12.30.2011

My Golden Christmas Midi

My final finished project for this year was a gold corduroy variant of trusty Simplicity 2451. While I quite like my green version, I thought a more neutral color was a necessary staple.

Once again, I chose a lightweight 21 wale corduroy but I tweaked the pattern a bit. I shortened it by a few inches, making it a midi (the tall girl mini) and removed the vent to create younger, laid-back look. To further the casual effect, I topstitched the pockets and used my first centered zipper in the back.
12.21.2011

Easy, Flat-rate Shipping

Lately, I've done my share of buying and selling on ebay and what shocked me this year was how many sellers ship a fairly small item in a brown envelope for $6+. There's even been a time or two where the seller spent more on shipping my item to me than I paid in total! This got me wondering... Doesn't everyone know about flat-rate shipping?
12.19.2011

Creamy Potato Soup with a Twist

Now that the cold weather has arrived and the holiday madness is in full swing, easy, hearty meals become our go-to recipes. DH2b requested creamy potato soup last month, which I had never tried, and we've since had it three times. It's warm, comforting and filling - all the best traits of a winter dish. As usual, I've tailored this recipe for his "no veggie" rule but the powders could easily be changed to the fresh deal. Last night, I made one final tweak that received extensive enthusiasm so, I wanted to share my twist.
12.06.2011

One Hour Half-Slip

I decided I wanted to wear my red corduroy skirt today. Then, I stepped outside. All of a sudden, it's freezing here! This meant tights were a must! Of course, cold weather + nylon tights + a cotton skirt = embarrassing static. I was so excited making my corduroy skirts when I realized they didn't need to be lined. Too bad I forgot the above equation when I decided that. So, to solve the problem, I knew a half-slip was needed. I haven't owned one in years but this is where being a home seamstress comes in handy! In less than an hour, with only a few supplies, I whipped up a little slip using Simplicity 2154 - modified, of course.
11.18.2011

Simplicity 2154 - "Changing Leaves" Autumn Pencil Skirt

Several posts ago, I mentioned my fall sewing to-do list - which has all but gone out the window - which included wool variations of Simplicity 2154 (undetermined at the time). However, after the success and ease of my last corduroy skirt, I've decided it would be a good idea to use pinwale corduroy as a muslin/toile for all of my new skirt patterns. This way, I can whip it up quickly and tweak the fit easily while still having a perfectly wearable, unlined skirt. So, when I saw this pretty autumn red in Joann's, I thought it would be a good match.
11.12.2011

11l11l11 - Did You Wear the Wale?

Yesterday, was 11l11l11, the "day which most resembles corduroy." I first heard about this only a week or so ago via @CottonFashion 's retweet of a @CorduroyClub post. Coincidentally, I happened to finish my red corduroy pencil skirt (Simplicity 2154) this week so, I thought it would be fun to participate in the wale festivities by wearing it when we went out Friday.
10.31.2011

Wool Fingerless Mittens with Ribbed Cuff

This weekend, I finally picked my mittens back up and finished the second thumb. The yarn ends are now woven and my new tweed mittens are done! Just in time, too, as it is now [more consistently] feeling like Autumn.

This pattern was written by Ravelry member Karen and is available for free via her blog, Mitten and Makings. I haven't had too much experience reading patterns (at least not in the recent past) but I thought this pattern was well written and I loved the rubbed cuff detail. The only part I changed, aside from making it a touch smaller, was the thumb. To give a more consistent look, I used two rows of HDC topped with one row of DC. I preferred the look, and feel, of this to the suggested SC but, that's a matter of personal opinion only.
10.28.2011

Pantene Beautiful Lengths

As October comes to a close, I want to share a bit about an organization doing its part for cancer. Not specifically breast cancer, the focus of this month, but rather any woman with any cancer. The organization is Pantene Beautiful Lengths.
10.19.2011

A New Look

Notice anything different? No, not about me, about the blog! It's been rearranged, has a totally new design, and I've even added new features.

To the left, you can check out my projects on Ravelry (knitting and crocheting) and Pattern Review (sewing) as well as see what's popular and search the archives. Down the center will be the focus of the blog, showing the five most recent posts at a time.  To the right, you can check out what challenges I'm participating in, see who my wonderful readers are, and add your name to that list, via your preferred format, if you like what you read (I hope you do!).

At the top, we have brand new tabs! I've created organized pages for the most searched items on the blog:
  • tutorials (a compiled list of all of my "instructive" posts and links to photos of small techniques that may not have been featured before),
  • recipes (all posted recipes or snack suggestions), and
  • household tips (includes my recommendations for cleaning, storage, et cetera and home-related product reviews),
as well as additional information about the site, myself, and even how to contact me.

So, what do you think?  Is there anything you'd like to see added? Let me know! x
10.16.2011

A Fall Tweed Hat

Though I don't feel I'm someone who comes down ill too frequently, when I do get sick, I tend to stay so for a long period of time. If you recall, in my last post I mentioned DF and I were under-the-weather. Well, here we are, roughly two weeks later spending another Sunday on the couch, frequently under a blanket, sipping cups of tea, and watching cozy television (anything with warm fires, fair isle sweaters, tweed jackets, etc...).
10.04.2011

Self-Stitched Challenge - Week 4 and Final Thoughts

I'm probably the last participant of the Self-Stitched September challenge to post for week four but I've been under-the-weather. Better late than never, right?

So, let's see. For week four, I wore my New England style bracelet again (posted here), three different pairs of my handmade pajama pants (Simplicity 3571, reviewed last year), and my newly sewn green corduroy skirt.

Simplicity 2451 - "Green is the New Pink" Skirt

As mentioned previously, I was working on this pattern for a fully-lined version but sent myself into "analysis paralysis" with my modifications and trying to learn how to do a lined vent exactly the way I wanted it. So, I need a quick and easy project as a pick-me-up and decided I should try the pattern sans modifications in corduroy. Why corduroy? Even I don't think corduroy needs to be lined (and I line everything!). So, when I popped into Hancock to pickup a different Simplicity pattern during their sale, I saw this Kelly green corduroy and it called to me. It's completely out of character and quite probably something I'll look back on and ask myself "what was I thinking?" (which I often try to avoid) but, that may just be why I like it!
9.25.2011

Self-Stitched Challenge - Week 3

Well, last week's sewing did not go as planned (see previous post) so, I didn't have any shiny new me-made outfits to rock for the week. I did, however, still manage to (loosely) participate.

Last Saturday (I know, technically Week 2 but, I wore it after the post...), I wore my blue shirtdress for a bit of evening shopping with DF. It was rainy earlier in the evening so I had an excuse to wear my favorite Wellies but, it means photo-time was not picturesque. Please excuse the gloomy skies and auto backdrop. DF hoped the dark vehicle would provide enough contrast to allow the camera phone to pick up my outfit.
9.22.2011

This Week's Progress Freeze is Brought to You by Analysis Paralysis

(Updated below)

This week has just flown by! I've cut out the outer material for a pencil skirt and for the front of what will be DF's new Glen plaid vest. I managed to sew four darts in my skirt but, that's as far as I've gotten. Sad, yes.

You may (or may not) have noticed, I fully line nearly every item I sew. The patterns never call for it (why is that!?) but I throw one in anyway. And with fall coming, bringing with it plans to sew with some very lovely wool, I'm certainty not going to break habit now. Linings, to me, just make the garment look and feel nicer. (Though I don't blame anyone else for not using them!)

9.17.2011

Works in Progress - Update

At the end of July, I shared with you my remaining sewing plans for summer. I just took a look at the list and I didn't do a bad job.
Here's the update:
Butterick 5351 in a lavender eyelet (needs straps sewn and hem) Done!
Butterick 4443 in a pink and green plaid (needs the lining taken in to reduce bulk and hem)
Simplicity 2584 in white with a lace overlay (we're still deciding on a neckline and front darts) Done!
New Look 6057 in a blue and white linen gingham
Simplicity 2246 x2 in a red cotton and a blue herringbone Done and done!
McCalls 2365 in a green linen Sadly, my linen shrank more than anticipated so, I didn't have enough to do this project.

Of course, I've added to the list! I need fall clothes now:
A yet-to-be-determined pencil skirt pattern, first in poly/rayon Glen plaid to test it, then in a wool tweed and a wool herringbone.
Butterick 5682 in a 21 wale grey corduroy
Vogue 1183 in a dusty mauve modal knit
Vogue 8685 in a light blue modal knit, though I may save this for spring
Vogue 8379 in a black modal knit
(oh and Burda 7523 for DF)

Luckily, my fall stash isn't too out of control... Yet.

What are you working on? x
9.15.2011

Self-stitched Challenge - Week 2

Well, I am and am not keeping to my plan... As vowed, I wore another handmade dress out to run errands today. I did not, however, make it this month. I did hem it today though! That counts...right?

Sadly, this dress has been hanging in my closet, unhemmed for the past few months - ok, all summer. It was very easy to make (I think I made it in an afternoon.) but, when I tried it on the check the length, it didn't fit! My lower half was way to big for it so I angrily put it away and have been afraid to try it on again since.
9.13.2011

Simplicity 2246 - The Quest for a Well-fitted Shirtdress

I love shirtdresses. They have the classic style and polish of a button-front shirt and A-line skirt but in the simplicity of a one-piece. What's not to love? Too bad they don't love me.

I've tried on countless RTW shirtdresses from a variety of designers but, being pear-shaped (my hips are two inches bigger than they "should" be), I'm either swimming in the top half or buttons are pulling on the bottom. Neither is a great look.
9.12.2011

Self-stitched Challenge - Week 1

So far, I'm sticking to my plan! DF and I visited family in Michigan over a long Labor Day weekend and, while there, I wore not one but *two* self-stitched dresses!

Dress one was a white lace version of Simplicity 2584. I whipped this one up Friday night before we left home and wore it on Sunday - the last possible day to wear white! (I was determined!) I paired it with a black cardigan and black patent ballet flats to "fall" the outfit up a bit. This one got a fair bit of exposure. It was our first full day in Michigan and we went out to breakfast, did some sightseeing, a bit of wine tasting, and even went on an impromptu 2.5 mile walk around a local park!
9.06.2011

Recipe - Red Beans and Rice with Andouille

I hope every is having/had a great holiday weekend! As we enter September and begin the transition into fall, we want meals that can make the transition with us. Red beans and rice is an easy meal that works great in all seasons. A common dish in New Orleans, it works great in the heat as it's all cooked in one pot on the stovetop (no hot oven!). Depending on the amount of meat added, it's also hearty enough to warm you and fill you up in the colder months. Better yet, while it takes 30-45 minutes to cook, only about a third of that is active time, which makes it great for throwing dinner together while working on other things nearby.
9.01.2011

September is National Sewing Month




Did you know there was such a thing!? There's even a website: National Sewing Month

It seems, according to this website, Former President Ronald Reagan declared this as a way to recognize the importance of home sewing. Every year, there is also a contest sponsored by the Sewing and Craft Alliance and the American Sewing Guild. This year, the theme is "Sew for the Love of It" and all entries must feature a heart. So cute! This would be easy to tie in to one of your Self-Stitched September outfits! (Dont forget - the challenge starts today!) I'm thinking a dress with heart-shaped pockets is in order.

Hop over to the website for full contest details.

Anyone thinking of participating? What will you make?

Happy National Sewing Month! x

How cute is this logo!?

8.30.2011

Making Garment and Stash Labels from Scraps

Have you ever pulled a fabric out of your stash, realizing that you've forgotten what exactly it is or how to care for it? How do you know what thread or needle to use? What if it's meant to be washed on cold, or worse, dry cleaned, and you through it in on hot?

My solution is simple: I wash the fabric according to the bolt instructions as soon as I bring it home and then I pin a little homemade tag to it with the fibre content, collection name (if any), place purchased, season purchased, and care instructions. This can either be done from a piece of the fabric itself or a small piece of muslin.
8.29.2011

Self-Stitched Sept'11 Challenge

In the sewing and style blogging worlds, I've noticed several bloggers host events called "challenges." A topic is selected, guidelines are set, and participants are off! They seem to bring a great sense of community, though participants can be countries apart, and they always sound so fun! So, when Sewaholic Tasia mentioned a new challenge being hosted by a fellow blogger, I eagerly clicked!
8.22.2011

Natural, Low-calorie Refreshment

We all know we're supposed to drink 8 glasses of water a day, and with temperatures maintaining an abnormally high level (here in the Southern U.S., at least), it's especially important to stay hydrated. But, plain ice water can be so boring, sports drinks are too high in sodium, and every flavor packet is loaded with carcinogenic artificial sweeteners - or so I thought.
8.10.2011

Summer Tuna Sandwich

DF couldn't home for lunch today. Do you know what that means? Veggies! And spices! When I make tuna sandwiches for us, I generally make them rather plain - just mayo, maybe a bit of mustard, and black pepper. As I'm sure I've mentioned, DF hates most vegetables and he doesn't like many spices added to his tuna. So, when he's away, I get to mix it up!

Here's today's variation (so yummy):

1 can solid white Albacore tuna
Mayo (enough to coat)
A few splashes of Red Wine Vinegar
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Smoked paprika
Crushed black peppercorns
Oregano
Thyme
Fresh baby spinach
1 fresh campari tomato, sliced

(Note: the spices are all to taste - I've never measured - but, they are listed greatest amount to least.)

There are a few days next week too where I'll be making lunch for just me. Do you have any sandwich recipes I should try?

Happy Wednesday! x

8.09.2011

Ebates - Cash Back for Online Shopping

I [temporarily] live in an area with very limited retail selection and high prices - certainly not what I'm used to, having been raised in a "if you can dream it, you can find it" kind of area on the East Coast. So, more and more I've been forced to search the internet for clothes, shoes, beauty products, sewing supplies, etc.  The benefit to this (aside from being able to shop in your pajamas) is the ability to comparison shop and apply paperless coupons.

What if things could go one step further - what if you could actually get paid to shop online? Sounds ideal, doesn't it? Well, my latest discovery is as close to that as I've found.
8.04.2011

Fels-Naptha Laundry Bar Soap

Here's another product to add to your laundry arsenal: Dial Corp. 04303 Fels-Naptha Laundry Bar Soap.
source: felsnaptha.com

I picked this up about a month ago at Walmart for under $2. If you recall from an older post, I've been in search of a good stain remover and hadn't yet found one that could handle anything tough. Oddly, the old-fashioned package is what attracted me. It's just a large bar of laundry soap wrapped in paper. Nothing fancy. So, I thought to myself, "that looks like it's been around a while. I bet it actually works." At that low price, what could it hurt?
8.01.2011

Quick Tip - Saving Space on the Laundry Drying Rack

To save energy and extend the life of our clothes, I hang most of our clothes on laundry racks to dry. I've just finished hanging a load of lights and have a quick tip for those of you who do the same.

To conserve space on the racks, fold men's shorts and slacks in half, the way you would to hang them in the closet (along the press folds). This way, you can fit two pairs side-by-side on one bar. Just remember to flip them halfway through the drying time (for me this is about 4-5 hours later in the summer and the next morning in the winter). This also speeds up pressing time, especially if you smoothe the garment while hanging.

Do you have any little laundry tips? Please feel free to share below!

I'm off to start on dinner! x
7.30.2011

Cheesecake Pudding

Everyone knows that vanilla wafers and banana pudding go hand-in-hand but, when I perused the pudding section at the grocery store, I considered a new combination. The Jell-O instant cheesecake pudding called to me (I've had a bit of a sweet tooth lately). When I saw it, I immediately thought it would be great when combined with the Keebler graham crackers at home in our pantry.

It's insanely easy and quick (2 minutes whisking, 5 minutes setting) and it tastes quite good! It obviously doesn't have the luscious texture of cheesecake but, the flavor, especially when paired with the crackers, is very close. With four servings at around a quarter each and approximately 200 calories, depending on milk used, it's much easier than cheesecake on your wallet and your waistline.

Happy snacking! x
7.29.2011

Works in Progress

My, oh my! Where has the month gone!? Summer certainly has had a quieting effect on the blogging world, hasn't it? I hope you can forgive me for my part.

Along with staying outside more, soaking up some glittering happiness, I have, on promise to my DF, been working on clearing out my summer fabric stash. After oogling over recent "ladylike" dresses , I'm quickly brewing my own variations for fall. But, it's only fair that I work with what I have first. So, in the last week I've nearly finished:
  • Butterick 5351 in a lavender eyelet (needs straps sewn and hem)
  • Butterick 4443 in a pink and green plaid (needs the lining taken in to reduce bulk and hem)
  • Simplicity 2584 in white with a lace overlay (we're still deciding on a neckline and front darts)
Then, I just have to work on:
  • New Look 6057 in a blue and white linen gingham
  • Simplicity 2246 x2 in a red cotton and a blue herringbone
  • McCalls 2365 in a green linen
No problem, right? Curse you, sewing ADD! I just need to focus on the pretty Vogue patterns, wools, and silks at the end of the tunnel :) What are you rushing through working on? Please share below! I love hearing from you! Have a wonderful weekend! x
7.15.2011

McCalls 6027 - The Red Dress

A certain red dress in a certain British movie inspired me to create a flowy little scoopneck of my own. Can you guess which one I mean? (Hint: I've named this one my Shaftesbury Avenue dress.)

Please excuse the washout.
I was determined to get a few photos before rushing off to dinner and the HP double feature!
7.13.2011

Simply Vera No Show Socks

Last month, I told you my little trick to keep no show socks from sliding off your heel. Well, someone at Simply Vera must have read my post (kidding!).

A few weekends ago, my fiance and I stopped in Kohls (though I cannot remember why...) and something told me to check its sock selection. What I found was a 2-pair pack of Simply Vera no show socks with silicone grips in the heel! The pack I selected even had the bonus of little massaging strips on the bottom. I bought them in nude ($7 on sale, $10 regular retail) and brought them home, attempting to keep my expectations low.
7.09.2011

DIY TV Cord Cover

Yesterday, we received our new entertainment cabinet. With this cabinet, we wanted a way to hide and protect the cords between the TV and the inside of the cabinet. One common solution is velvet cord covers. By a simple Google search, these appear to cost upwards of $30. Not a huge cost but why pay that when they're so cheap and easy to make?
6.27.2011

Crease-free Unfinished Project Storage

If you're like me, you tend to have multiple sewing projects going at once. I either get bored with one project and really excited about another or I reprioritize different projects based on desired enddates. Either way, the result is the same: I have cut pieces of fabric piling up. But, what is the best way to store them?

Recently, I've started using a new method for keeping those projects which have been pushed back down the queue out of the way and wrinkle-free. Instead of folding projects you aren't working on, simply lay all of the pieces in a pile, place notions in a plastic bag on top, and secure to a thin wire hanger with three wooden clothespins. Now, you can hang the project in a closet or your sewing room and when you want to work on it again, your pieces and notions will all be in one place and they won't need to be re-ironed.

Note: the wire hanger/wooden hanger combo works best because the wire hanger is thin enough to allow a lot of fabric to be pinned without excess pressure and the soft wooden pins are less likely to leave impressions than the rigid plastic ones.

Now that I've hung my two sets of dress pieces away, it's back to the shorts! Happy Monday! x
6.17.2011

McCalls 4440 Sew Along - Day 3

Here we are at day 3! Time to finish our dresses (if you haven't done so already)!  By now, we have our bodices and skirts sewn and attached - everywhere except center back for lined-bodice only and all but center back and side seams for fully-lined dresses.

View of [altered] bodice back
If you are using trim(s), be sure to attach it to the dress before applying the zipper. I pressed my outer fabric empire seam down (toward the skirt) and overcasted. On the outside, I applied a grosgrain ribbon right along the seam line. This flattens and hides the appearance of the seam. Sew ribbons slowly and always from the same direction to keep the grain vertical.

6.14.2011

McCalls 4440 Sew Along - Day 2

Good afternoon sewers! I apologize for posting so late in the day - I've been a bit under-the-weather today so I haven't been as productive as I would have liked. Nevertheless, I've begun sewing my dress and I hope you have too! Just a reminder, you can post any questions you have in comments and, even if it's something I haven't gone over, I'll get to it quickly!

So, yesterday, we cut out our fabric, right sides together. That was so tracing the pattern markings today would be easier. The best way to transfer the markings (dots, dart lines, etc) is to lay your fabric, pattern still pinned, onto a [right-side up] piece of transfer paper. Then, using a dressmaker's ruler as a guide and a tracing wheel, carefully trace the dart lines. For the dots, you can either use the wheel to trace an 'x' where the dot should go or you can use a washable fabric pen to draw the dots through the pattern paper. Now, unpin your pattern and flip your fabric. The marks (those done with the wheel) should now be visable. Trace those lines to create identical ones on the other half of the fabric. (If you used a pen for the dots, you'll need to line the pattern back up to draw them on the other side.)

Using transfer paper and a tracing wheel,
trace along the dart lines

6.13.2011

McCalls 4440 Sew Along - Day 1

Good morning! Does everyone have their pattern and fabric?

Today, you need to choose a view and cut out your pieces accordingly (see below). I'll be doing View C this time but, they're all so similar it will not matter if you choose one of the others. I'll also be doing a full lining because my material is white but, we'll cover both ways. For those using trims or boning, I generally wait until I reach the "attach it" step before cutting to ensure it is cut to the perfect size.

To begin (yay!) start with pre-washed and dried fabric or pre-steamed if the fabric you chose is not machine washable. (If you haven't done this, I recommend doing this today before cutting your pieces. Using unwashed fabric could result in your garment shrinking. No one wants that after putting all that effort into it!) Lay your fabric on a flat surface, right sides together, matching the selvedges (the thicker edges, often marked with a store or brand name). If you have trouble lining up the selvedges, gently pull the fabric diagonally in both directions, smoothe, and then press. This helps to "true" the grainline, which is very important in ensuring the garment will sew and wear correctly.
6.07.2011

Simplicity 2584 - "Walking on Sunshine" Shift Dress

When we were planning for New Orleans, I knew I was going to need cotton dresses. (For those who haven't been, New Orleans gets very hot and very humid.) Dresses are my default outfit. They can fit in a casual setting but they're dressier than shorts so, they also work in a restaurant with a somewhat stricter dresscode. I decided that nothing would work better in the hot climate, while still looking polished, than a cheerful cotton shift.

Shifts are commonly less fitted, which means they're cooler because they allow air to pass between the fabric and your skin. I chose Simplicity 2584 for its versatility and wonderful reviews. I can see why this one has created a buzz - it is so, so easy to sew together and yet has quite a polished look, curtousey of the unique yoke. To give it an even more professional look, I replaced all the facings with a full lining of white sheermist batiste, used an invisible zipper, and added two rows of small, white daisy trim near the bottom hem. Even with those additions, the dress was finished in only one day!

It's so rare that I finish a pattern without having made corrections in the margins but those one is so simple and so well explained that my only notes regarded the lining change, which, of course, isn't mandatory. I highly recommend this pattern to anyone who wants a cute, feminine dress that is quick and easy to construct! This is one is back in my queue, just waiting on lace for a fresh, white version!

Photo taken at Ashton's Bed & Breakfast (after a long day of sightseeing)
Throw on some 60s dance music and sew this one up this summer! It's a must have! x
6.06.2011

Tip for Wearing No-show Socks

My general preference for wearing TopSiders or ballet flats is to wear them without socks. However, if I'm going to wearing them for an extended period of time, in order to lengthen their life, I wear no-show socks - the ones that are shaped like ballet slippers. Unfortunately, the heel on them is so tiny that they have a hard time staying up. My darling fiance once again had a solution: use double sided tape on the back of your heel and they can't slip! You can buy fashion tape at most lingerie or department stores, as well as big box stores or craft stores. They generally come in 3" strips but you can actually cut them in half, using only one strip between both heels.

Now, you can be comfortable all day and no one will know you are [sinfully ;)] pairing socks with your TopSiders! x
6.02.2011

Invisible Zipper Tutorial - Fully Lined Dress

When I decided to try a shift dress, Simplicity 2584, I knew the yellow and white Lisette fabric I had in my stash would be perfect. However, as a cotton poplin with a white background, I felt it would be a bit sheer, especially in the bright summer sun of New Orleans where I intended to first wear it. So, instead of using the recommended facings, I decided to fully line the dress with a cotton/poly sheermist batiste.

However, I'd never sewn a dress with a full lining before and was not sure how to attach the invisible zipper so it would look clean from the inside and out. I perused the internet with no luck so, I decided to go for it and figure it out along the way.  Here are the steps I used to attach my invisible zipper and dress lining. Hopefully, they'll save someone else a bit of frustration.
6.01.2011

New Orleans' Barq's Red Cream Soda

Well, we're back and we're exhausted! There's so much to see in New Orleans!

One place I recommend is Camillia's Grill, just outside the quarter. Here, I had a wonderful 6oz Bacon cheeseburger (even bigger than it sounds) and my first taste of Barq's Red Cream Soda (locally known as Barq's Red Drink). So good! It totally completed the NO diner experience. But, when I Googled it yesterday, it seems it's pretty difficult to find. So, I have a trick for you, courtesy of Brandon:

Add a splash of grenadine to regular Barq's. Serve over ice. Voila! x
5.25.2011

Shoe 911 - Help!

Lovely readers, I'm at a loss. I leave for New Orleans soon and I'm planning to bring my green seersucker dress and the yellow and white shift dress I'm currently working on (Simplicity 2584) but can't find any shoes to wear! I'll be doing a lot of walking so I need something very comfortable but of course, I want them to be pretty too. My DFH suggested I wear Keds (for comfort and their washability - we hear the streets are very dirty). I don't quite know that I'm ready to go back to the 80s though.

I know you all must be more fashion savvy than I am. Any suggestions? x
5.24.2011

First Impressions: Calphalon Unison Nonstick Set

Calphalon Unison 10" Skillet and its 8" little brother in back
Last month, you may have seen a Tweet of mine, sharing a great deal on a set of two (8" and 10") Calphalon Unison Nonstick Pans from Williams-Sonoma. The set was so popular, as it was so reasonably priced, that when I ordered mine, it was on backorder. I finally received mine last week and have already used the 10" pan a few times.  In three words or less: I *love* it! Here's why:
5.20.2011

New eBay Items

Just a quick note: I've cleaned more items out of my closet to make may for the new ones I'm making. Some items are even new with tags - I'm bad about not returning items that don't fit.

Starting prices are low but the first listing ends in a few hours! So, stop by soon to check out the  deals. Don't forget, I happily combine shipping!

Now, it's back to sewing for me! (Two shirts, two dresses, six days... can I do it!?)

Happy Friday all!
5.19.2011

Summer Lashes

With summer just around the corner, it's time for a fresh and natural take on makeup. One item I recently switched-out is my mascara.

For hot summer days, it's best to go minimal (and waterproof!). Of course, mascara is hands-down the one makeup item I cannot go without (seriously, it would be on my "deserted island" list) so to tone it down, I switch from 'blackest black' to 'brownish black' which is close to my natural lash color. This year I chose Maybelline Define-a-lash Lengthening Mascara in *Waterproof* Brownish Black. At only $6, this little green tube does everything one could want for summer - defines, darkens, and lengthens without a clump to be found!

To use: Curl your lashes first by looking up to get each lash in the curler then, look down and crimp lightly to get right next to the root. Apply mascara wiggling from root to tip as many times as desired.

Pair it with a subtle shadow and a hint of brown eyeliner, bat your ridiculously long lashes and everyone will think you just wake up looking pretty! I won't tell if you won't! x


5.16.2011

Flat-felled Seams: French Seam Style v. Cut & Folded

I am currently working on my third button-front shirt (reviews to come) and I have begun experimenting with flat-felled seams. They are the seams one generally finds on the inseam of jeans and on the shoulders of dress shirts. They are sewn two to three times (depending on the technique) and offer more strength and stability than a traditional seam.
5.10.2011

Caldrea Stainless Steel Spray

Yesterday, while daring to paruse through TJ Maxx (I told myself if the Duchess can shop there, so can I, right?), I spotted crisp looking silver bottle that seemed to call my name. It was Caldrea's Stainless Steel spray in Herbs de Provence. Not happy with my current cleaner, I read the description: "Refresh your senses with the sunny, savory fragrance of a kitchen garden in Provence. Complimentary notes of lavender, lily of the valley and mint evoke the easy charm of the south of France." Sounds nice, right?
5.08.2011

McCalls 4440 Sew Along?

I've noticed a lot of traffic recently to my seersucker and paisley dress posts so I had an idea. How many of you would like to make one for a sew-along? Admittedly, I'm still a beginner so, I wouldn't say I'd be teaching anyone how to do it. I do experience with the pattern though, so I could answer questions and I'll post plenty of pictures.

I've never done a sew-along before but they sound like fun! I just happen to have fabric selected for view C that I'm planning to whip together in June. Anyone interested?


5.04.2011

Long Distance Mother's Day Treats

Unfortunately, living eighteen hours away from our families, my fiance and I can't be with our mothers this Sunday. So, we wanted to send them something special so they know we're thinking of them.

When the Harry & David catalog arrived last week, we had an idea. My new NordicWare pan, with its hearts and floral shapes could create the perfect themed treats! But, what could we (I) bake in it that could survive the mail? We settled on mini-brownies with little "refreshing" Andes bits because they're less fragile than many baked goods and they typically last longer.

I packaged them into cute floral Easter boxes (which I picked up after the holiday for half-off) and set the visible two in place with toothpicks. Then, I actually wrapped them in brown paper and tied white ribbon around them. How cute! Of course, I had "My Favorite Things" stuck in my head for the remainder of the day.

Happy [early] Mother's Day! x



Eta: My Mom *loved* the brownies (yay!). She said they were a pleasant surprise! (To try them yourself, check out Martha Stewart's Brownie Cupcakes and substitute 8 oz Andes bits for the optional 8 oz course chocolate.)
4.28.2011

Coffee Tea-Cakes and Muffins



Recently, my dear fiance dropped the hint that he wanted a [healthy] coffee cake. Those of you who have baked a coffee cake before know there isn't much healthy about it.

So, I decided the trick would be portion control. Having recently purchased the NordicWare Mini Tea-Cake pan (love it!) to use as a muffin pan, I knew this would provide the solution. I used a Martha Stewart Coffee Cake Muffin recipe I found via Baking Bites and tweaked it. I substituted whole wheat flour for about 3/4 cup of white flour - in part because I wanted to make it healthier and part because I ran out of white - and I cut the baking time in half. Instead of the buttery crumb topping, I sprinkled each tea-cake muffin with cinnamon-sugar.

I did also make four regular-sized muffins - 60 minis was more than enough! For those, I sprinkled a little cinnamon-sugar on before they went in and little more when they came out.

Delightful! x
4.27.2011

Pattern Review dot Com

I stumbled across this little gem one evening about two years ago. I was deciding on my first garment and Googled a pattern number. The first result was this site and I was so excited! It is a site where you can find pattern reviews, photos, success stories or woes and lots of helpful little tips for seemingly every pattern you can imagine! Other members can also comment on your review and everyone is so nice and encouraging it actually makes you want to sew more! In addition, there are message boards where you can ask for help (or even find out what the best thread brands are - thanks again ladies!!), sewing classes to expand your talents, and contests with prizes.

So, if you sew, make sure you click the link below (or the widget to the right) to find real-life pictures and reviews of patterns before you make the first cut! No sense making a mistake that someone can help you avoid! x

Sewing - Sewing Patterns & Sewing Machines. Butterick & Kwik Sew Patterns. Sewing Machine Reviews & Pattern Reviews. Sewing Classes at PatternReview.com

No-Bake Oatmeal Fudge Cookies

There a few "Southern" foods I love but these cookies are at the top of the list. I was first introduced to these about 9 years ago, sometime after my (now) fiance and I began dating. His Dad is a master at these and they quickly became a favorite of mine.

It wasn't until recently that I considered making them myself. Now that we live so far from home, I could either wait until holidays or try my own hand. Craving them one day, I decided on the latter. I Googled for a recipe and came across several. The one I chose was from the Southern Food section on About.com. It had perfect reviews so I assumed it couldn't go wrong.
4.22.2011

Organizing Upcoming Sewing Projects

With all the recent sales and so many new pretty spring fabrics hitting the stores, my fabric is constantly growing. In order to keep track of what I intend to do with each fabric, I've been on the hunt for a mobile app that will allow me to paste pictures of the fabric onto pictures of the intended pattern. I've not yet found one but what I did download last night is Photo Grid. While it isn't optimal, it does allow me to make collages showing the pattern sketch, fabric swatches and intended accessories! It's actually quite useful. You can add 2, 4, 6, or 9 photos and arrange them using the arrows or by shaking your phone (which admittedly was mildly amusing).

Here are a few samples I've put together:

4.19.2011

Spring Cleaning - Microfiber Cloths

With Spring comes spring cleaning. To make things easier and more eco-friendly, I use microfiber clothes in place of paper towels. They're wonderful! They have about a six-month [used and abused but never machine dried] life on them before they become rags. During those first six months, they're perfect for dry dusting and for streak-free glass and stone polishing. After they wear out, they are still perfect for less delicate tasks such as spill clean-up and shower scrubbing.

However, have you ever checked the price on them? I've paid upwards of $5 for one little cloth and it lasted only a few months before the fibers wore down and lost their charge. My fiance thought this was ridiculous so he had a suggestion: buy them from the automotive section. In this part of your big box store, they're more focused on getting you to buy expensive car cleaning products and don't charge much for the cloths. Generally, I get a pack of 8 for around $5 but yesterday, a new set caught my eye. They say "professional" and are larger and double sided - one regular and one softer. You get five lime green, five bright orange, and five sunny yellow cloths for around $9 from Walmart.
Who wouldn't want to do a little spring cleaning with cloths this cheery!? Time to do the mirrors! x
4.14.2011

McCall's M5391 - Classic Twill Shorts - Day 4

Now that I had a personal touch to add to my shorts, I was reenergized. I started today on the waistband. Press, trim, set aside. I love when I can start with something easy.

DIY Bias Tape - No Special Tools Required


Well, my navy twill shorts went right back on hold. I almost never get to sew on the weekend and this weekend's busyness spilled into this week. Today, when I finally had time to work on them, I decided I was a bit bored with the project (this happens frequently and is why I don't generally publish sewing reviews in series). So instead, I took on a related project - a bit of bias tape to spruce up the interior of the shorts.
4.08.2011

McCall's M5391 - Classic Twill Shorts - Day 3

Today didn't get off to a confident start. Even with the number of diagrams, the instructions for placing the zipper still left me a little confused. Of course, the instructions don't seem to match the diagrams. So I ignored them! For Step 20, diagram D, it states to "place closed zipper (face up) under left extension." But in order to need to place the zipper under it, you will have needed to unnecessarily flip the garment over, which it did not say to do. It should have read "place closed zipper (face down) along pressed edge of left extension." Regardless, I went with the picture and my instincts and sorted it out.


Homemade Java Shake

Every day, I make my fiance and I lattes. Two shots espresso plus 16oz milk each. Today though, I got halfway through mine and then decided I wanted something more refreshing. Normally, I would just blend the coffee with some ice but I remembered... we have vanilla ice cream!

So, I pulled out the ever-handy Magic Bullet, filled the small cup with my leftover latte and threw in a scoop of ice cream. Using the flat-blade attachment, I blended it for about 10 seconds. Yum! A perfect Java Milkshake. 

8 ounces whole milk
1 brewed shot espresso (dark roast)
1 scoop vanilla ice cream

Combine in blender. Mix for 10 seconds.

I can also see adding a drizzle of chocolate for a mocha-java shake or maybe a little caramel sauce. I'm going to need more ice cream! x

4.07.2011

McCall's M5391 - Classic Twill Shorts - Day Two

Between making upgrades to our house and shopping for a new car, my "spare time" has been rather consumed. It's great for the household but not so great for the pile of sewing projects I just can't seem to stop adding to.

My shorts have finally made it back onto the counter!  I've begun today by laying out the pieces I cut last week to trace the marks onto the fabric. I find that using wax-free tracing paper, a wheel, and a see-through dressmaker's ruler provides the most accurate transfer for me. The ruler provides a guide when tracing lines, as well as a weight for when pins would be in your way. I copy everything exactly as it is on the pattern, except for the circles, which I replace with 'x's for simplicity. Since I've determined this Prym paper will always wash out, I'll use the white paper for this project for greatest visibility.
Next, I cut out the interfacing for my waistband, trimming it just inside the pattern lines. I find cutting off the entire seam allowance does not provide enough stability when sewing. I iron the facing to the fabric using a simple, damp paper towel.

4.06.2011

I Believe in Pink

This morning, I came across this quote and wanted to share it with you.

"I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles."
 
— Audrey Hepburn

Don't we just love Audrey!? Happy Wednesday! x

4.01.2011

The Farouk Chi

Now, here's a product I use nearly every day but hadn't yet thought to post about. If you've not yet been introduced to the Farouk Chi, I strongly recommend making its acquaintance.

I purchased mine for a steal about 3 years ago on Amazon. I've used it nearly every morning since! You may have noticed from recent pictures that I have fairly long hair. Longer than any of my friends care to manage. However, styling it isn't a big issue for me. I like it straight. Straight, straight, straight. This glorious tool does it in a third of the time of previous flat irons I've owned and it somehow doesn't seem to harm my hair nearly as much! I just did my whole head of long, thick hair in under 10 minutes! And, it will stay that way until I wash it.

It's easy! By the time I've separated the bottom layer to style, the iron has heated up. Then, I take my hair in thin, two-inch sections, easily gliding down the stands, never pausing. About 10 minutes later, I'm done!  My normally wild, frizzy, wavy hair is transformed into sleek and smooth. No hair product required. If the mood ever does strike me to wear my hair curly, this even does that! (Tutorials for which can be found by many people on YouTube.) The iron travels well too as it's so thin. I never take a trip without it! (No one would want to see those vacation pictures - scary!)

Now, I know a flat iron hasn't anything to do with homemaking or DIY but, we "Susies" need to look good too! x

April Fools

Instead of playing an April fools prank on my lovely readers, I'd like to stop and say thank you! I appreciate each of my followers and readers - including those I can't see ;).

Each post is open to comments and I would be delighted to hear your thoughts! Also, if there's a post you want to see, let me know! Perhaps a product you're considering and want to know if I've tried...?

Again, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! Without you, I'd just be talking to myself and that could be scary!

Happy Friday! x

3.31.2011

Our Mosaic Tile Backsplash

Those of you who follow me on Twitter (@jmarq002) know that this weekend, my fiance and I quite proudly installed a small mosaic tile backsplash in our kitchen. The lack of one has bothered my h-2-b since we moved into this house two and a half years ago.  However, an overabundance of outlets led us to decide not to tile the entire area between the top and bottom cabinets but rather just add a classic four-inch border.  This way, the kitchen looks "finished" and it draws your eyes away from all the outlets.

It was on Sunday that my fiance decided "today is the day." And, when he or I decides this regarding home improvement, that means we need to proceed immediately. By the next weekend, we will have lost our resolve. So, off to Home Depot, then Lowes, then back to Home Depot we went. With the tile, adhesive, grout, and tools needed finally in hand, we headed home to begin the project.



(Our little Breakfast Station - Before)
3.30.2011

McCall's M5391 - Classic Twill Shorts

Shorts must be one of the hardest items for me to find. If I go into "young" stores, the shorts tend to be too short - a 1" inseam on a very leggy 5'10" frame just doesn't say class. If I order from other brands, the inseams are longer, 3",5", etc but they look too "mom," as my fiance puts it. They just aren't very flattering and imply that I'm older than I am. No girl wants that!

So, I've picked up M5391 and 1 1/4 yards of navy blue twill fabric from Hancock Fabrics in an attempt to make them myself. I chose view C for the longer inseam and I'm hoping I can get a slimmer, more youthful fit. Worst case scenario, I will have a custom pair of twill gardening shorts!

As always, I've started by cramming the pattern pieces as close as possible to use as little fabric as I can (although I never go back and use the scraps... but that's another story). I won't be adjusting these for my height because I don't want them quite as long as the picture shows. Leaving off the usual 2" addition should put them at the right spot. This twill is probably one of the thickest fabrics I've worked with to date and so it is the hardest to pin so far. Luckily, my wonderful Fiskers scissors didn't feel a thing.

In an effort to give a more detailed and accurate review of this pattern from the eyes of a beginner, I'm going to make this something of a series. For now, my pieces are cut but now it's back to dishes and laundry before starting dinner.

To be continued! x

Grandma's Secret Spot [non] Remover

Monday must have been the day for impulse purchases! I went into Hancock Fabrics to stock up on buttons (40% off) for my upcoming sewing projects. That's it.

Then, there was a delay at the register with the customer in front of me. Uh oh. Out of the corner of my eye, a stack of tiny yellow bottles - which I'd seen a hundred times before - caught my eye. I saw the word "rust" on the list and grabbed the bottle without thinking. The polite salesgirl commended my purchase, informing me that it really does work! So, I took it home to try on my fiance's khaki pants, which had managed to get rust on them somehow on vacation.

Along with the pants, I tried this so called miracle on two of his work shirts. One with a huge ink stain from a pen left in the wash (oops) and the other with an oil-based stain. I applied the remover generously, rubbed it in with the dispenser, let the clothes sit for 10 minutes as recommend, and threw them in the wash as normal.

Unfortunately, when the clothes came out, the stains hadn't. I couldn't believe it! The stains hadn't even faded! Determined to get my $4 worth, I decided to try again. This time, I applied the remover and then rubbed the fabric vigorously against itself. I again let it sit for 10 minutes and then started my machine.

This time, the stains may have lightened a bit but I feel I was being optimistic. Determined again, I applied, rubbed, and decided to let it soak in while I did a load of darks. This means, instead of the recommended 5-10 minutes, this stuff got to penetrate the stains for about an hour. Once the darks were out, in the stained load went. No luck this time either. Now, I'm letting the clothes air dry and will try again tomorrow. If the stains finally come out, I'll post an update but regardless, with all this washing and rewashing, I think it's safe to say that I would not recommend this product.
Sorry "Grandma"  x

3.28.2011

Heath Toffee Brownies

Never. Shop. Hungry. I've been told that a hundred times and I know better. Nevertheless, I went up and down the grocery aisles with a rumbling tummy. The result? An unplanned (but so yummy sounding) bag of Heath English Toffee Baking Bits. I don't even know how I ended up down that aisle!

Now, the mistake really lies in that I did not read the package before making my purchase. So, when I got home, and decided on the "All American Heath Brownies" recipe on the back, I didn't have what I needed. Actually, worse yet, I discovered the missing ingredient while the butter was melting. Lucky for me, finding a substitute for unsweetened chocolate baking squares was just as easy as this recipe is!

This one is a must try. I love quick recipes with minimal clean up! In case you throw your package away -like I often do - here's the delightful recipe from the back:

1/3 cup butter
3 1/2oz sections unsweetened chocolate baking bar (or 4.5 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder + 1.5 tablespoons oil)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups Heath Milk Chocolate Toffee Bits (an 8oz package)

1. Heat oven to 350. Butter bottom of 8-inch square baking pan.
2. Melt butter and chocolate in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. Stir in sugar. Beat in one egg at a time. Stir in vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; add to chocolate mixture, stirring until well blended. Spread into pan.
3. Bake 20 minutes or until brownie begins to pull away from sides of pan. Sprinkle toffee bits. Cover tightly with foil. Cool completely on a wire rack. Remove foil and cut into 12 squares.

Yum! x


3.24.2011

Packing Practically (Light)

Every year, every concierge and bellman compliment how few bags my fiance and I carry. I carry one tote bag (which counts as a purse) and one small duffel. He carries one duffel and one bookbag. No checked bags! After a lost luggage scare a few years ago, we just don't think it's worth the risk.
So, how do we pack everything for a week into so little luggage? Bring only the necessities. In my tote is generally my travel case (makeup, etc), our travel documents, my liquids bag, and a snack or two. In my duffel, I pack all my clothes and accessories but, I only bring enough outfits to get me through trip (plus an extra if I have room). For example, our spring vacation was a week, resort casual during the day, and dressier at night. So, I brought polo shirts, a few pairs of shorts, two blouses, an outfit for tennis, four dresses, swimsuits, coverups, and plenty of "necessities." Keep in mind, many hotels offer 24 hour laundry service, so you can pack less without having to wear dirty clothes. Now, did you notice I left out something important? Shoes!! Admittedly, I can never fit shoes into my bag. Lucky for me, my darling fiance has cut his packing down too (the boy equivalent of my items) and his bag is a bit bigger, which means he can fit two pairs of flip flops - one for the beach and a nicer pair for casual breakfast - and two pairs of heels in his duffel. I always make sure at least one pair of heels is a neutral or metallic so it goes with more of my outfits.  I wore my tennis shoes since they're the hardest to pack. As for toiletries, the hotel should supply soap, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and often shower gel. So, leave those at home and just ask housekeeping to replace them as often as needed. Then, liquids should more less be limited to toothpaste, makeup remover, face moisturizer, perfume, rewetting drops and contact solution (if needed).
Ladies, I know we all want to bring our whole closet when we travel but believe me, traveling is so much nicer when you don't. Getting ready is a snap when you already planned what to wear! He'll appreciate not having to carry your closet too!
Buon voyage! x
3.17.2011

Grilled Ham & Cheese - Our Late Night Caribbean Treat

On our first visit to Saint Lucia, we had one night where we couldn't sleep so we ventured down to the resort's late night beach grill.  We didn't want much, just a snack, but nothing junky. The wonderful chef said he knew just what to make us. A few moments later, he presented us with two grilled ham and cheese sandwiches.

A very simple combination, but one we had never thought of. They were wonderful! Now, we try our best to get one every time we go back to the Caribbean -the have the best bread there - and we make them at home for a quick lunch or a reminder of our vacation.

Here's how you make them (makes two):

6-8 slices of deli-sliced smoked ham
4 slices of cheese (cheddar and Swiss work well)
4 slices of bread
Butter

Preheat your skillet on medium-high. Cook all slices of ham in a single layer. Butter both sides of all bread slices. Remove ham once lightly browned and sizzling. Brown two slices of bread (or all four if you have a large enough skillet). Flip once the butter on the visible side looks melted. Set a slice of cheese on each bread slice and half the ham on one side. Once cheese is partially melted, take the side without ham and flip it onto the other side. Press lightly to seal. Serve. Repeat for second sandwich if needed.

Simple, quick, and very good!

3.15.2011

Classic Looks for Less

That's my [fashion] motto for this summer. My fiance and I agree that, while I do look nice in the occasional cocktail dress or trendy outfit, my day-to-day look should be much more classic. I've always been drawn to the so-called preppy look for one reason: no "what was I thinking" moments. Twenty years ago, "preps" were wearing polo shirts and khakis. Today, they're wearing polo shirts and khakis. So, you can look a picture of a family picnic and not know how old it is (by the fashion, at least). Which means, when I look back at pictures of myself ten years from now, I will not be embarrassed by what I wore.

However, as much as I love the clothes, I can have a bit of trouble finding the right style in just the right fit. (I'm still stuck in a phase trying to balance youth with classic style. Too loose=too old, too tight=too young and trying too hard.) So, my solution for this summer is to browse all my favorite sites, j. Crew, Vineyard Vines, etc, and then browse pattern books to find similar styles that I can then customize to fit my body-type, age, and personality. Then, I'll have the style I want, in the cut and I size I need, and I'll have it for much less.

Here's what I have planned so far:
M5138 in a l/s blue check seersucker, like one at j.crew
M5138 in a green & white stripe
B4443 v-neck in a navy linen
M6117 in a pink jersey, 3/4 sleeve, similar to one by Vineyard Vines
M6117 in a pink or green pique, sleeveless, like another by VV
S2246 in a cream or light blue linen
M5391 in twill and linen, in a variety of lengths and colors

That should be enough to keep me busy for a while!

The key to making these homemade items look good is buying quality fabric. Keep in mind, while, yes, you can use cheap broadcloth for most patterns that suggest cotton and polyester satin for those that suggest silk, it won't give you the high-end look that these classic stores have. They use quality fabric and pay attention to detail so, you should too.

Happy sewing! x
3.14.2011

I'm Back!

I hope everyone had a wonderful week! I certainly did!! My fiance and I spent it celebrating my 26th birthday in Jamaica!!

I apologize for the lack of posts while I was gone but it was a much needed break from all things work. But, now I'm back and I have several posts to come in the next few weeks! Some vacation related, others will be new recipes I'm trying. Please be sure to check back in the coming days!

Off to do the weekly shopping! x

3.04.2011

15 Minute Dinner

Even as a housewife, there are some nights that I prefer to cook quick, easy meals. Under 20-30 minutes is the goal on those nights. Luckily, in my search for low-calorie meals, I also stumbled on the easiest dinner idea I've had yet!

Check out your grocer's freezer section to find wild-caught fish. The variety is your choosing. We often prefer halibut or mahi-mahi but grouper, flounder, and salmon are also available here. Defrost the desired number of filers according the the package - usually thaw in a bowl of luke-warm water. Preheat your oven to the specified temperature for baking, generally 350F. When thawed, simply lay the fish on a foil-lined baking sheet, sprinkle with your choice of seasoning or drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Bake for around 8 minutes, or according to package directions. About 5 minutes before the fish is done, set halved rolls (or hoagie buns) on a wire baking rack or metal cooling rack and toast in oven. Serve over rice if desired. Alternately, you can serve the fish on a hamburger bun. This worked very well with blackened-seasoned halibut steaks.

I've done this several times in the last month because it tastes so much like going out but is so healthy that my fiance keeps requesting it! We mix up the fish, of course.

If you've never blackened fish in the oven, try this seasoning combination:
Paprika, onion granules, garlic granules, thyme, white pepper, black pepper, ground cayenne pepper, oregano, and salt. It's been a winner every time!

Enjoy your extra free-time! x
3.03.2011

DIY Eyelet D-ring Belt

When I purchased the pink belting from the previous post, I also bought a length of white canvas, not yet knowing what to do with it. I experimented with different ribbons and trims, trying to find the look that was the most "me."

In the end, I went for a feminine, slightly nautical look of white eyelet beading (leftover from my spring dresses) woven with a navy grosgrain ribbon and finished with brass d-rings.

While not quite as quick and easy as the first one - this one required sewing - I did get it done in about 30 minutes and would definitely say the finished product was worth the extra time.

All you need is:
A length of white canvas, long enough to encircle your waist, plus 6-12"
A length of eyelet beading, the width of your canvas and length of the belt plus 6"
Grosgrain ribbon the same length as the eyelet
2 d-rings slightly wider than the belting
Threaded sewing machine
Hot glue

Start by threading the grosgrain ribbon through the eyelet beading. Once done, lay the beading on your canvas, allowing the extra to hang over the end. Sew, with machine, along the edges of the eyelet. (You should find two lines that have already been sewn. Try to follow the line closest to the edge.) The scallops should look a bit more pronounced. Then, fold one end over 1/2" twice, toward the blank side, and slip the d-rings into the loop. Secure closed with hot glue. Try the belt on and trim if necessary (trim only the canvas). Once fit is determined, wrap the excess eyelet over the edge and onto the other side, tucking the end under 1/8". Sew in place. This will allow the design to show on all visible parts when the belt is worn. Done!

Just a little extra time but your talent and taste will really show in this one. Of course, experiment with various trims to suit your style. Have fun and it will look great! x


3.02.2011

The New Kitchenaid Hand Mixer

Everyone always told me that a mixer is a housewife's best friend. I'm not one for a counter full of appliances so, when I finally caved, I bought a Kitchenaid 9-speed hand mixer. Those of you who have read my older posts know how well that went. But, Kitchenaid is dedicated to their customers and as soon as I posted my disappointment on Twitter, a customer service representative immediately tried to make it right.

Cheryl very sweetly apologized for my disappointment and submitted an exchange. The QVC model was no longer in stock but she allowed me to choose from the three colors that had been carried at Williams-Sonoma, which had sold out a few weeks prior. I chose the neutral Cocoa Silver (which was the one I wanted in the first place as I don't have the best luck, it seems, with red appliances). I got to keep my mixer until the new one arrived, which took less than a week! When the new one arrived, it was my fiance who noticed that the new mixer stated "Professional," where the old one had not. I don't know it that mattered or if the red one was just a dud but, I did notice a substantial difference in quality as soon as I turned the silver one on.

Now, I can beat, blend, and stir nearly anything I want. I've made quite a few recipes with it, from blueberry bran muffins to chocolate milk, and the mixer whips it all up with ease. Every setting feels different and works the way you'd expect. Yes, speed 1 does mix! I don't have any problems with beating eggs like I did with the QVC model, nor does it choke up or fall apart when I mixing oat muffins. It's safe to say my faith in Kitchenaid products has been restored! (My faith in QVC... now, that's another story.) If you're tired of tired arms and can find a Kitchenaid 9-speed Professional Hand Mixer, I highly recommend it! It cuts my baking prep time in half (and makes delightfully frothy chocolate milk)!

Happy mixing! x

2.26.2011

DIY D-ring Belt

For our island vacations, I like to keep accessories simple. I hate looking too done up. This year, I decided to dress up my shorts with a few simple, classic d-ring belts. They are insanely easy and quick to make.

All you need is:
A length of canvas belting, long enough to encircle your waist, plus approximately 12" (I used 1" canvas from Hancock Fabrics)
2 d-rings slightly larger than your belting (I used 1 1/4")
Hot glue gun
Lighter or fray-stop

To create the loop for the d-rings, fold one end over about 1/2", twice. Slip both rings into the loop and secure closed with hot glue. Let the glue set. Next, test your belt with the largest (or lowest) pants or shorts with which you'll be wearing it. Trim if necessary. If you used a cotton-poly or nylon canvas, lightly pass a flame over the raw edge to melt it and keep it from fraying. If you used a cotton canvas, use fray-stop at the edge for the same effect. Voila! How easy is that!?

Experiment with different ring finishes and canvas patterns and widths to create a personalized look. My new pink, green, and white striped one is going to look great with my pink polo and khaki shorts! x



(For those of you who already read this blog, I apologize. My mobile app replaced this original post with my newer post about my swim cover-up so I had to rewrite it. I don't think I left anything out. Luckily, this was a 5 minute project so there weren't many instructions to remember! x)

Simplicity 2365 - Swim Cover-up Disaster

Last week, I decided to peruse the aisles of Hancock Fabrics, looking for a sheer material to be used as a swim cover-up for our vacation. Sheer fabrics aren't exactly abundant in February. I'm certain I must be the only person here creating summer garments, as the other customers shopping were still buying flannels, wool, and the like. So, when I stumbled upon a bright ocean blue chiffon, I thought I'd struck gold - forgetting, of course, how difficult chiffon can be to work with, (especially on a pattern that doesn't call for it).

Well, I brought it home and painstakingly cut out the delicate pieces, aspiring to view A of Simplicity 2365 - a nice long, flowy tunic. The instructions were simple enough and the pieces weren't complex so I dove head first into the pintucks. They went together very smoothly which was falsely encouraging. Then, I don't quite know what happened but, when I began sewing the pieces to each other, the fabric started snagging left and right. I was already using a size 9 ball point needle and had my machine threaded correctly so I started playing with sewing speed and tension, tried using a stablizer, nothing worked! No matter what I did, the garment developed snags and runs galore! Determined to finish at least, I spent yesterday afternoon powering through the mess. When I finished, I wanted the throw it in the trash but, as I had managed to smooth out most of the problems, leaving only a few scattered gathers, my darling fiance agreed it was not my usual quality work but, said that it would make a nice nightgown in the island heat. So, it goes in the bag anyway but shan't leave the room as I had intended.

I'll definately make at second attempt at this pattern. It has the comfort level I want and very easy instructions. If I can finish a chiffon version in a long afternoon, I know I can finish a cotton or linen in a matter of a few hours! The moral of the story? (One I have a difficult time remembering...) Stick to the suggested materials! Things go so much smoother when you do!

Happy Friday! x

2.24.2011

eBay Auctions Closing

Just a reminder - for anyone who is interested in the items I have on eBay, the current auctions close in a few hours.

Thanks for looking! x

2.23.2011

New Mobile Site!

For all of my mobile readers, I've set up a mobile site for easier viewing. I hope you enjoy it!  If you prefer the original, scroll to the bottom of the page and click "view web version."

For fellow blogspot bloggers, if you'd like to set up a mobile version of your own site, sign in at draft.blogspot.com, click "dashboard," then "settings," and "email and mobile." Next, select "yes" to enable mobile templates and save. Then, all your mobile followers can view a much friendlier version of your site! Don't forget, Google also now has Blogger apps for easier blog updating on the go! I'm posting this via the android app. Yay! x

McCall's M4440 - Spring Strapless Dress

(picture updated)
I finished! I had to put it off for a few days (busy, busy) but I worked a fair part of yesterday and sewed the whole dress together! I was actually hand-sewing the last stitches in the hook-and-eye when my fiance came home from work. Talk about good timing!

Now that I've used this pattern, M4440, twice, I think it's fair for me to review it. I did both the spaghetti-strap version and the strapless and the instructions for each for easy to follow. I actually didn't need the instructions very much, especially on the second one, but they did guide me along. This pattern worked well with both materials I used and would likely work well with several others.

There were a limited number of steps (compared to other dresses I've attempted) which was great. Cut, dart, sew bodice, sew skirt, sew bodice to skirt, trim, zipper, finish. There are 6 pieces for the bodice, it's self-lined, and three for the skirt plus trim, zipper, and a hook-and-eye closure. What I really liked about the pattern was the surprisingly good fit. I always cut my pattern based on the finished garment measurements rather than using the size guide but, even then I often have to tailor it. With this dress, it was slim fitting but not tight and the strapless one sat loose enough at the top of the bust that it didn't give an unflattering look but the boning and zipper keep it up. These dresses actually fit better than many store-bought dresses I've worn.

The only difficulty I encountered was attaching the invisible zipper. I had already sewn part of the back hem in the first dress before adding the zipper, which made it difficult. For the second dress, I followed the directions that came with the zipper and it went together quickly and beautifully. It did mean I was unable to do a French seam in the back but, it was worth it to not have to struggle with the zipper. I did do French seams on the side seams though, for polish.

Overall, these dresses were easy to put together, take only a day or two and look great! If you want to try your hand at making a summer dress, I highly recommend this pattern.

Now, on to a coverup! x
2.18.2011

Namaste Yoga on Discovery Fit & Health

Last week, I bought two pairs of shorts online. Same shorts, two different sizes. They arrived on Tuesday and I excitedly tried them on. Much to my displeasure, my fiance told me they looked horrible in both sizes and I should send them back immediately.

Then, I was on a mission. I was determined to get into one of the pairs before our vacation. So, the following morning, I got up, did an episode of Namaste Yoga, went for a brisk walk and came home to eat my muffin. That evening, I tried on the larger of the two pairs and the difference was like night and day. The shorts went on without any struggle! Now, he's considering them. But, I'm not done yet. I am determined to look my best for vacation, which is quickly approaching. So, I did another episode yesterday and one this morning. That's it. Three mornings straight. Today, I grabbed one of the shorts, not looking at the size, and put them on. No struggle. I, of course, thought to myself that it must be the larger pair. Nope! It was the smaller ones! After only three days of Namaste Yoga and one brisk walk, I appear to have shrunk two sizes! I've actually used this program in the past (I have the DVD) and it tones me quickly every time! I can't recommend it enough!

Namaste Yoga can be seen on Discovery Fit & Health (formerly FitTV) or you can order the DVDs at http://www.Namaste.tv/ . Each episode is about 30 minutes long and includes a warm up/stretching, a hatha vinyasa series, and a cool down/savasana. This type of yoga is great for people of all levels and moves through the poses following your breathes (rather than those that tell you to hold a difficult pose for x amount of time). The poses flow together beautifully and they help you relax as well as tone and stretch your muscles. The music used is very calming as are Kate Potter's gentle instructions and each episode is filmed in HD in beautiful locations in Canada. The music and serene scenery add to the quality of the practice and help to guide your slow, easy breathes. This show is certainly unlike any other yoga instruction I've seen.

So, if you have a bit of toning to do before summer or your interested in trying yoga but are afraid it's difficult, be sure to give this show a try!

Namaste x

2.17.2011

My Shameless Plug

Today's housekeeping chores included a bit of spring cleaning in my closet! With my no longer working in an office setting, I have quite a few shirts that can go. Please stop by my eBay page to check out what I currently have for sale! All items come from a clean, smoke-free home and once the auction is closed, I wrap them carefully and ship them out quickly. Just look at my feedback! More items may appear soon so keep checking back.

Back to cleaning! x
2.16.2011

Seersucker Dress - Done!

It took longer than I expected due to a faulty zipper but, here is my first spring dress! (picture updated) Finally, I have sewn something that I can actually wear out! I'm quite excited about it!

To test the pattern, I made the seersucker first and went with the spaghetti-strap option instead of strapless. If I had chosen strapless, not quite knowing how it would fit, there was a risk I'd have to take it in or out, which may have proven difficult with boning involved. Luckily, the dress fits perfectly so I can make my next one strapless.

I'm so proud of this one. It's a lovely little cotton seersucker with light lime and white and I trimmed under the (self-lined) bodice with a bright pastel pink grosgrain ribbon woven through white cotton eyelet beading. I chose to hem it to just above the knee but left enough length in the hem so that I can let it out later if I change my mind. I also went with a white invisible zipper for a finished look (the first one broke but the second one looks perfect). Overall, I'm rather pleased with the result! This dress is so light and comfortable and just polished enough (thanks to the fit and A-line shape) that it will be perfect for a nice, casual dinner at the resort.

Now that my confidence is up, it's on to the next one! x

What do you think?

2.15.2011

Early Morning Energy - Carrot Zucchini Muffins

Things around here have been busy busy! Good thing I keep plenty of healthy muffins around for morning energy! This Sunday, when I finally found a moment to do some baking, I whipped up a batch of carrot-zucchini muffins. I was attempting to trick my fiance into eating more veggies but he caught me grating the baby carrots. Luckily, he has been more open minded lately, gave them a try, and actually really liked them! Yay, vegetable victory #2!

I retrieved the recipe from: Fitness and Freebies http://t.co/rG6hpQ4 The worst part, of course, was grating the baby carrots and the zucchini, which took several minutes. Everything then went together very quickly with just a spoon. The juice from the veggies made the batter a bit soupy but it also insured that the muffins came out light and moist. Of course, you can also pat the gratings dry if you prefer a different texture.

These are a quick, easy way to get much needed nutrients and energy to start your day. I'll definitely keep these on the rotation. Happy baking! x


UPDATE: These muffins didn't hold as well as the others (even in the freezer) so I recommend baking a half batch if you're baking for two.
2.11.2011

30 Days!

Wow! I just realized I've been blogging for 30 days! Happy one month anniversary! Thanks so much to all of you who keep coming back. I hope something I've written has helped you.

Don't forget about the "follow" button on the right so I can see who all my wonderful readers are and don't hesitate to leave comments. Love a post, hate a post, tried a tip, let me know!

Here's to many more anniversaries! x

2.10.2011

DIY Nautical Bracelet

Today, I made the cutest little bracelet while watching tv! My fiance came home very early because of the heavy snow storm. So, I wanted to set my dresses aside and curl up with him and enjoy the extra time by the fire. But, being someone who can get a bit fidgety if I don't accomplish something for a while, I pulled up instructions on my phone for a Turk's Head Knot bracelet.

It was so easy! All it required was a small can and 8 feet of cotton cord. The thickness and color options are endless of course, but I chose white for a more classic, natural look. I braided the bracelet during the course of one tv episode and then, voila! A low-cost bracelet that will be a great addition to my summer dresses or sailor shorts!

The easy-to-follow instructions (with pictures) can be found here: http://www.etsy.com/storque/how-to/how-tuesday-sailors-knot-bracelets-9314/

So, if you're snowed in like we are, pull out some spare rope or cord and imagine a little summer sailing! x

2.09.2011

Spring dresses!

I have been searching for weeks for beach dresses for vacation but of course, stores are still selling sweaters and thermal underwear. They aren't yet thinking of spring, let alone summer! Luckily for me, the fabric stores are! With snow in the forecast (again!) for tomorrow, I decided I needed a new project. I haven't really sewn much since my uber-elaborate Tudor Halloween costume so I figured it's high time to get the machine back out.

I ventured out to get a bright, pink, maybe green print and simply fell in love with a paisley one from Hobby Lobby (that's a first at that store)! Then, I noticed the clearance section and seemingly smiling at me was an adorable bright pastel green seersucker for only $4 a yard! What's more beachy than seersucker? How could I resist!? (I have a serious thing for preppy dresses right now so these two fabrics were perfect!)


I chose McCalls pattern 4440. A classic, simple, strapless dress with pretty details, and (hopefully) easy to put together. I'll start with the seersucker since that's the cheaper fabric. I'm thinking of using hot pink thread as a contrast and I bought pretty little eyelet beading and bright pastel pink grosgrain ribbon to trim the bustline.

Pictures to come! x

2.04.2011

A "Diet" BLT

With any diet comes cravings. The other night, I absolutely *had* to have a BLT. Well, of course, in trying to be good, I had no bacon in the fridge. What I did have, by chance, was it's healthier cousin, Canadian bacon. Not expecting much, I decided to give it a go.

I heated just a dribble of extra-light olive oil in a non-stick Skillet over medium and threw in three slices of the Canadian bacon (one of which, my fiance stole). Meanwhile, I toasted two slices of potato bread until just golden, spread about a teaspoon of mayo on one slice, added about 8 leaves of baby spinach, and sliced two Campari tomatoes (they look like big cherry tomatoes on a vine) laying them on the spinach. Once my Canadian Bacon started browning, I flipped them and let them sizzle for about 30 seconds. Then, I threw the two slices he hadn't stolen onto the tomatoes. I'd say the process took about 5 or 6 minutes.

Again, not expecting much, I took a bite. Wow! Surprisingly, the sandwich tasted almost exactly like a classic BLT but less salty. It satisfied that annoying craving completely and in fact, I think this will be my preferred recipe from now on. It tastes so fresh and is much healthier than the classic. This is a new must on the lunch rotation!

Try it and let me know if you agree! Now, I'm hungry. Time to start on lunch! x

2.03.2011

Simple DIY Preppy Headband

I was perusing the internet today looking for a few nautical themed accessories. I came across several cute headbands (apparently Gossip Girl has caused a craze? I've never watched it...). Most of the ones I found were either ribbons with simple bows or ropes tied into sailor knots. Looking at how many girls were selling handmade ones on Etsy, I knew I should give it a try. Unfortunately, I didn't have any nautical inspired ribbon lying about the house so I used a pewter satin.


Materials:

4 pieces of ribbon (one the length of the desired band, minus the elastic, one 12", one 8", and one 3")
2 thin hair elastics
Threaded sewing machine or hand needle and thread
Scissors
Fabric glue (stick, hot, or bonding tape)
Iron
Pins

I started with the two hair elastics, laid them in a Venn diagram and pulled them tightly together.

Using a dress tape, I measured around my head where I wanted the headband to sit. I subtracted the length of the hair elastics to determine the length of ribbon. Then, I pressed a 1/2" hem with another 1/4" turned under on both ends. After slipping either end of the elastic under the hems, I sewed 5 straight stitches close to the fold, reversed, and then stitched 5 again. Next, I tried on the headband to ensure it fit and, with a dressmakers pencil, I marked where I wanted the bow. I then made the 12" and 8" pieces into two circles, overlapping 1/2" and sewing 5 stitches through each. I pinched both circles in the middle, flattening them, and stacked them on the headband where I had made the mark, then basted them together. Lastly, I wrapped the 3" ribbon around the middle of all layers, folded 1/4" under, and bonded it closed with heat tape.

(adapted from http://www.ehow.com/i/#article_6665289">eHow)

The whole process took about 20 minutes with distractions and I'm actually rather pleased with the result. My fiance actually thought it was store-bought! (Always a good sign for DIY projects. :) ) I'll definitely be buying a few new ribbons to make more!



Now, to learn a sailor knot.... x
2.01.2011

Satisfying a Dieting Sweet Tooth

In continued preparation for our upcoming Caribbean vacation, we're still dieting. Now, you know what happens when I diet? My generally little sweet tooth suddenly shifts into overdrive! It's horrible! Out of nowhere, snacks that normally couldn't dream of tempting me, become must-haves! Candy bars, cookies, you name it!

So, my lovely, encouraging fiance showed me a trick this weekend! When you get that insatiable craving for sweets, get one honey graham cracker and spread a little creamy peanut butter on it (we use Honey Maid and natural Jif). The result is a surprisingly good imitation of a Nutter Butter or peanut butter girl scout cookie! It's so much healthier than junk food but actually curbed my craving!

Now, if only I could find a cracker that can imitate French toast! x