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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Eat Cake

I was reading Jody's blog and saw that she was making cakes. I realized that ever since I got this silicone bunt pan for Christmas I haven't used to. So, her blog motivated me to take it out and create something.

This looks rather sad. I should have put it on a plate and covered it in chocolate. OK. I made mistakes. The cake itself is divine. It looks awful because I thought, silicone, rubbery, easy to remove, doesn't need to be oiled. Right? Wrong.

Needs to be sprayed with oil. According to my findings on the internet. This beauty of a pan came without instructions. So I had no reference. Whe it cooled and I removed the cake carefully, although not horrible, it just wasn't as defined as I am accustomed with a well greased pan. Now I know.

The recipe:

Oven 350 o

In a bowl, sift:
2 1/2 C flour
1 1/2 ts b soda
2 ts cinnamon
2 ts ginger
1/2 ts salt

In another bowl mix:
1/2 C honey
1/2 C molasses
1 C hot water

In a heavy pan melt:

1/2 C butter
Let it cool a bit. Add:
1/2 C sugar
1 egg

Beet well, until it looks smooth.

Add the flour and the sweet mixture in bits until all is combined.

Add chopped dried fruits Like
Candied ginger

I never add nuts because it takes away the delicateness of the cake, but you may think differently.

It takes an hour to cook depending on your oven.

I don't frost this cake. Sometimes I will heat it a little and butter it, or add a bit or jam. But really, I can devour it just as it is.

Bon appetit!!

My Tree

I have searched. I knew I saved the name of my tree. Where. It is always the dilemma. I need to have one book. One book for everything. No more of all these little notebooks everywhere with all these entries of whatever. One journal that contains everything from day to day. A complete reference to my life. Thing is, I am addicted to paper. I see a pretty book - I have to own. I should take everything else other than this one journal and put them in a nice box and tuck them away. That's it.

Back to the tree. I bought this little tree at the beginning of fall last year. I was with Karen and we were driving around when we came across Portland Nursery. I was looking for a new pot for my orchid. This nursery is beautiful. Denise told me about it. Expensive but a joy to be there and I agree.

Karen and I walked for some time looking at end of the season beauties. I saw this little tree with its odd leaves and fell in love. "Asplenifolia", Rhamnus Frangula. I just call it My Tree. It almost looked like a bonsai. It was affordable because of the time of year. However, I became concerned come winter because, when the leaves fell off, the tips of the branches turned brown and looked very dead. All winter I kept touching the branches to make sure they were pliant. I kept it outdoors on the porch along with the pine tree bonsai. I was told at the nursery that this was an outdoor tree. But I was filled with fear. I do not like losing my charges.

And then it happened. A few weeks ago, I think in February, tiny little green things began growing from the tips. I was beside myself. Every day I would spend time with my tree watching the growth. Day after day. Then Two weeks ago, these little bulbs started to grow meaning they will get maybe flowers? Or something.....

Now I have never re-potted it. It has spent all winter in its plastic nursery pot. So Denise and I went out today to get a real pot.

This one I loved. Simple. Made in Italy. It is actually a dark brown/grey clay which this photo does not really portray well. It is very large. It will hold this tree for years I think.

I began by putting a coffee filter over the hole, then a bit of soil, some bark and some rocks for good drainage. If the tree is going to be in this pot for years, it should have great drainage. Then I put in some soil and the tree. After that I built up the earth around it.

Then I put a little bark on the top for looks. I don't know if it will stay as the wind can be quite fierce her due to the gorge.

I placed a crystal in with the bark, a couple of special stones, one stone that looks like a sleeping Buddha, a "Living in Silence" stone.

So here it stands in all its glory on the ledge of my private porch. I will be able to look at it every day. It took three pots of water. I will keep posting pictures as the leaves and bulbs come to maturity. I suppose I could go on the internet and research its growth expectations. But you know? I would rather be surprised~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Saturday, March 27, 2010

My sister and I

"You know Dear, I too am a size 6. I just choose to wrap myself in cellulite to protect the beautiful package. Kind of like bubble wrap."

When we grew up, Denise forever remained thin while I waged a life-long battle with weight. I came across this little amusing comment some time ago and whenever I think of it, my heart laughs. Time to share it with everyone.

I no longer agonize over my body. I am content. It suits me. My sister remains the lovely creature that she has always been, only I am no longer embarrassed to stand with her. Because she is showing me I am lovely too. Niiiceee.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Little girls

And their dresses. There is a crowd of new designers out there working on patterns for their daughters and selling them to stores like mine. Such cute little dresses. Look at this dress. How can you not fall in love?!!

No matter what fabrics you choose to work with, the dress is always perfect. This one is a bubble skirt. A little tricky to press. You begin by pressing the bubble and then work on the rest of the dress after that. The buttons are actually covered buttons choosing details from the flowers in the fabric and the leaves are satin stitched from sections of the fabric and carefully trimmed and applied under the buttons. So simple. What little girl wouldn't scream to have one of these!

And they love bows. Big bows and this patterns has ample bows.

And another thing we are seeing a lot of is the elastic gathering. It is so very easy to do yet customers are always coming in looking for the fabric that comes this way. They just don't realize how simple it is to do this. You wind the sewing elastic into your bobbin and sew. When you have applied the amount of rows you would like, you steam with your iron and it comes to shape. It is that easy. It takes just minutes. And it is just such a lovely look.

I do have to say though, that a lot of designers don't know a lot of good finishing techniques, or, they skimp on finishing techniques thinking that their daughters won't be wearing these dresses for long. A lot of patterns have major errors in construction and I struggle with the designer's concepts of accomplishing things because the instructions are so "make-do". I used to make a lot of children's clothing knowing that these would eventually be passed down to other children and they would have to withstand the test of time. Today's designers haven't a clue on how to perform a lot of techniques and so make things a lot more complicated than they have to be.

So, if you are working with these patterns, do not be afraid to use your own techniques. In the end, it will be worth it.

Just to die for

When I was choosing the fabrics to make the art bag a few weeks ago, I came across the chirimen fabric in the Bridal Dept. Of course, it is not silk chirimen. It's rayon. But never the less, there it is. It it classic in its prints, beautiful in its colors and perfect for whatever you want to do with it.

So, I was determined to put something on display using the fabric. This is a wonderful little blouse. Simple in design. You can't see them, but there are two little pleats in the front. Just a classic blouse. I was hoping that the Bridal Department would display it in such a manner that it would push the fabric right out of the house, but they didn't. I put the blouse on a mannequin and hiked it onto the counter where it definitely can be seen, but that is it. I am not happy that they have not taken it any farther. Oh well, I am going to take a few dollars and buy pieces of the fabric every chance I can. It is $20 a yard. Pretty expensive for not being silk. But with my discount it is only $12 a yard. I should use my knitting money to get a yard a week.

Right now I have three pieces. I am always talking about my kimonos in storage in NH. When I get reunited with them, I am just going to faint. I have been collecting ideas for projects for ever, it seems. Maybe I could start with these even though they don't have age. They certainly are beautiful.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

This from chocolate

The champaign with its endless fleece
Of feathery grasses everywhere!
Silence and passion, joy and peace,
An everlasting wash of air ---
Rome's ghost since her decease.

Such life here, through such lengths of hours,
Such miracles performed in play,
Such primal naked forms of flowers,
Such letting nature have her way
While heaven looks from its towers!

How you say? Let us, O my dove,
Let us be unashamed of soul,
As earth lies bare to heaven above!
How is it under our control
To love or not to love?

Robert Browning

from "Two in the Campagna"

I have found a new candy bar that has poetry under its cover. Poetry so beautiful I want to eat nothing but this chocolate, be damned all other food, just to be able to read, to be touched by the words that have me mesmerized.

It is confusing to know just who produces this candy. Their name seems to be hidden. Everything seems to be about the chocolate. This one is Crystallized Australian Ginger and 65% rich Belgian dark chocolate from The Carribian and Africa. Oh. It is put up by Chocolove. They hide their name. How unusual in this modern age when it is all about self-agrandizement. Beautiful wrapper.

It has taken me three days to eat this. I love chocolate. I could have eaten it in one day. In one sitting. But I am more disciplined at this point in my life. It took me three days to get to the poem. I wonder if all of their poems will be like this - thought-filled.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Shrimp with fennel and leek soup

This is a delectable soup. It starts by chopping up three leeks, just the white and light green parts. Then a good sized fennel bulb. I chopped these so that there are no long strings. I wanted everything to be a good bight-sized. I sauteed these in 4 tbs of butter with a little salt and fresh ground pepper. Not too much. While this was cooking up, I peeled and diced a pound of potatoes. I used white potatoes as they stay rather firm and don't fall apart in a soup.

After the leeks and fennel have cooked for a few minutes, looking to begin to brown, add two heaping tablespoons (I used soup spoons) of flour and stir these in vigorously. This is going to give some strength to your broth. Stir and cook for about a minute or two.

To this, add two bottles of clam juice and two cups of milk. Stir this well to get the flour mixed in. Then add the potatoes and bring to a boil. As soon as it boils, reduce the heat and simmer for about 12 to 15 minutes until the potatoes are "al dente", another words, not mushy.

While this is taking place, shell one pound of medium-sized shrimp. I bought shrimp that was de-veined but still had the shell on. It was a decent price and a pretty nice size. After I removed the shells, I rinsed them and then cut them in half. I like lots of bite-sized pieces instead of a few big shrimp. By cutting them in half, I have a lot of shrimp chunks - "one in every bite!"

When the potatoes are ready, add the shrimp and a bag of frozen sweet corn. Cook for about 5 to 7 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked and the potatoes are perfect to the teeth.

I wanted to put in fresh parsley. The original recipe called for two tablespoons. Right. After I finished chopping the entire bunch, what a wonderful smell, I put in probably half a cup. It was a far cry from 2 tbs. But it looks good and the taste is wonderful. I also added the juice of a nice big lemon.

I decided that the soup was a little loose and I wanted it to be thick. So I added about a half cup of flour and stirred the soup vigorously so as to thicken the broth. I tested for salt and added a bit with some fresh ground pepper.

Tomorrow, for lunch at work, I am going to be the happiest employee. This is another great soup. And really, if you prepare all the ingredients in advance, it takes maybe 20 minutes to get that all done and the rest is easy. This is a very uncomplicated soup.

Imagine placing s piece of toast from homemade bread in a bowl and spooning this over it. Heaven.

Friday, March 12, 2010


This is my friend Alanna. I gave her a competition piece I made a couple of years ago and she honored me by wearing it recently to a concert. I helped her get dressed for the affair and it was so wonderful to be able to do this.

She wore the vest over a long straight black velvet skirt which was so very elegant. She was stunning.

Alanna has long hair which she tied up. She took a bridal crown and painted it black to go with the base outfit. I took off the comb and re-bent the wire so that it would sit properly on her. Then I re-attached a new comb so it would nest better on her head. I find that most crowns never fit the average head and always have to be re-fit. This one was truly beautiful on her.

I did a lot of detail work on this kimono vest. The actual pattern was rather Japanese-traditional. I did a lot of Sashiko stitching, beading, and wound a lot of bias tape around all of that work. On the front band I applied bias piping I made which I knotted at different lengths and then hand-stitched coiling around itself.

The whole back is beaded, dripping from tree branches that I created in gold threads.

When I gave this piece to Alanna I wasn't sure she would wear it. I knew she loved to go to concerts, and the theatre. I was hoping she would wear it to such events. And she did. I am so happy about this. She made me proud.