Inspiring Heat Wave

I am more then over Global warming. What's up with the crazy weather? Doesn't Berkeley know it's not supposed to be 80 degrees here ... ever! While I bake in my house I've decided I don't have nearly the appropriate amount of skirts of this weather so I pulled out a favorite skirt, cute stash fabric, and grabbed the dress form to fix this dilemma. So far I have a grey cherry blossom fabric lined with a creme colored bamboo blend since the main fabric was kind of thin.

Progress so far has been to drape and French seam the body and lining, which are two yards a piece of a circle skirt style. I've started to play with a center back zipper and the shirring for the waist. I'm thinking a flat waistband to help keep the fullness under control at the waist

Below is how far it's come...

House Week 8 & 9: New Beginnings

Over the last two weeks i have been more than waist deep in house.  Last week was the second where my parents and i took a week off from our lives and busted through as much as possible with the house.  For Mom and I this meant three FULL days of painting primer on to the back of the new siding for the house.  Who knew that we could burn out the motors on airless paint sprayers so quickly : )

My father decided he wanted a partner this trip and brought up the handyman that has been working with him on projects for their house for the last few years.  Together they got most of the electrical boxes wired, the water main replaced, most of the water piping placed/saudered, all of the gas mapped out and ready to go, and even a couple of windows in place!  Not bad for losing four of the seven days to "mis-communication" between the contractor and reality.

We spent the weekend trying to get caught up with the framing and i'm excited to say all of the exterior walls are up.  It looks tons bigger than before, which we only added 200 square feet so i guess it really is just the perception.  I really love how the house is turning out and how patience my father has been with me about all of the silly details during each phase of the project.

Wk 8: Framing for the New Foundation
Wk 8: Framing for the New Foundation

Wk 9: The new West Side of the House
Wk 9: The new West Side of the House

Wk 9: View out of the back bedroom
Wk 9: View out of the back bedroom

Next week ... Pictures of the new faucets, sinks, toilet, and more!!!

A little bit of Spare Time

I have managed to find ten minutes here and there over the last couple of weeks to work on a summer dress that's been kicking around since mid winter. Last night I was finally able to get past the basic setting of the facings, I hate facings. I wish everything just clean finished itself. Don't get me wrong...I understand their functional purpose...just hate edgestitching something that is only 2" wide. Oh well, it's nearly ready in time for my trip to NY! Here is the fabric, pics of the dress to come this week while it finally gets hemmed.

Things to do with Lemons: Lemon Poppyseed Bread

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread
A new breakfast favorite and super quick is ... Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

I have modified this from one of my favorite baking books "The Joy of Vegan Baking" swapping the blueberries with poppy seeds and a couple of other small changes.  Don't get me wrong, blueberries rock!  But poppy seeds are scrumptious and i have a small stock pile of them that i've been using this recipe to wind through.

I prefer Almond Milk when baking over other non dairy milks like soy or rice milk as it's thick.  Much thicker and closer to the consistency of cows milk.  Also if you buy it unsweetened it has as little as 35 calories a cup!  Nearly a quarter of most milks and i find the flavor to be rich, yet not over powering.  I have successfully made this recipe with rice milk with complete success as well. I recommended that you experiment and find what is the best for your cooking style and flavor palette.

This can be made either as a single loaf, 12 regular muffins, or 24 mini muffins.  I lean towards the loaf and mini muffins to help with portion control, these are tasty and i have to watch i don't eat a batch in a night.  Please note that the cooking times will vary depending upon what you decide to go with, here are some approximates:

a) loaf = 55 minutes @ 385F (somewhere between the 375 and 400 marks)
b) regular muffins = 25 minutes @ 400F
c) mini muffins = 22 minutes (check these often to ensure they don't burn) @ 400F

2 cups unbleached flour
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Zest of 2 lemons
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 1/8 cup of almond milk
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp lemon extract
1 tbl white distiller vinegar
3/4 cup poppy seeds

1. Preheat the oven based on the type of item you are making and lightly grease your pans.  I use earth balance sticks and run them all over the inside of the pan or muffin trays.
2. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest in a bowl.  (I recommend buying a micro-planer is you like lemons, it will save you hours on tasks like these)
3. In a separate bowl combine sugar, milk, oil, lemon extract, and vinegar.
4. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and add the poppy seeds.
5. Pour into your pan of choice.  If muffins only fill 2/3's of the way full as these grow!
6. Cook as per above chart.  They are ready when an inserted toothpick come out clean.
7. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pans for 5 minutes to help the tops to not crack.
8. Remove from the pans and cool on wire racks
9. Enjoy!!!

House Week 7: Let's just cover her up a bit

Wk7: Getting Some Walls - Outside
I love the rain, but it's getting between me and my house and it should know better!  Unfortunately with all of the beautiful rain the construction on my house has slowed down a bit.  Oh well, that did not stop us from getting started on the re-building of the house.

The last week was focused on three things a) getting out the old foundation, b) finishing the re-framing of the existing walls where necessary to allow for the electrical and plumbing to be started, and c) to get as much of the sheeting for the exterior walls up as possible  While the contractor worked, we worked right along side on our own projects.  It was a bit crowed at times, but i'm glad it worked out this way as my father the master engineer was able to put in more than his 2 cents on how things were going and was able to give guidance (and corrections where necessary) while he was in town.  This house may be the only thing standing after the apocalypse with how sturdy it's being (re)built!

The parents came up for the week to power through some thing and over the weekend my brother showed up with reinforcements to help muscle our way through some of the basics, like the sheeting.  It's been great how awesome everyone has been and how much help i am getting from everyone.  This is a lot of work, and i know it's worth it, but it sure does feel better to not be doing it alone ... Thanks everyone!!!

We made good progress for how little we actually had to work with.  Here's a list of our achievements:
1. Sheeting/Plywood up along all exterior walls...that are staying after the addition
2. All of the re-framing complete for the portions of the house that are staying (last minute decision to re-frame *most* of the interior walls was made on the job Wednesday morning)
3. All of the Electrical Socket boxes have been installed (no wiring) for the walls that are staying
4. Picked up my front and back doors from Omega Salvage and Urban Ore
5. Removed ALL of the paint from the Front door ... looks like i may be able to stain it instead of having to paint it, exciting!!!
6. Attached "strapping" along the tops and bottoms of the windows (this was my mother and i nailing over 1000 nails into metal strips up near the ceiling and down near the floor in about a day)
7. Called Lowe's about my windows at least 8 times...and they still aren't here ;p

Most of the windows i ordered are different then what the house had before ... but i think that is a good thing.  Previously the windows were in weird places and either too big to too small.  I was able to up/down grade as appropriate for the rooms and it totally made a difference.  Here's a shot of the East Wall of the house from inside (no interior walls just yet).

Wk7: Getting Some Walls - Inside

With the existing walls back in place, window positions cut out, and doors moved where i wanted it's really starting to feel like the house i envisioned back in February.  Here's a shot of what "will be" the view from my Dining Room once i move it ... i love my house!

Wk7: The future view from my Dining Room

Things to do with Lemons: Meyer Lemon Marmalade

When life gives you lemons...can them?  This seemed like a good idea the more i read about it.  It appears that a couple of different Jams/Preserves/Marmalades can be cooked and then poured into the jars and will seal themselves.  No setting wax or having to use special mixtures to get the goodies to stay fresh and tasty in the Jars for lemon marmalade.  After finding a couple of recipes online i pulled out the basics and decided that i could do this!

Meyer Lemon Marmalade: In Their Jars

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Ingredients: Equal parts of Water : Lemons : White Granulated Sugar
(6 cups a piece was very manageable and filled 6 half pint jars!)
  1. Wash the lemons thoroughly.  If you are using store bought lemons this is a super must as you need to get all of the wax off of them.
  2. Cut up the Lemons.  NOTE: Save all of the pieces that you are about to cut off as you will boil them all together to get as much pectin as possible).
  3. First cut off the tips (Steam and base).  Cut lemons in half from top to bottom.  Next cut the lemon half into wedges cutting from the top to the bottom of the lemon about a 1/4" wide avoiding the white "stem" at the center of the lemon and removing all seeds.  Finally cut the white "stem" off of the final piece and set aside along with tops and bottoms of lemons.
  4. Place all of the extra clippings, seeds, and "stems" onto a cheesecloth and tie closed.
  5. Last cut of the lemons chop the wedges into thirds width-wise so the lemon pieces are shaped like triangles
  6. Bring Water, Lemons, and goodies in the cheesecloth in a Medium sized pot to a rolling boil and keep boiling for about 30 minutes, until the lemons are super soft.  You can tie the cheesecloth to the handle of the pot to keep it from dragging to the bottom and getting lost.  I found mine stayed towards the top/side on it's own so i skipped the tying.
  7. Remove the pot from the heat.  Remove the goodies bag from the pot and let cool
  8. Once cool enough to hold squeeze the excess pectin from the bag into the lemon/water mixture.  This will help the mixture set better with as much of the pectin in it as possible
  9. While cooling place the canning jars on a cookie sheet withOUT lids, heat up the oven to 200F, and back the jars for 15 minutes to kill bacteria/germs.
  10. Just before finishing the next step bring a tea kettle filled with water to a boil and a few minutes before the jelly is ready place the jar lids in a casserole dish, then pour the boiling water over the top to sterilize.
  11. Add Sugar to pot with water/lemons and place back onto the stove.  Bring to a boil and keep boiling for about 25 minutes and then begin frequently checking the mixture for the tell tale signs it's ready.  I chose the Candy Thermometer method where once the mixture hits 220F-225F it's ready.  There is also the "Finger Nail" Test which can be found here.
  12. Remove the jelly from the heat
  13. Using a ladle pour the jelly into the jars leaving 1/4" at the top for the jars to use during their sealing process.  Most sites said that you need to do this fast, but i took about 10 minutes while trying to learn it for the first time and to not make a mess.  I didn't have any problems, but it was depend upon how "done" the jelly is, so working fast here isn't a bad thing.
  14. Wipe off any jelly that is on the lip of the jars
  15. Cover with lids and screw on
  16. Set aside and wait for the Jars to process the air inside sealing them shut.  It's super fun to hear the jars pop-shut during the day, but i think it may have given me nightmare at was kinda loud.
  17. Lastly enjoy your Marmalade!  Use it, Gift it, Sell it, do whatever you want with it...but make sure it gets used!!!
Meyer Lemon Marmalade: Boiling