thank you heros

Monday, May 31, 2010

To all the courageous men & women of our military who made the ultimate sacrifice so our children could have this life: thank you! We remember you and your families on this Memorial Day and always.

our year for strawberries

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Oh what a difference a week makes!
This is going to be our year for strawberries! We got nothing last year. The plants were new and what little they produced, the squirrels got first. They would nibble at them and leave the remains out on the grass as if to taunt us. (Same thing with the tomatoes).
This was a week ago. The raised bed was overflowing with healthy plants laden with tiny green fruits and one ripe one! I guess they liked the generous helping of compost they got. We never implemented the elaborate squirrel barrier we were scheming over in early spring, though. Looks like there will be plenty for all of us.

My great grandmother in Idaho was quite the strawberry farmer. She had a little business selling strawberries and eggs to the local grocery store. That was how they did it back then. None of this shipping fruit in from California. All the produce was local because it made sense. They canned the excess to eat during the winter and didn't try to make strawberry shortcake in December.  

Mom and her sisters remember going to grandma's twice a week in the summer at the crack of dawn to pick berries before it got hot. That's the secret- pick them in the afternoon and they smoosh when you handle them. In the morning they are firm, but sever them at the stem so the top doesn't come off, just to be safe. They worked until 11:00 am or so, then called it a day for $1, a hot dog, and some pop.

I've got plans upon plans for these berries. I'm going to make strawberry shortcake (Martha's recipe) and a strawberry-rhubarb pie with local rhubarb from Highland Orchards (I'll share my own recipe when I do). But right now, I just have to have them, rinsed, hulled, cut in half, sprinkled with a teensy bit of sugar, and swimming in cream...

chirping and blooming all over

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Spring is in full swing here in Delaware. The windows are open at night and we wake up to the chirping of birds. We have a lot of birds on our property. I don't know if it's because of all the trees and shrubs we have or because the previous owner of our house was the founder of our local bird rescue. Maybe the birds remember. Rumor has it that at one point an injured eagle was kept in my daughter's bedroom. I found some evidence supporting that in the basement when I was cleaning out the paint cupboard. I found an old paint can marked "eagle room".
Today we found the remains of some hatched robin eggs.
No chicks left in the nest, though. They've already had their flying lessons and they're chirping exuberantly to each other across the yard.
Mama robin doesn't appreciate us in her territory.
Lots of blooming going on in the garden or the "yarden" as my kids call it. The peonies are at their peak. The hydrangeas are gearing up.
Pink and white peonies on their last day or so- the petals are starting to drop. I just love these old-fashioned flowers except for the short bloom time. I have no idea what varieties I have. Most came from my grandfather's garden.
These roses were supposed to be be ground cover roses, but they went a little crazy and became bushes. They're called "peach drift" and they bloom all spring and summer.
Lemon drops. A drift of purple cranesbill.
The pink yarrow is just starting. Time to keep eyes peeled for the arrival of the butterflies. Ah spring!

how to use liquid starch

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I am a new convert to liquid starch. It was a product I'd never thought much about until I received some lovely pillowcases  from a certain Ebay seller who takes pride in her laundering. Most of the textiles I buy on Ebay come unlaundered, in the exact condition they were acquired. But these pillowcases were different. They were so smooth and crisp that when I began making one of them into a little dress, the fabric handled so nicely, I had to find out her secret! So I emailed the lady and she uses Sta-Flo liquid starch in the rinse cycle, dries the cases part way, sprays on a little spray starch, and presses them in an electric mangle.
A what? Commercial laundries and some households used these starting in the 1940's. Pillowcase Lady's vintage one still works- I'm guessing she's elderly. Who else would know about liquid starch and mangles?
Miele still makes one, but they are called rotary irons now. I'm gonna have to make do with a regular iron because the Miele Rotary Iron retails for $1999!

Thus began my search for liquid starch. I think I can afford liquid starch. I tried the drugstore, Target, Super G, and Superfresh with no luck. I was thinking of mail ordering some, and then I thought to go to the market that my elderly neighbor prefers (Acme) and violĂ ! They had it, but not Sta-Flo. I got Linit instead.
Now I'm a regular Mrs. Tiggy-winkle (I love that Beatrix Potter story)! After my usual long soak in Oxy Clean, I laundered my first batch of pillowcases normally and then put the liquid starch in the rinse cycle. Pillowcase Lady didn't say how much to put in, so I guessed and put about 1 to 1 1/4 cup  into my small load thinking that was pretty generous. I did not get Pillowcase Lady's results. Then I read the bottle and it said don't rinse, only soak, then spin. And the ratio was higher than I thought: 1 part starch to 6 parts water for a light starching. So then I did it Tiggy-winkle-style in a small tub, did the spin cycle only, dried part way, and ironed with a touch of spray starch for good measure.
This batch came out rather nice. No puckers, no slubs, just smoothness. The liquid starch method definitely gets the starch more into the fibers than using only the spray kind.  I am baffled why only elderly people know about this product. Young people like exceptional laundry too.
The dress came out cute, by the way, so I it listed in the shop.

PS- if you read an earlier version of this post, I revised the starch ratios I had originally stated. My mistake. Just did another batch to make sure I was right this time.

seating for the studio

Saturday, May 8, 2010

I've had some studio visits lately and it's made me take another look at the studio from an aesthetic and functional point of view. It's functioning great as a sewing studio. But if people are going to visit, it really is necessary to have someplace for them to sit and it would be nice if the place was spiffier overall. If the space is going to represent me to customers, I think I need to step it up some.
Klippan loveseat by IKEA
My first idea for seating was this smaller scale couch from IKEA. I thought it would work for the basement because of the metal legs and vinyl upholstery. I liked the cheerful color and the price was doable at $399. Then I got to thinking... it's made largely of polyurethane and vinyl. That's gonna off-gas like crazy, and will a cheap sofa like that last? I try to be ecologically responsible whenever possible, so I came up with a new idea.
I received a set of four "Anne-me-down" chairs from my friend Anne last year and hadn't done anything with them yet. Judging from the avocado and gold upholstery, I think they are from the 1970's. They're not designer originals or anything, but I like their style. Not only were they free, but chairs probably make more sense than a sofa for my purposes because they can be easily rearranged. Plus, I like the idea of saving them from the landfill and giving them new life.
First, though, they need regluing and repegging. On closer inspection, one of them might just be too far gone, but I will try. By "I" in this case, I mean my husband. He's handier with the carpentry.
The wood is a bit scuffed and beat-up. To tell the truth, I've been procrastinating fixing up these chairs because I thought I'd have to strip and restain them. Then the lady at JPT caning recommended this refinishing stuff called Howard's Restore-A-Finish and the wheels started to turn in my mind. I bought it from them in "dark walnut" for about $8.
The directions on the can say to wipe on with 0000 steel wool, following the grain, then quickly wipe off. And voilĂ ! The wood looks amazing and it took less than 15 minutes to do the whole chair! Nasty fumes, though. Don't attempt this indoors.
I happened to have this happy orange cotton floral fabric on hand that I got at *gasp* JoAnne's. It's a casual canvas uphostery by Better Homes and Gardens. What can I say? It caught my eye. I pried off the old upholtery using a screw driver and pliers on the stapes. Using the old cover as a template, I cut the same shape out of the new fabric and staple-gunned it on.
I'm completely satisfied with the results! Only 3 more to go...