27 September 2015

Plaid Jacket

When I got the email that Shwin & Shwin was having a sale on their jacket patterns I had to get a couple.  I've been wanting to make Cupcake a jacket for a while and I'm not going to pass up on a sale.  The Michelle Jacket is the first pattern I've used with more than two pieces - I was excited for a new challenge.  Clear directions made it easy to follow and put together so it was a great first pattern to use.

I was given the adorable plaid canvas, and was saving it just for a project like this.  The pale pink lining is a sheet I picked up at the thrift store.  The piping and buttons were also given to me, so it was less than $10 for this adorable jacket!

I like everything about this jacket.  The hood for staying warm.  The pockets for keeping treasures.  The piping for a bit of color.  The shape is so girly for my little princess.  She looked so stylish wearing it to church today.

There were a lot of firsts with this project but the biggest thing was the buttons.  I had never sewn a button hole before!  I did do a few practice ones before starting on the jacket, but I probably should have done a few more.  Patience isn't my strong suit.  Of the five, the first three aren't great, but my last two were as good as I'd expect to get.  I'm glad I had this project to push me to try something new!

This whole project made me smile: starting with cute fabric,  facing new challenges, having lots of success, and ending with a warm, happy little girl. 

22 September 2015

crockpot drumsticks

It's the beginning of fall - time to break out the crockpot! And we're super busy this season with the kids' school activities (like everyone else, I'm sure) so dinner prep is the earlier the better.

My little girls love "bone chicken" so that's what we had for dinner tonight. I did some searching for recipes specific for drumsticks in the crockpot. I found this recipe online somewhere (I don't even remember, and varied it up a bit - this is what I did:

- a dozen chicken drumsticks
- an entire head of garlic broken apart and dropped in the bottom of the crockpot. I didn't peel the cloves

- in a small bowl:
about 6 tbl of olive oil
red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

With a basting brush, brush each drumstick with the oil/spices and then put it in the crockpot on top of the garlic cloves. The dozen filled up my crockpot.

Pour 1 cup of chicken broth over everything. I cooked it on high for about 4 1/2 hours, and they were fall-apart goodness! The kids ate them right up. I was a bit heavy on the pepper flakes so that added a lot more heat than I was anticipating. But they were still good.

Served with rice (and spooned the leftover broth in the crockpot over the rice), and steamed green beans.

And for another tasty cold-weather dinner, this corn chowder. I make it with fresh corn rather than canned and once, Adam added chicken to it. You can substitute cream for the cream cheese, but it doesn't turn out as thick. Other than that, just follow the directions. Good stuff!

08 September 2015

the harvest

The results of the garden are a lot of really cool heirloom tomatoes! The little red/green stripe is Jasper. The green one on the bottom left is Aunt Ruby's German Green. The long one across the bottom is Jersey Devil. I'm not sure what the other more generic looking ones are but they're just as good to put into salsa! We've canned 24 pints of salsa and 10 pints of Italian pasta sauce from a mix of the tomatoes, along with onion, peppers, and a bunch of other vegetables and herbs from our garden.

To clarify (because I was asked this question on Facebook), "heirloom" vegetables is in reference to the seeds - that they've been saved and preserved by farms and small companies that specialized in seed trading. They've not been modified by the large GMO companies. Most tomatoes you find in stores are genetically modified to hold their color and shape longer so they can last in the stores. The ethical merits of genetically modified foods aside, the store tomatoes may hold their color longer but they've lost a lot of their taste and texture. The heirloom tomatoes we grow don't last long sitting around - they go bad fast. But the difference in taste and texture is amazing. Even I like these tomatoes! And I've never liked tomatoes.

We've spent the month of August making pickles, pickles, and more pickles. We hit about 24 gallons this year. We were shooting for 30 gallons, like last year but we came in under the target because our CSA farm co-op didn't give us as many cucumbers this year. We've also canned peaches, pears, and jam. Adam nailed it with what we're calling our WILD jam - a combination of strawberry, blueberry, cranberry, mulberry, and raspberry.

We grew sunflowers this year, but they were smaller ones. Adam came home recently with two GIANT sunflower heads so we could dry the seeds and plant them for next year. The girls took turns using them as parasols. The smallest kids could barely even lift one.

And this is what I like about food in the summer: this was my dinner over the weekend. Mashed potatoes/squash, sauteed bell peppers and onions, and grilled tilapia. Totally healthy and really tasty!

And yesterday was one of my first attempts at canning, without the close supervision of Chef Adam. It didn't turn out so well. If you look closely at the jars of apples, you'll notice that the syrup doesn't come up to the top of the jar as it should for proper preservation. REALLY frustrating. And that was after boiling them a second time, so we have to do them AGAIN. I don't want to do them again. They were a pain in the neck the first time, and now we have to fix them a THIRD time?!?! S.I.G.H.

This is why I haven't been sewing since June. Gardening and particularly canning are a team effort.

04 September 2015

the garden

Last year, our front yard looked like this. Just a flower bed. The garden was in the backyard but didn't grow well at all. There's too much shade back there - we have over 50 trees on our property and they shade the entire backyard for most of the day. Great for kids, not so much for tomatoes. 

In April, Adam tilled most of the front yard under and we laid out the garden there. It's a mix of flowers and vegetables. We had beautiful tulips in May.  

MAY: starting to grow.

We have a large rhododendron bush right by our front porch but last year, the girls ripped off every single bud before they bloomed. So this was my first time seeing rhododendrons. I thought this was a fun looking flower. And then they opened. Awesome.

 The lilies and irises planted by the previous owner. We're grateful for her flowers!

 JUNE: take off!
Some of our herb pots on the deck, accessible to the kitchen. The plan is to put the basil in the main garden next year, because these little pots didn't give us nearly as much as we wanted.

JE's petunias and TA's violets in the planter boxes on the deck.  

When we got back from vacation at the end of June, the pumpkin plant had taken off. And the lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes, and dill. 

JULY: more new flowers

Sunflowers at 8 1/2 feet tall, and still growing. They topped 10 feet. My one regret with these flowers is that they're the perfect size to cut and put in vases in the house, and I never did. Next year.

 Yes, we intended for the pumpkins to get really big. These are supposed to be 50 pounders. They've been picked now because bugs got to the plant and killed it. We need to figure out how to weigh them because they're HUGE.


 black-eyed Susans - one of my new favorite flowers

Jersey devil heirloom tomatoes. We also had Aunt Ruby's German Greens, and Jaspers.

I will say that the garden is far more Adam's project than mine - he goes through all the seeds, plans it out, and does most of the planting. Then comes my part. I watered it a lot this year (not a lot of rain - I have never in my life hoped and prayed for rain as I have this year), and I do a lot of the weeding. So I put in a good amount of work too.

03 September 2015

G is for Grandma's birthday

My parents recently moved from Idaho to New York City to do family history archive work for our church. They were assigned to a courthouse in Queens. We're happy about it because it means they live just 2 1/2 hours from us instead of at the other end of the country!

After they arrived in NY, they came up to visit us in Connecticut last spring and Mom mentioned that she'd forgotten to bring her kitchen aprons. So I gave her one of mine right then (we have a lot) and made an immediate mental note: "There's Mom's birthday present." Ta da! When we went down to NY in July, we had a little birthday party with presents and ice cream.

Sorry this is the only full length shot. It's the only one I have without all the kids in the way.

Tawnia chose the fabrics - sunflowers and green with teeny white dots. We made it totally reversible. The back side not shown is fully green with sunflower pockets. I like this side better. We traced an apron I already had (that Mom made for me, actually) and made a couple of adjustments to get better coverage. The top section was made a little wider and we lengthened it as well. I did all the sewing, and Tawnia turned the neck and waist tie straps right side out while I worked on the rest of it. Next time I make an apron, I'll do the pockets bigger. They're a little small proportionally to the whole thing.

While we were talking, JK decided to make herself an apron by wrapping herself in the gift wrap tissue paper. Good times at Grandma's house!

02 September 2015

F is for flannel and fruit prints

(And now the catch-up posts begin.)

I wanted to do something much more clever for the letter F - loved Mindy's fuschia and all. But this is what I've been sewing lately: flannel pajamas shorts. A bunch of them. I bought the Kid Shorts from MADE - my first PDF pattern. Not as bad as I was thinking! It's my first step into the world of PDF patterns. And these go together quick! I timed myself with one of them - it took me an hour flat. The pattern has different lengths for girls and boys - I think the girl pattern is a little too short for my long-legged girls so I've adjusted it. On the second pair for SM, I did the full boy length and it goes to the bottom of her knees. She doesn't mind it and it's fun to have a little variety in look and style for the same pattern over and over.

SM got two pairs - I love the milk and cookies print! There's plenty more to make more pajamas for the other girls. She wears them paired with undershirt tank tops from Target - they're thick enough to be modest to wear around the house. It's a great little set. These were both from HUGE bags of fabric that Mindy sent to me from Canada, via our sister Tawnia who visited her and then came to visit me. (And got pestered by Customs - "What's with all the material?")

Now THIS pair of shorts ... heh. This was an experiment that didn't quite work. These are actually adult sized (and no, you will never see a photo of them being worn). Taking what I learned from the Kid Shorts pattern and instructions, Tawnia and I traced off a pair of her pajamas that were large on her ... so we let that be our seam allowance and sewed them up. Yyyyeah. Should have drawn in a seam allowance. AND I forgot to allow for folding over at the top for the waist band. So the top of the fabric, with no folding or anything even for hemming, rides a little low on the waist. I found a tutorial (also on MADE on the circle skirt tutorial) for attaching a wide band of elastic straight onto the top of the fabric ... which I also managed to botch up. It works, but don't look too close. It's a mess. But here you go. A project completed. They were supposed to be for Tawnia but they fit me better so I kept them. I owe her a pair of pajama pants.

That whole thing threw off my sewing mojo for awhile, and I didn't really sew anything in August. (Plus we've been a little nuts with gardening and canning, but that's another post.) I finally sewed another little pair of flannel shorts just yesterday for TA. She's been asking for them every day for over a week.

F is also for fruit prints! So fun - I love this one. I love fruit prints! It's a super lightweight cotton that I got at Walmart forever ago, and finally made it into some bright shorts for TA. I've also made a couple of other pairs of daytime shorts (rather than pajamas). My total is at 7 so far, and I have requests for more. The flannel shorts marathon will continue - good thing they're fast and I don't mind making them! And good thing that Target tank tops are cheap.

01 September 2015

Year 10

1 September 2006 was my first day of being a stay-at-home mom, and the first day of Operation Domestic Goddess. So this is YEAR TEN ... It seems like a milestone of sorts so I have 10 projects I want to complete in the next 365 days.

1. Finish my first quilt. It's so close! I'm doing the border on the piecing right now.

2. Embroider a DC map quilt. I was given one of these patterns for my birthday last year, and I'm excited to move this project to the front of the line. SM asked who will get it for their bed. No one. It's going on the wall.

3. Paint the master bathroom all white, trim the mirror, and recover the window. And while we're at it, new towels for Adam and me. We're still using the towels we bought when we got married.

4. Clean and stain the inside of an old steamer trunk Adam recently bought for me at a yard sale.

5. Make a strip quilt.

6. Paint a wall hanging with a meaningful quote on it. Yes, I have the quote selected. No, I will not tell you until it's done.

7. Sew at least one previously-bookmarked item of clothing for each of my five girls. I have SO many sewing projects bookmarked (my anti-Pinterest method). I need to do more of them.

8. Make new covers for my living room couch throw pillows. I've never liked the covers they came with and since the couch is white, I can do anything!

9. Update all the framed photos around my house, and rearrange our wall decor. Heck, finish putting everything up! There are still a few things here and there leaning against the wall after 2 years.

10. Make one 12-inch quilt block a week for the year.

A lofty ambition, to be sure. And these things have to be done in the midst of homeschooling, gardening, and all the food preservation we do all summer ... and those things aren't even on the list. We're also going to be hosting a family reunion here at our home next July, so we have some home plans related to that. Adam wants to expand our back porch deck. Wish us luck!

26 August 2015


To set the scene: Just after I entered the sewing world I made a trip to the fabric store.  I stuck to the clearance section and had no idea what I was doing.  I bought fabrics that I will never use because I didn't know what I liked yet.  But I found some sheer, sparkly, light green material and immediately thought, "Someday I will make a Tinkerbell costume with this."

Cut to now; Aaron's Uncle Darren is turning 50 on Saturday, and is holding a masquerade to celebrate.  Any excuse to make costumes, right?  With Halloween being so cold (there is usually snow on the ground) I was very excited at the prospect of finally making the Tinkerbell costume for Cupcake when it will be warm enough for her to wear it!

I started with this tank top, given to me from a friend quite some time ago.  I shorted the straps considerably, and added elastic to the back to gather it in.  And of course, I added the green sparkles.  A bit at the top for modesty, and bunches at the bottom for attitude.

I was still stuck on the idea of pick-ups, like the Cupcake Princess dress.  It gave it a party feel (it is for a masquerade), and the rounded bottom reminded me of leaves. 

But it still needed a little something to make it just right.  Thank goodness for Project Run & Play!  The addition of embroidery was exactly what this dress needed.  I know I wouldn't have thought of that without the suggestion from Frances Suzanne.  

I don't know if this will even count, since it is more of a refashion instead of sewing from scratch (and there is no way I'm beating the Tinkerbell from June), but I did create and I did add hand-sewing.  Let me know if I'm breaking the rules!

I had never done any hand-sewing before, so this was totally new for me.  It is far from perfect, but it was fun to do.  It's all basic back-stitching, with a few attempts at French knots that didn't work.  Nothing fancy, but it did the job I needed done.

To complete the outfit, a pair of light-up wings from a friend and some hand-painted shoes with yarn pom-poms tied on.  Cupcake had so much fun painting the shoes.  When we were finished she grabbed two other pairs of shoes and declared that we paint them purple.  

Did you know that Tinkerbell has a stuffed sheep?

A little magic to wrap things up - because sometimes I do get lucky with the camera.  In a true Peter Pan moment, Cupcake was playing with her shadow!

Cupcake has a Little Lamb

My favorite thing to sew is clothes for Cupcake, but looking in her closet she really doesn't need any clothes right now.  Except maybe pants.  I'm willing to buy leggings for her because they are cheap and fit her chubby legs well, but they aren't the best option for the cold weather coming soon.  Some sturdy, simple, plum-colored canvas pants coming up!

I followed my favorite basic pants tutorial on MADE and whipped up these pants in no time.  I'm excited to have made something so useful - these will go with a lot of her wardrobe!  So plain is good and practical, but it is also a little boring.  

This month for Project Run & Play the challenge wasn't a specific pattern but adding some hand-sewing to whatever we wanted to make.  Plain purple pants were the perfect canvas.  But what to add?  Cupcake and I discussed mermaids, princesses, dinosaurs and stars.  Then we came up with the jackpot: Sheepie.  If you know anything about my daughter, it is that she loves her little stuffed lamb.  Sheepie goes everywhere with us - church each Sunday, the zoo, grocery shopping.  Sheepie was even in the pictures with Santa.  Why not immortalize him on some pants?  

They were going to be hippie pants with a little bit of everything on them - I sketched stars on one hip, dinosaurs on the opposite thigh.  Of course we thought of the sheep after that so Sheepie was added to the back of one leg.  I started sewing Sheepie before the other designs, because that's what Cupcake was most excited about,  And then I realized just how long hand-sewing takes.  My hands got tired and my elbow was sore, the deadline was looming and Sheepie really was the best thing going for these pants so I stopped after that.  

 One slight problem: the sheep was on the back of the leg.  It would have worked with other things sewn onto the front, but by itself it was just sad.  So I cut the leg off and turned it around and sewed it back on.  Now there is a random seam across the leg, but I don't mind it, and Cupcake is too enamored with the sewn sheep to care.  I love how the simple embroidery transformed these plain pants into favorite ones.  There will definitely be more hand-sewing in my future!