Wednesday, June 30, 2010

48-hour Couch Covering Marathon

I've had this couch for quite a few years now; I acquired it from an old flatmate who was leaving town. It has all the merits of a good couch: comfy, squishy, fits in the space it is meant for, low enough that my feet can touch the ground when I am sitting on it (I'm rather, rather short). However, amongst all its good qualities, it also so happens to be scratchy fabric and UGLY! I skirted around this issue for a few years by covering it with a couch cover. However, this only took away the scratchy nature of the fabric, and did nothing for its appearance (the couch cover was almost as ugly as the couch itself).

So, after months and months of complaining about how ugly it actually was, my partner Paddy and I decided we were going to do something about it. Now, I am a student and we have a mortgage, so buying a new couch was not an option. And anyway, it has good bones, it just needed a facelift. We were lucky enough to acquire some fabric from a generous friend of ours (a beautiful, grey pinstripe wool- I hate to think of how much it would of cost to buy!), and a staple-gun from my parents. We were set. Enter a rainy Queen's Birthday weekend, and the beginning of our 48-hour couch covering marathon.

We started by labelling the various parts of the couch, so once disassembled, we could tell where it all went back to.

Before - the picture does not do justice to its yuckness!

Then, demolition. By demolition I mean the pain-staking removal of thousands of tiny staples from every possible crevasse of the couch.

Naked couch

It was not a good start. Spirits were low, and I was hungry. After dinner and a pep talk, work continued.

To create the pattern, we basically cut out a new piece of every old piece that came off the couch. This worked better than I expected.

The cutting process

I cut and pinned, and Paddy sewed (yes, he's a very modern man). Soon, it was shaping up, we had a back, and a front and sides.... it was 1am and we were excited.
Despite my enthusiastic labelling, the couch puzzle had its challenges. However, with a bit of sleep-deprived problem solving, we battled through and soon, the light at the end of the tunnel appeared. Or was that the sun rising...?
Fast forward through a lot of enthusiastic staple-gunning and nip-tucking, and there we have it. A brand new couch for less than $100.
We actually ran out of the grey wool pinstripe, so decided to go for a bit of flair and use a pattern. One side of the bottom cushions are pinstripe and one side patterned. It's a couch for all occasions.

Finished product, wearing its business look (right) and party-wear (left)

We are pretty gosh darn proud of ourselves! Not only did we manage to successfully recover the couch all by ourselves, we saved this couch from a trip to the dump, and saved ourselves money. What more could you want from a rainy Queen's Birthday weekend?

Next step... cushion covers.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The First Time

Well, Ive finally done it. After a few years of quietly perusing other peoples blogs, wishing I had enough excitement in my life to justify sharing it with the world, I finally decided to do it, to start my own- exciting life or not. My justification being that while my life still hasn't gained a lot of excitement, I tend to fit a lot into my day. It mostly involves making things- via my kitchen, sewing machine, or garden, and while this seems an ordinary sort of persuasion for myself, others tend to disagree. Which maybe, just maybe, makes it interesting enough to share with others. We will see...

So now, onto my next first. Despite many domestic skills, there are three things I have immense difficulty with. I don't like to admit it to myself (as I'm not one to admit I can't do something), but it's getting to a point now where it cannot be avoided. So, here we go. As of yesterday, I could not (1) grow a surviving rosemary plant, (2) grow a healthy lemon tree, and, (3) make mayonnaise. Two of these three still stand as I write the post.

Anemic lemon tree

With three failed rosemary bushes (or should I say twigs), one failed and one failing lemon tree, and five failed batches of mayonnaise under my belt, I was beginning to feel disheartened. I mean, rosemary grows itself, for goodness sake! T
here was a bush the size of my backyard, in the middle of the motorway, growing away happily, yet my lovingly tended stalks promptly wither and die at the mere sight of me.

While it is not currently the weather for cultivating rosemary, and the lemon tree (attempt number two) is a work in progress, I decided to t
ackle number three on my list yesterday. I have managed to blame a number of different reasons for my failed mayonnaise in the past: the oil, the size of the eggs, the recipe, and my impatience at adding afore mentioned oil, have all contributed to my issues. After an extended discussion with my little brother (a chef, almost) the other night, he informed me of the chemistry behind mayonnaise. I won't pretend I know what I'm talking about, as science is most definitely not one of my skills, but it involved the amount of protein in an egg and it's ability to emulsify the quantity of oil added. Most recipes I have used (and failed with) in the past, required 2-3 eggs (either whole or yolks) and around 2 cups of oil. Little Brother tells me this is far too much, I should be aiming for three times as much oil as egg. If an egg yolk is approximately a tablespoon, then around 3 tablespoons of oil per egg yolk should work about right. So, armed with this new knowledge, and no time constraints (to allow for very gradual oil addition), I aimed for sixth-time-lucky mayonnaise.

After a lot of hoping and wishing, and sweet-talking all ingredients before they entered the blender- success! I had done it! While the recipe needs a bit of work (it may be a little tangy for those who don't adore mustard and vinegar with quite the vigor I do), I am proud to announce another first- my successful emulsion of egg and oil!

Ta da!

Waiting to be eaten, with homemade wholegrain bread and homegrown spinach and fennel leaves.

Now that I have had success, and r
estored my ego slightly, I will work on perfecting the recipe- to be posted at a later date.

So there we have it, a first post, and a first mayonnaise success. That wasn't so hard after all...