To go with my 1840s day dress I knew I needed something to use as a head covering for Dickens Fair. Unfortunately, while the standard shape for an 1840s bonnet is really a “coal scuttle bonnet” with straight sides like this one:
… it was not possible to find one inexpensively on short notice. Further complicating the issue was the fact that I’d have to pack or ship the bonnet, which is a pain since bonnets are so bulky, so I couldn’t just make one at home and get it to California easily. What to do?
Every year for Thanksgiving, we go to my aunt’s house for Thanksgiving dinner– and every year, I bring some kind of baked good to share. Over the years, I’ve developed some criteria to maximize people’s enjoyment of my creation: It has to keep well at room temperature, because the fridge is full already. It has to be easy and neat to eat, so people don’t have to get out plates or forks to get a piece. And it has to be a cake or loaf of some kind (rather than individually-portioned cookies, etc.) because while people are sometimes reluctant to grab an entire cookie or cupcake between meals, they’re always happy to slice off just a teeny-weeny bit to snack on as they pass by.
This bundt cake is perfect for the occasion– it’s got a dense, fine crumb that lets it hold together well when people pick up a slice, it’s not so sweet or decadent that people feel guilty about grabbing some, and it’s appropriately festive, being chock-full of cranberries and pecans. And yes, the flavor combination may sound familiar from my Cranberry-Orange Walnut Muffin recipe, but this cake is a lot richer and denser than the light, fluffy muffins, making it just the right dessert for a family event.
I grew up reading a lot of classic kids’ stories by British authors, and one thing that it took me some time to adjust to was how the characters would eat “pudding.” Remember, to an American kid, pudding means “thickened dairy-based concoction, usually flavored with chocolate or vanilla, often served in individual cups.” But these British puddings were clearly not the puddings of my childhood. For starters, “pudding” appeared to be an all-purpose word for dessert in general, so kids in the books would ask “what’s for pudding,” much in the same way people in certain areas of the U.S. might ask “what kind of Coke do you want?” to refer to flavors of sweetened carbonated beverages. In other contexts, puddings were described as “steaming hot” and being served in “slices,” which didn’t jibe with my idea of pudding at all. The most commonly-referenced type was plum pudding, served at Christmas, and get this– it was often set on fire???
Anyway, while the idea of a flaming dessert was of course intriguing, I never gave it much thought until recently, when I was challenged by a friend to make “Christmas pudding” this year. How could I say no?
After my last attempt at a cute holiday dress for my daughter (it took a while for her to warm up to it), I went a little more traditionally girly with this one and decided on flowers made of ribbon, to go on an otherwise plain burgundy velvet dress. Here’s what it looked like to begin with:
I bought several different kinds of ribbon flowers on eBay– you can get 10 of the same kind for a dollar or two (free shipping) from countless sellers, as long as you’re not too picky about the flowers maybe not being exactly the same color as the photos on your screen– and collected them together to figure out how best to arrange them.
The first thing I did was cut off the random button panel in the back of the dress (I think it was meant to help adjust sizing?) and replace it with a sash made of two yards of 1 1/2″ wide burgundy satin ribbon. I tacked down the ribbon at one side seam of the dress, and let the rest remain unattached, figuring that stitching down the flowers through the ribbon and the dress would keep it in place.
Then I moved on to the real embellishment.
Every year for the holidays I have fun looking through the stores for an adorable holiday dress for my daughter. In years past she’s been pretty compliant in terms of wearing what I pick out, since she loves twirly skirts, lace, sparkles, and all the components that are usually present in holiday-wear. This year I happened upon a lovely (but plain) dress, and decided to do a little quick DIY and fancy it up to meet her high standards.