24 January 2011

To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.

Ok, finally! I think I'm ready to post one more epic catch-up blog! This is the third installment, and should catch you up on everything I've been sewing for the last two months. I'll try to present these chronologically:

Warning! This is going to be epic! Feel free to just scroll through and look at the pictures!

Thanksgiving Break I decided to get a head start on Christmas crafting, so I whipped out this (still unfinished) 1950s apron for a friend! Turns out, I made it too small, so I'm going to have to start from scratch on another. It also turns out that vintage apron patterns are as complicated/time consuming as dresses, so I'm going to have to find something a little more efficient.

Next, I made the dreadful mistake of making my New Years dress much too early, not accounting for the holiday pounds I was going to put on. The result is a very cute rust velvet dress that wouldn't come close to zipping on the designated day. It's from McCalls 5094, and was loosely inspired by the red velvet dress Judy Garland wore in "Meet Me In St Louis." I'm calling it the "Esther" after Judy's character.

I knew I had several fun parties coming up, so I spent the early days of December working on Xmas themed party clothes. This wool-blend houndstooth circle skirt in need of pressing was a personal design, based on the skirt (which you can't see in this picture) Vera Ellen wore opposite Danny Kaye in my favorite holiday movie ever, White Christmas!

I imagined my fancier Christmas party dress for weeks before I actually made it. Inspired by Rosemary Clooney's party dress in White Christmas, I searched for the right green velvet, and found the perfect pattern (Vintage Vogue 1084). It was all going so well....until I tried to construct the bodice....Clearly, I had chosen a pattern a little outside of my skill set, and, after sewing and ripping out seams three times, it became clear that this dress simply wasn't going to happen. I was crushed! But I'd spent too much on the store-bought fabric to simply trash it. So, I dug through my supplies and found a pattern that I could puzzle together with my already-cut-out pieces (Vogue 8615). The final result was not at all what I initially envisioned, but it worked, sort of. I don't know if I'll ever be completely happy with it.
However, while looking for stock photos of my inspiration pieces, I happened upon a blogger who shared my inspirations this year! Yay! here's some pics of the original inspiration dress, the back view, and me wearing the "Not so Betty" dress by the "fire" at a dinner party.

After New Year (for which I had to wear a sad thrifted dress, due to the above-mentioned Esther dress tragedy, I had another event to plan for: a friend's wedding! I was feeling bloated and terribly un-sexy after all my holiday eating, so I knew I wanted something flowy and forgiving. I chose Vogue 1102, and I'm pretty happy with it, though by the looks of these pics, I desperately need to shorten the hem dramatically! I was in a hurry, as I made the dress the day of the occasion, so I'll alter it soon. I'm calling it the "Holly" dress, because, though it in no way resembles the Breakfast at Tiffany's dress, that's what I watched while making it.

After all of that event-dress making, I was still finding myself doing battle with my closet every morning. I needed some dresses that I could easily wear to work and/or out for a casual Tuesday happy hour. So, I bought some cotton prints, and dug out some easy, comfortable looking patterns (Vintage Vogue 1171 - blue and Butterick 5315 - black) and got started. Unlike most of my creations, these don't have names yet because they were inspired by necessity, not by a childhood pop culture reference or old movie. I think they feel left out, though, so suggestions for names?

I've already worn this one twice, including out for a night with the girls for a bachelorette party! Here's me, rockin' the "Shopping Cart" dance....only one of the other ladies recognized it, but, as we were in a bar playing Jersey Shore on TV, I wasn't too surprised.

Whew! I think that catches you up! Sorry this was so huge! I guess I've had too much coffee! Mardi Gras season is upon us, so watch for costume updates in the next weeks! I'll try to keep up and keep further posts shorter!

Have a great Monday!

18 January 2011

People are so worried about what they eat between Christmas and the New Year, they should be worried about what they eat between New Year and Christma

So, here's the second installment of my trio of New Year 2011 blogs, and this one is all about food!

Within literally a few hours of submitting final grades in December, I was cooking up a storm in preparation for the Christmas party season! This year, I expanded my Christmas candy repertoire, making my usual Peanut Butter Divinity (I use an old family recipe, but this one is really similar),

and adding Peppermint Bark and Kentucky Bourbon Balls!

During my stay with family over the holiday, my mom gave me the greatest gift ever! A cookbook she found while cleaning out the attic! It's the 1939 edition of Household Magazine's "Household Searchlight" cookbooks. I'm in love!

In addition to many somewhat humorous finger food recipes, and pointers for the diligent hostess, this book is a compendium of clever and useful recipes! I decided to jump right in by planning my first New Year's Day Brunch!

So, after twisting the night away to the Soul Rebels at Les Bons Temps, I woke up early and got busy!

"Eggs on a Savory Bed": This is a baked egg casserole, and the recipe seemed a little bland, so I added some garlic, cajun spices, and (of course) cheese!

Sour Cream Tarts with Merengue: Really tasty treats! They are primarily flavored with nutmeg and cloves, so they taste very seasonal and happy!

Brown Sugar Bread: A quickbread that's TOO easy and very tasty. I froze half of it, and it held up fabulously!

I also made hashbrowns, black eyed peas with a lucky penny, cheese grits, Japanese soba noodles (a must for a lucky new year), and of course mimosas and bloody marys!

After I recovered from New Years celebratin', I took a bit of a break from fanciful cooking as I prepared for a new semester teaching at Loyola. But last weekend, a friend invited us to a fab dinner party and asked if I could contribute dessert! Could I?

First, I candied some orange peels. I used this recipe, and was very happy with the result though they did not turn out very pretty.

I also did a perfect chocolate mousse, which I, sadly, didn't get a picture of before it was completely devoured! But I was amused by this highly unnecessary bit of cheap marketing on the bag of chocolate chips I used:

Whew! I'm totally blogged out for now...and hungry! I'll be back soon with my Christmas adventures in sewing! What sort of things have you been cooking up lately?

01 January 2011

For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice.

Happy New Year, everyone!...

Yes, yes. I know it's a bit late, but 2011 started fast and hasn't slowed down yet. SO much has happened since the end of fall semester! To make up for lost time (and yet not bore you to tears with the most epic blog ever), I'm going to post 3 catch up blogs: one about my New Years "resolutions", one about my recent cooking endeavors, and one about my recent sewing projects!

For many years, I essentially scoffed at the whole tradition of making New Years resolutions. It seemed so counter-intuitive to me to make myself an unrealistic promise to improve my life; a promise which by design begins on a day when I'm destined to be horrifically hungover. However, I grew tired of having no particular liminal tradition associated with the passing of the years, so I began re-thinking my anti-resolution resolve.

Now, I choose to make a New Years "To Do List" instead of prohibiting myself from tasty foods, guilting myself into approximately 10 days of exercise, or denying myself experiences that, quite frankly, make my little life more enjoyable. My To Do list doesn't include any items that are realistically unattainable, in fact, many of them are quite small. They are simply things that I would like to see myself do over the next 12 months.

So, here goes!

2011: The Year of Exploration...and General Fun...

1. Explore Flexibility:

Stretch, mentally and physically, every day.

2. Explore Possibilities:

Discover a new place or experience in New Orleans at least once a month.

3. Explore Potential:

Continue only thrifting, refashioning, or making clothes and gifts. (This was the first dress I made after taking the Wardrobe Refashion pledge last January).

4. Explore Heritage:

Cook from vintage recipes, utilize snail mail more, and finish Omi's quilt

5. Explore Exciting-ness:

Become more interesting (Thanks, Bill!): I'm not sure how to go about this, but I'll try!

6. Explore Opportunities:

Sell something I made/Educate self more on selling my creations

My actual To Do list could be quite a bit longer; there are about a zillion other little things I want to do this year, and I keep writing them down. These are just the major trends on my agenda. That, and I didn't think I'd bore you with such gems as: Set the TV sleep timer if you're going to fall asleep to Law & Order reruns before 11pm, or Don't forget that whole "liquor before beer" thing next time...

So far, this "do this" technique has worked better for me than the usual "don't do that" method. If it works for you, I want to know your big plans for 2011!