CreativeSpace

Writing, bear wrangling, baking and the madness that accompanies it.

homemade mayo is genius

the foundation of mayonnaise

I’ve talked about homemade mayonnaise before, specifically in egg salad. But Boy Howdy, do I need to talk about it again. I discovered a new recipe from my Dear Mama and just had to share it. Really, if you haven’t tried making your own mayonnaise, you haven’t lived. Well, lived properly, that is.

The beauty of the emulsification process in this delicious little chemistry experiment happens right in your own blender or food processor. It’s beautiful! And tasty! And amazing! And incredibly simple! (and now I shall cease the exclamations, because that’s just downright irritating)

I don’t particularly care for mayo under normal circumstances, but homemade…oh rapture!

ANYWAY…the recipe:

Blender-Made Mayonnaise

2 eggs
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp paprika
¼ tsp celery salt
dash black pepper
dash cayenne pepper
¼ cup lemon juice
2 cups vegetable oil (depending on my mood, I vary the kind of oil I use)

Add all dry ingredients plus lemon juice and ¼ cup oil. Blend for five seconds. Add remaining oil in a fine, steady stream while blender is running. Mixture will thicken, and you’ll have mayonnaise in around 60 seconds.

the finished mayo

in bear news

Kitty dress shoulder

In recent bear events, there was the declaration that only dresses would be tolerated. Being a devoted mother, I set about sewing just that. Little did I realize that there were dress specifications. I mean, I'm talking about a 2-year-old. Surely, there can't be that many specifics. Foolish. Last. Words.

I purchased the most darling Oliver + S pattern; Tea Party Sundress, Bloomers, and Playsuit. You can see the dress patterns here and don't blame me if you spend the rest of your day clicking through their website. I have to give them high marks, not just for the excellent design and packaging of the pattern but for the high quality pattern paper and specific instructions. My proverbial hat is off to you, Oliver + S.

Here is the top of Little Bear's sundress (because you won't get a decent look at it in any other picture).

Kitty dress top

 

I made that bias tape my very own self, and I made it incorrectly. But still…I made it! It matches the lining and the bloomers, which have yet to be sewn together.

 

Kitty dress button

 

The buttons are my favorite part aside from the bias tape. (that I made!)

 

Kitty dress side

 

My first mistake was showing her the dress while I was still sewing it. She cried when she couldn't wear it that very moment. My second mistake was trying to get her to wear it when I was finished. You see, she didn't want to wear it when I wanted her to wear it. As with all Little Bear things, it had to be her idea first.

I whisked the freshly pressed dress into her room and asked, (excitement shining in my eyes) "do you want to try on your new dress?"

"No." Little Bear wrinkled her nose like it smelled bad.

"Mommy sewed it just for you. Look, it has blue kitties on it."

"NO!" Little Bear shouted. "Dress!" she said and pointed at her green Easter dress. The one with the FULL skirt that twirls. (You know who else required dresses with full skirts that twirled when they were little? Little Bear's Nonna. But that's a whole 'nother post.)

Her new dress with the blue kitties hung in her closet a full week without being worn, and every day I asked if she wanted to wear it. Every day she said no, and each day I cried a little bit into my coffee. OK, so I only cried the first day. Then I decided to get sneaky.

The thing about bears is that in a head-to-head confrontation, you'll never win. Bears are strong and willful with claws. I realized that I had to present the dress as if I could care less about the outcome. So I hung it on the handle to her closet with a nonchalant glance, like, "oh I'll just put this here temporarily while I'm busy doing something else."

Five minutes later Little Bear brought me the dress. "Dress," she said.

"Do you want to wear it?"

"No," she said.

"Fine. Well, I'll just hang it here until later." I turned my back and left it there, but Little Bear couldn't resist and carried the dress downstairs to The Husband.

Ten minutes later she was back upstairs handing me the dress. I put it on her and she wore it the entire day. The entire day!

So Creative Peeps, I am one happy girl today. Not only did I complete a sewing project but I outmaneuvered a bear. (I'll have to savor this moment, because they're few and faaaaaaar between.)

Kitty dress bear full

stitching for skulls

Doesn't seem my usual style, does it? Hey, we've all got a dark side.

 

Skull flower whl

I was one of a hundred artists invited to participate in an exhibition as part of Skull Appreciation Day in Richmond, VA on Saturday, June 4. We were given an unpainted paper mache skull as a base, and our imaginations did the rest.

Noah Scalin is the creator of the Skull a Day blog (and book) and the author of 365: Make Something Every Day Challenge workbook. The man is seriously busy being creative.

As you all know, I have tons of quilt pieces from my Grammy and two Great-Grandmothers but I'm not a quilter. Yet. I say that but by the time I actually get around to it, I may be old and living in a condo with a herd of cats. I figured the fabric pieces might be perfect for the skull project, and after giving it a lot of thought, I decided to sew flowers.

 

Skull flower 01

 

Images of Georgia O'Keeffe's work got stuck in my brain. I loved her juxtaposition of bones and flowers, and with that in mind as inspiration, I began sewing.

 

Skull flower 02

I broke just about every sewing rule while doing it too. I left threads hanging and showed every stitch and knot. The messy chaos of it reminded me of pulling clover from the flower bed. The roots go everywhere. The plant may look small at the surface, but there's a forest of roots beneath it.

 

Skull flower 03

 

Thoughts of my grandmothers stayed with me as well. Quilt pieces are like small snips of time, remnants of a shirt or dress or coat from long ago. There are memories attached to each, and it felt like I was working with their past lives as I stitched the fabric together. I wished the grandmothers were with me to tell me their stories and to laugh about where their quilt pieces ended up. (After the initial surprise wore off.)

 

Skull flower 04

ME NO LIKE!

Nonna dress face

Little Bear is a two-year-old of definite opinions. See that expression? She has decided that she doesn't like having her picture taken. Nor does she like to wear pants.

EVER.

One fine spring morning not so long ago, I pulled out a pair of pink pants from the Pants Party Days that are now about an inch to short (although I ignore that and pretend that they're toddler capris) and proceeded to go about getting Little Bear into them. She promptly burst into mad tears and wailed, "ME NO LIKE!" As if I were trying to squeeze her into a mohair bodysuit, not a pair of soft, cotton pants that she's worn a bazillion times before.

"What would you like to wear?" I asked.

"Pretty dress," she sobbed and covered her face with her hands.

I trudged back to the closet, rolling my eyes where she couldn't see them and pulled out a dress. "This one?" I asked.

"No. Red one," she said between the cracks in her fingers.

My loud sigh coincided with her dramatic sniffle, but I produced the desired togs and we went on with our day. I thought the incident was a fluke, but I fear it's now a full-blown stage. And I've been so busy with writing and preparing my submission for Skull Appreciation Day (more about that in the next day or so) that sewing for Little Bear has fallen by the wayside. For the time being we rotate the same dresses (sometimes twice depending on how bad the blueberry stains show up) every week. This morning I saw a spot of dried porridge on the dress of the day but just turned it to the back. She'll never know the jumper's on backwards.

Check out one of Little Bear's favorite dresses:

Nonna dress full

 

My mom made this for me back in the day, and it fits Little Bear perfectly. She wore it to church on Sunday even though she dripped maple syrup on the skirt. (By the way, an extra thanks to the man behind us who permitted Little Bear to take his hymnal for her horses to read.)

I think the embroidered flowers are my favorite part:

 

Nonna dress close

 

And lest you think Little Bear changed her mind about the photo shoot…

P.S. She practices that face in the bathroom mirror. (I wish I were kidding.)

 

Nonna dress full grumpy

the mash-up post

Today's post was intended for this:

 

Curtain ties

I pieced together quilt squares from my Grammy Stash to make curtain ties. Now the summation of my knowledge of quilting would fill a cat's thimble (ie. a really teeny tiny bit). In fact, I can summarize all my quilting know-how in the following statement: it's like making a fabric sandwich. Ta-da! as Little Bear would say. Since I don't know anything, I began with piecing some squares.

There aren't any pictures (yet) of my collection of quilt squares, but permit me a one word description; Voluminous. I have several shoe boxes of cut fabric from both great-grandmothers and my Grammy. There are 2×2 squares, 4×4, and 6×6, hexagons and circles. And there's A LOT of ugly fabric in those boxes. Enough that I worry about what these ladies were wearing back in the day. Maybe the fabric was given to them by well-meaning friends…that's what I tell myself. 

Little Bear loves the ties as well. So much so that she just pulled the entire curtain rod to the floor. "Uh-oh," she says. "Mom, break!"

Even though my post was reserved for quilting, I got distracted at breakfast by A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin, a writer so skilled that he requires two middle names. I'm not typically a fan of the high fantasy genre in general, but this book hooked me from the first three pages. (I was giving it a twenty page head start before I decided if I liked it or not.) It's not so fantastical that the magic (there's only a little bit so far) or foreign words pull me out of the story, and the characters are full and vibrant.

I've been reading at lunch sometimes and right before I go to bed which causes me to wake up in the middle of the night to roil about the many intrigues of the book. I'm so close to the end that I gave myself fifteen minutes of reading time after breakfast. (If I don't set a timer I'll spend the entire day reading and the house and bear will run amok.) In that short time one of my favorite characters died. I was in shock, followed by a short bout of crying over my coffee cup. Thankfully The Husband had already left for work, so he couldn't tease me about it.

I warned him that the series (it's a trilogy) had a huge following, but he went into work and made the comment about his wife "being into that nerd stuff." Three of his co-workers spoke up and told him that they were big fans and had read all the books. Ha! The Husband was pretty embarrassed and stammered out a confession of liking Lord of the Rings. Point to the nerds.

The difference between The Husband and I is that I wear my nerd badge with pride. I openly profess my love of space and knights and comics while he considers himself "the cool one."  But we both know the truth.

Last but not least, I sneaked a peek at the royal wedding shenanigans going on and watched Princess Kate and Prince William share a chaste kiss on the balcony. Much to my surprise I got a gushy feeling at the modern fairytale. (I choose to ignore the over-exposure, souvenirs, etc.) I guess we're never too old to love a prince and princess, although I prefer my princesses with swords. Gah, it appalls me that I possess such a sentiment and goes against my general fight the power attitude in life. Oh well, we all have our dark sides.

my first shirt and the subsequent sewing lessons learned

After two and a half months, my first summer top is finally finished.

 

First shirt full

I bought the dotted swiss ages ago when The Husband first broached the subject of moving further south. I figured the light fabric would make a great summer top, and since I had never sewn a shirt, I thought this was a great place to start. That was back in late February.

Now, I did pack up an entire household and move a state away in between cutting and sewing, so I'm accepting this excuse for the hilarity that ensued. This also prompted the first lesson learned on this project: don't cut out a pattern then pack it in a box then discover it (again) and try to piece it together from memory.

By the time I began sewing it together, I had four rectangular pieces that vaguely resembled one another. My beginner mistake was that I didn't make some indication on the material as to what pattern piece it belonged to. Which led to me sewing the cuff of one sleeve with the piece that was supposed to make the front placket where the buttons go. I had a feeling that something was awry when the cuff was waaaaaay longer than the gathered end of the sleeve. That didn't stop me, though. All I could think about was finishing the darn thing.

Second lesson learned: when basting or making gathers, use a contrasting color of thread. Although my mother had told me this before, it wasn't until I was ripping out a permanent seam (when I was supposed to be taking out the temporary threads that pulled together the gathers) that it made sense to me.

And finally, the placement of buttons and buttonholes should be done precisely so that they line up correctly and so that plackets line up as well. Mine are off just a hair, but I'm leaving them as is and claiming that it's artistic license. I'll just make sure that I'm constantly moving when I wear the shirt so that no one will have an opportunity to stare at it and find the mistakes. Although, when my mum comes to visit in a couple weeks I'm going to have her rip out the too big-cuff so that I can re-sew it. When I put the shirt on the dressform, I couldn't help but notice the gargantuan sleeve hanging lower than the other. (sigh) And now that I've noticed it, I won't be able to stop noticing. You can see it too in the picture.

The best part of this project was choosing the buttons. With a sewing room devoted entirely to my craftiness, I had room to unpack my button stash inherited from my Grammy. She was not only a saver but extremely organized. I'm hoping to never have to buy another button again.

First shirt buttons full

 

First shirt buttons blue

 

First shirt buttons red

 

wing and a prayer curtains

Curtains open

We knew to expect severe weather Saturday afternoon but that didn't stop me from unpacking a box full of linens and setting up the linen closet. I carefully arranged piles of doilies and linen runners, inherited from my Grammy, as large chunks of hail pelted the house and wind bent the trees. Rain lashed at the windowpane, but I kept at my task, absorbed in the memories of hand-stitched tea towels and appliqued napkins. It wasn't until The Husband appeared with Little Bear in his arms (she had been napping) that I realized the storm had coalesced into a tornado warning.

My first thought: "But I was about to sew curtains!" My second: "We have no basement!"

Luckily we were spared. The closest tornado touched down two miles from us, and if you saw the news then you already know that many North Carolineans weren't as fortunate. It was a humbling experience to be caught in the melee of Mother Nature's ferocity, and my thoughts and prayers went out to those who suffered for it.

After the skies cleared, I returned to sorting and found an old linen tablecloth that I had never used. I operated under the general rule of thumb that if I hadn't used/admired/thought about a household item in over a year, then I thrifted it. It was a difficult rule to adhere to when faced with inherited items from my beloved grandparents, but there was only so much stuff one house could hold. The tablecloth was in decent condition with two minor discolorations, and I knew that if I returned it to the linen closet it wouldn't see the light of day for a long time. Probably never.

If you read Sew Weekly last month then you saw that a tablecloth was never just a tablecloth. Veronica Darling managed to turn a second-hand tablecloth into a fab dress and gave me an entirely new way of looking at second-hand linens. Mena came up with this using vintage napkins which also made my brain churn with inspiration. After Saturday's tally, I had enough napkins in my repertoire to invite the entire neighborhood to tea. (Not that I would do this. I haven't unpacked the tea service yet.) I reserved the napkins for a future project and addressed the tablecloth first.

Curtains dog

My approach was loosey-goosey and emphatically unscientific. I measured nothing which accounted for one panel ending up a half-inch shorter than the other. After ironing the tablecloth smooth, I lined up the edges and ironed it in half. Then I took my pinking scissors and cut along the fold line and sewed a rolled hem with the raw edge. I folded down the top of each panel 2 inches (again this was not actually measured) and sewed it in place. The tablecloth needed no further sewing, because the other edges were already hemmed. Voila!

I'm very pleased with the results. I can ignore the mismatched length for now and am concentrating instead on sewing tie-backs. The linen weave is loose enough to let in light and for the Hound to move out of his way. (He needs to keep an eye on the small, fluffy white dog across the street. I worry that he thinks it's a bunny.) 

I have more curtain plans for the guest bedroom, but they won't involve such a slap-dash assembly. It will involve several vintage remnants of 1950's polished cotton. Woo-hoo!

Curtains closed

sewing silliness

"What on earth is on that dog's paw?" you wonder.

Yo yos paw

Welcome to my Monday morning's bit of silliness, thanks to my long-suffering hound who will tolerate just about anything. He may not be the smartest canine in town, but I've determined that he's the sweetest. Especially since he permitted me to place a yo-yo on his ticklish paw and let it stay there forever. Until he rolled over, that is.

I'm cuckoo for yo-yos at the moment. Not the round things on a string that go up and down, but these adorable cloth whatnot that you can stitch up in a quick even if you don't sew. Any scrap of cloth will do, and although a circle is the easiest shape to use, I like squares as well. Whatever I've got in my stash will do.

Yo yos make

Simply knot one end of your thread and run a simple stitch around the circumference of the cloth about a quarter of an inch inside the perimeter. When you return to your starting place, don't tie off the thread. (If you're using a shape other than a circle, now is the time to trim any excess.) Pull the thread gently, causing the fabric to fold and crease until the edges meet at the middle. Like a Chinese dumpling but with cloth. Knot the thread and voila!

Oh I know what you're thinking. You're wondering what one does when the yo-yo is finished. Honestly, I have no freaking idea. I think they're cheerful and cute, and I believe I'm going to experiment with making them into a more elaborate embellishment. I might even use them in an upcoming art project. You'll have to stay tuned.

In the meantime, how would you use them?

Yo yos group

new creative space

New spaces writing desk full

The best thing about our new house is that there's an extra bedroom. When The Husband and I walked through it for the first time together, I practically plowed over the man in my exuberance to see the extra room. "It's perfect!" I squealed. "I'm finally going to have my own sewing/writing room!"

"So I guess we'll share this," replied The Husband, narrowly avoiding my outstretched arms. His comment stopped my twirling cold. "We're not sharing this," I said. "Where do you expect me to have an office then?" he asked.

Uh-oh, his hands were gravitating to his hips. From the expression on his face and the way his forehead turned scrunchy, we were about to enter "the heated debate zone." I had to think fast. I couldn't give up my dream, especially since my fabric and pattern stashes had grown exponentially over the past few months, and frankly, it was starting to look like I might have a serious addiction brewing. "You have an office just ten minutes away, so you won't need an elaborate home office. You can set up your laptop in the dining room. Of course! It's such a logical solution. There are lots of outlets and a great window that looks out front and catches the morning sunshine. I'm sure you'll love it." As I chattered on about the virtues of the office-dining room combo, I gently led him from my new room back towards the stairs. Away from temptation and the future home of my absolutely necessary gazillion patterns.

During the following month I kept my eyes on the prize, despite his superb negotiating tactics and final days of desperate wheedling. Oh no. That room was MINE. And wonder of wonders, my steadfast, smile and pretend to listen perseverance worked. Oh sweet victory!

The first thing I did in my new space was to polish up my writing desk. It's one of my favorite pieces of furniture, built by my Uncle Jeff. In our old house, it was squished beside a radiator and a bookshelf with the guest bed hemming in the front. Here it's out in the open and shining beautifully. (So maybe I'll emerge from the pit of despair after all. See previous post.) My computer feels right at home on the fold-out table. I like to think of it as a mini-drawbridge to writing land. That's a corny thought, I know, but I've been so inspired by the new set-up that I'm going to check out a local writing group this weekend. *gasp!* Scramble for your fainting couches, my dears. Which means that I'm dragging out my novel re-write that has been stalled for months and months. (I'm afraid that if I don't finish it once and for all I'll be doomed to wander the earth like Marley's ghost, but instead of chests of money chained around my body it will be chapters of this dang novel.)

So the creative juices are flowing even if we're still living as savages amongst towers of boxes. The favored saute pan has been located, but I'm still on the hunt for the ricer. Really, how is one supposed to live without the basics?

Writing desk

don’t judge a pattern by its cover

This week's theme over at The Sew Weekly is all about attempting a pattern despite the heinous cover art on its package. Even if you don't sew, you've probably seen those pencil-sketch ladies sporting ridiculous fashions (especially if we're talking about the fashions of the 80's) in odd contortions on the envelopes in your granny's sewing room.

Just to prove my point…

Pattern awfulness 001

Even the endorsement from Brooke Shields cannot hide the awfulness of this pattern cover. Bandeau tops with shoulder pads the size of small icebergs, paired with a giant bow on top of the head and two watches on the wrist. Two watches. I, for one, am heartily glad that this fashion era is far behind us. (I choose to ignore the reemergence of leggings that still lingers, clouding the common sense of many.)

Due to our imminent move, I haven't been participating in the weekly sewing challenges recently. Packing + Sewing + Bear Wrangling = Meningitis. Bad pattern covers ("when life gives you muumuus") were too good to pass up, so I posted a beauty leftover from my Grammy's stash. Even though I prefer to forget the fashion missteps of my youth (stirrup pants, anyone?), trust in Grammy to remind me of them. She dutifully wrote our names at the top of the pattern so that we would never, ever forget. At least I avoided the one-piece, velour, jumper-shorts combo. That was all Aunt Fyrne in Florida.

Pattern awfulness more 002

(someone please explain to me why the model's heads are so tiny)

Many sewing comments mentioned 70's fashion as the epitome of bad taste, but I have an unnatural fondness for the era. In fact, I found a couple pattern gems in men's 70's shirts straight from episodes of The Brady Bunch. Mustaches and giant dark sunglasses abounded. (I would have posted the picture but I can't find the patterns. They got swept up in the general packing and probably won't be unearthed for months and months.) I laughed so hard over the pattern envelope that I had to call up my friend, Kitty, to exclaim over the find. He replied that during his wayward youth he had specifically asked his mother to sew him a leisure suit. In lemon yellow. (His brother's matching leisure suit was powder blue.) Now if only I could get my hands on that little piece of history.