Thursday, July 30, 2009

Midsummer Meltdown!

This weekend July ends, August begins, and it is time for my annual freak-out about how many projects I have committed to for September and beyond.

I am taking Friday and Monday off and have plans to work on my halter top and tank top. Patterns are cut, Vilene bias tape has arrived, and it is time to get a move on. Also, I will visit my local fabric store to shop for the 4 diaper bags that I am planning to make between now and the new year. I know I will love giving them as gifts. (More on baby gifts next week.) I've also committed to a sewing project for one of the many showers that I have this fall.

Other sewists in the blogosphere have been lamenting that it is time to start thinking about fall clothing. I still feel like we haven't had much of a summer, but I have a whole fleet of planned projects for myself. Most notable are a pencil skirt with the fabulous plaid I bought a few weeks ago (pattern tbd), and, after giving myself all summer to think it over, I really can't put off my pants issues any longer. I thought I had made up my mind to work on my sloper, but then I went overboard when had a Simplicity pattern sale.

Oh, and maybe I want to make a dress too.

Anyway, all of this has led me back to the same conclusion that I always arrive at: I just don't have enough time for sewing and really need to quit my job so that I can spend more time in the craft lounge. Sigh.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Right now, Justin (my running coach) and I are not friends.

You may recall that I am now - in theory - "a runner," meaning that three days a week I hobble around the neighborhood at a very very slow speed, gasping and grunting while Phineas trots along shouting encouragements. Occasionally, I shout rude things back.

Anyway, no doubt you have noticed that my posts have dwindled a bit in the last few weeks. I blame it on Justin. Running is eating into my other hobbies. I'm exhausted. And hungry. Really, really hungry. But too tired to cook. And now, on top of it, I am stuck. I progressed thru the first 3 weeks of 5k training smoothly. But week 4, where I am supposed to be running for three 8-min bursts, separated by 1 minute of walking, and then a final 3-min sprint, is defeating me. It nearly killed me the first time. The second was only slightly better. And then on Monday my sneaker started rubbing my heel and I had to call my run short.

Dr Kiang said that when she started running it took 3-4 months to get to equilibrium (ie: not tired and starving all the time) . So, hang in there with me and hopefully we will be back to normal in time for Oktoberfest. In the meantime, I am considering buying stock in Skippy, since I am single-handedly propping up peanut butter sales in the northeast.

Oh, so, the point of the post: this week's blue plate special is the humble peanut butter sandwich - too humble even for a photo. I prefer mine without jelly and served open faced on a toasted english muffin. But you can have yours anyway you like it.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tee Shirt Remake #2

I had very little time for sewing this weekend, so I had to content myself with just doing another tee refashioning project.

Here is the before picture - one normal tee shirt...

... which I cut down. Sayonara sleeves!

And I made into a fun halter top.

Not bad for an hour's work on a Saturday afternoon!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Odd, yet good...

So, I was looking for a fun Friday post and heard that Chris Daughtry recently did a cover of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face".

I thought it would be along the lines of, you know, Alanis Morisette covering the Black Eyes Peas "My Humps". I was wrong. It's not funny at all and actually it's really kinda good. So, enjoy...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Recurring theme: the halter

Over the weekend I started work on my first BWOF garment and also another tee shirt refashioning project. Both are halter-style tops, which seems like a recurring theme in my recent sewing. I guess I like what I like.

Here's the top I'm making.

Anyway, I took yesterday off and traced the pattern. BWOF includes all the patterns they feature in the issue on a few sheets of paper in the middle of the magazine. How do they fit all those patterns onto a few sheets? Here's how...

Each pattern is drawn overlapping but in a different color.
You have to trace the pattern you want from the jumble. Oy vey!

It was only after I finished cutting it out that I remembered that Burda does not include seam allowances and that I would have to draw them in myself. Uuugh. So, it looks like I will be doing some retracing.

For the fabric, I am going to use the black jersey I picked up from Metro Textiles recently. I also may have enough leftover jersey from my maxi dress to make a second top - if I like how the first one comes out. The one thing that could hold this project up is that it calls for something called "Vilene bias tape." Apparently this is some kind of bias binding that you can fuse on with an iron rather than sew. Assuming I can find it, it should make sewing this top pretty easy.

It is very strange that it is almost August and I still feel like it isn't quite summer. New fall sewing patterns are being released and back to school sales are imminent, but I just can't deal with it yet. I'm still craving warmth. Does anyone else feel that way?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Tee shirt remake #1

A few weeks ago, Polyhymnia - who is due in October - decided to get rid of some of her pre-pregnancy clothing. I was the major beneficiary of her wardrobe purge. Among other things, I inherited a number of tee shirts, some with the tags still on!

So, I decided to put them to good use. Here is my first tee shirt refashioning project. I used instructions from CraftStylish.

Sorry, I forgot to take a "before" picture, but I think you get the idea from this picture: this was once a normal tee shirt with a paisley design on it. I cut it down to make a top "shrug" portion and 4 strips.

Three strips were used to make a long ruffle to go around the edge of the shrug. The remaining strip was halved and used to trim the sleeves. I left all the edges raw.

And voila! Here is a tee-shirt shrug! This project took very little time and the results are very very cute!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Harry Friday!

I cannot wait 'til quittin' time 'cause I'm off to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince with the other muses.

Harry Potter Trailer

(Because it was super annoying that this video launched every time I went to my blog, you will just have to deal with a link instead of an embedded image...)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dairy Queen

Encouraged by my success with making ricotta and this well-timed NY Times article, I decided that for this week's Blue Plate I would continue to play with milk, and make some yogurt.

The Blue Plate Special: Peach, cherries and blueberries
with a dollop of yogurt and a drizzle of honey

I eat yogurt almost every day, so it seemed like a good thing to experiment with. Plus, it's easy. All you need is milk and a few tablespoons of pre-existing yogurt that has active live culture. I used good ol' Dannon.

Basically, all you do is heat a quart of milk to 180-190 degrees (steaming, but not boiling), let it cool to about 120 (warm bathwater), and stir in 2 tbsp of yogurt. Then let your yogurt sit in a warm place for 4-5 hours, so the bacteria can do their thing. You want to keep it at about 110-120 degrees. I used a crock pot with warm water in it.

Phineas helped me set up this crock pot to incubate the yogurt.

When it is done, just stick it in the fridge to firm up.

I ran into one glitch: the yogurt tasted wonderful (tangy, creamy, rich) but was somewhat watery. Perhaps I didn't heat the milk enough, my Dannon wasn't as lively as it ought to have been, or I didn't give the bacteria enough time to do their job. However, after some time in a strainer, I now have a gorgeous creamy and tangy greek-style yogurt.

Stay tuned for what I make with my yogurt.

Monday, July 13, 2009

To the Maxi

My sewing mojo is back! Ha-ha! Here is my finished maxi dress. I love love love how it came out.


And back
I had to take the dress in at the midriff thru the waist. When I cut the pattern out, I had cut the bust and midriff in a size 14 and the skirt in a 16, since I usually need extra room thru the hips and thighs. Next time, I will just make the whole thing in a 12 or 14.

I think I did a pretty good job lining up the design. Not bad for my first try at this. Admittedly, the lines on the fabric helped me plan where to position the pattern pieces.

I added 2 extra inches of length to the dress and I am glad I did. I wanted it to be on the long-ish side so I could wear it with heeled sandals and have it still be pretty long.

I've already decided to wear my new dress this weekend to Mom Muse's birthday bbq.

Friday, July 10, 2009


My Butterick tank top with flounces was really coming out well. All that was left to do was bind the neck and arm holes, and sew the hem. Then, while I was trimming the side seams, this happened:

No, that white dot in the middle of the photo is not a scrap of lint,
it is a hole. A hole that I somehow cut in the tank top.

Maybe the slip of the scissors was freudian. I had purchased the jersey at the same going out of business sale that I purchased Phineas' shirt fabric. And, like the shirting, I'm not so crazy about it. Once I put the tank top on, I disliked how it felt and draped. So, I have decided that this unfortunate accident really is ok, and that this was just a test draft for the next model of this shirt.

So, yesterday, I walked over to Metro Textiles and bought some black jersey, which I think I will like better - it is more matte and not so slinky. Some of the changes I will make to the pattern before cutting are:
  1. Smaller size. As I suspected, this top was initially too large, by quite a bit. It was also rather low cut.
  2. Also a size issue. I had added 2 inches to the length, as I did with my halter top. But I really didn't need to.
Over this weekend, I hope to finish up my maxi dress, which is really coming out great! (knock on wood).

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cheese Whiz

This week's Blue Plate Special was truly one of my best ideas (pats self on the back).

Some time ago, I read that making ricotta at home was easy. And it was! Embarrassingly so. And, no, this is not one of those times when I say it is easy but really that is because I have the right tools, some experience, and a skilled sous chef (Phineas). This really is easy - only slightly more difficult than watching a pot boil. And takes only about the same amount of time. Here goes:

Take the ingredients: 4 parts milk: 1 part buttermilk.

Put them in a pot over med-hi heat. If you have a thermometer, get it out.

Now, watch the pot get hot. At around 165 degrees, you will start to see curds. At 175 the magic really starts to happen and a layer of curds will form.

Scoop the curds into a collander lined with a few layers of cheese cloth as they form. By 185 degrees the magic will be all done and you are left with a pot of whey.

Let your cheese drain as much as you want (5 min for loose, 15 for drier cheese), add a little salt and let it cool in a container.

And that is it! The only tip is to not stir too much since that will make your curds rubbery. I used 1/2 gallon of milk to 1 pt of buttermilk. It yielded about 2 cups of cheese. Mine came out a bit crumbly. Next time I will drain it less.

Anyway, armed with my home made cheese, I raided the freezer. I used the second half of the gnocchi I made 2 weeks ago, italian sausage and some peas from the farmers market that Phineas had blanched and frozen, and made gnocchi tossed with sausage and peas. I topped it off with blobs of ricotta and some left over basil. Perfect!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

At least it's finished

Yesterday afternoon, I finished sewing the buttons on the too snug shirt. Phineas tried it on; yup, definitely too snug. Oh well. At least now I can stop looking at it crumpled up on the rocking chair in the corner of the room. Maybe I will give it to Goodwill.

Also, I am almost done with both my maxi dress and tank top, although each will get it's own post as soon as I do some photographing. Both projects were quick and easy, which has me thinking about how I want to direct my sewing efforts.

Since my sewing time is limited right now, should I stick to quick and easy projects? If I did, I might have more to show for my hobby and get more satisfaction out of it. I definitely like completing projects quickly and adding to my wardrobe. And when a project doesn't work out, there hasn't been the huge investment of time that leads to disappointment. However, I do want to make pants; that is the flip side of the argument.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

My First BWOF!

For my non-sewing readers, BWOF is short for Burda World of Fashion, the popular German sewing magazine. I signed up for a trial subscription (English version, of course) and my first issue - July 2009 - arrived yesterday.

Burda is different from other fashion or sewing magazines because, well, there aren't really any articles. What each issue does contain is fashion spreads of stylish clothing and then the patterns and instructions on how to sew them. And, in the June issue there are any number of cute garments and accessories that I would enjoy sewing, including some that are very quick and easy. Really, this issue makes me wish I had a beach vacation to look forward to and start sewing for!

I wore my halter top last weekend and it left me feeling inspired to sew more things for myself. With tomorrow and Monday off, I hope to get lots of sewing done - primarily my maxi dress and tank top. Both should be pretty quick projects depending on how fitting goes.

Have a Happy 4th of July, everyone!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Peas and Thank You

Peas in a pod

One of my favorite spring dishes is risotto with fresh peas and tiny sweet pink Maine shrimp. They both have short seasons. This year, the shrimp came and went, but there was no sign of peas. I waited and waited. No peas. Then the local farmers marked opened for the summer on Thursday, and I was finally able to get my peas. Even though the tiny sweet shrimp are gone, Phineas suggested that I use the peas for risotto, with normal shrimp and scallops for this week's blue plate. Here goes:

So, first I seared the seafood in a mix of butter and canola oil and removed from the pan.

Next, I sauteed shallot and arborio rice in the same pan and deglazed with white wine. I was surprised at how dark the liquids became from the fond and browned butter.

Then, I stirred in a mix of shrimp stock and water, in small doses. Finally, when the rice was nearly done, in went the peas, followed by butter and Parmesan.

The finishing touch (after testing for salt and pepper) was some small bits of seafood stirred in, a flurry of parsley and some of the prettier shrimp and scallops on top. Voila!

I have to confess, this meal was almost a disaster. Most weeks, I have been giving myself a very light gym day or a day off so that I can be home to cook the blue plate. However, last night, since I have done countless risottos, I didn't think about giving myself extra time to cook. So, Phineas and I went for a run. By the time I was home, showered and in the kitchen it was 8:30, and by 9:10 I was exhausted and ravenous. If Phineas had not stepped in for the last few minutes of stirring, I'm not sure what would have happened to my lovely risotto. So, thanks, Phin. I couldn't do it (the cooking, the running, the sewing and everything else) without you.