Tuesday, December 10, 2013

1st anniversary

Jungle jive
Time flies! Mr. C and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary Sunday 1st December. Traditionally known as the paper anniversary but hey, it would be so very predictable if the present were of the paper/stationery variety.
So instead my old favourite, a helium balloon. This time I got to pick the one I wanted and I chose the leaping tiger that was swaying along with a myriad of other animals, hearts and champagne glasses.

I call him jungle jive and he makes a nice addition to the textile birds, stuffed teddy bears and real live urban mini panther, our cat Rufus.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Giving new life to an old shawl

The shawl was a brithday present from Mr. C. I fell in love with the delicate colour palette and  the romantic print of butterflies and branches . But when worn the print wasn't visible and the colours were too mellow.

So I decided to give it a bit of a facelift with some purple trim. Keeping in mind the delicate floral print I chose a flower trim to match, but I wanted a colour with a lot of visual impact that's why I chose dark purple.

The trim is attached to the very edge of the shawl and handsewn in place. The tools required for this project are: a matching thread and a needle and lots of patiece. I was happily sewing away yesterday evening watching an old Miss Marple film and sipping a glass of wine.

I also chose to turn the shawl into a snood.  The shawl was too short to drape properly and any attempt to tie it into a knot resulted in a messy bulk concentrated around my neck.

After attaching the trim I sewed the shorter ends together using a flat felled seam to hide the seam allowances. The material is very gauzy making it difficult to get a clean sewing line, but the seams are tucked in and invisible when worn.

A somewhat blurry image to show how the snood is draped. I can never get decent photos of myself ;-)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Slow food

Špajza's beautiful garden and rustic interior
Every once in a while my quiet suburban life is interrupted with tiny occasions of splendor and luxury. It's these moments of pure indulgence that make life sweeter. The truly memorable part in this instance comes from the accompanying gesture of kindness and friendship.
Susan and Martin the pattern makers extraordinaire have sent me and Mr. C a gift certificate for a dinner in one of Ljubljana's most prised restaurants. Špajza (which is an old Slovene word for cupboard or pantry) is situated in the old part of town. It's a sweet place with a romantic rustic interior and a beautiful courtyard.

Amuse-bouches and walnut liqueur
Without going into details about our hosts' generosity let me just say we had the equivalent of The Grand Tour, a seven course meal complete with amuse-bouches in the top photo, a cheese plate and the complementary digestif (Williams pear liqueur). Every course came with an accompanying glass of wine. And since I chose the fish degustation menu and Mr. C had the meat degustation menu the wine selection never intersected.

Cold and warm appetizers
In my opinion the main indulgence of slow food eating is time. Slow food is all about relaxing  in the slow paced evening of a wonderful mix of aromas, flavours and textures. It's also about enjoying the sights and the sounds of the surroundings but mostly it's about having a wonderful time with the person or persons you're dining with.
The passage of time is noticeable from the photos of the dishes from early evening (before sunset) into late night.

warm appetizer and first main course
I've copied the menu from Špajza's webpage to give you a glimpse into our fingerlicking extravaganza:

~ Meat menu dégustation ~

Pâté baked in puff pastry

Au gratin truffle polenta with boletus mushroom foam

Homemade chanterelles gnocchi with nettles and almonds

Lamb from the oven with a Port reduction sauce

Pineapple - tomato mousse

~ Fish menu dégustation ~

Tuna carpaccio with sesame and celery

Crab soufflé on spinach foam

   Saffron risotto with scallops and chanterelles

Cod fish fillet with carrot, green beans, black olives, cherry tomatoes and lemon

  Elder cake

Second main course and cheese plate
Even though playing favourites isn't my thing I have to say the saffron risotto with grilled scallops was perfection. As for dessert, Mr. C's pineapple and candied tomato mousse was refreshingly new and original.
I could devote an entire blog post to the wines we drank :-) 
Thank you Susan and Martin for this memorable evening! If you ever come to Ljubljana we're definitely taking you here :-)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Cooking marathon

Some things never change. Staying with my mum over the weekend always, absolutely always means I'll lug home at least two large bags of produce, fresh organic eggs procured at the neighbour's, fruit from the local farm....

I cringe at the idea of having to waste food, however eating all of the food my mum has prepared would require a family the size of The Brady Bunch. So I start preparing my cooking plan just as soon as the car engine starts. My method is always the same: plan lots of meals with hearty salads to use the vegetables, fruit and fruit salads for snacks the rest is either refrigerated, frozen, cooked or baked.
Easy start: simple hummus spread with fresh parsley and thyme
 The cooking/baking session lasts about four hours.  It's a tightly run military operation :-)
Project lasagna
Specially if lasagna is on the list. You can't make a proper lasagna without making a huge mess in the process. It requires three separate pots, one for pasta, one for tomato sauce and one for white sauce. And if you have to grind your own beef, things get massively more complicated. But it's worth it in the end.
* And a tiny little trick I use when cooking pasta is to add a few drops of olive oil into the water. This prevents the pasta from sticking together.
Tomato sauce

Next up: using all of the yummy tomatoes and making and easy tomato sauce. I love to use white onions or shallots and slowly fry them in olive oil and then pour a small amount of red balsamic vinegar and let it all slowly simmer until the acid has dissipated entirely and you're left with a thick fragrant onion sauce. And then it's just the matter of adding tomatoes, spices and letting the sauce slowly simmer for an hour.
Peach jam
Making jam is just as easy and gratifying as making tomato sauce. I decided to try a recipe that partially substituted sugar with honey. It's definitely better than standard sugary jam but in retrospect I think I'd be better off using a mildly fragrant honey. I only ever use chestnut honey which proved to be too heavy for the delicate peaches. Ah well, lesson learned for next time.
Pound cake with homemade nutella
And finally I made a pound cake for dessert because I've had two opened jars of homemade nutella that I needed to use up. If anyone is interested click here to see the original recipe for this cake. The only thing I did differently was to use both white and black nutella.
If I had any energy left I would have made some homemade crackers to go with hummus but I settled for store bought ones.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Mr. C's new shirt

Setting up the pattern with my trusty assistant and project supervisor

Over the past 4 weeks I've been secretly working on an exciting sewing project: a classic men's shirt. The lovely Susan and Martin from Partlan Pattern Designs contacted me if I wanted to be a pattern tester for their Shannon shirt. I've never done a classic double yoke shirt with French cuffs and I was so excited to put my sewing skills to the test. And I certainly did. Like Peter Lappin from Male pattern boldness said in one of his posts: Shirt making isn't for sissies and he was right. It takes a lot of time, patience and precision to construct a men's shirt. But the result is a stunning item of clothing that really surpasses all of those of the peg T-shirts and raggedy looking jerseys and such.

it's all in the details: perfect collar points and sleeve placket

In my fashion oriented posts I've often wrote about the poor quality of fabrics and poor fit as well as lack of ingenuity in mainstream fashion and how this influenced me to develop my sewing skills. When we look at men's fashion it's even worse: limited choices, shoddy construction and for lack of better words no wow effect. I've also written about my passion (or better obsession) with Poirot movies. The costumes in these movies are amazing. I love the watch them over and over again and get lost in the world of eloquent, well mannered people who dress with such elegance. The Shannon shirt project was therefor heavily influenced by the aesthetic of my beloved Poirot movies, the world of impeccable bespoke tailoring with a hint of flamboyance in choosing a floral patterned print cotton.

The pattern Martin and Susan sent was a bespoke pattern designed according to Mr. C's measurements. And what a difference that made! As is customary, the pattern pieces are first basted together to check for general fit and to mark the adjustments. Having a made-to-measure pattern made it the world's fastest fitting ever. The shirt fit like a glove and Mr. C's words was far more comfortable than any of his bought shirts. The real difference however was the fit in particularly the fit across the shoulders. It's difficult to descibe or even convince someone of the benefits of custom fit garments until they've had the luxury of trying them on. Much like the difference between cheap whisky and an aged single malt Scotch. It's a tangible experince and an unforgettable at that.

It took me about 10 days of relaxed, easy paced sewing from start to finish. Susan and Martin were marvelous throughout the entire process. They've set up posts with instructions on their blog detailing various steps of the process. And  during this time we've chatted about buttons and collar shapes and yokes and a ton of other small details that only a true sewing enthusiast can appreciate.

As an hommage to Martin's love for hats, Mr. C insisted to model the shirt wearing his fedora. Go check Martin wearing his gorgeous peacock print shirt wearing his :-)

The photos were taken on a hot summer's eve near the source of river Ljubljanica, one of our favourite hiking spots.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Feminism in the 21st century

I found this photo some time ago on the Internet and it really made me think about prejudices, stereotypes and shaming mechanism in our society. Despite the proclaimed liberties women enjoy today and an ever more equal treatment of the fair sex in the public and the private sphere the prejudices and narrow minded views still linger.
Like the chart on the young lady's leg in the above photo. How many times have you caught yourself thinking that a woman you saw was dressed inappropriately and you immediately jumped to labelling that person "easy", slutty, etc. We still frown upon women who are open and comfortable about being seductive, sexy and even sexually assertive.
How about adultery? Do we judge women who commit adultery harsher than the men? Imagine you had two friends, a male and a female who were both adulterers. How would your relationship with them change? Would you feel that the action of one of them is more heinous though technically they're both guilty of the same thing.
No matter how liberal our society may be, I think it's still imprinted on our mind that somehow, for some reason the female adulterer has committed a graver offence.

And of course women are stereotypically labelled as disastrous drivers though time after time this was proven wrong by numerous statistical data and analysis.
What do you think? Has the equality of genders improved in the 21st century or are there still some lingering prejudices from the dark ages?

Monday, July 29, 2013

π party a la mode

Could there be anything more delicious than simple home made desserts? Especially if you have the satisfaction of using ingredients that come from your own garden or have been sustainably sourced.

In my case it's the yummy cherry pie made from free range organic eggs bought from my mum's neighbour, spelt flour from the local mill and cherries from mum's garden.

The cherry tree is called "lapin" which means rabbit in French and produces incredible crunchy full cherries. The tree yields between 20 to 30 kilos though it started modestly enough with it's very first harvest consisting of only three cherries.

Three plates for three people adding a scoop of mixed fruit ice cream. Pure indulgence.
No wonder we licked our plates clean!

Do you have a garden and grow your own fruit and veggies?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Summertime fun: Rowing on the Bohinj lake

Summer is in full swing. Long hot days which just beg for outdoor activities like hiking, mountain climbing or rowing. Mr. C and I seized the opportunity to go rowing one lazy Thursday last week when we could expect fewer people on the lake since it was the middle of the week.

But we failed to take into account the moody weather. We arrived in Bohinj just after a vicious storm that took us by surprise en route. Mr. C was considering turning round and going home but I was too stubborn to give up so we kept going and arrived at the lake to be greeted by sunshine and calm lake.
What a lucky break!

However half an hour into our rowing session the dark clouds started gathering again. By that time we had travelled quite a distance and were somewhere in the middle of the lake.

We turned around and hoped to get back to shore before the storm catches up with us. We saw a few magnificent but scary lightnings and I had to remind myself we were safe on water in a wooden boat since the Faraday cage effect applied (don't ask me how that's Mr. C's department).

We even saw a group of French kids learning to row. They were eagerly trying to get to shore as well.
heavy wind


We were still approximately 100 m away from shore when it started raining heavily and there was nothing we could do. Mr. C who took over the ores said that the heavy wind and waves were making it extremely difficult to get the boat moving in the right direction.

By the time we reached the sohre we were completely wet and exhausted yet happy. All in all a very memorable road trip.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Bits of wisdom

There was a special Nolan idea about the coffee. It was their one great luxury. Mama made a big potful each morning and reheated it for dinner and supper and it got stronger as the day wore on. It was an awful lot of water and very little coffee but mama put a lump of chicory in it which made it taste strong and bitter. Each one was allowed three cups a day with milk. Other times you could help yourself to a cup of black coffee anytime you felt like it. Sometimes when you had nothing at all and it was raining and you were alone in the flat, it was wonderful to know that you could have something even though it was only a cup of black and bitter coffee.”

“Francie is entitled to one cup each meal like the rest. If it makes her feel better to throw it way rather than to drink it, all right. I think it’s good that people like us can waste something once in a while and get the feeling of how it would be to have lots of money and not have to worry about scrounging.

Betty Smith A tree grows in Brooklyn

Sunday afternoon treat: coffee with a scoop of vanilla ice cream

 I remember reading A tree grows in Brooklyn while I was still in highscool (seems like a lifetime ago) and this passage of the book affected me in a most profound way. Despite of the fact that we are forever scrounging and saving and whining about it, I am keenly aware that I live in a society of incredibly privileged people where certain commodities are taken for granted. Like clean running water, electricity, the ability to go on vacation, ... Imagine living in a world where your one and only luxury is to be able to afford to waste a cup of coffee

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Blogger's sabbatical

Montenegro December 2012
I think things have finally caught up with me. Last year was packed with cataclysmic events that could easily have been the topic of Four weddings and a funeral, the sequel, throw in a few job shifts, two NGO projects on the side and it's one frantic mix.

I feel spent, exhausted and because there are too many things, moving too fast I'm no longer in control of it all. I know I've sort of pushed my blog on the side and I believe it isn't fair to just pop in from time to time and give tidbits of info which then make no sense.

As the weather is finally gorgeous, lots of sun and nature virtually exploding all around, I've just taken the time to enjoy myself and tune off completely. No more schedules, planning, calculating, pondering....

Blogging schedule will resume, once I've had time to catch my breath and come up with quality content that doesn't make me sound neurotic (too much)

In the meantime enjoy your May break :-) Spring is finally here!

xoxo Ana

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Down to the last bead - Bead soup 2013 2nd reveal

Tribal vibe: tooth shark shaped mother of pearls paired with pyrite
This is my third time participating in the Bead soup blog hop and it's been another prolific one! This time I used up every single bead my lovely partner Sarah sent me. I even ended using beads from the previous soup from my then partner Agata. The pyrite beads from the first set of earrings and the clasp in the asymmetrical necklace.

Last helping: the last two purple glass rounds paired with some last minute shopping ceramic beads and silver metal discs
To be quite honest, I finished my bead soup in the first three days after I got my beads. I just love that magical moment when I open the parcel from my partner filled with gorgeous beads and lovely thoughts in the accompanying notes that my imagination turns to super mode.

Lush: the majority of bead soup paired with beads from my stash in a rainbow of purple, lavender, silver, dove and charcoal greys
This year was no different, I made the charm bracelet and the chain necklace the first evening and decided upon the design for the asymmetrical necklace which had to wait a week because I needed to go to town to get the exact satin ribbons I wanted to use.

tribal vibe: another angle
Then came these earrings. I knew I wanted to accentuate the shark tooth shape but no matter how I paired the beads it just didn't work. I must have pulled them apart at least seven times. But it was worth it because I'm very happy with the final design.

The asymmetrical necklace is very difficult to photograph and even looks a bit blah on the photo but quite nice when worn. I used pale pink faceted quartz and faceted yellow Chech beads from my stash and the cute pink lampwork beads Sarah sent as focals.

Playful mix
This necklace deliberately has no clasp and can be worn as a single or a double strand. I used the remaining lampwork beads from Sarah and paired them with Pandora beads from my stash. I wanted to "immobilize" the Pandora beads so that they lay perpendicular to the chain at all times. Instead of wire wrapping  which would make them wobble all over the place I used a smaller chain, two links of it roughly equalled the length of the hole and attached them to my main chain with the Pandora bead trapped in. It required a bit of fiddling around to attach the main chain to the smaller links without loosing the Pandora bead but once I was done, the bead was snugly caught between the links of the large chain preventing the bead from moving. Ta-dah! Success.

As always this party would have been a dull one without our hostess extraordinaire Lori Anderson from Pretty Things. Thanks Lori! And another warm thanks to my lovely partner Sarah whom I've been in constant contact during the dreary snowy month of March as we exchanged thoughts, ideas and progress report. Go see what she made with her soup!

Click HERE for the entire list of participants for the 2nd reveal.