Monday, March 26, 2012

Good News/Bad News

Well, sadly, the curtido didn't make it. It got a bad case of mold and I had to put it out of it's misery. Also, I'll have to start back from scratch on my kombucha. I discovered a a bunch of vagrant fruit flies have been squatting (and procreating) in my SCOBY hotel. Yech. My skin is getting crawly just thinking about it.

The good news is that friend gave me a gallon of fresh goat's milk and now I've got some feta brining and made a successful batch of riccotta. This was my first time using both rennet and mesophylic culture, so it was not perfect, but I did learn a couple of things.

I'm going to give the curtido another go, and I've also successfully started another SCOBY. Wish me luck!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Lacto-Fermented Curtido

A couple days ago at this time I was wearing capris and short sleeves and walking my dog in the great outdoors. Admittedly, it was a little brisk, but not to a point that I regretted my choice of clothing. Then today it does this. Rude.

My first instinct was to bake something, but I've been wanting to make this curtido for a little while. Honestly, at least twice I'd bought all of the stuff to make it, but used it up on other things. A girl's got to eat, right? As a result, this recipe kind of turned into a cleaning-out-the-fridge project.

I used:

1 small red cabbage
1/2 green cabbage
1/2 onion
1/2 bunch radish
2 smallish carrots
1 jalapeno
1 t. oregano
1/4 C. whey

I layered all ingredients on a glass bowl as I prepped them. Quarter, core, and thinly slice your cabbages. Using a food processor here is not advised. It turns into coleslaw. Yech. Grate your carrots. Thinly slice the onion, jalapeno, and radish. If your radish tops are in good shape you can try slicing them and adding them as well.

 Sprinkle on the oregano, and 2 T. salt, and pour in the whey.

When my mom used to make sauerkraut she would layer it all in a stone crock with salt and use her fist, mashing down as she went. That method sucks because it tears up your hands, and I guess I am just not hardcore enough for that. I use my hands to squeeze and massage it, a la Sandor Katz.

After 10 minutes they should be nice and juicy, and a lot smaller than they started out. Pack the veggies into your fermenting vessel. Mine is a gallon jar. Add enough water to cover the veggies. I used 3 cups. I wanted to end up using 1T of salt for every cup of water, and since I had already added 2T, I added 1 more tablespoon. Usually I like to press a large zip bag down inside the jar and fill it with water, but I am out of zip bags, so I just rubberbanded a paper towel over the top of the jar to keep the buggies out. I've never had anything go moldy, but you need to keep an eye out for that. When it comes to ferments, the bubblier the better, in my opinion. I think I'll leave this for 2 weeks and then go from there.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Save the Earth, make a cosmetic pouch, and more!

Anyone that knows me well knows that it pains me to throw things away. It makes me sick to see good things in the dumpster or to see dryers at the dump. The rate at which people consume and consume without any thought of the effect is has on the the planet or the economy is staggering. Not to say that I am perfect. I don't recycle all that I could. I'm trying to improve. One way that I try to keep my stuff out of the landfill is by repurposing it. By giving my unwanted stuff a new life, I can add to the life of our planet.

A couple of years ago a client of mine gave me a couple of bags full of old school shampoo capes that he had gotten off of Ebay. They are plastic, way outdated, and smell like musty basements. One plus is that they are cool retro designs and have a lot of crafting potential. It didn't take me very long to figure out a few ways to use them.

The first thing that came to mind was a lined cosmetic pouch. These shampoo capes make a perfect lining. They keep your makeup from messing up the inside of your pouch and the cool prints add a little surprise. There are about a gazillion tutes out there for a zippered cosmetic pouch. This one from Skip to my Lou is really easy to understand and has great potential for customization. It is the one I used to make my pouch.

What's that? You don't have bags of shampoo capes just lying around? What about a shower curtain liner? I bet you have one of those. I get lots of life out of mine by washing it with baking soda in the washing machine when it gets funky. But once it gets a tear in it or the holes rip out, I've got to face facts and get a new one. Did you know that vinyl can last indefinitely at a landfill? It may never fully decompose, and while it sits there it is emitting toxic gases into the atmosphere! The old one will fit the bill for any of these projects:
  • cosmetic bags
  • wet bags for swimming, diapering, or potty training oopsies
  • baby changing pads
  • insulated lunch pouches*
  • kid art smocks
  • pocketed baby bibs
*I have seen vinyl used for little snack pouches where the food goes right into it, but I hesitate to put it into direct contact with food. Even plastics that are meant for contact with food are questionable, so I would not risk using a plastic that is not food grade.

This is just one example, but I'm always looking for new ways to use old stuff.

Monday, January 16, 2012

How to make a Super Mario hat

This past Halloween it took quite a bit of convincing for my son to let me make his Halloween costume instead of buying one of those one-piece, camel-toe creating abominations. Usually his pa does the costume purchasing, but I put my foot down this year. I didn't really care to try to make the Iron Man, Clone Trooper, Darth Vader, and so on. But this year I lucked out: Super Mario! Not only is Super Mario extremely popular right now, but the costume is really inexpensive and easy to customize (think Luigi, Wario, etc.). To make a Mario costume you just need a few things. A couple of the items you might have already and the rest of them are easy to come by.

You’ll need:

red long sleeve shirt (already had it)
bibbed overalls (second hand shop for couple bucks, dyed denim blue with Rit dye)
white gloves (you can usually find these in a pack of 2 for $1)
mustache or eyeliner for drawing one on
Mario’s hat

The hat is the challenging part, but I came up with a pattern that is easy, and looks pretty authentic. Do you know how many times I went to a site that promised a Mario hat pattern and all it had to say was "glue a foam M to a red baseball cap"? Many. Lame.

To make this hat you need to gather:

1/3 yard red sweatshirt material
white felt
narrow-ish elastic, cut a little longer than the circumfrence of the noggin it goes on
hot glue
lid to a five gallon bucket
bowl with about 6" diameter

Fold your fabric in half, right sides together. Using the lid to the bucket as a template, cut a large circle. This will give you two pieces. While the pieces are still together, cut a small notch somewhere along the edge. Because this fabric is only stretches one way, you need to make sure that the grain on both pieces runs the same way, or it will not work right. Later you will use the notch to realign the pieces and ensure they are running the same way. Separate the 2 large rounds. Cut a small circle from one of the rounds using the small bowl as a template. You actually want the hole to be a little too big because later we will attach elastic to make a better fit. Also, you want to hole to be offset towards the back of the hat. Using the size of the small hole and the width of the elastic as a guide, cut a long rectangular piece to serve as your elastic casing. The last piece you'll need to cut out is the bill. You should be able to cut this from a scrap. Right sides together, cut a crescent piece. Use your judgement to determine the size and shape. Using the guide below, align the bill and the opening on piece 2 and mark them. You can do the same with piece 4 if you'd like. This takes the guesswork out of lining it up.

 Now that you've got the pieces cut out, it's time to get it assembled. Pin both bill pieces, right sides together, and sew along the outer edge. Turn it right side out and sew again about 1/2" from the edge. This will stiffen the bill. You can do it again as many times as you want. Fold piece 4 in half the long way and pin. Align the bill to piece 2 using the marks you made. Make sure the top side of the bill faces the right side of piece 2 (What color was your bobbin thread?). Now, take piece 4 and align it with pieces 2 and the bill. You want the raw edges of all pieces to be together. Pin through all layers as you work piece 4 around the edge of the hole. Starting in the back, sew through all layers. When you get around to where you started leave a little bit not sewn so you can get the elastic in later. Right sides together, align pieces 2 and 1. Pin and sew. Now turn the whole thing right side out. It's a Hat! Feed the elastic through the casing keeping it flat. Tack the ends of the elastic together. Once the elastic is in and everything is even, tack around the band in a couple of places to keep the elastic well behaved. I chose to push the bunchy-ness to either side of the bill and sew through the band and elastic right where the bill attaches. This keeps the bill from wanting to get scrunched up. Go to the back where the elastic came together and tuck everything in nicely and stitch it closed. for the finishing touches. Cut out a circle from the white felt. You want it to fit  just between the bill and the seam where the top of the hat attaches. Now cut out your "M". Using hot glue, attach the felt circle to the hat. Trim the threads. You are done!

This hat should last you for a long while. My son wears his to school. He actually wears the entire costume to school all of the time. What are they going to do? Tell him he can't wear overalls? Even though this seems long-winded, it is very easy. I took one for the team and made one that sucked so you didn't have to. Then I made it awesome. You're welcome.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Make a worm bin. I did!

Last summer I finally moved to a place where I will be able to grow somewhat of a garden. Yay! Unfortunately, my 4 tomato plants and 3 basil did not do very well. One of them finally set fruit in October. So, I have decided to be proactive this next season and not fly by the seat of my pants as I usually do. One of the things I plan on getting right this time is the compost. Since I don't have space for an actual heap, I thought I'd give vermiculture a try. I made a pretty simple bin out of a plastic tote and filled it with worms that I found through a local facebook group. I made the lady a dozen whole wheat pitas and she gave me a bowl full of worms. SCORE! 

Materials used:

12qt. plastic tote with lid. (don't use a clear one)
non-metal window screen
plastic dish, butter tub, etc.
drill and tiny drill bit
dead plant leaves

What I did:

Using one of the tiniest bits I drilled holes all the way around the tote about 1.5" under the lip where the lid fits on. I then drilled a ton of wholes in the actual lid. You have to have drain holes in the bottom to catch the "worm tea", but I wanted the holes in mine to be close together so I could better control where the liquid comes out. Drill a bunch of little holes in the lowest area of the tote. For example, the middle of my tote is raised, so the perimeter of the bottom is the part that is lowest. I drilled the holes along the perimeter in a tight cluster. Then I lined the bottom with a piece of window screen cut to fit. This is probably not necessary. Whatever. Next I tore a few pieces of old newspaper into 1" inch strips and filled the tote to about 3/4 full. For good measure I tossed in some dead leaves off of my house plants and some papery garlic skins and mixed it all up.  Then I sprayed the whole lot with water. Toss it around so you get all of it wet. Next put in your worms. I guess you can just put them on top, but I scooted aside the bedding and put them in the hole, then next to them I made another hole and put in some kitchen scraps. Banana peel, eggshells, coffee grounds or what have you. Finally I put a piece cardboard down on top of the bedding and put on the lid to the tote. I am choosing to store mine in the bottom of the pantry, which is part of the reason I designed it the way I did. To allow it to drain, I set it up on 2 2x4 scraps. I then slid the plastic bowl under the group of drain holes that I drilled. We will see how this works.

Thanks for stopping by and good luck with your own worm bin project!

Update: Window screen is pointless. I found a ton of worms just crawling around under it anyway.