Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Great Bunting Barter

I keep meaning to get a project finished and written about every two weeks - that's my goal.  But other things keep getting in the way, like thwarting the escape artist

and admiring the spring that has finally, finally sprung

and digesting the craziness that first terrorized and then united this city I've come to call home.

But with May around the corner, I'm trying to get back on track and stop letting myself get distracted by all the things floating around my head!

I don't think I could ever craft for money, because
1. my technique is pretty crappy (the result of my disinterest in practice);
2.  I don't like doing the same project more than once;
3.  when people say "wow you could make those and sell them for like $20 a piece!" I'm thinking wow, that would earn me roughly $1.20 per hour.

But a friend who is getting married next weekend wanted some bunting for her wedding and suggested a barter.  Which is fun, considering she wanted something almost as old-fashioned as that word.  So bunting for babysitting it was!  Now, if I'd really thought ahead I would have had her babysit while I sewed, but you can't exactly ask someone to take off work the week before their wedding to babysit - lessons learned for next time.

Miss K wanted something a little old-fashioned in a creamy/white or muted pastels color palette.  Like Jane Austen meets Anthropologie.   So she picked out these lovely fabrics as a base (we lost our camera, but hopefully an iphone and bad lighting can still convey the idea):

I've got a stash of old square ivory linen tablecloths from the grandmothers, some of which are rust-stained, so this seemed a perfect opportunity to put one of those to use.

A couple of years ago I started collecting little old embroidered hankies.  My mom gave me my first, at my wedding, and it was just such a sweet and useful thing to have when you wear mascara and think you might cry.  As it turns out, these guys regularly make it into the thrift shop at my mom's retirement home, so I get a package of pretties a couple of times a year.  I've thought about appliqueing them to pillowcases, making quilt squares out of them, sewing them together into a kitchen curtain.  But they're so old and delicate, and the thought of putting them together into one project always seemed like it would take away from the uniqueness of each one.  So they stack up and stack up, and I remain confident that I will find a way to use them some day.

I love the simple white ones:

 And especially the ones with red or my favorite color combination red & purple:

This one I have set aside for the travel quilt I'm making J:

They seemed to be just the style we were going for with this bunting, and each one could star in its own flag, not patch-worked onto its neighbor on some bigger project.  So for some flags I just fused double sided fusible web onto the corner of a hankie and then appliqued it onto one of our base fabrics.

For other thin hankies with enough fabric to be their own flag, I fused a whole triangle to a plain white fabric to make it thick enough.

In the end I was really satisfied with the result.  And how fitting that these beautiful scraps of 50 year old fabric will be hanging at a wedding where two lovely and loving people will make promises to spend the next 50 together!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I Prefer Months With Three Letters

I finally figured out April Fool's Day - it's just funny people imitating a New England Spring.  Like, 'ha  ha you are so relieved to see those snow drop flowers peeking out of the ground after that long hard winter and you think spring has sprung, well check the weather tomorrow because I'm sending some REAL snowdrops to kill them.'


I really love/hate April - it brings those first reminders that life is really worth living, but it's also the month I'm most likely to get frostbite, because it's freaking APRIL so why shouldn't I wear ballet flats and not take gloves?  But there are finally signs of REAL spring here; we are reportedly hitting 70 today after a week in the 40s.  No magnolias or cherry trees in bloom like you west coasters, but little signs.  Crocuses.  We start small.

We moved last year and I love my new neighborhood.  A 12" wide strip of dirt by the sidewalk? These people will put a deer and a daffodil on it.

It's with a mix of regret and excitement that I give up my community gardening plot and try to do something with my very own first yard.  And while I'm grateful and lucky to finally have one to call my own, the whole thing is shaded by a huge maple so anything that wants sunlight better be up and done by May when the leaves grow big enough to block the sun.

Which leads me to bulbs - bulbs - bulbs.  I went crazy last fall and planted upwards of 200 daffodils, iris, crocus, snowdrops and tulips.  For those that have planted bulbs, you know that 200 is actually 34 after you account for pillaging squirrels.  All October and November I watched the scheming little buggers running back and forth across our back patio, but I was encouraged that I never saw them in the front where the majority of my bulbs lay hidden under the ivy.

This weeks stuff has really started popping up and it's cute... but wrong.  All those iris that were supposed to shoot up through the ivy are turning out to be two inches tall.

And the daffodils too.  

Apparently my subconscious  started planning this April Fools joke last Fall when I bought an entire garden of micro flowers by "mistake."  I'm so frustrated, I dug out the labels, and Home Depot actually had the nerve to call them plain old "Iris."

My mixed April feelings continued for Easter.  I should mention I'm having real issues with my oven, it's being really passive-aggressive. ("It's so interesting you think I'm under-baking all your fancy desserts, when those frozen pizza always seem to come out perfectly")  My sister-in-law requested a flourless chocolate cake with raspberry accents for her birthday so I turned to my favorite and most trusted recipe of all time - the Chocolate Cloud Cake from Classic Home Desserts.  I have made this cake flawlessly for 20 years, but recently it's always undercooked (it's hard not to second guess myself because the last instruction in the recipe is "be careful not to overbake").

The trick to baking the cake is you have to bake it until the top cracks, otherwise it isn't done.  I actually wrote that in the margin of the recipe 13 years ago.  And yet, on Saturday - after baking the cake for 1.5  x the suggested time, I took it out of the oven, crackless.  And then had to start over.   Why am I so dismissive of 20-something Julie? Why would I write that in the margin if it weren't true?  I baked the second one until it cracked, and it was fine.

Then when the cake cools, the center sinks leaving a hollow chocolate shell you fill with whipped cream, or in this case raspberry mousse.  Kind of reminded me of an easter egg.  I topped with raspberries and chocolate curls.  I'd give it a solid 8.

Also got a new cookbook out of the library (I'm a big fan of trying a couple recipes before investing money and shelf-space).  This was  Bake It Like You Mean It from Gesine Prado - tried the Tangerine DreamTea Ring, and was pretty happy with it.

Pastries can be a real doozy - I mean anything that involves rolling out dough and egg wash pinching can be dangerous for me and my low tolerance for frustration, but this went together easy and had a lovely presentation pre-baking:

And check out my little fishy!

It looked pretty perfect post-bake too!

Now unfortunately, despite a 25 degree hike in temp it wasn't cooked in the middle, but it was good enough I didn't mind re-baking it piece by piece.  Just like I won't mind planting 200 more life-size bulbs in October, or putting on gloves again next week.  Ready for May, though.