Category Archives: Misc

Village Yarn Brand Craft Cotton Yarn

Review of Village Yarn Craft Cotton Yarn

This is a complete, unbiased review of Village Yarn brand Craft Cotton yarn. Just so you know…I have not been paid nor asked by Herrschner’s who sells this yarn to do this review.

I sell my own handmade items online on a number of sites. In the last couple of years, the sale of my crochet cloths has skyrocketed. In 2016, I literally sold almost 3,000 of these cloths! I keep waiting for my fingers to be “whittled off” but fortunately, they’re still attached and hence I keep crocheting!

For assorted reasons, I recently decided to try different brands of cotton yarn because I felt it was time to consider a change in the brand that I used for years. One brand I tried (and WILL use in making cloths to sell) is Herrschner’s Village Yarn brand Craft Cotton yarn. This is a brand you won’t see in any store. It seems to be a brand exclusive to Herrschners.com. So, it can only be purchased online at the Herrschner’s website. I believe some view it as one of the “underdogs” in cotton yarns since it’s not a major brand that cannot be found in many different stores or websites. However, after trying it, I believe it needs a bit more recognition and praise.

Here is what I found regarding specific points that may be of interest to anyone using cotton yarn…

Ease of Use…Flow Over Crochet Hook  (∗∗∗∗∗)
I have made crochet cloths with this yarn using an I size (5.00mm) crochet hook with a half-double crochet stitch for the body of the cloth and a single crochet stitch for the edging. I found it to flow smoothly over the hook with little effort. It was a joy to work with and I found I could work pretty fast with this yarn with little issue.

Although I have not tried knitting with this yarn, I feel it would be a great yarn for knitting any project calling for a 4-ply medium weight cotton yarn.

“Feel” of the Yarn (∗∗∗∗∗)
This yarn has a nice soft feel/touch to it, unlike some other brands of cotton yarn. The finished cloth is soft enough to use as a facial washcloth, yet it is still tough enough to do the job as a dishcloth. I think the softness also helps in giving it a smooth feel on the hook, allowing for “smooth” crochet action.

Ease of Flow of Yarn from Skein (∗∗∗)
The end of the yarn coming from the center of the skein is not readily available. So, it seems it’s designed to be used from the outer end of the skein. Perhaps one could “dig” into the center to pull the yarn from the middle (which might be best), but I have not tried that approach yet (maybe I will…it might flow better that way!). So, when working from the outer end, the yarn does not flow smoothly. I had to stop crocheting and  unwind yarn before I could keep working. This is a simple thing, and may not be an issue for many people. But when making thousands of cloths in a year, this represents a good bit of time. Although I really DO love this yarn, I wish it was wound differently so it would flow more readily from the skein.

Size of Skein and Price (∗∗∗∗∗)
The solid skeins contain 2.5 oz/71 g/115 yards
The ombre skeins contain 2 oz/56 g/92 yards
This yarn also comes in a 16 oz cone/454 g/ 743 yards

I have only purchased the small solid color skeins so far. They are usually priced at $2.39/ball. When 3 or more skeins are purchased (in any color combination), they are reduced to $2.19/ball. The cones are normally $14.99 each.

Herrschner’s does not automatically offer free shipping with larger orders; however, they often run specials with assorted discounts and/or free shipping. If you join their mailing list, you’ll receive discount/sale notices pretty often. Careful shopping can save you money when ordering this product during a special sales event.

When using the small skeins (solid colors), I get two crochet cloths per ball, with very little yarn left over. This is absolutely perfect for me! My cloths are about 7-1/2 to 8″ square. This brings my cost per cloth to $1.10 each, assuming I purchased the yarn in bulk (which I always do), and also assuming that I got free shipping (or a discount large enough to offset shipping costs). From my experience, this price is about average for many cotton yarns. Some are cheaper, while others would cost more. I feel this yarn is worth the price.

Colorfastness (∗∗∗∗∗)

Yarn did not bleed!

Yarn did not bleed!

This is REALLY an important point for me. Some brands of cotton yarn lose color readily and that can lead to unhappy customers. So, I tested this yarn for colorfastness. I took small scraps of sage and white yarns and made a small swatch of a cloth (see picture). I didn’t bother cutting off ends nor weaving them in since this was just a test for color fastness. I used the cloth that is pictured in washing dishes numerous times. The sage did NOT bleed at all. If it did, I would have noticed it in the dish water, and also the white yarn would have been stained. As you can see, the white yarn is still white, not a pale green. Hence, I’m VERY please to say that it did not bleed!

I also tested a piece of the parsley green yarn in water that was heated in the microwave, almost to boiling. The yarn was placed in the water and left there for a few minutes. NO bleeding!

From these two tests, it certainly seems this brand of yarn is color safe. Yeah!!!

Thickness (∗∗∗∗∗)
This is classified as a medium weight 4-ply yarn. However, many cotton yarns are classified the same way, yet some feel very thin while others feel extremely thick and stiff. This yarn seems to meet the “Goldilocks test” where it feels “just right” being nice and thick, but not SO thick that it’s stiff and hard to work with. The stitches in the finished product are nicely filled out, looking evenly distributed, yet it retains flexibility. With these attributes, the crochet cloths are a delight to use!

Yarn Twist vs Splitting (∗∗∗∗∗)
Anyone who crochets or knits knows what it’s like to work with a yarn that splits easily. It’s annoying to say the least. Uncorrected splits can cause weak and even unsightly areas in a project. They are to be avoided if at all possible.

Any yarn can be subject to splitting, but some a lot more than others. That being said, the twist or spin of the yarn makes all the difference. The more or better the twist or spin, the less likely a yarn is to split. Once again, this yarn seems to meet the “Goldilocks test” where it has just the right amount of spin to hold the strands together making it unlikely to split when being used. Yet it doesn’t have SO much spin that it knots up when the yarn is unwound from the skein. Most of the time, I can make entire cloths with this yarn without having even one splitting episode! Yeah!!

Color Options (∗∗∗∗∗)

Colors I Purchased

Colors I Purchased

There are a total of 43 color options available in this line of yarn, with 26 solids and 17 ombres. While no one brand carries absolutely ALL colors possible, this brand does have a good selection to choose from.

The colors I purchased were…

Top row, left to right:
White, Cream, Honey, Linen, Brown

Second row, left to right:
Burgundy, Apple Red, Morning Sky, Turquoise, Deep Sea, Parsley, Sage

Are the Colors True to Their Names? (∗∗∗∗)
I purchased 12 of the solid colors to explore for now. I found that most of the colors I purchased were true to their names. However, two of them were questionable to me. I even double checked the color number on the label with the catalog number to be sure I was looking at the right color! 

Apple Red yarn comparison

Apple Red yarn comparison

The “Apple Red” color is not apple red. This was a surprise because the color in the catalog clearly looks to be an apple red. I took a picture of the ball of yarn next to a Red Delicious apple (left), a Braeburn apple (middle) and a Clementine tangerine (right) for comparisons. As the picture shows, the yarn is far from an apple red, yet it’s clearly not orange. It’s somewhere in between. Perhaps the dye lot was off in this batch? Maybe it should be called red coral? Maybe deep conch? Maybe orange-red? I really can’t decide what it should be called. Village Craft does have a “Really Red” color of yarn in this line. Maybe it would be more of an apple red color. I have not purchased that color, so I can’t verify it.

Turquoise Comparison

Turquoise Comparison

Another color that I found questionable was the turquoise. The picture in the catalog does look like a turquoise blue. However, the actual skein of turquoise that I purchased looks more like a very nice medium blue color. (See picture…Morning Sky on the left, Turquoise in the middle, Deep Sea on the right.) I really don’t see the “turquoise” in it. To truly appear “turquoise” it may need a bit more green in the dye. Again, maybe it’s just the dye lot of this skein. I’m more inclined to call my skein medium blue and not turquoise. So…if you truly need a deep turquoise yarn, this may not be it.

With the above being said, the colors are not that bad at all, with two colors out of twelve being somewhat off. My suggestion to you: If specific colors are very important in a project, buy one skein of each color you’ll need to be sure they’ll be right for you before investing a lot in a project.

Knots (∗∗∗∗)
I’ve used a number of different brands of yarn. It seems that just about any brand can be subject to having knots in the skeins. However, some brands (yarn mills) do a better job than others of minimizing their knots.

Knot in Parsley Yarn

Knot in Parsley Yarn

I’ve made a good number of cloths with this yarn and I don’t recall having any issues with knots along the way. However, when taking pictures for this article, I did easily notice a knot in one of the skeins. (See picture.) Obviously, the yarn mill could have done a little better job of minimizing the knot. When working with this skein, I’ll need to cut the yarn and redo the knot to make it less visible.

Conclusion

Finished Crochet Cloths

Finished Crochet Cloths

I’m very happy with the finished cloths I made with this yarn and will continue to use specific colors in meeting my customer needs. Note that I will be using more than one brand of yarn because I try to carry a wide array of color options in my crochet cloths. However, this brand will meet some of my needs and I’m very happy with it.

I recommend this brand for those who are looking for a good quality cotton yarn! The colors hold up very well. The finished projects are soft yet very durable and scrub dishes well. Crochet cloths wring out easily and dry well overnight. I believe this yarn would perform equally well when used in knitted projects. Overall, I found this to be a great quality cotton yarn. I suggest you try it!

Happy crocheting and knitting!
Judi

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Making Kombucha with Less Sugar

I have made fermented food products for many years, especially yogurt. I raised my children on homemade yogurt and the whole family ate it on a regular basis. So, I’m familiar with culturing foods.

I recently got introduced to kombucha and have realized the value in it for its probiotic qualities. I purchased a scoby and my kombucha has been thriving for a good while now and I’ve been drinking it everyday! Yum!

I’ve seen many posts online with the question about making kombucha with less sugar. Those questions are usually answered with scaled down recipes, but still calling for the same ratio of water to sugar to tea bags. To me, that’s not answering the question. Well…here’s your answer!

Since I drink it daily (maybe about a cup to 1-1/2 cups a day), I thought I’d try less sugar. It always seemed to me that 1 cup of sugar per gallon of water (the standard recipe) was more sugar than would be truly needed. NOTE that the standard recipe may be right IF your gallon batch of kombucha lasts a month or more, without fresh tea being added, as in a continual brew. 

So…to my continual brew of kombucha (this is plain kombucha, not the soda pop type with fruit juice added) I started using HALF the amount of sugar that the original recipe calls for. I’ve been doing this now for a couple weeks and my scobies (note that’s plural) are multiplying and thriving in my jar. Even the original scoby is still alive and thriving. They seem to be extremely happy, even though the sugar content of the brew has been reduced. My kombucha tastes perfectly fine to me and I feel good that it has less sugar in it.

I am adding freshly made tea/sugar mixture to the jar as needed, maybe 4 cups every few days with the reduced sugar and I have noticed nothing negative happening in the jar. The taste is the same, the scobies are multiplying and thriving, and all is well.

SO…For those of you who want to subject yourself to less sugar in your kombucha, it appears that HALF the recommended amount of sugar is fine as long as you continue to add to the batch as you drink it. Note that this recommendation is for plain kombucha. It is not the brewed drink made with fruit juice and double fermented, yielding a soda pop-like beverage. I suspect it may work well with that recipe too since fruit juice has naturally occurring sugar in it, but I have not tried it, so I cannot guarantee it will work.

Here is the ratio of ingredients that I now use:

1 gallon (16 cups ) filtered water : 8 black tea bags : 1/2 cup sugar
8 cups filtered water : 4 black tea bags : 1/4 cup sugar
4 cups filtered water : 2 black tea bags : 2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups filtered water : 1 black tea bag : 1 tablespoon sugar

I am not including the complete directions here on how to make kombucha. I’m assuming the reader already knows how to brew it. If not, please just do an internet search for how to make kombucha and you’ll find countless sites with complete directions online. Simply cut the recommended amount of sugar in half and your brew should be just fine and you’ll consume less sugar along the way. YES, the sugar is needed for the culture, but the ratio of 1 cup per gallon is more than is needed for the culture to thrive.

Happy kombucha making!
Judi

Overcharged on Produce at Walmart in Carroll, Iowa

I don’t normally write such a post, but this one is warranted. We shopped at the Walmart store in Carroll, Iowa yesterday (October 29, 2016). We eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, so of course, I purchased a number of items that needed to be weighed at the register.

When checking out, I didn’t watch the prices as the cashier rang up our items (my mistake). It wasn’t until this morning that I actually looked at our receipt. What really caught my eye was the fact that I saw the price for the ONE honey crisp apple that I bought. I’ve never tried one and since they’re expensive, I just bought one to try. I noticed that the ONE apple cost $3.60. “What??” I yelped! I looked at the weight and according to the receipt that one apple weighed 1.35 lbs. I have an accurate digital kitchen scale. I weighed the apple and it weighed less than 8 ounces. Hence, I was charged more than double what I should have been for that one apple. (Note that at the store, I put the apple was in one of those produce lightweight plastic bags that you can grab from a dispenser, which I had removed after bringing the food home. So the “tare” weight was not added in, but there’s NO way that little plastic bag weighed over 8 ounces. I’m sure it weighed way less than an ounce.)

Then I got out the eggplant that I purchased and have not yet cut in any way. It too rang up for a lot more weight and cost than it should have. Then I checked other items that we had not used, and they ALL weighed more on the receipt than they actually did…way more…sometimes double the weight or more.

I called the store and spoke with someone in customer service. She said they check their register scales every other day. She got the register number from my receipt and said she would go check the scale right away.

This may be an innocent problem, but I’ve heard of such schemes in the past (where stores alter their scales to show items weighing more than they actually do) and I know from reading online that the law has cracked down on such things. I don’t know if this was deliberate or not, but knowing how Walmart does their best to make as much money as they can, any way they can, I suspect that they might deliberately calibrate their scales so they overcharge customers on items that must be weighed.

So…it’s time for all of us to check this out and make it known to any store that overcharges that you caught them in the act. We could go back to that store and easily prove our point by carrying the items back to have them reweighed. However, we live in a different town and that store is about 30 minutes drive from here (country driving, so we’re talking about 30 miles one way). If I lived closer, I’d carry the produce back and have customer service weigh them again and prove my point. I’m estimating I was overcharged $10 to $15 or more (total) on the assortment of produce I purchased that had to be weighed. Because of the cost in gasoline and time factor in going back to the store, I’m opting to make this event known to the public this way, and absorbing the loss rather than driving back to the store. I doubt I’ll ever purchase anything that must be weighed at that store again. AND I’ll watch prices on items as they’re rung up at any store I shop in from now on.

I hope this helps you as a reader in some way, if nothing more than making you aware that such things can and do happen and that we should ALL watch the monitor as items are being rung up at any cash register. As I’ve learned, it pays to watch.

Homemade Marinara Sauce

Homemade Marinara / Spaghetti / Tomato Sauce

My mother was a first generation American. Both of her parents were from Italy. Since I started cooking at a very early age, she taught me how to make homemade marinara / spaghetti / tomato sauce (whatever you want to call it) when I was in elementary school. Really! After all these years I had not put this recipe in a written form. I thought it was about time I did that, if for no other reason than to pass it along to my children. So, lucky you! You get to share in this recipe too!

Below is the recipe, followed by a video where I demonstrate making it. Of course, it’s very flexible with the seasonings. Feel free to adjust to your taste.

Enjoy!
Judi

Homemade Tomato / Marinara / Spaghetti Sauce
Makes About 2-1/2 Quarts
(No worries…freeze the extra in small containers)

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 tsp dried garlic powder)
1/2 medium onion, chopped (or 1 to 2 Tbsp dried minced onion)
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, peeled, left whole or finely grated (recommended, but optional)
2 (28 oz) cans crushed or diced tomatoes
1 (12 oz) can tomato paste
1 (12 oz) can water (or more if needed)
1 tsp granulated sugar
1-1/2  to 2 tsp dried basil
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1 Bay leaf
1/4 tsp black pepper
Salt to taste

Preheat a large pot over medium heat. Add olive oil and vegetables (garlic, onion, bell pepper, celery, and carrot). Stir and saute the vegetables until they start to soften. Add the remaining ingredients; stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low to low and cover the pot. Allow sauce to simmer gently for about 2 hours or more if you want a thicker sauce. Stir sauce occasionally as it cooks so it does not burn on the bottom. Taste after 30 minutes and adjust seasonings, if desired. Continue cooking until sauce is thick and flavors are blended well. Serve with pasta, stuffed cabbage or peppers, chicken cacciatore, Swiss steak, and use on pizza, or in any dish calling for a tomato-based sauce. Cool extra sauce and freeze in small containers, enough for one meal at a time.

Note: If you want to add ground beef or sausage to this sauce, brown the meat in the pan you plan to cook the sauce in. Drain excess fat and proceed as directed. If a little fat is left in the pan, you can omit the olive oil.

If you want to add meat balls to the sauce, it is best to prepare the meat balls and precook them before adding them to the sauce. This avoids having excessive fat in the sauce. Add them to the sauce after combining all ingredients. Allow the meat to simmer in the sauce as it cooks.

When time is short, this sauce cooks well in a slow cooker. Simply place all ingredients in the slow cooker early in the day, and cook on low until supper time. You’ll have homemade sauce, ready to go!

Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread Mix

Review of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread Mix

For anyone who must eat gluten free and who loves bread, life can be extremely challenging. Ready-to-eat gluten free breads are tasteless, often dry, and don’t have quite the texture you’re expecting. Homemade recipes often turn out crumbly and don’t hold together like bread should. And never mind the flavor…oh my!

Yet, gluten free options are growing in the marketplace. And that’s to be expected…the demand is growing for assorted reasons. After being disappointed about gluten free recipes and options many times over, I decided to try once again to enjoy bread, and review the product at the same time.

Today’s test is on Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread Mix. (Please note that I have no connections with the Bob’s Red Mill company, other than buying their products at the supermarket.) Here’s my two cents…

Price. First of all the price seems hefty, at just under $5 a bag where I purchased it. However, when comparing it to the price of ready-to-eat gluten free loaves, it was comparable. So I suppose that’s about all one could ask.

“Hidden” raisins. When I picked up the package I couldn’t see any raisins. No matter how I jostled the bag around I couldn’t see any raisins, so I guessed they were in a separate pack inside, even though the directions didn’t mention any raisin package and they weren’t among the added ingredients I needed. Well, the raisins were there…just “hidden.” When I emptied the package into my mixing bowl, the raisins were there, and they were plentiful! They were well coated with the flour mixture, so they just weren’t visible while in the bag. Thanks, Bob!

Ingredients. The bag includes a separate yeast package, which is to be expected. Other than that, you add warm water, eggs and oil, in a specific order, proofing the yeast first. Very reasonable and most people would have those few ingredients on hand.

Ease of mixing. The instructions recommend using a stand mixer, which I have. With that appliance, the ingredients blended extremely easily and quickly into a smooth but rather thick batter. Without a stand mixer, it will likely involve  a lot of hand mixing to achieve the same smooth texture achieved with the stand mixer. The package says it will be like cake batter. No so to me. IF it was cake batter, it’s so thick I expect you’d have a really dry cake on your hands. It IS smooth like cake batter, but don’t expect it to be as thin because it’s much thicker than that.

Raisin Bread Ready to Rise

Raisin Bread Ready to Rise

Baking pan. The instructions call for a greased 9×5 nonstick loaf pan. I do not have a nonstick loaf pan. Instead I have a good quality aluminum loaf pan. With that, I greased it well with a pat of real butter and hoped for the best. No issues…the bread released easily after baking without any sticking whatsoever. Yeah!

Rise time. The instructions call for allowing the bread to rise in a warm place for 45 to 60 minutes until the dough is level with the top of the pan. Mine took 53 minutes to reach that point. So, Bob is “right on” here.

Baked Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Baked Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Baking time. Bob calls for allowing the bread to bake for 60 to 65 minutes until it reaches an internal temperature of 205°F. This bit of instruction may present issues with some people who don’t have an instant read thermometer (which in my life, is a kitchen essential). I baked the bread for 60 minutes and noticed it had pulled away from the sides of the pan. The internal temperature was close. I declared it to be done.

Cover with aluminum foil during baking. The instructions call for covering the loaf with aluminum foil while baking after it begins to brown. I did not have any foil at the time, so I baked it without the foil. I noticed that the bread was nicely browned when it was finished baking…not too dark. However, the top was very tough and dry. It was hard to poke the thermometer through the top of the bread to test the temperature. SO, apparently the foil recommendation is there not for browning, but for maintaining moisture in the loaf. I suggest you use the foil!

Sliced Raisin Bread

Sliced Raisin Bread

Allow bread to cool before slicing. This is a standard recommendation with all baked breads, and it’s no different here. If you cut bread while it’s hot (as delicious as it is), moisture escapes through the cut section and the bread will be dryer than it would have been otherwise. So, give it time to cool before slicing.

Ease of slicing and bread texture. To my absolute delight, this bread sliced easily despite the tough top crust (from my not using foil during the baking). The slices stayed together and didn’t fall apart as so often happens with homemade gluten free bread. The slices even looked like regular bread, or at least they were a very close second. Even the tough top crust was easy to slice with my serrated bread knife. Thanks again, Bob!

Taste. The taste was fair to me, not absolutely great and wonderful. To my surprise, the bread was moist, so that was a real plus. First I tasted it plain with nothing on it. Secondly, I toasted the rest of the slice and put (real) butter on it. It toasted well in that it browned nicely and held up during toasting. However even with butter, the taste was still a little bland. To me (and maybe not to you), it needed a little more cinnamon to give it a flavor boost. Gluten free flours are very tasteless and it’s often necessary to boost up flavorings to give the baked goods the flavor you’d expect. More cinnamon would have masked the bland flavor of the flours/starches used in the mix.

Baked Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Baked Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Overall. Overall, I think this is a good product and I will buy it again. It does take some time to make in that it’s a slow riser and slow baker. However, as long as you’re home, you can do other things during the down times. The price is comparable to other gluten free breads and mixes that are available, so it’s not unreasonable. The flavor could stand some improvement, but that’s likely to be said about all and any gluten free baked goods. A little cinnamon and sugar on it will go a long way in making you feel like you’re eating regular raisin bread.

Thank you, Bob!
Judi 🙂

Stop Bathroom Tile Grout Mildew

We’re in an old house with a small bathroom where the bathtub is located. The bathtub is surrounded by ceramic tile walls, which is really nice. However, that’s a big invitation for mildew to form from the moisture in that small room. Until very recently, we couldn’t even open the one window in that tiny room. Needless to say, the last time I cleaned mildew from the grout with bleach and a toothbrush, I was really gassed out. I swore I wouldn’t do it again.

And so…I haven’t! I experimented and found a way to prevent the mildew from coming back. I’ve just created a YouTube video on it (the link is below). But, in case you don’t want to watch, here’s the trick…

There’s just a couple simple steps involved that anyone can do…

First, I squeegee water off the walls. If you don’t have a squeegee and don’t want to buy one, you can get by without it.

Second step…I dry the walls the best I can with an old rag towel. If you don’t have a squeegee, two towels may be needed to dry the walls.

Third step…and here’s the key! I mist the walls down with pure rubbing alcohol. Yep…I placed straight alcohol in a spray bottle and mist the walls routinely after the last shower of the day. I have NOT had a mildew problem since!

Note that I started with clean walls. I had just gone through the process of scrubbing the grout with bleach and a toothbrush before I searched for an alternative way to deal with the problem. My alcohol routine has prevented the mildew from reforming around the tiles. I’ve done this for at least a year now, so I’m sure the mildew would have reformed by now without the alcohol treatment, so I have no doubts it’s working.

The alcohol kills any microbes that may be there and also helps to dry up any remaining water in the grout. Between the two effects, mildew has NOT returned! Yipee!!

IF you have mildew already in your grout and don’t want to use the bleach/toothbrush routine, feel free to give this a try. Misting alcohol may take several applications to kill it all. Perhaps pouring it on for a first application may kill it all. Otherwise, you may want to remove the mildew any way you are accustomed to doing it, then follow that up daily with this new routine.

I suggest you give this a try if your plagued with mildew in bathroom ceramic tile grout. IF you have a plastic (or whatever) tub kit, please do check with the manufacturer to verify it is safe to spray the finish with alcohol.

Also, if you have painted walls or anything else painted in the area, please try not to spray the alcohol on the paint. Rubbing alcohol softens paint, making it sticky. HOWEVER, if you do accidentally spray paint with the alcohol, just do nothing. As the alcohol evaporates, the paint will harden up again. Just don’t make a habit of spraying paint with alcohol, as I don’t know what repeated exposure to the alcohol would do to your paint. (If YOU know, please share that with us!)

Here’s the video on this topic. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you! Judi

NEW Unique Effective Gentle Dish Scrubbies

NEW Handmade Dish Scrubbies Unique Simple Effective

As I’ve said in previous blog posts, I love to create and am always looking for something a little different to make. I’m a practical person, so I usually stick with “useful” things, rather than dust collectors. When I discovered this new scrubby yarn, I decided to give it a try. To my delight, it makes excellent, nonabrasive, very effective scrub pads that are MUCH less stressful to make than those made with nylon netting. Hence, I’ve added them to the collection of merchandise on my website.

These scrubbies or scrub pads are simple yet very effective at removing dried food and residue from dishes, pots and pans, glassware, ceramics, silverware, etc. They are nonabrasive, so they can easily be used on nonstick cookware, dishes, crystal, glassware, silverware, you name it! I’ve shared them with friends and neighbors and they’ve come back wanting more! They are soft on hands, yet they have a scrubbing power greater than cotton dishcloths alone.

Each is made with two strands of yarn…a cotton yarn plus a scrubby yarn. The new scrubby yarn has little “extensions” that gently remove food from dishes. That yarn is made from 100% polyester, so it does not bleed when washed. I couple it with cotton yarn for absorbency and together they make a real workhorse for washing dishes!

I’ve found that the blend of polyester with cotton makes them more durable than cotton alone, and they don’t tend to sour like all cotton does. When it’s laundry day, simply toss them in the washer and dryer along with other towels and they come out good as new. I prefer to put mine in a laundry bag since they are rather small compared to a bath towel.

The size is roughly 4-1/2 inches square, so they are a comfortable size to handle when doing dishes. Not too big, not too small. They wring out easily too, so they’re worth trying if you’re looking for something a little different that’s new, very effective, simple, nonabrasive, and gentle on skin.

Green and Blue Scrubby Set

Green and Blue Scrubby Set

I currently have three color combinations available, all in packs of four. One combo has two green and two royal blue, all with cream colored cotton yarn.

 

 

 

 

Red and Yellow Scrubby Set

Red and Yellow Scrubby Set

The next combo has two red and two yellow, all coupled with cream cotton yarn.

 

 

 

 

 

Black with Beige Yarn Scrubby Set

Black with Beige Yarn Scrubby Set

The third option has four black coupled with beige cotton yarn.

 

 

 

 

 

Green Blue Scrubby Set

Green Blue Scrubby Set

As you can see from the pics, the scrubby yarn comes in bold, bright colors. More combos are coming! Click the links above (or here) if you’re interested in trying any of these wonderful, new, unique and effective scrubbies! They’re worth a try and you’ll be glad you did!

Enjoy,
Judi

Review of Premier Home Cotton Marls Yarn

I enjoy crocheting and knitting. I especially enjoy making items that I can sell online and at local craft shows! Crochet dishcloths are items that I make on a regular basis since I sell quite a bit of them. Hence, I go through a lot of cotton yarn!

I’ve tried various brands of cotton yarn over the years and have happily settled with Premier Home Cotton Yarns. If you haven’t given this brand a try, let me encourage you to do so the next time you’re looking for yarn! I’ve already done a complete review of Premier’s cotton yarn. (Click the link to see my earlier post!) This review is focusing on their cotton marl yarns.

About Premier Cotton Yarns
First, the marls yarn is similar to their home cotton yarn, in that it’s made with 85% cotton and 15% polyester. For all you 100% cotton yarn fans, don’t let that little bit of polyester deter you. Actually, I’ve found it to be a great benefit when making home accessories. That little blend of fibers makes the yarn softer and much easier to work with than 100% cotton. AND (and this is a big one to me!) it deters color loss when the item is washed and dried. Really! Furthermore, even though the finished products do shrink a little when washed and dried (which is to be expected), they don’t shrink as much as those made with 100% cotton yarns. I’ve found that my dishcloths made with this yarn hold up much better than those made with the other brands, despite a lot of machine washing and drying. Since I sell the items I make, product quality and longevity means a lot to me because I want to offer the best I can to my customers. This yarn wins, hands down, to me in those respects.

Color Effect of Marls Yarn

4 Strands of Vineyard Marls Yarn

4 Strands of “Vineyard” Marls Yarn

4 Strands of "Denim Jeans" Marls Yarn

4 Strands of “Denim Jeans” Marls Yarn

The marls yarn is colorful in that it is a 4-ply yarn, with each strand (ply) having a different color. The four colors are spun together into one strand of yarn. This yields a different effect in the finished product than standard variegated yarns. It’s colorful, yet uniform throughout. Something different! See the photo below of a dishcloth I made with the “Vineyard” color marl yarn!

Dishcloth made with "Vineyard" marls yarn

Dishcloth made with “Vineyard” marls yarn

Sizes Available
(1) Premier Home Cotton Marls Yarn. This is the smaller skein of yarn, with 2.1 ounces (60 grams, 105 yards) per skein.
(2) Premier Home Cotton Marls Grande Yarn. This is Premier’s larger skein, with 11 ounces (312 grams, 545 yards) per skein.
Both size skeins have the same color options.

Price Point
As you’ll typically find with any multicolored yarn, the price point is a little higher than that of the same brand’s solid colors. This is understandable because of the manufacturing process involved. But, if you compare prices of the various brands, you’ll usually find that Premier yarns are sold for less cost per ounce than the other brands. This is a BIG plus if you’re making items to sell or making a lot of things to give as gifts.

Color Options

Denim Jeans Marls Yarn

“Denim Jeans” Marls Yarn

The color options of the marl yarns are not as many as you might expect. I believe this line is relatively new. So, hopefully Premier Yarns will be expanding their color selection soon!

 

 

Advantages of Using Premier Home Cotton Yarns
I’ve found there are a number of advantages to using Premier cotton yarns:

Softer and more flexible than other cotton yarns
Great scrub-ability in a crochet or knit dishcloth
Easy to wring out (No hurt hands!)
Colorfastness (Which is HARD to come by!)
Easy machine washing/drying with less shrinkage
Faster drying time than other cotton yarns
More economical than other cotton yarns
Unique colors (as with the marls and variegated options)

I hope this information will encourage you to try this brand of cotton yarn if you’re not already using it. Once I did, I was sold and haven’t returned to the other brands (and I don’t intend to!).

Best wishes to all and happy knitting/crocheting!
Judi

Gluten free? AVOID “herb rice” in restaurants!

Many people have gone gluten free by choice. Others MUST choose gluten free options for health reasons. I fit into the later category, although I haven’t been that way my entire life. In recent years I learned I developed a serious health issue that is triggered by eating anything with gluten in it. Hence, I’ve become gluten free. This is NOT a choice for me.

Eating a gluten free meal becomes very challenging when faced with eating out in restaurants. This is particularly so when faced with menu items that appear to be gluten free. One case in point is “herb rice.” I would expect “herb rice” to be rice mixed with specific herbs and flavorings to make a delicious gluten free dish. However, many restaurants serve an “herb rice blend” that is actually a mix of rice, flavorings and orzo, a tiny pasta made from wheat. THAT’S the problem.

Unfortunately, many restaurant workers, “servers” in particular, are uninformed as to what their “herb rice” actually contains. They’re under the impression that it’s just flavored rice. I have been faced with this TWICE now since I’ve been gluten free. Note that I have nothing against the rice blends they use…they’re actually delicious. HOWEVER, they’re not just rice…they’re NOT gluten free. And with the innocent ignorance of waiters/waitresses, wary customers may be served foods they shouldn’t eat. My personal experiences are cases in point.

First, years back when I newly discovered that I should avoid wheat, I was at a restaurant/bar-grill. I choose something with “herb rice” in it, innocently thinking it was just rice. I asked the waitress if it was just rice and gluten free. She insisted that it was just rice, so I ordered it. After eating about half of it, I realized it had orzo in it…wheat pasta. When I spoke with the waitress about it and said I couldn’t eat the dish, she still insisted that it didn’t contain wheat and was only rice. We had a bit of an argument and she finally brought me the box it came in. Of course, when reading the ingredients list, wheat pasta was listed as one of the components (I’m not ignorant when it comes to food and it didn’t take much to find a wheat product in the ingredients list). When I brought this to her attention and asked for something else to replace the rice, we settled on refried beans. She was obviously not happy with me. I was brought a blob of refried beans, straight out of the can and unheated. I told the manager about the episode when we paid for the meal and I got little response in return. Needless to say, we’ve never been back there again.

Secondly, just last night we were at a different restaurant and they presented us with their new spring/summer menu. A wonderful dish was listed and I opted for it. Again, it was served with “herb rice.” I asked the waitress about it and she was very polite in saying she thought it was just rice, but wasn’t certain. I opted for hash browns instead of the rice. (They were out of the rice blend anyway and I was already planning on ordering hash browns since I suspected the “rice” was not just rice.) Nevertheless, the waitress DID offer information for me…the brand name of the blend. I looked it up and here’s the ingredients list…

Parboiled long grain rice, orzo (macaroni product made from wheat flour), salt, autolyzed yeast extract*, onions*, garlic*, turmeric spice which imparts color.

*dried
CONTAINS WHEAT INGREDIENTS

I’m thankful that the waitress was kind enough to at least offer the information to me so I could check for myself. I also appreciated her humbleness in admitting she was not certain of the ingredients. Unfortunately, apparently restaurant owners and chefs don’t inform their workers about these critical aspects of their food. For most patrons, it’s not an issue at all. But for those who MUST avoid certain ingredients, it’s important for the wait staff to be knowledgeable of what’s being served. Sadly, that’s usually not the case, so it’s up to the patron to be informed and wary of what they order.

Unless you really know the restaurant and how they prepare foods, wait for the herb rice until you get home and make it yourself!! Don’t order it in a restaurant.

I hope this information helps someone out there to avoid ordering some food that can cause health issues. Again, if you can eat gluten, the herb rice blend is a delicious option. But if gluten presents a problem, don’t be fooled by the name. It’s not just flavored rice.

Best wishes to all and happy eating,
Judi

How to Choose the Best Olive Oil

We’ve all seen our favorite chefs at work on TV. Most of them use extra virgin olive oil. Why? Because it’s one of the healthiest oils to consume. However, they rarely say what brand they’re using (unless they’re being paid to advertise for that company).

Good quality olive oil can be one of the healthiest oils to use. It helps correct blood cholesterol problems and is high in vitamin E and antioxidants, fighting harmful compounds in the body. Olive oil plays a vital role in the Mediterranean diet, which we know is very healthful.

So…when we get to the grocery store, choosing which olive oil to buy seems about like choosing a breakfast cereal! There are MANY to choose from…too many. It’s just too confusing. So, I’ve done some research to help us all pick the best olive oil from the array we have to choose from at the moment.

It’s important to know that not all olive oils were created equal. In fact, MANY that are typically on our grocery store shelves are not healthful oils at all. Many have been “refined” (a process that involves heat and/or chemical solvents), have been on the shelf for extended periods of time and hence are not fresh, or are older oils that have been blended with fresher oils to mask their rancid flavor. Yuk!

Because eating old or rancid oils is actually damaging to health, I decided to put together a list of things to look for to help you choose which oil is best among those that are available to you at the moment when shopping. There may be higher quality oils out there in wherever-land, but they’re not the ones you’re looking at for the moment when you’re starring at the huge array on the grocery store shelf. You NEED to know which one to choose NOW! Copy this list and carry it with you the next time you shop for olive oil.

First, it’s important to know that ANY extracted oil is highly perishable. Light, heat and oxygen can interact with the oil and cause it to age or even spoil, creating compounds that are harmful to our health. So, keep this fact in mind as you make your way through the steps below.

When at the grocery store…

Put your “blinders” on! First thing, DON’T look at the price right away. IF you shop for price only, you’ll probably choose the cheapest oil on the shelf. Mistake #1. That oil is very likely refined and not the most healthful. That’s not what you want!

Choose oil in a small dark glass bottle (or packaging that shields the oil from light).  Unless you’re going to use a LOT of oil FAST, go for the small size…one that you know you can use up in a relatively short amount of time. Be sure the bottle (glass, not plastic) is dark, helping to protect the oil from damaging light. Otherwise, if you know you need a lot of oil and will be using it up quickly, opt for oil in a large can.

Be sure the cap is sealed and air tight. Well, duh. This should be a “given.” However…it’s worth checking because you never know what you might come across in a grocery store.

Choose “extra virgin olive oil.” Extra virgin is the highest quality olive oil. Now…DON’T take the front label on the bottle for it’s word. Turn the bottle over and look at the ingredients list. It should only say “extra virgin olive oil.” It MIGHT list refined oil and extra virgin olive oil. If it does, put it back on the shelf. It’s a blend of less-than-healthy refined oil, most likely mixed with fresher oil to improve the flavor. Not your best option.

Look for “first cold pressed” or “mechanically pressed.” This is the natural way to extract oil from olives. Otherwise it was probably extracted using heat and/or chemicals, which is not desirable and not the healthiest oil around. Choose a naturally extracted oil.

Some bottles say “organic.” Organic options in most any foods are good. However, “organic” alone with regard to olive oil is NOT the only thing to look for. Check out the other components before deciding that it’s your best option.

Look for quality seals on the label. Not all oils will have them, but they are helpful in ensuring the oil was produced according to set quality standards. Some seals you might see include:

COOC (California Olive Oil Council)
North American Olive Oil Association
International Olive Oil Council
PDO (Protected Designation of Origin…DOP in Italian)
PGI (Protected Geographical Indication…IGP in Italian)

Look for an expiration date or “best by” date. Try to select one with at least a year left before it expires. The further out the date, the fresher the oil. Freshly produced olive oil will last up to 2 years from the time of harvest, IF kept under ideal conditions (which is often not the case). AND we don’t know the time lapse from harvest to production and many dates are based on production dates, so there is some mystery here. So…the more time left in the dating, the fresher the oil.

Look for the producer and place of origin of the olives. Ideally, it’s best to find an oil from olives that were grown, processed and packaged in the same location. However, that would RARELY be found on our grocery store shelves. Just note that oil will be freshest and of higher quality under those circumstances. That translates into less transport time, less chance of spoilage due to less-than-ideal conditions along the way, etc. However, MOST if not all of what we’ll typically find on our grocery store shelves will not meet this criteria. It’s good to look for it anyway. IF you manage to find one…latch onto it!

NOW…After having looked for oils that meet the above criteria…it’s time to compare prices. Now you’ll know you’re getting the best deal on your olive oil AND the most healthful option you have to choose from at the moment.

When you get home…

TASTE the oil when you get it home. Ignore the color because the color will vary depending upon the variety of olive used and when it was picked. The color does NOT reflect the quality of the oil. When tasting, the oil should smell and taste like olives, and should have a slight bitterness and possibly pepperiness. This indicates the presence of the polyphenol compounds…the healthful compounds that we WANT in the oil! Hopefully the oil you selected will meet this criteria. If not, it’s back to the drawing board the next time you shop for oil.

Store your oil wisely. Store it away from light, heat and oxygen (close the bottle quickly after using it). Use it up quickly…don’t try to store it for a long time.

Get the most health benefits from your oil. Use the oil unheated as much as possible to get the most health benefits from your carefully chosen product. When using it to cook with, heat it the least amount possible to keep from destroying the polyphenol compounds and breaking down the oil (which is not healthful).

Here’s a video that I produced on this subject. Hope this helps!! Happy eating, Judi