08 November 2011

TWD: Not-Really-Mini Madeleines

Oh my word!  I nearly forgot to post today!

These TWD selections get better and better.  Out of our two selections this week, I chose to go with the Mini Madeleines selection by Di.  I was originally going to go with the squash pie, but upon realizing that it was a pie with squash chunks in it--a fruit pie with squash chunks--I simply couldn't bring myself to waste the ingredients.  I just wouldn't be likely to eat that.  I don't even know what butternut squash tastes like!

So I went with the madeleines.  I bought a pan--a regular-sized one--to make some with a TWD recipe some months ago and never got around to it.  So I put it into use, making 12 regular cookies instead of 36 minis.

And now? I would like to make them every day.  They were very easy to make--just whisking (by hand) a few things that are easily found in anyone's larder.  Then you don't even have to hustle the batter into the oven--it goes into the fridge.  I left mine there one day.

The hardest part was flouring the molds.  The batter itself just spooned in and went right into the oven.

They baked up beautifully...

and tasted divine, even two days later.

Just perfect.  I love them!

I'm so pleased, I'm gonna do as promised and give extra quilt-in-progress photos:

(I sneaked in to the office to sandwich on Sunday.  The life of the single and impoverished and living in tiny apartments!  Shhhhh.)

Another pic of the top, a bit closer up:

and the back, though this isn't a good photo color-wise.  Think shades of pink and coral, ok?

It's all sandwiched and trimmed now, ready to be quilted. At some point.

01 November 2011

Snow sewing

I AM VERY PROUD OF MYSELF.  If you go waaaaay back, you'll see that about last Christmas I was cutting out blocks for a quilt--my first bed-sized quilt.  It was taking up much of my thoughts and time.  And then...it was a LOT of piecing...and I needed clothes...and it got warm out, and, and....that project got abandoned. 

But it snowed here this weekend.  Nothin to do, nowhere to go.  So...guess who now has a brand-new 88" x 88" quilt top?  Huh?!  Yep that's right!  Here's a little peek:

I think I am gonna back it with this Marimekko fabric I bought on SuperSale ($4.95 for SIX YARDS!!) at the Crate and Barrel outlet near my apartment:
It goes from very palest pink at one selvage to deep pink at the other.  I'm trying to figure out how to arrange it, since I'll need two lengths of it. 

As far as clothing goes:  after the yellow dress triumph, I've been in a rut.  I've been really irritated by my inability to make my patterns fit the way I want them to.  And I'm about done with taking classes.  Both the little suit and the floaty cape collar dresses were largely disasters.  But I have not quit.  I am currently working on these:

I'm making 4599 in green sateen and I've started making the middle version of 5671 (with the tie collar) in grey suiting fabric.  Let's see if I can pull these off...

TWD: Far Breton (aka, guess who's back)


I have not, in fact, fallen off the face of the earth.  Sometimes I have felt like I was, but it has not actually happened yet.  Work has been OMFG INSANE, and I've been spending my spare moments staring into space and sewing.  I've occasionally made a TWD recipe here and there, but haven't been blown away by any of my choices.

I've been sadly off the baking wagon, but since we are nearing the end of the book, let's see if I can get my act together and finish this off--and maybe even join in on the next challenge. 

To finish out the book, the group is now choosing two recipes a week.  One of this week's recipes, Honey Nut Scones, is one I've made a gazillion times (I LOVE them and highly recommend them;  go to Jeannette's for the recipe)  so I decided to try the other recipe, which was one I would never otherwise try:  Far Breton, chosen by Nicole of Cookies on Friday.  I had no idea what a Far Breton was.  There's no photo, either, to guide you--and what I do know is that it contains PRUNES and RAISINS--two things I can really, really, live without.  I was concerned.  Very concerned.  But I womaned up and made it.

First of all, it's really easy.  The ingredients are all things you probably have sitting around right now. 

Everything whips up in the food processor!  And then you don't even have to do anything--you just bang it into the fridge for a day or so till you want to bake it.  (Which for me was two days).  Lazy lazy lazy.  CHEAH!

The fruit is soaked till you want to use it.  My fruit was already pretty moist, but I steeped in in Earl Grey Tea as directed.  At least, I think I did it as directed.  The directions weren't really clear here--was "meanwhile" supposed to be while I made the batter, while it rested in the fridge, or while I buttered the pan?  I didn't know, so I actually fixed them up first and they soaked about three days (in the fridge of course).

Putting it together was very easy--butter pan, pour in batter, drop in fruit, bang in oven and forget.  It even baked right on time--55 minutes for me.  It puffed in the oven but sank a little on cooling.  Once it was cool, I unmolded and tried it.

Though it's in the "cake" section of the book, it's not really cake at all!  It's more like a baked custard. 

A REALLY SMOOTH AND DELICIOUS custard.  And the prunes are not prune-y--they are just these little juicy bits of...whatever.  It's really good!  I'm really glad I tried this recipe. Thanks for choosing it, Nicole!  A fine way to come back to the TWD fold.  :-)

23 August 2011

Sewing WIN


This was another one of those outfits that looks much better made up and on a person than it does on the outside of the envelope.  It's Butterick 5451, from their "Cut Line" series, which are patterns featuring the exact same design in different lengths (top, tunic, dress).  I think I stumbled onto someone's blog and they were wearing this as a top, then I decided to get the pattern and try the dress.  I wanted something I could use to practice making bodice adjustments and this looked like a good candidate, as it has a fitted bodice and wrap skirt. 

So I got out the pattern and some stretch sateen that I had just ordered on clearance in an otherwise ill-fated order.  I get a lot of my fabric from Fabric.com, but I get annoyed sometimes when they have sales, because the site doesn't update in real time, so often I will order something but by the time they get to filling my order they have run out, or only have odd yardages (like, I'll order 4 yards of cotton lawn and they'll only have a 1 1/2 yard piece and a 2 1/2 yard piece).  I pulled out the pattern and started adjusting with abandon.  I cut the bodice much smaller than I would think I needed so it would fit my shoulders and neck properly, and did a full bust adjustment and took in the back waist and side seams. I also had to move the skirt darts over.  A couple don't match up perfectly, but you can't really see that. 

I forced myself to not rush this time.  I tissue fit the bodice, then cut and stitched up two muslins before deciding the pattern was where I wanted it to be and then cutting the fabric.  I even hand-basted the skirt on TWICE:  once to see if everything fit and lined up and again after making adjustments and prepping to sew it on.  I started sewing before I started my job, so I have been working all year to get out of the expectation that I can get something done in a couple of marathon sessions.  I simply don't have the time.  And rushing never nets good results.  This dress took me about a week and a half to complete, including a birthday weekend where I left work early on a Friday and took two days off.

After cutting out the dress I realized my leftover fabric was not big enough to accommodate the frankly HUGE one piece collar.  Seriously.  You need about a good two yard piece to cut it.  I am kind of obsessed with the white collar, so I used some white stretch poplin I had around.  Attaching it was a pain in the butt, but once I had it on and neatly bound with white bias tape I became super excited about what was otherwise just an ok dress.  I think it's a lot of fun, it actually fits properly (I didn't even need a camisole!) and was comfortable and people kept stopping me to ask about it all day long, not knowing I had made it. 

This weekend I'll be working on the suit from the last post.  And more quilting.

24 July 2011

More sewing stuff: picking a pattern for class

Regarding my fitting woes, I'm excited to be taking a pattern fitting class in a couple of weeks.  I'm getting tired of fiddling with everything I make; even being aware of some of my quirks and trying to adjust for them beforehand doesn't always work.  I'm constantly making things, but they usually get pushed aside towards the end because some little thing is off--the shoulders are too wide, the neckline is too big, the bust isn't big enough, the back is too long or too broad, the waist is too low, you name it. By then I'm ready for the next project, so whatever isn't working gets hidden in the closet.  The class is only one afternoon, though, and I can only bring one pattern.  I'm trying to decide which pattern to bring.

I really want help fitting this dress:

which I am dying to make for the fall (I even have a fab wine-red stretch sateen for it!) but I think will be a BEAR to fit correctly.  It's supposed to be pretty easy to sew, but it has to be roomy in the right places and tailored in others and it's hard to figure it all out from the photos. 

There's also this:

the Colette Macaron, which is all over the internets and every aspiring young seamstress has done, but I think with the full bust adjustment series and other fitting notes on Lazy Stitching, I can probably figure it out ok myself.

Other frontrunners include a couple of 1940s dresses that I think will be great for (what's left of) the summer and take me into fall--first, this Vintage Vogue:

I've got some cream-colored stretch crepe especially for this....

And this Retro Butterick, which I want some printed poplin or sateen for:

But the class list says bring a "basic pattern".  So I think I will probably arrive with this vintage pattern:

which I guess is pretty basic, and I could use help fitting a sheath dress and a jacket.  I've got pink linen for the dress and white linen for the jacket, just like the picture. No gloves, though, alas.  I don't think I could quite get away with those. 

I'm also really considering driving the hour+  for a "Vintage Pattern of the Month" class in September.  They are making this flutter-sleeved confection:

I feel like I'm at a point where I could use actual instruction/tutoring and it is really hard to find sewing classes that go beyond absolute basics.  Or that sew things I would want to wear!  I think the September dress is totally wearable vintage.  Doesn't it look perfect for going out for drinks on some roofdeck or patio somewhere in September?

You saw it here first!

Hello tiny readership!

I promised a while back that I'd post pictures of stuff I'd been sewing.  Predictably, I didn't do much on any of the projects I listed for accountability;  however, I have sewn up a bunch of other things, and actually FINISHED them, and some might even see the light of day!  I figured I'd post them here first because 1) y'all asked me to and 2) I don't necessarily want my co-workers to know something is my handiwork BEFORE I take it for a workday test drive.  Sometimes you can't tell how a garment will go wrong till you wear it out.

I made this one night early this week.  It's from this tutorial: http://sewmamasew.com/blog2/2010/06/jennifers-fabric-focus-free-summer-top-pattern/. I had this fun cotton lawn lying around and I wanted to do something with it where the print wouldn't get lost in a lot of fussy cutting and fitting, but I didn't have enough to make a dress and it was too thin for a skirt.  Enter the Undaunted top.  It also gave me a chance to finally try smocking, which is totally easy and totally fun.  (You can't see it here, but the bottom hem is smocked about 2 inches.)  I had to fiddle with the shoulders a bit so the neckline wasn't stiff and high, and next time I think I'd only sew them in about an inch, so the neckline might drape.  I wore it to work last week, and no one went "um, did you make that?"  so I guess it's ok.

Heartened by the success of the Undaunted top, this I did the next night this week when particularly bored.  It's just a smocked tube top, went together in a couple of hours.  I almost never wear straight up tube tops.  I am thinking of possibly sewing in some buttons and making straps to attach to it?  I think the back is too long, too;  I'm getting a lot of fabric pooling at my lower back. 

I cut this out last night and finished it up today.  It looks better on, I think.  I was irritated to discover after cutting it out that the grain is somehow off, resulting in dots that don't quite match up on one side.  Still I might try to wear it out and see if anyone notices.  Maybe on a day when I know I'll be sitting at my desk all day.  A belt might be a good idea, too. 


I've been so frustrated with my inability to fit things perfectly that I've mostly been making unstructured tops this week and leaving my five zillion dress patterns for later.  However, I did finish this little number in something called "Prada Twill" that I had lying about.  This is a dress I never would have bothered with based on the envelope, but after seeing Lazy Stitching's renditions I knew I had to have it.  (Sometimes I really wonder what the envelope designers are thinking.  You are supposed to both make me want the pattern AND let me see the details, please!)  I originally went to my usual apparel fabric source, a Sew and Vac down the street from my apartment which has lots of remnants for $2.49 a yard, and picked out a stretchy coral poplin with a leaf print.  I wasn't sure about it;  it wasn't really my style, but the owner of the store was convinced it'd be great.  I went home and after dinner made the bodice.  Tried it on--she was right, the fabric was fabulous on me!  I forged ahead with the skirt.

Now I have only been sewing for about a year, but I quickly learned two things:  1) be sober when you sew, and 2) stop BEFORE you are tired.  Long story short, I cut the panels for the skirt backwards, ruining the tiny bit of irreplaceable fabric I had, and had to trash the coral leaf print.  Dug through my stash and found this, which I bought to make my sister a dress but discovered it wasn't stretchy enough.  It's ok, I guess. 

This fits fine, except as usual the neckline is a hair big and the waist is a hair low.  A camisole under the dress will have to do to help the neck and I think a belt will help the waist issue. 

So that's it!  More to come...

27 June 2011

Today's Adventures in Domesticity

So Someone Who Shall Remain Nameless informed me last night that I need to update this here blog, post haste.  I apologize.  I didn't realize I had any sort of audience!  I've done a few of the recent TWD recipes--the oatmeal nutmeg scones, the maple cornmeal biscuits--but never got around to posting, and here we are in July now!

I probably will do next week's recipe, though it violates all kinds of principles for me.  While I get on that wagon, I should remark that I am steadily on the sewing wagon.  The number of patterns I have right now is ridiculous.  The number of mostly-but-not-quite-finished projects is worse.  But here's a peek at what's actively "on the needles,"  so to speak:

Elizabeth Hartman "Little Leaves" quilt  (you can see an example here) as a gift
Elizabeth Hartman "Birthday Cake" quilt for me

I'm still making blocks for each of the quilts.

Clothing in progress:
Vogue wrap dress (needs some taking up at the shoulder, binding at the neck, and buttons to close it)
Colette Sencha top (needs buttons and holes and one back facing attached.  I was making this with a friend in Colorado.)
Colette Crepe dress (still working on the muslin for this, trying to get the bodice to fit properly.)
Simplicity Cynthia Rowley top
(technically done, but I want to add the twisty collar and it needs to be handsewn on)
Butterick sundress (just cut this out of black, white, and red stretch sateen)

Pictures to come...maybe...?

02 May 2011

TWD: Basic Marbled Loaf Cake

After an unexpected hiatus (including an expected extended trip to Paris)  and a flurry of sewing, I am back to baking this week with our pick by Carol.  The recipe for this cake (which I believe you'll find on her blog) is for a plain loaf cake, which you then flavor however you want.  I've registered here before that marble cake is one of my favorites, so I was all over it. I've also registered here that I love chocolate and mint together, so when I saw one of the suggestions was a chocolate-peppermint mix I was all over that, too.

The cake was very quick, straightforward and easy to mix together.

Not much to say about that. Just a standard butter cake in composition.  I had some Callebaut white blocks that have been sitting around forever, and some slightly bittersweet chips, so I used those for my chocolates.

I mixed half the batter with the bittersweet chocolate and half with the white.  I reached into the cabinet and discovered that my peppermint extract is actually peppermint oil.  Oh well.  I added it anyhow.

Then in a fit of perversity, I decided peppermint cake should be pink.

Then in another fit of perversity, I decided the flavors should not be very mixed.

So I layered the batters and banged the cake, unswirled, into the oven.

I let it bake for the minimum suggested--an hour and 20 minutes.  It was crusty and very done by then.

I tried a piece before bed and brought some in my lunch to work today.

Verdict:  I dunno what the deal is, but my cake is dry as all get out.  I typically love "dry" "plain" cakes, but this one is throwing me.  I'm not sure if it baked too long, or if using 2% milk really made a huge difference (I doubt that, though;  I usually have that about the house so it's what I typically use)  The peppermint is nice and strong (though admittedly mint-flavored cake is a little weird) but though I am not a chocolate freak I think the chocolate needs upping, either from using a stronger chocolate and/or increasing the amount of chocolate batter.  I am gonna try it with some chocolate sauce and see if I am happier with it.

22 March 2011

TWD: Honey Nut Brownies

Hi there!

I'm here to report on this week's TWD selection, the Honey Nut Brownies chosen by Suzy!  I didn't really know what to expect from this recipe.

First there was the melting of chocolate.  I used a Lindt bar (my standby), but then added some bittersweet chips to get the full four ounces.  This melted up quickly.

Then there was making the batter.  I used a mixed-flower honey in my batter.

After folding in dry stuff and chocolate, I added walnuts, which are my fave nuts for brownies.  Then batter to pan.  I thought the batter was kinda thin for brownies.  There was a lot of it too. 

Into the oven, and this is where complications arose:  it took a full HOUR AND FIFTEEN MINUTES for my brownies to bake in a 9" metal pan.  They came out perfect without tenting--no hard edges or squidgy center--but really, 75 minutes is just unacceptable for a small pan of brownies.

The brownies' thin batter resulted in a very cakey texture.  The chocolate...well, there's a reason Dorie suggests adding chocolate frosting.  There's not much chocolate flavor in there.  What there is is a lot of sugar flavor.  A LOT OF SUGAR FLAVOR.  I nearly went into shock at my desk. 

Verdict:  I tried eating these for days before finally decided 1/2 way through the pan that I just didn't really like them.  I need my brownies less wishy washy about their identity, I guess. And I ABOMINATES icing on brownies, so I don't like covering them with it to give them an identity. Oh well, can't love 'em all, and I am glad I tried them. 

07 March 2011


I haven't forgotten about this space.  I'm just at a point where I'm not sure what to say on it.

I'm still keeping up with Tuesdays with Dorie, more or less, but I have become one of those annoying people who only gets around to two of the recipes each month.  And then I often don't get around to posting about them.  Last year, I had time to go hunt for ingredients and spend all day baking and try a recipe over the course of a few days and take decent photos and alla that.  Now...well...not so much.  Sometimes I have everything but never get around to the recipe (like this week's Pots de Creme, or the madeleines of a few weeks ago, for which I bought a brand new pan!)  I kinda hate when I visit other TWD blogs and all there is is a picture and a line or two to say "oh, it was good,"--to me, if we are gonna bake together, I want to see the process and hear about how it worked out for you.  But anyhow, I'm trying to decide whether to continue with that.  We're well along in the book, and I really enjoy being forced challenged to try stuff I wouldn't otherwise, either because I think it seems unappealing or difficult or the directions require that I have 36 people in my kitchen ready to consume the week's delicacy minutes from the oven.

But if I'm not posting about that, then what?

TWD: Toasted Almond Scones

I really was quite surprised not to have photos of the almond scones (chosen by Mike at Living Out West) already.  I make these, along with the Honey Nut Scones, all the time.  For the past couple of years, you could usually find a bag of them in my freezer, all ready for an impromptu teatime. 

They are relatively quick to throw together, but what I really love about them is how freezable they are.  I usually take a morning and make a few batches, cut and freeze on cookie sheets, wrap them up and stuff them in freezer bags to be baked and eaten one or two at a time.  They really do freeze beautifully, and I personally think they bake much better from frozen. 

The bits about toasting, grinding, and chopping the almonds are kind of fussy, but not difficult.  One must plan ahead a little.  I just pile them on a sheet and slide them in the oven at 400 for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally til they look about right.

The rest, however, goes quickly, even the cutting of butter.

The dough is a little wet, but nothing a very light dusting of flour and some quick handiwork can't handle.

Once I form the triangles, I always bang them in the freezer for a while to firm up.  Then I take them out and wrap them well, and put them back.  They bake at about the same time specified directly from frozen, and I think they hold their shape and lovely melty texture better, too.


TWD: Chocolate Oatmeal Drops

Boy, talk about a sleeper.

These cookies did not look or sound very interesting.  Actually, they looked like something had gone horribly wrong--a great heap of cookie with a thin, lacy band around it.  hmm.

In a fit of TWD Remorse, I made these the same night I made the scones.  The scones were old hat for me;  I've been making that recipe for years.  These were new.  We got no pictures, so I couldn't tell much about them other than I had everything necessary on hand, and they sounded brownie-like in preparation.

First, there was melting of butter and sugar and chocolate.

That went fast.

Whisk, whisk in dry stuff and stir in oatmeal.  I added some walnuts, too, just because.

Then I scooped onto pans by tablespoons as directed, and here is where things got weird:

For some unknown reason, my dough got all slimy. Eww.  I baked them anyway, to see what would happen.

They didn't seem to spread much.

I was afraid they would be raw in the middle, but they were not!  They were actually chewy brownielicious goodness that I will most definitely make again.  I wasn't expecting much but they very much exceeded expectations.  Go 'head, then, Caroline and Claire!  (They have the recipe up, if you are interested.)

TWD: Bourbon Bread Pudding

So I gave it one more go.  I think I have mentioned before that I LOVE bread pudding.  I understand it is a dish one either loves or hates;  but really, how can you hate spiced cream-soaked vanilla-laden baked BREAD?  I really think people who hate bread pudding just haven't had decent bread pudding before.  There are a lot of bad recipes, and a lot of ways it can go wrong. 

The last time I made a bread pudding for TWD, it went wrong.  I was really peeved;  I spent I don't know how much time and money on it and it failed, miserably.  I was hesitant to try this time, but I had all I needed on hand, including some loaves of bread tucked in the freezer so I decided to give it a whirl.

First, I cut up the bread.  The usual suggestion is to go for something eggy and maybe sweet;  but, um, I think this is a sourdough, or at least a plain white loaf.  I weighed the chunks to be sure I had 8 ounces before putting them in my new ceramic loaf pan, purchased just for this recipe. 

Then I made the custard.  I warmed the eggs in a warm water bath before making the custard as I was petrified of them curdling on me.  I mixed them with the sugar and spices
and then alla the other wet stuff

And now the fussy bits.  I'm pretty sure when I was growing up, one just dumped the wet stuff in with the bread and slapped the whole thing in the oven.  Dorie prefers that you soak the bread in the custard for at least an hour and bake it in a water bath.  I'm skeptical, but she has a book, not me, so, a-soakin we will go.

I didn't have a pan big enough or enough water to come halfway up the pan, so I did what I could.

It took a good long while after removing the foil for my pudding to start to brown.  I still felt it was awfully pale, but was afraid of overbaking it, so I took it out after about 30 minutes sans foil.  I let it cool for a bit and then cut and scooped.  Result?

Sigh.  Once again, I get scrambled eggs and toast.

Fortunately, it is edible this time, so I am toughing it out.  It was inoffensive the night of but actually better the next day;  I could taste the bourbon more.  I am still very disappointed in the texture.  I don't think bread pudding should have visible custard.  There was less of it than last time.  But I really don't know what I am doing wrong.  Not enough bread?  Not enough soaking time?  Not enough of a water bath?  Too much of one?  Sigh.

Thanks for this recipe go to Sharon at Simply Southern.

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