Monday, June 29, 2009

Cheesemaking: Reinventing Muslin And Crochet Thread

It has been a goal of mine in the last few years to begin incorporating more vegetarian meals into our diet. The cost of meat is high and I have been convinced that dried beans are the wonder food because of their price and health content. For my birthday I received "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" by Mark Bittman.

For dinner one rainy day the boys and I decided to make cheese.

What you need:

1/2 gallon milk
Quart buttermilk
Salt to taste
Washed muslin from your stash (or you could do it the real way and use cheesecloth)
Crochet thread (or yarn or any type of string)
Stirring spoon
Little hands to help you stir and squeeze

1. Place your collander in the sink. I put mine in a bowl to catch the whey.

2. Put your muslin cloth over the strainer.

3. Bring the milk and salt to a boil.

4. Pour in the buttermilk all at once.

5. Stir the mixture.

6. The milk will begin to separate into cheese and whey.

7. Pour the whole thing on top of your cloth in the strainer. It will look like dry cottage cheese. In fact, it is dry cottage cheese and you can eat it this way.

8. Pull up the corners of the cloth and twist it to form a ball. Run it under water and start to twist the liquid out. When it is cool enough to handle the kids can help squeeze the rest of the whey out.

9. Now tie your string around the top of the ball and let it hang from a spoon over a bowl or your collander. This will set and cool the cheese.

10. When it is cooled off simply unwrap your creation and serve it with your favorite soup and crackers. It is truly delicious.

Along with the book I also received the most adorable cupcake pan from Nordic Ware. We used it to make cornbread.

The kids loved driving their cornbread cars around the clean table and the cheese was delicious. It was a fun way to learn how our commercial food is made and was a perfect activity for a rainy day.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Dinosaur Bones

There's always a selection of "healthy" cereals in our kitchen for a quick breakfast or snack time and they all live in clear containers so they look somewhat appetizing. I never had a problem getting the kids to enjoy Kellog's All-Bran cereal with yogurt bites (well, it does have some sugar in it). The other morning, I found out why.

Camden had eaten all of the bran flakes and collected the yogurt bites so he could assemble a T-Rex skeleton..

Chase saw and, of course, tried to do the same. Being only two years old, I don't think he caught on to the yogurt bites resembling bones and built his dinosaur with the bran flakes instead.

The whole episode made me laugh. Leave it to a kid to come up with the best unique and fun ways to eat food...

Monday, June 15, 2009

My Helping Hands

These little hands that help today
Will make a mess, explore and play.
Be patient with them while they're small
For hands grow big as legs grow tall.

My childhood home was like any home across the country in that the central hub was the kitchen. I have fond memories of making mini pies in foil pot pie plates with my mom after a summer afternoon picking mulberries in the park across the street, prize fish caught from the lake fried for dinner, hours of chatting over a simple breakfast bagel, Kook-Aid stained lips, screen doors, steamed up windows on Thanksgiving morning and the list goes on... For years on the wall between the two windows that overlooked my favorite tree swing in the backyard were two little plaster handprints and one small, sandy footprint. I remember marveling at how the casts seemed to shrink with each new year.

With Cam starting Kindergarten next year it has occurred to me how very fast these years are moving and just how grown up the kids are becoming. So, to capture my little helping hands I decided to take a lesson from my mom's plaster casts. You can buy handprint kits that give you the frame, mat, and materials but I was able to match my kitchen decor with some IKEA frames that I had on hand and purchasing the clay only (which was far less messy than the plaster used decades ago).


Crayola "Model Magic" (ok, I purchased a super huge box of it because I have no control when it comes to craft supplies and I will surely come up with something to use the rest for- one small package will do for your project)

a small hand
a rolling pin
your choice of frame and mat (I used construction paper for the background because it is all I had on hand but it will probable fade over time)
mounting material (tape or glue of some sort)

Just roll out the size and shape of dough that you want your handprint on and press those little fingers or toes into it. You will have to let the clay dry for at least 24 hours and then be sure to write the name of the person, age and date. Then just stick it to the mat and hang it up!

I think my little hands compliment my other pieces of "art" in the kitchen.

They all reflect the mood of raising children, don't you think?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

On Top Of The World

Today was the most lovely day of the season! I forced myself to stay far away from the craft lab and work outside. Cam started the afternoon with some Goopaloop (our name for trail mix- see recipe below) on the deck while listening to "Top Of The World" by the Carpenters on repeat on his giant "I-pod".He then went on an expedition. Recently declaring that he wanted to become a biologist when he grows up I created a bucket for him to take when he explores the critters living in our backyard. In it is a garden spade for digging (it doesn't matter that he has a giant, handmade sandbox, he still prefers to dig in the dirt), garden gloves, an explorer's hat, clipboard and pen, magnifying glass and his digital camera.

Meanwhile, the little ones slept and I painted.

Life is good...
Cam's Goopaloop
Kix cereal
Mint chocolate chips
Goldfish crackers
Whole oats (oatmeal)

Mix all together in a bowl and dole out accordingly. Caution: the chocolate chips are the first to go!

Monday, April 27, 2009

DIY: Natural Rock Drawer Pulls

This is, quite possibly, my best invention yet. Do you remember when I declared that everything that is mass manufactured can be made right at home? Well, here is more proof. In my current decorating frenzy I set out to put some cupboard/drawer pulls on my kitchen cupboards. I had just recently torn out an advertisement from a home improvement magazine for some beautiful rock pulls that are currently selling for a minimum of $10 per piece (go ahead and see for yourself- just Google "stone drawer pulls"). Well, I decided that this natural and beautiful hardware would make my cupboards look lovely but I could already hear my checkbook wailing from inside of my new purse. Nevertheless, I still had to have them.

So, again with the terrific knowledge of nuts and bolts that my husband stores away in his brain and a complete raid of my decorating closet, I came up with the exact same product for about $1 each. Here's how you can make one too:

Here's what you need:

Polished rocks (found in the home dec section of any store including your local dollar store or pick up your favorites on the beach)

Epoxy glue

Cap Nuts (I bought mine at McMaster-Carr item #90835A300 1/4"X20 and 12mm length)

Machine Screws (McMaster-Carr item # 90271A542 1/4X20 and 1" length)

Dremel or sandpaper for roughing up surfaces

First, rough up the surfaces of your rocks and cap nuts. This will help the glue to stick better.

Mix up the epoxy following the directions on the package. Dip the cap nut into the epoxy and place on the rock to dry. You won't need too much glue on the nut and if you do get too much on you run the risk of it sliding off of your rock before it is dried.

Tah-Dah!! I purchased a mounting template that helped me mark where I wanted the pulls to be. Drilling was a piece of cake and the kids even helped me put the screws through the holes and twist the pulls on.

I am so impressed with the success of this project that I'm already scheming up new places in my home I may put them (buttons in the craft lab?) You could use nearly anything other than rocks for a unique look. What will you use?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Spring Purse: A Lesson In Brocade

Created with the New Look pattern 6738 that I picked up nearly a year ago, this purse was a quick weekend project to bring a little spring into my world. It turned out to be a lesson in working with Brocade fabric as well. The purse threatened to be a disaster several times in the making but, with some quick thinking and putting to use some of my craft miscellany, it came through a true beauty to accent my pink spring trench coat.

Even though I used the recommended 70/10 H needle suggested in Sandra Betzina's "More Fabric Savvy" I still ended up with some annoyingly large holes in the fabric where the needle went through. My remedy? I found some matching pink floss in my stash and hand embroidered a backstitch along the seamline where the needle went in. If you really examine the purse, the holes are still slightly visible but much more masked with the backstitching and I think it accents the purse quite nicely.

After realizing that Brocade is a pretty difficult fabric to work with for this reason, I proceeded to hand sew the rest of the pieces with transparent thread and a very fine needle.

The last problem was where I was going to find a heavy ring for the front strap of the purse (can you spot it on the pattern envelope)? Oops. I started a project again without all of the recommended supplies. Oh well, I used two old, ugly brass O rings (what else would I have used them for?) and tied a simple knot over and over around them in the same matching floss.

I love it. It is lined with a hot pink, inexpensive costume satin that I bought around Halloween. It was so pretty when I finished that I considered not even wearing it but for special occasions.

But then I realized that if I only use it that often, I'll never have an excuse to make another. And a girl can always use a new purse, don't you think?

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Pirate Show

I learned just in time that the the local middle school was putting on a musical called "A Pirate's Life For Me". So, I purchased two tickets and scheduled a Saturday date with my little pirate. Luckily, he had the perfect outfit to wear.

I made this pirate shirt at the beginning of the school year using Simplicity pattern 4760 and the perfect map fabric. I originally intended to press a "Pirates of the Carribean" shadow patch on the back but decided that it made the shirt a bit chaotic. So, I'll use that on a simpler shirt next year. What I did try, however, is a very neat collar technique that I learned on the new Threads DVD called "Industry Insider Techniques". It was the perfect solution to my usual impossible -to-sew-neatly collar corners.

I even found this super cute pair of pants complete with a skull fob to match. This outfit was a subtle way for Cam to extend his pretend dress-up play to school without looking like he was wearing a costume.

It was a fantastic experience to take Cam to his first play and he did surprisingly well for a five year old staying up well beyond bedtime. He was a complete gentleman and perfect date even with the inconvenience of holding my knee against his fold-down seat through the whole production so his 39 lb body wouldn't get swallowed up by the chair.

The play has inspired him to try his hand at play writing. Our kitchen has been turned into a theater with every large and small chair from the house lined up in neat little rows for the audience. I have been taking dictation for nearly a week now quickly typing down his every thought and word to capture the general plot and dialog for him (it keeps changing). Generally the play stars his best friends and consists of a cast of robots, superheros and pirates who go about destroying all of the bad things in the world.

I've been teaching him how to design instructions, pictures and patterns for his creations lately so they are well thought through before we attempt to make them. He has spent the week in the craft lab drawing pictures and diagrams describing every aspect of his play. There are even a few posters taped to walls around our house that advertise that the show starts at bedtime when the sun goes down. You can be sure that I'll be in the front row...
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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

DIY Superhero

Everyone loves a superhero. Since seeing "The Incredibles" for the first time a few months back, Cam has become a new hero each day and frequently passes out costumes for each of us to wear along with instructions for how to use our individual super powers. So, I decided to make it official for him and his brothers for his birthday last month. He has made it clear that I and his daddy are to have a shirt as well. Maybe I'll do that next week... Anyway, these shirts were really fun and easy to make and have been the perfect way for me to identify my children quickly on crowded kiddyland play dates away from home.

If you keep your eyes peeled near the end of a season you can pick up some fantastic deals on simple long or short sleeved shirts that are perfect to embellish. I found these for $2.50 each. I bought a shirt for each of the older boys and a long sleeved onsie for the little one.

Here's what you need:

Ready made shirt washed and dried to shrink it (you can do this twice to be sure)
Two contrasting colored shirts to cut up for the applique in the same type of fabric as your ready made shirt (I used a stretch jersey)
Heat N Bond
*Matching thread and a sewing machine
Two pieces of hook and loop tape such as Velcro or snaps
Fabric for cape
Bias tape
Glue stick
Wrapping paper, newspaper or whatever large paper you can find to trace the cape pattern

*If you cannot sew simply applique your shapes with fabric puffy paint available at any craft supply store instead of using thread.

1. Using a computer drawing program or drawing freehand, plan the shape of your emblem and choose your font. The simpler, the better. Lay it out on the shirt to be sure it fits.

2. Trace your shape onto the paper side of the Heat N Bond.

3. Iron the Heat N Bond onto the wrong side of your your emblem applique fabric and the letter applique fabric according to the instructions. Cut the shapes out following your traced line.

4. Now press your letter onto the emblem following the Heat N Bond instructions.

5. Sew around the letter using a zig zag stitch and backstitch at the corners. If you are not using a sewing machine for this project now is the time to break out the fabric puff paint and use it to outline the letter.

6. Here is the back side of the appliqued letter with the paper backing still attached.

7. Peel the paper backing off of the emblem being extra careful to avoid ripping out any of your stitches. Don't worry too much about the small pieces of paper left between the zig zags as these will be be hidden when it is pressed to the shirt.

8. Press the emblem to the front of your ready made shirt. Using the same zig zag stitch sew around the emblem being careful to avoid catching the back of the shirt as you applique. Use puffy paint here if you are not sewing.

9. I used an inexpensive cut of a shiny novelty knit for the cape. There was no need to hem the raw edges- yay!

10. Measure the distance between the shoulders where the cape will be attached and draw a line using this measurement on your pattern paper. Put a dot on the halfway point of this line. Measure how long you want to cape to hang and draw a point that distance down from the halfway dot on the line. Now finish the drawing by adding lines like my pattern above. Cut out the pattern, lay it on the fabric and then cut out the cape.

11. Glue the bias tape onto the top of the cape and then sew it in place. Use a permanent fabric glue if you are not sewing to keep the tape in place.

12. Sew or glue the hook and loop tape or snaps in place on the shoulders and the cape. If you use hook and loop tape be sure to cut the corners off of your squares so they do not scratch or become caught on other clothes in the washer.

Put it on your little one and marvel at your adorable super hero! Then, go ahead, make one for yourself too- everyone wants to be a hero...