I’m continuing our challenge from 2013 and 2014 to make at least one new recipe from some of our newer cookbooks each month.  There’s a category on the blog for these posts called “recipe review 2015.”

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ATK Hungarian Beef Stew

ATK Hungarian Beef Stew

Recipe:  Hungarian Beef Stew from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2013, (pages 65-66)

  • when did we make this?  Saturday, September 12, 2015 for supper
  • did we change anything?  Nope.
  • what did we like?  It was especially good with sour cream on top.   I liked the subtle sweetness from the combination of paprika, onion, and carrot.
  • what didn’t we like?   Nothing.
  • will we make it again (any changes in the future)?  Yes.


Even more of the regalia ornaments that I’ve made so far in the 2015 season!



The Ohio State University


University of Central Florida

University of Maryland

University of Maryland

University of Washington

University of Washington

Just a reminder: In order to ensure that ornaments are delivered by Christmas, I will close custom orders on December 1.  

Here are some more of the regalia ornaments that I’ve made so far in the 2015 season:





University of Iowa

University of Iowa


The Ohio State University

Georgia State University

Georgia State University


Just a reminder: In order to ensure that ornaments are delivered by Christmas, I will close custom orders on December 1.  

I’m continuing our challenge from 2013 and 2014 to make at least one new recipe from some of our newer cookbooks each month.  There’s a category on the blog for these posts called “recipe review 2015.”

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Recipe:  Summer Peach Cake from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2013, (page 607)

  • when did we make this? Friday, September 4, 2015
  • did we change anything?  Nope.
  • what did we like?  Oh wow, did it taste good!
  • what didn’t we like?   Even though I baked it for the maximum amount of time, and the toothpick came out clean, the cake was still underbaked in the middle.  This was NOT a problem in terms of taste, but it meant that we couldn’t bring it to a party (it would have been hard to serve).
  • will we make it again (any changes in the future)?  Yes!  It’s a wonderful way to eat delicious summer peaches.


When I was little, my mom taught me and my brother to sew.  Of course, this meant that I have always aspired to each my children to sew!  Since I’ve been on such a sewing kick, I thought maybe V, who is 3 (almost 4) years old would like to start learning herself.  She is very precise and particular when she cares about a project, and inspired by the Teach-a-Friend-to-Sew event on Sew Mama Sew, I thought, why not have her stitch a small pillow?


We decided to make a pillow for her beloved Duck.  She chose yellow fabric and red thread.  I cut out two rectangles, marked stitching dots, and threaded the needle.  I showed her a stitch or two, instructing her to poke the needle down through the dot next-over from which the thread had just come.



The first session only lasted for several stitches, but I didn’t want her to get frustrated and quit altogether, so we stopped.  But the next time we picked up the sewing, she really impressed me with her diligence!  She stitched the rest of the way around the pillow, not giving up- even though she stuck her finger with the needle a number of times!  Even though her fabric- and needle-holding techniques need a bit of work, she persisted in making sure her needle went right through the middle of each dot I’d marked for her.





The next step was stuffing the pillow, which I think was really fun for her!


After I repaired a few stitches that popped out due to vigorous stuffing, she stitched the opening closed.



After we did a little photo-shoot with it on the back deck…




…she ran with the pillow upstairs to present it to Duck!



I think Duck was pleased, especially when she “put him to bed” and sang him a lullaby…


She keeps telling me that Monkey needs a pillow now… so I have a feeling a brown pillow is in our future! :)

I have to admit, I was just plain excited to make a big, floofy queen gown for myself for our family costume.  I am playing the part of Queen Miranda, Sofia the First’s mother.  (And it was really fun to get to wear my bridal crinoline again with this gown!)



The dress is sewn from brocade and gold costume satin using Simplicity 1728.  It truly took three yards of boning to structure the bodice!!  In sewing the gown, I learned how to insert a lapped zipper for the skirt (THIS tutorial is fantastic!) and a separating zipper for the bodice.



A little backstory about the fabric.  The pattern calls for a whopping 8 1/4 yards of 45″ width fabric for the entire gown (assuming a one-way design/nap).  I really didn’t want to have to purchase that much, so after seeing the brocade (45″ wide) in the store, I came home and set about laying out the pattern in the most fabric-efficient way possible–disregarding any directional qualities to the fabric.  I also shortened the skirt length by 3″ on all of the pattern pieces.  I knew that I wanted to do a contrast panel in the front of the bodice and the skirt, so I was also calculating the yardage necessary for the second fabric as well.  I had everything laid out and I wrote down my numbers (4 7/8 yards of the main fabric plus 1 1/3 yards each of the main fabric and the contrast fabric to do the skirt insert) and got myself back to the store.  I made a beeline for the brocades, and I discovered that in the few days since I’d been there to do “research,” quite a bit of the fabric I’d wanted had been purchased.  Uh oh.  When I got to the cutting counter, there was exactly 4 7/8 yards left on the bolt! It was amazing–exactly the number I’d written down for myself.  I had to change my plans for the front insertion, but it turned out to be just fine.  I just replaced the entire front panel of the skirt with the contrast fabric–much easier, and it looks just as nice (or nicer) than my other plans.

I think this dress represents the most efficient use of yardage I’ve ever accomplished.  The scraps are tiny– and I even pieced the skirt’s waistband so that I could fit everything onto my 4.875 yards.

The front gold panel is interlined with white cotton for stability (costume satin is pretty flimsy), and the whole bodice (not the sleeves) is lined with that same white cotton– more upcycled bed sheet!  I used yellow extra-wide bias tape from my stash to finish the bottom edge of the bodice.


Husband strung beads on wire and attached them onto an old headband of mine to create my crown.  I wish I had a closer photo of it!  It is really pretty.

Speaking of Husband– he, of course, was in costume, too!  We are re-using Husband’s Mr. Darcy costume and adding his old FFA and speech medals from high school to transform him into King Roland.



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Thank you for indulging me and looking at three separate spotlight posts about our costumes!  I’m very proud of the work that I did for them.  And as an extra bonus, I was so surprised and honored to be chosen as the winner of the 2015 BurdaStyle Costume Contest!  Thank you, BurdaStyle!

We made a Prince James costume for B (James is Sofia’s brother on the Disney Junior show “Sofia the First”).


I made the jacket by modifying this lovely free jacket pattern from House of Estrela to make it less feminine and more like James’ suit coat.  First, I widened the front panels to create a double-breasted effect.  Next, I enlarged the collar by making it wider (and a tad longer) and exaggerating the points a bit more.  Finally, I added rectangular tails with a small pleat.  I was really impressed with the quality of this free pattern!

The only thing I bought for B’s costume was the buttons!! They are just for show: there are three snaps to close the coat in the front.  The outer fabric is an upholstery-weight fabric I had in my stash (thanks, Mom!), and I lined the coat with the leftover lining from my own red coat that I made this summer.  Yes, my 16-month old son has a leopard-print lining in his prince jacket.  Ha!


To give a more princely look, B needed a little medal, so Husband hunted up some of his old awards.  B is wearing a band medal that Husband received in high school!

Husband was an awesome help on this costume as well.  Since we were pretty limited on the amount of time that we had to actually make the costumes (and I was busy keeping up with the PhD ornaments at the same time!), Husband willingly did any task he could so that I could focus on the sewing.  In fact, while I was working on some other aspect, he laid out the jacket lining pieces and cut them out for me.  I’m telling you, I just need to get him to sit down at that sewing machine….

I used an old pair of his khaki pants and hemmed them shorter to encase elastic and create a breeches effect.


Now, we need to find more occasions for B to wear this little jacket!!


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