Saturday, 31 March 2012

Table runner in the shop

A modified log cabin block table runner.

Constructed from the fabric of various thrifted clothing -- either things which I bought specifically for the fabric, or which no longer fit me properly.  All the materials are wool or linen, and it's filled with part of a thrifted cotton blanket.

I made the top in a single evening, hand stitched the binding, and then machine quilted it in two sessions.

It's now on sale in the shop!  (And I've decided I need a walking foot for my machine.)

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Iced Coffee

I love a tall glass of iced coffee on warm mornings.

It's best if sweetened with a large dollop of sweetened condensed milk.  But that is a luxury I can't always afford, so for every day, I use powdered sugar.

It dissolves in the cold liquid so much better and faster than granulated sugar.  I use cold-brew coffee, which has a lovely flavour and won't melt your ice right away!.  Top it up with milk (and a splash of cream if you're feeling decadent).  Delicious!

Monday, 26 March 2012


Eventually, I will have that post about the player piano for you.  I'm having issues with the video.  For now, though, spring flowers!

They are so delicate to look at, but so sturdy.

And I'm finally getting the hang of making my camera focus sharply on a single object while blurring out the background.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

The Hunger Games

I avoided reading The Hunger Games for quite a while.  It seemed like just another one of those fad series; I pictured it as another Twilight, and decided to skip it.  But I finally heard enough good things about the books from people I respect.

I read the first one in 4 hours -- picked it up to read a few pages before bed, and finished at 3 in the morning.  Definitely a page-turner!  So I was excited to see the film when it came out, although I wasn't sure I would actually like it.  I'm so picky about movie adaptations of book.  But I thought this was excellent.  It was extremely unusual in that large sections of the film actually looked almost exactly like my mental picture.  So cool!  I'll probably be blogging about the series again once I've read the second and third books.  Not only are they impossible to put down but the first one really made me think.

At the top - the Reaping hairstyle. Below, right before the Arena.
Now I'm slightly obsessed with Katniss's hairstyles.  In the book she's described as wearing her hair in a side braid most of the time, with an elaborately braided up-do for the Reaping.  I loved what they did with her hair in the movie!  So I decided to do my own the same way.  I've been wearing side-braids and braided up-dos for years but today I deliberately copied the film.  Then I dressed sort of Katniss-style and went for a photo-shoot in the woods.

A Dutch braid going from left to right, and then wrapped up and pinned.
Reaping hair.  The tiny braid was my own addition -
I don't think it's done quite like that in the film.
My not-quite-a-mockingjay earrings!

The everyday braid.
My version doesn't look exactly like Jennifer Lawrence's, because I don't have the same bangs, but I think I got close.  And it's such an easy and flattering style.  I'll definitely be doing my hair like this again!

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Rainy Day

It's pouring rain and I'm sitting at one of the coffee shops downtown, wishing I had an umbrella and possibly sensible shoes.  I had to be out of the house at 7 AM (to attend traffic school... sigh...) and I didn't take time to check the weather.  It was clear when I left but now it's chilly and so wet.  And my umbrella is in the car on the other side of town.  It'll be a damp walk up to school for my afternoon class!

But Blondie's is a charming shop and I don't mind spending an hour here!  Their food and drinks are excellent and I like the atmosphere.  They play music from the '50s and '60s, the staff is friendly, and the big windows balance out the dark, exposed brick of the walls and the black beams in the ceiling.  I keep glancing out the windows and seeing people I know - it's nice to be at the point where I'm beginning to be familiar with this town.

I wish I had more time to just hang out at coffee shops.  Or in fact to just sit and be still, anywhere at all.  I've been feeling really tired lately -- I desperately want the spring break I didn't get this year!  And of course if I'm fortunate and actually land a job for the summer, I won't get much of a break then either.  But that's life, I suppose!  And for now I'll enjoy this quiet hour and hope the rain lets up.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Of Mitts and Migraines

Yesterday I had a migraine.  It's maybe the second time in my life this has happened and I hope it's the last (but it probably won't be.)  I woke up with a splitting headache and that weird haze - almost a mirage? - floating in the corner of my eyesight and making it difficult to see out of my left eye.  I almost stayed home from school but decided against it -- I hate skipping class.  The haze went away, mostly, before I left, so I thought I was doing better.

Not so much.  By halfway through my 9 o'clock class my teacher said I looked like I'd just died, and after class he told me to go home and forget about the rest of the day.  I considered it, and decided I didn't feel well enough to drive anywhere, so I curled up on a bench in the lobby -- where apparently I terrified another teacher, as I was so white in the face she thought I'd passed out.

So I spent two hours lying on a couch in yet another teacher's office.  I have to say I was so touched by how everyone took care of me and was so sweet!  I hate being a problem so I hesitated to ask for help, but so many people offered it.  People are nice :)

Anyway I survived the day, made it home without further mishap, and woke up headache-free this morning.  Hooray!  And I even managed to finish a knitting project in the midst of everything.

The original mitts.  (Yes, she's unhappy.  But not because of her mitts!)
I've been working on these for a while.  They're inspired by a pair from the final episode of Doctor Who's Season 2; when I saw them I immediately decided I needed to knit them!  Dozens of blurry screencaps, lots of charting, and about 10 re-knits later, I have a pair.  They're even the same size!

(That's a big deal, because I re-knit the cuff of mitt #2 at least 5 times before I got it to come out the same gauge as the first one.  This is the problem with not knitting them immediately one after the other!)

I put these on Etsy this morning and this pair is already spoken for.  Wow!  I plan on knitting more, though.  I have a purple pair planned for myself at some point.  What colour do you think I should make next to sell?

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Busy Sunday

Today has been a lot busier than I usually like my Sundays.  We've got the children's musical coming up this week at church, so we held a two-hour rehearsal directly after morning service.  How is it that children always have several times the energy of the adults in charge?

This afternoon there was an orchestra concert at school -- the two winners of the Concerto and Aria competition, plus they played Brahms' 2nd Symphony, which was excellent.  (Well, it all was!)  I had about an hour and a half between the end of my rehearsal and the beginning of the concert, so I wandered around campus in leisurely fashion and took pictures of flowering trees.  Also of myself, because I could.

For a change, no part of this outfit was made by me!  I do occasionally wear ready-made clothes ;-)

 The dress and the shirt are both from Old Navy.  I bought this dress back freshman year of college, but I almost never wore it -- it's a halter dress with a very low back, and I always felt uncomfortable in it, even with a little sweater.

Then it occurred to me that I could wear a shirt under it.  Duh!  I don't know why it took me three years to figure that out!  Now I wear it all the time.  It's really comfortable and if I don't wear the belt it's even more comfy.  Just a simple a-line dress, and it's cotton so it's great for warm days.  On cooler days I wear tights (I've got a bright purple pair that I love with this) and a sweater, so it's really versatile, too.

The belt is one I got from clothing donations after the tornado.  Shoes, if you can even see them in the pictures, are from Target.  The large iced coffee is from Starbucks ;-)  My hair started out the day curly, but it was still a little damp when I took it down this morning so the curls didn't last long.

I'm not sure what sort of tree this is, but it's lovely!  Campus is full of flowering trees in the spring and I'm really enjoying them all.  It took me a week or so to become resigned to the fact that it really is spring -- the daffodils aren't supposed to bloom in February! -- but I decided I'd better enjoy it since it's here and it won't last long!

Now I'm off to finish my project for music analysis and try to find my big clear ruler so I can use my rotary cutter...

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Breakfast Sandwich

Hooray, another recipe!  Or really not a recipe, it's too basic for that...

You know those breakfast sandwiches a lot of fast food restaurants sell?  An English muffin or a bagel, egg, meat, cheese, all grilled up together?  I love these, but I don't like McDonalds and I can't afford Panera on a daily basis.  But I figured, how hard can they be, really?

Basically, you take your bread - shown here as an English muffin, but bagels are really good too - and butter the outsides.  Fry an egg.  I recommend you break the yolk towards the end and let it squish out and then firm up a bit - otherwise it'll break when you grill the sandwich and make a mess.  Layer cheese, meat of your choice (bacon, breakfast sausage, sandwich meat -- bacon is my favourite but I used deli turkey here), and the egg on top.  You can use any kind of cheese - or several - and whatever meat strikes your fancy.  If you want a little more kick to your sandwich add some mustard.  I always do a sprinkle of salt and pepper also.  I guess you could also add things like a slice of tomato... some fresh herbs... maybe bannana peppers?  Top off with the other side of the bread, and pop into a panini grill or other counter-top grill. 

If you haven't got a grill, don't despair!  You can get a similar effect in a frying pan, you just won't get the little "panini lines" in your sandwich.  But it tastes just as good.  Just cook on one side until bread begins to brown, then flip over, pressing down all the time with a spatula to get the flattened panini effect.

There you go!  Breakfast in about five minutes, for a fraction of the cost of a fancy sandwich from Panera.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Recipe: A Pasta Thing

So, I was going to call this something descriptive like "Red Pepper Pasta" or the like, but I referred to it on Facebook as "a pasta thing" and my cousin requested that I name it that officially.  So I did.  Just for you, Lauren!

I made this on Saturday.  I really wanted pasta but I didn't want a heavy tomato sauce or anything.  So I experimented a little and came up with this!  It probably owes something to someone else (maybe the Pioneer Woman?) as I know I've made a somewhat similar sauce from a recipe before.  But this one's my own twist on it.  It ends up being light but flavourful.  I think it would be perfect served with crusty French bread and a salad!  (Neither of which I had on hand.  But theoretically...)

The recipe looks a little complicated, as you end up having several things going at once, but if you read through it before you start I think you'll find it's not too bad.  Mainly you end up doing chopping or blending while other things are cooking.

A Pasta Thing

1 lb pasta (shells, bowties, or something else small-ish)
1 red bell pepper
1 onion
3-4 cloves garlic
2 T olive oil
2 T butter
salt and pepper to taste
chopped basil (to taste - I used about 5 large leaves)
splash of Tabasco
1/2 cup heavy cream

Start salted water heating for pasta.  While it heats, slice red pepper in half.  Chop one half into thin slices; put the other on a tray and broil in the oven for about 15 minutes, until the skin begins to blacken.  Pull out and place in a plastic bag to steam out and cool.

While the pepper is broiling, heat butter and oil together in skillet, then chop onion and garlic.  Cook in fats until beginning to soften.  Remove half of mixture and set aside in a bowl with the sliced red peppers.  Cook remaining onions until soft.  Place in blender with the roasted pepper (de-skinned) and blend until smooth.  Add Tabasco and heavy cream and mix.  Add in some of the pasta water to thin out the sauce a little (I think I used between 1/2 and 1 cup.)  Feel free to add more cream if you feel it needs it, also.

Put the rest of the onions, and the sliced red pepper, into the skillet (with a little more oil or butter if necessary) and cook until onions are translucent and peppers are soft.  Season with salt and pepper.  (This all happens while you're dealing with the puréed sauce, mostly.)

Pour sauce over cooked pasta.  (I rinsed out the blender with some extra pasta water to get all the red pepper goodness out!)  Mix thoroughly, then add the sautéed veggies and the chopped basil.  Toss.  Garnish with some more basil if you like, and serve with grated parmesan cheese.

Mmmm.  This was good!

Monday, 12 March 2012

Choir Tour

I might get fired if Dr. Foster ever sees this ;-P
Choir tour this year was interesting.  For one thing, we went to Jackson and Memphis... whereas the last few years I've been leaving from Jackson.  But going to Jackson meant I could walk up to Union (we stopped for lunch half a mile from the school) and visit old friends!  I saw my old voice teacher, a whole assortment of random friends, and most of the music faculty, and I got the great joy of singing with the Union Singers again for a rehearsal.  I miss them so much!

St Peter's Catholic in Memphis
Then we went on to Memphis.  We had three full evening concerts over the course of the week, but mainly we visited high schools.  We did this with Union, too -- we go to a school, sing for them, hear them sing, and then the director works with their choir and there's usually some Q&A time at the end.  Most of the schools are fun, but kind of mediocre (and then there are the groups that talk through everything and don't pay attention) but we had a few stand-outs this year.  Madison Academic is always fun because I know kids there, and they've got a good choir, but the one that sticks in my memory is Overton High School in Memphis.  It had a bit of an "inner-city" feel, but those kids were smart and what is more they were completely invested in their music.  They wanted to be there, they wanted to learn, and you could tell just by their attitudes.

Lunch at Huey's, with Kim :-)
They sang really well, with good technique and with feeling but what impressed me most was the way they listened.  Really listened.  When Dr. Foster asked "Okay, so what did you like about this song?  What did you dislike?" they didn't just answer "It was pretty" the way kids at some of the other schools did.  They would say "I liked what the basses did in this particular section" or "I loved how the music brought out the meaning of the text on these words" and other really specific comments.  When Dr. Foster had one of the boys read the text of a song, they had intelligent things to say about that and they could quote back whole lines of it accurately after hearing it only once.  They were a joy to work with.

There is never a dull moment on the bus... Richard in a back-to-front, belted-on Snuggie!
Dr. Foster told us in rehearsal today that their director had told him the kids were still so excited about our visit the next day.... and all we could think of to say was, we are still so excited about them, too!  It was a pleasure to work with a group of such talented and interested kids.

Waiting out the rain in Starbucks with Justin, who plays my little brother in the opera this spring!
Soon.... pictures of the player piano!  Maybe even a video if you're lucky and my internet connection cooperates.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Back Again

My goodness, it's been a while since I posted!  I've been quite busy and also out of town, first for a vocal competition and then for choir tour.  I'll post more about both of them in the coming days but I thought I'd pop by and mention that I'm still alive!  Briefly, though:

Orpheus Vocal Competition at MTSU.  Didn't place, did have fun.

Stopped by my alma mater on choir tour.  Saw old friends and teachers, sang with my old choir, was for three hours perfectly content.

Met a cat named Cat.

Lunch on Beale Street, got soaked going back to the bus in the rain.  Wrung water out of clothing.  Amazed no one got sick.

Home-stay last night with a wonderful lady who had (among other things) a lovely cat an a 1921 player piano.  Also five antique music boxes, the kind you can put discs into to play different songs.

Came home and immediately made a pot of good tea.  It's been a whole week.

Also made a microwave mug cake to celebrate being back.  Best one I've ever tried although the salt did not get very evenly distributed.  (Recipe HERE.)

Pardon the poor photography.  The kitchen lighting is pretty terrible after dark.
The cream is shaken, not whipped.  Still good though.

Back soon with more details!  Hope you've all been happy while I was gone :-)