A Dragonfly Hat for Haley

After some relaxing time off for the holidays with my family, Casey and I returned to Austin to settle back in to Texas life.  The month of January, however, brought with it some difficult news.  My brother’s girlfriend, Haley, was diagnosed with lymphoma.  My heart was heavy for Haley, and also for my brother, who almost two years ago to the day sat next to my father when he received a diagnosis of terminal lung cancer and passed away only three weeks later. Haley’s prognosis was very dire at first, but the more her doctors learned about her situation, the more hopeful they were about treating her.  I am so happy to share that her tumors have reduced in size.  For now we breath a little easier…

Haley was very concerned about losing her hair, and I wondered if knitting her a hat might bring comfort.  I began looking up hat patterns.  I got goosebumps when one of the first patterns I found was the Dragonflies Hat.  The thing is, my dad had an affinity for dragonflies.  He told me that American Indians believe that dragonflies are the souls of the dead and that they visit us during difficult times to help guide us.  I remember him working on a case that he was so passionate about because he wanted to bring justice to a severely injured client, and he was visited by three dragonflies the day before the verdict was delivered in his client’s favor.  On top of all of this, the pattern specified that the dragonfly represents strength, courage, and victory in Japanese mythlore.  Clearly, this was the hat for Haley!

I chose a cashmere blend that was hand-dyed by a local artisan that would feel warm and soft against her skin.  And I tried to charge that hat with superpowers with every knit and purl!  Check out the wing pattern:

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ImageHaley says it is her favorite hat that she has received.  I hate being so far away while my brother and Haley endure this trial, but I was so happy that this small measure could help remind Haley that she is loved and supported from afar.  Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers.

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Life in Texas

That’s right.  Apparently I only blog around milestones…last time about graduating, and now about getting a job and moving half a country away!  I had settled into the idea of living another year in Michigan, teaching a few classes for not much pay and going on the job market again.  And then it happened.  A job call for an amazing position popped up on a listserv, I sent in my materials, 5 days later I was offered the job as a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Texas, and about 3 weeks after that my husband, 3 cats, and I arrived at our new home in Austin, TX!

One of the most wonderful parts about living here is that I am so very close to my cousin Tommy, his wife Melissa, and their 4 incredible children.  My mom and niece came down for Thanksgiving and we drove over to Tommy and Melissa’s beautiful home and stayed for a few days for the holiday.  We got to meet these guys!

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The goat’s name is Foxy, and her tiniest of muzzles feels like velvet when she eats grain out of your hands.  I got to take part in egg harvesting and making sure all of the chickens were in the coop the first night I was there.  Conclusion: I need more chickens and goats in my life.

I was in a rush before I left to finish a quilt for the newest member of Tommy and Melissa’s family, the lovely miss Cora, who is a mere few months old!  I had all but the binding hand-stitched, and that turned out to be a perfect activity to do around the fire after our bellies were full of delicious eats on Thanksgiving.  I had so much fun with this quilt!  I used a sawtooth star pattern and fabric from Heather Ross’ Playing Horses line as the center squares.

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Here are a couple shots of the quilt with my cousins’ beautiful property in the background:

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One of the most fun parts of this trip was getting to sew with Melissa.  She has been wanting to sew for a while, so I brought one of my machines with me for us to play.  Not only did she learn how to work it like a pro, but we were able to finish an entire project in just an hour or so!  Melissa had been wanting to turn some of her feedbags into tote bags for Christmas gifts.  Look how great it turned out!

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Foxy approves.

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Melissa generously sent me home with some feedbags of my own so that I could transform them, and I left my machine for her to continue playing.  She made 2 more super-cute bags in no time!  So proud of her, and so happy to be closer to my crafty cousin.  I look forward to many future sewing adventures.

Another wonderful sewing experience from the weekend was quilting with my niece Amelia.  As I was finishing up Cora’s quilt, Amelia grabbed some leftover batting and my scrap basket and began to create a work of her own.  Made her auntie so proud!  Love that girl so much.  I haven’t uploaded the photos yet, so I will save them for next time.

Okay, I know this post is long, but one more thing…tonight is my first night skating with my new derby team, The Hell Marys of the Texas Rollergirls.  So excited!!!  More soon!

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Posted in Quiltin', Roller Derby | 3 Comments

Dr. Mad Crafter, resurfacing from my cave

You know what happens when you have to finish, defend, revise, and submit your dissertation?  You grab several boxes of hard candy and descend deep into your cave.  Once there, you write…and write…and crunch on lots of gobstoppers to satisfy your nervous energy.  And then finally, after months of toil, you hit “save”, send it to your dissertation committee members, and cross your fingers.  You put on a fancy suit (with your sparkly, lime green derby shorts on underneath to make you feel like a superhero), answer a bunch of difficult questions, and at the end, your brilliant mentors hug you and congratulate you on becoming a doctor.  And then, finally, you resurface.

And you get to start sewing and cooking and playing roller derby and blogging and being a person again!  I began this process of resuming all of my favorite things by happily taking on a sewing request from one of my dearest friends, Sarah, who is just a few weeks from giving birth and wanted a maternity dress from some beautiful, summery lightweight fabric that she had purchased.  The only problem was that I had never altered a dress pattern before, especially one for someone whose body is providing a temporary home for a new little one!  But I was very excited to accept the challenge, and I was so happy to see Sarah walk out of my house today wearing her new dress.

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Here she is with her son, Sam, who has become good friends with our kitty, Harper.  Sam likes to bring Harper “cat crackers” (cat nip) that we have growing in the yard.

 

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And here is the back of the dress.  I am so honored that Sarah entrusted me with her gorgeous fabric, and I am so happy that after a few fittings and adjustments I was able to turn that fabric into something that so well suits the vibrant spirit of my beautiful friend.

Up next: some baby quilts (I bet you can guess who one is for!), a wedding gift, and perhaps I will finally finish The Pirate’s Daughter quilt!

 

Posted in Sewin' | 3 Comments

Happy holidays!

I leave tomorrow morning to go back to WV for the holidays.  So excited to leave my dissertation behind for a few days and spend time with the fam.  I am planning to defend in March and graduate next term, so I don’t foresee much time crafting or blogging in my future.  I did manage to get a little holiday crafting in when my mom came up to visit after Thanksgiving.  I can’t post many photos until ater the holiday except for the gifts I made for my derby teammates since I handed them out at our first bout of the season which was earlier this month.  My team colors are black, silver, and lime green, so I made some festive brooches for my favorite ladies in green with glitter, star, vintage button, and feather embellishments.

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My mom and I sprayed the glittery pieces with clear acrylic to prevent them from shedding (though my DFunk teammates are not strangers to glitter, and in fact that’s one of our cheers…”All guts, All gitter!”).  Here are some close-ups of the pins:

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We made circular felt backgrounds fortified with thick interfacing in the middle (sewn around the edges to sandwich the interfacing between the 2 circles of felt), and attached all of the elements with a combination of needle and thread and E-6000 heavy duty craft glue (that stuff is amazing!).  Once the pins dried and were ready for packaging, I realized I didn’t have a bunch of small boxes to put them in, so…I made them!  I took some Martha Stewart Halloween craft paper with silver glitter, green skeletons, and other festive and derby-appropriate designs, and went to town using a paper box tutorial I found online.  A few nights later, all boxes were assembled and gifts ready to go!

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Festive boxes with glittery brooches make the DFunk Allstars quite happy, it turns out.

I’m excited to share the rest of my homemade holiday gifts, but until then, I leave you with some photos of the last harvest from the garden.  So excited- the cold frame extended my growing season by 2 months (and the carrots LOVE the cold weather).

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Posted in Sewin' | 3 Comments

thanksgiving, a.k.a. eat lots of pie day

my poor neglected blog.  looks like the time-intensive and forever disappointing job market has taken away yet another thing i enjoy.  grrr…

but on a more optimistic note, PIE!!!  around the holidays, my cousin cori and i often get into a text messaging frenzy about this very important topic.  “what kind(s) of pie are you making this time?”  “what is your favorite combination of apples to use in the caramel apple pie?” “have you roasted your own pumpkin for pumpkin pie before and, if so, is it worth the extra time?”  if only we didn’t live so many miles away so we could bake together!

this year, i was determined to make a pie from the 1966 better homes and gardens “pies and cakes” cookbook that i picked up at an antique shop last summer.

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this book has all of those great cool whip-based pie recipes that my granny loved, and i decided to try out the whipped pumpkin pie recipe.  the recipe called for strange things like packets of vanilla-flavored whipped topping mix, and with my mom’s help, i was able to piece it together.  we decided that an essential ingredient is this item:

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one of my favorite pies as a kid featured dream whip and syrupy cherries, so i was excited to use this magical product in a pie of my own.  it did not disappoint.  look at this lovely mound of dream whip, pumpkin, and spices (and of course i had to use my grandmother’s pyrex bowl since baking from this cookbook so reminds me of her):

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then i folded in some fresh whipped cream, put it all into a homemade graham cracker crust, and chilled!  voila!  a pumpkiny delight that tastes like pumpkin pie and whipped cream all together in one fluffy dessert.

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pair it with some of these stand-bys and you’ve got yourself a nap-inducing thanksgiving meal:

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and…the husband approves!

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hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!

up next: holiday gifts!  my mom and spent an entire day working on some amazing gifts for some of our favorite people (and the cats even got in on it).  can’t wait to share photos!

Posted in Cookin' | 4 Comments

fall draws near

I picked the last summer beets this evening.  August tends to be a bitter month because I’m always melting in the heat and playing catch-up to finish the things I didn’t get to in May and June when I thought there was so much time left in the summer that I could blow off one more day to play in the garden instead of draft that article to submit for publication.  The nice thing about this August is how cool and fall-like the weather is, so it makes everything else a bit more tolerable.

And some of the plants are just now starting to flourish in the milder temperatures.  My dad grew Mexican sunflowers every summer and I took a bunch of seeds from his house to make sure I have enough to keep planting them year after year.  This is the first blossom.  So bold, vibrant.  I have been sad lately thinking about him being gone.  This helped, made me feel like he is still a presence in my life.

As I trudge forward into the busy months ahead (job market, finishing my dissertation, teaching), I still make time for the Pirate’s Daughter quilt.  I finally cut out all of the little pieces and am working on constructing the arcs.

20 complete and many, many more to go, but it feels like progress!  I love working with all of these colors.

I also made some quilted baby bibs for a dear expecting friend and derby sister last week.  A group of our leaguemates threw a really fun baby shower for Bridget (otherwise known as Oi!Rish) on Saturday.  A baby shower full of roller derby gals is quite different than the average baby shower…no one sits around and waits to be told to eat, we all just ravenously dig in; the shower games get super-competitive; and the language is not very lady-like.  I must admit, it was pretty refreshing.

 I made 2 bibs for Bridget.  For the first, I used the colors of her team, the Devil’s Night Dames: red, orange, and black.

The second was Star Wars-themed (Bridget is such a fan she has Han Solo tattooed on her leg).  And so many other crafty people gifted their handiwork at the shower as well.  There was a beautiful baby quilt and some great knitted caps, including a little green yoda hat.

Well summer, it’s been real.  Time for pumpkins and sweaters.  Hey, that sounds pretty great, actually.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Cookin', Quiltin', Sewin' | 2 Comments

a dark and stormy quilt for peter, and more veggies!

I finished a quilt for a new little pal, Peter Arthur, who was born just a few weeks ago.  He belongs to my good friends Alison and Tommy.  They live in Maryland, so I haven’t had an opportunity to meet him yet, but I wanted to send him a little something to welcome him to the world!

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 I couldn’t help but make another zig-zag quilt especially since Alison is into chevrons.  And because Alison and I share a deep love for Halloween, I decided to make a dark and stormy Halloween-style quilt with some greys, purples, aquas, and smoky teals to compliment some of the print fabrics I chose from the Tula Nightshade and Ghastlies lines.  Image

 

 

Here are some close-ups of some of the prints:

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I backed the quilt with ash Kona cotton and made a strip in the middle out of some leftover pieces I trimmed off of the quilt top and some solid strips.  This was just an experiment at first to see if I could make use of scraps, but I was really happy with how it turned out and wanted to incorporate it into the backing!

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I was so happy to wrap this quilt up and send it on its way today. I hope I have the opportunity to meet Mr. Peter very soon!

 

And a quick garden update…check out this purple carrot!

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And these delicious golden beets from the garden that I ate for dinner the other night!

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Summer is good. 

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veggies and fruits!

While we all waste away in the sweltering heat, the vegetables continue to thrive.  I snapped a few shots from the garden yesterday.

The first guy is a purple kohlrabi plant.  My dad grew kohlrabi when I was a kid, and this is the first time I’m trying it.  Happy to say the kohlrabi is thriving, a nice tribute to my father’s green thumb which he was happy to pass on to me.  The second is a cucumber vine tendril, followed by a young brandywine tomato that looks like it has a squinty face.  Finally, my largest tomato yet.  I believe it’s a Celebrity.  Can’t wait for it to ripen!

 

Also, the temperatures finally started to decline a bit this weekend, so I did my annual fruit run to the farmer’s market, where I purchased some peaches and blueberries, supplemented by some store-bought strawberries and raspberries, and made some jam.

I was happy this year to have the help of my good pal Sarah and her son Sam, who is a little over a year old.  They kept such good jam-making company and didn’t mind that I made their kitchen hot!  The first kind we made was a peach strawberry freezer jam.

The second was a mixed berry, which we cooked and canned.

Also, for each batch we split them in half and did half with classic pectin and half with low-sugar pectin to compare taste.  Don’t get me wrong, I love super-sweet jam, but I also enjoy variety.  I’m excited to do the taste test and see which I prefer.

 

Last but not least, I’ve almost finished a baby quilt for the little-over-a-week-old Peter, my good friend Alison’s baby.  For Alison and I, Halloween is an every day of the year celebration, so I was excited to make Peter a Halloween quilt, even though it is July.  I used some fabrics from Tula Pink’s Nightshade line, and some of my beloved Ghastlies fabrics, filled out with Kona cottons in greys, purples, and aquas.  Here is the stack of rectangles getting ready to become a zig zag quilt.  Just have to quilt and put on a binding, and this quilt will be ready to put in the mail!

Posted in Cookin', Quiltin' | 1 Comment

some baking, some knitting, and some quilting

I know, I know.  I took all last week off, so the last thing I should be doing right now is taking a break from dissertation writing in order to write a new blog post.  But well, it’s summer, and I have some new photos, and dissertation writing can be such a drag.  So I’ll keep it short, and then get back to the grind.

Last week I had the pleasure of traveling with my family to Topsail Island, NC.  A few of us make this pilgrimage every year and enjoy a week of laying on the beach, working puzzles, and cooking delicious food.  This year, I owed my mom a Mother’s Day dessert since I wasn’t able to go home on the big day.  Her request: pie in a cake.  I tackled this confection twice before thanks to the lovely recipes over here, and was very excited to see the recently added recipe for blueberry pie cupcakes with lemon curd frosting.

Since I got a bit of a sunburn the first day at the beach thanks to aged sunscreen, I didn’t mind spending the day in the kitchen.  So with the help of my niece and mom, I started by making mini blueberry pies from scratch.  I combined a few recipes and used my old standby, the Epicurious best pie crust ever recipe, for the crust.

My mom and I had purchased the perfect summery cupcake wrappers before the trip.  

    

I made the vanilla cake batter and filled each cup with a heaping tablespoon of batter, and then dropped in the pies.  Cover the top with more batter, and voila!

We served them up with lemon curd the first day.  I used Martha Stewart’s lemon curd recipe.  I’m always amazed how quick and easy it is to make lemon curd because it issome of the tastiest stuff on earth.

We had a great week at the beach, and when we returned, I was happy I had a chance to block a sweater I made for my mom this spring, the Sea and Surf Sweater (pattern by Nicole LaRoche in Debbie Stoller’s Stitch n Bitch Superstar Knitting book).  My mom and I were leafing through the book in a local craft store, and both loved the sweater.

The color and yarn were so perfect in the original pattern (Blue Sky Organic cotton in Azul) that we decided to stick with it.  Here is the sweater being blocked just before I left WV to head back to Michigan.  I can’t wait to post a photo of my mom modeling it!

I love the wave pattern!

Finally, I just finished a quilt last night for my cousin Katrina’s new baby, Gideon.  I haven’t washed it yet, so it’s a little wrinkly.  But I thought I’d post up a few shots anyway.

I used some leftover Castle Peeps fabric because I love it so much, and finally made my first zig zag quilt! Here are some close-ups.

I can’t wait to meet Gideon and give him his quilt.

 

Oh, one more thing. Some shots from the garden.  When I left for North Carolina, the tomato plants had beautiful flowers on them.  Have you ever looked at a tomato flower up close?

And when I returned, there were a ton of young, green tomatoes!

 

Okay, back to work.  I leave you with a preview of quilts to come…the first two fabrics selected for the Pirate’s Daughter Quilt.  Hope everyone has a great week!

Posted in Cookin', Knittin', Quiltin' | 2 Comments

The Pirate’s Daughter quilt

My mom bought this beautiful print to hang in the room of her house that my 7-yr-old niece, Amelia, and I share when we visit.

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It’s called “The Pirate’s Daughter”, by Maia Larkin.  Mom shared the image with me and asked me if I would be interested in making a quilt for our room inspired by the painting.  This is a quilter’s dream!  I’m so excited to get started.

As I have a list of other quilts I want to make for friends who are having babies, I won’t be working on this one right away, but I have (of course) already started daydreaming about patterns and fabrics.  I’m thinking about using the washed out grey tone as the dominant color, and incorporating an array of vivid shades from the rainbow to reflect the pop of color in the painting.  Here are some of the colorful fabrics I’ve been thinking about.

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And perhaps I will finally tackle Denyse Schmidt’s Single Girl quilt pattern for this quilt?

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Here it is in a grey with bright, bold colors and beautiful hand stitching (by see lori sew).

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I also like this quit with a simple triangle design of grey and bright colors by Red Pepper Quilts.

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Also, what about this cute fabric for the backing?

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And I don’t want to get too literal, maybe black and white striped binding to match the little lady’s socks?

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Let me know if you have any thoughts/ideas!

 

P.S.  Can you tell I’m not very focused on my dissertation writing today?  Got back late last night from an awesome roller derby tournament with my league’s B-level travel team, The Motor City Disassembly Line.  Feeling pretty tired and beat up…will be more diligent tomorrow!!!

Posted in Quiltin', Roller Derby | 4 Comments