Monthly Archives: August 2008

And I Get To Take All The Credit!

Within the last week I’ve had two separate people suggest cookie recipes to me (Patty suggested lemon-clove sandwich cookies, and Sarah wrote a post about chocolate cookies) but I’m still months behind on my cookie plans! Ages ago I saw a recipe for something called Pine Nut Tassies. I’d never made tassies before. I had, come to think of it, never even heard of tassies before. But they sounded so cool I couldn’t resist. I hacked into Schnookie’s epicurious recipe box and saved the link. And then I sat back and waited for the perfect day.

Today was that perfect day — just over halfway through a nice long vacation, a lazy summer Friday, everything is feeling like Autumn is really just around the corner. The active prep time on the recipe (which is from Gourmet magazine) said 1 1/4 hours but the instructions seemed really easy. Just make a simple butter cookie dough and line mini-muffin trays with this pastry-crust-like-material.

Whip up a caramel-ish filling with brown sugar, butter, and an egg then stir in pine nuts. Make sure, though, that you get the right amount of pine nuts. I forgot to remind my personal grocery shopper to read the recipe before getting the nuts, so I was missing 1 3/4 ounces of the little buggers and my personal errand runner had to zip back out for more.

Filling the shells with the sticky, gooey mixture made me feel like I was Sandra Lee making some ridiculously fussy recipe made from 99% crappy ingredients like pancake batter in a can and cherry pie filling and 1% stupidly expensive, hard-to-find items like rose soda. All I needed was the Semi-Homemade theme song, a bushel full of fake apples, and an over-the-top window treatment.

The funny thing about this, though, was that it wasn’t fussy. At all. It was fun and easy throughout the entire process. I never felt like I was tired of bending over muffin tins or tired of having sticky fingers from the filling.

The butter cookies were insanely easy to make and divide (helpfully leaving us with just the right amount of snacking dough, to boot).

The filling was simple and quick, and super-fun. I’d never made anything like it before and probably could have swirled it around for hours because the texture was fascinating.

And the cookies came out of the oven perfectly bubbly and golden brown after just 10 minutes.

The potential to be scalded with burning hot caramel was enough to scare us into doing the unthinkable — letting the cookies cool completely before trying them. Of course, that did force us to stop and smell the roses, or rather stop and arrange the cookies on the gorgeous new tray Boomer and Schnookie gave me for my birthday.

Sandra Lee would mostly layer the tray with silk flower petals first, and maybe a few pillar candles, and probably a giant faux-chandelier would be involved somewhere. But for me, it’s perfect.

Speaking of perfect, the cookies? Are delicious. The butter cookie crusts are, well, buttery! Buttery, and smooth, and bright. The filling is phenomenal. The caramel darkens the brightness of the crust, balancing it out beautifully. The pine nuts provide a nut-ish flavor but without the traditional nut-ish crunch and chunkiness. They also round out of the overall flavor with a finish that hints at something totally outside the realm of The Cookie Usual, but which manages to also be comfortable and warm


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

For Butter Cookie Pastry Shells:
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, on medium speed. Add egg and vanilla and beat. On low speed, add the flour until it is just incorporated. Split dough into halves and cool in fridge while making the filling.

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tbl butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups pine nuts (1/2 lb)

Whisk together sugar, butter, egg, vanilla and salt. Add pine nuts and stir.

Split one half of the dough into 12 1 1/2 tsp-sized chunks. Roll each chunk into a 1-inch ball and place in muffin tin. Using your thumb, press the dough along the bottom and sides of the muffin tin cups. (You will not need to grease the muffin tin.) Fill each shell with about a tsp of filling.

Bake until bubbly and golden brown. In my oven, this took exactly 10 minutes, although the recipe calls for 12-15. Place the tins on trays to cool for 10 minutes, first running a sharp knife around the edges of each cookie. After 10 minutes, remove the cookies from the tins and allow to cool completely on the rack.

The recipe says this will make 4 dozen cookies, but I only had enough filling for 3.


Filed under Baked Goods, Cookie, Cookie, Cookie Starts With C

Progress Report: November Windows

Another week has passed working on “Windows” in the “November” Prairie Schooler chart and this was what I had to show for it on Sunday morning:

“Gosh,” you might be thinking, “Didn’t that have a cornucopia and pumpkin on it last week?”

Yeah. Yeah it did. What’s your point?

Sigh. I miscounted. I left out a whole row in the stupid cornucopia. And then I dragged my feet about ripping it out. Gee, I wonder why I’d do that?

Don’t think I didn’t start to resent that ridiculous “cheeful” there in the middle.

I finally manged to get the cornucopia and pumpkin ripped out and then flitted off to Arizona. When I got my project out on Sunday for an all day extravaganza of relaxing and stitching, I realized that I hadn’t ripped out the interior border. I had worked it in two passes, crossing half crosses on the way down, and then finished them as I traveled back up. In other words, I needed to rip out starting in an area that had no tails; I needed to cut the thread on the front and then rip both resulting tails out until I could run them under again. Easy as pie — if you have something other than rounded-tip TSA-approved Ralphie Wiggum scissors. Schnookie graciously stepped in to take a stab at cutting the threads with the impossible scissors. I had twice pointed out the problem area, so I figured everything was tickety-boo. Until she handed it back to me and I tried gently pulling on what should now be a loose end. Nothing. I tried more-than-gentle tugging. Nothing. “Uh… Schnookie?” Turns out she cut the wrong part of the border. That’s the last time I ask her to do anything for me! (Until dinner.)

Anyway, the correct spot then got snipped, and in two seconds I had both areas ripped out and re-finished. And thanks to the fact that I had the rest of the day to do nothing but stitch and listen to music, I had this to show at the end of Sunday.

It’s a little bit further along than last week. Here’s hoping I don’t have the same kinds of set-backs before Week 3’s progress report! This project was supposed to be fun! It’s like MFBville has put a hex on it or something!


Filed under Pins and Needles, Progress Reports, Stitching

Restocking The Stash: On The Road With IPB Living, Chapter 4

Today was the big day — time to do a full-day, deep immersion trip to The Attic. We started things off with a side trip to this lovely, wee desert garden in North Scottsdale (as documented here), then made a quick stop at AJ’s, our old favorite grocery store, for some goodies to bring to Jean, Sandy and Deborah at The Attic.

Okay, that’s a total lie. We were using Jean, Sandy and Deborah as an excuse to get our hands on some of AJ’s cheesecake brownies; we used to get these every Friday to go with our traditional DiGiorno dinners, as a reward for surviving another crappy week in our crappy jobs. The brownies were every bit as good as we remembered, too. An added plus was that we got to drive past our old workplace on the way, where we pointed and chorused a lusty round of Nelson Muntz “Ha ha!”s at the poor souls stuck working there now.

Apparently when Boomer was just out of college and working in her first job, her stepfather, the immortal Cowboy Red, would tell her every time she brought home a certificate for completing training courses that it was something to put in her “Girl Graduate Book”. When we suggested we were going to take a picture of the old workstead, she cracked that it would go in our Girl Graduate Books. So… consider it done.

Along the drive down to Mesa, we got a nice look at Camelback Mountain again, in its full camel-y splendor.

The most exciting landmark on Camelback for little kids visiting their grandparents (and for the adults they grow up to be) is the Praying Monk, a rock formation that looks like, well, a praying monk. The name really does kind of say it all. (There is also a formation that looks just like Lincoln’s face, but you have to be on the other side of the mountain to see it.)

Okay, so sightseeing done, we descended upon The Attic at about 10 a.m.. We didn’t leave until 3:00 p.m.. Yeah, that’s right — five hours of stitching shopping. It was heavenly. So what goes on during all that time? Excellent question.

First, there’s the thread pulling. Most of the projects we buy aren’t kitted up, so we start with the chart, and then have to pull all the threads from Jean’s vast array of options. There’s DMC cotton, Needlepoint Inc silk, Gentle Arts and Weeks Dye Works overdyed cotton, Belle Soie overdyed silk, among many other options, and the old standby for every silk snob like us — Au Ver Au Soie.

Oftentimes the chart we’re looking at will be charted in a fiber we don’t want to use, so that’s when you break out the conversion chart.

Today Pookie was looking at a chart written for cotton, which is stitched with two plies, but she wanted to work it in silk, which is only stitched with one ply. That’s not normally a problem, but in this case, the chart called for blending two colors by working with one ply of each. This left Pookie with the task of choosing a substitute color to work in the combination’s place.

Here’s a green and a brown that were supposed to be worked together:

Here are the options she was considering:

And here, on the left, is the one she picked:

Fun, no? The more creative you get with a chart, and the more substitutions and color swaps you work in, the messier the chart itself ends up looking. Here’s a peek at Pookie’s tracking of the color changes she was planning:

Meanwhile, Schnookie was planning how to convert various and sundry charts from DMC or Needlepoint Inc into Elizabeth Bradley wools, for working on canvas.

Once the threads are all settled on for a project, the next step is to choose a linen. This is a very delicate step — the linen can make or break a project. This one, for a little Halloween piece, doesn’t do anything for us:

But this one? Is perfect:

Different materials and different palettes give all kinds of opportunities for different colors, counts, and “vintage” hand-dyed looks on the linens.

As we worked, our pile of supplies kept growing.

So, with plenty of time for chatting with the delightful ladies of The Attic, and a nice leisurely lunch, five hours spent at the shop translated into seven projects pulled by Pookie and eight by Boomer. It was especially fun to be there today, because it was open by appointment just for us — we had the whole shop to ourselves. For all that we’ve spent months looking forward to this trip, it amazingly exceeded all our expectations.

When we had finally exhausted ourselves completely, it was time to check out. Boomer was rung up first:

And then it was Pookie’s turn:

The final tally for a once-every-two-years restocking trip was, um, tens of dollars. Tens and tens. The whole pile looked pretty modest when it was bagged up…

… but spread out, it’s a pretty impressive haul. Here’s Boomer’s pile:

And here’s Pookie’s:

Not too shabby!

We headed back to the hotel after shopping and collapsed into a restful afternoon of stitching before heading back out to dinner. Our target tonight was Fashion Square Mall, where we wanted to do a little regular-person shopping and have a meal at Z Tejas. It’s hardly the world’s greatest restaurant, but it was our go-to “lazy weeknight” place to eat out when we lived here, and we love, love, love the Chambord margaritas. Dinner was predictably good, and left us feeling delightfully like we had to go back to work tomorrow morning. Heh. It’s always nice to get a reminder of how good life is by momentarily thinking that we’re still stuck in our crappy Arizona-life jobs. After we ate, we strolled the mall and Pookie found a kick-ass pair of sunglasses while Schnookie stumbled on the new purse she didn’t realize she was dreaming of. What could be better?

Storm clouds had covered this part of the valley while we were at the mall, so we drove home in the rain, then enjoyed one last night of stitching in our hotel, listening to the thunder outside. We’ll have to be up and at ’em in the wee hours of the morning tomorrow, though, to catch our early, early, early flight home. All in all, this has been a marvelous vacation — good times, good company, great stash restocking. It just doesn’t get better than that.


Filed under Away From Home, Bonanza!, On The Road, Pins and Needles, Pommerdoodling, Stitching

Restocking The Stash: On The Road With IPB Living, Chapter 3

We took a little detour on our stitching vacation this morning, because we’ve recently made a resolution to be more adventurous. Many years ago, when we were in grade school, a teacher from our school and his family participated in an exchange where he went to live and teach in Hawaii, and the teacher from Hawaii brought his family to Princeton to take his place. The family from Hawaii, the Colefleshes, were total go-getters. For their year in New Jersey, they made a point of going to see and do everything. No matter how ridiculous the art fair, or folk festival, or local museum, or living history demonstration, or parade, or public concert, they were there. They grabbed life by the horns, in as dorky a way as humanly possible. And now we’ve decided we should do that too. We want to be more like the Colefleshes. So in that spirit, we decided to spend a few minutes this morning at a little desert garden/park thing that was installed in an empty lot next to a senior center in our neighborhood about a year before we moved away. We had been intrigued by it back then, but too lazy to bother checking it out. Well, we didn’t fly 2500 miles this week to NOT go look at it, did we?

It’s a tiny little park, and it’s got essentially a manufactured “natural” landscape thing going on inside it.

Even in such a tiny space, we saw some fun desert wildlife. There was a lizard…

… bees in a cactus flower…

… and, among a lot of more boring birds, a bevy of quails.

There were dozens of the quails, but they were, for the most part, elusive prey. They all huddled under a sprawling, shrubby palo verde and made that sound of theirs that is best described as sounding like balloons rubbing together squeakily.

The park was very charmingly laid out, with a spiraling path designed to look like a rattlesnake.

At the center of the path, there was a giant rattlesnake head and tail.

And near the entrance to the park, hidden among the brush, was a sculpture of a bat drinking nectar from a saguaro.

Around the base of the sculpture was a story about a bat whose sonar failed him so he was essentially blind. He cried that he would never be able to find nectar to eat, and was reassured by the voice of a snake nearby. The snake told him he would guide him to food, so the bat started flying…

What a wonderful little park! We’re so glad we took 20 minutes out of our way to check it out. So far, in our newer, better, more Colefleshier life, things are going swimmingly!


Filed under Away From Home, On The Road, Pictures Worth A Thousand Words

Restocking The Stash: On The Road With IPB Living, Chapter 2

Day Two of our stash-restocking adventure dawned bright and early, around 11:30 in the morning. Yes, that’s 2:30 in the afternoon back home, but back home can suck it. We hit the ground running, lolling around in our pajamas and stitching for about an hour, then headed out into the blinding desert heat in search of lunch.

Now, we’re staying in a nice little resort hotel right near where we used to live out here, and the thing about resorts in the Phoenix area is that they work very hard to not appear like you’re in the desert. On our way to the car, we took a side exit and found ourselves on what our hotel calls the “Lawn Court”, and what Boomer called the “Croquet Court”.

There was even, on the sidewalk beyond the croquet lawn, a side planting of what seemed to be a lawn made entirely of succulents.

Despite the palm trees and lush grass, though, there are lots of beautiful desert-appropriate plantings on the grounds here, and while we’re too lazy to venture forth to see the entirety of what the place has to offer, we were able to get some requisite cactus pictures in just along the walk out to our car.

We also snapped a picture of an ocotillo, to remember the good old days when we had one in our front yard and used to wrap every spiky branch with Christmas lights during the holidays…

… and because we don’t want to go to jail, we took a mandatory picture of a giant, many-armed saguaro.

Our big plans for today were all food-related. For lunch, we wanted to go to NYPD Pizza, which was our favorite when we used to live here. It’s not easy finding New York-style pizza in the Valley, and going without is no way to live. We miraculously managed to find the restaurant on our first try, and on the way in, we noticed the sky was filled with charming fluffy clouds again. So here’s a picture of one:

There were two things we were most interested in at NYPD. The first was Pookie’s all-time favorite pizza, the Brooklyn Family. That would be sausage, pepperoni, and fresh basil:

It was, as remembered, excellent. The crust is not quite as New York-y as we remembered, being a bit softer than the real deal, but it’s still a scrumptious pizza. And while the Phoenix surrounds are long on good boutique-y sort of pizzas, the simplest kind is still the best.

The other reason we were excited to be eating at NYPD is the beer. You see, during the few years we lived in Scottsdale, our beer of choice was Fat Tire. Since moving away, we’ve found a small, local brewery in Princeton to supply us with all our beer needs, and it’s spoiled us. When we were in Ottawa for the NHL Draft in June, we got draft beers of a brand we won’t mention here and were horrified at how dishwatery it tasted. So we were very concerned that when we got out here for vacation, we’d be crushed to find out that Triumph Brewery had ruined Fat Tire for us, too. Pookie even vowed ahead of time, “I’ll just have to drink 800 beers during the three days to find out.”

Good news, Gentle Reader. While it’s not quite up to Triumph-level snuff, Fat Tire is still a perfectly cromulent beer. Which means Pookie won’t be gagging down the remaining 799 on her docket.

On the way out of lunch, Boomer’s worst driving instincts kicked back into gear, and we circled the parking lot fruitlessly a few times in search of the exit. Which was, as it turns out, exactly where we’d left it when we came in. But don’t tell Boomer that. Anyway, the detour afforded us the chance to gaze in wonderment upon this fine firearms establishment:

Yeah, we’re not in Princeton anymore.

After a quick stop at Best Buy, where we ogled fancy cameras but bought only new headphones for Pookie’s iPod, it was time to spend the day the way we love best: sitting around and stitching. Back at the hotel, we spread out the loot from our first run at the Attic.

There aren’t many new projects in there — just charts waiting to have their supplies pulled tomorrow. They look so eager, don’t they? Well, except for the one’s Boomer’s ugly bought. Those are all appropriately ugly.

And so we spent the remainder of the afternoon in a delightful state of relaxation, stitching, gorging on candy, and listening to music on the iPod speakers that our room came equipped with.

Finally dinnertime rolled around, and we were forced to remember how to stand upright long enough to walk to the car. Our hopes of seeing another rainbow, this time with camera in tow, were dashed, but in its place we got a spectacular sunset.

Now, when we were kids and visited our grandparents out here, one of the most exciting parts of every trip was seeing Camelback mountain. For huge portions of our lives, it was the only mountain we could name. And it’s certainly easier to recognize than, say, K2, which we wouldn’t know if it kicked us in the teeth.

We were so excited by the sunset and driving along next to Camelback that we took a zillion pictures in the car, with no consideration for how they were likely to turn out.

What is there to say about a dinner at the Roaring Fork? This was our favorite restaurant when we lived here, and, beside a few supremely swanky dinners we’ve had at places well outside our regular orbits, remains right up at the top of the list. We had cocktails (an organic agave margarita and a prickly pear mojito), scrumptious appetizers (tempura-battered shrimp for Boomer, tortilla soup for Schnookie, and the famous green chile pork stew for Pookie), staggeringly good entrees (cedar plank salmon with apricot barbecue glaze for Boomer, roasted pork carnitas for Schnookie, buttermilk fried chicken for Pookie), and then barely had any room for our desserts (molten brownie and huckleberry bread pudding). The green chile pork stew is near the very top of our short list of bestest food stuffs on the planet, and it’s been two whole years since we last had it. Horrors!

It was well worth the wait.

Walking out of the Roaring Fork after dinner is never easy, considering how stuffed we always are. Tonight we left with a bag of our leftover desserts, as well as three mysterious gifts from the guy who bussed our table. He’d been very chatty, and we’d struck up pretty much an evening-long conversation with him; before we left he told us there were three boxes in our doggie bag that we had to wait until we were outside to open. When we got back to the hotel, we cracked them open:

What a sweet gesture! It was lilies from the table settings! After opening them, we had to glance around suspiciously, concerned that we were back in the “everyone breaking out in song” type of day we had yesterday. It’s way too late for musical numbers, so if there are any synchronized-swimming muppets hiding in the woodwork, we’d love for them to just wait until tomorrow.


Filed under Away From Home, Celebratory!, Dining Out, Drinky-Drinky, On The Road, Pictures Worth A Thousand Words, Pins and Needles, Pommerdoodling, Stitching, Worth Selling Your Soul For

Restocking The Stash: On The Road With IPB Living, Chapter 1

Today was the big day — time to hit the road for our “Restocking The Stash” trip out to The Attic in Arizona! After several weeks of giddy anticipation, we were in a full-on state of high-level pommerdoodling when this morning finally rolled around. All that stood between us and our carefully mapped three-day assault on the Valley of the Sun was a mere trans-continental flight. Pfft! Child’s play!

We left Philadelphia at a perfectly reasonable midmorning time, made a bit less reasonable by the fact that none of us slept a wink last night (yes, heading out to The Attic is, for us, an awful lot like Christmas is for seven-year-olds), and after five shockingly uneventful and quick-moving hours, descended on our target.

It should be noted that it seemed to us today that the whole world was as happy as we are that we’re on vacation. First off, after years of driving around the entire Philadelphia airport to get into the short-term parking garages, we took a wrong turn this morning and discovered a route that is a zillion times easier, and ended up with the best parking spot we’ve ever had at the airport. Then the flight crew spent the last hour of our plane ride getting on the speakers and congratulating each other for various life accomplishments. There was the “Let’s all give a hand for [Flight Attendant X], who got engaged last night!” announcement, followed by the “Let’s all give a hand for [Flight Attendant Y], who is celebrating a belated birthday today!” one, followed by the “A flight attendant will be going along the aisle now collecting service items. Please hand over empty bottles, cans, wrappers, credit cards, jewelry, engagement rings…” one. Then the driver for the rental car shuttle inadvertently had the entire bus in stitches as he explained how rental car returns work, but at a level appropriate for “Sesame Street”. Pookie remarked that it felt like she was living in the first part of “The Truman Show”, when the entire world is ridiculously perfect. Schnookie agreed, and suggested she expected either musical numbers or Muppet synchronized swimming routines to break out at any moment.

In our new incarnation as photography hobbyists, we were super-excited to have an opportunity to take some pictures at the rental car mall, where they have these cool suncatcher sculpture thingies in the clerestory windows. No, we’re not afraid to look like tourists. We’re also, as tourists visiting a place we used to live in, disappointed to report that the temperature today was depressingly unimpressive. The most sweltering high we were able to document was just 108. Pathetic, Phoenix. We know you can do better than that.

We’d like to say that our first stop immediately off the plane was The Attic, but we’re not going to lie — we were starving. Even though we’d packed hilariously heavy snack bags filled with pounds and pounds of candy for the plane, we needed some real sustenance before we could shop. Oh, and some cold drinks. Five years away from the desert leaves a girl unprepared for how thirsty this place makes you. We hit the shining beacon of every IPB road trip: McDonalds. And once we’d procured their finest meats and cheeses (or, more accurately, their finest potatostuffs), we gave a French Fry toast to being on vacation and on the verge of returning to the most wonderful place on earth.

And that most wonderful place on earth? Is just up the street from the McDonalds. It might look unassuming from the outside…

… But inside it’s a slice of heaven.

It’s probably corny to say it, but a trip to The Attic is like coming home for us. We had a big round of hugs with Jean, who was specially outfitted in her new Brett Favre Jets t-shirt, then caught up with everyone’s gorgeous projects. Then it was time to let the awesomeness of The Attic wash over us. We tried to document it, to give a taste of the shopping experience, but it’s hard to get everything. For starters, the shop is brimming with beautiful models of all kinds of projects. Most importantly, and the main focal point, is the famous Wall Of Samplers:

We aspire for the walls of Maple Hoo to look like that someday.

As you wander around the store, there are tons of other displays, and our favorites are the seasonal ones. There’s the Christmas “mantle”…

… and the Thanksgiving/Halloween fall corner…

… not to mention the 4th of July/Americana corner that we didn’t photograph because we were so busy picking up a kick-ass chart (more on that tomorrow).

Another favorite target for us is the display in the center of the shop of the current featured designs.

This part of the store is trouble, because you could safely just ask for one of everything in there, and, by the time we head home on Tuesday, we probably will have picked up exactly that.

There are areas of the shop we didn’t even hit today, as this was just our cursory first-wave attack. It can be almost overwhelming trying to make sure you’ve seen everything, and we all managed to pick out small projects to start with. After an hour or so of poring over charts, we moved on to the supplies.

And oh! The supplies! You want fibers? The Attic has every fiber you can imagine. Why, here’s just some of the cottons on hand:

Wait, you like overdyed cotton floss more? Great! Here’s the tip of the iceberg of those:

What’s that? You prefer silk to cotton? Great! There’s a whole wall of overdyed silks, all of them mouth-wateringly beautiful!

We didn’t even bother trying to get a picture of all the regular silk threads on hand — we’ll get to that on our second-wave trip. In the meantime, are you looking for cute accent buttons? Well, there are stacks of boxes of those, each more adorable than the last:

And what can you even say about the beautiful stitching tools on hand? Pookie’s scissor collection has already been documented here, and it’s fair to say that The Attic is the pusher who got her addicted in the first place. Beyond the vast array of gorgeous scissors, there are dozens of ornamental thimbles, etuis, little baskets and catchalls, measuring tapes, rulers, and the items that most caught our eyes today: handpainted autumn-themed floss winders:

Oh, and did we mention that The Attic is unimaginably well-stocked with linens? Because they are. There are racks and racks of linens in a rainbow of glorious colors, counts, and vintagey hand-dyed looks; here, in the middle of the linen section, a view to the left…

… and here’s the other side of the aisle:

You could probably take a week just to fully appreciate the linen selection, but we were running out of time today. After a few hours of feverishly pulling charts and putting together threads and linen for just a few small projects, we checked out with a modest bag of swag, ready to spend a day regrouping before making our big restocking run. Today was just a nibble. Monday will be the real feast.

We were by this point utterly exhausted. Almost deliriously so. In fact, we ended up going ridiculously far off course as we tried to get to our hotel because none of us could remember exactly where in Scottsdale it is. Fortunately, we had one of those amazing August skies to distract us; it’s so beautiful to see the big clouds piling up behind the McDowell mountains.

At long last, we found the hotel, checked in, and dragged our sorry carcasses to our rooms, just in time to collapse into bed for some long, hard naps. We were all a bit disoriented and cranky when we woke up, ready to go up the street to Blue Burrito, one of our favorite cheap-and-easy restaurants from back in the day when we lived here. Before going out, though, Pookie took the camera onto the patio of our room to shoot the lawn and trees in our immediate surrounds.

Then, being novice hobbyist photographers, we left the camera in our room when we went out to pick up dinner. And, of course, were greeted outside by the most glorious sunset-tinted clouds and a giant rainbow. Naturally. We should have known, on a day where we expected big song-and-dance numbers to break out at any moment, that there would be a rainbow.

At any rate, after more hijinks trying to figure out from memory where things are located, we managed to retrieve our dinner. We fell on our burritos like we were starving, and further supported our theory that some of the best vacation meals are the picnics you bring back to your hotel room, to enjoy at the end of a long and tiring day.

Now, with our bellies full and the first chapter of our travelogue written, we’re feeling the three-hour time difference. We’ve got a hard day on the docket for tomorrow, rife with sleeping in, lolling around and stitching, and then dinner at the Roaring Fork. And maybe some Muppet synchronized swimming routines!


Filed under Away From Home, Bonanza!, Celebratory!, On The Road, Pins and Needles, Pommerdoodling, Stitching, Worth Selling Your Soul For

Stitching Progress: Goodbye MFBville, Hello Prairie Schooler!

This past week marked eight weeks of continuous progress on “The Village of Hawk Run Hollow”, or “MFBville”. Just as I predicted in last week’s progress report, I don’t have another full square finished to show off.

Still, I’m pretty impressed by how much I did accomplish, considering those little horseys and riders involve seven different colors. I have been known to pass over stunning projects because they involve too much starting and stopping with tiny bits of color changes. Staring down the barrel of four miniature horseys was not fun.

Of course, in the end, they look adorable. After I finished the third in the top row, I decided I couldn’t take it any more. Those new Prairie Schooler charts had been sitting there, drawing me in, all week. I tried plugging my ears with beeswax but their siren song was just too strong. How’s a girl to resist? Especially if she discovered the perfect piece of linen in her stash, and especially when Boomer procures all the threads needed? She can’t resist, that’s how!

Knowing I’d not be thrilled to pick up MFBville again only to have to finish one more of those stupid horseys, I tossed the fourth one it and then picked up the “Windows Sampler” on the November chart.

I chose to work this on 32 count linen because otherwise the finished piece would be too small. On 32 count it’s only going to be about 4 3/4″ by 6″; smaller than that would be ridonk. That choice then necessitated not using silk, since the coverage would be a little weak, so DMC it is. I’m going to use some overdyed floss for the writing, to jazz it up a bit, but otherwise, the color palette is just the Autumnal look I want. The linen is Lakeside Linen’s Vintage Gypsy Gold. In linen parlance “vintage” means it’s hand-dyed to look antiqued. This piece looks almost tie-dyed, but since it will be such a small portion used, and an even smaller one showing, the effect will be one of a subtle depth. I love it. (These pictures make it look washed out. In real life, it’s a rich dark gold, with lighter straw-colored accents. In short, perfect for Fall.)

You know what else I love? I love Prairie Schooler pumpkins.

I love them so much I don’t feel at all guilty that MFBville is on a brief hiatus.


Filed under Pins and Needles, Stitching

Picky Eating With Pookie: Mean Green Bean

The middle of August marks a big pick-up in the PYO department at the farm. To Schnookie it signals a time for getting more bang for her CSA buck (as well as an extra hour or two a week spent toiling in the fields). For me it should signal that we’re getting closer to a massive sauce tomato haul, but in all honesty, when I hear “PYO” I think “oh no — it’s the dreaded green bean”.

Here’s the thing, Gentle Reader, I love beans. I love baked beans, bean burritos, refried beans, bean chili, bean salad, beans in stew, beans in soup, beans and rice, bean cakes… I could go on and on. So really, I shouldn’t fear the green bean. I mean, it’s got the word “bean” right in its name! For some strange reason, though, I don’t hear “green bean“. I hear “green bean”. And what have we learned about Picky Eating Pookie? Greens are the enemy. (Except for chard, which I’ve come to discover is actually pretty darn good.) Moreover, because they’re shaped like snap peas (sort of) my brain skips the bean part, zeroes in on the green and then thinks pea. Nasty, nasty pea. It’s a recipe for madness, I tell ya!

It follows, then, that when Schnookie brought home a heaping basket of green beans late last week, I was not thrilled. Of course, I had to admit to myself that green beans are one of those veggies I’ve sworn to hate but which I haven’t tried in ages. I wasn’t being fair to the green bean or myself. So when Schnookie steamed some to go along side a BLT, I tried one. And it was… Okay. Not great. But I had a second one, so it couldn’t have been that bad. I didn’t have a third. So it wasn’t really that good, either. It didn’t taste like a bean, but it didn’t taste like greens either. You probably won’t be surprised to discover it didn’t taste like a pea either, but that did kind of shock me. The upshot of that adventure in picky eating was that I was confident I could continue to say green beans weren’t high on my list of favs.

Then Schnookie threw me a curve ball. A dastardly, dastardly curve ball. As part of her Project Things That Grow In Season Together Taste Good Together, she grilled up some green beans with some farm ‘n’ garden potatoes (the grill didn’t quite cook them fast enough, so they got some roasting action applied to them, too). This seemed to me a perfectly stupid way to ruin some awesome potatoes. Those things don’t grow on trees, you know! I could’ve taken myself off the hook, having previously fulfilled my Picky Eating With Pookie duties. But… [In a tiny voice:] They looked good. So I ate one.

The following dialog ensued:

Adventurous Pookie: Yummy!
Picky Pookie: Are you crazy?! That’s a green bean!
AP: I know! But it’s tasty!
PP: It’s a green bean. A green bean! It’s digusting!
AP: I dunno, Picky. It’s actually almost… sweet. I think I need another.
PP: Wait! There’s a potato on your fork, too! Don’t ruin that precious bite of potato with a green bean! [Tries to knock the fork out of AP’s hand.]
AP: Hey! That’s my food! My tasty, tasty food!
PP: Ick!
AP: [Savors the mingling seasonal tastes of fresh potato and green bean] You don’t get it, Picky. This is remarkable. The same green bean that tasted tired and bland yesterday is now sweet and buttery. Something about that grilling and roasted completely transformed it.
PP: Yes, but it’s green. We both know things that are green are nasty.
AP: Oh, that’s not true. What about pistachios?
PP: You don’t like pistachios.
AP: No, you don’t like pistachios. I like how smooth their nutty flavor is. So there.
PP: Oh yeah? Fine. Pistachios. All other green things tasty nasty.
AP:What about M&Ms? And tomitillo salsa. And mint chocolate chip ice cream. Those are green!
PP: Not white mint chocolate chip ice cream. That’s not green.
AP: Whatever, Picky. Whatever. Leave me alone. I’m busy making sure I have enough green beans on my plate so that I don’t have to eat a potato without one.
PP: I don’t know who you are anymore.


Filed under Picky Eating With Pookie

Corn, Corn, Corn, Corn, SURPRISE!

So we’ve been gorging on sweet corn lately, thanks to the farm stand on my way home from work, and it’s not uncommon for Boomer and me to spend a few quality minutes together during the evening, shucking a dozen ears of them at a time (most to be eaten fresh, and some to be frozen for later). And so there we were today, tugging off husks and picking off strands of cornsilk, when all of a sudden Boomer comes across an ear that has a wee little proto-ear tucked inside the husks with it.

The little proto-ear was individually wrapped, and all covered in silk, and rested inside the big husks right up against the regular-sized ear. And the regular-sized ear was left looking kind of like its conjoined twin was ghoulishly removed.

It was grotesque and adorable, all at once.

I cooked up the baby corn alongside its full-grown brethren, and while Boomer’s not a fan of it, I thoroughly enjoyed eating it, too. Of course, it would have been better in some kind of saucy Chinese take-out, but who’s going to look a gift baby corn in the mouth?


Filed under You Don't See That Every Day

Voyage To The Center Of The Stash

A few months ago we decided it was high time we take a spin out to Mesa, AZ to visit our stitching friends at the Attic Needlework shop (and swing by some of our old Scottsdale haunts, like The Roaring Fork and the dessert counter at AJ’s grocery store). We haven’t been since 2005, and that’s just a long time to go without replenishing the stitching stash. Well, replenishing in person, rather. It’s one thing to sit at home on the computer picking out charts and ordering kits of thread. It’s another entirely to spend hours with friends pulling fibers and linens, changing one shade of “very dark chestnut brown” for another.

Knowing that I had three days to spend surrounded by the extraordinary materials the Attic has to offer, I decided it was time I gathered my stash together for some assessment and some much needed organization. In the heady days just before we moved into Maple Hoo, I had some grand, grand plans for the (mostly) finished basement room. I figured we’d line the walls with bookcases and then put a long table in the center; the bookcases could hold charts and threads and linen, and the table in the middle could be used as a work-surface for laying out and organizing projects. What I forgot to factor in was Boomer’s inclination towards clutter. Now, really, I’m not much better, but still, I was a little dismayed when, after about three days of living here, this was what that room looked like:

Boomer’s collection of cross-stitch, needlepoint, knitting, and quilting projects exploded in a picture-perfect display of entropy at its worst. Still, knowing how much Boomer does for me, and knowing that the stash room was well tucked away from any outsider’s eyes (well, until I publish it online for all to see), I staked out a few small areas for my stuff. The framed pieces were tucked on and near the table in the rear of the room. My thread collection and some older charts were tucked away in a big rolling ArtBin, while in-progress pieces were contained in a big plastic tub tucked under the table.

Everything that didn’t fit in those two places — i.e. dozens of charts, charts with threads, charts with linen, threads and linen with no charts — was stuffed, in no particular order, into four drawers in the armoire at the back of the room.

If I wanted to look for a new project to work, I had to stumble through Boomer’s piles of stuff (oddly, she knows exactly where every thing in that room is. We used to challenge her to find specific books in the waist-deep piles she had in her previous house and it never took more than five minutes for her to retrieve them) dig through jumbles of disorderly charts and kits, hoping I’d find what I was looking for. It was a disaster. Boomer attempted to introduce some order by bringing home towers of plastic drawers perfect for threads:

This solution? Waaaay to fussy for me. Organizing that many little drawers is too reminiscent of taking the dreaded cataloging class in graduate school. I needed something different. Something easier. Something more flexible, more organized, and most of all, more fun-office-supply-y. Enter some funky binders, lots of sheet protectors, many index cards, and a few hours of getting down and dirty with my collection of projects.

My idea (well, actually Schnookie’s idea) was to put all of the charts into binders for easy browsing, organized into WIPs, charts with all the materials, and charts without materials. Index cards tucked into the sleeves record what various materials are already in place and which need procuring before the project can be started. The threads and linens were all tucked into smaller bags, again with index cards recording the corresponding chart and notes about materials. All the smaller bags were then tucked away in the plastic bin, with my WIPs laid carefully on top, and then the binders were placed on the built-in bookcases in the living room.

Not only do I not need to stumble around the basement to ooh and aah over my charts, they’re now conveniently located right behind the couch for easy access! No more digging through drawers! No more wondering where those old Prairie Schooler santas are! No more wondering if I’ve already ordered that Moira Blackburn sampler about how there are three things that never come back (that chart has been purchased at least three times between all the stitchers of Maple Hoo)!

I have to admit I was thrilled to discover that, when collected all in one place, I could carry my entire stash from the basement to the living room in one trip. That surely means I have free reign to go nuts at the Attic, right? Full disclosure: I’ve already ordered two more binders. One is for overflow; the current binders are pretty close to being too full. The second is so that I can gather all the seasonal charts together. When I’m desperate to whip up a piece for Spring or Winter? I’ll be able to flit over to the Seasonal Binder and away I’ll go!

Like the nerd that I am, I couldn’t be satisfied with just organizing all my projects into binders and baggies. I also had to put together a spreadsheet while doing it so I could keep a catalog of the stash contents. My original thought was “Ooh, I can cross stuff off the spreadsheet when I finish it!” After the peals of hysterical laughter subsided, I instead decided it would be a nice way to make sure I didn’t buy duplicate charts. Anyway, when the spreadsheet was complete, I was able to crunch some numbers.

Works in Progress, aka Things I Intend To Finish At Some Point: 5

UFOs, aka Unfinished Objects That Will Probably Never Get Finished: 3

Charts with Threads and Linen: 14

Charts with Linen but No Threads: 4

Charts with Threads but No Linen: 7

Charts with No Threads or Linen: 48

Total Projects: 81

Random Pieces of Linen Not Earmarked for Specific Projects: 14

And now, because I’m a big nerd, here’s a full list of the contents of my stash, now perfectly ordered and waiting to be put to good use!

SDW, Scarlet Letter
Manchester, Carriage House
True Wisdom, Exampler Dames Design
Berlin Woolwork, Needle’s Prayse
Shores of Hawk Run Hollow (aka MFB by the Sea), Carriage House Samplings

Light Your Way, Blackbird Designs
Christmas Sampler, Scarlet Letter
Deers Among Wood, SARL Designs

Harvest Time, Prairie Schooler
Woodland Santas, Prairie Schooler
Santas Workshop, Prairie Schoole
Prairie Birds, Prairie Schooler
Winter Samplers, Prairie Scholer
Limited Edition Santas 2005, 2007, 2008, Prairie Schooler
Quaker Study, Carriage House Samplings
Circling Alphabets, Scarlet Letter/Hester’s Sister
Garland Fair, Blackbird Designs
Town and Country Sampler, Brenda Keyes
Peaceful Paradise, Midsummer Nights Designs
We Gather Together, Blue Ribbon Designs
Marakech, Kay Montclare
Elizabeth Muir Sampler, EGA
In the Bulb, The Workbasket

Just Hatched, Prairie Schooler
Farm Fresh, Prairie Schooler
We Will Adore Him, Homespun Elegance

Marianna Lignani Anno 1825, Essamplaire
Maria Spence, Essamplaire
Sarah Brignell 1769, Scarlet Letter
The Contented Mind Sampler, Brenda Keyes
Friendship Gathering (spot sampler), Birds of a Feather
Colonial Harbor, By the Bay Needleart
Meadow Hills, By the Bay Needleart

With My Needle, Blackbird Designs Loose Feathers
My Gift To You, Blackbird Designs Loose Feathers
Sweetheart Sampler, Blackbird Designs Loose Feathers
Trix or Treat Book, Blackbird Designs
Just Hatched, Prairie Schooler
Farm Fresh, Prairie Schooler
Barnyard Christmas, Prairie Schooler
Home For Christmas, Prairie Schooler
Songs of the Season, Prairie Schooler
Santa Collection 88-91, Prairie Schooler
Santa Collection 96-99, Prairie Schooler
Santas and Snowmen, Prairie Schooler
December, Prairie Schooler
When Witches Go Riding, Prairie Schooler
Hornbook Revisited, Carriage House Samplings
One Sheep, Carriage House Samplings
Meeting House Hill, Carriage House Samplings
Oliver & Friends, Carriage House Samplings
Sally’s Feather Tree, Carriage House Samplings
Plymouth Sampler, Brenda Keyes
Heaven Is My Hope, Scarlet Letter
Four Seasons Sampler, Scarlet Letter
Sarah Wilson, Scarlet Letter
JCS 1707, Scarlet Letter
Betsy Manchester, Scarlet Letter
Hornbook Bestiary, Scarlet Letter
Peaceable Kingdom, Goode Huswife
Beehive Sampler, Moira Blackburn
Strawberry House Sampler, Moira Blackburn
Pains of Love, Moira Blackburn
Peace Hall, Moira Blackburn
Three Things, Moira Blackburn
St. Hippolyte, Long Dog
Joie de Vivre, Long Dog
The Daisy, Long Dog
Wisdom, Long Dog
All Things, Long Dog
All Things II, Long Dog
Bertha Massiet
Berry Patch Rabbit, Cedar Hill
19th Century Birds, Hands to Work
Autumn Hill, By the Bay Needleart
Live Each Day, PLC Samplers
Welcome, Brightneedle
There’s No Place Like Home, Drawn Thread
Snow, Bent Creek
Gobble, Bent Creek
Cinnamon Stick Santa XVIII, Homespun Elegance
Cinnamon Stick Santa XVII, Homespun Elegance

28ct R&R Kansas City Blend
28 ct R&R Dk. Cappuccino
40 ct Lakeside Sienna Night
40 ct Lakeside Blue Moon Java
40 ct. Lakeside Autumn Gold
36 ct Lakeside V. Examplar
36 ct Lakeside V. Autumn Gold
36 ct Lakeside V. Misty Rain
36 ct Lakeside Remembrance Rose
36 ct Lakeside Meadow Rue
36 ct Birds of a Feather Sparrow
28 ct. Lakeside Pearled Barley
36 ct. Colorscapes Cherub
40 ct Newcastle Heritage
36 ct [Unknown] Creme Brule


Filed under Uncategorized