Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bella Sculpts Her Hair

Bella's dreadlocks have an amazing dimensionality: they take up so much space and they stay almost anywhere you put them. Though she usually wears them down, held off her face with a stretchy band, she's started sculpting them into fantastical creations when she has a little extra time.

These shapes have such a presence and dignity to them; I love them.

No fancy hair this week though. She had her top wisdom teeth out on Monday and does *not* feel like posing for pictures until she loses the cheeks.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

In the Owlmaker's Workshop

The owlmaker (me!) has surrounded herself with felted sweaters, roving, embroidery floss, and the Sibley's Guide.

Mother Barn Owl was a big success, but the prototype fledgling was a little wonky. Too skinny? Too something. But just right for Daisy, who immediately trained it to "step up" on to her arm on command. Just the way Frederick our parrot does.

Something about this small softy appeals to her greatly.

(Complete woolen owl photos await Giles' arrival home in June. Thanks for waiting with bated breath!)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Girl Is a Tea Party Fiend

At least once a week Bella's digging through the linens and the china (hmm . . . which of the seven sets shall I pull out today?) and the cake cookbook and coming up with something good.

This Sunday she went with a blackberry sponge cake and her own personal set of vintage Homer Laughlin.

She has such lucky friends!

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Linen Shirtwaist

Happily dressed in tablecloths from head to toe! Skirt was made a while ago, blouse is new. I used a thrifted tablecloth that seems to be a mix of linen and silk--beautiful drape and lots of gloss.

This pattern was really fun. It's based on the shirtwaists of the 1900's but has a surprisingly modern feel. Sort of boho. I gathered the front bodice into the bound neckline, then there isn't any shaping at all through the bottom of the blouse except for the ties which are sewn on in the back and used to gather the front. So comfortable!

I've noticed sewing other garments from different eras how strange it feels to wear anything these days with any extra fabric in it at all. Years ago ladies thought nothing of a little pouf in their outfits. Now we seem to need to sidle through taking up as little space as possible.

Onward and outward!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

In the Vintage Kitchen: Austrian Cream Cookies

Beat 2 eggs until light.
Blend in 1 c. sugar
and 1 c. cream.

Mix in 3 3/4 c. flour
1 T. baking powder
and 1 t. salt.

Chill for an hour.

Roll out to 3/8 inch thick on floured board, then cut into 2" squares. Use the back of a knife blade to press a tic-tac-toe design onto the top of each cookie.

Grease the baking sheet and bake at 375 for 10-13 minutes.

Frost with a dab of buttercream and garnish with strawberry slices, or a tiny lemon twist and a mint leaf, or a single perfect raspberry . . . .

(from the Betty Crocker Cooky Book 1963)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Bella's Pretty Pink Cookies

Bella found a vintage recipe for "cream cookies" and topped them with pink buttercream and strawberry slices. The blue plate was my idea.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

"Originality, Beauty, and Creativity"

"'A child won't notice' is a very bad and untrue phrase to admit into your mind. A child will be affected by originality, beauty, and creativity."

--Edith Schaeffer, The Hidden Art of Homemaking

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lemony Men

We sent a box of these lemony cookies off to Giles this week. To a regular sugar cookie recipe I added the zest of a lemon. After the cookies baked and cooled, I glazed each one with a tart glaze: juice of half a lemon mixed with enough powdered sugar to hold together (about 3/4 cup).

Heard him eating them on the phone; he was thrilled to eat frosting!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Green and Thrifty

Beautiful green wool sweater for Bella, vintage sewing booklet for me. Bouquet of mayapple leaves from the woods provided by Clara.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Finding Her Voice

Of all the marvelous ways the children have grown and changed this year, by far the most exciting development has been to watch Bella finding her voice.

All last year she took guitar lessons and sometimes sang along in a usual little girl's light and breathy voice. But occasionally I would hear her in another room singing silly songs. Singing in an amazingly powerful, high, full voice. Just to be silly.

One day in October in dawned on me that I was hearing something extraordinary, and I started listening closely. Something was not normal. I took her to my friend the voice instructor at college. "Sing something silly, Bella," I told her. She burst into the melodramatic strains of "There's Always Tomorrow" from Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Holly heard it too.

Bella started voice lessons then with a graduate student. Week after week we have been hearing her come into her power. Her range is something over three octaves. She opens her mouth and the most incredible music comes out. She sings like a rock star. Like an opera star. She sings in Italian and German. When she sings I know I am in the presence of a divine gift.

Someday you will hear her too.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Current with the Ironing

Is it not a good feeling when the ironing pile is vanquished?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Yellow Gingham in the Shop

Lots of yellow gingham goodies in the shop tonight, and an entire big girl's wardrobe of play dresses!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Brick and Mortar for Felix

The Composer and I are slowly getting used to the idea that Felix will be going away to school in the fall. We're lucky enough to have a residential science school not too far away--close enough for a Friday afternoon pickup if we want. We *will* want. Five days at a time will be long enough to go without Felix's bright eyes and bad jokes.

We are happy for him though. When he was looking at the courses offered in the fall I asked him what science electives he would choose, and he said he didn't know, but he felt like a kid in a candy store.

Greedy lad.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Very Almondy Macaroons

One last recent baking project from Bella . . . these exceedingly almondy macaroons called ricciarelli. Meringues tossed with almond flour and lemon peel: bring them on!

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Cold and Joyful Easter

"And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering
which is over all peoples,
Even the veil which is stretched over all nations.
He will swallow up death for all time,
And the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces . . .
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
Let us be rejoice and be glad in His salvation."

Isaiah 25: 7-9

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ready for Easter

Daisy has new purple shoes,

and she is ready for Easter.

(photos by the Composer)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Boston Cream Pie

The undauntable Bella created a Boston cream pie--two vanilla sponge cake layers, a pastry cream filling, and a chocolate ganache to pour over the top. I've noticed that she's very much inspired by beautiful food photography in a cookbook. She's something of a concrete thinker, and the pictures make the recipes seem very doable to her.

If you have a child that thinks like this, you might get as much use as we do out of Nigella Lawson's How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Two Blooms

The apple tree is flowering abundantly this spring. So beautiful against the sky morning, noon, and evening!

This little-known shrub is kerria japonica. Very generous with its flowers right now in the lull after the forsythia, very easy to grow, and lives in the shade. I have a graceful curved hedge of it outside my bedroom window, all started from a little sprig given by a friend.

If only they lasted forever!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Ink Drawings from Felix

Felix has moved to ink drawings in his bird journal (pencil is so last year). I came across his open notebook--chipping sparrow on the left, marsh wren on the right.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Monday, April 06, 2009

Curtains for the Kitchen

Finally got in the mood to make new curtains for the kitchen--after waiting ten months for inspiration! Why had it never occurred to me to use the gigantic tablecloth I picked up at the Boy Scouts' rummage sale?

It's exactly what I wanted and I had had it on my shelf all this time. I cut it three different ways for different parts of the print. I used the strip of smaller flowers, with rickrack, to border some long voile curtains on the east window.

And used strips of the central print, pieced together, to edge a voile valance over the kitchen sink.

Harvested the striped edge of the tablecloth to make a geometric-printed valance over the north window.

I bought the voile at Vogue Fabrics in Chicago last week, not with curtains in mind, but it was just perfect. And the tablecloth? Best dollar I ever spent!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Totes in the Shop

Been in a tote bag frame of mind. Check out the shop!

"The Tote is a Blessing"

"On trips, too, the tote is a blessing because you keep it right with you. On a train. In a plane. In a car. Comfort and relaxation are essential if you are to look your best on arrival at your destination . . .

Once you've acquired the tote habit, you will adapt its uses for many personal needs, finding it indispensable for a shopping junket with the children, the day you spend reading to patients at the hospital, the morning that finds you at the supermarket, the dressmaker, and picking up the laundry."

--Anne Fogarty, Wife Dressing: The Fine Art of Being a Well-Dressed Wife

Friday, April 03, 2009

Red and Pink Scrap Quilt

This red and pink scrap quilt is for Clara. If anyone's counting, it's number four! One more to go . . . .

I limited the palette to all shades of pink and some red. And lots of really vibrant coral. This quilt really shimmers with color--it makes me think of a hot summer garden in the full sun.

Clara, for all her quiet personality, loves saturated color. This quilt is just right for her.

All the children helped me piece it in a mad flurry at the dining table. Two machines, twelve hands, ninety minutes!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Felix on Monday Evening

Felix reports that the warblers are beginning their spring migration.

And that he has once again gotten himself a spot on a national birding team. And was just tapped to report in a national publication. He knows and loves his stuff!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

How to Bind a Quilt

. . . the easy way.

Like all my quilting ways and means, this is the shortest route to the end.

1. When you're finished quilting, trim the extra batting to be even with the quilt top. Be careful with the scissors so you don't cut through the backing (ask me how I know). Then trim the backing so that there's approximately an inch of margin. Look at my inch. It's not exact or even--it's actually ragged, but it's close enough for this approach.

2. When all is trimmed, fold the back in so that the raw edge meets the edge of the quilted top. Then fold that folded edge in over the quilt. Now everything is tidy and nice. Pin it in place. Do the whole side.

3. All that's left to do is to slip stitch the folded edge in place. Slip stitching is practically invisible and is very easy to do with a little practice. See how the needle travels under the binding, but not so far down that it pierces through the back, then comes up again very close to the folded edge. Then it goes into the quilt just a tiny tiny bit, so that the stitch hardly shows. (Feel free to google some better instructions!).

I treat the corners quite simply--I go down one whole side, then turn the quilt and go the next way. I don't mitre or do anything fancy.

And that is the Unambitious Quilter's guide to binding!

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