Thursday, January 24, 2013

Gertie's LA Party for Better Sewing

I often feel that I'm the last to know about many of the ultra-fun, swanky offerings that the LA area has to offer to a vintage-loving, crafty mama like myself.  But by some miracle (Facebook), I was actually able to learn about a book signing and indoor "picnic" for Gretchen "Gertie" Hirsch in time to make plans to attend!

If you're currently scratching your head thinking, "who?" it's probably best that you just skip this post.  Well, or take a little time to enjoy the sartorial stylings of darling Gertie via her blog, New Blog for Better Sewing.  The title is a riff on the trusted old Vogue book of a similar name: New Book for Better Sewing.  Yours truly managed to score a copy (minus the dust cover) on eBay ages ago.  Alas, most of the patterns noted within the book are long out of print and hard to come by.  Gertie took the time and effort to track down all the patterns and construct each one, documenting the ordeal (and FUN) on her blog.

She's been something of a darling in the crafty community as of late, and why the heck not?!  She's a cute as a 1950's button!  But she's also smart as a whip, and a talented author and pattern-maker, too.  Her new book, aptly titled Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing, is filled with information on sewing your own vintage-inspired garments.  Plus, it includes numerous patterns in a variety of sizes.  It's like a build-your-own-wardrobe book, just add notions, fabric, and time!

But as I was saying: book signing and picnic!

Independent fabric store, Sew LA, hosted the shindig a few weeks ago.  I wrangled my daughter, my copy of the Vogue book, and Gertie's text and made my way to LA for an afternoon with Gertie.  But first, I thought I'd go ahead and make and wear a little something from the book.  Time being short, I settled on making up a blouse.

Bow-tie blouse

The back

Driving from Long Beach to anywhere in LA will either take twice the amount of time suspected, or half.  In our case, we were there early.  I got a couple of shots of the space before it was packed with eager sewists.

Gertie brought along several pieces highlighted in the book

The studio set up with adorable photo space

A blurry shot of my girl

The obligatory "proof I was there" shot

As it was picnic themed, there was a terrific spread of appropriate foods, including veggie "piggies in blankets," deviled eggs, skewers, and potato salad!

The spread

Getting ready to stuff my gob

Gertie plays hostess

Another dress from the book in the background

A make-up artist was there doing vintage-styled make-overs

Gertie's book was available for purchase, natch, and part of a give-away
Gertie draws a winner--alas, it wasn't me
Taylor and I

 All told, we had a lovely time.  I was too shy to ask Gertie to do much more than sign my book.  Oh, I did show her my copy of Vogue's NBBS, taking pains to point out the sweet inscription from 1956: "For Linda Sue, Happy Birthday, July 21, 1956"

At any rate, now my copy of Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing has its own inscription.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Made From Scratch

There is something truly special about enjoying a made-from-scratch meal.  In today's fast food nation, it's becoming something of a rarity, too.  I'm fortunate.  As a stay at home hausfrau, I'm able to treat my family to many goodies that are made from scratch.  Tortillas, pancakes, cookies, et cetera.

As I was making up a batch of my sourdough tortillas, I started to ask myself, "what foods are so easy to make from scratch, and much tastier than store-bought, that they should ALWAYS be made from scratch."  I decided to make a list.

Below are my top 3 foods that should ALWAYS be made from scratch.

1. Cake
If, like me, you grew up in a house where birthday cakes were frequently store-bought, and homemade cake was always from a box you should do yourself a huge favor and make a cake from scratch soon.  The difference is staggering.  Made-from-scratch cake is much tastier, and it really is not that much more difficult (recipe depending, of course).

Most made-from-scratch cakes follow the same formula.  Mix/sift all of the dry ingredients together in one bowl.  In another bowl, mix all the wet ingredients together.  Then, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.  It really is that simple.  And there are a crazy number of easy recipes to chose from.  Do everyone in your household a favor and never make another box cake again.

2. Salad Dressing
Have you ever really looked at the ingredient list on a bottle of conventional salad dressing?  Corn syrup, MSG, binders, fillers, dyes...  Some dressings have a frightful amount of questionable ingredients.

Salad dressing should really only have a handful of ingredients: an oil, an acid/vinegar, some seasonings.  Done.  Considering that those ingredients should be easily on hand in every kitchen, whipping up a tasty, fresh dressing is easy-peasy.  My personal favorite combination is below.

Happy Hausfrau Salad Dressing
To about one tablespoon of Bragg's Liquid Aminos (or Shoyu, or Soy Sauce), slowly drizzle in about two tablespoons of olive oil.  Use a whisk to blend the two ingredients together as you drizzle creating an emulsion.  OR/ Spray a bit of Liquid Aminos onto a personal-sized serving of salad, then spray/sprinkle a bit of oil.  Toss salad and eat.

Of course, you can get quite creative in putting together a salad dressing.  I love experimenting with flavored vinegars and seasoning combinations.  Since I usually only make just enough dressing to dress one salad, I can have a variety of flavors each week without sacrificing an entire fridge shelf to bottles of store-bought dressings.

3. Stock/broth
Here's one that seems to be daunting for a lot of folk, and it really need not be.  It doesn't get much easier, in fact.  Step 1, put a carcass in a pot.  Step 2, add water.  Step 3, simmer.  Step 4, strain.

If you eat a vegetarian diet like I do, it's still very simple.  Instead of a carcass, gather up your veggie straps.  Potato skins, carrot tops, celery bottoms, onion skins, et cetera.  Throw those into a pot instead.  Mushrooms are a good addition, too, but really any vegetables will work.

Grab some ice cube trays, pour in cooled stock, and freeze up some cubes of stock.

There are several other recipes that *I* make from scratch, but those three make a difference and are not terribly difficult.  Even the busiest of working stiffs could whip them up.

What would YOU add to your list?


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