Thursday, December 29, 2011

...and the winner of the Facebook Giveaway is....

I am still on holiday with my family so no real blogging for another few days, but I couldn't enter 2012 without announcing the winner of our last Facebook drawing. 

We asked folks to "Like" our Facebook Page and a bunch of you complied---thank you, thank you, thank you!   We used the awesome Research Randomizer to pick our lucky winner this week....I just didn't have the time or inclination to make a bunch of paper slips like I did last time!

Yup, we got real official-like, as you can see from the report below:

Research Randomizer Results
1 Set of 1 Unique Numbers Per Set
Range: From 1 to 115 -- Unsorted
Job Status:
Set #1:   64

Congratulations #64:  Pat Becknell Lorentz

We are going to be sending Pat one of our felted hoop earring kits!   

Stay tuned for our next Facebook Giveaway....but remember....YA GOTTA "LIKE" US TO HAVE A CHANCE TO WIN!

Monday, December 19, 2011

...and the Winner of the Giveaway is.............

Nancy, from NED Beads!

Please send me an email with your shipping info so that I can mail your goodie package!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Skinny Dresses, Mayonnaise Biscuits, and a Giveaway, too!

I love estate sales and I love chickens.  This past week-end proved to be a delightful mix of both....

On Saturday my husband and I went to a sale in one of the area's most exclusive know, the "old money" kind of community.    There was a realtor's sign in the yard and I imagine the neighbors will be thrilled to see it sold.  The formerly gracious estate was in complete disrepair, something that  is very much NOT the norm in this particular neighborhood, which features crazy expensive waterfront homes sporting landscapes that resemble botanical gardens.  The home we visited bore the scars of years of neglect, with weeds and grass growing out of the roof!  However, upon walking through the front door, we could see that at one time the house had been  a showpiece.  Vintage floral wallpaper and beds with handmade lace canopies could have been the setting for a Martha Stewart photo shoot.  Expensive furnishings and Turkish rugs hinted at better times.    I meandered through the house and started to form a mental picture of the inhabitant. 

Hmmm....lots of clothes...but nothing for a man.  An elderly woman, residing alone, her husband long since dead.  The contents of the home were very high quality --- the sort of stuff that the kids would certainly have snagged for themselves, if there were any kids.  Instead, a savvy antique shop owner bought almost everything.  The hundreds of gourmet cookbooks in the kitchen revealed a love for cooking and I scored a nifty vintage cookbook for only fifty cents!  It is from 1967--back before we avoided lard and carbs---you know, the good old days.   I am making the gumbo on page 117 for dinner tonight.

I left the kitchen and made my way upstairs, on the prowl for wool sweaters.   I am building up a sizable sweater stash to be recycled into a rug, so I rummaged through the closets.  No wool sweaters, but I did find something that resonated with me....


You know the one I mean.... that one article of clothing that we hold on to for years, the lone garment that represents who we were and maybe even who we long to be again.  I still have a pair of  teeny weeny Bill Blass  jeans from the late 1970s.   I cannot squeeze them over my cankles, but I hold on to them, nonetheless.  It is reminder of who I used to be and proof to disbelieving children that I was young and tiny once!  The jeans are hidden in the WAAAY back of my closet, next to the hot pink minidress that I bought in New York on my first trip away with my husband after we had the kids.  I had worked hard to get my body back and was feeling frisky.  The dress reminds me of that sassy girl and I like having it around. 

So, back to the estate sale....the closets were stuffed full of clothes....I waded through a sea of  size 3x dresses and high end Mumus and was about to call it a day when I hit upon a real gem.   It was the only garment in the house that was smaller than an extra large and I am guessing that it was her Skinny Dress...the piece that reminded her of a younger, saucier self.  The human experience is such a trip---so many commonalities.  It was like a peek into her head and I wanted that dress in my closet.    It is a stunning lime green 100% wool Jackie O-ish confection from the early sixties.  The dress is in mint condition, features Swarovski Crystal banding around the collar....and it is  MY size!  It set me back a mere $2.50 and I love it!  It needs to be hemmed, and could use a black belt and some heels, but I think it is going to work.   Long Live the Skinny Dress and Long Live our Sassy Selves!

The next sale we hit provided more giggles than introspection, and centered around the kitchen.  This home was filled with cookbooks, too, but bespoke of a smaller budget and a much less discriminating palette.  Most of the titles featured casseroles, canned food creations, or the microwave.  Yuck.  I did find a killer Better Crocker cookbook stuffed with handwritten recipes.  The graphics are adorable and I get a kick out of thumbing through recipes that others consider real keepers, often trying them out at home.  I don't think I will be trying too many of these, however!  The Mayonnaise Biscuit recipe scared me the most:

Three simple ingredients:  flour, milk, and mayo.  M'mm, M'mm, Good....not.  The part the killed me was where  the amount of mayonnaise was crossed out and then doubled, evidence that someone was working to refine this recipe.  Ugh...Why?   I actually contemplated whipping up some Mayo Biscuits, just because, but found that I simply couldn't go there.  Frankly, I think that my chickens might even turn up their beaks at the thought of Mayonnaise Biscuits and they eat everything!

Those of you who visit my Studio know about Cooper, my slightly "Out of Balance" dog.   Cooper is a sad sack...a timid, silly boy who we rescued many months ago.  Cooper is afraid of everyone outside of the family, and flinches if you reach out to him.  He often crawls rather than walks in an effort to demonstrate his complete submissiveness...unless you are a piece of furniture or a chicken.   Yup, old Cooper turns into a fearless warrior when faced with a couch or a hen in need of a good eating.  He tears apart either with equal vigor, tail wagging all the while.  Frankly, it is the only time we see unadulterated joy emanating from the little guy.  Unfortunately, the chickens aren't fond of being attacked, and my husband is not fond of ruined furniture, so we are doing our best to keep him under control.  

Cooper managed to dig under the fence a few weeks ago and killed three hens and a huge rooster before I noticed anything amiss.  Sigh.  We filled the hole with concrete and reinforced the coop.  Yesterday I went to my first livestock auction and came home with four hens and a spectacularly fluffy rooster.  
So far, so good.  


Leave a comment and tell me about YOUR version of the skinny dress...what do you have hiding in YOUR closet from yesteryear?  I will pick a winner at random to receive a selection of Swarovski Crystal Beads and a copy of Taking Flight, Inspiration & Techniques to give your Creative Spirit Wings, by Kelly Rae Roberts!  The winner will be announced on Sunday, December 18, 2011.
We are having a FREE workshop at the Studio this week!  If you are in the Tampa area, join us for an evening of community and crafty education as we learn to make wet felted poinsettias.  We only have a few spaces left....Reserve your spot HERE.  Wednesday, December 14 from 7-9 pm
Happy Stitching!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Shambolic Felt, a Decadent Cookie Recipe, and Bakelite Walls for me!

It has taken me a full week, but I have finally come down from the Fiber High I was on while at the Southeastern Animal Fiber Festival ("SAFF") in Asheville, North Carolina.  It was a treat on so many levels!  I had a chance to meet some art heroes as well as to reconnect with old friends.   The event is one of the nicest I have seen---from the relevant workshop offerings to the spectacular fibery goodness offered for sale--- the show is a gem!  The classes are beyond reasonable price-wise and the event garners some impressive national talent.

Jacey Boggs, Spinning Diva behind Insubordiknit,  was one such talent.

  Jacey Boggs Groupies were EVERYWHERE and it was no surprise, really...Jacey has magic fingers.  Her book--soon to be released in paperback --  is like eye candy and her Sit and Spin DVD is a classic.  No doubt about it...her work is amazing and I was inspired to drag out my spinning wheel when I got home.  It has been gathering cobwebs since I bought it two years ago but I will be intimidated no longer!

My spinning skill level is stuck on SUCK  so I was delighted to stumble across the fantastical work of Esther of Jazz Turtle Creations as I wandered about the SAFF playground.  It is nice to know that even if I can't spin it, I can still buy it!

The brights or the natural?  Choices, choices!  Both made my heart go pitter pat....
I was happy to run into my old friend Marlene Gruetter of Marlene's Felting Madness...she is a generous and funny artist who recently developed Shambolic felt™, a style/technique of feltmaking which incorporates fabrics and other embellishments in an intrinsic and fluid manner.  She loves texture and color and enjoys watching how the felting process itself creates unusual arrangements of texture and color.  The style of shambolic will often leave raw, rolling and uneven edges throughout the work giving it a unique natural look.

She agreed to model the spectacular full length Shambolic felt™ coat that she had on display.
The stunning piece was made WITHOUT SEWING!!  It has no sewn seems AT ALL.  The garment took seven days to make, is entirely felted, and contains about 20 silk garments felted into the wool!  Marlene's "Salsa" pieceI, pictured below, is from her "Half Dressed" series.  Love it, love it, love it!

Marlene will be coming to my Lutz, Florida studio next week to reconnect with Carol Cypher, who will be teaching five workshops November 11-13, 2011.   Classes are filling up so reserve your spot today!

Lunch will be served to all who have a full day of workshops...YUM!
In other News
The leaky roof and subsequent ceiling damage throughout my humble abode have resulted in an  unexpected opportunity....a fresh coat of paint throughout the house.  Prior to the roof calamity we knew that the interior needed a fresh coat, but we have been too broke to hire a painter. and too lazy to paint it ourselves.  It took the gaping holes and other roof carnage to prompt us to action. I  have been playing with color chips for a week and finally settled on  a Bakelite palette for the home. Reds, yellows and greens...Oh My!   It is definitely not a color scheme for the faint of heart, but I am color drunk, my husband is tolerant, and the dogs are color I figure, what the heck?   

Because You Asked for It.....

My wonderful SAFF workshop participants have been emailing me for the recipe behind the cookies we ate to give us strength while we felted.  Here it is:

Chocolate Cherry Cookies               Preheat Oven to 400 degrees

1.        Mix together in a mixing bowl:
2 C brown sugar
2 C white sugar
1 lb butter, softened
4 eggs
2.         Add the following and mix well:
                2 t baking soda
                2 t baking powder
                3 t vanilla extract
                1 t salt
3.       Add the following and mix well:
4 C flour
5 C instant oats
3 C walnuts
3 C chocolate chips
½ bag of dried cherries
1 bag of chopped toffee/brickle pieces or a couple of chopped Heath Bars
1 bag of Kraft Caramel bits (they usually show up around the Holidays so I stock up and keep spares in the freezer!)
4.       Make golf ball sized balls of dough, place on parchment paper on a cookie sheet and cook for 6 to 8 minutes.  The toffee and caramel wills stick to a cookie sheet, so don’t forget the 
parchment paper!  I warned you!

 A no fail recipe that is guaranteed to please...decadent and delicious.  Good for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  It has fruit in it, so it is good for you.


     We have added the popular Sunrise Nuno Scarf to the workshop line up at Urban Stitch Studio.    The workshop is scheduled for December 7, 2011 and the fee includes all materials.   Learn to make this couture quality scarf just in time for the holiday gift giving season!

     I just finished the felted and crocheted necklace pictured at right.  It features a HUGE 40mm  Swarovski crystal stone encased in a hand dyed silk thread bezel.  I am working on the directions and hope to have a class on the schedule in January.     Whuddayathink?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Losing my Mojo, Rosie's Garden, and the Search for Tranquility.

Buongiorno!    It has been a while and  I have missed the rhythm and satisfaction that blogging seems to afford me.  However, LIFE has been happening in all Capital Letters and Explanation Points lately.   This post is more about catching up than stitching, but what the hell...pull up a chair and pour yourself a glass of wine while I fill you in on what's been happening in my part of the world recently:   

Early August....Puma, the most special of my three cats, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bone cancer.  Dealing with a terminally ill animal necessitated a multitude of schedule changes to accommodate an unpleasantly familiar routine, which featured:

a very bad prognosis, weeping,  many  costly trips to our wonderful vet, more weeping, and  pointless efforts to keep a stiff upper lip during the weeks preceding our Sad March to the Inevitable.   We supported Puma with pain medicine, cancer medicine and lots of lap time until we knew that the hurting had gotten bigger than the happy.  

The experience ripped open the "just barely kinda sorta starting to heal" hole in my heart left by the loss of Rosie nine months ago.  The wound became very fresh again, which was a bitch.

I cried really, really hard.

[ Note: when my kids were small and clamored for stories of my youth, they particularly enjoyed the ones that ended with my saying...."I cried really, really hard."  Go figure.    Sadists, all.]

 Mid August.... was all about creating a special gift for my baby girl, who was heading off to college, coupled with pretending that Puma was not sick.  A dying cat and the youngest leaving home.


I cried really, really hard.
The bright spot...a visit from my dear friend from Arizona, Monica... for a much needed frenzy of felting and fellowship.

Late August....Happy Birthday!    My daughter was safely delivered to her dorm and a week later I turned 50.  How embarrassing..I get to have Mid Life Crisis on top of everything else......

I cried really, really hard.

Early September...A faulty  air conditioner and defective shut off switch resulted in a serious leak and substantial damage to the kitchen porch.  This is not to be confused with the ceiling that crashed into my laundry room because of an unrelated roof issue.  Sigh.  It got worse....Sweet Puma joined Rosie in the pet cemetery on September 8.

Yup...I cried really, really hard.

Unfortunately, there was a final gut punch.  Yup, a Big Ole Piece of FU Pie was dished up immediately thereafter---Trixie, my smiling Finnish Spitz, died unexpectedly two days after we lost Puma.Unfriggingbelievable!   I hadn't even put away the shovel! Trixie joined her pals in the dirt.   Say it with me, everyone....

I cried...really, really, really, REALLY hard.

WTF?????  I mean, SERIOUSLY!   I felt like I was losing my Happiness Mojo.   I was definitely not ready for the burgeoning population in my not-yet- finished Pet Cemetery.  You see, several months before Rosie died, I started to build  a little pet cemetery on my property.  I was working through the whole death thing and it was important to me that I create a special area for her.  Although I buried her in the spot I had picked, I have been unable to create the garden I had envisioned.... I simply haven't been able to "go there," emotionally.  I would look at the cold , barren spot of dirt in the yard and vow to get on it, but each time I tried, I found that I just could not do it.  The yard looked awful and I hated that I had left it incomplete.   Rosie deserved more and now I had two more little lumps in the dirt.  I was guilt ridden and disappointed in myself for not PUSHING THROUGH IT, but I cut myself some slack,  figuring that I would be ready when I was ready.

Mid September
Fifteen  hours after I buried Trixie, I left town, drained and sad, despite the fact that my husband and I were heading for a dream vacation in Italy.  The weird juxtaposition of it all was totally surreal,  but proved to be just what I needed.    We have never had an opportunity to go away for such an extended period, so it was a real treat to decompress together.    We were the lucky beneficiaries of a wonderful gift...a family vacation aboard a luxury ship, cruising the coast of Italy to celebrate the 88th birthday of my generous Mother-in-Law, Eileen.   It was a spectacular trip that was filled with the "good stuff" of family at its best---laughter, conviviality, shared history and ...most important for me at this time....a bit of healing.
Life ebbs and flows.  It is all part of the bigger cycle....children grow up to create their own version of  a happy life, treasured pets die too young, and if you are lucky...88th birthdays are celebrated with joy and delight.  In the big picture, it's all good.  I revel--truly revel--in my many blessings.  All that being said, it has been a  real bitch of a few months.  Thank goodness for the opportunity to regain perspective--I am much happier living in a state of grace---appreciative rather than anxious, laughing rather than crying.   

My Mojo is back!

I am happy to report that I spent the entire week-end working in Rosie's Garden!   I was ready to tackle it, at long last.

It felt good...kind of like I am still taking care of the sweet little gang resting there....I thought happy Rosie/Puma/Trixie thoughts and was at peace while I set about creating a pretty space for them.  I still have a way to go....some additional plantings (the flower kind, not the animal kind, I hope!), cementing in the small granite walls, and a bit of brick work...but I am not afraid of it anymore.  Rosie's Garden has become a place of Tranquility rather than Sorrow.  I'm BACK and it feels really, really good.

We are having an awesome give away featuring the hand dyed embroidery floss in Sunset, pictured in the martini glass at right.  Your name will be entered in the drawing when you leave a comment on this weeks post.  Winner will be announced next week!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Life is stitch and bead it into submission!

Life ebbs and flows...sometimes moving at a comfortable pace, sometimes careening at breakneck speed, and occasionally just flat out beating you with a stick. The last few weeks have been kind of like a Whack-a -Mole game, with me playing the role of Mole, to wit:

Pat's Litany of Woe
1. My sick chicken died;
2. My favorite cat --- the only one who doesn't pee in the house --- has bone cancer;
3.  I just turned fifty;
4. I have gained weight because of my new artisan bread diet  (more on that later) and...worst of all...
My youngest child recently left for college, leaving a very empty nest .

Seriously---who can blame me for being a bit of a hormonal mess?  

 Sigh.  I am still missing my daughter, but she is where she needs to be, doing what she needs to do to morph from pampered princess to productive citizen.  The cat was a starving stray when I happened upon her nine years ago and she has been well fed and well loved ever since.   The sick chicken died, but the rest of the flock managed to avoid the contagious disease, and as for the extra weight....what the hell...I will lose it when I am ready.  Until then, I can buy larger pants and wear heels.  Finally, while  turning 50 ain't for sissies,  I DID get lots of awesome birthday presents, including:

A killer crochet pillow made by my best gal pal, Ivy ....

A pair of antique bent wood rocking chairs that found a home in a sunny corner....the perfect spot for a cup of coffee and a quick bit of knitting before the day officially begins...and some vintage alphabet stamps in a sweet little wooden bowl....

Happy sigh.  Life is good.

I have been tackling a lot of creative projects lately, which provides an opportunity to work through the stuff I need to work through to get to my happy place.   I am never at a loss for projects on my To Do list and a plethora of creative endeavors enabled me to navigate this bittersweet period in a healthy, albeit somewhat weepy, manner.  The Big Project was a top secret one for my daughter.  She is a real homebody who was less than excited about flying the coop.  I knew that the transition from much adored family princess to the realities of dorm life would be difficult for her and I wanted to make something that would give her a hug when I wasn't around to do it in person. 

I opted for a fabric book and was tickled with the results.  I had originally planned for a few pages of carefully embellished beadwork and ribbons, but the clock was ticking, the cat got sick, and I had to modify my vision.  Instead, I went for a quick and dirty shabby chic tribute, printing photos on fabric and machine stitching them to unfinished muslin.  The book  grew to almost 30 pages and became a very therapeutic project for me.  I shared my dreams for Rachel, threw in a little advice here and there, and generally endeavored to transfer the intensity of my love for her to an inanimate creation that would provide comfort in the months to come.  A lofty goal, but judging from her reaction, I think that I did it!

In Other News

Congratulations to Stephanie Dixon who won a copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Frances. 

The recipes are amazing....but be warned....the book has consequences  and I now have the ass to prove it.  See Item Number 4 in my Litany of Woe as outlined above.

Carol Cypher Workshop Update
Carol Cypher is coming to Urban Stitch Studio!  She will be here to spread the bead and fiber love from November 11 - 13, 2011.  Check out all of the yummy details HERE.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A sick chicken, some happy creative news, and the carbohydrate that changed my life.

I live in the tiny town of Lutz, Florida.   It is a speck on the map just north of Tampa and parts of it still retain that "old Florida" charm---cypress trees and palmettos....Spanish moss and armadillos...dense tropical foliage and sunshine, lakes aplenty and gators, too.  Of course, developers have left their mark and the city's proximity to Tampa means that other parts of Lutz resemble the Florida that  you see on TV --- swimming pools, traffic congestion, mickey mouse, stucco homes, more mickey mouse, and sunburn.  I am lucky to reside in a  semi rural neighborhood that has managed to hold on to the Old Florida Cracker ambiance, newly constructed McMansions only occasionally dotting the landscape.  We have a quirky little house filled with dogs, cats, and chickens.  Lots of chickens.   I made my foray into chicken husbandry about five years ago and it has been a joyful arrangement.  I give them food and shelter, they give me breakfast and giggles. 

...but now one of the little guys is sick. 

It is a young one...I think it might be a rooster.  Three weeks ago I went into the coop and noticed that he was hiding, which is unusual.  I went over to pick him up and he didn't run away.  Uh Oh!  Chickens pass disease amongst the flock very quickly, so I immediately put him in a cage and quarantined him on our back porch.   I have googled his symptoms and come up empty, so I am feeding him and babying him, hoping for the best.  There has been some improvement but he is clearly not ready to go back with his buddies.  He is still bedraggled and struggling.
Poor pathetic thing!  When I give him some "yard time" to stretch his legs he immediately goes over to the coop and stands there looking wistfully at the flock.  Maybe next week, little fella!


On the creative front, I am beyond excited...Carol Cypher will be coming to Urban Stitch Studio from November 11-13, 2011!   Carol is an incredibly talented bead and fiber artist whose work is at its most delightful when she combines the two.  Her books are legendary and I have well thumbed copies of all of them sitting on my shelf.  She is the author of Mastering Beadwork:  A Comprehensive Guide to Off Loom Techniques , How We Felt , and Hand Felted Jewelry and Beads.  Carol is a teacher of international renown and I am 'jump up and down thrilled' to bring her to town.  I have picked out five workshops...some beading, some felting, and some a yummy combination of the two.  More details to follow!

...and now, without further ado, the topic you really want to hear about....

The carbohydrate that changed my life.


I have a recipe that has impacted my life and the lives of those I love in such a way that I simply have to share the joy.  I like to cook and I love to bake, but until recently I have never mastered the art of bread making.  Although I have no difficulty with "cakey" recipes like banana bread, all of  my attempts at real bread fell flat.  Literally.  I longed for the deliciously crunchy, decadently doughy,  mouthwatering bread that one devours at good restaurants. 

I did it!!!  I found a recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and started practicing.  I tweaked the basic recipe a bit and am thrilled with the results.  The totally cool thing is---you make the dough recipe in five minutes, let it sit in a plastic container for a few hours to rise, throw it in the refrigerator and you have enough bread for four meals!  The only caveat:  you MUST have a baking stone and a pizza peel.   You cannot substitute a cookie sheet.  I got mine from William-Sonoma.  You will spend about $75 but it is so worth it.  Your kids will be amazed, your husband will think you are brilliant, and your dinner guests will be dazzled.

Here is my adaptation:

Artisan Bread Recipe

3 cups of hot water (I just use hot water from my tap)
6 1/2 Cups of All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 Tablespoons of Yeast
1 1/2 Tablespoons of Sea Salt
1 1/2 Tablespoons of Sugar
Garlic (fresh or powdered)
Extra Sea Salt for sprinkling
Corn meal
Now for the fun part:

Making the Dough:

1.  Pour the yeast into the hot water and stir to dissolve.  Sort of dissolved is OK.
2.  Put the Flour, Salt and Sugar into an electric mixing bowl.  Add the yeast water.  Mix together for a minute...just until combined.
3.  The mixture will be very gooey.  Wet your hands and scoop the sticky dough out and into a large-ish plastic container with a lid.  I use a plastic shoe box that I bought from Target. Put the lid on lightly, and leave the box on the counter for a few hours.  The bread will rise to the top of the box.  Put it in the refrigerator.  It will last up to a week in the refrigerator, although we have never had a problem polishing it off before that point.

Baking the Bread:
1. About an hour before you plan to eat dinner, get out your pizza peel and sprinkle it very liberally with corn meal. 
2.  Go to the refrigerator and take a hunk of dough from your plastic container.  Massage it a bit in your hands by folding the dough in on itself.  I do this for about thirty will feel the dough "tighten up."  
3.  Place the Hunk O' Dough on the pizza peel and put it  on the counter.
4.  Put the baking stone in the oven.  I use the rack in the middle, or one step above.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
5.  Go do a load of laundry or read the paper.  The stone needs to heat for 20 to 30 minutes and the bread needs to rise.  There is some latitude here...I have let the bread sit for as long as an hour.
6.  Take a serrated knife and make some cross slits into the  top of the dough.  Sprinkle with garlic and sea salt.  
7.  Slide the bread onto the baking stone.  It will slide very easily if you have used enough corn meal.  Bake for 20 minutes.

Try it!  It will be an epic win!
I will be giving away a copy of the book that inspired the recipe in a random drawing on August 18.  Simply comment on any post between now and then and your name will be entered into the drawing.   

Good luck!