learning with lacey

I think I’m making progress. I’ve been analyzing other gals’ styles to try to figure out why certain outfits look good. Photos from these three helped me. Blog posts, magazine articles, Polyvore, and co-workers helped me. I’m secretly spying on everyone, wondering how to boil down the concept of proportion into something practical. I’m no Coco Chanel, but I’ve gone from this…

pink lace skirt, lavender rosette top, brown belt & boots, tan cardigan

…to this…

pink lace skirt, blue & white striped top, cardigan, sandals

…and this.

lace skirt and knotted chambray shirt with flats

Neither of these looks is an extreme makeover; I get that.  But I think subtle changes often make a dramatic difference because I can stick to them.

Right now I’m getting to know my proportions.  That process is  helping me discover what works–sometimes through trial and error, I admit.  What I’ve learned from Lacey (the skirt, in case you were confused) is not to fear my “natural waist.”  It feels funny to me to let the bottom half of my clothes cross over onto what I think of as the top half of my body.waist and natural waist

But the whole “halves” concept was part of my problem.  I was breaking my outfits into two chunks a lot of the time.  (See the first photo where the thick belt across my hips draws a heavy line between torso and legs.)

This new insight into my proportions sent me to my closet yet again.  This time I removed everything that, if I’m honest, I have to admit isn’t flattering.  (Then, because I’m a real human and not an honest-to-goodness fashion plate, I put back one pair of sweatpants, one hoodie, and a free T-shirt from the library.  There are those days….)

I’ll save the closet purge for another post.  For now I’d like to know how you direct your own fashion evolution.  Does seeing yourself in photos help you recognize what works?  Do you feel inspired to remix your clothing when you flip through catalogs?  Have you crafted a signature look?  Do tell….

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gorgeous gardens

I love, love, love the transitional seasons! Spring is in its full glory right now, and local gardens tell the tale beautifully.  So without further commentary from me:

my favorite garden--retaining wall, willow, mixed plantings

This is my favorite garden.  The mixed plantings look so worn-in, so deliciously random–I can’t get enough of s-l-o-w passes by this yard.

red poppies

The poppies pulled me in.

blue bachelor's buttons

But then there were the bachelor’s buttons.

white hollyhocks

And the hollyhocks.  From palest pink…

fuchsia hollyhocks

…to vibrant fuchsia.

foxglove

Demure foxglove.

pink roses

And a tumble of pink roses. Elsewhere in the neighborhood I discovered even more flowers too lovely to pass by.

clematis

Darling clematis.

yellow iris

Exuberant iris.

dark red roses

Another rose cascade, this one moodier than the first.  For a few seconds I felt like I was in the wildwood.  (See May’s book Wildwood Dancing.)  I think flowers like these would definitely grow there!

enormous red poppies

More red poppies, different garden this time.  These were SO huge!

burgundy iris

Finally, another unusually-hued iris.  By the time I noticed this one the sun was setting.  The sky began taking on richer colors–the same colors I was sighing over as I examined these petals.  Over my head, at my feet–it’s all a blaze of glory.  Stop.  Stare.  These gardens aren’t even mine and they’re still good for my soul.

foraging

I bought asparagus at the Farmer’s Market.  Yay, me: buying local.  Then I went off the deep end.  I foraged in the woods.  I ate what I found.  And it was scrumptious.  But I’m getting a tiny bit ahead of myself.

wild onionsI’d been planning a get-together with a friend–we’d agreed on a day, a time, and a coffee shop.  Then at the last minute she suggested taking a hike instead.  Wild onions are in season, she informed me, so we could collect some while we walked.  I was perfectly pleased with the change of plans, little suspecting how I would benefit.  But as I hopped out of her truck when she dropped me back at home, she thrust half the afternoon’s gatherings toward me.

“What do I do with them?” I asked, feeling that she, who knew what she was doing, was worthier to enjoy the harvest.

“Toss them in scrambled eggs,” she offered.  “Or put them in chicken salad.  They’re wonderful sauteed in butter.”

“Ooh, I’m making pot pie this week,” I said, suddenly realizing that this wild vegetable might not be so out of place on my menu.

Her eyes lit up.  “Yes; they would be delightful in pot pie!”  (To be fair, I’m not sure if she actually said “delightful.”  Whatever the adjective, it was a lesser-used one, spoken with such conviction and enthusiasm that I knew I’d be an idiot to miss my chance at experiencing it.)

Even though pot pie was on the menu for the next day, I immediately set about making the filling, just to get the onions into their culinary habitat before…they evaporated? spoiled? I don’t know.  They’re just tiny sweet onions, but for me, in those moments after unearthing them, they were magical.

baby onions on a wooden cutting board

I imagine you can see why.  I rinsed them, chopped them, and added them to a gravy.

onion gravy with whisk

Those little white lumps are the onions.  I’ll include the whole (admittedly loose) recipe at the end of the post.  While the gravy thickened, I set about adding some color to the mix.

carrots, onions, pepper, celery on cutting board

Those colors, all confettied, went in to complete the pot pie filling, which I then cooled and refrigerated to scoop into ramekins the next day.

pot pie filling

Atop the filling I dropped handsful of seasoned bread cubes.  I baked the little dinners for twenty minutes at 400, browning the tops and raising the bottoms to a bubbly temperature.  Mmm, casserole.  (Hubby loves ’em.)

pot pi es in mini ramekins

If you want to make your own, here’s the gist–feel free to substitute and improvise:

1. Make a white sauce by melting butter over medium-high heat. (You can use half oil, half butter if you prefer.)  Then, in a measure equal to the melted substance, add flour.  In other words, if you used 2 Tbs. butter, add 2 Tbs. flour.  Whisk until all flour is moist, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter is light tan.  In my case it turned dark brown because I quit watching.  As long as it’s not burned it’ll still taste fine.

2. Deglaze pan with alcohol if you want.  I used vermouth, but only because I was out of white wine.  If you do this step, cook off the alcohol before proceeding.  Give it two or three minutes, stirring.  Alternatively, you can deglaze with broth.

3. Add cold milk in a slow stream, whisking as you go.  Add a bit at a time, whisk, and let mixture thicken 20 seconds or so to check consistency.  (It thickens after everything’s incorporated.)  Keep adding milk until the substance is the thickness you like.

4. Add veggies.  I add my tough ones first and my soft ones later, so in this recipe it went: onions (for maximum flavor saturation), carrots, and celery.  I threw in peppers last and then, as I took the mixture off the heat, I threw in frozen peas.

5. Save filling ’til later–freezes fine–or transfer to a baking dish or dishes.  Top with seasoned bread cubes: oldish or dryish bread tossed in a mixture of salt, pepper, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese.

6. Bake until cheese is browned and edges of filling are bubbling.  Cool briefly if you’re that patient–otherwise, be careful while you eat!  Bon appetit!