Monday, February 28, 2011

Fixing a Bothersome Neckline

I liked this neckline in the dressing room and in theory.

But one day I realized I could cut off the ties and tuck the raw ends up under each other and make a casually coiled collar.  I did the sewing by hand.

Now I can wear necklaces or brooches.  Much better.

(This is the $4 mohair sweater mentioned in this post)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Floor Cloth in Time for Mud Season

We have a handy milk house bench close to the front door with boot trays under it; you sit there to deal with muddy shoes and boots. 

But between it and the front door had been beautiful wood floor and a towel thrown down to protect it.  Unattractive, ineffectual.

Enter Anna's floor cloth inspiration.

I found this linen on clearance, plus 50% off with a coupon:  $2 a yard, meaning my floor cloth cost a total of $8 because I lined it with old towels of unknown origins.

Now you can come in the front door with a big arrowed path straight to the handy bench and boot tray.  My husband is very impressed, and he has a specific design and utility sense.  Whew.

So far the floor cloth is heavy enough to stay in place (top and bottom linen layers, lined with towels) and easy to vacuum.  Rug possibilities are infinite now!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Savory Breakfast Oatmeal

I've been experimenting with making my breakfast oatmeal and hot cereal savory.   Normally, I add brown sugar, raisins, milk and tahini (thanks to Beth for the nut butter tip); lately I've added walnuts, cheese, olive oil, and extra salt.  It's comparable to a simple pasta or rice pilaf, still mild enough for breakfast.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Shoestring Chic #4: 1980s Foulard

My cousin April is in high school and she digs 80s style.  I was in middle school in the 80s, and I have to cover my eyes when I see her baggy dropped shoulders, pegged jeans, bright-on-black florals, and crinkled pastel pink.

But here is an 80s dress I like.  It's foulard, a print often found on ties, in good 80s colors of burgundy, teal, and old gold.  The sleeves are puffed at the shoulder and wrist and it's 100% polyester - Ben kept slipping off my hip as I held him in our usual manner during Sunday singing. (This outfit was church, Sunday dinner with friends, and party for the artists at the consignment shop).

I gave it a sly twist by replacing the burgundy buttons with little plastic mustard-colored stars.  And wearing it with boots.  I do like the blue cardi, too, because I look a bit deathly in burgundy.  I think I can wear 80s style with the high school kids now! 

80s dress:  FREE (from my secret thrifting source)
thrifted blue Gap cardi:  $3
brown tights: $7
my go-to clearance boots: $40
cobalt earrings:  made for me by my sister in law
glass ring, Ten Thousand Villages: $4

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Waiting for Grandma

With a bonnet on, this time, usefully, in the right season.

Beautiful wool sweater a hand me down from Rebecca's kids.  Ben has a matching green one.  I love Genevieve's blue Chucks (sneakers).

This morning, the ground is again blanketed with snow.  It would be pretty if this were December. . .

Monday, February 21, 2011

Free Breadcrumbs

This is a photo of my little crumb container from the freezer.  I put random pieces of bread in it, to whirl in the blender when I need bread crumbs.  And I knock the crumbs off the cutting board after I cut bread and put those crumbs in there too. 

I know it seems piddling and crazy.  But that is because I think we have forgotten how our great grandparents did things.  They reduced, reused, and recycled before those acts were named or celebrated.

Recently, Rebecca's mother told me how her grandmother kept a little tin of basting threads.  Basting is like tape for a sewing project:  holds it in place until you can put the real stitches in.  So you rip out the basting threads after the real stitches are in.  It used to be a common practice to save the basting threads and use them over and over.  I pondered this for days, alternately inspired and incredulous.

That kind of saving and reusing used to be the standard; now it's odd. 

The standard now is disposable everything.  Disposable some-things are handy for traveling, yes - but I hate to see groups using paper plates, or worse, styrofoam, because no one wants to wash dishes.  Or disposable diapers because no one wants to wash the dirties.  How far can we really distance ourselves from the physical nature of eating and pooping?  Is this a contributor to our collective lack of purpose and deep uneasiness? Washing dishes is real work for a real event

I want to learn more about how my grandparents and great grandparents handled their material things and work.  I haven't started saving my basting threads because I don't know enough about sewing to really baste anything. . . but I have stopped feeling silly and apologetic for saving the crumbs from the cutting board.

P.S. Shoestring Chic #4 this Thursday!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Cure for Late Winter Wardrobe Blues

Pin a flower at your waist.  Rebecca spotted this idea on a vintage pattern.

The more colorful, the better.  Yesterday felt like spring, today the wind ripped my washline in half and tossed the sheets in the next yard.  We need flowers.

Be sure that you pin it on the hip that is not the resting place for children and boxes and bags, if you pick those things up frequently.

More flowers in the shop - and you can always convo me there for a different colorway.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Morning Sun on the Sconce

My husband and I hung something else on the walls: an iron candle sconce that his grandparents bought in Denmark.  I have photos and frames littering the living room for a big project coming up, but a wall has to be painted first, so the trim has to be finished first, so, soon. . . .Hanging pictures is A Big Deal for this household.

I am pleased with the assembly of candle, lamp, pothos, and Klimt print.  And, of course, the sunshine!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Boa Constrictor Among the Plants

Finally, at the end of winter, I killed three birds with a draft snake. He's lumpy, so I call him the boa constrictor who just ate a few (three) birds.

the birds:
1.  small amount of blue wool yarn in my stash (a felted dishcloth would not be cool)

2.  a very large crack in our old Victorian house windowsill

3.  wool felt scraps in A's shop that she was thinking nobody wanted; I thought long and hard about what to do with them:  some of the scraps are big enough for applique, but most of them would be perfect as stuffing for pillows and. . . .draft snakes.

I just knit a long rectangle in garter stitch, then stitched it together into a tube and stuffed it with felt scraps.  I'm sure there are other names for this thing.  What do you call it?

Related:  my ancestral jade plant is growing so happily and lustily, I feel like a proud new mama.  I also feel a connection to my grandmother, since this is the only plant left; the original jade that my sister had died.  So, no pressure, but mine is the only ancestral jade left.

I pinched off some tips and stuck them directly back into the pot soil.  They are growing! 
Everything feels possible.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Naked Spring Rolls

I started out to make spring rolls to go with hot and sour soup. . . and realized I was out of spring roll wrappers.  The children were twining around my legs, whining, so in desperation, I mixed up all the stuff I was planning to use for the spring rolls anyway. 

It was GREAT.  As in, so great, I made it again on purpose and we named it:  naked spring rolls.

What I mixed together:

leftover cold rice (but you could use cold noodles)
sliced Chinese cabbage (or regular cabbage)
chopped scallions
grated carrot
chopped cilantro
Hoisin sauce to taste - it's no chore to taste it until you get it right!

We garnished our naked spring rolls with chopped salted peanuts.

Truly, spring roll wrappers don't really have a taste, just a little texture, and my amateur spring rolls were prone to falling apart anyway, so this is a wonderful invention in our house.

Monday, February 14, 2011


He hung up my $5 bulletin board from A's creative reuse shop.  Put a heart on it for me.  Love.

And actually, after this photo was taken, he hung the bike on a wall because I insisted I wanted the floor space.

Genevieve made valentines for her preschool class - a joy to her, who makes cards and gifts for everybody using scraps from the paper recycling bin and advertising circulars.  I bought plain heart cards and envelopes  because I wasn't sure her classmates would get her artistic vision otherwise.

I snitched a plain canvas bag from my dad, who didn't care, and decorated it so she could carry her valentines in style. 

One heart pocket on the outside, a jean's pocket on the inside.  A ruffle stitched around the top.  That was nice sewing therapy

Even though I'm not the kind of mother who thinks "holiday + kids = special craft", Ben and I baked heart cookies this morning.  It was wonderful fun because he was so happy and dextrous and surprisingly willing to let me guide him.  I'm going to make pink Italian Meringue for the top.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cocktail Sauce is Not Just For Shrimp

It's fab on top of leftovers, made into little croquettes, dredged in flour and fried.  This leftover is Big Bear Best Rice Ever, which is, in short, a cheater risotto.  I use whatever greens I have on hand for it.

Put some ketchup in a bowl.  Add generous spoonfuls of horseradish, a slug of lemon juice, a bit of Tabasco.  Taste.  Add more horseradish.

Turn the vent fan on high so you don't smell like frying food for days.  Try to save some cocktail sauce to eat with the croquettes.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Chartreuse Drapes, Finally

Last year, I hunted in vain for several months for the right shade of chartreuse for living room curtains:  greeny yellowy gold.  Not too green, so it wouldn't like Christmas year round with the twin red sofas.  Not too yellow, because the room needed a cool note.  Light enough to not steal the spotlight.

I ordered several different fabrics online, but none were right.  I brought home home dec samples from JoAnn's.

I went to the fabric outlet for something else. . . and found a breathtakingly perfect heavy, lustrous chartreuse with diamonds woven in.  By my measurements, I needed 15 yards; all that was left on the bolt was 13 and 7/8 yards.  I bought it anyway.

It took me 8 months to cut into this fabric because I did my math (I'm bad at math!) over and over again, measuring and figuring and covering sheets of paper with calculations.  I'd lay the papers aside, in a kind of sewing terror, and then I'd have to start all over again when I approached that gorgeous fabric a few months later.
The drapes themselves are simply hemmed rectangles (except for the two that I had to piece) clipped to the curtain rings.  They are elegant and simple, exactly what I wanted.  We are so happy with our drapes.

 And I'm telling you the best part last:  I got all that fabric, 13 and 7/8 yards, 60" wide, for $60!  Most of the other heavy, silky stuff I was pricing was at least $20 a yard.  You do the math.

The next step for the living room is new color on the walls.  Right now, the walls are mushroom color because we didn't know what we were going to do in there.  Then we got the red sofas, I started the Klara Annabella, and you know the rest.

And when it's all done, I will be a better photographer and I can show you the whole shebang.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Shoestring Chic #3: The Ultimate Wool Skirt

I was trying to take a picture of the toothbrushes.  Joking.  OK, this is my favorite skirt.  I should have taken a better close up so you could see the multitude shades and colors in it.  I can wear every color in the world with it and it looks great. 

You've seen this necklace before.

Shoestring Chic:
vintage plaid wool skirt: $24
long john top is from high school, I think
scarf: gift
boots: $40
tights: $7
total:  $75