Thursday, January 14, 2010

PLease hold...

I'm struggling with my sewing at the moment. I'm bummed because I have yet to finish the stupid jeans, bummed enough to blog about it because I have no one else to talk to about it at the moment with Scott enjoying his temporary assignment in Hawaii. He owes me, big time, when he gets back home. I'm thinking he's got at least 2 weeks of bedtime duty to do so that I can get right to sewing after dinner. We'll see. These jeans are part of the never-ending SWAP that I was doing for Maeve so I really need to get them done. I've done 4 shirts, although 2 need to have the hems redone because I don't like the way they turned out; 1 pair pants; and 1 dress so far. I still have to do 2 skirts, a pair of leggings, another T-shirt and a blouse and I have to finish the vest. Soon I'll be done and I then can get to sewing for me and for Little Man. Oh, and Little Miss G has informed me that she needs another pretty dress for Easter. Thanks for giving me plenty of notice, honey.

Anyway, I was working on the black jeans last night because Miss M wanted to wear them today with her striped turtleneck and her super-cool purple converse that she got for Christmas. I could see it in her eyes that she thought that this would be a great outfit. It almost happened. I only had to stitch the belt loops, stitch and topstitch the waistband, stitch the buttonhole, apply the button and then quickly hem them. I should have been able to get this done. Alas, my sewing machine had other plans.

I had gotten all the way to the buttonhole when things started to go awry. I like to double-check my settings with a test buttonhole before I do one on the garment, just to be sure that I like the width of the zig-zag, etc. Plus, I was sewing on denim so I wanted to be sure of the stitch length. So I made a test buttonhole on the first waistband - I'd cut it too short, somehow, and I had to cut a new one. It was great to be able to do the test buttonhole on the exact thickness of fabric and interfacing that I would do the real buttonhole on, because it helped me to eliminate at few issues. I ended up doing 3 test buttonholes because I really wanted to get it just right.

When I moved to the actual pants waistband the machine decided that it no longer wanted to play nicely. First it didn't want to stitch at all - the threads were not linking underneath. I moved to a smaller size needle and that seemed to do the trick. BUT... about 2/3 of the way through the buttonhole it suddenly got jammed and wouldn't move. I couldn't finish the buttonhole. I spent an hour trying to figure out exactly what the problem was. The thread keeps getting caught in the race hook and jamming in the bobbin area. In the past my solution has been to take the bobbin casing apart, clean it really well, get a new needle, maybe adjust the bobbin tension, put it all back together, stitch a bit on a scrap of fabric until it runs smoothly again. After an hour I looked at the time and decided that Maeve was going to have to wear something different to school because I couldn't stay up any longer.

Needless to say, she was mightily upset this morning but she managed to keep it together long enough to listen to why the jeans weren't finished. She even asked to look at them and when she saw the almost-finished buttonhole she gave me a hug and said that it was okay, I could finish them later. Today I didn't have time to get to the machine but I'm hoping that LIttle Man will nap tomorrow afternoon so that I can figure out the machine. If I can't make it work I'll break out the Singer Featherweight so I can hem the jeans and do the stupid buttonhole by hand. I don't like to do them by hand but I will if I have to. And on Monday the machine is going to the repair man for a tune-up. In fact, I'm going to check all of my machines this weekend so that I can get them all tuned-up and ready for the sewing badge we're doing for Girl Scouts.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Thursday should have been a fairly mellow day. I'd planned an easy dinner: soup and sandwiches. I had big plans. See, I'd gotten this butternut squash a while back (they keep for a long time) and hadn't gotten around to making my favorite fall/winter squash soup. After a whirlwind morning that included taking Maeve to the orthodontist and a brief trip to Safeway for some groceries, I was all ready to come home and chop up my squash and get cooking. Except I didn't get around to it because my Little Man is teething and he's been miserable, wanting to be held all the time. I finally got him down for a nap and had some lunch, then decided to get going on the squash.

After a few interruptions I'd gotten the squash peeled and cubed and the celery chopped, when I discovered that I had no onions. Not a one. Little Man was asleep - really, really asleep - and since that was what I'd wanted, I decided to let sleeping babies lie and put the soup on hold. Instead I folded laundry, got some other laundry done and then started on the girls' dinner. By the time it was ready, Little Man was awake and ready for dinner. He got to eat, then we all bundled into the car for yet another trip to Safeway to get onions. Fast forward several hours and I was finally enjoying my soup at around 11:30 pm. It was the perfect creative way to regain the sanity I'd lost during the day and was well worth waiting for.

So I thought I'd share this soup recipe with the rest of the world, or at least for those who haven't discovered the joy of soup. This one comes from the cookbook Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites. If you aren't familiar with the Moosewood Restaurant, it's a vegetarian (mostly - they do serve fish) restaurant located in Ithaca, NY that is well-known for being fabulous, in a groovy, all-natural, hippy kind of way.

So here's the recipe. It's surprisingly easy and only has 131 calories in a 9-ounce serving. Plus, it's a super yummy way to eat your veggies.

New England Squash Soup

1 c. diced onions
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed *Note: I generally make it 2 cloves because I like garlic*
1 c. unsweetened apple juice
1 butternut squash (about 1 pound), peeled, seeded, and cubed
1 potato, diced
3 cups water or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 cups sliced mushrooms (about 6 ounces)
3 tbsp dry sherry
1 tbsp soy sauce
pinch of dried marjoram
2/3 c. evaporated skimmed milk
salt and ground pepper to taste

Combine the onions, celery, garlic, and apple juice in a large soup pot. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables soften. Add the squash, potato, water or stock, bay leaf, thyme, salt, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil , cover, lower the heat, and simmer until the vegetables are very soft, about 20 to 25 minutes.

While the soup simmers, sauté the mushrooms in an uncovered skillet with the sherry, soy sauce, and marjoram until the mushrooms are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

When the squash and potatoes are very soft, remove the soup from the heat and, working in batches, purée the soup with the evaporated milk in a blender or food processor. Reheat gently. Add salt and pepper. Serve topped with the sautéed mushrooms.

I must admit that I've not yet tried the mushroom part because I'm not sure of the combo of squash and mushrooms, and when I first made this soup I was pregnant, so all I wanted was the squash taste and the idea of mushrooms was a turn-off. Also, I use stock but I find that many of the vegetable stocks available in the market taste very onion-y, something that I really don't like. So I use 1 can of vegetable stock and one can of chicken stock because I'm not a vegetarian. I've done it both ways and it's pretty good this way, too.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Pause and refresh

Today was an insane day. I don't even want to contemplate it. Rush, rush, rush. Somehow in the midst of it all I didn't get lunch and though I had dinner I'm hungry again. I'm contemplating a veg-out on the couch with some ice cream. Yes, it's bad for the hips but I've got a sweet tooth and a feeling that my littlest one will wake up in an hour wanting to nurse so I don't want to get started on a sewing project because I'd be in the middle of something and have to put it down. Then, of course, I'd want to come back to it after putting the baby back to sleep, which would mean that I'd stay up too late and I've done that the past 3 nights in a row. Time for something different. So, I've got a date with some Edy's coffee ice cream (it's supposed to have 1/2 the fat) and an episode of House on the DVR. Or maybe something with Gordon Ramsay. They're both good-looking so it doesn't really matter which.

Baby, it's cold outside

Yeah, it's cold out. So cold that it's cold inside the house. At least, it's cold in the first floor and that's where my sewing room is. Oh yeah - I chose to put my sewing area next to a big window, 'cause I thought that having lots of light would be great. It is, except when there's a snowdrift on the other side (before Christmas) or when the wind decides to whistle past and rattle the pane. Add to that the fact that my husband broke the damper on the fireplace so that it remains open and lets the cold in from outside and I don't want to be in the sewing room.

I could feel that I'm justified in not going down there because I've brought my regular machine up to the dining room so that I can finish some jeans for Maeve but my serger is still down there and I'm not bringing it up, even though I need to use it. I can say that I'm getting exercise by going up and down the stairs to use it. Yeah, that's right.

The jeans are almost finished, though, and I'm really excited about how they're turning out, although I should have used a thicker thread for the topstitching. I didn't think about it when I started and I didn't want to change in the middle or rip out what I'd already done. The unfortunate part is that the topstitching is turning out really great but it's not noticeable because the thread is the same color as the denim and being a normal thickness, it blends in. Note to self - next time I do jeans make sure that I have an extra machine available for topstitching only so that I don't have to keep changing needles and thread on the one machine.

I did have one momentary problem that could have been major but was remedied by Scott. I had finished the zipper and fly portion of the pants and I wanted to check where the waistband would sit on Maeve. The waistband wasn't attached and the outer leg seams hadn't been sewn yet so I had her just hold them up on either side of the zipper, specifically telling her not to touch the zipper, as I'd had to shorten it and there was no stopper at the top to keep it from coming off. Either she was experiencing temporary deafness or she just forgot as soon as I'd told her because she zipped the zipper up and off the pants.

I freaked. In my defense I had already not gotten a lot of sleep because I'd been working on these jeans, taking my time so that I didn't have to go back and redo seams or pick out stitching. I yelled. I almost cried. Daddy to the rescue. He managed to get the zipper pull back onto the zipper without damaging any of it and the zipper works once more. Phew!

Since the sewing has been on hold slightly, I have been trying to catch up on baking. A bit difficult with my husband off in Hawaii for the next 6 weeks. Ugh. How did he get so lucky? More to the point, how did I get so unlucky? Trying to bake cookies while simultaneously entertaining my 8 month-old son and keeping his fearless 3 year-old sister from hurting herself as she leaps from the furniture is somewhat challenging. I just have one more kind of cookie on my list: chewy chocolate gingerbread cookies. Yes, a Martha Stewart recipe but really they're my favorites. Maybe this weekend I'll find the time to get to them. And, since my children don't really like gingerbread and Scott is gone I may have to eat them all myself. Or maybe share with the neighbors.