Giant quilt made from IKEA duvet

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    Posted in sewing at 11:31 am by jennie

    We needed a thin quilt.  We had one from Pottery Barn years ago, and it was lovely, but I’ve long since moved past that whole vintage ticking/colonial floral motif stage of my life.  I sold it on Craigslist three years ago and have ever since kept an eye out for the ideal replacement.

    Even if I found the right design at the right price, it wouldn’t necessarily fit.  You see, our bed is massive.  It’s a California King, which has about
    the same area as a regular king.  It’s narrower, but longer.  However,
    the DEPTH of this thing is what kills me.  The only sheets that stay on
    are the uber expensive Italian ones my mother bought for me.  My sad set from BB & F’n B just don’t stay on.  A regular king blanket, coverlet, quilt, duvet, comforter, etc. will not cover this thing.

    (Sleep is very important to us, so we spared no inconvenience or cost for our mattress, pillows, and overall bedtime comfort.  There is a silk sleeping mask under each of our pillows.  No joke.  Note that we do not have a headboard, bedskirt, or even room for night stands.  But we sleep like angels.)

    So, I came up with the brilliant idea of taking design from one of my favorite places, IKEA, and incorporating a custom, handmade vibe by using my fledgling sewing skills.  And so, the yellow circle quilt was born.  I would really not recommend doing this if you’re a beginner, or have an actual occupation.  It was a pain in the ass.


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    I bought some muslin and created a block pattern (6 total) for the backing.  Then I soaked and dried (on the lawn) a thin, eco-friendly natural cotton batting.  I seam ripped the entire king duvet cover, and used one piece for the top and the the other piece for the binding.  My plan was to make the binding very wide in order to increase the size of the overal finished product.  Well, that’s the beginner quilter for ya.  I don’t really think it works that way.  I have a feeling my binding is going to get all garbled after its first washing.

    By the time I got to the binding stage I was so frustrated trying to true up the edges and corners (hello crappy IKEA linens), that I just wanted the damn thing to be done.  It was so hard to work with such a large amount of fabric.  I tried to sew it up with a regular foot but the layers dragged and bunched.  I decided to sew the binding by hand, but after 45 sweaty minutes with a huge quilt on me, I gave up on that idea.  After a couple weeks neglecting the issue, I drove to Joann and bought a walking foot and finally bound the thing up last night.  I think I may need to top stitch about 1/4″ from the very edge to ensure against that whole wash and garble thing.  The binding is about 2 inches wide.  Note the sloppy, “handmade” edge.


    I got the fabric for $9.99 on clearance, but was it worth all the time?  Probably, because I did learn a lot.  I learned that I need a 10 by 10 foot table if I’m ever going to make a California King quilt again.  I also learned that a thin, soft blankie like this makes for a glorious night’s sleep:  Sandwich yourself right between fancy sheets and a cheap, homemade quilt.

    Headboard, bedskirt, and photos of a properly made bed to follow.  But I’m comfortable with you knowing that this is how I make the bed.


    Wearing the same thing every day.

    Posted in my style, sewing, shopping at 10:00 am by jennie

    What have I been doing all summer?

    Wearing this dress four or five times a week (I have three now):

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  • Dress

    Yesterday, I tried to replicate the dress with some rayon jersey spandex, but this time as a tube top/strapless version, because I now have seemingly permanent white lines on my shoulders and back.  I’m calling the new dress the "Farmer’s Market Dress."  Almost every Sunday, my husband and I get on our bicycles and head to the farmer’s market.  We get all our produce, grass-fed meats, cheese, nuts, and sometimes oysters.  Seems like a good time to work on my tan.  Anyway, I got stuck on the tube top elastic part, and threw it on the floor with disdain.  I will let you know if I ever get back to it.

    I wear the Gap dress with these sandals by Report:


    Or these Nanette sandals by Pour La Victoire:


    But more often than not, these slim flip flops by Havaianas:


    I use silver or gold accessories and a long cardigan to dress it up for nighttime. Dressing up in Venice is kind of different.  It means:  A bra instead of a bikini top. 


    Target Score O’ the Month

    Posted in decorating, shopping at 4:56 pm by jennie

    This table for $22.48!


    For those who have spent time with me at The Violet Hour

    Posted in drinking at 9:14 am by jennie

    … and know my favorite cocktail.  Here is an article from the NY Times featuring the recipe and the history behind it.  (I read Rose’s version recently in some vintage cocktail book, but much prefer Long’s, as it requires more care, knowledge, and sweat!)

    FOOD: RECIPE REDUX; 1935: Ramos Gin Fizz

    Published: June 15, 2008

    Nowadays, when a politician wants to make a point to the “folks,” he goes to the diner to meet and greet and empathize while scarfing a grilled cheese. For all of its hokeyness, it’s a safe strategy because, according to health experts, fried foods are what most Americans subsist on, and for some irrational reason, people trust a politician who appears to eat the same foods they do.

    So I had to laugh — and feel a little sad too — when I came across an article in The Times from 1935 in which Huey Long, the colorful Louisiana senator known as the Kingfish, chose not a diner in Peoria but the Hotel New Yorker in New York City as his venue for attacking President Roosevelt’s New Deal. In the photo op, Long stood surrounded by journalists and friends, waving a cocktail shaker.

    The senator had arranged for the head bartender from the Hotel Roosevelt in New Orleans to fly to New York to make the drink — a good use of taxpayers’ money — while Long talked shop. “Now this here chap knows how to mix a Ramos gin fizz,” Long explained. And mix he did, while to a growing crowd Long expounded on the fine points of the fizz and the dull points of Roosevelt’s plan, calling the president “no good” and a “faker.” “Why don’t they hold the Democratic convention and the Communist convention together and save money?” Long asked his audience. The contemporary photo-op equivalent — Hillary Clinton dutifully slugging back beer and a shot of whiskey in Crown Point, Ind. — makes for a rather depressing contrast.

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  • Gin fizzes, which the cocktail historian Dale Degroff defines as “just a sparkling version of a sour,” had been around since the mid-19th century. Back then, before seltzer and club soda were widely available, bartenders created the fizz with baking soda. The Ramos gin fizz, which was invented in 1888 by Henrico C. Ramos at the Imperial Cabinet Saloon in New Orleans, is embellished with cream, milk and orange-flower water.

    Long’s crowd-pleasing recipe called for a “noggin” of gin, egg white, orange-flower water, vanilla, milk, cream, powdered sugar, seltzer and ice, and was to be shaken for 10 minutes (although I find that implausibly, or anyway exhaustingly, long). His fizzes were passed around to the journalists, and the Times reporter observed, “After some more posing for photographers and the talkies — the whole performance consumed fully an hour — the Kingfish left the bar with a broad grin, leading a crowd of reporters to his apartment on the 22nd floor of the hotel, where he spent two hours discoursing on the political situation.”

    The following week, however, Long’s recipe was politely questioned by W. D. Rose, a reader from Schenectady. “While the writer does not feel equal to enter into a controversy with the versatile and able senator on any subject, much less on that of Ramos fizzes,” Rose wrote, “and while not denying that the formula announced by Senator Long may be that of a perfect fizz, still the writer feels obliged to submit to the readers of The Times the only authentic and original formula for that famous and delectable decoction.”

    Now that is national discourse! Rose’s Ramos gin fizz does not contain egg white, vanilla or seltzer, and is shaken for just one minute before being strained into a glass. Long’s version is similar to those found in any cocktail book, so I chose to feature Rose’s instead.

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    Rose promised that the drink would “conjure up visions . . . of wistaria [sic] blooming in old patios, of sights and smells associated only with the Vieux Carré.” Those were not the first images that came to mind when I made the Rose version, but I was certainly bewitched by this cocktail, which doesn’t so much impress you as consume you. Beneath a dense cap of froth and a misty overlay of orange-flower water is an oddly sweet yet tart, cool and creamy drink.

    I loved Rose’s Ramos gin fizz, but not every modern drinker will. Duggan McDonnell, of Cantina in San Francisco, whom I asked to reinvent the drink for this column, referred to the vintage recipe as a “Krispy Kreme cocktail.” (It is much richer and floral than the lean Long version.)

    “The orange-flower water in there is this component of dissonance,” McDonnell said. “It gives it this unique perfumey quality.”

    And yet McDonnell didn’t stray far from the original. After a little playing around, he came up with what he calls a “Californiafied Ramos gin fizz,” made with low-fat milk, orange marmalade instead of orange-flower water and agave nectar rather than sugar. “I was not intending to reverse that and make it a kind of diet Ramos gin fizz,” he said, “but that’s sort of what it is.” Don’t let the “diet” idea scare you off: it contains plenty of flavor — and plenty of gin — and the Kingfish would have lapped it up.

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    The recipe:

    This recipe appeared in a letter to The Times, written by W. D.
    Rose. The original recipe called for “rich milk,” which I took to mean
    old-style milk with a layer of cream. So I replicated the milk with a
    mixture of whole milk and a dash of heavy cream.

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  • 1 tablespoon simple syrup

    (1 part sugar to 1 part water)

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  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

    11/2 ounces gin

    1/4 teaspoon orange-flower water

    5 ounces milk

    1 tablespoon heavy cream.

    Combine the ingredients with 5 ice cubes in a cocktail shaker and shake for 2 minutes. Strain into a tumbler. Makes 1 cocktail.

    2008: Californiafied Ramos Gin Fizz

    Duggan McDonnell, of Cantina in San Francisco. McDonnell recommends a
    low-proof gin like Plymouth, as well as the most bitter orange
    marmalade you can find.

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  • 2 ounces gin

    3 ounces 2-percent milk

    1 small egg white

    1 teaspoon orange marmalade

    1/2 ounce lemon juice

    3/4 ounce agave nectar syrup (1 part agave nectar to 1 part water)

    Seltzer water, for serving. 

    Combine all the ingredients except the seltzer water in a cocktail
    shaker. Remove the spring from your four-pronged Hawthorne strainer
    (the classic stainless-steel bar strainer with the horseshoe-shaped
    spring) and drop it into the shaker. Cover the strainer with the shaker
    top and ”dry shake” (without ice) to emulsify and aerate the cocktail
    for what will seem like way too long (or, say, a commercial break).

    Uncover the shaker, remove the spring, add ice, recap and shake
    vigorously once again. Strain into a Champagne flute and top with a
    spritz of seltzer. Serve. Makes 1 cocktail.

    Perhaps my preference for the "Californiafied" version was an omen of things to come.  Michael at The Violet Hour will tell you that you can hear the ice crack when the cocktail is ready to be poured.  Of course, they use blocks of ice with no oxygen in them, which are probably hard for an at-home bartender to come by.  Best to just go to a place like TVH or Milk and Honey (in NYC) on a quiet night and engage the bartender in conversation before asking for this labor-intensive cocktail.  You could very well piss him off at the very suggestion unless you start up a rapport first.  But, more likely, he will just be intensely relieved that you didn’t order a cosmo.


    My entryway

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    The walls here are contractor white, as they say, which usually upsets me.  However, the beachy bungalowness of my house somehow complements it.  I think I will leave them the way they are so I don’t have re-paint when I move out.  Which is hopefully never.

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