Culinary, cast-off creativity

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leftover parsley pesto on chicken unearthed from the freezer; roasted potatoes; and clean-out-the-crisper succotash (with Greek yogurt onion dip)

I have been lamenting, for months now, the fact that I haven’t really knit or sewn much of anything since Russell’s birth. Scott bought me a serger a couple of Christmases ago that has sat untouched in its box. I’ve been trying, in fits and starts, to finish a baby quilt. The intention was to finish it in time for Russell’s birth, but the deadline keeps stretching, with hopes that it will be finished by his first birthday.

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crispy sweet potatoes topped with sauteed kale and ground beef; lemon-roasted cauliflower with tahini sauce and sesame

I’ve been grappling with the concept of time: how it’s changed since having a baby, how to spend the time I do have, and how I can carve out time to be creative. And the entire time that I’ve mourned the loss of my hand-making spirit, I’ve ignored the intense daily habit of creativity in the kitchen. Barely an evening goes by where Scott and I aren’t bumping elbows in the kitchen, scrapping together meals out of whatever odds and ends are left in the fridge or freezer, cooking and cleaning until almost 9 PM (which is practically bedtime for us).

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onion and potato latkes with bruised-apple and onion chutney

It’s easy to cast off this type of experimental work as drudgery or utility because it is: we need to eat, every day. Cooking serves purpose while, these days, something like quilting does not; we have indoor heating and don’t need to burrow under blankets for warmth (like the Texan women living in dugouts in the excellent oral history book I just finished, The Quilters: Women and Domestic Art). We try to stick to a tight budget and minimize waste in our household, which means that we keep all of our leftovers and, once we inevitably tire of something, have to figure out how to re-mix it into something exciting.

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In participating in perhaps the most basic and necessary of domestic activities, we’ve entered into daily practice of a type of craft. And because we’re using leftovers and scraps, we’re working within a set of parameters. For someone like me, who is mentally paralyzed by the concept of a blank canvas – whether meal planning, or choosing yarn or fabric for a project – these limitations are a great starting point. I have something upon which I can improve or alter. I favor patchwork and knitting with scraps over everything else, so it makes sense that cooking with cast-offs would offer the same sense of joy and accomplishment.

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carnitas unearthed from the freezer; sauteed kale with homemade ranch dressing; roasted potatoes; crisped corn tortillas and avocado


The problem I’ve had in acknowledging this as creative work is the ephemeral nature of cooking and eating. We can labor over something for hours, tend it at the stove or sculpt a pie dough into a tin– but then it disappears. In our visual, phone-attached-at-the-palm culture, did you even cook anything if you don’t have photographic evidence of it? Is the trick, in my situation, to pay more due to these scrappy meals by taking their picture and sharing them? I think that I’m craving validation, a proof that I have done something constructive with my time, to make up for the fact that I’d rather be crafting.

The lack of personal time and a drive to retain or reshape my identity in my new role as mother has led to lots of navel-gazing and ~*deep thoughts*~. I’ve been doing a lot of reading on work breaks and having long conversations with Scott over dinner about the topics of identity, motherhood, the concept of home, and much more. Expect to find some of those brain drippings here; as the great Joan Didion said, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”




My best DIY yet.

rusty boy

Long before getting pregnant was even a wisp of a possibility, I loved reading other women’s birth stories. The whole process fascinated me: how it could be so varied yet so universal. There were dramatic highs and lows and stories of babies birthed in bathrooms and others after days of arduous labor. Once I was actually pregnant myself (something that took a really long time to actually believe), I devoured these stories and sought them out in a way that bordered on obsessive. I favored Ina May Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery for its unusual take on the ‘hallucinogenic’ process of birth. Even when the outcomes were bad, the emphasis was on the positivity of the entire experience. I tried so hard to focus on that during any moments of anxiety and panic that hit whenever I thought about the fact that the baby would actually have to come out of me.

And so, my own birth story, to add to the chorus. A long and intimate tale this way: Continue reading “My best DIY yet.”

A new role.

At seven months pregnant I was struck with the urge to document life. Everything was going to change in such a short span of time and I felt compelled to produce something tangible – as tangible as an internet space can be – to keep record. I thought that my nesting instinct would carry over into the digital domain and that I would be a prolific blogger (and crafter) up until birth, and then my computer stopped turning on and I gave up, thinking my memory would serve me. Sleep deprivation has stripped me of many things: a sense of being alert, resilient skin, a strong internal clock. The worst thing it has taken is my memory.

So here I am, on the other side of birth – this massively surreal life event – and three months into life with a child. A being whose existence is dependent on me and the care that I provide. And with each ticking day, each new hair on his head and dimple of fat around the wrist and gurgle or coo, I feel like I’m losing more of the ability to retain these discoveries. Time is incredibly limited now that I’m back at work and the few hours we have together during the week are so much more precious.


I want to share the wonder and curiosity of these early days here as best I can. I want to show the snail’s pace at which I now knit, how I can’t properly measure gauge anymore and have to rip out a sweater three times before it’s right, how I’ve left the serger my husband bought me two years ago in its box and want to take a class to figure it out. I want to share the recipe for our favorite vegan cookies, often baked at 9 PM when one of us is holding a sleeping baby on our chest and watching dark television shows (lately, Fargo). There are dark, pillowy bags under my eyes these days and yet I carve out time before the house wakes to knit a couple of stitches while I eat my oatmeal and play with the cat at my feet. This is important. This is the identity that I don’t want to lose now that I carry a new one: mother.
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Seven months pregnant, Aug. 2015. Zucchini for scale.

Your seventh month of pregnancy is not the time to be reviving a long-dead blog. It’s too late to rehash the past seven months of chaos for the sake of record-keeping; this is just where we are now. It is what it is.

But, as life creeps toward a massive change, I felt compelled to document something. These last moments as a family of two, as a person who is not yet defined by whether or not she has a child. It feels crazy to say that while I’m sharing a body with another human, am so visibly with child.

I didn’t want to touch any yarn or fabric for the bulk of this pregnancy. I wasn’t feeling well and there were days when I would be lucky to peel myself off the couch and prepare boxed mashed potatoes. The moment that changed, I wanted to knit everything. Every unfinished project in waiting, all of the stashed yarn not yet knit – it had to be dealt with before the arrival of the baby. And that doesn’t even touch how much I want/ed to make for my son.

I read an article recently about how people with children are better at managing their time. I don’t agree with the message – I know plenty of childless people who get a lot done –  but I do agree that this impending addition to our family has made me reevaluate how I use the time I have. I realized that I spent so much time procrastinating. My to-do lists grew longer. Now that I have a “deadline” on what I can feasibly do in the next several months, I’m reclaiming that time and eschewing its waste. I will do my best to get things done, and to utilize the time I’ll have home with the baby to the best of my ability.

The tone of this space will probably change a bit. I’ll share my crafts, but I’ll probably also share more cooking and baking – things that have become far more important to me in the last year. And I don’t think that it would be possibly to write, after such a life-changing event, without acknowledging the baby. Mommy blogger? No. But maybe just a light record of my days with this boy. There’s more risk of being inundated with pictures of my cat, a new addition to our family since my last post.

Hoping to get a little cozier in this space.

Fall finishing frenzy.

So we established (a month ago, now!) that things have been a little bit busy around these parts. That hasn’t changed.

ImageWhat has changed a bit is the view in Massachusetts. As the leaves have begun turning over to their cozier, warmer shades, so has the urge to be cozier and to nest. After months of avoiding my knitting needles and continuing to acquire fabric despite not having time to sew, I suddenly have the urge to play with all of those stashed goodies. Chalk it up to all the time spent sitting around waiting while pots of soup simmer. It’s that season!

ImageI spent a bit of time this summer cutting and piecing together a half-square triangle quilt into a herringbone pattern, using some neon coral and greige. The motivation finally came to me to quilt the whole thing so I could get it on our bed in time for cooler weather. As I sat at my machine, I wondered about all of the knitting projects that sat in wait for me in the yarn storage bins. And then came a new mission: the fall finishing frenzy.

ImageThese are just a few of the projects that have either been started long ago or are really close to being finished. (Clockwise from top left: Daffodil in Rhinebeck 2011 yarn; White Pine in Berroco Ultra Alpaca; Anja in Quince & Co. Chickadee; toe-up socks in Koigu KPPPM; Karen Templer’s ‘how to improv a sweater’ in Berroco Ultra Alpaca; and Herringbone mittens in Cascade 220) The Anja hat just needs to be blocked and pom-pommed! Both sweaters only need sleeves!

I’m hoping that by giving myself a mission – to complete as many of these projects as possible before starting anything new, and doing so within the framework of my favorite season! – that I can actually do this. So, the fall finishing frenzy begins. Off to get things done!

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Breaking the silence.

quilt assembly

I’m sensing a pattern here.

Last year my madness centered on getting married and all of the chaos surrounding my wedding day. My husband and I toiled through school and multiple jobs and weekend work. Time flew by, a theme around these parts.

Things tapered off in the new year. We were lucky to cut back some of our extra work hours and simplified life to match. I still had to give up most of my weekends, and missed many opportunities to spend time with family and friends, but we had each other so it was OK.

Instead of working shifts at the yarn and fabric shop where I was part-time, I switched over to teaching. What started with knitting and crochet on a private lesson basis quickly morphed into a monthly introductory sewing class and a bias towards quilting. Having completely lost my knitting and all-things-yarn-related mojo, it was a blessing: I could throw together projects quickly with the hum of the machine before me. And there I was, stitching up small projects and quilt tops with abandon.

But something stirred in me. There was a restlessness, a need for a big, all-consuming project into which I could pour all of my energy. Perhaps I was still coming down from the high of wedding planning. I’ll never forget, though, how our next wave of madness began: with a simple email positing a loaded question; do you think it’s crazy to think that we could buy a house?

S and I had rented apartments together for six years. We sat on a bit of money from our wedding, given by people who love us and had surely worked hard for it. We wanted to make that gift count, and so in May, a few months before our lease ran out, we looked for houses. We scouted neighborhoods based on school districts and a desire to be far from the noise of the city. All of our free nights and weekends were given over to driving to new-to-us towns with quaint New England names and making sure that houses with large acreage came with towns with good pizza shops.

We had a month of mayhem, and at the end of June after a short but intense search, we found our home.  It’s simple and bare-boned but it sits on more than an acre and is more than we ever dreamed we could give our future children as a place to learn and grow.

sky over home

Our summer has been full of cleaning and unpacking and painting and spending every spare cent on making the place ours. We have been handsomely rewarded with quiet, beautiful sunsets, and a few good yarn and fabric shops nearby.

fog over home

My sewing machine sits in front of a window overlooking this, our back yard. We’ve tamed it a bit, cut back the trees and grass to open up the space. There have been so many projects, each improving our life there little by little (and every bit counts, as my commute is now at least an hour each way). I thought it time to share all that we’ve been working on. And, once again, apologize for my long absence!

Sewing for organization.

moleskine case

I have a complex relationship with stuff. I tend to accumulate lots of it, and simultaneously get rid of bags of it at a time. I think a lot about how and why we collect things, and how to simplify our relationship to our things. All of this thinking led me to my craft area, which is my most poorly organized, but most used, space; supplies overflow from boxes, topple over on desks, and live in duplicate in different storage containers. As I sorted through everything, I realized that my knitting needles and crochet hooks were in complete disarray.

case closed

I spent some time one evening after work rounding up as many of my double-pointed needles as I could. I pulled them from project bags, from the basket in which some live on my desk, and from the plastic and paper cases in which they were sold. This messy craft space is very well-stocked, so I was able to quickly stitch up a solution to consolidate all of my needles into one easy-to-locate container. I pulled some mid-weight canvas and a half-yard of fabric from the shelf and got to work.

open sesame

Less than an hour later, I had a finished (mistakes and all! don’t inspect my quick and dirty stitching) holder for my DPNs. I made sure to leave pockets on the outside to hold printed patterns and a small notebook, for taking notes on my stitching or jotting down ideas. The whole things closes up into a neat and tidy little case, and I’m pondering whether or not I want to add a closure of some sort. As it is, nothing falls out of the case, but I think the structure of a little button tab or suede strap would be a nice aesthetic touch.

When I threw this together, I couldn’t find a desirable tutorial or pattern, so I drafted one using a calculator and piece of graph paper. It’s the first time I’ve taken the design of something into my own hands and it was very satisfying. I need to make an additional case for crochet hooks, so I’m hoping to put up the tutorials for both in this space soon – adding my voice to the choir of effective ways to store your needles and organize the abundance of stuff we all seem to have.

If only I could find such a simple solution to storing my yarn and fabric. Any ideas?

The beginning of a new craze.

open wide

There are a few things about which I am fanatical: donning pajamas the moment I get home from work; making lots of tea throughout the day; reading each new issue of Martha Stewart Living from cover to cover when it arrives in the mail; and harping on a pattern once I’ve made it up successfully.  I become smitten once it works out, whether it’s knit, crocheted, or sewn, and make it a million times (like the Christmas when I made nine Lined Drawstring Bags). This is that pattern right now — the open wide zippered pouch from Noodlehead.

open wide unzipped

As soon as I saw the pattern, I couldn’t help but see the infinite possibilities: a single-fabric version, the contrast bottom, the opportunity for a pieced pouch. It’s a perfect scrap- or stash-buster, and if you have a well-stocked craft supply, you should have everything you need on hand. I made the medium size, using less than a fat quarter of this lovely tonal batik and a light chambray weave. It took no time to sew, and the pattern makes for a very impressive, clean-lined finished product.

knitting bag

It doesn’t hurt, of course, that the bag is large enough to hold a knitting project in progress. I just started Norie in some stashed Rowan Felted Tweed, and am loving the ability to tote it around in such a chic project pouch.

I’ve cut the fabric for another six or so of these. I don’t know when I’ll get around to sewing them all, but you’ll be seeing a lot of them in this space!

Fancies – Valentine’s Edition {His}

Scott is very averse to shopping. He’s notoriously hard to buy for because he wants so little – and when he does want something, he saves up and buys it on his own. He’s also very specific about what kinds of things he buys, and has two mottos: Buy local. And have a few good things, well maintained. So in this spirit, a few good things to care for – all made in the U.S.A.

Clockwise, from upper left corner: Pendleton Tribute #3 Blanket; Swedish Dream Sea Salt Soap; a subscription to a magazine full of wonder: National Geographic; cozy Ragg Socks; and sachets to guard his handknits.

Scott and I are very similar, in that we prefer being bundled up and cozy over most things. We like pulling on thick socks and huddling beneath a blanket together reading. We like to dream about travel together. We share a love of the fragrance of cedar and want to build chests with it, line our wardrobes with the woodsy smell. We washed with the sea salt soap the evening after our wedding, and I love the power of scent memories, how you can evoke a moment in a whiff.

This year, I’ll be getting a root canal on our anniversary; he’ll be visiting his dentist two days later on Valentine’s Day. We won’t eat sweet treats this year, but will enjoy the comfort of our home, sitting together beneath a blanket, likely watching movies and falling asleep on the couch. I can’t imagine it any other way.

Fancies – Valentine’s edition

I know that Valentine’s Day is a week away. And I’ve never celebrated it before. But two days prior to the commercial holiday, Scott and I will celebrate our seven year anniversary. We’ve never bought each other gifts to mark either occasion, typically opting to splurge on decadent ingredients at the grocery store to make a big, fancy meal. This year, however, things feel more worth celebrating. We’re married now! We’re saving for a house! We’ve earned a little bit of indulgence to commemorate our bond, our goals, and our shared life together.


Clockwise from upper left corner: a flower CSA from new local Wild Folk Studio, in the ‘Humble’ offering; enough Quince & Co. Chickadee in Peacock to knit a Sebella; some Mast Brothers chocolate, locally procured from the Formaggio; a subscription to Wilder Quarterly; handmade Crescent moon hoops from Laurel Hill; and White Sage and Wild Mint tea from Juniper Ridge.

As we tighten our purse strings this year, I can’t imagine anything more extravagant than the constant presence of fresh flowers beside my bed. Sipping on fragrant tea while knitting a cozy sweater out of a favorite yarn. Dangling something shiny from my ears. Savoring little bits of chocolate while curled up with a good read.

These are the things that I fancy right now, during tight times, with love and coziness on the brain. While we’re imagining with pretend money, maybe I’ll round up a list of what I would get for Scott. It would definitely be a fun little list!