Monday, December 15, 2014



I am in a very plaid mood right now.  I made these stockings the other day, because in spite of us all being grownups around here, Santa is still coming to my house (if he doesn’t look like Tim Allen, I don’t want to know about it, ya’ll) and also because honestly, the attic is so full of stuff that it was frankly easier to make new ones than to find the old ones.  I’m not even kidding.  Besides, these are plaid, and it was fun.  I also threw all caution to the wind and decided, finally, to go ahead and hammer some nails right into the mantel so they could hang properly.  Why not?  It’s my mantel, and nobody will mind but me, and I don’t mind. 


I drew a vaguely stocking-ish shape on a big piece of paper, cut it out and pinned it to a thrifted wool plaid skirt (avoiding the seams) attached a little piece of (also thrifted) handmade lace (I know, right? ) and a gingham lining, and stitched it all together.  It took hardly any time at all, and now my mantelpiece looks like Christmas at Balmoral, if I squint a lot and use my imagination.  Since Tim Allen Santa will be filling these, I made them wide and useful, but I think they’d be great all long and skinny and elf-shoe-shaped, too, with a pointy toe and a jingle bell on the end.  Maybe I’ll make some more. 

In news from the Cheer Up department, looky:


That there is my Mother’s Day orchid, getting ready to bloom again.  You know what?  I can’t even.  It is like a hug from the universe. The halls are decked; the gifts, in an unprecedented feat of efficiency, are finished and wrapped, and I have made Ina’s Pot Roast, which smells so good it makes me swoon.  In a week or two, there will be flowers, which seems like the work of fairies right now, in the middle of the dark side of the year.  Pretty nice.  

Friday, December 12, 2014







We got some good old-fashioned christmastime snow, and the whole world looks like a birthday cake, and Andy Williams songs play on an endless loop in my head (and everywhere else, too, now that I come to think of it.)  It is quiet here, muffled in snow.  The house feels like it is sleeping.  We [try to] play cribbage, which we don’t really know how to play, and watch birds outside the window.  I bake things.  The last load of laundry tumbles in the dryer.  He chooses a book he thinks I might like, and reads it to me while I wash dishes in the sink, or soak in the bathtub, or knit a sock.  I am forced to admit there is some melancholy in this season now, with the little children all grown up and gone away to their own lives, taking their happy noise and their midnight pans of nachos and their friends with them, and I try to fill the gaping holes left behind with knitting and books and chicken noodle soup, and I cry now and then, sitting in the car wash with holiday songs playing on the radio, or in the evenings with a grown-up eggnog or steaming hot toddy.  I look for new ways to make the season bright.  I hang a silk scarf in the window, which casts color beams like stained glass.  I make things for people, late late into the night, and I light candles, and walk in the snow. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Reusable cloth gift bags





I love gifting things, and I love crafting things to give people, but manoman, I hate wrapping stuff.  I don’t know why I find it so complicated—maybe just finding one empty flat surface big enough to roll out that huge and flimsy paper is too hard, but I also can’t find the tape and the hunt for the right size box usually ends in frustration, and then buying paper just so I can throw it away later is hard to swallow, too.  Amanda’s reusable gift bags is the answer!  No scissors, no tape, no hunting around for a ribbon.  I love this idea so much (did it involve a little bit of sewing?  And scraps?  And finally finding a use for my stashed hoard of the fabric handles from Anthropologie shopping bags?  Yes, yes, and yes!) 

Monday, December 1, 2014

It’s not easy being green


Finally, I have reached the Second Color phase of the (at least for now) Extremely Green Blanket.  That’s Debbie Bliss Cashmerino in the lyrically named color 300502, which I will translate to “Grassy Green”.  On Friday, I braved the hordes (I’m so glad they don’t sell yarn at Best Buy) and went on a hunt for the third color and failed.  Maybe I want thisThis?  I don’t know, I can’t tell.  It looks like this project will be slow going, which is fine, because:


there’s this, which still needs sleeves (and which, I found out, matches my pajamas perfectly, which tells you just about how often I got dressed this weekend) and:


this, which isn’t even the only stranded knitting with a steek that’s happening around here at the moment, wow, I really feel like stranded knitting right now, and there’s also something else in dark brown, the photographs of which look like a—well, like a brown sweater with the lights off, because this is December in the North, and there is no light anywhere.  Gloom.  It is downright dim.  Cozy.  Hygge.

I made Leftover Mashed Potato Soup this morning, in about five minutes flat.  It’s so good I want to eat it for breakfast. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Leather flowers, part two: necklace








Leather crafts, continued.  Among Grandma’s things, lying folded amidst the yards of eyelet and flannel and poinsettia print quilting cotton, there was a big buckskin, soft and floppy, tagged by the preparer, bullet holes still apparent.  I don’t know where she got it, but Grandma was an old school country girl, and also a crack shot, and she saved anything that might come in handy in the event of a craft inspiration.  I’ll never know what she had in mind for the buckskin--I am imagining something fringed and hand-tooled--but I thought of flowers.  These are pretty easy:  cut out two flower-ish shapes, poke a couple holes in them with a nail, run a length of leather lacing through the holes, tying them together.  I put the knots in the front.  Get the whole thing wet, and then scrunch and squeeze and stretch it, pulling and twisting the petals, until it looks sufficiently flowery.  The softer your leather is, the better it will sculpt.  Prop it in a little glass to help it keep its shape, and let it dry completely.  Then use your crafty skills to finagle it into a necklace, or whatever else you like.  A lovely tutorial is here

Monday, November 24, 2014

Leather flowers, part one: earrings


I’ve been playing with leather lately.  These little flower earrings have been sitting here, almost finished, for about a month.  I finally got it together to poke a little hole in them so an earring wire could go through, and now they’re done.  Ten seconds of work.  Why is it so easy to get 90 percent done with something and then just let it park there on the work table for four weeks?  I’ve been moving these around to make room for something else for ages.  I don’t know what that’s about. 


These are small, maybe an inch across.  In my head, leather jewelry is so 1970’s, and there is almost nothing I love more than that.  These are begging for a long patchwork skirt and maybe a big bracelet made of cowrie shells.  Boots, for sure. I’m thinking of my second grade teacher, Mrs. Lorenz, who was a beautiful hippie with fringed vests and long red hair and dangly earrings that looked like tiger teeth or maybe bear claws or something.  She made a pillow out of an entire pair of old jeans (I mean it; she just sewed up the cuffs and stuffed them) and she let me borrow her Monkees records.  Her class is where I first heard The Lovin’ Spoonful.  Awesome.  She potted up twenty spider plants in recycled peanut butter jars and gave them to us for Christmas.  She’d totally wear these.  Anyway, I used tiny scraps of leather from my stash of somebody else’s leftovers, purchased twenty years ago for another purpose.  Save everything, people!  The lovely tutorial is here

I am also illuminating the Great Lakes and most of the Eastern Seaboard with work on the granny blanket, which is still frustratingly in the Lemongrass Phase of construction.  This yarn badly needs the tempering of a neighboring hue. 


It looks so innocent there in the sunlight.  Do not be fooled. 

Monday, November 17, 2014





I am working on so many different things that I almost feel a need to make an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of it all.  Socks, a striped scarf, garden marigolds for dyeing the freshly spun wool, leather flowers.  And everything here, along with a few other things still undocumented, and the spinning, and the new blanket, stubbornly still stuck in the Lemongrass phase --which is all frivolously for meeee—remains unfinished and is on pause while I spend a minute or two thinking about someone besides myself and tackle the holiday gifts.  I can’t show you any of it yet.  The finished objects are piling up nicely, though. 

I also made soup, which is my favorite thing to cook and to eat.  I have got soup figured out.   A nice beef and barley, full of potatoes and pepper.  Yum.   I also went to Philadelphia where, you will recall, my girl has taken up residence, and where there is the culinarily adventuresome “cheese steak”.  (It is nice.  There are art murals everywhere, signs that say “Come In, We’re Awesome” and a cafe advertising “Vinyl Night—BYO Records”.  Cheese Steak is a bit of all right.  My girl is happy.  LOVE.)  I also finally got some bifocals, so maybe I’ll be able to read in the bathtub again, and I am spending every single free moment at the knitting needles.  Oh, and it is snowing. 

In case I’ve made you hungry for Beef and Barley soup, here’s my recipe:

Snow Day Beef Barley Soup

1 pound chopped up beef—I don’t know from cuts of meat, so use whatever you like. 

1 medium onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, diced

2-3 Tablespoons olive oil

6-8 cups beef broth

2 large potatoes, peeled and diced

1/2 cup pearl barley

2 bay leaves

3 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Splash of vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

In a big pot or Dutch oven, saute the onions and celery in the olive oil until they are soft.  Add the beef, and season with salt and pepper.  Cook until fully browned.  Add the broth, potatoes, barley, and bay leaves.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste, and simmer until the potatoes and barley are soft, maybe about 30 minutes.  Add parsley and vinegar and simmer 3-5 minutes more.  Add more liquid if needed, and remove the bay leaves before serving. 

I know, vinegar sounds strange, but trust me.  Soup begs for a little vinegar.  Okay, back to the yarn.