Wednesday, October 15, 2014

For the Museum Store

Just a new batch of things to consign at the museum store, at the request of the manager (local readers are welcome to email me to get more details).  I'm really slow at sewing these days, with my energy going mostly to other projects.

I do so enjoy working within the limits of my stash.  Here I used a stained vintage chicken-scratch apron to line a clothespin bag, carefully working it to avoid the stains and get the apron pocket to peep out of the opening. And I used another page from the vintage children's fabric book on the back.

And when I made the hotpads, I limited myself to my small-scraps box.  I sort my scraps into two boxes:  big scraps (approximately a half yard) and small scraps.  The rest of my fabric is yardage, folded on shelves. I usually put my hand in, pull out a small scrap and see what else I can scrounge to go with it.  This time, the lavender with the earth tones was a pleasurable surprise.

After the French press cosy and the hanging hand towels, I managed to squeeze out a new hand towel for the shop.  A nice red-and-white towel for your Scandinavian or Christmas longings.  See it here.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Mended Hanky

Hankies get ragged pretty fast around here, seeing as most of them start out vintage already and some people approach this life as a vale of tears (someone small sobbed all through breakfast this morning - oh my).  When the hankies start to look shredded, I remove them from the drawers and stash them in a dark corner of a shelf.  They've got such interesting colors and pretty patterns that I want to use them somehow in the future - I have several ideas on my Pinterest boards.

But for some reason, I wanted to mend this hanky and keep using it.

 It's a plain white cotton one, so I used soft blue-grey striped cotton and pale yellow perle cotton.  I enjoyed myself.  I thought maybe I wanted to add just a little something more to the mending job. . . maybe a running stitch on the edge. . . green leaves and a stem to the yellow starbursts. . . . But I couldn't decide.  So I stopped, based on the mantra that a dear sister at church explained:  when she's deciding something, she moves from clarity to clarity.  If she doesn't have clarity, she doesn't move.

I'm sure most people would apply this idea to much larger decisions, but I have found it incredibly helpful in the dozens of decisions in my path every day.

I saw a cast-iron skillet this weekend and I thought of buying it, but I didn't have clarity, so I didn't.  I wanted to try spiritual direction, but after two sessions, I have only murkiness, not clarity, about continuing, so I'm not going to.

Sometimes the murkiness only means "wait" and then the decision comes into sharp focus with a little more time.  This process has brought me such peace in large and small decisions, including, yes, whether or not I am "done" with the design of my mended hanky.

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Daily Life

(Joining up with Leila and Rosie's roundup of pretty/happy/funny/real)

Here are some pretty glimpses of Rebecca's farmhouse.  Photos taken while the ladies relaxed inside on the fishing trip (see below).

This was happy.  I read Molly Wizenberg's fascinating book, Delancey, and immediately decided to make the Vietnamese salad.  I put the components on a platter - so pretty!  I even made fried purple onions, which are surprisingly easy and stupendously delicious.  The whole salad is excellent and quite easy.

This was funny.  Ben had begged to go fishing, but we don't fish.  Finally, my husband had the bright idea to ask Rebecca's son to help Ben fish.  Ben loved it, but he was repelled by the cleaning part that readied the fish for the frying pan.

But he couldn't look away.  Maybe the basic human response to gore?

Here is the real (which is also pretty).  My cousins showed us their cabin in a holler in Virginia. It is a charming spot full of memories, but the cabin needs extensive, expensive work to keep it functional.  The cousins are taking it on, but the old melting away before the new makes me melancholic.  My uncle and aunt are facing similar decisions about the cabin, I know.

 I don't know what I would do if I owned one of these beautiful, dilapidated old memory houses that relatives considered sacred without being responsible for the upkeep.  Sacred usually gives way to pragmatism and safety.

Well, I snapped some photos for the memory bank.

1940s linoleum the cousins are hoping to match

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Saturday Supper: Updated with Method

Inspired by this post, I made beans for Saturday supper.  Before we went to a fancy event that morning, I put beans in the crockpot on low with a few garlic cloves, a bit of sage, and some olive oil.  I was betting that we wouldn't be very hungry or energetic at suppertime, but still need something.

I was totally surprised at the success of the supper!  I think it's going to be our standard Saturday supper! Cheap, easy, customizable, delicious.

We had the beans in soup plates with more olive oil and salt.  Then there was good sourdough bread (from the market), thin slices of Parmesan, and sliced tomato.  It was so perfectly, elementally balanced.

On other Saturdays, I could swap out the fresh tomato for a home-canned tomato in the soup plate, or a wedge of fresh crunchy cabbage or even a dish of dried figs.  Something pickled would be delicious here, or even a bit of prosciutto or salami.

The fancy lady even put down her Bible and joined us.

More Details on How I Cooked the Beans:

I do not buy commercially canned beans.  I put 2 cups dry beans in my slow cooker, add 5-6 cups water, and turn it on low for 4 hours or high for 2 hours (this varies depending on the time I have and the age of the beans - I don't know how old the dry beans are, but I've read that older ones take longer).  Then I let the whole cooker cool until I have time to portion the beans/liquid into jars and freeze them. This is a habitual task in my kitchen, but I see that I have barely blogged about it!  I will try to remedy that.  (Here are simple black beans, starting with dry beans also).

These supper beans were a variation on the basic method I just described.  I started with the 2 cups dry pinto beans and water, but also added 3 whole garlic cloves, 1/2 tsp. dried sage, and 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil.  A few hours later, I stirred the beans and added some salt.  At the table, we added more salt, pepper, and more olive oil.  The simplicity of the beans meant that they were a great base for whatever accompaniments I had on hand.  It's lovely to mop up the salty bean juices and olive oil with bread. Pin It

Friday, September 26, 2014

Old Cell Phones for Kids

My children are digital natives.  They speak the language of computers and accept their presence as unquestioningly as I accepted telephones and record players when I was a child.  I have deep worries about the way screens seem to absorb us and distract us while real life unspools in front of us.  I want to shield my children from screens for a while as I teach them (hopefully by example!) how to use computers and technology for good purposes in disciplined ways.

One of the teaching things that my husband and I stumbled into began when he cleaned out a drawer of stuff.  Ben asked if he could have the old cell phone.  There was no sim card in it, so my husband handed it over with the charger.  It still plays a few ring tones, takes pictures, and has a few simple games.  Ben adores this little dose of adult screen time.  Then Genevieve got the next old cell phone, which can also make short videos. She adores making little films of her life, filled with kid jokes, inappropriate noises, and strange blurry angles.

Any time they use the phones inappropriately (usually when specifically told to put the phone away, bringing it to the table, or playing on it instead of doing chores), my husband and I confiscate the phones.  One child had a phone removed for three weeks.  That child is a much better listener after that loss of privilege!

No need to buy DS systems or other electronics for kids like their friends and cousins have!  The children love controlling their own little cell phones.  It's a very thrifty way to let kids interact with screens!

What access do your children have to screens and their own personal electronics?  I'm sure this only gets complicated as they get older. Thoughts and advice, please.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Spiced Grape Butter from the Leftovers

I picked up my half-bushel of Concord grapes at market last week, piling the rest of my produce on top for a big heavy load.  I mentioned my grapes in a chatty way to a market farmer.  We both marveled at the modern juice steamer and agreed we would not make grape juice without it (I borrow one from Rebecca). Then she told me that her daughter takes the leftover grape skins and pips and puts them through a food mill.  She mixes one part sugar with two parts resulting puree, and there's grape butter.

I thought that was something pretty thrifty I could try.  I usually put that stuff left from making juice in the compost.

To my grape butter, I added little pinches of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  These are flavors from a hot spiced grape cider I made last fall which we loved.  And now we love the grape butter, too.

bonus photo of our purple coleus in a clear green vase

So, from that half-bushel of grapes, I got 11 quarts of juice and 3 pints of grape butter.  Not bad for $18 and some time. Pin It

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Uncle John David's Dessert

Aunt Maggie came up from the South bearing beautiful produce from her and Uncle John David's farm.  Ben was in heaven with a huge watermelon and a midget cantaloupe.  That boy loves melons.  Aunt Maggie rolled her eyes:  they had meant to plant full-size cantaloupes, but then, Uncle JD would split the midgets in half, scoop out the seeds, and fill the bowl with vanilla ice cream.

Then Ben's face just lit up.  So, yes, I put cream on my shopping list and made vanilla ice cream, and yes, the boy and his daddy had their cantaloupe bowls filled with vanilla ice cream.

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