Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Joy-full

I have been too long away. With too many things rattling around in my head, I ended up putting none of it down.

But today's mail call gave me the nudge I needed to get back in gear. A whimsical box ...


holding treasure: tapestry, handspun, and a cunning little vessel ...


Look closely and you'll read Deb Sposa's name scribed into the foot ...


It's a wonderful keepsake from someone I very much admire. And if you don't already do so, please read Deb's blog to see why 

And so, finally finding myself online again, I figured I might as well give you a peek at my recent patchplay ...


wonky improvs on the traditional log cabin design made from P's outgrown baby clothes.

Some of the clothing was so sheer that I decided to piece strips together ...


before cutting them into perpendicular strips to provide a little more stability ...


I interspersed the pieced strips with brand new, solid cotton quilting cloth (gasp). That was a first for me as I usually work with thrift store linen clothing, but P's clothes were all cotton and I sensed the need for a consistent fiber content and weight to stabilize the eventual whole. 

Besides which, there was no way those tiny baby clothes were going to stretch far enough for another first: a "true" quilt. By which I mean a pieced top and a backing with a third layer sandwiched in the middle, all stitched together into a bed covering of some sort. Something I've never done before. To which end I purchased a double weave cotton gauze to use in place of batting ...


Because I've never followed recipes exactly, so why start now?

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

New-ness

I've finally taken the plunge. Inspired by the gift of Natalie Goldberg's Living Color, I'm playing with watercolors for the first time in a looooong time ...


Not that I didn't have a few irons in the fire already. Such as the cloth and print versions of Moon Myth which stalled when it became abundantly clear that they wouldn't be completed in time for Christmas ...


Fortunately, I did manage to get some gift-making done on deadline. Like this handtowel I found at a local gallery ...


and embellished with stitch ...


And me being me, I also launched a new project taking P's outgrown baby clothes ...


and stitching them into squares for a someday blanket ...


Best of all was the grandkid Christmas project. Rather than the traditional gingerbread houses, our St Louis grandkids requested a train. I upped the ante by making chocolate springerle cookies instead, which made the house smell like a brownie factory ...


The boys each assembled a box car and decorated to their hearts' content ...


Then they filled each box car with the excess candies ...


earning me kudos from the moms, who were more than happy that all that sugar wasn't actually consumed ... ha!

So here's hoping your holidays have been as happily spent ... and that we all find much to celebrate (and maybe even complete) in the new year ahead.

Chocolate Train

I started with this recipe (with thanks to Gail):
which was the basis of the locomotive and the caboose.

But since I'm inherently incapable of actually following recipes, here's what I ended up using to make the boxcars:

1/2 lb butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbs. instant espresso powder
1 cup cocoa
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Soften butter (either let it sit out for an hour or, if you're incapable of waiting like me, nuke for 20-30 seconds at 20% power in the microwave). Cream butter and sugar until well-blended. 

Beat eggs and vanilla in a small bowl and add espresso powder to dissolve the granules. In addition to making the dough darker in color, the espresso makes the dough taste more chocolate-y. Beat egg mixture into butter and sugar mixture. 

Stir in cocoa and baking powder, then stir in flour and salt. Form dough into a large disk, put in a plastic bag and refrigerate for an hour.

Roll out in sections to 1/4" thickness (I use 1/4" wooden trim to make it even) and cut into 5" wide rectangles. After cutting pieces (see below), put on parchment lined cookie sheets and bake 13-15 minutes at 375. Cool for 5-10 minutes before transferring to wire racks. If possible, make the cookies a day or two ahead (so they'll be less apt to break).

Each boxcar (and the caboose if you want one) needs three 2 1/2" x 5" rectangles for the bottom and sides, and two 2 1/2" squares for the front and back. Optional: extra rectangles and/or squares can be made for rooftops.

The locomotive needs three 2 1/2 x 5" rectangles and one 2 1/2" square to form the cab (optional: cut out windows), two 2 1/2" squares and six 2 1/2" circles for the front engine, and some little triangles for the cow-catcher.

Make a bunch of 1" circles with the remaining scraps for wheels and connectors between the cars. And two larger circles for the wheels on the locomotive cab.



"Glue" everything together with premade or homemade icing (I prefer the taste of homemade, but it was much easier giving the kids premade icing to use). My icing consisted of 2 Tbs. melted butter, 1/4 cup milk, a splash of vanilla, and enough confectioners sugar to make a stiff-but-still-sticky "glue."

And then modify the recipe and directions to your heart's content ... 

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Well occupied

Much of what I'm doing these days is gift-related and therefore un-showable. But I did do a little bit of decorating by making a new handtowel for the guest bath ...


and then indulged in some pure and simple stitch therapy with the remaining scraps ...


I have no plan for this, but it was fun.

Likewise, Don's decorating has no purpose beyond the sheer pleasure of gazing ...


with something to see wherever you look, whether up ...


or down ...


My assigned duties are decking the mirror with bells ...


the dry sink with crèches (two sets worth) ...  


and then we trim the tree together by turns ...


Now all we need do is await the arrival of kids and grandkids to make it all the more worthwhile.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Still pinching myself

We were supposed to go to the opening on Friday night ...


but since the forecast called for 5" of rain we chickened out. So Don and I went today instead ...  


And while you can't necessarily tell from my expression (I'm not fond of having my picture taken) ...


I was really happy to be there, to witness my first-ever piece accepted into an art exhibit ...


The exhibit label text was spare, but there were more details in the artist statements and bios ...


And just in case it doesn't zoom in sufficiently, I wanted to be sure this got seen ...


I'll post more later ...


hopefully with links to some of the artists. It really was quite a wonderful show, with over 80 works created by artists across Texas plus another dozen or so from out of state.

I was honored to be counted among them.