2015 reading challenge: January report

Sometime around Christmas I came across a reading challenge dreamed up by the website Popsugar. It has 50 different challenges like “a book you started but never finished” and “a book more than 100 years old,” that kind of jazz. I hardly need more encouragement to read, but I thought it might be a fun thing to do and track for the year, and share on my blog (even though it’s not sewing) in case others are doing the challenge too, or want to join in.

Here are the categories I completed in January:

A nonfiction book:
My Kind of Place: Travel Stories from a Woman Who’s Been Everywhere by Susan Orlean

A book based on a true story:
The Last Great Walk: The True Story of a 1909 Walk from New York to San Francisco, and Why it Matters Today, by Wayne Curtis

A book based entirely on its cover:
The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time by Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson

A memoir:
Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucia, by Chris Stewart

A book set during Christmas:
Second Act, by Kaje Harper

Months completed: 1 of 12 (8.33%)
Challenges completed: 5 of 50 (10%)

Plus ca change

I’ve been under the weather, and I have spent an alarming amount of time sprawled on the couch reading the GOMI forums on my iPad. Now, if you don’t know about GOMI I wouldn’t necessarily recommend reading it, especially if you’re an “accentuate the positive” kind of person. But their crafting forums, in particular, have some spot-on and needed critiques of sewing and crafting blogs.

The whole thing got me thinking about how much the sewing blogosphere has changed since I started sewing (and blogging, sort of). There’s a lot more ‘monetization’, as the kids call it, and a lot more blogs by people who are blogging as part of their business or in order to get affiliate money. The flowering of “I just sew and wanted to share” blogs that happened 5 or so years ago is well over, with a few grizzled veterans hanging on.

I side-eye a lot of Pattern Review’s policies, and their forum software is truly from the last century (the recent ‘site redesign’ is the equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig, as my grandmother used to say). But there are people who post there who have been sewing a long time and know their techniques cold, and that’s why I still am active there, because there’s actual useful content. Not a $15 PDF pattern sold online by someone who just started sewing six months ago, or a poorly-written tutorial by someone who really doesn’t know what they’re doing.

I’m a mediocre sewer at best, but I’m well aware of that fact, which is why I still have this free blog and don’t pretend I’m some kind of expert. In retrospect it makes me sad to think about how much time I’ve spent reading/discussing sewing on the internet rather than actually sewing.

Food Friday: Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry

Hello, world! I hope those of you that celebrated Christmas yesterday had a great time. After Food in Jars posted their best cookbooks/preserving books of the year list the other day, I went to my local library and picked up the three they carried.

This is not exactly a book review, given that when I started leafing through Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry, what would have excited me a year ago just left me feeling overwhelmed. When once I would have thought to myself, “yeah, hey, maybe I should try making my own cheese” or “gee, I didn’t know that’s how you smoked fish,” instead I thought “holy cow, I don’t really want to dedicate the time to do any of these things.”

I am a person of serial enthusiasms, some of which reappear in a spiral-like pattern after years. In college, it was houseplants; then for a while it was cooking, then gardening, then canning, then cooking again. Meanwhile there was sewing and quilting in alternating waves. In all of these hobbies my eyes tend to be bigger than my stomach and if I go whole hog at the beginning, I end up spending a lot of money on supplies and ending up with a lot of unfinished projects. I don’t know if I’ve gotten practical, or just depressing, in my advancing years when I realize that most of the things I want to try will never happen, not in the grand scale that I imagine them.

So if you want to learn how to make cheese, or smoke fish, or make bone broth, or can beans, I would recommend Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s – it really is a comprehensive and readable guide to all kinds of food preservation. I, on the other hand, am going to return the book to the library with a clear conscience (and maybe finish one of those unfinished projects hanging around instead).

[This post includes affiliate links.]

Sewing sales

I hope everyone who celebrates it had a good Thanksgiving. I happened to notice that there are several sales going on of interest to crafty folks, Thanksgiving-related or not, and I wanted to post quickly about it before they all expired. Black Friday deals are all well and good, but what we sewers want is pattern and fabric sales, am I right?

Without further ado:

  • Sewaholic is celebrating four years in business with a 20% off sale through the weekend, with code FOURYEARS
  • Everything at Grainline Studio is 20% off with code GIVETHANKS
  • All patterns at Lekala.co are 1.49 until Monday
  • All fabric 10% off at Emma One Sock, no code needed
  • StyleArc is now selling PDF patterns via Etsy, and until the end of the month everything is 20% off with code SOMANYTILES
  • All classes at Craftsy are $19.95
  • And on a cooking note, the recipe manager/meal planning website Plan to Eat is having their annual Black Friday sale, with 50% all annual subscriptions. You can get a 30 day free trial without giving your credit card info, if you want to try it out first.

Food Friday: pork chops Marsala

A quick link today – I was looking for something different to do with boneless pork chops the other day and found this recipe from Cooking Light: Pork Chops Marsala. I made it as indicated except that I used some leftover Chardonnay instead of Marsala, which of course changed the flavor but not in a disastrous way. Instead of doing the final cooking stage on the stove, I put the whole thing in the oven for ~15 minutes at 350.

The season of pumpkin spice has begun

Flypaper thoughts, ala Barbara @ Sewing on the Edge (true confession, I couldn’t remember her blog URL, and couldn’t find it in my blog reader that quickly, so I Googled ‘Babs sewing blog Miss Scarlett Canada’ and lo and behold, one of her blog posts was the third result):

  • I went to Artistry in Fashion last weekend. It was OK. I always feel bad that I’m the only spanner in the works regarding Artistry in Fashion, as there’s always such a positive vibe about it in blogs or on Pattern Review. It’s just that in the years that I’ve been attending, every year there’s less and less raw materials sold, and more and more finished items. This year there was only the button stand, and one stand selling vintage textiles, trim, buttons and a few patterns. Oh yeah, and the Park Bench Patterns lady was there selling finished pieces as well as her backlog of printed patterns – apparently she’s retiring and not going to be visiting shows anymore, or designing any more patterns. Everything else was independent designers selling clothes, jewelry, bags, etc. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with it, I’m just not the audience for it. If I’m going to wear something art-to-wear, it’s because I made it myself. I did go to the Pati Palmer ‘fashion show’ and that was cool to see. I’ve added a few additional McCalls to my ginormous list of things I should sew.
  • I’ve got a review of a slow cooker book in the next issue of the San Francisco Book Review. Sadly I haven’t actually made anything from it yet, particularly as it’s still really warm here and stews aren’t really the thing. I’ve got tons of the recipes bookmarked, though, so hopefully soon there’ll be a Food Friday with one or more of them.
  • I went to a WordPress meetup the other day in preparation of moving this blog to its own domain, which I’ve been wanting to do for years but have put off. Part of it is that I’m hesitant to combine the different parts of my online life – until now I’ve kept my sewing stuff separate from my writing life separate from my personal friends and family. Anybody have any strategies for how you do it?
  • This weekend I’m off to a writing conference, then the next weekend we’re heading to Las Vegas for a friend’s wedding, then we’ve got family visiting the next week. Sometime around Halloween I should be able to take a breath again.

Food Friday: Marinated Carrots

Once we got settled in our new place, I started looking for farmers’ markets and other sources of veggies. I’ve had to say goodbye to the Good Eggs deliveries I loved, because they don’t deliver in our new area yet. I got on the waiting list for one of the local CSA boxes, thinking at least that I’d have a shot at next year, but to my surprise they had a mid-season cancellation. I was able to sign up for weekly veggies from now until November.

I’d gotten out of the habit of having this much produce at once, not to mention stuff that I don’t always know what to do with. I had a bunch of carrots that were getting a bit past their prime, and instead of roasting them or something boring, I decided to give these marinated carrots from Food in Jars a go.

My version was a little altered (aren’t they always?). Since I had no mint I used a small hot pepper instead, seeded and chopped, which gave the whole thing a pleasant kick. And I used regular rice vinegar and added a tablespoon or so of simple syrup. Did you know that the only difference between seasoned rice vinegar and unseasoned is that the seasoned has sugar and salt added to it? I didn’t, until I was making up this recipe.