red flannel pantry

creative pursuits in the kitchen, garden, library and sewing room

Archive for the month “April, 2013”

graduation gift ideas–part I: great gifts you can buy


It’s graduation time again! Although books are always my favorite gifts to give, 18-year-olds really don’t want/won’t read inspirational books by Dr. Seuss, Ann Patchett or Anna Quindlen–sadly, I know this from experience. So instead, I focus on gifts that are thoughtful and useful. Later in the week, I will share ideas about gifts you can assemble and gifts you can sew.

Below are my easy-to-buy gift ideas for high school grads:

umbrella–an auto open/close travel-size umbrella is a useful gift that will fit in a backpack or purse. With a label maker, you can make a label with the recipient’s name and attach it to the handle.

coffee maker–there are many affordable models to choose from. If you’d like, you can throw in a package of filters and some coffee.

thermos–every morning my son fills his 40-oz stainless steel model with coffee to take with him to class. It’s a long-term money saver–who needs Starbucks? A thermos also works for tea drinkers.

colorfast towels–students love colorful towels for their dorm rooms, but acne medications can make the colors bleed and fade. Look for towels that are labeled colorfast and resist staining.

canvas duffel bag–a basic classic duffel bag is great for lugging clothing to and from college. I have found that REI carries a moderately priced line of duffel bags in a range of sizes from small to XXXL.

gift card to college bookstore–obtaining one takes a little effort, but a gift card to their college bookstore can help students with purchasing books and other supplies.

gift card to grocery store–no matter how good colleges say the food is in their dining halls, students occasionally want to make their own choices. A gift card to a grocery store can allow them to treat themselves when they are tired of the usual fare and can also be used to pick up other incidentals.

gift card to local store/restaurant–Google the location of the college, search for stores and restaurants within walking distance of the school, and buy a gift card to one.

Amazon gift card–a gift card from Amazon is a terrific gift that can be used to buy a wide range of school items, including used textbooks. Once the student gets to school, she can take stock of items she still needs and then order them online and have them delivered to her at school.

Solmate socks–if you want something a little quirky for a girl grad, Solmate mismatched socks are fun. They are thick and wear well–perfect for padding around a dorm room.

cash–sometimes nothing else will do, it is easy to give and it is always appreciated.

Do you have any ideas to share?

vegetable garden–spring update


My husband and I worked in the garden yesterday afternoon. We had been promised sunny and 80 degrees but ended up with overcast and 60s. Radishes, onions, lettuce, dill and carrots have emerged.


The rhubarb has bulked up.


The elderberry starts are sprouting (thanks, Ken!).


We planted tomatoes and ran the soaker hoses. This year we are trying Mr. Stripey, San Marzano and Sungold. We planted radishes and lettuce along the sides of the raised beds on both sides of the tomatoes. We cut wire hangers into segments and then bend them to hold the soaker hose in place. We save these improvised staples and use them year after year.


We got the cucumber plants in too.


We put collars made from old plastic flower pots and soda bottles around the seedlings to thwart cutworms.

OK, now we are ready for 80 degrees–maybe tomorrow, please?

jack attack quilt–UJ x 3

IMG_1691I finished the third Union Jack today. I like the prancing deer. On to the sashing . . .

jack attack quilt–in progress


Second Union Jack flag finished–one more to go!

jack attack quilt–with a little help from my friend


The Union Jack motif is a personal favorite (see needlepoint keychain). From trolling quilting blogs and Flickr, I was familiar with the Jack Attack quilt tutorial by Lynne Goldsworthy of Lily’s Quilts, but I was intimidated by the angles. I was unsure if I could figure out the tutorial on my own. When my experienced quilter friend, Nancy, offered to guide me through, I was psyched–woohoo!

I played it safe with my fabric choices. I was inspired by this quilt I saw on Flickr, with its funky take on the traditional blue and red.

I veered from the pattern in the widths of the center red cross (mine: finished 6 inches) and of the white bands that border it (mine: finished 2 inches). I went with the beefier widths because (1) this quilt is for a double bed and (2) I thought I’d try to make the motif more in keeping with the actual proportions of the Union Jack flag. Seeing my flag now, I am glad that I bulked those elements up, but when I make this quilt next, I will go twin size and use the dimensions given in the tutorial.

One flag down, two to go . . .

new doodle journal

IMG_1674I found this little (5″ x 8″) journal at Target yesterday and couldn’t resist. I love the bright-colored floating half-square triangle (HST) blocks.

The best part? It’s filled with graph paper, so it’s perfect for sketching needlepoint and quilt designs. Time to begin filling it up . . .

pachyderm party

IMG_1673Yet another of Daughter #2’s friends has turned 16, so we needlepointed a special keychain in honor of the occasion. She is fond of elephants, so we made sure one landed here.

800px-STL_Elephant[1]We are awaiting the arrival of the fourth baby of this big guy, Raja, at the St. Louis Zoo. Ellie, the mother, is due any day now, so a needlepoint elephant is timely.


Happy 16th Birthday, Sarah!

color inspiration

SilkBrights[1]Daughter #2 and I have a keychain in the works for one of her friends. Although we have the design somewhat worked out, we were stumped by colors to use. Time to look at Design-Seeds!

Design-Seeds is the work of Jessica and features photos with corresponding palettes of colors pulled from the photo. The photographs and their palettes range from luscious with rich, deep tones to meditative with calm, cool hues. Jessica posts a different photo everyday, so the website offers a daily treat for the eyes and mind. It’s a great way to start a creative day.

My daughters and I find the website helpful when seeking color inspiration and when searching for complementary colors when our hearts are set on using a particular tint.

In this case, D#2 and I are taken with these sari-inspired, jewel-saturated tones. Jessica named this palette silk brights.

IMG_1662Here’s our interpretation based on our tastes and what was available at the needlepoint store–lovely.

xxth anniversary

IMG_1653Friends are celebrating their 20th anniversary today, so I made this mini-quilt to commemorate the occasion.

IMG_1641I used a light gray for the background fabric (since platinum is the traditional 20th anniversary gift), and I worked some diamonds into the quilting for good measure.

For the roman numerals, I incorporated fabric scraps from other gifts I have made for their family.

IMG_3159 IMG_1642

From a hamsa I made Julie for her 40th birthday, I used a batik fabric with little fish that is still in my stash. Fish on a hamsa are considered good luck, so they make a fortuitous reappearance.

IMG_5066From a mini-quilt I made their Daughter #1 for her bat mitzvah, I used a feathery palm print, egg fabric, and bird text print.

IMG_1646See–here’s some.

Daughter #2 has an amazing memory for numbers and dates, so I know she will like that this little anniversary quilt has a design based on numbers.

IMG_1652Fleur de lis is Julie’s favorite design motif, so when I poked around my stash, I found these two fabrics–one in orange of course. I’ve had a thing about orange for quilt backs lately. You can see how I did a ton of quilting on it–I tried out some new patterns for fun.

Finished size: 16 1/2″ x 26 1/2″.

Happy Anniversary, Julie & Greg!

emerging edibles


A late-season snowstorm delayed things a bit, but the vegetable garden is back in business.  Asparagus began making an appearance a few days ago.

IMG_1634The fennel has muscled its broad shoulders out of the ground as well.

IMG_1635The rhubarb looks promising.

IMG_1636Carrot, radish and lettuce production is underway.

IMG_1637And the pot-bound chives survived!

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