Month: June 2014

Recipe: Matzo Ball Soup… good comfort food

My go-to comfort food is Matzo Ball Soup… if you haven’t tried this at a classic delicatessen and if you haven’t tried this homemade, then you are missing out.

I don’t remember my Mom making this soup when I was a kid… and I don’t remember when I started making it. But at the first sound of a sniffle or the first sight of a frown on faces at the box, and the matzo mix comes out.

Last week, my oldest daughter was sick with a cold and sore throat. She immediately asked for Matzo Ball Soup since that was the only food that sounded good to her. I can’t claim that it made her well, but it made her feel better, it tasted good to her, and I felt like a good mama.

It’s the warm chicken broth and the soft matzo balls that make anyone feel better!  It is the ‘cure all’ for headaches, colds and sniffles, stress and tension, tummy aches and the heartaches. (by ‘cure all’ I mean it makes you feel better… I am not implying anymore than that)

Matzo Balls are a great food for toddlers! My little cousin Kent loves Matzo Balls made by my Aunt, his Bubbe (grandmother in Yiddish). He gets them chopped into bite size pieces right on this food plate for his toddler fingers to grab.

My Aunt adds schmaltz, which I am informed is rendered chicken fat. I skip that step just because I don’t usually have schmaltz on hand and wouldn’t know where to find it in the grocery store. But I am sure it adds a richness to the flavor.

This is a good opportunity for the kids to help out in the kitchen too. The matzo meal is easy to mix it up and rolling the matzo balls out is kinda fun for their little hands — but of course keep them back from the boiling pot of broth on the stove (I couldn’t not say that here). 

Then you just drop the balls in the boiling pot, cover, and wait for it to be soup.

I make my soup with chicken broth and extra chicken base, garlic, carrots, and the matzo balls. I have only ever used Manischewitz brand for the matzo meal. The soup seasoning mix can be too salty, so I generally use low sodium broth. Otherwise, I follow the recipe on the box. 

It’s nice to have the Matzo Ball Soup as a tradition in our family… it is truly the go-to remedy for feeling bad.

What is your go-to comfort food for feeling bad in body or spirit?

Ruffled Whimsy Dress pattern by Dandelions n’ Dungarees

This pattern had me at the ruffles!  You can never have enough ruffles in your life!  And this dress delivers the ruffles, a complete stack of ruffles.

The dress is the Ruffled Whimsy Dress pattern from Dandelions n’ Dungarees released a few months ago.  I tried to get on the amazing testing team, but of course, many sew’ists were trying for the same team.  But I knew that as soon as the pattern released, I wanted to make one for my girlie. 

Just look at this stack of ruffles… OMG, LOVE IT!

My ruffle foot was put to good use making 7 fabric widths sewn together into a super long ruffle.  Before ruffling, the top edge and bottom edge were finished with a rolled hem in hot pink thread to match the piping.  Then I cut the lengths of ruffle needed on each row down the center piece. 

The dress is a classic bodice style, flutter sleeves, with a loop buttoned closure at the back and an a-line skirt.  The pattern comes in girl sizes 2T-7 and tween sizes 8-16 and can be made as a dress or as a shorter tunic.

I changed up the pattern by not using the sash around the waist and the full bow in the back.  However, I used a simple long ribbon (tube) of fabric attached at the side seams and tied in a bow at the center of the back to cinch around the middle of the dress.  I added hot pink piping around the neck, arms, and at the front waist.  I added a rolled hem to the flutter sleeve edges.  And, I lined the entire dress with a pink gingham to make the inside as cute as the outside.

The dress fabric is Wildflowers Navy, Floret Pink, and Floret Navy by Patty Young, picked out at Joann fabric store.

My daughter likes the dress and thought it matched perfectly with her new shoes with ‘heels’… she feels so big now. She had just finished dance lessons, so many of her poses were practicing the new ballet she is learning from Ms Katie.


What I loved about this dress pattern…..

Can I say it again… RUFFLES!!!

The classic styling that keeps little girls looking like little girls with the knee length dress and flutter sleeves.  This makes a perfect dress for a party or Sunday morning church.  My daughter wore it to her sister’s dance recital.

As most of you, I LOVE fabrics! especially when I can coordinate fabrics.  This dress offers the opportunity to use 3 great fabrics, and I could have used another design on the skirt sides.  I also like when the garment can show off fabrics with a large print like the back of this dress does.  For this fabric, I wanted the larger print flowers to be seen so I used it on the back of the dress.

The pattern is well written, and the designer is friendly and responsive.

What I would do different with this dress pattern…..

Next time, I will include the full tied bow in the back of the dress.  I was thinking that the beautiful bow was too much frou-frou on the dress and I didn’t want to break the line of the dress with the sash across the waist on the front of the dress.  So the sash was not added. 

Seeing how the dress looks made, the waist tie is necessary to cinch in the a-line dress shape.  And the full beautiful bow in the back of the dress is needed to balance the ruffles on the front of the dress.

This could be accomplished by using the sash tied into a full beautiful bow around the waist as the pattern calls for.  Another option to eliminate the break at the waist by the sash is to add the sash at the side seams and then tie into a full beautiful bow at the back.  Just make sure to set the top ruffle at the waist line.  See here that I set my top ruffle too low – it should have been set just under the piping.

The flutter sleeves need to be flattened out to extend across more of the arm opening – I have them too gathered, especially at the edges.  

So there you have it… the Ruffled Whimsy Dress.

Happenin’ At The Box: Summer Break is here! (like it or not)

And, its only 10 weeks, I can make it, right?!

Kids finished school yesterday… Yay… Boo…


Obviously I have mixed feelings about this.  The kids are SO HAPPY to finish the school year and need a break from the routine.  I am happy to not have lunches to pack, homework to check, bedtime to manage, and all the consistency needed for school life.  And summer is such a happy time!  Late evenings playing outside – especially in the Pacific NW since there’s daylight till after 9pm.  Sleepy kids wandering downstairs for good long hugs “good morning”.  Freedom to venture out and about.  Visits to family in Texas, and visits from family to us.

However, starting next week, I am not happy to hear “I’m bored”, “he/she won’t {insert one: leave me alone, play with me, give me a turn}”, “I’m hungry, make me something”, “When is Dad home”, “Take me {insert one: to the mall, to the toy store, to the park}”, “when will you stop working”… and so on.


I work from home.  I work a lot, and I need quiet time to do this.  My ‘workshop’ as I call it, is downstairs in a corner of our box house with the kitchen and family room on one side and the stairs and front living room on the other side.  Basically in the middle of the main (albeit, only) traffic lane. 

So, starting next week, my kiddos will be in my space. 

It will be nice to get HUGs from my youngest daughter whenever I want. 
It will be nice to see the new world or land or whatever contraption my son builds in his online gaming. 
And it will be nice to share the day’s events with my oldest daughter in real-time.

So for all these reasons, I will share my kids enthusiasm for SUMMER BREAK…..

And it’s only 10 weeks, I will make the best of it and ENJOY these kiddos in my space.  I know I will miss them when they are grown up and my space is too quiet.

Summer Surprise Tank Dress by Sofilantjes

The older girls, tweens they call them, need homemade with love clothes too!  So when the opportunity came up to test for my 12 year old niece, I was interested… then I saw the super cute Summer Surprise pattern from Sofilantjes, and I knew I had to jump on this opportunity.

And the results were PERFECT for my beautiful niece!

You can jump on this opportunity too with a 30% discount on all Sofilantjes Patterns through June 19th —– see below for the sites and code details.

The pattern is a tank style dress or tunic that fits modestly across the front and sports a nice bow across the back.  The bow is great for the older girl because it is simple and classy.  It is made of knit fabric (a tween’s favorite) that you can find in so many online stores in cool, funky patterns for tweens or in solids for the more conservative tweens.  Another idea is to color block the dress to make it extra unique for your girl.  (that’s on my to-sew list)

The pattern comes in sizes 7 to 12… and the smaller size pattern in sizes 6m to 7 is available also. To fit all tween girls, the pattern has sizes in regular and skinny, cause we all know the different shapes that girls can be as they grow up.  The pattern is only 3 pieces plus the binding.  It can be sewn on a sewing machine and/or a serger machine — I was excited to put my serger to use, so I did most of the sewing there.

Confession to make… I have only worked with knits 2 times before, so I didn’t have a lot of experience.  BUT following Sofilantjes pattern instructions and keeping my serger guide book close, I was never in doubt of the results.  No struggles, just an enjoying stitch up of the Summer Surprise dress!

THEN my niece received the finished dress!!! And she loved it!  I was such a proud aunt.

She styled the dress with flip-flops, a big hat, and big sunglasses… its called ‘summer-glam’.

And look at these pictures my sister took — I think between the amazing pattern & the beautiful model & and the previously-untapped-photography skills, we had an AWESOME result to submit back to Annemieke to demonstrate her pattern for the tween girls. 


The concerns my niece had for the dress were completely addressed and turned out to not be worries — she wanted to make sure that the dress covered her bra straps.  And it did!  The pattern is designed in such a way that the back is high enough to comfortably fit while giving it that sporty look with the dropped back and the bow across.

Best of all, Annemieke is offering a discount on all her patterns of 30% until Thursday June 19th!!!
You can find the patterns on Craftsy already reduced, and on her Sofilantjes Etsy Store (use code RP30OFF).
AND… Annemieke will be hosting a give away on her blog this week HERE.  You should check out her blog too to see the other tester’s dresses and tunics – there are some super creative designs to inspire you.

In closing, a thank you to Annemieke for the opportunity to test out the Summer Surprise dress.  And a HUGE hug to my niece and my sister for making it all happen.

Outside The Box Adventures: on Tour in Basque Country – Part Hiru

(Hiru = three in Basque language, this is the 3rd part to our tour in Basque… Part 1 is HERE and Part 2 is HERE)

Our Basque Country Tour continued in Spain to San Sebastian, through Pamplona and Guernica, and ended in Bilbao. 

While the food was different to us (I know, duh, it was a different country) we did eat WELL, and as it was vacation, we ate and drank more than usual. Our tour included a mix of planned meals with the group as well as meals on our own. And a new one for us was dinner at a Gastronomy Club – basically a private club of mostly men that meet in a small place with a large kitchen to eat and drink together. 

Of course we had crepes in France and plenty of ham, lamb, and fish all over Basque Country. We had many favorite dishes like the chicken in cream sauce and the lamb wrapped in phyllo, and some dishes that were not good at all like the mushroom and stinky cheese panini.

The wine everywhere – red, white, and rose – was good.  The pig legs hanging in the shop windows amused us.  The plucked chickens with their feet still on frightened us. 

Top, left to right: hanging pork legs in a shop, my breakfast of champion one day – chocolate doughnut and baileys (remember it was vacation)
Bottom, left to right: Delicious macarons (native to France), Basque appetizer – olives and anchovies, me and a crepe, Carlos and a crepe

And even saw a Texan Restaurant, but didn’t venture in to see what Tex-Basque food was like.

We saw lots of sheep, many vineyards, several old, even medieval structures, and where the bulls run – or rather where the bulls chase and the people run for their lives in Pamplona, as the husband demonstrates below.

Bilbao was a nice and bustling town. The sights were unique. There was a lot of old mixed in with the new. The Guggenheim Museum was nice and worth a visit.



Architecture in Bilbao Spain

More Architecture in Bilbao Spain

For me, the Guggenheim Museum building and the art works surrounding the museum were the most interesting. And the Puppy at the front was just simply sweet!

Our tour ended in Bilbao, and we returned to the kids at the box.

One last picture for you… to keep busy and keep creating while traveling, I crocheted a super cute ruffle skirt for my daughter… I will have that up on the blog next week.

me… relaxing and crocheting in Spain