Saturday, February 28, 2009

THREAD - pleated lady apron

I decided to finally be an adult and complete a sewing project by actually following the directions - exactly - from start to finish. Knowing that I usually like to "wing it" and make something up as I go along - this is a big step. My first big girl project was a pleated apron from Amy Butler's book In Stitches.

It has pleats, trim, a pocket and even a little loop for a dish towel. All in all I think it came out pretty fantastic - maybe there is something to be said for following directions...

A few things to note -
I only used materials I already had on hand. The print fabric was previously a pillowcase that my aunt made me. Cute - little baby dolls on it - but it didn't match any of our sheets and once when I did use it I had a dream about crazy smiling plastic babies. After that - it was banned from the bed.

The trim and thread I just had hanging about from other (possibly failed) projects.

It took me a few tries to get the pleats correct - since the sewing machine naturally pulls the fabric through it pulls the pleats out and made them uneven. I got to use the seam ripper over and over again - yeah!

Sewing is not fast. I could have flown to New York - walked into a boutique - bought the apron - had a sandwich and flown back in the time it took me to finish. It's the little stuff that slows it down - the fussing - ironing, pleating, fixing a hem, measuring, cutting and over and over. But in the end - I get something I created - something totally unique and it keeps my hands busy and me out of trouble.

I for sure will be busting out a few more of these soon. In fact - I just bought some new fabric from with a great vintage kitchen print. Great for aprons and perhaps even matchy matchy potholders.

Happy Weekend.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

throwing the book at clutter.

In an attempt to reclaim the kitchen table from my crafting bonanza - I decided I needed to create one designated spot to hold all my supplies (sewing machine, yarn, fabric, bedazzler etc.)

I suggested to the dear husband that I could use one of the five bookshelves in the apartment for this purpose. He suggested we buy more bookshelves. Call me crazy - but usually bringing more junk into a junk filled space just encourages you to collect more junk right?

After holding out a few examples of books that perhaps we could live without - Mastering the Art of Sensual Massage? (bought 3 years ago - I'm still waiting for even a non-sensual massage) Textbooks from college? 7 books on relieving stress? Investing in Real Estate for Dummies? Really? We need all these? Really? he either finally saw my point or conceded to perhaps get rid of a few choice books to get me to zip it.

All in all we managed to find more than 200 books that we can live without. Leaving 3 bookshelves dedicated to books, 1 for crafting and 1 devoted to DVDs (this college boy displays of DVDs is a battles I will never win). I created nice piles of books that I knew certain friends would enjoy and then boxed up the rest. This weekend we will donate all the books to Out of the Closet - a thrift store that gives all proceeds to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. We figured this a good way to pass on our "wealth" of books while also contributing to the local community.

Here is a gorgeous photo of Adam sorting through his books. For some reason he can only clean if he does not wear pants. I don't want to know how he cleans his desk at work.

Once I get my craft area all prettied up - I'll share that in a post as well. I am currently working on a sewing machine cozy...I know - I have issues.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

THREAD - pretty napkins for dirty mouths

My mom bought some fabric to make nice cloth napkins then promptly broke her wrist doing some whirly dirly dancing. Since I was itching to try a new project (I am developing a knitting claw from making so many pairs of fingerless mittens) and offered to make them for her. I found a great super easy to follow tutorial online from fellow blogger Char Michele.

Here is the tutorial -

A few notes -
  1. the pattern calls for 14"x 14" squares to start with - making in the end 13" napkins which are pretty small - really just cocktail size. To make "regular" sized napkins you should start with 20" squares instead.
  2. My mom - super organized person that she is - lost the thread that matches the fabric. I just used white but it definitely looked a little sloppy versus having matching thread.
  3. Adding together the time it took to iron the fabric, stitch, fold, iron, stitch, fold, iron - 4 sides of six napkins - it took about three hours. I could have done it faster but I was watching some silly romantic comedy at the time too.
  4. Amy Butler also has a great pattern for napkins - each side is a different fabric. As well as matching place mats. These can be found in her book - In Stitches - which I just bought - yeah!!
Happy Saturday. I'm off to get a manicure. Let's hope the nice lady can unclench my knitting claw long enough to slap some polish on my nails.


Friday, February 20, 2009

run run as fast as you can...

In a confusing mix of wrong dates and delusional ambition I have convinced myself I can complete a 12k race a mere 3 weeks from now. Nevermind that I have not run more than 3 miles in over 2 years.

If all goes well - on Sunday March 15th - I will be running from Sausalito to Aquatic Park - across the Golden Gate Bridge en route to the finish line. There is no more beautiful city than Francisco and I will get to see it in all its foggy gorgeous early morning haze. Seriously - if I am going to do this torturous event I might as well have a nice view.

So far I am off to a good start - ran 5 miles yesterday and can still walk. My goal is to do three runs a week (each from 3-7 miles) with my usual spin class, yoga and Mean Wendy trainer session mixed in. I will be nothing if not sore and beaten down by the end of this.

Wish me luck.


Want to join me? Sign up!! It will be great fun - you even get a t-shirt and they give you candy at the end. Everybody likes candy.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

BOOK - Julie & Julie: My Year of Cooking Dangerously

Given this strange interim housewife position I find myself in - I found this book incredibly poignant. The story somewhat parallels my life now - the main character Julie, is 29 (yup) in an unhappy useless job with no clear idea what she would rather do (how about no job and no clue).

To have some sense of purpose - albeit completely random - Julie decides to complete every recipe in Julia Child's epic cookbook - Mastering the Art of French Cooking - within a year - and blog about it. I just appreciated how she used this incredibly complex task as a way to add direction to her life. I understand the desire to find some sort of structure when it feels like there is nothing else tangible to grab at.

More than all the "finding yourself" mumbo jumbo - the book is utterly entertaining. Julie is hilarious and has a potty mouth. Also - if you love food and the act of cooking this book is pure food porn.

Happy reading.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

FOOD - frosted brownie bites

Imagine a brownie bite - delicious and chewy with that slightly undercooked soft middle surrounded by the crusty baked outside. Now imagine that with a little dollop of buttercream frosting on top like a cupcake - then topped with a red hot. This is the work of the devil. It is so good and so easy - too easy - done in 20 minutes easy.

Instructions -
  • Gather together - 1 box of brownie mix (I used to make brownies from scratch but find the Hershey's Triple Chocolate Chunk mix from Costco is better than anything I ever came up with), vanilla cream frosting (store bought is fine - homemade is 10x better) and a box of red hots.
  • Line mini muffin tins with small cupcake liners. Spray these with a teeny bit of canned cooking oil. Unlike cupcakes - brownies will stick like a mofo to the liners unless they are properly greased. Nothing is more delicious with your brownie cupcake than paper shreds.
  • Fill liners 2/3 full. I use an ice cream scoop for this - keeps your hands clean and gives the perfect amount every time.
  • bake 15-20 mins until the tops are baked and the middle is still a little undercooked (gooey but not runny).
  • Let cool. Frost. Decorate. Shovel into your mouth until you feel ashamed of yourself.

Ohh and I take it back - this is not the work of the devil. It can't be when every 2 bite little morsel is like a bit of heaven. Angels - these are created by sweet sweet angels.



A puppy made of socks.

Meet Sock Jack. Sock Jack is a present I made for my dear husband for Valentine's Day. He is now the perfect puppy companion to the infamous Lucy and Lad. Since Lucy and Lad are not yet ready for baby sock monkeys - they have been desperately pining away for a dog as a trainer baby.

To see Lucy and Lad in action - check out their YouTube from last Valentine's Day.

Making the sock dog was pretty easy - especially now that I have a sewing machine. It was a bloody pain the ass when I made Lucy and Lad because every damn stitch was by hand.

I used a pattern from a fantastic book I have that gives instructions on how to make all sorts of animals and creatures from socks and gloves. The book is called Sock and Glove - Creating Charming Softy Friends from Cast-off Socks and Gloves. Here is the Amazon link for it.

The main struggle I had with our new sock friend is the head/face. Unlike a usual sock monkey where the body of the creature is all one sock (head is the toe portion and the legs are the ankle part of the sock) - the sock puppy has a separate head created from the second sock. The book - although adorable - is translated from Japanese so the instructions where not all that clear on how to attach the head to the body. Pretty much - the poor thing doesn't have much of a defined neck but that is what the pretty bow helps disguise.

Furthermore - there is a lot of tucking and stitching and folding require to get the snoot portion configured. No matter how many times I tried to correct it - Sock Jack still ended up with that perplexed slightly sour look on his face. Let's call it endearing.



P.S. - The Lucy and Lad video won the work contest award for second best use of monkey. We lost out to some random art house dancing gorilla with a talking cartoon lion. Bullsh*t.

The sweetest of days.

Call me cheesy but I love love love Valentine's Day. It is an entire day devoted to being sweet to the one you one love. Some say Valentine's Day is forced but so what? It is good to be reminded to be romantic. Romance is fantastic.

This year was especially fantastic when Adam walked into our apartment with the most gorgeous flower arrangement. More than four feet tall - huge roses and beautiful delicate cherry blossom and pink flower branches mixed in. I have been staring at it in awe for 3 days now. The photo here does not do them justice.

The bouquet combined with a divine dinner and just a great romantic night with the sweetest of husbands - made for a truly wonderful Valentine's Day.
Since I made Adam's presents for the big VDay - I will add them in a separate postings with links.

Wishing you lots of love.


Friday, February 13, 2009

THREAD - robot "baby" pillow

For Adam's birthday I made him a mini (aka baby) pillow. I have had one for years - it is perfect for falling asleep and nice for traveling. Since it was mine and not ours Adam has spent the last few years trying to steal it.

Again - I don't like patterns or being told what to do so this is the ideal project. I simply made a quick pillow out of cheap muslin and used standard poly stuffing. The green fabric I had on-hand. I have lots of crafting supplies hanging around the apartment - all leftover from bigger, much more ambitious projects that I never complete.

To make it extra special and Adam appropriate - I embroidered a mini robot onto the mini pillow (got this idea from Sara's tiki man pillow she did for her new chair). Obviously - I do not know how to embroider but let's pretend that adds to the charm.

This was a fun project. All in all it took under and hour to complete and with the exception of the green fabric - all supplies were from Michael's and cheap ($5 tops).

On a funny note - I did the whole damn thing - sewing, stuffing and embroidery - all while Adam was sitting in the living room with me. It is becoming amazingly clear how interested in my crafting he is :-)

Ohh and sorry I didn't bother ironing the pillowcase. It's not that I don't take pride in my work - it is just that the ironing board has fallen victim to the clutter gnomes and is completely covered in Christmas ornaments and papers. Even beginning to clear it off would cause an avalanche of despair.

Happy Valentine's Day Eve.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

YARN - lots o' mittens none with fingers!

My sister claims these are called "handwarmers" but Ms. Martha called them fingerless mittens and I am afraid of her so fingerless mittens it is.

A few weeks ago I opened up the January issue of Martha Stewart and saw these mittens and I was smitten. I never even turned the page - just grabbed some random yarn I got for free at work (could one of the reasons RedEnvelope failed be because there was sh*t like yarn just sitting around - free for the taking??) and got to work.

This project was fun for many reasons - 1. I have never made mittens or gloves or anything of the sort 2. I have never used doublepoint needles and 3. you don't really have to count stitches you can eyeball it - and I don't like to count or follow directions 4. how friggin cute are these???

Here is the link to the pattern -

These quickly became my new obsession. All in all - I have made 7 pairs - even one by commission - thanks Alisa!! While in New York - I visited a cute little yarn shop in Park Slope, Brooklyn with Carrie and Alisa and it was just brimming with mittens. I picked up another mitten pattern (free from the nice owner lady) this one with ribbing detail.

The ribbing is fun - almost gives it a lacey kinda look - especially in the white organic cotton one. But I have to say that the roll top original Martha one is my favorite - it has that urban pauper look - so very Olsen twins circa 2006.

Anyhoo - if you need mittens with no fingers - call me! I can't seem to stop.



Wednesday, February 11, 2009

FOOD - pistachio biscotti

I am not usually a craver of sweets (more of a chips and guacamole kinda person) but I love biscotti - probably because it is not overly sweet. I decided to make some today so Adam had an easy breakfast to bring to work (biscotti has to be better than a giant bagel with cream cheese).

Here is the recipe link -

A few comments on the ingredients -
  1. I always add a little extra vanilla
  2. Pistachios alone are a little boring - usually I will cut the nuts to 1 cup and then add 1 cup some sort of dried berry (cherries are great with pistachios). I have also made this recipe with almonds and cranberries.
  3. I added 1/2 cup chocolates chips to one half of the mix (1 log) just because I had them - excellent addition but really makes it much more cookie-like.

General comments -
  1. I had pistachios in the house - they were just in the shell. My poor thumb is raw from cracking all of them. Seriously a pain in the ass but I did get through those pistachios that have been sitting in the kitchen since before Christmas and caught up on The Real Housewives of Orange County at the same time.
  2. I was happily mixing my ingredients butter, sugar, eggs, la da da pouring in the flour when I realized I was 1/2 a cup short. F*ck - oven was on, mixer was going, wearing my slippers and homepants and I had to run to the little man store (in the pouring rain) to get a bag of flour.
  3. Be very careful not to overcook - overbaked biscotti gets really really dry. The recipe calls for 5 mins of baking on each side after they are cut into cookies - I did 3-4 and it was perfectly browned - any more would have probably ruined the whole batch.
  4. I really need another silicone baking mat - why on earth do I only have one?? When have I ever baked only one sheet of anything?



Tuesday, February 10, 2009

FOOD - orzo salad

I love orzo feta salad - my mom makes it upon request (begging) and I even buy it from the Safeway deli (where is is called Mediterranean salad, randomly). Not really sure why I have never made it - so I did and it is delicious.

Here is the recipe link -

A few comments on ingredients -
  1. I reduced the tomatoes to 1.5 baskets (15 oz. instead of 24) because 24 ounces just seemed like a lot of damn cherry tomatoes.
  2. I added 1 cucumber - peeled, seeded and sliced to add a little crunch.
  3. I added a few artichoke hearts because these are in my mom's version and I like them.

General comments -
  1. From the time I started boiling the water for the pasta to when I put it in the fridge to "develop" took ~1 hour. This is mainly because of how damn long it takes to cut up all the ingredients. Seriously - 20 minutes alone to pit and quarter 1 cup of olives.
  2. Ohhh how much time I would have saved if I had two fancy Williams-Sonomaesque tools. The olive/cherry pitter as well as a handheld citrus juicer.
  3. For a meat-free recipe it is really not that cheap - a few key ingredients really up the cost - $7 worth of olives, $6 of tomatoes, $6 of feta plus everything else.
  4. That being said - it makes oh so very very much salad. Supposedly 8 servings but as a side dish - it is really more like 12. Need a dish for a potluck? This is can be your new staple - large, delicious and unexpected.
I'll be serving this tonight with a simple broiled salmon and then eating it 3 meals a day for the next few days...

Tra -

I used to have a job...

In my long term envisioned life plan - I was never going to be married by 30 and certainly not unemployed at 29. But here I am - 29 and a housewife. Then again - I thought I was going to be a single successful vegetarian lawyer with long princess hair on the fast track to becoming the next judge on the People's Court - so maybe life does turn out the way it is supposed to.

A double degree in Political Science and Art History gets you a nice career in corporate retail (Gap followed by RedEnvelope). A sh*t economy gets you a company that files for bankruptcy, that is then purchased by a major conglomerate, whose offices moved to San Diego, a sweet sweet severance package and no job in the worst time in history to be in retail.

Rather than mope I should set goals and blog about them. So here they are (in no particular order)...

1. read lots of books (1 a week) and post witty insightful comments on these books.

2. learn how to cook - for reals. I will make lots of delicious foods that involve real fresh ingredients and not just opening cans and swirling things around or using the telephone. I already make a fantastic 7 layer dip and delicious pigs in a blanket - I'm 1/2 way there.

3. learn to sew something besides sock monkeys and pillow covers. Document all my gorgeous creative projects on this blog and become the envy the crafting world.

4. learn to knit something besides hats and scarves. Document all my gorgeous creative projects on this blog and become the envy the crafting world and start a worldwide craze of my insanely brilliant creations and become Scrooge McDuck style rich. Yes - I want to swim in gold coins and wear no pants.

5. go to the gym 4-6 a week to become leaner, less wiggly and unnaturally bendy. Quantified goal is to lose 30 pounds and have one single taut chin.

6. control the paper and laundry gnomes that wreak havoc on my apartment. Never in the 5 years that I have lived here have all pieces of laundry been put away at once. I am a generally clean and organized person - yet create these insanity piles of mail, magazines, billing statements and paper recycling. Gnomes then take these piles - move them around the apartment and send more everyday in the mail. It needs to stop - there is a desk - there is a dresser - there are chairs (2 of them!) in the bedroom and I need to reclaim them.

7. take care of my husband (gag I know) and be a fantastic wife. Seriously - this is a forever thing and I found a fantastic hunk of a manfriend and I should to be sweet to him. He has a job - I don't - why not be a dutiful housewife and take care of him and the house and us? Why not even actually enjoy it? So yeah - I will be packing lunches with sweet notes and making dinner (part of goal #2 anyway) and pick up the drycleaning and blah blah etc etc. There will be no feet rubbing though - those things are like prehistoric 1/2 flying bird & 1/2 reptile claw feet.

8. find a job. Duh. Preferably a life altering dream job - something involving creating outfits for performing monkeys or reading online gossip and posting witty comments. Eventualy I'll settle for something in my field that pays more than my rent that doesn't require me to declaw cats or pluck chickens.

These are my goals and I'm sticking to them - at least until something shiny comes along and distracts me.

Tra for now -