Monday, July 30, 2012

Madison Avenue Monday: He Just Said I Look Beautiful

Um...not to be a Negative Nancy or anything, but I guess he didn't notice that your dress doesn't really fit that well?

From McCall's Pattern Fashions, Spring 1972

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Giveaway Sneak Peek!

I hope that you're having a good weekend dear readers....  Here's a little sneak peek at this upcoming giveaway from Hephzi Creations that you won't want to miss!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Madison Avenue Monday: Take a Long Look

Enjoy these lovely maxi dresses from the Summer 1970 issue of McCall's Pattern Fashions.  I particularly like the triangular key-hole detail in this dress, pattern 2403:

And she's doing exactly what I want to do this week....   I'll be taking just a few days off from the blog for some R&R.   Have a wonderful week!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sugar Snaps and Strawberries, a Book Review

Sugar Snaps and Strawberries

Sugar Snaps and Strawberries by Andrea Bellamy is the gardening book for anyone interested in growing food in small spaces, and I can say without hesitation that it is a book that I will continue to use for years to come. 

You really can garden anywhere. Finding space is every small gardener's first task, and an entire chapter has been devoted to creative ways to garden even if you don't have a backyard.  As I wrote in a previous post, I started a backyard co-op in order to share my yard with a friend who has no yard at all!

This is the first gardening book for small spaces that I have read that encourages the reader to discover his or her own personal garden style to determine how the space should look before designing the layout of the garden. For example, should it be a formal or informal garden?  Will you integrate your edible plants with your ornamentals?  What gardens in the past have inspired you?

Sugar Snaps and Strawberries
"There is beauty in a garden, no matter how simple or how small."  
 Photo credit Jackie Connelly

One of the charms of this book are the incredibly beautiful photographs by Jackie Connelly. They are incredibly inspiring and make the book a pleasure to read.

Sugar Snaps and Strawberries
Photo credit Jackie Connelly

I found the section on plant families and crop rotation to be one of the most useful in the book.  I've been growing plants like zuchinni and tomoatoes in my raised bed each year, and because they are in the nightshade family I've been battling the same diseases year after year.  I realize that I am going to have to rotate the crops that I grow in my raised bed.

As an organic gardener I an glad this book focuses on gardening organically.  Included in this book are tips about where not to garden (such as near heavily polluted streets as this will leave a layer of grime on your plants) and help for common soil problems.  There are step-by-step instructions about how to prepare containers and build raised beds, and also how to compost and control insects organically. 

I found out that I am not alone in never having grown cilantro successfully, so if you've tried it and failed don't be discouraged!  This book includes a short list of the easiest edibles to grow, and handy information about each one can be found in the "Edibles A to Z" chapter.

My own little container / raised bed garden has been growing for exactly three months now, and you can see a little more of the progress. The peppers and tomatoes are being grown in containers.  I love nothing better that a homegrown tomato so I am in heaven whenever one ripens:

Bell pepper
Patio variety container tomato, Serendipity Handmade
Pole Bean, Serendipity Handmade

At the end of the summer growing season I'll turn to this book again for guidance about harvesting and storing your own seeds.  I would definitely like grow some of the same varieties again next year.  And I am considering a winter garden this year as well.

Andrea also blogs over at Heavy Petal, so be sure to pop over and check out some of her recipes, tips (like this great post on Low Maintenance Edibles), and garden-related freebies that complement her book.  

Sugar Snaps and Strawberries is a cheerful, enjoyable, informative read, and I recommend this book highly if you want to create an edible garden in a small space.

Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of this book but my opinions are my own!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Madison Avenue Monday: Denim is a Fashion Favorite

So chic! This gray denim summer playsuit today is so elegant.  The gold cuff watch on her wrist is to-die-for too:

From Simplicity Magazine, Summer 1952

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fortunate Finds: a Mid-Century Kimono Obi

Would you believe that this beautiful kimono obi was found in a trash bag?

This incredible find was originally owned by one of the lovely students in my sewing class, Kiyoko, who lost her battle with cancer a few months ago (but she lived well into her 80s and had a full life).  Her family donated several trash bags full of fabric and fabric scraps to our class, and apparently one her adult children tossed this obi into the bag thinking it was simply a length of fabric!

I practically had to wrestle it away from a fellow student who pulled it out of the bag because she wanted to cut it up to make something new out of it!  I kept begging her not to do it, as it should be appreciated in its current form. I must have been really charming that day because she very graciously gave it to me.

Well, my instructor and I contacted the family to see if they wanted to have this precious item back but they said no, as it did not belong to a kimono.  Lucky me!  I am honored to own Kiyoko's obi as both a beautiful work of art and as a remembrance of a lovely and talented woman.

Draped over a hanger.  It is too long to photograph in its entirety!
Knowing very little about kimono I find this obi to be quite a mystery. First, it is huge at 13 feet long and 14 inches wide.  An amateur conservator that my instructor knows took a quick look at it and guessed that it was probably made mid-century, around the 1950s, but could tell us little else.

So I've done a little research on my own. The fabric seems to be silk and has been wrapped around a somewhat stiff inner core and hand-sewn along one side. It is patterned on both sides. The size, length, and fabric indicate that it should be the most formal type of obi, a maru obi, but it is not nearly as elaborately patterned and embroidered as a maru obi would be.  It is probably a less formal type of obi.

The ends of the obi

My best guess is that it is a fukuro obi.  There is embroidery on both sides, but it is clear even to my inexpert eyes that this obi is meant to be tied in a specific type of knot because the embroidery is heaviest on one side, in one area.  Which knot?  I don't know.  This is the part that is most embroidered and is meant to be showcased:

Perhaps it is meant to be tied in a taiko musubi, or a drum-like knot. This is one of the most common obi knots worn today.  Click here for a series of photos showing one method of tying an obi in a taiko musubi.  Complex, isn't it?

It has a few water stains, and what look to be food smudges, so I know this obi has definitely been worn.  It's intriguing. One day I will find an expert in order to solve the mystery of this lovely obi.

{P.S. In case you missed it, Wednesday A. is the winner of the fiber art sculpture giveaway!}

Monday, July 9, 2012

Madison Avenue Monday: Americana Fabric

With such unhappy looking models in their advertising it's probably a good thing that Sears isn't trying to sell fabric anymore.

From Good Housekeeping Needlecraft, Spring-Summer 1972

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July + Free Printable

Happy 4th of July! For those of you in the US who have picnics or parties planned, you might want to download these free printable straw tags from Pick Your Plum:

Pick Your Plum Free Printable Straw Tags
via Pick Your Plum

After stumbling over this delicious Strawberry-Blackberry Cake recipe from Shockingly Delicious I couldn't wait to share it with you here.  

It was so good I actually ate some for breakfast with my morning coffee the next day!  It makes for a pleasant holiday desert with a naturally red-white-and blue theme, and looks lovely with a dusting of powdered sugar:

Image and recipe courtesy of Shockingly Delicious


  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature, plus more for pie plate
  • 3/4 cup sugar + 2 tablespoons for topping
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia (I used orange extract and this cake was still delicious)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 12 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 6 ounces fresh blackberries
  • Garnish: powdered sugar or freshly whipped cream


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter (or mist with nonstick spray) a 10-inch pie plate, a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate, or a 9-inch Springform pan.
  2. Put butter and 3/4 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low and mix in egg, milk, vanilla and Fiori di Sicilia. (The cold milk will likely cause the butter to clump. Don’t worry.)
  3. Reduce speed to low; add salt and baking powder and mix well. Add flour and mix until combined. Scrape batter into buttered pie plate; an offset spatula works well to smooth batter into pie dish. Arrange strawberries on top of batter, cut sides down and as close together as possible; sprinkle blackberries on top. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries (don’t reduce the sugar for topping because that’s what makes the berries jammy).
  4. Bake cake 10 minutes; reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake another 1 hour, until cake is golden brown and firm to the touch. Remove from oven and let cool in pie plate on a wire rack. Cut into wedges and dust with powdered sugar at serving time, for pretty.
  5. Cake can be stored at room temperature, loosely covered, up to 2 days. It will remain moist.
  6. Makes 1 10-inch cake; 8 servings.

If you are celebrating today, I hope you have a happy and safe 4th of July!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Madison Avenue Monday: Trimagination

A little Americana-style red-white-and-blue trim for this week's upcoming Independence Day celebration.  Looks like the model in this photo started celebrating a bit early and needed to have a little nap.

From McCall's Pattern Fashions, Summer 1972