Monthly Archives: September 2009

Nesting

This is such a good word for what it describes. Nothing else really comes close. “Decorating,” “unpacking,” even “settling In” just don’t have the same connotation. And these past two weeks, I’ve been all about nesting. My latest nine-patch thus has a fall weather-nesty look (or, it’s meant to):

031

Now where do I begin? As I’ve already confessed, I’m not exactly a travel-light kind of girl. I might even be a bit high maintenance. Certainly, when it comes to feeling at home, I need to surround myself with lots (and lots) of color, pattern, fabric, good food, and more. Of course, the first step to making myself at home in my new apartment was unpacking and dispersing throughout every room all those lovely fabric things I’d made this past summer; my patchwork pillows, tablecloth, rag baskets, and a few older projects like my Log Cabin with a Twist Quilt. Instant hominess right there:

021

Finally, the patchwork tablecloth put to good use!

025

Some  old pillows and my grandmother’s quilt on my new futton.

026

007

Turns out the rag baskets are perfect for holding fruits and veggies.

027

But it didn’t take me long to pick up on what was missing. First of all, how can one have wooden kitchen chairs without cushions? Crisis. Fortunately, I was able to make the most of some scraps in my stash and it only took me a few evening sewing sessions (made somewhat longer but my first couple failed attempts) to come up with these:

020

I discovered that seat cushions need a lot of stuffing, and since I’m not exactly rolling in dough, some of these might still be a little short. It was great to use up only left-over fabrics, and some fabric-covered buttons that had been lying around in my stash for far too long. I love the mismatched variety of them all, and they go rather nicely with the tablecloth. Some of the fabrics may even be the same, but it’s not too matchy.

Another glaringly missing item? A plastic bag holder! I realize this doesn’t sound all that essential (and, for the record, I do indeed believe in reusable bags as much as possible) but those little plastic produce bags build up quickly. They’re too handy to throw away but look pretty ugly just hanging on the closet door handle. This was another quick-and-easy sewing project:

022

My next sewing endeavor was rather ambitious, and about 92% successful. Curtains. You see, I had no idea how to approach this. I didn’t really know how curtains work, or what a curtain rod is, etc. The friendly guy at Home Depot was just about as clueless as I was, so this was a learn-as-you-go process. I bought a $15 rod, measured the window space (about 68” by 90”) and set to it. Thankfully, I had a $50 giftcard to this place called Sewfisticated fabric (Sewfisticated.com) I’d been meaning to go forever, but had been prevented by my appalling sense of direction. My diminishing bank account and curtain-determination were the necessary motivation to finally find my way (though I still got lost and had to pull into a nearby car dealership to get directions) and let me tell you, this place is over-the-top wonderful. What a crazy, eclectic, inexpensive variety of fabric! And it’s only five minutes away; that’s both good and bad news for my future stash-supplying impulses. Anyway, I managed to find $1.99-a-yard curtain fabric and bought it all. Since I wasn’t looking to spend my entire weekend making these babies, I decided I’d go the fusible route (which I’ve never really done before in this way) and fused a bunch of differently-sized squares from fabric scraps onto the curtains. I went for mainly blue fabrics from my stash, to go with the red-and-blue living room furniture. What I didn’t anticipate was the fact that hanging a curtain rod would be REALLY difficult. Thank God my handy older sister stopped by for lunch; I put the poor thing to work and between the two of us, the curtain rod was installed. They’re now hanging beautifully in my living room, complementing the red-and-blue furniture beautifully:

030

That darn 8%? They’re a few inches too short. Not a crisis; just something to keep in mind for the next time (oh yes, there will be a next time; we have three other curtainless windows in the apartment that are calling my name).

So, not a shabby amount of sewing for what’s only my second real weekend in the place. I do believe my productivity may be because, for the very first time, I have my own studio!

017

018

It’s like having a little room of heaven. I’m hardly done setting it all up, but I’m well on my way. There’s all the essentials; my fabric, thread, sewing machine, etc. Slowly, I’m also filling it up with those little touches that infuse a space with inspiration; the gorgeous antique Log Cabin my mother bought me, a bulletin board covered in random, colorful images (including those glorious free paint sample color cards at Home Depot), a fabric skirt around the edge of my sewing table. But, didn’t you notice, no curtains… not yet.

While it’s tempting to spend all of my time in this one room, that wouldn’t be very sociable…or healthy. And a homey space (not to mention the people who live there) needs food as much as fabric. So, of course, I’ve been up to my usual cooking adventures. I have to say, I did break out of the mold to make cheeseburgers and sweet potato fries for a group of friends on Saturday night, but when it comes to feeding myself, I’ve been sticking with the favorites (and their copious leftovers).

This week’s pasta; the Pearfect Date, round 2. Though experimenting is fun, so is returning to those dishes that you know you love. My mom also supplied me with a bag of fresh pears and apples that I couldn’t let go to waste. So once again; pears, prosciutto, feta, dates, caramelized onions, but this time slivered almonds instead of ground macadamia (mainly because I couldn’t find these, but it turns out I liked the crunch of the almonds):

003

006

I also discovered that there’s no such thing as a carb overload, and this pasta goes very well with my latest bread: pumpernickel. I was feeling a tad lost in my bread-baking career, unsure of what I should try next, when someone at work printed out a pumpernickel recipe! Whoever they were, they inspired me, so I went into an old bread book that my mother gave me during the moving-out process:

Pumpernickel Bread

This is not the most attractive bread I’ve ever made (for some reason, it came out all knobby and bumpy) but it is really, really good—and odd; it calls for instant coffee grind and molasses! I did the kneading by machine for the first time, so it was pretty painless, and I’m liking this morning bread-baking thing because, once again, I had a fresh-bread sandwich for lunch.

002

But no week is complete without a foolish experiment. This one is perfect for fall: caramel-apple. The apples were from the fresh fruit my mother gave me; I decided not to puree them, but to chop them into cubes so I’d still get that nice crunchy apple bite. I even left the skin on because, in my opinion, that’s where so much of the tangy flavor resides. I warmed them up with caramel and cinnamon and it turned out just right:

Caramel Apple Fool

But that’s not all! In addition to my typical sewing and culinary adventures, I’ve been partaking a bit in the non-fiber-art side of things to do some furniture painting. First of all, there’s the dresser whose knobs I painted before the move:

032

I also inherited this lovely bookshelf, but wasn’t terribly fond of the subdued, dainty vine pattern that was painted on it. I like my colors bold! So, over a couple of evening glasses of wine and a mid-day chat with my sister, I polka-dotted away:

019

Quite a nice backdrop to my boyfriend’s old government textbooks from college. I also inherited an all-white bookcase that simply couldn’t stay that way:

023

Phew, I think that might be it… at least, that’s all I’m going to admit to right now. I realize it looks like a lot of work, all this nesting business, but I couldn’t be enjoying it more. I mean, why do I love everything even remotely related to patchwork and quilts in the first place? Because of that comforting, beautiful aesthetic that makes you feel so at home.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

When Less is More

During times of transition, it’s best not to make things too complicated. High-maintenance crafting and cooking just isn’t fun when you’re trying to accomplish a million other things. So for the past week I’ve been keeping it simple, and discover that there are real benefits to this—that it may be worth doing all of the time.

                I suppose it would technically make the most sense to lay off the sewing altogether until I’m 100% settled in… but I’m not that practical, and I need my stitching fix. Seriously, too much time away from the Singer does not agree with me. Fortunately, I discovered a marvelous new source of fabric that is very conducive to sewing up a super-easy skirt; my father’s old neckties.

                I know this has been done before, but I’m particularly fortunate to have a very stylish father. In fact, he’s undoubtedly where I got my love of color and pattern from. For instance, he made the decision a little while ago to never wear white shirts when lecturing at Harvard Business School. He also owns an outrageously colorful sweater that garners so much attention, he refers to it as his “pick-up-chick sweater.” And this mild shade of yellow, on him, is pretty conservative:

018

It seems only appropriate, then, given our common genetic inkling, that I would be the one to turn his old neckties into this:

025

026

It probably took less than two and a half hours to whip this up. The beauty of neckties is that they’re already tapered just the right amount. I also left the lining on them so it would be a thicker skirt, appropriate for the approaching cool weather. The waistband is a couple of ties sewn together with an elastic in between—doesn’t get much more straightforward than that. And I love it; it’s just a celebration of all those silky, colorful, textured fabrics. I have decided that men’s neckties- and my father’s in particular—are a treasure trove of glorious fabrics. Fortunately for me, there are leftovers, and I have plans for them…

Even whilst sewing and unpacking and dealing with the all the craziness of life, I’ve had to feed myself somehow. My default dishes are probably no big surprise. Yes, I’ve been eating lots of pasta and fool. What is a little different about these ones, however, is that I kept them quite basic. On my second night in the apartment, having just barely unpacked the necessary pots and pans, a friend and I made ham-cheese-and-peas pasta. That’s all there was to it, and man it was good:

055

And in an ode to the fading summer weather, I also made a pineapple-orange fool. It had that tropical, refreshing flavor that only pineapple can achieve:

049

I realize that fools don’t ever look like much more than colorful whipped cream (which, frankly, they are) so I always add a nice little garnish. I was delighted to discover that my boyfriend was particularly fond of this one, and ate about half of it for breakfast one morning… so I had the opportunity to make another! For the second one, I used up that bag of cherries that had been sitting in my fridge for about a week, and added some dark chocolate syrup to make cherry-chocolate fool:

 

008

The syrup worked beautifully, absorbing and dispersing the cherry flavor. I added a few strawberries since my cherry bag was slightly diminished and they’re suddenly impossible to find in the grocery store, but really it was the cherry flavor that stole the show.

Finally, I made blueberry pasta, version 2, using less than half of the ingredients—and achieving a much more satisfying result. This time, the pasta consisted of blueberries, corn, goat cheese, a little chicken stock, and nothing more:

021

Turns out, you don’t need anything more. It was lovely and simple; the strong goat cheese flavors goes so well with the sweet corn and sour/sweet blueberries. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, pasta and fool are the perfect foods; I had more than enough leftovers to get me through the week.

Moving to Davis Square has also meant adjusting to a very different commute. I’m a crack-of-dawn sort of girl, so the mornings are fine, but afternoon traffic can be rather brutal. So I’m looking on the brightside; less time actually moving in the car = means more time knitting in it. This may sound dangerous, but trust me—you can sit at Alewife for a good 5-10 minutes without moving a foot. And I’ve only been working on simple, repetitive patterns. For instance, my honeycomb scarf (in its new home; the passenger’s seat of my car)002

I’ve also resurrected an old project that I had all but forgotten (shameful, I know). This crazy cardigan/sweater/whatever-it-was:

027

The back is already done, so I’ve started on the front and I’ve decided I’m going to make it a sleeveless turtleneck. Not entirely sure why, but for some reason the thought of wearing that over a long-sleeved shirt in the fall and winter sounds very appealing—plus, I’ve never made one before.

                So you see, if you keep it simple, you may find that there’s plenty of room and time in life for all those little crafty pleasures—and the results can be even more rewarding.

1 Comment

Filed under cooking, knitting, quilting

Moving Madness

This week has been a whirlwind of activity. Mostly, it’s been good (moving into my gorgeous new apartment in Davis Square, being wonderfully busy at work) but there’s been a little bit of bad as well (getting hit by another car while driving to said new apartment for the first time). Sometimes life throws you those unexpected curveballs; best thing to do is quilt it out. So my latest journal nine-patches are an optimistic—yet realistic—recording of the past several days. And for some reason, both ended up having to do with the weather. First of all, last weekend was primarily highlighted by two distinct things: rain, and big brown moving boxes. I think it’s pretty clear why I decided that this nine-patch was an appropriate homage:

011

On the other hand, all drama aside, this past week has also been the beginning of what has to be my favorite season. Yes, I love fall. No, the end of summer doesn’t make me sad. I love the sunny coolness and the ‘return-to-normal-life’ feeling in the air. I don’t even mind the back-to-school traffic (well, except when it rams into the side of my car). So my second nine-patch is meant to capture that autumn essence:

012

I felt like the pinky brown flowers in particular convey the lively but subdued feeling of the season. And since fall is a season of new beginnings, and I had to gather all my nine-patches for the move anyway, I took this opportunity to remind myself of where I’m actually going with these journal nine-patches. I have to say, it looks pretty cool so far:

014

And what better thing to do during the fall than bake bread? If you say ‘nothing,’ then I agree. And I’ve done it; my sourdough… The result? Quite a success! To be honest, I was nervous about my yeast (hmm, that sounds sort of sketchy) and the whole turning-to-a-sponge process, but the result was every bit what I hoped it would be. The loaves must have nearly tripled in size in the oven.

024

They had a thick, crunchy crust and warm, dense inside that was just the right amount of fluffy. For the first time, I made this bread in the morning rather than afternoon (since the sponge formed overnight) so we had sourdough sandwiches for lunch:

026

027

The one of the left is one of my personal sandwich favorites; smoked salmon, cream cheese, onion, caper, tomato, and an over-easy egg. The other one is my boyfriend’s; lots of chicken and mustard.

I’ve since been eating my lovely bread every single day for lunch. My only problem is that now I only want to make this exact sourdough, but I feel like that wouldn’t be very adventurous or beneficial to my bread-making skills. Regardless, I’m holding onto this restaurant (which I should probably mention can be found here: http://breadbaking.about.com/b/2009/05/06/whole-wheat-sourdough-bread.htm). And I’m contemplating imitating this delicious bread from When Pigs Fly bakery (sendbread.com); it has granola, craisins, nuts, and a little cinnamon.

056

Actually, this is one of the best bread companies around and it happens to be right across the street so, as my mother very astutely pointed out, I may want to make some weekends off bread-making to try out other culinary endeavors and buy my bread here! I feel like a little bread research is totally valid.

Last week’s pasta was a bit less of a success. I got a little overly ingredient-ambitious with this one: cheese, avocado, cream, plantain, crab, peppers, onions…

 028

 043

All god stuff, but if you throw too much together, nothing is allowed to shine. So I’m thinking of splitting this one up into a couple different pastas (for instance, one that’s primarily avocado, another that’s primarily crab). That’s the beauty of cooking; there’s lots of room for experimentation.

But back to the move: relocating yourself really makes you realize what you consider to be essentials. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t exactly travel light, but when I spent the first night in my apartment, I tried to narrow it down to the necessities. What did I need? Well, my fridge consisted of champagne, beer (not actually mine), a bag of cherries, and iced coffee:

 045

I also brought my toiletries (hygiene is non-negotiable), sparkling water (it’s a serious addiction), my bathing suit/cap/goggles (my day doesn’t begin until I’ve gone for a swim), and my quilts:

 046

In an otherwise empty bedroom, quilts add such necessary life! I’ve since moved my bunny, and he certainly helps as well. With this promising starting point, I can’t wait to make this place feel like home.

Leave a comment

Filed under cooking, quilting, Uncategorized