Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year! And a Give-Away.

Mr. Gorgeous got a mouse. . .
Dearest Darlings. I hope that your holidays were lovely and are continuing to be. I am on my third jigsaw puzzle, millionteenth round of Boggle, and final sixth of a large ham, so enough said on my end. I didn't have a working oven this Christmas (long story) and so we farmed the ham out to nearby friends, one of whom is a chef, and they babysat it all day while it cooked. I found this style of hosting so incredibly relaxing, that now I am planning to do it every year! Next year, I am going to drop off bags of green beans too, and maybe the gratin ingredients. Don't you wish you lived closer?

. . . and turned back into a kitten.
Now, the give-away. Some of you bought various things I recommended in my gift list here, including, according to Amazon, 87 copies of The Miniature Book of Miniature Golf, and I hope you had fun giving, reading, and playing those things. In the meantime, those purchases generated money on my Amazon account, so let's do some spending. Do you want to leave a comment here about something you would like (or need) that is available on Amazon? I will pick a winner at the end of next week. Friday the 10th. I don't promise that I will be picking at random. I'm not exactly sure. Also, if it's something that makes you shy, please feel free to email me. Is this an okay way to run a contest? You will doubtless let me know. 

Happy everything.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Last-Minute Gift Idea: Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

It's like Portlandia's put a bird on it: "Put it in a mason jar!" Honestly, even the homeliest thing--spelt, dirt, slug and snail poison--as soon as it's in a mason jar, it's just quaint as can be.
If you are Birdy’s teachers, stop reading right now! Kidding. I know you’re not surfing blogs, because you’re too busy teaching our kids about long division and integrity and the ancient Mayans. And we are so grateful. So grateful that we made you these lumpy, misshapen peanut butter cups.

(I am reminded of Billy Collins’s poem “The Lanyard.” This is part of it:

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard

or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,

but that did not keep me from crossing

strand over strand again and again

until I had made a boxy

red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,

and I gave her a lanyard.

She nursed me in many a sick room,

lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,

laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,

and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,

and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.

Here are thousands of meals, she said,

and here is clothing and a good education.

And here is your lanyard, I replied,

which I made with a little help from a counselor.)

Anyhoo, this is our lanyard for you, dear teachers, who sacrifice sleep and sanity so that our children can rise to their bright and shining potential. Our edible, holiday lanyard. Had they not turned out so ugly, though, the peanut butter cups might have verged on the magnificent, so tasty are they, so salty and true to the Reese’s genre, and yet some how more cleanly peanutty. Delicious.
Maybe they came out nice. I really can't even tell anymore. We picked out the best ones for the teachers. If they are allergic to peanuts, I hope they will not mention that fact to me.
However, we used the wrong size of wrapper, and so the candies went epically wrong, in so far as something utterly meaningless and with more or less nonexistently low stakes can go epically wrong. And I’ve said it before, but, sheesh. That Birdy is a peach. Because I’d cut too big a whole in the Ziploc bag, and because it had somehow failed to seal properly along the zipper, there was chocolate everywhere, and I was in my full-on holiday binge of cursing. (“Fuck. Don’t step there. There’s chocolate on the floor. Fucking FUCK!”)
Birdy had so much chocolate on her hands that I started to suspect her of having more than the average number of fingers.
And Birdy just laughed and laughed, problem-solving like the engineering superstar that she is. (“I’m tearing the filling in half, and that’s making more or less the perfect size. They’re going to taste good, we know that, and that’s really the main thing!”)
This picture perfectly illustrates a) how ugly these are but also, if you meet them halfway with your imagination here, b) how delicious.
If we don't connect again before the holidays, I hope yours are joyful in every way.

xo Catherine

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups
Makes around 4 dozen (or, if you do it wrong, 6 or even 8 dozen)

This is adapted from the Homemade Peanut Butter Cups recipe on Food52. Actually, it is barely adapted, except for the adding of vanilla and the using of the wrong size of wrappers, thereby screwing up the entire recipe. Also, we only needed 2 (rather than 3) bags of chocolate, but that, also, is likely a result of our negligence re. wrapper size. I would really like to make these with a pinch of cayenne in the filling, but this is not a popular idea around here.

cup unsalted peanut butter (we used the kind you grind fresh out of a nozzle at Whole Foods, which was something we’d always wanted to try)
tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (I used salted. I know.)
 cup light brown sugar
 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
teaspoon kosher salt
ounces (2 bags) milk chocolate chips (use dark if you prefer)

Arrange mini cupcake wrappers on a baking sheet. Mini cupcake wrappers are not the same as foil candy wrappers, which are much smaller. You can use either, but they require different sizes of filling discs, depending. We learned this the hard way.

Mix together peanut butter, butter, sugars, vanilla and salt in a bowl. Taste, then add more salt if it needs a little punch. Make 1-teaspoon balls of the mixture, then flatten these slightly into disks. Again, if you are using candy wrappers by mistake, you will need balls that are about half this size. Sigh.

Melt the chocolate. I did this in a glass measuring cup in the microwave, but a double boiler works well too. Transfer the melted chocolate to a Ziploc freezer bag (this is a two person job), then snip a tiny corner off the bag. Tiny. Unless you want to get chocolate all the fuck over the place and then, by all means, snip off a nice big corner.

Squeeze out just enough chocolate in to fill the bottom of the wrapper (I squeezed blobs, and Birdy sort of swirled them flat with her finger). At this point, you are supposed to refrigerate until firm, but we did not.

Arrange the filling disks on top of the chocolate, then squeeze more chocolate on top to cover the peanut butter filling and to fill in the wrapper (again, we found the finger-swirling method handy here). This is not a tidy process, just FYI.

Sprinkle the tops with a little extra coarse sea salt if you like, then refrigerate the candies or, if your house is inexplicably freezing, just leave them out on the counter.

Because we ended up with leftover filling discs, we dipped these in melted chocolate, and they came out quite lovely. Like. . . what are those called? Buckeyes? Flat buckeyes.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Perfect Fondue

Tis the season of clementines counting as a vegetable, making this an *even easier* meal.
Were you in need of a festive weeknight holiday-season dinner that takes 1 second to make, and can be eaten in the cozy comfort of your living room, near the Christmas tree, like a kind of mid-winter indoor picnic? I thought so. Fondue is what you're after, believe me.

Because I (do-gooder alert) work at our local soup kitchen at lunchtime on Mondays, I tend to come home with a day-old baguette from the food pantry, and fondue is starting to become a weekly tradition. The bread, heated for 15 minutes in a 350 oven, is good as new, and a dinner of melted cheese always feels like a little party. A very little party.

I know that I posted a different fondue recipe before, and it was our go-to for years. But now that the children are growing up, they actually prefer this tangier, more robust version that swaps apple cider in for milk, and adds some cheddar to mix up the Extreme Mildness of the Monterey Jack.
Have I mentioned that our coffee table is always covered in white paper? We used to do it just for parties (as a kind of de facto drawing activity), but now we always do. We do spirograph on it, and drawings; we write Boggle words and Scrabble scores; we illustrate things we're drying to describe to each other; I jot down notes and recipes. So great.

Perfect Fondue
Serves “6” (cough *4* cough)

Feel free to experiment with the cheese (Swiss, gruyere, etc.) and liquid (milk, broth, or even the children’s unfavorite, wine, are all viable options). Also the zestifying ingredients are, of course, fully optional.

2 cups apple cider (something light, like Martinelli’s is ideal for this)
½ pound Monterey Jack cheese, coarsely grated
½ pound sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Dash each of garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, and cayenne

While you heat the cider over medium heat in a medium-sized saucepan, toss the cheese, flour, and cornstarch together in a bowl until the shreds are nicely floured. Stir the cheese into the now-simmering cider a handful at a time, waiting until each handful melts (about a minute) before adding the next. When it is all melty and smooth (this will take about 5 minutes altogether), season with the optional seasonings, pour it into a fondue pot, and serve with cubed bread for dipping.

(Other good dippers include cooked potato chunks, other cooked or raw veggies of your liking, cubes of ham, and apple wedges.)

Monday, December 02, 2013

Holiday Gift Thinkings, 2013 edition

Dearests, are you thinking of the holidays, and what you might like to give the beloved children and adults in your life? I know I am. And although I can’t report on the items I’m making, buying, and giving this year (Will the kids like this shirt, these socks, this game, this envelope kit? I don’t know yet, although I can guess!) I can whole-heartedly recommend some of our more recent tried and true favorite things—games, books, activities, and stuff that will surely be beloved. Of course, there is always the master games list (link at right) which is full-to-bursting with dozens of favorites. And there’s kitchen gifts from years past, the grapefruit marmalade that I am required to make every year, peppermint patties, loads of crafts. And these few things below. Please forgive the book repeats. I can’t help myself. And please, please, please add your own suggestions in the comments! What are you excited about  giving?

Do you like my bosom? I thought you might.
game: Love Letter
Love Letter is small, inexpensive, attractive, easy to learn, relatively quick, and like a cross between Hearts, Stratego, and a Jane Austen novel. Just a little deck of cards, really, but with big strategy. Plus, it's totally streamlined and lovely, and comes in a little velvet draw-string bag, which is so wonderful. It’s for 2-4 players, ages 8 and up.

game: Hanabi
This is a heavy-strategy card game that I heard about when someone recommended it to me here, and it’s unique, cooperative, and sleekly, bafflingly excellent. (Thank you!) I asked the kids to describe it, and Birdy said, utterly unhelpfully, “It’s the mind-boggling game of reversed!” “Reversed?” “Yes. Reversed.” And then, like a commercial narrator, “In this wild, logical game, you can look at every hand, except your own!” Ben’s decription: “You try to play cards in a particular order, while giving your teammates advice about their cards, without ever looking at your own. The ultimate goal is to create fireworks for a party.” That’ll have to do. It’s for 2-5 players, ages 8 and up.

game: Snake Oil
This is an Apples to Apples type of party game: players toss out pairs of cards to create a product to match the theme, then they try to “sell” their product, so the judge of each round can decide on a winner. So for example, one time the theme was “couch potato,” and Ben tossed out the cards “oven” and “powder” then sold it as a unique solution to cooking your food ("Just sprinkle oven powder on it!") without getting up. Birdy, on the other hand, sold her own unique laziness solution with the handy defecetory product “poop carpet.” Got it? For 3-10 players, ages 8 and up.

We have gotten better at balancing, Birdy's hair has gotten longer, and the world has gotten less green.
activity: Slack Line
A friend of ours sent me a cryptic email asking if we had “mature trees” in our yard. We did indeed, and a few days later this strange, ratcheted piece of webbing arrived in the mail and we stretched it out behind the house.

We have spent hours on it since, and Birdy and I go out in the morning before school every day. It’s like a wide, wobbly tightrope, and I’ve never felt more unbalanced in my life than trying to learn to stand on it or, even, take a few halting, falling-over, shaky-legged steps. Nonetheless, it is strangely pleasurable, a great core work-out, a wonderfully support-inducing family activity, and—we only know this because we saw kids using one at our local college—it’s actually possible to get good at it.

activity: Spirograph
I am very particular about my Spirograph recommendations. Here’s what I think you should do: go to ebay, and type in the year you think the kit you used as a kid was made. So, for me, that’s “Spirograph 1973.” It will most likely cost less than a new set, and, more importantly, because you will have profound and immediate hypotrochoid flashbacks, you will sit and draw with your kids for hours and hours, which is really all they ever wanted.

To further my particularity:

these are really the only pens worth using with the Spirograph, and they’re beautifully packaged and not even as expensive as they might be (sounds like fainter praise than I intended).

I took this photo this very night, while I was frying tofu in a sticky hoisin glaze! Seriously.
kitchen gear: deBuyer Mineral B Frypan
This is less something I want you to get for someone else, and more something I think you should try to acquire for yourself, whether through direct purchase or elaborate hinting is totally up to you. I have been trying to wean myself off of nonstick for years, and this pan has been a huge (literally and figuratively) solution for me.
It's an iron pan and, thus, requires some seasoning and finessing. But then. Then! I am showing you a photograph of me cooking tofu in it, because you know how non-stick something has to be for viable tofu cooking. Over time it gets ugly and brown and perfect, and you will never look back.

puzzle: Gum Wrappers
I know I’ve recommended the candy version of this puzzle before. What can I say? White Mountain puzzles are my absolute favorite: relatively inexpensive, hard but not too hard, and with great nostalgic themes that captivate even the most reluctant passersby (except my father).

book: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
If you’re a grown-up expecting a gift from me, this is what you’re getting (or already got). It’s a novel about a teenager who steals a painting after surviving a terrorist attack in New York during which his mother dies. The first 50 pages read like a cross between From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Towering Inferno, while the remaining 800 pages read like a cross between Oliver, a Sotheby’s catalogue, and a Slavic mafia story. It’s so deliciously epic, I hoped it might never end, and then it did, and I was devastated. (My dad and I spent all of Thanksgiving whispering about it in the kitchen, since my mother hasn’t read it yet.)
A friend of ours sent this comedic encyclopedia to Ben for his birthday (the same friend who sent us the Slack Line because, Hello, Sugar Mama!) and we have been laughing ever since. This is a gift for the teen and older set (R-rated), and it’s worth buying just for the finiteness-themed entry on “universe,” which includes such delights as this “quote” from Carl Sagan: “While the cosmos is neither vast, nor filled with any discernible wonder, I personally find its tidiness comforting.”

book/game: The Miniature Book of Miniature Golf
You're going to think this looks so stupid. I don't know what to say. Except that Ben got it, and we've had a strangely vast amount of fun playing it. It's a book, but it's really a mini mini golf game, complete with clubs and balls. So stupid and fun. Ben famously said once, while we were playing after dinner, "There is literally nothing I'd rather be doing right now. And I'm using literally the right way."

For younger children:

book: Children Just Like Me by Anabel and Barnabas Kindersley
We know these kids so well, it’s as if my own children have grown up with them: Erdine from Mongolia, who lives in a yurt; Celina from Brazil, with her fascinatingly widely-spaced toes, and the baffling fact that she’s not afraid of snakes. The kids are from all over the world, profiled through meticulously thoughtful photography and journalism: we see their families and homes and schools, their houses of worship, favorite toys and meals, their friends and clothing and pets. It all combines to give you a vivid sense of their differences (and of global economic injustice) even as it reminds you that so much of childhood is universally experienced: all kids want to play and learn and find meaning; all kids want want to feel loved and safe and hopeful. 

book: James Herriot’s Treasury for Children
For animal-loving children who might want to read (or be read) the delightful tales of an English country vet, but who might not be ready for the whole arm-in-up-to-the-shoulder bovine-vagina obstetric interludes of the regular James Herriot books, this is the perfect introduction: stunningly illustrated, with tender, vividly realistic watercolors of sweet-faced animals and wild Yorkshire landscapes, and filled with the kinds of (true) stories children love, about miraculously cured dogs, lost-and-found lambs, cats adopted in the nick of time. Overall, it’s just a beautiful and timeless collection—the kind of book that puts the treasure in treasury—and we’ve given it as a gift countless times.

book: Amos and Boris by William Steig
A favorite from my own childhood, the book became and has remained a favorite in our household as well. If you know Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, then you’re already familiar with William Steig’s delightfully watery illustrations and refreshingly literate text. This book is no exception, and it is a joy in every way. Amos, a seaside mouse filled with an explorer’s curiosity, builds a boat and sails away. A whale-assisted rescue ensues (that’s Boris) and what follows is a touchingly profound story about unlikely friendship and lifelong loyalty.

book: Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

A child and his or her father go out at night, in the deep winter woods near their farm, to see if they can spot any owls. And, towards the book’s end, they spot one. That’s it—but John Shoenherr’s wintery, realistic illustrations are so exquisitely moonlit and lovely, and the story is so profoundly quiet and reverent, that a deep feeling of peace has always descended over us each of the million times we’ve read it. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Holiday Recipes

Holy moly. I have books to recommend, and games, and oh, we had the best fondue! But what I really need to do, I know, is link to holiday recipes. Because that's what you're thinking about right now. I understand. I do. I have moved a bunch of stuff over here:

Holiday Crudités with the best-ever Green Dip
Parmesan-Rosemary Butternut Gratin
Cranberry Upside-Down cake
Cranberry-Orange Bread
Sparkling Cranberry Centerpiece
My Mom's Cranberry Sauce
Baked Pancake (this is by request--but it makes a great holiday breakfast!)
DIY Vanilla Extract (get a jump on your holiday gift-making)

Edited to add: Latkes! And there are lots of other good holiday meal and gift recipes in the index, including the most amazing-ever potato-fennel gratin, and roasted cabbage. I'm only mentioning the newly added ones above. . . 

More soon! Happy Thanksgiving, my darlings. And Hanukkah too.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Felted-Wool Blanket Tutorial

Birdy's blanket. I am still supposed to be making a small version for Strawberry.
I have been promising this sweaters-to-blanket tutorial for a long time. (Very slight Owl Moon reference. "I had been waiting to go owling for a long time." Sigh.) But this is the perfect, cozy time of year to hole up with some wool, a glass of wine, and a nice, rewarding sewing project. Plus, if you start now, you can make one for a very special Christmas present. The kind of Christmas present where you maybe have to say, "Can you believe I made that?" and redirect the person's attention from the newly unwrapped knife sharpener back to the blanket, because maybe they don't understand quite all what was involved. Be sure to tell them.

Are you ready? It goes like this.

Ben's blanket.
1. Get the sweaters. Dig through your closets, hit up friends and relatives, and go to thrift shops and hospice shops to find 100% wool sweaters. Lambswool is my absolute favorite. Merino is excellent. Shetland is finicky but will, with persistence, felt. Cashmere is lovely when it works, but also a bit finicky. Some percentage of angora is terrific, but do not go with sweaters that are even 20% nylon because they will pill. I speak from experience, having used them and regretted it. 100% wool. The bigger the better because they will get very small. Nothing that says "washable," because then it won't shrink and felt up. Don't worry about small holes, which will disappear, or rips or stains, which can be simply cut away. Cardigans are fine. (I even sometimes use the buttons.)

My approach is always the same, which is to pick a color family and stick with it. Purples, greens, pinks, blues. But you could make a motley one if you prefer. If you are finding fantastic and inexpensive sweaters in multiple colors, you could consider making two blankets! I would budget $35 for the sweaters--and less if your thrift store has a half-off day.

Reds, pinks, oranges, with a black border. One snuggle beneath, then we gave it away to dear friends, where I can still visit with it.
A note: this part--the amassing of the sweaters--usually takes me a couple of weeks. You need 8-12 sweaters, depending on how big they are, plus 3 or so in a different color if you want to edge it.

2. Felt the sweaters. When you wash and dry it, pure wool will shrink and get nice and tight, with all the fibers matted together so that you can cut it and it won't stretch or fray. However, this won't necessarily happen the first time you wash and dry it, so be patient. Some sweaters require multiple trips through the washer and dryer. Here's how:
  • Wash them. Put the sweaters in the washing machine with a cup of dish-washing detergent. I know! But it's harsh and abrasive, and works well. I also put in a pair of jeans or two, for abrasiveness, and the Velcro paddles from this game, for added fiber-matting! I really do. Do a hot wash with a cold rinse--the temperature swing is supposed to help seize up the fibers extra much. Lots of people recommend putting them in a pillow case first, to protect your machines.
  • Dry them. Put the sweaters in the dryer and dry them on high.
  • Evaluate them. If they are still stretchy, or you can really see the knit stitches in the body of it, then they're not felted. Back into your washer. Keep at it. Some will give in eventually and others won't. I have even boiled sweaters in a big pot of water, which makes the house smell like a sheep in a thunderstorm, but I am just that devoted to my art. If you have sweaters that don't seem thick and felted do not use them. No matter how gorgeous they may be. I speak from experience here: a sweater that is fraying or stretching will have you ruing the day.
  • Worry about your machines. Which may get clogged with lint. I don't know what to tell you. I do it anyway.
 3. Make a plan. Should this have been Step 1? Probably. But this is how it is. I pretty much do all my sweaters the same way: a 7 by 10 grid of 6-inch squares. This makes a generous throw blanket. If you are making a baby blanket or a bed blanket, adjust accordingly. Knowing that I need 70 (6-inch) squares is as far as my planning goes.

I made a baby blanket with 3-inch squares, and it was very cute. You can hardly see how cute it is, what with that baby plunked right on it!
4. Cut the squares. I cannot enough recommend that you get a rotary cutter for this job--and for all your sewing, actually. This is the one I have, and I swear it has paid for itself in inexpensive sewn items that make beautiful gifts. But it also means that you'll need a large cutting mat. And, if you give a mouse a cookie, while we're at it, you should go ahead and get a transparent quilter's ruler (mine is 6- by 12-inches) which, again, will make everything so much easier. You can do this with a pair of scissors and a 6-inch cardboard square that you trace around with a disappearing pen or tailor's chalk, but it will be much more difficult and frustrating.

I cut all my sweaters the same way: I cut the arms off. Then I cut up each side of the body and across the shoulders to make 2 piece that I can lay flat on my cutting mat. I then try to get as many 6- by 12-inch pieces out of them as I can by pressing and holding the cutting mat on the sweater and cutting around it with the rotary cutter. (I cut these in half.) Eventually, I cut 6-inch squares from what's left and, finally, I cut the sleeves open and get what I can from them. I don't worry too much about seams running through my squares, as long as they're not too close to the edge, which can make sewing hard later. I also happily use ribbed parts, assuming they have felted well, which they are inclined not to do. If they aren't felted, don't use them. Pockets are fun to include.

pocket detail
Cut all the sweaters (and then some) until you have enough squares.

5. Arrange your squares. This is the fun part.
I would never! Oh, wait. I did. (This is a different blanket.)
I lay them all out on the floor, and then the kitty runs through them and I curse at him and tip the wine bottle to see if there's any fucking wine left, which there's not, while the kids make fun of me for being such a weird mix of crafty and crass.

Take your time, because this is the blanket you're going to make! I usually go for random, but kind of spaced out evenly, if that makes sense. Usually there's more of one thing than another, and it's all a bit of a challenge, getting it to look right. If there's a color or pattern you are turning out not to like, now is the time to be honest with yourself, even if it means another trip to the Salvation Army.

6. Pile your columns. This has taken me a long time to codify, but I really think this method works to keep the squares organized and in the design you arranged: Pile all the squares from one column, bottom to top, keeping them in order, and ending with the top square on top. Label it with a piece of tape that says which column number it is, starting with 1 at the far left. (As you can see, in the spread-out version above, I number my columns with tape before i even pile them.)

7. Stitch the squares together. I do this on a sewing machine, and can't quite imagine doing it by hand. What you'll want to do is set your machine to do a nice wide zigzag and then, this is kind of crazy and fun, you're simply going to hold two squares with their edges bumped up against each other, and you're going to zigzag them together, doing a little back stitch at the start and end to secure the thread. (If one piece is much thinner than another, you can overlap them the teeniest bit as you're sewing.) You won't want, or be able, to pin them--which means that you'll be able to adjust a little as you go--pulling this square a little, or pushing that one, so that they stay lined up.

Does that make sense? So, for each column, you're going to start with the top square and sew the square underneath it (in the pile) to the right edge of it (back stitch, cut the thread), then the next square underneath (in the pile) to the right edge of that second one (back stitch, cut the thread), etc. until you've got your whole column sewn together. You have to do a lot of stopping and starting, but that's okay, right? Take your time, breathe deeply, and relax.

You'll do this for each column, until you've got 7 columns of ten sewn-together squares (or whatever numbers you chose). Arrange these on the floor again, in the correct order. Knot and trim extra threads at this point so they don't get caught in your machine when you stitch the columns together.

8. Stitch the columns together. Sew top to bottom, starting by stitching column 2 to the right of column 1, then 3 to 2, etc. This is my favorite part, because you get to do nice, long swaths of stitching. Adjust as you go so that the rows end up lining up more or less. Back stitch a little at the beginnings and ends to secure the stitching.

9. Fuss with it. Lay your blanket back out and knot and /or trim all the stray threads (there will be many). Peel off the tape. Hold it up to the light to determine if there are any holes or gaps in your stitching, and sew them up on the machine. (Neatness is not my great strength.) Decide if you want to make a border for it or if you've had about all you can take at this point.

10. Make a border. You might as well. I often do this in black, since it's easy to find a lot of black sweaters, but Birdy wanted hers to match. I cut two-inch-wide strips, as long as I can, from the sweaters and sleeves and scraps, then sew these together, then cut them again to the right size for each side of the blanket. You will need to do some math, so ask a child to help you. You'll need two 42-inch lengths (7 X 6) plus 2 64-inch lengths ((10 X 6) + (2 X 2)). Which is a lot of fucking border, so maybe skip it. Sew the border on the same way you sewed the rest of it, overlapping very slightly if there are places where the edge is uneven.

11. Feel wildly satisfied. You really will, I'm not kidding. In part because you've made such a lovely spot for the cat to sleep.

Don't feel like making one? Buy one from the amazing Crispina Ffrench, whose blankets, spied in a Berkshires shop, first inspired me back in 2004. . . 
Did you want to use leftover scraps to make a pillow? Or have you kind of, you know, had enough?

We machine wash and dry ours, on the assumption that whatever is going to happen has happened already, but you could be more careful, if you like!

Have fun, if you make one! Or enjoy *not* making one.


Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain

To whichever one of you bought that book after linking to Amazon from here: Be careful, okay?

Gratuitous cat/partner photograph. 
Did I ever link to this piece over at Brain, Child? If not, there it is. Also, I believe I have something in the November O magazine. I keep meaning to tell you that, but then I forget to check and make sure it's true.