Monday, December 31, 2018

The Homemade Christmas Gifts

It has been a good Christmas, complete with a new baby born to my brother and his wife!  I knitted him a wee cap back in November.

I also made my sister a Nola Cloche.  She had admired mine, and dropped copious hints that she would love one (and a quilt, too - she has let the universe know that she wants a Margo quilt; the universe is listening, honey).

 I had to rip out a large section of the hat when I was making it because somehow I miscounted stitches or added stitches or something.  But my knitting has progressed far enough that I can fix some mistakes, so I'm extra-gratified that it fits her (and her guy!) so nicely.

And I made him some hotpads, too.  We drew names for Christmas gifts, and I got his name.  In typical guy fashion, he only had one boring gift on his wish list. Since he's an amazing cook, I made him some hotpads to go with the boring gift he was expecting.

I am deeply grateful to all the wonderful adults who teach and care for my kids.  I made two dishcloths for Phoebe's preschool teachers - I still intend to do something for the other teachers.  No law that says gifts and notes of appreciation can only happen at Christmas, so I'll aim for January.

So that's some of the homemade Christmas goodness On the Record.  How was your Christmas?

Monday, December 3, 2018

Two Kitchen Patchwork Projects

I keep my kitchen plastic bags in a fabric cylinder with elastic ends.  What is this thing called?  No idea.  But it sure is useful!  

No matter how much I try, plastic bags continue to come into this house.  I don't buy ziploc bags or plastic wrap, but I wash and reuse the bags as much as possible.  The non-ziploc ones live in this fabric bag.  My old one was plain red gingham and getting grimy and threadbare.  The new one is much prettier and made only using scraps from my piece bag.

Then I recovered the kitchen stools.  The red covers that I jury-rigged were getting worn and grimy beyond washing.  I did use them as patterns for new ones, which are that vintage printed patchwork from the 70s that I love (and that, to be frank, Mr. Thrift hates; "Holly Hobbie stuff" he calls it, which is not a compliment). 

This time, I backed the fabric with plain canvas and added ties on 4 sides to help them stay on.  I think I should have used a darker ribbon, or a self-fabric tie, but there will be next time. And that may be sooner rather than later if Mr. Thrift prevails!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Deep Blue Sea: A Quilt

I made this queen-sized quilt for my husband and my bed, and I pictured it being deeply dreamy and somewhat sleepy in shades of blue and grey, with some soft orange to hot it up just a little.

Well.  Look at the vibrancy and zing that resulted! 

I do really adore patchwork for its ultimate surprise, and I do love this quilt, but it cannot be called restful and quiet. 

Its name is "Deep Blue Sea," a reference to the sleepiness and rest I envisioned, and the reality of the color and churn and surprise that actually lives in the depths of the sea (I mean, that's what I see in National Geographic, ok?).

This pattern is the scrappy trip around the world.  I googled tutorials and went from there. I started the first block in November 2016, and finished the quilt top in time to take it with me on our family trip to Maine in June to start the handquilting.

I had not planned to do a border, but I couldn't resist the urge to play, so I thought of having the trip-around-the-world break into a blue border in spots.  But I also used some large patches in the border of the prints used in the blocks because I adore scrappiness.  In this case, I think the effect is too chaotic and would have worked better with a blue border punctuated just by a few scrappy trip blocks.

I pieced the back of the quilt because scrappiness is my jam.

As for the quilting, I thought I would knot the orange streaks with orange wool and felt them into little balls.  But after doing all the handquilting on the rest of the patches, I changed my mind.  The orange did not need any more highlighting, the quilt did not need any more lively texture. 

I did some machine quilting in the solid border as I love to do by way of framing the quilt.  The handquilting is all in blue-grey perle cotton: I like the stitches to show up more than just create texture.

Overall, I am pleased with this quilt.  It's a bit short on the sides for our standard queen bed, so I will remember not to trust the packaged batting's measurements next time but do my own measuring.

The back of the quilt is the restful, soothing side with the wonderful stitching pattern, so I expect to show either side of the quilt depending on my mood.

I'm on to Phoebe's quilt already! I do love to have a big project humming along in the background.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Chinese Tomatoes and Eggs: A Quick Supper

Here's a complete meal made from start to finish while the rice cooks, so 20-30 minutes tops.  You've got veg, carb, and protein just like that.  And if white rice is not whole-grain enough for you, replace some of the raw rice with bulgur wheat!  Or just plan ahead and make brown rice.

I got this recipe from the New York Times magazine a while back, but tweaked it a bit.  I rearranged it so I could walk through the steps brainlessly and have to hand what I needed.  It's not exactly a stir-fry, but some of the things need to be ready to go once the stove is turned on.

Also, although it absolutely delicious, it's not the prettiest meal so it might not be company food or teenager food or whoever else needs food to look like a TV ad.  So that's why I only photographed the finished bowl and not the served food.  

Chinese Tomatoes and Eggs - serves 4-6

Set rice to cook.

Beat together and set aside:
5-6 eggs
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. dry sherry

Chop 3 scallions. Set aside.

Mince 1 tsp. ginger. Set aside.

Stir together and set aside:
2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. ketchup
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. cornstarch

Now cook! 
In large skillet, saute for 2-3 minutes:
1 Tbsp. oil
2 scallions, chopped

Add and scramble egg mixture until almost set. Remove to serving dish.

In skillet, heat 1-2 Tbsp. oil.
1 tsp. minced ginger
and fry just until fragrant.

Add 2 cups chopped tomatoes with juice.

When tomato mixture in skillet is hot and bubbly, stir ketchup mixture in and whisk over low heat until thickened.  Stir in eggs.  Cook gently until eggs are thoroughly cooked.
Serve over hot rice with remaining 1 chopped scallion sprinkled on top.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

A Red Corduroy Dress for Phoebe

I didn't plan this to be a Christmas dress: Phoebe needed another Sunday dress, and this red corduroy needed that ribbon.  I played around with lace and other trims, but couldn't settle on something until I dipped my hand in my piece bag and found this green calico (from my summer dress!).  Somehow it is 1970s and Scandinavia and Christmas all in one, yes? 

Furthermore, I associate yellow with Phoebe, perhaps because her name means "bright" or perhaps because she is in the same family position as my sister whose favorite color is yellow.  There's yellow in the calico and the ribbon, and so I went ahead and finished the hem inside with yellow bias tape.  What can a girl do but carry her yellow purse to complete the ensemble?

I found this pattern easy to sew up.  It's a touch big for Phoebe - I might take in the shoulders a bit. The corduroy and the patterns are pass-ons from Mrs. R when she moved to a retirement home, so this is a really thrifty dress. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

My Newest Baby Step: Diva Cup

Every year, it seems I find the strength and inspiration to take another baby step in being environmentally-friendly.  After reading Cup of Jo's post and talking to a few friends, I bought a Diva Cup (with coupons, duh).  
Requisite pretty photo: a Native American skirt at a NY antique shop. In case you ever wondered what to do with your rick-rack stash.
I'm so pleased with it! And sorry I waited so long.  I avoid disposables where I can, to be environmentally-friendly, and a menstrual cup is a pretty great switch.  Less trash, less fuss, cheaper over the long run.  I'm glad I tried it first on an at-home day, because it took a few tries to get it in a comfortable spot.

Any new baby steps you're taking to be environmentally friendly?  You've been a great source of ideas for me.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Tikkun Olam

According to a letter my pastor wrote to our Jewish brothers and sisters this week, "tikkun olam" is translated from Hebrew as "repair of the world."

Soak that in.

I definitely want to repair the world.  Mending is holy work to me.

And Jewish teachings say of tikkun olam, "it is not upon you to finish the work, nor are you free to neglect it."

Soak that in, too.  The balance!

I will be putting those words before my eyes and continuing to pray for us all as we work.   

Monday, October 29, 2018

Mending for a Professional

I do little mending jobs for various people who know me, who refer me by word of mouth.  I was particularly proud of this job: a beloved blazer for a dear friend who is an adjunct professor.  But she's a professor in a creative field, so a visible mend on her jacket seemed like an opportunity for art.

I went for the look of Japanese boro mending, with all handstitching because I couldn't fit the sleeve under my machine and didn't want to take apart a lined sleeve to do that.

The cuffs were fraying as well.  I put on black bias tape, handstitching it down to the inside to keep it looking tailored.  It looks good with the black piping already in the blazer.

I love how the patches turned out! Subtle, yet distinctive.  Even artsy.  Even more important, dear Kim loves her mended jacket, too.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Another Green Dress

When I made my first green dress, I told you I had a second green one planned from this pattern.  Here it is! It's been finished for weeks, but just not photographed.

This fabric is so delicious.  I got it at a rummage sale for a few dollars.  It's the soft green color of money, with an obvious weft of white thread running through it - looks like linen, but it's soft and light like cotton shirting. 

Also, that border print and striping is so pleasing to my eye, although it gave me fits to lay this dress out and plan and match the stripes.  I had to rip a few seams to get the stripes to line up, and even still, if you look closely, they don't match exactly.

I skipped the shoulder ties and allowed the border print to dictate a longer length.  So this dress feels a little dressier than my green calico.  I put on the scarf and jacket for the cool morning - I was pleased with the dash of red next to the green.  Christmas can't claim all the red and green!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

More Thoughts on Straws

When I made a straw roll-up for my purse, my dear friend Rachel asked me to make her one, too.  And another one for utensils (the red one pictured below).  I had so much fun putting together fun scraps for her! 

And I love that I was inspired to ditch disposable straws by a PTO dad, and then my blog post inspired Rachel.  I think little actions can have wide ripples and little actions are worth doing!

I do not always remember to whip out my straws.  We don't go out to eat very often, so I'm not in the habit the way I am taking reusable bags into any store I'm shopping at.

Sometimes restaurant servers will lay down a handful of straws on the table and then that's easy to push them aside and pull out my reusable straws.  Sometimes the server will bring the waters with the straws already in them, with the paper left on top.  So that's a bummer, because those straws are destined for the trash already, whether we drink through them or not. 

Recently at a restaurant, there was a sign on the table that drinks are served without straws unless you request one.  Now that's a successful approach!  It prompts people to thought and choice.