Friday, July 30, 2010

Happy Weekend!


We'll be giving our felicitations to a good friend as he gets married to the girl of his dreams this weekend. This is the first of five (five!) weddings we'll be attending this summer. Party dresses and patent leather shoes being modeled by a certain 7 month old will make an appearance too. Photos to follow.

Meanwhile enjoy all this summery goodness while it's here!

Deeper down the crafting rabbit hole...

So, I think I have a new addiction. Sewing.

(Why can I hear Christopher Walken in my head saying, "I've got a fever... And the only prescription... is more cowbell."?!)

Here are a few things I've been up to recently

Elisa loved a certain Etsy shop, so I decided to try my own hand at the same idea for her birthday gift. The two below are from Tuuni's collection.


tuuni

And here are the results of my attempt (I made two identical pillows from organic cotton and vintage lace):




When a friend of ours had a baby shower last weekend, I determined to make something myself. Of course, Jenny served as my main inspiration, since she's always coming up with (and generously giving away) beautiful hand-crafted items. She made us a soft, snuggly carseat blanket with little owls all over it that has become Avonlea's most-used blanket. I decided to use some of the vintage-print fabric I purchased a few weeks ago at Pacific Fabrics to make the same thing. I also found a softer-than-soft pre-quilted fuzzy fabric for the backing. What do you think?


Next, I'm in the midst of making some sucking pads for the straps of our Ergo baby carrier. Avonlea sucks on the straps themselves, so the idea is to snap on something removable so it can be thrown in the wash. Ergo sells a terrycloth version, but when I saw some jersey an cotton designer pads in a baby store, I knew I had to make my own.



I'm using white jersey for backing and the same vintage-print fabric from the carseat blanket for the front. I'm also having fun using my zig-zag stitch to add some color. The velcro I first tried didn't work out so well and I had to remove it. Any sewers out there that can recommend a strong velcro to use?

That's all for now, but more projects are percolating in my little brain. Deeper down I go.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Macrina's Tuxedo Cake (or, how to glut oneself)


So, Leslie Mackie's cakes are kind of elaborate. I've made two before from the Macrina Bakery and Cafe Cookbook: the almond cake with marscapone cream and blackberries (but I used nectarines and strawberries), and the lemon butter cake with fresh strawberries and lemon cream. They both involved at least three layers, a flavored syrup brushed into the cake base, a fruit filling, and a flavored whipped cream frosting. With at least four different components to the confection, it's a lot more than just some cake and some frosting.

My friend Elisa recently had a birthday, AND recently came into a copy of the aforesaid cook book--a perfect excuse for a cake making party! Little did I know that Mackie's tendency for elaboration really meets its fullness in the cake Elisa wanted to try: the Tuxedo Cake. I'm sure it's named that for its layers of dark chocolate ganache contrasted with white chocolate cream cheese frosting. That's right. Dark chocolate, white chocolate, and cream cheese. And that's just an abbreviated summary. Oh yes, there's more!


This cake has:
1. A chocolate cake base (which I cooke
d on my own the day before to give it time to cool).
2. A vanilla syrup to be brushed into the already sticky moist cake layers (four cake layers, to be exact).
3. The dark chocolate ganache, made from heavy whipping cream and two kinds of chocolate. This goes after the first and third layer.
4. Vanilla whipped cream. This goes in the center with...
5. Raspberries.
and 6. White chocolate frosting, made from butter, cream cheese, melted white chocolate, and lemon juice.



I mean, seriously?

!

Elisa came over this afternoon and we proceeded to make all the remaining elements, since the cake base was already done. Stephanie arrived just as we were finishing (we paused for an Italian peasant soup dinner, a family recipe) and then we assembled the cake. Four layers of decadence, a hot day, and thickly laid chocolate made for an oozing statue that I admit I had some doubts about. Elisa applied the "crumb layer" of frosting while I put the baby to bed and we let the whole thing cool in the fridge before applying the rest of the frosting and raspberries.

immortalizing our handiwork

May I just say, when we finally cut a slice for ourselves and lifted a forkful to our long-suffering mouths, it was a moment of transcendence. Sour/ sweet cream cheese frosting, bitter ganache, soft whipped cream, moist crumbly cake, and the zinging tart fruit of raspberries. People. This is it.

But, I gotta say, this is the most elaborate, over-the-top baked good I have ever attempted in my life. Why anyone would want to make a living baking cakes like this is beyond me. The time! The labor! And, I couldn't even finish the small slice on plate for the richness of the thing. Before the night was over, I was groaning with discomfort at my over-taxed tummy (and not alone). Wow.

It could make a girl giddy.

The birthday girl wound up with half the cake to take home. Thankfully her husband is training for the ironman and burns like 3000 calories per work-out.

This is a cake for annuls of history. A cake to die with. That is, if it doesn't kill you first.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Feeling ambitious... Overly ambitious?

I could use a little advice for a project I have cooking up and I need to make a decision this week about it.

So the thing is, I really want new couches. I'm so grateful for the pair I have (hand-me-downs when Matt and I first got married) but as the years have passed, I am more and more antsy to have something more my own style. But couches are expensive and so we've held onto the ones we have, which are still in great condition.

The more I've gotten into sewing, though, the more I've started eying those couches in a new light. First it started with this design*sponge article about how to install your own piping on pillows. I thought, Hey, I could recover all the pillows and cushions on our couches! But the more I look at it, I'm beginning to wonder if I could recover the whole thing if I had Matt's staple gun and maybe a glue gun.

Then there were these Before and Afters on d*s that really had me falling in love with slate gray and white piping with colorful accent throw pillows:

Kate's Couch


Beth's sofa:




So, here's my couch. It has a sister, a loveseat with just two bottom cushions. Lots of pillow possibilities, don't you think?


And here's a swatch of gray duck canvas that I can get for just 4.79 a yard during JoAnn's big coupon sale this week.


But here's what I want to know. Is it too ambitious to recover the entire couch? Should I just do the cushions? Should I sell the couches and get a used couch off of craigslist to recover? What would you do? (And, Rebekah Gough, if you're reading this, I know you took an upholstery class, so I would LOVE your feedback).

Thanks for your help! Can't wait to hear what you think would work.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Wednesday Morning

Good Morning! It's glorious in Seattle--sunny and slated to be in the upper 80s by the end of the day. After all that holiday weekend gloom and drizzle, this comes as a welcome change. And here I am again with my cup of decaf drip (still good, though I do miss lattes) and plenty to share.

First off, my sewing projects continue as I've added these adorable ruffle bums to my repertoire. My original inspiration for the dresses served the same purpose for these complementary under-roos. I found a simple pattern and added ruffles. I find myself squealing with delight over their cuteness--something I don't often do.


I plan to make another pair to complement the other dress I made. Will definitely share results when I have them.

Saturday Matt and I had an afternoon to ourselves for the first time since Valentines Day (where does the time go?!) and we had a wonderful time: breakfast at Portage Bay, exploring our local chocolate factory Theo Chocolates (the only organic, fair-trade bean-to-bar chocolate factory in the US!), stopping by the English Pub, George and the Dragon, to catch a few minutes of the Paraguay vs. Spain game, and a stop into the local fabric store for some eye candy.

But the best part of our day came unexpectedly. We wanted to catch a flick (something very difficult to do in the theater with a squirmy little one), so we decided to swing by the three dollar theater near our house and see an animated film entitled The Secret of Kells. We had heard it had gotten good reviews, but we were totally blown away by this short (1:15) feature film with its stunning and intricately worked visuals, haunting music, and thought-provoking themes.

The Secret of Kells follows a young boy, Brenden, living at the medeival monastery of Kells in Ireland during the times of the Viking invasions. Over the course of the film, he learns the art of illuminated manuscript making from a legendary illuminator named Brother Aiden, befriends the fairy wolfgirl Aisling in the forest beyond the abbey walls, and struggles with his uncle, the Abbot of Kells, whose obsession with fortifying the abbey walls to protect from the invading Northmen comes in direct conflict with Brenden's pursuit of scholarship and art.



This film is as much about the power of art to rescue the world from darkness as it is its own playful and masterful excursion into creativity. Irish legends and Irish-inspired original music compositions form an enchanting backdrop.

Little did we know that this film has won scores of awards, and was nominated this year for the Academy Award for Animated Feature; as much as I adored "Up," I can't believe this didn't win. Go see it while you can! It will be out on DVD in the fall. I have it saved in my Netflix queue. You can watch the trailer here.

Last of all, my friend Tiffany introduced me to this wonderful craft and domesticity blogger, Soulemama. She has a large, lovely family bedecked in hand-knitted and hand-sewn garments, enjoying an idyllic (and beautifully photographed) life in Maine. Ironically, her "Around Town" series features places like Knitwit and Z Fabrics--just around the corner from my old office in Portland, Maine. Little spots of sunshine for me in an otherwise grey, cold, snow-enveloped season of my life.

SO glad today doesn't fall into that category--literally or figuratively. Enjoy the sunshine. Tomorrow you can find me at Edmonds beach, basking.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Curried Lentils and Brown Rice Salad

I just made the most delicious salad and I have to share.

Well, being on this cleanse and weight loss campaign has lots of temporary limitations. I have to say, necessity truly is the mother of invention. I picked up a delicious curried quinoa and lentil salad from PCC last week and decided to do my own take on it. It was a lot of improv using brown rice, pre-cooked beluga lentils from Trader Joes, golden raisins, and lots of fresh veg from my produce box this week. I'm so pleased with how it turned out!

Here's how I did it:

I sauteed 1 cup of brown rice in olive oil with 2 minced garlic cloves, 2 1/2 tsp. curry powder, 1 1/2 tsp. ginger powder, and a pinch of salt for 2-3 minutes. Then I added 2 cups of water and the juice from 1/2 a lemon, brought to a boil, then reduced heat and simmered for 40 minutes or until rice is cooked. (Coconut milk would make a lovely substitute for the water--I'll be trying that next time).

Meanwhile, I took a head of escarole (spinach, kale, chard or other braising greens would be a fine substitue), chopped roughly, and sauteed with olive oil and salt until wilting and tender.

I finely sliced 3 small carrots, the greens of 3 scallions, and chopped a tablespoon of fresh parsley (cilantro would be even better). I also cut the tips off of 1/2 pound of snap peas and halved them. I put these all in a bowl along with the cooked escarole, an 8 oz. bag (1 1/4 cups) of cooked beluga lentils, and 1/2 cup (maybe more?) of golden raisins.

When the rice was done, I tossed to combine. That's it.

I'm telling you, people, this has been one of my more brilliant moments in the kitchen. But that might just be my sweets and meats deprived self talking--the raisins are seriously doing it for me and I'm told brown rice and lentils make a whole protein when combined. Whatever the case may be, with this in my fridge, I'm definitely going to be able to stick to my plan and feel happy doing it.