Month: January 2015

Tools of the Trade

Jeezum crow, this thing is scary. Behold: the rotary cutter.

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February’s Sewing Project!

It is still January, but you wouldn’t know it here on the Front Range. Seriously, it’s been in the high 60s the past few days, which is the perfect weather for Beach Boys and windows-down driving. My brain and body are confused–wasn’t it just your wedding anniversary, and didn’t it snow on your wedding day, and isn’t there still snow on your front lawn because your house shades it? Yes, yes, yes. Nothing makes sense.

But as January weirdly melts into February (see what I did there?), so changes my monthly sewing project. January’s project, you’ll recall, was these coasters. I made about five or six sets or variations, including two hot pads for casserole dishes. I sent a set to my mother-in-law (Mother Something, I guess), the lovely lady who gifted me my sewing machine a few years ago. She loved them! I practiced using fancy stitches and attempted sewing on a curve, which is REALLY HARD. I fixed many bobbin snarls and refilled my bobbin a few times and I didn’t even cry about any of it, but I did whine a lot.

I’m starting February’s project early, because a) I’m excited about it, b) I have all my supplies, and c) you can’t tell me what to do. If you’re sewing along, which could be fun or not or whatever, you do you, February’s project is this tote bagIt seems easy enough that I can make it to the pattern and then get whacky and do a bunch of variations/gifts/if I know you in real life, get ready for lots of presents this year.

THAT WAS A LOT OF WORDS IN A ROW.

tl;dr

January: coasters

February: tote bag

Culinary Improvisation (and Chicken Broccoli Pies)

A few days ago, I made a chicken in the crockpot. Usually, that means I’ll eventually make chicken salad. You know how sometimes certain foods, or the idea of certain foods, make you feel all icky? I get that way about mayonnaise from time to time. I just can’t imagine ever liking it or eating it. Blech.

Yesterday was one of those days. I had all of this chicken, and chicken salad was just. not. happening. Mr. Something wasn’t feeling 100% either, and the ProBowl was on at 6…. It was the sort of Sunday where you say, “Screw it,” and make pie crust because there’s nothing else to be done.

This isn’t even really a recipe so much as it’s a collection of things that taste good together. Feel free to substitute whatever you have on hand; some suggestions follow.

Chicken Broccoli Pies

  • one recipe of Alton Brown’s Pie Crust (this is a butter/shortening crust that doesn’t brown as much as all-butter crust, but I think it’s more tender and easier to make)
  • 2T butter
  • quarter of an onion, chopped
  • 2T flour
  • 1.5C chicken stock
  • 1C or so shredded sharp Cheddar
  • salt, pepper, cayenne, herbs de Provence, etc. (Float yer own boat.)
  • leftover cooked chicken, chopped
  • lightly steamed broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until slightly golden. Add flour, whisking constantly, and cook until the flour browns. Add chicken stock, whisking, and bring to a low boil. Turn down the heat, add the seasonings you like (herbs de Provence, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper turned out pretty well), and stir. Cook about five minutes, until slightly thickened. Turn off the heat, add the cheese, and stir to melt. Put that pan on a cold burner.

Mix the chicken and broccoli into the cheese sauce. Use a water glass to cut out dough rounds, then roll out a little thinner and place in regular-sized ungreased muffin cups. Spoon chicken/cheese/broccoli mixture into the cups, and top with another round of dough. My version of this made enough filling to fill six muffin cups with a bit leftover. (If I had a twelve-cup muffin tin, I think it would have filled them all.)

Bake at 375F for 30-35 minutes, or until dough is slightly golden on the edges. Cool 5 minutes, then pop out and enjoy.

Other combinations:

  • chicken/spinach (chopped)/feta (make bechamel without cheese; sprinkle cheese over chicken and spinach in cups before covering with dough)
  • cooked ham/peas/Swiss
  • steak/cooked potatoes/Gruyere

You are all intelligent people: meat + veggie + cheese = Tastytown. Anyway, these turned out way, way better than I anticipated, and Mr. Something requested them again while he was chewing his third bite. Sorry for the loosey goosey recipe, but again: I know you are smart. You’ll figure it out.

Wedding Anniversary Adventures

Yesterday, Mr. Something and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary! Yay for us! We went away for the weekend; I found a VRBO bungalow about an hour away from our house, which was perfect for two nights. We discovered a cool brewery, drank wine, watched the Packers lose (and still I shout: GO PACK GO!), ate delicious German food, and reconnected a little. December and January are stressful, you guys. If you can, take a night or two in January and reconnect with the one(s) you love. Work out those issues. Laugh about old jokes. Eat cake and drink wine. It feels good.

What felt slightly less good was driving down the road, tra la la, and BOOM–pothole, tire blowout, sadness. Thankfully, we were a block away from our destination, a wine store (vacation is great because all of your goals are really small). The owner of the store was super nice and helped Mr. Something change the tire. He’s getting a care package in the mail next week. We spent the rest of the weekend sporting a sweet bright yellow-hubcapped donut. Mr. Something is currently at our car dealership getting the tire fixed, because that’s an ideal way to end your long weekend.

But it’s a story to tell! No one got hurt, we still got our wine, we made a new friend, and at least it didn’t happen on the highway. The things that go perfectly don’t make good stories.

One year of good stories down, lots and lots to go.

A Year of Projects: January’s Coasters

Yesterday, I figured out how to use my sewing machine. I’d used one before, in 7th grade sewing class, but since that was 17 years ago… I was a little rusty.

However, once my friend helped me put the bobbin holder thingy back in, I was up and running in what felt like no time at all. I sewed a few straight lines, clapped and squealed while my dog raised her eyebrows at me, and rushed out to the fabric store. My mission: supplies for these coasters.

As far as first projects go, they were simple enough that I could follow the instructions, and the end result was something more than just a piece of fabric with some thread running through it. I felt (and feel) accomplished. I can see the possibilities that this sewing machine has for me. Well, they aren’t the prettiest things in the world, but here’s my favorite part. You can tell which ones I made first and which I made last. I improved significantly as I went along, which is the point of this whole exercise!

My plan for today is to make a larger coaster/hot pad thing for casserole dishes. Every month, if I finish my project early, I can make more or make variations on that project while I plan next month’s.

January: coasters (done 1/5)

February: ?

January Project Update

I sewed a relatively straight line on my machine! My friend Natalie, who is an amazing human being, provided tech/text support and encouragement while I tried to figure out what all of these metal bits were. Important note: the sharp bits face up.

I’m just practicing lines for now, but later today I’m going to the fabric store. Maybe coasters by happy hour?

Over. The. Moon.

New Year’s Resolution(s)

I used to make resolutions that were really hard to keep: “Be nicer.” “Exercise more.” “Keep the house tidy.” For me (and for many others), these sorts of resolutions don’t work. They aren’t concrete enough, and there isn’t enough quantifiable evidence that you’re working on them to track. These are also the sorts of resolutions that you can make every single year because they are just the sorts of things we’d all like to do. They are squishy.

Last year, my resolution was to keep my email inbox clean. I read the emails I needed to, deleted the rest, and unsubscribed from listservs I no longer cared about. It was really, really satisfying. I kept it up all year, and I’m still doing it. I made it a habit, and that habit stuck.

This, I think, is the point of resolutions: to create habits that are (hopefully) life-long. This also rarely happens. It is actually really hard to stick to new habits and get rid of old ones. (Duh.)

My resolution for 2015 is this:

  1. Learn how to use the sewing machine I got from my mother-in-law (a few Xmases ago).
  2. Complete one new project a month. If I mess up, I have to start over again and redo it until it is complete. By the end of the year, I should have at least 12 completed projects.
  3. Start small (coasters) and work to something big (I’d love to make a dress, but we’ll see how the year goes).
  4. I will ask for help when I need it. I’m not allowed to give up. If I end up with twelve months of coasters, pot holders, an apron, and some curtains, it will have been a success.

Obviously, I’m going to share each month’s projects here, even the ugly parts. (Because that’s my other resolution: make more mistakes/let other people see my mistakes. You’re welcome.)

Did you make resolutions for 2014? Did you keep them? Did that influence your resolutions for this year?