November, 2008

Morning in Maine

Friday, November 28th, 2008

Thanksgiving morning, I got up with the sun to take the dog out. This was not my choice, as you might imagine. I’d much rather be in bed, sleeping late on my day off. But after my chest had been pounced on repeatedly and several slippers seemed in grave danger of being destroyed, I finally gave in and got up.

The light was keen, and there was frost on every surface.

The grass was coated.

The berries were sealed.

And the weeds had a cool winter covering.


If I had woken up late, I would have missed the frost altogether.

I’m glad that I saw it instead.

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Plenty To Be Thankful For

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

Well, yesterday’s Thankful Giving Crafternoon was a great success. We collected lots of donations for the food pantry at the Greenpoint Reform Church, from handknit scarves to holiday cards and lots of healthy food for those in need. It was a great gathering of very young friends and older ones; total newcomers and Crafternoon superfans.

We had a delicious spread, including tasty casseroles from Rufus’s mom, Susan, and from the lovely Emily Farris, author of Casserole Crazy

Some of the amazing items that were crafted included knit squares for the scarves we donated…

(Please note the use of name tags. I love name tags for Crafternoon! I had forgotten to bring name tags to the last few Crafternoons, but trust me, it is sooo much easier to memorize names when folks are wearing a name tag. And that makes for a friendly Craftercrew.)

We made lots of really cool cards for the food pantry to include in their holiday grocery bags…

It was a lovely turnout, and I’m so thankful for Christine and Vinnie at Word Bookstore for hosting us in their lovely space. And I’m so thankful for all the generous crafters who came out to give something back to the community.

Yes, it is a time to be thankful for all of the good things, and I am in awe of all I have to be thankful for.

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Crafternews: Good Press on the ‘noon

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

Here are some nice articles and a podcast about Crafternoon. I’m so thankful to the writers and interviewers for taking the time to talk to me and to share their nice thoughts about the book. Please check out their cool sites!

maura_madden_q_a_and_crafterno.html

http://planetgreen.discovery.com/work-connect/change-makers-maura-madden.html

http://planetgreen.discovery.com/home-garden/diy-halloween-crafts.html

http://www.craftypod.com/?p=606

Oh, and I’m also very excited to have made the Top Ten list of bestselling books for the month of October at my local bookstore, Word.

http://wordbrooklyn.wordpress.com/word-best-sellers/

Next stop, the New York Times!

 

 

 

 

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Thankful Giving Crafternoon

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008
Greetings, Crafternooners!

The weekend before Thanksgiving is always filled with lots of preparation and anticipation, and this year I’d also like to fill it with some charitable good times.

As we give thanks for all of the good things we have, shouldn’t we share our bounty with those who have not? We are lucky, we Haves, but we ought to be generous, too.

So Saturday, November 22nd, from 2-5pm, I’m throwing a Thankful Giving Crafternoon and Casserole Extravaganza at Word Bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. If you are in the New York area, please stop by!

I am obsessed with Word, the best bookstore in the city, and the lovely owners are kind enough to share their lovely space at 126 Franklin Street with us.

http://wordbrooklyn.wordpress.com/
 
Crafters are encouraged to knit or crochet hats and scarves to be donated to those in need. We’ll have lots of yarn and knitting needles on hand, but feel free to BYOYarn and Needles to work with. And if you’d like to get a jump on your project this week, well, heck, go right ahead. We’ll be happy to take finished products.

We will be donating these winter accessories to the  the Greenpoint Reformed Church. The church runs a food pantry, so please bring along a can or two of something tasty to pass along.

www.greenpointchurch.org

But fear not, non-knitters! We’ll have projects for you, too. We’ll be making handmade cards and decorations to be given included with the Thanksgiving groceries going out to the needy.

What’s that you say? Oh, where do the casseroles come in to play? Well, we’ll be eating them, silly! The lovely and talented Emily Farris, author of Casserole Crazy and host of the Annual Casserole Party, will be on hand with a casserole or two for you to taste.

http://casserolecrazy.com/

And remember, tasty snacks and yummy beverages to share with your fellow crafters are always welcome.

I’m really looking forward to crafting for a good cause with you. We’ve got so much to be thankful for. And if you can’t make it, I encourage you to throw your own Thankful Giving party. You’ll have so much fun, and you’ll be doing good, too. And then you can thank me for it. ;)

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A Weekend of Cooking and Craft

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

Oh, how I love a full weekend! A weekend of good food, good friends, and good crafting. And along the way, a little extra dose of rest.

We kicked this one off with a small dinner party for old friends, which is the perfect way to start any weekend. I made not one but two stews for our eating pleasure: a rich, beefy stew that simmered for 24 hours before serving, and a light and fresh butternut squash stew that I finished moments after our first guests arrived. The beef bad boy was based on a recipe from Alice Waters’ cookbook The Art of Simple Food, a book that was a gift from a friend and is a joyful addition to my cookbook collection. I modified the recipe to serve more guests and to accommodate some missing ingredients and some added bonuses. And man oh man, was it delicious. So here it is for your cooking pleasure. If you make it, tell me what you think!

Beefy Good 24 Hour Beef Stew

5 pounds stew beef

sea salt and fresh ground pepper

1/4 pound of bacon

olive oil

2 onions, peeled and quartered

2 big carrots, peeled and cut into thick slices

1 big parsnip, peeled and cut into thick slice

nearly two cups of red wine

1/4 dried porcini mushrooms and 1/2 hot cup water

6 cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped

4 or five cups of water and two chicken boullioun cubes

about two teaspoons of tomato paste

For starters, you’ll want to season your beef with the sea salt and the pepper and set it aside. Then in a heavy pan ( preferably cast iron or something equally sturdy), heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil, enough to coat the pan, over medium-high heat. Add the bacon, being careful not to get zapped by the hot oil when you add it to the pan. Cook the bacon ’til it is cooked through but is not crispy, then remove the bacon and set it aside for a BLT (or something just as tasty and bacony).

Then begin adding in the beef in batches, cooking until it is completely browned on all sides. As each batch is browned, add it to a heavy pot without heat. This browning process takes a while! (I was watching Ace of Cakes and then The Chef Jeff Project while I browned the meat, and I watched full episodes of both shows before I was done browning the tasty chunklets.)

While the last batch of meat is browning, add your porcini mushrooms to your 1/2 cup hot water. Let it soak for about ten minute and then pour some of the ‘shroom water into your browned-beef pot, take out the mushrooms and chop them coarsely and set them aside.

When all of your meat is done browning, lower the heat on the pan and add the onions, carrots and parsnips. Cook until the onions are soft and browning on the edges, but not caramelized. Then add the veggies to your big pot of beef.

Next, add your red wine to the pan. Let it cook until a third of it has cooked off, and add it to the pot of beef, along with the porcini mushrooms, garlic, water and boullioun cubes and tomato paste. The liquid should cover the beef almost completely, so add more liquid as necessary. Cover and cook the stew at a simmer for an hour, and then reduce to the lowest possible heat and let it simmer for as many hours as possible. I was able to let it simmer for 24 hours because it simmered while we slept and then simmered while Rufus was at home editing on Friday. Some people don’t like to leave something simmering while they sleep, and I understand that. But please let it simmer as long as possible – the longer it simmers, the more like butter the beef becomes. Serve warm over noodles and enjoy!

Saturday was spent sleeping and cleaning up and walking the dog. We also watched a documentary about monkeys. I love a lazy Saturday.

Then today my mom hosted a Crafternoon for her friends and invited me to join them. They were more into the art of chatting than they were into hardcore crafting, but we had a lovely time. A couple of her friends made Christmas ornaments like this one:

And my mom made this one:

I did manage to dabble in a little decoupage, and the resulting box with its pretty 50s ladies pleases me:

Then I hustled back home to watch our wonderful President-Elect and his awesome wife on 60 Minutes.

The end to a perfect weekend.

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Picking Favorites

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

There’s something so happy and hopeful in the air. And with all this hope and happiness around, it’s time to give up some thanks.

I was browsing a magazine this weekend, and at the back there was a list of someone’s ten favorite things. Loads of magazines have similar lists, and usually the jaunty guest favorite-picker chooses things that are totally bizarroworld:

“Some of my favorites? Black pearls. Faberge eggs. Parrot tulips flown in from the Dutch tulip market. My baby grand piano. Stopping hunger and poverty via my annual golf tournament. Baby tigers. Truffles. Vintage Chanel suits. The Hope Diamond. Money.”

Isn’t the last thing what all of those lists are about? Money is a popular favorite. But not for me. Sure, I like to be able to pay my rent and buy my groceries without fretting, but it’s not my number one priority. Or even my number two priority. In fact, it is pretty far down on my list of priorities. And it certainly doesn’t make it to my list of favorites. Yes, I’d like to think my favorites are more interesting than that. So here they are, my favorites right now. But let’s take this list to eleven, since I like to rock a little louder than the rest.

Eleven Things That Make Me Psyched and Thankful Right Now

1. Rufus.

2. Dog paws.

3. Ras Trent: saturday-night-live-digital-short-ras-trent#s-p1-st-i2

4. Home cooking.

5. Crossing things off to-do lists.

6. Reusable fabric coffee sleeves, handmade by a crafty friend. doeandmouse.com

7. Autumn leaves.

8. My neighborhood bookstore.

9. Listening to new bands. thedodos

10. Friendships old and brand spanking new.

11. Clean sheets.

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My Craft Library

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

I decided I’d start reviewing the books in my craft library. My library is small – the shelf pictured above is the sum of it, though I hope it will grow and grow. It’s a happy mix of current crafty books and old-but-golden craft books that have come into my possession over time. “Teen Guide to Homemaking” was a birthday gift from my old roomate Jen many years ago, but most of the others have been purchased by me at thrift stores and bookstores all over this great nation.

I used to walk right past thrift store bookshelves. First of all, when I’m in a thrift store I am on a serious hunt for cute clothes, and that is my number one priority. Second of all, the lack of organization on thrift store shelves drives me slightly batty. But a couple of years ago I was thrift shopping in Long Island with some friends and they spent a huge chunk of our visit in the book section. And they were finding some awesome craft books. As I sifted through their pile that included a book devoted to crafts made out of aluminum foil, I realized I had been missing out on a major craft resource. I have never breezed past a thrift store bookshelf since.

Old craft books are a terrific source of inspiration and are often hilarious, too. Sometimes it’s the layout and graphics alone that crack the heck out of me, and sometimes it’s the gender stereotypes of yesteryear that have me smirking.  But beyond their role as crafty comic relief, old craft books offer genuinely good ideas for all sorts of projects. So next time you hit up a thrift store or used bookstore,  take a moment to look for something crafty. You may come across a hidden gem.

The first book from my shelf that gets a review is “The Mountain Artisans Quilting Book” by Alfred Allan Lewis.

Published in 1973, “The Mountain Artisans Quilting Book”  provides a history of The Mountain Artisans, a quilting cooperative of women living in West Virginia. This group was founded by Sharon Rockefeller to help the women provide financially for their families through their craft. And the group did just that. They sold handmade quilts and clothes of their own design, achieving a huge level of national success.

The book tells the story of these women, and it also provides step-by-step instructions for a number of quiliting and applique projects. While I haven’t done any of the projects, the instructions are really clear and not at all intimidating. And the photos of the ladies crafting have a lovely feel to them. They look really engaged in their projects, and the materials they use look like they’ve been gathered over time, not just scooped up from a fabric store for a specific project. And I really like that.

Aside from offering a ton of great projects, the book also talks a lot about communal crafting and preserving craft traditions. As you can imagine, those topics really speak to me. So if you are interested in quilting or craft collectives, you should definitely try to track down a copy of your very own.

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Scenes from a Fall

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

Fall is my all-time favorite season. Maybe it’s because I was born in October, but it just feels the most welcoming to me. The air is crisp, the sky seems more blue, and there are displays of splendor everywhere. On Fall days, I just want to get outside in the sunshine…

Walk my dog…

Peep some turning leaves…

Ponder the edibility of shiny red berries…

Watch 38,000 people run 26 miles…

And then come on home and get cozy.

What don’t I like about the Fall? The end of our farmshare season.

Oh, sweet Hearty Roots farmshare, how we will miss your delicious bounty these cold months! It seems like only yesterday that we were eating the most flavorful blueberries in the world…

And having our fill of heirloom tomatoes…

We’ll try to make this week’s butternut squash and garlic and collard greens and carrots and parsnips and brussel sprouts and cauliflower and baby greens and sweet potatoes last until next June, but I don’t think we’ll succeed. So rest up, dear Hearty Roots farm! We won’t be eating nearly as well until the summer rolls around.

So I’ll just console myself by gazing at the tree across the street, and celebrating the joys that come with each new season.

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