31 August 2009


I have a really awesome project in the works. It's for my mom's birthday, which was on August 13th. I would love to show it to you, but it's not finished...mostly because I'm making it up, and it includes some techniques that I don't know how to do. Referring back to my skirt post, I know that I decided that I needed to follow a few patterns instead of doing things I don't know how to do, making them too complicated, and struggling through processes that would be a lot easier if I were following a pattern. Nevertheless, my imagination is boundless, and this will be awesome when it is finished...which will happen...at some point.

In the mean time, I've been procrastinating. [gasp!] Oh don't act so surprised. Procrastinating is one of the things I do best...along with hula-hooping, Disney trivia, and Encore, an excellent game of song lyric recall.

Anyway, this project for my mom kept my making on the back burner for a while until I decided that if I wasn't going to work on her present anyway, that shouldn't stop me from doing something. I felt out my creative inclinations, and I decided that I was in the mood for some crazy quilting. (For those of you not in the know, crazy quilting is a sewing technique and does not refer to the psychological state of the quilter in question.) So I pulled out some fabric that I had set aside for the embroidery hoop project I didn't do because I'm a fabric hoarder. And I took a pair of scissors to it. Muahaha!!!

Jagged edges, no precise measurements, just a pair of scissors cutting out random strips and shapes. It felt freeing, irreverent, to mangle the fabric I had treasured for so long. And as I cut and ironed and sewed and ironed again, I found myself having a profoundly lovely time. The simple repetition, piecing the colors together like a puzzle, seeing the fabric grow into something new...it was...joy. I ended up with a rather large swatch of crazy quilting that I couldn't decide what to do with, but I think it will end up in an embroidery hoop on my wall, just as it was originally intended. Maybe I'll do some embroidery on it. Maybe not. Maybe I will surround it with remaining fabric cased in embroidery hoops of various sizes. Maybe not. Maybe it will be a pillow or something else all together. The important thing was that I did something. And I enjoyed it thoroughly. Mission accomplished.......kind of...because my mom's birthday present still isn't done. :o/

30 August 2009

Culinary Concocting

My mom is an excellent cook. I can only remember one thing in my entire life that she cooked that was not good. It was a crab casserole. I've also heard that her experiment with flan went badly. But other than that, her track record is unscathed. She cooks, she bakes, she preserves, she does it all, and she does it all well. Despite this, I didn't really learn to cook until my junior year of college, when I had an apartment with some wonderful girls. That was the first time in my life when I really had to fend for myself when it came to meal time. (Emily and I were usually co-collaborators, so maybe "fending for myself" isn't exactly what was going on, but you get the idea.) That year was a strange and exciting year of culinary discovery and bizarre cravings... stuffed peppers, scrambled eggs, crab rangoons, and of course, midnight pancakes.

But one of my favorite things to do come meal time was to call my excellent cook of a mother and say, "I don't know what to make for dinner," and she would say, "Well, what do you have?" I would list off the random ingredients in our scantily-stocked refrigerator and cabinets, and she would come up with the most lovely concoctions that were tasty and easy to make. Win-win. During that year, I learned that a kitchen stocked with lime juice, olive oil, garlic salt, salsa, chicken, rice, pasta, crackers, eggs, cream of something soup, and frozen vegetables could take you a long way.

The other night, I got a new cookbook because Jason and I went shopping to get him a new pair of shorts. So naturally, we came home with a cookbook. It's a Taste of Home cookbook. I just love Taste of Home because it's basically like a church potluck cookbook. It has real recipes made by real people with real ingredients that you find at real grocery stores. And it has pretty pictures.

As I was flipping through the pages one night, trying to decide what to make for dinner, not wanting to defrost chicken, I noticed that a few ingredients turned up in a lot of recipes, and I was inspired to rummage through my kitchen, see what I had, and throw it all together. I fried up some bacon. I steamed some broccoli, I made my delicious alfredo sauce, adding a little bacon grease for continuity of flavor, and I cooked up some linguine and tossed it all together into this strange little combination and announced that dinner was ready.Jason is a very kind person. He raved about how delicious it was and how quickly it came together. I thought it was a little weird...strange textures, too much broccoli--maybe asparagus next time. But it was filling and satisfying and not gross, and I didn't have to defrost any chicken after all. Win-win.

24 August 2009

You Can't Always Get What You Want

This is especially true when it comes to experimenting with natural dyes.

My mom and I each had some wool that we had spun, and we wanted to dye it while I was home. We started by tying our wool into skeins and soaking it in a bath of water and cream of tarter, which helps seal the color into the wool once it's been dyed. While it was soaking, we went out into my mom's new jungle--I mean, garden.This thing is no joke. It has a diameter of 25 feet. There are cucumbers growing in here that are the size of my leg. And more tomatoes than anyone could ever use. (Take that, soulemama.) My mom planted marigolds around the outer edge of the garden because apparently, animals hate marigolds. So we picked those marigolds to make one of our dyes.And then we picked some basil because there is a TON of basil in that garden, and we were hoping it would give us a nice green or yellow.
I was originally envisioning dying the wool over an open fire in the backyard, but with wee little ones running around, this is...difficult, so we decided to go all 21st century and use the stove top.
(Sidenote: did you know that when you use dying agents found in nature, you will never get two colors that clash? It's true. All of nature is color-coordinated. Pretty sweet, huh?)

So we boiled the marigolds and the basil and then strained them and added some vinegar (which makes the dye more color fast), and let them simmer for a bit before adding our wool. Now, if you've never smelled boiling marigolds, you're one lucky duck, or at least that's what just about everyone in my family would say. Over the course of the several hours my mom and I spent hovering over our dyeing wool, my family became a pack of viciously disgruntled whiners. You'd think we were cooking kim chi or something. Sheesh! Nevertheless, my mom and I soldiered on with high hopes that our newly colorful wool would be worth the persecution from the peanut gallery. And this is was the final result (from left to right: basil, not dyed, marigold):Pretty exciting, huh? Yeah, I know. It's not. You'd think that with the brilliant colors of the marigolds and the vibrant green of the basil, we would have ended up with something a little more...lively. But that is the thing about dyeing with natural dyes. They are a box of chocolates, and not one of those helpful ones that gives you a map so you can avoid the roman nougats. (Does anybody actually like those?) Instead, it's a wonderland of mystery. Sometimes you end up with something marvelous, and sometimes you end up with something a little more...mundane. But that's just life. And you can either play it safe and leave all your wool white, or you can take a chance at a little disappointment for the sake of just a splash of variety. So there you have it. My mom said, "You know, it wasn't a failure. The wool isn't white. It's definitely another color...just not a color you like." Gotta love that mom perspective. :o) But I've decided that I do like the colors my wool absorbed. So they're a little dull. So they won't elicit oo's and ah's from the peanut gallery, still bitter over the marigolds' stench. But they do provide a bit of variety, a little change of scenery, and some quality time bonding with my mom. And that, after all, is what it's all about.

"If you try sometimes, you just might find...you get what you need."

19 August 2009

A [Thunder] Shower for Baby Molly

The final week in July brought a very celebratory make. My sister Megan is pregnant with a little girl named Molly. Everything is progressing very well. Megan and Molly are both healthy and steadily growing (Molly growing all around and Megan growing...round). I love you, Megan. You're beautiful in all your pregnant roundness. :o)

When I was home (in Jersey) for the first week of August, my mom planned a baby shower for Megan and Molly. She invited 80 people...because that's how we do things. Go big or go home. And we were planning on having the shower in the picnic pavilion in our back yard--one of those crazy constructions of my parents' that I don't quite understand until we have a million people we want to feed, and then it finally clicks: of course we need a picnic pavilion. This is what our lives have been missing all along!--So we spent Saturday and Sunday morning preparing: making cute little mini-quiches with tomatoes and fresh basil, covering citronella candles with pretty paper, making blackberry syrup for blackberry lemonade, setting up the picnic tables just right, arranging jars of Baby Molly blueberry lemon marmalade my mom made as shower favors, wrapping presents that would be prizes for shower games, and so on and so forth.

Show time: we were all ready in the picnic pavilion; the tables were set; the decorations were hung; the food was ready. And then we heard the thunder. And then the sky opened up..one of those absolutely torrential summer thunderstorms that you think will pass quickly because surely the sky cannot contain that much water, but it does. We all sat in the pavilion for a little while, listening to the rain pound against the metal roof, hoping that it would stop soon. And then all of a sudden, we realized that it was time to initiate plan B, and we all snapped into action. I wish I had thought to grab my camera. As guests started to arrive, my family scrambled to move everything inside, to clear out the clutter from the classroom, to figure out seating for all these people, to set up the food, to basically completely wing it like only the Gibersons can do. There we were, running from pavilion to house and back, all soaking wet, slipping on the classroom floor, ushering guests into the house with umbrellas as we started the party from scratch, and I looked around, and I thought to myself, "It's so good to be home." There's something about mass chaos that settles me into a familiar place, where everyone works together like this is what we were made to do, and I remember what it's like to be a part of a family that is capable of greatness and flexibility and beautifully messy life.

In the end, everything worked out just fine, like we all knew it would despite our momentary panic. We ended up squeezing 50 people into our family room. The food was great. Everyone had a lovely time. And Molly made out like a bandit.

My gift to Molly was a crib quilt and bumper made from fabric that I am convinced was designed for that very purpose:
I bought a plain crib blanket and bumper from Ikea and covered them in the fabric, which was just the right width to make a simple duvet cover for the blanket. The bumper was a little trickier because it was 168" long. (That's 14 feet.) I made a giant sleeve of fabric and had Jason hold the end of the bumper while i turned the sleeve right-side out over the bumper, which stretched almost the entire length of our apartment. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of the actual gifts as I made them into the wee hours of the morning the night before Jason and I headed down to the Promised Land. (Sidenote of caution: Never EVER drive from Boston to Jersey on a Friday afternoon in the summer. A normally 5 1/2 - 6 hour drive took us no less than 9 hours.)
But the important thing is that Megan thought the fabric was as perfect as I did, and I know she'll enjoy setting up Molly's crib with the pretty browns and greens and pinks and flowers and swirls that are that ideal balance of girlyness and classic understatedness. Unfortunately, Megan will just have to wait for said nesting until the mold is cleaned out of their house from the air conditioner leak in their attack, which sent Megan and Justin to live in my parents' house for a few weeks while simultaneously being 8 months pregnant and caring for their 2 foster children--a newborn and a two year old. Have I mentioned that our family thrives in mass chaos?