Wednesday, November 23, 2011

DIY: Paper Christmas Tree Ornament

Five years ago I purchased two giant boxes, one silver the other red, of those glass globe tree decorations during an after Christmas sale. They are ridiculously bulky boxes that I have lunged around move after move all the way across the country. This obvious reminder of my pre-baby days, combined with an array of ribbons, fronds of beads (for a lack of a better description) and bouquets of paper poinsettia flowers adorned a tree the next Christmas that Martha Stewart herself would have been proud of. Even though it was the first time I used those decorations I was already aware of the folly of my choice as my baby bump was steadily growing underneath my clothing. “Next year”, I thought, “ I will have a six month old.”
This year I will have a three year old and ten month old at Christmas time. A ten month old that is much more into everything than his older sister was. This year, I am leaving those silly red and silver globes in their bulky boxes and making my own out of paper.
I tried this project out on Ivory, but I think it was a little advanced for her. I think I will try it out on my husband one of these evenings instead.

Paper Christmas Tree Ornament

Colorful Thick Paper
Glue (I just used Elmer's)
something round to trace/ round paper punch
clothes pins (optional)

  1. make 20 circles (my circles are 1.5” across)

  2. fold the circles into equilateral triangles
  3. glue 5 folded circles together (do this 2 times)
  4. glue 10 folded circles together into a long string

  5. let the glue set up a little
  6. take the long string and glue the ends together forming a ring
  7. Now glue the sets of 5 folded circles onto the top and bottom of the ring

Yeah! You have a paper ball!

Enjoy the Holidays!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Grains and Yeast

Yesterday afternoon Ivory and I rolled up our sleeves to scoop whole wheat flour and yeast. It seems like forever since the two of us have tackled a project together. She is now going to school in the mornings and on her days off, I have been sending her and Adam out to play together so that I can spend a few hours behind the sewing machine without distraction. The ground is covered with snow, Adam has taken the car to go hunting for the weekend and Sylvan was asleep, so rather than Ivory's usual lunch and nap routine, I decided that she and I needed to bake ourselves a treat: Pretzels.
She has been begging for pretzels, and while I know she means the small crunchy kind that comes out of a puffed up bag, I thought that this might just do the trick. I dug through my cook books, surprised that my giant bread book lacked the word pretzel in the index and finally stumbled on a super simple recipe tucked in the pages of the information packed book Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron.

Whole Grain Soft Pretzels

In a large bowl mix:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup apple juice
1 tablespoon yeast.

Stir for 3 minutes.


1 cup whole wheat flour
plus a little more flour

Kneed for 10-15 minutes adding flour until the dough has a nice elastic feel. Cut the dough into 16 same sized pieces. Roll into snakes and tie into a pretzel shape. Place the pretzels onto greased cookie sheets.
Let the pretzel rise for 30 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 450*.

1 egg

Beat an egg and brush over the tops of the pretzels, sprinkle with course salt, and bake for 14 minutes.
Watch out: the pretzels can go from done to over done very quickly. Cool and enjoy.

I have never attempted to actually use my dough hook that came with my kitchen aid mixer, but I dusted it off and decided to give it a go. I love kneading the bread, but Ivory loves to sample the dough in excessive amounts, so I opted to let the machine do the work for once. I cut the dough, rolled out long stretchy snakes and twisted the first pretzel into being. “I can do that”, Ivory pipes up. She takes the second snake of dough and forms a perfect pretzel, and another and another. She and I have been baking bread together since she could manage to stand on a chair and I am amazed by this little person who is suddenly so capable.

Later, with a small bag of slightly warm pretzels, we bundled up and walked downtown to visit our local brew shop to purchase grains and yeast. Over a warm cup of coffee and chocolate milk Ivory, Sylvan and I devoured our treats and then walked home.

Even later still, the kids tucked into bed, I start the process of brewing my first batch of beer. Last year, for Christmas, I bought Adam ingredients to brew beer, but they sat for months before he actually got around to making it, so this year I am going to make him a batch. With how busy he has been lately, I am sure he will not even notice that one of our carboys is missing. I roll up my sleeves, this is just like baking bread I tell myself, grains and yeast, “I can do that”.

So much later, that my eyes are hurting, I snuggle satisfied into bed with Ivory. Grains and yeast.  Pretzels and beer.   Yum. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

DIY - Apron: From the Boardroom to the Kitchen

     The ground was covered with a ever so thin layer of snow a few mornings ago.  The snow in the yard melted away, but the snow on the mountains stayed.  The dog water and the chicken water regularly freeze at night, and the leaves of kale and Swiss chard hang dark green and limp from the stalks.  The chill in the air contains a hint of magic.
     It is the time of the year where something comes from nothing.
    There are many childhood Christmases that I remember. I remember cardamon bread baked in a wood stove, pajamas, Christmas dresses, candles clipped to the branches of our tree, hotel rooms and having strep throat on Christmas - again. A few Christmases I remember for the presents and one in particular. I must have been about five, my brother almost three and my mom very pregnant with my sister. I got a doll and a pram. My brother a hammering bench. Those might have been the only gifts we got that year, but they were the best gifts.
     My mom sewed the doll. She had meticulously attached her hair that hung in two brown braids from the side of her head, painted her face and sewed her an outfit complete with bloomers and shoes. The pram was built from wood and had a detachable woven basket that I could lug around with me and matched the real life pram in which my mother pushed us around in. The hammering bench was also sawed, hammered, sanded and painted late at night, in secret, by my parents in the other room of our two room apartment while we slept. And it was magic.

     Just as my parents did, I am pulling out my sewing machine, to trying to make something from, well, very little.  Here is my first attempt to post DIY project instructions:

Apron: From the Boardroom to the Kitchen
Time - this project can be completed from start to finish during nap time...  2 hours maybe 
Pattern - make your own.  Instructions below. 
Sewing Machine
Scissors or Rotary Cutter
Thread ($2.99)
Men's XL or L Dress Shirt ($1.75)
triglide closure ($.30 at the army navy store)

  1. Make a pattern.
    I used a red Pita Pit Apron that we inherited from a friend a few years ago. The one thing that drives me crazy about this apron is that the neck strap does not adjust, so I made mine adjustable. To make the pattern, I folded the apron in half lengthwise and traced the shape onto newspress. I then added 1” seam allowance to all edges except for the top of the bib. At the top edge of the bib I added 1.5” seam allowance.
  2. Cut apart the shirt.

    I start at the front and cut around the collar, then across the shoulders, cut around the arms and across the back of the shirt right on the seam.

    This opens up all the pleats and you have more fabric!! Then cut down the seam of both sleaves and cut off the cuffs. DO NOT CUT THE FRONT OF THE SHIRT FROM THE BACK OF THE SHIRT!
  3. Cut Apron. Iron the shirt in half matching up the side seams. Place your pattern at the fold (which should be the center of the back of the shirt. Cut. The bottom of the apron keeps the shape and hem of the shirt.

  4. Cut the ties and neck straps. 

    I always cut the ties first. Use the remainder of the fabric from the front of the shirt. (This might require removing the front pocket). Cut 1.5” strips of fabric from the longest length you can. The ties will be about 30” to 32”. For the neck strap cut 2 pieces of fabric that are 1.5” wide and 18.5” long and 2 pieces that are 1.5” wide and 7.5” long.
  5. Sew the neck straps and ties. 

    Put neck straps wrong sides together and sew along the two long edges and one short edge with 1/4” seam allowance, turn, press and top stitch along the edges. Done. 

    Take the ties and press them in half lengthwise, open and then press both long edges to the fold. Fold in half again and sew along the open side. DONE.
  6. Apron body. Roll the straight hems on the side (fold over about 1/2” and then again a 1/2”) and stitch down. Fold over the hem on the bib first 1/2” and then 1” and stitch into place. Roll the slanted hem, pin the ties into the roll at the back corners, stitch into place.

  7. Add the neck straps to the bib. Place 1” from the outside edge ( onto the backside) and attach.
  8. Attach the triglide to the end of the short strap.

  9. Use the remainder of the fabric to fashion whatever pocked you would like, and attach.
  10. How to make a pocket: Cut two rectangles with a 1/2” seam allowance.  If you are using the front of the shirt, sew along the stitching on either side of the buttons to make one piece of fabric.

    Place right sides together. Sew together with a two inch opening. Turn right side out press, pin to apron and sew into place closing the opening through which the apron was turned.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Drop it all and run (or drive) for the hills!

I spent the week indoors wedged in the tiny space between my sewing machine, cutting table and ironing board that I have carved out for myself in the living room. I finished apron after apron, day after day, when something just snapped. I found myself flailing, feeling like I was failing at everything.
A body that just could not stretch anymore - give more hugs, more cuddles, to be suckled and needed, needed, always needed. My husband came home (finally) - sick - wanting hugs, cuddles and affirmation leaving me to feel like I was just failing at one more thing.
My usual coffee offered no pick me up, no solace.
Yoga was a momentary reprieve, a quiet space within the droves of self doubt. A space that vanished the moment I walked back into my house.
Chopping vegetables, cooking dinner, which I usually find to be almost therapeutic did not calm me.
Washing the dishes only created order on my counter and left me in the same chaotic state as before.
The walls moved in.
The messy bathroom,
             the laundry,
                       the toys,
                             the unending sewing projects
and then I did what I should have done days before: 
I dropped it all and ran, 
or more accurately, 
drove into the hills.

I dropped my chores.
I dropped my constant need to be busy.
I dropped my expectations.
I dropped my disappointment.
I dropped my clothing.

I dropped it all and sank into the warm waters of a hot spring nested at the edge of an icy cold stream. Through the steam I watched my husband and kids, the golden leaves against the dark green cedars, water splashing as the current tumbled over rocks and my world came back into focus - and it was beautiful.