Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy Memorial Day!

Happy Memorial Day to folks in the US! As Memorial Day is the unofficial start to summer, it's only fitting that Nick and I filled our 3-day weekend with long bike rides, barbecues, gardening, eating on the porch, going to flea and farmer's markets, and unintentionally getting sunburned while in the car.

Speaking of gardening, I feel like my garden is coming along nicely. Not everything is thriving, but I'm learning and tweaking my plan along the way, which is what I think should be happening during my first season of growing. Two of the flowers are blooming and doing great and two of the flowers got a bit damaged during a surprise late-season frost, but they're starting to come back.


The cilantro is growing like a weed, which is great because cilantro is in almost all of the recipes in our new favorite cookbook, Mexican Everyday. The other herbs were doing just so-so, so last week I moved them on top of our fence so they could get more direct sunlight. I already see a difference, so hopefully they'll start growing like the cilantro soon enough! The tall herb on the end is some parsley that we picked up at a farmer's market yesterday. I didn't start it from a seed, which I think is what I'm going to do next year. The waiting is killing me!



The strawberry plant (on the right) just sprouted its first flower this week! Sadly, the hydrangea (on the left) that we had next to our front door took a turn for the worse and I had to pick off a bunch of dead leaves and flowers.

Strawberries and hydrangea

I think it wasn't getting enough sunlight there, so today I moved it onto the porch and we got a coleus for the front door instead, which the plant people assured us would do fine in the shade.


One of the tomato plants sprouted a couple of weeks ago, but the other remains to be seen and the onions don't appear to be growing at all.

Tomato Sprouts

The spinach is growing very slowly, although that area gets hit hard every time it rains because it's directly under an overhang and I think the plants are getting damaged.


I think both of these areas don't get enough direct sunlight, so I'm going to have to rethink them next year. Are there any veggies that don't need a lot of direct sunlight?

I thinned out the spinach a little bit and transplanted some of it into a rectangular pot that I put on the fence on the other side of our patio, along with some lettuce and mesclun seeds. This spot gets a ton of direct sunlight, so I'm hoping that all goes well and we'll be eating home-grown salad at some point this summer.


Memorial Day also means the 5 for $5 Simplicity sale at Joann!


I stopped by on my way home from work on Friday and picked up six patterns: 2475 Amazing Fit skirt, 1801 Cynthia Rowley dress, 1941 Amazing Fit blouse, 1882 Amazing Fit fitted dress, 1883 Threads collection sportswear, and 2263 Threads collection sportswear. If you couldn't tell, I sorely need work clothes. Ironically I haven't been sewing too much lately as most of my time has been spent working and studying/reading for the course I'm taking to prepare for a certification test.

What sewing classes I've actually made it to have been spent working on New Look 6803 in view A with the belt, which is almost finished! Of course I always complicate things by adding a lining, so the patterns are never as quick and I think they should be, especially with my sewing time so limited these days.

Image source

I also finally started working on a quilt for myself using Jay McCarroll's Habitat line, only more than a year after I originally planned to make it. I have all of the fabric for the blocks cut and lined up, so now I just need to get sewing! I have a feeling that this might not get completely finished until December when I take my certification test.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Mexican Every Day!

This year for Nick's birthday, I bought him Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday and a whole bunch of stuff from Rick's food line, Frontera (he also has a restaurant in Chicago named Frontera Grill, which we intend to visit when we go back in August). We had seen Rick on Top Chef Masters, which he won, and then kinda fell in love with his PBS show Mexico - One Plate at a Time, even though we've only seen it a few times. The episode we saw involved him kayaking off the shores of a Mexican island, catching his fish, and then cooking dinner on the beach. It was insanely relaxing, which makes more sense to me now after learning that he regularly practices yoga. The show was kinda like watching a yoga DVD but without the yoga.

Ever since going to Distrito a couple of years ago (if you are ever in the tri-state area, you MUST go there), Nick and I have been borderline obsessed with Mexican food. Not Tex Mex—I'm talking real Mexican food with fresh ingredients and not smothered in cheese, although a touch of queso fresco really does the trick sometimes. Essentially, buying Mexican Everyday as a present for Nick was really a present for me as well. And it has been a present many times over in the short 16 days that it has graced our house.

Last Friday, we had my parents and my sister and her husband over for dinner. We made pico de gallo/chunky tomato salsa and tomatillo salsa served with Frontera chips; jicama salad with watercress, romaine, and lime-cilantro dressing; and grilled chicken with red pepper sesame marinade, mexican beans with greens, and Gulf Coast-style white rice pilaf. Then we had some friends over on Sunday and made chicken a la Veracruzana in the slow cooker and what I ended up calling churro cookies (Mexican shortbread cookies topped with cinnamon sugar). Last night we went to a barbecue and brought with us some smokey chipotle salsa with pan-roasted tomatillos. And today we made red chile chicken and rice with black beans (topped with some of last night's leftover smokey chipotle salsa) and another batch of chunky tomato salsa and jicama salad with lime-cilantro dressing. If you're counting, that is 11 different recipes in 16 days, with two made twice!

Mexican feast
Mexican feast!
Pico de gallo
Pico de gallo/chunky tomato salsa
Smokey chipotle salsa with roasted tomatillos
Smokey chipotle salsa with pan-roasted tomatillos
Red chile chicken with rice and black beans topped with smokey chipotle salsa
Red chile chicken and rice with black beans, topped with smokey chipotle salsa with pan-roasted tomatillos
Jicama salad with lime-cilantro dressing and pico de gallo
Jicama salad with lime-cilantro dressing, topped with pico de gallo/chunky tomato salsa

I was preparing like a mad woman during all of the meals except for today, so I don't have pictures of everything to share. But believe me when I say that all of the recipes were delicious and we would make them all again, especially since they are all so easy. They all feature fresh ingredients and are all pretty healthy as long as you stick to the serving size. Rick's introduction is also really inspiring. It chronicles his journey to balance eating delicious and flavorful food with being healthy, and after reading it I couldn't help but want to mirror his lifestyle.

We are planning on making one of the bigger meals for our Saturday or Sunday dinner and having the rest as leftovers on one night during the week. The best part is that I literally want to make every single recipe in this book. How often does that happen with a cookbook? 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Purple People Eater Ginger

For the past month or so, I've been in muslin failure mode. I mentioned before that I tried out the skirt from Simplicity 2215 and it wasn't flattering. Then I dug out the muslin that I started for a Crepe last March (ugh) and after working with my sewing teacher for a little bit, we decided to toss it. I had stitched up the smallest size for the bodice and the chest was still about 3 sizes too big and we just couldn't manipulate the fabric so the bodice would fit. We got the chest to fit, but then there were these huge pockets of fabric on the back by my arms. If my sewing teacher, who has about 30 years of experience, can't get the damn thing to fit, I'm ok with finally giving up on it. Now I'm super hesitant about making any Colette pattern that involves a top because the bodice will most likely always be way too big. Anyone have any solutions? It's sad because my bottom half fits perfectly with their measurements.

But it doesn't end there. After recognizing that I need some summer blouses in my wardrobe, I quickly whipped up a muslin of the blouse from Simplicity 2211. It was too big, but I was able to take it in so that it fit like it was intended to. The trouble was, it just wasn't flattering. The blouse doesn't have any button or zipper closures, so it needs to be baggy enough to be able to slip it on as is. I never wear baggy shirts untucked and, when this shirt was tucked into a skirt, it was way too bunched up in the back. So I scrapped that muslin too.

Then I made the skirt from Simplicity 2211 and was nearly finished with it when I realized it looked like crap on me. It doesn't have a waistband or darts, both of which I apparently feel the need for in a skirt. I started to take it apart to fix it but was eventually so disgusted with it that I threw it aside.

At least I feel like I'm learning good lessons when choosing patterns to try out. I now know that I like to wear structured and fitted garments. I'm not sure why this didn't occur to me before now, because all of my ready-to-wear clothes are exactly that. I guess I'm highly influenced by the cute things that I see other people making.

After all of those false starts, I needed a sure bet project. So I dug out my Colette Ginger pattern and made my third Ginger, only this time in Version 2. The best part about this project is that I was able to pull everything from my stash, hem tape and all! Forgive the weird lighting in this picture. It turned into quite the crappy day, but Nick and I were able to sneak in a few pictures after work while the rain took a break. My crops are peaking in at the bottom to say hello!


I just can't get over how awesome hem tape looks from the inside and it's so easy to use.


It was so nice to finally finish a project that worked out! As much as I love my Gingers, I think I need to find  a skirt pattern that sits lower but retains the A-line shape. A simple A-line skirt has the potential to become one of my wardrobe staples. Anyone have any suggestions?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

We Killed It!

This morning was the 2012 Broad Street Run and Nick and I pretty much killed it. We ran the 10-miler in 1 hour and 45 minutes, which is 10 whole minutes faster than last year!

2012 Broad Street Run Medal

This year's registration sold out in 5 hours (for 30,000 runners) so they opened up 10,000 more slots in a lottery system. Because of this, the race was noticeably more crowded this year. Usually the runners thin out after the first half mile, but the crowd was pretty packed for the entire 10 miles, especially at the end. And the traffic getting out of the stadium area was absolutely nuts. Thankfully my awesome mom and sister drove us down again, so neither of us had to be at the wheel in that madness.

I am so proud of our time! I think this will probably be our last year running, so it was nice to have such great results.

After lunch and a delightful nap, because I am crazy, I took to our garden and planted the rest of our crops! Here are our tomatoes, red onions (the grassy things), and garlic (in between the onions and the tomato plant on the right).

This planter used to house a whole bunch of hostas, one of my very least favorite plants (the previous owner apparently loved them). We pulled out the actual plants in the fall, but there were a million roots left over. I spent a good 45 minutes digging through it to get them all out! Between that and running 10 miles this morning, I hope I'll be able to walk tomorrow.

Tomatoes, Red Onions, and Garlic

My one concern with our garden is that I'm not quite sure how to maintain the plants once they start growing. Does anyone have any good resources for that sort of thing? Basically I need very specific guidelines about how to cut the leaves/veggies off of the plant when they are ready to eat. I look forward to that day!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Spring Has Sprung!

I actually have a new skirt to share with you all, but the crap weather lately has prohibited me from getting any decent pictures of it. Hopefully this weekend!

In the meantime, the rain has helped one thing around here: my crops! A couple of weekends ago it was super nice out so Nick and I headed over to Lowe's and picked up some supplies for our garden. Thankfully the week before, I had attended a gardening workshop at work hosted by a woman from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (the folks who run the Philly Flower Show), where I learned that my original gardening plans weren't the best for our space. Just in time!

I ended up planting cilantro, basil, oregano, thyme, and strawberries in pots and used up our small space of ground for spinach, which the PA Horticultural lady said would grow year-round! I put the strawberries in the biggest pot because they apparently multiply like nuts.




I plan on planting tomatoes in a small planter, but it's been too rainy lately to get that done. I also planted some petunias and french marigolds (if I remember correctly) in the pots that we have hanging on the fence around our patio.




I've been enjoying coming home from work and watering the plants before I start exercising. It's so relaxing, plus the smell of wet ground is great. A couple of days ago I noticed that my spinach and thyme have sprouted! I'm going to pick up some chicken wire this weekend to keep the bunnies away from my spinach.
Here's my baby spinach (haha).


And the baby thyme:


To add to the excitement around here, on Sunday Nick noticed a nest of birdies in the bush on the walk up to our house! I admit that I got borderline obsessed with checking on them pretty much every time I walked by. At first I could only see a mess of feathers.


But as the days went on they moved around so we could see their hilarious little faces! Most of the time, Nick stood watch while I attempted to take pictures in case the mommy or daddy decided to come back to the nest and dive bomb me for being near the babies. They were so hard to photograph!


Plus, they were so cute and cuddled up! 




Sadly when I went to check on them today, they were gone. At least I still have this beautiful hydrangea to greet me at the front door!