Darcy Lewis Design

Adventures in "Good Enough" Design

Archive for the month “July, 2016”

HOME! (at last!) (Updated…)

When Raf and I married and moved to Seattle from Denver, we were so excited to be starting our new life together.  The moving company his work provided us was one of the biggest in the US, and although their packing worried me terribly, I was hopeful that the damage would be minimal – especially since trying to prevent damage seemed impossible – they kept brushing us off.

We moved, and found a lovely house to rent at a reasonable price (a rarity in Seattle – I’m convinced the owners only picked us over the other couples vying for it because they were Chinese and I spoke Chinese, so they were more comfortable with us), and waited for moving day…. Unfortunately, as the truck was unloaded and we began to unpack, we soon found that nearly everything we owned had been damaged!!!  Furniture was broken, garments slashed, priceless heirlooms smashed, antique family photos were scattered over the lawn and the mud puddles in the street… it was truly heart-rending and the start of a long nightmare.  We were hung up in court for 2 years fighting for damages, and in the meantime, we couldn’t throw anything away, so we lived in a still-packed home, surrounded by smashed and shattered bits for all that time, unable to unpack, unable to settle, unable to make our home.

When we moved away from Seattle, we were glad to shed some of the broken stuff, but others were still jumbled in boxes with good stuff, so it moved with us.  Because of the mess in Seattle, we were still moving two households that had never been combined and pared down.  We’ve been in our new house for 1 year now, and still weren’t ready to entertain or receive guests (to our great dismay and frustration!!).  All our boxes were mismarked (I only mentioned the big moves, but we moved 8 times in 5 years, and every mover relabeled the boxes – often erroneously), so unpacking has been a very slow process – and often a very dispiriting one.  Compounded by the fact that some basic painting and repairs were needed, so we were in the house 6 months before we could even make a dent in the unpacking. We kept trying to buckle down and unpack, but then another problem would crop up, and off we’d go to deal with that.  I’d told Raf we had to have the main areas done before he started school next month, but we were still moving slowly (for good reasons, but still…).  SO, when my sewing group called on Monday and asked if they could meet at my house on Thursday morning due to a late cancellation from our regular facility, I agreed, seizing the chance to FORCE us to be ready.

When we were done, we sat down and toasted our new house, and that was when I realized that it wasn’t just that we’d finally unpacked THIS house (main areas only, the rest still needs to be dealt with!), it was that finally, after so many years and so much heart-break, we had a HOME!!

Btw, I just came across this wonderful article advocating for “scruffy hospitality”.  I agree whole-heartedly, what these don’t show are the little piles and misc. odds and ends not put away.  HOWEVER, my personal taste in my own home is for a relatively clear and clean room.  But if I visit someone and things are not perfect, I have never broken off a friendship or stopped visiting because the house wasn’t immaculate!  So if this you, EMBRACE IT!

http://www.mnn.com/your-home/at-home/blogs/in-priase-scruffy-hospitality

 

Darcy’s Blueberry and Herb Salt Cheesecake!

I was so happy that my Armenian Fig Cheesecake was such a hit, and I had a log of blueberry cinnamon goat cheese sitting in the fridge and the fresh blueberries at Costco were delicious….so when I was asked to make something for my husband’s colleagues, I thought of trying a blueberry cheesecake version.

I was out of sour cream, so just substituted plain greek yogurt, then compensated by using heavy whipping cream instead of the milk.  However, when I tasted the filling, it was very bland and seriously lacking in flavor.  My husband suggested rosemary and more berries, so I put in Huckleberry jam and he ground some dried rosemary for me, but it was still lacking the right note… I seized on some dried lavender flowers, and some herbs de provence-flavored sea salt (Herbs de provence is a traditional herb blend from the Provence-region of France – and heavily features both rosemary and lavender, along with other herbs like savory, thyme, basil, and tarragon – though the exact blend varies by chef).  I think we got another winner with this one!  Hope you like it too!  Btw, this would also be delicious topped with a drizzle of rosemary simple syrup!

The blueberry cheese log was 16oz instead of 10oz, and I used a smaller pie pan, so I ended up with enough filling for THREE pies – 2 using the Keebler graham cracker crust, and 1 using the Cinnamon Chex Mix for a gluten-free option.  See the Armenian Fig Cheesecake recipe for directions on making the gluten-free crust.

(I got distracted, and left it in too long – so it’s a little too browned on top, and my husband stole a corner while I was trying to photograph it….)

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Darcy’s Blueberry and Herb Salt Cheesecake 

MAKES 3 PIES!!!

Prep Time: 30 min.

Bake Time: 45 min.

Total Time: 4.5 Hours (3 hours of cooling after baking)

Ingredients:

3  8-oz packs of regular cream cheese

1  16-oz log of blueberry cinnamon goat cheese with figs (I used Celebrity Int’l brand)

1 11-oz jar of wild huckleberry jam

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

4 eggs

8-oz greek yogurt (I used Greek Gods brand Traditional Plain)

1/4 cup gluten-free flour

4 Tbsp dried rosemary – our rosemary was quite old, so very bland, so 4 Tbls wasn’t too much.  If your rosemary is new, try half of this and then taste.

4 Tbsp dried lavender flowers – see note above.

2 Tbsp Herbs de Provence sea salt – I used Chateau Provence Seasoned Salt by Urban Accents.

3 pie crusts – I used the Keebler graham cracker crusts – the 10″ size.

Fresh blueberries to top.

Instructions: 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Let cheeses stand at room temperature until soft.  Blend them together until creamy. Add the jam and cream and yogurt.  Grind the rosemary and lavender with a mortar and pestle until fine, add.  Grind the herb salt a little – you want to keep the large crystals and chunks, but you do want to even the size of the particles and release the flavors – I ground everything until about 1/3 of their original size, add.  Blend. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the flour – DO NOT OVER MIX – only blend as much as needed.

Divide the filling between the 3 crusts, and put into pre-heated oven.

 

Bake for 1 hour.  The edges should be lightly browned, and it’s ok if the middle jiggles a little when the dish is moved.  It will firm as it cools.  When done, leave the door closed, and just let the cheesecake sit a few hours until it cools.

Top with fresh blueberries before serving.

ENJOY!!!

In process photos:

The beautiful lavender and rosemary in my mortar:

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The blended filling – note the texture is lumpy – that’s normal!

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DIY Fabric Storage Bins for Tall Bolts

I have many tall bolts of fabric for my business, and I stick them along the walls, bracketed by bookshelves – but this is really inefficient – they slide, shift, and fall; they take up lots of space, and it’s difficult to move them.  I’ve been wanting a professional solution, but it’s been SHOCKINGLY hard to find anything, even the nicely wheely bins that JoAnn Fabrics has – even from store fitting companies!! JoAnn Fabrics is, of course, supplied by their HQ so they have no idea where it comes from or where to buy….

The one thing I could find on the market (which I can’t show you, because it seems to be discontinued), was close to $1,000…. not ideal…. Ok, let’s be real, not even remotely in my budget!

SO! My awesome husband designed and built rolling bins for me that I can also use for my booth at Sew Expo!!

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Total Cost: About $150                                                                                                                             Total Time: About 6 hours – including shopping for lumber and having it cut

I was bad and didn’t take in process photos – largely because he built it while I wasn’t around, but also because I’m bad at this blogging thing  😉  (mea culpa)

So, the big thing was that the inside of the box be smooth and safe for the fabric, and the easiest way to make sure of that was to totally line the inside of the wooden box with a cardboard box. We had some 4.5 moving boxes left over from our move, and they are about 18″ x 24″ and about 18″ tall – these were almost the same dimensions as the JoAnn Fabric bins, so they were perfect – and with the flaps up, the sides come up to the right height and the wooden boxes become totally fabric-safe!

The sides are framed in with 2x4s – Home Depot did all the cutting for us – so things are not quite perfectly aligned, but close enough.  We used corner brackets for the frame for extra stability – these were the single most expensive part of the project. We used self-drilling screws to make our life easier – you don’t have to pre-drill the holes, just sink the screws in. The sides are 1/4″ OSB (oriented strand board), and I covered the sides with a roll of heavy wallpaper I had gotten from the free bin of a design store that just wanted this partial roll leftover from a project gone.

The bottoms are 1/2″ OSB, heavily screwed together, and then there are 4 small wheels – 1 at each corner – fully swiveling, non-braking, 90lb-bearing.  These are only screwed in at 3 holes, since the forth screw would be in the middle of the floor, and thus in our way…

We will be mounting big thick handles on the sides to make it easier to move and lift.

You like my pretty shabby chic industrial-look fabric storage bins??!!

 

These instructions are a bit rough, so if you have any questions, please let me know!!

 

 

Darcy’s Armenian Fig Cheesecake!!

Never heard of Armenian Cheesecake, have you?  That’s because I invented it!!

We were invited to the home of an Armenian family and asked to bring dessert. I had the following parameters: Gluten-free, not too sweet.  Easy, right?  I decided that I wanted to bring something unique and flavored with traditional Armenian flavors, but I am not Armenian so didn’t want to make anything that actually IS traditional (I’m not competing head to head with Armenian cooks!!).  So I thought of figs and the young black walnut preserves Armenians put in their tea…and cheesecake, a nice classic for summer.  It came out DELICIOUS, not too sweet, very distinctive, unique flavor, fluffy texture, etc.  Both kids and adults loved it, even adults who don’t like sweets OR cheesecake!!

So I’m sharing with you:

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Darcy’s Armenian Fig Cheesecake with Gluten-Free Cinnamon Crust

Prep Time: 45-60 min. – including cooling time for the milk

Bake Time: 60 min.

Total Time: 5 Hours (3 hours of cooling after baking)

 

Crust:

2 cups Chex cinnamon gluten-free cereal, crushed/pulverized/crumbled

4 Tbl unsalted butter – very soft

Blend together, and press into the bottom of a 9″ glass pie dish.  Set aside.

Filling:

3  8-oz packs of regular cream cheese

1  10-oz log of goat cheese with figs (I used Celebrity Int’l brand)

.5-1 cup (to taste) sweetener of choice – I used the syrup from young black walnut preserves.  You can use sugar, honey, jam in a complementary flavor, etc.

3/4 cup milk – in which you’ve boiled 2 Tbl strong black tea and 1/2 tsp whole cloves until the milk turns medium brown and smells VERY strongly of the tea and cloves. Let cool.

4 eggs

8-oz sour cream

1/4 cup gluten-free flour

Fig marmalade – about 8 oz. Heated until runny. (I found a huge jar at Costco pretty cheap – used about half).

1 orange – zested

 

Instructions: 

Let cheeses stand at room temperature until soft.  Blend them together until creamy. Add the sweetener and the cooled milk and 1 full tsp of orange zest. Blend. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the sour cream and flour – DO NOT OVER MIX – only blend as much as needed.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Ladle a thin layer of filling over the crust and smooth.  Top with a thin evened-out spooning of the warmed, runny, fig marmalade.  Add another thin layer of filling, then another thin layer of fig, then a very thin layer of filling.

I had enough filling left over to fill 3 ramekins – skipped all the layering and the crust, and just put in filling and spread some fig marmalade on top then baked.  This was also delicious, so you can skip all the layering work if you want, and just do a layer of marmalade on top of the filling.

Pop into the heated oven for 1 hour – BE SURE TO PUT A LINER DOWN – this has a tendency to bubble over (because I totally overfilled the dish – I REGRET NOTHING!)

The edges should be lightly browned, and it’s ok if the middle jiggles a little when the dish is moved.  It will firm as it cools.  The little ramekins I baked for only 45 min.  – putting them into the oven 15 min. after the big cake, then letting everything bake and cool together.

When done, leave the door closed, and just let the cheesecake sit a few hours until it cools.

Top with a sprinkle of orange zest before serving.

ENJOY!!!

In process photos:

Adding the marmalade layer

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Side view of all my layers – except the final filling layer on topIMAG5597

With the final top layer – it’s so full, I know disaster (aka leaking) is inevitable, I don’t care…IMAG5599

Cooling… IMAG5600

Adventures with Knits…

I took the day off from studying and house-cleaning to try a patternless, easy-peasy, knit shirt (you already smell disaster coming, don’t you?).

I love wearing knits, wanted something easy and fast, and most important – it had to be fool-proof since I’ve been unhappy with everything I’ve made recently (regardless of the actually objective quality of the outcome).  So… PINTEREST!!

I’d been eyeballing this shirt for some time, and in July one of my local sewing groups is presenting a knit challenge, so I wanted something easy to teach…

knit shirt design

This was the image on Pinterest (hyperlinked).  No directions, measures, or other info.  So I started with a t-shirt I liked the fit and length of (excuse the photos – I suck at selfies!):

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I picked out this knit from my shop (hyperlinked) so I could use this as a sample for the Sew Expo:

navy grass knit

I wanted the thick navy part at the bottom, and the fabric, folded in half selvedge to selvedge was the exact same length as my shirt.  I wanted my sleeves about 7″ longer, so I measured 7″ from the side edge and stuck a pin in.  (Sorry, forgot to take photos of all these steps!)  Took my t-shirt and folded it in half, aligning my sleeves and pinning them and the shoulders.  I laid the shirt out on the fabric, with the sleeve end starting at my pin (that was 7″ in from the side), with the shoulder and neck at the top where the white part is, and the shirt hem at the bottom where the navy centerfold was.

I traced the sleeves and side and side swoop, then used pins on the new fabric to mark the center front and center back (where my t-shirt was folded in half), then folded that in half along the center so I’d have even fronts and backs.

Then I cut it out – 4 layers at once (2 fronts and 2 backs – both front and back aligned down a centerfold so no seam and not actually 4 pieces).  This is the after I cut out the main part – sleeves and sides not yet cut out (don’t forget to cut along the fabric fold at the bottom to make sure you can put your body in 😉  Shown here still folded, not yet cut.):

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Then I basted it together and checked the fit…

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Yes, that’s a grimace.  I do not love the shirt.  The fit over the bust is a little snug (how?!), the collar is too tight (easy to fix), and the flare is not as dramatic or pointed as I expected (and would have liked).  So I marked the center point of the new neck line, and the shoulder, and recut the neck.

Then I serged the inside seams in plain white thread, then used fancy woolly blue (I had 2 blues in stock: black (closest color match) or a blue that was darker than royal, but lighter than this navy.  I went with that since I wanted to play up the blue and white look.) in the upper looper to serge the sleeves and hem.  For the neckline, I used the navy jersey seam binding from the shop (have I mentioned how much I LOVE that stuff?!?!)

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Oh, and here’s a close-up of the serged edge with the blue… it made a lettuce edge, but overall ok:

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Ultimate verdict: Don’t love it, but it was really easy, took about 2 hours – start to finish, and will be fine for a sample for Expo, though I don’t think I’ll ever wear it – will probably put it in the shop for sale at some point.  I think it will be much nicer on someone with a slightly smaller bust than mine.

The shop: http://stores.ebay.com/beautifultextiles

Check the category of knits for the fabric, the jersey seam binding will be under both Knits and Trims.

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