Monday, January 17, 2011

Beatles Sgt. Pepper Costumes

While I'm not going into the costume-making business outside my own family, I'm happy to pass along any trial-and-error tips to the rest of the planet.

My Beatles-lovin' household decided almost a year out from Halloween 2010 that they wanted to be the Fab Four, specifically sporting the Sgt. Pepper uniforms.

Thus commenced not just sewing up some costumes, it involved much more than that:
  • Studying photos from all angles
  • Finding pattern(s) to as closely as possible duplicate the uniform look (while making sure aforementioned pattern(s) would be at my skill level
  • shopping for material, notions, and eleventy bazillion kinds of trim
  • shopping for specialty patches and/or ways to duplicate for authenticity
  • Cutting pattern pieces
  • Cutting material
  • Sewing costumes
  • Sewing on miles and miles of trim
First, I primarily used these two photos for recreating to the best of my ability the Sgt. Pepper costumes for my own Fab Four. Was I going to be able to duplicate them exactly? Hell no. But I could get pretty darn close.

I used a combination of McCall's Pattern 4745 (which is a Civil War officer uniform) and pirate costume Simplicity 3644. Not perfect, but close enough.

Aside from basic costume sewing here are some of the detailed modifications I made.
  • For the epaulettes on the shoulders, I used foam board to cut out the shapes, then hand sewed the material to fit around them and hand sewed on the trim on each one. Then using velcro that is how I secured each epaulette to the costume jackets.
  • On John's epaulettes there are daisies, so I got fake daisies in the floral craft department and hot glued them to each.
  • The O.P.P patch (which stands for Ontario Provincial Police) on the sleeve of Paul's costume I actually found a REAL patch online, so that patch was fabulous. The rest of the patches were made by scanning each image, reversing it, and using t-shirt iron on computer paper, transfering each image to material and sewing that on.
  • Medals were obtained at a local shop that makes medals and trophies - I bought samples that were blank or shapes that were close and turned them around.
  • The long "jewelry" item on Paul's jacket that starts about the waistline was done with wire and beading by the teenager assistant son.
  • The miniature canvas painting on George's jacket center chest was printed off then painted as a copy by my teenager.
  • Ringo and Pauls pants side trim, and John and George's pants side trim were the reverse of each other's main costume color. So, I just sewed those strips and sewed them onto the pants before constructing the pants.
  • My son's grandma had some John Lennon spectacles to complete that look
Each child has their own Beatle alter ego, so I started with the largest kid (the teenager) and constructed his first, then on down the line as I was cutting down the pattern pieces as I went. And this is the final result, the best and most time-consuming Halloween in the history of trick-or-treating.
I started out doing the uneven jacket bottom for George but then it looked terrible and I started swearing a lot (more) so I abandoned that in favor of a cleaner look. The trim for Paul's jacket bottom as well as all of the gold floral ribbon trim for Ringo was, in my humble opinion, SPOT ON. John's red trim was also a nice change of pace. Sewing the same thing does get pretty boring.

It should be noted I got some major mom points for this, also, the kids said a lot of people took pictures of them when they were out trick-or-treating.

Grand totals:
$291.42 for material, notions and trim.
Hours spent doing research, shopping and construction: 70 hours (give or take)
Best Halloween ever: PRICELESS

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Saffron Risotto

This recipe come from Epicurious with my minimal modifications. I love risotto and have tried several recipes, but this is so amazingly good I make it as often as possible. And I ask that bright yellow color not so incredibly gorgeous that you want to paint your kitchen that color IMMEDIATELY? OMG...yes.

Saffron Risotto

28 ounces chicken stock
1 T. vegetable oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 C. arborio rice
1 C. white wine
large pinch of saffron
2 T. butter
1/4 C. - 1/2 C. freshly grated parmesan or parmesan-reggiano

Bring stock to a low simmer in a medium pot. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat for 1 minute. Cook onion until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add rice and a pinch of salt. Saute until rice is translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine and saffron; bring to a simmer, stirring, until rice has absorbed most of stock. Continue adding stock, allowing rice to absorb it before adding the next ladleful. Cook until rice is al dente and mixture is a little loose. Stir in butter. Turn off heat. Stir in grated cheese. Cover and let sit 2 minutes. Garnish with more grated cheese if desired.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Homemade Laundry Powder

Let me begin by clarifying. I'm green-friendly but not extreme. I have been slowly, over the past few years, been making choices that made sense for our family and are better for the environment. So, before you think I'm making our clothes out of hemp and eating all organic, that is not the case. Maybe someday *wink wink*.

So, I consider myself Tree Hugger-ish.

There are an alarming number of incidents of cancer where I live in proportion to the population. Alarming. And, I'm no scientist, but wondered how much of it is affected by environment. So, to that end, I thought I could make at least some common sense changes.
I got one of those Brita water pitchers (no bottled water, all those bottles end up where? Landfills, yes...) so we're drinking filtered water and cooking with filtered water. I also wondered how many toxins are making their way into our soil, our water, etc.

One of those things that was easily changed was making a different choice about my laundry soap. I could wash my family's clothes with stuff that had a fraction of the toxins, right?? Sure...I just needed to find a combination of stuff that was more natural but also got our clothes clean. Here's what I came up with, after scouring the internet for "recipes".

2 bars Fels-Naptha soap
1 box (4 lbs. 12 oz.) Borax
1 box (55 oz.) Arm & Hammer All Natural Super Washing Soda

1 box (4 lb.) Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda

Seems kind of silly, huh? Just that stuff. Here's how you prep it.
  • Get yourself a tub with a lid, should be easy to find a size that you can put with your laundry supplies in whatever size with spring cleaning boxes out in abundance. Mine is about a foot square or so.
  • Take the Fels-Naptha bars and cut each bar into about 8 squares. Using your food processor, pulse about 4 squares at a time until it is finely chopped up, but not a powder. This will take some time. When you've done both bars in the food processor, put the stuff in a bowl or something and just leave somewhere to dry out a bit. Half a day or overnight is fine.
  • Once you've done that, mix all the components together one box at a time and a little bit of the soap inbetween each box. I use a wooden spoon to mix well making sure the whole mixture has all the ingredients evenly distrubuted. This will create some dust flying in the air and going up your nose...take your time, pour slowly or you'll be hacking and coughing and there'll be dust everywhere.
That's it! I have a high efficiency front loading washing machine. I use about 2 1/2 tablespoons for a load. Honestly, my clothes don't smell like anything, and it gets everything except super horrible stains clean. For that, I resort to liquid evil (like Clorox Color Safe Bleach). Everything else the homemade powder works just fine. And this batch will last me many many many months doing laundry for a family of 6. For real.

So....let's compare the two big points here.

Fels-Naptha laundry bar soap $1.00 each at Hy-Vee
Arm & Hammer 4 lb. Baking Soda $4.04 at Ace Hardware
Arm & Hammer 55 oz. Washing Soda $3.79 at Hy-Vee (finding the washing soda can be tricky)
Borax 4 lb. 12 oz. was $4.93 at K-Mart

GRAND TOTAL: $14.76 (this will last my family of 6 many months at 2 1/2 tablespoons per load)

A 33 oz. box of Tide with Bleach costs $14.02 and does a measly 15 loads.

The "greener" option. Compared to using the alternatives, my soap is way more natural and I feel better about it than using something else. See the websites for more information.

Fels-Naptha - packaged like a bar of hand soap, this laundry bar soap has been around for over 100 years
Arm & Hammer Baking Soda - like I really need to explain baking soda since it has so many uses, but ingredient-wise, it is 100% sodium bicarbonate.
Arm & Hammer Washing Soda - the box has written on it "Pure and Natural since 1874 - 100% fragrance and phosphate free" is a sodium carbonate and is also called soda ash (a cleaning agent for swimming pools, much cheaper than pool company cleaning stuff) or soda crystals. It behaves as a water softener and gets everything sudsy and removes some of those pesky stains.
20 Mule Team Borax - you've seen this stuff at your grandma's house, remember? It's been around since 1891, people. Benjamin Harrison was President then. It's sodium tetraborate, for you home chemists.

Here's the stuff in Original Tide with Bleach (not that I hate Tide or something, but I'm just using it as a popular option):

Bleach Activator - Nonanoyloxybenzenesulfonate
Chelan - Diethylenetriamine Pentaacetate (Sodium Salt)
Colorant - FD&C Blue 1
Dispersant - Sodium Polyacrylate
Enzyme - Amylase & Protease
Fragrance - Fragrance
Oxygen Bleach - Sodium Percarbonate
Process Aid - Palmitic Acid, Sodium Sulfate, and Water
Removes Water Hardness - Sodium Aluminosilicate & Sodium Carbonate
Stabilizer - Polyethylene Glycol 4000
Suds Suppressor - Silicone
Surfactant - Alkyl Sulfate & Linear Alkylbenzene Sulfonate
Whitening Agent - Disodium Diaminostilbene Disulfonate

So, that's it. It's a lot cheaper doing the "homemade" version and I think I'm putting less toxic junk on my clothes and back into the water supply. And saying Fels-Naptha is super cool.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Seafood Pot Pie

This is the promised pot pie recipe that I tried out and must admit, gave MUCH praise to the results, despite the skepticism by many hither and yon that a seafood pot pie could not possibly taste good.

Oh yes. Yes it does.

(I do believe it is a Paula Deen recipe but I clipped it out of the magazine and can't remember for sure, but I do believe that it is Paula - 92.7% sure)

Also, it should be noted, it was VERY good as leftovers too, I ate for lunch the next day and it was darn tasty warmed up.


1/4 C. butter
1 C. chopped onion
1 C. minced celery
**recipe calls for 1 C. mushrooms but we don't eat those so I left 'em out**
2 T. all-purpose flour
2 C. half-and-half
1 1/2 tsp. Creole seasoning
2 T. dry sherry
1/2 C. grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound bay scallops
1 (8-oz) container lump crabmeat
10 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
3 T. butter, melted (I used a LOT more)

Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease a 2 1/2 quart baking dish. Place baking dish on a jelly roll pan.

In a large skillet, melt 1/4 C. butter over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and mushrooms (if you're using them), and cook 6 to 8 minutes, or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in flour, and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in half-and-half, and cook 5 minutes, or until thickened. Stir in Creole seasoning, sherry, and cheese. Remove from heat, and add shrimp, scallops, and crab. Spoon into prepared dish.

**I changed the phyllo section somewhat because they are so delicate those suckers fall apart easily. Also, pay attention to how long your phyllo dough package says you need to have it thawing and use it right away - my package was 2 hours thawing on the counter. MAKE SURE YOU PLAN AHEAD!**

Layer one sheet of phyllo over the dish. Brush carefully with melted butter. It will droop over the sides of the baking dish. Layer another sheet of phyllo crosswise over the first, brush with melted butter. Repeat layers, using the remaining sheets of phyllo. Make 3 slits in center of top sheet of phyllo to allow steam to escape. Bake 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Pasta Guide

I know, I have actually been doing some cooking and a little bit of knitting, but the time to post on it has been microscopic!

This is pretty slick though and I thought I'd share it.
A guide to figuring out which kinds of pasta should be used when and with what type of sauce.

As a pasta lover, it's pretty nifty.

Thought you might like the info too!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps

I love me some Asian food but sometimes I'm a little intimidated wondering if it's going to turn out as well as it tasted that last time I had it out to eat.
Well, I realized that it's not intimidating once you just accept that you can keep it simple and it can be really super good and worth doing.
This little recipe is VERY quick and was super good. I mean, it was awesome. Got the recipe from Relish, my favorite go-to site for getting recipe and menu planning ideas.

Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps

1 1/2 pounds sirloin steak
1 C. sesame ginger marinade (there is Lawry's or something that this comes in a bottle, ready to go)
1 T. canola oil
1/2 yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 tsp. garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
3 T. soy sauce
1/2 C. dry roasted peanuts, chopped
1 tsp. rice vinegar
1 head Boston (butter) lettuce
salt and pepper, to taste

1- Place the meat in the freezer for about 20 minutes (for easier slicing) if you have time. Slice the steak into thin strips against the grain. Season the meat with salt and pepper and place in a large ziploc bag. Add the marinade and turn to coat. Place in the refrigerator and marinade all day.
2 - Add the oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the soy sauce and cook another 2 minutes. Remove to a bowl.
3 - Remove steak and discard the marinade.
4 - Add a little more oil to the skillet over medium-high heat and let it get hot. Add the steak to the skillet. Sear for 2 minutes, turn and cook another 2 minutes or until cooked through. Return the onion mixture to the skillet and stir in the peanuts and vinegar.
5 - Place the meat mixture in a serving bowl. To serve, form little cups with the lettuce leaves, scoop the filling into them, wrap and serve.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Marinade time: all day
Cook time: 25 minutes

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Crockpot Jambalaya

Got this recipe from Taste of Home but made a few changes to get it how I liked it. Seriously tasty and hubby thought it was even better the second day when all the flavors sort of melded together.

1 can tomato puree
20 oz. chicken broth (recipe called for 1 can but the consistency just needed more in my opinion)
1 can tomato paste
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 tsp. dried parsley flakes
2 tsp. dried basil
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce
1 pound chicken breasts cut into cubes
1 pound smoked sausage, halved and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 pound uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Hot cooked rice

In a 5-qt. slow cooker, combine the tomato puree, broth and tomato paste. Stir in the green peppers, onion, celery, garlic and seasonings. Stir in chicken and sausage.
Cover and cook on low for 4 hours or until chicken is tender. Stir in shrimp. Cover and cook 15-30 minutes longer or until shrimp turn pink. Serve with rice.