Monday, May 27, 2013

Ginger Cake, a Downton Abbey-era recipe.

A recipe from the White House Cook Book:

I was given this first edition (from 1913) that my great-aunt's mother used.
Soft Ginger Cake

"Stir to a cream one cupful of butter and half a cupful of brown sugar; add to this two cupfuls of cooking molasses, a cupful of sweet milk, a tablespoonful of ginger, a teaspoonful of ground cinnamon; beat all thoroughly together, then add three eggs, the whites and yolks beaten separately; beat into this two cupfuls of sifted flour, then a teaspoonful of soda dissolved in a spoonful of water and last  two more cupfuls of sifted flour. Butter and paper two common square breadpans, divide this mixture and pour half into each. Bake in a moderate oven, This cake requires long and slow baking, from forty to sixty minutes. I find that if sour milk is used the cakes are much lighter, but either sweet or sour is most excellent."

White House Cook Book
The Saalfield Publishing Company: New York, 1913.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Thoughts on baking everyday foods

I have been baking a lot. To justify my delightful Kitchen Aid stand mixer purchase last Christmas, I have been baking more often. I made a rule for myself not to buy most things that I could bake. That rule is more or less followed in that if I don't bake bread I don't buy it, but then we don't have any to eat. Since that isn't pleasant, it keeps me motivated.

I have found that keeping huge canisters of staples next to my mixer makes baking so much easier since I don't have to dig anything out. My measuring cups are close by as well.

So what are some staples that are simple to make at home?

Bread crumbs (use leftover bread)

Another reason why it is better to make these at home is that most of the above foods are often laden with preservatives. Yuck! If you want to buy organic to avoid that, it is quite costly. Baking them at home saves me lots of money and is much healthier.

Of course, not everyone has time for this. Before moving into a home with a giant kitchen and dropping my part-time job, I didn't have time for it either; I bought everything. Just do what you can and don't beat it yourself up over it. I don't mean to give the impression that I bake everyday- I don't! There are plenty of times when there are no baked goods even in the house.

Giving up the notion that you must always have bread in the house helped me a lot. Sure, I like to have it around more often than not, but you can be very healthy without eating it all of the time.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Make your own easy peasant skirt

If you have a few minutes, you can make this breezy peasant skirt. It is very simple and can be done as a beginner's project. This should fit either a small or medium. If you are a size large, increase fabric measurements by about half a yard.

What you need:
3 yards of lightweight fabric
Several inches of wide elastic 
*Optional several inches of elastic lace

Cut two rectangles for the top and bottom parts of the skirt. The top part should be roughly 54x22 inches and the bottom should be 108x22 inches. (I cheated. I cut the three yards in half widthwise, then one of the pieces lengthwise, to be the top and bottom. Does that make sense?) It doesn't have to be exact. The lovely thing about peasant skirts is that since they are so billowy, there is a lot of room for error.

Take the top piece and sew a french seam in the side. Repeat with the bottom piece. 

1. Hem the bottom piece, if needed. (I used fabric with a finished salvage so it did not need to be hemmed- hooray!)
2. Baste three rows around the top of the bottom piece. Pull the threads to create a ruffle. Pull the seams until the bottom piece matches the size of the top piece (see picture of how it should look finished). 
3. Repeat three rows of basting for the top of the top piece (where the waistband will go).

Now the top and bottom pieces will be sewn together using a French seam. 

(Need help with that? First, pin the wrong sides together. Be careful with the ruffle and sew the seam as close to the edge as possible. Trim the excess, then fold and pin the right sides together. When you sew the seam, pull the ruffled part gently as you go (to prevent unsightly puckering). You can email me if you have questions about this.)

This is what it looks like when you are finishing the French seam. Try to keep your seam very straight because it will show when you are wearing it. 

It's time to sew the elastic waistband. Cut it one or two inches smaller than your waist. Overlap the ends by an inch (to create a circle) and sew together using an elastic stitch (or zig-zag). 

Pull the basted threads on the top part of the skirt to match the size of the waistband. Pin the skirt to the waistband and sew together using either an elastic stitch or zig-zag. Now you will want to remove the basted stitch or your skirt will not stretch! I just give it a good ol' pull and the old threads break. You can use a seam ripper if you are working with a delicate fabric, or like to be precise.
*If you are also attaching a lining, sew that to the waistband first, or pin together with the top of the skirt. I didn't bother with one since I wear a slip all of the time anyway. 

Obviously this is a different skirt. I included a picture to show how you can cover the ugly seam with pretty elastic lace. I did not do this because I didn't have the color I wanted when making the skirt.

Tada! Elegant! 

It is a lot of fun to wear!

Now go make one!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

DIY Easy wood Waldorf inspired toys

I love My kids really like wooden toys. I like the idea of using natural materials instead of plastic. I have been slowly building my kids wooden toy collection. One of the biggest problems is that they are so expensive!

Here is an easy DIY for these Waldorf inspired toys.

You can buy these unfinished wooden shapes at Hobby Lobby or other similar craft shops. They are pretty cheap. I am all crunchy and used natural beeswax crayons to color them, but technically you could use any child safe coloring (paint, crayons, markers, etc...).

The idea is that children learn about sorting, colors, and coordination by putting the right colors together.

For the five minutes it took to take pictures, I was constantly fending Daniel off from stealing them. The kids love them!
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