A Silk Slip

Silk slip... it unsurprisingly looks like a larger silk rectangle

One of the highlights of my recent trip to the East Coast was sewing with my friend Anna in her bright and sunny sewing room.  Oh if only my apartment got that much light!  Not only does Anna have a collection of vintage sewing machines, but she also has a cutting mat with rotary cutter and sharp scissors on a designated table for tracing patterns and cutting fabric.  Le sigh.  She suggested a number of projects that would be quick to sew in between dinner dates and, oh right, work, and one of them jumped out at me as absolutely perfect: a silk slip.  On a recent trip to Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley I bought my first silk, but procrastinated using it because my scissors are getting dull and I had no idea what the heck I was doing.  Between Anna’s rotary cutter (the only sane way to cut silks it seems) and the fact that she seemed to know what she was doing, there was no competition and I jumped at the opportunity to try my hand at making something silky.

Fold-over elastic is your friend!

Anna suggested the pattern from Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing, which you can find here.  It isn’t so much a pattern as directions for how to cut out a rectangle of fabric with the correct dimensions for your specific size and desired skirt length.  I used french seams for the sides and fold-over elastic for the waist (here is a tutorial on using fold-over elastic).  Despite my utter terror for sewing with silks, the whole process was fairly straightforward and I can’t wait for another excuse to use fold-over elastic.  While I’ve promised myself a silk sorbetto, perhaps the rest of my silk could become another silk slip for wearing around the house, because the first one has been surprisingly comfortable!

Side-seams (outside)


Brown silk (less than a yard!)

Brown fold-over elastic

Side-seams (inside)

 In addition to making a silk slip, Anna helped me fit a pattern for a pencil skirt and let me use her lovely fabric cutting table to trace the Thurlow Trousers shorts pattern I bought at Gather Here in Boston.  Now if only I could clear off my living room table so I have room to make something!

Pasta alla Amatriciana

Pasta with cheese!

It was a long three weeks of traveling on the East Coast, but I’m finally back in California just in time to experience a heat wave of 80 degree weather and perfectly clear blue skies.  As much as traveling for work can be exhausting, I was very grateful to stay with friends or family during a vast majority of the trip.  I am doubly grateful that the people I visited know how to cook, because there was an outpouring of some of the most delicious homemade food I’ve had in a long time.  There were mushroom ravioli with mushroom tomato sauce and Parmesan, a ball of fresh mozzarella, and finally pasta alla Amatriciana.  This last dish I watched my Italian friend cook towards the end of my trip and thought I would try my hand at it when I got home.  The ingredients list is short and the preparation is fairly simple for such a phenomenally delicious dish.  But what did you expect when bacon and Pecorino Romano are involved?

Pan of pasta

Pasta alla Amatriciana
(serves 2)
1 recipe tomato sauce (see below)
Pasta for two people (such as spaghetti)
Pecorino romano, grated, to serve

1. Make the sauce (see instructions below).

2. Cook the pasta in salted water until it is al dente and drain.

3. Mix the sauce in with the pasta and stir to coat.  Pass a grater and the Pecorino Romano around the table so everyone can cheese their pasta – just remember the cheese is an addition, not the focus (that would be the tomato sauce with bacon!).

Olive oil
1/2 white onion, chopped
5 slices bacon, cut into pieces, large chunks of fat removed
4 medium to large tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1. Cook the onions in a drizzle of olive oil in tall-sided skillet with a bit of water.

2.  While the onions cook, chop the bacon.  Then peel and de-stem the tomatoes, and chop roughly.

3. When the onion is mostly cooked (soft, but not browned), add the bacon and a bit more water.

4. When the bacon is cooked, add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and a sprinkle of salt.  Stir the sauce and then cover the skillet and cook on low to medium heat until the tomato has broken down.  The sauce will have chunks of tomato, but otherwise should taste like cooked tomato sauce with most of the water evaporated.

Pasta close-up

April Garden Tour

The main garden Greetings from Boston!  The beginning of spring on the East Coast is truly lovely.  All over the place trees are covered in fat buds and the first wave of bulbs are starting to flower.  It is in stark contrast to my garden at home where the tomato plants are over a foot tall and a first wave of corn is already planted.  While the garden may look a bit bare, it’s because the summer plants are still quite small or only just sprouting.  As shown above, I’ve started some pole beans outside the main garden fence, as well as a wall of garlic around what will be the cucumber patch.  The milk jugs are keeping the second set of tomato plants and some parsley sprouts warm.

The new gardenIn the new garden (above), the potato plants are taking up lots of space.  The pile of straw is a sheet mulching experiment that should provide a very fertile bed for summer squash (the sprouts are still too short to see in the photo).  There are also leek sprouts, purple bush beans, arugula, and a patch of corn.

The other garden

I finally finished the right-hand bed in the other garden.  Part of it is a doubly-enclosed space for lettuces and other delicate greens, while the other half has mostly been sheet mulched (to kill the weeds) except where I planted a rhubarb start that was looking for a home.  The left-hand bed now sports swiss chard, lacinato kale, purple bush beans, and some heirloom lettuce plants that magically appeared.

Overall, the garden is coming along nicely!  There will be a lot more fruit plants this year (mostly raspberries and strawberries), and I finally have enough space elsewhere (in the other garden) to fill the entire main garden with tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, and melon.  Happy gardening!