Showing posts from July, 2020

Completing a 1950s Patio Dress

... I have had a long love affair with a particular vintage outfit, known variously as a  patio, fiesta, or squaw dress (or set). This distinctive outfit dates to the late 1940s and early 1950s, when southwestern styles were popular in American fashion.  They were typically made in small workshops in Tucson, Arizona, and were worn by a wide cross-section of society. The dress draws influences from a combination of three similar types, all with a big tiered skirt: a slightly gathered skirt based on Navajo dress, a "broomstick" or pleated skirt based on Navajo and Mexican attire, and a fully gathered, three-tiered skirt based on contemporary Western Apache camp dresses or Navajo attire, according to an article by Parezo and Angelina R. Jones, " What's in a Name? The 1940s-1950's Squaw Dress ." These dresses are comprised of two pieces, a heavily embellished skirt and a matching blouse.  Rickrack and metallic trim are typical trimmings for these garments.   A w


... We've reached the time in the year when our pluot tree is at its peak, and when I'm making loads of jam.  I thought I'd write down all the improvements I've made to my recipe, so that I won't have to rely on memory this time next year. The basic recipe is five pounds of fruit (with the pits removed), four pounds (eight cups) of sugar, and five or six lemons.  This produces between between ten and twelve half-pint jars of jam. Every morning, I collect the windfall pluots.  I wash them and cut off any bruised or damaged sections. Then I cut out the pit and put them in a sealed bag in the freezer.  A gallon bag holds about five pounds of fruit, which works out perfectly. I don't add any liquid, although I might add a few un-frozen pluots, just to get the juices flowing in the pan.  It's a bit shocking to see how much sugar goes into making jam. While the fruit is cooking down, I wash the jars and put the jars and lids in

Harvest Report

One of the great pleasures of my life is having a small garden, in which to grow special treats.  This week, we picked a truly beautiful harvest. Mt friend Yolanda gave me the zucchini and tomato plants, which were grown by UC master gardeners.  It's great to have well-connected friends!  Oddly, I'd never grown zucchini before, because I always assumed they'd take over the entire garden plot.  I guess plant developers have reined in that tendency since I was a kid, and my parents' zucchini plants ran wild. My plants maintain a reasonable size, and I'm definitely going to grow them again. I'm horribly allergic to tomatoes, but I know Robb misses them.  I planted the tomatoes in a place where I wouldn't be brushing against the plants.  The first year we had this house, I planted an ambitious vegetable garden, and spent the summer covered in hives. Apparently even touching tomato plants is more than my body can take.  It's such a pi

Of Staghorns and Stinkhorns

... The other day, my beautiful staghorn fern threw itself to the ground. It had been mounted to our garage wall, and for whatever reason, it came crashing down. This plant was a gift from friends, and it had become an absolute beast.  I figured I might as well take this opportunity to divide and re-mount it. After getting some advice from another friend who has the most glorious collection of staghorn ferns, I ruthlessly chopped the plants apart with a pruning saw.   This was pretty daunting.  There was so much old growth to cut through. I coaxed the plants into wire baskets and tried to avoid mauling the plants too badly.  I filled the backs of the baskets with sphagnum moss. Who knew that it was possible to buy massive cubes of moss? The stag horns do look a bit like hunting trophies, don't they? And what do the stinkhorns look like?  Perhaps the less said about that, the better....

A Backyard Fruit Story, In Three Chapters