Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Sucker Born Every Minute

A sucker growing from a tomato vine.
I've been pretty worthless today because last night we went to a concert: Gavin DeGraw, The Script, and Train, and didn't get home until after midnight. It was a terrific concert, though; well worth the late night.

I'm working on the laundry and also my back to school kids' clothing listings. I missed last year's back to school clothing sales because we were in the midst of all our moving and the clothes were in storage. So, now I'm just overwhelmed with clothes. I listed my short sleeved boy's stuff from 18 months to 3T and my girl's size 6/6X, but I still have probably 8 more big tubs and boxes as well as shoes. Between that and the regular laundry, I feel like I'm buried under an endless pile of children's garments! Make sure to check my store for great children's clothing: http://stores.ebay.com/atelier-mandaline.

Another thing I worked on yesterday and today is pinching back suckers on my tomato plants. Suckers are the stems that grow in the intersection of two Y-shaped branches of the plant. These won't produce fruit, so if you let them grow large they will give you a very tall, full plant with few tomatoes. There are suckers growing continually, so I am as vigilant about pinching them back as I am about weeding, maybe even more so!

Here is a sucker I  missed when it was small.
Occasionally I will miss a sucker, though, and it will get big. You can use these large suckers to your advantage to grow more plants. When you find a sucker a couple inches or more in length, just pinch it off. Then strip the lower leaves and place the stem in a jar of water. The sucker will root very quickly, usually in a week or less, and you can then plant it in your garden. It will soon grow into a new, large tomato plant and will produce its own fruit. This is a great way to extend your summer tomato harvest. As your older plants are maturing and dying back your newer ones will just be beginning to set fruit. Here in our climate we have tomatoes growing until November or December many years.

A large sucker can be pinched off the plant and rooted in water.
Besides working on the suckers, I have been trying to clean up a big mess from our weekend weather. We had steady hard rain all day Saturday, and got 9 inches of rain just that day. The flooding was severe. Jerry and I were driving to the hardware store to equip ourselves for our weekend projects and left the children with our teenager. I was worried we wouldn't get back because the roads were flooding so badly. We were pretty lucky; people had to be plucked from their roof tops in the next town over because the Catawba River went 7 feet over flood stage.

Our yard fared okay on Saturday and I hoped we were out of it, but we had a violent thunderstorm Sunday with high wind and another deluge. This time my garden didn't make it through unscathed. Several of my larger tomatoes and part of the fencing I use as a trellis for them toppled over. Many of the branches were bent or broken, so I might end up having to window-ripen a few tomatoes early when they are fairly small. I'm keeping an eye on them. The rhubarb is looking pretty sad and bent as well. It will be good for me to have some small plants in the wings to take over if the broken plants die.
After about a week, the sucker will root and can be planted in the garden.
I absolutely have to get my cold crop seeds sown this week as well. Some can be started in seed flats, but others don't like to be moved and will have to go straight into the garden. I will let you know how the winter garden comes along. In the meantime, you know I'll be taking care of those suckers!







Saturday, July 27, 2013

Cissy, Pretty In Pink

Cissy with her trunk of clothes.
Some of you may remember my D is for Dollikin post, which references my childhood obsession with Tasha Tudor's book, A is for Annabelle. Annabelle was "Grandmother's doll", kept in a box in the hall and who possessed an amazing wardrobe containing accessories and clothing for every letter of the alphabet and then some. I guess, looking at it now, Annabelle was a French fashion doll with every sort of accoutrements. Upon reading the book for the first time I went to each of my grandmothers and asked to see her doll like Annabelle. I was sure they must have such a doll in the attic somewhere! They just laughed at me. Children of the Depression, they'd had no such luxurious toys.

Cissy's ball gown.
For a reason not clear to me, I have tried for years to interest my own daughter in Annabelle and her story and to recreate the doll for her. Alas, she is not interested. This should make me happy, I suppose, as it saves a lot of money, but I would very much like to share a doll I once dreamed of owning with my own girl. So, I make a lot of trunk sets with the 1950s fashion dolls and offer them for sale. My hope is that some other mother or grandmother can share my dolls with her own special girl.

Cissy's trunk.
I think I really outdid myself on this set! It's by far the largest trunk set I've ever offered, with a really nice trunk to boot. I've been working on this set for months now. It has involved hours of research and extensive sewing and doll and clothing repair. The result is a really lovely doll with a wardrobe worthy of Annabelle herself.

Cissy before restoration
Several months ago I acquired a 1957 Cissy doll. I found a photo of  her on Vintage Doll Collector, but the item number is listed as unknown. This is definitely the same doll wearing the outfit shown on the Web site. Cissy needed re-stringing, which I performed, and a good cleaning. Her hair was in its original set with the original hairpins and some tiny nails in the top and sides of her head, which I speculate once attached a hat or spray of flowers to her hair. Her hair was so dirty, though, it was actually discolored, so I had to wash it and give it a new set. This Cissy has a very unusual hair color. It's not the typical Tosca, but it's also not the blond or brunette I've seen before. It's a beautiful mixture of golden blond and reddish blond unlike any Cissy doll I've worked on before. The color just won't photograph accurately; you must see it in person!

The original pins were still in her hair.

Cissy's face was in good shape, with just cleaning and some light paint touch-ups required. Her body had no splits, which is quite unusual. Her body paint was a mess, however. Someone had abused poor Cissy, gouging the paint on her breasts and drawing crude markings on her. I cleaned her and sanded and painted her body.

Cissy's body needed re-painting.
Cissy's just about perfect now. She has some very typical paint scraping in her joints. I've sealed this to try to prevent it some, but it is mostly inside the joints and not noticeable.






Cissy's original pink and white striped skirt and blouse set was very dirty and stained. I cleaned the ensemble very carefully and have been able to fade the stains considerably. You can still see a couple spots, and the lace on the bodice has yellowed from age where exposed to the light.



Cissy's original slip and panties have a lot of wear. Both have loose elastic, though they still stay up. The panties were once pink, I believe, but they have faded to off-white. These have some small holes, which I've treated with Fray Check so they won't get any worse. The slip has a stain which I managed to fade but couldn't remove completely. Cissy's original shoes were all stretched out. I was able to sew the elastic in the back and on the sides to tighten it up. Cissy's original hose have wear. Both had holes I had to sew up and the elastic on one is rotten.

Cissy in all-original vintage clothing.



Because of the delicate state of Cissy's original lingerie, I made her a new teddy of real silk dupioni, trimmed with ribbon and lace. I also made her lace garters with Czech glass bead trim. I also repaired some vintage heels for Cissy to wear. These are pink faux suede with a plaid lining, silver foil insoles, and are trimmed with velvet flowers, silver sequins, and beads. They have pink plastic heels. They had fallen apart but all the pieces were still there so I just glued them back together.

Cissy's new silk lingerie.

Cissy needed a full-length crinoline to wear under her ball gowns, so I sewed one for her using yards and yards of lace and tulle. I could probably have made a skirt for my daughter from all this yardage! It's unbelievably luxurious!



A while back I bought a Revlon doll who came with a box of clothing. One overskirt caught my eye immediately, because it looked too large for Revlon and had rhinestones I thought I recognized as Madame's. Sure enough, a little research showed this was the overskirt from Madame Beatrice's own portrait doll, the one made using the Cissy body. I've seen this piece alone sell for over $20!

Madame Alexander's portrait doll skirt.
The rest of the dress was missing, so I created a new ball gown to go with it using a vintage Cissy sewing pattern. I adapted it to echo the gown with the side-draped sash worn by many Cissys. I used duchess satin with a white organza overlay and a multi-layered organza skirt. This is another remarkably full gown, using yards and yards of fabric. The vintage organza has some faint spots here and there, but they are barely visible, and not at all visible with the overskirt. I did design the dress to be worn by itself, as well as with the Madame skirt, and trimmed the sides of the sash with vintage rhinestones.

A gown handmade from vintage fabrics.






I made Cissy a lovely faux fur stole, lined with pink satin and trimmed with a vintage pearl button, that she can wear with any of her dresses when she gets a chill. I also gave her long organza opera gloves. A while back I acquired a lot of accessories described as "un-tagged Cissy" things. I have spent hours researching each piece, and I have been able to identify some of these pieces as Madame Alexander. I believe the spray of flowers I have pinned in Cissy's hair were originally attached to the #2026 Cissy hat.



Cissy's pearl necklace is another piece I'm pretty sure is authentic Cissy. The pearls are pinkish and match her outfit perfectly and they fit Cissy exactly. The square clasp looks correct. Cissy also wears a vintage adjustable "pearl" ring and a lovely watch. The watch has a pink elastic band, with some slight fraying on one side. It is marked "ESCO" and "Germany" on the back. It is missing one faux ruby.


I made an enormous sinamay picture hat for Cissy. This is swathed in yards and yards of pink bias check ribbon, white net, and trimmed with vintage-look flowers and berries. My inspiration was a hat my grandmother owned in the 1940s. People used to tell me all the time they only came to church to see what hat my grandmother would wear that Sunday; she was famous for her hats! In an old photo she wears a huge picture hat in white trimmed with red cherries and I used that one as a model for this.

This hat is modeled after my grandmother's late 1940s hat.


I used the same ribbon to trim an old body butter container and made a matching hat box style purse for Cissy to carry. This is a good size and really opens and closes so you can store her jewelry or shoes in it.

Cissy's handmade purse






Some days, Cissy wants a more casual look, so she wears her modern Madame Alexander pink poodle bolero jacket with her felt skirt and hat and sleeveless blue gingham blouse.




The blouse was another piece in the untagged Cissy set. I couldn't find any photo of such a shirt, but it is extremely well-sewn and uses buttons very like those on the pink striped blouse. The blouse is actually sewn with all French seams and has a tiny bias-cut pocket in front! This is really beyond even Madame Alexander's technique; they usually just pinked the seams. I wonder if it is a vintage seamstress piece.




Cissy's gray skirt and matching hat are polyester felt, which I hand-dyed to give it the variegated look of wool felt. These won't get moth damage like wool felt, though! I added a real tiny pocket to the skirt and pinned the flower spray to it to mimic a green wool felt skirt Cissy wore in the 1950s. I embroidered the skirt's hem with a leaf and vine motif. Cissy accents her tiny waist with a vintage faux leather black belt. I gave Cissy silver plastic heels to wear with this ensemble. These will match her other clothes as well, and are less fragile than the other shoes, if you do want to let a child dress Cissy sometimes.


 
After one memorable night, Cissy awoke with a tattoo on her wrist. She immediately regretted it, and though I tried to remove it for her I couldn't quite get it all the way off. Just as with laser treatments, the tattoo has faded considerably, but it is still visible if you know where to look. Cissy usually wears her watch on this wrist to cover it. Oh well, even Cissy was young once!
 
 
 
As you can see, I've had a fabulous time putting this set together. This is my childhood dream doll, with my adult dream wardrobe! Someday I hope I have a trunk full of clothes like these! As always, please check my store to purchase this doll and many others: http://stores.ebay.com/atelier-mandaline.




























































Friday, July 26, 2013

Fun With Insulation

Start by placing baffles in the spaces between the rafters.
Today we've been working since morning trying to properly insulate our bonus room. Even though we are having an unusually cool summer, the bonus room and my office opening off of it are uncomfortably warm. My office is so hot I think it would be uninhabitable during a normal summer.

Jerry did a lot of research and found out the bonus room comfort issue is very common because almost all these rooms are improperly insulated. The typical bonus room is located above a home's garage, flanked by walk-in attics, and with attic space above it. It's easy to see why the room's temperature would be hard to control; you have heat or cold beating down on the roof, penetrating underneath through the garage, and surrounding the exterior walls in the walk-in attics. In our house the problem is compounded by vaulted ceilings on either side of the surrounding rooms, which gather rising hot air, the long, narrow shape of the bonus room, with only two vents at the far end, a giant picture window facing the sunny south side, and our gas water heater located off the room. The water heater is the main culprit in keeping my office so warm. In order to vent the gas thoroughly we can't really seal the attic closet off from the office.

Baffles help stop air from being trapped between the roof and the insulation.
Almost all bonus spaces have insulation against the interior walls on the attic side. The roof and exterior walls are left uninsulated. This type of insulation actually achieves the opposite of the desired result, trapping heat against the interior walls and ceiling and heating them. Jerry showed me a blog about why this happens. It had a lot of math and physics I feel inadequate to relate, but my understanding it that hot or cold air presses in against the insulation and seeps through to the back side of the interior wall. Here it becomes trapped by the insulation in the tiny pocket between the wall and the insulation. In order to fix the problem it is necessary to enlarge the "building envelope". Essentially, you want to move the insulation to the farthest possible point from the interior walls so the air is trapped there before it can reach the interior walls. So, you need to insulate the roof and exterior walls, not the wall separating the attic from the interior.

We used paper-faced insulation on the exterior wall

We started by placing black plastic baffles on the interior roof in the spaces between the rafters. This helps to stop air from seeping in between the insulation and the roof and getting trapped. The baffles are not necessary on the exterior walls. There, we placed paper-faced R-13 fiberglass insulation in between each stud. We wore long sleeves, gloves, hats, safety goggles, and respirators to protect ourselves from the fiberglass.

We used this unfaced insulation on top of the baffles on the roof.

When we finished the exterior walls we placed unfaced R-19 insulation in the spaces between the rafters, on top of the plastic baffles. We used insulation stays, lengths of wire, to hold the insulation in place. After we placed all the insulation, we placed foam board on top of it. The board has foam insulation on one side and foil on the other. Tomorrow we will caulk or tape the seams in the board to further seal the space.

Finally, we sealed the exterior walls and roof with foam insulation board.
Jerry has been monitoring the temperature with an indoor/outdoor thermometer. Last week the walk-in was 30 degrees hotter than the rest of the house and the bonus room was about 10 degrees hotter than the rest of the house. Today, before the foam board was even in place, the attic was only 10 degrees warmer than the rest of the house, and the bonus room only 4 degrees hotter. The next steps will be to place window film over the large, south-facing windows, and also possibly to insulate the upper attic above the bonus ceiling the same as we did the walk-in. My office is typically only a degree or two warmer than the bonus. It is insulated, but unless we replace the gas water heater with an electric one so we can seal the office completely from the attic it will continue to run hot. We plan to see how much having the bonus room cooler helps the office before we decide if we need to do that. We also plan to insulate the walk-in off our son's bedroom the same way, as his room also tends to run hot.

I'm hoping this will make our bonus room much more comfortable for us and our guests. Insulating the walk-in will keep it temperate enough to use as a toy room where the kids can store and go to get their toys, so we can get more use from it. Tomorrow I'll be back to working on my dolls, but I thought you might benefit from our insulation tale!








Monday, July 22, 2013

Kjøttboler Comfort

Kjøttboler and Spring Tonic
Since this weekend was our anniversary, naturally I caught a little summer cold. It isn't too dire; I've just slept a lot over the past few days and have been coughing and sneezing. We still went out for dinner on Friday, though I sneezed through supper. It's good we were able to go on a date; Jerry and I haven't gone out alone since February. Charlotte very obligingly held Restaurant Week just in time for our anniversary and we discovered a new favorite in Davidson, called Campagnia. All over the area, restaurants are featuring $30 fixed price meals of three or more courses this week, so I highly recommend trying one or more if you're in the area.

While I'm on the subject of recommendations, I've really been enjoying Adele's 19 album lately. Jerry gave it to me a few months back for my birthday because it has one of my favorite songs: Make You Feel My Love, a cover of Bob Dylan's original.

Bob and I go way back, though we've never met. My father was just obsessed with Bob Dylan. We have every Dylan album ever recorded, at least until 1977, when my dad died. We have books about Dylan, and books by Dylan, including one of his drawings (it's a good thing he's a genius songwriter, is all I can say about those). I was going to be named "Dylan" after Bob, had I been a boy. I narrowly escaped it being born a girl! Adele sings that song quite a bit better than Dylan ever did, I'm afraid. I love it no matter what, though. It's comfort food for the soul.

Yesterday I decided I needed some actual comfort food, so I settled on cooking kjøttboler and it turned into quite the odyssey. Kjøttboler are what you probably know as "Swedish Meatballs". These are not exclusive to Sweden, however; they are a tradition across Scandinavia. I wanted to serve them with Spring Tonic, another Ohio favorite. I decided Aldi wouldn't have ground pork, so I went to Food Lion. First, though, I wanted to stop by Black's, because they have Lineberger's blackberries in and I wanted some. These are the plumpest, largest, sweetest blackberries I've ever eaten. So I drove out to Westport to Black's and then backtracked to Food Lion. Food Lion, I discovered when I arrived, has discontinued ground pork, unbelievable as that seems. They also didn't have any rhubarb, and neither did Black's. I have rhubarb, but it's only one season old, and you can't harvest it until the second year. So then I had to drive back past Westport and Black's to the Harris Teeter. There I found the last pack of ground pork, after much searching, and found it cost $3.99 a pound! That's more than the organic grass-fed beef I bought from Aldi's last week! Harris Teeter also had rhubarb, but for a price. The cashier didn't even know what it was and it took her forever to look up the item number. It looks like I'm going to have to start grinding my own pork, if everyone's going to get rid of it. I use pork in my hamburgers and meatloaf as well as meatballs. It ended up taking me a few hours just to shop for ingredients yesterday and then another hour or so to cook supper, and those meatballs are already long gone! I never did get any work done this weekend either, between my cold, and the anniversary date, and all the shopping.

I thought I'd share one of my meatball recipes with you, since they are so popular around here. I make meatballs a couple different ways, but this one is the easiest. It's very tasty, too, as it produces a thick, fluffy, delicately-seasoned gravy. I adapted Pillsbury's Complete Cook Book recipe for Scandinavian Meatballs to make my version.

Kjøttboler
"Norwegian Meatballs"
Serves 4-6
 
Meatballs
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
2 slices rye bread, toasted and ground into crumbs (1 cup crumbs)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried minced onion
1/4 tsp ginger
1 tsp juniper berries, crushed
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp pepper
1/3 cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
 
Gravy
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 TBSP beef bouillon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
4 cups milk
Lingonberry preserves, to serve
 
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. In large bowl, combine all meatball ingredients, mixing well. Shape into meatballs, about 1 inch in diameter. Place in a 13x9 inch pan greased with butter. Bake 55-60 minutes until meatballs are cooked through and browned. Drain.
 
While the meatballs are cooking, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour and next 4 ingredients. Add milk gradually, whisking continually. Whisk until the mixture over medium heat until the gravy thickens. Pour over meatballs. Serve topped with lingonberry preserves.
 
You may not want to use bouillon, since it's really not good for you. In that case, you can use this same recipe, but with a different technique. I usually try to avoid bouillon. To substitute the bouillon, pan fry the meatballs butter or coconut oil rather than baking them. You can just brown the meatballs partially and then finish them by baking, or you can fry them all the way through. At any rate, when you are done frying them, remove them and either finish baking them or keep them warm and scrape the drippings from the bottom of the pan. If necessary, add melted butter to make 1/3 cup drippings. Stir the flour into this and make the gravy as shown above, the way you would make gravy with the turkey drippings at Thanksgiving. You may continue with the gravy recipe as shown above, or substitute one cup of beef broth for one of the cups of milk. Correct the seasoning when the gravy is thickened. You will probably need to add extra salt to taste. If you use homemade beef broth, the sauce is much healthier than if made with bouillon. This is my preferred method for making the gravy, but it is more time-consuming.
 
The French Women books are a great recipe source.
 
For the Spring Tonic, I find Mireille Guiliano's Rhubarb Strawberry compote recipe from her French Women For All Seasons is an excellent guide. I prepare it as shown but I add extra cinnamon and fresh mint leaves if I have them and I serve it hot instead of chilled.
 
I am happy to report I can finally run again on my hurt foot. They say running is cheaper than therapy, but back in March I was having a rough time and overdid my cathartic running. I think I probably had a stress fracture. I can run little bits at a time again, not too far, but I guess it will take baby steps. To make up for the lack of running I ran on an elliptical machine, which didn't hurt my foot as much. As soon as the pool opened I started working in a few days of lap swimming as well. Today I've already fit in an hour of swimming as well as some juniper berry-picking.
 
Our juniper haul for the day.
I kept walking slowly the whole time my foot was hurt. I gained a little weight when I first stopped running but my substitute exercises, combined with my smoothie diet, helped me start losing again, and I'm feeling pretty good about myself now. The photos we took this weekend look much better than last year at this time, or even the ones from Mother's Day this year. I can squeeze into a bathing suit 4 sizes smaller than last year's, too, one I haven't been able to wear for 5 years. I just have to keep up the good work without hurting myself again.
 
I'm trying to relax and remind myself that life is never going to go exactly as I plan, but it will work out as it's meant to in the end. It's so hard for me to let go of control and just let things be. There's always going to be something upsetting, or something that isn't working out the way I'd hoped it would. All we can do is trust we're on the path laid out for us and try to enjoy the wonderful surprises on the way. And some comfort music and comfort food along the way doesn't hurt, either!
 
I promise I will get back to work very soon! Right now I have a ton of kids' clothing and shoes to list. Watch for those very soon: http://stores.ebay.com/atelier-mandaline.
 
 
 


 


 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Time's Passage


My hand-painted rocking chair
 
My sister and her family came to visit yesterday, so I spent the morning cleaning the house. It's sad, since it was really clean over the weekend when my parents were here, how fast it deteriorates! I had an extra teenager yesterday and the day before, though, because my son had a friend over to stay.
 
Once everything was tidy I got to work on our living room. This room is really tiny, and it hosted our Christmas tree for the first couple months we lived here, so it hasn't really been completely decorated yet. Right now I have our piano in there, along with my grandmother's writing desk and my other grandmother's sewing machine. These pretty much fill the room, but people need somewhere to sit, so I added my hand-painted rocking chair.
 
My grandmother's writing desk
All of the furniture I show here has been finished or re-finished by me, me and my dad, or my grandmother, so I thought I'd write a little about finishing furniture. The writing desk was originally a dark mahogany vanity, which my grandmother refinished in the 1960s with an "antiquing" kit to its present cream with gold accents. This was my father's mother, and she was an incredible homemaker. I wish I'd inherited more of her personality. She had this writing desk positioned right next to her front door and every day when the mail arrived she would get it and sit right down and write any replies needed, pay any bills, etc. She had a little wire rack with the days of the month printed on it and she would place each letter in the proper slot dated with the day that piece should be mailed out. Somehow, she was able to make the most mundane household chore look attractive in her front room! When I try to sort mail and leave it out for Jerry to view it always turns into a big messy pile. Things get lost, and I feel I'm drowning in paper. Grandma was just a natural organizer and decorator and her house always ran smoothly and beautifully. It was one of my favorite places in the world.

My grandmother's sewing machine

My other grandmother was not such a fantastic housekeeper. She had six children and far preferred reading to cleaning. This treadle sewing machine was her actual working machine, which she used until about the 1970s. My grandfather had electrified it by attaching a motor to the belts. It couldn't backstitch, though, so my mother used to have to sit next to Grandma and tie the knots at the end of the seams. When Grandma stopped using the machine she just left it down in the basement where her four youngest boys were allowed to play with it and mess it all up. She gave it to me when I was in college and all the little ornate pieces were broken off. My dad and I spent months gluing the trim all back on, refinishing the wood, and polishing the metal parts with oil to refurbish them. Grandma hated old things and antiques, probably because so many of the household items she had to use were antiques! She couldn't believe I wanted this machine and neither she or my grandfather could believe how nice it looked as a side table when they saw it in my house.

I learned how to refinish furniture working on that sewing machine, and it has served me very well in my married life. We hardly have any new furniture pieces. Almost everything in our house was handed down to us or purchased very cheaply or even fished out of the trash!  Something we do quite often if we want a "new" piece is shop unfinished furniture stores. When I was pregnant with our oldest I guess I was "nesting" as they say, quite severely. I became obsessed with the idea that I must own an Ohio-style rocking chair to rock the baby. I think these style chairs are called "Hamilton" chairs, but I can't remember for sure. They were very popular and numerous in Ohio, but you rarely see them here. A man who came to our house to assess the cost to move our furniture collects antique furniture and he because very excited when he saw my chair because he thought it was a real Hamilton chair. He grew up in the N.C. mountains, so I guess the chairs must have been available here to some extent in the past.

My hand-painted rocker

At any rate, I was rocked as a baby in a Hamilton chair to  James Taylor's "Sweet Baby James" and I owned a tiny child version, which I've passed down to my children, and I absolutely could not give birth until I had a Hamilton rocker in my baby's room! Looking back now, I wonder at it. This was just after Jerry's accident, so he still had his arms in stabilizers and casts and I had to do a lot of things for him. Then as well I was working full-time and freelancing at night. It was summer, so it was about a thousand degrees (that summer was the hottest or second-hottest on record for North Carolina to this day; a great time to be pregnant!) and to top it all off I decided the finish had to be authentic, so I used oil stain! I will say, oil stain lasts better than any other. It's much less likely to get sticky in our humid weather and it doesn't need refinishing every 5- 10 years like some of our other pieces.

The process I used was to buy the darkest wood stain I could find. Since I finished this chair new tintable stains have come on the market, so if I were doing the chair now I could get ebony stain, but at that time the best I could do was walnut. I stained the chair according to the manufacturer's instructions. Then I got Treasure Gold wax, which comes in a little pot located in the wood stain aisle at Michael's, and mixed it with regular artists' oil paints and Daniel Smith interference oil paints and rubbed in into the carved parts with Q-Tips. You rub it on and wipe it off with a rag gently until you have the look you want. Then I hand-painted butterflies and flowers and stuff on the chair rails. I wanted a look like modern rosemaling, and I think it worked. We've enjoyed this chair for years, for rocking babies and just for sitting on.

This room does need a little more seating, though. I would like to find a petite settee or something. Yesterday I hung up the kids' photos. I think they're a bit high, but I know if I lower them to the optimal location someone will smack that chair into them and knock them down. We had the photos taken just last year and I can't believe how much younger the children look. They've grown so much in just a year! It really makes you see how fast time passes!

It made me think, the end of summer is fast approaching. Soon it will be October again, and a whole year will have passed since my life changed so drastically. Then it will be hunting season again, and the time for camp fires and bonfires. So, I thought I would share a recipe my grandmother gave me:

Norske Pinnebrød
(Norwegian Campfire Bread)

2 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt 
2 teaspoons baking powder 
1 cup water 

Blend together all dry ingredients and then add the water. Knead the dough. Use enough flour to keep it from being sticky. Roll the dough into pieces the shape and size of a hot dog and attach it to your stick (a tree twig or grilling stake works fine). Grill it over a campfire. The bread is finished when it turns light brown and the dough can easily be pulled from the stick. Eat the bread with a hot dog, or just butter and a favorite topping.
 
The great thing about this recipe for camping is, you can just mix the dry ingredients in a container and take them with you and add water at the camp site. You could even just take self-rising flour and maybe a little extra salt for flavor and use that instead! This would be great with hot dogs, or with fresh game or fish.
 
Scandinavian cuisine is very much centered on cooking and eating out-of-doors. I think this is because the culture is historically so involved in hunting and fishing and traveling. Also, the good summer months are so rare people feel they must take advantage of every temperate day. The juniper berries I wrote about in my last are particularly used to flavor game, such as venison. I would say the flavor is a mixture of wintergreen and blueberries, both sweet and spicy. They are perfect for sauerbrauten and roast venison or game birds. We never had them at my grandparents' house, though. For one thing, my grandfather was pretty clumsy as well as blind in one eye, so fishing was his only hunting-type activity, and for another my grandmother was deathly allergic to gin, which is flavored with juniper!
 
My mother would sometimes cook sauerbrauten at our house, though, and it was a huge event when she did. She got her recipe from her German friend, Ing, and it involved the meat soaking in seasoning for days and sitting out for a while, and then it was served with labor-intensive potato dumplings. I love sauerbrauten, though,and haven't tasted it for years. I think it would be fabulous made with venison. In Germany it's traditionally made with horse meat, but I love horses too well to do that! As a very small girl I used to have to go with my grandmother to Mrs. Allen's house to pick up a rabbit for supper. Mrs. Allen would choose one and kill it and Grandma would take it home and cook it and then I would have to eat the poor, sweet rabbit! At least we knew where our food came from, though, and we knew Mrs. Allen took good care of her rabbits so they were happy until they died.
 
Thinking of  pinnebrød makes me think of a sad story I heard last month when we went home to Ohio. When I was growing up we got to go stay in Michigan every summer, and many years we were able to stay at my Aunt Trudy and Uncle Bob's cabin. The "cabin" was a huge Michigan-style summer house, all made of wood with paneled rooms and round rock fireplaces. Sand would fall down from the ceiling when people were walking around upstairs. The upper floor had a balcony all along one side that looked out on Lake Michigan, and every bedroom had a glass door that opened onto the balcony. There was a boat house and a long staircase down to the beach. Now they renovated and insulated the cabin as a year-round home and took the balcony off.
 
My aunt and uncle (actually my great-aunt and great-uncle) would let everyone in the family have a turn to stay, no small undertaking with our giant family. Usually we would stay two or three families at a time, so my cousins would all be there. We would have a bonfire on the beach at least two or three times while we were there, and we would be told to go find a nice branch in the woods. Then we would have to whittle our own grilling stake to cook hotdogs and smores and pinnebrød and such.
 
I have such happy memories of that house, and so I was terribly saddened to hear it has to be sold now in order to pay for my aunt and uncle to go to a home. My aunt has senility and my uncle fell on the ice and damaged his brain. They had been able to live in the cabin with home care, but now they are too far gone for even that. The land, since it's a huge lot on Lake Michigan, has gone up in value so much that, even though the whole thing cost my aunt and uncle $30,000 to build, it's now worth almost a million dollars. We talked about trying to scrape up enough money to buy it all together, with the entire family, but even if we could, the taxes are so high we couldn't afford them. It wouldn't be fair to those of us who are so far from Michigan, either, since we'd be able to go so much less. But it really is heart-breaking to lose a home so fondly remembered by three generations of our family.
 
 
The stairs from the cabin to the beach

Lake Michigan, as seen from the cabin
 
The most awful part of the whole thing, though, is to see my aunt and uncle, who were so very brilliant, in their current state. My uncle was the head of the nuclear physics department at the University of Michigan for many years. He helped set up Switzerland's nuclear program in the 1950s and was very musical. He played fiddle or banjo or something in a band, but that was back before I was born. My aunt was very funny and musical and athletic and extremely smart. She was wonderful with animals, and one of the best things about staying in the cabin was that she'd tamed all the wild animals to eat from your hand, so it was like stepping into a Snow White movie. When you'd go outside squirrels and birds and chipmunks would come and sit on your lap and beg for food. Not surprisingly, one of their daughters became a veterinarian. I'm so happy we were able to take the children over to see them summer before last. They could both still carry on a conversation, though Uncle Bob knew he wasn't quite with it and that made him angry. The beach was overrun with weeds, which made me and my mother sad. They always kept a rock beach in better days. The children enjoyed seeing them, though, and playing and swimming on the beach, so I felt I was able to share a small piece of my childhood. My aunt was still lucid enough to look through a book of native wildflowers with me and try to identify the ones growing in the yard.
 
A 1950s Cissette dress in need of repair.
 
Now that our rush of visitors is over I am going to try to get back to work. I have another Cissette trunk set to finish, and I have a tagged dress for this one. It needs cleaning and some future fashion designer embellished it with non-factory star sequins and beads. I will have to remove those and see what I can do with the needle holes left behind.
 
Speaking of time's passage, Jerry and I have been married 16 years this week. That just blows my mind! I was hoping to make enough money to pay for a nice trip or something, but I didn't quite make it, so I think we will settle for a fancy dinner out!