Make, Jane, make!: 2014


Small Share

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The First Annual Minivan Express was a Success!!!

I have a love-hate relationship with the blogosphere. Love for all the great ideas that people share. Hate for not having the time nor talent to explore all of those pinterest-worthy projects. Our cousin on the west coast often shares many of these great ideas on her FB feed but usually they end up on my to-do (then forgotten about) list.  The Minivan Express from Erica at Confessions of a Homeschooler though was totally within my reach and had the added bonus of being time-sensitive, meaning that I had to get off my butt and get the gears in motion.

Monday, December 22, 2014

I'm only three or four years late...

... But you can now find me on instagram.

I first started this blog because I wanted to chronicle and share all my adventures in creating, learning and making. I'm beginning to realize though that adding ever more children to my life has really cut into my blogging time. So while I am still trying to blog as much as I can, I wanted a way to share my smaller projects without a whole blog entry, my longer projects before they are finished, and some of the poor quality pictures that I snap quickly with my phone. Hence instagram.

Check out all these pictures I took this autumn that I thought I'd have a chance to blog about....

... Obviously those blog posts never happened.

So if  you wanna see some of the daily pics of new dinner recipes, crafting with the kids, small sewing projects, or you just like being barraged by a stream of my self-indulgent photos then please follow me on instagram (@MakeJanemake).


Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Stocking Set is Complete!

I really should have lit the fireplace for this picture.... but when you're trying to take a picture of stockings that seem to spin and all face different directions and you've got a excited toddler and a separation-anxious infant and a home-sick-from-school kindergartener all trying to squeeze into the picture as well, the last thing you want is a burned hand on a little screaming person.

Anyway, here's the kids' favourite Christmas decorations after the tree... their stockings. I'm so happy with how they turned out because I had no idea I would be making a matched set way back when I made the first stocking on a whim.

Monday, December 15, 2014

DIY Halloween: The Cheshire Cat How-To, Part Two

You came back for more after my long-winded Part One? Thanks for the interest! The first part of this tutorial in which I go over how I modified an existing (free!) dinosaur costume into a cat body is here. And the original, unmodified costume pattern is available here.

The hood part of the costume is where I made the most changes. Nothing mind-blowing or super innovative. Just adding a lining so that details could be added onto the hood or, in the case of my modified Buddy the Dinosaur costume, teeth could be inserted into the mouth opening.

DIY Halloween: The Cheshire Cat How-To, Part One

Cheshire cat diy costume child kids full body hood suit

I know it's almost Christmas, but better late than never... and when I say never, I really mean never. This post might be lost to the abyss of mommy-brain for-EVER. So without further ado, the final Down the Rabbit Hole Halloween post... part one.

So here's a two-part, how-to post on making a full body animal costume by modifying a great free costume available from --> Buddy the Dinosaur Costume. The first part will be just dealing with the body and then I'll write a separate post for the head.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Mini Pumpkin Cupcakes with Bourbon Buttercream

Nothing says Christmas like pumpkins and booze, right?

I originally set out to make pumpkin eggnog cupcakes but when I discovered that I'd used all my nutmeg making James Beard's Amazing Persimmon Bread as shared by David Lebovitz, I had to make a last minute substitution. Out went the Cuban rum and along came the Kentucky bourbon. (Also in case you're wondering, the persimmon bread recipe is absolutely delicious... and boozy as well).

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Holiday Sewing - A New Hat

Oh boy, do I ever have an ambitious holiday sewing list this year! I know I probably won't get most of it done, but a girl can imagine, right? And what better place to start than with my fleece scraps accumulated from making various Canadian-climate, Halloween costume ensembles. (And yes, in the near future I'll finish up the posts from Halloween with a how-to for the Cheshire Cat costume ;)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

DIY Halloween: The Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit

I'm proud to say that this Halloween I only spent about $25 on new materials/accessories. Everything else came from previous projects (which were probably also bought on the cheap!) or was clothing items from the kids' closets. Of course, as my hubby always points out, that doesn't account for the time spent in making those costumes and I have to admit that I expended far more effort on this Mad Hatter costume than I had originally planned. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

DIY Halloween: Simple and Quick Alice in Wonderland

Note to self: Never ever make promises that have dates or times attached to them. Like saying I'll be somewhere with my four chronologically-indifferent children at a specific time. Or saying that this post would be done a week ago. Or promising myself to start Halloween sewing earlier. The end result is always that I'm rushing up until the last minute and sometimes miss my deadline completely.

This year, I started out with a bang and high hopes. The fabric was bought and washed at the beginning of October, making an early Halloween costume debut entirely possible. But as my young children slowly become older children, I'm starting to get a taste of how chaotic scheduling and managing children's calendars can be. So between birthday parties and Chinese school and weddings and Thanksgiving, the costumes were just barely done in time for our annual photo shoot with friends.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

DIY Halloween: Down the Rabbit Hole We Go...

Family costume group costume mad hatter alice cheshire cat

How many more years of matching costumes will my kids allow me? I don't know. My eldest is now almost seven and surely will tire of mommy's cute family costumes soon. In fact, I was worried that this year was already the beginning of store-bought, licensed costumes since their first costume requests were for Tranformers and various Marvel comics characters.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Mini dumpling factory II: Gnocchi!

I know some people think it's a little crazy to cook or bake with kids. The mess and the bickering and the inefficiency and all. But when you love to do something, you want to share it with those that you love. (Besides, I'll never be able to kick back and enjoy a meal made by my kids if I don't start training them now).

I love that the kids can surprise you and learn skills and have perseverance beyond what you (under) estimated for them. Check out my son in action. Turns out that little fingers are ideal for perfectly dimpled gnocchi. (And yes, the video is almost completely silent cuz that just how serious my little number two is).

It's also true what they say about kids being more interested in eating a meal they had a hand in making. I'm sure that my veggie phobic four year old would not have gobbled down these chard gnocchi in quite the same way if he had not made half of them himself. Never mind that they were a dreaded green colour and tasted fairly strongly of chlorophyll.

Additionally, I hope that my kids will grow an appreciation of food; where it comes from, what goes into it, and the people who prepare it for them. This chard gnocchi even gave them a glimpse of "from farm to table" since they picked up the chard, potatoes and eggs from the farm (Round The Bend Farm) with me earlier in the day.

Just because they can't bring home the bacon, doesn't mean that they shouldn't kiss the cook who fried it for them!

P. S.
Yes, the dishes and many other chores in our house often get ignored in favour of doing stuff with the kids. And no, we did not drink all that beer in one sitting... It was at least two.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Mini Dumpling Factory

We're having a cool summer which has been fantastic for kitchen work. Normally in the summer, my kitchen feels like some kind of medieval torture chamber... Except instead of being slowly immersed into a dunk tank, I'm drowning in heat and humidity. This year, we've barely had the a/c on at all and the windows and doors are open most days with a cool breeze flowing through the whole house.

Recently, we capitalized on the cool weather and had the kids help out in the kitchen to produce some delicious dumplings. We had some vegetarian dumplings to wrap as well, so the younger ones could help without running the risk of inadvertent raw meat consumption.

Of course having three kids do anything in the kitchen (or anywhere for that matter) will eventually result in all kinds of silliness; and these industrious faces were quickly replaced by laughter and giggles and dumplings made in every possible shape you can think of.

And as annoying as it was to endlessly repeat that "dumplings which are not closed at both ends will not stay together when mommy cooks them" I had to remember that my brothers and I used to play the exact same games when we "helped" in the kitchen.

There'd be the biggest dumpling ever. The smallest dumpling ever. The flattest dumpling ever. The dumpling with the thickest skin ever. The dumpling with only one piece of choy (vegetable). The dumpling that was only meat. The square dumpling, The triangle dumpling. And so on and so on.  I remember, my mom would separate any dumplings that she could recognize as our handiwork and make the offending party eat them. In fact, if my mom and dad are reading this right now, they are probably laughing about my brother's specialty dumplings that would only contain "one snot of filling" and thinking that I deserve whatever my kids dish out to me for the endless grief I must have caused them.

In any case, I hope that the kids enjoy learning about our food and culture. I look forward to the day that they will be able to share these things with their own families... cause what greater joy can a parent have than to one day witness their children passing on beloved family traditions and have karma come and bite them in the <fattest dumpling ever>?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

And pause...

Once in a while, the stars align and everything goes more or less according to plan. Hubby and I actually sat down to a quiet adult lunch while the boys are at school, one daughter naps and the other plays happily in her jumper.

Now I sit and digest (both are strange and rare sensations) and contemplate what I shall write to my neglected blog. Or rather, what I can write given the limited time that this total eclipse of child-demands will last and my proficiency on a phone keyboard.

Perhaps, I should stop while I'm ahead and simply say that Martha's tomato tart with its roasted garlic crust was heavenly, eaten in a quiet and clean (as can be expected) kitchen. And that soon my blog should be awash in photos and entries about Halloween prep.... If the heavens allow and all goes according to plan, of course.

P. S. And inevitably, I'm no longer sitting and digesting. Instead I'm nursing a baby to sleep and embellishing this post with pictures from my phone camera.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Radicchio and Corn Salad

This dinner was the epitome of eating as local as possible. The maple mustard chicken is locally raised and bought from our neighbourhood butcher. The carrots, potatoes and turnip that roasted under the chicken legs came from our Round the Bend Farm CSA box. And the beautiful chopped salad (save the dressing and cranberries) uses ingredients that are also from our CSA box.

(Jump to the recipe...)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Pasta Nicoise

It's been the summer of the salad. The cool weather has provided our farm and CSA box with much more lettuce than anyone probably ever imagined possible. There was a point in time when hubby and I were eating mammoth salads for lunch and dinner plus green smoothies for breakfast and snacks.
(Jump to the recipe...)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Vietnamese Sausage (Nem Nuong) Lettuce Wraps

Summer always calls for meals that are full of fresh and raw greens served with grill-marked meats. And although the heat never fully arrived this year that didn't stop anyone from firing up the charcoal and enjoying some outdoor cooking, right?

This summer, we've received such beautiful lettuce and radicchio from our farmshare that it was inevitable that we would consume a lot of it in cup/wrap form. And what's our favourite filling for our lettuce wraps? Nem nuong. Delicious grilled pork.

(Jump to the recipe)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Homemade American Cheese? Verdict? Worth it!

When I was pregnant with my first son, I had strange taste and smell aversions. (Subsequently, I discovered it was morning sickness, just without the tell-tale being sick part.) One of my weird taste and smell aversions was cheese. I thinking that I was exposing the cheese to too much moisture and it was going off really quickly... I don't know how much cheese I threw into the trash thinking it had gone bad before finally asking hubby to double-check for me.

Unfortunately, I loooove cheese and I craved for it. So I took to having processed cheese and soon bagels with a Kraft single nuked over top became a common breakfast for me. Funny to reminisce about it now - there I was, first time mom, trying so hard to do everything right for my unborn babe. All the while, feeding myself artificial cheese that was nuked (not even toasted!) over dollar-a-loaf-grocery-store bagels. I guess it could have been worse, I could have wanted spray cheese and a ramen cup ;) 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Kohlrabi and Corn Fritters

Jump to the recipe...

Every year, inevitably, we'll receive the other-worldly kohlrabi in our CSA box. The first year we got it I was stumped. What to do with this strange root? I've tried it in coleslaw (nothing spectacular and not really to my liking). I've also tried stir-frying it (too soggy), roasting it (delicious but too hot to turn on the oven that often) and boiling and pureeing it into soup (yummy but felt like just a riff on cauliflower soup). I had yet to find a way to prepare kohlrabi that was simple and tasty and uniquely "kohlrabi".

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Elastic Bracelet Craze... Loom-less!

Diamond with Rings made with two forks, inspired by Loom Love

It all started with an innocent baggie of coloured rubber bands that I bought at the local discount grocer...

My eldest son has been enjoying YMCA camp this summer and has not been able to stop talking about all things camp, including his value bead bracelet. Understandably, the middle two siblings, who were already jealous that big brother was old enough for camp but they were not, began to resent not having bracelets of their own.

So when I saw the $1 baggie of coloured elastics hanging in the store, I figured that I could make them a simple elastic chain bracelet similar to the ones I used to play elastic jump ropes games with as a child. However, after we got them home I started to faintly remember another elastic weaving technique that was more like braiding from my grade school days... which I then had to google.

Some of my eldest son's first projects, fishtails and dragon-scale

What did I find? Well, as you may already know, there are a lot of tutorials out there to teach you how to make a Rainbow Loom bracelet without a loom. The crafter and DIY-er in me loved that. The simplicity and flexibility of a craft that could be done without elaborate equipment, other than the elastics of course, really appealed to me. And as I had already taught my kids how to finger knit (which they love), I also saw the potential to share another quiet and time-consuming craft with them (a.k.a. mommy's get out of jail free card).

His latest creation

So instead of working on my extensive sewing list or making more freezer meals with our abundant CSA veggies, I've been watching YouTube videos of elastic weaving on forks and fingers. And 'cause I find it so similar to knitting, which I love and haven't done in sooo long, I've been a little obsessed with what I can create with these elastics without needing to buy a loom; something I'm loath to do since I would have to have at least three looms to satisfy all the little crafters in this house.

Butterfly charm bracelet made on my fingers, inspired by Made by Mommy

Also, I'm kinda enjoying the stripped down feel of minimal equipment and the challenge of learning the basic techniques and then figuring out those pretty patterns for myself. And as an added bonus, the slower pace of bracelet creation without a loom keeps the kids occupied for longer. I haven't even given them a place to sort the elastics out, they need to dig through the bag each time to get their desired colours... lol! I know, I'm a cruel and devious mommy.

Ridiculously small pink and red strawberry bracelet for my daughter

Anyway, the kids are loving that mommy has a new hobby to share with them, but there's always a catch, isn't there?  So, here's the rub, my eldest son, the one who precipitated the bracelet-envy in the first place, has really taken to learning how to make the bracelets as well.  He has created no less than nine bracelets for himself. Meanwhile, I've only managed about two bracelets each for his siblings. So ironically, my elastic buying has not only failed to make my middle children less envious of their brother's arm-wear, but has also increased the bracelet gap! Sigh.... I should've seen that one coming...

The collection... so far!

Luckily, big brother does see the ridiculousness of wearing all those bracelets himself and has now started giving away bracelets and/or making more bracelets for his little brother and sister. My next goal is to even out the amount of gimp/boondoggles that he's made for himself versus his siblings. Blast from the past crafts. Lovin' it.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Garlic Scape and Pea Pesto

Am I late to the party? I only just discovered that you can make pesto with fresh peas and I love the result. Fresh... and sweet... and the colour! The colour is even better than regular basil pesto because it stays beautifully pale green through refrigeration or heating.

I originally set out to make a garlic scape pesto but wasn't sure if I could ever get the kids to eat it since scape pesto tends to be so spicy. Then I remembered seeing pictures of pea pesto and figured that if anything could tone down the super concentrated garlicky flavour that results from grinding up a bagful of scapes, it would be fresh peas from the pod.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Beach Towel Poncho-Pack, Revisited with a Tutorial!

A couple of years ago, I blogged about my first beach towel poncho-packs. Those original poncho-packs have since been to multiple swim lessons, splash pads and beaches and are still going strong. Of course there are now two additional people in our family, one of which has been requesting her own "backpack towel" since last summer. In addition to that, my older son started summer camp this year and he needs at least two sets of swim stuff so that I have time to wash the stinky, wet ones on alternate days. And as fate would have it, we were discussing the poncho-packs at the park a couple of weeks ago and one of my mommy friends asked for instructions on how to make her own. So here is a return visit to the beach towel poncho-packs, complete with photos and a tutorial.

p.s. This is a great scrap buster project. So never you mind if you notice that the pieces in my pictures are not quite the right measurements or seem a bit skewed. I am crazy about using up scraps, even if they are only barely big enough for my project.

p.p.s. In case you want to know, I used some scrap flannel pieces for this project. I think any soft and absorbent fabric would work great.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Zucchini Crumb Cake Muffins

If you've ever tried to leave zucchini on a neighbour's front porch under the cover of darkness, devised methods of handing out zucchini instead of candy at Hallowe'en or considered including zucchini as part of your taxable income calculations, then you've obviously experienced firsthand the awesome productive powers of the zucchini plant. However, despite its bad rap as an unwelcome vegetable gift, I feel indebted to the over-achieving zucchini plant because if it did not bear fruit so copiously, no one may have ever felt compelled to create the wonderfully moist delight that is zucchini bread.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Eat your greens!

So now you know how much lettuce we've been lucky enough to receive in our farmshare due this nice cool summer. Not to mention that there's also chard, beets, kale, radish/beet/kohlrabi greens, zucchini, carrots, potatoes and so much more that comes with each weekly CSA box.

Veggies at every meal have become the order of the day and I have been pleasantly surprised at how relatively well my kids have received this. That's not to say that they sit down and eat the super-sized salads that mommy and daddy eat. Ha! But they do accept their daily side salad at dinner and have taken to having the rest of their daily allotment in some unexpected ways.

For instance, we all sat down and enjoyed eating a version of Cobb salad for dinner last week.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Where to put all that lettuce?

This is the first year that we've joined Round the Bend Farm for their summer CSA program. It is also the first year that we've decided to go for the full monty and book ourselves to receive a full share of local veggies every week. My bestest girlfriend who is receiving a half share from the same farm asked us how we managed a full box?

Short answer: We eat a lot of salad.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

"Where do you get the time?"

"Where do you get the time?" is a question I get a lot. Where do I get the time to bake? Where do I get the time to sew? Where do I get the time to blog? The answer is always twofold - "after the kids go to sleep" and "you just gotta make time".

So right now it's quarter to twelve on Friday night and instead of heading out to a bar or club (which would be so 1999 anyway :), I'm sitting in my kitchen writing a blog post on my tiny smartphone screen and waiting for a couple of pies to finish baking. This is a particularly late "after the kids go to sleep" scenario as the bedtime has gotten later now that school's out and my youngest is very unpredictable in her feeding habits.

Now often my hubby and I would spend this precious time between the kids' bedtime and us passing out watching some late night TV and talking about our days. We'd probably crack open a bag of chips, maybe some beers, possibly a Dairy Queen Blizzard that we had stashed in the freezer...  Oh yes my children, you were right all along to suspect mommy and daddy telling you to "just go to sleep, we're not doing anything fun, we're just sleeping too"... But I digress...

Anyway, today instead of dulling my mind with unnecessary reality shows and indulging my own waistline with unneeded calories, I'm baking up enough butter pastry goodness to indulge our ten or so dinner guests coming over tomorrow. Of course, I could always just buy dessert but this is where the "you just gotta make time" comes into play, "gotta" being the operative word. Believe me, making time extra time at the end of the night to pursue leisure activities was, and is still not, easy for someone who would consider themselves a morning person and who would prefer to up at the crack of dawn rather than the stroke of midnight. However, it's easier to count on the children staying asleep than relying on them not waking up, so the making of time has "gotta" be at night.

But I guess the bigger question, bigger than "Where do you get the time?" is "Why?" And my only answer is that despite the four kids, or perhaps for their sakes, I don't want to let myself drown in the drudgery that comes with the title "mother of four".  I want to think that I don't have to give up Jane, the baker or Jane, the knitter or Jane, the runner just because I became Jane, the woman who couldn't stop getting pregnant. ;) I want the kids to know that you can become a parent and still have other identities too - that I'm their mom but I could also be their powder hound buddy or their fellow foodie or their nerdy mmorpg partner. I want them to know it and I want myself to believe it.

I stay up late to nourish and maintain some interests of my own in the hope that I don't forget who I am while I love and care for four little people who are slowly discovering who they are.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Farmshare 2014 - Round the Bend Farm

Summer at our house is now synonymous with receiving a weekly surprise of veggies in our CSA box. This year we've decided to switch to Round the Bend Farm whose box looks to have more variety and fruit than our previous farm. We've also upped the ante by booking a full share (versus half-shares in previous years) and adding on some fresh brown eggs every week. Other than eating a lot of fresh green salads (we got SIX! huge heads of lettuce last week), I'll try to post about what we do with the abundance of lovely, local vegetables we receive every week.

One of the things I love best about getting food that goes from farm to table is that we'll receive items that are rare, or at least harder to find, at your average supermarket. Like garlic scapes or tasty spring onions. We've already gone through our share of the fresh onions and I'm a little sad that we'll probably not be receiving any more of these fragrant beauties. We made good use of the ones we did get though: Russian dressing, Chinese green onion pancakes, ginger and spring onion noodle bowls and lion's head meatballs (which also used an entire head of napa cabbage!).

Another thing that I love about getting food straight from the farm is that nothing is wasted. Like these beet greens, where do things like this go when the supermarket sells jus the beet bottoms? We used ours recently in some crusty calzones.

Calzones are one of my go-to freezer foods because I can size them to perfectly fit in a lunchbox, they reheat in a flash in the toaster oven, they can be eaten warm or at room temperature and the kids will eat a surprising amount of veggies when they are stuffed into a pocket with some cheese.

So there's my first farmshare post and I'm officially blogging again. Maybe a recipe next time? Or a sewing post? Perhaps kids crafts (and antics)? I'll have to see what inspiration strikes...