Month: December 2013

McCall’s M6442- A Completed “Muslin”

  Just in time to wear for Christmas, I finished my “muslin” of the McCall’s M6442 coat!  It’s fabulously comfy and I got lots of compliments.
  I did wind up making quite a few modifications to this pattern.  First and foremost, my long torso needed an extra 2″ length to get the waist where it was supposed to be.  That oughtn’t be a problem for the average person…but my torso is anything but average.
  The rest of the alterations were to the sleeves.  I was using version B of the coat, because I really liked the hood and the longer skirt…I did not like the cuffs though.  It was easy enough to swap in the un-cuffed sleeves, but I noticed they seemed a little short…and like they weren’t going to have any facing at the cuff.  I really don’t like it when my homemade stuff looks homemade, and I think having the lining coming right to the fold of sleeve cuffs is a huge giveaway in that regard.  I used the same basic method that’s used on the opening of the jacket and stitched narrow bands of blue on top of the lining for the sleeves before attaching them to the outer portion.  This way there’s about an inch of blue inside each cuff before you see the flannel.  Much more finished looking.
  The other alteration to the sleeves was to make them narrower.  I stitched them up the way the pattern outlined, turned the lining to the inside and tried it on.  They were HUGE.  It made the jacket look incredibly frumpy.  Luckily, since I hadn’t sewn the lining in just yet, it was easy enough to flip everything inside out again and take them in.  I wound up taking 2.5″ off of each sleeve.  You can see the difference in the picture below.  The sleeve on the left of the picture is the original width, the sleeve on the right is fitted.  …I ought to have belted the jacket to keep it out of the way so you can see how much tighter it is around the elbow, but you can see the difference at the cuff.
  All in all, once I made the modifications, I’m pleased with this pattern and am looking forward to making my next version (as soon as I can get the guts to cut into that fabric!)

Time Off to Enjoy the Season

  Wanted to let my early-morning (and afternoon and late evening!) devotees out there know, I’m going to be taking a break from posting to enjoy the holidays with my friends and family.  This time of year gets far too overwhelming far too easily, and I want to be certain my kiddos remember this as a time when we made cookies with Grandma, and looked at Christmas lights, and hung out and had hot chocolate, not as one when Mom was pulling her hair out from trying to do eleventy billion things at once.
  I’ll be around if you have any questions, or just want to say hi, but I’m going to give myself a pass on getting any projects done “on time” til after New Years.
  Here’s wishing you and yours a wonderful, warm and happy holiday season!

McCall’s M6442- A Work In Progress

  Finally some progress on this sucker!  I needed to do some modifications for the length of my torso, so tracing the pieces for this took longer than it would have…and there are a pretty good number of pieces…and then I had to figure out what fabrics I had enough of to make a muslin, both outside and lining…and on and on and on.
  But, all the pieces are cut out and it’s just a matter of sewing it together now!
  …sometimes the best pictures come out of my checking my lighting.  This one made me giggle.  So serious and “strike a pose” for somebody who has a bunch of random scraps of fabric on her head!
  I’m honestly super excited for this “muslin” to be done.  The blue is from some secondhand curtains I’d bought years and years ago because they were like, $3 and I loved the fabric.  It’s horrible, plasticky polyester on the back, but all of that is going to be inside the coat, and the front is gorgeous!
  The patterned grey flannel you can see in these shots is actually the lining.  It won’t show much when I’m wearing the coat (that blue is a big, thick facing along the neckline edge so when the hood folds back all you see is the external color), but it should make it wonderfully snuggly and comfy.
  Fancy dancy lady on the outside, jammies on the inside.  My kind of piece.
  I’m a little worried this is going to wrinkle like crazy when it’s done…but…maybe it’ll wrinkle in a cool way?  We’ll have to see!

Chicken with Mushrooms, Garlic and Wine

  Don’t like garlic?  We probably can’t be friends…mostly cuz I always have garlic breath, and garlic breath is one of those things that loves company.  Or drives company away.
  Also, you probably want to skip this recipe.
8 chicken tenderloins
2 tsp butter
2 tsp olive oil
¼ cup all purpose flour
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz mushrooms, sliced 
¼ c white wine
⅓ c chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
¼ c fresh parsley, chopped
  Start by heating a large skillet over medium heat to melt 1 tsp of your butter and 1 tsp of oil.  While it heats, season your chicken with salt and pepper and lightly coat it in flour.  Add the chicken to the heated pan and cook for around 10 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the chicken isn’t pink any longer.  Set it aside somewhere you can keep it warm.
  Add the remaining oil and butter and your garlic to the skillet and cook for a few seconds before adding your mushrooms.  Allow to cook approximately 5 minutes, until golden.  Add wine, broth and parsley and stir to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.  Cook until liquid reduces by half.  Serve the chicken topped with mushroom sauce.
  This was a great, quick, easy recipe that should be perfect for even households with picky eaters.  G was fine with the whole shebang, but I’m-not-eating-no-stinkin’-mushrooms kids could easily be fed with just chicken, while reserving the sauce for the adults!

My Preschooler Makes Better Paper Snowflakes Than I Do.

  This past weekend the Mr. and I went to a party where the hostess put out scissors and paper for everybody to make paper snowflakes.  This was an adult only party, but it wound up being a surprisingly good ice breaker!
  Monday morning rolled around and it had snowed outside.  G desperately wanted to go outside and dig in his sandbox, but I felt under the weather and really, really did not want to go out there.  I decided rather than being a total kill-joy mom, I’d figure out something else cool we could do.
  Like most little kids, G loves using scissors.  They’re forbidden most of the time, so holy cow does he want to cut up anything he can get his little hands on.  I figured paper snowflakes would be perfect.
  Problem is, while G is semi-competent with scissors, he’s not good enough with them yet to try and cut out shapes when it comes to many, many layers of folded paper.  Especially when you have to be careful not to cut through both sides of the folded flake.  And especially because little kid scissors aren’t particularly sharp (for good reason).
  He played for a while, snipping away, but I could tell that he was getting frustrated fast.
  I didn’t want him to get upset, but I wasn’t quite ready to call it a bust just yet, so we changed tactics.  Instead of him cutting, I gave him a pencil and asked him to draw a design on the folded wedge.  After he did, I did my best to cut along his lines (obviously doing some interpretations) to create the snowflake.
  Holy cow did the random squiggles, blobs and zig zags he drew make cool patterns!
  The very first one we did wound up looking like hornet faces.  The second like a flower…the third like jagged ice.  So long as we hadn’t already cut really close to the edge there I let G do the final snip, cutting off the tip of the triangle.
  We were both thrilled with the results and wound up decorating most of our living room.
  All in all a great experiment, and I think I’ll be making it a tradition with the boys, at the very least, til they’re able to cut their own!

Apple and Onion Pork Roast

  Winter may be here, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy those last few fall apples to their fullest!  Besides, a nice, long cooking roast is a great way to warm up your kitchen.
3-4 lbs pork roast
5 garlic cloves, diced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
6 fresh sage leaves
3 fresh rosemary sprigs
3 fresh thyme sprigs
3 apples, sliced
2 onions, thickly sliced
1/4 c butter, cut into chunks
1-2/3 c apple cider
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 c sour cream
  Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.  Rub your roast with one of the cloves of garlic, salt and pepper and top with your herbs.  Place it in a roasting pan and surround it with apples, onions and your remaining garlic and then dot with your butter.  Mix together 1 cup of your cider and your soy sauce and pour it over the top.
  Place into the preheated oven, uncovered, until the roast reaches between 145 and 160 degrees (somewhere between 1 hour 15 minutes and an hour and a half).  Occasionally baste it with some of the pan juices.
  When the roast is cooked to your desired doneness, remove it from the pan along with the apples and onions, to a serving platter where you can keep it warm.  It should stand for around 10 minutes before you slice it.  While you wait, skim excess fat from the pan juices and transfer them (the juices, not the fat) to a small saucepan.  Add the rest of the cider to the pan juices and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and add your sour cream, whisking until smooth and then serve with the pork.
  This was a great way to make a roast.  We tear through apples like crazy here and it was nice to have them cooked (my favorite preparation) and already in the meal, instead of the standard grabbed-out-of-the-bag we’ve been mostly doing.  G wasn’t entirely sure how he felt about the fact that his apple was “squishy” at first, but seemed to enjoy this once he got over his usual desire to argue with us about…uhm…everything.  The original recipe calls for sparkling apple cider, but we used still.  I’m not sure how/why the sparkling would do anything different…it seems to me it would probably be less potent…which is NOT something I would go for, but, who knows!  Either way, a great recipe to try out on a cold day when you have plenty of time to putter around the house and enjoy the smells of dinner cooking.

How to Sew Your Child in a Bag

  G has been driving me crazy lately, so I sewed him in a bag to keep him out of my hair.

  I’m KIDDING.  The bag wasn’t big enough.
  Also, you know, don’t sew kids in bags or something.
  Wasn’t kidding about him driving me nuts.  Between him and his brother, trying to so much as get the pattern for my coat traced has been impossible.  They seem to have a pact this week to not let me have so much as 30 seconds to myself.  R loves the way the tracing paper crinkles and so grabs it and tries to jam it in his toothy little pie hole every chance he gets and G thinks it’s hilarious to try and use the edges as a blanket for his toys.
  I’ll be going to the SEMi Crafty meetup tonight (Thursday night), so I should have SOMETHING done by next week.  But then, maybe I’ll just hang out and enjoy not having anybody attacking me for a few hours…

Hungarian Red Potato Goulash

  This isn’t my mother’s goulash.  It doesn’t have hamburger, or noodles, or even tomatoes.  I don’t cover it in cheese.  In fact, the two recipes have almost nothing in common…except they’re both pretty dang delicious.

Olive oil
14 oz smoked sausage, sliced
2 Tbsp butter
2 onions, sliced
1 garlic clove, smashed
Salt to taste
¾ tsp black pepper
1 ½ tsp paprika
10 medium red skin potatoes, sliced
1 ½ c chicken stock
1 Tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  Start by heating a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat.  Once the oil is hot, add your sausage and cook them until they are nicely browned.  Remove them from the pan and set aside.
Add your butter to the pan and allow to melt.  Add your onions and allow them to caramelize for around 6 minutes before adding your garlic, salt, black pepper and paprika.  Saute for one minute.
Toss your potatoes into the pan and stir everything to combine it before adding your chicken stock.  Cover the pan with a lid, leaving enough space for steam to escape and simmer for around 15 minutes.  Remove the lid and cook for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Return the sausage to the pan and allow to reheat.  Garnish with parsley and serve hot.
  This recipe was a hit with everybody.  G wound up dipping most of his in ketchup, but seeing as he “really liked the hot dogs” that way, I’m not about to argue.  It was a simple, hearty meal and made for great leftovers the next day, so I definitely expect to put it on the menu again this winter!

Free Printable Winter Wildlife Gift Tags

  It’s getting to be that time of year, when we are all wrapping lots and lots of gifts, and obviously we need a way to remember which gift goes to which recipient.  I love the difference a beautiful tag can make to a nicely wrapped present, so I decided to sketch up a set for you guys!
  …pretty obviously, what the fox says is “Happy Holidays and a wonderful New Year!”
  These are all drawings done with watercolor pencils, and there are 8 tags on the sheet.  I find that printing them out onto white cardstock gives the best results and then you just use a hole punch through the small black dot on the print out and write your “to” and “from” on the reverse.  I hope you like them!

Parsnip, Beef and Mushroom Pie

  Oooh it’s getting cold out!  I don’t know about you guys, but winter really setting in makes me want meat and potatoes type meals.  This meat pie definitely counts.
1 1/2 lb. beef chuck roast
1/4 c flour
4 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
5 cloves garlic
7-8 pearl onions, peeled, left whole
1 sprig rosemary
3 sprigs thyme
3 medium parsnips, peeled and sliced
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 lb. Shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 bottle stout beer
2 c water
1 Tbsp beef bouillon
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp milk (egg wash)
coarse sea salt
  First, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil and 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil in a large stock pot.  Add your beef and flour and salt and pepper to taste.  Brown the beef, turning it to caramelize.  Remove your beef, add in more oil and if needed as well as your garlic and onions.  Cook until browned.  Set aside with your beef.
  Use your beer to deglaze the pan, being sure to scrape up any browned bits.  Return the meat, onions and garlic to the pan and add your rosemary, thyme, water and bouillon.  Cover with a lid and allow to cook for an hour, until the meat is tender.  It’s a good idea to occasionally stir, just to be certain nothing sticks to the bottom and to check to be certain things haven’t gotten too thick.  Add more water if things start to dry out.
  In the meantime, saute your carrots, parsnips and mushrooms in some oil until they begin to brown.  When the meat is tender, add them to the pot and allow to simmer for another 15 minutes before adding your Worcestershire.
  Pour the stew into a cast iron skillet or a casserole dish and cover with your puff pastry.  Tuck the edges underneath to seal in moisture and brush with egg wash before sprinkling with sea salt.  Place your dish onto a rimmed baking sheet (to catch any spills) and bake it for 30-40 minutes until the pastry puffs up and turns golden brown.  Serve hot.
  For some reason I can’t seem to keep it in my head that we really like parsnips.  We always enjoy them when we cook with them, but that isn’t all that often it seems.  I’ve gotta work on that!  We all really enjoyed this.  The Mr commented, and I think I agree, that he’s not sure the beer actually adds all that much flavor to this.  It was really good, but unlike some of the other recipes I’ve used beer in, I couldn’t pick the flavor out at all, so that may just get left out next time.  …it’s a rather time intensive recipe, but for a cold day, sometimes you want your oven on as long as you can manage!