Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Reusable produce bags

I was up late watching the Olympics so around 12:30 am, I decided to make myself a few reusable produce bags out of some shiny nylon netting that I picked up at Wal-Mart this afternoon while school supply shopping for Chris. Don't ask how I managed to wind up in the craft department while doing school shopping but it was all planned, believe me. Anywho, I just picked up some CFL light bulbs prior to arriving in the craft department and they caught the eye of one of the ladies who works there. We started talking about how much energy we're saving by replacing our old bulbs, which led to how we're both using cloth shopping bags, to how ridiculous I feel using said cloth shopping bags only to fill them with plastic produce bags, to how she divorced her second husband only to discover that she's a lesbian at age 60, to how she's getting married in a Pagan ceremony, all in the course of about 10 minutes. I was all into that conversation when we were rudely interrupted by someone who actually needed her assistance. I told her I'd catch her later and went on to look at fabric. She actually caught up to me first to let me know that she saw some nylon netting in the remnant bin so that I can make some of those produce bags we were discussing previously. Shortly thereafter, her partner stopped by, I introduced myself and took my leave. See? I managed to get the story back to those produce bags! Aren't you so proud? I got 2 yards of netting for $1.43 and I've made 4 bags so far. Allowing for different sized bags, I figure that I can get 6 more done with what I have left. Here are the ones I've made so far. What did I learn from this project? Use a zigzag stitch on the top hem while slightly stretching the fabric to keep the stretchability factor in the top of the bag. I chose not to include a drawstring like some others that I've seen because I don't think I always need one and because I like to get the twist ties from the store, which I reuse for different things at home.

Now I don't have to feel half-assed when I'm doing my grocery shopping!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Fabric hair curlers - part deux

Okay, I mentioned that these fabric curlers did an awesome job but I found them to be uncomfortable to sleep in. My problem is that I sleep on my tummy and having the curlers on the side of my head made it really hard to get comfortable. Last night I decided to try something I'd only tried once with hot rollers and that was to pull up my hair to the top of my head and put it in a ponytail, then put the hair hanging down in the curlers. This is the way to go! I slept so comfortably and couldn't wait until I got up so that I could see what kind of result I'd get from this set. FABULOUS! And I only used 5 curlers for this set. I was tickled pink. Pics are of what my head looked like with the rollers in and then results this morning.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Fabric hair curlers

It all started when I saw this post on Craftster. It was too great of an idea not to try. In fact, when I saw the original blog that these came from, I thought they looked like handmade tampons and sent an email to my friend, Steph, to that effect. I'm sure she thought I was completely off my rocker until she figured out that they were not tampons, but fabric hair curlers instead. I loved the concept but didn't quite understand why they were made the way they were, but as usual, I made them in a way that made sense to me. Here are my steps:

1) Cut fabric into 4" x 9" rectangles. You can get 10 per one fat quarter of fabric.
2) Fold fabric in half lengthwise with right sides together.
3) Stitch down one short side and the long side using a 1/4" seam allowance. You now have a long tube. Turn it right side out. **See note below**
4) Now is the time to sew on the button to the closed end. I do it on my machine. You want to do it now while there isn't any stuffing in it...way easier!
5) Mark the tube 4 1/2" from the open end. This is to mark where you'll stop stuffing it.
6) Start stuffing with Poly-Fil using small wads of stuffing. I push them down to the end with my finger and use a chopstick when necessary.
7) When I've reached the mark I made earlier, I sew straight across to trap the stuffing into the end.
8) Now turn in about 1/4" of fabric towards the inside of the tube and sew shut, making sure to sew as close to the edge as possible.
9) Make a buttonhole parallel to the newly closed edge. Cut it open. You're done! Now make 9 more for a complete set. I happened to make a total of 20 for myself since I have so much hair, but I really have only used 10 each of the two times I've set my hair with these. It's nice to have extras, just in case.

I washed my hair at bedtime and set it when it was about 50% dry. I didn't use any styling products the first time (see pictures below) but I did the second time. The second time I started with dry hair that I just slightly misted with water and used styling gel on each chunk of hair right before I rolled it. The second time, the curls were much curlier and actually spiraled, though I didn't roll them in the spiral style. I was very pleased. I just wish I took a picture of them.

I must add that I didn't find these particularly comfortable to sleep in. I'm wondering if I put too much stuffing in them, I'm just not used to sleeping in curlers, or I'm a tad tenderheaded. It won't stop me from using them though!

I've already made a set for my Mom, who usually sets her hair on pin curls every night before she goes to bed. I hope she likes them!

**Note** It seems that with each set I make, I learn something new. With this one below, I took a few extra seconds and pressed 1/4" towards the wrong side on one short end of the rectangle. This is going to be the open end where I will stuff the fiberfill. When sewing up the long side, I go ahead and tack the folded edge down. What a small epiphany that was! It made it so much easier to close up that end when the time came. Here, let me say it for you...DUH! This will now eliminate the beginning of step #8 from the list above.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Cold brewed coffee...yummy & cheap!

I'm just back from Hawaii (will blog more about that later) and while waiting for my flight, Chris and I went to the nearby Starbucks for a cold drink. Since I just can't stand paying $3.00 for a cup of their iced tea, I decided on a cup of iced coffee instead. Paying nearly $4.00 just reminded me that I used to make great iced coffees using a cold brewed coffee concentrate. I looked into this concept a few years back but I'm too cheap to spend the $30.00 for the Toddy system and went about trying to figure out my own way of doing it. (BIG SURPRISE, HUH?) I'm not the only one who refused to pay for the Toddy as you can see here and here. I, however, figured out how to do it using my 32 oz. French press pot.

1) Measure 1 cup of coffee grounds and pour into the French press.
2) Fill pot with cool water, leaving about 1 1/2 inches from the rim.
3) Press dry grounds down slowly with the back of a spoon and then slowly stir so that all of the grounds get wet.
4) Rest the plunger and lid on the very top of the grounds. Don't press down.
5) Let the mixture rest on the countertop for 12 hours.
6) Slowly press the plunger down completely.
7) Decant your concentrate into a bottle with a lid to store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
8) Remove plunger, take a spoon and scoop out the grounds into either your trash or compost bin. You don't want to pour your grounds down the drain!

The best part about this method is that your coffee drinks can be made as strong or as weak as you want by simply adjusting the amount of concentrate you use. Also, if you suffer from acid reflux, you may notice that you can drink coffee drinks made from cold brewed concentrate because this method makes a brew with less acid than traditional hot brewed methods.

You can make hot coffee one cup at a time. Try using 1 to 2 ounces of concentrate for an 8 ounce cup and fill with hot water. You may need to nuke your cup in the microwave for a few seconds because adding hot water to cold concentrate may not produce a steaming hot cup of coffee.

For iced coffee, I dissolve a couple of teaspoons of sugar with hot water in the bottom of my glass (sugar syrup or flavored syrup would work great here), add a couple of ounces of concentrate, nearly fill the glass with milk and then top off with ice. If this is too strong, you can mix the concentrate with water and ice then top off with milk.

Of course, if this seems too labor intensive, you can always buy ready made concentrate. If you just want iced coffee that tastes surprisingly like the stuff sold at McDonalds, check out my previous iced coffee blog post.