a whiff of fall

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Before our vacation about a month ago, I forced myself to clean the studio and get organized. I refolded and stacked all my fabrics and shirts by color. I must say, since getting back I've been quite productive making new patterns and prototyping accessories. I'm determined not to let it turn into a mess again.
Yesterday, the weather suddenly turned crisp and I started feeling really excited for fall. It'll be sweltering again soon enough, but I should've been working on fall by now anyway. With my fabrics all nicely stacked, I couldn't resist tearing the piles apart again and grouping together some story ideas.
I am mixing vintage fabric with thrift store shirtings, old but not quite vintage early '90's fabric from when I worked for an apparel company, and a few new pieces. There will be some patchworking happening.
There will definitely be some corduroy involved this fall. I am almost done perfecting a jumper to be made in corduroy. I had it on my little size 5 fit model from up the block last night. Even though I have the size 5 dress form, I like to see things on a real body that moves.
For some reason, teal looks really fresh to me right now. I've hated it ever since the '80's, but I like it again, especially with avocado and and mushroom. And I can't stop thinking about MUSHROOMS! I feel the appliqué urge coming on...

card table makeover

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Have you noticed card tables have the same problem that office chairs do? They seem to only come in boring colors like taupe, grey, or almond. That, and they get shabby rather quickly. At least in our house they do...
Um, yeah, I let the kids trash this one with paint and I may have exactoed some stuff on it without any protection. Then I stored it in the basement before we got the dehumidifier and it got all moldy. I'm sorry, Table. I'll make it up to you.
The top is attached to the frame by brackets and screws that come apart easily with a phillips head screwdriver. Don't lose the screws- put them in a baggie or something. Pry up the staples holding on the vinyl and remove it, never to be seen again.
You don't have to, but I decided to liven up the legs with 2 coats of Rustoleum spray paint in my favorite color: apple green! I figured, I'd do that since we're planning to use it as a puzzle-making table and will need the top to be white *yawn*.
I'm attaching marine vinyl with my trusty staple gun for the new cover. It only takes about a yard, just measure your table to be sure. Actually this would be a great project to use Mexican oilcloth or laminated cotton for like Jen of Lars & Ella did here. If I can get my hands on another table or two or three, I just might make a fleet of party tables with colorful patterned tops.
Last step: screw the top back on.
Voilà! Back in service as an exceedingly useful extra table!

woodside farm creamery tour

Saturday, July 24, 2010

This past Sunday (July 18th) was National Ice Cream Day, the only day of the year that Woodside Farm Creamery in Hockessin, DE opens its doors for tours of its dairy operation. Woodside supplies our favorite ice cream parlor in Wilmington, Sweet Lucy's among many others, so the kids were raring to go.
The farm has been run by the Mitchell family for over 200 years. The main house oozes old-fashioned charm. I find myself engaging in 1940's farm life fantasies involving chicken coops, baking pies, canning and sewing play clothes out of calico for a passel of barefoot children. But I digress. I'm sure it's a boatload of backbreaking work running a dairy farm with no time for baking pies or crafting.
Emma did some sketching of the animals.
The milk for the operation is supplied by 30 jersey cows. Jerseys give the creamiest milk. These little guys are the calves.
The milking process was intriguing to the children. It takes about 6 minutes to milk a cow using the milking apparatus. Each Jersey cow gives 20or 30lbs of milk a day which sounds like a lot to me, but apparently is about half of what Holsteins give.
The farm doesn't advertise itself as being organic, but it uses a number of sustainable practices. The cow manure is composted in this 5000 gallon drum and used to fertilize the orchard, alfalfa, clover, & rye grass. To keep the flies down, special tiny wasps are introduced as a form of biocontrol. The wasps attack the fly pupae and are supposedly not very noticeable to humans or livestock.
Best of all, this past year the farm installed a huge array of solar panels to run its refrigeration. There they are in the distance. CMI Solar Electric did the installation. They also do residential work. Another fantasy of mine is to cover the whole south side of our roof with solar panels. Someday...
The ice cream machine. Not as big as I was expecting, but it does the job apparently.
Oh the flavor choices! "Dirt" (has gummi worms in it), Bacon (?), Black Raspberry (had it- mmmmm), Birthday Cake, and the list goes on.
The most popular flavor is vanilla- by far, they say. Even with all those choices, that's what the kids want- with sprinkles of course.

strawberry rhubarb pie fail

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I hinted earlier that there might be some good things in store for our bumper crop of strawberries, possibly involving rhubarb.
Oh, how I love rhubarb. I came to like it later in life because I was turned off as a child by the way my grandmother served it: stewed and runny, on it's own in a bowl like an unappetizing soup.
A pie was in order and quick- before the strawberry and rhubarb seasons were over. Well, I'm sorry to report that I squandered the last of our strawberries and rhubarb on an unsuccessful pie. Do not use this recipe! I stand by the Martha Stewart crust I always use, but this pie was a sludgy mess. I think where it goes wrong is the flour-based thickener and the fact that it said to sprinkle the dry stuff on top of the filling rather than mix it with the fruit prior to filling the pie plate. Some of the other recipes out there call for tapioca or corn starch for thickening, so next time I will go that route. Alas, there is no more rhubarb to be had and the strawberries are being trucked in from God-knows-where.
The pie project wasn't a total waste, though. My girl finds it great fun to weave the lattice top.
We spent a pleasant mother-daughter afternoon putting the pie together.
It wasn't a bad looking pie, even if a little overdone. We did still serve it to our guests with Woodside Farm Creamery vanilla ice cream *swoon* on the side. Everyone was polite about it, but I consider it a fail. Once the first piece was cut, the whole filling just oozed back together into a milky, sludgy soup.

Hopefully next year I will have better luck! I am open to suggestions...

kid-friendly ocean city getaway

Sunday, July 4, 2010

"A change is as good as a rest"- Stephen King

I do agree with that saying, but a change and a rest are even better. On the spur of the moment, we decided to decamp to the beach for a quick vacation this past week. After all, we live in Delaware and beaches are only two hours away. We usually bum a room off relatives for our vacations, but it was time we did a real vacation, just our own little fambly.
No, we did not stay in this lovely house. This is my fantasy beach house located on Martha's Vinyard in walking distance to town. It's for sale for $2,395,000. It doesn't say how far from the beach it is in the ad, but that's what those charming bikes with wicker baskets on the front are for.
This is where we stayed in concretey Ocean City, MD. Sure, it's a far cry from my fantasy house, but the price was right and we could get a 2 bedroom condo at the last minute through Coldwell Banker. A lot of these high rises have the option of renting for a "mini week" which means you can rent from Monday through Friday like we did or Friday through Monday for a long weekend. It's a considerable savings if you opt out of the weekend which I find unpleasant traffic-wise and crowded beach-wise anyway. Just a heads up if you do rent through these guys: about $200 in taxes and multiple fees are added on to the rental "price".
When we were DINKs, we would never stay someplace like this. We used to go to remote dive resorts in the Caribbean every year where we'd have our own private hut right on the beach, but now that we have kids, it's a whole new world. The little buggars were absolutely thrilled with the aggressively thematic decor, the fact that we rode an elevator every day to get to the beach, and every other aspect of this vacation. If the kids are happy, then I'm satisfied!
The over-the-top beach decor is actually necessary to remind guests that they are still at the beach when inside the condo. This was the view if you go out on the balcony and crane your neck. Note the uncrowded beach though! It was remarkably uncrowded during the week.
And this was the view at night. Not unlike Vegas, agree? Again, the kids were thrilled with it.
We indulged in some mini golf at a dinosaur-themed course. Each of us got at least one hole-in-one. Absolutely too thrilling once more!
I have nothing good to say about the food options along the strip there in Ocean City. It's "all you can eat" fried stuff everywhere you turn. It's been just completely uninspired fare and poor ambiance in every restaurant we've been to along there. Our favorite place to go is Sneaky Pete's in West Ocean City just over the southern bridge on Ocean Gateway. It's part of the wildly popular Hooper's Crab House and occupies a large gazebo and a couple of boats at the end of a dock. We discovered it a few years back when we tried to go to Hooper's and the wait was going to be excruciatingly long. They sent us out back to this more casual version of Hooper's that never seems to have a wait and is completely charming in a Key West kind of way.
We needed to have that boardwalk experience too. We've been to the Ocean City boardwalk many times, but this time we went to the one in Rehoboth, DE. Oh, it is so much more clean and manageable than the down-on-it's-luck-feeling OC one! You still have your Thrasher's Fries, your soft serve ice cream,
your disgusting cotton candy that looks like a bag of fiberglass insulation,
and your tame kiddie rides (which incidentally are partially powered here by solar panels on the roof). There is even real food available on the streets leading up to the boardwalk. I had an excellent sandwich with fresh local tomatoes on it at Green Man on Wilmington Avenue.
The beach in Rehoboth as seen from the boardwalk.

Now we're home and refreshed and feeling some creativity coming on...