Thursday, June 26, 2014

Basement update

So last time I left you with a basement update, we were framing out the walls.

Since then, we've been making slow progress. We typically only get about one weekend day every two weeks to work on this, so that pretty much explains the lack of speed of renovation. While we've had several work days, many of them were filled with boring but necessary things like electrical and ductwork. All I'll say about that is that the drill bit on the left is the worst and the one on the right is the best.

I had to put my full weight on the first one to get anywhere, and the other just went through like butter.

So here is the current state of things - pink!

We've started putting up the insulation, and the drywall is on deck. Hopefully one more day or so of work and we can start laying up wall board, and the end will be near! Or at might be able to picture an actual room?

We've made progress on that funny corner too. In the image above, we used to have a duct transfer on the right hand side of the room near the doorway. We would have had to drop a soffit down there to enclose it, but that was going to be a bummer because the ceiling height in this room is just over 7', and we didn't really want to drop the height right at the door. My husband was able to pull the transfer across the room to the left and hide it in the one soffit we already had to make. Remember my little sketch?

And here we are so far!

The soffit encloses the duct work and a gas line that came down below the joists, and you can see the framing for the removable bench that houses the water meter.

Slowly but surely...maybe by the end of summer?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Handmade Dolly

I've done several projects recently that are simply awaiting photos before I can add them to the blog, however, the weather seems to be matching my mood lately which makes photographing outside somewhat impossible.

And while we have been making progress on the basement studio, where someday taking photos will be a snap, we're nowhere near done yet. (update coming Thursday!) So, I just snapped a few quick ones inside, and we get what we got!

Back around Christmas time, I was itching to make a ton of stuff, and top of my list was handmade dolls. Well, cut to June, and I finally got there! I had flipped through a ton of websites, tutorials on Pinterest, patterns at the craft store, and nothing was really speaking to me. When I saw Hilary Lang's book from a few years back called Wee Wonderfuls: 24 Dolls to Sew and Love, it was just what I was looking for. I have at least three dolls I want to make from this book, but I started off with the Tag Along Doll

She's called Tag Along because she fits in an apron pocket that a child can wear, but I wasn't feeling that as much as I just liked the little girl herself. I changed the skin and hair color to match more what we've got going on around here. Ironically the fabric I chose for her dress matches the canister in the background of the book photo. I didn't notice that until I was putting these pictures together!

Overall, the pattern was written super clearly and was easy to follow. I wish I'd stuffed her face a little more firmly so she didn't have those premature chin wrinkles, but I suspect that she may have gotten them eventually anyway from some rather intense hugs. The only thing that I don't really like is that the dress is attached right to the doll. I finished this up late at night, and so I completed it as written. However I think I'm going to go back and cut the back of the dress and add some velcro so that she can be dressed...and undressed...and dressed...and, well, you get the idea. I'll try to follow up if/when I get around to that.

She fits right in around here, going "nigh-nigh" as all our friends do several times a day. I can't wait to make a whole group of these dolls and the other patterns I love from the book. Here's hoping it doesn't take me another 6 months to get there!

(p.s. In the spirit of full disclosure, this post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means that I may get a small commission if you decide to purchase anything by clicking on the link. I only recommend products that I use and love myself, so I know you’ll be in good hands)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

It's going around - Liebster Award

I think using the word "award" is a little off, since this basically amounts to a get to know you survey. But I suppose being nominated for a survey isn't that exciting? So....I've been nominated for a Liebster Award by Heather from Nearly There and Leyla from Silk and Wool

So there are rules.
  1. Post 11 random facts about myself
  2. Answer 11 questions the awarding blogger has asked
  3. Nominate 11 blogs with less than 200 followers, add their links to this post, and let them know that they have been nominated
  4. Create 11 questions the nominated blogs have to answer
  5. (and post these rules!)
I'm probably going to break the rules, most notably the nomination of other blogs. I'll do my best to call some out specifically, but I'm also very open to self nomination. Want to participate? Comment or email me at cozycapecottage {at} and I'll add you to the post. Oh, and I'm also ignoring the follower rule, because I can't actually figure out how many people follow THIS blog, let alone others. I'm just tagging blogs I like or people who have left me some comments recently to get to know them better!

Random facts about me:

1. I hate driving. The self driving Google car can't come quickly enough for me.

2. I like the idea of traveling much more than the reality of it. I love seeing new places and doing cool things, but I tend to lose MY cool on the last day or two of a trip, no matter the length. I'm a homebody for sure.

3.  I swam distance on the varsity team as a freshman in high school, but I got such horrible repeated ear infections that I had to quit.

4. I've never seen several movies that seem to shock people, such as Star Wars, The Godfather, Goonies

5. I'm definitely an "oldest child"

6. While I enjoy writing, I'm terrible at correspondence.

7. I had to get bifocals this year. I'm 31.

8. Other than the mortgage, we should be debt free in 2015.

9. I'm a terrible morning person. I used to be a night owl, but now I love to go to bed around 9. What does that make me....a midday person?

10. I can remember specific things from a meeting a year ago, or full movie monologues, but I can't remember what I had for lunch yesterday or what I'm supposed to be doing tomorrow. If it isn't on my calendar, it doesn't exist.

11. I love my cat and dog, but I don't think I'm an "animal person." I'm also not sure that I'll get more pets later in would be nice not to have pet hair all over everything all the time.

Questions answered:

1. How important is your blog to you in the big picture of life?
 Minimal to medium. I enjoy it, or I wouldn't do it. But it's firmly a hobby for me. I appreciate it for keeping record of what I'm working on, and getting to know people. I never want to think up projects or whatever "for the blog."
2. What are the things that help you relax most?

Knitting, yoga, wine, naps. Quiet time is very important to me.

3. How much do you agree to the saying “If you are good at doing something, you shouldn’t do it for free”, especially related to your favorite craft/hobby/passion ?
I disagree. I'm not saying to give everything away for free, but money isn't everything.
4. What are 2-3 things you are most proud of, in regards to your favorite craft/hobby/passion? If you have posts/pictures, please add those.
I'm pretty darn proud of the chair I reupholstered, imperfections and all. (Ok, the imperfections totally bother me.)

I'm also going to be pretty proud of this dress when it's finished. Beyond the image below, I've attached the sleeves and have the front flap complete and part of the yoke. It's also imperfect, but it doesn't bother me as much. Growth?

5. Do you ever get presents from friends or relatives related to  your favorite craft/hobby/passion?

Yes! Most recently I got the Knit Kit because my husband felt bad for how I was always fumbling for my scissors or darning needle. (That's an affiliate link. It's something I'm trying out)
6. Do you like sports? Which kinds?
Eh, not really. I don't mind the occasional baseball game or superbowl party with friends, but there is nothing I follow. I'm fairly entertained by the fights at hockey games. Are there no rules at all?
7. Do your ever dream (in sleep) about your hobby?
Not that I recall
8. Do you have a favorite dish? What is it?
Tomato soup + grilled cheese is my comfort food.
9. What things do you prefer visually? (Any given colour? Bright multi-colour patterns? Simple patterns? Busy patterns? Any particular style – e.g. steam punk, oriental, baroque?) Be as general or as specific as you like.
Simple, neutral, geometric for sure. I appreciate the rustic, collected look, but I can't pull it off yet.
10. What are your goals for the next few years, related to your favorite craft/hobby/passion? Do you have any?
I suppose continuing to grow and develop new skills. I'd love to do something with colorwork, like one of those scandanavian stranded sweaters that look adorable on kids. Cables are on my short list too.
11. Are you a process or end-result oriented?
Both, but halfway through the process I usually get pretty antsy for the finished product.

Questions for others:

1. Hot or cold weather?

2. Dream job?

3. Skill you are totally jealous of?

4. What is your guilty pleasure indulgence?

5. Proudest accomplishment?

6. Favorite place?

7. Drink of choice?

8. Describe your current home

9. Describe your dream home

10. What do you pretend to like because you should, but actually don't?

11. What does your life look like in 3 years?

Phew....that was a lot harder than I thought it would be! So I now nominate:

And hey, I got to 11! But I'll still take write in self-nominations. :)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Book Review: Metropolitan Knits

Would you believe that I don't own a single knitting book? I get most of my patterns and skills from various blogs, podcasts and Ravelry. I frequently check books out from my local library, and occasionally end up purchasing single patterns via Ravelry or Etsy. While many books are beautiful, I don't find more than one or two patterns that I feel like I MUST own. 

That is, until I picked up Metropolitan Knits by Melissa Wehrle. I love this book. I love well over half the patterns in this book. I've renewed it two times from the library and either plan to buy it myself, or to hint liberally that someone should. 

I love, in no particular order, the cover sweater, the Meier cardigan, which looks great for work 

The Brooklyn Bridge cardigan is a fingering weight that would be great for summer days

The Carriage house cardigan is even lighter in lace weight, though I think I'd omit the ruching from the back and just let it hang loose

The cobblestone hoodie will be a weekend staple. I would make it long enough to cover the tush so I could wear it with leggings

I had a sweater like this several years ago, and still love it. It's the magnolia cafe, and I think the chunky cables look so cozy

Speaking of a cozy chunky knit, the Washington square cardigan calls for bulky yarn, and would be perfect for winter 

Another sweater perfect for pairing with leggings if I make it another inch or two longer is the Skyline tunic

Perhaps one of the first things that I will knit is this super cozy looking cowl

And finally, perhaps my first adult cardigan that I already have the yarn for is the Bleeker street cardigan. I'm not sure how I feel about the pockets, but they are attached as one of he final steps so I can make that decision later

So there you have it! The knitting book that captured my heart enough to become the start of my library!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Knit. Breathe. Repeat.

Despite being nearly mid-June by now, it's been a cold and rainy week. Which suits me just find to be honest.

I'm working on the Nova dress. I've been picking away at it for about 2 months now.

Despite it just being miles of stockinette, I've made at least two mistakes and one mistake that wasn't really, it was how the pattern was written but I didn't like it. Therefore the first three decreases are leaning the wrong way as I modified how I was knitting them but didn't bother to rip it back.

I did, however, rip back the first sleeve. Twice. First I tried to knit them two at a time, which I do for socks and is fine, but with striping, was a huge mess. Rip. Then I was about 4 stripes in, dropped a few stitches, couldn't handle it. Rip.

Finally I got it together on the sleeves. I knit one up to the end of the increases, set that aside and knit the other up to the decreases. It turns out that what people say is true, different needles give you a different gauge. I don't have it in me to rip again, so I'll just finish the sleeve on the metal circs and go back and continue knitting the one I started on the DPNs with the circs. That's what I did the rest of the dress in, so that makes sense. Anyway. Knit. Breathe. Repeat.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Homemade yogurt without fancy equipment

According to a search of my email (don't ask why I was emailing about yogurt, because I don't know), I've been making yogurt at home since 2010. I make a gallon of milk at a time, which comes out to 4 quart sized jars, which we go through in about 2-3 weeks. In that time, I think I've only had fewer than 5 batches not turn out for one reason or another, so I feel like I have the system pretty down pat. Considering that one of those little cups of yogurt costs what, a dollar? Maybe $.50 if you get them on sale? And if they are 8 oz or so, that's 8 servings per quart, 4 quarts per gallon, which would come out to about $16-32 for the gallon of yogurt I make....for about $5. And that right there is pretty much why I do it!

I read a few tutorials, and a lot of them involved a yogurt maker or a crock pot. I didn't want to buy another kitchen appliance, so I did try the crockpot method once, and wasn't really pleased with the results as it was too runny for my tastes. So basically I stick with the same method time after time. It's pretty similar to the steps on the yogurt starter packets, however I tend to use a single serve of commercial yogurt rather than the starter because it works just as well and costs less. Technically you can use yogurt from your previous batch as your starter, but I don't do this. I don't have a scientific reason, but I feel like if I keep reusing the same starter, I might end up with not enough of the bacteria to make the recipe work, so I just use a fresh one.

This tutorial is probably about as easy as it gets, and has about 10 minutes of hands on time, including clean up! The cooking process takes about an hour and a half, but basically you just need to be around the house, not in the kitchen or anything. Then the incubation period is anywhere from 5-8 hours.

Step one: pour a gallon of milk into pot. I use my pasta pot, and I use whole milk because it makes a nice, thick yogurt, and I'm on board with a few healthy fats in my diet. Hang on to the empty gallon AND lid, as you'll use them later.

Step 2: turn heat to medium, and let simmer on medium for about 30 minutes. You don't want the milk to come to a boil, and it shouldn't over this length of time and heat level.

Step 3: Check temp. You're looking for the milk to be about 180 degrees F. I don't have a fancy candy thermometer or anything, so I just use a (clean, of course!) meat thermometer.

Step 4: remove pot from heat, and let sit for about an hour. Yep, just walk away. Go take a shower or something.

Step 5: check temp. You're looking for about 115 degrees.

Step 6: Prepare to strain. Some tutorials I've read recommend stirring constantly so you don't get any milk scalded to the bottom of the pot. I don't have time for all that, so I've found the best way to get around that and to have nice, creamy yogurt is just to strain it. I set the empty gallon of milk in my sink to catch any dribble, and I hold a sieve above a funnel. I used to need another set of hands to hold this steady, but now I can grab the pot with one hand and a potholder, and hold the sieve with the other.

Step 7: combine yogurt - either the single serve cup or powdered starter - and some (it doesn't matter how much) of the heated milk in a glass jar. I've tried using plastic gladware type containers before, and found that the yogurt didn't thicken up as nicely as when I use glass. I'm not a chemist or anything, but I'll hypothesize that the glass is a better insulator and holds the heat longer during incubation. Probably.

Step 8: Mix

Step 9: pour the yogurt + milk mixture back into the big gallon of milk and mix that together. This is where it was a good idea to have saved the lid because you can just re-cap it and give it a good shake.

Step 10: pour soon-to-be yogurt into your glass jars. I find that it fits just right into 4 quart jars because I probably spilled a little in the sink at some point.

Step 11: snuggle your jars together someplace for the next 5-8 hours. I like to use my oven because it gets it out of the way. I wrap them in a towel to help hold the heat. If I'm doing this during a time when I need my oven, I've used another towel or 2 and bundled it all into a cooler. I often try to do this during the day and just set a timer for 5 or 6 hours and then transfer them into the fridge, however I've also done the cooking just before bed and put them in the fridge in the morning. I've found that it's best to give a jar a tip to see if it has set up yet if you're on the shorter side of incubation time - mine doesn't usually get thicker in the refrigerator.

And there you have it! Lots of yogurt with just a little effort, and a couple dollars saved!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Oliver + S Bucket Hat

A few days ago, I read this post on Probably Actually about summer hats for kids. I just so happened to be in need of a larger summer hat, and it seems like every sewing blogger I read is enamored with Oliver + S, so I decided to give this free pattern a try. I have to say, it feels a bit like I'm getting involved with some sort of drug dealer, where the first hit is free.....

Anyway, all in, this project took an evening, from about 7-10 pm. I had the fabric and interfacing on hand, though I wish I'd had some brown thread given my fabric choice. It would have made the bit of unevenness where I attached the last part a bit less noticeable, but I wanted to knock this out quickly so I used the lighter tan that I had. The pattern directions themselves were well written and clear, though attaching the sides to the circular top was definitely a bit fiddly.

Progress shot - eek, not looking cute yet!

Oh so many pins while I was attaching the brim. Since I was attaching the floppy hat to the slightly stiffened brim, I wanted to make sure they were attached evenly.

It came out pretty cute in the end! (disregard the mulch pile in the background - we have work to do!)

I contemplated adding some ties or a velcro strap to keep it on, but opted against it as it would sort of undo the reversibility of the pattern. Despite somehow mostly showing the pink and brown side, I do really like the green polka dotted other side! I think it fits really well in circumference, but I feel like it could be about an inch taller. If (and probably when, because more sun hats are better than less!) I make this again, I think I'll add some height to the side panels so that it comes down a bit lower on the forehead. I'm not itching for my next Oliver + S hit JUST yet, but I feel like once my sewing studio is up and running, I might feel the urge!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

How does my garden grow?

I'm an excellent gardener. From May all the way through, oh, the first week of June or so. After long, cold winters, I itch to get outside and get things cleaned up. And then I get some bug bites, and I sweat off my sunscreen, and I hit the couch. And then the next year I have to clean up all the things I planted and promptly ignored once I had to try to tell the difference between plant and weed. Sigh. Such good (mediocre) intentions, wasted year after year.

My yard is quite small, and thanks to a previous owner working for the parks department back in the day, we have about....6 fully grown, park sized trees on a lot measured in square feet. This is good for finding a place for a hammock, not great for full sun exposure for any measurable length of time. Several years ago, we did a summer of landscaping where we ripped out most everything we could and are still in the process of replacing it in an intentional way. We mapped out the only patch of ground that got a somewhat decent amount of sunlight, and used landscaping blocks scavenged from other really dumb places in the yard to build a raised garden bed.


So many leaves.....

And after! (this is from 2009 - you can see the level of shade we deal with! That's pretty much what determined the size, shape and location of the bed. That and the amount of stone we had laying around.)

Hey look, I was still enthusiastic about gardening in 2010!

And, well, I've fallen off since then. I've halfheartedly planted something every year, but I think last year I got about 4 carrots and some herbs, and that's about it. I guess that's the nice thing about a vegetable garden - there's always next year. THIS year, I'd planned to make things easy on myself and buy mostly plants rather than trying to do seeds, but....well I did my plant shopping on Memorial Day weekend and got totally overwhelmed. I'm not a type of person who does well in crowds. I ended up grabbing 2 tomatoes, a basil, and a handful of seed packets and walking out in a daze. (The seeds I planted were carrots, peas, beans, spinach, lettuce and green onions. I probably meant to get more or different things...but who can remember?)

Despite my lackluster commitment to the garden, I've been pretty faithful to composting. I started out cheap (like I tend to do) with a rubbermaid bin with holes drilled into it for drainage and air flow. It actually worked out halfway decent. I mean, it made's not exactly rocket science. But after several years outside in the winter....because you can NOT move that thing when it's full, the plastic gave out. Last year we got something similar to this compost bin: (I didn't want one of the "tumbling" types, because I've read things about them either falling apart or not turning. Since it has to withstand the elements, I went for the least amount of moving parts)

Even though it's obviously super attractive, we keep it in a planting bed right outside our back door. If it wasn't steps from the kitchen, we would never use it. Or the bin in the house would get disgustingly full and we'd ditch the whole system. We planted some daylilies around it, and due to the compost juices soaking into the ground there, they grow awesome and huge and do provide a bit of camouflage. As for keeping the compost in the house, we've gone through a few systems. I know they have those bins you can leave out on your counter...but they always seemed a little sketchy and gnat attracting to me. First I had a bright idea of putting the scraps that needed to go out in the freezer, because then it definitely wouldn't attract bugs. That part of my theory was totally spot on, by the way. What did NOT work out though was the collection method. I started with a gladware type bin, which worked, but also shattered after several in-and-outs and bangs on the side of the bin to dislodge the frozen bits. Then I moved to a metal bread pan, which did not break, but did not have a lid. In typical man fashion, my husband is of the mind to keep stomping the garbage down in the bin rather than take it out a day earlier. This is not ideal when you have overflowing food scraps and coffee grounds in your freezer. Now we keep scraps in another gladware bin in the fridge, because it's much harder to overflow things that have lids which seal on tightly.

Anyway, because we just have this one bin, we don't have a place to fully age the compost. This, by the way, is the dream for behind the garage:

You know you're old when dreams include ways to organize garbage and dirt.

We use a screen that we build to sit on top of our wheelbarrow so that we can sift out the "done" stuff from the "still resembles food" stuff.

I spent several hot, sweaty hours sifting the compost, and got this:

Impressive, isn't it? It DOES help a little that the part in shadow at the bottom of the picture is also compost. But man, it would be nice to have that 3-bin aging system! Maybe I'll keep that on the list for this summer.....and then in like...3 years, we'll have excellent dirt.

Anyway, so I did plant my meager haul from the garden store.

Despite living in a fairly urban area, we also live near a wooded area, so we get quite an abundance of wildlife. As you can see in the earlier photos, I used metal fencing, which kept out deer, but the squirrels mocked me and used it as a ladder. I cut it on one side on either long edge of the garden so that I could swing it open to get in there and weed (ha) and harvest (double ha), and it had really started to fall apart after several years. This year I'm trying some deer blocking fabric mesh over the whole darn thing. We'll see how this works out. I tacked it into the ground and draped it over the fence post things I already had. It should be fairly easy for me to undo and get in there, and hopefully the squirrels don't just thank me for putting up a hammock for them if they decide to lounge on top, right before breaking through to have a nice lunch.