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.

New Year’s Eve Fashion Advice in the RedEye

redeye NYE guide

If you happened to pick up a RedEye newspaper yesterday, check out the New Year’s Eve Guide insert.

redeye fashion article

My friend Lauren is a style blogger and contributor for RedEye, and she wrote up “Raising the Style Bar,” which features a little bit of fashion advice from yours truly. It’s mainly about how to dress like a disco ball, but with tact. Thanks for the shoutout, Lauren!

strathcona men's tee twin needle neck binding

Twin Needlin’

Winter has been cramping my style lately. It gets dark at approximately 4 p.m. each day, making it impossible to snap blog-worthy pics without resorting to hideous artificial light. That said, I don’t want to jump ship from posting for the next four months, so this post marks the official lowering of my standards for photos. Sorry, y’alls, but it had to happen sometime. (I feel the need to confess here that 99% of my photos have been taken with my Samsung Galaxy S 3 camera phone…)

I haven’t had time to take proper photos of a couple items I’ve recently sewn (men’s Strathcona T-shirt and a super-easy knit skirt), so I wanted to share a few detail images of my favorite new finishing/hem technique: the twin-needle stitch!

strathcona men's tee twin needle neck binding

Here, a twin stitch is used on the neckband of a nearly finished Strathcona tee for Marc.

opposite side of the twin needle hem

Here’s the opposite side of the hem of a knit skirt.

Why was I so terrified of using twin needles for so long?! It turns out they’re just as easy to use as a regular needle (just takes an extra second the thread), and they provide knit garments with a hem that looks less homespun and more RTW professional. I’m excited to have this simple finish in my small but growing bag of tricks. How do you use twin needles? Any tips?

Stay tuned for sewn garment posts, and try to stay safe on the road this holiday weekend! We had a slight mishap on our way out of the Chicago:

ht and run

Hit-and-run drivers are THE WORST #Chicago

This year, I’m thankful for my friends, family, and that we got out of that little accident completely unscathed. Happy Thanksgiving!

Homemade Apple Brandy and Rye Whiskey Cocktail

apple brandy and rye whiskey cocktail

Infusing booze may be my new favorite pastime. I’m not talking gummy bear vodka or Jolly Rancher gin or whatever one might find appropriate to soak in rum. A few weeks ago, I set out to make apple-infused brandy with freshly sliced Honeycrisps and Granny Smiths, cinnamon sticks, cloves, sugar, and some E&J. After letting it stew for about a week and a half, I gave the concoction a taste. The verdict? WHOA VERY SWEET. But also, Wow, this tastes like a grown-up, sophisticated version of an apple pie shot.

I strained the apple brandy through a sieve, grudgingly discarding all but a few of the apple slices. I munched a couple of them and they were tasty, but the side effect was some serious dry mouth—not worth it. The strained apple brandy, on the other hand, was totally worth the minimal effort and 10–11 days of patience. The only change I’d make would be to cut the sugar down a bit. It calls for 2 cups of sugar to 750mL of brandy, but I think I’d be safe using 1.5 or even just 1 cup next time. If all infusing is this simple and delicious, you can expect to see more fresh fruit, veggie, herb, and/or spice infused liquor on this blog in the future.

As for what to do with the apple brandy, it really depends on what you’re in the mood for. You can drink it on its own for a sweet autumnal treat, but I prefer to mix it with something with a little more bite. I think it’d be great with Four Roses bourbon, but the Rittenhouse Rye I had on hand did the trick well enough.

apple brandy and rye whiskey cocktail

Apple Brandy and Rye Cocktail

  • 2 ounces homemade apple brandy
  • 2 ounces whiskey
  • Juice of one lemon wedge
  • Dash of Angostura bitters
  • Apple chip to garnish

Honestly Yum’s recipe for an Autumn Spice Apple Brandy Cocktail gave me the idea for apple chip garnishes, which I adapted from this simple Food Network recipe.

To assemble: Pour the apple brandy and whiskey over ice in a mixing glass. Squeeze in the lemon and add a dash of bitters. Stir until chilled and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with an apple chip.

The apple chips are so simple to make, and the added cinnamon sprinkled on top really adds to the aroma of the drink. Cheers and happy freezing fall!

The Official 2014 Post-Halloween Sewing Report

sew your own Willy Wonka costumes

October 31 was a wet, blustery night in Chicago. After standing in vain at a freezing wind tunnel of a bus stop for 15 minutes, I gave up and set out walking toward my destination. Traffic’s always rough, but it seemed to be particularly awful that night. It turns out cars were gridlocked on north/south streets because Lake Michigan was throwing up 20-foot waves directly onto Lake Shore Drive, effectively shutting down that thoroughfare. Guess it’s not Halloween without some real-life terrors.

I realized too late that I’d created my own personal Halloween sewing nightmare. As I mentioned in my plans post, my intention was to make Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp Willy Wonka coats and hats for my boyfriend and myself, respectively. Don’t get me wrong, this shit all got done, but not without some moderate freakouts along the way. Somehow I thought that making two jackets and matching hats from scratch would be totally manageable if I chipped away at them each day. I failed to recognize that sewing items I’m not familiar with (jackets, nay, MENSWEAR jackets, and hats) would involve some practice and probably many, many mistakes along the way.

Purple Willy Wonka Coat

Even with a muslin, the first jacket I made (the bright purple one), was a bit of a doozy. I decided against lining the jackets since I wanted to minimize spending and “uneccessary” steps for coats that we’d probably only wear one or two nights. I finally wrapped my head around how to attach the collar and facing without a lining, but then came the sleeves. I didn’t adjust the ease enough the first time I basted them in, and they were a complete disaster. They kind of looked like this. I ripped those sucker out, adjusted the ease a bit more, and Frankensteined them into place. They’re still not perfect, but at least they didn’t make Marc and me immediately burst into laughter just looking at them.

Thankfully, the Gene Wilder jacket and hat came together before our first costume party, held the week before Halloween. I abandoned hope of getting my Wonka getup finished by then, but the makeshift Golden Ticket costume seemed to go over pretty well. Thank god for Blick Art Materials’ golden poster paper and stencils!

wonka and the golden ticket

That next week, I focused on completing the red jacket. Since I’d already hashed out some issues with construction on the first jacket, this piece came together much more easily. The lapel and collar sit flatter, and the sleeves fit nicely after the first try. It was strange wearing a coat tailored for a man, but I cut out a small (instead of the medium I cut for Marc), and that seemed to balance out a little of the bulk. I didn’t have to worry about length for once—the sleeves and waist were pretty much spot on.

Red Willy Wonka Jacket

It’s got pockets, too! The flaps wouldn’t lie flat because I couldn’t iron them (hot irons+corduroy=burning plastic smell), but it was nice to have a place to stash candy, gloves, and cans of cider.

pocket

I could go on about these jackets, but I’m kind of sick of them at this point. McCall’s M7003 served its purpose, but I’ll be happy if I can avoid men’s outerwear or red or purple corduroy for the foreseeable future. Come to think of it, I’d like to add camel and black felt to that list, too.

felt top hats

These unfortunate “top hats” were nearly the death of me. Marc’s was way too small and ended up cutting off circulation to his head. My black hat fared a little better, but neither really looked like an actual top hat. And the camel one definitely looks like something an 8-year-old Indiana Jones might wear. As far as construction goes, I pulled from a medley of confusing WikiHow articles and online tutorials, opting to use sew-in interfacing for the brim and flue of the hat. I wish I’d had more time to make a prototype to figure out how to keep the top of the hat from collapsing into the flue. Millinery is tricky, y’alls! That said, the felt and ribbon came out to roughly $12 overall for both hats, and that’s way cheaper than most decent-looking hats I came across online.

We also made canes by attaching cabinet pulls to stained dowel rods. Thanks, Home Depot! And thanks especially for not giving us a breathalyzer before we used a saw to cut the dowels to our preferred size…

Despite the sewing hangups and imperfections, I’m happy with how our costumes turned out. I’m also happy that I discovered how fabulous dancing is with a cane. Try it! Now that Halloween’s over, it’s time to move on to the greener pastures of soft knits, patterned cottons, and trying to figure out what the hell I’m going to make for xmas gifts this year. Do you have any giftable sewing plans?