Tuesday, July 28, 2009

This week in crafts

Reading this blog you probably get the impression that all I do is eat. I'm o tend to talk about my food a lot. But I'm also quite crafty. Often I can't talk about my projects because most of what I do is knit, and most of my knitting is "secret" until the pattern is published. But this week I've been working on lots of little things that I can talk about (plus one sewing project that I can't talk about now, but will share photos of next week). We are going to Sock Summit next week to sell yarn and this is the biggest even that we have attended so we have been crazy busy preparing. Mainly this has meant dyeing pounds and pounds and pounds of yarn, but I've also had some fun little craft projects for the booth. As if the booth wouldn't have enough color already, I decided to make our signs colorful too! I bought a bunch of those cheap plexiglass frames and heated them so that I could bend the stand parts back so that they are flat on the back and then glued ribbon to the top to hang them. I haven't done any scrap booking in ages so it was fun to have an excuse to go shopping in the scrap book aisle. As a dyer, all the colors combinations in the paper aisle are a lot of fun!

We needed something to display the shawl sticks in but they couldn't be bulky, breakable or heavy since everything has to be shipped in boxes across the country. So I grabbed a couple of Crystal Light containers out of the cabinet (sorry about the little crystal light tubs everywhere, Chris) and covered them in fabric. I just used some scraps from previous projects and glued them to the plastic cups with fabric glue- no sewing required. A very quick, easy, cheap (free, since I used materials I already had) solution!

I also used up a bunch of fabric scraps making these half aprons for Kelly and I to wear
in our booth. Its very helpful to have a calculator, pen, and receipt pad handy to check people out quickly and at our last show it seemed like we were often misplacing these things. I'm also a bit worried about leaving cash in a box under the table at a show this larger. So I made these aprons with lots of pockets in the front to hold all the "stuff" we need and a big zippered pocket to put cash in. We'll probably still have a box to put change in so that we aren't weighed down, but this way we can have our bills/checks on our bodies at all times. If you click on the picture it will get bigger and its easier to see all the pockets.

I also whipped together this crocheted swiffer cover one afternoon when Avi's hair was driving me crazy. The swiffer works really well for getting up her hair and other dirt and debris tracked in from the back yard on the kitchen floor, but I often have to use two swiffer sheets to do the whole floor. This crocheted cover has little ruffles on it so its much better at catching hair and larger debris and can hold on to more at a time. Plus I can just shake most of the hair/etc. off into the trash can and re-use it. Once it gets too dirty to keep using I'll just throw it in the wash! The pattern is free and very fast and easy. I used acrylic yarn since it seemed like it might have more static cling than a natural yarn. Plus its a great way to use up acrylic yarn in your stash that might not be nice enough for other projects!

I haven't been doing much knitting lately because I've been so busy with other things. Last night I couldn't take it anymore, though. I had to knit something. I do have a lace project on the needles but I wasn't in the mood for something requiring concentration so I made a little heart sachet with some left over Green Sheep Worsted and filled it with a mixture of cedar chips, mint leaves and essential oils known for keeping away moths and other bugs. It was very fast/easy and I think I'll be making several more to give as gifts.

This week in food

Well actually I should say the past two weeks since I didn't find time to blog last week. On July 21st (last Tuesday) our CSA box contained tomatoes, potatoes, Sun Gold cherry tomatoes, basil, a head of garlic and cantaloupe. Chris cut the cantaloupe up before I was able to get a photo! We used the basil and some of the garlic to make a pesto which we mixed with cherry tomatoes (either the ones from the box or from the garden- I can't remember) and pasta for a light, but flavorful dinner. I roasted the rest of the garlic and plan to use it and the potatos in a loaf of garlic-potato bread, once I find a spare minute or two to mix up a batch of dough. The cantaulope was sweet and refreshing, perfect as a snack or even as a desert. Its been oppressively hot and humid lately so something cool and light is just what we've needed.

Our own garden is producing mainly jalapeno peppers right now, though we are beginning to have a steady stream of tomatoes and the occasional squash. The tomatoes we'll often eat sliced with olive oil and mozerella but the peppers aren't so easy. Chris will sometimes add them to a meal but even so he was barely making a dent on the pile of peppers forming in the veggie bowl. So he decided to make pepper jelly using this recipe. He had never made jam before but I have, so it was fun to have the chance to teach him something in the kitchen for once! While we had the big pot out for boiling the jars I also canned up some of the relish that I made a few weeks ago (it had been marinating in the fridge and waiting on me to find time to can it). I'd hoped to also make a couple of jars of blackberry jam this week, but its looking like I won't have time.

Today we actually got two CSA boxes. Several weeks ago we were out of town when we would normally pick up our box so we asked them to not pack us one for that week. That gave us a "credit" that we could use to get a second box the week of our choice. Since we are planning a BBQ with friends for this Friday we decided to double up this week in case there was anything in the box we could serve with dinner. And we got lucky-- it looks like we'll be having watermelon for desert on Friday! We also got more tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and red bell peppers plus our first eggplants. I have no idea what to do with eggplant, its not something we normally eat. So I guess we'll be experimenting this week!

I'm beginning to wonder if I should make some salsa or spaghetti sauce to use up all these tomatoes...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Another BIG Thank You!

I don't know what I've done lately to deserve this, but last weekend I got another wonderful sheep-related gift, completely out of the blue! Chris's mom, Dianne, has recently been experimenting with a new (to her) medium, oil pastels, and last weekend she surprised me with this beautiful framed work of art. I love the way she incorporated the full rainbow of colors without making it look cartoonish or unnatural. I think its just exquisite and can't believe how fortunate I am to have such a talented artist in my family! I have it hanging on the while in my studio so that when I'm seated at my winder (where I spend a lot of time!) I can see it.

Wedding Season

So far I've been to three weddings since May, and will be attending my fourth (and final) tomorrow. All of them have required traveling, but its been fun to see old friends and family and to enjoy other people's weddings without the stress of having to plan one myself. The wedding I went to last weekend, July 4th, was especially fun because it was my friend Shanna's. I know Shanna through the yarn shop where I used to work, Knit Picky, and she invited a number of the gals from the weekly knit night. I haven't seen much of these friends since I moved a year ago, so it was a lot of fun to catch up with them over yummy barbecue-- Shanna hired the same caterers as we had at our wedding, Little Richards Barbecue and they did a wonderful job, again. Shanna also did a wonderful job with all the wedding details. I loved her bridesmaid's bouquets of wild flowers and the simple beauty of her flower adorned cake. And of course Shanna was a beautiful bride. I know people always say this, but she really did seem to be glowing with joy!

You might recall that Shanna is one of the people that I was making aprons for earlier this summer. I don't think I ever posted pictures from her shower, though. Shanna seemed to really like the apron, and I hope she gets some use out of it. I know that she likes to cook and she is a seamstress herself so I know she appreciates the work that went into it. The pattern is Emmaline by Sew Liberated, the fabric is by Amy Butler.

Homemade Bagels

Did you know that you can make bagels in your own kitchen? And that its really no harder than making loaf bread? I know- I too was stunned to learn this. My favorite bread book even has a recipe. You make your dough like usual, then pull it into a bunch of little balls and let it rise. Then poke a hole in the middle of each ball and they are ready to go into the boil pot. The boil pot is just sugar, water and baking soda. Next time I'd like to try adding malt to the mix since I've heard that gives the outside of the bagels a better color and texture. After a brief (1-2min each side) dip in the boil pot they bake in the oven for 20min and, ta-da, fresh homemade bagels! I also made a couple of flavors of cream cheese to go with them since the bagels themselves were plain. I just mixed your basic reduced fat cream cheese with a) chopped nuts and honey b) sundried tomatoes (pureed) and fresh basil c) chopped and smooshed fresh peach. Yum!

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Farmers Market

One of the greatest things about this time of year is the abundance of local produce available. My favorite of our many local farmers markets is the one held on Wednesday afternoons in Carrboro. Now that we are living in Hillsborough, I don't make it to the Wednesday market every week like I did last year when it was only a few miles away. In fact, it had been several weeks since my last visit and wow, what a change! The selection is always great but today the booths were overflowing with so many different colors, shapes and smells. Earlier in the summer only one or two crops would be plentiful at a time- for example all the booths would have leafy greens, but not much else. But today there were too many things to keep track of them all. Now that I'm home I wish I had gotten more, but my arms were loaded down with as much as I could carry by the time I was done! I managed to come away with a dozen ears of corn, a dozen peaches, okra, peach jam, ground goat meat, eggs and some kind of bean that looks like black eyed peas, but green (I forgot to write down the name, oops!).

Using these instructions the dozen ears of corn quickly turned into these bags of corn, ready to be frozen. Each baggie contains about 2 ears of corn (the missing 2 ears I saved to have corn on the cob for dinner later this week). Later this fall or winter when the fresh produce isn't as plentiful it will be so easy to just grab a baggie from the freezer and heat it up in the microwave for a fast, easy, delicious and healthy side.

Now, what should I do with all those beautiful peaches?

Pickle Relish

This week's CSA box contained tomatoes (both full size, heirloom and cherry), an onion, a purple bell pepper, black berries, cucumbers and basil. Chris used some of the cucumbers, basil and tomatoes to make a yummy salad almost as soon as we opened the box. But we still had a lot of cucumbers left over. Especially when you include the cucumbers left from last week. And they look like they won't last much longer. I knew I had to take action, so I decided to make relish!

I used this recipe, but using the amounts and ingredients that I had on hand.

1.5lb cucumbers, diced
1/4 cup onion, diced
1 purple bell peppers, diced
1/4 cup kosher salt

1tsp each: mustard seed, turmeric, whole allspice, whole cloves
1/2 cup sugar
1.5 cup white vinegar

The mixture has to marinate for at least a day before its ready for canning (and sampling!) so I don't know yet how its going to turn out. Cross your fingers that it ends up edible-- I've never made relish (or pickles of any kind) before!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

This and That

The past couple of weeks have been a blurr and the next several promise to be more of the same. Even though this time of year is traditionally the slow season for the knitting industry (how many people really feel like knitting when its a thousand degrees out and humid?) it has been insanely busy for us. This June was our busiest month on record. We have had several big club shipments to work on, a number of surprisingly large wholesale orders (that all came in during the same week, of course!) plus a HUGE knitting festival (Sock Summit) that we are dyeing inventory for. The clubs are all done (for this month) and the wholesale orders are moving along, but the goal for Sock Summit is pretty much "as much as is humanely possible to dye before the end of July" so I imagine I'll stay pretty busy until then.

Of course none of that is terribly interesting to blog about. And in the few moments when I'm not working there is always laundry or dishes to be done. Thats even less interesting to blog about. I did finally finish my Secret Garden shawl tonight but since its a mystery KAL I can't post pictures. I'm very happy with how it turned out, though. Now I just need to get some blockng wires so I can properly block it.

Our plans for the 4th are a bit unusual- instead of picnics and fireworks we have a wedding to attend! A friend of mine, the one I made the apron for a month or so ago, is getting married so we'll be spending most of the day near Winston-Salem to celebrate with her. I'm looking forward to seeing some of my friends that I haven't spent much time with since moving a year ago. Its hard to believe that its only been one year since we got married last July- it feels like so much has been packed into this past year. And it feels like we've been married for much longer, but I suppose thats no surprise since we were married in our hearts and minds for years before the ceremony actually took place.

Chris begins his rotations in the hospital on Monday. Last week was 3rd year "orientation"-- basically a series of lectures designed to squash any remaining hope that the med students have of mantaining any joy in their lives for the next year. Lets hope that its not as bad as they made it out to be. To get him started on the right foot, I want to fix a special treat for him on Sunday. I'm trying to decide between Banana Pudding Icecream and Peanut Butter and Banana Cream Pie. I might also make some Chocolate Sugar Cookies to go with either of the above recipes, since I think that bananas and chocolate are awesome together.

Because of all the work-related business, I haven't done much sewing in the last few weeks (I haven't even done much knitting!). I'm still trying to finish some of the aprons I started so that I can give them as gifts-- I've already been using mine, even though it isn't hemmed and still needs the pockets sewn on! I did make myself a craft apron using some scraps from other projects so that I can keep my scissors and other small tools/supplies handy when I'm in the studio. I'll also use it to keep money, pens, receipt book, etc in at yarn shows. I need to make Kelly one, as well. I found another fun project for using some scraps-- a fabric dog collar! I have the plastic clip part from some old project in the past, so now all I need to do is dig up a D ring and I'll be set. When we take Avi on walks we use a harness, the collar's only real use is as a place to keep her tags, so I'm not concerned about its strength. I've always wanted to knit the dog sweaters but shes never cold, and is a bit large for that type of thing anyway. I think a fabric collar will suit her much better!

Well, I'd better get back to the laundry if we are going to have anything clean to wear to the wedding tomorrow. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday weekend (if you are in the US) or simply a nice summer weekend if you are elsewhere!