Thursday, March 25, 2010

Laptop Case

This is my new Dell 11Z. It has an 11-inch screen and is perfect for lugging around, which I will fully experience when I move to central Illinois for a month to do my job. Last year, I had a 17-inch monster, which we call "The Beast," for my work. The screen was nice for viewing photos, but the thing weighed so much I had black and blue marks from the case smacking me in the leg when I walked. Not so with this new baby!
But, the new baby needed a case so I could bring it with me to another advertising extravaganza this weekend. I will be staying in a hotel with my husband (the kids are with Grandma). All in all, between the new laptop and the weekend away, this is turning out to be an awesome job. I am trying not to think too much about talking to 10,000 people again. It should be fun.
So, anyway, the new case- I cut a rectangle of fabric, 23 1/2 inches by 14 inches, out of some canvas I had in my stash.

Then I cut two more rectangles out of soft t-shirt knit and batting,

sandwiched the whole thing together, and sewed it up, leaving a hole to turn it right side out. Once it was right side out, I topstitched it, sewed up two sides, and put on some velcro to keep the flap down.
This was a super quick, easy project, and now I can keep my new laptop in it's scratch-free condition as long as possible.
Ain't it pretty?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Big Bag

Well, I haven't done much sewing lately. Since my last post, I have been pretty busy with my day job, as well as having developed an obsession with No Knead Bread. I have also spoken in front of 10,000 people. Really. And I didn't faint or run off the stage crying or even have my mind go blank. It reminded me of all those years ago when I had to give current events speeches in History class. My teacher ALWAYS took off points for standing on one leg like a flamingo, but that's how I coped with my shyness. And yes, I even stood on two feet while I was talking to all those people. Count your victories where you can, people!
So I haven't been able to lug out the old machine and get things made. Until yesterday. I needed a big bag for holding my laptop and other work-related stuff. But, I didn't just want an ordinary bag you could find at Wal-Mart. I made the big version of the Pink Chalk Studio bag I made for my friend Joy.

I got the brown-with-dots canvas at JoAnn, and used the bird fabric I was saving for another friend's baby. (My friend would much prefer something with brown in it.) I like how all of the fabrics go together, even the scrap of polka-dotted stuff I used for pockets. The big version of this bag has a zipper pocket, two non-closed pockets, and goes across the body.

Did I mention big? Check out how huge it looks on me!
Plenty of room for a laptop, a sheaf of pens, and anything else I need to keep organized. I could also sneak in a loaf of No Knead Bread, if I wanted to. Just keeping my options open...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Spring Decorating or, What Can Throw Pillows Do For You?

It is a dark and dismal Chicago "spring" day. Yesterday I sewed a little spring-time cheeriness, in the form of new throw pillow covers. I enjoy re-covering my throw pillows, because it makes everything else look different. Don't believe me? Check this out:
Here is my eldest son, doing his daily ration of never-ending homework.
Pretty boring. Not so cheerful. Almost depressing.
Yet, here he is with new throw pillows, and everything changes!
Isn't that better? Don't you feel spring coming around the corner? Don't you feel like you could withstand the next few months of homework? (Maybe that's pushing it too far. Even I don't feel THAT much better...)
Anyway, they are simple envelope pillows, so no buttons or zippers, and they went together really fast. I did the backs in cheap grey canvas and the fronts in some pretty canvas, all from that JoAnn trip from a few days ago.
A little more inspiration for you sewers out there:

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Oscars Night

Well, it's Oscars night! Every year, I invite twelve to fourteen of my friends and we gather to eat good food, mock the Oscars, and give our opinions on everything from the singing to the dresses at Oscar night. Since most of us are moms, we pretty much haven't seen the movies in the Oscars, unless they are animated, but that's another post.
Each year, I get out my Grandma's china for us to eat our treats off of. I think she would approve.

This year, I made spiced pecans, which I have never had before, and I am hooked.

I had to put them aside so my friends would get some, or I would have wanted to eat them all. The recipe is out of Joy of Cooking, and although it calls for whipped egg whites, which is a bit daunting to me, I pressed on, and now I am set to gain several pounds tonight because they are just that good.
I also made some chocolate covered pretzels.

This is one of those foods that is the perfect combination of white trash and decadence. You can't eat just one. I tried, and it's not possible. You also have to serve chocolate covered pretzels with silver tongs for that Oscars touch.
My friends are bringing some more food, and it promises to be a very fun evening.
And, just so you don't think I have given up on sewing all together, I also went to JoAnn today and came back with the following pile of goodies.

So far the plan is, from left to right, bag, throw pillows, throw pillows, bread towels, and dress. We'll see if I prevail.
The dress may have to go up a size after the party tonight, though!

Friday, March 5, 2010

No Knead Bread

This will be a bread post today...
I recently tried the 5-Minutes-A-Day bread, and was not impressed. This is not to say that when I made that bread, it was not quickly devoured by hordes of hungry neighbors and children, but I found the whole process cumbersome and the end result not worth the trouble.
That is not the case with this bread! As I sit here with my laptop next to my cutting board, I am listening to the gorgeous loaf of No-Knead Bread I just pulled out of the oven "sing. " This means that the bread is crackling as it cools, kind of like Rice Krispies.
I got the book by Jim Lahey, called "My Bread," from the library, and now I am on another bread kick. (On reading the book, I don't think Jim Lahey plays well with others, but can he bake!)
Here are my observations of these two different ways to make bread:
1. The crust on the No Knead Bread (NKB for short) is not terribly thick, but it is quite crispy. It's that way because you cook it in a covered pot for half an hour, then remove the cover for another 15-30 minutes. The steam produces amazing crust. The crust on the 5-Minutes-A-Day bread (5MAD) is rocklike if you wait for it to cool before you eat it.
2. The dough of the NKB is not as hydrated, which makes it way easier to handle. I felt like I was trying to make a loaf of bread out of an oozing lake of goo with the 5-MAD bread.
3. The NKB keeps better, longer, than the 5MAD bread.
4. I just plain old like the process of the NKB better. I know this is purely subjective, but if I am making the bread, I want to enjoy the process, not be stressed out by it.

I have also tried Peter Reinhart's "Artisan Bread Every Day," which is a great book, but I still like this one better. (His process was even more cumbersome than the 5-MAD process! Good bread, but lots of trouble.)

So, I will be buying this book and using it often.
In the meantime, it looks like bread for dinner in the Winter household!
Don't you wish you were here?