Thanks so much for the sweet comments and emails on the baby news in my last post! Super appreciated. We’re getting excited, and it has been so cool to see Pearl getting more and more eager to meet him. I have to admit that I’m having a hard time believing it’s almost November… except for the weather, which is pure Pacific Northwest fall. I picked up a surprise treasure at the Pendleton Woolen Mill Store about a month ago and dreamed up a cold-weather craft project. And Tuesday turned out to be the day I finally got to sew it!
Pendleton sells big and small pieces and remnants of their wool fabric by the pound, and I snapped up 55 of these sample cards for about $2.40 total. There were nine different patterns in the mix, in totally random quantities from one to a dozen, and each one measured around 8.5 by 10.5 inches (some were smaller, though), with neatly pinked edges.
On another trip a few weeks later I got a beautiful piece of blue blanket header that measured 60 x 96 inches, on sale for $12 (from $32), that I wanted to use too. Perfect.
So I pieced a 7 x 7-square patchwork throw, randomizing the patterns so no two touched, and sewed it together by rows.
The squares ended up a bit erratic instead of perfectly aligned since some pieces were a little shorter, but I like it better that way.
The finished piece measures about 54 x 70 inches, perfect for one or two people watching a Blazers game (by the way, they won their season opener the day I sewed it, and have now gone 2-0 since I finished it!) or reading. It would be great for curling up with and watching a movie, too (if I could stay awake through a whole one after Pearl goes to bed, that is).
And I love the heavier blue wool I backed it with – so pretty. I just need to tie it now (one more Blazers game should probably do it).
Anyway, it’s nice to make something so simple that turns into such an instant favorite. Thanks to the amazing bargains at the Pendleton store, this whole project rang in at about $12 – I have plenty of that lovely blue wool left, along with enough plaid squares for a big pillow or something.
If you’re local, the Pendleton Woolen Mill Store is a can’t-miss treasure. They also have an eBay store and ship internationally, if you order directly from them! Along with wool fabrics in all weights and dimensions (I have bought 112-inch-wide blanket fabric from them – incredible), they sell their own lovely wool yarn, buttons, notions, patterns, magazines, and books. One more tip: check out their blog for the weekly truck report, and find out exactly what by-the-pound bargains are delivered every Friday.
So an announcement first – along with the usual boring reasons (work, general busy-ness, and desperately needing to get a new laptop) my blog has been so quiet lately is a more exciting one: I’m expecting another baby! It’s a boy this time (!) and he will be arriving in November. We are so thrilled, although it still doesn’t quite seem real that we’ll be meeting him next month, but I can’t wait. So, that’s the news around here! I’ll recycle my onesie photo from announcing that I was expecting Pearl back in 2008 – I have made a few new things for him, too, but don’t have any photos of them. (I need to get on that!)
I’ve mentioned a few times lately that all I’ve had time to do on the crafty end of things is cook, and that has pretty much been the deal around here. Our garden did pretty well this year so we had a steady supply of vegetables for the late-summer months (yay), Pearl stopped napping completely (not yay) and the only creative outlet I’ve had that I can really pull off with her racing around the room is cooking and baking. She’s in preschool part-time now, which she loves, but that’s really my time to work-work… so time for fun crafting has been pretty thin.
So, I’ve been cooking a lot. A whole lot. And I thought I’d pass on some favorite easy-to-make batch recipes that you might like too, most of which freeze or keep really nicely… which is handy for a whirlwind fall with a newborn, or just the luxury of not having to make something for dinner every single night. I’m not a food photographer at all (I wish!) but hopefully you won’t mind these mediocre shots of things – I promise that the actual recipes are great, even if my photos aren’t. (And I have a bunch of favorite recipes cataloged over at delicious if you’re interested, too.)
So, here’s one busy Saturday’s worth of batch cooking, and here’s what’s in the picture:
- One double batch of artisan bread in five minutes a day (the peasant bread version – our favorite), which keeps in the refrigerator for three weeks. This makes about six loaves of bread. LOVE this one. I store my bread dough in a 5-quart flat-sided storage container thing from Fred Meyer, which doesn’t take up too much room, and if I double it I put the overflow (about 1/3 of it) into a regular plastic pitcher, too.
-One double batch of sweet potato gratin, divided into three pans. This is a really amazing side dish. Andrew chopped everything for me (below), which made it all go so quickly. I super recommend this one.
-One triple batch of green tomato enchilada sauce. I made a 4x batch a week or two later as well (we had a LOT of green tomatoes), and a 4x batch of the butternut squash-bean-cheese filling. I decided to freeze the sauce and filling separately, not try freezing pans of pre-made enchiladas, but I’m sure that those would be great too. I freeze almost everything in pint or quart glass Mason jars with BPA-free lids (the white ones pictured), but Ziploc bags can be great too.
-One double batch of fresh tomato sauce. I also made a 4x batch of this a week or two later. And Andrew chopped everything for me this time, too. I don’t have a food mill (which is high on my wish list for next year) but blanching the tomatoes in boiling water and then quickly seeding them with a fine-grain colander I just got at Ikea works great.
Along with the obsessive cooking, I’ve been doing some simple baking and it’s been so nice. Here are some of the recipes I’ve been using pretty much non-stop, most of which are perfect for a stash of frozen summer berries like ours:
-I love the perfect blueberry muffins from smitten kitchen. I just add vanilla and nutmeg and otherwise follow the recipe exactly.
-I also make these cornmeal berry muffins a lot. I add brown sugar and nutmeg to the tops.
-And these banana muffins are really good with frozen berries added to the basic recipe.
-We picked apples the other week and I LOVE this apple muffin recipe (no berries in this one).
Okay, well, enough cooking talk! I hope some of these recipes are inspiring to try, if you haven’t already run across them. I’m also getting really excited about cooking for Thanksgiving (yes, I will have a weeks-old infant, but still) and Christmas (probably a bit more manageable).
p.s. A Halloween costume update: Pearl is still holding steady at eight very different ideas, but thanks to a lovely and well-timed vintage gift from our friend Holly I think we may have zeroed in on an official costume for her! I don’t want to jinx it by posting about it yet, but I will let you know more by the end of the week… hint, it is not Laura Ingalls Wilder, or a walrus.
My Halloween Bazaar post for CRAFT: just went up last week – it was super fun to pick out five favorite things to spotlight over there! I’m extra partial to Lee Meredith’s Old-Timey Moustache knitting pattern (pictured, and knitted, here by Monica/kirbymo in a very cool fun fur yarn!), which comes paired with a superhero mask pattern for good measure.
I also included Amy Karol‘s darling bonnet pattern, available right over here, which ties right in to my Halloween costume dreams. Pearl has the most adorable handmade bonnet (a gift from Meredith) that she loves wearing. Here it is this summer at the Division-Clinton street fair.
Another huge favorite around here is her Radio Flyer red wagon. We use it to pick up berries, go to the park, and take her best friend around the neighborhood for adventures.
So, knowing my mercurial kid who likes what she likes and doesn’t want to wear anything else even if I like it, I thought I’d try a Halloween costume based on her favorite things instead of mine… and bonnet + (covered) wagon led me straight to Laura Ingalls Wilder territory. She doesn’t know who Laura is yet, so I’ve been calling it “pioneer girl with a bonnet and a wagon” and she’s been happy with that. So, if this costume is the winner (see below), I’ll be baking some corn dodgers from the Little House Cookbook and making her a little lunch basket just like Mary and Laura’s to carry while we trick-or-treat. Bonnet, apron, skirt, plain long-sleeved t-shirt, and maybe a shawl for both me and her, and I think we’re good. Andrew even said he’d dress up with us! Oh, and I’m going to invent the covered wagon top with some hardware-store stuff and an old sheet, which works very well in my head at least.
But… that was about a week ago, an eternity in preschooler time. And in the meantime, Pearl has mentioned the following ideas, each with equal enthusiasm, as THE Halloween costume SHE wants to wear, NOT the other ones:
2. Monkey (sometimes Curious George, sometimes just monkey)
6. “A big piece of orange cake”
and a 7. is coming any minute now I’m sure… I’ll be sure to update when it does.
Here’s what I actually know how to make, costume-wise:
So, I guess all I know is that I’m making myself a bonnet, and hoping that by the time her first Halloween party rolls around on the Friday the 29th we have something cool organized for her to wear (hopefully handmade, but I’m no miracle worker). The glory days of Harry Potter and Yoda, when I could dress her up any way that sounded awesome and weather-appropriate, are long gone.
But I’m confident that no matter what I will have the cutest Laura Ingalls Wilder, monkey, walrus (though I’m hoping not walrus, to be honest, I can’t figure that one out yet), or piece of orange cake in town!
I’ve been thinking about making Pearl a playroom for months, but now that October has rolled in and the nice days are officially numbered, the time is now. Andrew and I spent chunks of the last few weeks clearing things out of a particularly ugly part of our basement, the charmless water heater corner.
We used to have a row of mismatched bookshelves along the wall, with random stuff accumulating in front of them, and the space was really somewhere to quickly pick out (or to be honest, spend some serious time unsuccessfully trying to find) a book and split for a nicer part of the house. In late September we moved all the shelves to our rec room, and added more for a total of seven nice tall Billy bookcases in a row – instant library, and enough space and shelves to actually organize our books. And once the shelves and random stuff was gone from this whole area, it looked so much bigger and more like somewhere Pearl could actually (eventually) hang out.
So… one round of floor-to-ceiling chalkboard paint, a coat of Benjamin Moore Pool Party (in pearl finish, naturally) for the windows, and a super carpet sweep and clean later, we had the start of a playroom! Moving her stuff in piece by piece was a snap, and even though we’re not done and October is not the time of year to take basement photos in Portland, I wanted to post some photos of something I’ve done lately…
Here’s the same corner with a little play tent (a gift from Josh + Sarah), a play structure our neighbors built for their now-grown-up girls and lent us for Pearl, and a couple of big floor pillows I just sewed with an Ikea print I got a few years ago. The water heater is (thankfully) hidden with a vintage wooden folding screen I got at Lounge Lizard. The paper pennants on it were made and screenprinted by Kate Bingaman-Burt!
I put up the P-E-A-R-L-! birthday pennants too,
(This is the only time all that food has been that neatly contained in that storage box, ever. Pearl was still asleep when I took these photos!)
There’s an Expedit for storing all her random toys, art supplies, games, and stuff on the shorter facing wall,
and a couch (Ektorp, continuing the relentless Ikea theme) that I sewed some new pillows for!
I also sewed new curtains (matching one couch pillow) using a 50¢ thrift store find from about a decade ago – a few yards of a flower-and-butterfly Japanese linen screenprint. I really love the blue windows.
And I made some oversized floor pillows with the cheerful print I used for the other couch pillow, too.
So, we’re still rounding up the last few things — a kids table and chairs set I’m also going to paint Pool Party blue, a rug, the two hours we need to chalkboard-paint the other wall, and the chance to put up more of her artwork, but I’m so excited that we’ve gotten this far! She totally loves it and it’s so nice to see this cool little Pearl set-up instead of the same grim old basement (see first photo again if need be).
And I got to sew some things for the house – wow, that was fun after all these months of deadline-only crafting! Two sets of curtains and four pillows for here, plus another super-simple curtain for the pink princess bathroom upstairs. I can’t remember where I got this fabric, but it is a Japanese print, probably about three years old (maybe five), patterned with vintage French handkerchief designs. Love it.
Okay, I will be back with some Halloween projects and some news soon!
Just a quick post since I’m under the weather today… but Diane just emailed me that my own little Yoda is on the front page of CRAFT: for a Halloween how-to special! Thanks, Diane, what a cool pick-me-up!
I came up with a fun idea for Pearl’s costume this year, based on a huge favorite item of clothing around here, which I’ll post more about later this week. I might even dress up with her this time too. And it involves baking, which is about all I’m good for these days!
Thank you so much to CRAFT:!