Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Deliciously Simple Recipe for Whole Wheat Bread

Quote du Jour
How can a nation be called great if its bread 
tastes like kleenex?
                                                                  ~ Julia Child

On a recent road trip

Look at the different languages on
these labels. It makes me happy

that our country exports such 
excellent products.
I stopped by Bob’s Red Mill in Milwaukie, Oregon to stock up on whole wheat flour and several other grains including ground flax seed. I had no idea that baking with freshly milled flour means more flavor!

Think and drive
Oil change
On the drive home, I got to thinking about deleting oil in my bread baking. Curious how replacing the processed oil with ground flax seed would affect the texture and flavor of my old whole wheat bread recipe, I tried it. Success, it's perfect!
Perfect texture! Oil? Who needs it?

Manufacturers have blurred the meaning of “whole grain”: their meaning may be fuzzy, inaccurate and disingenuous, but the FDA (Food and Drug Administration, the organization that recently classified pizza as a vegetable) lets them get away with it.

Tired of being confused
I Stopped Buying Bread
To control ingredients and tweak flavors to suit family tastes, I make my own. At dinner, I serve fresh, warm, just baked bread. To top it off, the whole house smells of delicious baking bread!

This Whole Wheat Bread recipe
makes a 2 pound loaf of bread.
Keeping it ridiculously simple
I use a Bread Machine
It’s so easy; I bake a fresh loaf every other day. Left-overs turn into bread pudding or bread crumbs. To make bread crumbs, whirl any left-over stale bread in a food processor, put in a covered jar or Ziploc bag and freeze. Oh my goodness, thrifty!

No bread machine?
Knead-by-hand instructions are included, too
But, to incorporate fresh whole wheat bread into our daily diet, I keep it simple and use a bread machine. Believe me, I end up saving money. Below the recipe, check out my Whole-foods Plant-based Cooking Strategies.

Recipe Notes: No special flours or ingredients needed. Just layer the recipe ingredients, beginning with liquids first, topping off with the yeast. To keep the yeast from contacting the liquid too soon, make a “lake” in the flour, then put the yeast in the “lake”.

To keep liquid from interacting with
the yeast too soon, form a "lake"
at the top of the flour.
Place the yeast in the "lake" and,
ta dahhh, you've got bread machine
skills. Take a bow!

Whole, Plant-based & Awesome Recipe
Whole Wheat Bread
Bread Machine Recipe: 3 hours and 40 minutes
2 pound loaf

Snap bread pan in place - make sure the paddle is properly inserted.
Measure then add ingredients in this order. See Recipe Notes.

  • 1 3/4 cup tap water
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seed
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 2/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
Close the lid, select the Whole Wheat Bread setting and press start.

Knead by hand recipe: 3+ hours
1-9X5 loaf

Into a large bowl, measure, add, then mix together all the dry ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seed
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 2/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
Add and stir
  • 1 3/4 cup tap water
Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes. As needed, add additional 1 tablespoon increments of whole wheat flour if dough is too soft.

Place in a bowl coated with cooking spray, turning once to coat top. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down; shape into a loaf. Place in a 9-inch x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 35-40 minutes.

Bake at 375° for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown. Turn loaf out of the pan to a wire rack to cool.

My food costs are low!
Whole-foods Plant-based Cooking Strategies: Bread
Eating whole plant-based foods does not mean extra work or money - just new habits and cooking strategies.

Making your own yeast bread saves money

  • buy in bulk at warehouse stores
  • for less than $5, you’ll have enough for dozens of loaves (at least 50 loaves)
  • store in a covered glass or metal container in the refrigerator

Flour: Bread Flour, All-Purpose Flour, whole wheat flour, etc.
  • purchase 25+ lb bags at warehouse stores
  • store in large covered glass or metal containers

Put appliances to work for you
Use a bread machine! 
Want to serve warm fresh bread at a meal? Use the Bread Machine Timer!
Decide when you want to serve the bread
  • Snap the loaf pan and beater bar into place
  • Layer ingredients according to machine’s directions
  • Select the baking option (whole wheat, French, etc.)
  • Set the timer based on when dinner will be served
Piggy endorsed! This is a great loaf of bread.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Fabrics of Our Lives

"Stories From Tohoku" Documentary Begins Airing on PBS Nationwide in May. Check your local listings. It's excellent!. KQED 9: Tue, May 20, 2014 - 11:00 pm

Quote du Jour
Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire fabric. 
                                                                                  ~ Richard P. Feynman
Fabric from an epic disaster becomes
A Japanese O'hime Doll
Watching a screening of the film documentary, Stories from Tohoku, I was enchanted by the O'hime dolls made by Japanese tsunami survivor, Setsuko Abe.

This sweet little O'hime doll tells a story of 
culture and survival.
Among many other things, Kimonos, a beautiful part of the fabric of Japanese culture, were mixed in the rubble from the March 2011 tsunami. Searching through miles of devastation, Setsuko found and salvaged many kimonos. 

She washed those that could be cleaned, and somehow a few families were reunited with their kimonos. With the remaining kimonos, she started to make little O'hime dolls. O-hime means "princess" in Japanese.

In the documentary, Setsuko Abe says each doll takes 50 minutes to make, all completely sewn by hand.

A third of a million people became homeless from the tsunami, many are still living in temporary housing. Thirty of Setsuko's O'hime dolls were available for purchase at the film's screening, with proceeds benefiting the Northern Japan Earthquake Relief Fund, supported by the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California.

The beautiful hand-painted silk fabric has a history I can only imagine. Who sewed the kimono from this fabric? What girl wore the kimono? Was this an antique kimono? Where did they live?
A very simplified sketch of how this special doll is made.

A close look at the construction of this doll yields another Japanese art form, Origami. Simply a lined fabric square, folded into a sort of envelope - just like paper Origami - the dolls' head is tucked into place, then finished with silk thread.

The Tag
A friend asked her Japanese mother-in-law to try and translate the tag. Roughly, here's what it says:
The back of the O'hime doll. The 
painted silk is truly beautiful.
● the date: "heisei" 23 (the current period in Japan) 3/11 
● omamori: which is a keepsake/charm 
it was a pleasure for her to sew this 
● she hopes that we carry it when we go to church/pray

Such a project seems to make the world a smaller place - we're members of a global community. Her keepsake is a treasure, and her hopes, honored.

To Learn More About Stories from Tohoku
Setsuko's story is only one of many in this documentary. To air on PBS this fall - stay tuned - I'll post the day, time and station when this information is available. 

● Watch
The Film's Website and Trailer
The documentary has numerous stories about people affected by the March 2011 earthquake and epic tsunami. 

● Read
Here's a link to a San Francisco Chronicle article:
Film Explores Aftermath of the Japanese Tsunami

Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California

The Film's Website and Trailer

It's remarkable that kimono fabric could survive the tumult of the tsunami. But what's more remarkable to me is that a survivor creates these lovely dolls from a fabric synonymous with her country - fabric that also survived the tsunami - and sends us a message of resilience, acceptance, patience and hope. 
Piggy is proud to give these O'hime dolls - made by 
tsunami survivor, Setsuko Abe - the closing of this blog.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Health: By Choice, Not by Chance

Quote du Jour
    In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments ~ there are consequences.
                     ~ Robert Ingersoll, American orator and political leader

Refreshed and Recharged
Engine 2 Retreat
With the great health benefits of plant-based eating, it's good every so often to take a refresher class. My husband and I attended the Portland, Oregon Engine 2 Retreat and it delivered!

Rip Esselstyn, author of

The Engine 2 Diet
Outstanding speakers, plant-based whole-foods cooking demonstrations, great food and interesting attendees, we feel recharged as we continue our plant-based whole-life journey.

Rip Esselstyn: Plant-Strong
After 10 years as a professional triathlete, Rip Esselstyn became a firefighter at the Austin Texas Engine 2 firehouse. His strength, vigor and stamina soon had fellow firefighters asking questions about his health strategies.

Firefighters are competitive, and via a challenge to eat plant-based for 28-days, firefighters in Austin's Engine 2 fire house experienced amazing health outcomes. 
 This book became a New York
 Times Best Seller. Rip recently
 published My Beef with Meat

Then came local, and then national recognition in the New York Times in March 2006:

Firefighters Gone Vegan? Even Austin is Impressed, New York Times, March 26, 2006

In early 2009, Rip published his first book, The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter's 28-day Save Your Life Plan that Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds, Hachette Book Group USA.
My husband, Mark Jones, pictured
with Rip Esselstyn at the conclusion
of the April 2014 Engine 2 Retreat in
Portland, Oregon.
Visit his website:

The Portland Retreat
At the conclusion of the weekend, my husband was asked to participate in a panel of attendees to share their improved health with plant-based eating. 

   Breakfast included hot or cold cereal,
   fruit, greens with salsa and a really
   delicious whole grain muffin.

Data Driven

I value that the plant-based diet is a scientific evidence-based diet. Rip's dad, Caldwell Esselstyn MD, author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, has his patients start each meal with cooked greens.

Visit Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn's website -  the URL says it all - at:

Meals Included
Rip had each meal begin with cooked greens and salsa and other sauces. At first it seemed a bit odd, then we began to love starting each meal with them. Crazy how our body does let us know what it needs.

As Dr. John McDougall says
It's the Food!
Somehow, you could tell that this was a guy's diet. Each meal - breakfast, lunch and dinner - included several salads and side dishes, and plenty of each. Folks piled their plates high with food! (Of course I did, too!!)

I piled my plate so high with food
that it's difficult to
 distinguish one
salad or casserole from the other.
It was all good!
Great Produce (choke)
As a Californian it's really difficult for me to admit this, but Oregon sure grows delicious strawberries. They are SO good!

Rip's mother, Ann Esselstyn managed the food service, and also spoke about strategies for daily cooking of whole-foods.

This little piggy ate roast beef veggies!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Strawberry Shortcake ~ Plant-based and Awesome!

Info du Jour
     Can you send me a picture of a strawberry tree? Are strawberries sold in 
     brown containers last year's strawberries? Is a sweetener applied to fresh 
     strawberries to make them so sweet? What are those things on the outside
     of strawberries?        
                     ~ FAQ: Funny Questions we've heard

Spring is Strawberry Season!
My dad enjoyed Strawberry Shortcake for his April birthday nearly every year of his life, which is why re-imagining a plant-based Strawberry Shortcake has been on my mind. It's been a delicious excuse to have lots and lots of strawberries!

I've made it a mission to come up with a recipe for a delicious Strawberry Shortcake made with a plant-based sponge-type cake, and think I've come close. Let me know what you think!

   A rustic, family-style plant-based Strawberry Shortcake, topped with 
  a favorite vegan frozen ice-cream-like dessert, my re-conceived recipe
  for this shortcake gets an A for awesome! And surprise - the cake
  doesn't crumble when cut - it's so moist! Did I mention, yummy?

A vintage linen tablecloth and 
a bowl of strawberries, ready for 
plant-based Strawberry Shortcake
 - yum!
My cake of choice for Strawberry Shortcake 
Sponge Cake
With all kinds of teensy holes to soak up strawberry juices, I love the texture that sponge cake brings to Strawberry Shortcake. Can a spongy texture be achieved without using eggs? 

My thought process...1,2,3
1. Leavening Ingredients Considered
  • Baking powder provides a "pancake" texture
  • Yeast gives a heavy bread-like texture
  • What about baking soda? It needs an acid to activate, for example lemon juice or vinegar. Because of the instant reaction between an acid and baking soda, if the cake can immediately be baked, it might yield all kinds of bubbles that could soak up the strawberry juices...

Juicy strawberries star in this 
deliciously rustic plant-based 
Strawberry Shortcake.
Will the shortcake taste of lemon or vinegar?
2. A supporting - non competitive - flavor
The cake plays a supporting role of soaking up and accentuating the juices from the star of this dessert, the strawberries. 

Baking soda...
3. Avoiding Volcanic Shortcake...
While it's fun to add vinegar to baking soda for the instant fizzy reaction, I need a controlled reaction for my sponge cake.

The internet helps avoid disaster
Since I didn't want cake-batter-lava flows in my kitchen, I googled vegan-shortcake recipes, and came across this cool website and terrific article (please note, as a Cal grad, I am refraining from commenting on UCLA, aren't you proud of me?)(Grrrrah!):

        Shortcake Science Science and Food, UCLA - the science behind 
        creating an egg-free shortcake.

I tweaked the recipe from the Shortcake Science article and switched all-purpose flour for the cake flour, replaced the oil with ground flax seed and warm water, and changed the baking time. 

The result is a moist, spongy cake, that absorbs the strawberry juices, and - nice surprise - holds together when you cut and serve. Plus - super important - it's really good!

Gently mix the sliced strawberries with a few
tablespoons of sugar. Cover, and allow time
for the sugar to draw out juices of from the
Recipe Notes: Prepare the strawberries several hours in advance to allow time for the sugar to draw out the strawberry juices. 

To avoid metallic or off flavors from metal or plastic bowls, I prefer to use glass or porcelain bowls.

Once the dry and wet ingredients are combined, the baking soda and vinegar react instantly. 

Have the baking pan prepared and the oven preheated, ready to bake the cake. Gotta retain those bubbles!

Lining the baking pan with parchment paper makes it easy to remove the cake from the pan. Although I used a spring-form baking pan, a regular baking pan works excellently. Here's how to line a baking pan with parchment paper:

         1. 8-inch cake pan, parchment paper, oil spray and scissors
         2. Spray the bottom and sides of the pan with the oil spray
         3. Fold the parchment paper in half, then in half again. Then
             fold into a triangle, and keep folding until it's too thick to fold again
         4. With the center point of the triangle over the center of the baking 

             pan, visually estimate the distance to the edge of the baking pan, 
             and trim with scissors - it does not need to fit perfectly. I like a bit 
             of the paper to curve up the corner edge of the pan.
         5. Place in the pan, then spray with oil spray. 
Maybe rustic is the wrong word.
Old-fashioned Strawberry
Shortcake, family style. Now,
that's what I mean!

To Serve: Top my Strawberry Shortcake with a plant-based iced topping - remember, it can't be called Ice Cream unless it contains cream. 

Check out plant-based (vegan) frozen non-dairy desserts in the ice cream cases at most grocery stores. 

I really like Rice Dream Vanilla frozen non-dairy dessert. It tastes like the iced-milk my parents would serve when I was growing up.

Strawberry Shortcake - Plant-based and Awesome
Serves 6 (or maybe 8 after a big meal)
Strawberries in a clamshell. Photo from
Robert Mann Packaging website.

       1 pint (clamshell) Strawberries 
       2 tablespoons sugar

Clean and slice strawberries into a glass bowl. Sprinkle with sugar, and gently mix together. Cover and let sit for several hours, to give time for the sugar to draw out the strawberry juice. 

Preheat the oven to 350 °F
1 8-inch cake layer - hey, one layer keeps it short!

  • Prepare the cake panShortening can be used to grease the pan, but I prefer to minimize the use of fat as much as possible, so I use oil spray. Using parchment paper makes it easier to remove the cake from the pan. See Recipe Notes (above) for how to line a baking pan with parchment paper. 
Dry ingredients
1. Mix dry ingredients together.
2. Whip ground flax and warm
water, then let sit 1-2 minutes.
3. Combine water, vanilla extract
and vinegar

     1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
     1 cup sugar
     1 tsp baking soda
     1/2 tsp salt

Wet ingredients

     3 Tablespoons flax, ground
     1/3 cup warm water

     1 cup warm water
     1 tbsp vanilla extract
     1 tsp white vinegar or apple cider vinegar

In a mixing bowl, mix together all-purpose flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk or whip the ground flax seed and warm water for 1 minute. Set aside and let thicken for 1-2 minutes.

Stir together water, vanilla extract, and vinegar. Add to the ground flax seed mixture and mix well.

50 turns of the mixing spoon and 
the batter is ready to bake.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients. Mix until most of the dry ingredients are incorporated, about 50 stirs. (Clear as mud? One turn around the bowl with a spoon counts as one!)

Pour the batter into an 8-inch round cake pan and bake for 35 minutes, until the surface is firm to the touch. Cool in the pan for 15–20 minutes.

I had way too much fun with photos...the instructions are also written...between the photo strips!
1) Cool the baked cake layer 15-20 minutes before removing from pan. 2) Remove the cake from the pan - the parchment paper makes this step easy. 3) Peel off the parchment paper. 4) Center the cake on a serving plate.
Cake Construction: Cut off the top 1/2 inch of the cake, and set aside. 

On the bottom layer of the cake, spoon about 3/4 of the strawberry juices over the cake, letting the cake absorb the juice. Spoon on about half of the strawberries.

Top with the 2nd layer, cut-side-up. Spoon on remaining strawberry juices and remaining strawberries.

1) Cut off the top 1/2 inch of the cake and set aside. 2) Spoon about 3/4 of the strawberry juices over the bottom layer (happy face optional). 3) Place about half of the strawberries over the bottom layer. 4) Spoon remaining juices over the top layer, and top with strawberries. I got carried away and sifted on some powdered sugar. 
Top with a dairy free ice cream, I really like Rice Dream Vanilla.

Delicious by itself, dress up this Strawberry 
Shortcake with a dollop of a plant-based
frozen non-dairy dessert.
Cartwheeling through California Strawberry Fields! 
 Photo from website.     

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Inspirations for Earth Day 2014

Photo from
Quote du Jour
We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. 
              ~ Native American proverb

Oddly enough, the overriding sensation I got looking at the earth was, my god, that little thing is so fragile out there.
              ~ Mike Collins
                 Astronaut, Apollo 11


Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet. 
           ~ Albert Einstein a WWll veteran, all I hope is that the sacrifices that were made in WWll, before and since, that the younger generation will take to heart what was done and the sacrifices that were made and the environmental degradation and all that was inflicted on the earth in hope that all of this was not in make a better world
            ~ my dad, Russell Wikander

Always leave a place better than you found it. ~ A family value

A tremendous sense of empowerment
A plant-based life contributes to a healthy planet
Besides being delicious, surprise! We had a sharp reduction in garbage when we switched to a plant-based diet. Slowly, we realized that the garbage can we set out every week was always nearly empty. We've composted food scraps for years. Now, without being aware of it, we reduced our carbon footprint! 

This single action - switching from meat and dairy to only plant-based food - is the most important change we've made to help our environment, our world, our earth.

My husband with our teensy garbage can.
Even this small size is never full. It's our 
recycling can that fills up!
What a beautiful world!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Asian Coleslaw Salad: A Plant-based Winner!

Quote du Jour
     Fat has a dulling effect on taste.
          ~ Cook's Illustrated Magazine, March and April 2013 issue, page 30

Oh yum, I got home first!
Colorful Asian Coleslaw is loaded with flavor!
I beat my husband home from a morning meeting, which means I had first dibs on last night's leftover Asian Coleslaw Salad. It's so good!

An Evolving Recipe
Beginning as Chinese Chicken Salad, my coleslaw recipe has undergone many iterations over the years. In 2009, when we converted to plant-based eating, I eliminated chicken as an ingredient. Deleting the chicken actually improved the salad, somehow, the taste was "cleaner." I renamed the salad Chinese Coleslaw. 

Because any fat I eat these days I end up wearing...
I decided to try make this salad without the vegetable oil in the dressing. Afterall, the salad oil could always be added back.

...why use oil if it doesn't add flavor?
It tastes terrific! Without vegetable oil, the bright flavors of ginger, soy sauce, pineapple and orange sing! I keep going back to today's Quote du Jour. It's true, fat blurs flavor.

Some of the fresh ingredients for
Asian Coleslaw Salad
This is the best version yet of Chinese Chicken Salad, Chinese Coleslaw, Asian Coleslaw Salad!

But first
What an odd name, Coleslaw
From Wikipedia: Coleslaw is a salad consisting primarily of shredded raw cabbage....The term "coleslaw" arose in the 18th century as an Anglicisation of the Dutch term "koolsla", a shortening of "koolsalade", which means "cabbage salad."

Recipe notes: A terrific salad for a picnic or potluck, and a cool salad for hot summer days, the flavor and textures improve while sitting, so make ahead. And maybe double the recipe for leftovers!

I like a chunky salad, but the look
of this salad can differ when the
ingredients are finely chopped.
Asian Coleslaw Salad

Main dish servings: 6
Preheat oven to 325*

    1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
    1/2 cup soy sauce
    1 tablespoon honey or agave syrup
    1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
    optional, 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Add all the above ingredients into a jar and cover with a tightly fitting lid. Give a good shake, then set aside.

    2 pkgs Top Ramen, any flavor (toss seasoning packets)
While still in the package, I hammer with a
meat tenderizer to break up the noodles.
     1/4 cup chopped almonds
    3 tablespoons sesame seeds

Break up ramen noodles while still in the package. Place dry noodles on a cookie sheet. Add chopped almonds and sesame seeds. Put sheet in the oven and toast to a light brown, 10-20 minutes, checking every 5 minutes or so. Remove from oven and cool.

Toast the ramen noodles, almonds
and sesame seeds to a golden brown.
   1/2 head green cabbage, chopped 
   1/2 head purple cabbage, chopped 
   1 bunch parsley, chopped
   4 green onions, chopped

     Your choice, fresh or canned:
         3 oranges, skinned and cut into chunks, 
            or 2 11-oz cans mandarin oranges, drained
         1 small pineapple, cut into chunks, 
            or 1 20-oz can pineapple chunks, drained

Add the cabbage, dressing, toss then serve!
In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, parsley, onions and fruit. Add the cooled toasted crunchies, toss with the dressing and serve. 

The salad only gets better as it sits. Any leftover salad makes a great lunch for the next day...if it lasts that long!

No cartwheels till I'm done!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Having a Fit with a San Francisco Master Tailor

Quote du Jour
     He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his
     head is a craftsmen. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is
     an artist. ~
St. Francis of Assisi

Signatures of a master tailor: careful edge
stitching and slightly elastic hand-threaded
loops to guide bra straps, Every stitch has a
purpose, each one carefully done.

Return to an old hobby
After 20+ years, I'm sewing again, inspired by the wonderful wedding dress experience with my daughter! Here's the story.

We started in the wrong direction...
One year before her wedding, my daughter found "the dress" at a bridal store in another city. Measurements taken, the dress was ordered. 

..said eeks to a dress...
Six months later when it arrived, it was too short. Somehow, my daughter's 5' 11" height wasn't included in the measurements. The skirt didn't even touch the floor. We are so grateful that store refunded our money. However, by this time, the dress was no longer in production.

Phoning around, my daughter found that a San Francisco store, Novella Bridal, had a floor model sample that was very similar to her original choice. Provided it was long enough, and if the dress could be altered to fit my daughter's frame, she'd have a dress. Novella put the dress on hold.

...then navigated to a happy place
My daughter's wedding dress journey now took a happy turn into a world of very special clothing and highly skilled sewing. 

At the heart of the dress experience...
Carol Chu, who would manage the alterations of the dress, was a breath of fresh air. Easy to work with and highly skilled, we felt so lucky. Through the fitting process, I enjoyed seeing how the alterations were done, and learned a lot from Carol, she knows her craft!

...a Master Tailor
Fact-checking for this blog, I find that Carol Chu has been named one of San Francisco's best tailors for 2013. Read the article, 12 Master Tailors to Trust in San Francisco at this link, Alter Egos-12 Master Tailors to Trust. 
My daughter with Carol Chu, head of
alterations at Novella Bridal, in
San Francisco

Carol Chu, head of alterations at Novella Bridal, received training in fine sewing and tailoring as a young woman. Her specialty is becoming rare as mass produced clothing and stretch fabrics have become the global norm. 

What fun to join my daughter at her fitting appointments. Novella Bridal's location, next to San Francisco's Financial District, made it convenient to schedule appointments before work. 

We'd arrive just as Carol was unlocking the door to start her day. 
Part of the beauty of the dress is how the
lace at the hem seems to float on the floor.

Hem and ahah!
Four sizes too large, but it was long...with an inch to spare! Can you imagine how this dress would look...if it was too short?

Beyond Fit: Shaping
Taking a close look at both the design and my daughter's shape, Carol explained that it's important to understand what the designer wants to convey in a design. The design must be shaped to the wearer's body. 

Beyond Seams
To achieve the designer's vision, adjustments may be needed at various places around the body, not just at the side seams. Carol brought my daughter's dress to life.

The Construction
Deceptively simple, the dress is the sum total of many parts:
  • Multiple layers of fabric, this dress has can't alter only one layer
  • Each layer is a slightly different shade of ivory
  • Some layers have a slight pattern
  • Lace is intentionally placed to create a design throughout the garment
  • A wearer's favorite undergarments are incorporated for shape, comfort and ease in wearing - nothing stiff 
Design Changes
Changes made to the neckline, front and back, were re-edged with the lace.

A red tailor's chalk line marks the changes to to be made to create a
sweetheart neckline. Notice the hanging lace, which will be reattached.
Pieces of lace are strategically placed throughout the dress, and 

edging the neckline and hem, creating a special design.

  The back of the bodice will change to a V-shape.
In stitches...
Though not on a diet, my daughter kept losing weight. Carol advised her to get a bacon cheeseburger...which she did!

My daughter's smile says it all. Finally the dress! 
Her dad takes this photo while Carol determines
where the train will connect to the dress for 
I can't remember how many fittings there were, maybe 4-6, each one with a purpose, and very enjoyable. Novella's bright, large and well organized work space for the sewing staff is an inviting place. I bet they have to wash their hands a lot...working with all shades of white.

...till finally...
Slowly, as the fit was perfected, the dress seemed to recede, and  the person wearing the dress came into focus. Clear as mud? The dress was not wearing my daughter, it was my daughter who was framed by the dress.'s "the dress!"
Carol's careful work produced a dream of a dress that fit perfectly, was comfortable to wear, and moved effortlessly with my daughter's body - almost like a 2nd skin - throughout her whole wedding day.  

I am so appreciative of people who take pride in their skills and their work. The alterations experience with Carol Chu was special and will forever be part of our happy wedding memories.

From the ceremony, to dancing, to hands up, the dress fit so well, that 
it moved like a 2nd skin throughout the whole event.

Creative Finishing touches...
As the mother of the bride, the whole alterations process was unexpectedly magical and inspiring. After 20+ years, I've taken up sewing again!

I'd never have imagined that my daughter's wedding dress experience would bring me back to a former hobby. 

And it's a whole new world! All the new stuff...sergers, stretch fabrics, gorgeous tone on tone cottons...YouTube tutorials...sewing blogs...I digress...

It fit so well, I bet the bride could have
cart-wheeled down the aisle!