Thursday, 27 May 2010

Mommy Cooks, Bakes and Sews but apparently does not Clean

The sun is shining. The SPF 50+ is waiting. There's a slight breeze in the air and the Daughter is already pulling on her booties in the hall. Off to the veggie patch we go. There might not be time for sewing but everybody needs to eat so at least there has to be time for cooking and baking. First, the best cream of tomato soup I have had the pleasure of tasting so far in my near forty years. Basis of the recipe I got from the Smitten Kitchen. I pretty much followed the recipe to the point where she gets carried away with watching Lost and I got hurried by rumbling stomachs. From then on I did as she did, and pureed the soup with an immersion blender until smooth, added the cream and brought it to simmer. Then took a portion for the Daughter and went on to finish the adult version. As there was no brandy to be found in the house, I substituted it with as dash of Ferreira Late Bottled Vintage Port. Seemed to work just fine...I did also add the smidgeon of cayenne pepper and just a teeny bit of salt and some chopped chives on top.

As for the grilled cheese sandwiches I was a bit deviant. First, take a generous loaf of any country style bread and cut into thick slices. Place slices on an oven plate covered with baking sheet. On one side place slices of tomato with sprinkles of salt and black pepper on top. Again, no arugula in the house so used mache lettuce of which put a few sprigs on top of the tomato. Then, chunks of emmenthal and one side is done. On the top slices, just spread some butter and stick all in the oven. Just keep there long enough for the cheese to have slightly melted, at which point remove from the oven, take the top pieces and press them on top of the cheesy ones. Cut in half and enjoy. Oh, the tipple there is French cidre de table , the veeery dry kind that smells like old, musty cellars. Lovely.

On the baking front, the stash of chocolate chip cookies was running out so decided to give this honey cookie recipe from Wee Folk Art a try. I wasn't sure how they were going to turn out as we had run out of regular honey and I had to use this rosemary honey from Portugal instead.

Worked wonderfully though so I can heartily recommed you to try herbed honey with these cookies. Otherwise it was a really straightforward recipe and the Daughter had much fun rolling the dough and placing the lumps on the oven sheet.

The cookies are nice and chewy and honey sweet in the middle....

This time instead of poetry I am ending with this ad and hoping that some cleaning fairy pays us a visit tonight as I am a-b-s-o-l-u-t-e-l-y hopeless when it comes to just keeping it organized and tidy. There must be a gene I'm missing or something.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Cupcake Cobbler

Rewind to a few days back. Since the days have gotten mightily longer and sunnier here, and I have still to hang the blackout curtain on the bed room window, the Daughter has decided it is a good idea to start the day around five. Which can be extended to six if I'm lucky. To anyone not familiar with the summer at the Arctic Circle ( and that would be most people on the planet, then ) the sun only sets for about four hours at this time of the year. And by the time it's Midsummer the sun won't set at all. And while I'm sure it would be technically possible to be immensely efficient and get all sorts of things done in the morning, it's hardly so if you can barely keep your eyes open and have a cranky child to amuse before it gets to be eight. On Friday, however, we were to visit a friend who is in the last stages of her pregnancy with her second child, and I wanted to make something to take with us. I was too tired to look up any decent recipes so I pretty much just threw whatever I could find in the mixing bowl and poured it in the cupcake pan. Hmmm.The scent coming from the oven was lovely, but I soon realised that combining cupcake dough, apple sauce and apple slices with maybe just a tad too much baking powder was not the most brilliant idea on the planet. And as I took the pan out the dough had spread so that I pretty much had one huge apple pie with weird shaped mounds on the bottom in my hands.

Very much in the style of the past few weeks I just stuck the pan on the table, covered it with a tea-towel, dressed the Daughter and drove to a bakery. Shame on me, I know. But at least I did tell my friends that I got the pastries from a bakery...In the end we spent a lovely afternoon at my friend's house and only got home in time for the Daughter's bedtime. I was not, however, going to let the apple-pie-cupcake go to waste. Too much sugary-cinnamony goodness so spooned the cake with the apples from the pan, scooped some vanilla ice cream on top and there you go, Cupcake Cobbler.

And just in case somebody might want to try it (the taste was lovely), here it is. First, prepare a regular vanilla cupcake dough and spoon it in a cupcake pan lined with cupcake liners. For an apple-pie type of taste I flavored the dough with about half a teaspoon of cinnamon before spooning it into the pan. Unless you want your cakes to come pouring all over the pan like mine did, fill the cups only half-way. Next I added a teaspoon of apple sauce onto each cupcake, and on top of that two thin slices of apple and some sugar-cinnamon mixture. Cook in the oven for about 10 minutes depending on your oven type.

If you were wise enough and your cakes stayed in the pan nicely, you can just soften some vanilla ice-cream and swirl it on top of you cupcake for a nice cupcake sundae. If, on the other hand, you tend for the what-if-I-just-throw-a-spoon-more-of-baking-powder-in-there school of baking like I do, just spoon the cake into some cute cups, add ice-cream and just tell everyone it's a cobbler.

And maybe just add a cupcake and some ice-cream.

Seriously, though, fruit is is obviously fantastic on it's own. I remember being a kid and never being allowed anything sugary except once a week on a Candy Day when we would be allowed to choose a piece of candy each. Instead we ate a lot of fruit and vegetables, and believe it or not, but my favourite snack was raw cabbage cut in strips...Also, we always ate a lot of fish. I know that in many families here it is even now thought so that a meal is not a proper meal unless it includes meat, and fish is only ever eaten once a week or even much less. Here is little something I made one rainy evening...

A tuna, olives, garlic and fresh basil pizza pie. Yes, it's just a pizza. Lazy me.

I choose to make the pizza dough by using durum wheat because it has more viscosity than regular flour which makes for a better pizza dough. First I crumble 25 grams/0.9 oz live yeast on the bottom of a mixing bowl, then add a pinch of sugar on top and pour around 2.5 dl/1.5 cups of warm water on top. Let the mixture bubble for a while, then add a pinch of salt and start adding the flour while mixing with a spoon. When the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl, remove it and place on a floured surface. Knead until the dough is of a chewing-gummy consistency ( I'm such a pro ) and make a hollow in the middle. Pour a generous amount of olive oil in the hollow and turn the sides on top leaving the oil in the middle of the dough. Continue kneading until the oil is absorbed in the dough. Place in a bowl, cover with a tea-towel and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size. When the dough has risen, spread the dough on a dish and top with any nice, savory stuff of your liking.


                                           Canned tuna?

For the topping I used dolphin-friendly tuna, but it can be substituted with pretty much any type of fish. Though I think salted dry cod might be quite, ahem, interesting though...Underneath the tuna I spread some tomato sauce, and on top of the tuna a generous amount of de-stoned black olives. Then I peeled some garlic (OK, a lot, I love garlic), crushed and sliced it and sprikled it on top. Next, a hefty amount of fresh basil and what you don't see in the picture, some chopped up mozzarella on top. By the way, if you wish to try your hand at making your own mozzarella cheese, check the instructions here at Dinner With Julie.

I've been slowly but surely progressing with the dress, but so many things just keep happening meanwhile. For example I run across this little bag in a flea-marker for just one euro the other day. It has been crocheted from some weird type of jute string with very clumsily made green interior and embroidered initials. From the level of the sewing I'd say this was the school-work of some girl in the 1960's. So for one evening I cut flowers out of a piece of leftover fabric and stitched them on the bag by hand.  And behold, a nice little flowerbag.


Also, I've been going through my fabric stash in search for a perfect piece for a pencil skirt, or a wiggle skirt if you wish. I used to have a really nice one, a skirt that is, but sadly I, well, outgrew it. As for a pattern, I'm planning to use a simple pencil skirt basic pattern from Burda and draw the back part myself as to my liking as I want it to have a very slight fish-tail shape. Also, I need a made-to-measure pattern for a slim skirt as I always have to make adjustments for skirts in order for them not to look like they're about 10cm/4inches shorter in the back.

Drawing this post to close, I go with Auden.

Make this night loveable,
Moon, and with eye single
Looking down from up there,
Bless me, One especial
And friends everywhere

With a cloudless brightness
Surround our abcenses;
Innocent be our sleeps,
Watched by great still spaces,
White hills, glittering deeps.

Parted by circumstance,
Grant each your indulgence
That we may meet in dreams
For talk, for dalliance,
By warm hearths, by cool streams.


Thursday, 20 May 2010

A Highly Personal Rant about Books and Body Issues

I have been re-acquainting myself with 18th century English literature these past few weeks, partly because I needed to start prepping myself for the thesis writing and partly because I just simply love it. Yes, I freely admit it. I'm a Bronte Sisters fan. Not to mention Austen. Have been since the first time I had the pleasure of meeting these wonderful women on the pages of their novels somewhere in the early 90's. I have lost the count of how many times I've poured over their works, there was a time when I had read them so many times that I could actually recite entire passages from memory. Entering the University and my subsequent times in Britain obviously introduced me to the rest of the Victorian crew and my poetry love Christina Rossetti. Oh, but I do love books. There's no way I could ever convert to online books, no matter how practical they might be. I-need-my-books-in-paper. And I always, always carry at least one with me everywhere. Books and a recent addition, a sewing bag. Wow. I manage to sound so much more peaceful and retiring a person than I really am. Seriously. But the thing is, both reading and sewing are to me wonderfully relaxing, mind-clearing activities that manage to distract me from the hassle and demands of a regular day-to-day life.

This image was tagged as ' The Perfect Working Place' and I could not have put it better myself.

Image courtesy of fraegdegjevar at flickr.

And as is fitting, I've been not only thinking about the women at Victorian times but also in the world we live in right now. And especially concerning the female body politics. While I'm not going to delve into a seriously academic discussion here, I am going to share some thoughts with who ever happens to stop by here. And I believe I must warn all potential readers now that this is going to be a highly personal rant and feel free to drop out anytime. I'll be back with cakes and sewing tomorrow. But today I'm going to kickstart this with this...


                                        Tapeworms, anyone?

Today I went shopping for pants. Trousers. Slacks. Whatever you call them. Shouldn't have bothered. While I have a perfectly good, made-for-me pattern for pants I just thought maybe I could find something ready-made that for once would fit me. Cue laughter. And I must ask, who are the ready-made clothes actually made for? You see, I was not always this shape and size and these clothes have never fit me. As a girl I used to dance ballet and was a competitive gymnast. All muscles and sinew. And a late, late bloomer so to speak. And did I find clothes that fit me? Nope. Then I quit competing and developed, ahem, a figure on top of the sinewy muscles and yet, did I find clothes shopping easy? Hardly. I was curvy yet slim and tall to boot so finding clothes was a nightmare, or so I thought. And then I got sick. And was put on a medication that made me gain almost 20 kgs ( or 44 pds) in a matter of a few months. And even though the medication was eventually stopped, the weight did not just magically disappear. Whereas before I had always been extremely active, even teaching dance and aerobics classes, I was now unable to do much anything. And trust me, when somebody says to you 'Not to worry, you'll soon get back to being normal' it doesn't exactly do wonders to your self-esteem. No, really, a relative of the Husband's once said that to me. And, no, I don't have anything to do with that person anymore, thank you very much. And if I had thought getting clothes that fit me was difficult before, I can only say that now it was darn near  impossible.


                              Lane Bryant, you've come a long way.

In the end it took years and some major changes until the weight eventually came off. And then I got pregnant. And lost more than 10 kg/22 pds in the first couple of months due to severe hyperemesis that put me in hospital for weeks on end. Not to worry though, from the month 5 onwards I gained back everything plus an extra 19kg/42 pds. Talk about weird. I have been told by a doctor that the medications I've been on have messed up my system to such an extent that it doesn't really know what's what anymore. Bloody brilliant, that. Well, we got a beautifully brilliant little baby girl in the end so sod the weight gain. And sure enough, the weight just seemed to disappear by itself  into thin air. Aided by some serious ballet-type classes and other dance-related activities I soon found myself being again slimmer than ever. And boy did people comment. Again, one of the most notorious ones for me went along the lines of " You're so lucky you got rid of your baby-weight so soon, very good of you. Now you're normal again" What? Good of me? This time the comment came from a woman working at the baby club I went to with my Daughter. Talk about sensitive considering there were women all around us in various states of pregnant and post-baby body.

And then my body just said no. My knees gave in, one by one. Then my ankles. And the rest of me followed. I got really sick. All of my joints started aching and I had no strength left in my wrists. Carrying even the Daughter became difficult if not downright impossible. I did not sleep and could barely move. So surprise surprise, the weight, all of it and then some, came right back on. And now my body is changed by not only the pregnancy and breast feeding but also the enormous weight fluctuations of the past four years into something completely strange and new to me, not to mention the effects of the meds.  And it is likely that things are going to stay this way. I've declared a truce with my body. No diets, no gruelling exercise, and certainly nobody telling me that I'll soon get back to normal. This is normal. This is how I am. I am still a vegetarian after all these years, 20 and counting, but I've always eaten milk products and eggs, so no problems on the baking front then. And as for anything else, I eat what I want when I want. I will never restrict myself to another weird food fad again. Point taken, somebody may say that about the veggieism but I was thinking more on the lines of


since it seems that this is what practically everybody is telling me to stop doing.

On the exercise front, I have been physically active my entire life, but I feel it is time for me to find gentler, calmer forms of exercise since I no longer think you need pain to gain.  I still love to dance, and ballet will forever hold a special place in my heart. Now that the Daughter has set her little heart on entering a ballet school next autumn I am having mixed feelings about it. On one hand I don't mind her going there to dance her heart out, but I also know first-hand how screwed up the world of ballet and gymnastics, especially my form, rhythmic gymnastics, can make your body image and I do not wish that upon her. But will I let her go? Yes. To dance is a beautiful thing and I will just keep my eyes and ears peeled in case she starts showing signs of serious body image issues. And I will also do everything in my power to teach her to think that she is beautiful however she looks and whatever she wears. And the clothes shopping? From difficult through impossible to screw-this-I'm-making-my-own, I'm waiting for the day the shops decide to cater to what a friend of mine once kindheartedly called An Amazonian Woman. Yep, that would be me.


 Lovely little feet in lovely little slippers.
The Daughter.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Just A Couple of Wearables and Words

I used to wear a lot of simplest of simple t-shirts. And still, nothing wrong with a perfectly executed tee. But it can get a bit boring. A bit mundane. A bit, well, blaah. I have always liked a sort of folksy traditional style though as well, be it 19th century Russian embroidery or hippie-chic-60's applique sunflowers, and since there are still a few of those blah white t-shirts gathering dust in the recesses of my wardrobe I thought I might as well start doing something with them. My first thoughts were obviously embroidery, but then I found an old scarf that I had never really worn and there it was, not quite sunflowers but applique nevertheless.

So, basically I just cut the flowers and spread them on the shirt, each one is individual. Then I just sewed them on any which way which means the stiching is all over the place and there are threads sticking out but I actually like it that way. As a last whimsy, I stuck on the bow with basically two stitches so it can easily be removed as well. And the best thing? I wore this out with the Daughter one afternoon, and next morning while I was getting dressed she said to me: " Mommy, what pretty thing are you going to wear today? " Perfect.

And speaking of pretty things, there has been no cakes since last weekend and the plumbing disaster, but I have a few on my mind that are going to be kept brewing there for a while longert . Of course I've been baking everyday thingies such as bread and cookies, the garden variety. Today I did try to make dark rye bread for the first time in I think a decade, but as I was not completely happy with the results I'm going to keep at it and see what I can come up with. Some of the cookies were lovely though. The ones made according to this Chewy Chocolate Cookie recipe from Smitten Kitchen were just that, perfectly chewy and chocolatey but unfortunately highly unphotogenic so I'll just let you admire the pics at the Smitten Kitchen and think mine came out looking like the ones on her site.

The Forties Frock is going well though, as far as the dress itself goes. I've been sewing the top by hand, due to wanting it to be just so and for precision nothing beats hand stitching in my opinion. Or maybe that's just me not knowing how to do the same with a machine...Here's the top being constructed.

And as ever, I'm being a delinquent with the instructions and only taking a peek at them when something just boggles me completely.

Pardon the horrible ironing board cover, I really should start thinking about a new cover for it. But I do think the shape of the neckline is coming out rather lovely.

There is no lining on the dress in the original, but I'm considering it at least on the top. I just think it might give the dress more wear-time at this latitude.

And it just occurred to me, I really used to have a denim jacket with an appliqued sunflower in the back sometime in the early 90's when I was pretending I was living in the 60's. I was never really the fashionable type, as I'm sure is obvious by now and if I still had that jacket, well, I just might wear it with this dress. And I'm not planning on waiting for old age to wear purple, or the satin slippers for that matter. And somehow, I doubt the people who do know me would be that much shocked and surprised anyway...

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
and satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.

I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.

I shall go out in the slippers in the rain
And pick the flower's in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go.
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Jenny Joseph, 1961

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Rosy Cake, Romantic Necklaces and One Ruined Kitchen

Ok, that there on the left is pretty much what happened today. The Middle Sister is visiting from the south with her spouse and obviously a cake was to be made. Like I need an excuse... The weather, however, has been all sunny skies and lovely breeze with thunderstorms in the evening so life has moved outside with the result that I have felt decidedly slug-like in the evenings. My clever plan was to make the entire cake in a couple of hours this morning which would leave me free to concentrate on reading 'The Age of the Innocence' by Edith Wharton in the evening. Not a wise move. Before going to bed I set the washing machine to do the dishes expecting to find clean stuff waiting for me in the morning. Instead I found smelly puddles on the kitchen floor. The machine broke. Crap. Cleaned up the mess, hand washed the dishes, closed the door of the machine and absolutely decided to ignore the problem entirely. Yet another wise move, that one. And now let me skip to the chase and tell you that the kitchen mixer practically blew up as well as I was making the cake base. Something went wrong with the batter and the cake did not rise. And while I was washing the mixer bowl I realised there was also something wrong with the kitchen sink plumbing as the dishwater was seeping out from under the sink. Double crap. So what did I do? Threw some towels ( ex-towels, present day floor wipes) on the floor and got on with the abysmally flat cake. Naturally. Cake comes first. Plumbing can wait.

As there was no way I could get three layers from the pancake I had made I cut it in half and pretended I had intended to make a two layers in the first place. The filling I made from 2.5 desilitres of whipping cream mixed with 2 desilitres of quark added to a half a kilo of pureed strawberries. Last, added half a desilitre of vanilla custard powder, some sugar and powdered vanilla. Moistened the lower base with strawberry juice, spread on some strawberry jam and on top of the jam a generous amount of the cream-quark mixture. Based the top cake layer on top of the cream-quark and moistened it with the juice as well. Then proceeded to hand-whisk some whipped cream ( as there was no way I was going to try and get the machine to co-operate) and tried my best at smoothing the horrendously uneven cake base with more cream than could ever be considered necessary. With the result that run out of cream. Hop in the car and drive to a closest grocery store 45 minutes before the cake was supposed to be at the Grandparents to buy more cream. Drive back and haphazardly pipe on some basket-weave. Oh, realised I had forgotten to make the rose leaves. Color some marzipan and cut the leaves. Stick the decorations on, grab the cake and run out of the door only four minutes late according to my car clock.

The cream started to melt on the way there. And I drove holding the cake in one hand and the steering wheel in another as the moussey filling started to make the cake slip and slide all over the place.  Don't worry, though, I did not have to drive that far...

At least there is something to be said in favor of making a cake like this using this rush-like-a-mad-woman method. The cream did not have time to start melting the marzipan roses and leaves. Usually this starts inevitably happening within a couple of hours.

In the end we had a lovely lunch of smoked salmon lasagna and a sweet but also fresh rose and strawberries cake that managed to make it's way to the table in one piece. But please, let's not talk about the carnage that I left waiting for me in the kitchen as it bears not being discussed. Terrible. Truly terrible. But on a much, much more pleasant note though, I have been experimenting lately with old lace, and wanted to make a necklace for my Youngest Sister from one of the tiny tableclothes that I found a few days ago. This is how it came out.

I had cut off the beads before from an old cardigan that I managed to destroy in the wash and was just waiting to find a suitable use for them. All in all I was quite happy with the result and am planning on making myself one too.

And now I am going to retire to bed with Wharton and Rossetti and wish for some nice household fairies to come and fix the plumbing come tomorrow. Or household goblings even. Or any other creature with any amount of any sort of plumbing skill, really.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Hats and Home Baking

Today is a holiday here, being the Ascension Day all the shops are closed and people are off work. And sure enough, the rainy and cold spell seems to have finally given way to a sunny, breezy weather with a real promise of summer. We spent the afternoon at the beach and in the playground park, accompanied by my cousin's nine years old daughter. The kids climbed trees, built sand-castles, raced pine cones down the stream and wondered at some slimy frogspawn. In other words, had some big-time fresh air fun. Even though the river water was still cold enough to turn your toes blue in a second. Believe me, I tried. I also tried to be good and wore 50+ SPF on every area of exposed skin, and still I think I managed to toast myself a bit too much. Haven't had much luck with the hat, you see. The pickings are seriously slim here, and the fact that I have an enormous and weirdly shaped head doesn't make the search any easier. I have been staring long and hard at the lovely hats made by Anna on Etsy, and I'm beginning to think this one just might be the answer.

Still trying to decide on the color of the flower, but I can see myself wearing this a lot in the summer.

And from hats and sun to bread and brownies. For some time I have wanted to try this brownie recipe from Not So Humble Pie blog, and even bought the mascarpone cheese that ended up languishing in the back of the fridge until this morning when I realised that it was now or never, last day to use it. So Chocolate Mascarpone Brownies it was. And they were lovely. Am going to say it again. Lovely. After all, they do say dark chocolate is healthy for you...And since I was already at it, I thought I might as well make a batch of oatmeal buns as well.


For the buns you need 50 grams of live yeast dissolved in about half a litre of water at hand temperature. Stir until the yeast has completely dissolved. Add around a teaspoon of salt, then start adding flour. When the dough is still very soft, almost liquidy, add around one desilitre of oatmeal. Add more flour until the dough is of a doughier consistency yet still very much sticking to your hands and the sides of the bowl. This dough is not supposed to become so that it no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl, but to have a more of a porridge like texture. Then melt aroung 50 grams of butter and add the melted butter in the dough. Lift the dough on a floured surface and mold into a baguette shape. You do not need to knead this dough, and as a matter of fact you shouldn't be able to, since it should be way too soft for that. Cut into bun size pieces with a knife and lift on a oven tray covered with parchment. Cover with a tea-towel and let rise for about 20 minutes. Bake at around 225 C until golden and until the bottom sounds hollow when knocked.

 So that's the bread done, here's the brownies. The making of the Chocolate Mascarpone Brownies need no further explaining since the recipe and instructions are so perfect at the Not So Humble Pie site. Here though are, naturally, pictures of my version. Nothing left to say. They tasted divine.


My cousin's daughter spent almost the entire day with us today, and in the evening she said to me that I seem to be baking 'all the time'. Well. I was baking in the evening as well since I was making home-made pizza for dinner , but I don't really bake this much every day. Really. Maybe just on, well, most days.  And I've been thinking about that. I used to think baking was so difficult. Impossible even. Cooking, I've always loved and been relatively good at but baking, no way. And now it seems to be the way of relaxing for me. Still love cooking, still love sewing and making things but the baking, that's the ticket these days. I recently read in a magazine about a high-ranking woman CEO who said that both she and her daughter bake furiously when stressed or blue, that it is almost a form of therapy to them. While I don't know if I actually feel like it's a form of therapy for me, it certainly somehow manages to be  both soothing and calming or uplifting and energising at the same time. Weird. Who would've thought some flour, a couple of eggs, a cup full of sugar and a stick of butter could do all that...

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Tall FBA and The Forties Frock

Another rainy day. Where are you summer, I ask. The Daughter went on a children's church club trip with her Grandma O, so I had a little time on my hands which I chose to use on patterns and not the urgently needed house cleaning, no surprises there. So, an FBA. That is Full Bust Adjustment to those not familiar with the sewing lingo. I have come to realise that many home sewers at least here are not familiar with the fact that commercial patterns are made with the perfect bee cups of the world in mind. Or let me make it clearer, if you are a C-cup or above, the pattern will not fit you properly as such. Or indeed if you're smalled than a bee cup. And therefore you end up with garments that do not fit, and quite often also get discouraged from sewing altogether. I've seen that happen too many times, and have tried to mention that it is not the sewing, it's the pattern that is at fault. You need to adjust the pattern. There are plenty of good tutorials online about doing the basic FBA or SBA.  I myself have been using this one many times with good results. Another good one for an SBA can be found here.

But that's not all.  The average British woman is nowadays 160 cm tall, or so say the studies. Or around 5 feet 3 inches. I'm quite a bit taller than that. Even in flats. So this means that regular patterns also have such proportions that waists end up being somewhere between my boobs and my actual waist. The pattern hipline lands on my waist etc. You get the picture. And obviously, hems, sleeves and pant legs are way too short as well. And no it's not a question of just cutting them longer. At least it's not if you want clothes that actually fit. And that's the average height for today, apparently in the 40's it was 5 feet 2 inches or around 158 cm. So since I'm dealing with a forties pattern here, I end up with a height difference of 19 cm or 7.5 inches! So for the tall Ladies out there, look here and here. Note though, at least modern day Burda patterns are based on a 168 cm or 5 feet 6 inches tall model. So check from the pattern to see how much you need to adjust since different companies use different sizing even if they were issued at the same era.

Using plus size patterns in order to avoid doing an FBA? All well and good but check the proportions again. I have used plenty of plus size patterns myself and have noticed that while you might find that the bust fits well in front, the back can be too wide. Or the bust and back fit fine, but you're swimming in fabric at the waist. Well, that particular problem I myself no longer have though...It really depends on the shape of your torso and the shape of your breasts rather than your actual size. Also, a regular size 44 and a plus size 44 are not equal. The plus size pattern is going to be bigger everywhere and with generally more ease. So that also means that if you're using a plus size and want close fitting clothing you need to figure this in as well. Sounds like I've had my fair share of fitting problems, doesn't it. And I certainly have, and belive me, it's not getting better...

So, before I go to the actual pattern pieces, here's the image and my fabric, a soft, thin cotton.

And to give you an idea, here are some images of the mess I'm making with the pattern sizing adjustments this time. First the front with both an FBA and the tall issue...

It's been cut twice horizontally to lengthen the piece, and only then did I do the FBA. Next came the waist piece that obviously needed just the tall issue adjustment.

You can see (can you?) the adjustment there above the dot mark. It's about an inch or 2.5 cm. On the top piece there were two adjustments each of the same width. Then it was time to tackle the back.

I had to reposition the dart completely and still don't think it's in the proper place, but I guess I'll just have to decide on the placement with the toile. Also, I did some measuring work on the pattern versus my actual measurements and as indeed I am not willing to wear any kind of suck-you-in-garment I also did some strategic width adjustment with the waist. Cute, huh. So now it's to the cutting board, or in my case, cutting floor. Let's see how it goes, am feeling all rusty with this sewing business.

Lately, in order to get myself better acquainted with the detailing and construction of the 1940's fashion I have also been reading this book by Jonathan Walford.


And while I do appreciate being true to the pattern, I'm afraid I'm going to have to do some alterations to the pattern stylewise as well. First, before actually receiving the pattern and the instructions I wasn't aware that the zipper is placed in the front middle. Now, that doesn't work for me for various reasons, the main one being that there is such an amount of curvetude on my front that a zipper simply will not do. So I am contemplating whether to move the zipper to the side or the back, most likely the side though. I'll have to see about the rest later.

To recap today here are some vintage lace pieces found at the flea-market yesterday, some hand-tooled, some factory made. I'm planning on turning them into flowers for head-pieces, pins or just to brighten up any darker outfit, or indeed a dark, rainy day just like today.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Goat Cheese and Various Vegetables Quiche

I was making this quiche after getting a bit carried away with a Swiss Roll, and by the time it was time to make the cream mixture, I realised I had no eggs left. So I ran to the neighbour to borrow some. Very nice of her to help out, must remember to bake her something yummy as a thank you. And it's actually a surprisingly rare event that I have to do that, run to a neighbour to borrow a cooking or baking ingredient that is, considering how scatterbrained I am being these days. Usually I just make do and improvise, with various degrees of success obviously. But in this case unless I was willing to dip the pie crust in pieces in herb flavored cream there really was no way of getting away from the eggs as I don't think gelatin would quite have done the trick...

For this one you will need either a pre-made pie base or you can just whip one up yourself like this. I usually just put whatever vegetables happen to be available at the moment, in this case it was chopped broccoli, cauliflower, onions and tomato. Zucchini works perfectly fine, as does aubergine, bell peppers or even carrots. Carrots I would recommed you grate and cook for a while on a pan with some olive oil. Same goes for the zucchini, aubergine and peppers. Or any other vegetable with a longer cooking time.  I chopped some fresh basil on top of the veggies, you could also use a mixture such as herbes de provence or similar. Then make the cream sauce. Take around 2 desilitres/1 cup of cream, add two eggs, a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper and stir. Then add grated cheese of your choice. I happened to have emmenthal and mozzarella languishing in the fridge so that's what I used.  Pour the cream micture on top of the veggies. Last, take some herbed goat cheese, slice into thin slices an place on top of the quiche. Cook for about half an hour at 225C/437F until golden. Enjoy.

It really is that simple. And that delicious. And now I'm going on a cake baking hiatus since I need to get the dress done. Until next weekend, that is, when my Older Younger Sister is coming to visit from the south with her spouse, and, of course, a cake is so obviously needed. Also, I need to get back on track with my academic reading. I received some very, very welcome thesis writing advise recently from my Youngest of the PhD. Writing Sisters ( yes, they're both doing that) and feel far less intimidated about the prospect now. So, on that note:

I want to be unconstrained
therefore I care not a fig for noble styles
I roll up my sleeves
The dough of poetry is rising...
Oh what a pity
that I cannot bake cathedrals...
Highness of forms-
goal of persistent longing.
Child of the present-
does your spirit not have a proper shell?
Before I die
I shall bake a cathedral.

Edith Södergran