Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Thrifted books (and fabric)

Since we were already downtown on Saturday, I convinced D to stop in at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store. It's enormous, hot, poorly lit, and completely disorganized. To most people, this probably sounds like a nightmare, but I see it as a challenge.

And I scored! I picked up several sweet vintage sheets. Sheets are an amazing way to get tons of fabric for very little money per yard, if you check the labels to make sure you're getting 100% cotton, and keep your eye out for sheets that don't look too sheet-y, if that makes sense. For some reason, many sheets are instantly identifiable as sheets, even when the fabric is cut up. It takes some effort to look for good colors in high quality fabric so that you avoid this problem.

Actually, one of these is a table cloth, but whatever. Sorry for the poor lighting. I swear the colors are cuter in the light of day.

DSC_0111

I fell in love with this print, and in person, the colors are a great range of greens on white cloth.

DSC_0099

But I really made out in the book section. $2.10 for each hardback, and despite somewhat limited patience, I managed to dig out three books I'm very glad to add to my library.

DSC_0104

I grew up with the Jane Brody cookbook, and I love it. The subtitle is Living the High Carbohydrate Way, which thrills me. Of course, she really means veggies and whole grains, rather than say, Twinkies. The Silver Palate Cookbook looks great too, but I'm really excited about the Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing. This little gem has incredibly detailed descriptions of basically every sewing technique you can imagine, perfect for a novice like me.

You can get the new version on Amazon, but the cover isn't nearly as cute. And it probably doesn't have this amazingness...

barrel bag

Seriously, how cool is this lady? I heart the bag, the outfit, the massive sunglasses. I wish the scan quality was better so you could see all the detail.

And this really made my day. It's just a little skirt for wearing to the beach, right?

beach cover up 1

Wrong. It's also a makeshift tent for changing out of your swimsuit.

beach cover up 2

According to the book: Worn as a skirt over a swim suit, the coverup will take you in style to snack stand or parking lot. Take cover under the cape for protection against sun or breezes. In a pinch, under its generous width, you could even change from wet suit to dry clothes!

Amazing. Please note that the "cape" does not have slits for your arms, so you would have to walk around like a mummy.

It looks like there are copies of the old version up on Ebay. I can already tell it's going to be a mine of information as I do more and more sewing.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Random food review - Whole Kitchen Pad Thai

Here is what happens when you enjoy an incredibly long afternoon at a winery instead of actually making dinner on Sunday night as usual:
1. You get in approximately four hours of wine and cheese fueled girl gossip
2. You tipsily buy several bottles of moderately expensive wine to take home
3. You don't have leftovers to take to work and you're forced to rely on frozen meals instead

And sometimes....

4. You luck out and the frozen meal you randomly pick out is AWESOME.

I'm currently eating the Whole Kitchen (Whole Foods brand) frozen Pad Thai meal. It is a bit spicy, totally delicious, it's vegan (and healthy - 340 calories for a big portion) and it only cost $3.99.

Take that, overpriced fast food options! I have a new back up meal.

Wreckage and wine

Busy weekend here. Saturday D and I paid a trip to an architectural salvage yard. It's the same one featured on Top Design a few weeks ago. We didn't get anything, but we had lots of fun poking around.

DSC_0070

Lots of old windows and doors.

DSC_0075

I coveted these mailboxes, but the thought of having to get a locksmith to open each one was too much.

Sunday I slept in a bit and enjoyed some morning tea.

DSC_0084

Followed by a very leisurely afternoon at Saddlerock winery with a couple of girlfriends, tasting the new wines, eating cheese and baguette and catching up. The weather cooperated and it was absolutely gorgeous.

DSC_0097

Lovely.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Etsy fun

Sometimes I just do totally random searches on Etsy. Today, I was thinking about squirrels, for no real reason whatsoever (I don't even really like squirrels, and D and I argue about it because he thinks they are adorable, or whatever the male word for adorable is, and I think they're a little scary). Anyways, I searched "squirrel" on Etsy and came up with this...

The prints are by Etsy seller berkleyillustrations and I just can't get over them. They are simultaneously hilarious and slightly scary and also perfect.

Check out the great white in a suit.


And how quizzical does this rabbit look?

I don't know why, but these have totally made my Friday. I wish I had a crazy gallery wall where something like this would just blend in and then jump out at you when you went to take a closer look. Although I'm not sure I could face down these stares on a daily basis.

Hope everyone has a cheerful weekend!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Who doesn't love Tim Gunn?

Kenley, apparently. If you haven't watched last night's episode of Project Runway, get ready for some bitterness and a little showdown with Tim Gunn. You might as well tune in for the drama, because most of the outfits were bo-ring, in my opinion.

It is going to be a busy TV night for me because Ugly Betty and The Office are both starting up again. Okay, fine, I'll probably watch Grey's Anatomy as well, despite the fact that it is completely embarrassing. At least I haven't degenerated to the point where I tune in to Private Practice, right? I have some standards.

I'm going to try to get some pre-sewing done while I indulge myself. All I'm doing right now is cutting, but I'll have more details to share soon. It involves a delicious variety of the sweet little 1930s prints with which I am so enamored.

DSC_0007

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Splurge?

I have a dilemma. Not a life crisis dilemma, luckily, because I can't handle those on Wednesdays.

A shoe dilemma. Specifically, boots. I have absolutely no need of boots, because I live in Southern California. When the weather gets bad, a pair of Converse are more than adequate protection.

But aren't these adorable? And timeless?


I know, I know. They are overpriced at almost $600. Way overpriced. You can get amazing boots for $200. But I've browsed every site I can think to browse and I haven't found anything I like half as much.

They've been going quick online, and aren't available in my size. But there is a Free People store right down the street from my apartment. I could head over there and check it out and they might have my size. Maybe I'll get lucky and the boots will look hideous in person and the whole dilemma will disappear.

Black bean salad/salsa

I wish I could tell you where this recipe comes from, but it has been in my files so long that I don’t know anymore. It might be another one from Sunset. It’s really just a throw it together kind of thing, and it is even better a day or two after you make it, once the flavors have a chance to blend.

DSC_0055

I usually use a ratio of about 3:1 on the black beans and corn. It’s especially fabulous if corn is in season and you take the time to roast it rather than using canned. Toss in some very finely chopped red onion, diced red bell pepper, chilies of your choice, and cilantro. Add a bit of vegetable oil, and a splash of vinegar along with salt and pepper and you’ve got a nice little side dish. I often add lime juice, but it isn’t totally necessary.

I made way too much for the margarita party this weekend, but I’ll have no trouble polishing it off. Last night I whipped up a super quick dinner for myself with some of the leftovers. A corn tortilla, some black bean salad/salsa, topped with an egg over easy and plenty of hot sauce.

DSC_0060

I’m pretty sure that this is one of the things I make that totally freaks D out. He does not get the whole egg and beans combo for dinner, even though he eats huevos rancheros for breakfast and this seems pretty similar to me. Me, I love putting poached eggs in my black bean burritos. If it sounds scary, just try it. I swear it’s delicious.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pillow talk

I made a pillow cover, using the fabric I got at Ikea!

DSC_0010

I am not a talented sewer and I'm too impatient to read overly complicated directions, so it was huge triumph for me to actually manage to install a zipper and have it work correctly. I was intimidated by the zipper foot initially, but I worked it out with only minor use of the seam ripper (to do: learn how to sew straight lines consistently).

DSC_0012
Zipper - slightly hidden!

I actually did a little dance around the apartment once I finished this project.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Margaritas! And tomatillo salsa.

DSC_0032

Summer is coming to an end, but we felt like it was time to celebrate the last of the season. With blended margaritas, salsa and some good friends.

DSC_0013

My favorite salsa recipe comes from an old issue of Sunset magazine, and I make it at least a couple times a summer. The original recipe tells you to roast the tomatillos, onions and peppers in a cast iron skillet, which works perfectly well, but it's hell on your skillet. This time, I finally got smart and roasted everything on a sheet of aluminum foil in the broiler. No mess, no smoke, no charred skillet residue. Awesome.

DSC_0015

Yum.

DSC_0023

The margaritas were good too.

DSC_0035

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa from Sunset
3/4 lb tomatillos
1/4 lb pearl onions
2 mild green chilies
1/2 c. packed cilantro
2 - 4 tbsp lime juice
Salt

Pull off and discard tomatillo hulls, rinse all tomatillos and set aside one.

Place the remaining tomatillos, the chiles and the onions (unpeeled) on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Place the pan under the broiler until all the vegetables are charred, turning once to cook all sides. The tomatillos should be soft. Let the vegetables cool. (You can also do this in a 10 - 12 inch cast iron skillet, but be prepared for some major cleaning afterwards).

Peel the onions (you basically just pop them out of their skins), pull the loose skin from the chiles and discard, along with the stem and seeds.

Put the cooked vegetables, the uncooked tomatillo and the cilantro in the food processor. Pulse until it reaches salsa consistency. Stir in lime juice and salt to taste.

I basically just eat chips for the salsa anyways.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Martha Stewart sale

Em and I went a little nuts in the Martha Stewart section of Michael's last night. I came home with several things I've been eyeing, but hadn't been willing to shell out for yet. Oh, the difference a 30% discount makes. It's funny how different percentages have such a big psychological impact. A 10% discount wouldn't get me out of the house, and a 50% would have sent me on a shopping rampage.

A 30% discount gets me this, apparently:
A ribbon dispenser box
This pretty ribbon in a couple of shades

Goodie boxes that will jazz up homemade Christmas candy gifts

Goodie bags -ditto

The sale runs until the 20th, so you've still got a day to hit it up. I guess technically these aren't necessary purchases, but I do so love good packaging and last year I didn't think ahead and was forced to try to make saran wrap look classy. Not an easy task, by the way, and certainly disappointing after I spent hours icing over sized gingerbread cookies to perfection.

Veggie lasagna

I make lasagna semi-regularly, and I don't work with a recipe. The basic premise is pretty easy, if you aren't too worried about being exact. You have noodles, a ricotta mixture, marinara sauce, and mozzarella cheese. If you grew up with a crazy amazing family recipe for lasagna that needs to be followed exactly, please stop reading (and email me the recipe).

Feeling the need for more veggies in our kitchen, I started by grating (in the food processor) and sauteeing some zucchini and carrots along with chopped onions and garlic.

DSC0421

While the veggies cooked, the noodles boiled, and I mixed up the ricotta. I use a few cups of ricotta along with two eggs, and add in some fresh chopped basil, salt and pepper.

DSC0427

Once everything is ready, I just start layering. A thin layer of sauce, followed by noodles, ricotta, and veggies. This time I managed to get two full layers in before the pan started to overflow. I added a final layer of noodles and sauce on top and then finished off with a small amount of fresh mozzarella.

DSC0433

Then it's into the oven at 375F for an hour or so. I will say that lasagna isn't a walk in the park for a weeknight dinner because there are too many components. I was a little rushed (and hungry) as I put this one together, which resulted in a lot of dishes and a bit of stress. I think in the future I'll try to remember to reserve it for a leisurely Saturday prep.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Make over night!

Last night was a veritable orgy of make overs. ANTM did their makeover session, with a satisfying number of over the top weaves. Side note: I want my long hair back, immediately!

Then Project Runway did recent college grad makeovers. I looooved Jarelle's look, and let's just say I was extremely pleased with who went home. (Insert evil cackle here). Is anyone else tired of Kenley's cry baby thing? I used to love her, but now she's killing me.

I guess Top Design bucked the trend, because they didn't do a make over. Also, I fell asleep yet again, so I'm not sure how it ended. Note to TV producers - I apparently go out like a light at 10:35 pm, so please stop scheduling shows in the 10 - 11 time slot during the week.

Black bean burgers

It took me several months of repeated tries before I finally got a recipe for black bean burgers that works consistently, so I don't mind claiming it as my own. I am a huge burger lover, and these ones are hearty enough to satisfy, while still being really healthy.

DSC0428

Black Bean Burgers makes about 10 medium sized patties, enough for 4 - 5 servings

1

large onion, chopped

2

cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1

tbsp olive oil

4

cups cooked black beans
fresh cilantro, as desired
salt and pepper, to taste
cumin, to taste (~ 2 tsp)
coriander, to taste (~2 tsp)

1/2

cup masa harina (corn flour)

2

eggs, lightly beaten

1. Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until soft and tender. Allow to cool slightly and then toss in the food processor along with the beans, the cilantro and whatever spices you desire. Pulse until the mixture is well combined, but not totally smooth. (If you don't have a food processor, you can do this in a bowl and just mash with a fork, but I recommend buying a food processor ASAP. It's far and away my favorite kitchen tool). At this point, you should taste test to see if you need additional salt or spices. I usually add a few dashes of Tapatio sauce for extra heat.

2. Transfer the bean mixture to a bowl and stir in the masa harina (plain flour or corn meal will work if you don't have it) and the eggs. Mix well. If the mixture is too wet you may have to add some additional flour.

3. Shape into patties about the size of a normal burger. The mixture will stick to your hands a bit but it shouldn't be impossible to work with. You'll get around 10 patties, depending on how large you make them.

4. In a large non stick skillet with a little bit of oil, saute the burgers a few at a time over medium heat, until the outsides are browned to your liking and they are cooked through (about 5 minutes per side). The texture is much softer than a regular burger, so you need to be careful when you turn them, particularly in the beginning. Eat as you would a normal burger, which in my case means on a slice of sourdough bread with ungodly amounts of ketchup.

These are really good for you, with about 160 calories, 3 grams of good fat, 5 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein per burger (assuming you make 10 patties). And they are so much cheaper than buying frozen veggie burgers.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

J. Crew final sale

WARNING: This blog post is totally out of season, so if you are sick of looking at summer things, please don't bother reading it. I shop out of season because I am cheap.

I love J. Crew swim suits. They just work for me. Some might say that a girl like me (aka someone who lives literally 4 miles from the beach and hasn't been out in the sand for two years) has little need for swim suits. They're probably right. Nevertheless, I've been loving the chic one piece suits on offer this year, and when I saw that this one had gone on sale ($29.99 instead of $125!) I had to snatch it up.

Antibes Calypso ring deep v suit

I admired it in the lovely summer catalog shoot on the boat deck with the awesome sunglasses. I think it's pretty timeless, so it should certainly survive next season. They were out of the green in my size, but I got the navy. I wish they showed the back online because it is oh so low and lovely. It reminds me of curvy 1940s movie stars. I think I need a giant hat. And a yacht. Someone get on that immediately.

And, since I was already shopping...
Rhumba stripe seersucker

It's ruffle-y! And seersucker! And has such bright stripes!

All told, I'm out $63 with tax and shipping included. Not bad for two suits that I've been thinking about for quite a while.

Suit shopping for the next three to four years - done. I'm serious. I am currently still living with the same two suits I had in the beginning of college (also bought on final sale at J. Crew).

Steel cut oats (almost instantly)

I am an oatmeal fanatic, and I used to be perfectly happy with regular old Quaker oats. Then I tried steel cut oats and I haven't been able to go back. Specifically, I love oven baked steel cut oats. I've tried the short cut method of cooking them in the crock pot overnight and they turned out gooey and I was severely disappointed. Baked in the oven they come out chewy and delicious and I could eat them everyday.

The problem? Steel cut oats take time, about 30 minutes on the stove or about 45 minutes in the oven, and I don't have that kind of time in the morning. You can cook them in big batches, but I am the only oatmeal eater around here, and I hate the pressure of having 10 servings of oatmeal waiting in the fridge.

So I'm trying something new. I cooked up a double batch of oven baked steel cut oats, in all their chewy goodness.

DSC_0411
The full batch, fresh from the oven

And then I spooned the oats into a muffin tin, let them cool down, and stuck them in the freezer.

DSC_0413
"Oatmeal muffins" about to be frozen

Once frozen, I popped them out (this was slightly harder than it sounds, so I recommend letting the bottom of the muffin pan sit in hot water, briefly, just to loosen them up a bit and then using a fork to pull them out) and stashed them in a ziploc freezer bag and then put them back in the freezer. Each one is about 1/2 a cup which is perfect for me because 1 cup makes a meal and 1/2 cup makes a great mini breakfast. I don't think that the quality will suffer at all, but I'll be sure to update you on the great oatmeal experiment.

DSC_0414
All ready to go

Here's the "recipe." It makes a lot of oats, so you might want to cut it in half if you aren't totally committed.

Oven Baked Steel Cut Oats (makes about 16 small servings, 1/2 cup each)
2 cups steel cut oats
5 1/2 cups water
3/4 tsp salt
Spices of your choice (I dashed in nutmeg and plenty of cinnamon)

Boil the water on the stove in a large pot. Add the oats and lower the heat to medium-low. Stir and allow to boil gently for 5 - 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the spices and the salt. Pour the mixture into a lightly buttered baking pan with a lid ( I use my two quart pyrex dish and it works great for this large batch). Bake at 375F for 30 minutes. Take the dish out and carefully stir the remaining liquid back into the oats. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes.

If you prefer less chewy oats, you can add more water and cook a bit longer, but I think the chewiness is the best part. Obviously, you can make these much more decadent by using milk instead of water and adding brown sugar or maple syrup. I'm trying to avoid adding sweetener to my food, so I just amp up the spices and they kind of fool me into thinking I am eating something sweet.

DSC_0138

This is hands down my favorite way to eat them. Walnuts and plenty of spice. I usually add a drizzle of milk to the top as well.

UPDATE: This plan is working so well! I've been taking a few portions at a time to work and keeping them in the fridge and zapping them in the microwave for about 1 minute 30 seconds. I find that they re-heat best if they are defrosted, although frozen works too. They tend to dry out just a bit, but you can add a little bit of milk or water on top before heating them and that helps a lot. A half cup portion of these oats is so much more filling than the little oatmeal packets I'd been relying on before. And with plenty of added spices, I don't even miss the sugar.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

New York re-cap

New York was lovely, although the weather didn't entirely cooperate. We got one super rainy day, and two incredibly hot, muggy days. Nevertheless, we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. It's actually pretty easy to summarize the weekend. We visited three museums (MoMA, the Whitney (awesome Buckminster Fuller exhibit) and the New Museum), we spent a lot of time walking around the city and talking, and we did a LOT of eating. Pizza, awesome dumplings, lots of bagels with coronary inducing amounts of cream cheese. I'll spare you twelve million pictures and just share a few.

DSC_0153
Pork banh mi - the tofu was also delicious

DSC_0174
Rice pudding from Rice to Riches, which has about a million flavors and toppings

We spent Sunday in Red Hook, researching the area for an architectural competition D is working on. We stopped by Steve's Key Lime Pies and proceeded to sit down and dig in (with spoons, because that's all they had available).

DSC_0360

There are things you shouldn't share with anyone, and the fact that the three of us polished off an entire key lime pie in about 10 minutes is probably one of those things. In our defense, I'll say it was delicious, and also probably wouldn't have transported well.

DSC_0362

New York was lovely (and yummy) and visiting with old friends is always amazing. This was our 10 year friendaversary, so it's only fair that we did it up right.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Leaving on a jet plane

By the time you read this, I will be wending my (apparently suspicious) way through airport security en route to New York. I don't know what D and I do wrong, but we never make it through unscathed and on one memorable trip airport security actually confiscated my electric shaver and heating pad out of my checked baggage after interrogating me in the back room. Needless to say, I am packing light this time. I also got D to shave off his beard, which must take us down a least a notch on the security radar.

For the plane (almost making me excited to get on the plane):


We've been to New York several times, so the trip will be extremely low key, focused on eating, drinking, a couple of museum visits, but mostly just catching up with a dear friend who we only get to see once a year or so. I probably won't be back until Tuesday, but I might check in. If you have any awesome recommendations of things I shouldn't miss in the city, let me know!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Impromtu date night

Movie + dinner = fun weeknight date



If you're wondering, yes, I did buy a Chipotle burrito beforehand and sneak it into the theater in my purse. What? You think I should have settled for stale popcorn? Not very likely. You would not believe what I smuggle into theaters in my purse. D wonders why I need such huge purses. Well, it's so I can avoid paying astronomical amounts of money for crappy food. Oh, and because you never know when you might need dental floss, tweezers, napkins, lotion, paper to write on or a book to read. Also, they are cute.

P.S. The movie was awesome. We're ordering the soundtrack. The light was gorgeous. Some of it was out of focus and I'm not sure if it was out of focus in an artistic way or if there was actually a problem with the projector. I was afraid to ask because I am not nearly artistic enough and I didn't want to embarrass myself. And I am determined to grow my hair out again and somehow make it curly-ish.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Topshop for US!

Just popping in to say that one of my favorite English bloggers, the stylish babypicturethis, pointed out to me that Topshop's US website launched today! I know what I'll be doing on my lunch break.

Transitioning

Before:

DSC_0421

And after:

DSC_0043

Sorry, these are not the greatest pictures of the new wall, but I was too impatient to share and I took them this morning and there wasn't enough light. I'll probably try to get some better ones at some point and share them instead.

DSC_0042

This might be my favorite part of the new wall. I was moaning about the fact that my cherished vintage Dansk dishes were hidden away in a dark cupboard and I suddenly thought about just sticking them on the wall. And D agreed! Impatiently, I wanted to just tack them up any old way, but D convinced me to trace them on newspaper and cut them out and play with positioning them. I like this arrangement because it leaves plenty of room for any pieces I might come across in the future.

I was initially nervous about letting go of the orange wall, because we both really loved it, but I LOVE the aqua (Behr paint from Home Depot in Surfer) and I'm glad I followed my instincts. This isn't completely finished, but it's so close that I'm thrilled. I'll get better pictures and post them in the next couple weeks, when we've made some more headway.

Mom's spaghetti sauce

Oh, Whole Foods, how you've spoiled me. Your $1.99 jar of pesto-marinara has become a staple in my pantry. So much so that when confronted with an empty cupboard yesterday, I almost made a quick run to the store. I faced a dilemma - what is actually lazier? Running to the store because I am too lazy to make sauce by hand, or making sauce by hand because I am too lazy to run to the store? Not wanting to leave the house won out. Plus, I have fresh basil that has managed to survive on my balcony for over two weeks now, which is my personal record.

DSC_0035

My spaghetti sauce "recipe" comes from my mom, and I think it might have been the first thing I learned how to cook.

DSC_0041

Basic Spaghetti Sauce
~ 1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp dried basil (or a nice bunch of fresh basil)
2 (14 oz.) cans diced tomatoes
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste

Saute the onion and the garlic in olive oil over medium low heat, until soft. Add the dried spices (leave the basil out if you are using fresh) and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and the tomato paste (add the fresh basil after this step).

That's it. Now turn the heat down to low and let it simmer. It's better if it cooks longer (2 hours is not unheard of, in my mom's house). If it starts getting too thick for you, stir in a little water. You can adjust the spices to your liking. I have a heavy hand with the pepper, but I'm sure some people prefer less. Sometimes I add a splash of balsamic. You know, if I'm feeling crazy. I think my mom puts cumin in there, but I can't swear to it.

I will still stock up on Whole Foods prepared sauce, but there is something a little special about homemade marinara as it bubbles on the stove. And I'm glad my laziness paid off, for once, and reminded me how lovely it is to start from scratch.