Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I've had a stash of felted wool sweaters sitting around for ages...finally decided to make something and use some of them up.

Aren't they cute?

The pattern is from Blanket Statement by Vicki Haninger. Vicki also writes the wonderful blog Turkey Feathers.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Black and white thinking.

So I was thinking about racism today, as I guess a lot of people are. Jimmy Carter says that Joe Wilson's outburst during Obama's speech last week was racist, and there are lots of accusations of racism being thrown at the protestors who amassed in Washington this past weekend.

I talk about politics (or I used to, now I mostly just listen) with a large group of women on a forum...the core group has been talking politics together for more than five years. There's a good mix of Republicans and Democrats from all the shades of the spectrum. The outrage some of the conservative women feel over being called "racist" reminds me very much of the mouth-foaming outrage I used to feel from 2002-2008 when I was called "unpatriotic." One epithet is more distasteful than the other, but both are far too simplistic.

I voted for Obama and was very pleased that he won, but that doesn't mean I mentally rubber-stamp everything he does with a big smiley-face. I'm very unhappy with the vast amounts of money his administration is throwing around like confetti. And I'm not at all convinced that this is the proper time for the government to step into health care, much less that we should run a health care bill through in fast motion.

And although I think Rep. Wilson was rude in his outburst, sometimes I think Congress and the President could benefit from some of the no-holds-barred discussion that you can watch in the British Parliament on C-SPAN--those guys are masters of theatrical disagreement.

And since "my people" could exercise their rights to protest the war in Iraq, I have absolutely zero problem with the other side protesting government spending. Protest is good; it keeps the powers-that-be on their toes, or it should, anyway.

Is Rep. Wilson a racist, since he comes from South Carolina? I have no idea. Were there racists in the crowd in D.C. this weekend? Probably. Are there people in the U.S. who hate Obama and everything he stands for simply because he is a black man? Not much doubt about that.

But protesting against and disagreeing with a President who happens to be black doesn't automatically make one a racist. And voting for a black man to be President doesn't automatically make one non-racist, either.

Right now I live in a neighborhood and a city that is far more racially diverse than any place I've ever lived. And it makes me uncomfortable almost every day. I never had racist thoughts when I lived in lily-white communities. Living in this neighborhood that I none-too-affectionately call "ghetto" (which is both inaccurate and also racist of me) has brought out some feelings in me that I have really had to struggle against. I am so not proud of that.

So a disinterested observer might look at my voting record and my beliefs about social issues and stamp me as a bona-fide open-minded and tolerant liberal. But I know the truth about myself.

That's why I can't look at the typical conservative voter who hates big government or health care reform or whatever else Obama does, and call them racist. (The nuts with the threatening signs, yes, I think we all know how they feel, and they are terrible and very wrong.) But not the people who merely (or loudly) disagree with me and the guy I voted for.

This topic, as it's bandied about on all the talk shows and blogs right now, fits in with the general drift of the past ten or twenty years: it polarizes people and divides them even further. The media loves this, because it helps them sell ad time. But it's not reality, and we are foolish if we believe it to be. Racism is real and very wrong. Throwing labels around willy-nilly is also wrong.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday ramblings.

Ah, what a lovely day for cleaning out the linen closet! Which is what I did this morning. Also sorted Todd's clothes, and dusted our bedroom. I guess I'm in fall nesting mode. I sorted out a bunch of books for disposal on Friday...it's truly scary when a person can remove 150 books from her shelves and it isn't really a noticeable difference. Yikes.

Todd is pressure-washing the house in preparation for some trim painting later this fall. And after my burst of activity this morning, I'm hanging out in my study pondering fall craft projects and cruising the Internet and chatting with my cousin Roland on Facebook. And blogging.

Tomorrow it will be eight weeks since my surgery and I'm doing just great. I have a haphazard method of taping up my incisions as recommended by the plastic surgeon, and massaging the incisions with Palmer's Vitamin E lotion, as recommended by the nurses at the breast health forum I read. Hopefully the combination of the two methods will result in a reduction of the Frankenstein effect I'm sporting right now.

Other than the tape/massage, and still not doing any strenuous lifting or tugging, I am completely back to normal and working on losing some more weight. Baking pumpkin scones and cinnamon rolls is not contributing to that effort much, but those are things that feed the soul, so I'm making allowances for them, at least until my Tuesday weigh-in when I can see how much harm they've done!

One unforeseen, and slightly frustrating, element of my reduction is that very few of my old clothes fit well--but now that I am raring to buy some new clothes, there is nothing in the stores that remotely appeals to me. In fact, the last few places I've looked, the fall fashions have been actively hideous, like the designer was trying to offend the eye on purpose! So I'm waiting it out. Sooner or later I'll find something I like, and till then, I'll just keep trying to go down another size.

My friend Beverly has started writing a column for a local news site. She's covering mortgage information right now, but hopes to branch out into other topics. There are tons of articles on the site, on every topic you can imagine. She's an excellent writer--go check her out!

I re-read a very sweet book from my childhood this week called Miracles on Maple Hill. I know I read it back in the day, but I had almost no memory of the story as I re-read it. It has a tremendous amount of detail about the natural world, especially wildflowers, and it made me feel a little bit sad to think how few people today would have the wealth of information about the natural world that the kindly neighbor in the book, Mr. Chris, has, and that he imparts to the main character, ten-year-old Marly.

What made me even sadder is the thought of how few people have the opportunity to amass such knowledge--the knowledge that comes from living in a place your whole life, and that your parents and grandparents lived in, and having their knowledge in your bones as well. Mr. Chris is out every day walking through the fields and forests and observing and working in the natural world. When the book was written 50 years ago, it was already an endangered lifestyle...now it seems almost archaic.

Fall seems to be truly here-some days are quite warm, but that breathless, sweltering humid feeling is gone now. And the nights--and most days--are cool enough to have the windows open again. This time of year is so wonderful in Virginia.

Off to make some turkey meatloaf for dinner.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Pumpkin scones.

We've had a nice Labor Day weekend. Todd's done some fishing and some working on our new mantel. I had a yard sale and did laundry and went on an excursion with my friend Beverly. And today was cool and rainy, which was kind of nice. It felt cozy, even though we still had the air conditioning on to keep the damp out.

A friend gave me a recipe for pumpkin scones last week, and today felt like a good day to make them. Talk about delicious!

Starbucks Pumpkin Scones


* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 7 tablespoons sugar
* 1 tablespoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
* 6 tablespoons cold butter
* 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
* 3 tablespoons half-and-half
* 1 large egg

Powdered Sugar Glaze:

* 1 cup powdered sugar
* 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
* 2 tablespoons whole milk

Spiced Glaze:

* 1 cup powdered sugar
* 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
* 2 tablespoons whole milk
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* 1 pinch ginger
* 1 pinch ground cloves

1. To make the scones:

2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.

3. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices in a large bowl. Using a pastry knife, fork, or food processor, cut butter into the dry ingredients until mixture is crumbly and no chunks of butter are obvious. Set aside.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk together pumpkin, half and half, and egg. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Form the dough into a ball. (Lizzie's notes: I refrigerated the ball of dough for thirty minutes before patting out and cutting)

5. Pat out dough onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a 1-inch thick rectangle (about 9 inches long and 3 inches wide). Use a large knife or a pizza cutter to slice the dough twice through the width, making three equal portions. Cut those three slices diagonally so that you have 6 triangular slices of dough. Place on prepared baking sheet.

6. Bake for 14–16 minutes. Scones should begin to turn light brown. Place on wire rack to cool.

7. To make the plain glaze:

8. Mix the powdered sugar and 2 tbsp milk together until smooth.

9. When scones are cool, use a brush to paint plain glaze over the top of each scone.

10. As the plain glaze firms up, make the spiced icing:

11. Combine the ingredient for the spiced icing together. Drizzle this thicker icing over each scone and allow the icing to dry before serving (at least 1 hour). A squirt bottle works great for this, or you can drizzle with a whisk.

I used my largest round biscuit cutter and got ten scones from the recipe, so the amount varies depending on how you cut them.

These would be good with some Pumpkin Ginger Tea from Republic of Tea. Or some milk. Or coffee, Starbucks or not. Or you could just not wait for any beverages at all.

Quite, quite good.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

In a Hallo-weenie mood.

I have done ZERO crafting since Christmas, but like clockwork, our heat and humidity blew away on September 1, and like clockwork, my brain gears turned toward "making stuff!"

So I'm throwing a line out to see if anyone would like to do a vintage Halloween Artist Trading Card swap. Artist Trading Cards are little pieces of cardstock measuring 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches (or if you have a brain fart like I did last time I participated in one, 2x3 inches...oops) that you make art on. Then you sign the back with your name, the date, and your e-mail/blog address if you wish.

I would like to have at least five people in the swap...so if you're interested, let me know. What you'll do is make an identical card for each person (actually, I don't even think they need to be identical, but sometimes it's easier that way) and then mail them to me with a SASE enclosed. Then I'll divide them up and you'll get one of yours back, plus one from every person in the swap.

You can use absolutely any technique or combination of techniques you like on your ATCs: scrapbook supplies, stamps, markers, paints, colored pencils, inks, textures, vintage pictures, you name it. The only rule is that they have to look "old" in some way and they have to be Halloween-themed. The deadline for getting these in the mail to me would be October 15, that way I would have time to send them on and get them to everyone by Halloween.

Here are some ATCs from a swap I participated in a year or two ago, for those who aren't sure what they look like. You can see that anything goes, and that these are all completely, wonderfully different from each other:

And here are a couple I made just for fun a while back:

ATCs are quick creative fun because they're small and manageable. The canvas you have to fill up is so small that before you know it, you're done!

Drop me an e-mail (jscrappy(at)cox.net) if you're interested, with your full name and address. If I don't hear from at least four other people by this Wednesday, I'll scratch the idea and find something else to make!