Now that summer is finally over (heat wave here in the Pacific Northwest notwithstanding), I’m getting back into my cooking groove. I don’t enjoy cooking enough to be bothered to do much of it in the heat and frenzy of summer, but as soon as school is about to start, all I want to do is make food.
Starting with my kid’s favourite kind of snack to take to school: muffins. I love making muffins. They’re so easy, and they freeze well. So even if the kid decides he’s sick of one kind after taking them to school all week, I don’t have to force him to take them for a second week because I’ll have put a half dozen of them into the freezer. Then I can make a different kind, and thaw the first kind after a few weeks when he’s forgotten he was sick of them.
The ones I just made are a modified version of the Kitchen Sink Muffins in The Best Homemade Kids’ Lunches on the Planet. (Lots of the recipes in this book are for sandwiches, so not exactly earth-shattering. But the kid enjoys flipping through it and telling me what he wants to eat, so I love having it around.) This recipe has no egg in it, so it’s easy to make it vegan if you’re so inclined (one of us is lactose-intolerant, so I always bake non-dairy).
When we were planning our summer camping trip with friends – a two-week road trip with two pretty-much-seven-year-olds – we got it in our heads that it would be fun to give the kids merit badges as they accomplish cool stuff over the course of the trip.
Which sparked the question of what the kids would do with their merit badges. Um, also I ordered a lot of them.
Their school backpacks have too many pockets and zippers to make them a good canvas for sewing badges onto, and anyway we suspect that once it’s time to go back to school they might not want their school bag to be covered in badges for things like playing frisbee golf or cooking with pie irons.
The obvious solution was to make them messenger bags for the trip. The flap would be the perfect canvas for sewing badges onto, and the bag would be great for beach-combing and finding all kinds of other treasures while we explore the world.
I’m not exactly an expert bag sewer, and my friend hadn’t sewn since she was in school, but we decided to go for it.
I picked up some olive-coloured cotton canvas fabric for the outside of the bag, and lightweight quilting cotton for the pockets and linings. My kid is bananas for baseball and my friend’s is similarly in love with soccer, so there you go.
Downsized the bag to make it more appropriate for young kids:
Finished size 9″w x 11″h x 3″d (it looks quite a bit narrower because the depth of the bag)
Body and lining cut to 11″ x 23″ (sized for 1/2″ seam allowances instead of 1/4″)
Flap and lining cut to 9″ x 12.5″
No applique or other decoration on the flaps
Slightly rounded flap corners for my kid’s bag (baseball); pointed corners for my friend’s kid’s (soccer)
No inside pockets
Outside pocket under the flap rather than on the back side of the bag that rests against your body when you wear it (this was as much due to not understanding from the instructions that the pocket wasn’t actually intended to go under the flap in the first place)
Made an adjustable strap using these instructions instead of making the one-size strap in the bag instructions
This project took us way longer than we thought it would, but in the process she remembered how to use a sewing machine and I remembered why I don’t make more bags. In the end, though, we’re really happy with how they came out, and we hope the kids take to them, too.
Over on the Patreon we’re doing an informal stitch-along all summer long. Any kind of stitching, just for fun, for getting to know each other, and for learning from each other. (We started a Facebook group just for patrons for things like this, and just for chatting, and it’s working out like a charm!)
I’m making the sampler from Rebecca Ringquist’s book Embroidery Workshop. The book is amazing. It’s full of great projects and instruction, and the best thing about it is her approach to her craft: she encourages experimentation and play, and discourages getting hung up on “the rules”. Want to knot your work? Go for it. Is the back of your embroidery a total mess? Who cares. She invites you to dive right in and do what you want so you enjoy yourself as thoroughly as possible. Yes, yes and more yes.
If you’re into embroidery or just want to give it a shot, please join us!
If you read my Friday newsletter, you know my college roommates are visiting for a few days. It’s only the second time in fifteen years that we’ve been in the same place together.
And as you do when you’ve been friends for over twenty years, we got to chatting before the visit about getting matching tattoos. Diamonds, which last forever just like our friendship. Aw. And also, the ridiculous thing that inspired this trip is… a Neil Diamond concert.
The thing is, our styles are really different. I, especially, struggled with the idea of a diamond. I’m not so big with the shiny sparkly things, and also the ethics of diamonds are just deeply problematic. But I love these women, and our friendship is forever.
Somehow, I got to thinking about compass roses, and whether I could really stretch the diamond concept into the four points of the compass. I didn’t even realize at the time that I put a compass rose into the branding of my business a few months ago. There’s something about this symbol that’s stuck in my head these days. Something about adventuring, getting lost and found again, staying grounded while taking risks.
Leave it to the amazing Sam McWilliams to put a diamond perfectly in the centre of a compass rose tattoo. One look at her sketch and I was like yes. This is the one.
In my love of traveling, in my love for friends near and far, I know where I am and who I am and which direction is my personal north. This design on my arm forever, with the diamond at its centre that matches the diamonds my beloved friends have inked on themselves, is simply perfect.
I’ve written in my newsletter and Patreon about giving sock knitting a for-real try (I’ve knitted a sock or two over the years – but never a pair), and I gotta say, I’m surprised by how much I’m enjoying it.
Maybe it’s that in “giving it a for-real try” I’m thinking more about ending up with a finished pair of socks instead of just thinking about the mechanics of knitting a sock (which I think is what I did the last couple of times I gave sock-knitting a try). Socks are odd ducks, after all, with their heels to turn and toes to graft; it can be easy to focus on accomplishing those feats… and then not wanting to do them again for a second sock.
Of course, I say all this with only one sock nearing completion. And a small one at that (it’s for my kid). But this one does feel different. I’m eager to finish it in part because I’m so excited to cast on for its match.
I’m glad I chose to make these (see that use of the plural, there?) in a heavier weight of yarn, but I’m also looking forward to finishing these up and making myself a pair in fingering weight. I have loads of sock yarn in my stash. Time to use it… for socks!
If I do become a Sock Knitter, I anticipate I’ll be just like I am with other kinds of knitting: preferring simple, mindless patterns. Not so much with lace or cabled socks for me. Do you have a favourite simple sock pattern you recommend?
This is the second project I made from this batch of handspun – the first handspun I’ve ever felt was ready to actually be made into something. (The other hat is the same, but smaller to fit my six-year-old.)
It’s a basic 80-stitch hat with a ribbed brim, and I used 4.5mm and 5.0mm needles to make it.
I’ll take it on our camping trip next month, so no need to wait till it gets cold this fall to wear it!
What’s your favourite thing to make with handspun yarn?
I was introduced to Harry Potter on my twenty-third birthday. I was working as a counselor with the teen travel camp at the JCC in Wilmington, Delaware when, during the second week of camp, one of my co-counselors, whom I hardly new, handed me a hardcover copy of The Goblet of Fire.
The book was massive. And it was the fourth book in a series I’d never heard of. Also, why was someone I barely knew giving me a birthday present?
But I was totally polite. I thanked her warmly.
And then I went to a bookstore to find the first book, because obviously if I was going to read this thing it was going to be in order.
And that was that. I didn’t love the first book, but I was thoroughly enamoured of the excitement around the books (which I finally noticed now that I was in the know).
I found J.K. Rowling’s prose to be a little rough around the edges, but man did I love Hermione. And Hagrid. And hippogryphs (were they in Book One? No matter.).
The day Greg and I got married for the first time (in our living room, four months before our bigger wedding), his grandfather took the lot of us – over a dozen extended family members – to see the first Harry Potter film. It was opening weekend. Some people slept through it. Greg and I loved it. We made an annual tradition to see the new Harry Potter movie each fall on that date, until they shifted to releasing new installations in the summertime. So then we’d go around my birthday instead.
As the series progressed, I began to appreciate it more and more. Always a fan of not pulling punches, especially in children’s literature, I loved that the books got darker and darker, more intense and scary. I liked that the tales became more nuanced and complex. And how Rowling’s prose seemed to improve with each book, keeping up with the increasing sophistication of her characters as they grew up.
The new illustrated version of The Philosopher’s Stone came out the fall before my son turned five, and I bought a copy the moment I discovered it. I kept it wrapped on a high shelf until his fifth birthday, and on that night we started reading it together.
During that reading, I discovered I’d been too harsh when I was twenty-three. Reading the book aloud to my awed child, I saw how inevitable it was that this tale became a classic. Watching my son’s face as he discovered along with Harry that wizardry is real… Well. This book is damn near perfect. (We read the second illustrated version around his sixth birthday, and will read the third after it comes out around his seventh.)
Today, on the twentieth anniversary of the release of the first Harry Potter book, I’ve been smiling all day. How wonderful that books bring these spectacular stories into people’s lives all over the world. That they give children and adults alike something to dream and think about, to pretend and imagine.
When did you first discover Harry Potter? What do you think about it, all these years later?
Betsy Greer is a writer and maker who lives in Durham, North Carolina. For the past fourteen years, she’s written about craftivism, the place where craft and activism intersect, and she loves discovering the ways in which people use (and have used) the two together. Currently, her main craft project is You Are So Very Beautiful, in which people make affirmation signs then leave them out all over the world for others to find.
We talk in this episode about the value of letting what we need out into the world, and about being in a flow state when we create. If our conversation got you thinking, let us know how in the comments!
Because our kid’s birthday is right at Christmastime, we decided when he was an infant that until he insists it’s dumb to do so, we’ll have parties for him at his half-birthday.
Which is how we ended up with twelve 5- to 8-year-olds in our house yesterday after the cold, rainy weather made us ditch holding his half-birthday party in a park.
The kid loves – LOVES – baseball, so we decided each of his friends would leave the party with a pack of baseball cards. I wanted to make it a bit more like a goody bag, without the crap or candy, so I decided to tag each pack of cards with a thank-you for attending the party.
Fifteen minutes in my graphics program, scissors, my beloved laminating machine*, a hole punch, and some scrap yarn later, and we had a more celebratory goody to give to kids as they left. Hm. Writing that out makes it seem like it was a big deal, but it really wasn’t. I got it all done between bouts of frantically cleaning house after we realized the park just wasn’t gonna happen.
So much fun!
* This machine is one of my favourite things in the world. I’ve used it to preserve small pieces of kid art, and these tags are not the first I’ve laminated. I don’t use it very frequently, but when I do I’m so happy I have it. (That’s an affiliate link; I use them only for things I truly recommend. Thanks for your support!)