Monthly Archives: March 2011

Apron of the Day:”Truly, Madly, Mauvely” and my Favorite Movie

This apron’s name didn’t surface until I was almost finished with it. Then it popped in the Naming portion of my brain — which is overdeveloped.

Truly, Madly, Mauvely.

Here’s a closeup of the aubergine print, pleasingly purple.

The verso is another print I love, a mauve floral:

Closeup:

The apron’s name is a riff on the title of my all-time favorite move — yes, my favorite movie of all time.

It came out in the early 90s, was written and directed by Anthony Minghella. Juliet Stevenson plays a young woman devastated by the death of her lover, Alan Rickman, who was a cellist. (How great to see Alan as a romantic lead!) Alan returns as a ghost and after 90 or so heady, romantic minutes shows Juliet how to get on with her life.

If it sounds like Ghost, it isn’t. At all. (One critic at the time called TMD something like “Ghost for people who can do crossword puzzles.”) One telling point from my own experience is remembering my reaction s from my first viewing of both flix.

 

I went to Ghost with two girlfriends and we escaped being tossed out of the theater by stuffing our gloves in our mouths — the movie was so lame we laughed hysterically.

The first time I watched Truly Madly Deeply I sobbed for so long my husband was concerned. But it’s no romantic three hanky weeper — it’s smart, often funny and somehow uplifting.

If I recall correctly, there’s a scene set in Juliet’s kitchen. Alan Rickman’s wearing an apron

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Filed under A yard of fabric, Apron of the Day, Media, Sewing

Must Bake:Savory Cheese and Chive Bread From Dorie Greenspan

I bought Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table a few weeks after it was published, but I hadn’t cooked much from it, what with geographical discombobulation and other culinary distractions. Gee, was I a folle! I read it all way through this afternoon and found it, jaded cook that I am, inspiring.

Nothing’s too hard, nothing’s too pricey, it’s written in Dorie’s pal-to-pal style, and every recipe just sounds good. I rarely write rarely about food here on my blog, preferring to do it elsewhere, but kids — this is too good not share right now: Savory Cheese and Chive Bread. Here’s the recipe:

http://projects.washingtonpost.com/recipes/2010/10/21/savory-cheese-and-chive-bread/

You see, it just happened that I had all the ingredients within reach, including spring chives. I had odds and ends of cheese in the fridge, and a few sprigs of new thyme, and — this is what made me smile: it’s a baking powder based quick bread, not a yeast bread, and is easier to assemble than zucchini bread.

My well-traveled and well-heeled cousin Cort confided, over dinner at Tru, that he likes tastes that pop, that explode. I cut off the first slice and it was a flavor grenade.

I took one bite and craved a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. It was a little early in the day , so I abstained until later in the day.

 

 

 

I was right: it goes with white wine like Fred did with Ginger. Dorie says she cuts it into cubes to serve with aperitifs, which is such a swell idea.

While we were sipping and nibbling, we got another swell idea. We’re always thinking about next night’s dinner before we eat tonight’s dinner, and onion soup is on for tomorrow. We almost talked over each other: this would be an awesome, awesome crouton floating above the soup, perhaps topped with more cheese.

Chill that crisp white, and bake this bread.

 

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Filed under A Couple of Bucks, Body, Food, How Cool is That?

Apron of the Day: Gimme Liberty or Give me Death

I spend enough time and thought on my aprons that I’ve noticed I’ve begun to give them names. When I was working on my most recent commission (leopard skin on one side, skulls and crossbones on the reverse) I named it “Skin and Bones.”

When a Liberty of London floral is backed with tattoo skulls and roses, what else to call it but “Gimme Liberty or Give me Death?”

The House of Magz Rags own Zoolander is back on the runway, which today is close to the driveway.

Here’s Liberty:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I figured: Why not a few more flowers? Here’s a closeup of the fabric and and pocket trim:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dark Side:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pocket trim here is suitably funereal — a touch of jumbo black rick rack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the kickoff of the 2011 Apron Season! (Any of these are, um, available for sale.) I’d love it if you come up with your own names and post them — hey, if they’re better than mine, I’ll change the tag.

 

 

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Filed under A yard of fabric, Apron of the Day, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Sewing

Frozen Pancakes:Cheap and Cheerful, Fab Fab and Fatal

My father was the breakfast cook when we were kids, and we loved the sight of that red box with the picture of the cheery black lady. Pancakes for breakfast! (Daddy’s still the breakfast cook, and come to think of it, Aunt Jemima was my first clue that everyone in the world didn’t look like me.)

My father taught me that you have to wait until big bubbles  form before you turn the pancake, or it won’t hold together. But you can’t wait too long, because pancakes burn easily. I learned early that there’s no such thing as too much butter on pancakes, and that the syrup had to originate in a tree.

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like pancakes, whether from a box or scratched up from a favorite recipe. (My favorite is Scott Peacock’s buttermilk pancake recipe from The Gift of Southern Cooking.) The shameful truth is that I’ve rarely made pancakes more than six times a year, and here’s why.

We’re only two pancake mouths, and no matter how I cut the recipe down, I always glugged half the batter down the Insinkerator. Second: pancakes trash my kitchen, or rather, I dribble the batter all over the range top, counter and ceiling — what’s up with that? By the time I’ve licked my fingers, the batter’s concrete.

A couple of months ago, we decided to cook off all the batter. That left us a dozen pancakes sitting on the griddle, stovetop trashed. We remembered laughing at an item in the frozen food case  — frozen pancakes. WTF, thought we — how lame! It’s still lame to buy four frozen pancakes for a buck, but it’s brilliant to freeze your own. He spread them on a  sheet pan in the freezer until they were hard, then we stacked them in a baggie.

Let me tell you, frozen pancakes are a beautiful thing. You can heat them up in a toaster, if your butter’s soft. But here’s the thing: put them on a plate, sliver some hard butter atop, and drizzle with syrup. Nuke for a minute and you’ve got groovy cakes with no effort.

Here’s the naughty part: If you know you have pancakes in the freezer, avoirdupois can happen. Sure they’re great for a quick lunch or breakfast, but you know, they’re even better for late night dessert . I eat sensibly and that means mostly no sweets, because I prefer protein to cupcakes. But just before bedtime last night, I had an urge to the sweet side, and buttered a couple of frozen pancakes. Then I spread them with  dabs of apricot jam, blasted it , topped it with some TJ’s Greek Yogurt and achieved midnight snack Nirvana. In forty seconds.

Criminal. I know I’m in trouble, because my bedtime’s going to be haunted by the possibility of sneaking my hands into the freezer and floating off to Dreamworld , my tummy filled with carbs and butter and something sweet — like maple syrup, raspberry jam, honey or apricot jam. It’s sooooo easy, God help me.

To take my mind off the fattening flat-out simple possibilities, I’ll post a gratuitous kitty picture. Willow always, always finds the warmest spot, though Ajax has a patch too.

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Filed under Body, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Five bucks or fewer, Food, How Cool is That?, Uncategorized

Boursin Boxes and Bliss

My readers have noticed , I’m sure, that I’m good at keeping myself entertained. Give me a piece of paper, half a pound of butter, a crochet hook, a yard of fabric or a book, and I’m all good. (In a couple of weeks a few package of seeds and a rake will keep me out of trouble until Memorial Day.)

Origami is my private place — it calms me, focuses my mind, satisfies my twin fondnesses for mystery and order. The mystery is trying to figure out how the hell anyway will I ever figure out the series of folds that emerge into a beautiful or practical object. The order comes from the knowledge that sometime, sooner or later, I will figure it out.

Saturday afternoon my fingers were twitching for a piece of paper and a challenge. I pulled Didier Boursin’s Advanced Origami from my bookshelf and decided that I’d try, for the seventieth time over a period of three years, to complete his Serving Dish. Biographical information on Boursin is scant — he’s a French architect and famous paper folder. His style is clean and modern and his fold patterns are, well, different. I’ve loved his work since I found it four years ago and I’ve wasted reams of paper trying to get it right. (By the way, my  piece on Boursin’s origami wallet is the most viewed post ever on this blog, so I’m not Didier’s only fan girl!)

Reader, I did it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love this little box so make, and was so relieved that I’d finally done it, that I tried to attempt two other boxes from Advanced Origami.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love these triangular boxes so much I’m going to post another picture. Humor me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was blissed out enough at my progress, and my boxes, to risk one more model I’d never completed before — this cunning cube box. You make two identical cubes, but there’s a tricky and satisfying series of folds that locks the inner box into the outer box — it opens by pulling opposite corners. It’s cool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not preening — there are at least forty more forms in the book I may figure out before I draw Social Security. Mais, merci M. Boursin for two hours of  perfect peace.

 


 

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Filed under Art, Books, How Cool is That?, Into the Mystic, Less than 50 cents, Origami, Paper

The Zen of Poached Eggs

I’ve never met an egg style I didn’t like In fact, I was included in Best Food Writing of 2010 for a piece about my obsessive quest for the perfect soft boiled egg: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?/topic/122037-eggs-enough-and-time/. Scrambled, fried, stirred raw into fried rice, omelettes, soft boiled, deviled, egg salad — name it, I love it. I especially love eggs when they’re mated with butter — oh, lots! — or bacon grease.

But then there’s the Vestal Virgin of eggs, the poached egg, so pure so fat free, so divalike in her means and methods. I used to love the perfect saucer-shaped poached eggs my mother produced when I was little, with the metal cups that fit into a steamer. (I think I have the same setup rattling around in the Goodwill box.) Julia Child instructed me in the whirlpool of acidulated water method, but even she, in “Mastering”  recommended an metal poacher that reminded me of an Thonet chair. I’m enchanted by the new generation of egg poachers, adorable silicone cups that bob in the water like coracles — but they’re steamed, in a covered saucepan, not poached.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve fussed. In the last thirty years I’ve used

every truc and cute vehicle to a poached egg recommended by Julia or my mother. It was a big fail — this for an easy method for a cooked egg.

I love poached eggs. I eat a poached egg on toast for lunch every week, at least once. I love restaurant Brunchland Eggs Benedict, a poached  egg over a plate of corned beef hash, an oozy poached over a salad. It’s just an egg, cooked simply in water — any fat, like the butter on my toast, is aftermarket.

Six months ago I wanted a poached egg. I brought some water in a saucepan to a simmer (Yes, I added some white vinegar, and although there’s some new science that states the acid isn’t necessary, I’m not taking risks.) I slid an egg into a saucer, then into the water. I grabbed my slotted spoon and twirled  the whites around the yolk so they’re aren’t lacy bits in the water. I watched and waited. I waited for like, a big deal minute and a half.

Then I pulled the egg into the slotted spoon after a couple of minutes and poked the whites. If they’re too soft, I dunk the egg back into the slowly percolating water and test again until the white’s firm. It’s like being at one with your egg.  The toast is lying there, all buttery — I drain the egg on the slotted spoon and plop it on the toast — in this case an English Muffin, lots of pepper and, today, Himalayan Pink Rock Salt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All those years fussing and fretting and wrapping eggs in plastic wrap, like the avant Spanish chefs. Such a waste. All I need is a pan, some water, an egg, a spoon and a little attention –and understanding that a poached egg isn’t science:it’s patience, calm, and attention.

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Filed under Food, Incredible Edible Egg, Less than 50 cents

Site of the Day: Photofunia.com

See dat? Folks are walking through an art gallery enraptured by photos of me and my family. That was in Santa Monica last year, and yes, there’s a seventy dollar catalogue of the show you can buy on line.

Not! It’s an example of the photo mash up fun you can waste weeks at if you call up http://photofunia.com/

Wanna see yourself on a billboard, a stamp, a watercolor sketch, Lara in Dr. Zhivago furhatted, staring out a train window? As Santa Claus? Inserted into a Klimt painting?

On a hundred dollar bill? Made from Lego?  Hee — as the star of one of those dreadful Motivational posters that anyone who’s done time in a cubicle will snarl at till they die?

Now, geeks, I know this is kindergarten stuff — my son-in-law was probably creating things like this in tenth grade. But for the rest of us, it’s so cool to see your picture on a billboard over Times Square!

Have fun.

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Filed under Art, Free, HeeHee, How Cool is That?, Site of the Day

Scrap Bag Rollup

I cut out a couple of aprons today (Janice, I haven’t forgotten) and pulled out the sewing machine for the first time in almost a quarter! Where does the time go?

You’ll see the Warrenville Zoolander modelling aprons later this week, but I didn’t use the Kenmore today for apron production. I cleaned its tiny parts with its tiny brush , threaded it up, and whipped up a roll for my crochet hooks. When I started “C & C” I had higher, more practical and more philosophical goals — bleach, fireflies, striped Swedish cupcake papers — but I’ve noticed that it’s leaning towards a fabric/paper/crafts blog. Bear with me for awhile: it’s just that folding and hooking and sewing is what I’ve been about while I’m trying to lose this cold.

I have crochet hooks stashed in three different spots (four, counting my father’s house,) and I’ve replicated sizes because I had no motherlode of aluminum in one place.  I’ve been reproached daily by a stack of Log Cabin pieced place mats I’d made in early December, thinking to give them to my father for Christmas. Har. They never got past the pieced tops before we left for Ottawa, but they were the right size and shape to turn into a hook roll.

So, with the important needlework done four months ago, it took about half an hour to produce this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two solid rectangles would of course work just as well, but the vertical “logs” of the piecing were good guides to sewing the slots for the hooks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I sewed the ribbon into the seams, nice and tight. This silly thing, my welcome back to my sewing machine, would work as well or better for knitting needles, sketching pencils, watercolor brushes, pencil crayons or chopsticks. You, my cherished apron patrons, may recognize some of the scraps.

 

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Filed under About a buck, Needlework, Yarn

Furoshiki:A New Japanese Good Thing

How odd that I decided I’d write about a classic Japanese folding technique last night, before I woke up to the God awful news about the earthquake today. My extended family and friends in Japan are just fine, thank God, but it’s impossible not to think of the loss of life and the material destruction to so many.

I don’t believe in reincarnation, but if I did I’d guess that I was a Japanese lady in a former life. I love the engineering elegance of the everyday: the gardens, the paintings, the crazy Baby Doll outfits young ladies wear around Tokyo, Hello Kitty, woodblock prints, tempura, washi paper, manga, ikebana, quilting, bonsai and — of course — origami. I know I’d love their whack toilets. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJazvumHNyk&NR=1

Back to Canada and Canadians, a subject I know better than I know Japan and Japanese. Canadians don’t travel or shop without their reuseable fabric shopping bags — I felt dirty admitting to the checkers that I’d need plastic grocery bags. (And pay twenty five cents per bag.) My father is so kind and so Canadian that he’d take only the Metro bags to Metro and the Loblaws bags to Loblaws. When I asked why he was such a dang fool he said:”Well, I don’t want to hurt their feelings.” Oh Daddy, I roll my eyes.

Well I discovered this week that the Japanese have the reuseable tote bag nailed, with a square of fabric. That’s it: a square of fabric — silk, rayon, polyester or cotton. It needs to be thin — so the knots don’t get too knobbly, and strong. The fabric square can be a wall hanging, a picnic tablecloth, gift wrapping, a book cover or —  a shopping bag.

Please click: Don’t you want an apple carrier? http://furoshiki.com/techniques The double wine bottle carrier is soooo cunning.

What you have to do is name your corners:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then you have to find a big, light strong square of fabric. The lightlbulb went off and I checked out my scarf drawer.My late mother had it covered: a yard square hand- painted silk scarf from Japan. Merci Mummy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I grabbed some random objects and dumped them in the center of the scarf:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I tied corners A and B in a square knot, likewise corners C and D. Mes amis, it made a tote, related to the bundle that the Depression hobos toted on a stick.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It totally fits in the hand. It works! If I were picking up a few items from the supermarche or Walgreens all I’d need to do would be to unfold the scarf I’d been wearing, French Lady style, tied around the strap of my purse.

I like this twist on the basic tote: Pull one handle through another and you have something tighter and cooler:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This isn’t like trying to remember the intricate fold pattern of an origami model that I’m not quite up to — Furoshiki seems organic and practical.Check out that link and have some fun.

Furoshiki : another gift I’ve received from Japan.

 

 

 

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Filed under A yard of fabric, About a buck, Cool Japanese Stuff, How Cool is That?

Twenty Second Tulip

My cold whomped my week. I remember a couple of trips to Walgreens for OTC meds that did exactly jack, blinding coughing jags and ears that haven’t cleared since I walked onto the tarmac two Thursdays ago. Oh yeah, there was that awesome Cooks Illustrated coffee cake I made a week ago.

What crushed me was my lack of ambition. Blog? Eh, about what — Kleenex? Start that apron I’m so excited about — a commission? Sorry, Janice, much as I’ve longed for my sewing machine, the thought of standing at the table, pinning and cutting seemed as likely as running a 5K. Pitching that book idea? Puhleeze.

I got comfy on the couch with John Le Caree,  Laurie R. King and Margaret Maron. It sounds like more fun than that it was.

I found a lovely thing, only two days ago, when I could lift my eyes to the stack of mail on the hutch : a teeny magic package of origami paper — maybe an inch and a half square. He said:  “Um, I think Priscilla sent it to you.”

Today I felt well enough to eat apple pancakes and sausage. I still can’t hear and cough too much, but I took on The Times Sunday puzzle, and played with those adorable paper squares. This tulip model has many creators, the stem’s from Gay Merrill Gross’s Minigami.

My pix are so bad that that these tulips might take you more than twenty seconds, the first time. I’ve included the stem pattern, but if you don’t want to fuss, pull out your green pencil crayon and draw your stem and your leaves.

 

 

 

 

Fold the square in half horizontally, then turn one side up slightly higher than the original point. Fold the left side up to match.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flip the flower over and fold in the points.

Turn it over, et voila: tulip. Twenty second tulip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the stem: use a bigger square than you used for the tulip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fold the paper in half, then unfold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turn the sides into the fold line, then do it again:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is fun: fold the bottom point up :

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then fold the model in half vertically, left to right. This is fun too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then flatten it, and pull the stem out to the right. Stem and leaf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you grab a glue stick and a blank card what do you get? A card with a tulip pasted on it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I like it. Thank you, Priscilla.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under About a buck, Art, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Cool Japanese Stuff, Origami, Paper