Gifting

The blogosphere is happily abuzz with crafty inspiration for the holidays. One place in particular I’ve been keeping an eye on is Sew Mama Sew’s Handmade Holidays series (start here if you haven’t already stumbled across it). There’s been a different theme for each day this month, all “curated” by different people.

Time constraints make it impossible to actually make even half of the projects that appeal to me, but I have enjoyed browsing through them—usually over morning tea before dashing off to work. I did get to thinking though, that surely there must be at least one small project I could do that would satisfy my yen for handmade gifts. Sachets! That was it—old fashioned, tried and true, lavender sachets. They’re a great way to use up scraps and truly don’t take much time to put together.

I decided I wanted them all to be backed with unbleached linen (ordered from Hancock’s of Paducah). Along with a plastic bin of scraps I pulled out a basket of leaders and enders I’d sewn together over the years. Many of them are quite tiny and it dawned on me that this might be a good project for some of them. The ones below are about 1 ¼-inch square, so four of them stitch up at, yeah, about three inches. I liked the these particular bits against the linen so both the front and the back of this one have linen.

Sachets

 

By the way, if you aren’t familiar with the leaders and enders thing, do check out Bonnie K. Hunter’s blog and her books.

This next one ended up mostly linen as well, but I added a strip of novelty yarn for some rustic bling.

Sachet

 

These two use bits leftover from a batik quilt I made a while back.

 

Sachets

 

Here they are looking like little stuffed pillows. The all blue one uses scraps from a quilt I made for my grandson several years ago.

 

Sachets

Sachets

 

 

And here a few favorites that I bundled up as a small hostess gift for my daughter on Thanksgiving.

sachets

 

Florida Knitting

Truthfully, it was more airplane knitting than Florida knitting. And when you’re using size 0 needles it doesn’t look like much, but the socks and an audio book on my iPhone were enough to while away some time on a completely full airplane populated mostly by families with young children. The kids were mostly (and thankfully) quite well-behaved and some even managed to nap while clutching various Disney plush toys. Too bad their exhausted looking parents couldn’t do the same.

The knitting is a pair of slip stitch heel basic socks from Wendy D. Johnson’s  book Socks From the Toe Up with a few minor alterations. I have somewhat narrow feet and, despite switching to size 0 needles, the socks I’ve made so far tend to be just a hair looser than I’d like. So I thought I’d experiment with these and reduce the total number of stitches from 66 to 58 stitches. Hopefully, I’ve reworked all the stitch counts everywhere in the correct proportions, especially the gusset, heel and heel flap. I’m not a fan of wrap and turns and was tempted to go with the Fish Lips Kiss Heel. Short rows are useful things, though, and there’s a part of me that would really like to master the beasts.

Easy Socks

The yarn is Regia Design Line in the Garden Effects color way. It’s 75% super wash wool and 25% polyamide. I purchased the yarn online and thought I was buying self-striping yarn. The site showed the yarn but no swatch. It’s definitely not self-striping in the way I was thinking it ought to be, but it’s still very pretty and I like the feel of the yarn.

The trip to Florida was a too-short getaway to visit friends in New Smyrna Beach, which is about an hour and a half drive from the Orlando airport. The visitors bureau there claims that they are “consistently voted one of the ‘Best Beaches.’” I can believe it. It was beautiful. The site also says that New Smyrna Beach is the second oldest city in Florida. Who knew? One thing that surprised me though was the number of surfers. I had no idea that the area is also a popular spot for surfing.

The surfers were farther out than the kit lens on my Canon could capture, but you get some sense of what the waves were like that day.

New Smyrna Surfers
The natives were not at all interested in the surfers.

New Smyrna Natives
shore birdsI didn’t spend much time among the shops on the recently renovated Flagler Avenue and Canal Street areas. But I did spend a few delightful hours on the water. My friends Pat and Jeannine are the captain and crew of the Schooner Ondine. Ondine is a Thomas Colvin gazelle design. Nope, I don’t know exactly what that means but I enjoyed the heck out of it. Pat and Jeannine charter both day and night cruises on Ondine and are absolutely worth a lookup if you’re planning to be down that way. I’m already looking forward to going back.

Sailing Ondine
Parting shot: Sunrise on the beach.

New Smyrna Sunrise

Disappearing Hourglass—Take Two

A few months ago I watched one of the Missouri Star Quilt Company  tutorials by Jenny Doan. I found myself fascinated by the technique Jenny demonstrated and decided I needed to give it a try. A week or two later I dug out a bundle of ½ yard cuts I’d picked up at Quilt Odyssey the year before and started cutting.

Of course, before cutting I pulled up the video and watched it again—just to make sure I remembered the way things were supposed to work. Here, have a look . . .

Pretty cool, huh?

I cut 10-inch squares from the ½ yard pieces, stacked, sewed the perimeters, and cut again.

Quilt block

So far, so good. Then I did the magic cuts and turns.

quilt block

Looks pretty good, I thought. Here’s a closer view of another set.

quilt block

quilt block

I made several more.

quilt block

Notice anything yet?

Did you watch the video?

I didn’t turn the middle 4 patch. I liked the blocks as they were and since I’d already made, I dunno, about half a dozen finished blocks AND had about that many partially completed I had a decision to make. It wasn’t difficult. As awesome as Jenny’s original blocks were I was not unsewing the ones I’d made.

So, there you have it. Disappearing Hourglass Blocks—Take Two.

(Do check out all of Jenny Doan’s tutorials as well as the shop’s website. Nope, no affiliation, but I have ordered from them and been pleased with their service.)

 

Ratatouille

It wasn’t until last summer that I discovered how easy it was to throw together a batch of ratatouille. The discovery came about more or less as an act of self-defense while trying to cope with the weekly bounty of a CSA (community supported agriculture for the uninitiated). Even though I had signed up for just a half share, I soon found myself in semi-desparate straights trying to figure out ways to use up the overflowing bag of vegetables I was bringing home each week.

This year I did not sign up for the CSA, but I did plant a garden which yielded lots of tomatoes. I’ve yet to realize much success with eggplant, thanks to the flea beetles, and I kept forgetting to plant the zucchini until it was too late in the season. But no matter. The market isn’t far and the tomatoes were demanding attention.

What I use is more of a formula than a recipe. It seems that every cookbook featuring ratatouille has a slightly different version, but in general they all include the same master ingredients. Quantities of each are somewhat flexible.

  • eggplant
  • zucchini
  • onions
  • garlic
  • peppers
  • tomatoes

For this batch I started with chopping a medium-sized onion. Swirl a little olive oil in a pot and toss in the onion to sauté gently. After the onion has softened a bit, add in the garlic. Soon the kitchen smells heavenly, unless you really hate garlic, in which case you should just stop reading now.

Ratatouille Aromatics
Aromatics

Next up is the eggplant and zucchini. I had two small eggplant and one medium zucchini. Since the eggplant were small I didn’t peel them. Next time I will. Japanese varieties tend to have more tender skin that regular eggplant. These were not the Japanese variety and the skins were a little tougher than I though they’d be. Since I had it, I  added a small yellow squash, too.

Ratatouille Vegs
Cubed eggplant and squashes

After sautéing for several more minutes, I added lots of seeded and finely chopped tomatoes. What you see here is about half of what actually went into the pot.

Ratatouille Tomatoes
Fresh picked tomatoes, seeded and chopped

Stir it all around and bring to a simmer. The final addition was a generous sprinkling of dried oregano and even more Sun of Italy Italian seasoning blend. Stir well. Turn down the heat so things stay at a gently bubbling simmer. Put a lid on the pot, but leave it at an angle so there’s room for steam to escape.

Ratatouille Spices
Herbs do their thing

By now the entire house smells absolutely wonderful and even the cat is starting to think vegetables might be the thing.

If you’re still following along you might be wondering what happened to the peppers. Seems they got left in the refrigerator drawer this time around. Had I thought to get them out I would have added them with the onion. Did I mention how flexible ratatouille recipes are? In with the yellow squash and out with the peppers. It’s still good. Eat a steaming bowl as is or spoon it over some linguini and pass the grated parmesan.

tales from the creative mind

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