Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Nasturtiums and Dill

"The Commencement of Natural Creativity"

"Given a tiny new human being, how can you know what encouragement to give? Is this a musician, painter, writier, mathematician, or zoologist who will do something magnificent in one of these areas, given the right beginning? The knowledge of what talents lie within the seed is hidden, but an atmosphere can be conducive to developing in many directions, until later one or another becomes obvious as some special talent. The environment in a family should be conducive to the commencement of natural creativity, as natural as breathing, eating, and sleeping."

--Edith Schaeffer, What Is a Family?

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Water Park

Today was Bella's birthday extravaganza, a Day at the Water Park. Each of our children has had a water park party for their tenth birthday (all other birthdays are cheap fun at home). We're good now til Daisy turns ten in 2014.

Wow! Water slides, wave pools, hot concrete, baby pools, you name it, we did it.

We also did an easy picnic lunch for fourteen--a giant pasta, ham, and vegetable salad which I dispensed out of gallon ziploc bags into bowls, bread torn into chunks, and lastly cupcakes. Once the food prep work is done at home, so much easier than custom making sandwiches for everyone, working out of an ice chest for children who are antsy to get back to the slides.

We rolled home exhausted, but not hungry.

From Giles' Portfolio

I wrote about Giles' recent photo shoots here. He got permission for me to share a few of his pictures with you all. These are all brothers and sisters in a large adoptive family:

Saturday, July 28, 2007

How to Make a Vintage-Style Pillowcase

Even with the most beginning-level sewing skills, you can make this sweet set of pillowcases. All straight seams, all fun! For the main part of the pillowcase, I love to use a "new" vintage sheet, one I bought still in the package. I love the hefty crispness of old percale, and I don't want to risk a used fabric shredding after a few washes. The trimming fabric can be more fanciful--you only need a half-yard, and it won't get the hard wear the main part of the pillow will.

Materials to make two pillowcases:

1 1/2 yards of your main color (must be at least 40" wide)
1/2 yard of your trim color (ditto on the width)
1 package coordinating rickrack

1. We always start with clean, washed and pressed fabric.

2. Cut out the main fabric: two rectangles that are each 40" by 27". The 27" side should run parallel to the selvage, or finished side edge, of the fabric.

3. Cut out the trim fabric: two rectangles that are each 40" by 9". The 9" side should run parallel to the selvage.

4. Cut two lengths of rickrack each 40" long.

5. We are going to use a 1/2" seam allowance on everything. Take one length of rickrack, and sew it down the long edge of one of your main color pieces, on the right side. The center of the rickrack scallops should go right down that 1/2" line. You may prefer to match your thread color to your rickrack.

6. Pin one piece of trim to your main color piece, right sides together, matching edges, right over the rickrack. Work on the main color side, not the trim side, as you will be stitching right over your first stitching line and need to be able to see it as you sew.

7. Now stitch them together, staying exactly on top of your first rickrack stitching line.

8. Press the seam allowances toward the trim on the wrong side. Then turn over on the right side and press again, making sure you don't have a bubble of excess fabric bulging over the rickrack.

9. Take the free edge of your trim piece and press it down 1/2 an inch. Then fold the trim fabric over in half, just until the pressed edge almost touches (1/16 inch away) your first stitching. Pin securely. Topstitch this edge down, working on the wrong side of your pillowcase.

10. Fold the pillowcase in half, right sides together. Make sure that the rickrack seam matches just right--if you need to fudge, do it somewhere else. Pin securely, and trim any extra fabric that somehow doesn't match up (like that would ever happen to me!). Stitch, using our old friend the 1/2" seam allowance.

11. Trim seam to 1/4", and zigzag all the way around to finish nicely. Turn pillowcase right side out and press edges carefully.

12. All done--stand back and admire!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Dinner Tonight

After an afternoon of going through dusty attic boxes (jackpot for the girls: all my old paperdolls!), and swimming, dinner was a big bowl of dressed butter lettuce and platters of salade nicoise ingredients. Tuna, fennel, tomatoes, new potatoes, olives, eggs. Just right, and a little ice cream for dessert.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Hostess Gift

Clara has been spending the week out of town at a chamber music festival, working on a Mozart quartet with three other musicians. She is staying nights at the home of one of her best friends, also a tall, long-haired cellist who homeschools. I wanted to do a nice gift for her hostess, and decided to sew the "Pleated Beauty" bag from Bend-the-Rules Sewing.

I think this is the most complicated "crafty" thing I've ever made. But you can see why anyone would want to sew it! The contrasting pleats! The contrast lining in the straps!

I stuck fairly closely to Amy Karol's instructions, even using the suggested embroidery pattern incorporating vintage buttons. I chose a very heavy linen (oh, yes, the only linen I had in my stash) for the main fabric. It has a wonderful gloss and body, but tended to jump around quite a bit on the cutting board and under the sewing machine needle.

Pockets inside, of course, in contrast fabric.

Then I made a matching wallet, also from the book.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

White Orchids in Felix's Room

Hanging Out His Shingle

Giles is officially in business this month. He has actually earned the money to pay for a snappy new collegiate wardrobe *simply by taking pictures*. And we all know how easy that is. Right.

I wish I could share some of his paid photography with you all, because so far all of his clients have been parents of disabled children who have gotten him to do candid portraits of their kids, in their homes.

Children who can't speak, or can't hear, or see, or move, or hold still--he has captured them all with his incredible eye for beauty. In his photographs you can see how much fun they all are having. Dancing, skateboarding, talking to pets, working puzzles with therapists, trying to stand alone. One little boy doing amazing flips on the trampoline--with one arm and two leg stumps. A little girl singing and gesturing to her favorite song--on her ventilator. Another little girl who's receiving hospice care at home, with her brown curls brushed and a little blue bow in her hair.

Honestly, he has no idea what good work he does.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Tea Cosies

The Composer took the kids out this evening to a minor league baseball game, but Daisy and I opted to stay home, having just been to the city yesterday for a rousing day of Taking Great-Grandmother to the Doctor.

At dinner he wondered aloud how we might spend the evening, which was polite of him, since he knows very well that I am currently obsessed by my sewing projects.

I can't stop making tea cosies.

Vintage embroidered tea towel, picturing a kitty on a climbing on a fork and spoon jungle gym, trimmed with rickrack scallops. Lined with flannel.

Vintage table runner, in soft red and green, back is made from gorgeous soft green flocked cotton, lined with white flannel, ribbon tab is vintage from my mother's prom dress in 1963.

In the shop!

Monday, July 23, 2007

"The Emotional Comfort of Home Cooking"

"Cooking at home links your past and future and solidifies your sense of identity and place. . . .

The emotional comfort of home cooking for children is something every parent discovers. Sharing meals with the children in the privacy of your home, reinforces your authority and beneficence in their eyes and helps increase their trust and pride in you and your abilities. You have the skill and knowledge to offer them good things; you take time and trouble for them."

--Cheryl Mendelson, Home Comforts

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Saturday with the Nephews

Happy weekend plans: two of my boy-wonder nephews are here, one with his dad! Lots of swimming, Legos, fort-building, and eating. So much eating, in fact, that I had no choice but to head to Farmer's Market this morning to replenish our supplies. Of okra.

Our market is in our little restored train depot, which makes it even better.

We head out to the city this evening for a nighttime 5K (all the guys, big and little, are running). Dinner with grandmother first, so I made the world's largest rice pudding, and a pan of gingerbread. The kitchen smells very good.

And I love my new Boden dress.

That's today's news!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Care and Feeding of the Fabric Stash

With proper care and feeding, your fabric stash can live a long and productive life. As a general rule, you should treat it like sourdough starter.

Keep it clean. Don't let the cats nest in it. Wash your fabric when you bring it home from the store so that instant gratification can be yours should you get a flash of sewing inspiration.

Stir it regularly. Unfolding, admiring, smoothing, and rearranging are all good for your fabric stash.

Of course, the stash must be fed fresh fabric on a regular basis. You should put a little in every so often, which will often cause you to take something else out and sew with it, which is good for everyone.

Giving a little away never hurt either.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Elegant Summer Lily

Roasted Sausage and Vegetable Pasta

This summer I'm finding myself making the same things over and over--because man, they are so good. This pasta has become one of our staples. The sausage and vegetables can be prepared while you're in the kitchen fixing the lunchtime sandwiches, then put in the fridge while you go to the lake. Pull the dish out and add cooked pasta, fix salad and bread, and dinner's ready. Oh, and despite tasting very, very Italian, it's dairy-free!

*Roasted Sausage and Vegetable Pasta*

On a pan with a raised rack (I use the broiler pan from my oven) arrange:

1 or 2 packages of mild Italian sausages

In a large bowl toss:

1 red pepper thinly sliced
1 onion thinly sliced
1 box mushrooms, cleaned and halved if large
1 bundle asparagus, trimmed
2-3 zucchini or yellow squash, chunked
3-4 carrots, cut in sticks
any other vegetables that sound good and are waiting in your fridge, you get the picture!


1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup Italian seasoning herbs
1 T. coarse salt

Pam one or two large pans and spread your veggies out in them, not more than an inch or so deep.

Pop the veggies and the sausages in the oven at 450. You heard me! Leave them there for half an hour. The sausages will become a dark candied brown. The veggies will roast just right.

Toss with

1 lb. cooked pasta (I use rigatoni), including 1/3 cup cooking water.
Additional salt and pepper.

Serve with grated Parmesan cheese. Makes a huge quantity; we have actual leftovers. Great for feeding a crowd.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Fun with Dick and Jane Fabric

For the past year I have been finding unending inspiration in Daisy's Dick and Jane books. Mother is always dressed in something crisp and appropriate, has the best aprons, and oh, the picnic outing in the car. So when I came across actual Dick and Jane fabric at the quilt shop last week, I brought some home.

A tiny tote bag for a baby shopper (in the Etsy shop):

Fun bibs for drooly babies:

"See Jane run. See Dick run."

(These two not in the shop, email or comment if you're interested!)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Two Birthday Girls

With girl birthdays only four days apart, a joint party was bound to happen sooner or later. This year was later, as our trip fell right in the middle of birthday week.

Clara got twelve candles.

Daisy got three. She went last. She is my third daughter to celebrate her third birthday in a bathing suit, I think. Not a time in life when you want a lot of extra fabric, I guess.

Felix and my mother. She is most excellent at birthday gifts.

Daisy gestures triumphantly at *all* the packages.

And works that pink ribbon.

A perfect example of the principle that the older you get, the smaller and more expensive your presents become. Season tickets to the symphony orchestra--the only thing Clara wanted.

For Daisy. She wore out the paperback version in the car by demanding over and over the chapter where Piglet is secretly slipped into Kanga's pocket and then given a torturous bath.

Clara does such a fine Eeyore.

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