Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Weekend in Williamsburg

We had a great time in Williamsburg this weekend.

It's tradition for Madeline to have her picture taken with this big bear in the Scotland Shoppe on Duke of Gloucester Street every time we visit! We have them from when she was tiny.

They have a fabulous farmer's market on Saturdays. I grew up in peanut farming territory, but somehow had never managed to see an uprooted peanut plant! This peanut vendor from Surry had one on display. It's sort of hanging upside down- the peanuts grow underground, as the roots. One of the owners said that she gives out little seed peanuts to children when it's time to plant, and they come back to tell her they have a peanut plant growing at home. I think that is so sweet and fun.

They also grow cotton.

The perfect end to a perfect Saturday was watching to sunset over the James River.

I promise to get back to relevant blogging next week. I've just been having too much fun to let my summer end just yet!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sewing Room Monday: Productivity

I'm proud to announce that I not only accomplished what I'd planned to last night sewing-wise, but I exceeded everyone's expectations- even my own (which admittedly weren't all that high...)

I mended the sock, fixed the sweater picks and hemmed the pants.

Then I:

  • ironed a pair of Mabzie's capris  that might've been lying around for about two weeks
  • repaired a seam on one of our traveling suitbags (ripped in July)
  • sewed a button on an American Girl sweater (Lord knows how long it waited in the pile)
  • appliqued a fabric heart on an AG t-shirt to cover where another fell off (waited with the sweater)
  • sewed a flannel backing onto part of an old ironing board cover to make an extra pressing surface
  • worked on the travel iron caddy/pressing pad I started at camp in July
  • finished a sewing apron I started a couple of weeks ago (pictured below, the writing is backwards because since it was a mirror shot- I didn't sew it wrong)
So, I guess I showed them... (and surprised myself)!

Fast & Easy Fat Quarter Apron
The tutorial for this apron is in this previous post.  The decorative stitching which divides the pocket really made a difference on this one, don't you think? 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sewing Room Sunday: Procrastination

I have a few hours to sew tonight. There are at least a million projects I would love to work on, but I seem to have a backlog of mending projects. One pair of brown socks need darning  (mine), one pink Polo sweater needs a few picks pulled through (Mabz), and one pair of Tommy Bahama pants needs to be hemmed (hubby). My family seems to think I'll go up there tonight and not only not do the mending, or work on one of my many UFO's, but start yet another something new (because that's what I usually do). So I'm going now. Let's see how it turns out, shall we?

Oh, and did I mention that my sewing cottage has been an absolute wreck ever since I returned from quilt camp and I can't find a thing? Well, there's that, too...  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tuesday Tips: Too Salty?

I'm a salt addict! When I was younger, I would shake salt on my food until you could actually see the crystals. Nothing was (or is)ever too salty for me! I've improved a bit, but still need to reduce the amount of sodium in my diet due to water retention issues. 

Salt Alternatives (it's a real stretch, if you ask me...) 

(Based on an article from the January 2011 issue of Prevention magazine. I've paraphrased their suggestions and added my own comments in italics.)

Vinegar and lemon juice have the same ability as salt to bring out the flavors of ingredients, while adding an extra twist. The acidity of tomatoes also enhances flavors. Maybe, but not quite like salt...  

Onions and garlic are the quintessential flavor boosters. True, but it's still better with salt.

Herbs and spices jazz up bland food, while adding few (if any) calories. This can be as simple as grinding a bit of fresh black pepper or as fancy as chopping fresh cilantro or basil. Salt would kick it up another notch, though.

Peppers and pepper sauces add heat and give the tongue something to do besides search for salt. But when my tongue searches for salt, it expects to find some.

I'm sorry, but in my mind, "salt alternative" is a paradox. Those two words are mutually exclusive: there is no alternative to salt- not a good one anyway! But I'll keep trying...

Types of Salt

(also according to Prevention magazine)

When you do use salt, you should know that the three main types- table salt, sea salt and kosher salt- all contain nearly the same amount of sodium per ounce, according to Prevention magazine. A few characteristics follow:

Table salt
  • refined
  • treated to prevent clumping
  • often iodized
  • least expensive
Sea salt:
  • flavor depends on body of water it's from
  • often milder than table salt
  • usually sold in flakes rather than grains
  • can be very expensive compared to table salt
Kosher salt:
  • larger crystals
  • less processed than table salt
  • costs just a bit more than table salt, so is an inexpensive alternative to sea salt
If you have a favorite salt alternative, or if you're a salt addict like me, tell me about it. If, like my husband, you don't give a hoot about salt, I don't really want to hear from you this time!

Monday, September 10, 2012


Yesterday was a perfect day to enjoy the NRV SkyFest Airshow! There were planes- doing things you never knew planes could do, against the most beautiful blue sky dotted with just the right amount of white cotton-ball clouds. (Contrary to everyone's expectations, some of my photos actually ended up having planes in them. I have trouble getting good images of things sitting still on the ground, so...)

This one landed on a pick-up truck (following a skit about a bunch of country bumpkins from Alabama...).

And, of course, there were sky-divers.

But the most incredible and unique performer by far was Jane Wicker, this beautiful (crazy) lady who walks on airplane wings without safety lines! Yes, that plane is upside down. She started out on the top wing when it was right-side-up. She also hangs upside-down when the plane is right-side-up. Unbelievable. Click here for a YouTube video from another airshow.

Photo courtesy of wingwalk.org
Oh, and the kettle corn was delicious- just the right combination of salty and sweet!

How was your weekend?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sewing Room Sunday: Magic-Fit for Pants

Since I haven't been sewing this week, I thought I'd show you something fun I picked up recently while thrifting:

One thing I really hate is that my favorite shop to scrounge around in for sewing stuff writes the price right on the front of vintage paper items with a Sharpie! Anyway, something called Magic-Fit Master Pattern for Pants has to be worth $2.50, right?

Here's what's inside the envelope: 

pattern pieces for pants of various sizes, instructions, and what I would call a crotch curve (with instruction diagrams printed on it). Apparently, one side is for the front crotch and the other is for the back. Now, that seems like a really useful thing to have around...

I always need some type of adjustment in that area, but have never been able to really figure it out. Maybe this little gadget will help! I already have this hip/armhole curve ruler (below) in my sewing room, which I have used for several garments and other projects. I can't wait to try the crotch curve- but I think it would be great if it was transparent. 

Almost as cool as the crotch curve is this:

It appears to be a template for marking bust darts according to your cup size, which obviously has nothing to do with pants, but was also in the package. How many times have I traced a dart from an old pattern piece? It's so hard to do it accurately. I am so excited about this little bonus!

This kit was copyrighted in 1974, but then fitting pants has been an age-old problem, hasn't it? Perfecting a pair of wool, pleat-front, side-zip pants is on my project list for this winter. In fact, it has been on the list for years. Last year, I even purchased the fabric, pattern, zipper, waistband interfacing, lining- the whole kit'n'kaboodle. I guess has procrastination paid off this time and allowed me a new tool to work with.

I'd love to be posting a pair of pants for you within a few months! Or a few years...

Friday, September 7, 2012

Frugal Friday: Baggie Challenge

I already admitted that I wash and reuse my zip-top sandwich baggies (read about it HERE). I just feel like many of our so-called "disposable" goods are actually reusable! We bought a new box of 200 on grocery day, which happens to be just a few days into the new school year. Take note that these aren't your fancy-schmancy, expensive brand-name baggies- just Great Value from Walmart.

Now I've challenged my family to make them last the entire school year!

I also found that between the new gallon-size bags left in our box and a few slightly used ones, we have a full box of 40.  That should do us for nine months, as well. So let's see if my family can make it work...

Whether for financial or environmental motives (or some combination of the two), I challenge you to do the same! At the end of May, I'll let you how it went... and I'll want to know how it worked for you!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Fast & Easy Fat Quarter Apron Tutorial

Pat from Old Trinity Schoolhouse Quilt Shop designed the cutest, quickest sewing apron you've ever seen! She's a delightful, energetic red-head whose catch-phrase is "If you are what you quilt, I'm fast & easy". So I'm calling this "Pat's Fast & Easy Fat Quarter Apron".

Here's all you need to make it:

2 coordinating fat quarters
(one print can be directional, but both would make it complicated)
3 yards 1-1/2" wide grosgrain ribbon


Pat, who was wearing her apron, was the only one of us at Quilt Camp (read more about camp here) who could keep track of her cell phone and seam ripper. She was sweet enough to grant me permission to demonstrate it at The Quilting Party meeting Tuesday night. In fact, she told me to teach it to anyone I wanted, so I'm sharing it here with you in case you missed it!

Sandra, Christina, Pam, Me, Laura in our fast & easy aprons!

Here's how you do it:

1. Place 2 coordinating FQ's right-sides-together and press.

2. Square up edges with rotary cutter, making sure to remove the selvedges. The finish dimensions are not important. Mine ended up about 17"x21".

3. Pin together and sew using a 1/4" or 1/2" seam allowance. Leave a space a bit larger than your hand unsewn on one short side for turning (as if you were making a beanbag or pillow cover).

4. Clip corners, turn right-side-out, and press flat.

5. Fold one long edge up about 6" to make one large pocket. Pin and press. Audition both fabrics as the outside pocket along with your ribbon to see how your apron will look best.

6. Edgestitch along each short side to hold pocket in place. It works best to sew both sides  from bottom to top. Some of the brighter quilters in the group used their walking feet, which they say helped. I'm not that smart, so I just used my regular foot.

7. Mark your individual pockets depending on what you wish to put in them. For my first one I just measured 3" from each side and 6" from each side, which gave me four small pockets and one larger middle one. If the pockets are too deep for your phone or other items, you can sew across the bottom of some of the pockets to make them shallower. Any stitch will do for separating the pockets, but I used one of the many neglected decorative stitches on my Bernina.

8. Cut 2-3 yards of grosgrain ribbon, depending on your waist size and the size of bow you want. Tie a bow at your side waist (so it won't get it your way or hurt your back as you sit and sew for hours). Pin or clip the apron on and mark where it lines up.  The ribbon will be shorter on the bow side of the apron.

9. Line up the top edge of the ribbon with the top edge of the apron. Edgestitcth at top and bottom of ribbon, and where the ribbon meets the apron on each side.

10. Model your adorable apron, made in just a few minutes from two fat quarters and a roll of grosgrain ribbon! Yes, those are my jammies...

12. Make more- they're addictive! This apron could be easily adapted as a child's coloring apron (think tiny crayon slots), yard-sale apron (for change, pen, tags), nail/hardware apron (made of canvas), you name it. The possibilities are endless!

Thanks to members of The Quilting Party for their participation, and to Pat for her great idea!

TIP: Instead of pins for this project, I used these Wonder Clips by Clover, actually designed for use as binding clips. They're easier to use than pins in some cases, and you can run them all the way up to your presser foot because the bottom side is flat. Some quilt guild members asked about them last night, so I am including the information here. I got mine at Sew Biz Quilt Camp (about $4 for 10).

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day Link-Up

In response to Amy's request for Labor Day (birth) stories, here's the abbreviated version of mine. I'm linking it up to Amy's Finer Things.

11 PM April 8, 1999: I've just fallen asleep when I wake up thinking I've wet the bed.

11:30 PM: I figure out that my water has broken. The next half-hour is spent explaining to my husband that this means the baby will have to be born within the next 24 hours. 

MIDNIGHT: Call hospital, pack bag, struggle to tie shoes, go to birthing center. We both forget to bring the bag...

1:30 AM: Arrive at birthing center- no labor yet. The nurse says my Doc will induce labor when he comes in at 8 AM. So I send my husband home to get some rest (so I can get some...)

SOMETIME IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT:  I wake up with contractions. I don't tell the nurse because I do better alone. I watch old TV shows like Gilligan's Island and Andy Griffith.

5 AM: The pain gets worse, but I figure I've got a long way to go. No use complaining, right?

7 AM: The nurse says the baby is not happy that I'm standing up, rocking back and forth. She also mentions that I'm not looking too well. Am I feeling OK? Then she tells that they've been monitoring the baby, but didn't even know I was having contractions because my monitor wasn't working properly. They'd have thought I would've let them know... Dr. M. has arrived, but was going out for a biscuit and some coffee. She thinks he should check me out before he goes.

7:15 AM: Dr. M. advises me to call my husband and tell him to get his *&%  to the hospital if he doesn't want to miss his baby's birth!

7:35 AM: Daddy-to-be arrives, with the bag (and camera), I push a few times and...

8:12 AM: Out comes my beautiful, though small (18.5", 4 lbs 8 oz) baby girl- perfectly healthy, with a purple cone-head from being born sunny-side-up!

The rest is history. She's now a fabulous 13-year-old eighth-grader. 

Thanks for asking, Amy! 

Some Things Never Change...


I rescued a stack of old cloth-bound books from the "free bin" at the Y Thrift Shop again. One of the fun things about that is the clippings and stuff you find between the pages. Since some of you have undoubtedly just dropped a kid off a college, this one might be especially relevant right now. I can't credit the source, because only the text was cut out of the newspaper. Remember, these books were from the late 40's and early 50's. Some things never change...

Letter from son in college:

"Dear Dad:

Gue$$ what I need mo$t of all! That'$ right. $end it along. Be$t wi$he$.

Your $on,

Letter from Dad:

"Dear KNOwlton:

NOthing ever happens here. We kNOw you like your school. Write us aNOther letter aNOn. NOra was asking about you. You kNOw NOra! NOw I kNOw NO news.


NOw I kNOw what I have to look forward to NOt so many years from now!

By the way, "anon" means soon or shortly. I had to look it up. That's another fun thing about old writings- you learn new (old) words.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

It Takes Both Rain and Sunshine...

...to make a rainbow.

I really think there might've been a pot of gold at the end of this one. If only I'd had more gas in my Hummer...

In case you missed it, here's the last one I photographed, back in April.