Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Out with the old: the first night of Hanukah and squash casserole

I spent a couple hours this morning getting rid of clothes that didn't make me happy. Since most of my clothes come from the Goodwill in the first place, I didn't feel bad sending them back there. Some were skirts too short for a woman my age to wear, some were in colors I never exactly liked, some didn't fit any more, some were experiments gone wrong... some were worn out... there was a red sweater I thought of as still pretty new until I saw a photo recently of me wearing it a quarter of a century ago...

It was the first night of Hanukkah of course and my friend Paul came over to light candles. I cooked borscht and a zucchini casserole.

The casserole was part of a long-term project: to actually COOK the recipes I've torn out of newspapers or wherever over the last decades and stuffed into a box. If these long-preserved never-prepared dishes turn out lousy, I'm throwing out those recipes. Duh, right?

This one turned out well. It's a keeper.

Zucchini casserole
2-1/2 pounds of zucchini sliced into thin rounds in the food processor
1-1/2 cup shredded cheddar (or other cheese, I am never particular)
3/4 cup ricotta
6 eggs
chopped parsley to taste
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
3/4 cup breadcrumbs (I used Italian seasoning breadcrumbs)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella

The original recipe said to put the rounds of zucchini in overlapping rows in a buttered lasagna pan. I actually did this and it looked beautiful but it took a long time and, as you put a topping on the casserole, nobody is ever going to see your nice design. Sprinkle each layer of zucchini with shredded cheddar.

Whip together the ricotta, eggs, parsley, salt, and pepper and pour over the zucchini.

Combine the last four ingredients and sprinkle over the top. Cook at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes. The recipe said to cover it with a tent of aluminum foil for the first 25 minutes of cooking but I forgot to do that and it turned out well anyway.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

One of our new Hanukkah songs: "Ain't Nobody's Business What I Do"

From the concert I gave with Aviva Enoch last night, The song is on our Mrs Maccabee's Kitchen cd:

Jane Peppler and Aviva Enoch of Cabaret Warsaw play Hanukkah music in North Carolina

Here are the words I wrote to this old blues tune:

There ain't nothin I can do
There's nothin I can say
That folks won't criticize me
So I'm gonna do just as I want to anyway
I don't care if they all despise me

If instead of ham and biscuit I fix bialys, borsht & brisket
Ain't nobody's business what I do
If instead of caroling I prefer to fry bimuelos and sing Maoz-tsur
Ain't no body's business what I do

If I prefer to spin the dreydl 'stead of singin 'bout that cradle
If I refuse to worship Zeus or bow to any golden goose

If instead of singing 'Deck the Halls' I stay home and eat matzah balls
Ain't nobody's business what I do
If you don't like my benediction don't give me any friction
Ain't nobody's business what I do

If I light candles every night it shouldn't provoke a fight
If I don't care for pickled prawn, if I stay up till dawn playing s'vivon

If I'd rather be studying Mishnah than chanting Hare Krishna
If I'd rather go to bed than stay up and wait for the Man in Red

If I choose New York pastrami over your artisan salami
Ain't nobody's business what I do
If I fire up my menorah sing 'Ner Li' and dance the horah
Ain't nobody's business
Ain't nobody's business
Ain't nobody's business what I do

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Chocolate pretzel toffee bark with toasted almonds on top.

Chocolate pretzel almond toffeeI published this recipe last year but I'm updating it after having made it quite a few times. Also, I wanted to make enough so the entire jelly roll pan of pretzels would be covered with toffee.

It's ridiculously compulsive and time consuming to line all the pretzels up into a grid, but it is equally ridiculously satisfying to be able to snap the toffee into perfect rectangular pieces.

Here is what you have to do before you start heating the mixture:
  1. Run very hot water into your sink (to drop the bowl and utensils into immediately after the project)
  2. Have something to do (so you don't poke the toffee before it cools, which takes HOURS)
  3. Toast the almonds - I do it in the toaster oven, 350 degrees for 5 or 6 minutes
  4. Get out your 11x17 cookie sheet and cover it with pretzels (see below). Some people put the chocolate chips right on top of the pretzels and then pour the hot goo over the top of the chips. I didn't do it that way but it might be better.

Pretzel Toffee Bark
1/2 of a 12-ounce bag of square pretzels (I used Snyder Butter Snaps)
1-3/8 cups salted butter (3 sticks)
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1-3/8 cups white sugar
2-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1-3/4 cup sliced toasted almonds

Melt the butter and add the sugar and corn syrup. Boil to 280 degrees (not quite hard crack), stirring CONSTANTLY. Don't guess, get one of those cheap candy thermometers at the grocery store.

Immediately pour over pretzels spreading as evenly as possible while you pour because you won't have long to spread it. If you insist on spreading the goo absolutely all the way to the wall of the pan it will be hard to get the toffee out. Drop the empty saucepan into the hot water in your sink along with the wooden spoon.

Immediately sprinkle chocolate chips and then the sliced almonds over the pan.

Put in the pre-heated oven for 5 minutes and then mash down on it with a potato ricer or any other flat thing to get the almonds and chocolate to mix together. There will be a lot of melted chocolate with almonds stuck to it on the ricer when you're done. You know what to do.

Cool completely at room temperature. Go off and do the thing you planned to do so you wouldn't poke your toffee. It takes a long time for the chocolate to harden again.

If you put it in the fridge or freezer to get the chocolate to firm up you will RUIN it, as I did last year. In the freezer it rehydrates or something and loses its charm. But people will still eat it.

AFTER the chocolate is solid again, break the toffee into pieces.

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The Triangle Jewish Chorale Hanukah Songbook - now available as a pdf digital download

sheet music for Chanukah songsAnd here is the reprinted TJC Hanukkah songbook, 2 to 4-part arrangements with chords for piano or guitar. Click the picture to buy a paperback version. For a digital download (only $5!), click here:

Al Hanisim
Banu Chosech
Cuando el Rey Nimrod
Drey dreydele
Drive Cold Winter Away
Hanerot Halalu (Chasidic version)
Hanerot halalu (Classic)
Hayo, haya
Hinei Ba
Imi nahtna leviva-li
Hanukah (Sephardic)
Khanike iz freylekh
Let Memory Keep Us All
Ma-oz Tsur (Italian version)
Ma-oz Tsur (Classic)
Mizmor xir (Sephardic)
Nerot dolkim
Oy khanukah
Oy ir kleyne likhtelekh!
Simu shemen
Shnirele perele
Svivon sov sov sov
Time to Remember the Poor
Yom Zeh l’Yisroel

Return of the New Three Log Night Songbook! Plus, new inexpensive pdf version for download.

I discovered yesterday that CreateSpace (Amazon's print-on-demand arm) had somehow unpublished my Three Log Night Songbook: Uncommon Music for Christmas and Hannukah in arrangements for mixed voices. I got it back online. You can buy a paperback copy for $9.50 from them (click the picture) or you can get a $5 pdf version from me via email by clicking here:

Angelus ad virginem
Babe of Bethlehem
Blessed Be
Boar's Head Carol
Carol of the Bagpipers
Cherry Tree Carol
Cuando el Rey Nimrod
Drey Dreydele
Drive Cold Winter Away
Gedeonis Area
Gloucester Wassail
Hanerot Halalu
Hayo Haya
Here We Come A'Wassailing
Holly and the Ivy
Holly Bears a Berry
Imi Notna Leviva-li
In a Cavern Oxen Trod
In the Bleak Midwinter
In the Dark Streets
Khanuke iz freylekh
The King
Let Memory Keep Us All
The Lord at First Did Adam Make
Ma-oz Tsur
Now Is Come Our Joyful Feast
Oy Ir Kleyne Likhtelekh
Pastime With Good Company
Quem pastores
Resonet in Laudibus
Sainte Nicholaes
Shepherds Arise
Shnirele Perele
Simu Shemen
Solis in Praevia
Sussex Mummers Carol
S'vivon Sov Sov Sov
Tappster Dryngker
Time to Remember the Poor
The Very First Blessing
A Virgin Most Pure
Wassail Song
Wexford Carol
When the Wise Men Came from Far
The Woodcutters Song

Monday, November 10, 2014

The color of my parachute.(The Peppler Sonnet Service)

Reposted from eight years ago...

Remember that book, What Color is Your Parachute? It was recommended to confounded job seekers by career counselors back when I was in college. It exhorted us to figure out what we really wanted to do, and then to go find a place to do it, and if necessary, to create a job within which we could follow our passion.

Very inspirational, but at the time I had no clue what I wanted to do, or how my talents could be utilized in the marketplace. Let's see - I was good at:
  • Writing - quickly - bad poetry which scanned correctly;

  • Every kind of fiber art from sewing and quilting and embroidery to macrame;

  • Papier maché;

  • Russian - however, I was a Russian major during the Cold War. Career options included teaching (but I knew I could never survive graduate school) or working for the government (but I was bad at keeping secrets and hated the administration);

  • Transcribing Bulgarian songs;

  • Listening to people, talking with them about their dreams and fears, and making them laugh when they were down.
I used to explain, about Peppler's Sonnet Service: "Well, I'm good at writing poetry but I have no wish to express myself. Writing for other people gives me something to express." When I thought this up in the late 1970s I was interviewed by Susan Stamberg for Morning Edition on Valentines Day; I got written up in the Boston Globe, Yankee Magazine, and the (ahem) Christian Science Monitor; I wrote hundreds of sonnets or rather "sonnets" for customers who were ALWAYS satisfied. I could knock off a correct sonnet in about twenty minutes, lauding the client's girlfriend or his mother's potato salad.

As it turns out, I never did have a career, I never did pull in a paycheck. I've spent my life slithering through ad-hoc, oddball person-for-hire situations. For a while I made my living cutting out xeroxed articles of various sizes and shapes, waxing them, and pasting them up on boards so they could be re-xeroxed for student coursepacks. I sold animated (flip-book) greeting cards; I rode a moped out to remote suburban adult education centers and taught "Songs for Non-Singers"; I learned to typeset and was the part-time head typesetter for a tall and rotund redhaired hippy in cowboy boots who unpeeled twenties from the roll in his pocket and shoved them at me when I'd done a good job. I used my papier maché skills making props for the Solstice Extravaganza, a yearly behemoth of a show I devised and produced.

Looking back, I now see what I've been best at all along:
  • Getting people excited about their dream projects, and then facilitating those projects;

  • Creating something where nothing existed before;

  • Working in obscure fields.
In other words: I'm a good muse, for those who dwell along the long tail. No wonder I'm so excited about helping my tv-producer friend with his wish to take a one-man show of Yiddish stories (some never previously translated) on the road! Would you call it quixotic for a 52-year-old woman to start from scratch and learn Yiddish? At any rate, in a week and a half I'm off to my three-week adventure, in an immersion Yiddish program at the Bibliothèque Medem. I've rented a flat, I've started packing my bag. I've found an online group at Yahoo with native speakers who are sometimes willing to help beginners, even though they can be a little testy. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Attack of the Crab Monster

I've been enjoying The Monti so much over the last year that I started a story-telling meetup for over-40s - over 40 because I was hoping to cut down on the number of stories about getting drunk on spring break and penis and booger jokes. (If you live in the Durham Chapel Hill Raleigh area and you're over 40 you can join.) I never thought I'd be able to tell a good story because I'm so impatient, I always want to get immediately to the punch line.

Anyway, for the first time I got up my nerve to throw my name into the hat for the Monti story slam tonight - the topic was FEAR - and wow, I won, or actually, I tied for first with a young guy who told a penis joke. Here is my story.

PS Apologies to my daughter for leaving her out of the story. She was there, laughing at the crab monster too.

As a kid I was so afraid of dying it kept me awake at night. My mother heard me crying once and came in to console me. In the dark she said: "You're so little, and you're afraid you won't have the time or get the chance to do all the things you want to do. When you're older it won't seem so bad."

The first thing that came close to scaring me as much as dying was the movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. I was four when it opened in my home town, it was so popular they ran out of seats and lots of us crowded up front right under the giant screen. When the wicked witch loomed up over our heads I shrieked and hid in my mother's lap until she said, "I paid for you to see this movie and you're going to watch, damn it." Eventually the movie ended and we had some ice cream.

So babysitters were not allowed to let me watch scary movies. One night, though, Lucy Gilburg didn't shoo me out when she and my little brothers tuned in to "The Attack of the Crab Monsters," about a bunch of scientists in lab coats marooned on an island infested with radioactive crustaceans. I already didn't like crabs, they smell funny and walk sideways and remind me of the awful zodiac sign Cancer. So I was already nervous before it the movie started, and then it was rolling and I got more and more apprehensive ... and then...

... well for the next 30 years I'd say "and then, the crab monster put its monstrous claw round the door jam and went TAP TAP TAP, that's the last thing I saw, I ran upstairs screaming."

I was inconsolable, Lucy had to call my parents to come home. My mother knelt beside my bed smelling of booze and cigarettes and perfume, she tried to calm me down but her jewelry was jangling she was so mad, I knew she wanted to wring my neck. I didn't watch scary movies after that.

When, decades later, the crab monster came into my life, it came not for me, but for my son. Ezra was 12 when he woke up a couple times with a headache. After throwing up he felt fine so I wasn't worried when I called the pediatrician, until her voice grew low and careful. She said, come see me right away. We came. She said, go to the hospital. We went.

Usually at the hospital you wait and wait; this time doctors met us at their doors and ushered us in. When the waters part like this you know you're in trouble. We were in an exam room eating sandwiches when the door was flung open and a tall doctor stalked past us, threw an x-ray up on the window, and showed us a malignant tumor the size of a golf ball in Ezra's brain. Not looking at us, the doctor warned it could choke off the spinal fluid at any moment and kill him, so he sent us straight from that room, with our half-eaten sandwiches, to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. There was a 7-1/2 hour operation during which the surgeon had to scrape so close to the brain stem he feared, he later told us, that Ez would never wake up.

The medulloblastoma was removed through a long incision in Ezra's cerebellum. When he came to, he didn't know which way was up. Learning to focus his eyes again, to sit, to walk, to use his left hand, it was one struggle after another. Six weeks of radiation left him thin, green, bald, cold, vomiting every day, but he insisted on going back to school. The weeks crept past, hellishly. I had to make sure when I looked at him he wouldn't see the fear eating away at me.

A year and a half of chemotherapy later, Ezra didn't die. He graduated from middle school and high school and college. He lives across the driveway where I see him every day. I know when he feels sick he sometimes fears the crab is back. I'm afraid then, too: afraid he won't get time enough, get the chance to do all the things he wants to do.

Back when he was recuperating I bought an old VHS copy of "The Attack of the Crab Monsters" on eBay so we could see what had frightened me so. We laughed from the opening scene, it was clunky and beyond stupid, but I was rapt, waiting for the legendary TAP-TAP-TAP. Well, the moment came, but it was a fakeout! It was just the ceiling fan in the next room. My tortured brain had invented the monstrous claw.

We kept watching and after a lot of ominous music the crab monster did eventually shuffle onto the scene, low, sluggish, clacking laboriously, lisping threats. We could see wires holding up its claws. It was so preposterously slow that if the frightened scientists hadn't just stood there quaking in their lab coats watching it waddle sideways towards them, they could easily have strolled to safety. We mocked the crab's voice: "Thtay thtill tho I can eat you!" Eventually the movie ended and we had some ice cream.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Locavore donkeys

donkeys eat weedsWhen I was first considering getting a donkey I thought: "I know places there are lots of weeds for a donkey to eat." Came to learn there are several problems with the weed thing:
  1. Donkeys (mine at least) are incredibly picky and will only eat 1 out of 10 or 15 types of weeds present in local weed patches. Eeyore ate thistles but my donkeys don't.

    Jethro and Hector on a weed-eating walk keep their noses to the ground and after they've passed up 14 weeds they find one kind they like.

  2. Even eating as fast as they possibly can, donkeys have to eat for hours to keep up their figures. I can't stand to stand there holding the leashes that long. But they won't stay put; if they're not on leashes they instantly relocate to the neighbors' homes and eat expensive landscaping.

    So if you want your donkeys to eat weeds, you have to fence the weeds and that's very expensive. Otherwise prepare to stand around contemplating while they munch. Here you see Hector and Jethro eating the (invasive) Japanese switch grass that grows under the power line right of way.

Roger Tate Farm in MebaneSo my donkeys, after they've eaten or killed all the grass in their fenced-in fields, live on hay. I never knew there was so much to the hay business before I had Jethro. If I get stuff he doesn't like, he gets bony. (Hector is not so picky.)

They love second-cut orchard grass and today I was lucky enough to get 54 bales of it, green and fragrant, from Roger Tate's farm in Mebane. I love knowing the farmer who grows the hay. On my second trip out I met Roger's mother, who came out of the house to say she enjoys seeing a woman loading her own hay. She told me Roger was very independent as a toddler.

On the third trip I ran into Roger himself. We always talk about the weather, and today remembered with horror the summer of 2007 when the drought was so bad the grass crunched under our feet and he ran out of hay in July.

This year there was a late frost that ruined a lot of the first cut, but kinder weather recently resulted in a lovely second cut. After three trips to Mebane I'm happy our barn is almost chock-full, that's a satisfying feeling as the leaves start falling off the trees.


Wednesday, October 01, 2014

How I am like my donkey Jethro

donkeys eatingMy donkey Jethro is like me: stubborn, defiant, cowardly, and unable to compete.

Here's how I ended up with a donkey. In August 2007 my daughter and I went to Bulgaria and I fixated on the donkey carts trundling down the road. The drivers were tan, leathery old guys in no particular hurry. The harnesses were cracked, dusty old leather, the carts were homemade out of what looked like driftwood. The carts were full of weeds, why were old guys driving weeds around?

We saw one of these hand-hewn carts by the side of the road and stopped to investigate. Through some trees we saw them, the guy and his donkey, hip deep in greenery. The donkey was eating as fast as he could and the man had a scythe. So that's it: they were ambling around the countryside gathering donkey dinner.

At that moment I decided to become a donkey owner. I thought: when Armageddon arrives I'll be ready with my donkey and cart, I won't have to compete for gasoline. I thought: I know places I can steal weeds and nobody is competing for them. I thought: nobody else I know has a donkey, no competition there. I thought: I would like to live my life at this tempo, rolling down the road looking for something nobody else wants.

I found Jethro through a friend of a friend of a friend and went to meet him in Iredell County where he'd been lazing his young life away servicing hinnies. As I walked across the field I saw in his body language and the cocking of his magnificent ears that he was rebellious and fearful. That's the opposite of what you want, which is brave and obedient. I bought him instantly.

Here's why Jethro is still lazing. If you ask a donkey to do something, he asks "Why?" and unless there's an answer that satisfies him, he refuses. Jethro can do anything I ask, but generally doesn't choose to. For instance, he happily carries stones, but if I ask him to stand still so I can unload the stones, he keeps going till he finds a place with better weeds. He doesn't mind pulling a cart, but he is going to pull it in the ditch, where there are weeds. He was ok with being tied to a big heavy chicken coop I wanted him to haul, but first he stood still acting like it was too heavy and then he galloped across the field with the chicken coop bouncing heavily along behind him until the thick rope I'd tied to it snapped and the coop was upside down in the woods. Eventually I gave up and so, he lazes.

A donkey shouldn't live alone. I made a website for a gentleman farmer and he paid me with a miniature horse named Superman. Superman came stumping into our lives, short and broad and unflappable. Jethro was afraid of him at first but they eventually became pals and Superman learned to like donkey games, which involve a lot of biting.

Superman really knew how to look out for #1. He got all the treats because Jethro, three times his size, moved respectfully out of the way when Superman nosed into the bucket. I felt bad for Jethro, he got no banana peels unless I handed them to him directly. It bothered me so, I finally gave Superman away to the little girl who lives across the railroad tracks - her daddy snuck up that Christmas morning and led Superman away with a big red ribbon stuck in his mane. Now he gets brushed every day and eats ice cream sandwiches.

Superman's replacement is a little donkey with unattractive brown fur like matted dirty dog hair. Hector was cheap because his owner had expected him to be born white and had planned to use him in living creches at Christmas time. At his first performance Hector dropped to the ground, rolled in the dust, hooked his hoof under Baby Jesus's cradle, knocked Him over, and gashed his own leg. So I got him cheap. Jethro was of course afraid of Hector at first but now they're good friends.

Still, if I put down a bucket of treats, Jethro dives in enthusiastically, then little Hector trots up on his tiny hooves and pretty soon Hector's snout is in the orange peels and Jethro is at his side, staring politely off into space. I can't tell if Jethro wants treats less than Hector does, or if it's that he's too afraid to stand up for himself. For years he was afraid, of strollers, bicycles, recycling bins, flags dangling from mailboxes - and he thought everything in the world wanted to eat him. He's not afraid of recycling bins any more, but he's still afraid of being eaten and he still always loses when it comes to the treat bucket.


Monday, September 29, 2014

My great neighbor and his pet turkey Dirk

Glenn, my neighbor across the railroad tracks, is one of the reasons I can love North Carolina. Both my other close neighbors have sued me but Glenn more than makes up for them.

I first met him when I bought some land-locked acres, logged atrociously and grown up like a jungle, between my place and his. He came roaring up to my front door on his ATV with his little daughter in front of him, introduced himself and explained: he'd lived across from this land all his life and would keep an eye out for vandals and poachers.

Over time he's helped so often, cutting trees that fall over my paths, planting chufa for the wild turkeys we both hope will come back to live here some day. Recently he hauled away a deer one of my evil neighbors had complained about: it just up and died on the border between our properties and this yuppie emailed me -- "Haul it away!"

What would you do if someone told you to haul away a deer? I called Glenn, and even though it was raining cats and dogs he came on his ATV (with his daughter, in her foul weather gear, because she'll never be parted from him) and, with a scary dog barking and snarling at him for removing this delicious feast, he tied that deer to his ATV and hauled it away somewhere the vultures could recycle it.

His girl loves to be outside with him. She rode this trailer full of turkey oaks when he brought them and planted them for me where huge, beautiful trees had once stood. Their poor little trunks were feeble as reeds but over the last year they've bulked up a bit.

So now are you wondering about that turkey in his lap? Here is, more or less, the story he told:

He has a buddy in Chatham County who "wants to be country so bad." This buddy hatched a bunch of Heritage Bronze turkeys but a raccoon got them all but one, this one. So this turkey became a pet and lived in the house with the buddy and the buddy's daughters (I astutely guessed correctly there was no mom in this house).

This turkey took to roaming the neighborhood and one day he stuck his head in some lady's car to see her kid in the car seat and the lady came back from wherever she'd stepped off to, saw the turkey, and had a cow. She called animal control and what with one thing and another, the turkey had to relocate, and Glenn offered to adopt him.

Glenn texted me: the turkey, whose name is Dirk, is very curious. "Dirk may wander out your way so now you know where to bring him back." (Superman, the miniature horse I gave to Glenn's daughter, is an escape artist and has been known to wander back here to his old haunts, no doubt in search of imagined treats, perhaps next time they'll come together.)

His text continued: "I plan on getting Dirk a girlfriend." His wife is not so keen on all this but she is tolerant. His next plan: to get some wild turkey eggs and hatch them. I asked how's he going to raise them right? Without a mother to teach them not to be stupid won't they walk right into raccoons' mouths? I suggested he get a turkey suit and go out in the woods with them and point out the dangers. To be continued some day...

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Singing Circle in the Triangle rides again

People are always asking me when I will start a new singing class. I "retired" from teaching Songs for Non-Singers and Harmony Singing at the Duke Short Course program quite a few years ago, then had Rise Up Singing Circles at my house, then quit altogether. I'm hoping MeetUp will make it easier for me to run this class, which was loads of fun in the past but too hard to keep track of!

We'll meet from 7:30-9 pm at my house on a weeknight to be determined, cost $5 per session. I have seven copies of Rise Up Singing (a wonderful book chock-full of songs everybody knows and likes) and hopefully people will be inspired to buy/bring their own. I'll play piano, people can bring guitars etc. I'll give vocal coaching and tips on harmonizing to those who want them. If you just want to belt it out that will be fine too! No experience necessary.

I live between Chapel Hill and Durham, not far from Hillsborough and Carrboro. If you join the class you may bring banana peels for my donkeys to eat if you like!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

PickNBow folk music retreat weekend is this weekend! August 22-24

This is the third annual folk music camp run by Danny Gotham at the Shared Visions Center on Murphey School Road in Durham, NC, it's starting around 6 or so this Friday evening. We start with introductions, see what the "campers" want to work on, organize the workshops for the following two days, and then have an all-hands-on-deck singing and picking session.

Saturday we have about five workshops during the day, a potluck dinner, and a staff concert. I'll be doing a few of my Itzik Zhelonek songs with pianist Roger Lynn Spears!

Sunday we'll have a few workshops, lunch of course, and the camper concert which we all think is the best part of the weekend. People who come with friends/band members can show off what they do, others do solo numbers, others meet new musical friends at camp and work up numbers together. We finish off before dinner on Sunday.

For more information: PickNBow website. (Currently, erg, the site is down, but I'm confident that is temporary.) Or you can email Danny Gotham at or call him: 919-967-4934. He's easy-going.

Beginners welcome on fiddle, guitar, mandolin, ukulele, banjo, bass, and more. I'm going to be running a slow jam, a singing circle (I'm bringing Rise Up Singing), instructing in making up harmony vocals, and giving individual coaching sessions.

Staff: Danny Gotham, Joe Newberry, Julie Elkins, Bobb Head, Jane Peppler

See you there! (If you need a place to stay, email me.)

Friday, July 25, 2014

DIY coin purse with a "kiss clasp"

Home-made holiday presents coin pursesHere is a personalized, inexpensive project. I made five of these coin purses for my five nieces. Here's how to do it yourself, and what I would do differently next time.

These are two tutorials which were quite helpful. They don't agree on how to set the fabric into the frame.

Molly's sketchbook: a cute Japanese coinepurse

Purse frames de-mystified (aka Laundry Day clutch purse) - tutorial: they say "have you ever wondered how to make those lovely purses with clasp frames; dented, scratched, and ruined a metal frame/frames with those darn pliers; taken apart lots of purses to try to figure how in the heck they put them together...well step this way because we can help."

metal changepurse fixingsI ordered my purse frames from Ah Kwok Buckles in Hong Kong. They sell a lot of really cool stuff.
where to buy change purse metal framesThe price was reasonable, even with shipping. They came in quantities of five. I got five square ones and five curved ones.

Since then I've heard about this place: American Purse Supplies. Haven't tried them. (Haven't used up all my frames from last time.)

So, first draw yourself a pattern, as roomy or long as you like, as long as the top edge conforms to the pattern given by the manufacturer. If you use square frames, the very top is flat, but you can angle the sides out as much as you want.

The pictures in the links I gave above are wonderful. Go have a look.

I made the template the size of the finished purse and did not include seam allowance - I added the seam allowance later.

Once you've drawn your purse, tape the drawing onto a piece of cardboard for a template (I always use cereal boxes).

Trace your template onto lightweight fusible interfacing, four times for each coin purse you are making - then iron the interfacing pieces onto the fabric and use them as a guide for cutting out the fabric pieces. Since I was making five change purses, I cut out twenty identical pieces of interfacing. I ironed ten of them onto my lining fabric and cut around them, this time adding a seam allowance.

Then I ironed five more pieces of interfacing to the five different "outside' fabrics I was using. The last five pieces of interfacing will eventually be ironed onto your "outside' fabric, but not yet.

Now trace your pattern (leaving room for the two seam allowances) onto the front fabric. I used very narrow grosgrain ribbon for the letters and stitched it onto the fabric by hand with tiny stitches. Some other system might be better.
After I embroidered the fabric, the backs were a bit messy, but I ironed the interfacing over them and that secured the messy threads.
Now sew the fabric pieces together, lining to lining, outsides to outsides, right sides in. If you "chain" them through your sewing machine (that is, don't cut each one off, just move on to the next one) it goes much faster. Only sew up to where the top goes into the frame. Leave the top unsewn! Now I had five lining bags and five outside-fabric bags
Sew across each corner of each little bag, at the bottom - this little triangle adds volume inside the purse. (You can chain them through your sewing machine.) The larger the corner you sew across, the boxier the finished purses will be.

Stuff a lining bag inside each "outside fabric" bag such that the seams show on the outside and the seams show on the inside.

Think of the unsewed perimeter as a mouth - start sewing at the front teeth and sew right around the side to the bottom teeth and keep going around ALMOST back to where you came from, but leave a gap to pull the purse through. And then pull the fabric through. There should be no raw edges showing anywhere, and there's a little unsewed bit at the top of one of the sides, but since you're about to glue it into the frame it will never show.

Elmer's Ultimate Glue with Precision Tip was what was recommended to me. I love this glue. It expands, like gorilla glue, only it's more manageable. Expanding is good in this case because the fabric is thin and the channel is thick.

One method of making purses suggests stuffing a string up inside the frame. Good luck with that. I carefully prodded the fabric up into the channel hard against the glue and it worked ok - but if I do this again, I'll try cutting a piece of cardboard the shape of the channel and shoving that up in there with the fabric, or maybe I'll baste a piece of yarn to the mouth of the purse before I turn it right-side out.

Let the glue dry before you close the purses. Here are three of the five purses I made, as they sit with the glue drying.

One tutorial said to use pliers and gently crimp the purse frame closed. I complied, because it bothered me that the fabric was thin and the metal channel was wide, but it kind of wrecked the purses. Next time, instead of crimping, I will add cardboard inside the frame. Otherwise, I'm very pleased with how the purses came out.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My favorite t-shirts

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