April 25, 2012

Glories of the Past: Ghost Wedding Birthday Cake

Violet's birthday is in October, Millie's is in November. They share many of the same friends. So the last couple years we have been having one combined birthday party for them on or near Halloween. They each get a gift and maybe a treat on their actual birthday, but most of the birthday energy goes into the party. Last fall, the party was on the Sunday before Halloween.

We had picked out some insect cupcakes to make from Hello Cupcake! This book is amazing; you should check it and its sequel out if you haven't seen it. Of course I would substitute scratch made cake and frosting recipes for the box cake and canned stuff they recommend, but it is a great design reference and can really get you thinking in new ways about cake design.

Violet's costume was a bride dress we had sewn up a few months previously, so she was really pulling for a Wedding Cake. But Becky and I felt we needed to have some kind of Halloween tie in for the cake, so I came up with the idea of a ghost wedding. Violet was highly suspicious of this idea until our friend Kelly said she thought it sounded cool, at which point Violet got on board.

April 18, 2012

Making soap

I've been wanting to get into soap making for a little while now. I tried two tiny batches last friday night.

We don't use all that much soap at our house, but it would be cool if the hand soaps in the dishes by the sink in the two bathrooms were home made. Becky and I share a 1L bottle of Dr. B's for showering; it would be neat to make that too, or a reasonable approximation of it. I've recently embarked on a journey to switch from shaving with an electric to a straight razor, and I would also like to eventually get to exclusive use of my home made soap.

April 11, 2012

Regency dress muslins enjoy a second life

Violet has been wearing her red and white regency girl's dress I made her in 2010 around with a bonnet, which is a great aid to playing Little House on the Prairie. We were having a hard time keeping it washed and available for the frequency she wanted to wear it, so I though finishing the muslins I made as precursors for these dresses would be a relatively easy way to get another dress in the same style.

We just finished them last weekend, and they turned out really cute!

April 9, 2012

Regency Girl's dress Revival

The red and white regency dresses I made the girls for Joelle's wedding (see the recent Glories of the Past entry) were unfortunately not favorites and never got worn more than a handful of times, usually only after significant prodding from me. However, Violet just realized its probably closer to anything else in her closet to something Laura Ingalls might have worn as a girl, and so these have been enjoying something of a renaissance.

They are very cute, especially when Millie and Violet match and are also sporting the white sunbonnets we got at Sturbridge Village. The other week Violet wanted to wear hers every day, and we were trying to keep up with putting it through the wash frequently enough. As might have been predicted, the white skirt gets very dirty very quickly. In response to the high demand for regency wear, I dug out the muslins I made as precursors to these dresses and we've been working on finishing them up to a wearable state. I'll post pictures when they are done of course!

Glories of the Past: Girl's Regency Dresses for Joelle's wedding (2010)

Today I will introduce a new feature here to tell you every week or so about a project done before this blog was started. Some of these are partly produced elsewhere on the internet, some are not, but I want to bring them here and add them to the collection in an easily navigated form for my reference, and your amusement. This week I'll tell you about the dresses I sewed the girls for my sister Joelle's wedding in 2010.

This is from my submission to the Show & Tell section of Sense & Sensibility Patterns, the place I got the pattern from. If you have not checked out this website, I highly recommend it. The designs are nice looking and come with good instructions and graded patterns on heavy paper.

April 5, 2012

Straight Shave Update, Homemade Strops

I've been slowly trying to accustom myself to the deep waters of straight razor shaving. Its slow going, but I figure after 100 shave attempts I will surely be getting somewhere. My razor is out for a touch up by a local B&B forum member after a botched sharpening attempt on my part. Stropping on a free hanging pasted strop is not recommended, in case you were wondering.

April 4, 2012

Sprouting at Home

As someone who grew up in California, there would be something terribly wrong if I didn't like sprouts at least a little bit. But the experience of buying sprouts at the grocery store is not rewarding. They are rather expensive, bland, and spoil quickly. Much of the time they are matted together and get slimy on the bottom.

I started looking into home sprouting when we began eating mind boggling amounts of chia seed last year. Turns out the consensus is that chia seeds actually lose nutrition when sprouted, and don't taste all that great anyway. But in the course of the chia surfing, I came across sites like Sproutpeople.  Since then I've tried many types of sprouts and usually have 3-5 groups of sprouts or microgreens going at any given time. Believe me, there are so many amazing sprouts you have never tried.

The picture above is a typical breakfast for me: black coffee, huge pile of sprouts (these are buckwheat) on homemade whole wheat bread with vegan butter. Yum!

Here is a picture of my sprout seed stock as of a month or so ago. Some people might speculate that I have overbought on the sprouting supplies. I won't argue the point, but eventually I'll use it all up.

Most weeks I do 4 quarts of regular, salad type sprouts. Lately I have been putting two TBS of a sprouting mix from Sproutpeople (Italian, Nick's Hot, French, etc.), one TBS of kale seed, and one TBS of buckwheat into a 2L jar. This turns out pretty well, though the buckwheat has a tendency to make things slimier.

I use the stainless screen lids for regular wide mouth canning jars for sprouting. Supposedly this method is not as effective as others, but I like the presentation of what is going on. A line of glittery glass jars with living sprouts in them lining the windowsill looks nice.

One exception to this is for doing mung bean sprouts. These go in a different sprouter in the kitchen closet to keep them out of the light. Apparently they get much more bitter if they are allowed to green. The mung bean sprouts will only get fat if grown under pressure, so for a while I was using an Easy sprouter with a spacer held down with rubber bands. This was ok, but not elegant. These days I'm trying to use the stainless parts from my underutilized cheese press, with a big jar of lentils on top for pressure. Still have not perfected home mung bean sprouts, but they are highly edible anyway. Here is a batch out of the easy sprouter.

Its probably a pound of sprouts, and it came from 1/4 cup of mung beans! These are just cheap mung beans from the asian store, which are highly viable for sprouting. I also tried black turtle beans, adzuki beans, purple rice, and indian millet from Reliable Market in Union Square. Nothing had a decent rate of sprouting except the mung beans, though I have not yet tried the millet.

Here is a typical view of the windowsill in the kitchen.

Starting from left:
  • 2L salad sprouts in initial soak
  • 2L salad sprouts almost done (probably have been eaten a little)
  • Black sesame (these turned out really bitter)
  • Madison Market nut mix (THE best sprouts I have tasted)
  • Wehani rice (good but not really worth the price)
The kids like sprouts to some degree. They were pretty excited to begin with, but I think the novelty has worn off. As Violet said in a tired sounding voice, "Dad, everything that can be sprouted in this house has been sprouted". Violet's favorite is sprouted peanuts. Here is Millie eating some delicious sprouted lentil/garbanzo and amaranth mash with carrots and greens, and Child 1 munching some salad sprouts (he is 1, so he'll put anything in his mouth)

I told Violet about Chia Pets and she was very interested. So I bought a chia cat off ebay and we have planted and replanted it every few weeks. Violet likes to eat the Chia sprouts off it. Both of the girls enjoy getting chia seed scum all over the place when we replant the cat. Here it is at about the one week stage, before it gets really fluffy, keeping company with salad sprouts and two types of bean sprouts.

Even Becky likes sprouts, though she was resistant at first. Here she is eating a vegan pancake sprout sandwich.

I also got some microgreens seed mix from Sproutpeople, along with a hydroponic growth media mat. This is Bruno's Indoor Garden mix, and we have been growing and eating these on a continuing basis. A pound of this mix will last for a long, long time, since one of these dishes uses only about a TSP of seeds.

So to sum up the sprout results to date:
  1. Best is Madison Market Mix from Sproutpeople, sauted for a minute or two with oil and garlic and a bit of soy sauce. Mix into fried rice or other grain or greens mix.
  2. Salad sprouts, Lentils, Garbanzos, peas, and rye are nice.
  3. Would not buy again: sesame, amaranth, rice

Kale is not great by itself, but is nice mixed in with other sprouts. I think buckwheat is too slimy, but Becky likes it since it is larger and more substantial than the salad sprouts.

In parting, another shot of a delectable breakfast: