Monday, August 29, 2011

Excavation (literary edition)

I've been doing some cleaning and sorting, and have turned up all manner of interesting and forgotten things.  Here is a tiny sampling of them, for your perusal...

First, a postcard - doubtless acquired at a thrift store, given the book it was tucked into - of this beautiful and devastating 17th-century effigy:
It's apparently in the collection of the V&A.  The notes on the back add the inscription:

Lydia Dwight dyed March 3 1673

It reminds me of Ben Jonson's epitaph "On my first daughter" though that was written some 80 years before.

Now (so as not to be thoroughly bleak), let me add this poem by Borges, which i'd printed out and filed away a few years back, and unearthed today (okay, it's in translation, because i have only Sesame Street Spanish...):

The Just
Jorge Luis Borges

A man who cultivates his garden, as Voltaire wished.
He who is grateful for the existence of music.
He who takes pleasure in tracing an etymology.
Two workmen playing, in a cafe in the South, a silent game of chess.
The potter, contemplating a color and a form.
The typographer who sets this page well, though it may not please him
A woman and a man, who read the last tercets of a certain canto.
He who strokes a sleeping animal.
He who justifies, or wishes to, a wrong done him.
He who is grateful for the existence of Stevenson.
He who prefers others to be right.
These people, unaware, are saving the world.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Report from the coop... also, a sale

Chickens don't like seismic activity.

We can add yesterday's earthquake to the long list of things my chickens disapprove of, including snow, cats, closed doors, strange new birds, snow, celery (except the leaves, which are acceptable), and snow.  They really don't like snow.

It turns out that the monthly delivery for chicken feed falls early in September, a fact i had failed to account for in my planning.  Thus, the second part of today's post: time for a quick sale at the pattern shop!  Now through August 30th, use the code "SCRATCH" to get 15% off your order... you could get this, which would be perfect for back-to-school:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Ribbon roundup

Thirteen entries for this year's fair, six of which are now sporting ribbons... there are two third place ribbons, one on the wineberry-blackberry-blueberry jam, and one on the still life photo entry, this shot:

(I took that while passing the time at a gig where the spouse was playing music, but i was not. Didn't think it was one of the better photos i'd entered, but it looked like maybe the judges had a thing for peaches in the still life category...)

The berry cheesecake bars had a second place ribbon on; made them with blueberries this time - all the blackberries on the mountain fizzled in the drought, and all the ones in the store had been flown in from unacceptably far away.

There were blue ribbons on the Fitz print (i always knew he was a winner), on my bread, and on my roasted tomatoes.  I canned the last of the tomatoes this way last year, after i finished the tomato sauce, and they were wonderful - this year i skipped making the tomato sauce, and went straight to the roasted tomatoes.

I've been trying to remember where i found the recipe, but it's so simple that i did it from memory this year: chunk the tomatoes (halve for something small like Romas, quarters or even smaller for heftier tomatoes - i like to use a variety of types in each batch) and plunk them on a baking sheet that's been drizzled with olive oil.  Parchment paper is your friend - while it's not essential, it will make packing the tomatoes and cleaning up after much easier.  Pop them in the oven at 425-450F (whatever won't set off your smoke alarm - that seems to be the deciding factor for me) until the skins are a bit crinkly, the tomato chunks are sagging in on themselves, and if you're lucky, there's a little color around the edges where they've started to caramelize.  Transfer to sterilized pint jars, adding in a fresh basil leaf here and there.  When you've filled the jars (don't pack too tightly, just what will fit) top them up with olive oil, leaving appropriate head space.  Put on the lids and process for 15 minutes in a boiling water canner.  You can put them on pizzas, chunk them up a bit for an instant-and-charmingly-rustic pasta sauce, toss them into stews... mmm!

Friday, August 12, 2011

The history of the future

I'm incapable of resisting very old books in thrift shops - partly because anything that washes up there after surviving for a hundred years or so probably has something going for it, and partly because i'm the sort of bookish geek delighted by historiography - even if it isn't a good reference, it's fascinating to see how people thought about and wrote about various subjects a century ago.

So the other day, for the weighty investment of $2.00, i brought this home for the spouse, who's equally keen on old books, and fond of things mechanical and scientific (which comprised the subject matter of this particular volume for children):

And inside, i found this illustration, which - all by itself - more than repays my investment (you'll want to click on the image, so you can actually read the caption...):

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Odd bits of transferware

I've been gathering ("collecting" would be far too purposeful and organized a word for it) mismatched bits of transferware, against the day when the dishes we've been using are due to be retired.  No particular theme as far as color or pattern, just things that i spot and decide i rather like... with bonus points awarded for strange or locally significant subjects - for instance, i bought a plate that has a somewhat cheesy-touristy image of Luray Caverns, done in a beautiful purple.  I added a few more pieces this weekend: a butter plate from the nearly-deserted flea market, and two dinner plates from a local thrift store.

The dinner plates scored on the local interest front: both feature more-or-less local Catholic churches dedicated to Saint Ignatius (the spouse said he's pretty sure that at least one of his sisters was married in the church shown on the plate on the right).

They look like the sort of thing that was probably custom produced in a small run to be sold as a fundraiser.  Curiously, though the plates have the same raised floral border, they're slightly different sizes.  The marks on the back and the glaze vary between the two as well.  One of them is dated 1966.  The other, while it has information on the back about the church building, has no marks at all from the manufacturer.

Even more mysterious is the tiny little butter plate (i'm guessing it's a butter plate, anyway - it's maybe a wee bit large for that, but quite a bit smaller than a saucer, and no depression to receive a cup...).  The transfer is poorly done on this one, but it was such a pretty pattern - i'm usually not a fan of the straight-up floral designs, heaps of roses on dishes just aren't my thing - but with the berries and the geometric border on the very edge, i quite fancy this pattern.  The problem?  Well, aside from the fact that it's not a great example (what with the transfer flaws), i have no idea what the pattern is or where the piece comes from.  No marks at all, so i'll have to hope that i can match it to a picture somewhere... at least there's hope, since the strawberries aren't the most ubiquitous motif on transferware.  With luck, i'll be able to find something else in the same pattern that does have a mark.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The legend of the spaghetti sauce

My grandmother's maiden name was Zuber; my grandfather's name was Paul Jacobus.  "Jacobus" and "Zuber" are not, you may observe, Italian names.  But we have a fine Italian spaghetti sauce recipe in the family, and it's because of my grandmother, Jewel.

Paul grew up in Irvington, New Jersey, and his best friend - now we get to the Italian names - was Vinny Loria (that's the two of them, aged about 15, Vincent on the left and Paul on the right).  When Paul was courting Jewel, he invited her to join him for Sunday dinner at his friend Vinny's house.  Vinny's mother, Mrs. Loria, was apparently the picture of an Italian matriarch, and Jewel saw dish after dish brought to the table.  Not wanting to offend her hostess, Jewel tried to eat some of each new item presented, but finally she couldn't fit any more in.  And still the dishes were presented...

After a while, she excused herself, went to the bathroom, and removed her girdle, so that she could return to finish the meal.  When Mrs. Loria discovered what Jewel had done, she was so flattered that she gave her the family spaghetti sauce recipe, which my very Germanic-and-Dutch family enjoys to this day.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Wake up!

There's a sale on at PressingNeeds - i need to get ready for the county fair, which means (among other things) that i've got lots of prints and photos that need to be framed, and that can run into a fair chunk of change... so, now through Saturday, August 13th, you can use the coupon code "FRAMED" to get 20% off your order!

There are lots of prints to choose from (the block i've show here is printed on one of those oh-so-handy pocket-sized Moleskine notebooks), and if you see something you'd like in a different color, or maybe framed and ready for gift-giving, don't hesitate to send a convo my way!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Meet the menagerie

Not the furry ones - you've seen most of those.  Time to start on the sewing machines.

This is Grandma's old Kenmore Rotary machine, made, according to the model number, in 1948.  (Now, Grandma told me it was the machine she bought in about 1939, with the wages from her first job, but my guess it that this must have replaced that original machine - maybe an upgrade, since by then she had baby clothes to sew...)

It's not as pretty with gold decals and such as some of the old Singers and other machines i've got, but it's sure solid!  The only thing i really dislike about it is that the corners of the base are quite sharp - rather prickly when toting it up and down the stairs to take photos, for instance... shouldn't matter much in the real world, as i've also got the cabinet for the machine, which has pretty fluted legs, for all it's been painted an unusual streaked green.  I quite like the color actually - it was the same treatment that had been applied to the dresser and the desk as well, in the room i stayed in during the summers.  Now, i just have to find a place i can fit the cabinet, so i can give it a good test drive, and see to any care and feeding it needs!