Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Vintage Style - The House of Eliott

Well, the wet is back. Our spooky city is socked in under leaden clouds, ponds form at every corner, and battered umbrella skeletons line otherwise empty sidewalks. It's time to return to one of Portland's favorite winter sports - getting an entire television series on dvd and watching the whole damn thing, marathon style.

If you haven't seen it, The House of Eliott is the story of two plucky sisters who must use their clever dress making and management skills to survive after the sudden death of their oppressive father. In the first season, they overcome patronizing gentlemen and stuffy old ladies, and by a combination of willpower, good nature, and impeccable style, rise in the fashion world. Honestly, it's too, too charming.

There are a lot of reasons to love The House of Eliott. I love it because it is the only show I can think of that focuses on the stress and exhilaration of being independant artists running a small business. It's basically a melodrama, with things going awry and doings ill, plenty of romance and intrigue. But it is a melodrama in which a young woman, dealing with the grief of unexpected loss, turns to her sister and says, "Aren't we lucky to have our work?" Most of the arguments on the show are about creative freedom, taking artistic risks, and the importance of appealing to enough people to be really successful.

The other reason is, obviously, the clothes. If you're one to spend half your time while watching Downton Abbey wondering if you could figure out a knitted version of Lady Mary's traveling coat, you will find even more inspiration in the sophisticated outfits of the sisters Eliott. I've already decided that I need more silk pyjamas and kimonos in my life.

                                                And then there's the band on this hat:

It appears to be made of little cushions of velvet. I very badly want to figure out how to do this.
The show is full of excitement for all us vintage embellishment junkies, of embroidered trim and little buttons and chic ribbons.


Throughout the first season, Bea and Evie wear these sort of turban things in silk or velvet, à la Louise Brooks. They remind me of the headscarves I've been seeing on fashion blogs lately. Time for a revival? We'll see if they persist in season two...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Donabe + Neko Nabe

As I mentioned in my last post, I got pretty lucky this Christmas. This donabe is another wonderful gift from Mum. Donabe are the traditional clay pots used to make nabemono, the deliciously perfect Japanese soups usually called "hot pots" in the US.

I started making nabemono a year or so ago, when I discovered this wonderful sukiyaki recipe, and subsequently its source, Japanese Hot Pots by Tadashi Ono & Harris Salat.

I've been using my faithful little red dutch-oven casserole, and it does just fine, but I think it is too deep and narrow for proper nabe simmering, so I really wanted a donabe. The first thing to know about a donabe is that you ought to season it. They are not glazed on the bottom, and are slightly porous when you get them. Mine came with good directions, but I'm glad I did a little research online first. I found great instructions (and learned some interesting things) in this post on Thyme Bombe. These directions are especially good if you're dealing with a poky old apartment range like mine.
  Nabe are wonderful for winter dinners. They're light, but very filling, mostly healthy, and incredibly comforting. Best of all, once you have some basics in your cupboard, you can make them with just about anything you have on hand. I made this one with mostly nontraditional ingredients. I like to use enoki and oyster mushrooms, bok choy, and colorful Asian greens like shungiku, but decided to keep it simple after a busy week and lots of errands.
It is also worth noting that cats love to nap in donabe, prehaps because they are cat-sized. If you want to die of cute, Google "neko-nabe". See what I mean?
from Cook Tells A Story

Friday, January 6, 2012

Little Black Bento + Big Surprise

       This Christmas was amazing. One my favorite gifts is this adorable bento box from Mum.

There is something very relaxing and refreshing about sitting down to a neat, tasty, little meal.
                                               It brightens an otherwise dreary work day.

                                       For now, I'm using this skeletal calico as a furoshiki.
I'm plotting a new wrap as my first project on one of my other totally amazing Christmas gifts:
                                          Queen Batflaps is responsible for this one. 
I feel certain this machine will take me past the "damn damn damn" stage of my sewing trajectory. That button up there? It back-tacks. All. By. Itself. Those wee heiroglyphs? All sorts of different stitches. This year is going to be so much fun!