Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Tablecloth That Needed Some Length

I bought another length of home dec fabric, terracotta colored, to make into a tablecloth.  This one, however, shrank so much during its initial washing that it wasn't long enough for the table!  Plus, a 5" section had unraveled badly.

I was dismayed for several weeks and then I thought: why couldn't I add some more fabric on to it?  I had nothing suitable in my fabric stash and I am only buying dress-lengths of fabric right now, so I turned to my scrap bins.

I pieced together a long enough swath and backed it with muslin, so the raw edge of the original terracotta fabric is encased between the muslin and the patchwork.

Then I made up the difference in the frayed area with more patchwork so I wouldn't have to trim down the whole edge and lose width.

Whew.  I'm quite pleased with the rich, whimsical look.  It cost $15 plus scraps and thread.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Hearts on Her Knees

I love patching things.  Lately, I've been patching more than I've been photographing.  I have hopes to do a giant round-up post of all the patching.

In the meantime, here's Genevieve with her patched jeans.  I have sequestered old jeans legs and other denim scraps in a bag in my workroom so that I can patch denim with denim.  Here I used scraps of railroad-striped denim to make heart patches on the knees.  On the inside are flannel rectangles - you can see them outlined with the topstitching.

And Genevieve is holding a Calico Critter.  She and Ben pored over a Toys R 'Us Christmas circular and begged and begged to buy these things.  I think children thrive best on homemade, open-ended toys, so I said no.  They continued to beg, which I took as a sign that Calico Critters were not a passing interest.

So I told them that they could save their money from grandparents and extra chores and only buy the little figures, not their houses or furniture.  So they did.

And now they are constantly devising houses out of wood and cardboard.  And pestering their father to help them.

Ben's friend, tonight, while eating popcorn:  "What's a Calico Critter?"
Ben:  "a piece of crap."

That is a true story.  I'm afraid Ben was quoting his mother.

I need to marshal my thoughts for a post about the children and money because it's starting to get rather complicated in that area.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Genevieve's Macaroni and Cheese

One snow day, Genevieve clamored to eat macaroni and cheese for lunch.  Usually, leftovers in the fridge that need to be eaten take precedence over such requests.  This is good thrifty training.  

However, Genevieve ran and got her dolly kettle and put it on the stove and kept begging to make mac and cheese until I recalled Leila's easy stovetop recipe.  And I typed up the recipe for her and she made mac and cheese for us! She has happily repeated the process several times since then.

Genevieve likes to have help pouring out the hot pasta water and yesterday she complained that her arm hurt from stirring the double batch she insisted on making, but otherwise, she does this recipe herself.  

I stay nearby, though, because she is still learning to read her recipe over and over to stay on track and make sure she is prepared for the next step in the recipe. She is 8 years old, as a point of reference for cook training.

I made my serving into chili-mac.  So delicious.

Here is the recipe as I typed it up for my apprentice cook.

Genevieve's Macaroni  and Cheese (tweaked just a little from Leila)
2 cups small, dry pasta
½ cup milk, preferably at least 2%
¼ cup hot pasta water from boiling pasta
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
¼ tsp. dry mustard
few grinds black pepper and maybe more to taste
1/2 tsp. salt plus more for the pasta water
1 Tbsp. butter
1 1/3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese or maybe a mix of 2 cheeses

 1.  Fill pan with water half full.  Add 2 small spoons  of salt.  Put lid on and bring to boil.  Put pasta in.  Cook with lid off on high heat for 5-7 minutes until pasta is al dente.
2.  Scoop or pour out ¼ cup pasta water.
3.  Drain rest of pasta in colander in sink.  Return it to hot pan. 
4.  Over low heat, add 1 Tbsp. butter and stir until melted. 
5.  Mix pasta water with ½ cup milk, 1 Tbsp. cornstarch,  ¼ tsp. dry mustard, salt, and pepper.  Pour over pasta and butter in pan, stirring.
6.  Cook and stir until sauce is thick.

7.  Add cheese, stirring until melted.  Taste.  Adjust seasoning if needed.  Serve with a smile!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Burpcloths for Babies

Burpcloths are my standard baby gift because I can make them quickly, play with the colors and customize them to the family, and they are practical for puking babies and then older babies who want a lovey.  I use 2 pieces of 11x17 flannel for each burpcloth, usually piecing at least one side for interest. I sew them together wrong sides, leaving a hole to turn it.  I topstitch the burpcloth, closing the hole in the process.

These are for twin girls born to friends across town.

And these are for a new little guy.

 I took his parents a meal, too, and stopped to snap a photo of the slaw as I made it because it was so fresh looking.  The rest of the meal was chili, buttermilk cornmeal biscuits, and the lemon bars Leila was raving about.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Party Chips

At a neighborhood Christmas party, I ate the best chips I ever had in my life.  I could not stop eating them and it was a little embarrassing.  Fortunately, the hostess, who made them, graciously shared the method with me as she carved a ham, found more napkins, and otherwise tried to host a party with me begging at her elbow.

I don't know the name for these chips and I don't know exact amounts.  However, all the elements are delicious, so I eyeballed it when I re-created it at home and it was wonderful.

Spread ruffled chips on a baking sheet.

Mix together room temperature blue cheese, cream cheese (I used slightly more blue cheese) and a splash of cream until it's the texture of yogurt and you can dollop it over the chips.

Here the hostess told me to bake the chips/cheese at 400 until they're hot, but I'm not sure that does much flavor or texture wise.

Then, sprinkle the chips/cheese with chopped fresh rosemary and chopped toasted walnuts. Drizzle with balsamic reduction.  You can buy this (she waved the bottle at me) or you can just boil down some balsamic vinegar until it's syrupy.  But be careful:  mine went a little too far and started to turn into candy.

This deterred none of us.  I am now waiting until I have a big enough grocery list to buy more chips to make it again.  It may be party food to some, but I'm hoping it will count as breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a while.

Should we name these chips?  That would be handy for conversation when my children ask what's for breakfast. . .

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A New Ironing Board Cover

Between sewing and wearing cotton clothes, I iron a lot.  So my ironing board covers get scorched, stained, and grimy after a while.  They're pretty cheap to buy, I must say, but it's much easier for me to make a new one from my stash.  

This is my method (Zoë, this is the tutorial - my apologies for its paucity):

1.  Remove scorched cover.
2.  Flop it on a length of fabric.  I usually use cotton, but Rebecca pointed out that vintage sheets work beautifully and I think it's probably the polyester in there.  An all-cotton ironing board cover tends to grab at the ironing.
3.  Trace the cover with a generous seam allowance, taking note that the cover needs to curl down under the edges of the ironing board.
4.  Sew the new cover onto the old cover.  Get as prissy as you want about it, but the seam should be pretty much drawn tight and hidden under the ironing board.  I usually tuck the raw edge under as I sew along, keeping above the drawstring so I can use it for the new cover.
5.  Put the fresh cover on the ironing board, cinching down the drawstring and using the ironing board elastics (like these) if you have some.  The ironing board cover in these photos also utilized diaper pins underneath.

random cute photo of my sis and my girl
Please add any tips you have for making ironing board covers in the comments.  My covers are functional, but definitely make-do.

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Long-Enough Skirt for the Tall Girl

Turns out, I can't buy skirts anymore that are long enough for my tall girl.  They hit her at mid-thigh, which I consider a mini-skirt.  Is this the gateway to tween fashion, perhaps?

So I have made her a new school skirt.  It's fine-wale stretch corduroy from JoAnn's (bought with a 40% off coupon, of course).

Even with the stretch, I still had to add a little elastic to the back waistband.  Little girls do not have hips for the skirt to rest on, so they need elastic or suspenders.  Or surrender to the jumper.

She wears a little pair of knit shorts under the skirt.  I asked her if I should use matching yellow thread or another color to sew them.  She thought hot pink would be pretty, and now she calls them her pink lemonade shorts.  I put a little hot pink heart in the back waistband as a "tag" so she knows which way to put them on.  This is my favorite detail of making clothes for my kids!

I'm planning to make her a skort next, because it's so handy for her to slip on one piece of clothing instead of two.  I'll use a shorts pattern and then add a pleated flap to the front.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Homemade Play Dough

Since the summer cooking lessons, Genevieve and I have not done much deliberate work together in the kitchen. School took over our lives.  Occasionally, she would fry the breakfast eggs or help with a baking project, but mostly, she didn't ask and I didn't insist.

Now, we are having a very snowy winter on top of Christmas vacation on top of my joblessness, so we've had lots of time at home.  Cooking together is back!  Genevieve has mastered macaroni and cheese (more on that later) and homemade play dough.

I confess that this is the first time I have ever made play dough, which seems strange for a thrifty mom.  But the commercial stuff seemed to always appear in our house through party favors, grandparents, and teachers, so I never needed to make it.

I must say, play dough is a great way to get kids in the kitchen.  There's very little cooking involved, but there's fun measuring and mixing and then, the payoff, lots of cookie cutter and rolling pin play with the final product. 

Also, Genevieve got to use the food coloring which is banished from our everyday food (and water - my kids would dearly love to drink colored water) and hides timidly in the cupboard for birthday icing.

We laughed ourselves silly over the crime scene face.

I can't find the precise recipe we used, but it seemed fairly standard after I had looked several up (and note: alum and cream of tartar can be used interchangeably as the preservative that keeps the dough soft).  I even came across edible play dough recipes.  Maybe that will be the next snow day project.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Favorite Winter Fruit Salad

This is the first year I am consciously trying to use up my canned and preserved goodies.  Apparently I am a hoarder.  After several years of counting and recording the jars that made it through the winter, I wanted to try and make my counting job real easy by eating everything up before June. So we have been enjoying fruit salad around here!

Christmas morning breakfast, with Grandma's bread and eggnog

I adore fruit salads and I used to only eat fruit salads when someone else made them because I thought they had to include a plethora of ingredients (like smoothies). So much work!  But no. 

My friend Laura brought over a delicious 3-ingredient fruit salad for a play date and I've been replicating it ever since:  diced canned peaches, frozen/defrosted blueberries, sliced bananas.  The flavors are perfectly balanced, although I have occasionally tossed a chopped orange in there, too. 

And it's simple enough to throw together even on a school morning, but special enough for a company dessert with cookies.  And I'm happily, deliberately, using up my frozen blueberries and home canned peaches. 

I'm curious if you make fruit salads and how you do it.  Surely we have regional approaches and we could all learn some new tricks.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Brown Snow

Genevieve is reading the Little House books (to herself: a milestone), and she begged to make snow candy like Laura and Mary did.

I did a little research and heated up maple syrup with butter to 220 F and let the children pour it over clean snow in pans.  I expected the snow to harden it into caramels, but instead, we got sweet watery stuff. I was disgusted, but the children enjoyed it with spoons.

An informal survey of some other moms revealed the same results. I'm not tempted to try snow candy again! And Genevieve is already braiding strips of cloth to make a rug. . .