Friday, July 29, 2011

This week in DIY: Bert the magnificent, gin & tonic and a child with unusually large hands

Last night's premier of Project Runway (eatlovebert, btw) reminded me of how diy-ing my own clothing got me through the first 15 years of my life. I was a little raggedy ann out of necessity, hiding safety pins that held my jeans buttoned as I outgrew them at a pace too fast for my working class parents to keep up with. I secretly slept in my clothes after they were freshly washed so they would stretch out enough to be worn the next day. Surprisingly my mom never commented that I was already fully dressed for school when she woke me up.

I wore her t-shirts, two at a time (she's 6'1", can you imagine?) with the sleeves rolled up so it wouldn't look too ridiculous. Back then I wasn't thinking of how I could make an amazing outfit out of all of this, so much as I was hoping not to repeat an item of clothing in the same school week. OH THE HORROR! And cause for immediate mean girls expulsion.

Old Sweatshirt Becomes Super Cute Cardigan
Doesn't she look like Elle McPherson?
Source: dee*construction on Flickr

That Before picture looks just like a sweatshirt I would've stolen from my mom and worn. To school. As-is. To avoid embarrassment. Oy.

To me, do-it-yourself is the most basic human instinct, besides wanting to eat babies. And construction/deconstruction/construction is universally primal among my thought processes. 

When I'm cooking, I imagine the whole meal on my fantasy plate, then I break it down to the individual foods themselves, what pans I need and how to juggle them back together. I'm usually sauteeing while simultaneously thinking of what else is in the fridge that I could use. Grain mustard, radishes, seeds, lemons.

When in doubt, I always squeeze a lemon.

I can see myself making a gin & tonic right about now.
Source: (from top left, clockwise),,,,

When I see a piece of furniture or artwork, I immediately think "How can I make that?" instead of "How much does that cost."

I love the scale of this frame leaning behind the sofa. The visual texture of the photos is the perfect conceptual compliment to the brick wall. Traveled, weathered and full of stories. Not to mention the Union Jack pillow, which could easily be made with old t-shirts and stich witchery. I hope I get around to this one.

Travel Photos in Large Scale Frame

I don't remember the first time I wanted to be Martha Stewart. I'm sure it was a closeted fantasy, because no self-respecting tomboy would be caught dead with a glue gun, and we didn't raise pheasants in our backyard.

Somewhere along the way, maybe when I bought my first sewing machine at 19 - an old White that was built into the table with a knee pedal I found for $25 at an estate sale - I knew I had acquired something golden. Something that opened possibilities for a cheaper, more interesting way of life.

 I had no idea what to do with it, but somehow I made a pencil skirt that DIDN'T FALL APART WHEN I WORE IT. The zipper was totally crooked in the back, but I pretended it was part of the design.

Yes, somewhere along the way, I became a Martha-ite. And probably even more secretly, I stuck with her through her unfortunate (but deserved) time on the rock.

Paper Pendant Lamps
Use simple paper shades and add layer upon layer of pretty goodness.
This is something I would do just for the fun of it. I don't actually have anywhere to put it.

Have you ever wanted to jam spoons into your eyeballs trying to find your other earring? One time I actually slapped myself in the face when I was trying to unjangle a necklace. Pull. Yourself. Together!

Drawer Pull Jewelry Holder

Do you realize that a person's options for jewelry storage are limited to those canvas closet things with plastic see through openings (which I have), stretched out pantyhose, ballerina boxes or tupperware?

One time when I was little, my dad got me a jewelry box. I didn't have any jewelry, so I just put rocks in it. My point is that it looked like a miniature china cabinet, and we weren't china cabinet people. We were bull-in-china-shop people.

It was small-tall and made from lacquered cherry wood. It had etched glass double doors that opened out, and it was mirrored in the back (so you could see yourself try on your jewelry, of course). It was so tiny, and I was an unusually large child with unusually large appendages. I could barely fit my hands into it, either to place or extract my rocks. I had to just toss them in there and turn it on its side to get them out.

Which just reminds me of how much I love plants. Look! She put plants in rocks!

Pressed Garden Leaf Stones

And I love seeing plants in curious places, like clear containers.

Dinosaurs belong in their native surroundings.
Source: (from top left, clockwise),,

My friend Elizabeth gave me this one after I had surgery.

From Elizabeth
She got it at Iron & Eve Designs.

(What surgery, you ask? Click over here to find out.)

What are your proudest DIY's of late?

Monday, July 25, 2011

EAT: On A Pulled Pork Mission

I'm southern. There's not much else I need to say to justify this post. 

When you're from Mississippi, just south of bar-b-que capital Memphis, TN, you have the sauce running in your veins. Your family reunions are bigger than a Skynyrd concert and may involve your Uncle Hambone cooking something on the engine of a beefed up pickup truck piled high on cinder blocks. You get lost in a sea of your cousins, know how to properly tip a cow and can smell kudzu in your sleep. You're southern. 

When I moved to California almost 11 years ago, I had no idea how much I would miss those parts of being from the south that were once second skin. Of all the sensory experiences that linger the most, southern food is the one I find myself trying to recreate often, albeit with a California touch.

Be not afraid - I have seen the light of California food. One of the first things that amazed me was seeing lemons, limes and avocados growing on trees. In people's backyards! Food growing on trees! Heading south along route 1, you're destined to find farmer's stands with heaps of brussel sprouts, greens, corn, tomatoes and strawberries stretching for miles along the fresh ocean breeze.

Southern food, which in my mind has always been based on what you grew in your garden or raised in the pastures, has seen a sad amount of fast food-washing over the years. My once small town two-lane road is now a six-lane congested McDonalds-BurgerKing-Applebees-SteakInShake thoroughfare, paving over what used to be green space, grass fields and my old trailer park. 

My Granny, Verneal Timmons

The southern food I miss is my Granny Timmons' homemade cinnamon buns, buckets of boiled peanuts, homemade breads, roasted chickens from the coup and good bbq. The fresh foods from her gardens and canned veggies from last season were torturous as a picky kid eater, but times are always achangin'. I find myself cooking more and more like my granny, and a good pulled pork sammich is definitely in order.

My fellow southern transplant friend Damion makes a capital M, Mean pulled pork, but he's holding on dearly to his recipe. I've asked him for it multiple times, and he just starts rattling off various ingredients with this charming, secretive smirk, saying, "Oh, honey! It's so simple. You just. . . brown sugar blah blah. . . pork butt blah blah. . . marinade. . . blah blah," until I've either lost interest or simply can't keep up. He never writes it down.

Luckily there's an awesome place up in Guerneville, CA by the Russian River that my friends have turned me on to. Stumptown Brewery has a yum-o-licious pulled pork sandwich, not to mention that good ole southern biker bar feel and fresh tap micro-brews for days. Sit out on the patio and watch the game or sprawl out on blankets in the large grassy area overlooking the river. This is fast becoming my favorite escape from the foggy city by the bay, and it is oddly always summer there.

Stumptown Brewery's fresh micro brews
Stumptown Brewery Patio

Also, fantastically there's a food truck that hangs out at City Hall on Fridays as a part of San Francisco's Off The Grid food truck movement that surprised the southern out of me with their undressed pulled pork (you add the sauce after, so weird!), fresh cabbage slaw and soft egg buns. Washed it right down with a large sweet iced tea and proceeded to sleep for an hour in the promenade.

Off The Grid, SF Food Trucks @ City Hall

Of course there are tons of recipes online, but this is the one I'm probably going to try first, unless I can bribe Damion with sugar cubes. I usually default to Ina Garten's methods because she's not afraid of butter, but I go to her mostly for fresh yet indulgent, cape cod fantasy cooking, not down and dirty southern. Food 52 has one that looks simple and, shall we say, "interesting." Coke, really? 

Inarguably, there are different styles of bbq that must be considered - Texas, Carolina and Memphis-style, to name a few. Each has their own subtle and nuanced flavors, methods and fervent followers. I'll just say I'm a Memphis gal, and leave it at that. You can't go on a pulled pork mission without tasting these:

Rendezvous - the most famous bbq in Memphis. 

Neely's BBQ - three locations throughout Memphis & Nashville. YUM!!

Corky's BBQboasting "Slow-cooked over hickory wood and charcoal. As we say...cookin' the old fashion way!" 

Is there a mouth watering bbq hole in your neck of the woods?