eat your veggies

vintage veggies

Don't you just love this fabric? I spotted it on eBay and thought it would be perfect for the pot holders I seem to be making a lot of these days. The color palate is pretty simple—just yellow, white, red, and green on black—but it has a surprising variety of vegetables. Yellow squash, tomatoes, green peppers, corn, radishes, beets, peas, and even artichokes. That's a vegetable you don't see much on fabric!

This fabric wasn't cheap, but it's so cute and also 2 yards in length. It's hard to find yardage in vintage fabrics and I wasn't going to pass it up.


fly away

There's a scene at the end of the pilot episode of the new ABC show Pan Am with a little girl watching the stewardesses walking down the runway and boarding the plane. One turns back and catches the little girl's eye and makes her smile. I was that little girl. The thought of being an airline stewardess (and no, they were not called flight attendants back then) seemed exciting and romantic, a way to travel the world, have adventures, do and see exciting things.

My stylish grandmother flew on Pan Am from Tulsa to visit us in New York. Dressed to the nines, of course, because this was the early 1960s and people dressed up to go just about anywhere including airplanes. We would drive to the airport, JFK or La Guardia, to pick her up, and had plenty of time for people-watching while we waited. That exact scene probably happened to me at least once.

I even remember reading Coffee, Tea or Me?: The Uninhibited Adventures of Two Airline Stewardesses by Trudy Baker and Rachel Jones, borrowed from my mother's bookshelf and read in secret because it was pretty racy for a 12-year-old—they weren't kidding when they used uninhibited in the title :)

By the time I was old enough to seriously be thinking about careers, airline stewardess was pretty far down on the list. I realized that the job was basically a waitress in an airplane and the restrictions (weight, proper attire, etc.) were brutal. I didn't have the body or the personality.

Watching the show the other night brought back some of these memories. Any show that models itself on the Mad Men formula will be compared to it and come up short; it may take place in the same era but it doesn't quite have the sly humor that Mad Men does. I liked it anyway and will give it a chance while I'm waiting for Mad Men's return in January.

Pan Am, ABC, Sundays at 10pm


this could be dangerous

You might ask where I've been all this time, but I've just discovered treasuries on Etsy. I mean, I knew what they were and I've looked at some and even been featured on a few. But I never made one myself. It's incredibly addicting!

etsy treasury

In case you don't know how it works, you curate a collection of Etsy items based on a theme of your choosing (the one shown above was the color apple green), arrange the photos nicely, publish it, and wait for comments—most of which will be from the artists you featured thanking you for featuring them. I've done four in the last two days. It's the kind of thing that once you start it's hard to stop.

You really get a feel for what's out there in the craft community after spending an hour weeding the gorgeous handmade things from the um, not-so-gorgeous, assembled-rather-than-crafted stuff. Let me just say that there's an incredible amount of the gorgeous. And a great photo goes a long way, too.

You can see my treasuries here. And I have about twenty ideas for more. I'm never going to get any work done :)


soup's on

You know it's fall when your thoughts turn to soup when planning dinner. It's been very cold here—38 degrees yesterday morning—so soup sounded like the perfect thing to warm us up.

One of my favorite go-to soups is this white bean one from The Silver Palate Cookbook. It involves some chopping of ingredients but isn't too time-consuming if you substitute canned beans for the dried. I'm usually not a big fan of canned veggies, but beans (and tomatoes, for that matter) are nearly as good as fresh. And, around here, all you're going to find in the winter.

White Bean and Sausage Soup with Red Peppers

4 tablespoons sweet butter
2 cups finely chopped yellow onions
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
6 parsley sprigs
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken stock
1-1⁄4 cups dried white beans, soaked overnight (or 2 cans white beans)
2 sweet red peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1⁄2 pound hot Italian sausage, precooked
salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a pot. Add onions, carrots, and garlic and cook, covered, over low heat until vegetables are tender and lightly colored, about 25 minutes.

Add parsley, thyme, and bay leaf and pour in the stock. Drain the beans and stir them into the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until beans are very tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. (If you're using canned beans, you just need to heat them up for about 15 minutes. And I usually add the liquid from the can, too.)

Pour the soup through a strainer, reserving the stock. Discard the bay leaf and transfer the solids to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, or use a food mill fitted with a medium disk. Add 1 cup of the cooking stock if using the processor and process until smooth.
Return pureed soup to the pot and stir in additional cooking liquid, 2 to 3 cups, until the soup is of desired consistency. (I'm not as fussy as this. I blend it all together in the food processor—in batches—the consistency is fine.)

Cut away stems and ribs of the peppers and dice them. Heat olive oil in a small skillet, add peppers and saute over low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender but still crunchy, about 15 minutes. Transfer peppers to the soup with a slotted spoon.

Dice the cooked sausage, and add it to the soup. Set over medium heat and cook, partially covered, until heated through, about 15 minutes. Season to taste and serve immediately. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Serve it with a crusty baguette. Leftovers, if you have any, reheat really well for lunch the next day. I think you could easily make this a vegetarian dish by substituting vegetable stock for the chicken, and leaving out the sausage. The sausage adds a nice bit of spiciness but it's plenty flavorful without it.

For dessert I tried Ina Garten's Old-Fashioned Apple Crisp recipe with a combination of apples—a few leftovers from a recent trip to the farmer's market and a few from our trees. I agree with some of the commenters that it turned out a bit too wet so, next time, I may add a bit of flour to the filling or cut down on the juice. The flavor was wonderful so the recipe is definitely a keeper.

Now it's time to dig out some of my winter sweaters. If it doesn't warm up today I'm going to need them :)


local find

Although I haven't had very good luck this summer with flea markets, I am still finding great stuff on Ebay and in local shops. Like this cute little table/shelf—not sure what to call it—that I found for $28 at an antique store in Milford, Pennsylvania.

vintage painted shelf

It has shelves but it also has handles on top like a bed tray. It came with a simple coat of white and I'm using the leftover paint from my armoire repainting project earlier this year—a light green, a little yellowish but definitely not minty—what's called celery green, I think. It was the perfect color for the armoire as it picked up one of the secondary colors in the vintage fabric I used in the room. But, it also happens to pick up one of the stripe colors in the upstairs hallway runner. So, I'm going to use the piece right outside the bathroom to hold towels. The bathroom itself is too small to hold anything; it barely holds one person at a time :)

vintage painted shelf

The color thing is a little interior design trick. Bring a secondary color from one room into the next room, even if the primary colors are very different, and everything flows together. Not in a formal decorated way but in a casual, unstudied way. For example, one of our bedrooms is mostly turquoise and lavender with the green armoire. That same green, picked up again in the hallway rug (and now in my new table), ties together the two spaces, even though the hallway is painted yellow. The room next door is painted a deep red called henna and it all works because of the striped rug that contains all those colors. I just bought a new shower curtain for the bathroom that also opens into this hallway and it has some yellow among the other colors. So, even though the walls are painted a light blue (called sea glass), the yellow picks up the yellow from the hallway. Easy peasy. And you thought you couldn't decorate without professional help!


and they called it puppy love...

Little Rascal
Who doesn't love puppies, or any small animals for that matter? I especially love the cute embroidered kind that you find on vintage linens. Actually, all of these began as stamped-for-embroidery projects. I'm happy to create pillows from already embroidered linens but it's so much easier to be able to chose thread colors to coordinate with fabrics you love!

button closeup
I've used primary colors for the first pillow and strategically-placed a few tiny buttons within the embroidery—one on his beanie, and two on his overalls. It's really hard to find very tiny buttons—I got these at Joann Fabrics.

Give the Dog a Bone
The second pillow uses a dog bone and paw print fabric and two bright orange vintage buttons. Both of these pillows are just listed for sale on my website.
embroidery closeup
I have tons more stamped embroidery blocks to work up and will probably make finishing them a winter project. Some are truly funny—think pigs with footballs, basketball-playing chipmunks, bowling dogs. Those are going to make fun pillows!


summer's going fast

You're probably wondering why I haven't reported back about my flea market trip last month. It's because the day was a huge disappointment and I hate even thinking about it. I budgeted a certain amount for the trip and barely spent any of it. Maybe it's because this textile-linen-button theme market always falls over the July 4th weekend. There were very few vendors (really, who wants to sit all day over a holiday weekend when you could be swimming or picnicking or barbecuing) and most of my favorite sellers were not there. I may even skip it next year (and I've gone about 5 years in a row now).

My best find of the day was a length of vintage (40s?) rayon fabric for $2. Aren't the colors great? Rayon isn't something I use in my work but there's enough to make a pretty blouse from it.

vintage 40s rayon

The day wasn't a complete waste because I got to visit my friends at Hello Bluebird and Tea Street Vintage in West Reading. And I delivered a new batch of covered notebooks and sachet stacks.

In other news I've been busy with the new local shop, working on Thursdays and sewing like mad to keep my space fully stocked. And then there's the garden and things around the house. You know how it is in the summer—and boy is it going fast this year! Anyway, in spite of the fact that I haven't been posting much, I'm still here :)


it's war

...against the woodchucks who've taken up residence in my yard. First they ate the last picking of peas, then they munched the tops of my baby lettuces, and now they've moved on to the beans. At least with those, they're eating the leaves and not the beans themselves.

I almost wish they'd eat some of the cucumbers. I picked about 4 dozen of them last night. I've been making my mom's cucumber salad which is really a refrigerator pickle with no canning involved. But really, how many of them can you eat? And we all thought zucchini was prolific!

These are the easiest thing to make and you can keep adding more sliced cucumbers to the liquid. My mother used to keep a jar in the fridge all summer. We ate them with most meals and they're even good on sandwiches with a little sweet butter to keep them from soaking into the bread too much.

Sliced Cucumber Salad

1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup water
4 medium cucumbers. thinly sliced
2 small onions, thinly sliced
pepper, chopped fresh dill

Mix together the sugar, salt, vinegar, and water and stir until the sugar dissolves. Pour over the cucumbers and onions and sprinkle with pepper and chopped dill (you can leave this out if you don't like dill) to taste. Refrigerate for several hours, preferably overnight. This works well for a flattish dish but the cucumbers and onions should be completely covered with liquid so, if you're using a deep bowl or jar, you may want to double the liquid ingredients.

It's a great way to use up some cucumbers. But, if you have as many as I do now, you may have to make "real" pickles, too. Time to dig out the bread-and-butter pickle recipe :)


unwelcome visitor

black bear

I realize this isn't the best photo. It was starting to get dark and he'd just knocked over our bird feeders. We were more concerned with getting him out of our yard than taking a picture. Right when I snapped this he was on the move—over the wall and across the road. Apparently he doubled back because our neighbors (behind us and up the hill) called a short while later and told us he was after their bird feeders. Their dogs chased him away and back towards our next door neighbors house.

The funny thing is we knew he was around. Last week my husband said that we really needed to start taking in the feeders at night (which is kind of a hassle so easy to put off). Sure enough that very night he knocked over the pole that supports four feeders and scattered seed and pieces of broken feeder everywhere. Our neighbor told us that, a few nights later, someone saw him running away from a chicken coop with a chicken in his mouth. I suspect we're in for more drama with this hungry little guy. And, yes, I do mean little. This is a second year bear, first year away from mom, and he's going to get much bigger!

Update: Last Saturday, about 5 miles from here, a mother and three newborn cubs were up in a tree in someone's backyard. Since this was in a town they had to call animal control, who tranquilized the bear and moved her and the babies out into the woods somewhere. Hopefully not our woods—we have enough problems of our own :)


on a mission

I've been searching forever (OK, at least a year) for a small bookcase that's 16-18 inches wide that I can use upstairs, either next to the bed or in the hallway outside the bedroom. Yes, we have too many books and our downstairs shelves are overflowing.

It really holds quite a lot for being so small!

Surprisingly hard to find. But I did last Saturday at the antique mall. It's very simple, mission style, with four shelves and just 17 inches wide (and 8 inches deep). And it fits exactly in the space between two door frames in the hallway. It's in pretty good shape with the paint worn down in places (I'm going to repaint it anyway) and slightly wobbly (a strategically placed nail should fix that). The booth seller was having a 20% off sale so I got it for $24!

shelf top
On top are a green pottery bowl, two watercolor wildflower prints, some vintage keys, and a small book of humorous essays (which I'll blog about soon).

I've filled it with books for now until I figure out what color to paint it. And until it's actually warm enough to paint.

This vintage hand-carved shelf with mirror back is hanging on the wall above. On it are a vintage-style bird, a favorite quote, and a vintage rhinestone pin with turquoise stones. You can't tell I love turquoise, can you?


cuteness overload

I spent yesterday treasure hunting in Quakertown, Pennsylvania and it was a whirlwind trip because I went to four different antique malls and shops. Exhausting but I figured, since I'd driven an hour and a half, I might as well do as much as I could while there. I found some great stuff but I'm still processing everything (logging in prices and info for future reference, soaking and washing linens, then picture taking) so it will be a few days before I start showing you the goodies. But I couldn't wait to show you this sweet embroidered towel. Are these the cutest dog and cat portraits ever?

embroidered towel

Amazing how just a few simple embroidered lines can convey such personality! Nice use of chain stitch for the bows, too. Click through to my Flickr page to see some closeup shots of the animals.

embroidered towel


the immense edifice of memory

I knew someone in college who had no sense of smell (the condition is called anosmia), and hence no sense of taste either, since the two are intertwined. I can't imagine what that must be like. Some of our best memories are often tied up with scents (and tastes). I can't tell you how many times I've smelled something and it took me right back to my childhood. Maybe it was a whiff of perfume and cigarette smoke that reminded me of my Aunt Peggy, or the smell of the honeysuckle I mentioned a few days ago taking me back to my great-grandmother's porch.

Marcel Proust, in The Remembrance of Things Past, described what happened to him after drinking a spoonful of tea in which he had soaked a piece of madeleine: "No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses...with no suggestion of its origin..."

"Suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was of a little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings...my Aunt Leonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea.... Immediately the old gray house on the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set...and the entire town, with its people and houses, gardens, church, and surroundings, taking shape and solidity, sprang into being from my cup of tea."

"When nothing else subsists from the past, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered...the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls...bearing resiliently, on tiny and almost impalpable drops of their essence, the immense edifice of memory."

Some of my favorite smells:
• baking, especially fresh bread or anything with cinnamon
• the wet dirt smell right after it rains
• fresh-picked strawberries in summer


• the farm smell of vintage feedsacks that haven't been laundered yet
• sheets that have hung out on the line all day in the sunshine
• Coppertone suntan lotion at the beach

What are some of yours?


color is subjective

When I heard that Pantone's choice for color of the year was Honeysuckle, I immediately thought of the honeysuckle vine that climbed the lattice of my grandmother's porch. And was expecting a pretty yellow, not the dark pink that they chose to represent the color. That's the problem, I guess, with naming something after a flower that has 180 species (and presumably 180 different colors).


I actually started this post a while ago but was reminded of it today when I received an email from retailer Ann Taylor announcing their new hue for spring - Fresh Tulip. Not a bright red like you might expect when you think of tulips, but a lavender purple. Now, tulips have even more colors than honeysuckle does, so you can see the problem.

The reason I wrote this was that a friend posted on Facebook that she was repainting her living room with a color named Alpaca, which she said was just another name for a neutral beige. I'm not sure when this naming of colors thing started — maybe it was Martha Stewart who started the trend with her paint line for Sears. My bathroom is painted with a color called Sea Glass which sounds a whole lot better than aqua and fits perfectly with my seashore-themed bathroom. But, I've seen real sea glass in all sorts of colors and who's to say that you don't think Sea Glass is a different shade of green than what I picture.

So, yes, color is personal.

One of my favorite movie scenes is from Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, where Myrna Loy, who plays wife to Cary Grant's ad executive, is discussing colors with their contractor and house painter:

Muriel Blandings: I want it to be a soft green, not as blue-green as a robin's egg, but not as yellow-green as daffodil buds. Now, the only sample I could get is a little too yellow, but don't let whoever does it go to the other extreme and get it too blue. It should just be a sort of grayish-yellow-green.

Now, the dining room. I'd like yellow. Not just yellow; a very gay yellow. Something bright and sunshine-y. I tell you, Mr. PeDelford, if you'll send one of your men to the grocer for a pound of their best butter, and match that exactly, you can't go wrong!

Now, this is the paper we're going to use in the hall. It's flowered, but I don't want the ceiling to match any of the colors of the flowers. There's some little dots in the background, and it's these dots I want you to match. Not the little greenish dot near the hollyhock leaf, but the little bluish dot between the rosebud and the delphinium blossom. Is that clear?

Now the kitchen is to be white. Not a cold, antiseptic hospital white. A little warmer, but still, not to suggest any other color but white.

Now for the powder room - in here - I want you to match this thread, and don't lose it. It's the only spool I have and I had an awful time finding it! As you can see, it's practically an apple red. Somewhere between a healthy winesap and an unripened Jonathan. Oh, excuse me...(she leaves the room here)

Mr. PeDelford: You got that Charlie?

Charlie the Painter: Red, green, blue, yellow, white.

Mr. PeDelford: Check.

And that just about says it all :)


a kitchen failure

I never ate macaroni and cheese when I was growing up. My father didn't like it so my mother never made it. So, I don't have any history with cooking it. Like some of those things you learned to make when you were young and you don't need a recipe anymore. I could make pizza dough or my sponge cake (for strawberry shortcake) in my sleep :)

I found a recipe for Horn and Hardart's famous macaroni and cheese in a cookbook - the one they served for years and years and it has chunks of tomato in it. That's how my husband ate it when he was a kid. So, I bought all the ingredients and set out to make it one night last week. I was suspicious almost right away because the base sauce just wasn't thickening up. But, I went ahead anyway, because I'm the type of cook who has to follow the recipe the first time. I'll fool around with it later if I think it needs help but I like to try it the way it was originally intended to be. So, I put it in the oven and started on the salad. Checked on it periodically and it still wasn't thickening up. I think I cooked it an extra half hour and that finally did the trick. But the cheese had "broken" by that point and it was inedible—and not too attractive-looking either.

Maybe the cookbook authors never tested the recipe, or Horn and Hardart's purposely left something out when they supplied it, or I did something wrong. I'm sure there wasn't enough flour and butter for the amount of milk. Not that I'm going to try making it again any time soon—at least not this version.

So, do any of you make macaroni and cheese and want to share your recipe and tips? And yes, for you smart alecks, I could just open a box of Krafts. But that screaming yellow color - yikes! What's in there anyway?


liquid damage

or, why water and laptops don't mix. Two days into the new year and I'm working on the coffee table because it's cold upstairs in my studio. My cats get into a fight and my glass of water went flying. I thought I'd grabbed my laptop in time but some water must have gotten into the vents. First the shift keys stopped working, then the power button. I dropped the computer off at the local Macintosh dealer, they had to send it to the liquid damage center, and three days later I picked it up good as new. The only problem was that it cost almost as much to fix as it did to buy a new one - liquid damage voids the service contract - and don't think they can't tell that it's liquid either. I had to think really hard about buying a new computer but decided to stick with the old one for now. So, the moral of the story is, don't drink anything near your computer. And maybe make sure you have cats that don't wrestle on the coffee table :)

Sorry I haven't been around much the past month or so. I actually have some graphic design work that's keeping me busy and I'm working on my website and Etsy shops behind the scenes, too. Plus there's just not much happening here in the winter. I could tell you about shoveling snow but you're likely doing that yourselves and are thoroughly sick of it by now!