Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Messy Organization

When a sweet little girl wants to come over to learn to knit, crochet and sew (and maybe cook a little, too), it's time to clean your workroom.   (I say, don't let people know how messy you are until after they decide they like you.  Then it won't matter as much.  I hope.)

This was my sewing area before:

Ugh.  I needed to get better organized before our lessons.

Actually, I like to organize.  I organize and organize and organize, but them things get busy and I get too many projects going at once and I make a big mess and then I get frustrated because I can't find anything.  I know they say creativity is messy, but so is frustration.

So this is what I did -- I sewed up an organizer thingie:

It's not perfect, but it works, and all my tools are close at hand.  There are pockets for scissors, bobbins, sewing machine feet and all the things I need when I sit down to sew except for a cup of tea.  I tied my mom's little stork scissors to some cool measuring-tape ribbon (that was tied around a stack of fat quarters from Crimson Tate) so I would always have them handy.  And I sewed up a little scrap bag to have close -- I toss threads and scraps toward the trash can across the table, but usually miss.  There is a sleeve on the back for hanging the organizer from a curtain rod.

 And, of course, I didn't make up a pattern or write down my steps.  Awesome, pin-worthy craft tutorials are not really turning out to be my thing.  If you want to make one of these, just come over and we'll work it out together.

I did, however, want to share one thing.  Part of my problem is that my sewing tools get covered with stuff.  Fabric, patterns, stuff.  I thought if the pockets in my organizer were clear, I could find my stuff better, so I decided to use some clear vinyl.  And I wanted to bind the edges of the vinyl pockets so that the scissors wouldn't poke through.  So here are my vinyl sewing tips:

1)  For a huge piece of cheap vinyl, go get a clear shower curtain at the dollar store.  I wish I could say this is my original genius idea, but I'm pretty sure I read it somewhere else.

2)  You don't want to pin the vinyl, but these little clips work great:
Regular old paper clips would work, too.

3)  And since the vinyl will get sticky and not move too well under your presser foot, a simple solution is to put some tissue paper under the vinyl as you sew, then tear it away later.

I ended up moving the bulletin board to the workroom door, hanging up my mom's thread holder, and moving the washi tape to the basket where I used to keep my thread.  I folded fabric, picked up pins, swept the floor, took apart the vacuum after I clogged it with thread and dog hair, finished sweeping and generally gussied up the joint.

I think I can be much more creative in a neat space.  At least that's what I've been telling myself.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Summer Reading

I'll make this quick.

I've read a lot of books this summer, but here are my favorites.  Crazy poignant, none of these will leave my brain.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.  I was a big fan of The Secret Life of Bees (although not a big fan of the movie), but was hesitant about reading this one after The Mermaid Chair, which I wasn't crazy about.  But I am glad I did, because this is a wonderful book, set in pre-Civil War Charleston, and tells the relationship between Sarah Grimke, a planter-class rich girl and the slave she was given on her 11th birthday, Hettie.  The novel is based on the true story of Sarah and her sister Angelina, who became noted abolitionists and suffragettes.  

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Ann Hoffman.  This is a finely woven story about Coralie, a young woman who "works" in her father's museum (much like a Ripley's Believe it or Not), Eddie Cohen, a photographer who is estranged from his Orthodox Jewish/Russian immigrant father and the fascinating time they live in -- early 1900's New York City.   Lots of history here -- the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory disaster and a massive fire on Coney Island.  I've been recommending this one to everyone.  (I listened to this one while sewing -- Judith Light is the narrator, and is fabulous.)

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt.  I'm only halfway through this one, but it's so, so good.  It reminds me a little of the other "artsy" novels I've read recently, in that a painting is at the center of the story.  This one is set in the early days of the AIDS crisis.  I need to finish this post and read some more . . . .

What's in my stack?  The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer,  Darcy's Story by Janet Aylmer (librarian recommended!), The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown and The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout.
The summer is never long enough for all the books we can read . . .

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Florence's Peach Cobbler To Go

Clay and I went to an outdoor concert with dear friends Friday night. After a delicious supper from Yats, we took our dessert, coffee and kahlua (thanks, Lori!) to the Nickel Plate Amphitheater in Fishers to hear one of our favorites, Carrie Newcomer.  (That retreat I wrote about yesterday?  Her song Leaves Don't Drop was the theme song, and my introduction to this awesome Hoosier singer/songwriter.   There is a video at the bottom of this post of  Lori's favorite song -- one of my favorites, too.)

Since I've been all about canning jars for the past few weeks (more on that soon), I decided to make a dessert in them. And since peaches are showing up in the markets around here, it's time to make Florence's Famous Peach Cobbler.

At least it's famous around here.  Every time I take a peach cobbler somewhere, everyone wants the recipe, and it's a easy as pie.  A lot easier, actually.

Way back when (1991 -- sheesh!), I was on a fundraising committee at our little school, and we decided to put together a cookbook.  It was great fun, the cookbook sold out (we did another one a few years later), and I use it all the time (can you tell from the spatters on this page?)  Florence is also responsible for a pretty awesome ice cream recipe I'll share soon. 

This is how the cobbler usually looks when I bake it in my paella dish (which has never once been used for paella):

I thought the recipe just might work in jars.  It does.  

Preheat the oven to 350 and start with 5-6 peaches. (If the peaches you find are a little hard, just put them in a brown paper sack for a day or two -- they'll ripen up nicely, but be sure to check them every day, as it's a quick trip from ripe peaches to rotten peaches.)   
Peel them, slice them, toss them in 1/2 to 3/4 cup of sugar, and set aside for awhile.  

Divide 3/4 of a stick of butter into eight pieces and put in 8-ounce canning jars.  Put the jars on a cookie sheet and put the sheet in the oven for the butter to melt.

Meanwhile, stir together 3/4 cup flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 3/4 cup milk, 2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1 teaspoon of vanilla or almond flavoring.  Use a whisk to get rid of any lumps. 
Take the jars from the oven, and pour the batter over the butter in each jar.  Don't stir.  (It comes out to just a smidge over 1/4 cup of batter in each jar.)

Then, spoon the peaches over the batter, dividing them evenly.  Again, don't stir.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the tops of the cobblers are nice and brown.

As they cool, they'll shrink a bit:

Put on the lids and take to a picnic or a concert.  Or, just eat the cobbler while sitting on the couch and watching Last Tango in Halifax.  It's pretty good there, too.  

(In the interest of complete disclosure, the first time I tried this, I divided the recipe into 6 jars instead of 8.  Don't do that.  You're welcome.)

Peaches, coffee, friends and Carrie Newcomer.  It was a pretty perfect Friday evening.


Friday, July 25, 2014

A Shawl for Annie

In April, I went on a retreat with friends.  It was a really lovely weekend that I still don't have the words for.  Just leave it at "I'm in a pretty happy, peaceful, spiritual place right now".  

One of the spiritual directors for the weekend was a lovely woman named Annie.  Since Annie left such a sweet impact upon me, I wanted to make her something.  And since the theme of the weekend was all about the seasons of our lives, I wanted to go with some colors that would show    The kind girls at The Knitter's Nook in Columbus convinced me that these colors, in Rowan Alpaca, would be perfect:  green for the spring, purplish blue for the winter, gold for summer and brown for autumn.  I wasn't too sure, but after it was done, I knew they had been right.  

The pattern is one I wrote up in 2011 ago for Carolyn, one of our Knit Night friends.  She had brought in a shawl her mom had knit many years ago, and was searching for a pattern to make another.  I used all my best google/ravelry mojo, but couldn't find something similar, so I just wrote one up.   Knit Night friends have knit up many of these -- I like the chevron shape, as it stays on the shoulders nicely.  Here is the pattern, if you might like to make your own:  

Carolyn's (and Annie's) Shawl

(This pattern will make up into a shawl that was the same size as Carolyn's -- for Annie's Shawl, I cast on 40 extra stitches. You will want to do a gauge swatch so that you can achieve the look and length of shawl you want.)

Size: 30” from center point to end (60” in total); width is almost 12”. Gauge is 4 stitches/inch.

Supplies: Yarn: worsted weight; Needles: size 8 circular; stitch marker; crochet hook for fringe, if you want to add some.

Abbreviations: k=knit; k2tog=knit two together; yo= yarn over (simply take the yarn over the needle without making a stitch); m1= make 1(lift the bar between two stitches onto the left needle and knit it); ssk= slip a stitch, slip a stitch, knit these 2 stitches together

Pattern: Cast on 200 stitches.
Row 1: Knit 100 stitches, place marker, knit 100.
Row 2: Knit 1, make 1, knit to two stitches before marker, ssk, slip marker, k2tog, knit to end. Place a split marker or tie a contrasting length of yarn on this side; it will now be the right side of the work.
Row 3: Knit 1, make 1, knit across.
Repeat rows 2 and 3 4 more times, for a total of 11 rows.
Row 12: Repeat row 2.
Row 13: Eyelet row: Knit 1,make 1, *yo, k2tog* repeat between *’s until 2 stitches before center marker; knit 2, slip marker, knit 2, *yo, k2tog* repeat between *’s until until two stitches from the end of the row; knit 2.
Repeat rows 2-13 four more times (or until shawl is almost desired width). Knit 12 rows and then bind off.

Carolyn’s Shawl is finished off with a fringed edge: 2 -7” lengths of yarn were folded in half, then the fold threaded through the cast-on edge of the shawl at regular intervals.  


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Patriotic Cake!

Plain old white cake?   
Surprise!  It's an Apparently I Didn't Have Enough To Do Today To Get Ready For This Dinner For 28 People so I Made a Flag Cake!  

(So thankful that my pal, Sylviane, took a picture of the cake and posted it on facebook --why do I always forget until the cakes are looking a little scrappy?)

It really wasn't all that difficult -- 1 recipe of red velvet in 2-9"round pans, split, 1 recipe of white, done the same, and one recipe of white dyed with a lot of blue coloring.  I baked the blue in one round pan and made cupcakes with the rest.  I stacked 5 red and white layers (with cream cheese frosting), then another set of red/white/red.  Just cut a circle out of the middle of the blue layer, cut the red/white/red circle the same size and squeeze in down in the blue ring.

It's a Grand Old Flag.  Cake.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Back To Work

So, you might notice that I didn't blog at all in June, and now July is almost over.

No excuses, I'm just a lazy blogger.  Lots of posts started, none finished.

But be prepared for a bunch.  Here we go.