Month: August 2012

Hand sewing til I Finish Cleaning

  So I’m pretty sure you guys are going to decide that I must not really want to sew that badly…I’m taking so long to get my room in shape…but events just keep conspiring against my plowing through it.  G won’t nap…or when he does, I need a nap myself…or we have guests…or, or, or…
  It’s still a mess in here.
  But, I need my sewing in one form or another, so I’ve started a hand sewn project for until I can get back to my machines.
  I bought the Alabama Studio Sewing + Design book a couple weeks ago and it showed up in the mail over the weekend.  This book is full to brimming with gorgeous pieces…all of which I want in my closet now…and essentially none of which will actually fit me until at least next summer.
  Maybe that’s a good thing based on how little I seem to be getting done lately!
  One of the things in the book that will fit me, regardless of how big I get soon, is one of those hats you can see if you click through the link.  Granted, with 80s this whole week and a high of 95 predicted for tomorrow, I’m not in need of a hat just yet, but part of what makes the pieces in this book so spectacular is the hand embellishment done on all of them.
  So, right now I’m using one of her less ambitious stencils and sitting with my needle, thread and beads and stitching away on my hat pieces.
  If I work hard I just might have this hat done in time for Thanksgiving.

Smoky Mushroom Stroganoff

  Little by little my appetite is coming back, and one of the things that has been sounding really good was stroganoff.  I was actually planning on going with a plain old, traditional beef version, but when I started looking for recipes this popped up.  Vegetarian!  AND it’s hearty enough it doesn’t feel vegetarian.  Excellent.
  Here’s what we’re making:
  Here’s what you need:
2 cups noodles (egg noodles recommended)
1 1/2 lbs mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
8 oz sour cream
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 cup vegetable/chicken broth
2 Tbsp butter
Optional: Sauteed zucchini
  Start by cooking your noodles.  Set them aside when they are ready and continue cooking your meal.
  In a (really) large saute pan, heat your olive oil and cook your mushrooms and garlic until the mushrooms are browned and releasing their juices (5-8 mins).  Scoop your mushrooms and juices out and set aside.  Melt your butter in the pan and mix your flour, paprika and some ground black pepper in.  Allow this to cook, stirring for about a minute before adding in your sour cream and broth.  Stir until the sauce is thick and bubbly (about a minute) and re-add mushrooms and juices.  Stir to combine and serve over noodles.
  This is a really great dish.  For the first time in weeks G dug into his dish without asking for anybody to help feed him, finished the whole bowl and demanded the leftovers for lunch the next day.
  It’s always a wonderful thing to discover vegetarian dishes that are hearty enough that they feel like they’ll still be satisfying come winter, and this one definitely makes it on that list.  The only alteration I’d make (besides adding the butter, which I’ve already written into the recipe) is to add some sauteed zucchini.  My Mr. cooked some up for our side dish and it wound up complimenting the flavor so well we just mixed it right in.  Adding more vegetables to our diet is never a bad thing!

How to Split Plants for Sharing or Transplant

  If you’re just starting to garden, you might not realize that with a lot of plants, there’s really no reason to buy them.  Aloe, succulents and most herbs all grow quickly enough that if you have a friend who has them, they’ll most likely be happy to share.  Some of the bigger plants, like lilies, hosta or iris take a little longer to need dividing, but can still be pulled into chunks to give away or to add to new gardens around your home.

  But how do you divide your plants?  The first group I mentioned, the crazy fast growers, are easier to do, because you don’t have to be as careful, but the basic premise is the same for any plant.
  I’m going to be showing you what I’m doing with mint.  If you’re worried about killing your plant with your first splitting attempt, mint is the way to go.  You CANNOT kill this plant.  I’m giving some to a friend before I mow mine to ground for the season to try and get it back under control and keep the bees that have been hanging out in it from taking over my entire herb garden.
  As a note, yes I know I technically should be pinching the blooms off my herbs and keeping it from bolting like this…I’ve been a terribly lazy gardener this year.
  To start, look for a natural break in your plant.  If you’re working with the less aggressive plants, make sure you’re not dividing them in the middle of their blooming season.  Try not to cut through any more stems than you have to.  If your plant doesn’t have any obvious divisions, roughly divide it in half.  If the soil around your plant is packed down, use a pronger (apparently the “correct” term is “cultivator“) to loosen it up, bringing your roots out of the ground.
  Again, if you’re working with mint, don’t sweat any of this, just dig the whole thing out and hack it up before throwing it into a pot.  It’s going to go crazy and try and take over the world no matter what you do.  If you’re working with a more delicate plant, try to untangle the roots to leave as many intact as possible before splitting the plant down the middle with the sharpest shovel you have.
  Once you have a nicely divided root ball, place your plant into a container for transporting or move it to its new location in your yard.  Cover it with dirt, making sure that you bury it to the same depth it was growing at originally and water well.  Enjoy getting two plants for the price of one!

My New Toy

  So I’ve been trying to keep you guys up to speed as I’ve improved my photography skills with my little point and shoot.  Without any doubt, the pictures from recently are much better than the ones I started with last fall, but I’d gotten to a point where I felt like I’d hit a wall.

  My Mr. knew I was getting frustrated and really wanted to move to a DSLR, so for my birthday he decided to upgrade me.  Say goodbye to ol’ pointy-shooty and say hello to this bad boy:
  I still have a lot of playing to do to figure what I’m doing with this much more fire-power, but already I’m in love with the shots I’m getting.  
This is actually the very first shot I took with the new camera
  As always, as I figure stuff out, I’ll share what I’ve learned…in the meantime, just enjoy the less murky-colored, better focused pictures!!

Crunchy Honey Garlic Chicken

  I finally did it.  With this recipe I FINALLY impressed my husband with my cooking.  That’s saying something, since he’s typically the master chef in our house!
  Here’s what we’re making:
  Here’s what you need:
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  2 cups flour
4 tsp salt
4 tsp black pepper
3 Tbsp ground ginger
2 Tbsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp ground thyme
2 tsp ground sage
2 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper 
4 eggs
8 Tbsp water
Honey Garlic Sauce

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup honey
ΒΌ cup soy sauce
1 tsp black pepper
  Now, there are a couple of different places you can start with this recipe.  We’re going to be pounding our chicken until it’s .5″ thick…so you can break out your mallet and start walloping away…or you can make your breading first.  The clump of ingredients in the middle is the “breading” list.
  As I was making this, I found myself gasping a little at how large the amounts of spices were.  I only cooked 2 chicken breasts, and I forgot to cut the breading amount in half, so the amount of breading I wound up was a truly, atrociously excessive amount…but even for the original recipe I suspect it will be a bit much.  Luckily, this recipe is delicious, so at least I won’t mind having the breading pre-made and ready to go in the cupboard.
  To make sure I wasn’t infecting the breading I wanted to save with salmonella or, I don’t know, mad chicken disease, I spooned it out of the bowl I mixed it in onto a plate with a bit of a lip.  Whenever I needed more, I spooned it onto the plate and was ready to go.  Lots and lots of breading left and no worries about food poisoning.
  Once your breading is mixed and your chicken is smacked around (it should be an even 1/2″ thick), make your egg wash (4 eggs with 8 Tbsp water) and we’re ready to start breading.  I found that a pie dish was perfect for my egg wash, since it gave me lots of room for swishing the chicken without worrying about spills.
  You may want to make your honey garlic sauce at this point.  More accomplished cooks, who can do more than one thing at a time, can probably handle making the sauce while the chicken cooks.  I made mine at this point so that my kitchen didn’t burn down.  To prepare your sauce, saute the garlic and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat until the garlic is soft, but not browned and then add the remaining ingredients.  Simmer everything for 5-10 minutes and then allow it to cool before you dip your cooked chicken in it.
  Heat a skillet with about 1/2″ of canola oil in it over medium heat.  Keep an eye on the heat as you cook as you want the inside of your chicken to be done cooking at approximately the same time as the outside is finished browning.
  Start by seasoning your chicken with any salt and pepper you might want to add.  Dip it in your breading and coat it well.  Move it to the egg wash and turn it so both sides are coated and then move it back into your breading, patting it on thickly.
  Gently place your chicken into your hot oil (careful not to let any spitting oil burn you!) and cook for about 5 minutes on each side.  I found that using a large, flat spatula AND a pair of tongs worked the best for turning the chicken without tearing off the breading or causing huge oil splashes. (It was my getting the breading evenly on the chicken that impressed the Mr., btw)  Drain the chicken for a few minutes on a wire rack and then dip it into the cooled honey garlic sauce.  Garnish with chives and serve.
  This chicken is incredibly good.  It was a bit more work than I usually put into my cooking, but it was well worth it, and having made it once I think it will be much easier next time.  Especially since I’ve already got the breading made up and waiting in the cupboard.  G and I shared the larger of the two chicken breasts and we were fighting over the last bite.  None of my Mr.’s survived to make “leftover” status either.
  This will definitely be going on the menu regularly.

Taking Advantage of Local Opportunities, or How I Spent Tuesday Watching Cars Get Smashed

  This week marks the 75th year of Chelsea’s Community Fair.  If I’m remembering/hearing the gossip correctly, it’s the longest running fair in Michigan…or the biggest…or something.  …I’m not really a “fair person”, can you tell?

  Neither my Mr. or I were ever the 4H type of kids, so neither of us quite “get” the fair.  I find looking at the animals interesting for a few minutes, but I’m not going to be in the livestock barn noting the finer points of the critters’ upbringing.  I’m more likely to be the one standing somewhat uncomfortably back from the pen saying “yup…that’s a pig…”.
  …but one of my good friends from the mom’s group I started works on cars for the destruction derby with her husband, so I decided to haul the critter over and see what he thought.  (The Mr. got left at home to cook us dinner).
  You may look at this picture and think he wasn’t enjoying himself much.  You’d be dead wrong.
  We stayed for 4 races…a full hour past his usual bedtime at the racetrack…and when I asked him if he was ready to go home and have dinner with Daddy, he said “No!” and begged to stay until the tractors finished pushing all the cars out of the rink.
  I’ve never seen him so excited about anything as when he describes how the cars crashed into each other and “broke their lights off”.
  If you’ve never been to a destruction derby (I hadn’t), the basic concept is this: a dozen or so cars, usually old, mostly metal, stripped down cars are put into an arena the size of about half a football field.  They then proceed to run into each other until the tires fall off, the body gets in the way of their moving forward or something in the engine goes.  It’s a little like jousting, but in Cadillacs.
  I’m sure sitting next to an expert helped, but I couldn’t believe how much fun we had.  We didn’t wind up going back for the derbies the other nights, simply because it messed up bedtime too badly (both for G and my sleepy self), but I’m so glad we made the decision to go at least one night.
  …it does make me wonder how many other things I’ve written off as “not my thing” that I’m missing out on.  As a parent it can be really hard to not force our own personal likes and dislikes onto our children, but I think that it’s important to do our best to let them explore as many facets of the world as possible.   And hey, you never know where your little one (or you!) will find their next passion!

For My Little Prince- Felt Toddler Crown

  New office/sewing space is still kind of a wreck.  I’m not making a whole lot of progress because my body has been desperately begging me for sleep, so instead of getting anything done during G’s naps I’ve been taking one myself.

  That being said, I have done a little sewing this week.  I’d gotten a couple of patterns from Megan Nielsen’s maternity shop and cut out some charcoal grey knit for this top.  I’ll have to rethread my serger before I’m able to sew it up, but since I kind of hate cutting out patterns, the hard part is done!
  The other project from this week was a super quick one for G:
  We went to a community kids’ fair at one of our local parks and G had made himself a paper crown.  He was having lots of fun running around the house in it, but, being paper, it wasn’t holding up so well.  I decided a felt one would be just the thing.
  For mine I un-stapled the crown he had made and used it as a template, but using a head measurement and just marking even dividers for your peaks would be nearly as easy.  Mine is two layers of felt, folded over at the edge that hits the tops of his ears and then sewn along the jagged, peak edge.  The two layers make it a little tougher and give the spikes some more body so they stand up straight.
  He has decided that it needs more “shiny parts”, so I may have to find some rhinestones or something to stick onto it, but I’m hoping it will be getting lots of wear!

Mango Basil Pizza with Chicken

  Score one more for “weird things my kid loves”.  G adores this pizza…just don’t tell him that it has mango on it.  In this household it’s called “yellow grandma fruit” or it’s regarded as an attempt at poisoning.  Strange little monkey I have.
  Here’s what we’re making:
  The original recipe for this is vegetarian…and it’s delicious that way, but with me doing the whole “growing a person” thing…and also the “not even being able to look at food for part of the day” thing, we decided adding in some extra protein was a good idea.
  Here’s what you need:
4 small tortilla shells
1/2 cup tomato sauce or pizza sauce
1 cup shredded cheese
1/3 cup diced mango
2 tablespoons chopped dried or fresh basil (note that dried is stronger tasting)
  For the chicken:
1 chicken breast, cut into 3/4″ cubes
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp Lime Juice
1/2 tsp black pepper
a few dashes of hot sauce
1 tsp garlic salt
1.5 tsp ground all spice
1 Tbsp neutral oil (I used Walnut, but Corn/Veg./Canola would also work)
  If you’ll be adding your chicken, start by cooking it on the stove top.  Prepare your pizzas, using your tortillas as your crust, layering on your tomato sauce and topping with cheese, mango, basil and chicken.  Make sure you leave yourself a bit of space between your toppings and the edge of the tortilla…cheese will spread out when it melts.
  Place your pizzas on a foil lined baking sheet in a preheated 425 degree oven and allow to cook for about 10 minutes, or until your cheese is melted.
  Don’t let the slightly unusual toppings throw you…if you’ve ever had pineapple on a pizza, you know the basic flavor the mango will be adding to the mix.  Like I said, G loves this recipe and always demands the leftovers for lunch the next day.  The tortilla shell as the crust makes this a lot less carb heavy than normal pizza, which is great since his usual meals if given the choice are “bread” or “bagels”.  And as for me…well, we’ve already talked about my pizza addiction

How to Make Your First Blanket Look Like You Knew What You Were Doing

  I love making things myself (I’m sure none of you had noticed).  Making something by hand means you get to control all aspects of it…the color, the texture, the pattern…but if there’s one thing that I struggle with in making my own things, it’s this: I don’t want them to look like they were made by someone who’d never done this before.

  Sometimes it’s unavoidable.  You’re not going to be making a perfectly fitted ball gown the first time you touch a sewing machine, it takes practice!  But every once in a while you get lucky and find a way to make something so wonderful and yet so simple that you CAN do it on the first try.
  This blanket is one of those projects.  If you can do a single crochet stitch you can make this…and make it gorgeous.
  The key is to use thick, multicolored yarn.  I have serious envy over all the projects that get done over at the Purl Bee, but they are inevitably using wool or cashmere, expensive, dry clean only yarns.  We’re too hard on our things for dry clean only and I’m too cheap to drop $500 on yarn for a blanket anyhow.  I used inexpensive Lion Brand Homespun yarn.  It’s acrylic, so you can (and I do, regularly) just throw it in the washer and dryer.  Because it has variations within the skeins, your blanket winds up with subtle striping and you don’t have to worry much about dye lot numbers.
After at least 3 years of washing…these only get softer
  The whole blanket is done with rows and rows of single crochet stitch.  Obviously this is a tv-watching project, but it usually goes much more quickly than you’d expect since it’s so repetitive and simple.  Even with a fairly large crochet hook (9 or 10 mm) you wind up with a nice, dense blanket.  I’ve made at least 5 of these at this point and they’re on all of our beds, in my parents living room and draped across my couch.  You won’t find a warmer blanket, and if you’re a fan of heavy bedding, you’re in luck…these weigh a ton.
  My favorite thing about crochet is that you can see your entire project while you work on it.  Nothing gets bunched up on the needles or flipped inside out and what-not.  I don’t bother measuring or counting stitches when I make these…I simply make my first row of chaining long enough to stretch across the bed I’ll be using it on and then turn to start my second row.
  No counting, no having to buy huge amounts of supplies at the start, no fancy stitches and an end product that looks and feels downright impressive.  I love projects like this!

The Tutorial is Up!

  All my sewers who’ve been patiently waiting for my swing shirt tutorial, it’s ready!!  Click on through to Sew Mama Sew and have fun making your own!
  Any new readers who’ve stopped by from the tutorial, welcome!  You can find my sewing posts here, but feel free to explore!  I also post crafts, gardening, organizing and recipes!  I also yammer on Twitter as @gcbkids, so leave me a comment, send me an email ( or tweet at me, I’d love to hear from you!