Painting smock made from a man’s shirt

This was a Christmas gift for my mom, who’s wheelchair-bound, with advanced Parkinson’s. She can no longer sew, and wants to try painting. So I made her a painting smock, upcycled from a man’s shirt.

The pockets and other add-ons are made with fabrics from my stash.

Here are some of the details.

  • The front pockets can hold supplies.
  • The ties go around the shoulders; not across the back, so she can get the apron on from the front, without being lifted out of the chair.

To protect her sleeves, I made these coordinating sleeve gaiters from chambray in my stash. You can also see the shape/template of the apron as it was cut from the front of the shirt.

And another smock!

After finishing the smock and then looking at the leftovers, I realized there was another smock in the back of the shirt, so I made her a second one, too.

How are the aprons working out? Well, she hasn’t shared any feedback (or paintings) with me yet, so I can’t assess the success. But I got a big smile from her when giving her the smocks, so I know they are appreciated and will be used.

Is there a tutorial? I didn’t take progress pictures to make into a tutorial. But if you do an internet search (like this) for images of aprons from upcycled men’s shirts, you’ll see a bunch of inspiring examples like I did before starting my project. The examples were all I needed, but the search will lead you to tutorials if needed.

Christmas gifts–Hand Crocheted RBG collar

In September, we lost Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was beloved by many for her words and values. Her passing inspired a trend of crocheted collars.

This picture is the cover of her memoir. Click the picture to go to the book in Amazon.

Hand crocheted RBG collars were the right gift for a few of my peeps. Here’s the version I made:

Supply list and product links:

*From one spool of ‘Red Heart #3 crochet thread’, I got three (3) of the collars described below.

Time commitment: Each collar took somewhere between 2 and 4 hours to crochet. If you like to watch college basketball, you can crochet while watching two games and you’ll likely finish crocheting the collar during the second game.

Work in progress.

My Version of the Collars (caveat: This is a listing of my rows and what’s in them, but not professionally-written crochet instructions.):

  • Row 1: Chain 77
  • Row 2: Turn. In every other chain stitch, single crochet + chain 1
  • Row 3: Turn. *Chain 3, single crochet in space between Row 2 single crochets, repeat from * to end.
  • Row 4: Turn. *Chain 4, single crochet in chain 3 space in Row 2, repeat from * to end.
  • Rows 5-7: Repeat Row 4
  • Collar end: Turn and single crochet 8 stitches along end.
  • Repeat two more single crochet rows.
  • Chain 8 for button loop, and attach loop to neck edge with slipstitch.
  • Neckline: In each chain 1 space, single crochet + chain 1 to other end of collar.
  • Collar end: Turn and single crochet 9 stitches along end.
  • Repeat one more single crochet row on end.
  • Add button at neckline and tie off thread ends.
Close up of the stitches and back closure button:

Shrink and block the collar.

  • To shrink, I soaked the collar for a few minutes in a cup of boiling water, and then tumble-dried it in a hot dryer. It came out in a compact ball.
  • To block the collar, stretch it back into shape by pinning it to padded cardboard, cover with a press cloth and steam it with the iron.

Then sew on the button.

For easy gifting, the collar fits in a greeting card. Hint: The flatter the button the better for mailing in a card.

Other patterns:

For ideas and inspiration, I studied these two RBG collar patterns:



MORE ABOUT RBG

Wikipedia link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruth_Bader_Ginsburg

Notorious RBG tour: Take a virtual tour via Zoom, of this special RBG exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum through February 20, 2021. https://www.ilholocaustmuseum.org/rbg/ (Pre-registration required.)

On the Basis of Sex (movie): “The true story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, her struggles for equal rights, and the early cases of a historic career that lead to her nomination and confirmation as U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice.” https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4669788/

Several of the usual streaming services offer this movie. Here is the link to stream on Amazon Prime. https://amzn.to/2WzmbRw

**The Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, meaning if you click and buy, I may receive a few cents from Amazon, which will help me offset the cost of my blog, which I’m committed to keeping ad-free.

Beer Bread vs. Wine Bread

It’s well-known that beer bread is tasty and simple to make. I’ve pondered whether bread could be made with wine instead of beer. According to a few people on the internet, the answer is yes. This past week I tried both beer and wine, and both worked. The wine version had a different flavor from the beer version; in a way not easily described. The flavor of beer bread is distinct and also not easy to describe, but it’s very tasty. It’s sweet, with a velvety soft, slightly spongy texture.

Here is what my beer bread and wine bread looked like side-by-side.

WHAT TO PAIR THEM WITH:

  • Beer bread tastes great warm or toasted with butter. That’s my favorite way to eat it. But it can also be used for sandwiches or as as you would use any loaf of bread.
  • The wine bread flavor wasn’t quite so easily adaptable to my palate, but I did enjoy it made into peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I still want to try it with savory spreads as well.

THE RECIPES:

Beer bread could not be simpler to make. It’s only three ingredients mixed together: a can or bottle of beer, self-rising flour, and sugar.

Beer bread recipe: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/6717/beer-bread-i/ (I took the suggestion of several reviewers’, and increased the sugar to 1/4 cup.)

Wine bread recipe: https://www.instructables.com/id/Wine-Bread/ (I used some of my Instant Pot Wine!)

No self-rising flour on hand? Make your own with this recipe from King Arthur Flour: https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/recipes/homemade-self-rising-flour-recipe (It’s just all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt.)

CONCLUSION:

I think beer bread tastes better, but when I find myself with a bottle of wine that has been sitting too long, this will definitely a way to use it.

Yeast shelf life…I stand corrected

No matter how long I’ve kept a jar of yeast, it has never gone bad. Until now. Just two months ago, I wrote about DIY bread mixes; and wrote that ‘yeast keeps well past its sell-by date’. Turns out, that very yeast was going bad as I was writing the post. The bread made and pictured in that post turned out fine. But in the weeks that followed, one of those mixes turned out like the one pictured on the left below. I tried another loaf from the same set of mixes; got the same result. So I tried one more loaf, but added 1/2 teaspoon of yeast from a new jar, and got the result on the right.

The old yeast still has not reached the sell-by date on the jar, and has been stored continuously in the frig, but for some unknown reason it went bad anyway. These things happen, I guess. I stand by my advice to buy and keep a jar of yeast on hand. I’ve baked bread since I was a little girl, and this is the first time I’ve ever had yeast go bad.

The short loaves didn’t go to waste. They sliced and tasted fine, but a bit more dense than a regular loaf.



More desert island music

We are into the final three rounds of the Slice The Life 2020 Album Draft. Round 8 has just begun. For the latest ‘desert island album’ picks, click here.

For the latest Run-Sew-Read pick, click here, and enjoy the sample below.

Squishy Squeaky Squares — DIY dog toys

When Myrtle the two-year-old pup is being awful, and I need some peace, I can reach for the red plush fabric, and spend 5 minutes making her a squishy squeaky square.

When she sees me grab the red fabric, she calms down and sits as still as a statue by my sewing chair until I’m done. When I finish and hand it to her, her appreciation is a wonder.

THE PROCESS

The squeakers came from Amazon. For Myrtle, I got the 2-inch size. https://amzn.to/3jLL9q5



More desert island music

Round 6 of the Slice The Life 2020 Album Draft has just concluded. Four more rounds to go. For the latest ‘desert island album’ picks, click here.

For the Run-Sew-Read pick, click here, and enjoy the sample below.

Three upcoming releases I’ll be watching

TED LASSO

The first four episodes are available now on Apple TV+. Future episodes are being released each Friday. The first episode was silly. From then on, each episode got better than the one before. I now don’t want the series to ever end.

This is the story of the coach who led last year’s (fictional) Wichita State Shockers football team through an undefeated season, and trip to the Rose Bowl; and then agreed to coach the Richmond, UK football (soccer) team. It’s London, Kansas, sports, and a bit of baking, all in one delightful package. In real life, there is no Wichita State football team. The university hasn’t had a football team since 1986, which makes this series even more awesome. They use the actual WSU mascot and logos.

IMDB page: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10986410

FARGO, Season 4

The next season of Fargo will be released on September 27 on FX. It is set in Kansas City in the 1950s, and stars Chris Rock. I cannot wait. “Girl, you’ve got a panty on your head.”

IMDB page: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2802850/

REBECCA

The latest remake of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca will be released October 21, on Netflix. How much am I looking forward to it? I’ve written a whole post on it, that’s how much. Read it here.

IMDB page: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2235695

(This is an entertainment report on the movie; not a trailer)



And now for some music: We are now in Round 5 of the Slice The Life 2020 Album Draft. For the latest ‘desert island album’ picks, click here.

For the latest Run-Sew-Read pick, click here. Or sample a song from the album:

I went to a baseball game this week.

Only in 2020 is it a blog-worthy announcement to say, “I went to a baseball game this week.” This past week I proudly wore one of the masks I’ve made, and attended the championship game of the long-running annual National Baseball Congress World Series tournament. I’ve written about the NBC World Series in prior years, here in 2016, and here in 2018. This month they managed to plan and carry out a 2020 pandemic version of the tournament, in a borrowed stadium.

The COVID-19 rules for attendees: Masks were required to be worn by every person in the stadium. Every other row of seats was roped off, so attendees sat at least a row apart. We were also instructed to sit several seats away from other fans.

The championship game was between the Cheney (KS) Diamond Dawgs and the Santa Barbara Foresters.

My only 7th inning stretch of 2020.

The Foresters led from the start and continued to build on their lead as the game progressed. A rain and lightning delay was looming.

The Diamond Dawgs signaled with a 3-run homer in the bottom of the 9th, that they weren’t going to be rushed out of the stadium. But then came the 3rd out, and congrats to the champions, the Santa Barbara Foresters.

The first gust from the storm hit as I left the seats. The first drops of rain fell as I was getting into my car.

More sports to come?

The last live sports event I’d attended before this was a Big XII basketball game on March 5. On the day of this baseball game, it was rumored that two of the Power-5 collegiate conferences were going to cancel football for the year. The Big 10 did in fact cancel 2020 football, and the Pac-12 postponed their football season to Spring 2021. At the time, I thought this NBC baseball game might be the last live sports event I’d be attending in 2020.

But maybe not. The Big XII has announced that it does not plan to cancel or postpone its 2020 football season. Teams want fans there, too. Wishful thinking on my part? We’ll see what surprises are out there for the final four months of 2020. Wear those masks and be distant and considerate of each other. It’s our only hope of having more chances to head to the stadiums to cheer our teams on this year.

Grind your own wheat flour

After years of ‘window shopping’ for a grain mill, I finally have my very own, and am grinding my own whole wheat flour, since last December.

THE GRAIN MILL

This is the grain mill model I purchased. It grinds up to 700g of berries per batch. 700g is about 4 cups of wheat berries, which makes 5-6 cups of flour.

Link to the product page (or click on the picture above): https://amzn.to/31whDgC

The bottom section of the grain mill is the powerful motor, and the upper compartment holds the grain and the blade. The appliance is heavier than it looks. On the back of the appliance there’s a handy red handle to use in pouring the flour out.

THE WHEAT

Where to buy:

Wheat berries can be purchased by the pound here, at a local feed & seed store. I most recently paid 75 cents/pound. Wheat berries can also be purchased at some natural food stores, or ordered online. Here are a couple of options on Amazon:

How to prepare the wheat:

I inquired with our local extension office about clean and safe preparation and use of wheat berries purchased from a feed & seed store. Their instructions were:

  • Use hard wheat; not the soft variety;
  • The wheat should be dry. Don’t wash it, because that will soften it, which will make it unsuitable for grinding.
  • Freeze the wheat berries for a couple of days, to kill the things that take up residence in growing wheat. (There’s a great discussion about those little ‘things’ here. In other words, don’t be grossed out about what’s in wheat; just follow the steps from the extension office.)
  • Sift the wheat berries with a wire mesh strainer, to remove dust and the things that got killed in the freezing process.
  • Eat only cooked or baked foods made with the wheat; nothing raw. (Translation: This is one of the reasons you’re not supposed to eat raw cookie dough. Sorry kids; this bums me out too.)
  • The standard food handling rule applies: Wash your hands before and after handling the wheat berries.

THE GRINDING PROCESS

Measure the wheat berries, sift, and then pour the berries into the mill.

Grind for about 5 minutes. The grinding compartment and wheat get very hot, so I run the mill for one minute at a time; letting it cool for a few minutes between each minute of grinding.

Here is what the flour looks like after 1 minute of grinding and again after 5 minutes. The two pictures might not look all that different, but they feel different to the touch. After 1 minute, the texture is a little bit grainy, like a very fine sand. After 5 minutes it is a soft powder.

STORAGE AND SHELF LIFE

Wheat berries have a years-long shelf life. You can buy and store wheat berries in bulk, without fear of them going bad. I’ve stored them for years in a dark cabinet in an airtight container. I noticed no change in taste, smell or texture.

After grinding, the whole wheat flour should be stored in the frig and used within about 3 months. I grind my berries on an as-needed basis, and keep a cup or less of the flour on hand in the frig. King Arthur Flour recommends storing whole wheat flour in the freezer. https://shop.kingarthurbaking.com/items/king-arthur-premium-100-whole-wheat-flour-5-lb

Is it necessary to use a mill to make flour? Probably yes. I’ve tried grinding wheat berries in an electric coffee grinder. It produced tiny granules the consistency of fine sand, but did not make flour. The granules didn’t go to waste though. They were a super tasty addition to my oatmeal.

I’ve tried grinding wheat with a food processor, and no, it simply didn’t work.

BAKING WITH WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR

Whole wheat flour creates a more dense, flatter, heavier product. If you don’t want that, use a combination of wheat flour and all-purpose white flour. My general ratios:

  • In cookies, I use a ratio of 1 part whole wheat to 3 parts all-purpose flour. (1/4 c. w/w : 3/4 c. a/p)
  • In breads, I use a ratio of 1 part whole wheat to 2 parts all-purpose flour. (1/3 c. w/w : 2/3 c. a/p)

In my recent post about DIY make-ahead bread machine mixes I used 1/3 whole wheat flour from my mill. See that darker colored flour in the bottom of the jars? That’s the w/w flour. That combination gives some of the benefits of whole wheat, but not the flat, heavy loaf. It retains the lighter, fluffier texture from the white all-purpose flour.




HOW ABOUT SOME MUSIC?

The Slice The Life 2020 Album Draft continues. For the latest ‘desert island album’ picks, click here.

Latest Run-Sew-Read picks are:

For Round 3, I sort of shook things up with a bluegrass-gospel pick:

For Round 4, I went back to rock and roll:

Six more rounds to go!

New washing machine shut off valves (and more)

Last summer I recommended checking your main water shut off to your house. This summer it’s the washing machine shut offs and hoses.

Like my former main house shut off valve, the washer shut offs were this round red handled type, that can’t be trusted to last more than a few years.

This time the old washer shut off valves didn’t break or start leaking, but recently, when I tried to turn them off, the cold water valve was stuck open. I didn’t try to force it to turn, because I’ve had one of the handles break off in my hand and the valve start spraying water (a la last year’s post).

The new shut offs. I replaced the washer shut off valves myself, with these Shark-Bite connections, and cpvc pipe. As you know if you’ve done any DIY plumbing projects in recent years, Shark Bite connections are a literal game-changer, making anyone and everyone a potential plumber. They push into place. Honest. No cement, flame torch or solder required; and no leaks.

New utility sink! I also used this as an opportunity to add a utility sink, which I’ve wanted for years. I loved the sink instantly. It gives me a place to fill and empty the mop bucket, and rinse off and soak big things. It will also serve as a backup to hold washer discharge water if there’s ever a blockage in the drain (which has happened before).

New washer hoses, too. Murphy’s Law dictates that all of my ‘simple’ DIY plumbing projects will expand into a second project. This time it was new washer hoses. As I was reconnecting the washer hoses to the new shutoff, I realized one of the hoses was going bad. Turns out, the cold water hose was so corroded at the washer connection, that it wouldn’t come loose. I feared in removing it, I might also break the connection on the washer itself. I applied some WD40 and stepped away from the project to give it time to work. Success. The hose connection came loose with some gentle coaxing, and without breaking anything else in the process.

Not good.

I’d wanted the metal braided kind of washer hose, but the store didn’t have that type in the length I needed. I could have ordered and waited on them, but I wanted everything installed that day. These will be good for several years anyway.