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back to being old timey…dyeing yarn!

8 Feb

hand painted yarn dyeing urbanpocketknife

As if knitting isn’t labourious enough, I got this crazy notion to start dyeing my own yarn so that I could customize the colours and avoid those ultra expensive but to-die-for hand dyed yarns I see in wool boutiques.

The idea spawned when I was in Wool Is Not Enough in their new location on Cordova.  My favourite Araucania Ronco wool yarn is discontinued and she had a bunch of hanks on sale for 60% off!  But alas the colours weren’t to my liking and she suggested that I could dye them.

Could I resist?  Not really, so I bought her entire stock (we’re talking about 100% wool here people and about 4 sweaters worth) and walked out determined that I could dye the lot and make it my own.

Turns out, it’s not really that hard and these are some photos to show you the process.  No real instructions because there are too many methods involved.  Click on the images for a larger view.



making soup stock cheaply…

15 Nov

I used to always have containers of soup stock in my pantry.  Store bought ones can rack up the grocery bill especially the boxed kind that isn’t concentrated.   I always thought making stock would end up being super tedious, expensive and a waste of veggies.  But ahoy mate!  I learned many tips and tricks to extract flavour out of veggies that otherwise would go in the garbage.

Spring time is the ideal time to make stock as garlic and onions have their greens and make for excellent flavour extraction.  Here’s the basic recipe for any kind of stock:

Meat bones
Salt and pepper

Here are some tips and tricks  to make stock super easy and totes affordable:

1.  Roast the meat bones in the oven before simmering them in the stock, it gives the broth a fuller flavour

2.  Go to a farmer’s market and pick up carrot tops, beet tops, garlic tops and onion tops….for free!  A lot of people don’t use the tops of these veggies and they are packed full of flavour even though they are a little too fibrous for actual eating.  Most people ask for the tops to be taken off at the cash so snoop around and see if they’re giving any away for free.

3.  Making a whole chicken?  After eating the majority of the meat from the roasted chicken, you can use the carcass for the stock

4.  Add herbs that you love like bay leaves, rosemary, or thyme to add another layer of flavour

5.  Got some wine kicking around?  Adding wine to stock gives it another dimension.  Try red wine with beef or lamb stock and white with chicken or veggie stock.

6.  Simmer, simmer and simmer some more.  The longer you simmer your stock for, the better it will taste.  The first couple of hours feel free to add water to top it up.  In the last few hours, let about half of the water evaporate for concentrated flavour.  Make it really concentrated so that it takes up less space when storing.  You can always add water back to it later when you use it.

7.  Make a big batch that will last a while.  If you’re going to have to simmer that pot for hours, you might as well make a big batch.  Only the most serious canners have a pressure canner (you can’t hot water bath stock) but you can always freeze it.  Store them in mason jars but make sure they are fully cooled before you pop them in the freezer to avoid glass breakage.  Also don’t fill those jars all the way to the top because the liquid will expand once it’s frozen.

8.  Don’t have mason jars to freeze?  Freeze the stock in ice cube trays and then fill a freezer bag full of them.  Compact and easy to take just a few cubes here and there!

9.  Source out meat bones, often they are quite cheap and only about $1.00 a pound.

10.  Don’t bother to skim the fat off the stock if you’re freezing them in jars.  Once the stock is frozen, the fat floats all the way to the top of the jar and solidifies making it easy to scoop it out if you desire.

11.  Label the stock with the date and type so you don’t forget!

12.  Stocks are not just for soups!  Throw it in to stews, make flavourful sauces, boil potatoes in it, the choices are endless!

bring it on winter, I’ve got a POP!

26 Sep

pantry of preserves urbanpocketknife

It’s official, I have furniture designed to hold all my preserves.  The Pantry of Preserves or POP for short is slowing being filled to the max with the bounty of BC (mainly the Okanagon) so that when the inevitable rainy season of Vancouver comes in full force, we’ll always have a taste of summer inside.

The adventure started last year with a small project of roasting tomatoes and canning them.  Back then, one crate (about 25lbs) of tomatoes seemed like an awesome feat but now a days, one crate seems like child’s play!  Over the winter months, I expanded to bigger operations with my loyal canning friend I met at the Vancouver Winter’s Market.  We were given crates and crates of apples so of course we made apple sauce and our famous apple butter and chutney.

When spring came rolling around this year I decided to make it my summer goal to can as much as I could to stock up our pantry.  The idea was to reduce store bought canned items by at least 80%.  And voila.  It worked.

Not only do I do small batches here and there and then large all day/night batches with my canning friend (these are ambitious days with at least 4 kinds of things cooking at once), I bought a mini deep freeze to store soup stock and berries that we picked earlier in the season.

pantry of preserves urbanpocketknife

Why all the madness?  First and foremost is flavour.  It’s amazing how things taste better when you use fruit and veggies that are in season.  Natural preservatives like lemon juice and vinegar and no artificial colours of flavours.

Second?  Variety.  Things I have in my pantry would be hard to find in a grocery store.

Third?  Economical.  I get a lot of my canning fruits and veggies for free because I volunteer so the only thing I need to buy is the jars and some of the small ingredients that goes in to each jar.

The thing you can’t put a price on is the time.  It takes A LOT of time and planning.  But it’s totally worth it if you can fit it in your busy schedule.

pantry of preserves urbanpocketknife

So here’s a list of what I made and stocked up this year!  (The season isn’t quite over yet so there’s sure to be more coming!)

Deep Freeze:
60lb strawberries, vacuum sealed
25lb blueberries
8 500ml beef stock
8 500ml lamb stock
6 500ml chicken stock

Navel orange is light sugar syrup
Ruby red grapefruit in light sugar syrup
Apple sauce
Berry vinegar
Pickled garlic scapes
Du chua (Vietnamese pickled daikon and carrots)
Pickled balsamic vinegar onions
Pickled carrots
Orange marmalade
Orange jelly
Orange lemon lime vanilla bean jam
Apricot vanilla bean preserve
Spiced apricot jam
Apricots in vanilla bean syrup
Canned peaches
Peach jam
Peach butter
Raspberry jam
Blueberry jam
Red Currant jelly
Strawberry jam
Strawberry preserve
Tayberry jam
Blueberry pie filling
Apple chutney
Apple butter
Tomato Sauce (red, dark and smokey)
Plum sauce
Barbeque Sauce

pantry of preserves urbanpocketknife

newly revamped vintage chair….

14 Sep

I haven’t posted in forever…moving sucks the life out of you.  Now that we’re in our new digs, I’m finally back on track with cooking and various new projects for the new apartment!

I bought this ugly chair over a year ago to go with an equally ugly vanity that came with our old apartment.  I had always meant to reupholster it but back then it served as more of a hanger for bags and clothes then an actually sitting chair.

Let me start by saying that it was by pure accident that I took infomercial-like photos with the before shots looking quite shoddy in comparison to the post pics.  In reality I had taken photos of the chair with my phone so I could look for fabric that would match.  The post pictures were taken with my nice camera 🙂

The chair….bought it at Salvation Army for $6.99+tax

The paint’s not perfect, the seat cover is super ugly.  Some sort of gauzy puke green with some mysterious stains 😐

And the transformation!  Ahhh, somehow the fabric made the paint look better!  I painstakingly looked at every fabric bolt at Dressew to find the perfect match…turns out that colour green is hard to match.

It’s kinda vintage, a loud splash of colour and an all around awesome seat for my kitchen.  Even though the fabric cost me almost the same amount as the chair (half meter at $14.99), I think this chair is well worth it for $14.  Plus I still have half of the material left so I can make a little cushion for my wooden step stool that I also painted and re-did.

modifying a 30-something-year-old vintage road bike…

5 Aug

After four different bikes in the last few years…I finally understand what it’s like to have a proper commuting bike.  From mountain bike, to lowrider, to hybrid to cruiser, the final answer is a road bike.  But not just any road bike, one bought used and revamped to make it perfectly awesome for me.

Vancouver is hilly, my first bike here was an adorable vintage Raleigh cruiser…the perfect bike for the beach.  She is a clunker, weighing probably 45lb, going up a steep hill was impossible….even standing, I would eventually come to a slow stop.  How embarrassing…there’s nothing worse than being completely out of breath and then having to take your bike for a walk.

I test road a super expensive Trek bike with a friend one day and it was total bliss riding up hills and passing all the slow cyclists on the seawall.  I’ve never been so overjoyed to say “On your left!” as I passed droves of families cycling down the path.  I couldn’t afford a $1,500+ bike so we went on a hunt on Craiglist for a used one, hopefully finding a frame that fits my puny 5.0′ height.

We found a 33+ year old Sekine road bike that a gal was selling that was in great condition.  Although it was pretty great the way it was, we knew that there were things that we wanted to replace.  Custom bike, here we come!

Find out what we changed to make this bike ultra rad!

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cat fashion part ii – milo gets a new shirt…

7 Jul

Little dude got a new shirt today…the instant we put it on him he started to purr…what is up with my cat?  This little gem I found at Cherry Bomb, a store that specializes in iron-on t-shirts.  In the $5 sale section, I found this shirt and had to buy it.

I think I have the only cat on the planet that likes wearing clothes…sigh.