Friday, November 30, 2012

The Other November Holiday

What holiday? It’s Arizona Leafy Greens Week, of course!


You didn’t know?

Neither did I. In fact, I missed it - it was two weeks ago.
Leafy greens

This year the state celebrated its third annual Leafy Greens Week. From a press release: 

In recognition of the bountiful harvest generated by Arizona’s abundant lettuce industry, Governor Jan Brewer has proclaimed Nov. 11-17, Arizona Leafy Greens Week.

Leafy greens migrant worker (upper right)
All this excitement is due to the fact that Arizona provides 90 percent of the country’s greens during the months of November through March. The category “leafy greens” includes many different types of lettuce, cabbage, chard, kale, and spinach. During the summer months, California takes over as the primary producer for the country.

More leafy greens
Our garden is a miniature reflection of this reality: we supply 90% of our own greens (and reds and oranges, sometimes purples) during the winter, and become completely dependent on imports in the summer.
So we’ll celebrate our leafy greens every day that we can!


Monday, November 26, 2012

Simple Greetings

After last year’s creative card frenzy of paper, glue, and glitter, I decided to simplify this year.

I did a single stamped design, colored with watercolor pencils, swiped with a wet brush, and glued the whole thing to a card. Done!

Now to address the envelopes, get the stamps, and sign all those cards!?!?! Why does a cranky old curmudgeon like myself have SO MANY people on the holiday card list!


Thursday, November 22, 2012


Happy Thanksgiving to my US friends, and a happy weekend to you all.

Today the Piemaker will be in the kitchen all day, banging pans around and splashing and stirring and slicing. I will stay out of the way!

Yesterday I got a head start on the preparations by making the only thing that I personally am in charge of: the cranberry sauce. We have let go of whatever emotional ties we may have had to the traditional canned cranberries and jelly and are ready to branch out a bit. I love the cranberry-orange relish that my aunt used to make, but I decided to put a spicy twist on it with this recipe.

Cranberry Salsa
·        1 – 12-ounce package fresh cranberries
·        ½ cup sugar
·        1 large orange
·        2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
·        3 tablespoons coarsely chopped crystallized ginger
·        ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

1.     Pulse cranberries in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in sugar.
2.      Zest the orange and stir zest into cranberry mixture.
3.      Remove the remaining peel and pith and chop the orange into chunks.
4.      Pulse the orange, jalapenos, ginger, and cilantro in food processor 3 to 5 times or until orange, ginger, and pepper are finely chopped. Stir into cranberries; cover and chill 2 to 24 hours.

This is adapted from a Southern Living recipe that you can find here.
Yes, it is spicy, and delicious!

I hope you all enjoy a delightful meal wherever you are.



Monday, November 19, 2012

A Real Live Garden

It’s such a relief to me, each year around this time, to see my garden come back to life. After the disappointment of the summer, I’m always ready to give up gardening forever, but something keeps me going back to pull the weeds, till the soil, and plant the seeds each fall. Thank goodness for habit, or optimism, or whatever it is, because fall and winter are when my faith in botanical science and hard work are rewarded.

Here’s the vegetable garden, with the second seeding finally done.
The first sowing in October (the small plants on the right) was pretty straightforward as the beds were completely empty for planting. The second round of seeds (in the soil on the left), done over the last three weeks, was a bit more complicated since I had to work around the ridiculously overgrown three-year-old basil plants.
a purple basil plant that turned green
There are five basil plants of different varieties, all grown from seed. I cut them back severely every month or so, giving piles of basil to the neighbors, but they grow right back and cover almost half of the planters. We are about to turn green from the amount of pesto we eat!
looking forward to colorful lettuce in our salads
Tiny tomatoes

I know that my readers in northern climes are probably in disbelief at the luxury of a garden in the winter. Just remember that I was grieving all summer long as the sun, heat, drought, and pests slowly killed every living thing in my garden!

Wherever you are, I hope you are getting lots of good fruits and veggies from your garden or farmers market.


Friday, November 16, 2012

So Many Projects

I finished a few small things, like taking in more shirts for the Piemaker, and a few big things, like a new duvet cover.

You might recall that I have a passion for these African prints or wax prints:

 I’ve been hoarding many yards of the fabrics and hesitating to cut into them. I made one dress last year, and the famous Giraftan, both of which I ended up liking very much.

A large scale project was what I needed to put some of these huge prints to good use. This is a simple envelope-style cover where you slide the comforter in, flip the top over, and button it closed.
click any photo to get larger view

I made a few pillows too.

This cacophony of color might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but my home décor has been taking a more “global” turn the last few years, with carved masks, woven wall hangings, and a jungle of house plants. I like how these colors and patterns add to the aesthetic (if you can call it that LOL).

That was a big accomplishment.


Still, somehow, after working non-stop for three days, I still have a big stack of projects to do!


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Basic Black

I had a lovely internet-free interlude (aka major outage) of several days, courtesy of my service provider. It seems to be connected at the moment, so I’ll jump on and post an update.

I used my time wisely, sewing like mad and using up almost every inch of black knit fabric in my stash.
Long-sleeve wrap top

from this McCall’s wardrobe pattern.

closeup of the side gathers
The fabric is super-soft and stretchy rayon lycra. I had enough of the same rayon to make some very nice yoga pants using some old well-worn favorites as a pattern.

Need I mention how difficult it is to photograph black? I purposely overexposed everything to show the detail but now it all looks either dusty or shiny.  

I think this one is my new favorite - in a stretchy ribbed rayon/poly/lycra:

I created dolman sleeves out of necessity, because I wanted longer sleeves but only had about ¾ yard – not enough to cut separate sleeves.
The neckline looked quite dull so I added the little roll collar from a scrap and now I love it! No pattern for this one, but I’ll have to make one since I want to make more like it.
Finally a cotton-lycra shell
from a fun old 70s pattern.
Why sew a top like this when you can buy one for $5 or $10? I probably wouldn’t if I didn’t already have all these pieces of knit fabric. The simple cap-sleeve tee is perfect for using up small pieces – 2/3 to 3/4 yard of 60” knit. (Also, since I buy most of my knits for $1.99 or $2.99/yard, I’m still beating the price of a shirt at most stores.)

Yes, I am still managing without a serger!  I’m definitely not an expert in sewing knits, but I’m slowly picking up a few tricks that work for me:

·       Most of the knits I’ve sewn so far have been fine with a straight stitch and a slight stretching of the fabric as I sew. I don’t really have to pull very much on the fabric, since the presser foot actually stretches it somewhat.

·       For the extremely stretchy fabrics, like 4-way stretch knits, I do use a zigzag stitch, set at the narrowest width I can get, which is between the 0 and the 1 on my width dial. This provides some give but looks like a straight stitch unless you inspect it closely.

·       I’ve had better luck with the hems when I fuse a strip of very lightweight knit interfacing to the folded-under part before stitching. That way it doesn’t stretch way out of shape while hemming, but the finished hem has some give during wear.


As much as I would love to move on to the grays in my neutral basics, I have a backlog of utility sewing and some gifts that must be finished, so those are next on the list.
Are you sewing and crafting for the holidays?


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Neutral Basics or Basic Neutrals

If you’ve been following my sewing over the past year, you know that I have a tendency to make colorful, patterned blouses, skirts, and dresses. And I did make a few solid colored trousers last spring. But I don’t have many plain tops to go with the patterned skirts. I’m especially lacking in neutral colors – I don’t even own a black tee!

So I’m putting together some basic tees and tops in neutral colors: white, off-white, gray, and black.

Here are the first two, each from about one yard of fabric.

Kimono-style cardigan, in a textured novelty knit (cotton blend?) from Mood
From Butterick 5394, fairly recent, but out of print.
This was a beautiful piece of fabric, but very strange.
Knits do not exactly have a grain, but I could not get the knit stitches to lie perpendicular to either selvedge. The entire piece was slanted about 20 degrees off square, so I stretched, steamed, pressed, and hung it in different configurations to try to straighten it.  Finally it was straight enough to cut, and it seems to hang just fine in the finished garment. I just have to remember to wash it carefully, and it may need blocking when it dries.

Simple tee in a smocked cotton blend jersey.
McCall's 9185 from 1998.

The fabric is surprisingly soft, and the smocking makes this knit more opaque than if it was just a single layer of jersey.

Next on the list is black. I already have white dog hair all over the stack of black fabrics, just from moving them around. I will have to carry lint removers with me all the time if I wear any black!


Monday, November 5, 2012

An International Award

I have been nominated for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award. That’s right. The WORLD!

The very talented Virginia of Tangent Gardening nominated me for the award, and I thank her.

I’ve long suspected that I was part of a sisterhood of some sort, but I’m very pleased to have it confirmed, and to know that it is worldwide.

Accepting the award involves a few tasks, which are not difficult:
1.     Thank the blogger who awarded me
2.     Share 7 random (previously undivulged) things about myself
3.     Pass the award on to 7 other bloggers of my choice and let them know that they have been nominated
4.     Include the award logo


Coming up with random things about myself is only tricky because I can’t remember what I have already divulged.  I hope that the following facts are new to you.

1. I have a sugar addiction, which is politely referred to as a “sweet tooth.” Not a big secret, you say?
2. I love animals. Maybe that’s not a secret either.
3. I have an intense love/hate relationship with television. I rant against its general idiocy, yet I keep getting caught up in network series that I think are well-made and entertaining.
4. Speaking of which, I recently got hooked on Veronica Mars and watched all three seasons from beginning to end. It’s fantastic! 
5. I love language. I love how one word can have ten different meanings, or there can be ten different words for the same thing. The patterns and rhythm of words in different languages are fascinating.
6. I was a vegetarian for a few years, way back in high school, but started eating meat again while I was in college. Since then I have struggled to make peace with my carnivory.
7. I read a lot. When I worked full time, I would read five or ten books a week, mostly because I spent so many hours on planes and in hotel rooms. Now that I’m a lady of leisure, sitting at home 90% of the time, I barely get through a single novel each week!

Now to share the glory. In keeping with the International nature of the award, I cast a wide net to find my seven nominees.
A Few Threads Loose - Anna is an American living in Norway, and she offers a tantalizing view into her life there. Everyday activities like shopping and job interviews become amusing anecdotes when faced with cultural differences. Anna collects amazing vintage patterns and a visit to her blog is always good sewing inspiration.

Cosir Coser Sewing - María José in Spain makes the most incredible purses, and her sewn wardrobe is creative and lovely. She’s made some magnificent garments from patterns but I am just as impressed with her no-pattern tops and dresses. As an extra bonus, once in a while she shares a photo of her beautiful local landscape.

Farbenfreude - Alessa in Germany is a medical student, who somehow manages to sew, travel, and keep up two blogs in addition to her studies! Seriously, you would not believe how many dresses she’s sewn and hats and gloves she’s knitted even with day and night classes, surgical rounds, even exams. Does the woman have extra brain cells? Alessa’s blog is also a favorite because I have a special love for small European towns and I enjoy seeing her photos of her travels around Germany, Austria, and elsewhere.

Foster Reviews It - Foster in Utah shares her favorite books, restaurants, places to go and things to do. See which ones get a 5-star rating! Foster sews and quilts, and, unwisely, has recently taken up crochet. It’s a slippery slope, my friend!

The Empty Nest Mom – Barb is certainly making the most of her empty nest – one day she’s on a ferry in Alaska, the next she’s backpacking through Germany and Italy. Her delightful photos and intriguing observations let us vicariously enjoy her adventures. 

My Happy Sewing Place - Debi is an American living in Scotland and her photos of the castles and cathedrals in that part of the world are so gorgeous and romantic I feel as though I’ve fallen into a historical novel. Of course her blog is actually about appreciating and constructing vintage clothing, and she is one of the most talented and generous sewing bloggers you will find. Be sure to check out her “ABCs of Vintage Sewing” series.

Snippa - Snippa in England gets a lot of awards from me, because I can’t get over being impressed with her many talents and wide range of interests. Her blog supplies a steady dose of sewing, knitting, and crochet artistry, and so much more: local culture, natural history, recipes, jewelry making, fiber arts, gardening, archeology, and now even homemade beeswax candles. It’s a wonderful surprise every time.

Congratulations everyone! As I always say, feel free to pass it on if you feel inspired to do so, but you are not obligated.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Something to Show for the Effort

It’s been a whole month since I planted my first vegetable seeds! Soon I’ll have to do the second round of seeds – I want to have the veggies come in stages rather than all at once, like last year.

Before I get started on that task, let’s check in with the month-old seedlings.

The northeast bed had hit-and-miss success. 
click on pics to see larger

The butter lettuce is doing well, but the mesclun did not come up at all. The cilantro and parsley look pitiful, but the carrots are growing profusely! I have to thin them soon, and of course I hate doing that.

The broccoli germinated but something is chewing holes in the leaves.
Stop eating my broccoli!
Hopefully that something will confine its chewing to the broccoli and not move on to the cauliflower!

The southeast bed is looking very good.
The peas are outrunning everything, with the vines already 6 to 8 inches long and the tendrils reaching out for something to climb on. Of the two types of spinach, one did much better than the other. Of the two beet varieties, I can’t yet tell any difference, as they both seem to be growing very enthusiastically.

Time for more seeds.