Friday, February 29, 2008

Quote of the Day

"A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin." H.L. Mencken

Thursday, February 28, 2008

"Creative Hands"

This was the view from my front porch yesterday but I drove into Cornfedton anyway. I had to get a shot and purchase some groceries not carried by the tiny store in Myvillage; serendipitously, my favorite thrift shop was having a half off sale which is how I got twenty one volumes of the Creative Hands needlework guide at fifty cents each.

(Plus MFK Fisher's/Time-Life book on provincial French cooking and two Aunt Whatsername's pillow embroidery transfers).

This particular store is run by the Ladies' Auxiliary of the Mennonite hospital in Cornfedton. On any given day I can walk out of there with a handful of silk scarves and a bag of tatting thread. Once I arrived just after they had laid out the lifetime accumulation of home-stitched dresser scarves that some lady's heirs had donated instead of throwing out, may they live long and prosper.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Patternless Sewing-1921 Lingerie

This one is from the Woman's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences, Underwear and Lingerie, Vol I (copyright 1921).

This one, and the kimono, come from the Woman's Institute booklet, "Simplified Sewing" (also copyright 1921).

Scans of the original instructions for all three can be downloaded from my Flickr account.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Knitting-Two Pairs of 1950 Slipper Socks

These are from Modern Needlecraft, Winter 1950. Instructions to download are on my Flickr account.

Beware of What You Wish For Department

At least I am no longer looking at mud.

The brother in law came by with the blade on his four wheeler and scraped us out just after sunrise, so this is what has come down in the last three hours.

The feathered forest freeloaders are letting me know that I need to do some clearing out of the Little Grey Bungalow Cafe. Guess I'll put my boots on.

'Specially because somebody wants to go for a walk. You can take the dog out of northern Germany, but you can't take northern Germany out of the dog. He loves snow and will spend all day outside if we let him.

(am now of course asking myself the same question everyone else in town is asking. How long before the power goes out?)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Quilts by Marie Webster

Project Gutenberg, bless their hearts, has put Miss Webster's book online, complete with the original color plates for her masterpieces such as Windblown Tulip and The Iris.

Vintage Sheet Music - Lover, Come Back To Me

April is not the cruellest month

Regardless of what T.S. Eliot says. February is the cruellest month because that's when all the seed calatogs have arrived and lie on the coffee table, tempting us to madness and three-figure seed and plant orders.

About three-quarters of the snow has melted and as far as the eye can see it is mud, mud, and more mud. If I were going to get SADD, this is the month it would happen.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

As If We Didn't See This One Coming Department

Kitchen Staples - Brandy Vanilla

If you do a lot of baking, please try using brandy vanilla instead of imitation vanilla extract, which should only be in your pantry if you make a lot of ice cream (the alcohol in the real thing hinders the freezing process).

Buy a jar of vanilla beans. McCormick’s is fine, or any other supermarket brand. Fill the jar with brandy. Spare the Hennessey, please; E&J or Christian Brothers is a good choice and a small bottle will keep just about forever. Leave the vanilla beans macerating in the brandy for a day or two and then use the brandy for any recipe that calls for vanilla extract. When you get down to the last spoonful or so, refill the jar with brandy. One jar of vanilla beans stays strong enough for half a dozen refills.

It is very good in this pudding, which is from the 1934 cookbook that I think is still available from the Hershey company as a reprint. When I was growing up in a large single-income family, we rarely had desserts or sweets, and this was for special occasions like birthdays. It’s a Depression recipe; it didn’t dawn on me until I was old enough to pay for my own groceries that this has the advantage of being cheap to make (and if you are feeling particularly frugal you can replace ½ cup of the milk with cold leftover coffee).

The traditional method requires a lot of stirring so I am including the microwave version as well.

Hershey’s Cocoa Pudding

¾ c. white sugar (the original recipe calls for a cup which is too much)
½ c. cocoa
¼ c. cornstarch
Pinch salt
3 c milk
1 T. butter
1 t. brandy vanilla

Stir together the sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt in a heavy pot. Gradually blend in the milk. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly until it comes to a boil. This will take a long time but don’t stop stirring or the milk will scorch and the pudding will be ruined. Pull up a chair.

Boil for one minute, still stirring. Remove from the heat and add the butter and vanilla. Pour into serving bowls and press plastic wrap over the top once it has cooled, to prevent the top from hardening into a layer of skin. Refrigerate.

Microwave version:

Combine the dry ingredients in an 8-cup Pyrex measuring cup or large microwave-proof bowl. Gradually blend in the milk. Microwave on high for 8-10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes. The pudding is done when the mixture begins to thicken (I’ve never had to cook it more than 8 minutes). Stir in the butter and vanilla and pour into a serving dish. Refrigerate. Don’t forget the plastic wrap.

Honestly? I don’t make the stovetop version any more. The microwave keeps the milk from scorching and eliminates the standing over a hot stove, making it a great dessert for summer. Because it is so rich and so sweet don’t feel stingy about getting eight servings out of it. Whipped cream really gilds the lily. WARNING: this does not keep well, after a day in the refrigerator the cornstarch begins to “weep.” We never had any left over when I was a kid so that wasn’t a problem!

This is by no means low calorie, even if you use skim milk, but if you are feeding someone who is avoiding eggs it is a useful recipe. I take it to office potlucks as I work with a lot of religious vegetarians, i.e. they can eat dairy but no meat, fish or eggs.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


(photo courtesy

Friday, February 22, 2008

Quote of the Day

"To bring together the records of the past and to house them in buildings where they will be preserved for the use of men and women in the future, a nation must believe in three things.

It must believe in the past.

It must believe in the future.

It must, above all, believe in the capacity of its own people so to learn from the past that they can gain in judgment in creating their own future." Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cave Canem

I was standing at the ironing board the other day when I heard a ferocious barking from outside the window. That’s odd, I thought; one of Funnyface’s few redeeming qualities is that he’s a pretty quiet dog. Then I realized that a) it was not his bark, and b) it was coming from the side yard.

Two little rat dogs were bouncing up and down in the driveway, putting on a ferocious show against the German Shepherd (behind a chain link fence). I decided not to let them tempt Fate and went out to bring Funnyface in before anything happened. Just about the time I got to back yard, it dawned on both of us that not only was the winter supply of firewood stacked against the fence, but the spousal unit had removed enough logs from one end of it so that it now made a nice ramp to use as a launching pad onto the driveway.

Funnyface looked at the woodpile. He looked at the driveway. I swear I saw a light bulb go on above his head.

He beat me to the top of the pile but by virtue of a Nijinsky-like leap that I will never again in my life be able to duplicate, I got hold of one hind leg before he made it over. The logs began to slip under his paws and the two of us came crashing down to a triumphant chorus of yapping from the rat dogs.

Funnyface is not quite one year old; he was fine. I am fifty-two; I was not. Next day my boss saw me hobbling down the hall at work, favoring my left knee, which had ballooned up to the size of a cantaloupe.

She: “What did you to yourself this time?”

Me: “I was chasing the dog and fell off the woodpile.”

She: “I don’t think I want to hear any more.”

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

25-Motif Challenge - Mrs. Beeton's edging

Mrs. Beeton's Book of Needlework is available online at Project Gutenberg.

This is one of her edgings. I have incorporated a picot into the smaller ring and left out the crochet part.

It will make a nice bookmark if, as I have done above, you mirror-image another row of it and insert with a strip of velvet ribbon . It's done with a single shuttle or if you needle-tat, working with the thread cut off the ball.

Large Ring 1: 4-3-3-3-3-4. Leave a one-sixteenth inch space on your thread.

Small Ring 1: 4-4. Leave a one-sixteenth inch space on your thread.

Large Ring 2: 4+3-3-3-3-4, joining the first picot to the last picot on the first large ring.

Continue until the edging is the desired length.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Vintage Needlework - Modern Priscilla Catalog

The Smithsonian has a Modern Priscilla needlework catalog in their online collection. From the artwork -- and the references to "these difficult times" -- it appears to be from 1915 or 1916. The cover alone is worth framing.

Vintage Sewing - Inspiration Magazine

(Inspiration was a leaflet published six times per year by the Woman's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences, a Scranton, PA correspondence school that offered mail-order courses in cooking, dressmaking and millinery. This one is from the fall of 1921).

(I originally posted all eight pages here but have transferred them to my Flickr account to spare the bandwidth).

Monday, February 18, 2008

Vintage Advertising - Searchlight Oranges

(Nice to see the Navy being useful, even if it’s just for advertising oranges. Although from the apparent deflection of that forward gun, she’s about to blow a chunk of her bow off.)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

In Which I Get All Hippy-Dippy

I make my own granola as well as yogurt. I do so because it is easy and it tastes so infinitely much better than what you can get in a store that for the minimal amount of time and effort it takes, it’s worth it.
The granola recipe comes from a children’s cookbook called Peter Rabbit’s Natural Foods Cookbook, by Arnold Dobrin. It was printed by Miss Potter’s publishers, Frederick Warne & Co, and is illustrated by her paintings. The inscription inside says that it was donated by the After School Arts Class from the Pine Shadows Elementary School, wherever that happens to be, in 1977. I have adjusted the sweetening more to my liking and added the butter, which gives it a richer taste but also means it has to be kept in the refrigerator and should be eaten within two weeks.

Johnny Town-mouse’s Granola

2 c oatmeal
½ c wheat germ (I usually leave this out)
¼ t salt
2 T vegetable oil
1 T butter (optional), melted and cooled
¼ c honey (I prefer brown sugar and it’s also less messy)

A total of one cup of any combination of the following:

Chopped nuts
Unsweetened grated coconut
Sesame seeds
Sunflower seeds, unsalted
Chopped dried apples
Chopped dried apricots

(Since I tend to go with what is in the cupboard, I usually make this with golden raisins, walnuts, and coconut, which are staples with me. It’s amazing how you redefine “necessities” when the nearest supermarket is almost thirty miles away. A box of Quaker Oats is something else we always have on hand because the spousal unit is three quarters Scotch-Irish and has “parritch” for breakfast every’ day from December through the end of March).

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Put the oatmeal, wheat germ and salt in a mixing bowl and stir well. Add the vegetable oil, butter, and the honey or sugar. Spread the mixture on a cookie sheet or large baking pan and bake it for 30 minutes. If you choose honey as your sweetener, I recommend some aluminum foil to line the baking sheet with or you will wind up chipping honey off it.

Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and add your additional ingredients EXCEPT the raisins. This is important. They get too crunchy. Bake for 15 more minutes. Take the cooking sheet out of the oven and allow it to cool, stirring it occasionally as it cools. Add the raisins once it has cooled completely. I store this in an old Ball canning jar in the refrigerator and sneak handfuls of it occasionally.

Eat with milk or yogurt and fruit for breakfast (wonderful on blueberries) or stir some into a muffin batter.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


(photo courtesy of

Friday, February 15, 2008

Quote of the Day

"I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library." Jorge Luis Borges

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

(Images from Dover and from Patrice at Agence Eureka)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Valentine Projects, New and Vintage

Please check out the Toymaker's Valentine's Day projects. As always, they are free and may be downloaded from her website.

And if you're looking for the ultimate romantic kitchen assessory, here's a link to a pattern for a heart-shaped potholder, scanned from a 1950 Smart Sewing magazine.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Introducing Reserve Cat

One year ago this week, our old German Shepherd Blitzen died peacefully in his sleep, stretched out across the doorway to the sewing room.

Two days later, the spousal unit pointed out that if we didn’t get another pet soon, the Drama Queen was going to kill us (his exact words). He suggested a kitten, but one old enough to stand up to her. So, in the middle of a blinding snowstorm, we drove to the local no-kill shelter, which located in an old barn next to the gun club on Route 9 (I’m sure that’s a coincidence).

It’s a privately run shelter and is very much an ad-hoc shoestring operation. Their definition of small animal appears to be somewhat elastic as there were half a dozen horses, three beautiful Malemutes and a couple of ostriches among the residents when we arrived (one of the ostriches had been beaten over the head by some upstanding citizen to the point where its right eye was missing).

The cats were in the top of the barn, in a series of partitioned-off small rooms overflowing with every age, size and color of felines. We had almost succumbed to a coy black fluffball when a little redheaded cat in the next space noticed us and immediately began trying to tear down the partition with his bare paws, yelling at the top of his voice all the while.

We entered the other room and the redhead leaped a good nine feet across the floor, dug his claws into the spousal unit’s Carharrt, and frantically turned on the purr. After that it was no contest; he wanted us so badly!

The paperwork was handled by one of the shelter owners, a gentleman with a strong resemblence to Santa Claus. As we waited, the office cats checked us out while the redhead still clung to us, purring if anything even more loudly. We were head-bumped by a very large, sleek and friendly tabby. Santa looked over his eyeglasses and said kindly “That’s Soldier Boy. I’m afraid he’s not available.”

Seems Soldier Boy’s human was called back to active duty for Iraq and, having nowhere else to take him, the young man brought him to the shelter in the hopes they could find him a good home. Santa and the rest of the staff determined that Soldier Boy would be kept and cared for until his human returned.

(I sometimes wonder if the young man has made it back. If he did, his cat is waiting for him.)

We managed to detach Rufus (his shelter name) from the spousal unit and insert him into the cat carrier, a new experience and one he let us know he really did not care for. When we got him home I’m afraid the Drama Queen regarded him rather less as the answer to a maiden’s prayer and rather more the way the mayor of Atlanta regarded William Tecumseh Sherman.

It was not love at first or even second, third, or fourth sight.

Granted, he stank. The unmistakably ammoniac aroma of an overcrowded and understaffed shelter clung to him until I coordinated an introduction to some waterless pet shampoo. He also had (still has) a high prey drive and attacked my knitting, my running shoes, the remote, and the most recent issue of National Geographic with equal zeal. He didn’t attack the Drama Queen—he wasn’t in her weight class yet although from the size of his feet it was only a matter of time.

He made himself right at home; letting us know that his likes include poached eggs, toes under the covers, anwed welkerring acwroiss compiwerter kurwobards. Dislikes included the vacuum cleaner and being ignored.

It was also clear that he was/is a calculating charmer. As a shelter animal, Reserve Cat spent his first four months without the petting and cuddling that goes with belonging to a family. It has left him greedy for affection and not a little insecure—how long is this good life going to last?--and he never misses a chance to throw himself into the closest available lap, flopping over on his back and writhing blissfully, all the while vibrating like a furry orange Evinrude. Standoffish, he’s not.

He sits at the position of attention, feet together, paws at a 45 degree angle, shoulders back, chin up; and then gives you that wide-eyed gosh-I’m-so-cute-it-hurts look. He drapes himself across the spousal unit’s legs when the man is lying in bed watching tv. He chases wadded up balls of paper, small stuffed toys, and golf whiffle balls, proudly carrying them back to be thrown again. He’s sweet-natured and loving and utterly adorable.

The Drama Queen still hates his guts.

She hides in the linen closet and watches him with her eyes narrowed and a speculative look on her face; and if she had opposable thumbs and could get the hatch open, I think she’d probably push him down the laundry chute.

Vintage Crochet - a Yoke in Filet

Projects like this make me wish I could crochet. From Modern Priscilla, April 1915.

A view that can be expanded to a more legible size is on my Flickr account, here.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Vintage Cookbooks-The Story of Crisco

(Menu for February 10th is offered without comment. The 1913 edition is available online at Project Gutenberg).

Broiled Beefsteak, Baked Potatoes
Creamed Onions
Waldorf Salad
Jellied Figs, Nut Cookies

*Waldorf Salad—1 quart chopped apples, 2 cups diced celery, 1-1/2 cups blanched and shredded almonds, and 2/3 cup rolled pecan nut meats. Dress with following dressing, adding little more sugar and lemon juice to taste, just before serving. Mix 1 tablespoon melted Crisco, 1 teaspoon each mustard and white sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add 2 well beaten egg yolks and then beat in slowly 4 tablespoons lemon juice. Cook in double boiler till it thickens. Then add whites 2 eggs beaten stiff. Keep on ice till wanted. Stir in 1 cup whipped cream just before serving. This is very good made with 5 egg yolks and 1/2 cup thin cream if whipping cream is unobtainable.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


(photo courtesy

Friday, February 8, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn't hurt the untroubled spirit, either." (Elizabeth Zimmerman)

Year of the Rat, continued

And only one day late, here is a cutout rat from the HP site!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Xinnian Keui Lo!

Happy Year of the Rat to all of my peng-you.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

25 Motif Challenge - 1940's Snowflake

This snowflake was inspired by an illustration from an eBay find titled The Complete Home Reference Book of Sewing and Needlework, copyright 1944 and 1949. The first half of the book, by Mary Brooks Picken, takes several different types of dresses apart and shows you how to sew them, step by step, with wonderful early 40’s line drawings. The second half is by Elizabeth L. Mathieson and covers knitting, embroidery, crochet, rug making, and tatting. One of the tatting patterns is for a towel edging. Didn’t care for the edging but liked the motif within it, very streamlined and “modern,” with few picots and most of those structural rather than decorative.

I modified the motif for six repeats and tatted six of them together in a circle. Each motif is tatted in one pass only. This makes a fairly large snowflake even in a small thread size such as #40 DMC. In #12 Coton Perle as shown, it’s big enough to make a nice sun catcher but I need to find something with a bit more oomph that spray starch to keep it stiff.

R 7 – 2 – 2 – 7
C 9 – 9
R 7 + 2 – 2 – 7

Continue until you have six rings and chains, joining the last ring to make a circle. Tat five more motifs, joining them by the picots on two adjacent chains, as shown above.

Super Tuesday

(images from Patricia at Agence Eureka.)

Monday, February 4, 2008

Vintage Magazines - Modern Priscilla

(we got our Internet service back!)

Mother Nature strikes again

I'm logging in from the local Red Cross office (no worries; I'm a volunteer here). But we lost power and Internet connectivity in the ice storm last night.

The power is back; the Internet is not. How frail are the constructions of man!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Russian Tea

Strictly speaking this is not Russian (and I’m not sure it’s tea, either!) but it’s good on cold days.

1 cup instant Lipton’s tea
2 cups Tang
1 cup Country Time or other powdered lemonade mix
2 cups sugar
2 t ground cinnamon
½ t ground cloves.

Mix this all together and keep in the pantry in an airtight container. 3 tablespoons of mix to 1 cup of boiling water.

(Vintage Russian postcard images on

Saturday, February 2, 2008


Friday, February 1, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Educate men without religion and you make of them but clever devils." (Arthur Wellesley)


We got seven and a half inches (19 cm) of snow last night. My Impala, Flora (aka The Red Menace) got me to work ON TIME. I even went past a colleague's and picked her up because her road was not plowed and she drives a compact.

My boss -- who drives a 4 wheel drive yuppiemobile -- is afraid to try the roads and will not be coming to work today. One of my managers and one of my computer operaters ditto, ditto, ditto.

Cue the snarky laugh.