Monthly Archives: November 2011

Maddy in Wonderland | Custom Toddler Halloween Costume

Maddy's Alice in Wonderland costume

Prepare yourself for some serious cuteness. A high school friend asked us if we could make a dress for her daughter’s first birthday party. That’s a fun project to begin with, but it gets better – Maddy turned one right before Halloween, and had an Alice in Wonderland themed costume party – starring her as Alice, of course!

This project was a little bit tricky, since Maddy and her parents don’t live in Chicago. (Ordinarily, we say no to out-of-state projects in order to get the fit right, but little girls don’t have the curves that cause so many issues for adults.) So – we started with a mockup, as we do with all of our projects, and then mailed it off to her.

Mockup of Maddy's Alice in Wonderland costume

Trial fitting with a sleepy little lady. You can see the long sleeve and too-big apron.

With some notes from mom and visual assistance from these pictures, we decided that the waist should be a little lower, the sleeves a little shorter, and the apron was clearly too big around the neck. We set about making the changes to the pattern, cutting the final pieces, and putting the whole thing together.

Here is how it turned out:

Maddy in her finished Alice in Wonderland costume

Love that little smirk, too. Happy First Birthday, Maddy!

So, let’s talk pros and cons of a custom-made vs. store-bought costume. The obvious pro of a ready-made costume is price; you can probably pick up a similar ensemble for less than $20 around Halloween. Some cons are: it’s going to be made from a very lightweight synthetic fabric (polyester), which can be uncomfortable to wear. It will be made in a non-American factory that probably doesn’t have great working conditions. The quality of the construction may be mediocre. Obviously, it won’t be made to fit your child exactly, so it will likely have some fit issues. And, you’ll probably see six other kids wearing the exact same costume. All that said, if your child is just going to wear it once, and you don’t care too much what it feels like or how it fits, you will definitely save money this way.

What about a hand made costume? Well, again, the obvious con is price. With the cost of materials and a fair hourly wage for the person making it (us), this is clearly a pricier option. The other potential drawback is that you can’t just decide at 6pm on October 30th – the process does take a few weeks. So, why bother then? We’d argue that the main reason is quality. Unlike most store-bought costumes, ours is made from 100% cotton – so it’s comfortable and breathable, but you can still throw it right through the washer and dryer on your usual settings. You can rest assured that the workmanship is good – buttons won’t be popping off willy nilly, seams stay closed, you won’t be constantly clipping threads as they start to come loose. In other words, the costume will last until the next year and/or the next child. Of course, it’s going to fit your child perfectly. And because you have input into the design, you may be able to wrangle some non-Halloween wear out of it too – for example, Maddy can wear the apron to help Mom in the kitchen, or rock a bright blue dress at the next family party. With a sash or a sweater, she’ll have a whole new look the she can wear all year long. Finally, and most importantly for some, you get to support a small business and know that you are helping someone earn a decent living doing.

So – we are right back in that same old argument – price vs. value. Sometimes, you’re going to choose price; other times value; with luck or a really good sale, you may end up with both.

And since we went off on such a long tangent, here’s another cute picture of the birthday girl:

Maddy in her Alice in Wonderland costume

Birthday Girl, (almost) walking around with her grandma.

Seriously adorable. And it was a delightful project to work on, too. Perhaps we have a future in toddler couture.

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Photos in this post were taken by Maddy’s family, and are protected by copyright. You may not use or repost these photos.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Prepped Turkey

Let's cook this turkey.

Yeah, I just started a post with a big picture of raw meat. (Have I lost any readers? I hope not.) Look, today is the day before Thanksgiving. I have two related points on the agenda, so I won’t waste anymore of your holiday weekend time rambling.

1. This is cliché, but… today we are thankful for all the wonderful people in our lives, including you, who have supported the launch of our little business over the past year. It’s a really exciting (busy, stressful, crazy) time for us, and we’d be lying if we said we could do it without a little help from our friends. Your continued encouragement means a lot to us, and every time you tell someone about us or pass along our business cards, you are building our business with us. And that really rocks. So, thank you friends, family, colleagues, and strangers.

To those of you who are or have been our clients – you are seriously awesome and we want to be your friends forever. So please feel free to email us and let us know what you’re up to, how your honeymoon was, where you’re wearing the clothes we made for you, and obviously tell us what you’ve been eating since we saw you. We miss you, for real.

2. Here are some hints for making your Thanksgiving food extra awesome:

Turkey: See above, and cut slits in the bird’s skin. Stick your finger in, loosen it up, and shove some flavor in there. We do rosemary and garlic and it makes for some truly excellent turkey.

Mashed potatoes: Use real cream instead of milk, and put some rosemary in those too. And also – red potatoes are the way to go, keep the skins on, they are delish.

Pumpkin Pie: Use a real pumpkin, not a can. A pie pumpkin. Cut it, puree it, OMG yum. Also – for an easy yet superior pie crust, make a graham cracker crust, but instead of graham crackers use gingersnaps. And then you need real whipped cream on top. As in, buy cream and then whip it, and since you’re doing that, add a splash of brandy to the cream. You’re welcome.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Fig-Eaters Anonymous

Hi, My name is Cindy and I am addicted to figs. It is with a heavy heart that I must tell you – fig season is coming to an end. So long, fig ice cream, fig and bacon piadinas, wine-poached figs, figs with caramelized shallots and brie, apple & fig pie, pork tenderloin with fig sauce… I will miss you dearly until next year.

I’ll leave you with my final fig exploit of the season. I wanted to do an alternate version of the Apple, Bacon, & Rosemary tart that Keely loves so much, and my plan was simply to add figs to it. However, I used up the bacon making the original tart, and had to omit it (because I was far too lazy to go to the store!) – leaving us with figs, apples, and rosemary. Except then I forgot to put the rosemary in. So. It was a fig and apple tart. Which was extraordinarily similar to fig and apple pie. By which I mean – yummy.

For the dough:
*You can use a store-bought pie crust if you hate baking, don’t have time, or are just feeling lazy. I won’t judge. But I am a baking snob, so I used the free-form tart dough recipe from my beloved Baking Illustrated book, as follows:

2 tablespoons sour cream (I use Greek yogurt instead)
2 tablespoons ice water
1 cup flour
1/4 cup fine stone-ground yellow cornmeal (I used white because it’s what I had)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes

For the Filling: I suggest you put the bacon and rosemary in; but it is lovely without them
3 apples, sliced into 1/4 thick wedges
8 large figs (I prefer the brown/purple Mission variety)
1/2 lb of bacon, cooked, drained and chopped into small pieces
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pea-sized pieces
1 tablespoon sugar

How to Make It:
1. Stir together sour cream (yogurt) and water in a small cup. Set aside in the refrigerator.

2. Stir flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt together in a large bowl. Cut butter in with a pastry knife or two knives, or alternately do this whole bit in a food processor if you have one.

3. Add sour cream (yogurt) mixture and stir/process until dough just comes together. Turn dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and flatten into a 6″ disk. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

4. Unwrap dough and roll between two sheets of parchment paper into a 13″ circle, about 1/8″ thick. Refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes. (I skipped this chilling step and mine was fine.)

Roll the dough until it's about 1/8" thick.

Now, on to the filling –

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. (Get your chopping and slicing done while it’s heating and the dough is chilling.)

2. Arrange the figs in a single layer, leaving about two inches around the edge free of bacon.

Yeah, these are not Mission figs. They're green. Still yummy.

3. Spread the bacon over the figs and sprinkle with rosemary.

Arranging the apples. I am very particular.

4. Arrange the apples in a pretty spiral, 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.

6. Bake for 40 minutes, until crust is golden brown. Devour.

Ready for The Eating.

If you hurry – you can grab one last pint and make them into something delicious. (And in the long, cold months until they come back again, there is always fig jam.)

Price vs. Value

Sunday was Julia’s birthday. I was on my way back in town from a nanny conference (and awesome dinner with APW twitter friend Sarah, yay!) in DC and stopped at our favorite grocery store on the way home so I could cook something nice for a celebratory dinner. I made this Salmon with Roasted Fennel and Lemon Vinaigrette, a perennial favorite of ours. Now, I could get into a lengthy discussion of the difference between a good price and a good value, but I think you’ll get my point when I say this:

GET THE WILD ALASKAN KING SALMON!

(Even though it is, yes, more than twice as expensive as the salmon we usually buy. And it totally caused us to screw our food budget for the month before it was even a week over. I spent $37 for 4 servings and I would do it again in a heartbeat.§*)

Image courtesy of Real Simple. Sadly, this is not a photo of the beautiful piece of salmon I purchased.

IT WAS SO WORTH IT.

And while we’re on the topic of salmon, I should really tell you about the dish I had at that dinner with Sarah – because it was also salmon. Yeah, I totally ate it two nights in a row and it was awesome. Because, what is not awesome about a glorious piece of buttery pink salmon, topped with crushed toasted pumpkin seeds, sitting on a perfectly-cooked pile of green beans, nestled in roasted pumpkin and squash, all enveloped in a pumpkin-butter sauce? That’s right, pretty much nothing is better than that. Thank you, Clyde’s of Columbia (Maryland), for an excellent gustatory experience.

§AKA next Tuesday, when I’m doing the weekly shopping, because salmon is ALWAYS on the menu.
*For the record, at $13.99/lb this is actually an excellent price for salmon in the midwest, period. and still better than the big chain stores. It’s just that we usually buy the other kind, which is only $7.99/lb.

Meet us at Indie Wed

Click for more information.

We’re pleased as punch to announce that out of over 200 applicants, we’ve been selected as one of the businesses to take part in the next Indie Wed show, which takes place on Saturday, January 28th here in Chicago. (In our old neighborhood. Which we miss.) Indie Wed is an alternative wedding expo type thing, focused on small, local businesses and less-traditional weddings – it was formed to be in the spirit of indie craft fairs and the like. Here’s how they define it:

Indie Wed is a unique event that combines the idea of a traditional wedding show with a street bazaar, highlighting local and nearby independent designers and artisans. Most bridal shows tend to cater to a very specific vision of what a wedding should be. Indie Wed is geared towards couples who want to take an “independent” approach to their event. It is wedding planning… redefined.

There we are, sharing space on the Indie Wed website with all the other awesome vendors!

So – we are excited to be there. We hope to meet lots of potential clients, as well as to get to know some more local vendors. If you’re interested, here are all the details about the winter show.