Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Found Containers as Drawer Organizers

I love the jigsaw puzzle of a drawer, fitting all the little things in there so that people can grab what they need and also see the obvious spot to put it back.  Of course, this does not mean the drawer stays tidy or the things put themselves away again in their spot.

I do not buy drawer organizers anymore.  I use little boxes, bins, cups, and oddities when I can.

And I keep a spot in a closet just for this kind of random, found storage container.  The containers are all just shoved in there as I collect them.

I love learning to look differently at things, to see opportunities where previously I did not.  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

We Wear Black and Navy

I avoided navy for years because I hated trying to match navies.  I was raised in The Mennonite Women Match Everything universe (motto:  match or die in the mall trying).  I have clear memories of my mother hunting specific blouses all over the mall to match specific flowers in a skirt she was lugging from her closet.

After years of playing with fabric, I do not match my colors like that, but I still kept navy and black separate in my wardrobe.  Then Carly introduced me to the idea of wearing black and navy together.

How does that strike you?  Would you (do you) wear black and navy together?

Me, I thought it didn't "match."  And then I had a long talk about color with Rebecca, and I realized that I do not generally wear neutrals together.  I like to mix colors - red and burgundy is one of my current favorites.

thanks to my husband for the photos

So I thought I would see if I could marry the black and navy in my wardrobe.  And I liked the resulting outfit.  It's not easy to tell from the photos, but the sweater is navy and white, the skirt and boots are black.

And Genevieve was skipping ahead of me on the way home from church and I did admire her vintage navy coat against her black tights. . .

I think I wear navy and black together now!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Nice Winter Breakfast

Cardamom Braid and Tracy's winter fruit salad. Black coffee for the bigs and milky mint tea for the littles.

The cardamom bread needs more work before I recommend it to you.  Cardamom is probably my favorite spice and I clearly remember the first time I tasted it.  I was a sophomore in high school and my friend Krista brought a loaf of cardamom bread to school and shared it around as we walked through the lobby.  The flavor was exquisite and exotic.

The fruit salad is absolutely delicious.  The only tweak I made on Tracy's recipe was toasting the pecans and coconut.  I highly recommend it.

We ate in the extra-bright winter light from snow still on the ground.  But then there was plenty of sunshine in the afternoon when we watched a sugar maple being tapped.  The sap is running and spring is coming!  I've had my fill of winter - and what a tremendous lot of winter we got this year - and I'm eager for spring.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Extra Pillow

Time was when two sofa pillows total was plenty on our two sofas.  Then, Genevieve began perching on the end of a sofa Sunday afternoons, joining her father and me for reading and napping.  She needed a pillow to lean against.

It was a plain olive green pillow, and I decided to dig deeper into my scraps and make a cover for it.  I am so pleased with this side.  I love it.  I was thinking "rich red" and I love the results.

It's not shown in the photos, but I installed a dark zipper along one of the purple edges so the cover can be removed from the pillow.

But I'm not very fond of this side.  I handquilted a large spiral on it in green perle cotton. I can't quite figure out why I don't like this side.

Walk with me down this rabbit trail that will lead back to the patchwork: I was thinking of outfits this morning as I dragged my market cart home through the slush.  How some people match up all their colors very carefully and that bores me.  Then some people put on such a random assortment of clothes, styles, prints, and colors that I'm confused:  did they just put on the nearest things at hand?  This train of thought led to a new, helpful metaphor for myself:  I want my clothes and patchwork to be in harmony.  I am blending several notes that are beautiful together, not the same (matching) note over and over, but also not a fist-thump on the keyboard with discordant notes.  Occasionally there's an unexpected grace note.  Harmonious.

I'm not ready to ditch the time and fabric that went into the un-harmonious side of the pillow.  I am pondering what else to do to it to make it blend or burst forth or turn into more than the sum of its parts.  Any ideas?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Kitchen Pets

I have gradually developed a real zoo of bacteria in my kitchen.

The yogurt.  The kefir.  The kombucha. The sourdough starter.

I usually have one fermented vegetable mix in the fridge.  This is a mix of root veggies and ginger with leeks.

Then I'm growing sprouts in the little niche above the oven hood.  I have to remind myself to look in on them several times a day when they're growing.  This jar is sitting in a sunny windowsill to develop the green in the sprouts.

I like tending to these things as I wait for a child to finish a meal, wait for the coffee to perk, or just keep house as the snow falls outside.  I'm not a very successful gardener outside, but inside, my houseplants and kitchen pets are doing just fine.  What about you?

Friday, February 14, 2014

A White Valentine's Day

More snow: thirteen more inches on top of the four that was already hanging around.  At this point, my children wake up on weekdays and ask me if they have school.  School days are the exception, not the rule.

Thus, we have an entire batch of caramel popcorn to eat for breakfast (no school Valentine's party for Ben to take it to). I left the cayenne out of this batch to be kind to the kindergartners.  I was thinking as I stood in the kitchen staring at the snow that maybe I should make another batch with. . . rosemary. . .

Ben helped me make more peanut butter.  It's so pretty, wreathed in the bowl.  And it's warm, too, from the motor, so it's perfect for tasting.

I whipped up a denim pant-leg bag for Ben's valentines.  I used wide bias tape to finish the top cut edge and add a handle.  Then I cut a red oval and sewed it to the bottom to make a narrow bucket.  I couldn't resist putting on a plaid heart.  The valentines are written up and waiting for whenever school happens again.

Genevieve's bag with the ruffle is from preschool.
Fortunately, my husband and I don't have to cancel our Valentine's date because the babysitting (a date-night trade with friends) and the restaurant are just a snow-booted walk away.  Happy Valentine's Day to you!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Leather Envelope for the Tablet

There's a new technology baby at our house.  My husband bought a tablet for less than $100.  After several weeks, this is how it is used:

1.  quick checks in the early morning to see if school is delayed or cancelled
2. Downton Abbey watching from a comfier spot than our desks
3. resource at meetings away from home
4. math flash cards for Genevieve
5. alarm clock
6.  Tetris for the kids - occasionally

There is some overlap with our computers, of course, but I've been surprised at how handy the tablet is proving to be.  By way of reference, we don't have smartphones, ipods, or GPS.  Our laptop is ancient and slow - my husband mainly uses it to practice for exams. We have a TV that we use for playing DVDs only.

I sewed it a leather pocket with a closure like an old-fashioned envelope.  I used a "leather needle" (whatever that does) in my sewing machine and a piece of soft, beige scrap leather from our local fabric outlet.  I mainly use the leather envelope when I'm taking the tablet out of the house.

My husband is interested in the kind of tablet cover that opens like a book and holds the tablet to one leaf with elastic loops.

The children hover around the tablet like bees around a flower.  I'm sure we will need to discuss appropriate technology use with them, but for now, we're just winging it and hoping we're decent role models.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Suddenly, Pickles

Occasionally, market farmers will give me some vegetables with bad spots on them; they know my reputation.

Recently, a market farmer gave me a whole bag of bell peppers, about 10 in all.  Free.

Then, the next week, he told me he had pickles for me.  An entire half-bushel of pickling cucumbers, it turns out.  I did some rapid calculations involving time, hauling capacity, and dill. He saw the dismayed look on my face and kindly told me to just take what I thought I wanted. Again, free.

I took a bag and canned 10 quarts of dill pickles.  I discovered in the process that I didn't have enough apple cider vinegar or dill seed in the house.  I screeched out the door to pick up the kids (late) with the kitchen steaming, salty, and littered.  I was definitely out of the canning rhythm!

But the pickles look lovely.  I experimented with putting some green tea in the pickle brine to see if the tannin keeps the pickles crisp.  I used grape leaves for their tannin this past summer and the pickles are remarkably crisp.

Love this bumper sticker from Marilou, although the canning in this post wasn't with local stuff!

And next time I went to market, I took a carefully-wrapped jar of pickles to that farmer to say thank you for all the free veggies.  We were both pleased.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

June Days

I've stopped counting how many days off from school my children have due to bad weather this winter.  These are not "snow days," I tell my children, but "June days" because these days will show up on the end of your school year in June.  Buy now, pay later.

Ben with his collar popped, eating breakfast.

We don't drive anywhere on June days, but we do walk downtown to run errands or go sledding in the park.  Sometimes we have playdates with friends.  We've cooked and baked together and I've been working on my job search, taxes, health insurance, and photo storage at the odd times I can snatch at the computer.  We do not have cabin fever and we have plenty of projects yet to explore.  In fact, one of my goals this week is to tidy up my sewing space because there are several interesting projects spread on top of each other and I  work more effectively if my space is tranquil.

I'm happy with the weather - it's wintry as it should be in these parts, not like the mild, wet winters we've had for a few years.  I'm not juggling a job with childcare, so altered schedules simply mean slower mornings and pajamas at home.  When the kids fight, I send them outside, separate them, or get on the phone with a friend (using my lifeline - isn't that from a game show?  My scant TV knowledge is showing.).

Keeping Ben company at breakfast while sewing on a button and discussing the straightest thing I ever saw (his question).

Are you at home because of bad weather? What are you doing?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

International Ice Cream for Breakfast 2014

My husband asked me why we weren't walking downtown to the ice cream shop to eat ice cream for breakfast there.  Because every other morning of the week, I am cajoling people to get up, get dressed, look decent and then, get out the door at some agreed-upon (or contested) time.  I like a holiday from that routine.  I like to wear my pajamas and let my hair run wild as long as I want to for just one day a week.

So.  I made hot fudge sauce, ice cream, and waffles for International Ice Cream for Breakfast Day.  Most of us also ate bananas.

Everyone was happy, except for Genevieve who does not care for vanilla ice cream. She celebrated International Hot Fudge and Waffles for Breakfast.

 I considered making a new Jeni's flavor, but really, simple vanilla seemed kindest to our breakfast palates.