Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!, this isn't the elegant solution, but Blogger is again acting up.

Just the same, if you were wondering with whom you should spend New Year's Eve, I can recommend Mr. and Mrs. Charles!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year's Eve EVE

It's a great thing to celebrate, especially if you're in New York. There are some fantastic doings tonight at Patrick Soluri's Salon. Look it up in T.O.N.Y. or the Wall Street Journal, or Facebook if you're a vintage loving soul with a taste for good company and music. You won't be sorry!

We're staying here, I'm afraid, but don't plan to let it cramp our style. I spent today shopping for goodies. Tomorrow evening we're having a good dinner--filet mignon with some trimmings--and then we plan to nosh on some fabulous things: oysters, pate, caviar (flying fish roe), fruit and sweets, and wash it down with Champagne cocktails and Champagne.

As it's just the two of us we won't be going for black tie, but vintage pajamas instead. I haven't decided whether to go 20s, 30s, or 40s, but I've got them all, with slippers to match.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Another Christmas Gift

This is a box of marzipan I made for my husband with leftovers from the Christmas Cake. There are peaches, cherries, Delicious apples, avacado, and lemons.

I'll post photos of more knitted gifts as I find them. They're tucked away in various photo albums on my computer.

On this third day of Christmas, I hope you're having a merry time.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas...and Christmas Cake, Part III

Here it is...the final product. (And the star of tomorrow's Christmas tea.)

I wish the very best to you and yours, whether you celebrate Christmas, something else, or nothing at all. Enjoy your holiday!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Booze Cart

These were taken at the request of a friend who is compiling a particularly boozy photo album. Yes, when this was taken we were out of gin (or as my husband likes to call it, martini juice). No longer...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A(n) F.O. for Christmas

If you're not a knitter, "FO" = Finished Object. This is the scarf I made for my MiL. The tan section is silk and alpaca, and the orchid is baby alpaca. It's from Boutique Knits. It's to be worn with the beret I made for her birthday, which is made of the tan yarn.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Cake, Part II

Here it covered in almond icing; the holly leaves and berries are made from the leftovers. They're for the final decoration, after the royal icing is applied.

The almond icing needs to dry for several days before the royal icing goes on, as the oil from the almonds would otherwise stain it.

Yesterday I even bought a vintage cake plate to store and display the cake.

Monday, December 19, 2011

It's Coming

Christmas, I mean, and I can prove it.

1. I have baked five kinds of cookies, have a batch of dough in the fridge for number 6, and am running out of cookies already. (Christmas boxes to friends and family. I haven't even sent trays to the neighbors yet, or my husband's barber.)

2. The Christmas cake is now drunk enough, and is wearing its first coat of icing--almond (marzipan, really). I bought a glass cake plate and cover to show it off, I couldn't help myself.*

3. We're almost out of plum puddings...but we haven't eaten any. I did save four little guys for us. We'll eat the first two on Christmas eve.

4. All of the Christmas boxes have gone out. Nine this year. All containing gifts, plum pudding, cookies, and homemade jelly and marmalade.

5. It's cold. And about time, too!

*I do have photos, but the cord to upload them is upstairs and I'm not. Call me lazy (I do). There is also a photo of the scarf for my MiL. With any luck I'll get them posted before the New Year. Just in time to find photos of the other things I made and can't yet show off. If I can find them.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

20th Century Christmas in the 21st Century

...sort of. Let's face it, I like streaming my Christmas music, so the cleaning and decorating aren't interrupted. And, yes, I do use Facebook.

But here's a list of some of the things I do in preparation for the holidays.

*Bake. A lot. For example (this year's plan): Christmas Cake, Plum Pudding, cookies (probably about 8 or 10 varieties), maybe a chocolate whiskey cake, and some savory crackers. Mushroom turnovers (hors d'ouvres sized).

*Make candy. Candied peels (clementine, some orange, lemon, grapefruit). Bourbon balls? Maybe brittle of some kind.

*Clean, THEN decorate (this is why I want a house elf for Christmas). Decorating does mean Christmas stockings (to be filled, yes: I look forward more to the stocking than other gifts).

*Christmas cards. Yes, real ones. (Who knows, the USPS is quite possibly about to be vintage.)

*Sending packages. No, almost no one sends them back to us. But I've been doing it for more than 20 years, and I don't intend to stop now. These go to close family, and our dearest friends. The boxes include gifts, cookies, candies, home canned goods (mostly jams & such). By the way, I don't mean our families forget us! But not everyone has the time or inclination to make homemade items, gift wrap everything, and ship it. I do have the time, and enjoy the process.

And...most of the ornaments are blown glass, or old fashioned (like real pine cones or gilded walnuts). I put a wreath or a spray on the front door. Sometimes I put one on the side door, too.

We go to parties, and we dress up for them. I'm lucky enough to be married to a man who doesn't think a necktie is a form of torture (I've worn them, they're not...on the other hand, try standing around in a drafty cocktail dress and ill-fitting heels some time). I even dress nicely on Christmas day, although I'm inclined to indulge my inner cornball. Plaids, fur trim, and some glitter...why not?

It's time-consuming, and old-fashioned, and sometimes it has to go by the wayside, but it's what I do for the holidays. (Yes; holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's--look, three!)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas is a-coming

No goose, but there will be plum pudding (in addition to the Christmas cake). Between the two, I suspect there will be at least one more trip to the liquor store for brandy! This year I've made all small puddings. That way they won't go to waste...we never ate the large pudding last year, saying things like, "Oh, it's so rich, and it's just the two of us..." and other variations on that riff. Not this year!

The same recipe gave me 15 small puddings, so we'll have plenty to give away. I'm planning on sending some to family, and giving some to friends in the area, plus we'll account for a few.

I haven't yet started cookies, but that will kick off this week as well. Not a dozen varieties this year, I think, but a good selection.

The knitting is nearly done--I'll have photos soon of the scarf I made for my MiL (she's not online), but most of the other recipients read this blog, so the pictures will be posted after Christmas.

How are your baking/knitting/shopping plans proceeding? As planned? Better? Worse? Well, don't worry about it, there's nearly a month to go!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Not Christmas, but Christmas baking

This past week I did it again--made a traditional Christmas sweet that I've never made (or even tasted) before. Christmas cake!

For those Yanks who don't know what I'm talking about, it's a fruitcake---now, now---wait! Not that awful plastic and sawdust thing strangled in cellophane...this is a rich cake loaded with real dried fruit and candied fruit that I mostly candied myself, including real glace cherries. And I'm not using cheap cooking sherry to douse it, but a decent cognac.

After it's baked and then aged with the brandy, it's wrapped in an almond paste (marzipan) "icing". It must wait for its final wrapping for nearly a week, as the oil from the almonds will otherwise stain the royal icing yellow.

Right after its final icing, it's decorated. I'm still deciding, but am leaning in the direction of making marzipan holly leaves and berries...and maybe a sugar mouse or two.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dr Who Scarf, Finished!

AKA Myrna the Mannequin's new dress.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Frivolous Friday: Beading, 1920s Style

I call this frivolous because, well, there are only so many places these can be worn. But I do wear them!I've been doing this kind of beadwork for much longer than I've been knitting--I made the first one (the silver cap with fringe) about 20 years ago. My former MiL swore it was a waste of time and money, but I've since worn it for Halloween, New Year's Eve, Mardi Gras, 20s parties--more than once on each of these.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dr Who Scarf...nearly

It's blocking. Mind you, it's been done (except for casting off & cutting the fringe) since the spring. No, really.

The big problem--or maybe the long problem--has been space for blocking. However, I've finally begun to clear out my workroom, and the floor has re-appeared!

Without the fringe it's just about 9' (yes, nine feet) long. With the fringe it'll be just under 11' long. I ran out of space, or it WOULD have been 11' long with fringe. If not longer. It's the series 13 scarf, as worn by the 4th Doctor (AKA Tom Baker).

And this year it'll be worn by an American fangirl in Rhode Island.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Autumn Pastry

I love the fall. It's my favorite time of year--the weather, the colors on the leaves, and the food all conspire to make it the best season.

With that in mind, I can never pass up leaf-shaped cookie cutters, and I use them whenever I can find an excuse.

These cheese pastry leaves are today's result. There just happened to be half a recipe of cream cheese pastry in the fridge and the parsley is still doing well in the garden. And there were odds and ends of cheese. Voila!--cheese pastry leaves.

Autumn Pastry
4 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup butter (room temperature)
1 cup + 2 tbl. flour
1/2 tsp. salt (scant)

1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup crumbled bleu cheese
1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced

yolk of one egg, beaten with about 2 tbl. water and 1/2 tsp. paprika

leaf-shaped cookie cutter(s)

Make the pastry and chill for a minimum of 3 three hours. It's probably easiest to simply make it the day before. Take out to allow it to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Sprinkle the pastry board with flour, bits of parsley, and bits of both cheeses. Roll out about 1/4 of the dough and place on a parchment covered cookie sheet (nine shapes to a sheet is good). Brush each cut-out with the egg mixture.

Bake at 425 F for about 12 minutes, turning half-way through to get the pastries evenly browned.

Repeat until all dough is used. This recipe makes about 50 leaves, but I can't give you a very accurate count...I started eating them early on. Taste-testing is important.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Frivolous (Belated) Friday

Those who know me (or even those who've only met me) realize quickly that frivolity is one of the things that makes me happy.

1. "Frivolous Friday"* sounds frothy.

2. We could all use something frivolous to make the day better.

3. Could this be the thing that will get me to write more than two blog posts a month?

Here's today's topic: facials.

I'm all about a decent facial, but I'm cheap. (Think about it...for the cost of a single no-bells-and-whistles facial at a salon you could pick up a decent bottle of Champagne. I rest my case.)

Make your own. It's easy, and chances are that you have many, if not all, of the ingredients already.

*large mixing bowl
*bath towel
*table with water-proof tray

*baking soda, water

See what I mean?

Here's what you do: wash your face and pat it dry. Put on the kettle. While the water is heating, put the tray on the table, the bowl on the tray, and the towel in easy reach of the spot.

When the water boils, fill the bowl 2/3 full; drape the towel over the top and put the kettle safely away. Sit down and steam your face, with the towel draped over your head and shoulders. Be careful not to lean too close. Steam burns aren't beneficial!

After three to five minutes, stop. Pat your face dry (put the towel back over the bowl).

Now dampen your face with warm water, and scoop up a small amount of baking soda. Massage it gently over your face and throat; be careful, it's more abrasive than you might think.

Leave it on your face and go back to the steaming for a minute or two. Rinse with warm water and pat dry.

There are many more facials I like to use, but this is the easiest and cheapest one I know. Don't worry, there's more to come...

*yes, I is now Saturday.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

More Apples

There's still a bag of RI Greenings in the kitchen, but I've made pork & apple pie (very good), apple marmalade, applesauce, crab apple jelly, and green tomato mincemeat. More to come, naturally, but I'm getting our winter treats, jellies, jams, and Christmas presents well under way. There are so many more I'd like to make, but I'm not sure just how much I'll manage in the next month or so. After that I'll be thinking about things like candied peel and plum pudding. Not to mention the sadly neglected garden and house!

I've also been getting back to the Christmas knitting. The latest FO is blocking right now--can't write about it at the moment, the recipient sometimes reads the blog, but I hope she'll like it.

OTN (on the needles) now is a two color scarf for my MiL, from "Boutique Knits", a feather & fan pattern. I'm using alpaca/silk and alpaca, in tan and lavender, and am plotting out a scarf for one of my nephews, per his request.

The Starboard Cape (from 'KnitScene' magazine) turned out beautifully. I'll try to get a photo up soon. I like it so well that I'm thinking about making another,in a different length and color. I got to wear it with a 30s outfit to an exhibit of 30s clothes a few weeks ago, and have been wearing it with modern and vintage clothes ever since. It's very versatile.

Now if I could just be a bit more versatile and get some laundry done...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Apple Season: Next

We haven't gone apple picking yet, but it's on the horizon: this coming Saturday, so long as the weather cooperates.

Unlike other years, though, I've already begun to can/preserve/pickle with a will. It started this summer.

Here's the "so far" listing:

spicy tomato-peach salsa
sweet pickled cherries
pickled crab apples
pickled hot zucchini
hot zucchini relish
hot pickled carrots
carrot cake jam
candied cherries
cherry lemon marmalade

I have about two pounds of crab apples waiting to become jelly, and if by some miracle I find more cherries, I'll candy those. (I also need to candy lots of lemon, orange, and grapefruit peel).

After we go apple picking I expect to make apple marmalade, apple pickles, cinnamon flavored apple jelly, apple salsa, and maybe pie filling (if I find good cooking apples), and applesauce. At least!

Then I want to make cranberry marmalade, cranberry catsup, green tomato or cranberry mincemeat, lavender jelly, and various other herbal jellies.

We're already running out of structured storage space in the cellar--we don't have a proper pantry down there--but that won't stop me.

I think I'm obsessed. But it's a useful obsession; its fruits (pun intended) will provide presents and good things for our own table. I've already promised my husband he'll have a carrot cake with carrot cake jam and cream cheese frosting for his birthday.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Irene and the Long Island Express

Sounds like a children's book, doesn't it?

It's not. Irene (of course) is the hurricane currently making its way up the East Coast here in the States. The Long Island Express is the name given in retrospect to the hurricane of 1938. The '38 hurricane was devastating. Even in upstate New York I grew up hearing about it--in the 1970s--and here in New England it was awful.

It's the reason that there are so few old-growth trees here. Also, indirectly, why the MacIntosh apple took off--the orchards of heritage varieties were ripped up and destroyed. Macs were just coming up in popularity, and easy to grow. Self-pollinating...and so...good-bye heirloom apples.

Buildings were destroyed, and many, many lives were lost. I've seen photos of the carnage. It was horrible. There are still reminders downtown in Providence, even a plaque documenting the flood lines.

We're worried here. Many New Yorkers have been ordered to evacuate. A state of emergency has been declared in Rhode Island, and to be honest, I've been filling containers with potable water and rounded up the crank flashlight and radio, and made sure I could put my hands on the cat carrier.

Irene is supposed to mean "peace". I'll close with the words of a drag queen who, I hope, is correct in her estimation:

"Who names these storms? I'm sorry, but Hurricane Irene doesn't sound very threatening... What does she do, fling a cocktail in your face!?"
--Jackie Beat

Monday, August 22, 2011

Apple Bourbon Slices

This is a recipe I came up with last year. I had lots of just-picked apples, a full bottle of bourbon, and...well...why not?

The recipe makes two generous pints, with a 1/2 cup or so left over. I gave one away to a friend and we kept the rest. Yesterday we had them over cinnamon pancakes--it was wonderful. The bourbon mellows quite a bit after cooking and processing, for those of you who are not big spirit drinkers.

Bourbon Apple Slices 2 pints

2 1/2 lb. peeled, sliced, cored apples (weigh before prep)
1 lb. sugar
pinch salt
2 c. bourbon
1 tbl. lemon juice
6 dashes orange bitters
6 tbl. butter, melted (optional)

Prepare apples; toss with lemon juice. Mix bourbon, sugar, bitters & boil for five minutes. Add apples and salt. Simmer till just tender, stirring as little as possible. Stir in butter.

Ladle apples into jars and pour syrup over. Leave a generous 1/4" headspace at least.

Process for 20 minutes in a hot water bath. Let sit overnight and check seals after 12 to 24 hours before labeling and storing.

Friday, August 12, 2011

With this yarn...

...I will make [fill in the blank].

That's how most of my yarn-buying goes. I buy something because I'm quite sure that I know what it wants to be. And it could be that I'm right, though I seldom find out, because (A) I get sidetracked (B) the "something else I'm working on" takes over (C) LIFE takes over.

And so, weeks, months, or (more likely) years later I find this yarn again. In some vague fashion I can usually remember why I bought it, and even where, but now it wants to be something else.

Case in point: last Christmas I made a pair of boot socks as a gift. The main color was a natural superwash Irish yarn I picked up in Cambridge at a lovely Irish shop. It was destined to be a baby blanket...only I didn't have time. The intended recipient was a work acquaintance, not a close friend, so I didn't push myself into it. I did make a lovely pair of socks with ruffles, and a cotton washcloth. The washcloth was a big hit, so I think I made the right choice.

But the baby blanket became socks.

This year I'm making my MiL an alpaca and silk lace neck kerchief. I've already sent the hat off for her birthday present.

I'm closer this time, though...the yarn wanted to be a pair of gloves. (The first half of the first glove is still languishing in the depths of my work room, waiting to be frogged.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tomato-Peach Salsa

We found more good things at the farmers market, as you can see. Seven pints of hot salsa later...I still want to can some more. Maybe more salsa, but we'll see what's there this coming weekend.

I am knitting, too--honestly! I made this beret for my mother-in-law, and just sent it off today for her birthday, which is Friday. It's the Sprinkle Stitch Beret.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Christmas in August?

Christmas knitting in August, anyway. Can't show it, of course, as some recipients might see it.

But I'm on item #2 now. If I can keep on the trajectory, the holidays should be a snap. (Except for the wrapping and shipping...not the easiest part of it all.)

This year most of our gifts--to the adults, in any case--will be handmade...knitted things, marmalades, etc.

I don't know whether I'll bake myself into another cookie coma, but it's just possible. I can feel the "putting up" (as in canning) urge settling in firmly, too. And today is Saturday, so off to the farmers market in a few hours....

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The First Batch

(Please excuse the blurriness; for some reason, I absolutely could not get a sharp focus.)

It's the first batch of jellies/jams/marmalades, in any case. This is cherry-lemon marmalade. I dug through all of the recipes I could find in my books & on the web, and ended up basing it on this one.

I used half sour and half sweet cherries, and soaked the sliced lemons for two days rather than one. It still is a very loose set. When I make this again--and I will, it tastes terrific--I'll probably add a bit of commercial pectin, or use a chopped Granny Smith apple in the pectin bag.

My version made a dozen 4 ounce jars and two 6 ounce jars, with about 2 ounces left over, which I refrigerated.

Because of the pith used, it's probably a touch more bitter than most Americans like. If you don't like bitter marmalade, slice off the zest and sliver it, and remove the pith from the fruit before slicing and quartering it.

It's tart and rich and a trifle bitter. So far I've tried it on buttered toast and also with maple peanut butter on crackers. Next stop: trifle or cake filling!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Vintage Workout

In my efforts to lose the (unwelcome) reminders of last year's Christmas baking, I've been trimming down. Running, walking, stretching, all of that. But it's a pretty easy task this time of year, with the exception of the occasional heat wave--and even that can be trumped, if I'm willing to wake up early enough.

Winter in New England, though, can be a tough time to exercise out-of-doors--shoveling excepted, of course. Therefore, I've been on the lookout for some kind of very simple exercise bike, not necessarily vintage, but if the Fates are going to be kind and present one, well, I'm not the sort to say no.
The front badge is missing--no doubt it was taken off and sold separately--and the wheel is going to need repair, it's somewhat warped.

Still and all, pretty good pickings for $29.99, wouldn't you say?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Not much knitting

...but some. I finished a plain pair of ribbed gray socks--perfect for running--and I'm working up a pair of medium blue socks, making up the pattern (ribbing w/a travelling yarnover) as I go.

The garden in back is coming along, though my back fence neighbor keeps draining his skimmed pool water into the yard, and I am not happy about it. Neither are the roses. If that continues, I'll be round the street with a big fake smile, a tin of cookies and a friendly "request" to cease and desist. Maybe he'd like to run that water over his own garden instead??

Our front garden is making a comeback from its problems. Our next-door neighbors had their place power-washed. And the overspray killed much of my garden. The roses all survived, but most had to be cut back to bare root, or nearly. Luckily, they are beginning to produce leaves again, and in a couple of cases, flowers.

I could be luckier with my neighbors, I think!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Nothing to report, except for desserts

Here's the cherry pie. I won "Mom's Best" again. Next year, I think I'll go with something less traditional, but it was fun.

This next one is a cocoanut cream pie with a cocoanut and graham cracker crust, topped with red raspberries, white meringues, and blackberries. Happy belated 4th of July!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Can She Bake A Cherry Pie?

Stay tuned to find out!

I've put one into production. (I've made the crust and put it to chill, and assembled the filling.)This year's Chifferobe Stars and Stripes event is featuring a pie contest, as last year's did. I won the "Mom's Best" award last year...that, and the empty pie tin, made me very happy! [See ]

Last year I made a red raspberry pie, so this year I'm going for cherry. I baked a test pie a few weeks ago, to take to a party, and it disappeared in short order, so I'm optimistic.

What's your favorite pie? Is it one you make yourself, or is it your mom's, aunt's, dad's?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Good Cooking: Hominy Muffins

It's raining today. I got a run in before it really started coming down, but even in warm weather, a rainy day brings comfort food to mind.

So when I got back (and changed into a dry robe: 1930s, of course, peach with brown & green appliques) I sat down to page through old cookbooks.

Last year I scored some great 30s cookbooks. One of my favorites is Good Cooking, by Marjorie Heseltine and Ula M. Dow, 1933 (rev. 1936).

It's well-named; the authors were serious about cooking, and there are not only good recipes, but excellent tips for cooking, baking, canning and more.

Anyway, I started looking in earnest in the "breads" chapter, and the first recipe happened to be hominy muffins. They're actually made with grits, a favorite of mine. And they are leavened with yeast, not baking powder. If you've never had yeast raised muffins, do yourself a favor and try some, even if you don't want to bake them yourself; they're great!

Hot cereals were common in the 30s,and so was the problem of what to do with leftovers. In cookbooks of the period you'll find plenty of oatmeal, rice, and other muffins. Most of them, though, use quick bread recipes.

This is faster than many yeast breads: little to no kneading is required, and only a single one-hour rise. The recipe makes one dozen muffins.

Hominy Muffins (12 muffins)

1/2 c. cooked hominy grits* (hot or cold)
2 tbl. fat [I used butter]
2 tbl. sugar [I used just one]
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. milk, scalded

2 cakes yeast [I used 2 envelopes of dry yeast]
2 c. bread flour

Put the cereal, fat, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl; stir the scalded milk slowly into the contents of the bowl to form a smooth mixture. Cool until lukewarm (when a drop poured on the wrist will feel neither hot nor cold). Crumble the yeast cake [sprinkle both envelopes of yeast] between the fingers into the bowl. Add the flour and beat in the flour and yeast thoroughly.

Fill greased muffin pans half full of the mixture. If a metal tablespoon is dipped into cold water each time before it is dipped into the mixture, the dough will not stick to the spoon**. Let rise in a warm room until the pans are full or about 1 hour. Bake in a moderate oven (375 to 400 F.) for 25 minutes.

If I make these again (and I probably will) I'll do two rises, but they're good. Dense and a bit chewy; they'd be great with a stew or any dish that tastes better with crusty bread.

*I made one serving of grits: 3 tbl. grits to one cup of water. There were a few spoonfuls left over. I smoothed it into a pan to be cut and toasted later

**I kneaded the dough briefly, and then divided it as follows: half, half again, and each of these quarters into thirds. Roll into a ball and place smoothest side up in the muffin cup.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

A happy Father's Day to all the dads, folks who stand in for the ones who can't be there, mothers who have to be both, and especially dads who also have to be mothers.

I wasn't lucky enough to know my father; he died when I was very small, but my mother did talk about him and we were able to know him through her.

It seems that I'm not alone in loving "vintage", either...when they bought their house, he promptly ripped out all of the carpets and refinished the hardwood floors. And preferred a gin (real!) martini to a vodka (I came late to that one), and loved to cook.

He was an artist--mostly in charcoal, I think. I have a few of his sketches. He loved good food, and cooking, and gardening.

So here's to my father, and yours, and you, and all of the fathers in our lives.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Just a quick update... say that I'm still digging in the dirt: one small patch to go before I can plant my roses.

The Cat Blankie continues. It's nearly done.

I have begun a new 30s pattern. It's the Normandy, from the Minerva Paris volume. I'm making it in orchid Shetland, with natural as a contrasting color--it has a check pattern sailor collar. Lots of swatching for this one, as my Shetland is a little more coarse than the stuff called for in the pattern.

And I'm revving up for another pie contest. I made a test pie yesterday (cherry) and am glad to say my guinea, tasters...polished off the whole thing in record time.

More photos soon. They're on the camera, but not yet uploaded. I hope your summer is as full and fulfilling as mine is!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Spring Garden, A New(ish) Cocktail, but not much knitting...

I just looked at the calendar. It's May. Howinthehell did that happen? Not only that, my anniversary and birthday are coming up, and Memorial Day, and we've been working on the yard, and...

...clearly, I haven't been posting about it.

Last first. Yes, I've done a little bit of knitting. It's the Cat Blankie, which is living up to its too cute name nicely. It's about 2/3 the length of my body at this point, and the cats are happy to burrow under as it continues.

Next: the cocktail. It's not really a new one--I just decided to ring a change on an Aviator (gin/lemon juice/creme de violette/maraschino). Regular gin is currently out of stock at the old booze cart, but I do have some Old Tom gin. And in addition to creme de violette, we have creme yvette.

Creme yvette is the ancestor of creme de violette. I don't have all the information, but I believe that it dates from Victorian times, as does Old Tom (slightly sweetened) gin.

Therefore, my "new" cocktail is the Steampunk.

Steampunk Cocktail

2 1/2 oz. Old Tom gin
3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
2 -3 generous dashes Maraschino
1/2 oz. Creme Yvette

Shake briskly for a short time with clean, dry ice. Strain out into a cocktail glass.

The drink will be a strong rose pink, and a trifle sweeter than an Aviation. The Creme Yvette brings a nice floral/herbal aftertaste to the drink.

Speaking of floral and herbal:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

These are a few of my favorite things

Silk stockings. Yes, silk. Still made today (for a king's ransom) but I wear vintage. Deadstock, if I'm lucky.

Rayon stockings. Cotton stockings (with silk clocks, even better).

I've been lucky this year, after a long run of not being so lucky. Old stockings are still around, but they're not always easy to find. This year and the second half of last year I've found 20s and 30s stockings.

About ten years ago I found a box of three pairs of 40s stockings. They were marked "service weight", which I think means that they were to spec for wearing while in uniform. I could be wrong, but in any case, they are amazing. It's been ten years and I still have all three. There are a few pulls or snags, but not a single run! Amazing.

Now, I don't wear stockings every day by any means, as some vintage enthusiasts do, but they still get a workout for special occasions. They're the right thing to wear, after all, with vintage dresses. And stockings are far more comfortable than panty hose--believe me!

It's not always a foregone conclusion that the stockings you buy, even if deadstock, will be wearable. Silk in particular is prone to drying out so badly that a run zings down the leg as you're oh-so-carefully easing on the first one (this usually happens, of course, when you're on vacation and don't have a lot of spares on hand).

Real stockings, like good socks, come in sizes. Your stocking size is not the same as your shoe size. It's closer to a rough measurement (in inches) of the length of your foot. They came in long and short and regular. Some had reinforced toes, fancy clocks, even hand-painted designs on the sides. Until the 1960s, they all had seams.

Stockings can be held up by a girdle, garter belt, or plain old elastic garters (if you're in a 20s mood, feel free to slide jazz garters on under the roll created by rolling the stocking top around the elastic garter).

They're correct, sexy, make your legs look better, and can make an outfit.

Just the same, there are days when I leave them off, like Gertrude Lawrence did (in the 30s, it was considered positively outrageous).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Not Knitting

The golf socks have stalled out for now. I started a "cat blankie" last night; just a simple lace pattern in charcoal worsted. It'll probably be as much a shawl (albeit rectangular) as cat blanket.

In other 20s-style hand-made crafts, see above. I made the headpiece over a two-week period. It's based on a French design from the 1920s, but is considerably more complicated...because I couldn't find enough pearl beads of one size to make it as shown in the illustration I had!

The base is black figured velvet, with some shaping. I made a paper pattern first, and backed it with interfacing. All of the bead work is done by hand (no glue, or pre-made sections). The pearls are glass bead pearls, and the finished piece is heavy!

I haven't given into temptation and weighed it yet, but I probably will one of these days.

It's the first one I've constructed entirely from scratch and I'm pretty well pleased with it. I've kept the paper pattern for other, similar headpieces.

(The photo is courtesy of Providence Pin-Up, and it was taken at a Chifferobe event this past weekend.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Still working on it..., because I am still on Golf Stocking #1. But the toe will be coming up soon, and then we go all over again. Luckily, I know that my husband will really appreciate these, so it's certainly worthwhile.

I am also working on a beaded headband for an upcoming event for Providence's Cocktail Week: the Chifferobe evening, this coming Saturday. It's got a way to go, even though I am using larger beads than usual. I hope it comes out well.

The next knitting project is something I haven't decided on just yet. A 30s suit might be nice, but I'll have to see if I have enough of any one yarn to make one. (A friend gifted me with a lovely Bakelite cape fastener, and it would look good on a knitted piece.)

It's spring, though. And for some reason, I want to knit lace in the springtime. There are a couple of beautiful patterns on the new Knitty issue, and I can always dig through stitch treasuries or old pattern books.

What do you like to knit in the spring? Any suggestions?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Newsflash: Spring! FINALLY here. Or so it would seem.