Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Homemade Pita and Hummus

Since I am on a huge baking and home made condiment kick (and have been for the last few months) I have really wanted to try making my own hummus and pita bread. I think fresh hummus is sooo much tastier than store bought and I had heard it was easy so I thought I'd give it a try. 

hummus topped with kalamata olives and paprika 

For the hummus I used this recipe from The Partial Ingredients and for the Pita I used this recipe from Under The High Chair. Overall it came out really well but I think I would make a few tweaks in the future when trying these two recipes. The hummus had a great flavor and was super easy to make. i used dry chickpeas instead of canned so it took a  little longer but was still no big deal. My only complaint was that it came out a tiny bit dry. The Lebanese woman who I bought the tahini from for this suggested adding some plain yogurt for creaminess so i might try that next time.

The pita bread was yummy but it didn't puff up quite as much as I would have liked, this is probably due to some error on my part though. I used white flour so it ended up tasting a lot like pizza dough to me, in fact I used my extras to make some yummy pizza pita pockets. I think i might try wheat flour next time since I usually get wheat pitas and tend to like the texture better.

In any case it was definitely well worth the effort and I will experiment and try both of these again. Even though they didn't come out perfect they still beat the pants off the store bought stuff. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

My First Sewing Project

Ok, it's not really my first sewing project but the first one I've attempted in many years. When I was a kid I was fearless with the sewing machine. I attempted to sew my own clothing all the time and then insisted on wearing my creations out in public (I have to thank my mom for having the curage to allow me to do this). Why is this machine so much more intimidating now that I'm a grown up? For my first project I wanted something really simple that I could use to practice and boost my confidence. I found an idea for a simple reversible scarf on Martha Stewart's website and I was off.

it's reversible, yay!

Cute fabric I got from the remnant bin at Hancock Fabrics. 

I used fleece on one side and cotton on the other. The material cost about $4 total and I have lots leftover. 

This is too closeup to see very well but i had my 35mm lens on and was too lazy to change it. Anyway, you get the idea ;-P
This is pretty much the easiest thing you could possibly make, I highly recommend it for beginners. All you have to do is choose one lightweight fabric and one heavier, warmer fabric (I did cotton on one side and fleece on the other), cut to your desired length and pin the right sides together. Then you just sew up the whole thing leaving about a 2 inch gap on one of the short ends. Flip the whole thing inside out and iron it and then use a slip stich to close it up and you're done! My scarf turned out so warm and cozy. I can't wait for colder weather so i can wear it out. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

My New (Old) Vintage Brother Charger

My new sewing machine!

I recently purchased a vintage Brother Charger 031 sewing machine at Good Will for $18. I have been interested in getting a sewing machine for some time but I didn't want to invest a lot of money because I wasn't really sure how much I would use it and I didn't want to necessarily do any big projects, just a bit of mending here and there. I knew Brother was a decent brand (they use it on Project Runway after all) and I liked that it had all metal parts, I have heard that vintage sewing machines are better because of this and less likely to break down. I figured for $18 it couldn't hurt to give this one a chance.

Well after I got it home I noticed that it was missing a presser foot, screw and bobbin case so all those needed replacing. Luckily sewing machine parts haven't changed much in the past 50 years so I was able to get replacements for all my missing parts for about $22 (more than I paid for the machine but oh well).

After getting all the parts I needed I realized I had no idea how to thread this thing. I am not an experienced seamstress and while I used to sew a lot when I was a kid it's been years since I have made anything using a sewing machine. This machine is also different from others I have used because it is so old. I searched online and couldn't find any instructions on how to thread this particular type of machine. Finally through trial and error and with some help from my mom I figured out how to get it up and running. I am now posting instructions on how to thread a vintage brother charger sewing machine both for my own reference (in case I forget how I did it) and for others who might be trying to figure this out.

1. put your thread on the thread spool on top of the machine (duh, right?)

2. pull thread through the thread guide on the top of the machine.

This is where it gets tricky. This picture is a bit confusing (my apologies) but this is the left side of the sewing machine. 3. bring the thread down from the top of the machine and wrap it around the tension spool going front to back. 4. pull the thread through the lever as shown. 5. Pull the thread through the little wire thingy (not sure what this is called). 6. Pull the the thread down through the thread guide on the side of the machine. 

7. Pull the thread through the second thread guide on the side of the machine, moving down toward the needle.  8.  Pull the thread through the last thread guide, this is the small wire one just above the needle. 

Sorry this is all blurry, it was a low light situation. 9. Pull the thread through the eye of the needle. 10. Slide the thread through the middle of the presser foot and pull it off to the side, leaving about 2 inches spare. 
I'm so happy I figured this out and I can finally use my new machine! Next up I will show you my first project that I made. It's super simple but being the novice that I am I'm quite proud of it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Spinach Nectarine Salad

So the last time I had blood work done at the doctor they told me my iron was a little on the low side. Oops! Could this be a result of my recent cutback in meat consumption? I guess pregnancy isn't the best time to make major changes in your diet. So in response to this I am trying to up my intake of dark leafy greens like spinach and broccoli, not always the easiest thing to do but not so bad if you get creative. I came up with this yummy salad the other day and thought the recipe was worth saving. It is such a pretty salad and delicious as well!

I made the croutons by cutting some leftover ends of sourdough bread in to cubes and toasting them in butter until the browned slightly. Other than that this salad is pretty self explanatory, I just combined the spinach, crumbled blue cheese, dried cranberries, one sliced nectarine, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Delicious and beautiful! Yum! I have another doctors appointment tomorrow so hopefully my iron will be back up to where it needs to be :-)

Baby Hats!

As you can imagine, my world is pretty baby centric at the moment. I am on maternity leave and have nothing to focus on other than prepare the house and myself for baby Echo's arrival. I am in full nesting mode, cleaning everything in sight and cooking up a storm. I have also made time for some fun crafty projects which has been a great change for me. Here is my latest obsession, no sew baby hats! So easy and fun to make and they came out amazing! I will now be making these in every color imaginable :-P

On the left is the hat I made for Echo, the right one I made for a friend who is also having a baby.

Close up of the roses on Echo's hat. You can bet I'll be taking some super cute pictures of her in this hat!
I got the tutorial from Alisa Burke at All it takes is a fabric glue pen and some old t-shirts. Love love love this project!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cloth Diapering

For those of you that are planning to start a family soon or even interested in having kids some day I wanted to write a bit about our decision to cloth diaper and the research that led up to it. To me, cloth diapering was something I knew I was interested in before we even got pregnant. It intuitively seemed right to me for a number of reasons. First of all it just seems more natural, no crazy chemicals or engineered substances next to the baby's skin, people have been using cloth diapers for centuries, seems like the way to go. I tend to be naturally drawn toward a more hippy, earthy parenting style and cloth diapering goes along with that so initially it was kind of an image thing for me as well.

I didn't know much about the topic though until I started researching it. Thank goodness for the internet! It can tell you anything you want to know about cloth diapering! What immediately struck me was how complicated cloth diapering has become! I was so overwhelmed by the sheer variety of options available. There are pocket diapers, all in ones, all in twos, flats, prefolds, soakers, liners and the list goes on and on. This was almost enough to scare me away from the prospect of cloth diapering however more you look in to it the easier it is to understand and will quickly start to see why cloth diapers are making a huge comeback. I am by no means an expert, especially since I haven't even tried any of this out yet but I just wanted to share what I've learned in my research and hopefully it will be helpful to someone out there. Here are some pros and cons to cloth diapering that spring to my mind.


Cost- Cloth diapering requires a larger up front investment than disposables but overall it will save you a ton of money. You can also reuse cloth diapers for multiple kids and if you use flats or prefolds you can continue to use the diaper part for cleaning and multipurpose rags long after your kids are potty trained.

Less wasteful- If you are environmentally minded cloth diapering is the way to go, think of all the wate you are eliminating by using cloth instead of disposable. You will use more water for washing the diapers but other than that your waste from using cloth is pretty much zero.

Natural Materials- As I mentioned before, using cloth is an easy way to eliminate synthetic or chemically treated materials that you might not want next to your baby's skin. You can easily find unbleached and organic options in the cloth diaper world.

Flexibility- There are so many options when it comes to cloth diapering styles, you are sure to find something that will work for you.


Time Consuming- Doing all that extra laundry will take some time. Also, if you use prefolds or flats with covers it will take a little extra time for each diaper change because there is an extra step in there (adding the actual diaper and then adding a cover on top of it). If you use all in ones they are really not any more time consuming to put on than disposables.

Difficult for travel- I am planning to use disposables when we travel, hauling dirty laundry around sounds like a pain.

I'm sure I am missing some things that will make themselves obvious later on. I will have to do an update on all this after the baby comes and I get to try all this out.

As I mentioned there are a number of options out there and you have to find the one that makes sense to you. Here is the gear I ended up with for cloth diapering.

A smal fraction of my cloth diaper stash just to give some examples.  A small wet bag to hold dirty diapers when we are out and about, some prefolds and covers and some diaper pins.

For my cloth diapering I went the prefold and cover route. All in ones are supposed to be great too but at the time I was picking baby gear out this made the most since to me. It's also the most economical option since you only need a few covers and the prefolds themselves are cheap. Each time you change a dirty diaper you just change out the inside part and you can supposedly use the covers quite a few times before you have to wash them.

Hanging wet/dry storage bag for storing clean and dirty diapers. When it's laundry time you can toss the whole thing in the wash with the diapers and covers.  

A close up of my prefolds and pins. The prefolds fluff and pucker up nicely after you wash them a few times, this makes them more absorbant. I really want to try using snappis instead of pins but I haven't acquired any yet. Snappis are a diaper fastener that is safer because you don't run the risk of poking your kid with a sharp object :-)

The brand of diaper cover I am using is Thirsties. I have heard great things about them, they are soft and come in cute designs. I'll let you all know how they work out!
I now have just about everything I need for diapering my baby until she is potty trained. I have prefolds in two sizes ( I am using osocozy prefolded diapers for those who are interested) and that is supposedly all you need. I also have an assortment of covers in two sizes and some diaper pins although as I mentioned before I want to get some snappis as well. I will definitely give everyone an update as to how all this works out. If this really does turn out to be all I need for diapering my baby (and any future babies that come along) I feel like a very savvy shopper! Only time will tell :-)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Tour of Baby Echo's Room

Since I am now on maternity leave I am in full nesting mode. I've been working hard to clean and organize the house (especially the nursery) so that everything will be ready when Echo makes her big debut. I finally have the nursery cleaned and most of the baby things put away, at least it's one room in the house that is ready! I feel like so much love has gone in to this room and I am so grateful to everyone who contributed, especially those who made items for the room with their own two hands. It makes it such a special place and it radiates warmth and love. Here is a little tour around the room :-)

View of the changing table area (my dad's old childhood desk with a changing pad on top). On the end nearest the camera I have hooks storing my travel changing pads and a beautiful handmade bag by my friend Aileen which is currently holding extra cloth diapers. 

Overall view of the room, it was dark today so the lighting isn't great but you get the idea

Echo's toy shelf, complete with handmade pillows spelling her name from my friend Joanna

Handmade blanket under the changing table along with her other blankets, wipes and hand sanitizer at the ready, extra diapers, covers and diaper cream hanging above the changing area. I also installed an led touch light above the changing area for nighttime diaper changes. 

More diaper storage, extra wipes and baby toiletries 

art for Echo's room, the bottom one was a wedding gift from a coworker and the top one is an original watercolor I bought in Puerto Rico (Echo's first trip overseas, even though she was still in my tummy)

Wooden shelf for holding small toys, I also put our wedding cake toppers on here so mommy and daddy can watch over her :-)

The quilt hanging over the rocker was made by one of Eric's family members for us, the rocker was one that my mom used to rock me on as a baby and she and dad refinished it for me. We added a little clip lamp for reading and you can see my awesome diaper bag to the left of the rocker. 

My shelf of children's books and a cute cloth covered box which is currently storing her nice baby blankets. 

Crib with baby quilt from my friend Mary and a mobile made by one of Eric's family members

More art, these are all from etsy. 
 I'm so excited to have Echo's room all ready! Can't wait for her to get here!

Cayenne Pepper Sauce

My garden is looking pretty sad right now. I'm sorry to say I have pretty much abandoned it for the time being, working outside in the heat just isn't high on my list of things to do while being super pregnant. I  had a great time with it and will definitely pick it up again next year though! I learned a lot in my first year of gardening, mainly which crops work for me and which don't. Things I had great success with were my cucumbers, radishes, tomatoes and cayenne peppers. This that were a flop include cilantro and many of the other things I tried to grow from seed. Next year I will probably buy more already established plants and less seeds to start out. I still have some sweet potatoes going so I will wait and see how those turn out.

Anyway, much like my cucumber crop I had a huge amount of cayenne peppers and didn't quite know what to do with them. One of the cool things about cayenne peppers is that they are really easy to dry. Basically all you have to do is set them aside in a dry place and wait. You can speed up the process by using a heat source like your oven or the sun but if you have time you can just leave them lying out and they will dry up nicely. Since I didn't know what to do with all of mine I just let them slowly dry until I came up with an idea, hot sauce! So easy to make and so delicious! Here is the recipe I used.

18 dried cayenne peppers
2 cups vinegar (I used apple cider because it's my favorite and I use it for everything)
3 large cloves garlic
1/2 tsp salt

Dried cayenne peppers

Peppers, garlic and salt ready to be boiled
I boiled the peppers, garlic and salt in apple cider vinegar for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the peppers were tender

After boiling I blended the whole thing with my emersion blender and strained it through some cheese cloth in to a mason jar. It turned out super yummy!
I really like this pepper sauce with my cheese quesadillas (my favorite lunchtime food). It's a great way to use up those extra cayenne peppers!

A DYI Birthday Gift

Wow I have been really remiss in my blogging this past month! Blame it on the fact that I am 9 months pregnant and had a crazy last few weeks of work. I am now officially on maternity leave and have some extra time on my hand which is lovely. Maybe I will finally get caught up! So anyway, I'm going to start with some DYI projects that I've been meaning to blog about and then I will catch everyone up on what I've been doing lately.

This project is from all the way back in July, for Eric's Birthday specifically. As part of our push to save money (which is still going awesomely by the way!) we have been wanting to look in to making more gifts instead of buying. It's more personal and I'm pretty crafty when I put my mind to it so why not? Something that Eric really likes are those little moleskin notebooks. They are the perfect size to carry in his pocket and jot down ideas on. Him being the engineer that he is he likes them to have graph paper instead of regular paper so I decided to make a few for his birthday to add to the store bought gifts I got him.

For the cover I used scrap cardboard, the inside pages are just regular graph paper that I cut down to  a manageable size. One advantage of using graph paper is that it's easy to cut straight because of all the grid lines :-) 

I used an awl to poke holes through both the inside pages and the cover and stitched it up with embroidery thread.  

Lastly, I used fine tip sharpies to decorate the covers. 
This is a great, easy and cheap homemade gift. I would definitely do this in the future for stocking stuffers and the like. I think I may try screen printing the covers in the future and see how that turns out. If you are looking for a fun and easy project you should give this one a try :-)