Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Who killed Colonel Mustard in the study?

Just as I suspected--it was the ceramic poodle, with the world globe.

Egads, what a dastardly fellow!

...Okay, that was a really flimsy setup for these recent finds, but don't they somehow remind you of the weird little objects that always pop up in a good old-fashioned murder mystery? Just a little?

The poodle comes from eBay, where he was purchased in a lot along with two of his dachshund relations. A very useful pup, he holds pens and pencils in his, ahem, derrière and letters between the coils of his back. The magnifying glass comes from a recent estate sale (I'm officially hooked); every household should have a magnifying glass, to read fine print and start fires and such. And the globe come from a stoop sale, and it's also a very pragmatic purchase because... I often... need to... look up... which continent I'm on?

Yes, I can pretty much justify everything I buy. Which is why I own a machine just for peeling apples, dozens of dresses that aren't my size, and a lamp I can't turn on.

Anyway, I just couldn't pass up the globe. I saw it from across the street and raced across traffic to snatch it up before some other atlas-crazy gal saw it and claimed it first. And while it may not be very useful as a reference tool, surely it's a very attractive night light.

O, yes, did I mention? It's a light-up globe! I mean, it would have been silly for me to buy a plain, old, outdated, non-lighting-up globe. Because I already have one of those.

PS: Eeep! I ran out of appropriately sized envelopes, so I'm way behind on sending out hankies. Anyone who's emailed me in the last week, your hanky is now en route. I hope no one's poor sniffly nose or empty breast pocket has suffered unduly because of this delay!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

To have & to hold & to mend

I'm awfully hard on my clothes. I rip seams, tear cuffs, break zippers, and generally stain anything and everything. I like to believe it's because I'm such an active person, with a full and glorious range of motion, but it's really because I'm very, very clumsy.

My biggest offense by far is popping buttons. I don't even know how I do it (ahem--please refrain from mentioning all the apple pie I eat), but my buttons fairly fly off, never to be seen again. And therein lies my dilemma--I'm happy to sew in an odd button on a shirt or dress, but I just don't believe in mismatched buttons on coats. So, when I lose a coat button, I have to set the whole thing aside until I find just the right set.

Meanwhile, time marches forward, the seasons change, I pack away my cold-weather clothes and run around all spring and summer without a jacket.

But uh oh--now the temperature's dropping, I'm unpacking all my coats again, and o dear, I've already found three in need of new fastenings. Including my most-favorite-ever black opera coat, which made me feel like I was on my way to Lincoln Center whenever I wore it. It's number one my mending list.

This double-breasted blue coat is actually missing two out of its four functional buttons and one of its decorative ones. I told you, I'm awful.

Believe it or not, this red peacoat is looking at its third rebuttoning. I've had it since I was 12 and haven't been able to give it up, even though the sleeves are now 3/4 length.

I found these purple buttons last weekend and thought they might be a good match for the opera coat, but alas, they're not quite right together.

I have about a dozen other coats (...I know, I have a problem), so it's not like I'm utterly bereft and exposed to the elements. But it'd be nice to get these ones back into circulation, so to speak.

Homes for hankies

The first batch of "M" hankies are going out today, so if you've requested one, it should arrive soon! I have a couple left, so please don't be shy and get 'em while they're hand-washed and pressed crisp.

If you don't have an M name and you're hankering for a hanky, what the heck, email me and I'll send you one that's unmonogrammed, but lovely nonetheless.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Vitamin A

...of which there is actually little in apples. But nevermind that.

We're nearing the end of one 20-lb. bag of apples, thanks to DK's insatiable apple-tooth. Also, my apple peeler/corer/slicer arrived last week, and I think I'm in love. Yes, with yet another domestic accoutrement. There's just something about a well-made old-timey, manual appliances that I find irresistible. Although this one is kind of like a medieval torture device for fruit, but o man, can it peel, core, and slice!

The best part of cooking with apples is the panoply of spices and other ingredients you get to bring out and how good everything smells together: caramelized sugar, cinnamon butter, spicy nutmeg and cloves... And since I prefer to bake in the evening, we've hardly had to turn on the heat because the stove makes everything nice and toasty.

One of my favorite things to make with apples is applesauce. Divinely simple, simply divine. Elise's recipe on Simply Recipes is a great guide, but I usually just eyeball everything, dumping as many apple as I care to peel, core, and slice (it took all of five minutes for 4 lbs. with my handy-dandy peeler) into a large, heavy-bottomed saucepot with some lemon juice and strips of lemon peel, a cinnamon stick or two, and about an inch of water.

I also add a cursory spoonful of sugar because... well, I'm not sure why. My apples never seem to need it, and if the applesauce ends up a little tart, a little dribble of simple, maple, or agave syrup will fix it right up.

Anyway, after bringing the mixture to a boil, pull it back to a simmer and cover. When the texture is right, take it off the heat. Let it cool, and mash it up in the pot with a wooden spoon. If you like your applesauce chunky, have at it; if you prefer a smoother texture, you can strain, mill, or blend it, which is what I do. If you use a blender and your applesauce is still hot, make sure you take off the center cap in the jar lid and cover the top with a towel instead, otherwise the mixture might, um, explode.

I'm not sure how long fresh applesauce will keep without canning--a week, maybe?--but trust me, you'll eat it all long before then. With last night's batch, after jarring a quart and setting aside 1/4 cup for another recipe, I sat down with a spoon and just ate out of the blender jar. Hey, one less bowl to wash.

I also made two apple crumb pies, which turned out nice, if not revelatory. It was my fault for using store-bought crusts, but someone (I won't name names, but we live together, and he's not the cat) threw out all my beef suet because he thought it looked "gross" in the freezer. A one note on the linked recipe: the amount of filling and streusel is really enough for two, if modestly sized pies.

This coming weekend, I think I must make a date with a homemade lattice crust. Providing I find a new suet source.

Tonight, I'm going to try my hand at making and canning some apple butter. Wish me luck!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Estate of grace

My first sally into estate sales two weeks ago wasn't great, some cute if inappropriately monogrammed hankies aside. (Which reminds me, gentle readers: if you have an M name and would like a hanky, email me at mysticdomestica at gmail.com with your address, and I'll send you one! But I get first dibs on any J-embroidered hankies you find, okay?)

But I'm nothing if not determined, and propelled by the serendipitous loan of someone's car for the weekend, I wheedled and coaxed DK into driving me to another estate sale today. I wanted to get there a full hour before the 8am opening, but several snooze buttons, a very leisurely breakfast, and thick cross-borough traffic conspired against us, and we pulled up to the sale at around 1pm, expecting to see the place sacked and razed by other buyers. But it was still standing--a small, very shabby house with a few signs on the lawn cheerfully advertising its dissolution.

An hour and a half later, we left staggering beneath the load we had bought, more or less slack-jawed with delight.

I picked up 11 dresses, a capelet, and a blouse from a stash in the attic. Mostly late '30s and early '40s, with some possible '60s pieces (which would go a long way in explaining the ridiculous '60s deadstock chunky silver heels I also snapped up). There's actually a 12th dress, not pictured, which I got elsewhere today--a little brown velvet number that may be the prettiest thing I've ever bought. But that's another post for another time.

The crazy upside of these dresses are: they're pristine vintage, possibly handmade, and I paid so little for them, I almost feel guilty. The downside: they're made for bigger girls; some of the waists are fully 18" too big for me. The upside to that downside: they can be taken in. I'm not sure my, ahem, skillz are up to the task, but I'll find a way. This may mean slowly and methodically redoing every stitch and seam. Or this may mean contracting a real seamstress to save me. But these frocks are simply too amazing for me to just step aside.

I found these glasses in the garage, buried under a small mountain of receipts. Alas, I couldn't get my camera to pick up the absoutely gorgeous burgundy grain, so you'll just have to believe that it's there. DK and I are currently fighting over who gets to fill these glasses, but we both look pretty sharp in them!

DK found this framed anatomy print under a pile of drastically less interesting pieces. I think it's the best find of the day, and as soon as we hunt out our picture-hanging kit tomorrow, it's going up on the wall by our kitchen island. Macabre? Yes. But exactly what we both love? Yes.

DK also found an old metal labelmaker, with interchangeable type plates! I actually have a rinky-dinky plastic version from the same company, but this is one hell of an upgrade. And I didn't even know they made gold label tape!

Well, I'm officially addicted to estate sales now. I suppose there are worst things in the world... although I think we're running the risk of dying in our sleep, asphyxiated by mountainous piles of vintage '30s day dresses.

Which is, really, exactly how I'd want to go if I could choose. Good night!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


This past summer, I finally got fitted for contacts. When I put them in, it was the first time I had a full field of vision since, o, the age of eight or nine.

That much clarity is, frankly, terrifying to me, and I've since returned to my bespectacled ways (a few adventures in peripheral vision aside). Plus, there's really no such thing as a contact lens collection, whereas I can hoard eyewear to my heart's content.

A few pairs of novelty sunglasses aside, I'm really a basic horn-rimmed/browline kind of girl, but I'm dying for a pair of big, dramatic round frames in black or tortoiseshell. Selima makes just the ones I want... but they're a bit beyond my means at the present. O, one day, one day...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tag, you're it

Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt our regularly scheduled programming for a brief informational survey courtesy of the lovely Melina at Owl and Peacock.

1. What books are on your favorite shelf?
Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Italo Calvino's If on a winter night a traveler, and JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Nerd disclosure: I read the whole LOTR trilogy at least twice a year, and, of course, I collect different editions--I have six complete sets!

2. What DVDs are on your favorite shelf?
Wild at Heart, Blue Velvet, and Twin Peaks. Yes, I'm a David Lynch fanatic.

3. What are your two favorite cookbooks?
The Silver Spoon and Pork and Sons--with the caveat that I don't think I've cooked a thing from either book; they're just both so freaking gorgeous.

4. Select 1-3 recipes you would cook for your special guests.
Assuming no dietary restrictions: a shaved fennel and apple salad with olive oil and Parmesan cheese to start; roast leg of lamb with minty peas for mains; and whoopie pies to finish.

5. What will we be drinking?
Rioja and Lambrusco (classy!) for the meal and Sidecars for after.

And 5 random facts:
  1. I'm slowly getting over my fear of low hemlines. Being (barely 5'3"), I'm always feel like I'm playing dress-up in long skirts, so my motto has always been, "Hem now, think later." But having ruined so many dresses, I'm finally getting over my reverse modesty.
  2. I hated olives until I had my first good dirty martini. Now I eat them anytime, anywhere.
  3. My blog is named after Lucie Brock-Broido's poem, "Domestic Mysticism," which terrifies and delights me every single time I read it.
  4. Whenever I was sick growing up, my mother would make me tomato and dumpling soup--even the thought of it now makes me feel flushed with good health. But I've never asked for her recipe because I don't want anyone but her to make it for me.
  5. My current nuptial fantasy: City Hall, this dress, and a fistful of peonies. And, I suppose, a man.
I'd love to hear what Marcine (a clock without hands), Julia (Color Me Green), Ginny (my favorite color is shiny), and Penelope (penelope lea) might have to say with these questions. Please, ladies, spare a moment, and satisfy my curiosity!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The big apple

We snuck upstate today with a group of friends for an orchard day trip. Apples were picked, raspberries were plucked (and liberally sampled), pumpkins were chosen, haycarts were ridden, and local brewpubs were patronized. All in a day's work, folks.

Being a New England girl, I can talk your ear off about apples: the best cultivars for eating fresh vs. baking vs. saucing, the disappointments of Rome Beauty, and why Red Delicious deserve a second chance.

I understand that many of you have probably had mealy, sorry excuses for a Red Delicious and so are loathe to try them again, but trust me, if you ever taste a true old-fashioned Red Delicious, you'll never forget it. They're perfectly crisp and shot through with flesh translucent with sugar.

But nevermind Red Delicious. Let's talk about my favorite eating fruit, Stayman Winesaps.

I'm obsessed with these apples. They're sweet-tart and crisp, with a smell like spiced wine. They're excellent fresh as well as cooked in every fashion--though I've never cooked with Staymans, because I've never been able to stop eating them raw. At this orchard, they fruited in large clusters, nearly plum-dark, and though their skin is dull off the branch, they burnish up beautifully.

I have less to say about raspberries--only that they're delicious, but hard going. It's tough, manuevering between wasps and thorns and unripe fruit, just to get some sweet drupelet action! Also, I wish I could post my photo of DK lying on the grass, picking raspberries from below. Alas, this more general shot of the raspberry canes must suffice.

We ended up with about two pints of raspberries (a little over a pound)...

...and two giant bags of apples (about 40 pounds, no joke).

Tomorrow, let the apple pies, applesauce, apple butter, apple doughnuts, apple turnovers, and tartes tatins commence!

Friday, October 9, 2009


Last weekend, your correspondent did something wholly new: she attended an honest-to-goodness estate sale. Yes, ma'ams (and sirs)--I voluntarily woke up at 7am on a Saturday, trudged into the city to get on the LIRR, and took the train out to be exactly on time for the 9:30am opening. Whereupon I learned the first cardinal rule of estate salers: thou shalt be there at least two hours early.

Yes, there was already a very healthy line ahead of me on the lawn. But after so much early travel, I couldn't just give up, so I waited (and waited and waited) until I was finally let in.

Sadly, the clothing--much of which had already been plundered before I got in--was very, very overpriced, and all my gentle wheedling couldn't budge the sellers more than a dollar or two. So I switched courses and began going through the linens. My gracious--I'd never seen so many handkerchiefs in all my life. Boxes and boxes and boxes of them, in the living room, in the bedrooms, and in the attic. Handkerchiefs everywhere!

They weren't exactly cheap, but I couldn't resist buying a stack of them, all the same. There are some lovely embroidered pieces in there, including a whole mess of "M" monograms. If only I were a Mary, Margaret, or Molly, I'd be set for life.

Alas, I remain your JC.

Friday, October 2, 2009

CSA, week ???

Okay, I admit it, I've completely lost track of our CSA pickups. And I'm usually too frazzled to do any produce photoshoots once I get home, so this oddly cropped and imperfectly lit shot will have to do. But this week, we got lettuce, celery, watercress, Swiss chard, Asian eggplant, shallots, garlic, broccoli, Romano beans, spicy peppers, and apples, glorious apples!

I'm also breaking in the Dutch, oops, I mean, French oven. Boeuf bourguignon is still forthcoming, but I made coq au vin last night.

Served with a watercress, sweet corn, and bacon salad, tossed with a bacon fat and rice vinegar vinegrette.

...I really need to get back onto the steamed-vegetable wagon if I ever want to fit into some of my recent aquisitions. Well, tomorrow, tomorrow.