Pint and a halfs

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Thanks to my twin sis, I now have 9 pint and half Ball canning jars… they are however not going to be (generally) for canning!

I’ve had some nice plastic containers, with happy spring green latches and seals, for some time, and recently I’ve noticed the seals are less effective than they used to be. That combined with my effort to use less plastic overall makes these new jars destined to be my new lunch containers, and they’re just the right size.

Lately I’ve been slackin’ a bit, buying lunch out too much, so this is perfect for multiple goals. I spent the afternoon grocery shopping, washing & chopping, assembling… Now I’m good to go for the week.

I made a nice tangy vinaigrette with coconut oil, cider vinegar, garlic, black pepper, and a couple of dates so it didn’t end up too tangy.

That got whizzed in the VitaMix, then a couple of tablespoons went into the bottom of each jar. Next I dropped in a pile of chopped veggies (mixed sweet peppers, zucchini, chickpeas), followed by a few drained capers – OMG, so tasty and no salt needed for the dressing – then protein. A couple jars have tuna, and the others more chickpeas. This is all topped by torn-into-pieces mixed greens. It doesn’t look like much greens, but you can push a lot in there… plus I get more greens in smoothies.
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Speaking of greens, I found a new mix by Earthbound Farm at Costco today – Power Deep Green Blends, and it has baby kale, chard, and spinach.

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I did make a smoothie with it when we got home from Costco and it was tasty (the greens, blueberries, coconut milk, chia seeds, and two dates since the berries weren’t very sweet). Worth a try if you haven’t purchased that mix yet!

The other lunch item, highly experimental, is cukes stuffed with a mix of cottage cheese, sunflower seeds, and a few remaining chickpeas. I mixed in a little bit of protein powder as well, going on the assumption that it would help firm up the mixture. I’ll see how it goes tomorrow. The dill is from our backyard.

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Seersucker!!

I’ve been sick the last few days, so not doing much. I slept until 10 on Saturday, which is really late for me, but woke up finally feeling better, so I guess my body just needed it.

I worked a bit on the Hot Patterns Riviera Summer Breeze, which looks good pinned just so on the dressform right now, but not so much on me. I will continue to fuss with it, but needed a break from the the slippery, slithery charmeuse (definitely not my usual choice in fabric).

It’s still summer, and it’s still hot, so I decided to break out the seersucker I got a few weeks ago on sale for $5/yard. $5/yard makes this a pretty inexpensive dress – I only used about two yards of fabric – as long as my time isn’t counted, LOL. (But I enjoy it, and there are certainly worse ways to spend my free time.) This is definitely unlike the typical 50s dresses I make for swing dancing, which usually take closer to 5 yards!

Out of the “antinami cabinet” (Scruff purchased a beautiful Ikea file cabinet for me, to prevent my “drowning in a pattern tsunami”; hence the nickname for the cabinet) came Vogue 1236:

20140713-210210-75730192.jpg The pattern’s fabric suggestions even include seersucker, so I’m thinking match made in heaven.

I have to say I really enjoyed making this one. Two main pieces, plus pockets and facings, made it really straightforward to make. To make it even simpler, I didn’t even choose to use the facings – instead I used bias tape turned inside to finish the neckline and armholes. This looks good (if I do say so myself), and gives me an extra 1/2″ of coverage, since I don’t turn it in as wide as the seam allowance on the facings would be.

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The pockets were inserted with an extra step or two than I’ve used before, and while at the time I considered it fussy, the pockets seem to want to be turned to the front, even though they are not tacked to the front, so there’s a benefit to the extra steps.

I also decided to finish the inside seams with the same binding as the neckline, so the dress would last longer as wash’n’wear – no raveling seams.

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Final assessment: definitely worth making, possibly even multiples of. I can see this being worn a lot… (Pardon the poor photo; it’s dark & pouring out and I just finished it, so this is what I have).

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I’ve been reading up on fitting, and actually adjusted the pattern for my sloping shoulders – no little “wing” sticking up, yet lingerie straps are covered. Considering it a success!

SewNews HotPatterns 1137 Sewalong

The big news according to Scruff is – I’ve joined the Dark Side and bought a Mac. Hopefully, that means fewer issues! This is the inaugural Mac post…

 

SewNews magazine is hosting a sewalong of HotPatterns 1137, the Riviera Summer Breeze tie front sleeveless top.

HotPatterns 1137 Riviera Summer Breeze Tops pattern envelopeSince it’s summer weather, and I had the pattern, I’ve joined. This is week two, and we’ve chosen our fabrics, decided whether to convert the top into a dress, and cut out all our pieces, as well as stitched one seam.

The reviews of this pattern indicate that’s it’s pretty straightforward to put together.  Having made a least a few tops (and many bodices, in the construction of dresses), I thought this would be a pretty simple sewalong! So far, it’s been more of a challenge than I expected, and I was already anticipating issues with with my fabric, since I usually use less slippery ones!

Some things for folks to consider when choosing this pattern:

  • you need a really light, drapey fabric, but not sheer unless you plan to wear something under;
  • there are several “join this piece” “to this piece” pattern pieces. Tip: the sheets are in order and connect to the next page, and it seemed to work best if the paper edges were abutted, not overlapped at all;
  • the pattern pieces look really weird! You cut an entire front, that is very oddly shaped because there will be gathers in what ends up being a dart on one side, and then you cut the drapey part that goes over, which looks like a diagonal half of a bodice, instead of the more standard vertical half. So expect to look at this one a while if you have any fitting adjustments to make; and
  • speaking of fitting adjustments, in an attempt to get my me-made garments better fitted to me, I did a lot of futzing with this oddly shaped pattern. I won’t know til later whether my adjustments were effective.

The fabric:

Poly "hammered satin" charmeuse

A poly “hammered satin” charmeuse from my stash

A poly “hammered charmeuse” from my stash. My adjusted pieces are all cut out and awaiting the next task.

In the meantime, a sneak peek at another project I’ll be sewing at the same time (not literally, Scruff, and my fingers usually make it without being sewn together too):

100% cotton seersucker

100% cotton seersucker

Wow, USA Special Olympics!

A big congrats out to my nephew, who was among the athletes representing New York State at the USA Special Olympics. It’s held every four years just like the world Olympics folks may be more familiar with.

This year it was in New Jersey, at several universities near Princeton. The athletes stayed in dorms, and I hear my nephew had a great time!!

He played in three events, Singles, Doubles, and Team Bocce, and came home with three medals: two silvers and a bronze!! Too exciting!

Huge congrats, Dana!!!

What a state (solid)

Well it’s been an up and down couple of months with my computer, mostly down, with a lot of the blue screens of death. Scruff finally decided he’d had enough, and decided it was best to replace the hard drive. We considered a solid state drive, but a decently-sized one is still beaucoup bucks, which I did not want to invest into this laptop. A large standard drive was inexpensive but Scruff felt it would be just as fragile as the current one. We wandered the aisles at Microcenter, and lo and behold, there was a terabyte hybrid drive, $100 – some parts are standard spinner, some are solid state (ie supah-fast!). After discovering this particular laptop practically required disassembly to replace the drive, Scruff dropped it off back at Microcenter and let them handle the physical installation. (They ran some diagnostics as well, and agreed the existing drive was bad.) It’s not quite ready for me to use, but soon I’ll be back online!!

Chocolate Strawberry Mousse Cake

So a colleague did me a big favor and I promised him a cake… He asked for a carrot cake, like I had made once before for a work event, and I said “sure, but I can make lots of cakes, carrot, chocolate, pumpkin, chocolate strawberry, coffee….”. He pondered a bit and came back to me with the selection of chocolate strawberry. I say “sure”, but in my head I’m like “yes!!! Fistpump! I have the perfect recipe!”, LOL!!

I have made this a few times before. It’s a VERY chocolatey cake, and fresh strawberries are the perfect sweet-tart counterpoint. This recipe is from “Death By Chocolate”, by Marcel Desaulniers, of The Trellis restaurant. (Side note: just googled that link and did not realize it was that close to me now that I’m back in the DC area. Anyone up for a road trip??!)

The first couple times I made this, I used block chocolate, chopping and chopping…. and if you want it ultra-fab and purist, go ahead and do that. I have discovered that good semisweet chocolate chips will work (good ones, not cheap ones), and that’s what I did here. Definitely pull your scale out – no need for extra chocolate because there’s already more than two pounds of it in this cake!! Oh, and if you have gluten-intolerant friends – no flour to be found. This cake has butter, cream, sugar, chocolate, eggs, and strawberries, nothing else, and it needs nothing else…

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Chocolate Strawberry Mousse Cake

Cake:
1/2 lb unsalted butter (2 tbsp of it melted)
8 oz semisweet chocolate, broken into 1/2-oz pieces
8 egg yolks
3/4 c sugar
4 egg whites

Mousse:
2 pints strawberries, stems removed
16 oz semisweet chocolate, broken into 1/2-oz pieces
4 oz white chocolate, broken into 1/2-oz pieces
6 egg whites
2 tbsp sugar
1 c heavy cream

Ganache:
1 c heavy cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp sugar
12 oz semisweet chocolate, broken into 1/2-oz pieces

Lightly coat the insides of three 9×1 1/2″ cake pans with melted butter. Line each pan with parchment, then lightly coat the parchment with more melted butter. (Blogger note: this is the 2 melted tbsp.) Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Heat 1 inch of water in the bottom half of a double boiler over medium heat. Place remaining butter and 8 ounces of semisweet chocolate in the top half of the double boiler. (Blogger note: I use a small saucepan and a stainless steel bowl here.) Tightly cover the top with film wrap. Allow to heat for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat, stir until smooth, and hold at room temperature. (Blogger note: this is hands down the single best method I’ve ever used for melting chocolate!)
Place the egg yolks and 3/4 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle. Beat on high until slightly thickened and lemon-colored, about 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat on high for an additional 2 minutes.
While the egg yolks are beating, whisk 4 egg whites in a large stainless steel bowl until stiff but not dry, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Using a rubber spatula, fold the melted chocolate mixture into the beaten egg yolk mixture. Add a quarter of the beaten egg whites and stir to incorporate, then gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans, spreading evenly, and bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool in the pans for 15 minutes. (During baking, the surface of the cakes will form a crust; this crust will normally collapse when the cakes are removed from the oven.) Invert 1 of the cakes onto the bottom of a springform pan. Invert the other 2 cakes onto cake circles. Remove parchment paper and refrigerate cakes for 30 minutes.
To prepare the chocolate strawberry mousse, reserve the 12 best-looking strawberries to decorate the top of the cake. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, purée 4 ounces of strawberries (12 medium-sized berries should yield 1/2 cup – 4 ounces – of purée). Set aside until needed. Refrigerate the remaining berries until needed (that includes the 12 berries for decoration).
Heat 1 inch of water in the bottom half of a double boiler over medium heat. Place 16 ounces of semisweet chocolate, the white chocolate, and the strawberry purée in the top half of the double boiler. Tightly cover the top with film wrap. Allow to heat for 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir until smooth. Transfer to a stainless steel bowl, using a rubber spatula to remove all of the melted chocolate mixture. Keep at room temperature until needed.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a balloon whip, whip the 6 egg whites on high until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Continue to whisk on high while gradually adding 2 tablespoons sugar. Whisk until stiff but not dry, about 30 seconds. Set aside at room temperature until needed.
Using a hand-held whisk, whip the heavy cream in a well-chilled stainless steel bowl until stiff. Fold a quarter of the egg whites into the melted chocolate mixture, then fold in the whipped cream. Now fold in the remaining egg whites. Set aside at room temperature until needed.

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Assemble the springform pan. Spread 1/2 cup of chocolate strawberry mousse onto the cake layer in the assembled springform pan. Arrange 1/2 the amount of reserved strawberries (not including the 12 for decoration), stem side down, into the mousse. (Blogger note: when I make this I always forget the he must have a really, really deep springform, the likes of which I’ve never seen, because even with smallish berries, there’s no way for me to pack two layers in there – so I end up with a top & bottom cake only. I made a smaller “scrap-pile-looks-messy-but-eat-up-cake” for the chef and Scruff, out of that cake, a little mousse, and berries. Scruff was happy!) The berries should be arranged in 2 rings: the first ring being 3/4 inch from the outside edge of the cake, and the second, inside ring, 3/4 inch away from the first. Distribute 3 cups of mousse over the berries, being careful to keep the berries in position. Holding the pan by the top rim, gently but firmly tap the bottom of the pan 2 to 3 times on your work surface (this will eliminate air pockets). Position a cake layer on top of the mousse, then repeat the process used on the first cake layer (1/2 cup mousse, remaining strawberries, and 3 more cups mousse). Top the mousse with the remaining cake layer and gently press into position. Refrigerate the cake for 2 hours (do not freeze).
To make the ganache, heat the heavy cream, butter, and sugar in a 2 1/2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil. Place the 12 ounces semisweet chocolate in a stainless steel bowl. Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Refrigerate 1 cup of the ganache for at least 1 hour. Keep the remaining ganache at room temperature until needed.
Remove the sides of the springform pan (do not remove the bottom of the pan from the cake; this will make it easier to handle later). Use a cake spatula to smooth and fill in the sides of the cake with 2 to 3 tablespoons of room-temperature ganache. Evenly spread the remaining amount of this ganache over the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate the cake for 1 hour.
Transfer the chilled cup of ganache to a pastry bag fitted with a large-sized star tip. (Blogger note: I put the warm ganache in a decorating bottle and chilled it in there.) Remove the cake from the refrigerator. Pipe a circle of 12 evenly spaced stars along the outside edge of the top of the cake. Place a strawberry, stem side down, into each ganache star. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes.
Cut the cake with a serrated slicer, heating the blade of the slicer under hot running water before making each slice. Allow the slices to come to room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before serving. (Blogger note: Coming to room temp is good in theory, but I didn’t find many willing to wait that long! However, it’s a rich enough cake that you can force yourself to eat it slowly and your last few bites will have the texture Marcel created here.)

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If you’re looking for more experience with simple and complicated chocolate recipes, “Death by Chocolate” is definitely worth picking up. As you can see, he goes into plenty of detail so you can get it right! :-)

More to come…

I’m very back logged on writing right now! I apologize and promise more to come. I’ve made a platform bed from Ikea bookcases (still need to do the headboard), sewed some baby clothes for a colleague, have joined a couple of sew-alongs (new work tops on the way), and am nearly done with a simple sleeveless dress.

Tonight, got supplies laid in for a chocolate strawberry cake I promised another colleague. It’s not a single-evening cake, especially when I’m not getting home until well after 7, but there will be a post. Probably Saturday for that one.

Not enough birds! But, Scruff has set up a webcam for me, that auto-answers a Skype call – I can call any time, and it will turn on and I’ll be able to see whatever’s at my feeder, even when I’m not home!! How cool is that?!

Here’s a photo of the baby outfit. I’d never sewn seersucker before and found it quite enjoyable to work with (now I think I need a summer top out of seersucker!). The little hat reverses to the stripe like the bloomers. More of a pattern review in another blog post later.

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Back Online

Whoops!

Sorry about that “Redirect Loop” message you may have been seeing.

The hosting provider made some requested account changes, but mistakenly set things up so that anyone trying to reach BirdsOfAKettle.com would be redirected to BirdsOfAKettle.com.   You can see where that might be a problem….

It’s fixed now and the site is back online.  Happy reading!

- Amy’s Tech Support

Strike a chord

Wow. I was researching some equipment selections for my Bonneville and somehow came across this piece by Wendy Moon. What an incredible piece of writing. I am thankful I have no “tIM” in my life, but the rest… definitely pause for thought!  I have also been too much a passenger in my life, although that changed a few years ago. I agree one of the reasons I love my LME (pronounced Ellemy – the name for my Bonnie) so much is exactly the feeling of being in control of my own experience, and the feeling of being “in” the world as I drive through, not isolated from it – believe me, 60 mph on a stock Bonneville is not at all the same experience as the same speed in a Prius, or any other car I’ve ridden in or driven.

A must read!

http://riderchick.wordpress.com/2009/02/05/i-am-a-motorcycle/

 

Another focus…

As I’ve gone through various events in my life, some good, some less so, but hopefully all learning experiences, I find more and more that I “need” less and less.

While Project 333 isn’t quite a reality for me yet, I’m inspired by it in many ways, along with reading a few minimalism blogs (like The Other Side of Complexity, zen habits, and The Miminalists).

One place where it’s in place (now to practice maintaining!) is my home desk. At work, I’ve had a standing desk for more than 6 months now – definitely enough time to say it works for me! Recently I set a standing desk up at home, using one of those closet organizer shelving systems. So far, so good, and I definitely went minimalistic:

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Another area I’m working on that is kitchen items. I love kitchen items! My twin sister does too, so maybe it’s just a thing… in any case, I’m clearing out quite a bit of stuff as my husband and I continue consolidating our “two piles”…

In that vein – a giveaway!! No, not some regular this-blog-is-sponsored-by giveaway, but just me sharing. I know many of my friends also like kitchen items. I have two sets of mini dishes, great for parties or cute presentation of desserts etc., that are still in the packaging. Way old for returning but they somehow never got used…. Watch for pics soon – if you want them, post a comment here! (You’ll need to be local, or pay for shipping, or we’ll see each other in person in the next month or two – I want these out of the house. :-))

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