Nostalgic Home

A Vintage View of Homekeeping

Grapefruit are a pain to eat. Cupcakes, anyone? February 9, 2009

Filed under: Baking — LotusMama @ 1:05 pm
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I don’t have the fancy grapefruit spoons with the serrated edges, so when I eat a grapefruit half, I generally run a knife around the outer edge and then just take my chances digging into the fruit with a plain spoon. The end result is a bit smushed up, with lots of juice left in the bottom of the grapefruit rind. Which, with all the brown sugar I typically sprinkle on the surface isn’t a bad thing; grapefruity and sweet goodness.

While eating a grapefruit today for breakfast and struggling with the fruit, I thought “Gee, perhaps I should get some of those serrated spoons…” Then I thought, “Nah, I’ll just use the grapefruit in something else. Mmmm, cupcakes…” Yep, I went from healthy (mostly) breakfast food to baked treat in the blink of a eye.

My first thought was to take the recipe from The Brown Derby for the grapefruit cake and change it into cupcakes. Sadly, this recipe only has a couple of tablespoons of juice in the whole thing and I don’t think that is enough for a really good grapefruit flavor. I went in search of something better and I think I found it here. This recipe calls for 1/2 cup of juice and pulp, which is basically what I have when I try to eat my grapefruit. I think this will be perfect with a little cream cheese frosting.

So really, this was a long way of saying that having the right tool for the right job is important. It keeps people from mangling their grapefruit and from eating cupcakes. Hmmmm, well I’m against the mangling part anyway.


Lucky but old, you can’t have it all February 8, 2009

Filed under: Jane Austen,Yippee — LotusMama @ 1:18 pm
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I had such a wonderful birthday, which I wisely strung out over two days. Sure, getting older isn’t any fun but the rest of the birthday stuff certainly makes up for it. Friday, I had a lovely bit of fondue with my hubby and a quiet evening watching British comedy. Saturday, my family gathered for some seafood (I had grilled shrimp and scallops – delish!) and then a generous helping of my mother’s wonderful Black Forest cake. Kirsch brandy, sweet cherries, whipped cream, chocolate cake….wow, what a wonderful dessert.

As if all this wonderment wasn’t enough, I received gifts that were tailor made. Hubby found a full set of Jane Austen hardcover books for me, which are even now right next to me on my desk. My sister and brother-in-law picked out the exact skirt I had lusted over at a shop called Torrid, so that was an excellent surprise. My grandmother found some wonderful British treats for me – turkish delight, cherry jelly, almond and cherry tea….Mmmmmm.

My folks added to the British theme with a lovely necklace featuring Anne Boleyn, a brown betty tea pot (looks like this if you haven’t seen one – how cute is that!):

a204-66cbrownbettyAnd if that weren’t enough, my mom made a gorgeous drawing of Jane Austen for me, which is already in a place of honor above my sewing table. janeausten

Yep, it was one swell birthday and it reminded me of just how I lucky I am. Truly, I am so grateful for my wonderful family. Not only do they know me so well (and love me in spite of that), but they have the infinite grace not to mention all the gray hair that another year has brought to me.

Can you get luckier than that? I think not.

*Brown betty pot photo found here.


You can’t be squiriferous if you are senticous February 4, 2009

Filed under: Random Thoughts — LotusMama @ 9:07 am

No, I’m not going for a crossword championship. I’m introducing you to my two new adopted words. I am the proud mother to “squiriferous” and his sister “senticous”. Squiriferous is quite the little gentleman; he insists on wearing a cravat and dining at his club when he isn’t holding doors open for women and laying his cape down over mudpuddles. His sister, Senticous, is a thorny girl – you might even call her prickly, but that is just her way.

Before you think I’ve gone around the bend, you should visit Save The Words and find a little word of your own, perilously close to extinction. It is a sad state of our modern English vocabulary, but many of our words are disappearing from the dictionary at an alarming rate. We collectively substitute fewer and fewer words to say what we mean and that leaves these little words homeless and close to the brink. Won’t you do your part and save one today? Just go to the site, find your little darling (click on a word as you scroll and you’ll find the meaning – unfortunately not the pronunciation; apparently people won’t be brave enough to actually say these words, just write them) and then adopt one for your very own. When you adopt your word, you pledge to use it as much as you can and try to bring it back from oblivion. Sadly, for my darlings squiriferous (to have the characteristics of a gentleman) and senticous (thorny, prickly), I think it may be too late to save them from Darwin’s cruel fate. I fear they have “evolved” into polite and bitchy as in “That boy is so polite, holding the door open for us, but his sister is just too bitchy.”

If you adopt a darling or two for your very own, please let me know. Maybe we can set up a playdate with the kids…with squiriferous anyway.


Banana-fanna-bo-banna February 3, 2009

Filed under: Baking — LotusMama @ 9:43 am

Banana bread is one of those things I really love but I don’t always think about making. Usually, we eat bananas up too quickly to have any lingering around that are getting mushy. I’m one of those people that likes my banana without any brown on the skin, in fact a banana that has just turned yellow is my most favorite. Sure, these kind of bananas are a little more “spiky” as NR would say, but that’s what I like – no mushy banana flavor for me.

But as it happened, I had four small bananas that were really getting spotty. Once the spots starts it is all over for me, so making banana bread became the plan. The question was though what recipe to use. I like my banana bread full of walnuts; hubby and NR want theirs without nuts. I like my banana bread to have a brown sugar flavor, with allspice and vanilla in the mix too. There are so many banana bread recipes out there, it is hard to know what recipe to go to – my previous adventures in banana bread have yielded “ok but not exciting” results. I’m not sure what I’m looking for from the banana bread but at least for Hubby, his benchmark is the banana bread his grandma used to make.

I’ve never had her bread and I don’t have her recipe, so duplicating her bread wasn’t the plan. Happily, the recipe I chose apparently was very close to her bread, just by accident. It’s nice when those things happen.

I took the recipe from my copy of the “Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook” by Christopher Kimball (editor of Cook’s Country) and I made a couple of tiny tweaks. I added allspice, just a tiny pinch, and I used all four of my bananas which probably put the amount of banana beyond the 1 1/2 cups called for  in the recipe. I also added a wee bit more salt. The bread had a great banana flavor and a nice texture. It didn’t have bells and whistles, no brown sugar or nuts, but it was pretty good with a bit of butter. I might just have to buy an extra bunch of bananas to ensure we have more banana bread in the future.

Recipe for Banana Bread, adapted from The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook

2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Tiny pinch of allspice

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 stick of butter, melted

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cup (or a little more) mashed ripe bananas

Heat the over to 350 degrees. Grease a standard loaf pan with vegetable oil spray. Whisk flour, baking soda, allspice, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the butter, sugar and eggs for 2 minutes in a stand mixer on medium. Mix in the vanilla and mashed banana, mix for 30 seconds. Mix in the flour mixture until just combined. Do not overmix. Scoop mixture into prepared pan and bake for 50 – 60 minutes (until cake tester comes out clean – it was 50 minutes for me). Let cook in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Invert the pan on to the rack and let the bread cool completely.


Paul Blart and Sloppy Joes February 2, 2009

Filed under: Cooking — LotusMama @ 10:23 am
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You might find this hard to believe but I’ve never made a sloppy joe. The name is what turns me off. It’s so..sloppy. Plus, whenever those Manwich commercials come on, I always think “Gee, that doesn’t look good” so sloppy joes have never made it into my repertoire.

Until tonight that is and it is thanks to Paul Blart, mall cop. For anyone who saw this film (and I’m with you in your suffering) you know that Paul Blart thinks his sadness would be cured by some sloppy joes and sweet potato fries for lunch. I’ll agree with him on the sweet potato fries, but sloppy joes? I chalked that comment up to Paul’s too frequent consumption of mall food.

Not so, says hubby. He loves sloppy joes. In fact, he made a point of saying that he’d be happy to have some anytime I wanted to make them. Alrighty then….I guess sloppy joes are now on the menu but I don’t have a clue how to make them. Perhaps this list of different recipes for sloppy joes will give me some help. I really can’t go with the Manwich stuff – honest. The name alone makes me shiver.

Any advice from fans of sloppy joes?


When life hands you cable, make french pot roast January 30, 2009

Filed under: Cooking,Global Homemaking — LotusMama @ 1:39 pm

I’m trapped home today, all thanks to the cable guy/gal. It’s a long story, best saved for some snowy night in front of the fire, but suffice to say that our long-awaited high speed internet will be installed today – between noon and four o’clock. 

Or so I believe. Which means I’m stuck home today. I could have gotten up early and done the few errands I have hanging on me but morning are generally reserved for “school time” for NR and heck, I just didn’t have the oomph in me today anyway. So we’re putting off the pharmacy and the library until tomorrow.

The good news about being at home with no plans to leave is that I can finally try out a time-intensive recipe that I’ve been wanting to eat – French style pot roast. Considering this very old dish used to take up to three days to make, I won’t balk at the four hours or so it is going to take today. Most of the that time is hands-off time – roasting in the oven – so I can get some crochet done while I watch “Amelie” (and finally know why so many people love this French film).  Wow, you’d think I planned all this Gallic fun in advance but it is just a coincidence. Quel Surprise!

The red wine is reducing on the stove and the garlic cloves are all pressed. I can tell you that the house smells delicious and if I only had a fresh baguette to munch on, I’d be a happy camper (or whatever that translates to in French) right now. But I’ll get by with my ham sandwich until dinnertime.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone.


Mend and Make Do January 29, 2009

Filed under: Crafting,Hard Time Helpings — LotusMama @ 9:39 am
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This may sound like a continuation of the last post but it is a bit different. I enjoy browsing eBay now and then for old patterns or something that catches my eye. While browsing the other day, I found an old pattern book from 1943 called “Crochet your Victory Barnyard”.

Sure, it has seen better days and wasn’t in “mint” condition but I liked the illustrations inside. Each pattern has a little portrait, reminiscent of a child’s picture book, with a poem about that particular animal’s usefulness in relation to the WWII effort. Here is one for the black sheep:

The poem, if you can’t read it in the photo is this:

The black lamb on this farm is proud

And holds his head above the crowd

He has a right to be elated

For let it here and now be stated

The clothes for all our battling forces

Are made from wool which he endorses

Cute, huh? Long time readers already know I have a soft spot in my head for the homefront war effort of “Knit Your Bit”, but this little booklet got me thinking. What other V for Victory type of projects were afoot during WWII? The Victory Garden idea is well known; growing produce in front yards, vacant lots, even plots in Hyde Park so that the commercial produce could go to the troops. There are plenty of references around for the gardens, as well as scrap metal drives and collecting pennies. But the idea that there were crafting projects aimed at bolstering morale and the Victory effort caught my eye.

I started looking around for more of these types of crafts and so far I haven’t found that many. I did find a cute embroidery series of “Victory Cats” that has a different cat and a different reminder for each day of the week. “Be suspicious”, “Ride a Bike”, “Keep ’em flying”, etc. I found a “Victory Sweater” in the Victoria and Albert Museum archives that is essentially just a red/white/blue concoction but that isn’t exactly the same thing. Fostering patriotism is certainly common in crafting – today there are tons of Old Glory patterns in every craft – but the homefront war effort was unique, with rationing and price ceilings.

Ok, so what does any of this have to do with now? Well, while searching I found another booklet called “Make Do and Mend for Victory”. This booklet’s job was to teach would-be seamstresses how to take their old clothes, and the clothes of their husbands off fighting, and turn them into newer looking items. There are instructions for converting men’s shirts into girls’ dresses, revamping older dresses by changing the collar or the hem, etc.

What’s interesting about this is that I recently purchased a new book called “Complete Embellishing: Techniques and Projects” by Kayte Terry. Ms. Terry’s book has tons of ways to refab an old boring item into something you really like. Adding interest to a neckline, changing the hemline of a skirt (sound familiar?) and reusing materials.

The idea behind making do with what you have and mending it (or revamping it) is certainly relevant today. Sure, we aren’t sending our nation’s wool into the construction of military uniforms anymore, but hard times for many people are here and learning to make lemonade out of a wallet full of lemons is no bad thing.

For those of you who sew (or make other crafts) you probably have done this before to some degree. But for those of us new to the sewing game, this might be a challenge and one worth taking on. I’m not suggesting making dresses out of flour sacks, like something out of the Grapes of Wrath (though little girl dresses out of pillowcases can be really really cute) but maybe not being so quick to donate  clothes that have seen better days. Maybe those shirts, those jeans can get a new lease on life as something else. Call it what you want – Making Do, Upcycling – but I call it smart.