Saturday, May 31, 2008

Quilt Virgin No More

It's finished! My very first ever official quilt:

with tag, of course:

It's baby sized at ~35" x 45" which as it turns out was a good place to start because it was relatively instant gratification and it definitely gave me a better idea of what I do and don't want to do for the bed size one I'm planning for our room.

I hope the mommie to be and her soon-to-arrive enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it!

Honestly, I'm a little ashamed of the quilting on it but hey, first quilt n'all, and now I know that circles are NOT the way to go for machine quilting on a standard machine unless it's something really small. Plus I wish I would have used white thread instead of the pale blue I used on the top, but again, now I know.
Good thing babies aren't picky.

I think I'll do at least one more throw sized project before starting on the big one just because I'm still not sure on what I want and I'm sure I don't need to tell you there are just way too many ideas to play around with.
One thing is certain...I do not possess a quilting brain. I think that goes hand in hand with having a math brain, and I am about as far from math brain as a person could get. As such, this whole project was very much from the hip with no particular plan and a couple of take apart and do overs thrown in just for kicks. I am ever so much a process person, so the idea of following a pattern and cutting out an entire quilts' worth of pieces and then sitting down to sew them up according to a plan just doesn't do it for me. Which is not to say I didn't try that for about a second, or long enough to cut out and piece one block of the "Love Beads" pattern from Modern Quilt Workshop. Love that particular quilt but just can't see enjoying making it much.

From there I moved on to the idea of a mostly crazy quilt top with some solid white thrown in. But did you know that crazy quilt piecing takes forever? Um, yes. So that idea went quickly by the wayside in exchange for mostly solid with some crazy pieced sections which is basically what I ended up with. In hindsight, I think I could have just cut the white strips in single, long sections instead of piecing them in the small random size rectangles you see and not lost much, but again, now I know.
So, I think it's safe to assume that, like this project and most everything else I do, any future quilts by my hand will have to evolve from my own (slightly psychotic and very messy) organic process.
Amen for a dedicated craft room.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Audio Crisis


I am one of those people who just cannot run without being plugged into music. It just doesn't work for me, that whole listening to myself huffing and puffing. And when I have to do it, I'm miserable with a capital M. And for years and years it's been one of my goals to run a marathon or two and while I'm not on that track yet, I just know that learning to run without my headphones would probably be as hard for me as learning to run that 26.2 miles. Because headphones are not allowed in USATF sanctioned events and that means they're not allowed in most marathons. I know. It's crazy.

Imagine my displeasure last evening when I got geared up for a run and grabbed my iPod and tried to turn it on and got a whole lotta nothing.


And I knew it was coming, but I was in denial because I sort of hate Apple because it seems like their stuff sort of doesn't ever work exactly right and my nano has really never worked exactly right and I know they know their stuff is buggy and they sell it anyway and I didn't want to have to give them any of my money for their buggy stuff.
Cuz it should work right and work right for longer than it does but they make sure it doesn't and then they sell more and I think that is an evil and lame sort of business model.


I whined a little and got Boy to feel sorry for me....or something. And Boy being Boy, he was kind enough to attempt a little late night nano surgery on behalf of me and my rating of perceived exertion. Or maybe it was on behalf of his sanity and a desire to get me to shut the f up about my f-ing broken nano:

(See that brown crud there on the top corner? I think it corroded itself to death after it spent half of a workout inside my bra top on a day when I had to take off my windbreaker...which left me pocketless. Turns out it saying it was charging without being connected to anything and the weird brown tinge in the corner of the screen from then on were bad signs after all.)

He was unable to resurrect the damn thing, but he did fix it in time for today's workout:

Whew. Good save, and the best part is I don't even have to be crabby about giving my money to Apple ;)
Thanks Boy, you're the greatest!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Assuring Myself a Spot

If there is a cooking hell, I just wrote myself a ticket...

Bacon aioli:

What can I say. It's almost like an oxymoron, isn't it?

I had cooked off a few strips of bacon that I found tucked away in my fridge intending to use it to top a nice chef salad. And then there were all those yummy drippings and crispy bits hanging around in the pan that, as usual, I was having a hard time coming to terms with having to throw away. And then I cooked off some potato slices for planned salad and afterward dressed them with a bit of vinegar, some seasonings and a little dill and a drizzle of the bacon drippings and they were yummy with a capital Y. And as I was forcing myself to cover the dish and put it in the fridge to chill for later the inspiration struck....instead of aioli made with olive oil, why not try using all that bacony, yummy goodness in place of the oil?
So, same deal as a traditional aioli, egg yolk and lemon juice and a small clove of garlic plus approximately equal measures of bacon drippings and olive oil. And once it was aioli-ified, I sort of I went a little crazy and threw a strip of the cooked bacon into the food processor, too.
The result was crazy aioli on crack.
Bacon crack.
And on the fresh, still warm dill vinagrette dressed potatoes that still hadn't made it into the fridge? It was hard to rein myself in and leave enough of them for our salads.
It was completely, utterly amazing with a nice mellow smoky bacon undertone that really accentuated the already addictive bright and fresh and creamy of the regular version.
So as far as aioli goes, this incarnation is as least as versatile and delicious as the plain ol' stuff which is to say that it would be good on or in everything from sandwiches to steamed vegetables. It's the kind of thing anyone with an egg, some olive oil and a whisk should make friends with.

I used a generous dollop of the finished product to make a slightly creamy bacon-infused bleu cheese vinagrette by whisking in some additional vinegar and oil and then adding the crumbled cheese. It went on top of this salad:

and yes...that's more bacon you see there on the salad :)

I'm shameless, I know.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Summer on a Fork

Have you heard? The bidding will start at 100K for the opportunity to clone your dog. Your new repli-dog will be guaranteed to look the same and live for at least a year.


In cooking news...
Hello beautiful:

Mixed baby greens (aka "weeds" in Boy speak), fresh strawberries and goat cheese with sunflower seeds and homemade balsamic vinagrette. One of the best salad combinations on the face of the earth and one of the many reasons to celebrate strawberry season, even if it's not Minnesota strawberry season. There's just something about the combination of strawberries and fresh goat cheese that is so perfectly perfect. Like a juicy, ripe pear with a chunk of stinky Stilton in the's a fruit and cheese pairing that allows the season to fit on the end of a fork.

The salad was a fantastic accompaniment to the grass fed New York strip steaks from the grill, with hot garlic bread and a whole slew of sauteed shrooms. (The slew of shrooms being one of the grand perks of living with a mushroom hater...I get the whole carton to myself!)

So warm season eating is into full swing around here, and as much as I'm sad to put away the soups and braises and hot hearty recipes, I'm giddy with excitement over the prospect of bringing out all my summer favorites and discovering some new ones.

What warm weather meals are you putting back into rotation?


Friday, May 16, 2008

Off the Shelf

So I am not typically a bottled, pre-mixed seasoning blend kind of person. In fact, I'm not much of a bottled, pre-mixed anything kind of person, as I much prefer the dressings and rubs and sauces I can whip up with fresh, unadulterated ingredients to the stuff you can buy in the store that's usually full of weirdness. Plus you just never know about a lot of those kinds of things and even if they are tasty they take forever to use many random bottles of spice blend or condiment are hanging around in your kitchen?
There are two notable exceptions to my rule that I must tell you about. One has been part of my stash for years, and another I found out about just recently from a friend and fellow cooking enthusiast. And they both happen to be spicy but don't let that deter you...

First up is a taste I acquired, or more accurately became addicted to way back in the eighties on a trip to Jamaica...Jamaican Jerk. Now, lots of things say they're jerk or claim to be jerk, but they lie. Those tastes vary widely from sort of ok to not even close to really pretty yucky. So take my word for it (or, if you must make something from scratch, this recipe I've mentioned before is a good start), because I spent a lot of the nineties searching for the elusive, genuine flavor of Jamaican Jerk, and Walkerswood is IT baby.

It doesn't look like much, I know, and in true Jamaican style it looks a little scary inside the jar, but crack it open and you'll be rewarded with amazingly flavorful and succulent and addictive all in one package. It'll be your new secret weapon to turn any kind of grilled or roasted meat or fish into something sublime. It's particularly nice if you have time to use it as a marinade but even if you don't, a healthy schmear on whatever your grilling or roasting and you'll be transported right back to your new island home.
That one little jar will last you a good long time, because although it's nowhere near as potent as the beachside mason jar filled with spooky, alive-looking fibrous green and brown glop, it's still fairly potent. (It can be a little hard to find, but it looks like you can buy direct via the link above.)
Here's our most recent dip into the Walkerswood stash (I think my bottle has been in the door of a fridge in at least three different houses)...pork tenderloins given a good healthy rub down with a few tablespoons of the stuff and then let to sit in the fridge for a few hours. A little olive oil for lube and onto the grill while I did up some fresh, cool slaw and smashed taters:

And then, another one step wonder, a shake-on dry seasoning mix that I think might be a little better known:
Slap Ya Mama

I found out about this from a friend who lives in Iowa while we were hanging out in Kansas and I couldn't believe I had never heard of it because it's that good. The flavor (and the name, for obvious reasons) stuck in my head...another perfect mix of abundant, yummy flavor and heat, and just like the Walkerswood, it's the kind of thing that's a quick and much too easy-seeming answer. This stuff is delish on fries, roasted potatoes, and any kind of veg or meat. I can even think of a couple of fruits it would be tasty on.
Sadly, just like hot Rotel, Slap Ya Mama doesn't seem to exist locally which I blame on the ridiculous midwestern culture of fear-of-spicy. So I ordered online, which, considering shipping was almost as much as the few-dollar price of the product, is a pretty good indication of how much I love it. And my order came with a couple of free samples of their other blends and an absolutely o-so-nice handwritten note of thanks. How cool is that?

So now you have no excuse not to gear up your seasoning stash, get your spice on and get grilling!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Going Postal

Another fabulous intersection of fun and neccessity...
tropical fruit stamps!

I have this belief that kitchen decor should relate to what goes on in the kitchen, so when I spotted these at yesterdays' trip to the post office I just couldn't resist getting a sheet to frame.

The clerk pointed out that they are postcard stamps and then promptly laughed at me when I told her I was going to put them in a frame, but I guess not everyone can be expected to get it, you know?
It has occurred to me that this might just make me an official "stamp collector" (in the loosest possible kind of terms, of course) because these along with the Georgia O'Keeffe stamps from several years ago and the more recent Star Wars ones bring our collection of stamps-as-art to three.

Friday, May 09, 2008


Who doesn't love themselves a nice fresh Moleskine? I know I do, because I get all panicky when I don't have a notebook in my bag and because I just can't resist such a beautifully bound, portable notebook that's available in a way-too-tempting array of paper flavors. Personally, I like the plain, unlined notebook version, but the dreamy artist in me pines for the types of adventures where the sketchbook, with paper "for drawing and tempera colors" would be a necessity.
Moleskine...such a simple thing, yet they're mildly obsessed over both near and far. And lately, when I obsess over things, my brain automatically turns to the question of "what can I sew up or otherwise craft to make this obsession even more obsess-able?"
I know.
I've officially crossed the line into crazy sewing geek land.
But what can I do? Instinct is a strong and undeniable force, my friends.

Yesterday, with a little downtime on my hands, I stitched into being a vision that had been kicking around in my brain for at least a couple of months:
The Moleskine cover:

If you're a Moleskine-er, you know part of the allure is the handy elastic band that keeps them shut:

Don't worry little elastic, I didn't overlook you:

This cover is for the large (5 x 8 1/4) size, but I suspect there's a small and medium version in the cards as well, along with a style for the reporter series...

Do you Moleskine? What's your favorite style?


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Anaphalaxis Alert

For some work-related reason not wholly understood by me, Boy decided he needed to order a 50 pound bag of peanuts via the internet. They arrived yesterday and besides thinking we're probably on some kind of weird government peanut-hoarder watch list, I'm certain they turned my house into a permanent off-limits zone for peanut allergy people because a whole lot of peanut dust escaped when he opened the box and they made the whole house smell. And in case you were wondering, here's what a 5o pound bag of peanuts looks like:

He took them to work which I guess means his car is officially a hot zone, too.
It seems like peanuts in a public place or peanuts being shipped in non-hermetically sealed containers via UPS fall under the same category as latex balloons or live flowers in the hospital ICU...i.e. not good. But evidently it's the norm at his workplace, and I'm sure his co-workers were thrilled with this large-scale snack that makes the five pound bags from the jumbomart that they usually have around look sad.

I've been stupidly busy, mostly with bags and other sewing stuff. Here's what's left my studio in the past week or so:
An almost apartment sized custom laptop/book bag with leather trim, lots of cool accessories and lined in nifty wool suitings:

A cute gray and pink combo lined with fabric provided by the client:

Another custom order lined in the ever-adorable mocca fabric trimmed in red and chocolate brown:

And one that I'm crazy for that I just finished up and listed in my shop today:

Plus I'm in the middle of a totally awesome one from some Amy Butler fabric sent by the cute! And I must say that getting to work with AB stuff without having to decide on which one of her bazillion awesome prints myself is the bomb!

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