Saturday, December 26, 2009

2009 in numbers

I wanted to keep much better track of my sewing, but didn't really. As best as I can tell though, this year, I made:

- 9 Tops
- 6 Skirts
- 14 Dresses
- 1 Jacket
- 1 PJ bottom.

I made at least 3 wadders that I'd never wear. This is good, if I'm supposed to believe I'm getting better in my sewing, or bad, if I believe I'm not taking many risks in my sewing. (In reality, a bit of both is true.)

I also posted more than I did last year. (Though, in November and December, largely encouraged by the Madhur Jaffrey cooking project.) 84 posts in total.

Next year - more cooking, better sewing, and more wandering around, both in Toronto, and the world.

And if I don't post again before the new year, Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Myrtle Beach Cooking

Read more here about the Madhur Jaffrey project - one of my 2010 goals. For an index of recipes, click here.

I brought the cookbook with me to Myrtle Beach, of course, and have been cooking dinner for family. (It is the only thing I do that resembles work - this is a *very* lazy vacation.)

Here's what I've been cooking:

For the trip down, in order to avoid eating pizza the entire drive, I made basmati rice with chana dal and dill. This is a pretty simple recipe, but lots of pre-work and planning is required. It needs Delicious Stock, which I'd made a couple of weeks ago, and pulled from the freezer. It also needs lots of pre-soaking (3 hours worth of it.) However, I had most of Sunday to get this done, so, it worked out ok.

Sunday, Dec 20, 2009 - Basmati rice with Chana Dal and Dill.

Last night for dinner, I made Sweet and sour okra with chickpeas. It was delicious, and took very little time to cook. We ate this with store bought roti and rice.

Dinner, Dec 23, 2009 - Sweet and sour okra with chickpeas.

And today, for Christmas Eve, I cooked up a bit of a storm. I hoped for leftovers, but no such luck. It is all gone.

Dinner, Dec 24, 2009: (from top left to bottom right) Rice with sauteed onions and mushrooms, Zucchini stuffed with fresh coconut and chinese parsley, Spiced buttermilk to eat with Indian rice dishes and Haak (Collard greens).

I'm pretty pleased with cooking progress.

And, I now leave you with a parting wish for a Happy Holidays, and a parting image. As seen in our hotel lobby on the drive over, in Grove City, PA. I must buy one.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

WIP: Random fabric quilt

This is a preview of the quilt that caused the sewing machine to die. I'm just saying...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ambitious sewing plans

I've just arrived (along with parents and brother) in Myrtle Beach to spend Christmas with my other brother.

We'll be here for about a week, and I'm incredibly excited about a week of free time. I've brought books to read, games to play, and best of all, a line-up of sewing projects.

(A friend gave me her old Elna, which I'm going to try. If not, another sewing machine will be bought. I cannot live without a sewing machine, the day after my machine died, I felt like my arm had been cut off.)

Here's what I hope to get done (or started) while I'm here. (Call me ambitious.)

And there's 4 others, all from various past issues of BWOF.

Call me crazy.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Isn't it ironic?

Let's see.

On the one hand, we have a dead sewing machine. Died suddenly, with no warning.

I already posted a 'Please help' post in PatternReview, but here's the text...


I own a Singer Esteem (yes, I know), it only cost about a $100, so I'm a bit reluctant to take it in and spend $70 repairing it. (Plus, the guy I took my last cheap machine to said he would charge $70, but wouldn't guarantee that he'd fix anything, which made me just replace the machine.)

The problem is that the hand wheel won't move at all, and the needle shaft (the one that goes up and down) won't move either. Completely jammed. Thinking it was a thread tangle, I removed the throat plate, but there's no thread jam at all. The thing just won't move. I've disassembled it, (as best as I can, I've removed the plastic covers and the throat plate), and here's what I know:

(a)The belt isn't broken - it is intact, and the bobbin still winds.

(b)However, as soon as I set it to sew, and try to move the hand wheel, it doesn't move at all. Not even a little bit.

(c) The motor is fine, I think, since the bobbin still winds, and I can hear the motor strain to do something when I press down the pedal.

Any thoughts/suggestions? Help, please, I'm halfway through a quilt, and the library just told me that David Coffin's Trouser Workshop is waiting for me, and the timing stinks for my machine to die!!!!

Thanks much!


On the other hand, here's the notice I got from the library, 10 minutes after I'd disassembled the entire machine, figured out I didn't know what to do, and given up.

17 December 2009


The following materials are available for pickup until the date shown below.

Review Your Account at

Thank you for using the Toronto Public Library. For more info visit: or call Answerline at (416) 393-7131.

This message is delivered in an automated fashion and cannot be replied to.


Making trousers for men & women : a multimedia sewing workshop / David Page
646.3 COF
Pickup Library: Northern District
Pickup By: 24/12/2009

Can I just scream now? Please? I've been waiting for the David Coffin book for over 3 months. AAAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!!!!!

Cooking catch-up, plus, I've reached the 10% mark!

Read more here about the Madhur Jaffrey project - one of my 2010 goals. For an index of recipes, click here.

6am cooking:
I'm not at all a morning person, but I had an early morning meeting today, which involved me having to wake up at 6am, in order to be at work by 7.45am. To fortify myself, I made scrambled eggs with cabbage, and obviously, a lot of coffee. The scrambled eggs needed a bit more salt, but were otherwise delicious. And of course, I'd have never thought to use cabbage in scrambled eggs by myself, which is why this cooking project is so important for me.

Breakfast, December 17, 2009 - Scrambled Eggs with Cabbage


Movie Night Eating:

After a bit of a hiatus last week, movie night returned this week. The movie - Hot Fuzz. Ridiculous, yet funny. The food? Pictures below.

Movie night eating, December 15, 2009: (Starting at top right, and working my way through clockwise) Carrots with raisins and dates; yogurt with garlic; brown rice (not from cookbook), lentils with spinach (see previous post) and cauliflower pickled with dill

Cooking notes: The carrots were both easy and delicious. As was the yogurt and garlic. Both took a total of 20 minutes to make, tops. This was a quick meal to prepare. The cauliflower pickled with dill is nice, but very vinegary. I need a better way to drain the vinegar out of my pickles, I think...


Two stocks
Over a week and a half, I made both dashi and 'Delicious stock made with soybean sprouts', and tossed both in the freezer, to be used for later cooking. I feel productive about stock making.

Dec 15, 2009 - Delicious Stock made with Soybean Sprouts: During the cooking process.

Ready for freezing.

December 6, 2009: Dashi. On left, ready for freezing. On right, the used kelp and mushrooms, waiting for alternate uses.


Sunday night cooking
On the 6th, I also made Chana dal with cucumbers, cubed eggplant cooked with onion, and cauliflower with zucchini. All to serve as mid-week eating, in case I was too lazy to cook. Only problem, I overdid it. I had enough food to last me the entire week, and didn't cook a single day last week. Which I guess isn't really that much of a problem.

'Stock up for the week' cooking - December 6, 2009: Chana dal with cucumbers, cubed eggplant cooked with onion, and cauliflower with zucchini

The chana dal looks terribly unappetizing, and I have to say, it wasn't my favorite dish. It was edible, but not awesome. Ah well. The cauliflower and eggplant were both tasty, but neither blew my mind away. Of course, that could just be because I had to eat pretty much the same thing all week, and I was really sick of it when done.

Other miscellaneous cooking:

I made falafel - it fell apart. This is the one whole piece I managed to salvage.

Dec 5, 2009 - Falafel

The rest of them were broken up into crumbs (deep-fried crumbs, mmm... fattening.)

I also made Ginger quick-pickled in soy sauce, which is the only thing I haven't eaten so far.

December 7, 2009: Ginger quick-pickled in soy sauce

That's the roundup.

Incidentally, that makes 49 recipes cooked - 10.12%. First major milestone, the 10% mark. Yay!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2010 Sewing

As I'm working through 2010 goals (inspired in large part by this blog post), I've identified only 2 sewing goals.

1. Sew something from BWOF every month.
2. Sew only two things a month.

(1) is really straightforward. I buy every single BWOF - I sew maybe 3-4 things from it a year. If you do the math, (I did), I spend $11*12 = $132 on 4 patterns. At the whopping rate of $33 a pattern.

Now, I'd argue that sewing is my hobby, I can afford it, and I get a lot of pleasure from just reading the BWOFs, but still. $33 per pattern is a RIDICULOUS sum of money. It is time to step it up.

(2) is something I gave a fair amount of thought too. It seems a bit counter-intuitive to sew LESS. Especially when one has a stash that is overflowing an entire linen closet, with offsite storage at the parents. And when one has two boxes of patterns, and about 2 years of BWOF.


I find that...

- I can sew enough that I neglect all the other very important and fun things in life. Exploring the incredibly cool city in which I live. Traveling. Hanging out with friends and family. Playing pool. Checking out new beer. Watching movies. Reading the Economist. Cleaning the apartment. And so on and so forth. I need balance, and I enjoy sewing so much that I can easily get out of balance if I don't consciously watch out for it.

- When I'm racing through the sewing, I find that I make garments without much thought on where it will fit in my wardrobe. (Example Exhibit A.) I hope that in slowing down, I'll be more deliberative in what I sew, and where it will fit.

- I also hope that I'll take more time with my sewing, and explore techniques that will make me a better sewer. I took a lot of time with this dress, and I really enjoyed the process and the results.

Thoughts? Comments? How do you approach deciding how much to sew? And what are your sewing goals for 2010?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Can I add a few extra hours to the day?

Because I *must* sew this dress from ModCloth.

And I even have a pattern that will fit the bill.

I probably even have *plenty* of fabric in my stash that will work great for this.

All I need is a spare couple of evenings.

Sigh. Perhaps after the holidays.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cooking updates

I've a lot of cooking photos to add (not as many as I should have, but a reasonable amount nonetheless) but I want to make this a quick post, so I'll just post what I made at lunch today, to eat tomorrow.

Lunch-time cooking - Lentils with spinach

It was done in about 40 minutes or so, which is perfect. Very little chopping as well, so a win-win. I tasted it as it was cooking, and it tasted yummy. But, I've some left-overs to eat first, so it'll be dinner tomorrow night, most likely.

Saturday night, I also made papad. Honestly, calling papad a recipe is cheating, really, since it involves opening a packet of papad, and toasting. Still, I was happy to oblige. Papad is good snack food for me - I can munch on these all evening long. (Which I did.)

Anyhoo - the thing with papad is that you can either deep fry them, or toast them on the stove top. My mom has a nifty little gadget for toasting the papad, which I made her buy for me as well. I tend not to like specialized one-function gadgets, but this one is pretty useful, and about the only way I know to toast papad. (I like the deep-fried ones well enough, but my hips tend not to agree.)

Here is my little papad toaster thingy, hard at work.

Heat element.

Add papad.

Flip papad sides till both sides get brown.

Eat (with beer to accompany it, of course.)

My papad had bits of black pepper in it, so it was pretty spicy. Other kinds have green chili, or cumin, or plain. If you are looking for them, any Indian grocery store will carry them, and they should run between $2 and $3 for a pack of about 10.

And finally, for no reason at all, a shot of Biscuit. (Ok, I have to leave her behind for the holidays, while I am off visiting my brother, so I feel pretty guilty. Poor kitty! I do have someone who will look in on her daily, but she's pretty social, and I'm afraid she'll be very lonely.)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


This Desigual coat. (Really great site too - you can zoom in, and actually see the back.)

Desigual was everywhere in Barcelona (I was there at the end of October on vacation.)

I wonder - am I up to this? Do I want to try? Is it a bit much for North America?

Thoughts? Please?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Utter frivolity* - McCalls 5575

*I'm re-reading a fantasy trilogy - The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay, who also happens to be a Canadian writer... Anyway, in one scene, the King, who exists in a state of mild disapproval of his brother, makes the above remark about some wager his brother has made.

Utter frivolity to make this dress at the dawn of a Canadian winter... However, I was in search of a quick & easy project and this one was stash-busting, both in terms of fabric and pattern.

Review, you say?

Pattern: McCalls 5575. I made a size 8 on top, and a size 10 on the bottom. As it turned out, I'd have been better off making a size 6 on top, and a size 8 below. (See rant below.)

Pattern notes: You remember how, earlier in the day, I'd remarked that I had only a few steps and then this dress would be done? Yeah. I tempted fate greatly with that remark. After sewing the bodice and the skirt together, the bodice was significantly too loose on me. (For reference, I made a size 8 on the top.)

Let me pause here, and curse the genius pattern drafters at McCalls. (Children, and anyone offended by a lot of swearing may skip this paragraph.) Good f***ing grief! Honestly, ladies and gentlemen, what earthly use is there adding ease to a knit pattern? What are you, crazy? What are you going for here? The starving, waif, clothing-hanging-off-frame look? Seriously, WTF?

Anyway, seam ripping and additional cursing later, I took 4 inches off where the bodice joins the skirt, and this fits well now. 4 inches!

While most of the cursing was directed at McCalls, some of it was self-directed, since I had read Christina's review, and she did say exactly the same thing. (Only with less cursing.) I should have listened. Learn from your betters, my impatient little paduan.

Ok, getting past the bodice sizing, or lack thereof, the pattern instructions. I'm not anywhere close to an expert sewer, but I'll say this - throw them away, they aren't worth the paper they are printed on.


- Throw away pattern instructions.

- Read Anne's tip on how to attach a collar band to a shirt, and apply the front and back bands to the bodice the exact same way. (I didn't interface my bands either - rather, I used a piece of bias tape at the neck edge seam to prevent gaping.)

- Set the sleeves in flat.

- Now, sew the front skirt piece to the front bodice, and the back skirt piece to the back. (I didn't, and therefore had to do a bunch of assorted ripping - being able to easily adjust the side seams is a must in this dress, where trying to figure out what size you should sew seems to involve hope and prayer, and not size charts.)

- Sew side seams and the sleeve seam all in one.

- Attach sleeve bands.

- Try on, adjust, and then hem the dress and call it done.

Time taken: About 4 hours, with at least a hour of it due to sizing issues. Apart from the sizing, this is an easy-to-sew dress.

Good/bad things
- Umm, how should I put this? This is low-cut! Not a PG-13 look, shall we say? I'll be wearing this with a tank top... (or remember to never bend over.)
- The skirt looks fine in the picture, but the pleats look a little messy to me. Thoughts?
- I did a better job on the hem than usual - I used fusible tape, then zig-zag'ed it in place. I'm sure this isn't right at all, but it looks ok.
- My fabric is a thin, synthetic knit from Joann. (I was desperate, I'd searched all of Toronto for this shade of brown. Really.) Anyway, it has a tendency to cling. I'll probably be wearing a some kind of skirt-slip with this dress to avoid static (and other) cling.

Conclusion: I don't know what I'd do without the internet, honestly. To anyone who shares tips and tricks freely - I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

(And now, to bed. Good thing I've no meetings in the morning.)

That noise you hear?

That would be the wrrrr of my sewing machine. I stayed up really late last night finishing up the bodice for my dress. (At 12.30, I decided that if I had any intentions of getting to work before 10, I better get myself to bed.)

I just have to add sleeves & hem band, attach the bodice to the skirt, hem the skirt (this part I'm dreading) and I'm done.

Movie night plans have been firmly postponed. Inglorious Basterds can wait - this dress is going to get done tonight.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Sewing Pattern Review - BWOF 10_2009_115

I love everything about this dress.

When I started sewing this dress, I was determined to do it right. I've been feeling less than satisfied with the last few things I've made (see here and here for examples of the blahs), and I really wanted to make something I was perfectly happy with.

Which I am, about this dress.

Review, then?

Fabric: About a yard and a half of a polyester suiting. I bought this at the $2 table at WalMart over two years ago. It has a bit of a stretch to it. I don't love my fabric, but at the same time, this dress is washable. Trade-offs. For the lining, some gray lining.

Pattern: BWOF 10-2009-115. I made a size 38 on top, and a size 40 for waist and hips.

Pattern notes: This is rated 2.5 dots - but it is easier than that. I think the rating is due to the princess seams? I followed Tany's excellent instructions, that I originally read over a year ago. Still useful and relevant. Little other by way of complication here.

I have either lost some weight, or this sews up larger than I'd expect - once the dress was constructed, I took in a half inch off each side seam, to get it to not hang off me.

And finally, I followed Anne's excellent tip - sew the lining first. Honestly, had that not been already done, I'd have never had enough motivation to keep going. Really great tip.

Time taken: Well, I started this dress in October. Hmm. It honestly didn't take that long - maybe 3, 4 evenings of work? I just couldn't get around to sewing - I've been really busy - work, life, cooking, etc. I also deliberately wanted to not rush - since I really wanted to be happy with the results.

Good things: I really needed a work-appropriate, lined dress. This fits the bill perfectly.

Bad things:
I got none. I'm not over-the-moon about my fabric - that's the best I can do.

(View of the back.)

I've a McCalls pattern cut out, and it looks simple (knit dress, no lining), so hopefully, sometime this week, when I find two hours.

(Oh, and please comment? Comments are fun.)

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Cooking round-up

Read more here about the Madhur Jaffrey project - one of my 2010 goals. For an index of recipes, click here.

In which I cook for other people
My workplace does a 13-Days-of-Christmas thing, where people sign up to bring snacks for our department. I signed up for Dec 3, which is why one might have found me cooking at midnight the day before, making 2 kinds of koo-koos.

December 2 - Kookoo with cauliflower and parsley

Kookoo with zucchini, dill and raisins
(Picture taken during the cooking process. When done, it looked identical to the previous picture.)

The kookoos, were, sadly to say, not a great hit. They were tasty, but probably a bit different - I should have stuck to cookies. (However, as I've said before, I tend to prefer savory over sweet.) Still, it meant I had leftovers, and its hard to complain about that.

A kookoo is, for those that are wondering, like an omelet or a frittata. (And Persian in origin.) Eggs are mixed with vegetables, and then cooked in a skillet. The most complicated thing here was finding an appropriate sized skillet, and flipping the kookoo. As you can tell from the first picture, my kookoos held together, but the crust wasn't very even. (I need a non-stick skillet, what can I say?)
In which I misread cooking instructions

I had the day off work yesterday, and in between sewing, I managed to cook up a hasty vegetable dish. (In sewing news, the grey dress is finally finished - pictures to follow as soon as I can round up a parent or sibling to be the photographer)

I was skimming the recipe, doubly distracted by hunger pangs and thoughts of sewing, causing me to misread a recipe line. I needed boiling potatoes, not boiled potatoes. Hmm.

While this made the dish a lot mushier than it should have been, I have no complaints on taste. It is staggering how good eggplant and potatoes can be. Especially because reading the accompanying spices, this sounded like the kind of thing I'd make when there were no ingredients in the house. Cumin, chili powder and coriander powder are default Indian spices, and I tend to add to any vegetable, mix up and call it done. I have, however, never created anything as yummy as this dish.

Or maybe I was just hungry.

Dinner - December 4 - Eggplant and Potato


In which I recover after a night out
Entirely too much partying was done last night, and as I staggered awake this afternoon, I was ready for some food that would make me feel human again.

Enter this scrambled egg recipe, which is the essence of simplicity, and takes less than 5 minutes to make. Accompanied by a mugful of green tea, and a hearty dollop of sriracha sauce. (Because, let's be clear, everything is better with sriracha sauce.)

And am I ready to rejoin the world of the living? The jury's still out on that.

Breakfast in the afternoon - December 5 - Scrambled eggs with Chinese chives

In which I ill-treat a cat

While Biscuit is spoiled and indulged in many ways, clearly, not so in the area of bedding. She sleeps on the couch, or in my fabric closet, or on the bed - but I'm not one who will get her a cat bed, since I'm fairly sure that any serious outlay of money will only be greeted by disdain. (I have a bunch of cat toys that prove this point, while Biscuit seems happiest rolling a pencil around the apartment.)

And so, here's the current version of a cat bed. Which is evidently quite a hit.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Movie night eating...

Read more here about the Madhur Jaffrey project - one of my 2010 goals. For an index of recipes, click here.

Tuesday's become quite the movie night chez moi. Today was the first 30 minutes or so of Four Christmases, then I gave up (it was not good) and watched Ghost World instead, which was better.

To accompany the movie was dinner, of course.

Dinner - December 1st - Plain Gujarati Karhi, Dry potatoes cooked with mustard seeds, Green beans cooked with mustard seeds and red pepper and store bought naan

Cooking Notes:

- While most of the recipes I've cooked so far are new to me, the Gujarati Karhi is one of my go-to recipes. It takes 15 minutes to make, start to finish, and is absolutely delicious. The cookbook's copyrighted, but here's a recipe for it I found on the internet. Similar enough...
- Both the potato and green beans are South Indian recipes, and were almost identical to versions I make sans recipe.
- I used long beans instead of green beans, but this is an authorized-by-Madhur-Jaffrey substitution (in the recipe notes.)
- All recipes, unless otherwise stated, turn out delicious. No exception here, everything was very tasty.

Saturday night, before my friend's housewarming, I quickly mixed up the Tamarind-Mint chutney. Which means that sometime this week, I hope to do some deep-frying so that the chutney can serve as a dipping sauce. I loathe to deep-fry; I live in an apartment, and it is winter. The entire apartment will reek of smoking oil. Still, up to right now, I've been cooking the relatively easier stuff, and I don't want to leave all the fiddly, PIA recipes for the end.

November 28 - Tamarind-Mint Chutney

Parting Shot: This is one of Biscuit's favorite sleeping/hanging-out spots. The top of the couch. Crazy cat...