Draining fried food

Many people rely on paper towels to drain excess fat off of fried foods, like bacon, tempura, and fried tofu (the fried things that we make!). However paper towels aren’t ideal because they’re disposable, and must be purchased again and again. Instead, J and I drain fried food on a cooling rack, like what you would use for cookies. We place the rack over a pan or a plate to catch the drips.

Our cooling rack looks a lot like this and is ~12″ across.. $2 at Goodwill! Image from bbqgrillmesh.com.

Bonus tip: The cooling rack is just the right size to fit into our wok, so we can use it as a steamer insert too! I love items that do double duty.

Pant project

I’m making a pair of pants for sibling C. We don’t have a lot of pants patterns around (and those that we do have are from a past era), so I drafted a pattern based on C’s measurements and Donald McCunn’s book How to make your own sewing patterns. (I have read another book of his that is slightly more useful for creating new designs from an existing pattern.)

Sibling C’s measurements and the drafted patterns for pants front and back pieces. As you can see, the back piece is looking a little odd…

To make sure the pattern actually makes an item resembling a pair of pants, I mocked up a mini version about 15 cm long.

They do indeed look like pants. It remains to be seen if they fit C well, so the next step is to make a full-size pair!

The pants will be made out of silk dupioni (or maybe it’s shantung? It was bought used from Austin Creative Reuse, so there is some question and I’m not well-versed in silk fabrics). C want them to have a drawstring closure – hopefully the fancy fabric will be able to pull them up to dress or party level! The pants will be lined with flannel, since C gets cold easily.

This will be my first time fitting a garment – wish me luck!

Wild Basin Preserve

Sibling C and I went hiking today at Wild Basin Preserve. My parents called it “barren” (or maybe it was “desolate”), but I thought it was great! It has been raining a lot recently, so everything was lush and the creek was full.

There was even a waterfall! Maidenhair fern and a sycamore are in the foreground.

My mom claimed that the preserve was built on a dump, but it took some internet digging by sibling C to discover the truth! Only 5 acres (near the parking lot) of the preserve’s total 277 acres were used as a “dumping area” from 1947 to 1974. The area has since been reforested (source).

Stuff that we saw:

Lots of moss! Sibling C told me to become a moss expert and teach her about it. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of info about moss available. I emailed some university professor for info. Hopefully they’re enthusiastic enough to want to share info with me!

Evergreen sumac, which has edible red berries. Watch out for poison sumac, which has white or gray berries and causes contact dermatitis, and nandina, a super invasive plant that has red cyanide-containing berries.

Evergreen sumac is the bushy plant in the foreground to the left.

Sycamore, which has edible sap, much like sugar maples. The leaves can be used as a wrap for food, like corn husks or banana leaves (source).

Lindheimer’s silktassel (source of natural rubber).

Nolina, which has edible flower stalks and seeds. The leaves have also traditionally been used for making baskets.

Nolina is in the center of the photo, with a smaller yucca in front of it.

Woodcock, which is a dorky-looking bird (edible and seemingly easy to catch. The one we saw didn’t even fly away, it ran off and not very far). They are not common in Central Texas and difficult to spot even in the best of locations. Lucky!

From allaboutbirds.com.

New nature preserve discovered

J and I visited Stillhouse Hollow nature preserve in Austin. I have known about it for a few years, but have never gone before (’cause my interest in native plants and animals is only recent).

It’s a great trail with a much different atmosphere and set of plants than the nearby Hyridge trail.

Here’s the entrance. The big red “stay out” bar is just for cars. The juniper and shrubby oaks and cedar elms near the entrance continue on through much of the walk.
Also near the entrance (in someone’s side yard) are two very large fig trees, complete with figs! I wonder if the owners eat the fruit?
Lantana. J likes it. It is widely used in landscaping in NorCal, although apparently not native.
Prickly pear with fruit!
And on the prickly pear, cochineal! Cochineal is a red dye-producing sessile insect that spends its adult life in a protective waxy, white cocoon. Cochineal makes a very good dye that was suuuuuper valuable in the past (before petroleum-based dyes were used). It is still used in cosmetics and food. We are so lucky that it is native to Texas!
And one of six deer seen crossing the path. You can see twist-leaf yucca in the foreground, and juniper and yaupon lining the path (both edible!).

The trail ended with a lookout over a limestone box canyon with flame-leaf sumac, black walnut, and beautyberry (all edible!), among other things. Very nice!

Check out nature preserves in your area! You can browse Google Maps for them- green-shaded areas are parks, preserves, and trails.


American-made bedding options

My parents wanted new sheets, so, of course, I wanted them to buy the most sustainable option! So I ended up doing a ton of market research to find the best option. Here is the answer:

Native Organic

They sell sheets, bath towels, kitchen towels, and aprons. The cotton is organically grown in the US (in Texas). The fiber is milled, spun, and woven in a historical water-powered mill in Mexico (source). Their products are colored through a combination of low-impact dyes and color-grown cotton. The prices are on par with other mid-tier bed and bath products not made sustainably and not made in the US (so I hope that Native Organic makes a profit!).

My parents went with Coyuchi, not a bad choice. They are also organic and, I believe, use low-impact dyes, but their products are mostly made in India (and, surprisingly, are more expensive). The balance was swayed in Coyuchi’s favor because they have sateen sheets in white (the closest Native Organic has is “natural”).

Red Land Cotton is another good option, although I know less about it. They grow their cotton in the US (in Alabama), and make all their products in the US. Their cotton is not certified organic, but the About Us page states that they dry-farm the cotton (no irrigation!) and use sustainable practices.

On a similar note, KellyGreenOrganic and Holy Lamb Organics are cool sustainable bedding companies. They sell mattresses, pillows, sheets, blankets, other home goods, and craft materials. DIY Natural Bedding is the mecca for bedding-related craft materials. They are amazing!! Most if not all of these companies’ materials are organic and sustainably sourced, and made in the US.

Next time you need to buy bedding, support one of these amazing companies! They appreciate it 🙂

Dyeing with spinach

Using this article for reference, sibling C and I dyed some of her cotton-and-nylon socks with liquid leftover from cooking spinach. Spinach produces yellows to greens, but doesn’t stick very well (isn’t “fast”). We added some iron (from an iron supplement) to make the color more green, and to hopefully make it darker and more fade-resistant.

The finished socks in rinse water. Spoon for scale.
We got a nice pale green-gray. It is almost discernible from regular dirt.

The socks looked like something at first, but, like many naturally-dyed articles, quickly faded. Very sad 🙁 Sibling C is amassing a very pastel army of naturally-dyed socks. The one upside is that they coordinate very well.



Green cabbage

White vinegar



Salt and pepper

I used a quarter of a green cabbage. That’s an Old Hickory knife.
I shredded it.
My mom thought it was too coarse, so I had to chop it more.
Here’s the dressing! It is a mix of 2 Tbsp white vinegar, 2 Tbsp sugar, 1/4 cup mayonnaise, salt, and pepper.
Throw the dressing on the cabbage and mix it together! The coleslaw might look like it has too little dressing, but liquid will come out of the cabbage as it sits. If there really is too little dressing, add more mayonnaise.

A step forward in haircare

I only wash my hair with water (and scrubbing!), which works well with soft water. If you have hard water, though, dissolved minerals bind to sebum in your hair to form a weird sticky white residue. Super unpleasant! It makes your hair oddly stiff. The only solution I’d found in the past was to occasionally (maybe once a month) wash with normal shampoo.

But I just had a breakthrough! Some people claim that washing with cold or cool water keeps your hair nicer (for unknown reasons). Between this and the fact that cold hard water in particular should have fewer dissolved minerals, I decided to try washing my hair with cold water (but take an otherwise hot shower). I wash my hair as the water is warming up.

It works amazingly well! The cold water even reversed previous mineral buildup. My hair is silky and soft without being greasy. It’s not stiff, it’s not sticky. Even my skeptical mom says that it feels nice!