Cheap Sewing

by Claire on Sep 2, 2012

This weekend was is awesome. For the first time that I remember since becoming a teacher five years ago, I did not bring any school work home. Now, that doesn't mean that I don't have work to do, I was just finally able to leave it behind. We were looking forward to completing our shed (details will be presented here in a future post), but then Nick caught a bad cold. As it turns out, I am not competent with construction work and am in no way able to complete it without him. I am more of an assistant. An assistant to the manager. 

Here is what I have done with the weekend instead:
  1. Wasted time on Facebook
  2. Cleaned the house
  3. Made whole wheat tortillas from scratch and ate them all
  4. Made whole wheat cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting for Nick
  5. Bought a weed-whacker and mowed the lawn with it (Yes, it has been so long since we mowed our lawn the real way that our pitiful mower couldn't handle it.)
  6. Flushed a black widow out of the bottom of the screen door, then made Nick get his sick self off the couch to kill it because I was too big of a wimp
  7. Made Nick some healthified cream of broccoli soup
  8. Went grocery shopping
  9. AND MADE THE FOLLOWING CLOTHING ITEMS! (Everything in navy blue, anyway.) I bought a twin-sized jersey sheet set at Target for $20 and had a hey day. The skirt came from about half of the fitted sheet, and the tank-top was made from the pillowcase. I think I will make a necklace out of the remaining portion of the fitted sheet. I am accepting ideas for the flat sheet...maxi-dress? Cape? Tights? Gloves? Leotard? All of the above at the same time?

Refurbished Medicine Cabinate

by Nick on Jul 30, 2012

After buying and returning this inferior product, Claire and I realized that we should have just refurbished our existing medicine cabinet. After removing the four screws that held it in place, I scraped away decades of oxidation using steel wool, and repainted it with appliance paint. Claire cleaned the mirror, and painted the wooden frame white. It's no Mona Lisa, but it looks much better than it did before.

Ode to the Pancake

by Claire on Jul 20, 2012

Oh, pancake!
spongey and golden goodness 
hot on a ceramic plate
butter and Grade-B maple vessel 
warm my gut

Dottie is drooling!
slobbery lips drip into saltillo tile
puddle forms
hot cake flips from spatula
cautiously she eats

Lo, there is a problem!
though I stuff my face at 7 am
I am famished at 9
sugar crash


(But, not for long. Meet the protein pancake!)

As a solution, I tweaked an already delicious family recipe given to me from my brother-in-law's (Leni's) family. I am happy to report that once again pancakes are my favorite food! And aside from all the butter and maple, these bad boys are pretty dang healthy. I can only imagine how it good it would be if someone were to top them with, say, plain yogurt and berries. That someone will never be me. But, if you can do it, good for you. 

Actual Protein Pancake:

And, soaking up the nectar of the gods:

(serves 4 if you like A LOT of pancakes like I do, or 8 if you are a dainty type of person)

Mix the following in a bowl:
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons of oil
  • 1/3 Cup of peanut butter
  • 1 Cup of plain yogurt
Top the above liquid mixture with the following, being careful to not mix them together. (This is a way my mom showed me to avoid sifting, which is a pain. Or you can mix it in a separate bowl, if you prefer.) After you have added all of the dry ingredients, stir them a bit before digging your mixing spoon deeper and combining everything. 
  • 1 Cup of 100% whole wheat flour
  • 1 Cup of garbanzo bean (chick pea) flour. I buy Bob's Red Mill brand from Sunflower Market. 
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
  • pinch of salt
Mix dry and wet ingredients together. It will form a thick, almost biscuit-like dough. Then, add water or milk until it reaches the consistency you prefer. I like mine rather thin, but I know some like them fluffy. 

Cook on a medium-hot griddle, flipping them when they start to bubble and look a little less shiny around the edges. 

(Note: I have also substituted half of the garbanzo bean flour for almond meal, which is also delicious. Or, you can substitute all of the garbanzo bean flour for cornmeal, to make you feel more like a pioneer.  The cornmeal option is less healthy and proteinerific, however.)

Let me know if you try them, and what you think! I thought they were good, but I think many of my tastes have strayed from the traditional...

Dottie Goes Camping

by Claire on Jul 15, 2012

This probably doesn't come as a surprise, but we love our dog, Dottie. I'll admit, we also pamper her too much: insulated dog house, hot-dog Halloween costume, frozen carrot treats in summer, puffy winter coat, dog-backpack, to name a few. We are those embarrassing dog-parents. Today, we took overindulging our dog about 300 steps further: we made her a sleeping bag. But, before I show a bunch of cute pictures, allow me to attempt to defend my sanity. Please. 

We took Dottie backpacking in March two years ago for her first camping trip. In her pack, she carried her own food and water dish quite successfully. We thought she would be comfortable at night with a little fleece blanket inside the tent at our feet--after all, when I was a kid, our family dog always slept just outside the tent; it was generous of us to give her room inside! Shortly after we were settled in for the night, she started shaking violently from the cold. Nick took pity on her, and she ended up sharing his sleeping bag for the rest of the night. We knew we needed to figure something out for the next backpacking trip. 

Following that trip, we went car camping several times with her in our big four-person tent. She did well with an old comforter wrapped tightly around her. 

This past weekend, we went on a little one-night backpacking trip. Not wanting to replicate the experience of two years ago, I crammed an entire Snuggie into my pack for Dottie. Surely that would keep her warm enough: it could surround her twice and it was only supposed to reach a low of 55 degrees at night. It felt like overkill. But, it wasn't. It rained, and ended up being 45 degrees. Here's how it all went down during the night. 

10:00 PM: Dottie is twice-wrapped in the Snuggie at the foot of Nick's sleeping bag in our light, tight, two-person tent. 

1:00 AM: Dottie works her way out of the Snuggie and wedges herself between Nick and I. We try to ignore her. 

1:10 AM: Dottie has her face resting on my neck, a paw on my shoulder, and her bottom in Nick's face and is shivering. 

1:11 AM: Dottie spends the rest of the night between our shoulders, wrapped again in the Snuggie, and partially sharing Nick's sleeping bag. Nick and I each have roughly an inch of space between our faces and the sweating tent walls. (It is a downpour outside). 

6:00 AM: Nick wakes up to find Dottie has almost completely taken over his sleeping bag. (See below). 

6:20 AM: Nick gets out of the tent. Dottie stays in his sleeping bag. (See below). 

6:35 AM: I get out of the tent. Dottie stays in this position for another hour. (See below). 

Today I decided to make Dottie her own sleeping bag. I cut the top half off of my old bag, and sewed the bottom shut, to save on weight. Here she is in the final product (which looks pretty stupid). I think she loves it... and we just might like camping with her from now on!

Depression Lace

by Claire on Jun 20, 2012

Recently, at Christmas, Eleanor acquired a couple of vintage gingham aprons, and I was jealous. And intrigued, especially by the little thread removal lace situation on one. (I thought this was called hardanger, but I have since googled that and I was wrong. If you know what it is actually called, please comment!) 

So, I set about trying to replicate one for myself. Here is the first attempt. 

Then, I made another. (This time it was for someone else.) I also really went hog wild on the embroidery front--if, in fact, embroidery can ever be considered "hog wild"-- and tried real depression lace, which as it turns out, is a variation on cross stitch. It was overly repetitive and involved more counting than creativity, but was oddly meditative. This time-consuming process went really well with Downton Abbey.  See the pictures below. (Except the Downton Abbey part--you'll have to Netflix that on your own.) 

The whole apron, tied in the front. When I tried it on before shipping it off, I was really wishing it was mine and that it was decent to wear in public without pants or shorts. So I started thinking about a skirt with a similar fit...something that would accent the waist and hide the thickey-thighs. And that would have a more substantial back (as opposed to a bow). 

 Depression Lace

Depression Lace (up close)

Here is the end skirt result. I was really proud of how it turned out, considering I don't really sew that well and was making it up as I went along. To avoid dealing with a zipper (I did that once ten years ago and don't remember it fondly) I made it a wrap skirt with a few snaps. It is pleated in the front and the back, and has a separate 3-4 inch wide sash that can be knotted in the front or back. I ended up really liking the high waist-line and the variety the sash can afford. 

Yep. It's basically a decent apron. (Dottie loves pictures when they are not being taken of her. Otherwise she avoids the camera like the plague!)

If you made it to the end of this post, I am impressed. 

Wow, it's been a while!

by Claire on Jun 13, 2012

Um, not quite sure where to start, as it has been a year since we posted. 
I suppose this posting will serve as a little catch-up. 
Some high-lights and low-lights from the past year (in order from past to present): 
  • Took nine credits of graduate classes in four weeks. It was an experience that warranted a swear word, or seven
  • Went to Tennessee to visit Nick (the brother-in-law) and Eleanor: toured Civil War sites, caves, and D. C. where we saw our friend Ben and the Schoolcraft family
  • Totaled another car. Again, it was not our fault and we walked away unscathed. Phew.
  • Survived fall semester: seven credits of graduate classes and teaching. Teaching. Essay writing. Grading. Planning. Eating. Sleeping. Repeat over and over and over.....
  • Gorged ourselves over Thanksgiving with Porter Seniors and Moores in Los Alamos
  • Celebrated Nick's dad's 70th birthday in Tucson with family from Wisconsin and Texas. Note: these two states are looking more and more similar.
  • Celebrated Christmas with Simson Juniors and Simson Seniors at the Aldrich residence in Eager
  • Survival of spring semester: see the fall, because it was exactly the same. 
  • Found out I would be teaching the same subject and grade level for the first time ever! Yay for American History and 8th grade! (Nick might have an added science elective next year, though everything else will stay the same: 6th grade Earth science)
  • Got a nephew: Joshua Daniel Moore on April 24th!
  • Discovered a little taste of a normal (for a teacher) summer before returning to our last graduate class: the thesis/capstone/high-stakes/25-page essay-writing bad the break was only five days!

  • Here is our nephew with his parents. 

  • Here is the shed we started building during the five days of freedom. Two weeks later, it looks pretty much the same. But two weeks from now, when we are entirely done with graduate classes, you can expect some real progress. 
  • I made invented a really cute skirt. I'll post more about that later, too. 
Now we spend our time writing that paper. Last night was especially pathetic. We had both been lost in our macbook worlds for several hours, struggling to put our thoughts onto the page, when we realized that we needed to eat dinner. After downing three magic bars earlier in the day (for shame, Claire), I knew I needed something healthy as well as quick. Nick said he would prepare some salmon (we often fry/grill these wild-caught salmon patties that we get at Costco) though he only cooked one. That's right, we split a salmon patty. I was supposed to make spinach into a hot-sautéed salad, but instead I made a smoothie out of it, which was actually pretty tasty. 

See how pathetic?

Nick with the mug-o-crap smoothie. 

Recipe: (just in case you want to make an unattractive and unappealing yet healthy tastes-pretty-good-with-your-eyes-closed smoothie)

1 really ripe banana
1 cup of fat-free plain greek yogurt
4 cups of packed fresh spinach
2/3 cups of frozen berries 

Puree in blender. 
Warning: as red (berries) and green (spinach) are complementary colors, they will make brown when blended. This is what makes it appear like the innards of a sewage pipe. See below. Try not to think of this when eating, as it may make it difficult to swallow. ENJOY!

Mug or __________?

Weeds, Paper Mache, and Teaching

by Claire on May 21, 2011

One day, towards the end of April, I became fed up with the dirt in our backyard. Dottie's bright white coat is generally a dull brown by the time we get home from school in the afternoon due to the state of our backyard. Sometimes we hose her off (but she hates it and usually urinates all over), and other times we let her into the house (but then we need to dust and sweep daily).  We decided the solution would be grass.

We have been dragging our feet about this; we didn't want to use up any more precious water than necessary. Luckily, we found a great place here in Albuquerque called Plants of the Southwest. We bought some seed that is native to New Mexico and apparently requires very little water (a couple of times a month!) once it is established. Furthermore, we were told that we didn't need fertilizer or compost as it would naturally like our soil. 

The planting was pretty easy. We borrowed a roto-tiller from our neighbors, installed a stake and chicken-wire fence to keep Dottie out, sprinkled and raked the seed, and covered it in a light layer of hay.

Shortly after we planted the grass, Albuquerque had a couple of extremely windy weeks. The hay we used to cover the grass all blew away. Oh, and then it snowed. In May. Somehow grass still came up, but unfortunately weeds did too, outnumbering the grass.

Nick making a fence that will keep Dottie off the future grass until it's strong. 
Dottie giving Nick a hug.
The weeds. (And some grass.)

On a different note, our graduate classes ended for the semester, not to resume until June 7th. The final project was actually pretty fun. Nick and I both got a bit carried away with it! We were told to create a 3D model (along with a paper, of course) with a movable part that was a metaphor for teaching and learning. Nick chose a toolbox (with a secret door representing a student's prior knowledge), and I chose to make a marionette out of paper mache and fabric scraps (the puppeteer is the super exciting subject matter, the figure is the student, and I (as the teacher) am the strings--connecting the student to the powerful and life-giving content). This is a metaphor and my goal; it is what I aspire to be in the classroom. Pictured below is the making of the marionette.

Headless paper mache doll. 

Adding hair.

The finished head. 

The finished marionette.

She is a sinister sight in our guest room,  continuously staring at me from the ceiling when I pass.  Would it be helpful to make another one (or five), or would that be even more creepy? 

In other news, Nick and I found out what we will be teaching in the fall. We are both pretty pleased with our assignments. Nick has the exact same schedule as this year and the previous year: five sections of sixth grade Earth Science. I am moving back into my old classroom from the 2009-2010 school year to  teach eighth grade American History. I am going to need to do a lot of refreshing and preparing over the summer! I have started by reading Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. Fascinating.

Later this summer:
A visit to Los Alamos to see Maggie and Leni
A visit from Nick's parents
A possible camping trip in the White Mountains
A long and much awaited road trip to Tennessee to see Eleanor and Nick
9 credits of graduate school in the month of June (Sounds a little terrifying.)
Lots and lots of sun tea

If you made it through this rather mundane post, I congratulate you. 

Bathroom Refurbishing

by Nick on Mar 16, 2011

While in Tucson visiting Jim and Candy, we decided to do several small home improvement jobs. The timing couldn't have been better: Candy was recovering in the assisted nursing facility, and Jim was away all morning visiting her. We had the house to ourselves, and we took advantage of it!

Refurbished Ceiling Fan

by Claire on Feb 5, 2011

On our second of four snow days, Nick and I decided to do something productive on the home improvement front. Our ceiling fan had been bugging us for over a year, and we thought it would be relatively simple task to paint it. Thirteen hours and four trips to Lowes later, we had the finished product. Well almost. We're going to put it on a dimmer switch because it's a little too intense!

Upcycled Workbench

by Nick on Feb 1, 2011

This work bench is made out of plastic decking. We have about 300 linear feet that is sitting in our backyard instead of at the landfill. I've been working on it for the last few weekends and am pretty happy with the way it turned out. Yes that is weekends, plural. We've been really busy here at The General.

I almost broke down and purchased some 4x4s to use as legs, but came up with an alternative using the decking. Screwing two equal length boards in an "L" shape made the surprisingly strong legs you see in the last image. I also mounted a used vise on the side, and sizable scraps of plywood as the work surface.

I plan to add a shelf below the work surface to store tools, and holes in the front and top that can be used to clamp projects to the work surface.