Quick Tomato Sauce

Tomato Sauce 2

My sister let me in on her secret to tomato sauce â?? a few tablespoons of vinegar â?? and I will never buy the stuff in a bottle again.

I added the following ingredients in the order listed, then simmered for about 10 minutes, to let some of the vinegar cook down. Who knew homemade sauce could make for such a quick and easy meal?

~ 2 T olive oil
~ 2 large onions, chopped
~ 3 cloves garlic, minced
~ 6 tomatoes, blanched, seeds and skin removed (use canned in a pinch)
~ 4 large basil leaves, chopped (use scissors to make chopping easier)
~ about 75g tomato paste
~ 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Eiffel Tower: the Official (1893) Guide

Tour Eiffel Lighthouse

What was it like to visit the Eiffel Tower in the 1890s? Today while following some leads for my dissertation at the Bibliothèque Nationale, I came across a fun little guide for the Eiffel Tower, published in Brussels in 1893. It’s always a pleasure to discover these sources that don’t necessarily have much to do with my project, but that show some aspect of fin-de-siècle French culture.

This 64-page guidebook seems to be mainly concerned with the statistics: how many kilos of steel, how many visitors, how much revenue? It’s fun to think back at what this tower meant in 1893: it was only four years old that year (it was built for the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris) and was quite the marvel of modern science and engineering. More than just a “must-see” of rich Parisian history, the Eiffel Tower at that time represented modernity itself.

You can download this guide, and many, many other original documents at the Bibliothèque Nationale’s portal to digital documents, Gallica. Just do a title search for “Guide Offiicel de la Tour Eiffel.” Happy researching!

Tour Eiffel CoverTour Eiffel Elevators

Baby Bootees Take II

White BooteeIs it bootie or bootee? No matter; the pattern experiment continues. I really enjoyed sewing up this white bootee in cotton yarn. Double-pointed needles are what I feel most comfortable using, which may be why I prefer this pattern over the few I’ve tried so far. No seams, no buttons, just round and round like a sock or mitten. It’s a design by Megan Mills and you can go to her site to print off the pattern yourself! Choose either top-down or bottom-up bootees.

Next step: add the tie for the eyelet round (you can’t really see the eyelet holes very well, but I promise they are there…) and most importantly, graft the bottom. I have had trouble grafting in recent years and cannot figure out why, since as a beginner over a decade ago, I could follow grafting directions step-by-step and they looked wonderful. These days I just cheat by sewing through the remaining stitches and pulling tight, like a drawstring. That can only work for so many patterns. But there is hope: reading Craft Lover‘s blog led me to her excellent step-by-step directions, fully illustrated. I may just get a couple pairs of these finished on this long weekend!

*Edit* I’m making progress!  I successfully grafted the sole and added the tie. I decided to just use a piece of the yarn, with substantial knots at either end for ease in tying and to prevent fraying.  One down, many more to go! Pretty cute, if I do say so myself:

GraftingWhite Bootee Finished

Vintage Crafts: June 1949

Mon Ouvrage June 1949 Cover PostJune is just around the corner, so I bring to you the 58-year-old June edition of Mon Ouvrage. Isn’t the cover illustration delightful? There is something timeless about this colorful image: reminiscent of a Japanese print or an antique china pattern, but also similar to many of the cheerful upholstery fabrics of today.

The title of this edition is “La Peinture à l’aiguille,” or “Needle Painting.” If you’ve never attempted embroidery before and would like to try painting with needles, as it were, the CraftTown website has some simple and illustrated instructions to get you going.

In other news, I’ve added “sewing” to my blog categories, since most of the vintage magazines I hope to share include patterns for various garments, though the styles are obviously a bit dated. The shirts in this edition, for example, include some complicated linen and crochet embellishments that may not be worth the while.

With all the projects I have going, I may skip attempting any of these and just frame this magazine itself! The contents and various craft projects in this edition are below. As always, you can click the images for an enlarged size. If you have trouble reading them or would like the original scan to use yourself, just ask and I’d be happy to get it to you.

Mon Ouvrage June 1949 CoverMon Ouvrage June 1949 p2Mon Ouvrage June 1949 p4Mon Ouvrage June 1949 p5Mon Ouvrage June 1949 p10Mon Ouvrage June 1949 p11Mon Ouvrage June 1949 p12Mon Ouvrage June 1949 p13Mon Ouvrage June 1949 p14Mon Ouvrage June 1949 p15Mon Ouvrage June 1949 p16

Salade Niçoise

Salade NicoisePurists beware, I like to call “salade niçoise” any random assortment of vegetables, lettuce, and tuna in a vinaigrette. What a wonderful way to eat fresh veggies and it’s an all-you-can-eat dish you can feel healthy about.

This weekend, we made one such salad out of the following:

~Avocado
~Green Beans lightly steamed in olive oil and herbes de Provence
~Red Pepper, also lightly steamed
~Mâche greens (apparently these delicious, not-bitter-at-all greens are called “corn salad” in English)
~Cucumber
~Albacore tuna

My variation on the accompanying vinaigrette:
~ 2 tablespoons olive oil
~ 2 tablespoons vinaiger
~ 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
~ 1 teaspoon mayonaise
~ dash of salt

Other possible add-ins are:
~olives
~hard-boiled eggs
~tomatoes
~use fresh tuna, seared, instead of the canned variety

Julia Child’s version is here. The salad is made even more delicious when accompanied by a dry rosé. Try one from Côteaux d’Aix-en-Provence.

Vintage Knitting: Website Round-up

Life Knit Cover

Since my discovery of vintage craft magazines, I’ve done some searching online for websites that have knit patterns. I haven’t attempted any of them, but thought I’d share here for anyone interested in this kind of thing.

In the mean time, I’m still going through a stack of Mon Ouvrage magazines. Each issue is filled with patterns for sewing, knit, crochet, embroidery, and cross-stitch. More scans to come!

Vintage Knitting Sites:

Vintage Purls

Knitting History

Antique Knitting Patterns

Vintage Knitting Blog

A Good Yarn

1940s Knitting Patterns

Heading South Part IV: Cassis & the Mediterranean

Cassis Cliff

My mom always half-jokingly says that Cassis is her favorite city in France, even though she has never been. When I lived in Aix-en-Provence it was a frequent day trip on a weekend, no matter the weather, and so I must have shown her dozens of my pictures since then. A small, colorful fishing village nestled between dramatic white cliffs and an aqua-blue bay, Cassis is the kind of small Mediterranean village you imagine.

Up on one of the surrounding cliffs stand the ruins of a 14th-century château-fort, and on the other side of the beach, a beautiful white lighthouse of much more recent vintage. The natural beauty is enough to convince me why humans have lived in this area for over 25,000 years.

Because of the long May 1st weekend, which is considered the first weekend of nice-weather travel (akin to the American Memorial Day weekend, I suppose), the crowds of tourists was unusually large when we passed through that Sunday. Nonetheless, we managed to find a place in the sand to picnic by the water and then enjoyed drinks on a café terrace followed by take-out ice cream. A perfect afternoon!

Cassis Colorful BuildingCassis Buildings FountainCassis Ice Cream

Getting Married circa 1950

Modes Travaux Title PageA friend of mine, Mahmoud, who has a very good eye for recycling, spotted an 18-inch stack of old books and craft & fashion magazines that a used book shop was throwing away. Thanks to his muscle, I can now scan and share with you French fashion illustrations and craft patterns that date from the 1880s to 1960s. I hope you’ll find as much enjoyment in them as I have!

Today, I bring to you French wedding fashion from the January 1950 edition of the monthly Modes et Travaux. The drawings are charming, and the articles and projects are a fun entry into marriage customs of yesteryear. Seldom heard of today, the traditional trousseau was once a top priority for young women to prepare: who could think of getting married without a wooden chest full of embroidered linen sheets, napkins, and tablecloths? Today, these items fetch a pretty penny: at yesterday’s antique fair on the Place de la Bastille a single sheet was priced at over 100 euros. Since I have a “W” in my initials, chances are I’ll never find antique linens with my monogram (in France at least), but I wouldn’t have the money for it anyway. Perhaps I’ll try my hand at embroidery myself, using my vintage magazines as a guide.

Click images to enlarge. 

Modes Travaux La MarieeModes Travaux Wedding AttireModes Travaux Chiffrages

Day Trip to Normandy

Normandy BoatWe just returned to Paris from a fabulous daytrip to Normandy with friends. In our rented, rather large car (it was more or less a mini-van), we visited Touville, Deauville, Etretat, and Honfleur. I’m stuffed with all that butter-based food (delicious!) and so I’ll let the photos tell the story … with some help from my friend Cécilia, who wrote out our whole itineray at my birthday meal in Honfleur, recording the events of the day for posterity.

Deauville Umbrellas Etretat Etretat Arch Seth & Rachel in EtretatNormandy Itinerary

Etretat Gulls Honfleur Honfleur Building Honfleur Viking

Cooking Grains

WheatIn college, while living with a vegetarian foodie, I learned a lot about cooking grains. Varying grains, and using them in the place of pasta, means a healthier diet including more vitamins and fiber. They contain protein, but do lack some essential amino acids, so make a complete protein by eating grains along with green vegetables and legumes, such as lentils and beans. I recently discovered that my grocery store carries many kinds of grains in their organic (“biologique” in French) section, and so I’ve stocked up. The ratio of grain to water always escapes me, however, leaving me scrambling to find this information online while my vegetables are overcooking.

Thankfully, I found a Grains Cooking Guide website, which has excellent step-by-step instructions complete with photos. What I really wanted, however, was a quick chart that had the ratios of grain to water volume for each grain and any special instructions (do I cover and remove from heat? simmer? for how long?). I have now done my homework and made my own chart, which I happily share below and to which I will add as I find the need. Feel free to comment and let me know what’s missing. Click on the thumbnail below for the full-size version:

Cooking Grains Table