January 30, 2017

Before January Gets Away From Me

 It's been a very cold and rainy time here in Northern Cal, with flooding and very cold temps. Lots of sewing and baking have been going on in the house. One baking adventure is pictured above. I have wanted to make an epiphany cake ever since I moved back from France.  They sell these cakes the entire month of January, and while we were there we took full advantage of that! In the picture above, with the ingredients, there are four of the many "feves" that I collected. For those not familiar with this wonderful treat, it's a cake made to celebrate epiphany. They hide a "feve" somewhere in the filling, and then bake the cake off.  The person who gets the feve in their piece gets to wear the paper crown and is king. There was also some sort of game that they played, that involved going under the table, but I can't remember all the rules to this. The filling in between the puff pastry is called "frangipane." It's made with all the ingredients you see in the photo. I bought some puff pastry at Whole Foods that actually was from France. I really loved that it was already in a circular shape. The puff pastry from Du Four, that I usually buy, is rectangular. Since it was circular, there was no waste. I hadn't planned on making this cake, but when my dear husband put the groceries away, he didn't realize this was suppose to go into the freezer, and chucked it in the fridge instead. It thawed of course, so it had to be used right away. I had to think fast, because I was going to use it for something savory that I hadn't planned on making right away. It ended up being a yummy, happy accident and now I would love to try other fillings for it, like the ones I had in France. I used a David Lebovitz recipe for the filling, but you can find others that suit your taste.
Work at BHLDN has been slow until this past week. I have been only working at the most two times a week, but business is picking up and brides are making appointments again. Had lots of fun working with the lovely ladies this past weekend. We are also having a lot of girls come in for prom dresses. This past weekend,  we had one customer looking for a maid of honor dress that really made me sad. She was such a pretty girl and not at all over weight by any means. We didn't have any dresses that fit her figure. She broke down in tears and I felt that the appointment got away from me at that point. I wanted to give her a big fat hug and tell her how beautiful she was, and that it wasn't her fault and to love her body, but she shut down and didn't want to hear anything positive. Luckily her mom and sister were really sweet and tried to comfort her. I feel for her, as I have had some tears in dressing rooms myself.  Having now worked at BHLDN for a few months, I have heard so many women of all ages, bashing their bodies. Very sad I think. I try and tell them that event dresses are always sized differently than ready to wear, and that it is best to get a bigger size and have it tailored to fit.  So many women are hung up on the size on the tag! If they only knew the process of how garments are designed and produced, I think it would help.
On another note, going back into work this week has been helpful for me to get away from Facebook and CNN! After spending the day at work last Friday, I came home in a much happier mood than I have been these past couple of weeks. I'm not getting into a political discussion  on my blog so don't worry, I think everyone has had enough. It was just great to take a step away and live life and not think about world events.

I just want to know one thing. How have I been living without that wonderful new steam iron I got for christmas?!! HOLY SMOKES! I'm a big believer in pressing your work in every step of construction, and I feel like all these years I have been missing out in how incredible one of these irons work! I actually received two of these for Christmas hahaha. Caitlin and Cyrous also gave me one, so I returned one and then got a new ironing board to hold this new toy. I was able to press the little dress that I just made, with such ease. I loved how it smoothed out the fitted sleeves so perfectly. I also have had fun just doing plain ironing, because It cuts your ironing time by half.

I'll be listing the cute little pink dress with metallic gold birds on it  tomorrow when there is some nice sunlight in the house to photograph it.I love how this little pink dress turned out. The buttons I used are shell and are so pretty in real life. I had fun making it, but oh those fitted sleeves!! I think I finally have a good system down for them, but I always take a deep breath when I begin the stitching of them.  Making clothing and then trying to photograph them for Etsy, is quite a feat in the winter months. Hopefully the sun will cooperate tomorrow.   I'm trying to decide on my next project. Part of me wants to do a vintage piece with embroidery and another part of me wants to keep putting some basics in. Sometimes I know exactly what I want to make next, and other times I have so many ideas floating I can pin one down. It will come to me, but sometimes I get antsy and don't know where to begin.

I know I always promise to be on here more, but then miserably fail. Sorry for my handful of readers hahah, but I will at least always check in at least once a month, with hopes always to do more.

Happy belated 2017!

December 27, 2016

Christmas and End of the Year Reflections

This holiday season all went by in a blur. Working retail will do that during the holidays I suppose. It wasn't as nightmarish as I thought it would be at the store, since my section slowed down, I had more time off than I thought I would, but still very busy time of year and not a lot of time doing things I would normally do, like planing dinners and decor. Christmas morning started with a nice brunch before we opened up gifts.  Christmas dinner was an easy one with ham and the potatoes that I did for my dad for his birthday. I also made my favorite recipe for carrots, from Jamie Oliver. They are so easy and so good! I found some really pretty edible flowers and micro greens to add to my salad for a festive mood, but other than that, not too much creativity went into my dinner and decor this year. I was so tired on Christmas morning, I hardly took any pictures of us tearing into our gifts hahah.
I received some lovely gifts from the family, but the best gift of all was just spending the day with them.

It's slow at work right now, so I won't be working too many hours for a while. Not sure when it will pick back up. Until it does, I plan on taking full advantage of my time at home with some ideas that I have for the shop. Making myself work outside the home, has really helped me value my time off more and I think I'm ready to kick off 2017 more organized. I'm excited about this.

This year I decided to make stolen fruit bread. It was fun, and for the most part I liked how it turned out. I added the powdered sugar too soon though, and I think if I make it again, I'll cut back the amount of fruit. It got me in the mood  to make some more yeast breads like cinnamon rolls etc. I use to make bread all the time, especially in college. Since we moved to the Bay Area in 1988, I quit doing it since we have such great bread bakers in the area.
Speaking of baking, I got to spend a day in a friends professional  bakery helping out last week. This is the same baker that I have posted pictures of the croissants and other treats. When I walked into the shop it smelled so heavenly. He is trying to make the bakery as close as possible to one you would find in France. Word has already gotten out, and things have been selling out faster than he can bake more! I have a couple pictures on my IG when I was there if you want to check it out. I'm happy that he will still be selling at our farmer's market on Sundays, but also great that if you have a hankering for croissants in the middle of the week you can get them now.
End of the year always gets me a bit melancholy, how about you?   I love the holiday season and when it's over, I feel like a little kid that doesn't want to leave the party. The taking down of the tree is always a sad day, but once it is done, and things are swept and cleaned, I move forward with a hopeful heart that the coming year will be a good one. This year hasn't been super fantastic nor horrible, just meh..... Let's all hope for a fantastic 2017.
I'm going to look at January and the new year like Caitlin does. She told me last year when I was dreading the turning of the new year....."It's just the next month!" So onwards and upwards!!!

Hope everyone had a great Christmas and Happy 2017!!!

December 6, 2016

Dad's Birthday and Thanksgiving

Time got away from me again, and I didn't get a chance to post about my dad's birthday and Thanksgiving in a timely manner, but better late than never right?!  My dad and stepmother came to California to celebrate my dad's birthday with us and Thanksgiving with my stepmother's family. We were so pleased to be able to celebrate my dad's 79th birthday and spend this special time of year with them. My stepmother Susan, is a fabulous cook, and we always have a lot of fun cooking together. A few years back I made this coconut cream tart for my dad's birthday, and ever since it's been his go to birthday dessert, so I whipped one of them up for him, as well as joint cooking his prime rib feast! I made the cast iron skillet potatoes that I did a few years ago at Christmas time.  Susan made Yorkshire pudding for the prime rib, which was fun to watch being made. I must give that a try some time! I think my dad looks pretty great on his 79th birthday :)   The next day we took a break from cooking and took them out to Bull Valley Roadhouse for dinner, and they loved it.  We had so much fun visiting with them, and it always seems too short.
Thanksgiving this year came at lightening speed, for me anyway.  If you are a long time reader, you know it's my favorite cooking holiday, and I'm always tinkering with perfecting cooking that darn bird. This year, I think I found the best combination!  I can't remember if I blogged about some mishaps with my All Clad roasting pan or not, but I noticed that when I moved back from France in 2004, I started cooking my Turkey in my new All Clad roasting pan, and for some reason had lots of trouble with even cooking. I'm still not sure it is the pan or not, but I went back to all the times my turkey did turn out, and I always used those cheap foil roasters. So, I went back to those last year and had a much better result. This year I saw a recipe from Martha, where you start the bird upside down. You use a whole loaf of ciabatta bread, cut open like a book, and slathered with lots of butter. Lay the bird breast side down on it and crank the heat up (475) for 45 min. The recipe is on line of course, if you google Martha's upside down turkey. The only thing on the recipe that I think was wrong was cooking time, but other than that,  it's a keeper! We used a 15 lb. bird, so it wasn't that hard to flip it when the time came. I'm sad I didn't think to snap a picture of my perfectly golden cooked bird. We were so hungry we tore into it as soon as it rested. The breast meat was really juicy and tender, and all the dark meat was cooked perfectly, with no pink spots like I have had in the past. I also basted it every 20 min. with white wine and butter. Can I just say that you might want to pick at the yummy turkey juiced caibatta bread and call it a day! I used the juice soaked ciabatta in the extra stuffing to add flavor to it. I also stuff my bird. I know a lot of people are afraid to do it, but I have always done it, and I think it makes the best stuffing. Ok, enough about the Turkey!
This year we had some new friends we made through Alex and Barbara, our German friends. Alex and Barbara could not make it this year, as they were in Germany on business. We were delighted though to have Ralf and Annette join us.  Annette brought a really yummy salmon appetizer that she made to kick off the feast, and Caitlin brought an apple/cranberry whiskey cobbler to add to the dessert fun.  It was a really nice gathering! I put up the blurred picture of Caitlin and Cyrous, because that is the only one I nabbed of them, so pretend it isn't blurry hahaha.

I spied this cute little woodpecker outside on the neighbors apple tree the other morning, it's he cute?!  I'm happy to report, I haven't had anymore birds hitting the windows recently. The trees are about ready to take their winter nap, and each day the landscape changes bit by bit. This week it will rain for a few days in a row, and most likely take out the rest of the golden leaves, and turn the trees into winter lace. I love seeing it all change from my little tree house.

Shop news: I just finished a cute little dress that I will post about soon. I have been trying to squeeze in a few outfits before Christmas to fill up my shop. I just shipped out one of my little fur hats yesterday. I'm really hopeless with planning ahead for Christmas items for my shop. I know you should start in July or so, but I'm never motivated to do it then, so I leave it with my red capes and the little hats and whatever I can make to round out the fall/winter garments that I have in there. I don't think I'll ever be the Etsy power house seller hahaha. My money maker is that cape in the months of September and October, and I reached my goal again this year with them. Lots of really nice customer reviews makes it all worth while. I also got the cutest pictures back from a customer that I did a big special order for a while back. It melted my heart to see the clothes on this beautiful little girl, and how much her mom loved the pieces.  This is why I like to do what I do on a small scale.

On that note, I need to get house back in order after taking out all the Christmas boxes out. Right now my living room looks like a Christmas tornado just hit!   Happy Holidays!

November 13, 2016

Catching Up Time

Wow, last week was a dozy am I right?  As you can see by the photo above, liberal Bay Area is not happy with the election. I have to say I stand with the two restaurants above. I don't want this to be a political rant or keep going with this draining topic. I just want to say, that had this been a regular Joe Republican, I and most every Democrat would have shrugged it off and thought it was time for the other party to have a chance. This is different, as evidenced by all the protests in large cities and now horrible hate crimes towards minorities. Any Republicans who think we are being whiny babies because Hillary lost, really needs to stop and listen to what we are trying to convey with the protests. As Dave Chappelle recently said on SNL, "We just elected an Internet troll as our President!" I agree sadly.  I'm truly sorry if I offend anyone, but those are my views and this is such a surreal situation. I want to be able to document this and put a few feelings down.

On a much lighter note, Halloween has already come and gone in a flash! We had the same 9 kids that we had last year. I wished that there had been more, but once again I live in a house that isn't conducive to trick or treating. Props to the nine that made it up the hill!
We have had no rain since my last post, and today feels like spring, if not early summer here today! It sure made for some beautiful pictures at the John Muir Park today.  I could easily sit on one of the benches there and watch birds and just rest for hours, but I was on a mission today to look for a gift for my dad for his birthday, so we just did a quick walk.

A few mornings ago, David woke me up to show me a flock of turkeys outside our bedroom window! I threw on a robe and slippers and shot a few pictures of these guys roaming around and snacking down on random leaves and dropped fruit in the side yard. They are very funny to watch.
Then, the little mockingbird that is pictured, is part two of birds hitting the picture window in our dinning room. This one was much more feisty than the last one, and was already standing when I went downstairs to see if it was OK. He flew off after I snapped a few close ups of him.  A friend recently posted some great ideas to help with this situation and I plan on doing  them soon as I get a chance. I hope in the meantime, there are no more collisions with the window.

I finished the little dress I had been working on and it is now in the shop! This dress is ready to ship out in a size three, but can be special ordered in sizes 6mo., 12mo., 18mo., 2yr, 3yr.   It's a very simple yet classic style that can be dressed up or down. It is made of durable medium weight cotton, and the little black ribbon is silk.  I love the simplicity of it and I'm working on doing some more possibly in velveteen. Once again though, not promising too much since I'm in the throws of the holidays at Anthopologie. Today we had a kick off meeting where we all dressed up in various holiday themes and had a breakfast pot luck. Nice for all of us to come together and start off the holiday season with some fun and cheer. Last week was employee appreciation for the home and beauty section......my whole paycheck is gone folks!! I've been wanting to replace my Mason Pearson brush and was able to do so since the beauty section carries them. Picked up some other fun things, like a thick knitted throw, ornament, fun mug, and some Amber perfumed rocks that make the living room smell divine! Merry early Christmas to me hahaha. I'm trying really hard to resist all the beautiful things, because now I'm just working there for clothes and fun house wears. Not necessarily a bad thing, but would like to put some money aside as well.

This coming Thursday my dad and step mom are coming. We are going to celebrate my dad's birthday on the 18th and spend the whole weekend with them. We were going to do Thanksgiving, but my step mom really needs to spend some time with her dad so they are off to the foothills with a pit stop to see my sister along the way. Luckily we are all close by. I'm happy to be able to spend at least my dad's birthday with him.
So.......all caught up! Not sure how often I'll be posting but I'll try my hardest. If I don't check in before Thanksgiving, please have a great one!