Tag Archives: food

UNSELFISH SEWING??!!! Yes, Aliens Have Taken Over my Body. I Made My Husband a Thread Theory Strathcona Henley.

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Well, that about says it all.  Either aliens really can and do take over our minds and bodies, or I just had a rare bout of unselfish sewing under my own power.  Hard to judge sometimes.  😉

Before we get into this, I will say that this little bit of unselfish sewing (plus a shirt I sewed for my daughter AND pants for my husband…yes–MORE THAN ONE UNSELFISH PROJECT!) got me thinking.  Why do I make most of my clothing for myself?  Well, besides the fact that it’s fun and I like clothes, there is the reality that when you sew for someone else (or make anything for someone else), you have to work in a different way.  If I’m making a garment for myself and I make a mistake, I can decide if I care enough to fix it.  Sometimes I do, often I don’t.  I prefer to finish things over having them remain a perfect but unfinished project forever.  Making something for someone else (especially if there is money involved) means I have to work to a different standard.  I still have to finish the project AND it has to be at a higher level.  If picky people are involved, it goes to a whole new level, which is why I try to avoid sewing for those who are hard to please.  Even when sewing for someone who is not super picky, if the fit is off or they weren’t honest about what they really wanted, all your hard work ends up in a closet.

I guess it depends on who you are making it for and what they care about in a garment.  Luckily, in this case, my husband has seen enough of what goes into a garment and what it takes to finish it, that he isn’t going to get crazy about the details, but I’ve also been married to him long enough to know that it has to be finished to a certain level of wearability for it to be a true success.  But then, I guess that’s the case even when sewing for myself…

In the garment I’m going to show you, there are some mistakes, but I think my husband, being the awesome encourager that he is and actually wanting a finished garment, went with “imperfectly finished is better than perfectly unfinished forever”.

Let’s talk about the Strathcona Henley by Thread Theory!

Strathcona Henley by Thread Theory

Strathcona Henley by Thread Theory

Strathcona Henley by Thread Theory

I LOVE Henleys for both men and women.  A Henley, as I understand it, is sort of like a t-shirt, but with a partial button placket down the front.  This type of shirt is made from a knit and has a certain “woodsman” vibe.  Thread Theory really has that vibe down, making it possible for me to make L.L. Bean style clothes to my own preferences.  Also, these guys get a gold star for coolest packaging ever, even including a Thread Theory tag so you can sew it into your finished projects.

Strathcona Henley by Thread Theory

Strathcona Henley by Thread Theory

This year my one Black Friday purchase was a cool, double layer knit fabric from Cali Fabrics.  The outside is a grey rib knit and the inside is a soft off-white jersey.  The two layers are tacked together every so often making them work as one.  (I don’t see it on their site anymore, so I’m guessing it’s sold out.)  The garment pattern came from Pintuck & Purl in Exeter, NH.

I made Scott Variation 1 of the Strathcona Henley.  His measurements put him at a size Large, but since this is designed to be slim-fitting and he likes more ease in his clothing, I sized up to an extra-large.

I’ve never sewn a Henley before, so I was hoping this wouldn’t be too tricky.  There is a lot of helpful information in the pattern booklet, including width and length suggestions for your zig-zag stitch.  I ended up using a height of 2.5 and a length of 1 with a jersey needle and a walking foot on a standard sewing machine.  I found the button placket a little bit tricky (and frustrating) to do.  Since I’ve never done this type of thing before, I chalk that up to my own inexperience.  Perseverance paid off in the end, though.  If you make this yourself, you should definitely hand-baste the placket in place as suggested.  Just hand-baste everything!

Strathcona Henley by Thread Theory

Strathcona Henley by Thread Theory

Strathcona Henley by Thread Theory

The square at the bottom of my placket came out crooked, but that was one of those mistakes that you look at and move on.  My husband actually didn’t notice it until I mentioned it.  (Oops!)  I also think that my fabric, which was bulkier than a single layer would be, made things more difficult.  If I make a billion of these, I’ll have to report back on if this gets easier.  If you haven’t done this before, don’t be put off.  If I can do it, so can you!  You can’t expect your first time going through a technique to be perfect.  If it turns out perfect, great, but expect it to be imperfect.  You’re learning.

Strathcona Henley by Thread Theory

Strathcona Henley by Thread Theory

One really great thing about Thread Theory is that they have a lot of tutorials and sew-alongs online.  Morgan, one of the owners, is also very willing to answer questions.  I didn’t email her about this project, but I did about another pattern (still to be blogged), and she was really helpful.

Final analysis:  I like this pattern, and it looks GOOD on my husband!  You may not be able to tell from the pictures, since he rarely smiles in pictures, but he really likes it, too, and has worn it a lot.  😀  I LOVE how it turned out.  I’ve even thought of adapting it to fit me, but that is for another sewing season.  Cold weather sewing ended for me on Wednesday when I finished my last winter project.

Strathcona Henley by Thread Theory

Strathcona Henley by Thread Theory

Strathcona Henley by Thread Theory

And look!  I even got Scott to smile.  Ha ha!  Triumph!

Strathcona Henley by Thread Theory

And now for this week’s recommendations!  (Maybe “recommendations” can be my working title.  I still want a better title.  Suggestions?)

  • Smoothies!  Here is our general recipe, adapted from one we found in a magazine ages ago:  1/4c. flavored low-fat yogurt (like peach or strawberry), a splash of milk, 1 Tablespoon of peanut butter, some strawberries (maybe 2 c.?), a banana, a handful of ice, and maybe a handful of spinach (optional).  Top with cinnamon and whipped cream (and sprinkles aren’t a bad idea, either!).  Enjoy!  This makes enough for one tall glass.  I can usually triple it in my blender.
  • Looking for an interesting source of fashion inspiration?  If you are on Instagram, check out @artgarments to see fashion details found in paintings.
  • If you have kids in your life and like cooperative games, try Outfoxed! by Gamewright.  To beat the game, you all have to work together to uncover clues and reveal suspects until you have an idea of which fox stole the pot pie.  If the fox escapes before you guess correctly, you lose!
  • Have you ever watched “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On”?  It’s so cute!

Field Trip: Denver, Colorado

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My latest field trip is way outside my normal stomping grounds!  Earlier this month, my husband and I took a trip to Denver, Colorado for a wedding.  We almost never get away just the two of us, and definitely not to far-away places, so this was a pretty big deal!  We had such a great time at the wedding and a lot of fun exploring Denver and the surrounding area.

Of course there was sewing involved.  I used the wedding as a chance to challenge myself to come up with a creative outfit.  In the end, I took apart a bridesmaid dress that I had in storage and turned it into a skirt (which involved a lot more work that I thought it would!).  I also made a button down shirt with a pattern that I had been planning to try out (Butterick 5526).  This included making a broad back adjustment to the pattern before I cut it out (hopefully more on that in a future blog post).  After that, it was all about finding great colors to finish things off.  Here’s my final ensemble:

Fancy Wedding Clothes!

Wedding clothes!

I found the sweater on sale at J.Crew, and the earrings and bobby pin (which are harder so see, but they had gorgeous Swarovski crystals) on clearance at TJ Maxx.  I already had the tights, which was a good thing because white tights for women are harder to find that I thought!

Also…check out these shoes!

Fancy Wedding Clothes!

Thank you, Boden sale (and Christmas money!).  I had been saving up for some black heels, but in the end, the fancy shoes won out.

All of the colors together just made me so happy!  I love color!  This wasn’t anywhere near my original outfit ideas, but I’m so happy with how it all turned out.  It was so comfortable, and I know I’ll wear all the pieces again, both together and separately (actually, I’m wearing the shirt and earrings as I type).

The wedding and reception took place in a really cute barn outside of Denver.  The bride was gorgeous and everything was so beautiful.  Lots of our friends were there, and we all had a great time.

When we weren’t at the wedding, we explored the cute mountain town of Evergreen.  I have to recommend The Muddy Buck coffee shop if you are ever there.  I didn’t get any good pictures of it, but here are a few of Evergreen:

Evergreen, Colorado

Evergreen, Colorado

Evergreen, Colorado

My friend and I kept saying we couldn’t believe it was a real town.  It was so cute.  We felt like we were at a theme park or something.  The only thing I didn’t like was the curvy mountain roads!  They were good highways, but they are so curvy and very dark when the sun is down.

I also got a good (luckily not first-hand) education while in Colorado:

Colorado

Colorado

After spending some time in more mountainous areas, we took a day to head into Denver and explore there.  The bride’s parents had given us a bunch of fun recommendations of things to try in the area, and one of them was the Denver Biscuit Co.  I highly recommend this one.

Denver Biscuit Co.

I ordered the DBC Club.  Delicious.

We also spent a little lot of time in Fancy Tiger Crafts!!!!

Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver, Colorado

When I got there, it was even bigger better than I had imagined!

Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver, Colorado

Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver, Colorado

Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver, Colorado

And, I must say, their sales staff is just lovely!  I admitted to one of the ladies that I was kind of freaking out inside with excitement.  She said she felt the same way for the first month when she started working there.  🙂  Everyone was very friendly and really helpful.

Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver, Colorado

Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver, Colorado

Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver, Colorado

During this next paragraph, you should read between the lines that MY HUSBAND IS AWESOME.  I was in Fancy Tiger Crafts for 2.5 hours.  Yes.  It’s true.  There was JUST. SO. MUCH.  I couldn’t make a decision.  I knew I wanted a few crafty badges (like Girl Scout badges for crafters), and I decided to get Deer and Doe’s Datura Blouse pattern…but then I got stuck.  I had fabric money, but what to spend it on?  They say that beggars can’t be choosers, but I say that when you are on a budget, every purchase has to count.  I didn’t want to buy something I wouldn’t use or wear.  Choice overload.

Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver, Colorado

Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver, Colorado

It was at this point that my husband gently suggested that we might want to go over to the Denver Biscuit Co. (before they closed), get some lunch, and come back afterward.

It was just what I needed.  Food and a little time to think.  When we went back, I found four fabrics to make up two Datura Blouses and with some help on the yardage calculations from the lovely Jaime herself, I was out of there in 15 minutes.

Lesson learned.  Sometimes you need to take a step back when you get overwhelmed to give yourself time to think.

Want to see what I got?

Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver, Colorado

I also picked up two knitting badges for some friends.  I’m hoping this loot will serve me well when summer sewing fever hits.

Believe it or not, we even had time to do a little more exploring after that!

Denver, Colorado

Other fun highlights from the trip included pizza at Beau Jo’s in Idaho Springs and Evergreen, Tattered Cover Book Store, Revampt, and the mountains!

Colorado

Colorado

These pictures don’t even begin to do them justice.

It was a great trip and a real blessing to be at such a special wedding with so many friends.

Next time (hopefully):  the nitty gritty on sewing Butterick 5526.

City Mouse, Country Mouse: The Country

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After visiting friends and family near Detroit last month, we went and did the same on the other side of Michigan.  The area we stayed in was completely rural, and very beautiful.  I regret not photographing any of the rolling hills and corn and soybean fields, but since that would have involved stopping on the highway or sticking my camera out the window, you’ll just have to take in what I did manage to capture.  🙂  Let’s go on a tour of southwest Michigan!

In my book, summer must include some fruit-picking!  My parents took us to Lehman’s Orchard in Niles, MI to pick sour cherries and raspberries.  I’ve long wanted to make a real cherry pie from scratch, but I can never find fresh or frozen sour cherries where I live (and if I did, I’m sure they would be very pricey).  Sometimes I find them in jars and they cost way too much, so I’ve never bought them.  The cherries at this farm were a bargain and so easy to pick.  Look how beautiful they are!

Cherry picking at Lehman's Orchard in Niles, MIDid you every play Hi Ho Cherry-O?  I think these look just like the cherries in that game!

Cherry picking at Lehman's Orchard in Niles, MI

Once we picked them, we brought them to a little outbuilding and washed them.  Then they went through the cherry pitter!

Cherry picking at Lehman's Orchard in Niles, MI

We also picked raspberries.  My husband found one of the coolest sights that day on top of one of the raspberry rows:

Raspberry picking at Lehman's Orchard in Niles, MI

Baby birds!

We also visited Fernwood Botanical Garden in Niles, MI.  One of the highlights was these stick houses.

Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve

Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve

And…since I was out in the country, I had to look into a new store that I had never seen before:  Rural King, in Niles, MI!  I don’t own any trucker hats, but I was kind of hoping to find one there that said “Rural King”.  I would definitely have worked that into my wardrobe!

Rural King in Niles, MI

This is a true farm store.  I got a lot of looks when I walked in mainly because, although I was dressed very casually, it was clear I hadn’t just come off the farm.

Rural King has many cool offerings, like

Rural King in Niles, MIwork clothes,

Rural King in Niles, MIsparkly belts (this picture does not do the sparkles justice),

Rural King in Niles, MI

and baby chicks!

Along with farm and food stuff, I also love antiques, so I peeked into many an antique store.  Luckily for my wallet and limited storage space, I didn’t buy anything beyond that dress in Detroit, but how awesome/crazy would it have been if I could have bought THIS?

Picker's Paradise in Niles, MI

Doesn’t everyone need a mirror with taxidermy squirrels on it?  “Only” $325!  Or how about THIS to hold your rings and bracelets?

Picker's Paradise in Niles, MIA raccoon arm!  Yeah, that didn’t come home with me either, but not because I wasn’t tempted!  These were both from a booth in Picker’s Paradise in Niles, MI, which was a pretty great store.  All the other booths were much more normal, I promise.

During our visit, we went to Lake Michigan several times.  I love Lake Michigan.  It’s like the ocean, only with fresh water and no scary creatures.  We visited both St. Joseph, MI and Jean Klock Park in Benton Harbor, MI.

When we went to St. Joseph, it was for the day.  They have beautiful Silver Beach, with bathrooms, a snack shack, and a playground.  The town also has a children’s museum, carousel, Silver Beach Pizza, the coolest splash park ever, and lots of cute shops you can visit.  It’s busy on the weekends, but really fun.

St. Joseph, MI on Lake Michigan

Sunset view of Lake Michigan from the pier in St. Joseph, MI

Jean Klock Park in Benton Harbor is just over the channel from Silver Beach, but is much less built up and more naturalistic.  Like Silver Beach, it also has bathrooms, a snack shack and a playground, but is much quieter.  We had fun swimming and looking for rocks with fossils on them.

Jean Klok Park, Benton Harbor, MI

The beach at Jean Klock Park in Benton Harbor, MI

We ate a lot of good food on this trip.  So, my burger recommendation from the west side goes to Laura’s Little Burger Joint in Decatur, MI.  We’re staying rural, here, so this is out in the middle of cornfields.  It’s a beautiful drive.

Laura's Little Burger Joint in Decatur, MI

The burgers here are huge!  There are many fun options (as well as things besides burgers), and seating is in the open at picnic tables spread out under the trees and sky.

Laura's Little Burger Joint in Decatur, MI

Laura's Little Burger Joint in Decatur, MI

May I also humbly suggest that after you have finished your burger, you might want to drive a minute down the road to get your after-dinner ice cream at the Hayloft?  I think you won’t be disappointed.  🙂

And now, for you sewing fans out there, the west side fabric report.  As I mentioned in the last post, before this trip, I did my research about good fabric stores near where I was going to be staying and found this great list from Rae Hoekstra of the blog made by RAE.  By her recommendation, I visited Field’s FABRICS in Kalamazoo, MI.

Field's Fabrics in Kalamazoo, MI

Field’s is an excellent fabric store that I highly recommend (and now really want to visit again).  For all the lucky western Michigan people, there are several locations.  Field’s is probably as big as Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, MI, but has a very different feel.

Field's Fabrics in Kalamazoo, MI

Field's Fabrics in Kalamazoo, MI

It didn’t hurt that there were some serious sales on.  I came away with a stretchy fleece from Malden Mills (smooth outside, fleece inside) and a cool red/purple chambray that I want to say is Robert Kaufman (although I’m not 100% sure).  Sadly, I can’t find these on their website to link to.

Field's Fabrics in Kalamazoo, MI

I may actually deserve an award for this fabric trip.  I had only 45 minutes to shop this whole, amazing store and, cutting time excluded, I totally did it!  My husband laughed when I told him I would only have that much time (after I spent two hours shopping at Haberman Fabrics, can you blame him?).  I did it, though!  I also tried to convince the lady who cut my fabric that they needed to open a Massachusetts branch, but she didn’t go for it.  That’s sad, but I’m recovering.

Lastly, although I didn’t photograph it, I went to Hancock Fabrics in Mishawaka, IN.  I hear people say they get things there and since we have Joann, but not Hancock, I thought I would check it out.  I think there was a sale on at nearly every store I hit on this trip (awesome!), and it was no different here.

Hancock Fabric in Mishawaka, IN

I got a pink and white cotton gingham (can’t find the fabric to link to, but it’s 100% cotton with a quarter inch check) and a cotton stretch sateen suiting in super-fun colors.  I can definitely envision a skirt (the suiting) and shirt (the gingham) out of these, maybe even worn together.  My mother wasn’t so sure about that combination, but if those garments ever materialize out of this fabric, I think that I can convince her.  If not, I’ll wear it anyway!  😉

So that was my trip!  We got seriously spoiled, ate so much good food, and had a wonderful time with friends and family.  Thanks to everyone who made our trip really special.  And readers, I hope you get a chance to check out some of these places if you are ever in southwest Michigan.  It’s a beautiful and friendly place to visit.

 

City Mouse, Country Mouse: The City

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Hi, Friends!  It’s been a long time since our last meeting here on these pages.  I was off visiting friends and family for most of July, and I thought you might like to see a few of the places I visited.  As always, I’ll include links when possible.  Maybe you’ll find some new favorites, too!

First let’s visit the Detroit area of Michigan.

My sister-in-law took my mother-in-law and me into Eastern Market in Detroit one weekend.  Eastern Market is a farmer’s market filled with delicious food and beautiful plants.

Detroit's Eastern Market

Detroit's Eastern Market

Detroit's Eastern Market

Castor Bean

Detroit's Eastern Market

Dahlia

Detroit's Eastern Market

Dahlia

The market area is flanked by cool shops as well.

Outside Detroit's Eastern Market

DeVries & Co.

Outside Detroit's Eastern Market

DeVries & Co.

DeVries & Co. had all sorts of great foods, imported and domestic.  You could ride the old freight elevator to the top level to find cute home goods as well.

And, of course, we had to look in this labyrinthine antique shop that my sister-in-law discovered.

Outside Detroit's Eastern Market

Eastern Market Antiques

This little area was arguably my favorite.  I even found a vintage dress/tunic!

Outside Detroit's Eastern Market

Outside Detroit's Eastern Market

Collar detail

It’s a bit on the short side for a dress on its own, but I have a few ideas for it…

Just before we left, we visited the Detroit Mercantile Company.  Talk about a great selection of quality and hand-made goods!

Outside Detroit's Eastern Market

Detroit Mercantile Company

Outside Detroit's Eastern Market

Detroit Mercantile Company

Since I’ve been contemplating making jeans, I was pretty interested in the offerings from the Detroit Denim Company.  After checking out their website, I kind of wished I had tried to set up an interview.  Maybe another time…

We also had fun food adventures, and I can wholeheartedly recommend Joe’s Hamburgers if you are ever in Wyandotte, MI.  They have a great retro vibe and delicious food.  The burgers are small (“sliders”), which makes it all the better if you want to sample several–and don’t forget to order a few kinds of fries if you are with a group so you can try more than one kind!

Joe's Hamburgers in Wyandotte, MI

 

Joe's Hamburgers in Wyandotte, MI

Joe's Hamburgers in Wyandotte, MI

Joe's Hamburgers in Wyandotte, MI

Mushroom Swiss Slider and Poutine Fries. Yum!

And now, you probably knew it was coming…FABRIC SHOPPING!  I have to thank my husband who drove me around and sat through three hours of fabric shopping (plus plenty of indecision on my part).  My in-laws also deserve thanks for babysitting!!!

Before we left, I looked online for fabric stores in the Detroit area and came up with this list from Rae Hoekstra of made by RAE that covers some of the best of southern Michigan.  And she was not wrong.  I went to two different fabric shops near Detroit, and each was spectacular.

Unfortunately, I didn’t do Material Girls in Dearborn justice (so sorry!).  I got a picture of the outside of their shop and then totally dropped the ball on photographing the inside.

The Material Girls in Dearborn, MI

The ladies who worked there were really wonderful.  They had a good selection of quilting fabric as well as some carefully curated apparel fabrics.  It was so wonderful to see, in person, many of the fabrics I have looked at online.  There really is no comparison to touching and looking at fabric in person.  After saving up a nice little fund for shopping, it was great to not only look, but also buy and stock up on supplies for upcoming projects.  Here is what I got from The Material Girls:

The Material Girls in Dearborn, MI

The bird fabric is for me (I was inspired by Carolyn of Allspice Abounds), but the pandas and superheroines are for Christmas presents.  Luckily the intended recipients don’t read this blog.  Shh!  😉

We also visited Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan.  It’s a little bit hard to describe this one.  It might be fabric paradise.

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

I don’t think I’ve been in a fabric store quite like this since I started sewing seriously.  It was mainly dedicated to apparel fabric, including bridal and special occasion, but also had home decorating fabric, space for classes, a sewing machine repair window, and so many notions.  Wow.

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

 

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

When I first got there, I was so excited.  I wandered through looking at all the various apparel fabrics.  I had made a list so I could be at least slightly focused, but after looking at everything, my excitement turned into distress.  I saved and worked to build a fabric fund, but there was too much!  What should I get?  What would I be sad to leave behind?

Want to see what I got?

Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan

The striped fabric is a rayon knit from Italy that’s double-sided!  I also wanted to experiment with a little stretch lace and stretch net.  (I can’t find any of these on their website, or I would link to them.)  What a great store.

Yea for fabric shopping and yea for some fun in the city!  Thanks, family and friends!  Next up…the country!

 

 

Try It: Fried Dandelion Blossoms

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Try It:  Fried Dandelion Blossoms (Pattern and Branch)

Guess what we had with dinner last night?  I guess the title is sort of a spoiler, isn’t it?  We tried Fried Dandelion Blossoms!  I have a number of foraging books (my current favorites are by Samuel Thayer), but I’m pretty cautious.  I usually take a few years to learn a plant before I am willing to try it.  Somehow, learning from books feels less sure than learning a plant from a trusted friend–not because the books are faulty, but because I feel more likely to make a mistake.  Despite my extreme caution, however, I do feel confident in knowing dandelion flowers, so I decided it was finally time to take the plunge.

Try It:  Fried Dandelion Blossoms (Pattern and Branch)

Dandelions are a great first foraging food, as any wild food writer will attest, because all parts of the plant are edible.  There are a number of other plants that can look like dandelions if you haven’t trained your eye, and I don’t know about the edibility of those ones, so don’t blindly follow what I tell you–do your own research or find your own foraging buddy.  I’m a beginner–not an expert.  For myself, though, I feel confident that I can tell when a flower is a dandelion flower.

Try It:  Fried Dandelion Blossoms (Pattern and Branch)

I’d long heard about fried dandelions, so it was time to dive in.  I found this recipe on allrecipes.com and decided that if it was good enough for people in the Appalachian Mountains to make, it sounded like good food to me.  I haven’t reprinted the recipe here because I don’t want to run afoul of any copyright laws, so if you’d like to follow along with my explanations below, you may want to print it out so you can refer to it.

First, I went to the spot you see in the first picture above and picked about a hundred dandelions (I picked the open flowers, not the closed buds like the recipe seems to say.).  Then, I left them in my refrigerator too long, and had to go repick them from my yard because I didn’t cook them soon enough (these pictures were too good to waste, though, so you get to see them anyway).  My good discovery through that bit of procrastination was that if I prepped the dandelions by soaking them for 10 minutes in water with some salt (it’s one of the tips at the bottom of the recipe), and then drying them off, I could put them in a partially closed zip top bag in the vegetable drawer and they would keep for a few days.  I was afraid they would close up, but they didn’t.  I don’t know how long they are really good for, but after a few days, they didn’t look quite as wonderful, so I went out to our yard and picked a hundred more for last night’s dinner.

Try It:  Fried Dandelion Blossoms (Pattern and Branch)

Next, I brought the flowers inside and covered them with room temperature water and a Tablespoon of salt for 10 minutes, as the recipe footnotes suggested.  I swished them around a few times to make sure they were getting well rinsed and debugged.

Try It:  Fried Dandelion Blossoms (Pattern and Branch)

Then I drained them and rinsed them a few times with cool water.  After that, I put them in a towel, went out on the deck and, holding the edges of the towel, swung them around in a circle.  This is our friends’ version of  a salad spinner for people who don’t have one.  🙂  It’s great.  That way I don’t have to store a store a salad spinner.

After that, I put the flowers in the egg mixture and stirred them around to coat them.

Try It:  Fried Dandelion Blossoms (Pattern and Branch)

Slightly less appetizing, right?  Hang with me!  They don’t end up looking better, but the final result TASTES awesome!

Once they are all coated, you take half of them and drain them of extra egg, and then put them into your flour+season salt+pepper mixture.  I put mine in a bowl that has a lid, so I could shake it around to coat the flowers.  I bet a zip top bag would work, too.

Try It:  Fried Dandelion Blossoms (Pattern and Branch)

Next, you shake off the excess flour mixture and put the flowers into your warmed and waiting pan.  I used bacon grease as my cooking fat in a cast iron pan on medium heat (we had just made bacon, so it seemed like a good excuse not waste the bacon fat).

Try It:  Fried Dandelion Blossoms (Pattern and Branch)

I did have to add some extra butter because the bacon grease got absorbed part-way through the process.

Try It:  Fried Dandelion Blossoms (Pattern and Branch)

Then, you just cook them until they are golden brown.

Try It:  Fried Dandelion Blossoms (Pattern and Branch)

It was pretty easy and they are so good!!!

My only changes to the recipe if and when I make it again will be to cut back on the salt and pepper a bit.  We are a family that loves salt, but if you eat one after another of these (which you WILL want to do), the salt becomes a bit overpowering.  I’ll probably try 1.5 Tablespoons of seasoned salt and 2 teaspoons of black pepper next time and see how that goes.  The half bacon grease/half butter scenario worked out well, but I would try all butter just as readily.

So, what do you think?  Ready to give these a try?  You know, if you are a homeowner and you hate all the dandelions growing in your yard, you could just cook your way through them…  Think about it!  Free food and fewer dandelion seeds floating around…

If you do try this, I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

Think “Spring”: Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

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Back in college, I discovered something amazing:  seed catalogues.  I had no idea there was any such thing.  Then, Martha Stewart did an article in her magazine about seed companies.  There were so many great options.  I think I ordered any catalogue I could get for free.  My favorite became Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

I always sign up to get one of their catalogues, and I save their catalogues from previous years to use for planning or to give to friends.  The arrival of the Baker Creek seed catalogue gets me excited for spring and all things “garden”.

Of course you can buy seed packets at any number of stores.  I can and do buy seeds from local stores, but not everyone has purple carrots, green and purple beans, striped tomatoes, or strange and wonderful squashes that I’ve read about in the pages of books.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

The only downside of all these super-cool vegetables, fruits, and herbs is that I have a hard time narrowing my focus.  Even after I eliminate some of my ideas, I still tend to have so many things I want to try that it can get a bit crazy.  (One year I got really enthusiastic and started over 200 tomato plants from seed.  It was actually a relief when some of them got destroyed in an accident.  😦  Consider yourself warned!!!)  If, however, you want to cook with things you can’t easily find in stores, here’s your chance to grow your own.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

My one regret on this topic is that I didn’t post this sooner.  Unless they’ve reprinted, I think they may have run out of free catalogues for this year, but sign up for next year’s or look at their offerings online if you are thinking about what to plant this year.  I CAN’T WAIT FOR SPRING!!!!  😉

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Happy Thanksgiving from Pattern and Branch

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Last Thursday night we had a pre-Thanksgiving dinner at our house called, among other things, “Potato and Pie Thanksgiving”.  This is my husband’s dream menu for Thanksgiving, and I have to admit that it sounded pretty great to me, too.  We had some friends over and each person was charged with bringing a potato-based dish and/or a pie.  We also planned a prize for the most creative and delicious item.  It was so much fun!

The dish that won was a potato dish that took the idea of scalloped potatoes one step further with a creamy sauce, kielbasa, and extra cheese.  So good!  Because this is a group of friends that we get together with to watch MacGyver and other ’80’s TV shows, the prize was a Swiss Army Knife, an important tool that our hero, MacGyver, is never without.

Since we were the hosts, we didn’t compete, but one of our potato dishes was quite popular all the same.  I’d like to share it with you.  It’s a recipe that is common at my husband’s family gatherings and is everything people like in a good holiday dish:  fast, easy, and deliciously unhealthy.  If you need a potato dish for your Thanksgiving feast, you might try out “Hobo Potatoes”.

Hobo Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of frozen hash browns (the square kind–let them sit out for a little while so they are easier to separate)
  • 1 cup of diced onions (make it easy on yourself and just buy them frozen!)
  • 1 can of cream of chicken soup
  • 16 ounces of sour cream
  • 8 Tablespoons of butter, melted (reserve a little bit to mix with the corn flakes)
  • 8 ounces of grated cheddar cheese
  • corn flakes (enough to cover the top of the dish)

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spray a 9″x13″ pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Mix all ingredients except the corn flakes and reserved butter together right in the pan.  Mix corn flakes and the reserved butter together and spread on top of the mixture you just made.  Bake the dish, uncovered, for one hour.  Serve warm.

Hope you have a great Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from Pattern and Branch

 

Craft Fail: Roasted (Burned) Wheat Berries

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It’s been awhile since we had a Craft Fail, hasn’t it?  Either my creative skills are exceptionally fabulous, or I’m just working harder to fix my mistakes.  I guess I should quit projects more often so we can keep the Craft Fail section going strong.  😉  OK, I’m not going to do that.  It’s too satisfying to turn a failure into a success, but some things are just unsalvageable.

That’s the direction my last cooking experiment went.

Craft Fail:  Roasted (Burned) Wheat Berries

My unfortunate final product

 

I was going to meet some women to discuss a book, the Bible, and life, so I thought I would bring a snack.  I have the More-with-Less cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre, a Mennonite cookbook that my Mom used when I was growing up.  I found this recipe in the snacks section and, since I had some wheat berries around, and no other snack ideas, it seemed like a perfect match.

Craft Fail:  Roasted (Burned) Wheat BerriesThe recipe said the wheat would puff up after a bit so, even though I didn’t really know what I was looking for, I kept checking it…and it had a sort of interesting smell…and it got a little darker…and the smell got stronger…and the wheat turned black.  Oops.

There was no saving this one.  I preserved it in photograph form for your enjoyment, and cut up some apples before heading out the door.

Hunt, Gather, Cook by Hank Shaw (and Other Interesting Stuff)

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I’ve got a fun book to share today.  Hunt, Gather, Cook:  Finding the Forgotten Feast by Hank Shaw has made it to my house from the library twice, if not more.  The very best how-to books, in my opinion, give you the feeling, “It’s possible!”, whatever the “it” is that you are learning about.  This cookbook/foraging guide by Hank Shaw is exactly that kind of book.  I also love a good back story for recipes, and this book often gives you not a brief description, but a true (and interesting) back story.

Hunt, Gather, Cook by Hank Shaw (Pattern and Branch blog)

As you might expect, he talks about foraging for certain plants, but he also gives you pointers on how to get started if you want to clam, fish, or hunt, and then what to do with all that you collect.  While Shaw grew up on the East Coast, he’s lived throughout the USA and now lives on the West Coast, so his experience with wild food covers a broad range of places and environments.  Check out his blog, Honest Food, and you can keep up with him and his adventures.

Here are some images from Hunt, Gather, Cook.

Hunt, Gather, Cook by Hank Shaw (Pattern and Branch blog)

Hunt, Gather, Cook by Hank Shaw (Pattern and Branch blog)

Thanks to Hank, I tried my first rose hips this year, since the very roses that he mentions in the image above grow all over our beach here.  The first try was bland, but the second was better.  Now I’ll have to try more!  If you have a food-lover in your life, you may want to encourage them to check out this book.  It’s a very interesting read, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Now for some more fun things to check out!

  • For more foraging information, try out my two current favorite pure foraging books.  (These are not cookbooks, but they do give you some guidance in that area.):  The Forager’s Harvest and Nature’s Garden both by Samuel Thayer.  This guy is smart, experienced, but also adequately cautious when it comes to wild food.
  • What if you love food, but hate the wild (or would rather grow your food instead of search for it)?  Try The Edible Flower Garden by Rosalind Creasy.  This is such a fun book for garden planning.  Most years I use it to try out one or two new edible flowers, just to keep things interesting.
  • You know how some people have “twins” that they aren’t really related to?  In college there was a girl that people always confused me with.  She was actually awesome at sports I did not or no longer played, so it was nice to get compliments meant for her, even though I had to disillusion people afterward and tell them I hadn’t played basketball since high school.  (Also, I was a bench warmer.  I made two points my freshman year of high school.  It was my 15 minutes of fame.)  While the two of us resembled one another, it was NOTHING like the resemblance between actor/comedian Will Ferrell and drummer Chad Smith.  I think these guys were separated at birth.  Want to see it?  Here is their “drumoff” on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon”.  If you choose to watch this clip, though, you should probably watch Will Ferrell’s famous cowbell sketch first, just to be fully prepared. 

    And now here is the drumoff (and the shocking “twinness” of these two men):

Have a good weekend!

Pictures of Summer

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With the school year getting started soon or already, it feels like the end of summer, but that’s not how I’m thinking of it.  In this part of the world, there is usually another good month of warmer weather before fall gets underway, and the weather in northeastern Massachusetts this summer has been heavenly.  So here’s a look at summer past with a view toward another good month.  It may not be the same pace or schedule, but there’s still plenty of summer goodness to be had all around us.

 

Pictures of Summer (Pattern and Branch)

Summer strawberries

Pictures of Summer (Pattern and Branch)

Herbs and Flowers

Pictures of Summer (Pattern and Branch)

Lily of the Valley

Pictures of Summer (Pattern and Branch)

Independence Day

Pictures of Summer (Pattern and Branch)

Cake with Edible Flowers (Violas)

Pictures of Summer (Pattern and Branch)

Popsicles!

Pictures of Summer (Pattern and Branch)

Clamshell at the Beach

Pictures of Summer (Pattern and Branch)

Beach Plums Beginning to Ripen

Pictures of Summer (Pattern and Branch)

The Truth. (or “What My Living Room Really Looks Like When I Show You My Projects.”)

Pictures of Summer (Pattern and Branch)

Beach Plum Bushes

I hope September holds promise for you and that you can enjoy the last month of summer, even if (or maybe because) your schedule changes.