Garlic Basil Mayonnaise and Meringue Cookies

I have to credit these recipes to my mom – she got me hooked on them!  One of my very favorite lunches is Boar’s Head roast beef and provolone cheese on a Publix hamburger bun (they’re super eggy and delicious) with garlic basil mayo slathered on it.  YUM!

When she started making the mayo, she didn’t know what to do with the egg whites.  She mentioned it to my Grandma one day (who is, I’m sure, the world’s greatest baker), who suggested that she make meringues with the whites – and voila, this pairing was born!  I guess they don’t really have to go together, but it’s nice to have a scrumptious sandwich with garlic basil mayo and finish your lunch with a light and airy meringue cookie.

Radar bought me a basil plant that we keep in our front walkway.  It’s the one plant I’ve managed not to kill!  I love having fresh basil when I want it, and I had my first “crop” ready to be harvested this weekend, so I immediately thought of my mom’s mayonnaise.

IMG_2436Garlic Basil Mayonnaise:

  • 2 large egg yolks at room temperature (NOT cold, or it won’t mix right)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • rounded 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup light olive oil (if you use all extra virgin, the flavor is just too strong – take my word for it on this one)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil

In a food processor, add egg yolks, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper.  Pulse to mix.  Drizzle in olive oil slowly (be patient… your arm will get tired, but just keep drizzling!) with the food processor on.  Once it has emulsified, add in the basil and garlic and whiz for about 30 more seconds (make sure the garlic is well chopped, you don’t want a hunk of it lurking in your mayo).  Refrigerate and use for up to a week.  Recipe doubles well (in fact, this is a half-recipe of the original).

IMG_2435

Plain mayonnaise, before the addition of the garlic and basil – this is how it looks when it’s emulsified

IMG_2437

Ready to enjoy!

Once you’ve made your mayonnaise, hold off on cleaning up the kitchen – use those egg whites to make some fluffy meringues!

Meringue Cookies:

  •  2 egg whites (still at room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla or other extract flavor
  • pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 275 F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.  In a glass or metal bowl, whip egg whites until foamy using an electric mixer on medium speed.  Put cream of tartar and salt on top of sugar, and sprinkle in a little at a time while continuing to whip on high speed.  Add in extract flavoring.  When the mixture becomes stiff and shiny like satin, transfer to a large pastry bag and pipe onto prepared baking sheet with a round or star tip (if you rub a little between your thumb and forefinger and it feels gritty, the sugar hasn’t dissolved and it’s not ready yet).  If you don’t have a pastry bag, use 2 tablespoons to make drops.  Place the meringues in the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes or until the meringues are dry, and can be easily removed from the pan.  Allow cookies to cool completely before storing in an airtight container at room temperature.

IMG_2442

See how it’s shiny and forms stiff peaks? That means it’s ready. It may take a while!

I use my fancy icing tool to pipe the meringues – I find it’s easier and wastes less than a piping bag.  But spoons work just as well, too!

IMG_2444

My cleanup crew – I know Monster looks angry, but he was too busy licking to smile for the camera!

It’s hard to be patient for the hour to pass before you can enjoy your delicious meringues!

IMG_2445

I didn’t want to waste even that last little dollop! I could have had more cookies if I’d made them smaller (these are pretty large).

I hope you give this mayo a try, I’m sure you’ll love it as much as our family does!  And the cookies are an added bonus!

Ruffle Shorts – Serger Basics

In my last sewing post, I showed you how to draft a pattern from something you already have.  Now, I’m going to make something with the pattern I drafted!  When I saw these adorable ruffle shorts on Pinterest, I just knew I had to make some for my niece!  I also haven’t broken out my serger for a while, so this was the perfect excuse to use it.

IMG_2428

This is why I don’t always pull my serger out – space is limited on my little sewing desk! I end up sitting in front of the drawers and using the pedal to the right (the black one is for the serger, the white one is the sewing machine, and the gray one is my old sewing machine – I really need to put that one away!)

Do I need to remind you that I’m a chicken?  The serger was a machine that struck fear into my heart for many, many years.  My mom and grandma both had one, but I pretty much never used them.  It was always too dangerous when I was little, and then I was just afraid when I grew up.  Then, I started doing projects that would have been much easier and better constructed on a serger, so I decided to check them out…. after seeing what they look like inside, I got scared again:

IMG_2418

Yikes!!

But, finally, my mom convinced me that it’s a really amazing machine to have, and last year for my birthday (and Christmas, because they are pricey!), my mom and grandma bought me this serger (also called an overlock machine).  If you are thinking about getting one, I highly recommend it!!!  It has been one of the best sewing purchases ever!  Also, I was lucky that they bought mine at Husqvarna – you know, the ladies that sell the machines inside Joann craft stores.  Well, when you buy a machine with them, they offer a complimentary how-to class as part of the purchase.  I had tried to use the DVD and instruction book that came with the machine to no avail, but when I went to the class, my frustrations disappeared!  I spent an incredible 2 hours with the instructor, during which she refused my numerous offers to come live with me so we could sew projects together all the time.  She made me thread and re-thread the machine about 20 times for different stitches, and really built my confidence.  She also convinced me that unless a needle falls out or I run over a pin, I CAN’T BREAK THE SERGER.  That was a big deal for me.

So, now that I have overcome my fear of the serger, I’d like to share some of my experience and tips with you so that you, too, can build your confidence on this complicated but brilliant machine.

To start off with, like a regular sewing machine, sergers can do many types of stitches.  Also, just like sewing machines, tension for each thread is key – but instead of just 2 threads, you’re working with up to 5 at a time (although my serger only takes 4).  I found the best thing when I am using a new kind of stitch is to make a “cheat sheet” for myself.

Sergers today are big on color coding.  You can see in the picture above that they use blue, green, red, yellow, and sometimes navy blue to track which thread is which.  So I bought one spool of each of those colors for myself (you can use sewing machine spools, but you will run through it SUPER fast, so I just went for the serger spools).  Then, I threaded the machine with the color spools that matched the machine thread guides for the desired stitch, got all the tensions perfect (using a scrap piece of cotton), and made a nice stitch along my “cheat sheet” cotton.

IMG_2419

I just used some cotton I had lying around. You see the different colored threads? They correspond to the color coding on the machine.

OK, so why the heck did I waste my time to do this?  First of all, it was good practice – I only took a picture of 4 stitches above, but I have about 15 of these things to use as reference for all the stitches on my machine.  But most importantly, when I change stitches and fabrics and thicknesses, it’s very easy to figure out which thread tension I need to adjust when things just don’t look right.  I can look at my piece, see which thread isn’t stitching right, and look at my sample to see which color tension disc I need to adjust.  Tension on the serger is a lot more finicky than the sewing machine, and will make a big difference in the strength, durability, and look of your finished piece.  It’s not impossible to figure it out without these samples, but when all your thread is the same color, it can get a little tricky!  I’ve found my little color-coded samples save me a lot of time, frustration, and unnecessary tension-tweaking.

So, to start on the ruffle shorts, you’re going to need to buy 1/2 yd of a cotton knit – I found an adorable purple reversible polka dot and stripe fabric an Joann’s.  From your fabric, cut

  • 2 pieces of your shorts pattern (facing opposite directions, one will be the right side, one will be the left), with the stretch of the fabric going left to right
  • 4 ruffle pieces – these should be twice the length of the bottom hem of your shorts, and 1.5″ high (in my case, the length of the bottom of the shorts was 9″, so I cut 4 18″x1.5″ pieces)
  • 1 waistband piece – you’ll want to make it 5″ tall, and the width will be your kiddo’s waist measurement minus 3 inches (so mine was 18″-3″ = 15″ wide by 5″ tall – again, make the long part on the stretch of the fabric so they’ll be easy to get on and off)
IMG_2417

2 shorts pattern pieces (if you fold and cut, they’ll be facing the right way), 1 waistband piece, and 4 ruffle pieces

The next step is optional, since knit doesn’t unravel like cotton, but it’s a fun way to try out a different stitch on your serger.  I used the 3-thread narrow edge stitch (also called a rolled edge) for the bottom part of each ruffle.  This stitch will curl the very edge (we’re talking 1 mm or less) of your fabric in as it stitches very short stitches to create a finished edge.  If you want to make napkins for someone, this is a great way to make a clean, pretty edge on them.  As I always suggest with the sewing machine, be sure to test your stitch out on a sample that’s the same material and thickness as you’ll use on your finished product!

IMG_2421

Here is my test length. You can see that its a little curled under, and there are no loose threads so my tension is good.

Also, if you’re using a double-sided material, be sure to stitch with the same side up for all of your ruffles (I will be using them striped side out, so I stitched the edges striped side up).  Also, don’t worry about those thread tails, they’ll get stitched into a seam and cut off later.

Once you have all 4 ruffle pieces edged on one side, it’s time to gather them.  Use your sewing machine for this – set your stitch length as long as possible, and your top thread tension as high as it will go.  Then run your 4 strips through your machine (one at a time) about 1/2″ from the top.  It will start to gather on the machine, but it probably won’t be enough, so you’ll need to pull the bobbin thread gently until the ruffle length matches the shorts hem length (in my case, 9″).  I found that leaving long thread tails ensured that I didn’t accidentally pull them into the fabric as I ruffled more, then I tied the threads at each end to keep it in place for the next step.  DO NOT backstitch, as this will keep your ruffles from ruffling.

Next, pin one ruffle to the right side of each shorts piece at the bottom, about 3/4″ from the bottom.  Pin along the ruffling stitch, as that is where you are going to sew, and check the back to make sure your stitching will be on the main shorts piece.  Stitch along the ruffle stitch for both pieces, then repeat with the 2nd ruffle on each, pinning the ruffles about 1/4″ to 1/2″ higher than the first and stitching along the ruffling stitch for a tiered look.

IMG_2422

Pin the first ruffle on and sew, then repeat for the 2nd a little higher to make a tiered effect.

Now it’s time to construct your shorts.  Once again, I will stress using a scrap piece of fabric to test out your stitch!  This time, I’ll use the 4-thread overlock stitch on the serger.  On my test piece of fabric, I first want to make sure that I don’t see any loose threads.  Then, I open up the seam I just stitched and look on the right side – I don’t want to see any thread when the seam is stretched open.  If you can see the thread, use your handy “cheat sheet” to figure out which tension needs to be turned up.

IMG_2423

I got lucky on the first try – no threads visible on the right side of the seam!

To construct your shorts, place your shorts pieces right sides together, and serge from the crotch point to the top on the front and back of the shorts.  Then, keeping right sides together, open up those seams and place them together.  Sew the curve from the ruffle on one side to the ruffle on the other side to form the leg holes.  Don’t worry about the tails for now, just leave at least an inch hanging from the end.

The last step is to attach your waistband.  Fold the waistband piece in half right sides together along the height and stitch the ends together so you end up with a loop (in my case, the loop will be about 14″ around and 5″ tall – I lost an inch to the seam allowance).  Then, fold the loop in half, right sides out, so it’s 2.5″ tall.  Place the waistband loop open side up around the top of the shorts (see photo below).  Pin the seam for the waistband aligned with the seam at the back of the shorts.  Pin the middle of the front at the seam at the front of the shorts.  At this point, you’ll notice that the waistband is smaller than the shorts – this is so it will work like an elastic to hold them up.  Find the halfway point between your pins on the front and back for both the shorts and the waistband, and pin both sides together.  Now, stitch the waistband to the shorts with a 1/2″ seam allowance.  You’ll have to stretch the shorts a little by pulling the front and the back – just try to keep the pressure even so it doesn’t pucker the finished product.

IMG_2424

See how all the open sides are facing up? Just pin the 4 points, and zigzag or serge along that top edge to create a stretchy seam.

Again, just leave at least 1″ of tail.  Grab a hand-sewing needle and some thread, fold the tail back over the stitching, and whip-stitch a few stitches to secure the tail and keep it from coming unraveled.  You’ll want to repeat this at the bottom inner seam by each of the ruffles as well.

IMG_2431

The tail is folded back onto itself, and you can see one of the loops I sewed that I’m about to tighten to hold it in place. Do this a few times, then trim the excess tail off.

And that’s it!  The serger, if you used one, created super strong and stretchy seams that removes any extra bulk in the garment.  If you don’t have a serger, you can still use a sewing machine to make these shorts – use a straight stitch for everything except attaching the waistband – you’ll want to use a zigzag for that, so it will be stretchy and the seam won’t break when the shorts are going on and off.  Also, be sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of each seam so the stitching won’t come unraveled.

IMG_2426

Don’t let the smile fool you – Monster was not happy. He was being bribed with treats!

One last thing, anytime you use your serger – when the blade cuts off extra fabric, it creates a lot of lint and dust in your machine.  Be sure to use a can of air to blast all that nasty stuff out of the serger mechanism – you don’t want it gunking up the parts!  And keep your machine serviced… it’s expensive to replace or repair, and annual service can keep it in good working order for not a lot of money.

IMG_2427

Be gone, dust bunnies!

I hope this post has given you the confidence to think about trying out a serger.  I really love mine – it’s a work horse, and I know I’m just scratching the surface of what it can do.  Don’t be afraid of its complexity, and take advantage of any classes you can if you get one for yourself!

Hearty Corn and Black Bean Salad

This salad is one of my favorite sides to bring to parties and gatherings.  It can be eaten on its own with a fork, or scooped up with tortilla chips – whatever you want!  The onion and chili powder gives it a little zing, but it’s definitely not too spicy for anyone’s pallet.  It tastes good the first day, but I’ve found it’s even better after it marinates overnight!  It’s very easy to double or triple if you’re feeding a crowd, too.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15 ounce) can sweet corn, drained
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced

Combine vinegar, oil, salt, sugar, pepper, cumin, chili powder and cilantro with a whisk in a bowl. Add beans, corn, bell pepper, and onion and stir well. Serve cold (although it’s still good at room temperature).

IMG_2433

Colorful and delicious!

I hope y’all like this recipe, it’s become one of our go-to’s!

Drafting a Pattern

There’s nothing like finding a piece of clothing that fits just right.  I have been known to buy the same thing in 7 different colors because I like how it fits!  But that’s not always possible – and sometimes you want to make something a little different based on that well-fitting garment.  Enter one of a seamstress’s greatest skills: drafting a pattern from something you already have.

As I’ve mentioned several times before, I am no artist.  And items that are 3-dimensional are scary to me.  But if you can manipulate your item well enough to trace it, you can copy it!  My example here is a pair of shorts.

So first I tape a couple pieces of paper together to create a larger space to work on.  Then I examine my article, and decide the best way to trace it.  In this case, I turned the shorts inside out and folded in half.

IMG_2412

I realize they’re upside down… but it doesn’t really matter!

You’ll notice that the waistband doesn’t meet at the fold.  That’s because a kid’s bum is bigger than their front (so are adults’, but in kids it’s even more exaggerated by their diapers).  So, to start off with, I traced the back side of the shorts, so it’s pretty much the outline of the folded garment.  Then, I flipped the shorts over left to right, like turning the page of a book backwards (pretend the spine is the right side of the shorts in the picture above).  Then I traced the front side of the shorts, so it was a little smaller on the right side.

IMG_2413

See how the right side slants to be shorter? That’s so the bum side is bigger and the front side is smaller.

Now, if you were to cut fabric out and make a garment from this pattern, it would be too small… you need to add seam allowances.  I’ve found my sewing gauge to be a most useful tool in this.  You can use a tape measure or ruler, too, this is just my preference.  I added a 1/2″ seam allowance because it’s clothing.  Just mark 1/2″ larger than your original tracing at regular intervals all around your pattern.

IMG_2414

I ended up extending the length of the shorts, so I added more paper

And that’s it!  When I cut out my pattern, I saw that my tracing job wasn’t quite perfect, so I adjusted the bottom of the shorts so they’d match when I sewed them together (measured from the point that will be in the crotch).  It’s not a perfect science, but you’ll get a pretty good replica!

IMG_2415And one more picture, to show that the front really is shorter than the back on the original shorts…

IMG_2416

I lined up the hem on the bottom of the legs. The tag shows that I used Gymboree 12-18 month pajama shorts (I wanted a snug fit for my final product, so this seemed like a good choice).

By drafting your own pattern, you can also adjust from the original; for example, I lengthened the shorts in this case.  You can make waistbands bigger or smaller, sleeves longer or shorter, or any other adjustments you need.  I’ve found it’s helpful for me (with a short and wide stature) and Monster (who somehow got some recessive long and skinny gene).

You are now empowered to design your own, well, anything!  This isn’t just for clothes – another great application would be to re-cover an odd-shaped pillow.  The sky’s the limit!

Chemo Patient Turban

My grandmother was diagnosed with cancer about a month after Peach was born.  Since then, she has been on chemotherapy, and as a result, has lost her hair (not an easy thing for the fiery red-head she is!).  I’ve learned that many chemo patients like to wear a hat similar to a turban, as it’s comfortable and stretchy and warm, so I decided to go ahead and make one for her.  Then I thought, this wasn’t too hard, why don’t I make some to donate some to my local hospital?  Like the scrap quilts, it’s a great way for me to use up some knits that I already had, and what a great cause!

So, I challenge you all to give this tutorial a try, and make a turban for a loved one who needs it, and then make a few more to donate to your local hospital or cancer center!

Supplies needed:

  • 1/2 yd knit (you can actually make 3 turbans if you’re using 60″ wide knit, which it standard)
  • Coordinating thread

Cut from your knit:

  • 13″x20″ rectangle, with the 20″ along the stretchy direction (if you’ve bought 1/2 yd, this is the only way it will fit)
  • 5″x4″ rectangle (if you want to make 3 from your fabric, cut this from the “scraps” from your first rectangle)

Note: use 1/4″ seam allowance unless otherwise specified

Fold your large rectangle along the 13″ side, right sides together, and stitch a curve from the bottom open edge up, leaving 3/4″ unstitched at the top (it will make a 1.5″ opening when it’s unfolded).  I am terrible at drawing, as I’ve admitted before, so I used my pins to mark where I would sew, and adjusted them until I was happy with the shape.

IMG_2396

Fold is on the left, and I used my pins to “draw” the curve I planned to sew

Next, turn 2 inches of the bottom upward, and use a zigzag stitch to hold in place (the zigzag allows the hat to stretch as the user puts it on her head; always remember to test your stitching on a piece of scrap material to make sure you have what you want!).  Trim off the extra fabric around the curve of the hat.

IMG_2397

The “hem” of the turban – don’t forget to use your zigzag stitch!

Then, turn the turban right side out and pin 3 pleats in the back, perpendicular to the seam.  Sew along the seam to secure in place.

IMG_2408

If you have trouble seeing the 3 pleats, there’s a picture at the end of this post that shows me wearing it, and it is a little easier to see there

To make the tab at the front, fold your 5″x4″ rectangle along the 5″ side, right sides together, and stitch along the open edge (it will make a 5″x2″ tube); turn right side out.  Insert the tab through the opening you left in the top of the hat and form a loop with it; stitch the open ends of the tab together.  Then, rotate the tab so all seams are hidden, and tack in place to the bottom of the front center of the hat.

IMG_2409

Not so bad, was it?

Voila!  You have created a lovely, cozy turban for a patient undergoing chemotherapy.  Just so you know what it looks like on…

IMG_2405

I am clearly not an experienced selfie-taker…  IMG_2407You can see the pleats better when it’s on a head

Now, I challenge you to go make one (or two or three) for a patient in need!  If you do, please leave a comment on this post – I’d love to hear about it!

 

Credit: This turban was made by adjusting patterns found at http://www.sewing.org/html/turban.html and http://www.guideposts.org/inspirational-stories/how-to-make-a-turban-for-a-chemo-patient

Happy Military Spouse Appreciation Day!

Just a quick post to give a shout out to all my fellow military spouses (and fiance(e)s and girlfriends and boyfriends!)… I got a taste of just how awesome these people are yesterday.  I had a nasty 24-hour flu bug, and all my OSC friends, my neighbor, and a college friend all offered to go out of their way to help me with the kids.  So thankful to have such a great military support system!

070511Jenny

Credit: Jenny the Military Spouse (an oldie but a goodie!)

Moon Sand

I had an ad in my inbox recently where Michael’s craft stores were trying to sell me Kinetic Sand.  I checked it out, and immediately thought – I can make this!  There are a lot of recipes online for moon sand, but all the ones I’ve found use water, and therefore dry out.  I created my own version, which uses baby oil instead so it shouldn’t ever dry out.

Moon sand ingredients:

  • 2 cups fine sand (Walmart’s sandbox sand works just fine)
  • 1 cup corn starch (again, go for off brand because it’s all the same!)
  • 1/2 cup baby oil

In a gallon Ziploc, shake up the sand and corn starch to mix evenly.  Pour in the baby oil, and combine until uniform consistency.  It will be crumbly, but hold together when packed.  The recipe also scales up well, so make a double or a triple batch if you feel like it (any larger probably won’t fit in the gallon Ziploc).

I love the smell of the baby oil, and how the moon sand leaves my hands nice and soft after we play (perhaps I should play with it every time I finish doing dishes!).  It’s similar to Play Doh, although a little more crumbly, but it doesn’t stick in the carpet if it’s spilled.

Cleanup

Monster dropped it on the carpet and managed to grind some in, but a quick sweep with the vacuum took care of the mess!

We brought some to a playdate at a friend’s house, and the kids had a blast playing with it in the back yard!

IMG_2345

Is that not the cutest little girl you’ve ever seen??

Monster especially loves when I pack a ball of it for him, and he squishes it and makes it fall apart.  What a fun sensory activity!