Month: June 2012

The Detroit Zoo

  Thursday, G, my mom, my brother and I all went to the zoo.  It was originally scheduled to be a trip that a couple of the moms from the moms’ group were going to come on with us, but as the predictions for the temperature climbed up above 95, everybody else dropped out.

  We still went because I’m cruel insane tough.  Also, I’d made the mistake of mentioning to my train-obsessed little boy that there was a train we could ride on at the zoo.  There wasn’t really the option of backing out.
  It was hot.  The official weather said the zoo hit 99 degrees while we were there.  Even the warm weather animals (like this kangaroo) were sticking to the shade and doing what they could to keep cool.
  Luckily there are lots of indoor exhibits so we were able to alternate between the animals outside and cooling down in the AC.
  Despite the heat, we had a wonderful time and I’m sure we’ll be back again soon.  I had taken G last spring, but several of the exhibits were under construction at the time.  They’ve done a lot since I was a kid!  I can’t wait to go back!

An Easier Way to Sew Sleeves

  Zippers are my least favorite thing to do when sewing.  Sleeves are my second least favorite.  Luckily, just like zippers, there is an easier way than how most people are doing them.

  The sketch on the top left shows how most patterns ask you to insert your sleeves.  Create your bodice, sew the side seam up, create your sleeve, sew it shut and then try and cleanly put the two together.  I’m pretty sure that the patterns makers chuckle a little thinking about how many frustrated sewers they’re creating when they put that in there.
  The bottom two sketches show the easier way.  Start by sewing your bodice pieces together at the shoulder seam.  Leave the side seam open.  Lay the two pieces flat and pin your (unsewn) sleeve piece to the armhole.  Sew together and then sew from hem to sleeve cuff (or the other way around) treating the whole thing as one seam.
  I do want to put a tiny caveat in here, that doing this does change the fit of the garment very, very slightly.  Basically, the way most pattern makers have you put the sleeves in gives you a hair more give in the armpit.  If you find that becomes an issue for you, certainly, switch back to the two finished pieces method, but if not, this way makes fitting in ease and generally fitting together two funky shaped pieces far easier.
  As always, please let me know if you have any questions about this.  And guys, please, please let me know what you struggle with in your sewing.  I’m starting to run out of ideas for tutorials!

Bruschetta Chicken Bake

  I love using fresh herbs in the summer.  There are very few things more delicious than a meal made with ingredients you grew in your own garden.  This recipe is a great showcase for your home-grown basil.
  Here’s what we’re making:
  Here’s what you need:
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (undrained)
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz chicken stuffing mix
1.5 lbs chicken breasts, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 tsp dried basil leaves or 1-2 Tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 cup mozzarella cheese
  Start by pre-heating your oven to 400 degrees.  The original recipe has you mix together the tomatoes, garlic, stuffing and a 1/2 cup of water and then put it on top of the chicken, basil and cheese.  I personally think it’s a crime to not have melty gooey cheese on top of something when it’s an option, so I mix together everything but the cheese, pour it into the casserole dish and top with mozzarella.
  Either way, toss the dish into your preheated oven and let it cook for around 30 minutes.  Once your chicken is cooked through, it’s ready to serve.
  G was a little iffy on this because of the large number of tomatoes (which he has recently decided he does not like) but the Mr. and I both enjoyed it.  It’s quite good with the dried basil if you don’t have access to fresh, but the home grown we used just made it out of this world.

How to Get Rid of the Pacifier

  I really didn’t want G to use a paci.  I held off and held off on giving him one (I knew that getting rid of it would be a nightmare), but when he started sucking on his fingers, his dental grandparents said it was a must (pacis are far easier to get rid of in the long run than fingers).  So here we are, G is 2-and-a -handful-of-months, and it’s time for it to go.
  Luckily, seeing this fight coming, we never really let G use his paci outside of his bed.  Once he turned one, it was a sleepy time thing only.  That being said, he’s really attached to it for sleeping.
  I’ve heard lots of great ideas for getting rid of it.
  •   Have your child put the paci in the mailbox and mail it to another baby who needs it.
  • Tie the paci to a balloon and have your child let it go.
  • Have the paci fairy/monster take the paci away and replace it with something else.
  Problem is, all of these options either assume that your child is at least somewhat willing to let their paci go or completely takes the decision out of their hands.  We had tried enticing G to give his up by telling him that if he slept without it for a week he could take the rail off of his crib (to convert it to a big boy bed), but the only response we got was sobs of “noooo!  I NEED it!” and after 3 days of our asking if he was sure he didn’t want to try for a big boy bed, he finally told me that no, he’d rather leave the rail on and keep his paci.  Back to the drawing board.
  Obviously at this point we had to find a way to make the paci less appealing.  I thought about smothering it in vegetables (as that would be a sure-fire way to make sure he refused to put it in his mouth) but cutting a chunk out of it seemed less messy.  We’d actually tried cutting a part of it off before this without success but this time I decided to take a pie shaped wedge out of the very front and then split the whole thing down the middle.  Works far better than cutting a hole off the bottom of the bulb.
  All the other pacis got tossed, so the only option is the “broken” one.  It seems to be working! Yes he struggles a little bit to sleep, but this approach lets him be the one to decide he doesn’t want the paci…and he has decided he doesn’t want it for several days now!  The paci is still there…we didn’t traumatize him by having it just vanish, but it doesn’t do what he wants it to anymore.  No tears, no drama…and best of all, no paci!

Jamaican Banana Fritters/Pancakes

  Who else has had a sweet tooth lately??  I decided it was worth justifying breakfast for dinner and trying out a new recipe.  You could, of course, make these for breakfast at the normal time, but I’m far too lazy to do that much cooking before noon.

  Here’s what we’re making:
  Here’s what you need:
3 ripe bananas
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4-1/2 cup milk
Olive or coconut oil
  The original recipe has you start by mashing your bananas and then mixing in the egg, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  I’m lazy, so I just threw it all in the food processor and pulsed for a few seconds.  Don’t try and use your processor for adding in the flour though…you’ll make a huge mess.  (Of course I’m not speaking from experience…why would you think I would be? *coughs*)  Once your flour and baking soda are mixed in, add enough milk to make the batter runny.  I needed closer to 1/2 cup than 1/4, but I also didn’t actually sift my flour like the recipe wants you to.  Because I clearly want my home ec teacher to cry.
  When your batter is ready, heat a few teaspoons of oil in your pan.  I tried both the olive oil and the coconut oil and was surprised that I couldn’t really taste a difference.  The banana really covers any flavor the oils might add, so pick your oily poison, it’s probably not going to alter your end result.  Get the oil up to temp over medium heat and scoop in a dollup of batter.  This is where you’re really going to see if you thinned everything out enough.  If not, just mix in more milk.
  Cook your pancake until it starts to bubble a little around the edges and you can slip a spatula under it easily.  It takes a few minutes.  Flip it and cook on the other side.  Don’t freak out if it looks like you burned it, the banana in the mixture makes these turn out a lot darker than normal pancakes.  I stopped one when it was perfectly golden brown…and it was still raw in the middle.
  As soon as you take your pancake out of the pan, sprinkle it with a dusting of cinnamon sugar.  You don’t technically have to do this, but if you’re going to go, go big, right?  We topped ours with maple syrup too, so we pretty much all went into happy little sugar comas after dinner.
  These (unsurprisingly) taste a lot like banana bread.  The Mr. and I both liked them, and G surprised no one by enjoying his as well.  This makes quite a few, so plan on feeding a crowd or freezing some.  I would estimate that we froze about half the batch.  Next time I make this I think I’m going to channel my chocolate chip banana bread and throw some chocolate in!

Continuing the Stuff Removal

  It feels like I’ve been doing this forever.  Pulling stuff out of drawers, off of hangers, out of cupboards and donating, giving or throwing it away.  We’re getting there though.

  Painting the kitchen has been huge.  We had to move everything off the counters, off the top of the cabinets and out of the way to paint.  Once it was all out of there, we realized, we kind of like it empty.
  It looks fabulous and it makes me want to get rid of stuff in other rooms.  I can appreciate the bowl of fruits and vegetables I set out this morning.  It doesn’t disappear into a pile of stuff.  It’s like art.  I love it.
  If you’re working to minimize the stuff in your life like I am, try and really declutter one room completely.  I can’t believe what an inspiration having the kitchen free of visual gunk has been.
  Take everything out and then question everything before it goes back in.  It’s far too easy to let clutter accumulate from habit of not having somewhere better to put it!
  Another (kind of embarrassing) way I’ve been encouraging myself to get rid of stuff is to watch “Hoarders”.  …I hadn’t seen it until a few weeks ago when somebody made a comment that it made them want to clean.  Now I’m addicted.  Not because I enjoy seeing other people’s mental illness, but because watching it helps me recognize the bad decisions I’m making when it comes to my own things.
  I said to my Mr, you watch it and you think to yourself  “oh silly hoarders, you have dead cats in your house!  I would never have dead cats in MY house” …and then later that day you pick up some trashy trinket or ball of yarn or something else you really don’t use or need and think to yourself “hmm, this is in my way, I’ll just put this over heeeere…OH GOD, that ball of yarn/trinket/ect is what leads to DEAD CATS!  Get it out, GET it out, GET IT OUT!!”
  It’s really, really hard to recognize that I don’t have all the time in the world to knit or sew or bead or cook everything I’d like to.  Having the occasional, easy to cue-up example of what happens if you really lose sight of how much stuff you’re capable of managing helps me.  So do the coping methods the doctors give the people on the show.
  I’m not a hoarder, but that doesn’t mean I can’t relate to the feeling.  I kept Boris’s anxiety medication for several weeks before I finally recognized that I was leaving it on the counter in some delusional belief that it could bring him back.  After watching the first episode, it struck me that I have more yarn than I will probably live long enough to knit…and that honestly, a lot of it is just stuff I’d been keeping because it had been given to me and I was “sure” I would find a use for it.  Apparently I’m just belligerent enough that I have to learn my decluttering lessons second hand!
  Anyhow, just wanted to check in with you guys and let you know that, yes, I am still getting rid of things.  This isn’t a fast process!  If you’re doing the same thing, stop by the Facebook page, let me know what is working for you and what you’re using for your inspiration.  I’m always looking for more help!

How to Secure a Polo Button that Pops Open

  Tuesday night I went through all of my warm weather shirts in the hopes of getting rid of some of the less flattering ones.  I’m a touch of a hoarder with my clothing, so I have to force myself to regularly assess my closet to keep from being drowned in piles of fabric.  Sewing new pieces all the time doesn’t help either.
  A lot of tops got tossed into my “to donate” pile, but I found that I had a several polos that, even though they were darling on (cute fit, great colors), I didn’t ever wear.  Lots of women struggle with finding buttoning shirts that button in the right place across their bust, but that wasn’t the problem either.  The problem was that the button didn’t stay buttoned.  Every time I put a seat belt on, every time I threw a bag over my shoulder, definitely every time I picked up G, the button would pop and I’d find myself flashing my bra at the world.
  Not really the makings of a “favorite top”.
  Luckily, it’s an easy fix.  If you have a shirt with a button that has this problem, grab a needle and a thread that matches your shirt and we’ll fix it!
  This method should work for button down shirts as well as polos, since we’re going to be securing the button hole at the widest part of your bust, but try safety pinning it just to make sure you’ll still be able to get the top on.
  Start by determining which button sits even with the largest part of your bust.  Use the knot free method to attach your thread to the back of that button hole.  You aren’t going to be sewing the two parts of the shirt together, we’re simply making the button hole itself smaller so the button is difficult (or impossible) to pull through.  On that note, make sure your button is already through the button hole!
  You should stitch back and forth across the button hole, pulling 1/3 to 1/2 of it shut.  This will let the button rotate normally, so you won’t get a weird pull between the two halves of the shirt like you would stitching them together, but it won’t let the button pop out.  Use the knot free method again to tie your thread off and you’re done.  If your button is looking a little shaky, re-enforce it (the right way) and you’re ready to enjoy your shirt, over-exposure free!

Lasagna Soup

  I think I may have missed my window for this recipe.  Soup was incredible, amazing, wonderful a week and a half ago when there was still a bit of a chill in the air in the evenings.  Right now, with the sun beating down and the AC running and the kiddie pool full of water, soup doesn’t sound quite as nice.
  Keep this recipe though.  Pin it, bookmark it or print it.  You want to try this when it’s soup weather again.
  Here’s what we’re making:
  Here’s what you need:
2 tsp olive oil
1.5 lbs ground Italian sausage
3 cups chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tbs tomato paste
1 28 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
6 cups chicken stock
8 oz spiral pasta
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 oz. ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp salt
pinch of freshly ground pepper
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  Start by heating your olive oil in a large pot.  Add your sausage and cook until browned.  Add your onions and cook until softened (about 6 mins).  Next, add your garlic, oregano and red pepper.  Cook for 1 minute and then stir in tomato paste (you guys know I used ketchup, right?) and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  Next, stir in your diced tomatoes, bay leaves, and chicken stock. Bring everything to a boil and then reduce your heat to simmer for 30 minutes. Add your pasta and cook until al dente.  The original recipe notes that you have to be careful not to over cook or let the soup simmer for a long period of time at this point, because the pasta will get mushy and absorb all the soup broth.  I actually cooked my noodles separately, but I think next time I’ll try cooking them in the broth.
  While your pasta cooks, prepare your cheese topping. Combine the ricotta, Parmesan, salt, and pepper in a bowl and set aside.

  Right before serving, stir the basil into the soup and season with salt and pepper.  Or, you know, entirely forget about the basil until you are garnishing and just sprinkle it on top.  Add a pile of shredded mozzarella and then top with your ricotta mixture.
  Everybody in our house loved this.  That isn’t a real surprise based on the popularity of my spinach lasagna, but it’s still always nice to find something new G will eat without fighting us.  The first few bites are a little disconcerting, because the flavor is lasagna through and through, but the texture is stew…but it’s delicious enough you get over it fast.  If you can get past the heat to make it soon, do it!

How to Make a Beaded Branch for Bridal or Decoration

  It’s June.  That means lots and lots of weddings for the next few months.  Today’s tutorial is going to show you how to make a beaded branch spray that you can use if you’re a bride or a guest.
  These look absolutely stunning attached to a hair comb, in a bouquet or as an accent on a gift package.  You can change the colors based on what beads and wire you have to reflect the occasion or the season.
  Here’s what you need:
Thin, flexible wire (mine is 28 gauge) 
Wire-working tools
Beads (I usually use seed beads)
  Start by cutting a really long length of wire.  I suggest somewhere around 3 feet.  The more “branches” you want, the longer your wire should be.  Fold your wire in half and slide a bead into the middle.
  Clamp your pliers a short distance (about .25″) below the bead and twist with your fingers.  Be careful not to get too excited about twisting, because if it gets too tight, the wire will snap.  Select one of the two wires, pull it to one side and create a bend 3/8″ to 1/2″ inch from the bottom of where your wire is twisted.  Slide a bead into this bend and fold the wire together.  Grasp the wire with your pliers where your wire joins the already twisted portion and twist with your fingers.  Repeat on the other side.  You should have formed a cluster of 3 bead “buds”.  Twist your two wires together a short distance below the group.
  Continue down your wires, pulling them aside to create bends that will become branches as you go.  I find that groups of 3 or more are the most natural looking.  Look to real trees for inspiration.  Don’t feel that your bunches should always all join together in even, equal length trios, go for some asymmetry!
  When you’ve created as many branches as you want, twist a ways down to create a “trunk”.  Leave some of the wire untwisted to help secure it to a hair comb, package or whatever else you want to use it on.  Bend your branches out into whatever shape you’d like and enjoy the extra sparkle!
  As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave me a comment, shoot me an email or stop by the Facebook page to say hi!