Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Monday night's cooking frenzy

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

When in Montreal, I lunched at the market, and stumbled upon some morel mushrooms. They were ridiculously expensive, but I had two recipes that called for them, so I sucked it up and bought them. They dried up somewhat by the time I was able to use them, but I rehydrated in some hot water, and they were fine.

With the morels, I made Morel Mushrooms with Peas, and Kashmiri-style gucchi pullao.

Since I had a ton of groceries in my frig, I also made Brown rice with spinach, Spinach cooked in a Bihari style, Cauliflower and peas with yogurt and Besan (A savory, chickpea flour quiche).

I promptly gave my parents the brown rice with spinach, since my frig was overflowing with food.

I was in the kitchen from 5.30pm until midnight. I stopped for about an hour to give a friend some career advice, and maybe watched a half hour of mindless TV, but that was still a lot of cooking. (I am a slow cook when I follow a recipe, I guess, since I don't really work on multiple recipes in parallel. I'd wither and die in a professional kitchen.) I'm really quite insane.

And I (sort-of) give up!

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

Ok, here's where it stands.

- I started with 484 recipes to cook.
- I've cooked 174 (~36%) - leaving me 310 recipes to cook in 6 months.

And this is, ladies and gentlemen, the point where I throw my hands up in despair and reexamine this.

I've seen the writing on the wall for a few months now. But I was determined to plow through.

Then, I stopped to think of why I was doing this, and whether I was doing all the other things on my list this year.

I had a theme for the year - a year of consistency. I wanted to clean consistently, cook consistently, sew consistently, and do other things like learn French, attend lectures, etc. The Madhur Jaffrey project has, however, because of its sheer size, taken over. My apartment is a shambles, my Burdas lie untouched (although contributing to that is the sheer suckiness of the offerings in the last six months), and I'm pretty sure Biscuit hates me.

It is time to reconsider.

The goal was to force me to cook new things consistently - so I'm pushing my deadline back. I'm adding 6 months to the clock. Which means I have to cook a managable 6.46 recipes a week. I can do that.

New deadline - July 1st, 2011.

(I spent Monday evening cooking 6 dishes, so I'm almost done for this week. Yay.)

PS: My mom thought I was stressing myself out by cooking all these recipes. That isn't precisely true. I still really enjoy the cooking process, and in a perfect world where the amount of spare time I had was doubled or tripled, I would love to cook 310 recipes in 6 months. However, the stress was that so many things were being left undone, and I didn't feel balanced at all.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A very important anniversary

Three years ago, I made my first skirt. My zipper didn't meet neatly at the top, but it was wearable, and got me started on this amazing journey.

Not exactly to commemorate this event, but I'm making a skirt right now. I'm using the Simplicity 4236 pattern, and, inspired by PR Montreal, and the many discussions I had with people there - I'm even finishing all my interior seams.

The first three years of sewing has been mostly about quantity. I sewed a lot - all of it fast and easy and sloppy. My goal for the next three - to be as impeccable as I know how.

(Yes, I know I still owe pictures of the cocktail dress. June was a crazy whirlwind - I was out of town three weekends, and have barely been at home the remaining time. July promises to be saner, so pictures will be posted soon.)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

PR Weekend Montreal - Recap

What fun last weekend was! I took full advantage of being only 6 hours away, and made it to PR Montreal.

Ok, I will confess I was nervous about meeting so many sewers! My dress had french seams partly because the silk frays, but mostly because I wanted to do the best possible job for a dress that would be displayed to other sewers. I packed with extra care, since everything I made was going to be on display. It was all very nerve-racking.

Very unnecessarily nerve-racking, because of course, everyone was super-nice!

Friday morning, I checked into the dorms, and then headed to the two talks - by Kathryn Brenne and Jeanne Bidet. Both very different, both very informative. For Kathryn's talk, I was sitting all the way over in the back (umm, I was late - my major character flaw - I am always late...) Which meant I couldn't see all the detail in the yummy garments, so for Jalie, I made my way over to the front, and sat in the front row like a good little teacher's pet. Fascinating and informative! I've several new techniques to try.

Friday evening - cocktail party time. I liked my dress (yes, I did finish sewing it) but didn't sew a clasp, and didn't want to enter it in the contest. But everyone made me. What wonderful dresses there were there! It was so inspiring to see what everyone had made, and I totally resolved to sew more better/slower/with more care.

(Oh, and the dinner was amazing.)

Saturday morning - super early (for me), it was get on the bus and go fabric shopping. I have no illusions, I'm not sewing my own workout wear (and if you know me, you know I almost never work out, I'm really lazy), so I went instead to Madeline Soie et Laine. Great store - I wanted to buy the entire store. Instead, I settled for 3 pieces, two off the remnant table, and I bought one meter of Michael Miller cotton that's going to be a great summer skirt.

Most of the day was spent fabric shopping. I bought 7.5 meters in total, which was on the low side, it seemed. However, my stash is out of control, and I really am struggling to find time to sew, so this seemed plenty.

Saturday evening, pizza and a fun show-and-tell. And a pattern/fabric swap. I wasn't organized enough to bring fabric or patterns, and I felt bad about taking any patterns, but there were tons of vintage patterns, and I didn't have the power to resist. Bad Reethi!

Sunday morning, I headed to the McCord museum to see their old costumes and Cirque du Soleil costumes. It was hard at the Cirque du Soleil exhibit - I wanted to touch everything, and of course, you actually can't, at a museum.

After that, I wandered back hostel-ward, and got on my bus...

Special thanks to all the organizers - Anne-Marie, Kay (and isn't her dress to die for? I saw it in person, it was so spectacular), Connie (who made our oh-so-cute badges and pins, I have no idea how much patience that takes!) and Claire (who found me a copy of La Mia Boutique, and then traipsed all over town with me looking for other sewing magazines)

It was really a great weekend. I met tons of cool people, everyone was nice and friendly and welcoming, and it was so much fun to talk sewing non-stop for two days.

And, umm, I was too busy talking to take any pictures, hence this is a picture-less post.

Since my life is a whirlwind, I leave in the morning to go to Chicago for the weekend. I'm hanging with college buddies, so there will be no time to fabric shop (and this is a good thing, trust me.) But, I'm itching to sew, and sewing will definitely happen on Monday.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cocktail Dress: Quick progress update

I should be done by now, shouldn't I? I'm not.

Unexpected social stuff last night shortened my evening, so rather than sew from 8pm (the original plan) - I got in front of the machine at 10pm instead.

However, in the 3-odd hours I put in, I managed to get a reasonable bit done, and right now, what remains on the dress is:

- Ironing the skirt gathers. I gathered by hand, since my silk felt too fragile for my zig-zag stitch on my machine. The gathers are sort of even (I'm never very good at this, however) but they need to be steamed down a little.
- Finishing the inside seam where the skirt attaches to the midriff band. Right now, this is the only unfinished seam (the skirt has french seams, and the bodice is self-lined, and has no visible seams). I didn't want to sew the waist seam as a french seam, since I thought it would add bulk. Now, I'll have to spend some time researching what the best way to enclose that seam.)
- Sewing the zipper, and sewing the center back closed. Along the way, I need to also enclose this seam.
- Hem. I told my mother I'd be hand-hemming on the overnight bus to Montreal. At that time, I was joking. Now however, it might actually be true.

Readers - help me please - best way to enclose my seams? I could make silk bias-tape (I do own a scarcely-used bias-tape maker), and then enclose the seam in that. It might be fiddly however, and also add bulk. Any better ideas?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cocktail dress in a hurry: Fabric

Ok, since I leave on Thursday for Montreal, I'm not actually at the fabric picking stage. Fabric has been cut out, and the bodice has been sewn. I hope to finish this tonight, or worst-case, tomorrow. (Else I go naked. Dire!)

Like I said in the last post on this dress, I'm using a beautiful midnight-blue silk for this dress.

And of course, the princess Biscuit approves.

One aargh moment so far - I've managed to cut my bodice in such a way that one of those dots on the fabric is - how shall we say it - in the wrong place. Aargh. However, since my bodice is self-lined, I might simply flip the right and wrong sides. (I did try to take care when cutting it out, to make sure it wouldn't happen. And before I do the flip, I'll try it on with the actual bra I'm planning to wear - since I'm sure that will make a difference.)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Another word on the Handkerchief Quilt

A few weeks ago, I got an email forwarded by my mother, from my uncle. They'd painted their bedroom, and my uncle had sent her a photo.

But then there was this comment from my mom, which I found hilarious.

hmm hanky quilt it is the FAVOURITE!!!

sigh sigh

S'okay, mom.

However, the most ridiculous bit of the entire thing was that this was the easiest project ever.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cocktail Dress - I picked a pattern

First though - hey - I had comments! Thanks! Angeal - I love McCalls 6113, but unfortunately, I don't have this pattern in my stash, and it is just too complicated to get to Fabricland to buy the pattern. But for the future - I agree, this would showcase my fabric beautifully.

So, the pattern I picked was a bit boring, but I've a hidden motive here.

My hidden motive - I want to use some satin fabric I bought in Toronto a couple of months back to make a maxi version. It wasn't cheap fabric, and I want a couple of tries to perfect the bodice fit.

For my cocktail dress though, I'm going to make the short length, halter top version, in a beatiful midnight-blue silk.

Up next - muslin making! I normally don't bother, but I don't have time to fail here. I want to make a wearable muslin though. If I elect to stay at home tomorrow night, then perhaps I can get it all done tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Cocktail Dress in a hurry!

So I need to make a cocktail dress for PR Montreal.

I have a week and a half of time, which would generally be sufficient, if not for the reasonably-frantic pace of my life. (Tonight, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday are reasonably booked up, leaving umm... no time to get it made.)

On the good side, I have fabric. Both my aunt and my mom have given me old saris (beautiful silk in the most amazing colors - I have a grey silk, a midnight-blue silk and a cream-ish silk to work with, I think.)

On the bad side, I have no idea what a cocktail dress is supposed to look like. (In my fantasy life, I have occasions where I need to wear a cocktail dress. In my real life - not so much.)

In other sewing news - my skirt and jacket are languishing, unfinished, as I haven't gone near my sewing machine in a week.

Up next - later tonight, I'm going to pick a pattern for this. Given I have a week to make it, it is safe to say it'll be easy.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


I spent the weekend in Montreal - it was awesome. (Also my excuse about the no-sewing/no-cooking thing.)

The goal was to hit up the excellent Mondial de la Biere, which I did.

Also, in the brief moments of time when I wasn't at the beer fest, I was in the really nice Atwater market, eating croissants, and lusting after fresh fruit and vegetables.

And yes, my Montreal pictures look very much like my Ottawa pictures. I enjoy wandering through markets everywhere.

I didn't buy any fabric (or even visit any fabric stores), but since I'm going to do PatternReview's Montreal trip in a couple of weeks, I've only delayed the inevitable.

Monday, June 07, 2010

April Cooking Catch-Up

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

My computer has been having issues. I'm at relatively serious risk of losing all my data, and I spent most of yesterday evening backing up data. And so I better post my April pictures, before it is too late...

April 6, My parents came over for lunch, I cooked up a feast.

April 6, 2010 (Lunch with parents): Potatoes with chickpeas; Tabouleh; Yogurt with Roasted Eggplant (and store-bought pita)

I even made dessert - zucchini halwa.

April 8, 2010 (Dinner with a friend): Creamed Eggplant

April 17, 2010: Breakfast for friends visiting from Michigan - Omelette with a spicy tomato stuffing (during the cooking process, and closed on a plate)

April 21, 2010 dinner: Green Beans and Peas with Ginger

April 24, 2010 Cooking: Vangi Bhat (Rice and egglpant cooked in Maharashtrian Style)
Lunch with a friend. We were hanging out, and I didn't want to go out to eat.

April 25, 2010 Cooking: (in sequence) Bean Curd with Chinese Parsley, Japanese Cucumber Salad, Potato Stew, Hot and Spicy Hyderabadi Tomato Chutney, Cacik (Cold Yogurt Soup in a Turkish Style)

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Instant gratification sewing - Simplicity 4177

I'm procrastinating on cutting out lining, and therefore needed a quick and easy project.

Simplicity 4177, view C was it. It took a few hours, and used up a bit of fabric in perfect fashion.

This is very easy sewing - raglan sleeves, so no sleeve setting, no fasteners of any kind. I made a size 8, with a bit added for my hips - no other adjustment required.

I didn't have enough fabric to get fancy with plaid-matching, as you can see by my ridiculously mismatched side seams. I don't really care though - this is easy-breezy-summer-wearing, I've seen RTW that is just as bad, and I'm reasonably sure only a sewer would notice details like this.

May Cooking Round-up

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

Like I said, May was a terrible cooking month. I barely cooked, which has the unexpected benefit of making this post relatively easy to write.

May 2, 2010 Cooking: In sequence, Stir-fried asparagus flavored with sesame oil; Chickpea and tomato stew; Sawsawang kamatis (Filipino tomato salad); Korean-style cucumber salad

May 3, 2010 Breakfast: Sauteed bean curd, with Korean dipping sauce number 2

I woke up early one morning, and made some food - both the stir-fried bitter melon, and the salad of mung-bean sprouts and egg strands. I then proceeded to eat the salad for breakfast, which sounds weird, but was delicious.

May 7, 2010: In sequence, stir-fried bitter melon; salad of mung-bean sprouts and egg strands

I had a potluck for Mother's Day, and I actually made my mother cook. Am I a horrible daughter? Still, I did cook. I made a bunch of Indian food.

I'm South Indian, and was especially curious about how the potatoes and sambar would taste. Pretty credible - I'm impressed to note. The sambar isn't quite the way I'd make it, but it was pretty tasty.

Potluck Brunch May 9, 2010: In sequence, Very spicy, delicious chickpeas; Potatoes and onions; Sambar

This is what my friend Anna thought of the food. :)

May 24, 2010 cooking for the week: In sequence, Green beans with onion, garlic and tomato; Bean curd with broccoli

Me-Made-May - Days 24, 25, 27, 28, 30

I have a few photos to re-take, but I have kept track of what I wore. Mostly by the easy method of not putting away the clothes I wear. ;)

Day 24 - Monday: Monday was blissful. It was Victoria Day here. I lounged around at home, sat on my balcony enjoying the perfect weather, and did very little else. This dress is an oldie - it is McCalls 5621. Supremely comfortable, and yet, nice enough to leave the house in.

Day 25 - Tuesday: I haven't worn this Butterick 5173 dress much. It needs a slip, and I don't have one the right length. Plus the gathers aren't the most flattering, etc. Nonetheless, I pulled it out wore it. (And kept worrying about my slip showing all day - very annoying!)

Day 27 - Thursday (day): Hey - the black skirt (McCalls 5817) again. Paired with my blue Simplicity 2938 top (which is really a bit shapeless, and should be worn under a suit or something.)

Day 28 - Thursday (evening): Navy-blue McCalls 5817 pants - recently finished, paired with an old Simplicity 2938 top. (Yes, I did indeed wear the same pattern twice in a row.)

Day 29 - Saturday (evening): I did wear another me-made outfit during the day (will post a photo soon), but in the evening, I was going out, and switched to this McCalls 4444 dress. This dress remains one of my favorite dresses, and I should really make another version of it soon.

Day 30 - Sunday: Hey - haven't we seen this before? Evidently this McCalls 5621 dress is my lounge-around-do-very-little dress, although in fact on Sunday, I did actually do stuff. (I saw MSF's refugee camp recreation and went to a friend's house for dinner, where the lack of shape in this dress was very useful as I ate my body-weight in food.)

Tuesday night cooking

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

May hasn't been a cooking heavy month. I've been eating out, and I can tell, as can my weighing scale. Discipline will be required for the next few months, since there are atleast 2 fall dresses (that I cut out last year and didn't sew) that are a size smaller. Grr.

Last night, I wandered into my kitchen, and cooked up food for the next couple of days.

June 1, 2010: Food for the week
Brussels sprouts stir-fried with dried Chinese mushrooms

Stewed beets with tomatoes
Plain basmati rice

I do need to step up the cooking pace, big-time, so maybe I'll just invite my parents over, or drop off leftovers at their place.