Friday, August 24, 2012

Recipe Holder - pinterest inspired

Please ignore the clutter in the background.  I'm getting ready to make dishwashing detergent, and got side-tracked.  My brain is so completely squirrelly lately that I am amazed I ever finish anything I start.

Have any of you seen this pin?

A friend of mine pinned it, and I repinned it thinking it a fabulous idea, if fabulously tacky.  It's been floating around in the back of my head for at least a few days.  I was trying to think of ways to make the hanger not look like a hanger.  I know, it's perfectly functional, but... I don't like it.  I also don't like my recipes getting icky.

I used to keep my recipes in one of those static page photo albums.  The clear laminate protects the recipe from kitchen effluvium, and they're easy to rearrange.  The only aggravation I have with those is you can't easily flip the recipe over.  I like to jot notes about alterations, substitutions, additions, and their results on the back of a recipe.  Sometimes the recipe is just too long to fit on the front of a card.  Sometimes I have two related recipes on one card (i.e. I have a recipe for two cupcakes, and on the back of the card I've got recipes for two servings of icing).  So, the static pages are a mixed blessing.  Something else I tried was just a binder with clear page protectors in it.  But that doesn't let me put more than one recipe in a pocket, unless there's nothing written on the back of either one.  Same problem.  So I like the concept of the hanger... just not the execution.

B likes to make things with wood.  He usually has scraps leftover.  I am a pack rat, and he's not always great about picking up his leftovers, so we have quite a lot of odd scraps of wood floating around in the storage room.  They also lay in the yard for a while before my inner pack rat wins out over my desire for him to clean up his own messes, so some of the bits of wood are pretty weathered.  I like weathered!

One of the scraps was only about 1 x 1.5 x 8 inches.  It seemed perfect.  A bit of twine, a sharpie, some picture hanging do-dads, and a couple clothes pins looked about like all I would need.  It turned out I used a stapler, too.  I wish my handwriting was neater.

 The picture do-dads went in the top, and I tied a couple nooses through them to string the twine.  B had a great idea to keep the recipe from flopping - attach the clothes pins to the back of the board somehow.  Well, I wanted them to be mobile, because not all my recipes are the same size/width, so we stapled the twine to the sides to create a tight line across the center back.

 Bird "helped" me tie the nooses for the string I intended to hang it by.  There's enough slack were I can easily flip the board over to read the back of the card as well.

So far it seems the best place to hang it is from the little cabinets above the stove hood.  With the cabinet door open, it hangs at eye level, and doesn't interfere with me getting stuff out for cooking, because the only things in that particular cabinet are the mosterously large insulated drink jugs B and the Pup got from 7-11 last year.

I thought about painting it, or using stencils to make the writing a bit neater.  But I decided that i would probably forget about it out drying and never finish it.  Really, my brain is that bad these days!  Besides, it fits right in with my bag drying line and my laundry sign, which are neither one very frilly, just twine, boards, and in the case of the laundry sign, a bit of paint.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Stone Fruit Blues and The BEST Cobbler Recipe EVAR

I had the misfortune lately to buy some of the ickiest plums ever.  This followed on the heels of buying some of the ickiest cherries ever.  They are both bland and rather sad tasting, and neither B nor I have any intention of eating them fresh.

Rewind a bit.  Last summer my neighbor Fin gave me a recipe for fruit cobbler that is, in my opinion at least (and everyone who I've fed it to), the absolute best cobbler recipe ever in all of the history of ever.  I've tried so many different cobbler recipes.  They *all* call for some type of canned something in some degree of syrup.  I dislike this for a variety of reasons, but mostly because it doesn't leave me any wiggle room and disallows me the ability to rummage through my fridge to see what might need to get used up.  Also, a lot of those recipes call for the batter to be put on bottom, and as it cooks it's supposed to float to the top through the fruit stuff.  Maybe I am just a baking idiot (which I don't believe), but I've always had problems with the batter not rising through the fruit.  I wind up with a burned mess on the bottom with a layer of raw dough adhered to it, and a mess of gooey canned fruit on top.

This recipe calls for ...  *drumroll*... fruit!!  Ha! Imagine that, if you can.  You cut up the fruit you're using, sprinkle it with sugar and allow it to create its own syrup, then season it (if you like) with whatever you like.  It's fantabulous!  CULINARY FREEDOM FROM CANNED GOODS!!! *looks around sheepishly, gets off the chair, and puts away the wrapping paper tube "sword"*

For the fruit:

3 c of fruit chopped/peeled/pitted/whatever as needed, sugared
1 T corn starch
1/2 c water
1T butter
1 T lemon juice
1/4 c brown sugar - give or take as needed, or use white sugar... or both!  Brown sugar is a bit less sweet and adds richness to the over-all flavor.
Spices and other goodies - allspice, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, chopped nuts, raisins, dried cranberries, whatever floats your boat - or none at all if that makes you happy.
Amounts of sugar and spices vary based on the fruit and how much help it needs.  This is where being the cook has benefits:  you get to lick the spoon ;-)

Mix the corn starch, water, brown sugar, fruit, and spices in a pot and cook until it starts to thicken.  Depending on how juicy the fruit is, sometimes I will cook the fruit a little bit to draw some more liquid out before I mix in the corn starch.
Add the butter and lemon juice.  I usually skip the lemon juice.  I haven't discovered any real benefit to using it, other than it can help prevent some fruits from changing colors.

Pour it in an 8x8 pan, or a round cake pan.
This is a mix of plums and bing cherries that were a bit past their prime and an apple to make up the difference.

For the dough:
1/2 c sugar
1/2 t salt
1/4 c soft butter
1 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 c milk
* I also throw in a tsp of vanilla, because I like it, and it turns the crust a pretty color.

Mix all of this together until it's smooth.  It will be VERY thick.
Pour over fruit.  I think my friend used the term "pour" loosely.  I end up dropping it with a small spoon to get it to spread evenly.  This is the one aspect of the recipe I find a bit aggravating, but it's totally worth it.  If anyone has a suggestion to make it easier to spread this super crazy thick batter around, I'd love to hear it!

Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, until golden and done.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Washer/Dryer safe changing mat/organizer - Pinterest Inspired

I pin.  Ok, not just pin, Pin... as in Pinterest.  I am not a pinaholic, yet, but it is a fabulous place to share ideas.  A lot of those ideas never manifest into anything concrete.  I know a few people who actually use what they find on there, but most people just seem to use it as a place to save pictures of things they might like, maybe, one day... if they ever get away from their laptops/computers/cell phones.

I actually use mine occasionally.  

For instance, I found this changing mat that folds up into a clutch.  I thought it was a really good idea, but as I started reading it, I liked her pattern less and less.  Elastic, batting, vinyl. bias tape, buttons...  I mean, I know how to use/apply those things, but boy they're tedious!  And vinyl can't go in the dryer.  I line dried my laundry all last summer, and intend to resume the practice next summer.  I'm being a slacker this year, because frankly toting hampers of wet laundry up a flight of stairs and hanging it out/taking it in in 110 degree weather just sounds really off-putting this summer, especially since going up and down the stairs has become more and more interesting as my balance has changed.  And yes, I realize that the vinyl is supposed to preclude washing much since you can wipe it off, but what about the fabric of the pockets?  It is entirely possible it'll get messy in ways that will spread.  Vinyl would not only keep it out of the dryer, but it could trap moisture and lead to mildew and mold down in there.  

I know, I'm probably reading way too much into this, but these were my thought processes as I'm reading the pattern.  I also really didn't want to fool with bias tape.  Honestly, I think that was my biggest motivation. And it's small!  What kid doesn't squirm?  If I wanted a small changing pad, I'd use the one that came with the diaper bag.  No offense meant to the wonderful people who gave me the diaper bag, and the little changing pad will be fine for those early days when he's small and can't get far.  But later when he starts squirming, and trying to roll over?  I know that it's good for kids to come in contact with a variety of germs so they can build up a strong immune system, but I don't fancy my midget wallowing around in the potential icky of someone else's child's poo and pee (thinking of public changing stations here).  So I think I'd like a bit more coverage, thanks.  

Another factor that came into play was the fact that I'd made some crib bumpers (yes, I know they're not recommended, don't start) that were of a really fun fabric for visual stimulation.  They were also light weight enough to be breathed through.  Unfortunately the lightness made them unable to stay put.  They drooped and sagged in the middle when I put them in the crib, so I decided to find another use for them, rather than just toss them in the trash.  

The pad ended up being about 20 in wide by about 24 inches long (give or take).  There are two layers of fleece inside for padding.  I sewed the two short bumpers together long ways with an overcast stitch so it would lay flat with no lumpy seam in the middle.  The pockets are about 1/3 the length of the pad.  

It easily holds a few diapers + inserts in one pocket, and the other pocket has room for wipes, a diaper cover, a full size container of powder, and a tube of butt cream.

 It folds up neatly, ties with a couple of ribbons, and fits in the smallest of the two diaper bags that came with my set.
Here it is in the bigger diaper bag along with a fleecy blanket, a receiving blanket, and a full change of clothes (underneath the rest).  

It'll completely eliminate the game of dig for the diapers.  Everyone's played that game where you end up dumping the entire contents of the diaper bag out just to find the tube of cream at the very, very bottom, or the wipes weren't even in there, but had somehow made it to a side pocket.  The outer fabric is duck cloth, which does give some water resistance, though not entirely water proof.  All its bits are machine washer and dryer safe, except maybe the ribbon, but they come right out of the loops they're tied through.  

B thinks it's pretty nifty, and I think that it saved me from wasting a couple yards of rather expensive fabric.  Now to figure out what to do with the pieces I cut for the long bumpers.  I'm thinking a few diaper covers, since I still haven't made any larger sized ones.  

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Rude Emissions - Diapers and Covers maybe?

And again, it's been forever since I last blogged.  I really don't know where the time goes!

I've been busy while I've been gone, though maybe not busy enough to justify such a long absence.  
But what have I been doing?  Making baby stuff, naturally.  

These curtains were an entire day project.  Unfortunately, the fabric wasn't 60 in like I thought it was, so to make it wide enough I had to sew two widths together for each panel.  Originally, the idea was to have double layers, with the green on the outside to reflect some of the light/heat, and the black on the inside as an additional layer of light blocking for nap time.  But, that didn't quite work out, so I made checkerboard curtains instead, backed with white denim that I had leftover from a project for B that never quite got finished.  I really should finish that, since he asked for it over a year ago... I honestly have forgotten how much the fabric cost, but I do know it didn't come out to as much as buying black out curtains.  They aren't quite heavy enough to block out all light, but the green only lets through a kind of limey glow when the sun is shining directly through them.  :-)  B made the curtain rod for me. 

These are the flat folds and soaker pads I mentioned in my last post. But they wouldn't do me a lot of good without covers.  So... 

Obviously these are not going to be all the covers I'm going to make.  These are just the ones I have finished as of right now.  I priced them, and they sell for at least $5-6 a piece for just a single layer of PUL (polyurethane laminate) with maybe some contrast color piping or something.  I think mine are way cooler.  I paid about $20 for the two yards of PUL, and so far I've not even used half of it.  The ACU digital was one of B's old uniform blouses.  The patches were more expensive than I would've liked, but B loves them and I admit they're damn cute.  Once the patches are factored in, each one cost a bit more to make than it would've to buy.  But they're definitely more awesome than the store bought ones, so I call it square.  Not all of them are going to have patches, so I'll still come out ahead.  

B wants me to start selling the diaper covers on Etsy or somewhere.  Nearly everywhere you look, all you can find are these annoyingly cutesy diaper covers with little baby patterns and pastel colors.  Some have bold primary colors, but they're still not remotely cool.  B thinks that people would buy them because they're not cutesy.  My only concern is the cost of the patches.  Unless I can find somewhere to buy cool patches in bulk for a discounted rate, they make the idea cost prohibitive.  A $2 charge for a patch is acceptable, but if you buy them singly, and have to pay an additional $3 for shipping, you're up to $5 just for the patch, not to mention notions, thread, PUL and cover fabric.  I don't know that people would be willing to pay $10-20 for just a cover when they can get an all-in-one diaper for that price.  

Oh, and I figured if I'm going to be sewing rude patches on baby butts, I might as well come up with a name for the shop that reflects that - hence Rude Emissions.  ;-)  I figured I could also sell receiving blankets, burp cloths, bibs, and other easy projects, just done in non-traditional prints and colors.  Bows and baby dinosaurs are ok, but I prefer something a little more fun.  I can't be the only one!

What do you folks think?