Monday, April 14, 2014

Less Sugar, Good...

We were running out of homemade jam, in fact we had run out of jam, so it was time to whip up a new batch.  After my first attempt with canning jam I practiced a lot with whole fruits.  Now, it was time to go back to using pectin.

I was a little worried because it didn't go well the first time, but I was feeling good and things went well.  They turned out bright and well-jelled.  Great consistency. Now I was ready for the next step; I wanted to try using less sugar.

I had read on a couple blogs about Pomona Pectin, including my fave Mel's Kitchen, and found it by accident at a local cooking store. Time to try it out...

I had some trouble following directions at first (surprise, surprise) but it seemed my mistakes were masked and it came out nicely. I am excited to taste it! The leftovers in the pot tasted wonderful so I'm pretty optimistic.

The strange thing is that the package said it should make 4 - 5 jars, but not quite. I got 2 and a small jar. I am going to try adding more fruit next time to see if that still works with the amounts of pectin and sugar.  Continue with the experimenting.  Love it!

I joined up with the Barnhop at Prairie Homestead.  Come check out all the great ideas for at-home projects.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

New Block Challenge

I have not done a Block of the Month since maybe...2007? It was time.  But, I was interested in trying something a little different.  I think I found it.

All of the BOM's I've done in the past were very prescribed, which was good when I was first learning to quilt.  They handed me the fabric and patterns and told me to cut here and sew there and make your block look like the picture, and like everyone else's in the group.  I learned soooo much about quilting from these get-togethers, but it was time for something new.

I've been looking on-line at some of the quilt-alongs, but they tend to move too quickly, and I struggle with keeping up, or getting the fabric in time. It also seems that the LQS's here don't do much of the BOM's anymore, or I miss them.

So, one of our shops, Quilters Market (awesome shop! Great fabric and people!) is hosting a BOM, but with a different approach. Basically, each month they give you two pieces of fabric that is not enough to complete the whole block.  They also give you a vague pattern/outline of how your pieces should be sewn together. They talk a little about construction and add a couple of tips, and then send you on your way to create. Everyone's blocks, consequently, come out very different.  Everyone gets to see their own pattern, design, and ideas in the fabric and pattern.

This Block Buster, Round #7, is called Aloha. The colors are tropical and the theme, for me, that immediately popped into my head was flowers. So...

My goal is to see flowers in each block pattern we receive. I immediately started thinking about how a flower could appear in this one.  Do you see it? There are actually two.  Maybe this angle is better...

I wanted to put the dark blue on bottom and lighter blue up above, but the fabric pieces we got wouldn't let that happen, so this is how it worked out. I added the green and the yellow, and I'm hoping I will have enough of each of those for all twelve blocks. I pulled from my stash; yeah for me, bad if I run out. The only thing I might change later on in the process is to add a little pink to the corners where the yellow "L's" are, just to break it up a bit.  We'll see what happens down the line.

Okay, I talked a lot. I am just so excited about this project! I haven't done anything like this in such a long time! I can't wait for the next block! My only glitch is what to do with 2 little ones while I'm at class. Dad might have to work a little over time for me...Mama needs to get her BlockBuster goin'!

That's just one of the projects I have going on right now. Lots of distractions. I'm linking up with Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday. Can't wait to see what everyone else is up to.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Time to Move In

Sounds more exciting than it is, I suppose.  It does feel like a whole new home, though, when you move into a new purse. I don't change that stuff up very often, so it's pretty exciting when I do.

I was able to put this bad boy together pretty quickly.  It was something that I could piece quickly, and work on finishing touches here and there, which is something that's been a little more difficult when working on larger quilt projects.

I found this fabric in a neat shop in the Seattle area called Keepsake Cottage when I was visiting a few months ago. It's some Riley Blake prints that were on the clearance rack. I fell in love and was immediately envisioning a new purse out of them. The lining is a Heather Bailey print that I also found in clearance.  Such fun prints!

I did a really simple quilting on it, and of course added a BUNCH of pockets! When adding the pockets and straps on the exterior, I realized the striping would match up perfect and I couldn't resist.  It was totally accident, but it worked great!

The straps are a little longer than I would like, but it's all good! Now, I have a new bag and I can get back to work on the quilts I need/want to get done. I only have a mountain of project ideas that are calling to me.  Hopefully I can whittle that pile down a bit in the next couple of months. Here's to Spring Time Energy! Sunshine don't fail me now!

I'm linking up with NTT at My Quilt Infatuation and Finish Friday with Crazy Mom Quilts! Can't wait to see what everyone else is finishing up.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hooked on Bags

I am so hooked on bags right now, and I am not quite sure why. This most recent project is a result of my son commenting on how bad my current bag is looking. He was putting stickers over some of the worn spots.  Have you ever loved a bag that much?  It's hard to move onto a new one, but it's definitely time.

So I started working on this little number.  Yes, it's big! I am still a Mom of youngin's and I need lots of things, like diapers and anti-bacterial wash, etc. After getting it all finished, though, I decided it's too tall.  I am going to go back and shorten it a bit and re-attach the zipper.  For the record, I hate attaching zippers.  They are quite fussy and take time, patience, and of course a lot of practice. I guess I'd better get back to it.

I started taking pictures of the bag and decided it was more fun to take pictures of this...

We are really taking advantage of this wonderful weather we are having. Other than some wicked wind, it's been pretty awesome! Hard to stay inside when you have that right out your door.

Hope everyone is having a great week! I'm linking up with Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday. Can't wait to see what everyone is working on.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Chicken Manicotti

We've all had traditional Cheese Manicotti, and oh my, they are good!  My husband, however, is not a huge fan.  Too much cheese he says. So, this dish was put together in an effort to find a balance between his taste buds and mine. It turned out pretty awesome!

Manicotti is such a cool pasta. Giant Penne-like pasta (my favorite!) that can be stuffed with your favorite fillings. The delectable layers of cheese, the tang of the yummy marinara sauce! Even my kids are all over this one! So much delicious flavor packed into one pasta tube. This meal also freezes well and re-heats like a dream.  Make it over the weekend and then pop it in the oven on a busy weeknight! It also makes a wonderful 'care package' dish; just pre-cook and then leave instructions to re-heat in the oven at 350 for about 30-40 minutes, or until it starts to bubble. Nice garden salad on the side with a little garlic bread and you have a power pasta meal that will make everyone in the house cheer!

The preparation on this meal is very flexible, too.  You can slice your own chicken, or buy pre-sliced chicken in the your meat department (like fajita-cut chicken without the spices on it).  You can also use pre-shredded cheese (guilty) or you can shred your own from a block. I like the mix that pre-shredded offers, which is why I use it, but it's not necessary. You can easily shred your own mix.

What's important is that you LOVE this dish! It will be awesome! It's quick, tastes fabulous, and makes great leftovers, if they make it that far!

Chicken Manicotti

2 chicken breasts, sliced lengthwise into 1" pieces (about 12 pieces)
1 pkg manicotti noodles
2 cups italian cheese blend, divided
1 container (15 oz) ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp garlic salt
2 pints (1 quart) marinara sauce

Cook the noodles as directed on the package. Set them aside on a cookie sheet in a pan to cool. Get a large glass baking dish, 9 x 13, and spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, 1 cup shredded cheese, pepper, and garlic salt. With a large piping tip, fill a piping bag with your cheese mix and set aside.
Take a noodle and place a chicken strip inside lengthwise. Next, pipe cheese into the noodle, filling any space that that was left after the chicken was added. Place it inside your baking dish and repeat. Continue this until all your noodles are filled and your baking dish is full, about 12.
Pour your marinara sauce over the top, making sure all the noodles are covered. Sprinkle the reserved cup of cheese over the top. Place it in an oven pre-heated to 375 for about 25-30 minutes, or until you see bubbling and the cheese is melted. Remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes before serving.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Curious George Wall Hangings

I always seem to end up with leftovers from quilt projects.  I'm not talking about a few scraps, I'm talking half-yard cuts! It's not a bad thing because I know I can find things to do with them.  The bad part is that often they get put into my scrap box and not looked at again for a loooong time. I have been trying very hard to make sure this doesn't happen on my projects in the last year.

That brings me to my latest finish. Now, I didn't have the crazy leftover yardage on this one that I typically do, but I still had some left that I wanted to use up.  Of course, I started by making these pillowcases to match the quilt I made, but still ended up with a few pieces.

What to do, what to do...

Oh ya! Wall hangings! What a great way to add some color to a room with a favorite childhood character! It would also be fabulous in a library or reading corner of a classroom or house! I went with a very modern pattern so that I could maximize the pieces I had left, but I also tried to keep it pretty simple.

The back is just as exciting! Frankly, as far as wall hangings go, the back could probably be used as well.  Great way to mix it up so it's not the same thing hanging all the time.  Just turn it around and you have a whole new look! Love when that happens.

I used the same type of quilting that I used on the original quilt, with the addition of some bubble/circles along the red borders.  I also used the blue thread again, which I really like on the front, but is quite bold on the back. It's all good, though, it still looks pretty cool.

I also hand-stitched the binding because it was such a quick project and I wanted to make a thinner binding, which is always difficult to sew with the machine.  On the longer hanging I also added tabs to make it easier to hang. I haven't tried this before, but I really liked how it worked out and will definitely try it again.

I am super happy with how these turned out. I kind of figured out the layout as I went, and I love doing that! I also feel good when I can use up the fabric I have left from a project so it's not laying around.  I always dream of doing a Trip Around the World with scraps, but I don't know if I have it in me to be that brave with colors. Who knows.

So now it's on to making myself a new purse. My son has been pointing out how old my other one is looking; they're so sweet like that, right? :) It gives me a chance to practice my pattern some more, and use some delicious fabrics I purchased at Keepsake Cottage in Seattle area when I visited a few months ago. More to come on all that.

I'm linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts for Finished Friday! Come on by and check out what everyone's been up to. I also have these listed on Etsy. Love to have you come by and check out the shop! Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Sweet Thank You's

I am so behind. I feel like I have been chasing everything since this year started. It's like I slept thru a couple days and haven't been able to get caught up. I hate that feeling, but I am happy to say I am one step closer to being 'caught up' as of today.

Yes, that's right, I actually finished a task that's been gnawing at me for weeks. I finished and wrote the Thank You cards I made for my daughters birthday. I pride myself on sending out thank you's quickly, and I think this time it was particularly upsetting. Never again, I tell you! I need to have a few packs of Thank You's just waiting to be used. Unfortunately, I never feel like my pre-mades are the right fit and end up making something new.  These fit that scenario.

I actually made a similar card as Thank You's for gifts I received when my daughter was born. I really liked the design, and the particular stamp set, Buttons and Bits from Papertrey Ink Stamps. It has been such a fun set!! I made announcements, thank you's, and a set of invitations! I am sure there are tons of other things I can do with it, too.

I started with cream cardstock, although white would have worked great, too. I used a coral-pink paper that I stamped with a confetti pattern in the same color, and a deep grassy green paper from my scrap stash (yes, even cardmaking utilizes scraps, those can be some of the funnest cards!)

I stamped the cupcake in black ink on cream cardstock to match, and colored it in with Stampin' Up's chalks (you could also use colored pencils). I fussy-cut the cupcake and adhered it to the card. I stamped the sentiment on the coral-pink strip, and the final touch; I put the 'cherry' button on top! I found these beauties at Joann's and they are perfect!

Such fun making this card! It's simple, yet sweet and fun. It's also perfect for a sentiment from a little girl that's growing up way too fast! Now I can mark that off my list of to-do's and move on to the next thing. The list seems to get longer instead of shorter; what's up with that!?! It's all good; back to it!