Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Paper and Pine Cone Birds

My mother gave me these life-sized bird decorations. I love the soft colors for the dining table, but I love even more that Frederick thinks they *might* be real and so says hello to them when he has the opportunity.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pale Spring Sky Quilt

Soft blues and whites out my window this week. And on my sewing table! My log cabin quilt for a baby is here in my etsy shop.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Cake Lady: Lemoncheese Cake

Next up in my tour of Southern Cakes is lemoncheese. No, I had not heard of it either. It must belong to a very specific region of the South, apparently suburban Atlanta.

But it should be more widely known. A three-layer yellow cake spread inside, outside, and upside-down with nothing other than homemade lemon curd! Mine was an almost alarming yellow due to Phyllis' free-ranging chickens supplying my eggs.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Utility Cloths for the Kitchen

I'm calling these utility cloths, but you could assign them to any job--dry dishes, mop up spills, cover the rising dough, keep the biscuits warm. I find it nerdily empowering to be able to sew these for myself and not go out to Wal-Mart to buy kitchen linens.

Choose any two fabrics (or double one), cut matching rectangles (size is totally up to you), sew with wrong sides together and let the margin fray (use zigzag stitch), or refine them with right sides sewn together and then turned right side out and topstitched.

Choose almost any all-cotton: flannel, seersucker, quilting, home dec. I'm trying it all and especially liking the unlikely mixes, including the backs of men's shirts from the thrift store, matched with something a little thicker.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Peach Roses at the Mirror

Still beautiful ten days after Valentine's . . . .

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Flared Dress for Spring: Vintage Simplicity 1291

Our truly mild winter has got me sewing things for spring already. Daisy loves this new Vintage Simplicity 1291. It has a gently-gathered bodice, flaring gored skirt, and piped decorative tab.

And even better than owning a new spring dress is that happy day when it's warm enough to wear it outside!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cake Lady: Pound Cake

I've been thinking about cake ladies. You know them? The ladies in your town who supply their special cakes whenever there's a funeral, birth, or potluck.

In my own life I would turn to Carol for Italian Cream Cake or Fresh Strawberry Cake, or Phyllis for a cheesecake. I've been known, myself, to come up with a raspberry-filled chocolate layer cake when the need arises.

And in honor of a cake-filled life I'm baking my way through Cake Ladies (see the link above), and I started today with this pound cake.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"The Story of Southern Cooking"

"The story of Southern cooking is, in many ways, a story of resourcefulness, using what is affordable and readily available to create decadent dishes from simple means."

--Jodi Rhoden, Cake Ladies: Celebrating a Southern Tradition

Monday, February 20, 2012

In Animal News . . .

Daisy sent another edition of the Animal News to the printer this weekend after the neighbors' goat Ruby had three babies on Friday and then Pearl had two on Saturday.

It just doesn't get more exciting than that.

Especially when these babies are the size of kittens (chicken included in photo for scale).

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Set of Matching Bags in the Shop

Three little bags in turquoise and red in my etsy shop tonight. Have a look!

Back on Monday--I'm taking my mother for her Christmas trip this weekend. She wants to visit an auntie she hasn't seen in thirty years. I know we're going to have fun laughing . . . mostly at ourselves!!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tiny Heart Cookies

Bella and Daisy made tiny sugar cookies for our day-late Valentine's.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Alabama Stitch Swing Skirt: Iced Black Rose

Sewn from four identical panels of jersey, stenciled with a single large rose motif, appliqued with black jersey shapes, and frosted with black bugle beads. My stencil was downloaded from the Alabama Chanin website, printed out, and Exacto-knifed out of poster board.

The back has a reversed image, without the applique and beading.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Fitzwilliam Starts to Get It

In the process of domesticating our "feral" cat. He sure does purr a lot, and do a lot of lap-sitting, for a boy who was raised by wolves.

It's finally making sense to him, the whole pet thing. For the first time ever he spent several hours (all day, really), sleeping on soft furniture.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Some Good News for Clara

Clara suspected this was coming, having outscored Felix last year. I think she takes some satisfaction in that. Her studying may be motivated 90% by the love of learning, but the other 10% is the desire to lead the class!

She got accepted by her first choice college last month, and is planning to double-major in music and literature. I'm watching her peruse book after book about orchestration and conducting--she says those conducting electives all look really interesting . . . .

She's going to love college!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Seriously, Sew the Oolong Dress in Jersey

This Colette pattern is designed for a woven fabric, to be cut and sewn on the bias. But put on the straight grain on a knit fabric, it is a dream! No need to line it, no need to hem it or finish the edges of the facings, just go!

The specific changes I've made:
• I used two yards of 60 inch jersey (from the thrift store, no less).
• Pieces are turned 45 degrees to align with the grain.
• I hand-gathered the front bodice with button thread.
• I top-stitched the skirt to the bodice by hand, with button thread (a la Alabama Chanin).
• This time, I swapped the sleeve out and used a circular flounce. Unhemmed. I pulled mine from the "Taffy" blouse in the Colette Sewing Handbook, but cut it to just half the length.
• No hem necessary at the bottom of the skirt, no raw edges need finishing.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Chocolate-Hazelnut Ice Cream

•Chocolate-Hazelnut Ice Cream•

In a 300 degree oven, toast 1 cup hazelnuts on a cookie sheet, for about ten minutes, stirring once or twice, and keeping a close eye on them. When they smell toasty, and haven't burned, tip them out on a dishtowel and let them cool for a few minutes, then rub them briskly in the towel until the loose skins fall off. Ignore the skins that are stuck on, and roughly chop the nuts and set them aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together :
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup hazelnut syrup (from the coffee aisle at the grocery store)
until the sugar is dissolved.

Gently mix in:
2 cups heavy cream

Freeze in any maker (I use my countertop Cuisinart machine). At the last minute, drop the chopped nuts into the ice cream and get them mixed in. Decant into a cold bowl, large enough to stir around in.

Get out the jar of Nutella and drop several spoonfuls into the ice cream. Stir gently and quickly to get it somewhat streaked around. It will want to stay in blobs when it gets cold, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

More melted Nutella can be added at serving time, if you feel like going overboard.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Hemming a Circle Skirt with a Bias Strip

Circle skirts have curved hems that can be awkward to turn up. One way to deal with the curve is to hem with bias strips cut from the same fabric. Because bias strips have some give, you can stretch out the lower side as you sew it to the dress, then neatly turn under the top side and not have a bunch of little pleats of excess fabric to deal with.

For this dress in semi-sheer cotton, I cut a bias strip two inches wide, and sewed it to the bottom of the dress, right sides together, using a half-inch seam. Then I turned it up under the skirt and neatly pressed it, and then folded in and pressed the other raw edge.

That edge can be machine-sewn in place, or hand-sewn, if there's time to kill, and that circle skirt will be nicely hemmed, with a nice hang.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Fait Accompli

Fitzwilliam is successfully neutered. Very impressed by the vet doing this on my dining room floor *without* using glasses. I guess he is a couple of years younger than I am.

He suggested we put Fitzwilliam on a towel in the big clawfoot bathtub, closing the bathroom door, to give him a safe place to come out of his anesthesia. I had my doubts that even that big antique tub could contain this cat, but I went ahead with the plan.

Ten minutes later I opened the bathroom door to check on him, and he was careening around the little bathroom. He panicked at the sight of company and wonkily tried to jump onto the tiny windowsills. That didn't work, so he went for the sink and made it. He barely fits in the sink, he's so big, and he accidentally turned the cold water tap on full blast as he landed, so that wasn't so good.

Torn between sympathy and cracking up, I got him out and back onto a towel and the rest of his recover was, as they say, uneventful.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Gray Cotton Jersey, Stencilled

Slow beauty blooming: after so many steps I finally get some paint on the fabric, and it's worth the trouble.

This is so beautiful to me--

Even the supplies.

Friday, February 03, 2012

So Much Sourdough

I bought the book Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson and eyed it sideways for months. I wanted to bake that loaf on the cover, but first had to make myself buy a scale for the kitchen, so I could measure by weight.

I don't even want to know why that purchase took me so long. It's behind me now. I love baking by the scale! But I race ahead. First I had to grow my own sourdough starter. The book made it sound so easy--just flour and water, cover it up with a towel, and start baking on Tuesday.

Unbelievably, that is exactly what happened. I followed the meticulous directions for raising, shaping, and baking my loaves and they have been perfect every time. I bake so much *we can't eat it all*. I have moved on to the advanced pleasure of giving away bread so good it can't even be purchased in this county.

The bench rest (I adore doing all these shapings):

The final rise (I know you can spend money on special baskets and linen liners, but I just line my Pyrex bowls with dishtowels):

The finished loaves making crackling sounds as they cool:

Thursday, February 02, 2012

A Glowing Thrifted Painting

I found this oil painting in a thrift store last month and have given it center stage in the kitchen. The glowing cantaloupe! The copper kettle! The straight-up-and-down knife, and the seafoam green!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Daisy's Newsbag

That's Daisy's newsbag you see cross-body. She keeps it on her person much of the time, in case there's news and she needs to write it down.

She specializes in Animal News (in fact, she has a whole office devoted to this on my sewing room floor. It takes up a lot of room, and involves lots of little boxes).

The biggest Animal News story of late is the new, gigantic cat that's been hanging around the kitchen door. I must confess I love him. He's just so big! Felix named him Fitzwilliam, and he's getting neutered tomorrow, right here in the kitchen (thanks, Dr. M!). I'm not sure he would even fit in my cat carrier, he's that big.

I'm sure that will go in the Animal News tomorrow.

And from the obituary page . . .

It was a chickadee.

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