Pearl Shift, Reading and Books, Sewing

Fall 2016: Checks and Plaid, Muffins and Soup

Fall has come to Connecticut in all its glory. The view from my front porch last week:img_3922With the cooler weather, I am turning to the Pearl Shift which I previously made, and lived in basically all last winter, in heavy cotton flannel plaids from Jo-Ann. You can see those versions here. When I saw the new Checkers fabric from Cotton and Steel, I thought it would be perfect for a Pearl. I was inspired by a similar dress, an Esme tunic which can be found in this bookimg_3685-1When I make changes to patterns, I write notes to myself on the pattern pieces. Ironically, sometimes I forget to read the notes until after cutting out the pattern as I did here. I did not actually add enough to the seam allowance to allow for french seams. Note to self: read notes to self. img_3686-1This is a very straight-forward pattern and if I didn’t insist on adding a zipper, it would be even quicker but I think the zipper adds a lot so I used one here. I sewed it using a techinique I modified from Dana by watching this video of how to sew a lined zipper pouch. It was this video that inspired me to use wonder clips which work well. The picture below shows where I lined up the top of the zipper but I think I will move it up a bit on my next version because there is a bit of a gap at the top in the finished version. img_3879Sewing the first side:img_3882After sewing one side, I do the reverse and then top-stitch. I find it works best to sew the zipper initially going from top to bottom but I have better success with the top-stitching when I start at the bottom of the zipper and sew to the top maintaining some tension on the fabric to prevent puckers.img_3885Lining up the second side.img_3881Ready for top-stitching.img_3888After top-stitching. It took three tries to get this. Sewing from the bottom of the zipper to the top was the key in the end.img_3891I used my usual hem facing technique. I cut up an old muslin into 3 inch strips. I have described this technique in my prior Pearl posts here and here. It is very straightforward.img_3943I am able to use the metal plate edge as the perfect guide to sew the hem when I use the 3 inch strips.img_3958Since I had extra of the 3 inch strips, I finished the sleeves the same way. I bound the neck using 1.5 inch bias binding leftover from my Checkers Gemma Tank. The hem and sleeve facing is not cut on the bias since there is very little curve to the hem and the sleeves are cut straight across. It worked well and was very quick to finish,. img_3956Finished dress on the front door.img_3985Back of dress.img_3990And as worn. Although I thought I cut it the same length as my previous versions, this one is a little longer. I am not sure how I feel about it. I really like the way the linen one fits but I also find that when there is less heft to the fabric as in my Alison Glass version, the tunic rides up. I will have to wear this for a while and see what I think about the length. I think on me, the shorter version is a little more flattering but time will tell.img_3972Side view.img_3975Back view.img_3965Linen version for comparison.img_3705One more picture with fall foliage.img_3969Other things we have been enjoying here in Connecticut: a tour of a new craft brewery in our town which is expanding. It was fun to go on the tour and great to see a new successful local business. img_3939A beautiful sunrise. I love watching the sun come up and I miss the sunrises when I have to leave for work in the dark. (I am not a fan of shorter winter days.)img_3876My nasturtiums finally bloomed (in October). Note to self: plant earlier next year. They were cheap and maintenance free and pretty. img_3712Fall is soup and muffin weather chez Nursebean. My usual modus operandi is to make what I call refrigerator soup. It is when you open the refrigerator and see what you have and make soup. It is a great way to take those leftovers and make a meal. This post from one of my favorite bloggers is a great description of how to do this. I also made this Broccoli and Dill soup which was enjoyed by all (from one of my other favorite bloggers).img_3660 I have had this pot and this bowl for over 25 years.img_3691 I get nostalgic cooking on Sunday afternoons thinking about how many pots of chili, soup and even lasagnas have been made in this blue Le Creuset pot which was a wedding gift over 30 years ago. I remember buying the bowl as a young broke new mom. It was a big splurge at the time. I don’t think it was actually very expensive but all purchases felt like big purchases at that point in my life (and in many ways still do). I still love it. Many muffins and cookies have started in this bowl. Mr. Nursebean has found that he feels better when he avoids gluten so I made some adjustments to the cornmeal muffin recipe from this book which is one of my go to cookbooks and which has excellent muffin recipes (they all start with a stick of butter so it would be hard to go wrong). Here is my version. I  actually think they are better this way, sort of nutty and you can convince yourself that they are healthy because of the nut flour and the yogurt. They are great right out of the oven with butter and raspberry jam but I also freeze them and then zap them in the microwave for a minute and they are perfect for breakfast.

Cornmeal Muffins:

Pre-heat oven to 375-I use convection setting.

Melt a stick of butter in a big bowl. I usually microwave for 2 minutes. Let cool a bit

In a separate bowl combine: 1.5 cups each of cornmeal flour and almond flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and a dash of salt

Beat two eggs into melted butter and combine dry and wet ingredients. Don’t over-mix.

Add one 6 oz lemon, plain or vanilla yogurt to the mixture. Add approx 4 oz milk (or as much as you need to make the mixture mixable and about the texture of wet scrambled eggs.

Bake for approx 20 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

Serve hot out of the oven with butter and rasberry jam or next day-I find they reheat perfectly with 30 seconds in the microwave or 1 minute if frozen (I often freeze them so they don’t disappear too fast. They make a great breakfast.)

My daughter and I have been trying to walk most days. The trees along our walk have been beautiful.img_3818I have been doing a lot of reading. I inhaled this novel and this mystery. I highly recommend both. This fall is the 10th anniversary of the fall that this sweet puppy joined our family. She still greets me with love every time I come home. A gift to us all.img_3914Next up are two more Pearl shifts in plain flannel purchased last year at Jo-Ann’s. img_3689This time I remembered to add the extra seam allowance for french seams. This is why I often make more than one of a pattern in a row. It takes a couple times to work out the bugs! One of these will be for me and one for my daughter who I will see (yay!) for Thanksgiving. I have a lot to be thankful for. Wishing everyone a beautiful fall!

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About Me, unplugged

Nursebean Unplugged: A Visit to the Old Neighborhood Part 2, The Slope

The funny thing about my spontaneous trip to Brooklyn is that despite at least 10 years having passed since I last went to the neighborhood and more than 21 years since I moved away to the suburbs, the trip on the subway from midtown  felt as though I had done it yesterday. It felt as though I was coming home as I did so many days for so many years.imageThis route was so imprinted on me, it felt as though no time had passed at all. imageI actually went into labor with my first child walking up these stairs.  It was 1986, October, the 3rd game of the World Series, and the Mets were playing the Red Sox. I worked on Wall Street at the time and some of my co-workers were listening to the beginning of the game on the radio so I got home a little late. He ended up being born just after the game ended. The Mets had won and went on the win the series. I always said he brought them good luck.imageHe was three weeks early and I think that the all the walking one does as a New Yorker probably helped that happen. We didn’t own a car for most of the time we lived here.imageWhen I came up out the subway, I instinctively walked down the street and turned right onto Lincoln Place past the Montauk Club.imageOur first apartment was on the garden level of a brownstone, #180, on 8th Avenue between Garfield Place and 1st Street. I used to walk down 8th Avenue every day going home. This was the apartment we brought our first child home to almost 30 years ago. imageWhen I lived in the Slope, one of my favorite things was to walk. I would get home from work, get out the the stroller and out we would go. Every street is beautiful. imageAfter three years on 8th Avenue, we moved to 6th Avenue to a second floor apartment. This turned out to be a great move because on the floor above us lived a couple with a child the age of our son. They have turned out to be lifelong friends. We lived at #183 for two and a half years.imageOur landlords were a couple who had two children, one the age of our son, so we had built in playmates. Many happy times were spent on this stoop and chasing our son Steve as he tore around the block on his big wheel trike (shades of coming attractions). Most of his childhood, my main goal was to keep him from seriously injuring himself. It was an ongoing battle. He lived life at top speed most of the time and still does (he is now a bike messenger in Boston and does alley cat races.)imageA wonderful thing about the apartment on 6th Avenue was the proximity to this bakery which is still there. I fueled my second pregnancy on chocolate croissants that I got here on my way to the subway. And then took my second child there for regular brunch dates once she was old enough. The bakery has just a couple of tables and some are right next to the open kitchen where the huge mixers bring to mind Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen. Happy happy memories of this place. Needless to say I gained quite a bit of weight with pregnancy #2.imageBoth of my older children attended a private school in the neighborhood. I walked my son to school every day before getting on the subway. On cold windy days it was quite a walk from our apartment because by that time we had moved to Prospect Park West between 5th and 6th Street. I remember some bitterly cold winter mornings and walking in the rain. We had no car and he just had to walk. Sometimes we would duck into a deli halfway to school to warm up.imageMy daughter did the walk twice a day because her preschool day ended at noon and then she walked back with our Nanny to get Steve at 3. My kids never had sleeping problems. Between all the walking and playing in the park every day after school, they were tired! I managed to have time to sew most evenings and was a member of a quilting group. Happy times. Evenings in the summer time often found us here. I stopped and got a cone on my walk to celebrate the first real springlike day around these parts.imageWe would vary our evening walking routes and I never got tired of the architecture. How could you?imageSpringtime brought gardens and flowers and during the winter, Christmas tree lights would shine through the front bay windows of many of the brownstones.imageEverywhere you look there are little interesting details. Particularly when you look up!imageLooking at the cars in the picture above reminds me of the three years when a bank reorganization meant I had to commute to White Plains. From Brooklyn. I got so good at parallel parking in tiny spaces because if I passed it by, it might be another 20 minutes before I found another and my babysitter’s meter was running. image6th Avenue near President Street above. imageThe year we moved was, ironically considering real estate prices now, a tough time to sell a coop apartment in Park Slope and imagine, it was a garden duplex on the Park! #102 belowimageWhen we got our one offer, we jumped on it but decided to rent for the spring so the kids could finish the school year with their friends. I was at the time 9 months pregnant. 3 weeks after she was born, we moved all of our things into storage and moved our three kids and ourselves into this brownstone  (below) on 1st Street between 7th and 8th Avenue. A professor was spending a semester as a visiting professor in Boston so it worked out for both of us. I am not sure how we did it. It was also right after Christmas. She was born December 23rd. I went back to work when she was 6 weeks old so that we would be approved for the mortgage on the new house in Connecticut and then stopped working two and a half months later. The two months that I spent in the Slope being a stay at home mom were very happy. I had always been a little sad that I couldn’t pick my kids up from school. Living in the city had meant me working full time. Trade-offs! It was really nice to have that time. It made it even harder to leave. That spring our 8 year old son wanted to walk to school alone. It terrified me but it was really only a couple of blocks down the main drag of 7th Avenue. I gave him a quarter each day and he had to call when he got there. Cell phones didn’t exist. He loved the independence. Our older kids had their own rooms for the first time in this house. They had always shared a room and had bunk beds. They missed each other but Stephen’s room was on the third floor and he had a view out the back of the house of lights and cars from 7th Avenue which was new for him. We had always had apartments where the windows faced into the deep middle part of the block since our other houses were all on the Avenues in the middle of the block. This made the rooms much quieter, something I hadn’t appreciated until we rented this house much closer to the commercial area. He liked looking out his window at the lights.imageIt was fun to see that some of the stores we used to go to are still there. Many $$ were spent here.imageWe loved the local book store. This was before the days of Barnes and Noble and Amazon.imageHere is what they are reading in Brooklyn. I was surprised to see a book that I am currently reading: Lab Girl. Quite good so far. imageThe Clay Pot was where the kids would go with their dad to pick out birthday or mother’s day gifts for me. Great earrings! Everything there is beautiful and one of a kind.imageI was telling a friend at work about my day and she wondered aloud if it had been really emotional for me. Surprisingly it didn’t make me sad. I loved that I had so many happy memories of this place and those times and it made me realize that it really isn’t that far or hard to go to. I just need to have an afternoon and subway fare. Til the next time!image