Wednesday, October 31, 2007

happenings: where did october go?

October just wasn't my month, so I am more than happy to bid adieu to the last thirty-one days and start fresh tomorrow. I wouldn't say anything particularly bad has happened, but the grey clouds that have so permanently settled over Seattle have done a number on my personal wellbeing as well. Also this last month, I buried the final memories of relationships past and reevaluated a current one, all in hopes to leave what is, is, and to refuse to carry around such heavy emotion (baggage, anyone?!?).

In lighter news:

Reading: The United States of Arugula. Absolutely loving this book. I think I must have a vast pocket in my brain made specifically to tuck away facts, history, and really anything else I can learn, about food.

Sewing: After a couch cushion trial, I want to take a break and sew some garments instead. I've picked a couple of patterns from BurdaStyle (free!), and I've prepared some yards of fabric to reattempt the shirt.

Dreaming: About an ex marrying a woman named Bolo (no idea), being trapped in a cafeteria lined with coolers of fried eggs and raw bacon, and being attacked by a salamander-esque snake that licked my face like a dog. I was tired when I woke up--so busy!

Growing Obsession: Mental_Floss and other trivia sources. I enjoy its lightheartedness, randomness, and occasional usefulness (...why no, I didn't know the link between dalmatians and fire stations!). I've bought two of their books and read their blog daily. No aspirations of winning free beer or bar tabs, but I am just a learning kind of girl.

Cooking: Loving shrimp lately. Quick half-hour marinade of olive oil, lemon zest and juice, dried oregano and crushed garlic, 4-minute broil, and dinner is served.

Activity: I have started a running jogging regimen based on the success of my sister, Kelly. I don't think I see any half marathons in my future (she's run several!), but it was a grand excuse to buy a new pair of running shoes and a svelte pair of black running tights. I'd wear them everyday if I could--so comfortable!

Looking forward to: I will be checking out SAM, reconnecting with an old friend over lobster, seeing Feist perform at the Paramount, and going to see the movie Lars and the Real Girl.

Goal: I type this heavily, as I hesitate to put such a concrete goal out there for looming Internet eyes to see, but I am going to do my best to write at least one post a day for the month of November. Notice I didn't say a good post, so keep that in mind! I'm not patting myself on the back, though--T is writing a novel!.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Biking the Iron Horse Trail

The Iron Horse Trail is what's called a "rail trail," a trail that follows the path of railroad tracks that have since been removed. If you stay on the Iron Horse from Seattle, you'll end up in St. Louis; however, we made a little 20-ish mile round trip as a teambuilding day for the office.

If you start the trail as suggested via the Annette Lake Trail (alternatively, just past the tunnel there's a parking lot right at the trail), be prepared to essentially carry your bike up a mountain for a mile. Quite plainly, it was miserable, and I have the bruises to prove it! It's an often winding path, spotted with tree stumps, roots and slippery rocks. To not leave you feeling completely discouraged, there is a waterfall and the accompanying calming sound of running water, if you can hear it over your cursing and clanging of your bike!

The coolest part of the trail? The tunnel! The tunnel is a 2.3 mile freezing, pitch-black jaunt under a mountain. Within about 20 feet outside either end of it, you can see your breath. It was so cold in there! It was also very dark. We were warned by our experienced co-worker to bring fleece and most importantly, a flashlight and/or headlight. Needless to say, I was the only one who remembered, so my mini-maglite was the only source of illumination we had for the three of us. After we calmed down from this realization, we viewed it as the perfect teambuilding challenge. My boss went first, holding the mini-flashlight. The experienced one of the group volunteered to trail last, luckily leaving me the spot in the middle (whew!).

The first time through felt like the longest 2.3 miles I can remember. We could spy the other end of the tunnel, but the size of the opening never seemed to get any bigger no matter how fast we pedaled. We were randomly doused with water streaming through the ceiling and splashed with the subsequent puddles on the trail. We each ran into the walls once--we laughed, though. And despite a low-battery scare, we made it through successfully both times!

Above, my boss
and I re-emerging from
the tunnel for a photo-op.

Most of the trail going east from the tunnel follows the perimeter of "Stump Lake." If you've never driven through Snoqualmie Pass, just see the pictures below and you'll see why this manmade lake has earned this less-than-lovely name.

Feel like taking your own trip now? As a quick guide, here is the the list of things to bring for this or a similar fall biking trip:

· A lunch

· A snack (trail mix, power bar, etc.)

· Water bottle

· Rain jacket

· Rain pants

· Fleece

· Warm hat

· Light weight gloves

· A few layers of light weight clothing that you can add or subtract depending on the weather.

· A flashlight (a headlamp would be better if you have one)

· Camera (optional)

· Daypack to put all this stuff in

As a final note, thanks to my coworker for the pictures and the above pack list!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Finished: Butterick B5100

Butterick B5100 wasn't an item I was particularly excited about sewing, but I was lured by the pattern's choice of words, specifically "express" and "one hour." Granted, it took me much longer than an hour, but as with most projects, looking back I see how it could have been so much faster!

I made view B, and the only change I made from the instructions was a shorter hemline. I also made the belt, but I don't really like it and probably won't wear it. The tunic/dress is obviously very plain and sensible, but I think it will be a good layering piece for work, maybe over a long-sleeved shirt, with tights, boots, and a long-belted sweater.

What slowed me down?
1) Cutting knit. Woe is me when it comes to cutting fabric, but it is just plain not my favorite thing to do. And to think, I thought it was ironing I hated this whole time!

2) Seam binding. I was told this wasn't necessary with knits, yet the pattern called for it. Explicit instructions, paired with my vast inexperience with sewing anything, persuaded me to hunker down and figure it out (note: this occupied a lot of thought Saturday. Really sad.) Between this page and this book, I managed to "finish" my seams, though I have no idea if it's the right way.

What did I learn?
1) How to understitch. I learned that even if a pattern doesn't call for understitching, to always do it anyway. What is it? After sewing on the facing, you are of course left with the seam allowance. Trim the seam, then sew the trimmed/leftover seam allowance to the facing (not the garment!). The stitches aren't going to show, but it holds the seam allowance to the facing, so when you flip the facing to the inside of the garment, you are left with a professional, "neat," and bulk-free seam.

What's my next project?
Sewing cushions and/or pillows for the back of my couch. The cushions that came with the couch are too lumpy to be comfortable, plus I'm excited to use a bold green and white print to liven up my beige and off-white living room.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwich with Fig and Honey

The title says it all, does it not? This recipe from Cooking Light perhaps sounds strange, but the combination of ingredients have such a delicate balance of flavors. It's not too sweet, not too savory, but 100% decadent (without the guilt from grabbing a pastry at the coffee shop!)

I wouldn't change a thing from the recipe, but here's the quick rundown of what I did specifically:

-Using a spoon, mix a couple tablespoons of crumbled goat cheese with plenty of lemon zest and a good squeeze of honey to make it all stick together.

-It doesn't really spread easily, so use your (clean!)fingers to pat it down on a slice of cinnamon bread. I used Cinnabon brand cinnamon bread--I didn't miss the raisins.

-Spread a layer of fig preserves over the goat cheese and top with thinly sliced fresh basil (never substitute dried). I used about 3-4 leaves.

-Cook in a frying pan coated with nonstick cooking spray on medium-medium high, using a heavy pot to weigh the sandwich down and "smoosh" it together (I found my tea kettle filled with water was the perfect size).

-After cooking sandwich for 2-3 minutes each side, slice in half to make two triangles and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Note: Sorry about the bad picture...I was running late for the bus, so I had to snap quick!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

French Onion Soup

It's been cold and rainy all week, so I wanted to make a simple, warm, one-pot dish for dinner. Since I am forever crushing on Tyler Florence, I browsed his recipes from Tyler's Ultimate and stumbled upon his version of French onion soup. I say "his version," but after some research, I found that his recipe is more or less the standard.

The best part of making this soup? I made a half-batch, which means that I only needed 1/2 cup of red wine, leaving the rest of the bottle for me to drink (convenient!). After having a bowl of soup, some bites of Italian sausage, and a bottle of wine, I have to admit scooping some onions from the pot of soup and piling them on a slice of leftover baguette was a brilliant idea (but you didn't hear it from me!).

French Onion Soup: Half-batch Version
Heavily inspired by Tyler Florence's recipe

1/4 c unsalted butter
2-2 1/4 pounds onions,* sliced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
salt and pepper
1/2 c red wine**
1 heaping T all-purpose flour
1 quart high quality beef broth
baguette, sliced
1/4 pound Gruyere

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and salt and pepper and cook until the onions are very soft and caramelized (this took about 35 minutes for me). Add the wine, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the wine has evaporated and the onions are dry, about 5 minutes. Dust the onions with the flour and give them a stir. Turn the heat down to medium low so the flour doesn't burn, and cook for 10 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste. Now add the beef broth, bring the soup back to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

In the meantime, grate the Gruyere (or peel into ribbons using a vegetable peeler, as I did) and top the baguette slices (be generous!).
Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet in a single layer. Broil until bubbly and golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.

Top off your bowls of soup with the cheesy baguette, and you're done!

*I looked all over the Internet to find out what kind of onions to use, and no one knows. Yellow (non-sweet, i.e. not Vidalias) seemed to be the most common recommendation, followed by red onions. I chose to use both--two yellow and one red.
**I used a mid-range Washington Merlot, though any reasonably dry, red wine that you would drink (important!) would be delicious.

Monday, October 1, 2007

I'm sewing a shirt

...and I'm stuck! Apparently, learning to sew from books and blogs isn't quite the cake walk I had hoped it was. I am sewing view B from Simplicity 3751, a gathered, belted blouse with a scoop neckband, which has turned out to be quite literally a pain in the neck.

Let me explain: I simply cannot figure out how to attach the darn thing! What's frustrating, is that I know it has to be so simple. I sewed the bodice, attached the sleeves, did the gathering...all without a hitch. I'm so close to being finished but cannot!

So, in the meantime my mom's inbox is full of scanned pattern directions and pictures of my shirt, as pictured above. I still want to complete something, however, so I am working on an easier project, a knit-tunic-sort-of-dress-thing (Butterick 5100, view B). I have my pieces ready to cut, so after I run to the store to buy matching thread, I hope I can get this project finished by next Monday.