I was feeling so confident after making the Lazy Days Skirt, that I opted to tackle a slightly more complicated project - an a-line skirt for me. Oh boy.
Even before I got my machine, I sort of fell in love with Amy Butler fabric. It's really pretty and girly, but also polished. The Barcelona Skirt caught my eye while I was drooling over the fabric and it had good reviews on Pattern Review. Thus, it became my first foray into sewing clothes for myself. Eeeek!
This pattern includes pieces for three different skirts; a basic a-line, a layered skirt and an apron overlay. On this first pass, I opted for the basic a-line. It's a fairly simple pattern with only 6 separate pieces, 3 for the outer skirt and 3 for the lining. However, I'm learning that even a "simple" pattern still takes quite a bit of time for a beginner. Oh, and this skirt also has an invisible zipper. Yikes! They are notoriously difficult to put in and I was very intimidated. Thank God for this review that I found which includes a link to a tutorial on how to install an invisible zipper with a regular zipper foot. They really helped me get through the construction of the skirt with minimal seam ripping and cussing. ;)
From start to finish, the skirt took me all weekend. The majority of this was due to it being my first clothing garment and I was really nervous in getting the measurements right. I had to do adjustments to the pattern before cutting and I took forever to do them to make sure I had it right. Even with all that time spent, I still cut it too big (better than too small though!) in the waist, so I had to spend some additional time in adjustments.
For the fabric, I chose a navy and aqua tropical-inspired print from Amy Butler. Once I realized that the skirt was actually coming together pretty well, I decided to wear it for my birthday party. It was a perfect summery skirt for a very hot day. I also wore it home from Napa so I could show my mom. She was thrilled. :)
I really like this pattern and already have plans for another basic a-line skirt in a dark print for fall that I plan on pairing with tall boots and a sweater or wrap top. I would also like to eventually make the apron overlay skirt, but it will take the right combination of prints for it to look good. Might be something for next summer. Another pattern that I highly recommend, especially for forcing you to learn how to put in an invisible zipper. :)
Saturday, August 29, 2009
I was feeling so confident after making the Lazy Days Skirt, that I opted to tackle a slightly more complicated project - an a-line skirt for me. Oh boy.
Once I started working on my tote bag in class, I was anxious to practice some basic sewing skills on my own. I forgot to mention in my previous post, but the whole reason I want to learn how to sew is to be able to make garments. There are so many times that I see something in the stores that I'd love to have, but it doesn't fit right or the color is wrong or whatever. It would be nice to be able to come home and replicate things I see in the stores, but customize them for me. :)
Ah, but I'm getting ahead of myself here. First, I need to learn and practice all those basic skills before I start getting crazy with apparel. I was intrigued by a simple skirt that I saw made up on Cara's Blog. The Lazy Days Skirt is a free "pattern" from the children pattern designer Oliver + S. It was a perfect project for practicing some basic skills and getting a finished product out of it. I bugged my co-worker for her daughter's measurements, shopped for some cute fabric and went to work. The final product:
I think it turned out so cute! My co-worker's daugher is half Japanese, so I wanted the fabric to be a nod to her heritage, but still be appropriate for a 3 year old girl - I think this fabric was both. I also love the multitude of colors in the skirt and think it would be equally appropriate for summer or with tights and a sweater for fall.
I even had enough fabric leftover to make another skirt for another co-worker's daughter who is also half-Japanese, so it was perfect. I highly recommend this skirt pattern. It's a simple project, but you're left with a really cute little skirt.
My mom starts thinking about presents for gift-giving occasions months in advance. She started bugging me early in the summer about what I wanted for my birthday - she wanted it to be something special and that I'd remember since it was a big birthday, but she was stumped. And then I totally surprised her with my request.
I wanted a sewing machine.
I've wanted to learn how to sew since I graduated college, but time and resources just never seemed to coalesce. I have really fond memories of my mom and grandmother sewing and quilting together when I was growing up and my brother and I playing under their feet and under the quilting form. While I never had much interest in learning to sew as a kid, as I got older, I realized I wanted to learn.
Now that I had my machine - and a beauty at that, she's even pink! - it was time to learn how to use the darn thing! After playing on Google, I discovered Cynthia Harvey and The Sewing Studio. Close to home and with an introductory class on a day and time that fit my schedule, I didn't hesistate in signing up. I took my first sewing classes in July (yes, I got my machine and started using it early) and completed my first project - a tote bag.
Sewing isn't easy, but I took to it like a duck to water. I love it! I'm absolutely kicking myself that I waited this long to started sewing. Cynthia is a great instructor and I would highly recommend her classes if you're interested in learning to sew. Her classes are small (between 2-5 students) so there is plenty of time for individual instruction if needed. The cost is also reasonable.
Since then, I've worked on several projects on my own and have many others in the works. I also plan on taking other classes in the future. Stay tuned for more fun sewing related posts. :)
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I've been sick as a dog for 16 days and counting. I cough all day and all through the night, I have upper-respiratory infection symptoms and I'm not sleeping because, well, I can't stop coughing. Trip to the urgent care didn't do anything and I'm exhausted because I can't stop coughing long enough to get a full night's sleep. My boss is back from vacation, took one look at me, heard my symptoms and pretty much thinks I have Pertussis, aka Whooping Cough. Eff me. This damn cough could go on for WEEKS! WEEKS people! I'm trying to get my dr. to call in a prescription for a Z-pack and maybe some chemoprophy for Jim. I'm exhausted, I miss my routine and I miss my sleep. So far, 30 hasn't been much fun. :(
Sunday, August 23, 2009
After the amazing meal at French Laundry, we got some sleep and then was up early to grab breakfast at the hotel before spending the day wine tasting. Jim and I both noticed a much larger crowd for breakfast and figured it must have something to do with the V Foundation Wine Celebration that was taking place at our hotel and The Vintage Inn down the street. During the meal, I needed to grab some more juice at the buffet and as I'm walking in, there is a man walking towards me that looked so familiar. As he passed, I kept my cool, smiled at him and said "Good Morning." He responded in kind and as I walked away I wanted to jump up and down because I had just exchanged morning pleasantries with Coack K!! He and his wife were the hosts for the Wine Celebration, so their whole family was there. When I got back to Jim, I was about to tell him about my run-in, but before I could open my mouth, he just smiled at me and said "I already know, he's sitting right there." So cool!
Once we had finished our star-studded breakfast, we met up with our driver and headed out to drink, um, I mean taste a lot of wine. ;)
We were really excited about this place and it didn't disappoint. We split a regular tasting (any 4 wines on their normal list) and a vertical tasting of cabernets. So fabulous. We went home with a several bottles of wine and a membership to their wine club. Wheee!
This one was a recommendation from our driver. The grounds are gorgeous - they often do public tasting events at the pool area and we were bummed we weren't there during one of the food events. We shared a tasting, which included 4 wines.
The wines themselves were really quite lovely, but there wasn't much in the way of ambiance for the tasting itself. All told, we were there for maybe 30 minutes, including taking pictures and puchasing a bottle of wine.
On our way out, I was totally tempted by this book, but alas, I left it. :(
Another recommendation from our driver. I can't tell you how much we loved this place. The only organic winery in the Napa Valley, they are very proud of their green ways and it shows not only in the speel they give, but also in the decor.
Due to their license, you have to have a reservation, so when we arrived they had a table all set up for us. We each had our own tasting and I was quite happy that I didn't have to share. Not only were the wines delicious, but the tasting also came with a cheese and cracker plate with the best gouda I've ever tasted. It was like all of my favorite things on one table. And to make things even better, they even had a dog running around. I think had we not already bought several Cabernets at Hess, we likely would have bought more than the single bottle of Sauvignon Blac we went home with from this place.
Once we had "tasted" most of our pours, we each took a glass and wandered around the vegetable and fruit gardens and the grapevines.
Auberge Du Soleil
We stopped here for lunch and it was so good! We ate on the outdoor patio off the bar with gorgeous views of the entire Valley below us. Jim had a BLT with avocado and I opted for the pizza with prosciutto. The food was really fabulous and the perfect break from a full day of drinking. :)
Huh. What to say about Beringer. Jim had been told from a colleague that Beringer was fabulous, so we added it to our itinerary. What he had neglected to say was that he thought it was fabulous in college. :/ Needless to say, after the smaller, more intimate wineries, Beringer was just too big and too commercial. We would have liked to have gone through the wine caves, but we were in between times and didn't want to wait around. Instead, we split a tasting in their reserve room, which was meh. How uninspiring was this place? I only have a single picture from our time there - Jim double-fisting some meh wine.
Perfect end to a perfect afternoon. We had a kickass server who bonded with Jim over surround sound entertainment systems and Kill Bill. We split two tastings - 3 classics and 2 reserves - but our server also brought us tastings of a Santana wine (surprisingly tasty) and a reserve Rose. Some of the pictures are um, blurry. Cut me some slack though, at this point I'd been drinking for well over 4 hours. ;)
We finally made it back to the hotel around 5ish, giving us enough time for a quick rest and then to get ready for dinner. Our destination - Ad Hoc.
As much as I'd heard that French Laundry was the best meal ever, I'd also heard some pretty amazing things about Ad Hoc. Each night they do a single 4 course menu, which changes daily. I forgot to take a picture of the menu, so you'll have to bear with my descriptions of the meal.
Watermelon salad with feta and an herb vinaigrette. Fresh, light and summery. We cleaned the plate.
Tri-tip with potatoes cooked in duck fat. Perfectly cooked steak and drool-worthy potatoes. Fabulous.
Mixed veggies. Lovely accompaniment to the steak and potatoes.
Really strong goat cheese, two other milder cheeses, apple slices and honey. The goat cheese was just too strong for me, but the other cheeses was really good. The apples, drizzled with olive oil were a nice surprise, but the honey was the real standout here. I don't even like honey all that much, but as I told the server, had the container not been so sticky, I would have thrown it in my purse and taken it home with me. Jim and I ate as much as we could drizzled on the apples, the cheese, the bread, you name it, while our eyes rolled around in our head. The server was kind enough to write the name down for me, now I just need to dig out the card and order some!
And because we obviously didn't drink nearly enough during the day, we had some wine with dinner. Dessert was some sort of brownie sundae - really yummy. No pictures as we got to talking to the very sweet Australian couple next to us and giving them advice about things to see in LA (their next stop in their US tour). We did, however, wind up with a picture of us at dinner, so you get that instead of dessert. Ha!
We really enjoyed our dinner at Ad Hoc, the vibe of the place as much as the food. I'd highly recommend it if you're in the area. We cannot wait to go back - unlike French Laundry, it's a restaurant we plan on patronizing as often as possible. :)
The next day it was time to head back to LA. Total bummer. Before we got on the road, we took a quick picture in front of the hotel and then drove down to French Laundry to get a few pictures of the building and the garden in the daylight.
This trip was absolutely fantastic! We ate some amazing food, drank some fabulous wines and had a chance to just relax. We can't wait to go back for another mini trip soon. :)
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Got a little behind with these recaps, eh? Oops! For completeness sake, I'll finish 'em up now, albeit much later than I had originally planned.
Travis Wall Group Routine: So fun! Loved the light up costumes and the strong choreography.
Evan and Janette:
Sonya Tayeh Jazz - Still loving Sonya's choreography. Janette is a spitfire and I thought she did a great job in the routine. Evan faired well, too, which was a surprise to me.
Tony Meredith Rumba - Hot! I was shocked that Evan really rocked the whole sexy angle and of course, Janette was completely in the moment and commited to the feeling of the routine. Nice piece from both of them.
Brandon and Jeanine:
Hunter Johnson Waltz - Pretty, but a bit of a snooze. It would have been nice to see them in something a bit more lively.
Laurieann Gibson Pop Jazz - Such a strong routine from two very strong dancers. My eye flitted back and forth equally between Brandon and Jeanine as she was more than able to keep up with his hard hitting style. This type of piece can be really difficult because there really isn't a character to fall back on if you're technique is suffering. This is all about feeling the music and the movement and these two did a brilliant job with it. Fabulous choreography and execution!
Ade and Melissa:
Tony Meredith Cha Cha - Just okay. Too slow and not really enough emotion for me.
Tyce Diorio Contemporary - Aaaand they just secured themselves another week on the show. This was the most powerful routine I've ever seen danced on this show, by a landslide. The depiction of a woman with breast cancer was so emotional and heartfelt and I can't think of two better dancers to have performed this routine. A subject matter like this could have easily felt fake or insensitive, but Tyce's amazing choreography combined with the emotional maturity of both Melissa and Ade made for a breath-taking and tear-inducing piece. If you haven't seen this yet, you need to find it on YouTube and watch it. But, be forewarned, have tissues at the ready. It's a tear-jerker.
Jason and Kayla:
Tyce Diorio Jazz - First off, I couldn't agree more with Mia that Kayla needs to be on Broadway if she has any acting or singing talent. The girl looked stunning in this piece and danced it so well! I thought Jason performed admirably, but overall, I just don't think he can keep up with Kayla. Nice routine from Tyce.
Shane Sparks Hip Hop - Finally, Shane Sparks and his kickass choreography is back! I don't know what happened earlier this season, but this latest routine from him was fantastic! I loved the zombie theme and their hard-hitting movies. When Kayla wiped her eyes and smeared black makeup down her face, giving her quite the creepy look, it was a really nice touch to the piece. The ending move was sick! I don't know how they did it, but it was so perfect for the routine and totally creepy. Excellent!
This week's results show was the 100th show and from all the promotions, I really thought this was going to be a packed show with guest appearances from previous contestants and lots of old routines performed. Yeah, not so much. Lots of the old cast were back, but the just sat in the audience. Why wouldn't you utilize all of that amazing dancing talent and have more live routines instead of a measly 4 (albeit Emmy-nominated and quite good, but still!) I was really disappointed that they didn't make this show more than it was. :(
As for who was sent home, I was shocked that Brandon was in the bottom 2, but was happy that it was Jason that was sent home. A good dancer, but just not on par with the likes of Brandon or Ade. As for the girls, I was sad that Janette was sent home, but didn't feel like it was the upset of the season. She is quite good, but again, just not on par with the other ladies, at least for me.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Tuesday morning found Jim and I up bright and early, stopping for a quick breakfast and then hitting the I-5 to head up to Napa. The drive was long and uneventful - no traffic! We made it to downtown Napa in the early afternoon, stopped for a light lunch at Taylor's Automatic Refresher (pretty good, but not as amazing as we hoped for) and then did a little light shopping at the outlets. By around 5pm, we headed to Yountville to check in to our hotel, The Villagio Inn.
Our room on the second floor at the front of the hotel was great. Quiet and just steps away from the pool on one side and the spa facilities on the other.
We still had some time before dinner, so we explored the area a bit and then headed back to the room to get ready. We also broke into the complimentary bottle of wine left for us. :)
This was around the time that I hit a photo slump. I think I must have been tired from the drive and still recovering from the weekend. All I could think about was finding a place for dinner and just sitting down to relax and eat. Unfortunately, we hadn't made dinner reservations for Tuesday night and Bottega and Bouchon were both fully booked for the evening. (Lesson of the day - Always make your dinner reservations in advance!)
Instead, we settled for Hurley's Restaurant, just down the street from our hotel. Knowing nothing about it beforehand, it was actually a really pleasant dinner. We split the crabcakes, I had roast chicken with mac and cheese w/bacon while Jim opted for the steak and potatoes. For dessert, creme brulee and chocolate gelato. And all of it topped off with a couple of glasses of wine. The service and food were both quite good and it was a great end to a long day.
We had a big night ahead of us, so we specifically opted for a really mellow day and early evening. A full breakfast buffet is one of the many amenities of the hotel and we took advantage of it each morning. Again, still on a bit of a picture strike for some reason, but trust me when I tell you our omelets were cooked to perfection and the breakfast pastries were heavenly. After breakfast, Jim had to squeeze in a few hours of work, so I sat by the pool and read, while drinking copious amounts of fancy flavored water they had poolside and receiving some very sweet birthday wishes via text and email.
Jim was done with work by early afternoon so we walked down the street for a quick bite at Pacific Blues Cafe. My burger and his club sandwich were fine, but nothing out of this world. A nice solid meal though. We briefly explored the V Marketplace after lunch before heading back to the hotel for more pool time. Around 3ish, the hotel puts out an afternoon spread of sweet and savory goodies for its guests, so of course, we had to poke our noses in and see what it was all about. We each had a few cookies and some decaf coffee while sitting outside enjoying the view of the grapevines on property. [You'd think I would have taken some pictures of all of this, right? Yeah, not so much. :/]
Since our dinner reservation wasn't until 9pm (practically my bed time on most other nights - ha!) we used the discount coupon that came with our welcome package to each get a deep tissue massage before dinner. Because, you know, the evening wasn't going to be nearly decadent enough as it was. ;) My masseuse was just okay, but hey, it was still a massage.
And then it was time to get ready for, as Jim was calling it, our "super fancy" dinner. I'm not gonna lie, I was totally nervous. I mean, really though, it's pretty ridiculous to be nervous to go somewhere to pay to eat, but I was. Jim and I gussied ourselves up and about quarter to 9pm, we headed down the street to The French Laundry. EEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!
Since we were walking to the restaurant in the dark, it took us a few false starts to finally find it. Once we did, we stepped through that lovely deep blue door into a small foyer, where we were greeted by the staff... and had some icy glances shot our way by some of the others waiting for their 9pm reservations. Okay, now look. I realize we were some of the youngest ones there (with the exception of the two kids upstairs, but that's a whole other issue), but come on. Why some of the other guests felt the need to shoot us the evil eye is beyond me. It's not like we showed up looking like ragamuffins. I tell ya. Some people just baffle me.
After about 15 minutes, everyone else had been seated at their table... but we were still there waiting. You gotta hand it to TFL, though. They sent the sommelier out, with two champagne flutes and a bottle of some lovely champagne, he explained to us that our table was taking longer to leave than they had expected and to please have a glass of bubbly on the house. Why, thank you, I think we will. :) The sommelier was very nice and personable and stayed to chat with us for a bit, then left us to enjoy the compliments of the house. No more than a few minutes later, we were led back to a quiet table in the corner of the restaurant, seated next to another couple who were a couple of courses ahead of us. Please note, we were the absolute last table to be seated for the evening. That'll come up a bit later.
We were no more seated, than our server came by with the menus and wine list for our perusal. He went through the evenings menu with us in detail, explaining the intricacies of the dishes and noting anything particularly special about an ingredient or a preparation and the courses where a choice between one of two items could be made. [For those unfamiliar with the restaurant, each night two 9-course menus are offered - one with meat, the other a tasting of vegetables. The courses are small, but as we found out, you do not walk out of there hungry. Like, at all.] After confirming that indeed, we were not vegetarians, he left us for a moment to finalize our order. We opted to each choose a different course for those in which there was more than more option, so we could sample the most courses. Our server helped us choose two half bottles of wine that would bridge us through the appetizers, fish and meat courses and then the real fun began. :D
At this point I still hadn't decided whether or not I was going to take pictures. But, seeing as how we were tucked back a bit from the main diningroom, I felt more comfortable snapping a quick pic of each course. And, I realized, that I really wanted a photographic timeline of the evening, so it worked out quite well.
White Truffle Oil-Infused Custards with Black Truffle Ragout I knew about this dish from reading through the cookbook a bit and from religously reading French Laundry at Home, but I was surprised to see it sitting in front of me. It was presented as "a gift from the kitchen" and my what a pretty and delicious little gift it was. I don't think I've ever had a savory custard before and this one was fabulous. Perfectly cooked custard and a rich truffle sauce on top. So so good.
Moulard Duck "Foie Gras en Terrine" Pink Apple Relish, Celery Branch, Toasted Oats and Ginger-Yogurt I made Jim order this option because I've had a real mixed experience with foie gras in the past. I've tried it twice - once I didn't care much for it and the other time it was just okay. So, while I wanted to try it, I didn't also want to be stuck feeling like I had to eat a plate of something that was just meh. As you saw from above, the gazpacho was truly amazing, but I think I might have chosen the wrong option here. THIS STUFF WAS OUT OF THIS WORLD!!! Those of you who think you've tasted foie gras before - nope. I beg to differ. The only way I can describe it is think of the best, creamiest, salted butter you've ever had. Then multiply it by 1000, put it on some homemade toasted brioche and maybe you'll get close to what this tastes like. Again, absolutely unreal. Jim had the first few bites and I definitely saw eyes roll back in his head. I have to try and find a recipe for this preparation because while I'm sure it's labor intensive, I really would like to eat this again. Very soon.
Sauteed Fillet of Australian Bluefin Tuna Navel Orange, Tokyo Turnips, Broccolini, Perilla Shoots and White Sesame (not pictured - oops!) Guess I forgot to photograph this one. The bite of tuna I had was perfectly cooked. I'm assuming it was excellent as Jim pretty much licked his plate at the end. ;)
Amidst all of this eating, I also made sure to have a full compliment of beverages going. What is that, like quadruple-fisting?!
Bacon-Wrapped Sirloin of Devil's Gulch Ranch Rabbit Black-Eyed Peas, Golden Corn, Piquillo Peppers and Paprika Sauce I had a small bite of the bacon-wrapped sirloin and it was really delicious. Jim was a bit perplexed at the rabbit kidney that came with the dish, but seemed to enjoy it and found the mini-rack of rabbit pretty funny. His plate was pretty much licked clean, so I'm guessing it was all good.
Lemon Verbena "Vacherin" Tellicherry Pepper Panna Cotta, Lemon Verbena Sherbet and Chilled Silverado Trail Strawberry ConsommeJim said this was good, but again, I think he was having spacing issues in his stomach. I did take a small bite of the strawberry consomme and it was so fresh and light.
Assorted candies and hazelnuts dipped in caramel and chocolate and then dusted with powdered sugar. See what I'm saying about you not walking out hungry?! We each had a hazelnut and a candy and then asked for the rest to be boxed up. This was around the time that our server also came by with a tray of chocolates. Again, my eyes rolled back in my head from being so stuffed and he graciously added a few to our to go bag.
In addition to the goodies above, we also went home with a bag of shortbread cookies each and a small bag of wrapped chocolate bars for my birthday. Lastly, also took home a menu from the evening - especially cool in light of the fact that it's dated with my actual 30th birthday date at the top. :)
A huge thanks to my wonderful Jim for making our trip to Napa and most importantly, our night at TFL a reality. I love you so much and could not think of a more amazing way to leave my 20s behind. :)
Next up, wine tasting and Thomas Keller, take 2!