Monday, September 30, 2013

Closet Flashbacks: Vogue 8469 in Polka Dots

I made this quick and easy Vogue pattern a few years back and still love how it turned out. It's made from a black quilting cotton with tiny white polka dots. This was one of those great projects where the pattern fit me perfectly with absolutely NO modifications!
This was taken when I was already running late and was trying to get a picture before all my curls fell out (I failed).
I'd been wearing the dress for several hours so please ignore the askew belt and wrinkles!

This is the type of cheesy picture you get when you are in a random parking lot where people are waiting for your parking space.
This is one of the few dresses I've made that actually has a lapped zipper...Now I only use invisible zips! 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Foodie Friday: Pumpkin Apple Pancakes

I have a weird thing about pancakes. I love them due to a childhood of eating homemade sour dough pancakes and because my dad lovingly made me almond flavored oat flour pancakes with rice syrup or jam every morning before school during a particularly persnickety eating phase during high school.  After years of fostering an irrational fear of making them myself, I decided to confront this breakfast food and was pleasantly surprised by the result. These are filling and taste deliciously like fall.

Next time, I’d like to try them with a sweeter apple and maybe white whole wheat, whole wheat, oat, almond or spelt flour.    

Sunset Magazine – November 2012
Pumpkin Apple Pancakes

1 large egg

1 c each flour and milk (I used organic)

2 TBS vege oil (I used extra virgin olive oil)

½ c pumpkin puree

1 TBS each sugar (I used organic cane) and baking powder

¼ tsp each salt, nutmeg and cinnamon

1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped (I used a Granny Smith)

About 2 TBS butter, divided (I used ghee for the first batch and then skipped it for cooking spray – I don’t use nonstick cookware EVER)

Syrup (I used maple)

Mix all ingredients except butter and syrup together. Melt the butter (if using) or spray pan with cooking spray spooning 1/3 c portions into pan (making 3-4 at a time). Cook, turning once until cooked through. Continue with remaining batter and serve warm with butter, syrup, jam, peanut butter or whatever you like to top your pancakes with!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tips For Frugal Framing: Finding a Frame

If you have ever checked out prices for custom framing, you know that you might have to auction a kidney on a black market to pay for it. Getting a piece custom framed can cost hundreds of dollars and sometimes, it is worth it. Like say if you inherited your Great Grandfather Picasso's first doodles or something. However, the rest of us peasants are left scratching our heads for an affordable alternative to custom framing. Here are a few ideas to frugally frame that artwork of yours:

First things first: the frame. You could take the most obvious route and hit up a store like Target or AC Moore but even low end frames can be somewhat pricey, which is especially annoying when they are poorly made. If you find a frame you like, take the time to check it out before you buy it.

  • Look at the mitered corners. If there are gaps or they don't line up nicely, walk on by. You don't want to be annoyed every time you walk past the frame, do you? Plus, it doesn't look professional. 
  • Look for frames that are solid and sturdy, with nicely mitered corners. 
  • If you are planning on matting your artwork, make sure there is enough room for a mat (or two) in the back. Some cheaper frames have such a shallow spot for pictures that squeezing in even a single mat can be challenging. 
If you find a frame that passes these tests, and is at a price you're willing to pay then you are golden. This usually doesn't happen to me, so I will tell you where I like to find frames: the thrift store.

You see, at some point in time, someone thought that Aunt Hilda's painting of a duck flying over a stand of Bob Ross-esque trees was worthy of professional framing. They took it to the frame shop and paid big bucks to have it put into a nice frame. Fast forward 20 years, Aunt Hilda dies and no one wants the duck. (How dreadfully morbid!) It gets donated to the thrift store, where it can be yours for the low price of $15. As it turns out, you can find a lot of nice frames at the thrift store. You can also find a lot of cheesy frames there too, but we'll ignore those. Basically, look for the same things I mentioned above, and two other things.

  • First, does it have glass? Sometimes the glass is missing or didn't come with it (in the case of oil paintings and such). If you find a frame you love but it doesn't have glass, consider buying another frame with the same size opening so you can pilfer the glass for your dream frame. 
  • Second, look to see how its all attached. Some commercially framed pictures are sealed in such a way as to require the jaws of life to extract the picture from the frame. This is not necessarily a deal-breaker, just something to be aware of. These types usually require the generous application of pliers and elbow grease and end with a need to replace the backing piece (usually cardboard or mat board). 
Once you've acquired your frame, you can do any number of modifications to it to make it your own. I will detail a few ideas in an upcoming post, along with the makeover of the frame shown above.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Closet Flashbacks: Birthday Bunting!

Another non-clothing closet flashback! I seriously need someone to come over and tell me how I can change up some of the dresses I've made because I am feeling a bit bored with them lately. On to the bunting: this bunting has gotten a ton of use since I made it a few years ago. I hang it up at every birthday and celebration, including a few baby showers I've thrown. I love how colorful and cheerful it is, plus it is infinitely reusable unlike most birthday decorations.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Foodie Friday: Homemade Granola

For today's recipe, I present to you my favorite granola recipe! If I have learned anything in my granola making career, it is that you have to kiss a lot of frogs to get a good recipe. Or something like that. Oven temperature, binding ingredients, is all a delicate balance. This recipe has been tweaked from a recipe I tore from the pages of Martha Stewart many moons ago. It is crunchy, not overly sweet and very adaptable. Beside the obvious 'add milk' application, it is fabulous sprinkled on yogurt with blueberries and a bit of honey or mixed into a handful of trail mix. It also can be used to sprinkle over muffin batter before baking for a crunchy now that you're all hungry, here is the recipe:

Homemade Granola

8 C. rolled oats (not quick!)
1 C. brown sugar
1/2 C. honey
2/3 C. coconut oil (or canola oil)
2-3 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
a few pinches of freshly grated nutmeg
up to 2 C. add-ins, such as flax, unsweetened coconut, seeds, nuts

In a saucepan (or alternately in a microwave-safe glass bowl) bring brown sugar, honey and oil to a boil. You basically want the sugar to dissolve for the most part. If you feel fancy, you can add a kick of vanilla at this point for extra deliciousness. In a separate (and rather large) bowl, mix the oats, cinnamon, and add-ins. Pour syrup mixture over the top and stir well. Turn onto a parchment-lined pan and bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes, stirring mid-way. You want the granola to begin to brown and crisp, but stop short of scorching it. If your oven is hot, check it after 25 minutes and see what you think. Now: the clusters. If you want clusters, let it cool without stirring. Then you can break it up and it will stick in bigger chunks. If you want it in nice, small uniform pieces stir it several times while it cools. If you want to add dried fruit, add it now. (Some recipes recommend adding before baking...don't!) Store at room temp in an airtight container.

Variations: Dried Pineapple and Coconut, Dried Apple and Cinnamon, Dried Cherries and Vanilla

Monday, September 16, 2013

Closet Flashbacks: Cabo Halter

About 3 years ago I made 3 of these Amy Butler Cabo Halters in a row (one of the original posts here). They're quick, easy and don't require major yardage...yay!!! This one I made out of a curtain panel that I got from Target. It's a really light weight fabric and is fully lined with an invisible zipper. It's still in the 90s down here so it's perfect for the end of summer heat (which as I'm writing this I realize is ironic since I'm wearing jeans in these pictures).
I'd definitely make this pattern again but I'd stitch the front pieces together or tack them down from the inside to keep things from gaping.  It would also be easy to convert the halter into a tank by stitching the ties down on the back. Now I just need to dig out the other versions that I made and wear them too!  

Friday, September 13, 2013

Foodie Friday: Turkey Burgers

I'm clearly not a food photographer but take my word for it...these turkey burgers were ridiculous. It took all of our self control to not eat two in a row. If you're not into citrus on meat or in general these aren't for you but for the goat cheese and Meyer lemon luvin' people out there you should probably make these today!
Once again, I've deferred to a Bobby Flay recipe. This guy has seriously never steered me wrong in the flavor department. Anyway, here is the link to the original recipe and added below with my comments.
Turkey Burgers by Bobby Flay
Meyer Lemon-Honey Mustard:
1/4 c Dijon mustard
1 TBS clover honey
1 TBS fresh orange juice
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp fresh Meyer lemon juice ***
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 lbs 90% lean, ground turkey (not all white meat)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 slices goat cheese, 1/2 thick (I used a crumbly goat cheese)
4 sesame seed hamburger buns lightly grilled (I used fresh baked potato buns, toasted not grilled) 
Watercress, for serving (I used organic spinach)
***If you can't find Meyer lemons mix 1/2 tsp fresh orange juice and 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice (this is what I had to do)

For the Mustard: Whisk the ingredients together and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to meld.

For the burgers: My grill is in balcony purgatory for at least a year (I live in an apartment right now and can't use my beloved Weber). SO, if you want to see the grilling instructions check out the original link. I had to improvise and pan cook my burgers which turned out fine but obviously didn't have quite the same flavor as grilling. Either method, season your patties with salt and fresh cracked pepper and once they're done throw the cheese on top to melt a little. Then, put the burgers on the buns, drizzle with mustard and top with your greens.

You'll probably want to use some of the extra mustard too! :)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Closet Flashbacks: Toddler Sized Bucket Hat

Tomorrow my firstborn turns 8. Eight! I can't believe it. Way back in ye olden days, when he was but knee high to a grasshopper, I made him this little bucket hat. It is made from some cute firetruck fabric and he wore it a lot until he grew out of it. The hat has floated around and been worn on occasion by my littlest but he has never had a particular fondness for it. We recently went on a camping trip and the hat made another appearance. It is way too small for him but he loves it. I asked him if I could make him a new one in his size but he declined. The boy is a sucker for nostalgia. I am happy to say that there are no design quirks or sewing mishaps that would make my blood pressure rise every time he puts it on, so I can't complain. It has lasted 6 years, closet flashback indeed!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Foodie Friday: Jasmine Infused Peach Jam

Hello. My name is Megan and I have a problem. I can't walk through a farmer's market without buying a bushel basket (or two) of something. Now I feel better, because admitting it is the first step. So, what to do when you are swimming in peaches? Not to mention the tomatoes, plums and peppers that found their way home with me! To deal with the peaches I came up with a new recipe for Jasmine Infused Peach Jam. A while back I stumbled upon a lone bag of Trader Joe's Jasmine Green Tea, lost in a sea of Lipton in the basket at church. I snatched it up and loved it! Jasmine really adds a nice floral note that is not overbearing. Skip forward a few months and I found a recipe for Jasmine Rhubarb popsicles in The People's Pops. Also delicious! So I figured why wouldn't it go well with peaches? And it does. Here's the recipe:

Jasmine Infused Peach Jam

4 C. peeled, chopped peaches
1 C. sugar (or to taste)
1/4 C. bottled lemon juice
3 TBS. dried jasmine flowers (I got mine from a seller on Etsy)
Pomona's Universal Pectin*

In a small square of cheesecloth, tie jasmine flowers. Simmer in a small saucepan with 3/4 C. of water for 10 minutes, or til the flavor is strong enough. It should seem slightly strong, because it will be toned down with the additional ingredients. (While that is cooking, mix the sugar and 3 tsp. of pectin in a small bowl and set aside.) In a heavy bottomed pot, add fruit, jasmine water, lemon juice and 4 tsp. of calcium water. Over medium high heat, bring to a boil stirring often. When mixture just comes to a boil, stir in sugar mixture and stir vigorously 1-2 minutes. Bring back to a boil and pour into hot, sterilized jars leaving a generous 1/4 inch headspace. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. 

*I use Pomona's because you get to choose the amount and type of sweetener you want to use. Commercial pectin requires up to 7 cups of sugar PER BATCH to gel!! With this stuff, I usually only use 1/2 to 1 cup of sugar, and you can actually taste the fruit.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Girls Jacket: Burda 9487

About a month ago, Joanns had Burda patterns for sale. This pretty much never happens so I went in and took a look. I ended up buying 2. I have previously sewn Burda online patterns with mixed results but I figured it was Burda and it should be good. Things started off well and I was sure it was going to be the most adorable coat ever! The pattern sizes on their children's patterns are American which is easier to decipher than the women's pattern I bought which lists European sizes.  I decided to detail the collar with piping and a contrasting lining. I used french seams and carefully mastered the welt pockets. If you have never sewn a welt pocket, you should! If you can get past the mental gymnastics involved in figure it out, they are really nifty! It wasn't long, though, before I started to have doubts about the general shape of the coat. It seemed a little, well, boxy. And short. Really short. The pattern illustrations show the coat as hitting at the hip and long enough to be belted. I figured I was just overthinking it and kept sewing. I should add that the instructions can be a little vague/confusing/confounding so if you are a beginner you might want to attempt with caution. Moving along, I set in the sleeves and did the collar facings, etc. After another look and a quick comparison to one of my daughter's t-shirts, I realized that indeed, I was not crazy and the coat was too short. I ended up taking a cue from the other pattern view and adding a ruffle on the bottom. I added piping in between because it seemed like the right thing to do. Then the buttons...oh, the buttons. The last pea coat I made had button holes for all the buttons, and in the absence of concise directions I winged it. Oops! That didn't work out too well and I should have considered that 3 buttons would be a lot easier for a 6 year old than 6. Oh, well.  This is one of those projects that looks cute but the inside drives me nuts! Like never let her out of the house nuts!! The corduroy was too thick for french seams in some areas, and the facing didn't lay flat and bla, bla, bla. I don't really know what to think at this point. I am over it. P.S. I can't even try the jacket on my daughter yet, because it is for her birthday next week! I am hoping it fits better than I think it will. It better.

On a side note, my 4 year old (who just graduated from naps to quiet time) is loudly proclaiming that he is 'ABOUT TO DIE!!!' from waiting in quiet time. I replied with great sympathy "Oh, that's too bad" while in my head I'm thinking 'Mama needs quiet time as much as you do, kid, so be QUIET!!!' ;)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Closet Flashback: The Weekender Bag

The Weekender is how my mom taught me to sew and I have some very fond memories attached to this bag. She made one too and walked me through every step of the process. I had only dabbled with sewing before attempting this pattern and afterwards felt pretty much ready to tackle anything. It's a really fun project to make BUT it's a beast.     
I was heading out of town this weekend and dug through my closet to find this trusty bag! It hasn't seen the light of day for a while so it was time to put it to good use. It's the perfect size for a quick getaway and holds up really well over time (at least mine has).  
I have aspirations to make this pattern again someday in really girly fabric...maybe something in pink? 

Here is the original posting for both bags...