Crafting in small spaces

We have a bit of an unusual life, Wadly and I. We live on twelve south-facing acres backed up to forty square miles of Weyerhaeuser on a dead end road off a dead end road mere minutes from the freeway. As locations go, it couldn’t be more perfect. It’s quiet and private here. From the top of our property we can look out over Shoestring Valley and see Mount St. Helens in the distance.

4×6 cutting/crafting table

Once our mortgage was paid off we decided living small was better than bigger fancier accommodations with its accompanying debt. Because our living space is small, engaging in crafts like quilting takes some innovating and good organizational skills. Having a table that will fold up out of the way when not needed is a crafty thing indeed. When it comes to crafting in a small space, it’s all about maximizing use of space!

Unless you have a family whose members require personal space, bedrooms are a waste. They’re one-use rooms not used for most of the day. I’ve always though Murphy beds were a really smart idea. They allow the bedroom to be more than one thing.

Table tilted up out of the way

Our bed is not a Murphy bed. It’s a metal frame that sits up high enough that storage bins can be placed beneath. To further maximize the space, I’ve mounted a 4×6 layout/cutting table on the footboard. The plywood base is covered by an Omnigrid mat I purchased from the factory on a Guild field trip. The mat is held to the table by tiny brass nails to keep it in place when the table is tilted up out of the way.

Color me crying

I’m had to update my theme and it makes me sad . . . very sad. I’d had the parchment/fall colors theme from my site’s beginning in 2008. The beautiful rich colors and feather-edged layout were perfect for what I like . . . but it had to go. The last time the theme was updated by it’s author was years ago. I been treating it tenderly and coaxed it along, but those days are over. I have to have more function and it can no longer rise to the task.

Color me crying.

Burger Bowl!

In my continual search for really good food I can eat, I’ve discovered . . . Hamburger Bowl!

I have two version (with or without avocado) and they’re both wonderful. Those of you who eat carbs and bread/buns/etc. won’t think it’s so great, but for me . . . few carbs and no grains . . . it’s awesome!

On medium low, cook diced mushrooms and diced bacon in a 6″ skillet with a teaspoon of butter.

While that’s cooking dice a roma tomato and a slice of onion (choose the one you like, I’m using the basic yellow). Add two heaping teaspoonfuls of Farman’s Dill Pickle Relish in a bowl, add the diced onion and tomato and warm it in the microwave. Don’t COOK it, just get it warm so it doesn’t chill the hot ingredients. For my puny little microwave I use 55 seconds on cook, stir, then back in for another 15 seconds.

When the bacon and ‘shrooms are done or nearly done add the raw hamburger. The shape isn’t important, it’s getting chopped up when it’s done cooking. (I buy hamburger in bulk and package it in snack bags in the freezer for easy use. I get the amount of hamburger I need when I need it at a lower cost.)

When the hamburger is nearly done, dice up the hamburger and add 3/4 cup of black beans (drained and rinsed). Stir the beans into the mix. once it’s all heated up lift out the goodies (leave all the fat in the pan) and add them to your bowl of warmed and diced goodness.

Stir it all together and eat it with a soup spoon. OMGosh good! Heads up, this is more than will fit in a regular soup bowl.

When doing the avocado version I wait until everything’s mixed together and add the diced avocado to the top. Yummy stuff!

Awesome Chocolate Waffles/Pancakes

This recipe uses zucchini from my aquaponic bed. I’m getting enough zucchini to be able to eat a whole one a day, sometimes two a day. Woot!

ChocWaffles
Mmmmm.

These are SO awesome!  Fresh zucchini, coconut flour, eggs, cacao powder, medjool dates, butter and baking soda.


2 eggs, 2 medjool dates, 2 tbsp melted butter, 1/2 cup grated fresh zucchini
2 eggs, 2 medjool dates, 2 tbsp melted butter, 1/2 cup grated fresh zucchini

In a pint jar add 1/2 grated fresh zucchini, 2 large organic eggs (warmed in hot tap water before opening), 2 tablespoons melted butter, 2 medjool dates (pit removed).  Spin on the blender attachment and run on lowest setting until everything is chopped and mixed.


After blending
After blending


Cacao powder, coconut flour and baking soda added and blended.
Cacao powder, coconut flour and baking soda added and blended.

Spin the top off and add 1 tbsp coconut flour, 1 tbsp cacao powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda.  Spin the top back on and blend until the powdered ingredients are integrated.

Step4
Cook and serve with butter. Mmmmm.

Portable crisper

Portable crisper
Portable crisper

I eat a lot of vegetables. Because I am a fuss-less person I’ve come up with a way to get my veges out of the fridge without spending forever pulling them out of a drawer, stacking them on the counter, whack off what I need only to stick them back in the fridge again every time I cook. This portable crisper sits on top the glass shelf that is the cover for the existing crisper in my fridge and, with the handy handle molded into the front of the drawer, allows me to pull it out of the fridge with one hand.  It contains most if not all of the veges I need.

This crisper is the drawer and glass shelf from a small portable fridge. With the addition of a brass piano hinge and some aquarium sealer, a piece of washable non-skid shelf liner for the inside and very little effort, I have streamlined and shortened my prep time.  The lid fits flush against the top preserving the moisture in the veges.

The paper sack is cut down from a large grocery sack and holds mushrooms at the perfect humidity to keep them fresh.  Strong smelling veges like onion are zipped in plastic but everything else is pre-cleaned, unwrapped and ready to use.  A cut-to-fit non-skid shelf liner keeps the veges up off the plastic bottom to avoid accumulation of moisture where veg and plastic meet.

Current content of the crisper include zucchini, yellow squash, onion, celery, mushroom, red and green pepper.  The larger build-in crisper contains overflow and backup stock.

Testing the molding

Materials
Molding clay with silicone mix pasted on.

End result after about 2 hours.

Let the games begin!  I’m testing molding.  After lots of research, I’m actually testing!  Woohoo!

  • Modeling clay (doesn’t dry out)
  • Something to use as a base (glossy scrap cardboard)
  • Pure silicone caulk
  • Xylene
  • Corn starch
  • Stir sticks (old plastic spatulas)
  • Mixing container

I used the modeling clay to make something to mold against.  I cut a piece, stuck it down to the glossy card stock, mixed equal parts corn starch and silicone caulk, then added xylene to get a spreadable consistency.

I then plastered the silicone mix onto the clay.  Not pretty, but pretty really isnt’ necessary.

The third picture is the result after two hours.  The silicone was largely set.  I didn’t do a good enough job getting the silicone into the register holes.  I’ll know to watch for that when starting the actual mold making.

Neat stuff!

Second sock, done except for the ribbed cuff.

I’m about 2/3 of the way done with my second 6″ crew sock.  It’s going very nicely.  My heel-turn technique is improving (fewer holes) and my work is nicely even.  I love the cast-on technique for toe-up knitting.  The heel turn method is easy and easy to adapt to fit my specific heel.  Getting a good fitting sock with no pattern is easy, after the fifth heel tear-out on the first sock.  Go me. <grin>  The next pair I’ll do differently still and they will be even better . . . and faster!

I’ve got a couple yards left in the first skein of yarn which isn’t going to be enough to finish this sock.  The second skein will let me finish this sock and should leave me with enough to make another pair with short cuffs.    I couldn’t buy quality socks for the price I paid for the yarn so color me happy.  I guess that’s one of the blessing of having small feet . . . more sock per yard.

At this point, I need to solve my needle problem.  I’ve ordered another brand of needle AND some fix-it stuff.  If one won’t work, the other should.

The top needle is straight from the package as-built by the manufacturer. The bottom needle has been altered to remove the hip which causes the yarn to get stuck on the cable.

The fix-it stuff is for the problem I have with the join between the tip and cable for the square needles.  They really are a good concept, but the design/execution could really use some work.  Let me explain.

The socks I’m making are worked in super-fine yarn.  Other than crochet thread for doilies, that’s the finest yarn sold in skeins for hand knitters.  The yarn manufacturer recommends a size 3 needle but I like tightly knitted socks so I’m using a size 1 needle.

For the stitch transfer to go smoothly for finer yarns, the join between the cable and the needle really has to be flawless.  Add together the fine yarn, small needle size and tight knitting and getting the yarn back on the tip from the cable becomes tricky in the best of situations.  As you can see, the join on the top needle in the above picture is a far cry from ideal.

When I got the square needles, I was appalled at the price (easily twice the price of needles the same length and size at KnitPicks.com) but I really liked with the squared off shaft which reduces hand strain and the slightly shortener tip which fits my hand better.

The total limpness of the cable is a true wonder.  When you make socks using two 16″ cable needles, stiffness in the cable prevents even tension in the stitches where the needle change occurs.  This is magnified for tight knitters.  That forced unevenness drives me nuts.  The limpness of the cable on these needles solved that problem.  The difference in appearance between the first sock (done largely with stiff cable needles) and the second (completely knit on limp-cable needles) is graphic.

To fix the hip-join problem between the tip and the needles I used my brass hammer and cobbler’s jack and reshaped the butt of the tip.  This worked really well right up until the altered shape of the butt impacted the integrity of the cable sheath.  Click the needle image and you’ll see what I mean.  The extra sharpness at the butt over time caused the sheath of the cable to separate and peel back giving an additional place for the cable to snag the yarn, though it’s still an improvement in moving yarn back onto the tip over the original shape.  Unfortunately, in one needle it caused complete separation between the tip and the cable.

I’ve got some neat stuff coming that I hope will allow me to solve the tip/cable join problem and let me continue to use these too expensive but wonderfully shaped needles.

Check out Sugru.  It’s an air curable silicone rubber which bonds to aluminum.  When my multi-color 8-pack arrives, I should be able to reshape the join to a smooth ramp AND take the stress off the cable sheath at the join.   If it doesn’t work as well as I think it might, I might be able to use it instead of cork for the heel seat in my shoes!  The uses for this stuff have got to be endless!

I have decided I need a purple pair . . . I just need to find the right purple.  Every girl should have at least one pair of purple socks.  The Patron Stretch Sock yarn is so awesome I am hesitant to try another type yarn.  I’ll have to see what kind of purple they make.

Winter wonderland

Our winter wonderland from the deck
Boopy Girl all dressed in winter white
The arrow marks the spot - that's 1/3 of the way to the county road. The drive goes to the left around the south-east pasture and along the barely visible tree line to the arrow where the pasture meets the trees. It then hangs a left and goes another 400 feet down a hill and around a sharp corner before hitting the maybe-plowed county road.

I think we can safely say winter is here, don’t you?

I had plans for today but with the depth of the snow, the length of our driveway, the fact that it’s still snowing and projected to continue snowing all day, I think those plans are officially toast.

If anybody in the neighborhood is going to the store, I need some stuff.  Call me.  <grin>