Home Dairy with Ashley English

For a daring dairy fairy

I’d like to say that I enjoy crafts, but what I really mean is that I enjoy buying craft supplies. At a moment’s notice, I could currently weave you a basket; forge a pair of chain-maille earrings; squish together a realistically colored clay fox figurine; coat your shoes in rainbow glitter glue; bling out your sunglasses with rhinestones; knit you an assortment of hats; or colorize a paint-by-numbers portrait of Pope John Paul II. And that’s just the projects I can remember.

I’ve been forced to pull the Stern Parent routine on myself and refuse to let myself pursue any more half-baked craft ideas until I actually use up the things I have. But YOU look like someone who could use a new hobby to pass these cozy, chilly winter evenings, am I right? Please. Check out these books and allow me to live vicariously through you.

Stitchable Stationery (Chronicle Books, 2009, $14.95, six cards and envelopes)
This one is extra-enticing because it allows me to combine two shopping addictions: crafts and stationery. Impress your pen pal and your spinster maiden aunt alike with your stitch witchery! The kit includes 6 notecards with pre-printed patterns, 2 needles, and 4 skeins of embroidery floss. If you’re familiar with Jenny Hart’s sassy embroidery patterns from her other books, then you’ll recognize her hand in the cute designs here, including Russian nesting dolls, Asian lanterns, and retro holiday ornaments. Best of all, once you’re done, you can send it off to a friend and it’s gone from your house forever, freeing up space for more crafts.

Homemade Living: Home Dairy with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Make Cheese, Yogurt, Butter & More, Ashley English (Lark Crafts, 2011, $19.95, 136 pp.)
Modern pioneer woman Ashley English has written a whole series of sustainable-urban-living guides to beekeeping, chicken farming, canning and preserving. But the Home Dairy book caught my eye because I’ve always been curious, if intimidated, about making cheese and butter at home. Written for beginners, the book includes basic facts, troubleshooting advice, beautiful photos, and recipes for basics like butter, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, and cheeses, plus recipes for dishes to make with your brand-new dairy items. Imagine the satisfaction of baking a loaf of bread and topping it with your own freshly-made butter…and a few slices of cheese…and then washing it all down with ice cream. Yum!

The Polymer Clay Cookbook: Tiny Food Jewelry to Whip Up and Wear, Jessica Partain (Potter Craft, 2009, $16.99, 160 pp.)
A quick peep inside my jewelry box will show you that I have a bit of an ongoing love affair with food jewelry. It’s so cute and girly and sweet and playful! And completely age-appropriate for a woman in her thirties! But I digress. This “cookbook” is written by two crafty sisters as an introduction to the eye-explodingly obsessive world of miniature food crafting. Intended for beginners, the book includes 20 “recipes” organized into categories like breakfast, sweets, fruits, and holiday treats. Each chapter also features a family recipe from the authors along with a short essay; I wasn’t terribly impressed with the recipes, but as coffee-table-book filler goes, it’s medium-interesting. The projects are nicely photographed step by step, so just casually leafing through the book is entertaining on its own. At a minimum, you’ll gain a new admiration for the detail-oriented, hunchbacked souls who spend hours pricking a tiny lump of clay with a needle so it has that realistic ice-cream texture.

Put ’em Up!: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook, from Drying and Freezing to Canning and Pickling, Sherri Brooks Vinton (Storey Publishing, 2010, $19.95, 304 pages)
The only thing that’s kept me from trying my hand at preserves thus far is that I’m already a bit of a nonperishable-food hoarder. I can only imagine how things might spiral out of control if I became my own canning factory. Particularly since author Sherri Brooks Vinton makes it look so fun and easy to turn even small batches of produce into jams and jellies, fruit butters, pickles, salsas, sauces, and more. Techniques discussed include refrigerating and freezing, air- and oven-drying, cold- and hot-pack canning, and pickling. And who wouldn’t want to try recipes as tasty-sounding as Berry Bourbon, Dill Pesto with Feta, Wasabi Beans, Roasted Garlic Butter, or Dried Pear Chips?

Masterpiece Studio: A Paint-by-Number Kit (Chronicle Books, 2011, $19.95, 5 pp.)
Well, it may be a bit of a stretch to call this a “book,” but Amazon is calling it “hardcover” and “5 pages” long, so let’s just go with it! Even those who weren’t blessed with artistic talent can whip up a weekend masterpiece with this whimsical paint-by-number kit. Choose from pre-printed canvases of a tacky flamingo, giant hamburger, astronaut, San Francisco streetcar, or a costumed cat. The set includes 10 acrylic paint pots, a paintbrush, and instructions for setting up your studio. I would humbly suggest embellishing your artwork with a little glitter (you do keep some around, don’t you?) and a feather-boa frame.

60 Quick Knits: 20 Hats*20 Scarves*20 Mittens in Cascade 220 (Sixth&Spring Books, 2010, $17.95, 160 pp.)
As any knitter knows, a “stashbuster” book that has even halfway decent patterns is a real treasure. And if you start in early fall, you can whip up enough hats, mittens, and scarves to take care of most of your holiday gift-giving! The big selling point of this pattern book is that it includes a wide variety of beginner-friendly projects that only require a skein or two and will come out looking cute. All the patterns use the widely available Cascade 220 yarn, meaning that you can easily substitute a worsted-weight yarn from your own stash. Note: this isn’t a how-to-knit book (for that, you’d want something like Stitch ‘n’ Bitch), but it will give you plenty of fun project ideas for those cozy weekend afternoons.

Stephanie Perry
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