Friday, March 30, 2012

My Favorite Birthday Gift

I confess that Ben was making a hotpad for Uncle Graham.  I asked him if he would consider giving the beautiful hotpad, his very first, to me since my birthday was a few days away and he could make another one for Uncle Graham.

Ben very sweetly said yes.

I am shameless.  But a mother has to look out for her own memories, right?

Ben wrapped the hotpad himself and I pretended to be very surprised when I opened it over breakfast in a little sunny cafe. 

I asked him to hold the hotpad so I could take a photo.  He did all the color selection for the weft.  I steered him to all white for the warp.  And look, Deanna Beth, I wove it with every other strand instead of every two.

My birthday was a lovely, peaceful day.  The sun came out, but we got a little shower too.  I had an entire hot fudge sundae with salted caramel and black cherry ice cream and by the end, it was just too much.  There was a little boutique shopping, a morning snooze and read on the sofa, and a bit of sewing.  My loved ones were with me, my loved ones called me and texted me.  Too bad I don't have another birthday until next year. . .

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Why, Yes, I Darn My Dishcloths

I used to banish them to the rags when they got holes, but I wondered why I bother darning socks then?

I need dishcloths more than I need rags.

I speculate that our dishcloths get holes in them because we wash sharp things carelessly and accidentally cut the yarn.  It's dorky, but I get happy about choosing the yarn colors to darn the holes.  Colors make me so happy.

To radically change the subject, what is NOT making me happy is trying to figure out schooling for our children next year.  We are planning to put Ben in preschool (where? where? where?).  Genevieve will be in first grade (where? where? oh, nevermind).  I told my husband that I had patience enough to discuss it for 15 minutes last night.  I had done some preliminary checking and note-taking, just so you know I'm holding up my end of the parental decision.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Patchwork Blender Cover for Aunt Nancy

Because my mom gave her some of my patchwork hotpads for Christmas.  And Aunt Nancy says she loves my patchwork.

Serendipitously, my friend Caryn was showing me some of her mother's old patterns and lo, there was a 1970s blender cover!

I plopped the blender cover on my tableclothed table, ready to be set for dinner guests.

This was the first time I had success topstitching bias binding in place.  Usually I sew it on one side and finish it on the other side with handstitching.  However, I carefully got double-fold commercial bias tape because one side is slightly wider than the other.  That side goes underneath when you're pinning up the seam - then when you topstitch the top edge, the stitches catch the slightly wider edge underneath and neatly sandwich the raw edge.  Now I'm itching to bind more things.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Week in Suppers: mid-March

Monday: My husband cooked Red Lentil Coconut Curry (Simply in Season with the spices amped up). Raisins, sunflower seeds, and cilantro as toppings. Rice. Pickled lemons.
notes:  This recipe makes a big batch - we're having round 2 tonight for supper.  I have never told you about our pickled lemons!  It's a recipe from Julie Sahni.  They are fermented and keep in a glass jar on the counter for months - years, I bet. (I think they freak my extended family out a little bit).  We adore these pickled lemons and have to limit ourselves to one or two at a time because they are very salty.

Tuesday:  Back-yard dandelion with hot bacon dressing.  Roasted potatoes. Sour cherry cobbler.  Vanilla ice cream.
notes:  I like to have dessert with light meals. I also baked bread and made yogurt today.

Wednesday:  My husband made two stir fries:  one with bok choy and radish tops over rice, the other with cabbage, carrots, and peas over noodles. 
notes:  My husband usually cooks on the nights I get home from my job minutes before dinner. He is the stir-fry king.

Thursday:  supper club (a fabulous pumpkin lasagna with mushrooms - I'm getting the recipe)
notes: I love to cook, but I also love the extra hour or two on nights I don't cook.  I sewed instead.

Finished this French press cosy for my etsy shop!

Friday:  My husband and I had dinner out at one of my favorite restaurants to celebrate a friend's birthday.  At home with grandparents, the kids ate black-eyed peas, corn muffins with honey, and dandelion with hot bacon dressing.
notes:  Am I really an introvert?  Or maybe I just have wonderful friends.

Saturday:  Southwestern Corn Chowder (Simply in Season) made with roasted corn from last summer's corn roast.  Avocado.  Cilantro.  Cheese quesadillas.  Salsa from the Bowmans.
notes:  It was a rainy day and the soup was perfect. . . .but wow, I thought I made a big batch and I only have a pint left over.  I used up a lot of freezer food to make this meal, though.  I also made bagels today.

Sunday:  Make-Ahead Chicken Casserole.  Cranberry applesauce.  Green salad with vinaigrette.
notes:  I repeated the menu from the February fundraising meal. A comforting meal with an interlude to help friends who got a flat tire in front of our house.

Thanks to Carrie for the title and content idea!

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Powder-Blue Shirtdress (my first!)

I finally made a dress for myself after talking and daydreaming about it for a few years.

The fabric came from a king-sized Ralph Lauren sheet that I bought out of sheer love early in my married life.  We used it for a while until I became conscious that I didn't want to wear it out. So I put it in my cedar chest.  At one point, I was going to make a bedskirt out of it and started making lines on it with a Sharpie.  Thank goodness I stopped short.

The fabric is crisp and heavy.  The 10 buttons down the front were a bit pricey, so I used sparkly clear buttons at the cuffs. . . which I made up freestyle by looking at my husband's shirts.  The dress pattern (Simplicity 4171) had elbow-sleeves and I find them an awkward length for layering.  I have visions of layering this dress like a big shirt - over a skirt, under a skirt, under a cardi. . .

But for its debut, I just added turquoise earrings and brown boots. I have a red belt in the wings too.  And won't this look smart under a denim jacket? 

I admit that by the time I was done sewing this and fixing all the most obvious mistakes (a crooked belt loop, uneven cuffs, pinched collar facing, backwards lap of hem and facing), I hated the dress.  However, it fits me like a dream and that blue is so perfect.. . I'm coming around.

(thanks to my husband for the quick photo shoot after I came home from work)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

"Poor, dear, silly Spring. . ."

". . .preparing her annual surprise." (quote from a Wallace Stevens poem)

A pretty pink house with a red roof - those are ball-fringe curtains in the windows - with a delicate forsythia bush.

A happy day: we ate our first dandelion from our own back yard.  Ben proudly helped me pick it.  I couldn't help myself and weeded a flower bed.

Another happy, tiny little detail of my life is that the fat bar of French lavender soap has been washed away.

Its remaining little slivers were softened in water and melded onto the new bar of lavender soap.  I do this not out of thriftiness, but because my dad does it.  And I love my dad. 

Here's funny and real. Our children have only a little bit of dirt in their sandbox.  We're suddenly back into daily-bath-season.  Maybe that's why the soap is disappearing around here so quickly!

And I love Genevieve's outfit.  It is weirdly chic. There are several elements here to copy:  the mix of blues with dark green.  Knee-socks with capris.  Dark socks with light shoes. That killer part with the barrettes - very 70s, don't you think?

All of this spring contentment for Leila and Rosie's collection:  pretty happy funny real.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What To Do with Radish Tops

I'm being more deliberate about using up my freezer stash to make way for summer preserving. 

However, I don't think I'm going to make stock again before next winter and I still have radish and carrot tops frozen for that.  One day I was musing on the movie Forks Over Knives as I made soup.  I haven't watched it, but from what I can tell, it advocates a vegan diet or at the very least, eating lots of vegetables.

So I pulled out my radish tops and flaked them into the soup.  I've started adding them to anything saucy just to use them up and be all plant-based.

My husband is making a stir-fry with bok choy tomorrow night - I've got a bag of radish tops for him to throw in. I doubt he'll be as thrilled as I am.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Taking Homemade Food on Vacation

If I eat all restaurant food for a few days, I don't feel good and I want to feel good on vacation!  Plus, eating out is expensive and can be a royal pain with kids.  So I pack food.

On this weekend, I knew the inn had a fridge, microwave, and coffeemaker in the room.  We also had access to a lounge with chairs and tray tables (nothing says makeshift more than sitting on a bed to eat!).
Apples al fresco on a hike.  I took apples and the paring knife in my bag.

Packed Meal #1: lunchmock tuna salad (made with mashed garbanzoes)
daily bread

Dinner at the inn's restaurant - only so-so.

Packed Meal #2: breakfastgranola

Lunch out at a BBQ place.

Packed Meal #3: light supper
lentil salad with spinach and Jerusalem artichokes
homemade French bread
goat cheese

Packed Meal #3: breakfast
the rest of the French bread

a hearty, yet elegant Sunday brunch in a chic restaurant.  Ahhhhhh.

Packed Snacks, for the drive or whenever:
Pink Lady apples
goat cheese
cut-up carrots, celery, and turnips
dried mangoes

Eating breakfast and keeping an eye on the trains.
non-food items I packed:  4 shallow bowls that doubled as plates, paring knife, 4 spoons, 1 table knife, 1 cup (for the children to share), 2 mugs, dish soap

Sampling Turkish delight from the historic candy shop.
I'd love to hear your ideas for easy, healthy, thrifty trip food.  It's a feat to hit all three criteria!

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Refreshing Little Break

A weekend away, the first in a new place that we've ever really done, just our little family. 

Oh, how we needed it! 

And what a wonderful discovery:  our children are pleasant company, easy travelers!  They're not babies anymore - they don't need naps and if we space the food right, they don't have meltdowns. 

My friends, we are a recharged little family.

To keep our weekend reasonable, we stayed in an inn for off-season rates close to a national park. We went to the free museums and skipped the expensive wax museum.  We did lots of free hiking and water-play.  We were active!

Also, I packed four meals, and we ate out for just three meals, with only one of those being a dinner.  I can go into more detail in another post if you really want to know - I jotted down some notes for myself in my supper notebook when we got home.

Home.  I am so happy.

Friday, March 16, 2012

How I Keep Files and Don't Drown in Paper

1. I established an inbox and outbox. The inbox is on the desk.  The outbox is next to the front door so we can check it on the way out (we forget sometimes!). 

2. Once a week (currently Thursdays), I go through the inbox.  I know the popular maxim to only handle pieces of paper once, but I find that there are some that just need time to figure out what to do.  So I may look at it, ponder, and put it back in the inbox. 

3. Because I'm doing it weekly, my inbox only takes an hour or two to get through.  There are usually a few bills to pay and file. Three checkbooks to balance once a month.  There are appointments and phone calls to make.

4.  However, in February, I clean out last year's files, so that takes a few hours longer.

a.  I remove all of last year's bills from our 2-drawer filing cabinet (but leave any documents in the file that pertain to more than a calendar year).

b.  I put it all in envelopes, labeling them with the year and the number of envelopes.  I've found that the times we've needed a paper from an old year, it was not too hard to find the stack from the file.  Therefore, I don't separate and label each individual file.  Most of the time, information we need is on our tax papers.

c.  Then I stick the envelopes in filing boxes in a closet.  I keep 7 years, which is the minimum the IRS wants for an audit.  I shred older years.  Today I shredded 2003, and found my summer paystubs that solved the mystery of what year it was that I worked at the Amish museum.

d. Two files are permanent:  our major home renovation with plans, receipts, permits; the list and paperwork of our former tenants.

e.  Then I say to myself, "self, what treat would please you, as a reward for all this hard, adult work?"

5.  In March (it happened this week), I organize all our receipts and deductions that were accumulating in the file over the previous year for tax purposes - another hour or so of work.  Then my husband takes it from there.

What I did in my inbox this week:
A. entered children's dentist appointments in online calendar - recycled card
B. opened mail - recycled envelopes and junk mail, set bills in inbox
C. entered automatic payments for phone and electric in checkbook register - deleted notification emails
D. renewed car registration online, filed paperwork
E. made half-hearted inquiries into preschools for Ben
F. wrote a check for a charitable donation - mailed it
G. filed statement for retirement account

How do you handle the flow of paper/mail/filing in your house?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Italian Oranges

A little fruit magic my friend Doris taught me:  thinly sliced oranges with the juice and zest of a lemon, plus sugar.  I use 3 or 4 oranges to 1 lemon.  I don't measure the sugar, but it's probably about 2 Tablespoons.

Serve as a side in a rich meal, or as a dessert with cookies.

Tonight, we had ours after pasta and Swiss chard with basil cream sauce and French bread with olive oil.

Then the seeds and little seedlings were watered.

It's been summery here, but tonight the air was turning properly sharp again.

 And then I came inside and saw that rain is in the forecast.  No matter.  The children loved the sanctioned water play.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Teaching a Child to Iron

Genevieve was very excited when I told her the time had come for her to learn to iron.  She is 6-and-a-half, in case you wondered.

The adjustable ironing board made this easy.  I ironed one hanky and then handed the napkins over to her.  Watching my daughter handle a very hot iron was not easy, but she did great!  I stayed nearby and my main directions (with no forethought) were "wiggle and push! wiggle! push down hard!"

A few times I had to remind her to set the iron on its heel instead of burning an iron-print on the ironing-board cover.

But that evening, when I could tell our guests that Genevieve had ironed their napkins, everyone beamed with pride.  It is truly exciting to see a child maturing.

Monday, March 12, 2012

White Pizza from Cottage Cheese

When I make pizza for supper, I usually make two and for some reason, I make a tomato-sauce pizza and a white pizza.  I've used pesto or ricotta for the sauce layer. 

This time, I whizzed cottage cheese and a garlic clove in the food processor.

I topped it with lightly steamed broccoli, some mozzarella, dill Havarti, and artichoke hearts.  It was good, but it needed more zip - minced garlic or maybe some caramelized onions.  However, no one complains about pizza around here.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What I Do on Pinterest

I bookmark my favorite ideas that I find online.  That's it. 

I don't usually spend time looking at other people's pinboards (cool as they probably are), nor do I usually re-pin things that surface when I first login to the site.  I could disappear down the internet rabbit hole!

I am seriously concerned about my screen-time and the effect it has on the people around me, who need me here with them.  It's much more fun to be flitting through cyberspace, but it's a habit I know I would regret if my relationships in real time wither.  We don't have a TV, right, but the computer comes to almost the same thing in our life sometimes.  Crazy.

However, Pinterest is great for organizing the ideas I come across.  So I'm on it, but I'm not evangelizing you to get on and follow me unless you want to (see the button, for your convenience, in my sidebar).

Are you on Pinterest?  Why or why not? (And did you know that Pinterest members are 80% women?)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Vintage Soda Siphon

Where did my in-laws get this thing?  It's so beautiful and luxuriously heavy.  I keep forgetting to ask.

Not very thrifty, sadly, as a $1 cartridge makes a liter of seltzer

and scares the little boy when it snorts the first drink out. (At this point, I put down the camera and comforted him).

He came around.  We do love carbonation so very much in our family.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Pattern Weights from the Toy Box

I was taught to pin a sewing pattern to the fabric to cut it out.  Clumsy and time consuming.  A few years ago, I started weighting the pattern with whatever heavy objects were at hand.

But if you have a child who loves trains at your house, you have the best pattern weights around:  wooden train tracks.

Ben delights in helping and having "a job."  He fetched all the tracks for me, then watched closely as I cut a shirt dress out of a sheet (the one he is sleeping under on the camping trip).

And yet, it is possible to buy manufactured pattern weights.  I'll save my money for other things, thank you!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Cutter Quilt

I bought a big old quilt for $2.  Some patches were completely worn through and the whole thing was worn and faded.  The prints were charming, however, and I still felt the magnetism of that unmatched patchwork.

I immediately thought: hotpads!

It was the perfect handwork at our church women's retreat over the weekend.  When I returned home, I replaced some very greasy, stained hotpads in my drawer with great satisfaction.

And there are two sets in the shop, too!