Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Frosted Mini-Wheats Breakfast Bars

Frosted Mini Wheats Cereal Bars - Title

We eat a lot of cereal. A lot. Ro's favorite is "Wheats" (Frosted Mini-Wheats). And because we eat so much cereal, we've come up with ways of stretching that cereal budget. When it comes time to stock up on diapers and wipes (and dog food, and paper towels, and toilet paper, etc.), we do an Amazon Subscribe & Save order. If you order enough stuff, the discount is even more, and one of the things you can order is Frosted Mini-Wheats. Also, the Malt-o-Meal brand is a very nice rip-off. Both of these solutions, however, result in a vast increase in the amount of leftover frosted wheat shreds at the bottom of the bag once the cereal has been eaten (the Malt-o-Meal just has a lot of shreds, and the Subscribe and Save order tends to find the box crushed by the dog food, so ... our bad, I guess).

So what do you do with those shreds? (Is "shreds" a word?) Throw them out?! "Oh no," said my friend Andrea, who apparently eats as much cereal as we do. She developed a recipe for her own Frosted Mini-Wheats Breakfast Bars, and they are delicious.

MiniWheatBars1b

** Side-note, I finally decided to learn to take proper pictures of food, because SOMEONE [eh-hem, Christopher] has been dragging his feet on actually writing his cooking blog, the one he's been talking about for at least a year. I figure if I can take some good pictures of his cooking, he'll actually write down his recipes. So these are my first attempts at REAL foodie shots. **

Also, understand that you need A LOT of shreds to make these, so you'll have to save them up over a few boxes. For a Printable version of this recipe, click the "Print Friendly" button at the bottom of this post.


Frosted Mini-Wheats Breakfast Bars
Re-printed with permission from Andrea Williams Wan.


Makes 10-12 bars.

Ingredients:
3 cups frosted mini wheat shreds
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 tsps cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup shortening
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Frosted Mini Wheats Cereal Bars (1)

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) In a large bowl, mix mini-wheat shreds, flour, cinnamon, and salt.

Frosted Mini Wheats Cereal Bars (4)

3) Add shortening, butter, and vanilla, and mix with an electric mixer on low. Add eggs, mixing after each egg.

Frosted Mini Wheats Cereal Bars (5)

4) Form into half-inch thick bars of desired size and place on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets.

5) Bake for 8-10 minutes, until bottoms are toasted. Cool on a wire rack.

Frosted Mini Wheats Cereal Bars (6)

6) Melt chocolate in microwave or in a glass bowl over a pan of boiling water. Stir as chocolate melts.

Frosted Mini Wheats Cereal Bars (9)

7) Drizzle or spread melted chocolate on top of bars.

Frosted Mini Wheats Cereal Bars (14)

Store in sealed container ... if you don't eat them all on the first day.

Frosted Mini Wheats Cereal Bars (17)

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Wedding Program Handkerchiefs, continued

D and Y are getting married in OCTOBER!!! It's time to finalize their Wedding Program Handkerchief design. I paused on doing anything more with this project until now, just in case something changed (and it's a good thing, since she wrote the other day and said "HANG ON!" ... one of her Maids was iffy about whether or not she'd be there).

But I think we now have the final program, I have the fabric, and I have a printer that works (which was an issue until about a week ago).


Design
A little more background on how we designed this bad boy. I'm a big fan of MS publisher, especially because D and I both had it on our work computers. I designed a basic template for her using a folded card template (you know those birthday cards you'd make in computer class in grade-school, where you just had to fold it into quarters?). I decided to go with this design so we would only have to print on one side, and we can fold the handkerchiefs like, you know, handkerchiefs. I put together some basic text boxes and images for her, along with some margin-guides to make sure we kept enough room for the hem. She was able to play with it this way, work on the wording and change around the order of things, and then send it back to me.

Handkerchief_design2

Handkerchief_design

**Note: basic margin guides are fine for planning, but make sure you measure how you are going to fold AND embroider the edges, and adjust the text margins accordingly. After a test print I realized I hadn't left enough margin for the stitch we're putting around the end.

Handkerchief_design_guides

Wedding Handkerchief - margin


Final Testing ...

I wanted to test a few ways to ironing the paper, printing, and hemming these before I started mass-producing.

Cutting and Printing

First: Cut paper and Fabric separately, then Iron together.
Using one of the extra fabrics (not the one D chose) I cut both the fabric and freezer paper to 8.5x11" and ironed them together. However, the fabric SHRUNK as I ironed it onto the paper! So the paper was 8.5X11, but the fabric was more like 8x10.5". Oops! All the text got on there, but there wasn't enough room to fold and hem nicely.


Wedding Handkerchief - Shrink

Lesson: Iron your fabric FIRST to see how it behaves BEFORE ironing onto the paper. Better yet, wash it too. (see below).

Second: Iron Paper and Fabric together, then Cut.
Again, using one of the extra fabrics, I ironed the fabric (and let it shrink), then put a large piece of freezer paper on and ironed them together. Then I measured an 8.5x11" piece and cut out. In this test I also tried out multiple pieces of freezer paper placed side-by-side (to see if I can use the scraps leftover by cutting 8.x*11 pieces). This worked VERY well.

Wedding Handkerchief - Straight Edge

I didn't even have to tape the edges down before sending them through the printer (which is not super annoying to do, but it takes time and the tape makes the edges fray a little).

Wedding Handkerchief - Taped Edge (1)

Wedding Handkerchief - Taped Edge (2)

The multiple pieces worked ok -- there was a little bump and it looks like it got some ink on it, but after taking the paper off and ironing, it's really hard to see. At first I thought it may not be worth the extra hassle of doing this, just to save buying one pack of freezer paper, but then ... see Measuring below.

Wedding Handkerchief - Multi paper

Wedding Handkerchief - Multip Paper (2)

Wedding Handkerchief - Multip Paper (3)

Third: Wash the fabric, dry, iron, iron paper and fabric together, then Cut.
The Rice Cotton is really nice, really soft. But I wondered if it would feel even better after a washing. The site where I bought it says you can machine wash it, but as it had some rough edges, I just hand-washed it in the sink with some wool-lite and let it air dry.

Wedding Handkerchief - Wash (2)

The fabric I washed was noticeably softer, and there was no difference in printing.

Wedding Handkerchief - Wash

And it wasn't a huge deal to wash it. Though washing and hanging 10 yards of fabric in my bathroom might be tricky.

Wedding Handkerchief - Washing 1


Hemming

News flash, I'm not a good sewer. I routinely sew my fingers to my projects, bleed on my sewing machine, and one of these days I am going to somehow thread my hair into the lower bobbin, I just know it. I was never "trained" in sewing. So I have two problems with this project: 1) corners totally flummox me; 2) I really REALLY don't want to pin 200 of these just to get a nice edge.

Pressing
If I take my time, I think I can press the edges under and I won't need to pin anything. Burning myself, on the other hand, is a major concern. I may need to institute a No Coffee/No Wine, only pre-9pm rule for pressing these edges.

The Rice Imperial does NOT press easily. I was nervous about using steam, as I didn't want to get the ink wet, but without the steam the iron did nothing.

Wedding Handkerchief - Pressing - different fabric
Cotton Tester vs Rice Imperial, no steam

Wedding Handkerchief - Pressing - steam (1)
With steam, better, still not great.


Corner
Again, I don't want to pin, so some of the online "here's how to make a perfect corner" ideas are not going to work out. I did find this:
http://littlehouseinthesuburbs.com/2008/11/hand-hemstitched-linen-handkerchiefs.html, which says you can just cut the outermost square of each corner, and fold. I think this will work, now that I know I need steam to get the edges to crease.

Wedding Handkerchief - Corner (1)
(Note: this is the test cotton, which presses nicely).

After a few more tries, I think I have found a nice system: Press the "second fold" (the bigger fold) on each side around. Then go back and tuck under the "first fold" on each side, starting in the center and moving left; do the "left side" of each edge around, then go back and press from the center and moving right -- this gives the fabric time to cool off before you tuck the other side. Then cut the square from each corner, and fold and press each corner. Press down the corner with the tip of a metal tapestry needle as you bring down the iron, which creates a nice crease without getting your fingers too close. Turn fabric right-side up and press once more.
Note: After running these through the sewing machine, I figured out that the corners should end up Right-over-Left, so the sewing machine can just go straight to the edge, turn, and then sew over the fold.


Embroidery
This is the part that worries me the most. D wanted a "fancy" stitch, but I think a straight stitch may be better. I don't want a busy stitch to take away from how beautiful these are going to be on their own .... plus, I don't want to eff it up.

I played with a few of my test pieces that I'd pressed before. I swear, I could do anything with that first cotton, the one we're not using. That edge could cut glass (which is WHY we're not using it), so it was so easy to stitch straight. But the Imperial is so delicate, the "fancy" stitches just grabbed and pulled and did NOT look good.

Wedding Handkerchief - Embroidery (3)

Wedding Handkerchief - Embroidery (6)

I did a straight stitch and sent a picture to the bride, who agreed it was better. Phew!

Wedding Handkerchief - Embroidery (7)

The corners got a little funny, because the foot-thing was getting caught on the lump of the corner. Not pulling the fabric down, but not letting the top layer move back along with the bottom layer. I might have to just turn the needle manually on the corners, lifting the foot to make sure it moves correctly. However, only one of the testers had the "good" corner technique, and none of them had the Right-over-Left corner, so that may help dramatically.

Wedding Handkerchief - Embroidery (12)

And I need to practice back-stitching cleanly (or lockstitching?) so I don't get this at the beginning/end.

Wedding Handkerchief - Embroidery (10)



Measuring

Fabric
As described earlier, we went with Rice Imperial Cotton Batiste, from OnlineFabricStore.com. It comes 60" wide, which means for 200x  8.5x11"-pieces, we need about 10 yards (5x across (landscape, 11"), times 40x down (8.5") = 340" = 9.4 yards).

Handkerchief_layout1

HOWEVER!!!! ...
Freezer Paper comes either 15" or 18" wide by 13 or 16 or so yards in each roll (depending on the roll size). When I originally planned my materials, I figured I would cut the paper and cut the fabric to 8.5x11, then iron them together. But now I know that you get a cleaner edge if you iron the paper to the fabric and THEN cut. If your freezer paper is 15" wide and you lay the paper in rows, approximately every other row of rectangles will be made of two sheets of freezer paper. That ends up fine going through the printer (see test above).

However, because the paper is not exactly divisible by 8.5, if you kept this pattern of laying the freezer paper next to itself, you'd eventually get one row of rectangles where 8" or so is on one paper row, and 1/2" or so is on another paper row. That's going to run through the printer very well.

Handkerchief_layout2

So that row I move down the rectangles a little, basically start the pattern over from the top. However, those few inches means that I'm hitting EXACTLY at 10 yards long ... which is dangerous.

Handkerchief_layout3

Throw on at least another yard (or 2) for testing, messing up a few, etc.

If your freezer paper is 18", then it's a little easier. 18" is just over twice 8.5", so two rows of rectangles fits nicely. If you make 20 rows of paper of 18" paper, that's 360 inches, or 10 yards. So it comes out the same.

Handkerchief_layout4

Freezer Paper
Freezer paper comes in rolls of 13 1/3 yards (480") or 16 2/3 yards (600"). Using 15" paper, we need 1380" (57.5" x 3 strips x 8 sections) = 38 1/3 yards. That's 2.8 rolls of Freezer paper, so 3 rolls. Big Y / Reynolds doesn't let you buy partial yards of Freezer paper. Using 18" paper, we need 1150" (57.5 x 20 sections) = 32 yards. That's 1.9 rolls, so 2 rolls.

Thread
I have NO IDEA how much thread I'm going to need. I just bought 4 rolls of a beautiful burnt gold color, which will go nicely with the flowers in the print. Hopefully it's enough.


Now that we have everything, Game Plan:
  1. Hand-wash fabric, hang dry.
  2. Measure and trace the 8.5x11 rectangles on sheets of 57-57.5" (x 18" wide) freezer paper, which will cover 5 rectangles across (55") and two down (17"), with some paper left on each edge for clean cutting.
  3. Iron fabric, and iron on Freezer paper, one long sheet at time. Cut rectangles.
  4. Print (I want to print right away, I don't know if the paper will start to separate from the fabric if I leave it took long). Remove paper backing.
  5. Repeat a-bagillion more times, until you have 200 prints. Maybe do 1 set per day/night.
  6. Have a stiff drink.
  7. Wait for still drink to wear off.
  8. Press edges of fabric to set hem (batches of 10 or so? work until I hurt myself?)
  9. Stitch around hem.
  10. Repeat a-gillion times.
  11. Fold and Ship (Mother of the Bride wants to do the final ironing).

Ok. Let's do this.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Apparently I'm in charge of Cooking now

I'm a lucky girl. My husband LOVES to cook. He talks fondly about the Christmas when my mother gave him a cast-iron skillet and his life changed forever. Sundays at our old apartment were a sight -- 3 or 4 dinners at once, plus bread and some sort of pie. During the week I would get home too late to help keep baby out of the kitchen long enough for a nightly dinner-prep, so we just filled the fridge on Sundays and ate "leftovers" all week. It was amazing.

But then we moved. Chris still cooked, and I sort of felt guilty about being home but not being able to prepare more than a PB&J or spaghetti on nights when he had to stay late. Mostly because, while we make a meal-plan, Chris didn't always follow specifically and I didn't know what he was thinking on any given day. But then his co-engineer fell ill and Chris is now doing the work of two. Coming home on time is not in the cards at the moment. So I'm now in charge of dinner.

First step was to clean up the meal-planning software. We use Plan to Eat, which is AWESOME. OMG, totally worth the money. They do 30-day free trials, so try it out and see. It takes some setting up, because you have to get your recipes IN there, but once you can plan and cook right from the site, ... amazing. You can drag and drop your recipes into a calendar, and then it will generate a shopping list for you based on your meal plan for the week. It combines similar ingredients ("sugar" and "Granulated sugar") and totals up the measurements. You can save several stores, so you can mark certain items for Stop and Shop and certain items for Big Y (or certain items to the "sale only" store, which is what we do -- things that we'll need eventually, but for the moment only need to buy if they're on sale). The mobile site is great, and you can check off your list as you shop, and the "Cooking View" for the recipe pages is awesome for cooking -- step-by-step pages that highlight the ingredients one at a time. It imports recipes from mainstream cites like Cooking Light and MyRecipes, and for blogs pages and non-mainstream sites, there is a "bulk importer" where you paste in the text and it translates into the recipe format. If it would only come up with a way to scan a recipe from a photo or something, that'd be brilliant.

For planning, you can set the recipe's course (main course, side, breakfast, etc.) and cuisine (mexican, asian, etc.) and main ingredient (chicken, beef, rice/grain, etc.). Chris hadn't been using those, so step one for me was to go through all our "main course" recipes and set the main ingredient and cuisine, because that's how I like to plan -- every week gets Breakfast for Dinner (Friday), Fake-Out (Saturday, more on that later), something new/difficult/fancy (Sunday), and pasta (Wednesday). Thursday is leftovers. I love mexican, so each week gets a mexican dish, alternating main ingredient (chicken, pork, ground turkey, pasta). I don't love fish, but know it's healthy or whatever, so every other week there's a fish. I'm fine with at least 1 or 2 chickens every week, and then I fill in the rest with ground turkey, pork, vegetarian.

Next, the freezer. We buy meats in bulk and separate them into baggies for quick defrosting. But the rest of the freezer was a mess, literally. I needed to find out if we had frozen jalapenos for my corn salsa, and an hour and a half later I had a way-too-precise list of the entire contents of our freezer. (Side note: when we have another baby, we're getting an apartment-sized chest freezer, no matter where we live. Fill it with dinners pre-baby, fill it with breastmilk post-baby. When baby's grown/weaned, sell it on Craigslist. Boom.) Now that list is posted with a dry-erase marker, and the goal is to keep it updated so one does not need to stand in front of an open freezer digging for what you want, AND to be able to take a photo of the list before leaving for the store, because there is ALWAYS that moment of "Oh! ___ is on sale! .... but I can't remember if we have any in the freezer." Of course, this plan involves everyone pulling their weight, so we'll see how it goes.

Freezer Inventory

After that, the pantry. Same issue -- we buy in bulk, but live in an apartment, so it's packed pretty tightly in the room off the kitchen (where most people put a washer/dryer). This one took a a little longer.

Pantry

Pantry Inventory

The hard part here will be keeping track WHILE I'm cooking -- I jump in there to get the tomato paste, but I have to either mark it down then (while I probably have something on the stove), or remember to go back later. We'll see.

Finally, we're going to actually mark down which recipes we like and which were a flop, instead of remembering "oh, that one with the greenbeans and the sauce, I didn't like that one." For example, last night's pasta with spring vegetables with cream sauce looked great until it told me to add bread crumbs, which sucked up all the sauce and basically made cheese globs. Tasted fine, but globby cheese is not Chris's thing. So after dinner I went back and took out that ingredient (and switched peas to something else ... I'm seriously married to a toddler), so next time I won't have to remember that that's the part we didn't like.

Let's get cooking!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

(Some of) Tough Love Knitters is now Crafted Birth

Some of you know that I recently finished my certification as a Childbirth Educator, and have started teaching classes in Northampton and Amherst (MA). I call myself Crafted Birth, since I want to help parents hand-make their best birth experience.

Untitled

Because I was just starting out, I made my own demonstration materials -- a weighted birth doll, a uterus, a placenta and umbilical cord, and I'm currently working on a knitted pelvis (which, yes, is as hard as it sounds). I brought these items to a Doula networking meeting a few months ago, and a Doula friend bought one of everything! So I decided to put them up on my Tough Love Knitters Etsy page, and a Childbirth Educator from Brooklyn bought another whole set! I've pulled down the listings for now, since I'm so busy making body parts that I can't afford to have someone else order any more!

But them I started thinking ... if I'm Crafted Birth in my classes, should I be Crafted Birth on my hand-crafted birth demonstration items? ... I mean, it's right in the name. It took my marketing friend about two seconds to say, "Um, of course you need to be Crafted Birth on a knitted Uterus." "But my Etsy page--" "I don't care what it says, it doesn't make sense you be TLK on a knitted uterus, if you're Crafted Birth in class."

She was right, of course. I just didn't want to deal with "the hassle" -- which turned out to be just starting a second Etsy page, which is super easy and people do it all the time. So Crafted Birth on Etsy was born (get it?) and all my Childbirth Knitting and Crochet-ing will go there (once they expire on the TLK page). I'm very excited about it, especially because I had such a quick response to the items when I first put them up! I'm perfecting the patterns, so these are truly one-of-a-kind!

Cord and Belly Button(6)(c)

Crochet Baby - Body (4)

Placenta and Cord(5)(c)

Knitted Placenta(4)

Baby Head (Kristin) (1)

Knitted Boob (1)(c)

Knitted Baby - Latch (1))c_

Uterus (c)

New journeys!!!
Baby Head (Molly) (10)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Lego Man has left the Library.

Lego Man has been saved.

photo


I found this guy on my kitchen table today, with his helmet on backwards. It reminded me a little much of the Vashda Nerada (Doctor Who, Silence in the Library).


Hey! Who Turned Out the Lights!?

The problem is, I found this amazing FB group called AP Whovians, and they talk about Attachment Parenting and Doctor Who ... so win/win. So I posted this, and immediately they said, well he needs two shadows. So I spent the evening doing that instead of making dinner.

WhoTurnOutTheLights

Worth it.