buckwheatn'grits

"been in trouble ever since I set my suitcase down…"

Month: January, 2014

Fiber Artist, Alyssa McNamara

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Cabbage, ROOTED.

I just stumbled across Alyssa McNamara’s work on TheKitchn blog, of all things. A fiber artist working out of the Durham, North Carolina area (oh wait, I’M MOVING THERE!) McNamara has received attention for her fabric work in a series called ROOTED, in which she somehow coaxes a multitude of fabrics to imitate the life and textures of vegetables. Her red cabbage dress is simply stunning. And, though I feel the models in the other pieces somewhat take away from her work, the other pieces are wonderful as well. In addition, she does bead work and–as expressed in her artist’s statement–tries to always produce nontraditional surfaces that end up being incredibly fascinating, defying ideas of what fabric and clothing can or should do. Her dress based on clockwork is phenomenal, and uses found materials like washers, nuts, and bolts. She also created the really cool beaded necklace you see below. As if all that weren’t enough for her work to make me swoon, she’s a weaver too and has won several awards in Raleigh, North Carolina for her designs in handwoven textiles. I’ll definitely be contacting her when we make our big move in June. In the meantime, you can check out her portfolio on Cargo Collective.

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CLOCKWORK

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Beaded necklace work.

TOAST: February 2014 Look Book

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TOAST’s February Look Book came out in the past couple of days. It showcases their very classic, British, and often menswear-inspired style. The forms are loose with a mix of drape-y basics. Even the more tailored looks are paired with long, over-sized layers. Tunics, shift dresses, and loose-fitting blazers and sweaters take center stage with lots of soft colors and warm knits, especially woolens. Though I’m not as impressed with the collection as I have been in the past, there were still some wonderful pieces. And I always love their looks for inspiration, which emphasize a casual comfort even when featuring more dressy pieces.  I’ve featured my favorites here (all of the more tailored looks seem to have made it in to my favorites) and you can see the rest of the look book on their website.

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Things to Click

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Today is an all ladies “Things to Click,” because with this never-ending, soul-grinding cold, paired with all the havoc this dry weather is wreaking on my face, multiplied by the freak-out I have been having over this giant swollen unidentifiable lump on my neck, I needed a sisterhood confidence boost. Join me in being shamelessly girly (though it’ll be interesting to boys too… I think):

First up, this wonderful article on patriarchy’s fear of the shears covers all of the interesting, funny, and absurd array of opinions and pressures women open themselves to when they cut off their hair. I lived with a pixie cut for five years (and still miss it sometimes) and everything in this article made me shout “truth!” I love how Laurie Penny manages to convey the usually subtle ways in which expectations shape gender performance and how much pressure those who swim against that current are often subjected to. A wonderfully written piece about the politics of hair.

In case you haven’t heard it yet, the underwear and lingerie brand Aerie has put a stop to all retouching of images used in their advertising and on their website. Director of Marketing Dana Seguin affirms that this is a total and complete shift for the brand, not simply a seasonal marketing tool. Even better, the models are so obviously real girls, all looking fabulous. No erasure of tattoos, birth marks, dimples, or otherwise.

I’m kind of in love with St. Vincent (a.k.a. Annie Clark), possibly because of how much time she got to spend hanging with David Byrne while making this killer and kooky album Love This Giant. This video of her showing off the one intensive soccer trick she knows (called “the rainbow”) is endearing, charming, and somehow comes packed with a small bit of advice about how to achieve your dreams.

Finally, this blog posts outtakes from a pre-teen’s diary she kept in 1992. Every entry manages to be hilarious and makes me so relieved I am no longer that age. Thank God.

A Second Polar Vortex

There are no words for how much ice and snow and cold are in this town right now. I am too grumpy to describe it.

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Image credit: Kristoffer Lemmon.

Scenes From the Snowstorm: Baking Bread

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There is a crazy amount of snow outside with drifts running up to about two and three feet in height. Add to this the fact that it is bitterly cold (and only expected to get colder) and I decided to invent an excellent excuse for leaving our oven on most of the day: bread baking. Paired with minestrone and some nice cheese, it will be the perfect warm-up meal and gave me something to occupy myself with while snuggled up inside. I even decided to try a new recipe from the Friday Cafe White Oak Cookbook.

If you’re not a denizen of Gambier, Ohio, the words Friday Cafe will hold no meaning for you, and for that I am so very sorry. If you do live in Gambier, Friday Cafe should conjure up the homiest of feelings along with memories of warm soup, cheesy bread, and the loud raucous energy of a Friday afternoon. Every Friday the wonderful ladies of Friday Cafe– Tory, Peggy, and Joyce (who do the cooking), along with Mistie, Susan, and others–conjure up the most wonderful vegetarian meals, serving them in a quaint, soup-kitchen-style communal manner. Between 11:30 and 2:00 pm every Friday, 7$ will get you soup, salad, a main dish, and a heavenly, melt in your mouth dessert. I am well known in Gambier as a Friday Cafe groupie (that is, until Kris and I started rabidly saving money for our upcoming move), and so it is no surprise I own the cookbook sold at Friday Cafe, and which is somehow connected (though I have no idea how) to the White Oak Inn in Danville.

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Background stories aside, this bread was pretty easy to make, with only one long rising time. The dough was not obnoxiously sticky and came together very quickly with much less flour than the recipe actually called for. It made four, sizable, round loafs. It even had instructions for partial substitution of whole wheat flour, which I loved (and will include here). I definitely recommend this recipe! I think it would be an especially good “starter” recipe for someone not accustomed to making their own bread. It even calls for electric beaters over hand kneading, though I chose to hand knead the dough anyway because I can tell more easily when the dough is ready. Let me know how this recipe works for you!

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Hard-Crusted Bread

  • 1 and 1/2 tsp yeast (nearly one packet)
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 7 and 1/2 to 8 cups flour
  • 2 and 2/3 cups lukewarm water
  • cornmeal (for sprinkling)

Put yeast, salt, sugar, and 3 cups flour in mixing bowl. Add water and beat until smooth (I beated by hand). Add additional flour 1/2 cup at a time, and beat for 5 minutes. I did this a little differently as I added dough and beat with a rubber spatula until the dough held together. I then dumped the dough onto a floured surface and then added the rest of the flour by kneading it in 1/2 cup at a time. My dough was ready before the full amount of flour called for–possibly because in this weather the air is very dry. You know your dough is ready when it feels fleshy, but has a stiffness similar to squeezing your earlobe between your thumb and forefinger. No really, try it! It works! An old friend named Aspen taught me this trick when I first began venturing into the realm of bread baking. Anyways, place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn to coat the dough with oil. Cover with a warm, damp cloth, and place in a warm place to rise for 1 hour. Punch down (you might want to coat your fist in flour before doing this step) and shape into four round balls. I do this by pulling the dough underneath itself until it forms a neat ball. Place on lightly greased baking sheets (2 per sheet), sprinkle with cornmeal and let rise again for a half hour to an hour. Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes or until done. You know a loaf of bread is done if you knock on the bottom and it sounds hollow. Another funny, bread makers’ trick.

Variation: 1 cup whole wheat flour or 1/4 cup rye flour for white flour

Saturday Snapshot

I moved all the plants I’ve managed to keep alive into a warmer spot in our apartment; Zooey pretends she inhabits a jungle paradise.

Things to click…

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We hear a lot about the debt ceiling and U.S. debt these days, but can you actually visualize it? I can’t, which is why I’m fascinated, delighted, terrified (all of the above?) when it comes to Demonocracy’s infographic visualizing the U.S. debt in $100 bills. They also have a link to the U.S. debt clock, which tracks the U.S.’s current debt as well as U.S. federal budget spending, and debt per citizen. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what it all means, but the sheer size is impressive.

Many people know that one of my favorite historical couples, fashion inspirations, celebrity crushes, and inspirational figures is the duo that was Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg. In 2013 a wonderful coffee-table style book was released by Andrew Birkin (the great Jane’s brother) called Jane & Serge: A Family Album. It is an eclectic collection of stories and photographs of the couple and has received rave reviews for those interested in the culture surrounding Jane, Serge, and their 12-year love affair. With Taschen’s high price tag I doubt I’ll ever own a copy, but Into the Gloss recently posted the 17 most salacious and interesting facts from the book along with a series of rarely seen photographs of the couple. I am delighted and can’t stop looking.

Buzzfeed released these quirky and (for the most part) beautiful vintage Polish film posters. Using a great deal of watercolor, paper-cut, and hand-drawn methods, these posters are wonderfully whimsical and vibrant in the way they capturing the essence of these classic films. I especially love the Roman Holiday poster.

One of my favorite designers is Ace & Jig for their handwoven textiles and the odd and interesting ways in which they mix patterns. Turns out their is a reason their fabric is so beautiful and so well integrated into their distinct visual landscape: it’s handwoven for them according to their own concept art. In other words, they don’t just design the pieces they make, they create their pieces from the ground up, developing and then making their own linen and cotton fabric. As a novice weaver, I loved the story Of/A/Kind did on Ace & Jig’s unique textile making process, which takes the reader to the duo’s workshops in India and walks through the entire process of creating hand-dyed, hand-woven fabrics.

Shipping Container Housing and Price Street Projects

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A quick search on the internet will reveal that shipping container housing is one of the biggest crazes right now in sustainable architecture. The tag “shipping container architecture” yields nearly 100 articles on the sustainable design blog Inhabitat. Shipping containers have become a resource for re-purposing that continues to result in surprisingly, beautiful, innovative, and inspiring spaces. They’ve been used in everything from restaurants and breweries, to schools, offices, homes, and–most recently–apartment buildings and dorms. Not only is re-purposing old materials an environmentally friendly bonus behind the use of old shipping containers as architectural material, but the cost of building these structures is usually a fraction of normal custom building costs. The use of shipping containers has become such a popular and affordable option that there is even a website devoted to helping you build and design your own shipping container house.

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Kris and I love the idea, and a while back, when researching this phenomenon, I found what appears to be my dream home. Price Street Projects is a small architecture company based in Miami and Savannah and devoted to using reusable materials and sustainable practices. Their main building block appears to be, you got it, the shipping container. Though there is only one project advertised on their site, they have built everything from offices, to educational environments, to homes. I fell in love with their “Savannah Project,” a small house with lots of natural light and a modern look that still manages to integrate beautifully into its woodsy surroundings. I would love to live in a space like this some day. And the way that PSP has shaped these containers into a micro-house that still seems spacious due to its open floor plan is inspiring. I’m also someone who tends to love very old houses (contradiction? One I can live with), so I love the way the Savannah Project house melds more rustic touches–e.g. the dark, wood floors–with the modern, industrial aesthetic the shipping container implicitly evokes. I love it. Can I move into it now?

Morgan Carper, Autumn/Winter 13-14

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I figured I better post about Morgan Carper’s stunning AW 13-14 collection before it becomes completely irrelevant. I’m already way behind the times on posting this in the sphere of style blogging, but I love her work so much I just had to share. I first discovered Morgan Carper through the unique Of/A/Kind store, which sells limited edition pieces from a specific group of curated designers. Her Sapa Cape was gloriously cool (see above) and I immediately started looking for more of her work. She’s done photographic print dresses for Anthropologie and has been featured by the YOU + ME* creative agency as part of its print and online series EQUALS and as an author on their blog. Inspired by her numerous and frequent travels, Morgan Carper incorporates the feelings of a place into her work, relying heavily on texture and color to do so. The use of artisan beading, embroidery, and weaving  incorporated with her own stylish sensibility land her clothing somewhere between the realms of “tender and tough”–as one descriptor puts it. Her A/W 13-14 collection is all that with an additional sexiness and ease that seems unmatched. I just love her work and can’t wait to see what her Spring collection brings. If you like what you see, you can read more about Morgan Carper on her website or see her entire collection here.

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Homemade Spiced Chai

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Spiced Chai (also Chai latte or Masala Chai as it is sometimes called) has become a modern staple of most cafes and coffee houses. This dark, spiced tea brewed with sugar and milk is one of my favorite winter drinks, making cold snowy days just a little bit more bearable. However, most cafes use processed mixes for their Chai base that often includes high-fructose corn syrup and other unsavory ingredients. Even if that’s not the case, a Chai latte at a typical cafe is often way too sweet for me. I prefer my Chai really spicy with just a hint of sweetness, a little closer to the Indian original. The price–often running upwards of $4–can also be a strong deterrent. So, I’ve started making my own Chai at home.

I will admit my first attempt was pretty unappealing. Cold, lacking in spice, and spotted with congealed honey, the unlucky friend whom I asked to test this drink could barely keep it down. (Hannah, if you’re reading this, I still am so sorry for making you drink that disgusting concoction our first year of college).

But with age, comes wisdom, and I have developed a fairly fail-proof method for making spiced Chai at home. Try mine below and let me know what you think!

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Spiced Chai Latte

  • Black tea (can be any kind, but I would recommend a simple English Breakfast tea loose or in bags)
  • milk
  • boiling water
  • 1/2 tsp each of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, allspice, and cloves
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar

In the bottom of a teapot measure out your spices, honey, and brown sugar. You can add a little more sweetener if you like your Chai that way–I usually opt for less. You can also add an extra 1/2 tsp ginger and cinnamon if you’d like. You may want to measure out your spices in a strainer as all those spices can make the bottom of the tea gritty, but I have never minded it. I really is up to personal preference and usually only effects the very last cup.

Also place your tea–whether bagged, or loose in a strainer–in the teapot. Next, you will want to boil some water and heat up some milk. This is the only tricky bit. First of all, I never measure out the liquids, because everything depends on the size of your teapot. Ultimately you want about 1/4 water to every 3/4 milk used. I simply estimate by the size of the pot I’m using.

Secondly, when it comes to heating milk, you want to do it very slowly. Everyone reading this may already know that, but I learned  the hard way and don’t want anyone else to experience the sheer terror of having his or her electric teapot explode with boiling hot milk. You want to heat your milk on the stove, bringing the temperature up very slowly using low heat and stirring frequently. Don’t let your milk boil or you will have a disgusting film on top. When the milk is ready, pour it hot right into the teapot over all the spices, sweetener, and tea. Top off with water and stir vigorously. Let steep for 2-3 minutes and enjoy! Keep in mind that all of this may need adjustment according to your taste and the size of your teapot. This beverage is fairly flexible though, so don’t be afraid to experiment!

**A quick tip if (like me) you always forget about your tea, letting it steep until it’s bitter and cold, you can use this lovely, well-designed website to help time your tea steeping. Simply pick the type of tea you’re making and Steep.it will time your tea-making appropriately. Brilliant and beautiful!