Sketch, detest, modify, re-sketch

fashion designers salt lake city

Getting a sketch that looks great in my head also look great when I finally get it on paper always proves more difficult than I expect. My mind’s eye tends to be much more advanced than my sketching ability. This usually leads me to creating a sketch, hating it, spending three+ days figuring out exactly WHY I hate it, modifying the idea, then re-sketching. The cycle might repeat itself at that point until I’m finally 70%-ish happy with it. Cliche as it may be, I tend to be my own worst critic. But the definite upside of all the sketching and re-sketching is that it forces me to practice my fashion illustration skills. That and the feeling I get when I look at a sketch and finally know it’s right.

I used to hate sketching because I constantly compared my illustrations with others. If my sketches didn’t look perfect, I felt like it was pointless. Recently it dawned on me that my end goal isn’t fashion illustration. My end goal is fashion design. And, wouldn’t you know it, since putting less pressure on myself to be perfect I’ve actually been moderately happy with the sketches I produce.

Once I make my last handful of tweaks to my current fashion illustrations I’ll be starting the process of editing my favorite designs down to four to six pieces to focus on so I can start creating samples. While I can’t wait to have the finished product in hand, I’m working hard at being patient and finding joy in the entire process. Turns out developing patience as an adult is hella difficult. So, we’ll see how it goes.

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Salt Lake City winter farmers market

January is half over and I finally made it to the winter farmers market over the weekend. Eating seasonally is one of the few sustainable eating habits that actually feel doable for me, so I love seeing what’s in season at the downtown farmers market, even if I don’t exclusively do my produce shopping there.

Given that January feels particularly desolate to me, I was expecting the offerings at the market to reflect that. So I was pretty thrilled to see a decent selection of produce available. The winter farmers market is a fraction the size of the summer one, and that’s being generous. But because it’s smaller and less crowded I feel like it’s easier for me to pick out produce and even get to know the vendors.

salt lake city winter farmers market

As I was making my initial loop, I came up to Rino’s booth. When he saw me eyeing his produce he said, “What’s for dinner tonight? Let’s make a menu!” So now I officially have a crush on Rino. I picked up a bag of Brussels sprouts and he started giving me his favorite, simple way to prepare them. Then he did the same with a bag of beets. As I paid, he even handed me a printout for a recipe of Brussels sprouts with bacon and slivered almonds. I already can’t wait to visit him again at the next market.

salt lake city winter farmers market

At the other end of the market is a mother-daughter team. They were selling gorgeous tricolor carrots and I got to chat a little with the daughter as she weighed them out for me. Cutest pint-sized entrepreneur I’ve ever met.

salt lake city winter farmers market salt lake city winter farmers market

And, of course, I couldn’t leave without snagging a bottle of Bitters Lab Aromatic bitters from a fellow Cocktail Clubber.

salt lake city winter farmers market

Between the delicious local produce and the friendly vendors, there’s just nothing like a farmers market visit to start a weekend off right.

 

 

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A dinner party

late summer dinner party

It took me a long time to feel comfortable with throwing dinner parties because I worried about every little detail. Would it be too contrived? Like I was trying too hard? Or not hard enough? Would my guests have fun? Or just completely fall apart? Clearly I tend to overanalyze.

The thing is, I love to cook. Especially for friends. There is nothing quite as rewarding to me as sharing the food I’ve cooked with the people I care about. That, in the end, was what finally pushed me to throw my first dinner party.

Since then, I’ve only thrown a handful of dinner parties but I feel like I’ve learned a lot. Every dinner party teaches me something new that will help make the next dinner party even better. The first thing I learned was that even though I love cooking, I don’t love being stuck over the stove while my friends sip cocktails and mingle without me. I want to be able to enjoy the dinner party, too! So here are some things I keep in mind to help my dinner parties be fun for everyone.

Go seasonal with the menu

I’m a fan of eating seasonally whenever I can. And when it comes to a dinner party, seasonal produce is not only going to be cheaper but it’s also going to taste better with a lot less work. For my dinner party menu, I went with roasted seasonal vegetables as a side dish and sweet plums for my dessert. The veggies required little more than olive oil, salt, pepper, and a splash of balsamic to be delicious. And the plums required no additional sugar before being added to clafoutis I made for dessert.

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Dinner menu recipes:

  • Pork loin with wine and herb gravy – Recipe here.
  • Roasted seasonal vegetables – Simply slice veggies, toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a splash of balsamic before roasting at 400 degrees for about 20-30 minutes.
  • Lemon and herb couscous – Cook couscous as directed on box in chicken stock then tossed with toasted pine nuts, chopped parsley, a good squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper.
  • Fresh baked bread – Recipe here.
  • Plum clafoutis – I used this recipe as my base and just replaced the cherries with plums.

Make ahead where you can

This is definitely one area I still struggle with. But with every dinner party I get better and end up spending less and less time in the kitchen. For this party, I cut and prepped the veggies in advance so they were ready to throw on a baking sheet and roast when my guests arrived. I also chose snacks that could be made at least a few hours before, if not the day before. And I sliced the plums and whipped the clafoutis batter up in a blender the day before and just kept it in the fridge.

Always have snacks ready

I generally plan for the first 30-60 minutes of any dinner party to be for low-key mingling as people arrive. I always have a few appetizers available to tide people over until dinner ready, like  lemon and lavender shortbread cookies, goat cheese-stuffed dates, and black olive tapenade with toasts. I also try to limit my appetizers to just a few lighter options because I’m selfish and I don’t want people filling up before the dinner I’ve been working on is even ready.

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Appetizer recipes:

  • Lemon and lavender shortbread cookies – Recipe here.
  • Goat cheese-stuffed dates with rosemary honey – I used this recipe as the base. For the rosemary honey, simply about a tablespoon of chopped rosemary with 2-3 tablespoons of honey in a saucepan for a few minutes, then let it cool a bit before drizzling over the dates.
  • Black olive tapenade – Recipe here. Probably the easiest appetizer recipe ever.

Ask guests bring the booze

I’m notoriously bad at asking people to contribute something to a dinner party. I usually have the whole menu planned out in my head, so it’s hard for me to think of what a guest might be able to bring. My solution: ask them to bring booze! When you’re planning for anywhere from 6-12 people, wine and alcohol for a dinner party can add up fast! But if you have everyone chip in and bring their favorite adult beverage of choice you’ll have a whole lot less to worry about yourself.

Make smart, simple decor choices

With everything else I’m trying to put together for a dinner party, I try not to let decor stress me out. And I’ve found it doesn’t take much to set the mood. In fact, I focus on just three decor elements.

  • Fresh flowers: Even a cheap grocery store bouquet can be divided into a bunch of small flower arrangements and placed on the table and around the room. It’s amazing how just a few flower arrangements make a space feel really special.
  • Candles: It’s a well-known fact that overhead lighting is not the most conducive or flattering light for party ambiance. In addition to a few lamps, I like to place candles around the room. It adds a bit of light and there’s just something so cozy and intimate about candlelight.
  • Legit dinnerware: I hate doing dishes. It’s honestly one of my least favorite chores. However, when I’m hosting a dinner party I feel like it’s worth the extra work to use real plates, glasses, flatware, and napkins when setting the table. It makes the party feel a little less house-party-like in a good way.

All in all, I’m officially hooked on dinner parties. I’m already planning my next one. I’m thinking a sips-and-snacks take on Friendsgiving would be particularly fun. Any favorite hors d’oeuvres I should try?

 

*Note: Please forgive the poor photos. By the time everything was set out I had lost any shred of natural sunlight. One more thing I’ll try to do better next time!

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Rustic summer tomato and goat cheese tart

summer tomato and goat cheese tart

I spent the first 10 days of August in Texas for a work convention. The worst part about it (aside from not sleeping in my own bed and working 12 hours a day) was missing two — TWO! — farmers market weekends just as harvest season is beginning its peak. Well, I guess that and eating catered hotel food for over a week. Let’s just say by the time I got home I could not wait to pick up some fresh produce and cook something!

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