Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mea Culpa

Apologies to my readers and to Erato, in particular. While I was in London (I'm back now), I had asked Erato to write a guest post about our PJ project. She did and diligently emailed it along for me to post.

Well, I failed. I tried to post it. I honestly did. But you know how much trouble I have with technology. And I had "HTML errors" which sounded serious to me... like MRSA for computers. I tried to fix it rather than posting the other things that I had planned, but to no avail.

However, now that I am back home, Phineas was able to fix things in about 30 seconds... and so, Erato, your post will be up tomorrow. Again, my apologies for the delay. I do hope in the interim you checked out Magenta's blog, which is sporting a brand new look these days!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cloudy (London) with a side of Chili!

Since Clio is off to the land of pies, chips, bangers and mash, it was left to me to complete her Latest Test Kitchen homework. Chili, that thoroughly Americanized mix of meat, w or w/o beans, peppers and spices. Without starting a civil war amongst Texans, Cincinnatians, tailgaters and most importantly Hormel ( I know y'all have a longing for that spicy can of mystery meat!), the homework entailed an updated and zippier version of a Chili found in SoCal. So here we go!

Basics: Can you make out all the ingredients? Pssst. That's a couple of chipotles in adobe sauce located in the zippy bag.

Brown the meat (mix of 2lbs. Blade pork chops and a lb of ole reliable GB, take out and then brown the veg and spices (2 parts (Tbls) chili power/1 part (Tbls) cumin), salt and pepper.

Pictures: Brown this, add that + spices = Above!

When you smell the spices, throw in the red stuff (your favorite brand in a 1 big can of crushed + 2 little cans of sauce) and then toss the meat back into the pool!

Simmer for an hour or so, until you can easily tear the pork away from the bone.Take out chop/shred and back into the pool for a quick half hour dip and voila -its time to eat

Picture: We used 2 cans of beans, but use as much or as little as you like (too lazy this time to make my own batch of beans!)

We garnished with cheddar cheese and toast points (aren't we chi-chi!), slopped it into a bowl, grabbed a couple of spoons and turned on MNF- and if you're really hungry (me), loosen up the belt!

The addition of chipotle and some of the adobe sauce lent some nice heat and a little extra depth to this version of chili. Not a bad batch, certainly a starting point that you can use to concoct your own home brewed version (for vegaholics a blend of tempeh and extra firm tofu might work well). Active time = 20 minutes, Waiting time, smelling something tasty = 1.5 hours. Moral of the story = Start at 10:30/11:00 on Sunday and you'll be ready to watch football with a bowl of red hot and chips at 1!

Happy eating and if you're in the Northeast, go pick some apples and make some pie (yummmmmie!), save some for bobbing for apples and maybe grab a pumpkin for carving-Halloween just around the corner!

P.S. Now since it was a Test Kitchen "secret" recipe, I am obligated to not give out the actual recipe until it comes out in print. Not sure when it will appear, but if you would like to subscribe-here is the link

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Greenwich Mean Time

The Greenwich - or Prime - Meridian Line

Tomorrow morning I will be on my way to London for work. So it will be Greenwich Mean time for me for the next week, and not any crafting or cooking. But - fear not - there will be posts from me, and even some crafty and foody ones by guest bloggers. So please tune in!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pajama Party!

Yesterday's sewing party with Erato was great! I can't believe how much progress she made on her pj bottoms. This is her fabric:

Perfect for fun bottoms

We both cut out our pj's. I was really impressed with how well Erato did. She was really careful and thorough at every step.

Cutting fabric

We made very good progress. We got her pj's to a point where they actually looked like pants. Then sewing fatigue set in. The legs and crotch are sewn and seams finished, and the waistband/elastic casing is turned and pressed. My own pj's need a bit more work. I was in between sizes, and decided to go with the larger size. I should have gone smaller. So, I have to take them in a bit before I move forward.

I am off to London for a week on Wednesday, and probably won't get to do any sewing before then. But depending on how bold Erato is feeling in the next short while, she may forge ahead and sew the waist, insert the elastic and hem the bottoms. And then she will have fabulous pajamas to wear!

Friday, September 18, 2009

PJ's with Erato

On Sunday, I have a sewing date with Erato to work on our pajamas. I've been a bit remiss in filling you in on this project. Here, finally is my fabric.

Beige with a black print. The color didn't photograph so well.

Before the shower blitz weekend, we had our second sewing lesson. We reviewed the pattern envelope and instructions for laying out the pattern on the fabric, we traced off and cut the pattern and altered it for Erato's mile-long legs, and we talked a bit more about seam allowances, fabric prep and basics like that.

So, on Sunday, it will be time to cut and sew, which is where the fun really begins.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Showers of Love: Dr Kiang Edition: Part Deux

My other project for Dr Kiang's shower was cupcakes. Sadly, they were devoured before I got a picture.

Here's a beater from Wikipedia, just in case you were wondering...

Magenta had wanted to keep things simple, and so we made a very good compromise on baking: Duncan Hines for the cake paired with my incredibly easy buttercream frosting recipe. I think of the frosting recipe as paired down almost to the point of cheating, but it got rave reviews and I was scolded more than once when I tried to move the bowl containing the last few licks of icing into the sink. So, in honor of Dr Kiang and the Tuesday Blue Plate, here is your recipe of the week:

"Bridal" Buttercream

1 lb of unsalted butter, softened to room temp
5 cups of confectioners sugar
3 tsp vanilla (any other flavor would work as well)
Whip the butter with a hand held beater or stand mixer for about 30 seconds on med to get it softened up. Add the sugar and turn beater on low so you don't create a dust storm. Gradually increase speed to get the sugar incorporated. It will begin to look like you are making pie crust (pea size pieces). You will be convinced that something is wrong, but just keep beating and all of a sudden it will become creamy and look like frosting. Beat in the vanilla. Makes enough to very generously ice a cake or 24 cupcakes.
Most recipes call for more sugar to butter than I use, but then instruct you to add milk or cream to thin the buttercream out to a spreadable consistency. Ridiculous! By adding less sugar, I've found that I end up with a more buttery and less cloyingly sweet icing that is spreadable without any milk added.

You can make this icing in advance and refrigerate it, but then you need to allow time for it to soften before using. Beating it for a minute or two also helps get it back to a spreadable consistency.

The key to successfully icing your cake or cupcakes is, when you are ready to frost, take a huge glob of frosting and plop it in the center of your cake. Then use your knife or spatula to slowly and systemically spread it around the top, over the edge and down, without picking the knife up from the cake. Just keep going at it until you are evenly iced. When you are done, slide the knife off the edge of the cake. If you pick the knife up, you will rip up crumbs from the cake and then they get mixed in with the frosting and it is a big old mess. A tasty mess! But a mess nonetheless.

Since this got such good reviews, I think I am going to have to test a chocolate version substituting cocoa for some of the sugar.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Showers of Love: Dr Kiang Edition

So, as promised, here are a few photo's from Sunday's Bridal Shower for Dr Kiang. I am sure that Magenta and Dr K will post more soon.

Me, Dr K and Magenta

In all seriousness, so many of my favorite people were at this shower - Dr K and Magenta, the Muses, and Mar-Mar... it was such a relaxed and fun day. And Magenta was a magnificent hostess. Everything really fell into place - the decorations were beautiful, the menu was delicious, all of the craft projects were so thoughtful and fun... Magenta, you can no longer claim that you don't throw parties, don't cook, etc. You did and do!

Look at this gorgeous table!

Now on to the crafting; I had 2 assignments for this shower. The first was making jewelry bags for the favors, which were necklaces that Magenta made. You can see the necklaces hanging from the branch that is serving as a centerpiece on the table in the picture above. Everyone got to pick their favorite necklace and take it home in a jewelry bag. Here is mine:

So, as I was finishing up the diaper bag, I was simultaneously working on 20 small jewelry bags. Recognize the fabrics? Black and red satin from my stash? I didn't use a pattern. The final bag is about 2.5 x 3.5, cinched closed with a silk cord. Each bag was easy and quick to make, but the whole project took a while because I was making 20 bags. It was... um... tedious. 'Nuf said.

I will post about my other project - cupcakes! - tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Showers of Love Part Deux: Baby Crafting

I promised a post about the diaper bag that I made for Polyhymnia, and here it is. I always forget how long it takes for the finishing touches - hand sewing a few places, trimming thread ends, removing any visible basting stitches, edgestitching and giving it a good coating of ScotchGuard. But I finished in time for her shower!

Look how well I lined up that front pocket!

Here's the bag from the side. Note the little end tab on
the zipper: my own addition to the pattern.

Here is the inside view of the bag, fully loaded and ready to go.
Oh, do you recognize those
onesies on the left?

Another view of the inside.

I really have to say again how much I like Butterick's construction techniques for their bags. It all went so smoothly and IMHO the end result is a nice looking bag. The features that I particularly liked are:
  • Ample size and pockets: This is a nice sized bag! I loaded it with diapers, travel feeding dishes, 3 sets of burp cloths (under the onesies), 3 onesies, wipes, baby powder, diaper cream, and all sorts of things. Plus 3 outside and 4 inside pockets provide lots of options for keeping things easy to find.
  • Sturdy construction - Now that I have used hair canvas to interface the bag, I can't imagine using anything else in the future. It is lightweight and doesn't add a lot of bulk, but it is very stable and strong. Even fully loaded, I didn't feel like the fabric was pulling or straining.
  • Zipper top construction - Zipper installation was a breeze and I love the styling of the zipper's housing.
  • Contrast lining - you could make this bag in one pattern or in a solid color, but I loved Butterick's pattern for it's fun use of contrasting fabric. For example, if you look in all of the outside pockets, they are also lined in the striped fabric. I also like how the inside of the zipper housing is in the floral fabric. It really makes for a fun bag that has some nice style.
  • Again, as with my last diaper bag, this one does not scream "here's baby!". It is a really fun and functional bag that, really, could be used as a weekender or a large tote bag. There really isn't any feature that makes it a "diaper" bag.
I will be making this bag again, for my sister-in-law and I expect it will go a bit quicker the second time around. However, I am not planning on any alterations to the pattern, unless Poly has suggestions. It really is a great bag, and I hope it will do the job well for her!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Showers of Love

What can I say? I am exhausted, but happy. The showers for Polyhymnia and Dr Kiang this weekend were each a huge success. Here are a few photos from Polyhymnia's Rubber Duckie Themed Baby Shower.

Duckies in a bubble bath centerpieces (compliments of your's truly).
They looked even better in person, I think.

The most awesome of all diaper cakes, made by Erato.

Terp and Erato decorated this chair, and in the background you can see the longest clothesline of baby clothing ever made (by Poly's sisters-in-law, Jenny and Holly). That big blow-up duck on the table in the background is holding the favors - rubber duckie soaps.

The Muses (LtoR: Erato, me, Mom Muse, Polyhymnia, Calliope, Terpischore and Orpheus)

Poly, opening my gift!

I'm really happy with how the diaper bag came. I think it really looks good! As for the shower, the muses really worked hard and in the end, it all fell into place beautifully. I'm sad to say that I don't have a picture of a few other cute touches like the place cards which were decorated with storks by Calliope and the table with favors. It was a fun day! I can't wait until my new nephew arrives!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Crunch time

Hi, folks. Sorry for the lack of posts this week. With Poly's and Dr Kiang's showers this weekend, I am in full-on sewing mode. I also have a number of other projects going on related to the showers - both crafty and culinary. So, this is not leaving much time for blogging.

Oh, and I owe you yet another post about Erato and our pj project. Oy, vay! The backlog continues to grow.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Outed at Blogher!

Well, now I've really done it. Moments after posting about all the projects I am doing this month I received a comment from a mysterious Debra. All I can say is uh-oh.

I've been outed, people! Outed! And on the internet, no less! Wait. What's that? Oh. You mean I already outed myself by having a blog? Hmmmph. Fair enough. Did you know that Debra is going to check back to see if I complete my projects?? What do you mean that only attention-seeking egoists have blogs and that I am secretly delighted to be mentioned on the blogher website!?!? Sigh. I can see that I will get no sympathy from you.

Anyway, while I am busy sewing (after all, someone will be checking up on me), I hope you will check out the Blogher website. Debra authors the Crafts column and was kind enough to mention this humble blog in her post on Sewing Month. Who knew that I was part of a community of women who blog? Well, I am. Except, of course, for the times when I am a man who blogs because his wife is either too drunk and stuffed with jamon or has been exhausted by her nephews. At those times, I'm Phineas. Or, rather, he is. Phineas, that is... he's the him... who blogs... Oh stop it, you know what I mean.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

September is for Sewing!

September is National Sewing Month, and boy-oh-boy do I have my work cut out for me!! The weather also suddenly turned colder and it definitely feels like back to school time of year. So, here is the short list of my September back to school projects:
  • finish the diaper bag I am making for my sister
  • finish a project (which I have not yet blogged about) for an upcoming shower which is still top secret
  • start and complete diaper bag number 2, which is for my sister-in-law
  • work on my own and Erato's pj bottoms. I have not forgotten that I owe you pictures of the fabrics we bought
  • embroider many cute baby bibs and onesies if I could figure out a good way to transfer the embroidery patterns (I gotta tell you, the chaco paper isn't cutting it!)
I think that is it, but I could be wrong. Wish me luck!

*** Updated on 9/3**** I knew I forgot something: pants for Magenta. I now have the pants we are recreating, so I can get to work on creating a new pattern for them. I took a very detailed look at them and am feeling very confident about the project.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Back from Vacation

There are some vacations that are so relaxing that you never want to come home.

Orpheus, in a rare moment out of the water.
Or at least part way out. I swear that the boy is part fish.

This was not one of them. It turned out that 3 adults are no match for 2 little boys. By the time that they were fed, showered and in bed each night, all that Phineas, Calliope and I were up for was cracking open a bottle of wine and parking ourselves on the couch. I am ashamed to say that no crafting took place, I didn't go for a single run and I barely cracked open the novel that was supposed to be my beach read. However, we did some very fun things, including:
  • taking a plunge off of the jumping bridge between OB and Edgartown (sorry, no picture of me actually jumping off the bridge, but I do have witnesses)
  • feeding purple clover flowers to McGee, the goat, with Linus at the FARM Institute. We also got to pet a baby chick, meet two sheep named Lemon and Lime, and get lost in a giant corn maze
  • An enormous ice cream treat at Mad Martha's Ice Cream
  • trying to catch little fishes in a beach bucket with Orpheus at State Beach
  • finding all kinds of crabs, shrimp and sea critters Down at the Shore at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary
  • jumping waves with Orpheus, who has no fear of water and was very proud to show me how he could float on his back
  • burying Linus' feet in the sand so that he could break them out again.... and again... and again...
Linus preferred digging to swimming.

Oh, and we did eat rather well. Phineas has a way of chitchatting with local fishermen and shop keepers that makes them offer him things like "the freshest scallops you've ever had" or "the beautiful stripped bass that I was about to clean if you can wait a few minutes". Things suddenly emerge from the back of the store that no other customers seem to be offered. It is a talent that can not be over-valued.

Anyway, a fun and exhausting time was had by all. Sadly, my one souvenir is a cold. So, even though I'm home and ready to get back to my crafts and running, I am feeling sidelined. But stay tuned as I get over this vacation and back into the swing of things, including posts.