Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fall Sale at Little Hunting Creek

We're having a SALE at Little Hunting Creek!
Ten Percent off everything, including Vintage Vogue Designers, Indygo Junction, and Amy Butler! We love the new Indygo Junction Asian Pajamas Pattern - won't they make a great gift? So unusual; perfect for that special someone.
Check out the new quilting DVDs, from Judith Baker Montano and Jan Krentz.
We have the long awaited new books by Katie Pasquini Masopust and Paula Nadelstern in stock now.
I'm making a Thanksgiving Table Runner and using my new copy of Digital Essentials to design some cute images to make it one of a kind.
The new Calendars for 2009 are here and make a great gift.
We are also having a sale at our sister website, where you will find
the perfect gift for your favorite car enthusiast, whether they love Jaguar, BMW, Ferrari, or Porsche, they have the special something for that man (or woman) in your life who is hard to buy for.
Use discount code LHC10 at checkout at either website for 10 percent off from today through October 5. Happy Shopping!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

More Vintage Men's Patterns

This week I found more great vintage men's patterns for my holiday gift projects. As a bonus besides the actual patterns, I love the artwork on the envelopes. If I were still teaching, I would point out to my students the manliness totem objects in each picture. For instance, why is this gentleman holding a golf club in his pajamas? Would we think he was insufficiently manly without it? And the man behind him in the nightshirt is smoking a pipe. That pipe! Why is it that no men's shirt pattern from the 50's is missing the guy with pipe picture? Did all men smoke pipes back then? I know that my dad didn't smoke a pipe. I don't even know any men that do. Very interesting, I wonder what Dr. Freud would say?
Contrast these to the pattern below from the 70s

The men in these pictures are younger, and they are wearing the same shirt as a girl! This clearly shows the changing gender roles of that era.. No fifties Dad would ever be caught wearing the same clothes as a girl. And note that they have no pipes! No golf clubs! And longer hair. It's clear in this one we aren't sewing for Dad any more.
I was thinking as I looked at the great artwork on the older patterns that the pictures would make great quilt blocks. What an awesome wall hanging or throw that would make. And now that I've noticed the guy with pipe theme (he was on that pattern I wrote about last week, too.) I'm feeling a little obsessed.(I think I will have to collect more of these. My daughter will read this and say NO! You've got enough!) I wonder how many it would take before the Smithsonian would ask me to curate a men with pipe pattern retrospective.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Comfort Food

When I'm recovering from a cold, I feel like I deserve a reward. I've suffered! I've endured the 1001 symptoms that they enumerate on TV and gosh darn it, I need a BROWNIE and a cup of tea. Earl Grey, please.
I remember buying this cookie cookbook in downtown LA in the fall of 1984. The night before Mr. Hunting Creek and I had been to the most Horrible Dinner in the history of humankind. We had been invited to stay at a brand new Boutique hotel in a part of downtown that was...well...ahem...not Quite that time. They had a fancy pants chef who made this nouvelle, that's not right...I'm not sure what kind of cuisine it was. It was weird food. I was 7 months pregnant at the time, so it seemed super disgusting, but other, non-pregnant people with us agreed that the food was odd. Time has mercifully dimmed many details, but unfortunately I have not been able to forget the Avocado garlic ice cream with garlic pepper whipped cream on top. It was a color green not usually associated with ice cream and I still feel a little queasy remembering it. The next morning we snuck out of there early and ate breakfast at the Pantry, which was wonderful, and I bought the cookbook in a bookstore we walked by on our way to Union Station.
I read the cookbook on the train all the way back to San Juan Capistrano, and by the time I got home, I had a craving for brownies so bad that I started making them before I had even unpacked.
These brownies are my TNT for emergency desserts, because they are yummy, easy and fast to make. They are the LBD of desserts.
This is Mrs. Witty's recipe with my variations alongside.
You don't have to be pregnant or recovering from a cold to enjoy them.

Quick Brownies (or as Mrs. Witty says, the shortest distance between yourself and a panful of brownies) These are brownies of the "cake" variety, but don't worry, they are plenty moist and delicious)
Get out a bowl, you are going to mix everything together with a spatula.
1/2 cup bland vegetable oil ( I use canola oil, don't substitute other shortening)
6 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup water ( I always use cold coffee leftover from breakfast. Once I used part coffee and part Kahlua.)
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional, I never use these because my son doesn't like nuts)

Preheat over to 350. Grease an 8"square pan.
Measure all ingredients except chocolate chips and nuts into the bowl and mix until blended. Scrape into prepared pan and sprinkle the chocolate chips and nuts( if using) all over the top. I like to use a mixture of chocolate, white chocolate and coffee flavored chips, for fun. Bake for about 35 minutes, until they test dry in the middle. Cool, eat with ice cream. (But not Avocado-garlic ice cream, please)
Mrs. Witty says that they keep for several days but quite frankly, I've never had them hang around that long. I heartily recommend the book, Mrs. Witty's Monster Cookies. I think it is out of print, but I have seen copies available on Amazon for very reasonable prices.

Monday, September 15, 2008

It Don't Come Easy

I've been fighting a cold all week , and as of yesterday morning the cold was winning. After cheering on Aaron Rogers and the Packers, I felt like sewing something easy. Deep in the sewing room closet, I found a pillow form and a remnant that would make a cute pillow for our breakfast room couch. The pillow is 12"x12", and I have a 12 1/2" square quilter's ruler, so I marked around it in chalk and cut out my fabric. This will be easy, I thought. I found a zipper that matched from my zipper stash and after I had it sewn in, I unzipped it and it broke. Back to the zipper stash. I found another zipper that matched (this one even better, how did I miss it before?) Some quality time with the seam ripper later, new zipper is in, pillow sewn and on couch. Then I dipped into the UFO heap to finish some pajamas I was making for a Christmas gift. Got to stay on track for Christmas! All I had to do was make buttonholes for the drawstring and the casing. Of course I could not do that correctly either; hello again, seam ripper! I hate ripping out buttonhole stitches the MOST; they are so close together and tiny. Finally I did them correctly and when I was halfway through putting the drawstring in the casing the safety pin somehow came off the drawstring and I had to start all over again. TWICE. These pajamas will be finished another day. Some days I do everything perfectly on the first try and other days I can't do anything right no matter how hard I try.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Like Finding a Unicorn

When it comes to vintage patterns, my favorites are the men's patterns. Old patterns for men are the ivory- billed woodpeckers of patternland, but who doesn't love a challenge? My son is a retro fashion fan, and he asked me to make him some retro attire. Look what I've found so far:
I LOVE that the guy on the right is smoking a pipe, supposedly at the beach or poolside! And those are some really short shorts, buster! This pattern includes two shirts, one of which is reversible. How cool is that?
And how about this groovy number?

I'm not going to recreate this look in polyester doubleknit. But when you read in the fashion pages a few months from now that Italian sailor shirts and men's leisure suits are BIG with the kids, you'll know who is responsible.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Christmas Homemade Cookie Story and Recipe

My teenage nephew loves Snickerdoodles; they are his favorite cookie. My sister is not a baker, plus she has an extremely demanding job and does not work at home like me. (Not that MY job's not demanding, I just have more time at home) Suffice to say, she doesn't make cookies very often. So several years ago, I started making a tin of cookies each every Christmas for my nephew, brother in law and sister. (Why one tin apiece? Because they love their cookies so much that they won't share!)
True story: my sister and our brother were down in her rec room/basement watching a movie and they noticed a cookie tin hidden in the rafters there. "AHA!," my sister says, "He's hidden something! Oh no! Could it be drugs?" She enlists our brother, who is very tall, to get the tin down so they can look. They open the tin. It is full of the snickerdoodles I had given my nephew for Christmas. He had hidden them up high in the rafters so that no one else would eat his cookies. I would be willing to bet that no one would do this with store-bought cookies. The moral? If you want to give an appreciated gift, give something handmade.
These cookies have been eaten with gusto by Senators, Congressmen, Generals, Vice-Presidents, family and neighbors. (I used to work in DC and have a BIG Christmas List) But no one likes them better than my nephew.

Adapted from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion (with, dare I say, a few Improvements)
2 sticks butter (the original recipe calls for half butter, half vegetable shortening. I hate shortening, and don't approve of hydrogenated fat. If you're going to eat a cookie, might as well have the Real Thing)
(remember, don't let that butter get soft and oily - we want it cool, NOT cold, not warm)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract ( I make my own, make sure you use the real stuff)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
Cookie coating
Mix 1/2 cup sugar with 2 teaspoons cinnamon ( I use Penzey's Vietnamese Cinnamon for its wonderful scent and flavor)

Preheat your oven. I do it to 350. The original does 400. I like my way better.
I make my dough in my Cuisinart, if you have one, it's super easy - mix the butter with sugar, eggs and vanilla, then add dry ingredients all at once, zap zap zap until blended.
With a mixer, blend sugar and butter, add eggs and vanilla then add dry ingredients (which you have mixed all together in another bowl - see why I use the Cusinart?)
I scoop the dough with a teaspoon cookie scoop. It's like a melon baller, and all the cookies come out the same size. I roll them in the cinnamon sugar and place on baking sheet. The original recipe tells you to them smash the balls flat. I don't do that because if you don't they come out a little softer and chewier in the middle. I like that better and so do my eaters, so I never smash them. I bake mine for 11 minutes. Test your first batch and see how long they take to get the effect you like. Makes about 4 dozen - 5 dozen cookies, depending on how big you make them and how much dough your "helpers" eat. If you are baking ahead for the holidays you'd better hide these. Put them in a sturdy airtight container and freeze. Every year I make hundreds of these and no one gets tired of them. And some people won't share, so better make plenty!

*** Home Made Vanilla***
I make my own vanilla and have had my jar for over ten years.
Take a jar ( mine is 8 oz) and add two cut up vanilla beans. I cut mine both lengthwise and horizontally. Cover them with brandy. I use Christian Brothers. I wouldn't use fancy expensive Cognac, but it's your kitchen, if that's what you like. Shake it up, and store in a cupboard for a couple weeks. I add a vanilla bean every six months or so, and more brandy when it gets low. I never take out the old beans. My jar smells amazingly vanilla and if they made men's after shave that smelled like this stuff women would follow those men around, helplessly smitten.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What to make for gifts?

One of my readers sent me an email yesterday saying that I didn't say WHAT gift items I was making. I will list them below. I've been doing this for several years now, so I have it down to a science. But first...

Mrs. Hunting Creek's Rules for Sane Holiday Sewing

1. Do not try something you have never tried before. Now is NOT the time to learn how to crochet your own thigh high silk stockings, (unless you are one of those rare people with tons of free time and a small gift list)
2. Make the projects small enough so that you can finish them in the short time alloted. Will you really be able to make 4 queen size quilts in 110 days? Keeping in mind that your sewing room is not a sweatshop (although at times it may feel like one)
3. Do a trial run - make a few and see if you really want to make 28 matching napkins. Mix it up so you don't get bored and do other stuff in between or you'll go crazy. Ask me how I know this
4. Start early - start planning NOW. Do you really want to be up til 3am on December 18th making gifties for your secret Santa? I didn't think so.

You can make fun presents for people and not end up wandering in the mall like an extra in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Here is what I am making this year. If you do the same thing consistently your recipients will start to ask you in November if you will PLEASE make those biscotti in a Christmas Tin like last time.

Cookies - you can make these in batches starting now and freeze until holiday time, then it won't be overwhelming. Long keeping cookies that freeze well include biscotti, Snickerdoodles, thumbprint cookies and bar cookies.

Crazy Quilted and otherwise fancy-looking Christmas Stockings (there are lots of patterns for these and after having made hundreds I can truly say that they are quick and easy to make)

Table runners - these are small quilts and go together quickly - plus they use use scraps and can be made to match people's decor or interests

Accessories: I have made wraps, shawls and scarves and they are super easy and cost a fortune if you buy them. I'll work with my photographer this week to make a tutorial for you.

Tote bags: these make a wonderful green gift and are super thoughtful.

I'll post recipes and pictures as I go along. This will keep me from falling behind, right? Right? Keep your fingers crossed.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Only 100 Plus days til Christmas

My brother in law, who is otherwise a very nice, kind and considerate person, sent me a ecard last week. There were butterflies, puppies, rainbows and leaping fish, all of them gaily proclaiming: only 115 days til Christmas! Isn't that Pure Evil? Like most working women, I look upon the holidays with all the cheerful optimism of Nell tied to the train tracks by Snidely Whiplash. All the work, all the gifts, cards, planning, cooking...I'll stop. I must think zenlike thoughts.
Adding to this normal Fall to Winter Marathon, this is the year that my son is in his senior year of high school and is applying for college this fall. He is my youngest child. Once he is at college, I'll be officially an empty nest mom. Mr. Hunting Creek is looking forward to this development. "We'll go camping!" he says. He points out the fun my dad had on a recent trip to Mammoth Lakes. (Hi Dad!)

What he doesn't know is, I am not going anywhere without my sewing machine. This may complicate his back to nature Simple Life fantasies. (We'll pare down to basics!, he says. "It will be great!") no stash? no machine? ah, no... I won't tell him yet. It will be our little secret.)
In the meantime, in between working, running a household and getting my son's applications in, plus all the holiday prep, I'll be attempting to do my pre-holiday gift sewing and cooking. I like to give some homemade gifts to my nearest and dearest.
If you see Dudley Do-Right, tell him I'm tied to the tracks.