Thursday, January 31, 2008

Vintage Sewing - Glasses Case for Grandmere

I really should post another tatting motif but I can't lay hands on one right now, so here, courtesy of Patricia at Agence Eureka, is a vintage pattern for a glasses case.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Irresistible links

I predict you will spend the next three days exploring these sites. They're marvellous.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Culinary Mysteries - the Kornlet Omelette

"Melt 1 tablespoonful of butter; cook in this 1 tablespoonful of flour, ¼ of a tablespoonful each of salt and pepper, then add gradually ½ a cup of kornlet. When the mixture boils, remove from the fire and stir in the yolks of three eggs beaten until thick, then fold in the whites of the eggs beaten dry. Turn into an omelet pan, in which two tablespoonfuls of butter have been melted. Spread evenly in the pan and let cook until "set" on the bottom, then put into the oven. When a knife cut down into the omelet comes out clean, score across the top at right angles to the handle of the pan. Fold and turn onto a heated dish.—Janet M. Hill, in "Boston Cooking School Magazine."

What in God's name is kornlet?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

By Popular Demand

Several readers (oh all right...three) requested that I post the directions for the hat that goes with this sweater. Here it is, verbatim.

“For the hat: Begin at center of crown with a chain of 5 stitches, join.

1. Nine double crochets (d c) in ring.
2. Three tr in d c, working in the back of st, ch 2, miss 1, repeat, making 6 groups of tr.
3. Make 5 tr over 3 tr, 2 in 1st and last and tr in tr between, with 2 ch between groups (working always in back of st, so that a rib is formed).
4. Like 3d row, 7 tr over 5 tr and sp over sp.
5. eleven tr over 7 tr (2 tr in each of 1st and last 2, and tr in tr between), ch 2; repeat.
6. Like 5th, 15 tr over 11 tr (2 in 1st and last 2, and tr in tr between).
7. Eight tr in 8 tr, ch 2, tr in same tr with last and 1 in each of 7 tr, ch 2; repeat.
8. Eight tr in 8 tr, ch 2; repeat.
9. Nine tr over 8 tr, ch 2; repeat, putting the widening tr in 1st of 8 tr and last of 2d group of 8 tr, in same section.
10. Eleven tr over 9 tr (2 in 1st and last), ch 2; repeat.
11, 12. Same as 10th row, increasing 2 tr each group
13. Seven tr in 7 tr, ch 2, miss 1, 7 tr in 7 tr, ch 2, repeat.
14 to 23. Seven tr in 7 tr, ch 2; repeat.

“This completes the crown of hat. Procure a wire-brim hat-frame of any shape desired, gather the edge of crown by running a length of yarn through the last row and sew to the head-size wire, first covering all the circular wires of the brim with doubles, closely. Wind the connecting straight wires with the yarn, carrying it around and around until the wire is completely covered, then fagot-stitch the space between the circular wires. Catching your needle (threaded with the yarn) into a double on one wire, cross between wires in a slightly slanting direction, put the needle through a double on second wire, cross the space and first thread, put it in opposite, point toward you, and repeat.

“Trim the hat with a cluster of yarn ornaments to match the sweater, making these more or less elaborate, as desired. Three balls of the yarn will be required for the hat, with a little black for the ornaments.”

The ornaments appear to be circles of cardboard with holes in the center, with the yarn wound round and round as if for pompoms, but not cut. Please be advised that I do not crochet and although I have proof-read the above instructions, I may as well be proof-reading Thucydides in the original for all the comprehension I can muster.


(photo courtesy of

Friday, January 25, 2008

Sewing in Literature

"Methinks it is a token of healthy and gentle characteristics, when women of high thoughts and accomplishments love to sew; especially as they are never more at home with their own hearts than while so occupied."

(The Marble Faun, Nathaniel Hawthorne)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Vintage Knitting-A 1923 Summer Sweater

"Sweaters, Modish, Comfortable and Becoming. Everywhere we go we see them, these summer garments, trim, stylish and inexpensive as well--since, when one possesses the ability to use the crochet-hook or the knitting-needles, the only cost is for materials. Light and cool, the sweater, of whatever style, gives one the feeling of being 'dressed to go out'; it is donned on every occasion, and gains steadily in prestige. The models presented are of the newest, and will be welcomed."

Original instructions for the sweater only, and a larger photo, may be found here.

(Needlecraft Magazine, July 1923)

Monday, January 21, 2008


Maybe it doesn't look quite like this out; but there is something magical about new snow falling through the night.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Prairie Life, part II (and a recipe)

Myvillage lies on the banks of the Big Turtle River in the northeast part of Big Flat County, which is almost smack dab in the center of the great prairie state of Windswept. Big Flat County has an area of twelve hundred square miles and a population of 165,000, of whom 125,000 live in Cornfedton, the county seat. The rest live in small towns named after native sons and Civil War politicians, and either farm for a living or commute to Cornfedton to work. Cornfedton is twenty-five miles away from Myvillage and like most county residents I drive there to shop, get my car serviced and my prescriptions filled.

For decades, Big Flat County’s wealth came from agriculture and it is still one of the top grain-producing areas in the US. Sadly, this is beginning to change; Cornfedton is booming, putting some of the richest farmland in the world under concrete for a lot of cookie-cutter subdivisions. I swear every house that has been built here for the last ten years is beige.

Cornfedton is the corporate headquarters of one of the country’s biggest service firms and a major regional nursing home chain. It has two large manufacturing plants, two hospitals, a community college, a small four-year private religious college, and a branch of Windswept State University. It suffers from a bit of an identity crisis; most inhabitants are fifth or sixth-generation Cornfedtonian and its roots are strongly rural, but it yearns to be like the wealthy, yuppie suburbs up around Lakeopolis, 120 miles away.

Cornfedton loves brand names and since it is big enough to support huge retailers but not quite big enough to sustain both the national chains and mom ‘n’ pops, it has lost much of its sturdy Midwest character and the retail districts now resemble southern California. There are no non-chain booksellers and the last independent pharmacy closed two years ago. According to a boasting article in the local paper, there are more McDonald’s here than in the entire state of Wyoming. Nearly all the greasy spoons have been put out of business but fortunately there is still a Greek place hanging on for dear life just off the parkway. How it has survived I don’t know unless it is because the owner is also the cook, cashier, busboy, janitor and headwaiter.

When the spousal unit first brought me to Cornfedton, my one thought was that it is the most white-bread place I have ever seen. I have not changed my mind. It is prosperous, pious, kind-hearted, and dull. It averages one homicide per year. It also regularly makes the list of the twenty best places in the country to live if you’re homosexual. This is why the allegedly reverend Fred Phelps hates Cornfedton and has popped up with his witless crotch fruit to picket several of the churches here; said churches having dared to preach the pernicious and mistaken doctrine that God loves us all.

Smug City, where I am more or less gainfully employed, is fifty-five miles and two counties away. Smug City is smaller than Cornfedton but considers itself in every way the intellectual, political, and cultural superior of the two. Smug City is the home of the University of Windswept, a nationally-ranked school. It has indie bookstores, coffee shops that are not Starbucks, vintage clothing stores, a public radio station, art galleries, and some very fine old architecture. I should like Smug City better than Cornfedton but for some reason I don’t.

My favorite locality, however, is Prettybury, twenty miles up the blacktop and just over the county line. Prettybury has a population of around 4,000. Unlike most Midwest farm towns including Myvillage, it has managed to hang on to its business district. This is due to its distance from Cornfedton and the Interstate, and also to the heavy local population of Apostolic Christians.

They are familiarly known here as AC’s or more crudely, Bunheads, after the mandatory hairstyle for female church members. Apostolic Christians are a result of a schism in the Amish church in 1850 or so and although they may seem quaintly old-fashioned to outsiders, they are quite a bit more in this world than the Amish. Because AC’s are thrifty and traditional and prefer to shop locally, Prettybury has among other attractions, a plumber, a veterinarian, a department store – remember them? – two drugstores, a hardware store, and a Dairy Queen. It even has a stoplight.

Once, it had a McDonald’s. Rather unwisely, the corporate lawyers attempted to shut down a local restaurant called Macdonald’s that had been there since the first six feet of dirt. In retaliation the town stopped going to McDonald’s and it went out of business pretty quickly. Macdonald’s is still open and serves pork-chop sandwiches and corn fritters to die for.

Prettybury also has a wonderful grocery store owned by an AC named Dave. The baggers at Dave’s carry your groceries to your car for you. Unless you are over sixty-five years old or have one in the oven, don’t even think of parking in the row of spaces nearest the door. Many Dave shoppers are AC’s and AC cooking hasn’t changed much since the Hoover administration, so you can get rennet there, and samp, and Martha White self-rising flour for biscuits.

The spousal unit teaches school a few miles northeast of Prettybury in a town even smaller than Myvillage. Fewer than 5% of his students are AC’s. AC parents tend to be very involved in their children’s education, and AC children tend to be polite and hard working. The spousal unit wishes 100% of his students were AC’s.

His very first Christmas there, one of the AC parents sent her child to school with two loaves of bread as a present for Teacher. This is how she wrote the recipe out for me.


In a bowl put 1 C oatmeal,
¼ C brown sugar
½ C white sugar
½ stick butter or oleo
½ t salt

Pour 2 c. boiling water over it – let cool. Add 1 pkg yeast that’s been mixed with ½ c warm water – mix in 5-5/12 c. flour. Knead on floured board – 5-7 min – Add more flour if needed for not too sticky dough—Let rise until doubled – put in 2 greased bread pans and let rise. Bake 350 degrees 30-35 mins (I add some whole wheat flour instead of using all white).

I do, too, and I modify the process to use quick-rise yeast. This is terrific bread.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Proof that God has a sense of humor

I have been following the story of a man in Chicago who keyed a Marine's car and then claimed to have done it as an anti-war gesture (instead of a hissy-fit at the young sergeant's rather creative driving/parking).

The man, who is a lawyer, was under the impression that he would be able to get away with it since the Marine is on his way to Iraq and all he'd have to do was keep filing continuances until the whole thing blew over.

Mr Weasel had his day in court yesterday; and by some strange coincidence it just so happens that the presiding judge served in the Marine Corps some 45 years ago.

As the spousal unit would say: kaDUNK!


(photo courtesy

Friday, January 18, 2008

Quote of the Day

"If forced to choose between the penitentiary and the White House for four years, I would say the penitentiary, thank you." (General W.T. Sherman).

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

25 Motif Challenge - edging

This little edging is something that was produced during an idle moment watching my least-favorite football team’s well-deserved trouncing on Sunday. It is not original, in fact I’m sure I probably saw a version of it in one of my WWI-era Priscilla or Anna Valeire tatting books. Can’t think of which one right now!

I’m still fooling around with learning a drawing program so here are the instructions in narrative. For the record this was tatted in DMC #20 with a size 8 extra-fine needle.

Ring1 3-3-3-3

Chain 4-4-4

Small Trefoil Ring1 3-3+ (first P in R1) 3-3

Large Trefoil Ring1 3+ (last P in STR1) 3-3-3-3-3

Small Trefoil Ring2 3- (last P in LTR1) 3-3-3

Chain 4-4-4

Start again with Ring1, 3+ (middle P in STR2) 3-3-3

This will probably get tatted to the length of 8 inches and then another strip will be tatted, joining the first strip at the middle picot of the large trefoil ring. Run a piece of velvet ribbon through it and we have a bookmark.

By the way, you can download the Priscilla tatting books (and many others) from the
Antique Pattern Library.

(note to self; iron the darn thing next time).

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Everyone's a critic

I was sitting in front of the PC, singing along with Anonymous Four ("Glory Land") when the Drama Queen jumped up in my lap and put one paw gently but firmly across my mouth.

Kitchen Staples - Yogurt

This method comes from an offhand mention in one of Elizabeth David’s books and I wish I could remember which one. She wrote that she made her yogurt – in a Thermos.

It was kind of a “Duh” moment; Thermos bottles are designed to keep the contents at the same temperature for an extended period of time, which is exactly what you need to make yogurt. Forget the fancy machine from Williams Sonoma with the Italian name. Dig out the thermos flask from the cupboard by the kitchen stairs where it is hiding behind the Off, the flashlights and the dog brush. Bonus points if it has Barbie or Spiderman on it.

You will need the Thermos, a large microwave proof bowl or Pyrex measuring cup (8 cups minimum), and a cooking thermometer that gives a reading of 130. I use the same thermometer we use for turkey. You also need a small amount of commercial yogurt to use as a starter, and the best milk you can get your hands on.

(We are lucky enough to get our milk from a local dairy that delivers it in glass bottles. The dairy owner keeps running for the Republican nomination for governor and losing. He should stick to milk. Politicians are a dime a dozen but a good dairyman is hard to find.)

First, make sure everything is clean. I put the kettle on to boil and then scald the thermos and the lid. Scalding not only gets rid of any bacteria that might be lingering in the Thermos from the last batch, it also preheats it.

Because I can’t put commercial thickeners in my yogurt, I like to cook the milk down a bit. I usually start with 2.5 cups of 2% milk and microwave it in 8-minute bursts, skimming that nasty skin off in between. It rarely takes more than two zaps before it is reduced to 1¾ cups. I have a 2-cup Thermos; if yours is larger, obviously, make more but you want to reduce the milk by about a fifth to a fourth. I’ve gotten great results by cooking it down by half, as well. Remember, you need room in the Thermos for the commercial yogurt starter so two tablespoons less than 2 cups is what I shoot for.

Take it out of the microwave, drop in the cooking thermometer, and let it sit until it has cooled to 130 degrees F. This can be speeded up a bit by pouring it into another measuring cup. Remove the skin, stir in one tablespoon of commercial yogurt per cup of milk, and pour it all into the Thermos. Cap it and let it sit for no less than five and no more than seven hours. The longer it sits, the tangier it gets.

When you open the Thermos you will see a creamy, semi-solid mass with a very small amount of whey on top. Pour this all into a clean glass jar and stick it in the refrigerator. Once it is cold, it is ready to eat. This has a fresh taste that beats the store-bought stuff twenty ways from Sunday. The entire prep process takes about half an hour and you can get the dishes done, change loads in the drier, and check your email while it’s going on. You can even cook down the milk one evening and reheat it the next before you go to bed, letting it ferment overnight. It's worth it.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Friday, January 11, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Miss Gould was looking her best in a crisp lavender dimity, upon whose frills Mrs. Waters had bestowed the grateful exercise of her highest art. Her sleek, dark coils of hair, from which no one stray lock escaped, framed her fresh cheeks most admirably; her strong white hands appeared and disappeared with an absolute regularity through the dark-green wool out of which she was evolving a hideous and useful shawl."

(A Philanthropist, by Josephine Daskam Bacon)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Interservice rivalry

One of our Air Force nephews sent us a rather cryptic email to let us know that he was going to be in “the desert” for a few months.

When I wondered which desert he meant, the spousal unit—a Marine veteran of the first Gulf War—replied tersely, “The one with the air conditioning.”

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

This is why I skipped my dr's appt this morning

and no, I have no idea which of my neighbors here qualifies for the Darwin award. I just hope they have really good insurance.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Tatting-25 Motif Challenge #1

I have decided to join the 25-Motif Tatting Challenge and here is my first effort, Wally's tatted bluebird, done in vintage J. P. Coats #10 boil-fast cotton with a little glass bead added for the eye.

I have 12 months to do the other 24 motifs so I had better get cracking.

Those familiar with this pattern will notice there is a chain missing; a disconnect exists between Wally's instructions and my fingers. Note to self: do not mix tatting with brandy highballs again.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Kitchen Staples – Chicken Stock

During the cold months, everyone who needs to get dinner on the table in a hurry should have a freezer bag of chicken stock squares. It is definitely a requirement if you are cooking for one and it is even more definitely a requirement if, like me, you always seem to have a refrigerator full of Tupperware containers holding dribs and drabs of leftover meat and vegetables. With the possible exception of beets and cabbage, I can’t think of many vegetables that can’t be turned into really good soup the second time around.

Stock is a bit time consuming but so very easy, and the actual prep is minimal. You can space it out over three evenings if you must. All you need is a large pot and a chicken carcass. The remains of a supermarket rotisserie chicken are perfect for this just as long it is not barbecue or teriyaki flavored.

Scrape as much fat off the chicken as you can and put it in the kettle. Break the carcass in half if you must to get it to fit. Add an onion, peeled and cut in half, a teaspoonful of black peppercorns, a teaspoonful of whole cloves, and a bay leaf. The spices are of course optional but I think they add a certain depth to the flavor of the stock.

If you have some celery, particularly the tops, throw that in. Cover the chicken carcass with cold water by about two inches and bring to a boil. Cover and turn your burner as low as it will go, and use a flame tamer if you have one. Cook very gently for four or five hours. Do not add salt yet.

You can do this after dinner and let the stock simmer until bedtime. Turn it off, strain it, and put the pot, covered, in the fridge. Discard the solids. If you are really frugal you can strip the carcass of the last little bits of meat and keep it to add to the soup, but after all that additional cooking time it will be pretty mushy.

Next day skim off the layer of fat that will have congealed on the surface of the stock, and put the kettle back on the stove. Simmer until it cooks down by about half and add salt to taste. Strain again if you need to. Allow it to cool and pour it into a 9x13 cake pan (It will be cloudy and a little gelatinous). Carefully—very carefully—slide the cake pan into the freezer.

Once the stock is frozen solid, take the pan out of the freezer, and cut it into twelve squares. A pizza cutter is ideal for this. Bag your frozen stock and return it to the freezer, keeping out two squares with which you will make this soup.

(Note: if you are freezer-space-challenged, give half of these to a similarly-situated friend. Six frozen blocks of chicken stock take up about as much room as a pint of ice cream).

Frozen spinach, canned beans, and egg noodles are things I always have on hand, as well as onions and garlic. I cut the package of spinach in four parts while it is still frozen and freezer-bag it for other soups or for omelettes.

20-Minute Pantry Soup

1 small onion, peeled and sliced thinly
1 clove of garlic, peeled and smashed
8 cups of water
2 frozen chicken stock squares
1 can of great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
¼ package of frozen spinach
1 cup of egg noodles

Sauté the onion in a small amount of oil or butter over low heat until it is limp. Add the garlic, the water, the frozen chicken stock, the beans, and the spinach, and bring to a boil. Add the noodles and simmer for eight to ten minutes until the noodles are tender. Remove the garlic clove and serve.

This makes six helpings of soup. If you thought ahead and set up your bread maker to deliver a hot loaf of bread about the time you start cooking the soup, all you need is a bag of lettuce and a bottle of Pinot Grigio and dinner is served.

You can throw in 2 cups of leftover diced chicken or some thawed, cut up chicken tenders. If the chicken is raw, allow a few extra minutes for it to sauté with the onion. A teaspoonful of good vinegar or sherry added to the soup bowl really lifts this soup out of the ordinary, as does a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese.

Use the general proportions of 4 cups of water per frozen stock square for any number of soups.

Tomatoes, cannellini beans, onion, garlic, and some cubed winter squash (uncooked, not leftover, or it will dissolve in the broth). This sounds weird but is actually a traditional Italian soup whose name I can’t think of it at the moment.

An onion, garlic, a cup of milk, leftover corn, leftover boiled potatoes, leftover ham, and you have a great corn chowder.

Frozen Italian style meatballs, dry white wine, chickpeas, tomatoes and ditalini.

Cubed leftover roast pork or turkey, pinto beans, onion, small can of diced mild green chiles and a tablespoon of Tony Chachere’s seasoning.

Or, as I did this week, an onion, green beans, tomatoes, kidney beans, some noodles and the remains of Thursday night’s ham.

Saturday, January 5, 2008


(photo courtesy

Friday, January 4, 2008

Michigan, my Michigan, Pt II

It was lovely driving up.

It was less pleasant driving back.

Just to vary my route I came part of the way home via the Indiana toll road. East of Shipshewanna there is one particularly prosperous looking farm with big red barns and outbuildings. Half a dozen draft horses were standing in the pasture next to the highway, shaggy and huge in their winter coats, watching one of their number curvet around looking like a beer commercial.

I actually had great visibility, dry roads and little traffic until we hit South Bend and then it got ugly. There may or may not have been some cosmic significance to that.

Driving in the Midwest in the winter is not for sissies. One needs a keen eye, a cool head, a steady hand--and a liberal supply of windshield wiper fluid doesn’t hurt. I am extremely pleased with Flora’s performance (she is an Impala, the color of Paloma Picasso lipstick, and her name is Flora, the Red Menace) but hate the way she gets snow caught in her wheel wells. It makes a hell of a racket on those blasted 360 degree on-ramps on I-94.

I had to leave the interstate before my usual exit due to a bridge outage; the cell phone rang about five minutes later and the Spousal Unit wanted my location. I told him and he said worriedly “Be careful – the road is really bad east of 116.” I wanted to tell him that west of 116 it wasn’t exactly kippers and a cup of tea, either, but refrained.

I lucked out and got a semi about 100 yards ahead of me and another about 150 yards behind, and made it safely to my turnoff bracketed by these two preux chevaliers.

Got home just before dark.

Quote of the Day

"Men never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election." (Otto von Bismarck)

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Michigan, my Michigan, Pt I

“That ain’t no milishy! Lookit them black hats—it’s the Army of the Potomac!”

A tatted snowflake will be sent to the first person that knows what I’m talking about. No fair Googling.

(I couldn’t get a picture of this so had to grab one off the Net, hence the striking absence of snow).

Had a good visit, remarkably little bloodshed (despite one get-together that included in the guest list three boys under six and a very unlucky cat) although on New Year’s night I did have to get brother #3 on my cell and call him every name in the book from a parking lot off Sashabaw Road when I was southbound on I-75 at eleven pm in a blinding snowstorm and my trunk he had helpfully filled with packages and then slammed closed, popped open.

Spent New Year’s Eve in a shocking pink hotel near the Ford Proving Grounds. There were several noisy parties going on around me so I ordered copious amounts of Sam Adams and wings from room service and watched the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers marathon that TCM kindly provided for my viewing pleasure. Got breakfast the next morning from Eastborne Market in Dearborn, along with a strawberry-rhubarb pie and handmade pita breads from Sophia’s Bakery on Michigan Avenue and a number of other goodies to take back with me. Had a Coney (the national dish of southeastern Michigan) for lunch and hiccupped onion for the rest of the afternoon.

Let’s see, what else… Drove from Dearborn to the tunnel and back and looked at the trees and the houses covered with snow. Had gyros and a “greek” for dinner. Met the newest nieces and nephew (I no longer keep count but I’m pretty sure we’re close to thirty right now which is what happens when a woman with six brothers and sisters marries a man with six brothers and sisters and three of the siblings mentioned are licensed foster parents). Drove by my alma mater and gave a resounding raspberry. Listened to a talk show host make excuses for the Lions. Avoided the RenCen.

Gosh I miss Detroit.