Friday, September 23, 2016

The DIY Cat Scratching Pad

The first draft of this post was crafted long, long ago.  Back before Johnny moved in.  So long ago, in fact, that it contains photos of a beardless Matt!  Thank heavens those days are over, but the cat scratching pad is still going strong (now serving two, even), so I've finally come around to publishing it.
When we adopted Ginger she came with a scratching post.  She works on it several times a day and soon we noticed that she wasn't getting as much resistance for all her efforts--the carpet covering the post was worn out.  We checked out the scratching posts at the pet store.  They were surprisingly expensive, we thought.  There were a number of cardboard models which immediately piqued Matt's interest.  "I could make one of those."
So, he set at it.  Using a box cutter, glue, and some salvaged cardboard boxes he quickly made a section of cardboard scratching pad for a trial run.
After many months of use we concluded that the DIY scratching pad had passed the test--though it obviously needed to be bigger.  I mean, Ginger could hardly stretch out on it.
Johnny, once she moved in, did demonstrate for us how it was the perfect size for wrestling with though.  So there is something to be said for a smaller size, too.
Following the success of the test model we set about making our scaled up version.  I brought home the lid to a box of printer paper from the library.  By cutting down the sides we made a short little tray to use as the base.  I glued together a second section of cardboard strips, which filled out the remaining space in the box lid.  The short edges of the box lid keep the cardboard in place as the cats roll, scratch, and nap on top, though I did glue it down with a little Elmer's glue, too.
It isn't much to look at, really, but it sure was easy and fast to make.  Ginger starts almost every day with a pit stop on the scratching pad before heading outside.  Johnny appears to think it is one of the swellest places for a nap.
We are pleased that they seem to approve of our humble little homemade product--especially Ginger and especially with tissue paper on top for the shredding and kneading.  If tissue paper AND catnip are involved it is hilariously popular place.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Useful Sewing - A Wallet for Matt

I enjoy sewing, but have reached a point where I almost don't feel like I can justify making more and more dresses.  I mean, it doesn't stop me since I enjoy making dresses so much, is nice when life hands me a truly necessary sewing project.  Like when Matt's wallet was falling apart earlier this year and he requested a new one.  I can do that.  His only special request was that it be really, really sturdy.  Okay.  I can do that, too.
Matt bought this wallet at Pike's Place Market when I took him out to introduce him to my sister, oh, ten years ago.
I had an old pair of Carhartt pants in my stash in the sewing room that seemed like perfect material for the project.  (As an aside:  These pants were once mine, but became Matt's when I stopped wearing pants.  As such, the pair served us both well for more than a decade, but had gotten quite worn out across the thighs and seat, necessitating their retirement.)  I carefully cut out the pattern pieces from the sturdiest remaining parts of the pants.  I also dug around in my collection of patches and came up with one for a band we both really enjoy--The Dark Star Orchestra--to use as the focus point.
I used the same pattern as for my own wallet, but somehow Matt's ended up both wider and taller.  Not much, but a noticeable amount lager than mine--and larger than his old wallet, too.  I thought this was going to be a deal breaker for Matt.  I told him I'd take it for my own if, in the end, he didn't care for the size.  Since 99% of the time my wallet is in my backpack (whereas for Matt it is in his pocket) it made little difference to me if it is half an inch taller.  But, he got used to it and now finds the wallet just hunky-dory.  It makes me proud when he shows it off to people, I have to say.

And I will leave out the bit where I threw the whole darn thing across the room, like a child, because my sewing machine was just not having the thickness of all those layers of Carhartt.   I mean, the important part was that I eventually walked over and picked it back up again, right?  Persistence is key.  Persistence and patient friends who not only tolerate such fits, but offer wine and words of encouragement, too.

(Update 9/19/2016:  The universe is so funny.  Just days after I finally got around to writing about Matt's wallet he got a new one for his birthday.  It is remarkably slim, made from some schnazzy metal infused paper.  He loves how small this new wallet is and immediately swapped out.  So.  I got a Dark Star Orchestra wallet after all.  Gosh.  The universe is funny...)

(Update 10/15/2018):  The saga continues.  Matt wore out the metal infused paper wallet so I sewed him up a new wallet out of regular ol' quilting cotton.  And then he stretched out the pockets by overfilling them with cards that the cards would fall out when he opened his wallet.  And he didn't like that.  And I couldn't blame him.  So, I bought him a high-grade Red Oxx wallet for Christmas this year...and then gave it to him this week because he was so clearly bummed about the state of his wallet, cards flying out willy-nilly.)

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Gorge is a Reason for a New Dress

As I mentioned earlier, I went on a five day vacation with some old, hometown friends over the Labor Day weekend.  We attended three nights of Dave Matthews Band concerts and camped out at the stunning Gorge Amphitheater, along the Columbia River in south-central Washington.
Photo credit to Matt Powers.
In the midst of my trip preparations I got a wild hair and decided I should make a new dress for the occasion.  Even though I had plenty on my plate as it were.  And plenty of dresses....
Still, the Gorge seemed reason enough and I'd had my eye on this cool combination of fabrics which I'd found in my stash.  They seemed to scream "concert dress," at me.
As usual, who knows where it came from, but odds are my mother had something to do with it.  I don't know if it was intended to be coordinated, but they sure struck my eye so I ran with it.
Initially, I'd considered the white stripes for the bodice and the tie-dye for the skirt, but there wasn't enough of the tie-dye and so that sort of forced my hand.  As it happens, I think the long white lines look swell on the length of the skirt.  The bolts of tie-dye fire running up the back, to either side of the zipper, also totally rock my world.  So, it all worked out as it was meant to be, I guess.
I had just tiny scraps of fabric left.  I was quite pleased with the efficient use of it.  There was one continuous piece from the bodice material that is about a big as a sheet of paper, but that is it--the rest was in ribbons.  I had to be pretty careful how I laid out the pattern pieces, actually, so that I could make it work.  There was lots of futzing with it.  I ran out of skirt fabric before the pocket facings were cut, so they're actually made of bodice material...not that anyone but me knows that since they're on the inside of the pockets.  I also had to make the skirt four inches shorter than normal to have enough fabric to go around.
It is a swell dress--colorful and fun, lovely for dancing.  Though I do wish I'd had enough fabric to make the skirt fuller.  Sometimes one just has to work with what they've got though.
I'm glad I squeezed in the time to make it.  Now every time I slip it on I will think of my friends and that good time we had together in such a special place.  I like that a lot.
Photo credit to Kendra Bell.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Corn and Pickles

We actually managed to be in town on a Saturday morning for a change.  As such, we hit the farmer's market for corn and cucumbers, neither of which we grow ourselves due to space requirements.  I like that, actually, it still gives us a reason to go marketing.  Pretty much everything else I want I can find out back in our own garden.  Farmer's markets are cool though and I enjoy being able to support them, even just a little.  Plus, we always run into people we know.
Matt shucked the corn while I cut it off the cob and processed it for freezing.  We use Matt's grandma's recipe.  It is the best corn ever.  I mean, isn't everything Grandma makes like that?!  We're tickled to keep the tradition alive in a new generation.  We bought eight dozen ears and--after reserving a dozen for fresh eating--ended up with almost 60 cups in the freezer, in nice little two-cup packages.  Gosh....that is a lot of corn.  Winter enchiladas and chili and fritters galore!  Hooray!
After a brief break to play with cats--who milled about our ankles pretty much the whole time as if they could sense our hands were sticky with corn and thus couldn't pet them--we tackled dill pickles.  Another Grandma K. recipe, right down to the "brown vinegar."
I'll just mention now that scrubbing the little blossom end is critical to crisp pickles.  Also, tiny cucumbers.  The seeds in larger cucumbers do nothing for the crispness factor.  People frequently ask what we use for crisp pickles and that is really all I can say.  We don't use any crisping agents or anything--though I know there are products on the market that are supposed to help.  We've never had a problem with soggy pickles--and that is indeed quite a problem.  I want nothing to do with a soft pickle.  We just scrub the blossom end off well and use the smallest cucumbers we can find, ideally the size of my thumb or less.
We canned seven quart jars and then another two quarts--the latter in smaller, more gift-able sized jars.
Next up--tomato sauce!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Some Homegrown Meals

We eat well all the year round, but late summer is a very special time in our kitchen.  The time of year when all of our favorites are ripe for the picking just before dinner time.  The first greens of spring have a charm all their own, but it seems that we can hardly get enough of these long-season, heat-loving veggies just now flooding out of the garden.  Below are a few meals where I managed to snap a photo before my plate was empty.  The + indicates the homegrown components of the meal.
Sauteed peppers+ and onions+ over pasta with tomato sauce+.  Served with grilled eggplant+ and "meat"balls.
Pizza night!  A crust made from Montana wheat, topped with red sauce+, peppers+, onions+, eggplant+, mushrooms, and Daiya mozzarella.  Ginger wanted to steal a bite right off my plate.
Hot off the grill!  Spicy, glazed onions+ a la Derek and Brittany, eggplant+, and tofu
We decided to grow pattypan squash this year instead of just zucchini and crook necks.  They are lovely in texture and in appearance.  This thick slice of pattypan+ (and others) made its way into tacos along with peppers+, onion+, pinto beans, rice, and locally made tortillas.  With some hot sauce+ drizzled over the whole thing, of course!  
My very first attempt at lasagna.  I made the noodles from scratch and everything-- though with chard+ instead of spinach, as that is what we've got at this point in the season.  It also included eggplant+, onion+, pepper+, tofu "ricotta," mushrooms, tomato sauce+, and additional handfuls of shredded chard+.  I cut the slabs of eggplant a little too thick, but other than that it was quite yummy, if I do say so myself, especially for my first go.
That sure was some good eating!  Huzzah for late summer bounty!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Make a Mini-Roll, Because Duct Tape is Handy

Duct tape can sure be handy in a pinch.  We've used it to fix Matt's shoe while on a hiking trip.  We've used it to hold together a clothes rack that had snapped in the wind in our tie-dye booth.  We've used it to tighten the threads on a leaky water bottle.  We don't need it often, but every now and then....
My trekking pole (grey tape) and Matt's trekking pole (brown tape) with Cache Lake and Electric Peak in the background.
For years we've kept a small "roll" of duct tape wrapped around our trekking poles.  In this way, Matt and I each have many feet of duct tape on hand during our adventures.  It is considerably more compact--as well as more readily accessible--than simply having a roll of duct tape tucked away in the trunk of the car or in the bottom of a backpack.  Since we always have the poles while hiking and camping they made an obvious choice for us, though I've subsequently seen this duct tape trick done on water bottles, too.  For me, that just seems like more wear and tear on the tape, as well as exposure to moisture.

More recently I wrapped a good strip around a pen and stashed it in the center console of the car.  I was going to some concerts at the Gorge and wouldn't be bringing along my trekking poles.  So, now we've got a little back up in the car, too.  Just in case.
(And while I didn't need any duct tape at the Gorge, one of the other members of our Montana crew did.  So, hooray.)

It's good to have a back-up plan.