Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sparkling Hard Cider Sale

I am so very happy to announce that our hard cidermaking business is up and running.  We are now selling in a few local places and are gearing up for more.  If you live in out area of Western Mass (specifically the Northampton/Hadley/Amherst area) then come on by this coming thursday for our very first barn sale.  Here are the details:

When: Thursday, December 22, 2011 from 4-8pm
Where: Our Fermentation Barn
          295 River Drive (that's route 47)
          Hadley, MA

We are 4.1 miles north of route 9, on the right.

What: We are selling bottles of our delicious sparkling hard cider and having a wee tasting too.

1 bottle (750ml.) for $12
2 bottles for $22
3 bottles for $30
and a full case (12 bottles) for $108

Come and taste what we have pressed and fermented.  We would love to see you and anyone you know.  Spread the word.

For more information go to our website:
carr's ciderhouse

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Crafting for The Today Show

This week has been filled with intensive crafting for a Family Fun segment on The Today Show that is coming up (next week, I think).  One of the Top Editors is heading down to New York to show off the different things you can make with your kids for the holidays and I am making those things.  I have to say, it has been a great week of crafty fun.  I became practically addicted to making these Tree Placecard  Holders.  It was a good thing, because I had to personalize them for the host's children and various other children that will be on the show. Harry ended up making one yesterday as an ornament gift for a pal of his.

I don't know if I have ever linked to Family Fun for crafts.  I love working for them and I think it is a great magazine for families.  If you haven't seen it before, you should pick one up sometime.  And, it only costs about $10 a year to boot!

Despite my work as a crafter, I don't craft with my kids as much as I would like.  I am embarrassed to think about all of the times I have said (possibly sharply) not to touch what i am in the middle of styling for the magazine.  But now it is the holiday season and all of that changes.  We have things to make!  I set my kids up and we craft a ton and I couldn't be happier. I'm not sure why we don't make gifts for people we love all year long. It feels so good at so many levels.

Gift Idea!!!
If you need a good holiday gift that kids can make, head over to my other blog Improv Diary for a decorative wooden spoon idea.  And it involves a wood burner, so your kids will love it!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thank you

I can't begin to thank the people in my life enough for who they are and how they deeply affect my life. I wanted to start making a list of names but knew there would be people I would neglect to put down and it wouldn't be because I am not thankful for them.  So, you know who you are.  I hope you feel from me my deep gratitude for the blessing of your place in my life.  I really hope you do.

I am, at this moment, baking a huge apple pie.  Pumpkin is done.  Going for a run soon.  Playing an enormous game of Capture the Flag with many families and that should simply be the biggest blast ever.  Going to our dear Catherine and Michael's for a feast that will be too delicious to describe, I'm sure.  It is sunny.  We pressed 300 gallons of cider on Monday. Ava and Harry and Jonny are amazing. Things are really good and I am so freakin' thankful.

Now, before I start to cry, or something, please head over to Pacing the Panic Room to see Ryan Marshal's beautiful video of our apple press in action.  It is short and truly worth your time.  He is crazy talented and inspired. In case you don't read his whole post, here is another link that will bring you to Kinfolk magazine, where Ryan wrote and article and contributed the same video.  It is a magazine devoted to celebrating small gatherings and is lovely,

Have a great day and wear loose fitting clothes!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tutorial alert

Hey, did you know that I just posted a new tutorial over on my other blog, Improv Diary? Well, I did.  AND, I even made a little video as part of it so you might really understand how to "draw" with thread on your machine.  Let me know if it is helpful, if you are so inclined.

It is a canvas project envelope, based on a regular paper 9 x 12 envelope.  You can read all about it here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pork Belly

Okay, I am posting about a roast pork belly I made for a picnic up at our cider barn on Sunday.  I have to admit I am torn about posting these shots because they are diametrically opposed to what I just posted over on Improv Diary.  Head over after this and you'll see what I mean.  I am not heartless, just for the record. I feel good about raising pigs to feed my family and friends for many many reasons, but it isn't without its complications.

I have never made a pork belly before so I read a lot before doing it and followed the directions I found here.  I did the slow first, hot second version and it was AMAZING!.  You may have heard this cut called Pork Layer Cake before, and here is the reason:

The lean meat is at the bottom, then comes a thick layer of fat, then atop the whole thing is the skin all crispy and crunchy.  The fat might seem like a bit much, looking at it running off the table (the dog was underneath being bathed in and licking up the treasure) but even I ate it and that sort of thing usually revolts me. This was so NOT revolting.  It was sooooo good.

I cut it up into squares and folks stuffed it into a baguette with a sweet vinegar slaw, mayo, hot sauce, and pickled beans and radish.  It was insane.  I don't have a picture of a fixed sandwich - sorry.  I don't know why I didn't think to snap one. Duh.

 We also had our first press day of the season with our whole new cider press set up.  New and improved. It went off without a hitch and our relief and joy was great.  Everyone went home with some fresh cider and much too full bellies.

This is me pulling the lever that operates the apple elevator.  They fall into the grinder above the press and then fall in a heap at the bootom of that plastic tube.
Here is the ground apples on top of the press cloth.
We wrap the press cloth around the ground apples like an envelope.
 We do it 6-7 times on press racks all in a stack like this.  Then it gets pushed into the press and smooshed.
 The juice runs through a tube into a container outside the barn. We were doing a small run, so it was into a 50 gallon drum with a liner.

Last year fermented cider under snow.

 A very cute boy eating a pork belly sandwich.  

Friday, October 28, 2011

my girl

I have a 12 year old daughter named Ava, as many of you know.  Since she is my kid, you might not believe that I am unbiased when I say she is pretty flippin' amazing, and of course, you shouldn't.  I am wildly biased but I know it is true.  She recently started a blog to share her art and creative life.  She is also a devoted writer and sometimes we get a glimpse of those stories on her blog.  I wanted to invite you all to go have a peek at Popcorn Cadence.  She, like most of us who put our work out into the world, loves comments, so don't be shy. Pass it along to young friends you have that might be interested.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mason Jar Pendants

I use mason jars a lot, and I know I am not alone in the world now or back in the day.  We drink out of them, burn candles in them, dip paint brushes in them, and preserve food in them.  They are just so darn useful and they are pretty.  So yesterday, we made them into pendant lights for our dinner table and I couldn't be happier (well, I could be a little happier with the cords they dangle from, but the kit was given to us out of my Mom's attic, so...)

Our IKEA pendants were beginning to break and look yucky so we switched it our for this.  Nice, huh!
 Currently, there is a different sized jar on each light, but my husband prefers the little half pint jars.  They can be switched out by unscrewing the lids, and then screwing different jars on.  Maybe I'll even tint some for fun.

 Right now, we are using a piece of cardboard that I cut a hole in for the lid, but we will swapping them out with actual mason jar lids that are drilled today or tomorrow (or in a few years).  I keep checking the cardboard, and it isn't hot at all.  Still, just in case.
This really could not have been easier.  And, I LOVE IT!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

pretty pink cashmere cardi

Did you read the article in today's Times about women and coffee consumption and depression?  I did, with a cup of coffee in hand and a smile on my face.

For those of you who haven't had a chance to look at Debra Immergut's and my new blog, Improv Diary, head over for a very easy tutorial on making the above cardigan.  It took me 15 minutes to make out of something I simply never would have worn otherwise.  It is very pink and pretty.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

two bits of news

I have two fun things for you to look at today, if you have a minute.  The first is over at Sew Mama Sew, where I am a guest blogger and have posted a great little hooded tunic project for you to make. You can even see me modeling as a coy little riding hood type, only with more "facial character", if you know what I mean.  Oh well. Age smage.

The other things is this: Debra Immergut- my pal and co-author and senior editor at Family Fun Magazine (so often she is my boss too)- and I have started up a new blog called Improv Diary.  It is really new and just has a few posts currently, but keep checking in.  It will be a great extension of our forthcoming book with Storey, called Improv Sewing: 101 Fast and Fearless Projects (May 2012).  We will post thoughts and tutorials and things we like that express our love of the improvised and the creativity that comes from freeing yourself up to work with what you've got. And, Debra is a great writer and simply a pleasure to read.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I actually *HEART* polymer clay

As a Family Fun Magazine craft developer, I have had plenty of opportunities to handle all of the crafting superstars- pom poms, pipe cleaners, puffy paint, felt and craft foam (I do not heart craft foam). The material I have been most surprised about loving, however, is polymer clay- brands like FIMO and Sculpey, you know the stuff. It is so easy to make cool things out of it and if you have an extractor fan, you can ignore the fact that it is a plastic and probably not actually a good thing for the air quality of your home when your baking it (or outside, when it is extracted).  So, ignoring that successfully, I would like to show you this lovely cuff I made.  I also made a little itty bitty pendant for my boy to wear at school so when he is sad (and he has been sad) he can look at the back where it says, "we love you".  He says it looks like I bought it at a store. Charmer.

Wrist Cuff Tutorial
What you'll need:
- polymer clay in a color you like
- a rubber stamp you like a lot too
- acrylic paint
- foam brush or paint brush
- cloth or paper towel
- oven

1. Take a chunk of polymer clay from the pack and roll it out with a rolling pin or jar.  You want it to be pretty thin to achieve the flexibility needed for a cuff.  Let's say, 1/8". I worked atop parchment paper so it was really easy to lift it off when the time came.

Stamp it with your chosen rubber stamp so the details are all there.  If you don't like the imprint, re-do it.
2. Measure your wrist and then cut the clay so it will wrap around your wrist and leave about 3/4". I used a ruler and a craft knife for a nice clean line.

3. Gently peel the rectangle off the parchment so the shape doesn't get deformed and wrap it around a toilet paper tube. Gently press it so it is secure-ish against the cardboard.

4. Following the manufacturer's instructions, bake your cuff.  I took mine out a few minutes early to ensure it stayed nice and flexible.

5. When it is done and cool, apply acrylic paint all over the stamped area and then wipe off excess so it just stays in the impressions.

Isn't that really nice?  It would be fantastic with stamps all over it so there is a lot of contrast, but I really like my umbrella stamp so I used that today.  Make them for all your gals!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Back to School Pencil Case

I have always thought that the best thing about starting school are the new school supplies.  I'm sure I'm not alone.  Right before the start of the year, Ava had her 12th birthday party and since she only wanted to have 4 kids I thought it would be fun to make the goody bags more functional than years past.  And, since the theme of her party was "Japanese cute", these little binder pencil cases were perfect.  I swear they didn't take long, and besides, Ava helped me and we got to really hang out before she headed off to middle school.  So. Much. Fun.  Ava drew the little cute characters and I cut and sewed them up.


back to school pencil cases

What you'll need:

- cotton canvas
- velcro
- vinyl
- contrasting thread
- grommets (and a grommet setter)
- some art


1) Cut your pieces. 
   Canvas: 5" x 8"
   Vinyl:  8" x 10", then fold in half
   Velcro: 7.5" x 1/2" (I cut a 1" width in half the long way)
   Canvas strip: 1" x 8", the press in half long wise

 2) Fold the vinyl in half, sandwiching the little piece of art in the middle.  Smooth out any bubbles and insert cut edge of vinyl into the canvas strip that has been pressed in half.  One side of the velcro strip (it doesn't matter if it is the loops or the fuzzy side) will be sewn onto the back of the canvas strip.  
note: I find pins get in the way, so I am just careful and sew this together without them.
3) Topstitch along the perimeter of the canvas strip with a small zig zag, being sure to grab the velcro into the stitch.

4) Sew the velco onto an 8" side of the backing canvas in the same manner, then press the velco sides together so they are secure.

 5) Using a zig zag stitch and starting at an edge with velco, sew around the three raw sides of the pouch.  Be sure to backstitch at the beginning and the end.
Set your machine to a straight stretch stitch (it's a utility stitch that goes forward twice, back once, forward twice, etc.)It makes a nice bold line. Stitch right along the edge of the zig zag on the first side, about 3/4" from the closed 8" edge (this will allow space for grommets, and then back up along the edge of the zig zag on the other side.  This reinforced line will make it so pencil tips don't get stuck in the zig zag stitching.  The zig zag makes it unnecessary to hem, which, as you might already know, I am all about avoiding.

6) Add grommets following the manufacturers directions.  They are very easy to do and the whole kit for setting them costs only a few dollars.  You will need a hammer.  Don't be scared off.  You'll want to find loads of ways to use them because they are really quite handy.

The kids loved them and everyone got their favorite animal.  We filled them with paper covered pencils (made by Ava), japanese erasers (of course), and little paper wind spinners that had their names stamped on them (Ava made them with a circle paper punch and stamps and then we sewed them together in the blink of an eye).

Thursday, August 25, 2011

wedding aprons

I was recently asked to create some aprons for the wedding of  my kid's PE teacher.  He is a special kind of fella and really quite a gifted educator- more environmental education than jumping jacks- and he and his gal needed them to wear while they were handing out pie to all of the guests as they arrived.  Love that!  He wanted some swooping swallows and hearts on the chest and a pocket for whatever one might need it for.  He also wanted a shawl with the same motif for his Granny.  All together, 6 aprons and the shawl.  I decided to use linen and keep them very raw and they really turned out lovely, if I do say so myself.
I thought I'd share how to make them so you can have one too.

What you'll need:
* an apron to copy
* a 1/2 yard of linen or other fabric of your choosing- anything will work
* another contrasting fabric- I used jersey cotton
* embroidery floss and needle
* contrasting thread for your machine
*an iron


1) Fold the apron you will be tracing in half lengthwise and align the fold with your folded fabric. Use chalk to trace the shape of the apron and cut out.

2.  Using chalk or disappearing ink, draw or stencil your shapes to be reverse appliqued onto the desired spot.  I chose the breast of the apron.

 3. Cut a piece of fabric large enough to back the chalked shapes.  Pin to the back of the apron.

4. Thread an embroidery needle with a length of embroidery thread.  I like to work with an arms length or so to keep it manageable. Tie a knot at the end and pull a stitch from the back of the apron to the front.  Continue with a running stitch around the entire shape, ending with a knot to secure the thread on the backside of the apron.


5. To create the reverse applique, use a sharp tipped pair of scissors (embroidery scissors are perfect), and carefully cut the top layer of fabric away, about 1/16" from the embroidery thread. Cut excess backing fabric off.

6. To finish the apron, I chose not to hem or tape the edges, but thought I'd leave the edges raw.  To minimize raveling (though I did want some), I sewed around the perimeter of the apron shape a few times, allowing my lines to meander a bit.

 I sewed about 6 lines across the top like this.

 7. Cut a 2" wide strip of linen fabric that is long enough to go around your neck and keep the apron top falling around the collar bones.  It should still be able to slip over your head without being too loose.  Next, fold the strip in half lengthwise and press with a hot iron. Sew a zig zag stitch along the open edges.

 8.  Pin the raw ends in place so the are on the front of the apron (again, show off those raw edges!).  Stitch a box with one or two diagonals for strength/

 9. The waist ties are also 2" wide strips.  Make them long enough to reach from your sides and tie in a bow.  This is really up to you and how much fabric you have.  Use your scraps if you can. I left the edges raw, of course, and zig zagged along the edges before attaching to the apron.

 10.  To attach ties, pin them in place where the bib panel meets the straight apron bottom.  This will be obvious.  Use zig zag or straight stitches- whichever you prefer (I changed it up on different aprons because I am like that) to attach the ties to the front of the apron.  Just be sure to backtack so they are nice and secure.

 11.  Want a pocket?  Yes, they are good to have. I forgot to write down my dimensions, but I rememebr them being about 7.5" x 11".  Again, do what you like.   Before pinning it in place, run some stitched lines or zig zags along the open edge of the pocket.  Or, even better, use a selvage edge that has a nice soft fuzzy fray that is won't ravel anymore.

Center the pocket in position, pin to secure, and zig zag along the raw edges to attach it to the apron front.  Next run a straight stitch (I used a strong double straight stretch stitch) 1/8" in from the zig zag.  That pocket isn't going anywhere.

 Look, there is my use of the selvage along the top of the pocket.  Isn't that nice?