17 July, 2012

A Passion for Pickles!

I can not believe that I am blogging about PICKLES! I am not even especially crazy about pickles. But these are so very blog-worthy!  I can't personally take credit for this pickle recipe. I give all of the credit to the instructions that I found on a blog called It's Just Laine .  

I popped into to my favorite little country fruit stand, Kruse Farms Marketto buy pickling cucumbers. I went a little bit crazy and bought a 25 lb. bag of medium cukes. What was I thinking?  I was certainly not thinking about how many jars of pickles a 25 lb. bag of cucumbers yields.  We just might possibly have pickles for life.

It's a monster bag! Notice that it's on the floor because it was too big to heft onto the counter top.

I got a bit sidetracked and had to take a photo of the beautiful varieties of cauliflower 
available at Kruse's. Their colors were stunning!  The girls who work at Kruse's must think that I am some kind of a nutcase, continually coming in and photographing fruits and vegetables. How weird is that?

I knew that I wanted to make a nice Kosher-style dill pickle. I Googled pickle recipes and was a bit overwhelmed at all of the options out there. But Laine's recipe appealed to me most.


In the interest of pickle hygeine, I just want to mention here that these cucumbers come out of the field in a decidedly grubby state.  After all, they grow on or near the dirt. My directions said to trim off the blossom end of the cucumber, since there is some sort of funky enzyme located there that will make your pickles mushy. So just to be perfectly sure that I had removed the blossom ends, I trimmed BOTH ends. Problem solved. You just never want to take a chance on mushy pickles! I also lightly scrubbed them with a soft brush, just to be safe. So the dirty cucumbers are pictured above.... 

...And the clean and perfectly pretty premature pickles are pictured here.

Laine has posted lots of photos on her blog showing how to make her pickles.  I spiced my pickles up just a bit, because we're older, with semi-dead taste buds...  I added 1 teaspoon of pickling spice and a single dried red pepper to each pint jar.  

Mr. T. and I taste tested my pickles this afternoon.  I should clue you in here and tell you that Mr. T. tries to get excited about my endless projects and endeavors, but he is not always entirely on board.  

I can tell...

But I scored big here with these pickles. Mr. T. is something of a pickle connoisseur and he pronounced these to be positively DELICIOUS!  They are crispy, crunchy, tangy and have a just a bit of ZING from the red pepper.  Think CLAUSSEN'S, but way better!  And a nice, crisp pickle makes a really good little snack. I know.  I've been snackin'. 

So KRUSE on over to Laine's blog and get the recipe to make your very own killer pickles. Making them is easier than you would think and they are truly worth the effort.  Thank you, Laine, for your recipe.

Update:  Elder daughter, called "The Brainiac" took a jar of my pickles along with her when she went camping last month on the northern California coast with her long-time friend, Mimi F.  Mimi apparently fell in love with my pickles and is savoring evert last bit.  Here is the photo that she sent to Brainiac of her fridge. I see beer, yogurt and half of a pickle. The Staff of Life!

08 July, 2012

Upcycled Ironing Board Cover Made from a Vintage Tablecloth

It's hot here in the Burg, too hot to work outside in the garden, so today I decided to stay indoors and spend the afternoon sewing.  I had seen a pattern online for a really cute ironing board cover with a patchwork panel insert.  I wanted to make one of these covers for my own trusty ironing board.  Who does not want a stylin' ironing board, right? But as thrifty-frugal-cheap as I am, I was not willing to purchase a pattern.  I knew that I could make a cover without one.  The coolest thing is that I did not have to purchase anything to make my ironing board cover.  Cheapskates Unite!

There are tons of tutorials out there in Blogland that detail how to make a cover for your ironing board, but I wanted one that would add a little fun to the chore. Usually, FUN and IRONING absolutely do not go together, so any way that we can add a cool design element to the task is a good thing.

Here is the BEFORE photo of my ironing board.  It's totally old school... don't you agree?  I made this cover probably 10 years ago and it has held up remarkably well.  If it gets stiff and gakky I just pull it off and wash it.  

And here is the AFTER photo!  Lookin' SHARP! And more my style these days.

Before I get too far along in the process here, I just want to say that photographing an ironing board in an artful way is not such an easy thing to do, seriously.  No matter how you turn the thing, how well you frame it in the photo or how you stage it, it is still just an ironing board, and an ironing board is not such an attractive photographic subject. Just so you know...

So... in case you want to make a cool ironing board cover for yourself, here is how I made mine.

I had an old vintage tablecloth, picked up for next to nothing at a yard sale, and decided to use it as the actual ironing surface. The tablecloth was made of a nice weighty cotton fabric, perfect for work duty.  It had a nasty stain on it but I was able to work around that.

I wanted some sort of a pieced quilt block element in my cover but knew that I did not want the cover to be too scrappy, 'cause that makes it hard to iron stuff.  If I am going to iron, (and I firmly believe that ironing is a choice...), I do not want impressions from seams in my ironing! So I decided on a pieced patchwork panel, to the right of the board, way down at the broader end.

I found a piece of aqua blue polka dot fabric in my stash that complimented the colors in the tablecloth. I made five (that's 5) 4 1/4 inch (unfinished size) pinwheel blocks and pieced them together, side by side in a row.  Then I cut up an old dishtowel to make the red strips that separate the patchwork panel from the tablecloth fabric.  I call this my Pieced Patchwork Pinwheel Panel. Say that, three times fast!

To cut the shape for my new ironing board cover, I laid the old cover onto the tablecloth, positioning it  where I thought that the tablecloth pattern looked best, then cut out around the edge.  You could also lay your ironing board on top of your fabric, then draw around it, allowing thee or four inches extra all   around the ironing board.

The length of my tablecloth was a bit short, so I inserted my patchwork pinwheel panel well to the right on the ironing board.  But I still needed a bit of length for the cover. So I pieced together two nicely printed border portions of the tablecloth to fit the broader end and rounded the corners. I sewed the pinwheel panel to the main portion of the cover, then sewed on the pieced broad end.

The next step was to sew bias binding all around the outer edge of the cover to make the casing.  Luckily, I had a big fat roll of wide white bias binding that was just right for this project.  Some people use elastic for their ironing board cover, but I prefer to pull the cover tight with heavy cotton cord. I ran the cord through the casing and cinched the cover up snuggly around the ironing board.  It lays tight and flat!

That's all there is to it.  Isn't this better than those ugly covers that you have to buy when yours wears out or gets so funky that you can't bear to use it any longer?  Where, oh where do they find all of that leftover fabric from the '80's, all mauve and blue, to make those ready-made covers?  Those purchased covers, they're dogs, all of them! I'm just sayin'...