Thursday, October 31, 2013

Barmbrack 2013

We ate the brac after the boys came back from trick or treating. I stayed home to answer the door-we had a total of two visits, and one was a repeat visitor! What in the world is wrong with this city? The boys came home with about ten pieces of candy, and some information about buying insurance from the local agent who lives across the way. At least it wasn't a religious tract, and she did hand out candy as well.

I guess everyone went to the, "safe" trick or treating at the mall.

Anyway, we cut into the brac, and I got the coin (wealth), Danny got the ring (guess I need to start planning the wedding) and Mr. ETB got the cloth (poverty) so I guess I need to start looking for a job as well. We all agreed that it was better than the Christmas cake I make every year, and I don't see any reason it couldn't have a few more fruits and spices (and booze) to be transformed into something else. We'll see.

Hope you had more than two beggars at the door for candy tonight. Cripes, what am I going to do with all that candy?

Happy Halloween

Look, I'm dressed as a middle aged woman...BOO!
While we wait for the evening's festivities, let's have a look at a lovely 1980's does 1940's dress I bought new.
Heavy wool, excellent sleeves, velvet trim at the collar-this dress has all the things I love.
Velvet buttons, I mean come on, how could I ever get rid of this dress?
The fit is roomy, and loose which is great for comfort, but not the most flattering to my body shape. Eh, whatever. Comfort wins.

A great wool shawl is vital with this dress as the sleeves are a pain to fit though most coats.

 Outfit Particulars:
Dress: 80's does 40's Laura Ashley (where I bought most of my clothes in the 80's *hangs head in shame*)
Shoes: Retail (can't remember)
Shawl: purchased early 80's, can't remember where
Earrings: flashing plastic pumpkins: Walgreens
Matching cameo brooch and ring: Jordan Marsh (RIP) Shopper's World, Framingham Mass Early 90's
Lippy: Loreal True Red #315

Since it is Halloween, "BOO!"

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Carrots and Lima Beans...and a Parkin Update

I served these as a side-dish for mushroom pies. The most difficult part of the deal is match-sticking all those damn carrots, but a mandolinne would make quick work of it if you have one.

You Will Need:

3-4 carrots cut into match sticks
2 cups cooked, frozen lima beans
1 tablespoon chopped, preserved lemon peel, or the grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt/Pepper/Dried thyme to taste
(about) 2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the carrots sticks, and cook until they soften. Add everything else and cook until lightly browned. Serve hot.

Here's the Parkin. I'll see how it looks after a few days of storage before posting the recipe. Looks promising though-soft, sticky, smells like butter, sugar, and ginger. Hard to find fault with that!


I don't know about you, but I find baking and decorating cookies a helpful distraction when life does annoying things I can't do anything about.
These are destined for the library on Thursday.
I take my role as, "the Cookie Lady" pretty seriously. You could be called much worse than , "the Cookie Lady", and believe me, I have been...but not at the library. That my friends is the power of butter and sugar.
 I try to keep dough on hand in the fridge or freezer for days like today, when the only sensible thing to do is roll, cut, bake, and decorate. Before I knew it, the morning was gone, and I had accomplished something.
Here's how to scare up some biscuits (right, I'll be getting my hat, and leaving now)

You Will Need:

1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
3 teaspoons vanilla extract (or any flavor you prefer)
3 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in egg until everything is light. Stir in extract. Sift flour with baking powder, and add to the butter mixture. Mix well. Divide into two, roll into logs (or disks, depending how you bake) and wrap in cling film. Store in fridge until ready to use.

To Bake:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Do not grease baking sheets. For slice and bake butter cookies, go as thin as 1/8 inch. Arrange on sheets (they don't spread much) and bake until golden at the edges, 8-10 minutes depending on size, thickness, etc. Cool 1 minute on pan, then carefully remove with a very thin spatula. Some will break, that's the nature of these cookies.

When cool, decorate as desired.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

1940's Blue Rayon Dress with Seed Beading

We had beautiful weather for the Halloween party at Joslyn Castle in Omaha. (Click on photos to enlarge)
The grounds are lovely, though we didn't get to see much of the castle as it was converted to a haunted house, which Danny fled almost as soon as we entered. Maybe next year.
I found the cutest woodpecker beneath a tree, so I sat with him a while.

These two won the costume contest-deservedly!
The grass is still green this late.
But it was time to leave, as we were headed to the orchestra for the "Hauntcert"
Outfit Particulars:
1940's rayon beaded dress by Radiant
Orfloff Wristwatch, thrifted in Buffalo, NY
Glass earrings: Italian import store, 80's
Beaded glass necklace: Thrift World, $1.98
Shoes: Thrifted
Handbag: 90's retail
Crochet Cape: My mother made it circa 1969
Hair clips: Thrift World, .98 cents
Marcasite ring: thrifted Clinton, Mass. 90's

 We stopped by the courts on the way home so Danny could try out his new racket. There were other people playing in the next court, but thankfully they didn't ask about our attire.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Dressed Like My Gran in the 70's...

...which I suppose is better than being dressed like my Gran in her 70's.
We used to joke about her colour coordinated outfits, and tray of gaudy rings on the dresser. I have a tray of gaudy bangles on the dresser, and my handbag always matches my shoes.

Click photos to enlarge.
The necklaces are separate. The short one was my mother's (it long since lost the medallion, shaped like a Mayan pyramid) and the longer I purchased last weekend. I like how they look together.

 The velvet skirt was something I bought years ago at a thrift shop in Cambridge, Mass. I like velvet that doesn't scream, "holiday party!" Rust is a versatile colour.
The bracelet caught the eye of the teenager working at the beauty supply store. She had to call her co-worker over to check it out. "Look, a real bracelet from the 60's" she exclaimed.  I tried not to laugh. She then informed me, "It is a popular fashion right now for young people." Thanks. Thanks for that. *young people* Good heavens. It isn't like I'm collecting Social Security.
So far, the best lit photos I've been able to manage have been taken in our '94 Ford Tempo.
OK, maybe not that one.
The comic book store was having a party.
 That fake fur at the neck was the worst stuff I've ever sewn with. Ever. I should have used fleece for all of it, but I never do anything the easy way. I have about a yard of it left. Horrible stuff, I should bin it.
Danny's costume was pretty popular at the store...
Because it isn't every day you see Woody Woodpecker purchasing his own comics.

Outfit Particulars:

Cashmere Polo Neck: Marshall Field's Country Shop, 80's (*Sob* I miss Field's)
70's Velvet skirt: Thrifted Cambridge, Mass
Shoes: retail
Satchel: Von Maur, circa 2001
Necklaces" Mum's, and thrifted Goodwill
Bracelet/ring: Mum's 60's
Flashing pumpkin earrings: Walgreens

Friday, October 25, 2013

I Knew This Would Happen

Danny wants tennis lessons. This didn't exactly come as a shock, but I was surprised how excited he was when I agreed. Previously, our lives only became disrupted around major tournaments, now I'm afraid we've been sentenced to, "All tennis, all the time." I have no one to blame but myself...and Andy Murray. I know more about the life, times, and tennis career of Mr. Murray than I ever wanted to thanks to my child's interest. It could be worse, he could be into American football. Or Star Trek.

I played tennis recreationally as a teenager, and badly. We might have been stoned. I mean come on...everyone was. It wasn't like there was anything else to do all summer.  The friend I played with most was close to seven feet tall, scrawny, and half-blind ( and usually high), so he almost always missed the ball by absurd distance, and we'd stand on the court doubled over laughing as pensioners sat by watching and wondering what was so funny. We were terrible at tennis, and we weren't much better at softball ("I've got it...I've got it...WHACK!" into the side of a building). Danny on the other hand couldn't do anything just for fun if his life depended on it. He's not competitive so much as a perfectionist-he likes to do things well. He's not the most coordinated person I know, but maybe that can improve with practise.

One thing he has going for him is the new technology. Tennis rackets weighed a ton when I was a teenager-they were heavy wood. I might have been encouraged to attempt serious play had I been able to swing the damn thing with reasonable ease. The materials today are so light, it is almost like playing a different game.

I think Danny will take it more seriously than I did as a youngster, and I'm pretty sure his control-freak-perfectionist tendencies will keep him from the temptation to smoke a couple spliffs before hitting the courts.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Review Lacis.Com

Years ago I bought a black, floor length riding dress with a tailored velvet collar from Laura Ashley. I love the dress (despite having strangers scream, "Mary Poppins!" at me in the street every time I wear it) The neckline is a bit too low for my comfort. I've used scarves, but they never quite filled the space at the neck, or stayed put well enough. When I saw the ruffled lace jabot at I thought it might just be the thing that makes the dress wearable.
At $18.00 USD this wasn't inexpensive, but it wasn't outrageous either, provided it was a well made item. I placed the order and it arrived within a week via US postal service. Nicely packaged in plastic, and clean, it was ready to wear straight from the package. No wrinkles, dust, or hanging threads. What arrived was even nicer than the website image, and the Velcro closing is of an excellent quality that stays shut. Not only does this make a very expensive dress wearable again, it makes it enjoyable to wear-the jabot stays flat, does not twist about my neck, and is so eye catching I'm looking for every possible opportunity to wear it.

I would not hesitate to order from again, in fact I have my eye on a number of items. I am not being compensated in any way by, and I paid full price and shipping for the item.

Spinach Pie and Tomato/Onion Salad

Crap photo, great pies.

This recipe makes a huge batch. That works fine for us, as we enjoy leftovers (I like to cook and get it over with). If you prefer variety in your diet, the recipe may be halved.

I made these in individual pies as they travel better for lunches. You can however, layer it into one or two large rectangular pies that you serve cut in squares. I also opted for clarified butter, though the phyllo can be brushed with olive oil if you prefer. I'm not a cook that insists on following the recipe exactly. I don't use garlic in my spinach pie, but some people do. I use scallions here some people would use shallots. I used frozen spinach, but fresh would work too. I think you get the idea.

You Will Need:

1 box frozen Phyllo (it should have two rolls in the packet-you'll need both if not halving) thawed
1/2 cup clarified butter, melted (you won't need it all, but better to have it) or olive oil for brushing
3 blocks frozen, chopped spinach, cooked, drained, and squeezed dry
1 lb. cottage cheese drained through a sieve overnight, then forced through the sieve until smooth
8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
2 ounces parmesan cheese, crated
1 bunch scallions, chopped fine
1 teaspoon dried dill
1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt/Pepper to taste
3 large eggs

Combine everything except phyllo and butter in a large bowl and mix very well. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. and grease a baking sheet. Work with one roll of phyllo at a time, and keep it covered with a damp cloth to prevent it drying out as you go.

To make individual pies:

Cut sheets in half. Brush a sheet lightly with butter, and top with another sheet. You need about 5, but you could do more (no more than 8). Don't soak it with butter, but make sure to brush the edges so it won't dry out. Place a dollop of filling in the centre. Carefully fold over into a triangle trimming anyway any excess. Fold up edges. Brush top and edge generously with butter. Pierce the top with a sharp knife. Repeat until you have a full tray (you can make the rest as the others bake).

Bake about 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on racks. These are best served at room temperature.

To make a large pie:

Do about 5 sheets of the full-sized phyllo for the bottom. Spread on the filling. Top with an equal number of sheets. Fold up edges, brush with butter, pierce and bake. This will take longer. You can also do this in a greased, rectangular pan, just make sure to tuck the top layers down the sides as you go. It is also nice to crumble a few sheets for the top, and brush them with butter-it makes an attractive pie.

Tomato/Onion Salad:

3-4 ripe tomatoes, cut into 8ths.
2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves, stemmed
(about) 8 olives (I used Kalamata, but any you like will do)
1 small onion, sliced as thinly as possible
1 tablespoon dried chervil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 small jar pickled artichoke hearts
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil

Set your tomatoes, olives, onion, and drained artichoke hearts in a bowl. In a measuring cup, combine the thyme, chervil, sugar, vinegar, oil, and salt/pepper. Mix well. Pour over the tomato/onion mixture and let sit, covered in the fridge several hours before serving. Bring it to room temperature, and serve it over crisp, cold lettuce.

Let the Baking Begin

Today I finished a few day's worth of preparing candied pineapple, cherries, mandarin orange segments (it worked!), cranberries, ginger, orange peels,dried bananas (those are just for porridge toppings), and apple slices. I have a large Buddha's hand citron waiting to be candied, but otherwise I'm ready for the puddings and Christmas cake. It wouldn't be such a terribly big deal if I didn't do all the fruit myself, but I do, and it is. I'm going to soak in a warm bath until I shrivel up like a prune. I hope no one tries to stick me in a pudding.

Now, to get the Barmbracks baked for next week!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pair of Vintage Lamps

 The view from my kitchen out to the dining room and patio.

(Yes, *hangs head in shame* that is store-bought snack toast (zwieback). The kid likes it, and it makes incredible pie crusts.)

I'd guess these are late 60's, early 70's. The pair cost $2.00 at the Sarpy County sale last summer. One lamp has been taken by my son for his desk, and the other sits in my kitchen.  I was going to re-do the shades with some fabric, but I sort of like the patina decades of smoking gave them (I'm guessing that's it). Anyway, I couldn't go wrong for the price.

My New Favourite Sourdough Rye

I thought I had perfected my sourdough rye long ago, but this loaf made me reconsider. The addition of potato water (water left from boiling potatoes) and molasses made for one of the nicest rye breads I've ever baked. This bread will require two days to make, but you'll be rewarded with one hell of a bread.

You will need:

For the sponge:
2 cups fed sourdough starter (mine is white, but rye would be super if you have it)
2 cups water (room temp is fine)
(about) 3 cups strong flour or enough to make a firm sponge that is no longer runny

Mix all and cover with cling film. Let stand 8-12 hours.

To half the sponge add (save the rest for another bread)

1 cup room temperature potato water
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1-2 tablespoons caraway seeds
2 tablespoons full flavor molasses or dark treacle
8 teaspoons vital wheat gluten
4-5 cups medium rye flour

Mix well, and let stand 30 minutes, covered.

Over the next two hours, give a series of two folds every thirty minutes. Cover, and set in the fridge overnight.

next day:

Remove dough from fridge and shape. Place on a baking sheet covered with cornmeal. Cover with a damp tea towel, and let rise several hours until doubled (this took two and a half hours in my cool-ish kitchen. Meanwhile, make a cornstarch glaze of 4 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in a few tablespoons of water and heated until thickened. Cover with foil, and set aside.

Meanwhile, about 40 minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Heat a pan in the bottom of the oven as it heats. Before the bread is slashed and loaded, toss a handful of ice cubes into the pan to create steam. Slash loaf, and place in oven. Immediately reduce heat to 425 degrees F. Bake 25 minutes. Remove pan from bottom of oven, rotate the pan with the bread, and bake another 25-30 minutes or until browned and hollow sounding or if using an instant read thermometer the bread reaches an internal temperature of 205 degrees F.

Remove bread to a rack, and immediately brush a thin layer of glaze on loaf. Let cool completely before slicing. This bread will benefit from a 24 hour rest before eating-but it is doubtful you can wait that long.

Bonus Bread:
I made a combination rye/wheat sourdough also making use of potato water.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Much as I enjoy a good moan at the state of things today, it is worth mentioning how much better off we are in so many ways. Sometimes I need a youngster to alert me to the progress such as the time I asked Danny to grate some breadcrumbs, and instead of using the box grater (as I always have) he brought out the mini food processor. That's real progress, saving both time and knuckles.

Yesterday, at his dental appointment, Danny was given a yearly fluoride treatment. A bit of fluoride was applied on a cotton swab, and then to the surface of the teeth-that was it. Suddenly the memory offluoride treatments more than forty years ago came back, complete with nausea.

The fluoride treatments of old were thick, sticky cola flavoured gel applied to a gigantic plastic mouthpiece of the sort a hockey player might wear. Keeping that thing in without gaging would have been bad enough, but the treatment tasted so vile, and smelled so bad there was no escape for what seemed like the hours sat in the chair. Mingle that with the scent of clove oil hanging in the air, and it was little wonder I never made it home without my mother pulling over so I could throw up. I'd like to apologise to the people that lived just around the corner from Dr. Slivnick's office on Cicero Ave. in Chicago. If you remember a dark haired child routinely throwing up in your yard from around 1970-75, that was me, and I'd like to say how sorry I am for that, and I'd be happy to buy you a plant or something to make up for it. I don't know why they insisted on those treatments anyway, Chicago had fluoridated water.

Danny started to fuss about the way the treatment felt on his teeth, and I looked out the window of the dentist's office trying to scope out a vomit spot. There are some expensive homes in a subdivision just behind the office, but they'd call out a SWAT team if you threw up in a lawn over there. I figured it would be the thrift store, or the doughnut shop, or Runza if we made it across the street. Fortunately, he was fine though it didn't stop him complaining it was horrible.

So many unpleasant childhood things have been improved from fluoride treatments to flu vaccines sprayed up the nose. Heavy plaster casts like the sort I had on my arm are obsolete, and they can pull your appendix out through a tiny incision. Sometimes I need to be reminded how much better off we are than when I was a child.


I've yet to make a parkin that tastes as I think it should. This isn't for lack of effort-every 1 November I make a batch, store it until the 5th, have a piece, and am disappointed. They boys? They'll eat anything, but I'm saddled by the memory of heavy slabs of sticky cake.

The internet is little help-if it doesn't have porridge oats, it isn't parkin. Sorry. Honey sounds bizarre. Powdered ginger? Stem ginger? Candied ginger? All three? Plain flour, self-rising flour, wholemeal (no!)?

I'll give it yet another try this year, but the sort of parkin I'm striving to bake is elusive.

Anyone have a recipe they'd like to share?

Time for Glaced Fruits and Peels

November will be upon us quickly, and with it the making of Christmas puddings and cakes. As we moved mid-July, I did not manage to make batches of candied cherries this year-but I have a cheat to share. If you drain a jar of maraschino cherries (go on, and do both red and green), and dry them in a dehydrator (or a slow oven) you end up with a pretty good substitute. At any rate, they will be much better than the dried tubs of glace cherries you can buy at the supermarket with an unknown vintage. This also works with tinned pineapple slices (in syrup). This year I'm going to try a tin of mandarin oranges in heavy syrup dried at low heat. Could be a disaster, but I'm optimistic.

Because of allergies, we can't buy most dried fruit as it is packaged in the same spot as nuts (and the fruit is sticky, working like a cross-contamination magnet). I'm comfortable making stem ginger, candied ginger, assorted peels and the like. The problem is that I typically start earlier-and everything this year has felt like a race.

After Halloween, there's no rest here until mid-January when the last of the Birthdays are done, the Three Kings Cake has been baked, and ( have the rest of the long, dark winter to recuperate. I have a quilt to start (Danny's annual Birthday quilt), parties to plan, and so on. Imagine how happy I am discovering you can dump a jar of maraschino cherries in a dehydrator and get a reasonable (and much less expensive) replacement for candied cherries. Well go on, imagine it!

Today I replaced a button on my winter coat I've been meaning to fix for two winters. It took all of three minutes to sew the damnned thing on, but until I took the coat from the closet, and laid it out at the dining room table, I couldn't be arsed to do it.

I've often wondered how my mother did it all. I'm guessing it was all the speed in the diet pills. I'll have to make due with caffeine.

What are you still doing here? Don't you have some cherries to dry? (Really, try it, you'll be pleasantly surprised).

Monday, October 21, 2013

Dress Up Your Hottie

My hot water bottle gets year round use. In summer, I fill it with ice water to cool down. Of late I've been clutching it all day and night (it got cold quickly here) and I'd carry it with me outside the house but my son says he'd deny I'm his mother. Kids.

I've always placed it in an old pillowcase as a cover. Hard to believe I've gotten this far along in life without realising there are special covers you can buy for a hottie. A quick look at Etsy showed some beautiful knitted covers shaped as penguins, owls, and that sort of thing. Cute stuff, but the idea of spending $60.00 on a hot water bottle cover sends my bolshie old brain into somersaults. OK, I know they are handmade, but what are we talking about-half an hour to make a cover? That, and they're hottie covers-for fuck's sake, I wouldn't spend that on a suit.

I also wonder how well you would feel the heat through such thick layers? Anyway, I have some moth-eaten wool sweaters ready to be recycled into something new, so maybe I'll felt a hot water bottle cover. Until then, I've got a perfectly useable pillowcase.

Not using a hot water bottle? Why in the world not? They're wonderful, particularly if your feet get cold in bed. I'm not sure I could sleep without one. I have a latex-free bottle from Walgreens. It has lasted through regular use for several years now. There's little sense to blasting the heat through the night when you're sleeping beneath covers anyway. Safer than an electric heated blanket as well (I knew someone who's sister was injured horribly by one of those things). As far as I'm concerned, the bottle makes a perfect Christmas present, but now I'm intrigued by the idea of covers as well. I think I have a new project.

Anyone have a pattern they'd like to suggest?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Late 60's or Early 70's Maxi Skirt

This skirt is so long, "Maxi" seems like a weak description. It also had a very high slit at the side, which I partially sewed closed. It is still a rather high slit, but no longer indecent.

What you can't see well in the photos is the fabric-it has a iridescent sparkle to it. The material is very sheer, so it needs either a long slip, or dark tights. I went for the tights.

The sweater has silver threads as well, but it probably wasn't the best thing to wear with it. I used to wear an oversized black polo neck with this, maybe I should stick to a winning combination. The skirt is so formal looking, it really needs something to counter it.

I just wanted you to see my crappy parting job. Not really, but here's a photo anyway.
The lovely red wall I'm posed beside is in the library entry, along with this spectacular piece of art.

Outfit Particulars:

Skirt: Thrifted several years ago signed, "Bernairdo"
Handbag: Circa mid-90's, retail
Shoes: retail a few years ago
Bracelet: I made it!
Earrings: Thrifted
Rings: Stuff I had since the 70's (spoon rings, anyone?)
Top: Can't remember