Sunday, May 31, 2009

Simple veggie tacos

Sometimes I like the idea of certain food better than the taste of it. I've mentioned before my ambivalence-leaning-towards-antipathy for squash; I planted it because I really like the idea of squash more than the vegetable itself. I feel the same way about mushrooms. Some people go into raptures over mushrooms, learning to forage them in the wild and training their palates to recognize different varieties, choosing mushroom accompaniments the way others choose wines. I tolerate mushrooms, and they all taste the same to me -- vaguely dirty (sorry, earthy) and squeaky. I really do my best to enjoy them, and think about the health benefits and antioxidants, and isn't it so wonderful how a giant, juicy portabello can be a satisfying substitute for a hamburger when marinated in red wine and grilled over coals. So when I'm at the grocery store and see the bins of mushrooms and think about the abundance of squash in my garden, even though it's only May (sigh), I get inspired. The thought of a nice, healthy saute of mushrooms, spinach and squash served on corn tortillas with a little crumbled queso fresco excites my imagination. Unfortunately, when I get home I'm no longer so interested, and end up making microwave nachos for dinner for three nights in a row instead. By Friday, the mushrooms really must be eaten, and the squash plant is burgeoning with the little yellow things, so I dash them into the pan and make a lovely saute. These tacos really would be wonderful if I liked squash and mushrooms, and they're not bad even with my rather lukewarm feelings toward them. They're quite simple, too, and don't need much seasoning, especially if you use salsa.

Vegetable tacos

1 mature squash or 4-5 baby squashes
1 c sliced mushrooms
2 handsful torn spinach
4 corn tortillas
1 avocado, sliced
cheese of your choice
salsa, likewise

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat; add olive oil and squash and mushrooms. Saute until tender, then add spinach. Cook until spinach is wilted. Set the vegetables aside.

Wipe out the skillet. Add more oil and use to soften the tortillas. Fill the tortillas with the vegetables, avocado, cheese and salsa. A spoonful of pinto or black beans would be good, too.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

DIY dress form

I've been pondering making a dress form for several months. I've seen them made of duct tape on Craftster, and was just trying to work out how to make one from papier mache when the folks at CRAFT posted a link to a tutorial on Threadbanger for making one out of gummed paper packing tape. One side of the tape is coated with a water-activated adhesive, and it dries rock hard; it's like papier mache without all the goopy glue mess.

This is definitely a job to tackle with a partner, so I saved it for Massive Project Weekend when my mom could help me. It's a little more painful than it seems in the video -- standing for two hours without being able to bend from the hips up is torture on the lower back -- but the end results are worth it, albeit a little creepy (it's weird seeing your own torso displayed like Venus de Milo on the dining room table). I can't wait to actually start using it for sewing.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

What time is it?

Hammer time.

I spent the weekend working up a muslin for a pair of pants and a vest, and making alterations to get the fit just right. I diligently sewed up all the seams, turned the trousers inside-out and proudly held them up. My first pair of pants! No matter that it was just a muslin prototype. And no matter that they're apparently made for rappers and people with extremely short legs.

Yo, yo, yo! indeed.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Upcycle craft - crocheted bottle cap trivet

I spotted this cool idea at a thrift store last week -- it's a crochet trivet made from bottlecaps. I'm not keen on the bunch o' grapes design so I didn't buy it, but you could really go anywhere with this. It's done in a lightweight cottony-nylonish string, and looks like each cap is covered then sewn together. I'm pretty sure the crafter made the cap covers by making a flat circle the size of the cap, then worked the edges by not increasing the rounds after reaching the diameter of the cap. She then plonked the cap into the little cup and worked a couple more rounds, decreasing to fill in the circle a bit, then cut the yarn and tied it tightly. I wish that made more sense, and I wish I hadn't had to be so stealthy when snapping the photo so I could have gotten the back of the trivet, too.

Anyway, if I ever get around to making one of these myself, I'll post instructions. And check back tomorrow for a sneak peek at what I got started during Amazing Project Weekend! I haven't blogged this week because I've been recovering from a weekend of marathon sewing.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Vintage score

This Memorial Day weekend is Project Weekend -- part finale for finish-what-you-started month, and part a chance to tackle some projects I can't handle on my own since my mom's here to lend her considerable expertise and an extra pair of hands. Today we went to a couple of vintage stores, and I had to share the most excellent Fitz and Floyd tea set I scored for $16.

I love the cheery red pattern -- it looks great in my sunny kitchen with my vintage tablecloths and ruffled apron.

The full set has 2 cups and saucers, a sugar bowl, a milk pitcher and the teapot. I think it'd work as well as a coffee service as it does a tea set.

I also scored a cute dress pattern for a dollar (the original price was only 75 cents!). I love the middle look, but might make it with the bell sleeves, too.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Finally finished!

I finished my first pair of gloves tonight. Finally. These ended up being way more difficult than I anticipated when I began the project (this is nothing unusual for me). I made the gloves for my husband, who is in the army and loves history. So when I found a vintage WW2 British Army glove pattern from the V&A Museum website, I had to use it. But as I read the pattern, I discovered the gloves were knit flat, then sewn up. Seams in every finger didn't seem like a good idea for the guy who rips the tags out of all his t-shirts because they bug him, so I decided to try to work these in the round on a circular needle rather than flat. That calls for more pattern-writing and interpreting skills than I had, so it was rough going for a while. I also added a buttonhole in the right index finger so Chris can use the gloves on the range and out in the field -- it'll allow him to uncover his trigger finger without having to take off his gloves.

Anyway, they're finished and laid out to block. The pattern is available as a free PDF from the V&A link above, and I'm also including my notes on working it in the round below. Please leave any questions or requests for clarification in the comments -- I can never tell how my notes sound to someone else.

I used just a tiny bit over 1 skein (50 g) of Knit Picks Essential sock yarn (fingering weight) and size 2 circular and double-pointed needles (circular for the hand, dpns for the fingers). I love the way the glove looks in progress when there are needles poking out everywhere -- the circular holding most of the palm stitches, and double-pointed needles for the fingers. It looks prickly and complicated.

OK, enough chatter, here's the seamless modification for the pattern.

15st26rows = 2 in

cast on 60
2x2 rib for 36 rounds
round: p1m1k1m1 with first 2 stitches of round, working 2x2 seed stitch, m1p1m1k1 with last 2 stitches of round
work 5 rounds 2x2 seed/moss (remember to k2p2 for 2 rows, then switch to p2k2)
round: p1m1k1m1 with first 2 stitches of round, working 2x2 seed stitch, m1p1m1k1 with last 2 stitches of round
work 20 rounds 2x2 seed/moss (27 rounds total, not counting the cuff)
next round: work in 2x2 to last 8, place next 16 on waste yarn (28 rounds total, not counting the cuff)
next round: rejoin and work in 2x2 for 15 rounds (43 rounds total, not counting the cuff)
work 21 st (18 st. for right glove) in pattern, place 13 st on waste yarn, work rest of round (44 rounds, not counting cuff)

work 5 more rounds (49 rounds, not counting cuff)

1st finger:
slip 7 stitches onto dpn. put next 14+12 st on holder, slip remaining 6 st on 2nd dpn (these should be at the front and back of the round -- take 7 from the front of the round, place next 26 on holder, then slip last 6 of round)
pick up 3 st. between last st. of round and 1st st. of round using 3rd dpn, placing marker after 3 picked up stitches to mark beginning of round.. (1 round, 16 st)
knit 7, co 4 (this is on the first dpn -- the 1st 7 you slipped at beginning of round). knit to end of round (20 st). you can even out your stitches so you have 6/6/8 on your dpns. if you want.
work 28 rounds stock st.
k2tog k1 until last 2 (13 st)
knit the next round (13 st)
k1, then k2tog to end (7 st)
break yarn, draw through all st.

2nd finger:
slip 7 st. onto dpn, put next 13 on holder, slip remaining 6 onto 2nd dpn
k7 co3 k6 pu4 from inside base of 1st finger
knit 30 rounds st st
decrease as for 1st finger

3rd finger
slip 7 st onto one dpn, 6 onto another
pu 3 from inside base of 2nd finger, k7, co 4, k6.
knit 28 st

4th -- work as previous 3 for 20 rounds. k2tog, k1 for round (12 st.), k12, k2tog for round (6 st), k6, draw yarn through all st.

thumb -- pick up 8 st from waste yarn on dpn, pick up 6 st. from inside of thumb opening plus 2 st. from waste yarn, pick up remaining 6 st from waste yarn plus 2 st. from thumb opening (24 st.)
work 20 rounds.
decrease: k2tog, k1 to end (15 st.)
k1, then k2tog to end (8 st)
k8, draw yarn through all st.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sunset photos

DSC01525, originally uploaded by isfive.

It rained all day today, and as the sun set, the wind blew the clouds away, leaving the air cool and pink. I love my backyard and the lines of the weathered fence, the leafy mulberry tree, the clothesline, the utility wires crisscrossing the sky, the crazy birds.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Date due shirt

One of my best friends is pregnant with her first baby, and I wanted to make her something fun and cute to wear during the hot Baton Rouge summer. We met and bonded over public libraries -- I was studying to be a librarian, and she just loves them -- and one of our favorite outings when we lived in the same town was a trip to the library, so I came up with this date due slip shirt.

Although it's quite cute as an applique, I wanted it to be just a straight iron-on transfer. Who knew the transfer paper would transfer clear instead of white and look really horrible? I certainly didn't, but I do now! Luckily, it looks OK this way.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Daisy vs. the squirrel

I'm in a bit of a craft and cooking slump. When I get home at night, I have the energy to pull out my knitting and work about 5 rounds before my work drops in my lap and my eyes glaze over. I have managed to finish two books I've been working on for almost a month, but that's about it. So this week's posts are a departure from my normal ones (and really, today is almost unforgivable -- I feel like a crazy mom who pulls out baby pictures to show strangers at the grocery store). I did get a western shirt pattern in the mail today from VintageSerenity, so hopefully I have more energy soon to do something interesting with it. I have loads of projects I'm itching to work on, and I'm so close to finishing the pair of gloves that it's making me slightly crazy, but sadly for you, I don't have anything to show for any of it right now. Instead, you'll have to be content with storytime.

Once upon a time, there was a very silly dog named Daisy. She loved the idea of catching and eating a squirrel, and she dreamed about it day and night.

One sunny morning, her dream nearly came true. She looked out the window, and perched in a tree was a fat, juicy squirrel, stuffing himself on nuts! What luck.

"Mr. Squirrel!" she barked. "I'm going to eat you up!"

Ever the optimist, Daisy waited under the tree, grinning madly, for the squirrel to come within reach. Her white teeth glinted in the sun, and her black tongue lolled like a crazy person's.

The squirrel was too smart for her, and decamped for another yard. Unfazed, Daisy decided to wait for another day. She knew he'd be back, and when he was, she'd be waiting.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Jane Eyre

There are some books I turn to over and over, like old friends. Sometimes I visit them on the page, and sometimes I like to meet one of their screen incarnations. Among them are the same books so many revisit -- Pride and Prejudice, Anne of Green Gables, A Room With a View, Little Women. I just finished a nice long chat with Jane Eyre, and I have to confess how surprised I was at how she'd changed. I probably haven't sat down with her in ten years, although I've seen her on PBS quite a few times, and I recently met her cousin in Jasper Fforde's hilarious Eyre Affair (I can't recommend that book enough -- it's like The Hitchhiker's Guide and Monty Python and Masterpiece Theater all in one. It's fun to play "Spot the Allusion"). Anyway, Jane has certainly grown up since I was in high school. This was the first time I'd actually heard her voice -- I downloaded an audio version of the book from NetLibrary -- and I don't know if it was the more primitive storytelling and oral tradition that made the difference, or if it's the ten years since I last read the book, or if it's having read a little bit of criticism of the Brontes' ouvre. The last Bronte I read was Anne's Tenant of Wildfell Hall and I was amazed at how revolutionary it was. Feminism, sexuality, alcoholism, class warfare, Anne had it all. But it turns out so did her sister.

Charlotte's Jane is so independent, so headstrong. She fights authority from Mrs. Reed and the Red Room to St. John's attempts to mold her into a missionary wife. She argues with men and refuses to be ruled or subjugated. She openly struggles with sexual temptation -- she almost becomes Mr. Rochester's mistress, and when she doesn't, it's not for high religious principles but because she knows he won't respect her. She derides the Puritannical rural church. She has her own ideas, and doesn't bend to convention, society or others' idea of God. She's radical.

The narrator, Flo Gibson, voices Jane marvellously. Although her voice is too mature for the child Jane, she gives struggling, adult Jane so much restrained -- and unrestrained -- emotion. I always thought the year Jane spends with the Riverses a little bit boring, but Gibson's dialogues between St. John and Jane left me wanting to cheer Jane on (a bit awkward while listening during a run down a busy street).

If it's been a while since you've looked Jane up for a chat, do so. She's quite the modern heroine, and it's a delight to spend a few hours with her.

New toy

I got a package from my grandmother today -- she sent me a sleeveboard! It's a cute little ironing board just for sleeves and other long, skinny things. With that, the tailor's ham and some pattern drafting textbooks that belonged to my other grandmother, I can start having some serious clothing-making fun. In June, of course, since I'm not starting anything new in May. Natch.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Finish What You Started Month

I've belatedly decided May is going to be Finish What You Started Month. No net increase. I have piles of projects (some more than a year old and barely started) lying around the house, not to mention the number of books with bookmarks halfway through and Netflix and library movies gathering dust. My new rule for May is no starting something new without finishing something old.

Here are just a few of the unfinished piles around the house. These aren't even all my unfinished projects -- just the ones I can take pictures of.

Reclaimed sweater pillow

Another suit, a baby blanket, potholder, T-Rex t-shirt

Crosstitch quilt block sampler for Mother's Day 2008 (sorry, Mom) and tea towel set for wedding present from June 2008 (how embarrassing)

Les gants and a ribbed scarf I'd forgotten about (that's where my other stitch holder went)

The books on my nightstand. These don't include the books I've moved from my reading shelf to my languishing shelf on Goodreads.

DVDs I have checked out from the library and from Netflix. Don't even ask about what's in my Netflix instant queue. That doesn't count.

In other news, I got some great mail this week. A tailor's ham from my grandmother! Yay! Thanks, Mama! And an obstacle for my goal of a no-net-increase May -- a Nintendo NES.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Stuffed Squash Blossoms and Spinach-Artichoke Turkey Burgers

I didn't know why I planted a squash plant, since I don't really like squash and they're notoriously productive. Then I made these stuffed squash blossoms, and it's all crystal now. I don't think any of my squash blossoms and baby squash will actually make it to adulthood.

Stuffed Squash Blossoms

4 or 5 blossoms per person
Herbed goat cheese
A tiny bit of oil

Pick your blossoms in the early morning or evening when they're closed. The male blossoms don't have fruit at the bottom; if you love squash, only pick these. The female blossoms can be fried with the tiny squash, and if you don't mind thinning your crop, go ahead and use 'em, because this is what squash was created for.

Clean them -- some people recommend rinsing, some say just brush them off. Whatever you do, make sure the bugs are gone. I found rinsing and patting dry just before cooking helped the cornmeal stick better. Cut out the pistil (the bit with pollen in the center of the blossom) or stamen. Fill the blossoms with the softened cheese. Try using a butter knife to cut a piece of cheese, then shape it into a little bullet with your fingers and stuff it down in the blossom.
Give the blossoms a light dusting of cornmeal, then flash fry them in a hot skillet and as little oil as you can get away with.

Spinach Artichoke Turkey Burgers (Rachael Ray)

1 lb ground turkey
Salt and pepper
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2-1 c grated Parmigiano cheese
2 garlic cloves, 1 minced and 1 peeled
1 bag spinach, chopped and lightly wilted
1 T fresh thyme (1 t dried)
Olive oil
4 burger buns
sliced or diced tomato (canned works in a pinch)
1 14-oz can artichoke hearts, drained and sliced
8 slices provolone cheese

Preheat a grill, grill pan or skillet to medium-high. If using a pan or skillet, preheat the broiler also.
Mix the turkey, salt, pepper, lemon zest, parmigiano, garlic, spinach, thyme and olive oil. Shape into 4 patties and cook until firm and cooked through, about 6 minutes on each side. *If you're cooking for 2, you can wrap 2 of the uncooked patties in plastic wrap and freeze to cook later.
If cooking on a grill, place the buns alongside the burgers, grill and remove. If using a grill pan or skillet, broil the bread until toasted. Rub the toasted buns with peeled garlic clove.
Place the buns on plates, top with tomato, salt and pepper.
In the last 2 minutes of the burgers' cooking time, divide the artichokes evenly among the urgers, then cover each with 2 slices provolone. If cooking on the grill, drop the lid to melt the cheese. If cooking on the stovetop, tent your pan with foil.
When done, place a burger on top of each bun and serve immediately.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Pencil me in skirt

My house is a disaster. I spent the last three days making a skirt to go with my tuxedo vest, and there are threads and bits of fabric and probably pins all over the place, not to mention the scattered shoes, dog toys, books and all the other detritus of my day that usually get picked up but got ignored while I played tailor.

I planned to finish the skirt yesterday so I wouldn't have to work on it right up until time to leave for work today, but as usual I was finishing up the hem at 11:15 this morning, leaving 15 minutes to shower and eat breakfast.

I blame the skirt pattern (McCall's 3830). A simple pencil skirt should not be harder to make than a tailored vest, but no one told the folks at McCall's. It probably doesn't help that I don't have any curves at all. I had to completely recut and reshape the skirt (thank goodness I made it in muslin first) to get it to fit right. I also had the great idea to use this adorable little bird fabric for the waistband facing

but it ended up being too thick, especially with interfacing, so this morning I had to rip it out. I lined the skirt instead of making a facing, and it fits so much better (it'll look even better when I redo the hem so it's not visible).

Here's the finished suit. I'm pretty proud of it -- I had someone ask me today where I got the skirt, and someone wanted to know where I got the dress I wore yesterday. Now, no more projects until I tidy up!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Vintage craft book 2

It turns out there is an index to the craft books I bought Friday, so I found the apple sweater. It's really awful as pictured, but I can imagine working a cardigan like Ysolda Teague's wonderful Little Birds, but with the apple and apple core (!) chart instead of the birds, or refashioning this pattern into a Mr. Rogers-style v-neck cardigan. No matter what, those apples were born to live on a cardigan.

Here are a few more of my favorite projects, then I won't bore you anymore with pictures from these books. Seriously, I'd be happy to go on and on because I am in love.

This 1940s-ish short-sleeved Fair Isle sweater is amazing, and just like Veruca Salt, I want it now!

I'm intrigued by the idea of making luggage. I wonder if this couple makes their own luggage, or if they just have their maid do it.

And last, knitted vegetables!

Luckily for you, I should (finally!) be finished with the gloves this week, and will post the pattern. I'm also starting a couple of new sewing projects, and have a fun recipe to test out tomorrow.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Thrifty, vintagey, crafty book goodness

Sorry for the sucky post yesterday -- I haven't finished a project in ages, and I haven't cooked (or gone to the grocery store), and I haven't finished any of the 312837289 books I'm reading, so I've been stumped for material. But fear no more.

The Friends of the Library booksale is tomorrow, and we had a reception and presale for them tonight at work. I got to wear my new vest, along with a rad pair of black jacquard pants I'd forgotten I had, and a bright pink-and-white-striped shirt, so I was feelin' pretty good. That was nothing compared to how I felt when I spotted this treasure trove on the art and craft books table.

That's right -- it's an entire 20-volume set of Stitch by Stitch: A Home Library of Sewing, Knitting, Crochet and Needlecraft, published in 1985. I shelled out 20 bucks for it, but it's in perfect condition -- all the removeable patterns are there and uncut. I think the books came from a smoker's home, but if I put them in a plastic tub with a couple bars of soap for a week, the smell will go completely away.

It's a fabulous mix of kitschy, cool, vintage and hilarious patterns (and truly terrifying ones, like the Ewok children in the picture at the top of the post), along with detailed step-by-step instruction courses. You could start with book one and work your way through each section and get a pretty good education. I like to jump right in, so I won't be doing it that way.

This was the project that first caught my eye.

I'm dying to make this sweater

And this one

This pom-pom bathmat took my breath away, but not as much as the Molly Ringwald Breakfast Club talent sweater.

This sweater is gorgeous

And this outfit. Speechless. The text reads, "Countdown to the Space Age in this vest."

Sorry the pictures aren't so great -- I'm too excited to share to wait until daylight so I can take better pictures. I'll have loads more to share from these books in the next couple of days, including the apple/apple core motif sweater that sealed the deal for me on the set. I couldn't find the sweater again when I looked through the books, but I'm hoping to find it tomorrow. It is rockin'.
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