26 January 2015

Recipes 9 and 10: Pork and Potatoes

Recipe 9: Baked Apple Pork Chops
Another recipe from the CrockPot cookbook that I modified.  Place your pork chops in the bottom of a pan.  Chop up a couple of apples and put them on top.  Sprinkle with a little cinnamon and a few tablespoons of brown sugar.  Cover, and bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes.  

They were quick and easy to make, but they were a bit bland.  We've got a smoked applewood spice blend that we'll put on the pork next time, along with the apples.  

Recipe 10: Cauliflower Scalloped Potatoes
This was something I made up, with inspiration from this post.  I put layers of potatoes, ham, broccoli, pureed cauliflower and grated cheese, sprinkled with garlic salt.  Bake, covered, at 400 degrees for at least an hour.  

I like scalloped potatoes, and have yet to perfect them.  This came closer: the flavors were good (Aaron didn't even mind the cauliflower sauce!), but I always have the problem of undercooked potatoes.  The stuff on top and around the edges was done, but the middle was still a little crunchy.  Must remember to use a bigger pan, so the layers aren't as thick, and to give myself enough time to let it bake - very minimum an hour, usually more.  

15 January 2015

Recipe 6: Potato Soup

While I was babysitting the other day, I realized I had forgotten a book to read.  I searched the house to find something and came across just one cookbook.  Even though it was a Crock Pot book, I looked through it for inspiration.  I didn't find a lot that I liked, but I found a recipe for potato soup.

Put in the crock pot:
2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cubed
3/4 cup carrots, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cups chicken broth
Cook until tender (6-7 hours on low).
Add 1 cup half & half, cook on high for 15 minutes.
Turn off heat and stir in two cups shredded cheese.
Uncover and let stand for five minutes before serving.

I followed the recipe, sort of, but I still count it toward my new recipes because I had never made potato soup before.  I added celery, broccoli and cauliflower.  And when adding the cream at the end I also added some cubed ham.  YUM.

I like soup.  Aside from the time it takes to chop the vegetables, it doesn't take a lot of effort.  A lot of this batch will be going into the freezer, so I've got meals for later in the winter too.  Sounds like a winner to me!

13 January 2015

Bubble Dress

I recently came across Project Run and Play (which I think Trina had mentioned before).  They do sewing challenges and you can win prizes, and it just sounds all sorts of fabulous.  And what would you know, the first challenge of the year is a bubble dress -- something that I had just written on my goal list not two weeks ago.  So of course I had to do it!  


I originally got the material for my first wedding (way back in 2003) and my Mom turned it into a tablecloth for me.  It doesn't fit our current table, and the butterflies were just too perfect for this project.  I used my same hand-drafted bodice and sleeve patterns as my storybook shirt, squaring up the neckline and shortening the bodice length and sleeves.  I was glad I had the pink ribbon on hand to complete the look - it definitely needed something to define the waistline.  There is a large pink button on the back, but with the addition of the sash it looks weird, so I'm going to swap it out for a black button (any excuse to go to the store!).  


I have to say it is amazing what I've been able to learn in a year!  Last January I barely sewed my first pair of pants, and now I'm making my own patterns and sewing with more confidence.  I look forward to another year of learning.  I wonder what I'll be able to do by next January!  

12 January 2015

Recipe 5: taquitos

Mexican night with some friends: fajitas, fish tacos, pico da gillo, guacamole, and the new recipe for me, Creamy Chicken Taquitos.  They weren't bad, just not our favorite flavor combination.  They reheated well in the toaster oven and have a nice crunch.  I'd make them again, but change up the spices and replace the cream cheese with something (it doesn't agree with Aaron).

08 January 2015

Recipes 2, 3 and 4: Sausage, Soup and Pears

Wednesday I made Potato and Sausage Bake.  Sound familiar?  That's because I found the recipe posted here on this very blog six years ago.  (My goodness people posted a lot that first month.)  Pretty tasty - similar to the potato packets Aaron likes to make on the barbecue.  Cupcake gobbled it up, except for the carrots and onions.  Aaron liked it alright, but we both thought it needed something to make it a main dish.  Maybe a mushroom sauce?

Today was a good day for soup.  Particularly this soup, Zuppa Toscana, like they make at Olive Garden.  I was able to chop up extra potatoes and cook up extra sausage yesterday so making the soup was even easier.  I didn't use the crockpot as suggested (because I don't have one!) so it was done in about an hour.  YUMMY.  It's warm and hearty and has lots of great textures.  I'd totally make it again.

And for dessert, I made some Maple Baked Pears.  Got the recipe in my email today and we just happened to have some pears (which we normally don't).  Why not?  Not something I'd make on a regular basis (I don't usually make dessert), but could be a quick "fancy" little dessert for company.

05 January 2015

Recipe 1: Macaroni and Cheese

I love macaroni and cheese.  I've made it lots of times, usually with just those two ingredients: macaroni and shredded cheese melted over top.  I know how to make a cheese sauce, and will occasionally, especially when I have some pureed butternut squash to add to it.  So I'm happy to try a new recipe - it's pretty difficult to ruin macaroni and cheese (aside from using powdered "cheese").

Homestyle Macaroni and Cheese from recipegirl.com was pretty dang tasty, but I picked the wrong night to try and make it.  I had a very hungry and whiny girl at my feet the entire time, and I know that something faster would have made us both happier!  I think it was worth the extra time though, and Cupcake enjoyed snacking on some bacon while she waited.  

The cracker and bacon topping was nice, and added some good texture.  (Next time add more bacon, because you can never have too much bacon.)  And adding cream cheese to the cheese sauce was awesome.  It didn't take much to add a nice flavor and it really helped to thicken the sauce.  Even if I don't make the entire casserole again I would make the cheese sauce.  (Instead of the mustard I added a touch of cayenne, garlic, and white pepper.)

EDIT: My husband is not usually a big fan of macaroni and cheese but he had TWO servings of this.  Hooray!  Totally made my day.  Definitely a success.

03 January 2015

2015 Preview

I'm happy to continue on our Sew 26 Challenge, but agree that getting to Z by the end of the year is not the goal.  If we're close though, I would love to do something with colors next year.  Since I've started working (watching a friend's two boys four days a week) I need to be more productive with my time off.  KCW are great for motivation, so I'll definitely be participating in those again.  And I've set a few sewing goals for the year.

Use a pattern - The only actual pattern I've ever used was for the basic pants from MADE and it was only two pieces already in the size I wanted.  I was given a whole bunch of paper patterns but haven't used any of them.  I need to see if they are even worth using, or if I'll stick with newer patterns I can purchase online.  I don't really have a lot of room for sewing stuff anyway, so it'll be good to clean out patterns I won't use.

Zippers and buttonholes - I've managed to go a whole year without attempting either, but it feels like it's time.  My first zipper project will probably be a little pencil case.  Any suggestions for a buttonhole project?

Quilt - One of my first sewing projects was finishing a quilt that my mom had started - it isn't perfect, but it wasn't too hard to do.  I was given a bunch of fabric and was inspired by some of the scraps.  I'll be doing a simple strip quilt and have most of the fabric for it, but still need to work on the layout.

Make this Pleated Square Tunic from Shwin&Shwin for Cupcake.  I've been swooning over this since I found it four months ago.  I'll probably need to scale it down because the free pattern is a size 5/6 (you think I can get away with just printing it a little smaller?) but it's just so cute.  Will mean I need to learn how to make pleats, which are an adorable detail that I'll want to include in future projects as well.

Make a bubble skirt.  For me or Cupcake.

Make something for me - No specific plans yet.

Paint this shirt.  I like the style of the shirt itself (peasant top without gathered sleeves) and I love the splash of color.  This year must include some paint.


And on a semi-related note, another one of my goals this year is to start trying some new recipes.  I need to make a better effort at regularly preparing meals at my house and including more vegetables.  I'm going to hunt through this blog for ideas, Pinterest always has lots, and I happen to have an entire bookshelf of cookbooks that I need to peruse too.  Anyone have any great ideas though?  What do you regularly eat at your house?  What are some of your favorite things to prepare?

02 January 2015

2014 Review

I didn't keep very good track of what I actually accomplished this year.  I have a small journal to keep notes in (like measurements and alterations) but didn't consistently write in it.  Hooray for the blog or else I'd have completely forgotten what I accomplished this year.  I will try and do better at taking notes this year!

Clothes for Cupcake
-black and cream t-shirt tiered dress
-basic pants
-four pairs of pajama pants and one top
-she calls it the "bunny dress" and is the most requested article of clothing she owns
-sleeveless blouse (which was actually just bodice practice)
-St Patrick's Day dress
-three peasant tops
-teal ruffle shirt
-red white and blue ruffle top
-birthday outfit: top and ruffled bum bloomers
-little red dress (reworked the birthday top pattern, still not perfect)
-storybook top 
-Halloween costume: hat, apron, reversible circle skirt, bloomers
-two refashioned items (shirt and cardigan)

AND
-five tiered skirts for Trina's girls
-maxi skirt for me
-t-shirt dress with Ella
-what started as a t-shirt dress but turned into a skirt for me (still need to change it - the length is awkward)
-refashioned shirt for me
-four pillow covers (make them slightly smaller next time)
-eight baby blankets
-twelve dishtowel bibs
-ruffled tote bag (premade bag, just added ruffles)

In time for Christmas
-two rugs
-lined tote bag for Tawnia
-tablecloth for my mother-in-law
-two stuffed sheep
-three sets of pocket warmers and three other heating packs

01 January 2015

2015 sewing goals

One of my favorite sewing blogs is WhipStitch, and Deborah posted her 2015 goal list the other day and invited readers to participate. When I first looked at it, I thought, “Ha ha ha. I’ll never get through 17 projects this year.” Yes, I did way more than 17 projects in 2014 but my sewing plans are to do 2 or 3 full-sized quilts next, and who knows how long THOSE will take. Plus, we're kicking homeschooling up a couple more notches so it will take more time on a regular basis than it has in the past.

Then I looked at her list again, and maybe this will be possible after all ...

1. a treat for your sewing space: my sewing machine does need a dust cover, considering my sewing area is currently in our dusty storage room.

2. something for him: Adam has been after me to make him some flannel pajama pants ever since I told him I have the fabric for them.

3. a skirt or dress for you: yep, have the fabric for that too, that's just been sitting there for over 2 years.

4. a quilt or blanket for charity: I have 5 quilts to make - one for each of my girls - before I give away any to charity or a swap. But yes, a quilt is next on my list to sew. It's already started.

5. a garment for a child: if I make no other clothing for my girls this year (which is highly unlikely), I will be making a baptism dress for RG, who turns 8 in October. 

6. a project using only scraps: I recently discovered that I have a lot more felt than I realized before, and a good portion is scraps. We’ll be decorating the outside of the Christmas playhouse with felt. Scraps!

7. an accessory: my girls are really into accessories these days – that could be another family project.

8. something in an unfamiliar textile: the only fabrics I've sewn with are regular woven cotton, flannel and felt. Finding a new type of fabric will not be difficult. 

9. a project from a printed sewing pattern: I just got a couple of new paper patterns from Oliver+S.

10. a quilt or block for a swap: another one! I actually have 2 quilts started and it's my goal to get them both done this year. One is hobo rails, and the other is paper piecing.

11. a project from a PDF pattern: I've been eyeing Dana Willard’s shorts pattern. Now is as good a time as any. My girls usually wear skirts in warm weather but it wouldn't hurt them to have a couple of pairs of shorts as well.

12.  a bag or pouch: SM has not yet gotten her Bento tote bag for her ballet class.

13. a project you Pinned but haven’t done yet: I don't "pin" but I do have about 200 bookmarks for sewing projects.

14. applique or embroidery: I'm on E for the Sew All 26 challenge, and I was wanting to embroider something anyway. I haven't decided what yet but this embroidered jumper from Purl Bee has been on my list for forever. Perhaps its time has come.

15. something doll sized: MORE doll clothes? What the heck, I can teach SM to make them herself. (With scraps! #6!)

16. use an unfamiliar tool or machine: I will be soon introduced to the walking foot when working on my quilts.

17. a project using fabric you designed: this is the only one that has me stuck. There is a website called Spoonflower where you can design your own prints and they'll make it for you, but they are WAY out of my price range. Maybe I'll find a solid and draw or paint on it. That's the only thing I can think of so far.

I haven't made a list of specific items I want to sew this year, except the 2 quilts and RG's baptism dress. And to keep going on the Sew All 26 challenge. Mindy suggested that we try to get to Z this year but I don't think I'm going to lock that one into a time frame. Part of the appeal for me is that I'm NOT trying to get it done on a deadline - it gives me flexibility but keeps me moving forward. The quilts fit in with F and H so I'll be sitting here at the beginning of the alphabet for quite awhile.

And the other thing with all of this - except for designing my own fabric, buying white for RG's baptism dress, and possibly some fillers for the quilts ... all of it can be done with fabric I already have and is just sitting there. It's a stash-buster year! Hooray for not spending more money on projects, and hooray for getting stuff used and/or out of my house rather than just taking up space! (Note to self: stay away from the remnant bin at Hobby Lobby.)

31 December 2014

2014 holiday challenge review

Mindy and I did a Holiday Challenge this year, started in February. Here's my report:

February: heart pillows.


March: Dr. Seuss print clothes for all my girls.

April: JE's birthday dress, because birthdays are holidays!

May: SM's birthday dress.

June: Nine Independence Day skirts for my 5 girls and 4 of their cousins.

July-August-September: the bottom fell out on my sewing mojo, and I did nothing for any holidays. That's when I need to start working on Halloween costumes and Christmas gifts, actually. In August, I was hoping to get a picnic blanket put together for Labor Day out of cut-up jeans. I started cutting old worn-out jeans one day in my living room with my kids "helping," and then the scissors had to get put away when JE started giving haircuts. We still have some extra-choppy bangs going on.

October: birthday dresses for RG and TA (and I started the Sew All 26 alphabet challenge. Always looking for something new to motivate myself!)


November-December: All the sewing for the Christmas gifts, which I just posted in my C and D alphabet posts.

These review posts are helping me organize my thoughts and see where I did well and where I need to improve. Hooray that I completed so many sewing projects! And I'm really glad I met the target of making birthday dresses for all 5 of the girls. For another round of the Holiday Challenge, I think it would be better for me to choose what holidays I'm going to work on through the year and some project ideas for each, all in one big list so I'm not trying to come up with new ideas all the time. The planning is what trips me up on a lot of things.