29 January 2010

Baby Legs!

OK, so I think technically "Babylegs" is a brand name. Oops. They're just baby leg warmers. But since I hate most everything about the 1980's as a decade, I refuse to call them leg warmers. See, that was the last time.

I made some for Lucy using this tutorial. So easy. So easy.

I bought three pairs of ladies' socks at Michaels for $1 each. Such a steal.

I had made her a pair of argyle ones out of one of my gazillion pairs,

but they're a little long.

They're really great for keeping Babby's legs warm (duh), and for keeping her socks on, since she doesn't wear shoes yet.

(I'm kind of opposed on principle to non-walking babies wearing shoes. But there's not a sharp non-walking/walking line. She's definitely walking, she just has to be holding on to furniture to do it, and she doesn't do it outside. Hmm... Time to hit up the thrift stores!)

This kid just doesn't sit still.

Ah, there we go. Asleep.

22 January 2010

Sourdough, Take 2

Last week I shared with you my rather miserable sourdough failure. To sum up, after making a wonderful-looking starter, the bread itself turned out pretty dang bad.

But this week? Oh, this week, how I love you.

I made sourdough bread and it tastes and feels like sourdough bread! It works! Cool! I mean, seriously -- water + flour + salt = bread. Dude.

In the last post I listed the problems I had and how I planned to fix them. Here's a review and what I actually did:

Problem #1: I suck at kneading.

Solution: This week I tried mixing and kneading in my bread machine. It kind of has a setting for that. But by the time the kneading was supposed to be done, it wasn't really mixed. So I poured it all out into a bowl and kneaded it myself in the bowl. Not hard at all. Kneading it the bowl really helped, I think. It wasn't so unruly. And the way I mixed it this time, it was a lot more moist. I think my problem with the kneading last time is that it was too dry/thick.

[The blogger whose instructions I'm using suggested putting two smaller balls in one loaf pan for better rising. It worked great!]

Problem #2: The counter is a little too high for me, making kneading harder.

Solution: Again, I think the real problem was that the dough was too thick and the kneading surface (a roll out rolling mat) too unruly. I didn't have any trouble this time, despite still kneading on the counter.

Problem #3: I forgot to let the dough rise all together in the bowl, instead dividing it into pans right after mixing/kneading.

Solution: Don't do that! I let it rise in the bowl, covered with a damp cloth, on top of my fridge, for about 6 hours. At that point it had nearly doubled.

[Ahh... Much better.]

Problem #4: I didn't grease the pans.

Solution: I greased the pans with butter, then floured them with whole wheat flour. Perfect -- after the loaves had cooled a bit, they slid right out.

But all was not perfection, let me assure you. I had a slight hiccup -- I assumed the bread would continue to rise a bit as it baked. Um, no. It does not. So next time, I'll let the bread rise in the pans to the size I'd like the loaves to turn out. Then it will be even better!

Actually, to that end, I think I'll mix and knead the dough the night before, let it rise all night, and then put it in the loaf pans in the morning. This time it was 7:30 pm before the bread was completely done, and I'm planning to let it rise longer next time. So that'll be good.

There's quite a steep learning curve with sourdough, apparently. But that's okay! Soon, very soon, it will be perfect.

[Also, fussy babby + black onesie + breadmaking = awesome flour handprints on babby's front and back.]

15 January 2010

Sourdough, Take 1

Ah, the sourdough starter -- one of nature's great miracles. You mix flour and water together and let it sit. And it becomes alive. Cool.

I'd been working on a sourdough starter for a week following these instructions. It was going surprisingly well! I'd heard so many stories from people expressing despair and disappointment over the lack of sour bubbliness in their sourdough starters. But mine smelled gross and had bubbles. Awesome!

Then, continuing to follow the instructions, I prepared to bake on Day 8. I was completely unprepared for the level of physical exertion it takes to properly knead bread. I am so out of shape. The good news is that, despite what I'm about to tell you, I will continue to knead and bake sourdough bread, so between this and holding an ever-growing baby, my arm muscles are going to be beefy.

Problem #1: I've never properly kneaded bread before (apparently). Eight to ten minutes!? Are you kidding me? So I set a timer. It totally did not look like dough by the time my 8 minutes were up. It was more like 15. Probably at least in part because I was doing it in a very amateurish fashion.

[Norman was trying to capture the growling.]

Problem #2: Leverage. The counter is about 3 inches too tall for me to really be able to bear down on the dough the way I need to. The bottom rung of the stepladder is too tall. I did a little bit of kneeling on this sewing basket/toy box thing we have, but it didn't feel quite right either. Next time I might try kneading on the dining room table.

Problem #3: I left out a step. Norman says it's because I have change-every-recipe-itis (which is true), so when I didn't consciously try to change something about it, my mind had to change it somehow anyway. After kneading it for 15 minutes, I divided it up and put it straight into pans. Yeah, I was supposed to let it rise all together in the big bowl first. Duh.

Problem #4: I didn't grease the pans. I think the lady whose blog instructions I was following left it out of her instructions. But that's not really an excuse. I mean, come on. This isn't my first time in a kitchen or using an oven. Again, duh.

Result: One aggravated sore back (I had already bothered it by moving a too-heavy box the day before). Eight small, hard, dense loaves of not-to-sour bread. And 6 pans that needed a serious scrubbing.

So, definite sourdough FAIL.

[That's right, there are no photos of the actual baked loaves themselves. I am too ashamed.]

But, I learned a lot, I have 4 cups of starter in the fridge, and I'm not giving up! I will eventually prevail, and we will have tasty, nutritious, easy(er) to slice sandwich bread! Huzzah!

[Random side note: I opened my local, farm-fresh eggs to find this. Do I have an OCD chicken farmer?]

08 January 2010


...things are beyond saving.

[The knee of Norman's jeans, patched, and with new holes. Soon to be Christmas stocking fodder.]

05 January 2010

How to Save a Stretched-Out Fitted Bedsheet

See that? That is my Little Mermaid bedsheet. I got it for my 6th birthday. (For those of you keeping score at home, that was 1990.) Why did I save them all this time? How did I save them all this time? Not sure. Well, honestly, the real question is, how did they make it from the day I got a full-sized bed in high school to that day in college I realized I wanted to make crafts out of everything? Their survival during the rest of those years makes complete sense.

Anyway... We now have a twin bed in our baby's room. It comes in handy for all sorts of things, like getting the baby to go to sleep and taking a nap when sick. And since I still have the sheets, and I still love the sheets, and our baby's a girl, I thought I'd put the Little Mermaid sheets in the rotation.

Upon putting them on the bed and using the bed for its various handy purposes for a few days, it became apparent that the elastic in the fitted sheet was dead. Dead as a doornail.

But not to fear, dear readers -- I fix things! (Eventually.)

Here's how I fixed it:

Take your sheet and put it on the bed. Not the whole thing; just a corner will do. You just need to get a sense of where to put the elastic. The strip of elastic needs to cut across the corner under your mattress, so find the points on the sheet (one on each side of the corner) that will make that happen and mark them with pins.

Go to your ridiculous stash of elastic in all shapes and sizes and pick out some likely candidates. At this point you could do some spiffy math and A squared + B squared = C squared it up, or you could just guess at how long your piece of elastic needs to be. (You'll need 4 of them.)

Pin the ends of the elastics to the places you marked on each corner, perpendicular to the edge of the sheet. (Very important.)

Stitch in place. (I used two rows of zigzag stitching. Wouldn't want it to tear and come off!)

(Upon reflection, I probably should have stitched the ends of the elastic to the insides of the sheet. But who's gonna see it, really?)

Put that sheet back on one corner of your mattress and marvel at the difference!


01 January 2010

Babby Toys

This Christmas was Babby Lucy's first Christmas. She is 8 months old. Because she is:

1.) 8 months old, and
2.) Her paternal grandparents' first grandchild and her maternal grandparents' first granddaughter,

we figured we (her parents) should go light on the Christmas presents.

[Those reasons are really just excuses. We plan to go light on the Christmas presents for our children every Christmas. We already go light on the Christmas presents for each other, our extended family, and our friends.]

Here's what Lucy received from her parents for Christmas:

One of those Tupperware shape ball thingies. It was a thrift store score, otherwise, trust me, I would have gone for the primary colors.

A wooden car from Etsy. I just figured she needed a car.

A hat like Jayne's from Firefly. This one is pretty special to me. I thought, "You know what would be awesome? A hat like Jayne's from Firefly, but for a baby!" I knew that various Etsy sellers sold adult versions of the hat. I then thought, "Who could I get to knit one of those for me?" As I was thinking over my knitter-friend options, I discovered that Meg Wood knits baby hats and sells them on Etsy!

[You don't know who Meg Wood is, do you? She runs this website. And this blog. I've been reading her site since high school. She's also on Facebook, which is how I found out about the baby hat knitting. I think. The other important thing about Meg Wood is that she loves Firefly. So this was pretty much the perfect fit.]

The hat is also pretty much a perfect fit. It's not too big, but there's definitely room for Lucy to grow. Awesome.

I was also going to make Lucy a cloth ball from this pattern, but I ran out of time. I'll probably still make her one or two one of these days.

[A Post Script Tangent: Santa Claus. The more I think about the concept of Santa Claus, the more I dislike it. We will not be telling Lucy there is a Santa Claus. Yeah, yeah, I know -- "But it's just fun to pretend!" That's true, but not when there are real things at stake. My biggest beef with Santa? Gifts turn into this thing that you deserve because you were good, and then they just magically appear. In reality, gifts are free to you -- you don't earn them And you aren't under any obligation to give them to others. They are about love and grace. And gifts come from people who love you and sacrificed time and/or money to give them to you, not from a magical elf with unlimited resources.] End rant.