October 2010

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Rich and I have often used the traditional Halloween pumpkin carving activity as an opportunity to do a messy art project. As graphic designers, much of our work is often done on the computer, so it’s nice to have a reason to create something tangible (if fleeting) with our hands. We’ve carved bats and cats and spiders. We’ve hacked pumpkins in homage to Batman, Jiji of Kiki’s Delivery Service, and some other characters I can’t remember.

This year we were in the mood for a little Nightmare Before Christmas. Rich recreated the likeness of Jack, the Pumpkin King.

halloween jack o' lantern Jack Skellington Nightmare before Christmas jack skellington jack o' lantern Pumpkin King

I chose to portray a tender moment between Jack and Sally in scherenschnitte. I carved the hill out of the pumpkin so the glow of the candle would illuminate the full moon. I then snipped the silhouettes out of black cardstock and mounted them to the pumpkin with thumbtacks. I’m pleased with the juxtaposition of the delicate paper cutting against the chunky carved pumpkin.

Nightmare Before Christmas Jack and Sally scherenschnitte pumpkin paper silhouettes in jack o' lantern Nightmare before Christmas pumpkin


I can’t stand to waste anything, especially a favorite piece of clothing. Here are two cases where I have quickly transformed something old into something “new”.

First rescue:

two tee shirts ready for refashioning tee shirt refashion in progress

finished tee shirt refashion layered look

I took a favorite tee shirt of the boy’s and winterized it by cutting up an old long sleeve tee shirt of mine in a coordinating color. I cut the sleeves and a few inches of the hem off the long sleeve tee shirt and sewed them onto the boy’s tee shirt with contrast thread using a double needle on the regular sewing machine. The double needle creates a stretchy seam that works well with the knit fabric and contrast thread adds to the purposeful look of the additions. And in this case, I still have enough of the second tee shirt left to make something else.

Second rescue:

yoga pants embellished with hand stitched felt flowers to cover hole in knee detail of purchased felt flowers handstitched to cover darned hole

These were some cute hand-me-down pants that actually fit the girl’s long legs. Unfortunately they had a hole in the knee. She doesn’t care much for pants but since she liked these I decided it was worth a little work to make them more presentable. On an impulse, I purchased a package of pressed felt flowers. After darning the hole in the knee I hand stitched one flower over the hole. I then added some more flowers to the ankle of the other pants leg for visual balance.

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raised bed garden

grew these:

home grown roma tomatoes

and became this:

tomato sauce from home grown garden tomatoes

About three times over the course of the last few months. All from three roma tomato plants. I was also able to throw in our own parsley and chives into several batches of tomato sauce. And I even added some puréed squash to the last batch. Next year I’ll be looking for one of those handcranked tomato presses. The zucchini and the cucumbers didn’t produce much, maybe the heat? And an unknown visitor kept sampling the beans, but otherwise we had very little problem with pests. Fresh mint and dill made it to the table quite a few times, mmmm.

We haven’t had a really hard frost but enough to wilt most of the tender garden. The parsley will produce until it gets buried in snow. This is the first year we’ve had a garden in several years and I’m looking forward to next year already.


This is a yours truly mash-up of two classics—New England brown bread and bread pudding. Brown bread is traditionally made with equal parts of wheat, rye and cornmeal, sweetened with molasses, and then steamed in a can, rather than baked, producing a satisfyingly rich but moist loaf. Bread pudding is made all over the world of course. A mixture of milk, eggs, sugar and spices are poured over stale bread and baked into a homey dessert. I’ve never heard of anyone else doing this but I make bread pudding using brown bread.

Here’s a little history and arecipe for brown bread from Epicurious, or you can do as I do and buy a can of B&M Brown Bread, made right here in Maine. My first experience with brown bread was through a care package from my mother-in-law when we were living in Oklahoma. I learned to love this curious dark bread that came out of a can, we ate it sliced thick and smeared with cream cheese or warm with butter.

B&M brown bread

When we first moved to Maine several years later, our first apartment was less than a mile from the old brick factory situated just where the Back Cove meets Casco Bay. We passed by nearly every day and when the wind was right, the scent of baked beans would compete with the salt air.

b&m Burnham and Morrill baked bean factory Portland Maine Casco Bay Back Cove

It was several years later when I came up with the idea to make a bread pudding using brown bread. I really can’t remember what inspired me to try it. I sliced the bread thick and cut it into cubes and then toasted the cubes a bit in the oven. Then I dumped the bread into a deep round casserole dish and poured the pudding mixture over it and baked. It was well received by our dinner guests, a thoroughly Maine couple. This past weekend I made a double batch for friends at Camp Gander Brook. Brown bread pudding seemed like a fitting finish for a casual dinner in the lodge, the October chill held off by a warm fire crackling in the massive stone fireplace and the laughter of our children as they played under the old wood-beamed ceiling.

brown bread pudding in a cup topped with whipped cream

Recipe for Brown Bread Pudding
serves 6-8

4 beaten eggs
2 1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cardamom*
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 can brown bread cubed and toasted in 350° oven for 15 minutes
(1/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries, if desired)

Beat all ingredients together except for the bread cubes. In an ungreased 2 quart baking dish, pour egg mixture evenly over bread cubes (and dried fruit). Bake in a 350° oven for 40 to 45 minutes or till a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

* If you don’t have cardamom, substitute nutmeg or use a full teaspoon of cinnamon.


Some pics of recent spinning. Or not that recent. Apparently I started on this post almost a month ago. I somehow did not size down the photos, thought I double checked that, still couldn’t upload the photos, gave up for a while. Finally asked guru husband, then realized the photos were huge… I’m not computer illiterate. In my other life I was a graphic designer, really.

Anyway, both of these are around 4oz. The first is lavender and pink unknown wool that I received in a trade. To be honest it didn’t look like much before I spun it. I think there’s hope for it now. I don’t know what I’ll make with it though. Suggestions welcome.

handspun wool yarn

And the other is 4oz. of Neapolitan hand-painted Shetland wool from Spunky Eclectic spun to about sport weight.

handspun Shetland yarn gradient progression dye

This second yarn was intended for the 4! Ounce! Challenge! on Ravelry but was plagued with problems from the start.
I did choose the colorway and I did want to try Shetland for this project. I even had an idea for what I wanted to make with it. It did not occur to me until after I received the wool that I probably should have ordered the progression dyed fiber instead of the regular handpaint. Oh well, I decided I would just separate out the colors and lay them out in a progression and spin from there. That way it would have a little more variety to it anyway. Right. Well, that did work out okay except that I spun the thing into one two ply yarn of 400 some yards that goes from unnaturally pink on one end through cream to chocolate brown on the other. That’s when I realized that what I really needed was two balls of approximately 200 yards each going from pink to brown in each ball. Hmm. So that set me back awhile. I thought about other designs. I did end up thinking a lot about all the different ways you could spin a handpaint or a progression dye and how the plying and eventual knitting could take many different turns.

I finally started knitting today. I have a plan to still complete my original project and have it look pretty much like I intended. I have a schematic, I have a swatch, I have WPI, SPI and I’m not afraid to use them. And I’m trying to take notes as I go along so hopefully if it turns out well, I can repeat it. Yes, I’m intentionally not saying what it is I’m making. I haven’t seen anything quite like it, even slogging through the vast patternland of Ravelry. It is historically inspired so I can’t claim the idea as my own but, designing it for handpainted handspun fiber, that I will claim. If it works that is. If not, well, I’ll just come back and delete this post. Oh yeah, nothing you publish to the internet is ever really gone.

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