Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dear Auntie Lizz,

Thanks ever-so for the crying baby doll you gave Moo for Christmas. She's kept the three of us busy all morning. Mama has begun to twitch every time one of us presses the crying button on the baby. We think that means she likes it too.

Your nieces and nephew

Notice; The New One will henceforth be referred to simply as "Moo"

Friday, December 25, 2009

Eva; Winter Wuss, Pampered Pansy

Yesterday, on our first morning in winter, I started the car, put it in reverse and discovered that my rear view camera was iced over. "Now how am I going to get out of the driveway?" I thought with disgust. Then I remembered the rear view mirror and mocked myself as I backed up the old fashioned way.

The other night, we pulled up to my brother's house and I noted his un-shoveled drive.(love you Boy) I thought about how, if we moved to a climate that included snow, I'd have to shovel it. That was never my responsibility when I lived here. Then, as I (ok, the Mr was actually the one on the drift side) climbed out of the car into a snow drift I remembered the ugly truth about visiting friends in winter time. Unless the friend in question has ample space in the drive way, you will be climbing into a snow-drift when you de-car. Either that or the ankle deep slush of the road. In that moment, all I could say was "Winter is...awful"
In spite of all that, I am enjoying my stay. We had a very Merry Christmas and if I can find another spare minute, I'll show you some of the things I made for it.
Fare thee well

Monday, December 21, 2009

In Limbo

We're traveling for Christmas. We'll be embarking on those travels...sometime.
The Mr is at work laboring feverishly (I'm sure) to get things done so we can leave.
I'm here, teetering between various things.
Things like working busily and knowing I've got everything in hand and sitting on the sofa staring dejectedly into space as my to do list mocks me from it's perch on the crowded kitchen counter.
Or relief that I've got this extra time at home cut with the itch to get out on the road.

I've got a package coming one of these days. I finally decided on a pair of boots but it seems I decided a day too late. UPS' tracking site tells me my boots, as of 4:08 this morning, were in Ft. Worth. Even after that report I held onto hope that they'd make it here today.
A few hours ago the garbage truck, in combination with a drop in visitor had me convinced I was receiving a Christmas miracle.
Even after the sting of that disappointment I dared wish, but just now as I was cleaning out Dusty Miller in preparation for the eventual drive, the UPS truck came.
Sped by my house without even slowing down. Do you think that driver knew he was crushing the spirit of hope just then?

So here I am, preparing for a trip that we will at some point leave on, wishing for delivery miracles and despairing that my boots and I will be as ships in the night.

Friday, December 18, 2009

I'm up to

Last night I hemmed six 45"x45" play silks.
Thank heaven for selvage edges, for it was by their grace that I only had to hem 2 sides per square rather than four.
This is what my counter looks like tonight.

What's not littered with empty Kool-aid packets is dribbled with multi-colored splotches.
My last silk, the green one, is in the dye bath now hopefully soaking up the final wisps of color suspended in the liquid.
It's been a long week, we've had one activity or another every night and I've followed each up with a few hours of top secret Christmas Elvin work. I'm pooped, and I've got a long way to go. I'm not going to make a list here, that would just be discouraging. You're just going to have to take my word for it.

By the way, I'm using this tutorial for the silk dying.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A gift idea and a how to: painted cds

I love tucking my favorite Christmas mix in with some goodies for neighbor gifts. I love it so much in fact, I've done it for the past two years.
Ok, technically I've only done it one year. Two years ago I passed out blank cds. I carefully ran each one through the CD burner but I found out after they'd all been distributed that the shell script the Mr wrote to enable me to burn them all with one simple click of the mouse had malfunctioned.
Saving me from complete embarrassment over the incident was the crafty inspiration I'd had to up the festive quotient of the gift by painting the CDs. My friends and neighbors got a fancied up CD on which to burn their favorite Christmas mix. It wasn't what I'd intended (I would have enclosed a note explaining the intent if it had been) but it was better than a plain old blank CD.
Last year Zizza did the painting and handed them out to her Joy School friends. (after I triple checked to make sure there was actually something burned on them)
Here's what we used.
CDs (last years were the printable kind with a white papery surface. that makes it a little easier to paint on but I actually prefer the silvery sheen of a regular disc)
Half a broken jewel case (To keep painty fingers off the back)
Acrylic paint
Water for rinsing
A pencil. (if you're using printable CDs)

I started by outlining the shapes Ziz wanted to paint with the pencil.
She got right to it and painted up a storm.
With the outlines filled in, she focused on embellishment.
Here's the finished batch from that day's painting. As you can see, she added a holly bush to the tree CD. The m&m's on the candy cane one were all her own as well.
She got carried away on that blue one, I think we went back and added some white snowflakes once it was dry.
These are the CD's I handed out blank in aught 7
This one was my favorite.
I wasn't planning to do any this year, but it looks like such fun I might break the paints out if I can find a minute.
By the way, if you need suggestions to fill out your mix, remember you can't go wrong with Wham's "Last Christmas." That's a classic right there.

Friday, December 11, 2009

conflict, of the inner variety

For a long time now I have hated Uggs. Even when adorning the feet of loved ones I've hated them.
The exception to this rule was babies. I had a pair for Zizza when she was a tiny and they were adorable. I'd forgotten about them until I read Cjane's post about boots for the chief.
That got me thinking that uggs would be a good option for Enzo. Since it's grown too chill for his beloved flops (and also we left his favorite orange pair at his cousin's house on Thanksgiving) He's taken to wearing his cowboy boots, sans socks, everywhere we go.
If I plan ahead and approach it just the right way I can get him into his sneakers, but those are getting a bit snug so it's only a matter of time until the cowboy boots are his only option and they rub leaving scabs on his dear chunky feet.
I followed Cjane's advice and looked at the girl's imitation uggs at Target. They didn't have his size.
A funny thing happened during the course of all this.
I started, sort of, wishing for a pair...For myself.
I have not stopped hating them, no sir or madam, I'll hate them to the day I die but I would sort of like a charcoal gray pair for me to go along with the chocolate brown pair I'm still hoping to find for Enzo.
Have you ever wished for something you hate? Or loved a thing for it's ugliness?
This is not the first time for me.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

How to- narrowest rolled hem

I used to dream of tiny delicate rolled hems and despair over my inability to make a rolled hem foot work on anything but straight edged pieces of sturdy cotton. I was somewhat consoled when, while at work for an opera company, I learned of the "rolled hem" capability of some sergers. Still, I didn't have one of those so the despair continued...
I moved to Arizona and got a job in a bridal shop working for the best seamstress I've ever laid eyes on. (and I've seen a few) I started as a basic dress wrangler, Suzi doesn't let just anybody take needle to her gowns. After a few months though, I wasn't just anybody anymore and in the heat of bridal season even the best need extra hands. Hands that can execute a killer hem.
And that is how this dream came true for me.
Now, I'll share it with you.
Start by folding the edge of your fabric, just once, about a quarter of an inch. Don't bother pressing that fold, it will slow you down and make things harder. Just fold as you go along.
Put it on your machine and stitch as close to the fold as you can get without running off the edge. That will be about one sixteenth of an inch.
When you've made it all the way back to your starting point, pat yourself on the back and admire your work. Here's what the inside should look like.
If you have any bits like this, don't sweat it.
Just trim them off. Also, if you notice any places where that raw edge is notably wider than the rest, trim that down.
Now get back on that machine!
Fold your hem in one more time. Your previous seam should be just to the inside of the fold. Keep-a-goin' till you get back to the starting point,
And Ta Da! Rolled hem perfection!
Wrong side
Right side
Doh! This is what it looks like if you missed trimming a trouble spot before you stitched down the second fold. It's really not a big deal, just trim it now and you'll never know the difference.
Now you're going to want to press the whole thing to smooth out any ripples that might have occurred as a result of the hemming process.
The fabric I was working with here was stretch chameuse cut in a circle. You can bet there were ripples going on when I finished sewing. They didn't stick around though.

Happy hemming!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Drafting a dragon

I signed us up for the kid's ornament exchange at the Crafty Crow this year. Such fun! The theme is fairy tales, I was thinking of doing something easyish like gnomes (a felt cone on a wooden bead with a cotton ball beard and done!) but Zizza declared dragons to be her inspiration and since this is a kid's swap I thought she should have some say.
I was thinking paper mache at first. Basically making mini pinatas with a water balloon as the abdomen. The problem there was, I couldn't decide how to make the hind legs. Then I realized I hadn't even considered the matter of a tail and I scraped that whole Idea. Instead we're going with basic painted paper plus a little wire for stability. Here's my prototype;
I'm still trying to decide on the orientation of the tail spike, this way?
Or this way?
These were my first wings. I thouthg they looked upside down and rather batish so I tried again.
Attempt number 2 taught me that the first wings were not upside down after all, just slanted the wrong way.
That brought me to set number three which were a winner.

Now I just have to make six more and then turn the kids loose with some paint! Who knows, I might even get crazy and let them use glitter!

If you'd like me to, I'll make my dragon template available for download

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

pepermint bark

It's delightful stuff. It really is. Unless you're my husband or similar.
But did you know that there is a better way to eat it than the conventional method of sticking hunks of it directly into your mouth?
There is.
Now, if you come around here often, you might suspect that I'm going to suggest dipping it in peanut butter.
You also might be gagging at the thought.
Fear not, there is no peanut butter involved in what I'm about to tell you. Even I have limits.
The best thing to do with peppermint bark is submerge it in a cup of thick rich hot chocolate.

It's way better than just stirring with a candy cane. That white chocolate melts and adds a yummy mellow richness to the cocoa which is, you guessed it, yummy. By the way, there was another chunk, twice that size already at the bottom of that cup.

Now I have to tell you something else.
I don't believe in hot chocolate mix.
I used to believe in it. I've still got a number ten can of it in my pantry, but I don't use it anymore. (huh, maybe I should throw that out?)
A few years ago, my mother in law was out of cocoa packets when the grand-kids came. She, being the resourceful person that she is, whipped up some cocoa using chocolate chips and milk.
I have never gone back.
I've worked and slaved and drunk countless cups of cocoa to come up with the ideal method for putting my mother in law's discovery into action and I'm going to share that with you now.

Super-fantastic Hot Cocoa

1 bag milk chocolate chips (I like Ghirardelli)
1 Gallon milk (the higher the fat content the yummier, I make it with skim all the time though, and it's still good)
a splash of vanilla

Pour the milk into a big pot and heat it to drinking temperature. Watch it close, you don't want it to get too hot. Every moment you spend waiting for your cocoa to cool is a moment wasted.
Meanwhile in a small sauce pan, over medium heat, melt the chocolate chips.
When your milk is warm and your chips are liquid, whisk the chocolate into the milk until completely combined. Add vanilla to taste and you're good to go.

I've never come up with an ideal ratio for smaller quantities, I just guess at it every time. That's most of the time because I don't often have cause to make a whole gallon of cocoa. Believe it or not you can add too much chocolate.
Another thing, the other day I made some and let it sit in a thermos for a few hours until drinking time and it came out tasting a bit stewed. You know the cooked milk taste of warm pudding? It was kind of like that.
I happen to like warm pudding so it worked for me, but if you don't now you know how to avoid it.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

second hand soup

Ok, that's kind if an unfortunate title I chose. Just to be clear, I do not mean puke. Puke does not enter into this equation in the slightest.
Now, let's begin.

Do you remember my plans for the left over braising liquid from the ribs I made last week?

They were wildly successful.
I needed some extra liquid for the barley to absorb as it cooked so I added 2 cups of water and a can of chicken broth to the four-ish cups of left over fabulousness I had in the fridge.
Then I dumped in the barley (about half a cup) and let it all simmer until the barley was tender. (20-30 minutes)
Meanwhile, I made some mashed potatoes to submerge in the beefy barley glory.
I ate it for dinner. I ate it for lunch. I ate it for dinner again, and I never got tired of it.
I should make more ribs so I can have more soup.

By the way, I substituted beef stock for the wine in P-dub's recipe.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

White choral bells

A scrap of charmeuse, my narrowest rolled hem and some elastic thread and we've got a smidge of lovely.
It reminds me of a lily of the valley blossom.
Little things like that sleeve are what I love about making baby dresses.