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

How to make a half-size cheesecake

A whole big heavy full-sized cheesecake has so many calories. And face it, if there's half a cheesecake left over and you stick it in the refrigerator, it's going to get eaten.

Easy Small Cheesecake RecipeI didn't find a recipe online for what I wanted - a half-sized cheesecake - so I figured it out for myself and it was perfect.
And very easy.

After I made two half-size cheesecakes in a 1-quart baking dish, I splurged and bought a 7" springform pan. A 6" pan would also work, you would have to cook it a little longer at a little lower heat.

Half-sized cheesecake recipe: the graham-cracker crust

home-made graham cracker crust for cheesecake1-1/4 cup of crushed graham crackers (about one of the three wrapped portions inside a graham-cracker box)
1/4 cup sugar
a dash of salt
1/4 cup of butter

You don't really need this much crust but in my family people like a lot.

I crush the cookies in my food processor but you can pound them flat inside a gallon-sized ziplock bag too. Don't use low-fat graham crackers, they won't hold together well. Some people add cinnamon but I don't like it in this recipe.

I melted the butter and added the rest of the ingredients and pressed them carefully against the aluminum foil lining of my casserole (and then against the edges of my springform baking tin when I got it yesterday), and pushed them up the sides as far as they would go. It's recommended to chill the crust for half an hour but I didn't bother and it turned out fine.

Small sized cheesecake: the filling

12 ounces of cream cheese (that's one and a half of the big size or three of the small size) you can use non-fat creamcheese and it will turn out fine!
1/2 cup of sugar plus 1 tablespoon which is added to the sourcream topping
2 teaspoons of vanilla
dash of salt
2 eggs
8 ounces of sour cream

They say cheesecakes turn out better if you don't mix them too vigorously - I had all the ingredients at room temperature and first beat the sugar into the cream cheese (with the dash of salt).

Then I mixed in the two eggs and one teaspoon of vanilla by hand and poured it into the casserole.

Shake your cheesecake gently to settle it and then bake it at 330 degrees for about 35 minutes. You want it not all the way cooked - you want it jiggly for about three inches in the center.

Pull the cheesecake out of the oven and let it cool for five minutes. Meanwhile, stir the other teaspoon of vanilla and the one tablespoon of sugar into the sour cream.

Mix the sourcream, vanilla, and sugar and drop by dollops onto the hot cheesecake. spread them into a thin, even layer.

Put it back in the oven for another ten minutes. Then turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in there for an hour or three before putting it in the refrigerator. These small cheesecakes never crack.

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