Friday, April 30, 2010

Sugar-Cream Pie

Thank you all for serving me up such a big slice of it!

Coincidentally, I made the real thing this week, using a recipe from the current Country Living. I had never heard of this Hoosier treat, and neither had anyone at our Bible study. I couldn't have begun to imagine how luscious it is--it's seriously just made with sugar and cream, a little butter, flour, and cinnamon.

The Composer tried to get back to the pieplate in time to get a second piece. When he saw our friend Chuck taking the last, he told me later, he refrained from kicking him in the shins only because it *was* an actual Bible study meeting.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The End from the Beginning

It's hard to see the end from the beginning, yes? That's why my shrubs crowd each other, why the peonies are entirely shaded by the climbing rose . . . .

When Giles took his first picture, no one saw he'd be spending his eighteenth summer in Manhattan, making a living with a camera.

A Spanish course at home, and a bird guide, and now Felix is planning a year in South America.

Tiny beginnings, but God sees the end before the process even starts.

When I started writing here in 2005 I had no idea I would become so committed to the pleasure of sharing my vision with you all. I have found my creativity sparked every day, and I have loved sharing my projects and finds with you. I thank you all so much for reading.

Now I sense that God has something different for me, and it's time to close up shop here in this little spot I love. Because I trust Him, I am glad to follow Him. His beginnings, His endings, yes?

Now, practically: I'll leave Pleasant View Schoolhouse up indefinitely for your archive-reading pleasure. I'll keep my etsy shop up and running. And before I go I'd like to atone for my abysmal record of responding to questions. Please feel free to submit a Q in the comments and I'll try to do an A before I finish up here.

My dear readers, it's been wonderful!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Outside Time

Outside Time: sometimes hard to squeeze in (there's so much to do in the house and it's so fun!) but always a priority. It keeps us happy and well. If Clara, whose immune system is more delicately balanced, skips a day or two of Outside Time, she gets sick, just like that.

So we run, we play croquet, we sit on the porch with books, we work in the garden, we take an umbrella out in the rain. Between that, and a big bottle of hand sanitizer, we stay out of the way of trouble.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Remember Your Rhubarb

For some reason I always forget that I have purchased rhubarb and I let it go bad in the fridge.

I did remember in time this week, though, and I made a strawberry-rhubarb crisp and put it in the oven. Then I headed to gymnastics.

At the twin bridges I realized that I had forgotten to take it out of the oven. Fortunately Clara was home by the phone, and all was not lost.

If you want to try your own, here is a similar recipe. You can substitute two cups of strawberries (from the freezer. Let's use up the last of the 2009 berries now!) for half the rhubarb.

But set your timer.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Flowers by Daisy

I came home to find she had floated two Sally Holmes roses in a pressed glass bowl, for her dresser.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Blue Saturday with Bella

Just the two of us today!

After the storms passed we went for our runs--3 miles for her on hills, 5 for me on the flat.

She read her book. I transplanted hydrangeas.

She made me a cake. I made her a dress.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bella Makes a Braided Cheese Bread

Also out of our bright orange 70s cookbook (Better Homes and Gardens Bread), this complicated project. First the girl made a big batch of pimento cheese from scratch. Then she made the bread.

It makes really good panini.

I love that she bakes; but what I love the most is the confidence she's got in the kitchen.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Peering into Giles' Future

(not literally, that's his camera)

But I do know this: he's got an internship in New York City this summer. Yeah, my little hayseed baby.

And God is so good, He's given Giles a family to stay with while he's working there. A wonderful, fun, happy family with a toddler girl. I'm so jealous. Of Giles, and of his hosts!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Vintage Desk Diaries

An amazing find at the thrift store. Unprepossessing covers, but these are blank books for recording the day's business!

A few of the pages have the day's supper plan jotted down, under the featured Sexton product of the day. Mmm, dried chestnuts, but they didn't make it into the menu.

Each book has a helpful front section, "Institutional Recipes of Authoritative Origin." Veal goulash for 80? No problem. Angel chiffon pie for 60? Right here.

Hidden inside the wonderful vintage pages, though, are ten or so handwritten entries in shaky, old-lady cursive. She pours her heart out on the page, her bewilderment about why "Betty" hates her so, and won't even let her see the grandbabies. Worse, Betty has teamed up with Momma to cut her out of the family. Sorrow and humility, circa 1966. Once I realized what I was reading, I set it aside. I believe I'll remove these pages and destroy them for her, with a prayer that she was reconciled with her daughter before it was too late.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts

Until I looked into Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts, I would have said there was no right or wrong way to construct a quilt. Now I know differently: this book teaches the *wrong* way. Which bothers me, since quilting should be as straightforward as possible. The Encyclopedia instructs the innocent, first-time quilter to put the top of the quilt on the batting, and then machine-quilt it with no back. Then attach a back, right sides together, sew it (with piping!), and turn it right side out. Then tie it with ribbon, as in a tied quilt.


It should not be this complicated.

On the other hand, the book is full of beautiful, if rerun, project ideas, mostly on a small, manageable scale. If it cost a little less, I would buy it and flip through it every few months to remind myself of the different things there are to do.

Monday, April 19, 2010

In Which Bella Makes Quite a Coffeecake

Bella was inspired today by a thrift store cookbook from the early 70's, in which all the baked goods looked like they had been sprayed with orange shellac. I think you know what I mean.

But this coffeecake was sort of wonderful in that you make a simple sweet yeasted dough, and after that it's all trompe l'oeil. Roll the dough out, cut it into twelve parts with a doughnut cutter, and place all the doughnut middles in the middle of the pan. Take each larger doughnut shape and pull on it gently so that it's an oval, and place around the center in a sunburst pattern. Let it rise, and bake it. After it's out of the oven, fill each doughnut well with raspberry jam, and then drizzle the whole with powdered sugar glaze.

Just the kind of low-investment, high-style baking a girl can get behind!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Raspberry Patchwork

Lately I have taken to keeping baskets of patchwork square on the go. That is, every so often I'll dig through the scraps and do a cutting session, usually just in one color family. This week I did a lot of pink-red-raspberry. When I had a bunch, I started sewing them in pairs, which I doubled until I had a big pile of strips made of eight squares. That's when I got really inspired.

Eight strips sewn together as a block look fabulous floating in a canvas setting. And four of those big blocks can be set in muslin strips to make a "floating island quilt" in a crib size. The colors are so rich and vibrant, they almost need to be set off with the cool white, like whipped cream on a raspberry tart.

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Bouquet of Tree Peonies

This is the first year the tree peony has offered more than one flower. Such a powerfully botanical, medicinal scent. I can't decide if I like it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Specialized Pillows for the Sitting Room

I have, slightly obsessively, made pillows to match the (cough) orchids in the sitting room. My only defense is that they didn't take long or cost any money, but still, I know that puts me at a particular end of the sewing bell curve.

The grey brushed denim was a lovely thrift store find, as was the rough woven fuschia silk, in the form of a ladies' blazer. I used the fuschia to back the square cushion, and to cover fat piping for the round cushion. My brilliant hairdresser has been picking up nasty throw pillows for me when *she* goes to the thrift store, in case I want to recover them.

I had the most fun with this appliqued square, just machine-stitched on with a pressed-under edge. I picked up the fabric colors in three lines of running stitch embroidery. Which reminds me that I plan to do some spirally shapes on the round pillow, soon. Maybe in French knots.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Lady Banks Bouquet

The Lady Banks rose is immense this year: a solid arc of flowers at least fourteen feet in length. Plenty for Clara to cut and arrange in a bouquet for the living room this evening.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Colette Patterns: The Sencha Blouse and the Beignet Skirt

One look at the beautifully styled website and you too will want to try a Colette pattern. Well-designed, lovely instruction books that are helpful for the most novice sewer, and easy to fit (lots of seams in convenient places).

First I sewed up the Sencha blouse. I quickly took it off, though, to carve out a deeper neckline. No high necks here, can't take them. But it was an easy alteration, and I ditched the facing for a simple bias binding on the edge. I used a vintage cotton fabric with big dots in great colors--I suspect it dates from the 1940s, found it in the thrift shop. It's a little crisp for this pattern and does stand away from my back in a blousy way, but oh well!

Vintage turquoise buttons, of course. If you do make this in the soft fabric the patterns calls for, you should interface the button area for sure.

Next up: the Beignet skirt. Big success! I wanted a sleeker skirt line than the actual pattern design, so I decided not to do the many buttons down the front (not that they're not cute. They're cute). Instead I subtracted the overlap in the front and made the two front centers into one piece, then split the center back piece and added in a seam allowance for an invisible zipper.

The skirt is made from a medium-weight linen purchased at the thrift store in the form of an extra-large muumuu! Lucky me. And lined with a quilting cotton. So there's a lot of heft there, which makes it hang very nicely.

Though this skirt goes together sensibly and smoothly, it is heavily engineered, and I mean that as a compliment. The waist is high and fitted, the belt loops add further structure, and so does the belt. The result is the most comfortable, posture-enhancing skirt I've ever put on--and though it has such a slim line, without a slit, it doesn't constrict my stride. How is that? Snaps to Colette!

Monday, April 12, 2010

A New Green for Giles

Giles' one painted wall was apple green, which I've come to think is too harsh. I've re-done it in Benjamin Moore's Hibiscus. This color has got a lot to say. It wants to talk about yellow, about Bartlett pears and also avocados, and about light filtering down through the baby leaves of oaks.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Swing Dress in Yellow Cotton

I'm not *actually* sewing right now, I'm doing painting in the house. Not to say I won't work on a little sewing here and there, just if I have a few minutes . . . and somehow this dress got finished. It's a very straightforward pattern and I had a rare craving for really strong yellow.

This is the 1942 Swing Dress from Sense and Sensibility. It's so comfortable on!

I've made this before, and I like to line the front midriff band by cutting out a duplicate piece and slipstitching it in place on the inside, so much tidier of a finish. I also had fun finishing most of the other seams with bias binding. A treat to myself.

Friday, April 09, 2010

"Nothing But Shirtdresses"

"You must have the courage to try new fashions and the discretion to reject those that are unsuitable or adapt them to suit your image. I have a friend who wears nothing but shirtdresses, in every fabric, weight, and color. Even when the chemise came in, she stuck to her guns and found a shirtdress version of it."

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

Thursday, April 08, 2010

A Wool Dress for Clara: Vintage Simplicity 3446

Made up in a lightweight charcoal wool with a beautiful hand, this one will be useful for years. It drapes perfectly on her and is just the ticket for concerts or dressy church.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

My Solitary Azalea

Because I'm not really an azalea fan, I've only planted the one. Sold to me as a "Korean azalea," which I see is really Rhododendren yedoense, it blooms on mostly bare wood, very gracefully, without looking like the hacked-plastic bushes that most azaleas seem to turn into around here. I'm not sure if it's genetic with the plants, or more of a pruning problem . . . .

Anyway, isn't the Korean azalea looking lovely this year?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Sewing a "Frame" for Salvaged Embroidery

I'm sure people all over the world are doing this, but it's the first time I've ever thought of it: I had thrifted embroidery in my hand that I wanted to make into a pillow cover, but the oval shape was throwing me off. Usually I piece strips around my crewelwork to frame it with color and make it the right size. But how to manage the curves?

1. Cut out the "mat" just like the frame store would do. Square corners on the outside, then the round opening in the middle, all out of fabric. If you're really picky about sizing, make the opening about 3/8 inch smaller than you want the finished mat to look. The rest of us will just not think about it.

2. Lay the mat over your embroidery, pin in place carefully (don't tug on those bias edges cause they'll stretch!). Machine-stitch in place about 1/4 inch from the raw edge of the mat.

3. Choose some good-looking bias binding, and pin in place with the wrong side up. The binding should be unfolded, and its raw edge should be just lined up with the raw edge of the mat, as in the picture. Make sure to deal intelligently with the ends. Fold one up, and plan to overlap the other on top of it, so that the raw edge will be enclosed later. Around curves, pin generously and try to pin in the tiniest bit of slack or ease to allow the outer edge to make it around the corner later.

4. Machine-stitch, using the fold in the bias tape as your stitching guide. Take your time around the curves, stopping with the needle down to lift the foot and swivel the fabric as needed.

5. Gently press the binding back over the raw edge of the mat, refolding the other edge underneath, so that everything is nice and tidy. Pin neatly in place.

6. Sewing by hand, slip-stitch the outer edge of the binding into place. You can gently press and steam if you have trouble getting it to lie flat around curves, but don't make yourself crazy. If you're making a pillow cover, like I always am, tell yourself that wrapping the cover around the pillow form will take all the bumps out of it.

7. Make up the pillow cover, put on Daisy's bed, and admire!

Monday, April 05, 2010

An Overwhelming Easter Bouquet

Yes, it overwhelms, but isn't it happy? Hope your Easter was, too.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Zero-Sum Brussels Sprouts

If you want to like brussels sprouts, this is the way to cook them. It's a nutritional zero sum, though, because while you're getting the cruciferous health, there's the little matter of . . .

bacon grease. Melt about 2 T. in your pan, toss the trimmed sprouts in it, add salt and pepper, and bake uncovered for about an hour at 350. Crispy and dark on the outside, melting on the inside.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

A Shirtwaist Dress for Clara

Just a great dress.

On a great girl.

(McCall's 4769, again)

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