Lately I have been awful about working on projects. I started a jacket a month ago. It has been sitting on our dining room table in a stack of pieces all that time. I’ll put a sleeve on, and then take a sleeve off. I’ll top-stitch a hem, and then rip it all out. It’s just not coming together in the way I’d like and so sewing seems like an intrusion on my time instead of a fun little escape.
But we hosted a little Thanksgiving dinner for our friends this weekend and the night before everyone came over I realized that our new table, though wonderful, does not wipe down easily. At first I was going to make placemats to help combat drips, but realized that with a full meal to prepare the next day, seven placemats was too big a project to begin at 10pm the night before. So I made coasters. And I said “screw it” to perfection. So now I have eight really imperfect coasters that I whipped up in an hour, and am finally feeling a bit more encouraged that sewing can be fun, not tedious.
Using a 3×3 inch square glass coaster as my guide, I cut out 8 felt squares and 8 pieces of the pink floral fabric used for the top of each coaster. I placed the fabric squares on top of the felt squares, then pinned them to the green/blue fabric I used for the back of the coasters. I didn’t even take time to cut out the squares for the backs of the coaster and instead pinned all the fabric and felt squares to the backing fabric, leaving approximately 1 inch around each. This extra inch is folded up and becomes the binding. If you want to make coasters, it probably would be a good idea to actually cut the backing fabric out (4″x4″) before pinning the top fabric and felt to the back fabric. It might make things quicker in the long run (and a little more precise).
With all of the squares pinned in place, I randomly stitched a few lines across each square to hold all the fabric layers together. Then I cut out each square, cutting the backing approximately 1 inch larger (4″x4″) than the top fabric and felt layer. Since I did all this without measuring, sometimes I had an even extra inch, sometimes I didn’t. No big deal. I just had some uneven binding around the edges.
To form the binding around the edge of each coaster, I folded the backing fabric in to meet the edge of the top fabric, then folded it in again, encasing the raw edge with the excess fabric from the bottom of the coaster. I only finger pressed the fabric and half-attempted to make mitered corners. Bothering to get the iron out would have helped the end result on these coasters, too. But it didn’t really enter my mind. In fact, I can’t emphasize how little I thought about anything in the making of these coasters. But you know what? They were quick to pull together and did the trick. No drips. And they are kind of sweet in all their imperfection. What do you think?
Do you need perfection when you make something, or do you embrace those little imperfections as charming?
I’ve never made pin tucks. I’ve never made button holes. In fact, I tend to steer clear of anything the least bit fussy. But when I was looking for a dress pattern to make for my niece for her first birthday, I landed on the Family Reunion dress from Oliver + S and kind of fell in love. The fine people at Crimson Tate assured me that I could handle the two scissor level of difficulty (out of four) and so I walked away with pattern in hand as well as some really great fabric from Birch Organics, designed by Jay-Cyn. And you know what? I totally was able to handle the two scissor level of difficulty. You know what else? Crimson Tate now has an online store so you can shop there too. (And I highly recommend you do.)
Once I finally got started, this dress came together really nicely. In fact, it came together so nicely that I stopped every 10 minutes to show it to my husband, excitedly pointing out that “It looks like a real dress!” He would patiently agree and congratulate me on the fact that the dress I was making from a set pattern did, in fact, look like a dress. The pattern is easy to understand and comes together with a clean finish. Everything on this dress, inside and out, is perfectly charming. There are some more interior shots of the dress in my Flickr feed in case you want to see the genius that is Oliver + S pattern writing.
The front has a little button placket, and the sleeves are gently gathered.
The back buttons all the way up. And making button holes, as it turns out, isn’t hard at all.
I really am in love with this dress, but what I think I’m even more in love with is the fact that the spool of thread I used for this dress came from the collection of thread passed down from my great-grandmother, to my grandmother to me. This thread couldn’t have matched more perfectly and I like to think that years ago Great Grandma Mullendore found this perfect coral thread for Harper’s dress and put it in her collection so that we could collaborate on this project today, even though she’s been gone so long.
I guess Harper’s first birthday was a celebration of firsts for everyone. Not only did I tackle some new and “scary” sewing stuff, but I also met the challenge of making themed cupcakes for her birthday bash. I make cupcakes, but I’m from the school of cake + frosting = delicious. I’ve never set out to really decorate something that anyone looks at twice. However, my mom requested some ladybug cupcakes for the party and so I called up my friend Patti, the Carbivore, who gave me some pointers. Some fondant, some patience and a few hours later we had some appropriately themed cupcakes.
It’s probably not a hobby I’ll take up, but it was a fun way to spend a few hours on a cold October day.
Happy Birthday, Harper!
Related Post: Easy Bunting Baby Quilt
Two years ago, after a particularly uncomfortable dinner we hosted with eight people smashed around our small table built for four, we decided we wanted a great big salvaged wood table. We looked at styles we liked, developed plans for the perfect table, got chairs as gifts from our parents to go around said table, and then set out to look for wood. And that’s kind of when our momentum fizzled. Finding the wood we needed was going to be a challenge. I mean, we haven’t been searching for it non-stop for the past two years, but we’ve been keeping our eyes open. So it was with great joy we happened upon Wabash Lumber about a month ago and headed out on a two-hour drive to get our wood.
Salvaged wood is not straight. It’s not clean. It can make your head swim when trying to find the right pieces that will work together for the perfect table. But eventually we found two 13′ 2×10 boards and a 2×4 that seemed could work together, and we wrangled them into our car and headed home. I was coming into this project with no real grasp of how to execute it and so a lot of it was up to my husband to figure out. Luckily he had some old furniture-making knowledge from college to fall back on. And he used this knowledge to help me understand what we were doing and pull off a really great project. He’s multi-talented and pretty swell.
Jack was really excited about the new wood. The boards pictured below are pre-scrubbed. I used a course plastic bristle brush and some water with a dot of wood soap in it to clean them thoroughly once we moved the project outside.
So, first off, after playing with the way the boards worked together, we decided to split the 2×4 and create two 2×2’s to run along either side of the center 2″x10″ board. Then we moved everything outside and started cleaning, splitting, planing and fitting it all together. Wood, in all stages, is a beautiful thing.
We didn’t plane everything perfectly so there are a few small gaps between boards. Initially my husband considered using joining discs to attach all the pieces, but eventually settled on using a pocket hole jig that a generous co-worker lent us. The 2x2s are screwed directly into the outer boards, then the outer planks are attached to the center board using the jig. Below is a side view of how the jig works.
Although the table top seemed pretty sturdy once it was all screwed together, we wanted to add extra stability, and so added steel straps to the bottom. A friend drilled the holes and cut the straps down for us using his equipment. This whole process made us super thankful for our friends who shared their knowledge, their muscle and their enthusiasm for the project as I wasn’t always super helpful, especially when things didn’t seem to be going by-the-book. The image below is the bottom of the table after everything had been screwed into place, but before we’d measured, cut and drilled the three straps along the bottom.
We had been working with unevenly cut boards throughout the process until this point, and so once we got the table top as flat as possible and had affixed all the boards together, we cut the ends off evenly. Then we banged up the freshly cut edges with garden implements and other tools to try to make these edges as roughed up as the rest of the table. Then we sanded down any splintery edges on the rest of the table and on the bench before oiling with Watco Danish Oil. We opted for oil rather than poly because we wanted the wood to be protected, but wanted to preserve the more rustic look.
We tested out the finish last night when we had large dinner with my family. Our table top was covered in lots of large glasses of iced tea, sweating onto the wood and drips of salsa and ice cream, but this morning it seemed no worse for the wear. The oil will require upkeep, but seems to be doing the job.
After the table top and bench had been oiled and then dried, we brought everything inside to affix to the steel pipe base built with pieces you can find at your local hardware store. The table top, measuring 75.5″x32″, sits on the 60″x28″ base. It stands 30.5″ high and the bench stands 18″ high. We now have a full dining room set that seats up to 10 and we kind of love it. It’s so nice to finally have a place everyone can sit around for hours as we eat and talk.
Some folks have asked us about the table and bench details, and so here’s the run down on parts and pieces that you would need if you were to embark on a project like this. The parts included below will make a table and a bench.
1″ black Steel Flange (For feet and affixing to table and bench top): 22 @ 5.54 = $121.88
1″x60″ black steel nipple (For the long X cross bars): 2 @13.29 = $26.58
1″x4″ black steel nipple (For the table legs): 4 @ 1.29 = $5.16
1″x18″ black steel nipple (For the table legs): 4 @ 4.86 = $19.44
1″x10″ black steel nipple (For the horizontal supports on top and bottom, both ends of the table): 4 @ 4.75 = $19.00
1″x12″ black steel nipple (Four for the horizontal supports on top and bottom, both ends of the table. Six for the bench legs.): 10 @ 5.55 = $40.90
1″ black steel tee (For joining all the legs and the cross bars of the table base): 12 @ 2.09 = $25.08
1″ close black steel nipple (For joining the tees to the flanges at the top of the table base): 4 @ .89 = 3.56
1″x2″ black steel nipple (for bench legs): 6 @ .98 = $5.88
1″ black steel coupling (to attach 1″x2″ nipple to 1″x12″ nipple for the bench legs): 6 @ 1.49 = $8.94
50 count packet of 2.5″ pocket screws = $5.47
Quart of Watco oil = $15.96
Salvaged lumber = $235
3 feet 3/16″x2″ weldable flat steel straps (for additional support): 3 @ 7.77 = 21.81
18 count 1/4″ flat washers (salvaged wood is uneven so you’ll need to use a few of these to even things out when you attach the flanges to the wood in some cases) = $1.98
Grand total: $546.63 (before tax and minus any other incidentals like tools you may not be able to borrow from friends). It’s about the price we would pay for a store-bought table and seating, but it’s also larger than a lot of the stuff out there, and is made with real wood. I think a lot of people see self-made things as a means of saving money, but we see it more as getting exactly what we want. And this is just that — exactly what we want.
Lately I’ve been on a chocolate kick. But I am trying to eat it smartly and sparingly, at least. So I’ve been getting my fix from Chunky Chocolate Date and Nut bars and Chocolate Chia Seed pudding. Both are sweet and deeply chocolatey, but have enough fiber and protein to make them worth eating. Recipes below.
Chunky Chocolate Date & Nut Bars
- 20 Medjool Dates, pits removed
- 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup raw almonds
- 1/2 cup raw cashews
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
1. Throw the dates, cocoa powder, vanilla and salt into your food processor and pulse on high until the mixture forms into a single ball. Remove cocoa date dough ball from processor and put in a mixing bowl. It will be sticky.
2. Now add the nuts and chocolate chips to the food processor and pulse until the mixture is somewhat powdery, but mostly chunky, then add to the cocoa date dough in the mixing bowl. See image above for an idea about how everything should look.
3. With your hands mix the nut mixture into the cocoa date dough until all the nuts are incorporated. The dough should not be too sticky any longer.
4. Set the mixture on a large piece of wax paper and shape it into a flat rectangle, approximately 5.5″ by 14″. The rectangle should be approximately 1/2″ thick.
5. Cover with wax paper and move to the refrigerator for 1 hour, then cut evenly into bars. Makes approximately 14 bars.
Chocolate Chia Pudding
- 1/4 cup chia seeds
- 3/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1.5 tablespoons maple syrup
- splash of vanilla
- pinch of salt
1. In a small bowl mix together all ingredients until well incorporated.
2. Cover and put in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. The pudding will thicken as the chia seeds absorb the water.
As you can see, the chia seeds will make this a tapioca-style pudding, which is not for everyone. I dig this pudding. My husband does not.
What are your go-to recipes to get your fixes, whatever they may be?
This summer has gone somewhere, though I’m not entirely sure where. I can tell by my hands that I’ve been working. A few of my fingertips are so cut and calloused that my fingerprint swirls seem to be changing direction, accommodating these new scars. There are burns on my knuckles and even a stretch of skin healing where I swiped myself with a rotary cutter blade. The inside edge of my right index finger, no matter how hard I scrub, is etched with soil from a summer spent with my hands in our garden or my fingers wrapped around weeds in our front yard. And my nails. Well, I’ve just started putting my hands in my pockets most of the time.
All this to say, my hands tell a story of work, but I don’t have much to weave a story around. My bee and butterfly garden is still taking root and filling out, but it’s nothing impressive. There have been a few bees bumbling around and we’ve had visits from some butterflies, but none have taken up residence as I’d hoped. This swallowtail caterpillar greeted us when we got back from vacation a few weeks ago. A buddy of his was a few feet down, devouring another of our dill host plants. I took pictures, felt giddy, celebrated what I saw as my success and planned to watch them morph into butterflies. But by the next morning they were both gone, having only stopped by briefly to eat our dill before moving on (or before getting eaten by a bird).
Our tomatoes are in a permanent state of arrested development; they have not grown or ripened for over a month despite my encouragement, but our Brussels Sprouts are turning into something delicious. And I’ve managed to fend off multiple attacks by cabbage worms keeping these sprouting plants safe. These are by far my favorite veggie, but I won’t eat them if grown conventionally and so the precious few stalks in our garden will be my fix for the year.
We’ve also learned some lessons on growing cauliflower. I now understand how to tie up the heads to blanch them and understand why it makes a difference. Really, it makes a difference. I’m sure you can tell the good from the bad.
And then there are the butterfly-attracting plants that I’m falling in love with. They may not have lured the butterflies yet, but they’ve got my full attention. From far away they are lovely, but closeup their shapes and colors astound me. The white flowers of the butterfly bush turn from compact squares into delicate flowers. The magenta star-shaped buds of the milkweed plant erupt into orange claws. Every night I find myself out in the garden, crawling around and discovering something new.
So, not much to tell, but that’s been summer for me. What about you? Show me or tell me of yours.
It was recently Lemonade Day in Indianapolis, and as I went about my Saturday I saw stands everywhere with kids selling drinks to groups of people supporting these young entrepreneurs. I really wanted to go support them too, but I still haven’t reintroduced anything to my diet that I don’t make myself. It’s totally possible that these kids used fresh-squeezed lemons and a natural sweetener to make their tasty lemonade, but I wasn’t about to be the middle-aged woman questioning these poor children about the quality of their ingredients. I know my limits, guys.
After spending the day out and about, amongst lemonade stands, we spent the rest of the weekend working outside in the searing sun. As we worked away on the yard, water just wasn’t quenching my thirst. I kept dreaming of lemonade and, luckily, I had a bag full of lemons in the refrigerator. Six lemons and a few tablespoons of maple syrup later we had the perfect drink for a weekend afternoon full of yard work. It’s softly sweet, not too tangy or tart. It’s just the way I like it.
Maple Syrup Lemonade
makes 48 ounces
- 6 freshly squeezed lemons (about 9 Tablespoons of lemon juice)
- 4 Tablespoons maple syrup
- 7.25 cups water
Mix all together in a pitcher and serve over ice.
I have entirely too many skirts, but I didn’t come to this realization before I cut into my most recent project: New Look Skirt 6899. I used Anna Maria Horner’s Little Folks collection in Village Path, Berry. It has such a great, light weight to it and the hand is so silky. It’s a big step up in the fabric I typically use for skirts. Also, I’m digging that I finally got around to making a skirt with pockets and a properly installed invisible zipper. I know I really should be well past marveling at simple things like zippers and pockets, but I take such long breaks between projects that I start over a little each time I sew.
[above] Detail of the waistband and pocket.
[above] Detail of the hem and seams, which I actually took the time to finish.
Even though I like this skirt I’m not in love with it. I have this problem a lot. I fall in love with busy fabric, search for the perfect project, and then realize that there isn’t a perfect project because I don’t wear busy fabric well. So then I end up making a skirt with it so that the pattern is far away from my face. I guess I could always use my busy fabric to make some harem pants or something, but for the sake of my pride and marriage I won’t. I’ll just stick to skirts.
So, now I have a new skirt that I like but don’t love, and clearly I don’t have a shirt that pairs well with it. My question to you is: What would you wear with this skirt? I need some help on this.
Whelp. I have good news and bad news (and really, the bad news is just for me. This post is all delicious goodness for you guys).
I discovered an amazing dessert recipe (It’s on the autoimmune protocol diet too! More on why I’m temporarily following this diet here). And even though coconuts are fairly benign and most people don’t have reactions to them, it turns out that I apparently do not react to them well. So, even though I’ll not be eating this yummy thing ever again, I want to make sure you get a chance to try it, regardless of whether you are following a special diet or not. It’s just that good.
This Coconut Raspberry Cheesecake by Mickey Trescott, featured here on The Paleo Mom blog, uses dates, coconut oil, coconut flour and shredded coconut in the dense cake-like crust. The filling is made from creamed coconut, coconut oil, honey, raspberries and tapioca starch.
The crust might look a little funny before it’s baked, but I couldn’t stop eating it raw. So good. Baked up the crust is just as delicious and makes a nice shell to pour the startlingly pink raspberry coconut concoction into.
And voila! After it sets you have something amazing and decadent.
We found that setting it up in the freezer and keeping it frozen gave it the nicest, most cheesecake-like consistency. It’s quick to make if you have a high-powered blender or a food processor, which is what I used. The worst part about the recipe is that it takes 12 hours to set and it was kind of hard to wait that long to try it.
If you ever have some extra cash lying around to buy all the coconut products, you might want to give it a try. I think it holds up next to “real” desserts just fine. In fact, I even had other people try it, just to make sure that I wasn’t making things up since I haven’t had sweets for so long. But all the reviews were in favor of this recipe. I mean, how could they not be? The color alone makes it a winner.
This is the first year we haven’t turned to my in-law’s established yard to thin their perennials and cart them back to our in-progress yard. Mostly it’s because 17 inches of snow fell in Illinois when we headed over for our annual spring visit this year, but our yard is also finally filling in a little bit on its own.
The small trees and shrubs we started a few years ago are finally ready to be moved from their containers to the ground. The lilac bush that looked like two leafless twigs jutting out of the ground in its first few years now has leaves and flowers. Our irises are multiplying so much that soon we’re going to have to start thinning them and sharing with others instead of just filling in empty space in our yard.
There’s still so much more to do, as you can see by the potted plants lining our raised bed garden below, but our patience is finally paying off. This is good because I’m a relatively impatient person.
Are we just slow at creating what we want, or is your yard a work in progress too?
If you visit my site regularly or pay any attention to my Flickr feed, you may have noticed lots of pictures of food cropping up on the right. Not images of luscious cupcakes or steaming loaves of bread. Not styled images of fine dining or carefully crafted cocktails made to please my palate. Just straight up shots of really basic food.
I’ve always been one to experiment with food. Well. No. Not always. I grew up at summer camp where everything was served out of tin cans. Sloppy Joes seemed to be the norm and I ate what I was served. In college I enjoyed bagels and baked ziti with the gusto of a college student and after college I ate what I could afford, which happened to be the free pizza I brought home after my shift waiting tables at California Pizza Kitchen. I was a generally healthy and fairly slim person so I didn’t think too much about what I was eating.
Then I started paying attention to how the world – particularly America – grows food, how we process food and how the body can react to food and so my husband and I started to slowly change our diet. Over the past eight years or so we’ve had runs of vegetarianism, high protein, slow carb and no sugar diets. With each eating experiment we’ve honed in on when we felt good and when we didn’t, and tried to adjust our diets accordingly. I like to think we now eat pretty well, but for the occasional beer and burger or pizza, but there is always room for improvement, right?
So, while my diet is pretty wholesome and I’m pretty healthy, I’ve managed to develop some strange skin allergies. My Dr. insists it’s anxiety, but I refuse to believe that there’s not something more than me fretting that causes head-to-toe hives and my skin to flush bright red, especially when I’m feeling 100% content and happy. It doesn’t happen often, but I’m not one to let something go without explanation, even if it is an infrequent occurrence. And I’m definitely not one to take prescription drugs to fix something, particularly if it’s just a Dr.s’ hunch that the prescription will solve it. So that’s where the food images come into play.
I’m following the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol diet to determine what in my current diet, if anything, might be causing my skin to misbehave. Both allergies and anxiety are categorized as things connected to autoimmune problems and so it seemed like this experiment would be the perfect way to see if I can fix what ales me, whatever it might be.
Paleo Autoimmune Protocol goes like this:
Meats, vegetables and fruits
Nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplants)
Spices that contain nightshades or seeds (black pepper is out, too)
No eggs, no dairy
No nuts, no seeds, no beans
Not even coffee!
No added sugars
No NSAIDS (anti-inflammatory drugs)
And absolutely no processed foods.
There you have it. That’s the protocol. You follow it exactly for 30 to 60 days, then gradually add in one restricted food at a time, recording the way your body reacts to it. If there is a reaction, it’s out. If there’s no reaction, move along and continue eating it happily. Like I said, it may or may not answer my questions about what’s causing my body to malfunction, but I thought it worth trying.
It’s a strict way to eat and I worried going into it that my dreams would be filled with hearty bowls of pasta, slabs of buttered bread and mugs of steaming coffee turning almost white with cream. But that hasn’t been the case (except for this weekend when my friend was in town and I really wanted to grab a drink at the comedy show we went to, and wanted to eat my way through the Indy Winter Farmer’s Market the next morning. There are no words for how enticing that market is.).
Luckily my husband is eating as I am this month (but for the occasional egg or pepper), otherwise I’m not sure it would be as comfortable as it has been. The biggest change it has created for us is the time spent in the kitchen, preparing lunches for the week, making fresh dinners and washing a never-ending assortment of pans. It seems our dehydrator is almost always running, and if not the dehydrator, the crock pot is going or the stove top is sizzling. Also, making everything from whole foods is also pretty darn expensive. We always focus on organic, local and sustainable produce and meats, but without grains and dairy as filler we have to buy a lot more food to keep us full. Otherwise it’s life as normal. We just feel a little clearer and more alert. And that is a pretty good way to feel.
I’m only a few weeks in so who knows if there will be any more heath benefits to report, but if there is anything to report, I will.
For anyone considering Paleo Autoimmune Protocol but can’t envision eating a restricted diet for such a long period of time you can see everything I eat with a brief description of the meal here: Paleo Autoimmune Protocol Flickr Set. And that really is a record of all the food I’ve eaten — every meal and every snack since April 1. Drinks aren’t pictured because water and water with apple cider vinegar in them are pretty boring to photograph. So is hot peppermint tea.
Anyway, that’s the scoop. I’m not endorsing this method of eating or even saying it’s right for me at this point, I’m just letting you know why there are so many pictures of food popping up in my Flickr feed these days.
If you have ever considered doing an elimination diet, here are some resources I leaned on when getting started:
Update: I followed this diet strictly for 2.5 months. Once I added all foods back in I learned that coconut is not my friend, which is funny because now that I think about it some of my problems began when I began incorporating coconut oil into more of my food. While most people are not allergic to coconut and it is considered fairly benign, it makes my skin break out and makes my stomach ache. Other than coconut, coffee makes me kind of sneezy, but I can have it in small portions. Overall my skin cleared up a lot, I felt great, had more energy and lost 10 lbs (5 of which I’ve gained back over the past 1.5 months as I started testing my limits and including grain again (grains, while delicious also make me sneeze and make me gain crazy water weight so I’m doing my best to avoid those as well).
On the anxiety front, the last panic attack I had was right before I embarked on the diet. My energy is much more even and my moods more stable. Even my husband has commented on how great my moods have been (no more acting like a cranky toddler!). All in all, I’m so glad I tried this diet and learned the things I did about how my body interacts with food. Plus, it was a fun exercise in will power. Now I just need to find another project that utilizes the same will power and commitment — making myself run or write or sew clothing on a regular basis have all been floating around in my head.