Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Certain Age

I may be a lady of a certain age, but I like to think of myself as more like Buffy than Mrs. Roper
Tell me McCalls, why do you want me to wear a caftan?
Caftan should ONLY be worn under the following circumstances: you are traveling in a caravan by camel to the source of the Nile. Every evening when the caravan stops at an oasis, you bathe and slip into your silk embroidered caftan and recline while quiet servants bring peeled grapes, cool juices and delightful mezze to awaken the appetite. Perhaps Robert Redford or Ralph Fiennes is peeling those grapes.
Other than that occasion, I'd vote NO on the caftan issue.
Dear McCalls, please take back this caftan, the baggy unsuitable babydoll tops, and instead bring me the suave, witty, sophisticated patterns I ordered.
Thank you.
Mrs. Hunting Creek

Monday, March 23, 2009

Looking for a few Good Books

Some people say that they like to read, and others (we know who we are) can't imagine getting through a day without a good book to read. Anne Fadiman said in a pinch she'd read a Toyota Manual, but if given a choice we turn to our favorites.
After years of serious reading I find that I can't just read anything. In my younger days I felt obligated to finish books if I started them, but no longer. If it is Not Worthy, I stop reading. My son won't even start reading a book for pleasure unless he has some guarantees of quality.
I have some favorites, and maybe my vast reading public in internetland can recommend some new reading for me while I recover from some minor yet annoying medical issues.

My Reading Rules:

It MUST be well written. I am not picky about genre. I like Science fiction; I like mysteries; I like cookbooks. I loved Ursula LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness and many of her other books. One of my newer favorites is Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell. I've read it three times now. It is wonderful. I think I could take a class on this book. It is rich with detail.

A good Book can be read multiple times and reveals new aspects with each reading.
Patrick O'Brian's Royal Navy series are wonderful and I have read each one many times. The characters are well developed, the action flows naturally from one scene to the next. These books are crafted by a master. John Le Carre is another favorite. One summer I read every one of his books one after another. Someone could compile a spy manual out of his novels. I remember reading passages aloud to my family as we drove up to Vermont. The Constant Gardener will always remind me of summer in Stowe.

If the book is a fantasy, I expect the rules to remain consistent. If the author tells me that the hero can walk up walls, then don't set it up so that in the crucial scene he/she can't do that. (Please note this rule, author of Across the Nightingale Floor .You must be magically consistent.)

If it is a period piece, stay true to the period
. No modern slang. I find that modern talk in a 1920's novel distracting. I read a book set in England during the time of the War of the Roses where the hero sent the heroine a bouquet of white roses in late autumn. That took me right out of the story; there were no reblooming roses in Britain at that time. Roses in England before the cross breeding of china roses with native stock only bloomed in spring and summer, once only. I realize only a gardener would KNOW that, but it bothered me then and continues to bother me, even now.

Wit matters. If Lord Peter were a Real Person, I'd seriously reconsider my marriage vows with Mr. Hunting Creek. (Not that Mr. Hunting Creek is not witty. But he doesn't have a butler like Bunter.)Intelligence matters. I can't read Judith Krantz-type novels any more. They are all just so much junk food reading. I have to read something with some brains, now, some native charm. Triple Bonus points if the heroine wears great clothes.
Louise Andrews Kent wrote such a charming descriptions of her debutante clothes at the turn of the previous century I can see each dress in my mind's eye.
I have read every book in my house, except for Mr. Hunting Creek's MBA textbooks on accounting. All of them more than once, in fact. I need some new blood.
So Dear Readers, tell me, what good books have you read lately?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Inch by inch, row by row...

Happy Spring! Doesn't it seem like it's been winter forever?
Those of us who garden were happy to read that the White House is turning a section of that lovely yet wasteful lawn into a garden! (It's enough to warm Dave
and Alice Water's hearts.) Mr. Hunting Creek and I would get rid of most of our lawn if we could and just grow herbs and flowers. Every year we convert just a little bit more of the front lawn into garden. Sneaky but effective.
I like to order my seeds from Pinetree Garden Seeds. They have a great selection and great prices. (not affiliated, just a happy customer)
We grow herbs on the back porch in pots and also in the flower beds. Since I live in the woods it's difficult to find a sunny spot for tomatoes, but I think we'll try some in the front garden by the roses. Who says tomatoes can't be ornamental?
If it's warm this weekend I'll have to plant some seeds. Happy Spring!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Spring Cleaning Confessional

In this illustration, don't these women look like they are 27 feet tall? The Vogue Pattern illustrator has an interesting view of women's proportions.
This is only one of the eleven patterns I found on my desk in the great Spring Cleaning episode on Sunday.

I also found the following projects, cut out and ready to go:

2 men's shirts, same pattern as my DBIL's shirt, but different fabrics. Poor Mr. Hunting Creek! His Hawaiian shirts were set aside so I could complete a shirt for another man! Good thing it is still too cold to wear them. I must get these done before it gets warm.

1 blouse in white eyelet,Butterick 4984, left from last summer that I did not get around to until it was fall, and then what is the point of making a white eyelet blouse in October?
1 top, McCall's 5469, also cut out last summer, same reason for not completing
1 pair of shorts, in cream twill, same reason
1 blue knit top, Vogue Koos - I can't find the number on the tissue because I traced it and of course did not write that down on the tissue. Really, the cutting out me is very inconsiderate of the documenting me. I will try to be more observant of keeping track of what's what.
1 green taffeta skirt, Burda 8176 from (I am embarassed to admit this, but truth will set you free, right?) December 2007.(hangs head in shame)
A pink gingham eyelet blouse cut out two summers ago. but wait, it gets worse:
A batik top with fishes on it, cut out so long ago that I had no memory of cutting it out, or where the fabric came from. Someone is sneaking projects on to my desk, that is the only explanation.

My goal this weekend? Complete what I have already cut out, and not start anything new. At least, not start anything new this weekend.
How is your Spring Cleaning coming along?
(isn't that a guilt-inducing question worthy of my mother-in-law?)

I resolved to keep cleaning until the room is finished.
(I know that I am easily distracted from tasks that I don't like doing. This is a personal failing that my mother pointed out many, many times.) Mr. Hunting Creek suggested that he'd take before and after pictures, to keep me motivated. "But my Dad reads my blog!" I cried in horror! "Innocent women and children might see!"
"Then you'd better finish", he said with an evil gleam in his eye.
Since the sword of Damocles is hanging over my head, perhaps I'd better.
Happy Sewing!

p.s. The website is fixed and people can place orders without getting scary messages from the Security Gods. Oh, Happy Day!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Feeling Insecure

When I tell people I have my own internet business, they say, "Oh you're so lucky! I'd like to start my own internet business!". To those people, I share the following story: Yesterday we got a phone call from a customer who wanted to place a phone order. Which is totally fine. Except the reason, she said, is that the website gave her a warning message saying that the site security certificate was invalid. Which is a weird crazy error. Mr. Hunting Creek calls the website people to find out why they are scaring all of our customers and driving off what business is out there, and discovers that they are no longer open on the weekends. Gee thanks, Network Solutions! Now all our customers will think we've been hijacked by Sengala Rebel Forces. SIGH.
A gal could lie awake at night and worry about all the business being driven away by this error, but, as Mr. Hunting Creek says, no worries, no one is buying anything nowadays anyway. Isn't he a little ray of sunshine!
Since there is absolutely nothing I can do until tomorrow, I have decided to clean my sewing zone. It has evolved into a mess so profound, that even the researchers who wrote about messiness and political preferences were unable to determine my political leanings. "You've moved beyond all of our research.", they said. Kind of like those old maps in story books that show the unknown parts of the world with the warning: Beyond these lands, there be dragons. That's the only only explanation for what is on, under and around my desk: dragons. They sneak in at night, like the mouse in the kitchen that my daughter saw last night, trying to drag a girl scout cookie bigger than the mouse itself into its secret mouse lair. (We will find you, Mrs. Mouse. These *&^#@# dogs are good for nothing. What we need is a cat around here!)
Scientists have found that cleaning and organizing makes people feel happier and more in control of their lives. Maybe if ALL of us cleaned and organized our desks this month for spring cleaning, we'd all be more cheerful lately.
Something to think about.
Happy Sewing (and cleaning!)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Modest Proposal

Is it just me, or is the girl on the right making a move on the girl on the left? And this was in the 70's! And my kids think we were boring back then...

And once you see it on one illustration, you see it everywhere.

I asked my son and he agreed. It wasn't my imagination. He suggested that it was signs of either a Russian Cold War Plot pre-Glasnost or Aliens.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Comfort Food: Banana Cake

My cookbook is falling apart. I've been making variations of this banana cake recipe since 1984, and it has always been a success. If I were to write a guidebook on cooking for company, the first advice I'd give to the beginner is, "Don't make a recipe that you haven't made before." (unless you are one of those brave souls who live for danger.) Your guests will have a better time if you are relaxed and happy, instead of worried that your mousse aux foie gras truffee is not going to unmold successfully. So don't make something exotic and stressful: make home food. Nice, delicious uncomplicated homemade food. Most guests would much rather have a real home-style Italian meal than Indonesian raw tuna. (Unless you hang out with a tough foodie crowd. But even THEY love a good burger.) I once read an article that quoted a famous chef as saying that his favorite treat was a stop at Burger King. Most professional chefs would kill for a homemade Toll House cookie. Make life easy for yourself and don't even try making restaurant food. Make real honest home food and everyone will rave about the cuisine.
Last night we had guests for dinner: my BFF from high school and her charming husband. We had a wonderful visit (alas, too short! They were here on business and could only come by for dinner). We had stuffed shells in parmesan cream sauce, zucchini, bread and banana cake for dessert.
As mentioned above, I've been making this since 1984 and it has stood the test of time. The original recipe is from Cafe Beaujolais by Margaret Fox If you can get your hands on a copy, I recommend it highly. This is my adapted version. I make the whole thing in my Cuisinart in 2 minutes.

Mom's Banana Cake (adapted from Cafe Beaujolais)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour 1 angel food cake pan, or a bundt cake pan. I use that baking spray mixed with flour. (Whoever invented this stuff should get the Nobel Prize for baking IMHO.)

In the food processor, puree
1 1/4 cups ripe bananas (three medium bananas)
1/2 cup corn, canola or other neutral vegetable oil
1/2 buttermilk ( or use plain yogurt, or vanilla yogurt or sour cream)
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla, or dark rum ( the rum option is especially nice)

then add
2 cups flour ( I have used half whole wheat and half white and everyone liked it)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Pulse the processor on and off until dry ingredients are mixed in, then pour into baking pan. Bake about 45-55 minutes (start checking at 45) until cake is no longer goopy and pulls away slightly from the sides. Let cool then unmold. Glaze or not as you prefer. Last night I made a simple glaze flavored with rum.
The original recipe contained nuts. Since so many people have mixed feelings on nuts, I never add them to desserts that I serve to guests.

The snow is still here, but the daffodils are bravely poking their noses out through it. It is supposed to be 65 this weekend.

I'm celebrating my birthday this weekend. I'll be sewing, baking and spending time with my family. I hope you have a warm spring-like weekend as well.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snowed In

The schools are closed, the roads are slippery, but the snow is awfully pretty from in here.
And the dogs love to play in it.

My son is happy because school is closed.

Where ever you are, I hope you are cozy and warm and enjoying your hot chocolate!