Month: June 2013

Yoked Top- McCall’s pattern M6288 Finally Finished!

  Hoo boy, I almost missed the deadline on this top AGAIN.  The neckline and armholes are all finished with binding and…well, I sorta am the suck with binding.  A lot of hand stitching wound up happening to fix portions where I didn’t quite catch the back portion of the binding strip.
  Then, once the top was finished, the weather gods decided to not play nice with me and rolled in some big, dark storm clouds that meant my usual spot for doing photos was dark as night.  So, behold!  New, busy backdrop…since my porch was the only place I could simultaneously get enough light that I actually showed up in the pictures and not get utterly drenched.
  So if you remember my photo from last week, you’ll know that this started out looking like a tent.  I used the same size 10 that I did for the raglan sleeved shirt, so in theory, this should have fit.  Mucking about with the fabric type is a part of the issue, but to get the fit I wound up with I had to take 3″ off each seam…for a total of 12″ circumference off of the waist.  The shoulders fit beautifully and I didn’t have to alter them at all, but ooph…
  Now for the back:
  I mentioned that I wound up having to make the back a different color because I didn’t have enough of the yellow…and originally I was a little disappointed about it, but honestly, I rather love how it turned out.
  To make sure it didn’t look utterly disjointed, I used bits of the yellow for details on the cream.  Instead of splitting the binding into matching colors I finished the entire way around the neck and arms using the mustard color.  I also flipped the facing for the keyhole around so it would show on the outside, instead of having it just finish the edge and be tucked inside.  I’m rather a lazy ne’er do well, so I omitted the button and loop at the top of the keyhole and just stitched them together using the binding.  The neck hole is plenty wide enough that a fastener isn’t actually necessary and I didn’t have any buttons that I particularly liked with the fabrics anyhow.
  So I sort of feel like it’s not particularly fair for me to review this portion of the pattern since I changed, well, pretty much everything.  Sure, I had to make massive alterations to make it fit, but I suspect that wouldn’t have been the case if I’d have been using fabric that were even remotely appropriate.  The directions that I chose to follow were clear enough and, even if some of the steps (*cough*French seams*cough*) seemed rather time consuming for an “easy” pattern, they weren’t difficult to follow.
  I love how this turned out…I’m just not entirely sure what I’m going to wear it for!  The silk I made it from was all scrap fabric, so it’s not like it’s “wasted” if I don’t wear it a ton, but with 2 small boys “dry clean only” isn’t high on the practicality list.  Ah well…maybe our next date night.

Parmesan and Sour Cream Chicken

  Today’s recipe came from a broken pin.  The idea sounded great, but when I clicked through to find the recipe, there was nothing there!  I found a recipe by the same name elsewhere with the same basic instructions, but man I hate it when I can’t give credit where credit is due!
  Here’s what you need:
4 chicken breasts
1/2 c sour cream
1/4 c Parmesan cheese
Italian bread crumbs
fresh chives, finely chopped (optional)
  Start by mixing together your sour cream and your parmesan.  Spread it across your chicken breasts and coat the whole thing with a mixture of bread crumbs and chives.  Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for around 40 minutes, or until your chicken is cooked through.
  This isn’t a crazy flavorful recipe, but it’s a great way to get really tender, juicy chicken.  If you’re looking for something with a lot of complexity and mixed flavors, you’re gonna be disappointed, but if you’re just looking for a way to showcase some good chicken in a simple way, this is a great recipe. 

An Easy Way to Keep Sun Off Your Baby in the Car

  So I realize that I’m one of about 15 moms anywhere who doesn’t drive either a minivan or a SUV with tinted windows, so the vast majority of you don’t have this problem, but those of us who are stubbornly sticking to our “sedans” have a sun problem when it comes to our rear-facing babies.
  See, depending on the time of day and which direction we’re driving, sunlight pours into the back windshield, blinding our adorable little spawn…and, usually, making them scream bloody murder.
  I tried sunglasses with G (that’s him above, I didn’t chop my hair off again), but he kind of hated them and ripped them off as soon as I climbed into the front seat.  Not terribly effective.  I’ve tried hats, but they seem to always interact with the back of the car seat in such a way that they wind up entirely behind the boys’ head or totally covering their faces…still results in screams.  Blankets always seem to fall, and the little sunshade on the car seat itself is just a joke.
  Finally, I’ve figured out something that works and stays put.
  Crib sheets!  Tucked over the back of the seat and then over the headrest they make a perfect little tent that protects Jr. from a face full of solar lava, doesn’t slide off, and, best of all, are something you’ve already got.  Plus, you can slide it over to one side to make sure that no light leaks in from your door window and that big brother or sister can still see the little one.
  This has made such a huge difference in R’s happiness while we’re driving that I’ve started just leaving one of these sheets in my car so I can pop it on whenever we need it.  Too bad it took til my second kid to figure it out!

Chicken with Garlic Scape Pesto

  Well, after much saute-ing, soup making and general garlicky-ness, we’re getting close to the end of our garlic scapes.  We smell amazing.  I did have one last scape recipe I had to try though: pesto.
1 c Parmesan cheese, grated
1–2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 lb roughly chopped scapes
1/2 c olive oil
salt to taste
1/4 c hemp seeds (optional, but we added them in place of pesto’s usual nuts)
  Place all of your ingredients except for the salt and cheese into a food processor and pulse until you achieve your preferred texture.  Gently stir in your cheese.  Taste and add salt and more lemon as needed.
  Our chicken was simply pan fried and served with the pesto on top!  Delicious, and my understanding is that this pesto freezes exceptionally well.  I’ll definitely be stashing some away for those cold winter days when I’m just dying for something green.

Yoked Top- McCall’s pattern M6288 (A Work (Still) In Progress)

  This top is taking me way longer than I expected.
  First off, all the seams are French seams.  WHO designs French seams into a teen/young women’s “easy” pattern?!  It’ll be beautiful inside and out when it’s done, but French seams mean no serger, so it’s taking a lot longer.
  Secondly, there’s this:
  I know you love my sexy, “I’m a Thanksgiving day parade balloon” face.
  So I mentioned last week, I’m not using the “right” fabric.  This top is supposed to be made out of a soft, drapey fabric.  The dupioni I’m using instead is decidedly towards the “crunchy” end of the spectrum.  That means that instead of draping around my body like a soft, pretty toga, it stands out from my body…like a sheet of paper.
  I knew it was going to do that to some extent, but the level it’s doing it to is rather comical.  I want this to be a somewhat boxy, unshaped top, but, uh, not this much.
  I’ll be doing some creative altering of the side seams to see if I can’t slim it down to something more in line with what I have in my head.
  Regardless of how it turns out, next week I’ll show you guys the end results…and I’ll show you the changes I made to the back!

Garlic Scape Soup

  Upon hearing that I’ve decided to devote an entire week’s menu to garlic scape based recipes, some people might say in horror, “but the garlic breath!!”.  I call those people cowards.  Also, they should maybe not come too close to me or my man-types this week.  Just sayin, G may be the garlicky-est preschooler ever.
1-2 Tbsp butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2-3 garlic scapes, chopped*
a handful of fresh chives
2-3 c loosely packed fresh spinach leaves
~1 cup frozen green peas
~4 c chicken or veggie stock
salt to taste
whipping cream to taste
* if you have some bigger, tougher scapes, this is a good use for them since they get nice and soft and then blended.
  Start by heating your butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Saute your onions for a few minutes until they are soft before adding your chopped garlic scapes and chives.  Sprinkle a small amount of salt in and cook for a few more minutes until everything softens up.
  Next, add your spinach and peas and cook until your spinach wilts.  Add in your stock and simmer everything for 20 minutes to half an hour.
  Use an immersion blender (or a normal blender with a towel over the top) to puree everything til it’s nice and smooth.  Serve warm with a dollup of cream.
  What an awesome way to get your greens!  We served this with grilled cheese and it was a big hit.  The flavor reminds me a lot of creamed spinach (no surprise, it has most of the same ingredients) but was surprisingly not that garlicky.  Obviously next time we’ll need to use more scapes.

Clean Your Grout Without Harsh Cleansers

  Whoever chose the flooring in my downstairs bathroom was a sick, mean person.  White tile with white grout?  With hair as dark as mine, light floors are particularly bad, but I can’t imagine how anybody keeps white floors looking anything but filthy.
  Obviously the people who lived here before us didn’t try particularly hard; the grout was in pretty bad shape when we moved in.  However, I can’t exactly claim to have done anything about it myself until now.
  I hate harsh cleaners, and bleach is by far my least favorite, so I wasn’t entirely sure how to clean the now-blackened white grout without going out and buying something that was going to sear my eyeballs out.
  Thank god for Pinterest.  I wish I could credit a particular pin/site for this idea, but honestly it’s just something I kept seeing pinned and mostly ignoring…until I randomly decided I had to clean my grout rightnow and tried out what I vaguely remembered being recommended.
  I busted out my trusty baking soda and made a paste out of it with water like I do for exfoliating my face, except maybe a smidge drier.  I used an old toothbrush to spread it on my grout and poured a little bit of hydrogen peroxide on it before scrubbing.  I used vinegar to clean everything up at the end.
  You can see just how well it worked.  Only problem is, in my random decision to clean my grout, I didn’t take into account how long it was going to take me to do the whole floor…and if I had that amount of time (I didn’t), so now I have a patch of extremely clean grout…that makes the rest look even more atrocious.  
  It’s a good thing my Mr. didn’t marry me for my housekeeping skills.

Sauteed Garlic Scapes

  I’ve been growing garlic for several years now.  We use a ton of garlic in our cooking and aside from generally preferring to know exactly where our food comes from and what’s been put on it…it’s just nice having one less thing we’ve got to spend money on.  It’s crazy easy to grow, and now that we’re freezing a good portion of it, our haul lasts us almost year round.
  Every year at this time, I do the only thing you need to do between planting and harvesting and cut the scapes off my garlic.  Every year it seems like we’re inordinately busy and instead of trying cooking with them, I plunk them in a vase of water and leave them be, and every year I have one friend who looks at those vases with despair in her eyes and says “you know you can cook them, right?”.
  I finally understand.
  I have quite the haul of scapes, so there are a few recipes I want to try with them (which I’ll share of course), but the first is the quickest, easiest and is to die for delicious.
  I’m not going to bother with measurements…all you need is garlic scapes and butter.
  Honestly, I ought to have cut mine a little earlier.  The earlier you get them, the more tender they are, but, life interferes sometimes, so I just pulled the most tender ones I could find out of the basket.  Snip the long ends off of the end that would flower (they burn really easily otherwise) and toss them into a pan with some melted butter over medium heat.  Be warned, if you just cut them, they’re probably going to spit at you while they cook, but saute them for a good 5-7 minutes anyhow.
  The flavor is incredible.  It’s like garlic toast…without the unnecessary toast carrier.  The texture is somewhere between green beans and celery (with the larger scapes being more stringy like celery or asparagus).  …I kind of want to cry that I let the scapes go to waste these last few years!
  Because this was the first time I was cooking them and I was kind of in a hurry, I didn’t cook as many as I ought to have.  Every single one of them got devoured, and I’ll admit, G had to rather staunchly defend his plate to keep me from stealing some of his.  The garlic bulbs are why we’re growing the plant, but wow…I think these scapes would justify the garden space even if we didn’t get the bulbs later in the season.

Post Partum…what? Anxiety and OCD, PPD’s secret cousins

  This post isn’t an easy one for me to write.  I have no problem admitting to my mistakes and eccentricities, but I hate letting people see my fears…and oh buddy have I been dealing with fear.

  Two months after R was born I went to my doctor and began being treated for post partum anxiety and OCD.
  If you’re reading this, it means I’m feeling far, far better.  I’m starting to write it well before I’m ready to publish.  Hopefully I’ll be able to edit it into something cohesive.  I wouldn’t be writing it at all if the whole reason I went to see my doctor weren’t another blog post.  Owing my recovering to another woman’s bravery in talking about this makes me feel obligated to spread the information myself.
  I didn’t really notice what was going on at first.  I was anxious, I was irritable and it seemed like the “nesting” urge to clean hadn’t disappeared.  I kind of enjoyed the cleaning part actually…until I started staying awake cleaning instead of sleeping…and realized that I wasn’t actually keeping my house clean, there was just one set of cabinet doors that stayed spotless.
  Every time I had to walk down the stairs with R in my arms the thought that I could fall and crush him flashed through my head.  Every time I carried a pot of hot tea near him I’d picture it spilling and scalding him.  I worried that the hot iron half way across the room would somehow defy gravity and fall on and burn him.  Every time G would be in the same room I’d feel attacked and panic, unable to begin to control the number of things that a 3 year old could cause to go wrong.
  I ignored it.
  Of course I was irritable, I was adjusting to having two children to take care of instead of one, my hormones were all over the place and G was (is) going through an especially mouthy phase.  So I felt a little anxious.  Doesn’t that usually go with the irritability?  Especially when it’s being caused by a combative companion?  Ok, the cleaning was a little weird, but I’ve been trying to train good cleaning habits into myself, so if I fixated on those cabinets a little bit, it just meant the habit had taken and it was time to start focusing on a new task to add to my routine, right?
  I ignored it, because that seemed like the sensible thing to do, and because while I knew about post partum depression, I wasn’t depressed…and I had no idea that post partum anxiety and OCD were a thing.
  The evening before R’s two month checkup I stopped being able to ignore it.  My Mr. was gone on a work trip and I’d just finished putting down both boys without any backup for the second time ever and I was freaking out. When I was putting down G, I thought I heard R crying, when I was putting down R, I was sure I heard G.  Tears were streaming down my face and I wasn’t entirely sure why.   My Mr. and I had had an argument the week before and I couldn’t stop thinking about it, wondering if his trip wasn’t a “trip” and he was actually leaving me (despite the fact he was currently on his computer talking to me).  The to-do list in my head was a mile long and I was nearly hyperventilating thinking about how much I “had” to get done before I could sleep.  There was laundry to be washed, floors to be swept, mirrors to be cleaned.  I had forgotten to thaw the spinach for the lasagna I was planning to make that night and had fed G hot dogs.  Clearly, my head told me, I was a failure as a mother and a woman.
  As I freaked out to my Mr. he mentioned that what I was describing feeling sounded a lot like generalized anxiety.  I blew it off.  I’m not the anxiety type, I thought.  I don’t worry about things that don’t need worrying about.
  Well, I don’t normally.
  I lay in bed frustrated that night, watching the amount of time before I had to wake up and take G to school shrink, unable to sleep.  I had a thousand things I wanted to get done and I knew it would be far harder to accomplish them if I was tired.  Finally, somewhere in the hurricane of swirling thoughts, two pieces clicked together.  A day or two before I had read this post by Jill of Baby Rabies.  I had mostly skimmed it, because it’s essentially a product pitch and not one that applies to me since I’m not really a “city mom”, but the phrase “post partum anxiety” had lodged in my head.  It had stuck out for me because I had thought “huh, I wonder if she meant post partum depression”.  With my husband’s words in my head, I headed back downstairs to the computer.
  I found this post and then followed her link to this list of post partum anxiety symptoms, and I cried really, really hard as I recognized myself in nearly every one of them.  I sent my Mr. the information and asked that he gently push me if I didn’t call my doctor in the next few weeks.  I already knew that come morning I was going to want to sweep this right back under the rug of “I’m fine.”
  I got 4 hours of sleep that night/morning, and when the paperwork at my pediatricians office asked how I was feeling, I cracked.  I knew that if I didn’t admit what I’d realized the night before, before I lost the momentum, I’d feel like I had to hide it forever.  The nurse practitioner who was seeing R made me promise to call my doctor as soon as I left their office.
  I felt like a fraud.  Like a drama queen who was trolling for attention.  But as I talked to my doctor, and told her what I’d been feeling, what I’d been thinking and what I’d been doing, she reassured me that no, it wasn’t normal, and she congratulated me on recognizing that something wasn’t right and coming in.
  She prescribed a nursing safe anti-anxiety medication and as it began to kick in, it became painfully clear to me just how anxious I’d been feeling…and how badly it had been effecting everything in my life.
  Poor G, clever boy that he is, had been playing on my anxieties to get his way and was very confused when his previously successful tactics abruptly stopped working.  I’m trying really hard to not let myself feel too guilty about my treatment of him before I got help.  I was exceptionally impatient and short with him.  He’s 3, so he gets into everything and knocks things over and is generally wild.  I was afraid he would hurt himself and I was afraid he would hurt the baby and I was too freaked out to handle it in a reasonable way, so I was yelling at him constantly. I was on edge and angry and my bad mood exacerbated his misbehavior.  My mom has reminded me that parents can’t be perfect or their children will never know how to adjust to things in the real world, and I’m trying to keep that in mind, but nobody really wants a stressed out, scared, foul tempered mama.  Tellingly, G’s behavior has improved directly in line with mine.
  The medication takes a little while to work its way into your system, and there can be some weirdness at the start.  For me, it was my energy levels.  The first few days I felt wired and a little dizzy, like somebody had hidden espresso beans in my cereal.  The next week I felt like I’d been sedated.  Neither was particularly fabulous, but at least I wasn’t freaking out.  Everything leveled out within two weeks and I’ve felt pretty “normal” ever since.
  I still have to be careful.  A few weeks ago I sent myself into a full blown, gasping-for-breath panic attack because I decided to read an article about over-tired, overly distracted parents forgetting their children in their cars where the babies then cooked to death in the sun.  That was really dumb of me, but because I feel so much more like myself these days, I didn’t really think about it until I’d finished reading and felt like I was going to vomit.  I’ll be making a point of avoiding the news for a while now.
  It’s not like the medication is a silver bullet.  I still definitely get stressed out.  I still want to scream when G tries to pick a fight with me about whether I’m “allowed” to wear my hair in a ponytail (he has decided I’m not), but now I have the presence of mind to be able to simply say “that isn’t your decision to make” and walk away…instead of having a 15 minute argument with a 3 year old over MY hair.  I still feel tense when he asks me a million questions while I’m trying to drive in heavy traffic, but I don’t feel my chest locking up and my heart pounding like I’m having a heart attack every time we get in the car because I’m certain that discussing the one truck driving by is going to lead us into a horrible, fiery auto crash.  It isn’t like the medication has turned me into some incredibly cheerful Pollyanna…it has just made me able to function again.
  You might have noticed I’ve been slacking a little in the sewing and crafting arenas lately.  This is a big part of why.  Trying to do too many things all at once (hi, I’m Erin, have we met?) can make the anxiety worse.  So, I’m trying to keep things to a dull roar and keep my expectations about what I can and can’t accomplish in a day realistic.  Some days I succeed and some I don’t.  Creating is a huge part of who I am, and it’s a great stress reliever for me, but if I’m losing my mind because I don’t have time to finish an entire sewing project in a week and do my laundry, it just isn’t worth it to push myself right now.
  The difference in my mood now that I’m being treated is amazing.  Honestly it’s a bit surreal thinking about how I felt before because I feel so much more normal and in control now.  Every day I move a little further away from the panic and the yelling and a little closer to really, really being able to enjoy the boys.
  Admitting I needed help wasn’t easy, but I am so, so glad I did it.  If you’ve had a baby in the last year and you haven’t felt like yourself, even if you don’t feel “depressed”, please, please, read the list of symptoms…and if you recognize yourself, go see your doctor.  It still makes me squirm to talk about this, but if I can make it so even one other mom gets the information she needs to get help, I’ll be glad I’ve done it.

Yoked Top- McCall’s pattern M6288 (A Work In Progress)

  Well, it’s another week that I haven’t quite managed to finish a sewing project.  The combination of the warm weather drawing me outside and the boys refusing to nap at the same time has really slowed down the process.

  There are certainly worse things.
  That being said, I’ve started work on the other shirt from McCall’s pattern M6288.
  As happy as I was with how the raglan sleeved top turned out, I thought I’d give the yoked top (top right) a try.  I may get around to the cute little racer backed dress and the skirt at some point, but there’s only so practical short skirts are with little ones, and I’m trying to keep my wardrobe wearable.
  This one is going to be a bit of an experiment.  I had some scraps of dupioni silk kicking around, one of which was an awesome yellow that I really wanted to make something out of for myself.  Unfortunately there wasn’t quite enough to cut all of the pieces for this, but I’m going to do some creative piecing and integrate it with some cream dupioni.  I’m not sure it will hang how it’s supposed to, but we’ll see!