Sunday, May 3, 2015

That Time I Was An Upholsterer

Here on Aunt Mildred's porch, I make a lot of things that surprise my friends and neighbors.  But I have a secret.  A lot of the time, I even surprise myself!

A teacher in my school got wind of my supposed sewing skills and asked if I could do an ottoman cover for her.  Before I even had a chance to look very worried and say I wasn't sure, she said she had a cover someone made a while back and I could use that as a template.

How could I say no?  Especially when she said it was rectangular and straightforward.  No round shape with tucks and scariness.

I said I'd give it a whirl.

I began by completely ripping apart her old one.  And as I did it, I kept wondering if I had told her I would be doing that.  And I took the piping from the old one, so there was no going back.

I loved the fabric choice.   She really scored a deal because this was from the same collection of fabric that someone brought to school back in the fall, so she only had to pay me to get this snazzy new cover.

I just bought Wonder Clips recently to use for binding quilts so I will stop stabbing myself with pins.  They worked BEAUTIFULLY with this fabric and even though they are really small, they held the thickness of this fabric really well.  And I like that they stay in place even as I move the fabric and bump the machine and stuff.

The hardest part for me was the top.  Getting the piping on there was a little tricky around the corners.  I don't remember ever doing piping before but it was pretty much a breeze.

The one thing that I know I did wrong was cut the strips to cover the piping a little too small for comfort so I cut another set of strips.  It would have worked but I would have been really frustrated.

I was pretty happy with the way I tucked the piping in at the top.  On the next layer, I did something funky and I don't have a picture.  I wasn't proud of that tuck but no one else will probably notice.

The pleats were really easy when I used the original as a template to fold them.  Each one is slightly different because this was the first time I did pleats, but now that I know how they work, I think they would be easy again.  There was a pleat on each corner only.  Again, to the untrained eye, the difference on each corner won't be noticeable.

I think this was my favorite pleat.  Just enough room at the top without overlap and not too much space.

This is just sitting on a box in my house to make sure it all looked right.  I did a nice, wide hem, like the original.

And here is it in its natural environment.  I think it looks fantastic, if I do say so myself!

When I brought it in to her, I said "oh, did you want the original?"  No one ever does, so I figured she'd say no.

When she said she would, I almost dropped dead.  "You realize it's in pieces, right?"

She said she'd still like to have it, so I bagged up all of the scraps and gave them to  her.  She later told me she had no idea why she said that and I could  keep the pieces if I'd like to use them for a future template.  Since each ottoman is really its own shape, it wouldn't work, so I told her to keep it.

So, while my serger is misbehaving yet again, I'm still making my sewing room a beehive of activity.

Do you ever take on random projects that you've never done and hope you can wing it?

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Keeping All Of the Words A Secret

At the end of every school year, I take a survey among my students to find out what they loved, what they hated and what they tolerated.  With the advent of online surveys, I find that more and more, kids really let loose and tell all.

Sometimes, I think I give these surveys more for my own entertainment than anything else.  And now, I hope they are for your entertainment!

These quotes are verbatim, not censored or checked for spelling, realistic suggestions or comprehensibility.  These are my favorites from the hundreds of students I've taught.  The colored text is all me.

What was your favorite thing about learning French this year?

My favorite thing about learning French this year was that we got to learn another language and learning another language stretches your mind and makes you a better learner.  Yes, A+ for you, but you realize this is anonymous and you won't get real points, right?

the accent marks. I like that if you forget the accent mark its not a real word  Yeah, that's not really how I explained it, but I'm glad you get that accent marks are important to the spelling.

My favorite thing I learned in French was the colors I liked the colors because I like to tell my friends random colors.   Your life must have been very boring before you could tell them random colors.  Glad I could help.

My favorite part of learning French is when we talk back ad fourth in French it like we're having a weird conversation and actually it's fun to.   I completely agree!

When it comes to speaking French, what do you know you're good at?

I am very well at pernounsing the acent marks  Ahh you must be friends with the accent fiend from above. 

I know that I can keep calm,I know all the numbers and I do not have to worry about next year.   This is very Zen, right?

My favorite thing in about learning French is learning how to count in French. 1-10 was easy but it was much more harder. Now I can see how high I can get by counting in French. I can tell the date in French much easier now.   I often wonder just how high anyone can get by counting in French.  Do you tell the date easier after you're high from all the counting?

What could I do to make learning French easier?

If the kids get it right a few times I give the candy and shorter words Shorter words and rotten teeth.  Is your father a dentist, by any chance?
 Put people in groups for all the advanced kids and all the not so good kids  Yeah, they stopped this in like the 1990s, but thanks for advocating for segregation.

I wold take them to France for one week to help them see what it is like and all the cultures there.   Clearly you've been getting high counting with your friend from above. 

Let my students copy what I say Basically, this is what teaching is, my friend.  Did you think  was keeping all of the words to myself?

Keep trying  I completely agree!  Wait, should I keep trying or should the students keep trying?

Saying something in French and see if the kids new what I was saying Well, yes, that's what they taught us in teacher school.

i wouldnt be teaching french Probably my favorite answer of the entire survey.

I would go into the food and how to describe food (like fried) more. If only I had realized the one thing holding you back was not knowing how to say fried food.

Things Well, you've got me, I have no witty response.

Get somebody to do all my work for me except for teaching.  Umm, I think we call them students?

What was your least favorite thing about learning French?  (Bear with me as I cry and cry and cry here.)

My least favorite thing in French to lean is the how the do there math.  Well, "there/their" math is just like ours, so....

When I had to answers questions  Ahh, so you'd like to speak French in statements only, I see.
The words  Have you met the student just above you?  Why don't you two get together and create a new language with no words and no questions.

The real talking like Jem appele and words like that.   I didn't realize we were doing "fake talking".  And it's Je m'appelle for the 45636th time.

Learning what to say back and how to start a conversation. It was boring to me.  Ahh yes, communication is so very boring.

When I had to lean most of the words that was my least part I really didn't like it.  I see that you didn't like most of the words, but could you share a few you that you did like?

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Bird's Nests With Greens For Supper

I made the bird's nest recipe that I found in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver one time and we didn't like it.  It just had no flavor.  I must have left something out, but I wasn't interested in trying it again.

Recently, I have seen a couple of variations on that theme and I wanted to see if maybe there was a more flavorful way to make it.

This past week has been my April vacation and I managed to spend it in a most un-vacation like manner and have felt strapped for time all week.  I worked on an online graduate course that sucked up each evening, I taught a class 3 mornings with a friend of mine and I ran around playing catch up with things I hadn't been able to do before the vacation week.

I need a week of vacation now, please.

When I got up this morning, my first thought was that I have to make supper (I never want to go out on school nights, it's just a rule I can't break) and I had no idea what to make.  All of my quick standards are getting pretty tired and I needed something else.

I had this gorgeous bunch of radishes from my garden that I knew I wanted to use, but that was about it.
In order to get k-ster to eat radishes, I have to be creative and if I cook them and add them to something, he's fine with it.

When I'm feeling rushed for time, something about reading a recipe adds a whole extra layer of frustration and stress to my day.  I prefer a meal I can throw together on my own.

Which is ridiculous because whipping up something off the top of my head ends up taking much more concentration, time and creativity than reading a recipe would have!

As the day went on, I somehow concocted the following plan and what a fabulous dish it was.  My photographer is currently on assignment so you'll have to put up with my haphazard photography skills.*

Here's what I did.

Thinly slice the radishes and chop up the greens.

Saute the radishes in olive oil with some garlic for a while.  Maybe 10 minutes over medium heat.

Chop up some chard and put the thick part of the stalk in with the radishes and garlic.

When the radishes and chard are looking slightly translucent, add in the chard greenery and some spinach.  A lot of spinach, actually.  I used almost the entire 16 ounce container.  Spinach is tricky because it cooks down into just about nothing.

Stir the greens around and when they start to really wilt, crack in the eggs.  I used 5, 4 around the edge and one in the center.  In some recipes, you actually make a little well so it's like the egg is surrounded by a nest.  I was afraid the egg would stick to the bottom.

Plus, once I cracked them into the pan, I didn't have any control over where they went!

Put the cover on and turn the heat down so they can steam.  If you're worried about having enough water for steam, you could add an ice cube, but I found that there was plenty of moisture from the greens.

I was concerned that the eggs wouldn't be cooked, so I left them for longer than a person needs to.   Like probably 15-20 minutes when 10 would probably have sufficed.  They were like hard boiled eggs, which was fine with me.  K-ster said he likes them a little runnier but they were good.

While all of that was happening, I used some of these bagels that I made the other day to make garlic toast.
This picture is the only one I seem to have of the bagels, from the getting ready to boil them phase.  Trust me, they are cooked now and brown!

I used 3 of them and cut them in half and then small pieces.  I made a quick spread of melted butter, parsley and garlic and spread it on each piece and then cooked it for a while.  Maybe 15 minutes.

I prefer to cut my garlic bread into the sizes I want before I put the butter mixture and toast them. 

When all was ready, I added some Mrs. Dash hot seasoning to the nest of eggs and a little salt.  I also added the ham because every time I said we were having eggs and greens, k-ster said "green eggs and ham?"

I was worried that the flavor might be lacking, so I thought the ham might give it a little salt.  And it did!  We also added a little parmesan on top.

I will definitely make this again.

I'm toying with the idea of maybe using a couple of pieces of bacon instead of the ham.

Another good variation would be to add some balsamic to the greens.  I'm not sure what that would do to the eggs though.

I like using the radish greens and chard because I think it adds some substance to the spinach.

*I don't have a photographer.

How would you jazz up this recipe?  Leave your comments here or on my facebook page!

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Necessity Really Is the Mother of Invention

I'm so desperate to eat homegrown veggies right now, the radishes in my garden are the most enticing thing I can look at!
I love how they pop up like gorgeous marbles when they are ready to be harvested.

Radishes are the fastest growing vegetable I know.  In about 20 days, they are ready for picking!  And every time I've grown them, they have sprouted right away and produced great results.

I picked my first bunch the other morning and I just looked at these beauties for a while.  I ate them on a cream cheese covered bagel one day and then used the rest in a cucumber-radish salad another night.  As long as they are thinly sliced, I'm loving the flavor.

Today, I picked another bunch of radishes, thinking I'd keep them until I had a few more and use them in something.

And then, I had a brainstorm.  I remembered once that I read you can use spinach to make pesto if you don't have basil. 

One idea let to another and....

I chopped the radishes and sauteed them with some garlic.

I processed the greens and some spinach in the food processor with garlic, olive oil and some nuts.

Can you STAND IT???  Look at that green!!

I put the sauteed radishes on the pesto and added pasta and voilĂ .

I might have overdone the garlic a bit but this was amazing.  There was a little bite to it but just enough.  I added a little salt and ate every bite.  The radishes lost their radishy flavor.  It was delicious.

I like my pesto to be plentiful enough that every bite of pasta gets some.

It was truly remarkable and I will definitely make it again.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

And This Is Why I Don't Go To Restaurants

"Can you  help me?  Can you help me?  Hello, is someone there?  Can you help me?" was the plaintive plea as I entered the bathroom at a fish and chips place tonight.

Words can't express how badly I wanted to turn around and run all the way home, leaving k-ster, my car, and my supper in the dust.


There are 3 stalls in this bathroom and as I entered mine, I noticed a walker in the aisle and all of the doors were open.  As I dipped my toe into the first stall, I the woman in the second stall called out for help.

I turned to go and then felt terrible about it as she kept saying "can you help me?" so I went back and said "yes, what can I do?"

Is this Candid Camera?
Hand you some toilet paper?  Sure.

Tell someone in the restaurant that you need some help?  No problem.

Remind you where you are because you've lost track?  I'm on it.

But anything else I could imagine her saying?  No way.

"Can you hand me that walker there?  There's no one here, can you just hand it to me?"

So, I pushed it at her, surprised that she had so many nightgown/dress/petticoat layers going on that I would never have known she was on the toilet.

She thanked me and I went on my merry way, happily closing my own stall door.  She mumbled around like Marge Simpson and I was already thinking about my next stop after supper.

And before I was even finished, I heard "Can you help me?  Hello?  Can you help me?" again.

I froze.

What could I possibly do for her at this point?

Seriously, is this Candid Camera?

"Can you please help me?" over and over and I wanted to say "WOULD YOU LET ME FINISH FIRST???"

Instead, I finished my business and popped back to her door and said "what can I do?"

Well, it seemed, she couldn't get up.  Not even with the walker.

Seriously, can a meteor strike me down right now?  What am I going to do?

She only had one hand out so for a moment, I thought maybe she didn't have an arm.  That would certainly slow down an able bodied person, let alone this feeble woman.

"I can't get up.  It's like I need a push."

"Here if I put out my hand and you hold it, will that be enough to help?"

"Oh I don't know...." so she tried.  And failed.

"Would it help if you put your other hand on the walker as you held onto mine?"  I had discovered that she did have both arms and was trying to push off the back of the toilet with one of them.

"Oh, I don't think sooooo....."

Apparently I gave off my usual vibe of "that's baloney now DO IT" so she gave a serious push from somewhere and pulled her entire several hundred pound self up onto my arm and grabbed the walker.  Shocked, I think.

But I didn't stick around long enough to here what else she had to say.  Or see what came next.

I was like the little Good Samaritan sprite who vanished into the night without a sound.

And hopefully, without a lawsuit.

So thankful that she had on 5 housecoats so I never knew what really went on in there.

See why I hate to go out to dinner????

Sunday, April 19, 2015

How Does Your Garden Grow

I've been pretty busy in the greenhouse this month, believing that my heat mat might be enough to make the seeds germinate and the weather my cooperate enough to actually get a head start on my seedlings.

Peas were the first thing I put in the germination cage.  They popped up right away and made it safely out the door to the garden where they've gone crazy.

In the background you can see a brussels sprout that I planted in the fall.  It looked like it really died over the super cold winter, but it's coming back.  There are a few of them out there and I'm going to leave them in the ground to see if they produce sprouts.

This brussels sprout was in the greenhouse all winter and looked dead except in the center.  It acts like it might be going to seed which would be a shame because I never got the sprouts from it!

I started the packet of rainbow radishes and they have not disappointed.  Usually, I find that a variety pack of seeds ends up really being all the same with a couple of exceptions.  This packet is definitely varied.  I love how the colors are so rich and pretty, like marbles.

I picked some today and will probably eat them raw and cook the greens.  I saw a couple that are white but aren't ready to pick yet, so I'm curious.  I also started more because these did so well.  I cook them like onions and they lose that sharp radish flavor, so I really need a bunch if I'm going to do that.
I planted some seeds for white radishes too, just to see what they will do.  They are supposed to be longer, more like French breakfast radishes.

Beets weren't far behind the radishes and they are coming along slowly.
These are just an old packet of red beets but I'm excited to try a new kind that has stripes and the Shiraz tall tops that I grew last year.  The Shiraz tall tops were the best growing beets I've tried so far.

I started a lot of seeds in containers that have spinach and greens at the grocery store.  I put them on the mat in the germination cage, not because I'm worried that animals will eat the seeds, but becauseI think they need a little more warmth than the peas to get started. I started tomatoes, dill and a purple brussels sprouts.   Once they start showing leaves, I move them to yogurt containers.

The brussels sprouts were ready first.  Today, I will move some tomatoes.  I usually use the small yogurt containers and by the time plants are too big for those, it's time to put them in the ground.  But, tomatoes always need more time and the 6oz yogurt cups are too small, so I've been saving my big 30oz containers and I will put the tomatoes in there.

Once I've grow a plant a few times and know what the seedlings look like, I usually grow them right in the yogurt cups rather than starting them in seed pods.  But, since I was starting during cold weather, I used the seed pods for all but the peas, beets and radishes.

My onions arrived and since we are supposed to get rain tomorrow, I want to get them in the ground today.  Last year, it was a miserable day when I planted them and I was aggravated.  Hopefully today's sun will keep me warm in the cold wind and soon, I'll have onions galore!

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Another First On Aunt Mildred's Porch

The time has come.  Aunt Mildred's porch not only entered the interwebs last month when I renamed my blog, soon thereafter came my new instagram name and today---- a new facebook page!

You'd probably imagine that I made it nice and simple by using  Alas, standing by my motto: why measure twice when you can cry about it afterwards, I didn't realize I had mistyped.  And when I tried to change it there was a big problem.

So, I'm stuck with Go check it out.  Be among the first to like it.   See where we go from the porch.  Watch  me stumble through yet another social media site.  It'll be fun.

And my mother might make some beans for supper if you're lucky.

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