Saturday, August 30, 2008

Another 5K Day

So we've sort of turned into a running family over the last year. The Composer started it, then Felix started, then Giles joined in, and the boys were sort of in and out but Giles has trained steadily since April. I started a little in January, ran my first 5K in the spring, then fell in love with it through the summer, while the girls have been in and out with me.

Today was a 5K race day for the Composer and Giles and me. Those fast guys were trying to break 20:00, and came very close--the Composer was over by seven seconds and Giles was over by only three seconds. I took a massive several minutes off my previous race and finished in 30:15. Which leaves lots of room for me to gain speed before our next outing in October.

It's so much fun to do together. I say "together" but we don't really do it together since we trade off our running mornings so that someone's on cocoa duty for Daisy, not to mention that the boys run too fast for me. But we write down our times in the same notebook. And talk about it all. A lot.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Another Cobbler Apron: Advance 5998

One last sewing project this week--a cobbler's apron for Clara to match Daisy's dress. Same floral, same red binding. I've used this pattern before, but this time I cut out the wider neckline: "poncho" style, the pattern terms it.

Clara loves wearing these all day over a crisp white blouse.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Books for Birders

Felix offers these book and magazine recommendations for beginning birders:

The Sibley Guide to Birds, David Allen Sibley. "The best field guide, good for all of North America. It's a little bulky to take into the field but for that you can use the Eastern or Western edition."

Identify Yourself, Bill Thompson III et. al. "It's a very good reference for basic identification problems, like shore birds and stuff. It's also good for individual identification problems like female buntings, the wren plovers, and empidonax flycatchers."

Sibley's Birding Basics, David Allen Sibley. "It's not a field guide at all. Basically it's the mechanics of bird-watching. How to bird."

Wild Bird Magazine, published bi-monthly. "Very informative, gorgeous pictures, helps you get into the birding loop. It's where I found the American Birding Association, eBird, and other stuff."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Vintage Pinafore Dress: Advance 6133

So, so dear.

Big pockets, knock knees.

Red roses on lavender.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Honeybee in a Moonflower

This morning for half an hour the moonflowers were visited by a swarm of honeybees.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Black and Green Birthday Cake

Can you go wrong decorating a cake with naturally gorgeous fruit? No you cannot. Love the almost-neon contrasts of the glowing kiwi fruit and the mysteriously dark grapes.

Happy Birthday to Giles, and thank you for closing out the Children's Birthday Season so stylishly.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Dressing to Wash the Dishes

"She took care to arrange the wrists [of her dress] with extra snap catches so that she might unfasten them and roll the sleeves above her elbows when she washed dishes. Also she had provided a pretty white rubber apron with little rubber frills around the edges which covered her satin gown amply, and was becoming enough in itself so that she would not feel out of place among the well-dressed women."

Grace Livingston Hill, Crimson Roses

Friday, August 22, 2008

Vintage Girl's Playdress: Simplicity 2243

Isn't this a fabulous pattern cover? I don't know whether to choose the little girl pulling the train or the one with handfuls of suckers.

Lovely front panel sports an inverted pleat, and is trimmed, of course, with rickrack!

White linen collar and sleevebands, vintage green buttons, great sash that's twice as wide at the ends.

I think she stepped out of a Dick and Jane story.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hosting a Funeral Luncheon

This week Carol and I provided an after-the-funeral meal for a friend. We held it at our church and served about thirty people. It was fun to see how pretty we could make the tables using only what we could find in the church kitchen, and a few things we brought in.

I brought a stack of vintage and gingham tablecloths, and draped every table in at least two layers. All the tables were round, and all the cloths were square or rectangular, but no matter. I made a little centerpiece for each table using my thrifted milk glass vases and what flowers I could find in the parking lot plantings--pink impatiens and crepe myrtle, mostly. The mixed but matching vases and flowers sort of pulled everything together.

With time to fuss, we decided to plate the cakes Carol had made--one was chocolate and one was a very pink strawberry. We sliced them and laid them on clear glass plates, then set them around the centerpieces alternating pink and brown. Sweet!

When we found we still had time, we plated salads and set them on the dinner plates. To keep things pretty, we put salad greens in the center of the salad plate, then garnished each with little separate piles of salad vegetables--cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, alternating the bright colors.

Carol finished off the tables by digging up pretty glass punch cups and making sets of three, filled with different salad dressings and set on little plates. They added beautiful color also.

I think the family felt cared for. They ate and ate every bite of lasagna, Carol brought toys out of the nursery for the little ones to play with, and everyone stayed and talked for hours.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

An Apron for Town

Last week we piled in the car for a string of errands. "Mommy! You're still wearing your apron!" exclaimed Bella. I told her I thought it looked good with my outfit and I had left it on on purpose. There was a pause. "Clara, do something!" she cried.

If you'd like to try an apron for town, this is a good one to start with. Dainty in dimensions, generous in pockets.

Find it in the shop!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Black Swallowtail

The bronze fennel seeds freely in my flowerbeds and hosts generation after generation of black swallowtail caterpillars. Often a group of them will gnaw the branches bare, and Felix and I will carry them around the garden settling them on new plants, in a more equitable distribution.

Daisy's been keeping an eye on a chrysalis we brought into the kitchen last week. It hatched this morning, and Giles set it out on the back porch. For a long time there, the butterfly and Bossy, the fat tabby, sat side by side with their beautiful backs to the living room window, oblivious of each other.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Hazy Evening Hike

Such a quiet evening.

Two black vultures hopped from tree to tree overhead, before they flew out over the canyon.

Daisy prided herself on her autonomy. And speed.

Middle children, one of the best kind of children.

A slipping-away sunset and mist rising over the rivers.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Copper Bread Box

My blue kitchen walls are inspiring me in all kinds of ways, most recently towards the soft copper color of this new vintage breadbox. I love how it glows against the blue.

It's actually living up on the counter, holding our current loaf of bread. I've been using old breadboxes for almost as long as I've been making our family bread--fifteen years! They do a good job, with just the right amount of air circulation. I like to line the bottom with a fresh piece of parchment paper every few days, and keep the crumbs cleaned out.

This box is particularly nice because it has a handy hinged lid, and also because it says "Bread" in case someone was wondering.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Couch Full of Happy Kids

Rainy afternoon, new copy of "Enchanted", photo by me.

Chocolate Hazelnut Meringues

I made these up this morning, and oh, they are good--and dairy-free!

3 egg whites with
1/2 c. sugar
until glossy and stiff.

2 T. cocoa over egg whites
and sprinkle:
1 1/2 c. ground hazelnuts (I just whirl my chopped hazelnuts in the blender for a minute)
over egg whites, and fold in with a rubber spatula.

Drop on parchment paper by the teaspoonful, and bake at 250 for about an hour and a half. Let them sit in the oven after the heat is turned off, until they are cool.

Best practice is to sandwich these together in pairs using Nutella spread (a chocolate-hazelnut affair found in the grocery store near the peanut butter).

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Vintage Housedress for Juniors: McCall 8164

It wraps in the back . . . it has rickrack trim on the front skirt yoke . . . it's easy to sew and comfortable to wear . . .

it's Clara's new favorite dress!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Shelf Full of Tins

Lately I am adoring kitchen tins printed with red roses. I picked up two more today during a trip to Tiny Town. This was a long-promised trip to Tiny Town, because the boys, like everyone in their right mind, were wanting to make a 41-mile uphill bike ride in the heat.

They did it this morning, and the girls and I came along in the car. We tanked up on barbecue, then divided and conquered the antique mall where everything costs either $4 or $8. I have my four oldest children trained to alert me to the things they know I will like, which is why I now have two more tins, a copper bread box, some vintage fabric, and two yellow Pyrex bowls.

All done by delegating!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Cotton Dress for Daisy

Inspiration can come from anywhere, which explains Daisy's request for this dress after noticing what Sally Cat was wearing one day in Busy Town (see Richard Scarry's Huckle Cat's Busiest Day Ever).

Sweet details are the Peter Pan collar, the piped sleevebands, the extra-long sash, and the vintage square pearly buttons down the back.

And what's this? Has a blue linen butterfly seriously alighted at Daisy's waist? I guess so!

I would too, if I were a butterfly.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Pink Pink Cockatoos

The Composer and I had a few free hours on Saturday to wander the backroads on the way home from dropping the girls off with Grandmother. We (I should say "I" since the Composer has no part in this madness) found this glorious paint-by-numbers rendition of Major Mitchell Cockatoos in a little thrift store. Of course at the time of purchase I didn't know exactly what kind of cockatoo they were, just that they were a happy pink.

Felix filled me in on the breed, and claimed the painting for his own.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Make a Perfect Sponge Roll

I do think this is the most enchanting cake--it's all about technique, not luscious ingredients. Versatile, too. Fill it with anything you like, and serve it with a scoop of sorbet or a dollop of cream.

First, prep your pan by lining a shallow 12 x 18 baking pan with waxed paper, and preheat the oven to 375.

Now, sift:
1 cup cake flour
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
together *three times*. You are not in a hurry when you are in the vintage kitchen.

Beat together:
4 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1 t. vanilla
until thick and yellow.

Whisk until stiff:
4 egg whites

Now fold the yolk mixture into the whites, then add the dry ingredients, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Spread into the prepared pan and bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.

But wait! Your work isn't finished! As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, turn it out onto a tea towel liberally sprinkled with powdered sugar. Carefully pull the wax paper off the cake, and quickly trim off the very edges where the cake is crisp. Now quickly lay a fresh sheet of waxed paper on the cake layer, and roll it up tightly working on a long side, still in the towel. Lift it onto a cooling rack and leave until it's thoroughly cool. When ready to fill, unroll and discard wax paper, and ditch the towel. Spread filling, re-roll, and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

from The Modern Family Cookbook. Meta Given, 1942

Thursday, August 07, 2008

In the Vintage Kitchen: Chocolate Blanc Mange Roll

This 1940s recipe is a plain sponge cake rolled around an interesting chocolate filling--melted chocolate and sugar and whipped cream, stabilized with gelatin. Served with a sprinkle of cocoa.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Texture in the Garden

It's quiet in the garden now, with lots of interesting textures and greens. I'm slowly working towards beds full of only the hardiest, carefree plants--which means I had better enjoy textures, as delicate blossoms are fewer and farther between than in years past.

Rosemary reflects in the birdbath.

Maiden grass contrasts with the dark leaves of a camellia.

The fig tree, as big as a cottage, scents the whole side yard.

Breathe deep.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


The day after I decided that yes, I do want an espresso machine, I found this Moka at the thrift store for $1. I tried it out this morning and put myself into an unfortunate caffeine overdrive. But I am very glad to have it and foresee many happy latte mornings ahead.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Vintage Fabric Handbags

Such Goodluck at Goodwill last week in the form of 1930s fabrics--some of which is now made up into handbags, which were really fun to trim. See the shop for photos, since blogger isn't loading!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Friday, August 01, 2008

A Helga Smock for Daisy

The Composer's German grandmother was an exquisite seamstress who sewed for her daughter Helga, who was an exquisite saver-of-things. In a trunk of carefully packed treasures I found a fabulous smock in navy and orange fabric from about 1937. I laid it out and traced it to recreate it in fresh fabric for Daisy.

It has unusual facings that are sewn on the outside. If you think to yourself, "That's a lot of top-stitching!", then you would be correct. It has little side ties and tiny pockets.

It's very sweet, and I'm calling it the Helga smock. Daisy *says* she wants to keep it, but I'm betting it will end up in the shop very soon.

I love how these two fabrics go together. Or don't. Or do.

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