Thursday, February 4, 2016

DII 100% Cotton, Professional Stripe Bib Apron

Here is a review of a great apron I just got through the Amazon Vine program. I love it but there are a few things to think about. One things I didn't notice until I had finished my review and looked at some others, this is a rather long apron. Since I like wearing longer skirts, etc. I didn't notice, but if you are short and don't have the ability to hem the apron up you might want to reconsider buying this particular apron. Since it is a heavy cotton, I would recommend for hemming the use of a sewing machine instead of by hand.  For the current price of $10.99 it is a good value as well when you consider the time and cost of fabric to make it yourself .

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I love wearing chef's or butcher type aprons. When I make aprons for myself, this is the style I choose, so I was very happy to get this one to try. Right out of the package it had a slight funny odor to it. While it is advertised as having two front pockets, mine only has on large one. If I feel the need for two, I can sew a seam down the middle of the pocket and end up with two pockets so this is not a problem for me. If I got that ambitious I would also make a loop to have a towel hang from which is also a preference of mine that I make when making an apron.
The apron is also advertised as having the ability to have the ties wrap around and tie in front. I think that ability is solely dependent on the height and weight of the wearer. This apron has something I have never seen before and I wouldn't mind trying to mimic it on the next apron I make. Instead of the separate neck loop and separate side ties, the ties come around the neck and through a casing on the upper edges of the apron and then come out to be tied in back. This is great for being able to adjust the apron to cover you where you most want it and to accommodate different heights of cooks. For me at 5'8" and overweight, I can only tie the apron in the back which is fine with me. Unless you are super skinny and a bit on the short side, I don't think you will be able to tie the apron in front. Or if you can manage to tie it in front, you will only get just a small bow or knot.
The apron is made of 100% heavy cotton fabric which will help prevent spills from soaking through. I like it very much and it is comfortable to wear. Once I wash it, I plan on machine embroidering a design on it but I want any potential shrinkage to happen first. The tag states that the apron is made in India for those concerned about where your products come from.
Even though it doesn’t coincide with what is stated on the product page, I am very happy with this apron and plan on using it often, thus the 5 stars.
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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Fiskars 18 Inch Billhook Saw - A disappointing Product

I received that Fiskars 18 inch Billhook Saw through the Amazon Vine program. I really looked forward to trying it out since I had high hopes for it, but was sadly disappointed. I'm not sure if I have ever mentioned, I never look at others reviews until my own is written. So once I posted my review (below) I looked at other reviews. Many also were disappointed in the dullness of the blade. One reviewer said it took him a good half hour to sharpen it. Others were very interestingly written. They gave high praise and 5 stars, but never actually admitted USING the saw. Others gave high praise claiming they had been able to accomplish much work with the saw right out of the package. Did they get a sharpened saw unlike most of us or are they making up stories? Enquiring minds want to know.

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I really wanted to like this item. I have Fiskar scissors and punches in my sewing room so expected at least that quality. I received this saw right before an onslaught of snow so I had to wait to try it. It got warm and the snow melted (we are having the craziest winter!) and so with high anticipation a few minutes ago I went out to my weed/flower patch to get rid of the dead, dried out stuff. I first attempted to use the smooth saw side and it couldn't cut anything....Period! I tested the edge of that blade with fingers and thumb and it wasn't sharp at all. I don't think when you buy a brand new saw you should have to go find a way to sharpen it, if it is even possible. The packaging doesn't indicate that it is necessary. So I tried out the jagged edge of the saw. I did manage to cut down some 1/4" - 1/2" stems. But the cuts were very jagged and it wouldn't bite down and stay in one place. That could have been due to my poor muscle strength, but the harder and more pressure applied, the worse things got. A gardener probably doesn't care as much if trimming down weeds etc. you don't get smooth cuts, but if you used this to trim small branches off of trees and the like, it would leave a lot of jagged wood exposed which would be an invitation infestation and infection at the spot. Any tree and bush trimming needs to be done with smooth cuts to make it easier for the wound to heal. It did come with a nice sheath for storing the saw. Like I said, I really wanted this saw to work would have
accomplished more by using my usual gardening tools.

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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Ready to Stitch: Borders & Motifs

Here is another book review of a great book that I purchased for myself.

Borders & Motifs by Michaela Learner ISBN 9781844489091 Published by Search Press 2014 UK, Printed in China. 96 pages of text with color photographs of completed work and diagrams for color use, plus 32 pages of 84 iron on embroidery transfers. Softcover Book. From the Ready to Stitch Series.

This book has many lovely designs that are classic in that they should be as lovely now as in 20+ years if someone wants to use them. One thing I really did like about this book is that many of the samples were stitched in two ways with different colored threads and different stitches so you can get ideas for how you might want to use the designs themselves. I don't recall ever seeing this in an embroidery book before and I do think I would like to see it more often. The only designs which I'm not sure I personally like, are the ones with fairies in them as they look like a cross between cherubs and fairies. Just a bit strange to me. Please note that in this book there are no fonts to embroider.

One of the designs in this book I have seen the UK magazine Stitch, October/November 2015 Issue 97 page 20 being used as a design on a tote bag. Before purchasing this book, I had already flagged this project as a possibility to do. I could flag just about every design in this book as possibilities to make as well. If only my hands could hold up for the job!

If you like to embroider, are looking for project ideas, or just like to read and look at needlework books, this is a very good embroidery book. Seeing the designs embroidered in two sets of colors and stitches makes it even more likely that you will come up with more ideas of how to use the designs.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Christmas Baking

Well I won't claim to be the champion cookie baker this year like in many years past, but I did make one batch with the help of a mix. I did get to try out some new great products that I got sent via Amazon Vine. I just love it when I get stuff for the kitchen the office or sewing room. Lately it has been the kitchen. So here is the review I wrote for Tovolo Mats. I used my new set of Kitchen Aid Bowls that were also from Amazon Vine. The cookie mix and candy mix ins courtesy of Betty Crocker and M&M's.

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As someone that grew up and learned to cook and bake in the pre-microwave era, it has always been hard for me to get past my reluctance to use rubber when cooking or baking. Not so my husband. Ask me what has happened to my rubber spatula for use when using the mixer? He honestly thought it was silicone! So anyhow I am faced with silicon baking sheets to put in my pans. They were a little to big and as they said they can be cut to size, I might try that next time. I haven't been up to baking Christmas cookies in a very long while, so by 'cheating' (using a Betty Crocker peanut butter cookie mix and some Christmas M & M's) I mixed up the dough in my NEW Kitchen Aid bowls. They are lightweight to use and I didn't have trouble with them scooting around or holding on to them. I put the cookie dough onto the pans on top of the Tovolo Mat and then popped one pan at a time into the oven, which I have found is best to not have unbaked or over baked cookies. When done I took the cookies off the pan and they slid right off onto the spatula, and some did try to scoot around on the mat, but I think that was because of me taking them off of the pan as soon as I got them out of the oven when the recipe said to wait 2 minutes. All in all I think these will be a great asset in anyone's kitchen that bakes. Since nothing sticks to them you also, if you lack sufficient quantity of pans, won't have to clean off the baked on crumbs off of the pans in between batches.  My taste test of the cookies showed them to be yummy!
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It was only when turning the big oven on that I realized just how dependent we have gotten on our little toaster oven that I got about a year ago from the Amazon vine program as well. We use it all the time and big oven isn't using up lot of electricity and is rarely used anymore other than the burners. I have really appreciated the things I have been sent to review.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Brooklyn on Fire by Lawrence H. Levy



I read Brooklyn on Fire by Lawrence H. Levy for the Amazon Vine Program that I am part of. It is the second book in the Mary Handley series, the first being Second Street Station. If you have a chance I would read the first book in this series first as the second book builds a bit on the first book. However, Brooklyn on Fire is fine as a stand alone book. I liked the book and gave it 5 stars while I noticed others were not so thrilled with it. Is this book going to go down in history as a pivotal piece of literature? Hardly. Undoubtedly within 10-15 years people may no longer even care to read the book which happens with a majority of cozy mystery books. I do think that at times you might enjoy a book more than if you had set down to read it on a different day and time. I needed a book to relax with and get absorbed in so that I would forget some of the pain I was in. I did find it interesting to read all the historical portions and how life was lived in the 1890's. I hope you enjoy the book as well.
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I’ve read many books, but it is rare to find one that jars my way of thinking in the very first paragraph. This book began with an old woman talking to her friends Vicky and Albert while thinking on her life. As she reminisces she realizes that she is in her 7th decade at the age of 64. That might not mean much to some of you younger readers, but nearly a month ago I turned 60 and I never thought about the fact that I was in my 7th decade. In my mind that means you are in your 70’s and that does sound old.

Age aside, this was a rather interesting cozy mystery novel. The author took a chance that most authors don’t and that is including many historical figures in the story. And I’m not talking about someone obscure in history, but the Rockefellers, the Carnegies, and the Vanderbilts including Geoge Vanderbilt that built the Biltmore mansion in North Carolina. Even the main character in the book, Mary Handley, was a real person and worked at one time under the Chief of Police and helped bring a murderer to justice for which she earned a $1000 reward.

Needless to say this book this book was a bit different with a very different heroine for the era that she lived in. Women detectives have come a long way since the first one appeared on the scene and it is interesting to seeing authors lately that instead of having the sleuth working during the current era, they have gone back into history such as several WWII female sleuth novels and now this book goes even further back to 1890 where ‘Ladies’ apparently had weaker constitutions than they have now and all news and crime stories were kept from them as much as possible. So it is very interesting to see a book where they have no telephones or fancy cars to get around in. No internet to research from. Families that are embarrassed and shocked that their daughter would want to do so masculine a job and how would she ever get married if the eligible men found out what she was doing. But Mary Handley didn’t care about that. She was thrilled with her office that was located in a used book store and her 20 business cards that a friend had had made for her. Once the call came for her to help, she didn’t waste time and took no thought for herself physically to the point that in one scene she needed a blood transfusion. At that point only 50% of those getting them survived the process (no blood typing at the time). She also donated blood and when she later passed out for lack of fluids and food a doctor was about to do a ‘bloodletting’ procedure to help her when someone remembered she had donated some blood that day. Interesting thought, you pass out due to low fluid balance only to have a doctor try to fix the problem by cutting you and letting more blood out.

These item mentioned, not to spoil the book for you, but to let you know some of the interesting things about life over 100 years ago in the life of a young woman that was not following the normally mores of the time. And interesting book that is also a fairly quick read.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Reynolds Oven Bags - Best Pork Roast I've had in Years!

When I signed up for the Amazon Vine program I assumed that I would only get books and at the beginning that is what I got. However I now get all sorts of products and my latest one was a box of Reynolds Oven Bags. Below is my Amazon review of the bags which I found to be great and gave them 5 stars.



I gave up trying to roast pork years ago since except for one roast, they all were dry and nearly impossible to chew. I got these bag in the mail right as I was about to go grocery shopping. So I read the instructions on how to use them and thinking I would try to make a roast using one I shoed up at the meat department and when I saw the prices of beef vs. pork, I decided I would give pork one more try. The only other time I had made a decent pork roast I had cooked it with a canned pineapple. So I decided to try this again except in the Oven Bag. Well I didn't realize I had no pineapple at home, but I did have all the other ingredients that I used when making sweet and sour sauce so I mixed that up and poured it into the bag with the pork. If I had it to do over, I would probably have marinated the meat in it enough ahead of time so all sides of the meat would have had the taste of the sauce. Following the instructions, I popped it in the oven and was totally surprised when I cut into the meat after letting it set for a few minutes. It was juicy. It was tender. It tasted good. It almost melted in your mouth. It was wonderful. I suspect we will be eating more pork (especially with it's lower price than beef currently). These bags truly made the difference as I had tried doing something similar with roast before long ago.

Here is what I did (for something like this I measure by eye, not by measuring cups):
~4# pork butt roast with bone it
~3 tablespoons Soy Sauce
~1/2 c. Apple Cider Vinegar
~1/2 c. Brown Sugar
Onion powder, garlic powder, red chili pepper flakes
1 tablespoon flour
1 Reynolds Oven Bags (large size)
If I had one, I would have stirred in one can of crushed pineapple in it's own juice (not canning syrup)
I coated the inside of the bag with the flour as instructed on the box.

Inserted the roast in the bag and placed in a 13" x 9" glass pan.

Mixed the other ingredients in a bowl and then poured them in (next time I will let the roast have a soak on each side before putting it in the oven bag).

Stabbed 6 holes in the top of the oven bag as instructed on the box (this is why you need to coat the roast all over with the sauce before roasting as you won't be able to turn it over while cooking as the sauce would come out through the holes.

Placed in a pre-heat oven at 350 degrees using the convection setting for about 90 minutes until a thermometer registered 160 degrees at least.

Let rest for at least 5-10 minutes to let the internal juices stabilize. Carve and enjoy.

You may not like this recipe, but I hope you do. This is what I did and I enjoyed the roast very much, especially the pieces that were on the bottom that cooked in the sauce. Make a cooking sauce to please yourself or try cooking the roast with just salt and pepper and in the floured bag to see what happens.
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While the price of these may seem high to some, at the price of meat these days, you waste money if your meat comes out dry and inedible. So try out these bags to reduce the possibility of that.



Friday, October 30, 2015

Gingham Aprons of the '40s & '50s by Judy Florence Book Review

This is a copy of a review that I also posted to Amazon. I received this book as a birthday present from my incredibly long Amazon wish list and was very happy to get it.

I enjoyed reading the book very much and loved seeing the many close up photo details although I am stumped in why these aprons look so pristine! I am an apron wearer and I make my own aprons and most of them with use would never make it to a collection of 'Aprons of the 1980's to 2020's'. They are pretty mucked up within a five to ten year span, but then that is the whole point of an apron isn't it? I can see that some of the apron would have been set aside for good, or like my Christmas apron only for certain special occasions.

Most of the aprons in the book were homemade using machines, while some were completely sewn by hand. The worse looking aprons were made in factories and it certainly shows the difference between tender loving care when sewing and seeing just how many you can whip up in a day when being paid via piecework.

While it was nice to see some approximate values on the aprons, you have to remember that the book was published in 2003 and with the plethora of on line selling venues available since that point, those values are most likely highly inaccurate at this point. My favorite thing was seeing how the makers worked all sorts of rick rack into the aprons as well as embroidery and 'Chicken Scratch' embroidery. I have all sorts of vintage rick rack that I have acquired at my local thrift store and it was good to see the different and attractive ways I can use it. It is obvious though, that the ladies of long ago who made these aprons had no access to Pinterest and its many ideas and links to websites that showed some magnificent ways of doing Chicken Scratch embroidery! If they had they would have really gone to town with Chicken Scratch! It seems that the more ideas spread on Pinterest the more people are trying to out do each other.

All together a very interesting book to those that love aprons, embroidery, rick rack, vintage sewing and/or vintage garments. It is about research and study and has no instructions for making any of the aprons although it does reference a few vintage apron patterns as well as embroidery transfer patterns. The author does have a legible photo of a vintage apron pattern instructions in the book and you should be able to follow them if you like since there are no tissue patterns involved and it even includes two different charts for doing counted cross stitch to embellish the apron. For more apron patterns, you should be able to find both current and vintage as well as vintage pattern reprints on sewing pattern selling sites including mine at Moonwishes Sewing and Crafts. Since reading this book, I have put the author's other book; Aprons of the Mid-20th Century: To Serve and Protect (A Schiffer Book for Designers and Collectors)on my Wish List.