Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Castine, ME

I'm here until Saturday. The town in beautiful, and looks just like an historical costal Maine port should look. More when I get home!

castine map

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I'm a Rambler

The Ramble

Coming this weekend. No, I won't be there on Saturday, cause I'll be in Maine, but it's worth going!

Monday, July 23, 2007


blue horizon 1
There was no way I was doing anything on the sewing machine over the last couple of days. We had the most perfect weekend of the summer yet here in Vermont. Saturday I spent the day with friends and their daughter Xandra, at Leddy Park in Burlington. Then, friends and I went to see Transformers at the movies.

Can I just state for the record- possibly the coolest movie I’ve ever seen in my life?

Seriously. Beat out the original Matrix.

Optimus Prime kicked ass. And Megatron scared the crap out of me.

I’m such a geek.

Sunday we drove to Bristol and spent the late morning at Rocky Dale Nursery checking out their perennials. Into town for lunch, (here’s a shot of Main Street)
prayer flags 1and back to the nursery to eat gelato on a bench surrounded by flowers and bumblebees. We bought two daylilies, Capacian fiesta and Ed Murray. No pictures yet, but I’ll take some tomorrow.
EchinaceaThis is one of our Echinacea, a strain called Summer Sky.

And, finally, local corn with diner on Sunday night, and the opportunity to find out who won The Next FoodNetwork Star.

Perfect end to a perfect weekend.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Follow Through #1

I finished the napkins last night. I was supposed to go to the Craft + Process movie night at the Firehouse Gallery with E to the M, but my back was really killing me, and I begged off. I’m hoping for a full report later today. At any rate, after diner and 800 mgs of ibuprofen, I decided to try threading the needle again. Still no luck on finding the manual for la machine, but I was getting desperate. So, really, I just tried threading la machine a little differently, and it worked! I finished the last two napkins with a minimum of fuss; only caught the fabric in the teeth of the machine twice and had to reset the bobbin once when somehow the thread got wrapped around it and jammed up the whole works.

Here is my first birthing:

This fabric
Pumpkin loveis the only thing I have that I could call “stash”, and I’m going to try and use it to make a couple of throw pillow covers to give to mom. She would love them for her porch swing as the weather turns cooler. Today after work I hit the fabric store for a fabric to use on the back of the pillow, and something that will go with this:
Polka-dotted weiner which is what I’m using on the first tote bag I’m making. My best friend gave me a "diy kit" from Eggpress one day that is the cutest stuffed dog. I'm sacrificing the whole "stuffing" aspect of it this time around so I can use the fabric other ways.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Dead Sea in my kitchen

No luck yet finding my owner’s manual for la machine. We have a couple of drawers at home that generally house those sorts of things. You know, owner manuals, old coupons, dead batteries (why do people never throw these out?), tape measurers, an empty film canister. The junk drawer, in other words. I found books for two cameras, the satellite dish receiver, my old vacuum cleaner, the food processor, the stove, refrigerator, and stereo. No sewing machine. Tonight after the artist talk I’ll look under the eaves where I keep a lot of other junk, and, if I still don’t find it there, I’ll have to tear apart my studio.

After all that running around, I needed to find a way to calm down. Baking is always a good choice. Since I was craving something salty, I decided to make soft pretzels. I’ve never tried these before from scratch and thought it can’t be that difficult. I’m happy to report that mostly, I was right.

I used Alton Brown’s recipe. Can I just mention that I love him? A science geek who loves food, can it get any better? Got the oven cranked up to 450. See this?
Bad Oven Management
That’s how I have to keep the oven door closed. If we don’t stick a chair under the handle it doesn’t close tightly enough and takes about 40 minutes to get up to temperature and then doesn’t stay there. Okay, so oven is up and running. I mix the dough, but by hand, ‘cause Alton uses a fancy-schmancy mixer with a hook, which I so don’t have. Knead it for about 6 minutes. It looks like this.


Oiled up the bowl and let it rise. Since it took about 50 minutes, I went and watched an old Law & Order episode. Not Benjamin Bratt, I’m sorry to report. Went back in and got the water boiling. Here’s the fun part- it’s like making bagels! Roll out the dough, twist it up, drop it in the water and poof! It’s all big and soft and pale looking. Stuck them in the oven, and voila, soft pretzels.
Fresh from the oven: Alton Brown's Soft Pretzels

I will say, however, that Alton calls for the use of parchment paper which almost caught on fire in the 12 minutes it was in the oven. I’d make these again, but use either a silicon sheet, or turn down the oven a bit. Still, except for the black on the bottom, yummy!

Next time- macaroons!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Almost Forgot


Craft + Process talk at BCA tomorrow night. Any area crafters should try and attend! I know E to the Em will be there!

Did she ever begin?

first fabric

The short answer is yes. I did start sewing my napkins last night. This is my fabric. Pretty, no?

How did it go?
Sat down to la machine at 8pm and began sewing.
8:15- refill bobbin, rethread machine.
8:20- walk into kitchen to help Abu with his cupcakes.
8:30- needle stuck in housing. Tear machine completely apart. Realize that somehow the flippers holding the bobbin housing in place had gotten moved- see photo. (Don’t ask me, I didn’t do this.) Put machine parts back together again.
Evil sewing machine parts
8:38- walk into kitchen to help Abu with his cupcakes.
8:45- start sewing.
9:00- REFILL BOBBIN. The second time, I figured out what I had been doing wrong initially and managed to fill the entire bobbin, therefore expecting to be able to cruise through the remaining four napkins. Remember, I started with six.
9:10- rethread machine.
9:15 rethread machine.
9:15:22- quit before I throw machine through dining room window.
9:15:35- walk into kitchen to help Abu with his cupcakes.

Do you see a pattern? I mean, come-on, it’s freakin’ napkins! How hard can this be?

Magnolia's Vanilla Cupcake with chocolate icing

As to the cupcakes. They turned out delicious. The recipe is from the world famous Magnolia Bakery in NYC (yes, of Sex and the City fame). Abu had made them, strictly according to directions, the other day as a test run. He’s serving them tonight to his book group, and wanted to make sure they were edible. Abu is a fantabulous cook, but a novice to baking. This was only his third foray into confection sweetness. When he made them on Saturday night, they were, quite honestly, not that great. The recipe calls for them to bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. I told him that’s way too long for cupcakes, try 15. But no, he doesn’t listen to me. They also said to remove from oven and let sit in pans for 15 minutes before removing. Once again, they are basically cooking that entire time. The first round was dry, dry, dry.

This time, he baked them for 12 minutes, let them sit for 5, and then cooled on wire rack. Perfection! He also sifted the flour, which just made them even lighter and fluffier. Finally, when he made the frosting, instead of a buttercream version, he made it with cream cheese and put a couple of teaspoons of cocoa powder in. Seriously, these are now fantastic cupcakes. Which, of course, made me wonder- what’s the deal with Magnolia Bakery? Read more here and here.

I realize I have not yet addressed here what I’m going to do about my sewing machine problems. Today I will get in touch with Ms. D and see if she can help me figure out what I was doing wrong. I have to assume it’s something as simple as threading incorrectly. If only I could find the manual to la machine! Perhaps buried in a drawer in the kitchen?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Coolest Camera Gadget Ever

I just found this website. I. am. in. awe.

First blush

La Machine!Yep, that's my little guy. I had every intention of beginning the sewing on Friday night. I did not have time to go to the fabric store after work, so really just had to make due with what I had at home. So, napkins! I was ready. I had already cut them all to size on Thursday afternoon, and all I had to do was press all the seams and start sewing; how hard could that be?

Whatever. It took me an hour and twenty minutes to finish pressing all the seams. Fold in 1/2-inch, press, repeat on remaining three sides of napkin. Now fold seam in another 1/2-inch and press again. Repeat on remaining three sides of napkin. Repeat folding and pressing on all remaining five napkins.

By the time I finished pressing all the napkins I had pricked myself three times with pins, burned my right pinky finger on the iron, and my cup of Acai Mango Zinger tea was ice cold. I turned off the iron, walked back upstairs, had a dish of Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia Frozen Yogurt, brused my teeth, and went to bed.

I was then planning on starting on the actual sewing portion of the project on Saturday. But, OMG, it was nice out on Saturday. So instead I worked on THE GARDEN PROJECT with Abu. On Friday he had gone and picked up a bunch of shrubs to plant. He got some nice Cedar's and put those near the road so they eventually give us more privacy:

cedarThen, he put a bunch of stuff in the backyard:

The beginningFrom front to back: stewartia, three boxwoods, a clethora, a white hydrangea, a verigated bush of some sort, and a weeping crabapple! He knows his plants. More will eventually be filled in, but this is a good start.

My little annual garden on the side of the driveway is finally filling in:
annual bed closeupSedum, snapdragons, hollyhocks. The planter in the back has basil in it, and I've cut it off in this photo but there is a "container tomato" plant at the very front of the bed. Next year, I'll work on making the bed longer (up to 25 feet) and start filling in more perennials.

Okay, so tonight I try to sew. It's amazingly easy to get distracted on a beautiful summer weekend.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Coming Soon...

New sewing book
Yes, I’m starting a new blog. I know, I know, “You did it once, and couldn’t stick with it.” Well, that was when I was young and foolish and didn’t have any direction in my life. Now I’m young and foolish with plenty of direction.

I’m learning to sew. Yes, it’s true. I’m a 39 year old woman who basically hasn’t done any real sewing since 8th grade when I made a jumper that was covered in tiny little strawberries. It’s just, you know, I’m craving feeling old-school. So, with the help of a good friend, Ms. D, I’m learning all over again.

A few ladies from work and I got together yesterday at the end of the day. There were four of us, not counting Ms. D, and we all hauled in our old sewing machines handed down to us by mothers, aunts, and sisters. Except me, of course. Two years ago at Christmas I asked for one from my parents who dutifully bought me a nice table-top model Kenmore. It’s been sitting on a shelf ever since.

At any rate, we all plugged in and Ms. D ran around and showed everyone how to fill a bobbin and where to stick it in the machine. That’s about as far as we got. I picked up the above fabulous book at my local giant boxstore bookstore, and am planning on starting small, with a tote bag. I’ll pick up the fabric today after work, and get going over the weekend.

Wish me luck.