Monday, August 31, 2009

De Agony of De Feet

When an 85-lb German Shepherd puppy going at warp speed steps on your foot, you're going to wind up with at least one broken toe. I'm just sayin'.

Vintage Advertising-A Bookmark from the Ferndell Coffee Company

From an amazing online collection of bookmarks.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

You say Tom-ay-to, I say Tom-ah-to

We are drowning under a tomato flood. They stand in baskets on the kitchen island, they’re lined up on the window-sills and counters, they lurk in the darkness under the tomato cages, pulled down by their own weight. Our friends are refusing to take any more off our hands and I’m giving serious thought to leaving bags of them on strange doorsteps under cover of darkness. The spousal unit has made enough tomato sauce for a small Italian restaurant chain and there are still bushels of unripe ones out there leering greenly at us through the chain-link fence. Unfortunately here are only so many fresh tomatoes that can be consumed by two people, so some of the li’l rascals are going to have to be canned.

Tomato Salsa

This recipe comes from the New Mexico State University website, and if you can’t count on New Mexicans for a decent salsa recipe, who can you trust? I cut it in half and did some ingredient tweaking (the original recipe is here). When canning vegetables please follow all food safety precautions to the letter, and wear clothing that protects your legs and feet. I speak from experience. Having a glass jar full of boiling-hot tomatoes shatter as you take it out of the canning kettle is less painful if you have on jeans and running shoes.

8 cups peeled, cored, chopped Roma or other paste tomatoes
2 cups seeded, diced bell peppers
2 cups chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped, seeded, jalapeños
1 Tbsp oregano leaves
1 cups cider vinegar
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp salt
1/2 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp ground cumin

Combine all ingredients except cumin and oregano in a large pot and bring to a boil, stirring frequently, then reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add spices and simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle hot salsa into pint jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process in a boiling water canner: 15 minutes for pint jars. This makes about 7 pints.

Tomato Sauce

Wash, de-stem and cut into big chunks about four quarts of tomatoes. Add two big handfuls of basil and a stick of cinnamon, snapped in half and tied up in a piece of muslin with half a dozen peppercorns. Cook over low heat until the tomatoes are mushy. You may need to use two kettles.

Remove the spice sack and run the mixture through the food mill. It will be thin and soupy, and flecked with green from the basil. Put this in a heavy-bottomed pot on the lowest possible heat and allow it to cook down by one-third. If you’re smart you’ll do this in the morning before the kitchen gets hot. Of course, if you’re really smart you live in an air-conditioned house.

This could be canned in the usual way, but we freeze it in two-cup batches. In the winter it’s combined with a jar of canned tomatoes and a pound of browned hamburger for the only Bolognese sauce my garlic-hating husband will eat.

Canned Tomatoes

Tomatoes are too watery to freeze well, even the firm-fleshed ones like Romas. However, because they are acid, they can be processed in a boiling-water bath and you don’t need the pressure cooker. This recipe is out of the Oracle of preserving books, Putting Foods By. My copy is twenty years old and covered with tomato and fruit stains.

Peel and seed firm tomatoes (beefsteaks can be used but I prefer Romas). Cut in quarters over a bowl, saving as much juice as possible. In a large enamel or stainless kettle bring the tomatoes and their juices to a boil and simmer for five minutes. Pour into hot, sterilized jars leaving ½ inch of headspace. For pint jars, add 1 T white vinegar; for quarts, 2 T. Screw on the lids and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes (pints) or 20 minutes (quarts).

Remove the jars from the boiling water and place on a folded towel on the counter to cool. Before putting them away make sure all of them have sealed. If a jar does not have a tight seal, stick it in the refrigerator and use within a couple of weeks.

I am storing the salsa and the canned tomatoes on the shelves under the basement stairs, a cool and dark little room that was once a common feature of American household architecture (it’s also where we head when the tornado sirens go off).

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009


Hi, Ma! Didja have a good day? Didja miss us?

We had lotsa fun today! Didja bring us some nice treats from town?

Didja miss us? Ma? Ma? Come back, Ma!

Quote of the Day

Bulldogs are adorable, with faces like toads that have been sat on. ~Colette

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Online Bookshelf - Soldiers of the Queen

A formulaic late-Victorian school story, with half a dozen dashing color plates. From Project Gutenberg.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The End Of A Perfect Day

There's a bat in the living room.

UPDATE: the spousal unit and Reserve Cat, implementing the “hammer-anvil” strategy perfected by the Army of Northern Virginia, trapped Mr. Bat and evicted him. My part in the action consisted of target identification and rear-echelon security.

Any claim that I shrieked “BAT!” and fled, slamming the bedroom door behind me, should be rejected by all right-thinking persons as a base, malicious falsehood.

26 août 1944

Patterns of the Past-A Dressing Sacque

A dressing sacque from Needlecraft magazine, September 1914. Left-click to enlarge or go to my Flickr account.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sewing-The 1950's Sheath Dress

Today, a sheath dress; make it in crepe or satin for evenings and pair it with next week’s capelet/shrug. Or, make it in navy linen as a sun-dress with the capelet or last week’s bolero in white for street wear. Instructions are on my Flickr account.

Monday, August 24, 2009

It's the most excitement we've had since the Laundromat caught fire

Sometime over the weekend, Evil Black Stranger Cat (who, I just learned, is female) managed to get herself fifty feet up into a tree in cat-hating neighbor’s side yard. The Village animal control officer (my brother in law), his designated climber of anything more than ten feet off the ground (the spousal unit), and a hastily-borrowed power-wash unit were not able to drive her back down, so the decision was made that if she was left alone eventually hunger and her own claws and climbing ability would effect a rescue.

Early this afternoon, she evidently had enough and began lamenting her fate in at the top of her little kitty lungs. After I noticed that Babyface was showing signs of wanting to jump through the front window, I wandered over to where two pickups, four cars, two fire trucks, the town cop, a dozen assorted children, a chow, and a lady in a Hoverround were milling around in front of cat-hating neighbor’s driveway.

Also present was Mrs. Cat-Hating Neighbor, looking annoyed. Seems the VFD did not ask if her windows were closed before they turned the hose on (note to training officer; if that isn’t on the checklist, it should be).

When and if they get her out of that tree, it would probably be a good idea to keep Evil Black Stranger Cat inside for a few weeks.

Vintage Ad Cuts - Children's Clothing

Some 1930's advertising clipart from Dover Publications. As always, copyright-free.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cloudy With a Chance of Showers

I attended a baby shower earlier today. It's been twenty years since I've been invited to one; please God it will be twenty years before I'm invited to another.

The Secret To Digestible Donuts

According to this advertisement in the October, 1921 Woman's Home Companion, you too can learn to make donuts as dainty as cake, as long as you fry them in Crisco. Once upon a time I used to make donuts, usually on winter Sunday mornings, but then my deep fat fryer went south on me.

(And I never used Crisco-I used Wesson).

Left-click to enlarge these images or go to my Flickr account.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Friday, August 21, 2009

Quote of the Day

The kind man feeds his cat before sitting down to dinner. ~ Hebrew proverb.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


The Online Bookshelf - Boys and Girls Bookshelf

Published originally in 1912 and subtitled A Practical Plan of Character Building, it's an anthology of fairy and folk tales from around the world and can be downloaded from Project Gutenberg.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Vintage Patterns at the University of Rhode Island

For one week only, starting today, the Commercial Patterns Archive at the University of Rhode Island is open, free, gratis, to anyone who wants to log in and check out their patterns. Click on the Login link at the top of the page and use guest/pattern. WARNING: this goes away on Tuesday, August 25th, so do it now.

Patterns of the Past-Two Dresses for Little Girls

From Needlecraft magazine, September 1914, a school dress and one for church or parties for little girls. Left-click to enlarge or go to my Flickr account.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sewing-The 1950's Bolero Jacket

To pair this with last week’s skirt for a fall suit; a simple bolero jacket, lined to the edge, with or without collar. Instructions are here.

Note: 1950's designs were not cut with a lot of ease, and this jacket may feel tight under the arms to a modern wearer. Try making a muslin, and if it's uncomfortable, redraw the pattern with a deeper armscye, or if you're a more experienced seamstress insert gussets.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Vintage Clipart-Edwardian Children

(copyright-free images from Dover Publications).

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Online Cookbooks-Miss Parloa's Chocolate and Cocoa Recipes

Chocolate is not only a pleasant of taste, but it is also a veritable balm of the mouth, for the maintaining of all glands and humours in a good state of health. Thus it is, that all who drink it, possess a sweet breath. ~ Italian physician Stephani Blancardi (1650-1702).

Back browsing through Michigan State University's online cookbook library, dipping into a little cookbook of chocolate and candy recipes produced 1909 by the manufacturer's of Baker's chocolate. For this, they enlisted the assistance of Miss Maria Parloa, a popular New England cooking instructor and lecturer. The second half of the book contains candy recipes from Janet McKenzie Hill, at that time editor of the Boston Cooking School's magazine. And though she isn't listed on the cover, several of the chocolate recipes are credited to Miss Elizabeth Kevill Burr.

Chocolate Gingerbread

Mix in a large bowl one cupful of molasses, half a cupful of sour milk or cream, one teaspoonful of ginger, one of cinnamon, half a teaspoonful of salt. Dissolve one teaspoonful of soda in a teaspoonful of cold water; add this and two tablespoonfuls of melted butter to the mixture. Now stir in two cupfuls of sifted flour, and finally add two ounces of Walter Baker & Co.’s Chocolate and one tablespoonful of butter, melted together. Pour the mixture into three well-buttered, deep tin plates, and bake in a moderately hot oven for about twenty minutes.

Cream Chocolate Caramels

Mix together in a granite-ware saucepan half a pint of sugar, half a pint of molasses, half a pint of thick cream, one generous tablespoonful of butter, and four ounces of Walter Baker & Co.’s Premium No. 1 Chocolate. Place on the fire and stir until the mixture boils. Cook until a few drops of it will harden if dropped into ice-water; then pour into well-buttered pans, having the mixture about three-fourths of an inch deep. When nearly cold, mark into squares. It will take almost an hour to boil this in a granite-ware pan, but not half so long if cooked in an iron frying-pan. Stir frequently while boiling. The caramels must be put in a very cold place to harden.

Chocolate Almonds
Blanch the almonds by pouring boiling water on them, and let them stand two or three minutes. Roast them in oven. Dip them in the following recipe for chocolate coating, and drop on paraffine paper.

½ pound cake of Walter Baker’s Vanilla Sweet Chocolate
2 level tablespoonfuls of butter
2 tablespoonfuls of boiling water

Put chocolate in small saucepan over boiling water and when melted stir in butter and water. Mix well. If found to be too thick, add more water; if too thin, more chocolate.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

Quote of the Day

Cats are smarter than dogs. You can't get eight cats to pull a sled through snow. ~Jeff Valdez

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Online Bookshelf - Faro Nell and Her Friends

An irresistible title. The book (and over a dozen evocative black & white illustrations) can be found at Project Gutenberg.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Opposable Thumbs are So Overrated

Patterns of the Past - "A Pretty Negligee"

From Needlecraft, December 1915, a negligee and simple boudoir cap to gladden a husband's eye across the breakfast table. I like the sleeve treatment with the ruffle and the two bows, but I'm afraid those lappets would drag through the cornflakes. Left-click to enlarge or go to my Flickr account.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Until These Guys Put Bayonets on Their Trombones

I'll get my thrills from the Silent Drill Platoon (I refer you to minute 1:57).

Sewing-the 1950's Straight Skirt

This week’s pattern is a one-piece, slightly a-line skirt, custom-cut to the individual’s hip and waist measurements. The one illustrated is floor-length but I have made this several times in a shorter version. It’s very similar to the pattern from Smart Sewing magazine that I blogged about last year. It would also go very well with this sweater. The instructions are on my Flickr account.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sunday, August 9, 2009

de Gustibus

I hope the old Romans
Had painful abdomens
I hope that the Greeks
Had toothache for weeks
I hope the Egyptians
Had chronic conniptions
I hope that the Arabs
Were bitten by scarabs
I hope that the Persians
Had gout in all versions
I hope that the Medes
Were kicked by their steeds
They started the fuss
And left it to us.
~ Arthur Guiterman

Decades ago I was introduced to the concept of salad sandwiches by a college boyfriend who was thoughtful, cultured, considerate, sensitive—and I’ve never told the spousal unit about him because he was in the Navy. Roger showed up at the university art gallery where I was clerking one day with a picnic lunch consisting of a delicious fresh salad and several pita breads, and I’ve been eating salad sandwiches ever since.

The bounty of our garden at this time of year allows me to ring in several variations on a vaguely Mediterranean theme. All of the below could be eaten in the orthodox way, with a fork and out of a bowl. They might even make good pasta salads as well although I’ve never tried them that way.

I recently started making my own pita breads, using my breadmaker to do the mixing and then smashing the balls of dough flat in my new tortilla press (yes, I broke down and bought one). I doubt I will go back to store-bought pitas anytime soon. Toasting the pitas before you add the salad makes them even better. If you decide to take these to work or school as part of your lunch, pack the salad separately and fill the pitas just before you get ready to eat. The instructions below will fill 4-6 sandwiches.

Roman Salad Sandwich

Go out in the garden and pick two cups of baby tomatoes or Romas, and two big fistfuls of basil. Put the basil in the food processor and add a clove of garlic and half a cup of basic oil/vinegar salad dressing. Pulse until it is a puree. Wash the tomatoes and cut them in half if they’re baby tomatoes and into dice if they’re Romas. Beefsteak tomatoes are too juicy for this. Add about a cup of cubed mozzarella cheese and toss with the dressing.

Greek Salad Sandwich

Go out in the garden and pick a cucumber and a handful of parsley. Peel and seed the cucumber and cut it into dice. Chop the parsley. Beat a cup of plain Greek or homemade yogurt in a bowl with a clove of garlic, smashed and minced with a little salt and pepper. Toss with the cucumber and parsley. If you don’t care for raw garlic in your sandwich, smash the clove but leave it otherwise intact, and allow it to sit in the yogurt for twenty minutes or so. Remove before adding the cucumber. Opa.

Persian Salad Sandwich

Go out in the garden and pick a small bunch of green onions. Clean them and chop them up with two hardboiled eggs. Mix with several tablespoons of sour cream, a pinch of salt and a grinding of fresh pepper. This should be under rather than over seasoned. An Iranian boy who went to school with my oldest sister gave her this recipe and it became a family favorite.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Quote of the Day

There is no such thing as death. In nature nothing dies;
From each sad remnant of decay some forms of life arise. ~ Charles Mackay

Thursday, August 6, 2009


The Online Bookshelf-Treatise on the Diseases of Women

From the purveyor of one of Victorian America's most popular patent medicines (if only because of the high alcohol content). It's actually kind of depressing when you realize that for many women, this was the primary source of information on reproductive health.

NSFW: Watch out for the rather graphic medical woodcuts starting with Chapter V.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sign of the Times

There has been a sharp uptick in the number of emails I'm getting from helpful gentlemen in Nigeria and Singapore who want to give me fourteen million dollars. I used to get two or three per week; now it's two or three per day.

Patterns of the Past-Housedress and Apron from 1914

From Needlecraft magazine, June 1914. This is my kind of apron (because I'm a messy cook). Larger image on Flickr.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sewing-A 1950's Waistcoat

Each Tuesday for the next six weeks, I am going to be posting sewing patterns for that perfect ‘50’s fall wardrobe. They come from Sewing Magic, written by Mary Brooks Picken and published originally in 1952 (my copy is from 1955). Using Mrs. Picken’s instructions, anyone with intermediate sewing skills should be able to make the following:

a fitted waistcoat,

a suit consisting of a straight skirt (long or short) and bolero jacket,

a sheath dress and shrug,

and finally a car coat or topper. Since you’ve already sewn the housecoat and scuffs (you did, right?), you will have a wardrobe that’s ready for anything the fall season has to offer. Doll aficionados please note; all of these projects could be easily scaled down and used for Ginger™, Little Miss Debutante™, Barbie™, or any other 1950’s fashion doll.

First is the waistcoat, and I’ve actually made this one. I cut facings rather than lining it to the edge but otherwise made no change to Mrs Picken’s directions. Please go to my Flickr account for the pattern.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Vintage Advertising-Congoleum Rugs

From the August, 1929 Better Homes and Gardens. These "rugs" were linoleum, designed in various sizes and intended to be placed over your old, wornout flooring just like a throw rug. I've actually seen two of them in an older house in the area and the colors are still fresh. Left-click for a closer look at the late 20's bedroom furnishings.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream

This is the Spousal Unit's family recipe for ice cream. I have his permission to publish it and it is awesome. Our next batch is going to be even more awesome because a family dairy farm between here and Prettybury just started selling their un-homogenized milk and cheese directly to the public from a little shed on the corner by their house.

They use the honor system; the shed holds a couple of refrigerators and a cash box where you can leave your money. The price list is posted. The milk comes with a thick layer of cream at the top and I can't wait to see what kind of yogurt it makes.

Aunt Phyl's Vanilla Ice Cream

(for a three-quart freezer)

4 eggs
2 quarts of milk
3 c. sugar
2 T. cornstarch
1 pint half and half
3 tsp vanilla
pinch salt

Separate the eggs. Beat yolks with rotary beater until smooth. Put yolks in 1 quart of milk in top of double boiler and get hot. Stir. Mix 1 scant cup sugar with cornstarch. Add enough milk to wet well. Stir into egg misture in double boiler. Continue stirring until mixture thickens. Remove from heat.

Beat egg whites in separate bowl and stir into mixture. Cool. Add remaining sugar and mix. Pour into ice cream freezer (at least three-quart size). Add another quart of milk, the half and half, vanilla and salt (do not fill freezer higher than 1 1/2 inches from the top). Stir. Freeze*. Pack with ice and salt over top of freezer until time to serve. Makes 10-12 servings.

(*We have an older manual ice cream maker so we do this by hand. Follow the directions for your particular type/brand of maker).

Saturday, August 1, 2009


A nice wet day today with the sound of tires swishing past on the wet street and the drip of raindrops through the leaves. Many, many years ago, I was in a coffeehouse near Detroit listening to Odetta. As background for one of her songs she showed the audience how to make a rainstorm using only our hands to create the sound effects.

I had forgotten all about that night when I saw this on YouTube by a Slovenian jazz choir. Anyway, listen to the first 1:45 with your eyes closed while they make it rain.



Lolcats and funny pictures