Sunday, September 28, 2014

Mean Green Ultra Suede Machine

I bought a new camera (Nikon Coolpix L820), so bear with the wonky photos as we learn how to use it. I like that it has on-camera editing, and a million features I've never heard of, but there's a learning curve. These photos are unedited, as I'm still learning to use the software, etc. I know my other camera would have never been able to manage this harsh light. Anyway, best $79.00 I've spent in a while (found a store that was getting rid of their camera department). I'm NOT a photographer, so point-and-shoot is pretty much my level of ability. So far, I'm pleased.

 
I bought this home-sewn suit at the end of last season and have been waiting (waiting, waiting, waiting) for an opportunity to wear it. Today was the day. It was still a bit warm for the jacket, but the skirt and waistcoat were perfectly breatheable (thanks, synthetic material!) with a silk blouse (thanks, little silkworms!). I took the belt from the coat and used it on the skirt instead. The dressmaker knew what she was doing-it is beautifully made though I wish she had lined the entire jacket, not just the sleeves. It fits better than most suits I own, and I suspect she was probably about my height and weight. I wonder what she looked like, if she wore it much, and if anyone ever complimented her on it. It is a beautiful sewing project. Anyway, thank you anonymous dressmaker for making this gorgeous suit. I promise to take good care of it.

 
Strange moment at the thrift store today. I was checking out, and the older woman (maybe late 70's) who usually waits on me said she had thought of me yesterday. I thought that was nice until she elaborated with, "Yeah I was sitting in traffic last night at 72nd and Dodge and there was some guy with a bullhorn on the corner screaming about legalising pot!"

I've been mistaken for plenty of things, but a tea-head is a first! Maybe in her mind anything 70's-ish screams drugs, though by then most people had moved on to ludes and coke. Or Babycham. Anyway, no I don't think I project stoner, but I regained my composure and replied, "Thanks?" I took my old lady vinyl bags and got the hell out of there.

Outfit Particulars:
Home-sewn 1970's Ultra Suede suit-Goodwill
1960's Naturalizer shoes-Thrift World
1970's blue vinyl handbag-Goodwill
Monet Brooch-Sarpy County Sale
Earrings-K Mart
Green bracelet-Hand-Me-Ups
Onyx bracelet-Mum's
Shrinky-Dink Necklace-Danny made it for me
Silk blouse with print of Picasso's Tomato Plants (1944) Nordstroms, years ago
Fragrance-Mitsouko

Strangely enough, I found another Picasso print shirt today whilst wearing this one. You can go your entire life never finding anything with a Picasso print on it, and today...the Universe is up to something. Do I hear a Theremin?

Three gardenias blossomed today. It is coming inside this week as the cooler weather is on the way, but oh how lovely to smell that wafting in the air all summer. The raised bed is being readied for winter crops, and I've put up a few bats and pumpkins around the place. Little by little.

Hope you had a nice weekend.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Oh, Margaret

 
There was a chill in the air this morning (it didn't last).
Sometimes, I put together an outfit and think, "Now where have I seen this look before?" I was out the door before it dawned on me...
I guess you could do worse. Anyway, I find it almost impossible to screw-up a tweed jacket and trousers look, unless you happen to own a blouse with a collar like this...
yep, that's a 1970's blouse. I can't help it, I reference the 70's because that's when I started noticing clothes, and buying them for myself. I also happen to like these styles.
I'm less enthusiastic about the trousers. They have a zipper, so I guess that keeps them from being, "jeggings" but I think we can all agree that they shouldn't be worn as trousers with a tucked-in shirt. No on me, anyway. In order to get something that wasn't so long at the ankles it sagged, I had to buy these in the children's department of Sears some years back. The kids are getting bigger, so a girls 14/16 fit just right with no hemming required. I still don't like them, and they are going in the "donate" pile. I just do not get the appeal of this silhouette.
I do like clogs. They make me feel so powerful-like I can stomp my wooden heel and demand those kids get off my lawn. or stop tossing their cigarette butts on my steps.


Outfit Particulars:

1960's Country Miss tweed jacket (part of a suit) Salvation Army, Lincoln
1970's Montgomery Wards blouse-Thrift World
Skinny Jeans-Sears
Ruff Hewn clogs-Dillards
Paloma Picasso handbag-Thrifted
Necklace and bracelet parure  set (had earrings I didn't wear) Hand-Me-Ups (and yes, I thought about wearing, Parure as a fragrance but didn't want to waste it on a joke only I would get. Didn't wear Tweed either)
Rings-all over the place
Earrings- K Mart
Socks-Gold Toe
Fragrance-Halston for Women


 Oh gosh, these earrings weigh a tonne! It was like being dropped into the mid-80's...by my ears.
The Mighty Ford Tempo is still with us. I can't let it go (I like my car. I don't want a new one) although Mr. ETB has made it clear the time has come to buy a new car. I told him to just go and do it, but I'll keep the Tempo anyway, as a beater. The Olds to my right is our other car. That's a '96. I'm really set in my ways, when I find something I like I keep fixing it. I have a hand mixer that only works on the high and low gears. The way I see it, you almost never use the ones in-between, so I don't need a new mixer! I can keep going merrily along until it is beyond repair. The gears on the car all work, so it has that much going for it.
Ahh, tweed.
Have a fan-fucking-tastic weekend.

Friday, September 26, 2014

"No More Ultra -Suede", he said...

..."That's OK" I replied, I never really liked rutabagas.


I do think, "Ultra Swede" would be a good name for a blog (or a band) but anyway, what prompted Danny's outburst was the annual unpacking of my winter wardrobe. Apparently he feels three dresses, five suits and another five jackets are, "too much of a fabric that hasn't been used in 30 years."



He's only partially correct as I think the stuff is still used in upholstery, but yes, the day of the three piece, bright green ultra suede suit may have passed. I don't see that an anything but a good reason to keep collecting. If I've learned anything just by being alive this long it is that eventually it all comes back. I saw a Gucci ad for a blouse with a high ruffled collar and sleeves like we wore in the late 70's, and believe me, I didn't think that look was ever seeing the light of day again.

There's something loveable about a fabric that is luxurious feeling and launderable. It takes colours so well (I have yellow, green, pink, red, teal, brown) and unlike real suede doesn't need to be brushed.  Most days I'm lucky if I brush my teeth-I'm not brushing a suit.

I expect that the true cause of the child's outburst was seeing his closet spaced reduced to about half a foot in the far corner where he can hang a few pairs of trousers. Well, that's winter-the clothes take more space and the obvious place to take it from is the closet of your nine year old son. He has an enormous chest of drawers to stow his wardrobe essentials (which is a few polo necks, a couple argyle vests, and shorts and socks).

So no, I won't be giving up the ultra suede anytime soon, but I may need to re-think my collection of tartans (damn you, Pendelton!) which is getting to the point where I may not have enough days of winter to get them all worn. I love a good plaid, but I believe we may be approaching peak-kilt. I'm not even going to discuss Fair Isle knits.

What about you? Is there a fabric/pattern that you find yourself purchasing again and again. And what about root vegetables? Boiled? Mashed? A Little salt and butter?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sometimes it IS Black and White

Some days, it feels right to dress as bathroom tile. We had black and white tile in the bathroom when I was a child, and no matter what rug, shower curtain or plastic cup for the toothbrushes my parents used-they all worked. Pink, yellow, green-everything goes with black and white.  Oh, I know what you're thinking-where's the contrasting colour?
Right there. How about a smooch?
I'm really struggling with the weather and my wardrobe this year. The mornings are cool enough to need the mohair jacket, but my 10 AM it is back in the 70's. My lightweight clothes are all in pastel shades that look foolish against the drying grass and turning leaves, but my autumn clothes are much too warm. By the weekend we're expecting 80 degrees again. Black and white seems season-less to me, so I ran with it.
Not literally, because if I ran in this skirt I'd likely fall and break a hip. I went with it. There, that's better. So where did I go?
To buy more pumpkins, of course. Danny couldn't make up his mind on a large one for the front of the house, so I surprised him and said we could purchase two. Suddenly, every pumpkin had potential, and an hour later, we arrived home with our pumpkins. Sometimes more choice is a curse, but he was happy, and out of my hair for the afternoon while he painted faces on them.
There were hundreds to chose from around the store, and lot. In the end, Danny went for round orange pumpkins, but I do rather like the green and white ornamental varieties. We're constructing a scarecrow for our display as well.

Outfit Particulars:

Pikettes 1970's maxi skirt-Thrift World
Black 70's blouse-Salvation Army, Lincoln
Black glitter belt- Shop Ko
Shoes-Madden Girl-Goodwill
50's handbag-Thirfted years ago
1950's Mohair cardigan-Goodwill
Earrings-K Mart clearance
Brooch-Hand-Me-Ups
60's bracelet-Hand-Me-Ups
Lippy-Loreal British Red
Fragrance- Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Lavande Velours (applied VERY lightly. I've come to believe this is better used to scent linen than be worn on my person. I like it, but whoa, is it ever pungent).

This belt! It is elastic round the back, so why bother with holes as it will accommodate any size waist? I can imagine someone drawing it through to the far hole just to feel thinner-is this belt a symptom of vanity sizing as well? We've all gone mad, I tell you.
I wear the brooch/pendant quite a bit. It is heavy and must be stabilised on fragile fabric, but when I go to the collection looking for a piece to wear, this one always seems to catch my eye first. Perhaps I ought to pack it away for a bit, to give the others a chance at being worn.
Leg on the vanity returns. Still wearing the nan tights (I might catch cold in the 80 degree weather, you know).
I know when there's several feet of snow I'll be complaining that I miss warm weather. I can have a moan anyway, right?

Right?!

I continue to be amazed at the persistence of my herb garden. In a normal year, I'd have brought them inside by now. The week ahead looks unseasonably warm as well, so that's good...if you're tarragon. The rest of us have to figure out what to wear.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

L' shanah tovah

A Happy and sweet new year to those that celebrate Rosh Hashanah-aw heck, a happy and sweet year for everyone!

I outdid myself with the challah this year. Dried cherries, mixed spice, chopped apples and boiled cider (right) and raisin/saffron (left). What I lack in shaping ability I make up for in taste. To be fair though, coiled loaves are more difficult than they look.
 The tofu, "brisket" had to be cooked in stages with the potatoes being added at the end. I'm sure anything cooking in wine would smell like a roast, but even knowing it was tofu, I did find myself thinking it smelled like holidays when I was a child-and my mother sure as hell wasn't cooking tofu!
Then came the vegetarian kreplach soup. This is basically a won-ton, but I used soya mince for the filling. The dough is a bit tricky to roll, but once you get the hang of it, it isn't too terrible. It took about 30 minutes to make 20, and now I have plenty for the freezer.

I finally had the opportunity to use my new dishes. The pattern is called, "Tumbling Leaves" which seemed appropriate for an autumn holiday.
 The Goodwill in Council Bluffs was selling these for .50 cents a piece. I bought the set-would have been foolish not to. The pattern goes well with my regular china (Friendly Village by Johnson Brothers) but I think I'll keep it for special occasions.
I attempted garnishing. My radish roses didn't fully open (although they sat in cold water for hours) but Danny was impressed and anything that gets a nine year old boy to eat three radishes is probably worth the fuss. He said they were unusually good radishes, but come on-they came in a bag already trimmed at the supermarket. I credit the garnishing.
I could just stare at that tablecloth and pressed placemats for hours. I used the new iron today, and it is a joy. I told Mr. ETB I'd like to go buy five more and that should see me through the end of my life. You just know if they make something good some executive will figure out a way to save 1/100th of a cent by making it a piece of crap. Maybe I really will stock-up. If I live past 100 I won't be ironing anyway.

Oh who am I kidding, of course I'll still be ironing. I'd better buy six-just in case.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Americana in the Kitchen-Mush and Boiled Cider edition

 

 
When I was twenty four, recently married and transplanted to Boston I couldn't cook at all. I had a set of  Revere Ware pots and pans, and a Betty Crocker cookbook, and absolutely nothing resembling homemaking skills of any sort. I never cooked at home, and the only marketing I did was with a list provided by my mother. I was good at reading lists, and following directions. You could reliably send me to the store to retrieve items-you just couldn't expect me to do anything with them. Fortunately for me, I had a few friends a generation ahead that felt sorry enough for my lack of domestic skills that they set about correcting the deficit. It didn't happen overnight, and there were cluttered apartments, piles of laundry, and bad meals chalked up to the learning curve before I finally could manage my household in a reasonable manner. "Keep a running grocery list in the kitchen, and replace things as you use them", was the advice of one friend. "Wash full loads of laundry to save money and time", said another. These are things I still do, automatically now without remembering there was a time I didn't know better. "Make boiled cider in the autumn" I resisted for years thinking it a silly New England thing that no one did anymore. Who uses boiled cider anymore? These days, I do.

The boiled cider advice came from the same woman that put up several gallons of applesauce each year from scavenged apples, and then essentially lived on it all winter. Puzzled by the pink colour of it, she explained that there's little point peeling apples as it all goes through the food mill at the end anyway. The skins gave it the lovely colour. By December or January when the inevitable seasonal cold would set in, there she'd be at my door a messenger of motherly advice and bearer of applesauce. My husband was intimidated by her Yankee manner (think Katharine Hepburn) but was always happy to see her show up at the door unannounced on a snowy day when she'd decided it would be a fine time to hike the mile uphill from the train station to our house, armed with applesauce.

This is a good time to explain what, "Cider" is in the United States. It is not alcoholic, as "Cider" would be in most parts of the world (we call that, "Hard Cider"). Rather, it is a pressed, unfiltered apple juice that these days is often pasturised, but is otherwise a rustic sort of drink. It is pulpy, and cloudy, and if left too long it will ferment, but not in a nice way and as Mr. ETB can tell you from his teenaged experience with drinking expired cider-it will make you very ill. In hospital ill. Kids, if it tastes fizzy, toss it out-learn from his mistakes. Anyway, long before it gets to that point, it can be boiled down to make a concentrated syrup. A few drops will add a sweet, yet tart flavor to dishes, and it is wonderful on pancakes. I like to use it as I did today for baking bread, but it also makes delicious apple cider doughnuts. Still, in my twenties I couldn't see how boiled cider would ever be a pantry staple, and I chalked it up to elderly New Englander memory of long snowed-in winters.
(After an April storm on the farm several years ago)

When I moved to Nebraska in 2001, we relocated from the bustling city to an extremely rural place. "Town" was three miles away, and it only had about 700 people. Any city of reasonable size was at the very least going to be a 40 minute drive. If you could drive, because come winter the odds were pretty good I wouldn't be getting down the 1/4 mile drive to the main road, which would be impassable anyway. At some point each winter, we'd lose power in a storm, so we had to keep supplies, and water as the well was electric. Funny how you rethink boiled cider when the 60 mph wind is tossing around 3 feet of snow on the farm. Thing is, you need to plan ahead-cider is only available for a month or so during the apple harvest-so grab a big pot, some Kilner bottles, and get started now.
 
(No, you don't have to press your own cider...unless you want to. Great fun for the kids taking a turn at it).


The other bit of American cookery I picked up from the Boston ladies was corn mush. Sophisticates (and Italians) call it, polenta. Made the New England way, plain old cornmeal (corn grits, not cornflour) is used rather than the heavier polenta grits sold to sophisticates (and Italians). It is finer, and does have a tendency to clump as you add it to boiling water-so add slowly and use a heavy whisk rather than a spoon. There-I just saved you several dollars because cornmeal is cheap as dirt (at least in the US) whereas polenta grits are not.

I was thinking about all these long ago learned lessons in household management and cookery yesterday as I put together our evening meal. I have a pile of small sugar pumpkins, and squashes accumulating on my dining room table, but I wasn't sure what to make. I knew I didn't feel like going to the store, so by the time I had the container of cornmeal and bottle of boiled cider in hand, I knew something halfway edible could be thrown together. I owe much of my ease in the kitchen to those long ago friends that took mercy on my ignorance and passed along their thriftiness (some would day penny-pinching) and ability to make-do. I wouldn't expect anyone to follow this recipe to the letter-but there are some techniques you may decide worth applying when it is getting late, and you haven't started cooking. Start-to-finish this took about an hour. Get the pumpkin in the oven first to roast, then you can make the mush. Timing is everything.

Boiled Cider:

1 gallon apple cider

Put cider in a large pot and slowly bring to a boil (watch that it does not boil over). Reduce heat, skim scum that floats to top, and simmer until reduced by 1/3 (ish). At this point, I transfer it to a smaller pan so I don't have to worry about burning it. You'll still need to watch it, but it is easier. You'll want about a pint when all is said and done. You can reduce it much further where it is the thickness of pomegranate molasses, but then that does limit what you can do with it. I like to leave it thin enough to pour easily from a bottle, and if I need it more concentrated, I can always do that later. It does thicken upon standing (apples= pectin) so I wouldn't get too carried away. If it smells like it is burning, but it still looks OK it is time to bottle it. You might not see it, but it is already turning into jelly candy at that point (which is good of course, but something other than what we're aiming for here).
("Nice pumpkins, heh, heh." These pumpkins are too big for roasting. You can, but they are stringy. The smaller pie pumpkins are what you want).


To Roast Pumpkin:

Cut pumpkin in half, and remove the seeds (wash and dry them, then lightly oil, and salt then toast them on a tray at 325 degrees f. for about 20 minutes). Scoop out fibres, and cut pumpkin into wedges. With a sharp knife, score the flesh. In a bowl combine 1/4 cup oil (I like a good corn oil, but olive oil is good too) 1 tablespoon boiled cider, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, and a good grinding of pepper. Brush generously on pumpkin and place in a 425 degree F. oven for 25 minutes. Baste again, turn wedges, and bake until soft (a butter knife should pierce the flesh easily). Remove to a tray and cool if not serving immediately.

For the Mush:

6 cups boiling water
2 cups cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter

Bring water to boil in a large pot. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and stir with a long-handled wooden spoon (trust me, the stuff will hurt if you get splattered with it) occasionally stirring to keep from burning. After about 30 minutes, you should have a firm mush. Remove from the heat, add the butter and stir until melted. Pour it into a greased bowl or a square casserole dish. Let sit 10 minutes before turning out onto a plate. You can eat it as-is, but it is better cut into wedges and fried in a small bit of oil in a hot pan.

What Else is in There?
Lima beans (frozen), yellow hominy grits (tinned), onions, garlic, herbs, oil, and a generous few tablespoons of sweet(not smoked) paprika. After everything has cooked for a bit, and the onions are soft, add 1 cup of water, and then simmer it all gently until the paprika and oil make a sauce. Add 1 small chopped apple at the end if you like.

How Do I Serve it?

Fry the mush, and arrange on a plate. Carefully with a knife remove the skin from the pumpkin and arrange the slices over the polenta. Pour over the beans mixture. Scatter a handful of chopped parsley atop it if you feel fancy.

I Hate Lima Beans!
You can use any bean that suits your taste (black beans with chili powder would be good too) or use a squash instead of a pumpkin, or maple syrup instead of the boiled cider.

I Have Mush Left, What Do I Do?
Eat it for breakfast with molasses, or boiled cider (or maple syrup, etc.) or serve it next day with red sauce and cheese. Tightly wrapped, it should keep several days in the fridge.

I Have a Cold, Will You Bring Me Applesauce?
Maybe, if I don't have to hike three miles in the snow to get it to you.

Hopefully, something here will be useful to you-perhaps not today, but someday. The young people today seem to know their way around the kitchen better than my generation did, so maybe all this has been addressed by cooking blogs already.

Really though, cider time is short in the US-so get on the ball if you plan to make it.

If that isn't the New World on a plate, I don't know what is (corn, beans, squash).

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Gee, I Wonder What This Big Button Does...

You know how it is-you're walking along outside of Big Lots and spot a large button on the side of the building. Of course you want to press it! If they didn't want people to press it they would have a sign with big bold letters saying, "DO NOT PRESS!" Sure, that would just be encouragement to some people (me) but as there was no signage at all, I had to wonder if it did anything at all. Oh, how I wanted to ring that bell! I didn't though, because if it did ring the loading dock, and someone came running to assist me, I'd feel terrible. It does seem sort of cruel though, having a great big button on the side of a building with no explanation whatsoever. Hrumph.
Once inside, Danny found what he was looking for-Sunrise brand Halloween candy corn. Sunrise makes candy in a nut-free facility, and it is one of the few things he can have when it comes to Halloween candy. As a bonus, it is inexpensive. I made my own candy corn and mellow-cream pumpkins from tinted fondant one year. The fondant was no big deal to make (you do need a strong arm though) but fitting together pieces into candy corn was a bit tedious. At a dollar a bag, everyone is happy.
Speaking of happy-these flowers sure are cheerful. Can you spot the bee? He seemed happy too.
Uh oh...
And just look at that sinister laugh! He said he wanted to...
...good thing I was wearing my Pervert-Proof Panties. Good heavens, he was terrible!
These guys weren't much better. Filthy minds, I tell you!

Outfit Particulars:

Esprit dress-bought it in the 80's
Cardigan-thrifted
Coro necklace-Imaginarium
Other necklace-Goodwill
Vintage hat-Years ago somewhere in Boston
Bangles-here and there
Vintage clip earrings-Hand-Me-Ups
Rings-here and there
Vintage handbag-gift from old neighbor
Shoes-Thrifted
Pervert proof panties (shorts, actually) thrifted
Tights-at least 20 years old-can't remember where I bought them
Brooches-both Thrift World
Fragrance-Elizabeth Taylor Gardenia (not terrible-review soon)


Yeah? Well I don't think so.


This weekend was too short, but I hope you had a nice one. Watch out for the perverts.