Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Ah, it's been good! I'm not sure what is different, but I really feel like we have had ample time to have a blast over this holiday vacation. There was loads of time to make our prezzies, cold cold temperatures to provide a daily dose of skating on the pond, and, well, a very large ham to ensure that no one went hungry- for many many meals and between 2 households we ate and ate fresh roasted ham in many ways (I think the tacos were my favorite, but no surprise there).

We were pleased with how our gifts turned out for sweet young friends, so take a look.

For Birdy, we made a story starter kit- inspired by all the excellent work that my friend over at Red Bird Crafts has been doing with her story stones and discs. It looks like this:

How does it work? Easy. Roll a handful of dice that have a different image on each side. We made 6- a character die, 3 object dice, a weather die, and a place die.
Then we made cardstock discs that had all of those images on the dice (I traced a ton of 1" circles on a piece of paper and Ava drew all the pictures. Then we used that as a master to photocopy as many sheets as we wanted. I have a craft punch that cut the circles out easy-peasy).

After you roll the dice, you find the images rolled and glue them to the top of your story page. the idea is that the storyteller will incorporate the pictures into the story she is spinning.

I wish I could share some of the things she has written since getting the kit. There is nothing better than giving someone a gift and watching them love it. Nothing!

Jonny and Ava created some excellent personalized mad libs for Ben- about their school, the various places we have gone on vacations together, and even a bonus mad lib on beavers. And now here is another example of my gal's supremely thoughtful and gorgeous artwork (and now we will rename this blog "One Kvelling Apple").

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


From fairy ornaments to lard...what? I don't think I have ever mentioned the pigs we raised this year in the front field, this being a crafty sort of forum, but all five left for the slaughterhouse and came back as pork this week and they deserve the stage. Now, if you are a vegetarian who is squeamish or sad when it comes to this sort of thing, you should probably head off, but if pork belly and lard pique your interest, then get a load of this:

We rendered about 9 gallons of lard! Well, I took the pictures, being in a particularly sensitive state currently, but my man and dear friends were slick with it.

What will we do with all this lard, you ask? Fry eggs, make pastry, confit something or other, grease machinery, sweat down vegetables for soup in it, and make toffee, apparently. Jonny made this before he left this morning as a gift for his boss. And, yes, it was really good.

One pig came back unbutchered and we got a half and our friend got the other so the two fellows could have the butchering experience. We have a butcher block thanks to our friend Timothy and the weather has been good and cold, so the cider barn was the venue.

Cute butcher!

Ham, weighing in around 25 pounds!

Pork belly being cured. Hello bacon!

We've been eating our share of pork this week, and though I remember our piggies quite fondly (they are wonderful animals, really)I must say, this is the best pork I have ever eaten and I feel incredibly fortunate to know exactly where it came from.

And if you live nearby, we have some for sale still.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

ornament swap

Despite the flu still being an annoying house guest, Ava, Harry and I had a chance to make our ornaments for the Crafty Crow Annual Ornament Swap. This year's theme is Fairy Tales, which is great luck for us since we love to make these little lovelies every year. We had a "great crafty mess"- Ava's appropriate description- on the kitchen table of fabric scraps, buttons, feathers, acorn caps, wool roving, and wool felt. Starting with an old fashioned clothespin (also called a doll pin, fancy that) and some tacky glue, it is impossible not to make something ridiculously cute.

We made her tutu by taking a long strip of crinoline and sewing a basting stitch along the top edge. Then we simply pulled the crinoline along the stitch and it bunched up and we tied it on with the ends of the thread. Easy peasy. We did the same with fabric strips too, as you'll see in some other examples. We put a couple dots of glue to secure the skirts in place, as well. The fabric tops and dresses are simply wrapped around the clothespin and secured with a dot of glue.

You can see we just glued the wings on in the back too. And can you guess how we attached the wool hair and acorn cap?

Front and back of this felt sweetie. The mark that makes her nose was part of the wood. I like it!

Fabulous, dahling!

Harry's Superhero fairy. This was all he could muster the energy for, then he dragged his tired sick self over to the sofa. And, no, we will not be sending his germy hero to some unsuspecting child, not that he ever intended to in the first place.

Alright, that's it. I couldn't choose which ones to show, so you got all of them.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

machine doodles

My lovely mom is having a birthday tomorrow. We are never together this time of year since she lives all the way out in California, but I do think it would be nice to give her a big birthday dinner party sometime- the kind where she is forbidden to clean up. She's the kind of mom who sends me cards every week telling me how proud she is of me and how much she's thinking of me. She is super stylish and sometimes I feel like the stuff I make might not suit that style, but I think she might like the stitching I've been playing around with a lot lately and only had to ditch the botanicals and replace them with something geometric. This is a scarf made from my new favorite material- wool jersey.

Stitching like this is super fun and I love how it looks. It's nice to take something plain and make it fancy. I've been making neck scarves- maybe they are kerchiefs?- which I think are sexy and fun. A quick gift for all the last minute makers of things.

Happy Birthday Mom! I love you too!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

a great weekend

Whew! What a weekend of crafty goodness! The Twist Fair was really amazing and though I was whipped from standing in a 2 square foot space for so many hours, and though my hair was a frizzy mop after ducking under my table to get in and out of that space, I couldn't be more pleased. I got to talk to tons of sweet and curious people, be surrounded by inspired folks with many talents, and see people happy to walk away with something I made. I pretty much sold out, got a couple special orders, and have 3 pages of email addresses to contact when my studio is open and ready for classes.

Here is a picture of my table right before the doors opened on Friday night:

Jam packed! It was hard to notice the dresses, which were my favorite pieces. Here is a wool jersey dress

and a reverse applique dress.

I was so happy about the interest in swapping and came home with some amazingly lovely things from:

This isn't the piece I came home with. I got 2 wee cups with very cool full body silhouettes of Rachel sitting, etched on the side. Love them!

this shirt says 'breakfast' in <span class=
This T-shirt from Mary at Moth Written Arabic. It says "breakfast", in case you didn't know, and her designs are simple and funny and all have the Arabic descriptions or messages on them.

I wanted one of these and will get one eventually, I will.
Pink Grey Juniper Berry Brown <span class=

I don't have a picture of the ring I swapped a skirt for, but go to this site to see her lovely stuff. It was made out of little gear parts of an old SLR camera. It looks like a flower, though sort of industrial. An industrial flower. I love it!

Thanks to everyone who came to see me! I'll be putting a few things in my etsy shop this week and making more stock before the holidays.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


This is where I will be on Friday and Saturday. It looks like there will be a ton of lovely stuff for sale. Come. Visit me!


Monday, October 19, 2009


Though our new trees are still young, small, and not making fruit, we had the opportunity to pick a few bins of apples at the orchard which our friends Terry and Sarah tend. Another perfect autumn day and would you get a load of them apples!
Pick me!

You've met the cookie monster, well, here is our apple monster (and cookie monster).

Pay no attention to the state of her ragged fingers! Maybe you can't see it with the picture this small. Oy!

They are Empires and they are perfect and sweet and juicy. In a moment of pork-on-the-mind, Jonny actually thought we might give some of these to our pigs. Uh-uh, they can eat the drops, I want to press these babes. I want to drink them sweet and hard.

Apples seem to make me happy in a way that no other piece of fruit does. How did they get so dang pretty!

Friday, October 9, 2009

another happy birthday

We are heading out tomorrow for a birthday party "camping" trip for my almost 5 year old lad. Despite how he is at least a full head taller than any other kid in his class, his asking me if I was "desperately tired" today when we were leaving the food store, or his beautiful new letter making skills, he is still my babe. Cliche, I know, I know. But when he laughs, it is still that toddler laugh that he is probably going to lose any minute now, and when he sleeps he seems so small and soft. Oooh, I love him! He actually turns 5 on Sunday, but I am having a moment now while the cake is in the oven (same cake that Ava had, only he wants his to say "If it weren't for you meddling kids..." on top) so I'll share.

Unlike Ava's full week of prep work and fun before her birthday, I only even started making lists today for Harry's. We are going to a State forest to run around in the woods, canoe in the lake, pretend we are in a Scooby Doo story (apparently), hit a pinata, then build ourselves a campfire and roast hot dogs and marshmallows. It will be great. I am hoping to have some sort of great woodsy game inspiration before noon tomorrow, so if anyone has a killer idea, let me know. He only wanted a few kids, which I was totally pleased about (but strangely had to keep biting my tongue about asking if he wanted to invite this or that friend).

Last week we gathered acorns and made these, and I thought it would be a great party craft- simple and super cute.

They are very easy to make. Simply gather some acorns, draw on a sweet face (Harry's is on the right) and knot a necklace string to the stem and secure with a dot of craft glue. I took off the cap on the above girl with hair, glued a bit of wool roving to the acorn top, then glued the cap back on. I even got to give her a haircut, which was very satisfying.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

bird print

If you are a certain friend coming for a birthday dinner tonight, please read this tomorrow. Really, Catherine, go look at Red Bird Crafts or something, because I'm posting your present. Bye!

Last night I finished the silk screen that I wanted to use on a table runner for my friend's lovely new table- it's too pretty for a table cloth. The design is so pretty and though I would love to take full artistic credit for it, I must admit I sort of lifted the idea from a children's book. In fact, if you can tell me which book it came from, I will silk screen it on a t-shirt for you. It's not obscure, so someone should come across it sooner or later.

I swear it wrinkled from the time I ironed it to when I carried it down the stairs to photograph it.

Since the silk screen was out and ready, I grabbed a couple other things to print. This is a girl's upcycled skirt I made last night:

And this is on the edge of a wool scarf cut from the extra wool knit I made a woman's skirt out of last night- more on that later, because I am in love with this new wool fabric I picked up yesterday at this warehouse fabric place called Osgoods near me in Springfield.

Subtle. Maybe too subtle?

Monday, October 5, 2009

more on silk screening

I have been sewing up a storm lately, Twist Fair being a little more than a month away. Last week I had a great run of upcycled children's clothing that I will reverse applique, silk screen, or use decorative stitching to adorn. Here is a tunic I made that has decorative stitches around the edges in a contrasting thread. The shirt was originally a large men's shirt.

I'm thinking a well placed panda would make this Ava's dream shirt. So, with her help, one was designed.

Now, my opinion about silk screening. There are several ways to make a screen, but I have been having the most fun using drawing fluid with original art. All that you need to do is draw your design on the screen fabric with a pencil then use a fine paint brush to apply the drawing fluid. In the panda image above, the black ink shows where that drawing fluid was applied. After that dries, you apply screen filler with a squeegee. After that dries, you run cold water over the screen to wash away the drawing fluid which will then be your screen design- easy! The process is super satisfying.

Like I said in my last post about silk screening, I like to do this on the cheap, so I experimented with using organza fabric from the fabric store and an embroidery hoop. It worked great and was WAY less expensive. I do like using the speedball drawing fluid and the screen filler, though I have heard of people using mod podge for screen filler before. Maybe another time.

These are the bottles of stuff to use.

This is the screen after the drawing fluid is washed away. I will probably tape it where the white is visible so no ink goes through.

And this is some teeny tiny writing I made on a wee embroidery hooped screen that I may use to make clothing labels.

Monday, September 28, 2009

in the woods

Saturday was glorious! Perfectly autumnal with a beckoning breeze and cool enough to delight in the sunny warmth on your back. We hopped into the canoe and went paddling in the pond we live on. We saw loads of turtles and even ate the last of the summers blueberries that clung to the nearly leafless bushes. On the way home we stopped off to take a walk in the woods- well, we wanted the kids to explore while we found a sunny patch to kick back in. That even worked for about 10 minutes but then the idea of hide-n-seek took hold of Ava and there was no changing her whine (I mean her mind). Once we were up and about, I was glad to be moving and after the way-too-easy-to-find-the-hiding-kids game, Ava and I got to building this:

We've had fun making these tree sculptures before, but usually we make them between 2 branches in a tree with little twigs. This was supersized and really fun to make. All the materials were scattered about on the ground around us, and we only needed to break a few dead branches to make them wedge nicely. We decorated with the fallen yellow leaves by wrapping them and poking their stems through the leaf like this:

So, what makes this so much fun? I'm not sure. I think it might be that we are working on some big project together, where art is usually solitary. The materials are beautiful, we are in the woods, it smells good... We love to make all sorts of art and joy can be found in many ways, but being there together with sticks and leaves and sun and without any agenda, well, that sort of fun is second to none.

Friday, September 11, 2009

from the bottom up

Ground has been broken! Above the cider fermentation room in the barn out front, I hope lots of creative juice will be flowing in what is being built as Sparrow Grass Crafts- a craft space for children, teens, and adults. How I dream about this studio with its organized shelves, clean work surfaces, and its near proximity to my home, but how it actually isn't in my home. I will hold a variety of classes in addition to having a dedicated space to develop and craft for Family Fun, which will be beyond words amazing.

The barn is built, but the ascending staircase is not, so here is Harry in a 4 foot deep footing hole we dug one misty summer day. Harry worked and worked with us, and when Ava caught wind of the depth of the hole, she jumped from her curled up reading position and she wanted a turn going in it like him. Maybe it's a little mean, but we made her dig for 5 minutes before we let her. The girl is an esthete, not a laborer. She works with her fingers and mind, not her hands and muscles. Do we want her to show more interest in gardening with us and helping with the never ending list of building projects we have going? Yes, yes we do. It is looking like she will not come to it naturally but there are some great skills to be learned, not to mention the awesome quality time our family will have together. But, alas, she curls up with a book, writes a story, or creates her art- all fantastic! I don't mean to complain. We do find it tricky, the balance of forcing her to help and allowing her to do the work she is drawn towards. I think we just picture our family all doing things together.

Maybe I am not naturally a working type gal either, but I can't imagine hiring others to do work for us, and I have simply the handiest husband on the planet so I figure if I want it done faster, I need to make time to help. What it does for me- the hammering and power sawing and climbing of ladders- is give me alternate feelings of being a total bad ass and an absolutely incompetent and delicate flower with no upper body strength. Power tools are definitely good for making one feel powerful. Wow, can I cut a piece of wood faaaast! I like that Harry watches me do these things- that is worth a lot, so he doesn't get some kooky idea that tools aren't for girls, or something.

In the meantime, the decks are now screwed on and the door will be cut soon so I can get to organizing the piles out of the way to make it my studio. My studio. Sigh.

Friday, September 4, 2009


Maybe I'll start blogging on oats and how delicious they are. It is true, I do love the humble oat. I think it began while living in San Francisco because there was a little bakery in my neighborhood called "101 Carl" that made oat scones we all treasured and planned our weekends around. I still haven't replicated that recipe so if anyone out there knows it...

There was this Australian man who came to W.W.O.O.F (Willing Workers On Organic Farms - i.e. volunteer for food and board and precious organic farming wisdom) on our farm in Ireland who only ate raw foods. It just so happened that the day before he came to stay, we had gotten our bulk order from the health food company and had a 25 kilo bag of oats sitting in the corner of our kitchen. We were shocked by what 25 kilos looked like and wondered what we were going to do with all those oats before "Mr. H" came. In the week he was staying with us, I think he went through half of it because he ONLY ate raw oats, raw almonds, raw honey, and water. No delicious meal I prepared could lure him away from his special diet (which I was totally annoyed by), but we were coming to the end of our lives having w.w.o.o.fers. Everything was becoming annoying about these interlopers that , of course, I had invited to stay. I thought he was slightly crazy then (maybe he was), but of course, I pretty much feed my family that same meal most mornings, so it goes to show ya...... I could also write a blog about the weird things that happened while having wwoofers, but I digress.

My dear friend Timothy always brings us boxes of culinary delights when he comes to visit and last week, along with about 10 pounds of alpine cheeses, he brought us a box of Northern Irish oatcakes which were so delicious and gone in a half second. I think I successfully replicated them and now I will share them with you. Oh, I did give them a little protein and flavor boost by adding almonds. Add the sugar quantity to taste. I like them both ways. They are coarse and gooo-oood.

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup raw almonds
3 Tablespoons of butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 to 1/4 cup brown sugar (not packed)
1/8 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 350.

1) Grind the oats and almonds in a food processor, blender, or in a jar with a hand blender (which is how I do it since I don't have either of the other tools). They should look like this,

ground to a meal. If you are working in a food processor, add butter and blend to incorporate, then add the salt, soda, and sugar, pulse a few times to incorporate. Add the water and pulse until you get a dough ball. If you are not using a food processor, pour oat and almond meal into a large bowl, add the butter and rub it in with your fingertips until it is incorporated. Add salt, soda, and sugar and stir to mix. Add the water and stir until the dough comes together.
3) Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and roll to 1/4" thickness. Press and mend any cracks with your fingers. Cut with biscuit cutters and place on baking sheet (no need to grease).
4) Bake for 10 minutes, keeping a watch full eye near the end. You don't want them to get too brown. Turn off oven, and leave the oat cakes in there with the door ajar while the oven cools. This will ensure that they are nice and crisp. If your oven runs hot and they have gotten brown quickly, remove them from the oven to cool.

Serve with slices of cheddar or hand them to your kids in place of cookies.

They would also be great with little currants mixed into the dough. I'll try that next time.