Saturday, October 6, 2012

Souper Saturday: Beef Stew

I originally picked up this recipe from my friend Karen, who brought it for my fam after James was born.  It is tasty, hearty, and filling...everything a beef stew ought to be.  (This recipe is also dairy free for you folks with allergies or intolerances.  This was great when I was nursing James and needed lots of protein since he could not handle any kind of dairy in my diet.)

In the interest of time, I'm just going to give you the link to the recipe for Carol's Beef Stew and list a few little additions I make.

I add about 2x the ketchup called for in Carol's recipe, and I also add about 1tbs of worcestershire sauce and 1/4C of whatever red wine or cooking sherry I have on hand.  I've used Cab Sauv and Malbec. Both were very nice, though beware of adding to much.  Turns a bit coq au vin in my opinion.

I also like to add about 3/4 C chopped mushrooms, which also dresses it up a bit.

As a bonus, Karen has a recipe for traditional white bread on the same post.  The bread is perfect for sopping up that extra gravy.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Souper Saturday: Classic Chicken Noodle

Chicken noodle soup is iconic in American gastronomy, and I usually have no desire to depart from its classic taste.  The recipe that follows is really nothing special, but I'll include some tips to make this recipe almost effortless to make and share.  This is my go-to when I'm taking a meal to family with a new baby.

Classic Chicken Noodle (or Rice) Soup
1 fully cooked rotisserie chicken or four chicken breasts or one whole roasting chicken whole or cut up
seasoning rub: salt, pepper, paprika, and granulated garlic
4 qt chicken broth or stock
1/2 vidalia onion, diced
2 large or 4 small carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 C dry egg noodles or one cup rice
4 sprigs fresh rosemary (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

1.  If you are using chicken breasts or a whole chicken, sprinkle with salt, pepper, granulated garlic and paprika.  Roast in the oven at 375 until juices run clear (The time really varies depending on your cuts of meat.) If you are using a rotisserie chicken, skip this step altogether.*
2.  Heat broth** to boiling and add onion, carrots, celery, and rosemary.  Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender but not mushy.  Remove woody rosemary stems if needed.
3.  Add chicken and noodles or rice and simmer until noodles or rice are tender.
4.  Serve immediately with warm bread and salad for a complete and tasty meal.

*The rotisserie chicken has made this recipe so easy!  However, if you have a chicken to cook up or you are just trying to save money, get the same seasoned taste of rotisserie chicken by roasting chicken with skin on and rubbing with ample amounts of the seasonings above.

**I have made my own stock in the past, but I guess I have a taste for salt so I always end up adding some bouillon cubes to give the broth more flavor.  I have cooked some of the chicken bones with the broth, even when I use commercial broth, and I think it gives the base a richer flavor.  You could also cook a whole chicken or whole chicken parts by poaching (boiling) and use that as your stock.  It does require quite a bit of extra seasoning, though, in my opinion.  So, if you're going for ease and speed, commercial broth or bouillon is the way to go.

***I tried to take my own pics but my camera is not conducive to making indoor pictures look very appetizing.  When Kevin saw me trying to style up a bowl of chicken noodle soup he said, "Eeee...that's looks gross."  And it really did.  So, this picture is pretty close to a bowl of the soup made from my recipe and a whole lot more appetizing than my pictures!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

First Day of Ballet

On Saturday, Monica pariticpated in her very first ballet class.  The hallway was all a-flutter with proud and excited parents, waiting for their turn to take videos and snap pictures of all the bouncy, sweet little girls in the studio.  I didn't get any pics of the class itself (forgot the camera!), but here are a few shot at home. 


I tried to have Monica assume first position for a pic but this is as good as it got. I guess further instruction will be helpful. I do love her funny stylings though.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Garden Delight

On Friday, we played and explored at the local Children's Garden. The day started stormy, but became beautiful and bright by late morning. Gotta get out in the fresh air before the cold weather really sets in!
Building A Fairy House
The Finished Design

(When Kevin saw this pic, he said, "What's this pile of rubble?" Way to encourage creativity, right? Fortunately, Monica wasn't in ear-shot and I don't think she knows what "rubble" means anyway.)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Souper Saturday: Game Day Turkey Chili

Since fall and the inevitable beginnings of cooler weather are setting in, I'm starting a little recipe series: Souper Saturdays.  So, for an indeterminate number of Saturdays, I'll post my favori,e and perhaps experimental, soup recipes.  I can taste the spoonfuls of steamy goodness now...

As much as I love summer and sun and warm weather, I love fall for all of the tasty soups that come back to our family's menu.  One of our favorites is Turkey Chili.  I really wasn't much for cooking until Kevin and I were married and this recipe for Terrific Turkey Chili is one of the very first recipes I bothered to file in the recipe box my aunt gave me at a wedding shower.  Over the past 7+ years, I've tweeked the recipe several times and now it is savory-spicy perfection. 

This recipe is really easy to adapt for vegetarian tastes.  Just eliminate the turkey, add a can or two of beans and substitute vegetable broth or stock for the beef broth, but I would still add the taco seasoning to give it that kick.  As a side note, I recently started making my own taco seasoning and it is fabulous: tastier, cheaper and no artificial ingredients.

Pair this chili with some cornbread or tortilla chips and beer and you have a sure winner for Football Saturdays.

Game Day Turkey Chili (adapted from Terrific Turkey Chili at All Recipes)

1-2 lb. ground turkey
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

1.  Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Crumble turkey into the pot, stirring with a wooden spoon to break apart as much as possible. Season with taco seasoning mix and mix until meat is evenly coated with seasonings. Continue cooking, reducing heat if necessary, until turkey is well browned.
2.  Pour in beef broth, and simmer to reduce liquid slightly, about 5 minutes. Add salsa, tomatoes, beans and green chilies, and continue cooking at a moderate simmer for ten minutes. Adjust the thickness at any time you feel necessary by adding water.
3.  While chili is still cooking, heat one tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook onion and green bell pepper, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes, or until onion is translucent and bell pepper is lightly browned. Add onion and bell pepper to the chili, and continue cooking at a very low simmer.  Again, adjust the consistency with water as needed.
5.  Ladle chili into serving bowls. Top with sour cream, green onion, and cheddar cheese, and serve.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sewing for Monica: An Easy Flower Upgrade

As mentioned in the previous post, we attended a wedding over Labor Day weekend, and I indulged in a couple of projects for the event. 

Last Spring, I bought this dress for Monica at Target: 

There was just something about its white fluffiness that I could not resist. It also made the perfect dress for the wedding. A bit flower-girl-ish, but whatev.

The one thing I didn't like was the flower. It was just chintzy, like something you'd find on a discount silk floral shelf.

So, I set out to make one myself. After some googling, I found this list of fabric flower tutorials and was immediately drawn to this one. I love peonies and the results for this project looked really voluminous and realistic.

Monica and I picked out the fabric together: a pale pink taffetta for the petals with matching netting to layer in between.  The project was relatively easy, though I definitely would pass on the taffetta next time.  Satin would have curled in the heat of the candle flame much more readily I think.  And in contrast, the netting curled so quickly I ruined a lot of my petal cuttings. 

I also used invisible thread to attach the clear crystal to the middle of the flower instead of standard thread.  This ensured that there wouldn't be any detraction from the shimmer of the clear crystal. 

And, voilĂ !


Chic-chic and sassy!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sewing for James: A Dapper Bow Tie

The family and I had the opportunity to attend a wedding in Milwaukee over Labor Day weekend...which of course gave me the opportunity for fun, wardrobe-enhancing projects.

This was my first sewing project for James and has been on my list of sewing to-dos since we received the invite: a Brooks Brothers-esque bowtie. I wanted all out preppy cuteness.

While in DC with Kevin in the spring, I actually stopped in a Brooks Brothers store to look at bow ties, just to get an idea of sizing, price, fabric type and quality etc. First, Brooks Brothers does not carry a lot in 2t size range. Second, it really is a bit too expensive for my 2t kid's messy stylings. There is a reason why I frequently comment that I am raising Pig Pen incarnate.

I surfed the web looking for a good bow tie tutorial and ended up settling on this one at Prudent Baby. Apparently, the bow ties debuted in a photo shoot for the Martha Stewart wedding blog, and got enough attention that Prudent Baby created a tute. Works for me!

The only challenge for this tutorial was that I needed real bow tie hardware, which I was able to order readily on Etsy: three bowtie hardware sets for about $5 with shipping.  (You bet I'll be using this tute again at Christmas...think brother/sister Christmas eve coordinates...)  And, while we're on the subject of cost, this project, fabric, interfacing, hardware and all, probably cost about $5.  Thrifty and fabulous!

A few notes: Sizing was definitely a trial and error experience.  The tutorial sized the bow piece to be a bit large in the name of funkiness.  \Honestly, it was a bit large for my preppy sensibilities and my two year old's face. I wanted to avoid anything resembling a clown bow tie.  So, I took the bow tie width down an inch and kept everything else the same.

The tutorial called for double sided fusible interfacing, which seemed to totally mystify the lady at the fabric cutting table at JoAnns, so I just went with a medium weight, single sided fusible, which I fused on both sides of the piece that is folded into the bow.  This provided the thickness and texture needed for the bow tie to hold its shape and resist drooping.

After making my bow piece, I also realized that I needed to be more strategic in which part of the madras pattern I cut out.  Not all cut pieces are created equal, and I really wanted to pick up more of the pink and white, as opposed to the medium blue. 

I ended up making the neck strap twice because the first time, it was too short, and I also made the middle connector loop twice becuase I sewed it too small the first time (I thought the tute called for a loop that was too big, turns out I was wrong!  Though, I think it could be a bit more snug, so I may tack the bow to the connector at some point.)  So, I ended up making the whole thing twice, with one set of pieces being not quite right.  Oh it goes with sewing and garment construction....

Here's the final super cute result:


So cute. Totally worth the effort!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Just Beachy

I had the great privilege of growing up in a small town on Lake Michigan.  I never really appreciated what I had as a kid, but now it is pure joy to share it with my children.  We made it to the beach a number of times this summer, and while this last trip was not the quintessential, sunny beach day, there were enough warm waves crashing on the shore to keep Monica and James laughing. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Crispy Chewy Goodness

Up until recently, I was baking the same chocolate chip cookie recipe I baked in middle school.  The recipe usually got good reviews: soft, cake-like, and melt in your long as they were fresh.  If the cookies stayed around more than two days, even in an airtight container, they became really stale and crunchy.  The other beef I had with them is the entire cup of butter and 3/4 cup of oil.  Is that really necessary??  So, the search for a new recipe was on.

I found the winner on my fave baking blog, Smitten Kitchen.  She has a few chocolate cookie recipes, but this is exactly what I was looking for: crispy edges, chewy middles and lotsa chocolate!  At Smitten Kitchen, a lot of the recipes come from other sites, like Allrecipes or Martha Stewart, but she reviews and alters them and gives great tips and posts appealing photos. 

I made a couple changes to the recipe by using 1/2 cup of butter and 1/4 cup of shortening instead of 3/4 cup of butter and I also added 1/2 tsp of cream of tartar to the dry ingredients, to give the cookies that appealing crackly appearance.  Give 'em a try! It's hard to eat just one...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Wax On, Wax Off: A Warning and a Miracle Product

Once your two year old discovers crayons, I would recommend sorting the laundry very carefully and searching all pockets...unless you want to spend two hours with a gallon of Krud Kutter, sweat, and a few tears.

When Kevin took the kids to his parents' place so I could have a work weekend at the house, I did a load of laundry, only top open the dryer door and find clothes peppered in some really vibrant Crayolas:

After hyperventilating for about 30 seconds, I ran to the computer, did some Googling and found a message board that mentioned this, touting it as a miracle worker:

Miraculous was what I was going for, so I went out to Lowes, grabbed a gallon, and spent the next hour and a half scrubbing, dunking, and swishing the salvagable clothes in Krud Kutter. While I wasn't able to get the really concentrated spots out, this product is pretty awesome. I was able to save a lot of stuff that I never would have thought would be wearable again.

And I've since used Krud Kutter on other stains, including ring around the collar, and it is really effective. Not to mention it's biodegradable and non toxic. It's my new laundry fave.

On a sad note, the Square Dress, Monica's fave dress and the first successful garment I ever made, will never be the same. A new Square Dress (which is really a Stripe Dress) is currently a work in progress. RIP Square Dress.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sewing for Monica: Small Square Dress

Monica hearts dresses, so in my quest for fun little projects, I put this dress together from a nearly-never worn tank top in Monica's dresser drawer, some JoAnn's red tag mosaic fabric, white cotton lawn from my stash, 3/4" elastic, and a strip of fabric from a t-shirt turned paint smock.

I put most of the dress together, sans pattern or tutorial, but I did use this online tutorial to get the general concepts for sewing the skirt to the tank top. I also used this tutorial to make the t-shirt flower.  

Monica calls this dress the Small Square Dress, as opposed to the original Square Dress, which has been mostly retired due to a tragic accident...more on that later...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Potty Realism

I just realized I have come to a new place in parenthood:  the potty training no-judgment zone.  This zone is probably not new to many of you mamas, but I think there are some in the previous generation or maybe your friend across town, who are still in the "my kids were all potty-trained by two, no problems, so what's up with your little people" place.  These folks are well-meaning, and may even be telling the truth, but I'm willing to bet they have not had a challenging potty trainee or they are just leaving out the frustration.

When Monica was just over a year old, I remember talking to a friend about the potty training process.  She had decided that they were not going to set up a reward system with candy, stickers, or McDonalds' french fries.  Why reward a behavior that is not really a choice, i.e. people in our society are expected, from a social and hygenic standpoint, to eliminate in acceptable locations and receptacles.  Period. 

At the time, I thought, "Of course.  I'm just going to get this girl to go potty when I think it's time.  It's as simple as putting them on the potty every so often and,  by two-ish, she'll understand to eliminate there.  Who wants wet, soiled underwear, right?  Surely she'll learn quickly just because that's what we do; it's the routine."

That may work for some, maybe even many, kids.  But, I tell ya, some kids give you a rough go.  Some seem to hold on to dipes and purposeful pants pooping for years.  I've heard some theorize that this variation is due to parenting deficits and/or laziness.  While that is possible, let's not forget that you can't control you kid's bowels or their development in understanding urges.  Let's not forget that changes in the home can get in the way of maintaing and developing skills.  Let's not forget that taking too much responsibility for our kids' bodily functions can cause frustration or a false sense of pride. 

If you need to cut a hole in your kid's diaper and sit them on the toilet to poo, fine.  If you need to give out a jelly bean every once in a while to keep them interested in learning to use the john, what's the harm?  If you're willing the just wash out the messy underwear today because putting your kid on the potty every 30 minutes is exhausting, more power to you.

 And my friend who said there was no way she'd reward potty traning?  She has also reached the potty training no-judgment zone.  Kids will do that to you.  They keep you humble and honest.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Sewing for Monica: A Sort-Of Simple Skirt

Here are the results for another MADE tutorial: A Simple Skirt

When I first skimmed this tutorial I thought, "Awesome. A sewing project that really will be one evening!" But, I double layered the skirt and used bias tape on the hems; these suggestions are in the tutorial, but they certainly took some of the "simple" out of the project.  However, I love not having to double roll hems, and who doesn't love a little extra twirl and flounce?

The black/white/yellow fabric is from the JoAnn remnant bin and the yellow polka dot fabric is from the JoAnn quilting cotton wall. This project would have been a lot more straightforward had I not sewn the skirt layers together in the center back hem. I *could* have left them sewn together but I think you lose flounce and it just bothered me to leave it. Separating the layers in the hem also caused some issues with the bias tape, but I corrected it and the stitches on the bias tape look more even for it. That correction took all of the "one evening" out of the project, but the fastidious craftstress in me is at peace now. 
I've come to realize that learning to sew and the too-cute results often take a lot more effort, patience and brain power than I thought they would. However, I still love it and find real satisfaciton from the creative process and the outcome. Maybe it is filling part of the challenge-in-the-workplace hole I sometimes feel being a SAHM. We all need an outlet, right?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Sewing for Monica: Upcycling The Giant Purple People Eater Maternity Shirt

If you'll remember a few posts ago (and many moons ago), I turned a mens dress shirt into a sun dress for Monica.  Monica hearts that dress and has even christened it "The Square Dress".  When Monica names a piece of clothing, it is automatically inducted into her personal Clothing Hall of Fame.

So, in the name of thrift, challenge, and cuteness, I took on another mens dress shirt repurpose a la this tutorial by Dana at Made.  I love the cap sleeves and the extra styling at the waist! 

While on my quest for the perfect shirt at a thrift store, I came across a ginormous, deep purple, button-down maternity shirt.  It was a little different from the mens shirt in that it did't have the yoke in the back, had a much boxier shape and sported short sleeves instead of long sleeves.  The only differnce that made an impact on the project was the short sleeves.  The cap sleeves are cut from the dress shirt's long sleeves (which I didn't remember while out on my thrifting escapade), so I had to improvise with some very Vera-looking fabric from the JoAnns quilting cotton wall, which I paired with a coordinating quilting cotton for the waist band.

I should have taken a pic of the shirt at pre-upcycle because the massive shirt to cute little dress transformation is fun to see. If you really want to get the full effect of the transformation, click this link to a similar shirt at The Purple Store. (Who knew there was a store for people who really really want and love purple stuff?  Caitlyn...this is definitely the URL for you!) Here are the results:
Definitely peruse Dana's tutorials and patterns. So cute and fun. In fact, I'll have the results of another Made tutorial soon...

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Happy Summer!


It's been a while!

Summer has been very full for us: lots of sun, fun, beaching, home improvement and sewing.  I *promise* I'll post more later (maybe later this evening...) but for now, here's a pic from a photog sesh in June in honor of my mom's birthday (which was in March...we like long celebrations!) 

We love you Mom! 

Like the pics? Check out Kelsey Marie Photography.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Aiding and Abetting

Yesterday was not one of my best days.  I inadvertently facilitated the death of two of my friend's chickens and Monica was there to witness the event. Not exactly what I had in mind for Monica's first "circle of life" lesson. She was a little disturbed at first, ("Mama, the chicken is broken!") but she's also talking about going to see the new chickens when they arrive.  At least three year olds are pretty resilient.   I think Reenie's comment sums it up best: C'est la vie!

RIP Frances and Geraldine.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Ultimate Bed Head

Kind of looks like there's a strange hair monster emerging from the back of Monica's head...or maybe I just read too much Harry Potter...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Lesson in Jamesish

Need-to-know vocab for living with and caring for Mr. James:

deepee: diaper

pa: pacifier

shummershun:  summersault

peter butter:  peanut butter

Mocky:  Monica

Grabba:  Grandma

mooma:  kiss; v, to kiss (think "mwa!")

hahpoo:  apple

coppern:  popcorn

puppies:  goldfish-shaped cheesy crackers

shamich:  sandwich

ah-bah-dees:  gummy vitamins

skeeter-bike:  a scooter and/or a tricycle; v, to ride a scooter or a tricycle

jabbies:  pajamas

binkie:  blanket

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Better Intention

Last night, after the third time Monica came out of her room post-bedtime:

Me:...and I pray that Monica will have sweet dreams and that her guardian angel will stay close to her all through the night.

Monica: I pray that my guardian angel and Mama's guardian angel will give us good dreams and bring peace to the whole world.  Amen.

Now, I think that is a prayer request I can get behind.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Special Intention

During Monica's Bedtime Prayers...

Me: Our Father, who art in heaven...and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.  And I pray that God would bless our family and bring Daddy home safely*.  Amen.

Monica: And I pray that all of Mama's teeth would fall out very soon.  Amen.

I always hoped that my children would pray for me, but that kind of request was not what I had in mind...

*Daddy's at a Tiger's game, safe from those who would try to pray his teeth to sure demise.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Happy Easter!

Jesus is Risen! Alleluia!

I hope you all had a joyous Easter Sunday and that the blessings continue to flow through the Easter season. We had a truly blessed time filled with grace, family, and sunshine.

Patience with the camera disintegrated very quickly...

This snapshot brought back memories of another scream-filled photo-op.

Both were definitely, how-can-I-do-anything-but-smile-crazily-with-all-this-screaming moments.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Little Purse for Easter Sunday

I made this little purse for Monica as an Easter gift. I used two fat quarters (Monica chose them quite some time ago, so she forgot about them, which made for a nice surprise), a little over two feet of grosgrain, some interfacing and a magnetic clasp. I'm really happy with the way it turned out, and Monica loved carrying it to Mass and brunch!

The original tutorial does not have instructions for the clasp, but I like having the option of at least sort of closing bags. The flower on the front was made from the strap, but only after I had sewn it all together and realized I skipped the "cut 7 inches from the strap to make the flower" step! The seam ripper is my best friend.

Click here for the tutorial at If I Can Do It You Can Do It.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

On My Way to Being Broken In

I have some friends who turned me on to this great blogger.

Here's a really beautiful, so-real piece about motherhood she wrote sort-of recently. I'm not so "broken-in" yet, but I do remember, very vividly, those days with just one babe. Simcha hit my feelings spot-on.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Men's Dress Shirt...Presto Chango!...Toddler Sundress

Another reason for the blogging hiatus...

My friend Claire shared this tutorial for a toddler sundress reconstructed from a mens' dress shirt. I am a real newbie when it comes to garment construction, so this did take longer than it would a more accomplished and experienced seamstress. I also chose a white, translucent shirt that I felt the need to line with that turquoise fabric that you see at the neckline. That was the most challenging part of the project because there are no instructions for that and, once again, I'm a newbie. But, I'm happy with the way it turned out. I may make another one later in the summer...

Thanks to Maureen for the pocket idea (made from the wrist cuff of the shirt and some pleats). Otherwise I would have spent way too much time and energy sewing those knife pleats all along the hem...Oy!

Pics...I wish I would have taken a picture of the shirt, pre-recon. It's fun to see the contrast! Here's the tutorial if your so craftily inclined...