You say Shrove Tuesday; I say Pancake Day!

They say it started more than 500 years ago, when on Shrove Tuesday (the day before the start of Lent), a housewife in England was cooking at her stove, heard the bell for church, and dashed from her house to the church still wearing her apron and carrying her skillet.

Today it is an annual international women’s race, in which the participants wear a housedress, headscarf and apron, and must carry a skillet with a pancake in it, and flip the pancake.

The event takes place in Olney, England and Liberal, Kansas USA.  Each town holds a race, and the fastest finish time wins the international contest.

(Picture from Olney’s website)

A multi-day festival has grown up around the event.  Each town maintains a Pancake Day website; and each maintains a Facebook page, which is great for enthusiasts like me who want real-time updates on race day.

This totally awesome Olney poster was designed by one of its middle school students:
(Click the poster to go to the Olney page for more info on the poster.)



How the International Pancake Day Race came about:

Each of the two cities’ websites gives a brief history of the Pancake Day Race.  Since each site provides a fact or two that the other one doesn’t, I’ve included both.  But hey, the best thing to do is visit both websites for more history and photos of past events.

From the Liberal, KS site: 

“In Olney, England, the Pancake Race tradition dates back more than 500 years to 1445. A woman engrossed in using up cooking fats (forbidden during Lent) was making pancakes. Hearing the church bells ring calling everyone to the shriving service, she grabbed her head scarf (required in church) and ran to the church, skillet and pancake in hand and still apron-clad. In following years, neighbors got into the act and it became a race to see who could reach the church first and collect a “Kiss of Peace” from the verger (bell-ringer.)

“HOW DID PANCAKE DAY GET STARTED IN THE UNITED STATES?​

“It all started in 1950 from a magazine picture of the Olney women racing each other to the church. Liberal Jaycee President R.J. Leete contacted the Rev. Ronald Collins, Vicar of St. Peter and St. Paul’s church in Olney, challenging their women to race against women of Liberal.  Like in Olney, the traditional prize of the race is the “Kiss of Peace” from the verger (bellringer).”

From the Olney, UK site:

“No one is quite certain how the world famous Pancake Race at Olney originated. One story tells of a harassed housewife, hearing the shriving bell, dashing to the Church still clutching her frying pan containing a pancake. Another tells that the gift of pancakes may have been a bribe to the Ringer, or Sexton that he might ring the bell sooner; for ringing the bell signalled the beginning of the day’s holiday and enjoyment, no less than to summon the people to the service at which they would be shriven of their sins before the long Lenten feast.

“Tradition declares that the race was first run in the year 1445, pancakes at the time being a popular dish, receiving royal favour. It was run on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent, and the whole day was given over to a festival of celebration, pranks and pastimes. It is not known where the original start line was but the finish line was at the Church door.

“The race continued through the centuries, and whilst many other local customs died, and the race itself may have lapsed many times, such lapses never caused the race to be entirely forgotten by the womenfolk of Olney. It is known to have taken place during the troublesome times of The War of the Roses (1445 to 1487).

“THE CUSTOM REVIVED

“After a lapse during the Second World War, it was revived again in 1948 by the Vicar of Olney the Reverend Canon Ronald Collins. In clearing out a cupboard he came across some old photographs, which had obviously been taken in the Nineteen Twenties and Thirties of women running with frying pans. Filled with enthusiasm to revive the ancient custom, he called for volunteers, and in response thirteen runners appeared on Shrove Tuesday that year. The race immediately caught the popular imagination and people of Olney set out to enjoy this simple and colourful link with their rich past, a day of festivities.

“THE LINK WITH LIBERAL

“In 1950 the race became an International event. A challenge was received from the town of Liberal in Kansas, USA, where they had, after seeing the press photographs of the race at Olney, conceived the idea of setting up a similar custom. Olney readily accepted the challenge and, in a spirit of international goodwill and friendship, the two towns now compete annually and prizes are exchanged. The race is run on a timed basis.”



THE RACE!

  • At 11:55 am Olney time (5:55am Central US time), the Olney Race begins.
  • At 11:55 am Liberal time (5:55pm Olney UK time), the Liberal race begins.

The weather forecast for this year’s race:

  • Olney:  Partly cloudy and 50°F with a SW wind of 17 mph, causing a feels-like temp of 45°F.
  • Liberal:  Sunny and 29°F with a N wind of 8 mph, causing a feels-like temp of 22°F

Don’t be fooled by the dresses, aprons and skillets; these races are legit athletic contests.  So, what is the actual race like?  Here is a recent video from each side of the pond:

The Olney, UK race (2012)

The Liberal, KS USA race (2014)

Attending these two Pancake Day races is a bucket list item for me.  It’s only a 3.5 hour drive for me to Liberal, KS, but Tuesdays pose a problem.  Once again this year, work has intervened to keep me from going.  Next year, Pancake Day is on Tuesday, February 25.  I shall try again.



I love to eat pancakes, so pancakes must be included in this story:

American pancakes are typically thicker than English pancakes.  I love both.

An American style pancakes recipe:  https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/21014/good-old-fashioned-pancakes/

(photo from allrecipes.com)

An English style pancakes recipe:  https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2907669/easy-pancakes

(photo from Epicurious.com)

I love pancakes so much that on my first ever trip to England (in 2010), I took a picture of my first-ever English pancake, and the lovely, skilled vendor cook who made it for me.

Wikipedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrove_Tuesday

The Great British Sewing Bee is back!

For people located in the US, like me, there are limited viewing options for this awesome BBC series, The Great British Sewing Bee.  But I put up with those annoyances because I love this show so much.  For a quick intro, here is the trailer for the past season–Season 4:

After an excruciatingly long wait, Season 5 premiered this month!  Here is the entire hour-long Episode 1 of Season 5 on Youtube.  My advice is to watch it now, because like other GBSB episodes, this quality upload will likely disappear soon from Youtube.  Which also means, parts of this post will disappear.

The sewing contestants who have appeared on the GBSB are from a wide variety of backgrounds and ages.  Many are self-taught.  Some of the older participants have spent their lives sewing for themselves and their children.

While I’d love to have the show’s workshop and haberdashery, I would be crippled by the time pressures!  How do they do it with a show host yelling at them that they are almost out of time???

As the screenshots below indicate, the contestants design and produce amazing garments in just 2 or 3 hours; sometimes less time than that.

GBSB haberdashery & workshopGBSB jumpsuitGBSB wiggle dresses

What happens to the contestants?  After their stint on the show, my impression is that most of the contestants go back to their regular lives.  But at least one, Tilly Walnes, has parlayed her skill and participation on the show into a successful business.  She has an inspiring website for beginners and experts alike.  The patterns Tilly has designed for sale in her shop are great.  I purchased her “Coco” dress pattern, and now [almost] three Coco dresses later, I’ve purchased three more of her patterns.  Hopefully the new patterns will all soon become fun garments in my closet.

When to watch:  The GBSB episodes are broadcast weekly on BBC, on Tuesdays at 9pm UK time, which is 3pm Central time in the US.  Soon after that, start checking Youtube for an uploaded episode.  It may take a few hours, or days before one appears.  Warning:  Choose carefully among the Youtube offerings, and by that I mean steer clear of the dodgy videos that require you to click a link outside of Youtube to watch the episode.

GBSB imdb link:  https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3010856/

We really need to be able to watch The Great British Sewing Bee on TV in the US!  I’ve inquired with our local PBS station, and they made inquiries, and were told succinctly that it is not available in the US and may never be available here.  Commence temper tantrum.

UPDATE!  Here is Season 5 Episode 3, aired Tuesday, February 26, 2019.

  • They are doing vintage 60s-70s garments, using vintage machines and playing great background music from the period.  There’s my sewing machine!
  • And they ventured into Punk!  “Anarchy in the sewing bee!”

That Summer (2017)

This 2017 documentary shows Andy Warhol, Mick and Bianca Jagger, Truman Capote, Lee Radziwill, photographer Peter Beard, and others, enjoying themselves at an ocean-front home in Montauk, and at Lee’s Aunt Edie’s house in East Hampton.  Beard is the main narrator.  Some of the surviving participants and their contemporaries gave interviews for the documentary.  There are no put-ons in the vintage film footage.  No one is on stage or playing to an audience.  The footage is akin to home movies of a group of friends having fun away from the city, taking pictures, and indulging their creative propensities.  That is, except for Lee’s part in helping to bring her aunt’s house up to code.  That part gave the impression of being professionally filmed, but was no less interesting.

About Lee’s Aunt Edie and her house:

If you have seen the 1975 documentary, Grey Gardens, then you know of Edie and the house, and that the two ladies who lived there are famous.  If you haven’t seen the original Grey Gardens, that is the place to start.

[This video is labeled ‘trailer’, but it’s the entire 2+ hour Grey Gardens documentary on Youtube.]

Grey Gardens is the story of Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale (“Big Edie”) and Edith Bouvier Beale (“Little Edie”), mother and daughter, who lived together on their East Hampton estate, as their 1890s mansion they couldn’t afford to maintain deteriorated around them.  Big Edie was the aunt of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwill; Little Edie was their cousin.  Big Edie was sister to Jackie and Lee’s father.

The two Edies became increasingly reclusive and eccentric during their time living together at Grey Gardens.  They never left the property.  They had their groceries delivered.  By the 1970s, the house had deteriorated to a point where they didn’t have proper plumbing, heat or garbage service.  The local code enforcement authorities stepped in like bulls in a china shop, did further damage to the house, and tried to remove the Edies from their home and property.  The Bouvier-Onassis-Radziwill sisters sprung into action to save the Edies’ home without usurping their chosen lifestyle.

In 2009, a Grey Gardens movie was released.  Drew Barrymore did a great job portraying Little Edie, and Jessica Lange was great as Big Edie.  The movie told the poignant backstory of the Edies growing up, and how they ended up living together in their old home.  The movie can be streamed for free right now with a Prime subscription. https://smile.amazon.com/Grey-Gardens-Drew-Barrymore/dp/B007Q34WIK

 

In 2015, the spoof series Documentary Now!, did an eerily likable episode on Grey Gardens, with Fred Armisen playing Big Edie and Bill Hader playing Little Edie.  The episode is called ‘Sandy Passage’.  Definitely a fun watch.

 

More about Big Edie and Little Edie:

Big Edie was beautiful, spirited and talented.  She loved singing, dancing and performing for others.  Her lawyer-husband left her in 1931, when their three children were still young.  Once the children were grown, he divorced and disinherited her, which left her only the Grey Gardens property and a $65,000 trust fund.

Little Edie was also beautiful, spirited and talented.  She spent her young adult years in New York City, but never married.  At some point in her life she became bald.  There are conflicting stories about how she came to be bald.  To cover her baldness, she wears a variety of headscarves in the documentary, sometimes adorned with jewelry.

Little Edie has so many great moments in the documentary, but this has to be my fave.  Here she is, showing off her self-designed practical outfit for the day–upcycling and repurposing long before those concepts were cool.  

The rest of the Grey Gardens story

I can envision two more potential documentaries to be made out of the Grey Gardens story:

  • One is about Little Edie’s life after Grey Gardens.  She left the home after her mother died in 1977, returned to the stage for awhile, and had other projects, until passing away in 2002.
  • The other potential movie, is about what happened to the house.  There was a time when it looked like it might be torn down, but it was saved and renovated and is now habitable by even the snobbiest standards.  It sold in 2017 for $15.5 million, according to this article in Town and Country magazine.  This blog post has some nice views of the house interior and gardens:   https://hookedonhouses.net/2015/01/26/a-look-inside-grey-gardens-in-the-hamptons-today/ 

To say Grey Gardens is an awkward documentary to watch is an understatement.  Somewhere at any given moment, viewers are easing the awkwardness by making jokes about crazy cat ladies and hoarders; and scoffing about rich people who can’t take care of themselves.  But looking past the easy jokes, the story comes through about how individual all human beings are, and how each person chooses in what ways to conform, and not conform, in the community and society.  I’m captivated by these stories, and so glad for Big Edie and Little Edie and the Grey Gardens documentary, and for the inspiration for creativity and delightful individualism.

 

IMDB links: (Put together these four films, and you have a superb binge-watch.)



And now, back to ‘That Summer’ and what makes it special.  The footage in this 2017 indie documentary precedes the Grey Gardens documentary, and brings together the Edies and Grey Gardens at its most delapidated, with those most famous Warhol-Studio 54 denizens when they escaped the city to the quiet Hamptons.  It is truly unique.  If binge watching, I think you can either start or end the series with “That Summer”.  “That Summer” can be streamed from the usual sources, and can be viewed free on Hulu with a subscription.  https://www.hulu.com/movie/that-summer-6c7dd4c4-49cd-4666-b794-e00ae5ab311a

The risk of fostering for the humane society…

…is that you might not want to give the pup back.  I knew it would happen to me eventually.  Turns out it was foster pup #8.  I’m now her permanent human.  She and I have kept the name the humane society gave her–Myrtle.  I never would have come up with that name on my own, but it’s adorable and fits her perfectly.

Myrtle holidays 2018 RSR

When I first picked her up from the humane society, she was 4-5 months old, and had demodex, a non-contagious mangy skin condition.  She was missing much of her fur.  She was uncomfortable, but had a sweet disposition anyway.

Myrtle first night a RSR

It got worse before it got better.    Myrtle boot b RSR

But the humane society clinic vets are awesome and gave us the right Rx, and in another week we started seeing gradual improvement, so that by week 3 she was really getting her fur back.

This set of pictures was supposed to be for her adoption profile page.  But she was already starting to win me over.

She loves rawhide chews, furry squeaky toys, cardboard, and plastic milk containers.  These days when I take the milk containers to the recycler, they are partly broken down already.  🙂

She made this mess when she was about 6 months old.  She is now almost 8 months, and 44 lbs, and still this serious and industrious about her play.  When she is playing, it sounds like there is a basketball scrimmage going on in the room.  There is a daily carpet of chewed cardboard and plastic stuff for me to sweep up.

Myrtle Christmas prep a RSR

She’s a growl-talker.  She talks to me all. the. time.  I’m still trying to learn what she is telling me most of the time.

She’s a quick learner, but *cough* hard of hearing when she’s in the yard and I call her back to the house and she doesn’t want to come in. 😉

Myrtle Yard a RSR

She has an insatiable love for playing tug-of-war.  A tennis ball in a sock is the best for that.  Here she is with her ball & sock, telling me it’s time to play. Run-Sew-Read 2019She loves taking walks on the leash, which is less a walk than her dragging of me down the street.  Once we have the leash walking routine worked out, I think she’ll be my first dog ever to be a good running buddy.

Breed?  She has to be part Labrador, because she has webbed paws, and she’s a water dog.  I’ve already had to pull her from icy lake water.  I was a terrified foster mom, and she was a cold scared puppy.  That may have helped to form the bond.  I think she is also part pit and/or boxer.

She likes riding with me in the car, so when I reach for her Kurgo seatbelt harness, she goes wild.  But once in the car she calms down and is great at riding shotgun.Myrtle shotgun a w RSR

She has her own ‘girl cave’…Myrtle girl cave a w RSRMyrtle in girl cave a w RSR

Because she does great at home alone, I rarely close her in the girl cave.  But, I do regularly drop treats and toys in there for her to find, so she thinks of it as her ‘happy place’.

So anyway, you’ll see more of Myrtle now and then.

Hopefully, this doesn’t mean the end of my fostering, but it will limit the doggos I can foster.  No more tiny ones, or contagious conditions.

Myrtle 1-25-2019 RSR

Valentine greeting, 1920s style

*Happy Valentine’s Day!*

This is a Valentine card of my grandma’s from when she was a little girl in the 1920s.

Front:

Grandmas paper doll valentine 1920s-Mary RSR

Opened up to show the front and back:

Grandmas paper doll valentine 1920s-Mary open RSR

Inside is a paper doll, and an envelope that holds her paper doll clothes:

Grandmas paper doll valentine 1920s-Mary2 RSR

Not only does the envelope have the clothes that came with the card, but either the giver or my grandma made more clothes for her.  I love the hand drawn ‘Life Guard’ suit!

Grandmas paper doll valentine 1920s-Mary3 RSR

The clothes that came with the card have little notes printed on the back.

Grandmas paper doll valentine 1920s-Mary4 RSR corr

Want to print your own fun retro valentine card?  Amtrak has some adorable downloadable ones!

Amtrak-Valentines-Day-All-aboard

Amtrak-Valentines-Day-Angels

Click on the pictures or this link to see the rest!  http://blog.amtrak.com/2019/02/amtrak-valentines-day-cards/

Whatever your plans for February 14th, have a lovely time!

How do you pick the one best song for Valentine’s Day?  I couldn’t do it.  Ruling out songs I’ve previously included in posts, here are several contenders.  It’s basically an entire playlist!

(For Dimming of the Day, also check out David Gilmour’s live version.  It’s really my favorite.)

 

 

 

Belle Cantrell and Sissy LeBlanc

It was the book cover.  I kept seeing it in the bookstore, and finally had to buy The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlancand start reading.  I was pleased that from the start, her story was as captivating as the cover.

Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc cover

Then I read The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell.  Just as captivating.

Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell cover

Then I passed the books on to my mom, who also enjoyed them.  Then she passed them on.  This was about 12 years ago, and I’ve just requested them from our library so I can read them again.

Sissy LeBlanc would have been about 5 years older than my mom.  The author’s summary sets the stage:

“It’s a steamy June afternoon in Louisiana, circa 1956, and Sissy LeBlanc is sitting on her front porch….  She’s been living in stifling old Gentry since the day she was born and trapped in a sham of a marriage to PeeWee LeBlanc since she was only seventeen. In short, she’s fed up, restless, and ready for an adventure. Sissy just never imagined temptation would come into her life that breathless summer day as she sat smoking on her porch swing. For although she may have been fixated on the taut muscles of the lineman shimmying down the telephone pole across the street, she hadn’t allowed herself to imagine that he’d be none other than her high school sweetheart, Parker Davidson, who left town fourteen years before without so much as a wave good-bye. But suddenly, here he is, leaning in for a kiss that will stir up more excitement than Sissy could ever have imagined…”  (From Goodreads)

In June 1956, when Sissy’s story opened, Elvis Presley’s first studio album would have been released just three months earlier.


Then there was Sissy’s grandmother, Belle Cantrell, who would have been about the age of my mom’s grandmother (my great-grandma).

“Welcome to the world of beautiful, irrepressible Belle Cantrell, years before she becomes grandmother to Sissy LeBlanc….. It is 1920, prohibition is in full swing, women are clamoring for the vote — and in the little town of Gentry, Louisiana, narrow-minded intolerance is on the rise. Sent to jail for swimming in an indecent bathing costume with a group of suffragists, Belle Cantrell knows her behavior broke the rules. But sometimes — most of the time — she has to twist the rules a little, because they all say the same thing: “Don’t.”

A sexy, sassy story of murder, adultery, romance, bigotry, and regular church attendance, with laugh-out-loud humor and a cast of zany, endearing characters you won’t forget, The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell is a big comic love story . . . and much more.”  (From Goodreads.)

What I most specifically remember about both books was that the social issues of the day weren’t glossed over.  They were a real, and sometimes sobering part of the story.  I’ve forgotten most of both stories, which is why I want the experience of reading them again.


The author, Loraine Despres, has only published these two fiction novels.  I wish she would write some more fiction novels in the vein of Sissy and Belle.  But hey, she’s famous and quite accomplished, even if you haven’t heard of her.  According to her bio, she penned the ‘Who Shot J.R.?‘ episode of DALLAS!  I think Sissy and Belle would make good TV movie characters as well.

Polar vortex trousers

It was a Big Brothers Big Sisters group sleepover at the zoo.  The conversation between me and a younger mentor went like this:

Her:  Haven’t seen that pant style in awhile.
Me:  Yes, they were a favorite in a prior decade.  They’ve been too comfy to get rid of.
Her:  Um, I’m pretty sure it was more than one decade ago.
Me:  I did say “a” prior decade; not “the” prior decade.

To give you the right visual, they were black stirrup pants.  Super comfortable for a sleepover, but admittedly…

Stirrup pant intact aw RSR

…they haven’t been in style for decade(s).  Actually, it was the prior millennium.  And, they aren’t warm.  So, when I needed a pattern for some insulated warm pants, I broke down and cut the stirrup pants apart to make the pattern.  Turns out it was a good choice for a pattern, because:

  • It was only two pattern pieces, which made an easy-to-sew pattern.
  • The fit was loose (unlike leggings or skinny pants), which accommodated the bulk of the insulated layers.

Pants pieces aw RSR

The fit came out right on the first try, except for the lower legs, which had too much taper for the thickness of the fabric layers.  To fix the lower leg issue, I opened each side seam below the knee and inserted a long triangle.  This worked fine.

Insert2 aw RSR

For the fly closure, I used a strip of velcro, which was not strong enough by itself, but worked fine when I added a waistband and fastener.

(View before adding the waistband.)

Pants before waistband aw RSR

Tips and notes:

  • Reducing unnecessary bulk.  For the fly and waistband facing side, I removed the pile from between the layers.  Those spots don’t need double insulation, or bulk.
  • Walking foot recommended. The lazy, impatient me didn’t use the walking foot on the sewing machine, because it is slow, and I wanted to sew this first pair up quickly.  I got by, and the pants came together quickly and easily.  But with these layers and pile, a walking foot would be the better way to go.
  • The fabric was a surprise purchase from Joann.  While shopping for something else, I spotted this at 60% off, which made it $8/yd.  It appears to be an in-store only item, so I can’t provide a link to it.  But if you have a Joann store nearby, go check the bargain fabric section with the color-coded discount dots.

The fabric:

Insulated fabric a w RSR

Why insulated pants?  For comfort and productivity.  I’m cold all winter.  Besides how miserable that is, I feel like it takes much time out of my planned day to warm up, whether by situating myself near a space heater, or having a heated throw at my desk.  It slows my productivity and energy level, just getting and staying warm.  I want to try designing and making some simple, practical garments that I can wear any day, every day, all day, at home, and just feel warm.  The ultimate plan is to make garments I can wear wherever I go during the day–from the office to grocery shopping.

This is the first of the attempts.  Not bad for $8 in materials.  To be honest though, they look like simple insulated pants that don’t cost much to buy ready-to-wear.  Must try harder to make them look more stylish for every day wear.

Insulated pants mirror model a w RSR

The polar vortex of last week was my inspiration to make these warm pants a priority.  But as luck goes, on the day I finished the pants there was a drastic warmup.  It was a 60s-70sF weekend with sun.  Crocuses bloomed!

Crocuses 2019 RSR

Alas, the winter temperatures have made a rude return, with 30+mph wind gusts, a windchill temp of -11F, and an icy coating on everything.  The pants are doing their job of keeping me comfortable.

Is it too early for a countdown to Spring?

This was the kind of Sunday afternoon that makes me start counting the weeks until Spring.  A friend posted an invite this morning for an afternoon bike ride, and two of us joined her.  We met at the park and took off on the bike path.

After a couple of miles, we neared the grocery store, where I planned to drop the group and turn the outing into an errand.  I picked up a few things from the store and then headed back home on the bike path….in the sunshine, with sunglasses on, mittens off, and coat unzipped.

The crocuses haven’t even popped out in my yard yet, but I’m starting to get excited about Spring.

We interrupt this blog for a football game…

Go Kansas City Chiefs!  I’ve enjoyed the week of memes building up to this game.  “Pat > Pats”, etc.  While I watch tonight’s AFC playoff game, I’ll be wearing my vintage Chief’s jersey, kc chiefs jersey rsr

To keep my nervous hands busy, I’ll be knitting this fun scarf.  The pattern is a free download from the Lionbrand website.  I’ve made this pattern once before.  It makes a handy, warm scarf that stays in place.

Click on the picture to go to the Lionbrand pattern download page.

Here’s the SIP (‘scarf in progress’), in Lionbrand Hometown USA yarn.  The color is ‘Tampa Spice’.  I wanted it to be something red.

scarf in progress

The weather forecast for the game is absurdly cold.  It will be single digit windchill at game time, in the outdoor stadium.  In the stadium, that will feel like sub-zero temps.  Hopefully everybody there will have a way to stay somewhat warm.

I’ll have a cozy fire going in my room with the TV, and will make Honey-Sriracha Chicken legs in the Instant Pot and Air Fryer (stay tuned for future recipe post).

Go Chiefs!  (I know, I said that once already.)  Enjoy the game, fellow football fans.