Saturday, August 29, 2009

Brown birdie scarf

(Please excuse the horrible photo quality. My camera died a sad death this week, so this is my computer's attempt at acting like a camera. Thanks to my lovely wife for modeling.)

Today was the birthday of a good friend, and in what's become my usual last-minute state, I found myself without a gift for her this morning. I had an idea working around in my head though, shifting and changing forms throughout the night. Emily is a big fan of scarves, so that's where I started. Then I thought of this fabric, my first use of this stashs. The little birds, and the color combo, and especially the pink made it perfect for her. I've been wanting to try reverse applique, and also wanted to incorporate some patchwork. I had this lovely brown linen-like fabric I'd gotten once from a tag sale. Then I noticed this polka-dot fabric with all the right colors, and it all came together.

I used measurements for the scarf in The Crafter's Companion, and winged the rest of it. I should have read some directions for reverse applique, though; the fabric shifted around so when I was finished, it bubbled out rather than lying flat and I had to rip it all out and try again. I definitely want to do more--I love the look--but I've got to work on that technique!

Friday, August 28, 2009

From many, one

Remember this package of fabric scraps I sent off a while back? After making a gorgeous quilt for Craft Hope, Ronit (of 2Hippos) had been asked to make a few more for the Miracle Foundation, in shades of red and orange and pink. She asked her readers to send scraps to help build her stash for this project. She's now finished one of the commissioned quilts. Here it is.

I thought it was so fun to try to spot bits of the fabric I'd sent in this quilt pieced together from so many sources. And I love the feeling of this quilt--that little bits shared by many people come together in a whole so much greater than the parts. An outpouring of love through fabric. I can't wait to see the others.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Apron days ahead

It's been a crazy month around here. Wrapping up the school year, preparing for the new one, planning a visit to the in-laws for the one week in between, preparing for my re-licensing visit, plus all the day-to-day stuff that is life-with-a-new-baby-in-a-house-you-have-to-keep-presentable-because-it's-also-your-place-of-business...Well, you get the picture. Never mind that the summer's almost over and we've put away next to no food for the winter, we who have pledged to eat locally...

Tomorrow's my last day before I have a week off. Then there's a crazy day of laundry and packing, followed by a 12-hour train ride. I'm hoping after that, things might actually slow down a bit. Maybe I'll get to spend a day on the beach. Maybe, when I get home, the blueberries and the peaches will still be ripe for the picking, and I'll be able to do some serious canning.

In the meantime, I can dream. I found this lovely apron at the thrift store a few weeks back, and I'm looking forward to the day I can tie it on, think nothing of work, and lose myself in the satisfying task of filling those hundreds of jars waiting so patiently in the basement.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Independence Days challenge, week 17

Time again for Sharon's Independence Day's Challenge:

1. Plant something:
2. Harvest something: Eggs. 4 pecks peaches from a local farm.
3. Preserve something: Dried peaches. Froze shredded zucchini.
4. Waste not: I found creative uses for food I might otherwise have thrown away this week (does it make up for the veggies I let rot in the produce drawer?). When I drained the zucchini, I set the colander in a bowl and caught all the liquid. Blended it with some watermelon and froze it into popsicles. When I made green pepper puree for Lucy and she hated it (her first rejected food), I used the leftovers as part of a marinade for tofu.
5. Preparation and storage: No, and boy are we getting low on stored food. Need to get on the ball!
6. Build community food systems: No.
7. Eat the food: Made 5 loaves of zucchini bread. Tried a new (yummy) recipe for corn fritters.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Last-second crafting

It's been a crazy week around here. I've been staying up late every night, working after my family goes to bed, preparing for tonight's big celebration--the annual end-of-the-year party for my kids, with a ceremony for the first child to "graduate" from my program. She's been with me since the beginning--three years now--and I wanted to do it up right. I put together slide shows of the past year, and of the graduate's 3 years. I wrote the annual letter to the families, summarizing our year's work, illustrated with scanned drawings from the children. I printed programs, illustrated with self portraits of all the kids. Together with the kids, I altered the words to Bev Bos' "I Remember When You Couldn't Do That" to sing to her. I wrote a "diploma" for her, describing many of the things she's accomplished in her years with us. I assembled a book from the children: each page had a photo of one of the children, their message for her, and a drawing from them. Anyway, 11:00 last night rolled around, and I still didn't have a gift for her. So I made this bag (literally at the eleventh hour), and tucked the book inside.

She loved it. Success.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Treasure Trove of Vintage Fabric

I've waited a few days to write about the wonderful gift I received this weekend, thinking I'd take some great photos. Of course, I never did. I couldn't wait any longer to share, so I went out (in my embarrassing nightgown, no less) to take photos in the dwindling light this evening. Oh, well. They're better than nothing. Anyway...

Our friend Melissa came over on Sunday and brought a trunkful of fabric she'd received from her "Ciocia" (aunt), who has sewn for everyone in their family for many years, and has the fabric to prove it. We had tons of fun going through the bags and bags, and Melissa let me take anything I wanted! I took only a small portion, as most of it was polyester (though some of that was in really cool prints!).

Here we are, asking Lucy to choose her favorite. She had a definite opinion!

Here's my big huge stack of possibility:

That purple and turquoise one is polyester, but I couldn't resist the print. Lucy's favorite was the blue and white stripe one with the red flowers, down near the bottom of the pile.

This one is my favorite:

I mean, seriously, how cute are these animals?

There's only a very small piece, so I'll have to think carefully about the perfect project for it. Oh, my gosh. Where will I start?

Thanks, Melissa! What a treat!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Independence Days challenge, week 16

snapping beans, baby style

Time again for Sharon's Independence Day's Challenge:

1. Plant something:
2. Harvest something: Eggs.
3. Preserve something: Dried 1 qt. apricots, 2 pt. corn. Froze 2 qt. corn, 4 lbs green beans, 1 1/2 lbs broccoli. Canned 16 qts. dill pickles.

We tried a new pickle recipe this year: inspired by Melissa at All Buttoned Up, we tried this recipe. They look good; will report on the taste later. Here's a scene from my life lately--doing everything, even hot canning work, with a baby on the hip (or in the sling):

(Please ignore the hideous outfit: it was in the 90s, and I was canning. That'll ruin your look any day!)

4. Waste not:
Made diaper cover from shrunken sweater. Talked about EC to probably too many people. Lucy went a whole day in one diaper, even as we ran around on errands all day (She peed in three public restrooms. How cool is that?)
5. Preparation and storage: Nope.
6. Build community food systems: Nope.
7. Eat the food: We are horrible! We ate out far too many times this week.

Friday, August 14, 2009

One pillow closer to a new look

Getting there, slowly but surely.

(Don't mind the stained red slipcover that doesn't go so well with the pillows. We have a brown one which we switch out from time to time. Red needs to go into the wash; brown onto the couch. Just haven't gotten there yet.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Handmade Home

It finally came!

Shop Indie Bookstores

I bought this book for myself with birthday money--in May--and I've been waiting ever since for its publication. It arrived in the mail yesterday, just when I was desperately needing a little rejuvenation. I spent 45 minutes sitting in a coffee shop last night, reading and sipping from my latest addiction: ginger-lemon iced tea. (Ahhh.) Today, I've already finished reading every word. (In fact, that's my only quibble with the book; I want more!)

I love Soulemama's blog. I've read every one of her posts and eagerly anticipate reading a new one each day. So of course I was thrilled that she's published another book. And I love it for the same reason I love her blog: it describes lovely projects, but behind them lies an ideal--not just a project idea. The life that is revealed through her writing is mindful, beautiful, joyful, and, yes, soulful, and so inspiring to me.

There is much to love in this book. I love that her projects are not just about making a thing, but are about making a life, a home, a refuge, a tradition. I love that it's about re-using materials--and she clearly really means it, as all the photos show repurposed materials (unlike in some books I've seen). Even the matte pages suggest her environmental sensitivity. I love that things don't look too perfect--they look do-able and real and heartfelt.

Many of these ideas I already do--thrift shopping almost exclusively, cloth diapering, making my own pads, using children's art in creative ways. But she has given me more ideas, and inspired me to try some new things. I will definitely be making a rag rug, and a potholder, and a kids-art-decoupaged tray, and an "art and hooks rack," a healing basket... And I hope, in the process, to help make a home and a family life as beautiful as the vision Amanda shares with us here and on her blog.

Another bum sweater

I made Lucy another "baby bum sweater" from this pattern. Again, where the three points came together, I ended up with a weird little peak, despite efforts to avoid it, so I hid it all behind a vintage button. This one is made from the softest cashmere. Our good friend Tim once had a lovely cashmere sweater, but it met with laundry disaster, so he donated it to the cloth-diapering cause (lucky Lucy!)

This style of diaper cover is my new favorite for summer--cute enough to show off under a dress, slim enough to fit under pants or a onesie, easy to put on and take off.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Small treasures

I chanced upon an estate sale this weekend. There was a sort of a sewing ottoman that opened to reveal a heap of tangled sewing notions, for $25. Too steep for me, and I didn't have room for it. But I dug through and found a few things I wanted. They let me have just my little pile, enough to make me feel I'd walked away with treasure.

The red-white-and-blue elastic begs to be part of Lucy's next 4th of July outfit. The big button will be perfect for a bag someday. The others? We'll see...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Independence Days challenge, week 15

Time again for Sharon's Independence Day's Challenge:

1. Plant something: No.
2. Harvest something: Mystery squash from the compost bin. A few green beans for snacking in the garden. 16 lbs blueberries from Running Fox Farm. Bits of dill, sweet cicely, lemon balm, chocolate mint, thyme, rosemary.
3. Preserve something: Canned 1 1/2 quarts peaches (not much, but it's a start, anyway). 1/2 pt. dried peaches, 1 1/2 qt. dried apricots, 1 pt. dried plums. Dried bits of dill, sweet cicely, lemon balm, chocolate mint, thyme, rosemary. Dried 12 ears corn. Froze 1 1/2 lbs broccoli, 1 1/2 lbs green beans, 15 lbs. blueberries.
4. Waste not: In the past few weeks, we've started getting somewhat more serious about doing EC with Lucy. She's now peeing on the potty regularly, which means far fewer diapers (we use cloth, but still, it's a savings of diaper-service money for us, and a savings of water and energy in the cleaning.)
5. Preparation and storage: Added a bit more water to storage. Wrote an "Emergency Evacuation Plan" as a requirement for re-licensing my family child care, which is something I should have done anyway. It led to a list of things I want to prepare in case of an emergency involving the kids in my program. I've started preparing a "bug-out bag" for them, which should get me going on preparing ours, too. Got a nice wool blanket at a tag sale.
6. Build community food systems: I asked the parents in my program to help collect containers for storing water for emergencies. Will it help them think to do the same at home?
7. Eat the food: Lucy started solid foods this week. She's going local: zucchini, potatoes, green beans.

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Homemade Life

For a while there, it seemed like every other blogger was raving about this book:

Shop Indie Bookstores

But I have this weird aversion to reading stuff that "everyone" is talking about. Plus, I didn't feel the need for yet another cook book, and didn't think I'd be that into reading about food. Eventually, however, someone must have said the magic words that made me decide to read it, and I requested it from the library.

When it came in, I was in the middle of two other books. As the librarian handed it over to me, though, she said "I LOVED this book!" So when I brought it home, I dove right in. And I couldn't put it down.

In fact, now that I've finished it, I wish I had put it down once in a while to get paper and pen to write down wonderful quotes. Do you do that? Figure you'll be able to find them later and keep reading, only to lose them completely? Oh, it was good. It read like a novel. It was sad enough to make you cry and romantic enough to make you cry again.

And somehow, she made me want to make things I would have never thought would sound good to me. "Carmelized cauliflower with salsa verde?" I have to try it, even though I normally avoid cauliflower. "Red cabbage salad with lemon and black pepper?" I tend to push the cabbage to the side of my salad plate, but in her description of uncooked cabbage ("it's starchy and stiff, like a Styrofoam packing peanut that's been stepped on"), I found a kindred spirit, so if she thinks it's great, I should too, right? In fact, by the time I'd finished reading the short chapter introducing each recipe, I couldn't wait to try it; she even got me excited about salads, which is a very hard thing to do.

I want this book. Nevermind that I've already read it. Nevermind that I don't know where I'd put it. (In the kitchen, where I already have too many cookbooks? In the library, with the memoirs?). I want to find those quotable bits again. I want to try so many of the recipes. And I want to share it with other people. I want you to go read it right now--even if you're in the middle of two other books, even if you don't care about food, even if you don't want to read it because I said you should. Take a peek. See if you can put it down.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

In progress: pillows for the couch

A while back, I showed you this before:

I'm working on the after. It's taking a bit longer than I'd like (please excuse the long absence, by the way; it's been crazy around here.) So rather than an "after," here's some "in progress":

I found this great fabric, which went so well with the placemats I'd used to recover the other pillow. There's another fabric to go with it all, too, coming soon.

But the best part of this little project is one you can't see. I had a child in my program one time who hated our couch. He wouldn't sit on it. Even when we were all snuggled up together reading a book, he'd stand by my knees, or maybe, if he let down his guard, perch on the edge. Why? It's those pillows. They're cheap down pillows from Target, and they were cozy for about five minutes. And then the feathers started coming out. They'd poke you, work their way into your clothes to torture you, and pile up in corners making everything a mess all the time. Ugh.

I had this white fabric I'd bought at a tag sale for the children to use for their embroidery. But it had a crazy tight weave; the kids could barely poke even the sharpest needles through. That gave me an idea. Before making the outer covers for the pillows, I sewed an inner cover right over the old (thin, muslin) pillow case. And so far, there are no escapees! Ahh.

Now on to the (embarrassingly stained in the photo) slipcover, the other pillows, and the rug...