A Tale of Two Cities

20 Jun

When you think of Russia, two cities come to mind; Moscow and St. Petersburg. They are the two largest cities in Russia, have both been the capital and are rich in culture.  But they have their differences as well, which are very distinct.

Established almost one thousand years ago, Moscow has a toughness about it.  The pinacle of Moscow is the fortress of the Kremlin, the city is large and has a huge population.  The city consists of skyscrapers and places emphasise on wealth and power.  (More billionaires call Moscow home than any other city in the world)

In contrast, St. Petersburg is considered a young European city at just over 300 years old. When Peter the Great founded St. Petersburg he wanted it to be the cultural center of Europe.  The colors are much brighter; the blue of the Winter Palace/Hermitage, the white and gold of Palace Embankment.  There are few skyscrapers and is home to one of the largest art museums in the world and also the 8th wonder of the world.  Still a major city, St. Petersburg is known to be friendlier and less crowded than Moscow.

Both cities are rich in Russian history and have very different backgrounds.  On my trip, there are two occasions when I will need to dress up; the captain’s dinner on the ship and when I go to the Russian ballet.  I wanted to create two dresses that captivate the essence that is these two cities. (I know this sounds like a Project Runway challenge)

The first color that comes to mind when thinking of Russia is red.  The communist red, the red of the Kremlin, all of the blood that was lost.  For my Moscow dress, I wanted it to scream imperial Russia; rich and luxurious.  I looked at trims first and found the perfect one. (And almost cost as much as the fabric did) It is red, black and gold metallics with red jewels. I knew the dress was going to be in the red family, but I had a hard time deciding between an apple stretch satin and a wine metallic taffeta. I went with the wine because under different lighting the metallics shimmer and reflect the trim as well. Gorgeous!

Now that the materials were chosen the design was still in question. I could not create a design that I have already made; it had to be unique, creative and spectacular (How many times will I be in Moscow?) yet I wanted the dress to also be flattering.  Empire waist line is the best for my silhouette and decided to go with a pleated semi-fitted skirt.  The hard part was the bodice.  Do I go strapless, one shoulder,v- neck, scoop neck?  I vetoed strapless from the beginning although one shoulder was entertaining me.  When making a dress, you always start at the top and work down.  This time I started at the bottom and worked my way up. (Russia is considered to be a little backwards so it works) To fully emphasize the trim, (and how fabulous this dress is)  I did a double row of trim at the waist.  Since I was still undecided, I left it on the dress form for a few days so see how I felt about it. I went with a one shoulder bodice, with two straps coming down in the back.
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As for my St. Petersburg dress, it also had to be fabulous, but a little brighter, lighter and modern. I have been loving lace recently and fell in love with this blue lace. (I am calling it Hermitage blue)  The design for this dress was much easier than the Moscow dress, scoop neck, and a fitted skirt.
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I love both dresses, each in a different way.  While the lace dress will likely be wore more often, the red dress has more drama to it.  Both capture the essence of the cities and I can not wait to wear them in Russia.  Luckily I do not have to wait that much longer.

Sometimes a bracelet needs a dress to go with it

26 Mar

For Christmas, my Aunt Annie gave me a needlepoint bracelet that she made.  It is gorgeous; a rich periwinkle color with accents of lime, coral, violet and blush with just the right amount of metallic.  The bracelet is backed with soft leather and has a big rhinestone clasp; definitely a statement piece.

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With all of the colors, I know that there must be something in one of my closets that will go with it. (Last year’s Easter dress comes to mind)  However, I wanted to make something to go with the dress.  I found this textured knit in periwinkle that was just so perfect.  The texture gives the dress a little something, something since it is a solid color.  They just compliment each other so well.

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For the design I wanted a fitted 3/4 sleeve dress (So you could see the bracelet)  I went with a simple scoop neck for the front, but left the dress needed a bit more.

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I made a V neck back, but after trying it on, I thought that the V had to go a bit lower, (like 4 inches)  It adds just the right about of drama to the dress without being inappropriate. (And I can still wear a regular bra)

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I was debating if I should wear a necklace with the dress, but have been leading towards no.  I have not been able to find anything that I like and I think it might take away from the bracelet.  However that is still up for debate, but I am thinking I will stick with the bracelet for now.

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Bridesmaid Blanket

1 Mar

We are going to start out with a math problem today. (Don’t worry, I have not taken a math class since freshman year of college so this will be simple.)


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Plus this

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Equals ?

What do you think it is?  If this was your answer then you are correct.

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So how did this happen? I few weeks ago, I had a client contact me that she wanted to turn a bridesmaid dress into a baby quilt.  The dress was a navy satin and the bride is now pregnant having a baby boy, so the colors where perfect.  A nautical theme was requested and also wanted to add a lighter shade of blue as well.

I went to Joann’s looking for nautical fabric, and found a two toned blue anchor print.  I also picked up a solid light blue fabric and a white and light blue checked fabric.  I played around with the size of the squares before deciding on 6 inch squares.  I cut out 7 inch squares (1/2 inch seam allowance) and then arranged the patter before sewing.  I alternated between solid and patterned fabrics.

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I stitched the pieces together, added backing and batting.

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The last piece was the green bow from the waist band of the dress that I tacked onto the upper corner of the blanket.

I had never thought of turning a bridesmaid dress into a blanket, (Which is odd considering I cut up all other types of clothes to make blankets)  But I always love new ideas and projects and think that this is a great idea.  After all who says that you will never use your bridesmaid dress again?

The Little Black (Backless) Dress

24 Feb

A staple in every girl’s closet is the little black dress. It can be worn to many events; weddings, funerals, cocktail parties, the theater; this is why it is a staple.  This is why I was shocked to find out that I do not have a large selection of black dresses in my closet (I have always been a fan of color)  Anyway that needed to be fixed.

I found a black lace applique back in the fall when I was at Fabric Place Basement.  As soon as I saw it, I knew that it would make for a great back of a dress, as the shape was spot on.

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Using the lace applique as a pattern, I cut out the back of the dress and hand sewed it to the dress.

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So I knew what the back of the dress would look like, but did not know what the front would look like. Since the back is a bit daring, the front needed to be conservative to balance out. (I am not as young as I used to be) Using a matte jersey, the neckline began with a few tucks at the shoulders, creating a draped cowl for the front of the dress.  I kept the silhouette a little loose, yet still form-fitting.

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I love this dress, there is something so simple yet striking about it.  Now that the dress is finished, I just need an event to wear it to.


Buffalo Chicken Wontons

29 Dec

I love buffalo chicken; wings, pizza, dip, I could go on and on.  So for my Christmas party I decided to make buffalo chicken wontons.  You will need:

  • 1 package of chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 cups of buffalo sauce (I prefer Ken’s )
  •  8 oz bar of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup of ranch dressing
  • 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 package of wonton wraps
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup of milk

Place chicken breasts in a baking dish and pour 1/4 cup of buffalo sauce over the chicken breasts. Bake at 375 until they are cooked thoroughly.  Using two forks pull the chicken apart so it is shredded.  Pour the remaining buffalo sauce onto the chicken and stir.  Stir in the cream cheese and ranch dressing.  Add the cheese and stir until everything is well mixed.  (If you prefer a spicy mix, add more buffalo sauce; if you prefer a milder dip add more ranch.)

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Lay the wonton wraps out and put a spoonful of the buffalo mix in the middle.  Fold opposite corners up so that the wonton looks like an envelope.

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Beat egg and milk together and use a pastry brush to cover the wontons.  (this will seal the buffalo mixture in)   Place wontons into a deep fryer for about 2 minutes, until golden brown.  Let wontons cool before eating.

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I made a lot of the buffalo mixture and also had some of the wonton wraps left as well.  I realize that not everyone has a deep fryer, so I made a version in the oven for the now infamous Christmas Eve.

Take a mini cupcake pan and place a wonton wrap in each one.  Place a spoonful of buffalo mixture in each cup and back at 350 for 10 minutes.

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Both versions taste great, presentation wise the baked version looked a bit better, although the fried version tastes slightly better.  (Doesn’t everything taste better fried?)

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You can fill the wontons with almost anything, I have tried a spinach and cheese version before and also avocado and cheese,  both were delicious.

Christmas Eve

26 Dec

Christmas Eve was going great.  I had purchase Marc Jacobs tartan 80% off from Mood Fabrics and made a fabulous pencil skirt. I paired it with my back sweater, Kate Spade tights and a statement necklace that used to belong to a celebrity.

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Courtney’s decorations looked nice, I noticed a few new ones.

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We went to Mass then back to Courtney’s for dinner.  I brought buffalo chicken wontons. (Only baked this time, not fried)  Courtney made pizza dip, arancini, and spanakopita.  Dinner was cavatelli (plain for me)  sauce, meatballs and sausage.

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Just as dinner was about to be ready, I walked from the kitchen to the living room when something bit my foot.  I stumbled and almost fell into the Christmas tree.  The family was saying that I need to be more careful, when I looked at my foot and saw a hole in my Kate Spade tights.  I looked again and it was bleeding. Turns out on of the nails from the hard wood floors had come up and punctured my foot. I told the family that I was bleeding and now they felt a little bad, after making fun of me.  I hobbled over to the kitchen so Mom could patch me up.  As I sat at the kitchen table, Courtney was yelling as I left a 10 foot trail of blood across her kitchen floor. (There was a lot of blood, it looked like a Law and Order crime scene) Mom tried to access my cut and thought that I could use a few stitches.  (However, since I got a new job, my health insurance ended on Tuesday, along with my job, so that was not an option)  Courtney did not have any first aid supplies, so Mom applied pressure to the cut with paper towels and eventually the bleeding stopped.  There were no large band aids, so Courtney took out the duct tape.  I begged Mom not to put duct tape on my foot, because it seemed painful, but my cries went unanswered.  So the penguin duct tape was holding my foot together, along with a pair of red socks.  It was painful to walk and I could not put my heels back on when it was time to leave, so I had to wear Courtney’s slippers home.  Dad did fix the nail so there should not be any more accidents.

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Dinner was a little cold by the time we finally sat down to eat and the garlic bread never got made due to the medical emergency in the kitchen.

The next morning, Mom changed the dressing to actual gauze and band aids, and confirmed that there were three cuts on my foot.  Two small cuts and then one large cut that was over an inch long.   I hobbled around for the rest of Christmas and drank a lot of wine to help with the pain.

The Kate Spade tights did not make it through the ordeal but is it looking like I will.  (It was touch and got for a little bit)

How was your Christmas Eve?  Was there any blood shed at your Christmas festivities?

Christmas Catastrotree Update

21 Dec

After my post about my Christmas tree falling over, I was overwhelmed by the responses.  So many of you reached out with kind words.

I went into work on Wednesday to find this on my desk, left by my coworker Karen.

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Two days later, I found a package in my mailbox.  Crocheted snowflakes with a note from Aunt Cookie saying unbreakable.

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Mom gave me a box of new ornaments . . .

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. . . and Dad somehow managed to salvage my baby shoes ornament

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I was speechless when I opened my hostess gift from Tracy at the Christmas party, the Minnie Mouse ornament that broke during the tree accident.  I have no idea how she found it on such short notice.

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All of this just confirms that fact that I have the best family and friends.  Thank you all