Friday, March 21, 2014


My mom was not the most typical domestic figure when I was growing up. She was an early adapter of the microwave, box cake mixes, and anything else that saved time. She had her own toolbox, which my dad was supposed to leave alone (also, her own bank account). There were, however, a few of the old ways that she clung to steadfastly that I just didn't understand. Chief among them: ironing.
When my oldest child was born, in 2001, I put our rarely used iron away mostly because I feared horrible accidents, but also because I didn't think wrinkles were a big deal. Ian's shirts were either wrinkle-free or pressed at the cleaners, and I could have stayed in my pajamas all day, considering how far I was from the working world and the fact that in the early days of all three kids everything I wore was either vomited on or wiped on by tiny, adorable little hands and faces.
What changed was that I took up sewing and got a better iron that really shoots steam. Pressing is essential when you're making garments. It causes the stitches to sink into the fabric, coaxes out puckers, can sometimes eliminate the need for pinning, etc. I realized I had really gone over to the other side, though, when I started asking my kids to hand over the clothes they'd already put on so that I could iron them before they went out the door. I thought my mom was crazy when she did that to me in high school, and now I have my very own teenage daughter to roll her eyes at me when I ask. Check out these before-and after photos, though, and perhaps you'll see what an improvement forced flattening can be.
Which leg do you prefer?

Could be better.


Look at the button band and pocket!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Thoughtful gift

As my youngest child continues to grow, it's been a pleasure to pass along her adorable clothes (most of them passed down to us by other generous folk). One of the main recipients has been a cute little girl about two years younger than Marly, whose middle name is the same as Marly's first. I had to laugh when her mom said that, thanks to us and some cousins, her daughter had more clothes than her two sons and her husband combined. It was easy to believe, because last spring I counted and discovered that Marly had enough dresses to wear a different one every day for a month. None were bought by me.
Anyway, yesterday, instead of passing on a bag of clothes, I received a bag with a wonderful surprise--beautiful, bold yarn from Argentina.

Within hours, I had a skein wound and had started a top-down raglan cardigan for Marly. I did not stop to swatch, and have gone up from size 9 to size 10 needles, but I'm having a ball, and trying out different techniques to pop the blue and pink nubbins to the front as I go.
Yes, this has jumped in front of Ian's socks and sweater and Conway's gloves, but with size 10 needles I should be finished in a matter of days, right?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cakey Oatmeal

Well, almost everything.
The Minimalist is one of the people who has helped me go farthest in my cooking journey. His no-nonsense, approachable instructions gave me the courage to learn such family favorites as pizza dough, potato pancakes, golden cupcakes, chicken pot pie, and even sweet potato samosas. When I received How to Cook Everything a few Christmases ago, my yougest actually asked, "Mommy, do you wish you were married to Mark Bittman instead of Daddy?" 
Unfortunately, the cookie section of his book is not as reliable as the others. Though there's a nice eggless gingersnap recipe, and some passable refrigerator cookies, after trying the oatmeal cookie recipe once again, I have to swear it off for good. 
Possible sources of the problem: 2 cups, not 3 of oatmeal; not enough cinnamon (but I think that's true for almost every cookie recipe); baking powder instead of baking soda; milk (why?); and finally procedure--Bittman advises adding dry ingredients alternately with the milk, which is great for a cake, but if I want chewy, somewhat flat cookies that are overwhelmingly made of oats, I've got to go back to my old standby. Bonus: I get to add a stick of butter, too. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Ball Four

Borrowing my title from the amazing book by Jim Bouton, I am happy to report that Ian's sweater is sailing along. Although the cables seem complicated, they're pretty intuitive, and I find working on it both engrossing and relaxing.
We could all do with some relaxation and calming today as we wait for high school acceptance letters. Coco's plan is to ride the train to the Dance Studio, call me, and open it while we're on the phone together. Thanks so much for making it a Monday in March, DOE.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Crazy for patches

Last spring I got the opportunity to help my friend Vladia teach sewing to a bunch of upper-elementary students at PS 9 (about 12 girls and one brave boy). The class culminated in a stuffed animal project based on their own illustrations, and they all learned the blanket stitch to assemble the pieces. My son, unlike the majority of boys, I'm told, is incredibly particular about what he wears, and loath to let go of pants that fit. My first attempt at knee-repair involved the sewing machine, but soon enough, I started sewing on patches by hand,
and now I can't seem to stop. Not just Washington's pants, but Marly's jeans, 
and even our pillowcase. 
Stitching the patches on is very Zen, but I also enjoy thinking about the fabric's origin. The pink patch is from the first pillowcase dress I made for Marly, and the black polka-dot is from her Easter dress last year.