Monday, January 21, 2013

Retreat Planning, Books, Movies and a Recipe

A few garment muslins going to a sewing retreat
Not much sewing happening at the moment, just packing up supplies for my flight to Baltimore tomorrow.  I think I'll be blowing into the airport (drat, I hate turbulence) just when an expected cold front arrives.  So very glad that there is not a big snowfall accompanying it.  I haven't prepared any projects yet so when I get to my house I'll have to make some fabric and pattern decisions.  I've learned from a dozen years of attending sewing retreats that:
a) I like to have already cut out, marked and interfaced, if necessary, pattern pieces before I go.  I'm simply too easily distracted to do those detailed tasks there amongst four dozen creative and interesting people.  

b) I like to bring a variety of projects but the numbers of those projects have dropped dramatically over the years.   A retreat is wonderfully concentrated sewing time without meals to make or errands to run so it lends itself to a detailed project and a few very simple straight line sewing ones as a breather in between.  I wish I were the kind of person who kept attention on one sewing project at a time......but I'm not.  I have cut back on the interruptions that I allow myself since it is too easy for me to get off track....squirrel....and lose focus.  So I will bring no more than two new patterns to mock up and then some easier sewing for sew and chat time.

c) I appreciate getting other people's opinions about my projects so it's good to bring embellishing items, pattern and fabric combinations and ask for input.  Sometimes other people can point out why a particular garment didn't live up to expectations when I'm blinded by frustration.
d) I am sad to leave the group at the end and want to just toss all my supplies into my sewing room when I finally get home, happy but also tired.  I'm not a naturally organized person.  But I've made a commitment to clean up that pile of stuff the very next day.  If I play some loud fun music to distract me while I clean, I will be glad next time to walk into an organized sewing space. 

Since this blog is also where I keep a list of my recent 
books, here's the January list. 

I savor this series of Diana Gabaldon's historical novels and so decided to read the fifth one right after Christmas.  It was fun to enter the 18th century world of Jamie and Claire, now living in 1770 in the North Carolina mountains.  This one was a slower paced read unlike the swashbuckling, action packed previous novels and has the most mixed reviews on Amazon.  I was reading if on my Kindle on a three week loan and I admit that the almost 900 pages were slow going and I needed almost all of the three week period to finish it.

After that long slog of a book, I was grateful for this short but totally intriguing selection " The Giver."  I was a high school English teacher for six years back in the mid-1970's and loved young adult lit.  I haven't kept up in recent years and was interested to see that this one is commonly taught....and commonly banned in school districts.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought it would be a wonderful book to teach and discuss.  I appreciate ambiguous, open-ended conclusions but I bet many an adolescent would find it annoying.  I'll definitely be reading Lois Lowry's books that followed.  

To make this somewhat fashion and design related, I also read Stacey London" (of TV"S What Not to Wear) book.  It's much less a fashion styling book than a personal memoir and challenge to readers to find their own style and courage.  I've always liked Stacey and Clinton and think they are funny and caring as they deal with clients.  This was like having a long lunch and shoping trip with a delightful friend who is also a terrific stylist.  

I started this last book on Wednesday afternoon and after sewing for much of Thursday I had to go back and finish it that night.  I've loved the other two Mary Pipher books I've read, "Reviving Ophelia" and "Another Country" and this one is just as thoughtful, open-hearted and far more personal.  Since Mary Pipher is a therapist herself, she thought she could cope or at least treat herself when sudden fame brought a whirlwind life of speaking and traveling.  She explores how her early experiences and her interpretation of them left her vulnerable to exhaustion, burn out and a melt down as she tried to take care of and please so many new people in her busy, busy life.  Her descriptions were so familiar to me from my own similar experiences this past year.  She cut down dramatically on the situations that led to this distress in her body and mind and healed slowly by learning to meditate (seems like she does it as badly but as fruitfully as I do) and being amongst nature and loving friends.  I was touched and encouraged by this book and am glad I found it.

I've also seen two delightful movies this month.  Our monthly film discussion group watched The Band's Visit  Charming and so well done.The Band's Visit  Mr. Lucky and I enjoyed a Netflix DVD over the weekend. Dear Frankie Also sweet, endearing and the perfect relaxing film after home improvement chores.

Last recommendation is a new to us slow cooker recipe.  This is not fast and easy like the original slow cooker recipes of decades know, pour it all in the pot and let it sit.  Cooks Illustrated and Cooks Country slow cooker recipes require more upfront prep but I like their dependable results.  This one will feed us for several days so it was yummy and worth the effort.  
No computer for a week up north....which might just make me more productive:-)  But I'll take plenty of pictures and share the reteat details when I return. Here's hoping that you have projects that you feel are worth your efforts as well.

Slow-Cooker Chicken with White Wine, Tarragon, and Cream
Recipe by Cook’s Country
If cremini mushrooms (a.k.a. baby bellas) are unavailable, substitute
portobello mushroom caps, cut into 1-inch pieces. Fresh tarragon,
unlike its dried counterpart, has a distinctive anise-like flavor that
is crucial in this dish.
Serves 6
6split bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (10 to 12 ounces each), or 12 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (6 to 8 ounces each), trimmed
2tablespoons vegetable oil 
1 1/4pounds cremini mushrooms , quartered
1onion , chopped medium
4cloves garlic , minced
1 3/4cups dry white wine 
1cup low-sodium chicken broth 
1tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves  or 1 teaspoon dried
2bay leaves 
1pound carrots , peeled and cut into 3-inch lengths
1/4cup all-purpose flour 
1cup heavy cream 
1/4cup minced fresh tarragon 
1tablespoon fresh lemon juice 
1. Dry the chicken with paper towels, then
season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a 12-inch
skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown half of the
chicken on both sides, about 10 minutes, then add to the slow cooker.
(Remove the browned skin if using chicken thighs.) Return the skillet
to medium-high heat and repeat with 2 more teaspoons oil and the
remaining chicken. Discard any fat left in the skillet.
2. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil to the empty skillet and
heat over medium heat until shimmering. Add the mushrooms, onion, and
1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook until the mushrooms are brown, 10 to 15
minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 15 seconds. Stir in the wine,
scraping up any browned bits, and simmer until reduced by half, about 5
minutes. Pour into the slow cooker.
3. Add the broth, thyme, and bay leaves to the slow cooker.
Nestle the carrots into the slow cooker around the edges. Cover and
cook on low until the chicken is tender, about 4 hours.
Transfer the chicken to a large serving dish and tent loosely with
foil. Discard the bay leaves. Set the slow cooker to high. Whisk the
flour with the cream until smooth, then stir into the slow cooker.
Cover and continue to cook until the sauce is thickened and no longer
tastes of flour, 15 to 30 minutes longer. Stir in the tarragon and
lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the
vegetables and some of the sauce over the chicken and serve, passing
the remaining sauce separately

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