Sunday, November 29, 2009

Botanical garden

I spent the afternoon at the Desert Botanical Gardens today. It was a really lovely day in the mid-60s, with some intense sun. Visiting gardens always makes me wish that I had a garden of my own. I came away with a lot of inspiration.

They had a whole herb garden that I was particularly interested in. So many chile varieties, and more rosemary that I had ever seen.

But I would say that the Monarch butterfly house was the highlight of the visit. Because it was a slightly chilly day, the butterflies were all lazily sunning themselves.

They decorated the trees like beautiful flowers, or perhaps Christmas ornaments.

CSA Love: Week 5 Recipe Recap

This week's haul:
Spring mix
Acorn squash
Roasted chiles
Swiss chard

With the Thanksgiving holiday, and some general busy-ness, I managed to do a terrible job of documenting this week's recipes. I made a salad and some kale and pesto bread to bring to a work potluck. The bread was made in the same manner as last week's kale-parmesan bread. The turnips were sliced with some potatoes to make a mediocre gratin (silly me thought I could sub milk for cream...). But the saddest thing of all is that I don't have a photo of one of the best recipes yet: curried red lentil and swiss chard stew with chickpeas. It was amazingly good--even if you can't stand greens--seriously! I guess I was too hungry to photograph that day?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Great vintage shapes

I was thinking about bringing back Vintage Pattern Thursday, since I'm sure that many of you love finding inspiration in vintage patterns as much as I do. It isn't Thursday today, but I had a little time and found some vintage patterns with really great details.

Vogue 5175 from the 1940s
It may be completely the wrong season, but I think the shape of this sun dress is so classic and would be really stylish these days.

McCalls pattern from 1944
The gathering on the bodice of this dress is so cool--it must look like soft armor when made up.

Modes de Paris pattern from the 1960s
This pattern looks like a marriage between two dresses, but it somehow works for me. I do kind of what to iron the seam at the center front though...

Monday, November 23, 2009

CSA Love: Week 4 Recipe Recap

This week from my CSA:
Green acorn squash
Roasted chiles
Two varieties of bok choy

Zucchini Soup
The zucchini was really large, and therefore no longer great for stir fry. It did make a nice soup though, with onions, lemon, cheese, and various odds and ends I had on hand.

Kale chips!
I had heard these were pretty good, and thought they might help me get over my lack of enthusiasm for greens. Indeed they were great--they may look like the leaves you need to sweep off your porch, but they taste like thin, delicate potato chips.

Stir fried bok choy with brown rice
This was loaded with fresh ginger and garlic, and I ate it with soy sauce and Sri Ratcha. Very good! I made it several times over with the two types of bok choy I received.

Beet green and potato puree and beet carpaccio
This may look like a very strange meal, but I assure you it was excellent. Pureeing the cooked beet greens and adding them to mashed potatoes is an excellent way to enjoy the nutrients of the greens if you don't enjoy them on their own. The overall flavor is definitely that of mashed potatoes. The beet carpaccio was really good--most especially for the caramelized onion marmalade. It was to die for.

Kale and parmesan bread
I used the amazing no-knead boule dough recipe from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, and followed the recipe on their blog to make this bread. I'm not a huge fan of cheese breads, but the folks at my work went crazy for this. LQ accused me of playing 'hide the kale,' and I most certainly admit that I'm enjoying this game.

Caramelized onion bread
Using the same boule dough mentioned above, and the caramelized onions from the carpaccio, I came up with this creation. It was really good. I didn't share. I will make it again.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cultural connections

Last weekend I went to a couple cultural events in Arizona. Although I've certainly enjoyed festivals and such in other places--here, for some reason, it often seems a little more special. I guess I can really feel how the people and traditions are connected to the location.

I happen to live very close to an Indian Reservation, and since I moved here, I had been very curious to learn more about it. While driving home, I saw a banner inviting the public to a Pow Wow--and so I made sure to attend. The event was the Red Mountain Eagle Pow Wow. There were about 75 dancers and numerous drum groups competing. The dancers all had amazing outfits, and I loved the fact that their ages ranged from the little kids to grandparents. Some of the most impressive dancers were teenage boys--and I was so happy to see that there were so many young people interested in traditional dance and music.

I then headed to Tucson to see the All Souls Procession. This was my first time at this event, and I have to honestly say that it was the most impressive city event I have been to anywhere. The procession celebrates the Day of the Dead--participants celebrate the lives of lost loved ones. One of the greatest things about the event was that it was very inclusive. The crowd ranged from hipster artist-types, to other diverse members of the community. Most everyone had masks, or painted their faces to resemble beautiful skulls. There was a really positive, energetic feeling to the evening.

After several hours of the procession, the crowd made its way downtown for the finale. Flam Chen, a local Tucson pyrotechnic theater troupe, put on an amazing spectacle. There were women on stilts in bug costumes with flaming staffs, a band of skull-faced bagpipers, and most impressive of all, was a six-story crane from which ten people were suspended like a mobile.

They released a giant, glowing bag of balloons into the crowd below, then juggled fire as they spun around high in the air. I'm doing a terrible job of explaining how amazing this all was to see. In the end, a large sphere was attached to the crane that contained messages to lost loved ones. The sphere was lit on fire to send all the messages to another world.

Despite being tired and having a long drive home, we had an amazing, inspiring time. I'd encourage you all to attend in the coming years--if you have any friends in Tucson, be sure to visit them in early November!

Dinner party dress

I had a more successful sewing experience this weekend. I made up McCalls 5701 in a stretch sateen bottom weight cotton fabric that I picked up on sale at Joann fabric. It's a really lovely deep eggplant color.
This is a pullover dress that is purposely very boxy and voluminous. It certainly isn't figure-flattering, but I do think it has a nice contemporary feeling to it. I wouldn't wear this dress if I were trying to make a great first impression, but I would wear it to a dinner party with good friends. It would be really comfortable to hang out in for an evening, and has just enough attitude to make it a little special.

I love anything with pockets.
(click on any image to enlarge)

The pleats on the reverse give the dress even more volume. I still go back and forth as to whether or not I like this detail.

Vintage goods seeking new home

In my recent pattern and fabric cull, I found a couple of vintage items that I would like to find a new home for. If you are interested in either item, please send me an email: [megp47 at yahoo dot com].

McCalls 8979 from 1952
Size 18 (bust 36)
I love this pattern, but when I worked up the bodice in a muslin, even with adjustments for fit, I realized that this would just work better for someone more voluptuous than myself. The pattern is cut and all pieces are present. The envelope is torn around the edges, but overall the pattern is in good vintage condition. Click on the image to enlarge.
Asking: $5, including shipping to the US.

5 yards vintage fabric.
I also still love this fabric, but I've had it for a few years, and still haven't figured out what to make with it. It is some sort of synthetic, but does not seem to unravel very much, and is pretty dimensionally stable--so I don't think it would be too hard to work with. The turquoise-blue is slightly brighter in person, so that it really pops nicely. The design has always reminded me of drafting rulers (you know, like the ones I imagine architects use?)
5 yards, 44" wide.
Asking: $10, including shipping to the US (that's just $2 a yard!)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A bit of crafting

Although I don't have much to show for it on the blog lately, I actually have been spending a fair amount of time on creative projects. Perhaps not as much as I would like--between my return to the working world, and my frequent weekend trips out of town--but I'm still plugging away.

I've been knitting a placket neck pullover from a 1950s pattern, that just so happens to match my couch. Never mind putting away my knitting, I've now trained it to camouflage into its surroundings.

I've also been sewing. Having unpacked my fabric stash, I'm a bit unhappy with how large it has become--the same goes with my pattern stash. So I'm weeding things out, and have come up with a plan to sew through several things in the upcoming months. I tried out the following two patterns this week, but both ended up as failures-- for the time being.

I started to make this Cynthia Rowley top out of some gingham I bought for super cheap in Thailand. When I bought it, I was pretty sure it was 100% cotton, but now that I looked at it again, it was clearly a synthetic blend--probably like the poly/cotton gingham they sell at Joann. I'm terrible at working with synthetics at this point (and knits, too, for that matter). I just don't have the skill or patience to deal with things that unravel or change shape. So, this top didn't work out this time, but I still plan on making it again in a natural fiber.

I then finally broke out the famous 'walkaway' Butterick dress. I had 5+ yards of uninspiring quilting fabric that I bought for about a $1 at an estate sale. I remembered that I don't like Butterick since they don't print any of the finished garment measurements on the package. And, because of the unique construction of this dress, I found it difficult to determine exactly how I could cut/alter it to get the best fit. After making up most of the dress (which was super easy), I determined that I wasn't going to get a great fit without a lot of tinkering, and quickly decided that I wasn't excited enough about the dress or the fabric to continue.

While it might sound disappointing, this is all progress! I was able to say goodbye to two stash fabrics, and one pattern. On to the next!

CSA Love: Week 3 Recipe Recap

This week was a great week for my CSA:
Pecans (! Now if only I had a nut cracker...)
I'itoi's onions
Green tomatoes
Acorn squash (so pretty!)
Roasted green chiles (frozen for later)
Cantaloupe (unfortunately already over-ripe)

Pasta with i'itoi's onion sauce
I followed this recipe meant for scallions. It's a great way to use up a lot of green onions, and turned out well--though I much prefer pesto. I think this is a great idea to play around with.

Roasted acorn squash salad
With toasted almonds, balsamic vinegar, and some roasted turnips tossed in since I didn't have enough to cook on their own.

Roasted acorn squash with maple glaze and almonds
This was freaking amazing. It has just a hint of real maple syrup, rosemary (from my porch garden), garlic, butter, and almonds. It's the perfect mix of sweet, savory, soft and crunchy. I'll definitely make this again with other sorts of winter squash.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Blue dress, again

I had enough of the blue cotton fabric to make a second dress. But this time I carefully followed along with an invisible zipper tutorial to make sure I was doing it right! The extra time and effort paid off, and I have a much more professional looking dress this time around. Next time I'm going to work on adding even more length to the bodice. The 5/8" extra I added this time was definitely not enough.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

CSA Love: Week 2 Recipe Recap

This week's CSA haul:
Spaghetti squash
Green tomatoes
Anaheim chiles
Swiss chard

I feel like I didn't do quite as well with my recipes this week--in part because I had a few more new (to me) veggies, but also because I was sick for a few days, and out of town for the weekend... But still, not too shabby!

Green tomatoes are really pretty.

And quite tasty when fried and stacked up with layers of homemade pesto.

Denver-style chile rellenos
Last time I was in Denver, my Aunt and Uncle made some fantastic homemade chile rellenos. Only they weren't the kind I had seen before. They wrapped theirs in egg roll wrappers instead of batter--and they were great! Perhaps not traditional anywhere but Denver, but they sure are easy to make and very tasty.

Swiss chard and onion quichelettes
Definitely the best of the swiss chard usage to date! I keep making things in muffin tins and freezing them for later (they're easier to thaw in portion sizes that way). I feel a bit like an astronaut eating all these complete meals with the same shape.

Crispy bhindi kurkure
Indian-style fried okra. This was pretty good, but would have been much better if I had a whole spread of Indian food to accompany it.

Spaghetti squash with Moroccan spices
My first spaghetti squash! At first I wasn't too sure about it, but it has grown on me. I added way more spices, some cinnamon, toasted almonds, caramelized onions, and raisins. Not bad!