(plus an absurd number of examples of what you can do with it). Today I bring you. . . . ornaments!
When I was a kid my sisters and I each got a new ornament every Christmas Eve. By the time I graduated from high school and moved out I had a fabulous collection of unique - and mostly handmade - ornaments. It's a great tradition and one I've been happy to carry on with Alan and Jo.
This year I designed a collection of ornaments inspired by vintage glass ornaments. You know the ones? Beautiful and oh-so-fragile. My collection is a whimsical interpretation of those traditional shapes and styles - made of felt and therefore safe from curious toddlers and climbing cats. Plus - they're easy enough for kids to make and the materials are inexpensive and easy to work with. Everyone wins!
So, do you like them? Do you want some for your very own? If so, here are your choices. . .
You can buy finished ornaments from me. I'm working on getting them all listed in
and make some yourself.
and put your kids to work making these delightful ornaments for everyone you know.
The choice is yours. Ready for some inspiration?
My favorite shape is the ogee. Sometimes I embellish them with rickrack. . .
. . . sometimes with more felt and an embroidered asterisk for a little nod to mid-century mod.
I've also included two sizes of circles. You can embellish them with rickrack. . .
It's Thanksgiving week - are you ready for Christmas yet? Feeling crafty? Want to make something swell? Well I
want you to make something swell - that's why I'm sharing this free pattern for a holiday stocking
. (The link is to a downloadable PDF.)
The pattern is just the basic template - the swellness comes in what you do with it. You can start simple with some rickrack or ribbon stitched across the top of the sock.
Easy peasy - and so cute!
Or you could get all daring and sew the trim on the other way - up and down. Oooh - creative!
Don't limit yourself to rickrack and ribbon. How about some fancy beaded trim?
Or a bit of a feather boa? Oooh la la!
Or maybe you want to go Raggedy Ann-style with some eyelet trim. The sky is the limit folks!
Do you have a bunch of buttons just hanging around in jars? I think they multiply when I'm not looking and I'm always looking for something to sew them to. You can add just a few buttons in a nice neat row. . .
. . . or a kajillion scattered over the stocking all willy-nilly.
Our plans to install our wood stove this past weekend were derailed when we discovered (surprise surprise) that we didn't have all the parts we needed. Some are still on order at Lowe's, and others we'll have to buy in store, but that won't be until this coming Friday. In the meantime, we decided to get a woodshed built!
We bought a few pieces of pressure-treated wood for this project, but we tried to use up a lot of scrap from other projects on this one, particularly as it's hidden behind the house and doesn't need to look pretty.
A cord of wood, according to The Internet, is four feet by four feet by eight feet of wood, so those are the dimensions we used, kicking the front up an extra foot for accessibility--and to allow snow to slide off the roof in the winter.
I love any excuse to wear my tool belt...
Our outer frame is finished! Now to add side panels, a roof, and a floor.
But first, we added side supports for the three stacks of wood that will fit inside. We used more scrap wood here, so the pieces are uneven and mismatched.
While Wendi and I covered the walls with old flooring pieces left over from the construction of our house, Jo was charged with shoveling sand from our leftover sand pile for the base. She ended up playing more than shoveling, but she helped out.
We had a lovely Halloween here at Gratz Industries. Jo was torn between her Pokemon trainer costume and her Hogwarts Student costume. The weather decided for her and I think she looked terrific.
We decided to follow Neil Gaiman's lead and celebrate All Hallows Read
by giving a scary book as a Halloween gift.
We did it up right with gift wrap and everything.
We got Jo a copy of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Brett Helquist. She DEVOURED it. That girl loves
ghost stories - as long as they're not too scary - and this collection was just right. Now she's asking for the next two volumes in the series.
Hope ya'll had a great Halloween! And - just for fun - how awesome was the Halloween design on the Krispy Kreme box? We enjoyed far too many of these boxes this month. :-) Scary!
Made of awesome. Thanks to Bookshelves of Doom
for the link
Alan was at a conference this weekend and Jo and I opted for Caramel Apple Sticky Buns for Sunday breakfast instead of our usual pancakes. Oh. Wow. Basically - this is a bit of dough rolled around huge quantities of butter and sugar and then topped with even more butter and sugar and a few tiny bits of apple. Every time Jo took a bite she moaned, "Mommy - this is the best thing ever!" What else is there to say? Except, of course, that you can find the recipe here
No reviews. Little (if any) commentary. Just a round-up of what we're reading here at Gratz Industries.Family Read-AloudHarry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix
- still loving it and almost doneJo17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore
by Jenny Offill and Nancy Carpenter - I know many people hated this book but I loved it and it makes me happy every time Jo pulls it off the shelfCase Closed #22
- Jo's running out of these and asking for more - and to get the next DVD from NetflixGeronimo Stilton #41: Mighty Mount Kilimanjaro
- Jo always loves Geronimo Stilton and she just got a new stack of themScatterbrain Sam
by Ellen Jackson, art by Matt FaulknerJulius the Baby of the World
by Kevin HenkesSheila Rae, the Brave
by Kevin HenkesFancy Nancy
by Jane O'Connor, art by Robin Preiss GlasserHarry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban CD
- still her favorite bedtime listeningWendiThe Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman - finally finished after an unplanned breakWhite Cat
by Holly Black - recommended by so many people online I had to pick it up at Malaprops
last week. Excellent so far.AlanPenny Dreadful
by Laurel Snyder
I was fighting off a cold this weekend and nothing I had in the fridge sounded very good. It was rainy and cool and I wanted soup. Spicy soup that I'd be able to taste in spite of a stuffy nose. I had a couple of butternut squash that I had picked up at the farmer's market, and a jar of Thai red curry paste that's sat unopened in my pantry for years. Put them together and I had a very tasty soup - perfect for a chilly day and a stuffy head. And I even took notes on how I made it!
3-4 lbs. butternut squash
2-3 T olive oil
1 T butter
1 onion - chopped
1 carrot - chopped
1 apple - peeled, cored and chopped
2 heaping teaspoons Thai red curry paste
1 qt. vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
chopped fresh chives
Roast the butternut squash however you like. I like to peel it, scoop out the seeds and chop it all up, toss the cubes in olive oil and a bit of salt and roast at 400 degrees until it's tender. I know some people like to cut the whole squash in half, scoop out the seeds, brush it with olive oil and roast cut-side down until it's tender. As long as the squash comes out soft (and slightly caramelized in places) you're good.
Heat 1 T olive oil and the butter in your soup pot. Saute the onion, carrot and apple with some salt until soft - about 5 minutes. Add the curry paste and stir it all together - maybe another couple of minutes on the heat. Add the broth, the squash, and the bay leaves. Reduce heat and let it simmer for about an hour. Remove the bay leaves and then puree the soup. I use an immersion blender. Please don't forget to remove the bay leaves first - when you puree them in the soup you get some really unpleasant hard leafy bits and then you have to spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to pick them out of the soup - not that I did that or anything. :-)
When you're ready to serve finish it off with a little heavy cream and top with chopped chives. I add the cream in the bowl instead of in the pot so I can save the leftovers without cream - I like it added fresh right at the very end.
I ate this with some of this English Muffin Toasting Bread
Pottery footnote. . .
That bowl? It's poorly photographed, but it's my very favorite bowl. Michael Kline
made it and it's the perfect size and shape for holding in my hand while I eat. He calls this shape breakfast cups and they're just right for a bowl of granola - but I use them most often for soup. Mmmmm. . . soup. Nothing beats homemade soup eaten from a handmade bowl. . .
Family Read-AloudHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- and loving every minute. It takes about 4 1/2 hours to get to Atlanta - Alan read aloud all the way there and all the way back. He is awesome.JoOne Piece #14: Instinct One Piece #15: Straight Ahead!!!
- Jo loves these super-weird Japanese pirate graphic novelsTotally Spies #3: Evil Jerry!
Can you tell that she's been on a graphic novel kick lately?The Books of Elsewhere #1: The Shadows
by Jacqueline West - Jo and Alan are both reading this one. Alan reads a couple of chapters and night - Jo reads the same chapters the next morning and then they talk about them. Jo wishes they were going a lot faster.Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire CDHarry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets CDWendiThrone of Jade
by Naomi Novik - slower than the first Temeraire book but I'm still enjoying it. Alan promises that things pick up again with book #3.Alan
The Books of Elsewhere #1: The Shadows - see aboveScott Pilgrim vs. the World (#2)
by Bryan Lee O'MalleyScott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness (#3)
- he's been enjoying these a lot - says they're unlike anything he's read beforeFor the Win
by Cory Doctorow - Alan says he's finding this similar to a short story by Doctorow called Enda's Game - in a good way
Today is Jo's eighth birthday. Woohoo! And here she is wearing her birthday present from us: fencing gear. It comes with fencing lessons at the New Studio of Dance in Asheville, beginning the week after Labor Day.
Jo has been asking to take fencing lessons for two years, but the only class we could find won't let you join until you're eight. She's been counting the months...
En garde, and happy birthday, Jo! Our lives are far better for having you in it.
Jo came to work with me a lot this spring and summer. I work in a great old building with a nice porch for reading and a terrific backyard - so that's no hardship. She spent a solid week completely absorbed in building/improving/expanding on the most awesome fairy house ever.
I love this little ladder. Where does it lead?
To this breezy little platform - a piece of bark, wedged between two trunks and covered with soft moss. I love the pretty "curtain" of upside-down flowers tied to an overhanging branch. See?
And here's my favorite part. Around the corner of the building is a little tree fort that the kids love to play in. The centers of some of the oldest support posts are rotting out. Jo built a little shed over one.
Take a look at what's inside!
Half a scallop shell filled with water! Jo told me it's an onsen (a Japanese-style hot tub). You have no idea how much I wish this was sized for me - the perfect quiet, mossy, woodsy getaway.
If I lived in the world of Harry Potter this is exactly the cloak I would wear. I showed the start of the work on it here
. Now it's just about done - it just needs some topstitching to help hold the layers in place.
I love the pattern on pattern. I'm going to be wearing it with a patterned shirt, too. The outside of the cloak is pieced black fabrics - anything I could find that was black or dark gray - velvet, narrow and wide corduroy, some gorgeous flocked sort of fabric with a baroque swirly pattern, jacquard and patterned cottons. I'd guess about 2/3 of the squares are straight-up cottons and the rest are "fancy" fabrics. The lining is a beautiful brocade. Now Jo wants one too - but I told her she has to wait until after Dragon*Con.
For anyone interested this sort of thing - I used Simplicity 9887 (view D) with no changes. Good pattern.
Wow! @barryholdblatt and @curiousmartha tweeted this image this morning. I went digging to see who the artist was and I found out IT'S AVAILABLE ON A T-SHIRT!
want want want want want. . .
On the way back from Dragon*Con we stopped in South Carolina for some local peaches and - holy cow they are good! That basket is a lot for eating fresh, though, so we're canning some of them. Yesterday we (mostly Jo) made some jam.
I'm always slightly horrified at how much sugar goes into jam.
Jo loved ladling it into the jars.
We actually used a little too much fruit so this is a pretty soft set. I think we'll call this batch ice cream sauce and make another batch of more proper jam.
So pretty! And it will be so tasty poured over vanilla ice cream and sprinkled with chopped almonds. nom. . . nom. . . nom. . .
One of the best things about Dragon*Con is that Alan spends a lot of late nights trying out new games for us to buy. This year we brought home a few that I'm really excited about and last night we tried out the first - Ticket to Ride
It. Is. Awesome.
Jo's a good gamer, but she starts to lose interest if the rules of the game are too crazy complicated, or if a single game lasts too long. Ticket to Ride has very simple rules, a nice blend of strategy and chance, and a game lasts about an hour. Perfect!
And the board is beautiful. We started with the basic US set. There are other sets and expansion sets you can get, but Jo and Alan already have plans to design two new boards of their own - one for Japan (to include all the places we went) and one for North Carolina. I can't wait.
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I bought a ton of great stuff at the farmer's market this week - including a bunch of squash. I know everyone else in the northern hemisphere is sick to death of it by now, but I can't get enough and I know the end is near. I bought yellow squash, zucchini squash and pattypan squash. I bought butternut squash too - but I'll save those for a soup on some chilly, drizzly day.
My favorite way to fix squash is to saute it in a lot of butter and olive oil with some salt. A lot
of butter and olive oil - I serve it over rice or couscous or some other grain and the extra butter/oil is a good sauce to flavor that up. If I have some almonds on hand I toss in a handful at the end. And I top it with some fresh herbs - usually parsley but nobody had parsley this week so I used chives. The trick is not to mess with the squash too much - just let it sit in the pan and get a nice crust on it and then flip it to brown the other side.
And for dessert? More peaches. My old peach crisp recipe wasn't perfect so I tried a new one - this one by Ina Garten
. There are raspberries in it too - another happy farmer's market find - but I think I could substitute any berry that was in season - or leave them out altogether.
The filling was perfect - her recipe includes a nice trick where she has you let the fruit macerate for 5 minutes and then add more flour if it's really juicy. Mine was really, really
juicy so I added even more extra flour than she called for and it was just right.
Some people in the comments on foodnetwork.com
complained that there wasn't enough flavor in the recipe - they added cinnamon, allspice - even cloves! Ina adds no extra spices - just some orange zest that I thought brightened the whole thing up. The result was that it tasted like peaches - summer in a bowl - and I wouldn't add a single thing. The flavor of her topping was good - but the texture was a bit on the powdery side. I like mine to be almost cookie-like on top so I think next time I'll use less flour. There are just enough peaches left for one more batch. . .
By the way - both the plate and the bowl were made by Naomi Dalglish and Michael Hunt
. Aren't they pretty?