Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Potential



Saturday, I went with my dad to a hardwood warehouse to get some wood for a new project he's starting. It was a dusty barn out in the middle of nowhere east Texas, next to a sawmill where piles of trees waited to be made into railroad ties.
 
A lot of the wood was rough and looked weathered, but from my dad's excitement I could tell the ingredients were there for something fantastic.



I love going to places like this - yarn stores, fabric stores, farmer's markets, anywhere the raw materials are available to make art. Even places that cater to skills I don't possess, like the wood barn, inspire me. They're like museums of pre-art.

the view from the balcony of the florentine yarn store
My favorite was this tiny yarn shop I stumbled into one late, cold night in Florence, where the moon hung huge and clear over the Arno and the Ponte Vecchio was packed with tourists and the walls were stuffed with more colors and textures than I'd ever seen before in such a small place. I'd just learned to knit, so I was too overwhelmed to buy anything, filling my senses instead (I still feel this way if I enter a shop without a specific project in mind).



I make things because I love taking something as raw as a length of cloth and turning it into a gorgeous dress, or, as my husband remarked in amazement, "I can't believe you made me a sweater out of nothing but two sticks and a mile-long piece of string!" The rough and weathered planks of ash we brought home Saturday have already been smoothed and planed, revealing the creamy, clean wood beneath, ready to become something altogether new.
 
See why Tara and others are makers over on Scoutie Girl today.


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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Reading and making


In a fun coincidence, book-related crafting suddenly seems to be all over the place, not just all over my living room. From the Bronte-along to the latest issue of Interweave's Piecework Magazine (including a vintage Miss-Marple-inspired shawl and instructions for knitted lace straight from the American prairie), I've been seeing loads of bookish crafts.

I haven't been around much lately, mainly because I've been busy with life mundanity and that's not worth blogging about here (although the fun stuff I've been up to has been worth blogging about over on Forever Young Adult). I'm at my parents', so while I should have time to get back to work on some projects, I haven't managed to even cook dinner. Y'all -- I haven't cooked anything more than three or four times in the last four months.
 

What I have been doing is a lot of reading, and my crafts have been all about books. You can imagine how pleased I was to discover the August Craft Leftovers Monthly zine was dedicated to books, and has tutorials for bookmarks, a crocheted library tote and bookmaking. It's full of awesome stuff, like how to make a notebook from an old discarded hardback with a cool cover -- I can't wait to get started!

For Forever Young Adult, I've been doing a bit of book-related crafting of my own. In preparation for the release of Mockingjay, the third in Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games trilogy, I put together a no-emulsion-necessary screenprint tutorial and stitched up a the mockingjay bookmark pictured at the top. I also have a Frankie Landau-Banks prep school scarf in the works, but it's not ready to share.

 

And my dad just finished building this incredible walnut bookcase with reproduction wavy glass. I can't wait to get it home -- my husband's already lobbying to put it in his office, but I want it in a room where it can be seen. 

For more bookish crafting, check out the IndieFixx Book Club. Jen and guest writers share what's on their bookshelves and curate collections of indie goods inspired by favorite books. 

What's on your reading pile?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Weekend Recipe: Cioppino


This seafood stew is a San Francisco specialty. I've only been near the Bay Area once, and while I had some amazing food, I didn't have any cioppino, but it's one of my mom's favorite dishes. If you can't get it out, this recipe makes a decent substitute. While the recipe calls for using a slow cooker to make the broth, it's better if you cook the broth on very low heat for several hours on the stove, and I actually think the broth should be prepared the day before you plan to serve the stew. The shellfish cooks up quickly, so all you'd need to do on the day you serve is spend 15-20 minutes preparing and cooking the fish and making garlic bread.

Cioppino
from The Dallas Morning News' Anne Greer McCann

2 T olive oil
1 T butter
4 shallots, chopped
1 fennel bulb, halved, sliced and cleaned
1 1/2 c sliced onion
2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes
6 oz tomato paste
2 c clam juice or fish stock
1 c white wine
2 c chicken broth
Juice from one lime
1/2 t thyme
1 bay leaf
Fresh basil
2 8-oz lobster tails
8 mussels
6 large sea scallops, halved or quartered
1/2 to 3/4 lb fresh shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails intact (25 or more)
8 oz firm-flesh fish (swordfish, sea bass, sway or grouper), cut into bite-sized chunks
Fresh parsley for garnish

Saute the oil and butter in a large pan over medium-high heat. When hot, saute shallots, fennel and onion until softened. Transfer the vegetable mixture to a large pot or dutch oven and add tomatoes, tomato paste, clam juice, white wine, chicken broth, lime juice and herbs. Cover and cook on low heat for several hours. You can do this part a day (or more) in advance, and refrigerate (or freeze) the broth.

Heat the broth until it simmers. To blanch the lobster tails, bring to boil enough water to cover the tails. Add lobster and cook about 2-3 minutes. Remove and pry the meat from the shell. You may need to cut through the back of the shell. Cut the meat into thirds.

Once the broth is simmering, add mussels; cook for 4 minutes, covered. Add remaining seafood and shellfish, cover and cook for 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and spoon the broth into bowls, evenly dividing the fish. *Discard any mussels that have not opened.* Garnish with parsley and serve with garlic bread. Serves 5-6.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sneak Peek Sunday


I'm making things again, and it's great. I can't believe it's been three months since I've had a chance to really think about this blog and about projects, but I suppose that's normal. Sleep, food and laundry are more important, but I feel more like my normal self now that I have a little time each day to make things (and since I got my hair cut short again). This little sneak peek is of a mostly finished craft, and I'll have a pattern available for it soon, too.
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