Thursday, January 28, 2010

Mouse as Muse

I can't really believe I've been blogging for over a year and never devoted a post to Mouse. Mouse has been a hugely significant part of our family since Helena was about 2 and a half. Mouse was a gift from our good friends Chris and Patty when Helena was born, and she's here to stay. We're all cautiious with Mouse, she comes with us for outings, but only when we're all sure she'll arrive home safely. Losing Mouse is not an option. "Mouse is real, Mouse is a person," Helena stated the other day, and both Patrick and I concur.

So I found myself finishing one project tonight and unsure of which one to start next. And then I looked at Mouse, who usually accompanies Helena to bed, but was up late with me tonight. And I thought, why on earth haven't I made more things for Mouse? Largely, it's because I've only gotten back into sewing regularly, recently. And also, because, well, there are no mouse clothing patterns that I've come tonight, I made my own patterns, and made pajamas for Mouse to match Helena's new ones (photos of those later).

Mouse is great to sew for, she's very accepting of all the imperfections in my pattern are the results. I think Mouse will be getting a whole new wardrobe over the coming months.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Peacock Purse

I just found this awesome new blog, 52 projects, which speaks to my post below, so excited for the inspiration, and the company!

I'm all for keeping the house tidy, the dishes washed, things fairly orderly. In fact, for the most part, I really thrive most in an orderly environment. But this was one of those weeks when it began to feel like that was the sum total of my days.....not that that's entirely true, by any stretch of the imagination. I had many lovely, snuggly moments with Helena this week, a long but good day at work, some good chats with friends at homeschool playgroup...

But today I've been nursing a bit of a cold, and by the end of the day wanted something just for me. So tonight, I left the dishes in the sink, the unpicked up things where they lay, and headed for the sewing room.

This purse has been in my head for a few months, since we moved into this house, and Sandy, the daughter of the previous owner, sweetly left behind some fabric from her mother's stash. This is especially sweet since Sandy sews herself, and I was grateful and inspired. This is vintage, probably late 60s, and I have some other fun pieces to play with next.

Fast forward, past the heavy unpacking (still much to do), the holidays, to the gray cold days of January. I started it a couple of weeks ago, and then stalled few times, for lack of time and then from much embelishment, how to proceed (in all my years of sewing....30 or so, I don't think I've ever made a purse or tote). Tonight I decided to plunge forward, and I'm really, really, pleased with the result.

It's a fairly simple tote style, which I modified from a pattern, added an inside pocket to, and lined. I think I might play with it a bit more and adjust the style, but for now, I'm quite happy to have a new purse to carry around..have been wanting one for awhile but couldn't justify spending the $50 or more on a decent quality leather bag. This was made entirely from what I had on hand. I think this will be great for the rest of the winter, and for spring, I have some fun new fabrics to try out.

And now, for my book and bed.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Stunned, Sad

I have to admit to being particularly weepy this week...hormones? I have been crying over many things, big and small..

But right now I am crying over I know so many of us are. I'm shocked, I'm sad, and I want to help. One of the many things I've been reading is that the help, monetary, especially, needs to come quickly because this is a country without the resources to respond quickly on it's own. One article I read reminded me that after 911 the response in our country and from around the world was so strong. We're so incredibly fortunate to be in a position here, to have access to so many resources, so much support. Not everyone is so lucky.

Support Doctors Without Borders in Haiti

This is a clickable link, you can donate at this site. I donated what I felt we could...anything amount, large or small, can help. Many of us are stretched right now...we're still paying off debt from when things weren't so good, not so long ago. But somehow, in the face of this, that doesn't matter to me so much.

I'm off to cry some more over the dishes in the sink. And to wonder what more I can do.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Repurposed Window Valance

I love the concept of repurposing, or using an unwanted item for a new purpose, it appeals to my frugal nature.

This curtain valance hung in our bathroom, and although I like the fabric, it just didn't fit with our taste. But then I had the inspiration...wouldn't it be the perfect size for a skirt for Helena?
And it was! And so easy. The casing was already in place, I just ran the elastic through, checked her for sizing, sewed it in place and stiched up the back. She loves it, and it's very twirly!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Know anyone who is pregnant?

Once upon a time, several years ago, I had a small but thriving little Ebay business, selling mostly maternity clothing and children's clothing and items. Then need required that I get a job bringing in a more steady income, so it was time to close the little Ebay shop. I sold off what I could quickly of my stock, liquidated most of the rest by selling it to a local resale shop, and went to work.

I'm still working, though, happily, much less than before. And it's time, I mean (staring at the heap of boxes in the basement still to be dealt with and getting a sinking feeling) REALLY TIME, to clear out the excess in my life and make room for what is important.

I have a few, cute items left that I had in more quantity than the little resale shop could handle. I'll be listing these on Ebay over the next weeks, all well below retail cost. If you know anyone who would be interested, please send them my way.

I'll also be listing misc household items, nicer clothing items my daughter has outgrown, and some things for a good friend who needs the extra cash. I'll post them here as they get listed. All will start at bargain prices.

Here's what I got accomplished today:

Gap maternity wool blend dress, Extra Large and Small

And the same dress is black, size Medium

3 3 Pack of Maternity Tights (lightweight, more like hose), in size C.

See how nice my photos are? I got pretty good at it after a lot of practice :-)

By the way, did you know you can list 5 items per month on Ebay for free? This is a fairly recent offer, maybe in the last 6 months or so. It's a great way to get rid of stiff around the house and make a little extra cash with not cost to you until your items sell. Detail are here. You'll need to scroll down to get to the free listing info.

Happy day!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Crockpot Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon is one of my favorite winter meals. I made this first from a recipe in Oprah Magazine about 9 years ago, which was adapted from a Barefoot Contessa recipe. I especially love it because my little girl loves it, which warms me to my toes. I've adapted here and there over time, making it easier, faster, crockpot friendly and using ingredients I'm more likely to have on hand. I love the flavors of thyme and red wine together, and I love that I can start this in the morning, head out for the day and come home to a warm, delicious meal

Beef Bourguignon
1-2 pounds of stew beef, cubed
Salt & pepper
several tablespoons of olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
2 cups beef stock
3 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tsps dried thyme
2 cups hot water
1/2 chopped onions
4 carrots, cut into bite sized pieces
4 medium potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
2 tablespoons softened butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Sprinkle both sided of cubed beef with salt and pepper. Heat a little olive oil in the pan and brown beef cubes on both sides. Remove and set aside. Heat about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in the same pans and saute mushrooms until soft. Add minced garlic and brown for 30 seconds. Deglaze pan with red wine and then add beef stock, tomato paste and thyme and simmer for 10 minutes.

Pour the mixure from the pan into your crockpot and the beef, water, onions, carrots and potatoes. Cook on high for about 3.5 hours or low for about 7 hours. Then mash together the butter and flour and add a little of the hot broth to the mix. Stir this into the stew to thicken. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.

I like to serve this with crusty french or sourdough bread, and it's also good over rice. It's great reheated too.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Twist on Leftover Stuffing

I am frugal by nature. It's in my roots. Both of my sets of grandparents grew up in working class families who lived through the depression. They all worked hard and ultimately thrived. My parents and their siblings were the first generation in both families to be college educated.

Several years ago, while visiting my cousin (born, of course, of these same frugal roots) in Boston, we had a laughing discussion about the sense of satisfaction we both get from "using things up." Emptying a container and having used all of it's contents feels good.

I feel very much that way about leftovers. I try to balance the amount I cook between having enough and a bit leftover for some fast meals later and overkill, where we're sick of eating it by the time it's gone.

This Christmas I overdid it on the stuffing. Not sure how, all of my family loves to eat stuffing, but we had a lot left, and still some left when the roast chicken and mashed potatoes and green beans were eaten for a second meal. So there it sat in my refrigerator for several days, staring at me whenever I ventured in, tickling my brain.Then finally, inspiration struck and this was the result.

I decided to call it Brunch Bread Pudding. I don't know that this idea is truly unique, but I thought it was clever and it turned out quite tasty, so here the recipe to be stored away until the next holiday season.

Brunch Bread Pudding
2 Cups leftover stuffing or bread cubes
9 eggs
1/2 Cup milk or cream
1/2 Cheese..I used sharp cheddar

Preheat over to 350 degrees.
Grease a pie plate, tart pan or 9" x 9" square pan. I used a tart pan because I liked the look.
Spread the stuffing over the bottom of the pan. If you use plain bread cubes, sprinkle some dried thyme and a pinch of sage over the stuffing for flavoring.
Whisk together eggs and milk. Pour over the stuffing and top with cheese. I had cheddar in the house but this would be great with Gruyere and probably many other cheeses as well.
Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, until center is set and cheese is lightly browned.

This was really tasty, even my finicky 5 year old ate it! And, it filled my need to use it all up!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2010 Feels Great Already

Not much to say on this second day of 2010, except that it already feels so good...hopeful, full, rich. Not sure why, don't really care, just gonna go with it.

I'm not huge on New Year's resolutions per say, but it does give me an annual reason to reflect on what's working, what's not, how I would like to grow and change. I typically start this process in November around my birthday, and by January already have some changes in the works. I'll list those in more detail over the coming days.

But now, I'm off for an unaccustomed of late, much needed afternoon date with my husband. Here's to start the year off well and wishing a healthy, happy, prosperous New Year to us all!