Reminiscing on my (almost) 24 hours in Bristol at the end of June.

It started with a hike with two good friends from our hotel in the centre to the awesome Clifton bridge.IMG_2112a




Yes, I did the slide.  I recommend seat padding for the trip down.  The rock is highly polished, but it is still rock hard.IMG_2092w

It was a “green day” in Bristol.  The centre was blocked off from car traffic.  This was an uphill bicycle race.  Naturally, when I wanted to catch a photo, no one was racing.IMG_2078w IMG_2080w

After spending two hours trying to find a store that sells international plug adapters and sim cards (did find a sim card), it was on to the evening entertainment.IMG_2141w


Pub stop with friends after the concert.  Endless good times and memories.  IMG_2374a

Birthday Dress

I wore this dress on my 39th birthday.  I can’t explain why I picked it that day.  It was a purchase from a friend who had bought it for herself and never worn it.  Then it sat in my closet for more than a year.  It never seemed to be the right thing to wear on any given day.  But on #39, I put it on and thought, “What the heck.  I either need to start wearing it or get rid of it.”


Then a strange thing happened on my 40th.  I reached for the same dress again.  When it happened again at #41, I realized a tradition had been launched.  The fabric is a linen weave, embellished with little embroidered flowers.  The dress has no spandex in it.  It either fits or it doesn’t.   I admit, there have been a few times during certain years, that I would not have been able to wear the dress.  But always on my birthday, it went on comfortably.

So anyway, here I am, 13 years later, a different person in so many ways.  But still rocking the Birthday Dress. IMG_4078w-priv

Sour milk

There was a power outage while I was away for a few days this week, and I came home to sour milk in the fridge.   There was about a quart (litre) that went bad.  So I went in search of recipes that use sour milk.  I made this spice cake.   The middle didn’t fall as much as it looks in the picture.  But the advice on the recipe to use a bundt pan is probably good.

IMG_4046aThe amount of flour is not specified in the recipe.  I used 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour, and then added 1 to 1/2 cup of white flour on top of that.  The texture came out light and moist.

After eating one piece,IMG_4050a IMG_4052a

The rest went into the freezer for later snacking and packing in lunches.IMG_4053a

Then I made a double batch of these pancakes.IMG_4061aI added an additional 1/3 cup of powdered milk to the batter to give them an extra calcium boost.  I meant to add a bit of whole wheat flour, but forgot.  Argh.

After taste testing one, I packed the rest away in the freezer.  IMG_4063aA double-batch produced 14 pancakes total, so I know mine were twice the size anticipated in the recipe.  I used a 1/4 cup measure to pour the batter onto the griddle.

I still have approximately 1 cup of the sour milk to use up.  According to numerous sites, I should pour it at the base of my rose bush.

My milk had not yet separated, so I didn’t try making cottage cheese.  I’ll save this recipe for the next batch of sour milk.  There will be another batch, this I know.


Don’t be fooled by the cover.  It is a compelling story, with substance and depth.  It is an authentic description of life in London in the Swinging 60s, as two sisters grow up and leave home, at first setting out on dramatically different paths.  The story is set primarily near Notting Hill, Sloane Square, and King’s Road, among other iconic London locations.  Parts of the story also take place in Paris, Nice and St. Tropez.  The story spans the time frame from the 1920s to the 60s, with flashbacks to World War II.  I’m convinced that the cover was so wrong for the book that it suppressed sales.

The author is also the founder of Biba fashion boutique.  She published an autobiography in 1983, titled, “From A to Biba: The Autobiography of Barbara Hulanicki.”  I’m going to have to read that one, too.  It comes in Kindle format.

Disgrace book cover--fronta

Disgrace book cover--backa

“Disgrace,” by Barbara Hulanicki, published 1990.

I stumbled onto the book from a review at this website, and I’m glad I did.

Sound of Music Dress

So, I was making this dress, but was attacked by a months-long spell of whatever is the sewing equivalent of writer’s block.  Then came the breakthrough.  And then another breakthrough, and ta-da!  The dress is complete.

Long story short:  I was trying to make a dress of this cut and construction, worn last year by the Duchess of Cambridge.


[Images from–a great blog!]

But I didn’t like the silhouette it created in my chosen fabric.  So the half-constructed dress hung on my dress form for months, with the gathered skirt held in place with straight pins.  I started adding silly things to it–beads, a belt, a jacket, etc.  I didn’t take a photo at that time, so this is a recreation of the sad ensemble.



Then I stopped seeing it in the room altogether.  Then I saw the picture of the Duchess wearing that dress again, and resolved to complete my dress, love or hate it.

I put it on and stood in front of the full length mirror.  Then I unpinned the skirt to try adjusting the waistline.  But when the skirt was off and I saw the straight portion (which I had not yet cut to length), I had my first AHA moment.  It looks better as a straight, sleeveless shift.  So, finishing it simply meant adding a back closure, armhole facings, and hem.  Done.


At that point, I mostly liked the boxy shape of the dress, but wanted to take out just a bit of the fullness.  I did not want to belt it or add darts.  I was considering back pleats.  Then came the second AHA moment.  I don’t know how this one happened, but thank goodness it did.  I took two strips of fabric and criss-crossed them on the back.

It pulled the perfect amount of fullness away from the front…,IMG_3976a

and gave the back a distinct softly gathered look.  I love the result.IMG_3975a

Here is the dress on me. IMG_3980c IMG_3982b

(And yes, that is a bit of armhole facing that I didn’t get tucked in.  Argh.)

To put the dress on and take it off, I just need to unbutton it at the neck back, and unbutton the sashes at the bottom, and slip it over my head.  IMG_3977a

I’m calling it the “Sound of Music Dress,” because the fabric is from some old curtains I never liked.Curtain moment

I’m also calling it the “five-rectangle dress,” because it is made out of rectangles of fabric. The body is all one rectangle, seamed up the back and shoulders, with armholes and a neckline cut in and faced.  The collar pieces are rectangles, and the criss-cross in the back is also of course, made of rectangles.

I still want to make a dress like the one I started out to make.  So it’s back to the drawing board for another try.

Quick–Use Up That Spinach

Too much spinach gets thrown out at my house.  I like to use fresh spinach in salads and anywhere that lettuce would normally be used.  Examples:  I add fresh diced spinach to crab salad, and sprinkle some on a burrito along with diced tomato, shredded cheese and chopped green onion.  I do the pack-ahead Mason jar salads.  They are great!

Salad jars2

But even eating a salad a day, I can’t use up the bag of spinach from the grocery store before it starts getting wilted and smelly.  I have a life-long intense dislike for canned spinach, so buying canned is not an option.  So, today I did what I needed to do a long time ago; I went in search of ways to use fresh spinach when it is starting to go bad.

But first, found a bit of knowledge on spinach shelf life:  According to this source, shelf life is about 5 days, if you want it completely fresh.  I try to make my package last 2 weeks, and by the end of that time, what’s left in the bag is pretty rank.

Lots of helpful spinach ideas came up on my search.  Here are some I particularly liked:

Freeze it for pizza or quiche.

Make Spinach Pesto; toss with fettuccine, or mix into Alfredo Sauce.

Puree and freeze in ice cube trays for adding to smoothies.

More freezing advice.

And more good ideas for using spinach.

[Update;  Suggestion from  Yotam Ottolenghi’s Skillet-Baked Eggs with Spinach, Yogurt, and Spiced Butter. ]

And here are the nutritional facts about fresh (raw) spinach, per the USDA:

Nutrient Unit Value per 100.0g cup
package (10 oz)
Water g 91.40 27.42 310.76 9.14 259.58
Energy kcal 23 7 78 2 65
Protein g 2.86 0.86 9.72 0.29 8.12
Total lipid (fat) g 0.39 0.12 1.33 0.04 1.11
Carbohydrate, by difference g 3.63 1.09 12.34 0.36 10.31
Fiber, total dietary g 2.2 0.7 7.5 0.2 6.2
Sugars, total g 0.42 0.13 1.43 0.04 1.19
Calcium, Ca mg 99 30 337 10 281
Iron, Fe mg 2.71 0.81 9.21 0.27 7.70
Magnesium, Mg mg 79 24 269 8 224
Phosphorus, P mg 49 15 167 5 139
Potassium, K mg 558 167 1897 56 1585
Sodium, Na mg 79 24 269 8 224
Zinc, Zn mg 0.53 0.16 1.80 0.05 1.51
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid mg 28.1 8.4 95.5 2.8 79.8
Thiamin mg 0.078 0.023 0.265 0.008 0.222
Riboflavin mg 0.189 0.057 0.643 0.019 0.537
Niacin mg 0.724 0.217 2.462 0.072 2.056
Vitamin B-6 mg 0.195 0.058 0.663 0.020 0.554
Folate, DFE µg 194 58 660 19 551
Vitamin B-12 µg 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Vitamin A, RAE µg 469 141 1595 47 1332
Vitamin A, IU IU 9377 2813 31882 938 26631
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) mg 2.03 0.61 6.90 0.20 5.77
Vitamin D (D2 + D3) µg 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Vitamin D IU 0 0 0 0 0
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) µg 482.9 144.9 1641.9 48.3 1371.4
Fatty acids, total saturated g 0.063 0.019 0.214 0.006 0.179
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated g 0.010 0.003 0.034 0.001 0.028
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated g 0.165 0.050 0.561 0.016 0.469
Cholesterol mg 0 0 0 0 0
Caffeine mg 0 0 0 0 0

Data Source

According to USDA charts, it takes 14-15 leaves of fresh spinach at 10g each to meet my entire recommended daily intake of Vitamin A.  Source