Giveaway Time

>> Friday, August 28, 2009

In July, I reached 200 posts and passed my blogiversary. I intended to do a giveaway, but wasn't in a place to do it then. But I'm now ready. As I'm off in the woods of Vermont for the weekend, it seems like a good time to post the giveaway and give people a chance to enter.

The Giveaway
So what can you win? I wanted to make sure those who craft and those who admire crafts could enter and win something they would enjoy. Thus I'll give away 2 different things, fabric for the crafty types and a made-by-2hippos-scarf for everyone.

First, the fabric:

About a 1/2 yard of Aviary (not Joel Dewberry, another Aviary), at least a FQ of Michael Miller's Dazzle Daisy in green, and some other fabric goodies to be determined.

Second, the scarf:

This scarf features some Joel Dewberry (Chestnut Hill) and Michael Miller (Dazzle Daisy) fabric as well as the fun black & white print to the left and the gorgeous green and blue print in the middle. I received the latter from swaps and don't know their makers, but they're both very soft and wonderful.

To Enter:
1. Comment on this post, telling me which item you'd prefer AND tell me something else you're happy about -- your favorite song, the turn to fall, a book you've read, a friend who has visited...whatever has made you happy of late (aside from this giveaway).

2. Please make sure to leave an email address either in the comment or through a blogger account.

More Fine Print:
I will choose the winners in some random fashion at some point on Wednesday, September 2.

You may earn 1 extra entry by blogging about this giveaway (come back and let me know you've done so) and another extra entry by becoming a follower.

I think that's it. Enjoy!


Friday Recipe: Zucchini with Pine Nuts

This recipe offers an easy way to use the end-of-summer bounty of zucchini. It's quick, delicious, and malleable.

Zucchini with Pine Nuts
~Serves 8-10 (side dish)

2 large zucchinis (I used green and yellow for variety)
1/2 onion
4-6 garlic cloves
1/2 tofu cake
olive oil
salt and pepper
pine nuts

1. Chop the onion and mince the garlic. Cut tofu into small cubes. Slice and quarter the zucchinis.

2. In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil, and add the onion and garlic. Saute until lightly browned.

3. Add the tofu and stir.

4. Add the zucchini. Continue to cook and stir until the zucchini is cooked through.

5. Add salt and pepper to taste.

6. Sprinkle in pine nuts. Mix and serve.

7. Enjoy!

*I used 2 large zucchini because that's what the farmers were selling. Medium and small would be fine as well.

*This can be eaten hot or cold, making it ideal for summer bbqs and potlucks.

*This is an easy dish to repurpose as leftovers. I reheated the zucchini in a saucepan and added black beans. Then I used the mixture as burrito filling with sour cream, salsa, and homemade guacamole. Even more delicious!


Miracle Foundation Quilt #1

>> Thursday, August 27, 2009

After spending a lot of time with the cool end of the color spectrum, I needed to experience the warmer end of the spectrum. Fortunately, I had a task that demanded using warm colors and, luckily, when I returned from New York, several packages of fabric awaited me. Thanks to the generosity of Lise, Jocelyn, Michelle, Grace, and Jen, I have a lot of red/pink/orange/yellow fabric to work with for the Miracle Foundation quilts. Yes, that's a plural quilts. Given the amount of fabric they so kindly donated (for which proper thank you notes and a small gift will be in the mail soon), I plan to make more than one, maybe even more than 2.

So I plunged in this week, trying to emulate a pattern I saw in a store, (sort of) committed to memory, and tried out this week. The idea is that improv stripy blocks surround improv quarter log cabins that surround a different color (in this case, not red). I'd say it sort of worked. I made 5.5" blocks, and the design might show off the other color bursts better with larger blocks and thus larger bursts of other colors. Even if most of the yellows, oranges, and pinks stay in the background, I like the quilt, and think it will provide a lot of visual interest for kids in the orphanage.

The back is a swirly red and black, while the binding is a red with white swirls. Next up on the Miracle Foundation quilt list is another -- and bigger -- improv log cabin. I'm hoping to get a lot of it done next week in part because I'd like to donate the extra fabric to IBOL, and the deadline for that is September 7. If that doesn't happen, I'll use the extra fabric for more donation quilts.

Speaking of IBOL, check out this post if you haven't already seen it. Robin writes in and about the spirit of Ted Kennedy, reminding us of his insistence on bettering the world around us:

"All of us will ultimately be judged, and as the years pass we will surely judge ourselves on the effort we have contributed to building a new world society and the extent to which our ideals and goals have shaped that event."
[from Ted Kennedy's eulogy of Robert Kennedy, 1968]


A Chuppah in Progress

>> Wednesday, August 26, 2009

This is a tale about moving from there (above) to here (below).

And, before I proceed, I must reiterate my warning that my camera is dying a slow death and is not doing justice to the vibrant colors in the chuppah. The dull, somewhat 70s era shading stems from the combination of the crappy camera, indoor lighting, and flash (thanks rain!).

Starting to lay out the blocks, with the light and light/medium blocks in the center.

Surrounded by medium blocks,

and then by medium/dark and dark blocks.

However, the more I looked at, stared at, and contemplated the design, the more I realized something was off. It was unbalanced and didn't work. The problem, I determined, was the rectangular shape.

All along, I'd been thinking about a square; I decided it needed a square center, which would blossom into a big square. So I made more blocks (barely squeezing out the last dark blocks, hoping the fabric strips could eek out 2 more blocks). Which they did:

[See those striations, they are not in the quilt, they simply reinforce the ill camera.]

Here's a better shot, from a different angle:

I'm still a little concerned about posting these pictures, because they don't show off the quilt top well. Don't hold it against the chuppah. Here are some close-ups that, I think, give a better sense of what the colors look like.

Making this quilt reminded me that fabric surprises you. I included some fabrics I was unsure about in combination with others, fabrics that while making the blocks stood out to me, making me wonder if they really fit in. Then, when it was all put together, I barely noticed them. They blended in, my concerns unfounded.

The chuppah is not complete, but the pieced top is. The first time I saw this design, I thought it would make a lovely chuppah, and I'm glad I'm able to make it for a good friend. I don't, however, intend to make the design again anytime soon, for it is very labor intensive; chain-piecing helps, but strip-piecing is limited because variety is key in this design.

I've been calling this "Beth & Harley's chuppah."
Any suggestions for other, less literal and more evocative names?


New Year, New Planner

>> Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Despite the fact that calendars turn over to a new year on January 1, in my world, the new year begins at the start of the new academic year. This might have something to do with the fact that even when I was out of school, I was working in schools and universities. As a result, January 1 is far less significant to me than that amorphous August/September back-to-school period that screams in my ears, "it's a new yer, it's a new year."

A new year obviously demands a new planner. While my new planner claims to be for 2010, it starts in July 2009 and ends in December 2010. Thus it works for the academic year quite well, never forcing me to spend time in December transferring scheduled events from one piece of paper to another. Never mind that I spent some time doing just this yesterday.

In any event, for the past three years, I've used planners designed by the working class studio group (a division of SCAD, Savannah College of Art and Design) in conjunction with Barnes and Noble. In general, I like several things about these planners: they are aesthetically pleasing (more on that in a moment), they label the dates but leave multiple blank lines across the entire width of the page for me to fill in as I please (generally with a color-coded system of meetings, lists, due dates, and travel plans...I'm a little nuts like that), there are ample pages in the back for notes (I save these as I jot down research, teaching, and, yes, quilting, ideas in these pages), and
they are durable (my last couple still look fresh after being tossed around in various bags for a year).

Back to the aesthetics, there are usually several designs each year. I did notice that they still have the yellow/blue/green circle pattern I had in 2007-8. I don't like to repeat things, so I will not be buying that one again. Last year's was periwinkle with blue/green/grey circles (I guess I have a thing for circles). This year's is my favorite: it's blue, it has birds, and it displays my favorite drawing style for which I don't know the name. You know, the thick lines with filled-in parts of the leaves and the birds that aren't exactly realistic but convey realism. Well, you can look at the picture and perhaps understand what I mean.

p.s. working class studio makes some other neat stuff. see it here.


A Pebbly Challah Cover

>> Monday, August 24, 2009

I took a break from chuppah-making this weekend to make a challah cover. In the middle of big projects, I often yearn for something small, easily envisioned, and finishable. Challah covers are perfect for this task, and I need to make a handful as wedding gifts. I used fabrics remaining from the chuppah to create this simple design.

At first I wasn't sure what fabric to use as the center and border. A plain white? A cream? A contrasting red? A bright anything? A pale blue floral? In the end, after multiple layouts, the cream with blue (a fq swap acquisition from Quilt Dad) won out, and I think it works well, picking up the blues in the dark colors without competing with it.

I like using challah covers to experiment with new quilting methods (they're small, after all, and therefore low-commitment). I opted for this pebbles design I saw cropping up in the blogosphere, notably here and here. I cannot claim to have mastered the technique, as I think I'll need to do it on a lot of challah covers before I try a larger quilt. I have yet to figure out the best way to move the fabric in circles or move from pebble to pebble (I'm all ears for tips). Nevertheless, I do like the look it creates.

I opted for a simple back, a yellow butterfly (or are they dragonflies?) pattern on blue. For the binding I used a turquoise and gold butterfly print I first used in a quilt for my brother, and now only a sliver remains.

In-progress chuppah pictures coming soon!


Friday Recipe: Summer Potato Salad

>> Friday, August 21, 2009

Taking delicious pictures of potato salad is hard. I should have taken some pictures of the bounty of farmer's market produce I picked up on Wednesday before I made anything with it, but I was eager to use it once I got home.

Almost everything (except condiments and spices) in this potato salad came from my local farmer's market; however, it's certainly possible to buy all the ingredients at the store. It's a great side dish, potluck dish, and party dish, and it's simple to make. All the amounts are approximate and can be modified to your tastes.

Summer Potato Salad
~Makes 1 large bowl

15-20 small (larger than fingerling) potatoes (I used half white and half red)
6 eggs
red onion
3 small carrots (I had orange and purple from the market)
2 stalks celery
light mayo
spicy mustard

1. Boil potatoes until soft enough to slice. Drain and set in a bowl to cool.

2. Hard boil eggs. Cool, and discard the yolks (or keep them if you like egg yolks).

3. Chop 1/4 red onion into small pieces and slice the celery into small pieces.

4. In a large bowl, place the potatoes, boiled eggs, celery, and red onion. Grate the carrots into the bowl.

5. Add equal parts mayo and mustard. Take a big knife and start slicing (basically, you are cutting the potatoes and eggs down into eatable chunks while simultaneously mixing the condiments into the salad. I start with a large spoonful of mayo and mustard and add in order to get a consistency I like).

6. Add pepper to taste.

7. Enjoy!

There was more; I took this picture after 2 people ate some. It's good like that.


Julie & Julia

>> Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Image from the Sf Chronicle via Columbia Pictures

Go see it! (If you haven't already.) It's really fun and funny. The romance and chemistry between Julia (Meryl Streep) and Paul Child (Stanley Tucci) is wonderful to watch. The food scenes are delightful. Meryl Streep truly embodies the Julia character.

[For an explanation of the end of the movie twist (spoilers in the link), go here.]



>> Monday, August 17, 2009

I don't know who decided blinds were the way to go with windows. I have one real window in my bedroom, and it came outfitted with standard horizontal blinds. I suppose they keep peeping toms from seeing in (although with the tree border between my windows and those of the next-door neighbors, I'm not sure who would be able to see in aside from the birds and the squirrels. Oh the squirrels, I hate them, but that's another story). But, truth be told, they don't keep the room dark and they're ugly.

I've been waiting to find a curtain I like or a piece of fabric that I could make into a curtain. I think I found the fabric, Forsythia, from Michelle at Cicada Studio. However (there's always a however), at $40 a yard, the fabric is out of my price range. I can't justify an $80 curtain (because I think 2 yards would be necessary for even a basic curtain) even if it would be the loveliest curtain I ever own.

Also I should be working right now, so I'm going to focus on the fact that I don't have time to make a curtain and really, really, really need to be writing rather than blogging or playing with fabric in my mind.


I Stand Here Ironing

>> Sunday, August 16, 2009

I've spent a lot of time in the past 5 or so days at the ironing board, with my trusty (heavy!) iron, heating up an already-warm space. Such is the price of sewing in the summer. But a price well worth paying as the blocks you see are part of the chuppah I'm making for my friends Beth and Harley.

I've tried to alternate cutting, ironing, piecing, and trimming in order to keep the increased heat level to a minimum and maintain a varied pace of work. So far, so good. I've been thinking about the quilt front for a long time, and I started gathering fabric in the spring. I'm modifying a pattern from Evelyn Sloppy's Strips and Strings and dove right into cutting and sewing without reading her directions too carefully. Somehow my eyes skipped over her fabric quantities, but even once I looked more closely, I somehow ended up with far too many light and medium colored strips. Not to worry, I'm confident I can find uses for them!

I'm a consummate multi-tasker, and ironing demands being done alongside something else. Most of the time, I watch shows via the internet or DVDs from the library. But sometimes 2 things at once is insufficient. In which case, I iron, sort of watch something, and try and throw in some balance or plyometric exercises (not too close to the ironing board!). Other times, I read a book, in paragraph-long stints, in between moving the iron. And, then, of course there is time to think.

Which, this week, brought me to Tillie Olsen's short story, "I Stand Here Ironing" (1961), which centers on a mother's thoughts about her daughter while ironing. My thoughts are perhaps less profound and less centered on mother-daughter relationships. They tend more toward the things I need or want to do, the ideas swimming in my head about a paper I'm working on, the movies I want to see (Julie and Julia!) or, with some regularity, what I want to eat for my next meal. Nevertheless, Olsen's story is ultimately about the desire to empower or, at the very least, the hope that a daughter will be empowered. For me, ironing is not necessarily empowering, but part of an act of creation that is very empowering; yet for many others around the world, ironing is demeaning, forced, and soul-crushing.

In the Jewish calendar, it is almost the month of Elul, the last month of the year and the month of preparation for the new year, Rosh Hashanah. Since Jews are oh-so-fond of rituals, there are of course a bevy of activities one could incorporate into one's life as a marker of this month -- shofar*-blowing, extra-psalm-saying, and the like. But for me, the thought, the pausing to take stick, the re-evaluation corresponding to these indicators is far more important (and alas, in my experience, frequently secondary). Over the summer I've been thinking a lot about empowerment: what it means to me, what I need to do to feel and be empowered, how I can empower others near and far.

One of my goals for the year -- the new Jewish year, the new academic year (school supply sales and apples-and-honey coincide for me as signs of a new year) -- is to embrace empowerment and empowering; to find ways to empower myself on a personal level, as an individual within my local communities, and as part of the larger world; and to act to empower others locally, nationally, and internationally. These are lofty goals, in lofty language, but I think it's important.

And participating in Iraqi Bundles of Love (with a classy new blog header!) is just one of many ways to empower others around the world. I do want to apologize for not wrapping my bundle as nicely as others have done -- in my hasty effort to mail it on Friday, nice packaging went out the proverbial window. In any event, I want to post IBOL Guy's comment on my post (since I don't always read the comments on other blogs):

So, we had a meeting later yesterday, about the bigger project. One of the two chaplains present commented on the theme of giving that is such a key component of Ramadan. He then asked about the fabric and knitting supplies, and I told him there was some coming. Some, like maybe a few hundred bundles. That knitters and quilters seem to understand the whole thing about giving.

I don't think he was ready for the whole "hundreds of bundles of love" thing. But then again, I doubt the mail folks are, too.

Note to self -- need to stop in and warn them.

Thank you, BTW. This has had me on cloud nine this whole time.
This is a project that can really empower the giver and the recipient. Just as giving is an important element of Ramadan, so too is giving in which the giver and recipient are unknown to one another and giving that helps sustain the recipient (the whole teach a person to fish concept) the highest forms of tzedakah, or charity, in Maimonides' formulation. Just some interfaith, Judeo-Muslim food for thought.

*A shofar is a ram's horn and comes in the small and long-windy-big varieties. Think the sound of a trumpet.

**I know this is a longer and more intense post than usual. Sometimes it just happens that way.


Iraqi Bundles of Love

>> Friday, August 14, 2009

Posts from Jacquie and Kathy showed up on my blog reader tonight; both pointed me toward Kristin's blog and latest project. Her husband is currently serving in Iraq and has created a short-term project, Iraqi Bundles of Love. The basic idea is to collect and distribute fabric, notions, and other raw sewing materials (along with yarn/needles if that's your thing). Much like other micro-efforts (micro-finance, micro-business, micro-lending, etc), this projects helps give Iraqi women and tailors the raw materials with which to make things for their families or to sell and earn money to support their families. As Kristin notes, this is about embracing diversity and sharing resources, not about proselytizing in any way. The distribution of goods will take place in September and will coincide with Ramadan.

For more info, check out the FAQs and then gather anything you have to send. I've experienced the generosity of several of the readers of this blog (thanks to all who sent me scraps for the quilts I'm making; proper thank you notes will make it into the mail soon) and I'm sure many of you can find something to send along.


"You can borrow it"

>> Thursday, August 13, 2009

The above picture reveals several things: I was at a wedding this weekend (not that the date or my presence is anywhere in the picture), my friend Annie got married, and my camera sucks. The sepia tone of the photo conveys the latter piece of information, as my camera's ability to render color seems to be in doubt, and the sepia filter was the only thing that turned the image into something other than a photo with color saturation from 1970 (which is fine if intentional but that was not my intention).

In any event, Annie and Daniel, the now-wedded couple, are extremely generous people who also pay close attention to the world around them. Many aspects of their wedding reflected their awareness of the world in which we live, including vegetarian food (for which I am eternally grateful as veg good at non-vegetarian weddings, especially kosher meat ones, is often lackluster at best), local flowers purchased at a farmer's market and arranged by their friends in recycled glass bottles collected by them and their families, and kippot made by Mayaworks (a non-profit supporting the work of Guatemalan artisans).

I loved the trail of color created by the kippot leading up to their chuppah, which Annie made. I went with her on one of her fabric-finding expeditions. And one of the wonderful things about her is that she lives in the moment, finds fabric she likes, and then makes it all work the way she wants it to work. She appliqued the fabric to canvas to create the image of mountains on their chuppah which is similar to that on their invitation, which she watercolored. Unfortunately I didn't get a close-up, but it has green mountains, blue skies, a bright yellow sun, and a multi-colored and multi-patterned border.

Their ketubah also reflects their mutual love of the outdoors. And the neat leaves, which are all different from one another (though that may be hard to see in the above picture) provide the inspiration for the gift I'm making them. That gift exists only in my head right now, but they (and you) will see it one day, hopefully sooner rather than later.

It may not be clear from the pictures I've shown, but Annie loves green. And thus green will comprise a large color element of said gift.

As those who know me in real life know, I am not a frilly clothes person. I like simple. Hence I really liked Annie's dress which is, lace-covering-the-shoulders-for-the-ceremony-notwithstanding, one of the simpler and less-"wedding-y" dresses I have seen. Also, I like sandals and Annie wore flat sandals with the dress. When I complimented Annie on her dress, which a local seamstress made for her, she said (as she's said so many times about other things), "you can borrow it." That pretty much sums things up, already offering to loan her wedding dress to someone else at her wedding. Pretty awesome.

* * *

And about that camera, I may be in the market for a new camera soon. Any tips/favorites/recommendations? I'll be looking for a decent point & shoot that I can use for fun and in the archives (the turn off the automatic flash button is therefore a necessity).


A Neapolitan Quilt

>> Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I must confess, I don't like strawberry ice cream. Never did. Which meant I never liked Neapolitan ice cream. Vanilla is lovely, chocolate is fine, and strawberry can go away (sorbet is a different story, it's the mix of dairy and fruit that doesn't work for me).

That notwithstanding, I really love this quilt. I received several of the pinks in it through a swap earlier in the year and, as I don't use pink all that much, took a while to figure out what I wanted to do with them. I finally decided that pink and brown were the way to go; toss in some cream, a dash of yellow, and a spot of blue, and it all turned into this delicious stripy quilt.

I went improv-ish on this one, in that I cut strips of varying length, sewed them together, and then trimmed each of the 4 bigger sets into strips of the same length. I added a little cream sashing between the stripe sets, and, voila, the quilt was complete. I quilted straight lines down the cream sections and alternating zig-zags down the strip sets. I like it. And it's now washed, crinkly, and really soft.

Except for the back, of course. Where I opted for a cream with dark brown flowers and added a composite of strips leftover from the front. I then bound the quilt with a brown fabric with cream flowers.

And now it's off to my friends' Lauren and Aaron's new girl, currently referred to as Pickle, to be named for real on Friday.


Free Bike Fridays

>> Thursday, August 6, 2009

I highly recommend free bike Fridays at Governor's Island. Formerly an army and coast guard base, Governor's Island has become a lovely space for ordinary people to mill around, picnic, bike, read, hang out, or do whatever (legal) things one wants on an island a brief free ferry ride away from another island.

It was an admittedly gray day the afternoon I ventured over (take the 1 to South Ferry or the N/R to Whitehall and the ferry dock is east of the Staten Island ferry). Nevertheless, plenty of people were meandering around the island, biking, reading in hammocks, or viewing the sites.

Like the Statue of Liberty, easily visible from Governor's Island.

Or Lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge, also easy backdrops for one's photos.

I hate to complain about free bikes, but I wish the company operating the bike rentals required everyone to wear helmets, not just those under 14. The island's bike loop is pretty flat but there are enough other cyclists and pedestrians, not to mention the regular risk of rocks, uneven terrain, brake failure, not paying attention, etc, to warrant requiring all to wear helmets. But I'll step down from my bike safety soap box and just recommend getting over to Governor's Island the next time you can.


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