Is it a burrito? Is it nachos?

It’s a BURRACHO

My husband made up this tasty fusion in a fit of desperation when I was away from home and I have to say, it’s delicious!
The burracho combines all the great parts of burritos and nachos into one tidy package. It has taco meat, cheese, tortilla chips and anything else you might enjoy. We added chopped green onion, but diced tomato would add a lot of great flavor as well. The crushed chips need to be small enough they won’t poke your mouth but big enough to add their flavor to the mix. No bigger than a quarter is good. 
To make your own burrachos here’s a handy how-to:

1 lb ground beef or turkey

Large flour tortillas

Shredded cheese

Crushed tortilla chips

Chopped onion

Chopped tomato

Salsa

Preheat oven to 450. Cook ground beef with taco seasonings (or just use 1/4 tsp each cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, garlic powder and onion powder). Drain meat. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. 

In the center of a tortilla, layer a spoonful of ground beef, shredded cheese, crushed tortilla chips, onion & tomato (or a scoop of salsa). Fold in the left and right sides, then the top and bottom sides. Don’t pull too tight or the tortilla can rip. Place seam down on the baking sheet. Repeat until you have as many as you want to make. We did 5 and had at least 1/2 the meat left. 

Place in the oven for about 12 minutes. The shell should be firm but not hard. 

Pro tip: You can do interesting things, like brushing with melted butter, a dollop of red sauce or cheese. Make it your yum. 
Serve with whatever salsa or hot sauce you like. 

Dancing Queen

2016 Recital 4

Thank you once again to Impact Dance Center in Los Alamitos for an amazing recital! Melody performed in three dances – I’ve Got the Sun in the Morning, Pink Cadillac, and Space Cowboy.  Her love of tap dancing hasn’t ebbed at all, and we look forward to more tap and jazz lessons in the 2016-2017 season.

2016 Recital 6 W 2016 Recital 1 2016 Recital 5

Fairies

Melody continues to be fascinated by fairies and fairy gardens. Our outdoor garden is going to be demolished this spring due to some construction we are planning (both yay and boo), so this past weekend she picked up all her various fairies, houses, bunnies, benches, etc. But not to fear! We stopped by M&M Nursery in Orange for some nice indoor plants and moved the fairies inside!

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Fairy magic

You can see in this overview shot that Melody selected a palm, an African violet, some pink leafy things and a small evergreen (?) thing. I am not exactly the right person for naming plants, haha, but I can assure you that these were all recommended as able to thrive indoors. There’s a lot of detail in this garden, so let’s zoom in.

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Details, details

From the right side you can see the pink leafy things a bit better, the kitty keeping watch by the front door of the house, and the mailbox just waiting for a note. The pink fairy is holding a picnic basket. Is she heading out to meet a friend? There is a beehive on the far side so the violets will be well pollinated, and beyond that a small fairy boy swings over the side of the planter. The pebble path has captured some of the sparkly jewels that fall from the fairies when they fly past.

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A hidden garden in the miniature garden

True to their natures, these bunnies got into the vegetable patch, but Mr Dog spied them and they are scurrying away!

The captivating thing about fairy gardens is that the imagination can do so much with these tiny figures. As she created this vignette, I was thinking back to a mermaid garden I imagined and I wonder if I will be able to create that at some point. Melody has two books on fairy gardening, but there are many on the market with hundreds of clever bits and bobs to display along side your plants. If you ever find yourself in Orange, stop by M&M Nursery on Tustin Ave. They have many beautiful fairy gardens that are thriving, magical and oh, so creative! If you don’t live locally, you can shop their online store too.

Gift Review: The USA Time Line 4D Puzzle

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A gift under the tree this year, this is a review of the USA History Over Time 4D Cityscape Puzzle model 40008, available from multiple retailers, including the National Geographic online store and 4DCityscape.com. The puzzle is intriguing, offering to teach first the order of westward expansion, then the order of statehood, and finally the great national landmarks in their order of creation or inception. The puzzle was a gift to Melody, but with 806 pieces in the base layer, she became frustrated and I did most of that part. The instructions say to organize the pieces by color and then put them together in the various territorial expansion. However, with Mexico and Canada being the same dang color, that was tricky, and as we all know, puzzles don’t always lend themselves to good organization! The edge pieces along Canada and the Pacific and Atlantic were often difficult to determine if they really matched and we took those sections apart numerous times during the assembly. We ended up working West to East on the puzzle because that’s just how the pieces presented themselves. Ocean was difficult, but we muddled through. The base puzzle has several different sizes and shapes of pieces, from large cross-shaped pieces to your standard small connectors.

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Once completed however, the base layer is beautiful and interesting. I didn’t remember the Gadsden Purchase and had not known the bit of land above the Louisiana Purchase had been ceded by Great Britain. Had this been the complete puzzle, I would have been satisfied. It took three or four days of an hour here and an hour there to complete. But, once the base layer is complete, there is a second layer of foam pieces in the shapes of the states. Users are directed to assemble these in the order of statehood, but that really didn’t work for us. We just put them together. :-) Melody was very involved at this point and was insistent on doing the assembly. The foam pieces for the most part are very sturdy except for very small states, such as Maryland with its skinny portion around the Bay and Alaska’s finger. These pieces easily became bent. There are four call-out sections for Delaware, Rhode Island, South Manhattan and Washington DC. The foam pieces were slightly warped in some cases, the larger the piece the more warped it was. I’m looking at you, Texas.

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The next series of pieces were the plastic landmarks to be inserted into the foam pieces. I have two gripes about this sequence.

First, the pieces are formed on the sort of plastic rails you find in model kits, which is fine. They are numbered according to the landmark poster included with the puzzle. Still fine. However, the font is so tiny as to be nearly indecipherable, and in some cases was not etched on the outside edge but inside the piece. This led to us needing a flashlight to first see inside the tiny figures and then hunt for the numbers. They are also not in any sort of organized collection, and I couldn’t really figure out why some were silver, some matte brown and some a bronze color. Weird. The Statue of Liberty is the only item that shipped separately and green. It goes without saying that one of our most recognizable landmarks needs no special instructions.

My second gripe about this section is that the poster offers no help in finding the location of the various landmarks on the puzzle. Yes, they are numbered on the poster and on the piece, but there is no number on the puzzle. The foam pieces have “placeholder” blocks in a beige color that are to be popped out and the plastic item inserted in place. The placeholders sometimes have an obvious shape (L-shaped buildings and round auditoriums, for example), but they are not numbered or named. Let me tell you, one lighthouse looks a lot like another when all you see are round dots in a sea of foam puzzle pieces lol. We ended up having to google many of the landmarks just to find out what state to search. With 93 landmarks, this part of the puzzle was both very interesting and very tedious. First searching multiple plastic rails numerous times since the pieces are not organized by number, then looking them up on google, then having to actually take the puzzle apart, remove the placeholder block, insert the item, then put the puzzle back together was a process. We ended up pulling out the landmarks for 10 items in a row, then placing them before starting over with the next 10. We placed the landmark on its corresponding picture on the poster.

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You can see that the names of some of these locations are sometimes rather mundane. I can’t tell you how many Old Grist Mills there are on google. The more we handled the foam pieces, the less tidy they were going together again. Some of the small tabs became mashed and wouldn’t lock into place after a while. One item just did not fit into the allowed space and we ended up accidentally tearing the surface paper forcing it through the hole. One casualty of the process of breaking out the landmark pieces was the Las Vegas sign. It broke in half unfortunately.

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The puzzle instructions also indicated that once the foam layer was made, it should be tacked in place using two sided tape. However, I do not recommend this at that stage. It was far easier to push the landmark pieces up from the back side of the foam pieces than mash them down through the top side. Plus, removing the placeholder blocks was at times a struggle because even though they were laser cut, they still had to be dug out of the larger piece, and some of those spots were quite small. The most effective way to remove the placeholder block and insert the landmark was by holding the individual state in our hands. This necessitated the constant disassembly of the foam layer of the puzzle. The kit did include some double sided tape, but it was so dried out it just flaked off its sticker sheets. Oops.

Even with all these sorts of nit picky complaints, we enjoyed this puzzle quite a lot. There are other 4D puzzles available for major cities worldwide, such as London, Paris and Tokyo. I think if we were to take on one of those other puzzles we would apply our learnings from this kit and probably be more satisfied. So, if you attempt one of these 4D Cityscape puzzles, I recommend the following order of assembly:

  1. Assemble the base layer by color but do the edges last.
  2. Organize the foam layer by regions but only assemble the pieces in general sections.
  3. Break out the landmark pieces and organize them numerically.
  4. Insert all the landmark pieces and then assemble the foam pieces into the top layer.
  5. Stick the foam layer onto the base layer if desired.

Christmas Memories

Some years ago, my sister gave me a box of photos from our childhood. As the keeper of the photos, she had access to them and I didn’t have many in my possession, so this was a very sentimental gift. They are mostly from Christmas, and so what a great time to share these memories with you. Our “new” house was built in 1972. We moved in just a month before my 4th birthday, so I was always able to quickly figure how long we’d lived there by subtracting 4 from my age.

Every year on Christmas Eve, my mother would read to us from an original copy of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. I have it now and although it has seen its years, it is still in great condition. The story goes that Grammie Hennie went over to Montgomery Ward (a long defunct department store) and picked up a handful of copies. They gave them away for free as a promotional item. I assume she gave one each to her kids, but I have no idea if any remain…Steve? Carey? Anyway, as the book became more fragile, we were more careful with it, one year Kathy even carried it on a really fancy pink tufted pillow that she had. :-) Today we use a reprint.

Somewhere, packed among my photo things, I have all the Christmas cards that my parents sent out every year from the time Kathy was 1 or 2 until she was 21. They are a fantastic study of clothing through the seventies and eighties! I’ll try to find those and share them as well. Until then, Merry Christmas, happy holidays, joy to all.

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Pattern Review: TV 447 1863 Sheer Dress

I have been sitting on this pattern for several years, all while sweltering in the summer heat. I purchased my fabric easily three years ago and have been wanting a sheer dress for probably five years. Summer in multiple layers of clothing is definitely more warm than it has to be! So, this past spring, I finally decided to just do it! I have researched various patterns available on the market, including some Big Three patterns, Peachtree Mercantile, and others, but I know that Truly Victorian makes beautiful, accurate, and easy to follow patterns, which is why I settled on this one.

Truly Victorian TV447 1863 Sheer Dress

Truly Victorian TV447 1863 Sheer Dress

I chose a lovely sheer cotton in blue and white stripes that I found on clearance at a chain store. I know of more than one person who has made a sheer of this fabric. Hopefully we won’t all be at the same event together!

Pretty pretty

Pretty pretty

The fabric is 54″ wide, but since at the time I didn’t know what pattern I would be using I purchased 10 yards. Lucky for me, this overestimation was a good one. The sleeves on this dress are full and wide, plus since my fabric was directional, I was able to cut the stripes going from shoulder to wrist. Anyway, before any of that, I calculated my measurements and pattern size following the instructions on the pattern. The thing about the TV patterns is they allow you to custom fit your garment before you even start sewing. And once you do that, you can easily make up a muslin for a better idea on fit.

Dark image of my muslin

Dark image of my muslin

Sorry this is not better quality, but almost all the mirrors in my house that are big enough are impacted by light diffusion. What I learned here is that the waist of the under bodice was a little too full but the bust was a pretty good fit. So I took in the darts a bit and retested it. I did not do this all by myself, by the way. I submitted my questions to the Civilian Civil War Closet group on Facebook for hints and help – there are clothing historians, professional seamstresses and experienced clothiers there who are willing to help for free. I just couldn’t overlook that knowledge base. I also asked my friend Shelley Peters for real world tips as she has made this pattern a lot. Had I needed it, the amazing Heather McNaughten at Truly Victorian would have helped too. As an aside, this just confirms for me that this community really wants its members to succeed!

Anyway, after the changes to the muslin, I traced that as my new under bodice pattern piece and went forth to sew! This is the first time I have made my own bias and bias piping, which was used on the neckline facing and armscyes. I found the instructions sufficient, but had used better instructions on a Simplicity costume pattern and did that instead. They just made a bit more sense to my thinking, the result is the same.

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Piped facing to finish the raw edges of the under bodice.

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Piped armscye

The construction of the garment is for the most part very easy. I found the TV method of inserting the sleeve into the armscye backwards to what I am used to so I just adapted and made notes on the pattern.

Hand buttonholes

Hand buttonholes

I sewed this in a combination of machine and hand sewing. My fabric was so very delicate that even though I have a high quality machine, it sometimes would bunch up in the feed dogs. I wound up hand sewing much of the finishing stitching, such as on the piped facings, and also hand sewed all the button holes. My reasoning here was twofold – I wanted historically accurate buttonholes and since the fabric was so delicate it was impossible for me to machine sew them to the standard I desired. I used silk thread for the buttonholes. The buttons are vintage shell buttons, much higher quality than the cheap flaked mother of pearl available these days. They were purchased through Farmhouse Fabrics.

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Sleeve band

For visual interest I cut the sleeve band on the bias. Maybe there is a chance of this stretching over time, but the band is so generous around the wrist that I don’t expect that to happen.

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Finished bodice

At this point, I went back to the Civilian Civil War Closet for help. The pattern does not include a collar pattern. I don’t care for my look without a collar, so I googled for tutorials. The best suggested laying the pattern pieces for the bodice front and back together as though they were sewn, then tracing the curve from center front to center back, next extending that to a simple collar width. I did that, but found mine to be fluttery and off. The amazing Liz Clark of the Sewing Academy helped me immensely with tips on how to correct this and redraft the collar. I’m delighted to say that I was successful!

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Finished collar

I added the fine tatted lace which I purchased at Farmhouse Fabrics.

Next, waistband finishing. Since my fabric is 54″ wide, I didn’t want to cut it down to  four 40″ panels to follow the TV skirt instructions. I retained the selvages as was done in historical garments, and used three panels instead of four. The skirt has a very deep pocket at the center left where the skirt pieces overlap with the waistband. Each panel was cut to the same length, but since your skirt front and skirt back are different lengths, there has to be a way to do this without cutting your fabric. Again, drawing on the Closet knowledge, I did as was suggested and folded over the waist edge of the fabric. This gave added stability to the fabric as well as achieving the lengths needed. The pattern instructions have you cut your fabric at the waist to the desired angle which will give you your length. I don’t recommend that on a sheer just because of the off chance of it tearing.

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Waist inside

You can see in this very amateurly photoshopped picture the angle of the folded-over fabric. This is center back where the skirt is a bit longer than in the front.

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Double box pleats

For the skirt attachment, the pattern gives you liberty to choose your preferred pleating or gathering method. Here I am showing you the double box pleats I used to pleat the skirt onto the waistband. Originally I had knife pleated the front and cartridge pleated the back, but I didn’t get enough fabric taken up in the front. So I went to the double box pleats in front and cartridge pleats in back. I’m quite happy with this look as it’s smooth and polished.

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Yes that hem is hand stitched

I wanted to make sure that the hem folded straight up so the lines didn’t go off kilter, so I ended up hand sewing the hem. I used a single thread and every fourth stitch went through all layers. Every 8th stitch was taken twice to keep the thread from coming undone if it were to break for any reason. If you kept up with my thinking on the skirt width, you will realize that’s a 178″ hem. It took me a couple hours to do it.

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Picture taken by an 8 year old

This is the finished dress, although it’s not the best picture of me lol. I’m looking down toward my daughter haha. Also, I realize that I must not have been laced as tightly in my corset as usual because I couldn’t fasten the waistband correctly. I wasn’t going to mess with it today and I’m certainly not taking the dress apart, so I’ll have to lace better next time.

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Side image

Here you can see the under sleeve just below my shoulder. This makes the dress very cool and airy. I had considered adding a silk stripe down the sleeve for interest, but I decided against it as it might weigh down the fabric. I may make a belt, as the silk I have is the exact color of the darkest stripe in the fabric.

You can also see the shadow of my petticoat under the skirt. I have an eyelet petticoat with two large pleats in it. This isn’t an historically accurate petticoat and someday I will make a plain cotton one, but for now this is quite pretty.

Overall I am thrilled with the result of the Truly Victorian TV447 Sheer Dress pattern. The instructions were easy, but true to the sewing techniques available to our ancestresses. It is not a pattern for a beginner, certainly, but if you have some knowledge of sewing, you can make this pattern truly customized to your preferences. If at times the instructions don’t make sense, just take them one sentence at a time. My mother told me when in doubt just do what the instructions say. These patterns will not take you down the wrong path, trust them and you will get something incredibly beautiful. And of course, email them, ask your friends who have made the pattern, or google for help. Truly Victorian patterns are very popular due to them being among the best on the market today, so lots of people make them! I am eager to wear this dress to one of our hottest events coming up soon, Huntington Beach Civil War Days.

Links & Resources

Truly Victorian

Farmhouse Fabrics

Civilian Civil War Closet

Sewing Academy

Huntington Beach Civil War Days

Peanut Butter Eggs, Made

Gram's Recipe Box

Not too long ago, I posted three recipes for peanut butter eggs, and at the time I thought they sounded pretty easy. So, this past weekend I decided to try one of them! Here we go.

IMG_1334 Ingredients for peanut butter eggs

Here’s the ingredient list:

1 lb box xxx sugar

3/4 c melted butter or oleo

pinch of salt

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 T cocoa

5 T peanut butter any kind

I omitted the salt, as my friend and frequent site reader Diane B commented, a pinch of salt in a pound of sugar sounds irrelevant. I used creamy peanut butter and unsalted butter.

It's like brownie batter It’s like brownie batter

Once combined the mixture was a bit loose, like a pudding. Hm, I thought, how am I going to shape these into eggs? Off to the store for a candy mold! Joanne’s is a dangerous place for a woman and child…

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