Monday, May 31, 2010

Orangina

I could totally get with this shade garden dining experience:


On a (crazy, embarrassing) side note: Today I called my landscaper-extraordinaire to lament the state of the boxwoods on my front walk. After a variety of pointed questions about the nature of their potential disease (browning, crunchy leaves), she suggested that perhaps I should try water.

Um, scarily, that didn't occur to me. I mean, we're experiencing the longest dry-spell ever?! I have watered just about everything else but these are on a side patch of land and they miss the sprinkler.

Really, though...

Friday, May 28, 2010

I'm Talking To You

Perhaps you are aware that we, in TO, are having the most spectacular weather in, um, years. I mean, I have to assume that the mere lack of weather-related complaining gives it away.

Each day I leave the office and wander around in a haze of heat happiness. And today, I actually took some photos as I walked around the Grange Park.

It's very pretty, if "real", which is to say I've been known to call it the Grunge.

Ridiculous and Sublime: The St. George Church Tower next to some rent-controlled semi-brutalist mishmash structure

The door of the St. George Church Tower - the church itself burned down

The church tower courtyard - it's in disrepair...

The full structure...

With a short right turn, this is the view looking out of Grange Park to the south (towards Queen West)

If I eat one more frozen yogurt with shredded coconut while walking around this park, I will officially qualify for "girl with problem" status. But what am I to do? It's all blue sky and hotter than hell and lunchtime.

Today I went on some kind of sugar high and decided I'd make an architourist video for you, my fabulous readers.

In case you've ever been curious to put a voice to my photos, here's your chance but I warn you:
  • I'm not very interesting here - though I'm fascinating in real life! This is a one shot, spur of the moment film experience. In truth, I can't believe I walked around talking to myself with people zooming by!
  • It looks crappy: I filmed it on my cell phone. That is never a good idea. Unfortunately, everything is low-res granular, hence the supporting photos above. I want you to know it was as clear as a bell out there.
video

Hilariously, at one point I refer to the old house in the foreground of this park and regret that I can't remember its function. Um, it's the freakin' Grange?!

Let's just say I'm not going to quit my day job :-)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fait Accom-pleat

I promised photos of V1179, so here you go:




Admit it, for a large-scale floral, it's not bad! (In these shots it even appears that the pattern aligns at the side seam- which is entirely accidental, I assure you!) And it was only 5 bucks a yard. I'm sure that shocks you. :-) Note: The dress cost approx. $15.00 total. If you don't count the hundreds of dollars of labour.

For it's other flaws (don't biggen up the photos, ok?), the pleats at the centre front worked out very nicely, if I do say so myself. I'm very happy with the length, and I think that the fit is pretty good. Admittedly, without the belt it's not particularly flattering. But I've got a belt, so all is well.

Thoughts?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Spirea-ling Out Of Control

Here's my spirea:


To be honest, this plant - aka wild thing that grows so fast and voluminously you can barely see the front of the house for 3 weeks in May and then it's all big bushy green boring that needs semi-constant tending thereafter - isn't really my thing.

I intend to re-landscape the front yard next summer. (It was supposed to happen this summer and then that went sideways for a sort of, but not seriously, interesting reason I'll bore you with at another time.) I'm hopeful that my landscaper will be able to find this baby a new (large) home.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Post Wherein I Bitch and Come Up with an Idea

I've been sewing for 2 days and I just finished Vogue 1179. Seriously. I turned off the machine and turned on my computer, which is how I'm able to vent with such clarity.

Something tells me my back isn't going to be too happy tomorrow.

Very soon (once I get over the trauma), I am going to show you a photo of the dress. A photo of me in the dress. I mean, I could go photograph it on a hanger right now, and post the shot, but I want to show you how it looks on me specifically. Or at least on a human being. And given how hunchy horrible I feel right now, ain't gonna happen today.

In lieu of the photo of me, please content yourself with a photo of Adrienne in the same dress. She did a gorgeous job, don't you agree?

Now let's get on with the hardcore bitching. I am happy to know that the wonderfully descriptive, expert sewists on Pattern Review (of which Adrienne is one) find Vogue Very Easy, DKNY 1179 to be, um, very easy. It's got 3 pieces - a front, back and cowl. It's got a mere 1.5 pages of instructions, minimal by any standards. They are, apparently, very clear to everyone. (Even to me, they are somewhat clear.)

Nonetheless, unlike my other pattern reviewers, this did not come together quickly while watching daytime TV, ready to go by noon. I had challenges with clear elastic tape, with the outrageous stretchiness of my fabric.

Note: there's a reason I used stretchier fabric than recommended but it's too boring to get into. I checked with a few people in the know, on the viability of using lightweight rayon jersey, and I got a resounding "go for it". Alas, my first hem fell out (now it's zigzagged). Thank goodness I made the 10 and not the 12. Between the stretch of the fabric and the 8+ inches of ease in this "very loose" fit pattern, I could have made the 8?! And, as per usual (this is becoming a trend), I shortened the "waist" by 2 inches.

The cowl just didn't want to come together. I had one of those wretched spatial reasoning experiences that truly makes my brain and body hurt. That lasted a good hour and then I basted the neck to the cowl but I basted it wrong. After another hour at the drawing board, I tried to figure out how to sew the cowl on neatly and that took a couple of attempts. Only I couldn't bear to rip out every row of unnecessary stitches. So it's got a lovely, "I made it myself" vibe going on. Whatever.

My zigzagged hem, for reasons of stretch and weariness, looks like I sewed it while drunk. Despite what I say on Twitter, I do not sew drunk. I merely wallow in my ineptitude while tipsy.

But then there's the stuff I can't blame Vogue for: The paper bag look is, perhaps, not my best. Not even in rayon jersey with great drape and pleats (it was my first time constructing those and I think they turned out well). Oh, and for reasons I cannot fathom right now, I opted to use a large floral in hot pink, brown and orange.

Yes, you did read that correctly.

Large floral. Arguably "complex" colour scheme. Don't think for a second, by the by, that I sewed this thing so that the pattern actually lines up. I gave up on that about 10 minutes in.

I'm going to belt it, needless to say, and wear a heel - and I took up the hem, natch. (You know that's my thing.) The dress is a freakin' sack. One needs a a long leg line to give it some proportion.

OK, bitching over. Here's the idea:

Someone should come up with an online sewing community, like Pattern Review - or even one less complicated / full-service, for rank, but serious, beginners. I mean, if you've sewn for more than X hours in total, or X months, it's not for you. Likewise, for example, if you sew less than 20 hours a month, it's not for you.

The reviews - which could simply be maudlin descriptions of problems encountered - are free to be crafted in the angstful (sometimes hilarious) voice of the new sewist.

Questions, if he or she ever gets around to asking them, could be answered by a resident expert. One who doubles as a trained therapist.

The expert could host a weekly sew along of an actually easy(ish) garment. A really flattering and stylish one that suits a particular body type, for example. Each session would conclude with an opp to post photos or ask for clarification.

Its motto: No glitch is too stupid to happen to you!

Seriously, if this is already out there, you have to tell me. I need to join.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Mmmm Cake...

I promised to show you lovely, styled photos of last weekend's dessert and then we got all drunk and food-happy and we suctioned it down before I'd even considered snapping some shots.

Fortunately, I did get one of the chocolate bundt cake before the guests arrived:


The recipe (the one that came with my Williams Sonoma portable cake tin) called for a chocolate glaze - which seemed like total overkill. I mean, this thing has a cup of cocoa and a chocolate bar in it!? And a container of sour cream. Perhaps I should save this fact for my next tag but I really don't like sour cream. Note: I do make exceptions in cake. Other note: Don't use low fat sour cream - just don't. What's the freakin' point??

It has a very nice crumb - quite moist - but I find the chocolate a bit overwhelming. Which is where the strawberries and handmade ice cream came in.

Per my last post on the topic, I really do think I've figured out what works best - at least in the home machine. Lots of egg yolk and whole milk. And espresso.

I have to say it was a hit.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Long Weekend Pool

Wouldn't you just flip with pool / lake / landscape envy if I told you that I was going to this cottage for the weekend?


I seriously considered it - lies be damned - till it occurred to me that someone might have seen the shot on Desire to Inspire. Check out the interior photos. It's one fine place.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

That Time of Year

You may notice that I haven't written about sewing in the past couple of weeks. (Who knows, you might be grateful :-)). Thing is, between the travel and gardening and spring cleaning up (not to mention work), I haven't had a lot of free time. And who are we kidding, throw me a nice day and I am sitting in the back yard with a glass of wine and a magazine.

What? I'm only human and I live in CANADA. We get, like, 4 nice days a year and I intend to enjoy every last one.

Today was just such a day. The weather was perfect. I mean, 22 degrees celsius and sunny. Slightly breezy, in a warm way. Oh, it was a heavenly walk home.

When I was in Charlotte, land of climatic perfection, I forced my family to sit outside for hours. At one point, we all had such bad hay fever it was pitiful. But I WILL NOT WASTE temperate weather.

Having said all this, our May 2-4 weekend is looking like it may be a rainy dud. No mind (well, I mind tremendously, but like I said, I live in Canada. I'm a realist...), I will simply have to content myself with summer sewing projects. Fortunately, I have a few all lined up.

First on the list is Vogue 1179, a DKNY pattern that I got on sale for $3.99:

I just bought some great patterned fabric - a rayon jersey and a poly jersey. Either will work really well with this (I think). The pattern has 3 pieces and is Very Easy Vogue. Is it too much to hope that it actually will be very easy?

No doubt, I will let you know.

So what do you have planned for the long weekend??

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sss-sassy

This is an utterly mediocre photo of a very sexy shoe:

Geox Roxy Sandal

In fact, though the colour scheme is the same, this may not be the shoe I just bought. (The one I bought is more delicate-seeming, though not slinky.)

You have to trust me when I tell you that it is the perfect neutral - and (I suspect) will be comfortable for 5 mile a day walks. It's got that Respira technology working for it. And the shallow wedge means I get some height without incline - key when you hike in heels.

Though I've bought Geox shoes for my daughter, I've never purchased any for myself. I'd love to know your experiences, if you own this brand. Are they comfy? Do they work well for distance walking?

PS: In case you're wondering how I've managed to buy a new hat and sandals in the last couple of days, given the ban, pls. note that I consider these core purchases. I actually need both!

If only I could say the same for sexy undies :-)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

New Look

When I was out today, my fave store that sells utterly everything (Ziggy's at Home) had a bunch of terrific wide-brimmed hats in the window. They were all very structured, very beautifully made and reminiscent of the forties.

Y'all know I'm the palest thing ever to walk the earth (ok, albinos beat me, but just marginally). I need the protection! And, although I have the smallest head circumference in the land, there were a couple that actually fit when I tried them on.*

Which is how I ended up with this one:




I realize that, one day, I'm going to look at these photos and think to myself: Wow, I looked great without make up 5 minutes before I turned 40. But right now all I can think is: Would it have killed me to put on a little foundation? Or at least to have applied my lipstick evenly??

*Note that I will glue some grosgrain to the inner brim, just to give it a bit more stability on my mini skull. Doesn't that make me sound so DIY?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Just Desserts

As I write this I am lulled by the smokey-bitter aroma of chocolate baking. It's amazing I can string together a sentence. In fact, I haven't actually eaten real food yet today. I've contented myself on batter scrapings and beaters and furtive spoonfuls of homemade ice cream.

I'm feeling very happy about dessert this evening. Steen and Nicole are coming over to celebrate Nicole's birthday and I've planned a very traditional - and made-with-love celebration feast.

I will take photos. After all, what's a feast without food porn?? But till then let me tell you what I've learned about ice cream for any of you who might be on my learning curve:
  • As you may know, the underpinning of ice cream is generally creme anglaise, a milk-based egg custard. The thing is, you can make creme anglaise any one of 15 ways - some of them include cream, the quantity of egg yolks can range from 1 - 6 for 2 cups of liquid. For such a simple base, it's a very malleable thing.
  • I've spent a few months experimenting with ratios of cream to eggs. At first, though my baking guru Michel Roux advised to use lots of yolks and milk only, I couldn't accept that it would yield the creamiest outcome. I mean, it's called ice cream for a reason, no?
  • I've made the anglaise with increasing numbers of egg yolks and decreasing quantities of cream and I have to say, 2 cups of whole milk and 6 large yolks yields a beautiful, thick outcome once cooled.
  • The irony is that the more fat and fewer eggs one uses, apparently, the more watery and apt to curdle the fluid becomes. And the more ice crystallization occurs during the machine churning.
So those are my 2 cents. Any ice cream-makers, I'd love to hear about your experiences.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Take the A-Frame

OMG.




Photo courtesy of Apartment Therapy

Do you suppose this thing comes with a pool??

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Stranded in Charlotte

Hey Y'all: In this age of stop-over flying, it's a bit rough if one plane gets "indefinitely delayed" when it comes to actually making the next flight.

Hence, my status: American traveller, day 5.

On the plus side, I get to enjoy the company of my family for one more day. But the work, it piles up.

In case you don't hear much for the next couple of days, that's why.

I just want to say how totally thrilled my sister was to read your generous comments. Thank you! (I imagine she will respond to them too - the minute she sits down at a computer again.)

I really appreciate all you had to say - and I will get back in the swing of things soon. Kxo

Monday, May 10, 2010

M. Butterfly

I think there is a special place in hell for whatever cosmic evil invented '80s anthem rock. It's likely the most horrifying musical "sound" on the planet. Which is why I find it so hilarious - and I'll deny it if you ever run into me at a party - that I just downloaded Mimi's version of I Want to Know What Love Is. You know, it's that horrendous song by Foreigner. (I can only hope y'all are too young to remember the original.)

Perhaps I have little recourse since I'm referring to Ms. Carey by her self-proclaimed nickname circa 2005, but honestly, you listen to the cover and then tell me if I'm nuts.

Brief Sidebar to Patient Reader: Please forgive me my semi-constant lapses into old-person, I remember when-isms. I appear to be having a pre-40th birthday "embrace the future" (the far future) moment. Regular, utterly youthful Kristin will return at an undisclosed time and location. Wearing a bikini!

But back to the topic at hand, Mimi manages to elevate a truly horrible song, with her invincible squeakitude. And some kick ass production. I hear she executive produced the majority of her latest album. So good on her for knowing how to make her wrecked (if genetically blessed) pipes sound terrific. Admittedly, she's got a really good gospel choir on speed-dial.

I guess that doesn't hurt, huh?

I tell you, I've always been in her camp. Whitney Houston just bugged my ass from Day One.

I'm happy to see her in a (seemingly) sweet relationship with that child young man she's married to. He does appear to love her, in addition to the lifestyle. C'mon, she's got some serious assets, she's not ashamed to flaunt. And, instead of fleeing from embarrassment, he's all out there praising her hotness and re-taking his wedding vows. Way to encourage self-expression.

As far as I'm concerned, Ms. Carey is a sartorial train-wreck. I am always amazed, amused, repelled and shocked by what she wears (or doesn't wear) on the latest red carpet. But I get the impression that's who she is, as far as she's concerned and, if you're not buying in, then you can fuck right off. I respect that. And a pretty tight song.

The woman's a professional.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Maybe You'd Prefer Something A Little Grander...

Photo courtesy of Desire to Inspire

With a pool!

Warning: I think we are headed into the pool photo time of year...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Her Aim is True

I’ll be away for the next few days, in North Carolina, to visit my family and to attend my sister’s M.Ed. graduation. This higher degree is impressive by any standards, but all the more so because my sister managed the achievement while a) going through a rather terrible divorce (is there any other kind?) b) taking care of 2 tiny girls and c) working full time. Of course, she couldn’t have done it without the constant support of my parents with whom she lived, with the children, while she got her life together after her marriage ended. My parents were the extra hands and feet (and wheels) – integral to cooking, pick-up, homework, babysitting and providing love and care for 3 kids (let’s not except my sister) still whirling from emotional whiplash.

The end of a marriage is a loss even to those on its periphery. It’s the end of innocence, of long-held (but inaccurate) perspectives, the death of day-to-day relatedness and trust. Many people grieved my sister’s “failed marriage”, non-functional as it was. It’s not for me to publicly discuss the father of my nieces, but my former BIL worked masterfully to make a hard situation that much harder – on this, we have the corroboration of the courts. All I can say is, till you’ve seen someone scrape herself off the floor and scratch her way independence, it’s challenging to imagine the scene. Alas, it’s an effective way to reframe “failed marriage” as “successful self-determination” – which has a nice ring to it, you have to admit.

My sister has always cherished children – what they symbolize and who they are. She’s one of those people beloved by kids. She has a sunny smile and a friendly voice. She listens and cares. She wants – expects – her students to reach their potential, which I'm sure they do.

As for her own children, as they grow and achieve their many life goals, they’ll continue to look to their mother as a force for positive change, a strong, sensitive mentor – someone whose voice is credible during the rough times because she’s been there and she didn’t give up. After all, what better gift can we give our children than to be our own best selves?

This post is to congratulate my sister on a life reclaimed: To Allison – and to her grand success!

(Please feel free to leave a comment - which I'm sure she'd love...)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Totally Fun Tag

Mardel tagged me to show my 6th blog photo, which (till I went searching) I could not have remembered for money.

Here it is (M, my daughter, aged almost 8):


Seriously, isn't this kid a total cutie?? She's so little here - with bangs.

I'm terrible at passing along these tags - please do it if it appeals to you. It's fun and nostalgic!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Urban Gardens


Ah, to be amongst the ultra-chic Apartment Therapy crowd... (I do love tidy, geometric spaces.)

If you enjoy a gorgeous, pared-down city garden, then check this out.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

President or Comedian? You decide.

Honestly, check this out. President Obama is HILARIOUS - and nervy. To wit:

"I had my hopes set on the Nobel Prize for Physics - but you can't win them all..."

You have to love a guy who refers to "Notorious GOP"!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Best and Worst

I started wondering, on my way to work today (while drinking my daily double dry from Ella's Uncle - the best coffee place in the city, IMO) about the texture of fabric and why I love some and dislike others.

It was a scarily long, convoluted mental conversation I had with myself...

As you probably know, my fave textiles are cashmere (woven or knit, but mostly knit) and dark blue denim (with a bit of stretch, 90 weight). But which ones don't I like at all? I'm loathe to suggest anything. Everytime I do, I find 3 examples of someone utterly chic, rocking a look, and I have to take it all back. But really, in general, I don't like linen or chambray.

I don't like the nub of linen, its tendency to wrinkle in the direction of any body part you'd prefer to downplay, it's stiffness (though I know it isn't all stiff). Chambray is just so dull and reminiscent of the '80s. It drapes terribly over breasts. Makes them look lumpen and matronly. Of course, cut contributes tremendously to the fabric challenges I'm referring to here. And I'm speaking of these fabrics specifically on me, and (in general) on others I've seen.

I'm just saying - you're not going to find me in a linen skirt and chambray blouse any time soon.

But how about you? Share with me your fabric fave and the one you will never wear. I'm curious to know.