Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fabric Dream House No. 2

My second mixed-media fabric themed house is a little cottage called, Good to Bee Home.
It is themed after the big fat garden bees that I love to see tending to my flowers, herbs and veggies.

This little garden cottage is stitched together with a fabric roof appliqued with ribbon, old broken jewelry, buttons and sequin pieces. It has a gardening angel charm hanging on the side, looking after the bees and their busy work.

Instead of using four squares for the house this time, I used an old quilt square as the base. I had found a stack of old quilt squares at my flea market. Onto a quilt square I attached a cross-stitched garden on aida cloth, made just for this piece, featuring a couple of butterfly buttons, and my fat cross-stitched bees. I found this flower cross-stitch pattern in an old Ladies Home Journal magazine! I substituted some sparkling DMC floss for some of the colors in the pattern.

After sewing on the door, with a button doorknob and heart patch, I added a piece of knitting over the door, made from colorful ribbon yarn. The words Good to Bee Home are embroidered in sparkling DMC on the side, and more ribbon and jewels are attached as a bell pull to decorate our cottage.

It's so fun to combine cross-stitch (probably the thing I'm addicted to the most) with my love of fabric, knitting, ribbon collecting and applique. This piece is going to be framed and someday (a girl's gotta dream) it will be part of my gallery showing of 20 themed fabric houses! Woo hoo!

In the meantime, I'd like to thank the big fat beautiful bees in my real cottage garden for inspiring me and making my first zinnia bouquet of the year possible. 

I hope you enjoy eating well, writing often, dreaming big, and stitching happy!

Here's how I keep my DMC Floss organized:
Search Amazon.com for stitchbow travel bag

Keep stitching and have your aida cloth delivered:
Search Amazon.com for charles craft aida cloth

Monday, June 28, 2010

Angels Just Show Up Sometimes

I was struggling with the end of Act I of my play. I have written short plays, and have even had a collection performed and published. "Sticks" is my first genuine attempt at a full-length play. I love my characters because they are so unique, yet real, and make me laugh a lot. Some days, the play tends to write itself and seems like an important work for a woman playwright, and other days, I think the whole thing is a stupid idea and who am I to call myself a playwright. After writing both Acts, except for an ending I'm happy with, I've decided to go back and work on it one Act at a time, and hopefully this process will help me give it the ending it wants and needs. 

So here I was, laboring to end Act I. It takes place in a little basement knitting shop, there is a tornado, and my forty-something characters flash back to a scene from their teen years. The last scene is a dream. What? How was this crazy mish-mash of scenes going to end so that my audience would wander out to the lobby for an ice-cold Coca-Cola and not wander on out of the theatre?

Then, the angel left a note. Not in the play, but in real life. You see, on the very day I started my blog there was a huge popup thunderstorm. I had been working on the play, and switched over to go ahead and post my first blog entry. Right before I was about to hit that button, the lights went out and so did my wireless connection. It all seemed strange. I was home alone, so it was also eerie and pitch black in the late afternoon. There was a knock at the front door. Also eerie. But I opened the door and there was a lady. She was housesitting next door, and wondered if the whole neighborhood had lost power. I told her I had already called the utilities' service outage, etc. She was very kind, and we actually had a nice long conversation. She works in public housing, and it seems to me, she spends most of her time helping people. Truly helping people, and caring about their situations. I told her about my blog failure, and she told me about how she hosts a website chat for fans of Susan Boyle, the singer. After talking a while, she went on her way to check on the electricity situation, and I remember thinking she had a glow about her.
So, here I was today--how to end Act I! Then, a note appears on the car outside. It was from her, the housesitting angel, about how she enjoyed our conversation that day, how we talked about Jesus, and just two of us together talking about him brought him in our midst, and inside the note was Susan Boyle's CD, "I Dreamed a Dream". Wow.
So I did. I dreamed a dream, and I came back here and finished Act I (which still, ends in a dream). Not only finished it, but felt good about it. Onto Act II! I just want to know, is it always going to take an act of God, to finish an Act? We'll see how the playwriting goes. I'm putting on the CD.
Enjoy good food, good writing, dreaming your dreams, and stitching something happy.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Make and Take Garden Pasta Salad

The first crisp, sweet bell pepper from the garden this week inspired the making of a big bowl of creamy garden-fresh pasta salad! It uses three garden favorites: green bell pepper, tomato, and basil. A little fresh dill tossed in is pretty good too. Fresh Garden Pasta Salad is a meal by itself, great for picnics, and very popular at pot lucks and barbecues.

20 ounces cooked pasta shells or large macaroni -- after cooling, toss the pasta in a tablespoon of Italian dressing
1/2 red onion - chopped
5 slices turkey bacon cooked crisp and crumbled
4 medium fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 large fresh bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1/2 cup low-fat Ranch salad dressing
Several leaves of fresh basil, snipped or chopped
Fresh dill, chopped

Toss all the ingredients together, and save some basil leaves to snip on the top for a garden-fresh presentation. Enjoy eating something good today!

Lemongrass is one of my favorite Fiestaware colors--
Fiesta 6-1/4-Ounce Fruit Bowl, Lemongrass

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Stitching a Two-Hour Skirt

If I can skirt the whole issue of following a pattern, I do. I like shortcuts. I have a new linen skirt and the other day I realized it would become my inspiration skirt for a few new designs for simple little summer cotton skirts meant to be worn with white t-shirts and flip flops.

I had just bought a few yards of some cute cotton fabrics, and one of them was begging to become the first skirt modeled after the inspiration skirt. One of the highlights of the store-bought skirt is the cute trim around the bottom, and my coordinating fabrics would be ideal for something unique.

I began the first skirt by simply cutting the fabric around the store-bought skirt, leaving seam allowance and waist-band allowance. I hemmed it and put in the elastic waistband. I took the two complimentary fabrics, to the main skirt fabric, and cut strips to go around the bottom of my skirt. After sewing on both strips to create the fun trim, on a whim, I cut a heart out of the green polka dot fabric and stitched it to the front.

The result is my have a little heart skirt, homemade in under two hours.

Enjoy eating well, writing creatively, dreaming big, and stitching fast!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mixed Media Fabric Dream House

When it comes to sewing, we are not in Kansas anymore. Mixed media fabric art is the stuff of dreams and magical places. There seems to be no rules. You can stitch ribbon to knitting to torn tea-stained fabric, add on some vintage buttons, and you have yourself a precious piece of art.
I love to sew things onto things, so I signed myself up to experience the whole art of creative sewing with mixed-media. The result is one of my first projects, a house. Not just any house. It’s the first in a series of themed fabric houses that I continue to work on when I’m in my sew-something-onto-something mood. This piece is called Glinda’s House. It’s where I imagine Glinda, from the Wizard of Oz, living when she was a little girl. The roof is a triangle of fabric with fabric backing, and it's adorned with fabric and ribbon hearts, felt flowers, sequins, trim, and buttons. I cut the quotes out of an old Wizard of Oz show shirt and added those throughout the piece.

Glinda’s emerald green front door was completely cross-stitched, including the Tinman’s sparkling silver heart in the middle. A ruby red slipper is embroidered, as if it were left on the front porch! The windows feature ribbon window shades and beaded pulls. Three of the four squares that are stitched together to make the actual house are pieces of a vintage table cloth from my mom (also going into aprons later). Like the roof, each square is sewn with a fabric backing. The flowers in the window boxes are knit with a multicolored ribbon yarn, and there is a garden of teeny buttons on the bottom--poppies!
One of the best things about mixed-media fabric art is that it is very green--you just don’t want to throw things away if you think that a piece of this or that can go into your next project! I have several themed house ideas planned. I can’t wait. It’s a good idea to keep some little storage boxes on hand so that when you get the urge to sew something onto something, you have plenty to put in your mix.

Enjoy dreaming up something creative today. There’s no place like home.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Write Something Creative Today

I am a writer who came of a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within.   Eudora Welty
Do you keep a diary? Ever since I can remember, from the beginning of time I think, people have advised us, all of us, to keep a diary. Write a journal! Write down everything, every thought. And I have to admit, there are many famous and important diaries. Hello, Anne Frank? The mad housewife? Alright, that’s all I can think of, but I’m pretty sure I remember a PBS special that talked about Princess Diana keeping a diary. That would be an amazing diary.

I have tried to keep a diary, and failed miserably. I didn’t know why I couldn’t do it, I love to just sit and write. But, and that’s a big BUT, there is something about having to write about myself, in the traditional diary/journal way, which bugs me. Always has. I think it’s because you also have to write about other people, and what you think of them, and what you really think of yourself—a diary expects you to reveal deep deep thoughts, and I don’t know, it’s uncomfortable—for me. Too much pressure. And yet, there is new research that suggests that keeping a diary or a journal actually provides a health boost for you!

There are a lot of things I like to just write down though. So, I was in Wal-Mart. (I’m forever having to go to Wal-Mart and not wanting to go) and in the notebook and pen aisle, I saw a fat little spiral-bound blank notebook. I love fat little notebooks, so I bought it. I had no idea what I was going to use it for. So, I wrote a list of Christmas wishes on the first page. Then, I wrote my favorite bible verse, Isaiah 40:31, on the next page, probably a few days later. Soon, that December, other pages started filling up with “Great Ideas,” a few sketches for future cross-stitch embroidery designs, an idea for a themed essay contest, script ideas, a party menu, book thoughts, five pages on the story of our accidental dozen baby hamsters, notes from Sunday sermons, books I wanted, songs I wanted, next summer’s garden layout, and random little thoughts and inspirations. I even wrote down a definition of the word “Bitch.” Here it is: Broad In Total Control of Herself.

And that’s when the fat little notebook from aisle seven became my creative journal. At last! I hit on the kind of journal that makes me feel good, and something that I want to read again, and contains material I can actually use again! Why didn’t I think of this before! This was definitely a boost.

I carried that little notebook in my bag at all times, and when it was almost full, a good friend who had traveled, gave me the sweetest little blank book, covered in a green satin fabric and embroidered with a Chinese motif (picture above). I love that little book. It became Sandy’s creative journal volume 2. In it, I wrote another verse from Isaiah 30:18—“Expect good things every day.”

I certainly don’t post entries every day, and sometimes not even every month. But I post the good stuff—the rich material of those thoughts and inspirations and visions that I don’t want to lose. Some of those entries eventually get translated into something digital, stitchable, or edible. Little sketches have become big drawings, embroidered pillows and even a skirt. There are just thoughts in there too, and reminders about the little things in life. Good stuff.

Pure and personal creativity captured in good old-fashioned touchable ink and paper bound between two pretty covers can only turn into something good. Maybe something great.

Enjoy your eating, writing, dreaming and stitching today!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Eat Something Good Today – Sweet and Salty Potato Heaven

Happy Father’s Day! We cooked up a hearty dinner for the daddy in our house last night. I call it Sweet and Salty Potato Heaven--I had something similar in a restaurant once and copycatted my own homemade version. Yukon Gold and Sweet Potatoes are fried to a golden brown and topped with fresh snipped chives from the garden along with a dollop of sour cream mixed with a bit of yogurt (adds a tang of sweetness to the sour cream). This potato heaven dish is sooo good, and makes a colorful presentation fit for company.

Adjust the amount to the crowd around your table. I peeled two large sweet potatoes and four large Yukon Gold potatoes, earlier in the day, and let them soak in a big bowl of cold water until I was ready (I always do as much prep ahead of time as possible--makes life easier). This would serve 4 to 6. Prep time: around 10 minutes. Cooking time: 35 to 45 minutes.

Chop the potatoes. Heat oil in a large frying pan so that when the chopped potatoes go in, you hear a good sizzle. I use a very large frying pan so that there is more surface and quicker frying, cooking on medium high to high. Give the potatoes a chance to start browning, and then use a long wooden spoon and turn them around to get every potato chunk browned. When tender and golden brown, ladle them out with a slotted spoon (draining the oil from them a bit with each ladle) into a bowl lined with paper towel. (CAUTION: you are working with hot oil, so be very careful during this whole process. Keep pan handles turned in and small children out of the kitchen during this time.)

Topping: mix one part yogurt to two parts sour cream. I use lowfat. I snip my fresh chives with kitchen scissors, rather than chopping. Serve the potatoes with toppings and enjoy with grilled burgers, seafood, chicken or steak! (Tip: I don't refrigerate the leftover chive snippings - they can really smell up the fridge! Trust me, I had an incident one time--could not figure out what the horrible smell was, and then wallah! a baggie of chives! So now I just get them fresh from the garden each time--you can keep a bunch in a vase or quart canning jar of cold water until you're ready to snip them up. Leftover potatoes heat up quite nicely in the microwave for lunch the next day with cold cottage cheese and a little cracked black pepper.)

Enjoy your eating, writing, dreaming and stitching today.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Eat well. Write often. Dream daily. Stitch happy. It starts here.

Welcome to Eat. Write. Dream. Stitch. There are many things that I love to do—so, why not write about cooking, sewing, knitting, playwriting, embroidery, and the mixed media art project I’m dreaming up next. Gardening too! Think I’m all Becky Homecky? Well I’m not. I’ll take you back to the horrors of 8th grade home economics and show you why I love what I do, make up my own patterns, create colorful characters in my writings, who love to stitch, and, of course, always seek inspiration. I need buckets of inspiration.

Sewing Machines Attack, Old Homec Books, Being Marcia Brady, 
and Pillow Stitching

Once upon a time, there was an eighth grade girl who took her first Home Economics class—back in 1974 when they still called it Homec. She had never wanted anything to do with cooking or sewing or etiquette (too busy laying out in the sun, dancing to disco, and thinking about boys), but there she was, stuck and struggling in a class full of perfect little Marcia Brady types. (The 13-year-old misfit among the future Stepford Wives.) She tried desperately to sew a pair of floral overalls with big fat orange and pink flowers for the big fat sewing project. And that resulted in a big fat F. She didn’t understand sewing, using a pattern, and the teacher—where was the teacher during the sewing unit? So, one day, in class, one of the Stepford Marcia’s sewed her own thumb. I think she was using a zig zag stitch on a Singer when her thumb got in the way. Once the blood and commotion and screams subsided, the class moved onto the cooking unit (thumb-stitch girl mysteriously disappeared). Again, F-in-sewing girl didn’t understand anything, until the day they were to make the scrambled eggs. As the teacher stirred up the yolks and poured them into the pan, the girl (me and my 8th grade pic on the right) watched the demonstration and wondered what her latest cute boy was doing in his shop class. Then, the magic started happening. As the pan heated up, and the teacher stirred, the eggs began their transformation into their fluffy, delightful, scrambled selves. Those eggs went from a bowl of stirred goop, to a beautiful, wonderful, amazing breakfast.

This was eggciting.

I finally got it! Something clicked and I understood that the magic of home economics transcended chores and Stepford Wives and helping mom. It was suddenly a science and an art. However, for some reason, by the end of the next class, I tucked all that fascination away and wouldn’t find it again for another 17 years. At the end of that class, I won the giant Butterick Pattern catalog in a drawing, and I bought my text book for 25 cents, because the next class would get new ones. It wasn’t until I found that text book in Mom’s attic, many many years later, that I realized how out of date it was, even for my 1970’s homec class. I also didn’t realize that my precious Butterick Pattern catalog book, which I had studied time and again, featured Betsy Johnson fashions! OMG! I wish I still had it.

Being reunited with my old enemy, the “Experiences In Homemaking” text book, got me started on my slight obsession with old homec text books. Those things are collectible now! I have found a few gems at flea markets, and I’m always on the lookout. I love old homec text books. It’s all kind of ironic now—especially since I adore cooking and stitching. And that’s how my new blog came to be. I’m writing up a stewpot of all the things I love to do, what really happens, and how to stay inspired. Like a few days ago, stitching up Adirondack chair pillows quickly (and I mean quickly) from some bright, happy topiary fabric I found last year in North Carolina!

Stitching Pillows Makes Me Happy

This sewing project definitely deserves an A+ (36 years later). And I didn’t use a pattern. I just cut out two tall rectangles, stitched around them, right sides together, leaving a little gap for turning out and stuffing, and then whip-stitching to close the gap. So take that Marcia Marcia Marcia. (tip: transparent thread is great for whip-stitches that show) Thanks to my lovely feline model, Minnie. Enjoy your food, writing, dreaming and stitching!