Thursday, December 30, 2004

Over!

I just took the tree out to the curb, vacuumed up the needles and put away the lights. I don't think I've ever cleaned up after Christmas so early, but a rearragement of our living room made it impossible to manouver with the tree - and I was getting antsy to get it put away. Go figure...

It feels good to be cleaned up, though! I think I was pining for some non-knitting work for a change of pace!

The last few days have been a knitting nightmare (or dream - or both!) I've been swatching like a maniac and I've had one of my creative spurts when I could stay up until 3:00 sketching sweaters and swatching them. That's why I've been so underground as far as the blog goes. On monday I have a bunch of stuff to submit to VK, I just sent 20 sketches out to Interweave. And, of course, I've been sketching and research a LOT for my book.

Does anyone have experience in approaching galleries, museums and art collections to obtain permission to use a painting, or section of a painting, in a book about historical clothing and knitting? Like most things I'll probably end up just winging it and reasearching it and fumbling my way - but I'd love to hear of experiences that any of you have had.

Also, thanks to everyone who's emailed with offers to knit for the book. I'm still compiling designs and figuring out which yarn companies I'd like to work with so I can get yarn requests in. I'm so very excited about this project!

The crochet calendar continues apace - it's so much fun, and the designs coming in are very creative and clever. I'm trying to keep up with the pace of submissions, but they're getting ahead of me a bit. That's what I get for taking time off to work up knit designs!
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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Please make a contribution to help Indonsian Victims


Gilded Age


We're living in it. This economy has hit like a tornado in our area - and, I suspect, many areas across the country. For those not raised in the midwest, when a tornado hits it's not the wind that causes the damage as much as the drop in air pressure. Sure, the winds are bad, but not like a hurricane. What causes homes to explode is when the windows are all closed, and there can be no exchange of air between the inside of the house and outside. Every child in flat, flat Ohio is taught that when a tornado is coming, open the windows a bit.

The change in pressure is of such great force that homes explode. Ironically, right next door the house of a neighbor may remain untouched. That's how this economy's been. One family is moving because they can't afford their mortgage after years of sporadic employment, one family buries a mother who dies of a disease which would have been treatable if caught in the early stages - and had the family health insurance - while right next door a family has two new SUV's and a vacation in Tahiti and a new nose for the daughter because of a huge work bonus. If anyone has any question about privatizing social security, remember that these huge bonuses are made up of fees paid by investors. The same fees we would ALL be charged as part of this cockeyed scheme.

In an article in the New York Times today, bonuses on Wall Street are discussed. I had to put away my breakfast as I read it because I became ill.

The void between the rich and poor is already so wide - and is widening. We are entering a desperate, disparate era, and we still have time and opporunity to change it. If we don't, we will curse ourselves - and our children will curse us - for letting things fall apart while we ignored the poor and fawned over the rich.

Here is a quote from the article:

The manager with the Aston Martin [dealership] said that last year's compensation packages for associates were ridiculously low. "You had third-year associates making $210,000 to $225,000; a lot of these guys are married and have young kids and they are working very hard," he said.

Many of those associates are expected to use their new wealth to pay off debts incurred from three years of relatively meager bonuses.


Thank heavens the tax cuts will help them pay off those heavy debts. I work hard, too. So does the clerk at Wall Mart and the janitor at my kid's school.
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Thursday, December 23, 2004

Last Minute Life

Yesterday was spent at the kid's school - in the morning Maxie's class had an "Author's Breakfast" where the kids read books that they'd written and the parents kvelled. Max, I am proud to say, got the biggest laugh when he read his book, "Likes and Dislikes" - apparently he doesn't like peanut butter but he does like pizza. And he doesn't like beer. I told him he's still buying.

Later in the day Hannah's class did a "Reader's Theatre" production of The Hundred Dresses, which is a book that my sister in law bought Hannah several years ago. They all did very well - it was a lovely day!

I continue to have extreme exhaustion issues, though - it was about all I could do to get myself to the school with all of the teacher gifts, boxes of juice for Hannah's party, extra books for the library. Of course, when I got there I'd forgotton my purse - so between Max and Han's presentations I drove back home to pick it up. Since Hannah and Max go to a demonstration school in our district (a magnet school) it's relatively far from our home.

Gerry was able to show up for Hannah's presentation, and after all the kids finished I bolted to get home to sleep and left Gerry to be a class parent, handing out cookies and juice and cheese squares. I slept until dinner, then I got up, ate, and slept some more. A whole day gone - how odd.

As I was tucking Hannah in last night she asked me if she could talk to me about something important. She wanted the talk. She's 8. I was a little relieved to understand that the talk she really wanted was "I want to get a bra!" not the other stuff. But the other stuff needs to be dealt with, and this is probably the time to do it. Yikes. I think I was 10 before I started deviling mom for juicy details, but Hannah's an overachiever in this department. I'm also astounded at the amount kids in her class seem to already know - Hannah's a real innocent by comparison.

Today is last minute santa stuff, then the kids are home for 10 days and I'll be lucky if I get a stitch finished. Gerry's agreed to work just about every day over the holiday (he feels it's his Jewish obligation to allow the non-Jews to have Christmas Day off...) and the kids will be - well - insane. If you don't hear from me by Sunday send a search party.
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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Silence = Busy

Sorry I've been so blog silent - it's that silent night season, I guess!

I've been burning the midnight oil along with the yule log (actually, our fireplace doesn't work so I have a cool candelebra in our fireplace that I light for atmosphere) but however you slice it, I've been busy!

The calendar is coming along beautifully with submissions arriving as fast as I can catalog them, give a cursory glance to the instructions and double check the image quality! A few pieces have arrived for me to photograph, so I'll be doing that after Christmas.

I have a major design deadling right after Christmas, too, so I've been sketching and re-swatching wildly for that. And, while I'm at it, I've also been doing a lot of sketching for the Historic Knitting book - so many ideas! I need to begin to get in touch with some yarn companies who'd like to be affiliated with the project, it's going to be wonderful!

And, finally - but not least - there's the holiday stuff! Today I finally bought a tree, our lights have been up since the first night of Hanukkah, but now we'll have a tree, too! It's our first tree in about 4 years because we've been visiting family over the holidays. This year it's just us. My cousin (who is doing very well, by the way) will be working on Christmas. She's trying to make up for lost days due to her illness and is banking days that she may need next year. My sister in law will be visiting her brother and sister and family in Galveston, so this will be my first Christmas in a long time with no non-immediate family relative to hug and fight with.

Tonight is Tuesday Drop In Class - holiday style - If I can get my butt in gear this afternoon to boil a few potatoes I'll make some Potato Candy (yes, it really IS good, but you have to be Dutch to really enjoy it) so that the class can sample it. Gerry's working on Christmas, but he'll be home Christmas eve and Christmas morning, which is the important time. I'm feeling at loose ends this holiday, obviously.

As I was digging through our Christmas stuff I found the stocking that one of my dad's employees made for my brother when he was a little boy. She made a matching one for me, which seems to have gone missing... I hung Jim's stocking along with all of the family ones. I remember one of my first Christmases in NYC, 20+ years ago, when Jim & mom came into town to spend it with me. He visited my office and was drafted to be the santa. I remember feeling so odd - my 'new' NY life converging with my 'old' Ohio family life. I do miss him and my mom quite a bit.
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Friday, December 17, 2004

Past Master mistress...?

I remember a few years ago during a class in Judaism a woman Rabbi who I greatly respect (one of the first in the American Conservative movement) used the term, only have jokingly, "Ovular" in lieu of the word, "Seminal"

I used to think that folks who were so hung up on verbage should just get over it - "What's the big deal!?" I used to think. I was a feminist, but I felt that by harping on words it made us all seem ridiculous.

But I've decided that there are words to change, and words to let go. I get tired of the word MASTER for many reasons. Mistress isn't much better, but I like to call myself a Mistress Knitter. I can't be a master knitter because A) I haven't paid the fee (whatever it is now) to TKGA and passed the level of classes (besides, I think my heretical style might stand in my way...) and B) I'm not a man.

So I'll happily be Knitting Mistress.

I remember when Star Trek the Next Generation came on TV and I heard Captain Picard say, "Where no ONE has gone before" - and I got chills. It suddenly all made sense to me - even though the women on the show still dressed in minimally toned down adolescent boy fantasy clothes (my husband used to call the Empath "Officer Boobie") there were at least included in the directive. But I'm veering wildly toward warp geek speed.

And all this started because I wanted to write about the Past - and got hung up in my headline!

The point of this post was supposed to be - THANKS for the words of encouragement on the historic knitting idea, and I'd better get on the stick!

Yes, I indend to pay - but I can't pay a lot. If anyone truly is interested in knitting up a sample and then writing about their experience, please email me privately and send me a link where I can see some of your best knitting work (or just send me the image!) If I don't get back to you right away please don't despair - I'm in the hunting / gathering phase of several different projects, but soon I'll be in the sorting out and responding phase.

As of this moment it looks like I'll be financing this myself (I haven't yet found a publisher who wants to do it and will give me the control I crave). I will be finding a color printer, though, and I will be upping the quality standards over Confessions. This will be a glossier book - but hopefully not one of those which just stays on the shelf!

Right now I'm immersed in Egyptian and Minoan images - lovely stuff! If anyone has a historic image (not necessarily knitting!) but just a great costume item they've seen in a painting, sculpture or jug-handle, please email me so I can check it out!
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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Off With His Head!

I just watched the beheading of Charles I of England about 4 times. I get that way when I have a history tape or DVD, I watch it over and over and over again. Poor Charles. I have to admit that the period of English history from the end of Elizabeth's reign to Victoria is a muddle to me, and I'm trying to fix that huge hole in my education. Watching a DVD is probably not the best way, but I can do it while I'm knitting!

When I was in college I took a Shakespeare class, but neglected to read the plays themselves. Oops. I was a terrible student. So the weekend before the final exam I got all of the plays out from the library and listened to the 33's at 45 rpm (for those of you under 25, that means the records were played at more revolutions per minute than they were intended) I still have echos of MacBeth and Othello as performed by Alvin and the Chipmunks which I will NEVER erase from my mind. And I did poorly on the test.

I think that was the same semester I had the brilliant scheme to take all of my Zoology notes in French. I was failing both French and Zoology, so I figured that by taking my notes that way I would FORCE myself to really crack down and learn both subjects.

D's in both. Brilliant scholar I will never be.

Today I'm taking another turn through history - costume history! I'm actually going to sit down and DESIGN SWEATERS all day. What a concept! Most of my day presently is taken up with answering emails, working on the calendar (fixing images, editing patterns, trolling for submissions) and dealing with book shipping issues. I don't mind any of this - I'm good at multi-tasking. But I'm going to settle myself in on this very, very cold day with a cup of tea, my favorite colored pencils and my sketchbook and get some new stuff out.

I'm thinking of a book which marries costume history to knitting, but also features the knitters of the garments as much as the designer. I wish (oh, how I wish!) that the magazines would make as big a deal of whok knit a garment as they do who took the picture! Heck, I even think they should list the name of the model - how much does credit cost?

I think that most purchasers of knitting magazines (and books) would be VERY interested in the reflections of the person who actually KNIT the sample up for publication; their ideas about shortcuts, their input on how best to go about assembling the piece, their comments on how easy (or evil) the wool was to work with.

To that end I intend to highlight the knitters of my pieces. I'll design, but I won't knit these. I'll hire knitters - who can write interesting comments about knitting up a sample - and will use their hands on knowledge to help the readers determine whether this is the right project for them at this time.

Que pense? Any takers?
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Monday, December 13, 2004

I AM 14% WHITE TRASH!
14% WHITE TRASH
I, my friend, have class. I am so not white trash. . I am more than likely Democrat, and my place is neat, and there is a good chance I may never drink wine from a box.


I'd have to say this is news to me.

Rejection...

Ah, yes, once again I walk the sad path to the mailbox (my mail comes through a slot in my door - who am I kidding...) only to find another unexpected rejection letter. Unexpected because I know I'm so great that who on earth would ever reject me? Naaah.

Unexpected because - out of all of the festival teaching I did this past year - I'd have to chalk the Michigan Fiber Festival up as one of the most successful in terms of students learning a lot and having a great time. Students from my first class returned to sign up for later classes - dragging friends with them!

Okay, I had an icky experience when one of the two-person Workshop Committee came in and stood like a wraith over one of my students "observing" my teaching method(but actually unnerving myself and my students) and another unpleasant experience with that same woman's daughter when I first arrived and was trying to discover where I should go to check in / find my classroom / find my trailer.

Aside from that, though, it was a lovely few days of teaching - and I'd heard back from many students who asked, "Will you be here next year?"

I wasn't surprised when they emailed me a few weeks ago asking me to submit a group of classes for the coming year, but I was a little stunned when I got a letter this weekend telling me that the committee (both of them) had considered all of my proposals and rejected them.

Rejection isn't new - it's part of life - and it's not like I expect to be loved and welcomed everywhere. However, I WAS loved and welcomed by my students at the MFF - but obviously not by the committee. Strike that - half of the committee. Unfortunately, when my email stuff was lost in October I lost all of the email addresses from my Michigan students. Probably for the best.

I will, however, be teaching at the Great Lakes Fiber Show in late May!

I need to learn to dance with the man. Or the woman. Or whoever's bottom needs a kiss. And now you all know the worst part of my personality - I do better with equals than with superiors, because I reject the notion that any of us are superior.

I respect authority, but I can't stroke it.

Burn, baby, burn.
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Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Tis the week of Hanukkah...

Outside of the nice children's story of the 8 days of light from 1 days worth of oil when the Temple was being rededicated in 167BCE, here's a nice, concise piece on the background of the Maccabeean uprising.

We use Hanukkah to teach our kids that sometimes it's important to fight for one's rights. We use Christmas to teach that there is always the hope of peace. Idealized, naturally, but we need to cling to idealized promises of bright futures sometimes.

Last night we lit the candles, spun the dreidle, and both kids got books for night #1 (Trains and Steam Engines for Maxie, An Encyclopedia of Horses for Hannah) They were both thrilled - so happy to get the books full of great pictures - and I gave Gerry a cool book on Ancient Egypt. Lovely evening!

My class last night was full and fun! I got to see some friends I haven't seen in weeks (and some in months!) During the class Maxie came downstairs to ask if he could vacuum his room - it's his new obsession, he loves to clean. I told my class that's what happens when you don't let them have video games, they use anything electric that makes noise to have fun.

Seriously, though, I understand why he likes it. It's the same reason I love to iron, to paint a room, to mow a lawn - to knit a sweater - it's because you can SEE a difference in the world because of your effort. For those who enjoy this kind of thing, it's intoxicating. Yes, I would have been one of the kids begging Huck to let her whitewash the fence.

Crochet submissions continue to arrive, and they're exceptional. Please send whatever you'd like to share with the world, and I'll be happy to consider it.

I'm stitching up a sweater/headband/skirt set for Kit - Han's American Girl doll that we bought last year - and those projects will turn into a few days of the crochet calendar. I'm also working up a few crochet versions of the large brimmed millinery that I do using knitting.

I haven't addressed this, but on one of the crochet lists there was a huge hubub of contention that Accord publishing had the nerve to ask for free designs. Anyone who reads my blog knows that I'm very pro-designer rights, but I'm also a realist. I do a good amount of free or low pay designs myself if it means supporting a good cause or opening myself up to a market that I might not normally reach. I've put together a few reasons why one would want to contribute - check it out if you're so inclinded!

Oh - I almost forgot - I've been asked to teach at TKGA this Spring in Valley Forge as well as at Creative Strands again. I've also been asked to teach at a new retreat in Wisconsin next December. I love to get my calendar set up - it's a very nice feeling!
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Tuesday, December 07, 2004

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5 Minutes...

I called into Air America this morning and confessed my sins in the liberal confessional. My sin was that I went off on a woman who's giant SUV sported the bumper sticker:

Thank ME for your Tax Cut
I voted for BUSH


I thanked her alright - for taking away my kid's future. Mark & Mark on AA said didn't need absolution. In fact, I should do something nice for myself! So I may go use a birthday gift certificate and get a manicure/pedicure. So there! Another 5 minutes of fame (tick, tick, tick)

The new Knitty is up - some nice things, but overall not the best issue ever. I like almost all of the designs, but I keep thinking, "What about something a tiny bit challenging?" We all look for different things in a knitting magazine - and my assessment probably has a lot to do with my own personal bowl of sour grapes - so be advised to take what I say with a few grains of salt!

I had submitted two items. Here's one submission - a vest with triple YO's that are later used as a warp for woven areas in the fabric. (it will soon be offered as a kit through Spirit Trail Fibers) My other submission was the poncho that I'm offering for free. It's a sweet pattern and I don't know how long the poncho thing will keep going on, so I figured why not get it out now so folks can enjoy it!

To my astonishment TP Roll images are flying in! I may have to set up a webpage to advertise the contest - what a concept - the mind reels!


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Monday, December 06, 2004

Note: I will not be at Starbucks tonight!
New Pattern

Here it is! The Chullo Hat I showed before (thanks, Larry, for the real name of the hat!) And there's time to make a few before Christmas for the kids-of-any-age in your life!

I know that those of you who are solely knitters are probably pretty much over the crochet stuff I've been posting. I'm sorry - it's just that I'm totally immersed in the calendar and find myself working up new patterns in every waking moment.

I never really understood the division between knit & crochet. It seemed artificial an - like so many divisions - unnecessarily contentious. To a non-fiber worker it probably seems comical. I hadn't realized there WAS a divide of any kind when I designed my first piece for Interweave Knits (a mother/daughter hat set which blended knit and crochet) At a different knit magazine's fashion show later that year I was gratified to see two women wearing my hat (always a thrill for a designer!) but was chagrined when the editor of that magazine exclaimed, in a stage whisper, "Ladies, you don't want to make this, it's crochet!"

Of course the editor was joking - but often I've encountered a closed-door attitude about non-knitting skills, even when discussing something as minor as working a crochet edging. To me crochet and knitting go hand in hand - slightly different, but the concept (one loop is the 'mommy' for the next loop - enough generations go by and you have a piece of fabric!) is pretty much the same.

I dislike divisions that seem to exist exclusively to diminish one side over another. I've recently run into a situation in a nearby town where I was asked to submit a proposal to teach some knitting classes. "Great!" I thought, "A new venue - a new audience!" The venue was a visual art center but I didn't think twice about that. I've taught classes in galleries and at the Newark Museum, and I've had pieces on display around the state.

So I sent off my proposal, and in response I received an email from the intermediary for the art center board which brought up two points "of concern"; 1) Why would someone want to take a class when they can get it for free at the library? (our local libraries have knitting or needlework nights where folks gather to work on projects together)

The second point was harder to comprehend, 2) This would be our first non-visual art class, and we're not sure we want to move in that direction. Bear in mind, folks, that they offer classes in jewelry making at this art center.

Which begs the question: Why is applying paint to a canvas, throwing a pot or making a bracelet more legitimate ways to express onself than making a stitch? Art snobs reverse gains made by true artists. Are they afraid of traveling down the crafty slipery slope where everyone wears hats that look like toilet paper roll covers?

To that end, I am announcing a contest.

The 1st annual

TOILET PAPER ROLL CONTEST!


Rules
1) The item must be designed and or created by the entrant.
2) The item must be knit, crocheted, felted, sewed - basically you have to use your hands to make it.


Those are the rules. Period.

As I receive entries (just send me a .jpg or .gif file) I'll post them in a gallery. Later, if we all feel inclined, we can vote and the winner will get a jumbo pack of toilet paper from Costco. Religious icons are encouraged. Contest will end on Jan 31, 2005. Let's have some fun.

... and on the book front...

On samplerlady's suggestion, I'm thinking of using my next Audible book credit to listen to one of Diana Gabaldon's books. I was going to get a Phillipa Gregory book, but I'm reading one and have one on the way, so I figured why not acquaint myself with a new author! It's been so long since I've been able to really enjoy a book - I'm so glad to be getting my 'reading chops' back!

Any suggestions for a good listen are gratefully accepted!

Oh, and not only did I see Shakespear in Love, I had the great honor of meeting the costume designer - Sandy Powell - when I did a sweater for Far From Heaven Big thrill of my life!
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Sunday, December 05, 2004

BLoglines?

Hey, can anyone explain to me how this works? I guess I'm registered, but I think I'm missing a big part of the puzzle. Once I register, do I have to do something with my blog to hook it up? Do I have to change my template or turn something on? I'm on blogger, by the way...

And, now that that's out of the way -

It's LOVELY here in South Orange - woohoo! I've had such terrible fevers the past few nights that when I wake up cool I feel like a whole new world has opened up!

The crochet contributions continue apace - wonderful stuff. I plan to write later this week on the existential dilemma of requesting free patterns and how I justify this, but right now I'm just into enjoying the day! The contributions for Cheaper Than Therapy are also coming in strong - and they're exceptional! I've tentatively set a pub date of late August, which will give me a chance to meet and interview folks who may not normally submit (non computer folks) so I can create several themes in the book and find a good way to bring them together. The main theme, though, will be how knitting and other fiber arts create a calming or peaceful space in our lives and get us through rough times in unexpected ways.

Last night I watched Mrs. Brown with Judi Dench. Apparently I saw this movie before, but I had no memory of it. Ah, the positive side of memory loss - I get to see old movies and think I'm having a new experience! This happened before with the movie Dead Again. I kept renting it, watching it, then thinking, "Hey, did I see this before..?"

I'm also currently watching the BBC/History Channel series A History of Britain and I'm thoroughly enjoying it! I love this history stuff, it does make perspective a bit easier in these odd times.
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Thursday, December 02, 2004

I'm Back! With Gifts!

I don't know why I let days go by without writing! I'm very busy working on the calendar, which is a great deal of fun, but as I'm sitting at my computer for hours upon hours you'd think I'd take the time to write!

First of all - thanks so much to everyone who wrote with kind words! I do appreciate it, and, although it wasn't the point of my post - I love getting the nice comments. Okay, maybe it was the point of my post. At any rate, thanks!

The Gifts
First, here's a little come-on to get folks excited about contributing to the crochet calendar:

Crochet Poodle Toy

The Other Gift
When my friend, Ellyn, came by after Thanksgiving I made turkey pot pie. I make this every year, and it's always pretty good. She asked for the recipe, which I'd never written down, so now I will. I make no promises - I hope this works out for you if you want to give it a try - it always works well for me!

NOTE: When I make pot pie and I don't have gravy, I either buy the heinz brand, or I make a white sauce gravy out of roux (flour & butter or animal fat cooked together) and add some Better than Bullion - it really is!)

ANNIE'S POST-THANKSGIVING TURKEY POT PIE


Preheat oven to 400

Ingredients
About 2 cups of cooked turkey (or chicken)
1/2 C turkey broth (or chicken broth)
1 C turkey gravy (or chicken gravy)

1/2 C carrots
1/2 C onions
1/2 C celery

1/2 C frozen peas
1 C potatoes, cut into 1-1/2" pieces (about 2 potatoes)

1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried savory
1/2 tsp dried parsley flakes
salt & pepper to taste

1 9" piecrust (I use the Pillsbury unroll-and-bake kind, delicious!)

Preparation
In a skillet with a little olive oil sautee the carrots, onions and celery until the onions are clear. Add the dried seasoning and salt and pepper & mix well, set aside.

Cut up the potatoes it 1-1/2" chunks and microwave them for 3 min on high or until tender. Mix the peas in with them and set aside.

In a oven-safe casserole layer the turkey, potatoes & peas, sauteed vegetables. Pour the gravy over all, then pour the turkey broth over all. Brush the edges of the casserole with water, cover with the piecrust, turning the edges under and crimping. Make several cuts into the crust, and if desired use a bit extra pastry to make pretty leaves. Brush the leaves with water and lay on top of the piecrust. If desired, brush the whole thing with beaten egg for a shiny, beautiful crust.

Baking
Bake at 350 oven for about 30-45 minutes, or until crust is golden. All of the ingredients are cooked, so there's no danger of undercooking.


NOTE: The unbaked pot pie can be refrigerated for several days or, if very well wrapped, frozen for a couple of weeks.
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Alison's Scarf
Link to pdf file of cable/trellis lace scarf


Hannah's Poncho
Link to pdf file of multi-sized poncho



Chullo-licious


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