Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Julie Surprise: Vintage Meets Modern

When my sweet Grandma Krantz passed away a few years ago, I was blessed to inherit many of her lovely things. Books mostly; her house had been quite literally filled with hundreds of books. More books than most of her posterity could handle, though I know that everyone did there best. Even with most of us taking home a stack of books, however, I know that some had to be donated because there just wasn't enough room for most of us to contain them all.

I'm one of her youngest granddaughters and I wasn't as close to her as some of the other family, so I felt happy with whatever of her possessions I was allowed to have. I also acquired lots of fabric, vintage patterns and some pretty vintage clothes that no one else would claim. My mother even let me take a small cross stitch that had my grandmother's anniversary stitched into it. I share an anniversary with my grandma so I thought it was kind of cool.

Even though we will always miss my grandma, it was really kind of an exciting adventure for me to help clean out her home and look through all of her treasures. The kid in me was just giddy to be allowed to look into storage rooms and closets that had been understandably off limits when I was a child. I have always had sort of a romanticized view of such places. Were I live no one really keeps things in their attics, but I had read books about young characters finding treasures in the attics of old houses and I always dreamed that someday I could move to an old house that had an attic for of mysterious chests full of all sorts of forgotten treasures. So yes, as you can see, the romantical little girl inside me was quite giddy to go through grandma's downstairs closets.

But I digress. Just before we left that day, my mother and I went upstairs and were preparing some final boxes and things to take out to our respective vehicles when I looked at the front room bay window and noticed that the lace curtains were still hanging there. I asked my mother if she had plans for those curtains because the wheels in my head were immediately whizzing with the possibilities. She said that they were slightly ripped and stained in some places and would need to be washed because they were dusty, but she told me that if I wanted them I was welcome to them and she would give them to me once she'd had a chance to take them down and clean them. I was thrilled!

Lace is expensive, and vintage lace in such a quantity seemed to me to be a real find! Of course once I got the curtains they sat in my sewing closet for a few years. I would pull them our periodically and stew over the possibilities again. The main thing I wanted to try was to make a lace skirt. Like this one I pinned two years ago.
Although, I think the first real concrete plan I considered for this lace was a year ago when I pinned the image below. I thought it would be a great plan to try making something like this using the lace combined with some old jeans. I'm always messing around with ways to mend/reinvent my old jeans so I figured this would be another fun way to reuse some of that denim. 
The tricky part about this idea was that I wanted the bottom edge to be scalloped but wasn't quite sure if I could pull that off with the shape of this skirt. I looks like this one is actually crocheted into a nice flared, hourglass shape, whereas my grandma's curtains were, of course, just straight. I simply wasn't sure whether the curtains would look as well if I tried to pull off something like this. I guess it was me figuring that out that postponed my use of the lace for yet another year or so.

Then Halloween rolled around this year, and I was determined not to go overboard with the costuming because when I do that, I tend to get burned out and can't seem to get into sewing for another six to nine months and then Halloween is back on the front burner again. So, instead of spending hours on a costume that in the end was going to make me look fat and I would never want anyone to see pictures of (AKA Halloween costume 2013) Instead I used a sailor hat that I'd used four years previous for a different costume and decided to throw together a simple sailor costume from some thrift store finds. 
Cardigan from Savers, White Slacks from D.I. Tank, already owned. Boom.
There. Easy-peasy.

Of course, I had other costumes to make for my family, such as the Flamingo for baby and Barn Owl for my oldest girl. Luckily they were not too complex.
(You might even say they were for the birds. Lol.) 

I was glad when my middle daughter agreed to use a hand-me-down costume from one of her older cousins.
(Which costume, I might add, has a special place in my heart because the main dress was originally my niece's flower girl dress that she wore to my wedding before it became a princess costume.)

Also, I taught my husband to sew buttons so he ended up helping out with a lot of the time consuming part of his own costume. Yes, he does look well, does he not? I think it is at least partly due to the satisfaction of helping to make it himself, but he is so happy with this costume, he says I'll never have to make him another one again. Apparently, he will forever after be Horatio Hornblower for the rest of his Halloween history.

Anyway, so this was probably the least stressful Halloween I've experienced since before I had kids. It was so nice and the best part is that after it was over I was totally still in the mood to sew. 
In fact, since working on costumes required me to tidy up and clean out the (Harry Potter) sewing closet, I found all sorts of old projects and things that have been needing a mend, and because I wasn't burned out on sewing, I have really felt motivated to get things done in there! Since Halloween, I have mended two pairs of my daughters jeans, four pairs of my husbands jeans and one pair of my own. I have also added lace to a shirt of mine that had permanent stains so now it is not only wearable again but much cuter than it was before. (I'll need to post pictures soon.) Anyway, last night I was feeling in the mood to mend a little something before bed and I went into my closet and pulled out this skirt. 
I've had this skirt for so many years, I'm not even positive where I got if from or when. Yet I've always liked the way it fit and the style, though I've sometimes wished it where a bit more interesting as far as color or detail goes. It's a very neutral color. A bit too gray for beige and a big to beige for gray. Anyway, it had been in my sewing closet for at least a year because of some popped seams on the flounce. As I examined what needed to be done with it, it suddenly occurred to me that I had recently found grandma's lace when I had been reorganizing my sewing space and somehow it suddenly clicked in my head that perhaps instead of sewing an entirely new skirt from the lace, perhaps I could simply up the interest on this existing skirt by adding some lace over it. I pulled the lace out and laid it over the skirt to see how it would look and to my utter surprise and amazement the color of the lace which I would have described as off-white or cream blended perfectly with the color of the skirt. I mean, technically the skirt was still a tone or so darker but they appear to be quite well matched in their temperature---Neither one being too warm or too cool for the other. Thus, in my joy at the idea of this new discovery/project, I put it all back into my sewing room and went to bed, knowing that this was going to be a bit more time consuming than a a quick mending of a seam. I could hardly wait to wake up in the morning and get started!

Because this is already such a long post, I thought I'd try making a visual tutorial of a series of images all combined into one long strip, since I actually remembered to document this project. Let me know if it is not clear enough how to do this. I figured it's pretty straight forward, but I will be happy to add text to the images if it becomes necessary.  
Other than the slight flare at the bottom, I think it turned out rather a lot like the skirt pictured below, which I pinned to my wish list a year or so ago. Now I need no longer lust after this lacy loveliness. I have me own!


There you have it! Vintage marries so well with modern, don't you think?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Julie Surprise: Namaste Gluten Free Pumpkin Cake With Cream Cheese Layer and Coconut Sugar Glaze

I doubt I will ever grow tired of pumpkin and thus I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the canned pumpkin puree at my local Costco.

We've only purchased our first pack, but I have already enjoyed making a myriad of delicious favorites from those three 15 oz cans as well as discovering and inventing some delectable new concoctions. (More on those later . . . I hope.)

Today I used the last of the coveted pumpkin puree. I had two cups left, just enough to make a nice double batch of Namaste's Pumpkin Cake recipe, which I have been intending to try since I bought the pumpkin puree earlier this month.

Since having to go gluten free I've been experimenting a lot with coconut flour and other gluten free alternatives but since I really have enjoyed their allergen free cake mix in the past, I was excited to see that my Costco began carrying Namaste's Perfect Flour Blend.

At first I wasn't sure if I liked it better than the coconut flour. Both can be tricky to bake with if you aren't used to how different they are from wheat flour, but finally I took the advice on the back of the bag and looked up some recipes on their website.

I adore their Best Banana Bread! I have even adapted it into zucchini bread by simply replacing the mashed bananas with some pureed zucchini and adding some cinnamon. Both ventures were a great success.

Also, following a recipe designed for the gluten free flour helped to to realize what I had been doing wrong in my previous attempts. The batter for a gluten free cake or bread is a lot thicker than you would expect, and that's okay. I kept adding water before, when I was trying to use it as a substitute for regular baking recipes and the results were always doughy and gooey. I have realized that adding more liquid wasn't the answer. I just had to be okay with the idea that when you bake with this gluten free flour, the consistency is simply going to be a lot thicker.

Of course, being who I am, I usually find it extremely difficult to follow a recipe exactly. While I did follow the basics of this pumpkin cake recipe, I couldn't help being inspired by some other recipes I found on pinterest, and thought it would be fun to spruce this one up a bit.

So while this is the Namaste recipe from their website, the one intended for their gluten free perfect flour blend, I also was inspired by this cream cheese filled pumpkin bread and this pumpkin coffee cake with the brown sugar glaze.

Thus we have a gluten free pumpkin cake with a cream cheese layer and served with a brown sugar glaze.

Actually, because I doubled Namaste's recipe I did two different cakes; one with the cream cheese filling and for the other, I sort of took inspiration from this Snickerdoodle Bread and sifted some cinnamon coconut sugar mixture in between layers of the cake batter. Then, after it was baked, I poked holes in the top and poured the brown sugar glaze over it like in the coffee cake recipe. Of course, I probably should have cut the glaze recipe in half. It was a bit too much for my 8x8 pan, so we ended up scooping a lot of the excess glaze off the top of the second cake and drizzling it over the one with the cream cheese filling.


So here is how I made the recipe. Which is basically Namaste's but doubled and with a few slight substitutions. Oh, except there was one little thing that I want to improve on the original recipe. The original calls for one 1/8 tsp of salt, which doubled is still only a measly 1/4 tsp.
(Now I'm not one to be afraid of salt. Salt is actually extremely important to your health. Of course processed salts and sodiums are gross but good old regular sea salt is awesome for keeping your iodine levels up.) Anyways, too me this cake was just a tad bit on the bland side, and if you've made bread and forgotten the salt, you will know what I mean. So I'm going to increase the salt to at least 1 tsp next time because the I actually used 1/2 a tsp and it wasn't enough.

Gluten Free Pumpkin Cake 
with a Cream Cheese Layer and a Coconut Sugar Glaze

2 Cups Namaste Perfect Flour
2 Cups Coconut Sugar (Or raw Stevia or other sweetener of your choice)
1 Cup + 4 TBS Oil of your choice (I did half coconut oil and half organic pastured butter)
1 tsp Vanilla
2 Cups Pumpkin Puree
4 Eggs
3 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp (or maybe 1 1/2 tsp) Salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 8 X 8 inch baking pan. 
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside. 
In a large bowl combine sugar and oil. (Melt the oil in the preheating oven first if you need too) 
With a wire whisk blend in vanilla and pumpkin, then beat in eggs one at a time. 
Gradually beat in flour mixture. (You might need to switch to stronger beaters if your wire whisk is not strong enough for the super thick batter.)
Spread batter into prepared 8 X 8 inch pan. 

~If you want to try the snickerdoodle version, spread a shallow layer of the batter on the bottom of your pan, then add a few extra glops on top of that. Then mix about 1 TBS of coconut sugar and about 1 tsp of ground cinnamon together , maybe add in a few sprinkles of salt as well, and then sprinkle this mixture over the batter in the pan. Then add some more dollops of batter in between the sugar dusted ones and then cover it all with a final thin layer of batter. This will create a sort of cinnamon swirl effect when baked.

~If you want to do the cream cheese layer mix together 4 oz of softened cream cheese with 1 large egg and 1/4 cup of sweetener of your choice (I used raw Stevia to keep things white, but I almost wish I'd used honey.) 
I also added in a dash of grass fed gelatin because, honestly, I throw it into everything.
Anyway, whip that together until smooth and then carefully spread over a layer of pumpkin batter. Then top with another layer of pumpkin batter. It's pretty thick, so you might need to add little dollops at a time and then smooth them together with a rubber spatuala. Honestly, I almost didn't have enough batter left to cover my cream cheese cake after doing the cinnamon swirl one so I had to skim some of the batter off the top of that one to get the cream cheese covered up. Next time I'll want to make my first layers thinner and perhaps I'll even double the cream cheese filling.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. 

Allow to cool.

~If you want to try the coconut sugar glaze soaked version:
Mix together 1/4 cup coconut milk or raw heavy cream in a sauce pan with 1/4 cup  coconut sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Once the sugar is melted and the sauce looks smooth, poke holes into your now cooled pumpkin cake and drizzle the glaze on top of it, allowing it to soak in. 
Serve immediately, or keep covered in the fridge until ready to serve.

~Alternately you can simply pour it over slices of cake. 

P.s. This cake is also good with butter melted on top.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Julie Surprise: Out of the Blue Salad

I will be the first to confess that I'm not naturally a very organized person, I'm the one who is usually a bit late, or who will call you last minute for a baby-sitting gig because I totally spaced something I needed a sitter for until the night before or even the morning of. Yes, I know. I am ashamed. I am getting better about it though, through huge effort and help from my list app, reminders and calender on my smart phone, I have improved slightly.

On the other hand, I can do spontaneous, and I can handle random. I will not have a break down if plans fall through or if something changes. I can handle change. In fact, I've discovered I sort of need things to change up a bit everyone once in a while because too much structure makes me crazy (i.e. grumpy, emotional, intense, high strung, etc.) My husband and I are well matched because we both enjoy making random and spontaneous decisions together.

For example, back in July, on one of the rare Sundays in which we did not have a family party or any other after church obligations, we spontaneously decided to drop in at his parents house to borrow their barbecue grill and their pool for a little family summer fun with our kids. His parents were out of town, but even if they hadn't been, they also have no problem with spontaneous drop-ins.

Anyway, once we got there, my hubby started firing up the grill and he asked me to look around the kitchen to figure out what else we could eat, like some kind of salad to have on the side with our grilled chicken.

(I guess I should clarify that this is also totally cool at my in-laws house. They have a standing policy that if the food is there you can have it. [which idea, honestly, was a little hard for me to get used to when I first got married because in my house you always had to ask about anything you wanted to eat in case Mom was saving it for something.] My mother-in-law sort of has this mentality about it; she feels like if she is generous with what she has, that there will always be enough. In fact, I think she sort of has a contract going on with God where if she shares her abundance that He promises her that her cupboards will always be full. Don't quote me on that, but I'm pretty sure there was something like that in the story my hubby told me.)

Anyway, there I was, in someone else's kitchen, with the task of figuring out what to eat for our spontaneous Sunday picnic. I looked through the fridge, but as my in-laws were out of town, there wasn't much there in way of produce. So I checked the freezer, "Hmm, frozen fruit." and the pantry, "Nothing." and the storage room, "Hmm, canned pineapple."

What I did find in the fridge was part of what got my wheels turning about the possibilities. My mother-in-law had some good sour cream. The kind that has only two ingredients (cream and enzymes) so I was thinking maybe I could use it to make some sort of fruit salad.
Pineapple is awesome with cottage cheese, so it seemed like I could perhaps make it work with the sour cream so I dumped a can of drained pineapple into a bowl and plopped about a half a cup of sour cream on top. Then I added a bit of sea salt and a packet of Truvia because they don't keep coconut sugar in their house (and I can't eat cane sugar).

Mixed that all up and tasted it. Hmm, not too shabby. At the same time I was doing this, I was making a fruit smoothie for us to drink with some of the frozen fruit in the freezer. I thought about adding a variety of fruit to the salad, but honestly, I was thinking something a little simpler sounded good so I decided to only go with frozen blueberries (about 1/2 cup again). Blueberries and pineapple just sounded delicious.

Once I started stirring those in, the color of the salad turned a lovely bluish-lavender color and I figured I was pretty much done. . .

Except . . . there just didn't seem to be much salad for everyone, and while it was good, it seemed like it needed something. A little more contrast of flavor. so I looked in the fruit bowl and found a couple of ripe bananas. I sliced one up and threw it in.

Tada! Out of the blue, we have a salad!

Needless to say, this salad was not only lovely to look at but it was delicious to eat as well. In fact, I had to go back inside halfway through our picnic and make a second batch so everyone could have as much as they wished. So, that being said, I'm going to double the recipe here at the bottom because for a good sized group you'll probably want it at least doubled.

Julie Surprise: Out of the Blue Salad

  • 2 cans chunk pineapple or tidbits would work well too, drained. (I added the juice to our smoothie)
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries, (you could use fresh, but it might not look as blue in the end.)
  • 2 large bananas sliced.
  • 1 cup clean sour cream.
  • 1 packet of truvia, or non-cane sweetener of your choice (honey, maple syrup or coconut sugar)
  • A dash or two of fine sea salt.

Mix and enjoy!

I'm so glad that I was given the task to spontaneously whip up a salad with random ingredients.
If I hadn't had that opportunity, I never would have tasted this delicious concoction!
So while I may appear to be a very flawed person, I'm so glad I can handle being creative under pressure. Things can be pretty yummy, out of the blue.

~Julie :}