Sunday, August 26, 2012


Farm installation.

Farm installation. (More on this one soon.)

48 hours is too long for me to go without a project, apparently.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Grilled Zucchini Banh Mi

I noticed that in the last couple of weeks my washi tape cross-stitch project has been featured on Babble, linked by A Lovely Lark, and also gotten around Pinterest quite a bit. Exciting! If you've made your way here via those routes, welcome! I hope you'll stick around.

In honor of you, dear new readers, whomever you might be, I've just added a little blurb about this blog down at the bottom of the page there, explaining a bit of what I'm doing here. So scroll down and check it out. It's a work in progress.

While I finish up my giant patchwork/embroidery project, I thought I'd share this recipe for grilled zucchini banh mi sandwiches that we recently enjoyed.

It's based on a recipe for banh mi with lemongrass tofu from the blog Salt Bird. I think I've changed the recipe enough to make it my own, so I'll type it out here, but I really encourage you to go over and check out Salt Bird; it is a wonderful little blog.

The original tofu version of this recipe is wonderful--my man calls it the best tofu ever--and it's part of our regular rotation. This time, I thought I'd try using zucchini in place of the tofu. 'Tis the season, after all.

Ceci n'est pas une pumpkin.

In place of the lemongrass called for in the original marinade recipe, I usually substitute lemon balm, because I always have it on hand. (Lemon balm is in the mint family, so once you plant some you…always have it on hand. Consider yourself warned.)

My man and I DESPISE cilantro, so the other change I make to the recipe is to leave off that vile herb. Instead, for a bit of something green to pile atop our sandwiches, I make a little salad with thinly sliced bitter leaves, dressed with rice vinegar and sesame oil. Often I use daikon greens for this. Tuscan kale would also be good. This time I used rutabaga greens--which, yes, are edible! And we have been a bit overwhelmed with them.

Look, these are the greens from just one rutabaga.

And we planted a whole row.

Zucchini and baguette is not a very high-protein meal, so I served this with a salad of corn and edamame. (You could also add avocado, tofu, and/or, if you are carnivorously inclined, perhaps some shrimp.) Sprinkle some umeboshi vinegar over the salad, bite into your wonderfully messy and savory sandwich, and enjoy the last days of summer.

Grilled Zucchini Banh Mi

1 long baguette
3 or 4 medium zucchini


2 Tbsp vegetable or peanut oil

2 tsp sesame oil

2 Tbsp soy sauce

2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

Leaves from 1 stalk fresh lemon balm, in chiffonade (about 1 Tbsp when cut)

Do chua (pickles):
1 cup grated daikon

1 cup grated carrot

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup white vinegar

1 cup water

2 packed cups greens (daikon, kale, rutabaga), tough stems removed
1 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds

4 Tbsp mayonnaise 

Sriracha to taste
Soy sauce to taste

Make the marinade:
In a shallow dish or lidded plastic container, combine soy sauce, vegetable oil, sesame oil, lemon balm, and garlic. Chop the zucchini into large, flattish pieces. Place in the dish and toss to coat with marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour. 

For the do chua (pickles):
In a large bowl, combine sugar, salt, vinegar, and water. Add daikon and carrots and toss. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour. Drain completely before using.

For the greens:
Wash the greens, roll the leaves together and slice them very thinly into chiffonade. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, rice vinegar, and sesame seeds.  Add the greens and toss together. I like to let this sit a half hour or so before serving, to allow the dressing to penetrate the leaves.


For the spread:
In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, siracha, and soy sauce.

To cook and serve:
Cook the zucchini on a grill until tender and charred in spots. Slice baguettes lengthwise, leaving one side as a hinge. Spread mayonnaise (generously) on top and bottom halves. Arrange zucchini, pickles, and greens on top, and enjoy.

Serves 2 or 3

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Stitching. (Or trying to anyway!)


Reorganized art supplies --> creative bender.

Big girl bed.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How to transfer a REALLY big image to embroider onto fabric

First, make a manageably sized drawing, to scale.

Tape together a huuuge piece of paper, the same size as your fabric. Use a ruler to tile it into 1' by 1' squares.

And, square by square, convert your little drawing into a big one.

You can't really see that, can you? Here, I'll Sharpie over my pencil sketch.

Now, what we need is an enormous light box.


That'll do.

Trace. I'm using Pilot Frixion pens here, and so far they seem much more precise and easier to use than the washout fabric markers I'm used to. Thanks to Florence for the tip.


And once you're done tracing on the fabric, the drawing even keeps a little one busy...for about five minutes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Pojagi from secondhand shirts

You remember that pile of shirts I showed off a while back, right? Here's what happened next.



So many buttons! What should I do with them?


Rough layout.

Planning how to turn that rough layout into a grid. I love my new colored pencils!

All pressed and trimmed.

And, voila! Pojagi! This is the front side above.

And this is the back. Traditionally, pojagi--a Korean patchwork method--is made out of leftover cloth, so I think using old shirts was a pretty appropriate choice.

I used this tutorial for the seams, choosing the more traditional option (#2). (And believe me, the irony of cutting apart shirts constructed with flat-felled seams and then sewing the pieces back together using flat-felled seams is not lost on me.)

I have to admit, I was pretty intimidated to try this method. But Victoria's tutorial is extremely lucid and easy to follow, and by the third seam I was pretty much doing it from memory.

The one thing I wasn't sure of was how to make sure that the front side of all the seams ended up on the same side of my patchwork. Lining up fabric, sewing it, flipping it over, flipping it again....oy. I was sure I was going to make a mistake somewhere along the line, and had pretty much decided that I was going to be okay with that. But, somewhat miraculously, everything came out right in the end. So here is what I think I figured out:

-When working from left to right in a fabric layout, place your left-hand piece of patchwork on the bottom. ("Bottom" in the sense that Victoria uses the term--the first piece of fabric that you lay down on the table when you are aligning a seam.)

-When working from top to bottom, put the bottom piece of fabric on the bottom.

One additional tip I'll give is that if you are sewing a long seam--the longest seams on my piece are about 36 inches--it would be helpful to pin when sewing the second row of stitching (rather than just the first). I didn't do that, relying just on pressing, and one of my long seams suffered for it. (Albeit mildly, but, you know. It bugs.)


So there you have it! I sort of don't want to post this, because it means admitting how very behind I am on this project. The festival is in less than two weeks! But there will be lots and lots of hand-stitching between now and then, because, well, there simply has to be, hasn't there? And there's a strange sort of comfort in that.

At times like these I really feel grateful for British period dramas

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Date night. "Those turnips are AMAZING!" Not something even a confirmed brassica lover expects to find herself saying five times within an hour, but there you go.

Restrained indulgence. Oh, okay, a little more. (The latter: like the underground supper club of fabric shopping. I love it!)

Cousins scheming. Painting with feathers and food-coloring "ink"--clever! (Tiptoeing into the living room at 10:20 pm and saying, "It's 20! Why aren't you two in bed?"--not nearly so clever as they thought.)


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Rainbow cakes demystified

So here is what I wanted to say about that rainbow cake that I made for my girl's birthday party.

The short version of all this is that you can make a rainbow cake if you want to. Really, you can.

That's an important thing to say because I feel like rainbow cakes are kind of A Thing now, you know? They're like the avatar of Over-The-Top Internet Prettiness. I mean, there are whole Pinterest boards dedicated to rainbow cakes.

And Pinterest--and blogs and the Internet more generally--have come in for some criticism lately. There are those who say pretty pictures on the Internet are making us all long for an impossible life, and feel like our own real lives are not up to snuff--insufficiently pretty, inadequately styled.  

It's almost as if the Internet automatically makes a thing seem less attainable. Oh, there's a pretty picture of a cake/quilt/living room on Pinterest? It must be too hard/complicated/expensive for me.

And it's true that the vast sea of "inspiring" photos, unmoored from a sense of how they came to be, can encourage that attitude.

But I don't think it has to be that way. I think that with time, care, and a little forethought, a lot of projects that may at first seem intimidating are well within reach. And frankly, pulling this sort of thing off can be pretty thrilling.

Anyway, as to the rainbow cake specifically, here is how I did it:

-I used this recipe for the cake layers. It's a pretty simple vanilla cake with a straightforward method--cream butter and sugar, add dry ingredients and wet ingredients alternately, you probably know the drill.

-Making the cake took about 2 1/2 hours from start to finish, including cleanup. Probably the biggest chunk of time was for greasing the cake pans and lining them with parchment! So it's tedious and repetitive at times, but not particularly fiddly.

-I suggest borrowing cake pans so that you have 6 on hand. (It takes a village to bake a birthday cake these days!) This is more time efficient and you don't have to worry about the leavening in your batter giving out while you wait for cake pans to cool etc.

-But 6 pans wouldn't fit in my oven at once, so I baked 3 layers at a time, turning the pans 180 degrees and switching their positions on the oven racks halfway through baking.

-After mixing up the batter, I divided it into 6 smaller bowls (I just eyeballed it and the portions turned out equal enough). I added the food coloring to the first 3 bowls, transferred these to their cake pans, and put them in the oven. Then I mixed up the remaining 3 colors while the first 3 baked.

-I used this natural food coloring, which I found at Whole Foods. (Yes, it is kind of breathtakingly expensive. Who needs a college fund anyway?) The colors are more pastel than lurid, but I'm okay with that. Also, I ended up with a couple of spots of darker/unmixed color, especially in the pink layer, so mix thoroughly and carefully.

-I wish the recipe had been clearer about how many servings the cake made. Each cake layer is quite thin, so despite the cake having 6 layers it is not particularly tall. It basically makes 12 normal-sized slices of cake, or, if you have a crowd to feed like we did, 24 veeerrrrry thin ones.

-I took a look at the frosting recipe associated with the cake and thought: no freaking way. It just sounded way complicated and prone to disaster. So instead, I used a recipe for Lemon Cream from the Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook.

-The book is still in print, so I won't reproduce the recipe here, but I will say that basically it's lemon curd folded into whipped cream. Simple and yum! 

-The frosting does wilt rather quickly once out of the refrigerator, so if you're in a super-hot climate it might not be the best choice.

-Making the frosting and assembling the cake took another hour and a half or so.  A good portion of that was stirring the lemon curd--so again, tedious, but not difficult.

(Yes, that's a four-hour cake there. I'm aware that it's a luxury to have that much time to make a cake--and good grief, not everyone would or ought to choose to fill four hours that way!--but let's be honest, as luxuries go this one is pretty unobjectionable. Also, I am pretty sure my man spent at least that much time killing zombies last weekend. I'm just saying.)

-I was VERY intimidated by the prospect of assembling the cake! But since the cake layers are quite thin and light they are relatively easy to manipulate without breaking. It was just a matter of working step by step, layer by layer.

-I didn't bother trimming the tops off the layers so that they would be even. I really think the layers of this cake are so thin that this isn't necessary--in fact it would make things more difficult. Where I noticed unevenness I just tried to arrange successive layers so that they would balance out.

We only got a couple of pictures of the inside of the cake--which kind of makes me cry, but hey, we are not professional bloggers, there was a party going on. So here you have it, completely un-"styled," this is exactly as good as this cake looks in real life:

I'll take it.

I am not a particularly experienced baker. (Unless by "experienced baker" you mean "capable of constructing a remarkably lifelike rendering of reindeer feces from butter, flour, and chocolate," in which case, yes, that's me!) But my basic skills were up to the task here, and I think that yours would be too. So go forth, and bake rainbows!