Thursday, October 30, 2008

Little Milk Glass Gardens

I find these milk glass planters almost every week at the thrift store. Here they are planted with little airplane plant starts.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Trips for Christmas

I've mentioned before that we often give our children trips for Christmas and birthdays. Here's sort of how we do it.

• We (of course) match the trip to the child's special interest. Felix has gotten multiple trips to the Gulf coast to bird during spring migration. Once Clara received a trip to the Chicago Lyric Opera at the height of her love of Pirates of Penzance. The role of Mabel was being sung by an old girlfriend of the Composer's--so handy for getting that backstage pass and meeting the cast!

• We present the trip with a definite or near-definite date. Sometimes it's months in the future. Sometimes we offer the option of going immediately (winter) or waiting til warmer weather. We've always been surprised at how the kids are willing to wait in order to have a better trip.

• Sometimes it's just the child and Papa. Sometimes the child with both parents. Sometimes they choose to bring Daisy along (she's fun).

• We include some spending money. Life during a Christmas trip is different, more expansive, than life at home. And special car snacks are a must. Really junky!

• The Composer makes the world's best trip certificates for presentation. I like to keep them.

The kids really love these. Daisy's been enquiring about why she never gets a Christmas trip, and has informed me that she wants to go to the desert. We'll see.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Velvet Housecoat: Retro Butterick 5152

Well, here's the tease--sink into that moonlight blue!

Daisy, unbelievably, found this satin-covered button in a tin of loose buttons my neighbor gave me last week. The color is an exact match.

Here's the reveal:

Can't decide if I'm going to eat this or wear it. It is so delicious. It is Christmas Eve made into fabric.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Knitted Bolero for Bella

I finished this last fall and forgot to photograph it. It's a knitted-in-one bolero cardigan from Junior Knits, by Debbie Bliss.

It knitted up quickly, though each row was really, really long. I used very long circular needles.

Love the chunky ribbing.

In the Shop

Knitting bags and aprons in the shop. I'm in love with my new Christmas apron. Someone else, love it too!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

5K Satisfaction

Felix and the Composer and I did a chilly 5K this morning and we all ran personally fast! The Composer came in well under 20 minutes, which was his plan. Felix ran 24:24 thanks to the assistance of his own personal pacer (this helpful lady also delivered Daisy four years ago) who brought him over the finish line right on time.

As for me, I shaved another two minutes off and finished at 28:14. Which is not that fast, but is faster than before. If I keep improving at this rate (a minute a month), in only two and half years I will be running five kilometers in less than no time!

My sweet daughters bundled up in winter coats and hats and cheered for us. And Daisy kept her fingers warm in a paper sack of freshly roasted peanuts.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Thrifted Butterflies

I found a bag of six crocheted butterflies at the thrift store. What was someone thinking? I didn't even know what I was thinking until I got them home.

Where I decided to hang half of them from the living room ceiling on fishing line.

And perch the rest on a hickory branch from the yard. Right now, this family of butterflies is receiving all my love.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Work That Makes Sense

October: Empty things out. Get rid of outgrown summer clothes. Use up the contents of the freezer, except for this summer's fruit. Use up pantry stocks. Pare down books and toys. Pull the summer weeds out of the gardens. Finish up sewing projects.

November: Seriously clean. This year I'm doing my deep cleaning just before Thanksgiving, although last year's week of Advent cleaning was one of the best parts of Christmas for me. Oddly. Defrost and clean freezers and refrigerators. Clean the pantry. Mulch the garden, recruiting the kids as an underpaid illegal work force, paid under the table in Italian sodas.

December: Restock. Cook and bake for Christmas. Frivolous food shopping for weeks of treats. Gift shopping and wrapping. Much enjoyment.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Someone Else's Crewelwork

I've just about concluded that the happiest thrifting find there is is a nice sample of crewelwork. I have yet to find the crewel piece that's so tacky it doesn't deserve the time of day. Because you can always take tacky and go *with* it, you know?

Gorgeous glowing colors on this one! I backed it in fuschia wool, and made big fat Aegean blue velvet piping around the pillow.

And it's in my shop!

I must report my best thrifted conversation, overheard as two elderly men poked through the bin of cassette tapes:

First man: Look here, it's Neil Diamond.
Second man: Oh yeah? I went to high school with him. He was always getting into trouble for writing songs in class. The teacher said, 'Neil, that songwriting's not going to get you anywhere.'
End of conversation.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Brown Knitted Bear

O the poor posture! I stuffed this bear loosely so he would succumb to little baby arms, and the result is that he simply cannot sit up at all in a windowsill.

But he makes up for it in patience, I can tell. He's waiting for the first of many new babies to be born. All my slightly older friends are becoming grandparents, which I can't believe, but which is fun to sew for.

Debbie Bliss pattern, made in pure alpaca.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Acorn, Planted

Saturday, October 18, 2008

In the Vintage Kitchen: Chocolate Bread Pudding

From a vintage baking booklet devoted solely to chocolate things.

I'm using up everything in my freezer before the holidays come, and this was a perfect way to use up half a loaf of purchased white bread. And it was good!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Felix Built a Feeder

It's been a year since we had a working feeder up (odd considering all the bird love around here), so I asked Felix to built one for me and he happily did, out of scraps from the cabinetry shop across the street. I put it in the backyard, just off the kitchen porch, in an area which has been remarkably beautiful, cosy, and private this year. My favorite part of the garden.

Other years I've kept a giant bag of birdseed down in the mudroom, out of sight and mind, to find it forgotten and moth-infested, after noticing empty and abandoned feeders. This time, though, I thought to keep it close at hand (in a vintage bread box, no less) in small quantities, where I will remember to check on the seed supply every day.

So far it's working--my little pile of sunflower seeds has attracted titmice, chickadees, and nuthatches, and I'm hoping that the word will soon spread to the cardinals.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bouquet of Cosmos This Morning

Full Length Knitted Dress

See that box Daisy's holding? Yeah, you just thought it was full of spools of thread. Really those are people. The pink family. The green family. And all the rest of Daisy's friends . . . .

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"If You Come to Enjoy Cooking"

"For a long time now we have been given a heavy dose of propaganda from the food industry that [we] haven't got time to cook anymore. But what are we saving all the time for? Another half-hour of television? If you come to enjoy cooking, that half-hour of cooking will become the high point of your day . . . . "

--Marion Cunningham, The Fannie Farmer Cookbook

A Knitted Dress for Daisy

My mother knitted Daisy this lovely jumper-style dress. Note the cables, and the beautiful sheen of the yarn (is it wool-silk? I can't remember, but I know it's not at all itchy).

Delicious bobbles serve as faux buttons at the shoulder. And how about that delicious curl?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Autumn Dinner

Grandpa's Birthday Dinner tonight! We love this household festival and look forward to it all year. Is it the good things to eat? The fun of decorating the table?

(Eve gave me buckets and buckets of flowers from her garden yesterday)

Or is it Grandpa's Eeyorish attitude towards his party that we are such suckers for . . . .

On the menu tonight:

Mushrooms stuffed with artichoke dip, lots of homemade French bread, a salad with purple lettuces and blackberries, prime rib, creamed spinach, roasted beets and potatoes, and apple-spice cake with apricot filling and cream cheese frosting, decorated with orange and yellow marigolds.

And coffee. And cards.

And birthday cards, presented in a festively decorated basket (can you say orange rickrack and sugar maple leaves? Good work, Clara!) and opened one at a time between courses.

Monday, October 13, 2008

White Curtains

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Daisy in a Dotty Smock

Periodically I get the urge to sew tiny smocks, even though Daisy won't wear them. It's just fun to put on bias binding, I guess.

This universally flattering coral polka dot came from a dress of mine that I cut down. The full skirt afforded enough fabric for two smocks, both of which are bound in natural muslin, and button with vintage wood-tone buttons.

I'll be posting them in my etsy shop in a couple of days, but if anyone is interested now, please e-mail me and save me the trouble! ($19 including shipping).

Friday, October 10, 2008

Four Views of a Tea Party

Thursday, October 09, 2008

A Blue Cotton Wrap Dress

A fun modern pattern (Butterick 5030) in a simple wrap shape.

This cotton is a little stiff to drape well for this dress, but I do love the print. I made the sash to wear with it, but it's not necessary. And if you leave it off,

then you can enjoy the fun button that closes the waist.

I did have to put major darts in the neckline to keep it from gaping enormously. I didn't realize they would be needed until after I put the facings in (hear me sighing as I rip out stitching). It's fine for messing around in, but I won't be wearing it to meet the queen.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Bluebird Dish Towels

Look at how much work these bluebirds are getting done! And how much I'm avoiding when I sit and embroider . . . .

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Most Luscious Lasagna

This is worlds away from a typical American lasagna--just a little tomato, and almost no cheese. But if you have the time and inclination, this lasagna will Knock Your Socks Off. For a fact.

The recipe comes from the Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader, which is full of good things.

*Cynthia's Lasagna*

To make the tomato sauce:
Brown 6 strips of bacon, chopped.
When crisp, add 1 3/4 lb. ground round to pot and cook until browned.

1 1/2 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped green peppers
2 finely chopped carrrots
1 c. finely chopped celery
3 cloves minced garlic
and saute for about 8 minutes.

1 c. white wine and cook until mostly evaporated.

1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, and simmer for two hours. Sauce will dry up and become thick.

Stir in 1/2 c. cream,
2 t. salt and
1 t. pepper.

While all that is going on, cook:
1 pound lasagna noodles.

And make the bechamel sauce by:
melting 7 T. butter
then stirring in 7 T. flour, and stirring until mixture is smooth.
Slowly whisk in:
4 c. milk, and stir until bubbling and smooth. Don't burn it!
Take off heat and add:
1 t. salt
1 t. Cajun seasoning, and
1/2 t. nutmeg.

Okay, when you're ready to assemble the lasagna, Pam a 13 x 9 baking dish and preheat the oven to 350. Spoon 1 c. of the meat sauce into the dish, and top with a single layer fresh spinach leaves. Cover with a layer of noodles, then do a layer of bechamel, and sprinkle with part of 1 c. of Parmesan cheese. Keep repeating the layers of sauce, spinach, noodles, bechamel, cheese, until you've used up your ingredients--but make sure to end up with bechamel sauce and a last sprinkling of Parmesan. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and keeping baking for 15 minutes, then let stand for 10 minutes. Serves about 12.

This is one of those wonderful recipes that takes the most ordinary ingredients, and with imagination and care, makes something really unusual and delicious.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Tapestry

For years I've appreciated Edith Schaeffer's rich, detailed, and practical books on homemaking (What Is a Family?, The Hidden Art of Homemaking), but it wasn't until a helpful reader commented here that I even realized that she had written a substantial autobiography called The Tapestry.

This spring I got a copy and spent a rainy weekend enjoying it--it's quite substantial. I read and read and read to the end, loving her accounts of her and Fran's childhoods, early years of marriage, family life, and Fran's death. Then I put the book back on the shelf, intending to pull it down and reread it soon.

Today I picked it back up, and when I opened it remembered that my used copy had doodles and writing inside the front cover. I'm lazy about trying to read people's handwriting, so I'd never read the inscription. Or the signature. But look at this:

Much love to you too, Edith.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Cherry Scones

Boy did I wake up on the wrong side of this bed this morning! I napped, I walked, I bought a blueberry bush at the store; but nothing soothed the savage beast except the tray of scones Bella made while I was gone (Joy of Cooking).

I felt better after I bit their heads off.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Vintage Baby Sacque and Bonnet

I had so much fun creating this little baby jacket and bonnet, thinking how perfect it would be for a little strawberry blonde baby, or one with striking brown eyes.

Fortune favored me with a never-used thrifted tablecloth (early 1960s?) in these fun and slightly funky oranges, golds, and browns.

I fiddled around with the pattern layout, wanting to catch the best designs on the best part of the jacket.

Or course, because this is a 1940's pattern, there's a pointed yoke overlay over a deep inverted pleat (sigh). The jacket ties closed with brown velvet ribbon.

There was plenty of fabric for a little matching bonnet, which ties under the chin with the same ribbon, and is lined with the softest white cotton voile.

If you know the young lady who needs this ensemble, you can visit the shop.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Back Porch Vignette

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