Friday, November 25, 2011

Makin' Thanksgiving dinner

Dear Shayne,

Every year, Bill and I make a complete Thanksgiving dinner just for the two of us. Then we eat leftovers for a week -- it's fantastic! This year, I snapped photos of the food we made all day. Want to see? I knew you would.

For appetizers, we had...

Deviled Eggs:
Thanksgiving: Deviled Eggs
This is the only way I eat eggs. And it has got to be my grandmother's recipe. It's spicy and delicious: mayo, creamy horseradish, dry mustard, onions, salt, and white pepper. Sprinkle with paprika. Fabulous.

Crab dip:
Thanksgiving: Crab Dip
This recipe is so easy, I once worked with a woman who said, "I make it in the car on the way to the party!" I wouldn't go quite that far, but it really is easy:

Mix together 1 package of cream cheese + 1 can of drained crab meat and form it into a brick or a ball or a square or however you want to display it. Slather it with cocktail sauce, put some Triscuits on the tray, and then move out of the way because a stampede of party-goers will mow you down for it. (Thanks to my mom for this recipe!)

Thanksgiving: Meatballs
This one is a tradition from Bill's family. Nice at a party because you can keep 'em hot in the crockpot. The recipe is straight out of the 60s and still tastes great.

The sauce is, improbably, 1 jar of grape jelly + 1 jar of chili sauce. Sounds horrible, but tastes amazing and makes the house smell fantastic.

While eating appetizers, Bill put the bird on the grill:
Thanksgiving: Turkey on the grill

Bill brines the bird using this recipe, and then bastes the heck out of it with chicken stock, butter, and white white while it's grilling. It's out there for a few hours and comes in moist and delicious!

While the turkey's a'grillin, we make the sides...

Garlic carrots:
Thanksgiving: Garlic Carrots
This recipe from my grandma and is as delicious as it is easy: steam the carrots, then sauté chopped garlic (the original recipe calls for butter, but I use olive oil -- just as good and better for you!)

Then combine the garlic and the carrots and mmmm! (Added bonus: no vampires.)

Green bean casserole:
Thanksgiving: Green Bean Casserole
This stuff grosses me out, but Bill loves it, so here it is. The recipe is straight off the back of the can of fried onions... I suspect that this one dish is single-handedly keeping that item in production. What else are they used for?

Thanksgiving: Stuffing
I am not really a stuffing eater, so I usually just make Stove Top for Bill. But I saw this recipe last week and thought, "If ever there was a stuffing I will like, it's this one!" So I made it. It seemed really promising: pumpkin bread, corn bread, cranberries, sausage. Mmm!

But I still wasn't wild about it. I think... I am just not a stuffing eater. And Bill didn't love it, either, so we're back to Stove Top next year (as it's also about 1000x easier!) I think that recipe would be fantastic for anyone who likes stuffing. I just... don't.

Hrm... did not get a photo of my mashed potatoes. Guess I was too busy stuffing my face!

I also missed the photo opportunity of the perfect bird coming in from the grill. By the time I turned around to take it, Bill was already this far along:

Thanksgiving: Bird carvin'

The house smelled so good, I think we were just anxious to EAT!

Here is my plate on the table:
Thanksgiving: Dinner!
(Note to self: Get a couple of plain white plates for food photos... every photo I take of my food has a giant tomato in the middle!)

And, finally...

Pumpkin Pie:
Thanksgiving: Pumpkin Pie

Which, as you can see, is really just a vehicle for whipped cream...

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

New quilt for Kaesea

Dear Shayne,

A couple of years ago, I made this quilt for Kaesea. It's been great -- it stays on the foot of our bed, on top of a heating pad (bonus!) and makes a great gushy-food placemat (rather than having that all over the duvet cover). Also, it looks nice with our mostly-blue duvet covers.

Recently, we got a new duvet cover that didn't quite match the old quilt. You know I don't need much of an excuse to make a quilt, so I took this opportunity to whip one up.

The new duvet cover has beiges, browns, and greys, so it's a neutral roundup. I like stripes, so this was my first design:
Kaesea's quilt: Original plan

Once I saw that together, I decided I wanted something a bit more harmonious, so I cut more strips and laid them out in a sort of a tonal gradient. I laid them out on the couch so that I could re-visit them and verify the order.

When I returned, I found this:
Kaesea's quilt: Design approval

  1. Kaesea pre-approves his quilt.
  2. The new quilt perfectly matches Kaesea's fur. As I have mentioned before on his blog, his back is becoming light brown in his old age (he used to be dark grey, and still is on his head). As you can see, Kaesea has actually arranged himself to match the stripes on his quilt here. Hilarious.

So I decided to make it two-sided -- one side is the original random stripes and the other side is the tonal gradient. It's nice to be able to mix it up!

Kaesea's quilt: Gradient side

And here's a shot of it on the bed, showing how nicely it matches the duvet cover:
Kaesea's quilt, in situ

And, most importantly, here is Kaesea, enjoying his new quilt:
Kaesea quilt: Final approval

Love that cat.


QIP: Choosing a binding fabric

Dear Shayne,

Do you remember the quilt-in-progress I posted about waaay back in September? (Started here, found a big problem that needed fixing here, then promptly dropped off the face of the blog...)

I fixed that blocks-too-dark problem, but then failed to take a photo of it before sending it off to the quilter. It's going to be ready any day now, so I'll post when I get it back. In the meantime, here's a little story about binding.

(Gosh, that sounds boring... but this is a craft blog, after all.)

I usually like a stripe-y binding, but I couldn't seem to find one in the right colors for this quilt. I used a polka-dot binding for my cousin's quilt and I really liked that, so when I saw these cute dots, I thought I was onto something:

However, I didn't have the fabrics from the quilt with me when I found this at the shop, so I wasn't 100% sure if it would match.

But then I noticed the name of the fabric pattern:

As I mentioned before, I bought the main fabric for this quilt because it reminded me of our little cat Biscuit's fur (Wow. I cannot believe it's been 6 months since he passed away. We still miss that little kitty every day.)

Sorry... getting all Debbie Downer there, but my point is that this is a quilt that commemorates a cat and the fabric is called "Cat Walk." So I bought it.

Got it home, put it next to some blocks I already had finished and... voila!

Looks great! Stay tuned for photos of the finished quilt...


Monday, November 21, 2011

Your mitts: Need your opinion

Dear Shayne,

When we were together last year, you bought some yarn for me to make you some fingerless mitts. I'm finally getting around to it (mostly because you told me that you're cold...) I've completed one, but I need some help deciding what to do for the second one.

Here's the first one:

(Gorgeous, right?)

Sooo... here's the problem: This yarn is a very slow striping yarn. As you can see from that mitt, I only covered 4 colors in just 1 mitt. Here is the remaining ball of yarn:

I am pulling from the middle, so I am going to be knitting the blue and green yarn you see around the center very soon.

Sooo... here are the options:

1. Press on. This will probably result in the next mitt being pink, green, and blue (with the same plum-y thumb as the first mitt, because I knit the thumbs before I started anything else).

2. Skip the blue and green and go to the colors that are similar to the first mitt (pink, orange, red, purple). The mitts will not be identical to one another, but they will be closer to the same "family" of colors.

I love all of these colors together, but when used on such a small project, it really divides up the colors into chunks. Sooo... do you want 2 totally mismatched mitts (the one above + a blue and green one) OR do you want me to do some color finagling to get them close to one another?

Let me know ASAP so I can send these off to you and keep your paws warm!


PS - Have I mentioned lately how I hate the new Blogger interface? Just sayin'.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Woven scarf for Kate

Dear Shayne,

Despite my lack of posting lately, I have been making stuff. Including this woven scarf for my cousin-in-law, Kate. I'm not 100% sure that these purple-y brown colors are her bag, but she's always so warmly appreciative of handmade gifts -- she's the best kind of person to make stuff for!
Woven scarf for Kate
I bought the yarn at A Verb for Keeping Warm in Oakland, but I cannot find the ball band right now, so I'm not sure of the brand/fiber/colorway. When I stumble across it later, I'll update the post. For now I'll tell you that it felt great and made a lovely fabric -- I love the color variegation:
Woven scarf for Kate [detail]


Friday, November 18, 2011


Dear Shayne,

You know what this blog needs? Some content! Fortunately, my parents gave me a gift last week that fits the bill -- qiviut!

What is qiviut, you say? (I mean, besides a word that begins with "q" that does not have a "u" immediately following it...) It is super-soft, super-strong, super luxurious yarn (think cashmere, but even better) that comes, improbably, from musk ox. (Want more details? Wikipedia can help ya out...)

Along with an amazingly generous 400+ yards of qiviut (this stuff is like spun gold), they also gave me this great book called Arctic Lace, both purchased on their recent trip to Alaska (which sounds really cool -- have you ever been there?) The book is fascinating -- not only does it include many patterns and ideas for working with qiviut, but there is also a lot of history and cultural information about the native people of Alaska. Really great stuff.

What's the occasion? Oh, my birthday. Which isn't, technically, for another 5 weeks or so, but my mom was practically vibrating with excitement about giving me this yarn, so who am I to object -- you want to throw luxury yarn my way? Go for it!


PS - The new Blogger interface bites. The Preview is vastly improved, but working on the post is an absolute pain in the behind.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

QIP: Continued Evolution

Dear Shayne,

As I mentioned, the original plan I had for the quilt blocks I'm working on changed once I made the first one. And now that I've completed all of the blocks, I've found that I need to change out two of them.

Here is Hipstamatic photo of all of the current blocks -- with the colors reduced by this filter (Libatique 73, if you're wondering), you can really see the problem:

It's that one super-dark block -- it's the black hole of this quilt!

I tried moving it around, but it just doesn't play well with others. It's harder to see, but the one in the lower left hand corner is also awfully dark, so it's also getting remade.

My other option would to be to make some additional darker blocks, but I'm worried about things getting too Halloween-y. So I'm going to replace these two with medium grey versions.

I hate to waste blocks I've made, so I'm thinking of making these two into Halloween pillows. First, I gotta finish this quilt. Wish me luck!


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Evolution of a Quilt Block

Dear Shayne,

Well! After a big spurt of posts in July, we fell silent once again. And, once again, I'm going to end our blog break with... a quilt! This one is still in progress, but I thought I'd post along the way.

So... the day after Biscuit died, I found a fabric that reminded me of the color and pattern of his fur. I fell in love with it and knew I had to make a little Biscuit-inspired lap quilt:
Feature fabric
(Moda Fabrics' Central Park Carousel Sunshine by Kate Spain.)

I was also buying some grey fabric for this quilt and the orange and grey looked great together, so I was set!

I've never used a "feature fabric" in a quilt before, as I am a very patchwork-y girl, but I really do love this one, so I decided to give it a shot.

I have loved this quilt from Denyse Schmidt Quilts for awhile (Denyse Schmidt is a goddess, by the way -- that book is awesome):

And I recently saw this antique quilt in Modern Log Cabin Quilting by Susan Beal (another goddess and another fabulous book):

So I drew this:

However, once I made the first block...
First block -- not quite right

I realized that the strips were all too wide and uniform for my liking. I think my error was that the center square needed to be larger, but... it wasn't.

Since I didn't really want to re-make that block, I decided to trim down the final grey border and then funk up the other blocks with a variety of thinner and thicker strips. Like so:
First four blocks
(The lower left block in that group is the one from above, but with the final grey border trimmed down.)

I have been second-guessing my decision to use a single grey fabric for each block -- I'm a patchwork-y gal and it would have been more interesting to mix 'em up -- but I've been thinking a lot about Biscuit as I make this quilt and he was always a scaredy cat, so he probably would have preferred this "safer" choice.

You know, if a cat could talk about his quilt preferences.

All right. I think this quilt is going to be 16 blocks. I've got 10 done, so there's 6 more to go. I'll post again when they're finished.

And what have you been up to?


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Portlandia: Sock Summit edition (Put a bead on it!)

Dear Shayne,

One of the classes I took at Sock Summit was all about beaded knitting. The absolute highlight of the class was the instructor, Sivia Harding. I feel silly to use this adjective, but it's the first one that comes to mind... Shayne, she is magical. Just magical.

Over the course of three hours, she managed to pull from her bag roughly 40 or so beaded knit samples (including, but not limited to: shawls, socks, mittens, gloves, sweaters, scarves and legwarmers) that simply blew the crowd away. And Shayne, these were all her own designs. Not only is she prolific, but I just love the way she gently encouraged us: "It's easy," she said softly, "Just try it -- it's not hard."

That's Sivia for you, quietly encouraging everyone to simply add some beads to our knitting. As if it's no trouble at all. She convinces the class with her gentle style and her magical bag of tricks. Yes! I can add beading to my knitting! Yes, I absolutely can!

We learned to make a pattern for some gorgeous beaded mitts in class, and we received a pre-beaded skein to start the project:

I'm not sure I'll make those exact mitts, but I do feel empowered to put some beads on my knitting! The biggest hit in the class was her pattern for a gorgeous pair of gloves called Fluency. A. May. Zing. If you click that link, you'll see the fingerless version in the bottom photo -- I am totally making those. I've already bought the pattern and have the yarn... now I just need the beads.

As for the title of this post and the joke I just could not get out of my head... have you seen the show Portlandia? Totally hilarious. One episode makes fun of the current craft trend to put birds on everything: Put a bird on it! During class, I kept thinking, "Put a bead on it!"

Put. A. Bead. On. It!

And I will! Stay tuned...


Friday, July 29, 2011

I can read charts now!

Dear Shayne,

When I started the day, I could not knit from a chart. Thanks to an amazing class with JC Briar this morning, I now can!

Using this:

I knit this:



Sock Summit Day 1: Awesome!

Dear Shayne,

First day of Sock Summit was great! I took that self-striping yarn class and learned a lot. I also started a little project... which I've ripped out a few times so far... it's been a rough start, but I'll stick with it. I think.

There was, of course, some shopping. Yay! I bought a very cute knitting bag, a knitting related comic book, and, of course, a bit of yarn.

We also walked around Portland (aka "Craftyland") some and hit up a few crafty shops, including a darling boutique called Redux and the groovy Bartleby's Letterpress Emporium.

And then we finished the day the way every day should end... with yarn and wine!

Tomorrow, I learn to read charts (in theory...) and take a class called "3-2-1 Roundabout". Wish me luck!


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Live from the Sock Summit!

Dear Shayne,

I'm at the Sock Summit right now, using my phone to post (apologies if this ends up looking horrible -- haven't tested it much.)

As you know, I don't actually knit socks. As one charming lady said to me in the Registration line this morning, "You're here for the yarn, aren't you?" Yup. I sure am!

Also, the classes. I'll learn techniques that can be used for non-sock knits. And, of course, the knitters! My friend Katie got checked in this morning by the Yarn Harlot!! WOW!

Plus, I do love to make fingerless mitts, which are basically socks without the bend. So there ya go!

Ok. Off to my first class -- all about self-striping yarn. You'd love the yarn I've got -- it's purple and pink and non-wool. Photos coming soon!


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

In the Mood for NYC

Dear Shayne,

Last week, I went on a whirlwind trip to New York. Seriously. My friend and I left on the red-eye Wednesday night and came home on Friday evening. We were on the ground for 36 hours!

The purpose of our trip was to see the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Met. If you haven't heard or read about this show at all, click this link, watch the video, and look at the images. Go ahead. I'll wait.

It was... amazing. There is no other word to describe it. Absolutely amazing. That video is great, but nothing compares to seeing the work in person. Just... did I say "amazing" already? Oh, yeah. I did. Cause it was.

After the exhibit, we did a bit of Crafty Shopping in New York. One place I had to hit was Purl Soho. I read the blog and I've heard nothing but good things about it. It did not disappoint. My only regret is that I was so exhausted when we got there that I could barely focus on everything in the store. Check out this awesome display of knitted swatches:

I've been eyeing the Lap Duvet project on their blog and it was great to see it in person -- I totally need to make that!

I bought one thing while I was there -- a stack of wool fabrics, dyed as a single lot. It was called "Tomato," so how could I resist? I think these will become a quilt:

(Photo taken from the Purl Soho site. Theirs were waaay better than mine!)

We also went to M&J Trimmings and I did not snap a photo, but WOW, Shayne. The selection is astounding, the displays are fantastic, and the shop itself is So. Well. Kept! The whole time we were there, the folks working were straightening things and keeping everything in order. If you've ever been to a fabric store and seen the trims and ribbons all over the place, you know how great this is.

And the stuff! The stuff they had there! Nailheads, ribbon, sequins, rhinestones, lace, silk flowers, hardware and more... it was impressive. I was actually too overwhelmed to buy anything, but I'll be keeping this place in mind for upcoming projects. It was just... wow.

And on Friday, we hit Mood. Do you watch Project Runway? I've seen this shop tons of times on the show, but never realized how HUGE it is. And, again, the selection was just tremendous. This is a typical shot you see on the show:

In reality, multiply that same shot by 100 and you have the entire three floors of Mood. And it's all good stuff! Look -- here is a selection of just striped jersey fabrics:

Just striped jersey! This isn't even the tip of the iceburg! Lace, brocade, upholstery, a whole room for leather! Here is a shot of some gorgeous upholstery fabrics:

I bought one thing here -- a gorgeous piece of fabric that I am supposed to make into a skirt, but I'm not sure if I can ever cut into. For one, I cannot decide which side I like better:

It's taffeta with a lace overlay and embroidery. I love it so. Maybe I'll just hang it on a wall and be done with it.

The best part of Mood? The people who worked there -- everyone was so nice! We feared a snooty sales staff, but were so pleasantly surprised by how friendly everyone was.

The only thing that was less-than-perfect about the trip was the weather. Gah. The HEAT! But the air-conditioning worked everywhere we went, so it was like there were Crafty Oases throughout the City. Whew!

I want to go back to NYC again soon when I have more time to spend.
Also, when it's cooler. ;)


Sunday, July 24, 2011

2011: The Year of the Quilt

Dear Shayne,

I hereby dub 2011 The Year of the Quilt. And that's not a bad year, is it? ;)

In the past year, I've made quilts for the twins (technically 2010, but within the past 12 months...), a quilt for my mom-in-law, and a group-made quilt for a good friend's baby.

And now... a quilt I made for my cousin:

This past year has been a rough one for her, so I thought she could use a quilt (who couldn't, really?)

This is the first time I've bought a "collection" of fabrics to make into a quilt. These were by Moda and the collection is called "Prayer Flag," but I can't find it on their site now. I did that to make things easier, but I ended augmenting the selection with fabrics from my stash (of course).

Once again, I had it machine quilted at New Pieces Quilt Shop in Berkeley. I selected a heart pattern and they had an awesome variegated thread that matched the colors in the quilt beautifully (click to see it close up):
Quilting detail: Front

It looked especially great on the back:
Quilting detail: Front

For signing the quilt, I am currently hooked on the permanent fabric markers. I guess the embroidery is nicer, but by the time I feel like I am "done" with a quilt, the last thing I want to do is spend several more hours embroidering it.

So for this one, I just signed it with the marker:
Quilt signature

I have already run it through the washing machine and dryer and it didn't come off, so I have faith that it will last for quite some time.

I took a bit of a risk with that binding -- I was nervous about the polka dot fabric -- but I'm really pleased with how it turned out.

I've got two more quilts currently brewing in my mind, so you can expect to see more before the year is over... perhaps I'll even make one for myself! (What a concept, eh?)


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Miniature Dinner

Dear Kelly,

My oldest nephew is the pickiest eater on earth. The very pickiest! In an effort to get him to try something new, I made him this miniature Italian dinner:

salad on the left, bread on the right

He ate it, but I also had to pay him a buck fifty.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Just pretty!

Dear Kelly,

Here's a little swatch of Martha Stewart glitter markers:

I think the ink keeps the glitter well-contained so that you could have them in your house :)


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Fun with rub-on letters

Dear Shayne,

Of all the crafts we do, I find the rub-on to just be so... satisfying! I think you bought some print-your-own rub-on paper when you were here last -- did you ever try it? I may need to get some.

At any rate, here's a quick-n-easy project, but I was pretty pleased with the result.

I bought these rub-on letters on sale for $1 at Flax awhile back (remember that place? We went there when you were here -- you got overwhelmed by the giant paper room):
Rub on letters

And then I pulled out a little postcard book I got at the Chronicle Books warehouse sale (you may have to time your next visit to coincide with that event, Shayne -- totally awesome!)
Book of postcards

And then? I rubbed some letters onto one of the postcards! (You saw that coming, didn't you?)

Aside from the kerning issues and my trepidation that this will not make it through the mail unscathed, I pretty much love it:
Finished postcard

Since the Letter Writing Social, I have been writing more mail. Yay!