Friday, November 21, 2008

year three

A reader sent belated anniversary wishes, which reminded me I haven't posted in well over a week.

There's been a fair amount o'productive crap going on. We stacked firewood. We brought home a freezer. The SP ran wiring for through the basement ceiling, put in a couple of new outlets. We tidied the basement...somewhat... and emptied out three large tubs full of older clothes, towels, and bed linens. We discussed improvements to the basement that will probably have to wait another five years.

We took about 80 pounds of old clothes & stuff to Goodwill. I did some clean & repair work on some old costumes and put them up for sale on Etsy. We stacked more firewood. I brought some of my plants indoors.

We set up the freezer and brought home our beef from a small-town butchershop in DeSoto--pretty cool place, if reminiscent of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. They were out of lard. How can I make pie crust without lard?

We stacked a third load of firewood. In the first really cold weather we had, Monday night. The SP was coughing and feverish by the end of it. I made soup with some of our new hamburger--"pantry soup," I think of it--whatever canned beans I have on hand, the dregs of frozen vegetable bags from the freezer, couple jars of diced tomatoes, and a little dried pasta. Add some Italian seasoning and call it Minestroni.

It was very good. We ate that pot of soup over the next three days.

Tuesday and Wednesday, the SP stayed home sick. I would have insisted, if he hadn't.

I picked up some stuff to make an angel for a friend. I found a new source for feathers, Lamplight Feather, which had exactly what I wanted and was super-quick getting it to me. Nice quality, too.

(SIDE RANT: JoAnn's SUCKS. They have ZIP in the way of raw materials anymore. They've got six aisles of scrapbooking crap, an equal amount of "jewelry"-making crap, but no plaster, no cheesecloth, no wire, no dowels, NO DOLL PARTS OF ANY KIND. But they've got a frakkin' plastic molded skull 'n'crossbones for a kid to skin clay over and call it art. Gah.)

I still have half a list of sewing stuff to do before the end of November. I had a client place an order for a costume that I will probably make Thanksgiving weekend. I have two pairs of pants made for myself that need a little finishing so I can wear them.

So things keep moving along, round here. No writing, alas. I want to write, but I've been too busy and too tired. These last 2 1/2 weeks since going off Daylight Savings Time have wiped me out. At night I just want to huddle near the fire, where it's warm, and watch Venture Brothers reruns.

But yeah--our second anniversary was Tuesday. We had Mexican food at our favorite hole in the wall where the waiter speaks Spanish to me and I pretend to understand him. We went to bed early.

One so-called friend expressed surprise that it had been two years already--"Yeah, you're out of the honeymoon phase now," he prophesied with sadistic cheer. "Year three is when the power struggles start."

Tony and I looked at each other. "Quit drinking out of my water glass, you greedy broad," he said to me.

"You never want to share anything, selfish bastard," I replied.

We might have to practice this power-struggle thing.

Guess we'll have to stay together another year.

Monday, November 10, 2008

velvet tip

Here's a trick I figured out for reviving velvet. It's probably an old trick, but it was new to me.

Obviously you can't press velvet or the nap will compress, and some synthetic velvets I'm even afraid to steam, because the heat of a steam iron will sometimes cause rayon or acetate to shrink, fade or contort.

If you have some flat spots in your velvet, try this.

Get a household mister bottle full of clean water. We have a simple spray bottle I bought at the grocery store for $2; it has an adjustable nozzle so I can either squirt the cat with a fast stream, or spray a light mist over my ironing.

You will also need a fabric brush. Again, not anything new, but the first one I saw was like a revelation. It's a device shaped like a paddle hairbrush or a hand-mirror; skinny handle with a swollen flat head. On both sides of the head are circles of fabric with a stiff directional nap--it feels a little like the velvet itself, but rougher. You can find fabric brushes in the grocery store or big-box store, near the ironing boards and other laundry care items. They are also good for taking pet hair and lint off your clothes.

  1. Hang up your velvet piece.
  2. Mist the flat area with water.
  3. Brush the nap in multiple directions with the fabric brush until the flattened nap stands up in line with its surroundings.
  4. Let hang until dry.

That's it! If it's really stubborn you can try applying careful steam (only to warm the fabric,) then mist and brush.


I've had this long-running mission to recreate a flavor from my childhood: the "buttermilk crullers" Dad used to bring home from the grocery store on Sundays. I don't know who made them; some local bakery now defunct. But they were tender and sugary-moist, dripping with crusty syrup and tangy with buttermilk. Krispy Kreme's cake donutholes are similar, but at the same time nothing like--there's too much artificial stuff in the Krispy Kremes, and they don't have the sour note. Also there was an elusive perfume in the buttermilk cruellers--some subtle spice that I couldn't identify.

This week, I got close.

It was kind of an accident. Couple years ago, I was messing around with a Madeleines recipe that was too dry for my taste. In my kitchen, everything baked can be improved with a dollop of sour cream (except pie crust--don't go there). Sadly, when you add sour cream to Madeleines they are no longer Madeleines--they don't get that nice crumbly edge, or the spongy quality.

What I ended up with was something more interesting. And Saturday night I was jonesing for something sweet, so I pulled out this recipe and decided to try it again. I wanted something that could be baked in little cakes, you see--because frying is a nuisance, and because individual cakes can be wrapped up and frozen and I needn't eat them all at once, or let them go stale and wasted.

Here's the recipe. The batter itself is rich, rather than sweet. You could probably reduce the amount of sugar further, to 1-1/4 or 1-1/3, without damage. The glaze will add sweet as needed.

  • 1 cup (1/2 lb) butter (I used salted; if you use unsalted you will need to add a pinch of salt to the dry ingredients)
  • 1-1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 to 2 tsp vanilla extract (preferably the kind made with bourbon)
  • 2-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk yogurt, plain
  • about 1 tsp ground spices (read on)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

  2. Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla.

  3. In a measuring cup, combine yogurt and sour cream.

  4. In another bowl, combine the dry ingredients, including your desired spices. This time, I started with a combination of Penzey's Cake Spice, which is nice, but not quite what I wanted. I think the winning combination here is a touch of cinnamon, nutmeg or mace, and cardamom. I used about 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons total ground spices. This gave the cake a perfumy quality without tasting "spicy." Use a mild cinnamon like Vietnamese.

  5. Alternate adding the dry stuff and the sour cream to the batter in 2-3 stages, blending well after each addition. This batter is fairly thick and fluffy, especially after the baking powder and acids in the dairy go to work on either other.

  6. Let it sit for a couple of minutes, while you generously butter and flour your pans. I have a pan with six mini-bundt wells, which left a bit of batter left over that I put in a mini-springform pan. I'm sure you could also bake this in a loaf or full-sized bundt, but it would take forever.

  7. Spoon batter into prepared pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes (mini pans) or 45-60 minutes (full sized pans) or until a knife comes out clean. They will be pale on top, but the cake should be slightly brown at the edges and pulling away from the pan.

  8. Turn off oven, crack door, and let sit inside for another 5 minutes.

  9. Remove from oven, let sit in pans for 5-10 minutes while you mix up a glaze from 1 cup powdered sugar, a dash vanilla, and enough milk (2-4 Tbs) to make it pourable.

  10. Turn out cakes onto cooling rack with foil or parchment underneath. Set Cakes right-side-up and pour glaze lavishly over them. (If you want them super-sugary, you can set them in a jelly-roll pan, pour the glaze over, and let them soak up the excess. This is the way the buttermilk cruellers were glazed, but I am no longer ten and I don't need all that sweet.)

These are good warm, but I think they are best the day after. Wrap them up tightly after they are cool. They should freeze well.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

evil pawn jewelry

Oh by the way.... remember those Rococco dresses I did for Jewelry Girl back in August? Well, the very skilled (and talented) Melissa at Evil Pawn Jewelry has launched her new website. There are a few objects I feel lust for.

My dresses are nicely featured, too.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

enchanted doll

I maybe ought to qualify my rant about talent, and workmanship, and backhanded compliments.

Not that I modify my stance on people who complain that they can't do things whilst never attempting anything. But there's another reason why I must demure when folks carry on about how talented I am.

Because there's talent and then there's talent. I know where I stand; to paraphrase Emma Thompson's character in Impromptu, I have a tiny amount of talent and a moderate amount of craftsmanship. What I do may look impressive to the layman, but I know better. Marina Bychkova's work is several notches above anything I have done--both in vision and in execution.

I am in awe. And I envy her. She seems to have a clarity of purpose and focus that I've never had in my life. I'm spread too thin, over too many commitments.

I need to quit my day job.