Tuesday, April 30, 2013


I recently read The Plague and I, by Betty MacDonald.  Betty, the author of the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books for children, was sick with tuberculosis in the late 1930s when she was 29 years old, and The Plague and I is her humorous memoir of the nine months she spent in a sanatorium.  

The treatment she had to endure seems fairly medieval.  The windows were kept open even on the coldest days of winter, her blankets were thin and scratchy, and for the first three months she was on complete bed rest, so complete she wasn't even allowed to read.  As patients showed improvement, they were slowly allowed to sit up for a few minutes every day, and eventually they were introduced to occupational therapy.   Betty was sorely disappointed in the occupational therapy.  She was expecting that she'd learn a useful skill that would help her find employment when she was released from the sanatorium.  Instead, she was taught to knit, crochet, tat, and embroider.  Oh the horror!!!

Here is an excerpt from the chapter "A Toecover and How It Breeds":

Toecover is a family name for a useless gift.  A crocheted napkin ring is a toecover.  So are embroidered book marks...pincushion covers done in French knots...embroidered coat hangers...cross-stitched pictures of lumpy brown houses with "The houfe by the fide of the road" worked in Olde Englishe underneath...bud vases made out of catsup bottles...

A toecover is not a thing that follows economic cycles.  During the depression when everyone was making their own Christmas presents, toecovers abounded.  In good times toecovers are not made at home but are bought in the back of Gifte Shoppes...

Oh, my, what would Betty think of the things I make?  Toecovers galore!  Betty feels ill will towards the handwork she was forced to do, but in one of the final chapters she makes a visit home to plan for her upcoming release from the sanatorium, and her family ends up in a fight over who will have to prepare a room for her. Betty admits "In the midst of this emotional upheaval I was horrified to find that I was weeping and TATTING!"  See, even Betty sort of admits that handwork does soothe the soul when things are stressful.

The crocheted rock (toecover extraordinaire?) pictured above was made by me earlier this week to give to my mother for Mother's Day.  I used no. 8 perle cotton and a D hook and followed the pattern for a granny circle provided on Bunny Mummy's blog to start the cover. When it was big enough to top the rock, I started decreasing stitches to make it snug along the bottom.  

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Stitched as a going-away present for my daughter's violin teacher, who is moving out of state in June after being my daughter's teacher for the past five years.  We will miss her!

The design measures about 3 inches by 3 inches.  I plan to frame it in a simple black frame with no matting.  The pattern is from Beginner's Guide to Blackwork, by Lesley Wilkins, which seems to have gone out of print since I bought it less than two years ago and skyrocketed in price.  Good heavens.  I am almost embarrassed to link to it.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bunny Egg Cozy

I didn't finish this in time for Easter, but better late than never!  Pattern is available at Little Cotton Rabbits, here.  Her little knit toys are so cute I can hardly stand it.  My cozy didn't turn out nearly as adorable as hers--faces are so hard to get right!--but it was fun to make, and this project stretched my knitting skills a little bit.  (Note how I am not showing you the sewn up seams, though.  Messy, messy,  messy!  Ahem.)  I didn't stuff the bunny's arms with stuffing; they are just full of yarn ends, so they look stuffed.  I think I wasn't supposed to cut the yarn after each color change, but didn't realize until too late.  Oh, well.  Next time!

I put away the  Easter decorations today, bunny cozy included.  I am so ready for my house to be bare of seasonal decorations.  We will now enjoy a (relatively) sparer look for the rest of spring and summer.  We still haven't had a day warm enough to open windows.  I cannot wait to air out this house!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Happy 5th Birthday to my blog!

Five years ago today I created House of Hodgepodge and put up my first post (ironically enough, about birthdays).  I started a blog for several reasons:  I was reading all these lovely crafty, homey blogs and wanted to join in the fun, I wanted a place to record my own needlework projects and recipes, and I wanted to provide a place for extended family to keep up on what my little family was doing.  Well, I have succeeded at items one and two, but NO ONE in my family reads my blog, even though I have reminded them of it several times.  I think they can't remember the URL, or they don't know how to use bookmarks or readers, or some technical thing like that.  Surely they aren't reading because they aren't interested!!

My blog has remained a quiet corner of the internet.  I never wanted to publicize myself, or really put myself out there, or try to make money doing this.  My stats are very low, and that's fine with me.  I haven't burned out on blogging because I don't pressure myself.  I put up a post when I have something I want to share, or when I have something I want to remember.

I have done a little bit of spring cleaning on my blog in honor of my anniversary, so if you read me in a reader, come on over and have a look. I still have a spare layout, but I did add my email address to my "about me", so if you have always wanted to say something but have trouble commenting, now you can email me.  I also added a search bar, and links to my top five most popular posts. (I'm not sure why some of those are so popular, but it does include my sock snowman tutorial, so that's handy.)

If you are a regular reader but have never commented, please do so now, or send me an email, just to say hi and let me know you are out there.  Based on my stats, I am not expecting that many people to come out of the woodwork!  I also want to try to get around to blogs this week and say hi to people that I've been following, but who I've never commented on before.  I use Feedly to follow blogs, not Blogger, so I may be following you and you just don't know it.

Thanks so much for reading House of Hodgepodge!  I am glad you are here.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

College Touring

a clock tower that is not at my alma mater

We took our son on his first official college tour on Friday.  He will graduate from high school in two years, so it is time to ease him into this college stuff.  He doesn't have much of an opinion yet, so our plan is to expose him to different types of colleges and hope he starts giving it all some thought.

We did not start our college explorations by touring my (and my husband's) alma mater.  Our son hears us carry on about that place all the time!  We thought we'd start at the rival institution in our state.  I expected pasting on a fake smile the entire time to cover my true feelings, but our tour guide's enthusiasm and love for his school were so genuine that I recognized myself in him, and I found myself smiling for real and nodding along to every positive thing he said about his beloved school.

Taking the tour reminded me of my own college days when I'd see new college parents being led around my campus.  Whenever I'd see a group of parents on tour, I would mentally rehearse my own spiel to them, should I ever find myself in a tour guide position (which I never did. But, you know, I wanted to be prepared, just in case).  I started college in the fall of 1985, before we had cell phones, email, text messaging, and all the other millions of ways we can stay connected 24/7 today.  My two roommates and I had one university-issued rotary dial phone hanging on the wall in our dorm room, which we had to share.  Long distance phone calls were expensive, so I would call my mom after 11:00 p.m., or on Sunday afternoons when rates were cheaper.  The first few times I called, she answered the phone right away, but then came that Sunday not too far into September when I called home and the phone just rang and rang and rang.  (My parents didn't have an answering machine.  We were really dark ages!)  I was easily adjusting to college life, but that first unanswered phone call home left me feeling abandoned and forgotten.  Where are they? How could they have left the  house when I might be calling?  Why aren't they sitting home by the phone, waiting for my call?  That was what I was going to tell those prospective parents of freshman students:  for the first year your child is away at college, never ever leave your home phone unattended, especially on a Sunday when the phone rates are cheapest!

Of course, today that advice is obsolete.  Today's orientation guides probably beg the parents of incoming freshmen to put the phone away and leave their poor kid alone.

(And I can't resist a shout out to my alma mater's basketball team as they head into the national championship game on Monday:  Go Blue!)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Birthday Owl

I made this owl a few weeks ago for my daughter's birthday.  I couldn't share it here until she opened her gifts today.  Even though she's the ripe old age of 13 now, this elicited a giggle from her.  She has a carefully curated collection of owl objects, and when I saw the amazing tutorial for a granny circle crocheted owl at Bunny Mummy, I couldn't resist.

So fun to make!  Thank you, Bunny Mummy!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Last year we were out of town for Easter, so we weren't able to do any of our homey Easter celebrations.  This year, we made up for it!

On Friday, I made Hot Cross Buns:

On Saturday, my daughter dyed eggs:

On Easter morning, we had bread pudding with chocolate chips and blueberry sauce:

I follow these guidelines to make the bread pudding, and this is how I make the blueberry sauce:

Blueberry Sauce

2 cups blueberries
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon water

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and some of the berries have burst.

Nothing like starting the day with chocolate!

The children are home this week for spring break.  It's sunny, but cold, with a promise to warm up for the last half of the week.  I hope so!  My daughter's birthday is tomorrow.  We don't have anything extravagant planned, not like last year!  And on Friday we are taking my son on his first college tour.  He's not very enthusiastic about it.