaked color one needs as a barbarian.

I was afraid the cashmere wouldn't hold up very well, being a rather delicate fiber and all, but other than a bit of pilling around the drawstring it's held up just fine.