Monday, February 28, 2011

A New Way of Sewing

Photo by PB

Saturday I took another class taught by Patricia Belyea called Doodle Quilting.  All the pieces were made using curves.  This was an exciting project for me because I have a good sized stash of Asian inspired fabrics that needed something more than just triangles or rectangles to really do them justice.

Using freezer paper and a whole lot of patience, after several hours I produced my first block in the series.  It laid perfectly flat and I didn't have to rip or resew a single seam.  See how proud I look?

photo by PB

My second block took even longer, but it's more involved and I think I like it better.  When I have the chance I'll snap a photo and show you my progress.

This class opened  an entire world of quilting to me.  I didn't know it was so easy!  I love traditional quilts, but there's something about the challenge of piecing a block of entirely curved seams that makes the accomplishment so much more of a rush.

I highly recommend Patricia's class to any intermediate quilter who's curious about this technique.  She'll guide you through the steps, challenge you, and give you the tools to take this further on your own.  I will never be intimidated by curved seams ever again!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Taking It Slow

I am a weekend retreat junkie.  I accept invitations to cabins as often as possible.  This past weekend we visited extended family at their lake cabin on the Olympic Peninsula.  It was fantastic.  I ran the deserted country roads, baked, drank wine, played games, and read fitness/wellness magazines (I'm addicted to them).  It was wonderful.  Here are some of the views from the dock:

Unbelievable, right?  I always feel so lucky to be invited to stay at places like this.  I want my life to be like this all the time.  Well, maybe for a while, at least.

Photos courtesy of Andrew's iPhone.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Winner Winner Chili Dinner

 Yesterday our office held its second annual chili cook-off.

As contenders arrived at the start of the workday, they plugged in their respective chili-laden crock pots and simmered their concoctions all morning.

I participated, of course, with a three-meat, two-bean chili that had won last year's first prize: "the golden spoon of victory," which is nothing more than bragging rights.  I had to bring it back to see if it could hold its own.  There was much less trash-talking, and since I helped organize it this year, imagine my embarrassment when I counted the votes to reveal:

Yep, still a first place winner.  Don't get me wrong, I'm very proud of the accomplishment.  It was just sort of anti-climactic to announce my own win.  So I had Ken, our IT guy do it.

[booming announcer voice] BEHOLD! THE GOLDEN SPOON OF VICTORYYYYY!

Aaaaand I signed it again this year to commemorate my fantastic chili.

Here's the recipe with the latest tweaks:


1 lb bacon, diced
2 lbs beef chuck roast, cut into 1.5-inch cubes
2 lbs pork roast, cut into 1.5-inch cubes
1 cup mole sauce
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp kosher salt
3 cups stock of your choice, divided
2 med sweet yellow onions, chopped
1 anaheim pepper, seeded and diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 cup chili powder
2 tsp cayenne pepper + more to taste
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
2 14-oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 14-oz cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar


Cook bacon in large soup pot, and remove meat to a bowl, reserving bacon grease on the side.
Use small amounts of bacon grease to brown your meat (in batches so as not to crowd the pan) and dump them into your slow cooker with juices and all as you go.
Set the slow cooker on low, stir the mole, kosher salt, brown sugar, and 1-1/2 cups stock in with your meat and cook for 4 hrs.
Meanwhile, return the rest of the grease to your pot and cook your onion, anaheim pepper, and garlic until onion is translucent.
Add your ground spices and simmer a few more minutes to bring out their flavor.
Add the remaining 1-1/2 cups stock, tomatoes, cooked bacon, and 1 can of each kind of beans, and bring to a boil.
Using a hand/stick blender, puree everything in pot.  If you don't have a hand blender, wait for the chili to cool a little and do it in batches in your food processor.
add in your remaining beans, the fish sauce, and apple cider vinegar, stir and add meat after it has slow cooked for an appropriate amount of time.
Refrigerate over night.
The next day, reheat chili slowly, and taste before you tweak.

Serves an army.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Country Roads

A couple weeks ago I told you about the class I took on counterintuitive quilting, taught by Patricia Belyea.  It was very outside the box and I had a lot of fun.  We're having a follow-up class at the end of this month and I wanted to have something to show for myself, so I decided to take the parts and pieces with me up to Guemes Island this past weekend to make some progress.

When I had brought the blocks home from the initial class and laid them out for Andrew that evening, he said it reminded him of the countryside and some of the blocks looked like roads, so I took that as my inspiration and titled my quilt Country Roads.  This, however, did not come without consequences; throughout the entire weekend I had the image of Andy and Dwight from The Office singing "Country Roads" in the break room running on a continuous loop in my head.

Saturday afternoon and evening the wind was blowing hard and the rain was so heavy I was a little nervous it was going to uproot our house and carry it away, Wizard of Oz style.  To combat the dreary weather Abby baked a couple loaves of challah, which we had with Diane's home made freezer jam, and we opened a bottle of wine.  The hurricane-like gales were also a great motivator to get some sewing done, since we couldn't really even go outside, much less walk on the beach.

Currently it's about 55 inches square.  I'm not done with the top quite yet, but it will be a relatively small quilt. Some changes I'd like to make will address the bottom left corner. I will have a cohesive border around it with a little more green on one corner to balance out where it got a little green-heavy in this piece.

Overall, I'm pretty happy about this quilt and I'm excited to see it taking shape.  Stay tuned for more on this in a few weeks!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Happy Weekend!

I have left the mainland!  I love weekends in Seattle, but better than that, I love weekends in the San Juan Islands.  I've mentioned before my connection to the San Juan Islands and what they mean to me.  This weekend I'm taking a breather with Abby and our moms and enjoying life on island time.

There will be sewing; there will be painting; there will be long walks, coffee, and fresh baked scones.

The house we stay in is right on the water, so we're waking each morning to beautiful beach vistas and salty Puget Sound air.

Have a beautiful weekend!

The Shoes

I have decided on a shoe for the wedding!  After I wrote that post, I kept coming back to the blue Badgley Mischka Odell pumps over and over again.  I knew I was smitten.  They were about twice as much as I wanted to spend, but I knew in my heart that they were the ones.  Even though I hate it when people say, "Monica, they're so you!"  I have to admit, these shoes are so "me."

Notice the four-inch heel.  Do I get a pair of shoes with a lower heel and an ankle strap for all the booty-shaking I'll be doing later in the evening?  Maybe I just pack a pair of flip flops?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Nothing Like Technicolor Cake...

I had a bit of a bumpy morning yesterday and stormed into the office like a dark cloud.  Insignificant annoyances were inspiring rage, which I had to keep checked for professional conduct reasons, and though every fiber of me wanted to take each dish in the kitchen and smash it on the floor, I decided it would feel even worse to get fired from a place I actually love for my own childish behavior.  Everything was needling me in the worst way with no relief in sight.  So at 9am, I decided to take a little breather and check in on one of my favorite blogs, Confections of a (Closet) Master Baker.

I love this blog. Gesine, the author, is one talented woman.  In addition to creating some of the most amazing cakes I've ever seen, she has a book out and runs marathons, which is something I aspire to do but so far have been too scared... on both counts.  My fiance has had the hots for her sister for years, but I'm more of a fan of this lady.  She's someone I can relate to and look up to at the same time.  In fact, if my best friends and I took each of our best features and combined forces into one awesome woman, she just might be our "Captain Planet."  Ok, enough gushing.  Back to my bad day.

In order to take my mind off everything that was getting to me, I went to take a look at CCMB to see what kind of lovelies she had that day.  Right there smiling back at me was the most glorious rainbow layer cake I've ever seen.  I nearly fell off my chair with joy.  It was a trifecta of happiness: my own longtime love of rainbow cakes, beautiful and innovative execution, and wonderful pictures.  My heart went like this:

And just like that, I lightened up a little bit.  I took a deep breath, found my inner-rainbow, and shook off that bad attitude I'd worked up over the last coupe hours.  It's amazing what a little beauty and creative inspiration can do.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Lot-a Yukata, Etc

This past weekend my friend Patricia had a trunk show at Fabric Crush featuring her vast collection on vintage Japanese fabrics.  It just so happens that the house I grew up in, where my parents still reside, is three blocks away.

Saturday afternoon I collected my mom and dragged her out to the show.  I knew I was going to at least buy a yard or two, but then something happened... We were talking about the nautical decor in my upcoming wedding (which I know I have promised will not take over my blog) when Patricia got out the bolt of fabric you see her holding in the above photo and oops!  I bought the whole bolt.  She gave me an amazing deal on it because of some areas she saw as flaws in the fabric (whereas I will call them character and not think about it again).

I'm so excited!  Blue and white stripes?  Check.  Artsy waves?  Check.  Helloooo table decor!

Afterward, we wandered over to Fainting Goat on 45th for gelato.  It's the best gelato I've ever had, and I'm not exaggerating.  If you're thinking, "well I went to Italy, and the stuff I had there..." stop right there.  Yep, it's better than that.  I got dark chocolate and salted caramel.  My mom got pistachio and hazelnut.  It was all heavenly.  I was especially impressed with the pistachio, which does not taste like that disappointing spumoni pistachio, but rather the real nut.  Amazing.  Check it:

Adorable logo and delicious product. I am in love.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bridal Shoes

I'm on the hunt for a shoe.  I'm going to need to have my dress fitted soon and it's important for me to make sure it will fall at the right length, which means having my shoes with me at the tailor.  The dress is a bright white satin with some bling on it.  It's sort of an "old hollywood" look.  I can't show a picture of it because Andrew reads this blog and I don't want to spoil the surprise.  He loves surprises... which is the opposite of me.  That being said, I don't think he'll care whether or not he sees my shoes ahead of time.  Here are some of the options I've come up with that are sort of in the right price range.

Traditional White:

Metallic: Silver/Pewter:

Blue to Coordinate with Wedding Colors:

These last ones aren't navy, but I think the antique blue would match the blue hydrangeas in my bouquet, so they made the list.  Not to mention they are gorgeous.  So there you have it.  Thoughts?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

What I'm Wearing - TGIF!

Yeah, I know it's not Friday.  Today we're out and about getting the groomsmen's tuxes fitted.  It's a guy thing, but I've been asked to tag along as the fashion consultant to make sure it looks as good on the real guys as it did in the catalog.  This is a particularly wise move, because Andrew is the type of fellow who is more interested in if it fits than if it looks good.

About a year ago, Andrew went out and bought two new suits to replace the one that he'd had for the last 10 years and no longer fit his now adult frame.  It felt like quite an investment, and he wanted to do it right, so Andrew took his dad along for some father-son bonding time.  They settled on the best two, and he had them tailored so they would look really sharp.  When they were ready, I went with Andrew to pick them up from the tailor and saw them for the first time.  Pleated pants on both of them.  They've been altered, they've been paid for.  I'm keeping my damn mouth shut.  It came out later that I was disappointed his expensive new suits had pleated pants, after we had spent a lot of time in the recent past cleaning out his work wardrobe of the offending and dated article.  He looked at me in disbelief, went to the closet, and exclaimed, "you're right!  They are pleated!  I didn't even notice."  Ahem, what?  

Yes, folks - that was a moment of discovery.  I should take a moment here to say that this was more funny than upsetting.  He doesn't have to look like he stepped out of GQ in order to get my attention.  And as infrequent as it is that he has the occasion to wear suits, it's really not that big of a deal.  Maybe during the next ten years that my husband has these suits, pleats will come back in style.  One can only hope. (Also, every time I see those pants, I'm going to think, "no!  it's the pleats in this pants - they're an optical illusion.  I'm taking them back to the pants store immediately." you know what I'm talking about)

So as a result of that little adventure into the realm of formal wear, I get the last say in the tuxes at our upcoming wedding.  Takes the pressure off Andrew, and I know what to expect.  Win win.

Anyway, I really wanted to share with you my Friday outfit.  This is what I wore yesterday.  I didn't have the guts for the leggings and boots shown in yesterday's post, so this is sort of a test run.  I'm wearing gray (actual) pants and black platform heels.  Sort of casual Friday-ish but still dressed up enough for client meetings.  PS - the text in the graphic is my lipstick color.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Fashion Advice, Please

Some of you might know I am obsessed with Fashion Under $100.  I am inherently bad at fashion, so I read this blog all the frickin' time to make sure I don't get stuck in the 90s like I have been in the past. I'm not exaggerating.  Ask any of my friends.  They'll be nice about it, but it's true.  So I'm cruising through Dana's old December 2010 posts when I come across this outfit of Cameron Diaz.  I happen to have all of the pieces you see here, including an improvement on the leggings with a sequin tux stripe running up the side. I love this look, but I'm wondering if I can pull it off.  My two concerns: 1) I do not look like Cameron Diaz, nor do I have her body - I am more of a Christina Hendricks type.  2) I've said this before: I tend to look stupid in trendy outfits.  This leans toward a more classic look, but would I look like I'm trying too hard?  Thoughts??

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What I'm Wearing - Minty Fresh

As you can see, I'm ready for spring.  I've been all about pastels and colors that call upon fresh blooms with gray Seattle skies.  Today's look is a little old fashioned and sweet with the ruffles and jewelry, but still fresh and crisp by sticking to solid-color fabrics and avoiding patterns.  I'm also totally loving my wool pants and organza top.  Cozy and airy in one.