Monday, August 30, 2010

Back from Vacation!

Well, I am back from vacation and, if not rested, definitely relaxed.

Me in Tulum, the Mayan ruins on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean.
Immediately after this photo was taken, I went for a swim down below.

First, a big thank you to all of you who commented on my post on body image and my bikini and sarong pants ensemble. I had an awesome week at the beach, feeling very confident and fun in my bathing suit. I spent so much time face-down in the water, snorkelling and free diving, that the whole back side of my body is a bit scorched.

Here are a few initial shots from the trip. I'll post a few more later this week after my water-proof camera shots are developed. A few of the highlights for me were the day we swam with sting-rays in Grand Cayman, snorkelling with Orpheus on a reef in Isla Roatan, Honduras, and my solo trip to Tulum, the Mayan ruins in Quintana Roo, Mexico with breathtaking cliffside views of the Caribbean.

Me with nephews in Belize on our "private island beach break" excursion

Me in Tulum again, the one day I didn't spend with the boys and Calliope

My snorkel gear was an endless source of fascination for Orpheus (l.) and Linus (r.),
who are looking rather hedgehog-like in this shot on our balcony.
(Calliope let me give them spiked hairdo's one night and they definitely felt cool)

Orpheus splashing down on the on-board waterslide.
We spent a lot of time on the waterslide - it was rather thrilling!

We all had an excellent time, and with the boys in tow, a cruise was definitely the right option.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sewing Gifts

Greetings from the Caribbean! Here's a tidbit while I am away.

I recently received two incredibly thoughtful sewing gifts - from two incredibly thoughtful muses - that I've been meaning to post about. Both were unexpected, but tremendously appreciated.

First, as thanks for the epic Christening ensemble project for my new nephew, Little C, I received this tracing wheel from his mother/my sister, Poly:

Poly had two tracing wheels that had belonged to our grandmother in her stash. This one is an old Dritz model with a beautiful caramel color Bakelite handle, which probably means it was made in the 1930's. It is much sturdier than any tracing wheels I've seen recently, and I've already put it to work, transferring dart markings from pattern to fabric.

The second gift - two buttons - is a souvenir that was brought to me by Dr Kiang from her recent honeymoon in Iceland for the solstice.

These two buttons, which measure about 1.25" or so across, are made from naturally shed and collected Icelandic reindeer antlers. Yup, that's right: Rudolf did not have to die for these buttons. Clearly, I am going to have to use them on a very cool project where they will stand out. Naturally, cold weather garments come to mind, like a caplet or jacket.

Anyway, thank you again Dr K and Polyhymnia! I love my gifts!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sew-In Results = Ready for Vacation!!!

It didn't take very long last night for me to finish my sarong pants. It did, on the other hand, take forever for me to pack. But I am now ready to head out the door for my vacation.

Before I show you my finished sew-in project, I just want to say the following: over the last few years - and thanks to my sewing hobby in part - I've become much more comfortable and accepting of my body. There has been a lot of talk lately on other sewing blogs and in the media on "real" sized models, real bodies, and fashion. This morning, as I was sipping coffee, flipping thru the NY Times fashion supplement and planning this post, I came across this article - The F Word. It made me reflect on my own body and hang ups. At heart, I think that the fashion and beauty industry preys on our insecurities - about weight, about aging, about skin color, about our noses or breasts or the length of our legs or lashes.

Everyone has their own personal set of issues with their bodies, and I am no exception. I am fleshy, with thighs that my husband loves to pinch. It used to bother me that he would go for my jiggly parts. But I've come to love this about him and about me. Bit by bit, I am overcoming these things and realizing that the most beautiful thing that I can wear is self confidence.

So here I am, ready for a vacation that will mostly be spent in a bathing suit, which a few years ago would have been really quite stressful for me. But this year, I bought myself a bikini. And even though I would not say that I have made friends with my thighs and they are definitely not showing themselves on my blog just yet, we no longer hate each other quite so much... So, here I am in my new sarong pants and bikini top - tummy and all, one step closer to loving every part of myself...

Have a great week!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Night Sew-In

Well, it is Friday and in just a few hours I will be officially on vacation. I still have not finished my sarong pants, which need to be packed for my trip by the end of the evening. Therefore, I will be joining my first ever Friday Night Sew-in. (Thanks to Reethi for turning me on to this very cool group.)

The idea is that a virtual army of sewistas (99 others have signed up for tonight!) across the US and Canada will be spending the evening at their respective sewing machines and then sharing their work thru their flickr accounts and blogs. I can't wait to see what the other participants whip up! Tune in tomorrow to see my (hopefully) finished pants.

Happy Friday! I hope you have plans that you are excited about, too!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hemming Marathon

Last night, I temporarily set aside my Amazing Fit Pants, and got down to work on the sarong pants that I'm making for my tropical trip.

One detail that I had conveniently forgotten about these pants is that they require a TON of hemming. Not only are they very, very wide legged (so a very long hem at the bottom), but since they are a wrap pant they are hemmed down each side instead of having outside seams (4 additional hems). Let me tell you: I have never been so happy to own a narrow hem foot for my sewing machine as I was last night! I haven't used this foot very much so far, but last night was excellent practice and saved me an incredible amount of time standing at the ironing board. I will definitely be using it more when I start to sew lingerie, so I'm happy to work out the kinks in my technique on this quick-and-dirty project.

I don't have all that much left to do on these pants. I still have to hem the bottom hems and then add the waist ties. Overall, this project is coming together very quickly, which is good, since I leave for vacation on Saturday. In fact, I've already started laying out my clothing, sunscreen and sundries for packing. Plus, yesterday, the new fins that I ordered from arrived. Unlike my usual fins, which are worn with boots for cold water scuba diving (ie: with a full wet suit), these are "Caribbean" fins, which I can just slip on barefoot and dive in for warm water diving and snorkeling.

Since Phineas, who is my dive buddy, won't be joining me on this trip and I will be with my nephews, who are too young for scuba, I won't actually get any dives in. However, I plan to snorkel at every opportunity (ie: Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Roatan, Belize....). Just point me to the fish...

Monday, August 16, 2010

(Slightly) Better pants pics

Not a whole lot to report: I finished the seams of my pants with a 3 part zig zag (I was too lazy to deal with cutting bias for a Hong Kong finish) and I worked on the waistband. They still need a hook and bar on the waist and they need to be hemmed.

Here are a few shots of me modeling them. It was so gray yesterday and the pants are black, but I hope you get the gist...


Side - I love how svelte they look from the side!

Back - with very little wrinkling or creases.

Really, I need to stop sewing black garments just so I can have better photos on my blog. More and better photos when I am done...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pants Update

As promised, here is a quick update on my pants, along with a completely inadequate picture. (My photo mojo is already on vacation.)

So, the pants are basically together, and I've fine-tuned the fit. The outseams, which I just basted for fitting purposes, need to be stitched and then finished. I also need to finish the inseams, but, to be honest, I'm not sure what kind of seam finishing I should use. The fabric is pretty thick, so I don't really want to add much bulk to the seams. However, the fabric is also pretty ravel-y, so I definitely want a seam finish that won't leave the insides of the pants looking like a frayed mess.

Also, I need to finish the waistband and then do some hemming. Speaking of the waistband, I have to say, if you are not using really good interfacing, you need to start. I used to buy interfacing from my local shop or in the Garment District in NY. But, thanks to a sale and really good on-line word of mouth, I was encouraged to buy interfacing for my stash (woven, tricot and sheer) from Sew Exciting. Simply put: their interfacing is the best. I'm not sure I even knew what good interfacing was before now, but I will never use anything else ever again. I often feel like fusible interfacing leaves fabric somewhat crunchy, if you know what I mean. But the Sew Exciting pro-woven added the right amount of body, without being cardboard-ish. It's flexible. And it fused smoothly and easily. OK, enough with the public service announcement/infomercial.

I plan to finish up the pants this weekend. And then I will get my sarong pants going. Happy sewing!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Travel Project

So, I have decided on one easy project to do for my upcoming tropical trip.

Wrap around Sarong Pants

Long, long ago - ok, it was 2 years ago - when I was a very new and inexperienced sewista, I made a beach ensemble, including sarong pants, for my sister Polyhymnia. I had a bit of trouble with the fabric that I initially bought for the pants. It shrunk when I pre-washed it. A lot. Therefore, when I cut the pants, there wasn't enough for the long version that my sister wanted. I ended up buying new fabric for her and cutting the original fabric down to a capri length for myself. And that is the last I thought of this project.

SO, because I have a tropical vacation on the near horizon, I've unearthed the cut pieces and pattern from the depths of my stash and am going to sew it up for myself. So, not only will I have one more beach cover-up for my trip, but I will have one less UFO (UnFinished Object).

I reread the instructions, and these pants are seriously a breeze. It's funny how, looking back, the pants were a challenge at the time, but now they seem like an "easy as 1-2-3" kind of project that I should finish in an afternoon. It makes me realize how far I've come in my sewing skills.

Speaking of pants, my totally awesome pants are coming out perfectly! I worked on them on Saturday and I'm positively giddy with them. I just have no photos yet. Anyway, more on this to come.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

KEEN-wah Revisited: Fluffy Version

Last year, when I posted my recipe for creamy risotto-style quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) , I mentioned that it was one of two cooking methods that I normally use. Since I've received several compliments on the other method this summer, I thought it might be time to post about making the fluffy style of quinoa.

Quinoa salad with tomato, cucumber and baby arugula

The basic method for making "fluffy" quinoa is to first boil the grains for about 15 minutes in lots of salted water. Drain - make sure your strainer has small holes or line it with cheese cloth, otherwise you will lose a lot of your quinoa down the drain. Then steam the quinoa for another 15 minutes or so until it is light and fluffy. I usually strain mine into a cheesecloth-lined steamer basket and then get on with the steaming.

Since this cooking method is a bit of a hassle (boil then steam) , I am happy to say that you can make a big batch and freeze it for later use. Just toss it with a little olive or neutral oil before freezing, and then thaw in the microwave. Oh, keep in mind that one cup of uncooked quinoa will puff up to about 4 cups once it is cooked.

When you cook the quinoa this way it comes out almost like couscous or bulgur - light and fluffy, with an appealing nutty, yet not overpowering flavor. It is absolutely perfect as a substitute for couscous/bulgur/rice in any kind of pilaf, tabbouleh or other grain salad.

In the summer, my preferred variation is with diced tomato, cucumber and whatever other veggies I have on hand, tossed with a few "glugs" of olive oil, salt and pepper, and served room temperature. The above quinoa salad is the one that I made for our 4th of July family bbq. I really should have my sister-in-law do all of my photography, don't you think? Here are some of her other photos of that fabulous feast.

Center l to r: whole grilled snapper, jerk style ribs, sausages with lentils Background: grilled asparagus, veggie lo mein

Greenbean salad

Grilled steak

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Even Muses Need a Vacation...

This weekend did not go as planned. After helping my sister and her husband - Terpischore and Mr Fixit - move to a new home, I had zero energy for sewing, running, cooking or basically anything except staring at the tv. However, I did have one major accomplishment: booking vacation with my sister, Calliope and her two boys....

After last year's Martha's Vineyard beach house getaway, our criteria for this year was that someone else do the cooking, cleaning, driving, and excursion planning. In other words: a cruise. So, on August 21, we will be heading to Tampa, where we will board the Carnival Legend for 7 days of cruising. Honestly, this is a very different sort of vacation than the active/walking-tour/ see everything kind Phin and I normally take. But with Orpheus (7) and Linus (4) in tow, we need something easy. And, in fact, Phin decided that he would bow out and then he and I will do something more our speed the following week.

Here is where we are headed...

...Grand Cayman, Cozumel (Mexico), Isla Roatan (Honduras), and Belize. With any luck I will be able to sneak off for some scuba diving and/or snorkeling in one or more of our destinations. I can't wait. I'm already picturing myself relaxing in a deck chair with a frozen drink in hand...

Monday, August 2, 2010

Like a fine wine...

... some things - and some people - just keep getting better with age.

Happy Birthday, Phineas!