Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cranberry Orange Pork Chop

So I'm realizing more and more that I'm becoming the queen of quick protein-laden meals.  Nursing is making me hungrier than when I was pregnant, and luckily I'm not just maintaing weight, but losing it, too (really slowly, mind you.)

Here's some more of my pantry randomness mixed with fresh ingredients to make a pretty darn tasty meal.

2 pork chops (bone in, and at least 3/4" thick)
1/4 jar cranberry orange relish from Williams Sonoma (preferably gifted to you by your mother-in-law)
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup or less of finely chopped onion
Olive Oil

Cook the pork chops over high heat about 4 minutes a side in a non-stick pan.  I usually cover the pan with a lid to help the pork chops stay moist and speed up cooking a little.  Remove to a plate, cover with lid to keep warm.
Turn the heat to medium.  Add a bit of olive oil to the pan (maybe a tablespoon) and add in the onions, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.  Sautee until the onions are translucent, and be careful to not let the garlic burn or get more than golden even.  Stir in the cranberry relish, adding any accumlated pork chop juices.  If you'd like a thinner sauce, add a little water, OJ, or chicken stock.  Add pork chops back to pan, and cover with lid for a minute or two before serving.  Check to make sure the chops are fully cooked at this point before taking off the heat.

We ate this with some brussel sprouts I sauteed quickly in olive oil, salt and garlic.  I may post on this at some point this summer, since that's becoming a quick favorite in our house.

If you don't have a jar of cranberry relish, you can use canned cranberry jelly/sauce (whole berry would be best) and then just add in some orange zest and a few cloves to get a close approximation of the WS stuff.  To be honest, that's what I'll do when I run out of this jar...


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

From wedding dress to christening gown: Part 1, Cutting and Deconstruction

I think a few people who know me might be really surprised to hear that my child is being baptized, but it's something that is really important to many members of my family, my husband not the least of all.  My contribution to his christening (and likely our potential future children's christenings) is the conversion of my wedding dress into his christening gown.

Since this is a pretty long and involved process, I've decided to split up the posts into a few parts for easier reading: deconstructing the dress, cutting the pattern and sewing the gown, and adding notions and the final reveal.

The dress
I first heard of this concept around the time we got married, so I made sure to get my wedding dress cleaned well after the party to make sure I had the most fabric available.  My dress definitely deserves to be worn again, and since I don't plan to get married another time I couldn't imagine a better way to make sure that happens.

Luckily, my friend (and sewing mentor) Anna had a christening gown pattern I could use.  This is most helpful since I wanted to make sure my proportions were correct and this gown had a chance of fitting my son!  I'll be honest, the hardest part was picking a gown to make--I wanted to make sure it was a fashion that would be useful for either a boy or a girl.  I ended up picking one that was a little plain, but considering the lace pattern of my wedding dress, I'm not sure one of the more intricate designs would have worked without purchasing quite a bit of other fabric.

As you'll see here, I chose the slip (design D) and the sleeves from design C.  I figured this was thre most gender neutral of the gowns, as the trend now seems to be for boys to wear trousers.

Skirt Close Up
Deconstructing the dress was an exercise in discovery and also a learning process.  Even for my "crappy" David's Bridal gown, I found a lot of infrastructure that I hadn't realize existed in there.  There was quite of bit of light boning, many linings, interfacing, etc.  I was happy to learn that one of the lining layers was satin, so that I don't have to go out to buy that for the christening gown.  Biggest surprise?  The lace on my dress was not tatted how it apeared on my dress.  Pieces had been individually cut out and sewn onto tulle and beaded over to make the declining pattern on the skirt. 

After taking apart the various layers of the dress, I went through and took apart the seams of each layer.  I left the hems intact, though--I don't see the point in taking them out when I'll just have to re-do them myself later. 

Tulle & Lace Layer
The layers I found were a cotton/poly blend  inner lining, the satin lining, a plain layer of tulle, and then the lace/tulle outlayer.  I also took of the lace sleeves (with the interfacing stablizer that keeps it all together), which I'm thinking I might be able to turn into a collar, and saved the beaded sash which I could add onto the christening gown for some extra bling if the future potential child(ren) is a girl.  We'll see...

The deconstruction took me the better part of an afternoon and evening, mostly because of the lace which I didn't want to rip.  I was so focused on preserving the integrity of each fabric, that I didn't realize until after I was done that I probably should have tried my wedding dress on one last time before "destroying" it.  Then I remembered that I just had a baby 2 months ago, and parts of me definitely wouldn't fit into anymore and I probably would have been frustrated with the zipper.  I was (and frankly still am) pretty surprised by the emotion, but it gives me even more incentive to get this christening gown done right!

Hopefully next week, I can get far enough along in the next step to post about the cutting and some initial sewing.  Wish me luck!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Food: Thai Easiness

Last week, I went to Whole Foods to stock up on arborio and sushi rice, quinoa, couscous, and lentils from their bulks bins.  Quick tip, they sell the arborio rice (risotto rice) for about half the price of anywhere else if you buy it from their bulk bins.  Since I'm still on maternity leave, I had some time to kill and play in the aisles.

One of the fun things I found was a bottle of Thai curry sauce.  They actually had three colors to choose from (red, yellow, or green), but I chose red since that always seems to be what Mark ends up with when we get a curry at a restaurant.  I also found (okay, searched for) shelled edamame, which is a great and easy way to add protein, fiber, and a bunch of vitamins to a dish.

Since sleep, time, money, and brain power is at a premium right now, "one pan throw everything together and use up some leftovers" meals are really incredily handy and Tuesday night was no exception.  Sterved over leftover rice from our Chinese takeout Sunday night, I made this Thai-esque stew and it turned out quite well.

Looking back, we should have gotten some cilantro, and we added srirachi and lime juice to jazz it up.  Still, it wasn't bad for a 15 minute meal.


Two small frozen flounder filets
One cup frozen shelled edamame
One cup frozen broccoli florets
1/4 cup chopped onion
4 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 jar Thai red curry sauce
1 pint leftover Chinese takeout rice (or fresh white or sushi rice)
As you can kind of tell in the photo, I sweat the veggies on one side of the pan while cooking the fish on the other.  After about 5 minutes (when everything was mostly cooked through and the veggies were still crunchy) I put the sauce over everthing.  After that, it all simmered together for another 5-10 minutes, I threw the leftover rice in the microwave and dinner was served!

Another serving suggestion would be shrimp.  I actually think the shrimp would have been better, but I didn't feel like peeling a bunch of shrimp that night...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

An ode to my half done pregnant projects

I was so excited to make things during my pregnancy, that I now realize (1 month post delivery) that I overcomitted myself to projects.  I thought my newly slightly sedentary life would be a great opportunity to sew a bunch of things. But I honestly didn't anticipate how tired I was--especially toward the end--and frankly didn't need the things I was going to make as badly as I thought.

Half-done pregant project #1:  Hope Wrap Dress (modified for maternity)
I really didn't want to buy too many maternity clothes--they're expensive, don't tend to fit very well, and I didn't have to wear them for very long.  Therefore, when I thought I should have a wrap dress in my wardrobe, I decided to make it.  I found a free pattern to modify on Burda Style (, went to Jo-Mar and bought the fabric (jersey) for $1/yard, and set out to modify the skirt of the pattern enough to accomodate my growing belly.  I got about 3/4 way through the project (half-sewn literally) when my newly "fixed" sewing machine crapped out on me.  By the time I got it back (some cog or sprocket had cracked), I honestly just was over the project.  I guess I'll finish it during the next pregnancy (mine or a friends').

Half-done pregnant project #2: Tankini Bathing Suit Top (modified for maternity)
Before getting pregant, I was running 3 miles a day and running around like a crazy person all the time.  Since I literally am that person that is able to trip while walking in a flat open lot, I figured it would be best for me to start swimming again since my risk of injury would be lower (and I figured the weightlessness of water would be awesome later on, which it was).  Once I started to show, I was self-concious of wearing a bikini top and then I started to worry about putting on a racing suit (the only one pieces I own) in a wet locker room, so I decided I needed a tankini top to go with my black bikini bottoms.  After spending about 4 hours modifying a free pattern I found on BurdaStyle ( with my friend Anna, and cutting out my $2/yard fabric from Jo-Mar, I again got about halfway through sewing when my very best friend gave me a small haul of her maternity duds--including a tankini top!  It wasn't the best fit, but it worked for the 3 times I actually made it to the pool... 

No picture of this one, because I can't even find it in my cabinet!
Half-done pregnant project #3: Vintage Pattern Cape-Style Coat
I took so many pictures of this project while making it!  Around Thanksgiving, I started to get worried about staying warm and having a winter coat in my final months of pregancy.  Already a few of my favorite winter coats were becoming tight and I didn't want to literally be left out in the cold for the final three months.  Luckily, my former seamstress neighbor had given me to really awesome gifts a few months prior: 1. A vintage cape coat pattern, and 2. About 5 yards of heavy wool flannel fabric.  This project is only missing the fasteners and a good pressing at this point, so I will probably finish it soon and save it for me or a friend (or a sudden onset of obesity).

Half-done pregnant project #4: Bassinet for Baby
I'm not sure that this one can qualify as even halfway done!  While I fully suppor the idea of "co-sleeping" (or sharing your bed with your infant) for the ease of feedings, etc., I have a hard enough time sharing my bed with my fully-grown husband, who I can't roll over on top of, smother in his sleep inadvertantly, and who doesn't make weird little grunts that wake me up every 20 minutes.  My compromise was to make a quickie bassinet that would fit perfectly on my large nightstand.  I have a large basket, some thick, firm foam for a matress, and quilting cotton to line to sides in addition to a lot of fun cotton fabrics to decorate with.  This idea never even made it near a measuring tape!  Which is a shame, since it really would have been perfect for the first month when he would have fit into the basket well (now it might be a bit small).

So what did I learn here?  A few things:
1. If you're planning to get pregant (we weren't), it's good to start your pregancy projects then instead of waiting until the baby is on its way.
2. If you're already pregant, don't bit off more than you can chew--you're going to have a lot of other more important things to figure out in the coming months.
3. I really hate to say this one, but, maybe you should just buy it.  The urgency with which I felt I had to make these projects took some of the fun out of making them, which is probably why I abandoned a few.

Hopefully in the next few months (or years), I can redeem myself by finishing these guys up!