Wednesday, December 30, 2009

a beautiful winter salad

Only slightly adapted from Martha Stewart, this was bright, crunchy, green, and delicious. Perfect for holiday entertaining or - in our case, paired with brown rice pilaf - a light winter dinner.

1 fennel bulb
6 oz green beans
1 pomegranate
1-3 oz sheep's milk feta (vary according to your preference)
mesclun salad greens or watercress
2 Tbl. pomegranate molasses
2 Tbl. mustard (we used stone ground)
1 Tbl. honey
1/4-1/3 c. olive oil

halve a medium fennel bulb lengthwise. core. slice thinly. Place in a bowl, toss with the juice of 1 lemon, and set aside. (Juice keeps the fennel from discolouring while you make the rest of the salad.)

trim 1/3 to 1/2 pound of green beans and cut into approximately 2" lengths. Blanch in boiling water, about 1 minute, or until they are a vivid bright green. Quickly drain and plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking. Let cool in the ice bath, then drain, pat dry, and set aside.

Whisk together 2 generous Tbl. pomegranate molasses (Whole Foods carries it, and you can also find it at many mediterranean import shops), 1 Tbl. honey, and 2 Tbl. mustard (we used stone ground). Add about 1/4 to 1/3 c. olive oil in a thin stream, whisking to emulsify into a thick dressing.

Seed 1 pomegranate.

Place half a bunch of watercress, rinsed, or a handful of mesclun salad greens on a plate. Drain fennel. Arrange fennel and green beans over lettuce. Top with pomegranate seeds, crumbled sheep's milk feta (so much better than cow's milk feta!), and drizzle liberally with the dressing.

Handmade Holidays 2009 #3: a smocked silk necklace

A very sweet friend of ours recently visited Japan for a couple of weeks. She brought us back some thoughtful little gifts, including sake, a sashiko kit (which I am looking forward to doing with her, as she picked one up for herself, too), and some silk samples from the markets. The beautiful silk samples are just big enough to make a little necklace like this (it is about 5 or 6 inches wide at the widest part of the "fan" there), and it seemed like a nice way to thank her. The metal findings and chain are brass, and I put two pretty freshwater pearls on it, too.

Now, all the credit for this idea has to go to tinctory, who makes beautiful smocked necklaces from silk (aren't the feather ones amazing?). She dyes her silk in beautiful individual dye baths that she makes from plants, and her smocking is far superior to mine. But - alas - I couldn't afford to just buy one of her pieces. As she's kind enough to show you "how it's done" in some pictures in her flickr account, I used those images as a guide and gave it a go. Not too bad for a first try - I hope my friend likes it!

Handmade Holidays 2009 #2: personal accessories

I don't really like handkerchiefs myself, but I think that's because I have such bad allergies. I want a Kleenex and then I want to throw it away. But I know not everyone feels this way, and so I decided that I would make and embroider three handkerchiefs for a friend of mine who does use handkerchiefs for the holidays.

I bought the good stuff: Irish hanky linen, from I hope pale blue is okay, because it was expensive enough just buying the one colour that was on sale. I bought a half-yard, and cut three squares (12.5 inches on each side) from it. To make a rolled-edge seam, you need a good hot iron. Fold the edge over 1/8" (tricky!) and press. Fold over again and press. You now have a 1/4" rolled hem. Stitch in place - I did all of mine by hand with a blind hem stitch. Repeat on all four sides.

I also embroidered mine with colourful monograms in cotton embroidery thread (what do you think? too childish? I showed my fella and he said it was cute, but he also laughed. I'm not sure that's a good sign?), just for fun. The letter is in classic satin stitch and the accent is in back stitch. I worked each section separately, so no long tails connect any of the pieces on the back of the work - which is almost as pretty as the front. Even though it takes me a bit of extra time and caution to keep the back as neat as the front, it's a goal I strive for when I can't hide the back of the work.

To create a monogram pattern, I googled "monogram" and picked an accent that I liked and printed it out. I could see through the linen just enough to trace the monogram with a water-soluble pen. I had them all embroidered in an evening, while watching Return of the King. I think I'm done with embroidery for a while!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

a new dinner!

My break is almost here! I'm at that point in the quarter where I have a few more hours to put into housework, crafting, watching old movies (Annie Hall and North by Northwest the other night) and cooking. Especially on the cooking and housework fronts, my boyfriend deserves a break - he has to do almost all of it during the thick of the quarter, so once my schedule frees up, I like to start treating him back, as a way to say "thanks!"

So, last night I made the Pressed Chicken with Chestnuts, Porcini, and Cipollini Onions from Sunday Suppers. I served it on the carrot puree that they made as well. It was really, really good! New things are hit or miss around here, and he did NOT like the last recipe I made from them (a salad of watermelon and mint with caramelized onions and feta - I thought it was awesome, by the way), so he was really skeptical. But, a total hit this time. We'll definitely be doing this again.

I paired it with a pear crisp loosely adapted from Gordon Hammersley's Bistro Cooking at Home: I cored and chopped 5 pears and mixed the fruit with about 1/2 c. dried cranberries, the zest and juice of 1 lemon, a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg, and about 1/4 c. sugar. Mix together, pour into a glass baking dish. Top with a crumble topping made of oatmeal, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. I don't bother measuring this anymore, but there are lots of options on epicurious if you need a little help. Bake at 350 F for 40-55 minutes, until fruit is bubbling and topping is lightly browned. (We top ours with a splash of cream.) Yum!

leather, mesh, knots and chains

so, I saw this necklace in this post on Unruly Things, and I really fell in love. But I don't exactly have $250 for a necklace. I didn't even buy wire. Instead, I made this out of some of that copper mesh ribbon - you know this stuff? it's actually woven in a tube - that I pulled over an equal length of braided leather cord. Well, to be honest, I outsourced that labour - it was time-consuming and frustrating and I had lots of homework. So my darling boyfriend did that part for me. Then I used a big clamp/crimp clasp to secure the mesh around the cord at the ends. It was easy to make the knot just following the Samma picture, and the leather cord is stiff enough that it firmly holds its shape.

I added the bronzy chains at the back because it wasn't nearly long enough for a necklace after I'd done the weaving (note: I began with 36 inches of mesh-covered cord - I needed to start with at least 54 if I wanted the necklace to be all one piece), and crimped a few bronzy jump rings around the mesh/cord part for texture. If I could do it over, I'd put a darker leather under the copper so you could appreciate the texture and contrast better, but oh well. I think it might be a nice piece for summer - especially if I ever make that olive green silk into a pretty dress!

Whaddya think? For about $20 or $30 of materials, it's not a bad option, I think.

Handmade Holidays 2009 #1: for my sweetie

the holidays are fast approaching and I thought this year I'd post a few things earlier, in case some of you are - like me - still making things, or maybe even still looking for inspiration. This one isn't even finished yet - but on the off-chance that he actually looks at my blog for some reason, at least he won't see the whole thing.

Now, I don't make a lot of things for my partner - or at least, it doesn't feel like I do. A Halloween costume here, a pair of really loud pajamas there ... that's about it. But upon learning that he really loves patchwork and starting to hear more often that he likes the things I make and that I should make HIM a shirt from that cool fabric I bought for myself, etc., I've realized that maybe he would like to have more personal things made for him. I mean, I do all this sewing and embroidery for everyone else I know.

So, in addition to the clothes that he really NEEDED, I decided to embroider a little something for hanging on the wall. It's the second stanza of Pound's two-stanza poem, "The Garret," which I can't read without thinking of him and the beautiful early dawn hours in the height of summer. You know those mornings, when you can smell the coming heat in the air, but while it's still just a promise - not there yet? Yeah, those mornings.

So, to do this, I typed up and printed out my poem, about 24pt font. (I used a font he likes, too.) I gently ironed two pieces of Solvy together with a very low iron, with a piece of paper between the solvy and my iron to prevent messes. This just kind of welds the two pieces of Solvy together. Normally, one piece is fine, but if I'm going to make a lot of holes very close together (say, when working words?), I find a single sheet of Solvy can tear and then my design warps before I'm done working it.

Once the Solvy is fused, I laid it over my poem and traced out the poem using a permanent pen (I use sharpie). When the solvy dissolves, the ink doesn't transfer - it's fine. I also drew rectangles on my solvy to use as guidelines for sewing my borders. You lay your Solvy sheet over your fabric and slip the pieces into your hoop together. When you're all done sewing, soak the sucker in water and the solvy will dissolve, leaving only your work! Its a nice way to make an embroidery pattern for yourself.

I stitched the poem in a combo of running and stem stitch, with french knots to dot the i's and make periods. I'm working two little borders around it, one in palestrina knot, and then a blanket stitch and laisy daisy combo that I found through google. When it's done, I might reinforce it with some fusible interfacing on the back, and then I'll find a little frame, probably without glass. It'll be just over 5" X 7" with the borders.

I hope he likes it ... because I sure like him a lot =)