Sunday, August 22, 2010

Project Flouncy Bag

Yesterday my niece J. came over and after an outing of mini-golf and ice cream, we came home and played with the cat for a little while. J. decided she wanted to do a craft, which somehow turned into a quick trip to the fabric store...which resulted in me staying up until midnight last night sewing her a new bag for school. Funny how these "we" projects turn into "Aunt Lori" projects...though to be fair, J. would have been happy to stay and help me finish but there were other family plans afoot. (And, I should really get my sewing machine serviced before trying to teach her how to use is becoming rather obstinate in its old age.)

J. is apparently an Amy Butler fan too, as she picked out one of her new prints (called "Love"). I'm not a fan of this particular print, it seems kind of old-ladyish to me, but J. loved it. We found a Kaffe Fassett purple and green polka-dot print for the lining. I bought one yard of each, thinking that would be plenty for whatever pattern we decided on. We came home and pored through a number of the books on my shelves, and she decided on the "Flouncy Bag" designed by Nina Perkins, which is published in the One Yard Wonders book. $20 and 2 hours resulted in:

And I had about a half-yard of the lining leftover, so technically one could make this for less. I had to make a few modifications, mostly because the pattern called for some hardware (D rings), piping, and some ribbon that I did not have on hand (and it was 10 pm when I decided to start sewing, a by-product of watching Project Runway, so running out wasn't an option). Also, the pattern calls for the entire bag (outside and inside lining) to be made out of one yard, and I used a contrast fabric instead. The instructions are fairly simple, although the bottom of the bag calls for oval pieces that are not provided; you basically have to cut rectangles and make it into an oval yourself which I found a bit tricky.

To make up for not having any piping, I cut a 2" strip of the lining fabric, ironed it in half, and then sewed it in as if it were the piping (see below). Were I to do this again, I'd cut a smaller strip. And then I just inserted the strap ends when I sewed the lining to the outside to attach the strap to the bag. If you make this bag with just one yard, follow the cutting layout carefully; I would not have had enough fabric for the lining because of the way I cut out the pieces. Also, a careful eye might notice my fabric is running sideways, rather than top-bottom, another casualty of my cutting. Luckily all the gathering makes it not so noticeable.

J. hasn't seen it yet, so I don't know whether or not it will pass muster. I have my suspicions, though, that I will be churning out another one for her sister in the not-so-distant future...most likely in pink.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Grossest Thing EVER

Every night when I get home I pick up the cat and cuddle a bit – it is a great de-stresser for me, and she seems to like the attention after being home by herself all day. I may have mentioned she does this weird thing when you hold her – instead of staying vertical, she twists her body so she lays horizontally across your chest, and snuggles up as close as she can to your neck. And then we sit down on the couch and she walks back and forth, rubbing her head and then her back up against me.

Last night she was doing the walking back-and-forth thing when I thought I saw something weird under her tail. I thought it was a piece of white embroidery floss. And then it moved.

Let me just say: you have not lived until you’ve chased a cat around a small one-bedroom apartment with a tissue trying to grab some possibly wriggly thing off its hindquarters.

And then there were more wriggly things later peeking out of her bum.

And then I panicked.

The cat has worms. Most likely, a tapeworm.

After scaring myself by Googling, I called the vet’s emergency line and was told it really wasn’t an emergency and to call back in the morning to schedule an appointment. But, of course, the only time the vet could see us this week was right smack of a staff meeting I was supposed to be at IN ANOTHER STATE. And, while I love this cat, as this is my 7th day on the job bailing on the monthly staff meeting seemed just a tad risky! Part of being a responsible pet owner is being able to pay for vet visits (at least, that’s how I dealt with the guilt.) So, I called the vet used by the shelter she was at, and they can see us at 8 am tomorrow morning. They confirmed she’d be fine, that it wasn’t a life or death situation, and that waiting 24 hours was not going to hurt her. And she seems perfectly fine otherwise, although a bit cranky because I am now reluctant to pick her up, lest I get those wriggly things on me.

Thankfully, I am sick with some ridiculous cold and there was Nyquil in my medicine cabinet; otherwise, I would never have slept, envisioning those wormy things burrowing into my pillows and blankets.

To top it all off? no hot water this morning. Arrrrrgh!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Patchwork: Jubilee

Another not-achieved goal for vacation was sewing patchwork. Months ago I had bought a Bali Pop pack in Cotton Candy and wanted to make something with it really badly, but couldn't find the right pattern. One morning while running errands, I did make it into my local quilt store and saw a really great sample hanging up, so I bought the pattern - it's Jubilee by Marlous Designs. It is advertised as easy - and technically it is, just straight seams and straight cuts, but I struggled a bit with understanding just how the strips were sewn together in a braid, then cut into pieces. I'm still not 100% I've got it right...but the pattern seems to lend itself to imprecision; ie, once the thing is pieced together, no one will really notice the mistakes.

Here's one of the finished blocks:

I really have to curb my matchy-matchy tendencies on this instinct is to make each piece match the next one (see the top two blocks above), but the result is a little washed out. When you really go for random, there is much more contrast in the blocks and they are much more visually interesting (see the bottom two blocks below):

And here's Callie (Calypso), my new helper/model, who has settled in quite nicely...such a sweet, sweet girl!

A Brief Detour: Whoopie Pies

One of the things I meant to do on vacation, but did not, was make whoopie pies. The recipe in my family is the pretty standard Mainer recipe, which I find more akin to devil dogs than what is now available on the commercial market for whoopie pies - which tend to be ginormous and not a little sticky. (The best ones, IMHO, are the Isamax ones made in Gardiner, Maine).

But in joint celebration of a) completing a week at my new job and b) my niece's 8th birthday party, I came home Friday night and whipped up a batch while watching Eureka and Haven (the latter of which is set in a fictitious Maine town but filmed in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia, a place I have never been but for some reason occasionally dream about). I'm not entirely sure how many of these my dad ate at the party, but the bag was empty when I left last night.

The Recipe:

Preheat Oven to 425 degrees

The Cookie part:
1/2 cup shortening (Crisco...but I use regular butter and it works just fine)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups flour
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1/s tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the egg and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and the milk; stir until mixed. Drop onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 7 minutes. (I like to make these small and use about 2 tablespoons of batter per cookie, but you can make these as large or small as you would like. If you make them smaller, watch the oven carefully because these will burn quickly.) Cool completely.

The Filling:

3/4 cup shortening
3/4 confectioners sugar
1/2 cup marshmallow fluff

Combine in a bowl and mix with an electric handmixer. (*Note: because the idea of eating uncooked shortening has recently started giving me the heebie-jeebies, I have been experimenting with using butter instead of shortening, decreasing to about 1/2 a cup, and increasing the marshmallow fluff to a whole cup. I think it tastes better, but it does mean that you need to refrigerate the whoopie pies, lest the filling turn rancid on you. But I grew up eating these made with shortening and definitely lived to tell about it.)

Take a cookie, spread filling on the bottom, then find a reasonably-same sized matching cookie to top it off. I like to wrap them individually in plastic wrap, then store them in a plastic container...but you can skip the plastic wrap if you like.

Depending on the size of the cookie you make, this will make 1-2 dozen. I have no idea if these freeze well, because they never last long enough to find out, but I would assume they would be ok for a little while in there if properly wrapped up.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Update: Random Thursday Edition

1) I started my new job on Monday. So far, so good. I now have to catch the 7:50 train, instead of the 9:08 train, so you can sort of imagine what has happened to my sleep schedule. But it's all good. The most shocking part of the transition was realizing just how loud my last office was, and just how much that noise wreaked havoc on my nerves. That makes me sound like some old Victorian lady, but alas it is still the truth.
2) Last week I was on vacation, and got utterly nothing done that I had planned to do. Instead, I hung out with my nieces. I am not complaining one bit.
3) There was a small bit of crafting...a sock started here, a baby quilt started there...and a pink satin dress. My youngest niece (who turned 8 today!) has been asking me for over a year to make her a long pink shiny dress (think bridesmaid dress). $60 in patterns and fabric and thread and zippers is sitting in a heap on my dining room table. I have a fairly good idea of how this is going to end (not well), and I am weighing which would be more disappointing: me not finishing the dress, or turning out something awful. I am seriously considering sneaking off to David's Bridal or similar, buying a dress, and cutting the tags out.
4) I also did a bit of shopping. One highlight was a necklace from here, made by a former downtown-revitalization cohort of mine. Modern and a little funky (in a good way). Go buy one. Or twelve.
5) I love the cat. She has adjusted quite well, and (this will make me sound like a crazy cat lady but I guess I should probably just get over that): I love how every night I get home and she just wants to cuddle and purr. The only trouble is, she does this weird thing where she likes to sort of lay horizontally against my throat, which means that she often uses her back paws for leverage. The result is, I now have a couple of huge scars right down the middle of my looks like I had some sort of awful surgery.
6) Every summer I get into this rut where it's too hot to do anything except lie around re-reading Harry Potter books. And that's exactly what's on tap for this evening. Can't imagine why I'm single.