Friday, May 27, 2011

the trouble with terriers... that they don't know when to quit. We've had issues with Phoebe picking fights with the female border collies in the past, as already chronicled, but there's never been a serious injury. Neither Ezri nor Jadzia have ever been hurt by Phoebe (I'm not sure she CAN hurt anyone, with her ground-down teeth...), and when Jadzia has corrected Phoebe it's ended with a small puncture wound or two. It has been quiet in our house since early November, with very few snarls and no actual fighting. What a pleasant change.

Too bad it didn't last.

On May 9th, Phoebe got herself into a big bowl of trouble yet again, this time requiring an emergency vet visit. Chris had come home early before I did, and put the dogs (plus Jitter, our friends' BC puppy we were watching) loose into the house so he could clean out the kennel. When I came home and went upstairs, I found Phoebe with this wound in her side. As near as I can figure, Jadzia or Ezri got excited and bouncy when I came home (they can hear the bike a block away), Phoebe tried to fun police them, and Jadzia nailed her in the side. However, this time it wasn't a simple puncture wound - instead it looked like her tooth caught in the skin and ripped it for a good couple of inches. Yay. So it was off to the emergency vet for me and Phoebe to get that taken care of, since that's a little too severe to pack with neosporin and hope for the best.

Unfortunately the e-vet was pretty busy that evening, so while they were able to give Phoebe some pain meds right away they weren't able to get to treating her injury until well into the night, so she had to stay the night. She got several stitches along with a drain, with the drain staying in place for five days while we used hot compresses on it twice a day to help promote healing. Additionally she got a course of antibiotics, as well as pain meds, topped off with a cone to keep her from chewing the wound, all to the tune of "too much money" for such an idiotic move. So she's been crated during the day for over two weeks now, obviously with no flyball or other heavy exercise allowed. To add insult to injury, it's been raining a lot and so when we took her out for the first week or so we had to put a coat on her to keep the incision dry. Phoebe was totally thrilled about THAT, believe me.

Happily all seems to be healing up as needed now, which is good since she's a height dog for the tournament next weekend (June 4-5). The drain came out on May 13, and one of my vet tech teammates took her stitches out on May 22. Of course, silly me thought that once the stitches were out she didn't need her cone and put her in the crate without it, so she chewed it up a bit that day. It healed up quickly, and we are now allowing her supervised no-cone time and for the past three days she's shown no inclination to go after the spot. I hope that keeps up, I don't want to deal with a cone at the tournament! It's going to be bad enough explaining what happened to her all weekend long - she's already running in the yard full-bore to play fetch, so I'm not concerned about her ability to run flyball next weekend at all. Phoebe continues to live up to her nickname as "the little tank," although I wish the continuing proofs were a little less expensive!

In positive Phoebe news, she is now ranked 38th of a total of 1460 Jack/Parson Russell Terriers on the NAFA point-scoring list. She's also currently at 118 on the top 250 point-scoring dogs for the 2011 racing year. Not bad for such a little brat.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

urban homesteading and you

This is my first attempt at a quiche/frittata type of dish, and I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. I got the recipe from an awesome book I picked up a few weeks ago, The Urban Homestead, which is full of fascinating information about skills that are largely unknown in American city society. The book covers topics from cleaning (vinegar and baking soda) to growing food (from microgreens in the window to full-on food gardens) to keeping worms and chickens. It also covers various food preservation methods, including canning, making butter, drying, and so on. While I'm passingly familiar with many of the concepts, I'm not at all familiar with how they are executed and it is really neat to have a book that explains all of this sort of thing to my citified self. And possibly even more importantly, the book is written with enthusiasm but not with disdain, as so many "eco-friendly" books often are, so I came away from reading it excited and inspired to try new things and not dejected and morose that I'll never be cool enough or eco-friendly enough to be acceptable. The recipe for this "crustless quiche" came from the book, and I modified it slightly to make it gluten-free so that Chris could enjoy it as well.

Recipe: Crustless Quiche (from The Urban Homestead, modified to be Gluten-Free by me)
4 eggs
~1 cup of soft cheese
1 cup of milk
3/4 cup of gluten-free flour
1 tsp of salt (or more to taste)
ground pepper (to taste)
additives (bacon, ham, onions, garlic, spinach, etc.)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9" pie pan, and put the pie pan on top of another pan or cookie sheet in case of spills.
2. Prepare any additives that need it, such as sauteeing garlic/onions/spinach in olive oil, cooking bacon and crumbling it, chopping up ham, etc. All mix-in items should be diced, chopped, or crumbled to be small, like 1/4" - 1/2" with smaller pieces better. Also cut up the cheese at this point and set it aside - again, 1/2" cubes is a good plan.
3. Mix flour, salt, and pepper together. If you want to add any additional seasonings, this is the time to do it.
3. Beat the eggs together in a largeish bowl. Add in the milk and mix thoroughly.
4. Add the flour a bit at a time, mixing well with each addition, until all of it is incorporated and you have something that looks kinda like pancake batter. Gluten-free flour is particularly picky about being mixed in, so just do your best - mine still has some small blobs of unmixed flour even after several minutes of beating.
5. Add in the cheese cubes and stir, then add in the rest of your additives.
6. Mix everything well and pour into your pie pan, possibly giving it a bit of a stir to redistribute the additives after pouring. Top with extra grated cheese if you like.
7. Pop into the oven for 45 minutes. The quiche is done when a knife stuck in the middle comes out clean.

The flour in the mixture, at least with my gluten-free version, will settle a little bit during baking and make its own sort of psuedo-crust in the pan. You can kind of see this in the photo to the right. I've made this recipe twice so far, and the important attributes seem to be the size and amount of additives, and the type of cheese used. My first one was made with queso fresco from the farmers' market, which is a slightly squishy and low density cheese, and it came out much better than the second one which I made with fresh mozzarella which I think was both too dense and too damp for the dish. The original recipe suggested feta, and I'm thinking of trying cheese curds as well. Shredded cheese would probably be great as well, but I did really like the taste and texture I got when using the queso fresco. The second version I made I used sliced ham that I cut into about 3/4" squares, and they were too big and didn't stay well distributed in the pan, though that might be because I also used a lot of ham. The second one was still edible and pretty good, even with the damp cheese and too much ham, so this is a pretty forgiving recipe over all. And it's pretty quick to put together, especially if you pre-chop everything in advance. The one recipe gave enough for two meals for the two of us, and it reheats nicely - I just foil-wrapped the pan, and then popped it into the oven at 250F for about twenty minutes the next evening.

I also have a funny Jadzia story to share today. I've realized this week that she has figured out how to tell me the water dish is empty - she waits until I'm filling my own water bottle at the fridge, and pats my leg. Every time she's done this in the past two weeks, her water dish has been empty. That's pretty good problem-solving, even for a border collie - she connected the water from the sink, the water from the fridge, her bowl, and my bottle together. I'm very entertained and kind of proud of her for that.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

sewing room remodel, finished!

Posting more often doesn't seem to be working out the way I intended. Oh well. At least I finally found the charging cables for my cameras, so I was able to get the pictures off of them from finishing up my sewing room remodel. I've been happily working in it for about two months now, so this post is well overdue.

First a single photo of what the room looked like before we began. Plain white walls and blue carpet, same as the living room and hallway in our house. The room is rather small, only 8' x 7.5', and I originally just had a single 8' conference table for both my sewing machine and cutting area. This meant that it wasn't really comfortable to do either, and was really my biggest driver for doing the remodel.

The first thing we did was rip out all of the old carpet, as shown in a post in February. Once that was done we painted the walls - two in a tan and two in a light sage, with the half-wall molding done in a dark green - and installed laminate flooring from IKEA in "dark brown" with floor molding to go along with it.

Once that was done, we started moving the furniture back in. Here's the back corner of the room, to the left as you look in the door, showing the cabinet I refinished last year that contains my Pfaff 130 machine.

Next up is my barrister's cabinet, which was given to me by my Nana many years ago when I was still living in Pittsburgh, which holds my fabric stash and some of my other sewing machines. I used fabric and foam board to make panel covers to fill in the glass, which eliminates the visual clutter of the cabinet when the doors are closed. I still need to make a panel for the lower door, unfortunately!

The newest feature of the room was a design wall, where I can put up pieces I'm working on in order to set their design before I sew them together. I made three panels using styrofoam insulation panels from Home Depot, each 2' x 4', covered in batting which was then stapled to the back of the panel. I added picture frame hangers to the back of each panel using superglue to hold them in the styrofoam, then hung them up. They're light and easy to maneuver, and I'm really quite pleased with the result. The picture shows blocks from the Halloween table runner and the baby quilt I made for my friend Kathy, both projects which I'm glad to say I've finished since then!

The replacement for the conference table was two adjustable tables from IKEA, one of which was set up high to use as a cutting table and the other was set down low for my sewing machine. There are plenty of tutorials online and in books about ergonomics of both, but generally you cut material at standing height and want your sewing machine at seated height, so using one table for both really makes it hard for either one to work out. This photo also shows the awesome replacement for nails in the wall - a pegboard, painted dark green to match the half-wall molding trim, which holds my rulers, cutters, scissors, and other tools.

And now, for the photos of my sewing room as it is now with just about everything moved back in (as opposed to the minimalist, neat, and tidy photos above). Here is my sewing table, with the attached ironing board (which Chris cut down for me so it could be used on the low-height table), my bookshelf of sewing books, speakers for use with my iPad (TV or Pandora radio), thread rack, and bulletin board which has a crocheted Star Trek insignia potholder my mother made me, photos of my mom & me, Ezri, and Curzon, a color wheel, and Superior Threads sample cards.

Here's the cutting table photo, where you can see I've added more rulers and tools to the pegboard, and you can see my kaleidoscope quilt blocks on the design wall and my current project on the table. I've also picked up some cheap green and purple small vinyl bins at Target that I'm using for scrap and trash collection on the table - much easier than stepping around the ironing board to the trash can every cut! Beneath the cutting table are my two storage units, mostly for precut scraps and specialty fabrics, which will be joined by a third next time I have a coupon for JoAnn's. Behind the storage units are my wrapping paper supplies, as I figured that was a great place to put them since they're not needed often and my cutting table will be a great place to wrap gifts in the future.

This is another view of the Pfaff cabinet side of the room, also showing my beautiful Brian Froud print and another project that's on the design wall. The cabinet has the awesome Halloween table runner on top of it, but you can't see it right now because it's covered in other fabric acquisitions as well as the working fabric pile for the project on the design wall. To the right is the incredibly cool pirate chest that I got off Craigslist for $30, which is holding my project collections, precut jelly rolls, and unfinished quilt tops. Just ignore the pile of bags under the cabinet...

Above the Pfaff cabinet is the same shelf that was there before, which holds my childhood teddy bear, a unicorn beanie baby my husband gave me, and the beautiful pillow my mother cross-stitched for me for my thirteenth birthday. I'm so lucky to have inspiration from my family and friends in this room when I work.

Finally a view of the barrister's cabinet again, with the doors down to hide the clutter inside them. The clutter isn't actually that bad, since I got some great bins at the Container Store to hold everything (so far), but it's more calming visually to have the doors down. The decorative (but largely useless until I turn it into a hand crank) Singer NL-15 is on top of the cabinet, and my Featherweights, older Janome L-108, and my Rocketeer are inside the cabinet. Just to the left of the cabinet and behind me when I sew is a shower corner shelf kit in the right shade of green that I got for $7 on clearance at Target, which holds my smaller notions that I use often but didn't want right next to my machine. There's also a small whiteboard just to the left of my chair where I note what I'm working on and what's on the list for next.

So there it is - my finished sewing room! I love how it turned out and it makes me happy every time I go in there. There are some features not pictured, like a remote-control power strip for my sewing machine and iron, that I added along the way that are really awesome. I also have a few other things I'd like to hang up in there, like my bridesmaids bouquet from a few years ago that's framed in brown and would look great, and some embroidery hoops that I got to display favorite fabric swatches. Those will get put up eventually...unless we move first!