Friday, July 29, 2011

Taco Salad: My Favorite Go-To Meal

I'm a lover of family/food traditions. Nothing is sweeter to me than sitting down with the people I love most and enjoying a warm, nourishing meal together. I delight in preparing food that my grandma made for me when I was young and sharing it with my husband and kids. Thus, I was thrilled when my mother-in-law gave me a self-compiled cookbook of the Clarks' favorite recipes. It's a gem!

My favorite recipe from her book is Taco Salad. My husband loved it growing up, I love it, and everyone who eats it with us loves it. It's inexpensive, easy, quick, healthy, and delicious. You can make it for a huge crowd or just a couple and it freezes well. You'll find that you probably already have the ingredients in your kitchen. As far as I'm concerned, it's the perfect recipe!

Taco Salad
Serves 6-8

1 lb ground beef (I use 95/5)
1 T dried onion flakes
1 T chili powder
2 t cumin
1 t granulated sugar
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t salt
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
1/2 c brown rice (the kind that cooks in 10 minutes)

Corn chips (I adore yellow Santitas)
Toppings to taste:
Shredded cheese
Romaine lettuce
Chopped carrots
Pineapple chunks
Sliced green onions
Diced tomatoes
Diced avocado
Diced peppers
Creamy dressing (anything will do, but I really love homemade, like Buttermilk Ranch Dressing)

First, brown the ground beef in a large sauté pan or pot. Use one that has a lid. Halfway through the browning process, add all of the seasonings (onion, garlic, chili powder, cumin, sugar, salt). When meat is cooked thoroughly, drain off fat and return to heat.

Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and 3 cups of water to beef mixture. Bring to a simmer and add rice. Stir. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until rice is tender.

Serve accordingly: lightly crush corn chips onto plate.

Spoon beef mixture over chips and top with shredded cheese.

Add vegetables and pineapple,

top with dressing,

and wolf it down! Yum!

I hope you enjoy the Clark Taco Salad and that you have a delightful time eating it while spending time with people you love.

I'm linking to Tatertots and Jello and Kojo Designs.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Eighties Are Back In A Good Way

Remember these? They seemed like such a great idea twenty-five years ago, didn't they? I remember dying to have a Jessica McClintock dress just like this when I was a tween. I found this hot little number in my mom's costume stash (she's a dance teacher) the other day and got a big kick out of it. It belonged to one of my super-stylish aunties back in the day, so I tried it see if I am as skinny as they were. I mean, just for kicks (sheepish grin).

It was more horrendous on my body than I anticipated it would be. How was this bag of a dress ever stylish? As I ripped it off myself as quickly as I could, I noticed the cool pleated lace and thought "I MUST make this into a cute, pseudo-vintage skirt!". I say "pseudo" because I refuse to believe that I'm old enough to have belongings from my childhood be classified as vintage, but who am I kidding? I'm AM getting old. I bundled it up and thought about my refashioning procedures as I drove home. Project!

First, I removed the skirt from the bodice with a seam ripper. That was easy. Then, I tried it on and determined that I needed to remove four pleats to make it fit me well. I also needed to remove three inches from the top to make it the right length for me.

I cut the top three inches off first, and then made a huge mistake. I cut the pleats from the back of the skirt. This means I had to completely remove the lining to realign the slit from the side to the back so it would line up with the zipper. Boo. I should have just put in a side zipper and called it good, but no. I like to make things difficult! I'm cool like that.

I cut all the way up the inside fold of one pleat.

Then I counted over four pleats and cut all the way up on the inside fold so that when sewn together, my two cuts would make a complete pleat. That sounds funny.

When I serged the seam, I left about eight inches open for the zipper. Next, I picked out eight inches of the lining seam, lined up the edges with the lace layer, and basted them together. This kept the pleats nice and crisp.

I used the satin from the original dress' waist detail to make my waistband (another reason the side zipper would've been way easier. Grr). I folded it in half and ironed it down.

I didn't line up the edges perfectly because I wanted to be sure to catch the back when I top stitched (just like bias tape). Then I trimmed off a few inches so that it would fit my waist better.

Somehow, I put in an ivory invisible zipper. Zippers and I don't get along, so I always wing it--especially when there is lining involved. It turned out alright, so I added my waistband.

I just sandwiched the skirt layers between the satin, making sure the longer half of the satin was on the back.

Then I top stitched around the whole thing. Here's a handy tip: I didn't sew from end to end. I left a few inches at each end to enclose the top of the zipper.

I turned the ends of the waistband inside out, sewed it shut, and turned it back to the right side. Then, I stuffed the top ends of my zipper inside and finished top stitching the band to the skirt.

Last, I added a hook and bar to the waistband to close everything up nicely and voila! A totally rad, but classically appealing skirt.

I think I'll put it on with some scrunchy socks and patent pumps and jam around my house to my favorite Tiffany song. It could've been so beautiful...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ponyo Dress and Pantaloons

My five year old loves Ponyo, a sweet animated film. She had a Ponyo-themed birthday party and has begged me for "a dress like Ponyo's" for months.

I have a longtime love of pantaloons on little girls, so I couldn't resist!

I'm kind of ashamed to say that in six years of serious sewing, this is only my first attempt at a dress with sleeves AND a zipper. I've been terrified of both and figured this project was the perfect motivation to bite the bullet. I didn't use a pattern for this dress and I was worried the sleeves would be a disaster, but they turned to be easy and are one of my favorite features of the dress.

I added a funky, exposed vintage zipper for a little Seth Aaron flair (I love his stuff!), and it looks alright. I lost my zipper foot and it's just hard to sew in a zipper without one. I'm proud, though, because this bodice is lined and I enclosed the zipper's raw edges and managed to keep it lined up. I'm in the market for a new zipper foot; I think I'll try more zippers now that I'm not afraid anymore. Lol.

Karli loved it! This impromptu modeling moment at the deli counter didn't yield any prize-winning photography (I was holding my 18-month old, after all), but I think she looks so cute!

Sorry for the blurry shot. I really love this pose. Heck, I really love this girl! Here's to a long summer of Ponyo-playing fun.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Bows, Bows, and More Bows

In April, I took an order for the Lehi Recreation cheer program's hair bows. The total number was near 200, and I figured that if I worked on a few every day, I'd have them finished well before football season began in August. Well, as you all know, I have a procrastination problem. I finished one batch (17 zebra bows) right out of the gate, but after that my huge stack of supplies sat, hulking and almost breathing in its very own chair--untouched--at the dining room table for months.

Fast forward a few weeks, and I get a call from the supervisor of he cheer program. She asked how the bows were coming along and of course, I said they were looking cute and the process was moving along nicely. Then she said, "That's great! So...can you have them ready for us this weekend for the parade?". As I was falling to the floor in a fainting heap, I muttered "Sure," wondering how in the world I could finish all of those bows in 72 hours. Obviously, I have a saying-no-and-knowing-my-limits problem. He he.

Making each bow is quite a process. First, I have to cut strips of fabric and strips of fusible webbing. Then I have to iron the webbing to one side of the fabric, let it cool, peel the paper, iron down each side separately, and cool again. Meanwhile, I cut more strips of fusible webbing and iron it to the ribbon stripes. I add the stripes to the fabric and iron again, but I have to use an ironing cloth so I don't melt the sparkles.

Once the whole thing cools again, I cut a length of wire and bend it around a hair elastic. Then, I fold and tie the bow which sometimes requires additional ironing with a cloth to get a nice, tight knot. Grr. I finish the bow by cutting another strip of fabric, hot gluing it around the middle of the bow, trimming the ends in a nice V, and adding Fray Check to the ends. Phew.

Of course, I make the bows assembly-line style, but still, the process takes forever. After one really late night, one all-nighter, help from my husband, my two daughters, my two sisters, and three sweet Korean exchange students. It was quite the party!

Batch number two: white satin, purple leopard print, and silver sparkles.

Siha, MinGeyong, and Sejin totally saved me. They were so sweet to help and did a great job.

We made 97 of these and they were fabulous--black faux alligator, purple satin, and silver sparkle. Yummy.

What a task! I loved the way they turned out and so did all of the cheerleaders. I definitely did my own little cheer after I delivered all the bows. Then I collapsed and slept for 13 hours straight. RAH RAH RAH!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Rockin' Baby Love

My dear friend Beth just delivered her sixth, yes, I said sixth, boy last week. She's the hippest, most laid-back mom I know, so I figured her little man needed something equally cool.

I made my go-to baby gift, well-made, large square flannel swaddling blankets (tutorial coming soon!) and jazzed them up a bit with a skull and crossbones and a tattoo inspired version of their last name. I loved how they turned out and Beth was stoked.

I used fusible webbing, some contrasting flannel, and appliqué for the skull and crossbones.

I'm in love with freezer paper stencils. A little fabric medium in plain old craft paint makes the motif soft enough for a baby.

Overall, I think this is a kickin' baby gift with lots of personality!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Tutorial: Chocolate Book Favors

I love these little books. I work in the children's organization at my church, and we had a scripture-reading challenge for the students in Sunday School. When our kids reached their reading goal, we made them each one of these darling "scripture treasures." The kids were excited because it's made of chocolate and I loved them because they are so cute and easy to make.

You can easily make them secular, for a summer reading program reward or for a book club favor. So gather up a few supplies and make your book worms happy with a tasty tome treat!

You'll need the following supplies:

Cardstock cut into 1.25 x 2.25-inch rectangles
1/8-inch wide ribbon cut into 3-inch lengths
Hershey's Nuggets with gold or silver wrappers
Scripture or book quote printed on copy paper
Glue gun and glue

Start by typing the quote. Copy and paste it into several columns. Break up the quote so half of it goes on one "page" and the other half on the other "page". You'll need two pages for each favor, So print accordingly. Cut the quotes apart and separate them into piles for easy assembly.

Set a cardstock rectangle on your work surface. Wrap one side of the printed quote around a nugget and secure with a tiny bit of glue (don't use too much or the chocolate will melt). Repeat steps for the other half of quote.

Arrange quote-wrapped nuggets on cardstock and glue down.

Add a dot of glue to the top of the ribbon. Attach it to the top edge of the nuggets in the space where they meet. Pull the ribbon down and gently nestle it between the nuggets. Trim to desired length.

Finished! Wasn't that easy? They were a big hit at church and my own kids oohed and aahed over them all day as well. I might take up reading again (college really ruined me!) now that I know I can whip up some tasty and adorable rewards. Or not.

I'm linking this project to Tatertots and Jello.