camping at trap pond

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

This past weekend we remembered the life of my grandfather, who died earlier this month at the ripe old age of 95, with a camping trip with the kids.
My grandfather was born into poverty in a farming community in Idaho and had a rough childhood before marrying, becoming a farmer and father to seven kids. He wasn't the warmest man on the exterior, and life on the farm was all about work, but once a year he would load up the family in the truck for camping in the Rockies. My mother and her siblings have fond memories of these trips where Grandpa was his happiest. The camping continued on after grandchildren came along and my family would spend summers out West visiting cousins and camping in large fun groups.
The kids have been begging to go camping since we got a larger tent for Daddy for Fathers Day. We got one that claims to sleep six, knowing it would actually sleep four. Never trust the capacity claims at the sporting goods store unless you want to be sardines and have no room for your gear.
We discovered while planning this trip that you have to go to the state park websites to reserve a campsite early. Our original plan was to go to Rickett's Glen State Park in Pennsylvania because of its awesome waterfalls and woodsy campground surrounding a lake, but it was booked up. Then we decided to scale back the plans, stay closer to home, and make it for just one night. Trap Pond State Park in southern Delaware fit the bill. It's not a large park, like the ones in the Rockies, but the campground was nicely wooded and we were able to get a secluded walk-in site in loop E.
Trap Pond's claim to fame is it's stand of baldcypress trees, the largest this far north. At the far end of the pond, where it becomes swampy, the trees grow straight out of the water from their swollen bases. They have canoes and rowboats you can rent as well as a pontoon boat tour so you can see them up close. You think to yourself, is this really Delaware? It feels prehistoric.
The kids managed to find some wildlife within the first 15 minutes. We think it was a smooth green snake.
Never saw these weird hairy-capped acorns before. They belong to the bur oaks on the edge of the forest.
One of the things I remember most about the Rockies trips, besides the stunning scenery, was how everything revolved around the meals. The aunties were always scurrying around organizing, preparing, and cleaning up afterward. It's a wonder we got any hiking done. In similar fashion, I found myself spending the whole day before making a list and grocery shopping at 3 different stores to prep for the trip. In my old age, I don't have the patience for mediocre food anymore, and I was hoping to rustle up something gourmet for dinner. I came up with a fish and vegetable concoction that cooks in tinfoil packets that I had a vague recollection reading about in a magazine somewhere. Although my grandfather would scoff that I'm using supermarket fish, not fresh-caught on the trip, here's my recipe:
Campfire Fish and Vegetables
(serves two) 
1 carrot julienned
3 scallions coarsely chopped, mostly white parts
mushrooms- 2 handfulls, sliced
snowpeas- 2 dozen or so
2 frozen mahi mahi fish filets or other firm fish, frozen 
salt & pepper to taste
1 lemon, sliced 
fresh herbs- thyme, parsley, chives, whatever you like 
1/2 cup white wine, divided

Roll out 2 pieces of tin foil, twice as long as wide. Assemble the vegetable in the middle of the foil, lay frozen fish on top. Season with salt & pepper. Top with lemon slices and herbs. Drench in white wine & seal packets well. Fold the seams over several times and store inside a plastic grocery bag (in case of leaks) on ice in a cooler.

I put these together in the AM before we left the house. By dinner time, the fish was thawed and ready to for the fire. We got the fire going to a point where the flames were below the grate and hot coals were in the bottom. They needed very little cooking time- about 5 minutes. Careful opening them due to the hot steam that will escape.

Bring along some crusty bakery bread to sop up the juices!

By the next day all our ice was melted, causing me to wonder how we could manage a two-night or more trip. I guess we could buy ice somewhere... what a pain. I see why serious campers eventually buy an RV. Two couples in the campground had these darling little T@B campers.
It turns out they are (or were) made by Airstream, which explains why I was attracted to them. They are very compact, but well-made and appeallingly designed. They have a small kitchen and u-shaped banquette around a table which folds into a 2-person bed at night. It sure would be convenient to have running water, refrigeration, and a place to have all your gear ready to go on a moments notice, but for now we'll rough it as car campers.
We got rained on before we got very far on the hike that goes around the lake. We were hoping to see the more of the baldcypresses. Oh well! That gives us a reason to come back for another quickie camping trip.

perfect peter pan collar...eventually

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pretty innocent-looking, right?
This is the little blouse that brought a grown woman to tears. Namely, me. After making a few skirts and simple dresses, I thought a sweet peter pan collar schoolgirl blouse would be a snap. It wasn't.
I started with a vintage pattern for a child's dress from the 1950's. I took out the darts, straightened the sides, added a shirttail hem, changed the closure from the back to the front, and made a muslin. Three muslins later, I was still having to reduce the shoulder width and increase the collar height. Proportions we so different back then!

I was excited to finally start sewing it up in the real material, an embroidered cotton lawn I bought on my shopping trip to Fabric Row in Philadelphia. I conscientiously chose a size 70/10 needle because of the fineness of the fabric. I even tested several interfacings to make sure I used just right one, not to heavy, not too wimpy.
click picture to enlarge
I gave myself a refresher course on collars by referring to my Readers Digest complete Guide to Sewing book that I used in college.
The book doesn't mentioned this, but I remember learning this sewing tip in college: Before assembling your collar, take the under collar, the piece that will receive the interfacing, and trim off a scant 1/16" from around the edge. After sewing, this will make the edge seaming roll ever so slightly toward the underside of the collar and look very clean.
I did everything right, then BAM! Collar #1 gets scorched by the iron. Collar #2 gets a smudge of grease sent up from the feed dogs of my newly-serviced machine that I don't notice until it's sewn to the body. I give soaking a try but can't get it out. RIIIIIP! Collar #3 is great, but then the placket gets scorched through the press cloth. Hmmmm, better turn down the iron, I'm crying now. DO OVER! Body #2 and collar #4 make it to the finish line. Lets just make a note: cotton lawn is not easy to work with. It gets overworked very quickly if you have to rip out anything and resew. Best to get it perfect the first time. All I can say is, buy extra fabric just in case.
Lawn is also very sheer. I decided serged side seams would show through too much, so opted for french seams. French seams give the sleekest, most professional finish, and are not hard to do. For a regular seam, I do a 1/2 allowance, so for a french seam, which is in two steps, I take just 1/4" with WRONG sides together (the opposite of what you'd usually do). Once sewn, trim the allowance down to 1/8".
The flip the garment so RIGHT sides are together now. Press your already sewn side seams flat and stitch again 1/4" from the edge. Now that raw edge is enclosed in a neat little tube that looks nice and will prevent fraying.
Whew, it's finally done and only took 3 or 4 weeks! Friends, this is one reason why I don't try out for Project Runway. If I can't finish a simple shirt in a day, how am I going to manage and evening gown or suit?

I won't even go into the mind-numbing hours spent doing the size grading. I was so very spoiled when I worked in the garment industry. We designers only worried about the sample size, and then the pattern would get sent off somewhere to be graded into sizes and made into production patterns. It cost thousands per style to have done. Now I get to do all those steps myself!

Now to determine pricing... if I give myself $20 per hour and I spent 50 hours on it... well... it would add up to a lot. I'm going to have to pick up the pace, I think.

brandywine festival of the arts 2010

Sunday, September 12, 2010

It was threatening rain all day today, but luckily the new Brandywine Festival of the Arts wasn't rained out. After all the controversy last year over its sudden cancellation, I was eager to get over there and see the new and hopefully improved fair which is now under new management.
Wooly Baby
Yay! Evidence of the indie craft movement infiltrating the fair was found! Delaware has been largely out of the loop of the modern craft being embraced in other cities of the Northeast, but I think we are ready for it now.  Josie Marsh's Wooly Baby booties and slippers, upcycled from leather jackets and wool sweaters, were drawing a crowd. Josie will also be exhibiting at Crafty Bastards Arts & Crafts Fair, the ultimate indie craft show, in Washington, DC on October 2.

Felt It
Next door at Felt It, business was brisk as well.
Felt It
Anne Messley uses Eco-Felt made from recycled water bottles and hand appliqués her whimsical designs onto onesies, tees, tooth fairy pillows, and wall hangings (the cool kind- stretched on embroidery hoops).
Jaime Zollars
Jaime Zollars brought her fanciful screen printed illustrations up from übercrafty Baltimore for the weekend.
Jaime Zollars
Her quirky images of vintage circuses and dark fairy tales are available as archival prints, postcards, t-shirts, and buttons. Jaime will be showing at the Crafty Bastards Arts & Crafts Fair as well.
Yummy & Company
Jennifer Wilfong of Yummy & Company, also from Baltimore, displayed a mix of recycled copper and hand formed low-fire clay jewelry.
Yummy & Company
The intricate patterns are achieved by etching through one layer to another. The effect is graphic, yet delicate at the same time.
Delanco Hats
Haberdashery is back for men of all ages. Jon Compton of Delanco Hats displayed his hats, upcycled from men's suitings, with vintage flair.
Delanco Hats
 Actually, no reason a woman couldn't wear one of these, especially the "newsie" style
Chris Murray
I just recently started bringing my kids with me on my craft show expeditions, and they really seem to get into it. My daughter marches right up to the artisans and asks them questions about how their pieces are made. We spent some time talking to Chris Murray about his carved wood bird sculptures and the many hours that go into some of the bigger pieces. These feather pins look like real feathers at a glance, but are actually expertly carved and painted wood.
My boy of course loved the blacksmith demo and was content to stay there indefinitely. From there, he was whisked off to the zoo, which was free to all today.
Although overcast, it was a pleasant day under the familiar canopy of trees in Brandywine Park.

arden fair 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

This time of year is the best! Windows open. Slight nip in the air, just enough to think about wearing a sweater to whatever fall festival is on tap. The Delaware fall festival season kicked off last weekend with the 104th Arden Fair, always held on the Saturday before Labor Day just north of Wilmington, in the quirky village of Arden.
The first time I visited Arden, it was on a winter day and I had the sensation of stepping into a storybook village blanketed charmingly with snow. Think Tolkein's Shire, with Hobbits snug in their diminutive cottages, eating and drinking merrily by their hearths.
Arden is awfully nice in late summer also. I explored their website and was interested to find out that before it was claimed by artists and bohemian types, it had been a summer camp for people from Philadelphia and New York. That explains its picturesque woodsiness, its tiny cottages, its narrow winding roads (once meant for foot traffic), its central green and famous Gild Hall of this little hamlet. Arden's tradition of fostering the arts, started in camp days, continues year round now with its theater group and clubs.
Merry eating and drinking in the beer garden to the sound of Grateful Dead covers.
Tie dye for sale to go along with the Grateful Dead tunes.
Real kettle corn for the kids.
The kids were enthralled by this spinning wheel demonstration by Kat Crippen of The Wool Merchant's Daughter. Brings back memories of my mom doing the very same thing at craft shows many years ago.
Wool yarns just in time for fall.
Janet Nickerson of Lady Aimee's Fine Sewing and Sutlery.
Shakespearean and other reproduction clothing.
Fine linens from Miss Aimee's.
Plenty of fun for the kids.
Great fall kick-off, Arden! Next weekend I'll be checking out the Brandywine Arts Festival taking place Saturday & Sunday down by the Brandywine Zoo.