Category Archives: Bonanza!

Gift Exchange! WOOOO!

Yesterday we headed to Sarah and Paul’s for our annual Christmastime dinner and game night. It’s one of our favorite traditions of the holidays, and normally we target the first Saturday after Christmas for it, so we can still enjoy their wonderful decorations but can also exchange tales of our mad gift-giving skillz and be in a slightly more relaxed post-holiday-madness mood. Thanks to the dumb calendar this year, though, there isn’t a convenient non-New Year Saturday immediately after Christmas, so we had a pre-holiday game night instead. That meant that it marked the very first gift exchange of the season! WOOOO! Presents!!

As you can tell from her blog, Sarah is a prolific sewer; she makes the most beautiful aprons and clothing for her kids and jewelry rolls and zipper pouches and softies and just so many clever, lovely crafts… and pincushions!

Pincushions From Sarah

These are the wonderful dressmaker kind of pincushion, the sort you wear on your wrist, and they’re just the cutest design because of the flower petals all around them. Pookie claimed the pink and green one, because that’s her favorite color combination, and I claimed the Farmdale one, because that’s my favorite fabric. Basically, Sarah couldn’t have made these any more perfectly than she did.

Shortly before we left for their house, Sarah emailed me to say she was stressing out trying to decide whether to make one last surprise for us. It turns out she went for it, and it’s a good thing, too:

Snowman Potholder

What an adorable pot holder! Look at that snowman fabric! EEE! I can’t believe that she whipped this up in such a short time, because it’s just the cutest.

Meanwhile, we gave Sarah a snowman mug rug…

November 4 2010

(I can’t believe this is the only picture we’ve taken of these. We ended up making quite a few of them, for ourselves and to give as gifts, and seriously, this is the only picture? Man, that’s lame. Anyway, take my word for it that this is a cute mug rug.)

…and a felt-and-sequin chicken in honor of her Cornish Hen business venture.

Chicken

I’m sorry I didn’t get a better picture of this apron-wearing hen, because I have to admit that I’m really proud of her. I didn’t know I could draw a chicken that actually looked like a chicken, let alone design one in felt that’s wearing a sequined, rickracked apron. I know that she’s gone to a good home!

It was, I think, a very auspicious kick-off to the gift-giving (and -receiving!) season; of course, we’re lucky to get to enjoy Sarah’s and Paul’s friendship, so wonderful gifts are a total bonus.

[Posted by Schnookie]

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Filed under Bonanza!, Celebratory!, Pins and Needles, Seasonal

An Important Announcement About Gardening

I was getting all ready to start putting together posts about our recent awesome vacation in Dallas, but then something amazing happened that is putting the organization of our (kick-ass) pictures on hold. Look at this:

Inadvertent Harvest

Dozens of frying peppers, ranging from zesty green to sweet red! Buckets of spicy purple peppers! A surprising handful of basil! And underneath that all, quarts of fresh tomatillos! This was what we shook off the plants in our garden today when we started in on the end-of-season plant removal from the beds. This is a garden that we have literally been neglecting for the last six weeks. Literally. We haven’t watered, or trimmed, or weeded, or pruned, or anything. We walked away, and when we came back, this stuff was waiting for us.

Tomatillos

Perhaps even more significantly, we hadn’t even planted tomatillos this year. Or the year before. Or the year before that. They just sprung up out of the dirt, and because we were neglecting the garden, they were perfectly content just to hum along bearing fruit with nary a care in the world. And this leads me to an important announcement: apparently you can do literally nothing and still successfully grow vegetables. Whenever I hear someone remark that gardening is difficult, or that we have some kind of special skills or wizardry to draw the bounteous bounty from our front yard, my response tends to be “pish posh! I have no idea what I’m doing, and it still works!” But here is proof. If you have dirt and you introduce — in any way at all, even in theoretically inert seeds from years-old compost — vegetable plants to that dirt, you can garden. Nature just wants shit to grow, you know?

[Posted by Schnookie]

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Filed under Bonanza!, Garden, Harvested, Lessons Learned, We Grew This

Adventures In Apple Canning

Apple Vignette

Our friend Sarah is quite intrepid at putting things by, and in the process of teaching herself how to can a while back, stumbled across a recipe for canned apples with red hots. Well, when she mentioned it to us, we decided that we all simply had to try it. It wasn’t apple season, though, when we started making plans for it, so we had to bide our time for almost a year.

Weighing Apples

Finally, at long last, it’s fall again, and after a family excursion to pick heaps of apples, Sarah invited us over for the big canning day.

Mountain of Apples

Now, neither Pookie nor I have ever canned anything, so it was very exciting to get to try out this mysterious art for the very first time. The process was pretty simple. Just peel, core and slice a mountain of apples, make a syrup with sugar, water, red hots, cloves, cinnamon, ginger and vinegar (I think that was everything), toss the apples into the syrup, simmer for a few minutes, then pack into prepared jars.

Schnookie and Sarah Canning

It was a beautiful fall day, and we had a great time in Sarah’s sun-drenched kitchen working on all of those steps. It seems canning isn’t really nearly as scary as it sounds… at least on the front end. Who knows if all of our labors will yield a bunch of pints of botulism.

Glass Jars

While Sarah definitely knew her way around a canning set-up, she insisted that she was by no means an expert. And so it was a lovely low-key canning party, at which there wasn’t too much rending of garments and gnashing of teeth when three of our first six cans didn’t seal properly. The recipe book seemed to suggest we shrug it off, return the apples to the pot, and try again.

Pookie Ladling

The only disappointment with this project was that red hots don’t mix well with water. We all visualized, way back when we first heard of the recipe, pretty jars of apple slices with red hots suspended artfully (and brightly red) all around them. Instead, they melted. And even though several red hots in the container Sarah was storing them in had come in contact with some water and melted into big clumps, we still didn’t realize that was going to happen until after the red hots had been stirred into the pot and started turning into syrup. We’re very, very smart that way.

Red Hots!!!

Apples Aslant

We suppose it’s okay that we didn’t end up with apples studded with solid red hots in the end, because a pretty pink syrup is almost as good. And either way, the product was delicious.

Peel Vignette

Even with some failed seals and having to re-can half the apples, the whole process was so simple and fun that we decided to make a second variety of canned apples, this time with dried cherries and golden raisins.

Apples with Cherries and Raisins

With just a little bit of work, we ended up turning 14 pounds of apples into 10 beautiful jars of tasty treats. And, as we always do when we’re at Sarah’s house, we had a fantastic time. She and her husband Paul have such a lovely home, with so many wonderful things to photograph, and far more importantly, they’re such a fun family. What a great day!

Spool Tower

Pumpkin Scale

Chickens Eating Apple Peels

Paul and Clark Reading

Paper Lanterns

Schnookie, Fabulous

Bird Egg Gourds

October 4 2009

Final Count

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Filed under Bonanza!, Pictures Worth A Thousand Words

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.

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

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!

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

Something From The Oven. Finally. (Again.)

This weekend the training wheels came off. With the floor sealed, the sink up and running, the appliances in, it was time to let rip. And let rip I did! Saturday I tested the limits of my vegetable attention span by tackling a bit of my farm share, and gorged myself on a lunch of chard sauteed with home-grown garlic, beets (boiled, then diced and tossed with vast quantities of butter) and about 600 ears of corn (zippered, lightly buttered and salted). I was also a responsible summer cook and froze 4 cups of the corn. Then I whipped up a fallen chocolate souffle cake; the recipe for this came from a Gourmet magazine from 2004-ish, and it’s insane. The cake is crazy easy, and it’s got a smooth, light texture that looks kind of like a flourless cake but has none of the density issues of the flourless oeuvre. It seems, for all its collapsedness, to be light as air, and gets a thick, almost meringue-y crust on the top. I love, love, love this cake, and it’s basically foolproof.

Dinner Saturday was an involved affair: gnocchi with pesto (made with homegrown basil and garlic). I would have taken photos, except it looked like something they’d make Klingon characters eat on Star Trek. I have the worst oxidation problems when I make pesto, and this dish was unusually awful in that regard. But it was scrumptious, and we managed to pick a wine from our “cellar” that actually paired well with it, so that was an unexpected and delicious bonus!

Sunday was all about pretending it’s not 95 and wicked humid out; because I’ve missed having an oven for the last 3+ months, I wanted to live large, so we made like it was fall and had roast pork loin. I used a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated’s “Best Recipe” book, and ended up with a lemon-thyme jus, and a roasting pan full of honey-roasted carrots and fennel. Holy crap — the carrots and fennel! They would have been the best part of the meal (which is saying a lot because the pork turned out perfectly moist and flavorful), except we also had roasted Yellow Finn potatoes from our garden. We have now determined conclusively that the Yellow Finns are a far superior potato to the German Butterballs we also grew: they are sweet, buttery and extravagantly smooth. Quite simply the best potatoes I have ever eaten.

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Filed under Baked Goods, Bonanza!, Meats Meats Meats