Monday, October 28, 2013

Apples Need a Home? California Apple Pancake To the Rescue! (Recipe)

Do you have some apples in your house that need a home?

The perfect California apples grow on a little tree overhanging our driveway. We planted it there because our yard is pretty shady and we have to tuck in the sun worshippers where we can. Kind of fun though, as we can share the produce with our neighbors.  If it's hanging down on their side, those are their apples!

It's a little golden delicious apple tree and that's perfect for us. Not being big time foodies, there's a limit to how many apples my husband will turn into sauce and can, how many apple crisps he'll make or how many California Apple Pancakes I will bake. Those pancakes are, however, a lovely, simple dish, something I can make quickly and easily. I've been making it since college days, and I never get tired of it. Here's how.

~ ~ ~
California Apple Pancake

Serves 2 -3

Leftovers OK, saved in refrigerator and reheated the next day


 * two skillets- one must be oven proof. I use a good old cast iron skillet for that. The other will go on top of the stove, so whatever works there.
* An oven
* Blender or wisk and medium large bowl

Locate your ingredients
* 3 (or more apples) whatever kind you like when they're cooked or that you have handy. Of course I prefer the ones that fall down into my driveway
* 3/4 cup flour
* 3/4 cup milk
* 3 eggs
* Some cinnamon
* For the apples - Sugar or Not to taste (maybe 1/4 of a cup or more, or none at all, depends on what you like, and the sweetness of your apples)
* Something to grease a pan with (spray on stuff, margarine, whatever works in your house)

Now do the work

* Turn on your oven to 410 degrees, so it will be ready

* Core and Cut up the apples into slices or chunks. I leave the skin on of course - good for you, and we like the taste.

* Grease the skillet that goes on top of the stove. (Grease the oven-proof one at the same time so she's ready). Toss in the apples and as much cinnamon as you like. As it heats up pour in a little bit of water. Sauté the apples and when there brown enough for you, turn down the heat to simmer, pour in enough water so that they will cook up into cooked apples, not be too wet, and not burn - a judgment call. My husband likes a little apple syrup left on the apples that top off his pancake, I just like the apple pieces.

Work Continues , While your apples are cooking...

* In blender, or with your whisk, beat/froth up all those other ingredients - eggs, flour, and milk
* Turn the heat on the stove top on medium high, pop on your oven-proof skillet, and pour in the mixture. I just leave it on there for maybe 30 seconds, so it helps make a tiny bit of a bottom to the pancake, don't over do that. You just want it to kind of stick on when you swirl the pan. Better to under do this step.

* Pop the skillet into your hot oven.

* After 15 minutes, turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees (with the pan still in the oven). Back another 10 minutes, but check it occasionally to make sure it's not overdone, since ovens vary a bit, don't they? (If you forgot to preheat the oven, you might just bake it a little more. This is not a picky item.)

* When it puffs up into a beautiful ever so slightly golden brown - but mostly still egg colored - it's done!

* Take it out, cut into 2 or 3 wedges and serve with the cooked apples.

~ ~ ~ Variations ~~~
Clearly you can use other seasonal fruit. You can also experiment with baking the fruit and batter together in the oven. I have a version for one I do in the microwave, where I use 2 eggs, 1/3 cup milk, 1/3 cup flour, and I bake it over a piece of cut up fruit. I have to take that out and loosen it up several times during the microwaving process, and how it bakes depends on what fruit is in it.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Persimmon Plunder (Haiku)

There for the picking.
When fruit hangs over the wall,
How can I resist?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Moss Landing Power Plant (CA Field Trip, Monterey area)

Moss Landing Power Plant, Castroville, CA. On a field trip with mah belle seour. We went there to go to Succulent Extravaganza, for the sake of our gardens, and we stayed on for the scenery. 

Never been there? It's not far from Monterey. Ocean, nearly deserted soft sandy beach, harbor, and loverly farm land - California at it's bestEst.


If you're a succulents fan, you can't do better than to stop in at Succulent Gardens. 
Check to make sure they're open and bring cash/checks - no credit cards.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Free Grub(s) - Chicken Haiku

A few neighbor gals
Stop by unexpectedly
Guess the grubs were good

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Antique Threads - Up to Dating Ruffles and Teacups (Historic Inspiration)

If you listened to my July podcast from the fashion gallery of the Victoria and Albert (V&A) in London, you'll recall that I was in sewist heaven when it came to studying fashions in the V&A's collection.

I haven't even finished blogging about some of my ideas from that trip yet - thoughts on creating new looks based on gorgeous antique and retro garments I talked about and photographed in the V&A - before a new book purchase*  get me heading out to search the free on-web collection at the V&A museum, to look up more details from several historic beauties mentioned in this delicious book.

What's the appeal? Not only are were the
edges of these silk strips left raw, the gathered band
was also twisted in a sinuous pattern.
As a result, I have fallen for a dress. 

It's one of those sewing danger things, right? Bad enough when the inspiration garment is something I might wear only once to a wedding or a performance at the opera, but I had to get knocked over by an embroidered silk doozy from the late eighteenth century. 

We're talking here about twenty or thirty yards of silk. We're talking about major ruffles and teacups. We are talking about something that would not even fit through the door of the mini van!

It's the pinked and scalloped strips of silk on this gown** from the late eighteen century that have me itching to come up with a modern way to use this style of embellishment. But I haven't been able to see past the style of this lovely, but totally impractical for modern times (!) sack-back gown. I couldn't see it in a vest, jacket or skirt. OK, I could but the look would have been waaayyyy too fussy. 

I had forgotten, however, about this outfit*** I pinned on my Pinterest Historic and Retro Sewing Board. Me oh my, it gives me ideas for deploying that really cool ruffle. 

Can't you just see that snakey, raw edged, twisted, ruffle in a very light weight denim? I can. It's slithering along the edge of a nicely flowing denim shirt or jacket. Perhaps it's just a touch narrower. And in combination with something like this floral skirt in a lovely, fluid voile - or maybe a homespun style check or plaid like the trim on this skirt -, it would really hit the spot.

I bet you know how it goes. Historically inspired, modern fashion is the kind of sewing daydream that keeps me....
Enchanted by Sewing!
~ ~ ~


* Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Fashion in Detail, by Avril Hart and Susan North 

Search the V&A Collections

** Details on and photos of the glorious gold sack-back gown at

I have several Pinterest sewing theme boards at You don't have to join Pinterest to look at them.

*** I'm not sure of the original context for this garment. I saw it on someone else's board. The only link that comes up for it is

Thursday, October 3, 2013

To Drape or Not to Drape - No Question About It - Ericson Is Inspired by Vionnet: (historical and modern draping)

Vionnet made these gowns 
for the 
Duchess of Windsor
For Madame Vionnet, 
It was all about fabric and cut.

This past weekend I attended Artistry in Fashion (AIF)* at Cañada College in Redwood City CA (San Francisco Bay Area). This is the school with the excellent fashion department , where I have often mentioned I take sewing and fashion design classes.

I was really looking forward to hearing the keynote speaker, Sandra Ericson **, as my draping class teacher, Judith Jackson, has studied with Ms. Ericson  and dropped a lot of little hints about this designer's experiences studying the work and designs of Madeline Vionnet. Madame Vionnet, as you probably already know, was a famed french designer and queen of the bias cut. I knew I'd enjoy the talk, but had no idea that I'd walk away absolutely inspired to learn to cut and drape some bias of my own. 
This Vionnet evening dress
makes me yearn
for a piece of silk velvet!

Having only just recently begun to learn about draping, I'm starting to get a sense of the fun involved in smoothing fabric over a dress form, capturing excess, and letting the material speak to me about where it wants to go and what it wants to do. So far in our first four working classes, we're still working with traditional straight of grain and cross grain goods. We haven't moved into bias land yet.

I can hardly wait.

Learning more about designing and sewing garments cut on the bias, is going to be another pathway that keeps this sewist, 
Enchanted by Sewing!
~ ~ ~
Talk and Draping Demo Notes 
* Very few pattern pieces used, often only one or two
* Bias expands and contracts to fit the body
* Though sewing is limited, these styles are not for beginners. Garment constructors should be "champion edge-finishers"!
*For Vionnet, it was all about fabric and cut.

Madame Vionnet was not so much a sewist as she was a "technician". She focused on cut and cloth, analyzing the construction of the cloth and ways that the fibers restricted movement  (Laurel reflects - it's about drape and sway. This reminds me of the Enchanted by Sewing podcast where I interviewed Susan S. and she described herself as a "Fashion Engineer"). 
* Sandra Ericson sometimes drapes wet. I wonder what kind of dress form she uses when she does this? I sure wouldn't drape wet on my foam core "Uniquely You" dress form! Might be OK on my duct tape dummy though...
* Ms. Ericson several times pointed out gussets she used in garments made from the patterns she designs. A couple of women behind me kept whispering, that they didn't know what a gusset is. I tore up a little piece of notebook paper and wordlessly clued them in. 

I think at one time, many home sewers knew about adding gussets for a little extra ease at key points, but in this age of commercial patterns people tend to be leery, or just unaware, of altering garments in this way.

* When you're draping, cut away what you're not going to wear
* Finished some edges with a serger and invisible thread (hem perhaps?)
* Noting S. Ericson's bolero jacket, reminiscent of Balenciaga, we learn he studied with Vionnet, tending to create garments in stiffer fabrics. Laurel thinks this pattern would make a very nice travel jacket.
* Vionnet's principle was to use nothing fake to support the shape of the garment. For example - no shoulder pads. If a sleeve needed more height, she might dart it, to make it stand up
~ ~ ~
Fabrics Used ....
on some of the sample garments displayed in Sandra Ericson's talk 
 Hold the fabric up, let it drop, and see how it hangs

*Rayon - Note rayon has a "high specific gravity" that drags a garment down (Laurel asks, Is that sometimes a good thing?)
* Rayon Twill (donut skirt)
* Silk Velvet (skirt, Komono Cool Top)
* Silk Noil - Laurel says Thai Silks (longtime business with a good reputation, in nearby Los Altos, has very nice silk noil and they sell on the web.
* Wool Crepe (the V- dress, the Midterm dress)
* Heavy Wool Coating (we noted how differently garments made with this fabric, hung versus more drapey materials)
* Light Weight Wool Cashmere
* Upholstery Fabric (the Measure Coast - no pattern - set of instructions purchased and you make it to measure. Includes those now, very familiar, gussets!
* S. Ericson likes hand woven fabrics. She encourages us to see how they hang down.
* Ms. Ericson often uses Nature's Way Muslin (Rocklin?) for making toiles/muslin's when draping, but uses others as well and is checking out a new one she's found.
~ ~ ~

Fashion Engineer for Work and Play - Snakes Alive Environmental Consultant by Day, Sewist by Night 
Learning about Vionnet's focus on the technical side of working with fabrics, reminded me of this interview with Susan S.

Dress Forms? What are those? How do I get one? Can I make it myself? How much does it cost and how much time does it take?
When you drape - unless you have the luxury of a live model - you generally use a dress form. In this episode of the Enchanted by Sewing Podcast, I describe my experiences creating two different kinds of dress forms. I also provide links to another show, where Lori,  of the Sew Forth Now Podcast, talks about the history of dress forms, as well as her  pre-made, adjustable dress form.

Center for Pattern Design - Ms. Ericson's Digital Studio 
 Lots of Resources plus her own Patterns for Sale

Of the models I saw in the the talk - I was most partial to the four-square dress, pyramid dress, and cocoon coat. These are not Big-4, slam-bang, mass-market, discount patterns. Inspired sewists are paying for the work of a pattern-design artist. Most patterns seem to range between $20 and $35, at this time.

One place you can see examples of  Vionnet's work, is by searching  the collection of the Met Museum,25ab

Madeleine Vionnet book by Betty Kirke - Classic study on famed draper and technical artist. Includes 30 patterns. Warning, this book is not cheap, but would you get a ton of patterns in addition to the text, so why would it be? Sandra Ericskson mentioned it many times in her talk

Drape Drape by Hisako Soto
This affordable book looks like it might be a good approach to start playing around with draping

~ ~ ~
P.S. Next Years Keynote Speaker at Artistry in Fashion is Patti Palmer. You better believe I'll be attending again!

** Yes, Sandra is Lois Ericson's sister