Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday Brunch

Sunday is my favorite day in the kitchen. Most Sundays begin with a lovely breakfast. One of my favorite things to do is invite friends for brunch. I would love to invite all of you, but since I can't, I enjoy sharing recipes that I love.  Last September I shared a little about my grandmother, Vera and her recipe for biscuits. Today I would like to share her recipe for Banana Bread. I cannot ever remember going to her house that there wasn't a fresh banana bread in her pantry. Not only would she have a fresh one in the pantry, there was always at least one in her deep freezer. She always wanted to be prepared for unexpected guests, a sick friend or even the death of a friend or neighbor. Vera had the most loving spirit. She would be very happy to know that I am sharing this recipe with you.

Vera's Banana Bread 
2 cups flour (I use 1 cup of whole wheat flour and 1 cup of white flour)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
3 bananas mashed

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Stir all ingredients together until well mixed. I like to add raisins or dried cranberries. Today I added dried cranberries.

Grease and flour a bundt pan.  You can see the type of pan I like to use in the picture below. Once I have poured the batter into the pan, I cover the top with chopped pecans. Walnuts are equally as good, but I'm a southern girl and I love pecans.

Bake for 1 hour in a 300 degree preheated oven. Be sure to test before removing from oven. I usually use a wooden skewer to test my cakes.

Finally out of the oven. The house smells heavenly! Now the final test, will it come out of the pan in one piece?

Success!!!Once the bread has cooled, I like to sprinkle it with powdered sugar. For a brunch buffet it's always lovely to put a little fresh fruit around, just dresses it up a bit.
So that's it. So easy and so good. Did you notice that other than the eggs, it's also fat free?
A quick story. One of our first exchange students was an 18 year old young man from Germany. One Saturday morning I made a banana bread and left it on the kitchen counter. Before I had left I told him that he was welcome to have some. When I returned I walked in the kitchen to find most of the banana bread gone. I was shocked. That was my first introduction to just how much a teenage boy can eat. His only explanation was, "it was so good."
If you do decide to try out Vera's recipe, and it ends up gracing one of your brunch buffet's, I know that if she were still with us, she would be so very honored.
I hope you have had a lovely Sunday and wishing you an incredible week.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Frustrating Feathers

What a day! I was so excited about getting feather extensions. Last January my husband and I were in Winter Park, Colorado. A young woman on the ski team had these great feathers in her hair. I loved them, but had no idea where to get them. I went into a local salon for a manicure and they were putting some in a clients hair. We were leaving in a few days so I decided not to get any. I've thought about those crazy feathers ever since. Then, there was a Groupon from a salon here in Chicago that was offering feather extensions. Great, so I bought two, one for myself and one for my niece. What was pictured on the Groupon was exactly what I wanted. When we got into the salon, the woman very quickly started trying to sell us an "upgrade." The feathers were nothing like what I wanted. I explained that what was pictured was what I wanted. She told us that the prices had changed since I bought the Groupon and that she could not offer those. I was hopping mad. My niece was satisfied with what they had so I let her use both Groupons. When I had my last appointment with my hairdresser, I saw that she has the extensions that I wanted. I now have an appointment with her tomorrow evening and I will get what  I thought I was going to get today. By the way, I did call Groupon to complain. I told them that I wasn't looking to get my money back but I thought they should know that the salon wasn't making good on what they had promised. Groupon insisted on refunding the price of one Groupon. Nice.      
 A few promised pictures.

 Thanks for all the lovely compliments. And a welcome to the new followers. Thanks for joining me.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rock 'em, Sock 'em, Knock 'em Dead Dress

I guess there's a little bit of bad girl in me. The dress is very fitted and then as you can see, it's an animal print. I must have a thing for giraffes as I also have a giraffe print skirt. Oh well, we only live once.

The front and back of this pattern are exactly the same. I made this up on Sunday afternoon. From cut to finish, it took less than an hour. Hey, it isn't couture, but it looks great on.

It can also be worn with the shoulders pulled over the arms.

I'll take pictures tomorrow and post them. It's always so much more interesting to see a person in the clothes.
On the "bad girl" thing, I'm getting some feather extensions put in my hair tomorrow. Can't wait!!
Again, we only live once. Don't put anything off and if there's something (not illegal) that makes you smile, by all means.....go for it.

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Pattern Development

As promised, my pattern piece(a couple of days late, sorry about that). This gives you a much better idea about what I was trying to explain about the rotation of the darts into the left shoulder. It's a weird looking pattern piece, but it works. The back pattern is just a very normal looking back pattern.

This is another version of the dress I showed you on Monday. The first dress has a much fuller skirt. I think I like this one better. It's amazing how many times I will make up a pattern before I am completely satisfied with it. At this point I am almost there. I still have a little tweaking to do to the cowl neckline. Basically it is fine, I just want it to be a little better. But in the meantime, I have a new dress and a smokin' pair of shoes to wear with it. I bought the shoes (not Payless) at the end of the season a couple of summers ago and believe it or not, I had nothing to wear them with. The fabric is from Vogue in Evanston.  

 My first version with the fuller skirt. Which do you like best?

So one more try and I think I'll be there.

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Monday, July 25, 2011

A New Dress For A Summer Day

My clematis are blooming for a second time this summer. Maybe they like the scorching heat that we have been having.
I awoke early this morning and the first thought on my mind was that I would like a new dress today. For many this would mean a trip to the store, walking around for probably a good period of time, trying on clothes that only frustrate you, and then more than likely leaving upset for having found nothing and wasting so much time. For those of us who sew, the possibility of having that new dress when we want it is just a matter of going into our studios, choosing a piece of fabric, a pattern and getting started. So I quickly ate my breakfast and down to my studio I went.
I bought this fabric at Britex while on my last trip to San Francisco. It reminds me of a watercolor painting. 

The pattern I used is one of my own. As you can see it has a draped front as well as a draped neckline. I'll post a picture of the pattern on Monday. In order to get this double drape, darts are rotated into the shoulder. If you look at the picture above, there is a dart line seam coming from the left shoulder.
This is another version of the same pattern. The only difference is that the it has long sleeves and is a top rather than a dress.
I would like your help. Should I shorten the dress? I have stood at the mirror and pulled the dress up and let it back down and I just can't decide. I do rather like how it flows with it being a bit longer.

I have a niece that just loves to come and see all the projects that I am working on. She tells me that she so admires how I can make what I wear and then adds that she really doesn't want to do it for herself. So disappointing, but I am determined, eventually I am going to snag her. This dress took no more than an hour to make. Yes there was the time it took to buy the fabric, but I don't count that. Fabric stores are an adventure, a fun destination. Sewing is about freedom, freedom to make the choice of what you want to wear, freedom to choose the fabric and color that will look best on you, and the freedom of not having to spend countless hours searching endlessly for something that will still need to be altered.
Bravo to all of you who sew and take the time to share what you do. I just saw an article that talked about Wal-mart  bringing back their fabric departments. Wal-mart may not have the fabric that many of us long to work with, but I think this is wonderful news. It shows that we have a voice and the biggest retailer in America heard it!

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Thor Is In The House

It's a rainy Sunday morning here in Chicago. Thunder and lightening are all around us. Thor is here.
Thor is believed to be the god of thunder and lightening. His legend is quite interesting. He was believed to be the strongest of the Norse gods, married Sif, a goddess of fertility, but also kept a mistress, Jarnsaxa, the "iron cutlass."    (I guess even the gods are tempted)
Thor is portrayed as being very large, with flowing red hair and eyes of lightening. He was also believed to be the protector of both gods and man. The Norse believed that the thunderstorms were Thor riding through the heavens on his chariot which was pulled by goats. Very well known for having a quick, hot temper, which he would vent on the giants, the main enemies of the gods, Thor would smash their heads with his mighty hammer and in doing so, lightening would strike.
I love this drawing of Thor, a mighty man, deep in thought.

Dark rainy days feel like a warm blanket to me. I love being inside and just being in my home. Days like this give me permission to just be. I get to choose what I want to do. This morning I chose to make pancakes. I call them Hippy-Dippy Pancakes because they are hardly a traditional recipe, but they are really pretty good.  The recipe follows.

Hippy-Dippy Pancakes
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup oatmeal
3 tablespoons almond meal (ground almonds)
2 tablespoons white sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups almond milk
Add your choice of fruit and nuts
Mix all ingredients. Heat griddle. I like to use a two-burner cast iron griddle. Pour batter by the 1/4 cup full on to griddle. As the cake begins to bubble, turn and brown on opposite side. Transfer to plate and continue with remaining batter. Serve with maple syrup and butter. Enjoy. 

Oh the anticipation.
I think the best testimonial I can give you is pictured here. Little Bit LOVES my pancakes!!

 Would you PLEASE give it to me???

In case you're wondering, I have finished eating. I don't continue to eat with the same fork.
I hope you're able to enjoy your Sunday in whatever way you wish. And if Thor is bouncing around in your clouds, just smile and know that whenever you see a flash of lightening there's one less giant out there to torment us. Or at least, so says the legend.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Morning Inspiration

Some years back, I realized that I was throwing away far too many magazines that I just didn't have time to read. So I asked myself which of all the magazines I enjoyed the most and the answer was easy, Vogue. When my current issue of Vogue arrives, it's bath time (I do take a bath more than once a month by the way). I love to draw a hot bath and put in a "tea pouch" from Mighty Leaf. Their bath pouches are so lovely and the aroma is so relaxing. To be honest, I enjoy reading the articles in Vogue probably even more than the photographs. Now I know that sounds a little like "I read Playboy for the articles (oh sure)," but I REALLY do enjoy the articles.
I read a book review on "The Collection" by Goia Diliberto. It's a beautifully written novel about a young woman who goes to Paris to work for Chanel. The review peaked my interest so I bought the book and loved it. I found out that Goia lives in Chicago and we were able to have her come and speak at out holiday party for Haute Couture a few years ago. Thanks Vogue Magazine! She was in negotiations to have her book made into a movie. These things can take a while. I'm still keeping my fingers crossed for her.

I do buy other magazines from time to time, but I no longer have subscriptions, except for Vogue. What a wonderful discovery to find the blog, Dust Jacket Attic. I have no idea where she finds all of the pictures that she posts, but it is a daily delight for me. She will have the most wonderful fashion photos from Australian Vogue, and so many others. She does two posts per day. One post has numerous pictures and the second is called "Image of the Day." Click on the above link. I think you'll be happy that you did.
Another blog that I enjoy is Grosgrain. It's a little quirky, but lots of fun. The woman who writes the blog is a 30 something mom of three little girls. She usually does about three posts per day. In order to receive all the posts, you must become a follower on her blog, otherwise you will only be able to see the main blog post. I have been inspired by the ideas that she finds. Many are not exactly for me, but I love looking at the pictures. There have been great hairstyle ideas and makeup ideas. Last year she did a segment on sweaters that she bought at thrift stores and then refashioned. It was fun to see what she came up with. Again, not exactly for me, but fun ideas nonetheless.
My last blog recommendation today is "MY Happy Sewing Place."  Her name is Debi and she is adorable. She is in love with vintage patterns. I also love her photographs. She is from Edinburgh, Scotland. I have never been to Scotland. I soooo want to go, so her photographs are like little mini trips for me. If you've been following my blog for a while, you'll remember from my post "Celtic Dreams" that I am Scot, Irish and American Indian. I probably shouldn't admit this, but there's nothing like a man in a kilt for me and I have a passion for redheaded kids and black dogs. Now is the time to check out Debi's blog, she is sponsoring a giveaway, a wonderful vintage pattern. There's a part of me that doesn't want to share this with you as I would really like to win the pattern, but as I said, she's adorable and I would rather share her with you than keep her all to myself.
So just a few things to inspire. I'll be back with more.
Have a WONDERFUL day!

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Quik and Easy Headband

Since I have allowed my hair to get a little longer, I am always looking for ways to stylishly keep my hair out of my face. The headband that I am wearing is so simple to make, it keeps my hair out of my face and it can be coordinated with all of the outfits that you make. 

Start by cutting a strip of fabric 34 inches long by 7 inches wide. The strip can be cut on the lengthwise or crosswise grain. I have not made one of these with a knit fabric, but if you do, I would use a rather stable knit and cut it on the lengthwise grain. 

Fold your strip in half so that folded your strip is now 3 1/2 inches wide. Fold the corners back as in the above picture and cut the ends on a 45 degree angle.

Your strip will now look like this.

Sew the angled edges with a 1/4 inch seam allowance and the length of your strip with a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Be sure to leave an opening along the lengthwise seam for turning.

 Along side the lengthwise seam, sew another seam just a scant more than a 1/4 inch away from your original seam line. This forms a casing that a wire will be threaded through.

The wire that I found that I felt had the right amount of bend ability is called a doorbell wire and I found it at my local Ace Hardware store. It's sold by the yard (really cheap, it was something like 30cents for a yard). After you have turned your tube to the right side, thread the wire through the casing that you made in the seam allowance.

Close the opening with a few hand stitches.

Your headband will look like this upon completion.

Wrap the band around your head and twist the ends around each other. Continue to twist the ends around...

until a rosette is formed.

So easy to make. The addition of the wire keeps your hair as well as the band very nicely in place.

I just love the way the bands look and they take no more than about 15 minutes to whip up. They make great gifts as well.
Best of luck. Hope you make a bunch.

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More Japanese Inspiration

My wonderful friend Brenda received Japanese pattern books for Christmas and being the friend that she is, couldn't wait to share them with me. (The books were a gift from her husband! Lucky her.) In fact, she is so generous that she allowed me to borrow them for about three months. Lucky me. Her books were all in Japanese. I decided to look them up on Amazon and there I found two of the four, and again, lucky me, the two that I found are in English. 

The first book, Pattern Magic, written by Tomoko Nakamichi is incredible and a great buy at $16.47.  

Simply incredible and so inspiring.

Isn't this a lovely design?

I can't wait to try out this design.

The second book, Pattern Magic 2, is as inspiring as her first book Pattern Magic. It's also available at Amazon for $16.30. Just in case you didn't know, Amazon offers free shipping on orders of $25.00 or more. So if you purchase both books, the shipping is free and then of course there is no tax. Great deal.
From the forward of Pattern Magic, "Pattern Magic is the cult pattern-making book from Japan. Step-by-step projects show you how to create stunning, sculptural clothes, using a creative approach to pattern making. All the information you need to start pattern making is included, from the basic sloper to measurements and scaling. Each project is beautifully illustrated with clear diagrams and photographs, showing the stages of construction, the muslins, and the finished garments."

Talk about the WOW factor! 

All I can say is, incredible.

So a little inspiration to get your day started.
Just click on the highlighted links above and they will take you directly to Amazon. 

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