Polar vortex trousers

It was a Big Brothers Big Sisters group sleepover at the zoo.  The conversation between me and a younger mentor went like this:

Her:  Haven’t seen that pant style in awhile.
Me:  Yes, they were a favorite in a prior decade.  They’ve been too comfy to get rid of.
Her:  Um, I’m pretty sure it was more than one decade ago.
Me:  I did say “a” prior decade; not “the” prior decade.

To give you the right visual, they were black stirrup pants.  Super comfortable for a sleepover, but admittedly…

Stirrup pant intact aw RSR

…they haven’t been in style for decade(s).  Actually, it was the prior millennium.  And, they aren’t warm.  So, when I needed a pattern for some insulated warm pants, I broke down and cut the stirrup pants apart to make the pattern.  Turns out it was a good choice for a pattern, because:

  • It was only two pattern pieces, which made an easy-to-sew pattern.
  • The fit was loose (unlike leggings or skinny pants), which accommodated the bulk of the insulated layers.

Pants pieces aw RSR

The fit came out right on the first try, except for the lower legs, which had too much taper for the thickness of the fabric layers.  To fix the lower leg issue, I opened each side seam below the knee and inserted a long triangle.  This worked fine.

Insert2 aw RSR

For the fly closure, I used a strip of velcro, which was not strong enough by itself, but worked fine when I added a waistband and fastener.

(View before adding the waistband.)

Pants before waistband aw RSR

Tips and notes:

  • Reducing unnecessary bulk.  For the fly and waistband facing side, I removed the pile from between the layers.  Those spots don’t need double insulation, or bulk.
  • Walking foot recommended. The lazy, impatient me didn’t use the walking foot on the sewing machine, because it is slow, and I wanted to sew this first pair up quickly.  I got by, and the pants came together quickly and easily.  But with these layers and pile, a walking foot would be the better way to go.
  • The fabric was a surprise purchase from Joann.  While shopping for something else, I spotted this at 60% off, which made it $8/yd.  It appears to be an in-store only item, so I can’t provide a link to it.  But if you have a Joann store nearby, go check the bargain fabric section with the color-coded discount dots.

The fabric:

Insulated fabric a w RSR

Why insulated pants?  For comfort and productivity.  I’m cold all winter.  Besides how miserable that is, I feel like it takes much time out of my planned day to warm up, whether by situating myself near a space heater, or having a heated throw at my desk.  It slows my productivity and energy level, just getting and staying warm.  I want to try designing and making some simple, practical garments that I can wear any day, every day, all day, at home, and just feel warm.  The ultimate plan is to make garments I can wear wherever I go during the day–from the office to grocery shopping.

This is the first of the attempts.  Not bad for $8 in materials.  To be honest though, they look like simple insulated pants that don’t cost much to buy ready-to-wear.  Must try harder to make them look more stylish for every day wear.

Insulated pants mirror model a w RSR

The polar vortex of last week was my inspiration to make these warm pants a priority.  But as luck goes, on the day I finished the pants there was a drastic warmup.  It was a 60s-70sF weekend with sun.  Crocuses bloomed!

Crocuses 2019 RSR

Alas, the winter temperatures have made a rude return, with 30+mph wind gusts, a windchill temp of -11F, and an icy coating on everything.  The pants are doing their job of keeping me comfortable.

Is it too early for a countdown to Spring?

This was the kind of Sunday afternoon that makes me start counting the weeks until Spring.  A friend posted an invite this morning for an afternoon bike ride, and two of us joined her.  We met at the park and took off on the bike path.

After a couple of miles, we neared the grocery store, where I planned to drop the group and turn the outing into an errand.  I picked up a few things from the store and then headed back home on the bike path….in the sunshine, with sunglasses on, mittens off, and coat unzipped.

The crocuses haven’t even popped out in my yard yet, but I’m starting to get excited about Spring.

Fried Ice Cream — made in the Air Fryer

     The Instant Pot has a companion in my kitchen–the Air Fryer.  Together they have transformed how I prepare foods, without my noticing it was happening.  Last year, I bought the Bella 2.5 liter air fryer, and it has indeed been a game changer.
     From wings, to simple buttered toast, to fish fillets, hamburgers, bacon, grilled cheese sandwiches; you name it, I now rely on the air fryer.
air fryer
One weekend when it was bad weather outside, I attempted fried ice cream in the air fryer, and kept experimenting until I had a process that worked.  Here’s what worked:


FRIED ICE CREAM
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE AIR FRYER
• Scoop ice cream into balls and freeze until hard.
• Coat in flour.
• Freeze until hard again.
• Coat in egg and then roll in slightly crushed cornflake cereal.
• If necessary, use your hands to squeeze the flakes into the ice cream and round out the shape.
• Freeze until hard again.
• Coat in egg and roll in crushed cereal again. If softened, freeze until hard.
• For frying, place on a small pan or piece of foil.
• Fry in air fryer for up to 2 minutes at 400F.
• Remove gently (because it will be soft on the inside) and eat immediately.
Tips and notes:
  • As you can tell from the steps, the key is to keep the ice cream frozen hard.  It’s not a quick process.
  • A 1 3/4 quart carton of ice cream made 16-17 small scoops.
  • My ice cream scoop is fairly small.  If you have a larger scoop, you might get an even better result than I did.  If so, please let us know in the comments.


Here are the steps in pictures:  
Make individual scoops of ice cream.  Freeze until hard.
Make individual scoops of ice cream
Coat ice cream in flour.  Freeze until hard.
Coat ice cream in flour
Dip in beaten egg, then cover with partly-crushed cereal flakes.  Freeze until hard.
(I’m using Aldi’s version of ‘Honey Bunches of Oats’. It makes a tasty shell.)
Dip in beaten egg then cover with partly-crushed cereal flakes
Press the flake-covered ice cream into a round ball and freeze until hard. 
(As you can see, the work surface gets a little messy.)
Press the flake-covered ice cream into a round ball and freeze until hard
[Do a second coating of egg + cornflakes.  Freeze hard again, if soft.]
For frying in the air fryer, put the ice cream on a little baking pan or piece of foil.
For frying in the air fryer put the ice cream on a little baking pan or piece of foil
Fry at 400F for up to 2 minutes; and maybe another 30 seconds, but that’s the max for these little scoops.  Any longer is likely to make your ice cream start to melt.
fried ice cream in fryer
Remove from the fryer with tongs and/or spatula, and eat immediately.  
fried ice cream done


Extras can be stored in the freezer to fry later.

Extras can be stored in the freezer to fry later
Get creative and try different things:
  • Drizzle sauce on the fried ice cream, such as caramel or chocolate sauce.
  • Top with goodies such as fruit, jam or sprinkles.
  • Try different flavored ice creams and cereals.

 

Nico 1988

This is another film I watched over the holiday.  It was hard to watch, yet I didn’t want to switch it off.  It’s not about the music and scenes of the Velvet Underground or glamorized tales of Andy Warhol and his inner circle.  The film, released in 2018, dramatizes the sobering, heartbreaking life of this 1960s icon, as she lived her final years in the late 1980s, while beginning in earnest to lay the groundwork for a brighter future.

There is no inspiration here, but something else makes it worth watching.  It is a story of a real life, well dramatized with cooperation from her son, and based on witness accounts from her inner circle.

Imdb page: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7186092/

Watch here:

Six Updates on Things I Wrote About in 2018

Just for fun, here is what has happened with some of the things I wrote about over the last year.

1.

Our historic ballpark is gone.

The entrance to our 84-year old ballpark looked like this in September, when they announced it would be torn down.

WP_20180903_003 a

They first tore the grandstand down.  Here is the site in November, when only the box office and entry gate remained.  Now those are gone too, and it’s a big flat dirt field.

stadiumtorndown2 RSR

stadiumtorndown b RSR

In 2020, we are supposed to have a new ballpark in its place.

2.

I finished reading “Sticky Fingers”.

Sticky fingers cover

After my blog post about the book, it took a couple of renewals from the public library, but eventually I finished the book.  It is a well written book about a repulsive character.  It was a repulsive read to the end.  It made me want all of those hours back that I’d spent over the years reading Rolling Stone magazine.

The soiling of Page 393.

As I was pushing on to finish the book, a bad thing happened.  I took the book with me to the movie theater to read while waiting for the movie to start.  I bought a little bag of popcorn.  Too late, I realized the bag was leaking butter.  I soiled the library book on possibly the most important page, and maybe the only important page of the entire book.

Page 393 a w RSR

When I returned it to the library, I confessed and showed them the page.  I’m waiting to find out if they are going to bill me for the book.  They certainly are within their rights to ask me to pay for it.  Because I was up front with them, and the stain was confined to a couple of pages (it bled through to the next page), they will not ask me to pay for a replacement book.  Lesson learned!  Have I mentioned how much I ❤ our library?  Well, this is just the latest reason.

3.

The electric blanket needs another repair already.

Thanks to the foster pup, aka “Jaws”.

Chewed plug aw RSR

4.

The pepper plant is still growing.  

The Poblano pepper plant that I’d planted and tended outdoors all summer, is now in a pot on the enclosed porch in the south sun.  It gets cold on the porch but has stayed above freezing.  When the sun is shining, the room can get above 70°.  Three peppers are growing on the plant, albeit very slowly.  I may be waiting all winter for a harvest of three peppers.

Outdoors vs Indoors:

 

Indoors

5.

Another Coco dress is in the works.

Here are numbers 1 and 2.

 

Sneak preview of #3:

Yellow Coco aw RSR

6.

I’ve made a shell from the 1937 pattern making instructions

 

and it fits.

IMG_20190101_160201865a w RSR

 


Aaand another holiday season is in the books.  One of my favorite holiday songs goes from reflective to angry to a call for hopefulness.  It sums up the end of the holiday season the way I feel it–looking back on the joyous gatherings of family and friends, and looking forward to the new year.

“And so I skate, across the Thames, hand in hand, with all my friends.  And all the things that we planned…

“Goddamn this government, will they ever tell me where the money went?  Protesters march out on the street, as young men sleep amongst the feet.”

“The end of Christmas day, when there is nothing left to say, the years go by so fast, let’s hope the next beats the last.”

 

 

Boxing Day!

Happy Boxing Day!  I hope you had a lovely Christmas day.  Here’s some of what came out of my kitchen over the past few days:

Soup mixes for my family who have pressure cookers. 

Soup mixes RSR

Homemade treats for the pup cousins, using this simple recipe from another blogger.  

Pup treats aw RSR

I tried baking a small carrot cake in the Instant Pot.  It came out dense like a brownie; not light like a cake.  The flavor was good though, so I hastily frosted it (aka the best part), and put it away for my own snacking later.  We shall not speak further of this failed cooking experiment. 😉

Carrot cake baked in PC RSR

Carrot cake ruled out, I ended up making my fail-safe pumpkin bread to take to the family gathering.  

Pumpkin bread aw RSR

Prep for the road trip to KC involved bottling a supply of hot coffee for me, and packing a bag of food, toys and blankets for Myrtle the foster pup.

Thermos etc a w RSR

While I was in the kitchen doing Christmas prep, this cute little booger was in the other room producing a spectacular array of shredded stuff.  Look how proud she is of her work.

Home Alone a

Myrtle mess gif

Not from the kitchen, but this was my first-ever attempt to knit a tiny sweater tree ornament.  It was my ‘hostess gift’ to our aunt and uncle who had us all at their home. (Free download pattern here.)  

Tiny sweater a RSR

The family gathering was special, as always.  Myrtle got lots of attention from the foster cousins, both human and canine.  The cat cousin Willie opted to hide out in the bedroom.

Back at home, where my Christmas decorating is bare-bones, this print is one of my treasured holiday items.  

I Believe in Father Christmas 2 a RSR

Can’t leave out Adam Sandler’s masterpiece.  🙂 

Patching jeans

You wouldn’t know it now, but these jeans were once Casual Friday office attire.

Jeans back b w RSR

Then they morphed into my go-to comfortable yard work and housework jeans. Then a knee blew out.  Then the other knee went.  With two holey knees they were stylish, so heck yes, I kept wearing them.  Now they’ve reached the point where the denim is falling apart in places.

Jeans worn spot a w RSR

I don’t need to keep the jeans, but they are darn comfortable.  So, I started using them to experiment with patchwork.  A dig through my stash ensued.  Flowers from this barkcloth print now cover the knee holes.

Floral fabric for jeans a w RSR

Some chambray strips from old curtains, are now a woven patch to reinforce the worst weak spot in the denim.  It’s working well.

Jeans front a w RSR

For the next fix, I want to mask the stained sides, where I’ve wiped my hands way too many times.  I’ve removed a pocket, which shows what color the fabric used to be.  Jeans side a w RSR

I’ll put the pocket back on, but maybe not in the same spot.

Pocket - RSR

My mom used these iron-on patches on my brother’s jeans all the time when we were little.  They didn’t last that long on little boys’ jeans.  The patch edges would start lifting, and then the patches could be peeled off.  I might find a way to use these on my jeans. Patches - RSR

The patchwork will be a continuous work in progress.  There are more places to repair now or soon, and as I wear the jeans, they will keep developing new areas to be patched.

Jeans knees a w RSR

Hopefully the jeans will keep looking better as I add to them, so that someday they warrant showing in another post.

Not a blue jeans song, because this creative process is about thinking outside the lines and beyond the obvious.

 

 

DIY Front Door Awning

An awning was not what I planned to sew this week, but the fabric on the existing one gave out.

The backstory:  Two years ago, my brother helped me enclose my front porch, which I love, but it left no cover for someone standing at my front door.  It also made the front of my house very plain looking.  I went shopping for an awning online.  It looked like I’d be spending $500-$1000 for an awning just for my entry door, and I wasn’t sure the dimensions would be right.  Enter thoughts of a DIY project.

Some quick online research showed that my idea of making an awning frame out of PVC pipe had merit.  I found some great examples and advice, such as this one on the Instructables website.  My brother had mentioned that awnings with a 45° angle seemed to be the sturdiest, so that’s what I started designing.

The frame needed to be secure on the exterior while giving the entry door room to swing open and closed.  It took one do-over to get the frame dimensions right.  When I was installing the frame to the house, a neighbor guy saw me on the ladder wrestling with the frame, and came over to help.  Many thanks to him, for making the job a lot easier with a team of two.

Here is the frame complete and installed over the doorway, attached to the exterior with galvanized pipe strapping and deck screws.

Awning frame1 w

Awning frame2 w

Next step was to design and sew the fabric awning.  I chose a pvc-lined canvas fabric from Walmart.  It was $5/yard.  I don’t have a product link to share, because it doesn’t appear to be offered on their website.  The woven fabric was super easy to cut and sew.  The fabric is more brittle than I wanted, but it is waterproof, and I was willing to give it a try for the first one.  I fastened the fabric awning to the frame with velcro strips.

Amazingly, the first awning withstood every bit of wind, rain, snow, ice and hail we had here in south-central Kansas for the past year and a half.  But this month, the fabric failed.  The awning frame is as secure as the day I installed it.  But the fabric now literally tears like paper, and started falling apart.

While I shop for a more durable fabric, I’ve made a quick replacement from more of the Walmart fabric.   It should last another year at least, while I try to perfect the next choice of fabric and tweak the construction.

The process:

This awning takes three pieces of fabric:

  • A 48 x 48 inch square, for the top piece
  • Two triangular pieces, each 30 x 40 x 43 x 4 inches, for the awning sides.  (These two pieces need to be mirror images.)

After cutting out my fabric pieces, I turned under the fabric edges 1/2″ and hemmed it for a finished look.  

Awning fabric PVC side w

Velcro tabs are sewn onto the awning to anchor it to the frame.  

Underneath view w

The top piece is tacked to the side triangles in four places on each side, rather than sewing the entire sides together.  That is intended to make it less susceptible to wind, by leaving vents for wind to get through.

This picture shows how the top overlaps the side about two inches, hiding the ‘vents’.  

Awning side w

To tack those top edges down so they don’t stick out on the sides so much, I used a Buttoneer.  Remember those TV commercials from the 70s?

The Buttoneer is still sold, and mine has been an amazingly useful gadget.  The Amazon reviews give it 2/5 stars, and some reviewers say it’s not the quality of the original ones.  If so, that’s disappointing indeed.  I’ve had mine for years, and wouldn’t want to be without it.

Buttoneer

Initially, the front awning hem was not hanging quite straight.  Annoying, but a quick fix, again using the Buttoneer.

Awning front before straighten w

Here is the awning after using the Buttoneer to tack down the sides and straighten the front.  

Awning tacked w

Materials used:

  • PVC pipe
  • PVC primer and cement
  • Pipe strapping
  • Deck/siding screws
  • Outdoor waterproof fabric (2.5 yds of 60 inch wide fabric) to make the top and two side triangles.
  • Velcro

The total cost of the awning materials was about $25.  Compare that to the purchased awning prices I was seeing, in the $500-$1000 range.

Final thoughts on this awning.

  • The first awning I made was light colored, so the PVC frame was not conspicuous.  From the angle of someone on the street, it still doesn’t show under the new dark green fabric.  But if you are up close enough to see under the awning, it really stands out against the dark fabric.  I’m thinking of painting the PVC a dark color.
  • I’d like to add a more attractive bottom edge to the awning.  I’m plotting and scheming for what that should look like.

In the meantime, anyone who comes to my door (me included) has a bit of shelter.

 

Creamy Wild Rice Soup–what I’ve been making

This is a pressure cooker (Instant Pot) recipe I tried this week after seeing others recommending it.  They were right; it’s simple and scrumptious.

The recipe calls for carrots, celery, onion, and mushrooms; all chopped.  My own twist was to use dehydrated ingredients from my pantry.  It worked out great!  Oooh, the possibilities!

Here’s the link to the recipe: Instant Pot Wild Rice Soup

My assembled ingredients:

Wild Rice soup ingredients2 w RSR

(All of my ingredients are dry or dehydrated, except the mushrooms.  I only had canned mushrooms on hand, and didn’t want to postpone making the soup.)

What it looked like in the pot, before adding the water and cooking:

Dried wild rice soup w RSR

A bowl of soup!

Bowl of soup w

My dehydrated carrots were grated, which made them too small for the orange color to stand out.  Next time I dehydrate carrots, I’ll chop some of them instead of grating the whole batch.

This was my first experience ever with actual wild rice.  (The recipe emphasizes to use only wild rice and not a rice blend.)  It turned out perfect; thanks to the recipe and the pressure cooker.

While I savored the delicious soup, someone else chewed an old boot.  We were both happy.  

Myrtle boot w RSR

Gift idea!  Using this recipe, I’ve decided to package the dehydrated and dry ingredients into gift soup mixes for my family members who have pressure cookers.  I’ll be able to give it a label that says, “Just add water and margarine.”