Monday, January 24, 2011

Happy Birthday James!!

My little man turned 5 today. It's very emotional for me and also lots of fun. I've been reminiscing about the whole Birth experience today, not the physical birth, but more just the emotions and how excited I was to welcome my first child into my life and then meeting the little wrinkly boy and getting to hold him against me and marvel at his beauty. It was incredibly surreal.

Of course my little buddy was very excited and got his presents this morning before school and had a little party at school and then we went out for dinner and then he got to come home to play with his new stuff and eat his mom's cake. I was very busy today and everyone seemed surprised that I actually got a chance to bake a cake. My husband actually whispered in my ear at a stage, "Did you remember to buy a cake?" Seriously buy a cake, no way!! Since he wasn't having a party at home, I opted for taste instead of a lavishly decorated cake. I came across a recipe for Chocolate Chip Cake in one of the Kraft "What's Cooking?" magazines. Super Simple and the icing on the cake (literally and figuratively) is no icing/frosting just choc chips...lots of them. The recipe is mixed in the baking pan and since there's no extra frosting, the cleanup is minimal. I also didn't have to wait for cake to cool to frost and it tastes devine. My son's reaction: "oooh super chocolaty mom." So it gets a thumbs up!!

For my Cafe World Challenge readers: Sorry I didn't post last week, the males in my family were all sick and had no appetite, so I didn't get a chance to make anything.

For my Sewing readers: I've been busy. Nothing to post, as most of my work has been tedious prep work. I cut out the wool crepe for my Vogue jacket and am still busy thread tracing and making tailors tacks for the marking step. I've prepped fabric for some other projects and have done a bunch of mending - hemming, broken seams, patched boy's pants knees and replaced missing buttons. Once I've finished up the marking step, I've got the grey silk charmeuse waiting to make up the lining and then do a quick muslin of the wool skirt pattern to check fit.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cafe World Challenge Week 44

I went for some Greek inspired fare this week....Chicken Gyros and Fries.


Usually Gyros are made from meat that has been skewered and slow cooked and then sliced when needed. I'm not able to do this at home, so I just marinated sliced chicken breast and added some of the usual fillings.


1 lb chicken breast sliced (450-500g)
olive oil
1/2 tsp oregano
2 tsp Greek seasoning ( I used Epicure Selections' version)
1 red onion thinly sliced
2 tomatoes chopped
black pepper to taste
Juice of a lemon
warmed pita breads
Shredded lettuce
Tzatziki sauce

Drizzle chicken with olive oil and add the oregano and Greek seasoning. Mix to coat chicken. Allow it to marinate for a half hour.
Heat a little oil and stir fry the chicken till it's cooked.
Toss together onion, tomatoes, pepper and lemon juice. Split the pita breads, stuff with lettuce and tomato mix and top with chicken and Tzatziki sauce.

I didn't make my own sauce, I just bought a fresh deli version. Those who know me well, know that I don't touch a cucumber and absolutely won't cut into one either. It's something to do with the smell and the taste. I've just never liked them.

Progress: 78/86

Next up: no idea, but I am making Loco Moco again tonight.

* Disclaimer: Image owned by Zynga. This site is not owned by Zynga. This site is not the owner of the intellectual property.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Basic Patterns from the '90's

I had a thrift store pattern buying spree last month and immediately made up a blouse and have now finished the skirt. I can usually get the patterns for about 25c each. The two patterns used were:

McCall's 9578 (dated 1998) featuring Pants and skirts with elastic waist, side seam pockets and ties.
Vogue 7752 (dated 1990), a very loose-fitting unlined below hip jacket with pockets, a loose-fitting pullover top with back neck slit and button/loop. A dirndl skirt with elastic waist.

I finally made my denim skirt, I think I started planning one in 2008. I used the McCall's pattern to make up a long black denim skirt. Its not the usual style you'd see in denim, but I wanted a longer skirt I could wear with boots in winter and the elastic waist is comfy. I opted to omit the front tie, I don't need extra bulk in my midsection!!! This was a quickie project, which I finished in two days, in between steaming wool, which is a really arduous task BTW.

I made up the top in the Vogue pattern in some green cotton, it turned out almost tunic-y (yes I know its not a real word), but I'm sure using a fabric with more drape would eliminate the tunic feel. The top has a slit neck at the back that closes with a button and loop. I followed a tutorial here, and made a loop using button hole stitch. It turned out nicely, I've never done that before.

Speaking of firsts, as far as I can remember, this is the very first Vogue pattern I've sewn. I own a whole bunch of them, but haven't used one yet. Of course I'm almost ready to cut into my wool crepe to make Vogue 8692, so that will be #2. These two and my next project are being finished up so that I can free up my cutting table, which doubles as a storage space for works in process. I have the jacket cut out for the Vogue 7752 (above) and will make that next. I wanted a matching jacket and top (like a twin-set) from the khaki fabric, but just didn't have enough as the fabric width was narrower than I expected. I'm also attaching gold braid to another naval tunic, this time for one of my husband's colleagues. It seems he's advertising my services.  

Back to the photos, I thought I'd be able to wear the top and skirt together, but I feel very frumpy in that combo. I tried wearing it with a big belt but it still looked odd. So I took photos with the skirt and top styled differently and I think the skirt looks better with a tighter top and the top looks better with skinnier pants. What think you??

Friday, January 7, 2011

Cafe World Challenge Week 42

Another week and two more dishes down. I made a spicy Kung Pao Stir Fry and just set up a Vegas Buffet based on the Cafe World graphic.

I had my husband home all week and he's been taking kids to school etc, but that also left him time to go wandering around town and he always comes home with stuff I don't need. I was going to make Chicken Gyros and fries this week, but he came came home with steak, chicken flings and shrimp. UGH!!! I shouldn't complain, his galavanting has allowed me some time to stay home and number one passion right now.


A Kung Pao stir fry is a Sichuan dish usually made with chicken, although other meats can also be used. It is different from others because it contains some heat in the form of chilies and Sichuan peppercorns and also has peanuts in it.

I made up my own version using the ingredients I had at home. I should've added Sichuan peppercorns, but didn't have any and opted for chili and a Chinese garlic chili sauce. I couldn't find Chinese chili peppers at my store so I just used a jalapeno, so not very authentic, but very tasty nonetheless. I changed the traditional order of cooking so that I could keep the pan free of hot flavours for the kids. I then scooped out their servings of meat and vegetables and then spiced up for the adults. The Cafe World version was made with beef, so that's why it isn't a chicken stir fry.

Kung Pao Stir Fry recipe:

2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb sliced beef steak
3 tbs vegetable oil
1 heaped tbsp Asian chili-garlic sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp dry sherry
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp cornstarch
1 jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, thinly sliced
1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
1 small zucchini, cut into 3/4 inch dice
1 red pepper, cut into 3/4 inch dice
1/2 cup cilantro leaves

Combine garlic with meat and 1 tbsp oil. Make sure meat is well coated and marinate for 30 minutes.

I prepared all the ingredients before starting to cook, so that it was easier to stir fry.

Sauce: Whisk together chili sauce, soy sauce, sherry, vinegar, sugar, sesame oil and cornstarch.
In another bowl combine peanuts and jalapeno.
In another bowl combine vegetables.

Add meat to hot pan or wok and stir fry until slightly browned. Remove and set aside.
Add 1 tbsp vegetable oil to pan and stir fry vegetables until tender. Remove and set aside.
Add 1 tsp vegetable oil to pan and flash fry peanuts and jalapeno. Return meat and vegetables to pan and add sauce. Stir fry till heated through and serve with cilantro on a bed of rice.


If you look at the game graphic above, you can see that this person loaded their plate with Steak, Lobster, probably chicken wings, maybe potato and jello and they have their winnings on hand too.

Since my husband came home with steak, shrimp and chicken flings...I could be a very good substitute. So my version has garlic butter sauteed shrimp instead of lobster and Buffalo chicken flings (basically just chicken nuggets) instead of wings and I served it with potato salad and a store bought jello treat my son begged to have. There wasn't enough time to make my own jello at home. I figured the bag of loonie chocolate would stand in for the Vegas winnings, although I suppose you wouldn't find many loonies in Vegas.
For my non-Canadian readers: a loonie is our 1 dollar coin. It is called a loonie because it has a loon (a bird found in Canada ) on one side. Our Two dollar coin is called a Toonie (Two-nie). Yes I also found this incredibly strange when I arrived, but it is fun to confuse visitors!!

Progress: 77/86 (9 more if no others get added or unlocked)

Next Up: I'm going to make my version of a chicken gyro.

Disclaimer: Image owned by Zynga. This site is not owned by Zynga. This site is not the owner of the intellectual property

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Jacket Prep Work

I 've made some progress with the Vogue 8692 jacket. I've made up my muslin and made changes to the pocket pattern pieces that were incorrectly printed. If you're interested the changes are up on Vogue Patterns' Facebook page.

Even if you're not interested in this pattern, you should still take a peak at their Facebook page. They share the work of bloggers like you and me and you'll see many familiar faces and their beautiful Vogue creations.

I just muslined the back, front and sides and tested for fit through my middle. It seems to fit okay!! Any comments?

The other big job was to prep the wool crepe fabric. I have 3.5 yards of 62 inch wide fabric, enough for the jacket and a skirt. The piece is way too big for me to be considering hand washing and flat drying, I'm just not equipped to deal with that. I could've taken it to the dry cleaners, but that will be expensive (I'd rather spend the cash on fabric). So I found another method on Carolyn's Blog Diary of a Sewing Fanatic, she calls it the "Steam the heck out of it" method. As she herself says, this is a REALLY time consuming method. I've been at it all day and haven't finished half yet. It involves using a damp press cloth and lots of steam and yes, pressing the crap out of it. I'm using a 20 by 12 inch piece of lightweight muslin press cloth and it covers the width of the fabric 3 times, but only 2 lengths of the press cloth fit on the ironing board, so I have to wait a while in between, because I can't move the wet fabric. So I don't know if you know what I'm getting at, kind of hard to explain, but it comes down to a LONG TIME. I've at least gotten to catch up on my PVRed shows while I stand there and press and I've been doing housework and blog reading and other stuff while I wait for the wool to dry a bit, before repositioning on the board and continuing the process.

Tonight Canada is playing Russia in the World Junior Hockey Championships Gold Medal Game, so I'm watching that while pressing and writing here while waiting. I'm really hoping to be done by tomorrow morning, as I absolutely have to tear myself away and go out to lunch with my husband. He's been home all week and has wanted to go out to lunch every day, but I've been so engrossed in my sewing that I've nixed the idea each time. So when I agreed to go tomorrow, he called some friends to join us, so I couldn't back out again. At least it's Indian food, which is my absolute favourite. I've been lucky all week, my husband has been around to deal with taking kids to school and back and I've been sewing or doing sewing related reading all week. ABSOLUTE BLISS!!! I think I need a bumper sticker for my car, "I'd rather be sewing!!" Can you get those? I'm happy, I'm on a roll, stay tuned for another update soon.

Monday, January 3, 2011

12 Jackets in 12 Months

There is a sew-along going on over at Stitchers Guild, where the goal is to make 12 jackets in 12 months. I posted there back in December with a rough plan and thought I'd make my intentions known here too.

Usually at this time of year I would be obsessing over the SWAP contest (also at Stitcher's Guild), but decided to skip the stress this year and do something a little more relaxed. You say 12 jackets in 12 months is relaxed?? Not totally, but it is only a sew-along and no pressure to actually sew up 12 pieces. I thought I'd use the spirit of the sew-along as motivation to finish up some half sewn up jackets and coats in my UFO pile and make much needed cover-ups in my wardrobe. Since the rules of the sew-along are pretty flexible, I can count structured jackets, coats and casual unlined jackets and even cardigan type knit jackets.  If I take into account all the UFO's or previously planned pieces for which I have fabric all ready and waiting, I have 7 projects. I'm sure I'll have other patterns and fabric jumping out and inspiring me too, so whatever works out is great by me. My other goal with the sew-along is to stretch my skills, which is also the theme of this year's SWAP, I want to use techniques I haven't used before and to this end my first major project will be Vogue 8692, Claire Shaeffer's Custom Couture Collection jacket pattern.

An added bonus of using this pattern is that Ann Rowley, a moderator over at Stitcher's Guild, has made up an amazing photo tutorial of her progress through this pattern. It is found here. There is also an abundance of discussion about the pattern at Stitcher's Guild, so it will make the attempt of this advanced skill pattern a little easier. I hope!!

I purchased a beautiful navy wool crepe from Denver Fabrics. Ann also used a wool crepe, so I'll follow her recommendations to which interfacing etc to use. I'm using a grey silk charmeuse, which I got when our local Fabricland closed, for the lining.

I was supposed to get the muslin done today as my kids went back to school and I'd have some uninterrupted time available. But alas!! My eldest son was excited about seeing his friends and was wide awake at 3am and never managed to get back to sleep and kept waking me every hour with some request. So I used my quiet time today to nap, I'll need it, he'll probably come home a tired wreck and be as cranky as a constipated bear.

So I'll post more progress at a later stage. Oh and I also cut out a casual unlined jacket in a very drapey khaki coloured fabric, so that will be whipped up some stage soon anyway.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year, New Look

Happy New Year and wishing you all a happy and prosperous 2011!!!

I've been wanting to change up the blog appearance, so to celebrate the New Year, Jen's Pots & Pins has a new look. I hope you like it.