March 2009


One of the interesting things about living in the middle of such a different culture is seeing how different our perception of what is desirable often is from that of others.  Obviously we know that not everyone shares the current American obsession for lean meat and whole grains, but sometimes the reminders come in funny ways.

We took Danny’s parents up to Ulus to show them the citadel and the little old cobblestone streets and shops and such, and I noticed that outside the spice shop there was a big sack of what looked like whole wheat berries.  I love grinding my own flour for bread, but whole wheat berries are surprisingly hard to come by, even in the States.  When we lived in DC, for instance, the only place close to us that had them was MOM’s.  Even the Whole Foods in Clarendon didn’t carry them in their massive bulk foods section.  I had assumed that the only way I could get whole wheat berries to use for bread baking here was to order them from the States, and you can just imagine the shipping costs on something as heavy as wheat.

When I asked the shopkeeper if the grains in the sack were indeed wheat that could be made into flour, he looked somewhat bemused and noted that they were only for feeding to birds.  He brought me into the shop and showed me a sack of what looked to me like polished wheat grains, and noted that they were the ones to use for flour and cooking for humans.  Upon further questioning he explained that yes, they were the same grains as the ones in the sack outside, but that they had been cleaned and had the nasty outer part removed.  Imagine his confusion when I asked for a kilo of the “bird food” and kept talking to Danny about how I wondered if it was high gluten wheat that would be suitable for bread-baking.

I tried baking some bread with the wheat, using half store-bought whole wheat flour to be on the safe side, and it worked beautifully!  Of course, I did have to pick out some bits of hay and straw before I ground it, but that’s a small price to pay for having freshly ground flour for a tiny fraction of the price I would pay to get it shipped to me.  The whole kilo of wheat cost me 2.50 TL, which works out to 67 cents a pound.  I’m not sure exactly what it costs to buy it in bulk now, but I can’t imagine that it’s more than that.  Sometimes being the crazy Westerner who wants to eat undesirable things like whole wheat and lean meat works to our advantage, since skinless chicken breasts are never sold out and apparently whole wheat can be gotten for the price of bird food.

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I’m on a roll!  After I finished the first soaker, I couldn’t seem to stop.  I finished a pair of fleece pants and another soaker, and the two of them took less than two hours together.  It’s a good thing that it’s still wretchedly cold here (did I really just say that?), so that Stephen can wear all of the fleece clothes I’m going to make him now that I know how easy it is to work with!

For the pants, I used this tutorial to draw my own pattern.  I think next time I might make the waistband a bit wider, but overall I really like how they turned out, and since they’re only three pieces they’re really quick to put together.  I also love this buggy fleece print.  If I had enough fabric, I might even have tried to figure out how to make a crib sheet out of it.  Maybe if it’s still on sale once I’ve used up more of the fleece I already have, I’ll order some more.

Here’s my second attempt at a soaker.  The sewing on this one is much more even, but of course you can’t see it as well since the fleece is a darker color.  Oh well.  I think the polka dots are pretty adorable, and I’m definitely planning to make Stephen some pants out of it.

I clearly had no idea what I was doing when I picked T-shirt material for my first sewing project.  I just made Stephen a fleece soaker (diaper cover, for those of you not into cloth diapering lingo), and it was SO MUCH EASIER than trying to mess with cotton knit.  How much easier?  Well, I made the entire thing, start to finish, including cutting out the pattern and everything, during one naptime.  So 2 hours or less (I didn’t check the clock exactly).  And there was no throwing, no screaming, not even one curse word uttered during the entire process.  That statement may be less impressive if you haven’t been here for one of my other sewing projects, but believe me, it’s a big deal.

I got a whole bunch of fleece (5 or 6 yards, I think) in the mail yesterday, thanks to Joann’s great sale on fleece that was running a couple of weeks ago, and I’m looking forward to playing around with it and making Stephen a bunch of fleece pants and probably some more diaper covers.  I love that you don’t have to hem fleece, as it doesn’t fray.  I also love that it doesn’t bunch up in my sewing machine or creep out of alignment.

For those of you who actually know how to sew, please don’t look too closely, especially at the zigzag stitching on the back.  Next time I will start the stitching between the legs where it will be less conspicuous when it gets all wonky like it did here.  Oh, and I used the free Katrina’s soaker pattern with the optional extra soaker layer.  For Stephen’s measurements I used the large pattern to accommodate his fluffy cloth diaper booty,  but shortened the rise a bit so that it wouldn’t be up in his armpits.

Yup, that’s me I’m talking about.  I love the idea of being organized, and I love all the tools for organizing…calendars, planners, notebooks, schedules, binders, whatever.  My problem is that when I start trying to actually DO the organization, I get overwhelmed and give up.  I’ve been wanting to get a planner of some sort, and I just don’t even know where to start.  I really just want some way to keep track of when I need to do stuff (everything from when to check the gas meter to make sure we don’t run out of propane in the middle of the night and therefore out of hot water and heat when it’s 20 degrees outside, to doctor’s appointments that I need to make), and to help me remember when I last did things that need to happen periodically (like rotating linens).  I need something with a calendar (preferably a month-by-month and also a daily or weekly one) and a to do list, and not a whole lot else.  Preferably something not too huge, so I could have it in my purse without feeling like I’m carrying around a 3-ring binder all the time.  A palmpilot seems like gross overkill, and don’t even suggest a cell phone that does all of that…we have to register our phones with the government here, so I can’t just swap out my SIM card into a new phone or my account will be turned off and I’ll be flagged as a terrorist or drug trafficker or something.

I feel like I need one of those diaries people used to keep, where they would make little brief notations about which pasture they put the horses in that day and such.  I’ve always loved the Circa notebooks from Levenger, but then I get hung up on the price and on the fact that I’d have to buy the right size of paper from them, which was also the problem I ran into with the Dayrunner I had in college.  I’d run out of paper and have to figure out where I could buy the correct size, and then would forget to buy it and end up just not using it at all.  Then I think I should just use one of the zillions of blank books we have lying around, but I would have to either print out and paste in or hand-draw in a calendar of some sort, and that’s kind of dumb too.  Ack, I don’t know.

Last night our knit night group pieced together the afghan we all made squares for, and the results are amazing.  We ended up with a beautiful blanket that’s about 40×55, in all shades of blues and greens and purples.  I’ll admit that when I saw some of the individual squares I wasn’t sure how it was ever going to come together into something that looked coherent, but it really did.  Everyone pitched in and helped sew it together and weave in the ends, and I crocheted a border around the edge to finish it off.  I think it looks really great, and I can tell you from having it on my lap while doing the border that it’s definitely warm and soft.  I’ve boxed it up, and Danny will mail it out to afghans for Afghans tomorrow.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt this good about a knitting project.  The fact that everyone really pitched in makes it ever better, we have squares from really experienced knitters and crocheters as well as from people who had never finished a project before this, and the effort everyone put in to making this just blows me away.

Now that this gift has been given, I can post pictures on here…I was holding off on showing off my latest project since it was intended as a birthday present.  I used this tutorial from craftster.com to make a little dress for Stephen’s playmate Adrian out of two of my T-shirts.  I can’t find a  picture of me wearing the T-shirt, but I’ll keep digging as I’m sure we have one somewhere.  Here are the before and after shots:

Although it didn’t turn out exactly how I wanted it to (I would have liked the ruffles to flare a bit more, for instance), I’m really pretty proud of it overall.  I used a pink T-shirt of mine for the neckband, sleeves, and ruffles, and made it roughly 12-18 month size (using one of Stephen’s T-shirts as a gague since I didn’t happen to have a dress lying around, go figure 🙂 ).

For the record, sewing thin knit material is a pain.  Sewing thin knit material without a serger is more of a pain.  Sewing thin knit material without a serger and with a sewing machine for which you do not have instructions is even worse.  The lettuce-edge ruffles, for instance, required several practice runs and a couple of spools of thread being thrown at the wall accompanied by loud exclamations before I figured it out.  But I washed and dried it, and it didn’t fall apart, so I’ll consider that a success.  Adrian looked adorable in it when we tried it on her (but then again, her looking adorable really has nothing to do with what she’s wearing), and it seems like it will fit well this summer when it’s warm enough for her to run around in less than 12 layers.

My other recent sewing projects have included converting more of Stephen’s onesies into T-shirts…once I finish with that process I’ll probably have enough short-sleeved T-shirts to get him through the spring at least, assuming he doesn’t outgrow them.  I’m considering basting in some long sleeves on some of them so we can get some more use out of them…he has a bunch of 6-12 month short-sleeved shirts and I don’t think it’ll be warm enough here to wear short sleeves until April or May.  Of course, he can still wear some of his 6-9 month shirts (converted from onesies) now and he’s 11 months old, so maybe he’ll still be able to wear those 12 month size ones this summer, who knows.