Friday, February 25, 2011

bag lady

I really like bags.  I will probably really like this bag in about a week, or however long it takes for me to forget that I broke SIX needles while sewing it.  Six.  Needles. 

It is pretty classy though.  It's got pleats.  And a fancy button loop, the likes of which I had never seen before.  And I think that the bag's, shall we say, girth, shows off this beautiful floral watercolor fabric quite nicely.  Sometimes it's good to be wider than average. 

Here is a peek inside, where there are four large pockets, two on each side.  I wasn't certain how I felt about the large pockets at first, but now that I can see the overall size of the bag, I think they will be useful.  If I had more knitting supplies, I would put a skien of yarn in each pocket and the project I was currently working on in the middle section.  Maybe I need more knitting supplies. 

There were two choices for the handle length and I chose the shorter handles.  I'm happy with that decision.  They are still plenty long enough to swing over my shoulder, but I can also hold the bag by the handles and it doesn't brush the ground. 

There is a long, narrow pocket on each exterior side of the bag.  Perfect for knitting needles.  Or a bottle of water. 

I will probably start using this bag in place of my purse for trips.  I usually end up using my purse as a carry-on bag of sorts (just in the car, but it's a similar principle) and it fills up with snacks, Steve's glasses, my planner, and other assorted goodies.  I think this will work quite well and it is still narrow enough to sit on the floor by my feet if I choose.  Which I usually do.  I can't stand turning around in a moving car and I'm pretty sure it should be illegal. 

Today's plan: pack the new bag full of fun things and jump into the weekend.   

Wishing you a happy one!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

can you believe it

The daffodils have started blooming.  Take that, February.  We noticed the first blooms on the 21st, making them a full month early for spring.  So far there are two full blooms...

...and one that is still thinking it over.  If you remember, we planted 140 daffodil bulbs last fall.  I absolutely can not WAIT until 100 of them are blooming at the same time.  How will I get anything done?  Who will make dinner while I'm in the yard, staring at the beautiful flowers? 

Only time will tell. 

We also planted 15 hyacinth bulbs for some color variety.  I can see three of them pushing their way out of the ground already. 

Nobody planted all these weeds in the yard, but at least they have the decency to flower.  This is a good life rule: if you show up uninvited, be sure you look pretty. 

The pear trees are also precariously close to blooming.  Feel free to skip on back to last year if you want to know how I feel about the pear trees

Other than checking out the yard and making a million phone calls, I've also been making granola.  I think that a big batch of granola baking in the oven smells even better than cookies.  The pleasant aroma has even overridden the paint fumes, which is a welcome reprive.  I'll share the recipe so that you can enjoy some too-

Golden Honey Granola

Preheat oven to 350.  In a large bowl, toss together 6 cups old fashioned oats, 8 oz. sliced almonds, 1 cup each dried cranberries and chopped dried apricots, 1 cup light brown sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp. salt.  In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 1/2 sticks butter.  Stir in 1/2 cup honey.  Pour over oat mixture and toss to distribute.  Spread granola onto a parchment-lined baking pan and bake, stirring occasionally, until oats are toasted and sugar begins to caramelize, 35 to 40 minutes.  Cool completely on pan. 

An alternative to "cool completely on pan" would be "stir into yogurt for a delicious lunch when it is still so hot that you burn your mouth a little bit".  Not that anyone would do that. 

This granola is great with yogurt (see above), over ice cream (it practically turns it into health food), or as a cereal.  You can also just eat it dry as a snack.  One Christmas, I made several batches and gave them as gifts.  I love to give non-junk food around the holidays. 

Today I'm finishing up my new bag, so I'll meet you back here tomorrow with some pictures.  Anyone else excited about The Office tonight?  I sure am.  I love Thursdays. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

an honest look at painting

We painted the dining room last weekend.  I can't think of many things I like less than painting.  War.  Injustice.  Itchy socks....... Yup, that's all. 

Now that it's over and I am enjoying the finished product, I can almost fool myself into thinking it was worth it, into thinking I could survive doing another room, into thinking it was not that bad.  I think this is the same forgetfulness principle that causes people to have more than one child. 

I thought that the dining room would be the easiest room in the house to paint.  There was hardly any furniture to remove.  We would barely miss it if it was out of commission for a few days.  There wasn't even too much to take off the walls. 

I forgot about the molding.  (I am shaking my fist in the air right now, in the general direction of said molding).  There is crown molding at the ceiling.  There is a chair rail.  There is wainscoting below the chair rail.  All this molding makes the room beautiful every day of the year except for painting day.  It looks real ugly on painting day. 

The good news (other than the fact that we are done) is that we are head over heels for the color.  Committing to a paint color has never been an easy thing for us, mainly due to the fear of painter's remorse.  But this color is... perfection.  It's gray, it's blue, it's green.  It's the color of sea glass, it's the color of tropical waters, it's the color of the eggshells we find in our ferns each spring.  Last night, as we were taking down the tape, Steve declared that the color managed to be both classical and modern at the same time.  He's right. 

It's called "Winter in Paris".  Isn't that romantic?  I totally choose paints by their name, and the name was what pushed me over the edge on this one.  I also choose books by their cover and have never understood why one should not do this, but that is a conversation for another day. 

I am giddy over this blank slate of a dining room to play with.  I can imagine at least 70 colors that would look amazing in there now and will probably try each of them, in the form of placemats and curtains and such. 

My only complaint about my new sewing room today is that I can't see the dining room from it.  But I'm anxious to finish this bag, so I will have to take a couple hours off from dining room gazing.  I'm really excited about how the bag is turning out and can't wait to share pictures of the finished product!  It is HUGE and as soon as I finish it I am hoping that Steve will whisk me away somewhere for the weekend so that I can pack in it.  Every trip is more exciting with a new bag. 

I hope that you are having a great week (it's already halfway over!) and that you don't have to paint anything.  I wouldn't wish that on anyone. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

the fine art of cheesemaking

"...most people find the idea of making cheese at home to be preposterous.  If the delivery guy happens to come to the door when I'm cutting and draining curd, I feel like a Wiccan."
Barbara Kingsolver in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

This weekend, I really understood how Barbara felt.  It wasn't the delivery guy at the door, but a new neighbor.  And we actually hadn't started the real cheesemaking yet, but were just pasteurizing the milk.  Steve stepped out on the porch to talk to him, which I thought was a good move.  Wouldn't want his first impression of us to be too.... accurate. 

We ordered this kit from Ricki, the cheese queen (what? you didn't realize there was a cheese queen?), at the suggestion of Barbara Kingsolver herself.  Her book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, was pretty life-changing for Steve and I as far as our eating habits.  We love making our own food, so making cheese from scratch sounded super fun. 

 And, I am pleased to report that it was super fun.  First, we bought raw, unpasteurized milk.  We found it at a little shop in South Carolina that sells lots of local foods.  We pasteurized the milk ourselves on the stove.  Most store bought milk is pasteurized at a temperature that is so high it kills all the stuff you would want for cheesemaking, so we pasteurized our own at a slightly lower temperature. 

We added rennet and citric acid and brought the whole thing to just the right temperature for curds.  Then we let the curds set up for a few minutes, and then cut them and stirred and heated some more. 

The next step is to separate the curds from the whey in a colander.  We poured our whey down the sink this time, but I read that you can use it to make some things, like bread.  Next time I'll probably try it because I felt bad having so much waste.  

Note: the curds are not cute and they smell like baby spit-up. 

The next part is the most fun- you heat the curds and then pull and stretch them like taffy.  Then you work in the salt or herbs or whatever you like and form the cheese into its final shape.  I don't think that our curds were hot enough when we started this step, so we had to form them very quickly, so we just made balls.  Next time, I would like to try a braid, or tiny balls that I could marinate. 

Because the curds cooled off so fast, our final cheese was not as smooth as it should have been.  BUT, it tastes just like mozzarella cheese!  How exciting!  We are going to try again very soon to hone our skills. 

Steve got an email at work last week from someone who wanted to interview him for a staff newsletter because she had "heard that he was interested in the fine art of cheesemaking."  Apparently if you make your own cheese, word gets around. 

Tomorrow I'll be sharing pictures of the new bag I've been working on, as well as our freshly painted dining room.  Today, I am making chicken stock for a few last pots of soup before it gets too warm.  Sigh.  I love the spring, but I miss the soup. 

Happy Tuesday!

Friday, February 18, 2011

quick art

I'm still sprucing up my new sewing room.  Our trip to Paper Source a few weeks ago yielded just the thing for the wall next to my sewing table.

Don't you just love dress forms?  I find them.... magical.  It's true.  I get all swoony over dress forms.  And I hope to have one when I grow up. 

So of course I had to have this paper.  It was a small sheet, probably 12 x 12, and it cost $1.95.  I brought it home and found this black frame that was not in use.  On a trip to Walmart to find more frames for our big project, I bought an ivory mat for $2.  Total project cost: $3.95.  Sweet.

I like to turn my head and look at it a lot while I sew.  It slows me down, but is a great morale booster.

I think that my next sewing space project will be a clock.  Although it is lovely to sew and sew with no idea of the time, sometimes I have other obligations in a day (I know, can you imagine?) and I need to stop sewing at a certain point.  I have been scouting around in stores and online for a few weeks now and not found the clock of my dreams, so I think I'll just have to make one. 

The weekend is supposed to be gorgeous and it's a long one!  We've got some ambitious goals, which include painting the house and making mozzarella cheese.  Hope you have something equally exciting planned!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

happy anniversary

Did you know that today is my first blog anniversary?  Pretty exciting. 

Now, to be fair, I wrote my first post on February 17, 2010, and then wrote a total of 4 more posts over the next 5 months.  It was a slow start.  I was still getting my blog legs (like sea legs, you know?). 

But today is the anniversary nonetheless, and to celebrate, I thought I'd show some pictures of what was going on one year ago.

I had just finished this cool bag from Anna Maria Horner's book 'Seams to Me'.  It was especially satisfying to make because it is constructed entirely from scraps.  Spending zero dollars and ending up with a cool purse = happiness.  Also the braided straps were really fun to make and took me back to the days of hemp necklace making at camp. 

After watching Julie and Julia, I was inspired to hang all my pots and pans on the wall in our pantry.  I described my vision and Steve made it happen in one afternoon.  He's a keeper. 

I am almost positive I had finished this quilt before February, but it was in our February pictures, so maybe that was just when I got around to photographing it. 
Ah, the quilt.  I love it more than I've ever loved a blanket, ever.  And that may not sound like a huge compliment, but I have actually loved some other blankets quite deeply.  My favorite as a child was "the blue blanket" that my great grandmother Maggie had made.  I was only allowed to get it out once the temperature dipped below freezing and I can remember running to the thermometer in the fall, desperately hoping for 31 degrees. 
This is the first and only quilt I have ever made.  I had just finished piecing the top when I got sick, so I had plenty of time to sit on the sofa and finish it by hand.  And now when I look at it, I get a little extra thankful for my health and that I am not stuck on the sofa. 

Last night we spread the quilt on the floor in front of the fire and played Bananagrams.  We're a little obsessed. 

The past year has brought so many exciting changes to this blog, my shop, and our lives in general.  I can't wait to see what next year's recap looks like! 

Tomorrow I'll be sharing a peek at a quick and easy (and cheap) art project.  See you then!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I promise this is the last post about Valentine's day (this year)

But don't you want to know how it turned out? 

Very nicely, thank you for asking. 

Star and I made valentines last week.  I think that making cards is so much better when you do it with a friend.  Like most things, I guess. 

I loosely based Steve's card on a quilt.  I worked on six small squares and then pasted them onto the front of the card.  The colors remind me of sunshine and sherbet, which are some of Steve's favorite things.  One of the first thoughts I ever had about Steve was that his face reminded me of summertime- all blond and blue and nice white teeth.  I think I try to also make him things that look like summer because they seem like a good fit. 

I was sewing while he worked on my card over the weekend and knowing how much time he put into it makes me love it even more.  What a gift to have someone work hard to make something beautiful, just for me. 

I had already received and worn my Valentine's day treat, but Steve had a few gifts to enjoy when he got home from work.  We have already played the quick version of Bananagrams- Cafe Banana- about 20 times. 
And this lovely orchid?  Really a gift for everyone in this house who gets to look at it.  I'm quite smitten with it.

We capped off the night with appetizers and steaks on the grill and, of course, Charlie Brown.  It's just not a holiday without him. 

And now... onward to spring!  The sun is out, the temperatures are in the 50s, and I am tired of wearing socks.  I'm just going to assume that Punxsutawney Phil was right this year and winter will be over soon.  Because if you can't trust a large rodent to predict the weather, who can you trust? 

Monday, February 14, 2011

red letter day

Today's the day.  I'll bet you can guess how it began. 

That's right- heart shaped chocolate chip pancakes with my sweetheart.  Definitely worth getting up a bit earlier for. 

Yesterday we got out the Valentine's day window stickers and then things really got festive.  Heart flowers growing on the back door?  Yes, please. 

Love is in the air, my friends. 

We picked up some treats for a fabulous dinner at home tonight.  My stomach is already giddy with excitement. 

 Speaking of treats, while we were out for a mini shop photo shoot this weekend, we ran across this amazing red coat and it became my Valentine's day treat.  The best thing about buying a coat in the middle of a photo shoot = lots of cool pictures in your new coat. 

This is the kind of coat that you see people wearing in the movies and you think that if you only had a coat that fit that perfectly in that exact color, movie-worthy things would happen to you too.  Or do you not think things like that during movies?  I sure do.  

The black and white wristlet will be posted in the shop tomorrow.  It can also be seen here, being modeled by the lovely who picked that classy fabric. 

And the spring scarves are posted and ready to ship!  This time, I bought enough fabric to keep one of each for myself, but there are still plenty for the shop!

I'm off to finish Steve's card and enjoy some sunshine!  Hope your day is full of love and pancakes!  

Friday, February 11, 2011

how to have a great valentine's day, part three

If you've never made homemade valentines, this is the year to start.  Don't wait a second longer.  Homemade valentines are so. much. fun.  And you don't have to worry that there is going to be a corny poem on the inside. 

Today I got out some of the valentines that Steve and I have given each other through the years.  I thought I would share some pictures of them to help spark your imagination for your own valentines.

One year, I sewed a paper heart pocket and filled it with little love notes.  I'm a big fan of pockets that you can put a sweet treat in. 

Nothing says "happy Valentine's day" like a good pun.  My grandmother has a plaque hanging in her kitchen that reads, "Ewe's not fat, ewe's fluffy" and has a picture of a sheep on it.  Steve thinks it is hilarious, so this card was inspired by Memaw's plaque. 

I cannot take credit for this lovely creation, but wanted to share it because I think it would make a perfect valentine.  My great aunt Jean, who has since passed away, used to make beautiful cards with rolled paper shapes on them.  She sent us this card before our wedding and I have always wanted to try to make those little hearts. 

I haven't planned out my card for Steve yet this year.  And I will have to be hush-hush about it until after Monday, because I suspect he reads my blog.  But I'll be sure to share some pictures next week.   

So now you're all set!  You've got the attitude, the recipes, and the card ideas to make Monday a day to smile about!  Oh, and I don't think I mentioned this before, but you should feel free to put chocolate chips in the pancakes.  You only live once. 

As my Valentine's day treat for you, I am aiming to get all these new scarves in the shop by Monday.  They are completed, ready and waiting, but I've hit a little road block with the pictures.  I have actually spent the past hour taking pictures of myself, which is as annoying as it sounds.  I've gotten some great pictures of the scarves draped around by themselves, but who could buy a scarf if they couldn't see a picture of someone wearing it?  I sure couldn't.  So, as soon as I: 1) find a willing model, or 2) find Steve at home during daylight hours, the scarves will be posted in the shop.  Count on it. 

Have a lovely weekend!


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