Tuesday, November 27, 2012

DIY - Christmas Dresses for my Girlies - Tutorial - PART 1

Over the past couple of weeks, we really did look for some cute christmas dresses for our girlies but we could not find anything we liked. Gotta admit, we are somewhat picky: Aurelia insists that the dresses have to match (BTW: I cannot stand matching outfits for kids, but hey, she wants it, she gets it.) and Roberto and I were not loving any dresses we saw.

Aurelia kept arguing that christmas dresses should be pink and purple because who ever wears red and green? Roberto whispered to me, "I wouldn't mind if some of the girls' clothes were not pink or purple. I mean, there ARE other colours..."

My man even raised the point that it was somewhat silly to get an outfit that you wear once in your life, since the girls will outgrow it in no time. Well, Aurelia and I simply ignored that rational comment.

Then we thought, maybe we should go with an outfit - as in shirt, leggins, skirt - that is a tad festive but even with that idea we could not find anything we liked enough to buy it.

Eventually, i said, "Let me see what I can whip up from my fabric storage."

Back at home, I found some ivory colored knit and a red velvet. Aurelia loooves that velvet, even if it's not in her favourite colours (pink & purple). Hmmmm.....

Now, here is the idea:

I have a pattern for a cute shirt, that I could extend the hem so that it becomes a dressy length with some flare, of course.

I am planning on using the ivory knit to make this shirt-gone-dress kind with red velvet sleeves.

Then, I will cut stripes of the red velvet and make ruffles and more ruffles and sew them onto that ivory portion of said dress.

OK.... now, let's wash that fabric and draw that pattern.... stay tuned...

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Harvesting & Drying Herbs

It is fall. And most of our garden's bounty has been harvested and eaten but there are still those herbs who need harvesting. With the moon in a watersign today, I decided, it is time to get the scissors out and snip: sage, rosemary, mints and lemon balm.

Now what?

After rinsing them, I shook them, tied some of them in bunches and hung them upside down in the dining room. You won't believe the scent!

Drying herbs in the oven is way faster, but if the herbs are dried too quickly at too high a temperature, much of the flavor, oils, and color of the herbs can be lost.  So, to gently oven dry, I placed the leaves and / or stems on a cookie sheet or shallow pan and warmed them at 180°F for 3 to 4 hours with the oven door open.

What to do with those dried herbs? While herbs can be used for soo many things, here is what I do with my herbs:

Lemon Balm, is a perennial.The leaves are picked and I use it in herbal teas or in iced tea or fruit salads.
Lavender is a perennial. The whole flower spikes are cut just before the florets are fully open. I use lavender in sachets, cold-hot-packs, eyemasks, airsols, oils, soap as well as for culinary purposes. Check out some herbal tea recipes here. 

Marjoram, is an annual but in my mild Californian winters, they end up being a perennial. I cut them back to 1 inch above the ground and use marjoram leaves with meat, poultry, vegetables (beans for Thanksgiving!)

Mints are perennials. We harvest the leaves basically all the time for herbal teas and for cooking. Since they grow like mad, you may want to cut them almost to the ground.

Oregano is a perennial. Harvest and dry before flowering and use to season spaghetti sauces and tomato dishes.

Rosemary is a perennial and mine smell and taste amazing! We love them with meats, poultry dishes, and potatoes. After drying, you can season sea salt with it; in a pretty jar these are nice gifts.

Sage is a perennial Harvest when just starting to flower A commonly used seasoning for Thanksgiving (meat & stuffing) as well as great in herbal teas. We also love fried sage leaves. Check out my recipe here.

Thyme is a perennial and is nice with meats and soups.


Soften 1/4 pound of butter at room temperature. Add about 4 tablespoonsful of dried herb leaves as well as a bit of minced garlic.  Beat with an electric blender until light and fluffy. Store in the refrigerator in a covered container.

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

Sunday, November 18, 2012

How to make Rose Water - Tutorial

My rose petals
With holiday baking approaching, it is always good to stock up on rose water. Rose water can be used in baking, cooking and even makes for a great mild facial toner for sensitive skin.

What do you need?

  • Fresh petals 
  • Water (Ratio: 1 cup firmly packed petals : 2 cups of boiling water)
  • Ice cubes
  • Enamel or stainless steel pot with lid
  • Heat proof bowl or brick or stones
  • Deep bowl

What should you be mindful of when using rose petals?

Flowers should be organic (no pesticide, no herbicide!) and freshly picked; you will be using only the flower petals; no leaves or stems.

I grow my own, but some vendors at farmer's markets may also sell organic roses. Rinse briefly to take bugs and dirt off.
Inside the pot

What now?

Fill the bottom of the pot with the petals.

Then pour the boiling water over them until they are just covered. 

Place the heat proof bowl in the middle of the pot. 

The pot's rim should be at least a couple inches higher than the liquid. 

Ice cubes on upside down lid
Cover with lid, but position it upside down so that there’s a dipped “container” to hold the ice on top (to be added later). 

Bring to a boil.

After a couple minutes, turn the heat down; simmer for about two hours.
Add more ice as needed and check occasionally to ensure the petals still have some water.

How does it work?

This process will create condensation forming on thedownward facing lid. 

The condensation will drip down into the bowl inside the pot, which is to become your rosewater.

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

Thursday, November 15, 2012

DIY Christmas Presents - Paint a Mug - Aber bitte mit Sahne

With Christmas approaching rather fast, I am starting to get all my pressies ready to be shipped to our loved ones overseas.

Let me ask you this: What do grandmas love more than anything else in the world? Correct, their grandchildren!

So, I figured, they also must love artwork from said kids.

My mom lives in Germany where we have what is called 'Kaffeeklatsch', where basically a bunch of women get together, eat cake and drink well, coffee.

A famous German musician even made a song about this.... Aber bitte mit Sahne

And here is what I have in mind for my Mama: I bought Villeroy & Boch New Wave coffee mugs here..... Dinner Ware Etc

Yes, real fancy. Well, it's for my one and only Mama!!!

Then, I recruited my one and only Aurelia....

We picked up some acrylic ceramic paint at Michaels. Note if you are planning on doing this project with your kids, you may not want to take your kids to pick out the colours because in my case I ended up with pink & purple and I had to use bribing to get the blue that my mom would actually like ;-)

Anywho..... I covered the table and the girl and she painted those mugs.

What's next: Well, after one day of drying, they will be baked in the oven for about 30 minutes at 325F and TADAAA! Personalized Christmas pressie for a Kaffeeklatsch Oma!

Happy Holidays!

.... and yes, you may wanna stay tuned for more DIY Christmas pressies....

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis