Friday, October 09, 2015

Da-Rue of California

I wear this skirt so much, but noticed I'd never featured it on the blog. That had to change, because it gives me an opportunity to tell you about the maker, Da-Rue of California. Over the years I've accumulated a few of their skirts, and they are nothing short of incredible. I'm not being compensated in any way by Da-Rue of California, I just happen to enjoy their clothing. 
It looks like silk, but is in fact, synthetic. Wash and wear, never needs ironing, and the colours stay fast through years of washes. The pleats look as good after hours of sitting as they do when I pull it out of the wash. My Da-Rue pleated skirts are the reliable items in my wardrobe that never get packed away as they are essentially, "season-less." If I sound like a fan, it is because I am. Sure, I'm the sort of person that gets excited over a pleated skirt, but I also find excitement in the rare, well-made item of clothing. This is a brand worth keeping an eye out for. 
A pleated skirt that's flattering? It shouldn't work, and 5'2 I don't look dumpy in my Da-Rue skirts. Wish I could say the same of some others hanging in my cupboard. Side note-the squirrels have been leaving hunks of seed they raid from the bird feeders in my plant stand. Now that the plants are inside, they use the empty planter as a launching pad up to the feeder. Guess it is time to clean it up, and bring it in. You should have heard the rumpus down there the last couple of nights-you'd think they were having a wild party or something. 

The print on this particular skirt is just so perfect. Today I'm wearing it with a silky blouse and jacket, but it works just as well with a solid polo neck, or a cotton tee in the summer. I've worn it with a tailored suit jacket, with cardigans, and everything in-between. There are so few things I own that go easily between casual and dressy, but my Da-Rue skirts manage the job. 
This is my solid coloured Da-Rue in the beautiful faux silk material.  That stretch waist is forgiving because this photo was taken last year, and after a year of illness my waist no longer looks like that (*mutters about mega-doses of steroids and antibiotics*). I can still wear the skirt though, and it is still flattering! 

I'm going to make an effort to post more of my "everyday teaching clothes" along with the vintage posts. Monday-to-Friday I tend to favour the skirt/blouse combo (not always, as evidenced by yesterday's towel-dress) but enough that it might be interesting to post what I pull off the hanger at  6 AM. 
Up there-that's where the squirrels plot their takeover of the human race. They might well succeed. 
Don't mess with me squirrels. Do Not. If you think I won't come after you because I'm dressed nice, you're wrong. This skirt? Da-Rue. That means, "washable and squirrel-proof" in human speak. 

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Caron Bellodgia-Review

In all fairness, trying Bellodgia whilst undergoing all manner of dental issues that will likely be culminating in surgery (again) was a bad idea. That huge hit of cloves combined with the alcohol to smell exactly like a dentist's office. It was everything I could muster to keep from scrubbing it off immediately. I'm oh-so-thankful I didn't drop a couple hundred dollars on the vintage bottle I saw recently- I can't imagine ever wanting to wear it. I have two letters to describe my reaction to Bellodgia: P and U.

Personal issues aside, for the typical perfume wearer that hasn't been subjected to botched dental work, Bellodgia isn't a terrible spicy Oriental. The clove is annoying because it never really fades enough to let the carnation come through. Oh sure, it is there, but the sharpness of carnation has been beaten into submission by the topical anesthetic  clove. The rose tries to put in an appearance, but it is short because it can't stand being in the same room with the clove and has to flee. I didn't catch the violet or lily of the valley-at all. There's some sandalwood and vanilla tossed in there too. It needs something to save it from the dull spices.  To my nose, I always think Orientals need something citrus at the top, and something animal at the base to keep it from smelling like you've been baking (or visiting the dentist). I know that didn't work out well for Tabu, (Gawd, now there's an instant headache in a bottle) but something like the lemon notes at the top of Malmaison by Floris would work here. I'm tempted to layer the hell out of it with Jean Nate just to test it out.

I waited for something other than the strong clove scent to appear, making me change my mind about Bellodgia. It never showed. The bright point is that the fragrance had such poor longevity, the whole experience was over inside an hour. Wish I could say the same about my dental ordeal. I've been living with constant facial pain for a year now-compared to that, an hour of smelling like a spice cabinet is easy.

Notes according to Fragrantica:
Carnation, clove, rose, musk, jasmine, sandalwood, violet, vanilla, lily of the valley.

What I smell-Clove. That's about it. It smells like pain.

This might be the shortest perfume review I've ever posted, but there isn't much to say about it. I like a bit of nuance in my perfumes, and this one just pounds you over the head with spice, and those things they use to scrape the build-up off your teeth. Caron has better perfumes. Unless you really adore the scent of clove, I'd try this one out in a decant before making an investment.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Don't Forget Your Towel-and a Cake Recipe for Earth's Demise

Seemed appropriate to take these photos in the bath. The dress isn't simply made from toweling material, but rather, I suspect began life as a towel (or two). Pity the pool's closed for the season.
I must have been out of my mind to buy it, as I already own a beach cover-up made from an old towel. Two is a coincidence, three would be a collection so I must make a point of putting my foot down. Instead, I think it could use some nice trimming, perhaps pom-poms or fringe. Next time you see this towel dress, it will hopefully be newly adorned.

 It is surprisingly tricky to accesorise a towel. Really, it is.
 When in doubt, I go rhinestone.
 Outfit Particulars:
Towel dress-Fairytale Costumes, Omaha
Tunic-Dots, about 15 years ago
Cardigan-Gordman's about 10 years ago
Earrings-Thrift Store in Wisconsin
Necklace-Somewhere in Western Massachusetts, can't remember
Handbag (or cosmetics bag, take your pick) Hand-me-Ups
Bracelet-Can't remember
Tights-K Mart
Fragrance-Caron Bellodgia
This week has been shit-I can't find a nicer way to put it. As I'm only halfway through it, I knew it was going to take something powerful to get me out of bed this morning (other than the laundry waiting downstairs). I've been keeping this dress since summer when I bought it knowing there would be a day when the only sort of pick-me-up that would work comes in dress form. I'm glad I saved it. The photos in the bathroom mirror might not be the best, but I sure did feel happy zipping squeezing myself into it and facing the day with a brightly coloured new piece of clothing. Some people do drugs, I go thrifting. For the $3.99 I spent it was cheaper than a drink, and anyway I wouldn't start my morning with a cocktail (yet. But never say never!).

 Pssst. C'mere, I'll tell 'ya something interesting. Oh, breath...anyway, know what really cheers me up?
Well yeah, that too but get your mind out of the gutter for a second.

When we were in Grand Island earlier this year I found some vintage perfumes.
This beauty only set me back a couple dollars, and I've been displaying it on my perfume tray in rotation with the others. I don't keep all my perfumes out at the same time (bad for perfume, and more to dust) but this bottle is too pretty to keep hidden. I think I'll decant it, and just display the bottle. The cologne itself isn't anything incredible, but the bottle design is such fun.
 The woman at our garden centre that always takes care of us told me I could have, "Worse hobbies" but she was only commenting on the plants. She has no idea what's going on in my bedroom (the perfumes, sigh, the perfumes. You guys really have your minds in the gutter).
 And don't forget the current decants waiting for reviews. I had to improvise holders, but last week I bought a wooden tray with compartments. Now, I just need to clear out a drawer. Good luck, I know!
I can't imagine why anyone would get the idea I'm interested in perfume?
Anyway, if you've been following the, "news" today (Wednesday) is the day the Earth is supposed to end. Sure, it is the same group that said it would happen last May, and then last week with the Blood Moon, but this time, this time they're certain they have it right. So I've got my towel(ling), and here's an incredibly quick, easy coffee cake you can bake (to serve with coffee-there isn't any coffee in it) because it would be a pity to go out trying to suck a kale smoothie through a straw.
I promise, it is simple to make. I omitted the nuts and used 1/2 cup of plain granola instead which gives it a bit of crunch and lightness. If you don't have granola, just toast some rolled oats in a pan and that should do. If the world doesn't end, you can always make it for breakfast tomorrow as a sort of celebratory, "Hey, the world didn't end" cake. Your gamble. Personally, I don't procrastinate when it comes to cake (and the end of the world).

You Will Need:

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons soft butter
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup toasted oats, granola or chopped nuts

1 1/2 cups plain flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup melted and cooled butter
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Grease an 8x8x2 square baking pan. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Prepare the topping by mixing together the dry ingredients and cutting in the butter. Set aside.

For the batter-mix together the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until foamy. Slowly beat in the sugar, and melted butter until well combined. Add milk and vanilla-mix well. Stir in the flour mixture and take care not to over-mix. Pour half of the batter in the pan. Cover with half the topping, then repeat with remaining batter and topping.

Bake 20-30 minutes (depending on your oven)or until it tests done with a toothpick. Cool slightly in pan on a wire rack. Serve warm with cream or vanilla ice cream.

The cake is easily re-warmed in the microwave next morning...if there is one.

See you tomorrow-probably. Might be best to wear any clothes you've been saving...and don't forget your towel!

Monday, October 05, 2015

Guys Lifting Their Heads Off

When Danny was about three, we took him to a diner in Council Bluffs for breakfast (pre-food allergies seems s long ago...). For Halloween, the owners had filled the place with moving decorations-flying bats, growling zombies, and like this fella standing beside me-"Guys lifting their heads off." The poor kid was so freaked out, we couldn't convince him to look around the place as we exited the safety of the booth.
"No! I don't like places where guys are lifting their heads off!" He screamed. The owners laughed, but we never did go back there at Halloween, or any other time.
He's over it now. In fact, until the 31st, we'll be spending a good chunk of our time in businesses that cater to the Halloween trade. I'm not buying anything, mind you, but they are great places to play, even if guys are lifting their heads off all over the place.

We have a religious neighbour that really dislikes all this Halloween stuff, so we've limited our decorations to a couple bats and some pumpkins. I'm not personally bothered by ghouls, etc. but I wouldn't want her to have to see it every day if it is that upsetting. I'm sure she wouldn't be too cool with guys lifting their heads off right down the street. The inside of the house is another story.
Nothing too scary about a tiered display of pumpkins...except perhaps the price! 

The garden is undergoing change with the seasons. I brought most of the ceramics inside, and the metal plant carts in for winter. The bag bed still has a couple pepper plants, sorrel, and some turnip greens. The small square bed has red Russian kale, and spinach. The pots have various cold weather cutting lettuces. We have warm weather all week, but at this time of year it is a bonus-we could have snow at any time. Tomorrow, we're going to make a scarecrow to sit in the blue chair, but I promise, he won't be lifting his head off!

Know what else is frightening... 

... the amount of Pendelton in my wardrobe. I find it difficult to pass up knowing how well made it is. If I owned such nice things I wouldn't be donating them to Goodwill. It doesn't get more "classic" than Pendelton-these are not clothes that go out of style.

This 49'er jacket is a newer re-issue of their famous design. The collar is smaller, as are the buttons, but otherwise they've stayed faithful to the original jackets. This time of year, a lightweight wool jacket is a good thing to have.

 Here's a look at my original vintage one. The wool is a bit less scratchy on the re-issue, which I consider an improvement.
 I didn't set out to build a Pendelton collection, but between the skirts, coats, jackets, and assorted trousers and blouses, it has become the dominant brand in my cool weather wardrobe.
 Outfit Particulars:
Polo neck bodysuit-Limited (decades ago)
Pendelton 49'er jacket-Goodwill
Pendelton wool skirt-Goodwill
Clarks shoes-Hand-Me-Ups
Vintage Jenny Bag-eBay
Snood with bow-had it since high school
Earrings/brooch-both Hand-Me-Ups
Lippy-Revlon Icy Violet (a 40's shade re-issued)

Still, a woman can't live on quality wool alone...sometimes you need to eat
I found these at the newly-opened World Market in Omaha. A Scottish employee was concerned I hadn't seen the snowballs on another shelf, and excitedly told me they had them. I might be the only person alive that doesn't like coconut and marshmallow together. From the looks of their product line, I'm hoping these will be OK for Danny to try (Tunnocks doesn't make anything with nuts, and they do a good job listing all the allergens on the box-at least the boxes they use for export to the US). It would be a pity if I had to eat all six by myself (Mr. ETB's idea of getting in touch with his Scottish heritage is to eat curry!). Anyway, I won't tell you what these cost, but they aren't likely to become a regular indulgence.

What about you? Any clothing brands you find yourself collecting? What about Snowballs? Delicious taste treat, or vile work of the devil?

Sunday, October 04, 2015

The Bees at My Knees

 I learn things from you, readers. I do! When I put out my query about wearing grey, reader Propagatrix suggested yellow. It just so happened I'd just purchased a beast of a yellow skirt that (I thought) I had no suitable match for. Turns out, I do. Thank you for pointing it out to me.

I do feel I should mention that wearing anything bright yellow in autumn as the bees are starting to freak out when their flowers are gone, is taking a sting risk. Thankfully the bees swirling around me were all quite polite and I escaped unscathed, but they sure did take notice of my skirt. Consider yourselves warned.

Today was the annual Lincoln City Libraries book sale at the Events center. We had an early morning of bird banding, and then we hopped over to the sale to see what they had to offer. I was so caught-up grabbing books that I forgot to snap photos, but at .50 cents for books I didn't bother holding back. The cookbooks were, as always excellent, and I came home with several new additions to my collection. It is now at the point where I should be trying to find a home for the cookery collection (well into the thousands of titles) rather than purchasing more, but what can you do when faced with such great stuff?  Danny found several records including one by Tom Lehrer. I have a feeling he'll be amused-greatly.
I wasn't sure how to dress for a cold, but sunny morning. There's an interesting optical illusion happening here. I'm only wearing a sleeveless shell, but it so perfectly matched the cardigan, that it looks like a long-sleeved polo neck. I figured if the day got warm, I could lose the cardigan and still look pulled together. It never did get warm, but it was a beautiful day.
Yesterday, I was at Hancock Fabrics looking to fuel my addiction hobby, when I spotted some beautiful corduroy with Scottie dogs. "Hey", I thought, "I have a dog print corduroy skirt, I should make another!" In the end though, I skipped it because $10.00 a yard should get you a quality fabric, and this flimsy, cheaply made fabric wouldn't survive a couple washes. If I'm going to go to the bother of sewing, I'd prefer something that won't look ready for the rag pile after a few wears. I don't know what's happened to that store, but the quality of the fabric they stock has gone seriously downhill.

Pardon the dirty shoes-the grass was damp this morning. I don't recall where I bought the skirt but I remember my mother's reaction to it, asking what they were teaching me up at that school as I looked "ready to join the ruling class".  Jokes aside, this well-made skirt has been in regular wardrobe rotation since 1982, and as long as it holds up, I'll keep wearing it.

 No member of the ruling classes would be completely attired without a Nantucket Lightship Baksket necklace. Sure, they're the stuff of jokes, but it does pull the look together nicely along with the knee socks. When Danny was very small, he loved opening the lid to peer inside. "What are you looking for?" I once asked, and he replied, "Cheese maggots." From then on (and typically in public places) Danny would grab the basket and loudly ask, "Do you have cheese maggots in there?!?" I had to stop wearing it for a few years until he forgot his hilarious joke. He likely overheard me telling my husband a story my mother told from her years working at a cheese company. She worked in the offices, but one salesman always insisted on returning his maggot infested cheese to headquarters and plunking it down on my mother's desk. At least I hope that's where he got the idea. On the record-we never had any cheese maggots nibbling away at our house.

 Outfit Particulars:

Grey/yellow outfit:
Top and skirt-Both K Mart
Shoes-Clarks thrifted at Hand-Me-Ups
Vintage Mar-Shel purse-Thrifted somewhere in Massachusetts about 25 years ago
Earrings-K Mart

Second Outfit:
Skirt-bought it new in the 80's
Bag-Bought it new, Von Maur about 15 years ago
Pendelton cardigan-Goodwill
Bass loafers-Goodwill
Scarab bracelet-Et Cetera, Seward
Earrings-Jordan Marsh, early 90's
Nantucket Lightship Basket necklace-Can't remember, had it since the 90's
Knee Socks-K Mart (well made, they stay up!)
Lippy-Revlon 5th Ave Red
Enameled Maple Leaf brooch-Goodwill
 The Bullwinkle Tree says to have a nice weekend, and I'll second that!
Best to agree with the Bullwinkle Tree as he gets testy when arguing.

Guerlain Parure-Review

Looking over my perfume collection it is obvious I have a great love of chypres. Oh, not all them certainly, but enough that there's a trend in the fragrances I wear. Parure was always my least-favourite Guerlain. It was always there, at the perfume counter in the upscale department store, but it never appealed to me. I'd spray from the tester now and then just to remind myself I didn't like it, but I never did invest in a bottle of the stuff when it was around. It is only recently, now that it is long gone that I have invested in a decant. The first few wears reminded me why I never purchased a bottle, but subsequent wears have me a bit more intrigued by it than repulsed. Parure to my nose isn't repulsive, but it is strange and old fashioned. I do think it is the sort of thing that might do better today than it did in the 70's and 80's, though it would be impossible to recreate due to regulations on the ingredients. It might be possible to achieve something close, but Parure as it was, is left to the years from which it sprang.

My family are no strangers to oakmoss. If I had to single out the dominant note in all my favourite perfumes, oakmoss would win by a long shot. It fills the air, and there's little hiding space once the mossy monster has been unleashed-their reactions to Parure were interesting. Danny recoiled declaring it, "The least floral thing I've ever smelled", and Mr. ETB said it smelled like" old furniture and leather, or a leather sofa in a library."  I'd agree with both their observations. Parure is dry. There's something old and dusty about it like the first time you turn on the furnace for the season and it has to blow out whatever has accumulated in the ducts over the last six months. You might cough a bit at first. Eventually there's some rose, but it is more like candied rose petals that have been sitting in a jar in the cabinet above the stove in your mother's kitchen where it shares space with strangely flavoured extracts like root beer and butter, and those silver dragees people stopped putting on cakes in the 60's when it was discovered they were full of lead. The petals smell of other stuff as well because mother was thrifty and would remove the remaining petals from the cake after serving, carefully wipe them down, and return them to the jar for the next time quests would be coming for coffee. Parure's petals smell a little like lilacs that have been sitting in a vase on the kitchen table a little too long-rather, it smells more of the slimy stuff now clinging to the stems. That's probably the orris root making an appearance.

The problem with describing a perfume like Parure is that what's evoked is completely individual. If I told you Parure reminds me of the smell at the old Carson Pirie Scott department store at Edens Plaza, it wouldn't mean much (unless you had been there). If I describe it as a combination of an old building packed to the rafters with clothing and the smell of sizing (and sizing being heated and vapourised as salesgirls steam out wrinkles before taking new clothes to the floor ) mingling with the perfume counter and whatever they were serving at the buffet restaurant (there was always roast beef) that day, it might get you closer to understanding what I'm describing, but you can't go back to 1975 and experience it. You can't experience the silly design features of the building (wrought iron railings painted white to cordon off the expensive dresses department from the rest of the sportswear). You can't know that you had to walk through furniture and housewares to get to the gift wrap department, and that they kept embroidery hoops and sewing notions tucked away in a corner but I found it anyway and fell in love with needlework. What has any of that to do with Parure? Everything, for my experience of it. You might smell Studio 54, or the newsagent's at the end of the street, or a library in some exotic locale-you might even smell the plums which I'm sorry to say don't appear for me. What does Parure smell like? It smells like a time and place now long gone but which time and place will depend on the wearer.

Perhaps we ought to look at the notes.

Listed Notes via Fragrantica:

Oakmoss, rose, plum, leather, bergamot, spices, orris root, narcissus, citrus, green notes, lily of the valley, amber, patchouli, leather, lilac, jasmine.

What I smell:
Oakmoss, rose, leather, orris root, citrus, amber, lilac, paper, old buildings, dusty upholstery, furnace dust, the lipstick  in the white and gold packaging my mother kept on her vanity for years ( but never wore because it was a day-glo pink, but it smelled so strange I'd open it and take whiffs of it without ever being tempted to try it on), clay, pencil shavings, pencil shavings the school janitor would bring to throw on puke some poor kid upchucked from fear immediately prior to a maths test, boxes of board games and puzzles that hadn't been played in years but when opened reminded you immediately of who you played it with last, and who won, and you wonder why you don't play more often except that your friends all moved away, and then you moved away, and you cried a bit,  and then all your perfume reviews start to sound like they were rejected lines from Howl. I saw the best perfumes of my generation destroyed by reformulation...

Parure might not have appealed to me when it was around, but I sure do like it now. Not an everyday scent, to be sure, but something to wear when I'm feeling my age, and need a perfume that respects that. It is difficult to come by, but Surrender to Chance has some, and that's where I purchased my decant.

Reviewers often say it smells like Mitsouko with plum exchanged for the peach, I do not get that-at all. I wore Mitsouko for years and years until reformulation, so I do feel qualified to insist that is not an accurate description. Mitsouko was much spicier, and the florals were more pronounced. I understand that Parure is a difficult perfume to describe, but I assure you, it smells nothing like Mitsouko.

Parure being a bit of an oddity (and an expensive one at that) I'd encourage you to find a small decant from a reputable seller. It smells dramatically different on skin than clothing, so be aware of that as you try it out. I try to write reviews that describe not only the notes of a fragrance, but you give you an impression that while subjective might stir some interest if you like a similar sort of thing. I try to avoid recommending fragrances for people because it is such a personal thing. All it takes is a quick glance of the sidebar at Fragrantica where they list similar fragrances to the one you searched to see how terribly off those can be.  If you're like me, I enjoy a wide range of scents, and I might prefer certain notes but ultimately it depends how it is put together. There's many a chypre I can't be in the same room with. This is a long way of saying-I don't know what you'd like, but hopefully I'm giving you some ideas to explore.

Parure won't turn you into a dowager, but you might smell like one. You could do worse.

Next up in the queue- En Avion. Now, That will have you smelling like a dowager!

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Christmas on the First of October

December is madness in our family. Between dual holidays, Danny's Birthday (and Birthday quilt), and the ever-present threat of being snowed-in and unable to get anything done, I've learned to do things ahead. October and November aren't much better with Halloween, Thanksgiving, and all sorts of other little evnts taking up our time. If I waited for Stir-Up to make the Christmas cakes/puddings they would never get done. Today, I baked two Christmas cakes and they can spend the next couple months ripening and soaking up huge amounts of booze. If there's an afterlife, I want to come back as a Christmas cake-months of rest and drinking? Let me at it!

Last year, we skipped the cake and pudding in favour of a "Yule Log" (Buche de Noel), and leftover cake from Danny's Birthday. It was mentioned that a Christmas Cake would be appreciated this year, along with a steamed pudding, and some mincemeat tarts made with the recipe from Jenn's Grandmother (Thanks Jenn! It really is better than any other recipe we've made). If you're keeping track, that is a whole hell of a lot of dried fruit. At least no one will suffer constipation on my watch! Because many dried fruits are processed in facilities that also handle nuts, that means making my own. My multi-tiered dehydrator has paid for itself many times over. I finished-up the stem ginger and candied pineapple this week along with the mixed peels and citron. Honestly, compared to the cost of buying those tiny tubs of glaced fruit at the supermarket, it is worth the effort, and unlike the tiny tubs at the supermarket, I know these haven't been sitting on a shelf drying out for years.

I did the pineapple differently this year out of necessity. Typically, I use tinned pineapple slices in heavy syrup and then just dry them out before use. I accidentally bought pineapple in fruit juice, so I re-used the syrup from cooking the ginger and ended-up with a lovely ginger-infused batch of candied pineapple. It almost seems a shame to use them for baking as they are delicious eaten as they are. For cherries, I drain a jar of maraschino cherries, and dry them. There's enough sugar in the syrup to do the job nicely, and you can leave the cherries whole. In previous years I candied dried Bing cherries in the summer, but the results weren't worth the cost, and everyone missed the bright red and green cherries in the baked goods.

Danny's been suffering with allergy-induced asthma this week (please Mother Nature, enough with the rain-send a frost!) so he's been moping about inside looking for something interesting to do. I handed him a spoon and let him at the gigantic bowl of fruit to do the all-important stirring.

But first, we needed to make applesauce for the cakes. 

Applesauce is so easy, it is almost criminal to buy it. You don't even need a recipe, but here's a quick one:

Pare, core and chop apples. Place in a large pot. For each quart of apples add 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until soft. Remove from heat, and mash (or put through a food mill). Add 1 teaspoon (or more) lemon juice depending on the tartness of your apples, and as much sugar (if any) you like. If you like ginger or cinnamon, add that as well. Return to the heat and simmer a few minutes until thickened. There, you made applesauce.

Now, let's get to the cake. Keep in mind the fruits you select don't matter so long as you keep the measurements roughly the same. Sometimes I use currants, sometimes I substitute cranberries. Personally, I don't like tropical fruit (other than pineapple) in a Christmas cake, but if dried melon, mango, or papaya speak to you, then by all means feel free to add them. Likewise, use the spices you prefer. Cinnamon always feel too much in a Christmas cake so I use nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. Prefer mixed spice, or only cinnamon? Your cake-your rules! Don't let anyone dictate what you can do with your holiday baking.

You will need:

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons bicarb
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 cup brandy for soaking
1 1/2 cups applesauce
1 pound raisins
1 cup sultanas
1/2 cup diced citron
1 cup chopped mixed peel (I used lemon and orange)
1 cup glaceed cherries
1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup diced dried apricots
1 cup chopped figs
1 cup chopped dates

Day before: Soak fruit in a large bowl with brandy tossing occasionally). When ready to bake, drain and reserve the liquid. You will need 1/4 of a cup for the recipe, so make it up with water or more brandy if the fruit was very dry and absorbed it all.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and line one large, or two smaller springform pans (or really any pan you like-Bundt, Loaf, etc.) with parchment (if possible, otherwise grease generously and flour lightly). Do this first as it can be fiddly. Set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Sift together the dry ingredients removing 3 tablespoons to toss with the fruit. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture alternating with the remaining 1/4 cup of brandy. Stir in the applesauce, then the fruit. Pour into prepared pans. Place pan(s) on a baking sheet. Timing will depend on pan size and whether it is a tube or not. My two springform cakes took 1 hour and thirty minutes. You'll want to start testing at about an hour. The toothpick test works well here, as does lightly toughing the centre with your fingertips. If you're feeling brave, pull the tins out of the oven, and bend in close. If the cake makes a humming noise, it is done. Try to avoid burning your ears. Personally, I use a toothpick, but I'm accident prone!

Cool cakes in pan on a rack for 30 minutes before gently removing the sides. Let it sit another ten minutes before turning out onto a rack and removing the bottom piece and the parchment. Up-right the cake again onto a rack. If it feels at all fragile, let it cool completely on the bottom-the cake will be none the worse for it.

When cool, use a skewer to poke holes all over the top of the cake. Lightly brush the cake with more brandy. Wrap the cake tightly in cheesecloth and again, brush the cheesecloth generously with brandy. Wrap in grease proof paper, then tightly in foil. Place in an airtight tin, and let rest at least a month in a cool, dry place, I like to turn the cake in the tin once a week, but that's just me being my mother! I have no idea if it matters, but that's how I've always done it.

If you plant to store the cake for a long time, it might need additional brandy, so check it monthly.
Finally, I'll leave you with this sourdough boule that I probably couldn't reproduce in a million years. It is only starter, strong flour, wholegrain flour, salt, and honey. I'm not sure what magic happened in the oven, but I had little if anything to do with it.

Cute as a Button

This might be the first time I've bought something just for the buttons. At a dollar for the suit, I reasoned the buttons alone would cost more, and...well, look at them.
I stopped at Earl May garden center for some chard and rocket seeds. They had this fellow guarding the place. Must be October in America...or do you say, Rocktober?
"Well he doesn't frighten me. Looks a bit like you, first thing in the morning...Mother."
Yes well, there's a resemblance if you look closely.
 Outfit Particulars:
Polo neck bodysuit-Limited, years ago
Jones New York pullover-Goodwill
Skirt-Filene's years ago (about 25)
Necklaces-Both thrifted
Earrings-Can't remember
Jacket (part of a suit) Goodwill
Shoes-K Mart
Lippy-Estee Lauder Maplesugar over a dark lipstain

 If I had a bottle of YSL Opium, I'd have worn it. Thankfully, I don't.

We bought Danny a phonograph so he could play this set of old 78's of Birdsongs recorded by Cornell University back in the stone age. Yeah. I think there's a headphone jack-I'm going to go look for it.

See you guys on the flip side. I had to explain how you flip a record . These damn kids don't know anything!