Saturday, September 29, 2007

Bread and Soup Day

Twice this week I have made huge batches of potato soup and homemade bread because, quite simply, the weather calls for it. And when the weather calls for it, my stomach follows suit. I'm eating some as I type. Gosh, so tasty. The recipe is here, but I tweaked it a bit by adding some carrot and lots of celery.

The smock will be finished up today, just in time for a night on the town. I haven't decided which button to feature on the front yet. The aunt in law passed her buttons along to me. Here's the contenders:

The big black one on the far left is looking most promising right now.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Dieting Is Evil

I am calling it quits. My love affair with sugar and all things sugary and things that even rhyme with sugar (booger? Is that all?) is over. Yesterday I kissed sugar goodbye with a sweet, sweet cookie sundae thingie from Perkins. Today I swear I got the shakes from Phase I of sugar deprivation. The only thing that ever works with me, weight-loss wise, is cutting out sugar. Well, that and running three miles a day. One step at a time, though.

So goodbye, sugar. Let me say this again, just to let it percolate through my brain: goodbye, sugar. So long, fun size Milky Way bars at 2 am. Adios multicolored jordan almonds by the pound from the chocolate shop. Sayanara peanut butter and honey sandwiches (I can't bear this!). Hopefully in a few weeks I'll actually fit into my clothes again.

Dieting is such a bitch. Gah.

I'm sure someone will find me in a fugue state on the floor covered in Sugar in the Raw in a matter of hours. If you don't hear from me soon, send help.

Thank goodness it isn't Peep season, is all I have to say. Peep season just automatically nullifies any in-progress dieting, I think. This is my law.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

(Dis)Comfort Food

Took the little boys with me to the Goodwill and totally pillaged the place of all of their frightening cookbooks. I have collected these things since I was a kid, and I still can't quite explain my morbid fascination with them. Maybe it's the garish colors, or the impossible food combinations; anyway, I found quite a few good ones today. Maybe one day I will actually get up the nerve to make some of these dishes, like my fun friends at Swapatorium.

The goods:

All of those up there are hardbacks. Then I got these fun pamphlet-type cookbooks, also from BHG. They have some really cool illustrations in them that didn't quite turn out when I tried to photograph them. Someday I'll get a scanner and do them justice.

Nothing says "delicious" like cantaloupe wrapped in raw bacon.

Also picked up some really cute vintage "Amish" cookbooks. The cover graphics are really bright.

It's a rainy day, and I feel like drinking hot tea and doing nothing. Sounds like a plan. But first...

Sliced tomatoes in a brandy snifter. Classy.

Movin' Right Along

The smock is coming along nicely. I started sewing early today; normally I don't start until the afternoon when the boys are napping.

The garden is done for the year, and the flowerbeds seem to be petering out as well. There's still some lovely purple wildflowers to enjoy, as well as the "autumn joy" and mums.

And of course, this little indoor hibiscus, who puts on a show all year long:

Aside: My sister and I loved the song "Movin' Right Along" from the original Muppet movie. We played that record to death as kids. I often think about how much I miss the organic, scratchy sound of LPs. Compared to the pristine digital sound of today, it doesn't stand a chance, of course, but I prefer it. There are so many memories of begging my dad to put on Simon and Garfunkel so my sister and I could dance to "Slip Slidin' Away," only to have my Dad yell every time that our frantic jumping and ballet leaping was making the record skip. There was a Fisher Price record player at the thrift shop the other day. Maybe I need to introduce the joy of 45s to the kids.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Time Out

Today I am getting a babysitter for an entire HOUR and meeting my friend for coffee. Technically it's not really alone time, since I am still going to have Henry (almost 10 mos.) and she's going to have her little guy, too. But it's better than having babies AND toddlers to chase! We are going to an actual non-Starbuckian coffee shop to have "adult conversation." Most days I don't even know what that means, as my "poo" and "gosh" laden posts belie. I am looking forward to it, though.

I hemmed my babysitter's pants this morning. Man oh man, I love my new Singer. That thing sewed through the denim like buttah. The ol' Merritt wouldn't have done such a stellar job. It tended to snag on heavyweight fabrics, even with the proper needle. Not so, Singer C-550, you wonderful thing, you!

Today post-coffee I plan on attacking the smock again. Yesterday afforded me no sewing time, so I am itching to do something today. Hopefully the smock looks awesome when finished, and not like a plaid sack. Although I am not even sure why I picked the smock pattern in the first place, because I always look like a pregnant lady in them. Not that it's any stretch, as I usually *am* pregnant (I joke that I have spent more of my married years pregnant than not, and I have been married nine years), but it truly is not a flattering design for me. Gosh darnit if I can't resist the siren song of the smock pattern every time I am at the fabric store. When will I learn?
Smock jumble:

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Dance Party

Karsten and I took a break from steam cleaning the incredibly gross computer room carpet in order to have a Supergrass dance party. A good time was had by all:

After Supergrass was finished cycling through on RealPlayer, Led Zeppelin I came on. Karsten said, "I wike Zeppwin, Mom." Good boy.


Yesterday was a busy day... lots of running around and cleaning house. The wood floors had been screaming at me for the past two weeks for a scrubbing, so I finally caved and cleaned them. Sadly, I didn't get to finish, so guess what I'm doing today? That and two bathrooms. I did one bathroom yesterday.

Most of the time I am thankful that we have such a big house. Then there's the days when I look around and think, "I really need to clean this sty; which bathroom should I start with?" Four bedrooms, three baths. Acres of carpet that attracts dog hair like nobody's business. Bits of Lego and Bionicle strewn about and constantly underfoot. Argh. I feel beaten before I begin, most days.

Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts. I haven't picked up the rest of the fabric or patterns from the two ladies I mentioned in earlier posts. Neither one of them has had a chance to get everything organized, so I am just going to wait for them to give me a call. It's exciting, though; like when you're a kid, knowing that Christmas is only a few days away.

All of the fabric that I have gotten over the past few days was piling up on my sewing table, so I picked up a new Tote to put the stuff in. As a result, my corner of the computer room looks like Tote Mountain. There's Totes big and small stacked up about four feet off the ground. There's no place for the fabric to go, though, so I don't really have a choice. I don't like to leave it sitting out because it just attracts dust. Or the dog steals it, thinking that a yard of panne velvet would make a divine sleeping area.

A couple of years ago I remember visiting someone's craft blog, and they had the most beautiful crafting space I have ever seen. The entire room had built in wood shelving on all four walls, floor to ceiling. The shelves were narrow in order to accomodate individual pieces of fabric. That's one way to sort it! She also had wooden drawers built in to the walls like filing cabinets for patterns and the like. For some reason I am thinking that it's Turkey Feathers, but I'll have to check.

I finished the Simplicity apron the other day and will post a pic later. Started on the smock pattern that I posted the other day using some of the vintage plaid I got from a garage sale, but haven't had a chance to sew much on it. Today I need to hem my babysitter's jeans... in between scrubbing floor and potties, of course. My life is both glamorous and exciting! Maybe I'll make a pie today, or shirr something. Yes, a little shirring to improve the home and mood, just like the brochure recommends. Ha.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Jackpot 2: Electric Boogaloo

Sophie and I had to run to the grocery store this afternoon to get appropriate dinner foods, and I decided to stop at a garage sale along the way. Today was my lucky day, folks. I asked the lady running the sale if she had any fabric, and she rummaged around in her garage for a minute and returned with a HUGE Rubbermaid container full of vintage fabric. Some of it she brought to the US from Italy when she got married even. I looked through the container and took some, mostly cotton. She told me to come back tomorrow so she could give me the rest, along with other boxes for FREE!

I haven't ever had such a satisfactory garage sale day ever. Between this lady and the lady from this morning, it can't get any better.

Isn't this poodle fabric hilarious? It's a bunch of circles with tongues and bows:

My favorite print from this batch is this one. I am really hoping that there's more of it, since this piece is very small:

Most of the fabric that I saw hadn't even been washed; a lot of it still had the original labels on it from when it was first cut and paid for.


Fred is my pincushion. I hand-sewed him from cotton scraps about a year and a half ago because it was driving me nuts trying to dig pins out of the tin I had them in. He was just off-handedly spliced together, which explains why he's a little wobbly. But he serves his purpose, and that's cool with me.

Also, the kids love him and often arrange my pins in elaborate featherlike creations for him. Today he's sporting a mohawk, courtesy of some little hands:


The new Singer C-550 is firmly ensconced in the place of honor normally reserved for the Merritt (sorry, Merritt). I sewed on it last night and this morning, finishing up the Halloween linens for my sister in law. Needless to say, it is a smooth operator. It's loud and heavy like the Merritt, which is a good thing (don't ask me why, I just like it that way), but it is so fast and smooth! It caught me off guard the first time, actually. But it was quite easy to get used to, and I think the new machine and I will soon be the best of friends.

This morning I went to a couple of garage sales. The first one was a bust, but I bought something anyway (a stoneware bowl in the shape of a heart) because the old dude who was running it was so cool. I had Ian (6) and Karsten (3) with me, and I think the old gentleman got a kick out of them. He gave them both a dollar (!) because they were so good. They *were* being good kids, but that guy just raised the bar high for mom and dad. I can see it now: "Sorry, Mom, we won't be good for anything less than a buck."

The next garage sale was a bust AT FIRST, until I started talking to the older lady running it about sewing. Turns out she was an incredible seamstress for 50 years, and so was her aunt. She was so excited to meet a young sewer that she whipped out three huge boxes of vintage fabric that belonged to her aunt, as well as a huge box of patterns. She didn't have time this morning for me to see everything, but she let me go through one box of fabric. I gleaned this immediately for a grand total of $3:

The smallest piece in this lot is 1 yd., and the largest is nearly 5 yds (the cream and white circles)! She is selling the fabric for 50 cents a piece, no matter what the size of the cut! On Monday I am going back to her house to look through everything, and I can't wait. From what I saw in the box I looked through, it's mostly 1950s-1970s fabric. The patterns should be really awesome, too.

The lady was so sweet, and she kept saying how happy it made her that she had found someone who would use and appreciate it all. She had lived with her aunt as a child, and ended up caring for her the last year of her life, so I can only imagine how much sentimental value there is in the fabric and patterns, especially since it was a passion they shared together. I am happy that I will be able to use her things to create many, many new things for years to come.

Friday, September 21, 2007


The new Singer is a go! I pick her up today. I am so excited!

I was on Burdastyle last night, and I was going through the latest submissions in the user creations category (dang there's some talented people on that site) and recognized Simplicity 4589, beautifully rendered in a bunch of cool fabrics, all by the same gal.

Here's the pattern; it's smocktacular:

This was one of the first patterns I ever tried, and I hated it. I just couldn't figure out how to fit the sleeves properly given the square neckline I was working with and how the seams intersected. But that was many moons ago in my sewing career (heh), and she inspired me to try again.

Head over to Burdastyle and check out the lovely work of Littleladyluxe right quick. The plaid one is my fave. Now I think I know what to do with that tartan fabric I picked up at a garage sale last weekend!

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Singer Merritt 1872, I'm afraid your time has come.

I got this lovely machine years ago from my sister, who got it from a coworker. It came with no manual, and I didn't know what to do with it. It sat in my basement for a few years until one day I dragged it out, determined to figure out how to use it. It's been almost two years that I have been sewing with it now, but I've come to realize it's got issues. I have been spending a small fortune on tension control repairs, and it just doesn't pay to keep fixing it every few months for $80 a pop. But I love that it is heavy and all metal. Such a solid workhorse, it is. They truly don't make them like this anymore.

Gosh, I feel like a traitor. I've formed a senitmental attachment to this machine and even though it has been sewing like poo, it is so hard for me to give it up! If I want to continue to make money from sewing, though, I need one that sews well. You know, nice straight, even stitches; not ones with bits of bobbin thread poking up through the needle holes. Sigh.

I've been looking in earnest for a new machine for the past couple of days, mostly via Freecycle and Craigslist. I can't bring myself to spend a fortune on a machine. There's plenty of ladies out there who buy $1000 machines in the blink of an eye, but I can't do it.

On a lark I visited the Singer shop today and chatted with a nice young bloke who showed me some newer models. The commerical-grade line caught my eye, this one in particular:

Ooh. Shiny. This is the C-550, and I believe it is one of the only mechanical models still being manufactured by any company. All of the commercials are mechanical, but the regular homesewing line doesn't offer any, I don't think. Hey, look! It's metal and it's heavy! There's a lady on craigslist selling hers for $150 and she only used it once. Please let her get back to me soon! I've got projects piling up and it's kinda crazy round these parts.

Even if I were to get a new machine, I'd still keep the Merritt around. It would make a good paperweight.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Poor Howdy, turning to 1920s fruit liquors to ease the pain. The Howdy Doody toy is the only one of a set that belonged to my Dad when he was a kid. There's a little lever in the back to make his mouth move up and down so that he can say things like, "Boy, I could really go for a drink right about now." The liquor bottle was my mother in law's. She got it as a gift from a neighbor years ago. The label is pretty neat, don't you think? Both of these things are only about 4 inches tall.

While we're on the subject of easing the pain...

I made a deep-dish apple pie today, to Sophie's apparant delight. She doesn't like apple pie, but she appreciates the smell of spicy baked apples as much as the next person. We had this after dinner along with vanilla ice cream. I think I can manage whatever life throws my way as long as I have homemade apple pie.

These are a work-in-progress for my sister in law, Cheri: the placemats I mentioned a few posts back. They don't look all that impressive ('cause they aren't). The skeletons and rick-rack are the front, and the BOOOOOO is the back. Everything should be done and shipped tomorrow. The mustard yellow print on the bottom there is for a special person who also has an October birthday, but I can't tell you this person's name, or I will spoil the surprise.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fall Is in the Air

And this means that my allergies are in assault mode. I spent much of the day feeling like crap and trying to get the boys to sleep so that maybe the veins in my temples would stop pulsating for two seconds. Yeah, no dice.

Fall is actually my favorite season. It's my favorite for baking yummy pies and drinking mugs of tea. The air smells crisp and fresh and spicy. There's a latent energy outside, even though the growing things are winding down and preparing for a long winter. Fall invigorates me.

Today, however, I felt anything but. In my stubbornness, I insisted on working on the apron and regretted it. The bit that I worked on today required edging everything in 1/4" double fold bias tape. Being a big fan of bias tape in general, I was eager to jump in and bias my little heart out.

The truth is, 1/4" double fold bias tape SUCKS. It is impossible to pin because it's so small, and so the edges of the fabric slip right out. I sewed quite slowly, shoving the fabric in the fold of the tape as I went, and still I had gaps where I had missed the fabric. Ugh. Total nightmare. When I next do this pattern, I am sticking with my trusty 1/2" bias, naysayers be damned!Wow. I really need to press those pockets again.

Monday, September 17, 2007

It's (Not) So Easy!

I have come to learn that patterns marked "Easy" rarely are. Some pattern designer has a really twisted idea of "easy." My idea of "easy" includes none of the following: zippers, darts, and pleats.

Take the apron pattern I mentioned earlier; I started it this evening and it was pretty slow going. Want to know why? It might have had something to so with the 12 flipping darts the pattern called for. Actually, it was six double darts or diamond darts or whatever they are called. Essentially 12 darts. I actually didn't mind sewing them so much, but I intensely disliked pressing the little buggers.

The apron is coming along quite nicely now, though. Tomorrow it gets the life bias-taped out of it! Happy happy joy joy.

Work Space

My sewing space consists of a really small table backed into the corner of the computer/junk/place where the dog sleeps room. The whole room is messy, so my table blends in just fine.

One of my favorite things on my little table, besides my machine, is this old ad from Dritz inviting us to shirr ourselves, our husband, our children, and our whole damn house:

Someday I will have a room of my own. Until then, my corner works just fine. It could be so much worse; it could look like my computer desk:

Not pictured: numerous Diet Coke rings, bits of Nestle Crunch wrapper, defaced book on Hillary Rodham Clinton, tissues.

Maybe a little shirring would make a big difference here.

Sewing for the Masses

My sister in law recently asked me to make her some Halloween placemats. "Aha!" I thought. Perfect. Her birthday is during that month anyway, and now I don't have to figure out what to give her. Throw in a matching table runner, and I am set...

...Until I saw this awesome brand-new Simplicity apron design for fall. Cheri is not the frilly foo-foo type, which is precisely why I am going to torture her with a vintage looking apron of my own creation. I've decided to make her the yoke apron on the right. Give most women an apron and they'd look at you as if you had handed them a steaming pile of poo. This is my opportunity to force aprons on the women of America! It all begins with you, Cher. It all begins with you.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

In Through the Out Door

Whew. What a crazy day. Runny noses all 'round, church (for the two of us who did not suffer from runny noses), then a one hour drive with all four kiddos to Pittsburgh to visit my mother in law and my parents. Luckily our parents live about ten minutes away from each other. Like an idiot, I left Henry's diaper bag and bottles sitting on the kitchen table. We had to leave and head for home after an hour and a half of visiting, but it was all good because I couldn't stop yawning anyway. Rush rush rush.

Oh! The dishes that I got at the Goodwill the other day that are featured in my first post are Harkerware, for all you curious types. This company no longer exists, but it was an Ohio-based china company that manufactured form the 1840s until the early 1970s. My pattern was produced in the late 50s-early 60s. I will be returning to the shop today to get the rest of the cake plates and cups and saucers.

On to crafty-type things:

I have been head over heels for Sew What! Skirts, a fabulous book all about sewing, well, skirts. The nice thing about it is that it tells you how to draft your own patterns for two basic skirt styles that are tailored to your specific measurements. From those patterns you can create a lot of different looks.

It is very well-written; sometimes I suffer from Mom Brain (MB) and can't wrap my head around certain pattern instructions. This book is so simple that even I could figure it out the first time! All of you crafty sewing ladies have probably already bought this book, but for those of you who haven't I can't recommend it enough. I only wish the authors had continued the series to include shirts, pants, and so on. It was published last year, so maybe they will notice how much all of us love it and make some more.

So far I have created two variations of the A-line skirt: one for myself, and one for Sophie. For mine I used a funky retro-ish print from my beloved Hancock Fabrics (may you RIP) and a side zip; for Sophie's I used a really soft flannel and an elastic waist. The pockets on Sophie's skirt look really tiny, but actually it's just the goofy perspective I used when taking the picture. Lesson learned.

I also have a short straight skirt with a side slit in the works, but due to MB I farked it up and have been taking my time getting up the willpower to fix it properly. Being the curvy person I am, I should have recognized that a back zipper would work better than a side one for a straight skirt. There is so much discrepancy between my waist and hip measurement (ahem, we shall not give numbers), that the curve from waist to hip on the side seam turned out to be huge. It caused a lovely bunchy, popped out zipper instead of a flat-lying zipper. Durr. Yet another lesson learned. Sigh. Any suggestions on how to remedy this?

All of my lessons learned reminds me of something that Any Karol says in her new book, Bend the Rules Sewing. She asks the reader in the first chapter what kind of sewer she is, and lists some sewing "character types." I am definitely the perfectionist. Everything she said was so dead on; I know I was blushing in the Craft aisle at Barnes and Noble while reading it. Sewing takes me forever because I am so dang cautious. I measure a million times, cut sooooo slowly, etc. And yet I still make mistakes, of course. Just the other day I was making a placemat (hello, easiest thing in the world, right?) and sewed the side with the interfacing on backwards so that it showed...

Anyway, she suggests for the perfectionist sewer to make something as a gift and give it anyway, even if it isn't perfect. Talk about taking cajones. I don't know if I am there yet. I preface every sewn gift I give with, "The seams aren't perfect, and I forgot to finish the seam allowance, blah blah blah..." She gave me lots to think about, though.

Check out the awesome Amy at her inspirational, envy-inducing blog, Angry Chicken.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Mother In-Law Goodies

My mother in-law is an amazing woman for many reasons. First, she raised five kids, the oldest of whom was 18 when the youngest was born (!). She managed to raise most of these kids while her incredibly hard-working husband fought lymphoma. She's razor-sharp at cards and will kick your butt in sidewise at 500, leaving you cowering in a ball on the ground wondering what in the world just happened.

I could go on. I am blessed to have such a fantastic MIL. BUT, this isn't a blog about MIL's, is it? So why am I even bringing her up? It's because she LIVED kitsch for years and never realized it. Well, she didn't realize it because it was the 50s, and heck! Everyone was living that way! In honor of my MIL and the many amazing kitschy items she has handed down to me over the years, I have christened a posting category after her.

Let's begin. Last summer, MIL decided that she had to move out of her cute little home of 50 years into a place that better suited her needs as a single lady with grown kids. The kitsch did overfloweth during the moving process. I think I could post a hundred items at least right here (believe me, I'd love to do it! So fun!), but since this is going to be an ongoing feature, I shall post in moderation.

The first item for today:
These glasses were bought on her honeymoon in 1956 to Niagra Falls. Originally they were a set of four, but misfortune befell one and it was broken some time ago. They must have sat around in the dark recesses of her liquor cabinet forever, because I never, ever saw them until moving day (and I have known my husband's family closely since I was six). The third one I use to hold my marking pens/pencils and my seam ripper. It declined to be photographed.

The second item is a box of (originally) 36 Dennis the Menace cocktail napkins from 1951. I hate Dennis the Menace. I always wanted to rip his little face off when I watched the show on Nick at Nite as a kid. Although I harbor this deep- seated animosity, I totally dig the box. 27 napkins have managed to survive until present day. The really cool thing about this box is that these were inside...

"The hurrier I go, the behinder I get." Sorry the pics are so cruddy. I haven't had my coffee this morning and don't feel like fighting with the camera. 2nd post and already I am hopelessly lazy! Woo! Ok, back to the goodies. Cocktail napkins and matching paper coasters. I love the colors and the style. I love the ticked off farmer woman. Who knew cocktail napkins could be so fun?

Friday, September 14, 2007


Wow. If you're actually reading this, I am amazed. There's a million blogs out there, and you happened to find mine. Hopefully you stick around long enough to see some of my cool stuff.

Today I took the boys (Karsten, 3 and Henry, 9 mos) out for my (what is becoming a weekly) jaunt to the thrift shop. About a month ago we got a new Goodwill shop in Boardman, which thrilled me, since I normally had to drive twice as far (half an hour) to the one in PA. Anyway, I hit paydirt today! I wanted to just squee and do a little happy dance in the aisle when I saw some of these things.

First, the dishes:
Cake plates. Dinner plates. Cups and saucers. I was in heaven when I spotted this powder blue enamel over white with the is so adorable! But then...Not one, but TWO awesome matching casserole dishes! Are these things not the grooviest? Bringing them home inspired me to go through my cupboards to make room for them. Goodbye, Wal Mart generic plates that I bought for 79 cents each when I got married nine years ago! Hope the hub likes flowers, as he will be seeing them every evening from now on.

I also got these: There were two genres of books that we as elementary students fought over during library. One was the joke books. Any joke book. Two was the Peanuts books. They were almost never on the shelves, and when they were, it was like discovering the lost City of Gold. I may even let my older kids read them, but they have to promise to give them back when they're done. Hee.

Today's award for Most Awesome Kitschy Thing Liberated From the Thrift Shop goes to:
...this incredible metal cake carrier! It looks 40s-early 50s to me. Since I bake A LOT and also frequently find myself ferrying cakes to and fro, it's actually going to get tons of use.

Sigh. Today was a good thrifting day. I am content.

Henry is upstairs howling his poor little head off in a fit of naptime rebellion, and Karsten seems determined to follow suit. I really need to get started on some paying sewing projects today. I am SEW excited (hurrrr...bad pun), but right now I feel a migraine threatening from all the crying. I think I may have to blast some Supergrass and chase the baby blues away.