Obsession: Vikings

Last summer, I did a favor for my friend Bristol while she was visiting Iceland. As thanks, she sent me two skeins of beautiful Icelandic wool yarn, one a natural undyed black and one a stunning natural dye blue. I had no idea what to do with them, but kept them safely tucked away as they are very special.

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This past spring, Will and I agreed that for next year’s renaissance faire, we need Viking clothing. I have an apron dress that my sister made for me for Halloween when Sam was two, but I’ve, um, grown a bit since then.

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HE WAS SO TINY. I can sew a new dress, of course, and I still have the brooches my sister’s ex made for me (they are not visible in the photo, so let me assure you that they look exactly like copper boobs). Sam’s tunic is too small for Grace to wear, but that is okay because I want to make her a girl’s costume. I think I will make the apron dress in two pieces with ties at the side so that it can grow with her.

Because it is regularly over 100° at the ren faire, I plan to make everything out of linen, and wear only one underlayer. I am planning an alternate, long-sleeved overdress, because reasons, but will not likely wear that at the faire. Unrelated, I am planning to make myself a linen Scout tee, and may see how I like the apron dress over a short layer instead of a long one.

Also in spite of the weather, I plan to make outer layers for all of us. Wool wraps for the boys, a cloak for Grace and a kaftan coat for me. I am planning to use the Icelandic wool from Bristol for all (or at least some) of my embroidery needs.

Now that my sewing area is nearly ready to go, I will hopefully have pictures to share as I work. In the meantime you can see all of my inspiration here.

By the way, I finished Beautiful Wreck, immediately read it again, and then made my husband read it. It is my favorite. I have a lot more to say but maybe in another post.

Things We Got Done Yesterday (Part One)

Most of the time (like, 85% maybe?) I am a hot mess. But every so often I buckle down and get shit done.

Since we rearranged our apartment, I have been trying to figure out how to make the most of my sewing area, which is basically a hallway between the stairs and our bed.

This is basically what I had to work with:

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Kind of a mess. (Also a shitty photo taken in bad lighting. Sorry.) In that space, from far to near: filing cabinet, which may eventually serve as additional storage for large sewing supplies such as poly-fil; sewing table (that’s my sewing machine to the left of my coffee, under an excellent fabric cover I made); fabric shelf, originally used for diaper storage when Grace was a baby; pile of stuff to deal with including knitting pattern samples and approximately one million buttons); also a yellow bucket overflowing with fabric scraps and my garment steamer.

The fabric shelves and the various piles under the sewing table are full of unused fabric, unfinished projects, and old items to take apart for reusing fabric. Also I think there is some mending in there. I don’t know because I can’t get at it.

Most of my sewing notions (scissors, thread, measuring tapes) are downstairs. Which obviously doesn’t work. A skater posted to the roller derby boards that she had some furniture to sell, including a super-cute nightstand with some drawers. It was only a foot wide so I grabbed it up (and she gave it to me for free, just for taking it off her hands!) and put it next to the sewing table to hold some of those things.

I also hung some storage.

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Will drilled holes in Mason jar lids and screwed them onto the underside of a shelf.

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He hung the shelf and I put some stuff on it.

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I hung an Ikea bucket thingy (I have no idea what to call it) and some pictures.

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With Sam and Grace’s help, I sorted all of my buttons by color and stored them in the jars.

I still need to sort the notions from downstairs into the buckets and the nightstand. And I need another way to store the stuff I rarely use, like pattern samples. Maybe once I get rid of my old skinny clothes I can store them under our bed.

And then I need to start working through the project backlog. Yikes.

An Extremely Premature Book Review

(Bear with me.)

So, I was never able to get into Outlander. It was so boring that I never got to the time travel stuff. I couldn’t even figure out that’s where it was going. I had to look it up on wikipedia, in an effort to figure out why the hell everyone else I knew had enjoyed the damn thing. And seriously, my response was pure incredulity.

All of that nothing was leading up to time travel?!?!?!

It was with some apprehension that I picked up Larissa Brown’s Beautiful Wreck, another historic/time traveling sci-fi romance novel. I am acquainted with the author, who is also a knitwear designer. I am friendly with her publisher. The reviews of the book are outstanding across the board (well, nearly across the board; there are two negative reviews on Amazon that appear to be written by people who didn’t finish reading the book, which I consider cheating).

I have read something like 1% of the book. There hasn’t been any time travel yet. But I am SO IN LOVE WITH IT. Every word flows so perfectly that it is hard to believe I am reading science-fiction. The world is nothing like mine, and I understand it perfectly but haven’t even noticed it being described.

With Outlander, I lost interest before the main plot device. With Beautiful Wreck, I don’t even care if we ever get to the main plot device. I am just along for the ride.

Playground Politics

An older woman, immaculately dressed, follows her granddaughter around the park, loudly directing her on her scooter. “Go around the circle. Here, around the tree. That’s good! Now go around again.” The granddaughter is at least eight years old.

I do not murder the woman for interfering.

A young mother runs up to where my son is playing with her son and joins in, effectively taking over, deciding how they will play. My son is eight, hers at least five.

I do not murder the woman for interfering.

Three adults (two men and one woman) practice fencing, inappropriately dressed for it, a couple hundred feet from the playground. I have to talk my son and his playmate (whose mother has vanished) out of going and “playing” with them.

I do not murder the fencers for lack of brains.

Another mom, with a son and daughter somewhere between Grace and Sam’s ages, refuses to play with them and encourages them to use their imaginations and find things to do on their own. When her son says he cannot, she patiently listens to him spouting off interesting facts about elephants.

I do not make out with her face, but I am awfully tempted to.

Obsession, 8-year-old style

Let’s talk about Sam and Aliens.

So, my eight-year-old son is obsessed with James Cameron’s 1986 action/horror/sci-fi movie Aliens. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Perhaps you are thinking, He is too young to see that movie! Yes, well. I agree. And he hasn’t seen it. YET.

But he wants to, desperately.

He brings it up frequently. The other day he turned to me out of the blue and said, “Mom, I really want to see Aliens now. It might be a spooky one, but it’s okay. I might be scared, but I just have to find out. I really want to see it.”

And why, you may be wondering, is he so obsessed with this movie? The board game. He plays the board game, and the flash version of the board game, frequently. He does voices for the marines. He refuses to leave an injured man behind. The other day when I was playing with him, he had one of the guys GO BACK for Vasquez. Which, actually…

Anyway. He loves the world so much. He knows all the characters and has a favorite (Hicks, thank goodness). He can tell you in great detail why we do not like Burke. He knows everything but what the movie is actually like.

I won’t lie, I might let him watch it. Nothing has scared him yet. Literally ever. And honestly, the most disturbingly violent thing shown on screen is an android–excuse me, synthetic human–being skewered. (Yes, of course we re-watched it this weekend to help us decide what to do. Holy shit the blu-ray looks amazing.)

Customer Service, or something like it.

I took the children to a museum recently, and we shared a grilled cheese sandwich at the cafe. I found a bit of hair in the very last bite, and could see in the kitchen that everyone had short hair, but no head coverings. I brought the plate up to the counter and let them know, pointing out that bandannas would be helpful. (I think it’s against the law to have uncovered heads in a professional kitchen, but I’m not positive.) They didn’t seem at all interested in my feedback, but insisted on refunding me the price of the sandwich. Which was nice, and the right thing to do, but I hadn’t asked for it. I wanted change and they wanted an easy fix. I was disappointed.

On Saturday I ordered pizza for dinner from our local pizzeria, and when it arrived the pies were practically folded in half, clearly the result of being carried on end. I called the shop to let them know that they might want to tell the driver to be more careful. They immediately offered to send replacement pies. I refused, which shocked the young man on the phone. Like, he literally couldn’t understand that I didn’t want new pizza. Since only one slice out of 16 had lost its toppings, I thought replacing them was pointless and wasteful. I just wanted the driver to do his job. I wanted change and they wanted an easy fix.

Is this just how customer service is done now?

Strawberry Shortcake with Brown Sugar Biscuits

Every year I say I am going to have strawberry shortcake for my birthday, and every year something happens and I end up having something else. BUT NOT THIS YEAR.

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36 is the year to get shit done. As long as said shit involves dessert.

Brown Sugar Biscuits
loosely adapted from Sipsey’s Biscuits, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup plain yogurt, ideally the watery bits from separated Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2/3-3/4 cup water

(The last three ingredients approximate buttermilk, and in my opinion make superior biscuits. You may substitute buttermilk.)

Preheat oven to 450. Prepare a large baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper, or by lightly greasing it.

Combine first five (dry) ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl and whisk together. Add butter pieces and combine by squeezing with your fingertips until most of the butter pieces have broken down and the mixture resembles cornmeal.

Whisk wet ingredients together in a measuring cup, using enough water to equal one cup of liquid. Add to butter mixture and combine with a spoon or fork. You may need to turn the dough with your hands a few times to finish combining the wet and dry ingredients; do not overmix.

With a large spoon, make drop biscuits about 1-inch apart on your baking sheet, shaping them with your hands if needed. Makes about 12 large biscuits.

Bake for about 15 minutes, checking after 10 and rotating the baking sheet if necessary. When golden brown, remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes or more.

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Fresh Vanilla Whipped Cream

Combine about 1 cup heavy cream with 1-2 teaspoons powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. You may beat with an electric whisk until peaks form, or shake in a mason jar until there is no more sloshing.

Strawberry Shortcake

My preferred way to serve strawberry shortcake is to slice a biscuit in half and spread it with a teaspoon (or a little more!) of lemon curd. Pile one side high with strawberry slices (this is the one time I will endorse sprinkling them with a little sugar, which should be done about 15 minutes before you prep, or when the biscuits go in the oven) and top with whipped cream.