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Once again my terrible procrastinatative (yes I just coined that word) nature shows itself in a something like three-week blogging hiatus. In those weeks, I returned from LA and was immediately met at home with the craziest weeks of my work schedule as well as visiting family members, and, you know, a not unconsiderable amount of turkey. But I have at last managed to carve out some computer time (I am also woefully behind with what you all have been up to), and I have things to say/share!

I’ll start by going back to my last few days in LA, when (on very short notice) some awesome LA sewists came out in the rain the week before Thanksgiving to meet up in Venice for some fabric shopping, dinner, and lots of sewing talk! I met up with Cindy of Cation Designs, Sandra of Brown Paper Patterns, and Nhi (who can be found here on Pattern Review) at Fabric Planet (open til 8, about the only place to fabric shop after 6 in LA), which is a pretty big, delightfully random fabric store with a nice amount of knits, some nice wovens, a ton of zippers and just about every trim you could possibly imagine. I walked out with a piece of mustard yellow modal knit and a super stretchy blue chambray (shirtdress!), and a few random zippers (all zippers $1!). The proprietor was really nice, and funnily enough was surprised and amazed that we had all sewn the things we were wearing. I guess he mostly gets people in who buy fabric for curtains and then hire someone to make them? We let him in on the secret world of the online sewing community and he gave us some deals (he miscut my knit at first, but let me keep the miscut remnant for free!). We then went and had dinner at a really cool place called Lemonade, which is like an awesome, mod, gourmet Souplantation, with everything served “cafeteria style”. We stayed there talking until we realised the employees were waiting for us to leave so they could go home… I once again marvel at the magic of the internet, which can so easily connect four people with like interests living in roughly the same geographical area, when we otherwise would have had no idea that such like-minded folks existed at all. I had a great night and I hope we can do it again sometime! And, luckily, we remembered at the last moment that we’d better take a picture:

Fabric Planet meetup(I love how it looks like I bought the whole store… really it was just 4 yards of fabric! The bag was actually made from a funny ribbed knit fabric remnant, tied into a bag shape with handles cut out.)

Following short on the heels of my return home was the holiday week. I actually started this post on Thanksgiving day, but didn’t have time to finish it before the cooking needed to start. But even though it’s two weeks past the day of thanks, and we’re well into the next holiday season, I still wanted to share some thoughts I had on that day. I’m not one of those folks who goes in for a lot of sentimental stuff, so generally the most important thing about any given holiday for me is what I get to eat, rather than, you know, giving any thought to what the holiday is supposed to represent. Thanksgiving for me has always been an amazing food orgy and little else, but this year I actually had a couple things that I was, well, really thankful for. So I thought I’d depart a little from my usual meaningless-holiday tradition and run down the reasons why this was maybe the most appropriate Thanksgiving ever.

First, on that Wednesday morning I got my cast off, found out my wrist was totally healed, and on Thanksgiving morning I rode my bike for the first time in over 6 weeks! I even got a flat tire and it didn’t dampen my joy. I was, ridiculously, a little worried that I’d have forgotten how to ride or something, but it turns out that riding a bike is just like riding a bike – huh, I guess that phrase exists for a reason. I am generally grateful for having full use of both hands back, which makes everything so much easier of course; and I’m also glad now that the weather has turned colder and I’m wearing tops with sleeves that I won’t be stretching out one cuff on all my warm shirts and sweaters! Mostly the whole broken-wrist experience really made me so thankful that my usual state of being is whole and healthy, and I will try not to take that state for granted so much in the future.

I also had a funny experience the week before Thanksgiving that really brought home how glad I am that I’ve embarked on this whole sewing lark. I was in IKEA (like I was going to be in LA and not go to IKEA. Man I love that place), and up on the top floor in one of the sample rooms there was a really cool orange bird-print table runner on a table all decked out for Thanksgiving. I immediately thought “I must have that”, but when I went downstairs to the table linens section, no bird runner. Then in the fabric section I spotted the orange bird fabric and realised that the sample room decorator must have made the runner from the fabric. After a moment of disappointment that I wouldn’t be able to buy the table runner, I literally thwacked myself on the forehead and thought “wait, I can sew!” So I bought a yard of bird fabric, got it home, cut a strip of it and hemmed the edges. It made me wonder how many other people had walked away disappointed that the table runner was not for sale, when it was so easy to make. Sewing is pretty cool. So here it is on our Thanksgiving table:

ikea fabric table runner

We had a wonderful feast, featuring a splatchcocked turkey (it’s laid out flat in the pan so it cooks more evenly – it really works!) basted with Emeril’s Essence (terrible name, but it’s awesome on turkey and the drippings make the best. gravy. ever.), as well as a terrific apple parsnip soup and a persimmon salad (no spinach at the market so we used kale, marinating it all day in the dressing, and it worked great), not to mention fall cocktails. So even though I had reason to give thanks this year, it still was an awesome food orgy too.

And now, finally, things have slowed down a bit and I can really get back to sewing – I mean, sewing frantically, since before Christmas I want to make a bunch of long sleeve knit shirts as well as at least one pair of pants, since I’ll be spending the holiday somewhere rather colder than Southern California, not to mention all the presents I want to make! Right, more than I can chew as usual… I’m off to a good start with 5 shirts and a dress all cut out and waiting to be put together. Let’s just hope I can keep up the pace, and still make time to share the stuff with you all! In the meantime, I’ll be back with actual finished clothes soon, the last of my pre-LA sewing binge (including the dress I wore to the awesome LA meetup). So a belated Happy Thanksgiving to those who had one! And with that discharged at last, full steam ahead to the next holiday!

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When I’m in rehearsal at work (like right now) and my only night at home for dinner is Monday, what I cook on Monday becomes a major decision. Last week we went out for Valentine’s day, so I didn’t get to cook, and the farmers’ market mocked me with all the delicious produce that I wouldn’t have a chance to eat. So this week I got it in my head that I was just going to buy everything beautiful and tasty that the market had to offer, and throw it all on a pizza. Here’s what I took home:

Pretty random selection for February. Only in California! Purple cauliflower, candy cane beets, a delicata squash, and king oyster mushrooms. In the middle is a nettle pesto. Yes, pesto made with stinging nettles. I’d seen a recipe for a nettle pesto pizza and it looked really interesting, but where on earth would I find stinging nettles? Well, at my favorite herb stand at the market, it turns out. I actually mostly followed this recipe instead, but used less pine nuts. I didn’t have gloves, so I used a silicone potholder and kitchen shears to strip the leaves off the nettles before blanching them (stinging avoided!). They turn a really great, vibrant green and smell rather like spinach, and the pesto is very mild and nutty – a great compliment to this odd collection of toppings, actually. I chopped and sautéed the mushrooms, blanched the cauliflower a little, microwaved the squash and chopped it, and chopped and boiled the beets. I rolled out my crust really thin, spread the pesto on it, and topped it with a little mozzarella and my colorful veggies. When it only had about 5 minutes left to cook, I pulled it out and cracked an egg on it, then finished cooking it. The egg really made it, I think – it’s my new favorite pizza topping (since I had an egg on a pizza at Boot and Shoe Service in Oakland last month – awesome name, awesomer pizzas). The yolk broke, but it still tasted good!

The pizza in the background has an onion compote that my mom made and canned in the fall, goat cheese, and broccoli rabe (another market find).

Of course, between pizza prep, a really long bike ride, and watching the new episodes of Project Runway (Mondo rules!) and Smash (not as good this week… a fluke or a trend? I’m not ready to give up on it yet), of course I did absolutely no sewing today. I am almost finished with my first knitting project, though! More on that later in the week…

 

So I haven’t gotten a lot of sewing done lately. Between being super busy at the beginning of the month, then being sick, then the holiday… I am on an upswing, though, and I am almost done with one item and have three more cut out and ready to sew! But in the meantime, what do you do when you can’t sew? Plan more sewing, of course!

Above is my latest contribution to the Stash Monster. Well, when I started sewing, I saw people mentioning their “stash” on their blogs, and I thought, “Ha, I only buy fabric I intend to sew right away!  I will make fabric purchases on a project by project basis!” Well, that sense of superiority lasted about a month. I absolutely only buy fabric I intend to sew, who doesn’t? Of course, the problem lies between what I intend to sew and what I actually do sew. So was born my Stash Monster. I tend to feed it with occasional big meals, made up of destination trips to the Crazy Fabric Store, or big sales at one of the online places. This particular meal is from the wool sale at Fashion Fabrics Club a few weeks ago (man, their shipping is slow! At least this time I got tracking information, so it at least seemed faster). I recently got a SmartWool bike jersey (for half off at the local outfitters!) and I totally love it – warm when you want, cool when you want, thin but substantial – and I wanted some of that magic fabric in other parts of my wardrobe. So this is five different wool jerseys in solid colors to make dresses, tunics, maybe even leggings! And I am absolutely machine washing and drying it, despite the instructions to hand wash or dry clean – too much work for easy knit garments. I’ve washed a couple pieces of it so far and they seem okay. Shrunk a bit, and they’re a little softer, but hopefully they’ll hold up through repeated washes. The fabric on the bottom is a coating that I couldn’t resist. Yes, another coat project even though I haven’t ever made a coat! It will happen… maybe next fall. I also availed myself of some Jo Ann pattern sales recently and increased the pattern stash by maybe 10 or 12… because I’ve got to make this fabric into something, right?

In addition to overstuffing the Monster, I certainly overstuffed myself on Thursday (and Friday, leftovers!), and I hope you did too! I love Thanksgiving. It’s a holiday that’s just about eating! And drinking! How great is that? And if your turkey this year was not as good as you wanted, may I suggest the most excellent turkey recipe ever – the Emeril turkey. Beer brined, basted with Emeril’s spice mix (which he calls his “essence“… um, awkward. But so tasty!) For the gravy, we just blend up the veggies that have been under the turkey with the essencey turkey drippings and add a little beer instead of wine, and it’s the best gravy ever. Give it a try next year… or next week…

While I did make a delicious corn chowder for dinner last night (recipe here), I must say that soup is incredibly uninteresting/unappetizing to photograph (or at least it is when I try), so I thought I’d post the recipe for my most recent cocktail obsession.

When we were in Hawaii, we had a lovely dinner at 22 North, where every cocktail on the menu sounded amazing and every one we tried (which was a lot of them…) proved to be so. My favorite had only four ingredients, which I committed to memory so I could duplicate it when we got home. Muddled tangerine, gin, ginger ale and something called “orgeat”, which I assumed was a liqueur until I inquired at our local BevMo and was directed to the Torani syrups – it turns out it’s an almond flavor. The technique, as I recreated it, is to put two slices of tangerine (I can get four slices out of a mid-sized tangerine, for two drinks) in a glass and muddle them (press the heck out of with a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon or something) with a little ginger ale. Add 1-1.5 ounces of gin (the restaurant used Tanqueray so I do too) and ice, then top off with ginger ale. I do think the type of ginger ale affects the drink quite a bit, and I think it’s better suited to something lighter and sweeter than a Reed’s Ginger Beer, but gingerey-er than Schweppes. This one (at BevMo but probably elsewhere as well) is really, really good, but I’m sure there are others out there that would work too. FInally, add a little bit of the orgeat syrup (I really mean a little, like a teaspoon, otherwise the almond flavor overpowers everything else) and give it a stir. Yum. I really should give it a name, since I don’t recall what they called it at the restaurant, but the best I can come up with is “Tan-gin-ger-ale”…so I think I’ll just keep calling it “That Awesome Tangerine Ginger Ale Thing”, since that describes it best to me!

I have been stupidly tired when I’ve gotten home from work recently (we’re in tech, which means even longer than usual days), so my sewing production has basically come to a standstill. Of course, when I can’t sew, I plan, which means buying even more fabric and patterns… I’m terrible. I do hope to finish a dress for opening this weekend – it’s a “one hour” pattern, which means it will take me approximately 5 to 10 I’m-too-tired-to-understand-these-simple-instructions hours to complete (I have already ripped out one seam three times because I kept doing it wrong), but I’m hopeful!

It’s officially the end of grilling season… not because it’s too cold to cook outside, which is the reason most people can’t grill in November, but because it gets dark too early now to see what I’m grilling. While I’m always bummed out by the shortening of the days, it is great to get back to all my favorite fall cooked-inside recipes. These quesadillas were a discovery last year on the wonderful Smitten Kitchen blog – they have acorn squash sauteed with poblano peppers and onions, garlic and jalepenos, making for a delicious, hearty, slightly sweet compliment to the cheese and tortilla. The accompanying tomatillo salsa is fresh and hot and beautiful bright green (though fair warning, I was still tasting garlic for hours afterwards!). I love that all these ingredients are in season and plentiful at the farmer’s market right now, and this taste combination is so fall to me. The carrot slaw is a recipe I discovered this summer in Bon Appetit and have made it to go with all the Mexican food I grilled since – it’s delicious. Of course, I could add lime juice and cilantro to just about anything and think it’s the best thing ever… I made it with purple and orange carrots so it ended up being unintentional Halloween slaw!

Here are the links to the recipes:

Acorn Squash Quesadillas and Tomatillo Salsa and Carrot, Cilantro and Chile Slaw (and I always use about 4 times the amount of lime juice called for in the slaw.)

I was so close last night to finishing my brown skirt, but then my serger thread broke and tiredness got the best of me… I just have the hem left to do, so I hope to finish it up tonight and wear it tomorrow!

Last week a woman at work brought in a bunch of teeny tiny lemons from her tree at home.  I considered them all week, and when there were still a bunch left on Sunday night, I grabbed them. What do you do when the office gives you lemons? Make sherbert, of course.

Years ago I stumbled upon a recipe in one of my mom’s Cook’s Illustrated magazines for fruit sherbert. The main recipe was for orange, but I was more interested in the lime version, which has become my go-to frozen dessert recipe.  Then last year I had the most amazing lemon mint sherbert at a wonderful ice cream shop in Berkeley called Ici and I thought, I must recreate this at home.  I remembered that my favorite lime sherbert recipe had a lemon variation, and due to its unique way of infusing flavor into the sugar using a food processor, I thought it was just asking to have mint added to it.

I have some peppermint growing in a pot on my deck, and some spearmint (that’s what you find in stores sold as fresh mint) from the farmer’s market, so the sherbet was practically asking to be made. Like all Cook’s Illustrated recipes, it seems complicated with a lot of steps (a food processor and a mixer?), but just do what they say and it’ll be amazing. Trust me.

 

Lemon Mint Sherbert
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp granulated sugar

zest of 1 or 2 lemons

big handful of fresh mint leaves (use more than I have pictured, I didn’t put enough in for my taste)

2/3 cup lemon juice plus 1 1/2 cups of water

2 tsp triple sec or vodka (optional)

2/3 cup heavy cream

Put the sugar in the bowl of a food processor and add the zest and the mint leaves.  Process in 1-2 second bursts until the sugar looks damp and is starting to clump a little.  With the processor running, add the lemon juice/water and process until the sugar is dissolved.  Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl and add the alcohol if using (it makes the final texture of the sherbert a little smoother but isn’t necessary).  Stick the mixture in the freezer for a half hour or so, until it’s really cold but not at all frozen.

Whip the cream just until it firms up a bit and makes soft peaks, but isn’t quite whipped-cream consistency (it doesn’t take long, keep an eye on it! I always mess up this part). With the mixer on low, add the cold juice mixture to the cream in a slow, steady stream down the side of the bowl.  Then immediately dump the whole mixture into your ice cream maker and start churning.

Once it’s gotten a little past soft-serve consistency, or your machine has stopped, pack it into a freezer-safe covered bowl and freeze for a few hours.  If you can wait longer than that to eat it (I can’t!) and it’s been in the freezer a while, let it soften up at room temperature for a bit – it’s best served fairly soft.

For the lime version, substitute lime juice and zest for the lemon juice and zest, and omit the mint. Or leave it in, I haven’t tried it but I’m sure it’d be good – like a mojito! Mmmmm…

Oh yes, I did also make dinner (though the idea of just eating sherbert did cross my mind). I made these Indonesian Grilled Chicken Thighs with Mango Salsa, and served them with naan, grilled eggplant and summer squash (the last of it, I’m afraid), and a sort of raita made with Greek yogurt and a homemade Indian sweet-pickle relish. So good! Good enough, in fact, to eat it all before thinking to take pictures. Oh well. Luckily ice cream is a slow process or there would be no photographic menu documentation at all!

Ah, Monday.  I love Mondays. I suppose that’s the opposite of what most people feel, but Mondays are my day off (generally my only day off), so my week is shaped around looking forward to Monday rather than dreading it. And pretty much my favorite thing to do on a Monday is nothing. I consider the day a success if I don’t ever get in my car. Today was such a day – so you are the only ones who get to see my self-stitched item today:

Look at me actually relaxing, instead of just pretending to relax! (Well, okay, I am actually pretending to relax in this picture, but I’m authentically replicating the real relaxing I did in this very chair earlier in the day, when it was too bright out to take a good picture.)

The skirt is a gathered jersey skirt with a fold-over waistband, based on this tutorial. This was my first such skirt, made from a kind of bizarre print cotton jersey from the bolt-end bin at one of my local fabric stores. I have since made, like, 5 more of these skirts (with varying degrees of gathering), which I’m sure will show up on subsequent SSS days. Nothing is more comfortable for a busy Monday of relaxing! (And I am aware that today was Labor Day, and I should have hosted a barbecue or something, but I just wanted to stay away from it all. I’m always kind of miffed when there’s a Monday work holiday, it just means more traffic and crowds everywhere, negating the convenience of my having an unusual day off.)

The other thing I like to do on Monday is make dinner (again, this seems crazy, but it’s often my only night of the week to cook).  As I am still in summer mode, I can’t get enough of grilled veggies (summer squash and peppers), and my husband loves tacos (as a hot sauce conveyance more than anything, I think), so I was thrilled to discover this grilled veggie taco recipe from Dana Treat. I was pretty loosey-goosey with it, though – I just grilled the veggies right on the grill grate (sacrificing two slices of pepper through the grate due to poor flipping, as usually happens), then cubed them and tossed them with salt and pepper; grilled the cubed potatoes in one of those perforated grill baskets, then tossed them with the chipotle pepper/sauce; sliced some avocado, made a quick pico de gallo, and crumbled up some cojita cheese to go on top. They seem like they’d be plain, but they’re actually really flavorful and super filling. I’ll also whole-heartedly endorse the new corn-and-wheat tortillas from Trader Joe’s – the best of both (taco) worlds!

And I clearly need to try tilting the camera the other direction next time I photograph a plate.