Saturday, June 13, 2015

Two Birthdays, Three Cakes

Not a bad ratio, huh?

Today was Mom's birthday so we went on the Enchanted Gardens of Northwest Denver Tour (benefiting the Conflict Center) and toured Proctor's Garden (benefiting Denver Dumb Friends League). Clarity spent the day with Daddy and went to the Mini Maker's Faire at DMNS.


Since we were going to be out in the sun all day, I started Balsamic Roast Beef Dip Sandwiches in the crockpot in the morning. This was a new recipe and is going into the regular rotation. It was extremely good.

Now on to the cake - Southern Coconut Cake, also a new (now beloved) recipe. Delicious. FYI if you try it, I didn't bother to use cake flour and ran out of coconut flavoring. The cake only ended up with 2t and the frosting didn't have any. I did use coconut milk instead of regular milk in the buttercream frosting. Used organic sweetened small flake coconut on the outside and didn't toast it. Still turned out plenty coconutty.



At the end of May, Clarity's 2nd birthday came and we had our "small family get together". Over 20 adults and 8 kids for our family parties now. Love it! That many people called for two cakes because running out of cake is a birthday disaster. 



Raspberry-Laced Vanilla Cake has raspberry liqueur in the buttercream frosting instead of milk. This is a very good idea.
Chocolate strawberry cake was this frosting  (used semisweet chocolate chips) and some random chocolate dump cake recipe. I frosted the bottom layer then added a couple cups of strawberries, lightly mashing about half of them and adding the rest chopped. I frosted the bottom of the second layer before putting it on to keep the cake from soaking up strawberry juice. After frosting the cake, I decorated with some more sliced strawberries. It worked well. The strawberries were sweet enough without any added sugar and the frosting also wasn't over sweet.

Other birthday pictures...



(Aunt Pauline has made each of the girls a beautiful quilt. She brought Juniper's over at Clarity's party. It's the "Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear" jump rope rhyme - love it!!!)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Marigold

 The Denver Waldorf School auction is coming up so I made an 18" dressing doll to donate. I was making my own pattern and she ended up chubbier than I expected so she reminds me of a mischievous toddler. I'm going to make another soon to try for more elementary age proportions. Her hair is a worsted weight wool yarn and a boucle mixed, pulled through a crochet cap and sewn into two puffy ponytails with bangs.

Marigold has a cashmere sweater (upcycled from an old adult sweater), with hand embroidery around the cuffs and collar. Her wool felt button also has a flower embroidered on it and matches her embroidered wool shoes.
A light cotton shirt and shorts have elastic at the neck and waist so she's easy to dress.

A little freehand design with white flannel and fusible velcro fasteners for her little diaper.

(Mostly) Holiday Handmades 2014

I wasn't very inspired this year but was pretty happy with the results of what did get made.

An hour on pinterest found lots of felt food ideas to go with the play kitchen my nephew was getting for Christmas. In me fashion, I took the ideas, didn't actually follow much of the how-tos and just went for it. There ended up being a bit of a theme of "fasteners". I was mulling some sort of pea pods with button peas that "pop out" through button holes to continue the theme but didn't get there. 
( I didn't get a picture of the bag of "popcorn" but it was based on this tutorial, although I just used one layer of felt and a little stuffing. They are stored in a red and white striped drawstring bag.) 
 

The slices were from this tutorial and then I just winged the peel. It closes with velcro.


The banana zips into its peel. I got to use another of the grandmother's never ending zipper stash. After the banana was made, I just pinned and sewed darts in the peel to get the right shape. Pain in the neck and worth making an actual pattern if I was making more than one but I was happy with the result.


Not for the holidays but a new baby got an owl sweater from Penny Straker's famous pattern. It's been years since I made one of these and it was fun revisiting an old friend.


Apparently having a preschooler entails very frequent birthday parties. One morning I was lacking a 3 year old birthday gift so a last minute baby carrier was made for one of my cuddle dolls to be a mommy to a jingle baby.



Quentin's main gift was a beginning blacksmith class series through Sarqit Outdoor School but I felt that he needed a little something homemade. This is a magnetic screw holder bracelet based on this tutorial. (Warning: The author of that DIY rambles a lot and doesn't have sewing experience - which she admits at great length.) I followed the general idea but used just a heavy twill from my stash for the fabric, skipped the rivets, and used fusible velcro instead of sewing it on. 
Harbor Freight carries the super strong tiny magnets so I didn't have to pay shipping from an online vendor. If you needed 100 of them online would be a better deal but not so much for 10.  
It's handy we had a pile of vent pipe from the in progress laundry room available for the metal and that Q just bought a nice new set of tin snips. I love the way cutting with tin snips feels, kind of smooth and buttery. I need to find more projects that give me an excuse to use them. 
My freehand attempt at a little sashiko style stitching finished off an otherwise extremely drab object. I went for "manly" looking embroidery so that's okay, right? ;)


I had the treat of going to a workshop at Fancy Tiger in November to make a pair of reversible Overmost overalls (by Deborah Moebes at Whipstitch). They're fully reversible with the Michael Miller owls on one side and a small wale gray corduroy on the other. Sewing without any child interruptions for 3 hours was quite the mini-vacation. I was also reassured that I haven't truly become less competent but that all those interruptions at home do just sap concentration.


Willow needed new indoor slippers. I buy premade sheepskin lined suede soles for these. The uppers are cashmere from thrift store sweaters.


Both girls got thrummed mittens. (One of Willow's is turned inside out in the picture to illustrate what "thrumming" is.) I made a the smallest size in the pattern for Willow and they're still too big for her. I modified the Clare's to make them smaller with no thumbs. Willow likes borrowing Clare's. Oh well.

I've been trying to use up a bunch of yarn from my stash and have designed several new hats so I'll have to coerce my model soon (preschoolers can be quite finicky about such things) and post patterns. Nothing fancy but still fun - a lacy swirl, a tricorner pompom hat, and kitty ears.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Homemade Yogurt is Simple


Making yogurt at home is so easy. YOU DON'T NEED A YOGURT MAKER! That machine was invented as a solution looking for a problem in my opinion. A cooler works just fine. I thought I'd post the process to encourage people to give it a try. When we used to make yogurt with store bought skim or 1%, it was helpful to let the yogurt drain on some cheesecloth until the desired consistency was reached. It can be quite runny to start with. (The drained liquid can be added as the liquid when baking or to any soup, etc. so the excellent nutrition it contains isn't wasted. It imparts no noticeable flavor.) You can also drain yogurt to the point that it's spreadable like a soft cheese (hence, "yo-cheese") and put it on crackers. Now that we're using whole milk (starts out raw but the process pasteurizes it) it's a perfect, thick rich consistency without any additional steps.

(Note: "Greek" yogurt, so popular right now, is just yogurt that has had more whey drained out than usual. Amazing the premium that that little detail is commanding.)

One note - homemade yogurt is "plain". To me it's too sour to eat without some doctoring, usually in the form of fruit and a swirl of honey. It is disturbing how much sugar one has to add to make it taste like store bought flavored yogurt. It's something that I sometimes wish I didn't know. (The taste of your final product will depend on your culture. If you're using commercial yogurt as your starter, make sure you like it. For instance, Nancy's is much more sour than Noosa.)

Plain yogurt is an awesome addition to savory foods, especially ones with strong or spicy flavor. It can be used like sour cream on Mexican dishes. Indian foods (like daal) are made even better when paired with it. The other night, I made curried cauliflower, mixed it with pan fried spicy sausage and threw in a little bit of cooked kale and onion as well.  The yogurt was the perfect condiment to bring it all together.

It starts with putting your milk on the stove top. Either very low (my preferred temp, takes longer but I can wander away for a while) or slightly less low with constant stirring to prevent scorching. I don't think hotter saves any time since you're dissipating heat with stirring. A double boiler is also an option but that sounds like more work than I'm willing to do. You want the milk to get to 185 degrees F.

The next step is removing it from heat and waiting it to cool to 112 degrees F. It's got to be this cool so your culture isn't cooked and killed as soon as it is added. I've been using Y5 powdered culture (available online or from brew stores) lately but you can use a tablespoon or so of any yogurt that advertises active cultures. This packet says it works for 1 qt. of milk. I've done 2 qts. with no noticeable difference in success. 

While I'm waiting for the milk to cool, I arrange canning jars in a towel in the cooler. I pour boiling water from the kettle into the two outside jars and screw on lids, closing the cooler to keep the heat in. Depending on the configuration and size of your cooler, organize the jars so they fill the bottom of the cooler and the yogurt is as central as possible.

When the milk reaches the right temperature, add your culture, allow it to sit a couple minutes, stir, and pour into the waiting cooler jar. Screw a lid on to the yogurt jar and replace the cooler lid. 

Let the yogurt sit, undisturbed for 6-12 hours. I always let it go to the long end if I've used lots of milk to my amount of culture. You can open the cooler at 6 hours and gently tilt the jar to see if you've got a set. If it still acts like milk, just put it back in and wait. 

Save a little from the previous batch as the starter culture for the next batch. You may notice that it gets more sour over time. If that happens, just buy a new carton of yogurt (or another packet of culture) to get a fresh start.

If you're a regular yogurt eater, I strongly urge you to give this a try. It can be a very economical (and environmentally friendly) alternative to buying carton after carton at the store.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Freezing Eggplant Parmesan & Other Preserving

This worked well last winter and it is a nice convenience food for a quick meal. To use the frozen slices, place them on a baking pan in a hot (400-425F?) to crisp/thaw them for a few minutes. Add a dab of sauce and grated mozzarella and broil.
 Lightly salt the sliced eggplant and let it sit in a colander to drain for about half an hour.

 Dip each slice in egg and bread crumbs (we like panko style crumbs).

 Fry in oil.

 Cool on paper towel and pat oil from the top as well.

 Stack in layers separated by parchment paper.


Wrap in foil, label, and place flat in the freezer.

Three large eggplants took two hours (including draining time) to prepare and made 2-3 meals (plus my lunch) for our family.

I also used our produce to put together our 4th quart of lactofermented pickles, grated other eggplants for dinner tomorrow, and made ground beef/onion/pepper(Anaheim and Poblano)/garlic/kale enchilada filling for tonight's dinner and for freezing. It feels good to start squirreling food away for the winter. 
This recipe was my jumping off place. I quit using the grape leaves and haven't noticed a difference. We've been using a couple cloves of garlic, a few peppercorns, some dill head, and some prepared horseradish (Thanks Aunt Debbie and Brad!) in with the cucumber slices in the brine. Horseradish does seem to be the magic ingredient. I'm looking forward to some jalapenos ripening so we can try that too.

Wrap the filling in corn tortillas with some shredded cheese, pour enchilada sauce over the pan (we like Nanita's), sprinkle with more cheese and bake until hot and cheese is starting to crust. With the filling already made and frozen, it becomes a pretty quick meal.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Garden Wildlife

This morning's harvest
Production is picking up. Lactofermented pickle experiment started last week and I'm going to have to start canning the regular pickles soon and freezing eggplant Parmesan slices. We're soon going to start drowning in eggplant and cucumbers without careful management and the tomato and summer squash deluge is just around the corner. More comprehensive garden update and our new Midsummer Vegetable Patties recipe (think Italian egg foo young) coming soon.
I hate snakes. Like in an embarrassing, irrational startle and I'm unable to return to that part of the yard for the rest of the day way. I keep trying to be happy that we seem to have at least a couple good sized garter snakes living in the yard. Intellectually, I know they'll keep rodents out of the compost pile and seem like a good sign that our yard is a nice non-poisonous place to live for critters. Emotionally, *shudder*.

On a happier note, I saw two goldfinches and a house finch in the sunflowers today. We also have mourning doves, robins, and magpies who have all set homes in or near the yard. Squirrels round out nature's menagerie out there and keep the cats busy chattering at the windows.

We got our special use permit this week so we're set (by next spring at the latest) to install two beehives and four hens back there. Three dwarf nanny goats are also permitted but probably a little farther down the road. It's so exciting to see the yard slowly improving. :) Happy summer!

Sideways Cable Yoke Baby Sweater

Clearance yarn + matching vintage buttons at the yarn store meant I couldn't resist playing a little bit. Hopefully, I'll test adjustments soon to make more sizes (3-6mo, 12-24mo) but wanted to get the original written down since it's time to start knitting for fall (or at least starting to plan). ;) I have a super bulky size 3/4T with a sideways cable yoke that I need to write down as well. I'm kind of in love with the sideways cable look right now. 

As always, I avoided seams. There is a little finishing to keep the front edges from rolling but I didn't want a border along the lower body to distract from the yoke. Neck, sleeve and bottom edges just have a couple rows  of garter stitch to keep them in place. 

If you make this pattern, please send me a picture or link to your own blog, ravelry (love looking at the completed projects here!), or facebook post so I can see how it turned out! This pattern is for personal use only and not for resale.

If you aren't a knitter and wish to custom order a sweater in the color of your choice, please contact me here or at moderncrafter.etsy.com. 

Also, if you follow the pattern, please leave me any feedback or corrections that will help improve the pattern for future users! Thank you!
(modeled on 17 pound child, with a 17" chest circumference)
Size
6-12mo. (chest circumference at arms = 22", sleeve from underarm to wrist = 5", back of neck to bottom = 9 1/2")

Materials
  • 120g Zitron Magnum yarn (3 skeins, Zitron Magnum is discontinued. It was a rayon/acrylic blend with 11wpi and 140yds/50g skein.)
  • 3 - 5/8" to 3/4" diameter buttons
  • Size 9 needles, one set circular and one set of double pointed
  • 2 stitch holders (large enough to accommodate 32 stitches each)
  • cable needle

Gauge
17 stitches x 26 rows = 4" x 4" in stockinette stitch
7 cable pattern repeats (28 rows) = 4", center 13 stitches of cable panel = 2"

Cable Pattern
LC (left cross): slip 2 stitches to cable needle, hold to front, knit 2 stitches, knit stitches from cable needle
RC (right cross): slip 2 stitches to cable needle, hold to back, knit 2 stitches, knit stitches from cable needle

Row 1: Slip 1, LC, k2, p1, LC, k2, p1
Row 2 and 4: Slip 1, purl 6, k1, purl 6, k1
Row 3: Slip 1, k2, RC, p1, k2, RC, p1


Notes
I make baby sleeves a little on the short side because my babies always seem to get sleeves pulled down and in their way. This pattern falls with the armpit about 1/2" lower than "actual" measurement on a child. There are instructions at the end of the sleeve section if you want to make the sleeves 1" longer ("standard" length)

Here's an excellent tutorial on picking up stitches from a slip stitch edge. I used the one loop method at the top and bottom of the yoke to avoid bulk but it does create the little holes along the top and bottom of the yoke. When finishing the front edges, pick up both loops. I also always pick up a stitch at the very beginning and end of a segment to get a smooth edge at the join. It's a good idea to count the chain stitches in the pick up edge of your work and divide it out to pick up evenly. Instructions are included if you end up with the same number as I had.

Instructions
Cable panel:
Cast on 15 stitches.
Row 1: Knit
Row 2: Slip 1 stitch and purl remaining stitches in the row.
Row 3 and on: Work Cable Pattern until piece measures just over 28" (mine was 50 pattern repeats =  202 rows total)
During final cable repeat (make buttonhole): Row 3: Slip 1, k2, RC, p1, yo, k2tog, RC, p1, Row 4 as normal
Cast off all stitches.

Create neckline:
Orient cable panel so buttonhole will be on right side.
Row 1 (on the top edge):  Using circular needles, pick up and knit 78 stitches from the slip stitch edge .
  • To evenly pick up the required stitches, pick up and knit in one chain stitch, a second chain stitch, and then picked up the 3rd and 4th chain stitch, knitting in both together. 202 rows = 101 chain stitches = about 76 stitches picked up + 1 at each end to get a clean edge.
Row 2: Slip 1, purl all remaining stitches
Row 3: Slip 1, k2tog, yo, k4, k2tog, *k8, k2tog* 6 times, k9 (make buttonhole, 71 stitches left)
Row 4,5,6: Slip 1, purl all remaining stitches
Row 7: Cast off while purling

Finish yoke and make body:
Turn the sweater over so it's upside down.
Row 1 (on the bottom edge): Using circular needles, pick up and knit 118 stitches (pick up an extra on each end and pick up two in one at about every 6 chain stitches from each end and every 8th chain stitch in the middle)
Row 2, 4, 6, 8: Slip 1, purl remaining stitches
Row 3: Slip 1, k1, M1, *k8, M1* 14 times, k1, yo, k2tog, k1 (make buttonhole, 133 stitches)
Row 5: Slip 1, k1 , M1, *k8, M1* 16 times, k3 (150 stitches)
Row 7: Slip 1, k4, M1, *k8, M1* 17 times, k5 (168 stitches)
Row 9: Slip 1, k25, place 32 st on a holder, cast on 2, k52, place 32 st on a holder, k26 (108 st left on needles for body, 32 st on holders)
Work in stockinette stitch (slipping the first stitch of each row) until body measures 9" down the middle of the back from the neckline, ending with a knit row. Knit next 2 rows (to create a bottom edge of garter stitch) then cast off.

Sleeves:
Starting at bottom center of armhole with double pointed needles, pick up and knit 2 st, k all stitches from holder, pick up and knit two more st. (36 stitches) (I like to leave an extra long tail when I join yarn here so I can tighten up any loose places in the underarm stitching when I weave in ends during finishing.)
Join the sleeve and begin working in the round, knitting every row.
Row 8, 12, 16, 20, 24: K1, k2tog, k to last 3 st, ssk, k1
(Decrease 2 st on the 8th row once and every 4th row after that 4 times, 10 st decreased, 26 st remaining)
Rows 25 and 26: Knit
Row 27: Purl
Row 28: Knit
Row 29:Cast off while purling
Repeat with the other armhole.
**To make the sleeves about 1" longer, decrease on Row 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 (at 10th row and every 5th row for 4 times). Rows 25-29 in original pattern become Rows 31-35.**

Finishing:
Pick up and knit a row of stitches (one into each chain stitch), casting off as you go, between the bottom of the yoke to the bottom edge of the sweater on each front edge to prevent rolling. You could also single crochet into this edge but be mindful of gauge with this method. It's very easy to get the edge stretched too long or bunched up too tight.

Sew buttons onto opposite front to correspond to buttonholes.

Weave in all ends and lightly block.