Thursday, November 24, 2011

A little bit of love for the Dining Room

My dining room is a work in progress.  We've been in the house for over 4 years, but there is nothing on the walls, no window treatments, nothing but a table and chairs and an incongruously fabulous chandelier I got for the cost of shipping it across the country by Greyhound ($60).  We only eat there a few times a month when we have company; mostly it is a place littered with homework, crayon drawings, and my most recent crafting excesses.  It seems that after painting the room and finding the table on craigslist and hauling it home, I ran out of steam.  For 4 years.

But this year, inspired by a friend's dinner in the woods, I thought I'd try to dress up the room a little for Thanksgiving. I loved the garland they made, so with some borrowed circle punches (thank you, Jenn!) and some fall colored cardstock, I made enough garland to criss cross the room, loop up the stairs, over the archway and backyard sliders ... yeah, it's a little addicting. And it brought some lovely color into a room that is, well, pretty much entirely Behr's Harvest Brown.

Then, because the table, which started out a lovely vintage trestle from Bavaria, is starting to show the effects of 4 children and a careless crafter, I thought I'd make a tablecloth and some napkins from some fabric I picked up years ago (for another dead-in-the-water project of making slip covers for the green velvet chairs.  It was easier to make peace with green velvet than get around to white slipcovers.  Circle garland, however, I can do - anyone want to trade me some slipcovers for a few hundred yards of garland?  ;) Bet they'd be cute in Christmas colours...) 

But back to the table linens.  I don't like to hem, so I thought I'd go for a fringed look, and found some good ideas here.  But rather than try to cut square napkins along the grain with a ruler and rotary cutter, I measured along the edge to the desired width (19" worked well), then pulled a single thread out, which left a neat line to cut by:

Then I pulled off enough of the strands to make a 3/8" fringe, and stitched along the edge to lock it in:

An easy enough project to start and finish in a day, so I could start setting my table a day early for the big feast (instead of leaving it to the kids while I'm pulling the turkey out of the oven, as has been our "tradition" so far).  Not bad for a last minute effort, don't you think?

(The candle ring and napkin ties were made last year - it was a good year for acorns - but never used because I had no napkins.  I'll put up a tutorial for them sometime soon, when I make  up a couple more).

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Turkey Sugar Cookies

Albuquerque was a turkey, and he's feathered and he's fine...

I've had this turkey cookie cutter for years, and have never used it - Thanksgiving is sort of taken over by pie, so who has time for cookies?  But for 5's preschool party today they had a sign-up that included cookies, and tomorrow night at their Thanksgiving program his class will be dressed up as turkeys (and singing, among other songs, the Albuquerque Turkey song), so this was too perfect an opportunity to pass up.

There are many variations of the soft, white, "Lofthouse" sugar cookie recipe... and here at Peppermint Plum is one that tastes great and has simple measurements (no 3/4 tsp here!)  There are some gorgeous cookies on Pinterest frosted with royal icing... (which I won't link to because last time I wandered onto Pinterest I lost all the time I gained in falling back) ... but I do agree with Tammy that royal icing sort of ruins a sugar cookie.  When you eat a lofthouse cookie, at least half the reason you're flirting with diabetic coma is for that pile of buttercream frosting.

So here is the buttercream version of those feathered turkeys, not quite so picture perfect, but much easier, and much more tasty.  The recipe for the frosting is the same, except for the brown I added a 1/4 cup of cocoa powder.  I'm not crazy about the results (sugar cookie icing should taste of vanilla and almond, to me), but it was easier than brown food coloring, and seemed like a good idea at the time.  Besides, the kids like it.


Before adding cocoa to the buttercream, make a few pouches of colored frosting for the feathers and details. You'll need a lot less than you think you need... for 3 dozen cookies, I used 1.5X recipe of frosting, and had way too much colored frosting left over. A couple of tablespoons of each color is plenty.  Then snip a hole in the corner of your ziploc bag... and start small, you can always cut it bigger.

Pipe a few lines of color onto your chocolate-frosting-smeared bird.  You can add a beak, eye, wattle, and foot if you like.

Then draw a toothpick through the frosting to give it a feathered look.

And Albuquerque is now ready to strut his way to the preschool party.  If you let them harden off a bit overnight, the frosting will dry enough to let you stack them on a plate without too much damage to the details.

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is the perfect American holiday.  Family, friends, counting our blessings.  Food.  Green beans, sweet potatoes, and squash from the garden.  And the music... Shaker hymns like "Simple Gifts," and Aaron Copland's "The Promise of Living"

The promise of living
With hope and thanksgiving
Is born of our loving
Our friends and our labor.

The promise of growing
With faith and with knowing
Is born of our sharing
Our love with our neighbor.

The promise of loving
The promise of growing
Is born of our singing
In joy and thanksgiving.

(--from his opera The Tender Land, lyrics by Horace Everett)

Ignore the terrible retouching I did for privacy's sake

This year a partner-in-crime friend convinced me to help her knock off the Give Thanks advent calendar tree from Pottery Barn, and I am so glad I did.  Each leaf is a pocket with a scrap of paper with someone's name on it, and the little people are excited every morning to see who gets to write something they are thankful for.  5 has been doing his own writing wtih some spelling help, and Baby Girl dictates blessings that usually have something to do with ponies (but she's mentioned her family, too).  And I am looking forward to finding out what the big boys have furtively been writing, when we read them on Thanksgiving Day.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Even a sparrow's fall

Last weekend our family went on a vacation with some friends at a beach cottage on a little island in the Gulf of Mexico, an idyllic paradise without cars, shops, and which you have to take a boat to get to since the bridge washed out in a hurricane decades ago, and the locals decided they were better off without it.

The first morning out, I broke out the running shoes (which I admit have gotten little use in the last few weeks - 2 birthdays and Halloween just about swamped me) and went for a predawn run on the beach. It looks like it takes a beach to keep me running. About a mile into the run, and having encountered not a soul, I came upon a least tern on the beach, caught on a fishing lure which was hooked through his chin and his wing. He was flapping desperately to free himself, and when he saw me approaching, ran into the surf, which tumbled him over and over, nearly drowning him. Overhead a flock of gulls - no terns - hovered, whether out of curiosity or cannabalism, I don't know. After a few minutes of fruitlessly trying to catch him with my hands, I tossed my t-shirt over him, which calmed him enough to let me pick him up. The hooks could not be removed without wire cutters, and he'd broken his own wing trying to free himself. Nothing for it but to walk back to the cottage and hope there was a wildlife rescuer in the phone book.

A half-mile back, I spotted a woman walking her dog on the beach. I'd found an injured tern; did she know where I might take him? Yes, there was a lady on the island, Susan, who did this sort of thing, and her husband Richard was a building contractor at those green-roofed buildings down the beach; when she was heading out to walk her dog she'd heard him already at work. I should be able to cross the dunes at the boardwalk and find him there.

Richard wasn't there, but his sister-in-law was, and after making a couple of phone calls, decided to drive the bird over to Susan. So we put him in a box, I retrieved my t-shirt, and he was on his way to help and healing.

I like to think that, if terns can pray, this little guy's pleas didn't go unanswered, whether or not he has realized that yet or ever does. A visiting jogger throwing a t-shirt over him, a dog-walker telling her where to go, a construction worker putting him in a dark box, even Susan clipping the hooks and transporting him to the mainland where they taped his wing and put him on meds to fight off infection, none of that probably feels like an answer to prayer.

I called Venice Wildlife this morning to check in on him, and he's doing well and his prognosis looks good. Good enough to soon be out in the wild again, flying.