Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Mad Hattress Takes on Medford

I just finished up with a 4-day "down & dirty" hat-making session with my favorite millinery guru, Jeanna. We worked each day from ~6:30 am - 7:30 pm, and created some awesome hats inspired by ones from vintage magazines from the 1930s & 1940s. I can't wait to post pictures of some of our creations on here soon! What a blast! Definitely made me realize that holding millinery workshops at my B&B is a really, really, really cool idea! Especially on the new deck that we are about to begin construction on...

This is the original vintage hat (by Sally Victor - photo is from a 1945 McCall's magazine) that I was trying to recreate:

This is my very first blocked felt hat!! Obviously, I did not have the original hat block for it, nor could I find or afford one. But, the thrift store just got in this lovely wooden salad bowl that worked PERFECTLY (best $2.50 I ever spent)! So, here is a teaser of the finished hat with the salad bowl block.

The Lady Amherst center tail pheasant feathers were curled at the base (just like the original vintage hat) via shaving/notching/steaming. I found a vintage ~1950s $2 steamer at the thrift store that works PERFECTLY in place of one of those fancy (and expensive!) steamers. The feathers are curled at their bases, which was difficult to do given the thickness of the quill and the fact that the Lady Amherst feathers tend to curl backwards on either side of the quill (making shaving them with a razor very tricky). The feathers are tacked onto the lip of the brim, and then the ends trail down onto the sides of the hat.

I also finished my "Mad Hattress" buckram hat (this one was made to match the dress I sewed a while back: I had one leftover Lady Amherst feather, and the colors just seemed to match so well with the checkerboard pattern of the hat that I decided to combine the two! :)

This is the back view...

So, to show off my millinery prowess, I went into the heart of downtown Medford, in the center square, where there is an awesome statue of a man playing chess. I decided this man was in need of a worthy opponent...Here is the blocked felt "Sally Victor" hat with the trio of curled Lady Amherst pheasant feathers.

I shared my artistic space with the guy holding the "Freedom America" sign in the background. Between the two of us, we received quite a few car honks!!

Please note the hysterical expression on the pedestrian walking quite a few priceless expressions. All in the name of "bringing the hat back!"

The Mad Hattress makes a formidable chess opponent!

*Please note that the Sally Victor hat, and many other vintage-inspired ones, will be for sale as custom orders on Etsy very soon!

Friday, March 16, 2012

History Repeats Itself...Sort of...

I found the most beautiful vintage wedding dress and matching hat on craigslist this week, and decided to purchase it. The entire ensemble was originally worn by a local woman for her own wedding in 1954. I guess the woman passed away last year at the age of 97, and before she died she mentioned the dress quite often and worried about what would happen to it when she passed away. Friends of her family listed it on craigslist. I didn't have the $60 asking price, but I explained that I loved and wore vintage clothing, and would give it a good home. So, $20 and a trip to Talent later, I was finally able to give a once-beloved dress and hat a new lease on life!

The beautiful sheath dress is composed of a silvery-blue brocade material with padded shoulders, 3/4 sleeves, metal side zipper, side pockets, matching belt, and a rhinestone pin. Fits like it was made for me, albeit made for me in that tight-like-a-glove sort of way...Kinda scary that I can still fit into a 24" waist if I hold my breath and don't eat anything (Ah, high school all over again!).

Monday, March 12, 2012

Eat Your Weeds!

One of my new favorite early spring meals is homemade naan bread topped with sauteed greens. At this time of year, there really isn't much growing in the garden except for sorrel, onions, and some of the hardier perennial herbs (such as parsley and chives). Of course, I incorporate all of this into the sauteed greens. However, this often is not enough to satisfy my lust for veg (and one never wants to eat too much of sorrel, since it contains oxalic acid - same as spinach - which isn't good for you in large quantities). Since we are lucky to have 5 beautiful acres to roam around on, with plenty of pasture, I have begun taking long walks around the property, munching my way through the fields!

I have received a great deal of interest and questions when I talk about searching for edible greens. I preface all of the following with: I am not an expert! In no way should you attempt to taste any unfamiliar plant unless you are absolutely certain of your identification (or have already had an expert identify it). There are a great deal of poisonous plants, many that can be easily mistaken for other, edible plants. It's easy to make a mistake in identification, and sometimes that mistake can be FATAL. Please be careful!! Also, please make sure that wherever you decide to gather your wild edibles has not been sprayed with pesticides!

That being said, I thought folks would enjoy a blog post briefly discussing some of the wild edibles in my own pastures and how to identify them.

Let's start with the easiest of all - that "pest" the infamous DANDELION!

The poor little dandelion gets such an undeservedly bad rap. This so-called "weed" is actually a wonderful edible, full of vitamins and minerals, and has even been used for centuries to make dandelion wine! Dandelion leaves are higher in beta carotene than carrots, and have a higher iron and calcium content than spinach. It is an excellent early spring tonic plant, helping to "flush out" the system of its winter blues. The name dandelion means "lion's tooth" in Old French for its long, lance-shaped (or "toothed") leaves, which grow around a basal rosette.

Dandelion leaves can be anywhere from 3-12 inches in length, depending on the "happiness" of the plant. Dandelion is easily identifiable due to its well-known, sunshine yellow flowers. Because of this, and the fact that it has no poisonous lookalikes, dandelion is an excellent wild edible. You can eat both the leaves and flowers.

The leaves are actually best before the plant flowers - less bitter - but I think they taste great all season long!


Miner's Lettuce is a succulent wild edible, related to purslane (which makes it a bit easier to identify, in my opinion!). If you have ever harvested wild purslane (and we definitely do on our property), you'll notice that purslane and miner's lettuce have leaves that are quite similar in textural appearance.

Miner's Lettuce can grow anywhere from 3-12 inches tall, with leaves that are a wide oval shape with a pointed tip.

Miner's Lettuce was a major food source during the California Gold Rush, and one bite will show you why! Both the leaves and flowers are edible (currently, it's too early in the season for our plants to be blooming). The leaves are best eaten raw, but can be sauteed as well. Miner's Lettuce is an excellent source of vitamin C!


One of the great things about plantain is that it is easy to identify, and has no poisonous lookalikes! Here on the farm, we have English plantain growing wild in our fields. English Plantain plants grow in basal rosettes and have long, slightly hairy, lance-shaped leaves that grow upward as though standing at attention.

The leaves have very distinct parallel veins running lengthwise. English Plantain is one of the earliest spring edibles to come up, braving the cold weather before anything else. The smallest, youngest leaves are the tastiest - larger, older leaves are quite fibrous and tough to chew. Both the leaves and the seeds are edible.

According to Steve Brill & Evelyn Dean in their book, "Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places," Plantains were inadvertently brought from Europe by the first settlers, and by the early 1700s, people already thought of them as native plants.

For more information on identifying and eating wild edibles, I do highly recommend the book by Steve Brill & Evelyn Dean, "Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places"

Aloe Vera Plant About To Bloom

My aloe vera plant has decided to bloom this year! What a wonderful surprise to herald the arrival of spring!

As you can see, the flower hasn't opened yet (but I keep checking daily!)...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

That Once A Year "Wild" Social Event

For B&B "research purposes" (mainly, because we were tired of getting asked questions about whether or not we had been to the Shakespeare Festival/Britt/etc - to which our answer is always, "No, sorry, we have no time and no social lives!") we decided that we needed to head over to Ashland last night for a little R&R and some time viewing the Oregon Cabaret Theater's production of "Let's Misbehave." We did the full dinner-and-drinks (even ordered a bottle of bubbly to sip leisurely throughout the play), and enjoyed ourselves immensely.

All dressed up and ready to head over to our front (& center!) row seats at the Oregon Cabaret Theater's production of Let's Misbehave (of course, it's a Cole Porter musical!). It is set in 1935, so Ryan and I used that as an excuse to get "into the vintage spirit!"

You can't really see it in the picture, but I'm wearing my vintage 1940s black beaded sweater dress (hundreds of tiny beads are interwoven into the fabric to make it sparkle), which matched PERFECTLY with my Frank Palma tilt hat! This is the hat very similar to the one worn by Rosalind Russell in "The Women." It has several black felt sparrows (some sequined, some plain) cascading down the hat. The black sequins in the hat matched the black sparkles in the dress!