On the Bar Cart: Volume 1

bar cart

Since I’m always curious about what other people are drinking at home, I thought it might be fun to start a periodic series to show you what’s on my bar cart at the moment.

Here’s the current lineup:

bar cart

Gin

Ransom Old Tom gin

Letherbee gin

Whiskey

Rowan’s Creek bourbon

James Oliver rye

Old Weller Antique bourbon

Rum

Cruzan light rum

Kraken black spiced rum

Liqueurs

Luxardo maraschino

Rothman & Winter créme de violette

Cointreau

Etc.

Leblon cachaça

Letherbee bësk (and a ltd. edition empty Letherbee malört bottle)*

cocktail bitters

Bitters

Fee Brothers grapefruit bitters

Fee Brothers orange bitters

Bittercube wild cherry bark, Madagascar vanilla, and cocoa bitters

Angostura aromatic bitters

Not pictured (because we ran out of room, or it’s in the fridge or freezer): Luxardo bitter, Lillet blanc, Dolin red vermouth, Du Bouchett’s peach brandy (used in a NYE punch), Jameson, New Amsterdam gin, and some Death’s Door vodka that a couple of friends left at our apartment.

* If you live in or around Chicago, you’ve heard of malört: the bitter, herbal, grapefruity, liquor with a hairspray-like back-of-the-throat feel. Jeppson’s makes the original (from an old Swedish recipe, apparently), but Letherbee Distillers decided to take a stab at their own recipe, which turned out decidedly more palatable than Jeppson’s. In early 2014, Letherbee was forced to change the name of their malört after Jeppson’s won their bid to trademark the term. You can read more about that here. It’s more of a novelty drink than anything else at this point, unless you talk to the old Eastern European man who once told my boyfriend “Is good for stomach,” a tip neither of us will ever forget.

I love using my Grandma Loe’s old vanity table as a bar, but I’m wondering if it’s just too small to hold my growing collection.

Ikea Raskog cart

I recently bought a Raskög cart from Ikea, and I’m kind of embarrassed about how much I love this inanimate object. I originally bought it for bathroom storage (it’s doing a great job holding my toilet paper, extra towels, and face-wax strips), but now I’m thinking it could make a really great bar cart. Especially since it’s got castors. What do you think? Stick with the antique, or give the Raskög a chance?

And, what’s on your bar cart at the moment? Anything you’re saving up for? Let me know in the comments!

Deer and Doe Plantain T-Shirt

plantain t-shirt deer and doe

This shirt almost didn’t get made. Not because it’s tricky to sew; in fact, it’s a pretty easy make if you’re familiar with knits. The reason it almost landed in my scrap bin is that I carelessly snipped a hole in the sleeve when clipping down the excess seam allowance. Gah! After about 15 minutes of hysterics, I realized that I had more than enough leftover fabric to cut a brand new sleeve. Crisis averted—well, almost. Unpicking an entire row of zigzag stitches in a slinky knit proved to be very tedious, and the shoulder seam isn’t as smooth as the other because I had to sew it with a teensy seam allowance. Aside from those misfires, the shirt turned out just fine.

deer and doe plantain t-shirt

These are not my sewing scissors.

The pattern is the Plantain T-Shirt from French company Deer and Doe, who released it in January of 2014. You’ve probably already seen versions of this shirt floating around the Internet, and for good reason: it’s amazing! Here’s why:

  1. It’s ~*FREE.*~ And in the words of Deer and Doe: “Even though this is a simpler design that needs less pieces, it received as much care as all our others products: detailed instructions and testing in all sizes.” Eléonore, I like you already.
  2. The neckband is drafted perfectly. Neckbands on knits have always been a pain point for me, so I was a little nervous to finally attach this sucker, especially since the scoopneck dips pretty low for a T-shirt. Lo and behold, the neckband sewed on without a hitch, and it lies perfectly flat.
  3. The shape is flattering. I figured this cut (fitted at the shoulders and flared at the hips) would be comfortable, but I was pleasantly surprised by how the top skims and flows in the right places.
  4. You’ve got options: short-, 3/4-, or full-length sleeves. You better believe I’ll be making this up as a short-sleeve tee for the summer.
  5. Elbow patches, y’alls. I didn’t buy a contrast fabric, so I just cut the patches so their stripes would run perpendicular to the stripes on the sleeve. I love the way they add a little quirk to a simple tee.

deer and doe plantain t-shirt deer and doe plantain t-shirt

(Note: To take the picture on the right, I taped my phone to the window, set it on the Best Face mode, and jumped back with just enough time for it to capture this grainy photo. (I need a real camera and tripod.) Marc took the other photos, but as the sun was setting and we were inside, the colors are totally wonky. Stupid winter daylight!)

Minus the sleeve-cutting fiasco, construction was a breeze. I cut out a 40 (European sizing) and added about 1″ of length to the body and 1/2″ to the sleeves. Those adjustments worked out great for my 6’0″, size 6/8 frame. My material is a cotton/spandex jersey from The Needle Shop. For the seams, I used a ballpoint needle, stretch stitch, and my walking foot, which turned out to be an absolute necessity with this lightweight knit. I used a little bit of basting spray to attach the elbow patch the the sleeve before stitching to make sure it didn’t slip all over the place. I’m not sure if that’s kosher to use with a knit… but it didn’t burn a hole through my material, so that’s good.

deer and doe plantin t-shirt

I finished the neckline, cuffs, and bottom hem with my twin needle and walking foot, but the bottom hem still managed to turn out a little wavy. Maybe next time I’ll use some tissue paper underneath the fabric to stabilize it. Overall, I highly recommend this pattern, especially since all you need is fabric and thread. It’s the perfect stash buster, and it’s great if you’re a beginner wanting to test the waters with knits. Let me know if you make it, or if you have some surefire tips for wave-free hems!

grapefruit mimosa cocktail

Leftover Bubbly from NYE = Champagne Cocktails

Trader Joe's "champagne"

In victory you deserve champagne. In defeat, you need it.

Lore goes that these are the famous words of Napoleon Bonaparte, and apparently that little guy loved him some champers. The act of ceremonially sabering a champagne bottle is said to have begun in the Napoleonic era, during which soldiers celebrating a victory on the battlefield would use the dull side of their blades to remove the collar and cork of a bottle.

A couple of my (badass) recently married friends asked for a champagne sword on their wedding registry, so the guests at our New Year’s Eve party had the pleasure of seeing this age-old tradition in the flesh. Have you ever seen someone open a bottle of champagne with a champagne sword? The cork comes flying off, along with the lip of the bottle and a shit ton of bubbles. It’s pretty cool and exciting and festive (until someone slices their finger on the top—watch out for that part.)

But let’s get back to the booze. This season got me wondering: does anyone actually spring for real champagne these days? Marc picked us up a couple bottles of Trader Joe’s Blason de Bourgogne Crémant de Bourgogne, which the website describes as a sparkling wine that’s made using “exactly the same methods employed in the making of Champagne.” Full disclosure: I don’t drink a ton of champagne, or sparkling wine for that matter, so my judgment is based purely on taste. The stuff from TJ’s isn’t too sickly sweet and has a nice, subtle fruity flavor. Somehow we still had a bottle leftover after New Year’s Eve, so I thought it might be fun to whip up a couple champagne Crémant de Bourgogne–based cocktails. Enjoy!

grapefruit mimosa cocktail

Fancy Grapefruit Mimosa

  • 1 oz. freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1 oz. freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 oz. Lillet blanc
  • Grapefruit bitters (optional)
  • Champagne or sparkling wine

grapefruit mimosa

In a shaker filled with ice, mix the grapefruit juice, orange juice, Lillet, and a dash of grapefruit bitters. Stir until chilled, and pour into a flute. Top with champagne or sparkling wine.

French 75 cocktail

French 75

  • 1 1/2 oz. Ransom Old Tom gin*
  • 3/4 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. simple syrup
  • Champagne or sparkling wine

French 75

In an ice-filled shaker, combine the gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Shake until chilled and strain into the stemware of your choice. (I really need to buy a coupe!) Top with champagne or sparkling wine.

* You can make this with standard dry gin as well, but a friend of mine mixed these up with Ransom Old Tom gin before and they were delicious.

What’s your favorite champagne cocktail?

Linden Sweatshirt

linden sweatshirt

New Year, new garment—finally! But before I get into that, I’d like to wish you all a very Happy New Year, especially as we settle back into our desks at work and our single-digit weather here in Chicago. You’re not alone if you’re feeling a little blue, but luckily there are two simple solutions to combat your inner Debbie this winter:

1). Exercise. Seriously, get a sweat going for 30 minutes a few times a week and there is a 100% chance you will feel better and sleep like a baby.

2). Find a hobby (and stick with it.)

I rode the post-college emotional roller coaster pretty hard my first year after graduating, coming up just short of an existential crisis but with plenty of anxiety to go around. Learning how to sew was probably the number one factor in pulling me out of that funk. Any hobby will do, but sewing is great since you can tangibly mark your progress and actually get everyday use out of what you make.

So come this lazy, grim weekend, still feeling the after-effects of hosting a New Year’s Eve party, I turned once again to my sewing machine. I’d been neglecting it for the past several weeks, but with an afternoon free and Grainline Studio’s Linden Sweatshirt pattern at the ready, I got back to work.

linden sweatshirt

Like most reviews state, this top comes together very quickly, even without a serger. I sewed this up on my sewing machine (size 8 at the bust, graded down to a 6 at the hip) with a ballpoint needle and stretch stitch. The fabric is a sweatshirt fleece from Fabric.com. The one issue I had in construction was with the neckband: my initial band was way too short. This probably has to do with the lack of stretch in my material. I’m pretty sure the listing stated that my material has 40% mechanical stretch; the pattern calls for materials with at least 20% of stretch (or ribbing, which is typically very stretchy and pliable). I guess mechanical stretch and regular stretch are two totally different measurements? If you have insight into this topic, please let me know in the comments!

linden sweatshirt

I tried to eyeball a longer neckband, and then stupidly sewed that on without basting to test it first. Holy mother of god did that leave me with the most insane-looking funnel neck. I ended up cutting that off entirely while trying to preserve the original neckline as best I could. The finished neckband you see is some stretchy heather jersey leftover from my Hudson Pants, and I actually really like the look of the dark gray against the muted red. The neck doesn’t lie 100% flat, but it’s an immense improvement over my funnel monstrosity.

linden sweatshirt

I was a little worried about the cuffs and hem band also being too short, but those came together in a snap. I added about 1″ to the sleeves and body, but I think next time I’ll add 1.5″ to the sleeves and 2″ to the body for comfort. It probably turned out a little shorter than anticipated since my seam allowance was more like 5/8″ instead of the 1/4″ called for in the pattern. My machine was not liking that narrow seam allowance on fleece, and it angrily gnawed it up until I surrendered to a wider allowance.

So far, I love this pattern. I wore the sweatshirt out the first night I finished it, and Marc even said, “It looks like you bought that.” Yes! I’ll take that compliment when it comes to handmade basics. I already have plans to sew this up for a friend as a very belated Christmas gift, and I’ll probably sew another one up for myself soon. Have you tried this pattern yet? Any thoughts on fabric choice or finishing?

Cocktail Recipe Review: Easiest Eggnog Ever

easy eggnog recipe from Shake

A couple of our friends gifted Marc and me a coffee table cocktail book as an apartment-warming present, and it’s pretty awesome. Shake: A New Perspective on Cocktails is visually stunning: the photography’s beautiful, the layout is spot on (no surprise seeing that the authors are designers), and it’s got that type of soft, waxy cover that you just want to rub your face against. Please tell me that someone else in the world does this.

Shake cocktail book

The cocktail recipes don’t look too shabby, either. Most of them are relatively simple, using four or five ingredients, albeit occasionally rare ingredients like pink peppercorns or caper berries. The recipes are organized by season, so I flipped to the winter section and immediately found a stunner: The ‘Nog.

easy eggnog recipe

As a kid, I loved store-bought eggnog. Dean’s Ready to Serve Eggnog chug, to be exact. I wanted to love “adult” eggnog just as much, but the few times I’ve had it it’s been runny and not quite cold enough. This winter, I halfheartedly began searching for a decent-sounding spiked eggnog recipe, but I saw the words “stand mixer” a couple times and quickly gave up. Enter The ‘Nog. Instead of making your own custard, the recipe uses—wait for it—vanilla ice cream as the main event, shaken up with bourbon, dark rum, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The authors posted the full recipe on their blog last year—check it out here!

easy eggnog recipe with ice creamkraken rum and four roses bourbon in eggnogeasy eggnog from Shake

It helps if the ice cream is a bit softened before vigorously shaking it all up in a cocktail strainer. The recipe doesn’t yield a large amount—the book suggests using a coupe glass if that tells you anything, but it’s the perfect size for an after-dinner treat. Bottoms up, and go get a copy of Shake! (If only to rub your face on the smooth, smooth cover. But also for the dranks.)

how to style a knit skirt

Two Ways to Wear a Knit Skirt

One of the benefits of moving is finding buried treasure. Nobody in their right mind enjoys the laborious process of packing, cleaning, and carting boxes, so I’ll take a silver lining wherever I can get one. This time around—my fifth Chicago apartment in three years—I stumbled across a few forgotten gems. In the bottom what I like to call my Second Hamper, the contents of which hadn’t been laundered in probably 10 months, I found this Madewell Indigo Ink Sweatshirt that I’d scored on super sale a couple years ago. Chaching! It was like shopping in my own (dirty) closet.

When it came time to pack up my sewing supplies, I discovered a few cheap-o patterns I’d bought during one of JoAnn’s pattern sales when I first started sewing. At first glance, these patterns seemed pretty dull: a boring tote, some simple A-line dresses—nothing to write home about. And then I found McCall’s M6654, an easy-level pattern designed for knits.

McCall's M6654 sewing pattern

McCall’s obv. needs to work on its styling…..

I know, it looks kind of boring. But I’ve been looking to add another skirt to my winter wardrobe, and this run-of-the-mill piece fit the bill just fine. The pattern offers semi-fitted and loose-fitting elastic-waist skirts in seven lengths, from mini to maxi. I went with the semi-fitted view and cut out a size 14 (28″ waist; 38″ hip) at length B. Luckily, I had everything I needed already in my stash: just enough french terry leftover from Marc’s Strathcona tee, and some leftover 2″ elastic from my Hudson pants, substituted for the 1″ elastic called for in the pattern.

This was one of the easier projects I’ve sewn in awhile, and that’s saying something since I’ve been whipping up relatively easy garments all year. I used a ballpoint needle coupled with a stretch stitch for the seams and a twin needle for the hem. The fabric is pooling a bit under the waistband, which means I probably could’ve gone one size smaller, especially considering the decent amount of stretch in my fabric. That said, the skirt was incredibly comfortable even after furniture shopping all day, including a multi-hour IKEA trip.

Since I sometimes have trouble deciding how to wear a simple knit skirt, I figured it might be helpful to show two different ways to style one.

how to style a knit skirt

knit skirt dressed downknit skirt

The majority of the time, I’ll be dressing this skirt down, as I work in a very laid-back office and generally dress for comfort. Here, I paired the skirt with a tent-style long-sleeve top from Una Mae’s in Chicago. It’s got an interesting, flowing shape that skims the body and doesn’t compete with the semi-fitted cut of the skirt. Add some tights (a colorful pair would be cute) and a pair of casual boots, and this’ll take me anywhere from weekend shopping to the office to a dive bar.

how to style a knit skirt

knit skirtknit skirt

Look #2 skews dressier. The elastic-waist design makes this skirt a good candidate to pair with an airy blouse. I tucked in a semi-sheer printed blouse and threw on a wide elastic belt for a little extra polish. Simple black tights and monochromatic suede booties with a chunky heel complete the outfit. I could see wearing this to work in a business casual environment, or out to a restaurant with two or more dollar $igns on Yelp.

How do you style a knit skirt?

Sewing for Dudes: Strathcona T-Shirt

thread theory men's strathcona t-shirt

I’m a creature of habit. When it comes to cooking dinner, it’s either chicken fajitas or eggs and TJ’s pumpkin waffles (#breakfast4dinner4life). It’s not that I’m not an adventurous eater (bring on the tendon soup and octopus carpaccio), it’s just that cooking old standbys is quick, simple, and satisfying. The same can be said for my recent wardrobe purchases, 90% of which have been gray or black. For better or worse, this tendency toward the familiar has trickled into my sewing life.

strathcona teestrathcona tee

In keeping with my goal of sewing one item of clothing for another person each month, I bought Thread Theory’s Strathcona pattern to sew a shirt for Marc. In early November, I finally got around to buying the fabric: a french terry from Girl Charlee that’s a soft, stretchy cotton-modal-lycra blend in a deep forest green. I’d just finished cutting out the fabric to make the long-sleeve T-shirt variation when I spotted it: a long-sleeve crewneck thermal from the Gap in nearly an identical shade of forest green, taunting me from its spot in Marc’s clean clothes hamper. At that point, I thought about making the short-sleeve variation instead, but then I remembered I’d bought Marc a short-sleeve American Apparel tee last year in, you guessed it, a nice shade of dark olive. We’re defenseless against the power of the solid neutrals! So, a long-sleeve forest green Strathcona it would be.

strathcona teethread theory strathcona tee

Marc is 6’2″ and generally wears a slim-fit medium in shirts, so I cut a medium. The general consensus for this pattern is that it runs a bit long in the body and very long in the sleeves, so I kept the body as is and took a bit of length off the sleeves. As far as construction goes, the shirt came together pretty easily, although next time I’ll use my walking foot to keep things smoother. I think the walking foot would have been especially helpful when attaching the sleeves, since I ended up with some weird pockets on the shoulder seam and had to do somewhat of a hack job to get them to lie flatter. I could definitely use a bit more practice setting sleeves with a knit fabric. (Actually just setting sleeves in general!) Anyone have tips for that?

strathcona men's t-shirt neckline

The pattern calls for the sleeves and bottom hem to be finished with self-fabric bands or a twin-needle hem, so I went with one of each: banded cuffs and a twin-needle bottom hem. This was my first experience with a twin needle, and I’m smitten! I also used it to topstitch the neckband. It so easily adds a more professional finish with barely any extra effort.

And that’s about it, folks! The important thing is that Marc thinks it’s comfy and likes the color (duh). Have you sewn any garments for the dudes in your life? I’m not very familiar with menswear patterns, so any suggestions are welcome! Next up on my docket is the Linden Sweatshirt from Grainline Studio. Stay tuned for that, or a possible pre-Christmas sewing meltdown. Only time will tell.