Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Mennonite Girl in a Church Basement: A Quilt

I began this quilt three years ago when my Aunt Nancy decided to give me a bag of patches and a mostly-completed quilt top.  It was fabric from her childhood clothes, and she had pieced it when she was a young woman.



I was instantly drawn to the chaos of colors and loose organization.  I unified the quilt by using green perle cotton for handquilting on the front, mint-green backing, and green striped binding.  The name of the quilt refers to Aunt Nancy, the Mennonite girl as she was then, and the mint-green color of many plain Mennonite church cement-block basements back then (I haven't been in one for a while - maybe it's changed).




This is the second quilt I've made where I used three methods of quilting, and I'm really pleased with the texture and interesting creative process.  I don't get bored with it, even on a queen-sized quilt like this (the other quilt was for my mother, and the first time I used the felted ties was on this comforter).

I couldn't wait for the perfect cloudy day to photograph the quilt, so that's why it shows the sunlight and shadows.
Now, I started this quilt just because I loved the fabric so much, but I didn't have a plan for it when it was done.  In fact, it languished for a year because I didn't have a goal for it.


This spring, I knew that it needed to go to my cousin April, Aunt Nancy's youngest daughter.  So I told April I had a late birthday present for her, finished the quilt as I said her name to God over the stitches, and then we visited her in Philadelphia.  She was surprised and delighted and in literal need of a blanket.  Furthermore, she loves folky unique style like this for which I am grateful, because I have a fierce love for things that are not traditionally pretty or trendy. I wanted her to have the quilt because of her mother, but I wanted it to be loved for itself, too.


I am satisfied.  Happy.  And ready to begin another quilt!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Experimenting with Yeast-Raised Coffee Cakes

I mentioned that I was trying these coffee cakes back in the blizzard, but I have no notes and only one photo to show for it. 

The day before breakfast, I make a sweet yeast dough and let it rise once.  Then I spread it or roll it up for a 9x13 pan with some kind of fruity or nut stuff.  It hangs out in the fridge overnight, I bake it the next morning, and sometimes drizzle something over it.  

I love the texture of yeasted baked goods for breakfast over traditional coffee cakes made with baking powder or soda which can seem like eating cake for breakfast.  Too sweet for me!  

These are the combinations (to the best of my faulty memory) I have tried so far:

apple pie filling in the middle with cheddar cheese over top
blueberry/ginger pie filling with lime drizzle on top
raisins and toasted walnuts
Moravian sugar cake - butter, cinnamon and sugar on top
a caramel one from Marion Cunningham's breakfast book
home-canned maraschino cherries (mushy), thickened, with cream cheese drizzle on top

blueberry with lime drizzle
I promise to buckle down and post a real recipe for these coffee cakes.  Just hard to take notes and photos at breakfast around here!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

From the Scrap Bag

I made a few things for the baby and children's areas at our church, and I challenged myself to use only my small scraps.

First I made a runner for a dresser top next to the changing table (circa 1970! I love that about our church - sticking with the old things because there's nothing wrong with them except the latest style).

 I was continuing the jewel tones started by another mom.  The runner is not strictly flat, but since its function is really decorative and I also used up scraps, I let it go.



This is a single-thickness coverlet for one of the cribs.  I thought each crib should have a heavier blanket and a lighter cover for warm weather.  I did cut into yardage for the yellow, but the duckie applique is from a vintage sheet in my stash.


Then the dolly in the play area was dressed in cheap polyester things, so I made a dress and bonnet with scraps.  The ribbons are oddly placed, and one of these days I will take the bonnet home again and fix it.  And I will also make a little boy outfit for the dolly, too, so the children can decide how to play.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Phoebe's First Birthday

It's been a year since our baby girl was born.  Our last child's first birthday - that made my heart ache a little bit, but we did have such a good day and Phoebe was so delighted with all the birthday fuss.  She's spunky, that girl, and she was not overwhelmed by all the singing, crackling paper, shiny toys, loved ones, and cake (with decaf coffee and ice cream, of course, because Phoebe dearly loves to eat what the grownups are eating).

I was very proud of the cake.  It was banana chiffon cake because Phoebe loves bananas, and I put a peanut butter/butterscotch filling between the layers, and iced the whole thing with Italian meringue.  Then I made just a wee batch of pink confectioners sugar icing and piped little florets.  I was so pleased with the pretty, yet classy, yet slightly lopsided-homemade look.  It was delicious, too, especially with neapolitan ice cream.

I did not want to spend Phoebe's birthday making food and cleaning house, so I started working ahead more than a week in advance of her birthday.  I planned the light supper menu as soon as I sent out invitations, and that way, I could start planning.  I bought the ice cream probably 2 weeks before her birthday (and hid it in the deep freeze).  I made the cake layers almost a week before, and froze them, triple-wrapped.  The light supper was French lentil salad, homemade French bread, and cream of tomato soup.  The salad was made the day before.  All I needed to do on Phoebe's birthday proper was make bread and soup, assemble the cake, and set the table.  Success!  I still had energy and good humor left for the birthday party!

Phoebe loves books, although she generally prefers to look at them herself rather than being read to.  She loves to drop her baby while I'm changing her diaper, making little chuckle-whimpers which is the baby crying, and then I imitate a baby crying which makes her grin all over her face, and when I return the baby to her, she spanks it soundly with her hand to comfort it.  When a phone rings or a timer goes off, she says "oh! oh! oh!" in the manner of an alert until we respond - we're not sure if she's trying to say "phone" or just going on high alert the way the rest of seem to do when there's beeping.  You see we are so highly entertained by her, and she is just a dear.








Thursday, May 5, 2016

Saving Soap

What do you do with the bar of soap that washes itself down to a sliver?  My dad has always mashed it down onto a new bar of soap.  If the sliver is just too thick to mold onto the bar, soak it for a bit in a little water to make it pliable.  

For a few years now, I've been copying his method, pleased with the lack of waste and the continuation of a childhood detail so minuscule it's worth blogging about.



Monday, May 2, 2016

A Patchwork Antimacassar

Antimacassars are surprisingly useful and not very much talked about.  The name comes from macassar oil that was widely used on hair in the 1800s, so an antimacassar was anti (against) the oil staining furniture. In historical novels and museums, they are pretty doilies laid over arms and backs of chairs to protect the fabric from staining and wear.  However, some trains and airplanes also have these things, but typically disposable and ugly.  


So my mom was worried about her spandy nice new chairs in her beautiful new room - she had some old thing laid over the back of the chairs to protect them, and I offered to make her a patchwork antimacassar.  Because of course I love to be practical and I love to sew down my scrap bag.  She decided on the size she wanted, and I had free rein to make it.  



I simply made a patchwork rectangle, backed it with dark green, and added a decorative red blanket stitch around the edge.  I thought of doing some stitching in the middle, too, but decided the fewer bumps of stitching, possibly the more comfortable for the head leaning on it.  There are already the patchwork seams, of course, so maybe I should ask Mom how comfortable the antimacassar is turning out to be.  Except I think this is the chair that Dad usually sits in.  You know how people stake out their spots in the house - usually nonverbally and with great indignation if another person sits there (whoops - I slid over into my children's reality there!).  


Do you have antimacassars, or need some?  I don't, at my house, but I'm not expecting to keep my furniture in mint condition until the children are out of the house.  Decent, hopefully, but not without some wear and tear.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Secret for Happy Kids with Just a Few Toys

The principle here is simple and relates to other areas of life:  keep something out of sight for a little while and it becomes new and exciting when you get it out again. (We are embarrassingly like magpies, yes?)  Like seasonal clothing, or even the seasons themselves, or summer tomatoes, or toys.  Along with the rest of America, I assumed that children were happy with lots of fun toys.
 
No. No no no. No, they are not.

 I have learned from living with my children and watching other peoples' children (and I would lay money that scientific research backs this up); lots of toys overwhelm children both in play time and clean up time.  They don't use the plethora of toys to play in new and exciting ways every day.  Instead, they grow jaded and beg for new toys, which obliging, doting adults give them.

But no.

All we have to do is pack most of the toys away, unseen, and then rotate the toy selection every so often (every month? every week?  whatever you have energy for).  I have one shelf in the basement and one shelf in an upstairs closet dedicated to this.


She's saying "burrrr" (bear)


This post is coming from a recent toy upheaval at our house.  Phoebe is developing rapidly (talking! crawling!) and her baby toys were too babyish.  So I found little-kid toys in storage and started sorting them with her in mind, but my big kids fell on the toys with literal cries of joy.


I was astounded because I had put the stringing beads and Fisher Price toys away because they outgrew them.  But no - just having the toys out of sight for a few years made the little-kid toys interesting, fresh, and absorbing for my big kids.





We do not have a kids' play room at our house - we have little stashes of baby toys in most rooms and that's it.  The big kids have some toys in their bedroom and some in the playhouse outside.  That's it.  The rest are in storage and I have renewed determination to rotate toys to keep the fun fresh.  Because I do not want to drown in toys because they're usually ugly, plastic, and a sign of over-consumption.

And besides toys, we also have lots of books and the raw materials like tape, paper, cardboard, stuff in the recycling bin, and let us not forget the entertainment of cooking up an edible mess in the kitchen or the almost-helpful mess of cleaning the front porch with the mop and hose or going to the park or playing with the bunny.  You see what I mean?  I have little tolerance for plastic objects made just for children's entertainment.  I want to keep that stuff to a minimum.  Your thoughts?

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