Saturday, July 30, 2011

Simplicity 2365 Take Two

Same pattern as the wearable muslin below, this time with long sleeves. I'll spare you detail shots of all my mistakes; I'm happy with it!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lace Cardigan Number Two

And I'm not done yet! The next one is already on my needles.

Leftover Chicken

with Meyer lemon chutney, steamed squash, and fried grits.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


with rice, chicken, and field peas.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Scrambled Eggs

with sauteed okra and fried grits. My husband loves grits in the morning; I love them chilled, sliced, and fried for dinner. He makes enough for breakfast plus plentiful dinner leftovers, and in this way the marriage perks along.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Crab Cakes

with sauteed okra and cherry tomatoes.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Wearable Muslin (Simplicity 2365)

Since I've re-entered the world of sewing (a world transformed, like everything else, by the internet) I've been on a steep learning curve. One term I hear a lot is "wearable muslin," which means, essentially, a test version of a pattern that you can wear if it turns out decently. A muslin, or toile, is the term for a test garment made in cheap, unbleached woven fabric (muslin). Below is a picture of the muslin I made for Simplicity 2601. A wearable muslin, then, just uses whatever fabric you have around that you don't mind sacrificing to the inevitable mistakes and adjustments that happen to the first garment one makes from a pattern. With that in mind I used this small floral, with which I fell out of love after buying, to make Simplicity 2365. I learned pintucking (fun and pretty!), used contrasting scraps for facings at the collar and hem, and sewed on the two orange buttons I had left over from the blue dress I made a month ago. I ended up with an imperfect but pretty garment that I will certainly wear (it looks better on me than on my strong-shouldered dress form). But what I really learned is this: a wearable muslin is less an object than a state of mind. Anything you allow to be imperfect is a muslin, no matter how expensive the materials. It's a metaphor with limitless potential. Your first boyfriend? A wearable muslin for your eventual marriage! Your first book report? Muslin for the dissertation! Etc. etc. The power of the idea is in the freedom it grants one to play, to err, to falter, and still to enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Lamb Chops

with brown rice, sauteed okra, and roasted bell peppers.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Roast Chicken

You know, I've been roasting birds as long as I've been cooking for myself (so, let's say for more than twenty years). I've roasted them in a toaster oven, a convection oven, a regular oven; I've trussed and not trussed, basted and not basted, seasoned, buttered, oiled, herbed, brined, and flipped them. (I also went through a phase of roasting them in paper bags, but that's more steaming than roasting, really). There are no doubt many other things to do with them, but I think I have some varied experience. What I've learned is this: it is very, very hard to make a bad roast chicken, and also very hard to improve on a bird roasted in the least fussy way possible. So now I: never truss, never flip, never baste, and roast at 400 degrees till done. To this procedure I add whatever I have around: garlic in the cavity, preserved lemon or butter or olive oil on the skin, herbs under the skin, vegetables in the pan, etc. But seriously, if you do nothing but stick a chicken in a hot oven until it's done, you'll end up with a delicious and comforting dinner that turns, in the following days, into sandwiches, stock, risotto, etc. It's like magic.

On the other hand, if you want to know what roast chicken is like in an ideal world, go to Zuni Cafe in San Francisco and order their spit-roast chicken over bread salad for two.

Last night we had roast chicken with preserved lemon and oregano on the skin, carrots and potatoes in the pan. Sauteed okra on the side.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sockeye Salmon

badly overcooked, but still ok. With brown rice and sauteed cabbage.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


with guyere and tarragon; with roasted red peppers.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


on whole wheat spaghetti, with tomato, cucumber, red onion salad.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sauteed Cod

with quinoa and roasted red and yellow peppers.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Signe Chanel

Do you have any interest in sewing at all? Well then YouTube yourself up this documentary about the making of a Chanel collection. Forget models and magazines and money (well, not the last, not really); what you want to watch is the Chanel atelier in action translating a sketch into a garment. The movie is made with a lot of wit and style, and with a sense of where the real action is: Laurence's fingers straightening panne velvet ("like a little mouse!"), Martine waiting for Karl ("Who cares if he's left home?"), Jacqueline rejecting a shoulder pad ("This is trash! You can't get anything good anymore.") I could watch these ladies drape all day. It's interesting how in watching the movie I have the simultaneous sense of how well-managed the complex process of making of a Chanel garment actually is, and how frighteningly fragile the whole system is: if a head seamstress dies, an irreplaceable body of knowledge dies with her. It's easy to forget that while a $100,000 dress may seem like an extravagance the world can do without, it's based on a body of skill that takes generations to build, and can easily disappear if any link in the generational chain gets broken. Let's start a fundraiser for couture! Or maybe not. Whatever. You'll love the film.

Lentil Salad

with little French lentils, feta, red onion, mint, lime juice, and olive oil. Even my legume-loathing husband liked it. We had it with sauteed okra and blueberry cornbread.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Second Verse

more or less same as the first. This is once again Simplicity 2601, done in a fabric I bought against my better judgement: wrong color for me, busy pattern. Still, something in it spoke to me, so I bought it. The inside-out shot on the mannequin (catnip for sewers, those inside-out views) shows the bright yellow bias tape I used for the facings, as well as the neat internal bodice facing that keeps the upper seam nice and concealed. This blouse moved fast because I discovered the tool I've been waiting for my whole life: the small-diameter rotary cutter. Made cutting it out fly right by.

Sauteed Trout

farmed! Ick! But still, yum. Especially with sweet corn on the cob and tender sauteed okra.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


and scrounged leftovers for the last two days. Maybe some actual cooking tonight.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Fried Eggs

with roasted potatoes, and tomato, cucumber, onion, and feta salad.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sockeye Salmon

with leftover risotto and sauteed green cabbage.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Simplicity 2601

Just finished this. As with most crafty things the beauty is in the details you don't really see: a clever use of double fold bias tape for facings, an internal facing at the bodice that conceals seams, etc. But you get the general idea.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Happy Birthday

to my spouse! The making of the cake was mine, the decorating my daughter's. Let me tell you, whatever it lacked in elegance (and I'm not conceding it lacked anything in that department) it more than made up for in sheer deliciousness. It's been a while since I made an actual cake, with cake flour, full sugar, and all the rest. Now I remember why: it's just as well human history has no record of how much I actually ate.

The credit for the cake really goes to Rose Levy Berenbaum, however, whose Cake Bible supplied the recipes for cake (All-American Chocolate Butter Cake) and frosting (Milk Chocolate Buttercream, which I made with dark instead of milk chocolate). The thing about her recipes is that they make it almost too easy to make perfect cake. If you just do exactly what she says you end up with ludicrously good results, every time. Where is the drama? Where the dread? For that I guess you need to go tackle pastry.

For dinner beforehand we had field peas with onions, bacon, corn, and parsley, over brown rice. Also sliced tomatoes.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

(Seriously) Left-Over Chicken

with brown rice and a Greek-ish salad of lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber, and feta.