Monday, March 21, 2011


Today is our one year anniversary of adopting Connor.  He's probably 6 or 7 years old.  Yeah, I just did a cat post.  I am now that Cat Lady.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Distanced Land

 Thom gets his haircut in the Sunset area.  It's a real barbershop.  You know, the legit kind with long blades for shaving and a twirly red and white striped pole outside the door.  It's always busy and full of guys on their phones waiting for their monthly cut.  It's masculine in every way, full of boxing memorabilia, ESPN blasting on a flat screen TV and nudie mags stacked by the waiting area.  Needless to say, it isn't an appropriate place for a girl to hang out and wait for her boyfriend to get his hair cut.

But the other day I went out and joined Thom to get his haircut, already knowing that I'd be avoiding the barbershop.  Instead, I found a local bookstore.  The Great Overland Book Company.  It's a wonderful shop full of priceless 1st editions and signed books.  There are rare sets of series and books that aren't published anymore.  I ended up finding John Pfahl's photography book, A Distanced Land and bought it for $16.00.  Bargain.

Pfahl was born in New York and I have always admired his work since I had first seen it at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York.  I later realized that he attended and taught at my undergraduate college, the Rochester Institute of Technology.  His works are typically local and inspiring.  He plays around a lot with space and dimension.  He makes a power plant look beautiful.

The book and prints are exceptional, especially the paper.  You can check out an artists work online as many times and as high a quality as you want but nothing will ever beat the feel and quality of a print or book in front of you.  It's like comparing fast food to a homemade meal.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Minimalist linen quilt, a very basic quilt tutorial

  Last night [while finishing off the rest of season 5 of Dexter], I finished sewing the binding to a simple linen quilt that I've been working on for a while.  I'm in love with the complete simplicity of the shape, lines and forms.  I think that the qualities in the linen are emphasized instead of being lost as it's usual role as a filler fabric.  I quilted using my sewing machine, making organic-like horizontal lines that run across the width of the quilt.  They're not straight lines but they work well for me.  As I mentioned in the previous post, this quilt was a nice escape from my hexi quilt, allowing me to create without much thought and precision. 

Since I found the quilt to be simple and easy, I decided to put together a basic quilt tutorial.  Below, is the step by step process that I used in making this quilt.  A good thing to remember is that my way isn't necessarily the ultimate way of making a quilt, so please take my advice and know-how as an idea to inspire you into making something just as meaningful.

 I've also finished piecing and sewing my hexi quilt top and am now deciding the best way to quilt it.  Thoughts?  Ideas?  Suggestions?  I really am not sure.

Minimalist Linen Quilt Tutorial:

First I decided on what size quilt that I wanted to make.  I went with the easier and cheaper route of a lap size.  I bought a yard of a light gray linen for the backing and half yards of yellow, white and green linen for the front.  Using the yard of light gray as a founding dimension size (36"x54"), I cut out large rectangles from the yellow, white and green fabric.  (Sizes were no smaller than 18"x27")  The key to the minimal idea was to not add too many fancy block patterns or stripes.  I knew that I wanted a total of two rows of around 6 rectangular pieces to fit within the 36"x54" dimensions.

With my various sized rectangles cut out, I pinned right sides together and began sewing.  I picked up a large spool of 100% cotton thread, made for machine quilting and I've been satisfied since using it.  The thread is strong and there is a minimal amount of thread dust on my machine.

Oh and just a little reminder/advice: ALWAYS remove pins when sewing or you WILL break your sewing machine needle.  I don't know why I thought I could just keep sewing along and not realize that I was going to break a needle...lesson learned.

I am without a doubt, a lazy quilter.  Besides my little warning/advice above, I seem to find a lot of ways to try and cut corners.  Meaning, I will find anyway possible to chain sew pieces and then rows until FINALLY stopping to press seams.  And again, when it comes to pressing seams, I am that girl that will press both seams to one side.  So while I just explained my lazy-woman method of piecing and pressing, you'll need to do so too in this step.  (In either the proper sewing methods of sewing and pressing out the seams each time or my lazy way of doing it all at the end.)

Next, you'll need to piece the quilt layers together.  I ironed the back piece of light gray linen and placed that on the bottom right side down.  Next I placed the batting down on top of the backing.  I use an all-natural 100% cotton batting because it's thin but super warm and the quality really keeps the batting together.  Finally, I laid my top piece down, making sure that the front piece was placed properly on top of the back piece.

Next comes basting.  Basting is a temporary way to keep the quilt layers together while quilting.  I have only ever known to pin baste quilts and was surprised to learn that some people do in fact hand-baste for certain projects.  So in this case, I pinned together the layers using quilter's safety pins.

Next comes the quilting part.  In my case, I used my sewing machine to quilt the layers together.  Some people hand quilt and there are a lot of debates over the authenticity of machine quilting vs. hand quilting.  All I have to say is this, certain styles can be gained from hand quilting and/or machine quilting.  Neither is right nor wrong.  It's just what style is needed for each individual and unique quilt.  Tip:  Use a walking foot when quilting, you'll notice that I didn't use one [because I forgot] and some parts of my fabric looked "stretched".

 After quilting, any excess fabric needs to be trimmed using a rotary cutter and the binding is sewn on to finish the edges.  I tried 1 1/2" strips this time to create a very thin binding to the quilt.  My mother had taught me binding using 3 1/2" strips that you double up for a long lasting and durable edge.  If I were to redo this project, I would have used the wider strip.  Binding with the 1 1/2" strip was hard to manage with little room for give.

Like I said before, I love the simplicity of the quilt and it's wonderful to have while sitting on the couch with a nice book in hand. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

An abundance of books and linen

Do you ever begin some project that you've got your heart set out to do but then find yourself side tracked with other projects along the way? 

I do, I have and I probably always will.  It seems that when I get one major project started, I find myself adding a few along the way, you know, in case I get bored...or something like that.  A lady at Britex once told me that she currently had ten sewing projects going on at once!  I'm not sure my obsessive organizing/juggling abilities would allow such a thing to happen but as of now, I do currently have three projects going on at once.  My hexi quilt.  A knitted cowl.  And now a linen quilt.

I realized that I needed to add two more rows in my hexi quilt in order to fit a queen sized bed properly, so I had to go to Britex and find the same consistent white linen to add.  (It was the only fabric that I ran short of since it happens to dominate more of the surface area.)  While there, I found myself lusting after fabric once again, this time the linens.  Perhaps it's just pattern overload with the hexi quilt but I needed to look at something simple, plain and classic.  So I ended up buying half yards of a wonderful army green and mustard yellow.  Along with a yard of the lightest soft gray that I've ever seen and again, the classic white.  Something about linen makes any project turn more rustic and less contemporary.  (Meaning, less anti-pattern/graphics)

I also have been checking out books from the library for inspiration and reference.  I've been looking at a lot of colors and pattern, avant garde design and Japanese modern art.  The clean and striking lines make such a simple and wonderful contrasting composition.  I keep thinking about it all in terms of quilts and how the lines would match up and be sewn.  Blogs like Rossie Blog and Vintage Modern Quilts make me think it all possible.

O the endless possibilities.

Here's my rolled up knitting progress on a herringbone cowl.  I found a wonderful post from the Purl Bee and happened to find a wonderful knitting store downtown, called Art Fibers.  They hand dye and weave their yarn and Roxanne[the owner] was so friendly and helpful in my search.  I love this blue yarn because it reminds me of fish scales and the different hues of blue that seem to shimmer.

Japanese inspired modern art.

A book on color and patterns.  This one I bought from SFMOMA for future reference.

A book on Avant Garde lettering.

A fear of fish

I'll say it.  I think I'm a decent cook.  Meaning, I can navigate my way around the kitchen without starting a fire, cutting a finger and ruining a good frying pan.  I can put together a hearty stew, whip up some nice casseroles and make a mean chicken cordon bleu.  Baking on the other hand is another tragic story....

Anyway, I think I can handle cooking fairly  I'm not sure why I never wanted to tackle fish, probably just the intimidation of the unknown but my mind becomes a blank space when trying to think of the proper way to cook it.  When is it done?!  What do I do with the scales?!  What is considered a good smell?  Why is it looking at me!!!!  AHHHHH!  With thoughts like those, I had never tried/wanted to cook fish, unless you consider heating up frozen breaded fish fillets from the box as cooking.

Which was just silly of me to think.  Because fish is easy.

Today, Thom and I cooked up two salmon fillets with a sweet and tangy glaze using our toaster oven.  And let me just say how unbelievable it was.  It was absolute flaky perfection that just fell apart with a touch of the fork.  Mmmmmm.  I put together a walnut and goat cheese salad with a pomegranate vinaigrette and sliced some sour dough bread to finish the plate off.

So if you like fish, specifically salmon, you must try this recipe listed below.  It's a perfect blend of sweet and tangy flavor with a hint of spiciness.  I put together a sort of step by step guide through the whole process for you all to enjoy.

Supposedly the secret to successful fish cooking is PAM or any cooking spray that doesn't allow the fish to stick to the pan.  I then seasoned the fish with salt and pepper.

I cooked the salmon in the toaster oven [since it wouldn't over heat the kitchen] at 425 degrees for 12 minutes.
While the fish was cooking, I put together the glaze following the recipe using dijon mustard, brown sugar, soy sauce, white wine vinegar and I added on my own, some red pepper flakes for a touch of spiciness.  I added all the ingredients together in a small sauce pan and brought the glaze up to a boil.
When the fish was done cooking, I brushed the glazed on the fish and placed it all back into the toaster oven, now set to broil, for 3 minutes to caramelize the glaze.

I also made a pomegranate vinaigrette on a cranberry, walnut and goat cheese salad.  Thom and I have been eating at some swanky new American restaurants that keep serving savory eclectic salads that always surprise me in the blend of odd ingredients that make a successful whole.  I wanted to create something similar at home and put together a nice blend of sweet[from the vinaigrette], tangy[from the dried cranberries] and salty[from the smooth goat cheese].  Perfection.
I added olive oil, white wine vinegar, pomegranate juice and Dijon Mustard in a small container and shook it all up.
I cut up some bread and put together the rest of the salad, consisting of a spinach/romaine mix salad, candied walnuts, dried cranberries and crumbled goat cheese.
Bon App├ętit

Friday, March 4, 2011

Hexi Quilt Progress

Here is the latest update on my hexagon quilt.  I finally pieced the rows together and am slowly connecting them length-wise.  Y-piecing is harder than I thought, although not impossible, just tedious and slow.  I try and remedy that by listening to some NPR, podcasts and themed-music days.  Yesterday I belted out Broadway show-tunes from Wicked and Mamma Mia!  It was pretty dramatic. 

O and queen-sized mattresses make great quilt piece holders.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Soup du jour

Perhaps it just that time of the year, [or maybe that last night Mexican takeout we ordered] but Thom and I were feeling a bit under the weather today.  And to remedy that problem, I made some chicken noodle soup.  From scratch.  All by my under-the-weather-self.  :'-[  <--Sad emoticon to evoke sympathy.

To me, soup always held that special healing power that could lift spirits, warm empty stomachs and hold all my favorite savory ingredients in a nice medley of flavors.  It's also a wonderful comfort food that many tend to gravitate to when sick and I just happened to have all the key ingredients on hand at the apartment.

And to me, it doesn't really matter the kind of soup, as long as it is a soup, it always holds high regards in my books.  Vegetable, white bean and ham, soft tofu, hot pot, Pho...  I could undoubtedly wax-poetic on a Cup O'Noodles.

Anyway, here's my recipe on homemade chicken noodle soup:

To start with, I cut up some key ingredients to add to the sustenance of the soup: celery, onion and carrots.  I also added some minced garlic that I had stashed in the 'fridge.

I defrosted some frozen chicken wings and tenderloins that I had kept in the freezer.  (Most people use whole chickens or half chickens which give a nice blend of savory dark and plentiful white meat but you can use what you have available.)  While the meat was defrosting, I sauteed the veggies in olive oil until soft.  About 10 minutes.

To prepare the broth, I used powdered chicken broth [for the first time] and followed the instructions to make up 2 quarts of broth.  I added a bay leaf and some dried parsley.  Once the veggies were soft, I added them to the pot along with the defrosted chicken.  I brought it all up to a boil and then set it on low for a nice rolling simmer.  I placed the lid on the pot and let the chicken cook for about an hour and a half.  (Cook a bit longer if you're using a whole/half chicken.)

Afterward, I used tongs to take the chicken out of the broth to de-bone and shred.  I placed the chicken back into the pot and added 3/4 of a bag of No Yolk Extra Broad Egg Noodles.

Once the noodles were cooked, I cut up some sourdough bread and ladled out a nice hot bowl of soup.  [Sorry, no photos of said bowl of soup.  I was waaaaay to greedy/excited to eat.]

Since there are only two of us living together, most of the time I have to put leftovers in Tupperware and freeze until another day.  But really it's perfect because trying to cook everyday is a hard task to undertake.  (Kudos to my mother!)  I also placed the leftovers in serving sized containers so that I'll be able to take out only what I need to in the future.  [Pat on the shoulder for thinking ahead!]

Next time, if I remember, I'll be sure to buy some box broth.  I don't mind using powdered chicken broth or even bouillon cubes, but that weird bright neon-like yellow was a bit too striking for me.  Beyond that, the soup was perfect and really hit the spot!