31 March 2008

feeding my obsession

Awhile back I registered on marthastewart.com and signed up for a few of her e-newsletters. I don't always buy into everything about the "martha" lifestyle, but I think she has got some sweet ideas and a lot of great resources. Last week, Martha delivered a hefty fix for my current organizing obsession. As I said a few weeks ago, I can't paint anything or tear out my bathroom right now, so I have been cleaning and organizing like a mad woman, succumbing to my crazy mama hormones. My basement is practically color coordinated, my files drawer is obsessively organized, and last week I swept, vacuumed AND washed all of my wood floors.

(image from marthastewart.com)

So imagine the thrill when last week's MS email appeared in my inbox with the subject, "Spring Cleaning Solutions" and it was only Week 1 of this fabulous segment. Yay! Everything from cleaning out your medicine cabinet to rotating your mattress. There should be plenty of cleaning bliss to keep me busy for the next few weeks. Even great resources like a basic cleaning kit and a spring cleaning checklist.

So, if you need a little inspiration or you have your own obsession to feed, head over to Martha's house.

28 March 2008

Knit Mittens

I realize that I am a wee bit behind the season on this one, but I found inspiration and I wanted to share it. Starting with this post on Angry Chicken, I follow the links to Hello Yarn.

Sometime in my late childhood, my mom received a box of odds and ends that were cleaned out of my great grandpa's house when he died. The box contained some of the usual decor of the elderly, plastic jeweled kleenex covers, bathtub-shaped ceramic soap dishes, etc. But amongst the kitschy bath decor, there were a few really fabulous treasures. I found a set of framed photos of my great-great-grandparents with notes scribbled on the back that hung in my room all through high school. I also found a beautiful pair of handknit mittens that had been my great-grandma Sylva's. They are brown with golden yellow flowers and her name knit precisely across the hand. Those mittens have been packed from home to home for the past dozen years. Last year I found a similarly knit pair at a garage sale, gold with cream flowers. Both pairs are flat, tightly knit and precise in their patterns. And for these reasons I have continued to be completely enamored with them. (I will post pics of both later)

So, imagine my surprise when I found the wonderful mitten patterns on Hello Yarn. Flat, precise, tightly knit wonders...

(Fiddlehead mittens from Hello Yarn)

(Squirrel & leaf mittens from Hello Yarn)

I had started to learn to knit a few years ago and only managed to make a dozen dishrags before succumbing to boredom with the whole thing. I think that these patterns my just inspire me to pick up those needles again. Of course, I wouldn't want to start with something "beginner". Let's just dive right into challenging instead. I think i could knit these one pair after another, playing with color and texture, into infinity. But for a start, I will try one pair, which will probably be completed just in time for the first snow of next winter...

18 March 2008

Baby quilt

I have decided that if I were to become a quilter, I would have to give myself tons of extra time just for the fabric selection. It has taken me about 2 months to finally put together all of the fabric for the quilt for the baby's room. 2 months... I am embarrassed just putting that in writing. And I also feel the need to explain myself. I really am not a frilly, girly girl and I didn't want a baby room that was all pastel and little bunnies. Just not my style. I also didn't want it to be overly grown-up or decorated. I wanted it to be colorful, fun, lively, and comfortable. So, yes, it took longer then it should, but I wasn't just going to settle for any old prepackaged, sugar-coated baby set.

And I am proud to say that I finally have something that I am really excited about. Yay! I have been debating on whether to attempt to make the quilt myself or to get some help from a professional (my grandma). I like the idea of trying it myself, but I am not a very precise person when it comes to things like this, and I really want it to look nice, not fall apart, yada, yada, yada. So, every night, I pull out all of the pieces that I have cut and debate about it again, lay them all out, look at the pattern, fold them all up again, and put them away, still undecided. Last night, I made a definitive decision that at the end of the month, when we visit my family, I will talk to my grandma about it, so that it actually gets done before the baby shows up. (So, grandma Shirley, if you are reading this, consider yourself warned)

Here is a sampling of most of the fabric, with the book that the pattern comes from. I have added a few more pieces, more blue and green, since this picture was taken, but you can get the idea. All of the fabric is light-weight cotton and the backing is a quilters flannel. In an effort to keep this from breaking the bank (fabric is so crazy expensive!) I found some vintage pillowcases and fabric for some of the pieces, rabidly staked out fabric sales and pieced together a selection of fabric I really like.

My favorite piece is the embroidered flowers in the top left of this picture, below. It came off of an old pillowcase that my mom found somewhere. It has the perfect colors and I am excited to have just one piece on the quilt that is a little different. The only problem was that the embroidery was really close to the bottom edge of the pillowcase, so it is really close to one edge and will be off center in the quilt square, but I think it will be okay.

I am using a pattern from Amy Butler's In Stitches, her living room throw quilt. It is big enough to fold at the end of a twin bed, but folded in half, it will be perfectly crib sized. I hope that will give it a longer life and also make it a special piece for the bean, long after it outgrows the crib. I love the pattern because it is kind of crazy quilt pattern, with all of the blocks in different sizes, some of them overlapping others. Here is a really poor picture of the layout, to give you the general idea:

So, I will keep you posted on the progress of the quilt and I will definitely post pics of the finished product. Now, I need to choose a paint color...

12 March 2008

the start of spring

I was out in the yard yesterday, enjoying the late afternoon sunshine and I couldn't help but snap a few shots of the first signs of spring poking through my leaf mulch. It is a little early here in Montana to get too excited about spring, but I definitely have some spring fever.
Happy (almost) spring everyone!

11 March 2008

Cherries and crumbles cake

As I said the other day, baking and cleaning have been the bulk of my nesting in the last few weeks (not counting the weekends patio project). I had found a recipe for a sour cream & cherry bundt cake in Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook that I really wanted to try. But I accidentally returned it to the library before I wrote it down. Woops! So, how happy was I when I stumbled across the "big crumb coffee cake" from Smitten Kitchen. Here I had a sour cream cake with fruit filling and a wonderful mound of crumbly goodness on the top. So, combining the two ideas in my head, I made the perfect dessert for dinner with friends last night. I used the Smitten Kitchen recipe for the cake, poured it into my bundt pan, topped it with some of the yummy cherries that I canned last fall, and then smothered the whole thing in a thick layer of crumbles.

When I flipped it out on the the plate to cool, I was so enamored with the crisp bundt shape and the jagged, crumbly bottom. After it cooled I sprinkled the top with powdered sugar. Yum! It was a big hit and definitely one to keep in the files for future gatherings. A few changes I would make in the future: adding pecans and maybe oatmeal to the crumble, a little bit more cherries next time, and perhaps a lemon glaze over the whole thing. Mmmm...

10 March 2008

Another step closer to a patio...

Some of you readers who have been around for a while will remember the start of the patio project. With the good intentions we always seem to have, we hoped to have it done before the snow, but with an early winter and a lot of morning sickness, it just didn't get done. Finally, this weekend, in an attempt to make that side of the yard look less like a "project" for potential buyers, we did a work blitz and moved one step closer to completion.

First, we gave away the hot tub (aka, "giant planter") that had been blocking that side of the yard for over a year. Yay! I was militant about getting rid of this thing, emailing the new owners to check in every few hours, prepping everything for the move, asking J to clean up the dog poo in the yard to make a clear path. It was going to be gone by our open house on Sunday, if I had to carry it, single-handedly to the dump. And luckily, it didn't come to that. It was picked up quickly and painlessly on Friday night by a new family who is very excited about it.

Then, we packed up a trailer load of lumber scraps that I refused to landfill and dropped them off at the local wood recycling spot. Johnson Recycling shreds up scrap wood for mulch and landscaping wood chips. They take anything that doesn't have a finish (paint, chemicals, stain, etc), including tree branches. That was a great find. Plus, I think you can get mulch from them for really cheap.

Finally, we got a load of fine gravel from Lowe's to fill in between the slab that we laid last fall. It looks so much better! We need to get a bit more gravel because the stuff we poured this weekend settled over the last few days. It is getting closer to completion though. The last step in the process is to stain the concrete slab, but if we end up selling, we won't be getting to that step.