Friday, November 30, 2007

Busy Outside

While I've been busy inside, the children have been busy outside. Bella and Daisy went for a walk in the cold. How I love Bella's outrageous combinations! She dresses herself and her baby sister.

Meanwhile, the boys built a trebuchet in the front yard.

Cinder-block powered, it throws rocks a hundred feet.

And it can throw smoke bombs taped to baseballs!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

"The Range Got Such a Cleaning"

"The range got such a cleaning as it hadn't had in years. The ashes were cleaned out and the soot removed from all its little doors and traps and openings. Molly wasn't used to a city range with all its numerous appliances, but she had keen common sense and used it. She knew dirt and ashes couldn't help a fire burn, so she removed them. And she scrubbed it inside and out, for she found the oven encrusted with burned sugar and juice of some sort and the top covered with grease. Then she started a fire. Before long it was glowing, and the water in the old tank was steaming hot."

--Grace Livingston Hill, A Daily Rate

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bucket of Bluestem

Yesterday saw me scrubbing the kitchen for several hours--as the Composer pointed out, once you start getting in all the crevices, there is really no end to the amount of grime you can find.

Regardless, I put forth my best effort and brought most of the kitchen to a high state of polish. After I finish cleaning a room I like to mark the achievement with something pretty. In the kitchen I used a blue-painted bucket filled with an armful of bluestem grass that Giles cut in the pasture. Lovely against the white wall.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Quilting with Clara

Clara and I found a quilt top this weekend that we could not resist. She had been wanting to learn to quilt, and this seemed like the perfect project--comparatively simple, inexpensive ($11), and gorgeous to look at. Does this pattern have a name? I alternate between thinking of them as polka dots and as Christmas ornaments.

We are quilting around the inside and outside of each circle, and it is so satisfying. Especially by the fire.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Deep Dark Cleaning

This week I am getting up an hour early every morning to deep-clean the house. This morning I crept past Daisy's door, had my coffee while peering out into the dark, foggy pasture, then got out my gingerbread kit and got to work.

I love the idea of heading into Advent with a clean and peaceful house, so I am following my

Simple Guidelines for Deep Cleaning One Room at a Time:

•Deep breath.
•Put away everything that's out of place, throw away trash.
•Do anything that's going to make a mess, like trimming plants.
•Collect loose items and set them outside the door so they're not in the way.
•Can anything go in the laundry (curtains, rugs), or dishwasher? Do it.
•Dust walls and ceiling with a long duster. Dust everything else within reach with a microfiber cloth. Wipe baseboards and quarter-rounds.
•Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum.
•Vacuum upholstered furniture.
•Get a bucket of hot, soapy, fragrant water. Wipe everything that needs it--edges of floors where the mop doesn't get, light switches, any painted walls with fingerprints or smears. Then use bucket to:
•Mop the floor.
•Polish furniture with lemon oil.
•Clean mirrors and glass.
•Put everything back.

I did three rooms today--the sitting room, living room, and sewing room, which are my usual Monday routine. The whole house will be sweet by Friday, and next week will be time for cookies and a few of these trees .

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Little Boy Sweater

Sally, don't look.

I finished a knitting project this week for my cousin's baby boy. He'll be about four months at Christmas, and I knitted this in a six month size. He will definitely have room in it!

This was my first project with two colors of yarn. It was a pleasure to learn, and now I want to start a Fair Isle project with thirty colors!

From Debbie Bliss' Simply Baby, the "Striped Sweater" model.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Long Quiet Weekend

I love Thanksgiving not only for being a wonderful holiday with easy-to-meet expectation and lots of family, but because of the bonus three days afterwards. Time to savor the very end of autumn before the frenzy starts.

Felix is out on a forty-mile backpacking adventure in the frosty weather. Clara is finishing up a knitting project, a Grace Livingston Hill, and playing cello-piano duets with the Composer. For me, a long walk, a day off from cooking, some poking around in my patterns, and time to enjoy my orchids and indoor bulbs.

The Thanksgiving Table

My mother brought the bread dough and we made it into rolls:

It's so easy to set a beautiful autumn table--Giles brought in an armful of leaves from the yard and I scattered them down the center of the table. A few votive candles, a small bowl of flowers . . .

Glossy olives, rich and dark:

The sun's last light before we sat down to eat:

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pie Time

A pleasant hour this afternoon baking tomorrow's pies. Quick and easy because . . .

the crusts were made yesterday, and were chilling in disks in the fridge, waiting to be rolled out.

And because the recipe is an old friend . . .

and because Clara, Bella, and Felix prepped all twelve cups of apples for me in a flash . . .

. . . while off-camera, Giles and Daisy whipped up the filling for two pumpkin pies. Oh, these days of plenty of help. I am feeling thankful.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sweet Things to Sew

I love Clara's new pincushion! And I love that she found and followed the directions without any assistance from me.

Not that I would *mind* helping her. But I have been busy myself making many of these:

from Cynthia Treen's book. I adore that with two rectangles of fabric, and a (thrifted) zipper, I can have such a lovely, squashable, dimensional bag. I've made them for all the girls, you know, toothbrush and toothpaste and hairbrush for spending the night. They go together in a flash.

And I've been cooking up many other goodies, which I've posted in the shop tonight!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Fruit and Flowers

(Not pictured from today: haircuts, cello lesson, guitar lesson, picking up grandmother and running her errands, twelve loads of laundry, post office, and picking up all of Daisy's toys).

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Autumn Leaf Dress

Loving my new Boden dress, evoking falling leaves at every step. Off to the in-laws for dinner!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Daisy Has Big Eyes

Crafty Girls Everywhere

Oh how I love the warm afternoon light that fills my sewing room! Stealing an hour for crafting when the sunshine is just right is such a treat, and only made better when my crafty girls join me.

Daisy snips fabric into tiny pieces (her specialty).
Bella sews a snap on a fabric necklace for a doll.
Clara works on a pincushion from the purl bee .

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thrifted Treasures

The thrift store was so good to me yesterday! After a few rather sparse weeks, weeks where all the shelf items were half off and quite picked over, the shelves were restocked to overflowing, and I was finding the good stuff.

A Ruth Livingston Hill (Grace's daughter, and quite indistinguishable!), a vintage reader (Daisy adores these stories), unused vintage wrapping paper, a lovely tablecloth for maybe some napkins, and a felt-backed vinyl cloth for picnics in wonderful green and red.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"The Cleaning of Their Prettiest Things"

"The part of housework which most women like best is probably the cleaning of their prettiest things--silver, crystal, bric a brac, andirons. Handling these lovely pieces is really a thrill and renewing their fresh and glowing beauty through one's own efforts can be an added pleasure."

The Homemaker's Encyclopedia: Housekeeping Made Simple, 1952.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Kitchen Corner

A little more fall, because I love the rich leaves with this shabby thrifted plate.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Fruity Jello

Sometimes only a jello salad will do.

*Schoolhouse Fruity Jello*

Prepare one small package of raspberry jello according to the directions on the box, substituting the drained juices of:

1 can pitted sour cherries in water
1 can pineapple chunks in pineapple juice

for the 2 cups of water (if you run short of juice, you may top off with water).

In a 13 x 9 dish, arrange the canned fruits evenly. Also spread out:

1 package frozen raspberries.

Pour the prepared jello mix over. Chill 4 hours or until firm. Cold and fruity!

Schoolhouse through the Sugar Maple

Saturday, November 10, 2007

My Loss, Your Gain

Having happily lost a few inches here and there, I find myself with some favorite dresses--some new, some lightly worn--that no longer fit. Check the shop to see if there might be something there for you!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Chocolate Meringues

A new cookie today from Nigella Lawson: these gooey chocolate merigues. The meringues themselves are fortified with lots of ground almonds, which makes a lovely taste and texture. Then the pairs are slapped together with an easy ganache made with butter, cream, and bittersweet chocolate. Dairy-free until the frosting, so we kept some plain for Giles, and all enjoyed them.

The plate? Generous Eve brought me a stack of these to OWN today, just because she is sweet!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Tea under the Maple

Lovely mild weather this afternoon, and perfect for a little tea party with my neighbor Eve. I set out the tea things on the table under the silver maple and we enjoyed the afternoon sun on our backs as we watched the shadows lengthen.

Tiny dried cherry scones, cream Earl Grey, and Eve's coconut cookies. Daisy ate six of them.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

"Cinnamon Toast and Little Cakes"

"The [tea] tray proved to be most tempting. Delicate little chicken sandwiches, a delectable salad of which Amory had difficulty in identifying the ingredients, fragrant tea, cinnamon toast and little cakes that were almost confections."

--Grace Livingston Hill, Silver Wings

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Vintage Christmas Charm

A quick run through the antique mall this weekend, and I found these, *way* too sweet and cheap to pass up:

Vintage bulbs to screw into a new light string--don't they look like candy or Easter eggs in these delicious colors?

Intact in their vintage boxes:

Shabby ornaments in all the best angelic colors.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Bags for Phyllis

Made for my dear friend and neighbor Phyllis; we are spurring each other on to be better stewards of Creation.

Since Phyllis is an artist I did my best to make these appealing to her unique sensibility: colorful, graphic, not at all fussy and not really girly.

I enjoyed the challenge of designing something pleasing using only plain and simple fabrics, ones I would ordinarily pass over. But even bland and utilitarian can be made fun with some piecing and cutting and stitching . . .

Saturday, November 03, 2007

How to Sew a Cloth Shopping Bag

Sew your own gorgeous shopping bags--stylish and ecologically sound! I'll walk you through the steps of making a very sturdy tote bag that will hold a good heavy load of groceries. I recommend that you make two bags at once, as this will use your fabric up very nicely, and you'll find that the second bag goes much more quickly. I'm using corduroy and denim fabrics, and this is going to be the World's Strongest Bag--it will be able to tote bricks, potatoes, and heavy metals. Do choose something sturdy and closely woven, not a delicate vintage voile!

You will need one yard each of your lining fabric (LF) and your main fabric (MF), as well as a ruler, matching threads, and good sharp scissors.

1. Cut a rectangle from each of your two fabrics. The rectangle should be one yard long, parallel to the selvage, and 18 inches wide. You can fit two of these from one yard, you will note. Also cut four handle pieces, two from each of LF and MF. They should measure 17 inches by 2.5 inches, and they may run either with the grain or across the grain. (You will have a very likely-looking leftover piece to cut them from after you cut your main pieces).

2. If you want to do any embellishing, such as an applique, or rickrack, now is the time to do it on your main fabric. Make sure that the design is placed well within the margins of the bag--you will be losing about three inches on the sides and bottom. Have fun! For my bag, I am using tan corduroy for my Main Fabric and a red denim for my lining. I am appliqueing a design of rectangles (think Denise Schmidt and her contemporary quilt designs) on the lower right corner of my bag.

3. Now, working first with the main fabric, take your big rectangle and fold it in half, right sides together, to make an inside-out bag shape. Then repeat with the lining fabric.

4. Using a 5/8 inch seam, sew up the sides of the bag. First the MF. Now the LF. Now, take your scissors and snip the bottom fold of the bag from the edge of the fabric to your stitching.

Now press those seams open. And lightly press a crease at the bottom of the bag.

5. Now you're going to box the corners. This is so fun and three-dimensional! Look at your bag from the side, and slide your hand up in the corner. Now spread the bag at the corner so that the corner forms the top of a triangle. Flatten the seam, and let the sides of the bag fall apart. It's going to look a lot like the sides of a present if you're wrapping it with paper.

Using the crease you pressed as a guide, make sure the seam runs down the center of the bottom of the bag. Pin it in place. Now mark a straight line across the corner of the bag, 2.5 inches down from the corner.

You might want to draw a line with pencil or chalk across the bottom of the triangle, or you can throw caution to the wind and eyeball it. Do make sure that your triangle is symmetrical, by checking the seam placement against the bottom crease of the bag. Now, stitch it. Repeat for the other corner, and for the lining piece.

6. Finish the corners by cutting off the triangle half an inch from your stitching line. Here is my tan piece that has been stitched and cut.

7. Time to construct some handles! We're making lined handles because they're cuter and stronger. Lay each handle piece right side down on the ironing board and press its edges in--half an inch for the main fabric, 5/8 inch for the lining fabric.

Now match up your two handle pieces with the lining piece placed over the main fabric piece, wrong sides together. The main fabric color should just peek out around the lining. Working on the lining side, carefully pin in place, and then topstitch together (that just means stitch about 1/4 inch from the edge).

Here you see my handle getting stitched, but there are no pins in the other side yet. See, main tan fabric is down below, red lining is up above.

8. Almost done! Turn your lining bag inside out. Insert it into the already inside-out main bag. The two "pretty sides" are going to be touching each other. Now, stick your handles between the two layers. I like to place the outside edge of each handle three inches away from the side seam.

Make SURE the handle isn't twisted inside the bag. That the top side stays UP as you peek into the bag; the top side of your handle should be touching the right side of your outer bag.

Pin the handles securely in place, and match up the lining and outer bag so that the raw edges are even all the way around.

Here is my sandwich all ready for stitching--tan outer bag is inside out, red lining is seamy side inside the bag, handles are sandwiched between with the tan side touching the tan bag.

9. Time to stitch! You need to do two things. One, leave the bag unsewn beween the ends of the handles on one side, so that you can turn it inside out. Two, every time you get to a place where you're sewing over a handle, sew over it, then reverse and sew backwards, then sew forwards again so that the handle is triple-stitched. Got it? Great!

10. Turn the bag by pulling the lining out, then feeding everything through the hole, then stuffing the lining back inside, and cheer for yourself! Now, carefully press the top edge. Where it is open, press it down the way you want it to lie, with the edges turned in. Now topstitch the whole thing, working from the lining side.

11. Now you are really done, and the happy owner of a lovely shopping tote!

Note: if you use contrasting fabric for the lining, you may or may not care about changing your bobbin and top threads to keep them matching your fabric. I personally don't like contrast stitching, so do a lot of juggling the two threads to get my thread to match my fabric (for instance, when stitching the handle, I have red thread on top and tan in the bobbin). Not required, though.

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