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A cape for a little girl

May 20, 2011

I wanted to give a special, handmade, dress-up cape to my small girl for Christmas.  I trawled the internet looking for patterns, instructions, and ideas.  I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for, so I ended up mashing together various instructions from several websites, as well as just sort of winging it on my own.  I wanted it to be gauzy, so I bought a package of tulle.  I never know how to pronounce it: tool? tull? toile? toil? Anyway, whatever it is, I bought it.  I measured my daughter, wanting the cape to be long enough to swish nicely, but not so long that it would get in her way when she sat down.  Unfortunately, I then decided to add a ruffle on the bottom in order to give it some frill, and that threw all my measuring calculations off.  I guessed at cutting the neckline (fold the tulle in half, then cut it like you would a snowflake or heart valentine so that when you open it up, the neckline is symmetrical).  I had planned on using my sewing machine to make this, but then I found out that tulle doesn’t unravel, so I didn’t need to hem anything, and furthermore, tulle is notoriously hard to sew unless you add a paper backing or some other such like.  I decided to just go with hand sewing.  I had bought a feather boa to attach somewhere, and some pink ribbon with stars.  The wee girl was with me when we bought them, and her approval of both items was very much in evidence.

I thought it would be nice to put some extra dimension in the cape, so I doubled the tulle when I cut out the main body.  My vision was for a floaty top layer.  I cut a piece for the ruffle that was about 1.5 times the length of the top piece.  Then I basted a thread through the ruffle piece, and used that to pull gathers into it until it was the same length as the main piece.  Then I pinned them together, and hand stitched them.

What an ugly mess.  I took a length of the ribbon, and hand stitched it over the ruffle seam.  My plan was to stitch the ribbon down on the top and bottom, but it was so hard to push the needle through, and my time was running very short, so I just sewed the top of the ribbon.

At some point, I realized I needed to see how this was going to look on my daughter, but really hated to spring it on her before it was finished.  I looked around, and found a willing model.

Strawberry Shortcake was perfect.  She is only a few inches shorter than my daughter, so I was able to get a somewhat realistic idea of how the cape was going to fit.

I had a little trouble figuring out what to do with the neckline.  I finally opted to cut a few vertical slits around the neck, and thread the ribbon through.  Then I had the problem of finding a way to fasten it.  In retrospect, I probably should have used extra ribbon to make ties, but I was nervous about the choking/strangulation possibility.  Buttons would be too difficult for her to work.  That left velcro.  The only white velcro the local fabric store had in stock was the kind that is sticky on the backside.  Not such a good idea when you’re working with a fabric full of holes.  I stitched the velcro to the tulle (NOT recommended – almost impossible to force the needle through the sticky back of the velcro), then stitched ribbon over the backside of the velcro to cover the sticky part.

In hindsight, this really wasn’t a good idea.  The velcro is very strong, and in order to remove the cape, the wee one has to give quite a tug.  Tulle is not precisely meant to be tugged on, so it tends to rip easily.  The cape very quickly got some tears around the neck.  Despite that, and despite the fact that the little girl wears the cape on her front instead of her back (why would you wear such a pretty cape on your back where you can’t see it?!), I would say it was a pretty good success.  Next cape I make will probably be out of fabric. Tulle is nice, but sure does add a bit of extra work.


A few random desserts

May 19, 2011

No exciting stories this time around.  I’ve left both the Daring Bakers and the Daring Cooks.  As much as I enjoyed the challenges (well, other than the burns, and the stress, and the broilers, and…), I found I just did not have the time to do them.  I’m on my own now for finding interesting things to cook.  Meanwhile, here’s a couple things I’ve done recently.

I bought a popsicle mold from Amazon, and made these popsicles.  Vanilla yogurt, fresh pureed strawberries, and a bit of orange juice.  Delicious!

Then, I found a way to use up some of the rhubarb that’s been hanging around my freezer for ages.  I’ve made rhubarb pies (with and without strawberries), and rhubarb cakes (which all require cinnamon, and while they’re good, they just don’t do it for me).  Then I found a recipe for rhubarb cheesecake.  Yummy!

Daring Cooks: Ceviche and Papas Rellenas

March 15, 2011

Kathlyn of Bake Like a Ninja was our Daring Cooks’ March 2011 hostess. Kathlyn challenges us to make two classic Peruvian dishes: Ceviche de Pescado from “Peruvian Cooking – Basic Recipes” by Annik Franco Barreau. And Papas Rellenas adapted from a home recipe by Kathlyn’s Spanish teacher, Mayra.

I’ll start with the ceviche.  This is an odd dish.  You take sashimi grade fish, place it raw in a dish, and “cook” it in a concoction of mainly lime juice with some garlic, a chile, cilantro, salt, pepper.  After 10 minutes in the liquid, the fish is “cooked” and eaten.  Seeing as this would be fed to a toddler and a nursing mom, I opted not to exactly do this recipe.  One of the other members of the Daring Cooks said they tried it with tofu, and that it was good.  We’ve been trying to find ways of eating tofu, so I gave this a whirl.  The recipe called for a cup of freshly squeezed lime juice and swore that bottled lime juice was O.U.T.  Rats.  I bought 10 limes and set to juicing them.  I’ve never been a huge fan of our juicer.  It doesn’t seem to get much juice out of the fruit, and the vents clog up quickly and then the juice can’t drip into the bowl.  We rarely juice things though, so I haven’t replaced it with an electric one.  I juiced one lime, and then wondered if there was anything I could do to make it go faster.  I was already rolling the lime on the table first to help release the juices.  I did a quick Google search, and found this blog with recommendations on how to juice a lime.  The blog is How to Cook like your Grandmother and looks quite interesting. I’ll be going back to look around.  I followed the instructions to jab a fork repeatedly into the lime half, and then squeezed it with my hands into a measuring cup.  I was amazed at how much more juice I got out of the halves I had already used on the juicer. It was also oddly satisfying to jab the fork into it.  I don’t get to be violent in the kitchen very often, and this was a great release for stress.  The 10 limes provided exactly 1 cup of juice.  I liked this method so much, I am getting rid of my juicer.

Then it was on to the Papas Rellenas.  The recipe called for 2.5 lbs of potatoes.  I got out our brand new kitchen scale and carefully weighed out precisely the right amount.  Then I peeled the potatoes, which I’m sure completely messed up the weight calculations. Once the potatoes were cooked, I mashed them up.  I don’t think I mashed them enough, as they were still fairly lumpy once I got my hands in them and started forming the Papas Rellenas.  They looked mashed, they just didn’t feel mashed.  I made the inside mixture according to the recipe (hamburger meat, spices, onions, chile pepper, hard boiled egg).  It also called for chopped up raisins, but we’re not big fans of raisins in our suppers.  We prefer raisins on their own.  I didn’t include them.  It was kind of fun actually forming the potato balls.  Perhaps because the potatoes weren’t mashed all the way, I had a little trouble getting them to close over the filling, and I ended up with a lot of extra filling.  Regardless, they looked pretty neat once they were formed and breaded.  At this point, I was supposed to fry them.  I so rarely fry things-  in fact, all the frying I’ve done in probably the last several years has only been because of the Daring Cooks/Bakers challenges.  I just didn’t feel like frying them again.  Another Daring Cook, Out of the Oven, sent me a link with an idea of how to bake them.  That’s what I did.  They still ended up nice and crispy.

I don’t know if peas are Peruvian, but they were the veggie of choice.  It was an interesting meal.  The tofu was pretty overpowered by the lime juice and cilantro.  We didn’t really care for it.  The Papas Rellenas were interesting, but rather bland.  It is a neat idea, but the potato “dough” desperately needed salt, and the insides needed more oomph (maybe a spicier chile?).

Herb Vinegars

February 21, 2011

Remember the basil trees? We also grew rosemary, sage, lemon balm, and thyme.  The thyme didn’t do much at all, and the lemon balm was harvested for tea.  We were interested in making herbal vinegars with our main crops of basil, rosemary, and sage.  It took us quite a long time to find appropriate bottles.  I finally found them at the Christmas Tree Shop in Saugus.  I bought up pretty much everything they had. You never know if they will restock an item, so it was a now or never deal.

The book I was using recommended using white wine vinegar as the base.  It took a while to find this at our grocery store, but I finally located it on the top shelf, not really with the cooking wines, not really with the vinegars, but sort of in between.  The checkout clerk’s face was priceless when she saw the numerous bottles of vinegar coming down the conveyer belt.  To her credit, she didn’t pry.  I did take pity on her curiousity and told her why I was buying so many.

Once I got everything home, it was time to make the vinegars. The process was really a bit anti-climactic.  Wash the herbs, stuff them in jars, and pour the vinegar in.

I made a few of the large bottles for each of the herbs.  The rosemary vinegar particularly looks pretty.

The rest of the herbs were put into the small bottles.

The really sad thing? They’ve been sitting in my pantry all winter, and I haven’t tried a single one of them. I apparently never cook with vinegar.  Any suggestions on how to use these?

Daring Cooks: Tempura

February 16, 2011

The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including,, and

I only did half the challenge.  I would have loved to have made the Hiyashi Soba, but the arrival of a new baby this month made grocery shopping and cooking just a bit more interesting.  I did manage to do the tempura, though.  I’m not going to post much in the way of how it happened, exciting stories, etc.  I can’t even remember if I did this before or after the baby arrived (why yes, I’m in the middle of newborn-induced-sleep-deprivation-why-do-you-ask?), although I’m fairly positive it was after.

First, the batter.  It was supposed to be mixed with chopsticks.  We have some lovely ones we bought at Hmart.  The batter is supposed to be very thin and kept very cold.  The batter bowl sits in an ice bath to aid with that.  Here’s my set up before frying.

And here are the veggies, frying away.  Technically, veggies are healthy for you, whereas deep frying isn’t, so I figured this meal nutritionally canceled itself out.  I was planning to fry them in canola oil (healthy!), but when I pulled my bottle out, it was obvious there wasn’t nearly enough.  I almost thought that was the end of the project, when I remembered I had some shortening (not so healthy) tucked in the back of a cabinet.  I never use it, and I was happy for an excuse to get rid of it.  There was just barely enough.

It took quite a while to cycle all the veggies through.  We made sweet potatoes, yellow bell pepper, mushrooms, and onions.  They’re all the same color!  Everything tasted great, and we all (minus the tiniest baby) ate it right up.


February 11, 2011

I have a hard time thinking of things to ask for on my birthday, so I have to plan ahead.  This past year, I thought I had a sure fire winner.  I told my husband that I wanted freshly grown herbs from our garden for my birthday.  My birthday is in August, so this meant we had to plan it out and start rather early.  This was our first time growing herbs, and it was quite fun.

One of the herbs we grew was basil.  It grew well.  Quite well.  Rather extraordinarily well.

We had 4 of these monster plants.  (You can see our sage in the foreground.)  Needless to say, we had basil coming out of our ears.  We loaded up our dehydrator with lots of basil, we made basil vinegars, we ate the basil with fresh tomatoes.  And it still kept coming.  A few people suggested I make pesto.  Pesto is one of those things I’ve heard about, but had never seen, tasted, had a clue what it was.  I had no idea it was made with basil, so I had to get a recipe from a friend.

2 cups fresh basil leaves, minced

1/3 cup pine nuts

2 cloves of garlic, minced

6 Tbsp parmesan (powdered)

3/4 cup olive oil

Put in the blender or food processor until smooth.  Add oil at the last to mix up well.  Freeze in ice cube trays. Put cubes in a ziploc baggie in the freezer for storage.

I actually haven’t used the pesto that much, but my husband has.  It has become his secret ingredient in a multitude of dishes.  Everything he cooks is delicious, and this pesto, made from our own basil, has been a great addition to his arsenal of ingredients.

Daring Cooks: Confit & Cassoulet

January 14, 2011

Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.

I opted out of this challenge.  I very much wanted to give it a try; it looked delicious.  A few problems, though.  Number one, I really did not have the time to devote to this rather extensive challenge.  And furthermore… a true cassoulet requires a variety of meats, including duck.  Now, I’ve never had duck, but I have managed to contract an allergy to chicken and turkey.  I have decided to assume that duck is also probably allergenic.  And, well…. if you don’t like duck, you’re rather stuck.