Adoption readiness

Kefir strainer
I’m adopting Kefir grains this weekend. Kefir is reputed to be many times more beneficial than yogurt and lower carb to boot. Supposedly, any metal is anathema to the living grains so I laid in this non-metal strainer in order to separate the grains from the milk as directed. This claim is suspect since one of the sites that stridently proclaims that contact with any metal will kill the grains clearly shows photos of a standard metal mesh strainer being used to drain off the kefir and save the grains for re-use. Well, just to be safe. Here’s to my new Kefir grains, slainte!

At the turn of the season…

2013 Garden salad

 

For a short time in the fall, if you get your lettuce seed planted early enough and have indeterminate tomato varieties still hanging on bravely, you can have bursting-with-flavor, vine-ripened tomatoes plus tender, sweet early lettuce leaves and thinnings from your garden in your dinner salad at the same time.  Bliss.

 

Rice for a Crowd

Rice for a crowd

 

Okay, so you know how to make Rice Pilaf from reading my previous post and you have mastered that, right?  Super!  One day, you may want to make LOTS of rice pilaf for a big party.  The recipe is basically the same but I have converted everything to weight and changed the method slightly to accommodate the larger batch.  Here you see everything staged to make several batches.  I make 4 batches of the bulk recipe to serve over 100 people, start around 8 in the morning and have it ready by 11:30 to serve at our annual end of harvest BBQ.

Hope you have an accurate kitchen scale that will measure both ounces and grams because for consistency weighing ingredients is so much better than measuring with cups and spoons:

  • 3 cubes butter (12 0z., or 3/4 lb.)
  • 520 grams Cut Fideo (approximately 6 cups)
  • 1120 grams white rice (6 cups)
  • 45 grams salt (2 Tablespoons)
  • 36 grams lemon juice (2 Tablespoons)
  • 2 Large Cans Swanson’s Chicken Broth (49 oz ea.)
  • 6 cups water (50 oz.)

The method is basically the same as before except you will need 2 very large stockpots.  In the smaller of the two, pour the liquids and heat to just below a simmer while you are sauteing the fideo in the melted butter.  Brown the fideo, remove from heat, add the rice and stir well.  Add the heated liquids, the salt and the lemon juice.  Return to heat and wait for a brisk boil to resume before covering, reducing heat to low and cooking on low for 30 minutes.  This rice will stay hot for several hours if you DO NOT OPEN THE LID until you are ready to serve and wrap the pot in heavy towels or some other insulating material.  When I open the first batch at noon (remember I started at 8 in the morning?) it is still piping hot.  Stir well before serving.  The lemon juice helps prevent the rice from getting too sticky, although this big batch tends to be stickier than the normal size based on one cup of rice and one can of broth. On the stove in the photo above you see my largest All-Clad Stockpot…and I own 3 of these just for this annual event.  It may be their 20 quart model, I can’t remember.  It’s BIG.  If you had a restaurant kitchen, you could make this much rice all in one batch, but you’d have to be the Incredible Hulk to stir the vermicelli and lift the hot liquids to pour them in.  I have found this 6-cup batch to be the very limit that I can manage.  You should be able to serve around 50 normal party-goers with one batch.  I have to make 4 batches to serve around 100 because this crowd has been waiting a full year for the rice, we serve a lot of it on each plate and we offer takeout boxes for the leftovers.

 

Stashbusting con’t.

Blue Oxford Shirt

 

This was some of the oldest un-sewn garment fabric I owned, but cotton Oxford Cloth shirting never goes out of style so now my old fabric is a new shirt and one more piece of yard goods is out of the fabric closet and into the clothes closet.

Also a pattern that had been around for a while has been used.  I’d been wanting to try New Look 6598 for some time.  I like it, but my Coldwater Creek wing collar shirts are made without that facing piece at the back neck you see here edged with with serge stitching.  I suspect they have a single purpose machine for attaching the collar/front band all in one pass.  There is no other way I can see to get as clean a finish as they do.  Anyway, I always prefer a collar on a stand over this style of construction with a facing because every piece is contained and controlled with machine stitching.  When you are wearing the shirt, no one sees the difference, but when you put the garment on, there is always a little fussing with that facing, which is just tacked down, to make sure it behaves and doesn’t flip up where you can’t tack it.

Happily, I got a reprieve from a recent moment of weakness that allowed me to think I needed to purchase more fabric from Fabric.com.  I am not putting a link in for that site, not wanting to enable anyone else’s fabric buying problem.  They were having a lovely sale on knit fabrics and I somehow convinced my self for a few minutes that my collection of knits was getting thin and I ordered 4 pieces of new fabric (to get up to the free shipping amount!) when I had only removed 3 from my stash at that point.  Then I frantically sewed up another piece while I awaited delivery so at least there would be no INCREASE during my stated time of stash-busting.  The delivery never arrived.  I think I mercifully never actually finished the order after all.

So this project makes 5 down and X-5 pieces of fabric left.  X being the mystery number of fabric pieces in my stash when I began and no, I do not want to do an inventory to determine what the original value of X was, thank you very much.

Tom-ay-to, to-mah-to!

Tomato Harvest 2013

 

This is how you know it’s really summer.  And that once again you have planted far too many tomato plants.  And that you better lay in a supply of bacon.  For all the BLT’s of course!

Tarantula Hawk

Tarantula Hawk

 

Now this is something interesting to find doing what looks like figure skating school figures in your garage.  The circular movement pattern was obviously the result of this poor wasp having lost a leg somehow.  I’d never seen any insect that looked quite like this before so I ran to my California Insects book and discovered it is a Tarantula Hawk.  What a lifestyle this wasp leads!  I hope you followed the link and read the whole gruesome story and that you make a note in the picture of the intact stinger.  Yikes! Give these ladies a wide berth!  (The males can’t really sting but apparently they pretend they can.  Look for the curled antennae…those are the stinging girls!)

My only remaining question is why this lady wasp was frequenting our neck of the woods.  The tarantulas are all at higher (foothill) elevations in this area, AREN’T THEY???  Please say yes.

Good Riddance to Bad Fabric

Burnout fabric tops

 

There is some lovely rayon challis in my stash that I’d like to get out of the stash and into the closet in the form of wearable tops.  I’ve been considering a few patterns, among them Simplicity 8523, Vogue 8816, and Burda 7509. What I really wanted was a top that had a nice draped cowl style neck but as I looked at various patterns featuring this neckline I noticed that the ones for woven fabrics were all cut on the bias.  I find bias-cut garments to be uncomfortable to wear and generally a pain to cut out during the construction phase.  So the Vogue design (shown on the right above) very much intrigued me as only the top front piece was cut on the bias.  The part skimming the waist and hip are cut on the straight grain.  Reviewers on PatternReview indicate it runs very large so I cut a straight 10 and made the top out of this mystery fiber burnout fabric that has been in my stash far longer than the rayon.  Obviously, the fabric does not drape well enough for this design.  It’s hard to see this in the photo, but that draped area sticks out in front like some sort of crumb-catcher device.  Not attractive at all.  Plus, the fit is still too loose over the bust and waist and yet too tight over the hip and the top is hard to get past the shoulders when you put it on.  I could probably fix these things, but most likely will not bother.  I have a wonderful Vogue pattern for a cowl neck top for knits so maybe I will just stick with knits for this style and move on…

On to the Burda option.  I went ahead and tried this shirt even though it is cut on the bias.  I was in a hurry to see if it would work and didn’t want to fuss with all the bias finishes on the armholes and and neckline, which was originally cut to be a V-neck as shown in view B.  What I did was put rolled hems on all edges.  I actually like the look and the top fits pretty well so I thought I might wear it over a cami until I started itching like crazy within 2 minutes of putting the top on.  I am actually allergic to some fiber in this fabric blend and even with the rolled hem covering the cut edges something was poking through.  I now realize the only way I could have worn something made of this fabric was to use french seams as even serge-finished seam allowances would have allowed fibers to poke through and irritate my skin.  Pfffft.

The Simplicity style is probably my best choice for the rayons.  I made up a muslin of the pattern ages ago and made some fitting adjustments based on that so even though it’s plain and simple, in nice rayon batik I think it will make serviceable tops for 3-season wear around here.  Nothing wrong with plain and simple.  Some would call that classic.  A couple of classic shells would not go amiss in the closet.

The original inspiration for the purchase of this fabric is lost in the mists of time, but let me tell you it was a mistake on many fronts.  And I had lots of it. Sometimes these little misadventures in fabric acquisition have happy endings, like my favorite summer robe made of border print linen I thought I’d use for a pantsuit (you’d laugh out loud if you saw the fabric, perfectly nice in a robe but completely inappropriate for a pantsuit), or my striped denim crop pants of fabric that initially was intended to be a jacket, both of which were declared ugly and un-usable fabric by my 2 most trusted young fashion advisors.   This time, the only happy ending is that I got to try 2 patterns with no risk and I am now 4 fabrics down in my current stash-busting sewing spree.

While I continue mull the pattern choice for the rayon challis fabrics, I am sewing a sleeveless blouse of some shirting fabric that’s been hanging around for 15 years or so.  That would make 5 fabrics out of the stash and if the shirt turns out, 4 wearable garments in the closet!  Good thing because I caved on a Fabric.com sale and ordered some new knit fabric, but that’s another post.  Sigh.

Sew I Gather

Simplicity 2892

 

This is Simplicity 2892, a cute little summer top from a pattern I vow never to sew again.  I think it turned out well in the end, but the gathered yoke with the little ruffle set into the neckline edge was a lot of fussy sewing for what you get in the end.  I spent the better part of last Sunday gathering, adjusting and hand basting layer after layer.  I made it in a straight size 14.  It came out a bit large for the intended wearer, but not much and her measurements would put her right in a 14, so I took in the side seam and gave it a little shape at the waist.  That helped, but I might recommend going down a size from what you usually sew if you are brave enough to tackle all that gathering.  I think there must be other patterns that give a similar effect with much less effort, like New Look 6895?  Maybe I will try that one soon on this stash-busting summer sewing spree.  I’m certain there are some fabrics in the stash that would be just the thing…

Gone to the dogs

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Let us begin this post by establishing that I like dogs and welcome well-trained animal companions in all appropriate situations.  Now, has anyone else noticed the proliferation of ill-trained and badly behaved faux service dogs in grocery stores and other places where pets have no business being?

3 out of my last 4 trips to Costco have been marred by badly behaved pets masquerading as service dogs, either by wearing vests or by having their owners declare their “doctor has signed a letter” saying they need to take their mutt everywhere. All this tells me is that they have their doctors trained better than their yapping, jumping dogs. Today one snuck up behind me and began yapping at my heels while I was waiting in line and when I started from surprise and turned in dismay to find a dachshund lunging at me from the confines of her personal stroller, the woman at the other end of the leash declared, “Oh, she just wants you to pick her up, that’s all.” Right-O. I’ll pass on that until she gets the dog as well trained as the aforementioned doctor who signed a letter.  Next she picked the puppy up out of her little doggie cart and clutched the wildly agitated dog to her chest.  Who’s serving who here?

The dogs in the photo above were 2 chihuahuas riding in the actual grocery cart, the same one the next unsuspecting person on a trip to Costco was going to use for food. When queried as to the service these dogs provided for her, the woman who had been giving the dogs a ride around Costco claimed to have a brain tumor and said they were trained to bark if “anything happened.” Hmmm. It takes 2? And they can do this service from a remove of 6-8 feet as they go through the checkout line in the cart and the object of their service is on the other side of the Costco-size conveyor belt?  Sadly, I’m skeptical.  I know you can buy bogus service dog vests and credentials off the internet very cheaply and that professionally trained service dogs are so costly as to make it unlikely anyone would have two at once so that makes me doubly skeptical.

It’s way past time that service dogs are tested and certified and that certification credentials be carried on the dog or owner’s person in just the same way that handicapped placards must be displayed to use special parking spaces, or that a license is required to prove you have demonstrated the ability to operate a car.

A true service dog in action is a wonder to behold.  I once shared an elevator ride with one who completely ignored the fact that I was carrying a roast chicken in a bag not 6 inches from his/her quivering nose.

Bark if you agree that the laws stating that pets are not allowed in grocery stores and restaurants should have teeth and be enforced and that real service dogs are beyond amazing and should be welcome everywhere!

As promised

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It’s the end of the week and the shirt is finished. This is New Look 6010, size 12. I made a forward shoulder adjustment, not realizing the shoulder seam was already forward, as if there was a yoke, although there isn’t. If I had looked more carefully at the drawings and photo on the pattern I’d have seen that detail and made a more informed decision and probably not done the alteration as it brings the seam farther
forward than I’d like. Still, I think it’s a successful and wearable project that will go with jeans as well as the recently completed red linen crops.

Don’t ask how all those buttonholes went in after all this time. I can’t remember the last time I did buttons and buttonholes. That first, most visible one at the top always goes wrong. I remember that much and this time was no exception. After 2 perfect samples, the machine hung up at the start of the first real buttonhole on the shirt and the two beads of stitching wouldn’t meet at the top. Sigh. Seam ripper to the rescue. The rest went in fine, and then it took an hour sewing all those buttons on to finish just under the wire of the deadline I set for myself.