Heart of Glass

Author: Kirsten K., Author: Kirsti K., Holidays

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♪ ♫ Ornament the blog with a touch of class:
A picture…of a heart of glass.
Circle of gold beads ‘round a profile;
Classical bust, hint of a smile.

Two / Fourteen —
Will you spend it reading through our posts online?
‘Cause we’re choosing you to be our Valentine. 🏹
If we are amusing you, it’s just too good,
You swooning like you do…
♩♬

..

❤️ Happy Valentine’s Day, Swooners! ❤️

 

Lyrics adapted from Heart of Glass by Blondie.

My Fare Lady

Author: Kirsten K., Books, Food & Drink, History, Literature, Nostalgia, Recipes

More than 25 years ago, I was browsing the book selection from Amazon—yes, 25 years and no, not that Amazon—and came across an intriguing entry: The Captain’s Lady Cookbook & Personal Journal, 1837-1917, Vol. II: The Love Story, which included the following description:

“This is an amazing look at the life of a well-to-do woman who combined her diary, recipes, shopping lists, thoughts and dreams into her personal journal. The charm is indescribable. Recipes and a love story.”

I added it by hand to my printed order form, along with a reproduction Regency dress pattern, a pair of cotton ladies stockings, a handful of faux tortoise hair pins, and a bottle of Devon Violet eau de toilette. For me, the original mail order Amazon was Amazon Drygoods: “Purveyor of Items for the 19th Century Impression.” Their seasonal 100-page catalogs, with tiny print filling every page, put J. Peterman to shame and took weeks to peruse thoroughly.

Having developed a passion for historical romance in high school, I was eager to learn more about the clothing and customs of the 1800s, and Amazon Drygoods was the place to do so, supplying books, materials, and reproduction items for history enthusiasts and reenactors.

The Captain’s Lady Cookbook & Personal Journal was a real find—literally. Editor Barbara Dalia Jasmin found it at a tag sale in the early 1960s and paid 25 cents for its 300+ ultra-thin pages handwritten in copperplate script by the young wife of a Massachusetts ship’s captain in the mid-19th century. Although the entire journal comprises the period from 1837-1917, Ms. Jasmin chose to publish “The Love Story” first, which begins with the diarist’s marriage to her beloved captain on March 18, 1857 and covers the first 17 years of their lives together. Of his imminent departure on the clipper ship The Golden Fleece two months after their wedding, she writes, “I would choose to wait for him rather than for any other man in the entire world.”

Among traditional New England-style recipes such as Baked Indian Pudding and Washington Pie Cake are directions for making washing fluids, cough syrup, a digestive aid, and a dressing for the hair; lists of shopping items needed, wedding gifts received, and shipping cargo inventoried; “humour,” quotes, and poems (some by the author herself); mention of notable events (the end of the Civil War, the death of Abraham Lincoln); and stories of personal tragedy, like the loss of her brother at sea and the suicide by drowning of her cousin Jane. But there are also meditations on nature, family, faith, and, most of all, her undying love for her captain.

Instead of saying goodbye when he left for a voyage, the captain would tell his lady, “I think I shall sail across the Bay, but I shall be back in time for a piece of your special lemon pie.” She writes that, “When his return was imminent, I would make a lemon pie almost every day…Then, that special day arrived…My Captain would stride through the door…and say playfully, ‘Well, my Lady, isn’t that lemon pie ready yet?’” For their third anniversary, he gave her a gold pin and matching ring encrusted with precious stones. “Laid in succession, the first letter of each stone spells the word ‘Dearest.’ Diamond, emerald, amethyst, ruby, emerald, sapphire, and topaz.” O Captain! My Captain!

Reproduction of a page from the original manuscript of The Captain’s Lady Cookbook.

Amazon Drygoods noted that “Vol. I will be next in the series with a total of 9.” But—though Vol. II was first published in 1981 and the copyright page of the book states: “Vol I The Early Years 1837 – 1857 to be published October 9, 1983” and “Vol III The Children From the Sea 1863 in preparation”—I have never seen another book in the series published. These days, The Captain’s Lady Cookbook & Personal Journal can only be found from secondhand bookstores and select online vendors. I don’t know if something befell Ms. Jasmin or where the original journal resides today, but I do know that it’s a document of historical and human significance that should be preserved for posterity.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, you can indulge in this captivating cookbook and swoon-worthy story of true love by reading the digitized version online for free at the link below, but you’ll want your own copy to flip through whenever you need help navigating the rough seas of life and love. The Captain and his Lady demonstrate kindness to each other, respect for family, courage in adversity, celebration of life, and, above all else, a deep and abiding love—qualities we could use more of in THIS day and age. So open this present from the past to chart a course (and courses!) for your own happily ever after, and “fare” thee well.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™️ in this post:

The Captain’s Lady Cookbook & Personal Journal

 

Original copies of The Captain’s Lady Cookbook are available for purchase at Abe Books, Amazon.com, and eBay, along with other versions.

 

Bloggers We Have Read Online

Author: Kirsten K., Author: Kirsti K., Holidays

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♪ ♫ Bloggers we have read online
sweetly swoon @ their domain,
And the comments in reply
Echo in their “faint” refrain:
♩ ♬

“Fo—o-o-o-o-o—o-o-o-o-o—o-o-o-or our readers,

👼🏼 Merry Christmas Day-o!”👼🏼

..

“Fo—o-o-o-o-o—o-o-o-o-o—o-o-o-or our readers,

👼🏼 Merry Christmas Day-ay-o!”👼🏼

 

Lyrics adapted from the Christmas carol Angels We Have Heard On High.
Picture adapted from a detail in the Sistine Madonna painting by Raphael Sanzio.

Fir Real

Author: Kirsten K., Cocktails, Coffee, Food, Food & Drink, Fragrance, Holidays, Hot Drinks, Nostalgia, Spirits, Sweets, Tea

Loyal Swooners know that Kirsti and I are Fleur Crazy, but they might not be aware that I am also fir-crazy. Scent is the sense most closely connected to memory, and the smell of evergreen instantly conjures up happy childhood memories of decorating the Christmas tree and sitting beneath its boughs while tearing into presents with unbridled avarice. The scent always became sweeter as the tree dried out, and I used to gather the fallen needles into a muslin sachet, wanting to hold on to that adored aroma even after the last holiday decoration had been wrapped in tissue paper and put away.

When Starbucks introduced its erstwhile Juniper Latte a few years ago, it was a revelation to realize I could actually taste, as well as smell, this sylvan scent. Ever since, I’ve been searching for new ways to enjoy the flavors of the forest. I began this “noble” pursuit at Aftelier, the aromatic atelier of perfumer Mandy Aftel, which offers a range of Chef’s Essence® Flavor Drops for use in cooking and cocktails. Among them are Fir Needle, Juniper Berry, and Pine Needle. I was torn about which to try first when Kirsti went ahead and bought all three for me as a gift (BFF!*).

Fir Needle and Juniper Berry are both essential oils with strong scents in the bottle, but surprisingly smooth flavors when added to foods and beverages. I’ve used them to “spruce” up my morning coffee and to bring the bright, fresh essence of evergreen to snowy scoops of vanilla ice cream and seasonal sips of Christmas-y cocktails. An unexpected delight is the deep forest green of the thick Pine Needle Absolute, which has a wonderfully woodsy aroma and a sweet, smoky flavor that transports me to a mountaintop timberland every time I taste it. (For links to recipes, click on individual Chef’s Essence®s in Aftelier’s online shop).

If Christmas is your cup of tea, you’ll love the Douglas Fir Spring Tips Botanical Tea from Juniper Ridge. A recent fortuitous find, this company makes sustainably harvested and wildcrafted products using organic ingredients sourced from the slopes of Northern California. Their caffeine-free Douglas Fir tea allows you to literally drink in the quintessential scent of the season with its fresh, light flavor, while the authentic aroma of their Christmas Fir Room Spray will instantly relocate you to the redolent rows of a tree lot. In combination with their full line of bath, body, and home fragrance offerings, it’s like dropping a Tannen-bomb.

Finally, I don’t know if the Balsam & Cedar fragrance from Brayer Ridge Soap in Maine is “fir real” or not, but the company deserves honorable mention, because their Handcrafted Goat Milk Lotion is the most swoon-worthy moisturizing cream I’ve ever used. Last fall, on a visit to Eagle Island, I stumbled upon a tube of this luscious lotion with the sweet scent of my beloved balsam and cedar. As a natural product without artificial preservatives, it had an expiration date less than six months away, but I kept it in the fridge and managed to ration it all the way through summer. Lisa at Brayer Ridge only makes this lotion during the colder months of the year and, unfortunately, she’s already out for the season(!), but I’m consoling myself with her equally swoon-worthy Balsam & Cedar Whipped Body Butter and Goat Milk Soap, which bathe my bathroom in an alpine aroma.

If you’re looking for last-minute holiday gifts and know someone with a firry fetish, there’s still time to stockpile these fragrant and flavorful finds—or to branch out and try them for yourself. You might discover, as I have, that seasons change, but tree love lasts firever.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Aftelier Fir Needle, Juniper Berry, and Pine Needle Chef’s Essence® Flavor Drops
Juniper Ridge Douglas Fir Tea and Christmas Fir Room Spray
Brayer Ridge Soap Balsam & Cedar Bath and Body Products

 

*Best Firry Friend!

 

Ancient Hissstory

Author: Kirsten K., Author: Kirsti K., Holidays

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This year’s pumpkin carving is no great big mystery;
You only need study your Greek ancient hissstory,
While dealing with COVID and lockdown neuroses
By flipping through Ovid in Metamorphoses.

It’s Snakes on a Mane as our Halloween feature,
Depicting a Hell-enic mythical creature
With slithering hair and a gaze that’s hypnotic,
Which causes her victims to go all sclerotic.

..

The ladys a viper — to tempt her is unwise.
She’ll turn you to stone if you stare into her eyes.
So don’t look too long, or she’s bound to seduce ya,
This profile pic of our “Gourd-gon” Medusa.

🎃 Happy Halloween, Ssswooners! 🐍

 

This pumpkin was carved using a classical-style Medusa silhouette and tools from Pumpkin Masters.

Cameo Appearance

Author: Kirsten K., Crafts, Holidays

Halloween is almost here, and with more time at home in recent months due to the pandemic, I’ve finally been able to work on some of the seasonal decorating ideas that have been floating around my head for years. To go by the number of ghoulish and ghostly displays that have suddenly materialized in my neighborhood, I’m not the only one.

In addition to exterior décor, I’ve brought the Halloween spirit(s) into my home, where a spine-tingling twist on tradition is making a cameo appearance this year. Among the carved Fun-Kins and framed Killhouettes that adorn my abode, I’ve created an arrangement of creepy cameos around a blushing bride who is head over heels (his head, her heels).

I’ve always loved classic forms of portraiture, like silhouettes and cameos, but I don’t wear much jewelry, so when I came across Cameo Jewelry Supply and swooned over their vast collection of affordable resin cameos, I had to consider alternate ways to use these wearable works of art. Naturally, their selection of Skull, Zombie, and Gothic cameos made me think of Halloween, and I knew at once that I wanted to showcase all of these spooky specimens for the season.

Using the shape of the cameos as my guide, I settled on a simple black frame with an oval opening encircling a school picture photo mat. Since a standard 40x30mm cameo would have been lost in the large oval, I chose a favorite Killhouette for dead center. It seemed appropriate for all of these disembodied heads to be looking upon Bridezilla, who has just “uncrowned” her Prince Charming. Leave it to cleaver!

This skull at bottom center glows in the dark.

As someone who lives in SoCal, I always keep plenty of QuakeHold! on hand, and I used a tiny bit to affix each cameo in its space so that I could mix, match, and remove them easily. Once I embellished Bridezilla with blood to match the red skull and crossbones, my creation was complete.

I also purchased some smaller skeleton and skull cameos, along with supplies to make eerie earrings and hair-raising hair pins for Halloween, but I don’t plan to stop there. With categories ranging from Alphabet to Zodiac, I have a feeling that these petite portraits will be making a cameo appearance in my life throughout the year.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Cameo Jewelry Supply

 

A wide variety of beautiful cameo settings—often referred to as “blanks”—for pins, pendants, bracelets, rings, and earrings is also available on Etsy.

 

Phantom Thread

Author: Kirsten K., Books, Entertainment, History, Literature, Nostalgia, Theatre

On this day in 1986, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera premiered in London’s West End, beginning its theatrical journey around the world and into the record books as the longest running show in Broadway history,* but it wasn’t until years later that I first fell under the Phantom’s spell. I heard The Music of the Night while watching Brian Boitano skate his signature routine on a frozen pond in some long-forgotten television special, but I could not forget the song.

From that moment, The Phantom of the Opera began to weave a ghostly thread through my life. I promptly purchased the Original London Cast Recording of the musical and—as Kirsti can attest—learned every word and every note. That year, I dressed as the Phantom for Halloween (when I couldn’t find his trademark half-mask, I made my own) and held out the vain hope of traveling to New York City to see the show on Broadway, but when the touring production finally came to Los Angeles, tickets were so in-demand and expensive that I couldn’t afford one!

I was in school at the time and supplemented my meager income by babysitting. When I was asked to watch the children of a couple who were going to the theater, I was both excited and envious to discover that they were seeing The Phantom of the Opera. I was also secretly resentful: as season ticket holders, they were merely going to see the latest show, whereas I—a TRUE “phan”—was stuck watching the kids. But they brought me back one of the free programs, which I read cover-to-cover and still have to this day.

I eventually saw the show for the first time with my family, and it was both phantastic and anti-climactic, as such long-awaited moments tend to be, but it rekindled my childhood love of musicals and gave me a new appreciation for live theater—another thread that continues to twine its way through my life.

During The Phantom of the Opera’s historic 4½-year run in Los Angeles, the theater began to offer upper balcony (aka “nosebleed”) seats to students for just $15, so I went there every few months to see the show, taking a different friend or co-worker with me each time and delighting in their reactions to the phanfare. Serendipitously, I happened to be there on the night of Davis Gaines’s 100th performance as the Phantom, as well as the time he surpassed Michael Crawford as the longest-running Phantom. In addition to various touring productions and Phantom – The Las Vegas Spectacular, I’ve seen the show almost 20 times, which is a modest number, considering the 100+ times that some phanatics have seen it.

As most people are aware, the stage production is based on the French novel Le Fantôme de l’Opéra by Gaston Leroux, but it was largely the musical that inspired a wave of phanfic in the ensuing years, the first—and, arguably, the best—of which is Phantom by Susan Kay. This year marks both the 110th anniversary of the publication of Leroux’s classic novel and the 30th anniversary of  the release of Susan Kay’s reimagining of the tale, which follows the disfigured genius Erik from his birth all the way through the dramatic events at the Paris Opera.

There are other threads in my life that have spun off from the original—books I’ve read, movies I’ve seen, music I’ve played, friends I’ve made, and places I’ve traveled as a result of my introduction to the Phantom. When I started piano lessons as an adult, the first song I learned to play was The Music of the Night. I’ve studied both voice and French, the latter culminating in a trip to Paris, where I visited the Palais Garnier and stood outside Box 5, a favorite haunt of the O.G.

The Phantom of the Opera unspooled more of its own thread to produce both a film version and a sequel to the original stage production called Love Never Dies, which—despite its lush sets and some truly beautiful music—was not well received by either critics or audiences (much the way an unseen monster is more frightening when conjured in the mind’s eye, an unfulfilled love story is more intriguing when left to the imagination).

Some threads become worn with time and need to be stored away to protect them, but every once in a while I like to pull gently at the Phantom thread, revisiting the musical and hearing those haunting melodies again, allowing them to weave their spectral spell once more.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

The Phantom of the Opera

 

*The Phantom of the Opera is the longest running show in Broadway history to date, but another blockbuster may come along someday to push the Phantom off its pedestal.

Le Fantôme de l’Opéra by Gaston Leroux was serialized in the French newspaper Le Gaulois beginning in 1909, but was officially published in volume form in March of 1910.

The Phantom signs his letters O.G. for “Opera Ghost.”

 

You Must Rem’ember This

Author: Kirsten K., Inspiration

A few years ago, a friend mentioned that her daughter refers to this time of year as “the ’embers” (one ’ober notwithstanding). I was completely charmed by this, since it perfectly expresses—both literally and figuratively—the most swoon-worthy months of the year. It doesn’t matter that temperatures are expected to soar over 100° in Southern California this coming weekend or that we’re still dealing with a pandemic while heading into another contentious election—the ’embers are here!

It was noticeably cooler last night when I walked The Beast, and I slept with a light blanket for the first time in months. I have no idea what Halloween will look like this year, but I’ve already picked out my pumpkin-carving pattern and have begun working on some spooky decorating projects, BST in hand. I’ve set suitably creepy reading material on my nightstand for inspiration and am using the Tiny Habits method to prepare a Phantastic post (hint!).

Despite the current chaos of the world without, I’m looking ahead with excited anticipation to choosing my costume, sneaking a treat (or two), sipping on hot chocolate, passing the pecan pie, making mulled wine, and eventually, ringing in a new year that will—hopefully!—be less fraught than 2020.

For now, I’m enjoying the first day of meteorological fall and feeling grateful for the natural beauty and cultural traditions that make this time of year so special.

I’m hoping this catchphrase will catch on, so please remember each September to wish your friends and family members a “Happy ’Embers!”


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

The ’Embers

 

The pictures accompanying this post were taken last ’embers on Eagle Island, Maine.

 

High Five

Author: Kirsten K., Author: Kirsti K.

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In Two Thousand Fifteen on O-Five/O-Five,
A giddy new blog was all set to arrive.
Its two founding members intended to strive
For swoon-worthy posts that would flourish and thrive.

To all of our Swooners, we hope you derive
The lightheaded pleasure we’ve sought to contrive.
Through pause and pandemic we’ve worked to survive;
A half-decade later and we’re still alive.

If new to our site, you can do a deep dive
By clicking the plus sign to view our archive.
And if you pass out, we hope when you revive,
You’ll show your “faint” praise with a heartfelt high five!

..

💐 Happy 5th Swooniversary! 💐

 

Fake It ‘Til You Bake It

Author: Kirsten K., Food, Food & Drink, Recipes, Savories, Snacks

While we’re all on coronavirus lockdown, many of my friends have been spending their time at home baking and posting pictures of the sweet treats on social media (including my co-swooner, who’s been sprinkling her magic fairy dust over at Sugar Nerd). “Stress baking” is a thing, and it’s bringing comfort to people in this time of isolation and uncertainty. But while I have a major sweet tooth, I’ve been finding my own comfort in baking a simple, savory snack.

There are several vegetarians in my family, some bordering on vegan, so whenever we have a get-together, there are always meat alternatives on the table: Tofurky or Field Roast at Thanksgiving and Christmas, Smart Dogs and Boca Burgers on the 4th of July, and plant-based sausages and bacon for Easter and Mother’s Day brunch. Nobody makes a habit of eating these regularly, because they are often made with highly-processed ingredients, particularly one brand of fake bacon (aka “facon”) that has an ingredient list as long as my arm, including artificial flavors and colors—but real egg whites, making it unsuitable for vegans.

A few years ago, I saw a recipe for vegan bacon online that had only FOUR all-natural ingredients: soy sauce, maple syrup, liquid smoke, and large flake coconut (also called coconut chips). I immediately saw the logic of this lineup—salty, sweet, smoky, crunchy, and umami—but it took me until just recently to finally try it out.

There are so many things in life that fail to meet expectations, that Kirsti’s and my highest compliment is to say something is “not disappointing.” Well, coconut bacon is NOT disappointing. To use a friend’s favorite phrase, it’s “stupid good”—as in, so good that I ate most of the first batch in a single day and made myself sick, only to do the exact same thing with the second batch! Stoopid. But GOOD. It smells and tastes the most like real bacon of any other version I’ve tried.

Even if you’re not a vegetarian or vegan, this recipe is ridiculously easy and virtually guilt-free: no nitrites, pan full of grease, or piggies-in-peril. The soy sauce is high in sodium, but as long as you don’t eat an entire batch in one day (ahem), you should be alright. Pulse some in a food processor to make vegetarian bacon bits for sprinkling on salads, baked potatoes, and pizza. Enjoy it whole at breakfast, in a BLT (with vegan mayo), on a maple bar, or in any one of the many ways by which bacon has blown up foodies’ feeds in recent years.

If you’re stuck on store-bought “facon” and haven’t tried this incredibly realistic bake-on, you’re gonna fake it…’til you bake it.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

VEGAN COCONUT BACON*

4 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari [I used the low-sodium version]
2 Tbsp. liquid smoke
1 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
2½ cups unsweetened, large coconut flakes

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Whisk all wet ingredients together in a large bowl. Stir in the coconut and mix well to ensure even coating.

Spread the coconut in an even layer on a large parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, then stir. Bake another 8 to10 minutes, keeping a very close eye on the coconut in the last few minutes. This stuff will go from not-quite done to completely burnt very fast! Remove from oven when the coconut flakes on the outer edges of the pan are becoming a deep dark brown, but not black.

Place baking sheet on a cooling rack. The coconut will continue to crisp as it cools. Coconut bacon will keep 1 to 2 weeks in an airtight, plastic container, but will become less crisp the longer you store it.

 

*When I found this recipe online years ago, I copied and pasted it into a Word document on my computer without making note of the source. While preparing this post, I was unable to locate the exact recipe, even when doing a Boolean search for some of the specific phrases. I am presenting it here verbatim in the hope that someone will recognize the recipe and I can give the original source its due.