Monday, November 29, 2010

Great site bra find!

If you wear a bra and lament things like underwires shattering before the rest of the bra has worn out, or just want to try your hand at DIY undies, the Bra-makers Supply site rocks! I haven't yet ordered from them, so I don't yet know what there customer service is like, but that will very soon be remedied.

I spend close to $100 EACH on my bras so not tossing keeping them going is a big concern for me. Now that I've got a working sewing machine, I may try my hand at making my own dainties and save a little money, as well as having custom design.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Shame I don't eat turkey

Spouse came home from his house-call yesterday with a big black trashbag which he set on the kitchen floor and said, "This is for you." Inside the bag was a 17 pound turkey. Raw. Thawed. Apparently the person he's gone to see had two and they hadn't been kept frozen. One was cooked for Thanksgiving but the other needed to be cooked soon.

Guess what I did today? If you said, "Roasted a Turkey," you would be correct!

A couple years ago I found a 1924 Boston Cooking-School cook book at a flea market in excellent shape and only $12. It's a great reference book if you can get over some of the rather vague instructions. Here is how to roast a turkey (emphasis mine):
Dress, clean, stuff and truss a ten-pound turkey. Place on its side on a rack in a dripping pan, rub entire surface with salt, spread breast, legs and wings with one-third cup butter, rubbed until creamy and mixed with one-fourth cup flour. Dredge bottom of pan with flour. Place in a hot oven, and when flour on turkey begins to brown, reduce heat, and baste every fifteen minutes until turkey is cooked, which will require about three hours.
Reduce the heat from hot to what, not quite so hot? My oven doesn't really have those settings. Plus I found it really hard to get the butter to adhere to the skin. My modification was to use a greater butter to flour ratio and add some fresh sage and rosemary to it (the stems going in the bottom of the pan) and put it under the skin. The skin itself was rubbed with coarse salt and pepper. From a modern cookbook (late 1960s Joy of Cooking) I got the 20 minutes per pound advice. The previous owner of the cookbook had done the calculations for their turkey, including what time time to place it in the oven if they wanted to eat at 3:00 (10:20 if you're interested.)

In the oven
In the oven

The bird was due to be done at 5:00, but when I got home at 4:00 it was literally falling off the bone. I let it rest and then disassembled it (sorry no pictures) and threw the bones and skin into a stockpot.

A right, proper stock pot

Dinner for tonight will be turkey for spouse, Quorn for me, roast onion. potato and carrot, stuffing and gravy. And a nice pumpkin cheesecake for afters.

Neck and giblets
Neck and giblets for meat gravy

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanks for Giving

We were invited over to a friend's home for Thanksgiving dinner yesterday. While bringing a dish wasn't required, I offered and brought a large salad, complete with home made dressing, plus a bottle of wine. Many hours of h'ordeuvres, wine, a HUGE meal and dessert later, we were driven home, sated and ready for bed (at least I was ready for bed!) For a wonderful day, I most heartily thank Tim and Susan for hosting, Katherine for bringing us there and Bari and Terry for taking us home.

Like in the US, turkey tends to be a once per year food in the UK, in their case at Christmas. And like here, one of the joys of cooking something so massive is leftovers. Spouse apologized for his presumption, but asked if he could take a little turkey home with him. Given that there was HALF a turkey left in a home with one meat eater, they happily obliged. He was looking forward to turkey sandwiches. "In England," he said, "we have them with sage and onion stuffing. Do we have any?" That last bit directed to me. Yes, they use packaged stuffing in England just like we do here, and no, I do not have any. What we do have at home is bread, sage (fresh and dried), onions, butter, celery, you get the idea.

Bread drying in a hot pan
Bread drying in a hot pan

So while everyone else in the country spent the fourth Thursday in November making stuffing, I made mine on the following Friday. One does hate to follow the crowd.

Cup of tea whilst I cook
Cup of tea whilst I cook

I made bread last Saturday and due to being rushed as we were going out to hear (be ushers for) the Brookline Chorus, the bread wasn't quite up to snuff. However, it made wonderful croutons for yesterday's salad, and the basis for today's stuffing.

Butter, celery and onions
Butter, celery and onions

A slow cooking dish, even one intended for sandwiches only, was just the activity I needed today. No frantic shopping, just a warm, cozy day at home.

Kitty finds a pile of clothes to groom in
Kitty enjoys warm and cozy too and finds a pile of clothes to groom in

Spouse has gone off to do come computer help, and I'm left in our little home, the scent of sage and onions (and loads of butter) wrapping around me. It smells like comfort and love.

sage, thyme, salt and pepper added

Last night, after coming home we cuddled and remarked how much we loved each other and how happy we were to be making a life together. As I look around our tiny, cluttered apartment, I see home. Spouse has made his mark here, in the midst of so much stuff of mine that was here before him, and it truly seem our space, even if only one we rent. This feeling of comfort and of belonging is what I am thankful for this year.

Happy Thanksgiving and beginning to the long, cold days ahead. May your hearts and homes be full of warmth, light and love.

Red sky at night, sailor's delight
Red sky at night, sailor's delight

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sunday Dinner

I didn't get pictures of all of it as by the time everything was cooked I just wanted to sit down and eat. The menu was:
Salad of cabbage, spinach and carrot
Roast Quorn with Roasted potatoes
Mushy peas
Yorkshire pudding
Bread with homemade butter
Steamed pudding with custard

Peas Soaking
Peas soaking

Potatoes await their fate
Potatoes await their fate

Another gorgeous loaf of bread
Another gorgeous loaf of bread

Steamed pudding
Fruit was leftover booze-soaked fruit (kept in the freezer) from the Christmas pudding

Pudding served
With Custard

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Little Bread Before Bed

Just out of the oven
Just out of the oven

Out of the pan
Out of the pan

First steaming slice with homemade butter
First steaming slice with homemade butter

Christmas Pudding

I decided to start the Christmas Pudding early this year. Traditionally it's supposed to be made the Sunday before Advent (Stirring Up Sunday), but since they are meant to be aged, and Advent means nothing to me, I opted to do it earlier to let it mellow.

The first step was chopping 2 cups of mixed fruit and letting it soak overnight in alcohol. Sherry, port, rum or brandy are typically used, but I had none of those! I used a combination of whiskey, Grand Mariner, sweet vermouth and a splash of absinthe.

Greased pudding basin and fruit soaked in booze

Greased pudding basin and fruit soaked in booze

Another old tradition is to place a silver coin in the pudding before steaming. Good luck comes to the person who finds it on their plate. A thuppence (three-penny coin) or sixpence was traditionally used, but these coins disappeared with the switch to decimal currency in 1973.  As luck would have it for us, downtown Boston is chock-a-block with various collectibles shops and we bought about a half dozen assorted coins from WWII this weekend, including two sixpence pieces.

Sixpence in boiling water to sterilize it

Sixpence in boiling water to sterilize it

I've made steamed puddings a lot over the years, even a couple of Christmas puddings, so I didn't really need a recipe. That said, I took this butter-based one and used it as a jumping off point.

Dry ingredients

Dry ingredients

One spice I hadn't used before was mace. While not all my spices match the recipe (I like to add cardamom) I did stick with the mace and think I may have over-spiced it a bit, but that should be remedied by the aging.

Sixpence waiting to be covered with more batter

Sixpence waiting to be covered with more batter

Four hours covered in a pot of simmering water and it was done.
Finished pudding ready for aging
Finished pudding ready for aging

I poured an ounce of dark rum on it tonight and wrapped it tightly. It will get more rum every fortnight or so until Christmas when it will be served flaming with brandy butter on the side.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sewing a new skirt for Autumn

My sewing machine has been repaired and cleaned and works very nicely. I had so much fabric let over from the six-gore skirt that I decided to go all out and do a skirt without a pattern.

I really, really want one of these Vivien of Holloway Pinafore skirts, but a) they're kind of expensive, and b) they don't come in my size. So, what's a girl to do? Well, they look like straight skirts with some darts for shaping, an extra high waist and straps added on. That shouldn't be too hard, right?

Well it took longer than I thought simply because I managed to throw my back out and sitting for long periods of time hurt too much. I eventually made myself start it on Saturday so I could wear it to a wedding on Sunday. The straps originally went over the shoulders straight, but I had cut them too long and my sloped shoulders enabled them to slip down constantly. After we got back from the wedding on Monday, I took the straps off in the back and crossed them over.
my big butt

The straps are far more stable now and actually fit! The skirt itself could use some tweaking, but since no pattern was used, I think it's a good effort over all.

Here's the front:

front of skirt

Thursday, October 07, 2010

More on the sewing front

Well, the sewing machine needed some work after all so I sent it in for repairs and a replacement motor. $200+ later, it's home and I did get to use it. Here is the skirt I made:

It actually didn't come out all that great so I think I'll be taking it apart and redoing the seams. Still it came together quite quickly and got me inspired.

I'll be working on a new project this week (hopefully tonight) and will write more, with pictures) once that's underway.

Friday, July 02, 2010


Here are some photos of what I've been up to. First up is a stack of sub-par crumpets (they ended up more like pancakes, but are okay toasted) next to the tub of homemade butter
crumpets and butter

Of course they were much nicer combined
crumpets with butter

Next up on the breakfast menu is homemade yogurt with the last of the blueberries from Tuesday's market
blueberries and yogurt

And finally, the results of my trip to the Friday farmer's market in Copley Square
fresh veggies

You can't even see everything! From left to right we have:
two balls of mozzarella (and notice my mozzarella kit lurking in the back)
Bag of tomatoes
The carrots and French radishes seem to be completely covering the pickling cucumbers and green beans
Small bag of plums in front of the carrots
Bag of English peas
Sourdough baguette
Basil and dill
Two small tubs of goat cheese with olive oil and herbs de Provence and a log of plain goat cheese
Jar of strawberry jam

I spent a ton of money, but looking at all of this wonderful food, I think it's worth it. You really can't beat fresh, real food and the price reflects the actual effort that goes in to growing, making (okay, not the $9 package of 2 cups of granola I saw, but certainly the cheese) and bringing to market all of this bounty.

Bon Apetit!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Where has the time gone?

I'm such a bad blogger (and I seem to say that a lot.) I've been working on things in the kitchen which I should have mentioned, bought new (old) clothes, and even started looking for a place to call our own.

On the Kitchen Front (I'll update with pictures later), I tried water bath canning pickles for our family reunion in June. I made beets, spicy garlic sprouts and dilly carrots. It seemed to go well and only two jars didn't seal. The plan is to put up a few market crops this summer so we can have them in the dark of winter. this weekend I will be doing beets and possible green beans as I saw some at the Tuesday market.

In other kitchen news, Mother Trucker inspired me to try my hand a yogurt. I found it had a lot of whey separating out, but haven't found the right mix for draining it yet. The second batch drained a bit too much and is almost cheese-like. Fortunately I kept the whey this time and can mix some back in.

Speaking of cheese, all this fermenting got me thinking about making real cheese again. I checked out New England Cheese Making Supply as I've gotten things from them before and they have a very reasonable mozzarella kit which is now on its way to me. If that goes well I will try again to make a cheddar, or perhaps go for their hard cheese kit and make some others.

The last of the dairy trifecta is butter. I've never understood how someone can accidentally make butter. I have never whipped cram beyond the fluffy stage myself, but this morning I went for it. I used two pints of heavy cream, left out in a covered bowl overnight, and whipped with a hand mixer it on low until it passed whipped cream and separated into fat (butter) and liquid (buttermilk). This is when some butter muslin would have come in handy, but I seem to be out (although more is on order with the cheese kit.) After you've gotten the separation, you need to drain the buttermilk off, which I did with a fine mesh strainer. You then kneed the butter in cold water to rinse out any remaining buttermilk, draining the water when it becomes cloudy. I packed it into a small container and popped it in the fridge, but will probably have to drain off some water when I get home. The butter I licked off my hands was delish!

This weekend should be much cooler than the past few weeks so I should be able to bake some things to top with all of this lovely butter. The plan is to finally start my peapod wine as well, which will clear out a lot of freezer space currently holding pods. I've never made wine before, so this should be an adventure!

That's all for now. Ill update this when I get home with some pictures of the things I've made.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The machine works!

I replaced the belt on the sewing machine last night, fired it up and she works a treat! I still haven't oiled anything yet, but I'm already planning a real, non-hankie project. I just ordered this skirt from Davenport and Company in Springfield. Fantastic email customer service by they way if you ever decide to order anything.

This looks like it should be easy enough for me to muck about with using whatever fabric I can find around the house before I go buy something nice.

The next project I'm contemplating is a vintage jumper with an Ubuntu logo embroidered on it for spouse. That will probably take a while though, and I still have a few other things to finish first. I promise I'll get the pictures of the tea cozies I made over Christmas plus the one I'm working on now.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Look what I got!

Hey, kitty, what's in the box?

What's in the box?

Looks interesting. Could it be...


Oh yeah! Sewing machine from the over-priced used furniture place next door! I didn't even haggle as it was only $30 and at least mostly works (we were only able to test the peddle in the shop.)

First order of business, after cleaning it up a bit, will be to take the old, ripped sheets and make hankies. Yea! New toy!

Friday, January 01, 2010

Welcome 2010

2009 was not a great year round our place, but now we can start fresh. I think I should learn to sew this year.