Here is a very moving photograph taken inside an evacuation center near Fukushima showing the important work and comforting power of these beloved creatures.
The Romantic Lifestyle
Thursday, March 31st, 2011
Here is a very moving photograph taken inside an evacuation center near Fukushima showing the important work and comforting power of these beloved creatures.
Thursday, March 31st, 2011
I am asked for my baked chicken recipe so often that I have decided to post it on my blog. I call it Class Chicken because I taught dance classes in my home studio for many years. The classes lasted an hour. I usually had one at 4:45 – 5:45PM. My dance studio was just a couple of rooms away from the kitchen. I could prepare the chicken for baking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and pop the chicken and several baking potatoes into the oven a couple of minutes before I began teaching class. It would be perfectly cooked and I could serve dinner at 6:00! I was able to prepare this no fuss delicious chicken dinner and have dinner on the table a few minutes after my class was finished. The ultimate in multitasking, right?
My kids love this recipe! So do I. And every adult who has eaten it at my house want’s my secret. There is no secret. It is very simple to make. I have tagged this recipe for children as they love it. It is really an adult recipe fit for everyone!
You will need:
Chicken, olive oil, Herbes de Provence, rosemary spring, thyme sprig, bay leaf or several, salt and coarsely ground pepper, a fresh lemon
Baking Potatoes, butter, salt, pepper, sour cream, chives or green onions, lemon ~ if you want them for toppings.
You can use any kind of chicken cut into parts. You could use all breasts, and or thighs, or drumsticks, or a combination of those pieces or a whole chicken cut into parts. The amount is also optional. Cook as much as you will serve and eat for one meal or extra so you can save it to eat cold the next day. Baked chicken breasts are delicious sliced into small pieces and added to a green salad or put into a sandwich.
I use chicken with the skin on because I like the flavor and I like the crispy skin. I have used the skinless boneless variety and it works. It just isn’t as attractive or as tasty without the lovely crusty skin. I have no problem with fat, not does anyone in my family so we are able to eat whatever we like – such as skin on our roasted chicken!
Preheat the oven to 400 Degrees. Use a heavy cast iron skillet that can be put into the oven or a casserole dish. Choose one large enough to spread out all the chicken you choose to cook in one layer. Grease the pan with olive oil. Using a pastry brush paint each piece of chicken lightly with olive oil in order to make the herbs stick to it.
Put a very generous amount of Herbes de Provence in a mortor and pestle and add salt and coarsely ground black pepper in the proportionate amount you instinctively judge to be right. You can always add more salt and pepper, even after the chicken is cooked and tasted at the table. (Leave out the salt for people who are required not to use it.) Grind these ingredients together. Then coat each piece of chicken quite thoroughly with the herb mixture. I simply put the herbs in a pie pan and roll each piece of chicken through them until it is coated.
Arrange the chicken pieces in one layer in the cooking pan. Now add fresh bay leaves. Either place a whole leaf under a slit in the skin of a big piece of chicken like a breast, or tear the leaf in smaller pieces to put on each piece. I make a slit in the chicken skin with a sharp knife and insert the bay leaf or part of one under the skin. This imparts a lovely flavor to the meat.
It is important not to eat the bay leaves. Ever! The body cannot digest them and they end up in peoples appendixes! So remember to remove the bay leaves before eating. And tell everyone you are serving this.
If fresh rosemary and thyme is available, add a sprig of one or each. I simply lay a small “branch” across the top of the chicken. If you have several pieces cooking use a few small sprigs. You will also remove these at the end of the baking also along with the bay leaves.
The oven is now preheated to 400 Degrees. The chicken is now coated with the herbs, and in the cooking pan, with the bay leaf, rosemary, and thyme if you have it.
Put the chicken in its pan on the center rack of the oven and cook for one hour. You can check it at 45 minutes if you like, but it usually takes a full hour to bake through and develop a nice golden brown crispy crust. The chicken is done when the crust is browned. It smells divine while cooking. The herbs smell fabulous.
Remove the chicken from the oven, remove the bay leaves and any rosemary or thyme twigs before serving. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the meat for a nice fresh twinge of citrus.
If I am serving a group I put the chicken on a platter preheated in my dishwasher or under hot running to help keep the meat hot. If serving individuals or small groups I serve it directly on dinner plates.
I generally bake perfect potatoes at the same time as the chicken in the same oven! At the same 4oo degree preheated oven for an hour. Isn’t that easy? To bake a potato perfectly use a medium sized baker. Wash the skin with a brush. Puncture the potatoes with a sharp knife. I stab a knife into the skin and about an inch into the flesh of the potato about 5x per potato. (It is very important to do this or your potato will turn into a bomb and explode in your oven making a very loud noise and a terrible mess. It has happened at our house when somebody forgot to puncture a potato. And it was a disaster!)
I spent my summers on my grandparent’s ranch in southern Idaho as child and they raised potatoes. Idaho is know as the Potato State! The natives call themselves and each other Spuds! This is how Spuds bake perfect potatoes. My potatoes are perfectly cooked and fluffy inside at the same time the chicken is done. To test them for doneness pierce the potato with a sharp knife. If it goes in easily and the inside is soft it is cooked. If the potato is still firm and it is hard to insert the knife it needs to cook a little longer. (Do not over cook.)
I serve the potatoes with the chicken with butter, salt and pepper, or sour cream and chopped chives or green onions if they are available. I present the potatoes whole, unopened so they stay piping hot and let each diner put on his own choice and amount of garnishes. Salt, pepper and fresh lemon juice squeezed onto the flesh of a potato are also very good if one is trying to avoid butter. B sure to eat the skin as it is really tasty and full of nutrients.
I serve the Class Chicken and Perfect Baked Potatoes with a tossed green salad and my Sauce Vinaigrette salad dressing which is already published on this blog.
I make the salad in advance and stick it in the refrigerator while teaching class or whatever. I also make the dressing in advance and have it sitting out at room temperature. The salad is ready to serve after tossing with the dressing.
You can preset the dinner table, then put the chicken, the baked potatoes and the salad on the table and sit down to a great dinner in 10 minutes. A loaf of crusty French Bread is another nice addition.
I am really hungry after writing this! I want to go to the store to get the ingredients and make it tonight!
I will add a photo in a day or two. I am posting this today at a friend’s request.
Asides from me: Microwaved potatoes taste terrible. Oiling the skin of a potato on the outside before cooking it ruins it. Putting it in foil ruins it. Baking Potatoes are a perfect ready to easily cook gift from God. They come in their own baking dish (their own skin) and the entire thing is edible. They are, in my opinion, a perfect food. I have many other ways to cook potatoes as well which I will write up at some point.
Wednesday, March 30th, 2011
Well, here it is. Finally finished and I have been wearing it for a few days. And people are saying it is so neat and I am so lucky to find such wonderful things. Then they tell me they look but never find anything so cool.
This was not as you see it now when I found it. So I want to explain what was involved.
It was extremely dirty, the lining was rotted and torn. When I slipped the coat on to try it for style and size the lining tore. It was essentially decomposing. The coat was missing several but not all of its buttons. They were same cloth as the coat covered ones rimmed in brass metal.
I decided the coat was worth attempting to restore style wise. Step number one was buy it. It cost $19.99. Take it home, quickly remove the lining, and wash it by hand to use as a pattern for making a new lining. Then package the coat in plastic, in case it had any moths living in it. I never risk letting moths come into my home and get into my clothing. Then, I immediately put it in my car and next day took it to the dry cleaners.
It cost $20 to clean the coat. While that was being done i shopped for lining fabric. I got a shiny satin like milium lining in a rust orange color. I removed all the seams in the lining I had removed and washed. I pressed it. Then I laid them out and pinned them down to my new lining fabric like pattern pieces and cut out my new lining. I sewed it together. And pressed a narrow hem into the raw edges all the way around.
I picked up the coat at the cleaners. It was not looking bad! But it needed some reweaving where the weaving of the tweed, which is a loose weave needed to be reinforced. And some of the seams needed to be redone as the old fabric and thread was beginning to rot. I re-stitched most of the seams for this reason. some by machine and many by hand.
Then I inserted the new lining and hand stitched it into the coat at all the edgings. This was quite time consuming actually! But it was looking good and seeming worth the effort.
The last thing that needed to be addressed was the buttons. I looked at modern ones. I went to four fabric stores looking! They just didn’t cut it. So I ended up moving two of the original 6 covered buttons onto the cuffs. I went though my huge stash of vintage buttons and, luckily I found three strange giant brown ones either plastic or bakelite, that had a perfect accurate 1940’s feel to them – because of course they were from that era! Nothing newer, that I could find would work on this coat.
I decided that it was OK to use different buttons on the cuffs and on the front of the coat! So that is what I did. I have two covered buttons on the cuffs and the big authentic 40’s ones down the front. The coat is finished!
It is lovely and warm because the collar buttons up to the neck snugly. The plaids are perfectly matched in he way the pattern was put together and sewn. The colors look very good on me. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on the coat! Such as, yesterday in an elevator somebody said to me, “Wow! You’ve totally nailed that vintage look!” (That’s a compliment.)
The coat is wonderful now because I saw its potential and I was willing to put the time, money and effort into restoring and repairing it. I didn’t just buy it off the shelf that way! I have seldom found any piece that didn’t require restoration. I put many hours into sewing it back together and looking for the lining fabric and buttons. All that and the expensive professional dry cleaning! I won’t wear anything used with out washing it or having it cleaned. You never know where it has been or what it has been through when you get it at these places.
So, I paid about $23 for the coat with tax, same for the dry-cleaning$23 with tax , then for the new lining fabric we can safely say another $25, the 3 special large vintage buttons I used on the front would easily be $8 apiece at a bargain. – that gets us up another $27 including tax had I had to buy them. (I had them on hand but had bought them earlier.) When all of this is accounted for I have spent about $100 for the coat plus my time, knowledge and tailoring expertise to reline and reassemble it. I know this would have cost at least $100 if you had to have a tailor do it.
I do have a fabulous vintage wardrobe, but probably because I have been collecting things and repairing them over many years. Not because I walk in and buy them that way at the Goodwill or Salvation Army.
I have bought some things that were not strong enough to make it through cleaning. When that happens it is just a risk you took. And when that happens you have lost the money you paid for the article plus the cost of cleaning and you have nothing for it! It can be very disappointing!
I do not see my plaid 40’s coat as a bargain! I think I paid quite a lot for it in terms of time, effort and money. I really like it and it is a very warm practical unique coat so it is completely worth it to me.
Contrary to what some people think you don’t often buy vintage items off the rack ready to wear. There is often a lot of work of be done to get old garments to that point.
Monday, March 28th, 2011
Sewing these colorful little cotton skirts is so fast and so rewarding! I’m suddenly caught up in it! So I have just finished another one! Again, size 3T, for the three year old princess Mademoiselle Coco who loves pink and loves twirly skirts! I am loving them so much that I am going to make myself one as soon as I finish the Princess Wow concert dresses!
I’m whipping these up out of leftover fabric from other bigger projects.
Here is today’s creation! Amazingly, it required two full packages of Rick~ Rack! For a child’s skirt ~ size 3T. That impresses me as a lot of Rick~Rack. I don’t know what to expect when I make an adult’s dress! But I can tell you that I intend to use a lot of the stuff as I love the effect! It is crisp, fresh and decorative! But it is not cheap! The wide stuff ~ called Jumbo, is $4.99 for a package of 2.5 yds. and the Medium is $2.99 ~ so this small skirt contains $8 worth of Rick ~ Rack, $1.50 of elastic, two spools of thread, and the fabric which I cannot really cost out as I used left overs. When I make it again I will calculate the yardage and price it out. It is important to know how much a project is going to cost to make.
People used to sew to save money, but nowadays it is actually quite expensive. You just get to make exactly what you want and get a perfect fit. Those are the advantages. Fabrics and trimmings have gone way up in prices. Of course fuel prices effect these costs as well. Sometimes I take apart old clothes and reuse the fabric and buttons, and other parts in new creations. I actually really enjoy doing that at times.
Here are the two little pink twirly skirts I have made for Coco over the weekend. Both pink, of course! And super cute.
What’s in that pink heart box? A little bumble bee tea set! A tiny teapot, 4 little cups and saucers. and a sugar and creamer. Yes, I will probably photograph it and post it soon.
These would be the perfect skirts to wear for an Easter tea party! I will have to get cooking.
Here’s a close up of the other skirt. It’s a full circle. The bows are removable for washing and ironing or can be taken off and untied and worn to tie the hair back in a pony tail.
Yesterday I read that in the 1950’s ~ 52 million sewing patterns were sold! And that 50 million women and girls in the US were sewing on a regular basis! They were making clothing for themselves, their children and their families. And making curtains, slipcovers and pillows and so on for decorating their homes. That sounds like domestic bliss to me!
The majority of patterns sold were for women’s dresses. And were they ever pretty! Super full skirts, based on Dior’s New Look, nipped in waists. Bright beautiful prints and solid colors, crinolines, hats, and high heels! I would have been in heaven! So lovely and so inspiring!
What would happen now if 50 million American women suddenly started making the majority of their own clothes again? Would everyone look pretty? I think so! Would shopping malls with store upon store of ready made go out of business? Or collapse? Hopefully!
Personally, I love the old styles and I love the old patterns. I look at Vogue Patterns Catalogue for the Vintage Vogue Pattern reissues every time I am in a sewing store. And I have bought some on eBay as well. But now that I know the statistics I wonder where all the original 1950’s patterns are?
I want to discover a warehouse full and make them all! Tell me if you know of one! Seriously!
Sunday, March 27th, 2011
Today I made a couple of fun and easy ultra feminine vintage goodies out of flower and butterfly and polka dot printed cotton. It is so fun and relaxing to work with compared to slinky slithery silks! And it goes so much faster. Very rewarding!
I made a 1952 Vintage Vogue Apron from currently available Vogue pattern number 8643 ~ view A. I love the giant super functional pockets, the practical length and the fact that it required 3 packages of bright pink rick~rack! That is 7 and 1/2 yards! Wow!
It is so springy and cheerful! I am currently in love with colorful aprons and pinafores and printed cotton dresses! The fabrics are so cute and the styles are so girly. I want to start wearing them as accessories all the time while I am working at home. They make me feel good, like wearing perfume does, or having a bouquet of fresh tulips on the kitchen table. They are so colorful and so uplifting! Easy to make too. It is no wonder they were so popular in the 50’s! They make you feel good. Psychologically!
I also made an adorable size 3T full circle skirt in bright pink polka dotted cotton, with green butterfly pockets, waistband and bow from leftover apron material. I made miles of handmade bias tape for the hemline of this little skirt out of a third pink and green printed fabric.
It runs along the top of the pockets and around the bottom of the hem of the skirt. It shows up better in person than in this little photo. And it is a really nice touch in person. The pockets also have pleats and are trimmed with little pink buttons. This little girl’s skirt is made from currently available Simplicity pattern 2356.
I had a special request for a butterfly skirt! And just enough fabric left over from the apron to make two pockets with the butterflies strategically positioned with one on each side and tilted a bit so they look like they are in flight. I think it is a hit! It is going to be a surprise and I am quite sure the little three year old fashion plate I made it for will absolutely love it! I have enough leftover fabrics to make her some matching doll clothes too! I intend to do a doll skirt just like the little girl’s skirt!
This kind of sewing is so much fun. I love mixing the fabrics, and adding as many girly details as I possibly can. That would be multiple pink and green printed cottons, pockets, bias binding, decorative buttons, top stitching, inventive pockets, and, of course bows!
The apron features a front T~panel construction which eliminates gathers across the stomach and creates a very slimming look while allowing the side gathers to give the impression of a lushly gathered full skirt.
Women were so conscious of their prettiness in the 1950’s. I say we should look this good around the house! I’m sure it will make us look better and I think it will make us feel better!
Little girls naturally want to wear flowered skirts and butterfly prints and bows and pink ~ grown up women should get back into it as much as possible again! All these vintage touches bring back femininity. They are artistic and they make us feel good. It’s those feminine arts doing their positive work! Bringing sensual pleasure and beauty to life!