Wednesday, December 31, 2008


As I'm wrapping up my last day at home, and the final day of the year, I find myself reflecting on some great old family photographs that were brought out for the reunion we held a couple weeks ago. I look at these images of my grandmother and feel so inspired--not only by the strong go-getter of a woman she was, but also by her consistently stylish appearance. Knowing that she made many of her outfits--and her children's--by hand, makes me want to continue to hone my sewing techniques, and especially inspires me to keep trying to tackle vintage sewing patterns.

She looked so great in all of these high waisted shorts and skirts, and how adorable is that swimsuit above? I also love the little black and white dress worn my my little mom in the first picture. I think that would still look adorable in an adult-sized version.

Well, I meant to wrap these thoughts into a post about new year's resolutions, but I seem to have become a bit side tracked! While I don't have any resolutions per se, I would like to reach some new creative goals this year--all of which I will share with you in due time. This year, I also look forward to following my grandma's example above, and graduating with my master's degree this coming August.

I wish you all the best for the new year. Thanks so much for all of your warm feedback in 2008--your kindness really goes a long way.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dreaming of [a] home

I like to daydream that I own a house and that I have impeccable decorating sense. My latest dream is to make a thick shag rug from recycled t-shirt strips similar to the amazing ones by talkingsquid. How fantastic does that look on the wooden floor? There is a tutorial on the Craftzine blog. As near as I can tell, all you need is a large enough piece of mesh rug canvas, some cut up t-shirt strips, and a latch hook.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Making macarons

Making homemade French macarons is not as hard as you might think! I tried to make these a few years ago without much success. I hadn't realized at the time that the secret to a perfect, delicate macaron is using only the finest, most perfectly ground almonds and sugar. This year, when invited to a holiday cookie exchange, I figured was the perfect chance to try a challenging recipe. I couldn't decide between a standard flavor, or a more exotic flavor combination, so I decided to make two: chocolate macarons with bittersweet chocolate ganache, and cardamom macarons with white chocolate orange blossom ganache. I searched the internet for some good recipes, and started out by preparing the dry ingredients in advance. My local health food store sells almond meal made by Bob's Red Mill. It's a bit pricey, but adds some wonderful flavor to baked goods. I didn't think the meal was fine enough for macarons on its own, so I put it through a food processor with powdered sugar, and then sifted the mixture. I was able to prepare the dry ingredients a few days in advance, then put them in a ziplock bag to bring with me to Chicago for the holidays.

Once home, making the macarons was actually quite simple: beat egg whites and sugar til stiff, fold in dry ingredients, pipe small rounds, bake 12 minutes, make ganache and sandwich cookies. Not bad at all!

For the double chocolate macaron batter I followed the recipe from David Lebovitz's blog. Then used the ganache recipe from Serious Eats. Please note, you don't need very much ganache at all--I went overboard then cursed myself for wasting so much perfectly good chocolate! As you can see above, the chocolate macarons came out beautifully--check out their perfect feet! They were light, chewy, the perfect shape, and everyone was impressed.

For my signature cardamom and orange blossom macarons, I altered the same recipes with inspiration from Foodbeam's Rose Macarons and La Tartine Gourmand's Cardamom Macarons. Unfortunately, I think I was a bit too experimental, and would have benefited from following a tested recipe. The cardamom meringue didn't bake properly--the shells were empty, and the foot was too thick, browned, and sugary. They had a nice flavor, but just weren't quite right. I'd really love to perfect this recipe--and try out other macaron recipes--these are just such a special treat, and completely worth a little extra effort.

Filled, sandwiched and ready to eat!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Vintage Pattern Thursday

For those of you celebrating Christmas, I hope you're having a wonderful time with your loved ones. For all the rest--my best wishes for the New Year. Just a quick update to show you another great vintage knitting pattern. This one is a fantastic pattern book from 1942. I love the tailored look of these outfits--I think they would be flattering on many shapes. I particularly adore that long jacket! How fancy would you feel wearing that--perhaps in a dark, muted evergreen color. The patterns above are from Fleishers #69 from 1942.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

More quilt talk

I'm still quilt scheming. Now that I've chosen a pattern, and come up with some general color ideas, now it's time to find the fabric. I'd like to stick with solids, but would like to throw in a few solids that have a very subtle pattern--like tonal stripes, or maybe a solid with different colored warps and wefts to give extra color depth. I'm fairly sure that I won't find much I like at the local box fabric stores, so I'm looking online. It's so hard to compare colors and really understand what you'll be getting. Just now I came up with a little helpful trick to compare colors from online fabrics. If you have a Mac, you probably have a great little application called Grab (I think there is something similar on PCs as well). This allows you to take a screen shot to save as a TIFF or JPEG, and you can also use it to capture a selection or window. I use this frequently when I want to remember a particular image for later inspiration. Today I used Grab to capture a selection of each fabric I was considering so that I could move them around and compare them to see how they might look in person.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Vintage Pattern Thursday

I've been working on a lot of secret projects lately that I can't show on the blog for one reason or another quite yet. As a result, I find that this is slowly becoming a food blog--which is fine--but I'd hate to completely let the crafty part of it go. I was thinking this morning of trying to add a regular feature that would show where I find some of my inspiration. I absolutely adore vintage clothing and patterns. I do own quite a few, but lately have been amassing more of a virtual collection of images. Sometimes I love the color, or maybe the styling, or a small detail. I like to look back on these images to draw inspiration when thinking of new things to create. So, welcome to Vintage Pattern Thursday. I'll be sure to post links to where I find them--although I don't have the time to knit them all, perhaps one of you will fall in love with a pattern and knit it up for all to see!

I found the above image here, and was instantly drawn to the cinched, belted waist and those fantastic arrows. It is from the Vogue Knitting Book, 10th Edition from 1948. I doubt I could ever be so color coordinated, nor have I yet been able to pull off the belt-over-sweater look, but I sure would like to master this look.

This one is my favorite image of late--I think she looks so graceful and elegant, yet entirely comfortable. I love the drape of the sleeves, and how they are nicely fitted below the elbow--I wonder how fine a gauge one would need to get a material like that--I'd bet this was worked on 0 or 1 sized needles. Again, I adore that red/coral colored belt (and could easily see me working this color combination into a knit at some point) and the plaid skirt is fantastic! I have my doubts about handknit skirts, but this is perfection. Found here, from Vogue Knitting Book, 11th edition, 1948.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Colors and quilts

I'm on the quilt scheming phase again, and just picked up Denyse Schmidt's lovely Quilts book to help me along. I must admit, as much as I enjoy reading and finding inspiration in books, I'm often reluctant to actually purchase them--too often I feel weighed down by my possessions, and therefore try my best not to add to them unnecessarily. That being said, Denyse's book has some really great quilt designs that are exactly what I was looking for, and just what I need to give me a push in the right direction. I'd recommend checking this book out if you're into more contemporary quilts, and don't know quite how to start.

As I'm planning my theoretical first quilt, I'm trying to decide what colors to choose. I did a little googling to see if there was a good website that would let me play with colors to choose a palette. I found one, and though it's a bit annoying with all the ads, it worked pretty well for me. Click here to see the color palette I'm currently thinking about, inspired by this absolutely gorgeous quilt-in-progress on flickr. square one studio's quilt kind of breaks my heart, I love it so much. But alas, I'll just have to settle for the picture.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Whip up (a great online craft community) listed the Shalom Cardigan as one of 'the best free knitting patterns on the web." My sincere thanks! Click on the link above to see the rest of their favorites--I'm a fan of many of them!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Citrus invasion

I am swimming in citrus fruits today. I excitedly bought my first box of clementines for this season (by far my favorite variety of orange), then before I knew it my lovely neighbor brought over a bunch of tangerines from her yarn (above) and my orange tree is nearly ripe. Having come from the cold midwest, I'm not used to this kind of bounty in winter!

I don't trust myself to eat all of the fruit before it spoils, so I figured that I should come up with a bunch of great citrus recipes to help things along. Last night I made some orange pecan waffles (I also have a nut surplus in my cabinets) and froze them. I'm still working on finding the perfect waffle recipe. This one worked out alright, but was perhaps a bit too runny and not fluffy enough. Still, very nice and will be great for easy breakfasts.

Next up, this morning I made friands with a bit of the tangerine zest, and gave a few to my neighbor in thanks for the fruit. One of my friends once told me that her mother never returns tupperware to friends empty--she always adds a nice little treat. I think this is a fantastic idea, so I thought I would return my neighbor's basket with a homemade goody made with her fruit. I hadn't heard of friands until I lived in Australia this past summer. These are great little cupcake-like creations made primarily with ground almonds. They should be oval in shape, but I only had muffin tins handy. It's a very nice, easy recipe that marzipan lovers will enjoy.

Finally, I made this Cous Cous Salad with tangerines, raisins, almonds, and a savory yogurt dressing. I left out the shrimp to make it vegetarian, and halved the recipe, since it's serving size is 24!! This was also very simple, and has a nice flavor combination. Quite like Indian Upma--of which I am a big fan.

As you might guess, I still have dozens of oranges, tangerines, clementines, lemons, and limes. If you have any great recipes to share, I would love to see them! I'm hoping that my orange tree will be good for juicing, but the early ones I tried had a slight bitter flavor--which might be ok--I'm planning to give it another try soon.