Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The No-Spend Costumes

We didn't spend a penny on Halloween costumes this year, but the catch is that Genevieve's outfit was a present from Granny and Grandpa's trip to Spain.

A flamenco dancer.  Complete with jewelry, please note.

And then we have a black-capped chickadee. The bird was entirely Ben's idea. When I asked Ben what kind of bird he wanted to be, I expected him to pick his favorite color or Big Bird; but out he comes with "chickadee." Well, I couldn't resist that sweetness. 

I made the wings following this tutorial, only a little messier;  I also added a backpack-like tie and 2 forearm ties because the chickadee was prodigiously vigorous.  It took a lot more feathers to cover those wings than I expected, so it was more of a time investment than I planned, but I was so pleased with the whole effect.

Chickadees have black caps (we borrowed Daddy's dark-gray beanie), yellow bellies (a piece of yellow flannel from my stash pinned to his belly), and then the black wings with some white speckled in.  Daddy made the paper beak just before we ran out the door.

We stopped by friends' and family's houses, and met some new neighbors along the way.  Coming home at bedtime, we stopped to light our jack o' lanterns on the front porch. 

And now the  chickadee wings are in the dress-up bin, the ruffly dress is hung carefully in the closet, and there are buckets of candy waiting for me in the kitchen.  Hoo boy.  I could like Halloween.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How We Repurposed Old T-Shirts

First of all, Hurricane Sandy was graciously brief in our area and we didn't even lose power.  We're saying prayers for others who were not so fortunate.

I found this quick little tutorial and made three bags out of Ben's old, stained t-shirts that he was outgrowing.

The shirts were too precious to him and freighted with memories to cut into rags, and too stained to be thrift store donations. I looked at a bag somebody else made that I have and puzzled out the little boxed corner (I don't know the name) for a little fancy extra.

I did these bags while Ben was at school, so I very brightly presented him with his own Hot Wheels bag when I showed him what I did.  It's all in the presentation, people.  He didn't fuss that I cut up beloved shirts and kept two of them.

I'm keeping these bags in my shopping cart that I wheel down to market.  They are a nice size for keeping produce corralled until I get home and pop it into (reused) plastic bags for the fridge.  I'm very pleased (and a little bummed about all the sweet t-shirts I cut into rags).

Monday, October 29, 2012

It is Possible

We have Hurricane Sandy bearing down on us.  What is possible?  Well, anything. 

I hesitate to blog about this - I usually need a little distance and perspective before I want my words out in cyberspace.

I wonder if we have done enough to prepare.  I usually keep a deep pantry, but I've only got a few onions and no powdered milk (that is meant to be a little humorous).  I filled up jars with water (but I think the water warning is more for people with wells with electrical pumps).  My freezers are full to brim, and my dad promised to schlep his generator over to us for a few hours to help them stay cold if need be.  I've got a gas stove, so the cooktop will work just fine in a power outage.  I've washed every scrap of dirty laundry in the house.  The gas tank is full, cash is on hand, cell phones are charged. . .

and I am so antsy.  I can't focus long on anything before I think of some little thing I could do, so I jump up and do it.  We are snug at the moment.  Momentarily.  It does feel comforting to be in our little city with family nearby.  I am coaxing myself to trust God for. . . what?  We'll see.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Bunny and a (very casual) Bunting

We have a new 7-year-old in the house!  And she is the proud owner of a little brown bunny, picked up from the Amish farm as a surprise right after school.  This is a big deal.

Genevieve has pined and begged and schemed for a pet as soon as she was old enough to talk, which was pretty young. 

Finally, her father and I judged that a little outside bunny could suit everybody.  Rabbit hutches are not easy to come by for less than $200 around here, so my husband is doing some more stash-busting; I can hear the hammer banging as I type this.

Genevieve was so excited by her bunny that she ate approximately two bites of her requested chocolate cake with peanut butter icing. 

She told us the bunny is the best gift in the world, that she won't have to catch salamanders in the yard anymore - she'll save her attention only for her bunny.  I figure the salamanders owe me one.

On the birthday morning, I was suddenly seized with a bunting madness, and tore into my fabric in a kind of frenzy.  I don't know how these creative fits come on (too much Pinterest?), but I like to burn through when it's here.

I call this bunting "casual" because I finished no edges and cut out the triangles pretty fast; other people would call this sloppy in the extreme.  I was focused on a fun party vibe, so I chose chaotic colors and random bits of trim out of my stash.

(A useful side lesson:  sewing with fringe trim is tricky.) I wanted the bunting to look good from both sides, so I sewed together two triangles of the fabric that had a wrong side. 

 I strung the bunting around the dining room for the party, but had to take it out on the balcony this morning to try to get a better photo. I'll get it out for Ben's birthday in the spring; he is pleased that it makes the dining room look like a used car lot.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Basket of Grimes Golden Apples

I took my sewing machine in to be serviced and there on the front porch of the shop were apples for sale.  This is so common in my neck of the woods - beautiful produce for pennies out in the country when the gardens and orchards are overflowing, available by happenstance.

So I bought more apples than would fit in my wooden bowl and put these, the Grimes Golden, in a basket.  I had never had or seen Grimes Golden apples before; I bought them because I recalled their name from my Virginia Mennonite cookbook, Mennonite Country-Style

I think this bunch cost $2.

The basket graced our table for a week or two.  I just love a functional centerpiece.  I made a pie, a crisp, and a cobbler, each time taking a few Grimes Golden apples out of the basket.  Did you know that baked apple desserts and applesauce benefit from using several different varieties of apples?  It's true!

I roasted the last Grimes Golden apples last night in a pan of brown sugar and butter, to be eaten with plain yogurt (and toasted almonds, except I forgot).  We ate them for dessert with my sister at her house.  She is recovering form surgery to repair a torn ACL, poor thing, so we've been helping with meals and whatnot as much as possible.

Now the Grimes Golden apples are gone. I learned that they are quite soft and mealy and very tasty.  There are very crisp Golden Delicious and (my favorite) Cameo apples in the bowl now.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Little Calico Blouse

Genevieve finally grew into a teal corduroy jumper that I bought at a thrift store years ago.  She had nothing to go with it, but I had a vision of a little calico blouse.

I had a hard time tracking down tiny flowers in colors that would suit - I had a very specific vision in my mind, although I couldn't figure out how the vision got there.

I added some length to a size 5 pattern, but the neckband turned out a bit tight (I just moved the buttons down).  It's the first time I sewed raglan sleeves, and they weren't too hard.

And yesterday, I traced the source of my vision:  it's my first-grade school picture from the early 80s. . . a calico blouse and a corduroy Osh-Kosh jumper.  Happy.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

At the Country Fair

It was a perfect, crisp autumn afternoon.  We met Rebecca and her kids, and our first stop was to see Clara's blue ribbon for a perfect navy linen jumper.  Then we looked at the other ribbons from Rebecca's family (talented bunch). 

Clara's crabapple jelly on the kitchen table - before we left for the fair proper

Then, while Clara took my littles to see the pigs, Rebecca, Aden and I settled down to a serious perusal of the canning, baking, and produce displays.  As homemakers and gardeners, we were curious to see what got blue ribbons.  With the produce, it was fairly obvious:  biggest, or straightest, or most colorful. 

With the baked goods, there was a little snitch out of each one, but nowhere could we tell what exactly the judges were looking for (and furthermore, it was such a tiny little bite, was there only one judge?  And how on earth could that one judge remember a chocolate cake from 10 bites back and make a fair decision?).  And for the bread, I wanted to know what blue-ribbon bread qualities they were looking for:  a fine crumb, not too yeasty, nicely raised?  But what is nicely raised when bread recipes vary so much?

I wanted to be educated by observing the prize-winners.  Maybe I need to get installed as a fair judge so I can get insider knowledge on the judging guidelines and some free cake.

We didn't even buy any fair food because we're on austerity measures and it was getting close to suppertime anyway.  But I regret it now.  What's a fair without something hot and fried in your hand?

It's a walk in an open-air museum on a gorgeous day with people I love.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What To Do with Old Spices

Throw them out.  There's nothing thrifty to do with them, and it's false economy to save them and hope they have flavor when, actually, they don't.

To wit:  this is supposed to be cardamom naan (naan is a yeasted Indian flatbread).  I adore cardamom.  I keep a little bag, tightly sealed in two layers of platic, in the freezer for the rare occasions I need its unique flavor.  Apparently it was older than I realized.  The recipe called for 1/4 tsp. and I added over a teaspoon of my cardamom.  I was so sad:  there was not even a whiff of cardamom in the finished naan!

I went through the rest of my stored spices and herbs relentlessly.  They either reside in a dark cupboard, tightly sealed, or in the freezer as I mentioned.  I threw out anything tasteless, and I have a few that I'm planning to test in cooking before I throw out.

Makes an excellent argument for shopping at my little herb shop with my little containers!  What good are bulk spices and herbs if they go tasteless before I can use them all?  Thrifty cooking that uses up odds and ends needs to handle flavors cleverly, so I'm going to be careful to have really flavorful herbs and spices on hand.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Yard-Garden (Dreaming)

Look at my dear friend's front porch:

Those are grape tomato plants growing gracefully up the twine.  Down in front are peppers, basil, and nasturtiums. There are logs as edging. 

It's a full-contact sport to get in there and get the tomatoes. 

I wondered if people take the tomatoes as they walk by?  She doesn't think so.  People would totally take the tomatoes on my street.  If it's not heavy or visibly locked up, people steal it off our porch.  I don't like this aspect of my street, but I know the drill.  I bet if I planted things like herbs and greens without such obvious fruit, I could be the sole harvester instead of the passersby.

Here she looks through the sweet potato vine to see if the sweet potatoes are ready yet.  Sweet potatoes in the front yard!  No grass to mow, just a pretty green groundcover that yields food.

I was inspired by my friends' garden-yard, the blend of unfussy practicality and beauty.  It's making me dream of new things for our yard.

And look, her husband made a neat ladder from fallen sticks.  It reminds me of Swiss Family Robinson, which I adore.

Yes, many things to consider, even as our yard sighs gently into a cold sleep.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Off They Go

A big batch of my work went to a local gift shop this week on consignment. (Locals, contact me to get the details if you wish).

hanging hand towels

For the first time, I made pencil rolls that were not special-ordered.  I hope I guessed right on colors and slots!  (By the way, even though they're not currently listed in my etsy shop, you can still order pencil rolls.  I currently have two special orders I'm working on for things not listed in my shop.  Just convo me in etsy.)

crayon wraps - pencil rolls - whatever you call 'em

I finished much of the binding on these hotpads on a roadtrip and also on my bus commute.

I had so much fun with the colors in this set - a riff on autumn and oxblood, the new it-color.

I really like the ribbon on this set, but can you guess why it's there?  (Hiding uneven corners! shhhh!)  Another little joke in these hotpads is that the pink-flowered fabric came from the gift shop manager herself - she had given  me a little bag of pretty scraps a month or so ago and what can I do?  Patchwork, that's what I do.

It's a good feeling to get this large project off my plate.