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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How does your garden grow?

Remember my garden that I started in the spring?  Well the fruits of my labor (get it? haha) have finally come!  I have some delicious tomatoes popping up everywhere! I already picked a few strawberries, used the herbs from my herb garden, and now have been enjoying little cherry tomatoes and the start of some bigger fellas.

A couple of the roma tomatoes. Not ready for picking yet!

I picked one of the roma tomatoes (not pictured... was already plucked), and have a big beefsteak type tomato growing in!

Tiny tomatoes. So yummy.

This hefty tomato is resting on the metal frame.  I can't wait until it's ripe!
Not only that, but the apple tree in our yard is going crazy! Wallace is constantly running around with apples that have fallen, and when I pick them, a handful more fall each time.  Get ready for some apple recipes as part of the sweet treats installments!

Apples everywhere!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sweet Treats Saturday: Peanut Butter Toffee Cookies

Let's take a step back from chocolate for a minute. Ok, I know that's kind of a harsh statement, but most of the time, I'm a vanilla-cookie kinda girl.  I'm not going to go extreme on you, but another one of my favorite flavors is toffee. So how about we try some Peanut Butter Toffee cookies?  It's a nice twist on the traditional peanut butter cookie, but the addition of toffee is almost genius!  

These cookies are so simple to make, and a great use for one of those bags of toffee bits that you probably have stashed in your pantry.  Or, should have stashed in your pantry.  Really, you should always have a bag of toffee on hand.

Peanut Butter Toffee Cookies
From MarthaStewart.com (I know, I know, my go to source... I get her daily recipe emails so it's hard not to want to make them all)


3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for fingertips
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1 large egg
2 chocolate-covered toffee candy bars (1.4 ounces each), chopped (As I mentioned above, I just use a bag of the already chopped up bits)


  1. Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.
  2. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on high speed, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add peanut butter and egg; beat until smooth. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture. Stir in toffee.
  3. Using 1 level tablespoon batter per cookie, drop onto baking sheets, about 1 inch apart; flatten slightly with floured fingertips. Bake until edges are golden brown, 16 to 18 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer cookies immediately to a wire rack to cool completely.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Round 2 Rooibos

With the launch of the new Coletterie blog, Sarai also ran a Rooibos sew-along.  The Rooibos dress that I made at the end of last year was one of my favorite Colette creations and I'd been meaning to try another variation of it.

I scoped out some fabrics at my local shop and decided on a gray suiting fabric for the main base, and a light blue plaid for the accent pieces.  I wanted something that I would be able to wear into the office and that wasn't my standard boring black office-wear.

As Sarai mentioned in one of her recent posts, one way to save time in your sewing is to reuse patterns.  Having all of the pieces already cut out, and familiarity with the instructions, definitely saved time with this project.  I remember the first time I made Rooibos, I probably spent 30 minutes just reading and re-reading the instructions on sewing the armholes.  The technique she used was so new to me, but pretty ingenious.  This time, it was a breeze!  That whole step was done within minutes and I was moving on to the bottom half of the dress.

The rest of the dress was easy, and this time I had so much more experience with finishing seams and the other required but tedious tasks, that I was able to crank out this dress in a short evening.  The only hiccup? I really wanted to include a belt made out of the plaid fabric! I have yet to find a belt kit, though I swear I've seen one in my craft shopping trips.  Do you know where I can get one?  In the meantime, I'll keep looking and I still think the dress looks great without it.

Fabric: Grey suiting. Blue plaid seems to be a similar fabric.
Pattern: Colette Rooibos
Notions:  For now, just the zipper, but I'm hoping to add a belt kit to that soon.

This post will be participating in the following Linky parties:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Counting Sheep

I finished my sheep cross stitch a while back, but have been forgetting to post it.  I'm not really sure that I'm going to do with it yet... maybe make it a pillow, or save it for something special later on...  Until then, I'll just admire it.  

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Very Important... Dress

I have had this orange fabric in my stash for almost a year.  When I saw Sew Weekly's VIP stash busing theme, I went straight for this fabric.  I don't know what the fabric is made of... it almost feels like a suiting but thicker.  I knew it would hang really well on the right garment, I was just so torn for the longest time about which that would be.  In comes Simplicity 2178.

I've also had this pattern for a while.  It's not at all my normal taste, but on a whim I purchased it.  I knew that I had more than enough of the orange fabric to make this dress, and something else, so I decided this would be the perfect garment to put it to use.  And just to step things up, I wanted to make up version A - which I definitely did not intend on ever making when I bought the pattern.  A shoulder tie?? Soooo not typical me.

Fabric: Orange synthetic... not sure of the blend
Notions: Invisible zipper.

The pattern was fun to put together.  All of the pieces were pretty unique (due to the shoulder tie on one side, strap on another), so there was no confusion about how things should line up.  I also liked that I didn't have to do any sleeve facings; one of my pet peeves.  I hate working with armholes.  

The fabric was also really great to work with.  I wish I knew what it was.  I purchased it at a fabric warehouse by my work, so things aren't really labeled.  I have a bit left over that I plan on making into another Sencha blouse.

I probably wouldn't make this variation of the pattern again as it's pretty unique, but I'd like to try version D (the two strap version).  I'm looking forward to wearing this for a date night with the hubby or a night out with girlfriends.

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sweet Treats Saturday: Flourless Chocolate Cake

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen my post about the new cookbook that I ordered a few weeks ago.  It's Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz.  I stumbled upon his blog when I first started my own and have enjoyed every recipe that I've made from it, especially my macarons.  I thought his recipes would be great to add to my cookbook collection, so I made the splurge (really, it wasn't much of a splurge... the book was under $25).

One of the first recipes that I've made from this cookbook is his Racines Cake, which is a flourless chocolate cake.  The photos just made the cake look so rich and decadent... I had to make it.
It proved easy, and quick to make, and was a rich, decadent dessert.  I omitted the cocoa nibs (which were optional) as I didn't have any on hand, but if I made it again, I would probably add them just for that extra bit of decadence.  This cake would be the perfect finish to a nice dinner with friends, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Mmmm...

Racines Cake
From David Lebovitz (recipe is all over the internet, I just grabbed the link from this site).

Cocoa powder, for preparing the pan
10 ounces (280 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (4 ounces/115 g) salted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon freshly brewed espresso
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/4 cup (50 g) plus 2 tablespoons (30 g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (20 g) cocoa nibs (optional)
confectioners’ sugar, for dusting the cake (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (175° C).  Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch (23-cm) spring-form pan, dust it with a bit of cocoa powder, and tap out any excess.
  2. Place the chocolate, butter and espresso in a large heatproof bowl.  Set over a small saucepan of simmering water and using a spatula, stir until the chocolate and butter has melted and the mixture is smooth.  Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the vanilla; set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks and the 1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar on medium-high speed until the mixture is light and creamy, about 1 minute.
  4. Place the egg whites in a clean, dry bowl and using a hand-held electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites on low speed until they begin to hold their shape.  Add the remaining 2 tablespoons (30 g) granulated sugar and whisk on high speed until the whites hold soft peaks.
  5. Fold the beaten egg yolks into the melted chocolate mixture, then fold in half of the whipped egg whites.  Fold in the remaining whites, folding just until there are no visible streaks of egg whites. Don’t overfold.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared spring-form pan, sprinkle with cocoa nibs (if using), and bake until the cake feels as though it’s just barely set (It shouldn’t feel to firm.) in the centre, about 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

7. Run a knife around the sides of the cake to help loosen it from the pan. Release the sides of the pan and dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar (if using).

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Midwest Antiquing

The hubby and I just got back from a long weekend visiting friends in the midwest.  Previously when we've been out there, we spent most of our time playing with their kids, swimming, boating, and other fun activities.  This time, I wanted to check out some antique shops.

A lot of the antique shops in our area can be pretty picked over, or really expensive.  My girlfriend had always told me of the great luck that she had whenever she was hunting for treasures at antique shops or yard sales in the midwest.  We made a short trip out to Wisconsin to stay with her parents, and while there, we checked out some awesome shops.

One of the locations that we went to
I picked up a few things: some tumblers, an antique brooch, and best of all, a handful of vintage sewing patterns.

Boxes and boxes of sewing patterns!

Drawers of cards and pictures

So many things including a jar of wooden spools

I loved this set of glasses with the pitcher

Some cute embroidery

Inside the barn that was filled with old chairs

A really cool thread display. If only it was in my budget.
A lot of our shopping made me wish I had a bigger suitcase (and more spending money), but I'm really happy with the little treasures that I left with.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sweet Treats Saturday: Blondies with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

While we're on this chocolate chip kick, how about a new blondie recipe?  This one is basic and so easy to make.  I went with the walnuts, but if you're not a fan of nuts in your baking, omitting them would be fine.  I think the flavor of toasted walnuts is a great combination with the buttery blondie flavor and chocolate chips, but to each their own.

This is another Martha Stewart recipe - she really does have some great ones out there, so why not?  I didn't make any variations to the recipe. Here it is!

Blondies with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush an 8-inch square baking pan with butter; line pan with a piece of parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides. Butter paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk butter and sugars until smooth. Whisk in egg and vanilla. Add flour and salt; mix just until moistened (do not overmix). Fold in 1/2 cup each chocolate chips and walnuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top. Sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips and walnuts.
  1. Bake until top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Set pan on a wire rack, and let cool completely. Using parchment overhang, lift cake from pan and transfer to a cutting board; cut into 16 squares.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sew Weekly Inspiration

This next dress was inspired by two different areas on the Sew Weekly page.  The first, and what initially piqued my interest was the Make This Look for the Day After Day Dress. I loved the red and white polka dot fabric (which I happened to have on hand from one of my sale runs at my fabric store), and the white piping.

Second, was the unique back on the pattern they suggested, Simplicity 2180.
Back of Simplicity 2180

The open back design normally would not appeal to me.  I'm not overly modest about that stuff, but really,  how do you wear your bra? Well, I was on the fence and thinking about doing their 'normal' back, but then I stumbled upon Sew Weekly contributor Adey Lim's Plain Sailing Dress.  She used a vintage pattern that had some questionable artwork, and made this gorgeous, open-backed dress.

How cute is the back of this dress?

So, I did it.

And, I love it! 

Fabric: Red and white polka dot cotton print.
Pattern: Simplicity 2180, Version A.
Notions: Invisible zipper, white piping.

It's another fun summer dress to add to my collection.  Seriously, I don't know how Fall is going to compete.  I've had so much fun sewing all of these summery dresses.  And wearing a design with an open-back is so much more feasible in this wonderful summer weather.
Have you ever made a dress that had a questionable design to it, that you then ended up loving? Or still wasn't sold on even after the fact?

Monday, August 08, 2011

Western Wear and a Banjo on my Knee

I'm trying to catch a Sew Weekly challenge at least once a month, but I usually have some other project that's taking all of my attention and focus.  When I saw this week's challenge was Western, I thought 'I could do that!' and instantly ran out to my local fabric store to pick up supplies.

I was hoping for a cute calico or paisley print, but in the end, I left with a gingham. Still cute, and gives me the Western feel that I was hoping for.  I also decided to try out one of the new Colette patterns that I had recently picked up - Violet - a cute, collared, blouse.

The expression on my face looks crazy. Sometimes I feel so un-photogenic.

I've gotten so comfortable with Colette patterns. They're so well written and constructed, and this one was no exception.  I think this was the last of the Colette patterns that I own that I had yet to try, so now I can start to go back and revisit some of my favorites, and see what's missing so I can complete my collection. 

I really enjoyed making this pattern and look forward to making another one, but next time in a cute, girly or lightweight fabric.  I've loved looking at everyone's variations to this pattern for inspiration.

Oh, and did I mentioned I've been learning to play the banjo?  I thought I'd add that to my photos to complete the look.  Now I can sit on my front porch in my new gingham blouse, and pluck at the strings to my banjo.

EDIT I keep forgetting to include the details of my garments! Here they are in a more organized fashion:

Fabric: Black and white gingham cotton.  Used about 2 3/8 yards as Sarai specified.
Pattern: Colette Violet, Version 1
Notions: 7 small black buttons. Accessorized with a banjo. ;)

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Sweet Treats Saturday: Chocolate Tart with Cookie Crust

While this recipe may seem time consuming, if you make your chocolate chip cookies ahead of time, or put some aside from an earlier batch, it shouldn't take long at all.  I used leftover cookie's from last weeks' recipe, so I was able to bake everything (crust, then tart itself) in under an hour.  It was well worth it - this recipe was delicious! Perfect for any chocolate or chocolate chip cookie lover.

Ok, my edges aren't the prettiest but the taste more than makes up for it.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Crust
From Martha Stewart


2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsps vanilla
12 oz. chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.
3. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Reduce speed to low and add the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla.  Add the flour mixture in 3 additions.  Add vanilla.  Mix in chocolate chips.
4. Scoop two tablespoon size dough onto a cookie sheet and cook until crispy (about 14-16 minutes).  Check the cookies - you don't want them burnt but they should be crispy.

If you made these cookies ahead (see last weeks recipe), you can store in a freezer bag and defrost before use.  Otherwise, you can make this from scratch and go right into the next steps.

5. For the crust, you will need 16-3inch chocolate chip cookies.  Finely grind them in a blender or food processor.  You should have about two cups of crumbs.

Ready to grind the cookies
6. Melt two tbsps of unsalted butter and mix with the ground cookies.
7. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a greased tart pan (I used a spring form pan as I don't own a tart pan) - you just need a pan with a removeable bottom.
8. Bake at 350 degrees until firm and slightly darkened; about 10 to 12 minutes.  Let cool completely.

The baked crust. I used a springform pan.

Tart Filling

1 cup heavy cream
8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 large egg
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tbsp butter

1. Reduce oven temp to 300 degrees.
2. Heat cream in a saucepan until just about to boil.  Pour over chocolate in a heat proof bowl.  Let stand for 1 minute, then stir until smooth.
3. Whisk in egg, milk and butter. 
4. Pour into cooled crust.

Chocolate is poured and ready for the oven
5. Bake tart until edges of filling are set but the center still jiggles.  It may be between 20-30 minutes depending on your oven.

Baked and jiggly. Let cool then remove from pan.
6. Cool on a wire rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature (do not refrigerate).  Can top with creme fraiche or other whipped topping.

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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Summer Petal Dress

I am so glad that this dress is done! I was really excited by the bright fabric print, and the fun Monique Dress pattern by Serendipity Studios.  Despite these things, I have had this dress on the 'can't bear to work with' pile for a while now.  Once I cut it out and started to really dive into assembly, I found I was in over my head.

The pattern looked pretty straight forward but I knew I was going to have a problem when I encountered my first challenge.  Which dress was the pattern referring to? Unfortunately the six variations weren't numbered on the front picture, and some had similar descriptions.  In the end, through process of elimination, I figured out that I was doing variation 4 (large poppy fabric).  I had some other concerns when working with the pattern.  A small one was the smaller seam allowance - just half an inch, vs. the standard 5/8" that I've been used to working with.  Not a big deal. Then the bust... it was meant for a size B or smaller.  I've never had a problem with bust sizes fitting with the many Simplicity, Colette and other brands patterns, so I was concerned that this one would prove a challenge.  I decided to proceed as the measurements seemed fine.  It seemed to work out ok, though I probably could have graded it up slightly  if I was really worried.

The next challenge was in adding the narrow bands at the waist.  Once I attached the first narrow band, my waistbands wouldn't match up.  I had to disassemble the fabric and start over.  It seemed like adding the narrow bands would have been straightforward, but unfortunately, it took a bit more tweaking to get it to fit properly.  This was the point where I put the dress aside.  I was hoping for a quick assembly, but this simple dress was a challenge for me.

After coming back from vacation, I saw this project looking forlorn on the table, and knew I had to suck it up and finish it.  I dusted it off and got back to work.  By this point, I was done with the instructions and just assembled it on my own.  I had just about finished it when I went to my local fabric store, and saw they had a variation of it in their window.  I made a note to chat with the seamstress (she was out that day) about how the pattern came together for her.  She did the ruffle trim instead of the sewn in waist trim which would probably eliminate the matching problems that I had.

Close-up of the fabric

Fabric: "Scattered Lantern Pods" Laura Gunn for Michael Miller. Used about 2 1/2 yards. Yellow polka dots were from my LFS.  I used about 1/2 yard.
Pattern: Monique Dress. Boutique Chic by Serendipity Studio
Notions: Invisible zipper. Blood, sweat and tears.

If I made this again, I would probably do a different variation... but until then, this is getting filed away.  To remind myself that I do know what I'm doing, I started working on a Simplicity pattern from the Sew Weekly, Make This Look feature.  I'm almost done and will hopefully be able to complete that, and possibly my Western challenge outfit by early next week.

My next project
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