Showing posts with label Making. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Making. Show all posts

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Pretty Cookbook

I heard the Kinfolk Cookbook mentioned briefly on a blog and was fascinated.  Wonder of wonders, our public library actually had it on the new book shelf, so I snapped it up and read it aloud on the way home from the library.  I am familiar with Kinfolk and I think we even got a few issues of the magazine.  It is, essentially, a hipster lifestyle magazine.  Actually, I think it's food and entertaining specifically, but really, it's pictures of pretty stuff and then short essays and recipes, most of which are about food.  The pictures are absolutely gorgeous and make me want to find a rough wooden table and mismatched, chipped china (it sounds weird, I just need to see these pictures).  The magazine fascinates me because it's so different from the 90s ideal.  It's still very much this idyllic perfection just like Martha Stewart's magazines, but what you're supposed to be trying to attain is radically different.

So when I found out about this, I was looking forward to a good cookbook read.  Like I said earlier, some of the pictures are absolutely gorgeous and make me want to spend hours with my camera.  However, the writing is...meh.  I think that the writers could do with a little lesson on sparse use of adjectives and avoiding flowery language.  The run-on sentences abound, filled with an adverb or an adjective every 5th word.  It makes for funny, but slightly tiring reading.

However, in spite of the writing, the overall tone of the book is inspiring in that they're encouraging people to get back into the home and cook and entertain.  All of the recipes look delicious.  The format of the book is a short bio about one of the Kinfolk editor's friends, and then recipes that the friends shared.  I wanted to warn you about the writing, but the overall message of the book, the photography, and the recipes make up for it.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sewing and a Book Review

Today, I have been busy with projects and flaxing around (apparently flaxing isn't a word...autocorrect suggests "flapping" or "flexing", neither of which I was my book, it means "flying around, getting lots of things done").  One of the things I did was start work on a fabulous late 40s/early 50s wrap dress.  I seem to have a bit of a thing with wrap dresses this summer.  I made a flowery short 60s dress that is for fairly nice occasions and this dress is completely different.  It's long and swishy and will be for really hot August days at home.  I actually took the time to stop and take pictures, so I've included a few.
That blue thing is the bias tape that I'm using as facing
in the place of a regular facing.  The pattern I'm
using was missing any facing pieces.

This actually has a little bit to do with a book I just read.  Well, "read" is a little too serious.  It was more like, "skimmed some parts and read some parts admired the pretty pictures".  The book, written in the 90s, is called Life, Loss, and What I Wore.  I picked it up simply because I had a few minutes and I didn't want to be engrossed in something really good and burn the rhubarb sauce all over the stove (I did that anyway).  This book is a very small memoir of a woman's life, as lived through her clothes.  So, the story starts out with a dress that her mother made and wore in the 30s and moves through her life.  Each page is a small anecdote and its facing page is an illustration of the dress.  Each chapter is a decade and ends in the 90s, with the author's granddaughter playing dress-up in one of her old dresses. And there were some gorgeous vintage dresses mentioned.  I especially loved the description and picture of the author's elegant 50s ball dress.   Reading this description, this sounds like a charming and interesting read.  And it was, to some extent.  However, I didn't love it.  The writing style sounded extremely dated (in a bad way), but it wasn't just that.  It was extremely self-involved and navel-gazey.  I found myself saying, "Oh please," more than once.  So, I don't recommend this unless you just happen to own the book and haven't read it or you really want to know about it and get it from the library.  It's not worth purchasing, in my humble opinion.
The book

But back to my dress.   I can't wait to see how it turns out.  I love this era of pattern and I think it's going to be a very nice, practical dress.  Here's the pattern, so you can see what the end product will look like.  I'm doing the shorter version because, honestly, can't you just imagine tripping over that long skirt every time you walked?

Friday, May 9, 2014

Card Game Bookmarks

A few days ago, I cleaned out our family's game chest.  Ahem.  That was quite the job, let me tell you.
The bottom of the chest, once all of the board games had been removed.

However, I got a sparkling clean, organized game chest out of it and something else...

I got bookmarks!  I am always on the lookout for pretty, interesting bookmarks.  Of course, scrap paper and business cards work fine, but it's always fun to have something a little nicer.  While cleaning out the game cupboard, I came across several sad cards.  They were from the vintage card game Authors.   (This game I linked to is identical to ours, except that ours never included anything so modern as a female author.  I mean, Lousia May Alcott?  Come, come!  She isn't great like old Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Robert Louis Stevenson, who, according to this game, looks like a drug addict.)  The cards were originally complete, but over the years, we've lost pieces and we almost never played the game, so I have relegated them to bookmarks.  I think it fitting that the authors cards are being used to mark books.  Even though the authors on the cards are ridiculously non-representative of all the authors out there, I am fond of the old dears and I'm glad they get a new job.

Anyway, I thought you might like to meet a few of the cards bookmarks.

I'm sorry it's so blurry.  The camera was being whiney.  But you get
the idea here.  This is R.L. Stevenson
Nathaniel Hawthorne

Washington Irving
Edgar Allan Poe...I can't decide whether he's looking grim
or just determined.

There are several others, but I didn't think you would want to see every single one of them.  I'm very curious as to when these were made.  Evidently a time where white male authors were THE author.  What do you think?  They make fantastic bookmarks!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

What I Do When I Don't Read

Okay, so actually, I do a lot of different things when I'm not reading.  I spend a much of my day not reading.  But one of the things that I love to do is sew.  I only briefly mentioned that in this post, but I do love sewing, particularly sewing vintage clothes.  My first sewing project was a baggy corduroy jumper from a 60s pattern when I was about 8.  I lost interest quickly and my patient mother finished it for me.  Since then, I've learned a lot about sewing and have come to love it.  So I thought I would post about the patterns that I'm currently planning on using for this year's summer clothing.

1.  A 40s house dress.  I'll do it in the shorter style, probably in linen, for those sticky-hot days in August.

2.  This pretty dress from the 50s will probably be a nice church dress for me.

3. I'll make the dress, but probably not the coat.  The note on my copy of the pattern says, "Mrs. Bob Barnard 3/24/55- Dress top not attractive!"  Well, Mrs. Bob, I'm going to directly defy you and make this dress.

4. I don't know if this skirt will every actually appear in my closet, but I do so love those fan appliqués! The part that makes me laugh is the tiny pocket for her own fan.  At first, I thought it was a knife and I couldn't figure out why she'd be toting that around on her fancy skirt.

5.  A want to make the belted version of this dress, but that blouse might be a part of my wardrobe in the near future.

6.  Such a practical skirt pattern!  I'm leaning towards the length and style of the blue skirt, but I also love the green skirt.

7.  A great late-60s/early 70s dress.  I think I would do a dress like the red one on the far right, probably with a few inches added.

8.  And finally, this fabulous suit.  I'm going to make the pleated skirt and jacket version.  I love the idea of the trim around the edges being the color of the skirt.

And what do you like to do when you're not reading?

Friday, April 18, 2014

An Extremely Cute Project

(I'm sorry, guys.  This has absolutely nothing to do with reading, but it was so cute I couldn't resist posting.)
After moving my sewing room around and getting a gorgeous new Bernina sewing machine for Christmas (thank you, family!), I was ready to start sewing.  I finished up a pair of fabulous turquoise overalls that had been languishing around and looked around for a new project.  My requirements were many: it had to fairly quick, it had to involve my lovely sewing machine somehow, and it had to be an item that was useful.  And so, I found this project from a book on appliquéing and set to work, cooing happily because it was so daggone cute.  I ended up not following the instructions at all, just cutting and appliquéing and then sewing up.
This is the first one I made.  First of all, I folded some plain oatmeal colored linen and lined the bottom of the hanger up with the fold.  Then, leaving about 1/2 inch seam allowance, I cut around the shape of the wire hanger.  Next, I embroidered four hangers in green pearl cotton and then machine appliquéd little clothes cut out of fabric scraps
This is what the back looks like.  I just sewed up the top of the hanger cover with black pearl cotton and did it in kind of uneven stitches.  I like the slightly unfinished look it gives to the hangers.

Now this is my absolute favorite.  I dug through and found scraps of fabric from clothing that I have actually made for myself.  The overalls I just finished, two summer dresses, a pair of flannel pajamas, and a skirt on which I sewed teensy weensy little pockets.  And did you see?  They're hanging on a rickrack clothesline!

I have two more up at the sewing machine.

A pistachio colored rickrack clothesline and a narrow embroidered red ribbon clothes line.

I can't sell these because they were somebody else's idea, but if you know me, drop an obvious hint and I'll make one of these for your birthday.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Cookbook Series

I don't have any book reviews at the moment because I am about 30 pages into three different books.  I hope to get a lot of reading done today.  However, I am still reading, thinking about, and cooking from cookbooks!  I thought I would review one of my favorite cookbook series.  They're not well-known out of my specific culture, but they are worth seeking out.  I am a Mennonite  (a whole other topic for a whole other place and time).  However, among many things, Mennonites value cooking.  Back in the 70s, two Mennonite women decided to write a cookbook about cooking food that was sustainable and was chock-full of recipes submitted by people all over the globe. This cookbook was called More-With-Less.  Several years later, in the 90s, two other women added to the series and wrote Extending the Table- a cookbook about eating world food.  The series was completed in 2005 and was about eating in-season, sustainable food.  I grew up with these cookbooks and they still have a special place on my list of favorite cookbooks.

I think that my favorite is Simply in Season.  More-with-Less's extreme obsession with calories and low-fat seems quite dated and Extending the Table sometimes calls for ingredients that we don't keep on hand all the time.  But Simply in Season, with its contemporary but delicious recipes is pretty much perfect.  I also like occasionally coming across a familiar name in the contributions.  There is a chapter for each season, with recipes like Gazpacho in the Summer and Maple Glazed Parsnips in the Winter.  I turn to this cookbook quite a bit in the summer.  This cookbook also has the added bonus of having an ingredient index.  So, if you're being bombarded with spinach, you can look up spinach recipes in the back.

While I don't use it frequently, Extending the Table has introduced me to some delicious recipes.  The kimchi is one of my favorites and Shanghai Ham is also wonderful.  This cookbook is a great way to learn a little bit about different countries and it's a good place to turn to to replicate restaurant dishes.

I think that I have the most memories and associations tied to More-With-Less.  There are some basic recipes like mayonnaise and french dressing that are perfect.  And, while low-fat is stressed, there is nothing nasty or flavorless about the food.  Even the recipe for Wheat Germ Balls is delicious!

I was surprised and glad that these cookbooks can be found on amazon.  I recommend them for anybody who likes to cook and wants a little taste of another culture.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Chocolate Eclairs and Mad Hungry

All the ingredients laid out.  This recipe was perfect because it used
14 eggs!  Our hens have gone into laying overdrive.
Today I have a cookbook recommendation and some food pictures for you.
Just a bit of the mess that ensued.
Our church was having a bake sale.  I volunteered to make chocolate eclairs and, boy, were they tedious to make...I mean, good.  First, you make a cream puff dough, made of melted butter, water, flour, and salt.  Then you squeeze the dough through a pastry bag and end up covering every surface and large sections of your hair in dough.  Then you pause, disgusted, and start just spooning the dough onto the cookie sheets.  After the puffs are baked, they are sliced and left to cool while you go make a custard that for some aggravating reason gets filled with little cooked egg lumps.  After straining the custard, you cool it for an hour, while you pull out your double boiler and cook a chocolate ganache.  After the chocolate ganache comes within seconds of burning and sticking because you are too busy reading a hilarious autobiography, you take that off and let it cool.  Now it's time to fill those eclairs.  First you fill one half heaping full with that lovely custard that turned out gorgeously, then put the top cap on and drizzle chocolate ganache over all.
The gorgeous eclairs...all 22 of them.

After I took a bite of that perfectly airy, elegant eclair, it was all worth it and I found myself forgetting all the work and the fact that every single dish in the kitchen was dirty as I smiled and licked my fingers.
Yes, the subtitle is Feeding Men and Boys.
I have no idea why.  However, the recipes are for anybody.
These delicious eclairs came from the fabulous book Mad Hungry.  It's written by Lucinda Scala Quinn and it's a book on cooking hearty family food instead of eating out, but really anybody.  Her recipes are well-written, look delicious, and taste delicious (at least the ones I've had).  The photographs are pretty and aid in making me even hungrier for the delicious recipes.  If you're a voracious cookbook reader, you most definitely need to buy this book.  If you're not, then please just go to the library and check the book out.  You might surprise yourself and end up purchasing a copy...

And every. single. chocolate. eclair. sold.  I'm actually a little sad about that.  I was hoping for a little treat this afternoon...

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Reading Cookbooks

It's odd, I know.  But it's a whole other kind of reading.  Not the kind of reading with a beginning, middle, and end, with a plot and an overall message, but I still love it.
The 1964 edition.  This book is almost too tome-ish
to read for fun.  But, seriously, it has pretty much any recipe
that you can think of.
It's the kind of reading you do when you're feeling tired or in need of some inspiration.  Reading cookbooks is perfect for those days when you're all out of books, or don't feel up to sitting down and giving your full attention to a story.
A very amusing read.

I particularly like vintage cookbooks.  They all seem to tell a story about what people were doing in a certain era.  It's fascinating how much you can learn about people through their food.  I wonder what people will say in 50 years when they look at cookbooks from our era.
Cookbooks are fun to read on several levels.  First, they can be read in light of a history book, if you're reading a vintage cookbook.  Seriously?  Tuna jelled in a mold with lime jello and cabbage?!  (I am not making that up.)  They can also be read as a sort of current events book, if you're reading a modern cookbook.  For instance, think about reading a paleo cookbook or a celebrity cookbook.  Then of course, there's the inspiration that comes from reading cookbooks.  I love going through the vintage cake sections and reading about new kinds of cooking.
Just a little contrast between the above vintage
cookbooks and a modern cookbook.
The recipes in this cookbook are delicious, by the way.

And finally, I love the thought of people from all different time periods writing cookbooks so that the concept of how we eat food could be changed just a little for the better.

A picture of cookbook from which my pretzel recipe came.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Rye Soft Pretzels and Fresh Stack of Books

Yesterday I got a lovely, huge stack of books.  I was starting to feel slightly panicked at the thought of my dwindling book supply, but managed to get to the library that Monday afternoon.  I got a fantastic stack and, if they are worth it, I'll review some of them in the upcoming weeks.

On the way home, I suddenly got a hankering for doing a little baking.  So, I pulled out some cookbooks and eventually settled on Good the Grain's (a fabulous cookbook, by the way) rye soft pretzels.  They looked so delicious and I could just imagine curling up in the evening with a hot soft pretzel and a little pile of books around me.

The kitchen table, dirty from rolling out pretzels,
that somehow managed to look pretty in the afternoon sunlight.
I think that these were some of the best soft pretzels that I have ever sunk my teeth into.  They were just a little tangy on the outside, from the baking soda bath, perfectly crusty on the outside, and doughy on the inside, with flecks of sea salt on top.

The pretzels.  Just ready to eat.
And so, that evening, I took a still-warm pretzel, gathered up a small handful of books, and retired to the sofa.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


I made these bookmarks several months ago, inspired by this post.  I absolutely love fun little sewing projects like this that take just a few minutes out of my time and leave me with something so pretty and functional.

I made about 12, but ended up giving most away as birthday/Christmas/hostess gifts, so I only have two left for myself.  I'm thinking that perhaps I need to make some more…

All you have to do is cut a piece of elastic slightly smaller around than an average book size.  Sew each edge to a piece of felt, then sew whatever decorations (buttons, ribbon, fabric, etc.) onto the top of the felt body.

The two modeled here look pretty similar, but you could do any sort of pattern.  This is a fun way to use up little scraps and get some functional bookmarks that aren't just pieces of ripped paper.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Handy Website and a Pretty Pillow

I have discovered a magnificent website!  I found it via Pinterest and I have been steadily using it every time I go to the library.  There are several like it, but my favorite is called What Should I Read Next?  All you have to do is type in a book that you loved and it generates lots of titles that are similar.

So check this website out next time you're trying to decide what to read!

In other news, I just finished a beautiful pillow.  It's made from some old fabric from a box of vintage scraps and the front is a piece that I picked up at a sale.  The front was a little too boring and 80s for me, so I just added the pretty patchwork and the buttons to brighten it up.  I have discovered how much I enjoy piecing little scrappy stuff.

I think it looks lovely in the chair at my sunny desk.