Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Complete Bedside Companion

I wish I had known about this book last winter while caring for my grandmother. As the subtitle says, it is full of No-Nonsense Advice on Caring for the Seriously Ill. Absolutely packed with information, lots and lots of concrete advice I needed but didn't have. If you know anyone providing care to an ill relative, buy them this book.

Friday, January 30, 2009

More Little Milk Glass Gardens

In a south-facing window, a row of milk glass planters hosting the charming succulents known as hens and chickens. Slow, slow, slow to grow--some day the little baby sprouts will fill the rest of the surface, but right now I've only got the hens, no chicks.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Vintage Street Dress: Simplicity 4729

All business, yes? At least it is sewn up in a very fine wool suiting remnant, with longer sleeves. The wool is perfect because it has a tiny vertical stripe, and the pattern allows for striped fabric to be cut on the bias for the front skirt pieces--resulting in a subtle chevron effect down the front.

And we've got stitched down hip pleats, and three darts behind the elbow.

My dress form is starting to spring some loose flaps of tape--forgive her the lumpiness.

I didn't make the dicky, but I did trim the collar with a ruffle. I love the juxtaposition of the manly wool suiting with the girly extravagance.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bella in an Orange Sweater

I love this thrifted sweater set on her, and I love that she tied an ivory satin ribbon for a sash!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sorting My Floss

In odd moments here and there I've been winding my half-used embroidery skeins onto pieces of cardstock. It's strangely satisfying, and I love seeing the big mess in the box dwindle into an ordered pile of these homemade bobbins. The inadvertent color combinations are inspiring, too, and somewhat kaleidoscopic.

If we lose our power again tomorrow, I'll do some more of this close to the fire and the window.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Daisy's White Shoot

Before Giles left he did a white-on-white shoot with Daisy: she wore a white blouse and flopped around on my white bedspread. Here's a glimpse. Love on both sides of the lens.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bright Thrifted Sweaters

Bright sweaters from the thrift store for me and the girls. I stick to natural fibers--mostly silk and wool, since cotton tends to show some fading. These juicy colors are perfectly cheery under January skies. And just a dollar a piece!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Clara Dreams of Pirates

Today Clara embarked on a long-awaited project. At last she's gotten a chance to play in the pit orchestra for a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta.

It's Pirates of Penzance. Daisy's favorite.

Clara played through the cello part last night at home. It's mostly quarter notes, unrecognizable as the beloved melodies. Daisy didn't mind. She waited in the wings, in full Mabel regalia, fancy dress and bonnet and fan and handkerchief, for her entrance. For twenty minutes.

Yes, we will be going to those rehearsals, and one of us will be wearing a costume.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Daisies in Sepia Light

This was my world this morning. Sepia daisies in sepia milk glass, in sepia light.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Humpty Dumpty Dolls from a Vintage Pattern

Consider the smugness! She knows her mascara will never run. I sewed Mrs. Humpty Dumpty, and her husband, from my marvelous vintage McCall's 8895--*the* pattern for your bazaar crafting needs.

I'd never embroidered wool felt before, so didn't know how much fun it is! I gave the Missus full make-up, and Mister has a comb-over on the top of his banty egg head.

Check them out in the shop!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bella Makes Flatbread

The day has come when Bella can simply announce that she's going in the kitchen to do some baking, and come out later with a platter of yeast-risen, salt-glazed flatbreads.

I feel like I just got promoted to middle management.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Quick Fix of Fresh

Off with the rumpled doily and the half-burned candles. The lemons look better out here than in the fridge and they need to be squeezed later today anyway.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Barn Owls in Fact and Fabric

Felix reads the good parts to us and we all howl with delight and longing. I can't bring myself to read the whole book because I'm afraid it would trigger a raging desire for my own owl that could never be quenched or forgotten . . . . After all,

"Like all barn owls, [Wesley] smelled like maple syrup, but not as sweet, something closer to butterscotch and comfy pillows. . . It was intoxicating."

Maybe in heaven. In the interim, Sew Bettie sells limited edition (and pricey) barn owl fabric*

and maybe a pillow stuffed with feathers would tide me over . . . .

*10% off with coupon code PINK!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Thrifted Sewing Supplies

It was only recently that I started checking the thrift store's collection of purses to see what pieces I could pick up there--turns out there are often good, cheap handles to harvest for only pennies. Last week I picked up tiny and large sets of bamboo handles (still in the purses, but easy enough to cut out) for a dime a piece.

Oh, the frugal thrill of making knitting bags for so little!

They're both in the shop tonight!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cheating on Giles

Well, it feels like I'm cheating on Giles, but I've moved my sewing machine into his bedroom for the winter. My sewing room through the year is a lot like an enclosed porch--lots of oneness with the outside temperature, you know. And it's not well-lit. So middle of the day sewing on a mild day is very pleasant, but evening sewing is almost impossible in there.

But Giles' room! In the evening I draw the fake curtains (just lengths of polka-dot yardage draped over the rod, since Giles likes his windows bare), crank up the heat, turn on the lamp, and get cosy. Daisy comes in and takes up residence in the empty closet. When she lives there she uses a fancy voice, and of course there's lots of visiting back and forth. Which makes things even cosier.

I've hung a gabardine skirt for Clara in one window to let the bias stretch before I hem it. It casts a green glow over an already green room.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Blue Apron for Daisy

At last, a garment she claims she'll wear! Actually, she'll wear anything I make her as long as it's made out of diaphanous fabric and doesn't go past her knees. But I digress.

Simplicity 4692, which has mother-daughter apron designs. Fabric from Hancock's last fall.

Don't you want to have tea with this girl?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Day for French Bread

Homemade French bread is endlessly delicious and takes any meal up a notch. And in spite of what I've read to the contrary, it freezes well (to use, thaw 1 min. in the microwave, then heat in a 350 oven for about 8 minutes). Which is why I find myself, almost every Tuesday, baking this Big Batch of French Bread. It gives me eight loaves--that's one for baking day snacks, plus seven for the week. Or three dinners where everyone gets as much bread as they want . . .

I've adapted my recipe from Martha Stewart Living, to turn out eight loaves at a time as easily as possible, something for which Martha is not known! As you'll see, the ingredient list is very simple, while the technique, not so much. However, it is *very doable*, even for a beginning baker, and the payoff is immense.

*Schoolhouse Big Batch French Bread*

Start the night before and mix up:

3 1/2 c. flour (I use King Arthur bread flour from the grocery store)
3 pinches of yeast
2 c. cold water

in a very large bowl. Use a strong spoon and mix until it comes together in a shaggy lump. Good enough. Cover well with plastic wrap and leave it in a cool place in the kitchen overnight.

In the morning, mix in:

7 c. flour
2 T. + 1 1/4 t. yeast
2 1/4 c. cold water.

Stir this in with that sturdy spoon until it's pretty mixed. Don't mind the scraps stuck to the edges of the bowl.

Let rest for 20 minutes.

Take it out onto a clean work surface, unfloured, and sprinkle with 2 T. + 1 1/4 t. salt.
Start kneading the dough, and knead until it's smooth and supple and doesn't feel lumpy, dry, or too sticky. It will undergo textural changes--start looking for a feeling of finish around the eight minute mark. It's good for your arms! Gives you curves!

Change to a new, clean bowl that's been sprayed with Pam, and is also large, or wash out your first one and spray it. Plop the dough in, spray some plastic wrap with Pam, and cover nicely. Leave it to rise for 45 minutes. Note that all risings are done in a COOL PLACE.

Lightly flour your clean counter and turn the dough out. Very gently fold it over on itself, then turn it over and do it again. It will be so stylishly floury. Replace in bowl and let rise for 75 minutes.

Gently remove again onto the floured surface and cut it into halves with a sharp knife. Cut each half into quarters. Take each of the eight sections and very lightly shape into a ball. Leave on the counter all parked together, and loosely draped over with the plastic wrap. Let rest for 20 minutes.

Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper (my favorite!), or sprinkle with cornmeal. Shape each dough section into a baguette, trying not to deflate too much. Lay four loaves on each pan, cut diagonal slashes in the top of each loaf with a sharp knife, cover lightly with plastic wrap, still oiled, and let rise for 40 minutes.

At last, preheat the oven to 450. With relief, slide the pans in and bake for about 25 minutes. Go for deep golden-brown, and when they're done, make sure you butter the slice you treat yourself to!

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Cold Week in the Rockies

Funny how these photos look just like last year's--except everyone's a little bigger. Daisy was just as excited this time about her fold-down tray. Especially after the pretzels and apple juice arrived, and she set up one of her fairies to keep her company on the way to Colorado.

Our borrowed house felt like an old friend this year. Warm, sturdy, and so roomy.

And Daisy's favorite, the coffee table made from a twisted tree trunk, just right for playing enchanted forest. With the hamsters she thought to bring in her backpack.

Clara takes her world with her.

My mother-in-law spent her inside time painstakingly restoring this very antique crazy quilt. I kept finding pins on the floor!

And some of Daisy's inside time went towards working her Alpine Maiden look.

For outside time, we had these two boys: Giles once again on a snowboard (no concussions this year!) and Felix, who is by far the most competent skier in the family. He *elected* to wear a helmet this time, then hit all the black diamond slopes.

The Composer, who always appreciates Weather, admired these lenticular clouds.

These girls spent plenty of time skiing downhill, but this year I took to cross-country skies. New favorite thing!

The Composer stayed out late on our last day enjoying this cold and grand beauty.

No one broke anything (it worries me that this surprised Felix!), though the three middle children developed racking coughs on the way home.

But they will get well soon in the soft winter air we enjoy here in the middle of our not so grand, not so cold, grey and brown leafless woods.

Monday, January 05, 2009

A Portrait Gallery Before We Go

We hit Giles up for a portrait session before he left. It was freezing cold the last day of the year, but we tried to look balmy!

Wow, how these children have grown up this year. Here is Clara, world's most serene and centered teenager:

Bella, who is more beautiful every time I turn around and has recently taken up cooking in a big way:

Sweet Felix who is thinking of leaving the nest next year!

Giles looking seriously adult:

I visualize the travel preparations being completed:

My very Dear Composer:

And now we head off into the sunset for a few days of skiing--back on Monday!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The End of Vacation

We've loved having Giles home for an extended break between quarters, but he leaves in the morning, as he heads back to the land of Black and White Technique, Art History, and Advanced Computer Applications.

Should it be easier to say goodbye the second time? Fortunately we'll see him this weekend when he joins us for skiing!!

Friday, January 02, 2009

A Cobbler's Apron in a Funny Color

I found several yards of *unusual* fabric the other day at the thrift shop. Sort of Shabby Chic Batik, if you will. I love that these white flowers on mustard yellow are enlivened by big splashes of hot pink, which I see is not really evident on the front side of this garment. Anyway, I had fun sewing up a new vintage pattern. I love this variation of the cobbler's apron because of the shaped neckline, the inset waistband (which is trimmed!), and the flare to the skirt. See it here in my etsy shop!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Heart-Shaped Biscuits

Beginning this fresh new year with some heart-shaped biscuits!

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