Archives for August 2010

2010 Year of Pleasures #35

Orange Soda float

Orange soda isn’t something I make a habit of keeping around the house, but with our work at church we’ve been hosting some teenage kid parties at the house. We had leftover ice cream and leftover soda, so Bear came up with this brilliant bit of synchronicity.

An orange soda float. It’s like drinking a delicious melted orange creamsicle. It brought back all kinds of memories of chasing through the neighborhood on our bikes searching for the ice cream man, the sun so hot our jellie shoes would start to melt.


I’m already hearing jingle bells….

As soon as I glimpse the end of summer, it’s pretty much a dead sprint to Christmas. It’s the time of year I find the most inspiring, and my head is always stuffed full of way too many ideas to follow through on all of them. So I have to get started early.

I wound up at Michaels last week and was overjoyed to realize that not only Halloween, but the early traces of Christmas had already arrived. I was immediately flooded with visions of everything I wanted to make and look what I found on the newsstand:


And look at what was awaiting me on page 46:


Didn’t they do a stunning job on this photograph? It totally took my breath away. I want to track that ribbon down and tie it on everything I own. It was so much fun working with the folks at BHG on this. And so thrilling to have something I can hold in my hands in glossy saturated color.

Most of the other artists in the magazine are etsy shop owners, and my poor etsy shop has been neglected for awhile. But I plan on whipping up a bunch of Christmas cards and these snowflake ornaments over the coming months. Maybe I’ll even add that pretty blue ribbon.



At one of those everything on super clearance sales, I bought this blousey navy dress that was missing the belt that went with it. This dress was literally 4$ and will be one of those things that can be worn all through a pregnancy and beyond (should that day ever come back around) so I snapped it up and ran.

I needed something nice to wear to that conference, and I needed to give this dress a belt, so I went a little overboard with the options.

The first thing I sewed was just a satin ribbon belt. I had a big long length of satin, so I cut it long enough to fit around my waist with plenty left over for a tie, sewed it into a tube, turned it inside out and sewed the ends closed. Really simple, and it made this simple jersey dress kind of fancy.

But I had so much more fabric, I had to keep going.

pink belt in action

This belt is made from some of the home decor weight Amy Butler fabric. I cut it to fit my waist, and then twice as wide as I wanted the finished belt, and ironed on some stiff interfacing. Then I sewed the right sides together to form a tube, turned it right side out, folded the raw edges in on each edge and sewed all the way around as close to the edge as I could get. This is the method I followed for every belt.

Pink belt closeup
Then I added some big silver snaps as closures.

paisley belt in action
I’ve had this fabric in my stash for ages and ages and the colors just worked perfectly. It’s more home dec weight fabric, and by now I can’t even remember what I had in mind when I bought it.

Paisley belt closeup
I whipped up some covered buttons and positioned the button holes so it would fit me snugly, but not tightly.

With the success and ease of those belts, I decided to be a little more adventurous and try to replicate another belt I owned.

Gray belt in action
This picture cracks me up. I was trying to smooth out my skirt before the timer went off and I ended up looking all super posey. Maybe that’s the secret to my whole modeling dilemma. I need to take pictures by accident.

Anyway, I’ve had this awesome faux snakeskin fabric for years and years and I’ve been rationing it for only the perfect project. I bought this other belt where one end kind of folds under the other end, so I bought a unique closure and tried to replicate it.

I started by making the belt part just like every other kind. Cut, interface, make a tube, sew around the edges. Then I cut two more pieces of fabric and sewed them into tubes thin enough to fit through the closures. My fabric pieces measured about 6 1/2″ x 2 1/2″.

Gray belt detail

Thread one end through the closure and sew securely. Sew the other end securely to the belt. Repeat for the other side.

Gray belt closeup
I got the placement of the closure right just by trying it on and then pinning it in place. Then when you put it on, you overlap the ends of the belt on top of each other, and then bring the closure tabs together. The construction couldn’t be simpler, even though the description isn’t.

I don’t know why I haven’t seen more homemade belt tutorials. They’re so easy they’re addictive. I’m going to wear this dress down to the threads before I put a dent in my new belt rotation.


Walking in the sunshine

Walk in the sunshine

I’ve had a lot of post going out over the last couple of weeks, so I’ve found myself needing to go to the post office twice a week. Normally this is a chore I leave up to Bear. After a couple horrifyingly memorable experiences trying to steer a stroller through those lines of velvet ropes weaving back and forth, or trying to juggle a baby, packages, keys and other paraphernalia, I decided that going to the post office was a job for Bear.

But now that we moved we live within walking distance to the post office, so when Bear had a super busy day and I had some mail that had to had to had to get out, I put on my big girl pants and womaned up.

I rarely take Atticus on walks, mainly because I am usually unshowered, in my pajamas, and not looking for one more thing to fit into a day. Our version of outside time is to lay on a blanket in the backyard and hope that the neighbors won’t judge me if they noticed I haven’t changed my clothes in a few days.

But I had something that had to get done, so I tossed him in the stroller and beat feet.

It was totally charming. I couldn’t help but notice what a relief it was to take a stroll in the sunshine with my favorite little guy, him shouting “Whee!” every time we went over a curb. We talked about trees and birds and cars and I found my shoulders straightening and the corners of my mouth lifting with every step.

It was so much fun it might actually entice me out of my pajamas on a regular basis.


Balsamic Burrito

Balsamic Burritos

This is one of our classic Tuesday night suppers. One of those meals that you almost always have the ingredients on hand for that becomes a VIP in the meal rotation. We eat it a whole lot around here.

I only came up with it because I needed another way to use my beloved Balsamic vinegar and because I was sick of eating regular Mexican food. As native Californians, Bear’s family would happily eat Mexican food for every meal. I tend to get tastebud fatigue. So like many of my recipe creations, this represented a compromise between my desire for fancy food, and Bear’s desire for the traditional food of his youth.

Balsamic Burrito
4 T olive oil
2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T Balsamic vinegar
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 onion
2 chicken breasts

sour cream
cheddar cheese
other assorted burrito fixings

Chop the peppers, onions, and chicken into bite sized pieces. Toss the chicken in a skillet with the oil, vinegar and Worcestershire. When nearly cooked through, add the vegetables and cook until translucent but not mushy.

It’s that simple.

I prefer to serve this with salted white rice, shredded cheddar cheese and an enormous dollop of sour cream, but you could experiment with any of your favorite additions. It’s one of the easiest things I know how to make, but really yummy and best of all, unique enough to fight that tastebud fatigue.


2010 Year of Pleasures #34

legal pads and sharpies

Just replenishing the office supplies and overcome with affection. Legal pads and sharpies. It’s ridiculous how much satisfaction they bring me.



In the early 80’s my mom used to wear a headscarf all the time. I guess it was just a trend, maybe one she hung on to a little longer than advisable, but it was one of those things that imprinted on me as a classy grown up thing to do.

Now, I’m just grateful that I can occasionally go one more day between showers without looking like a total greaseball. That extra half hour is precious some days.

Headscarf Step 1

You’ll need two pieces of fabric. Cut one piece for the ties to measure 3″ x 34″. For the scarf part, cut a piece of fabric to 15″ x 15″ and then cut it diagonally across the middle. Hem both short edges of the scarf fabric.

Headscarf Step 2
Pin the center of the scarf fabric to the center of the tie fabric, right sides together, and sew with a 1/4″ seam allowance. Iron the seam towards the tie fabric, then continue to iron 1/4″ of the tie fabric towards the wrong side.

Headscarf Step 3
Iron a 1/4″ of the other side of the tie fabric towards the wrong side.

Headscarf Step 4
Fold the tie fabric in half by matching the 1/4″ edges you ironed. Sew as close to the edge as you can steer. Sew across the bottom of the ties as well to completely close them.

This is a project you can crank out so fast, and one that uses so little yardage, it’s tempting to make one in every color. I may never need to wash my hair again.


A special cake for our special friends

Finished cake, front side

The last time we were living here in Modesto, our friends Jeff and Sherry Vail practically adopted us. We’re friends with their daughters, we come to the family birthday parties, we’ve met the grandparents. We’re tight. So when Jeff asked us to make something special for Sherry’s 50th birthday party, we jumped at the chance.

Finished cake, back side

The timing was a little less than ideal. The last week of June saw me feverishly preparing all the papers I delivered at my big conference, canning pounds and pounds of green tomatoes, and crafting Sherry’s entire family out of sugar. I was a big fat stressball. But I couldn’t turn anything down, I wanted to do it all too much.

Head farm

Jeff and Sherry are super into backpacking, so we thought we’d make them a mountain with the family hiking behind her. The last few times I’ve tried to make fondant figurines were total disasters, so I was a little nervous, but this time I discovered the secret – edible glue.

Making figurines

There are magic powders you can buy all over the internet, but the stuff I used is made by Wilton (which means you may be able to find it at Michaels occasionally) and is called Gum-Tex. I mixed 1/2 a tsp into a cup of water, shook it up and then let it dissolve to create a clear glue. You can also mix this into sugar or gum paste if you need to soften it.

Fondant on mountain cake
Bear baked the cake and filled it with a strawberry whipped cream, then iced it with buttercream and covered it with fondant.

Mountain cake, building the road
The nice part of making a mountain cake is that sloppy fondant work only looks more like rock, so we got to just plop the fondant on top and not worry about making anything smooth anywhere. We used sanding sugar to make a trail, piped a little grass here and there, and rolled up fondant to look like rocks.

We’re getting better at this cake decorating thing every time we do it, but we still have so very much to learn. I managed, through loads of edible glue and toothpicks pinning everything together, to succeed in making some figurines, but there has got to be a better way of doing it. With all the attention on these fancy cake shops, I wish someone would write a book about how to do some of these things.


Nectarine Chutney and pork

Nectarine Chutney and pork

I haven’t eaten much chutney over the course of my life, but I’ve made up for that now that I’ve started canning. Chutneys are a combination of fruit, vinegar, and sugar, so they’re perfect high acid foods for canning. And they are a delicious sweet and sour topping to meats like pork, fish or chicken, or just used as a dip for chips or served with cheese and crackers.

Nectarine Chutney and pork

4 C chopped nectarines
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 C brown sugar
3/4 C red wine vinegar
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 C chopped onions
1/3 C lime juice
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 jalapeno, seeds removed, finely chopped
1 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
4 pork chops

In a large saucepan, combine sugar, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add remaining ingredients, reduce heat, and boil gently until nectarines and onions are translucent, and sauce thickens.

In a dry skillet, sear the pork chops on high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and pour the chutney on top. Cover. Cook until the pork is cooked through and tender, keeping the heat low enough so that the sugar in the chutney doesn’t scorch.

To can the chutney, double the recipe and pour into hot jars, processing in the normal procedure for 15 minutes.




That trip I just took was the longest I’ve been away from my little buddy, and it was tough. When I finally got back into town I was itching to snatch him up from his crib and take him to bed with us so I could get a snuggle fix, but I was so tired I managed to hold off. When I woke up the next morning and ran for him, he wanted nothing to do with me.

My in-laws were still here, so they reassured me that it was a standard kid thing. They’d seen every grandkid get mad at mom for going away and act out when they returned. They promised that in a couple of days he’d be back to normal.

But while my head knew that everything they said made sense, it couldn’t stop my guts from feeling like they’d been kicked to ribbons.

Every time I picked him up he’d dive away from my body to try to get to grandma. He’d give me the back of his head for kisses, unless he stopped me before I got too close by putting a hand up to my face.

And he still won’t say “I love you.”

I suppose it’s only fair that if I want his every expression to fill me with more joy than I can contain, than I must accept the flip side and deal with the heartbreak of his rejection. But just because I understand it doesn’t mean it feels better.