Paper Hats!

We now interrupt your regularly scheduled programming (remember that Sorbetto top? Yeah, that’s tabled) to bring you a pair of kidpants.  We’re heading to MO for Labor day weekend to hang out with an old college roommate and her kiddo (and hubby), so I decided to make a pair of pants for the kidlet.  I found some adorable fabric that has directions for making paper hats, and an orange remnant to use for trim:

I used the flat-front kidpants tutorial over at Made, which was wicked easy!  I did shorten them a bit (since the tutorial is for a 3-year old’s pants, and the kidlet in question is just over a year).  I also cheated a bit and use d the Gymboree size chart to adjust the waist (yay for actual measurements in inches and not poundage…who measures kiddos in pounds for clothing?!  EVERYONE apparently…which is absolutely unhelpful for those of us trying to sew kid clothes long-distance…admittedly though, we may be in the minority there…)

They went together really fast.  First I sewed the crotch together on the front and then the back, and then I sewed the front and back together at the inseams.  Next up I sewed the legs up the outside seams and turned my waistband down far enough to accommodate the elastic (just in the back).  That took some ironing magic, since all the front wanted to do was pucker!  I threaded the elastic through, sewed the sides down, and then sewed the waistband down in the front (it puckers a tiny bit, but no tucks, thankfully!).  The only thing that gave me much trouble was remembering which side was up since the unhemmed top and the legs were pretty much the same length!

Putting the orange cuffs on was definitely the hardest part, since it wasn’t in the tutorial.  I folded my long orange strips in half and then turned the edges under and sewed them down on the inside of the leg, then folded them over the bottom of the leg and sewed (a nice straight seam!) around on the right side.  Sounds easy, but figuring out which side to sew first and how to keep from sewing the legs shut at the same time was tough!

All in all, I think they turned out really well!  And so cute!  Now let’s just hope they fit!

Sorbetto Tank

If that doesn’t sound like a militant ice cream flavor, I don’t know what does!!  But actually, this is a tank top pattern with a charming little box pleat down the front that I found (though a convoluted click-o-rama involving many many fashion and sewing blogs) on Colette Patterns’ blog…and it’s a free pattern download, to boot!

(photo via http://www.coletterie.com)

So I downloaded it as fast as I could and printed it off.  It’s sized to an 18, but after looking at their size guide and  tracing and cutting out my pattern, I decided it seemed a little small (and it’s not a stretch fabric, so not a lot of wiggle room if I misjudge), so I debated whether I ought to make it as shown, or if I should resort to the googles and figure out how to grade it up.  Since I don’t have a huge fabric stash, I decided to make a muslin out of some cheap cotton I found at JoAnn’s, then tweak as needed, and then make the final in my super cute fabric (it’s green with little orange flowers…how adorable is that going to be!?!?!).  Two tanks for the price of one (sort of), and I get to learn to make darts!!  Darts!

So that was last Monday, and here it is, Monday again and I’ve made, let’s see…ummmm, zero progress.  Oops!  Teach me to have a full time job and spend the weekend canning my overflowing CSA box instead of sewing!

Tonight we’re off to the King Tut exhibit at the science museum (mummies!!!), so hopefully when we get home I can at least get the musliny bits cut out.

Pickle-o-rama

Also known as “Biting off more than you can chew”…

I had grand, grand plans for Saturday. I had a box of cucumbers and zucchini to despatch, and I was armed to the teeth (to the teeth!) with awesome canning recipes thanks to my friendly local librarians, who had suggested The Complete Book of Year Round Small Batch Preserving. I was planning to can some beer mustard, zucchini lemon marmalade, lemon cuke pickles, cuke & ginger pickles, and a “winter salad pickle” (which is basically a combo of summer veggies in a sweet-ish brine). Big, big plans!

So I dropped the hubster off at work and ran to the farmers market to pick up peppers, cauliflower, long beans, red onions, and a few herbs. Epic fail. Apparently no one has successfully planted cauliflower this year, because there was not a head to be had that didn’t look like it had recently survived a nuclear blast. So no cauliflower. The long beans looked really dried out, so I subbed wax beans instead, and the only peppers I could find were “gypsy” peppers, light yellow bell-shaped peppers billed as mildly spicy. This might have been a sign. (On a side note, I ended up being really happy with the mysterious peppers, they were super crisp and fresh and had very good flavor!). So instead of getting everything at the farmer’s market, I detoured to the co-op for the rest of the stuff I still needed.

Then I headed home, where I realized that my plan to make the marmalade while the beer mustard was processing would not work. Because marmalade apparently takes 90 minutes of cooking before it sees the inside of a jar! Ooops! Reading comprehension was not up to par when I read that recipe! So I started the marmalade and put my giant pot of water on to heat (takes forever to boil that huge pot for processing…I’m sure my gas bill is going to be atrocious this summer!).

Then, as I set my 4oz. jars into the jar lifter to put into the hot water to sterilize, I made a horrifying discovery…they were too small for my jar lifter and slipped right out!! Eeeeek! That would not do! So I called around looking for an 11″ round rack to put in the bottom of my kettle (since everywhere I read said jars absolutely cannot sit on the bottom of your canning kettle or they’d break!). Finally I found a kitchen store that had a 9″ or a 12.5″ rack (apparently 11″ is not a standard size). So I ran out to pick those up (marmalade simmering happily away…so not cool, I know!) and was able to squeeze the 12.5″ one into the bottom of my kettle. I don’t think it’s coming out ever, but that’s OK.

Finally, the marmalade went into the jars and the jars went into the kettle and I started on the mustard. Basic beer mustard, a recipe I found via here. Tasted awesome and was super super simple to whip up and process.

I started to hope that things were turning around, and started gathering stuff for the lemon pickles, only to discover that in the two days since I’d inventoried my veggie box and decided what to make, most of the veggies in the box had grown fur coats…eeew. So out went the moldy icky stuff and I was left with one sad slicing cuke and 2 large-ish zucchini. So much for the lemon cuke pickles and the ginger pickles…sad. I still had lots of veggies for the winter salad pickle, so I threw the remaining zucchini on that pile and started on those next. They went pretty well…lots of veggies to clean, and I ended up getting 5 jars instead of the 4 I was expecting (I think there’s a knack to packing jars that I just don’t have down yet), so I had to make more brine–no biggie though, as I’d anticipated messing something up and had stocked up on vinegar last time I did pickles!

So for a solid 8 hours of effort, I had 17 jars of stuff! And aching feet. Canning is work! And after all the mess was cleared away and the jars were resting, I realized if I’d made two more batches I’d probably have fallen over out of exhaustion…so lesson learned. Max 3 canning projects in one day!

My hard-won results:

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Cornered!

Hey there kids and kittens! Put your hand in the air if you’ve had a week that promised to be oh-so productive but turned into a steaming pile of nothing! Oh, that was just me, then? Well alright. I confess. I barely accomplished anything this week (and it’s all Harry Potter’s fault…I spent every evening wrapped up in HP & the Deathly Hallows, but that’s not the shameful part, oh no…see, I’m listening to it on tape (well, iPhone…same thing) and should be able to multi task, right? Wrong!)

So the most productive/creative thing I’ve accomplished all week was wrapping a wedding gift.

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I do so love wrapping things up in pretty papers (especially when I can get the corners to match up…type A, you ask? Moi?).

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And how cute are the lollipops?! Love them!

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That’s all I’ve got for now. Must head off to the aforementioned nuptials. And I must admit, I’m rather ecstatic about my outfit…a boring Land’s End wrap dress all snazzed up with my belt from that dress I made not too long ago, and my comfy Frye sandals. You want a picture? OK (pay no mind to the fez…it was floating around the wedding reception!)!

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CSA Soup

Our CSA box came on Monday, and for the first time in two weeks, we had something other than zuchs and cukes! (Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a wonky growing season first with the wet and the cold, and then with the wet and the hot…the CSA folks are doing a fine job, if you ask me, I just don’t particularly like zuchs and cukes, especially when they descend upon my kitchen en masse). But I digress. We had baby spuds, onions (at last!!), baby swedes (or maybe they’re turnips? I really cannot tell!), some round pattypan squash, and a head of cabbage.

So I put on my Easter European chef hat and made a batch of CSA soup (wherein the vast majority of the ingredients come from our CSA box) for dinner tonight. As it’s turned out particularly well, I thought I’d preserve the recipe/process for posterity and share it with the world (lucky you!).

First, I started with a mid-large dutch oven and a low low low flame. Set the pot over the flame to preheat a tiny bit while you start getting your ingredients together.

First ingredient in the pot is a slice of fatty bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Just throw it in and then wash a small yellow onion. Cut the onion into tiny dice and toss in with the bacon, which by now should have rendered enough fat that the onion doesn’t burn/stick. Also smash up 3 garlic cloves and toss in. Stir this every so often as you continue.

Next wash your cabbage and remove any wilty leaves. Quarter the cabbage lengthwise and then slice into 1-inch wide ribbons. Remember to cut out the core on the bottom pieces! When the onion in the pot is quite transluscent and the bacon is beginning to turn golden, throw the cabbage in and stir well to coat with fat. This will keep it from burning. Let the cabbage cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to soften.

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When cabbage is softened, add your liquid. This time, I added two cartons of chicken stock (low sodium), for 8 cups total liquid, but that’s only because I’d already hooked up the dishwasher and couldn’t get any water out of the faucet. I’d recommend 4 cups chicken (or other broth/stock) and 4 cups water–a little easier on the wallet, and I don’t think the flavor would suffer in the slightest!

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Once you add the liquid, turn the flame up to high and get that puppy to a rollicking boil. While the soup comes to a boil, dice up your spuds. I used two yellow potatoes and two red potatoes, plus three baby swedes, probably 1-1/2 cups total once diced. Once the soup is boiling, throw these in the pot (carefully! don’t burn yourself with backsplash!) and reduce the flame to medium. Let simmer till spuds are cooked.

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While your soup simmers, dice up a sausage or two. I used two for 8 servings of soup. And, use good sausage, folks. You’ll see in the photo below that this sausage is approximately 30-35% fat. (I know this because my family makes the sausage. If you’re not so lucky, visit your local butcher or a good deli and procure a soft salami or thuringer. Please do not use brats–too much fat, not enough flavor!) Italian or Polish sausage would also do in a pinch.

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Once your sausage is chopped up, throw it in. Simmer the soup until the spuds/swedes/whatever root veggies you used are tender. You might notice that I have yet to say “season with salt and pepper to taste”. That’s because broth is salty and sausage is peppery, so don’t get ahead of yourself! Taste your soup just before serving and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Before serving, I also like to stir a half cup or so of half and half into the soup to make it creamier, but that’s optional. If you do try it, though, be sure to temper the cream before you stir it into the pot so it doesn’t curdle.

So there you have it. A very Slav-inspired summer CSA soup!

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Vested Interests

This project has been a couple weeks in the making (it took FOREVER to make, not sure why…it wasn’t really difficult!)  I’ve always like the look of a tailored vest with jeans, or with a skirt and boots, etc. But I’ve never been able to find a vest that fit the way I like! So I found a pattern and made one! I ended up blending two different sizes (smaller on top, and the next bigger size from the waist down to accommodate the hips), which worked out really well. And I just love the fabric…it’s a little hard to see in the photos below, but it’s green herringbone with silver pin stripes!

The whole process was a bit nerve-wracking though, probably because this vest was full of firsts! It was my first pattern-adjustment garment, first lined garment, first pattern that required hand-stitching, and first pattern-matching attempt with fabric (I got the stripes perfectly lined up on one shoulder, and completely off on the other–oops!…next time instead of cutting the fabric folded, I think I’ll cut twice so it matches better!). I seriously love the lining, though!

Everything worked out pretty smoothly, except the button hole (which was also a first!)…I don’t have a button hole setting on my sewing machine, so I googled it and found tales of folks using the zigzag stitch instead with great success…so I did that, but the end has come unsewn after a brief wearing.

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So I need to figure out how to do the zigzag at the end so it doesn’t do that! I thought it was pretty secure, but obviously needs a bit of reinforcement.

So I guess this project is almost done! But I’m so happy with the results that I picked up more of the fabric and plan to make some wide-leg trousers to go with the vest!

In a pickle!

I had a project in mind tonight when I got home after work! Any guesses?

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I made my second ever foray into the art of pickling! I used a recipe for garlic dill pickles I found at Food in Jars (which appears to be a stellar blog re all things canning! I can’t wait to peruse it more thoroughly!)

First, I washed the ton of cucumbers that had accrued in my CSA box this week: 3 long curly ones, two ghosty white ones, and one Indian golden.

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Next, I sliced them. Pretty thickly, as I don’t like super thin pickles, and from leisurely research (yay Google!), I’d gleaned that thicker pickles are crisper pickles…we shall see! I had a solid 8 cups (2 quarts) by the time I got down to the last cuke, so I left one of the ghosty white ones in the pic out.

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Then I set my brine up and brought it to a simmer.

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While to brine took its own sweet time coming to a simmer, I quickly washed out my jars and then started adding spices…first the garlic, then some dill see, peppercorns, and red pepper flakes.

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And then the sliced cukes!!! It’s harder than it looks to pack them all in tightly in the jars. Kind of like playing tetris with round things…

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Then they were all ready to pour the brine in! Which I managed without spilling all over! FTW!

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Then into the water bath they went. Well, that’s not entirely true. First I had to wait  45 minutes for the GIANT kettle o’ water to come to a boil. Took. For. Ever. Seriously, we grilled chicken legs, made tzatziki, and were well underway with dessert by the time the water finally got around to boiling. THEN into the water bath they went! 7 pretty little jars (because my jar-holder racky thing only holds seven at a time…weird).

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It was like a scene out of MacBeth! Except with more pickles and less dire prophecy!

Now, here’s where I had to wing it a bit…the recipe said to process for 10 minutes, but I wasn’t sure if you were supposed to start the timer when you put the jars in, or when the water came back to a boil after you put the jars in. To be on the safe side (I think!), I went with the latter and waited to start the timer till the water was back to a healthy boil. Since all my jars sealed once I took them out of the water bath, I think I’ll be OK.

I think I’ll give them a few days (maybe a week) to let the flavors blend, but I seriously cannot wait to crack one of these jars and try them out!

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