Flashback: "Craft Night '04"

8.30.2013

Seriously funny "flashback" this Friday. All the way back to more than 9 years ago, summer of 2004.

I haven't always thought of myself as a creative person. In 2004 I had just graduated high school and was about to go off to college, but lived at home with my parents over the summer and worked 3/4-time at a law office. I didn't sew hardly at all, had only made myself a few things, and I didn't have many really crafty friends or anything. And I certainly didn't have blogs to read for inspiration!!!

But, back in 2004 was near the beginning of the DIY words-on-tees trend (I remember American Eagle came out with iron-on letter sets they sold with their tees--I don't think it was an incredible success, but interesting...). Urban Outfitters made all those "Blondes Have More Fun" poly/cotton heather tees, ringer tees, slightly less edgy than the ones they do now... Somehow my friends and I came up with a plan to make all the cool tees we could think of for ourselves!

Two of my closest summer camp friends were visiting from out of town and it was like a little reunion. We spent one whole long weekend hanging out at my generous parents' house, playing at the park, driving to Fred Meyer for late-night snacks, watching movies on the couch in the basement... good times for 16-year-olds. Something inspired us to put to use the incredible sewing room my mom has, and we spent an afternoon driving around craft stores and Goodwills and the sporting goods store for crafty supplies!

We bought lots of tees and those fuzzy iron-on letters. And some iron-on patches for my friend Chris's thrifted button-ups. We stayed up late measuring straight lines from armpit to armpit, sorting out letters, designing... we went crafting crazy for the first time any for any of us!!

We even named it. Craft Night '04. It was official.

First we made some of the basics. One of the inspirations for the night was Lester Bangs's "Detroit Sucks" shirt from Almost Famous, one of my fave movies ever.

We made several. I gave one to my then brand-new boyfriend Jason, who of course I am now married to. He thought it was pretty cool. ;) He still has it. I made a fitted version of "Detroit Sucks" for myself! I think I still have mine, too, but it's shrunken and has that stale smell cotton tees get... so it's for sentimental value only.

We couldn't get enough craftiness. We bought more shirts and more letters! Raglan baseball tees, colored tees, more fitted tees! We got political (upcoming 2004 presidential election) and made "Vote!" tees!

We thought the red one in the back--"Pants?"--was soooooooo funny. We made it for one of our other friends who wasn't there. And then we made another for one of us!

(Throughout this post, I hope you forgive the extremely low quality pictures. I don't remember whose digital camera it was, probably my parents', but it probably had something like 3.1 megapixels and weighed less than my phone. Technology advances fast, guys.) Here we are in some of our creations from that weekend.

I felt super cool in that "Vote" shirt my freshman year of college! And my sort of mysterious "Detroit Sucks" tee. I've never been to Detroit. We just thought it was a cool look to knock off. ;)

So now you know! Some of my earliest crafty adventures!

I've used iron-on letters since then (see this art project) and thought back fondly to Craft Night '04. Maybe sometime I'll have to have a repeat with some new crafty friends, and get a bunch of Christmas presents done or something! (I have no need for a million tees with lettering on them now!! Although bold lettering tees are totally in right now...)

Hope you enjoyed the flashback!

Classic French chocolate mousse update

8.28.2013

This post is close to my heart not just because I love chocolate and cooking with real foods and learning to manipulate eggs, but because it reminds me of happy summer camp times I spent as a kid at French camp!

Literally almost 4 years ago now, I shared the classic French chocolate mousse recipe I learned from a French counselor at camp when I was a kid. I pretty much copied it from the camp newsletter, and didn't give many good instructions, and I probably haven't made it since. But this year I've been very into our real foods diet featuring incredible nutrient-dense foods like eggs, and I wanted to make a whole foods version of the classic French recipe--with as few changes as possible.

I no longer eat grains or gluten (there is a little flour in the original recipe) or dairy (except grassfed cow butter). I also no longer eat white or cane sugar. And, I try to avoid even minimally processed foods like chocolate chips when possible. So this modified recipe is gluten free, dairy free, and Paleo/Primal friendly. But tastes just as good or better than what I remember!

Here goes the recipe, plus much clearer instructions than last time. ;)

(Paleo) Classic Chocolate Mousse


Ingredients:


Directions:

1. Make your own chocolate--I used this easy chocolate chip substitute with whole ingredients: equal parts cocoa powder and coconut oil (to total about 10 oz). An easy chocolate chip substitute is cocoa powder, coconut oil, dash of vanilla, and sweetener. I didn't add sweetener to my "melted chocolate" since I knew I'd be adding some as the next ingredient.

2. Now, stir in the xylitol, erythritol, honey, or whatever you want to use...

3. Add the coconut milk. Depending on how thick your chocolate ends up (I threw in a little too much cocoa powder so mine was thick!), add 1/4 to 1/2 cup coconut milk. (The Natural Value brand is the best for no added ingredients or thickeners derived from corn!)

4. TURN OFF THE HEAT. Let it cool down a little so that it won't cook the egg yolks when you put them in.

5. Separate the egg whites into a bowl and stir the yolks into the chocolate. (I didn't catch this photo till the last yolk!)

6. Beat the egg whites with an electric handle mixer until stiff peaks form--until they are very stiff.

7. Slowly, carefully fold the chocolate into the whites (or vice versa). I'm not sure what the actual definition of "folding" is I just looked it up. "mix an ingredient gently with (another ingredient), esp. by lifting a mixture with a spoon so as to enclose it without stirring or beating."

Yeah, basically very careful, slow mixing so you don't flatten the egg whites. Keep them as fluffy as possible!

Should be a thick, chocolatey mixture. Ladle into individual dishes. I used our four dessert dishes but these are four VERY LARGE servings. I'd say 6 - 8 ramekins or little dishes would be perfect!

8. Refrigerate 4 hours or more. Add some fancy garnish to the top if you like. ;)


It's rich and fluffy and perfectly sweet!

Hooray for real food! P.S. The post is part of Unprocessed Fridays on Girl Meets Nourishment!

A DIY kit: Gold spray paint dino jars!

8.26.2013

Of course I love gold spray paint. And I've always wanted to make some spray paint animals, though wasn't sure what purpose they would serve.

Have you heard of Darby Smart? I hadn't until the founder Nicole reached out to me about reviewing one of their fabulous DIY kits!! Such a fun site, all kinds of DIY projects and all so cute and classy (designed mostly by awesome bloggers)--and they sell kits so you can order everything you need to make the project!

As you may have seen on my Instagram the other day, I got the gold dino jars kit (bonus for cute packaging!)--the project was designed by Joanna Hawley. Very cool to have everything I might need right there in the kit!

I love projects that are this easy. The small scale was nice, too. I superglued the lid together, then glued the dinosaurs on, basically over breakfast and coffee while reading my latest Lucky mag yesterday. Used the sea salt container and a big bottle of vanilla as weights while gluing down the lid!

After I glued the dinos on, I took them outside on the lawn (on an old magazine) for their coat of spray paint!

Then waited for that to dry. Then done!

Figured I'd put these bathroom essentials in them for now, for the guest bathroom. It's hard to find the right bathroom canisters that aren't super expensive. Mason jars seem like the perfect solution! These are even better, with the extra personality!

So, that was easy. Thanks again to Darby Smart for sending me the kit!

Check them out, if you haven't already!

I got a couple of other cool crafty things done this weekend, can't wait to share! Until then, enjoy this celebration of gold spray paint!

Kinda makes you love the DIY kit idea, right?!

Two-tone, half-vintage fabric dress with polka dots

8.23.2013

Polka dots, vintage fabric, pink and grey... a winning combination, right??

I've been itching to make another summer dress this season before I have to pull out the fall colors. But I haven't had a great vision for any of the fabrics in my fabric stash, and haven't had time to go to the fabric store.

So, it was a great occasion to make another two-fer dress (is that an official term? It's what ModCloth calls them. I pulled out my favorite basic summer pattern, McCall's M5849 (it's out of print but you can find something similar, see my suggestions here). A basic strapless dress pattern, princess seamed and very easy to add straps to. Nice to mix it up.

I've had this vintage pink and white polka dot fabric for ages, don't even remember where I got it. It was cut down the center so it was a couple yards long but only about 20" wide, so my options for what to do with it were limited. It's a quilting cotton, which I don't usually use for clothing, but pretty old so much heavier and nicer quality than modern quilting fabric.

I also had the grey swiss dot fabric from some mysterious source ages ago, and I love light grey, but it's so lightweight and pale I hadn't been able to design anything I really liked out of it alone. So it was a perfect skirt!

It's still hot out, but I'm afraid fall fashion may creep into my summer dreams... I love summer. I don't want it to end. Plus, I definitely don't have fabric in my stash for a fall dress!! ;)

How to Wear DIY: The neon maxi dress to dinner

8.21.2013

So we had an anniversary not long ago... two years since our wedding! We celebrated on our own the day of, but over the weekend my parents took us out to dinner at a nice grill near their house.

The How to Wear DIY part of the story is... I got to wear the neon green maxi dress I made recently, and it was perfect for the hot day and evening--but didn't feel too casual. It is so hard to dress well when it's hot out. Dresses are the way to go!

And the tan and gold sandals I have been living in this summer.
Colorblock necklace: F21. Wishbone necklace: One of these on Amazon.
Sandals: Ross (same ones on DSW). Bag: Target. Dress: DIY, here!

I doubled up the necklaces even though they're contrasting gold/ivory and silver, because husband gave me the wishbone for our 9th dating anniversary this June and I'm sentimental. Plus, mixing metals can be nice to keep from feeling stuffy.

Love that I got to wear my bright, cheery maxi dress before summer's over and the fall colors come in!

A super amazing book: Beyond Bacon book review. Recipes, techniques, and health!

8.19.2013

I'm super stoked today to tell you about this gorgeous cookbook I got to review, this one about healthy nose-to-tail eating of pork from pastured pigs. The book, Beyond Bacon: Paleo Recipes that Respect the Whole Hog, was written by a seriously inspiring couple whose blog and podcast I really enjoy.

Stacy and Matt blog at PaleoParents.com, and already wrote an awesome book of Paleo-friendly (grain, legume, and dairy free, whole foods) recipes for kids. But this book's for the adults--it's gorgeous, and packed with recipes I can't wait to try.

Stacy is a totally inspirational blogger who completely turned her health around. They have an amazing before/after story about their family and Stacy's health, and I love listening to "The Paleo View" podcast that Stacy does with another awesome blogger--really great, balanced approach to health through a real food diet.

So I was excited to read their newest book, and so glad I get to review a copy!! (Everyone loves bacon, right? Have you heard Jim Gaffigan's bit about it? Even when I was vegan I couldn't argue with him there--it's delicious.) But this book is about more than bacon: the delicious potential and health benefits of all parts of the whole (pastured) pig.

Husband and I went through the whole thing this Saturday morning and enjoyed it so much. We can't wait to try out recipes from each section. (My husband has a blog about our nutrient-dense diet and healthy lifestyle, called Grassfed Geek, so a book about getting the most out of meat from healthy animals was super interesting to him, too!) So yep, it's pretty crazy that less than a year ago I ate a mostly raw vegan diet, and now I'm soooooo excited about this gorgeous pork book!

The book...


The first thing I noticed is, this book is gorgeous. Not only is the photography amazing (and the recipes look sooooo good), the drawn designs and homey layout are so nice! Really just a very pleasant experience reading it.

There's a forward by Joel Salatin, possibly the coolest farmers there is. (You may remember him from the last part of The Omnivore's Dilemma, but he's also written many books himself on sustainable farming and health. He's been on some of my fave podcasts recently, too--here and here.)

The first main chunk of the book is the "Why we wrote this love letter to pork" section. These pages are PACKED with amazing info about health and pork--pastured pork. Stacy and Matt explain clearly and simply why they emphasize pastured pork rather than conventional feeding operation pork, plus how to find and afford it. There's a great cut sheet chart, always one of my favorite parts of meat cookbooks. They give advice on how to buy a whole pig, something my mother-in-law just did from a local farm, actually, so I recognized some of the terms. We may have to try that next! (We've ordered beef and lamb shares before.)

The science parts of health and diet books/resources are always my fave, though. This section includes some history of heart disease and obesity and diet--just another reminder that the link between dietary cholesterol and saturated fat and heart disease is not strong. Saturated fats are so good for us!

There's also a neat chart comparing the health pro's of various organ meats and other parts of the animal. Yep, liver is extremely nutrient-dense! So are the others. Very cool comparison.

There's a section on how to get started and learn some of the techniques they do a lot of--smoking, deep frying, and sausage stuffing. Then come the recipes! First, the basic recipes section, including this recipe I cannot wait to try. I really want to make my own bacon using pork belly from a local farmer. It would be nitrite-free! I bet it would be amazing! We really wanna try making scrapple, too. Just got to get the right parts of the animal.

We've made our own bone broth many times now, and so we have a lot of mostly beef fat in the fridge and freezer, and we like to cook with it rather than butter or oil sometimes because the fats oxidize at a higher temperature and so we can be sure we're not getting inflammatory damaged fats. (You may have seen this post about how much I love coconut oil. I've also found myself using our homemade lard for cooking all the time!) But we've never rendered our own fat from cuts of fat before, and we do have some in our downstairs freezer that we want to use! So I was excited for the rendering fat instructions in the book!

Then there are the rest of the recipes--grilled/smoked recipes, soups and stews, braised and roasted pork, traditional recipes, frying with lard, veggies and sides, sauces and dressings, and desserts.

As we flipped through the recipes, we got a little overwhelmed because every. single. thing. sounded absolutely amazing!!!!!! The photos are gorgeous, the flavors are all different and carefully selected, nothing sounded too complicated, and every dish looked so delicious and nourishing, I just wanted to understand them all. So hopefully we can start going through these and try a bunch of them soon! (This recipe is up as a teaser on their site, here!)

There are veggie recipes, too. I imagine a lot of things taste better with lard!

I mentioned there's also a desserts section. If you've been to Portland lately you may have heard of the bacon donuts, bacon chocolate, bacon brittle, bacon ice cream, and other bacon-ey treats that are popular here (and other cities, I'm sure!). But these go beyond your basic bacon chocolate cupcake. I cannot wait to make this savory bacon jam (like a chutney, almost)! (There's also a recipe for the grain-free biscuits it's shown with!)
Source: Paleo Parents, Beyond Bacon FAQs
And this. Um, yum.
Source: Paleo ParentsA Look Inside Beyond Bacon
As I said, overwhelmed by how many awesome recipes there are, so I haven't picked any to try yet and I can't even begin to list. ;) And, the next cooler day we get, I think we'll try rendering our own lard from that fat in our freezer. I'm excited!

Check out the book on Amazon if you're a real foods foodie like me! And, I can personally recommend Stacy's podcast for some really cool, science-based perspectives on diet/lifestyle/health for the whole family. And once more, the blog is PaleoParents.com!

A dumpy chambray dress makeover

8.14.2013

I bought this dress literally years ago. Like, several houses ago... probably in 2010. It was on super clearance at Nordstrom Rack, and I really shouldn't have bought it, since I never wore it... but it was "such a good deal"--one of those purchases. I'm trying not to do that anymore, since I end up with a bunch of clearance stuff I don't really like in my closet, rather than paying a little more for the really good stuff. But, since I had the dress, and I've been trying to wear more skirts and dresses to my new job, I figured if I could make it into something cuter, now was a great time. That or send it to the thrift store!

Those sleeves are just terrible. The collar is awkwardly stiffly open... there's no shape going up to the bust and that tie belt is not cute.

But I remade it!

This remake took me seriously less than 20 minutes. I knew I wanted those sleeves gone, and I figured that making it sleeveless and finishing the armscyes with contrast bias tape would be the easiest way to finish them.

I first very carefully removed the sleeves... this was a little tricky because the puffs were only sewn onto half of the armscye; the underarm was finished with a bias facing. But I used my tiny thread scissors around those parts, and carefully dissected the sleeves. I also cut away a liiiiiiiittle tiny bit at the shoulder, to open up it up a little more and maybe make a more flattering, curved, open arm opening than the straight line that was there.

I used 1/2" double fold bias tape, in black. (There are tons of tutorials on sewing on bias tape. Here's one.)

I figured it'd be nice to tie in the black trim edge a little on another part of the dress, so rather than sew it all the way around the hem or something, I took apart the collar a little and sewed it all the way around. I trimmed just a few stitches at the collar opening and was able to wrap the bias tape around all the way into the collar seam. Then I switched to blue thread and sewed it back together.

See?

Obviously I solved the belt issue by just removing it. But it's also cute with my fave wide black belt!

Sweet, right?! Saved that one from the Goodwill pile, made my $8 or whatever I paid in 2010 worth it, and hopefully found something to wear to work in these summer months. I highly recommend you try it out if you have any boring shirt dresses sitting around! ;)

P.S. Speaking of thrifting, have you heard of Twice? Nicer brands second-hand, online. I haven't ordered anything yet but am sending in some items to trade! Check it out if you like thrifting as much as I do!

I finally stenciled a wall! With this gorgeous pattern in our half bathroom...

8.12.2013

I've always wanted to stencil a wall!!!

I painted the big stripes in our upstairs guest bathroom, and that was super cool, but I've always admired big geometric or graphic patterns on walls, particularly allover patterns that mimic wallpaper. What a fantastic DIY to do, right?!

So I got a chance to review a stencil from Royal Design Studio, and it took me literally several weeks to pick one out because there are so many cool ones (I was looking mostly at the Allover Damask Stencils,
Allover Moroccan Stencils, and Allover Modern Stencils). I finally picked the Fabric Damask Stencil, and they also sent me some of their really nice thick stencil creme paint in Pearl Oyster and a stippling brush.

I'd been wanting to stencil the upper walls in our half bath since painting them a super dark color last fall. Kinda inspired by the dramatic wallpaper in this pin. Our walls are textured with an orange peel finish, and I had tried to stencil them a couple times with absolutely no success. I used some medium-sized leaf-ey stencils from the Martha brand from Michael's. They did NOT work. The paint got all under the edges and when I peeled it away, looked awful. I was also using craft paint and a foam sponge thing, clearly not right for the walls. So it was great that Royal Design Studio sent me a stencil, creme paint, and a brush so I could really do it right!!

So here it is in use, on the last pattern I stenciled... taped up with some painter's tape for extra security but also stuck on with spray adhesive.

The "stippling" method with the brush worked great. Almost no paint got under the stencil edges. Seriously fab.

The spray adhesive was another nightmare--I got this at JoAnn a while back and after the first usage it was pretty gunky. Tip: never buy the value size. You can't guarantee it'll work the second time you use it!!! Yuck!!!
Never again. Buy the smaller ones.

I obviously had some issues on the corners. Next time I do this, I will do some MATH and space out the stencil patterns evenly so I don't have awkward space at the bottom and top where I didn't want to bend the stencil and add a third pattern repeat in each row. And I'll space it so I don't have to curve the stencil on the corners like I did below--on the left there it worked okay because I used some heavy masking tape aligned vertically to tape off the wall and keep the paint off the white wall, but on the other corner (right) it was chaos, trying to keep the stencil folded 90 degrees and stuck to both walls. It's a heavy latex stencil so it bends but it doesn't want to stay bent!

But all in all, I think the whole effect is pretty great and I'm really happy with it!

I know, I still could go back and add another (partial) pattern repeat on each row to fill in the blank space above the faux chair railing... siiiiigh. I'm tired of stenciling, and the partial ones where I have to bend the stencil are hard to do. Maybe I will sometime. I'm calling it good for now, ok?!

One problem I am having is photographing this tricky little room! It doesn't get any natural light, and the mounted light above the sink is soooo bright. Any photographers have tips for this??

Update: Photo by Nakalan!

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