Sunday, July 17, 2011

taking the plunge

sorry about the photo quality; it's raining today and I was having a hard time getting the camera to cooperate in the strange light...

I know that drop crotch pants are one of those items of clothing that engenders strong responses: people either seem to love or loathe. I loathed them at first, but I have to say, eventually they began to have a strange fascination for me, the way many aesthetically challenging things do. Now, do I think these lengthen my legs? Heck no. (But who cares? I'm 5'11" with a 35" inseam. I *never* worry about leg length, to be honest; even if I am "shortening"). Do I think they take 10lbs. off my booty? Haha! But if one stops thinking of fashion for a moment as a way to attract a mate (and believe me, Cass looked extremely dubious when I finished these and put them on; I'm not sure he realized what I'd been sewing that night), they're interesting. And personally, I've always loved the look of the zouave soldiers and the pampas cowboys, billowing pants tucked into knee-high boots. The shape of these gives the same silhouette whether or not I tuck in, and that's fascinating to me. I also LOVE the on-seam pockets on these pants and the waistband. I've never made pants before (I was always so afraid of fit), but I have to say, the waistband on these pants fits PERFECTLY along the curves of my hips and small of my back - something I've rarely found in store-bought pants. So, three cheers for the pattern! (info below) I thought I'd be rocking these with heels, but I tried a pair on with them and winced; perhaps another pair will be better, or perhaps I'll just stay in flats with these.

linen drop-crotch pants, McCalls pattern #5858. I will add that I made these in the size 12, though I am definitely not a 26" waist/36" hip these days (dagnabbit, marriage = I've put on 2 inches!). So, if you're intrigued, I'd say, size down. There's enough cloth here that you will probably want to. I made mine from three yards of 45" wide linen, which I ore-washed and dried on high (and so it probably shrank a bit) and there was still plenty of cloth when I was cutting out the pattern. Nice way to use a spare 3 yards!

Friday, July 15, 2011

update from the foraging/canning jam brigade

After the first round of salmonberry jam, I knew I needed to make more. So when we went up to the mountains to visit Cass' folks and spend the day hiking (and setting up a loom for me - more on that later! my first weaving project in over 10 years - and it's gonna be a BEAUTY!), I insisted we bring a bunch of tupperware containers - you know, just in case we happened to stumble upon some berries.

Oh, mama. We did. Just as we left town, I looked down and realized there were tiny wild strawberries EVERYWHERE alongside the road. Twenty minutes of concerted picking by all four of us, and we'd cleared the area. It was enough to make 2 6-oz containers of VERY sweet jam (as Cass observed, it smelled like ihop strawberry syrup - and was probably as sweet, though I only put in 1/4 c. of sugar). These are VERY special this year, if only because in such limited supply. Wild strawberries are about a quarter (at most) the size of domestic strawberries, but their flavour is so much better.
We did also find some more salmonberries and this time I purchased little 4oz jars so that I'd be able to send some of this cherry-and-clove-flavoured goodness on to more of our friends, come yuletide.

I'm also trying out a new pickling recipe, but more on that when it's done - it takes 6 days to prepare, and I'm only 3 days in, so I'll get back to you with pictures and a report and a link to the recipe next week!

making a statement (I think it's "I'm cheap!")

Linkevery so often, I like to cruise the "for the collector" section of anthropologie's jewelry. I can never afford any of it, but I frequently find pieces I like that are easily replicable. Take, for example, the fossil coral necklace above, which rings in at - would you guess? - a whopping $598. I couldn't quite believe it myself.

So I went to my local fine fabric store and spent awhile digging through the upholstery trims. I bought a yard each of three trims that I liked together, and pawed through stones at my local bead shop to find this big hunk of agate for $4. These trims come with a bit of twill tape attached to them, so that you can easily affix them along the seam of a pillow or cushion of an upholstery project, but this bit of twill tape (or "lip," as the ladies at the shop called it) is actually very loosely basted on, and can easily be removed with a bit of patience and a seam ripper or some sharp scissors. You just want to take your time removing the lip, so that you don't pull the threads of the trim and end up with an unsightly fuzzy explosion here and there on your trims. All told, I spent about $15, including the big African brass bead that I used as a toggle clasp.

Then it was just a matter of sitting down and following the picture as I stitched the trims together. All of the stitches are between the trims, hidden inside where they meet. I used a heavy dosing of tacky glue to seal the ends up, the wrapped them with leather and affixed my toggle bead and a strip of leather to wrap around it as a clasp. All in all, I'd say this project costs about $15 and takes about 5-10 hours to do, and not too difficult.

Thanks, anthro, for the inspiration!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

big day.

So the reason I haven't been posting much in the way of projects lately is because I've secretly been working on a surprise present for my friend Adrienne, who sang at our wedding and who is expecting her first child later this month. Her baby shower is today, and as I mused over what to make (love the "handmades and homemades welcome!" line on the invite!!), I happened to read this post over at Unruly Things, wherein a mother reminisced about the first days back from the hospital and how hungry she was when she was nursing, and how nice it was when friends brought her dinner.

Eureka, that's it!

Since we live in different neighbourhoods not easily accessible to each other by bus, I have made my friend and her husband about 3-4 weeks' worth of dinners, all separated into individual servings and frozen, so that she or he can take out as much as they would like at a time and just reheat.

my friend Samer says "food is love," and I couldn't agree more. Here's the love round-up for Adrienne and Gered and little Aria Vita:

a quart of acorn squash soup with sweet spices (star anise, ginger, allspice), and sesame cream (vegan, recipe from The Artful Vegan)

And then the parade of Italian comfort food begins with homemade vegan gnocchi with garlic and herbs (adapted from the sweet potato gnocchi with garlic and sage in The Millennium Cookbook); we froze on a cookie sheet and bagged individual servings of 15 gnocchi, with a little slip tucked inside each bag detailing ingredients and cooking instructions.

homemade arugula and three-cheese raviolis. Here's where I made one concession to time: I bought fresh pasta sheets for the ravioli instead of rolling my own. But I was just about out of time, only made these yesterday afternoon, so I'm sure I'll be forgiven! They are stuffed with a mixture of ground fresh arugula leaves, fat-free ricotta and fat-free feta and (not-fat-free) parmesan, with a touch of nutmeg and nutritional yeast to provide a nutty counterpoint to the cheeses.

A traditional lasagne with layers of bolognese (slow-simmered for hours on the stove, it drove me AND the neighbours crazy!), noodles, and ricotta (thickened with a bit of egg), topped with a good hearty layer of mozzarella. This photo is titled "no willpower" on my desktop as I couldn't resist tucking in to a small piece as it cooled on my table.

Another lasagne, one I haven't made in 8 or 9 years, but one of my favorites. This one comes from epicurious: Eggplant Lasagne with Parsley Pesto. It also has a garlic bechamel sauce in there, and the pesto has been mixed with ricotta. Not a tomato in sight, but such a wonderful dish, especially in the fall.

And that's it! It all just barely fits inside our cooler; good thing I checked in with her husband to make sure they have room in their freezer, eh? =) This is going to be a fun surprise!

Friday, July 8, 2011


buying into the fur trend, but ethically: I just bought some faux fur at with these projects in mind. A friend has commented that my animal/animal-esque collection of wearables is becoming impressively eccentric.
Prada's s/s 2011 fox fur stoles. I am on a bit of a budget, so I couldn't splurge on the really bright/long shag fur; instead, I bought one yard of luxury shag in black for the solid side and tail, and burgundy (or is it red? we'll find out when it arrives!) and bright baby blue for the stripes. Should be fun, no? =)

Liu Wen in "Wild Dreams" shot by Greg Kadel for Vogue Germany. Isn't this cape amazing? I wish I knew who makes it, so I could get a closer look. I'm pretty sure this gal is wearing the same one:
I would love to credit this photo, but I've forgotten where I found it, gah. Can anyone help me out? Have you seen this around? And yes, still hoping to figure out who made the cape. I didn't want to buy cloth for the cape, since I have some beautiful heavy wool in a huge blanket plaid pattern in dun colours. I'll use that (though I only have 3 yards, so yes, I am concerned about having enough cloth; I may have to make mine a tetch shorter AND give up on matching the plaids, sigh).

I bought two yards of a polyester faux fox fur and plan to cut it across the gentle stripes so that my fake "tails" have some variation down the length of the tail, like these. And from there, I'm just trying to decide whether I should suspend all the "tails" in a bath of idye poly (red, obviously) or use simply spray upholstery paint.

What do you think? I think I'm leaning toward the latter, because red dye ALWAYS seems to run, and with all of Seattle's rain, I fear all of my pants/socks/skirts/shoes would be dyed pink.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

summer desserts: plum dumplings return

another round of plum dumplings, using last year's recipe. Tastes like summer!


matcha macaron with matcha-cream-cheese filling. look at the size of those feet! wahoo!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

again with the foraging and the canning

I think most people just eat salmonberries on the trail. I'd been discouraged from making them into tarts or jam, but I'm really glad I didn't listen. I made this jam with about a pint of berries (most of them still golden - unripe - to be honest) left over after the tart. Maybe 3 cups, max. There was a little water in the pan from when I rinsed the berries. I added a half cup of sugar, and about half a packet of sure-jell light pectin. I brought it to a boil and then reduced it to low for another 10 minutes or so, while I got the jar lids heated up in simmering water.

I popped it into jars and processed for 10 minutes in the boiling water method. Easy as pie.

And the results are totally worth it: this jam tastes like the perfect tart-cherry jam, with just a pinch of cloves. Now I'm sad that I didn't have more berries. I think we need to go back to the park one night this week and get some more, because I have a feeling I'm going to want to eat these jars myself and I really want to be able to send these out to friends and family at Christmas! I am planning to send mostly wildforaged gifts this year: I want to do salal jam, rosehip jam, salmonberry jam (fingers crossed), maybe even thimbleberry jam, if I can managed it, and we have been collecting tree bark for a very special tea.

There's just something about giving gifts from the woods. I feel a little silly, because it's so trendy these days: hipsters with wood ties and everyone serving cheese on slices of wood, bark still attached, but I can't help it. I've lived in the NW almost all of my life, and I've always loved the woods. I joke about it, but I really would love to live in a cottage in the woods, have a river-rock fireplace, and basically grow up to be Juniper in Monica Furlong's Wise Child. Did you ever read that book as a kid, or the prequel or sequel? I confess, I loved Juniper even more, for all the details about Angharad's house, the weaving, etc.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

baking triumph!

Katie and I are starting to feel like we finally mastered the macaron; look how beautiful this lemon-blueberry batch turned out! We used the 28/8/1 proportion (the 1 was lemon zest put through the food processor to grind it up) and with eggs aged at room temp (which has been about 70 during the day) for three days. I cooked down and then strained blueberries, then combined the juices with lemon juice and made a lemon-blueberry curd to fill them with. We let them sit out overnight to leech some of the moisture from the filling. We seem to only consistently succeed with lemon-flavoured cookies. The plan for the next batch, as I understand it, is green tea.

still, I can't wait for Jacinthe's macaron-making friend, Emily, to come and visit in September; I want to work through a proper tutorial with her when she is here in September, and ask her so many questions throughout the process!

second sewing project: done!

Also on Friday, I finally got around to turning this sashiko panel project that my friend Katie brought back from Japan (and that I finished last year in the spring) into a muslin bookbag. I immediately got to put it to use, hauling a heavy volume of a dissertation that I'd borrowed back to a professor (to whose house I walked on a sunny Friday afternoon to share gin and tonics and talk terrorism and Beckett, gotta love it).
I used the instructions for Instructables' tutorial for a gusseted canvas bag (only cut a piece of cloth 33" X 15.5" - as you'll see, no reason to double the width). Otherwise, the tutorial is perfect. I made two, so that my bag could be fully lined in muslin. It's so cute, and I am so happy with it! big thanks to katie for the sashiko project that makes this bag so charming!!

first sewing project done!

I printed out my summer to-do list this year, so that I could actually enjoy the satisfaction of crossing things off, or of making little cross-hatch marks in the weekly boxes, noting whether or not I've practiced yoga (still building up flexibility/strength in my injured wrist; we've a long way to go, but I think yoga is the best way to recover use of my right wrist), walked/biked, or made enough vegan/legume-based meals this week.

I will post my goals soon, with some already crossed off, like making this skirt. There was a bolt of cotton batiste in my living room all throughout the late winter/early spring/early summer, but I finally got around to cutting this out. I used Vogue V8232 dress pattern (five layers of batiste to make a demurely opaque skirt) and drafted my own pattern for a waistband on my dressform, using interfacing to reinforce the lightweight cotton so that I could sew a proper buttonhole.

Pretty cute, eh? I finished it just in time to put it on and wear it on a long walk to a professor's house on a beautiful Friday afternoon in Seattle - perfect!

small fun project: flowers

I was pruning this big shrub in the front garden the other day; this time of year it is covered in these gorgeous white blooms, and I felt so awful cutting anything off it that I cut the blooms from the branches that I'd pruned, and since our friend Katie was coming over that evening, I made her a little bouquet with some roses (the red = knockout; the pinks = the real knockout, "gertrude jekyll"), and pea shoots (chinese snap peas, with purple blooms) so she could take home some pretty sights and scents from our garden.

playing with flowers is so much fun; I hope I get to be good at this one day, I really do.

foraged treats

last week we went to Discovery Park, walked the trails down to the lighthouse, collecting salmon berries along the way. One of the things I love about summer is having time to let my mind wander and think about things other than school, curriculum, papers, etc.. As we picked, I told Cass, "these would be good with sage - and maybe, lavender." So I made a salmonberry tart with a sage custard and an almond and lavender crust. I made a glaze for the salmonberries by melting the last of my cloudberry preserves (from ikea; cloudberries and salmonberries are close relatives).

Turned out pretty good. I basically used the recipe for my fig/sweet potato/blueberry tart, substituting almonds for the cornmeal in the crust, and made the custard from 2c. heavy whipping cream and 2 sprigs of sage, chopped (bring the cream to a simmer over medium heat and then turn off heat and infuse about 2 hours, strain out sage, whisk cream with 2 eggs and approx 1/2 c. sugar, pour into parbaked tart shell and bake). Refrigerate for several hours, then top with berries and brush with melted jam and chill again another hour or two.