Friday, December 28, 2012

A Glimpse of Christmas

Christmas dinner was at my parents' house this year and, as usual, it was a spectacular dinner.  We had a houseful of friends and family, good food and family stories - new and well-worn.

My mother is a master at setting a beautiful table and this year was no exception.
The Blue Willow dishes were my grandmother's

The Santa Cookies are a family tradition from when my Grandmother made them with my mother and her sister when they were little girls.  
A few years ago we were despairing because the original cookie mold broke.  Then someone with the same cherished tradition bought the rights to the company and Aunt Chick's Cookie Molds was back in business! 

This year I was in charge of appetizers - never a good choice for me because I am ALWAYS running late!  So, since we were rushing, I forgot to take a picture when they were all nice and plated on the serving platters, but here is a sampling...
Goat cheese with Cranberries and Pistachios, Marinated Antipasto kabobs, and
Smoked Salmon Cucumber Canapes (See Recipe Below)
We had a first course of quail with a radicchio and citrus salad (My sister made the salad and Dad did the quail) and then a main course of pesto and panko crusted rack of lamb.  It was so delicious that it was mainly gone by the time I snapped a picture!
Pesto and Panko Crusted Rack of Lamb
The humans weren't the only ones who enjoyed Christmas...Our old pup is famous for sniffing out his gifts and opening them ahead of time.  We thought we had fooled him this year.  We gave him one to get him started and then headed downstairs to open our stockings and...

He Just..
Help Himself!

It was a very Merry Christmas for all!  :-)

Smoked Salmon Cucumber Canapes
From Taste of Homes Appetizer Special Edition 2013

2 Medium cucumbers, peeled
4 oz smoked salmon, flaked
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp finely chopped onion
1Tbsp capers, drained
1 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp pepper

1.  Cut cucumbers in half lengthwise; remove and discard seeds.  In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients.  Spoon into the cucumber halves.
2.  Wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for 3-4 hours or until filling is firm.  Cut into 1/2 inch slices.  Garnish with dill if desired.

Easy to make, light and delicious!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Casserole Carrier Project

I haven't posted a sewing post for some time, but I have been sewing and crafting - The Christmas surprises had to wait to appear!

So here is a first...Two posts in one day:  one Feast - one Fabric!

My daughter has recently become a "real grownup" with her own apartment, job, etc...and so she was in the need of some real kitchen supplies.  We got a great deal on a pyrex set for Christmas and I decided to make her a casserole carrier to go with it.  
I made this from some fabric left from a short and top outfit I made for the girls when they were little.
I used the tutorial by 2LittleHooligans with a few modifications.  

Pyrex has decided to change the design of their rectangular bakers by adding handles that stick out like wings.  Although a great idea for getting the dishes out of the oven, it was problematic when calculating the dimensions with existing tutorials.  

My solution...Add a band to the inside fold to add a few more inches to fit over the "wings."
See the coordinating band - About 3 or 4 extra inches there...
The other change that I made to the directions was to the handles.  The directions have you sew and then turn them.  I know better than to try to turn a 2-inch wide, 40-inch long tube filled with batting , but I tried it anyway...
Never try to make handles by turning them!

Here's the result...A lumpy mess that got stuck half-way through and refused to finish turning!  I spent a couple frustrating hours trying to make this work before I did it the way I know how to do it.

What I ended up doing is cutting the handle in one piece and adding 2 pieces of fusible batting along the center fold.
Fold it down the center and press and then fold over the seams allowances on the edges and top stitch on both sides.

Nice neat handles...No frustration!

No turning bulking, batting-filled narrow tubes!

I pretty much followed the rest of the tutorial as it was written and it all went right together.  My daughter was thrilled with her new carrier!  
I especially love the spoon holder! 

Sweet Christmas Breakfast

Ever since the kids were little,  we have had some sort of strata or other make-ahead breakfast on Christmas morning.  We would get up early, open our Christmas stockings, then get into our Christmas-best outfits and go to Mass  to say Happy Birthday to Jesus.  Before we left, I would pop the casserole in the oven on time-bake and we would arrive home to a delicious hot breakfast casserole to eat before opening gifts.

But...this year I won reserved tickets for Christmas Eve mass (Isn't it wonderful that so many people want to go to Mass on Christmas Eve that the fire marshall says that we have to give out tickets!) So I thought maybe the kids might want to break with tradition and have a made-to-order breakfast on Christmas morning...

Apparently they are traditionalist - they all voted for my version of Apple-Dapple French Toast Casserole.
Apple Dapple French Toast Casserole

The smell of the apples and cinnamon cooking on Christmas morning was to-die-for!

I added in a fruit platter and some sausage links and breakfast was made! 

About to be gobbled up Christmas Breakfast!

Doesn't the fruit look like Christmas jewels?

My husband and I first had Apple Dapple French Toast at a little B&B in Gettysburg, Pa.  I have made several versions of it since - Most of them have been a bit too sweet for my taste, so for my version I used more apples and less sugar.  This year I used this recipe as a base and then started modifying.  Recipes are just suggestions, right?

Here is my version...This makes a huge 10 x15 inch casserole of yumminess!

Apple Dapple French Toast

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
5 tsp of ground cinnamon
8 apples peeled, cored and thinly sliced (I used 4 gala and 4 granny smiths)
1 - 2 cups of frozen blueberries
1 large loaf of Challah bread cut into 1 inch cubes
10 eggs
2 1/4 cup of milk
1 1/2 Tbsp Vanilla Extract

1.  Combine the brown sugar, 2/3 of the butter and 3 tsp of the cinnamon in a large baking dish
2.  Add the apples and the blueberries.  Toss to coat.
3.  Spread apple mixture evenly over the bottom of the baking dish
4.  Mix eggs , milk, vanilla, and remaining 2 tsp of cinnamon until well blended
5.  Gently toss the Challah bread into the egg mixture, soaking the bread completely
6.  Arrange the bread on top of the apples
7.  Cover and refrigerate 4-24 hours
8.  Remove from the refrigerate and let sit for about 30 minute
9.  Bake the casserole, covered in preheated 375 degree oven for 45 minutes or until the apples begin to bubble  
10.  Uncover the casserole, top with remaining melted butter and bake for 15 min more until the bread is lightly browned on top.
11.  Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving
12.  Top with warm maple syrup if desired

Hoping that your Christmas morning was filled with lots of apple-dapple sweetness too!  :-)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Lunch Dilemma Temporarily Solved

Just when I thought I was all out of ideas for lunch I find this magazine at the grocery store:

Lunch ideas are waiting just inside!
The first page I open to is a two-page spread titled:  6 Ideas for Sandwiches

It was a hard choice but we started with the Roast Beef, Gouda, and Apple Sandwich

Cheesy, Roast beef deliciousness!

Definitely a do-over...We'll be having another for lunch tomorrow!  :-)

Roast Beef, Gouda, and Apple Sandwich
1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
2 Slices of Challah Bread
2 Ounces thinly sliced roast beef
1 ounce Gouda, Sliced
1/4 Apple Sliced (I used more!)
1/2 cup watercress, thick stems removed
(They didn't have watercress the day I went shopping so I subbed baby arugula)

1.  Spread the mustard on the bread and form a sandwich with the roast beef, Gouda, apple and greens.

That's it!  Five minutes to a delicious lunch.  Happy, Happy Monday!

Next up...Double-Onion Turkey Sandwich - Better get some breath mints...

Hope that you are finding some time to enjoy a few feasts with loved ones this season.  Hug them and tell them you love them every chance you get!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ahhh...Lunch at Home...

Ahhh!!!!  Lunch at home on a weekend!  And my favorite of all - Tuna Melts!

My family will all confirm that one of the weeknight routines that I hate the most is packing lunch.  It is just one more thing to do at night, after dinner, when you are tired...and...really - how many choices do you have when packing a teacher's lunch that has to be scarfed down in about 25 minutes - less if you have to make a bathroom stop!

That is why I so enjoy a nice leisurely lunch at home on my days off.  Last Saturday I made us some skinnied-up tuna melts with my husband's current favorite salad.

Skinny-er Tuna Melts with Pear-Pomegranite Salad
This is comfort food at its best for me.  My love affair with melted sandwiches began when my mother used to make tomato and cheese melts in the toaster oven when we were little.  When we moved to Hawaii I discovered a tuna sandwich with avocado at a little sandwich shop near our house and-lightbulb!- my current version of the old comfort food sandwich was born.

For this skinny-er version I use one small can of water packed tuna,  lots (probably 1/4 cup of each) of veggies - peppers and onions - and about 1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp fat free Greek yogurt instead of mayo.  A couple generous grinds of ground pepper and a quick shake of salt and the tuna salad is done.  
Getting ready for the final touch - cheddar cheese!

Take a slice of a nice hearty whole grain bread.  Add a couple thick slices of ripe tomato, a quarter of an avocado thinly sliced, half of the tuna salad and top it with a slice of extra sharp cheddar cheese.  I have been using the thin slices to cut calories and not flavor.  You can use low fat or no fat but...why?  You swapped out the mayo so go for the good cheese!
All ready for the oven

Pop the whole pile of deliciousness into the toaster oven and heat until the cheese just melts.  Slice, plate it with the salad and you are ready for some real lunch comfort. 

Pear-Pomegranate Salad Topped with Toasted Pecans
Top it with a balsamic vinaigrette

 I'm already thinking about the lunch I won't have to pack this weekend...

 I'm looking for ideas for packed lunches that a healthy but not so "been there done that."  
 Leave a comment and let me know what you are packing that's good.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Two Hour Tote Bag

We have two people moving on to new adventures at work and I wanted to send them off with something personal.  Hence, my weeknight sewing from the previous blog...

I decided to make some tote bags because what teacher doesn't need another tote bag, right?  I used the same pattern as I did for the birthday tote, but eliminated all the piecing and made it a soft bag by just using fusible fleece and no decor bond or peltex.  

I had all the fabric, etc in my stash so they went together quickly.  Even so, it was still after 10pm when I finished the first one.  I discovered that my topstitching gets a little wonky after 10pm on a weeknight...Don't look too closely!

This one was for a teacher who is leaving for a fantastic opportunity at another school:

Tote with our school logo so she
won't forget us!
The reverse side has the logo of the
her new school.  We are reluctantly

letting her go!  :-(
This one- made the next night - was for my student teacher who is graduating. I put our school logo on one side and her name on the other.

It was so wonderful working with
her that we made her an honorary
Her whole name was here, but
I edited it out for her privacy.

The fantastic thing about these bags is that I made each of them in just under 2 hours from uncut fabric to finished tote bag!

The perfect weeknight sewing bliss!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Beaded Scarf

So...After finally getting my  sewing room entropy under control, I was able to do a bit of a repair on a beaded scarf that I made for my mother a few years back.  
Beaded Scarf from Threads Magazine
It was a project originally published in this issue of Threads magazine:
Threads No. 67 November 1997

I made one for me and one for my mother many moons ago.  It is made of burnout velvet with a silk chiffon lining.

The beading on my mother's scarf broke and before I could fix it I needed to find the magazine so I could remember how the heck I did it.  

So...remember entropy?  Yeah...still affecting my sewing room!  I needed to go through every single magazine (and I have/had many!)  The plus side...After recycling 6 bags of old magazines, I now have a beautifully organized shelf full of Threads, Inspirations, Sew Beautiful, Australian Smocking and Embroidery and Sew News/Sew Stylish - organized by type - in date order!

I seriously love my labeler!

After locating the needed issue, I got started on the repairs:


Good as new!  The organizing and searching took longer than the actual repair! Ha!  My life!

Have you done any project recently where the prep took longer than the actual project?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sewing Accomplished!

I actually accomplished some sewing - on weeknights!  I'll write a more detailed post tomorrow - with pictures, but I was so happy to actually get to sew on a week night, during the school year that I just had to share!  :-)

More tomorrow...

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Entropy:  The scientific theory that, given a constant volume and no additional energy input, all systems will lose energy therefore falling from a more organized state to a less organized state and, in the case of my sewing room, eventually - chaos.

Need proof:
Entropy in Action!


No Energy in...

Chaos in my sewing room!

I haven't had time to sew in my sewing room since the Hurricane Skirt and still...somehow my room has descended into chaos.  How does this happen???

So, instead of sewing yesterday, I organized.  The final results?  Sewable again. 
Energy in...Organized again...sort of.

I didn't get to any new projects, but I finished up one little repair of a project from several years back.  It wasn't real sewing, but it felt nice to be in my space again.  

I have several Christmas projects in the works and am anxious to start those in my nicely de-entropied space.  

Anyone else out there fight entropy in your sewing/crafting space?