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1  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Pickles are the new beans. on: July 22, 2009 09:46:57 AM
We are having a bumper crop of beans (long and pic heavy garden post here.) And, you know what they say. When life gives you beans, pickle the bejesus out of them. I mean, that's what I say, at least.

(Kitchen parrot approved!)

This is my first pickle experiment! I got a guide to pickling for free at the agricultural extension office in my hometown, and it's very thorough (did I mention free?) I made up my own spice mix with mustard seed, crushed red pepper, fresh garlic cloves, peppercorns, and coriander seeds, and used a 1 part vinegar 1 part water mix. It was super exciting to actually hear those little seals pop when they came out of the hot water. I couldn't believe how easy it was, too. Next up: Pickled beets. Yum.

2  HOME SWEET HOME / Exterior Decorating / Yard Art / Gardening: Completed Projects / DIY Earthbox (with tute) and 1 metric ton of Pics! on: July 22, 2009 09:34:10 AM

I live with my boyfriend in NYC. We have a pretty decent sized apartment (for NY,) but the best part of it is the backyard. Of course, the problem with our backyard is that it is entirely dirt free. Totally. Concrete. There's also a tin-roofed carport that blocks light from much of the space. Sometime last year a friend of ours got us a cheap compost bin that we set up in a corner of the concrete yard, but without a garden it was just an elaborate kitchen waste disposal system.

We really wanted a garden this year. We talked through a lot of options in the spring, including a brief discussion of building raised beds along the walls of the yard and filling them with dirt. It was the math (over $400 dollars just for the dirt in such a system) that dissuaded us in the end.

Then I found this  book, and it changed our gardening lives. (Seriously. It is an awesome book, and one I think any urban gardener should own. It goes beyond gardening, too, and has instructions on fermenting, sprout growing, and yogurt making. The focus is totally on those with a lack of space, and it's a boon to anyone living out of an apartment. But I digress.)

We decided to follow the guide in that book to a DIY earthbox out of plastic storage containers. Now, the book doesn't contain a step-by-step photo process, but does spell things out a little more clearly than I'm about to. Smiley

Step one- Early June. Assemble materials. We cut the lid of the container to fit inside it, about 1/3 of the depth up from the bottom, with a corner cut off the allow the pipe to pass through. We also purchased a pond basket from a garden center to sink into the bottom of the container. We made some legs for the lid out of scrap 2x4s to prevent it from collapsing. We used a length of PVC pipe for the watering tube. *NOTE* PVC has a tendency to leach chemicals. Next year we plan on replacing it with either copper or bamboo. Since this was an experiment, we went with the cheap option this time around (and frankly, I'm sure the non-organic super-market veggies are still worse for you.)  The pipe is cut at an angle at the bottom to prevent clogging in case some dirt should get into the reservoir.

Step two- We put the lid-on-stilts contraption into the bottom of the container, and drilled a series of small drain holes right below the level of the lid. This will prevent the water from making the base layer of dirt all soggy. The goal is to make strong and hardy plants by forcing them to sink deep tap roots toward the hole in the middle. These drain holes also make it impossible to over-water. Ideal for the twitchy gardener!

Step three- We installed the basket in the middle of the container, and the PVC pipe in its corner. With a stroke of frugal genius, we taped part of a plastic shopping bag around the pipe to create a seal and prevent dirt from getting in. Then we filled the basket with dirt, and gave it a good water.

Step four- We filled the boxes to the top with dirt. This step is not cheap- nice, non-miracle gro dirt is expensive, and it took about a bag and a half per container. Then we planted seeds! Our experimental garden this year was a row of yellow wax beans in each container, with cucumbers as the other row in one box and okra in the other.

Step five: Give it a good water on top, wait for magic. We kept watering the top (aided by copious amounts of rain this June *grumble grumble*) until we had some healthy little sprouts, then we switched over to watering through the reservoir only.

And then we waited. My BF has been topping up all our containers with compost periodically, and the plants seem to like it. Our composter looks like it wouldn't hold much, but we've been filling it for a year and a half, and the decomposition rate is really fantastic.

A few weeks later:

The beans totally loved the wet season. The okra was a little less happy, but once we started getting a little sunshine they perked right up. Not pictured is the box with the cucumber, which grew just a little more slowly than the beans. And the tomatoes seem to like the topsy turvy, huh?


Seriously, the beans have taken over, and the tomato is poised to destroy Tokyo with its massive size. The cucumber has about a million blooms, and the okra is growing into baby trees (no flowers yet, but its thinking about it.)

And we had our first bean harvest yesterday! About a pound of delicious beans came off the plants, and there's at least another pound that'll be ready to harvest in another couple days. And more that are still growing!

It was totally worth the cost in dirt just to see these miraculous plants grow from seeds to fruit. And it really proved to me that a small space is no excuse not to have a garden.

So. Um. That's my ESSAY. And thanks to anyone who actually read the whole tedious thing!
3  CLOTHING / Clothing: Completed Projects: General / Peachy Sundress on: May 25, 2009 10:08:06 AM
This is a dress I made last summer, but just got around to taking some photos yesterday. I used McCall pattern M5292, but altered the pattern to make it fully lined. I think the plain white cotton lining was actually more expensive than the fashion fabric!

I recommend the pattern... it was as fast and easy as advertised, even after taking the time to shorten the waistline and expand the bust. I did have to futz with sizing issues, though. For some reason the back panels on McCall patterns are always way to big.

Anyway. Dress!

4  CLOTHING / Clothing: Discussion and Questions / Ethical quandry: vintage pattern, to cut or not to cut? on: July 24, 2008 02:00:56 PM
Okay... it's not REALLY an ethical quandry in the strictest sense. No one dies or is injured regardless of what I decide. But here's the deal:

A few years ago, when I was first getting into sewing, I started picking up vintage patterns whenever I found them in antique malls. I never even opened most of the envelopes. It was like a compulsion. Buy, horde, move twelve times, leave in storage, forget about... well, this summer I've started actually sewing for myself instead of just thinking about it and then playing video games instead. I've made... oh, three or four dresses and some blouses. And I retrieved all my old patterns from storage (ahemmother'shouseahem) with the intention of finally putting them to use.

But, lo... several of these patterns are pristine. Never even unfolded, much less cut. Initially I was thrilled by this... no having to worry whether the previous owner cut on the right lines or not. But I was discussing this with one of my other seamstress friends, and she was shocked that I was even considering using these patterns. So, what's the general opinion on here? I'm kind of torn. On the one hand, I appreciate that paper ephemera like patterns are very hard to come by in such good condition. On the other hand, I kind of think that patterns were made with a purpose, and that is to be sewn. Thirty years ago or now, it's fulfilling the purpose of the item.

So, should I feel a little guilty and snip away, or leave it for future generations?

Well, that was long winded. An example and then I'm done: McCalls 4960, size 16.  Dolman sleeved bodice with pencil or full skirt and cape collar option. 1959. Totally pristine...
5  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / BAMF doll... aka Nightcrawler on: July 20, 2008 11:16:10 AM
My partner for the Superhero/Comics swap received her package, so I can post him now! This was my first stuffie, and is totally handsewn. I made up the pattern after a couple of failed attempts at a machine sewable pattern. I was very tempted to keep him, I admit, because I think he's a cutey patooty.



Hanging out:

The only thing I would do differently if I'd had more time/inclination to plan is give him a really prehensile tail (mostly because I like the word prehensile.) But he's pretty Nightcrawlery without it.
6  COOKING / Vegetarian / Vegan / Super tasty tofu cutlet! *recipe* on: June 09, 2008 10:45:32 PM
Just made this the other night and was super proud of myself. Sometimes it can be a little difficult to be more creative than stir-fry with tofu; this was my attempt at making a restaurant style tofu cutlet. SO TASTY. My boyfriend and I both had seconds... so even better, no leftovers. And great for the super lazy cook who's tired of cooking time-consuming meals.


1 block firm tofu
1 package udon
Sesame oil
(just a little)
2 tsp. the spice rub of your choice (I used one intended for pork.)
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
1/4-1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup crispy dough wads
(I used a package from an asian grocery near my house. Since I don't read Japanese, all I can tell you is that the ingredients are: wheat flour, vegetable oil, salt, and MSG. Unsweeted puffed rice cereal can be substituted if you don't feel like pawing through Japanese packaging for mystery crisps.)
1 package mixed spring greens (I love Olivia's Organic Spring Mix)
1 can chick peas in water (I like Eden Organics because they rinse clean easily)
1 can hearts of palm
1 ripe red bell pepper

Step 1: Drain the tofu. You wouldn't believe how long I spent with soggy tofu before I actually read a cookbook. If you've never done this before, it's easy. Wrap the tofu in a dry flour-sack type kitchen towel (or even a paper towel will do in a pinch.) Put the wrapped tofu block in a colander and put something heavy on it (cans, books, or plates work well.) Let sit. If you're me, you'll go out and by the rest of the ingredients now. If you're someone who's together enough to have ingredients in the kitchen already, play some video games or knit for an hour or so.

Step 2: You could do this as the tofu drains if you're so inclined. Boil a pot of water. Plunge a fistful of udon (I used a third of a package, but your package may vary,) into the boiling water. Let boil about four minutes or until al dente. Pour into a colander and rinse with cold water. Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle lightly with sesame oil. Toss it around a little to get the noodles good and coated. This will keep them from sticking when you put them in the refrigerator. Put them in the fridge now.

Step 3: Assemble salad. Chop bell pepper and add to greens. Open cans of chick peas and hearts of palm, drain, and add to salad.

Step 4: Preheat a non-stick skillet to a medium heat (about 350 degrees for the precise.) In a medium bowl, combine your crispy dough wads/rice krispies, dry rub, and sesame seeds. I put measurements up there for the timid, but really you can just eyeball it. You want a high proportion of crispy to rub. Using a pestle (Hah! I used a ladle. Use whatever is flat and good for squishing) crush the crispys into the other ingredients. Don't beat it into a powder, just a nice crunchy consistency will do.
Add soy sauce to a shallow bowl.
Divide tofu block into four even slices. They should be about 1/2 inch thick.
Dip tofu in soy sauce, coating both sides evenly. DO NOT soak it, as this will cause structural failure.
Dredge in your crispy rub mixture, coating both sides.
Place tofu fillet on skillet and repeat for the other three fillets.
Cook about three minutes each side. Soy sauce remaining in the dish can be drizzled on top as they cook if you like an extra salty bite.

Step 5: While the second side of the tofu is cooking, plate the noodles and surround with the salad greens. Place piping hot tofu on top of cold noodles and serve.

Step 6: Eat. Enjoy. Brag.

And tell me if you try it!

7  NEEDLEWORK / Needlework: Completed Projects / Sprouting Heart. on: June 04, 2008 11:51:21 AM
I made this for my partner in the Back to Nature swap. I designed it and drew it freehand straight onto the bag. I've had this idea floating around for a long time, and my partner had an anatomical heart embroidery in her wist, so I figured now was the time to make this happen. It might be the most ambitious embroidery I've done yet, mostly because of the many details in the branches and leaves, and because of the color transitions which took a lot of patient rethreading of the needle. It's almost entirely stem stitch, with the only exception the running stitches down the center of the leaves. I just wish my camera skills were better so I could get closer detail shots. Enough talk! Pictures!

The bag hanging:

The whole image:


8  CLOTHING / Clothing: Completed Projects: Reconstructed / Plain polo no more! (pic heavy) on: October 11, 2007 10:40:27 AM
Inspired by all of the fabulous recons on this board, I thought I'd try a salvage attempt on my hated black polo before adding it to the Goodwill pile. A couple of episode of Buffy later: a wearable shirt!



Machine basted the butterfly appliqu, then hand blanket stitched it:

Buttons from the stash inherited from grandma:

Sleeve detail (The fabric is from the grandma stash, too, making my cost $0.00):

Was debating adding more embroidery up the side of the shirt, but I'm afraid that might make it too busy. Any thoughts? Thanks for looking at my first successful recon!
9  COOKING / Vegetarian / Vegan / Soy 'cutlet' preparation? on: February 03, 2007 09:33:37 PM
Some of the best tofu I've ever experienced was in a wonderful vegan/vegetarian restaurant in Atlanta (whose name escapes me right now, and I'm too lazy to google it.) It was a cutlet style chunk of tofu that seemed to have been marinated, then breaded with nuts and spices.

I would love to find a recipe for a similar preparation. I'm willing to play around a little and experiment with recipes, but I'd love some guidance. Anyone have any recipes or tips to share?
10  PURSES, BAGS, WALLETS / Purses, Bags, Wallets: Completed Projects: General / Brocade messenger bag on: January 06, 2007 08:43:57 PM
I've been hauling a big upholstery bolt of this fabric around with me through my last three apartments, and now that I'm about to move again I finally decided it was time to use it. So I give you: My first ever messenger bag.

I'm really pleased with it, especially because I totally winged it patternwise and still managed to make it functional. It's big enough for that laptop I plan on eventually purchasing, but for now it's a good size for a couple of sketchbooks and a knitting project. Interior pocket to keep my wallet from sinking to the bottom, interior side wall cell-phone pouch to eliminate digging, and pen tabs on the other side wall.

Back (With roomy pocket for easy access to guidebooks)


Detail of closure
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