Monthly Archives: November 2011

A Christmas hat

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My daughter told me this hat looks silly on me (kids say the darndest things!) but I kind of like it. It’s this free pattern, scrap yarn in four different shades of red and green, and it was quick and easy. This was my first knooking project with a lot of color changes and that is clearly a skill I need to work on as the back seam (not shown) looks a bit scraggly. Still, I’m picking up confidence with the knooking and I like my cheerful holiday hat no matter what my five-year-old thinks of it. I did the stripes in a completely random pattern, which got difficult in and of itself after some time. Like wait, if I use three rows of green here does that still look random? I’m not accidentally making a pattern here with two light reds and a dark, am I?  Intentionally randomness will drive you nuts after a while–I’m sure there is a lesson in there somewhere.

This is a hinged shoe box Dorothy painted. I could get revenge and say I think it looks silly, but really I don’t. I think it looks cute. This is the sort of out-of-the-recycle bin project that can be so satisfying. I needed to keep her entertained in the kitchen at some point a few weeks back so I gave her an empty shoe box and some latex paint. She painted the box quite happily and then forgot about it until I needed to keep her out of the way again a few days ago, so I set her up again with her now dry, painted box and my private stash of Sharpies. (Permanent markers are only for grown-ups around here, except under rarest circumstances.) She was once again happily entertained while she decorated it and now she has a cute treasure box to fill with childhood ephemera and stash on her shelf until it gets stepped on or broken or chewed on by the dog–at which point it will land back in the recycle bin, full circle. That’s really  not a bad life cycle for a shoe box.

A felt cover for my Kindle

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I’m not very gadget-oriented but I did feel like it would be handy to check e-mail away from home, especially in a few key places where I already get reliable wireless service so when I heard about the new Kindle Fire I jumped. I’m lucky to be able to text on my poor old phone so this is a big jump into the portable technology ether for me. In anticipation of receiving my new toy I decided to make it a cute sleeve. I’d purchased a very pretty wool crocheted blanket at a thrift store last year but hadn’t done anything with it yet. The blanket was probably at the thrift store because someone had partially felted it, likely by machine washing it. I went ahead and felted it the rest of the way, making one big, colorful and unique piece of scalloped-edge wool felt. The felt is too thick to machine sew but I thought it would make an awesome protective cover so I created a binding with some thrifted sheets and a decorative machine stitch in contrasting (red) thread.

I hand-stitched the binding along the top edge and up the sides of a long piece cut from the felt, then made a really simple closure from a vintage button and some ribbon sewn to the scallops on the flap. When my new Kindle arrived I was so happy both to use it and my new cute sleeve! I love the mix of the old and the new; the scratchy boiled wool and the sleek new screen. I’m absolutely certain that this new device is going to make me better organized. There will be no more forgetting of canned goods for the Girl Scouts drive or missed volunteer appointments. For sure not. Because the whole problem was my lack of a new gadget, right?

While I’m dreaming let me tell you about pear ginger jam, because this is the stuff dreams are made of. I have made this every fall since the recipe came out in Vegetarian Times. (Disclaimer: I’m not veg but like the magazine.) I never hesitate buying huge quantities of good pears when they are available in the fall because letting them go overripe is practically a mandate for me to make this recipe. The first time or two I made it I processed the jars as directed, but after that I realized we eat the whole batch in a couple of weeks so there is no need to bother prepping it for pantry storage. I ladle it into clean jars and then keep it in the refrigerator until we eat it up. This year we finished it particularly quickly because my daughter has been volunteering to make her own sandwiches–apparently just so she can stand alone at the counter with a spoon and this jam. And I have to admit, she is basically living out my dream. Although my very favorite way to eat this jam is on homemade pumpkin bread over top of a schmear of cream cheese, and it’s also terrifically good in a sandwich with almond butter. In the photo it is prepared the way my daughter likes it best (next to the spoon), which is on freshly-baked white bread with cream cheese. Jam seems like such a big project but it isn’t really. I started peeling the pears for this at 5:30 on a day I had to be across town at 6:30 and I was on time. So worth the messy kitchen I came home to that night.

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like you-know-what

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About this time every year people start complaining about Christmas stuff being out, about the rush of the season, about holiday music. I’m not one of them. The kids and I had the Pandora holiday music station on the day after Halloween, and although I won’t decorate our house until Thanksgiving I’m thoroughly enjoying the pre-holiday planning. Christmas is fun; why not stretch it out a bit? I’m so glad we won’t have the craziness of last year’s Christmas-week move, and it’s going to a blast to have two kids at the perfect ages to enjoy all this holiday hustle-bustle. I like to take a photo for my Christmas cards pretty early every year so that if it looks terrible I have plenty of time to bribe them more and try it again. This year I was really lusting after some Hanna Andersson matching outfits for the kids to wear in the picture, but just couldn’t bring myself (meaning, well, that I just couldn’t afford) to spend so much money on clothes they’d only wear a couple times at most. Right as I was about to buy them anyway I remembered this pretty turquoise Christmas fabric I’d purchased on clearance at a quilting store over the summer. I’d only bought a yard and had  planned to make myself a tote bag out of it, but I realized I could probably stretch it to come up with homemade matching outfits for the kids.

I definitely got my money’s worth out of less than $5 of Christmas fabric. I sewed Dorothy a dress out of a winter white fabric I had in my stash, which I think I got from Wal-Mart’s $1 table a few months back. I made the dress from Simplicity 2237 and sewed her a bolero from the Christmas print from the same pattern. I’ve used that dress pattern before and found it to be a bit wide; this time I cut the pattern a little narrower and it fit perfectly. The bolero pattern wast just right. It fit adorably without any adjustments.

I used more of the turquoise fabric to make a ruffle around the bottom of her dress, which I sewed to the lining of unbleached muslin so it peeps out all around. I used gold thread and a decorative stitch on my sewing machine to add some gold embellishment along the hem of the outer skirt.

For the boy I made a bow tie out of the Christmas fabric and an oh-so-debonair vest out of the same fabric as her dress. I read this terrific tutorial on another blog, then sort of cut around a vest he’d outgrown. I used leftover curtain backing for the lining and back and buttons from my stash, which I think were torn off an old sweater that got turned in to something else a couple years ago. His bow tie is not really tied on because I’m not that brave–I sewed it to a hair clip. I ended up getting an acceptably good photo of the two of them (not pictured) and am glad to have that happy task checked off my list, and for less than $10 total.

Fall snacks and more pillows

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When I did the bat pillows last month I also cut out pillowcases for my family room sofa. I wanted something that could stay out all fall, not just for Halloween. I vaguely remembered seeing something in a magazine that used a similar style for a felt leaf applique and I liked that idea, so I went with it. I didn’t want these pillows to match so I put an acorn on the other. These pillows have been nice projects because they are quick but make a nice impact. I used really inexpensive clearance fabric for the pillow cases, attached the felt cutouts with fabric glue, then stitched around them with embroidery floss. I printed out some internet clip art to look at while I cut out the shapes. The only problem with these was that in a couple places the fabric glue soaked through the felt and left dark splotches. If I did this again I’d use less glue and not handle the pillowcase at all until the glue was dry. After these were done I thought that if I was going to blog about it I should try to look up that magazine reference and I found it. I love the shiny fabric they used but that wouldn’t be so practical in a home full of peanut-buttery fingers.

This autumn has been so erratic with the temperatures. Right when I get settled into fires in the fireplace, homemade wool socks and hot spiced apple cider (with brandy after 6 pm!) it turns warm again and I need something refreshingly cool. One day I experimented by stirring some maple syrup into sparkling water and pouring it over ice and I was so happy. Yum. Since that day I have experimented with the syrup, cream and milk and determined that the perfect maple cream cooler is this: 1 TB real maple syrup + 1 TB whole milk + glass full of iced sparkling water. This is what warm autumn days are for.  🙂

And while I’m on fall snacks, it annoys me that the popular consciousness considers peeled apple slices dipped in sugar syrup (caramel, whatever) to be a “snack.” I hate to break it to anyone, but peeled fruit with a side of sugar is dessert. But the dipping of apple slices is kind of awesome, and I’m pleased to have landed on a new apple dip for the days when we’re tired of our usual almond or peanut butters. I stirred a dollop of honey and a pinch of pumpkin pie spice into plain yogurt and it’s very good. Fallish and creamy and reminiscent of pie. And much more virtuous than caramel! If you don’t have pumpkin (or apple) pie spice you can easily make your own. Here’s a recipe that turned up in a quick google search, or you can create your own based on your favorite fall spices. I use it in everything this time of year from pancakes to yogurt to sprinkling it on top of my coffee grounds before brewing. The local schools are on fall break today so my little homeschooler took the morning off as well. Our neighbor friend came over to play with Dorothy and I helped them have a crafty morning together. The girls decorated treasure boxes out of old yogurt containers that seem very much like some flower pots we made once before, and they sewed dolls inspired by the ones I saw in Martha Stewart Living this past month. They made theirs out of old white napkins because they didn’t like the idea of a doll made from printed fabric. They have big plans for sewing doll dresses next but have now taken an extended break to dig in the dirt out in this lovely fall sunshine.