Sunday, May 31, 2015

Phoebe at the Wedding

The first major public outing for Phoebe and me was our friends' wedding.  I love getting ready for weddings.  I had actually purchased the wedding gift shortly after we received the invitation in March because I like to have the pick of the registry and because I was trying to complete every task I could before the baby was born.

However, I had a few minutes to play, and so I made the wedding card.  That's a page from a falling-apart copy of Daphne Du Maurier's Frenchman's Creek (which I did like and do own a better copy of); of course, I picked one of the lovey-dovey romantic pages to sew over.

Phoebe was given a pretty dress, but I wished for pretty bloomers to go under it, so I sewed up some lavender ones with a scrap left from Genevieve's pajamas. I used a pattern in my stash and modified it to Phoebe's hilarious measurements. Because I didn't think she'd be using these bloomers a lot and because I need any shortcut I can get right now, I did not finish the seam edges and I sewed the elastic directly on the fabric instead of making casings.

I don't have any actual photos from the wedding (way too overwhelmed with just keeping my wits about me for all the needs of a nursing mother and baby).  Here are gratuitous photos of Phoebe with my dad.  Our little sweetheart.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Quick Seven for Ben

I am enjoying quick little sewing projects as I lay around getting strong again.  Sewing is very interruptable, the perfect kind of creative project with a new baby around.

In this case, Ben suddenly remembered that he wanted a seven on his tee shirt because he used to have a "four" tee that was passed on from his friend John.  And he knew that John's mom had sewed it, so mom, make me a seven tee shirt already!

Holding the baby, I directed him to make a newspaper template for the numeral.  Then he pinned it to the fabric of his choice (his favorite green) and some non-fusible interfacing.  I zig-zagged the fabric to the interfacing (no need to get out the iron for fusible interfacing, see) and then shortened and widened the zig-zag and sewed the seven onto his shirt.  Ben chose orange thread - doesn't that look sharp?

Done.  And happy!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Organizing for the New Girl

We are still figuring out where all the baby gear goes and what we need.  A few quick notes/photos. . .
This is the downstairs changing station.  A basket of dry wipes with a squirt bottle of water, plus a changing pad.  The cloth diapers and extra diaper covers are in the vintage diaper stacker, and the basket can fit in there on top of the diapers, too.  The pail is for carrying the dirties out to the laundry room.

The first time I needed to pack a diaper bag for Phoebe, I realized I didn't have a system for homemade cloth wipes on the go.  I know my mom would simply make a washcloth wet and put it in a plastic bag, but I didn't want to have to mess with that every time I wanted to leave the house with a diaper bag.

So I sewed together two upholstery samples from the creative reuse store to keep the dry wipes in and  then I keep a water bottle in the diaper bag.  The water bottle is also to refresh the thirsty mama, a handy dual function.  The stiffness of the upholstery envelope is great for finding in the diaper bag, as I'm usually one-handedly feeling for stuff.

And yes, some photos of Phoebe herself.  Genevieve took the two of me with Phoebe - I was quite impressed.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Genevieve Makes Candy Bars

In the spirit of helpfulness and I'm-so-grown-up-compared-to-this-wee-little-sister, both children have been cooking up a storm.

They made Saturday morning pancakes all by themselves after I talked through the recipe with them the night before.  They frequently fry eggs for themselves for breakfast.

And Genevieve lobbied to make candy, most particularly pulled taffy, by herself.  I had enough spirit to say no and enough spirit to say yes when she found the "Candy Bars" recipe in Mennonite Country-Style.  Then I promptly lost my temper when she asked a question about butter. Once the peace was restored and I went out to the sofa where I belonged, she quite handily turned out these delicious bars.

The recipe note says that they taste like "the O'Henry bars" which I have never eaten or even seen for sale, so I'm assuming that's a rather vintage candy bar and I like the recipe all the more for it.

The bars themselves are buttery and crunchy on the bottom with that delicious peanut-butter chocolate layer on top.  They are pretty difficult to cut nicely, especially if you are  sleep-deprived and desperately in need of calories (hangry) from feeding a chubby baby.  Great food to have around the house!

Candy Bars - tweaked a bit from Mennonite Country-Style

Stir together until thoroughly mixed:
2/3 cup melted, salted butter
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
4 cups quick oats

Press mixture in bottom of 9x13 baking pan to form even layer.  Bake at 360 F for 12 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

When cool, melt over low heat on stove or in microwave:

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Add 1/2 cup coarse or chunky peanut butter.  Stir well.  Pour and spread gently and evenly over bottom oat layer in pan.  Allow to harden in refrigerator.  Cut into small bars - they're rich!  Makes 2-3 dozen small bars.


1. Genevieve used homemade peanut butter, which is coarsely ground.  I suggested that she could add some chopped peanuts if she wanted to approximate chunky peanut butter.

2. I think some or all of the corn syrup could be replaced with honey, although the flavor will change and I'm not sure honey would keep the flexible-yet-firm texture that corn syrup seems to give.  Corn syrup is the standard ingredient of all old candy recipes.  I welcome your thoughts and suggestions here (although I'm not opposed to a bit of corn syrup in homemade recipes because we're not eating much commercially processed food in this house, the problematic source of corn syrup in the American diet).

3.  The obligatory baby Phoebe photo.  One week old here, and getting ready for her first bath (she was insulted).  Phoebe is very alert and communicative, so much fun.  Photo by Genevieve.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

And Now, Phoebe

 a newborn in the newness of May 7 at 12:49 am, after a few hours of intense labor
8 lbs. 8 oz, 21 inches long

we are all well, thanks be to God!

p.s. The unrelated blog post on May 8 was scheduled prior to her birth.  When I upload a batch of photos, I usually churn out a spate of blog posts. Don't fret - I am devoted to the baby sweetie and there will be random silences on the blog for a while!

And p.p.s. I am happy to share way more details about Phoebe in private conversations and emails than I am in a public blog, so feel free to ask away with the understanding that my answer might be delayed. . . .

Friday, May 8, 2015

Ben Makes Graham Cracker Pudding

On Saturday, he insisted that he wanted to make a recipe that he could do all by himself.  He looked through Mennonite Country-Style and suggested banana tarts, caramel popcorn, or cookies. Take it easy, buddy!  He compromised with me and agreed that graham cracker pudding was a good idea.

I stayed in the kitchen, but he did all the recipe reading, measuring, stirring, etc. by himself.  I was impressed because I haven't done much cooking instruction with him.

And then he was very proud to dish up little bowls of pudding the next afternoon.

I must add that Genevieve was also bit with the cooking bug that same day; she made a lemonade "sirup" from my vintage Joy of Cooking.  (Recipe here - Genevieve used a lemon, a lime, and some bottled lemon juice). It's delicious and very convenient to have in the fridge.  I predict the lemonade syrup will be a staple this summer, and the big girl can make it all by herself.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Pittsburgh Salads and Chilled Tomato Soup

My husband was yearning to put something on the grill, so we started up the steak marinade and put a big sirloin steak on the grill.  So big that we had leftovers, which always trips my switch to make Pittsburgh salads.

According to my sister-in-law who comes from a small town near Pittsburgh, if you put fries on something, that makes it "Pittsburgh."  My version of this salad is based on one I ate at a restaurant.  On top of a green salad, I put slices of steak, roasted potatoes, tomatoes, and blue cheese dressing.  It's divine. 

And a note on the blue cheese dressing: I just mash up really good blue cheese with a bit of yogurt or kefir until it's a nice pourable texture.  Simple.

But I wasn't in the mood to buy out-of-season tomatoes for the salad, so I decided to make tomato soup and serve it chilled for the hot day.  It was excellent.  

In fact, one of my friends made me an Indian soup that has induced labor 2 out of 3 times (didn't work for me!), and one day I just pulled it out of the fridge and ate it cold.  It was also excellent.  

Now I have a new idea for summer:  serve any old pureed soup well-chilled, a fabulous savory smoothie eaten with a spoon.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Cheshire Cat Pajamas to Match

Rebecca gave me this hilarious vintage fabric she picked up somewhere.  I couldn't imagine what I would use it for - and it was at least 5 yards.  Then Ben asked me to make him summer pajamas (he usually wears something much more abbreviated than pajamas in the summer and nothing I have ever sewed for him), and I proffered the funny cat with their smug smiles and polka dots.  He loved it, and so did Genevieve when she got wind of it, and thus the plan for matching jammies was born.

However, I unwittingly chose two tricky patterns for the pajamas.  Ben's pajamas have a unique neckline - just two overlapping facings and no buttons or snaps or anything.  He says it is super comfortable, so I'm glad I persevered with that particular mind puzzle.

And the sleeves gave me fits - they looked like puff sleeves when I first put them in and the shirt was much too broad for Ben.  I did some ripping and hacking and the end result is quite fine for pajamas.

 Genevieve's yoke was terribly confusing to me, also.  Part of it still is:  it has those two funny vintage rhinestone buttons on the lavender part, but then there is an open keyhole that extends down into the bodice below.  Why, I cannot tell, because I don't think it's necessary for getting the top over her head. 

I didn't have quite enough cat fabric for Genevieve's pajamas, so I took a leisurely wander through a fabric store looking for something that would complement and girl-ify the cat fabric.  I'm very pleased with that lavender (the cats have purple spots - and Genevieve says they are leopards, not cats). 

I added white rick-rack to the puff sleeves and peter pan collar.  Genevieve will decide if she wants it to rim the yoke and the hems as well.  With such silly fabric, how can there be too much rick-rack?

Genevieve's pajamas are pretty enormous on her, but I figure that makes for sleeping comfort and several years of wear.

I've never sewed matching anything for my kids and it was so much fun!  And if you think they are willing models on an early school morning just after breakfast, you are wrong: I bribed them with chocolate.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Mending the Jute Bag

This is a Township Bag that my sister got for me in South Africa several years ago.  It seems to be a coarse woven jute and although it's two layers, I used it so hard that holes were worn into the bottom corners and the handles were being reduced to strings.

I actually did this mending project a while back, but the photographs I took did not show the mending well, so I tried again with the photos this week.  I'm not sure they're better, but I'm not spending more time on this because the bag itself works beautifully with its sturdy mended spots.

I took some of the stiff yellow fabric from the skirt with backbone and reinforced the handles. I love the texture of the machine stitching.

Then I made a box-shaped bag bottom with several calicos and hand stitched it onto the bottom of the bag with lots of various colors of perle cotton.

My Township Bag has lots more years in it now!