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Please don't remind me that I'm poor; I'm having too much fun pretending I'm simply "living green" like everyone else these days.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Homemade school glue

A few days ago I was looking through some of my old cookbooks trying to find a recipe for Caramel pudding.  I stumbled across this recipe for making paper paste.  I thought others might be interested in the recipe too.  It can be used thick for a homemade version of paper paste or it can be thinned to be more like liquid school glue.  Did you know school glue is nothing more than corn starch? 

For this recipe put 1 1/2 cups water, 1/2 cup cornstarch, 4 tablespoons white corn syrup, and 2 teaspoons vinegar into a pot.  Cook this over low heat, while stirring constantly, until it becomes thick.   Sort of like a pudding that's just a tad too thick.  Remove from the heat.

While it's still hot add 1 1/2 cups more water and 1/2 cup more cornstarch.  Stir this together without cooking until it becomes creamy.  Like a thin pudding.

As it cools it will thicken up to about what a paper paste would look like.  Put this into a container to use for any type of craft needing paste.

To make it into a pourable school glue simply add more water, one teaspoon at a time, stirring to keep it creamy.   Stop adding water when it gets to a pourable stage.  I'm going to save a dish liquid bottle to store the more liquid version.  I'm planning to use this recipe when making my cardboard furniture too. 

UPDATE:  This homemade glue should be kept in the fridge and used within a few days.  I left mine covered and sitting on the counter to see if it could last.  This is what I got after a couple of weeks.  It started to grow green hair.  It's excellent for pasting paper. 

I also found this to be an excellent recipe for making paint for Ladybug.  Just divide the glue into some small containers and add a few drops of food colors.  She spent almost an hour playing with the paint.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Canning butter

Not long ago I had a type-talk conversation with someone about canning butter.  I told that person I used to do this. But, was it really only a childhood memory of what I thought I had done?  I remembered canning butter..... but was I really the one doing it?  Did my Grandma fix my mistakes when I wasn't looking?  I began to think my memory was.... hmm..... sort of like the memories Ladybug will have of doing things with me.  I know I helped my Grandma Mama canning butter but I couldn't remember the steps and I couldn't remember ever doing it all by myself.  This kept nagging at me.  I really wanted to know.... did I ever really can butter all by myself or not? 

I called my aunt to ask how Grandma Mama canned butter.  If anyone would remember how Grandma Mama canned butter, it would be her.  After a few minutes of family catching up conversation, I asked about canning butter and whether or not I had actually canned any all by myself.  What my aunt told me had me busting out loud at my light bulb (DUH!) moment.  My aunt said Grandma Mama made clarified butter and canned it.  Yes, I did help to make clarified butter and canned it but I never made it all by myself.  Grandma Mama would send me to fetch something at just the right moment and when I returned the most critical part of the process was already done.

My aunt explained the steps to me.  Clarified butter is a process of removing the milk solids from butter leaving only the fat.  Grandma Mama called it butter lard.  Lard of any kind will last for months without refrigeration.  If you use clarified butter regularly for cooking it rotates often.  Well, after all that wondering, I just had to do some myself.

I'm showing what I did with my butter but if you do an internet search for clarified butter (or ghee) you will find a ton of places with pictures or videos.  Clarified butter is used for cooking but would not taste very good if spread on toast.  It would be like spreading grease or lard on the toast.

Start by melting the butter in a pan over very low heat.  This is at the lowest setting I can get on my stove.  Whatever you do.... don't leave the stove while making clarified butter.  If you must leave then turn the stove off.

As soon as the butter is all melted it will start to foam.  Start gently stirring the butter to keep it from boiling over.  If the butter boils over and gets to the heat you could have a major fire on your stove.

Boil the butter for about 5 minutes while gently stirring.  It will start to separate as the milk solids start to fall to the bottom of the pot.  Keep cooking at a very gentle boil.  It will boil even on the stove's lowest setting.  I actually moved half the pot off the flame to lower the heat and it still boiled. 

Some people will tell you to skim off the foam on the top but I didn't.  I followed the steps given to me by my aunt.  She told me to let it boil for another 5 minutes after it started to separate.

Pretty soon the butter will look like this.  The milk part of butter has fallen to the bottom of the pot and the fat floats at the top.  It separates even more after the heat is turned off.

Pour this clear fat through some gauze fabric but stop pouring when you see the milk part start to go into the bowl.  If you loose a small part of the fat it's ok. You don't want even a little bit of the milk solids to be in the bowl.  You can throw the milk part away or use it in a recipe calling for lots of butter.  Hmm.... like maybe butter cookies.

Here's what the clarified butter looked like after straining it.

My aunt told me that if I wanted to can the butter for long term storage I should boil the butter fat again to remove the last remaining milk solids from it.  So I did.  Here you can see that it's starting to foam again.  This time I did skim the foam off with a spoon. 

By the time I had boiled it for another 5 minutes, while skimming, it looked very clear.  Strain through more clean gauze.

Pour it into clean canning jars.

Two pounds of butter made 1 1/2 pints of clarified butter.  This can be stored either on the counter for about 6 months or in the refrigerator for a couple of years.  As it cools it will become a soft-solid type of lard. 

If you want to store clarified butter for longer times you can water bath can it for 10 minutes.   The reason Grandma Mama canned her butter was because she had lots and lots of extra butter in the spring and a big family to feed.  We didn't have electricity either so no refrigerator.  It was canned to last until the following spring when milk would be plentiful again.  Grandma Mama canned her butter in half gallon jars.

At this time of year the cost of butter should be going down.  It's getting close to the season for butter.  Eggs too.  However, with the economy being so uncertain, and gas prices going up again, we can't be sure the price of butter will actually go down.  If you use butter for cooking really often, and happen onto a bargain, think about making clarified butter.  I plan to use mine when making biscuits that call for using lard.  Butter lard will give a really nice flavor to the biscuits. 

I'm so glad I cleared up the mystery of whether or not I was the one who made canned butter.  Now I can actually say I've done it all by myself. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Catching up

Ok, a catching up post.  I did finish the quilt that was on the machine.  I'll show you photos in a moment.  I started my online portrait class and I LOVE it!  I'm finally learning how to create the patterns to do portrait quilts.  I had doubts about whether I could learn it or not.  I do learn.... it's the retaining the information in my head that worried me.  Margaret is a very patient teacher and easy to learn from.  I no longer have any doubts about retaining the information. 

I still have a lingering cough from the flu.  I'm allergic to the flu shots so when I get the flu it lasts longer for me.  I've gone through a couple of bags of cough drops already.

Thursday mother had a nasty fall out of her wheel chair again.  She got another bad gash on her forehead and had to be stitched up again.  She falls asleep in the chair and leans forward in her sleep until she falls out.  I suggested they start using a front opening harness that will keep her in the chair but is easily opened if she needs to use the bathroom.  Legally the nursing home can't use a chair harness unless the patient can open it them self for bathroom breaks or getting into bed.  The patient has to agree to use the harness and my mother doesn't agree.   

I did a little work on my cardboard blog this morning.  I made it so the steps are easier to find later if someone wants to do one step at a time.  The steps are listed along the sidebar.  I don't work on the cardboard stuff very often so the steps get added to the blog slowly.  For the new people reading this blog, my cardboard blog is about making real functional furniture from boxes that would otherwise be thrown into a landfill.  Right now I'm making a cardboard breakfast bar to go in my kitchen.  Later I will add smaller and more crafty items made from cardboard to the blog.  I call it cardboard but some people call it.... paste board or corrugated. 

Ok, here's the quilt I just finished.  You've already seen some photos I took while quilting it.  This is the top laying on the intake table. 

On the inside border I did a flower design in each 4 part section. 

On the inside blocks the centers were all different but the outside of the blocks remained the same.  I did line dancing on the centers. 

I did a flower and leaf design on the outside of the block.   This is the flower and leaves in the triangles.

This is the leaf design on the corners.

Here is the inside (pieced) border with the flowers from the back.

A look at the outside border with the weaving feathers from the back.

Another look at the outside border next to the inside border.  The weaving feather changes colors as it weaves.  It's a very subtle change between the two colors.

This is the sashing and corner stones from the back.

A look at the blocks from the back.

The next few days are going to be quite busy for me.  (So what else is new?)  I have a lot of work to catch up on now that I'm feeling better.  Right now I have homework to complete so I can turn it in today.  Later I plan to load the next quilt and start stabilizing it.  I need to work on cutting apart more of the clothing for the two memory quilts I'm making.  My house needs a good cleaning and I should make more chicken soup for the freezer.  I don't like not having it ready just in case I get sick again.  I've already been exposed to another winter time sickness which is a 3 day virus.   Geeze!  Why can't people stay away from me when they are sick?  Ok, it was Ladybug around me while she was sick.  She was exposed to it at daycare.  I love her anyway.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Scrappy nine patch

A backward pieced scrappy nine patch made from clothing.  These are some 10 inch blocks left over from a clothing memory quilt I made a year or so ago.  I'm going to make these into scrappy nine patch blocks for a charity quilt.  Yes, I could just sew them together as is; but, I thought it might be fun to make these a little more special for a nursing home patient.  I can show you my way of piecing scrappy nine patch blocks backwards. 

 I have this stack of 10 inch blocks. You would go through your fabrics and cut some for yourself.  Or perhaps you have some already cut.  Variety is what makes this nine patch fun.  I'm using what I have so some of the patches will be repeated within the blocks.  To get a totally scrappy look all the starting squares should be different. 

Cut a strip off one side.  I cut my strips 3 inches.  The finished block will be 9 X 9 inches.  Whatever size block you start with.... subtract one inch and divide by three to get your strip size.

Remove the top piece from one stack and put it on the bottom.

Pin and sew back together.

Press the seam toward the outside.  I found some of these fabrics don't want to press toward the outside.  This is clothing fabric and sometimes it's very stubborn.  I let the fabric have it's way for now and I'll deal with the seams later.  I press in whatever direction it wants to go..... but only because it's clothing.  Regular cotton fabric should behave enough to press in the right direction.... toward the outside of the block.

I cut a 3 inch strip from the other side.

Take the top strip and place it on the bottom of the stack.  Pin and sew back together.

I press the seams toward the outside again.... or whatever direction it stubbornly tells me it's willing to go.

I turn the blocks so the strips are going horizontal and cut a 3 inch strip off one side.  Remove the top piece from one of the stacks and place it on the bottom. 

I re press the seams of the strip I just cut so the seams are toward the middle.  Unless it's too stubborn to go that way.  Darn it!  Repressing lets the seams lock together for more accurate matching corners.

Pin and sew back together.

Now it's time to deal with those unruly stubborn seams.  Umm.... let me turn the block around so you see better what I'm doing. 

That's better.  Do you see where the frog stitcher is pointing?  Do you see where the last seam stitching crosses over that stitching?  Ok, frog stitch (pick out) just the stitches within the seam line.  From the previous stitching line to the edge.  It might be only a couple of stitches at most.  No need to clip the loose thread. 

Now press the seams so they form a tiny little four patch at the intersection.... like this.  Why would I do this step?  Because clothing is famous for creating fabric warts at intersections.  Warts are thick areas of fabric that can break needles.  I want to avoid creating warts whenever possible.  Regular cotton fabric will create warts too but not as thick.  Warts of any fabric will break needles. 

Ok, now darn it.... some seams of clothing quilts just want to go their own direction no matter how much steam I put to them.  Like this.  One end says go this way and the other says go this way.  Here's how I deal with these. 

Right at the point where it changes direction, I clip it.  I'm careful not to cut the stitching.  I just clip up to the stitching.... and that stubborn seam lays down for a nap.  Gosh, I think it's time to clean my pressing board.  Lots of little dots of dry starch on it. 

Now it's time to cut a 3 inch strip from the other side of the blocks.  Remove the top strip from the stack and place it on the bottom as I did before.  

Pin and sew back together. 

Repeat the process of either making tiny four patches at the seam intersections or clip the seams so they lay flat.  I now have a stack of scrappy nine patch blocks made from clothing. 

I can go even farther and make these into disappearing nine patches or simply use them as is.  I think I'll leave them as is since so many of the fabrics don't want to behave.  If I was working with regular cotton fabrics I would go farther.   

This blog post is printable if you want to print it.  Look for the print friendly button below and click it.  Enjoy!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Flu bug and angels

I have the flu.  It's running rampant through Kentucky right now and probably other places too.  I should still be in bed.  I've been sleeping off and on, day and night, since Wednesday afternoon. 

The battery in the smoke detector decided, last night, that it would start to die.  Which meant every 3 minutes it beeped a warning.  After a couple of hours of listening to the beep I decided to go ahead get up and change it even though I felt miserable.  I keep spare rechargeable batteries all the time for different things. 

Well, since I'm up anyway, I decided to take some chicken soup out of the freezer to eat.  Yup, for breakfast.  Chicken soup is good for the flu or a cold.  It will give me strength and help me sleep.  While I wait for the soup I'll fill you in on what I did before the flu bug got me.

Saturday was Ladybug's birthday party at Puzzles Fun Dome.  That's where I must have gotten the flu.  There were lots of kids (with runny noses) zipping around all over the place. 

I spent most of Sunday with the online class videos.  By golly..... I think I'm learning it!  I was doubtful before and now I'm just thrilled. 

Monday I had an appointment which lasted all day.  Actually it was supposed to be a seminar about saving money on utilities.  I knew more than they did so I was bored all day.   As payment for attending I get a portion of my utility bill paid each month for a year.  Not a lot but I'll take it anyway.  Gotta save money whenever I can.

Tuesday I had another appointment.  My annual PAP test.  I was taken to a room that was freezing cold, told to remove all my clothing, then given what looked like a paper towel to cover up with.  Geese!  It was up to me to choose whether to cover the top or bottom half of myself.  When the doctor came in I was covered by my coat and shivering.

When I got home, I started cutting apart the clothing for the two memory quilts I'm making.  There's three bags of clothing to make two queen size.  

I finished cutting the seams out of the clothing of one bag.  I need to buy a bolt of stabilizer before I start the piecing.  The other two bags will get done when I feel better.

Wednesday I finished the quilting on the quilt that's still on the machine.  When I finished it I was already starting to feel yucky so I left it there.  I'll take it off this weekend and take more photos.... if I feel better.

I also had two bags of inherited PIGS brought to me.  PIGS are projects in garbage (or grocery) sacks.  Some people call them UFOs too.  These were given to me to use for charity quilts.

So what did I get in the bags?  Well, there is this candlewick top.  The fabric is quite thin.  I'm thinking maybe I should take it apart and put stabilizer on the back of each square.  If I can work the cost into my budget?  The blocks don't look like they were cut all the same so squaring up the blocks should help too.

There is a lot of age damage to the PIGS.  Like this set of embroidery blocks.  I'm not sure what the brown stuff is.  I should wash these before piecing them together.  If the brown doesn't come out, maybe I can tea dye them. 

There's this set of painted ladies.  A couple of completed ones but the rest are not finished.  The paint is really stiff.  I don't know what kind of paint it was so I can't duplicate the original work to finish the blocks.  I'm thinking maybe I can finish these with my Tusaniko inks.  I'll check to be sure the original paint is permanent before putting more work into these.

These are appliqued by hand.  Enough for a whole quilt.... or two.  I'm thinking maybe some really pretty background quilting in the white area.  The fabric on these is really thin too. 

Hmm.... embroidery block kits.  But look at the staining.  I'm not sure how I will finish these.  I haven't done any hand embroidery in years.  I don't know if the stains will come out so I'm not sure I want to put a lot of hand work into completing these.  I can't wash them first because the design will disappear.  

These quilt blocks appear to be from a block swap or a guild.  A couple of the blocks have signatures on them.  These are also stained.  I think I can wash them before piecing together. 

Another hand applique top.  This will have to be taken apart, washed, and squared up.  I believe I can take this top apart and make two tops by alternating with plain blocks. 

There are three Dresden plate quilts started.  These should be fairly easy to complete.

There are a couple of nine patch quilts with large blocks started.  The pieces are cut, just not sewn together.

Here's another complete top.  It has me puzzled about what to do with it as well.  It has candlewick blocks alternating with yellow blocks.

I was surprised to find every one of the yellow blocks have a pattern drawn on them.  All different like the white blocks.  Hmm... were the drawings intended to be the quilting design?  An applique design?  More candlewick? 

This is where I will let the angels whisper in my ear.  What?  You don't know about the angels?  Let me explain.  When I get clothing quilts or Pigs I never know exactly what the person (passed away) would want.  Clothing quilt designs are, of course, first chosen by the one who brings me the clothing.  I then put individuality to each one.  Inherited pigs are sometimes easy and sometimes difficult to figure out.  When I'm completing either a Pig or a clothing quilt I feel as if an angel whispers in my ear..... "do it this way"..... and I usually listen.  The recipient is always happy because I listen to the angels. 

Hmm... there are those who don't believe in angels.  I do.  I have sons who have passed away.  I choose to believe that...... There is a land where those who have loved and lost will meet to love again.  I choose to believe my sons and I are only separated until I see them again in that land. 

Ok, my chicken soup is ready to eat.  Then it's back in bed for me. A couple more days of rest and I should be back to my old self again.