Flavor update

May 19, 2011

We’ve been experimenting lately with some of the candy recipes we featured on the blog earlier, particularly the homemade pop rocks and marshmallows. One of the things that we wanted to try was to get some new and different flavors beyond the typical extracts found in the grocery and without the hassle of going to specialty food store.

For the pop rocks we came up with the idea of adding Kool-aid or a similar pre-mixed drink to the recipe at the point where you would add your coloring and extract (when you’re stirring everything together at the end). The nice part about kool-aid is that it already has the coloring included so you don’t have to worry about separate flavoring and coloring. Our favorite so far is the watermelon-cherry flavor which tastes a little like cotton candy when its incorporated into the candy.

The process of flavoring marshmallows is a little bit different. You do flavor them at the end, like the pop rocks, but by that time they’re not really a liquid anymore, so something like kool-aid wouldn’t dissolve. However, one of the base ingredients of marshmallow is gelatin. And you can buy pre-flavored and colored gelatin at the store very easily. It’s called Jello. For this first experiment I didn’t actually look at how much gelatin I needed before I went to the store, so I just bought a small box of jello. Turns out that a small box is only .3 oz, and you actually need an ounce of gelatin for marshmallows, so I had one part jello to three parts unflavored gelatin.

I made the marshmallows, exactly the same way, starting with the softened jello/gelatin mixture, combining it with the simple syrup, and whipping until I had marshmallow. They came out a nice soft pink color, not the vivid red that you associate with jello. The flavor is definitely there, although not as strong as it could be. I”ll have to make them again with a large box of jello and let you know how it goes.

Also, you may notice in the last picture, I was out of parchment paper, so I’m trying the marshmallows straight into a well-oiled baking dish. I’ll let you know if that was a time-saving step or a disaster a little later ;).

Here are just a few more garden pictures. These show everything planted and the different sections separated out with stakes and yarn. We’re missing a few signs still, but everything is done. Also, we have awesome homemade pea trellis from a couple of redwood stakes, some yarn and the staple gun ;). Now here’s hoping it grows!

Veggies Redux

May 8, 2011

Not much to add to today’s post, just pictures of our veggie gardens coming along.

Small box 





The total list includes beans, peas, radish, carrot, onion, basil, rosemary, chives, herbal mix, cayanne peppers, habaneros, cherry and grape tomatoes, bistro tomatos, pumpkins, watermelon, and cucumbers. Pending are zucchini, bibb lettuce, and spinach.

In other news, our front gardens are starting to go for it!


Privacy, Please!

May 3, 2011

So we’ve been living in our house for about a year and a half with no curtains in our bedroom. That’s not actually as racy as in might sound, our bedroom is on the second floor and it faces away from the street, so we’re not really giving a peep show to the neighbors. However, I did think it might be nice to have a little something other than bare windows, and to block the summer sunshine a little when you’re trying to sleep in. So the first step we’ve taken in this direction is to make some sheer curtains for our windows. To start with, I used pre-fab window scarves that I acquired for free at a home goods exchange we participated in. I also bought sheer curtain rods (the kind that hang inside your regular curtain rods), so I can add some more decorative curtains at a later date. I got the sheer rods at Habitat for Humanity’s Re-store, a great thrift type store if you’re into building or fixing things around your house. I paid a dollar a piece for them. This is my favorite part about this project-my total time and money investment is about $3 and an hour and a half.

As you can see from the price sticker on the scarf, even if you buy them, rather than acquiring them by other means, they’re still not expensive. This is a great way to go because there is an enormous amount of fabric here, and it’s already hemmed on three sides, cutting down on your work and expense. If you’ve ever priced home decor fabric you already know that even the stuff that looks like your grandmother’s couch can easily run $20 a yard or more.

The first step in this process was installing the sheer rods. Even though we didn’t have curtains, we did have curtain rods that the previous owners had left behind (judging from the curtains in the other parts of the house, we’re probably happier that they didn’t leave their curtains). Sheer rods have a small bracket that screws into the track on the traditional curtain rods, setting up the rod behind the original.

After that installation, I turned my attention to the curtain itself. The scarves I had were about ten yards long and probably a little more than a yard wide. That means you need a big open space to work with that much fabric. For me the only place I have that’s anywhere near that big is the floor. So I spread the fabric out, folded it in half, and cut it into two curtains.

You can see that the length of fabric was actually longer than the distance from my curtain rod to the floor, so I actually cut about a foot of fabric off the top to make a curtain that wouldn’t trail on the ground.

After your fabric is cut, the hard part starts. Then you have to sew your casing for the rod. This kind of sheer fabric is pretty much miserable to sew. It’s slippery, thin, and at least in the scarf I had, prone to snagging individual threads. The easiest way to get a clean edge on your cut side would be to serge it if you have a serger. I have a broken serger, so I had to make do with my sewing machine. I turned the raw edge under and sewed that down.

Because I have plenty of length and this is a tricky fabric I didn’t particularly worry about having a small seam allowance. It’s going to end up behind the curtain rod anyway.

After I turned the edge over, I turned the top three inches of the fabric down and sewed a casing for the rod.

Sewing this seam is actually much easier than sewing the previous seam. You have several layers of fabric, as well as the previous seam that all work together to give you a little more bulk and stability in your fabric.

Once you’re done with this seam, the sewing is done. You then take your shear rod, thread the curtains on, and bunch them up in the middle to keep them from getting in the way while you re-hang the rod in the brackets.

Then you just reinsert the rods in the brackets, trying not to break anything or step on your trailing length of fabric while you do so. Our final product looks like this.

As evidenced by the terrible quality of the second picture, they make the room feel a little more private without making it feel completely blocked off from the outside world. And for someone like me who is a fairly frequent napper, due to a lot of 4 am mornings at work, they really do help take the edge of the brightness, and help me sleep a little better.