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.