Coat Research

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I tried on a coat today. It wasn't terribly well made and it didn't fit in the sleeves the way I would like. But I thought the design was very interesting. You can find it here. It's called the high neck coat.

The cool thing about the coat is the way the top becomes this lovely large collar when unbuttoned. The collar was very flattering on me and the two rows of buttons didn't look too stuffy either. If ever I were to make a coat with this kind of collar, I would line it with something soft and fun - not the fashion fabric which is a bit scratchy and, well, coat-like.

Christmas - Cooking Update

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This marks the first year that we have encouraged that kids to give gifts to each other. They are all making things for each other, which is really great. I think I have also mentioned that we celebrate the twelve days of Christmas. In our house this means that a few gifts appear under the tree every morning. Sometimes they are for one person or all from one person or all for the kids or all for the adults.
This year Lucy decided to bake her gifts for her siblings. So on the second day of Christmas we worked together to bake her gift to Peter, which he received on the following day.

Chocolate Chip Cookies (with Sprinkles - very important)
my own adaptation of several other recipes
makes roughly 2 dozen cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks or 12 Tbsp) butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
scant 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 F.
  • In a small bowl, mix flour and baking soda together.
  • In a large bowl, cream butter, sugars, and vanilla until fluffy.
  • Add eggs, one at a time to creamed mixture, beating well after each addition.
  • Gradually beat in the flour.
  • Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Drop dough by spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  • Place sprinkles in a small bowl or teacup.
  • Drop each mound of cookie dough into the sprinkles and then return it to the cookie sheet, sprinkle-side up.
  • Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, depending on size and preference.

Clara and I have been feeling a little under the weather lately, so tonight David and I made chicken noodle soup following the recipe found in the latest issue of Cook's Illustrated. Boy was it good!

Hearty Chicken Noodle Soup
from Cook's Illustrated; number 96, page 21
serves 4 to 6

1 Tbsp oil
1 pound ground chicken
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 medium celery rib, chopped
1 quart water (4 cups)
2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth (8 cups)
2 bay leaves
2 tsp salt
2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves, cut in half crosswise

3 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
1 small onion, quartered and sliced thin
2 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and chopped into 3/4-inch pieces
1 medium celery rib, halved lengthwise and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium russet potato, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch dice
4 ounces egg noodles
4-6 Swiss chard leaves, ribs removed, torn into 1-inch pieces OR 1/2 bunch spinach trimmed and torn into 1-inch pieces
1 Tbsp minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
salt and pepper

For the Stock:
  • Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add ground chicken, onion, carrot, and celery.
  • Cook, stirring frequently, until chicken is no longer pink.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low. Add water, broth, bay leaves, salt, and chicken breasts; cover and cook for 30 minutes.
  • Remove lid, increase heat to high and bring to a boil.
  • Once liquid is boiling, transfer chicken breasts to large plate and set aside.
  • Continue to cook stock for 20 minutes, adjusting heat to maintain gentle boil.
  • Strain stock through fine-mesh strainer, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible.
  • Allow liquid to settle about 5 minutes and skim off fat.

For the Soup:
  • Return stock to Dutch oven set over medium-high heat.
  • In a small bowl mix cornstarch and water until a smooth slurry forms. Add this to the stock and bring to a gentle boil.
  • Add onion, carrots, celery, and potato and cook until potato pieces are almost tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Add egg noodles and cook until all vegetables and noodles are tender, about 5 more minutes.
  • Meanwhile, remove skin and bones from cooked chicken breasts. Shred meat with fingers.
  • Add shredded chicken, Swiss chard*, and parsley to soup and cook until heated through.
  • Season with salt and pepper. Serve.

*We couldn't find Swiss chard in the shops, so we substituted spinach. And, instead of adding the spinach directly to the pot of soup, we put a handful of torn leaves in the bottom of each bowl and topped it with the steaming soup.

Then, after the kids were in bed, I went back down into the kitchen to brave the cooking mess that needed cleaning (Lucy and I baked her gift to Clara this afternoon - more on that later). It was bad enough that I needed a little support via a Jack and Ginger.

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Christmas Day Brunch

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This Christmas Day was a little more low-key than it has been in recent years. Most of our housemates moved away this month and the neighbour we have invited over for the past two years didn't come. So it was just the five of us and our one remaining housemate.

This year we had a Christmas Brunch again because this seems to work well for all of us. It is important to have a special meal when everyone is in their best mood. This year, David and I made a potato asparagus onion fritatta and David made soda bread to go with it (I was going to make biscuits, but he really wanted to try this recipe - and who am I to stand in the way of breadmaking, really?). Recipes (and photos!) follow.

Potato Asparagus Onion Fritatta
a combination of variations from The Kitchen Detective, page 204
serves 6

1 cup + 2 or 3 Tbsp peanut oil
1 1/2 pounds asparagus, washed, trimmed, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups diced onion
3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, washed and cut into 1/4-inch dice
8 large eggs
1 Tbsp butter

  • Preheat oven to 450 F.
  • In a large cast iron skillet (say 13 inches across), saute the asparagus over medium heat in 2 Tbsp peanut oil for 2 or 3 minutes (pieces should still be bright green). Season with salt and pepper.
  • Pour the 1/4 cup water into the pan and cover immediately. Allow asparagus to steam for 2 or 3 minutes more, then remove from pan and set aside.
  • In the same pan, saute the onion in 1 Tbsp peanut oil for 3 or 4 minutes over medium heat until soft and just starting to brown. Remove onion from pan (it can join the asparagus) and set aside.
  • In the same pan, heat 1 cup peanut oil to 375 degrees over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are dark golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain the potatoes and sprinkle with salt.
  • Wipe out skillet. Lower heat to medium.
  • Meanwhile whisk the eggs in a medium bowl until foamy. This is easier to do if you whisk only 2 or 3 eggs at a time.
  • Add about 1/2 tsp salt and some pepper to the eggs and whisk to combine.
  • Place the butter into the skillet. When it has stopped foaming, add the potatoes, asparagus and onion and then the egg mixture. Stir gently.
  • As the eggs begin to set, push and lift the edges of the fritatta to allow the loose egg to run underneath, tilting the skillet if necessary. Continue until the fritatta is no longer runny, but the surface is still wet.
  • Place the skillet in the hot oven and cook untl the surface is just barely wet, about 3 minutes.
  • Serve.

Rich, American-Style Soda Bread
from The Kitchen Detective, page 222
makes 1 round loaf

2 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
4 Tbsp butter, softened
1 3/4 - 2 cups buttermilk

  • Adjust an oven rack to the center position and heat the oven to 400 F.
  • Whisk the flour, sugar, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.
  • With a fork or your fingers, stir the softened butter into the flour mixture until fully incorporated.
  • Add 1 3/4 cups buttermilk and stir the mixture with a large rubber spatula until the dough starts to come together. Add more buttermilk if necessary to produce a cohesive dough.
  • Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 30 seconds or until the dough comes together. The dough should still be rough textured and lumpy.
  • Shape the dough into a round and place it in a 9- or 10-inch cast-iron skillet.
  • Score the top of the dough with a knife, making 2 or 3 slashes.
  • Bake about 40 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 180 F.
  • Carefully remove the skillet from the oven, place it on a cooling rack, and let it cool for 30 minutes before serving.
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On the First Day of Christmas...

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Our family celebrates twelve days of Christmas. On the first day (Christmas Day) we all open stockings. I bought all of the items for the kids' stockings and our housemate's stocking completely forgetting that David and I have stockings as well. Ner. So I went back out and braved the problematic task of filling a stocking for my spouse. This is Mr. No-Hobby. Mr. Not-Into-Material-Possessions-In-Any-Way. Fun to shop for, I tell you.

But the forces were with me. After staring and staring in different shops waiting for inspiration, I saw a small cast iron morter and pestle. Perfect. I added a stainless steel waterbottle to that and a bar of chocolate and he was good to go.

In my stocking I found a teapot-shaped bicycle bell (David can now have my old nondescript one for his bike.), some fudge, a package of Anna's ginger cookies, and a piece of art made of banana leaves. It's an image of impalas. He said I sould feel free to return it. (I think I will. The shop where he bought it had beautiful recycled silk scarves that I greatly desire... I tried sending him telepathic messages, but I guess it didnt work.)

I don't know what the kids are cooking up for me, but David and I have agreed to go shopping at the local gourmet kitchen shop together for our gifts to each other.

Snow Pictures!


Here are a few pictures of the snow here at our house in Vancouver. The folks who have lived here for decades say that they haven't ever seen this much snow at one time here.

Here is the front of our house on Monday before Christmas. The snow had started falling the Wednesday before and then it snowed again on Sunday. Then it snowed again on Christmas Eve. And it is snowing more now. The weather folks keep predicting a rise in temperature and the onset of rain, but we haven't seen it yet. It's a bit ridiculous - no one here is prepared for this!

And here is our backyard. What you can't see is the deck. And the back steps. And this photo was only taken after the first couple of snowfalls!

David and Peter tried measuring the snow on Monday. Looks close to 11 inches to me. I wonder how much is on the ground now?

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Snow, snow, where are you falling?


In Vancouver, for one!

pictures coming later...

The Sewing List


A couple of days ago, Erin (over at A Dress a Day) posted her sewing to do list. As I've had mine milling about in my brain for some time, but not quite making it to paper, I thought I'd brainstorm it here.

  1. Finish art smock for Helen
  2. Finish handkerchiefs for Mary
  3. Clean sewing room
  4. Revisit the skirt I am working on
  5. Make myself an apron from this pattern
  6. Search for a coat pattern - I am looking for something military-esque, but knee length and somewhat flared that could be made out of Gore-tex fabric (I live in sunny Vancouver, you know). I cannot stand these tube-shaped parkas that all the moms in my neighbourhood seem to be wearing. It's wet here, not bitterly cold.
  7. Experiment with sewing knit material by refashioning two lousy t-shirts into one funky nightgown
  8. Pick apart the tiered skirt I made for myself last summer and remake it
  9. Find shirtdress pattern
  10. Make vitagey flowered cotton into said shirtdress
Well, that's ten so I had better stop. Who knows how long that list will take me?

Done with Craft Sales for a While


Phew! Today's craft sale was OK, but not fabulous. It was only four hours and on a Monday afternoon and probably not terribly well advertised.

I have orders to fill for (are you ready?) Handkerchiefs! Of all the fiddly little pesky things! I have to make 8 handkerchiefs for customers. (Granted, I should be able to get this done in an evening, but I am tired of the little boogers.)

Oh well.
My AC adapter is toast again. Fortunately it is under warranty.

New Buttons!

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This morning, I had a little time when I only had Clara with me, so we dashed off to Dressew and picked up some new buttons. I am so glad I did. Here is one of the new buttons. They are a medium royal colour and are a little wider than the previous buttons, but they still fit through the loops.

The other reason I am glad I switched is that they were ever so much faster to sew on since I could do two at once. Here you can see a side view of that process. I used toothpicks to create some space for the loop.

Now I just need to take pictures of my kids in the aprons and make up a display poster...

Oh! I am going to cheat a little on the handkerchiefs and only hem them by folding them over once and stitch them down with a small, close zigzag stitch. I just tested it on the thickest fabric and I think that will work just fine. They only problem is that I am running right out of white thread...

Do I Need New Buttons?

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The children's kitchen apron I designed is nearly done. I have been sewing the buttons on the straps today, but have now begun to question my button choice. Below you can see the cute shiny blue buttons I chose. The slip nicely into the button loops I made, making the apron easy for a child to put on.

Unfortunately, part of my design was to market the apron as reversible. This necessitates putting buttons on both sides of the straps. The buttons I chose have shanks and having them back to back makes them very clunky.

So the question is, should I go out and try to find replacement buttons that will fit the loops already made, or should I scrap the reversible idea? I am leaning toward finding new buttons, but I don't know if I have time before Monday.

Dratted Handkerchiefs

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Edited to add photos below.

I have signed myself up for another craft fair. This one is next Monday at Little Nest. Eeeek. Here is my to-do list:

  • Sew children's traditional kitchen apron to have as a sample for people to order. (just needs the buttons sewn on the straps)
  • Take photos of my kids wearing the art smocks and kitchen aprons.
  • Lighten the photos of my kids wearing the backpack doll carriers.
  • Make a sign for the art smocks.
  • Make a sign for the kitchen aprons.
  • Take all three signs to the printer.
  • Sew more bookmarks.
  • Sew handkerchiefs*.

*I thought this was going to be ridiculously simple and a great low-cost gift item. Not so. I found fabulous fabric and I have a baby hem foot for my machine, but the darned corners are too thick to run through the foot. I am going to have to hand-stitch the corners of something like 20 handkerchiefs in order to finish the ones I already started. I am going to try a different technique on a few of the others I have waiting to sew. But I will still have to hand sew the corners of the 20 or so that I started. That's 80 corners. Bleh.

Here is a blurry picture of the neat-o fabrics I purchased to make handkerchiefs.

Notice how the corner is all pulled wonky. Grrrr.

American Thanksgiving

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Truly, I do not remember what we ate for dinner Tuesday and Wednesday night.

Last night we celebrated American Thanksgiving with our neighbours after the children went to bed. (The kids all celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving back in October and we wanted a chance to have a tantrum- and nagging-free meal.)

Our friends brought a stupendous sweet potato casserole: mashed sweet potatoes (yams? these were orange ones) topped with pecans, coconut and other lovely things.

I made a simple salad of red leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, pomegranate seeds, feta, and toasted and candied walnuts. This was tossed with a simple balsamic dressing.

The main dish was the All-American Pot Pie from Vegetarian Planet, and dessert was Skillet Apple Pie from Cook's Illustrated.

All-American Pot Pie
from Vegetarian Planet; page 432
serves 4

1 Tbsp butter
8 cups total any combination of the following vegetables: fresh corn kernels, 1/2-inch cubes of carrot, chopped red bell pepper, chopped zucchini, spinach leaves (firmly packed), sliced onions, and 1/2-inch cubes of potato
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 cups plus 3 Tbsp unbleached white flour
2 cups warmed milk, or a bit more*
1 pinch fresh or dried thyme
1 tsp salt
fresh-ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
4 to 5 Tbsp ice water

Make the filling:
In a 12- or 14-inch skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add all of the vegetables, and saute them for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 5 more minutes. Sprinkle the 3 Tbsp flour over the vegetables and stir the mixture for 2 minutes. Add the warmed milk slowly, stirring all the while to avoid lumps. Stir in the thyme. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens and the vegetables become tender, adding a bit more milk if the sauce becomes too thick. Add 1/2 tsp salt and the pepper. Transfer the mixture to a 9- or 10-inch casserole or deep pie dish. (At this point you can cover the dish and chill it for up to 2 days, if you'd like to bake it later.)

Make the dough:
Put the 1 1/2 cups flour and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt into a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the cold butter. Pulse the machine until the butter is in bits no bigger than pea-size. Add 4 Tbsp ice water, and pulse the machine just enough to bring the dough together. Turn dough out onto clean surface, and knead the dough, adding a bit of water or flour as necessary, until the dough is soft, moist, and somewhat smooth. Do this quickly, handling the dough as little as possible. Form the dough into a flattened ball. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Roll the dough into shape slightly larger than the casserole or pie dish. Place the dough over the casserole and pinch the dough along the rim. Cut four 1-inch-long slits in the dough and place the pie in the oven. bake it for about 20 minutes or until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden.

*I never used to warm the milk - it's an extra step. But your sauce will thicken ever so much more quickly if you do.

Skillet Apple Pie
from Cook's Illustrated; Issue Number 94, page 24
serves 6 to 8

1 cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp vegetable shortening, chilled
6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch peices
3-4 Tbsp ice water

1/2 cup apple cider*
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 Tbsp juice from 1 lemon
2 tsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 1/2 pounds sweet and tart apples (about 5 medium), peeled, cored, halved and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 tsp sugar

For the Crust:
Pulse flour, sugar and salt in food processor until combined. Add shortening and process until mixture has texture of coarse sand. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture and process until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs with butter bits no larger than small peas. Transfer mixture to medium bowl.
Sprinkle 3 Tbsp ice water over mixture. With blade of rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix. Add up to 1 Tbsp more ice water if dough does not come together. Turn dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten into a 4-inch disk. Wrap dough and refrigerate 30 minute or up to 2 days, before rolling out. (If dough is refrigerated longer than 1 hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable.)

For the Filling:
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 500F. Whisk cider, syrup, lemon juice, cornstarch, and cinnamon (if using) together in medium bowl until smooth. heat butter in 12-inch heatproof skillet over medium-high heat. When the foaming subsides, add apples and cook, stirring 2 or 3 times until the apples begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes. (do not fully cook apples.) Remove pan from heat, add cider mixture and gently stir until apples are well-coated. Set aside to cool slightly.

To Assemble and Bake:
Roll out dough on lightly floured work surface, to 11-inch circle. Transfer dough to top of pie filling. Brush dough with egg white and sprinkle with sugar. With sharp knife, gently cut dough into 6 pieces. Bake until apples are tender and crust is a deep golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes; serve

*If you do not have apple cider, reduced apple juice may be used as a substitute - simmer 1 cup apple juice in a small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 10 minutes).

Holy Mole!

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Tonight's dinner: chicken mole, rice, sauteed chard, corn tortillas.

Perhaps my favourite dinner ever.

The All-Handmade Sale

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The All-Handmade Sale that I have been preparing for occurred last night and today. Things went pretty well. I sold nearly half of the items I made. Here are a few pictures of my table...

That's me and my little table. I was supposed to share a long table with another vendor, but one of the tables was broken, so we hunted around for another one. I think this actually worked out better in the long run.

The quilts hanging behind me are not my creations, they were being sold by another vendor who had no wall space. Since I was selling items made from fabric it made a little sense to use my wall space. Unfortunately, none of the quilts sold.

The item hanging from the edge of my table is a Backpack Doll Carrier. Chloe Harold (Lucy's stuffed dog) was kind enough to "model" it for me and allow a few interested children to try it out.

Here are all of the bookmarks I made. I think I ended up with nearly 40 bookmarks and I am glad, because I sold more than 20. These were so fun and simple to make and it was good to have a lower-priced item for people to buy in multiples or for children to buy with their coins. I will definitely make more. And maybe when I receive my darning foot I will add a little free-motion quilting to them to jazz them up a bit.

Here are the art smocks I made. I used Simplicity 3802 as a base, but left off the pockets and changed the closure from ties to a button and loop. These did not sell well. Lying flat, they look like dresses - which I think probably scared off some people. The fabric of the smocks really drew people to the table.

Many people thought the smocks were a good idea to sell and everyone who stopped and looked at them remarked at the quality of the sewing, but then they would just walk away. I don't think I had them priced too high, I think they just didn't look like something a child should get dirty.

I have heard of some product that you can toss in the laundry with fabric to make it water-resistant. I plan to find out how much that costs and maybe give it a go. Perhaps if they are water resistant and if I get a few pictures of my kids wearing them, they will sell better next time.

Here are the Backpack Doll Carriers I made. These sold fairly well, but not so well that I need to make more before my friend who runs a local restaurant throws a craft fair. Hopefully I can sell the rest there.

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Chicken Spaghetti

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Tonight I made a version of "Chicken Spaghetti". This was served with bread (light sourdough rye from a local bakery) and broccoli.

The recipe is highly flexible. Tonight, for example I switched the cooked chicken for cubed, sauteed tofu and I added half a bunch of asparagus (trimmed, chopped, sauteed, and lightly steamed). I could have added the entire bunch of asparagus. I also switched twirly pasta in for the spaghetti. This made it easier to serve and easier for the little ones to eat.

Chicken Spaghetti
serves 6 to 8

3 Tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp flour
2 cups milk
1 cup sharp cheddar, grated
1/2 pound spaghetti, cooked
3 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
2 Tbsp diced pimiento (or roasted red pepper)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

  • Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Saute until tender.
  • Add flour, stirring constantly, and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Gradually stir in milk and continue to cook, stirring constantly until thickened and bubbly.
  • Stir in 3/4 cup cheddar cheese and all of the other ingredients.
  • Pour into 2 quart casserole and bake at 350F for 20 minutes.
  • Sprinkle with remaining grated cheese and bake for another 5 minutes.

The Sewing is Done

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I finished all of my sewing for the all-handmade sale over the weekend. I have everything packed up and ready to schlep over to the church Friday night. The only things that remain to do are making some signs and dropping by the bank to pick up some money to make change for all of my prospective customers.

I never did take pictures of the art smocks (I still could, I suppose), but I will try to take (and post) pictures of my area at the sale.

I've even already started my next project. I am making a skirt for myself. I've had the pattern and fabric for some time, but this week I made a mock-up or muslin of the waistband and the top part of the skirt to check for fit. As a result, I am going to make a few changes. Most notably, I am going to make the skirt less full and I am going to cut it on the bias. This will give it a nicer drape. I can't remember the pattern number or company right now (though it is one of the Big 4), but I will post a link to that after I take pictures of the fabric and redrafted pattern pieces.

Out of the Freezer and Onto the Table

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Tonight we had both chili and curry from the freezer along with freshly cooked rice and toasted tortillas.

Very tasty.

Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil, and Garlic

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Last night we made one of my favorite pasta dishes. It is simple, quick, light, and well-liked by most people. We found the recipe on the back of a package of pasta and have since made a few changes.

Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil, and Garlic

serves 6 to 8

1 pound long thin pasta
4 Tbsp olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried basil
2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes, slightly drained
3/4 cup white wine
5 Tbsp grated Parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

  • Cook pasta a minute or two less than package directions.
  • Meanwhile heat olive oil in a skillet.
  • Add garlic and basil and cook for a minute.
  • Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Cook for three minutes.
  • Add hot pasta to skillet and toss well.
  • Add white wine and continue cooking until the pasta is done.
  • Toss with Parmesan cheese. Serve.

The Dinner Roll (or not)

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Goodness. It's been since US election night since I posted anything food-related. I can't possibly recap, so I'll just start fresh.

Tonight's dinner: Souvlaki-style chicken, rice, sauteed kale, homemade lemon tahini, homemade tzadziki, and naan.



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Here are some bookmarks I made to sell at the all handmade sale. I think I will offer them as a free gift with purchase or $1 each.

Right now they are just topstitched around the edge. I had thought about doing some quilting stitching through them, but I haven't decided yet (remaining time may decide for me).

I have also finished the art smocks I am making to sell. I will take pictures soon...
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The Best Thing


Over the last few days, my family and I have been visiting friends who moved to Vancouver Island over the summer. We had about as good a time as five kids and four adults (one of whom is rather pregnant) can have in a small house in typical West Coast November weather.

The very best part of the trip was the opportunity our friends gave David and I on Monday to take most of the day for ourselves. We left them with all five kids around 10 AM and didn't return until 4 PM. David and I were able to have two complete conversations during that time. Real conversations. Reconnecting conversations.

Individually and corporately we needed to have those conversations. It is just rare to actually have enough time to have them.

Thank you, Laura and Mike.

Goofing around with my Background.


I think I like this one. Not too terribly feminine, not terribly scrapbooky.

Halloween Costumes

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The pictures aren't great as I was scurrying to take them before school. Sorry about that. I really can take lovely pictures when I have more time and cooperative children. Or plants as subject matter.

This is Lucy as Wendy (from Peter Pan).

And Peter as Captain Hook.

And Clara in her butterfly suit.

I had fun making the costumes (or parts of costumes). It's a chance for me to be both creative and slap-dash in my sewing techniques; all of the fun and challenge of problem solving without any of the stress of making something correctly.

Lucy's is actually a full-on garment made from a pattern. This was quite a confidence-booster for me. I have learned enough now to know when to check for fit and how to adjust some things as a result.
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Pumpkin Soup

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Tonight is election night in the US. May there be a clear winner and no recounts.

In other news, the following is the most amazing pumpkin soup recipe I have ever had. (Yes, my picky children ate it happily - well, mostly - and they devour the previous soup recipe.)

Pumpkin Soup
from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant, page 120
serves 6

2 pounds pumpkin or winter squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed (about 5 cups)*
3 garlic cloves
2 onions, chopped
2 – 3 bay leaves
¼ teaspoon marjoram
¼ tsp celery seeds
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped (or 1 cup chopped canned tomatoes)
5 cups vegetable stock
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 Tblsp honey
1 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream

  • Place all ingredients, except the cream in a large saucepan.**
  • Simmer until pumpkin is soft.
  • Remove the bay leaves.
  • Puree.
  • Gradually stir in the cream to avoid curdling.

*You may substitute 2 pounds of roasted pumpkin and it will turn out fine with no blisters or cuts from peeling!

**You may saute the onion for a few minutes in a little olive oil, then added the garlic and herbs and sauteed for a bit longer, and then throw the rest of it together, if you wish.

The Dinner Roll

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Friday: Filled Pasta and Red Sauce
Saturday: Green Potato Soup (recipe follows)
Sunday: Chicken and Rice Wraps
Monday: Pumpkin Soup (recipe follows tomorrow)

Green Potato Soup
(loosely based on Velvety Vegetable Soup from Simply in Season, page 37)
serves 6

4 Tblsp butter
4 leeks, tender parts only, chopped fine (or equivalent in onions)
6 huge leaves of Swiss chard, chopped (stems separated and chopped fine)
1 zucchini, chopped
1 tsp dried tarragon leaves
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
6 cups broth/water
4 cups white or gold potatoes, diced with skin on
1 cup milk

  • Melt butter in soup pot until foamy.
  • Add leeks and saute over medium heat for 5 minutes or more.
  • Add chopped chard stems and saute until nearly softened.
  • Add zucchini, herbs, salt, and pepper, and continue to saute until soft.
  • Add potatoes and stir.
  • Add broth, raise heat, and bring soup to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer 10 to 15 minutes until potatoes are soft. (If the potatoes are even a little crunchy the soup will end up with a grainy texture.)
  • Lower heat further and add chard leaves. Cook for 5 minutes or so.
  • Carefully add milk to avoid curdling.
  • Puree and serve.

Good with a dollop of sour cream or a healthy sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Trip to the Pumpkin Patch

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Last Friday (before the AC adapter incident), Lucy's preschool had their annual trip to the pumpkin patch. One of the main highlights was getting to ride on an actual school bus. Here are the girls on the bus:

And here are the girls at the pumpkin patch. Lucy did not want me to take a picture of her, but I convinced her to let me take only one.

Clara kept reaching into our bags, feeling the pumpkins, and saying, "Tode!" (Cold!)

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Money Apron

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Yesterday afternoon I put together this money apron to use at the All-Handmade Sale in a couple of weeks. It's not perfect, but I had fun and used some "found" fabric and webbing from my stash. I am quite pleased with it.

I used a decorative stitch to topstitch the bias binding. The fabric I chose to use as a binding was thick with a fairly coarse, loose weave, so it was raveling and stretching like crazy. I needed a stitch that would be very secure and not terribly ugly.

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The Dinner Roll

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Monday: Eggplant curry from the Vij's cookbook - excellent
Tuesday: Pasta and red sauce
Wednesday: meat curry pulled out of the freezer
Thursday: Potato and Bean Soup (an adaptation from the following excellent recipe)

Really Good Pasta and Bean Soup
from The Kitchen Detective by Christopher Kimball, page 18
serves 10 to 12

1 pound dried white beans, navy or cannellini, rinsed, picked over, and soaked overnight*
2 whole cloves
1 small onion or 1 shallot
1 bay leaf
1 tsp table salt
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes packed in juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 ounces pancetta, finely chopped, optional**
3 or 4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
freshly ground black pepper
1 Parmesan rind, optional
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh sage
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 pound small tubular pasta
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  • Place the [soaked] beans in a medium sauce pan and cover with 2 inches of water.
  • Stick the cloves into the onion or shallot and add it to the pot along with the bay leaf and 1/2 tsp of the salt.
  • Bring to a simmer and cook, covered for 30 minutes for the navy beans and 40 minutes for the cannellini or until the beans have begun to soften, but remain firm.
  • Drain the tomatoes, crush them with your hands, and reserve.
  • Place the oil in a soup pot over medium heat.
  • Add the onion and carrot (and optional pancetta) and saute for about 7 minutes or until the onion is translucent and softened.
  • Add the garlic and saute an additional 2 minutes.
  • Remove and discard the clove studded onion and bay leaf from the bean pot.
  • Drain the partially cooked beans and add them to the onion mixture.
  • Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, the remaining 1/2 tsp of salt, several grinds of black pepper, and the optional Parmesan rind and stir to combine.
  • Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 40 minutes or until the beans are just tender.
  • Add the sage and rosemary and simmer an additional 10 minutes or until the beans are creamy.
  • Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.
  • Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a rolling boil in a large pot over high heat.
  • Add the pasta and cook until just done, but still firm and toothsome.
  • Drain and, if not using immediately, add 2 Tbsp olive oil and stir to coat pasta.
  • Cover to keep warm if necessary.
  • Remove the optional Parmesan rind from the soup pot.
  • Place about 1/3 cup pasta in the bottom of each soup bowl. Ladle the soup over the pasta and top with a generous drizzle of best-quality olive oil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Serve immediately.

*The recipe as printed in my copy of this cookbook omits to tell you to soak the beans overnight.
**The easiest way to finely chop pancetta is to freeze it for about 45 minutes or until it becomes firm.

I'm back.


A few days ago my computer was knocked off a table and landed on the AC adapter plug. This bent the plug and I have not had access to my computer until today with my new AC adapter.

More updates to follow.

Playing Catch Up (not ketchup) on Dinner

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Let's see.

Friday's dinner was pizza from a local shop.
Saturday we ate beans and rice.
Tonight we had French toast and scrambled eggs.

Simple, straightforward, easy food.

Butterfly Headpiece Nearly Completed Part 2

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Here you can see the topstitching near the edge. I also stitched as much as I could along the center seam to tack the inside to the outside.

Antennae in the making. Each one is made from one chenille stem folded in half with the folded end smashed into a triangular shape. The stem is then twisted tightly a couple of times to close the triangle base and then loosely twisted to keep the ends together. I then hand stitched the bases to the hood.

Below the hood is nearly finished. All that it lacks is some hook and loop tape on the flaps and possibly a couple of pom-poms for the ends of the antennae. (Although I like the unadorned antennae a fair bit.)

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Butterfly Headpiece Nearly Complete Part 1

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I had thought I would simply go buy a headband or a hat for a headpiece for Clara's costume. Today it occurred to me that this would actually take a lot more time and energy than trying to figure out how to make a head piece at home. I googled around for a bit and read a great how-to over at Burdastyle and held it in the back of my head while I worked on the wings. Tonight, right before dinner I remembered that we had a dragon hood in our dress-up box that I could trace a copy of.

Here is the pattern and the pieces (I cut four, but they are stacked together).

I sewed them together along the center seam (both the lining pieces and the outer pieces) and then carefully pressed the seams open.

I fitted the lining to the outer piece, right sides together, and pinned like mad in case the fabric shifted. I left a space (between the double pins - something my mother taught me) unsewn for turning the hood right side out.

Getting ready to press and topstitch the edges.

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Embellished Wings!

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I have finished Clara's butterfly wings. In my previous butterfly wings post, I described how I made the wings. This time I'll describe how the sequin trim is attached. Many thanks to Luckylibbet in the forums over at Pattern Review for coming to my overtired brain's aide with suggestions for attaching sequin trim!

First, I removed about four sequins from the end of the string. I then took a piece of thread and tied a knot around the string to keep any other sequins from shifting. I moistened the string with fray stop (but I am not certain that did anything), folded the string under the sequin trim and took another thread and tied the tail to the sequin trim.

If you look really closely, you can see a faint pink chalk line drawn on the fabric. I then dotted sections of the line with glue.

And pressed the trim into place. This really held remarkably well.

One side all glued and drying. Once it was a little dry (though I probably should have waited longer, but I was trying to finish while Clara was napping), I zigzagged over the top of the trim using my widest setting. If you look closely at the photo below, you can see the stitching. Unfortunately for me, I didn't wait for the glue to dry enough and now I have a presser foot that has glue smeared on the bottom.

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