Wednesday, June 30, 2010

it took me three days to find my sewing-machine pedal

or I would have posted this sooner. I've been meaning to make a necklace like this for ages but somehow never got around to it. Then, as I was packing up old clothes and things to donate (a big part of every move), I came across a beautiful silk twill camisole my mother bought me a few years ago. It was 4 sizes too big, but she knew I'd love the fabric and the style, and she was confident that I could take it in. I took it in but some details were too difficult to adjust. Long story short, it was only a moderately successful tailoring job and I didn't wear the cami much but I couldn't bear to part with it because of the beautiful fabric.

a-ha! Finally, the perfect fabric to use for a necklace like this. It's a simple project, too. Here's how it's done:

step 1: cut your fabric into strips. My camisole was cut on the bias (the diagonal) so I decided to basically make "bias tape" for my necklace. I cut long strips 3.5" wide (my beads have a 2.5" circumference). The edges are cut on a 45-degree angle. You have to cut all of the edges going the same way - this is important! Because my fabric was so delicate, I also treated the edges of all of my fabric pieces with fray-check.

step 2: to turn your shorter strips into one long strip, lay your pieces, right sides together, as shown in the picture. Sew along the diagonal .5" from the edge.

step 3: when you press it flat, you get a continous strip, all cut on the bias.
why does it matter to cut it on the bias? Well, for one thing, I didn't have much of a choice - my garment was cut this way. But it actually makes sense. Woven fabrics generally have the most stretch on the bias, so a bias-cut like this makes the fabric stretchy along its length and width. As I intend to shove wood beads down a tube of fabric, using a bias-cut fabric means that the tube will stretch a little bit, in case I make part of it too small. It's not a lot of wiggle room, but it helps.

step 4: fold your long strip of fabric over itself, right sides together (see the seam on the outside?), and stitch all along it, just a little less than .5" from the edge. Leave both ends open. When you are done sewing, turn the tube right-side out. All of your seams will now be hidden inside the tube.

step 5: now, shove your wood beads (or plastic, or whatever) down the length of the tube, tying the tube in a knot after each bead. Tie carefully, so that your knots are snug against the edges of each bead in the tube. When you are done, tie off both ends, trim, and sew shut around a clasp. You could also buy a clamp-clasp (like a heavy-duty crimp bead) and clamp the fabric ends into it, but I wanted this to cost as little as possible - namely, $4 for some wood beads.

Now I can wear that beautiful silk fabric anytime!

Monday, June 28, 2010

the illustrated pickle

...think of it as a companion to my watermelon rind pickle post, recipes can be found there...
Peeling and chopping: I find this works best if I cut the watermelon in half (the long way) and then cut long, thin-ish slices of it. It's easier to skim off the dark green peel (and not take a lot of the rind, which you want for the pickles, with it) if you don't have to curve your knife out and around as you cut down. You also want to trim the flesh back. This time I left on perhaps a bit too much flesh. I wouldn't leave any more pink than this on the rind pieces, and would probably encourage you to leave less.

Brining (the salt water soak): Mix 1/4 c. salt for every quart of water, and just make as much as you need to be able to easily submerge your pickle pieces. I place mine in a large bowl (they just barely fit!) and cover with a plate, on which I placed a jar of brandied peaches, just to add a little weight and keep the watermelon pieces pushed under the brine (otherwise, they float to the top and do not get properly brined). Brine overnight or for about 8 hours in the refrigerator.

Pickling: When you're done brining, drain your rinds, rinse, and then cook for 5-10 minutes at a boil on the stove in fresh water. Then drain them again. In the meantime, make your pickle. Note: I made the standard pickle recipe (2 c. sugar, 1 1/2 c. vinegar, plus the spices - see my other post, linked above, for recipe and my notes/adjustments) and it barely made enough pickle to cover the rind I had from one medium-sized watermelon. You may need to increase the pickle if you are working with a lot of rind. Pour the hot pickle over your watermelon pieces and weight again. Pickle in the refrigerator for 8 hours. You can already see that the pieces are reduced in size by comparing this pre-pickling photo to the pre-brining one above. You won't end up with a lot of pickles here - unfortunately!

Cooking and canning: After 8 hours, pour rind and pickle into a pan and cook for 1 hour at a boil, checking often to make sure things aren't sticking. I usually cover my pan for the first half hour at least, so that the pickle doesn't cook off and I have syrup left to pack into the jars with the pickles. Can and process 10 minutes using the boiling water method.

Friday, June 25, 2010

pretty in pink: a taste of spring

Aren't these pretty? So pinky-perfect. Some of my friends and family will get these as part of holiday care-packages. It really will be a taste of spring; it looks like spring outside - I snapped this picture just before a fine misting rain started. I am resisting the urge to go out walking in it (it's my favorite kind of rain to go walking in, so refreshing! The warbling birds outside seem to agree!) because I am still convalescing and I need to have the energy to clean rooms of our old house tonight (and wash those floors!).

I didn't realize, when I set myself the task of making champagne-rhubarb jelly (this is most definitely jam) that a champagne rhubarb jelly is a jellied dessert popular in Britain. So all those many, many recipes I thought I had to choose from involved gelatin and molds, not pectin and jars. I finally found a recipe for rhubarb jam that called for water. A-ha! I thought, and substituted champagne for the water and most of the vinegar, as I figured I'd be safely acidic (and this pale pink jam is definitely tart and tangy!) for preserving purposes.

Just in case you'd like to make your own:

Rhubarb-Champagne Jam

about 1lb. rhubarb, washed and chopped (or just sliced)
1 1/2 c. champagne (slightly flat is better)
2 c. sugar
1/3 c. vinegar (I used the last splash of orange-champagne-muscat vinegar I had on hand from Trader Joe's and then just filled the rest of the measuring cup with champagne)


put the rhubarb, champagne, sugar, and vinegar in a large pan and cook over medium heat. It will take about 30 minutes for the rhubarb to break down. I kept my pan covered for all but the last 10 minutes, to keep the liquid from cooking off (I didn't want to add water and thin the flavour). As the rhubarb breaks down, you will need to stir frequently to prevent sticking/burning. When it has cooked into a thick, even mass, add your pectin according to package instructions.

Can and process 10 minutes using boiling water method. You can learn more about home canning at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

And yes, Lo, I'd love your mom's Rhubarb-Ginger Jam recipe! Sounds delicious!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Behold, the fruits of concerted goodwill- and value-village-combing! A few pieces are not shown, but you get the idea. I think we are wedding-ready, on the plates front.

I think we have all the napkins now, too. We are still working on the silver; and will probably borrow glasses, as we just haven't got room to store 30 wine glasses.

Highlights from some of the recent trips: in the foreground, a curved saucer (Norwegian) sits on a gold-rimmed plate made in Czechoslovakia sometime between 1918 and 1945. Counter-clockwise, the saucer on top of the other stack is a Johnson Bros. piece (England). I don't know how old it is, but the transfers were still applied by hand - there are mistakes! and you can see where the patterns are joined. The inner floral band is in gold, and there is a geometric "key" pattern in black on taupe nearer the rim. The sugar bowl is from my parents, part of the set that inspired our tablescape. The red floral probably won't appear on the table, unless it's serving some small condiment. I just couldn't bear to pass it up, it was so pretty. The last piece is English Crown Ducal Ware, the dark bands on that piece are navy - we have a few bits of "something blue" on the table now, just for fun.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

a new nest!

sorry to have been so quiet! We've been moving to a new house (with lots of trees - don't you love that glowing green?) a few neighbourhoods over from our old one. We've also been sick (both of us - again! argh!) and that's been slowing us down around here. But more posts coming soon: I have some millinery to get started on for a September bride, I'll be sure and post the results as it all comes together!

For the meantime, two new necklaces: see more about the copper-and-pearl one below. The white-howlite-and-ribbon piece is my second one of these - this one's a belated birthday gift for a friend. If you'd like to read more on the original, it's also featured in an older post.

I have been stocking up on mason jars and am just itching to get started with some canning. More soon!

old materials and new inspiration.

I've been ill for a week; unfortunately, we moved into our new place this week, so I'm sure that all that work hasn't sped my recovery. Still, I'm finally starting to get a little better and there is less fluid in my lungs. But that means I haven't been doing much. On Saturday afternoon, while Cass and his parents threw together one last trip with the panel van (moving furniture between our old and new houses), I lay on the couch and worked on reducing the backlog of inspiration images I've torn from magazines, cutting out what I liked and sticking it into a cheap photo album that I keep for holding pictures of things that I like - mostly fashion ideas I want to copy, but also some gardens.

I don't know where this picture below came from, but as I cut it out, I knew I wanted to make this:

It's clearly that spiral rope cord (silk or polyester?) with some tangled chains, pieces of heavier-gauge-wire wrapped around portions of the necklace, and pearls on eyepins. Real pearls? One would hope, but at that size and for only $55, I imagine not - there's not a large enough margin for retail markup at that rate.

I couldn't find the spiral rope cord at my now-local beadshop, but they did have hand-dyed silk cords. I bought two, one in peach and one in a soft mauve-tan. I really wanted to imitate the chartreuse here, but they didn't have that colour at all. I bought a clamp clasp as well. I clamped the cords into the clasp ends with long pieces of copper chain that I have leftover from a project I made at 14 and then dismantled at 16 (I think it might have been a belly chain? Ah, the '90s!). For the wrapping, I used heavy-gauge copper wire that once wrapped a beaded mirror that Cassidy received for his birthday some 7 or 8 years ago. Peggy brought the silver pearls back from Mexico a couple of years ago, and they're hung on silver headpins leftover from another project of my own a few months back.

So, for about $15 of new materials and a handful of old bits and bobs, I have a new necklace! (with real pearls this time.) What do you think?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Brunswick Stew

I don't have a picture of this for you, but I wanted to share it, anyhow. I had Brunswick Stew while I was in Virginia last September and I was pining for its warm, hearty sweetness throughout our cold wintry spring here in Seattle. Though in no way authentic (we've made quite a few changes to the recipes we could find), this makes a marvelous (and BIG!) pot of stew, just the thing for steeling a body against the cold. Enjoy with brown-sugar cornbread!

3 strips bacon, cut into 1/2" pieces
2 full duck breasts (4 halves), about 12 oz.
2 yellow bell peppers, diced
1 orange bell pepper, diced
2 small or 1 medium-large yellow onion, diced
28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 cup cream sherry
2 cups chicken broth
3 bay leaves
3 ears corn
8 oz (frozen or fresh) lima beans
8 oz (frozen or fresh) cut okra

In large saucepan over medium-high heat, brown bacon pieces. Remove from pan, leaving fat. Add duck, skin side down, cook approximately 10 minutes. Flip duck breasts, cook approximately 2 more minutes. Remove duck from pan, pour off all but 2-3 Tbsp. of the fat in the pan.

Add peppers (yellow and orange, diced), and diced onion to pan. Add 1 Tbsp. flour with vegetables to make a roux. Brown vegetables in duck/bacon fat, approximately 10 minutes, stirring to keep flour from burning.

Add sherry, broth, and bay leaves to pan, scraping browned bits up from the bottom. Return pieces of shredded duck meat to pan and reduce heat. Simmer 1 hour.

Cut kernels from corn. Add corn, lima beans, and okra to pan and cook additional 10 minutes.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

following-up on to-dos: summer necklace

remember how I made this post to remind myself to copy these looks? Well, one's done at least: here's my version of that long necklace that I liked. Only mine isn't made from glass pearls and polyester ribbon: I used a cotton tape ribbon with a woven (not printed) stripe, and white howlite beads, because I play with pearls a lot and figured I could stand to shake things up.

Still looking for just the right gauge of metal mesh to make those earrings, but I did learn that the little rhinestones on them are just epoxyed on, so now I'm confident that I can pull off a pair of my own.

In other news, I placed an order with a local nursery, Burnt Ridge, which specializes in fruiting shrubs and trees. They have great prices and a nice selection of native plants, so I've ordered mock orange, red huckleberries, nootka roses, golden currants, and hopefully one thundercloud elderberry to start building the framework of the new garden. I'm excited to start the moving soon - hopefully tomorrow!

a new side dish or light supper

last week we tried yellow tomatoes stuffed with grilled mushrooms and parmesan. Weather's terrible here, though, so we just broiled the mushrooms rather than trying to get the grill going in the rain. They were absolutely delicious. We included some morels in our mushroom mix (with shiitakes and oyster mushrooms) and paired it with a simple salad of greens, sliced plums, toasted walnuts and a dressing of mirin and walnut oil.
These would be good just about any time of year, but they sure are pretty when the heirloom tomatoes are in season.