Friday, February 28, 2014

A Glamorous Vision for Stew

"An artist in New York is famous for her dinners. And they are all based on stews! She has collected stew recipes from all over the world, and her friends collect to enjoy them. Anyone who feels that a stew should be presented with an apology should try one of these 'stew dinners.' First the stew itself, with Puffy Dumplings, bubbling hot in a big tureen. For the next course a mixed salad in a great bowl, with crackers and cheese of various kinds; after that comes an ice-cold fruit cup. And last of all the demitasse with little crisp cookies."

 --Ida Bailey Allen's Money-Saving Cookbook (1940)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Sourdough for a Smaller Family

When I first started baking sourdough bread (wow, over two years ago!) I had feeding several more people and baking several times a week. These days I generally just need one baking a week, so have been slacking off on keeping up with my starter.

Using the scientific method I have found that I only need to feed it once a week. The science part is where I forget to feed it for a whole week, then feed it and it still works. That's an experiment! And I'm passing my knowledge along to you. Keep it in the fridge, go all week without touching it, then feed it the day before you want to mix up your poolish (Sunday nights, around here, just when you're starting to think ahead for the week). I actually hate the word poolish but there it is. It's the thing after the starter, before the bread. It gets started the night before.

Wow, it sounds complicated, but it's not.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Apple Twigs

 A chunky vase full of apple tree clippings--and two twigs of bridal wreath. The buds are fatter every day, inside and out.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Zinnias Going to Seed Log Cabin Quilt

Pieced at the end of summer and just now quilted. My mother is calling this one of her favorites. She did the quilting, and for some reason did the rows so close together it took her a long time to finish.

Also, this quilt wins the Most Appropriate Backing Award. I had three yards of this sweet print that looks like--wait for it--zinnias going to seed.

Sadly, I think this was the last of the gorgeous Italian cotton twill I bought for a dress for Clara. It has served me well. 

You might think I have a lot of quilts now. I do. I can no longer bear to part with them except to give them to my children, so good thing I have five.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Baby Speed

Today moved at Little Baby Speed. You probably know that tempo--it's the way time moves along when you're caring for very small children. We had a friend's five-month old daughter all day and my, she was very sweet. Never fussed a single peep. 

Lots of talking in the rocker by the fire, walking around and looking out windows, shooing the cat away from her bottle, and plenty of lying on a folded blanket in the sewing room playing with Daisy.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Quilt with an Inscription

In my last bout of quilt-buying I found this gorgeous finished quilt, quite old and in great condition. What I really liked about it was that the squares were separated by solid strips, because I was looking for a quilt to embroider words on.

"In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety."

It runs down the length of the quilt now. I just embroidered freehand, though you could chalk some guide letters in.

It's a beautiful quilt anyway. Beautiful concentric half-squares of quilting, like you see above. She started in one corner and worked her way outward.

The back is beautiful faded brown, pieced from several fabrics. Much of the quilting is done with black thread.

Some fabric details--great faded, cool tones.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Blackberry Cobbler for a Crowd

Blackberry cobbler for thirty tonight (church dinner). These two pie plates, plus two big rectangular dishes. An excellent way to use up the fruit before summer rolls around again.

I usually stand by a cobbler made from sweetened fruit and topped with biscuits, but today I turned to the simpler "washday cobbler" traditionally made on Mondays in a busy household--butter melted in a pan, topped with a flour-milk-salt-baking powder batter, then topped with sweetened fruit. It sorts itself out during baking.

Here is a similar recipe.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Daisy's Harmonica

First the stilts, now the harmonica. If she gets a coonskin cap we'll have done an entire 1950s childhood. 

We stopped at the very old-school music store downtown today. They had a whole case of harmonica choices behind glass. The Little Lady was too tiny, but the Pocket Pal came home with us.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Kimono Quilt Finished

This beauty is finished and spread on a bed! It just took a week because I didn't put a lot of quilting in it--just outlined the squares, and then did a little diamond in the blue intersection squares.

I bound it with a black and white print.

But let me turn your attention to the marvelous piecing. The artist who did this alternated her nine-patch blocks between solids and string-quilted squares. But the string-quilting was often done in a very deliberate way (see above) to bring even more linear interest into the pattern.

These pieces are miniscule. The two-inche-square piece above has SIX strips sewn together, some just a sliver. I would have liked to have met this lady. I feel like I know her now. And I'm happy to have my hands on her quilts.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Dogwood Blossom Utility Quilt

I've always known this type of blanket as a utility quilt. I think another name is "whole-cloth quilt." The top is all one piece of fabric, and it's tied to a back. I got this one last week at a wonderful antique store where the textiles are painfully cheap. 

The print is of dogwood blossoms, in two colorways, and the back is that sweet lavender. It's tied with green floss, and it's currently airing over the front porch rail, before I fold it up on the foot of my bed.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day with Coffee-Walnut Cake

It's a treat to have Felix and one of his roommates here for the weekend. And why? Because they eat cake. This time I made a coffee-walnut cake (from Vintage Cakes, of course) and Bella made a cheesecake.

This morning they put on bow ties and suspenders and went out working for my florist friend as flower delivery boys. I'm sure they made a lot of ladies in offices very happy.

Then they dug out the old box of Pokemon cards and taught Daisy to play, and it's like we've travelled back in time to 2001. Apparently Daisy is very fierce with the cards, too.

I gave out Pop-Rocks for Valentine's treats around the house, and the Composer distributed flowers, and everyone is happy.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Quilt Like Kimonos

I started quilting the third and last quilt top from the series started back in December. I found this top to be the least compelling of the set--until I got to know it better.

Then I saw that its structure asked for a grid of quilt lines, rather than parallel horizontals. And that it had been so thoughtfully pieced, with squares alternating between solids and strip-quilting. And that somehow, the modest fabrics were suggesting a Japanese kimono.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Malt Loaf

Malt loaf from Jane Brocket's Vintage Cakes. It's sweetened with three syrups--molasses, malt syrup, and sorghum (my take on dark syrup), and filled with my choice of dried fruit: dates, apricots, and the last of a packet of cranberries.

Like many other Vintage Cakes recipes, it has a thoughtful finishing detail. Here, after baking, the loaf is brushed with a syrup made by simmering a tablespoon of sugar in three of water for a few minutes. After it thickens, it's brushed on the hot loaf, leaving a beautiful crackling glaze.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Jersey Doily

An "Eyelet Doily" is a very doable way to dip your toe in the water of hand-stitching jersey. I made mine from a little white jersey--it's just a tee shirt's worth. Simple cutting and construction, and then the fun of adding embroidery embellishment to your own taste. You could even bead and sequin this--but then you might not want to put a big bowl with a bird nest on it.

You can find full instructions here at the Alabama Chanin Journal. Have fun!

Friday, February 07, 2014

Cold View of the Sitting Room

Here are all our coats, which accompany us for every outside moment, unlike during other winters. Other years, we'd just dash to the car, knowing it was warm from all the sun pouring in the window glass. Ho, not this year!

In fact, we almost need a coat to be in the sitting room (above). We've all pulled back into the center of the house around the stove, away from the windows and the walls. Little piles of books and stitching all around the fire, cats everywhere, scraps of bark on the floor.

And where, seriously, are the daffodils?

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Uncommon Beauty

I happened to pick up Uncommon Beauty at the library this week. Two things: the title has nothing to do with the content, and also, I am not in the middle of a medical crisis with a family member.

But if I were, this book would be a great resource. It's written for parents of medically-fragile new babies, but the information on navigating a hospital, accessing care, managing insurance paperwork, and advocating for your family member is really good stuff for anyone who has to interact with the medical system in a serious way. 

That could be any one of us, at any time, so these things are good to know. Find it here on Amazon if you're interested.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Morning Ice

Ice, again, but still beautiful.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Daisy on Stilts

Pretty much the whole time she's awake. I like best after bath, when she's in her flannel nightgown and her sleeping cap with a pompom, and has her blankie tied around her shoulders because she doesn't have a free hand.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Felix in the Fog

Felix came home with a housemate this weekend, which is always a treat and something I like to bake for. They ate two cakes and a bunch of butternut squash at dinner, and bought lounge sweaters at the thrift store. 

Also, they went hiking in the fog--Jonathan took this photo--and accompanied Daisy to see the new baby goats at the neighbors.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Small Church

We go to a small church. We used to feel kind of apologetic that it wasn't bigger. 

Not anymore: I'm actually excited about it. We've been thinking about who we are, and we're a Small Church. Yes!

NewSmallChurch is fantastic writing about Small Church. Even if you go to Big Church.

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