Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Any excuse for a party

I admit it. Sometimes I get carried away. When Brittany said we should do dinner, I said, “You guys should come over for dinner Friday night.” Simple enough. And then I went home and thought about menu ideas. And then I made a paper flower . And then I had a theme. And then dinner became “dinner party”. Then I needed an invitation, a clean house, and a cute dress. And so, after a silly but worthwhile amount of preparation for a dinner among six friends, I present to you, the Indoor Garden Party.

In anticipation of warmer spring days,
blooming flowers, and lemonade,
You are invited to an indoor garden party.

The forecast in Seattle is always quite silly,
but inside the house it won't be chilly.
Now you might ask, whatever shall I wear?
Your cutest spring dress, and a flower in your hair.


Tinto and spiked Arnold Palmers
Pastry wrapped asparagus
Pork and vegetable egg rolls
Asian salad w/chile lime vinaigrette, mango, avocado, & broiled scallops
Baked salmon with mango chutney over rice
Raspberry and lemon sorbet

I do realize there probably should be some point to this post. I’m trying to think of something. Oh yeah, theme parties are fun. Why limit stressful housecleaning and decorating madness to official holidays? Have you thrown a theme party? What was your theme?

*A huge shoutout to Brittany for helping out with the cooking and making the delicious asparagus appetizers. Also, fun fact for you.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Happy Birthday, Miss Jasper!

This birthday shoutout goes to Jasper Maybelle Freed [a.k.a. J. May, Miss Jasper, Little Merryweather, Mrs. Wigglebottoms] who turned the big THREE yesterday!

Jasper, thanks for always being excited when I come home, keeping me well exercised, and being such a great cuddler. I forgive you for keeping me awake between the hours of 4:00 and 5:30 this morning because the wind was blowing and you thought it would be safer to sleep on my head. Thank goodness you're so cute.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Birthday Bag

One of my great joys in life is finding perfect gifts for my friends and family. Sometimes that means making the perfect gift. One of my best friends and fellow bibliophile, Natalie, who lives way-too-far-away, just celebrated her birthday. While I couldn't celebrate with her, I did enjoy the weeks leading up to her birthday as I worked on her birthday gift. I came across Sunset's 3 DIY gift baskets not too long ago, and this one was great inspiration.

Here's Natalie's birthday bag:

You can see each item close up here.

This is what I did: I bought a blank canvas tote from the craft store (about $4). Using my fun new fabric ink I stamped away. I tried it out on a sample piece of fabric first, to get an idea of how dark the ink would turn out. Once it was dry I ironed it (through a thin tea towel) to hopefully set the ink and and iron out some of the fold lines in the bag.

I stamped some packing paper as well and wrapped up a bar of handmade soap, tying it up with some jute.

A while back I begged my engineering friend to give me some of his old building plans. I used one of those to wrap her book and also stamped the paper with "DRAFT", "REVIEWED", and "PRIORITY".

I made her a set of magnets using an old map, some clear glass craft stones, some mod podge, and hot glue.

And you remember the notebook.

I hope she had as much fun recieving this bag of goodies as I had making it. Happy birthday, Natalie! I hope it's a great year for you.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What goes with Macaroni?

Recently, invited for dinner at Jay & Christie’s, we planned to bring a salad. The main course was macaroni and bleu, and so I was having a difficult time coming up with an appropriate side. I’m kind of neurotic when it comes to dinner parties and potlucks (perhaps 4 does not necessarily constitute a party...). The day of the dinner, wracking my brain, I asked my good friend Internet, “What goes with macaroni and cheese?”
She answered: Broccoli, green beans, asparagus, peas, or sautéed greens. (The Internet is always right, so she must be female). I love fresh green beans, so I searched for green bean salad and stumbled across this great recipe:

Fresh Green Bean Salad with Basil and Tomatoes

(T. Susan Chang for NPR, Adapted from Cookwise by Shirley Corriher, Morrow 1997]

Makes 8 servings
1-1/2 pounds fresh green beans
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon salt (4 teaspoons total)
1 recipe garlic-basil dressing (below)
5 firm ripe tomatoes, sliced
4 sprigs fresh basil for garnish

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. While the water's heating, fill a large bowl with ice water (using at least a dozen cubes of ice). Once the water boils, add the beans and cook briefly: 1 or 2 minutes for tiny haricots, 4 or 5 for bigger beans. Don't walk away. Drain the beans quickly. Then shock them by dumping them in the ice water, agitating them briefly until they are quite cool (about a minute). Then drain again and set aside. They can be refrigerated in a tightly sealed plastic bag for several hours with no loss of color or texture. If you do refrigerate, first dry them extra-thoroughly on a dish towel. When ready to serve, toss the green beans with 1/3 cup of the dressing in a large mixing bowl. Taste and add more dressing or salt as needed. Pile the beans high in the center of a large white platter. Arrange the tomato slices overlapping around the edge. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt, and drizzle 3 tablespoons of the dressing on top of them. Garnish with the basil sprigs. Serve immediately.

Garlic-Basil Dressing
1 clove garlic
1 shallot
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup canola, corn or other vegetable oil
15 fresh basil leaves

Turn on the processor with the steel blade and drop the garlic and shallot down the feed tube onto the spinning blade to mince. Add the vinegar, salt, pepper, mustard and sugar. With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the oil. Add the basil leaves and coarsely chop with several on/off pulses.

My Notes: Though the dressing is delicious, I wanted the salad to be more basil-y, so I chopped up some extra basil and tossed it with the green beans. Make sure you don’t cook the green beans too long; you want them to have a bit of a crisp texture, not soft or mushy. I added some garlic salt to the green beans when finished, and to the tomato slices instead of regular salt. I tried the dressing recipe using 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar and 1 tbsp balsamic in place of the red wine vinegar and a quarter yellow onion in place of the shallot and I thought that worked great.

The salad was a success, thank goodness. Justin did comment that it was rather risky to try a new recipe an hour before we had to be there. We did show up 30 minutes late, but that was related more to my nothing-to-wear-crisis than food prep. This was a really easy dish, and I made it again the next day with the unprepared green beans and tomatoes I had left over, and the remaining dressing. This salad would be great served with a Panini and will make a great summer salad when it’s grilling weather.

P.S. I forgot to take a picture of the end results but it looked just like the photo. Or even better. Really!!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I made this: Knock-off notebook

Inspired by Lindsey Cheney of The Pleated Poppy, I decided to make this covered notebook. It's pretty darling, if I do say so myself.

Lessons learned from this project:

1. I am not qualified to write a sewing tutorial. Seriously. Take no sewing lessons from me. [Insert jammed sewing machine sound here]. I don't know how to follow a pattern, and I have no idea what is wrong with my machine when it refuses to work. However, I channeled the good old high school days, when we had to make paper grocery bag textbook covers, to make this work.

2. Contrast stitching works best if you actually know how to sew a straight line. If you don't, it shows off all your errors (and crookedyness). Also, when you are sewing on ribbon, take the extra five seconds to make your bobbin thread the same as your main thread. Otherwise if your tension is wrong, you will see the (in my case white) bobbin thread pop through from underneath. Don't worry, I have changed my ways.

3. After making one myself I must say, Lindsey Cheney's notebooks are a killer deal. I really adore her ruffly creations and fabric combinations. Another thing I love about her design is that she had the great idea to make them to fit a standard composition book, so when you fill the book, you can just swap in a new one. Brilliant and inexpensive (comp books only cost about $1-2). Being the non-sewer that I am, this took a surprisingly long time to make, though I used fabric and ribbon that I already had, so that didn't cost me anything (just blood, sweat, and tears...). I'm sure it would go faster should I try it again, but it's the same way I feel about cinnamon rolls. In the end I just want to have one, I don't have to make it myself to enjoy it.

Thanks for the inspiration Lindsey!

Friday, March 5, 2010

I think I can, I think I can...

In follow up to my 2010 goals, I thought I would give you a little update.

1. I have done nothing with the chandelier so far. I have thought about it a lot, especially when I trip over it in my art room. That's all. Oh, and I keep finding chandelier crystals all over my house. They're multiplying like bunnies. We'll keep this on the To Do list.

2. I haven't been able to work on the coffee table yet, but I'm waiting for a sunny day so I can do the sanding outside, since we don't have a garage. It's only sunny when I am at work. Funny how that goes...

3. I have my first quilting lesson scheduled for this Sunday! I fully intend to document the experience in case you want to learn to quilt too. I'm really excited to get started and want to make a quilt and pillow shams for my bed. (Quilt update here.)

4. Pilates was awesome. Wednesday was the last class of the 8-week series and I signed up for another series starting in April. It's definitely challenging, the instructor works us just past my limit, and I feel like my core muscles are stronger. Yay.

5. New recipes will be posted in the weeks ahead. I have tried a few experimental recipes to varying levels of success. You will see the good ones popping up soon.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a crafty weekend!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Avery is turning 1!

So if you have been following this blog for a while, you have met my adorable niece Avery Juliet. In case you have forgotten, here she is in all her cuteness.

(This was at Christmas when she was still trying to figure out how to crawl.)

I can hardly believe it, but she is turning 1 in April. I'm super excited to fly down for her birthday weekend, and especially excited to help my sister Leslie decorate for the party. While discussing fun party themes via chat, I decided that I wanted to make Avery a birthday banner. And so, the madness began:

Step 1: Pick out some cute fabric based on how many flags you want, or how long the name is, etc. I chose 3 different fabrics, plus one complimentary color to unify the three. I also bought some white felt squares to use for the letters of her name.

Step 2: Create a stencil in the shape and size that you want and cut the flags accordingly. Before cutting I decided that I needed at least 5 flags for her name, and 2 on either side, so I chose the order (and quantity) of each fabric piece before I began.

Step 3: Cut the complementary border pieces about an inch longer than the flag on either side to allow for a hem. I wanted the border to be an inch wide on top when finished, so I cut each piece to 4 inches. I made a thin hem on each side, but not the top and bottom. Like so...

Then I cuffed the top and bottom so the unsewn edges met in the middle, inserted the flag, and sewed it all together. I sewed pretty close to the bottom of the border because the string has to have room to pass through the top part. (Sorry if this is a bit confusing. Kind of hard to explain).

And flag one is complete! Repeat with each of the flags. Jam your sewing machine at least 10 times and call it bad names (optional).

Step 4: Cut some stencils for the letters, cut the letters out of felt, and sew them to your flags.

Step 5: Start stringing your banner. I wrapped the end of the string in tape (the length of a flag) so that it could pass through easily. Don't forget to start with your front spacer flags, and not the first letter (which I did in the picture and had to take back off. Oops.) Talk your glassblowing boyfriend into hooking you up with cool glass balls to put between each flag. You don't have a glassblowing boyfriend? Order some from mine!

Tie loops on either side and hang! It turned out pretty long, so for the sake of the picture it's pretty swoopy (since I just hooked to the curtain rod), but you get the idea...