A few weeks ago at an estate sale around the corner from our house, I found an entire box of vintage patterns for $5 (I know, I hate it when people say things like that! Sorry!). The box itself was pretty awesome — custom-made to hold patterns, it was wooden, with dovetail joints, the whole shebang. The patterns were in really bad condition, most of them nothing special or not to my taste (feel better?), but then there was this (now prepare to feel worse):
I know. Can you believe the cuteness of this? Dated "July 1950" this is a pattern to make four dolls, Russian and Dutch. I've never seen a pattern like this before! I love the Dutch girl's clogs. Clogs are a major part of my life. I wear a clog every single solitary stinkin' day, with everything, and they are the only shoes that work for me. Recently I got a bee in my bonnet to paint some clogs, and Holly pointed me toward Hannah, who has a gorgeous collection of them:
Good grief, how cute is that. I'm going to get this one:
In brown. But it was hard to decide. I also like these:
They're all so cute. And you've got to love a girl who, while counting her collection of enamel flowers, says things like, "I started counting and got up to 200, then somebody started playing a ukelele outside and I got distracted. . . ."
It's going to be in the 90s — upper 90s — all weekend. Yipes!!! Help.
This past weekend, we cleaned and cleaned and cleaned out the cabinets. We have an old house. It has an old kitchen, and it is the same size as the kitchen in our old one-bedroom apartment — small. The cabinet doors and the drawers are plywood; nothing really fits. I am used to it, and don't often notice, having grown up in an old house with an old kitchen. Someday, we'll remodel, but it will include knocking down two walls and opening a staircase and building a new doorway. And that won't be happening for quite a while.
In the meantime, however, we can make a better effort to keep it all pared down. I honestly don't like to have too much space. It makes me feel overwhelmed. I'm trying to keep only the things I need in my life, and not have a cabinet of telephone books, styrofoam cups, and a 14" stack of paper plates (all of this from our old parties at Ella Posie, so — years old, and not touched since), as, over the weekend, I discovered I did. Now it holds my Lazy Daisy dishes and some other adorable vintage Pyrex that I found, tossed into the depths of the lower cabinets, which go waaaaaay back — I practically had to get into the cabinet to retrieve everything that kept getting pushed back. Redonkulous. We've lived here for eight years now. I've decided I really need to empty everything and go through it at least once a year from now on. Every six months? Does everyone do this except me? We used to move more often, so you always do it then. But since we haven't moved, there always seem to be other, more pressing, more fun activities that fill the weekends. And when the stuff gets pushed back, you forget you even have it. Oh! There's my mint-condition Butterprint casserole dish! Nice! Thanks, cabinet!
I took the doors off of these cabinets a few years ago. I actually don't remember where I put them — somewhere in the basement, but who knows where. I think open shelving can be cute and suits our jumbly little kitchen, but when it's messy it looks crazy. We have a pantry, and it holds a ton of stuff — the cans and the pasta and the boxes of cereal — so this cabinet is mostly the little, attractive, prettily packaged stuff, and all of the baking stuff.
I got a set of twelve quart Mason jars and a set of little ones at WinCo the other day, and used some little vintage mailing labels that I had to label a bunch of nuts and dry ingredients I hadn't taken the time to organize. I don't know why I haven't done this before. It was fun, and they look pretty. I think I'll cover their lids in fabric so they don't come apart every time I open them.
Having everything organized makes me so happy. Super super happy. It really doesn't take much to make me happy, and organizing always does. I even have some extra room on the baking shelves if I need it — wow, that never happens. It's amazing how long it doesn't last, however. I'm going to try very, very, very hard to keep it all like this this summer, since it makes everything feel better, somehow.
Thanks for all the wrap-skirt love!!! Phew!!! So glad you liked them (or at least followed my directive not to tell me if you didn't — I couldn't have taken it). I feel obligated to direct you to a whole lot of blue plaid at Exhibit A: The Buttermilk Bust-Up Dress, from my short-lived television cooking-show last summer as further evidence of what I was thinking. I still think that one is adorable, but maybe only if you look like that girl? Oh well. In my dreams. Anyway, I'm working this week on the Tanglewood bag pattern and hoping to have the bags and the pattern out there by the week after 4th of July. And now I want to paint some clogs similar to these to go with my Clafoutis skirt. Has anyone ever painted leather?
Oh, and I forgot: For those who have asked about the living-room curtains: They were custom-made for me through Sofa Table Chair, from fabric I purchased several years ago at Reprodepot. They are all lined, with pinch pleats at the top — they're gorgeously made, and something I would never take on myself. You can contact Susan at Sofa Table Chair about having some of your own made, with whatever fabric you want. Tell her I sent you — I think she'll probably remember these.
Oh, people, you make me laugh. I think the comments on yesterday's post were the funniest things I have read in I don't even know how long. Oh that was funny. Action — or even alteration — by consensus doesn't seem like it will be an option here: "Cut off the sleeves!" "Don't cut off the sleeves!" "Gather it!" "Do NOT gather it!" "Cut it off!" "Wear a belt!" "NEVER EVER WEAR THAT."
Oh, man. It was like being back in the fiction writing workshop (but much, much funnier and without cigarettes). I think my favorite suggestion was to keep the "dress" and just look at it before going to the fabric store next time. I think I might do that, but I'll let you know. . . . Still giggling.
Now. Let's move on. Here is my Clafoutis Wrap Skirt. I'm very happy with it, so if you think it is hideous, do not tell me.
Cute! The wrap skirt is an awesome invention. I have several and I love them. I wanted to make a few that were A) reversable, B) didn't have a tie at the waist, because I don't like the way that looks under a shirt if you're wearing your shirt untucked, and C) just fun and colorful.
To make a pattern, I used an old wrap skirt from Boden that fits me just the way I like. But then, just because I wanted to see if the pattern would match the formula, I pulled out my copy of Sew What! Skirts: 16 Simple Styles You Can Make with Fabulous Fabrics by Francesca DenHartog and did some calculations based on the book's instructions for the Breezy Beach Wrap (without the ties). And it matched almost exactly (mine had a curvier waist, which gives you a bit more flair). The book is really cool. Filled with simple instructions for designing customized patterns for just about every kind of basic skirt, it's got lots of great information for both beginning and experienced sewers. Once you've taken your measurements, the book makes it easy to draft all sorts of waistlines, amounts of flair, styles, and various lengths, and then you can just have fun choosing fabrics.
For a wrap skirt, you have three pieces — a back and two sides/fronts cut with extended front panels that overlap. I made my overlap a bit more extended than suggested because I didn't want to worry about the skirt opening in a high wind or when I sat down — so instead of extending each front piece by six inches past center, I went with seven. My dress form is both broken and smaller than I am, so the buttons are more in front on me. To make the skirt reversable, I made two identical skirts, one for the "front" (which is actually blue, not black) and one for the "lining." I cut the waists and the hems of the pattern to fit exactly, with no seam allowances. (I used about 2 1/2 yards of fabric for each — that's probably a generous estimate, but I don't mind having leftover calico around; the amount of fabric you need will depend on your size. Bring your pattern pieces with you to the fabric store if you don't want to buy too much.) Then you just place the wrong sides together, pin, baste the edges, and finish with about 5 1/2 to 6 yards of 1" double-fold bias binding (get a little extra and make a pocket). Add two buttonholes on the front panel, add two buttons to the underlapping front panel, and voila: skirt. To reverse it, I just turned it inside out, buttoned it on the inside, and added two decorative buttons to the reversed front panel. These don't do any work (the functional buttons are on the inside, now), but they just sit there and look cute.
What I like about lining the skirt is that it is heavy. It feels very substantial when you put it on, and I personally really like that in a skirt, especially an A-line, because it makes it hang properly and keep its nice flair, without allowing the flair to all fall back in on itself. That's just me. I like to feel my skirts when I'm wearing them.
Before basting the pieces together or attaching the binding, however, I would absolutely allow the skirt to hang (baste it across the waist, first) overnight. This way it can relax and you have a better chance at making sure, once you've put the binding on, that the panels truly match up. Trim them if they don't. I didn't do that because I was too impatient, and the navy blue side of this skirt is a teeny bit longer than the yellow side, so you can see how it sort of billows on the left (in the top photo)? It doesn't take much for it to billow a bit. I pre-washed and dried all of this fabric, so we'll see what happens when it is washed again, whether it gets better or worse. Pre-washing and drying would be imperative if you are going to bind the skirt. Otherwise, things will shrink a bit at different rates, and get very puckered and wonky.
Here it doesn't matter so much, since the patches are all wonky on their own already. This one I call Country-Club Mom. It's patchworked Madras plaid (already patchworked when purchased) and the lining is nothing special, just more homespun check, so I didn't make this reversable, but it could be. The pocket is gathered at the top with a little bit of elastic. I like pockets on my skirts. I like running out of the house with a key, a driver's license, and a ten-dollar bill tucked in there. That's my little Lulu Guinness cherry-topped straw bag in the background which I've had for years and years but I don't think I've ever actually taken out of the house. I should, though. It's cute.
These are inexpensive to make (especially if you make your own binding and use buttons from your stash, though I was hard-pressed to find pairs of buttons that matched in mine — I have about four hundred non-matching buttons) and they don't take long at all — the binding takes the longest, and you could always skip that entirely if you just added seam allowances and stitched the pieces right sides together, and turned the whole thing. Though I like the outline of the binding myself. Anyway. So that's it. No squirrels in sight, right? Unless they're on the golf course. Wait, those are gophers.
So, I had this idea, a loose dress for cool summer nights.
I was just thinking, like, North Woods, cabin on the lake, marshmallow roasting, you know, thinking as you do when you are gonna chill out and make something, just for fun.
I was thinking Washington Island, in Door County, Wisconsin, location of so many of my childhood camping vacations. Friday night fish frys at Findley's. Flath's cottages, where I hit one of those trees on the lawn with my dad's car (oops). Watching the Island Players plays in the big red barn. Walking home from the beach through the woods at sunset.
You're hearing me here. Fishing pole at dusk. Braids and moccasins. A teensy bit sunburned. I was going for rustic campfire girl, and instead I got friggin
DANIEL BOONE SLUMBER PARTY.
Boooooo. This is Simplicity 2997, which I still think is a very cute pattern. It's not the pattern. I don't think. It's me. I think it would be a very cute pattern on a skinny person, and if it were about three feet shorter. And not plaid. And basically nothing at all like this. To make things worse, I made it four inches longer (it's still unhemmed here) because I like my skirts to come just below the knee and cover my stocking), so, yeah, not helping, and it is too big pretty much everywhere. But still. I'm good with comfortable, don't get me wrong, but I look at this "dress" and I think, "How did I not see Davy Crockett sleeping bag coming here?" How did this idea, when imaginarily placed over big boobs and a wide can, seem like a good one?
I don't know. Because it all makes sense. At my size (not small) and in this print ( . . . ) and without any shaping whatsoever ( ! ! ! ) and having made dozens and dozens of dresses for myself over the years, how do I not see these things coming before I park my car in the parking lot of the fabric store? Before that, even? When I'm pulling my car away from my house? I am clearly delusional. Because this is not the first time. Oh no. Not even close. This is probably the eighth time. Grizzly Adams nightgown, or some version thereof, has happened many times before.
Maybe that's just sewing. It's kind of like throwing pots — you throw it, you glaze it, you fire it, you don't really know what you're going to pull out of that kiln. And that was precisely what I didn't like about throwing pots.
What should I do?
A) Take it to Goodwill immediately. Forget it ever happened. Delete this post.
B) Do some sort of empire waist gathered thing under the bust? Or gather it on the sides? Shorten it and wear it as a shirt?
C) Go with it, and learn to hunt squirrel.
This beautiful photo is from the June 1995 issue of Martha Stewart Living. I was thumbing through my back issues the other night and my breath caught when I saw this. So simple, so beautiful. They call this a vacherin — two discs of meringue layered with whipped cream and an assortment of tiny berries. They used red currants, red and golden raspberries, and fraises des bois, or wild strawberries. I have no idea what the difference is between a pavlova and a vacherin; amazingly, thirteen years on, they still have the recipe for this here. If my birthday were in June you can believe that I'd be asking for this, maybe with just one of those really tall, skinny candles to make a wish on. . . .
There is something so lovely about tiny strawberries with their stems still attached. At the farmer's market I bought some yesterday, intending to make this today. I spread them out on a paper towel and put them in the fridge, but when I checked on them this morning I saw that they were already ruined, blotchy and runny. Should've just eaten them out of hand yesterday, when they were delicious and perfect. Sigh. Live and learn.
I have been obsessed with watching Jamie Oliver's newest television show, Jamie at Home. It's frowsy, earnest Jamie, planting peas, picking onions (the one where he was crying while cutting the onions just cracked me up), cooking outside on his awesome wood-fired oven, puttering about in his cool little Anthropologie-looking kitchen. I wish I could show you how cool the production on this show is if you can't watch it yourself. The titles all look like a hand-drawn, taped-together scrapbook. I keep rewinding it (TiVo) just to get a closer look at the details. On his rustic estate he seems really happy, as if he has finally settled into his best cooking self, the emphasis (as always) on both quality and simplicity, where the food is as close as possible to its source, and then prepared with sincerity and passion. It's hard not to feel inspired watching Jamie. I think he is an amazing person. It's kind of incredible how many things he's done already, and only 33. It might be easier in the U.K., but in the U.S. it's a bit hard to keep track of him; over the years, I've always tried to watch his shows whenever I can find them on cable here in the states, but he seems to come and go, showing up on different channels or out of the blue. I found the shows about Fifteen and his Italy trip (which I just stumbled upon one day) pretty poignant, actually. I only have two of his cookbooks (the companion cookbook for Jamie at Home comes out in the U.S. in September; it's already out in the U.K). So though, through the years, I have always really rooted for him, I must say that this new show has utterly won me over. The beauty of it, along with his energy and enthusiasm, is really inspiring me this summer. I hope he does an episode on berries.
This weekend has been wonderful. On Thursday I took the day off. But I did not answer emails, I did not sit in the yard, I did not make iced tea; I sewed. I had the urge. For seven hours. I got a pattern, shopped for fabric, pinned, cut, ironed, and then stitched an entire dress in one fell swoop. Of course, the result was the ugliest dress in the whole wide world, but still. It was all fun until I tried it on (it had a circular yoke which you attach at the very end, so there was no trying-on until it was finished, at which point I screamed at the top of my lungs and stomped outside, and gave my Adirondack chair, in which I was supposed to be sitting and sunning and drinking iced tea, a very dirty look). On Friday I made a cotton lining for my straw bag (that went fine), sewed two wrap skirts (that went fine), and bought some new clogs (fine), and all of it made up for the dress disaster (I'll try and take a picture of it tomorrow because you will laugh, and I'll show you my wrap skirts, too). We made it out to Blue Lake at the end of the day where Andy fell asleep on the grass and I finished Nine Coaches Waiting, which was good (though I can't for the life of me figure out why it is called Nine Coaches Waiting or what that means?). Yesterday we had a really fun traveling potluck with two groups of neighbors (I had the entree, and made Tyler's chicken enchiladas again = good party food). And today is more organizing of cabinets (not fun, but so nice when finished) and kickball league later this afternoon. Good, relaxing (four-day) weekend. Just what I needed. Hope yours is going great!
June, where are you going? It's already the second half of June. I found these pictures in my May folder, from Memorial Day weekend when we rode bikes down to the Multnomah County Fair at Oaks Park, and it seems so long ago already, though it was only a few weeks. It's sort of a weird fair — mostly people selling vinyl siding and window replacements, but there were rides, a few early fruits, flowers, and veggies, and the Oregon dairywomen's ice-cream booth. I think this picture is sort of hilarious, myself. What a good sport.
Whew, I am pooped! I'm almost done with the things I am committed to finishing by deadline. Then I will clean the studio, which is completely trashed. I really wanted to do something just for fun, for me — I bought fabric to make a couple of summer dresses and I have an idea for a few A-line reversable wrap skirts. I even washed, dryed, and ironed my fabrics last night. And then, contemplating pattern layouts, I fell into a heap on the bed and started snoring, straight on 'til morning. There is something very relaxing about ironing, I must say.
I love this photo. This was a little flowers-in-teacups display at the fair. It's just sweet. I love the mint green. I'm going to slow the pace down a bit today, and play catch up. Answer emails for once. Sit in my yard with the laptop for a bit, if the sun comes out. Make iced tea. Maybe go buy some new clogs, for the wrap skirts. Turn down the volume. Pacing, pacing. I'll get there.
Isn't it funny how different pasta shapes taste different and different stuffed pastas taste different, even though the ingredients are generally exactly the same? As a child I loved thin spaghetti and shells, and didn't like perciatelli (which we often had) or tortellini (which we never had) or mostaccioli (which is like penne but bigger; I like penne; see how picky?). Ravioli = always good, if it's cooked al dente. My grandma made it from scratch but hers was never my favorite, and I know now that she cooked it for several minutes longer than I preferred. Overcooked pasta, oh how I dread you! So close, and yet so far [from being edible]!
My mushroom sauce comes from my college roommate Ann and a time when we ate an almost entirely vegetarian diet, though you could easily add some pancetta to this, before cooking down the mushrooms, and it would be even more woodsy and mellow. As it is, there is a sweetness about this sauce, due to the honey, and you want really nice canned tomatoes here -- go for those ruby-red imported-from-Italy ones.
2 T. butter
2 large onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 c. mushrooms, sliced
1 t. oregano
1 t. basil
4 T. tomato paste
1 T. tamari or soy sauce
1 T. honey
1 large can (about 35 oz.) Roma tomatoes
Melt butter in large saucepot or Dutch oven over low-medium heat, and saute onions for about 15-20 minutes, until very soft and beginning to caramelize. Add garlic, and cook for another minute. Add the mushrooms and saute (turn up heat a bit) for another 15 minutes until mushrooms are cooked down and most of the extra liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated. Add oregano, basil, tomato paste, tamari or soy sauce, and honey. Stir, then add the tomatoes, breaking them up with your hands or a wooden spoon. Simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes, season to taste and serve, or cool the sauce a bit, and put into the refrigerator to reheat the next day.
Clover Meadow thanks you for your vote of confidence! I'm going to have her write the blog from now on because I can't seem to get caught up. When you see lots of food and dishes on this blog, you know that there has been Secret Crafting going on behind the scenes. In the last couple of weeks I've been racing around trying to make my deadlines — finished proposal #2 and FedExed that out on Thursday, finished one magazine submission for Christmas stuff on Sunday, and am working on another, due on Friday. My Tanglewood bags are delayed, but still happening, I swear! I have five made, and I was going to wait until I finished twelve, but I'm thinking I'll photograph the ones I've finished and make them available, then finish that pattern, and then do the rest of the seven. With magazines, you have to quick put down your thread and pick up their thread; things have to happen fast. Fast crafting is a challenge for me; at the end of a long, fast day, I cook to slow things down, and relax. I get asked a lot of questions about mags, and I will write a post about what I know about working with them sometime soon, if anyone is interested?
My heart truly goes out to everyone in the Midwest, especially those around our old stomping grounds — western Illinois and eastern Iowa along the Mississippi River, where Andy and I went to school. Thoughts and prayers.
Chelan cherries from the farmer's market yesterday. Not the best, says the cherry man, 'cause we're not quite there yet, but a good early cherry. I was feeling French-ish, so I thought I'd make a cherry clafoutis for Aimee and Pat, who were coming for dinner.
I used Fran Warde's recipe for plum calfoutis from one of my very favorite cookbooks, Eat Drink Live: 150 Recipes for Morning, Noon, and Night. This book, along with my other favorite of hers (also photographed by my photography idol Debi Treloar) Food for Friends: Simply Delicious Menus for Easy Entertaining, gets pulled out frequently when peeps are coming 'round for dinner. I paw through them just for inspiration. I really can't recommend them highly enough. I'm pretty sure I've talked about them before. If you are feeling dreamy about your weekends, or want to make a plan to get them going, these books are so lovely and encouraging.
My thing this summer, though, is to sort of do the same thing over and over again, no matter who's coming. Well, maybe with a little variation, usually in the dessert. And that variation can be dictated by whatever it is I find at the farmer's market on Saturday morning. My basic menu is: garlic ciabatta bread (from the farmer's market), mushroom sauce (I make this on Friday afternoon), cheese ravioli (from Pastaworks), simple salad (with greens from the farmer's market), and make-ahead dessert (with fruit from the farmer's market). That's it. Nothing that has to be prepared at the last minute except for the ravioli. I have yet to encounter anyone who doesn't love ravioli. For many years, my defining characteristic in my family was that I was "the one who loves ravioli." (And "the one who said 'Ow!' when hit with a marshmallow that her sister threw at her," but whatever! I don't remember the event, but the story has been told about me so many times now that it is accepted as fact, so . . . fiiiiiiine. That's fine. Now you know.)
A clafoutis is like an eggy, custardy, pancake-y batter, poured over some fruit and baked into a moist layer. I like all things eggy, custardy, and pancake-y, and I love cherries, though you can do this with plums or blueberries or even strawberries, or probably any berry or stone fruit, I would think? It looks cool with cherries. Apparently there's some controversy about whether the cherries should be pitted, but I would absolutely pit mine. Especially if you have use of your neighbor's (on the other side, this time — how lucky am I that I have such epicurean neighbors, I know) cherry pitter. This thing is pretty cool. You can see the cherry at the top of the spout? You put it there, and then push down on this little plunger that pushes the pit out and into the bucket below. As the plunger comes back up, it lifts the cherry and then tosses it down the chute and into the waiting casserole dish. Dear Santa, I've been a very good girl this year and I would like my very own cherry pitter. Thank you, much love always, Alicia P.
There's not much to the batter — a half cup of flour, a half cup of sugar, four eggs, and two cups of milk. All whisked together and poured over the cherries. I might add a little salt to this next time, and maybe a dash of vanilla. It's a bland pud, but I like that sort of thing. Pop it in the oven for forty minutes at 375 degrees F. Don't accidentally turn the oven up to 475 and then go sit on the front porch and have a beer, only to come careening into the house when you smell roasting pancake and yank it all out. Why do I do things like this. I don't know. It was saved, but honestly. 475? Girl. Put down the beer and read the directions.
After it cools, sprinkle some powdered sugar on top. I bought a can of powdered sugar with a sprinkle-top from the Dutch import store, and it is the best, because you don't have to mess with the sugar bag, which is impossible to open without making a mess, or find the tiny strainer which you can never find because its jammed in the back of the utensil drawer, or try to sprinkle the sugar off of a spoon, so it always falls off in big clumps and looks stupid. The can is awesome. Oh, and the clafoutis was good, too!
My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com
Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.