Focii

My main interests are birding/birding photography, sewing, and fitness/nutrition, plus my current obsession with developing my motorcycle skills. This isn’t to say other topics won’t appear… It’s not as if these aren’t diverse enough – you should see the looks I get when I go into the sewing shop with my hi-viz jacket, helmet in hand! LOL

The immediate focus the next couple of weeks will be sewing! The Original Sewing & Quilt Expo is coming up in about another week, which has me really excited to warm up the Juki!

I took home ec in 8th grade, part of which involved sewing a fuzzy pillow and a pair of sweat pants with too-tight ankle elastic. Since then, I’ve been sewing off and on, mostly off, but the last few years have been increasing quite a bit – ranging the gamut from a simple coverup

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to my wedding dress, which is another post entirely but sneak peek:

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I’ve given myself a goal to end up with 50-80% of my clothes being made by my own hands, starting with a few tops, and learning to do pants.

However, in spite of that goal…. I’ve yet to take a sewing class! I know the expo classes are pretty short, comparatively, but in two days I get to take 9 different classes/seminars on various aspects of garment sewing! As a pretty-much-self-taught, calling-older-sister-over-the-phone-taught-sewist (which BTW, seems to have become the preferred term over sewer or even seamstress)…. this is very exciting! Stay tuned for reports and adventures!

A lifer!!! Snowy Owl

If you’ve been keeping up with the news lately, and you’re anywhere on the Atlantic coast, you may have heard about the Snowy Owl irruption. There’s an abundance of lemmings this year, leading to an abundance of Snowy Owls… and when there are too many they move south to look for more territory. Of course as it warms they’ll head back north but for now… they’re in “all the wrong places” and you might just get lucky enough to see one (or two, or three, or heck, if you’re near Assateague I hear there are five!).

In any case, as several attempts to see a Snowy Owl in DC (which I later learned was hit by a bus, put in rehab, and is doing well (follow her on Twitter @DCSnowyOwl), I found out that there was another one hanging out at, of all places, the mostly-closed-for-renovations Springfield Mall in northern Virginia.

For those of you not local… Springfield Mall is in the heart of a massive DC suburb with a set of highway ramps unaffectionately known as the mixing bowl. Not really a place you’d expect to find a stray Arctic wanderer, but hey, I’d seen photgraphic evidence!

Scruff drove me down on a Friday evening. We spent two hours circling the mall, with no luck – it had been the Tuesday night, Wednesday night, and Thursday night! I heard the next day it was seen again on Saturday, so Sunday I drove down myself and spent the hours just before sunset driving around and around the mall. I drove to the top of several of the parking garages, when suddenly, in a mall with only three stores open and pretty-much-empty garages, I saw about 5 cars on the top level. I knew immediately I was about to see a Snowy!

I parked, and went over to a couple with binocs, and they helpfully pointed out where the bird was perched in the distance (birders are friendly like that).

 

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After staring gleefully for a bit, I followed the crowd down the parking garage to the open lot right near Target – and was in range close enough for a great shot with my 200mm lens! So without further ado here’s good shot of my Snowy Owl sighting. 🙂

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Carrot Cake for a celebration

Last week a colleague had a birthday coming, and the group’s tradition is to have the birthday person choose take-out, then we put in a group order, with the others buying the birthday person’s lunch, and someone tries to make a dessert the birthday person would like. This time, it was carrot cake, and when the holler over the cubicle wall “Amy, do you know how to make carrot cake?” came… this recipe immediately came to mind. Everyone seemed to like it, and plus, my husband hadn’t ever had my carrot cake, and since I made him one too – I was granted “bestest wife ever” status! LOL If you like a carrot cake with LOTS of carrots, give this one a try.

 

Amy’s Carrot Cake (adapted from Moosewood Desserts)

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Step 1 – prepare the carrots

5 c shredded carrots, parsnips, or a combination
1 ½ c firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 ¾ c water (if added the optional canned pineapple, use up to maybe ¾ c juice)
1 c raisins

Combine Step 1 ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes then remove from heat and let cool completely.

Step 2 – After carrots are cool, preheat the oven to 300*

3 c white whole wheat flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
2 c chopped macadamia nuts (optional)

Whisk all Step 2 ingredients in a bowl large enough to hold the dry stuff, and later, also the carrot mixture. Be sure you’ve preheated the oven, then grease and flour a Bundt cake pan.

Step 3 – Mix and bake

1 egg
1 ½ tsp vanilla
1 can pineapple tidbits, well-drained (optional)

Beat the egg, then combine all Step 3 ingredients together and stir them into the carrot mixture. Add the carrot mixture to the bowl of dry ingredients and mix just until you don’t see any more dry flour. Transfer to the Bundt pan. There may be a smidge too much batter, so you might a need to fill a couple of muffin cups or something. Bake approximately an hour, until a knife test comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a serving plate and let cool completely.

 

ICING

16 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 c heavy cream, COLD
1 ½ tsp vanilla
1 cup confectioner’s sugar

Beat first three ingredients until smooth and light. Stir in the confectioner’s sugar with a spatula until it’s mostly incorporated, then beat with and electric mixer until the mixture holds stiff peaks, then put it on the cake however you like. Depending on how much icing you like, this may be halved.

Planning ahead

It’s easy to say “I’m going to eat well this week”… But when you’re sick, tired, sick and tired, or just out of your routine, eating out seems easier. I wish it didn’t, because in reality, it probably takes just as long to get a table, order, and have it delivered to you, as it does to make something.
But while restaurant food can taste good, statistics show the likelihood of it actually being good for you are very slim.

Last week I ate lunch out a few times last week, and while the sandwiches were tasty, I noticed I was much hungrier in the evening than after my self-prepared lunches. Probably the lack of fiber, but in case, I vowed this week to get my lunches made in advance!

So over the weekend I spent an hour and a half and made 9 salads, five full size for myself, and four smaller ones for my husband, who usually has a sandwich with it.

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Mine are pretty big (like my friend Rii, I’ve taken to inviting “Hugh Jass” to meals on a regular basis): greens, zukes, cukes, peppers, black beans, steamed broccoli, carrots, roasted beets. They take me a bit of time to eat, but I stand at my desk all day anyway!

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I’m way less likely to have that afternoon energy lull when I have these. I’m trying to remember that, LOL, when I just don’t feel like spending the time to make them. It’s nice during the week when I can just grab a box, too!

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A radical idea for the 21st century

When Scruff and I got married, he didn’t have a dryer in the house. He isn’t necessarily opposed to dryers, but hadn’t had one in about 15 years. Partly because he couldn’t make one fit in the basement, partly because he was getting by without, so why bother?

I told him “I sew. I need to prewash and dry. I need a dryer!!”. I ordered one, a really nice one that matches the new washer he ended up having to get fairly recently. (The previous washer was old enough to still have a metal tag labeling it as made in US!)

By measurements, it fit in space we created for it next to the washer. The delivery folks had had no problem getting the washer into the house; however, the dryer wouldn’t fit through the outside door and couldn’t be brought in.

I’ve now gone 4 1/2 months without a dryer. A couple a times we’ve gone to the laundromat to dry my washing… but not very many. Hanging seems to work ok, but I will be researching better racks for sheets.

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Towels and clothes are a little “crispy” hung to dry, which I’m sort of getting used to (and honestly, the crispness goes away as you wear or use the item).

I’m beginning to think I don’t need one after all. It fits more with my environmentalist tendencies, and Scruff doesn’t mind either way…. so for now, we’re not getting a dryer.

My concern – and if you sew, please proffer opinions! – is prewashing yardage. I’m thinking that they may need to go to the laundromat dryer once, to get the preshrinking in. And I’d like to sew more with wool… I’ve heard a steam dryer is great for pretreating it. What would be a good alternative?

Birds too

Watch this site for bird photos too! I used to have a large number up on a blog that was hacked, and I don’t have many up now, but I plan to add more.

In the meantime, it’s Superb Owl Sunday!!! Whoo-whoo-whoo’s your favorite?

Gotta put some love out for the @DCSnowyOwl, in recovery at City Wildlife. And then, ’cause it’s kinda nice to have a photo I took myself, here’s a Barred Owl at Lake Martin Cypress Preserve in Louisiana:

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Redefining “treat”

This is a really tough one for me. I grew up eating as healthy as mom knew to do, and treats were generally small and reserved for birthdays and holidays. (Before you feel too sorry for me – there were ten of us plus foster siblings, so there usually wasn’t a month without a birthday!) As I grew older, it seemed treat foods came more often, but they were always sugary – my sister’s beautiful and delicious cakes that were always worth the anticipation, ice cream cakes, homemade ice cream…. holiday pies, Christmas cookies….

Ok, whew, maybe they weren’t so reserved after all! In any case, once I moved out on my own, sweets were easier to get, and I didn’t have someone regulating them. I of course know the logic of eating sweets and the science behind not eating them, but many of us fight sweet tooths and I’m no stranger to that war!
As part of the WLC challenge, I’ve strictly limited sweets, so I don’t lose points (ah, the benefit of the challenge! Additional reserve strength for my willpower!). However, once a week the rules allow an alcoholic drink.

I’m hardly a drinker; I’ve been called a lightweight and that’s really ok. But now two+ weeks in, I’d like a treat that doesn’t “cost”. There’s no worry of me going overboard – I tend to get sleepy before I get drunk, and besides, with the adorable Mason jar shot glasses I found…. The serving is well-portioned! 🙂
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I still want chocolate, LOL, but until I figure out one I like that’s acceptable on the challenge, it’s out for 6 more weeks.

Hot Patterns 1133

Plain & Simple Fitted T Redux

Decided to try making a t-shirt for the first time. I considered a nice knit fabric with some sheer stripes that I love, but ended up using a cheap knit from the G St discount table – no matter, it still looks great for a first try knit top! Love this pattern!

As for the instructions, I had to guess which sleeve went to which side as they are not labeled, and the diagrams did not say. Since the sleeve pieces are not front-to-back symmetrical, these really could be in wrong, but my fabric was very forgiving.

The one additional item I should mention is that the sleeve is snug at the elbow, so if you have any forearm muscle at all – measure and adjust!

It has an interesting back seam to help give it a bit of shape:

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And the front view:

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Burda 7108 – done!

Finished the dress in time for the party! It was my best invisible zip ever so I was pretty happy about that. Making the normal adjustments though, left it just a little roomy in the tush – perhaps because this was labeled plus size, and I was on the low end of the pattern sheet, vs regular, where I’m near the largest size, had something to do with it. It wasn’t enough for me to re-do anything over, but thankfully I did pay attention to sizing early enough to take out four inches at the waist, by curving the side seams just a little more (I find this unusual for a Burda for me). That would have been significant enough that I would have considered wearing something else!

For the rank beginners, if you’re used to folding darts… this pattern has you cut it in, but doesn’t tell you until several steps in, so definitely read ahead.

I took the sleeve pattern from the jacket, trimmed and inch down either side, and shortened to elbow length. It eased into the dress armscye quite well and came out just the way I wanted!

This was taken after the party… hopefully my exhaustion isn’t too obvious, but I forgot to get a photo before we left!
 

 

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Burda 7108

Not in keeping with my goals, but in keeping with the time I’ve left myself (gallivanted to NC, & stayed an extra day, instead of sewing, LOL), the first make of the year is a dress! I fell in love with the lace fabric

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(Remind me later to tell y’all about Mingo’s totally-but-unexpectedly-her-dress-to-be! We picked up fabric for that too!)

Once I got back, I cut lining pieces and started sewing. So far, so good.

To be continued. The party is Thursday! 🙂