Monday, January 31, 2011

Toasty Irish Oats (crock pot and stovetop)

Just before I got into bed last night, I put a batch of Irish Oats into the crock pot so that we could have an effortless warm breakfast this morning.

I had never liked oatmeal until I tried Irish (or steel-cut) oats.  Instead of the soft -- some may say slimy -- texture of Old Fashioned Oats, this sort cooks up creamy yet slightly chewy at the center of each grain.  I like it simply with some maple syrup or molasses, but the children are partial to a squirt of whipped cream on top for a special, happy little breakfast treat.

Toasty Irish Oats
Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics
Serves 4

1 cup Irish (or steel-cut) oats
1 tablespoon butter
4 cups liquid (I use 1 cup milk, 3 cups water, but soy or almond milk or even just water works equally well)

To make:

Melt butter in a small skillet and add the oats.  Saute, stirring occasionally, until the oats are lightly toasted and pale golden.

If you are preparing this stovetop, bring 4 cups of liquid up to a simmer in a medium sized pot (I use a 3-quart saucepan), and scrape buttery toasted oats into the hot liquid.

Cook for approx 45 minutes, with lid askew, (stirring occasionally) or until oats have absorbed most of the milk/water, and the mixture is thick and creamy.

If you are making this the night before like I do, scrape your buttery toasted oats into the pot, add cold milk and water mixture (PLUS 1/2 cup extra liquid so that it can accommodate the extra slow cooking time), set the pot to low, cover, and go to bed.  In the morning, you will have a lovely pot of breakfast waiting for you.

Sweeten to taste (molasses, maple syrup, brown sugar) and add spices if you wish (cinnamon and cardamom are my favorites).  For an extra special touch, drizzle with a little heavy cream, or give it a squirt of whipped cream on top.


Note (1): as soon as you have emptied the crockpot/saucepan of oatmeal, fill the pot with water and set aside for the rest of the day.  By the end of the day, any cooked-on oatmeal should be softened enough to easily clean.

Note (2): This rewarms well for up to 3 days, so I like to make extra to have enough for leftovers.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Link-tastic Friday

So, I had forgotten how addictive it is to knit with handspun.  I present to you: The Beachwater Bolero.


As you can see, there is a serious bias -- I used singles, and didn't block the finished piece.  I could have washed and baked it again, but I currently have a Buttermilk Chess Pie in the oven, and...well, a girl's gotta have her priorities and all that.


I finished this last night -- it's kind of the easiest topper ever.  Shorter than knitting a scarf, yet it's an Actual Garment.  Love it!  Next, I intend to knit one in cream.  And then maybe in yellow... (I can't help it, when I get on a particular project jag there's just no way out).



I've picked back up the Sunshine Cardi; I've completed the body, and I'm working on the first arm.  Let's see if I can finish it before Texas is all done with this cold weather!

Moving on to today's links!

Newly in love with this Etsy shop:
The headpieces at Giant Dwarf are exactly the sort of retro-inspired vintage look that I adore.  If I could, I would purchase one of each of their Starlette crown, Rosette Fascinator, and Mini Heartlette Crown.  Too sweet for words!
Black Garland Design has precious little cocktail hats that are totally inspiring me right now.  I especially like the tiny pillbox hats.

Looking Fabulous:
If you are often finding yourself in search of the perfect shoe, bag, or other designer item at bargain prices, Beyond The Rack is the place for you!

I simply must stitch up a version of this Thinking Of You -- a brand new PDF embroidery pattern by Jenny Hart of Sublime Stitching.
Loving these chalkboard speech bubbles by Jordan Ferney
This personalized photo-card is we're doing for class Valentines this year.
Sometimes I feel like Goldilocks when it comes to finding a great hat...most are too this, or not enough that... the Hannah Newsboy Hat, however, looks just right.
I've been wanting to make silhouettes of my children for some time now, and this tutorial by The Anderson Family looks like a pretty simple way to get a great result.
As soon as I saw these little heart barrettes, I was immediately in love. Tutorial via The Purl Bee.
I've printed out the tutorial to make this Dragon Dress.  If I can manage to work out the sizing and fit it to me, this might just be my new Favorite Dress.

Food (savory):

Brown butter, pistachios, and dried figs make this pasta dish sound unusually delicious!  Beggar's Linguine by Dorie Greenspan
Slow cooker Vietnamese Pho from Steamy Kitchen -- yes please!
This is totally going on the menu for the upcoming week -- Roast Chicken with Dijon Sauce by Smitten Kitchen.

Food (sweet):

Mini Pumpkin Pies -- so cute, and a sweet party alternative to cupcakes.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cheerful Bathroom Decor

Since we moved to Texas, decorating our house has been something that I've been doing slowly and thoughtfully, adding things here and there as I am able to handmake or sometimes buy; my ideas for How I Want The House To Look growing and expanding as I gradually personalize this space that we call home.

This past summer, I decided that the children's bathroom needed a makeover.  Greg had chosen the color scheme, shower curtain and sink accessories (toothbrush holder, tissue-box cover, soap dispenser) about 5 years ago when we moved to Georgia.  Back then it had been kind of elegant and sexy; here in this house, it kind of looked out of place, and the shades of gold, taupe, brown and burgundy looked almost...dare I say it...drab.  I wanted something more fun -- something that was a little more light-hearted and child-friendly.  At Ikea, I found the perfect, bright canvas fabric, printed with a cheerful mod-style country landscape...and then the yardage just sat in my stash for about 6 months.  This past weekend, I finally pulled it out, and sewed up the shower curtain that has been in my mind ever since I first laid eyes on it:


I was able to find towels in pink and green to coordinate, and now I just need to find acceptable sink things, and the bathroom will be complete.


I chose to do buttonholes instead of grommets -- I think that the fabric is tough enough to last without the metal, and I like the simpler look.

For now, we're all just enjoying the big, bright cheerfulness that has invaded the tiny bathroom.


I will probably change out these curtain hooks for something a bit less serious, but for now, I'm just using what we had before.


And after all of that procrastination, it only took one afternoon!  (I have a bit of extra fabric that will probably become a wall hanging and some couch pillows to brighten up the playroom/guest bedroom.  Such a fun print!)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

At last, the rest of our Handmade Christmas

Finally, I can show you the rest of the things I made for my children for Christmas.  I had intended to take pictures immediately following the gift-opening, but...well, we were enjoying Christmas.  Then there was the incident of a small wool-felt monkey falling down the toilet while it was being flushed (I know, what are the chances?  Apparently rather high, if you have little boys who pee standing up.)  After that, there never seemed to be a moment when all four little felt creatures were in one place at one time...and I had some Big Plans for taking pictures of the embroidered pillow along with Sparky in his matching never mind about all of My Plans -- here they all are!

First up: the little felt animals.


Made out of 100% wool felt (for softness and durability) and DMC embroidery floss

I actually cut out all of the felt pattern pieces for these two Christmases ago, but just...well, embroidery felt like a bridge too far at that time, and I couldn't find the motivation.  I left them carefully gathered in a little plastic bag, just waiting for the right moment.  Once I finally got started, they were so simple and surprisingly quick -- each one of these only took an evening, and they were so fun to put together!  These patterns are from The Cute Book by Aronzi Aronzo

The Cute Book

I was actually spurred into action by my children -- I had left this book out, and they started reading it like it was a comic book and imagining stories for all of the little characters...truly, how could I resist?


The Purple Dress Kitty is Daisy's and the dog is Billy's, but he was far too busy kicking around a soccer ball to pose with it yesterday afternoon.


Sparky and Max with their little monkeys.  The adventures that these monkeys have seen from the vantage point of a back pocket...or a backpack... or a sweaty fist; I love seeing them enjoy these little bits of handwork.

The pillow that I worked on for Sparky for months.


Free Hug-Bot embroidery pattern by Jenny Hart of Sublime Stitching

The stitching didn't take all that long, but I just kept putting it down for more pressing projects.  Finally, as Christmas was drawing close, I just buckled down and finished it, sewed it into a pillowcase with a flannel backing to match the pajama pants that I had made for Sparky's school "Pajama Day", made a pillow form to fit, and it was done.

He also wanted me to sew up some pajamas to match for his Pom-Pom Pet (purchased at a school "Business Fair" that the 5th graders put on -- so cute), so I put together a quick "body sock" of sorts for "Felix".


"Felix" the Pom-Pom Pet posing with the matching back of the Hug-Bot pillow

Max also wanted pajamas for his favorite Beanie Baby horse, so I made a one-piece outfit for him.


This, of course, matches Max's pajama pants... (the "necklace" is a pipe-cleaner with a jingle-bell attached to it.  I'm pretty sure that Max made it at school.)


I really didn't know what I was doing (who makes pajamas for horses?!), so I just tried to remember what I would have done when I used to make clothing for all of my dolls and animals when I was 10 years old... I ended up laying the horse out on a double-thickness of the flannel, traced around him (giving myself about 1/2" seam allowance) and cut out the pieces.  Then I stitched around the outside edges, hand-hemmed the arm and leg holes, cut down the center-front, and stitched some soft Velcro as a closure.


Overall, it turned out much cuter than I'd expected, and Max was incredibly pleased with the result.

So!  There you go!  We are now all caught up with Handmade Christmas.  The horse and Pom-Pom Pet's pajamas were actually made this past weekend (I had to put off a few projects for sanity's sake before Christmas), but they were intended to be part of the gifts, so I included them here for posterity.

Tomorrow, I'll show you a very simple and fun restyle that I did for the children's bathroom on Saturday, but for now, I'm off to knit....because I've just cast on for another Ribbed Lace Bolero.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Baked Sweater

Yesterday, I cast off on the Ribbed Lace Bolero.


I knew that I should block it, but wool takes sooooo long to dry... and I really wanted to wear it right away.


So I washed it, nudged it into place on a large flat cookie sheet...


Set the oven to 170...


I love Billy running through this shot...

And I baked it for 2 hours.


All done!  Project details here.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Link-tastic Friday

This week has been so windy and bitter cold, that all I've wanted to do is huddle in a slouchy knit hat and sweatpants and wait out the frost with my knitting (OK FINE IT'S ONLY BEEN IN THE UPPER 30'S, but my blood has turned Texan, and there's no help for it).  All of this to say, I'm about 75% done with the sweater-to-bolero project already.


Also, this past Saturday we spent about half the day in the car, so I managed to knit this entire hat for a cold-headed friend.


Since she wanted exactly the same hat as the ones I knit for my aunt, and the pattern was fresh in my mind, I was able to stitch it up at a rather brisk pace.

It's link time!

Newly in love with this blog:
  • Elegant Musings -- Casey's fearless approach to charming vintage style, her sewing prowess, and her helpful notes on projects make this my new Blog To Watch.  

Looking Fabulous:
  • I use TIGI Bed Head Dumb Blonde Shampoo and Conditioner Duo to keep my hair shiny and healthy looking no matter what damage I do to it with my ever changing dye-jobs.  (After the three processes it took to make my hair blond two months ago, I thought that my hair might snap right off.  Once I'd used the conditioner as a 15-minute-mask for a day or two, I was right as rain.)

  • This 1940's "Swing" dress pattern by Sense & Sensibility Patterns MUST BE MINE.  I'm seeing it possibly in a beautiful cotton/silk...
  • Thankfully, there is a Swing Dress Sew-Along over at Elegant Musings for people like me who can do simple things, but when it comes to a full garment, would greatly benefit from a little help along the way.
  • I would very much like to make a Pillbox Hat like this one at Tuppence Ha'penny.  Mostly because I suddenly HAVE TO HAVE ONE, but I don't feel like buying one.
  • I'm not sure if a military inspired had would look right on me, but I kind of want to make one and find out (via: Crafter Hours).
  • I want to make a Pettiskirt, as detailed on the SewMamaSew forum here, and shown further on the blog Mushroom Villagers -- photo tutorial available for free download over at Sewing Mamas
  • If you're interested in learning the ins and outs of sewing and don't have a local friend to teach you or a local class to take, this online sewing course available through Whipstitch might just be your ticket into the world of the sewing machine. 
  • This would be a very cool idea to make using silhouettes of my children (via Circles And Dots And Other Distractions) 
  • These embellished socks would be oh-so-cute with shorts or skirts as the weather starts to warm up (via Alisa Burke).
  • This (free!) 12 Months Of Christmas by Talia over at Life's Visual Journal looks like a really fun idea.

Food (savory):
  • I've been on a serious soup kick lately, and this Baked Potato Soup by Smitten Kitchen looks exactly like what I would like to be eating for dinner tomorrow night.
  • There is a bunch of cured meat in my fridge right now that would probably work just as well as the bacon in this Pizza with Bacon, Onions and Cream recipe by Smitten Kitchen.
  • This French Onion Soup will definitely make an appearance on our family table sometime soon (via Christopher Cina).  
  • This recipe for Guacamole looks like perfect late night movie food.  Spicy, salty, and rather good for you (let's just not talk about the fried tortilla chips I'd be eating it with).  (Via Christopher Cina.)

Food (sweet):
  • I just so happen to have 4 happy little Meyer Lemons, waiting for their greater purpose in life beyond the crisper drawer... Meyer Lemon Bars via Kitchen Runway.
  • This Spice Bread sounds so warm and hearty, like the perfect afternoon snack.  Or maybe breakfast.  I have a few cans of pumpkin puree in the pantry that I just might substitute into this recipe (via 101cookbooks).
  • I love ginger, I love muffins, and -- if I ever get a chance to meet her -- would probably love Molly Wizenberg as well.  Looking forward to trying out these Ginger Muffins!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Shades of grey

This past weekend, after a few months of hiding it in the closet, I picked back up my Sunshine Cardi and finished the work on the body.  Half-way through the bind-off, however, I remembered that I've been wanting to knit a Ribbed Lace Bolero for some time now, and I decided to cast on for that instead.  So I did.  (The Sunshine Cardi will just have to wait.  These things happen.)  As you may (or may not) remember, I was working on the Estelle cardi a while back, and finally finished it...only to discover (after blocking, buttons, etc.) just was not flattering on me.  Something about the fit was off.  Very sad.


At the time, I couldn't bear the idea of ripping it out with the hours of work still fresh in my mind, but now, with a few month cushion, it doesn't feel like so much of a problem.  I picked out the end at the cast-off edge, and I am knitting my bolero straight off of the unraveling sweater.  A little bit disturbing, a lot-a-bit fun.

Yesterday, I made another circle skirt (this is #4).  This time, I did a double layer: two shades of lightweight sheer gray -- the darker is a tiny swiss dot, and the lighter is a dove gray with a slight sheen.  I've never liked gray, but I quite suddenly can't get enough of gray/bright color combinations.

For this project I did a mini-turned-hem on the overskirt, but the underskirt is simply serged, and I like the contrast of finished/unfinished.


Style notes: Headband was a free gift from Modcloth (thank you Modcloth!), Baby blue studded leather jacket by Wilson Leather (normally our family doesn't support "mall leather", but this was a clearance purchase that I made as a starving student back in 2000), Pink shirt from Old Navy, hot pink leggings from Target, ankle booties Steve Madden Hondd.

There's just something about the circle skirt that has me completely enamored.


Easy to wear, and most importantly....


Infinitely swishy.


I've just finished another one today, but I plan on making a stiff petti-skirt to wear under and give it the look of a poodle skirt, so I'm going to finish that up before I show it to you.  I just can't get skirts out of my mind; I know that it's still cold outside, but here in Texas, the fact that it's January means that summer is just around the corner -- and I'm going to have a whole new wardrobe of floaty skirts to greet the season with.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Link-tastic Friday

I've been out shopping all day WITHOUT THE CHILDREN, which means that I went to about eleventy-billion places and am subsequently exhausted and have a headache.  Although the headache might be more because I forgot to bring (or even buy) water.  Not the smartest of plans.  However, it was fun!  Greg had the day off, and spent it here with the children so that I could accomplish grocery shopping PLUS whatever else I needed/wanted to do.  And I needed/wanted to do A LOT.  Thusly, I am not going to give you little write-ups for the links today, I'm just gonna throw them at you.  Apologies in advance!

However, before we can get to the links, I must show you my knitting progress.  I finished the hat that I showed you on Wednesday, and then yesterday... I knit another one.  I even surprised myself.


I have not knit this focused or quickly in quite some time.  My Aunt Allie has wanted these hats for quite a while, so I finally just kicked myself into gear and KNIT THEM UP.  I will be sending these off tomorrow, and she will have a very warm-headed second half of winter.

And now for the links.

Looking Fabulous:
  • Most mascara clumps up on me, but Neutrogena mascara Healthy Volume works well, even when I do 3 or 4 coats for a more dramatic look.

Food (savory):

Food (sweet):

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Aprons for little ones

Several years ago, I purchased two handmade aprons for Sparky and Max.  Now that Daisy and Billy are regularly helping me in the kitchen I felt it was high time they had their own aprons as well.  Since I've been sewing again, it occurred to me that I could make them myself.  What an idea!

Apron on left is my own improvised pattern, apron on right is from pattern Simplicity 3701, little girl size medium (thank you for the apron pattern suggestion, Aunt Susie!).

Remarkably I actually managed to get these under the tree by Christmas morning, and the little ones have been making good use of them since.

Billy's apron took almost no time at all.  I simply laid out a very old, raggedy child's apron that we've had around (no one ever wanted to wear it because it just didn't hang right, and it was plain red with great big stains all over it).  I traced around the old apron onto this adorable Golden Books fabric that I happend to have in the stash.  Once I had edged it with a 1/2" denim bias tape (and added little bias-tape loops at the waist to thread the straps criss-cross), it was DONE!


Daisy's took a full day or so to complete.  The top of the bodice is lined, with the added trouble of inserting piping all around the edges and ruffles at the shoulders.


The pockets are fully lined, and have an oversized rick-rack trim peeking out for a scalloped edge (my own touch -- I adore rick-rack, and keep a little stash of vintage edging in my studio at all times).



I edged the bottom ruffle with a baby rick-rack in matching red.


Now I think that I need a matching one for myself.

Most importantly though, beyond all of the fashioning details, is how they fit:


And the fact that the children's clothing now doesn't get AS covered in flour when they "help".


Because there is a LOT of "helping" around here, my friends.



Completely unrelated, but there was frost on the ground when we woke up today, and all that I want to do is curl up with a hot chocolate and my knitting.  And maybe a little embroidery.


"Thinking" pattern from Little Dear Etsy shop by Aimee Ray; Chullo earflap hat pattern by Mary Ellen Langieri.

What is on your agenda for today?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Floral circle skirt

Continuing on the circle skirt theme...

I actually made two of these today.  There was one with purple polka dots that didn't make it.  That was a little bit sad.

Style notes: Shroom hat, Old Navy striped v-neck,  Navy Tweed Cardi, Frye cowboy boots.

I had to re-do the waistband twice on the purple skirt (not shown), and still somehow the hem edge doesn't hang properly.  Ah well.  I'm totally in love with this one though. 

And I think I need a hair-bow to go along with it.  Or maybe an embroidered felt embellishment on a clip.  Mostly, this skirt just makes me want to go all mismatched and sort of hobo.  I initially put this on with my muted teal February Lady Sweater, but it didn't match the blue of the print, and I thought that all of you would care.  In real life though, I'll probably just wear it with the teal sweater.  And fuchsia tights.  Because I'm suddenly all about rocking the miss-matched, and I don't care who knows it.

Once again, skirt tutorial is from Made.  Thank you Dana for posting such a helpful tutorial, and just when I started thinking about circle skirts.  Love it when that happens.


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