Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Biltmore Estate

A couple of weeks ago, Carson and I took a short trip down to Asheville, North Carolina, to celebrate our 7th anniversary.  I've always wanted to see The Biltmore Estate.  It's the former home of George Vanderbilt, early 20th century millionair and art collector.  It's still known today as the largest private residence in the U.S.  Pictures weren't allowed inside of the home, and I deeply regret not being able to take them, because it was absolutely astonishing. 
The home itself is a work of art, the arcitecture was designed by Richard Morris Hunt.  It seemed to me a very Gothic, European style of house, with ornately carved limestone and wood thoughout,  and gargoyles lurking around every facade.  The gardens, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (the same man who designed New York City's Central Park), are vast and fabulous.  And then, of course, you have Vanderbilt's art collection too...portraits by Sergent and Whistler, hundreds of prints by Albrecht Durer, 15th century Flemish Tapestries, a library with a ceiling orginally painted in the Pisani Palace in Venice, etc, etc.  Among hundreds of other antiques, Vanderbilt owned a chess table, that was once owned by Napoleon.  Author Henry James (a favorite of mine) gave readings in Vanderbilt's library.  And there were late 19th century, early 20th century gowns and suits on display in nearly every room.  I was in art history heaven. 
It was also fascinating to see the sort of "upstairs/downstairs" side of things.  I almost felt like I had stepped into a scene from "Downton Abbey," back stairways, hidden access doors, three seperate kitchens, laundry rooms, etc.  I was surprised, though, by how well kept the service people were.  Vanderbilt hired staff of every race, and paid all equally well, and above what a normal service salery would have been then.  Their bedrooms were quite comfortable, and quite pretty for service bedrooms, and for the time period (though still not as much as we have today), they were given an unusual amount of time off from work.
Anyway, I won't tire you out by any more details...I could go on for will just have to go visit it yourself.  Again, no pictures from the inside of the house (see a few here if you like), but we took many of the home's exterior and massive gardens.  Enjoy!


Friday, June 29, 2012


Just a quick hello here, to let you know that I was recently featured in "Best of the Web" on a blog called  Pocket Change.  I think, but am not positive, that their blog is a shopping tips, tricks and advice blog.  I haven't the slightest clue how my blog is relevant to their readers, but, anyway, there I am...  Check it out HERE!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Refrigerator Pickles

A garden update:

Much to my delight, my cucumber trellis is working fabulously!  I would highly recommend a trellis like this if you have limited space to grow vine produce.  It's a definite space saver...and it's pretty too.

Carson and I went on a short, four-day, vacation this past weekend.  When we left for vacation, the cucumber vines were covered in yellow flowers.  When we came back home, there were at least two  dozen of these tiny little cucumbers blossoming throughout.

Many of them were big enough to harvest.  We love fresh cucumbers...dip them in hummus, and I love them even better.  But, we won't eat this many cucumbers before they perish.  So, I decided to make refrigerator pickles out of them.

I snipped a few sprigs of dill from my herb garden, and crushed about 5 cloves of garlic from my new garlic stash.

I placed these in a large Mason jar, along with some freshly cracked pepper corns...for a little kick.

I chose to cut my cucumbers into spears instead of slices this time...but they are fabulous cut either way.

I packed the cucumbers as tightly into the jars as possible (I had enough cucumbers to make two jars), then I mixed up a 'brine' of sorts in a separate bowl, and funneled it into the jars.  My brine is simple:  (per jar) one cup of vinegar, one cup of water, one Tablespoon of sugar, and two teaspoons of salt.  This type of pickling must be refrigerated, because the jars aren't heat sealed. 

I will give them about 24 hours to gather flavor, but that's as long as I will wait to crunch into these delicious beauties!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I'm a Winner!

( picture source )

Call me one happy vintage loving gal....because I recently won a $50 gift certificate to Shabby Apple.  I'm going to use said gift card to purchase the dress you see above. The giveaway was hosted by the lovely Brittany of Va-Voom Vintage.  Thanks ever so much, are the best!  If you haven't checked out her blog, please do so.  It's full of vintage inspiration, free patterns, how-to videos, etc.  You will love it!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Braiding Garlic

Last Fall, I planted about 30 to 40 garlic cloves, and about 4 weeks ago, they were ready to harvest.  

I pulled all of my garlic out of the ground, and set them out on wire racks to dry/cure.

Today, they were finally dry enough to braid. 

I gave all of my garlic bulbs a little hair cut, then I started braiding away.

I had never tried braiding garlic before's really not that hard...sort of like french braiding.  I suppose I could have made the braids a bit tighter, but who's looking anyway.  Start out by crossing three pieces of garlic, and every time you cross over from one side or the other, add in another piece of garlic to the middle strand.  Alternate big bulbs and small bulbs, placing them wherever you see a hole or gap that needs filled.

Here is what the process looks like.

...and so on, and so forth...

...until you get to this...

...braid the remaining stems like you would a regular braid...

...tie them off, and there you have it...your very own garlic braids.  Store them in a cool, dark, dry place, and they should last for around 6 to 8 months.

If you are interested in watching a video of me braiding the garlic, I have one for your viewing pleasure.  HOWEVER...I warn you ahead of time that it is extremely 5 year old daughter, Jane shot the "film."  Don't say I didn't warn you...

Monday, June 4, 2012

Habit Shirt - Toile

Just a quick update...

(Source: Dames a la Mode )

The above fashion plate is an example of the habit shirt that I'm attempting to make. 

This is the toile that I've drafted and draped, using a basic sloper I made long ago as a guide.  There was a whole lot of tweaking involved.  The fabric I used for the toile is much more stiff than the cotton voile that I'm using to make the real shirt.

 It's a really sloppy waist band, sleeves tacked in, etc...but I'm feeling lazy these days. 

The real one will be put together with much more effort and care...drawstrings, Dorset buttons, matching thread, seams constructed correctly, all hand sewn, you get the point.

Also, I haven't had a chance to share with you the basic sleeveless shift I made last December.  Nothing special, but there it is. 
It feels so good to be sewing again!