30 July 2010

4 july

A little late, I know.  We had a lovely July 4th, with Jared's brothers and nephews, some backyard firecrackers and real fireworks across the street at the park.  In between, the kids raided all of our ripe cherry tomatoes and raspberries.  Luckily, I've discovered that we have a crop of fall raspberries ripening right now.  

Hope your weekend is filled with a little bit of magic. 

26 July 2010

oxford cotton is my friend (i think)

Hey, so remember that Wardrobe Challenge I started back in the spring?!  Me too! No seriously, I haven't forgotten about it.  And here's some proof!  I made a dress.  And I really like it.  And I've already worn it a bunch of times.  I declare this piece a complete success, contrary to entry #1, which is a moderate success.

The pattern comes from a Japanese sewing book called "One Piece" (ISBN 978-4-579-11149-7) and is #6.  When I first chose this pattern, I was a little worried that the shapelessness of the dress would make me look like I was wearing a potato sack.  Um, I was totally right.  Somehow it looks super cute on the model in the book, but it was less than flattering on me.  

So, once I had the whole thing sewed up (except the bias binding on the armholes) I ended up taking the sides in 1" at each armhole and about 2" on each side.  I also added two darts in the back to make it more fitted.  This helped a lot and made it much dress-like and less sack-like.  Which, in my opinion, is pretty much always a good thing.  

As per usual, I couldn't decipher the neckline instructions and ended up sort of fudging it, but you can't really tell and as long as it doesn't start fraying, I'm 100% okay with how it turned out.  This is the third Japanese sewing book I've used and I continue on with my philosophy that these patterns are really more of a suggestion or guide, and you're completely expected to take your own creative liberties, you know, since you can't actually read the instructions.  I never expect my pieces to turn out exactly as they are in the books.  That said, I did consult this post when translating the sizing chart so I knew which size to make.  If you are going to look into Japanese patterns, I would also suggest just googling the ISBN and you're more than likely to find some blog posts or forums with tips about the book you're using.

The fabric I used is an oxford cotton which I got on major clearance at Mill End a couple of years ago and seeing as this dress used up about 1/3 of how much I have, you'll probably be seeing it again in the future...With this dress, I was really going for an everyday casual thing and I think I ended up with a semi-nice work dress.  Luckily, I think this dress can really double as either one, and conveniently, those were both holes in my wardrobe.  Not to mention, this dress would look super cute with a long-sleeved shirt underneath and some cute tights and boots for fall.  Again, I would say a complete success.

ps: I recently realized that this dress (color and all) looks just like an old girl's dress of Martha's, hmmm.  I swear, it's a coincidence :)

19 July 2010

building neighbors, one fruit dessert at a time...

 Hi folks! First of all, thank you all SO MUCH for your sweet comments on my last post.  They really meant a lot to us.  xo

My mom is currently on the plane on her way to visit me for the week, so posting may be light these next few days, even though I have a whole slew of posts up my sleeve!  We'll see what I can do...

So, what I really want to tell you about today is apricot cherry cobbler.  Last summer I shared the story of my neighbor Jeff, and how he wasn't picking his fruit trees (which I just happened to notice as I walked the dog past his house every day), and how I left him a nice note saying that if he was so inclined, I would be more than happy to take all that pesky fruit off his hands, and how he so generously agreed, and how I subsequently ended up with about forty pounds of apricots and a few pounds of cherries.  

Since we moved last fall, I wasn't sure that I'd be able to pick Jeff's fruit again this summer.  I mean, we only moved five blocks, but last summer I was just across the street.  And would he remember me?  What if he hated the apricot butter I gave him?  Over July 4th weekend, I headed over there to leave him a note that I would love to come pick his apricots and cherries again and there he was standing on his porch when I walked up.  Oh hey, you gonna pick some fruit again this year? Well of course I was.  The next day, I packed up my radioflyer with a couple of buckets and bungee-corded my ladder to the wagon and walked over there.  Getting more than a couple of strange looks along the way.  

Last year I didn't pick the cherries until later in July and by then, many of them had already gone bad on the tree, and I didn't get very many that were useable.  This year, I went earlier in an effort to pick more perfectly ripe cherries, but again they were bad already!  I'm not sure if it was the funky weather we've had this spring/early summer (super hot in April, cold May, super rainy June) but I was surprised.  The apricots, on the other hand, were in much better shape this year than they were last year, and I'm sure that had to do with the timing. 

Earlier this spring, my friend Lee came to visit and of course we talked about preserves and gardening and generous neighbors who let you pick their fruit trees.  I had a couple of bags of frozen apricots and cherries left and she recommended that I make a cherry-apricot crisp.  And damn was that good.  A week or two ago, when I was once again swimming in fruit, I decided to go for a cherry-apricot cobbler.  And damn, was that good too.  

I'll tell you that apricots don't have a very strong flavor, and when paired with something as overpowering as sour cherries, they have a tendency to get lost,
but every once in a while, you'll be eating that cobbler and get a mouthful of delicious apricots, and you'll remember that those apricots are not just a filler fruit.  They are lovely.  Especially when they build neighborhoods. 

Cherry-Apricot Cobbler

for the filling...
1 cup sugar
2 Tbl arrowroot powder
2 cups pitted sour cherries
2 cups pitted, quartered, apricots
1/4 tsp. almond extract

for the topping...
1 cup flour
1 Tbl sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbl vegetable shortening
1/2 cup nondairy milk
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 400.  In a medium saucepan, combine all filling ingredients.  Cook over medium heat until the mixture thickens and boils.  Boil for 1 minute.  Pour the mixture into a casserole dish or pie plate or any other appropriately sized baking dish you can find.  Put it in the oven while you prepare the topping.  Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium sized bowl.  Add shortening and milk.  Stir until dough forms a ball.  Remove filling mixture from the oven.  Drop dough in 6-8 spoonfuls on top of fruit.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Enjoy!

14 July 2010

gardening with herbs

Most of you know that I've gotten super into gardening with herbs (and making things with said herbs) in the last couple years.  My friend Shari was sweet enough to ask me to write up a little post about my top five herbs for her column, The Stir, over at CafeMom...go check it out!

I have to say, that it was really hard to choose my top five herbs/medicinal plants so I think I might be doing more posts like that one as the summer progresses.  I've been trying new medicinal recipes left and right and have tons more up my sleeve, so there will be no shortage of things for me to blabber on about!

13 July 2010

Summer knitting

I can't even believe it's taken me so long to show this off here, I finished this sweater back in {gasp!} May!  Actually, I think it was just about two months ago exactly.  I was really excited to make this sweater, and it came together relatively quickly, which is always a plus.  I also thought it was going to be my go-to summer sweater, wearing it all the time.  The first problem with that idea is that you really don't need sweaters all the time during a Minnesota summer, since it's generally really freaking hot.  

But anyways, the other problem with that idea is that, well, I just don't love the sweater.  I like, it, I really do.  But I don't love it.  

You see, I tried something new this time, blocking all the pieces individually before I sewed the sweater together.  Normally, no matter what the pattern says, I block the entire piece as one.  I'm not sure why, I just have always done it that way.  But for some reason, I tried it this way this time.  And I think this might have been the source of many of my problems.  I had a really hard time getting all the pieces to match the intended finished measurements, and I think the fronts ended up being longer than the back.  Not to mention that the entire sweater ended up much longer than I would have liked.  

Also, I'm not sure that I'm a fan of the whole "open cardigan" style, which is entirely my fault seeing as the pattern is actually called the Classic Silk Open Cardi.  I just have the feeling that it's always going to fall off my shoulders, which just kinda bugs me.

But, despite my issues with this sweater...it was fun to knit (that Classic Silk is a dream!), the pattern was well written, I have worn it a bunch, and it does fit pretty well.  Overall, I would call it a general success.  

Pattern: Classic Silk Open Cardi, by Pam Allen
Yarn: Classic Elite Yarns Classic Silk
Size: 33.5" bust 
Modifications: None

On Ravelry, here 

PS: It feels so weird posting these photos here (which I took a few weeks ago) since (as many of you might know) I chopped my hair off!

08 July 2010

summer manifesto

Even though summer began a few weeks ago, I feel like I'm just starting to find my summer groove.  I can definitely tell that this summer is going to fly by, with our weekends quickly filling up with visitors, events, projects, and a road trip later in August.  Before we know it, Jared will be back in school and summer will be just about over.  

So...I'm making this list so that I can remember some things that I want to do to savor this summer, our first summer in our house!  (You'll notice that I'm carrying over a few things from my spring manifesto- either I didn't get to them, or I just want to keep doing them!).

:: Take some evening bike rides in search of treats (I'm thinking of this spot, and this one too).

:: Swim in at least one new lake (and old ones too).

:: Keep working on my wardrobe challenge (I have made progress and will share soon!).

:: Make lemonade, limeade, and other fun summery beverages (suggestions welcome!).

:: Have a picnic.

:: Sleep outdoors.

:: Be lazy.

:: Eat food straight out of the garden. 

:: Try some new preserving recipes (this weekend I'm doing medicinal honey) and dry as many of my herbs as possible.  

What's on your list for this summer? 

psssst: if you're reading this in a reader click on over to see my new summer header, it's pretty!

06 July 2010

the berries are back.

Summertime means fresh fruit and vegetables.  Summertime means enjoying those delicious bits of the season for the few weeks or months they are meant to be enjoying and preserving the harvest for the rest of the year.

This year, I bought 12 quarts of strawberries from my local farmer's market.  Some were frozen (both whole and sliced, after I learned my lesson last year!), many were eaten, there was jam, some were used in the ice cream and some were baked.  Last summer I worked out a strawberry banana bread recipe, but by the time I was getting around to posting it, it was well past strawberry season (and my mom always taught me that strawberry bread is really only good if you use local, in-season strawberries).  So I'm going to share it now, just in time.  

When I first attempted vegan strawberry bread, I tried to adapt my mom's recipe and let me tell you, it was a complete fail.  Really.  It sank.  It was way too moist.  The flavor was good, but there was no such thing as a slice, there was really more of a pile of crumbs.  Then it occurred to me that strawberries and bananas are an excellent combination.  Everyone loves them together in a smoothie, right?  Throw in a bit of orange flavoring and you're golden.  So I dug out my tried and true banana bread recipe and adapted slightly.  Perfecto.  Seriously, this stuff is good.  I'm pretty sure that some of those sliced strawberries in the freezer are going to make their way into a loaf of this yuminess in the midst of the deep dark winter... 

A few other tidbits to share this week
:: My dear friend Shanna is out west caring for her grandfather.  While she's there, she's asked some friends to share some memories of their grandparents over on her blog.  I was honored to share one about my grandmother, which will be posted sometime later this week.  I've enjoyed reading the memories that have been posted so far, go check them out!

:: The lovely ladies of habit (one of my favorite online reads) have extended an open invitation for the month of July, I posted my first entry today, but check out the group pool, it's wonderful!

:: I know I'm a little behind on summer here, but I promise, a new banner and manifesto are coming this week! (along with, gasp, a finished knitting project!)

Strawberry Banana Bread 
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup nondairy margarine
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbl ground flax seed + 6 Tbl water
2 overripe mashed bananas
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 tsp orange extract 
handful chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9x5" loaf pan.  In a large mixing bowl, cream margarine and brown sugar.  Stir in flax+water mixture, bananas, and strawberries.  Slowly add in flours and baking soda.  Mix until just combined.  Stir in orange extract and walnuts.  Pour batter into greased loaf pan and bake for about 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Enjoy!

01 July 2010

ice cream. in a sandwich

Oh hi everyone!  Didn't mean to disappear for so long.  There has been a lot going on over here and I have tons to share with you, with photos even!  But first, there were ice cream sandwiches.  

I know, I said it.  Ice. Cream. Sandwiches.  As any one of you might have guessed by now, I tend to go a bit overboard when hosting a party.  This is a trait that I most definitely inherited from my grandmother, who was the queen of overboard parties (when I was a kid, she hosted a full luau engagement party for a cousin of mine.  And I mean full-on.  They lived in New Jersey.  I'm pretty sure that the marriage didn't last, but I will never forget that party).  

In any case, when we started planning our housewarming party that we held last weekend, I asked Jared what kind of food we should have.  Being a guy, or maybe just being not me, he suggested that we make whatever we usually make.  To which I responded "noooo."  This was our big housewarming party and I really wanted to make something special.  And of course ice cream sandwiches was the next logical step.  

The process began about a week and a half before the party when I started making all the ice cream.  For the record, there was vanilla, strawberry, coffee, and peach.  The first three were all made using the same base recipe, which comes from Veganomicon (yes, it's vegan ice cream-and no it doesn't taste like regular ice cream, but it's still damn good).  The peach ice cream idea came from Robin (she posted the recipe in the comments here).  I somehow forgot the sugar, but it still came out pretty tasty, so if you're not doing sugar, I'd recommend this recipe.  

And then came the cookies.  There were chocolate chip, chocolate-chocolate chip, and almond cookies.  My initial ideas of combinations were: chocolate chip+vanilla, chocolate-chocolate chip+coffee, and almond+peach.  In the end, there ended up being almost every combination possible and I think my personal favorite was the almond+coffee.  The almond cookies were also from Veganomicon and definitely turned out to be the best consistency of cookie for this purpose.  They were big, flat, and solid.  The other cookies got a bit too crumbly, but were still a great flavor.  

Finally, came the assembly on the morning of the party.  This was definitely the easiest step of this whole endeavor.  Just set out the two cookies, put a scoop or two of ice cream on one cookie, and press down with the second cookie...forming a magical ice cream sandwich.  And then repeat, about forty times...You definitely want to let the ice cream soften a bit before doing this, otherwise it just gets messy.  I wrapped all of mine individually in tin foil, and then labeled them so everyone would know what they were getting.  

Obviously this project took a little planning, and was a bit labor intensive, but it was such a hit!  And they were so delicious.  Even if you don't make the ice cream yourself (or even the cookies), there's something way more fun about eating an ice cream sandwich than just a bowl of regular old ice cream!  I'd highly recommend this for your next summer party.  We have lots of ice cream left, so I may be baking more cookies this weekend to make more sandwiches, just for us!