Saturday, April 19, 2008

from the sea

I've always loved pearls: their variety of shapes, their textures, their soft luminescence. I saw a bracelet like this on etsy a while back, but at $300, it was far, far out of my price range. I say this as preface: this was not my original idea. And, as I've no skill whatsoever with making chainmaille, I'd have been stuck but for the wonderful friends I have.

I sent an image of the original to a friend and asked if he might be able and willing to make me a small base. I completely forgot about the matter in the flurry of stress and excitement that was my first year in grad school, but then out of the blue, one day I received a package in the mail - the chainmaille base! Oh, how fabulous and wonderful Joe is - and what a nice surprise! I'll almost forgive him for being so irritating intelligent for this. =)

I had to take some of the length out - it was a bit long, and I couldn't afford enough pearls to do the thing as long as it originally was. But then I accidentally took out too much and had to add two extra loops to the end for the clasp (more for ease of attaching than anything - if someone else puts it on my wrist for me, the short length is perfect). I ordered headpins from this incredibly talented Etsy jewelry artist. Once they arrived, I promptly went out to Beads of the Earth in downtown SB, where the wonderful woman who runs the shop cut me a great deal.

All in all, with paying for artisan-made silver headpins and the shipping and buying the pearls, I spent about $56 or $57 on this project. It's actually more expensive than my usually jewelry-making escapades, but a far cry from $300, and oh-so-worth it. The pearls shift and move around as I wear it and the chainmail glints from underneath.

Thank you, Joe! I couldn't have done it without you!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

why wait for midsommar?

we've had some lovely meals this week and I've been meaning to share more of them with you! We enjoyed traditional-Sunday-dinner type fare last Saturday evening, with our last bottle of wine before our wine country trip: swedish meatballs in milk gravy with lingonberries, baked potatoes, and sauteed bok choy, with a bottle of Foxen's Foothills Reserve.

We tried a new recipe for the meatballs, adapted from Marcus Samuelsson's incredible cookbook, Akvavit and the New Scandinavian Cuisine (that we picked out last Christmas - thanks, Mom!). I confess, I've made a point of never eating veal before, and I broke that habit. There was no LAMB available at the market. None whatsoever! So, alright, I caved and bought the veal. I have to admit, these were pretty incredible meatballs, but in the future I'll plan ahead and call around, and make sure I can just get the lamb.

(recipe can and probably should be doubled; we made just two portions, we keep our meat intake down)

Swedish Meatballs:

1/4 c. panko breadcrumbs

1/8 c. nonfat milk

1 Tbl olive oil

1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped

1/4 # lean ground beef

1/4 # ground pork

1/4 # ground veal

1 Tbl honey
1 egg

1 tsp nutmeg

salt and pepper

1 1/2 Tbl butter

combine breadcrumbs and milk in a bowl, stirring together to moisten crumbs. set aside.

heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and saute onion until softened (about 5 min). Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, beat egg with a fork. In a large bowl, mix ground meats, sauteed onion, honey, nutmeg and one half of the beaten egg (reserve remaining egg for another use). Season with salt and pepper. Add moistened crumbs and mix well. Shape mixture into golf-ball-sized meatballs.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the meatballs, turning frequently, for about 7 minutes, until browned on all sides and cooked through. Set cooked meatballs on a plate.


For gravy: add about 1 tsp more butter to rendered meat fat in pan. Melt over medium heat, and then whisk in approx 1 Tbl flour until bubbly and smooth. Add 1 c. nonfat milk and bring to a boil, then reduce heat, and cook for a minute or two until thickened. Return meatballs to pan and cook in gravy for about 1 minute.

For bok choy:

olive oil


2-3 Tbl finely chopped red onion

3 heads baby bok choy, white parts cut into wedges and greens cut into strips

salt and pepper

Melt 1 Tbl olive oil and 1 Tble butter over medium heat. Add onions and salt and pepper and saute until softened, approximately 5 minutes. Add bok choy, cover, and saute until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Remove lid and cook a few more minutes to reduce any liquids that may have been released.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

upside down cupcake wrapper

that's how Cass describes this dress. I'm not sure if it's a travesty or not. After finishing the ruffles, I was very surprised to put it on and discover that I didn't hate it immediately. But, as I said, I haven't decided yet. I am giving it a trial run out in the world and on flickr today and then we'll see. I may put it up in wardrobe_swap_shop on flickr, or I may just offer it up for grabs here if I decide I'm not going to wear it. I'll admit, it's fluffy enough I keep thinking it should go to some girl's prom.

But doubt aside, I should at least describe this experiment in recycling. The dress buttons up the back in self buttons (on the middle pink panel, and smaller white buttons tucked among the top of the ruffled skirt), has a surplice neckline (one side of the navy overlaps the other a bit), and the straps are ties, and therefore adjustable. The skirt has four gores (triangles set into it, to give it lots of volume). And the fabric sources, by identifiable colour/section of the garment:

navy: WAS a beautiful silk twill button-up shirt that was my mother's and became mine. It was too short for my frame, but I loved how soft it was, so I wore it anyway. That's also why I couldn't give it up, even though I hadn't worn it in years. It is lined in silk, a dark tye-dye that was an old shirt of Cassidy's that he relinquished some time ago.

pink: WAS an FCUK shirt that I bought at Buffalo. It was a pullover, rather tight on the shoulders and too loose through the rest of the body, and (of course) too short for my frame. I bought it because I loved the fabric (the grey is delicate webby embroidery), and couldn't get rid of it for the same reason. I had enough fabric to line the back with the same, but in the front, I had to make do with something else. So the front is lined with orange linen, a large scrap left over from last year's Solstice Skirt.

skirt: now, you can't see it, but the structure under all the ruffles is baby-blue 100% cotton jersey, scraps leftover from a blouse I made a couple years ago.The blue ruffles are cotton voile that I dyed blue and used in a costume years ago. I retired the costume (also years ago) and cut the voile off for reuse. I tea-dyed it to tone down the blue. The brown ruffles ARE new fabric: a bit 3 oz thai silk chiffon that I tea-dyed with the blue to soften the colour. (Incidentally, the tea-dying was also a process of recycling/using what you have: I used the last half of a box of tea that I wasn't going to drink because something about it gave me headaches.) The ivory = a bit of nylon stretch mesh. Also new. Pretty much purchased for this kind of play/experimentation.

So that's it. My spring break experiment. If you've time/inclination, weigh in. I can't decide: keep for Fremont solstice festivals and other sillyness? Keep and wear in the summer? Anyone dying for a dress like this that wants it? Or wants to swap something for it? I'd love to hear from you: the only feedback I'm getting at this moment (from Cass) is that I'm a looney.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

afternoon snack

nothing much to show for myself - in creative terms, anyhow. It's been a busy week for school stuff. I've been reading a play a day for class or my thesis, and am simultaneously culling one of the texts for my thesis and preparing to begin writing again (either tonight - doubtful - or tomorrow).

I'm still working on that dress! Just slowly. Nearly, nearly done! Cass has likened the skirt to an upside-down-cupcake-wrapper. Mm-hmm. Hopefully all the fluff will be on display by the weekend.

In the meantime, I made summer pudding again. This time, no raspberries at the store, so I used a 16-oz container of strawberries (cut in quarters), the same size container of blackberries, and two 8-oz containers of blueberries, added the zest and juice of 1 lemon, and about 1/3 c. sugar. I think I ought to have cooked this a few min longer - for though I had released a fair amount of juice by the time I took the pan off the stove, it didn't soak into the bread as well, so the bread is much firmer, and, well, BREAD-tasting (as opposed to soft and cakey-fruity-tasting). It may have been in part due to using slightly dry bread.

Oh well, I'll still take this over cookies for something sweet and refreshing. I really want to try this with peaches and blackberries, or with plums. Mmm... summer holds so much possibility!


Place 8 cups berries (strawberries should be quartered, any other fruits should be cut into small chunks), the juice and zest of 1 lemon, and 1/3-1/2 c. sugar in a medium saucepan. Over medium or medium-high heat, cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent any sticking/burning, until fruit has released some of its juices and just softened a little. Turn off heat and set aside.

While berries are cooking, line a bowl or cake pan (I like to use a spring form for easy release) with two sheets of plastic wrap (make an X or a cross with the plastic). You should have a lot of overhang on four sides.

Line the bottom of the bowl/pan with a single layer of bread, pressing slices together and tearing small pieces to fit any odd spaces. (pack it tightly!) Cover this layer of bread with 1/2 of the fruit (and 1/2 of the juices) from the pan, evenly distributing over the bread. Pack down lightly. Cover the layer of fruit with another layer of bread. Cover the 2nd layer of bread with the last of the fruit (and juice). Cover the 2nd layer of fruit with one more layer of bread. Press down gently.

Wrap the overhanging plastic wrap over the top of the last layer of bread. Place a plate (that is not larger than the opening of your pan or bowl) on top of the plastic and weight. (I use two cans of beans or a big can of tomatoes from the pantry) Place in the refrigerator for 8 hours (min).

To unmold, remove the can and plate. Lift off the plastic. Invert onto a cake stand or plate and gently remove both your mold and then the plastic wrap. Slice and enjoy (all day long!)