for the time being i will keep my old posts here at blogger, but i have imported all content to wordpress. please don't abandon me! to stay updated, head on over to my new space and follow me there. thanks!

—lisa g.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

magic chocolate ice cream

really. it is magic.

we used to have an ice cream maker and i dutifully pulled it out every summer to churn out some of the homemade stuff. it was always good and usually eaten in a day. then about two years ago i discovered the canister had sprung a leak. it was one of those freeze the canister for 24 hours then churn type of machines. of course we could buy a replacement canister... just haven't gotten around to it. since then i've always wondered if i could cheat and make ice cream without the ice cream maker. maybe just whip up some heavy cream and fold it into a custard or some other base and just freeze it as is. i always wondered...

then. then i picked up the "summer entertaining" special from cooks illustrated and what do you know, but those geniuses came up with a recipe for no ice cream maker ice cream. what? how did they know?! can it really be that creamy? can it?! i doubted. but i had to try it out and let me tell you, those folks just don't disappoint. 

instead of using a custard based ice cream, this recipe combines sweetened condensed milk and melted chocolate then whipped cream folded into the mix. then freeze. that's it! here's how it goes together:

1 tsp instant coffee or espresso powder
1 T hot water
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
1/2 c sweetened condensed milk
1/2 t vanilla extract
pinch salt
1 1/4 c cold heavy cream

first, combine the instant coffee or espresso powder and hot water. or, if you're like me and hate to run out and buy just one thing i probably won't have much use for, combine 1 T ground coffee with 1 T hot milk. let dissolve (or steep) for 5 mins. i'm sure the espresso powder is better, so you should probably do that. or not. i won't tell.

combine the chocolate and sweetened condensed milk and espresso (or strained milk coffee) and microwave until melted, stirring every 10 seconds..

stir in vanilla and salt.

while that cools, whip the cream to soft peaks.

in a large bowl, whisk together chocolate mixture and 1/3 of the whipped cream until combined.

then gently fold in the remaining whipped cream.

pour into a freezer-safe container and freeze for 6 hours.

ack! 6 hours?! it'll be worth it, i promise! to hold you over, lick the bowl clean. i won't judge. once those 6 long excruciating hours have passed... scoop and swoon... 

it doesn't hurt to have a warm chocolate chip cookie on hand.

Monday, June 20, 2011

the body is round... the pattern is flat...

[i know people tried to comment on a previous entry and the comments wouldn't post for some reason... i changed a few settings so hopefully that is fixed. so sorry! i'm new to this... bear with me! —lisa g.] 

i don't know what inspires you to sew, but for me it's a combination of cost and fit. i don't know that i have ever bought a dress that i loved, fit well and was at a price i was comfortable with. sure i could take dresses to a tailor but, like so many things in life, i think i'll just do it myself...

i found this fabric on clearance and loved the colors. it might be a little "drapery" looking but i think the bold graphics make it just modern enough for my tastes.

i wanted a dress pattern that didn't have too much detail or seaming because it would just get lost in the busy pattern. i had a particular style in mind and after looking and looking i decided on simplicity 2692 (the one shown in green, minus the really long front tied sash).

i like that it's gathered in the bodice yet doesn't have any crazy details. i hadn't made this silhouette before so i knew i definitely needed to start with a muslin to test run the fit. boy am i glad i did!!! i generally have to blend about three sizes to fit my body: small on top, slight leftover baby pooch and hips that just did not go back to their original location after having four kids! (yes, four... you read that correctly. what if i told you they are all between the ages of 2 1/2 and 7? did you just spit out your coffee? wipe off your computer screen and keep reading...)

once i made the muslin and tried it on i immediately realized the following: 1) i really do hate a side zip, 2) my ribcage does not narrow much and 3) the bust will need to be dramatically reduced! fortunately, numbers 1 and 2 are easy to remedy. 

to move the zip to the center back (CB) i will simply not cut the back pieces on the fold and i will add a seam allowance to accommodate a CB zipper. then i added room to the bottom of the midriff pieces by not tapering them in quite so much. easy enough!

now a good fit in the bust area is slightly more challenging. i started by taking room out of the center front (CF) seam, about 3/4" then i redrew the neckline. just doing that solved most of my fit issues. to shape the bodice further (or un-shape it, in my case...), i made an inverted dart from the fullest part of the bust narrowing to the shoulder and midriff seams, pinched up that part of the pattern piece then smooshed the paper flat and taped it down. sounds real technical, i know. since this is a gathered bodice there is enough wiggle room to fine-tune the fit as i stitch the pieces together. if i were working with a smooth, darted bodice or princess seams this would need to be much, much more precise! if, after making these adjustments, the shoulder or side seams have been distorted, simply re-draw the lines to straighten, or true, the seams. don't forget to adjust the shoulder and side seams of the back pieces to match.

with all that work out of the way i am super excited to start cutting the real material and begin sewing in earnest! it does seem like i had to do a lot of fussing and manipulation over this pattern (i almost gave up to work on something easier!), but really that's just part of the process. how satisfying is it to take the extra prep time and come up with a garment that is custom fit? to take flat fabric and flat pattern pieces and make them work on a curved body? it doesn't matter if you're an 8-10-12 or a 14-16-18; making your own garments is all about the fit. the tiniest manipulations are truly the difference between an okay dress and one that you are really proud to own and wear.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

the summer, you-don't-need-a-pattern-to-make-this! skirt

well the introductions are over, so it's time to start a project. how about a skirt? better yet... a skirt without a pattern!

okay, summertime has come late to new england but i so despise being hot. skirts are my go-to solution to stay as cool as possible. and they must be comfy... no constraining waistbands! so, i'm going with a cotton skirt (easy to take care of and breathable) gathered onto a wide elastic waistband (fully expandable! yay!). we've all seen skirts like this but i can't bear to spend $30+ on a skirt i could make myself for half the price. they're cute and i love the waist-cinching style so it's inevitable that i would make my own. okay, enough chatter...

here's what you need:
wide, 1 1/2"-2" elastic (enough to go around your waist plus 1")
1 1/2 yd material, depending on the length of your skirt
1 1/2 yd lining, if needed

start by measuring your waist and adding 1"—this is the length to cut your elastic. if your elastic seems likely to unravel, zig-zag the cut ends first. then bring the ends together, sew using a straight stitch at 5/8", backstitch at both ends. then stitch each side of the seam to the band so the seam allowance will lie flat. slip it on, make sure all is good.

now, to determine how much fabric you need for the skirt, measure from where the bottom of the waistband will sit down to the desired hemline. add in a 5/8" seam allowance for the top and 5/8" for the hemline. since i'm working with a medium weight cotton i will use a deeper hem than if i were using a lightweight rayon or silky material. for something lighter weight you may only need 1/4" for a rolled hem, so adjust accordingly. my skirt length will be 18" so i need 19 1/4" total.

how wide to cut your fabric depends on how gathered and pouffy you want your skirt to be. a lighter material will require more fabric to look full than my choice of cotton. if you are unsure, you many want to find one of your own skirts or dresses that is gathered at the waist and simply measure around the bottom edge. this will give you a good estimate. the width of my fabric is about 42" and i will simply use the entire width. so, on the fold, cut two rectangles: the skirt length by half the skirt width (19 1/4" x 21"). when unfolded you will have 2, 42" long rectangles giving you a total skirt hem of 84". still with me? if you need a lining, cut it out to the same width but 1" shorter. 

if you've made a skirt before there is nothing new here. first, sew up the side seams and finish the seam allowances with a zig-zag stitch or serged edge. repeat with the lining material, if using.

with the right side of the fabric up, stitch two rows of basting stitches around the top edge of the skirt fabric at 5/8" and 1/4" making sure not to cross your stitches when you get all the way around. once gathered the basting stitches will need to be removed so it may be helpful to use a contrasting color of thread so it's easy to spot and remove later. if you are lining your skirt, simply pin the lining to the wrong side of the main fabric and baste through both layers, gathering it all in one step.

with pins, mark the top edge your skirt into 4 equal parts (side seams, center front, center back) and do the same with your waistband. pin the skirt to the inside lower edge of the waistband, matching your markings. the right side of the fabric will be facing the inside of the waistband. to position it correctly, line up your lower basting thread with the bottom edge of the elastic. 

pull up the bobbin thread to gather your skirt. adjust fullness and pin as necessary all the way around. 

with the gathers down, sew the elastic and fabric together with a zig-zag stitch. i set my stitch length to 1.5 and my zig-zag width at near it widest setting. do a test on a piece of scrap fabric until you have the right settings. line up the edge of the elastic with the left side of the presser foot as a guide. be sure to remove the pins as you stitch. then stitch around a second time a little farther in so as to catch the edge of the fabric to reduce any fraying.

here is the outside

here is the inside

remove the basting stitches and try on your skirt to determine the final length. hem your skirt and you're done! 

how easy was that? sure, you could add tiers, ruffles, lace, trim, pockets... this skirt could be made numerous ways and i probably will be making this one over and over again! i love having a few casual skirts in the closet to help a gal feel just a little put together because sometimes a skirt, a t-shirt, a swipe of lip gloss and a prayer is all i have. chocolate helps... but that's a story for another day.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

hey there

so, i have decided to join the ranks of the domestic bloggers. i have been cooking, baking and sewing for years and my work is so often met with a "you made that? i could never do that myself!" well i'd like to show you that you can make your own marshmallows or sew your own skirt or bake your own bread. i don't have fancy machines or granite counter tops or nannies to take care of my kids or large spaces to work in... it's just me and my perfectionist nature. if i can make it better (or cheaper) than something i can buy i will! i'm not writing this to show-off but to show you how to make these things yourself. so stop by every once in a while to say "hey". i'd love to hear from you. :)