Saturday, April 10, 2010

10 April 1956 “Unplugged Challenge, Challenge Dress, Cupcakes, and Chickens”

Well, this past Wednesday, we had decided to do an ‘unplugged’ day. Really, for me, it only meant the computer. I have been unplugged from the tv and modern radio for over a year now. Even the bits and bobs of news I receive is merely second hand from hubby, who either reads it in a magazine or hears about it (he too is unplugged from the radio, choosing to only listen to music of his choice).

We are, I have discovered, a very quiet household to the norm. I have increasingly discovered that noise is a normal part of the modern world. Though I encounter it sometimes in modern stores, my local grocery is as quiet as a church mouse with no piped in music. When did POP hits of today become background music for shopping? Does Lady Gaga promise to ‘get me hot, show me what she’s got” conducive to buying Cap’n Crunch and artichokes? But, I digress.

Therefore the ‘unplugging’ in question remained with the computer. And the computer, to me, is a tool of writing and research. I do not ‘chat’ or even really so that much in the line of entertainment. My computer work is much of what this post is. Editing photos, corralling up my thoughts, looking up photos and articles, compiling scanned images and writings from my coterie of old magazines and books. So, when I ‘unplugged’, that is what I unplugged. It, unfortunately, has lead me to be rather lax until today.

I have come to see my blog and the site much as committee work or voluntary work for a local paper. I receive no compensation for my trouble but do it out of both interest and a feeling of obligation to what I have started with my little ramblings. But, and here is the rub, having given myself a day off from this work gave me so much more time in my day that I became hungry for it. I was amazed at what I achieved in one day and looked at trepidation at the day’s end. The following days became something to fear or even feel guilt about.

The day after my unplugged day, I went out to lunch with an old friend. That gave me the excuse of merely being to busy to ‘get back to work’, but really it was still there waiting for me on Friday. Now, here it is Saturday and here I am, well past my normal ‘working hours’ forcing myself to get to it.

I don’t want any of you who still bother to read my blog to think I am begrudging writing it or that I think I am doing you a favor. It just, very plainly, has been hard to get back into a pattern I set in motion over a year ago and then was able to set aside  without guilt for one day. I shall honestly try to get back into it, as it were.

Now, on my unplugged day, I was able to finally finish my March challegne dress. I had so much time that day that I finished my dress, had time to make a matching headband, put up some of my garden fencing and still make dinner, dessert and do my usual ‘housework’. It was an addictive proposition to have endless days before me so unplugged. But, of course, then I would not have all of you. That would make me sad and I would realize how foolish to throw it all away.

So, on with the dress:

For March I had included in my challenge the making of a dress form, which I mentioned in the last post. It was VERY helpful and I am happy to have it. It allowed me to cut out the patter and pin it to the form and see what adjustments needed to be made before I cut the fabric. I did not even cut out a muslin version of it first. And by pinning the dress on the form before sewing in the darts, I was able to see how deep to make them rather than just follow the pattern blindly.

I decided to try this pattern simplicity 2444 which is not vintage. But, I really liked the vintage sensibility of it and I have been trying to find a pattern with that type of stiff raised collar I often see in 50’s early 60’s dresses. This pattern is nice, as it gives you many different sleeve and neckline options.simplicity 2444b This collar required the use of interfacing. This is the first time I have ever used it. I have heard of it, but again being very new to sewing, thought it would be hard to use. Well, let me tell you. Once I used it my mind was racing! When I think of all the things I could make. I am going to try and make some of my own design hats, as this would allow me to make a stiff fabric hat. So, April’s Dress challenge is going to include a hat of my own design and construction, we shall see what that looks like.

I was so inspired by it, that I used it to make a headband to match my dress. I often have trouble wearing headbands or scarves tied like a headband, because my head shape often leads to it slipping off. A head scarf tied normally is fine, but in the ‘headband’ manner, it always slipped off. So, with the interfacing, I was able to make a firm look headband with a soft tie back. The picture of me wearing it is not very good, as the sun is directly on it. But, you get the idea.

marchdress4Here is the top of the dress sewn and placed on the form for any touch ups before the skirt and then zipper goes in. marchdress3Here she is in all her glory. I really love this fabric and it is so comfortable. It is all lined in 100% cotton muslin. I need to get better pictures of me in it. This was without the headband, my hair is a bit messy too. marchdress2And the head band.  marchdress1  I think this is the first time I have shown any of you my new hair color. It is much closer to my natural shade and I rather love it as many have told me they too like it. I find it makes my skin seem much paler, which I rather like. So, every time I make another dress, I am happier with it than the last one. This pattern is going to be a starting point for many outfits. I am going to make the top of it in reverse (With the front seam being opened) and adding buttons and bias tape at the bottom to wear with pedal pushers and skirts. I may use this pattern for my April dress, but with a different collar and skirt. Oh, and the best bit was that the dress has pockets! This is the first time I have made pockets in a skirt and I am rather proud of it. It is a nice look. You can see in the picture that I have my hands in the pockets. So, overall, fun and happy to have my dress form, I highly recommend it and also recommend this pattern.

I made some lovely chocolate cupcakes last night.

choccupcakeThey were nicely dark and moist and the frosting was very good.


1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temp
2-1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temp
1-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup cream

2 teaspoons vanilla


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Beat the butter until it’s softened. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, that should take about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until well combined. Measure out the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and cocoa powder into a small sized bowl and whisk it to combine. Measure out the milk, cream, and vanilla and stir to combine. Add about one third of the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar mixture and beat to combine. Add about half of the milk/vanilla mixture and beat to combine. Continue adding, alternating between the wet and dry and finishing with the dry. Scoop the batter into cupcake cups about 2/3’s full. Bake the cupcakes for about 22-25 minutes. Let cool and ice with chocolate frosting and top with coconut.

Chocolate Frosting
  • 2 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 5 tablespoons evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. In a medium bowl, sift together the confectioners' sugar and cocoa, and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter until smooth, then gradually beat in sugar mixture alternately with evaporated milk. Blend in vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy. If necessary, adjust consistency with more milk or sugar.

I am going to be getting chickens again this year. I had found out I was a week late in getting my Aracauna chicks (which will lay colored eggs.) They are a fun and docile breed. So, after various investigation, I have decided this year to hatch out all my chicks myself. I am going to be getting pure bred Ameraucanas (not the hybrids I had before) Cochins, Opringtons, and Silkie Bantams (for fun). Why I decided to do this as opposed to getting the sexed chicks locally (so that I would know they would all be hens) was that I decided after further investigation, to have all blue chickens. Blue is a color variation in poultry that is a soft greyish color. It is lovely. I found that all the breeds of chickens I wanted were available in that color, but I would need to get them from small private breeders who breed for that. The eggs are being shipped to me, so I hope that they will have a good hatchability. I shall set 42 eggs in my incubator, of those that hatch, some will be roosters. So, after those are found homes, I will probably be left with a small flock of about 10 or se viable hens. It will take longer to get eggs (as they will be born in May) but think that to have the color, the eggs from small farmers/breeders and to have them hatch and be bonded with me important. I want my ‘small holding’ to be not only functional and beautiful but also have a contentment of sorts. I should rather have a few hens that may not lay like mass produced chickens, but are happy to see me and like a good cuddle from my little Chihuahua.

I have come to find, as the year is progressing, how much quality of life has come to mean to me. I had always thought it important, but really since my project am only now really getting to know what the ‘quality’ should be. The connection with my food and the small bit of land I have. My plants and animals and home wants to be in touch and in sync with me. This, I believe, shall also be apparent in my art, which I have of late begun to think of again as more than some ‘doodles a day’. I shall share some of my sketched ideas for a series of paintings in my next post, for this one is becoming far too long and again, I am longing to be out and amongst my yard and home etc.

I hope all of you still find my ramblings interesting enough to pay me an occasional visit. I know I have come to treasure all of you immensely and often find myself thinking of things I could share or that I am trying that you might like to know about. It is a good thing, this form of digital community. It, too, can add to the quality of one’s life if we use it in proportion to our day and do not find ourselves lost staring at a flat screen all day while the whole of life goes on around us.

Until next time, Happy Homemaking and enjoy these images of some of the types of chickens I shall be hatching.

blue-cochin2 A blue Cochin chick and an adultcochin  a blue Orpingtonblueorpington and finally a blue silkie bantambluesilkie


  1. 50sgal,

    I really do like your hair color; it’s rich.

    As to your art, are you doing any more drawings? I miss seeing them. But, maybe you are putting them on the forum, and I haven’t stopped over there a lot.

    There are so many things that you do that I desire myself to do but am not yet finding that I am able to include them in my day. For instance, fencing my gardens and flower beds, sewing, etc. Yesterday, I worked 9-1/4 hours, and with adding in lunchtime and time to get ready and drive there, that is a huge chunk out of my day.

    So, my goal for the year is to keep trying to be able to fit more in as far as home, domestics, and yard are concerned.

    Thank you for your post!

  2. Zebu-if you have a job outside the home, that is certainly understandable. I can readjust my schedule as I see fit to allow what I am working on. What kind of fence are you doing?

  3. 50's Gal-love your new color! It suits you nicely! Your dress looks very comfortable. I've been meaning to make myself a dress form, but somehow, I never get around to it! The cupcakes look divine!

  4. With the dress form, it really is not hard. You just need to get a garbage bag some tape a friend and say, "Okay for the next hour, here we go!" and before you know it, an hour of laughter later, you will have a dress form!

  5. Oh and my hair looks better after it is set, these photographs were last mintue, "Oh, I forgot pictures for the blog".

  6. The fabric you chose is absolutely beautiful, and I'm also very fond of the pattern. What a cute dress! I think a sleeveless version in a pretty seersucker would be wonderful for summer.

  7. 50sgal your skin looks beautiful (and I do think your hair colour really suits you.)

    I can understand the time that working on this blog and website can deplete from your day. It is a huge undertaking and commitment. I really don't know how you keep it up but I'm sure glad you do. To free up some more time for your projects had you thought of having a day or two off every week from having to write and prepare the blog. Of course we'd be disappointed but the best for you is the best for us.

    (Rhonda Jean over at down---to---earth---blogspot has some good articles on keeping hens.) Linda

  8. I find your blogs such an inspiration that I hope you can always spare some time for them. However, it can be such a time-robber that maybe you do need to schedule a day or two unplugged each week [as is suggested above] - we don't want you to become resentful of us!!
    Your chickens sound great. We kept white silkie bantams [and other breeds] for several years - with a rooster, so they were a breeding flock. Their skin [that is, under the feathers LOL] was a gorgeous blue colour.
    I love chickens and goldfish - they are the best stress-busters around. Just sitting for a few minutes and watching them is so relaxing. We always called our chickens/hens 'chooks', and would call 'chookie, chookie, chookie' at feed time! Great fun.
    Take care,

  9. 50sgal,

    I am doing some simple chicken wire or picket fencing to keep out the dog, rabbits, and squirrel. I am leaning toward picket, as it would look much nicer--we are in a neighborhood.

  10. Again – I think you should have scheduled uplugged days, and write these on your website, e.g. on the main page, telling everybody you are unplugged and living in 1956. This way we, your spoiled fans, don’t expect any updates or new blog posts from you these days. And you can plan your days much better and get that lovely feeling of freedom and lots of time to sew and put up garden fences. :)

    I love your dress, both the fabric and the design. And the design is very versatile. And you are already in the middle of April, so you’re already in a hurry with your next dress. ;)

    What is interfacing? A technic? I cannot look it up in my dictionary.

    You look FABULOUS in the photo with the headband and red lipstick, your hair colour is GREAT! :)

    Good luck with your hens.

    You wrote: “I hope all of you still find my ramblings interesting enough to pay me an occasional visit.”
    You know I am addicted to your blog and also your website and check it every day! :) I feel like we are friends, or long-distance penpals, when I read your text and write comments to you. I do hope this makes you want to continue you great work.

  11. Thank you all.
    Zebu-I am doing picket as well. I am taking picket fence from another area of the yard and moving it (recycling it) for the veg garden whcih is at the front side of the house. And then continuing it on up along the front of the house along the sidewalk. I am then going to plant behind it at the front of the house some privet, so it time I can have a manicured hedge(I love pruning, I'm telling you).
    Sanne-you're a darling to say I look fabulous in the picture. Those were taken last minute and I almost didn't post them, but I thought, 'who cares, I don't mind wandering about in full 50's regalia, why should I mind if I don't look my best for these pics" I was proud of my headband, though, and wanted to share it.
    Interfacing is a product. IT is a sort of cottony thin material that you either iron or sew between two pieced or behind one piece of fabric. IT makes it stiff, so that the rolled collar on my dress stands up. They use it in making hats, I believe, which is why I was inspired to make a hat for April Challenge. Once I used it I was in awe and my mind was racing with hats! To be able to design and choose the fabric and accoutrement for hats? Don't even get me started, I almost squealed, except I am not a squealer. I think I just quietly smiled to myself and hurried to my sketchbook for ideas.
    I think of all of you as friends and am happy to call you so. I really do love my blog and I hope I didn't make it sound as if I was only 'working'. But, as you all may know, some times playing truant even from things we like but do regularly, always has a delicious escapist feel to it. You feel that thrill of the holiday with no 'chores' sort of feeling.

  12. Oh, now I know what interfacing is. It is called "phliseline" in Danish and is really great for many sewing projects. It is also great for seaming skirts, did you know that? You can get it really thin and with "glue" on both sides and then iron your seam before sewing by hand (or sometimes you even don't have to sew it at all).

    And lady, if you're not looking your best in that head-band photo - then I get envious! ;)

  13. Add me to the ones that think you should give yourself a few unplugged days a week. I have been finding myself not wanting to open my emails. It takes alot of time and then I am always checking this or that or following a link somewhere on the web.

    I am so envious that you can have chickens. We used to have them in our old home and the neighbors loved them. We moved to a new development and some lovely folks called the township and complained that they heard roosters. Hah! We had all hens! Shows how far away we have come from the basics of life. I bet these same people think that eggs only come from the grocery store too!

    Love your dress. I am just starting my sewing adventures and have accomplished cloth napkins. One day, I hope to make clothing.

    I have become addicted to your blog as well. I love the way you put into words what my mind is thinking. I could go on and on but would take up a whole page.



  14. 50sgal,

    your picket-fence project sounds like it will turn out very well! Isn’t it fun to design, mold, and change one’s landscaping?

    And…I definitely count you as a friend as well! Thank you for ALL you do!

  15. I love picket fences. Especially with an arbor over the gate with morning glories or ivy or wisteria climbing it.

    The headband turned out really cute. Interfacing is an amazing thing.

  16. Good morning 50sgal,

    Your dress turned out beautifully!

    I'm unplugged for a great portion of my day now, with the exception of our local news in the morning and the computer playing my 40s/50s music during the day. Just doing that little on here has given me so much more time for other things and I'm really enjoying the change.

    I'm sorry I haven't been commenting here in a while or on the forum, but I'm still there in spirit and read all your posts. Much like you, I find myself not really wanting to be online as much and when I am, I'm just enjoying the reading of what you and your followers have to say.

    Oh and I'm extremely jealous of your future chickens! I want a chicken badly, but alas they're not allowed here in city limits. I am starting a garden though, so that's exciting.

    Have a beautiful day!

  17. Wonderful dress! And I love your new hair color, you look great!


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