27 August 2008

these boots...

...were made for dancing. And we're off for a few days! I think I always secretly wanted some cowgirl boots, and now (thank you M + M) I had a reason to get some. The rehearsal dinner for the wedding this weekend is a cowboy theme. So obviously, I had to go find myself a pair of boots. I had meant to go last Wednesday, but was feeling super tired after work so I left that errand for Thursday. When I walked into the store (an awesome vintage clothing store that I occasionally pop into), I tried on a couple pairs. One was too big, one was too small. And I was beginning to feel very Goldilocks-ish. The dude behind the counter asked my size and then said they had just gotten in a pair that size a few hours ago. He hadn't even really checked them out or priced them yet. Yes, you guessed it, they were perfect. And they have daisies stitched on them too! What more could I ask for in my very first pair (at least as an adult) of cowgirl boots? Not a whole lot.

I am so looking forward to this weekend. To hanging out with my man. Going to airport and actually getting on a plane this time (I've probably taken at least twelve airport trips this year, and only actually gotten on a plane twice). Seeing some of my closest and most fun friends who I haven't seen in a few years. Watching my friend get married. Meeting some new friends. And just taking a break. I hope you all get to take a little bit of a break this weekend, whether you're going anywhere or not.

24 August 2008

speaking of dresses...

I made one too! I mentioned earlier this summer, in my summer manifesto, that one of my goals for these past few months was to make a dress to wear to my dear friend Marieka's wedding. Well, as some of you may have noticed, this summer kind of got away from me a little bit. I had a bunch of other projects to work on, and the hot weather isn't really the best motivating factor for sewing. I did some research earlier in the summer and found a good pattern. But then I got stumped. I had no idea where to buy fancy fabric, and I didn't really love the idea of ordering it online. Time was running out, and I started to think that I wasn't going to have time to make this dress. I was sort of resolved to just wear something that I already had.

When my parents came to visit and we were taking a little driving tour of St. Paul, we drove right by this fabric store, Treadle Yard Goods on Grand Avenue. I had heard of it, but had never been there. Frankly, I had thought it was a hardware store with some industrial fabric ("yard goods" to me meant, like, yard work. My mom was kind enough to inform me that it's actually an old fashioned term that was commonly used for sewing stores. Duh!). We went in, and I discovered that this was the store I had been waiting for. They had an amazing selection of fabrics, from Japanese imports and Amy Butler, to silk, to organic cottons, and everything you would ever need for making garments. I decided to make the dress after all.

I picked out some silk dupioni, the pattern I had chosen is Simplicity 3867 (view B). I was super nervous about making this, since I really wanted it to actually look nice and not, well, homemade (in the bad sense of the word). I know I've made lots of clothes this past year, and I know that my skills have really improved since that very first skirt I made last spring. But sometimes I let the little details (like zippers) slide, and I'm normally okay with things not being perfect. But for this dress, I really wanted it to be perfect, and professional looking. Plus, I had never sewn with silk and didn't know what to expect. The women at the store were really helpful and reassuring that I would be able to do this. They even made me feel better when I had to go buy another yard after cutting half of the pattern pieces in the wrong direction on the fabric!

I took it slow, sewing the entire dress over three evenings last week. I only made one minor mistake, which is that the zipper doesn't go down as far as it should, but that's not a big deal, and is something I can fix later on if I want to (I can't deal with fixing anything on this dress right now). Otherwise, I think everything came out just perfectly, and I'm really really happy with it. The fit is a bit looser on the top than I would like, so I think if I make it again, I will take the bodice pieces in a little. I would like to make this again, probably just out of a light cotton for a nice sundress. It was very easy and the instructions were really straightforward.

The wedding is next weekend, so I finished in plenty of time. I had lots of visions of me sewing up until leaving for the airport (which I've done before) and I'm really pleased that I don't have to worry about that! I'm super excited to wear this dress, and now I'm scheming up other fancy parties that we'll have to throw or go to just so I can wear it! We're off to Oregon on Wednesday night, so I'll pop in here again before we take off. Happy Sunday, friends!

21 August 2008

mayumi me

I'm not sure how many of you out there have heard of minnie and james, the new brainchild of Tiffany Jewell, and the beautiful clothing that she is sewing up while she's not busy being a montessori school teacher. I can't remember how I first discovered Tiffany, but I'm so glad I did. And when she started selling clothing from her own patterns earlier this year, I knew I had to get my hands on one of her pieces.

I've written here before about my ongoing dilemma about buying clothing. Fighting sweatshops (and worker exploitation in all forms) has always been an issue close to my heart and I really do my best to avoid buying clothing made in factories that I know nothing about (which is most factories). Luckily, there are more and more small clothing companies out there that are being responsible, both ethically and environmentally, and transparent about their manufacturing practices. I also buy a lot of clothing second-hand, places like this make that easy.

I've (obviously) begun one of my solutions to this dilemma this past year by making a lot of my own clothing. However, I am only one woman. And even if I did have all the time in the world to sew my own wardrobe, I really like the idea of supporting other talents out there and including some other beautiful pieces of clothing in my closet. Needless to say, I've been delighted by all the small, independent designers that are popping up all over the internet. Maybe at some point soon, I'll post a list of a few of my favorites...But anyways, I did finally order the Mayumi Mini Dress from Tiffany earlier this summer. Sadly, when it arrived in the mail, the fit was not perfect. Since Tiffany makes each of her pieces to order, and is pretty much just one of the most awesome people out there, she was more than happy to remake the dress for me. Seriously, she made me another dress! And I love it. It's extremely well made and all the details are accounted for. It's comfortable and stylish and I'm sure the second I wear it out of the house, I'll be getting compliments left and right. This dress is super light for summer, but would also look great with tights and boots (okay, so it was too hot for boots when I was taking these photos, but I really love how it looks. Maybe I could moonlight as a go-go dancer?). Have I mentioned that I'm ready for fall? Right then.

If any of you are in the market for some new clothing this fall, I highly recommend checking out her shop. Happy Thursday, friends!

19 August 2008

eating my garden

People, it's that time of year again. The time of year, when the fruits of all your labor (quite literally, in this case) come about. And you eat them. I struggled a bit with my garden this year, with a few failures. I was pretty upset about that earlier in the summer, and I'm starting to re-think my capacity to start everything (well, almost everything) from seed. I am not a farmer. I have a full-time job and hobbies and responsibilities that have nothing to do with gardening. I love gardening, but at this point I don't really have as much time to dedicate to it as I'm realizing that I need to do things "the right way" (how I came to think that starting everything from seed is "the right way" and that it's cheating to buy plants, I'm not quite sure). So this is something I'm still contemplating for next year's garden...

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. We're still at the high point of this year's garden. And the bounty has arrived. While my parents were here, I pulled up the first bunch of carrots. A few of which were not quite ripe yet. But they were delicious.

And then there was the first of my summer squash. I know that in a few weeks I'll be overwhelmed on the squash front, but for now, I'm just enjoying it. This one, by the way, made it into that strata I told you about.

And finally, the tomatoes. I had big plans for my tomatoes this year. I think I have nine or ten tomato plants out there and I was hoping to really have enough to do some canning. Unfortunately, they're all pretty small and I don't know if I'll have enough for much tomato sauce. But I'm adapting. Things don't always turn out the way you'd hoped or planned, I know this solo summer certainly wasn't what I had anticipated, and there's nothing like gardening to teach you that. So I'm here, enjoying what I have. And starting to think about next year.

17 August 2008

a story of forgetting. oh, and a shirt.

A couple of months ago, Linda made this beautiful shirt. I decided I had to make it, it's Simplicity 4589. Then, Melissa and Beki chimed in with their versions. That sealed the deal. I ordered the pattern (along with a bunch of others, which I will hopefully have time to tackle soon enough). I had recently found a couple of yards of this awesome madras at the thrift shop and knew it would be a perfect match. I made a pile.

I later realized that about a year and half ago, I had bookmarked this shirt of Amanda's (I named the bookmark "shirt I want to make"). And then this one ("another shirt I want to make"). I never put together that they were the same pattern. Furthermore, I never realized that the three shirts that I saw recently (Linda's, Melissa's, and Beki's) were the same as Amanda's shirt. Um, yeah, am I paying attention here?

Anyways, I got to the shirt a couple weekends ago (I know, it took me two whole weeks to show it to you!) during a rare burst of productivity in between Alias episodes (have we discussed my renewed addiction here? Jared bought me the box set of all five seasons, 'nuff said). It was super easy and only took about two and a half hours. Perfect. The instructions were clear, nothing tricky. I love it. I used the thrifted madras plaid, which I seriously love, and yellow bias binding for the armholes. Even thought it's kind of an odd place for yellow, ahem, I kind of like that little detail. My only complaint is that the armholes are a little too big for me (something that Melissa did mention, wait, what did we say about me paying attention?), so next time, I'll have to do something about that. And yeah, I'm pretty sure there will be a next time on this one, maybe one of the other versions. I also think it would look supercute with a nice long-sleeved shirt underneath. But wait, no, it's not time for that just yet.

(also, yes, if my photos weren't enough, i did just link you to five other versions of this shirt!)

12 August 2008

strata anyone?

I know I've written about my love for this book here before, (and here and here and here) and here we are again. This time, with the mushroom and spinach strata. I tried this dish earlier in the spring for a little brunch party we hosted before the annual May Day parade and it was so delicious, and went so quickly, that I never even got a photo of it. Before getting this book, I was never that big on cooking tofu in dishes. I mean, I love tofu. Baked, stir fried, sauteed, etc. But I never really had used the silken tofu in dishes (like cakes, lasagna, or this strata). And, um, I love it. This dish is just awesome and makes me even more excited for Isa's upcoming vegan brunch book.

I made this strata on Sunday for my parents for brunch. Even though they're not really tofu fans, I thought I'd give it a try on them. My dad doesn't like mushrooms, so I used spinach and a yellow squash from my garden, and that was delicious too. I think you could probably use almost any veggie (just think of what would be good in an omelet or quiche). I think this is my new favorite brunch dish. It's super easy to make, and just tastes delicious. It's even good later that day for dinner. I mean, after all that brunch cooking, who has the energy for dinner? Also- it doesn't hurt to be eating it out of this awesome vintage pyrex dish...

Mushroom and Spinach Strata (from Veganomicon)
4-6 slices stale or lightly toasted bread, cut into 2-inch pieces
1-1.5 cups sliced shallots (I use a little less because I just don't like things too onion-y)
3 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces sliced cremini mushrooms (or any other veggie, I used one medium sized summer squash here)
3 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tsp. salt
10 ounces chopped spinach

Custard Ingredients:
1 lb. silken soft tofu
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. mustard
1 tablespoon cornstarch (I used arrowroot powder here, because that's what I had)
1/2 cup veg. broth or water
1/4 tsp salt if using water or low-sodium broth.

Preheat oven to 350. Saute the shallots in 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large oven-safe skillet (if you have one- if not, you can transfer the veggies to a different dish later) over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms (or whatever veggie you're using) and cook for another 7 minutes, until tender. For the custard: place all custard ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until completely smooth. Add the garlic, herbs, peppers, and salt to the vegetable pan. Add spinach and cook until all spinach is wilted (about 5 minutes).

Turn off the heat and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the bread chunks. If you are baking it in a different dish, transfer it now and use the tablespoon of oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Mix veggies and bread well. Pour custard over everything and use a spatula to smush the custard into the veggies and bread, but don't mix it. Bake for 55-60 minutes. The strata should be firm and the whole top should be lightly browned. Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!

11 August 2008

oh, fancy meeting you here

does anyone else feel the summer speeding by? it's already august, there are leaves on the ground, it was pretty cool this morning (as i made yet another trip to the airport), and i'm starting to get a little excited about fall. but i'm not saying that too loudly, because i'm definitely still enjoying summer.

jared and i had a nice little staycation last week, and it was so wonderful to just relax. i mean, really relax. then my parents came and we had a great weekend. a little hanging out, some antiquing, lots of eating, and a nice driving tour of st. paul (apparently that minnesota history class that jared took last year was worth something!).

i don't have much to report other than that just yet, but i will say that i'm very happy to be back here. i've got some fun stuff coming your way- including some craftiness (can we talk about the new-to-me fabric store i just discovered this weekend?!), garden updates, and even some recipes to share.

yes yes people, i'm back. and thanks for all the sweet comments lately, i know i've been a bit m.i.a lately, but i've really missed you all, and i wanted to tell you all that i really do appreciate all of the comments that you leave here, new and old readers alike, they make my day. i wish that blogger had a better way to allow me to respond to them individually the way typepad does (frankly, that's the one reason that i've ever considered switching), but i do my best. so thanks. happy monday peeps, i'll be back tomorrow!

01 August 2008

well hello there.

this week....wow, um, where did this past week go? i really didn't mean to disappear for that long. things have been happening here, i've been busy. i've been working on some projects that i haven't been quite sure how to write about here, or if i even wanted to write about here. and frankly, i'm still not sure. it's nothing bad, just, you know, personal. i guess it's just been one of those weeks where the words have not been coming.

in the meantime, someone went ahead and turned up the heat so pretty much nothing has been getting done around these parts. well, except for that box set of alias that jared bought me. yes, i've found that sitting on the couch, directly underneath the ceiling fan, with a very cold drink is a great way to spend an evening. or a few evenings.

i have also started working on a top secret project, which i promise i'll share with you once it's been received by its future owners. it's something a bit new for me, so i'm excited about that bit of a challenge. i'm trying to not get distracted by other crafty projects since i am on a deadline for this one, but i'm hoping to whip something out soon.

in other news, i've been playing a lot with my new polaroid camera (i bought a spectra!) and generally noticing some pretty things around me. jared is coming home next week, and then my parents come to visit, so things might be quiet around here for a little while longer. it is supposed to cool off soon, so maybe i'll have something interested to share soon. until then, i'm going to try to share just some photos here. you know, while i wait for my words to come back. and you can always visit me here, where i've been finding myself more and more these days. happy friday friends!