Thursday, September 15, 2022

The Vegetable Dress

This dress turned out so differently from my vision. I'm still not sure I like it or will keep it. . . my vision was for a summer dress that was easy to wear, an everyday dress.


Yes, why did I pick fabric with a white background that needed a full lining? And. . . white? Why, Margo? The vegetables spoke to me, I guess? And the dress I made feels like a sweet, cute 1950s housewife dress - it doesn't feel like me! 

I thought by way of decoration that the skirt lining could peek out with a bit of eyelet lace, but I've gotten well-meaning shocked comments that my slip was sticking out.  Overall, I think the dress is just a bit too sweet for me. 

Funnily enough, I was at the optometrist one week, wearing the dress. The receptionist was so tickled to see there were vegetables on my dress. Then, when I brought Phoebe for her appointment next week, she remembered me (I was surprised - it's a big practice) for wearing the vegetable dress previously! 

Fortunately the side pockets I added are successful. And the blue and white is such a refreshing cool vision on the eyes in the deep sticky stink of a city in summer.

I found the bodice very tedious to fit. I needed to take in the top and let out the bottom, but since the dratted thing is lined and a multi-piece princess style, I had to rip out and the reconfigure twice the number of seams. 

All the photos on this post are by Phoebe! She did a fabulous job.

This dress caused me to think more carefully about my wishes for summer dresses. I did some research on pattern styles, and thought of the clothes I have that I like the most for comfort and personal style. Then, I purged my sewing patterns and carefully bought some different ones. Stay tuned - I fit in some successful sewing in my busy summer!

Monday, June 20, 2022

Raspberry Nightie

I cranked out a swishy yellow nightie for the growing girl.


The flowers are just so pretty on this vintage fabric from my stash. I used a size 5 pattern and just eyeballed some width and length. When I had her slip it over her head before I put the finishing sems in, we tore the armscye a bit. I'm afraid the vintage fabric might be a bit fragile. I topstitched a patch over the tear.

I did actually make the nightie too wide, so I put a pleat in the front neckline. Sewing over it with rick rack is a bit homemade-y looking, but I knew the fancier the trims, the more Phoebe would love it.

Well, it is pretty and she loves it! And raspberries. Keeping up with the bramble is a twice-a-day job right now, and the black raspberries are coming in, too. One of the fun parts of summer!

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Walking the Estate on a June Evening

 Come view my plants with me! I'll tell you some tidbits about my plants and what's going on. 

I put some houseplants out for a bit of fresh summer air. Some of you advised me to put my spiderwort outside to get rid of its brown faded leaves. We'll see. 

Another houseplant, the big spider from the dining room. I like to think it gives the hummingbirds a little cover at the feeder. The pink geranium is Phoebe's from 3 years ago! The red geranium is mine from last year. They cover up the sugar drips from the feeder quite prettily. 

The rhubarb on the left is still going strong. The little swamp white oak grows steadily in the middle and the red raspberries on the right are exploding. I am hoping to make red raspberry jam this year. There's apple mint (meadow tea, the locals say) mixed in there, too. 

This is my rain garden full of native plants, and I adore it. I am reading about native plants and having a real epiphany about their importance to the birds and bees and, you know, people. Because we are all connected and nature needs us to do our part to fix the damage. 

My tomato plants were nibbled early on, but not recently. I suspect a rabbit family took up residence under the red raspberries and we have tried to make them feel unwelcome with bobcat pee and stern lectures. The plants are heavily mulched with grass clippings from my dad. 

Black raspberries coming on!

The main raised bed has Phoebe's zinnias that she planted from seed, pepper plants, okra seedlings that I started from seed, and cucumbers and green beans just coming up. The okra seedlings were also being nibbled, but I suspected slugs or snails. I ringed each seedling with crushed egg shells and diatomaceous earth. The damage slowed down, so I guess it helped?

In the back is my new composter gotten free from a neighbor via freecycle. My old composter sat on the ground and the mice made themselves free with it. I mean, I still got plenty of great compost but it annoyed me to feed mice so close to our house when they take any opportunity to come inside in cold weather. Behind the composter are some junk trees growing in the fences there. Their roots are not on our property but their branches sure are. One tree I have been cutting back for years. I don't want to use chemicals on them, but they look so ridiculous and they're not situated for anything useful. 

Here is Phoebe's pepper plant and my new herb bed my husband made me. I am having a hard time thinning the basil seedlings. I love the transformation of seed to seedling to food so much that I can barely stand to take any of the seedlings away. I know, I know, they need the space. . . I actually transplanted some in my front porch pot to help my mental state!


My front porch flowers make me so happy. Just happy. Life is zipping by, my children are at a hectic age, but we walked the estate here and I'm grateful. 

Friday, May 13, 2022

An Easy Calico Dress

 I made Genevieve a first-day-of-preschool green calico dress and then lengthened it as she grew taller and then saved it for the little sister who wore it to literal shreds.

Mending fabric that is shredding due to age or heavy wear is like bailing a leaky boat. I've become a savvy mender by inspecting items carefully to make sure I can truly extend their life with mending. Here the fabric was giving out at the bottom of each tuck and I had already mended a three-corner rip that had torn open again. 

So, the middle of the green dress went in the piece bag, the top was discarded, the buttons put back in the button tin, and Phoebe said sadly, now I don't have a calico dress.  

That is an easy fix!


I had a length of navy calico just barely enough for a Phoebe dress - I almost wrote "little girl" but Phoebe is just not very little anymore (and when you look at little Genevieve wearing the green dress - oh my heart! my little girls!). 

I planned to use the same dress pattern as the green calico, but apparently I had gotten rid of it at some point. I used a Style pattern a neighbor gave me when she cleaned out her sewing stuff. I added some rick rack and juicy red buttons and that is a very smart summer dress. 

Phoebe has been helping me set up garden beds and plantings all week long as she quarantines for COVID reasons. She has a pepper plant named Rosalind now. She gets to read books with her pasta and pesto and watercress lunch.  A good week to be at home wearing an easy breezy calico dress!

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Rhubarb Morning

I have my longjohns on again under my pants because the windchill is 29F, but the rhubarb is basically a bush again so I cut it for the first time this spring!

Those branches in the foreground are from little white swamp oak growing slowly but surely next to the rhubarb. There are lilies of valley on the other side. Other years, I have been planting zinnias in that bare patch but they really grow too tall for that space. I want to figure out another bright happy flower to sow there that is shorter. 

I'm planning to make a rhubarb custard pie to share with friends this evening! And I still have some jars of chopped frozen rhubarb from last spring, oh dear. I got a tip from another friend to use rhubarb in winter soups and sauces where he would normally use lemon for tartness. It worked great for me. 

Friday, April 22, 2022

Elbow Grease and the Cleaners I Use

I was inspired to write this post by Auntie Dorcas and now that I'm finishing it, it's Earth Day! (Let's keep Earth Day every day, ok? Like Mother's Day - honor the mothers and all the parents every day).

 I refill my dish soap bottles at a local store with Better Life unscented dish soap. I jazz up my life by adding some drops of essential oil. The current mix, "Happiness," has citrus and peppermint in it.

I also refill my laundry jugs at the same store with Ecos unscented laundry detergent. The clothes are scented by fresh air from the laundry line!

I refill these bottles because I have read that reuse is better than recycling. 

For our wood floors, we use Bona spray and a cloth as we see spots and over the whole floor rather, uh, infrequently.

To wash the tile floors and walls in the bathroom, I keep Dr. Bronner's castile soap on hand just because it smells so nice and I like the ethos of the company. I do have Murphy's Oil Soap for when we wash down the unpainted main wooden steps, but that is rare. 

I have some kind of wood polish or lotion or something for Grandma's rocking chair, the vintage buffet, and the vintage piano - a good job for a child who wants to earn some cash, so that task happens on whim.

I also have Windex glass cleaner around, but most of the time, a damp microfiber cloth is quickest and best on mirrors. I would dearly love to have sparkling clean windows all the time, but I have to really work up to the effort that takes with double-hung aluminum storm windows and cranky old wooden windows. 

For the rest of the surfaces, I mix up cleaners from vinegar and Sal Suds. For general cleaning, I put 2 Tbsp. white vinegar, 2 Tbsp. Sal Suds in a spray bottle and fill up with water. For toilet bowl cleaning, I use equal parts vinegar and Sal Suds and just squirt 1-2 Tbsp. in the toilet bowl before scrubbing and letting it stand. 


Before I detailed all of this, I thought I was just cleaning with Sal Suds and vinegar. Huh. I still am pleased with my current system and think it's reasonably earth-friendly. 

We use rags and elbow grease to clean (explaining elbow grease to kids is super-fun!). I have some paper towels way at the back of a closet, but in general, we avoid disposables and I have rags in almost every load of laundry which is just fine with me (also, am I the only one who will suddenly swipe off dust with an item of clothing headed for the dirty laundry hamper anyway?).

I'm interested in your cleaners and methods and thoughts.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Chickweed Pastries

Spring is springing lusciously everywhere and it's been a cold one in our area, so all the green and flowers (flowers!!) are so wonderful.

 A few years ago, I learned that chickweed is edible and available in my back yard. We never spray any pesticides or herbicides in our back yard because we have food growing there as well as children running amuck. I did plant some spinach seeds, but in the meantime, I made these spinach pastries by subbing in chickweed from the backyard. 



These pastries come from Extending the Table, which is a companion book to the cookbook I use the most, More with Less. Extending the Table has recipes from cuisines and people all over the world, many of them with stories and insights about food justice and simplicity. The spinach pastry recipe comes from the West Bank, from the Bishara and Selwa Awad family, and they are delicious. Simple ingredients and technique, yet the resulting pastries are definitely from another place and tradition. I love that.


This time, I had two balls of dough left and no filling, so I quickly grabbed some leftover curry from the fridge and made two half-moon pies with it to distinguish from the chickweed filling. Grated cheese would work well also, and I think I have done peanut butter and jelly under duress, too. I served them with home-canned tomato soup. The pastries make nice picnic food, and aren't we all eager to get out into the warm air?

Spinach (Chickweed) Pastries
Combine in bowl:
3/4 cup warm water
1 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups whole wheat flour
about 1 cup all-purpose flour
Knead a few minutes until nice and elastic. This is a lovely dough, not sticky, purely pleasurable to knead. Cover and allow to rise for 1 hour, give or take. Meanwhile, make the filling.
Mix together: 

4 cups packed, chopped spinach or chickweed, fine to include minced stems
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 tsp. pepper
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
2 Tbsp. olive oil
The dough doesn't necessarily need to rise, so when an hour is up, divide it into 18-20 balls. Roll a ball very thin (I find that flour is not necessary here). Put a heaping 1/4 cup filling in middle. Bring 2 edges together to form a cone shape, then the third side to form a triangle. Pinch seams tightly. Place on greased on silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake 350 for 15-17 minutes, until golden brown. Serve hot or warm. The recipe says you can freeze some unbaked pastries to bake later, but I have never done that.