family…a Magic the Gathering Birthday Party

MTG mini mana garland for cake

MTG mini mana garland for cake

I'm in the midst of birthday planning for D, and it occurred to me that I should share last year's party. It was a milestone birthday, ten years old. We went big! It wasn't a big party but a big production.

Between D's art direction, my craft skills and Doc's labor, we turned our living room into a Magic the Gathering (MTG) card room for eight boys. It was awesome! 

I loved putting this party together. There is a lot of content from the story lines and visuals from cards that lend themselves well for crafting. Because people take their MTG seriously, bless them,  finding all the vectors and fonts to create the invites, banners and garland was easy…and free. Of course, I couldn't get on with my kick-ass Silhouette Cameo, which was put into use for every piece of party paraphernalia I made.

I have to admit, when D moved on from his other card games like Pokemon and Yuh-gioh to MTG, I was miffed. I finally learned how to the play the other games, and almost liked them. This old dog wasn't ready for new tricks or card games. But after watching D play against himself for a week during summer vacation, I broke down.  I remembered what it was like playing games by yourself as an only child. So with an open and relaxed mind, I learned. Doc learned. D was over the moon that we could participate in his world, and I was happy we had another family activity we all enjoyed.

Stayed tuned for this year's party…Dungeons & Dragons. Hmphhh…

 

TASTY THINGS…MO JAM

Our cupboards were still overflowing from our 2012 jamming efforts, so I skipped my usual summer canning for 2013. Now, with cupboards bare, I happily resumed my regular summer routine.

Since I mostly make jams from fruit we actually pick, the variety was pretty slim this year. Apricots and plums from my mom's trees and farmer's market figs were all that we could manage. Truth be told; these are my favorite, so I wasn't overly disappointed when we missed the ollaileberry and blackberry picking season. 

I always have an abundance of apricot jam, and I love to give jars as little, unexpected gifts to friends. Some even put in requests ahead of time to ensure they get their fix. One such friend is a graphic designer whose wife has a serious love of my apricot jam. I must admit that this apricot jam is pretty damn tasty…not too sweet with just the right amount of tartness.  As "payment", he designed the Mo Jam labels and tags for me. The play on words is perfect as is the design! 

It's so satisfying to plop those kraft circles on each lid. It's the best part of the whole canning process and the cleanest! Producing the labels and tags are pretty easy.  I edit the type of preserve in Adobe Illustrator, print and use the Silhouette Connect plug-in to cut the tags directly from Illustrator. The labels I also print directly from Illustrator using the Avery Kraft 22808 paper and template. 

I'm looking forward to Fall fruits: apples, pears, persimmons and quince! I've included my recipe for apricot jam. I use the same quantities and technique for plum jam, except I add in a cinnamon stick or two during maceration and cooking. Enjoy!!

Apricot Jam

4 pounds apricots, halved & pitted
3 cups sugar (the original recipe calls for 6 cups)
Juice of one lemon
Cut apricots in half, pour sugar and lemon juice over fruit, stir well and place in refrigerator overnight. Cook the apricot mixture in a wide heavy bottom pot for 45 to 50 minutes, skimming off the foam regularly. When the jam starts to thicken, keep your eye on it and stir frequently. I freeze a plate to test “jam consistency”.  I put a spoonful of the jam on the plate and let it cool slightly.  I run a finger through it to see if it holds it shape and doesn't weep too much. 

Can the perseveres following proper canning techniques. Visit the USDA Center for Home Preservation for instructions and information. Food in Jars is my favorite site for tips, techniques and recipes.

 

tasty things…an Outlander dinner

This summer I have been consumed by the Outlander book series. It was on my reading list for quite some time, and as a last minute impulse, I downloaded book one on my Kindle before heading to the Eastern Sierras and Yosemite for two weeks. 

JESUS H. ROOSEVELT CHRIST! I was not prepared for the abandonment of my heart and soul to these books and its characters. In all honesty, I'm a sucker for historical fiction series; First Man in Rome, Shogun, and almost anything by Philippa Gregory. But Outlander bends the rules beyond historical fiction with the combination of time travel, adventure and an epic romance. I mean, what's not to love? 

Ten weeks and eight books later, I'm obsessed with all things Outlander from the new TV series (JESUS H. ROOSEVELT CHRIST!) to the author's Facebook page and an Outlander devoted blog, Outlander Kitchen where the author creates recipes inspired by descriptions or characters from the book. It's such a brilliant premise for a blog. I am inspired by the singularity of it and the delicious recipes!

Our Saturday dinners are now Outlander meals comprised of recipes from OK and capped with watching a new TV episode. It's a nice way to share my Outlander world with Doc & D For episode 2, we devoured shepherd's pie. Our episode 3 meal was this menu: whisky sours, oatcakes + jam and Scotch eggs. 

Whiskey sours…my absolute favorite drink!

Whiskey sours…my absolute favorite drink!

Pumpkin herb oatcakes with homemade blackberry jam.

Pumpkin herb oatcakes with homemade blackberry jam.

Scotch eggs + Claire's salad

Scotch eggs + Claire's salad

Because I always need something green on my plate or it just doesn't seem like a proper meal, I tossed up my usual salad and dressing, and aptly renamed it "Claire's salad", to round out the meal. Claire's salad is simple, any fresh leaves and fruit I have on hand, some thinly sliced red onions mixed with a garlic, thyme and curry vinaigrette. 

I wish I could share exact measurements for the dressing. Since we make it so frequently, we don't bother with measuring spoons and cups. We just eyeball measurements and let taste guide the quantities. If you're adventurous, I've listed approximations. Taste often  and adjust the vinegar and curry to your liking.

Garlic, Thyme + Curry vinaigrette - or Claire's dressing

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • a dash (just a dash!!) balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp (at least!) of freshly minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme - you can also use dried thyme, start with a teaspoon then add more if necessary
  • 1 tsp. curry - as curries vary in heat, I suggest you start with a 1/2 tsp.
  • salt + pepper to taste 

 

My weekly OK meal will have to wait as we'll be at the Northern California Scottish Games. At least we'll get our fix of Highland food…or at least whisky!

Enjoy - F&N!

adventuring…Mini Emergency Kits

We have amazing access to day hikes living in San Francisco. We can head South, down the Peninsula and pick up trails off HWY 280 and HWY One, or venture North, across the Golden Gate and head to Mt. Tamalpais or Muir Woods. Most of the time, we keep it local and stay in San Francisco. Wherever our destination, we always bring a day pack with us. Aside from adding snacks, water and camera, it's always ready for a grab-n-go with a first-aid/emergency kit, flashlight, knife and beanies tucked inside.

Unhappy with all-in-one first-aid kits for purchase, I gathered what I felt were the essential items we need to be comfortable and safe in our urban wilderness. These REI micro DOPP pouches are the perfect size to store the items. Not too small, but not too big to take up space in the day pack. The bright color also makes it easy to spot. 

If you decide to put together your own kit, I recommend splurging on good pair of tweezers and scissors. It's no fun trying to get out a splinter with giant, oversize plastic tweezers…talk about adding insult to injury. I think a good quality knife and flashlight are essential, but these can be upgraded when budget allows. 

THE PACK LIST

Tweezers / Scissors / assorted Band-Aids / travel size Advil / travel size dental floss / pair latex gloves / gauze / triangular bandage / Naturpel bug repellent  wipes / Fenix E11 light / emergency duct tape roll / dental floss / cortisone / sting & bite pads / alcohol swab pads / lip balm / sunscreen / Sharpie

Onward! F&N

 

crafty things…Bunny bags

Make it stop! Everything I see is a potential canvas for screening. It's so addicting. These bunny bags were so easy whip up, I made big stack using 18x18 wool felt from a previously abandoned project. These guys will be for D, his cousins (8 boys!), and a few friends.

bunny bag 5.jpg

While I'm in love with the original bunny, this hipster bunny (another Shutterstock acquisition) takes the carrot cake for me. Admittedly, this guy was a bit harder to print due to the fine line work and printing on felt was an added challenge. I think I'll have more success printing on a finer cotton or linen. Stay tuned. I'm not done with this bespectacled Bunny yet. 

Being a hipster, this bunny is more likely to be appreciated by D, now, according to him, that he's "not a little kid" anymore.

Since he's such a young gentleman, I added some almost breath mints, lip balm, a handmade handkerchief and chocolates to his bag. I'll fill a few of these up and stuff them in his Easter basket and save them for future Easter Sundays.

bunny bag materials1.jpg

If you want to make some of your own bags - with or without screen printing - you'll need these tools and materials:

  • 18"x18" wool felt [this will yield 3 bags]
  • 24" ribbon per bag
  • rotary cutter with pinking blade + straight edge
  • sewing machine or sewing supplies [thread or embroidery floss & needle]

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Fold fabric in half. Measure and mark at 6" and 12" from short side.
  2. With rotary cutter and straight edge, cut at marks from folded edge to top of fabric. You will now have 3 bags. 
  3. Trim outside edges of two bags with rotary cutter.
  4. Cut ribbon to 24" and fold in half.
  5. Line up edges of bags making sure the scalloped edges are aligned. Pin ribbon 2" from top of bag between layers of fabric on the right side. Place a pin 2" from the top on the left side.
  6. Sew each side of bag from pins to bottom. Make sure you catch the ribbon!
  7. Trim top of bags with rotary cutter.

Happy Crafting,

F&N

crafty things…screen printing the Easter Bunny

Bunnies1.jpg

Screen printed notecards.

Continuing our in-house rabbit theme, I screen printed this awesome bunny I purchased at Shutterstock. I've always wanted to learn screen printing, but was a bit put-off by all the materials, space and sink necessary to do it. Then I discovered EZScreenPrint! It's nothing short of life changing…at least in my own craft world. 

It's pretty darn easy to make a screen, but not fool proof. I feel it's on the pricey side, but if you plan to do it a lot of printing, than you may be able to justify the cost. I certainly did with this one stencil. After several cleanings, the screen is still holding its detail. I'm pretty damn happy with it.

So far, I've experimented with paper and fabric. Paper is pretty easy. Fabric takes a bit more practice and results vary from fabric to fabric, but I was able to pull some great prints as the photos show. 

Ceramics are up next for screening. I'll also enlist Doc and D for original artwork. 

Having fun! F&N

Bunnies3.jpg

 The screen + squegee + ink

BI6A3377.jpg

 Bunny onsies for some special babies.

family…Easter 2014

Each year I share ideas with D and Doc about "Easter themes".

"Let's do bugs, birds, nests, lambs!"

And every year, it's met with the same skeptical look and response, "Whatever you want." 

What this reaction really means is, "You're a bit crazy." As I start to think through the ideas, I realize, begrudgingly, they're right. It's really hard to break away from the iconic symbols of bunnies and eggs, so this year I decided to strike a balance between the bunny and the egg.  

The egg already has  A LOT of love in our house…


Our egg collection has steadily grown over the years. They're beautiful objects with such a range of size and color. I find them fascinating. Our collection includes duck, goose, emu, ostrich, rhea, chicken and some unidentified bird eggs. 

Adding rabbits to the mix was a challenge, and I'm not convinced I've pulled it off. Doc and D are a tough pair with lots of opinions, but they also bring good ideas to the table. I'm sure we'll pull it all together over the next few years.

A bit of change is nice and it definitely added an injection of crafting mojo in other Easter projects which I'll post soon. 

Hoping you have a hopping Easter!  F&N

 

Jack rabbit plates from H&M 


Rabbit cake stands from SHOPBOP.

hello…welcome back!

Where to start? I've had another hiatus from this blog. A very, very long hiatus as the dated entries show. I've been tempted to remove Fiddlesticks&Nonsense from the blog-sphere once and for all, but couldn't bring myself to do it, thanks to little nudges and encouragement from family and friends.

The intent was to take a small break, work on a new layout and find a "focus" for the blog. I believed if I could find that focus or point of view, then creating and sharing content would be easier and simpler. Plus, the blogs I find the most compelling are those with a (mostly) singular focus: food, beauty, health, style.

The cold hard reality…I'm not a focused gal! I'm way too curious to buckle-down and think about a single topic. I love to learn new skills and crafts, design and create experiences, and explore the outdoors with my family. Fiddlesticks&Nonsense is the sweet spot, the nexus, my happy-place, of all these things I love and enjoy.

So, instead of a refresh, this is "welcome back!"

I made this banner for our friends who have been living abroad for the last several years and just returned to the Bay Area. 

Simple to make. Silhouette Cameo to cut letters and embroidery floss to string them together. Once I had the desired spacing and drape of the message, I knotted the strands of floss and crocheted a chain to finish it off.

Hugs & Kisses!                                         F&N