Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bella Makes Madeleines

Bella's been trying out madeleine recipes in the new pan she got for Christmas. Some are too buttery (who knew?), some are too scanty. She was happy with this one, tweaked from the current issue of Tea Time magazine.

Heat oven to 350. Butter the madeleine pan.

Clarify 3/4 c. butter in a small saucepan by heating over low heat until brown and nutty, then straining through a paper towel in a sieve. Throw out the solids, keep the liquid.

Beat together:
4 eggs
and a pinch of salt at a medium speed, until thick.
2/3 c. sugar a little at a time, beating at a high speed.

Fold in:
1 t. orange flower water (or orange zest)
1 t. vanilla
and the brown butter.
Then 3/4 c. sifted flour.
Don't stir past the folding in.

Fill each madeleine well almost to the top. Makes two pans.
Bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Thrifted Plaid Shirt

This vintage 50's shirt, of washed and worn Indian cotton, is in heavy rotation right now. Plaid! Daffodils!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Last Bit of Chicago

Can you guess where she is?

So much to think about; hard decisions to make.

In the end, it was Josefina's goat and Julie's bunny coming home with us.

Can you guess what we ate? Y'all said pizza, right?

And then home . . . .

Saturday, March 27, 2010

At the Opera House

The Marriage of Figaro at the Chicago Lyric Opera! First we went to the little in-house supper bistro. Everything imaginable was covered in roccoco velvet, and an elevator man attended us on our way. Beautifully plated little dinners at fancy little tables.

Then many stairs to climb.

We got settled and perused our programs. The soprano singing the Countess was ill and it turned out the new singer was someone the Composer had met before. For a quiet man, he does seem to know everyone.

Figaro is long, and Daisy fell asleep at 11 o'clock, but woke up in the cab afterwards to ask what the scenery was in the last act. She regretted missing the moonlit garden.

On the way home, the question arose: what role would you choose to sing? Bella called the Countess, but Daisy picked Cherubino. "She sings such a beautiful song to the Countess, and she gets to sing the beautiful part over again."

Yes, she does.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Dress for the Opera: Vintage Simplicity 3446

(image from

Before you go to the opera you've got to figure out the dress. So we pulled this pattern back on a snow day, and found some gorgeous fabric in the stash. I think it's a silk-wool blend that I was given by a draperer's daughter. It has an unbelievable crispness, heft, and gloss to it, and makes a phenomenal glowing frock. Especially on Bella.

A great pattern--so straightforward and flattering. The built-in neckline tie allows for some creativity. Will I pin it, tie it, or drape it with pearls?

We didn't take a china bird or a bouquet to the opera.

But the little thrifted purse, yes.

And the tall leather boots.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Natural History

This year for Christmas, each child (except Giles) got his or her own special slice of Chicago as their gift. Set for late March, so we just did it.

We started out accommodating Felix--at the world-class Field Museum of Natural History, of course.

What a treat to be in a space designed solely for dignity, beauty, and knowledge. And I adored the displays that hadn't been modernized yet, that still had their vintage cut-out letters on pegboard displays. Lots of olive green, too.

We got Felix squared away (I'll show you in a second) and took off on our own. Notable here: Daisy's current fascination and simultaneous horror with snakes. Indulged here with some mighty pythons and pit vipers.

When it was time for the mammals, she asked with some concern: "Will there be humans?" No.

Meanwhile, Felix was UPSTAIRS IN THE BIRD SPECIMEN ARCHIVES. For two whole days, with camera, sketchbook, and pen. And complete freedom to browse the thousands of preserved birds in the archives. With a pass on his shirt.

Maybe not my cup of tea, or yours, but it was the Bird Student's heaven.

And they let you in the Pearly Gates just by asking ahead of time.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Until Thursday

Goodbye until Thursday! We are headed out for some urban adventure.

A good week to everyone!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Cutting All the Hyacinths

Clara has adopted a scorched-earth policy when it comes to cutting the hyacinths for the house, because if she doesn't gather them, the deer will.

So we set aside our plan of enjoying them in the garden, and fill all the little pitchers with these heavenly bouquets.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Strawberry Shortcake

Who knew there was a dessert in Frederick's color scheme?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Daisy Visits the New Neighbors

You probably would believe that she went bounding down the path on four separate occasions today.

And you probably wouldn't be surprised to learn she used her top speed.

But did you know she was carrying a bag of wilted lettuce?

Welcome to the neighborhood, fellows.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Vintage Girls' Wrap Dress: Simplicity 6300

How long have I been telling Daisy I would not make her a wrap dress because there aren't any patterns for wrap dresses in her size? Oh thrift store, you proved me so wrong.

And you provided me with an extra large men's plaid shirt to make the dress out of. And I believe that brown grosgrain ribbon came from your shelves as well. But I won't give you credit for my raggedy flower. That was my own.

Thanks for the pictures, Giles! And enjoy that chocolate, Daisy.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Parenting the Hurt Child

Every adoptive family needs a copy of Parenting the Hurt Child by Gregory Keck and Regina Kupecky. Even if you think your adoption situation was idyllic, adoption by definition involves a loss for the child at its center.

I love this book because the authors treat adoptive parents with such respect; they are viewed as the only parties who have the power to bring healing to the child by teaching him to attach to them. A therapist can help, but the job belongs to the parents. It's full of lots of practical instruction on fostering attachment--things that are fun and doable, and great for keeping *any* child firmly attached (hello teenagers!).

And they view home-schooling as a non-issue, a refreshing change for child welfare professionals.

I'm giving this book a whole-hearted endorsement.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Three Views of Giles

(photo credit to the Composer)

Friday, March 12, 2010


I have never used pinking shears to finish my edges before, because I've never owned any. Then I won some from Sew, Mama, Sew and decided to give them a try. I just find it hard to trust that pinking will prevent unravelling, when a zigzag stitch is *clearly* so secure, not to mention French seams, or bias binding . . . .

On the other hand, I've come across a few vintage dresses recently with pinked seams and they look okay even though it's been sixty years or so.

Anyway, I brought out the shears for my project, the Beignet skirt from Colette Patterns. I thought it would be a safe test run since all of the seams are hidden by the lining anyway.

And. Not only is pinking quite functional (at least on this reasonable fabric), it looks absolutely adorable!! Now I want to pink everything. Such delicate little pointies!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Waiting for Giles

Somehow the cats just know: they were both messing up his bed this morning.

The Composer's off to the airport, and coming home with the big boy!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Canvas, I Love You

I love canvas! It's so cheap, so available, it works in place of linen for so little money.

I use it for drapes, slipcovers, bags, pillows, and clothes.

And quilts. And you can dye it and embroider on it. Yes.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

An Eye-Popping Pillow

In the same way that the Ming Dynasty produced all the best porcelain vases, there had to have been some sort of Crewelwork Dynasty that, at its apex, was capable of producing pieces like this one.

Look at this! Chrysanthemums made of loops! A basket woven out of yarn! Somebody knew what they were doing.

I've turned it into a pillow but not the kind you take a nap on or let the cat sleep on. In fact, I think it may need to go to a child-free home, or at least one with an unused parlor.

And I should mention it's really large. 18 x 24.

Monday, March 08, 2010

A Row of Little Pitchers

Little pitchers, repeated and full of daffodils, make a nice arrangement in the sitting room. I find these at the thrift store all the time.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Daisy Unloads the Dishwasher

In the Housekeeping X Games, Daisy's favorite event is Extreme Dishwasher Cross, a sport characterized by intense verticality and dangerous stacking.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Chocolate-Pecan Phyllo Rolls

Paging through my recipes this morning I realized I had some thawed phyllo dough in the fridge. Who cares that I thawed it six weeks ago? I'm here to tell you that if it's in a plastic bag, nothing bad is going to happen. Not having pistachios on hand, I decided to switch a few ingredients out and make Chocolate-Pecan Phyllo Rolls.

Why does Martha Stewart do things the hard way? This recipe says to put your chocolate-nut mixture into a ziploc bag with the corner cut out and *pipe* it onto the phyllo sheet. Nope. I just spooned it in place and I'm sure that was faster and less wasteful.

We ate these with enthusiasm.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A Woven Silk Tote

The thrift stores around here have marked the winter clothes down to make way for spring stuff. I found a blazer made from this interesting woven silk--it looks like burlap, but feels supple and, indeed, silky. There was just enough to cut out a small tote, and use the sleeves for the tote handles.

A pretty floral lining.

A good way to get rid of some of my excess of velvet rosebuds. Credit to my mother for sewing that bugle bead to that leaf.

Hoping to do a shop update this weekend with this and other goodies.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Vintage Inspiration for Wives

"This house told more about Mrs. Parker than words ever could. Here were beautiful things . . . Beautiful things were here to be used.

In the midst of this loveliness there was comfort . . . People lived here and liked it.

Mary sensed that this pleasant atmosphere was not because of the lovely things in the house but because of Mrs. Parker herself. She understood now what Mrs. Parker gave [her husband] . . . how she surrounded her husband in his home with all the things in which he could rejoice. She realized now that Mrs. Parker was not just an older girl, for all her unquenchable youthfulness. She was a woman who understood and delighted in the task that was hers."

--Mildred Foulke Meese, Star Light, Star Bright (1940)

Monday, March 01, 2010

A Vintage Blouse for Clara

Clara wanted a simple vintage blouse, and this pattern had a Peter Pan collar, tucks to fit the waist, and 3/4 sleeves gathered into bands. I had just barely enough gray polka dot flannel to squeak it out. I would have made it an inch longer if I could have. She's way over 5'10 these days.

She roamed the button jars and chose five odd yellow buttons. So cute, and she wears yellow rickrack in her belt loops with the blouse!

I'll get a pattern picture up in the next day or two.

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