Monday, March 31, 2014

Yellow Chevron Curtains

When I was designing the nursery I really wanted large yellow chevron curtains. I looked high and low for the pattern I wanted, but could only find very thin (at most 2 inches) chevron designs. I also was not crazy about the colors (the yellows I found were too green). So I made my own. What I thought would be challenging, turned into a marathon project that took a couple of months to finish.

It did not help that I was six, seven, and eight months pregnant at the time. Or that I tried to do this in the middle of a heat wave. But now they are done, and I do love them.

I also attached blackout fabric to keep the room nice and dark for my baby. More on that later.

This post has many steps so I'm breaking it into several posts.

Hand-painted Chevron Curtains

1. Prepare Cotton Fabric: 

Start with regular white fabric. Cut  the curtains to the length desired, making allowances for hemming the edges. Hem all the way around. I like to make the top and bottom of my curtains with slightly wider hems, for weight. Don't worry about attaching them to the rod, I used rings with clips. This also makes it much easier to hang the blackout fabric. 

2. Prepare Blackout Fabric: 

Cut the blackout fabric to match the size of your hemmed curtains. Set aside. You won't need the blackout fabric until the curtains are done and ready to hang. I decided not to sew the blackout fabric to the curtains because the blackout fabric requires dry cleaning. By keeping them separate, and only using the rings to hang them together, it will be super easy for me to take the curtains down and wash the regular fabric (which gets much dirtier). If the blackout fabric gets dirty I can just wipe it down.

3. Preparing to Paint Curtains: 

Lay out your cotton curtain fabric on the floor and tape all four edges with painter's tape. Or if you have the space, you could attaching them to the wall with painter's tape. Just be sure you have a wall you don't mind getting paint on. This would alleviate a lot of the crawling on the floor I had to endure (it was not easy while so very pregnant, I assure you). 

I did a quick experiment and have concluded I prefer the blue painter's tape to the frog tape. That's me.

Measure and Mark the Chevron Design:

This is where things get tricky. My first try was a total failure. This is how your curtains should look after taping.

Creating a grid:

I wanted my chevron design to be one foot from peek to peek. I took a fabric pencil and marked every six inches across the bottom, top and sides. This creates the "grid" you need to mark out the design.

I decided not to draw a lot of lines because they would be hard to erase later. The grid on the curtain is made with rulers and measuring tapes. The image above, is a drawing of what you should do with your curtain. I never got any photos of this part (don't know what happened) so I recreated the process on graph paper.

First and Second Rows:

The best way to understand this process is to make two rows of marks at a time. That way you will be able to see the chevron design as you go.

The first row is already done. It is the row with six inch marks along the bottom of your curtain. I started at the bottom because I figured I could not change it. The top can be adjusted as I decide where to make my loops.

For the second row, I took my measuring tape and stretched it from the six inch mark on the left side (just above the first six inch row on the bottom) to the corresponding mark on the right side of the curtain. I them used my fabric pencil to mark every foot (12 inches) beginning six inches in on the left. These marks will become the first yellow peeks. They are the top of the dotted lines on the diagram above. I was also careful that my horizontal marks matched the vertical marks I had created in the beginning.  Each mark you make in the center becomes either a peek or a valley on the chevron design, so you want them to match up both vertically and horizontally.

I then created the chevron design by taping the curtain. Starting from the left corner on the first row, I stretched the tape up to the first mark on the second row. Then stretch your tape back down from the second row to the mark one foot in on the first row. Continue across the curtain. Remember that each peek and valley will be one foot apart. I will explain how the tape is applied so that each yellow or white row is actually the same width in the next post.

The Third and Fourth Rows:

For the third row of marks, I put my measuring tape on the next (six inches up) left and right marks from the last. These marks are for the valleys, so the marks have to correspond with the marks of the first row. To do this I marked every foot from the left. The fourth row is an exact copy of the second row (see a pattern?). Start six inches in, and make marks for every foot. This creates the chevron pattern. Then tape (see next post soon).

I then continued this pattern. With one foot offset marks for each peek and valley every six inches all the way up the curtain. In the end, you will have a white curtain with horizontal rows of dots one foot apart (if you don't tape as you go that is). Each horizontal row is six inches above the last. Remember that each row is either a peek or a valley. This will help to keep your one foot marks offset from each other. 

Since this tutorial is quite complicated I leaving the rest for next week. Be sure to check back for the taping process, because if you don't tape it right, you will get very frustrated, very fast.

Also, let me know if you are still confused. I will try my best to clean up any confusion in this process.

I promise it is all worth it in the end!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Slippery Slipper Solutions

Slippery slippers are the worst. I have always just lived with them, but now that I have a baby to think about, I don't want to fall.  I really don't want to fall on my wood stairs with a glass door and stone landing at the bottom. Not good.

So a slippery slipper solution was much needed.

Add Tread to Your Slippers

I love these slippers. They are warm, and oh so comfy. As you can see, they are also quite slippery. 

1. Buy puff paint

I decided to go with the basic black, and just a hint of red (for some flair). Pick any colors you want. I could totally see someone doing this for dancing shoes at a wedding (something blue?).

2. Decide on a design, and lay any ground work. 

I decided to do dots. They seemed like the best way to get a good grip. I also wanted a little "fun" thrown in, so I added a heart. I put the heart right over the ball of my big toe.

I made the heart first. Then added the dots.

3. Apply your pattern all over the sole of your slipper.

I used the already delineated shape of my foot as shown from normal wear. It was pretty easy to see where my foot touched the ground. If these are new slippers you could lightly outline your foot with a pencil. or guess. It is the bottom of your foot. 

4. Let Dry

The instructions said to dry the paint for 7 hours. After 7 hours I put them right on. Ahh warm toes again!

That's it! No more slippery slippers. I have been wearing these for a couple of days and they are fine. I lost one dot to my wood floor, and the peeks have worn down a bit. Overall, not bad. And.... I like the hearts!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Homemade Seitan (Wheat-Meat)

I grew up a vegetarian. I remember the first time my father fed us chicken. He snuck us out to "town" and brought us some chicken soup. When my mother heard that we had been "tainted" with meat she chased my father down the street. Or, at least, that is the story my father used to tell us about our first meat experience. 

As an adult, I have developed a taste for meat, and will usually eat it if offered at a friend's house. I eat most types of meat, but have never been able to stomach straight beef. Beef is just not appetizing to me. However, in general, I prefer most of my meals to be vegetarian.  

My husband and I really like seitan (pronounced SAY-tan, not to be confused with the devil: satan). It is a kind of chewy, meaty, wheat based protein that cooks well, holds it shape, and tastes really good. We have breaded and baked it, fried it, and, my current favorite, put it in a vegetable stew. 

Now I have to warn you, seitan is made from wheat, and not just any wheat but wheat gluten, so if you jumped on the gluten free bandwagon then this is not a meat alternative for you. I am not a gluten free fan myself. I like bread, I like gluten, and I like seitan. I think that bread consumption should be limited for my waistline, but I don't have Celiac disease and I don't plan to go gluten free any time soon. If you are gluten free this recipe is not for you.

The only problem with seitan is that it is expensive. My husband and I can buy a pint container of seitan for $7 in the health-food store. That is one meal for two people. That's fine to pay once in a while, but we can't do that every week. So we decided to make our own. It is actually really easy, and SO MUCH cheaper. My husband (the mathematician) figures it is about one-eighth the price when made at home, and the more you make it the lower the price gets. The hardest part is getting the ingredients.

Without further ado, here is the recipe I use. I have adapted the recipe from 1,000 Vegan Recipes by Robin Robertson (a great book by the way even if you are not vegan).

Homemade Seitan

1 3/4 cups vital wheat gluten (that's 0.6 lbs)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast (which is very different from baking yeast)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
3 tbls tamari (gluten free soy sauce, just because it makes us giggle)
1 2/3 cups cold water

*a note on ingredients: Vital wheat gluten is the protein from wheat. I buy it at my local health food store. I usually have to buy sever small packages of it to get enough to make the seitan. Nutritional yeast can also be found at a health food store. It is quite salty. I have seen it used in many vegan recipies, but my favorite way to eat it is on popcorn.

Simmering Liquid
2 quarts water
1/2 cup tamari
4 garlic cloves

1. Make the seitan dough: 

In a food processor mix vital wheat gluten and rest of ingredients through paprika. Blend with a couple of pulses.  

Mix oil, tamari, and water, then add to dry ingredients while processor is running. Process for a full minute until dough is formed. It should look like the image bellow.

Turn onto a lightly floured cutting board and knead until smooth and elastic, about 2 minutes. This part was fun, I like kneading dough. My dough was a bit wet, so I sprinkled a bit of flour on top.

2: Simmering Liquid:
Combine all Simmering Liquid ingredients in large sauce pan. I use a 2 1/2 quart pot and it is a bit tight, but still fine.

3: Cut the seitan dough into four pieces.

Add dough to pot of simmering liquid. Bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer for one hour turning occasionally. (I had a screaming baby at this point so it boiled a bit more than it should and it only got stirred twice, it was still fine).

Turn off heat and allow to cool in liquid. I just left it right on the stove.

Once it was cool and I had a minute to myself I put the seitan in containers. 

Each quarter of the dough fits in a small plastic pint container (I reuse ones from our local Chinese restaurant). Store the seitan in its simmering liquid. We use one pint per meal, so I save one for the week, and freeze the rest. Then I have seitan for one month. 

Sometimes one piece will be bigger than the rest, that is pretty normal.

I also like to save any remaining simmering liquid for any soups or stocks I might need. There is a lot of flavor in it. 

There you have it, four pints of seitan for a fraction of the price you might pay in stores. This recipe is also quite easy to double, and I will have to do that next time because I promised to bring some homemade seitan to a friend. 

I think the homemade version is so much better. In stores it comes cut up, and I never like how they do it, and the taste is not quite as good either. With our version we can cut up the seitan as we like, depending on the recipe. 

4. Use in your favorite recipe. 
Many chicken and tofu recipes can be made with seitan instead (you just might have to play with the flavors. Seitan does not have a strong flavor on it's own) Try: [Baked!] Chicken Fried Tofu over at Peas and Crayons (I love her) but use seitan instead. So good (but not vegan: be warned). 

I made a vegetarian stew from one of my favorite Mooswood cookbooks, and added cubes of our seitan. It was delicious, easy, and a one pot meal. Maybe I will give you guys that recipe (I adapt it) another time. 

Seitan is a great protein alternative. Sure you can eat beans and rice for protein, but why when you can eat something so much better? I always thought seitan was only something "rich" vegetarians could eat, but now I see that it is quite attainable for anyone. 

Go, make seitan, and embrace a new kind of vegetarian protein, or meat, alternative. And once you have tried it, come back and let me know what you think.

Monday, March 3, 2014

My Baby Paul Arjun

I have not written a blog post in a couple of months (not including the one I just wrote on cranberries). Any guesses why? If you said because I had a baby, you are right (and you have been following my sporadic posts pretty well).

Meet Paul Arjun Santos.

My beautiful baby boy was born November 24th, 2013. He was a whopping 9 lbs, 21 inches!

The name Paul came from my father who passed away in 2010. Arjun is a nod to my India background. Arjun (or Arjuna, with an "A") is a Hindu warrior from their sacred texts.

I had the birth at home. This was a very personal decision, and it was not made lightly. My hubby was a little skeptical at first, but once he understood how professional my midwife took everything he knew this was the best way for us. I'm not going to talk about the benefits of home-birth (there is enough info on the web about that) but I will say that I'm very glad I did it this way.

My birth went very well, it was quick and exactly how I wanted it. My midwife, doula, and everyone at the birth were so great. I love them all! Thank you!!!!

Baby Paul is now three months old. So here is a quick montage of his growth and changes.

Paul at birth. He is about ten minutes old in the shot above.

This one was about a week after his birth.

Again about a week later, he had some baby acne.
Paul at one month.

I got those stickers at Babies R Us. I like to keep track.

Paul at two months old.

You can see he has gotten some more expression in his face and body. I also started taking a photo with him lying down on the bed. I love the gold background.

Finally, Paul just last week (three months old).

The shot above just made me laugh. So I added it. I have others of him in the chair that are a little more "cute" not so funny.

He was not in such a playful mood this time.

What an amazing gift it is to have a baby. This little boy is so cute, so sweet and he just warms my heart with every smile and snuggle. I absolutely love him with every fiber of my being. They say you won't understand until you have one and "they" are right.

My life is now all about diapers, spit up, sleep habits of babies and trying to stay sane in it all.  The cold, snowy winter has not made it any easier. But, I have made some new "mom" friends as I call them. They are all nice ladies.

I'm working on his nursery (he still sleeps in our room right now), a book of all the cards he got over his gestation, and I made the cutest family tree. All of these projects will eventually become blog posts. Lets see how it goes. I would really like to get at least one blog post a week going regularly again. Wish me luck.
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