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The Vocabulary of Creation

January 26, 2016

This week I had to say the words, “grouper in papillote” over and over for a voice project only to realize I had no idea what papillote meant. I was essentially a parrot for a full hour, repeating a pronunciation without understanding exactly what I was saying. Once I left the studio, I looked up papillote and realized “en papillote” is French for “in parchment.” It’s a method of cooking in which the food is put into a folded pouch — typically made of parchment —  and then baked. Simple stuff, but it took me 34 years to learn the word. And I liked the sound of papillote so the word started tumbling around in my head.

I have a few words like that — ones I think about and then roll their sounds around in my mouth. And so many of the words I fall in love with are terms connected to creating.

icing on my (1)

Trapunto. Steek. Thrum. Sashiko. Weft.

Say them all. Aren’t they fun?

Well, fun to say. Yes.

Fun to do? I don’t know yet because I’ve never tried.

But I feel like the shape of each word on the tongue should feel like the act of creating that they define. Is that strange? Probably, but it feels kind of true. Trapunto is produced by the action of a needle machine-quilting fabric to produce an overstuffed decorative feature. The repetition of the needle in the fabric makes a sharp staccato sound, which feels right for trapunto. Steek sounds sharp, thrum sounds soft and sashiko is just really pleasing so I have to include it.

Weft is the term for the thread that is drawn through warp threads to create cloth. Warp is lengthwise and weft crosses the warp. While weft isn’t a technique, all the others are. And I feel like I need to use them all as techniques and understand them as actions — not just say them. So I’m putting them on my project to-do list this year.

I’ll have to let you know if the techniques live up to the hype (created entirely in my head, based on the way the words sound).

What are some of your favorite crafting, cooking and creating terms?

Inside January

January 17, 2016

I’m not a resolution person, but going into 2016 I said I wanted a better work/life balance. Last year was great for professional growth — I wrote some serious grants and got some serious money for great causes, created some scripts (for corporations, not for creativity’s sake), got some super-cool marketing pieces in place and had more voice over work than ever before (which isn’t saying much, but still). But I spent a lot of evenings on the couch with my laptop after already long days. And even though I wrote a lot, I wrote very boring and pretty clinical things.  This was a blow to the Claire from 15 years ago who dreamed of creative writing. I’ve forgotten how to tell a story that twists and turns. I’ve forgotten how to do a lot of things, in fact.

To make things even worse, I created nothing. I mean NOTHING. Didn’t pick up scissors or get out the sewing machine or even untangle yarn for a knit project. I actually turned my sewing room into a home office and packed away all my sewing supplies. Thus, the resolution.

So this month I’ve been fitting in projects when I can and trying to ignore that nagging feeling I might be dropping the ball on an upcoming deadline. Despite that nagging, it’s been really refreshing. Here’s what January looks like so far.


Knitting with some special wool donated from Crockett, Legacy and Aries. What generous alpacas!

hot air balloon pattern 2

Whipped up some patterns for a hot air balloon mobile, based on these styles, for my college bud who is having her first baby this spring.

Hot Air balloon full

After a year off from crafting, I forgot the time it takes to complete a project, which is why my images of the finished mobile and the matching felt banner aren’t pictured. The lighting wasn’t good enough at 3 am the night before the shower to take finished product pictures. But I finished it (!) and had such satisfaction for having at least one project complete in the first week of January.


We also were in a rut with food, which made me feel dull. I mean, it was a totally delicious rut with black bean noodles or sweet potatoes covered in veggies practically every night. But it’s always nice to make something new. So I made granola for my husband this weekend, along with a fancy roast and some delicious freekah and kumquat nonsense based on this recipe from Blue Apron.


While I baked, Regan peeled, chopped and strained to set us up with a week of potions. Turmeric & ginger concentrate for drinks, cold brew coffee, freshly made coconut milk and ginger & carrot salad dressing.

Apple and satsuma

It might be because the sun is out today or it might just be the slightly different routine, but everything feels really good. January can stick around for a little longer if it’s going to treat us like this.




Another Post About Kale

August 2, 2015

The internet doesn’t need more kale recipes. I almost didn’t post this for that very reason, but then my husband reminded me the internet wouldn’t exist without unnecessary and redundant information.

And I’m not posting kale recipes because it’s trendy. I’m posting kale recipes because it’s all I grew this summer so it’s all we eat. Seriously. All my meals are kale-based some days — including breakfast — so I guess we’ll start there.

Maple Kale with Bacon and Eggs

Bacon and Eggs kale


  • 20 leaves of curly leaf kale (approx 160 grams of kale or 8 cups of roughly chopped kale)
  • 1/2 Tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 Tablespoon bacon grease
  • 4 pieces of bacon
  • 4 eggs

1. Remove kale from the stems and roughly chop or tear leaves. Then rinse and spin or pat dry.
2. Heat bacon until crispy. Drain grease from bacon, saving 1/2 T. of grease for the dressing. Chop bacon and set aside.
3. In a small bowl, mix the vinegar, maple syrup and bacon grease until incorporated.
4. In a large mixing bowl, toss kale with the dressing. Use your hands to massage it lightly, evenly covering all the leaves. The kale should turn slightly brighter green and be a little shinier, but it won’t be  heavily coated. Kale will reduce from about 8 cups to 6 cups.
5. Fry eggs in butter over easy or over medium.
5. Split kale between two* plates, top with freshly prepared eggs and sprinkle with bacon pieces.

*We eat a lot of kale. Obviously this can serve more people if you aren’t on board for cups of kale for breakfast… or any other meal.

Stone Fruit & Goat Cheese with Honey Kale

Honey Kale(1)

This is my go-to for lunch most days during the week, paired with a few ounces of chicken. And I still look forward to it every day.


  • 20 leaves of curly leaf kale (approx 160 grams of kale or 8 cups of roughly chopped kale)
  • 1/2 Tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 peaches (or nectarines), cut into 1/2 cubes
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

1. Remove kale from the stems and roughly chop or tear leaves. Then rinse and spin or pat dry.
2. In a small bowl, mix the vinegar, honey and olive oil until incorporated.
3. In a large mixing bowl, toss kale with the dressing. Use your hands to massage it lightly, evenly covering all the leaves. The kale should turn slightly brighter green and be a little shinier, but it won’t be  heavily coated. Kale will reduce from about 8 cups to 6 cups.
5. Split kale between two plates, top each with a chopped peach and an ounce of the crumbled goat cheese.

Honey Kale with Lemon Tahini Dressing and Kefta Meatballs

Tahini Kale

This combo with honey kale and tahini dressing stems from my love affair with the Buddha Bowl at Ezra’s Enlightened Cafe in Broad Ripple. I can’t quite get their version right, but playing around with the flavors I like led to this, which ended up as a good thing.

For the Kale


  • 20 leaves of curly leaf kale (approx 160 grams of kale or 8 cups of roughly chopped kale)
  • 1/2 Tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil

1. Remove kale from the stems and roughly chop or tear leaves. Then rinse and spin or pat dry.
2. In a small bowl, mix the vinegar, honey and olive oil until incorporated.
3. In a large mixing bowl, toss kale with the dressing. Use your hands to massage it lightly, evenly covering all the leaves. The kale should turn slightly brighter green and be a little shinier, but it won’t be  heavily coated. Kale will reduce from about 8 cups to 6 cups.

Set aside

For the Tahini Dressing (adapted from The Detoxinista)


  • 1/2 cup raw tahini
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup water, or more for desired consistency

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth. Add more water to thin, if desired.

For the Kefta (based on this recipe)


  • 1 pound lamb or ground beef
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • Fresh parsley, finely chopped — approx 8 sprigs
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons oil

1. Place all ingredients except oil in a large bowl and knead together. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least one hour.
2. Remove meat from refrigerator and form the mixture into balls the size of golf balls (makes about 10).
3. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Heat until browned on all sides and cooked through.

Split the honey kale between two plates and top with preferred amount of tahini dressing and kefta.

And if salads aren’t your thing, you can just shove lots and lots of kale into any other dish you are making — like zucchini noodles, my other obsession this summer. So good.

What’s your go-to summer food?

Zuke noodles 2

The Alphabet Shoppe

January 2, 2015

During the summer of 1998 I worked at a summer camp — not as a counselor or any of those  roles one might someday remember fondly. I was the Dining Hall Steward.

What’s that, you ask?

It’s the person who makes meals run smoothly by calming hundreds of screaming kids and introducing each menu item. On a microphone. As a 17-year-old with angst,  braces and zero confidence, this wasn’t an ideal situation.

Between meals I would spend my time prepping dinners for cabins going on overnights. I washed potatoes and packed  aluminum foil for hobo dinners; made sure everyone had plenty of marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers for s’mores; and wrote notes to the cabin groups with cooking instructions and well-wishes for a lovely evening in the woods. These notes were the one connection I felt like I had to the counselors who were nearly my age and who I imagined to be my friends if only I weren’t so terrified of every single one of them. So instead of getting to know these counselors through conversation, I would carefully craft each letter on these notes. I hoped so much that my handwriting would convey something to them — maybe make them think I was more than just the girl in the kitchen, someone delightful and interesting. It never worked (surprise!).

Years later, though, when I met my now husband I realized that that summer working on my handwriting had paid off.  A week after we first met I wrote him a check for something. Upon looking at it he said, “I’m going to have trouble cashing this. Your handwriting.” And that’s pretty much when I knew I’d found my person.

All this reminiscing to say I love letters. And even though I rarely write without a keyboard anymore and I created nothing handwritten over the holidays, I had fun focusing on letters this Christmas.

First a recycled sweater stocking to round out a set for our friends who had a new addition.

stocking 1

Then initial ornaments for my sister and her boyfriend to celebrate their first Christmas in their first apartment in a new state. They are made from a sweater and decorated with French knots.

SA 4

SA 2

SA 3

Finally, I created a fabric letter collection for my two-year-old niece who is off the charts with smarts. Made from fabric scrap on the front and old t-shirts on the back, they represent the entire alphabet with a few extra vowels thrown in. They are all collected in a handy little matching bag fit for her to carry around.

letters 2

letters 6

letters 1

Luckily I’m past the point of feeling like my personality can be reflected solely through letters, but there’s something really satisfying about creating freehand letters for projects, even if they are nothing fancy. Hopefully putting chalk to fabric put me on the path to put pen to paper in 2015 so I can reclaim that handwriting I worked so hard for nearly 20 years ago.

What gifts did you create this year?

The Princess and the Pea

October 26, 2014

My sewing machine has been on a shelf since I made the McCall’s 6442 jacket in January, and my blog has basically been on the shelf since then too. But when the temperature fell below 50 degrees earlier this month I got out some yarn and knitting needles (my crafting gateway drug), and the sewing machine soon followed.

This past week my niece celebrated her second birthday and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to create a super simple and sweet gift. Several years ago I saw a post on Amanda Blake Soule’s blog about a princess and the pea set she and her daughter had made together. It really charmed me and has lingered in my mind since that time as a great gift for a little girl.

the princess & the pea (2)

I loved Hans Christian Andersen’s, The Princess and the Pea growing up. Scratch that, I remember loving the story, but really think I just loved the idea of mattresses stacked high. I’ve always been a champion napper and a sucker for layers of comforters filled with down. However, reading through the story after I bought the book this week (which is nearly impossible to find anywhere in Indianapolis), I realized that the prince has ridiculous standards for a wife, his mom — the Queen — won’t allow him to “lower” himself by marrying anyone but a princess and the princess is definitely not the caliber of girl anyone should strive to be. I mean, if a pea keeps you up all night you probably aren’t going very far in life. Consider that, Princess Polly. But by the time I actually read the story, the gift was made (all but the princess) and I decided I’ll just spend the rest of my niece’s life providing her examples of empowered women. I will not make her a Donna Reed outfit next birthday, promise.

The set comes with nine mattresses made with scrap fabric on the front with recycled t-shirts on the back. Each measures about 6″x9″ and has a little bit of fiber fill inside, which is kept in place by some straight lines of quilting.

mattreses (2)

Mattresses piled so high clearly need to be accessed by a ladder, which my husband was happy to create using twigs from the back yard. He also created our little double-sided princess (using the book illustrations by Dubravka Kolanovic) who has eyes wide open on one side and eyes closed on the other. I wanted to make a fabric doll to go with the set initially, but soon realized that I didn’t want to get my niece into Voodoo at such a young age (because that princess was going to look like one scary spell-casting doll).

ladder, pea, princess

I made a tiny pea using a bit of fiberfill with green thread wound around and stitched through. I’m a little concerned about it being a choking hazard, but maybe her mom and dad can put the pea in a safe place until she’s old enough to play with it properly. In the meantime she can stack and pack the mattresses away in the bag I made. My mom let me know that stacking and organizing is one of her favorite activities these days.

the pea (2)

the peas (2)

The mattresses, ladder, princess and the pea all fit in a customized little tote bag with pockets on the front. It too was made with scrap fabric and scrap leather. The thread, as with all my projects, came from my great grandma’s stash that was passed to my grandma, and then to me.

Projects like this are so much fun. Quick, collaborative, successful and resourceful. I almost feel confident enough to start on a bigger sewing project soon.

bag & princess (2)

Apricot Kale Salad

October 19, 2014

kale blog 1 (2)

This summer we were strolling through downtown Nashville, TN on a nearly 100 degree day seeking shade and an escape from the competing music blasting from each bar. That’s when we turned down a small street and saw PUB 5 with closed doors and no music at all – just a soccer game playing in the background and mostly empty tables. It was the perfect space to settle in, get some drinks and read through the exhibit brochure I’d just picked up at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts exploring Maira Kalman’s Elements of Style. I love Strunk & White’s writing style guide anyway, but Kalman’s whimsical illustrations make it an adventure, not just a reference book. You should check it out.

But back to the restaurant, what I ordered and the reason for this post.

All the Tennessee biscuits and road trip snacks had caught up with me so I just wanted a simple salad. What I got was so much more. This apricot kale salad uses a tangy apricot vinaigrette that is lightly massaged into the kale. This simple salad would stand alone, but then it’s topped with dried apricots and Parmesan cheese. It became our summer go-to after I learned to recreate it. And it was a perfect summer for this salad because our garden actually produced. The kale was in full force through June and I was so sad when I harvested the last of our spring crop. Now that the summer heat has faded, our fall crop of kale is growing again and I’m eagerly anticipating all the fresh kale salads we’ll soon have again.

You can make this salad with any type of kale, but soft curly blue baby kale, cut fresh from your garden, is really the way to go if you can.

kale blog 3 (2)

Apricot Kale Salad


  • 5 fresh apricots, pitted
  • 2 Tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 2 Tablespoons honey

1. Mix all dressing ingredients together in food processor or blender until smooth.

2. Store in airtight container in refrigerator until ready to use. Lasts approximately a week.


(Salads are an imperfect creation. Everyone likes different amounts of dressing and toppings so use the amounts below as very flexible guidelines to make the salad that best suits you.)

  • About 10 heaping cups of kale, leaves torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

1. In a large mixing bowl, lightly toss the kale in 1/4 cup of apricot dressing. Gently massage until the leaves wilt slightly. If you need more dressing, go for it.

2. After the leaves are evenly coated with dressing to your liking, top with the dried apricots and cheese, toss then serve.

** This amount of salad is good for dinner with friends. If making for one or two people you might want to make a little less. The salad can be kept in the refrigerator, but the kale will continue to wilt and you’ll get a fair amount of liquid in the container making for some juicy salad leftovers. Not bad, but not the best thing ever.

kale blog 2 (2)

A Clementine Vodka Cocktail

March 10, 2014

February wrecks me every year, but this year it destroyed me. My friend and I joked about my existential crisis of 2014, but our joke wasn’t too far from the truth. It’s hard to know that spring will arrive and I’ll feel better soon when I’m  busy questioning my own existence. But crisis or not, I found the perfect cocktail to combat the February gloom.

Clementine-infused vodka from Svedka made its way  straight from the shelf and  into my shopping basket when I saw its bright orange exterior at Target one evening. This vodka, paired with grapefruit juice and a salted rim, makes for a really nice drink to sip on cold evenings. Plus, this drink makes good use of the Himalayan pink salt I got for Christmas. In a moment of panic I nearly poured my jar of it under my car tires one morning when I was stuck in my parking spot with no one to push me out. Luckily, before I could waste this precious kitchen commodity, I called my husband and he convinced me that using my car’s floor mats would be much more effective in gaining traction. It wasn’t. I still had to call our friend and neighbor to bail me out (thanks, Andrew), but at least I didn’t waste my lovely salt on what would have surely failed. It turns out that salt on the rim is much better than salt under the tires.

Salt in the wound 1 blog-1

Salt in the Wound

– 2 parts clementine-infused vodka
– 2 parts fresh squeezed grapefruit juice

Pour over ice in a salt-rimmed glass.

Drink and enjoy with the knowledge that winter doesn’t last forever.

Salt in the wound 2 blog

Oliver + S Family Reunion Dress

January 20, 2014

I had so much fun making the first Oliver + S Family Reunion dress that I just had to make another. This one turned out to be less fun, but that’s because I’m kind of an idiot and didn’t realize that a bent needle was the root of all my sewing machine woes until too late. That said, my tiny buddy Coraline has a new dress. And it’s pretty sweet, especially the fabric. It’s called Fireflies Mineral and is from Teagan White’s new line, Fort Firefly for Birch Organics. Check out all her awesome here. I would happily buy nearly any of these fabrics. They make me enormously happy.

Coraline dress close up

Coraline dress front

Coraline dress back

McCall’s 6442

January 7, 2014

Models and sketches on the front of patterns from conventional pattern makers (McCall’s, Butterick, Simplicity, etc.) are notoriously comical. Seldom have I found a pattern and thought, “That’s something I must make!” Take McCall’s 6442, for instance.Take it all in, but focus especially on those boots. And the steely gaze from the girl on the right. I’m sure the jacket is just fine, but it gets lost in everything else.


But this fall I was reading What I Wore, the blog of Bloomington fashion blogger, Jessica Quirk, and saw McCall’s 6442 made up by a real person who knows how to put an outfit together. I fell immediately in love with it – the fit, the colors, the whole look. It seemed the perfect jacket for fall, and so I immediately set out to make it…and now, four months later, it’s finally done.

Clearly there were some bumps along the way. They weren’t insurmountable by any means, but my motivation skipped and faltered every time I encountered a setback. So, instead of ripping out a sleeve and sewing it back on right away, I’d rip out a sleeve and set everything on the dining table for a month while I anticipated my next move. For me, anticipation usually means the death of a project. Thankfully I’d invested enough money in the fabric and enough time in cutting everything out that I didn’t let myself stop.

jacket front

I used the Eclectic Voyager Fabric in Aztec Dark Green from Jo-Ann’s.  This was the first pattern I’ve made with a fabric that features such a large pattern, and I managed to cut the pieces out so that fabric pattern aligned. Each pattern piece was finished with my serger before I sewed it together so that the interior could remain unlined. Using leather scraps, I created loops to hold the (unusually long) belt in place.

jacket close up

All in all, the fit is nice even though my mannequin isn’t quite filling out the body as it should. Too many trips to NYC has made her wire frame a little wonky. But on our third day of being snowed in, I’m doing you a huge favor by only showing you this jacket on the mannequin. Me modeling it would be as sad as the image on the front of the pattern, ensuring that none of you would ever want to attempt this pattern either.

jacket back

Am I being overcritical, or do McCall’s and the rest of the mainstream pattern makers really need to step up their game if they are going to entice you to buy their patterns?

A Fox, a Lamb and an Owl, Oh My!

January 3, 2014

Normally Christmas brings with it a flurry of crafting. I usually can be found huddled over my sewing machine for weeks leading up to the day as I try to perfect something for each family member. This year that didn’t happen, and I have a feeling no one minded but me. While making gifts for everyone might be fun, I’m not sure that receiving these handmade gifts always is. The very first Christmas I endeavored to make hand-crafted goods resulted in scarves and hats knit in a drastically wrong gauge. These unpleasantly stiff accessories could stand on their own and looked worn out before they ever were tried on due to my sweaty hands clumsily pilling the cheap, acrylic yarn with each too-tight stitch. However, much to their credit, my family embraced them. And then the next year my mom and sister embraced the shawl and t-shirt sewn with uneven stitches and unfinished hems because I didn’t understand how to work with knit fabrics. And then the next year…

But this year no one had to suffer my gifts except for my niece. Toddlers don’t really need or want for anything so they are the perfect recipients of hand-crafted gifts. First up: hand puppets.


fox and owl

My sister and I set aside a few hours one weekend before Christmas to work on some gifts for our niece. My sister wanted to make some hand-puppets for her, and knew she wanted them to be funky, felt and shaped like animals. The key to our crafting sessions is to have some idea of what we want, but not to have any ideas set in stone (because of the inevitable disappointment when what we envisioned doesn’t turn out). We made the pattern up as we went and definitely learned what not to do when working with felt (Seams on the outside, guys). The cotton fabric is fused to interfacing for reinforcement and is sewn directly to the felt. The edges are left raw, so I’m sure these will not be puppets handed down from generation to generation. But they’ll work for now. And they are fun!

Next up: a lamb.


For whatever reason, I wanted desperately to make a stuffed giraffe for my niece. However, when I tried to make a pattern for one, it ended up looking like the All Terrain Armored Transport from Star Wars (with a long neck). I’m pretty sure I could have salvaged it, but one failure was enough for me for the night. Instead, I set out to find a new project. As I was sifting through my supplies, I found a pattern for a tiny lamb. I have no idea where the original pattern came from, but it’s pretty perfect and was fun to put together. It’s made from white fleece and is hand-stitched using the whip stitch, which gives it a really nice, round shape.

When my niece opened it, she clutched it to her chest, gently kissed its face…. then her eyes got really wide, she shook with excitement and then tried to bite its face off. So, you know — it got half the reaction I was looking for.

How did your Christmas crafting go?