Monthly Archives: October 2011

Spiaggia

Today I had the pleasure of stage managing Elizabeth and Brian’s wedding. More on that later, when I have some of the professional photos to show you. Right now I want to talk about the food I devoured at their reception, held at Spiaggia.

Roasted Beet, Apple, Prosciutto, & Goat Cheese Salad

The first course was this fantastic salad. Goat cheese, roasted beets, apples, tomato, and delicious, crispy, perfectly cooked prosciutto. It was heavenly.

Wild Boar Gnocchi

The second course was wild boar gnocchi. I was really excited to try it, since I’ve never eaten boar before. I’d expected that it would be rolled up in the gnocchi, but it was instead in the sauce, like a meatball would be. It was pretty tasty, too.

I didn’t get a picture of the cake, but it was delicious. (And you know what a cake snob I am.) A hazelnut cake with a light frosting – not too sweet.

So – if you have the chance to dine at Spiaggia, don’t pass it up!

Apples, Apples, Apples

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’re probably already addicted to our dear friend Keely’s Lollygag Blog. (If not, what are you waiting for? There is comedy, fantastic writing, and so much adorable kid-ness! Go.) And you probably already know that there is a very recent addition to their family. Last night, we got to meet three-week-old Susannah (Suzy or Zuzu for short) and hang out with the whole family for a few hours, which rocked, because they are awesome, and every time we hang out with them, we think, “yeah, we could do this kid thing and still be cool – after all, they’re doing it!”

Anyway, we thought it might be nice if they could eat dinner without having to cook it, so we put together a very fall* meal. Theme: Apples. It was two courses – Apple and Acorn Squash Soup followed by an Apple, Bacon, and Rosemary Tart. (In our fantasy world, there was Apple Crisp for dessert, but there is only so much you can do in 3 hours.)

So – the soup is a bit labor intense. Acorn squash is not easy to cut. But, it’s tasty and worth the effort. The tart is super easy, especially if you follow the instructions and use a store-bought pie crust (we don’t, duh) and it is delicious. Rumor on the twitters has it that you all might want these recipes, so here goes.

Apple & Acorn Squash Soup

What You Need:
1 large onion, diced
5-6 large shallots, diced
2 T. safflower oil (or other vegetable oil)
1 large acorn squash (about 3 lbs.)
6-8 apples, peeled, cored, and diced (enough for 3 cups)
1 T. fresh ginger, minced
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups apple juice
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper (preferably white)
1/4 t. nutmeg
1 cup cream

How to Make It:
1. Heat safflower oil in a large stock pot and sauté onion and shallots until soft, about 5 minutes.
2. Add acorn squash, apples, and ginger. Sauté 5 minutes more.
3. Add vegetable stock, apple juice, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until squash is tender.
4. Using an immersion blender (please, do yourself a favor and get one if you don’t already have one), puree until smooth and creamy.
5. Stir in cream and adjust seasonings if needed.

Recipe adapted from and image courtesy of Serious Eats.

Apple, Bacon, & Rosemary Tart

What You Need:
1 pie crust (you can buy it or make it; I use the Free Form Tart dough from Baking Illustrated)
3 apples, sliced into 1/4 thick wedges
1/2 lb of bacon, cooked, drained and chopped into small pieces
2 T. fresh rosemary, chopped
2 T. butter, cut into pea-sized pieces
1 T. sugar

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Then do all the chopping and slicing while it warms up.
2. Roll out the piecrust. I put mine on a piece of parchment paper so it doesn’t stick to anything, but it really should be fine on a cookie sheet or pizza pan.
3. Spread the bacon around the crust, leaving about two inches around the edge free of bacon. Sprinkle with with rosemary.
4. Arrange the apples in a pretty spiral (see the picture above), starting from the outside and working towards the center.
5. Dab with butter and sprinkle sugar evenly over the apples. Fold the outside edge of the crust over the apples to enclose it. (Alternately, you can do this whole thing in a tart pan, like the picture, but who has one of those?)
6. Bake for 40 minutes, until crust is golden brown.

Open mouth, insert yum. Enjoy!

*Naturally, we were there on the one fall day where it was 75 degrees and sunny out. That’s Chicago for you.

Taco Night

When we get busy, we fall back onto certain favorite recipes. You know the ones – you’ve made them so many times that you need neither a recipe nor a grocery list, and you can pretty much make them in your sleep? They never let you down. They always taste the way you expect (delicious) and even if they were once difficult, the repetition has made them easy. We’ve eaten a lot of these comfort foods in the past few weeks. Taco night is one of my favorites.

Tacos.
Tacos are so easy at this point that we can make the entire meal happen in less than 20 minutes.

What You Need:
1 lb  ground beef (I prefer 85% lean, as it all but eliminates the need to drain after cooking)
1 medium onion
Salsa
Chili Powder
Cumin
Ginger (fresh is better, powdered is fine)
Curry Powder (optional)
3-4 plum or 2-3 regular tomatoes
Queso Fresco – smallest package (or your preferred taco cheese)
Bunch of cilantro
Tortillas (I like flour, fajita size)
Greek yogurt or sour cream (optional)
1 Avocado (optional, strongly recommended)

How to Make It:
1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Mince the onion. Put it and the ground beef into the pan. Break up the meat with a spatula. Douse it with generous amounts of chili powder, cumin, and ginger. I measure by smell (see my pasta sauce) but here’s a start: Sprinkle chili powder evenly over the pan until everything is covered. Add about 2/3 that amount of ginger and cumin, and a dash of curry powder. If you like spice, a pinch or cayenne wouldn’t hurt. Stir the whole thing so the spices coat the meat and onions, and let it cook.

2. While that’s happening, dice the tomatoes. Slice the avocado, if you bought one (and I hope you did) and then stir the meat again. It’s probably cooked by now, so drain it if you need to, dump in some salsa, and set the burner to low to keep it warm. Get out your tupperware to pack up the leftovers. Get a couple plates ready with tortillas on them (hint: warm them in the toaster oven or microwave). Open a beer/pour a glass of wine. By the time you get that stuff taken care of, the meat should be ready to go. If not, you can always do the dishes, put your pjs on, or queue up your DVR/Netflix/whatever.

3. Assemble your tacos! Everyone has their own way of doing this, I know. Here’s mine: Spread yogurt on the tortilla. Spoon some meat on, crumble cheese over that so it gets a little melty. Next, tomatoes and then avocado if you have it. Top with cilantro. Devour, as though the world will end if you don’t get every last bit into your belly.

[Speaking of bellies, and I promise I will try to keep the cute-things-my-charge-did-at-work-today talk on this blog to a minimum, but she is so dang smart. At a precious 20 months, she can successfully relate to me when asked that the oatmeal she at for breakfast this morning is in her belly, and it got there because it went in her mouth and down her throat. And then I taught her to say esophagus (“soffagus!”). Do I love her times a million? Yes, yes I do.]

So. Taco night. Give it a try and let me know how it turns out.

Tempe and Derek’s Pub Wedding – The Old Oak Tap – Chicago, IL

Tempe and Derek Chicago Wedding at Old Oak Tap. Photo: Starbelly Studios www.starbellystudios.com

With this is the post, you’ll be completely caught up with our business dealings! And then we’ll be back to our usual food talk with craftiness on the side.

Tempe was a radiant bride. Photo by Timmy Samuels of Starbelly Studios.

Tempe was in one of the first shows I ever stage managed professionally. I was fresh out of school, I’m sure I didn’t know what I was doing yet, and Tempe was cast as a mime in this little operetta that was an… interesting… experience for everyone involved.*

We got to know each other and then didn’t work together ever again. But we kept running into each other – the theatre world is a very small one – and became friends. So when she announced her engagement to Derek, my congratulations was followed immediately with two things.

1. Go read A Practical Wedding, which is my first piece of advice to everyone who gets engaged; and

2. Please, please, please let us stage manage your wedding!

I’m thrilled to report that they followed both pieces of advice. So now, let me tell you about them and their wedding.

Walking up the aisle together. Photo by Timmy Samuels of Starbelly Studios.

Tempe and Derek got hitched on the outdoor patio of a gastropub on a warm and sunny August evening. They got a real city wedding – since the venue was on a major thoroughfare, we got to pause a few times for cars thumping loud summer jams and a few wailing sirens to pass by!

They had a good friend officiate, and she put a surprise into their ceremony – just before Tempe and Derek exchanged their vows, each of their mothers stood up and said a few words to them. It was really sweet, and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house afterwards. They also did something in their ceremony which we loved – after the vows they took a moment to whisper whatever private words they wanted to add into each other’s ears. Isn’t that a great idea?

Ridiculously happy after exchanging vows. Photo by Timmy Samuels of Starbelly Studios.

And then, they were so happy. I think this is the best part – right after a couple is pronounced married, there’s a freedom to celebrate like nobody’s watching, to just be giddily, outrageously in love – that’s the best moment of a wedding if you ask me. And I LOVE that I get to help make it happen.

The reception was tons of fun. They had a photo booth with a bunch of silly props, made a grand entrance down the staircase, and danced their booties off. The food was the main reason they picked their venue, and it was stellar. At the end of the night, they planned to take a taxi home, but friends surprised them with a limo ride instead!

Tempe and Derek folded hundreds of paper cranes together for their centerpieces. Some very lucky kiddos got to take them home. Photo by Timmy Samuels of Starbelly Studios.

It was an excellent celebration of two wonderful people.
Congratulations Tempe and Derek!

VENDORS
Venue & Catering: The Old Oak Tap
Officiant: Friend of the couple
Photographer: Starbelly Studios
Florist: 
Friend of the couple
Cakes: Friend of the couple
Entertainment: Diana Lawrence
Photo Booth: BG Photobooths

All photos were taken by Starbelly Studios and are reposted here with the photographer’s permission. Photos in this and all posts are protected by copyright, and are are not available for reproduction, redistribution or any other purpose without written authorization from the photographer.

*I’m not gonna name names or anything, but the married couple who directed it did more bickering than directing, and were ultimately fired 10 days before the opening night. At which point we scrapped everything and started completely over and somehow managed to open on time. It was… challenging. And makes for a great story.

A Busy Week

Well, this is a busy, busy week for us. We added a couple last-minute alterations to our schedule. We’re both knee-deep in silk, chiffon, and wool working on Sarah’s wedding dress and winter coat – post about our progress on that coming soon! Julia is training and covering for the stage manager for several performances of For the Boys, currently playing up at the Marriott. I am gearing up for a wedding on Saturday, in addition to my 45 hours of day job. To say we’re looking forward to Monday (which is our Saturday) is an understatement. In fact, I think we may both collapse in a giant heap by then.

But – things are happening! Julia will be the assistant stage manager on the next mainstage production at Marriott, which is a great step for her career; and we’re continuing to get inquiries and grow our business a little bit every day. We told you little while ago that we’d bought our first advertising over on A Practical Wedding and today out introduction post is up. Unlike many places on the internet, where advertising is just an image in a sidebar, Meg (the founder and editor) takes the time to get to know each vendor and then write a whole blog post about the business. In fact, it was her encouragement that led us to add wedding stage management to our fledgling business, in addition to the custom clothing work we began with. So, thanks Meg!

Here’s the post, if you’d like to go read it:

Crafty Broads on A Practical Wedding

And if you’re interested in custom clothing, have a garment that needs alteration, or you want a wedding stage manager, you can find all the details over on the Crafty Broads website.

We’ll see you back here, bleary-eyed, on Monday for one last catch-up post and then we will be back to our regular chatter, which means we better think of something amazing to cook pretty soon. Got any suggestions?

Jaimelyn | Custom Everyday Corset + Flirty Summer Skirt | Chicago, Illinois

Jaimelyn's Custom Everyday Corset

Today we have another corset project to show you. Jaimelyn wanted a serious corset to accentuate her curves. No frills, no fuss, just lots of function. So this one is very different from the last one we showed you. Here’s how:

Everyday Corsets are still SEXY.


Bones.
Jaimelyn’s corset has a lot more bones. This provides a much greater degree of shaping and cinching. It also takes considerably more time and requires more specific fitting, which is why most commercially made or ready-to-wear corsets don’t have too many bones.

More bones = More pattern pieces = More time


Fabric.
All four layers of this corset are made from 100% cotton, while Cory’s has an embroidered silk on the outside layer. The main reason for this is to save money, although cotton is nice and cozy for more frequent wear. The other advantage is that it’s smooth, so unlike a textured fabric, it won’t show under whatever garment she wants to wear it with. We think it’s important to make corsets (and clothing, in general) from natural fibers – that’s cotton, silk, linen, and some rayons – because they breathe easily and are much nicer to work with. You may recall we ended up purchasing silk instead of using the polyester provided for Maria’s wedding shrug for these same reasons. (Uh, and this is another thing ready-to-wear corsets often do differently. There’s a lot of polyester happening out there. Do yourself a favor and run away from those, because an ill-fitting corset that gets stickier the longer you wear it is not so pleasant. Those are the garments that have given corsets a bad reputation as instruments of torture. In that case? Yeah, they pretty much are.)

She can tighten the laces herself - yay!


Closure.
While both corsets lace in the back, Jaimelyn’s has something that Cory’s doesn’t – a busk. This is what you see on the front of many corsets, and it allows the wearer to put it on herself. (Cory’s, which does not have a busk, requires a second person to help her get in and out.) A busk is basically two metal strips – one with little knobs and one with holes they fit into – which bring the halves together at the front. Jaimelyn can loosen the laces in the back, close the busk, and then tighten the laces herself.

Closeup on the Busk

In addition to the corset, Jaimelyn was also pining for a skirt she’d somehow lost and desperately wanted to replace. She showed us some pictures of what she was looking for, and I sewed up this airy little number for her. This is another cotton garment – it’s made from an embroidered cotton gauze and lined with super-comfy jersey.

Skirt! WIth pockets!

I added my own touch – pockets! In case you’re somehow unaware, I am a pockets girl. I hate carrying purses, and the number one reason I rarely wear a skirt or dress is because I need my pockets! I NEED THEM!! So I add them whenever I can. Including on stuff for other people. I recently made myself a dress with pockets, and it is so awesome. I am plotting to make many, many more. And some skirts. And then I will suddenly be girly and you will wonder what happened to me… speaking of which, where was I? Oh yes: I found some great wooden buttons to keep those pockets closed, too! Which I think were put on after the picture was taken, and so you can’t see them… sorry.

As long as we’re imagining what the finished project looks like… here’s my thought on styling this skirt for fall. Personally, I’d love to see Jaimelyn wear these pieces together, with a bold-colored jacket (leather?) and coordinating knee-high boots. I think that look would be killer.

The Closet

We’re not in it. You probably knew that already. Today is National Coming Out Day. And so, we’re saying it, out loud, in print, on the internet where nothing ever really goes away:

We are gay!
We’re on an incredibly true adventure of two girls in love.
And we even got married.
Yes, if these walls could talk,
they’d be bound to say we are
the real ‘L’ word.
We’re here, we’re queer, and you’re already used to it!

You may think in this day and age that being a letter in the LGBTQ (that’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning) acronym is no big deal… and you’re right.

But you’re also wrong. Because there are still plenty of homophobic people out there. And there are plenty of people who don’t think they’re bigots but actually; they are. They’re worse, if you ask me. You know the ones – they “love the sinner, but hate the sin” – they say they love you, but they really refuse to respect that you were born this way.

Anyway. The point of this event is to raise awareness, which in turn will lead to equal rights for all of us. That’s the thing – many people voting away our rights believe they don’t know any LGBTQ people and we must all live in the liberal cities or something, but we are EVERYWHERE. And we are just living our lives. And we would like to have the same rights as everyone else, the rights to which we are entitled, and which we are denied by DOMA and similar legislation at state levels. And we would like to live without fear of being attacked for simply being who we are. And we would like to be treated as equals, without needing to prove our marriages in order to see our loved ones in the hospital, or spend thousands of dollars to create legal documents which protect our families, the way heterosexual couples are automatically protected, with just $35 and a 3-day wait at the City Hall. We would like these things not because they benefit us personally, but because discrimination is wrong, plain and simple.

We know that we are preaching to the choir here, but know that you are important in this fight. It’s just as critical, if not more so, that our straight allies come out, too! Because, let’s face it, we’ll never win the majority vote alone. Ask someone what they mean when they say, “That’s so gay!”; don’t stand by silently when someone makes a derogatory remark; tell your grandma how awesome your gay best friend is. COME OUT WITH US, and promise to do it again next year, and the next, and the next, and the next, until homophobia is gone.

We leave you with the immortal words of Harvey Milk:

“If they know us, they don’t vote against us…
Brothers and sisters you must come out!
Come out to your parents; come out to your friends, if indeed they are your friends.
Come out to your neighbors, come out to your fellow workers!
Once and for all let’s break down the myths and destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake, for their sake…
On the Statue of Liberty it says, ‘give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free’.
In the Declaration of Independence it is written – ‘all men are created equal, and endowed with certain inalienable rights.’
So to all the bigots out there – no matter how hard you try, you can never erase those words from the Declaration of Independence!
No matter how hard you try, you can never chip those words from the face of the Statue of Liberty!
That is what America is! Love it or leave it!”

p.s. All those movie links in the bold part at the top? Totally worth watching. Though if you check out the L Word, we recommend you just watch the first two seasons on repeat six times and spare yourself the agony of seasons 3-6.

Two Paths Diverged in a Wood…

Columbia Gorge Waterfall

Columbia River Gorge, near Portland, OR

…and we each took the one dictated to us by our work schedules.

A break from the Crafty Broads catch up game today to talk about how to cope with being apart from your significant other a lot.

Now, we’re not technically far apart – we’re both working locally and we’re sleeping in the same bed at night – but our schedules are completely opposite one another right now, and it looks like they’re going to stay that way at least until January. (To those of you actually living apart from your spouse… sorry. That must be awful.)

Today is our only full day off together this month. Oh sure, we each have some other days off, but because of our opposing schedules, they are not the same days as one another. Looking ahead, there a single day in November (Thanksgiving) and two whole days in December (one of which is Christmas, the other of which is NOT Christmas Eve or the day after Christmas) where are both off at the same time again. This is not enough. Clearly.

So, wise readers, do you ever find yourselves with almost no time available at the same time as your significant other for a long stretch? How do you deal with it? What do you do to make those precious chunks of time you do have special?

Travis and Jacqueline’s Public Square Wedding with Pizza and Beer Reception – Giddings Plaza (Lincoln Square) and Market Bar – Chicago, IL

As we continue to catch you up on our Crafty Broads projects, today’s post is about the very first wedding we stage managed (aside from our own, obviously) – Jacqueline & Travis.

Jacqueline & Travis - July 3, 2011

Jacqueline & Travis

Jacqueline found us through A Practical Wedding, by way of the Chicago contingent of readers nattering on Facebook. She and Travis were looking for someone to manage the setup of their reception, specifically to make sure the wedding wish bowl and family photos were arranged the way they wanted. We had a chat (via internet, as they currently live in Fargo, but were getting hitched in Chicago) and agreed to take care of it for them. After some more discussion of their wedding, it sounded like they could really use a little more help than that, and we were thrilled when they asked about the possibility of coordinating the whole shindig.

Jacqueline works with historic costume and textiles, and as you might imagine, when she mentioned her line of work, there was some giddiness on our end. A fashion historian who needs wedding help and had a 1930s-style bias cut gown made for the occasion? Perfect client for us. And Travis? He’s a wedding photographer and works around most of the midwest. Check out his work and hire him here. For obvious reasons, he couldn’t take pictures at his own wedding, but he did dream up and design a photo booth for the reception – there was a monitor to see yourself on and he rigged up a foot pedal to stomp when you were ready to snap the picture. From the perspective of crafty, tinkering nerds, I can say this was really awesome. And different from the usual small curtained room styles you see everywhere these days.

Cindy cueing Travis to enter the cermony.

Travis waits for Cindy

Travis and Jacqueline had a lovely outdoor ceremony on a really gorgeous day in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood. They made ribbon wands in their wedding colors for all the guests to wave when they shared their first married kiss – an excellent and fun idea! And it looked really cool.

They and their guests traveled to and from the day’s events on the L trains, which I love, love, love. It’s fun, it’s good for the planet, it’s cheaper than parking, and you get awesome pictures. Win-win.

Jacqueline & Travis First Dance - July 3, 2011

Jacqueline & Travis shared their first married dance as the sun set over the city.

And their reception? Pizza (the really good kind) and an ice cream sundae bar (Yes! Yes.) on a rooftop deck with an amazing view of the city skyline. They shared a first scoop together and then danced in the setting sun. Beautiful.

We had a blast coordinating their wedding, and we’re truly lucky they took a chance and hired us. It was just the experience we needed to decide we definitely want to continue stage managing weddings.

Congratulations, Jacqueline and Travis!

Cory’s Custom Red Corset and Silk Chiffon Dress

Custom Corset and Silk Chiffon Skirt

Time for a step back. We’ve been updating you here and there about what we’re working on now, but we really should have started at the beginning. (It’s a very good place to start.) So we’re going to use the next few posts to catch you up, and we begin with a project we both really wanted to keep for ourselves (even though it wouldn’t fit either one of us…)

Cory was in need of something to wear for the Jeff Awards. She wanted something that looked somewhat period (the nominated show she starred in, Ragtime, is set in the early 1900s) in case she was asked to perform, but she also wanted it to be wearable for any fancy event.

We settled on a design of a corset with off-the-shoulder sleeves and a coordinating silk and silk chiffon skirt in a deep red hue. Since they are separate pieces, Cory can actually wear either the skirt or the corset on its own, as well as together.

Now seems like a good time to talk about the process of making custom garments and corset construction, so here goes. We start by taking a LOT of measurements so that we can create a good pattern that fits well.

Pattern for Cory's Corset

Next, we build a mockup, usually made out of muslin, so that we can test the fit and style before we cut into the more expensive fabric. For a corset, we even put in plastic boning so that our test fit is really accurate. Here’s what Cory’s looked like:

Cory's corset mockup (front)

Once we have this ready, we do the first fitting with our client. We will check various areas to see how it fits as well as get feedback from the client about the style so we can make sure we’re meeting their expectations for the garment. In this case, we needed to shorten the corset around the bottom edge, and Cory asked us to make it a little tighter in the waist. We’ll note the adjustments and then transfer them to the pattern.

Cory's corset mockup (back)

At this fitting, we will usually have a selection of fabric swatches so that our client can help us decide what to buy. Cory wanted a deep red, and we found some really beautiful options, which you’ll see in the pictures below. For the corset, she chose a red fabric embroidered with gold thread. The skirt was made from a rust-colored fabric with a cranberry silk chiffon overlay.

Lining of the Corset and Skirt

The next step is to make those adjustments to our pattern, purchase the fabric if we haven’t already, and put it all together. The skirt is fairly simple – we patterned and then cut a layer of chiffon over a layer of the lining, which are joined together at the waistband.

This is the time consuming part for a corset, because it has multiple layers which all must be cut and sewn together exactly. In the photo above, you can see the lining of the corset. It’s actually two layers – a soft cotton, which is on the inside against the skin, and stiffer canvas fabric that doesn’t stretch at all. This is critical for a corset, as the lack of stretch is what holds you in and supports you! The outer layer of the corset is another layer of the canvas with the “fashion fabric” – that’s the pretty stuff – on the outside. The boning gets sandwiched in between the layers so that it doesn’t poke through or cause any discomfort to the wearer. On the back, we install heavy-duty grommets for the lacing to go through. Finally, we’ll trim the top and bottom edges and apply a bias binding.

Et, voila! Finished corset!

Corset and Silk Chiffon Skirt (front)

Corset and Silk Chiffon Skirt (back)