Case Study Shirt 01

Back in college, I began to dabble in sewing. I had just moved from San Francisco to Greeley, CO, and was still adjusting to the culture shock and frigid weather. It was second semester of my freshman year, and I was told that the University Housing Department would appoint me a dorm-mate. Her name was Christina; a fun-loving mid-Westerner with a high affinity for pigs and the 90's sitcom, Friends. She often filled her spare time with crafting wardrobes for her college theater class. She was a character herself, and I really liked her. 

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One day I asked her if she would show me how to use her sewing machine. Little did I know I would soon spend hours learning the how-to's of sewing (with the sound of Phoebe and Joey in the background.) I remember the very first garment I ever created: a gray, lop-sided hoodie, trimmed with teal material along the waistline and sleeves. Sewing was the first form of artistry that seemed to joyfully envelop me - I truly loved it. But, as life sped up, I began sewing less and less.

This year, I decided to revisit sewing. I wanted to begin a case study, taking an in-depth look at the production of shirts that I wished I owned, and what it would take to create them.

The process

I buy fabrics with totally different personalities; some simple with light-weight movement, and others sturdier with a lively pattern. While I always head into a sewing project with a general plan, I often take detours throughout the production process; I may modify the hem or the silhouette, depending on how the material takes shape. Knowing the general direction of each specific piece, I will cut the body of the piece from my material, and begin measuring and pinning. I intermittently try on the piece as I'm producing it to ensure that I like the direction it's going (and before cutting off excess fabric... Measure twice, cut once, right?) Once I have the general structure of the garment, I begin detailing the neckline. sleeves, and any other facet I'd like to incorporate. My process is by no means perfect, but it's one that I've acquired from a few years of self-teaching and practice.

The aim of Case Study Shirt 01 was to produce a comfortable, relaxed-fit teeshirt that was versatile: whether it be layered with a sheer camisole and leggings, paired with some tennies and a baseball cap, or made more sophisticated with a tan leather sandal and gold jewelry. I really wanted a piece that was understated and effortlessly cute.

I detailed the front of the shirt by sewing together two separate panels, then stitching along both sides of the center seam for an accent. I then created a boat-neck collar and slouchy sleeves, again with an accent stitch. For me, the hem was the most important aspect of this top. I wanted the front to be slightly shorter in the back with large splits on both sides, to allow for a delicate undershirt to show through. This was a finish I decided on once I was able to play with the material more. 

More-so than the shirt itself, I'm excited to have begun this small personal project, and to see it come to life.

My Sweet Escape

Sugar is something that, in the past, has been almost like a drug for me. It's something I had to eat every day, otherwise suffering from intense, relentless cravings. I recently went six weeks without eating added sugars, excluding occasional, small amounts of honey. I admittedly have never tried the "no added sugar" thing... and my body's response to it surprised me. After going without it, my palate for sweets changed dramatically. My enjoyment of sugar was significantly less, and I didn't have the somewhat visceral urge to eat sweets like I once did. 

The American Heart Association recommends that women consume only 100 calories of sugar daily, equivalent to 6 teaspoons. For men, that number is 150 calories, about 9 teaspoons. Chocolate with 72 percent cocoa solids has less sugar than milk chocolate or even dark chocolate with 50 percent cocoa. A 1-ounce bar of dark chocolate with 70 to 85 percent cocoa contains 6.8 grams of sugar. Since, 4 grams of sugar are about 1 teaspoon, limit your intake of chocolate accordingly.
— healthyeating.sfgate.com

For me, this was almost scary... I would ask myself "what the heck do I do if I don't like sugar anymore?!" I'm the kind of person who has always needed a little something extra to feel like my dinner experience is "complete", and I was feeling a bit aimless since sugar wasn't doing the trick any longer. Consequently, I came up with a few after-dinner alternatives that have worked well for me. 

GOOD "MEAL-SEALERS" : 
+Nuts (I like cashews or almonds)
+Green Tea
+Decaf drip coffee
+Almond milk with cinnamon

For other times when I want a simple "sweet treat", but want to be cautious to not slip back into my former sugar-eating ways, I think in terms of eating something my body can easily process, and something that will give me satiety. It's true: drinking a big fruit smoothie or eating an Acai Bowl can mean I am consuming a lot of sugar at once. In this case, I am just conscious of how often I'm eating it, at what point in the day I'm eating it, and what I'm adding into it to maximize its nutritional benefits. I prefer to have my fruit/veggie smoothies in the morning so I have tons of energy to get me through the day. With that said, here are some rules of thumb I think of when choosing what kinds of sweets to eat.

SWEET TREAT TIPS :
+Add more cocoa to items that are already chocolatey (to make it richer, while adding no sugar). 
+When eating chocolate, try 70 to 85 percent dark chocolate. A little will go a long way!
+Eat natural sugars, like from fresh or frozen fruit.
+When adding sugar to a dessert, do so judiciously, using sugars that have a lower glycemic index (for example: agave, coconut sugar, or honey). These sweeteners may be closely comparable to table sugar in terms of calories, however the ability for your body to process these sugars is much easier than that of its highly-refined counterpart.
+Add Omega-3 fatty acids (like chia and flax seeds) to your dessert to increase satiety.
+Add sugar-free (aka no ADDED sugar), salt-free nut butter to your dessert or smoothie for added protein, healthy fats, and increased satiety.
+Use coconut oil for any sautéed or "fried" items - it'll add a buttery, slightly sweet flavor.
+When making a fruit smoothie or Acai bowl, sneak in some frozen spinach and/or kale to increase its nutritional value.

HEALTHY TREAT IDEAS :
+Greek Yogurt with Dark Chocolate Chips and Strawberries
+Chocolate-Peppermint Banana Ice Cream
+Ezekiel (flourless) Tortilla Churros:  Sauté strips of tortilla on medium heat in 1 tbsp coconut oil until golden brown. Remove from heat, sprinkle lightly with cinnamon and coconut sugar.
+Cottage cheese + Fresh Fruit + Chia seeds
+Acai bowl 
+Green Smoothie: blend frozen berries of choice, 1/2 banana, spinach / kale, chia sees, flax seeds, dollop of Greek Yogurt, and coconut or almond milk. 
+Banana Oatmeal Protein Powder Pancakes : Blend 1/2 cup steel cut oats, one medium banana, one scoop whey protein powder, cinnamon, and a dash of almond milk until smooth. Pour into pan (1/4 cup at a time) and cook over medium heat, flipping once the first side is cooked. This will yield about two large pancakes. Top with a drizzle of honey, agave, melted peanut butter, or maple syrup.

Making the switch from tons of sugar, to only natural, limited amounts of sugar has been an incredibly eye-opening experience for me. Ultimately, it's something I'm so grateful to have done and am excited to be able to share.

Balsamic Kale and Vegetable SAUTÉ

The holidays have come and gone, and I'm just sitting down to write my first blog post of the year! Talk about a whirlwind.

The hype for fitness and self-improvement notoriously accompany the New Year. (Let's face it, most of us have purchased a new pair of Nike running shoes or a fitness app in the past couple of weeks...) I'm not opposed to positive life change - in fact, many aspects of my life as of recently have demanded it. Although I'm a proponent for such changes, I won't commit to new routines unless I see them as necessary and sustainable.

My husband Mackey and I, in response to some recent health quandaries, have shifted our way of eating to a heart healthy diet, consuming minimally processed foods. This largely means: low sodium, low fat, minimal dairy and sugar intake. Of course, this sort of change isn't an easy one to commit to right around the holidays. My first thought was... "but what about the pies! And the cookies!" ...but it was something we knew we needed to do. At first, the thought of revamping our diets was a bit overwhelming... but perseverance and research have certainly paid off, and we have begun to experience the successes of transforming our food life. 

In the spirit of trying new, healthy dishes, I wanted to share one that I recently made and thoroughly enjoyed.

Balsamic Kale and Vegetable sauté

Makes: 4 servings

YOU'LL NEED
+ One head of kale (medium)
+ One carrot (small)
+ One green bell pepper (medium)
+ One purple sweet potato (medium)
+ 2-3 cloves of garlic
+ 1/4 cup yellow onion
+ 3 Tbsp coconut oil
+ 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar 

METHOD
Warm 1.5 Tbsp of coconut oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add finely chopped onion and cloves of pressed garlic (I used three) into pan and sauté until they are browned and softened. Add balsamic vinegar to the pan, and continue to stir over medium heat in order to make a balsamic reduction. Once the mixture has a slightly more viscous consistency, add the coarsely chopped kale. Mix kale in the balsamic reduction until the leaves are wilted (using low-to-medium heat.) 

In another medium sauce pan, warm the remaining 1.5 Tbsp of coconut oil. Add the diced carrot, bell pepper, and sweet potato. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture is browned and tender.

Combine wilted kale and vegetable mixture in a bowl, and serve with your favorite protein!

A Head of Pearls

This week I was asked to create a wedding hair piece; something delicate and ornate, using small flowers and pearls. Needless to say, I was a little aimless in the craft store (considering I have never before made a wedding hair piece.) I found myself grabbing for various items: dried flowers and baby's breath from the home decor section, strands of pearls and delicate gold chains, an elastic lace headband from the children's section. I got home, spread out my materials on the floor, and began constructing.

The way I created the headband wasn't too fancy: I first organized the flowers in clusters of two and three, creating the framework for where to weave the baby's breath in between. After deciding on how the headband will look, I hot-glued the baby's breath, then gluing the flowers over it. Finally, I glued little pearls throughout the headband. 

The next step involved linking pearls to the gold chain. I cut the chain and attached a small piece of wire with pearls to it. (This was pretty involved, as I hand-twisted a loop on either side of the wire to secure it tightly to the chain.) I continued this process multiple times to create a long beaded chain that will drape down her back. Lastly, I attached the chain to each side of the headband using a strand of wire, then securing it to my head using bobby pins.

Some of my favorite projects are ones that I have no clue where to begin... this being one of them. I was certainly honored to be asked to create it, and I am confident that she will be such a beautiful bride.

Holiday Gift Idea: Hand-Painted Cards

Somehow, it's already November. It always blows my mind how quickly Summer comes to an end and Fall whirls by. For me, the change of seasons inspires an exploration of my own creativity. So this past month, as the air became brisk and the sun more aloof, I was smitten to start some projects. 

As Christmas is fast-approaching, I decided to get working on a handmade gift. 

My mind starts going crazy when I brainstorm gift ideas I can give to someone-- I was really excited to create this set of six cards. It's perfect for any person who appreciates sending a little "hello"...or who just likes weird blobby art. It's a gift that's personal, quirky, that can last a person for many months, and that can double as little pieces of art when sent to others.

Method:

To make these cards, I used acrylic paint and a firm, angled paint brush. I sourced the blank white cards (made from a thick card stock) from my local craft store. After sketching multiple shapes and concepts, I landed on my favorite six. For lighter colors, I painted a couple of coats, and allowed the paint to dry on the cards overnight. After drying, I placed the cards between heavy books for a couple of days thereafter to flatten the curling edges. 

I hope you all enjoy! Now, go make something beautiful to gift someone.

 

 

House Update: An Empty Box

Our "house" isn't currently looking like much of a house. The fact is, our house is pretty much a gutted brick box. When people ask "how is the project coming along," or "when will the house be finished," I rarely have a good answer. So far, the saying seems to be true: building a house will always take twice as long as you had anticipated. I promised myself that I would find contentment throughout this journey, though. So far, the waiting process (more-so than the "building" process) hasn't been too much of a bother to me. 

The ambiguity of the whole situation (living out of a bag, hopping to and from numerous short-term living circumstances, having no "start-date" and certainly no "end date" in sight) has enlightened me to how little control I actually have in this life of mine...and how little I truly need.

Every week I visit our empty little box. I turn the key to the locks (belonging to an old, metal office door) and step inside to the smell of the old wooden floors, the feeling of brisk air, and the still quietness. I always look forward to this moment. Sometimes when I go to pick up the mail, I'll walk around for a minute or two, just imagining what the space will be like someday. 

For now, we are patiently awaiting the "OK" from the city (and building permits) in order to truly start the project. Until then, we are still hopping from rental, to spare bedroom (thank God for our hospitable friends), to rental again. And, for better or for worse, this nomadic lifestyle is something I'm becoming quite familiar with.

I'll be posting on our latest Airbnb stay soon!

Peanut Butter Cookies

For me, dinner is rarely over without having some kind of treat afterward. Often a dollop of whipped cream or a glass of lime-infused sparkling water will do it for me, but sometimes I need to be even more prepared (especially when my sweet tooth is raging.) Recently I was on the hunt for some sort of guiltless dessert to have on-hand, and I stumbled upon this No-Bake Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe by lovehealthfitness (one of the many bloggers I reference for foodie inspiration.)

The original recipe didn't call for as much water, and also didn't use regular peanut butter (she instead used powdered peanut butter.) I found that using a little more water helped me to achieve more of a dough-like consistency. And naturally, I had to add a little more sugar on top (because Coconut Sugar is SO good! Don't even get me started. ) Here is my tweaked version of the recipe.

No Bake Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Oat Flour
  • 1/4 cup Organic Coconut Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Organic Peanut Butter
  • 1/4 cup water

Method

Combine the first three ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Then, mix in the water until the dough is formed. Freeze the dough for 15 minutes (in order to decrease the stickiness of the dough). After freezing the dough, roll small balls of dough with your hands and place them on a piece of parchment paper (the balls should be about 1 - 1.25 inches in size.) Flatten the balls of dough using a fork in an criss-cross fashion. Lastly, sprinkle the cookies with a little additional Coconut Sugar, and enjoy! 

I think this recipe is deliciously satiating, is great for freezing, and is made with only 4 ingredients! What's not to love?