Friday, January 30, 2015

Grating Cheese

On the odd occasion I cook a little throwback to the days when we could all eat wheat and dairy. That's called Macaroni and Cheese from scratch. I made a casserole of it for the girls this week, using one of my all-time favorite kitchen tools, Grandma Helga's grater.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Luxurious Almond Cake, in Chocolate

Remember how I said I was going to do our Almond Cake in chocolate? It took two tries, but we got it right. It's a simple substitution of cocoa for some of the almond flour. Here you go:

•Luxurious Almond Cake, in Chocolate•

Line a 9-inch cake pan or springform pan with parchment paper, and spray it with Pam. Preheat the oven to 350.

Separate the yolks and whites of 5 eggs.
In a large bowl, whisk the yolks together with 1 cup of sugar, from which you have removed 2 T.
Also whisk in a pinch of salt and 1 t. vanilla.

Using an electric mixer, whip the whites until they are almost soft peaks.
Then add the 2 T. sugar and whip until they are legitimate soft peaks.

Take your whites over to the bowl with the yolks. Dollop a big spoonful of whites into the yolks, and with a rubber scraper, gently stir them in to lighten the yolk mixture. Then scrape the rest of the whites in, and fold them in lightly. Now sift 1 c. almond meal with 1/2 c. cocoa, and sprinkle that mixture over your batter, and fold it in. And then sprinkle another 1/2 c. almond meal into the bowl and fold it in too.

Scrape into your prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes, or until the top is barely firm and springy to the touch. The cake gets moister the second day (ha! if it comes to that!).

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

That Smug Look

 . . . that smug look when you've cheated death . . .

 . . . and are completely back to normal . . . 

 . . . and have the couch to yourself.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Rose Jersey: Beaded Border

I'm taking another class in Formal Poetry Writing and loving it. When it comes to writing poetry, I blossom within constraints. Also, I love the class because I am doing beadwork while listening, talking, and making notes.

This is one of the panels of Clara's next jersey dress, the one she knit an incredible lace sweater to wear with. The beading has become heavier than this--this is only two passes (with two kinds of beads) and I think there will be at least five. For scale, the border is currently about two inches deep. That will change too.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Begonia, Winter Sunrise

This begonia has been catching the first intense light each morning. The leaves literally sparkle with some sort of natural glitter. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Teas I've Been Enjoying

I made a point this month of stepping out and trying some new teas, beyond my usual PG Tips in the morning pot, and Cream Earl Grey in the afternoon. Here's what I've enjoyed:

I ordered this from It's kind of smoky, only needs to be brewed for three minutes, and I've been craving it around 3:00 during this winter afternoons. I drink mine with milk.

A standard black breakfast tea, almost as hearty as PG Tips. I like it! I actually picked mine up at TJ Maxx, but it's widely available. Or order it.

This is a wonderful just-before-bed tea. More floral and honeylike than chamomile, it feels very European to me. I buy my boxes at an Eastern European grocery store when we go to visit Clara, but you can also order it online.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Our Beloved Almond Cake

Really, this is "The Composer's Beloved Almond Cake." Because everyone else can eat, you know, regular dessert, but his treats have to be gluten-and-dairy free.

Also, this is the cake that powered him to a Boston-qualifying marathon time this winter. That's right,  he ate a whole cake each day the two days before his race, and qualified for Boston. Your results may vary. I know mine would.

I can't remember the source for this recipe, but here's how we do:

•Luxurious Almond Cake•

Line a 9-inch cake pan or springform pan with parchment paper, and spray it with Pam. Preheat the oven to 350.

Separate the yolks and whites of 5 eggs.
In a large bowl, whisk the yolks together with 1 cup of sugar, from which you have removed 2 T.
Also whisk in a pinch of salt and 1 t. vanilla.

Using an electric mixer, whip the whites until they are almost soft peaks.
Then add the 2 T. sugar and whip until they are legitimate soft peaks.

Take your whites over to the bowl with the yolks. Dollop a big spoonful of whites into the yolks, and with a rubber scraper, gently stir them in to lighten the yolk mixture. Then scrape the rest of the whites in, and fold them in lightly. Now sprinkle 1 c. almond meal over your batter, and fold it in. Sprinkle another 1 c. almond meal into the bowl and fold that in as well.

Scrape into your prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes, or until the top is barely firm and springy to the touch. The cake gets moister the second day (ha! if it comes to that!).

Also, one of these days I'm going to stir some cocoa in and see what happens.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

His Mercies! They Are New Every Morning!

Fitzwilliam came home this morning! Doped on, as the vet said, enough diazepam to take down an elephant. I'm supposed to shut him in the bathroom to sleep off his drugs, but for now he is curled up so soundly asleep in his so-favorite chair by the fire, I can't bear to move him. When he wakes up, and starts tearing around the house in a frenzy--that's when we'll talk about the bathroom.

Thank you, my friends all over the world, for praying for this dear creature who is restored to me.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Heartbreaking Day with Fitzwilliam

Yesterday was tick-and-flea medicine day for the cats. This morning Fitzwilliam was deathly ill and neurologically impaired. We had him at the vet's office by 8:30 a.m., terrified that he was going to die in the car on the way to town. My darling cat. I love him more than any other animal.

I had been using up a box of Advantage that a friend had passed on to me, and she had accidentally included a tube of medicine for *large dogs*. Yes, I had poisoned FW. My heart breaks.

The vet scrubbed him down immediately, sedated him, and has had him on IV fluids all day. Our internet research indicates that at least 24-48 hours of treatment is necessary before real improvement happens. I hope, hope, and pray that this wonderful cat will fully recover--and forgive me.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Bedroom Floor Gets Rolled

When someone is working on my house, I want to follow them around thanking them, but I try to restrain myself to only two or three times a day.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Last Days on a Messy Floor

We've been living on this funky floor in our bedroom for three years, but this is the week it gets pretty. What you see in the picture is the fruits of my having chemically stripped a very pale green latex off a medium green oil-based coat over a dark brown oil-based coat. Too much history!

Monday (I hope!) our helper is coming first to sand, then to put all things to rights--at least on my bedroom floor.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Cutting out a 'Facets' Stencil

I have made up almost all of the Alabama Chanin stencils that I like, except for this one: Facets. That's because it's about an acre in size, and there's a lot (a lot) of cutting involved. I'm working on it now with my hot stencil cutter and my acrylic pennant felt. The most fun part comes afterwards, when the paint is dry.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Ferns in the Winter

Ferns are always fine but at this time of the year their lush, enthusiastic greenness is particularly welcome. Hard to believe that someday the whole outdoors will once again look like this!

These are all my own personal babies, divided from plants I was growing. The Boston fern (on the left) actually sprung up in the saucer of the mother fern. It's growing like mad now in its own pot.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Domestic Lessons from Vintage Fiction: A Repost

Vintage fiction has been my treasure trove for figuring out how to put together a homemaking life. Old housekeeping manuals will give you out-dated specifics about how to iron or polish the silver the way it was done in the thirties or forties, but it's the mentioned-in-passing daily routine that fascinates me so deeply. 

Here's what I have learned about a domestic life, courtesy of Grace Livingston Hill, L.M. Montgomery, and their ilk:

Homemakers have work to do.
 They get up early and make breakfast, since someone in the family needs sustenance before catching the trolley for a long day at the office. Homemakers have a plan for each day's special tasks. There's really no time to sit around; running a home is a demanding undertaking.

Homemakers dress the part.
 Need to make beds and clean? Try slipping a little cotton gown right over your nice morning dress to keep it clean. Going out to shop? A smart knitted dress is just right. Staying in for a family dinner? A crimson housegown is just the thing.

Homemakers make things beautiful. 
A room isn't finished until it reflects the homemaker's love of beauty. A pot of primroses on the dinner table, an embroidered bureau cover on the bedroom chest of drawers, a clean dresser scarf on the buffet in the dining room--creating a home takes attention to detail.

Homemakers think hard about meals.
 The planning and cooking of meals is an endeavor worthy of time and energy. Meals should be prepared with each day's needs in mind. Are the boys working hard on building a porch? Chocolate cornstarch pudding for dessert, as it can be eaten quickly, and people can get back to their project. No matter what else is going on, careful and appropriate attention must be paid to feeding the family.

Homemakers find out what they need to know.
 New to the neighborhood and don't know where to shop? Just follow the neighbor lady carrying the basket over her arm. Raised in splendor but married now to a working man? Take a cooking course. One of the privileged elite but ready to do your part for the war? Take that night course in practical nursing.

Homemakers can weather hard times. 
When money gets tight, they suck it up and move to the unelectrified shack in that rundown part of town and set out daffodils. When the bank fails they get the kerosene lamps and the oil stove out of the attic, and start cooking plain but delicious food. When the apartment's going to be demolished, they cheerfully move into a spacious stone barn for the summer.

Homemakers are indispensable. 
If mother can't do it, someone else must be found. There's no such thing as a family that runs itself, with every member gone to work or school every day. Without a guiding presence in the house, things go down deep and fast.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Thread and Scissors

Monday, January 12, 2015

Patchwork Curtains Quilt, Finished

So I took the patchwork curtains down from my window, joined them, and started sewing strips around them. I made a huge quilt top. Clara and I quilted the whole thing before she left, and here it is.

 The patchwork section is just the size of the top of the double bed mattress. After that it's strips.

 It's all quilted in perle cotton, red and green and hot pink. The binding was a coup--an old linen dress of my mothers stuck in my stash. I had previously asked myself, "What will I ever use that for?" I should know by now that the answer is always, "Something just right."

And here it is in an awkward vertical--the two tallest people in the house holding it off the edge of the stage.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Clara's Knitting: Lace Sweater from Vintage Knits

Known in Sarah Dallas' Vintage Knits only as the "Lace Sweater," it was meant to be knitted in cotton. It's quite different in the lace-weight merino Clara chose, and it's oh so heavenly. Short bodice, long sleeves, and she's planning to wear it over a jersey dress I'm about to make her. That's the jersey covering the buttons now.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Now I'm Really Done

After finishing another log cabin quilt top with Clara today, I'm quitting for the week.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

A Portrait of Clara

Clara needed a photo for her senior recital.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

A Pitcher of Creamy Roses

Beautiful creamy roses inside, cold and blustery day outside.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Daisy's Cardboard Skyscraper of Cuteness

She found six matching shoeboxes, all with round "windows" already cut out.

And furnished them with little animals and their couches and beds and rugs.

And taped them all together in a skyscraper of cuteness.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Ashes of Roses Log Cabin Quilt

In an epic flurry (assisted by BBC's "North and South") Clara and I quilted this top in just four days. 

It's pieced in shades of pink, fuschia, and gray. The vintage cello skirt that inspired the project had one hidden pocket inside made from this alphabet fabric. We cut out four squares and put them in the corners of the quilt.

It's all quilted in black perle cotton, and the back is a lovely length of rose wool I found at the thrift store. 

 I bound it in navy blue, not the expected black. Just for fun.

Friday, January 02, 2015

My Knitted Short Stays

I knitted this crazy--but in an alluring way--garment from Jane Austen Knits, maybe the Fall 2013 issue? It's patterned after the short stays worn under dresses, for support.

As an outer, knitted garment, it's something completely different--an abbreviated but cozy vest.

Let's talk about the fact that the ribbing is deliberately off-center in the back. It kind of freaks me out.

Also, I maybe should have knitted a swatch. But it is cozy and fun!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

And Then a Highly Saturated Blue Log Cabin Quilt Top

After Saturday's quilt binge, I sat down to start another quilt. This one was going to be all different bright and saturated colors, really loud and wild. But then I kept seeing this collection of blue and green rejects off to the side, and I realized that I would have to turn my pile of "no's" into a big "yes."

So Clara and I put this quilt together yesterday. It was quite a bit of work, since it's thirty-six strips that are seven strips across. It's several acres. But it sure is beautiful.

Clara says not to ask her to make a quilt tomorrow. But maybe I can talk her into the next day!!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Cello Skirt Log Cabin Quilt Top

Clara and I made an afternoon of piecing our quilt top. With both of us working assiduously, it's a four-to-five hour job.

That's starting with the strips already cut--I had prepared them weeks ago and stored them neatly in a basket until we had some time together. Because it's really nice having help!

As usual, we were stunned by the successful alchemy that is scrapwork piecing. No matter what, it seems like scrap quilts come out gorgeous. Clara gets the design credit on this one.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Ruminant Nurse

Daisy is currently engrossed in the Cherry Ames series. Cherry Ames, Rural Nurse. Cherry Ames, Private Duty Nurse. Etc.

 Excellent preparation for being a nurse all this morning. The neighbor brought over a baby who had gotten too cold and weak and seemed to be dying.

Several hours by a *hot* fire, constant respiration and "rumen motility" checks, and droppers full of goats' milk, and he returned to health.

Thanks to Daisy, Ruminant Nurse.

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