Saturday, January 30, 2010

Another snow day! Finally, a chance to sew...

12°F. at noon and 4 inches of snow on the ground and still falling steadily. A beautiful old Singer 301A in place on top of my sewing machine cabinet. I am happy, happy, happy! DH, not so much.

We were expecting the snow but the forecast keeps being revised for more snow and colder temps. Supposed to be a high of 20°F. today but I don't think it's going to make it. Total accumulation predicted to be 7-12 inches. Hmm, maybe that one will be on target.

For me, I'm a very happy camper here in my work room which also happens to be the room with the woodstove. Sometimes I whine because of the heat but not today! The old Pfaff 230 I've used for years is down for repair. The machine was originally my grandmother's. She ordered it from Germany soon after WWII and after a wait of a year or so it arrived and has been going strong almost continuously since then. It should be back up and running shortly but in the meantime I want to sew!

So my mom, as always, saved the day by offering me one of her machines. This one, a Singer 301A, came with it's grasscloth-covered case and boxes of attachments -- more than I can readily identify. Mom's not much help on id as this is one of her "rescue machines" she picked up at auction.The woman hates to think of a sturdy (near-) working sewing machine being trashed which, very sad to say, is what often happens if the auctioneer can't get a bid. And not many people seem to want the old machines unless it's a Featherweight and easily recognizable as a "collectible." So for $5 or sometimes up to $15 if it has a cabinet, she buys them and puts them in her basement sewing room. When my cousin, Hope, comes to visit, they pull a couple machines out and set up a piecing party down there. (Hope makes beautiful quilts in the time it takes many people to make a set of placemats.) Mom works on her 1980s-era Pfaff, Hope and anyone else who wants to work on a quilt choose from the extras.

So when she offered me the Singer, I knew it was in good working condition and since it's an early portable I could bring it home without asking DH to help load/unload. And now I'm able to sew again! After being without a machine other than my serger (after *gasp* 7 years I have to admit I'm still only using it for straight seaming and have yet to change thread -- thank goodness for those large cones!) I'm even happy to be hemming DS's jeans and mending towels. But today I AM going to do a little more, more fun, that is. I started by making a baby bib pattern (couldn't readily find one to hand or online and didn't want to spend time searching!) and putting together a little bib to tuck in a swap package I have ready to mail. It's a book swap so the bib is something extra I wanted to include because I just found out the recipient is expecting a baby boy. Had thought I'd knit something but now that I have a working sewing machine again, everything MUST be sewn, kwim?

Drafting the bib wasn't too hard. I used a sheet of 1-inch square graph paper (from an easel pad) and drew out the pattern after estimating the size and attempting to shape it by viewing a few pics of DS wearing a bib of his I'd always liked. (Meaning one big enough to catch almost everything, even covering the shoulders.) I did one side, then folded the paper in half and cut both sides at once. I'm no good at symmetry.Using an old pair of jeans, I cut the front of the bib. To take advantage of the best part of the denim (these were discarded jeans, remember -- I'm just happy there was a "best part") I laid the pattern over the triple seam, placing it down the front middle. Then I found a piece of cotton print that looked suitable. Little yellow chicks with kites and butterfly nets are middle-of-the-road baby stuff -- even tho we THINK the baby will be a boy there's always a chance it won't be.

To hedge my bets further, I cut out a couple chicks from the scrap of fabric cut from the bib's neck area and appliqued them on the front and back of the denim fabric. I was going to put the little guy on the front but decided he fit better on the back, above the hook-and-loop fastener.

And there you have it. In less than an hour start-to-finish an "I want to sew now" project that helped me stave off the non-sewing d.t.'s. The end result is kindly modeled by DS's old teddy, Kissy. Now, excuse me, as I have to get started on another sewing project. Stat.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jim's chulo

Same overall pattern as the one I whipped together at Christmas but for this hat, DH's hat, he wanted a Celtic knot pattern in the color band instead of the triangle pattern included in Lewandowski's book.

Since I anticipated carrying this around as I worked on it, a photocopy of the chart he chose went into my knitting bag with the yarn (Cascade 220 and Mission Falls 1824 from J.J.'s Knitting Knook) and needles. The ear flaps and the plain knitting-in-the-round went fast. The first few rows of the colorwork went fast, too.

Then, when I hit the 10-stitch repeat, I discovered I was getting lost looking at the photocopied chart. So I frogged and I frogged again. Then I hit on the idea of charting each row (at least the 10 stitches before the next repeat) on graph paper with the rows separated by a white line. Finally, I was able to finish without errors. Well, I THINK it's error-free. I'll know for sure after I block it and can examine it more easily. If there are any errors I'm calling them minor and I'll correct by swiss darning or duplicate stitch. Sh! Don't tell.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Menu plan for week of Jan 18/10

When I try to write down a menu plan my mind seems to go blank. Here's another attempt at using what we have without repeating till we're bored.

Monday, January 18

Spanish rice
Green beans

Tuesday, January 19

Potato soup

Wednesday, January 20

Egg salad sandwiches
Baked apples

Thursday, January 21

Spaghetti with marinara sauce
Carrots and celery with ranch dip

Friday, January 22

Fish tacos (directions below)
Cole slaw

Saturday, January 23

Black olive and mushroom pizza
Green salad

Sunday, January 24

Brown beans
Cole slaw or pickles
Cornmeal griddle cakes

Baja-style Fish Tacos

1/2 cup flour
Beer - start with 1/3 cup and add more as needed for proper consistency, should be like thick paint
Salt and pepper
2 tbs vegetable oil
1 pound fish (whiting, bream, bass, tilapia, any type of firm mild fish)
Oil for frying (I use peanut oil)

Watch the video below of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall as he mixes up this plain beer batter and fries fish and squid. I've been reading his River Cottage cookbooks lately -- they have lots of ideas for using "everything but the squeal."

I serve the fish in a tortilla, preferably corn that's been lightly grilled to heat and soften, and add shredded cabbage or, sometimes, cole slaw. If I'm using plain cabbage I usually make a small batch of chipotle white sauce for a topping and there's always homemade salsa, fresh or canned, depending on the season, too.

Chipotle White Taco Sauce

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 or 2 canned chipotle peppers, mashed

Combine all ingredients, stir to blend.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Menu plan for week of Jan 11/10

I sat down this morning with a cup of winter herb tea (recipe below) and wrote out another quick menu for the upcoming week. If something becomes a habit after 21 days, I should be well on my way to making this one. But in my experience I think that works best with BAD habits...

Monday, January 11

Pot roast and vegetables w/noodles
Green salad (depends on what's under the snow)
HM bread

Tuesday, January 12

Chicken fried rice
Orange and grapefruit segments

Wednesday, January 13

Black bean and cheese enchiladas
Canned peaches and pineapple

Thursday, January 14

Oatmeal pancakes w/maple syrup
Sausage patties

Friday, January 15

Tortellini-Vegetable soup
No-knead bread
Fruit salad

Saturday, January 16

Chicken and Dumplings

Sunday, January 17

Macaroni and cheese
Green beans
Beets (pickled or not)

Winter Herb Tea

1/2 teaspoon dried lemon balm
1/2 teaspoon dried lemon verbena
1/2 teaspoon dried chamomile
1 cup pink grapefruit juice -- warmed

Steep the herbs in the warmed juice, covered, for 4 minutes. Then discard the herbs and sip the tea.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Homeschool has a snow day

The weekly homeschool co-op we participate in was supposed to reconvene Friday after its month-long Christmas break. But the group uses the local county schools as a guide for weather cancellations so when another couple inches of snow fell early Friday morning, school and co-op were called off.

It presented an odd flip-flop on the usual snow day emotions -- homeschooled kids tended to feel regretful while parents were pumping fists and shouting "yeah!" DH and DS still managed to get together with some of the other homeschool families for the afternoon at the local roller skating rink. But we spent the morning playing board games in the living room.

For supper I was planning to make spaghetti and I can never seem to do that on a small scale. I like to use the tomatoes we've canned or dried to make the sauce and when I start putting the ingredients into a pot it always turns out to be a stockpot that's required. Because I had time due to the "snow day" I purposely prepared 2-1/2 gallons of spaghetti sauce and canned the excess in quart jars. Previously I've frozen the extra but the freezers are full and the ease of using my still-new-to-me All-American pressure canner makes it no real effort to process the quart jars at 75 minutes and store them on the shelf. Besides with the cold spell we're having (daily highs still under the freezing mark) the usual problem with the heat canning generates is a plus instead of a drawback. I think I'll look around and see what other convenience-type foods I might want to consider canning.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Embroidered felted wool trivet

I've been playing with felted wool sweaters again and had a nice thick piece of felt that wasn't big enough for a bag. Instead I cut it into a circle (used a small plate as a pattern) and embroidered it with vintage embroidery floss. (The skein labels said 5¢ -- that HAS to be vintage, right? LOL)

The design isn't my own. I found it in Kristin Nicholas' Colorful Stitchery. The book has several other designs I'd like to try including a paisley figure I want to work on another piece of felt.

I had a little difficulty when I tried to transfer the pattern to the wool. My fabric markers didn't mark well on the felt. So I measured the design area and cut out a paper circle the size I needed to maintain the design's proportions. Pinned it to the wool and stitched around it. Once I had the initial circle on there I could work the other parts of the simple design by sight without having to rely on a marked layout.
An article in an old Threads magazine suggested backing felted trivets with cork but this felt was so thick I didn't find that necessary. And, unlike embroidery on other fabrics, I didn't take the needle through to the back of the felt. The wool was about a 1/2-inch thick so I just ran the needle through the top half of the wool and back out on top. It's well caught and won't work loose without being clipped.

I used the embroider stitches recommended in the book but if I use the same design for a potholder or napkin -- something subjected to rougher handling than a trivet in normal use -- I'd opt for a different stitch to make the flower petals. Those long floats would be too easy to snag, I think. Maybe a chain stitch? Or a stem stitch?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Menu plan for week of Jan 4/10

Followed last week's plan except for Saturday -- I slept on the couch most of that day due to a lingering sinus infection. Instead of following the planned menu, DH and DS ate assorted leftovers from the fridge. Today's meal is what was scheduled for Jan 2.

Everything listed will come from our well-stocked pantry or freezer, too. This is the first week of our Austerity Plan for the quarter and, except for fresh dairy (mainly milk), I want to avoid the store for awhile.

Monday, January 4

Shrimp curry
Green beans

Tuesday, January 5

Venison w/onions and potatoes
Red cabbage and apples
Pumpkin pie w/o crust

Wednesday, January 6

Chili from the freezer

Thursday, January 7

Salmon cakes
Greek-style oven fries
Corn relish
Carrot and celery sticks

Friday, January 8

Spaghetti with veggie sauce
No-knead wholegrain bread

Saturday, January 9

Sugar snap peas w/pork (Use stir-fry sauce)
Brown rice
Pink grapefruit segments

Sunday, January 10

Vegetable soup from the freezer
LO no-knead bread slices topped w/cheese and broiled