Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I've Seen the Light While Knitting Dishcloths, Making Pesto & Pondering Little Boys' Boxers

James requested pictures of the lamps I rewired so here they are. BTW, it's mighty hard to take a picture of a lit lamp with just a cell phone camera.

No lamp picture here, instead you're seeing the three dishcloths I knitted up for my mom's birthday. I had to take a break from weaving those loose ends in on the log cabin blanket. I was going cross-eyed. The one with the L on it was an experiment that turned into a nightmare. I hate the way it came out, especially the back.

For something different, I used a strand of beige cotton that's usually used for making lace along with the green cotton yarn (recycled from a thrift store sweater) on the last dish cloth. This is great stuff for knotting quilts as well and it always seems to turn up in thrift stores. As I was knitting this cloth, I came to the conclusion that I am a color and texture junkie when I knit. I love to combine yarns to make funky, chunky, colorful things. I'm a chronic color combiner!

I haven't mentioned a lot of food lately but it's been very simple and seasonal. Last night I made a simple pesto substituting parsley for the spinach that the recipe called for. Why? Well, I had a lot of parsley and I'd already used the spinach for salad the day before. No garlic or scapes in this weeks CSA share so garlic powder was used instead. I served it with roasted eggplant. I left the skins on per Isa's instructions in Veganomicon. It was very nice addition to the pesto. We served this with veggie burgers made out of a leftover baked bean dish. Dinner was ready in a jiffy and the fridge is now emptied of leftovers.

For anyone who's keeping track of things I've planned to do, you may have noticed there's been no mention of the boxers I planned to make for the boys. I haven't forgotten. I've just been a little apprehensive about getting started. It's almost August so I guess I'll have to dive in soon. Good thing I got those lamps done, one of them sits on my sewing table so I can see what I'm sewing.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Summer of Completion Continues...Here's the Finished Log Cabin Blanket

Just a few hours ago I put the final stitches on this blanket. Now all that remains is weaving in the joins on the back. In just a day or two I'll be able to move on to my next project, a curtain to cover the closet in my sons' room.

Why a curtain you ask? The door that had been there was an ancient accordian type. It never opened up enough to give the boys access to the closet. Instead, it created a safe haven for junk to hide. A regular door is out of the question because of space limitations. A curtain seems to be the best choice.

The bar and hardware to hold this curtain will be taken out of another closet where it had been a lower bar for the previous owners little girl. The curtain itself will be made out of either the leftover bedsheet that I used for quilt edging or another fabric from my stash.

So what projects have you started to finish?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I See the Light!

I've begun to think of this summer as the Summer of Completion. This is the summer where I finish so many tasks that I've started with good intentions over the years but never got back to because life sometimes gets in the way.

My project du jour for Monday and Tuesday was to rewire two lamps that had been sitting in the garage for several years. One lamp had a crack in the part the bulb screws into. It had a nasty habit of shocking whomever turned it on or off. The second had that mysterious condition known simply as "it used to work but now it doesn't".

Before getting into the how of rewiring a lamp let me explain the why. Why would you bother rewiring a lamp when you could run down to Target and buy a new one. First of all, both of these lamps are very rustic and fit in well with my Adirondack style decor. Second, replacing them would cost significantly more than rewiring them. Third, I can't get behind the mindset of the disposable society we belong to. If it can be fixed, we should always choose fixing as our first solution. Sermon over, now for the how.

My first task was to take the socket off and see if the cord was the problem. I cut the cord at the base of the socket in the hopes of being able to reuse it if it was intact. I pulled the cords completely out of the lamps to do this. One of the lamp cords had a spot where the insulation was worn away near where the socket had been. Cutting this part away I was still left with plenty of cord.

I headed to the hardware store to get a new socket. I only bought one figuring if I could fix one, I'd walk down and get the parts for the other the next day. The replacement socket came with instructions for changing it printed right on it. My only complaint is they were in microscopic print. I followed them and when I plugged in the lamp it actually worked!

The second lamp wasn't near as cooperative. The socket was plastic and glued in place. Everytime I tried to remove it another piece broke off and stabbed into my hand. A few shots with a hammer got rid of the remains of the socket and a lot of my aggression as well. Once the socket was removed I was left with a threaded but odd sized opening. The replacement socket wasn't going to fit on this. This lamp also had a plug in the bottom that held the cord in place and didn't allow me to remove it until I pulled it out with a pair of pliers.

I headed back to my local hardware store, explained my problem and handed over my lamp as proof. The great thing about a little, local store like this one is the guy took his time and helped me find exactly what I needed, a hollow threaded bolt and a hollow wide to small nut (both of which I'm sure have fancy names that I don't know).

More confident in my skills the second time, I rewired this lamp in a jiffy.

Ok girls, lean in close, this is where I make a confession. I was pretty confident about doing the lamps until it came time to actually start the first one. Then I stalled, called my husband, perused a home repair manual and stalled a little more. Then, as is often my habit, I got pissed off.

Why couldn't I just try this? What was the worst that could happen? The worst I could come up with was getting a shock or blowing a breaker and neither one seemed like such a big deal. The first one took me at least an hour and a phone call to my husband. The second one about 10 minutes solo. If I can do it, you can too!

Here are some links to get you started on your rewiring project. If anyone has a favorite link, let me know and I'll post it here as well.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Presenting the Finished Queen Size Denim Quilt

I'm really pleased with the way it came out.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Just For the Record, I Didn't Puke in the Garden!

Did you ever have a good idea just go wrong or at least wrong enough to be noticed by others? I have an old blender that I was getting ready to take down to our local thrift store when I was struck with an idea. My worm bins are pretty full and I had read that another way to deal with vegetable peelings was to liquify them and pour them over your garden in the same way you would with worm tea.

I had a really big pile of turnip skins to deal with, so I thought what the heck. I popped them into the blender, filled it with water and gave it a whirl. Without really thinking about the possible consequences, I walked outside and poured this over my kale, chard and tomato plants. Now there's a white residue and it looks like I puked on my plants.

Oh well, at least the plants don't seem to mind. In fact, I swear they look a little perkier. However, I think I'll go back to my original plan and donate the old blender. The worms are much less unsightly.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Simple Pleasures

I'm just enjoying simple pleasures lately. That even includes simple cooking. I haven't been very elaborate in my meals but I've been very good at rolling the leftovers into the next meal. Here's an example, Sunday I made Cajun Black Eyed Peas with quinoa and turnip greens. Yesterday, I took the leftovers added in more turnip greens (a lot more turnip greens actually), increased the seasonings and used it as a side dish alongside veggie hot dogs. Leftovers got used up and I didn't have to think too much about what to cook.

Here's another simple frugal trick which I must have mentioned before but just in case I didn't, here it is again. I chop cucumbers from our CSA and put them into the pickle juice that's leftover when you finish a jar of pickles. After a day or two in the fridge they are very good. This is especially useful since we really like pickles on our hummus sandwiches.

I'm still working on the quilt and blanket although both are nearing the end. The edges are all done on the quilt. I'm dealing with all the hanging threads that machine sewing leaves behind. I should be starting to knot the quilt tonight or tomorrow. The log cabin blanket is a mere 2 1/2 sides from being done. I know, you want pictures. I still don't have my camera cord but I'll try using my cell phone to take them later.

Now I'm going to partake in another simple pleasure, reading. I'm on a Barbara Kingsolver kick. I just blew through and really enjoyed Prodigal Summer. Now I'm starting The Poisonwood Bible.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Do You Dig Dirt?

I've been playing in the dirt a lot in the last 10 days. In keeping with the tradition of the former owner of our house, I planted impatiens on the corner of the property. These are pretty but useless. Marigolds, on the other hand, deter all manner of munching bugs, especially Japanese beetles. I planted several of these in pots so I could move them around the yard when a particular plant is under attack.

Last week, during an attack of guilt over my lack of edible garden, I hastily prepared a bed and planted 2 year old kale and swiss chard seeds. I figured I'd wait a few days and see if anything came up. Today, there are quite a few seedlings emerging, more in the spot where I accidently upended the envelope of seeds. My little patio is surrounded by edible landscape! (Herb garden on one side, kale/chard on another, strawberries on another and Jerusalem artichoke/tomato on the last.) It's not Path to Freedom but it's a start...and I want to do more!! Just today I snipped some fresh dill and chives to add to the biscuits I was making. It was really thrilling.

My soil ammendment of choice is worm castings from my worm bins. I've got three going right now. One is strictly guinea pig cage leftovers which include uneaten greens, newspaper and guinea pig poop and pee. It's the wierdest thing in the world to open up the lid of the garbage can that serves as this worm bin and just be greated with an earthy, dirt smell rather than an ammonia, wow my eyes are burning, smell. BTW, the bottom of this garbage can is riddles with cracks to allow excess moisture to run out.

Another is an old cooler, this is the one that the worms like the best. They multiply like mad in there. I suspect it has to do with the consistently higher moisture content but I'm not sure. I toss in whatever yard scraps, veggie scraps and coffee grinds.

The third is the box Jim built from scrap wood. This is the one that the worms seem to like the least (sorry Jim!) although they do a fine job in there. It just takes a little longer, I suspect because things dry out quicker which seems to keep the worm population lower. This one gets the same diet as the old cooler.

Are you thinking that three worm bins are excessive? Not for us, we keep them filled consistently.

I forgot my camera cord so until Jim brings it to me there will be no pictures. Now I'm off to work on the quilt edges and later while watching a movie with the girls, I'll work on the log cabin blanket - just three and a half more sections to go!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Potato Dough Makes the World a Brighter Place

I’ve been really pleased with the way my summer cooking has been going. My biggest coup by far has been my mastering of the making and use of potato refrigerator dough. This versatile foodstuff is just the best. I’ve used it to make burger buns, hot dog buns and dinner rolls. I even drizzled leftover dinner rolls with margarine and cinnamon sugar to make a yummy addition to a birthday breakfast.

My recipe is basically this one with the changes Ruthie mentioned plus one change of my own, I used all whole wheat bread flour. That's the key for me. Store bought whole wheat buns are so expensive. That may be the best reason of all to give this recipe a try. It's so easy to shape a few buns when the dough is already mixed and waiting.

As Ruthie mentioned, I didn’t need to punch it down daily. I also found it needed a longer rising time than the original recipe called for. I feel such shame confessing this but I used mahed potato flakes. There, I said it. Stone me if you must. I’m a huge fan of everything from scratch but baking potatoes in the absence of a microwave in the summer is not my idea of a good time. Plus they carry the mashed potato flakes at the local discount grocery store.

The meals themselves have largely been the ones from the meal plan I put together a few months back. I still can’t believe how much time and mental energy having a meal plan saves. I like the way a meal plan gives me ideas but invites variation. For example, I made baked seitan but instead of making jerk seitan with it, I made BBQ seitan. Simple? Yes, but very effective and tasty too. Now go, look in your fridge, cabinet or garden and make a substitution. Start small, substitute some collards for spinach (in cooked recipes only or you'll be sorry. It's a memorable mistake that you'd only make once!)

I’ve been very adept at combining several days of leftover bean dishes and making veggie burgers. The leftovers have included Cajun black eyed peas, Cuban Black Beans, Brilliant Baked Beans (From How It All Vegan) and BBQ Chickpeas. My only mistake in combing them was pureeing them too much and making the texture a little too gooey. A potato masher would have done a better job. (Is it odd that a potato masher should come up right after I confess to not using one a mere paragraph ago?)

I’ve discovered a real PMS snack pleaser, try combining dried unsweetened cherries with dark chocolate chips. No cooking, just toss them together in a bowl. You can try conning yourself into thinking it’s healthy just because you’re eating fruit. Then again, if you’re PMSing, you probably don’t give a hoot if it’s healthy.

In the fruit and veggie department, the CSA and farmers market have been our primary source. I just discovered a woman in walking distance who has a farm stand set up in her front yard. I'm planning to head her way toward the end of the week when my fridge begins to look empty in anticipation of the next pickup.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


It's summertime and the posting is a little more sporadic, or maybe a lot more sporadic. I'm aiming for two or three posts per week. BTW, I'm blogging on a dial up connection so I make no promises of photos for the next few weeks. Here's what's new.

The patchwork portion of the denim quilt is finished! I just pieced together the last two sections this morning during a rainstorm. God, what a pain it is to sew huge pieces together.

Now it's time to work on the backing. I unwittingly set myself up for a challenge when I bought a fitted sheet to use for the backing. I may be doing a little piecing on the backing as well. I'll know better when I finish removing the elastic. A seam ripper is the best tool ever!!

I'm still four sections away from completing my log cabin blanket. Once we start watching movies again (Jim's been working nights the last few weeks) the log cabin blanket should finish up very quickly. This has been a very rewarding project. It's also generated a lot of interest wherever I've gone with it. Perhaps I've inspired a few people to knit frugally along the way...

Speaking of inspiring knitting, my daughters have once again picked up their knittng needles and are knitting during movies too. I won't let on how tickled I am. You know how teenagers are, they might stop if they knew it made me happy.

In food, I'm loving the weekly CSA pickups. Our meals are revolving around what's in our weekly share.