Saturday, March 20, 2010

Doris Day Redux

I have lusted after a leopard print jacket ever since I say Doris Day in Pillow Talk years and years and years ago. Do you remember the film? Doris plays her usual annoyingly spunky girl-next-door, but with a very sophisticated wardrobe to suite her New York City interior decorator persona. At some point in the film she wears a leopard skin coat (and a hat to match if I'm not mistaken) and I've been smitten ever since. To add fuel to the fire, my Barbie (well not exactly a Barbie -- I had her decidedly less glamorous friend Midge, while my sister Joanne had a bendable Barbie) sported a full length leopard skin coat and, like Doris, she also had a hat to match. I think they were both going too far with the hat (there was something slightly pimpish about them), but the coats were fabulous. I've never had the confidence to acquire and wear my own leopard skin coat but I do believe my latest sewing project has at least a hint of animal print to it.

This is Burda 7497 and I am pleased with the results. Try as I might, I couldn't get my camera to take an effective shot of the back. This is unfortunate since the back is the area that transcends the jacket from the mundane to the interesting. There is a back yoke with a large centre pleat and two smaller pleats radiating out from centre. The pattern called for single welt pockets and I found Burda's instructions to be confusing so went with my tried and true method -- Claire Shaeffer's. I also used bound buttonholes rather than regular. Because of the back pleats you cannot machine bag the lining -- the lining is not attached to the jacket around the hem.

Even though it isn't really an animal print fabric, I think it has that look. The fabric and style are a bit out of my comfort zone (black, and black and then more black and structured) however, I am looking forward to wearing the jacket with my black skinny jeans and flats.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fabulous Bread

Isn't this a beautiful loaf of bread? It's hot out of the Dutch oven and the product of a cookbook called "My Bread" by Jim Lahey. I first heard of the new no-knead bread making method via Cooks Illustrated magazine and tried various techniques without much success. I finally tracked down the source of the original method and found Jim Lahey's book. The author claims that the method requires "about 5 minutes of actual labor, followed by 12 to 18 hours in which the bread rises" -- and best of all, absolutely no tedious, strength sapping, kneading is required. Well, hallelujah, it's all true!

To get a feel for the technique I started at the beginning with "The Basic No-Knead Bread Recipe". I'm not very good at staying true to recipes, convinced, not always successfully, that a tweak here or there will improve the results, but in this case I followed the recipe and instructions to the letter. Okay, that's not entirely true, I used my Kitchen Aide stand mixer to mix the dough while the author says to mix with a wooden spoon or your hand. It took about three minutes to mix in the stand mixture (whereas he says mixing by hand takes about 30 seconds -- 30 seconds? I'm not sure about that, anyway ...). I started the first rise last night at about 10:30 p.m., left the mixture on the counter overnight and today while I strolled around Sidney with my sister, scooped it out for the second rise at about 4:30 and at 6:30 had a fabulous loaf of rustic bread. This is not your child's white bread and baloney sandwich bread -- this is a beautiful, chewy crusted, flavorful bread meant to be sliced thick and slathered with butter or used to scoop up the last precious drops of a homemade soup.

It truly does only take a few minutes of effort, but because of the long rising period, this isn't something that you whip up at the last minute. The only special equipment you need is a reasonable quality cast iron Dutch oven (crucial for the baking technique utilized), and other than that a wooden spoon, a large bowl and away you go (unless you are truly lazy and use your stand mixer).

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Closet Guilt

Effective March 1st I have vowed not to purchase any new clothes for one year. For the past several months I have felt guilty every time I opened my closet -- clothes never worn from seasons past, some with the tags still attached, skirts and dresses worn once and abandoned. Not only is it a terrible waste of money and closet space it seems to me to be a terrible waste of energy -- all those hours wandering through shops, trolling through racks, feeling utterly defeated or momentarily thrilled. So, not only am I taking a shopping hiatus, I am emptying my closet of everything that I don't absolutely love or wear consistently. It is quite a freeing experience -- as my closet contents dwindle so to does my guilt level.

This vow is not as drastic as it first appears -- I will not be roaming around town naked or in rags. I sew and plan to renew and revamp my wardrobe using that skill. After much consideration I have come to the conclusion that the only items I will not be able to produce for myself are socks. Somehow I just can't envision myself wearing hand knit, thick, lumpy socks. Oh, and shoes -- I'll have to purchase shoes -- but not my usual, completely impractical, 3 or 4 inch heels that are lovely to look at but never seem to get worn.