13 September 2022

Too Easy Cobbler

 

Y'all. The easiest cobbler recipe ever. So delicious. I used a 1 lb. bag of frozen mixed berries (thawed) and a French vanilla cake mix. I also added a tablespoon of sugar with the cornstarch to balance the tartness of the berries, but probably wouldn't if I used a different type of fruit. This is the perfect size for my little 3 qt. slow cooker and makes just enough for a weekend dessert for two. Serve with vanilla ice cream and plan your next fruit + cake mix experiment. I think mine will be apple pie filling with a spice cake mix. 

09 September 2022

In Tribute

 

This is my favorite story about Queen Elizabeth. As a fervent believer in the power and value of therapy dogs--having been on the receiving end of that myself--I love this story about the Queen spontaneously turning her ever-present cloud of feisty and cheerful corgis into a pack of therapy dogs. Her intuition, compassion, and gentleness is beautiful.

In tribute, I compiled a little list of corgi designs to share. These are all downloadable and under $5, so if you're feeling like stitching a small memento, you can begin right away.

A tiny corgi pincushion

And by the same designer, a small Platinum Jubilee tribute that could easily be altered to commemorate her life

trio of corgis in different colors

An adorable little gent in a bowtie

A somewhat larger design, a beautiful mandala-style corgi

Another easily adaptable Platinum Jubilee sampler

jolly, round little lad

teeny tiny tribute

Also, though these projects are a bit different from the others on my list, I couldn't resist including them here. I don't crochet but I found this charming little crochet pattern of the Queen and her corgis. Too sweet. And this gorgeous kit of two corgis in the autumn leaves, sharing a plaid scarf. It instantly made me think of the Queen with her corgis at her beloved Balmoral. I have ordered from this shop before and had good service. I think this kit may be available from US sellers as well. 

I have no doubt that the stitching community will be producing more commemorative designs in the coming days, free and for purchase, but I wanted to post this list today in tribute to the Queen. A link with the past has been broken and we will never see her equal.



07 September 2022

Treasures & Happy Places

 



Part of how we cope with the upheavals of military life and adjust to new areas as quickly as possible is to find what we call "happy places", local businesses and spots we can go to while away a Saturday and feel connected to our new home. We haven't done much exploring since we got here in April, partly because Mr. Wonderful's work schedule is slightly insane, but mostly because we now live in an area that is overrun by tourists from May to the beginning of September. A lot of locals seem to hibernate during the summer and emerge once the tourists have gone home, which is what we ended up doing. So this past weekend was really our first opportunity to go out looking for our happy places. We were successful!

We found a couple of really neat antique shops, a packed-to-the-gills used book shop, a great old-fashioned diner, and for Mr. Wonderful, an awesome record store (Yes, vinyl records! Remember those?). We had such a fun day and came home with treasures: pottery, some old books and records, a few very pretty homemade dishcloths, some homemade fudge, a couple of prints by a local photographer, and a sparkly little pin for me. There's a lot more around here that needs exploring, but we're off to a strong start. We know the antique shop lady--and the shop cat--and the book shop guy by name now, and our list of happy places is growing. Unfortunately, there's no needlework shop anywhere near me, but I know I've been unusually blessed to have shops at our last two duty stations, so I'm not going to fuss about that too much. Most stitchers don't have an LNS, but we still manage to acquire stash, don't we?

So it was a good day. This has been a hard move, and a hard adjustment, in a hard year. All the more reason to seek out happy places and snuggle down into them and appreciate the good. Oh! One more triumph to share... I found a stylist! I hadn't had my hair cut since right before we moved in March, so I was beginning to look like a sheep in need of shearing. Y'all know how breaking in a new stylist can be. A bit nerve wracking, especially if your hair/hairstyle is out of the ordinary. I finally got up the nerve to tackle this yesterday and I'm both tickled and relieved to report that she nailed it on the first appointment. It took us about an hour to get there (I wear my hair shortish but there is *a lot* of it) but we did it, so I'm counting her and my new salon as a treasure and a happy place. Yay!

Treasures and happy places... may you find them when you need them.



01 September 2022

Autumn in the Tropics


You've probably figured out from pictures of our backyard that we're no longer in a climate that has proper seasons. While we're not actually in the tropics, we're much closer than we've been in many years and much closer than we prefer. But you go where the military sends you and you make it work. There are things about the climate here that I like. It rains a lot and I love that, and I'm the one weirdo that doesn't really mind the humidity (waving at my fellow dry skin girls). But I will miss autumn and winter so much. Even though we're from a hot climate, we've been away so long that it feels a bit strange to be putting out fall decorations when you can look out your window and see palm trees. I did, however, put out some fall decorations. And I got a new fall tablecloth. And I've been busy in the kitchen all day, getting food and snacks ready for the start of college football this weekend. And with all that, it does kinda look like fall, but man it doesn't feel like fall. How I'm going to miss that snap of chill in the air and the leaves turning. Oh well. It's not forever, and it's as good a time as any to practice being focused on the good right under my nose rather than on where I'd rather be instead.



Bonus recipe!

This snack mix is delicious and addictive but it is quite spicy, so bear that in mind if you have a low tolerance for heat or if little ones will be eating it.

Spicy Snack Mix

1 box Cheez-Its
1 bag goldfish crackers
1 bag pretzels 
1/2 - 3/4 c. oil
5 Tbsp. Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning
1/2 Tbsp. your favorite steak seasoning
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. dill

Combine crackers and pretzels in a large bowl and toss with oil until well coated. Mix seasonings and add to snack mix, stirring well to evenly coat. Spread on foil-lined cookie sheets (don't overfill) and bake at 200 for about an hour. Cool completely before storing in airtight container. *You can give it a stir halfway through the baking time, but it's probably not necessary if you've spread it out enough. I had three cookie sheets full, so it does tie up your oven for a while.

Happy Fall! And to those who celebrate, Happy College Football Season!

26 August 2022

Swampy Update



Two-thirds of the way through my swampy sampler. I finally got a few reasonably good shots of the color of this fabric. The color in the first, second, and fourth pictures is pretty close to true, while in the third picture of the Sandhill Crane it has that grayish look that's been annoying me. You can see the difference absolutely perfect light makes. 

This sampler has been my summer project, and since I'm close to a finish I've started thinking about fall stitching. I'm still blazing away on Christmas Open House projects for this year (and next year!) but I'd like to squeeze in some fall stitching. Hard to believe the summer is almost over, according to the calendar anyway. More on that later.

15 August 2022

Something Sweet

 




Knowing that I plan to be hard at play in my sewing room this summer, Mr. Wonderful got me this bright, cheerful little sewing set from Wal-Mart. It comes in a nifty zippered case that will be a perfect project bag. How sweet is that?

09 August 2022

Magical Swamp Update

 

I'm giggling a little at a "swamp update" but here we are. Please forgive the odd lighting. This fabric is such a beautiful yellowy green which the camera absolutely, flatly refuses to see properly. Anyway, progress has been a bit slow because I'm also working on my 2022 Christmas Open House (yes!) and my 2023 Christmas Open House (what?!). Yes. My 2023 Open House will be the tenth anniversary, and we're going big! So there's a lot going on, stitchy-wise.

If you've checked out Magical Swamp you know those sections in the upper left and right hand corners are left open. I decided they were the perfect spot for my initials and date so I chose a small alphabet (I just made up the numbers) and picked a color and off I went. I like how it turned out. The next section I'll be working on has more critters, which I'm looking forward to. Weirdly, I found another swamp sampler I love. What is that about? Do I love swamps now?

Sort-of-sneak-peek at 2023 Christmas Open House! Fabric is Zweigart's 32 ct. Basalt Splash lugana, which I can't seem to get enough of. Absolutely love it. The needle minder is from this Etsy shop (which is currently on a break).

I haven't been in my sewing room in a while and it's calling me. There just aren't enough hours in the day to do all the stuff I want to do! Even when I was little I was never bored, and nothing has changed after all these years. 

Off to make a mess! (Well, clean up first. Because you have to clean up before you make a new mess. A fresh mess, if you will. Y'all know what I mean.)

03 August 2022

Bread Therapy & Butter Thoughts

I don't know why baking bread is so calming and comforting. Or why eating even the simplest homemade bread--flour, yeast, salt, and water--feels like such a luxury. But it is, and it does. Does it tap into some ancient genetic memory? Surely no other food crosses time and culture like bread. When I was growing up, my mom always baked bread before a storm. Before typhoons when we were stationed in the tropics, before blizzards when we were stationed where it snows, before hurricanes when we were stationed in Texas. I'm sure that was mostly just preparation, but as an adult I now wonder if it was also some sort of self-soothing ritual: indulging in the calm and comfort of baking bread before everything goes sideways. There are all sorts of storms in life, some worse than others. Some are severe but pass quickly. Some batter us for months or even years. Maybe it's the simple things and the old ways that carry us through, just as they've carried our ancestors through for generations... putting our hands in the dirt and growing things... sitting down with a needle and thread... baking bread to nourish ourselves...

I found this recipe when I was looking for a low-effort homemade bread and I couldn't be more pleased with it. Mr. Wonderful loves it. It's as easy as falling off a log. I stir it up before I go to bed and then whenever I get around to it the next day, plop it onto a floured surface, shape it, and bake it. Ta-da! Fresh bread! So far I've only made the mini loaves, but I think I'll experiment with one large loaf or a couple of smaller ones. Lots of folks like their homemade bread with a crisp crust, which this has when just baked. I store mine in a plastic bag on the counter (which softens the crust to our liking) and even in a hot climate, it lasts almost a week, probably due to the salt content. You'll probably want to experiment with the amount, especially if you're eating it with salted butter (I use Kerrygold).

On the subject of butter, as long as we're being luxurious and making our own bread, we might as well have lovely soft, spreadable butter on hand. I'm not sure at what point, or for what reason, we decided that butter had to live in the fridge or we'd die from food poisoning, but it happened, and we've been depriving ourselves. I keep butter for baking and cooking in there, but for eating, there's nothing better than room temperature butter. I have a very pretty French butter crock, but it holds too much butter for us to get through in the few days required in this climate. I went looking for something to hold just a wee bit of butter and found this absolutely adorable little butter keeper in this Etsy shop. It lives on the counter by the bread, ready at a moment's notice for a quick snack of homemade bread, soft Irish butter, and strawberry jam. Now that's luxury.


I have more thoughts on why things that were once so common and necessary to daily life they were completely unremarkable have become modern day luxuries. But that's for another day. 

Happy Baking!



 


30 July 2022

All is Calm...

 

Hey, y'all. I think I can say, two-thirds of the way through this summer and over halfway through this difficult year, that I'm finally starting to feel a bit more settled, or at least a bit less unmoored and thrashed about. I've come to realize I won't ever feel fully settled in this house because I know we'll be moving to our permanent quarters next spring. Another move. In about eight months. The thought of it sort of paralyzes me, so I try not to dwell on it, but there it is. Everything I do to carefully put this house together--hang pictures, unpack treasures--is accompanied by the thought that it all has to come apart in a few months. Not exactly a restful thought. I'm working on just being present in the moment and not worrying about doing this all again shortly, but I'm not very good at it. Of course, stitching helps.

Which brings me to my latest finishes. These little lovelies are from a new-to-me designer called Cosford Rise Stitchery.  I found them quite some time ago and wanted to stitch them instantly, but of course had to put it off. I've finally gotten around to stitching them and I just love them.


Just a few notes on how I stitched mine: The models are stitched on 36 ct., using one thread of floss over two linen threads, so only one skein of Weeks Snowflake is required. I stitched mine on 28 ct. Winter Brew by R&R Reproductions, and on the larger count you will need TWO skeins of Snowflake, and if you cross each stitch as you go, you may even need THREE skeins to be on the safe side. 

On the matter of stitching styles, I've mentioned before that when working with hand dyed threads, I almost never follow the "cross each stitch as you go" rule. Here's my rather lengthy post on stitching with variegated thread. I usually use the Half Stitch + Mismatch method I describe in that post because I prefer more subtle color variation over the striped or color blocked look of the usual method of crossing each stitch as you go. With the exception of the border (which I changed to Weeks Ivy and crossed each stitch), all of the stitching on these two little pieces is Half Stitch + Mismatch. 


Weeks Snowflake is a very pretty white with distinct patches of pale pink and pale blue. Using this method gives you a very, very soft flush of color here and there instead of noticeable sections of pink or blue snow. But that's a personal preference. If you like the stronger colors, go for it. I've seen both pink and blue snow with my own eyes and it's gorgeous. In fact, due to unusual lighting, some of the prettiest snow I've ever seen was as pink as it could be. 


Even if these are not on your to-stitch list, do check out her Etsy shop linked above. She has a beautiful seasonal flower basket series that I hope to start this fall. So far she has March through September available. 

So I'm working on "all is calm" in my mind, with varying success depending on the day. I've been busy with some stuff lately that has kept me out of my sewing room (booo!) but I hope to get back in there this coming week. Hopefully, I'll have more finished and framed stuff to share with you soon. And there's definitely a recipe coming that you won't want to miss!

Happy Stitching!

16 July 2022

Frogtastic

 

I've started one of my summer projects, Magic Swamp Sampler by Stitchy Princess. So far, we've got a frog queen with luscious lashes basking under a friendly sun. This is going to be a really fun stitch. Perfect for summer. The only problem is that this fabric is just about impossible to photograph. No matter what I try, it always looks too dull, too grayish. It really is a beautiful yellowish green. Maybe I'll figure out how to show it off properly. Anyway, I'm so enjoying stitching on it. It's 32 ct. lugana in Dark Olive.

I have a new little friend, too. This wee one has taken up residence in my azalea. Isn't he adorable? So tiny.



Happy Stitching ( and no frogging)!

10 July 2022

Green & Purple Goodness

 










Painted Egg (bird with egg) is from the Cross Eyed Cricket leaflet called "Eggs... etera" (#109).

The chick in a purple dress is my color conversion of Here a Peep There a Peep from With Thy Needle & Thread. My color choices are in this post.

Be Well is a freebie from The Drawn Thread available here. My color choices are in this post. The purple flower trim is from Hobby Lobby.

*****

My sewing room time is being rudely interrupted this week by something called "life" but I'm hoping I can get in there to play a little bit, at least. I seem to have amassed a backlog of Christmas finishing and framing, so if you're in the mood for Christmas in July, I'm your girl. I've also started on one of my summer projects, and there will be a peek of that soon. Don't go far or you'll miss something!

Happy Stitching!