Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Purple Blossoms

Clara brought in a jug of hydrangeas, verbena, and lavender.

Other areas of life are spinning madly out of control--
I may see you just once or twice more until this wedding is over :)

Monday, May 23, 2016

Boys in the Boat

Felix is up with Giles for the run-up to the wedding--helping move him into the new apartment, building the wedding arbor, etc.

 This looks like it may have been the last non-bachelor-party sailing trip. Wish I was there--but will be, soon enough!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Jersey Dress Success

This is my new pattern! I'm really liking it--even better on, since it's made to fit me and not my out-of-date Lucille (time to make a new duct-tape dress form).

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Big Box of Dishes

Daisy and I ran into the thrift store between an orthodontist visit and a piano lesson. I walked out with a large box of dishes--just what I needed! They are Homer Laughlin's Viking Wheat, and so darling. It's most of twelve place settings (I know, that's a lot). But they mix right in with my everyday green and white plates, and they're soooo appealing, so here they are!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Painting Class Tonight: Beginning of a Barn Owl

When he (she? Felix would know) is a little drier next week I'll be able to work on the modeling of the face and the layers of feathers.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A Perfect Knit Dress. No, Really Perfect.

I'm pursuing the Perfect Knit Dress. I know a lot about what I don't want. And most of what I do want. I'm very, very close, and will show you an actual dress in a day or two.

Having made many knit dresses, I've figured out exactly what works for me. From the McCall's pattern, the little pleats in the pullover bodice, and the waistband.

From the Burda pattern, the back bodice with two long darts.

And from messing around, a skirt with no gathers or pleats, just a simple semi-circle. In tea length. I am going to get the whole pattern exactly right, with the exact right fit, and then store it in a fire-proof lock box. Except for when I'm sewing from it.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Cobbler with Cream Biscuits

It's almost time to pick blackberries again but we still have several bags in the freezer, so Clara's been making frequent cobblers. Cobbler is super simple.

You can start it on the stovetop or on the oven, but one way or another I recommend you heat your berries up before you add your biscuit topping--especially if you're starting with frozen berries.

For about 4 c. berries in a saucepan, add 3/4 c. sugar and 1/4 c. flour, and 3/4 t. cinnamon. Stir over medium heat until everything is bubbly and the berries and releasing plenty of juice. Dump it in a casserole dish, and spoon a batch of cream biscuit dough over the top.

Bake at 400 for about 30 minutes. All of this is very flexible. I'm sure every cobbler we make is different, and they're all good.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Daisy's Keeping Roger

Remember how Daisy was just fostering Roger, the five-day old baby goat who needed to be bottle-fed away from his mother? Someone had dibs on him, but couldn't do the bottle-feeding.

In the "who'd have seen *that* coming" department, Daisy got quite attached and dreaded giving him up.* She gathered all her courage and emailed his owner, asking if there was anyway she could keep him, and another baby could go to Louella's house. . .

 . . . and it turned out that Louella is about to have to move into an apartment in town. That doesn't allow goats. So Daisy gets her happy ending. 

* She was only moderately cheered up by my pointing out that she already has real foster mother problems (she looks forward to the day when she's a foster mother to humans).

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Silk Chiffon

I have been busy with Daisy's junior bridesmaid's dress. A bodice and underskirt of heavy satin, and a silk chiffon overskirt. I've never worked with silk chiffon before--I wouldn't call it relaxing. Clara is hand-rolling the bottom hem, thank goodness.

I haven't ever fitted Daisy before for a *serious* dress, and I learned all kinds of things about her skeletal structure. For instance, she has Clara's out-there shoulder blades. There are fewer internet articles than you might think about altering for protruding shoulder blades on a thin figure.

Also, her shoulders are set very far forwards. I don't exaggerate when I say that I drafted the bodice for her *eight times* in flannel to get the fit right.

She'd better not grow in the next three weeks.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Books on the Shelves

A big step forward for my new library! We're even sorted by subject, to some extent.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Flock of Ravens Quilt

Clara and I designed and pieced this together, and she did all the embroidery, quilting, and finishing. It's called Flock of Ravens,

and the two sides are embroidered with this verse:

"It shall be that you will drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there." (I Kings 17:4). A promise of provision.

It's made out of garment scraps (black and white) and kona cotton (the white). Machine-pieced, hand-quilted in perle cotton. Also, it's a wedding present for Giles and Tia--but not a surprise :)

Monday, May 09, 2016

A Mother's Day Brunch Under the Silver Maple

 The girls gave me and the grandmothers (except for the one out of town) a beautiful brunch under the silver maple.

 The weather was perfect--you couldn't even feel the air. Nothing to distract you from these cucumber slices topped with cream cheese, smoked salmon, and avocado.

Roger was well-behaved and got to hang out with us for a bit.

 Having dessert set out with the rest of the food felt super luxurious. You could have it anytime! This was a flourless almond cake with a lot of chocolate and gingerbread spices. Oh yes.

 Abundant flowers,

abundant tea and coffee,

and plenty of green grass.

 Sullivan had his eye on the coffee cake and had one triumphant moment when he flapped up to the food table. He was quickly shooed down to the coop, where he announced that that was what he wanted anyway, so there.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Dinette Cookery

After the wedding Giles and Tia will take up residence in a tiny apartment Tia has charmingly dubbed "The Dollhouse". The kitchen is brand new and very nice--not very large, of course, and has a tiny table for dining.

What a mercy I ran across an entire chapter on "Dinettes" in a vintage cookbook this week. The author does her level 1934 best to cheer and exhort homemakers who suddenly find themselves downsized from a full kitchen and dining room. Here she is, looking on the bright side:

• Everyday diners have a way of tasting better when served in the dinette.

• Dinette cookery requires the intimate touch of individuality, even to the pots and pans used in the kitchenette.

• It is next to impossible to serve a formal type of dinner, with several courses, in dinette style.

• Much planning must be done ahead of time, if the dinette dinner is to be successful.

• Space is at a premium, and must be planned to create the idea of leisure, hospitality and intimacy.

• There is something chummy and friendly about dining in a dinette--something akin to dining out in a corner of a hotel dining room or tea room.

• An excellent cup of coffee compensates for many other deficiencies.

-- Jessie Marie Deboth, The Fashion Book of Recipes

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Almost a Library

We're creeping towards the finish line on the toy-room-to-library transformation up under the eaves. We'll have shiny white paint everywhere, two walls of shelves loaded with books, floral oil paintings on every blank wall, darling purple velvet couches facing each other under the skylights, and room to read and think and talk . . . when we get done.

Clara and I painted hard this afternoon (she painted harder because my neck gave out). Our goal is to paint the floors right before we leave for the wedding, and that will be it.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Felix with Coffee

It's been a treat having Felix spend a few weeks here (he's usually out of the country). He works most of the day in his room, but always comes down for the 11:00 pot of coffee Clara and I treat ourselves to. You can see he's claimed the brown mug for his own.

He leaves in a week and half to head up towards The Wedding (we will follow a bit later). He's in charge of planning the bachelor party--a three-day sail around Long Island Sound. He heads straight from the wedding for Kenya, but we will see him again after that, and have coffee together again.

Monday, May 02, 2016

It's Bouquet Season Again

Clara put this together yesterday: roses, peonies, pink sage, and various herbs.

Saturday, April 30, 2016


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Dinner in the Bistro with Sister

Every night, while it's nice, we have dinner outside in the bistro. Sister always suns herself just out of reach, while we eat and, and secretly long to have her in our laps.

Then, after we've finished, Daisy makes the catch. She gets her fill of love and then passes Sister around the table and we each get our turn.

Also, although there's no photo for this, if we have an extra chair Fitzwilliam frequently takes a seat with us and looks around.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Painting Peonies

I took this bouquet of peonies with me to the art studio and set it up on black cloth,

then painted this.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Simple Yogurt

I've been making all of our yogurt for the last several months, with great success. I calculate that I'm saving at least  $700 a year, which is a little alarming. We were eating three single-serving cups of Fage yogurt a day. Lots of money, and lots of plastic trash (my grocery store only offers non-fat Fage in the bigger container. If I want fat, I have to buy the small).

So here's my super-simple method. I use an enameled cast-iron pot (it's an off-brand Le Creuset) and pour an entire gallon of organic whole milk in it. I put it over a medium heat and set the timer for 25 minutes. Meanwhile I get out my previous batch of yogurt and remove a heaping spoonful of it, and place it in a glass measuring cup with a spout, and leave it out on the counter.

When the milk has started to steam (be sure and jiggle the pot and get down at eye level to see if it makes a little steam), I turn off the flame and set the timer for another 25 minutes.  When the timer buzzes, I stick my clean finger in the milk. If it's too hot for comfort, I give it another ten minutes of cooling time. If, however, I can leave my finger in for three seconds, I move to the next step.

Which is to ladle out a cup of hot milk and put it in the glass measuring cup with my spoonful of yogurt. I stir this gently with a spoon, just breaking the yogurt up into small pieces, then pour all that back into the big pot and swirl it around a little.

Then the lid goes on the pot, the pot gets set in my Crock-Pot over an inch of water set to the "Keep Warm" setting, and an old bath towel goes over the whole thing. I leave it all day (or all night). Ten to twelve hours.

At the end of that time, I put my big colander in my stockpot, and line the colander with a large thin dishtowel. I dump all the yogurt in, and refrigerate it. In another ten to twelve hours, I have a large quantity of unbelievably delicious Greek yogurt. Very firm, tart, and thrifty. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Cheery New Napkins

I made new napkins. I had to. Bella's been giving our old ones the scornful eye for quite a while, and dropping hints about the exciting new birthday present I could expect.

One yard of 45-inch wide fabric cut into just-about-squares made nine napkins, hemmed with a narrow hem. These are all cotton, which is the only way to go, and very hard to find in out in a store.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The New Buff Orpingtons

 Daisy picked up her day-old chicks today--twenty soft and fluffy Buff Orpingtons. We have learned from last year's Chick Disaster and hope to bring all of these to maturity. For now, they're in the mud room.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Our Days in Boston

We stayed with the Composer's first cousin once-removed (fancy for his dad's cousin) in a little township west of Boston. I'd never been to New England before and was unprepared for the late-winter beauty of the still-bare hardwood forests, the pristine white buildings, and the stonework.

Cousin Robert is a historic preservationist so we kind of landed on our feet there in terms of old buildings! They put us up in the Shaker house they hauled over the highway and attached to their home. Beautiful.

 Tuesday we stopped by the *really* old house Robert has been restoring for seven years (that's his job). These are the set kettles in the basement--so handy for your cheese-making.

We were nearby, so we stopped at Fruitlands, the failed Transcendental utopia perched on a barren hillside, where Bronson Alcott dragged his long-suffering family. I've never been a fan of his.

Then we went into Concord and saw every inch of Orchard House, Louisa May Alcott's family home. 80% of the furnishings were used by the Alcott family. There were Flying Geese quilts on the beds that apparently Marmee had stitched.

No pictures were allowed in the house, but this is the charming exterior (I dressed to match the front door).

That evening we came back to our hosts' home and the Composer walked over to the common. The church was open and he was invited in to play the organ! Sadly I missed it as I was cooking dinner for us all.

I couldn't get over how much history is still standing around there. Here's the stone pen for any stray animals that wandered around--they were impounded and their owners had to spring them with a fee.

We completed our Boston adventures by shopping at two choice fabric stores--Mercer Fabrics in Beacon Hill (multiple stars for its friendly proprietor and fine selection--stop in if you're around and pick up one of their totally charming calling cards with a hedgehog on it). The other was Gather Here, in Cambridge--bigger, with a few more basics, but not half the cozy charm of Mercer!

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