Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cooking: Mac and cheese

I love mac and cheese. It's such a simple concept, yet my recipes are anything but. Ryan and I love Ina Garten's Mac and Cheese, and that's how we fell in love with gruyere! It can be so stinky and attracts hoards of flies, but it's oh-so-delicious, and we always find ways to include it in our cooking.

Anyway, on to the recipe. This one was adapted from Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld.

3 cups elbow macaroni
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup nonfat (skim) milk
1 cup cauliflower puree (see below)
1 ½ cups shredded reduced fat Cheddar cheese
1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella provolone cheese
8 oz reduced fat or nonfat cream cheese
salt, pepper and paprika to taste


Cauliflower Puree
Note: Cauliflower puree can be made in bulk and kept in the freezer.
Clean and cut florets and discard core. Steam for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain in a colander. Blend in food processer (blender) for about 2 minutes, with a few teaspoons of water, as needed, for a smooth, creamy texture.

Macaroni and Cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add macaroni, and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain in a colander.

While the macaroni is cooking, heat large saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter, then the flour, and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture resembles a thick paste but has not browned, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the milk and cook, stirring every now and then, until the mixture begins to thicken, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the vegetable puree, cheddar cheese, cream cheese, salt pepper, and paprika, and stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Stir in the macaroni.

Pour macaroni and cheese into a greased baking dish.

Add butter and bread crumbs on top of the macaroni and cheese.

Place baking dish in the oven on broil for approximately 10 minutes (or until bread crumbs are lightly toasted).

Unless you are having a panini party, you probably won't need the whole tray of mac and cheese. It's also best to use mac and cheese that has been refrigerated, as it hold firmly when you place it into the sandwich and proceed to press it for panini. So I suggest making the carnitas and mac and cheese on separate nights and then using the leftovers to make panini on the third night.

Other elements:

Sweet dreams of firearms and targets

When Ella was barely 2 weeks old, we propped a silhouette of daddy's AR on her arm.

Say what you may about our parenting, but I see nothing wrong with exposing my family to weapons -- presuming they are also exposed to lessons on safe-handling and responsible behavior. Yes, I do listen to country music. Yes, our house is protected by the Good Lord and our guns.

Anyway, back to my post. I was watching "Wild Target" with Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt, and Rupert Grint. As quirky British comedies go, I loved the movie. Especially the scene in which assassin Victor shows Tony to his bedroom, in which there is a nursery mobile spinning above the bed. What's so great about this scene?


The internets returned no results relating to my query on how to go about building one of these. In fact, a search of "baby+mobile+firearm" showed results for "how to make a baby mobile using a glue gun" Say what? I asked for firearm, not gun.

You better believe if I find out Ella's having a sibling, I will be refashioning her zebra and elephant mobile to a hip firearm and target assortment, with pistols, gatling gun, and maybe an AR.  Or if someone starts selling them. Either way, I will be sure to post about it.

Please do not steal the picture of my Ella, that is mine. I do not have any claim on the movie stills shown here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cooking: Slow-simmered carnitas

Here we go! This was the first time I was making carnitas. In the 4 years of having a slow cooker, I have only used it to make chili or shoyu pork. I was a little nervous considering the ingredients, and previous failed attempts with altering recipes (to be shared with at a later time).

The pork came out delicious! I can imagine having them in a burrito or just served with mexican rice and a scoop of refried beans, with dollops of guacamole and sour cream. But, before I get carried away, here is the recipe I used.

Adapted from - I didn't have coriander and I threw in an extra bay leaf since the turkish bay leaves I use are smaller than I see in the McCormick's bottles at the grocery store.

1 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp crumbled dried oregano
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
4 lbs boneless pork shoulder roast
3 bay leaves
2 cans chicken broth

Mix together salt, garlic powder, cumin, oregano, and cinnamon in a bowl. Coat pork with the spice mixture. Place the bay leaves in the bottom of a slow cooker and place the pork on top. Pour the chicken broth around the sides of the pork, being careful not to rinse off the spice mixture.

Cover and cook on low. Turn the meat after it has cooked for 5 hours. Cook until the pork shreds easily with a fork, about 10 hours total. When the pork is tender, remove from slow cooker, and shred with two forks. Use cooking liquid as needed to moisten the meat.

Other elements:

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cooking: Panini and salad

I know that title seemed really lame. I mean, REALLY. Panini and salad? I know titles can make all the difference but having a super long post title means a super long url (of course, not if you use a shortened link thing). Anyway, what this post really should have been called:

Slow-simmered carnitas with mac and cheese and carmelized onions bbq panini and kale salad with soy citrus dressing

Ryan came up with the idea after oogling at pictures of similar concoctions. He decided to make his panini with kalua pork instead of carnitas and an extra layer of cheddar.

Of course, you can take inspiration from here and come up with your own blend of store bought/personal recipes. But, want to know how I made it? Over the course of this week, I'll post up the recipes so you can make your own!

Other elements:

Friday, August 26, 2011

Follow along: Terra Scintilla Bracelet

I saw these super cute bracelets a few weeks ago and was totally inspired to make them as Christmas gifts for the tweens in our family.

(1) What in the the world are tweens?
It's the age between kid and teenager. They're too old to do the lame, childish stuff with their parents and younger siblings, and too young to be driven by hormonally emotional tantrums (but not immune to tantrums in itself). So youth ranging in ages 9 - 12.

(2) Gift giving, really?
I've always tried to justify the anti-gift. You know, the one where your parents give a blanket gift and you get a token appearance in the "From" portion of the gift tag? I justified, not giving a gift because a) I was just a kid, b) I'm young (in my career) and struggling with rent/mortgage, c) we're just not that close.
However, when you have kids, there's no excuse. People that aren't that close, with mortgages, start buying things for your kids. You want to tell them kindly, that it's not necessary, yet you find yourself receiving gifts all year round. So, you must reciprocate.

I try to come up with clever ideas or trendy gifts. I'm not really sure what tweens are into: one day it's Justin Bieber, the next it's Silly Bandz. Although I'm guessing I was similarly as finicky between Jonathan Taylor Thomas and slap bracelets (btw, did anyone else see those bright blingy slap watches at Nordstrom?!). Because of this similarity, I try to think, "Ok, so if I was in elementary school, would I be cool for having this, or a big joke?" And I know popularity isn't everything, but it counts for something. These diy bracelets fall under "cool" for me. I would love receiving them as a gift now, and I imagine I would have been complimented had I donned these in 6th grade.

I found a set of bangle bracelets on clearance at Icing for $6.50. It included 3 thinner bangles, 2 thick ones and one with a strip of rhinestone trim.

It was awesome that it had rhinestone trim. As I mentioned before, it's difficult finding things in Hawaii. You gotta be resourceful and make do. I just happened to be lucky.

Using some E-6000 (craft glue) I picked up at WalMart, I followed the instructions to attach the rhinestones to the thinner bangles. From this picture, you can see the 2 thicker ones that were included (I may just pair them with the crafted ones for a fun combo).

Also from WalMart, I picked up pretty colored Jute Cord for $3.99. I personally like the versatility of black and gray, so of course I opted for these instead of the neon variety.

A simple cobra knot covers the bangle and helps squeeze in extra knots to secure the rhinestones.

The picture doesn't quite do it justice (and I'm not about to figure out how to take pictures with Ryan's SLR, then upload them to my computer, bleh!), but it came out nice and I can see myself paying $26< at a boutique for a set of three.

After purchasing everything, it came out to less than $5.00 each. Keep in mind I didn't have bangle bracelets, rhinestone trim, decorative cord, or craft glue. I'm sure many crafters out there have most of these supplies and can just whip up something from their stash.

I definitely can raid my fabric scraps to make a little pouch to gift them. So all in all, a handmade, cute, affordable gift --and no embarassment come birthday or holiday!

Any ideas for gifts for the undertweens? I'm in need of gifts for kids under 7. Possibly this pretend make-up kit?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Internet superstar

I was flipping through the pictures on my phone, as I'm running out of space, and I don't want to waste precious storage with non-Ella pictures, when I stumbled on this picture.

The little munch has been sprouting like crazy. Between growth spurts, new teeth, and a newfound love of Trader Joe's Fruity Flakes (of course the one food I can't just go pick up for her, since Hawaii doesn't have Trader Joe's), we can hardly keep up with her antics.

Anyway, a few months ago, Ryan and I stopped in our tracks, jaws agape, at this little "big" girl.

Story goes like this -- I wake up at 5:30am on the weekdays and am out the door by 6. Ryan works closer to home and doesn't require to leave at dark o'clock to make it in on time. Ella will either sleep like a lump on a log or be bouncing off the walls - depending on the morning.

On this one occasion, the little munch was already awake so Ryan left her on our bed while he was in the bathroom getting ready for work. He walks out to see her bridged between the bed and his laptop stand, with the biggest, brightest grin on her face.

He hears her clicking away, and slightly worried, as macs have a gazillion shortcuts that will make your screen extremely zoomed in, with inverted colors, and a pop-up bubble detailing what your cursor is doing, that she's done some inconvenient, but not unreparable damage.

He walks over to see what the big smile is about:

She navigated to the campmor website, into the children's apparel, to shoes, to these winter boots, that also come in pink. This was the reason she was so happy.

I don't know how she got the browser open, typed in the url, clicked to the children's section, and went shoe shopping. Ryan was shocked. He texted me at work. I was shocked.

Ella is a genius.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Dressy wipes case

Ok, last newborn/baby shower post (for a while), I promise! This time it's for real, as the party came and went.

Almost all of the craft blogs I follow have tutorials for some sort of tutorial for blinding out a wipes case. So why not?

Using the same fabric as the nursing cover, along with some batting, I fancied it up. Oh the magic of E-6000, hot glue, ric rac, and grosgrain!

I even lined it so the print would show through the case. Attention to detail!

Okay, I'll go back to posting other stuff.. Or maybe take another mini hiatus. Ha!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Diaper Pocket Carry-all

"What? More?" you say? Yes, what's wrong with a little ambitiousness? Sometimes. I've got a few more tricks up my sleeve, too!

I still had lots of fabric left over, so I made a tote to carry around some diapers, wipes, and maybe a disposable changing pad, and a tube of petroleum jelly.

I followed the tutorial from Noodlehead. It was really easy. Of course I had to make up my own measurements since I had different sizes of scraps. Instead of linen, I used a type of basketweave cloth. it makes it kinda earthy.

I also added a tab at the back where the closure is, so that it could be hung from one of those mommyhooks on a stroller (we use ours a lot --my purse-- and it was on their registry and so we bought it). A perfect pouch to take in a quick walk around the mall when you don't want to lug around a huge diaper bag.*

*Yes, I was one of those moms that thought I needed a spacious diaper bag to carry everything. You never know when you need a bandaid, or a nursing cover, or an extra shirt, or disposable changing pads, or scenty soiled diaper bags, etc. Then I realized you just need a couple of diapers, some wipes, and a sippy cup of water and you're good. You could probably do without anything and you'd be fine.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Lazy appliqué

A day after I made the burp cloths, I thought it needed a little something more. I went back to the invitation for some inspiration. Ok, so it's not the best picture, I had to upload it, then I had to blur some of the details, then yah, it just wasn't working out for me. Oh well. You get the gist of the invitation.

Since there was an obvious theme, music, I wanted to tie in our gift in some way! So I cut out felt shapes to decorate the burp cloths. I couldn't really remember what music notes looked like, so I had to google image them. I picked out a treble clef, bass clef, and an eighth note. I hand cut the designs using the printouts as templates. Then sewed them on to the burp cloths. I made sure there wouldn't be any loose parts that could cause a choking hazard, and each section is double sewed on. I even used white thread in the bobbin to make it less obvious!

I think it came out pretty cute. I totally customized!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Burp cloths

Like I mentioned before, I wanted to make a set of items for the gift. So in addition to the hospital gown and nursing cover, I wanted to make burp cloths! I received a set of similar ones from my step mom. It was like 12 different prints and so very cute!

I only had one pack of burp cloths, so 6 was all I could make.

As you can see, I made burp cloths to match the nursing cover.

I made burp cloths to match the hospital gown. (Oops, that's right, I didn't have a picture of the hospital gown. Anyway, I used Chartreuse by Piece O'Cake Designs from Daisies and Dots for Robert Kaufman)

And this cute little animal print to go along with it. Unfortunately, I can't tell you what this is. It was a stash that I had from browsing the throwaway bins at WalMart. I love how they discount unpurchased/scrap piece fabric.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Nursing cover

My friends are expecting their first child at the end of September. Finally, more friends are jumping in to the parenting boat! It's so hard to be one of the few with kids -- everyone still lives their partying, late-night lives, while we go to bed before the 10 o'clock news.

Anyway, she's due in late September, but after a recent scare, she's on bedrest until delivery. I scrambled to get part of her gift made - a designer hospital gown. I made one for myself because I didn't want to use the icky hospital ones, and I wanted it as a keepsake for later. I also made one for another friend. I'm not sure if she used it, but oh well.
So because of the scare, my friend experienced said icky hospital gowns. They had holes, stains, and the closure straps were broken off. With her shower coming up, I wanted to make sure she gets it right away, so unfortunately no pictures. It's came out really nice though!

It has velcro tabs on the shoulders for easy pull away for the tubes and tapes that get hooked up or if she doesn't get to use the gown (C-section), then she can use it for nursing when she's in postpartum wing.

As part of our gift, I wanted to make a set of items that she could use. So I also made a nursing cover in a coordinating fabric. I decided that I was going to make everything in a lime green, teal, yellow palette. I made a couple changes from the original instructions. (1) I used D-rings on my own nusing cover, and hated it--I would rather have had ties. It was easy enough to slip over my head and I would never get a shock of really cold metal against my neck. (2) I sewed the casing for the boning before inserting it. It was too difficult to navigate the presser foot around the curves and plastic. (3) In one corner, instead of a triangle "wipe", I made a pocket to stick in some disposable pads. I changed them frequently, but didn't always have pockets to carry them. If they were on the cover it would have made it so much more convenient!

I really like this fabric. It's so bright and teal and just POPS!

I also love promotional t-shirts. It's got that soft knit feel, without the hard work of hemming.

The shower is today, but I have a few more items to share. So they'll go up as I have time to upload pics from my phone and write a bit about them.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Follow along: June bug dress, part 3

End of week 3, that means the dress should be D-O-N-E, right? Yah, well I was done with it a while ago, but I got lazy and didn't post. Anyway, after the issue with the buttons, everything was easy-peasy.

I finished the sleeves: They're gathered a little at the top to make a cute poof, and I hemmed a casing for the elastic arm holes.

I finished the bottom hem. I tried to do a double topstitch with a wide hem, to make it look all professional and such.

Turns out the dress is a little to big, so if she wears it, I need to pin the front (the flap hides the pins well and you can't even tell it's too big. I also pinned up the hem, you can't see the fancy stitch detail, but it's still cute.

Additionally, I added the bottom half of an old onesie inside the dress (no picture shown), it's attached where the bodice meets skirt. It helps keep her lady-like (as she's at the stage where she lifts up her dress for fun), and it won't be easy-to-lose like her gazillion other diaper covers that come with dresses...and if I wasn't so stingy with my marimekko, I probably would have made a matching one.

If you want to see this baby (and my baby) in action, here's a clip:

*Note on clip: We went out to dinner with friends and Ella was getting antsy. Daddy came to the rescue and took her on an adventure which included offroading in her stroller and (pretend) driving the car. She's so silly.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Follow along: June bug dress, part 2

All right! It's week 2 and what do I have? The second installment of the sew along! This is the section that Jess has us work on the bodice and buttonholes.

The really cute part about this dress is that it has a cute front flap that also functions as the method of getting in and out. The flap is secured with buttons and opens to allow easy wear and removal.

Here is that flap I was talking about. I'm amazed at how I can be so frustrated at my sewing machine in one minute, to have it working perfectly the next. For the most part, it worked without major issues and I even self-taught myself some overlock and other fanciness.

The front flaps were quite easy to put together following the instructions, it was need how it sort of looked like I was making a vest.

Piecing the vest pieces with the back was a little tricky. I wasn't sure if I was doing it right, and was a little worried that I might accidently close a critical opening!

It all worked out, and it's amazing how you can piece and sew, then iron, and it looks so professional. I got really excited, it was actually looking more like something you wear -- other than a scrap stash on my craft desk.

I know, camera phone pictures can be the worst. But who cares, I'm not going to take out a fancy DSLR, snap some professional photos, and take time to upload them. That's Ryan's job. So far he's got the first 2 steps. We had to get another memory card because he hasn't taken the time to upload pictures and/or we don't want to delete any cute pictures of Ella. *Shrug.*

It only took me six tries to get the buttonhole stitch down! So what if those were the six holes I made. Haha, from the front you can't really tell.

Bear with me. I'm almost done, I have many other projects to work on, but this blogging thing seems to distract from the projects. I have to keep remembering to take pictures or draft up something to post. It was so much easier when I wrote about not having any inspiration.