Brown-eyed girl

Just a quick post as I continue on this doll making journey. This is a commissioned order for a friend, and I made the body out of a different kind of cotton. I couldn’t believe the difference it made. It is the same size pattern, but this doll is a good deal smaller and more dainty. The jersey is so stretchy that you can just keep stuffing!

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I like this fabric better because it allows for better detail and definition.

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I also experimented with the hair, giving it two shades of brown and braiding it in a fish tail style.

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She is borrowing the red shoes from blondie because I am waiting for an order of blue wool felt to go with her blue dress, but I kind of like the red on her. What do you think?

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What’s in the fridge?

So I have been trying to think lately, what recipes in my kitchen arsenal are blog worthy. But I am constantly changing my recipes based on what I have in the fridge. I hate running to the store last minute, so I usually try to make do with what I have. Saturday was a busy day, I had no dinner planned, and we were headed out the door in a short while, so it was “what’s in the fridge?” time.

Usually the first ingredient I think of when time is short is bacon. It’s versatile, quick to cook, and a little goes a long way in many dishes. Oh, and it’s delicious. I thought I might have just enough to do BLTs so I started cooking it up.

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But alas, I had forgotten the tragic failure of our tomato crop this year due to SO MUCH RAIN. The poor babies had succumbed to a moldy and mildewy fate, so no tomatoes. Okay, no problem. The fridge holds the answer! I still wanted some kind of sandwich, so I pulled some homemade ciabatta rolls out of the freezer. Don’t hate me because I had homemade ciabatta in my freezer. I figure most people don’t, and usually neither do I, but I made an experimental batch a few weeks back, and we still had some. Usually I buy them at costco, or any other crusty roll or even sliced french bread will do. We just like ciabatta around here because it’s nice and chewy. I sliced them in half and put them on a cookie sheet. The fridge next produced-

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Another Costco product that I always have on hand. I live with a frenchman so chevre is a must around here. You should hear the food conversations we have around here sometimes, like-

“What do you mean there’s no chevre left , woman? ” or

“Mom, it’s been like a week since you made us any brioche or creme brulee.”

Well, not exactly like that, but I acknowledge that our general menu isn’t exactly normal.
The good news is, lots of cheeses will work with this “recipe”. A sharp cheddar is your next best choice, moving down to the milder cheddars, provolone, or even gouda. But maybe avoid the cottage cheese. The goat just has a wonderful tang that goes surprisingly well with our next contestant-

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Yep, jam. I voted for apricot here, but fig is also nice. I don’t like berry jams with it so much, but they work in a pinch. Trust me on the jam and cheese thing, and start spreading.

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The bacon was cooking nicely, but it was also shrinking dramatically as it always does, and I didn’t think it would be enough. As luck would have it, the fridge next revealed six leftover chicken fingers. I chopped them up.

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I added them to the bacon in the pan. Now we had something to go on.

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I have used leftover pork roast for this, or you can just chop up a couple frozen chicken breasts too. Lots of options here! Divide the meat evenly over the rolls, and here’s where you separate the men from the boys. Thinly slice some onion and take a poll to see who would like the added onion flavor or who will ‘definitely puke’ if they even smell an onion.

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The sandwich is good like this, but the ingredients tend to fall off, so I usually sprinkle some shredded cheese on the top, just to melt and hold it all together while it broils.

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And then you broil it! Just until the cheese starts to brown and it’s all melty and crispy and smells really good. This combination of flavors may seem unusual, but all my menfolk gobble it up. And I do to. Serve it with potato chips and baby carrots if you are rushing out the door, or any other side you prefer if you have more time.

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Maybe next time I’ll show you how I make easy french fries. Enjoy!

The twice baked doll

I have found that the greatest challenge in doll making is walking the fine line between cute and cuddly or downright scary. I have been looking for a pattern I really like, and found one online last week. It seemed like a simple enough doll, but I ended up redoing every part of her at least twice.
The first problem was the cotton jersey. It’s really stretchy and can wreak havoc with a straight seam. If you don’t cut it right on the grain, the limbs and torso start twisting into grotesque positions. I had to resew one of the legs not just twice, but four times until it would point forward. And don’t get me started on the face shape! The cheeks were impossible. One minute she looked like a chipmunk preparing for winter, the next a miserable girl who just had her tonsils out. I pulled out the stuffing, took a few more stitches, and restuffed her.
And then there were the facial features. I sketched an idea, looked at some patterns, traced the proportions and started in. I worked on her face until way past bedtime. She wasn’t exactly how I wanted, but I was tired and figured she would do. I couldn’t find her the next morning, and went to ask the boys. They were playing with her in the bedroom, and I overheard one of them saying,

“Hey guys, make way for the scary alien doll!”

Naturally I was offended. I went in to retrieve her and asked them if they really thought she was scary looking. With great gusto they replied,

” Oh yah mom, she’s super scary. But she’s cool.”

I almost gave up in disgust at that point, but then I figured I would at least give the poor girl some hair. I made her a wig out of yellow cotton jersey, and sewed it in place. I then asked the hubby if she didn’t look better with some hair on. He only said,

“Why did you part her hair in the middle?”

Now I was mad and determined. Off came the hair, off came the face, I did a side part and a bit more plastic surgery.

Next came the clothing. I thought purple would be nice, so I made a little purple dress with button trim. I put it on, and I just didn’t like it. I don’t know why, but I figured if I was going to all this trouble, I might as well dress her nicely. So I picked my favorite color- cherry red, and started in again. I liked this one better.

And then came the shoes. They were the only thing I didn’t do twice, and the only thing on this doll not made from upcycled cotton jersey. Maybe that’s a sign? They are made from wool felt left over from the short period my hubby built billiard tables as a side business. Did you know my hubby is a jack of all trades? I am so glad I saved it in my bottomless pit of a fabric chest all these years, because it is the very best quality felt you can find. So rest assured, this girl is well shod.

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So there she is. I have looked at her so long that I can’t tell what I think about her anymore, but she is finished and up for adoption if anyone is interested…

Rewrite

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I can’t think of a story to write for tonight, so this is a random hodgepodge of stories about stories I wrote when I was younger.  I know, writing about things I have already written is kind of lame, but perhaps it will help budge a stubborn writers block.

I was once given a writing assignment. I was in third grade.  We were supposed to pick a well known fairy tale and rewrite it in a new and original way.  The other girls chose Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and such tales right away and I was left with Rumplestiltskin.  It was not a favorite story of mine, but an assignment was an assignment.

I was really stumped.  I racked my brain for a way to change the story, but the original was stuck in my head.  So I thought, maybe if I changed the name it would help.  I thought and thought about the name Rumplestiltskin- Rumple- stilt- skin.   Rumple only brought to mind the word pimple, and the word skin was at the end, so I went from there.  The basic story was exactly the same, but instead of having three tries to guess his name, the princess had three chances to guess what bumps covered the little man’s body.  After guessing boils and chicken pox and warts, she finally figured it out by the simple expediency of taking a closer look at him. Instead of dying by getting his foot stuck in the floor in a rage and tearing his body in half  (which I always thought rather gruesome) I had him fly away and get hit by an airplane.

I remember this story, not because of it’s brilliant writing, but because of the reaction my teacher had when I turned it in.  She read each story aloud to the class, but when she came to mine and read the title, Pimplestiltskin she totally lost it.  She started laughing, and laughing and then really laughing.  I am talking gasping and wheezing and holding on to the back of her chair for support, while wiping her eyes, laughing.  I don’t know if she even made it to the end.  The class was staring at her and at me in total confusion.  I was confused too because I was dead serious when I wrote that story.   It took me a while to figure out what the joke was.

I took the same idea a few years later and wrote a fairy tale for everyone in my family, putting them in the place of the hero or heroine.  One sister was The Little Mermaid, another the Princess and the Pea, but I think my favorite was the one I wrote for my mom. It was called “Snow White and the Six Dwarfettes (plus one big dwarf)”  I mean, is that a great title or what? You don’t even need to hear the rest.

I even occasionally did some editing work.  My younger sister and her friends once decided to write a story.  I can’t remember the name of it, but it was an ironical look at cheap, overly dramatic, soap opera-ish plots and everyone seemed to die a horrible, jealousy induced death in the end.  It was great reading and I undertook to edit a bit and type it up while they worked on the rather morbid drawings.  I wonder whatever happened to that book.  And I wonder why we were so weird as children.

In high school I actually wrote a small novel.  Well, it was sixty pages anyway. Does that count as a novel? It was the thrilling tale of the best week I ever spent at summer camp.   The climax of the story was the last night of camp. Skit night.  My friend and I had written the plot for a “Spontaneous Melodrama.” Did you ever participate in one of those?  Where the narrator picks the actors from the audience and then reads the story and they have to act it out?  Well anyway, our cabin won the prize for the best skit that night, beating out the rival boys cabin who had won the previous three years.

As we walked back to our cabin in triumph after the evening’s festivities, rubbing it hard in the faces of those rival boys (whom we never flirted with, by the way) we heard a scream.  The door of our cabin was open, and one of my friends was standing there pointing.  I walked into the dark room and stepped on something.  It crunched and squished simultaneously.  As my eyes adjusted, I noticed that the floor was moving- crawling- slithering.  Someone turned on the light and we all screamed.  It must have taken many someones the entire week to collect so many frogs and snakes.  Enough frogs and snakes to cover the entire floor.  And we knew just who had done it.

But before we could point any fingers, the story took a turn just like out of one of my sister’s overly dramatic tales.  One of the girls started freaking out, started hyperventilating, and then collapsed on the ground.  Her best friend was yelling about her weak heart condition and needing to find her meds.  Panic ensued.  There were snakes and frogs and fainting girls.  The head counselor was called for.  They carried the girl away, but we were in the middle of the Montana wilderness, and a hospital was no where near.

There was a rumor that a helicopter had been called for.  We were told to stay in our cabins, but our counselors were all at the scene of the drama, so we couldn’t stay put.  People started sneaking out by twos and threes through the woods.  Before long we could follow the sound of the chopper to the baseball field.  The entire perimeter of the field was soon filled with campers hiding in the bushes, watching the excitement as the helicopter landed and the loaded the girl inside.

Once she was safely away, we made our way back.  But there was still the problem of the critter infestation.  The boys freely admitted to the collecting and depositing of over three hundred little lake frogs and fifteen snakes into our cabin.  (They said it was fifteen, I only ever saw four) They weren’t about to let anyone else take credit for the best prank in camp history.  The boys were given brooms and told to start sweeping.  We were told to collect our bedding and take the boys cabin for the night, which we did with many promises of retribution to come.

It took a long time to settle down that night, and we were awake with the dawn, still chattering away about the events of the night before when out of the depths of one of the bunks we heard a low pitched and groggy,

Shut Up and go back to sleep.

We did shut up, but we didn’t go back to sleep.  The voice sounded strangely masculine.  The rising sun came in through the window, revealing a boy’s face peeping confusedly out of his sleeping bag at a gaggle of giggling girls, crowding around to get a better look.  He sat up quickly, and we all started firing questions, laughing fit to kill at the poor guy who had apparently been out a little too late the night before and had missed the memo about switching cabins.  He was doubly mortified because he didn’t have much on in the way of pajamas and had to do a humiliating bunny hop in his sleeping bag down the length of the cabin, out the door and up the hill.  We may or may not have taken pictures of him.   Ahh, revenge is sweet.

Well folks, there’s some stories about stories.  Maybe I’ll have something a little fresher tomorrow.  Or maybe I’ll just post a recipe.

Upcycling

A big part of why I started this little venture of mine was to see if I could do what I wanted to do with the supplies I had on hand. I have always loved the challenge of making something without running to the store for a bunch of stuff. When we were small, for instance, my mother usually made us come up with our own halloween costumes from stuff around the house instead of going somewhere to purchase something ready made. This made for some highly interesting costumes.

We had some key accessories that we often fought over- a magenta princess cape, an old grey wig , my aunt’s yellow cheerleading pom poms, my dad’s old army uniform, and a mustard yellow Century 21 real estate agent’s suit. Don’t ask me where we got that last item- I have no idea. I was a real estate agent for Halloween a few years running, however. The grey wig was also used the year I decided to be an old lady secretary. And don’t laugh- the princess cape was unavailable.

The point is, having to come up with our own costumes made us think outside the box, or sometimes inside it. (One of my sisters wore a box one year that she painted to look like a barn. The rest of us were various farm animals.) It inspired creativity, and to this day, whenever I want to start a project, I hunt around the house first to see if there is anything I can use before I run to the store. I have a chest full of old clothes that I can’t stand giving away because I might want to use the fabric someday. That is a main reason I have such an interest in the work of Alabama Chanin. Most of her creativity came from using what she had, and that is why I got into upcycling cotton jersey.

I was watching a movie a few weeks back, called Coco Before Chanel – the life story of, you guessed it, Coco Chanel. I’m not sure what I thought about the film- overall it was pretty darn depressing, but the fashion parts were interesting. There is a scene where she is growing increasingly tired of all the gaudy dresses she sees around her. She is living with a guy at the time and she goes into his closet and pulls out one of his nice white dress shirts. Then she cuts off the white collar and cuffs and stitches them on to a simple black dress. He is furious with her. I started laughing to myself as I was watching it because I had just finished removing the sleeves off of one of the hubby’s old shirts for a project. I had his permission though. She then convinces a friend to wear the dress to a party and her reputation as a designer begins.

It’s still a popular design idea- the black dress with the white collar and cuffs. Just check out pinterest, or the rest of this blog post!

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I doubled the collar on this one and added decorative black stitching for fun.

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This is a view from the back.

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I would have used a model, but it came out a little smaller than anticipated, and I don’t think I know any eighteen month old babies right now. But if you have one, this should fit her beautifully!

Dolls?

This dressmaking thing is full of surprises. I made that doll last week just for fun and because I had some scraps. Lo and behold, I have had more interest in that than all of my dresses. I haven’t sold one yet, but there have been questions about it, and a few strangers even found my Etsy page because of that doll. Etsy is a big old place folks, and getting noticed is umm, challenging. So anything I can do to generate interest seems worth pursuing.
Thus I have been thinking about doll making a bit more, and am playing around with some ideas.

There are a million and one styles of doll out there, some really cute, and some downright terrifying. Some are chubby and cuddly, others are like stick figures with dresses. This one is kind of in between. I made up the pattern as I went, and made a wire frame underneath so that she would be posable and not so floppy. Getting the proportions right was tricky, and making a doll face that isn’t scary looking can be a real challenge. I also had a hard time with the hair. I want to stick with using just upcycled cotton jersey, but there was no information on doll hair made out of jersey. So I just winged it. This is the result.

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I made her hair extra long so you can braid it or put it up in a bun, like this-

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So there she is. This is a first draft, so I would love some input!

Our Go To Meal

I don’t have much of a story behind the meal I am going to share today. It’s a recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala, a basic Indian curry, that I found in a Cooks Illustrated magazine and I have tweaked it over the years into a family favorite. There are several reasons I love this meal.

1.-It’s cheap. It makes a little bit of chicken go a long way.

2.- It makes a ton of food. We often serve it when we have guests and we always seem to have leftovers.(not because they don’t like it!)

3.- It’s healthy. We often serve it over roasted cauliflower when we are watching our waistlines.

4. It is the only meal, besides Macaroni and Cheese, that all of my kids will eat without complaining.

5.- Did I mention my kids love it?

Whatever the reasons, I always seem to keep the ingredients for it in the house, so it’s what I decided to make this morning for a friend and her family who just had a baby. Here’s what you need.

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Lest you think I always cook in this orderly fashion, think again. This might have been the only decent looking spot in my house this morning. I snapped that photo and then turned around and took this one right behind me. Just keepin’ it real folks.

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Start with the chicken- 3 boneless skinless breasts should do it, although I have used chicken thighs with great success as well. Sprinkle the meat with salt, pepper-

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And this.

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This is your secret ingredient folks. Garam masala is a special curry blend you can find in your spice aisle. It’s good stuff.

Next, slather the chicken with plain yogurt. I used greek here, but any plain yogurt will do.

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Stick this under your broiler until it looks like this.

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Then set it aside. While the chicken is broiling, you can make the sauce. Get a good chunk of
fresh peeled ginger
5 or 6 cloves of garlic
one large onion.
You can chop all of it by hand, but I find it much easier and faster to use my food processor. Throw it all in there and push the button. Or chop by hand, your choice.

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In a heavy bottomed pot, heat up a couple tablespoons of oil over medium heat and throw the onion mix in. Cook until slightly softened, 3-5 minutes. Then add 2 Tablespoons of both Garam Masala and Tomato Paste, and a spoonful of sugar to add a hint of sweetness.

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Stir this all together until you can smell the spices blooming. Then simply add
1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
1 14 oz. can of full fat coconut milk.

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Adjust your seasonings, adding salt, pepper, and a little bit more garam masala if necessary. Then chop up your chicken and throw it in.

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That’s it. I would show you a picture of how good it looks served up over rice, or couscous, or roasted cauliflower as the case may be, but I had to give this batch away in order to get some snuggle time with a sweet, dimpled baby girl.
It was a fair exchange.