Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Out with a bang

Chocolate ganache birthday cake, Moosewood Celebrates. Alexis' 26th birthday, Maxie's Supper Club, Ithaca, NY.
It was a convenient holiday get-together for the three of us. After spending long, merry days with family, it was refreshing to get out of the holiday rubble and have some spirited girl time.

I have to confess, I may not have been much of a conversation partner. I was too busy experimenting with my new camera. New camera! When I cruise my favorite blogs, I spend a lot of time drooling at the beautiful photography (you know who you are, Alicia and Amanda). I marvel at my blog heroes and their supernatural abilities to take decent photos in low-light settings, to overcome the nauseating effects of artificial light, to make exquisite photographs: still-lifes and action shots and close-ups. And now, I can be one of them. So excited!

I had an excellent holiday. There was lots of joy, and hugs. Patrick's Grandma's peanut-butter balls, and his mother's excellent roast cauliflower. There were Christmas eve Manhattans with my family, and tipsy conversation, and exclamations. Alexis loved the mobile, the Airedales were well-received. Watching my mom holding her new bag and smiling, I felt proud and loved. I hope your holidays had good food and laughter, shiny, pretty things, and candlelight.

Have a happy New Year!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sugar cookies!

Ooooo, yes. This Christmas I've been sorely missing my mom. That wonderful feeling of being a woman in the kitchen with another woman, both of you going about your art energetically and capably... well, I've missed that this season. This is actually the first Christmas I haven't spent at least some time at my parents' house, baking or wrapping or decorating with my mom. Thankfully, this is an anomaly. I know that next year there will surely be Christmas times at her house again.

But. Do not let talk of my mom diminish my glee at Christmasing with the other favorite woman in my life-- my pal Alexis. My friend since Freshman year, travel buddy, maid of honor... yes, she's quite a pal. Today, we baked sugar cookies together, and spent tons of time with colored sugar and icing decorating them. Oh, joys.

Festive plaid stars:

My favorite, Alexis' Christmas tree with a beaded garland and striped candycanes...

Here's some other holiday scenes from around our house today:

I hope those who have snow don't have anyplace to go, and can sit with cups of tea and gingerbread and candycanes and watch it tumbling down...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wee cottage ornaments tutorial

These tiny houses, with button windows and little felt roofs, are a great way to use some scrappy bits. Enjoy this tutorial! If you've made a little cottage based on this tute, you can add it to the new Sweetfern Flickr Group. Happy crafting!


Scraps of cotton quilting fabric in suitable cottage colors

Scraps of heavy-weight iron-on interfacing (4.5 x 4.5")

Scraps of wool or craft felt in colors suitable for chimney, roof, door, and anything else you can think of

Cereal box cardboard, for templates

Polyfil stuffing (or a few cotton balls)

Embroidery floss, beads, sequins, small buttons, for embellishing

Glue gun



Sewing machine

Okay. Ready? Ready. Take a scrap of cotton quilting fabric, and line it up on your interfacing. Make sure the wrong side of your fabric is facing the fusible side of the interfacing.

Trim around it with scissors.

Iron the two layers together.

Print the pattern below (it's just to scale the way it is), cut the pieces, and trace them onto cereal box cardboard. Cut out the pattern pieces.
Trace three of the square pieces, and two of the pointy gable-end pieces on the interfacing-side of your fabric.
Cut them out.

Line up one square with one gable end piece as shown:
Sew them together with coordinating thread.
Do the same with the other gable piece and a second square piece. Now you have this:
Sew the two pieces together, interfacing-side out.

Now you have a little floorless, roofless cottage.

Now, fit the last square into the bottom of your cottage, interfacing-side out, and sew it into place.

It gets better I promise! Stand it up, trim the corners a little.

Turn it right side out. Ahh, there we go:
Sort of. Now it's time for the fun part: embellishing. Doors, windows, shrubbery, anything you want. I embroider my embellishments-- you can use hot glue for most of them if you'd prefer.

Now, we stuff. Take a pinch of Polyfil and nestle it down inside your cottage.

Now you have this. Cut out a piece of felt in a suitably roofy color. 3 x 3" is a good size-- you get to trim it later so it doesn't have to be perfect.
Run a bead of hot glue up the eaves of your cottage, back and front.

Carefully press the roof into place. You can use your fingers, or some other clean, blunt object to "tweak" the gables into place before the glue sets up.

Now, cut a little rectangular notch into the roof at the back of the cottage.

Cut a skinny strip of felt (in a suitable chimney color) that's about the width of the notch, and long than the house is tall.

(Ignore the junk stuck to my glue gun!) Run a bead of glue up the back of the cottage, and press the chimney into place.

Give it a trim.
The last step is attaching a loop for hanging. Cut a 12" piece of embroidery floss (or yard, or thin ribbon, if you'd prefer) and thread it through a nice big needle. Take a little pinch with your left hand at the very peak of the roof, and push the needle through.

Pull the thread until you've got about a 2 inch tail.

Take another stitch, just like the first.

Un-thread your needle, and adjust your thread so there's a good-size hanging loop in the middle, and a tail on each side.

Tie the tails in a double knot, and trim the ends. Ta da!

Make a little village and hang them on your tree!

This pattern can easily be adjusted to make other buildings: churches, barns, log cabins, etc. The scale can be adjusted, as well.

Happy village-making!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


This is the (fairly) unglamorous scene on my worktable right now as I scurry to get boxes in the mail this afternoon. I spent all of yesterday baking: three batches of quick bread, tons of oatmeal flatbread (that's in the foreground), applesauce (which I canned, of course), and a huge quantity of a squash-bean-corn stew I call Three Sisters. I love giving food as holiday gifts. You're pretty much guaranteed it'll be appreciated, and, for those of us who travel for the holidays, having some nourishing food in the house can be a huge blessing. Last Christmas, a blessed pan of lasagna from Jen and Corrine saved our road-weary butts from having to cook all through the holidays. What a lifesaver.

Anyway, I'm off to the post office, and then back here to clean, clean, clean. Friends are coming! I can't wait. Stay tuned (hopefully) tomorrow for a little ornament tutorial.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Craftivism: support handmade toys

Because the time, skill, and joy of making things by hand is something we all appreciate, I wanted to pass this on to you.

Due to the recent concerns about lead levels in imported toys, a bill has been passed which requires all toys, imported and domestic, to be tested for lead before reaching the market. When you think about all the kids who've been exposed to unsafe lead levels from made-in-China toys, this is a good thing.

The problem is, these lead tests are expensive. Up to $400 per toy. And this bill, as it's written, applies to all toy makers, in fact, anyone who manufactures products for children under 12. That includes all the committed, conscientious cottage crafters, all the talented handmakers on Etsy. If even includes me, for a few months ago I made a baby blanket and sold it in my shop. Under this new law, I'm a criminal!

So. What needs to happen is, amendments must be made to the bill before it's put into action. Send this sample letter to your Congress person and Senators.

Maurice Hinchey
Hillary Clinton
Charles Schumer

If you need to look up your own representative, you can do that here.
If you need to look up your senators, do that here.

If you'd like, you can read more about the issue, and do even more good things here. Such as signing petitions, downloading widgets, and joining the Save Handmade Toys facebook page.

Thanks, everyone, for your support of making things by hand!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Winter walking

This week brought us an ice storm. The steady drizzling rain continued all evening, and as the temperature dropped, it froze. Then, last night, there was snow. When this morning dawned sunny, I knew Patrick and I had to get out and hike.

Have you ever hiked in the woods, post-ice storm, on a sunny day? Man, it's incredible. A whole stand of trees transformed into a diamond cathedral, absolutely blinding and beautiful in the sunshine.
We went where we usually go. Where? Chenango Valley State Park. We go there a lot. Recently, there's been a proposal to allow snowmobiles in the park. Oh, we hope not. We love the solitude, the woodpecker calls, and today, the trackless snowfall.

I have to admit it, though. Even before we left the house this morning, my intentions were not solely for hiking. Situated conveniently at the Port Crane exit is a FastTrac convenience store with the most incredible, pimped-out hot beverage self-serve doctoring bar I've ever seen. Hot chocolate, after a blustery hike at Chenango Valley, has become somewhat of a Kristina-and-Patrick wintertime tradition.
Peppermint bits! Chocolate sauce! Mini marshmallows in a shaker can! Eight different free flavor shots! No kidding. It's rich.
And, hot chocolate in hands, we spent the balance of the afternoon driving the hills, winding through lovely snow-and-ice crusted trees, humming Sleighride.
Giddy-yap, giddy-yap, giddy-yap let's go,
let's look at this snow...
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