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Sunday, February 24, 2013

To each his own

Back in the day...when I took home ec in the 7th grade, it was the large department store that had a  fabric area.  This is before Jo Ann's, Hobby Lobby, and Michael's. It was that long ago that I last used a sewing machine.

My best friend's mother had an electric sewing machine (note the adjective electric) and we would spend hours making skirts and other easy items. My dad, always the bargin hunter, located a used sewing machine for me that had all of the lastest attachments, my favorites of which were the ruffle maker and automatic button hole maker. I still have the machine and yesterday, I discovered it still works great!

My Aunt Marj was a master seamstress, having learned the skills from her grandmother. She made elegant suits, each seam carefully bound and pressed. She made matching outfits for me, my best friend and each of our patterns from the Sound of Music. Sigh. It was fabulous. When I got married, I asked her to make new slip covers for our couch and two chairs with matching drapes. She declined and paid to have them done professionally instead! What a smart woman.

However, I made dust ruffles, shower curtains, curtains, tablecloths, and other items for the home and then followed her example, years later,  of not  sewing when finances allowed me to purchase these items instead. That is, until I saw this beauty at the antique mall a few years ago. It was love at first sight. Ron gave it to me as a birthday present.Isn't that sweet?

 I showed the beauty to Maggie, our Museum Administrator. She makes quilts and she told me it is called a Featherweight and is a prized machine, even today, and is often taken to quilt gatherings.

Last fall, when Paulie and I were at the sheep farm (see earlier blogpost)  Paulette discovered a modern version of the portable machine and  she insisted we each order one on the spot.

This was especially surprising because Paulette doesn't sew, has never sewen, and doesn't know why she wanted one, and, as you can see, I already had two machines gathering dust. We didn't even have a thing for Hello Kitty stuff.  This has bothered Paulette ever since and until last weekend, neither of us had taken our machine out of the box. Kate promptly ate the cover off the directions to my Kitty. Thanks, Kate.
 Needing a project with which to try out the new machine, I decided to make pillows for our new denim sofa and to make blankets for my niece and nephew. Well, I know these are strange choices, but, straight sewing lines seemed like a good way to get familiarized with the craft again.
So, yesterday I went to JoAnn's. I love this store. It is open until 9 every night and when I am stressed  I sometimes go there to walk the aisles.While others would go take a run, or walk the dog, I head to the fabric store. And I don't even sew. I'd probably be at my ideal weight if when stressed I headed to the gym. I'll have to work on that.

Remembering how fun it was to go with my aunt to select fabric, I lamented that Kelsey was in California and I was in Ohio. That's when I remembered we each have an iPhone with face time!
She wasn't home, but,my sister-in-law, Karrie,helped me make a selection that Kelsey would like.  Isn't technology great?

Karrie mentioned she had just returned from a 56 mile bike ride-hmmm. That would be like going from Sandusky to Cleveland, which takes an hour at 65 mph in a car. This doesn't have anything to do with sewing, but, I think it's interesting how different my idea of a good time is from hers.

In fact, it felt a little like going over the first hill on a roller coaster as I searched the files for the pattern number and pulled open the drawer with the pattern inside. It was actually exciting  to look in the book, select the pattern, note the mfg and the number, head for the files, and find the pattern-- something like discovering a long lost trail and knowing the way blindfolded. I was dizzy with joy. Yes, that is what it was, pure joy. Guess riding 50 miles on a bike, or rediscovering a long dormant skill have the same capacity to bring joy. Isn't that cool? To each his own.

Monday, February 18, 2013

I get plenty of fiber


It's been quite some time since I've written about my fiber projects! I didn't want you to think I'd given up on my self proclaimed title of  "fiber artist" in the blog profile.  Kate likes to help by unzipping my project bags and taking out yarn for me. This is an activity of which she never tires. Sometimes she wraps up Jack's legs in the escape, and sometimes I chase her around and around the dining room table trying to be mad instead of laughing, as the laughing only  prolongs the race. Yippee! In fact, she has "helped" with each project below. Allie seems to like to lie down on the needlepoint sheep.  The stretcher bars create a bit of a hammock effect for her. I don't have the heart to move her, I'm such a softie. As you can see, I have much more on this piece to go. The darker yarn squiggles are from the sheep fiber that I processed and then Bonnie spun it fine enough so that I could use the yarn for the project.
I finished the chain of hearts in time for Valentine's Day. I  used kitchen cotton yarn that I had on hand.
I confess that my spinning wheel has been "resting" while I've been occupied with other endeavors. I need to take a few days off from work and have my own fiber festival. That would be soooo cool!
As you can see, Kate thought my afghan WIP (work in progress) is really fine as is. I have 36 squares completed and just got the sofa reupholstered in denim to match the project. That makes this project especially expensive. The yarn is actually denim and will shrink and fade just like a pair of jeans. Others that have made this same afghan have warned about the blue leaking into the cream squares. One knitter said she cried when she took it out of the washing machine. I believe it. One square takes me about one month to complete. One knitter said it took her 17 hours to piece the squares and 17 hours to knit the border. This information comes from my fellow knitters on The project is called PICNIC and there are currently 35 others working on this 81 square afghan. Paulette thinks I should quit now and call it a lap blanket. But the truth is, I'm addicted to knitting the squares. Some of them have beads in the designs and I love knitting with beads.
This is a sock for Ron. I bought the yarn at a fiber event in Wooster, Ohio. Kate ran off with the ball and it took me days and days and hours and hours to untangle it. Those in our knitter's group, Knit One, Library Too, who saw me struggle with the tangled mess urged me to just pitch the yarn, but, I thought it was too pretty and, I know this is odd, but, I actually like to untangle yarn. Don't tell Kate, though.   I've taken so long to work on this sock that Paulie has begged me to stop as she is tired of seeing it! Ha. This is only the first sock of two. Ron has been extremely patient waiting for the pair. He is my biggest fan and wears only socks that I've knitted. I just looked in his dresser and I think this will be his 12th pair, counting the socks in the drawer, the socks on his feet, and the socks air drying. He has short, fat feet and I think these were the first socks that really fit. Lennart's daughter, Sarah, when she saw Ron's bare feet, asked her dad (in Swedish) how Ron could stand up on such small feet. Ha. But, I digress.

Next weekend, I've been asked to teach a beginner's knitting class at Great Lakes Fiber, a local alpaca farm with studio. Will work for fiber (hint, hint, Amy). I've been teaching knitting informally for about 40 years. Starting with Maria, my Colombian sister and my Mom, and branching out to friend Amy, and 10 of the library staff. This launched the knitter's group at the Library and I've taught young and old alike. My friend Molly asked me to teach her nieces and sisters one summer as part of their annual sewing tradition. Speaking of which, the Library is getting an angora rabbit and I have dibs on the fiber for spinning. Rank does have its privileges!

In order to beat the second sock syndrome (when knitters would rather knit something else instead of repeating the same thing with sock number two) I'm going to get started on Ron's next sock this evening. I've alerted Kate, in case she wants to join in on the fun.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Winter Walk

One of the best things about winter in Sandusky, Ohio, is that you can really see the architectural detail on the houses due to the leafless trees. Last weekend, I took a short walk down our street and snapped some photos of my favorite houses. Most would sell for about $200,000, in case you were wondering about the housing market in northern Ohio these days.  The houses  were built between 1900 to 1915. In the early years, a  trolley ran down the middle of the street and linked travel to Cleveland, 60 miles to the east. We are about 1/2 mile south from the center of town, downtown being on Lake Erie, or, rather on the bay. Cedar Point Amusement Park is visible from downtown only, but, when the wind is coming from the north, we can hear the train whistle in the Park from our house.

This is the only house in the 3 block area that has been for sale in years. It sold quickly. We all tend to stay for at least 20 or more years in the same house-almost a lifetime commitment. In spite of that, we never get together and I've only been inside of 3 of the homes, and that was only because of the Old House Guild Tour of Homes.


 Painting is expensive, but, it does allow the architecture to be featured and even when the same colors are used, it looks so different on each house. Blues, greys, whites and creams are the popular choices.
This house had been converted into a two family home, but, has been reconverted to the original one family home. All of the houses are one family and most have unattached garages/barns behind the house. 

Ron and I  watch HGTV's House Hunters, Love it or List It, and Property Brothers most evenings, and I can tell you that the houses in our neighborhood  do not generally have the open concept floor plans that the buyers are looking for in Canada, where the shows are based.In fact, Ron and I mused that if we were to list our house for sale, we would have to say, "if you are looking for a family room open concept with a kitchen with granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances, en suite master bedroom and no proximity to your neighbors, please do not look at our house."
 Wide sidewalks provides plenty of foot traffic by joggers, dog walkers, and bicyclists, giving our three dogs plenty to bark about. In fact, it is amazing how far they can see, smell and hear from inside the house that requires their incessant barking.
Our house has a great front porch, shown in the photo above,  and catches the afternoon sun.We have a porch swing and often have glass of wine after work there in the summer. However,we spend most of the time on the back porch because the yard is fenced and we can hang with the pups. At this time of year, we tend to hibernate inside and enjoy the solitude.
 I love reading about houses and my favorite titles are House, by Tracy Kidder; The Walls Around Us: the thinking person's guide to how a house works, by David Owen; Michael Pollan's A Place of My Own; and An Affair with a House by Bunny Williams. Other favorites are House, A memoir by Michael Ruhlman, House Dreams by Hugh Howard, and Thoughts of Home, Reflections on Families, Houses, and Homelands from the Pages of House Beautiful.
 Two books on my shelf that I haven't read yet are, The Personality of a House, by Emily Post (1930) and The Decoration of Houses, by Edith Wharton (1902) both classics. I read Waldon Pond, or Life in the Woods, by Henry David Thoreau, and love  memoirs about living on farms, such as Sue Hubbell's A country Year; Page Dickey's Duck Hill Journal, Cross Creek by Marjorie Rawlings and May Sarton's Journal of Solitude. Fifty Acres and a Poodle. I'm not sure why a city dweller such as I reads so much about house construction and farm life! If you have an recommendations for titles I have missed, please let me know! The winter walk is over and I'm ready to settle in with a good book with three dogs at my feet.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Tofu quiche

Long before I knew that tofu is made from soybeans, I received a recipe for a quiche using tofu. I made this again last night for dinner. Making dinner is a pretty rare experience for me, but I was on a roll, having made my world famous chocolate chip cookies earlier in the afternoon (see recipe on the back of Toll House semi sweet chocolates for your chance to make world famous cookies, too).
While I am not a fan of cooking, which is a huge understatement, I do love all of my Kitchenaid appliances. A few years ago, having learned that Kitchenaid is headquartered in Ohio, I made a point to visit their factory store. The brochure I had indicated that they are open on Sundays. Bob, Paulette, Ron and I were in the area to visit Paulie's granddaughter, Lauren, at Miami University. That's in Ohio, near Cincinnati, which is 5 hours from where we live in Sandusky. Kitchenaid is nearby, so, I asked if we could stop on our way home on Sunday. That particular Sunday they were closed to the public.I was SOOOOO disappointed! There did seem to be quite a bit of activity inside, though, and we wandered in amongst a crowd that had gathered at the entrance. We were soon spotted as interlopers. This was the annual factory sale for Kitchenaide employees....the ones that actually made the products in the nearby factory! The manager did agree that the brochure did not say there was a Sunday they were closed to the public and she graciously allowed us to shop..not at the extremely low prices afforded to the workers, but, at the low prices of the factory store. Oh boy!
Paulette helped me pick out an immersion blender. ( I had never heard of one before, and, I actually haven't used it yet.) I bought a food processor with all of the attachments in the retro green shade of my actual antique kitchen bowls-see photo above. I also bought a blender, having NEVER owned one and I have made a smoothie a few times. I bought a mini chopper, too. I already had a mixer, which I love, and use to make my cookies, but I bought every attachment they had. Did you know you can use the motor with an attachment to be a can opener, a meat grinder, and a juicer? Well, you can. Not that I have. I think you can use the motor to power a small fishing boat, but, I haven't tried it yet.
Paulette helped me rearrange all of the cupboard in my kitchen so that everything would be conveniently located for use, should I ever actually cook. The blender and food processor stand ready on the counter, as does the mixer. I dust these lovely retro green accessories often. But, I rarely use them, which brings me back to the tofu quiche. The last time I made the quiche, I didn't use any of the equipment. I decided to change it up and try them. Wow. What fun. The fp(food processor) shredded the two carrots. The blender really puree-ed (a technical cooking term, I know that because there is a button on the blender with that word on it) the tofu mixture. I considered beating the 3 eggs with the mixer, but, on a whim, I used the antique egg beater that my Great Aunt Alberta owned. I did toss the beaten eggs into the blender, tho. I even used the mini chopper for the onions. Actually, I tossed everything into the blender like a mad scientist at work.
I can honestly say that the quiche turned out better than ever before. Ron was my able assistant. He figured out how to make the fp work and chopped the spinach in it, then switched to the shredding attachment for the carrots...even as I kept  telling him to unplug the monster before putting his hands in the container. Yikes.
If you've read this far, you might want the recipe. Here it is:
Preheat oven to 350. Have a deep dish pie crust ready. Get some fresh spinach, mushrooms (any kind will do, I think) carrots, onions, and have 1/2 cup of each ready to go.Also 3T chopped celery. Over a low flame, cook the veggies in a pan until tender...with 2 T butter and 1 T white wine. Cool. (that is a cooking term, not an expression of enthusiasm) I set the pan on our back porch because it was freezing out,but if you live in California, you'll have to use your refrigerator.  Meanwhile, 1 hour earlier, drain 1 package of firm tofu. Oops, maybe I should have mentioned this first. When drained well, use a fork and mix in 2 and 1/2T of flour. Oh, before that, mix 1 t of salt into the flour.  Beat 3 eggs. Add 1 cup of half and half and 1 and 1/2 cup of shredded cheese and 1/3 t of celery salt. I used veggie cheese instead of real cheese. Toss everything into the blender and blend. You probably guess that part.   Pour mixture into the pie crust and bake for 1 hour or a bit less. Let the pie cool before serving. Voila! Let me know how it turns out!