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

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