Eco-Parenting · Make · Uncategorized

Beeswax Food Wraps

I’m always looking for simpler and more eco-friendly ways to pack my kids’ lunches. I have every kind of reusable container known to man but sometimes they’re still not the right shape or size for half a turkey sandwich or a PB&J on leftover waffles.

My favorite for sandwiches are the fabric wraps I made last year, but they need to be washed often. Recently, I found some wonderful fabric squares coated in beeswax at Trader Joe’s and have really enjoyed using them. But they were only available for a hot second, and others I’ve seen are kind of pricey. And I wanted a whole bunch of them!

The ones I bought are a bit heavy on the wax so they’re hard to shape around something soft. But they’re great for covering up bowls filled with rising bread dough, little ramekins of leftover honey butter or even wrapping half an onion … anything you want covered but don’t necessarily need to be airtight.

I watched a half dozen how-to videos online but it seemed like everyone was making it more complicated than it needed to be. And I was right! The method I’m sharing with you guys is so ridiculously simple and doesn’t require special tools or risk you ruining your ironing board cover.

Supplies Needed:

  • Fabric (lightweight cotton is a good choice)
  • Pinking shears (zig zag fabric scissors)
  • Beeswax pellets (I found a 1-pound bag for about $10 on Amazon.
  • Cookie sheet

What to do:

Preheat oven to 225 degrees F.

Next, figure out the sizes and shapes you want. I really needed a couple rectangles for sandwiches and circles for my bread bowls. For the circles, I just turned my bowl upside down on my fabric and cut around it with the pinking shears, allowing about two inches extra for folding over the edge.

Its not a perfect circle but that’s okay.

Next, place the fabric on a cookie sheet and sprinkle the beeswax pellets evenly.

Then put it in the oven for about 5 minutes, until the pellets have melted and soaked your fabric. If it’s not soaked evenly, drag the fabric around in the melted wax. If you have dry spots and need more wax, just sprinkle a bit more where needed and put it back in the oven for a couple minutes.

Then, pick the soaked fabric up by the edge and hang it in the air by your finger tips for about 30 seconds. It’ll be warm but not too hot to touch. Give it another couple minutes to fully dry and it’s ready to go!

To clean them just wash gently in warm water with a little dish soap, if needed. They’ll last for dozens of uses and can even be “refreshed” by heating them back up in the oven for a couple minutes. Like new again!

Blog · Sewing

A Year in the Making


I’m kind of surprised I made it. 365 days of no clothes shopping for myself! The first few months were hard. There were summer trips when I normally would have bought new shorts and tank tops, followed by holiday parties where a new dress would have been a must. By Spring Break I was wearing mismatched bikinis because the bottoms to one had stretched out and the top to the other had gone missing. But mismatched is kind of a thing these days so it was fine. With a few exceptions, it hasn’t been too terribly hard. 

Although, I definitely feel like I have a better sense of “need” versus “want,” I mostly just got bored of it and in desperate need, I mean want, of some pretty key items – workout pants, bras, jeans, to name a few. 

What I didn’t get tired of was sewing! If anything I’ve become more obsessed than ever with making clothes, bags and gifts by hand. This whole experience has given me a renewed appreciation and passion for sewing, growing, making and baking!

I’ve made several pieces recently that have made welcome additions to my tired wardrobe. Clothes I’m certain that, had I not been doing this challenge, I would have purchased off a rack instead of making myself. Here are just a few of them …

Organic bamboo knit top. 

Matching mother/daughter dresses. 

Costume for my daughter’s Living History Museum school project. Can you tell who she is?

Bunny “Poodle” skirt for Father/Daughter Sock Hop. 

Ruffle neck blouse from a Burda Style pattern. 

Feeling especially inspired today, I finally got around to the the Retro Travel Bag from Polkadot Chair I’ve been sitting on for months. I did quite a lot of seam ripping, which is just the norm for me, but I couldn’t be happier with the results!

I also made a couple loaves of bread …


… and ten Harry Potter broomsticks for my daughter’s Girl Scout Troop. And I have several blood blisters to prove it. 


 Today, in the last hours of my challenge, has been a full day of making things, and I feel incredibly satisfied, if not exhausted. 

But I can’t wait to go shopping tomorrow!!!

Make

Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezey *RECIPE*

My lemon tree is abundant with fruit right now! It’s so heavy with ripe citrus that the branches are bowing toward the ground. I can’t stand the thought of a single one going to waste! My favorite go-to is making sweet lemony goodies, but my husband and kids don’t share my love of lemon desserts. Lemon curd, lemon bars, honey-lemon marmalade, lemon pie … oh my! There’s only so much dessert one person can eat, though. 

I came across the myriad uses for preserved lemons and decided that was the way to go. They’re fantastic chopped up and tossed into sauces and salad dressings, sliced onto fish or chicken, mingled with olive oil and garlic over pasta, or even added to cocktails. Of course Moroccan-style sounded wonderful, with salt and all the other goodies like peppercorns, bay leaves, coriander, fennel, olives and even cinnamon. 

In the end, I wanted to keep the flavor of the preserved fruit simple and versatile, so I opted to use just their juice and lots of salt. 

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
Lemons
Salt
Clean jars and lids 
Wooden spoon

WHAT TO DO:
Start by giving the lemons a good wash. Keep in mind you’ll be eating the rind. 

Cut the top and bottom off of each and slice into quarters, but don’t cut all the way through. Stop about half an inch from the bottom. 

Sprinkle enough salt in your jars just to cover the bottom. 

Push a cut lemon into the jar and sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt. Depending on how large  or small your jars are, you may need to pull some of the lemons apart to make them fit. 

Using the handle of a wooden spoon, jam the lemon into the jar, extracting a good amount of juice. Continue adding lemons, sprinkling with a teaspoon of salt and jamming it all down with the wooden spoon until you can’t possibly fit another slice. The juice should be fully covering the lemons. 

Add one last teaspoon of salt over the top and twist the lid on tightly. 

Give them a good shake and keep at room temperature for about a week, until the rinds start to look transparent. It doesn’t hurt to give them a good shake once or twice a day to disperse and dissolve the salt. Then, transfer them to your fridge. 

They’re ready to use and will be good for up to a year! But be sure to give them a quick rinse before you add them to a recipe, otherwise you’ll get a salty mouthful. So simple. Enjoy! 

Sew · Sewing

Potholder Palooza! *TUTORIAL*

This summer, we’re meeting up with several friends in Croatia to hop on a boat and explore the islands between Split and Dubrovnik. And we’re all bringing our young children! We consider ourselves adventurous, but some people (ahem, our parents) think we’re crazy. 

To make the most of the trip, we decided to also visit England and Ireland. After a quick visit to Dublin, we’re spending a few days in London and Yorkshire, exploring the ancient walled city of York and spending a couple nights in Beverly. 

We’ll be staying with our good friends’ parents for a night or two, and I wanted to make an easy-to-pack hostess gift. See’s Candies are fantastic (the California Brittle is pure heaven), but I decided on homemade jam, potholders and matching napkins. I recently made a batch of guava jam from the fruit tree in our backyard, so  I quickly checked that off my list. For the potholders, I decided to use my favorite Williams-Sonoma one as my pattern. I’d show you a picture but it’s so ratty and stained it’s embarrassing. 

What you’ll need:
Natural cotton quilt batting 
Insulated batting
1/4 yard each of two fabrics
A package of double-folde bias tape

Cut two 9″ squares from one of the fabrics and two 6″ x 9″ rectangles from the other. Then cut one 9″ square of each kind of batting, and one 6″ x 9″ rectangle of plain batting. 

Layer your batting pieces inside your fabric, right sides of the fabric facing out. 

Pin pieces together and stitch a pattern into each stack through all layers. I went with a basic grid. 

Trim edges to neaten. 

Cut a 9″ length of bias tape and stitch to the top edge of your 6 x 9″ rectangle. Start by opening the folds and laying it along the upper edge of your rectangular piece, right sides facing. Stitch in the first fold line. Fold over the top and stitch the back by hand or machine, which is what I did. By machine. Whenever possible. That’s my MO.  

Lay your rectangular piece on top of the 9 x 9″ square, lining up the bottom and sides as best as you can. Apply bias tape in the same manner around the entire potholder, being certain to catch all the layers. Leave a 2 1/2″ overhang of tape at one top corner. 

After stitching the bias tape down all the way around on both sides, fold the overhanging bias tape piece in half and stitch down. 

Now make a bunch more in lots of color schemes because they are such easy, fast hostess gifts! Double-sided napkin tutorial to come!

crochet · Make

Pillow Talk *TUTORIAL*


Recently, my mom and I got to make a rare trip to the fabric store together. We enjoy many of the same hobbies but live 1,250 miles apart so this was really a special treat! She came to see my daughter perform in a production of The Little Mermaid (she nailed her Les Poisson solo as Chef Louie!) but we squeezed in a little shopping trip for ourselves. I came across this lovely, soft yarn in a cafe latte hue and another even chunkier one in a deep midnight blue. I knew I had to make something with them, and pillow forms were half off. Bam. They worked up quickly and look so luxurious. 

MATERIALS:
Approx. 2 skeins chunky yarn 
1 oversized crochet hook (Q or bigger)
A 16″ round pillow form 

INSTRUCTIONS:
Round 1: SC 6 in a magic ring. (6)
Round 2: SC 2 in each stitch around. (12)
Round 3: [SC 1, SC 2 in one stitch] all the way around. (18)
Round 4: [SC 2, SC 2 in one stitch] all the way around. (24)
Round 5: [SC 3, SC 2 in one stitch] all the way around. (30)

Continue in this way until your circle reaches the size you need for your pillow form. I went to Round 12: [sc 10, sc 2 in one stitch] all the way around.  

Once your crocheted circle is the right size for your pillow, begin decreasing in the same manner. 

Round 13: [SC 10, Dec 1] all the way around. 
Round 14: [SC 9, Dec 1] all the way around. 
Round 15: [SC 8, Dec 1] all the way around. 

And so on and so forth, until you get down to 4 or 5 stitches. Then just tie up the hole! 

The beauty of crocheting something with such a basic shape is that you can really wing it with the yarn and hook gauges. In fact, the cobalt yarn was too thick for any hook I had, so I used my fingers. The first attempt was too tight and the second too loose. But I’m glad I stayed at it because the third time was a charm!

My little helper feeding me slack from a giant, unwieldy ball. 

Bake

Jalapeño Pepper Jelly *RECIPE*

There are few food combinations yummier than sweet and spicey, and this festive jelly fits the bill perfectly! Serve the colorful concoction poured over goat or cream cheese, and the addition of the creamy tartness will make you jump for joy! Pair with your favorite crackers for a holiday party hit! 

Recipe:
4 red bell peppers
10 large jalapeño peppers
1 cup apple cider vinegar 
1 package pectin
1/2 Tbsp butter
5 cups sugar

6  8-oz jelly jars with lids/rings

Boil the jars and lids for several minutes then place on a clean towel to drain while you make your jelly. 

Remove the seeds from the red peppers and jalapeños and finely chop them. If you like things really hot, throw some of the jalapeño seeds in. 

I read somewhere that you should wear gloves to chop the jalapeños. I didn’t bother but wished that I had! Even after washing my hands several times I had some residue on my fingers that I rubbed into my eye! Gah!! 

My handsome little pepper chopper. 

Put chopped peppers, vinegar, pectin and butter in a large pot and bring to rolling boil, stirring often. Why butter, you ask? It keeps foam from forming on top. 😉

Once the mixture is boiling rapidly (if you stir it, it should still remain a roaring boil), add the sugar and return to boiling. Keep stirring for about 10 minutes. 

Turn off the heat and immediately ladle the sticky goodness into your sterilized jars to 1/4″ from the top. Quickly add lids, screw rings on tightly and turn upside down. Leave them inverted until cool. 

Pop a jar open and enjoy!!

Make

Perfect Peach Jam *RECIPE*


On our drive home from a long weekend at a friend’s lake house in Northern California, we stopped at a fruit stand. There’s one every mile on this little highway southeast of Sacramento, and it’s so hard to not stop at all of them! Dried fruit, nuts, melons, jam … everything is farm-fresh and so tempting! 

After a quick bathroom break, a filled my arms with a random selection of pickled asparagus, orange blossom honey, sundried tomato ketchup and a box of 15 “ripe” peaches set outside for just $2! Why on earth did I only buy one box?! I’m still kicking myself. 


As soon as we got home and showered for the first time in three days, I got out my jamming jars, picked a lemon from the tree in our yard and got to peeling peaches. We’d already eaten half of them on the car ride home so this was a small batch, but absolutely worth the effort!

A lot of people are turned off of making jam because they think they need fancy equipment. But you really don’t need anything more than jars, lids and a couple big pots! Tongs and a ladle are very helpful, too. 

Ingredients:
2 pounds Peaches
2 cups sugar
Juice of half a lemon (or more – to taste)

(If you have more fruit, just increase the sugar by one cup per pound.) 

Place all ingredients in a large, heavy pot and cook on medium-high heat until the mixture starts to boil. Then turn it down to simmering so it continues slightly bubbling, stirring every few minutes. 

While your jam is thickening, fill another large pot with water and place over high heat. You need to sanitize anything that will come in contact with your jam so you can store it without worrying about mold creeping in. 

Place your jars, and lids in the water. After it’s been boiling for about 5 minutes, you can turn it off, but leave the jars and lids in the hot water until you’re ready to use them. They need to be hot when you fill them! 

Keep stirring the jam every few minutes. It should get a foamy layer on top when it’s close to ready. You can scoop out the foam or just kind of mix it back into the jam, which is what I do. 

Once your jam starts to look golden and feel thicker, put a little of the syrup on a spoon and let it cool to be sure it’s gelling. If it’s still runny keep cooking it. If it seems thickened, it’s time to fill those jars! 

Pull the jars out of the hot water with tongs and ladle the jam into them, being careful not to touch (and contaminate) the edge of the jars with your fingers. Quickly, put the lids on, twist them tightly and turn the jars upside down to cool. 


Once the jars have cooled to room temperature, you can turn them over and the tops should be sealed! The little popper in the center of the lid will be slightly concave, and the jam will have a shelf life of about a year. If for some reason a lid  is still popping and didn’t seal, just put the jar in the fridge and it’ll still last a couple months. 

Sewing

The Perfect Fit

I’ve been playing with the settings on my new sewing machine and wanted to see what it could do with knit fabric. I love how bamboo and cotton knits feel on my skin but the super soft, stretchy fabric can be challenging to sew. Ideally, I would have a serger for those perfectly hemmed in seams that stretch with the fabric, but I’ve always just used a zig zag stitch.

My new machine has an overlock stitch which is almost as good, so I tested it out first on a few scraps. Using the manual instead of winging it like I usually do, I got set up with the correct foot, needle and setting, and went to town. I liked the results, but I was getting low on the thread color I needed and this particular stitch uses a lot of thread. It was also pretty slow going, so I tried four or five other options. 


Eventually, I switched back to my standard foot and trusty zig zag stitch, and started my project – a simple boat neck top with kimono-style sleeves I found on So Sew Easy

First, I downloaded the free pattern, taped it together and cut it out in my size, a process that for some reason I truly enjoy and find immensely relaxing. Clearly, I don’t have enough downtime. 

It took me about 45 minutes to whip up a shirt and figure out what areas were too big, too small, and, of course, too short. 

I made marks on the pattern and adjusted my cut accordingly. 

This pattern is truly “so sew simple!” I zig zag stitched the front and back pieces together along the armpits and shoulders, and then hemmed the neck, sleeves and waist. 

And that’s it. A perfect fit! Now, I can’t wait for some cool fall weather so I can wear it. 

Bake · Blog

Sourdough Baguettes (w/Whole Wheat Flour) *RECIPE*

Making sourdough bread is a labor of love. Not because it’s difficult, but because it requires time and patience. It’s an all-day affair. You can make it take up less of your day by starting before bed and letting things ferment overnight, but the hours must pass! 

Like everything having to do with bread, my dad taught me how to make sour dough. He gave me some starter from his, which he’d made from organic raisins years before and named Howard. Thus began the long and productive life of Howard, Jr. – more than six years! And then I ignored him for just a little too long, and he turned pink and the wrong kind of stinky and died. 

A few months later my dad brought me more of his starter. He drove it 1,250 miles from Lopez Island, WA, to Redondo Beach, CA, in a little Igloo cooler. But after I let Howard, Jr. Jr. die, I decided to take a break from making sourdough for awhile. I clearly wasn’t giving my starter the attention it needed to survive. It may have had to do with the three kids under the age of 5 that were bogarting all my time and energy. 

But recently, my friend Steve dove head first into bread making, as he does all things culinary, and made his own starter out of pineapple juice and a mix of whole wheat and white flours. I decided to get back on the horse and asked for a hand-me-down.  I haven’t named the new starter because I still may inadvertently kill it, but so far so good. 

Traditionally, sourdough is made with white flour, but since part of the reason I make bread myself is to feed my family a more healthful and wholesome diet, I threw some whole wheat flour in there, too. 

If you don’t have a starter, there are about a million ways to make one and at least as many sources of sugar that will work. Just google it and go with one that gets good reviews! Or use this one, which is similar to Howard’s humble beginnings. 

Ingredients:
Flour (white, wheat or a combo of both)
Water
Salt
Starter 

First, you have to make your sponge. This is the step I mentioned that can be done before you go to bed and will be all ready for you when you wake up in the morning. 

For your Sponge:
1 cup starter
2 cups cool water
2 cups white flour

Mix ingredients together, cover with plastic wrap and let sit out on the counter for at least 6 hours. It should get all bubbly and foamy. 

At the same time, feed your starter a cup of water and flour each, cover, and let it sit out, as well. Put it in the fridge for next time and continue with your bread making.

For your dough:
1 cup cool water
5-6 cups white/wheat flour (mostly white tastes best)
1 T salt 

Add the water, salt and about 3 cups of the flour to your sponge.

Mix well with a wooden spoon. Have a cutie patootie 3-year-old stir and it’ll taste even better. 😉

Once it gets thick and sticky you’re gonna have to ditch the spoon … 

… and dig in with your (clean) hands!

Keep adding flour until the dough is soft but not sticky. Knead for about 5 minutes. 

Place in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap to rise until it doubles in size. This can take anywhere from 4-8 hours, depending how warm your space is. This is a step you can also do overnight if your kitchen is on the cool side. Living in Southern California, I cannot. 

Clean a space on your counter and sprinkle with flour. Pour and scrape your dough out, being careful not to handle it too much. It should look stretchy and porous. 

Shape it into 2 or 3 baguettes or balls or whatever shape you’d like, and cover them with a tea towel. Let them rise for another 1-3 hours. When they look puffed up and nearly double in size, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. 

Gently slice a decoration into the tops with a sharp knife. (You can also mist them with water immediately before putting them in the oven to help create some steam for extra crunchy crust.) 

Bake the Baguettes at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. Without opening the door, turn your oven down to 400 and bake another 20 minutes. Immediately transfer to a wire rack to cool! 

Slice at an angle and serve with your favorite jam or garlic butter or olive oil and balsamic vinegar …  yummmmm!

Sewing

Polly’s Pom Pom Pouch *TUTORIAL*


After reading up on how devestating plastic straws are for the environment and the animals that live in it, my friend Polly has been trying to eliminate them from her family’s life. 

Americans, me included, use about 500 million plastic straws every day and most of them don’t get recycled. In addition to being made of polypropylene, a petroleum-based plastic which requires fossil fuel extraction, they end up in the ocean harming and killing wildlife. 

Although it’s definitely a worthwhile cause, it can be challenging to go out to eat with another family whose kids are all sucking their milk or apple juice out of kids cups with straws.

A couple weeks ago Polly and I took our kids to the aquarium and went out to lunch after. I’m pretty sure it was their first outing with the “no straws” rule.  Of course, the kids’ drinks all came out with straws stuck in them. After some gentle coaxing, Polly got her kids to relinquish theirs but then spent the next few minutes convincing them not to suck their juice through the holes in their lids. 

I went home thinking there must be an easier way for her to stick to her guns without having to wrestle straws away from her kids every meal out. 

So I decided to make Polly a little zippered pouch she could keep in her car or purse, stocked with paper straws and some colorful reusable aluminum ones I found on Amazon. I even bought a set for my kids … one small way to do our part. 

This pouch is super easy and fast to make, and can be used for so many purposes … colored pencils, markers, cosmetics, hair bands, crochet hooks, toothbrush and toothpaste, a rock collection … sky’s the limit! 

Materials needed:

  • Large scrap of home decor fabric (or whatever fabric makes you happy) for exterior
  • Large scrap of lightweight fabric for lining (I used my old bedsheet that I’ve been upcycling like mad)
  • 9-inch zipper
  • 10-inches of pom pom trim 
  • Matching thread 

Cut two, 10″ x 4″ rectangles of each fabric. 

Lay your zipper lengthwise along the edge of the exterior fabric, right sides together. 

Lay one of the lining pieces right side down on top of the exterior fabric, sandwiching the zipper along the top edge. 

You can switch to a zipper foot if you have one, but I didn’t because I really kind of like the look of a bit of colorful zipper tape showing on this bag. Make sure all edges are lined up and stitch end-to-end about a quarter inch from the edge.

Here’s what your fabric-zipper sandwich should look like on the inside. (My liner came up a little short at one end but it’s long enough to still work.)

Repeat the process with the remaining fabric pieces on the other side of your zipper. When you lay wrong sides together, you should have a nice, symmetrical butterfly like in the pics below. 

This next step is optional, but it gives your bag a more polished look and will keep fabric from getting caught in the zipper. Topstitch the fabric along your zipper, making sure to catch the liner underneath, as well. 

Now lay out your sewn pouch pieces so that right sides of same fabrics are facing each other. 

If you’re adding the Pom Pom trim, or any trim of your choice, lay it between the exterior fabric pieces, along the bottom facing in toward the zipper. 

For the next step, make sure your zipper is unzipped most of the way and that it’s laying with the teeth toward the lining. 

Stitch around the entire perimeter leaving a 3-inch gap unstitched in the center of the lining. 

Cut the corners and turn your project right side out by pulling it through the gap in the lining. 

Stitch the opening closed and stuff lining inside the pouch.  

Fill it with your favorite things! 

Now make 10 more because they make such great gifts!