Friday, February 21, 2014

Leek and Potato Soup!

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In keeping with my promise for more recipes, I bring you my favorite winter soup. Some days are just made for soup, and in Chicago, that means any day where the windchill factor starts with -10 or more! This recipe is (very) loosely based on Julia Child's Potage Parmentier or Leak and Onion and Potato soup. (How decadent can you get! French soup with wine in it!)

So, on to the soup!

Julia's recipe says it will feed 6 to 8, this is scaled down, and will probably still feed 4 to 6 people, but if its only you eating, it does keep in the fridge well for about a week.
You will need:
  • A big leek
  • 3 average sided potatoes, I like Yukon golds, but anything about the size of a baseball will work
  • a couple shallots (or one really big one like I found!)
  • heavy cream
  • a dry white wine, cheap chardonnay works great
Chop everything up fairly small, going for pieces about the size of a nickle for your leek and shallots, and 1cm cubes for the potatoes. You can peel the potatoes if you like, but I like the color the skins add.

Put everything together in a large stock pot and add water to cover. I don't recommend using a non-stick pot for this if you can avoid it. All metal is best, because later on you will be mushing, and its a bit easier if you don't have to worry about scratches. Boil for about 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes check and see how your vegetables are doing. If you have a stick blender 30 minutes should be plenty of time. If you don't have a stick blender, keep checking every 10 minutes until you can mash everything up with one of these lovely potato mashers. 
If you don't have a potato masher, I suggest picking one up. 
You can do this with a fork, but it takes a lot of extra time and effort. 
Once everything is mashed up, add in about a half cup of wine, and simmer until the soup doesn't smell... boozy. (That's classy). You want to cook the alcohol off, or your soup will be very bitter, I like to add a little unsalted butter at this point too, but that is optional. Once your soup is officially cleared for the under 21 crowd, add some cream. I have never measured how much cream goes in, but this is the color you're going for.

If you want to mix it up a little, you can add a little bit of bacon, sausage, or some cooked kale to this soup. Its an easy soup to make, and aside from the mashing part, you pretty much just leave it to simmer. What is your favorite lazy winter day dish?

xoxo Kimberly   

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Peek in My Closet

For those unaware, the EGL livejournal community does a monthly theme post, which invites the members to participate in some activity and then share their experiences. For this last January, the task was to photograph your lolita wardrobe and share it with the community. You can check out the awesome results here. I rarely participate (read never) in these monthly events, and I will confess generally just lurk on forums, but I felt like this might be fun. I never posted my photos. I was to embarrassed.

I never thought about it before, but my wardrobe is pitiful. I have worn lolita on and off since 2007, and I really wear the same 3 pieces over and over. So lets bring on the goods! Never before on display, my entire lolita wardrobe:

**~** OPs and JSK **~**

Anna House OP
For a long time this was THE dream dress.
Sadly when it got to me the bow was torn, and I repaired it by adding the sash  under the bust to cover the hole.
Bodyline Rose Print JSK
One of two Bodyline pieces I own. I wear the heck out of this JSK.
I learned that Bodyline is too short from me, so both pieces I own from them I added some extra fabric at the waist.
Bodyline Rose Print OP
The second of my "too short in the middle" Bodyline pieces.
I removed a LOT of scratchy lace from this piece, and its not bad, but I don't wear it much.
Handmade White Sprig OP
This is my second attempt at sewing for lolita. I have always liked the idea of this dress,
but something in the execution has always felt... disappointing. 
 **~** Skirts **~**

Handmade Black Skirt
Plain black skirt, nuf said.
Handmade Black Bustle Skirt
But that plain black skirt has some tricks! I actually love that skirt bustled in the back with a bow,
and layered over this ruffly goodness. I wear this a lot in a Kuro look, but my style has shifted a little sweeter,
and it gets less use.
Handmade Rose Print High Waisted Skirt
This is possibly the most boring skirt I own. It has a good cut, but nothing else. It was also the first lolita piece I ever made. Terrified of making an "ita lace monster" I didn't use a single scrap of trim. The result is not great either.
Mottled Green Skirt
This is probably my most worn lolita piece. It has a rather long history in my wardrobe. This WAS my very first brand piece. It started its life as this. Yes, a Meta OP. I was in love with the shiro/kuro look, and I snapped it up cheap on the sales com, as this dresses 4th (yes 4th) owner. It never fit right, and was the victim of a tea stain I couldn't get out, so I dyed it and cut it down. Now it gets more wear than any other piece I own,
and I love the marbled effect I got with the dye.
**~** Tops **~**
Cardigans, All Off Brand
Left to right: Mudd, Talbots, and Sweetness
Both thrifted and remade. I swear the left one is black, but it photographed very poorly.
**~** Accessories **~**

Except the white hairbow and the black headband that are off brand,
everything is handmade here. The ring off to the right and earrings are hard too see,
but the ring is a spoon ring, and the earrings are cupcakes!
Shoes, Left An*tai*na Right Bodyline

So that is it. 7 years of lolita summed up in 12 pictures. Somehow all laid out, my beloved wardrobe seemed very small, very beginner. It doesn't LOOK like I have worn the fashion ever before. I see the wardrobes of girls who become lolitas when I did - after I did- and their wardrobes span pages, full of brand and perfectly chosen handmade frills. A week, then two, then three went by and I never posted my wardrobe to the EGL comm. I nearly deleted all the pictures without ceremony, but then had second thoughts.

Why should I hide the wardrobe that a month ago I loved so dearly? Clearly my tastes have changed over the years, and early pieces aren't so bad. Aline is in again, I have lots of fabric left over from sewing projects. Perhaps my disappointment with my wardrobe should be a call to action, to revisit each piece and try to bring out its full potential. A rose sprig skirt with neat ribbon trim would be darling! A white dress with frothy ruffles, and brown trimming would put new life into my spring coords. Why should I stew? There is work to be done! Stay tuned for new outfit snaps as dresses get new life!

<3 kimberly="" p="">

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Snowy Beginnings

There is nothing like a late February snow to make you think about vegetables. After an hour of shoveling, the most wonderful thing in the world to look at is a picture of a fresh, green garden. Not to mention if we don't want to have to pay an arm and a leg for transplants, we need to get seeds going soon! This is going to be my first planting season in my new house, so after I thawed out, I started planning out this seasons garden with Marcus.
Our initial plan of a raised bed started sounding.... stupid, after we remembered that we rent, and our landlord probably wouldn't appreciate us digging up the back yard. Even if it is just a poorly mown field of crabgrass. Best case scenario we will put in a lot of work for a garden we will only use for a season. After some poking around on Pinterest, the answer came clear - a container garden. Most of the vegetables we are looking to grow will do just fine in containers, and for those that wont (namely potatoes) we can make a smaller bed that we wont regret having to leave behind. 
Our planned garden, although we may swap out the broccoli for brussle sprouts. 
Marcus's mother grows more tomatoes than her family can possibly eat, so we skipped those, which is great considering we have a plot about 16' by 6' to work with. Our goal is to grow exclusively heirloom seeds, organically, and with as small an environmental footprint as possible. What is wonderful is that growing a vegetable garden not only is better for your pocket book, but it reduces your carbon footprint by reducing the amount of food bought from the store. Yes, we are still going to go to the store every week, but instead of our vegetables coming 1500+ miles on a truck to our plate, they will be coming less than 5 feet. To save water (and our water bill!) we are going to set up a rain bucket to water our plants from. Since we are planting in containers we will have to hand water, lest we waste a lot of water, but conversely, we will have very little weeding to do. 

Why are we going heirloom and organic? The organic is obvious; we have a dog, who will eat anything he can put in his mouth, regardless of if it is actually food or not. Since we like Max, we don't want him to get sick nibbling pesticides and chemical fertilizers. (And we don't particularly want to nibble them either). We are opting for heirloom seeds over GMO (genetically modified or hybrid seeds) for a couple reasons. First, we've gotten a number of them free from our local farmer's markets. Heirloom growers like to share what they do, and we have made some great vegetable connections that way. The Beaver Dam peppers we are putting in is on the verge of becoming extinct, so we plan on sharing the seeds from what we grow with as many people as we can as well. The second reason, is that heirloom vegetables are easier to grow without chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Heirloom vegetables have been raised through open pollination for at least 50 years. That means they have a larger DNA pool than hybrids that have been intentionally pollinated by humans. Similarly to why animals bred to closely can have genetic defects, plants with small DNA pools are more susceptible to disease and pests. There is nothing wrong with GMO plants, but they take more cost and labor to keep up, and we are going for easy and tasty. You can get heirloom seeds from local farmers markets, but also from garden supply stores and hardware stores. They are frequently in the same display as the GMO seeds, so read labels carefully. And remember, if you save seeds at the end of the season you don't need to buy any next year!

To keep the planting cost down we are planning to upcycle a number of containers to put into the garden. Old buckets, coffee cans, and recycled wood are all going into the container build. There is a huge potential for waste, both financially and environmentally, with container gardening, but we are thinking the trick will be in solid containers that can travel with us to our next home, and be used again there. Oh, and ideally cheap or free now. As a cost bonus, we did learn today that we can get free mulch from the village! All the tree parts that are chopped up when they collect brush is piled at the village lot and residents can come and take it away for free and use in their gardens! Why don't other cities do this? The mulch will keep a working path amongst the containers free of grass, and help our plants keep water in their pots and the weeds out. 

So how about you? What are you growing this spring?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Some Thoughts on Replicas

First off, I would like to start this post by asking a question of my beloved readers whom I have so neglected. Does anyone know how to make blogger not shut off my router? For the past couple months I have had the problem of Blogger crashing my router and having to turn it off before it will reconnect to the internet. I am currently at a Starbucks. No problems thus far, but I can't promise I will be able to maintain a regular posting schedule if I have to go to Starbucks. However, I have quite a back log of posts to put up, so much reading will come along! Yay!

On to the good stuff; the Great Replica Debate. As the US economy sputters along, the demand for replicas is apparently climbing. Some people would argue this is inevitable. The number of lolitas who are working lower paying jobs than they have in the past, or are unemployed is higher than in the past. Combine that with an influx of younger lolitas with limited incomes brought in as lolita fashion becomes more accessible. The buying power of the US lolita community is shrinking, so although the demand for brand styles remains, the ability to purchase full price, or marked up, brand is diminishing. In simple terms, a fair number of folks can't afford this stuff anymore, at least not if we want to keep a roof over our heads and food in our cute clad tummies.

So what is there left to do? We want cute/classy/elegant brand, but are out of cash? We, as a whole, are turning to replicas more than we have in the past. But is that really OK? Should we be buying replicas?I think the issue is more complicated than should or shouldn't.

Cost and quality aside, replicas are exactly what they claim to be, a copy of someone's work. Ultimately my opinion on replicas comes down to the intent of the replica. It is not right to make money off of someone's creative work. If a seamstress makes her own detailed copy of a brand dress, for her own use, and does not intend to sell it to someone else, then what is the harm, especially if she does the dress in a color or detail not available on the original dress. If there is not an intent to make a profit, then I really don't find harm.

The question on everyone's mind is, “Do I buy what has already been made?” That takes some examination. Why do you want the replica?

  • Is real brand too expensive? Could you afford it if you saved up for a while?
  • Are you going to wear this someplace where real brand could get destroyed?
  • Do you like the print/fabric but want a different article of clothing than what the brand is offering?
  • Are you outside of the size range of the brand but the replica is being offered in a size that fits?
  • Are you a soul-less monster who doesn't care about anyone else and thinks brands are evil and too expensive?

Ok, kidding with the last one, but these are all legitimate reasons to consider buying a replica. I would advise one to consider some of the following options before springing on that great priced replica.

  • Hit the sales communities to cut costs. You can find brand or replicas at great prices there, and you can negate the guilt factor of buying a used replica because it is used. The people who made it already got their money, and you are not supporting them by purchasing a gently used item. Similarly you can find the real deal at about the cost of the replica.
  • Consider where you are wearing this to. If you are sure the piece will be destroyed in a single use you probably should buy the replica, or possibly not wear lolita to the event. Unless its a themed meetup, things like paintball, farm work, house painting, and otherwise inherently dirty activities don't require lolita, so for Pete's sake just wear jeans.
  • If you are in search of fabric to pirate for other items, again I suggest the sales communities. Make a want to buy post for items of that print, real or replica, that are damaged in some way, but you can still get what you need. Just need the boarder? Lots of people stain dresses on the bodice, so you are still golden. Just trying to match fabric colors to get a little let out in a piece you already own? Buying the piece with a tear on one side you can easily work around. It would be much cheaper too, since often the owner has already counted the piece as a loss, so any money made from the sale is a step up for them.
  • When it comes to size it can be tricky. If you are smaller than the size range a good seamstress can take the piece in, but if you are larger often you are stuck. Often the companies that make the better replicas also do custom sizing (for a surprisingly nominal fee). At that point, I don't feel that I can make a statement. I am a slight person, who fits into brand just fine, and has found, sometimes, that it runs a little large on me. (I will go hide while my beloved curvy friends throw things at me.) I love that, were I financially able, I could order any of my dream dresses, they would arrive on my doorstep, and I could put them on and have them fit right there and then. At 5 foot 4 and carrying all my height in my legs, sometimes dresses run a little short on me, but wearing tights instead of (or in addition to) socks, and I am fine. I love this, its wonderful, and its a feeling I really think all lolitas should have. That moment of feeling special, like this beautiful dress was made just for me. Money is something enough patience can work around, but fit is something else entirely.

That is the point I suppose I shall leave up to you, dear readers. At what point is it ok to go for a replica?  

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Loli Cooking: Recipe for Eggs in a Basket

Eggs in a Basket

Eggs in a Basket is a cute twist on ordinary baked eggs, or oeufs en cocotte. To make Eggs in a Basket, you will need the following:

  • Eggs
  • Bread, two slices of regular sandwhich bread for every egg
  • Butter
  • A cookie cutter
I cut out a kitten.
Start by pre-heating the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare a cookie tray by placing a sheet of tin foil on it. I highly recommend the tin foil because if your eggs run, it is a real pain to clean up baked on egg. Just recycle it when you're done.

Next is the fun part. Pick your favorite cookie cutter and cut a hole in one piece of the bread. If you don't have cookie cutters, you can get creative with a good sharp knife. It is important that the bread does not tear or your eggs will run all over. Butter the up side of the bread you did not cut, and both sides of the bread you did. 

Stack your bread with the cut out piece on top, and crack the egg into the bread. If you prefer eggs scrambled you can whip the eggs with a little cream in a bowl before pouring them into the bread. 

Season to taste and bake for about 12 minutes. When they are done the whites should be solid and the yolk should be somewhat solid, but if you prefer a hard yolk, leave them in the oven longer. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Loli Cooking: Fried Eggs

This mornings breakfast of my first ever fried eggs, and buttered toast
I have decided to start a new section in this blog about cooking. I think every lolita should be able to cook. Frankly I think everyone should be able to cook, but lolitas especially. How else could we have so many tea parties with out going broke! That said, being nearly 24 and the only use my The Joy of Cooking cook book has seen was keeping the couch level in my college apartment, I am going to learn to cook.

Today I made fried eggs for the first time in my life. I wouldn't call myself a picky eater, because I will try anything once, but some food textures freak me out, the chief amongst them being runny eggs. I can not stomach the idea of eating something that is not quite solid, not quite liquid, salty, and warm. It grosses me out, so I had never eaten a fried egg, or tried to make one, staying safely with hard scrambled eggs, sometimes with a little cheese, my whole life. For shame, I know.

Fried eggs didn't seem that difficult to make, and I already had eggs in the refrigerator, along with butter, so it seemed like a good place to start. I dug my copy of The Joy of Cooking out of a box in the basement and looked up "fried eggs." Apparently fried eggs are, in fact, difficult to make so I turned to my ever present font of kitchen knowledge - my boyfriend, Marcus. His advice was to not panic. He has known me long enough to be well aware of the usual result of me in a kitchen with the stove lit - panic.

I found the instructions for frying eggs in The Joy of Cooking and was immediately encouraged by the use of 1 to 3 tablespoons of butter. I have struggled with food the better part of my life, and although I love butter, frequently can't bring myself to put it on anything for fear of the fat. I can easily rationalize cooking with butter, however. I'm not putting it on anything, its going in. Out of sight, out of mind. Yummy.

So, I put 3 whole tablespoons of butter into my largest frying pan (which is not very large at all, and barely fit my two eggs) and waited for it to melt. I am not patient, and usually put the flame on my stove on high, but I figured I should trust the cookbook, and set it to just below medium. And I waited, and waited, aaaaand waited. Apparently it takes a long time for butter to get to being "sizzling, but not yet brown." I ended up calling Marcus and asking what butter looks like before it gets brown, describing to him what I had in the pan as "a pool of floaty, albino, pond scum." It seems that before butter gets brown it gets "frothy," although I like "albino pond scum" better, "frothy" sounds much more appetizing. I wish TJoC had actually just said "frothy" or "albino pond scum" since my butter had been frothy for almost 10 minutes before I thought to ask Marcus what my butter should be doing, and I had probably cooked away about a tablespoon of butter already.
My eggs, happily frying in a pool of butter.

With a pan full of hot, frothy butter I added in two eggs. At this point I discovered, not only was my pan rather small, but it was tippy, and the eggs slid over to one side. My tea kettle helped out with this one, holding my pan steady so I could go look for something to put in my eggs. Being a lolita, plain eggs will not suffice, so I added oregano and thyme. Delicious. I am glad I got the photo of my eggs in the pan, because they did not leave the pan so nicely. I flopped them over, and the yolks both broke, and I barely managed to get a picture before the yolk got out from under the egg. I did, however, have time to soak my toast in the hot, buttery, egg juice left in the pan. It made for a wonderful breakfast.

New Year's Resolutions... Or Something

I have never been one to make New Year's Resolutions considering the ones I try to make rarely make it past January 15th. A few years ago I vowed to stop eating popcorn in bed, which I am doing right now. Another year I swore I would wear lolita every Saturday, which lasted till March. I tried to give up knitting in the car (when I'm not the driver), practicing dance steps in public places, cracking my knuckles, and - most famously - cutting down to only 3 cups of coffee a day. Noticing a theme? This year I am going to save my self a huge let down, and do one little thing. OK - two - I am going to try to post more.

I need to learn to buy things.  - This may sound silly, but I have a terrible habit of seeing something I would like to have, and then thinking "but I could just make that." I have a very long list of things that I would like to have that I have never purchased since I think I could make it. Be it laziness, or having too much on my plate already, but none of these projects ever get done. The first thing on my list, and what I have needed the longest, is a new petticoat. When I first started wearing lolita I stuck to an a-line shape, and made myself a petticoat to match. Over the past 2 years I have drifted further and further from the a-line to the bell shape, but still using my old a-line petticoat (which, I might add, is still fluffy). I have fabric, left over from a wedding dress, 7 yards of ivory chiffon, collecting dust that I have meant to turn into a nice fluffy petticoat. I concede. I surrender! It just isn't going to happen. Candy Violet, here I come! Also, today, I bought a gray lace knit beret. I have wanted one for several years now, but the thought that I could just knit that has held me back. Today I found one on a clearance rack for $4, so I bought it! Let's hope the trend continues!