Saturday, February 28, 2009

Vanilla Cake, Again

For the second Saturday in a row, circumstances have required a vanilla cake. Last week I filled it with strawberry jam and frosted it with vanilla buttercream; today I went with raspberry preserves in the middle and a lemony-cream cheese frosting. I use a variation of the charmingly named Dinette Cake from B. Crocker.

*Vanilla Cake*

2 1/2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
1 T. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 1/2 c. milk
2/3 c. shortening
2 eggs
1 T. vanilla

at low speed until blended. Beat at high speed for 3 minutes. Pour into two prepared round layer pans (parchment paper circles, everyone!) and bake at 350 for about 38 minutes.

Friday, February 27, 2009

She Begs Me to Sew

. . . so that she can play in the sewing room closet. She plays that we are both fairies and we're neighbors and we're talking to each other from our porches. And my boxes of scraps are her flower beds. Heaven help me.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Vintage Beach Frock: Hollywood 1333

Continuing my obsession with the purpose-driven vintage garment: the beach frock or beach coat. Imagine sporting this at the lake or pool. It sweeps the ground! Such drama . . . .

It buttons only through the midriff (check out the bottom right pattern illustration). That's so it can flutter in the breeze with sang froid.

I sewed mine from a thrifted cotton sheet, age unknown but condition good.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Putting Together a Scrap Quilt

Much forward progress on my scrap quilt! I finished piecing the top in six only slightly obsessive days, then put it together with the batting and the back. So determined was I to have this be a quilt that ate into my reserves that I pieced all my leftover pieces of batting together, simply laying them down edge to edge until I covered my entire quilt area, and called that a day. I had muslin in the stash for the back.

A quick aside to say: Do not be intimidated by quilting! Remember, this is a craft developed by uneducated mountain women who just wanted a warm blanket! You don't have to be perfect and you don't have to follow any rules and you can do it any way you want and call it good enough.

So, neophyte quilters, here are the basics:

1. Lay out the big muslin square that will become the back, right side down. I pieced together two lengths of muslin and pressed the seam open. Pull out all the creases and possibly weight the corners of the back so it stays flat (I pull a piece of furniture close enough to place a chair leg on the fabric which only works if you're working on the floor, obviously).

2. On top of that, gently place your batting. Purchased in one piece, or, if necessary, laid out in pieces (give them a little overlap, like an inch). Do not pull them around on the muslin, thereby making it bunch up.

3. On top of that, float your quilt top down right side up (help is handy here). Make sure it's lined up correctly, corners square, etc. Give yourself plenty--four to six inches-- of batting and muslin sticking out around the edge. If you need to adjust its position, lift it up and move it--don't drag!!

4. Now, you can pin or baste. Either way, you want to attach all three layers together every six inches or so. You can pin safety pins onto your quilt in row after row, or you can thread a needle with a really long dark thread (or white, if your top is dark), and take big stitches in rows across the top, every six inches. I thread my needle so I can get all the way across the quilt in one thread. For machine quilting, I baste so no pins get tangled up with the machine.

5. It's time to quilt! First turn the quilt over and make sure there aren't any bunched up areas basted into the back. If there are, you have to decide if they're worth picking out and straightening, or if you're going to just charge ahead.

6. To machine quilt, I highly recommend a walking foot. You put it on a regular sewing machine, you sew. Decide you're going to do straight lines. Do it for the sanity. I just quilted mine in diagonals lines, going both directions.

Binding still to come, after my shoulders have recovered from the machine quilting.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"A Warm, Tailored Robe"

"For the morning you need a warm, tailored robe, slim in cut and ankle-length. I think this length is best because short robes expose the unattractive sight of a rumpled nightie or pajama bottoms--or bare white legs--protruding underneath."

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

Monday, February 23, 2009

Vanilla Cake with Strawberry Jam

Vanilla cake layers, strawberry jam in between, vanilla buttercream frosting. And Daisy has a new set of dishes from her grandmother: the much-boasted of (by Daisy) "Charlotte" pattern from Royal Doulton. Just when I thought she couldn't get any fancier.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Getting Started on a Scrap Quilt

This is the world's easiest quilting project, I'm sure. There is no right or wrong; there's just how off you're willing to be.

1. Pull out all your scraps and dig through until you've chosen a nice pile of fabric. Press each piece before you cut it.Three inch squares is what I used. Not too big and clumsy, not too small and fiddly.

2. The biggest favor you can do yourself is to cut exactly. Also, your squares should be lined up with the grain of the fabric. And enjoy throwing away the extra bits!

3. The second biggest favor you can do yourself is to always sew with the exact same seam allowance.

4. The third biggest favor you can do yourself is to ignore little things that don't line up exactly. Who cares?

5. I like to match up a big group of pairs and sew each pair together one after another without cutting the sewing machine thread. Then I sew all those pairs to each other until I have a long strip. Then I press all the seams open in my strip before moving on to another strip. Don't sew over a seam that hasn't been pressed.

6. This is not strip quilting. If you want to strip quilt, I'm sure there are many excellent tutorials for it. This uses up smaller scraps.

7. You can do this by hand, but to me the whole point is speeding through the scraps. Therefore, a machine. And all you have to be able to do is make the machine go. Just stitch forwards. That's it! Anyone can do it.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Roses to Sigh For

"I'm soooo jealous of your roses," Daisy has been sighing all week. Even though she has her own "cardenias."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Confectioner's Skirt

I made a wool skirt, as plain as a pound cake. Then I thought about that trim I had, chiffon roses mounted on a strip of netting. It was the work of five minutes to sew it around the hem.

To really make my teeth ache, I added a thrifted cotton sweater.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Windy Evening

The whipping wind was perfect for drying my tablecloth on the line today--if I used eight clothespins. I caught sight of it at dusk.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Piecing Scraps

Oh the beautiful alchemy of turning scraps into beautiful fabric! I've been digging through my boxes rooting out all the high-value bits I can find to piece this simple quilt top in spring bulb colors.

I've never sewn a quilt with purpose-bought fabric. Genetically, I can't. And while a quilt created from a line of gorgeous designer fabric may be elegant, it's going to lack the confident chic of a top put together from scraps. A top that says, "I do too match. Maybe you're the one who needs glasses!"

Monday, February 16, 2009

"Before They Call I Will Answer, and While They Are Still Speaking, I Will Hear"

Two weeks ago I suddenly began wanting a parrot. I read and researched and decided that should the occasion ever arise (not forseeable), my choice would be an African gray, known for their sweet, fearful natures and extreme intelligence. No plans to get one, though, as they are rare and costly.

Last weekend while hosting a baby shower at my house, one of the guests commented on the cockatiel and I mentioned I had been thinking about parrots. She went on to tell me that her co-worker's son was walking in the park a mile from my house, heard a strange sound, then saw an odd gray bird sitting in a bush. The bird began talking, and the young man picked it up, put it in a bag, and brought it home.

So yeah, Lora's co-worker was fostering an unwanted African gray parrot at her house.

Meet Frederick, my very own.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Dressed Like a Daffodil

First time out in my new green linen skirt (made from a thrifted tablecloth!) and three separate children told me that I was dressed like a daffodil.

Housedress in the Shop

Housedress in the shop!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dress with Lace Edging

I finished this little knitted dress for a gorgeous little girl newly arrived from Ethiopia. Just hoping her cheeks fit through the neck opening!

The neckband has eyelets knitted into it for running a ribbon through. Removable, of course, if you have safety concerns.

I used Debbie Bliss' "Dress with Lace Edging" pattern from The Baby Knits Book. The pattern calls for cotton, but I knitted mine in a very soft wool because that's what I had, and because this baby lives in cold climes.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Four Soups for Lunch

My children are touchingly grateful when I supplement their lunchtime sandwiches with a pot of soup. So once or twice a week I make one of these favorites--not difficult at all to start in the middle of the morning, as long as you're willing to saute an onion. I've taken to running these through my little hand-cranked food mill, which is a saucepan with a rotating blade in the middle and colander-type holes in the bottom. For some reason it feels like a smaller deal than getting out the blender.

Any of these soups add lots of veggies to your lunch!

* Pumpkin Soup*

In 2 T. olive oil, saute 1 diced onion, 2 cloves garlic minced, and 2 T. ginger, grated fresh, til onion is transparent.

1 quart chicken stock, 1 can cream of coconut, and 3 cups cooked pumpkin or a can of pumpkin, and simmer for an hour.

Stir in the juice of one lime, 1/3 c. tamari sauce, and salt to taste. If desired, puree in blender, then reheat.

*Easy Broccoli Soup*

In a large pot, saute 1 chopped onion and 3 cloves minced garlic in 3 T. olive oil til onion is transparent.

Add 6-8 cups chicken broth (I used two boxes of storebought), 2 large bunches of broccoli, broken into large pieces, and 2-4 potatoes, scrubbed and coarsely chopped. Cover and simmer until all vegetables are very tender, about 40 minutes.

In batches, whirl in blender or food processor until smooth. Return to pot and season with salt and lots of pepper. If desired, stir in 1 c. heavy cream or milk and heat but do not boil.

*Leek and Potato Soup*

Wash and slice thinly the white parts and a tiny bit of the green part of 1 bunch leeks and saute in 3 T. olive oil until translucent.

Add one box chicken stock, 4-5 cubed potatoes, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer until vegetables are very tender, then puree soup in blender, in batches. Stir in 1 c. cream or milk and heat but do not boil.

*Tomato and Red Pepper Soup*

Chop a small onion, or a bunch of green onions. In your soup pot, saute them in 3 T. olive oil until translucent.

Add 2 cans stewed tomatoes and one drained jar of roasted red peppers. I find these in the pickle section of the store, and quantities are not important. Add 1 box of chicken broth, 1 t. salt, 1 t. sugar, and simmer for at least half an hour before milling or blending, then serving.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Church Clothes

My girls looked so bright and colorful Sunday I thought I'd get a picture. They thought they'd see what Bossy the cat was catching in the field.

Daisy's dress: $1 from the thrift store.
Clara's shirtdress: bottom dollar clearance on ebay.
Bella's twinset: $1 from the thrift store. Skirt: cut down from her Easter dress.

Cheap and cheerful!

Monday, February 09, 2009

A Cool and Composed Baby Shower

This weekend I hosted a baby shower and tried to make it as pretty as possible without fussing. I chose a neutral color scheme of cream and taupe (baby's sex will be announced upon delivery!) with a little cool green to liven it up.

I froze white grape juice in a Bundt pan, then slid it out into my punch bowl and topped it off with ginger ale. Punch cups were, as always, thrifted and unmatching.

Cupcakes were coconut with white buttercream frosting decorated with almond slices (cupcake credit to Carol). I also set out plain almonds in a milk glass dish, and several plates of Brie cheese with those really white water crackers. Several ladies braved Brie for the first time in their lives--brave girls! A plate of chicken salad sandwiches.

I collected my striped airplane plants and set them on white stands for the middle of the table. And dressed the table in a large cream cloth layered with a washed-out green-striped cloth.

The afternoon was warm and pearly gray, and the conversations were long and loud and happy! For this elegant, auburn-haired mother-to-be, it was just right.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Deep Pink Spray Roses

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Daisy Helps with the Yogurt

In the winter I can culture my yogurt by the woodstove. If the cats don't knock it over.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A Bright Bucket

Filling a bucket with civilized lavender cleaner to go after a mysterious Nasty Smell in my kitchen this afternoon,a Smell that's been baffling us for two weeks. Two weeks!

After a focused investigation I found that apparently I hadn't used the right-hand oven since Christmas morning, a time when I might have forgotten to take all the dishes out before serving lunch . . . .

But that's not as bad as Carol losing a pot roast in her van, in the summer, right?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

A Cream Wool Baby Blanket

It's been years--maybe eighteen?--since I crocheted something using soft yarn. I had my cotton thread project there for awhile, but just hadn't gotten involved in a fuzzy project.

So you know where I'm going with this, right? I got some beautiful cream wool yarn from my stash to welcome a new baby later this month. I did a large square of single crochets, then went around the outside making a row of eyelet, then I made a sort of scalloped edging. It's all very informal, but strung with a tonal satin ribbon, I think will welcome baby very well!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Bella's Weekly Tea

Lately Bella has taken to serving formal teas whenver she has friends over to play. Before she and her friends hit the dress-up trunk, game cabinet, or the muddy creek, we find them sitting in low chairs around the round table, dining on things like crepes from scratch, lemon-scented scones, and tangerines. She carries out her plans all independently, uses the irreplaceable fancy china (and washes it and puts it away), and happily includes six or eight guests, if she can get them.

She even shines the silver. What a girl!

Related Posts with Thumbnails