Friday, January 29, 2010

The vacation countdown begins

On Monday, I'm off on vacation for two weeks. I'm very excited! I'm going to India and Turkey for a week each.

Now, I haven't been to India since I started garment-sewing, so I'm actually a little bit nervous. I'm afraid I'm going to come back with hundreds of yards of fabric, displaying no control whatsoever. (I should take a picture of the existing stash and take it with me as a reminder to slow it down.)

Relatedly, I made a list of 4 places I want to visit in India, 3 of them were fabric stores. I sense doom.

I also hear there will be fabric in Turkey, which is very exciting. I'm dreaming of wool...

I haven't touched the dress since the last post - work has been chaotically busy (the run-up to two weeks of vacation, I fear), and so has my social life. I would really, really like to get this dress done before I leave - we'll see.

Vacation wardrobe? Hah. I have no idea how people manage it, really. Every time Trena goes on a trip, she sews amazing travel wardrobes. I need to learn her time management skills.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Irrational sewing phobias

We all have them, right?

Mine are darts. I hate sewing darts. A dart can get me to procrastinate on a project for days and days...

Why is this coming up now, you ask? Because my current project, which I cut out in Myrtle Beach, is this dress.

Which has, count them, 34 darts to sew.

I therefore estimate that I'll be done with this dress in 2011.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Look - actual sewing!

It isn't a quilt top, and it certainly isn't a UFO bag. It is an actual skirt!

I got back home today, and sternly talked myself into making buttonholes. My friend's Elna came through like a trooper - the buttonholes were painless. I was panicking for nothing.

And voila, a skirt! (Chocolate brown does not photograph well. I had to fiddle with the settings to get this to show the pleat at all. I'll try again tomorrow too, but I'm too sleepy to care right now.)

This Dec 2009 BWOF skirt was on practically every blog I read in early December, and the enthusiasm in blog-land was the only reason I looked at this pattern twice. (The Burda styling did not do this skirt any favors.)

It was also a perfect project for someone who was using an assortment of half-working sewing machines to get it done. It only had 4 pattern pieces. No zipper was required. It needed to be hand-hemmed. (Football on TV helps for incredibly tedious tasks like this.)

I made it in a brown fabric I bought forever ago from JoAnn. (In other words, before I knew any better.) It is a medium weight skirting fabric, but the downside - it unravels like the devil! I didn't dare make french seams since I'm stuck in sewing-machine-hell, but I will fray-check the heck out of it before I wear it.

Ah, it is nice to finally finish a garment. This feels good. (Plus, I really like the skirt. I was afraid the pleat wouldn't be flattering, but it actually is really pretty nice looking.)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Handkerchief Quilt Top - Done!

I'm still having trouble with the sewing machine. These are so frustrating that *everyone* around me has heard me whine about it. I'm hoping for some spare time this week to go and test drive a couple of options, but if I don't manage to buy a sewing machine, it doesn't get done for the next couple weeks; I'm off on vacation the first two weeks of Feb. (Which is pretty awesome, really.)

In any case, a friend loaned me her Elna. It has a few issues, but I jury-rigged it enough to complete this quilt top.

Up next - the Dec BWOF skirt that a lot of people have made. I'm actually almost done with this, I just need to get brave and try a buttonhole with a non-optimal sewing setup.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The most exciting news this month...

Could it be?

In an odd, inexplicable, head-scratching, wonderful, random way, my sewing machine works again.

I have no idea why. (Except maybe something had jammed, and me taking it to the repair guy to see if it was a cheap fix might have jolted something loose to get it to work again? )

It could stop working any minute.

But until that moment, I'm celebrating.

And sewing.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Resisting Saturday Sloth

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

I was sitting around at home feeling really lazy on Saturday afternoon. But, then, there were a bunch of veggies sitting in my frig threatening to die. And so, I got to work.

First I made a list of what I hoped to get done. (As it turns out, this was a very optimistic list. )

Then, I popped in my favorite CD in the player.

I noted the time. (I am such a geek.)

I got cooking.

And three hours later (!) I had 4 dishes done, lots of veggies used up, and food in the frig for the week ahead.

Jan 16 Cooking: Green beans with fresh coconut and sesame seeds; Cabbage and tomatoes cooked in mustard oil; Potatoes and tomatoes cooked with fresh coconut; Diced potatoes with spinach.

And finally, I congratulated myself for not sitting on the couch the entire afternoon.

I had a friend over for dinner, so I got a chance to try out all the food, and it is all delicious.

Food Notes:
- I especially adore the potatoes and tomatoes, which tastes very kurma-like. (The link leads to a recipe that looks similar, though the recipe I used is simpler - fewer spices & less grinding.)
- I've made beans with coconut before, (in fact, frozen veggie cooked with coconut is one of my staples - a good 5-minute dish.) This version also has cilantro chopped with the coconut, which is unusual to me. (I wonder which part of India it is from. Coconut usage is heavy in South India, but this particular mix of herbs & spices was new to me.)
- The cabbage was yummy, plus I've never cooked cabbage with tomatoes. New food combo!
- Of all the recipes, I was a bit underwhelmed by the diced potato with spinach, but I think it is because it is a fairly common Indian dish (aloo palak or aloo saag - most Indian restaurants will have it, though with considerable amounts of butter & cream added.)

I've still some pictures to post, and my index is seriously out of date, something to rectify. I do keep an Excel spreadsheet to track my progress though (I've already admitted to being a geek) and right now, I'm at 14.26% complete. (69 recipes cooked; 415 to go.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Old Sewing - Butterick 5173

I'm not going to formally review this, since I made it over five months ago, and I don't remember much of the process.

However, I do remember the gathers were a pain to do. And, despite a lot of trying, they end up scrunched up over my tummy. Not a flattering look, unless you are trying for the 3-month-pregnant look. (I'm vain enough that I'm not showing a side view...)

Still, it isn't too bad, and I did wear it out a couple of times over the summer.

(I'm pretty sure the hem is even, and it looks weird because of the way I'm standing...)

A *very* bad sign

I was in the suburbs yesterday, and I talked my mom into driving me to Fabricland. (Canada's big-box fabric store.)

Practically everything in the store was on sale.

I found some beautiful 90% wool fabric, perfect for making pants.

And about a million pretty knit prints.

Some faux fur, in case I want to experiment with making a faux fur coat.


I ended up buying just 3 meters of cloth - Bemberg lining. The restraint!!!!

I think my stash is overwhelming me. Plus, the sewing machine uncertainity isn't helping. I haven't sewn something real in over a month. I am GOING to sort this out by the weekend - this is ridiculous - I have 3 projects all cut out, another 2 traced out, and mountains of stash fabric everywhere I look.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Quick Sewing - UFO Bags

Since my stack of UFOs keeps steadily increasing, I made some quick bags to hold them. This project was mostly designed to use up the "What was I thinking?" fabric and some of the ridiculous amount of trim I have lying around.

20 minutes of sewing, while watching the Patriots get dismantled. Sigh. It was not a good football day.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

First cooking of the year

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

I've been slow to get back into the swing of cooking since returning from vacation. But yesterday, while watching Ocean's Thirteen, I did a bunch of chopping, and I cooked up some of it today.

First up, on Jan 3rd, late at night, I was a bit peckish, but was too lazy to cook. Hence, salt lassi. (Whip yoghurt, water and salt up in a blender for a couple seconds, pour into a glass, and drink. My kind of lazy food.)

Jan 3, 2010 - Salty Lassi

And now, the fruits of Oceans Thirteen's chopping.

In the bowl, Brown Rice, Okra fried with onion and green chili and Oily toovar dal with cloves. The oily toovar dal looks completely disgusting in the packaging, but is quite tasty when the oil is rinsed off.

Jan 7, 2010 dinner: Okra fried with onion and green chili and Oily toovar dal with cloves.

I made the okra for lunch, it was delicious, and quick to make. (The cutting takes time, but the cooking is quick.)

I also made a good stash of food for the week.

Jan 6, 2010: Eggplant cooked with crushed mustard seeds and yoghurt.

The eggplant is really good, but the sauce is quite bitter. The recipe notes say it should be eaten with Indian bread, which I think will cut the bitterness quite nicely.

Jan 7, 2010: Green bell peppers cooked with chickpea flour

Food confession - I don't like green bell peppers. I actually seriously loathe green peppers. I tasted this though - and it is quite tasty. (I'm never going to voluntarily buy and cook green pepper though.) I'll sample a bit, for the sake of the project, and then feed it to my parents.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Handkerchief Quilt Top - Part 2

Just to clarify, in case you were wondering, these are new handkerchiefs. I bought them for this project. (Rather, I made my mom buy them during a trip to India.)

Apart from buying the handkerchiefs initially, my mom rescued my progress tonight. I didn't have a suitable blue fabric in my stash, so she brought me some. (Along with food! I am a princess!)

Anyway, the blocks are done.

I laid out the pieces on my bed to play with placement. It goes without saying, of course, that Biscuit decided she must lie right in the center as I was working. It was not helpful.

I'm free tomorrow and Thursday, so it might indeed get done this week.

(Or, I could do my French homework?)

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Handkerchief Quilt Top - Part 1

I've wanted a handkerchief quilt for a few years now. The biggest part of the appeal is that it is very easy to sew. (Although, my decorating style is more ethnic, and less cottage-country, which is what this quilt is shaping up to be.)

I've 49 blocks to sew for this - and have sewn about half of them already (shown in the picture above.) In the next week, I hope to finish this up.

It should measure about 87"x87" when done. I'm going to India in January or February, and I'll get it quilted then. Getting someone else to quilt is the impetus behind the recent flurry of quilting projects.

Myrtle Beach Cooking Part 2

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


Tomato soup is something most people grow up eating, and experimenting with childhood food is always fraught with risk. None the less, I loved this version of tomato soup. It had ginger and curry, and was savory, spicy and delicious. Also, despite the 4(!) tablespoons of butter in it, it felt really light. (Plus, while my mom is a very good cook otherwise, I really do not like her tomato soup recipe.)

This was Christmas brunch for us, accompanied by this sandwich, which is a great way to sneak veggies into a grilled cheese sandwich. (I didn't make the sandwich, my brother was in charge. Copious amounts of butter probably made its way into that sandwich, but I'm of the don't-ask-don't-tell school here.)

Brunch, Dec 25 - Cream of Tomato Soup, and Cabbage, Onion, Cheese & Chili sandwich

Making Paneer - Dec 27, 2009

While in Myrtle Beach, I decided to tackle what I consider an entirely pointless recipe - Making Paneer.

Why pointless? Paneer is readily available in Indian grocery stores. Plus, it takes forever to make.

Still, it was done. Here are pictures. (It wasn't really great - I wonder if I should try making it again in my kitchen. It was hard cooking in someone else's kitchen.)

The curds draining in a cheesecloth.

Once that happens overnight, the curds are weighed down. (Using everything available in the kitchen.)

And here's the leftover whey.

I used the paneer to make Saag Paneer. Saag paneer is a curry that is readily available in EVERY Indian restaurant, so I was curious to see how good this version was.

It was delicious.

For dinner, I also made Potato patties stuffed with spicy peas, and plain boiled rice (using the leftover whey instead of water, which added a bit of richness to the rice.)

Dinner Dec 27 - Saag Paneer, Potato patties stuffed with spicy peas and Plain boiled rice.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

I think I'm going to have to buy a new sewing machine...

Will you help, please? I could really use recommendations. Many thanks!

(I don't have a budget, per-se, but I'm naturally cheap - insert Russell Peters bit here about Indian cheapness - but at the same time, I'm pretty sick of having carcasses of sewing machines lying around that die every two years or so.)

Friday, January 01, 2010

Ends and Beginnings

Happy 2010!

I stayed in last night (I go out way more than my fair share, so any quiet evening is a bit of a gift...) My mom had brought my old sewing machine over, and so I finished up what is the last sewing project of 2009, which I'm naming "The quilt top that killed my machine"

Can I just pause here and tell you guys how much I miss my sewing machine? It worked. It wouldn't skip stitches. It sewed fast. Ah, is it only when you lose something that you realize how much it meant to you?

(I'm going to take it in tomorrow/next week to a sewing repair guy and see what he thinks.)

This quilt top was made entirely of stash fabrics, which makes me happy. However, stash fabrics show no sign of depletion. *MUST* *WORK* *HARDER*

It could be a bit wider, honestly, but I'm pretty sick of it right now. I might add a couple of rows to it at some point in the next month, but in any case, I'm calling it done.

Later on in the evening, I got hungry. I hadn't really cooked since my return from Myrtle Beach (scrambled eggs do not count), so I pulled out the cookbook and made Spiced buttermilk with coconut and shallots. (I rather miraculously happened to have all the ingredients on hand.)

Middle of night cooking - Dec 31, 2009/Jan 1, 2010: Spiced buttermilk with coconut and shallots

At midnight, I was stir-frying the shallots.

Which makes this, therefore, the first thing I cooked in 2010.

It was very tasty. However, I swapped dessicated coconut for fresh coconut (c'mon - there's NO WAY I'll have fresh grated coconut on hand...) and this is one recipe (one of the very few, actually) where that particular substitution should not be made. It would have definitely been better with fresh coconut.

But it was easy! 20 minutes, start to finish, and I was eating.

Amusingly, I was slicing shallots and tearing up a few minutes before midnight. But I made sure I finished before the magic hour. One does not want to start the new year by tearing up - even if tears are caused by shallots.

And, this is how Biscuit ushered in the new year. Awwwww.....