Thursday, July 31, 2014

"In This Town, Betty Owns Lemon Pie"

[image from Garden & Gun]

"I learned very early that women competed against each other culinarily and that recipes were like currency. It's like, You can't make lemon pie because in this town, Betty owns lemon pie. And that's when I started to really understand food and understand the value of food and what it meant to Southern identity."

--interview with Alton Brown,
Garden and Gun (August/September 2014)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Clara's Knitting: Pistachio Lace Shawl

I know this is from Jane Austen Knits Magazine, and I'll get the pattern listed as soon as I can.

Clara's knitting is amazing to me!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Rose and Raspberry Dessert

Bella always chooses raspberry jello for her birthday "cake", but this year we took it to the next level with a recipe from the UK Country Living magazine. It called for a layer of fresh fruit (we used two boxes of raspberries) suspended in a crystal clear solution of simple syrup, gelatin, and rosewater.

The rose fragrance was really strong, but it was very mild in the eating. Served with a big cloud of soft whipped cream, it was delicious and different.

Here's my adaptation:

*Summer Fruit Jelly*

Gently wash and dry two boxes of fresh raspberries.
Lay them in a glass loaf pan (or the mold of your choice) that's been sprayed with Pam or lightly oiled.

In a small bowl, dissolve two envelopes of plain gelatin in 1/2 c. cold water.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring 7/8 c. sugar (I know, just fake it) and 2 c. water to a boil, and boil for 2 minutes. Stir the dissolved gelatin in, then leave the pan to cool for 30 minutes.

Stir 1 T. rosewater into the sugar syrup, then very gently pour the syrup over the berries. Put it in the fridge to chill for several hours until it's set.

To unmold, carefully loosen the edges with a thin knife, then turn upside down on the serving platter. If it won't drop out onto the platter, try using a hot wet towel draped over the bottom of the mold for a few minutes.

Serve with cream you have whipped with a little bit of sugar and maybe even another tsp. of rosewater.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The "Zoe Dress" in Pistachio Silk

Here's a sweet dress pattern from an independent pattern designer, Sew Serendipity. I liked the really wide inset waistband and elbow-length sleeves, so I made it up in some pistachio-colored raw silk I had in my stash.

I decided to lengthen the skirt by five inches, which was fine except I only remembered to lengthen the *side panels* and not the center front and back. So they got an extra design detail in that they have a five-inch band at the bottom. Oh well. Even with five extra inches this is not a very long dress. If I make it up again I'll probably put at least another four inches on there. Lately I just want the gravitas of a lot of skirt, it seems.

This was a very easy fit, and the only problem I encountered with the pattern was that the front side panel piece was missing the grain line. It wasn't the kind of thing you could eyeball (definitely not cut on the straight grain) but I flipped it over and modeled it after the back side panels, which seemed to be right, and it hangs nicely.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Easy Almond Cookies for the Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free

Not to name names, but some people out there can't eat gluten or dairy at the moment, and they run a lot of miles every week, and now their pants are falling down.

If you want to fatten those people up, you can make these cookies I just invented (heavily inspired by an earlier peanut butter iteration). They are gluten-free and dairy-free, and they look and taste normal!

Here's how:

*Easy Gluten-Free Almond Cookies*

Preheat the oven to 325, and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

With a sturdy spoon, or in a Kitchenaid mixer, mix
1 c. almond butter
 1 egg
1 c. sugar
 1/4 c. ground almonds
 1 t. vanilla
 and, if you like, about 1/4 c. slivered almonds*.

Form the dough into balls using about a soup spoon of dough at a time, and flatten them gently on the cookie sheet, leaving enough room for them to spread just a little.

Bake for about 12-14 minutes: you can go for softer or crispier.

*These are optional but they will give your unbaked cookies a charming resemblance to the "porcupine" meatballs that perhaps your grandmother made you, with rice and tomato sauce. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sweet Fridge Pickles

This dishpan contains Daisy's very own, no-help-from-anyone-except-Mommy-sliced-the-onion, batch of fridge pickles. She made a gallon, using my grandmother's recipe.

• Sweet Fridge Pickles •

Slice 3 quarts cucumbers, leaving the peels on but removing the seeds if they are big and ungainly. 
Thinly slice 3 onions (or fewer), and add to the cukes.
Sprinkle with 2 T. salt, and let sit for two hours.

Drain in a colander, then pour over them 1 1/2 cups of vinegar (we used cider, but you can go fancy), and 3 cups of sugar.

Cover them (we keep them in a giant jar) and refrigerate indefinitely.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"Obedience Isn't for Us"

"Our stories affect one another whether we know it or not. Sometimes obedience isn't for us at all, but for another. We don't know how God holds the kingdom in balance or why He moves a chess piece at a crucial time; we might never see the results of his sovereignty. But we can trust Him when He says press on, cling to hope, stay the course. He is always at work, even if the entire thread is hidden . . . .
The story of God's people comprises a billion little moments when an average believer pressed on, carried through, stepped up. In the quantity of ordinary obedience, the kingdom truly advances. "
--Jen Hatmaker, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess  (2012)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Clara's Knitting: Linen and Wool Shawl

Apparently Clara really can knit anything there is.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Log Cabin Quilt Top: A Good Year for the Cutting Garden

It is factually true that this has been a good year for the cutting garden. Also a good year to make this bright quilt.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Puff Pastry Apple Tart

I found this on the counter this afternoon. Bella must be getting over her cold and getting her energy back.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bugle Bead Treasure

In retrospect, blog reader Kyndra's note was way too casual. Would I want her Italian great-grandmother's bead stash? Gee, sure, I guess, right?

Oh. My. It came in a groovy rice pudding box (for the bonus) and when we took the lid off a collective gasp ran around the room. This was booty of the highest order. Ropes and ropes of glass bugle beads in dreamy never-seen-before colors. 

They were all in a terribly tangled mass, and Clara spent the last two days sorting them out and making plans for matching knitted garments.

Kyndra. Thank you.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Folkwear #233: Winter Dress-Up

This is Folkwear 233, the Glamour Girl dress. Straight out of the forties with a dramatic hip yoke that ties in front, a beautifully draped slim skirt, and an authoritative shoulder line.

I had many yards of an unbelievable heavy silk crepe in chocolate brown (a $2/yard find at Hancock's one lucky day!) and decided to make the long version.

I struggled with this pattern--the waist was huge, which meant I was taking in a seam with a zipper (sigh). And I failed to look closely at the drawing which resulted in my having a lot of trouble getting the "back neck facing" to lie down. Maybe because it was actually a band collar that was supposed to stand up, huh?

But I'm glad I pushed through because it truly is a flattering, comfortable dress. Now for an occasion!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

At Last: Ruffled Tied Jersey Wrap

The back story is that two years ago I was at the fabric store with my cousin Sally and I said, here, get some of this jersey and I'll make you a jacket. Which she did, and I took it home with me, and then (enter the conflict, this one is man vs. fabric) figured out I didn't have enough to do anything with.

 A year later I realized I could make a wrap with it, so I cut it into three rectangles and laid them on top of each other, and cut out a bunch of strips to gather. But the grain wasn't straight, the strips were no fun because they twisted, and so on and so forth and the project went back in the basket.

I finally worked my way down to it this month, and got it together. I gathered those strips up, tediously uncoiled them and pinned them in place, then used button and craft thread to stitch them down with a chain stitch.

Last, I sewed ties to the two short ends, and then surprised myself by *loving* this wrap. First, it looks astonishingly like piped chocolate ganache, always a win. Second, it's so heavy and drapey with all the layers and ruffles. Third, it's finished!

Sally, it'll be on its way shortly!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Flowers for Daisy's Birthday Table

Cosmos, zinnias, butterfly bush, pink salvia, culinary sage. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Her Last Night to Be Nine

Friday, July 11, 2014

Tomato Sandwich Time

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Look Who's Behaving

Yes, Mabel was bad, but she seems to have turned over a new leaf. Since she was brought back to the pasture she's been much more docile. And of course, a month farther along in her pregnancy. That'll slow a lady down.

 It's been a peaceful week--maybe she finished sowing her wild oats.

You can see that she still has her horns--it didn't work out for her owner to take her to the vet. Perhaps after all, she'll get to keep them.


Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Work for Each Day; Work for the Month



Tea and morning pages
Feed the animals
Check email
Run, garden, or swim

Bath and dressing
Make bed
Collect dirty clothes and start laundry
Clean up the kitchen
Wipe the dining table
Take vitamins
Make infused water and tea for the fridge
Tidy the front of the house

Do the Day's Work from my weekly list
Plan dinner and prepare ahead if needed


Swim with Daisy
Prepare dinner

[I'm very much a morning person--I get up early and work hard for several hours, then slow way down after lunch.]


Dust bedrooms, utility room, halllways, bathrooms, sewing room
Wash a few windows
Clean vent hood, fans, and kitchen light (twice each month)
Frontline the cats
Discard magazines
Wash throw rugs
Cook beans and brown rice in bulk to freeze
Clear kitchen counter clutter
Bill work hours
Buy flowers

[Quilt is Blackberry Patch, shown with zinnias and sunflowers]

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Clara's Tablecloth Dress

Clara was busy this week with this dress, which she created from a tablecloth. First she cut apart a darling but worn-out vintage housedress from a flea market in Philadelphia (do you remember that, Sally?) and made a pattern.

The fabric is indeed a bright vintage tablecloth from my neighbor Lisa. Clara loves these wild hues and looks great in them. 

She finished the dress off with a self-covered belt and vintage bakelite buckle in a matching blue. I was amazed--she hadn't sewn a dress in five years and of course there were no instructions. But that didn't slow her down.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Best and Easiest Chocolate Ice Cream

We used to make our chocolate ice cream with melted chocolate--and that's still delicious--but we now prefer a better, easier chocolate ice cream

•Easy Big Batch Chocolate Ice Cream•

The DAY BEFORE, heat 4 cups milk until the edges bubble.
Stir in 2 2/3 c. sugar, 1/2 t. salt, and 1 1/3 c. cocoa (just ordinary cocoa will do here).
Keep stirring until everything is nicely dissolved.

Then stir in 4 c. cream and 1 T. vanilla.

Chill overnight, and churn up in the ice cream freezer the next day.

This makes four awesome quarts.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

A Week's Work

•Monday: General Housekeeping and Laundry•

Change all the sheets and towels
Do all the laundry
Make bread
Clean the birdcage
Water the plants
Empty the wastebaskets
Vacuum the whole house
Plan the week's menus

•Tuesday: Cleaning the Kitchen•

Wipe the stovetops
Wipe all the counters
Wipe out the microwave
Wipe out the compost cupboard
Quick wipe in the fridge
Wash the soap dishes
Vacuum and mop the floor
Clean the sinks
Trip to library
Buy groceries for three days

•Wednesday: Ironing and Tidying•

Do the ironing
Put away all the clothes from the utility room
Tidy the utility room
Wipe the washer and dryer
Pick up Daisy's room with her
Tidy the porches and sweep them
Fifteen minutes of deep cleaning off the monthly list
One task I've put off

•Thursday: Deskwork and Hospitality•

Change the birdcage
Dust the living areas of the house
Vacuum the living areas
Change my sheets
Answer all my work emails
Planning and paperwork for volunteer jobs
Visit, entertain, or babysit in the afternoon

•Friday: Loose Ends, and Groceries•

Clean all the bathrooms
Tidy the sewing room
Bake for the weekend
Clean out my purse
Fifteen minutes of deep cleaning off the monthly list
Buy groceries for four days

[Quilt is Encyclopedia of Gemstones; flowers are hydrangeas, asparagus, and cutting garden blooms arranged by Clara]

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Two Boleros: Beaded Ruffle, and String Quilting

Lucille models a new shape of bolero from Natalie Chanin's Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. I used the tee shirt pattern to extend the bodice shape down to more of a jacket. Then I finished the edge  with a beaded pleated ruffle.

It's Dove jersey, shown over a Nude jersey dress.

Next up, a bolero that uses string quilting--a way of building fabric out of strips. It's very frugal! I could never have scrounged up enough scraps to cut this out normally. But I could find the strips. They are hand-sewn onto a base of jersey you can't see.

It makes for a very sturdy, structured bolero. 

I've sewn almost all of Natalie Chanin's techniques, and this one (it's from Alabama Studio Style) is the trickiest of all. It's very hard to keep all this on the straight grain, and also to maneuver the straight shapes at the curved pattern piece edges.

And, I found I had to work on a tabletop. No sitting and stitching in my lap.

But it is very frugal!

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