Monthly Archives: November 2011

One Bowl at a Time

When my sister and I were little, my mom signed us up for these local children’s cooking classes with cookbook author Marion Cunningham. We’d go to Marion’s house each week and learn about ingredients (like butter samples that had just arrived from France) test out typewritten recipes for her children’s cookbook, taste whatever cooking project she had been experimenting with that week, and then play with her dog Rover while she and my mom chatted in the kitchen.

One thing that I remember Marion teaching us was that jam didn’t have to be a big complicated project – in fact, it could be made just a bowlful at a time.

If there’s fruit that’s a little mushy and on the verge of turning, don’t let it go to waste. Cut it up, put it on the stove with a little bit of water and a few tablespoons of sugar, and cook it up until its thick and syrupy. Then put it in a covered bowl in the refrigerator and you’ve got a jammy fruit spread to enjoy for the next few days. Its ten times (at least!) more pleasant to see jam than moldy strawberries in the fridge.

At the top you can see yesterday’s breakfast — strawberry jam on a leftover popover. {sigh} if only breakfast could be like that every day…


Put numbers on your make-up (with stickers, paint pen, sharpie, whatever) in the order that you apply it. Then its easy to grab and lay everything out in the right order before you begin. I also lay out my brushes, … Continue reading

How to Make Sweater Felt

Making thick, wooly felt is really easy – all you need is a sweater and a washing machine, and enough guts to disobey laundry instructions.

What you need:

  • 100% wool sweater (any color or pattern, get from thrift store, garage sale, closet, etc… bright, ugly knit sweaters are fun because the images shrink up really small)

What to do:

(Its kind of fun to take a picture of the sweaters before you do this so you can be amazed at how much they shrank. But then I’m always a sucker for before-and-afters)

  1. Throw the sweaters in the washing machine on the hottest setting you’ve got; you don’t need any detergent. When they’re done…
  2. Pull them out and throw them in the dryer on the hottest setting.
  3. Remove from dryer, laugh at how small they are, and do it again – wash and dry on hot. And then do it again.
  4. By the time you pull them out of the dryer for the third time, the sweaters should feel stiff, heavy, and be very short. Any pattern or design that was knit into the sweater will be miniature, and the fabric will be really thick.

Now you have wool felt, ready to use for all sorts of projects. The great thing is that you can cut it and the fibers are shrunk together so tightly that it won’t fray or unravel at all, so you don’t need to hem or do anything to the edges. And its so stiff that it will hold its shape once its cut.

In the past I’ve taken this felt, glued paper to the back and cut out little sweater-y gift tags, I’ve sewed the arm-tubes into knitting needle cases, I sewed a pair of slippers… this stuff is very versatile and very forgiving.

This time I made little birds with feathered tails (thank you chickens for contributing to this project!) The feathers catch every little breeze and spin the birds right around, which makes them very entertaining for little Ellie.