Sunday, October 19, 2014

The World's Most Expensive Dog Bed

A woman I know thinks I am a fabulous seamstress because she's asked me to make some crazy things in the past that I've managed to pull off with some serious creativity.

There were cushions and pillows I made.  One set came from a valance that had ships on it and she wanted each ship to be its own pillow.  And didn't want to add any new fabric.  So I made it work.

There were the mambo sleeves that I made for 20 uniforms for the marching band.  That was probably my favorite because I really had to go out on a limb to figure out how to do that, but I made it work.

There was the the quilt that she started to make for her daughter and never finished and she claims I did a beautiful job finishing it and backing it.  I have no recollection of this at all.  I remember talking about doing it but I don't remember any of the colors or what the squares looked like or standing in my parents' cellar backing it and finishing it.

But she says I did it.

And there was a neat Red Sox quilt that I made, which I now think might have been what started the whole thing.  I didn't make it for her, but she won it in a raffle and discovered that I can sew.

I swear she sits up at night dreaming up weird things for me to make.

This time, it was a dog bed.  As we stood at the counter in the office, she told me about her 4 poodles (two standard and two smaller but not toy poodles) and the bed that her husband made for them.  Currently, they had a couple of outdoor cushions but she wanted one long cushion to match her kitchen.

Surely, I could make it, right?

We talked about the size and referenced the counter we were standing at and I left thinking it might be about 4-5 feet long and maybe 12 inches deep.


82 inches long and 25 inches wide wasn't quite what I had in mind!  It's like a mattress, not a cushion!

I thought for a long time about what kind of closure I wanted.  I thought I'd go with velcro but when I started looking at the velcro options, what I wanted didn't really exist and I didn't want to order it and wait.  I wanted to get this done so I'd stop thinking about it.

For a minute, I considered snaps.  I decided not to and I'm glad because this is indoor/outdoor fabric and when I've tried snaps on that kind of fabric before, they just ripped right through.

I knew I wouldn't find a super long zipper at Joann fabrics, but I looked at the choices to see what I could come up with.  I decided that two 30 inch parka zippers would do the trick.
I wanted to butt them head to head.  I figured that little opening wouldn't matter and I wasn't going to try to finagle a flap that would cover it since this would always be facing the wall.

The total length wouldn't be quite the length of the cushion but it would give a nice opening for putting the cover on and off.  And I thought the parka style would be nice and heavy duty.

Plus I really like how well they zip! It's so smooth!

One thing I didn't think about was how to make the bar tack at the end of the zipper.  Since it's meant for a jacket, the zipper can come right apart and I didn't want the bulkiness of the end tab.  If this was a small zipper, I would have sewn over it to make a bar tack and snipped the end, but this zipper is so thick, I had to hand sew the bar tack and then cut the end and probably ruin my scissors!

I thought I had a picture of the actual finished product of my bar tack but I guess not.  You will have to imagine.

As I cut the fabric for all of the parts, and held my breath a lot...

I realized that it frays really easily, so I serged all of it before using it.

I debated just using my serger with both needles so I would have to sew just once, but I was concerned that I might have to rip something out and ripping out serged stitches makes me swear.

Since I'm only a make believe seamstress, I really don't know what I'm doing 99% of the time, so I winged it.  When I cut this, I was only planning to add an extra inch to everything so I could use nice, thick, half inch seams.  But that seemed like it would be too small, so I was more generous in the cutting.  And then I ended up trimming it all and had only an extra .5 inch at each end.  So it would have worked the first time, but I was afraid of screwing it up and having to buy more.

And this fabric was NOT cheap, even on sale!  It's not Sunbrella, but it was still a fortune and the cushion is very dense foam and did I mention 82 x 25 inches?  I think she could have bought a car for what she paid and that was without my labor!

Once I had everything serged, I decided to tackle the zippered side first because it was causing me the most grief.  Then I finagled something to make the tabs work and it came together really nicely.

As I cut out the side strips, I  found that there was a repeating pattern to the stripes, so that meant some extra cutting to make them line up.  I was pretty pleased when I made that happen, especially for the front.

Because dogs are going to care if it looks right...

Once I was satisfied with the zipper side, I sewed all of the side pieces together and then ripped them right out.  I thought it would be better to sew each side to the large pieces and then sew the corners, rather than the task I had started to make for myself which was going to be more difficult, getting the big piece to fit in the pre-sewn rectangle.

It came together pretty much as I wanted it to.  I've done cushions before, but I'm always surprised by something, every time.  This time, it was the fact that I sewed the entire thing closed, inside out, and then had to play with the zippers to open it so I could flip it back around.

It took k-ster and me both to stuff it and work it and make it fit but after some serious grunting and knocking things off tables and walls, we got it all in and zipped.  I can't imagine her ever taking it off to wash it and then getting it back on....

Clearly they hated it....

I hadn't seen the bench ahead of time and I don't think she brought the foam into the house once she bought it, so we didn't know that the cushion is slightly deeper than the bench.  Her husband said he'll put a new piece of wood to extend it so it all fits.

And now I'm off to shorten sleeves on a jacket for her and start looking at prices for the private island I'll be able to buy once she pays me for all of this.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

If This Jeep Is Rocking...

Here's a true story to brighten up your week.

Walking back to the car, I remotely started it and unlocked it.  We both got in and got situated.  I went to put it in gear.


It wouldn't move.

I checked my foot on the brake.  Yep.

I checked to see if the emergency brake was on.  Nope.

I checked to see if I was losing my mind.  Not yet.

So I tried again.  Foot on brake.  No emergency break.  Car running.  No movement on the shifter.

So I tried again.

And then I looked at k-ster in panic.

"It won't move,"  I said.

"What do you mean?  Try it again," he said.

So I followed the same steps.

Nothing happened.

"Put your foot on the brake," he said, and he tried the shifter.


"Oh, it's because we are on a hill.  It's sticking.  This can happen." he said, and got out.

This sounded ludicrous.  The hill wasn't even a hill.  It was a small incline.  Surely I've parked on bigger hills, for longer periods of time with nothing sticking.  And this is a 2009 model, not 1942.

Nothing should be sticking.

I imagined being stuck there all night.  Having to call AAA.  Having to sleep over at his brother's when we hadn't planned on it.

And then I imagined that we'd keep trying and actually break the shifter right off.  And then what would happen?  How much would that cost?

K-ster went to the front and said if he rocked the vehicle, it would unstick what was stuck.  So, he started pushing on it to rock it.  And I sat there being so mad that this was happening.

It was moronic, him rocking my vehicle back and forth.  This can't be right.  He's pretty smart when it comes to fixing things and finagling things but this was the most absurd thing I'd ever heard him say.

"Ok, " he said, "when I rock it back, put your foot on the brake and then put it in gear."

I did this about 10 times.  He was getting it rocking more and more and still, nothing.  We had just had supper and I imagined him having a heart attack right there, rocking my vehicle.

"What happened?" they'd say.  "Well," I'd say, "I couldn't put it in gear and he got to rocking it to unstick it and well, he just dropped."

He changed positions and tried rocking it again.

And I sat there like a fool, putting my foot on the brake and trying to put it in gear with nothing happening except him getting more frustrated and me getting more mad.

Surely this was ridiculous.  This was not right.

"Ok," he said, "turn it off, put the emergency brake on and then turn it back on and release it and see what happens."

So, I turned off the car.

And discovered that when I had put the key in the ignition, I hadn't actually turned it forward.  It was running because I had started it from down the road.  But until you actually turn the key, nothing can happen.

So nothing was stuck.

Except the piece of my brain that was supposed to tell me to actually turn the key.


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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Things You Might Hear In My Classroom

These kids are constantly cracking me up with their comments and questions and they provide far more comic relief than middle school ever did!

"Here, French lady, here's that paper you want"- waving a paper frantically in my face.  I'm not French.  And I'm not usually a lady.

"Miss Mazelle..."  they are so excited to call me Mademoiselle that somehow, this started last year and even though I correct them every time, it has spread to the new 4th grade students.  I don't know where they get this!

"Derriere sounds like you're saying deli"  me:   "well, I try not to think about the deli when I think about butts"

"That's a picture of a mime.  Or a gnome.  I always get them confused."

"Wait, what's your name again? "  "Mademoiselle W"  "No, I mean your REAL name, like when you're riding at the barn" "Oh, well you can't call me that here at school"  "Oh, ok!"  - because there are so many kids that I teach who also go to camp at the barn, I could drive a carload full of them over there after school!

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Monday, October 6, 2014

A Bounty of Grapes

We have a plethora of grape vines on the property that have been here far longer than any of us.  We are not nice to them.  We cut them, mow them down, pull them out and year after year, they come back.

Like it's their job.

Every September, it smells like a Welch's grape juice factory as the grapes ripen and fall down or the racoons and possums get them and shake them down.

The entrance to the outdoor shower is a carpet of smooshed grapes, stinking like a winery.

Every year, I say I should make grape jelly.  But I don't really like grape jelly, so I've never really acted on that.

A couple of years ago, I was sure I was going to make some jelly and the night before I was planning to do it, a little 4 pawed bandit had a grand old time and shook them all over creation and my plans were dashed.

After my fabulous blackberry jelly making venture this summer, I decided this would be the year I would tackle the grapes and make some jelly.  Or jam.

Because when life gives you more grapes than you can handle, you better pick them and do something with them.

About a month ago, I went out to pick some tomatoes from the garden and ended up with 2 quarts of grapes instead.  I read about how to make grape jam, which was simpler than grape jelly because the skins are involved and no pectin is necessary- I'm not sure what pectin is and I'd rather not add it if I don't have to- so even though it was a school  night, I gave it a whirl.

First, you separate the pulp from the skins and cook them separately.  When everything is soft, you put the pulp through my favorite device- THE FOOD MILL!
It keeps the seeds a some of the tougher pulp out of the mix.  Then you add in the skins and cook it for about 15 minutes.
Look how gorgeous!  It smells so amazing when this comes together and truly smells like grape jelly.

The taste is far beyond the taste of the typical grape jelly I've had before.  This has some substance to it because the skins are in it.

When I made the first batch, I made 7 half pint jars and thought we'd never use it.  Then I started adding a little to plain greek yogurt and OMG, 2 jars later, I realized that I better make some more if I want it to last!

These grapes are so plentiful this year that even a month later, I was able to pick plenty to make another batch and this one came out just as beautifully and actually make a little extra.

I'm not sure why grape yogurt is never an option.  You see every flavor imaginable but no one ever puts grape in there.  It's fantastic and I haven't tired of it yet!

15 jars later and maybe it'll  be a different story!

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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Hitting The Sauce

Finally- FINALLY, I realized that if I use this handy little device, I can make a good jellied cranberry sauce that everyone will eat.
This fabulous device is called a food mill.  It's so simple and so awesome.  I poured in the boiled cranberries, put it over a pot, and then turned the handle a million times.  It squeezes out all of the juice and some of the thickness of the pulp, but it keeps the skins and most of the seeds out of it.

Behold, a lovely jellied cranberry sauce.
I like whole berry sauce, but not everyone does.  When I bought the food mill back in the summer to make blackberry jelly, I started thinking about other fabulous uses for this handy thing.

K-ster happens to know a guy who grows cranberries down the road a little.  A few years in a row, we got a lot of cranberries from him and I made a lot of cranberry things and canned a lot of sauce.  I froze some, I gave a lot of cranberries away.

And then I didn't ask for any for a couple of years because we had cranberry overload.

This year, I wanted to try my theory with jellied sauce, so I asked him to get some cranberries.

Perhaps I need to define my version of "some".  They came in this cool, old fashioned box (which I'm supposed to return...) but seriously, I could give away a gallon bag to everyone on the street and still have plenty.

So far, I have 7 pint jars of jellied sauce and we'll see what else I can come up with.
I kept some of the pulp that was left in the food mill and put it in a jar.  I'll use it like a spread.  K-ster probably will not, so I will have it all to myself.

When I decided to make jellied sauce and knew I was going to use the food mill, I was less picky about taking off every single little stem that comes with the cranberries.  After I took out that pulp and put it in a jar, I remembered the little twiggy pieces.  Hmmm, do I want little stemmy twigs in my spread?

And then I decided that since they were boiled and softened, do I really care?  And the answer is probably not.  There weren't that many.  I didn't can these because I don't trust anything for canning except this website.  I will not use any other recipes to can because I'm weird like that.  But, that's where you can see how I figured out how to do the jellied cranberry sauce.

Now to see what else I can create with cranberries.

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