Friday, August 31, 2012

In the bottom of the Treehouse: Mr. Fixit's Man Cave


Photo by Mr. Fixit. Copyright Dewey's Treehouse 2012.

Crissy's new clothes (with link to online patterns)

For Crissy fans, one of the best sites out there is CrissyAndBeth.com. Beth has very generously scanned in all the commercial patterns that were made for Crissy (and Velvet) from 1969 through the early 1970's--that is, the actual tissue-paper pieces.  My mother had some of these patterns and made clothes for my own Crissy and my sister's Velvet; I don't think any of ours are still around, though--the patterns or the clothes.  The CrissyAndBeth sewing page also has photos of Crissy and friends modelling hand-sewn clothes.

I tried printing out some of the pattern pieces a couple of years ago, but the printer we had at that time kept shrinking the pieces to fit the page, even when I asked it nicely not to, so I gave up.  Recently we got a colour printer that is more co-operative (remind you of our sewing machine?), so I tried again.  The pattern pieces printed out beautifully, especially in colour.  The Simplicity patterns are very, very easy to follow...well, some of them are a little bit fussy with getting elastic in the right place, sewing lace on, and so on, but generally they're meant to be easy to sew.  Almost too easy in some places--where some doll clothes books would have you turn under an edge and then turn it under again and hem, these patterns just say to turn edges under a quarter inch and sew them down, which can leave a bit of a raw edge.  Elastic on pants is just sewn across a turned-down waistband, rather than put through a casing. If you are a fussier sewer, you could do more than the minimum for things like that.  But I think a lot of the appeal of these patterns is in the choice of fabric and trims, rather than in detailed sewing techniques.

From Simplicity pattern 8519, I made a "dress" (or a smock top), a vest, and two pairs of flared pants.  If you put the vest with the top, they go together in kind of an unexpected 1970ish way.  A little bit Russian, a little bit Sunshine Family.  The dress or top is supposed to have lace around the neck and wrists, but we went with rickrack instead.
I remember my mom sewing one of these capes (Simplicity 9698), so it was a step back in time for me to recreate one for Dollygirl's Crissy.  The fabric is red corduroy, from a rummage-saled pair of pants.  There was just enough useable fabric to cut the back, two fronts, and two hood pieces.  The ribbon trim is craft-type, not meant for clothes; but I liked the old-world vibe of the print, plus its stiffness gives a bit of structure to the cape.  I've seen this cape made up with softer lace trim, but I like it better with this edging.  The pattern instructs you to turn back the edges of the cape and sew the trim along the turned-back piece, but with the stiff ribbon I just sandwiched it along the edges and topstitched it down.

About the only thing we think Crissy still needs is a nice maxi-dress, peasant style, maybe in green to go with her shoes.  But that will have to wait until we replenish our fabric a bit.

All photos by Mr. Fixit.  Copyright Dewey's Treehouse 2012.  Simplicity patterns made available by CrissyAndBeth.com.

Making the most of Treehouse collections: dolls and more

We are Squirrels, and don't forget it.  We may not be parts-stashers, but we do like to collect things.


These are Red Rose Tea Figurines. Some of them were Mr. Fixit's grandma's. Some were Mama Squirrel's. The shelf had hung in a corner of our rec room for a long time, kind of hidden and dusty. We decided to move it up to the kitchen.

Dollygirl's TY Teenie Beanie Boppers. (Also here.) She has been collecting these at yard sales and thrift shops for several years; I think only one was bought new.  Mr. Fixit helped her spray paint and frame a piece of pegboard, so now the Boppers can all hang out together.


Mr. Fixit's restorations are part of our living room decor--they come and go, and we make room for them while they're in the Treehouse.  The glass-fronted cabinet was the grandparents', and it holds a group of dolls handed down from both sides of our family.

All photos by Mr. Fixit, copyright Dewey's Treehouse, 2012.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Quote for the Day: Virginia Haviland on dumbed-down books

"We must all recognize that factors other than word count-the look of the page, the space between lines, the amount of illustration and size of margins-contribute to making a book easy to read.

"Again we may ask whether we are being attracted to fool’s gold by a false snob appeal of the term 'classic,' if we accept abridgements and watering-down of texts because we believe that the slow or lazy child must read Alice in Wonderland or Treasure Island in one form or another. Is it not dishonest to allow children to think they are truly reading the classics when they read them in abbreviated form?"

--Virginia Haviland, "Search for the real thing: Among the “millions and billions” of books," Library Journal, 1961. Quoted in "Initiative and Influence: The Contributions of Virginia Haviland to Children’s Services, Research, and Writing,"  by Karen Patricia Smith.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pineapple cake for a potluck

Tonight was our homeschool group's annual picnic/barbecue. The group provides burgers and hot dogs, and everything else is potluck. I brought Tortellini Salad--the same dressing as the one I used here, but with slightly different salad ingredients. I used a package of dried cheese tortellini, cooked until just tender; a package of grape tomatoes; a package of little tiny mushrooms (they were the same price as regular-sized ones); a chopped red pepper; and a few canned black olives. I left out the extra cheese as I didn't think it would hold up well, and it was fine without it. At least it was all gone by the end of the picnic, so I guess that meant it was all right.

I also took a pan of Ruth's Pineapple Cake, from the Harrowsmith Cookbook. This recipe has been around for years but it's still good, and it's very easy to make. It does get a bit sticky, though, so it's best eaten the same day you make it.

Ruth’s Pineapple Cake

2 cups flour
1 ½ cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups crushed pineapple, un-drained (= 19 oz. can)
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional--our homeschool events are nut-free, so I leave them out)

Combine all ingredients and beat until smooth (just with a wooden spoon is fine).

Scrape into greased jelly roll pan (a 10 x 15-inch pan) and bake at 325 degrees F for 35 minutes or until brown but not too brown. Cut in squares for serving (use a sharp knife and try to work around the bits of pineapple--otherwise you'll get ragged pieces).

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Funky Doll Sofa, Almost Free (Tutorial)

Dollygirl's 18-inch dolls have lots of clothes, but they're short on furniture.  To help them out, I made this oversized chair, or sofa--depending on how many dolls (or guinea pigs) are squeezed onto it.  It requires a bit of sewing, but no gluing or nailing.

Start with one rather old hinged-lid chicken wings box, or anything else of that sort.  If you don't have an old hinged-lid chicken box but do have a box with its own lid, about the size of a child's shoebox, you can tape the lid to the back of the box and use that. 
Add one cut-down cereal box, stuffed with newspaper.  The cereal box needs to be the same size as the first box.  Stuff it inside, tightly.  Or you could just stuff the first box and then cover the seat with a piece of cardboard.

Now you have something that resembles a bed with a bookcase headboard.  Stuff the "bookcase" part with more crumpled newspaper.
Now it's time for some cutting and sewing. Take a child-size skirt, or the equivalent in other fabric. (Dollygirl had an old corduroy skirt she'd grown out of a  long time ago.)  Sew it into a tube that will fit nicely around the box.  When you slip it over the box, it should give you almost, but not quite, enough fabric to completely slipcover the sofa.  Sort of like a fabric tissue box cover, or a tea cozy.  It doesn't have to be perfect, because you're going to make a second piece to fit over the top. 
Here is the second piece of fabric (photo below).  I don't know how well you can see this in the photo, but I hemmed around the bottom and also wrapped it around and sewed in two places, making two corners that stand up.  It's not mandatory, but I thought it gave the top piece a better fit.
Now you slip that piece over the back of the sofa, tucking it in behind the seat.
If you have any fabric left, you can make cushions for the sofa. I made two tube-shaped pieces that work as arms for the couch, and two square ones. I machine-sewed them, leaving one side open; stuffed them with quilt batting (you could use any kind of stuffing), and hand-sewed the last side of each.
That's all!
Photos by Mr. Fixit, Dewey's Treehouse, 2012

Linked from Mad Skills Link Party #118 at Mad in Crafts, and from the Festival of Frugality.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

What dolls do on a hot day



Lemonade stand made by Dollygirl.  Crissy's bellbottoms and Abby's sweater by Mama Squirrel.

Photographs by Dollygirl, Dewey's Treehouse, 2012

Friday, August 24, 2012

What's for supper? Pizza chicken

Tonight's menu:

Pizza chicken (cut-up chicken breasts cooked with canned pizza sauce, green peppers, and mozzarella cheese)
Whole-wheat spaghettini

Banana-Bread Sundaes (a fancy-dessert-glass concoction of a bit of banana bread, a bit of mostly-thawed banana, a bit of mostly-thawed yogurt, a spoonful of peach jam, and some frozen strawberries warmed in the microwave)

Quote for the Day: "Call forth its riches"

“If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.”

― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What's for supper? on the frugal side

Tonight's menu:

Spicy Lentil Soup with Kielbasa
Pita bread from the bottom of the freezer, cut in triangles, sprayed with olive oil, and crisped in the oven

Fruit crisp made with leftover cereal (run through the food processor), frozen blueberries, leftover cranberry sauce, and the end of a jar of jam

Monday, August 20, 2012

What's for supper? Turkey Fajitas

We've been making the same Chicken Fajitas recipe for years--when we actually do use a recipe.  Sometimes we just cook chicken or turkey with salsa and call it done. 

Tonight we had some leftover white turkey meat, and green peppers, and tortillas...so we had Turkey-Pepper Fajitas with Cheddar cheese, sour cream, and olives for those who like olives (me).  I cooked a pot of rice to go with them.  (I know fajitas aren't supposed to be served with cheese, but too bad.)

Here's the recipe, since I don't think I've ever posted it here.  It was clipped from a newspaper years ago, so I don't know whose it was originally.  It's online here, but I don't think the contributor created the recipe.

Chicken Fajitas (or Leftover Turkey Fajitas)

3 to 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or leftover chicken or turkey meat)
2 tbsp. lime juice (we use lemon juice because it's what we usually have around)
2 tbsp. salsa
1 clove garlic, minced (or garlic powder)
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
Few drops hot pepper sauce (optional)
8 7-inch flour tortillas
1 tbsp. olive or vegetable oil
1 large onion sliced, and/or 1 green or red pepper, sliced in strips (we often use just one or the other)
Black pepper (optional)
Toppings:  salsa, sour cream, etc.

If using raw meat:  cut into thin strips, place in a bowl, and add lime juice, salsa, garlic, chili powder, cumin, and hot pepper sauce.  Stir well and set aside.  (Because we had already-cooked turkey meat, I just sprinkled the mixture on the plate of turkey and let it sit while I got other things ready.)

In large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil.  Saute onions and peppers until tender-crisp, three or four minutes.  Remove from skillet and set aside. 

Add chicken and any juices in bowl to skillet.  Cook, stirring, until chicken is cooked through.  Return onions and peppers to pan.  The mixture should be quite moist; if necessary, add a little more salsa.  Add black pepper if wanted.  Stir over high heat until very hot, about one minute.  Spoon chicken mixture onto warm tortillas.  Add desired toppings and roll up.

Cooked Turkey Variation:  I stir-fried the green pepper strips for a few minutes, then added the chopped, cooked turkey that had been sprinkled with the salsa mixture.  I just let it all heat through and that was it.  I did add a bit of water so that it wouldn't get too dry.

Linked from Easy Back to School Meals at The Common Room, August 2013.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Yes, it's been a slow week

What's up in the Treehouse?

Mr. Fixit is fixing (and selling) as many things as he can.  Unfortunately, that didn't include our water heater, which suddenly quit after fifteen years, or our mattress, which gave its last bounce after twenty-plus.  Even Mr. Fixit has his limits. But clocks and radios--that, he's very good at.

The Apprentice is still cutting hair and getting ready to go back to classes.

Ponytails is getting geared up for Grade 10.

Dollygirl is trying to ignore the fact that school is around the corner.  Well, actually her school is in the basement, not around the corner, but you know what I mean.

Mama Squirrel is working on a lot of small projects.  Mr. Fixit and Dollygirl have one in progress too (not a radio). When a few of them are done, we'll do a photo post.

Till then...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Quote for the day: "The best year ever."

"I think this is going to be the best year ever all because I reread Towards a Philosophy of Education."--Cindy Rollins, "The First Day of Year 25," at Ordo Amoris.

Go, Cindy!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

What's for supper? Chicken and dumplings.


I realized I have a lot of chicken so thawed some this morning without knowing what I was doing with it. I've been stirfrying a lot lately so I wanted to try something a little different. Martha Stewart's Chicken and Dumplings recipe looked promising. I halved the recipe and used mixed peas and carrots with some onion flakes for the vegetables. I would watch the salt as I feel I oversalted a bit, and wasn't a big fan of the broth I used. Make sure you stir more often than the recipe requires...mine wanted to stick to the bottom of my Corningware. I used chicken thighs...the nutty flavour really added to the dish but breast would have been better in terms of texture.

What's for supper? Enchiladas

Tonight's dinner menu (just three of us here): chicken-cheese enchiladas, made with the leftovers from last night's chicken.

A sign of the times: the packages of large flour tortillas, that used to contain eight, have been cut to six. Large humph for that.

Friday, August 10, 2012

What's for supper? Hot chicken on a bun

Tonight's dinner menu:

One chicken from the freezer, cooked in the slow cooker with a little barbecue sauce, served on hamburger buns
Green beans

Brannies (brownies made with chocolate and bran cereal)
Pears

Vanilla Magic Milkshakes

We all might have books inside of us

But not all of us manage to get them out.

Exceptions: 

Melissa Wiley:  Fox and Crow are Not Friends, and two others coming out at the end of this month.

Bryana Johnson:  Having Decided to StayBryana is the daughter of Lindafay at Higher Up and Further In.

Congratulations to both.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

What's for supper? Sausage and Bean Helper.

Today I cooked up a batch of Miss Maggie's Family Favorite Pinto Beans.  I started them in the pressure cooker, because I worry about putting red beans straight into the slow cooker (do pintos count as red beans? Probably not, but I would rather be overcautious than sick).  Then I decided not to do them in the slow cooker anyway, but just cook them for the afternoon on the stove with Miss Maggie's spices.  (Because of time, not worry about toxins.)

That worked.

When they were done, I took about half the beans and liquid, and mixed them in a skillet with the remains of last night's sausage, sliced up, and last night's pasta, two little garden tomatoes, and some chopped celery.  I let that cook about half an hour, and added a bit of cheese on top.

And tomorrow I'll probably puree the rest of the cooked pintos, and freeze them in small amounts.  Instant refried beans, if tortillas ever go on sale again or if I get ambitious enough to make my own.  Multicultural food note:  around here, pita bread is often cheaper than tortillas, and, depending on what style you get, it can work just as well for things like fajitas.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

What's for supper? Really Fast Ratatouille

I left a few sausages in the slow cooker this afternoon, but had only a few minutes to add side dishes when we came in the door from the thrift shop and a couple of errands.  This was the menu:

Farmer's Sausage
Pasta (the last of the animal-shaped noodles)
Really Fast Ratatouille, made with garlic, fresh Roma tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, and seasonings

Plums and yogurt.

Dollygirl brings you...Abby's Camping Trip

Crayons/Dollygirl has (finally) put together her photo post about her doll Abby's camping trip.  (Mentioned here.)  Good work, Dollygirl!

(The Evil Sewing Machine has been behaving pretty well lately.  So Abby has a new red dress and pinafore as well--we just have to take a picture.)

Friday, August 03, 2012

What's for supper? Mrs. S's Curry Casserole

Mrs. S. was the grandmotherly lady who lived beside us for many years (the lady who was entertained by the Geography Songs being belted out on the swingset).  The first week we moved in, she showed up with a curried chicken casserole...which I thought was kind of funny, since she was Irish through and through.  No matter; this kind of chicken dinner always makes me think of her. 

It was too hot to bake tonight, so the chicken casserole became a chicken skillet.

P.S.  Yes, I know this is not an authentic curry.  But it's good anyway.

Tonight's dinner menu (cleaning out the fridge):

Mrs. S's Curry Casserole/Skillet, with optional garnishes of slivered almonds, raisins, chow mein noodles
Brown rice
Sweet potatoes (peeled, cut up and cooked in a pot)
Cottage cheese, applesauce

Chocolate microwave cake with vanilla yogurt and/or rasberry sauce mixed with frozen blueberries

Chicken Curry Casserole/Skillet (this is a very approximate recipe)

Cooked chicken--about two cups, cut up
Any vegetables you want, cut up in the food processor (onions, green peppers, carrot)
Chicken broth, or water plus bouillon powder
1 cup milk
2 tsp. curry powder
2 tbsp. cornstarch
Salt and pepper
Rice and garnishes

If you're making this on the stovetop, combine the chicken, vegetables, and broth or water plus bouillon in a skillet.  Cover and simmer until the vegetables are starting to get tender.  In a measuring cup, whisk together the milk, curry powder, and cornstarch.  Add to the hot mixture and continue cooking until thickened and heated through.  Add salt and pepper as needed.  Serve over hot rice, and pass raisins, nuts, or whatever other garnishes people like.

If I were making this in the oven, I'd probably make a sauce of the broth, milk, curry powder, and cornstarch on top of the stove, pour it over the chicken and vegetables, and then bake it for half an hour.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Book Review: Toss, Keep, Sell!

Toss, Keep, Sell!: The Suddenly Frugal Guide to Cleaning Out the Clutter and Cashing In, by Leah Ingram.  About $US10 on Amazon.com, in either paperback or Kindle format.  (I borrowed a copy from the library.)

Over the last two or three decades, I have read a lotta, lotta, lotta clutter and organizing books.  Some inspired me to get busy and do something; some were interesting, some were boring.  Some had good ideas, and a lot were the same old stuff.  Recently I've downloaded several free Kindle books about organizing, home management, and clutter, and most of them are the same old stuff.  One of them might grab you at the right moment and become your friend, but really there isn't much new to say about "toss what you don't need, organize the rest."

So I know I've found a keeper when a) I enjoy reading it and b) I actually get a couple of new ideas that c) work.  Someone named Books and Chocolate already reviewed Toss, Keep, Sell! on Amazon.com, and that's pretty much what they said, too.  There are a few ideas I couldn't exactly relate to, like making money reselling Tiffany and Prada stuff that you might have gathering dust (??), but overall I liked her ideas, particularly about re-purposing unused items in other rooms.  Of course we've done that lots of times, but reading the book sparked a couple of new ideas I hadn't thought of before.  Yesterday I did some cleaning out in our dining room--not where we eat all our meals, this is more of a space where we have holiday dinners and sew and do homework in between, so it gets messy.  I cleaned out the buffet, got rid of a couple of old tablecloths and a bunch of polyester napkins that we never use, and realized that I could use the built-in cutlery tray in the top drawer for our good cutlery.

Why I never thought of that, after living here for almost fifteen years, I don't know, but I had always kept the "good" set of cutlery (wedding gift) in a wooden box (wedding gift) on top of the china cabinet.  But the knife holder had broken loose inside the box, and half of the good cutlery had migrated into the everyday drawer in the kitchen anyway because we were short on spoons.  So...short end of the story...the good cutlery, what we don't need for every day, now lives in the buffet.  Which gave me a nice empty wooden box...which was twice the size of the small jewelery box I'd been stuffing my beads and earrings into for years.  So now I have a bigger jewelery box, and Dollygirl has my old box since she didn't have one at all.  Everybody wins, and the top of the china cabinet is suddenly clear too.

The format of the book is room-by-room, which is pretty typical.  But I think what it sets it above the norm are the personal examples and the sum-it-up charts, as well as the up-to-date suggestions such as using Craigslist and E-bay.

So...this is a new addition to my short list of favourite clutter/organization books.  (Others are It's Here...Somewhere, by Alice Fulton, and Don Aslett's For Packrats Only.)

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

What's for supper? Spaghetti-style sloppy Joes

Tonight's dinner menu:

Whole wheat hamburger buns with tomato-meat sauce (leftover sauce I had frozen) and mozzarella cheese
Peas
Leftover salad and raw veggies

The remnants of the Crockpot Applesauce Cake I made last night, with vanilla yogurt and raspberry sauce