Thursday, October 29, 2009


The other day, I escaped over the border to France, to the nearest town -Thionville- in order to buy some fabric. The store is called Mondial Tissus. They have good value fabrics, and lots of choice. It's a bit messy and bazar-like, it's hard to get hold of a sales assistant, some of them are terribly moody, but hey, it's France, and it's cheaper than here.

First on my to-do list is a blanket with sleeves, aka snuggie, slanket, or snuglet. I usually need a blanket to snuggle on the sofa in the evening because I feel cold and my husband doesn't. I always have cold hands and feet and nose from mid-October to May. So when I heard about Slankets, I got pretty excited (yes, I'm sad like that ;)) but of course I wanted to make one myself and was lucky to find that thick fleece on offer. It's light blue with dark blue snowflakes embroidered. Classy ...

I also bought the fine brown cord and the ethnic-style print to make another dress from my Japanese book. I love cord, and I love chocolate brown. It's going to be nice, perfect for this weather, I intend to lengthen the sleeves.

 I don't know if I'll manage to make it before the end of the week. We're off on holidays then and I'm not taking my machine with me. But it doesn't matter because rural Bavaria isn't exactly the place to sport Japanese craft. Or is it?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Big in Japan

This week, I received my first Japanese sewing book. When I realized many people sewed from such books and talked about it on their blogs, I thought that was a bit mad but kinda cool. Like they belonged to a special club. I also thought many of the clothes they made looked like oversized bags with sleeves, he he. That was until I saw Melissa's dress on tiny happy. I thought it was so pretty and stylish, in a simple way. The beautiful fabric certainly helped.

 Stylish Dress Book -vol. 1

I wanted that dress, it's the one on the cover, dress E. I wasn't sure I'd actually manage to finish it because a) except for a few words of English, everything was in Japanese, and b) not being an expert seamstress, I didn't know if I could follow all the steps without botching anything. Turns out it wasn't that difficult, which also explains why so many people sew with these Japanese books. The patterns are simple, most have no zippers. I haven't tried sewing a zipper yet. I am avoiding them for the time being.

I can't tell you how happy the book has made me, in an armchair traveller way. It is small and light, half way between a book and a magazine. The pictures are simple and minimalistic, like the dresses. There is something so delicate about them, like the dainty doilies that are scattered all over the pages. There's even a recipe for what looks like Breton sablés. I spent much time looking at them, choosing a dress to make, trying to understand the different steps to follow and mulling over the right fabric. It helped that I was stuck at home for most of the week with a sick baby and no fabric, helped me fantasize about it all, itching to get sewing, wishing I was learning more about Japan and exploring its cities -and fabric stores. I found the post stamp on the package very pretty too. What is it about daintiness in that country?

I finally managed to buy the fabric on Saturday. I was inspired by this and this, to find something darkish with a small lighter print on it. People are often fooled and praise your work if the fabric is pretty. It redeems all the little flaws that require a closer inspection because the overall impression is neat. I love all those Tilda fabrics, such pretty stuff. The little wheels and flowers are light pink.

It does look a bit like a granny apron, albeit a very "stylish" one, ha ha. I am very pleased with the result, in spite of the tiny flaws due to my impatience. There is at least one other dress I want to make from the book -before I can justify buying the second book.

For help on deciphering Japanese craft books, look here, it's very helpful : label-free.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Flower power hoodie

Today while Alma was napping and Maya was at pre-school, I finished Alma's fleece hoodie, the same model I made for Maya. I had a harder time somehow and had to undo some of the seams to sew them again properly. If I'm not paying close attention, I often end up sewing the wrong side on.
I made it quite big, for a 2-year old, but shortened the sleeves. That way it'll be easy to put on.  I'm quite pleased with them, but if you inspect them closely, you'll see the little details that give away my impatience.

I also wanted to tell you about a stew I made in my slow-cooker yesterday, because it was so good.  I used ox cheek for the first time instead of plain stewing beef. I was a bit worried, as I often am with stews, because I plonked the rolled cheeks still frozen into the pot, and after a while, when they had started to thaw I cut them up and they were so tough and stringy I thought they'd never soften. But after a long while in the pot, they had become so meltingly tender, truly the best stewing meat ever. I used a little white wine, some beef stock (from a cube), 2 sliced carrots, some chopped celery, dried thyme, smoked paprika, tomato paste, a little flour and near the end, added some olives. I am always amazed at how amazing the resulting dish is when you think of how little effort is involved. Although the picture doesn't do justice to the taste -stews just aren't photogenic, no matter how much parsley you cover them in- it was a glorious dinner.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

An autumn weekend

We had exceptionally beautiful warm weather all September, but this week has been wetter and grayer, the leaves seem to turn more quickly to shades of orange and yellow and brown, and we're beginning to spend more time indoors (coughing and nose-blowing too).

And so it is that I have been busy in the kitchen and at the sewing machine yesterday. We were out of everything for breakfast and I had been eyeing a pumkin scone recipe so I got to make it. I use potimarron, I think it's called Hokkaido squash, it is a small variety that has a dense flesh with a hint of chestnut flavour (hence the name). It is ideal for all recipes calling for pumpkin or butternut, and you can cook and eat the skin too -less waste, more vitamins, and above all by my book, less work!

These scones were a bit dense, but nicely flavoured with a hint of cinnamon, and smeared with Nutella, they were quite easy to eat but dunk anything in Nutella and we'll eat it. Though perhaps not bacon or sausages...

I also made an apple galette, following a pastry recipe I found in this book. Galettes may sound French but they're not. We'd call that a croustade because of its crunchy edge. Say galette and we all think of the Epiphany and galette des rois. But I digress. I find it an easy twist on tarte and love the rustic look. I caramelized the apples a little in a pan , tatin-style. The pastry turned out nice and crunchy, flaky and with a delicious rich taste. It had crème fraîche and butter in it.

Sewing wise, I finished a little project for Maya. I use this book, it has nice "plain" models with patterns for children. It isn't really aimed at beginners like me, because the explanations aren't super clear, but some models are really feasible. This model is supposed to be made in towelling as a throw-on bathrobe but I thought it' d be great for outdoors in fleece for the cooler days. We have a shop in town that sells pricey but lovely fabrics, and I found the flower print fleece there. Maya chose the white/pink flowers and I got some in pink/red for Alma to make the same hoodie. I didn't know fleece was a bitch to sew with then. Ha ha!

I also hope to put the finishing touches to a pair of PJs I made for myself, and some cord pants for Maya.

While the galette was in the oven, I whipped up some molten chocolate cakes at Maya's demand. She'll only eat chocolate baked goods, what am I gonna do? So here's a little recipe to share with you, if you're pressed for time and need a chocolate fix :
chocolate babycake and potimarron
Makes 4 muffin-sized babycakes (the silicon type)

Melt 75 g dark chocolate with 20g butter in a biggish bowl in the microwave. Add a pinch of salt and 3 tbsp sugar and mix. Add an egg and mix it in quickly. Add 1 heaped tbsp flour with a pinch of baking powder. Mix well. Pour into muffin tins and bake at 180°C for 10 minutes. They should still be soft and gooey in the middle. Eat hot/warm/cold. Do NOT use the microwave to bake them, I tried one in there and burned it.

A new place

Hello friends,
this is a new place to share food, stories and the few items I sew. I am not super creative nor super crafty, I honestly don't have a finely tuned sense for decorating or even arranging things at home, but I enjoy the process of making things, be it food or now clothes. Do not expect top notch photography either, but stop by to see what I'm doing and thinking in my corner of Luxembourg.

Hope you enjoy your visit, and please leave a comment, if you feel like it :-)


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Poulet birman

Je ne sais pas pour vous, mais moi j'aime voyager dans mon assiette. J'aime voyager tout court, mais avec deux enfants en bas âge, ce n'est pas toujours évident. Du coup il ne me reste souvent que mon assiette et mes livres pour m'envoyer au bout du monde. Pas une si mauvaise chose, je vous assure.

Je vous recommande chaudement la lecture de Petits larcins culinaires de Claude Deloffre (voir le commentaire que j'ai laissé) dans la collection foood de Tana. Cette recette en est tirée, et comme toutes les autres que j'ai essayées, elle m'a beaucoup plu. J'adore ce livre, qui se lit de bout en bout, et nous emmène aux quatre coins du monde, même assez reculés, comme la Birmanie.

Pour le poulet birman que j'ai vaguement adapté, il faudra, pour 2 voyageurs :

2 cuisses de poulet
1 cc de curcuma
1 cc de gingembre en poudre
2 oignons moyens
2-3 gousses d'ail
3 tomates
piment en poudre
1/2 bâton de citronnelle
du nuoc-mam ou nam-pla (sauce de poisson asiatique)

Frotter le poulet avec les épices et du sel. Dans une sauteuse, faire chauffer de l'huile végétale, et faire revenir doucement les oignons émincés, et l'ail haché. Quand ils sont translucides, augmenter le feu et faire dorer le poulet. Ajouter ensuite les tomates en dés, du piment selon les goûts, faire cuire puis ajouter un verre d'eau. Couvrir et laisser mijoter 30 minutes. Ajouter alors la citronnelle hachée menue et une cuillérée de sauce de poisson. Remuer, couvrir et laisser cuire jusqu'à ce que le poulet soit prêt, environ 20 minutes de plus. Servir sur du riz.

On obtient un délicieux curry qui ressemble assez au cari réunionnais mais avec la variante originale de la citronnelle et du nuoc-mam. C'est la deuxième fois que je le fais et j'aime beaucoup. Je me vois bien l'adapter un peu pour la faire en mijoteuse.