Better DIY

I have giant hands. Not necessarily of the man variety, but giant nonetheless. Yet, I insist on attempting tasks meant for dainty, little, lady hands. Such as my latest DIY interest: sewing. I decided to take up sewing because shopping for clothes is the worst. THE WORST – I never seem to find exactly what I’m looking for, if I do find something halfway decent it is either out of my price range, too small, too big, or stained with some fool’s bronzer, and, to make matters worse, my blood sugar always seems to drop just as I’m making progress and I need to go home for a snack and some quiet time. So, after watching ole girl win Project Runway with minimal sewing experience I thought surely I can make a damn skirt or two.

My mom brought me her sewing machine – a bad-ass Husqvarna Viking– when she came to visit this past Fall and taught me the basics of the machine and reading a pattern. Since Winter was upon us, I decided to make a lovely little wrap sweater thingy. I don’t know why I thought sewing something with sleeves and a hood would be a good idea for my first attempt, but my mom seemed to think it’d be ok so I went with it. As I was pinning the pattern to the fabric I stuck the bejeezus out of one of my digits. “Shit!” I yelped, squeezing my index finger. “Are you bleeding?” my mom asked. I nodded, sucking on the wound. Without hesitation she responded, “Good, you’re supposed to bleed on your first sewing project.”

A few weeks and a lot of profanity later, I finally finished the damn thing. The seams weren’t exactly straight, the corners were messy, and the sleeves were a good two inches too short. So, I gave it to a friend of mine who’s just tall enough to not be legally considered a little person. I decided to try a few up-cycle/re-fashion projects before committing to another serious garment so that I could practice measuring, sewing in a straight line, and making even hems. In nerding around on Whole Living’s website, I found this Oxford Napkin idea and decided to give it a shot with one of J’s old shirts. 

First order of business was to take the shirt apart. At first, I sat down with a glass of wine, an episode of The Daily Show, and my seam rippers only to discover that it would take me the length of Jessica Simpson’s pregnancy to do it that way. So, I grabbed my Ginghers and made quick work of it.

Then, I took the back of the shirt and cut out four, ten-inch squares. Martha says to cut out 12 inch squares, but J is a rather svelte man so the shirt didn’t provide THAT much fabric.

This is where it gets tricky – for me anyway. I can’t seem to sew a hem in a straight line so what I have to do is iron the edge over a book, pin it down, then sew. Like sew: (see what I did there?)

Since I used a 10-inch square rather than the 12-inch square a portly gentleman’s shirt would have provided, these turned out more like pocket squares and less like napkins. But that’s ok – I don’t really use napkins anyway…


Better Strawberry Shortcakes

Strawberry Shortcake has always been one of my very favorite desserts. But shamefully, I have never once tried to make it myself. Last week, while visiting my folks in Nashville, my mom made it for us and it reminded me just how perfect a summer dessert it really is. When I saw strawberries on the menu for our co-op this week, I decided to give it a shot. So, I did as I always do when I need a good recipe, I turned to Martha.

Martha Stewart knows whats up, y’all. I am a novice in the kitchen and every time I try one of her recipes it tastes delicious, even if it doesn’t come out quite as pretty as hers. This is the image I pinned from Martha’s website. Doesn’t it look so nice? She is out of control.

First – the strawberries. I hulled, quartered, and sweetened them and put them in the fridge to chill and get all syrupy. Then, like a good little baker, I combined all the dry ingredients first, then put them in the food processor with the chunks of cold butter. And here is where I hit my first snag. Early on – I know. Being that it is May in the South it is just hot as a crotch. I am trying to avoid busting out our AC unit because I am lazy and there is stuff stacked on top of the box. So, as you can imagine, the kitchen got rather warm as I preheated the oven to 425. So warm, in fact, that the chunks of butter did not stay cold very long and the dough started sticking to the sides of the food processor rather than resembling “coarse meal” as the recipe said it would. But it was too late to turn back. I added the milk and processed until “just moistened” and ended up with some pretty wet dough. Any normal individual would have accepted defeat and just plopped the dough in gobs onto the baking sheet but I decided to press on and follow the recipe. Martha knows best, after all. I floured my hands, and dumped the dough onto a very floured surface in an effort to keep it from sticking to absolutely everything. Then, I shaped it into what was supposed to be an 8″ x 4″ rectangle but turned out to be more of an awkward oblong shape more or less the size of a Cabbage Patch Preemie Doll. I floured a sharp knife, which did absolutely nothing as far as keeping the dough from sticking to it, cut the loaf into 8 pieces, transferred them to a baking sheet, and put them in the oven.

Now, the recipe says to bake these bad boys for 25 to 30 minutes. But, my apartment has a pretty amazing kitchen and my oven is all sorts of busted. The bottom coil broke off (seriously, just broke off while I was baking a loaf of bread) a few months back and was replaced by our landlord with a super-strength coil that puts the top coil to shame. So, now I have to bake everything on the top rack and for about half the suggested time. About 12 minutes later my shortcakes came out looking like this.

I know what you’re thinking and you’re right; that does look like a butt.

While the shortcakes cooled, I took the delicious cream we got from Maple View Farm and whipped it into a frenzy with a little bit of vanilla and sugar. And voilá –  delicious strawberry shortcakes made by yours truly. I will say though, my mom always makes shortcakes from Bisquick and they turn out just as scrumptious (if not more so) without all the nonsense of using the food processor, “shaping” the dough, and making a huge, floury mess. Making shortcakes from scratch made me feel pretty fancy but, in the future, I’ll avoid all the hullaballoo and make them the way my mom does.