Friday, June 30, 2006

Duck's Egg Blue Walls

Felix's obsession with ducks, leading to a larger and genuine interest in ornithology (it took time; be patient, young moms!) made me choose this shade of paint for his walls, Duck's Egg Blue.

Treasure Hunt: Day Seven

My dollar a piece roses from the grocery store displayed in one of the old drinking glasses I had put away with the vases when the set got too small.
Then, just for fun, the same flowers displayed in front of one of the throw pillows on my bed made from a vintage dresser scarf printed with--you guessed it--red roses. I just took the scarf, folded it wrong sides together in half to make a square, stitched up the two matching sides, slid in the pillow form, then pinned the fourth side together to hold it while I sewed on three mis-matched vintage buttons. I didn't use buttonholes, just sewed through both layers to hold the pillow closed. I love the punch of bright red against the cool lavendar.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Treasure Hunt: Day Six

Today I went in the pantry and excavated a can of coconut milk, which changed my boring dinner plans (which had been baked chicken pieces, steamed cauliflower, etc.). Instead I put together a big pot of chicken curry, with browned chicken pieces, broth, lemon grass (treasure from the freezer!), curry powder, and coconut milk, with cauliflower stirred in at the last, all served over rice.

It warmed my heart to see Daisy shovel it in, after several days of depressed appetite due to a cold.


Giles and Felix went out in the woods this morning and brought back these jewels--I've already made one beautiful batch of jam, and more is coming down the pike tomorrow.

*Rules for Jam-Making*

•Wear a full-length apron because the jam will jump out of the pot at you.
•Keep a damp washcloth and wipe up spills immediately before they dry to the consistency and stickiness of used Jolly Ranchers.
•Ignore the instructions in the pectin box when it comes to cooking your jam. One minute is not enough! Your jam is ready when it begins to pour off the spoon in a sheet, rather than a single drip.
•Be sure and display the jars of finished jam on the counter for at least a day, for purposes of admiration.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Treasure Hunt: Day Five

I spent much of today driving through little forgotten towns and bright green farmland, under a large turquoise sky, and returned home exhausted. But after a quick nap while nursing Daisy in her special chair, I revived enough to rummage around in my linen cabinet and find FIVE lavendar sachets at the back, begging to be brought out and used in my shelves of undergarments and pajamas, so I did, and that is today's treasure hunt!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Treasure Hunt: Days Three and Four

Yesterday was our big Sunday dinner and I usually get out the fancy china anyway, but we had a big crowd--eleven--so my mother pulled some of the Richelieu china out of the cabinet--beautiful white plates with fancy gold edges, my grandmother's china. Very nice.

Today I went the other direction and remembered some fun paper napkins in the cupboard--we only use paper for birthday parties!--and used one to set my iced tea on in the kitchen, instead of leaving wet rings everywhere.

* * * *

I'm off to the city now, that's now as in nine p.m., which is an awfully late hour for me and driving, as we do better in the daylight. But I have court in the morning four hours away and need a head start, so I'm spending the night at my mother's, now that Daisy is down for the night. Oh boy.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Another Kind of Treasure Hunting . . .

I did my rounds in town this morning and found this bowl, perfect for decanting laundry detergent into now that my Sam's Tide comes in a package so convenient and so heavy I can barely lift it . . .

And of course we stopped at Farmer's Market . . .

Before the obligatory stop at the fabric store for a spool of thread (oh but look, the fabrics were half off!)

Treasure Hunt: Day Two

I had prepared a big bowl of cut-up strawberries and raspberries for a dinner side-dish and went to my china cabinet to find something I didn't even remember I had: eight pink Depression-glass sherbet cups! I really don't hoard and collect and lose track of my dishes, but there was a large influx all at one time a few years ago, when my mother significantly and stressfully down-sized and I acquired many lovely treasures that I have not fully assimilated into everyday life, so I'm sure these glasses were happy to get out of the cabinet.

The treasure: pink sherbet cups
Where they had been: china cabinet
Where they are now: drying rack by the sink

Little Cake Plate

Friday, June 23, 2006

Treasure Hunt: Day One

I am challenging myself to a week of pulling out the beautiful and beloved treasures I have in various cupboards and shelves and using them in the ordinary course of things. I find that I get in a rut and certain goodies fall out of circulation. This is their week to shine!

Tonight I took the leftover dairy-free lemon bars we carried home from dinner at grandmother's *off* the paper plate covered with foil, and displayed them on the counter under a tiny-sized (that's what makes it so charming) crystal cake dome, on a glass plate. Much better!

The treasure: Tiny cake dome
Where it had been: China cabinet
Where it is now: Kitchen island

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Felix's Birthday Evening

Today was Felix's 13th birthday and we had his birthday cake out on the deck tonight right before dark (that was a chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream filling, frosted in chocolate--oh baby!). It was unusually cool after a rain, and all the children were happy. Daisy was covered with chocolate and she and Giles were entertaining the five stray kitties that are wayfaring in our barn but somehow invited themselves up for the party; Clara and Felix had their matching blonde heads together over Felix's new balsa wood flyer; and Bella streamed back and forth across the yard enjoying her flipflops sliding across the grass.

I do not know how many more years I will have all my children home and happy and all calling me mommy--I'm the mother of two teenagers now--but I plan to enjoy them all as much as possible.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Afternoon Light on the Cello

I never get tired of seeing the different way light comes into my house. Here's late afternoon light on Clara's cello. Such beautiful serenity.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Beany Malone

My best cousin Sally reminded me of this publishing company , which has allowed me to become the proud owner of the entire Beany Malone series by Lenora Mattingly Weber-- books I came to later in life but now love with a passion unspeakable.

The books follow the heroine, Beany, from junior high on up through married life, chronicling her adventures in cooking, decorating the Malone's somewhat shabby home, and well-meaning but ill-advised attempts to meddle in the lives of friends and family.

The early part of the series, set during WWII, has an especially wonderful home-front feeling, and features lots of doughnuts and poached eggs, so that's good.

Monday, June 19, 2006

View of Bossy

Bossy has established himself (apparently long-term) just behind the couch, where he knows the sidelighting from the windows will do him justice.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Zinnias in the Kitchen

Saturday, June 17, 2006

"The One Festive Touch"

"They always had flowers of some kind on the dinner table . . . it gave the one little festive touch now that showed a woman had been at work trying to make things beautiful."

--Grace Livingston Hill, The Honor Girl

Friday, June 16, 2006

I Love My Daisy . . .

. . head. . . .

to toe . . .

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Cucumbers in Rice Vinegar

I have stumbled on one of those dishes that is far more than the sum of its parts, and takes thirty seconds to throw together:

Slice cucumbers.
Add salt (maybe 1/2 t. to every three medium-sized cukes).
Add rice vinegar (must be rice vinegar; find it in the Asian foods aisle) not to cover, but maybe a third of the way up.

Refrigerate all day or, preferably, overnight, and maybe toss them once in the morning. These are perfect--not too sour, not too sweet, they don't taste like vinegar, and they're better than any fussy fridge pickle recipe. Trust me!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Vintage Finds: Ladies Dress Patterns

Where do I begin on my list of the many reasons I love this dress? The square neckline, the portrait collar, the inset band around the skirt hem? It's even my size. Definitely next on my list of things to sew, and I will be doing it with the sleeves, thanks for asking. . .

This beauty will be perfect for cooler weather, after I size it up a couple of inches in my first attempt at such a thing. Good thing I'll be at *Denver Fabrics*(!!!!!!) in six weeks!!!

With many thanks to lanetzliving for their wonderful online vintage pattern store.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Pink and Blue Hydrangeas

Beautiful against the red of the house . . .

Monday, June 12, 2006

Small Appliances: The Yogurt Maker

I eat yogurt every day for breakfast. Plain, lowfat, organic, spooned over shredded wheat and sweetened with brown sugar. I buy two or three tubs of it at the store every week, so it seems like I should be making it myself with my yogurt maker, but I don't.

1. The process calls for careful temperature watching, gauging, and springing into action--granted, only for the first hour or so, but not the type of thing which can be left to its own devices for a while without disaster when Daisy has caused an emergency or I can't get off the phone with a distraught client and then forget what I'm doing.

2. The results are iffy. Sometimes the yogurt is great, sometimes it's thin and runny.

3. If I start it in the morning, I have to remember to refrigerate it at night. If I start it at night, it's quite warm in the morning, and gross to eat.

4. It's more expensive to make than buy, even the premium organic stuff.

5. The tiny pots, the lids that crack.

This appliance is gathering dust.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

"From Bungalow Aprons to Bathing Suits"

Wardrobe advice from 1922:

"Always select or make designs that enhance your daintiness, your femininity, your exquisite delicacy and tenderness. Do this with every stitch of clothing you have, from bungalow aprons to bathing suits, from sport costumes to ball gowns. Endeavor to provide yourself with an entire wardrobe of dainty and cuddlesome garments, each piece as bewitching as the wearer herself."

--Fascinating Womanhood, St. Louis: Psychology Press.

Friday, June 09, 2006

More on Making Ice Cream

*Basic Vanilla for the Electric Maker*

In a blender, whizz:
1 c. whole milk
3/4 c. sugar

Gently stir in:
2 c. cream
2 t. vanilla

Freeze as usual.

This is a fantastic base which will support the addition of pureed or coarsely mashed strawberries, peaches, or raspberries (use those straight out of the freezer if necessary).

Moving on to the big ice cream maker, usually pulled out for larger festive occasions such as Labor Day, Memorial Day, or Fourth of July; but first a side note on custard-based ice cream: I don't like it. I don't like finding bits of egg in my ice cream, it's harder and more complicated to make, it takes longer, and I don't think it tastes as fresh. There, I have that off my chest.

*Big Batch Raspberry Ice Cream*
(makes 4 quarts)

2 c. milk.

Stir in:
1 3/4 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt
until dissolved.

2 c. half and half
1 T. vanilla
4. c. cream
1 pkg. frozen raspberries.

Freeze in crank freezer.

*Big Batch Chocolate Ice Cream*
(makes 4 quarts)

2 c. milk
6 sq. semisweet chocolate
over low heat, stirring until melted.

Remove from heat and stir in:
1 3/4 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt
until dissolved.

Stir in:
2 c. half and half
1 T. vanilla
4 c. cream

Make sure it's thoroughly chilled before cranking in freezer. Prepare to hand out copies of recipe.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Fruit Plates

Clara prepared a fruit plate for each of us at dinner tonight--gorgeous strawberries, cherries, raspberries, and local blueberries, on pink depression glass.

Small Appliances: Ice Cream Maker

Another one-trick pony, unless you count ice cream and sorbet as separate tricks. . .

I have a little electric Cuisinart with an insert that lives in the freezer. I can pull it out, pour in my ingredients when I'm finishing cooking dinner, and serve soft-serve ice cream for dessert--very impressive! Further, words cannot express how much the Composer loves soft-serve. So.

Divinely clever use of the ice cream maker: A day before making a birthday cake (all our birthdays are summer birthdays), I make a batch of ice cream up. I line my cake pan--the one I will be making the cake in--with Saran wrap or wax paper. When the ice cream has reached its soft serve state, I take it out and pack it in the cake pan. And freeze it. The next day I pop it out and put it between the cooled layers of my birthday cake--and it is a perfect fit, which is very nice if you're trying to make an ice cream cake. I cover everything with chocolate buttercream frosting, and freeze the whole ensemble. So tidy, and so good.

*Schoolhouse Chocolate Ice Cream*

In the blender, whizz together:
1 c. milk
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. cocoa

Gently stir in:
2 c. cream
1 t. vanilla

Freeze as usual in electric ice cream maker. Makes one chubby 9-inch round, or about six servings for after dinner. Depends on how much the Composer eats.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Small Appliances: The Rice Cooker

For a distracted person, cooking rice is a process which is fraught with pitfalls. There are at least three times in the (admittedly straightforward) process when I am likely to forget what I am doing:

1. When I have put my water on to boil.
2. When I have put my rice in the boiling water and am waiting for it to come back to a boil so I can turn down the heat.
3. When the rice is done.

The beauty of the rice cooker is that you put everything in, and walk away. The rice will wait for *you*, instead of you waiting for it. My cooker holds rice warm and edible for up to 12 hours, so conceivably I could put my rice, water, and salt in after lunch to use for dinner. I have also found that it makes wonderful rice pilaf if I start it on the stove and then transfer it to the cooker.

Verdict: a one-trick pony that performs so admirably, it's worth the cupboard space. Mine was $30, made by Oster. I've tried cheaper but they tend to die young.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A Vegetable Platter

Giles and Felix prepared this luscious platter of crunchy vegetables as part of dinner. Daisy loves cucumber and insisted at the table that she also loves radishes--but she doesn't.

Monday, June 05, 2006

"A Standard of Every Day Living"

". . . the [housekeeping] standards that operated in the past were grounded in practical reality. They balanced mental and physical comfort with the amount of effort required to achieve it, and they existed in a social world that assumed that life would include leisure and domestic enjoyment. They provided something crucial that the contemporary household lacks, which is a sense of entitlement to a recognizable standard of every day living."

--Cheryl Mendelson's Home Comforts

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Float Trip

We spent a beautiful but exhausting weekend in the mountains on our annual camping and floating-down-the-river trip.

Daisy enjoyed feeding the ants.

We camped under tall pines. At night, half a silver moon hovered in the treetops.

Camp cooking.

Giles throwing handfuls of algae. Why wouldn't he?

Clara floating.

You never really leave home.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Lunch with Nanny

My grandmother has been on my mind the last few days: I've been thinking about her immaculate housekeeping, the crocheted dining-room tablecloth my uncle bought her when he was stationed in Korea, her quilts stretched for quilting in a frame beside the east window, the set of walnut furniture in her guest bedroom, the oil painting of hydrangeas on her wall.

Daisy and I had a free morning today so picked her up from her retirement apartment for errands and lunch. She was so delightful--she bought a sparkly flowered t-shirt at Penney's which I had thought was twenty years too young for me (guess I was wrong), and started talking about getting a giant hamburger at 10:30, which, in a leap into senior daytiming, we did! And ate it all, too, even Daisy!

With her 92nd birthday coming up in August, we treasure every hamburger with her.

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