Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My Biggest Quilt to Date, Part 4

I have not blogged in about two weeks because I have been quite busy.  My family just pushed up our date to have our family Christmas to the 11th, which means I have about 2 less weeks to finish my quilt and tea towels!  I think I am going to begin prepping for next Christmas in January:)  Fortunately I have been able to get quite a bit done and I am ready to begin quilting my quilt.  The top is all ready
You really cannot see the border fabric, however it has little brown dots on it.  The funny thing about this quilt is it was not planned on.  The army green/tannish fabric with the circles is leftover from my sisters pillows.  While on a trip to Lancaster County in September I found the other fabrics in a charm pack and "guessed" they would be close enough, while totally forgetting to think about the border and binding.  So, this is what I found at JoAnn.  I just bought a solid brown for the back and binding. 
So, armed with my WONDERFUL hints from Nanette (seriously, I am using this like my bible) I am ready.  Except Mother Nature is not.  It is pouring down rain outside and I do not have a big enough space to spray the basting spray without getting it all over the playroom/sewing room.  Tomorrow and Friday it is to begin snowing.  I may try the basement tomorrow, we shall see.  
I do have quite a few Christmas outfits to finish for Eleanor.  I really want to get them done tonight so she can wear them a couple of times before Christmas passes.  I also decorated most of the house over the weekend.  I will post those pictures later.  Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are enjoying preparing for Christmas.
Also, if you get a chance, please say a prayer for my bloggy/twitter friend Malleri.  They had their baby this morning and, without invading their privacy, she seems to be having a few issues.  I do not think it is really serious but I may be wrong.  Anyway, please just keep their little girl who is yet to be named in your prayers!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Living Room Spice Up

So I have been on a kick lately to fix up our living room.  Our living room furniture would NOT be my pick.  My husband bought it before we met and it is in incredible shape and is also unbelievably comfortable.  Therefore, I just have a hard time justifying new furniture when this does the job.  So, I have been working on making the rest of the room tie in.  I am also a huge seasonal decorator and I love changing things around; pillows are such an easy way to do this!  Last week Fat Quarter Shop had a 40% off deal on Saltbox Harvest .  Fall is my favorite time of year and this fabric line just screams fall to me.  I have been waiting for this to go on sale so I immediately placed my order.  
I made two pillows for each couch.  I plan to make more, I just want to make them a little different, maybe strips or patches - not sure.  I have also been working on some other "touches" to give the room some character.  Years ago I was given this set of coasters from a student, and the beach look is just not me.  I pulled out some paper and Mod Podge and gave it a new look.  Before:
The picture of the coasters did not turn out, they are a dark mauve.

I found this this idea for framing Christmas Carols here.  I have some planned for Christmas, however I wanted something for Thanksgiving.   I Googled Thanksgiving poems and came up with this poem which I printed out and framed.
 The little white pillow on the couch was Eleanor's addition.  Today was pajama day at her school and they decorated little pillows.  She was planning on sleeping with it until she realized I had new pillows out, she then put hers with it.  

When I have the living room clean enough I may post some pictures of the whole thing.  I have friends coming over tomorrow night so it *should* be clean!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gift Boxes and Dishtowels

Today I am participating in the TOO Cute Tuesday linky party on Funky Pokadot Giraffe.  If you have never visited this blog, you MUST.  Kyla has the neatest ideas and I love reading her blog.  I wrote this post last week about gifts I was making for Eleanor's teachers.  Some of the stuff in this post repeats what I typed last week.  The idea for the dishtowels came from the Pottery Barn catalog.  Every year they have fabulous reindeer plates, napkins and placemats.  I have always liked them, but really I am not spending that money on the set.  And you really cannot have just some.  PB seems to think it would be okay to leave out Dasher, Dancer, Comet and Cupid.  So, when I stumbled upon this pattern for iron transfers I knew I could find tons of ways to use them.  My first thought was gifts for Eleanor's teachers, however this has expanded to gifts for all the women in my family. I picked up the flour sack dish towels with my JoAnn coupon and used random DMC floss that is floating around the house.  I used a very simple embroidery stitch over the design.

I then decided to break out my Mod Podge and Christmas scrapbook paper to cover the paper mache gift boxes I purchased.  The boxes are done, I just need to finish the dishtowels.
The top box is my favorite.  The others are not exactly my style, however I know they will match the decor of the different recipients homes.  I am also thinking of including a mug and homemade hot chocolate mix with each gift.

Thanksgiving Corn Pudding

I am having a great time looking at lots of fabulous recipes on blogs as we enter the holiday season.  Today I am linking up to a couple different blog link-ups.  I found this recipe in the Ina Garten "Barefoot Contessa Family Style" cookbook years ago and it quickly became a family favorite.  It is a bit rich so I primarily make it for special holidays and church potlucks.  I have adapted it a bit to fit my needs and availability depending on the season.  I have not made it since last Easter, so I found the picture below online.
1 stick unsalted butter
5 Cups corn, I use frozen because it is not fresh this time of year AND I am not cut 5 cups of corn off the cob
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 large eggs
1 Cup milk, I use 1% because that is what I always have in the house
1 Cup Half and Half
1/2 Cup yellow cornmeal
1 Cup ricotta
3 Tbsp fresh basil
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3/4 Cup grated extra sharp cheddar, plus more for on top - extra sharp makes all the difference here

Preheat oven to 375, spray a 2 1/2 qt to 3qt baking dish.

Melt butter in a large saute pan, add corn and onions over medium high heat for 4 minutes, let cool.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, and half-and-half in a large bowl.  Slowly add cornmeal and then ricotta.  Add basil, sugar, salt and pepper, then add in corn mixture and grated Cheddar.  Pour into the baking dish, then sprinkle remaining cheddar on top.

Here is where I venture away from Ina's recipe, which is odd because I tend to think of her as the Goddess of cooking.  Anyway, Ina calls for the dish to be placed in a large pan that is filled up halfway with hot water and to bake for 40-45 minutes.  This has never worked for me.  Ever!  So, I forgo the large pan of water and bake it for about an hour.  In fact, I always bake it for 45-1hr depending on if I am making Turkey or Beef at Christmas.  It is done when a knife comes out clean.

Stop by Beauty and Bedlam and Blessed with Grace for some other fabulous recipes!

Thanks for stopping by!  Please leave a comment so I can be sure to check out what you are cooking up this Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

My Biggest Quilt to Date, Part 4

I am really coming along now!  Matt took Eleanor down to his Mom's house this morning to give me some time to work on Christmas gifts by myself.  I sat down at the machine around 8 with my coffee and did not stop until 1:30!  I am also rapidly working my way through Season 4 of Bones on Netflix.  I began my laying my quilt blocks out in rows on my table, however I quickly realized that I as not going to have enough room to lay out the entire quilt
At this point I decided the best bet would be to move the quilt onto the floor.  Now, let me first say that my sewing room is also the playroom.  99.9% of the time this is ideal, Eleanor can play while I sew and often can sit and craft at my table.  Anyway, here is the condition of the playroom this morning (and most mornings if I am going to be real).  Also, I know I should not have anything stacked on the piano.
So, I had no choice but to clean up the playroom before I could lay out the quilt.  Here is my layout
The quilt is actually turning out to be bigger than I thought, which is a good thing!.  I am planning on doing at least 1 border maybe 2 so that will make it look bigger.  After laying it out I began to join the rows.  For the first time, I feel like this went smooth.  All of my blocks lined up, this is a first!  At this point I have pressed two of the rows and have 4 left; then I will need to connect the rows.  I did have 4 blocks left and I am thinking I will make a pillow and use the same border fabrics from the quilt on it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Teacher's Gifts

As a former teacher, I must say that I am now feeling even more appreciative of the gifts I received.  Do not get me wrong, I did always appreciate them, however I am not sure I ever thought about all the other gifts people were buying (I was single then and come from a small family).  Last year, after buying for all of our family and for Eleanor, I had a hard time finding nice yet inexpensive teacher gifts. This year, I am more on top of making gifts for her teachers.  I found this embroidery pattern and floursack dishtowels at JoAnn awhile ago
I ironed the transfer onto the bottom center of the dishtowel, I then used a basic embroidery stitch and embroidered over the transfer lines.  I was able to finish the first towel in one night
I also purchased these paper mache boxes and fabric to cover them with.  My plan is to Mod Podge the fabric onto the box, I am then going to paint the initial on the box.  I actually bought extras to make for my Mom, Aunt and Mother In Law to give as hostess gifts. 
As I looked closer at the fabric, I realized it is not just a basic Christmas toile but a Christmas toile with cats all over it.
While I have nothing personal against cats (I do have a very old one) however this was NOT what I was looking for.  I was fortunately able to exchange the fabric for a simple red with white polka dots.
So far I am quite excited with not only how these dishtowels look, but also with how easy the project is.  This is the perfect project for while I am watching TV.  I need to have them done my the second weekend in December and I think I will be able to meet this goal!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My Biggest Quilt to Date, Part 3

I am very happy with the way this quilt is progressing!  After sewing all the squares into 3x3 blocks
I then squared up the blocks and cut them in half each way
I then turned them in different directions to begin assembling them
My goal for this weekend is to begin assembling the blocks into rows.  I am feeling much better about this process after my squares went together smoothly.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Give Thanks Banner

I have seen lots of banners on blogs lately and just love the way they look.  I had big plans to make one out of fabric and then applique letters onto it.  That was, until I realized I could do it with paper MUCH easier.  While at our local craft store, I picked up 2 pieces each of these papers along with a packet of chipboard letters.
I spray painted the letters dark brown and cut the 12x12 pieces of paper into triangles.  I then glued the letters to the paper and punched holes in the corners.
I did have plans to embellish these, however I will do that for next year.  I have bigger hopes for Christmas banners, which is really my FAVORITE time of year.  I forgot to buy ribbon, however I make all of Eleanor's hairbows so I have plenty of ribbon.  I used 3/8" grosgrain to string them together and hang on the mantle.
Overall, I am happy with how it turned out.  The only thing that is starting to bug me on the mantle are the three pictures of Provence that are hanging. 
I bought these pictures years ago when we did not have Eleanor.  I had plans, at that time for our Living Room to be formal and our Family Room to be more casual.  Fast forward 6 years and we now have a 4 year old.  Our Family Room is now a wonderful playroom and sewing room.  Our Living Room now has our Family Room furniture and is more casual.  The silver color of the frames no longer works for me, however I am not sure I would like them as black.  I had the pictures matted and framed, so it is not so simple to just remove the frame to spray paint.  Also, the pictures are a bit crooked.  They all 3 came with different hanging mechanisms on the back.  So, not only did we have to find a way to level them in a house that is over 100 years old and NOT level, but we had to figure out how far each would hang down from the level line.  For sake of saving my marriage, I gave up at this point.  So, I need to decide if I want to paint them and if I have the patience to try and line them back up.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

My Biggest Quilt to Date, Part 2

So I made some real progress on my quilt the other night.  I was able to sew my blocks into threes like this:
These blocks went together much smoother than in the past, not sure why but I feel like I finally got the hang of getting them to line up smoothly.  I began pressing them and was able to put together a second block
This still needs pressed as do all the other blocks.  However, at this point, it was 11:30 and Eleanor is an early riser so I had to stop.  My plan for today is to press, press, and press some more so that I can get all the blocks done.  My saving grace for this project, and so many others, is Netflix Instant Streaming to my computer.  I have developed a strong love for Bones and I am now on Season 3.  I love that I can watch episode after episode - I have also taken to watching Bones while making dinner.  That needs to STOP, just not a good show for dinner prep:)
I just found out that our family Christmas party will take place the second weekend in December.  This puts a bit of a rush on me getting the quilt done.  Of course, I also have lots of other gifts to get cracking on.  Thank goodness for a cold, snowy day to sew!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Christmas Block of the Month

Back in June or July, I decided to join the Fat Quarter Shop Designer Mystery Block of the Month.  As I have mentioned before, I am very new to quilting.  I have been sewing for a long time, however quilting is new to me.  Anyway, one could say I should have waited until I knew what I was doing, however I say why not?  Heck, I liked the fabrics and it is going in my house.  That way, years from now, I can have better quilts compared to the ones I am working on now.  It will be like documenting my progress.  Here is my first block to be completed:

It went better than many of my previous blocks, however it is a tad small.  I have no clue what to do here.  My pieces were all cut correct and I have triple checked my 1/4" seam allowance.  I am nervous about when I need to put it all together, however we shall see.  I have 3 other blocks to work on, however I am way behind.  I will document it here as I get them done.
Also, last month Fat Quarter Shop had a Twitter special on the 12 Days of Christmas line by Kate Spain.  I stocked up to make pillows and a banner for the living room.  The table runner of the month club I joined also has this fabric for the Christmas runner.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Autumn Nutmeg Chicken

I happen to have a strong love for my slow cookers.  Yes, that was plural because I own four - my husband's friends Mom is going to give me more.  They all range in sizes from really small to really big.  I love slow cooker meals.  If I could make dinner in one every night, I would.  My husband, not so much.  I tend to use mine year round.  They are great in the summer when we have been out all day and I do not want to cook.  Along with my love of slow cookers, I also love Gooseberry Patch books.  They always have great recipes and craft ideas.  One of my favorite Gooseberry Patch books is the "Slow Cooker Recipes" cookbook.  I made this for dinner last night and thought it was fabulous.  I did not take a picture so I copied a picture from another site. 

6 boneless chicken breasts
1 to 2 T oil (I used olive)
1 onion, chopped
1/4 C fresh parsley, minced
2 10 3/4 oz cans cream of mushroom soup (I use fat free ones)
1/2 C sour cream (I use fat free)
1/2 C milk (I use fat free)
1 T nutmeg (I grate mine fresh, it is so much better)
1/4 t each dried sage, rosemary, thyme

In a skillet, over medium heat, brown the chicken n oil; reserve drippings.  Arrange chicken in bottom of slow cooker; set aside.  Saute onion and parsley in drippings until onion is tender.  Add remaining ingredients, mix well and pour over chicken.  Cover and cook on low setting for 5 hours until chicken is done.  Serve over cooked rice.

I absolutely loved this.  Eleanor is not into the sauce on her chicken, so I simply cut up some and served hers with the rice.  For us I poured the sauce over the rice and chicken.  I did not brown the chicken because I forgot to defrost it (common problem here).  I have always read to add 2 hours to the cooking time when using frozen meat, however this was still done in 5 hours. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

I am participating in my first blog link, the Tasty Tuesday Parade of Foods over at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam.  I absolutely love new recipes and have found tons of great ones off of many blogs.  This recipe is from a magazine, however I cannot remember which one.  I have adapted it slightly for my needs.  I made 10 loaves yesterday the bake sale at my daughter's preschool today.  It is so moist and easy.

Combine the following ingredients together:
2 Cups Sugar
2 Cups Canned Pumpkin
1/2 Cup Canola Oil (I have also used Vegetable Oil)
1/2 Cup Vanilla Pudding
4 Egg Whites

In a separate bowl, sift together:
3 Cups All-Purpose Flour
2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking Soda

Add the dry mix into the wet mix, mixing just until moist.

Stir in 1 Cup semisweet chocolate chips (I use milk chocolate if that is what I have)

Split the batter between 2 greased 8x4-inch loaf pans.  Bake at 350 for 1h15min.  Let cool for 10 min and then remove from pan, cool completely.

I almost always freeze one of the loaves.  For yesterday I made it in mini (1 3/4 Cup capacity) loaf pans.  I decreased the cooking time to 1 hr.  I was able to get 5 mini loaves out of one batch.  Enjoy!
There are lots of other fabulous recipes listed, please click here and check them out!
**I forgot to take a picture so I borrowed one from the internet, it is from EHow**

My Biggest Quilt To Date

So, I am starting on my first "big" quilt. Up to this point, I have primarily done small quilts for Eleanor's dolls or table runners. While in Lancaster County in September, I bought two charm packs to put together a smallish throw for my sister. I have not been quilting long enough for my quilts to be worth me sending off to be quilted, so my main goal is making a quilt that I can quilt on my machine. A couple of months ago I made my sister and her husband some pillows for their living room. I had quite a bit of fabric left over, so I cut it into 5" squares with the goal of making a quilt in the future. While in Lancaster, I picked up these charm packs
I have been holding onto these charm packs, and the pillow remnants, for some time now hoping to come up with a quilting idea. I knew I wanted something relatively simple, however not just simple patches. About a month ago a link to this video was posted on Twitter. The Disappearing Nine Patch was perfect for what I had and I was told it would be good for beginners like me! As November is arriving, I decided I needed to get cracking on gifts! I originally had planned on using both fabrics from the pillows, however the one fabric was a burnout and had lots of stretch. After sewing one set, I realized it was going to be too stretchy and difficult. So, I reworked it all, and here is my first 9 patch

The center block is puckered a bit on the lower left side, this happens to me every so often and I am not sure why. I press, I pin, I am slew. Who knows! Hopefully it will stop and some point:) The bottom center square is the print that is used in the pillows. Once I have all the blocks finished (hopefully by the end of the month) I am going to decide if I want it to be larger and need to add other fabrics.