The Flash!

This is a lifetime first for me: I finished a Hallowe'en costume one full week before Hallowe'en!

I am frankly astounded, and at loose ends. But miracle of miracles, it is true. Despite having to re-do the leggings from scratch because they were too small (curse you Burda and the randomness of your seam allowances). The costume is basically a hoodie and leggings (Burda 9482), with a bit of felt decoration, appliquéd using the old classic zigzag wheel on the Supermatic. Before I started, I asked the kid if he'd possibly wear it to school or elsewhere after Hallowe'en was over (in which case, I'd use something that would hold up in the laundry better than felt). He said, "No." I guess he's too old for that kind of thing.

When I asked him to try it on for size, he said, "Hmm, I could wear this to school!" Sigh.

The boots are yellow felt, cut to fit over the kid's rainboots. There's an elastic strap that goes under the heel to hold them on (I hope).

The tricky part was making the wing/lightning thingies sticking out of his helmet and boots. I ended up using multiple layers of felt fused together with Wonder Web for stability, and zigzagged around the edges.

There was a lot of zigzagging with this costume. But it's done done done! A week in advance! I guess I can always kill time making more sugar cookies.



Luckily I got my pyjamas finished - buttons and all - just in time, and knitting and movies to while away the hours.

Speaking of, I was delighted to discover this blog post about the two starlets I've been most entranced with of late - Barbara Stanwyck and Ginger Rogers. Apparently both were avid knitters when not lighting up the screen!

In my most recent binge, I've watched Barbara in The Lady Eve and Ginger in Roberta and Flying Down to Rio and The Gay Divorcee.

I have to say, I never cared for the line about Ginger doing everything Fred did, except "backwards and in high heels" - Fred's greatest performances were solos after all! But Ginger is far the better actor; she has a great sense for comic timing, and shone in roles with no dancing at all (e.g. The Major and the Minor, or Monkey Business). I don't think any director cast Fred in a non-dancing role, and unlike Ginger, he never won an Oscar for his acting.

Both played smart, funny heroines - no shrinking violets they! Barbara I think will always be my number one for her performances in Double Indemnity and Ball of Fire, but my whole life I've wished I could dance like Ginger.

And now, I think I'll take some cough syrup and fall asleep to Fred's soft-shoe sandman routine in Top Hat.


Pyjama party

So excited to say I already have one Xmas present done!

As usual, I am making pyjamas for my son for Xmas eve. This year, I am making us a matched set. How dorky is that! I got his done, and mine started, and then ran out of thread.

The rainbow of buttons down the front match the mini-buttons I used to decorate one of the trees on the pocket:

I am making myself some summer pyjamas too, but again, ran out of thread! I need to get buttons, too.


Whole Wheat Bread

Have I finally done it? I think I have finally done it!

Perfect crumb, perfect rise, great texture and taste. I think I am finally ready to stop with the endless tweaking of the bread recipe, and just stick with this one.

Whole Wheat Bread

3 cups whole wheat bread flour (hard)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup powdered milk
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 TBS yeast
2 1/2 cups water
1 egg, beaten
sesame seeds to sprinkle on top

Combine all dry ingredients, including yeast.

Make a well in the centre, and add water and egg. Stir to combine.

Dump out onto counter and knead 15 minutes. Do not add any additional flour, even if it's really sticky.

Return to bowl, cover (I use a butter paper), and let rise one hour.

Preheat oven to 500 F. Butter a 4" x 4" x 16" bread pan.

Dump dough onto counter. Knead lightly and roll out into a large oval about 1/2" thick.

Fold in ends so it is the same length as bread pan, then roll up jelly-roll style. it will be a bit thicker at the ends but that is just fine.

Lift the dough into the pan. Let rise 45 minutes-1 hour. Brush the top with a little milk or beaten egg, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

As soon as you put it into the oven, drop the temperature to 350 F. Bake 25 minutes, turning once.

Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then unmold and let cool on rack.


Sewing day!

Finally getting a chance to do some sewing! It's a good thing too, as I have far too much fabric, and not enough money. This is like getting new clothing for free!

First off, a dress. This fabric had been sitting around for two or perhaps three years. It's just cotton with some machine embroidery - sort of eyelet without the holes - and I love how the slight dressiness of the fabric takes a pretty plain pattern and makes it look much smarter.

This skirt is from fabric I think I got two years ago. It's a woven polka dot, again in all cotton. This was mostly done last summer, but I needed to do hand finishing and then I decided I needed to tweak the fit. You can tell I'm really keen on pencil skirts at the moment! I think I overdid and/or outgrew the fuller 1950s skirts I was enjoying for so long.

This one is actually recent fabric, purchased this spring. I took my favourite shirt pattern, switched a few things around, and voila! A shirt with a very different sort of look, still work-appropriate for summer.

Three down, nine zillion to go. I have so many things cut and pinned already...


Eggs: yolks + whites

I love eggs! The most versatile, irreplaceable ingredient. If I was allergic to them, I would surely weep.

So the other day, when I picked up a couple dozen organic eggs of exceptional egginess, I felt they needed a recipe to really show them off - a classic gold cake, a simple way to showcase a good egg.

Then of course, you have egg whites left over, so you have to make meringues!

Gold Cake
(from The Cake and Cooky Cookbook)

2 cups sifted cake flour
1 TBS baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, soft
1 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup milk

Grease two 8" round pans, line with waxed paper, grease paper.

Measure flour, baking powder, and salt into sifter.

Beat butter, adding sugar gradually, till light and fluffy.

Beat egg yolks till thick and lemon coloured. Blend into butter/sugar along with vanilla.

Sift and add dry ingredients, alternating with milk.

Divide between prepared pans and bake 35 minutes at 350 F. Cool 5 minutes in pan before turning out onto rach.

Chocolate Frosting

1 1/2 cup milk
3 TBS corn starch
1 cup butter, soft
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp vanilla

Whisk together milk and starch, cook over medium heat until thick. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Beat butter, adding sugar gradually, till light and fluffy. Beat in cocoa and vanilla.

Gradually add cooled milk mixture, beating till smooth after each addition.


2 egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Beat egg whites with cream of tartar and salt until foamy.

Gradually beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition to dissolve sugar completely.

Continue to beat till meringue forms stiff peaks. Stir in vanilla.

Spoon mounds on ungreased cooky sheet, leaving room for spreading.

Bke 60 minutes at 275 F, till crisp.

Cool on racks, then store in airtight container.


Picnic pie!

I have wanted to make one of these ever since the Picnic Pie finale on The Greak British Bake-Off, so when a friend invited me to a potluck picnic it was an obvious choice! The recipe I used is from Jamie Oliver.

I started early in the morning, when the kitchen was still cool (west-facing windows mean it gets hot in the afternoon). And there was a lot of cooking involved in prep. Eggplants got done on the grill:

... as did the zucchinis. Red peppers and squash and garlic were roasted in the oven.

Once the prep was done, the assembly began. Fresh basil and parmesan:


Red pepper, wilted spinach, and ricotta:

Caramelised red onions and goat cheese:

And finally the top! Ready for the oven. This was when I realised I'd forgotten to include the squash. Whoops.

Here it is, out of the oven! But I had my doubts about whether it was really done - I translated 180 C to 350 F, but I think I should have put it in at 375 and left it in longer.

Here it is after some dithering and eventually deciding on a second bake:

Still had some structural integrity issues though. Lessons learned for next time!