Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Finished :: in progress

I made a new favorite thing. 

I made eight log cabin squares and sashed them with hot pink linen and matching quilting cotton and sewed them into a boxy tote bag and that is my new favorite thing. My friend who is going to receive said tote bag shall remain nameless, so that she may have the pleasure of seeing this on my blog and wondering, wondering, if she will be the recipient.

I have been making variations on this tote bag since 2008, and I'm not sick of it yet. I like many things about it: that I don't have to cut any curves (cutting curves is my least favorite thing), that I have the dimensions memorized, that the handles can be long or short, fat or wide-- whatever kind of strips I have left over from the body construction can be turned into handles.

Combining all these features with another of my favorite things-- piecing log cabin squares-- made this sooo enjoyable. Log cabin squares are great. You rummage through your scraps, pick your favorites, iron them, cut them into strips, and start sewing around in a circle. It's the greatest. It's the bean soup of quilting. Throw in whatever and it turns out awesome.

I've been holing up in my studio a lot this week, watching it snow, making things.

(I might be letting the cat out of the bag, broadcasting this one. But I can't wait. Handmade gift reveals post-holidays are nice, but I want the inspiring pictures and the ideas in the moment, you know?)

And as soon as one thing is done, another begins... oooh yes, it's that time of year. 

Tomorrow we're heading south to Maryland, as per tradition, and taking a day after T-day to visit Gettysburg. We did a similar thing last year-- went to Antietam-- and it was awesome. So, we go.

Hope everyone travels safe and has a warm, delicious, joyful Thanksgiving.

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Monday, November 25, 2013


This was fun. Seven people, a roaring "fire," snow squalls all day, and a feast. I made stuffed mushrooms with sage, roast squash with lemon-tahini sauce, pear pie with red wine and rosemary, and a twist on lasagna made with homemade pasta and a spanakopita-inspired filling. That was the best thing. I have a pasta maker attachment for my stand mixer, and I don't use it nearly enough. But it's easy! No more complicated than making pie dough. From here on out, I'm telling myself, every time I make lasagna it's going to be from homemade noodles. 

We drank six bottles of wine. And a good time was had by all!

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Creeping in

My Nutcracker Suite Pandora station has been playing a little louder this week. It's about at the point where I don't want to do anything else but sew and craft and write Christmas cards-- and it truly seems early for that. But, I remind myself, I have a scant three weeks after Thanksgiving to get everything ready-- the house, the gifts, the meal-- and it will fly. 

So I'm starting early. Patrick hasn't been out of the house much lately. Almost: he hasn't been out of the house enough. It's so ironic-- I spend all summer wishing him home home home, so we can have a campfire and yard beers and walk the Del-- and now I want him to disappear so I can tuck myself away in my office and play with glitter. Sigh. 

Tomorrow, my parents and my aunt and Patrick's parents are all coming for a pre-Thanksgiving dinner. Since I don't usually get to spend Thanksgiving with my family, doing a big meal together before the holiday seems to be the best of both worlds. And I get to host it, but without all the pressure of mashed potatoes and stuffing and pie. I'm super excited about the menu.

Happy weekend, everyone!

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bits and bobs

Some scenes from this week. I'm not getting as much down time as I used to-- now that I've picked up some different, more demanding writing gigs-- so I'm squeezing in project time and sewing time where I can, around the edges. Yesterday I went to Binghamton to provision myself for holiday making; tonight I will be getting down with my kitchen, socking away our Christmas eve dinner main course in my freezer. It's a craaazy busy time of year, but fortunately most of the busy is stuff I embrace. Cooking, decorating, tidying, cozying. It's all right in my happy place. 

House-wise, I've been finally getting around to painting the clearstory-- that extra-high, extra-scary part above our staircase. Yuh. Three coats and lots of caulking, and I'm just praying I don't have to paint it again for ten years or so. But what an improvement! It should be done by early next week, if all goes as planned. 

Wish me luck!

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Monday, November 18, 2013

A Saturday

We went to Walkway over the Hudson State Park, and to Franny Reese State Park, and to a pizza place that served very very large beers, and to our new favorite bar in Kingston, NY. It was maybe the Last Nice Day in November, and I'm glad we did something with it.

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Friday, November 15, 2013

And slowly...

Last night, I sequestered myself in my office after dinner, and turned on the Nutcracker Suite station on Pandora very quietly, and made these stars. It must be the early snow. 

No. No, no. It's always this way, isn't it? I get stirred up in November

Every Christmas I tell myself, "Ok, this year is going to be easy." And every year, of course, I break my own rules. But this year I think I'm getting a handle on things. I'm finally figuring out my own gifting style, and letting go of the guilt and pressure I think we all feel to buy things. I don't really like buying things, even when I know said things will be useful to their recipients. Of course, some things are necessary and inevitable, but I want the bulk of my gifting to be made. I used to sew something for nearly everyone on my list, and as much fun as that was, I'm feeling pulled by other winds lately. I spent my whole summer and fall growing and preserving food, and everyone needs to eat, don't they? I put up hot sauce and pickles and salsa and tomato sauce and caponata and pesto. 

So I'm getting on board with a different approach: a basket of abundance for every couple on my list. Stuff I've canned surrounded by some locally made soaps, honey, maple syrup, and dressed up with an ornament, maybe, or a quick potholder. Something like that. Honestly, the garden is a big reason I'm not sewing as much as I used to-- it's just so much work in September and October, putting up and putting away! Good work. Invigorating work. Delicious work-- I grow too much to eat myself, so I'm going to start sharing.

And I love baskets. I love buying baskets (secondhand) and I love filling baskets, and I love dreaming about the willow saplings I've planted that may someday furnish the materials for me to be making baskets. And who doesn't love receiving a basket? They're homey and cheerful and comforting. 

So yesterday I pulled in whatever materials I could find around the yard (twigs, Virginia creeper vine, dried iris seed pods) and got to work improvising some festive little bits and bobs.

The older I get, the more I realize that it takes a long time to figure things out. Like, your whole life is really just one long process of figuring, and every year is different, you get closer. (Closer to fine?) I guess I expected that at some point I would just arrive: I would have everything--cooking, cleaning, gifting, loving, working-- set in an easy, satisfying pattern. My late twenties was spent waiting for that day to come-- that magical day when everything would be easy. Never came. And now I'm almost 31, and realizing I need to give myself permission to keep evolving, to always be learning and searching, and to never be perfect. 

That's a damn good feeling. 

Sheesh. Who would've thought a simple post about Christmas could've turned into such a philosophical ramble. Well. Thanks for listening. And happy Friday!

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013


We, er. We had some snow this week. I'm always such a sucker for the first snow, standing at my office window, rapt, like laaa laaa laaaaaa. Like a damn Who in Whoville. Exactly like that. This was no exception.  

I love how it changes the light inside the house. This morning is sunny-- see previous comment about how it's been really gloomy lately-- and so I laid in bed an extra fifteen minutes and just admired the pretty sun washing through the pretty curtains in our bedroom, and the big fluffy white clumps of snow falling off the roof. This thrill will wear off, but for now just the novelty of snow is enough.

In other news, we're still getting 4-6 eggs a day.

This picture of Olive was too good to not publish. When we got her seven (gulp) years ago, she would dive under the bed as soon as we entered the room, ran from us, hid from us, for the first three months we had her. Would not let us pick her up. Now, she tolerates pretty much anything, and she loves Patrick most of all.

I snuck up on Del with my camera this morning. His face just cracks me up.

I see you, mom. 

You can pretend that I don't see you, but I do.

See? I see you. You worry me sometimes, mom. 

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Monday, November 11, 2013


We met up with my parents, and set out on a hike. Del was beyond excited to see grandma and grandpa again. 

The weather started out somewhat promising. Bits of sun. It has been incredibly cloudy lately, so I'm glad I snapped a shot of this glowing cornfield.

There's a spot where the trail comes near train tracks. My dad loves trains. Throughout our family history, Dad has brought me along as "train bait," because when I am around, a train usually shows up. We have chased trains all over the state, for many long years. So. I stood purposefully, and looked down those tracks, and tugged my ear lobe. Five minutes later, Woooo, wooooo, we had our train. The phenomena continues...

Then we tried a family portrait.

Errr, kind of.

The trail meandered a little more, and then suddenly the wind picked up and a snowstorm was upon us. Out of nowhere. 

Oh, November. You like to keep us guessing.

We hightailed it back to the car and drove into town for hot pizza. And we decided we need to do this more often

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