Saturday, February 28, 2009

Things Better Left Unsaid

Man from the moving company: What is this?

Oldest Sister: That's a buggy whip.

(Long silence).

Oldest Sister: My dad uses it to play with the cat.


(image from the LOLCats).

Friday, February 27, 2009

Quote of the Day

Grandchildren are God's gift for not killing your teenagers. Anonymous

(image available as an ecard from Dover).

Thursday, February 26, 2009


see more cute dogs and puppies

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

and speaking of patterns...

I can't believe I've never noticed it before, but there's a slide show of some of their 1956-57 patterns on the Burda WOF site.

Patterns of the Past-Cross-stitch Strawberries

These patterns for the embroidered strawberry motif and the bedspread were offered in McCall's Needlework and Crafts, Summer 1943.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Knitting - Columbia 2-Needle Gloves

The last of February's one-skein (4 oz) projects from the Columbia-Minerva booklet are these ladies' gauntlet-type gloves with a buckled wrist-strap. Instructions can be found on my Flickr account.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Vintage Illustrations - Art Deco Stained Glass

(copyright-free image from Dover).

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Jello & Generals

Driving home from Cornfedton Friday afternoon my train of thought—which most days resembles the Toonerville Trolley—went something like this.

1. That talk last night on Grierson’s Raid at the Champaign County Civil War Round Table was very interesting.

(We stopped at Steak & Shake for a burger first and spent the ride home debating the place of cavalry in nineteenth century combat and the impact of Jackson’s loss on the Gettysburg campaign. Who says middle-aged retired military people don’t know how to loosen up and have a good time).

2. Pretty smart of Grant, using a cavalry raid to divert badly-needed Confederate resources from the main area of operations around Vicksburg.

3. Added bonus, Pemberton’s re-supply capability was crippled when Grierson’s troops cut the railroad east of Jackson, Mississippi.

4. Wasn’t one of the cookbooks I brought back from Detroit with me this fall published by the Junior League of Jackson?

5. I seem to remember a recipe for a Jell-O made with buttermilk in there. I wonder if I have any buttermilk...

(This is a pretty typical thought progression for me since usually everything either begins with or ends up on military topics. The Marine Corps still insists that every Marine is a rifleman and every Marine officer is a rifle platoon commander, so everyone--even JAGS and aviators--must go through basic infantry training. It leaves a mark. When we first moved here the Methodist minister asked me how I liked central Illinois. I told her that it looked like great terrain for armor but was too open for ground troops).

Southern Sideboards was issued thirty years ago (Editor: Mrs. Clyde X. Copeland, Jr. Co-Editors: Mrs. Patrick H. Scanlon and Mrs. Ancel C. Tipton, Jr.) at a time when traditional Delta fare was fighting a rear-guard action against new-fangled convenience cooking. The recipes are an interesting and sometimes sad mix of the old and the new, Dove Breasts in Cream Sauce uneasily sharing a chapter with Oriental Chicken Puffs (chief ingredient of which is a box of Rice-a-Roni).

This particular dish is called Alexandria Salad and was submitted by Mrs. Chandler Clover. As I have mentioned before, in the American South and Midwest, gelatin is technically a vegetable. I am willing to bet that you can attend any church supper between International Falls and Mobile Bay and the salad table will be covered with saucers bearing squares of fruit-flavored Jell-O reposing on two lettuce leaves and saluted with a flourish of mayonnaise.

Alexandria Salad

1 3 oz package peach-flavored Jell-O
1 c. orange juice
1 c. buttermilk

Dissolve gelatin in orange juice heated to boiling. Mix well, cool briefly and add buttermilk. Refrigerate.

Home cooking doesn’t get much simpler than this. I made it this afternoon and the result is a pretty soft orange-sherbet color, with a pudding-like texture and a sweet yet slightly tangy taste. It occurred to me that this would be a useful recipe if you were feeding someone who has a sweet tooth but has to watch their sugar intake since the Jell-O people make a sugar-free version and there are unsweetened fruit juices on the market. Taste after adding the buttermilk and sweeten if necessary with your choice of sugar substitute, making sure it dissolves before you put the mixture in the refrigerator.

Of course if you don’t give a damn about sugar intake, make Mrs. Leland R. Speed’s Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Icing.


1 c. cooking oil
2 c. sugar
3 eggs, well beaten
1 T. vanilla
2 ½ c. flour
1 t. baking soda
2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 c. chopped pecans
3 cups chopped, peeled apples

Cream well the oil, sugar and eggs. Add vanilla. Sift dry ingredients together and blend into creamed mixture. Fold in pecans and apples. Pour into well-greased bundt pan and bake at 350° F for 55-60 minutes. Remove cake from pan and cool. Ice with BROWN SUGAR ICING (the emphasis is Mrs. Speed’s). Serves 15.

Brown Sugar Icing

1 c. light brown sugar
½ c. butter
¼ c. evaporated milk
1 t. vanilla

Bring the first 3 ingredients to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat immediately and stir in vanilla. Beat with a spoon until the icing is cool. Pour over cake.

Oh, and if you happen to be in Champaign next September, the spousal unit and I have agreed to give a presentation on the Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1862.


(image courtesy of the LOLCats).

Friday, February 20, 2009

Quote of the Day

Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism. G. Washington

Thursday, February 19, 2009


"Children of the night...what beautiful music they make."

Hankafores from Tipnut

From Tipnut, a nifty little vintage booklet on making tea-aprons from hankies.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Patterns of the Past - 1952 Mail-Order Designer Patterns

These patterns could be ordered for a dollar each from the pages of Modern Needlecraft in 1952.

But just look at some of the designers; Ceil Chapman, Vera Maxwell, Claire McCardell. The McCardell midriff dress is a classic.

Left-click to enlarge, or download from my Flickr account.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I'm thinking of getting a "sans peur et sans reproche" tattoo

Your result for The Who Would You Be in 1400 AD Test...

The Knight

You scored 24% Cardinal, 49% Monk, 50% Lady, and 57% Knight!

You are the hero. Brave and bold. You are strong and utterly selfless. You are also a pawn to your superiors and will be lucky if you live very long. If you survive the Holy wars you are thrust into you will be praised for your valor and opportunities both romantic and financial will become available to you.

Take The Who Would You Be in 1400 AD Test
at HelloQuizzy

(thanks to SpookyRach for the link).

Knitting - 60's "booties"

Third installment of the 1-skein (4 oz) wonders from an early 60's Columbia Minerva knitting book, "booties" for women or teenage girls. Two pages of instructions can be downloaded from my Flickr account.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Gratuitous Sappy Puppy Posting

That is my pillow, btw.

Sovereignty Has Been Re-Established

But eternal vigilance is the price of a kitty basket.

Vintage Cigar Box Art

(copyright-free image from Dover Publications).

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Now is the winter of our discontent

Turned into glorious summer by this sunny, attractive little book. It was published in 1916 as a collaboration between the California Fruit Growers’ Exchange and Alice Bradley of Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery in Boston. On this bleak, cold, grey and brown day I can do no better than to post some of these glowing pictures.

(edited to add: left-click to enlarge or go to my Flickr account to download).

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Little Fashion Advice

I have what is known in the trade as a "mature figure" -- quite common among women of my age and ethnic persuasion. This does not mean I have a problem finding clothes that fit off the rack, just with finding clothes that fit off the rack in which I'd be caught dead. Let's face it; locally, the selection of upscale women's clothing is a little restricted, and a shopping trip up to Chicago or Detroit just isn't in the cards right now.

In nautical terms, I have a broad poop-deck and a heavy prow, and amidships I'm almost perfectly rectilinear (and the less said about my binnacles, the better). I also ride high in the water. So I was looking at Simplicity 2703 and thinking that it would make a nice jacket in a bright red lightweight wool that I happen to have on hand, but I'm not sure about those sleeves. I am thinking that straight plain sleeves or maybe with a cuff like this would look less, well, billowy.



(Happy Valentine's Day from the LOLCats. Beep somebody you love).

Friday, February 13, 2009

Australia - Brush Fires

I've put a link to the Australian Red Cross in the upper right hand corner. Please give if you can.

Quote of the Day

Let us have faith that right makes might; and in that faith let us dare to do our duty as we understand it. A. Lincoln

Thursday, February 12, 2009

For Your Valentine

The Weekend Designer has a heart-shaped "disco" bag for you to make (shown above).

The Toymaker has some Valentine's paper projects to download.

From last year, a heart-shaped potholder to sew.

And Betsey Evans has a free pattern for a small tatted heart (photo here).

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Patterns of the Past - Ties and Socks

As advertised in McCall's Needlework and Crafts, Summer 1950 - you could order a kit and pattern from Fleischer's to knit your boyfriend a spiffy pair of Argyle socks or a tie. If you started right away they might even be finished by Valentine's Day.

If you could knit. And if you had a boyfriend. And if you didn't believe in the curse.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Reserve Cat Strikes Again

A clear violation of this poor fellow's Second Amendment rights.

Knitting - a Sixties "Shoulderette"

(edited to add the photo -- finally!)

The second one-skein pattern from the Columbia Minerva knitting book is a "shoulderette." This shrug is made in size medium (which probably translates to a modern 34-36 bust) and worked in worsted-weight yarn. For the time being a copy must be downloaded from my Flickr account, as the high winds here are playing old Hob with my Internet connection (we have a microwave link).

This is a quick little project that could probably be complete before Valentine's Day. Maybe in something soft and fuzzy?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Vintage Greeting Cards - Valentine's Day

(more free Edwardian Valentine's cards from Dover, and Tipnut has several of slightly more recent vintage, the 60's from the looks of it).

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Big Trouble in Little Bungalow

Last weekend one of us absent-mindedly left a cardboard grocery box on the sewing table in the front room and the Drama Queen immediately annexed it. The table stands right above a heating vent, and the box made a warm and cozy little cubby for her, particularly since it hid her from the dogs and Reserve Cat ignored it. She slept in it almost all day, every day until yesterday, when out of the kindness of my heart (not to mention a desire to get that stupid box out of my parlor) I replaced it with a vintage wicker basket, comfortably upholstered by a sweater that had felted in the wash, just for her.


Mix It Up

I use baking mix a lot. A lot. I even make tortillas with it although until I get a tortilla press they’re going continue to look a little uneven (can someone loan me an abuelita for about, I don’t know, six months? Just until I learn to pat out tortillas by hand. I really believe the art has to be gained at grandmother’s knee).

My preference is Bisquick, which has been around since the Depression, but some of the other brands available in the U.S. are Pioneer, Jiffy and of course King Arthur. You can even make your own if you want a little more control over what goes into it; for example, many people don’t care for what they perceive as a slightly chemical aftertaste caused by double-acting baking powder with aluminum. There is a recipe for a home-made mix at the RecipeZaar site and you could use a non-aluminum powder such as Rumford’s.

The earliest Bisquick recipe book in my collection is from 1956 and some of the recipes were obviously thought up by a corporate home economist determined to prove that it could do anything (including soufflés and gravy), but thankfully it also offers tried and true recipes for biscuits, muffins and dumplings. I often make these muffins with blueberries, since we have a freezer full of berries that were hauled back for me from a you-pick place in Wisconsin by a man I met in my dentist's waiting room. This is the Midwest. People here do things like that.


Heat oven to 400° (mod. hot). Blend together 2 T. sugar, 1 egg, ¾ cup milk, 2 cups bisquick. Then beat vigorously 30 seconds. For richer batter, add 2 T. more sugar, 2 T. melted shortening or salad oil. Fill 12 well greased muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake 15 mins.

I make the richer version, with melted butter, and fold in 1 cup of blueberries which I have rinsed and then tossed with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkling of sugar. Remember that muffins, like all quick breads, toughen up if you overbeat them, so don’t use an electric mixer, use a fork or a spatula, and stop when the batter is just blended. It will look rough but it evens out in the oven.

The second recipe book was published in 1964 and in addition to the usual instructions for biscuits, waffles, etc, it has a chapter called “From Faraway Places.” One of the recipes is for a blatant and probably awful fake of French puff pastry but the scones are pretty good.

Holiday Fruit Scones

2 c. Bisquick
½ c. raisins or currants
2 T. Sugar
1 T. grated orange rind
2/3 cup milk

Heat oven to 425° (hot). Mix Bisquick, raisins, sugar and orange rind. Stir in milk. Toss dough onto lightly floured cloth covered board. Roll out into a 9” round. Brush top with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Cut into 12 wedges and place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake about 10 min. Serve hot.

(HINT: Christy at the Southern Plate recommends using a piece of waxed paper instead of the cloth, which can then be folded up and neatly deposited in the garbage, and I wish I’d learned that tip long ago)

I use heavy cream if I have it instead of milk, knead the dough about a half dozen times (it will be raggedy coming out of the bowl but don’t over-mix and don’t over-knead). I also cut the round into eight wedges, not twelve.

These are good warm but don’t keep at all well. Eat them the same day. Heck, eat them the same morning. Substitute snipped dried apricots and a half a cup of chopped pecans for the raisins and you’ve got something really special. People will think you went to a lot of trouble. Don't disillusion them.

The last Bisquick cookbook that I own is from 1993 and includes a recipe for that modern American staple, Impossible Cheeseburger Pie. I’ve made a couple of the different Impossible Pies (there are quite a few recipes on the Betty Crocker website) and they are fine, but the recipe I reach for most often is the one for Streusel Coffee Cake, which hasn’t changed at all in the last fifty years. It’s a breakfast staple when I have overnight guests.

Streusel Coffee Cake

2 c. Bisquick
2/3 c. milk
2 T. sugar
1 egg

HEAT oven to 350°. Grease a round 9 inch pan. Prepare Streusel topping (below); reserve.

MIX remaining ingredients; beat vigorously 30 seconds. Spread batter in pan. Sprinkle with topping.

BAKE 18 to 22 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm.

8 servings.

(Notice how recipe writing has changed over the years?)

Streusel Topping

1/3 c. Bisquick
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
½ t. ground cinnamon
2 T. firm margarine or butter

Mix baking mix, brown sugar and cinnamon. Cut in margarine with fork or pastry blender until mixture is crumbly.

This is good for that last half cup of leftover fruit or jam (or even applesauce). Just gently fold it into the batter before baking in a well-buttered Bundt pan.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

This one's for Miss Kitty

Thanks to Drawn! for directing me to the National Film Board of Canada's site where there are many, many more of these.


(image courtesy of the LOLCats).

Friday, February 6, 2009

Witty Sayings Dep't

Me (to 120-lb Funnyface who is attempting to stick his nose in my coffeecup):
Don't drink that, it'll stunt your growth.

Quote of the Day

Man wishes woman to be peaceable, but in fact she is essentially warlike, like the cat. Friedrich Nietzsche

Thursday, February 5, 2009

We're supposed to be smarter than they are

When Funnyface wants to be taken for a walk, he goes over and stands in front of the spousal unit and yips.

(He knows better than to try that with me because I categorically refuse to walk him. And in another six months or so when Babyface is full grown, I'm going to stop walking her, too. Been there and have the scars on my elbows to prove it. We have always owned our dogs in matched sets, and walking them is often like being towed along behind the motorboat after you've fallen off the waterskis. Even when I was young and reasonably fit they could still catch me off guard, like the time I was out with them and met our S4 officer, a lyin' sack of excrement known to all and sundry as Lieutenant NumbNuts, a nickname he worked long and hard to attain. The dogs split -- one went left, one went right, and I wound up hugging the man to my breast like a long lost rich relative. There were witnesses).

Anyway, the routine is that Funnyface will yip, wait a few minutes, yip again, wait a few minutes, etcetera until he finally gets his walk. The other evening the alpha male was a little slower on the uptake than usual, so Funnyface excused himself and came back with one of the man's running shoes in his jaws.

If that's not a hint, I don't know what is.

Oh, and the SU wants me to correct the previous post. The fence is only four feet tall. That doesn't give me a warm fuzzy.


Eve from my KnitTalk group tipped us off to this. Look at those sweaters!

Die Wacht Am Birdfeeder

Der Wacht-doggie is wacht - ing...interestingly enough, all of our previous GSD's barked their heads off at the squirrels in the birdfeeder, he just sits. And watches. One of these days he's going to do the math and realize that's only a five foot fence and he can easily jump it.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Go see

Scans of the 1918 Simpson's mail-order catalog from Old Catalogs.

Some luscious mid-century kitchen and bath advertisements from American Vintage Home's Flickr account.

And some great vintage children's crafts today on Patricia's site, Agence Eureka, including paper cutouts, weaving, cross-stitch, and simple toys to make.

Patterns of the Past - For the Li'l Ones

These children's patterns were available by mail order from Modern Knitting and Needlecraft, 10th edition, 1950. The bunny booties are a hoot.

Left-click to enlarge, or download a copy from my Flickr account.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Meg Swanson can sleep o’ nights

This fall I made an impulse buy of a half-dozen skeins of Italian wool and mohair bulky yarn, with the idea that I would make one of Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Pi shawls out of it. Got down to the third increase, realized it was a bad yarn/pattern match, and frogged it.

I was looking at the Moebius in Zimmerman’s Knitting Around and experienced an epiphany; I was going to design a shawl/shrug combo that would be just a knitted circle with no twist. It would look like a combination of the Moebius and a Sonntag and it could be worn as a shrug with my arms through the center circle, or as a wrap, once around my waist and over the back of my neck. I would call it “Not Your Mother’s Moebius” and publish the pattern on my blog to universal acclaim. Vogue and the Taunton Press would be on the phone with offers I couldn’t refuse.

I did my first ever provisional cast-on and knit about six feet in mistake-stitch rib, one of my favorite reversible stitches. According to the directions I’d read, a gentle tug on one end of the provisional cast-on would gently unzip the cast-on stitches and I could then graft them or do a three needle cast off to join the two ends.

No such luck. I wound up having to unpick the stitches one by one (obviously I need to work on this technique). Once they were on the needle, I joined the two ends using the three-needle cast off, not noticing until I was done that lining up the ridges on ribbed fabric can be tricky. Oh heck. Take that out and redo it, but first, let’s try our new invention on!

Worn as a shrug, it was unobjectionable, although shrugs are something that women of my size build superstructure stature should, generally speaking, avoid. No matter, the wrap version would look much better.

After I fought my way into it, I checked it out in the bathroom mirror. It was supposed to drape around my waist, cross in front, and then nestle gently across my back and shoulders. Tweedledee being throttled by a fuzzy blue anaconda was not quite the look I was going for.

The damn thing’s reptilian characteristics intensified when I tried to take it off and nearly dislocated my arm. There just wasn’t enough give to it and I finally had to call for help. The spousal unit came into the bathroom, looked at me, opened his mouth, and shut it again (young persons of marriageable age, never underestimate the value of taciturnity in a life-partner).

"Design flaw," I gasped.

He was able to grab one of the shoulder loops and hold it away from my body long enough for me to escape.

It's going to be frogged one more time and then I think I'm going to put it away for about eighteen months.

Knitting - a vintage baby set

Over the next couple of weeks I will be posting some one-skein patterns from a vintage Columbia Minerva pattern book that I acquired during an estate sale last summer. The book is undated but the fashions and the hairstyles are from the early sixties.

Instructions for the bonnet, booties and thumbless mittens can be downloaded from my Flickr account.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Vintage Travel Posters - the French Line

(copyright-free image from Dover).

Sunday, February 1, 2009


Bubblicious from Rex The Dog on Vimeo.

I am in awe of people who can come up with stuff like this.

Willa Cather

I have just finished reading a collection of Cather’s early work, Stories, Reviews and Essays, and though I enjoyed the stories I wish I had skipped the rest. In the short stories there is evidence of the honesty and power that will some day bloom into Paul’s Case and “Death Comes For The Archbishop;” but a sanctimonious prig wrote the reviews and essays.

Cupboard Love

(Print from Dover).

Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.

There have been days this winter when nothing would induce me to set foot outside, even the realization that the refrigerator is bare, or nearly so. This is when rootling around in the pantry determines what I'm going to make for supper, particularly since there is no way I am walking the one block to our small village grocery (and even less possibility that I’m going to drive the twenty miles or so to the nearest supermarket). I pulled out a can of chickpeas and found one lone onion sitting all forlorn in the vegetable basket. I always have rice, I always have frozen spinach, and I almost always have lemons.

My rice cooker was free (it’s amazing what college students put out on the curb the week after graduation; that's how I got my ice-cream maker, as well), and I enjoy using it for one-pot meals that I can throw together with minimum effort. This is the perfect dish for cold Saturday nights when my garlic-hating spouse is running the clock for the boys’ basketball tournament. It’s great with pear chutney and homemade yogurt, and it reheats well for lunch. Otherwise I think it would probably serve three generously and four as a side dish, maybe with lamb chops or lamb kofta. You can brown the onion in the oil before adding them to the rice cooker, if you wish.

1 half 10-oz package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 16-oz can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 c rice
1 T butter or oil
½ t. ground cumin
1 t salt
1-2 cloves garlic, smashed or minced
2 c water
half a lemon (if you have them on hand)

Stir everything except the lemon together in the rice cooker and turn it on. When it pings, it’s done.

If you have no rice cooker, put everything in a heavy pot and bring it to a boil. Slap the lid on, turn it as low as your burner will go, and cook for twenty minutes. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice perks this up no end, as would some chopped cilantro.