Monday, September 2, 2013

My Walk

Gratuitous vintage sewing pattern only tangentially related to the following post.
I went out to walk the 3-mile loop, feeling all virtuous and hardy.  It had been raining, but stopped and I decided that even if it started raining again, it would cool me off and feel great, and it certainly wouldn't kill me.
So, off I went, with a bounce in my step, and a song in my heart.  It felt good to be out again; I probably haven't been out since June or early July.  I kept finding more important things to do.  But I'm feeling re-motivated, since I've been dreaming on and on about clothes, and thinking about how much nicer they'd look on me if I could trim a few inches from my waistline (say 10 or 12....), and how much better I'd feel if I could bend over to paint my toenails without holding my breath (as if the polish fumes weren't enough to make me feel woozy-headed!).
Monday (despite the holiday) is trash collection day on Old Pool Road, and a neighbor said hello from the end of his driveway, when he came to collect his empty bins.  "I hope the rain holds off for my walk," I said, as the weather is perfect standby for light pleasantries for such a chance social encounter.  He smiled, and looked up, and said, "Yeah, mebbe about 10 minutes."  On my way I went, picking up acorns, listening to the runoff of little streams, and admiring another neighbor's beagle.
10 minutes later, I was on the campus at UNE, and yup, a light rain started.  At this point, I am  3/4 of a mile from home, if I turn back, I'll be good for a mile and a half today.  No, I decide, it feels good, and it won't kill me; after all I'm a weather-hardy New Englander!
Now, I had prepared for the sun to break through.  I am seriously fair-skinned, have melanoma in a first-degree relative, and am
staunchly opposed to aging.  Naturally I wear sunscreen everyday.  Today, as I trudged along, pressing on uphill, and the rain fell harder and harder, the sunscreen began to run into my eyes.  Ouch!  I tried to wipe away as much as I could with a tissue, which didn't seem to help much; I kept going, now feeling drenched and stupid, and glad I hadn't worn any mascara, and wishing I didn't have almost 2 miles to go.
Then, like a princess in a fairy tale, along came my Knight in Shining Armor.  DH felt sorry for me, and came to pick me up!  Okay, so today's walk was a mile and a quarter -- it's a start, and as Scarlett would say, "Tomorrow is another day!"

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Vintage Simplicity 4464

Here's a fabulous vintage pattern I found listed on ebay.  I didn't buy it though, because I haven't yet scrutinized my pattern stash for something similar.  I think I might have one or two that I could use as a starting point.  I may have to make some modifications to the style, to give it a side zip (or even a back zip), figure out what I want to do for pockets. I have a pocket style in mind, and I'm sure there is a name for it, but I don't know what it is -- think Dale Evans, and in the meantime I'll try to find a vintage photo that shows what I'm thinking about.  Another compelling reason to get this pattern is that blouse!   I love kimono sleeves, dolman sleeves, and batwing sleeves.  I find that styling to work really well with an overly generous bust, particularly if the waist is brought in with a belt, or cummerbund, as illustrated below.  And I love it used unbelted, over the turtleneck as shown in the upper right.

I'm trying to improve my blogging presentation skills. I wish I knew more about making photo collages without purchasing additional software or add-ons.  So, I've been playing around in Microsoft Paint, and reading online about how to use its features.
I wanted to put together a seasonal wardrobe inspiration board, like the ones I've seen on more visually appealing blogs, but I'm not there yet.  Here's what I have come up with so far, a basic palette.

And I even figured out how to change a color on a photographed image, and then collage the result.

It's not the inspiration board I envision, as that is beyond my skills at this time.

I guess it's more important to to make the actual clothes, then I can photo and blog.

To undertake a Me-Made Seasonal Wardrobe project, here are the obstacles to be overcome as I see them:
1.   My sewing room needs a major decluttering and reorganization.
2.  My dress form needs a breast augmentation, and then to be covered.
3. Then she'll need a name, any suggestions?  Better yet, if you do, save them, and when I get her done, I'll celebrate with a giveaway of some sort.  I 'll have to figure out something suitable as a dress form-naming prize.
4.  I need to select my patterns, then modify as needed, and grade for size, and alter for proportion.  My figure type is an inverted triangle.  At least my overweight figure type is.  I put all my weight in my bust and around my middle.  Years ago, when I was slim, I was more of an hourglass.  I'm a little tall, (almost 5'8"), and have a longer torso, and only slightly longer than average legs.
5.  I'll need to source fabric, which may be a bit of a challenge.  There is only one fabric store in spitting distance, and I would prefer to see and touch the fabric before I buy, as I am trying to coordinate my colors pretty tightly.  I think the colors I have chosen are universal, and should be easy to find, but it hasn't been that way online, so we'll see.
6.  Then there's just the making of muslins, cutting and sewing the garments.
7.  And then the shopping for shoes and hosiery, and the accessorizing. 
8.  Then the modeling and the styling and photos and the blogging!
9. Oh yeah, I forgot to add knitting 2 or 3 Shetland cardigans (and selling my plasma to buy the wool!).  After all, I'd like to be dressed at least as well as your average Shetland pony! 

What do you think?  Am I crazy to try this with the holidays approaching?  Or is it too hard to tell, since I haven't actually quantified the scope of the project, like how many of each type of garment.  I'll work on that part of the planning next.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Latest Knitting Obsession

I have a sweater in the works, but I have lost interest, and I'm only on the first panel, the back.  I'll try to take a few pictures to share, although I'm not sure, because my original intent was a gift, so pics may have to wait until it's done (if ever) and given.
My latest obsession is for a basic wardrobe staple, a classic Shetland cardigan.  If you're old enough, you may remember the popularity of Shetland sweaters in the late 1970's.  They were mostly saddle shoulder pullovers (I had one in blue), or fair isle yoked pullovers, some with a button placket in the yoke, or made up as cardigans.  They came in soft, heathered hues, or bright, "preppy" colors.  I had a gorgeous yellow fair isle pullover, with the yoke done in soft blues, greens and white.  I remember that one label was "Northern Isles".  Apparently, that label is still around, I just checked.
Here is a cabled Shetland that Appleseed's has for about $60.  I am in love with the color.

So, back to my Fall/Winter Wardrobe planning.  Here's what I have in mind.
 Very simple, very basic.  What I envision is  mix/match separates centered around a defined palette, one that would be right at home in the early 60's.  Button-down blouses in solids, plaids, and paisleys.  Shetland cardigans and short-sleeve "jumper" sweaters, or better yet twin sets. 
Maybe a few ribbed turtlenecks (and matching ribbed tights).  Straight skirts (not tight, just straight), and twill trousers (ankle length, tapered legs, and side-zipped).  Picture a collegiate look, I guess, or "Weekend in Connecticut".  My chosen palette is navy, ivory, camel, and slightly rusty red. Shoes:  penny loafers in cordovan, and maybe even a pair in navy.

Of course, in my daydreams, the bulk of this wardrobe is handmade.  I've been pricing purchased cardigans (hard-to-find, very limited colors) v. handknitting (good yarn in that quantity is expensive, basic well-tailored patterns are proving harder to find than I thought, but many colors are available).  For years, I have (probably not-so) secretly wanted to go full-on into vintage dressing, but obviously I haven't.  I firmly believe that it works best for ladies younger than I, and infinitely better for ladies smaller than I.  I have been learning vintage hairstyling techniques, and often wear victory rolls at home, or I can be found in pincurls with a scarf tied over them (a la Rosie the Riveter). 

I have finally settled on the above styling, which is decidedly classic, and generously "mature".  I already have a couple of pairs of L.L.Bean khaki chinos that are close to what I described above .  I have a few classic blouses.  My loafers are falling apart and need to be replaced.  If I can nail down a pattern for the slacks and skirts, I'd love to make them in wool flannel or gabardine, lined.  Other bonus items I'll strive for are shirtdresses, in solids, plaids and corduroys.  Wish me luck!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Really Random

1.  No, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth.  Being consistent just is not my forte.  I have reminded myself repeatedly that in my case, blogging is about keeping an online journal, and so its purpose is to serve my need to express myself.  If I were primarily trying to write for a specific audience, it would become a stress-inducer, not a stress-reliever.  This is how I try to assuage my guilt.
2.  I hate Facebook.  (Is hate too strong?)  Off and on, I have tried giving it a whirl.  I have learned a few things.  It's easier to like people when you don't know everything that they are thinking and feeling.  I don't need to know 99.9% of what is posted.  And at least 50% of it distresses me, and most of the remaining 50% barely interests me.
3.  I don't know how to tweet.  And so far, I don't feel the need to learn.
4.  Pinning is another matter.  I do have a Pinterest account, and a few boards.  I haven't been nearly as drawn to it as some are.  
5.  So far, these items aren't really random.  They all have to do with social media.
6.  My son stopped at a Yard Sale on his way to the beach with his sweet girlfriend.  Being on the way to the beach, he had no wallet, but discovered something he wanted, so he called me, knowing I'd be interested in the vintage items being cleaned out of an old house.  I was, and besides picking up the dishes his girlfriend told him he needed for his apartment, I found a few other things.  I should take some pics to post.  I brought home 6 matching coffee mugs, a heavy aluminum roaster (that looked like 1960's maybe?), an aluminum straining basket that will fit in my vintage 4 qt. pressure cookers, a few books and an old magazine.  But really the best part was talking about biscuit recipes with the 2 ladies running the sale, and another shopper.  I guess you had to be there.
7.  I've been reorganizing our home filing system.  Reorganizing is a generous term.  We had a shameful number of piles of "important" papers which had never been put into the proper folders.  We had also been suffering with the hassle of searching these haphazard piles (randomly located throughout the house) whenever we needed some pertinent document.  This has been a very gratifying purging experience.  I have sent huge amounts of paper off to be recycled, and made another collection of papers with sensitive info for shredding.  When I lamented to DH about how long it would take to sit at the shredder, he went out and bought a fire pit at Home Depot.  So I got marshmallows, Hershey bars and graham crackers, and we had a little toasting party on Saturday night, while watching for meteors.
8.  We're doing a homemade pizza week.  We did it before several weeks ago, and it was hugely popular.  I was making sourdough starter, and on the King Arthur Flour website, there are recipes for using the daily "discard" starter as you feed it.  So, besides buttermilk sourdough waffles, I was making sourdough pizza crust each day (which you can freeze for future use if you don't use it).  The toppings and salad would change each day.  So one day, it was Hawaiian pizza, another day Greek, another day Meat Lovers or Mexican.  I found this to be a very economical and nutritious way to feed the locusts, uh, family.  (What would you do if your DH was 6'4", and your 3 boys were aged 16-21, all about 6'3" tall, and working hard at very physical jobs each day?  Adding to their appetites, the two older boys play softball in the evenings, one of them surfs every chance he gets, and the youngest is training at the gym or running pretty much daily, anticipating the upcoming football season.)
9.  Re: above:  I do the menu planning and grocery shopping and most of the cooking, but I don't haul in the groceries, take out trash, carry firewood, or my own luggage, and while I do most of the laundry, I don't carry down large hampers of dirty laundry.  Oh, and I don't shovel much snow -- only if I feel like it, for a little exercise and fresh air.  I love having "men around the house.
10.  I read somewhere that eating beans 3-4x/wk decreases your risk of heart disease by something like 37%.  I have multiple risk factors, so I've been seeking more recipes with beans, and acclimating the eaters in the house.  I have had some real success with cooking lentils with beef broth, onion powder and a little cayenne pepper, and mixing them in with ground beef in various casserole-type recipes, like Shepherd's pie, taco meat, etc.  I will try in meatloaf, and maybe even some burgers soon.
11.  I haven't sewed a thing, but the itch is getting stronger.  I want to make a whole new wardrobe!
12.  I love heirloom sewing (see Jeannie Baumeister's blog, The Old Fashioned Baby), and I want to try smocking.  I think that means I'm gearing up for grandbabies.  Kind of the way a young couple gets a puppy or kitten when they are getting mentally prepared to start having babies.  (Tho' most don't recognize that it is a common pattern they are following..
13.  There's a lot to do to get the 2 older boys off to college in about 10 days.  I hate it when they go.  I feel like I've had an amputation.  I can tell I'll be having a horrendous case of ENS (Empty Nest Syndrome) in 2 years when the last one goes. 

Anyway, that's just a little bit of what is rattling around in my head these days........

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Feeling Sheepish?

About 3 weeks ago, in the waning afternoon sun, I took a drive south on Route 9 into Kennebunkport.  There is a sheep farm on the land rising up from the estuarial marshy area along the shore.  Every year, I look to see if they have any new lambs I can ogle.  I had seen some before and hoped they were close enough for me to photograph.  Well, I had no luck, but I took pictures anyway.
I think the view is looking to the southeast standing on the side of the road (Route 9).  The Atlantic Ocean is out there…not too far out.  If you were looking on a map you would see Goose Rocks Beach.  I love the rocky hillside.  I’ve lived in a flatland state, and I so missed hilly, rocky terrain!
Some days, the sheep are on this little slope, right by the road, and that’s where I hoped they’d be, ready to have their portraits made.  But I guess they were feeling, you know, sheepish.  (Sorry)
A closer look at the barn seen in first pic.  And those wonderful craggy, lichenous, moss-covered boulders heaving up out of the hillside.
Isn’t a glorious barn?  The afternoon sun is lighting it nicely, despite the patchy, low-hanging clouds.  Love that hanging, sliding door, and the transom window above to let in the afternoon glow.  I bet it smells sweet like hay inside.  And a little dusty.
Those massive granite blocks make an excellent retaining wall to keep the earthen approach to the side door from wearing away.
On the south side of the barn, looking north.
This gate in the stone wall makes me think of  the Yorkshire farms described in James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small books.  Have you read any of the series?  Or seen the BBC shows? 
Waste not, want not.  Yankee thrift dictates that this old iron tub makes a good watering trough.  Can you see the sheep in the far pasture?
This was as close as I could get…Do you see the evergreen tree in the upper right?  I believe that is an early graveyard.  Probably a family cemetery from the original settlers of this “saltwater farm”.
Then I heard barking coming in on the wind, and I realized that one of the sheep was not a sheep at all, but a sheepdog, probably a Great Pyrenees.  That is he in roughly the center of the picture.  He is likely an absolute necessity, as there are definitely coyotes around who’d love a little lamb feast.
I took so many pictures on this particular day, but I’ll share on another day, if I can find something interesting to say about them.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Late Sunday Afternoon at the Quincy Market

As we drove through Boston on Sunday, I was just not ready with the camera, and I wish I had been.  I don’t know how many message screens we saw all with the same message:  “THANK YOU ALL”   alternating with “WE ARE ONE BOSTON”.  I wasn’t expecting it, and I choked up each time I saw one.  We passed under an overpass in Medford (where bombing victim Krystle Campbell lived) which was covered with American flags.  Later, a banner strung up on an overpass really grabbed me; it read in a child-like font on a brightly-colored background:  “no more hurting people.  peace.”  Wow.
Today I watched the Memorial for MIT police officer Sean Collier on New England Cable News (, and I would highly recommend going to the website and listening to Joe Biden’s speech.  So moving.  And James Taylor singing. And the bagpipers playing Amazing Grace.  It was very cathartic for me, and I believe it was a very important part of the recovery of the many people there or watching on TV.
Okay, I really do have other things to talk about, I promise.
Jeff and Sean on the right.

On Sunday, after the Lacrosse game we made our way to the giant food court that is Quincy Market.  I took some pictures, but I really didn’t do the offerings justice.  I don’t know how many vendors there are, but I bet it could be 50.
You walk right down a central aisle with counters on both sides.  There are deli-style offerings, various international cuisines including sushi, Indian cuisine, Mexican, Italian, traditional New England seafood, fruity smoothies and ice cream, delectable pastries, pizza, barbecue, I can’t remember it all.  .  
DSCN2428We were overwhelmed, and hungry as we were, it took a long time to make decisions. We wanted one of everything.  I took a couple of pictures, but they came out quite unappetizing.  I really wish I had taken pastry pictures.  At one of the counters, I got (to take home) a box containing a fruit éclair, a red velvet cupcake, an Oreo cannoli, and the best thing was a really decadent item called a lobster tail.   I had never seen one, and I’m going to see if I can find a recipe or something to help me describe it to you.  I’m pretty sure that that is all they serve in heaven.
In the middle of the building are 2 levels of seating/standing for diners. There were families everywhere, chattering away in languages from all over.
DSCN2434By the time we finished eating it was well after 6 pm and apparently that is
DSCN2436when most of the vendors close up shop on Sundays. One vendor told me he was staying open a little longer to make up for Friday’s lost business building, running the length of it, are add-on glass enclosures. Therein are vendor carts full of art, gift items, and other engaging novelties, but they were when the city was under a “shelter-in-place” request. On each side of the almost all closed, so we couldn’t browse.
I tried to capture the message around the edge of the mezzanine, but if you can’t read it, it says:  “This building  has served the people of Boston as the central market since its dedication in August 1826.”    Why didn’t I take a picture of the rotunda?

DSCN2425The back of Faneuil Hall.
Quincy Market is directly behind Faneuil Hall, an important historic building.
As you can see, I had fun taking (too many) pics of Samuel Adams’ statue  in front of  FH (in inadequate light). There is a museum housed there, also closed at the time of our visit.  I provided a link for those of you interested in learning more about Samuel Adams.  Hint:  his legacy had nothing whatsoever to do with beer.
We strolled around the building enjoying the atmosphere in the waning daylight.    There are benches everywhere, and you can imagine the scene on a sunny weekday at midday, when lunchers ranging from tourists to workers in the nearby Financial District and Government Center are enjoying their selections from the Market.
DSCN2450This drummer was dripping with sweat, as he gave an amazing performance to passersby.
He was very friendly and didn’t mind having his picture taken.  That is a frying pan sticking up out of the traffic cone, and was one of his improvised percussion instruments.

It’s been ages since I’ve been to the area, so the huge statue of Kevin White (mayor of Boston 1970-1984) was new to me.  You can see it behind the drummer above.  When I first saw it, I assumed it was a Kennedy, but then I found the plaque on the ground identifying him.
I hope you enjoyed this little visit to a popular Boston landmark.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My Massachusetts

I lived in Massachusetts from the time I was a toddler until I graduated from college.  Sometimes I wish I had stayed, at least in New England.  But mostly I am glad that I have lived in Ohio, Illinois and California.  (pic from NESN)

New Englanders, and in particular Bostonians, are afflicted, er, imbued with inordinate pride of place, and it could be that I am no different.  But, I have experienced the virtues of other areas of our beautiful and proud country.  There is so much to see and to love.
Boston_Skyscrapers_and_Fenway_Park Joao Bustolin
(Photo from, credited to Joao Bustolin of Somerville; the glow on the right is coming from the lights at Fenway Park.)
One thing I have learned in my travels is that some Americans have come to expect an arrogant superiority from folks “back East”.  One young lady eventually confided that she hadn’t wanted to get to know me, simply because I was from the east.  I smile now when I think of it, because of all the wonderful friends I made, and all the fun I’ve had seeing different places.  So it means all the more to me that people from all over America, and even all over the world, have made declarations of kinship with Boston since the tragic occurrences since last Monday’s Marathon.  I don’t know what the news coverage was like where you live, but I had NECN (New England Cable News) on most of last week, and the only news was about the Marathon. 
There was some little bit of coverage of the explosion in West, Texas, but still the vast majority was focused on the Boston attacks and subsequent pursuit of the culprits.    So, I want to say that even though I am blogging about what’s going on here in my little corner of the world, my thoughts and prayers are also with the people of West, as they mourn their losses, and try to rebuild their lives.
On Sunday, Jeff (DH) and Sean (DS3), and I drove down through Boston to attend a lacrosse game at beautiful Stonehill College in Easton.  DSCN2392My middle son Evan (DS2), #11 (lt. blue jersey) in photos,  plays club lacrosse at the University of Maine at Orono (UMO), and they had traveled to Stonehill for a 3 pm match. 
(Ian, DS1, also attends UMO and had club baseball games in Boston, but they were canceled, maybe because of the preceding week?)

It was a beautifully bright and sunny day, but a bit nippy, about 50 degrees, and breezy.  The trees were budding out a little ahead of ours, but the city is not yet in bloom.

Including the 3 of us, I counted 8 UMO Black Bears fans in the stands, so I met and talked to the other family.  It was sort of fun to watch except that the Bears were quite outmatched.

Stonehill’s team was about 3x larger than ours, so they always had fresh legs to sub in. 
But I don’t go to LaX games for the winning part of it. 

(Which is good, because LaX is still in its infancy in our town, and we are routinely beaten.)

Next post will feature Quincy Market/Faneuil Hall pictures in Boston.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Terror at the Boston Marathon

For the moment, that is the word to describe my dominant feeling in response to the audacity of the terrorist bombings at yesterday's Boston Marathon.
I am indignant that an 8-year-old child is dead.  That a family from Dorchester will bear unspeakable sorrow forever.  That 2 other families face a similar ordeal, although as yet, we don't know who they are or who they've lost.  There are large numbers of families who are keeping vigil for loved ones, who fight for their lives in ICUs in Boston.  They will bear forever the scars of war.  Physical and psychological.  They didn't enlist or get drafted.  They didn't train or bear arms.  They simply celebrated a day of Freedom.  Freedom.
If you aren't familiar with Patriots' Day, it is a traditional commemoration of the battle of Lexington and Concord, which occurred April 19, 1775.  It is an official holiday in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the State of Maine.  At the time of that battle, what has been known since 1820 as the State of Maine was a non-contiguous part of the colony of Massachusetts.
I read on Wikipedia that Wisconsin also recognizes Patriots' Day, and in Florida, it is "encouraged", although I know nothing about that history.
In the days and weeks ahead, we will no doubt learn more about the activities and motives of the perpetrators of this despicable  bombing. 
For the time being, we are faced with uncomfortable questions, the chief of which is "why?", followed closely by queries starting with "how?".
The most important general answer is that there is evil in this world.  Evil in the hearts of people.  Evil in thoughts, words and actions.  No human being can escape its touch.  Not one.  And the reality is that many, many people have allowed, have chosen to allow evil to have dominion in their lives. 
The most important specific answer for Christians, is to understand that God knows about the evil tempting every one of us.  He knows the full extent of the harm of evil.  He knows of the death and the suffering and the sorrow.  He knows all about cruelty and torment and torture.  He knows.  And he says "Vengeance is mine."
He knows and he offers something better.  Not just better, but the best.  He offers Peace in the midst of turmoil, Rest for your soul, and Love like no other.  And if that isn't enough, he offers Hope in the most hopeless of circumstances.  He is the source of all that is Good and his love and salvation are free to every single person.  Each one of use can choose to live in His Love, wherein we can have Peace no matter what.
So, while my human, natural response is indignation, I know that as I feel this and many other difficult feelings, I can access God's Peace and Hope through prayer, Scripture reading, singing hymns and Psalms, and seeking fellowship with other Christians who offer love and support.
Does this sound too improbable to you?  I understand.  I have not always believed, and have traveled through skepticism, even anatagonism toward the Christian faith.  I understand that this may sound like an inadequate response to the magnitude of the horror of what has happened. 
I invite you to express your thoughts and feelings in the comments.  I encourage thoughtful, respectful discussion.  This isn't simple, easy or instant, but it is important.  In fact, it's vital.
On a personal note (as if the preceding wasn't personal?!), I rejoice to report that my brother who lives and works in Boston was not in harm's way, and my niece who commutes into Boston on the T (subway) for classes was at home for the holiday as well.  Thanks be to God.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Things I want to share...

Hello, everyone!  Anyone?  I'm grateful if anyone is looking in on me anymore.  It has been a long dry desert season for me in the blog-posting department.  Let's just say it has been "the winter of my discontent".
Lately, I have been seeking inspiration to feed my soul.  I feel like I'm in a time of transition, and yet it isn't really clear to what I am transitioning.  Two of my children are away at college, and my third is in high school, and is deceptively self-sufficient.  So, the overly busy part of my life seems to have passed, and a couple of decades of "just getting by" really shows in my overall household management, as well as my personal health maintenance. 
I read once, that how well your personal organization really works will become evident when it is really tested.  Inefficiencies can be accomodated when you have more time than you realize, but can really trip you up when your life is a blur, (like when the babies come).  If you are disorganized when you are single and have relatively few responsibilities, things will really fall apart as you add responsibilities and commitments, unless you hone some skills along the way.  If you think you have systems that work, and you don't evaluate them objectively, and re-tool as needed, you may find that in the busy times, you'll abandon ineffective practices, and have to live with the consequences.  I have had years of being a slow learner. 
Don't get me wrong, a lot of what I have done to run my house and raise my family has worked, some things very well.  Other things, not so much.  And to be fair, most failures have not been due to lack of effort, keeping in mind that efforts that don't bring you to your goal, are in fact, ineffectual.  Clarity of thinking can help to assess futile efforts for insights for improvement.  I am reminded of Edison, who in trying to find the perfect material for the filament in a lightbulb, characterized the 2,000 or so materials that didn't work, not as failures, but as valuable insight into what does work.  Have you ever heard of "a series of successive approximations"?  This term is used to describe how an infant develops motor skills.  First efforts at reaching for a desired object that she sees are gross movements of the arm, flinging out the hand.  Soon she is batting at the object, and eventually she will begin to open her hand and try to grasp.  But with each attempt, the movement of her arm itself is more precise, with more directed and less wasted motion. 
If you are still reading at this point, it won't surprise you to know that I have been told that I am an analytic thinker.  But I didn't develop the theory of a series of successive approximations; it's just that when I learned of it, it gave body to an intuitive concept, and was a useful generalization for other goal-oriented processes.  It begs the question:  If it's so obvious that each attempt toward a goal should incorporate an improvement, then why do many of us find ourselves in a rut, making the same inadequate effort with the same unsatisfying result?  I contend that for the more complicated goals in life, it is because we must move from instinctual actions to intentional actions.  Broadly speaking, this has been called "Moving out of Your Comfort Zone".
So, the challenge before me is to identify the changes I'd like to see in my life, (set some goals), identify the actions I think will set me in the right direction, and then choose a time interval for evaluating the action and the result, and resolve to refine my efforts.  Whew, so much for spontaneity.
Besides being an analytic thinker, I am also a dreamer, a romantic, a wanderer, and so much of the time, I might be found contemplating my navel.  Okay, not really, but perhaps, watching too much TCM, while surfing the Internet.
Speaking of surfing the Internet, I started this post to share some links I have found interesting, so with that I will close.
I found this blog A New England Life,  when I was looking for information about a specific beach in Massachusetts (triggered by some particularly interesting genealogy research).  Not only do I appreciate this lady's photography, but I felt like I had found a treasure trove when I linked to other New England blogs on her blog roll.  It inspired in me a desire to work on my photography skills, as well as nagging to get more of my thrifting junk finds listed on etsy.
As a hedge against getting too matronly in my interests, I often become enchanted by the blogs of younger ladies.  Maine is the "oldest" state in the nation (meaning the average age of its residents is older than anywhere, yes, even Florida), and sometimes I feel like I could get lulled into an "old lady" lifestyle (oh wait, I think I have).  And I don't want to become staid and stuffy.
Not that I'm going to start wearing "skinny jeans" (not that I even have the figure for them, but even if I did, I'm just sayin') and high heels.  Or dying my hair anything other than to cover the gray at the temples, nor will I ever, ever, ever have any form of body art. (I'm just talking about me, people; if you have a tattoo, or piercings, that's entirely your own affair, and I'm not judging.)
I love coming across the blogs of young ladies who have a zest for life, and an appreciation for art an beauty.  I have been enjoying Marianne in Australia for quite some time, and you may have noticed her link on my blogroll (esme and the laneway).  More recently, I have discovered sweet Ami in the UK(aka The Little Tailoress) who blows me away with her sewing/tailoring skills, not to mention a lively serenity (seems like an oxymoron, doesn't it, but visit her, you'll see what I mean).
I always have an interest in hair, fashion and makeup.  Sometimes I worry that I might be too superficial, but then when I see a woman who is well-presented, who has taken care to groom and dress herself in a pleasant and stylish way, and whose demeanor is confident, vital and respectful to her audience, I can't help but think that a polished woman elevates her surrounding.  She can bring civility, and even graciousness to the atmosphere.  Isn't that what so may of us are drawn to?  Consider our attraction to Downton Abbey, anything Jane Austen, even Mad Men.  For myself, I would add any MGM musical.
In the last couple of days I have been enchanted by the videos on youtube of Judy of itsjudytime tv.  She does the most pleasant makeup and hair tutorials, I have watched many of them.  The pity is that I can use so little of her advice.  She is half my age, and has Asian skin and hair and eyes.  I think she said in one of the videos, that she is Filipino.  I am very fair-skinned with light hair and eyes.  Besides my very different coloring, which requires a completely different approach to keep me from looking overdone, my skin is older,  and putting on makeup is a fussier process, to avoid accentuating lines and wrinkles, etc..  As much as I hate the term age-appropriate, I 'm afraid it applies here.  But nonetheless, I find her very fun to watch.
That's all for today.  If we ever get any sunshine, I will be trying to get some Spring photos.  If it doesn't, I guess I'll just have to improvise! 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Stuffed Flounder Casserole

DSCN2038I have found out a great deal more about the Rumford Complete Cookbook since I posted last.
“In 1816, Benjamin Thompson (1753-1814), also known as Count Rumford, a British physicist, inventor, and social reformer, bequeathed an annuity of $1000, a reversion of a $400 annuity he bequeathed his daughter, and his residuary estate, to Harvard College for the establishment of a professorship to "teach regular courses of academical and public lectures" in the field of the practical sciences.” (Reference found here.)
Another source clarified that Thompson was born in America, but emigrated to England:  “In 1753, Benjamin Thompson, an American born in Woburn, Massachusetts, escaped from "political complications" in this country by moving to England. There he served in the English army until 1784 when he entered the service of the Elector of Bavaria. For the following 14 years, Thompson devoted his time investigating ways of supplying nutritious foods at the lowest possible costs to the State. For his brilliant success in this endeavor, he was knighted "Count Rumford." “  The same source indicated that in 1854 Harvard Rumford Professor Eben Horsford joined with George Wilson to found the Rumford Chemical Works in Rhode Island (or Massachusetts, depending on where the state boundaries are drawn!).  Their most popular product was “Horsford’s Acid Phosphate”, and was marketed as a remedy for “mental and nervous exhaustion” and a myriad of nondescript ailments.  It was to be stirred into water or milk, and drunk as a “tonic” refresher.  (I want to insert here that having grown up in Southeastern Mass, what is today known as “soda”, “soda pop” , or just “pop” is still commonly referred to as “tonic” in that geographic area.  I suppose this history may be why that is.) I believe this may have preceded, or introduced the popularity of sugary flavored drinks with “fizz”, such as “cherry phosphate”, “lime rickey”, etc.  I don’t know why they are now carbonated instead of phosphate, though.   rumford_baking_powder(With special thanks to, from whose home page I “borrowed” this picture.)
Eventually the company marketed a mixture of calcium acid phosphate, sodium bicarbonate, and cornstarch:  originally Horsford’s Baking Powder, and later (and to this day) Rumford Baking Powder! (For more on baking powder, read this.  As a biochemist, I find this fascinating, but I don’t expect everyone to feel this way….)DSCN2020
Now, about the cookbook:  as far as I can tell, the first cookbook was published in 1908, although there were pamphlets before then, most likely promoting the use of Rumford Baking Powder.  I was thrilled to discover that they employed recipes of Fannie Farmer, of the Boston Cooking School.  (I am on the lookout for an old edition of her cookbook, that would really shine in my little collection.)  After her death, they employed the expertise of  Lily Haxworth Wallace, a home economist who emigrated from England, and lectured all over America, on domestic science topics in the early part of the 20th century.  (Oh, how I would love to have been in the audience!)  In my research on the cookbook, I discovered that there were printings from 1908 into the 1950’s, and there are many fans and collectors out there!  I feel so lucky to have stumbled across this one.  (And it’s a crime that I got it for a quarter!)DSCN2043 - Copy
As a coastal-dweller, I always try to serve fish or seafood on a regular basis, both for the health benefits, and to support the local economy.  It does take a little more planning, as it does not keep well, and it’s best to prepare and serve as fresh as possible.DSCN2043.

Well, this time they had a little markdown on flounder, and having never had flounder (I usually serve haddock, cod, or tilapia), I decided to give it a go.  I wish I had taken pictures of the process, but frankly it didn’t occur to me that it was a blog-worthy topic until I had a dish ready to serve to my guinea pigs family.  With the above suggestion for stuffing as my inspiration, I made the following:

Stuffed Flounder Casserole

This was inspired by my vintage "Rumford Complete Cookbook", in a section describing how to bake fish, and giving a stuffing recipe. Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 35 min
Serving size: 6
Calories per serving: 498 Ingredients:
2 pounds (approx) flounder filets
cooking spray
3 slices stale bread (I used a torpedo roll, torn up)
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup instant potato flakes
1 tablespoon dried cilantro
1-1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 sweet onion
1/4 stick  butter
Directions: Prepare a large (9"x13") baking dish by spraying generously with cooking spray. Wash and pat dry the flounder fillets. Lay most of the fillets in the bottom of the dish, aiming to create a uniform thickness layer of flounder. This will take more than half of the fillets. Tear up the bread into small pieces and put in a bowl with the milk, allowing it to soak while you measure out the other ingredients. Add potato flakes, parmesan cheese, egg, pepper, onion powder and cilantro. Mix it up with a fork. If it is soupy, add bread crumbs to thicken. It should be a little like pancake batter. Layer this stuffing all over the fillets, spread it evenly. Lay the remaining fillets over this stuffing layer. Mix together the bread crumbs and grated cheese, and sprinkle about 2/3 of it over the top layer of the fillets. Slice the sweet onion into rings, and separating them, scatter them on the top. Sprinkle the rest of the crumbs and cheese, dot with butter, and sprinkle with paprika.
Bake in a preheated 375 deg oven for 25 minutes. Then broil for 8- 10 minutes to brown the topping and caramelize the onion rings.
Serve with lemon slices for garnish. Recipe formatted with the Cook'n Recipe Software from DVO Enterprises. DSCN2041
I over-broiled it by a minute or two, so it looks scorched, but I must say that my finicky family found my flounder fresh, flakely and flavorful, not foul or “fishy”. (Forgive me, if I have failed to be funny.)
I steamed some broccoli rabe (which I had never done and will likely not do again, as it was terribly bitter) to serve with it.  That is the green stuff in the RevereWare saucepan above.  Pretty but not too tasty.
Are you still awake?  Thanks for reading all the way through this long post!  Happy Weekend!