Friday, August 30, 2013

Sea Shells by the Sea Shore

Oh, I could get lost in the serenity of this quilt.  The colors, the sea shells; I can almost smell the wonderful sea breeze. Part of that might be because I purchased the fabrics while in San Diego, but I'd like to think it's the quilt. ;)

I am so excited to have this one finished, for a couple of reasons. First, I love the fabrics in this quilt.  It's made almost completely from leftovers of another quilt I made, and they are so soft and calming.  Second, I tried hand stitching the binding, which was a very slow process but I learned a lot from it and am now thinking about applique projects I might be interested in trying.  Later. Not now. I just don't have time for that right now.  It felt like the binding took f-o-r-e-v-e-r...

I'm not a huge fan of patterns, I've mentioned that before, so I kind of made this up on my own as I went. I like how it turned out.  The brown is a little bold, but so is the pink so they can balance each other out.

The backing was a bargain fabric that I blogged about here, and I am in love with it. Too bad I didn't buy more. :)  I wanted to do a simple quilting pattern, so I just did a medium-sized meander on the shells and left the solid colors alone. It seems to compliment the pattern and the feel of the fabric well, and I was really happy with how it turned out.

Then it came time to do the binding. I blogged about the binding here, and was hoping to have it finished within a couple of days.  No luck. Too many distractions and the slow pace of being a new hand-stitcher really slowed down progress.  I am pleased with how it turned out, although it does feel  like I have a lot more practice to do before I am confident in my hand-stitching skills. Since I already had all of the equipment out, I decided to hand-stitch the label, too (something I don't usually do).  That went very quickly and turned out nice.  I am super happy that I decided to do that.

This quilt really came together nicely.  It makes me want to go back to the beach. Here we are at the end of summer though, so this quilt will have to get me through until we can go back next summer. I am linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish Friday.  Have a great weekend, and thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

My Fabric Stash

A few people have been blogging about the organization of their stashes, and showed photo's of what they did and how they did it.  I was curious.  Could I improve the system I had?  It's something that is constantly evolving, so shouldn't the organization evolve, too?
When my daughter was born, all my fabric went into bins and were shoved into her closet until I could figure out something better. But, every day during nap time I would be inspired to do something and couldn't because it was all in her room.  Sooo...

I decided to pull it all out and display it; in my front room (which also happens to be my sewing room). We have a couple of black shelving units that, pre-children, were filled with photo albums and decorative knick-knacks. Children arrived and it became filled with toy baskets and children's books. So, on the very top shelf, where little hands can't quite reach yet, I folded and stacked my stash by color and genre.

This first shelf includes multi-colored and whites as well as 1930's repro's, orientals, halloween, christmas, batiks (a very small and measly amount), and westerns (already thinking of a bunch of ideas for those!).

The second shelf includes my rainbow of fabrics.  I only have 2 orange pieces in my stash, and I snagged both of those from my mom's stash. I have a lot more brown's and yellows than I would have thought, and not as many blues as I would have thought.  It has been interesting to see all of it laid out like this.  I think it will be easier for me to use up, though, which was one of my goals for myself this year.

Admittedly, this isn't quite all of it.  I still have a bin with leftovers from quilts I have finished, and another bin filled with fabric sets I plan to turn into quilts eventually. I also have a couple of projects boxes that are in the works, even if that only means the fabric has been sorted and the pattern selected. Even still, it's a pretty sad little stash.  Maybe some day I will accumulate more.  For now, I am hoping I can get some smaller projects done with everything out here for me to work on.

I am linking up with Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday. This is definitely a work in progress, and hopefully some of that progress will be getting these beauties into some quilts. :)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Monday Mealtime, Delayed

It seems more and more, I put things off for "later in the day", but when "later in the day" comes I have forgotten to do whatever it was I needed to do.  This post is one of those times.  I had everything ready to go, I just forgot to actually do it. :/ No worries, because I'm doing it now.  Better late than never, right?!?
I actually posted a couple of weeks ago about trying to can my own peaches. I was so nervous about it. How would they look? Would they seal? How would they taste when we pull them out of their jars? So many questions, and I didn't even list the ones about how to actually DO the canning. So, I had to just jump in and do it.
I started by blanching the peaches and peeling the skins off.  I only had 6-8 peaches for this first try so I could see how it goes. All but one of them peeled wonderfully.  Okay, step one done.  I sliced up the peeled peaches and put them into the jars (I opted for cold packing) and then I heated up the sugar water mix.
Of course, this whole time I had the hot-water bath going so it was ready for the jars. Once the syrup was ready, I poured it into the jars with the fruit, but the lids on, threw them into the hot-water bath and crossed my fingers I had done everything right. I waited the prescribed amount of time and pulled them out to cool.  I got my pings and knew they had sealed, but it was just a matter of whether they taste alright. You can see there was still room in those jars, but when you're filling them, it doesn't feel that way.  Next time I will overfill them in hopes they will settle again and fit perfectly.

I was a little afraid to open the jar to find out if they were any good.  I finally got the courage and opened one up.  It smelled good, so I served it up for myself the kids and we tried them out. Well, they were a hit! It was a little too sweet for my taste and I might look into using juice next time, but the kids LOVED them! They wanted more and more.  I only got to taste one piece because they ate the rest. I am so glad it went well.  I am feeling more confident now and am ready to try pears. We'll see how that goes.

No more pictures, Mom, let's eat!

I did refer to a couple of websites to help me out.  I found PickYourOwn the most helpful, but I also referred to Food In Jars Canning 101when I had questions about things that seemed odd or didn't make sense.

Okay, this turned out to be a super long post, but I was super excited about this! I can't believe how easy it was to can! I am really looking forward to doing this again, and with more produce. Maybe I can get some real stock built up to "last through the winter".  ;)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Change of Pace

My son't birthday is coming up and we decided to have a little birthday party this year for him.  We are inviting some other kids to come out and play for a couple of hours; enjoy some cupcakes and ice cream and, in a way, say goodbye to summer (although kids here have been in school for a few weeks already).
I wanted to put some invitations together, but not to anything fancy.  It is a kids party after all. I went through my collection of stamps and found "Birthday Invitation" and "It's Your Day" from Close to my Heart, which are both invitation collections. I combined these two to create the layout.

As I looked at the paper's I had chosen, I realized they looked kind of geometric and a little retro, so I went with a circle in the background to frame the cake, and a more retro looking cake stand and candles.
I used a retired Stampin' Up punch to make the layers of the cake and then used pop-up stickers to give the card some dimension. These little guys whipped up pretty quickly.  They are already in the mail and on their way to the recipients. Here's hopin' it's a fun day with nice weather.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Bear Paw in the Honey Jar

Working on names for this beauty. I figured I would play off of the bear paw pattern and the honey, honey fabric line I'm using to make it.  I suppose "Bear Paw in the Honey Jar" is a little long, but maybe there's some way I can shorten it a bit. I'm at the layout stage (these pictures were taken at about 11pm, so sorry for the bad lighting).  It's a lot easier to see what needs to change when you look at a picture instead of looking at the real thing.  I'm not sure why? Maybe because it's smaller and easier to see how the colors are working together?

It's like my eye needs to figure out what the bright color is and where it's concentrated.  At the end of the day, the changes I made are probably only things I can see. But, they are also things I would probably obsess over after-the-fact so, better to take the time now.

Okay, that's it! That's the one! Now to sew all the sashing on and see if I can't get this baby finished.  Maybe by next month? ;)

Still working on the rainbow quilt. Pressing my luck to see if I might be able to find more fabric, or at least some nice complimentary fabric to use for a border. The hand-stitched binding of the beach quilt is coming along; I only have one short side left.  I can do it!

I am also trying to figure out how to re-work my stash so it's easier to see everything I have.  Having it organized in bins is nice, but not helpful when it comes to motivation or last minute fill-ins. It also limits me when, on the rare occasion, I am inspired to do a small project like a little bag or basket. Let's see what we can do.

So, busy, busy.  I have been quite distracted by my son's upcoming birthday as well.  It will be his first party with friends, so it's exciting! I am linking up with Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday.  Looking forward to seeing what everyone else is working on.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Little Piece of Bliss!

So, I was experimenting with a recipe I found on Favorite Family Recipes called Hawaiian Beef Teriyaki.  I liked that it was real simple to marinate and cook, and the meat was really soft and tasty.  I was really happy with the recipe, but I couldn't help but wonder what else I could do with it.  I had leftovers and was playing around and decided to make a sandwich.  I thickened the sauce a little, and O-M-G!
You need to know the quick back-story.  There's a restaurant in town called Risky Business.  There used to be one right up the street, but they closed and now the only locations are about an hour away; too far with 2 little ones in tow. It's exciting when I get to go, though, because they have a sandwich called the Steak San Diego.  It's such a wonderful balance of sweet and savory, and I just cannot get enough of it!
So, I bit into this little creation I came up with and was utterly speechless (mostly because I couldn't stop eating) at the fact that it tasted just like my favorite sandwich! I can actually have this at home whenever I want! YEAH! On top of that, it's pretty simple to make, and something that you can put together during nap time so it's ready to cook and serve at dinner time.  Love that!

My Version of the Steak San Diego

1 15oz can pineapple chunks with juice
1 c soy sauce
3/4 c brown sugar
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
1lb skirt (or sirloin) steak, very thinly sliced*
2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 c water
8 slices provolone cheese
4 rolls

Mix together the pineapple with juice, the soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, and ginger. Reserve 1/2 c of the sauce mix; cover and refrigerate.  Add beef to the marinade and refrigerate at least 4 hours.  On prepared grill at medium-high heat, grill steak about 1-2 minutes to desired doneness. Remove and place in large saucepan. (I have also cooked this on the stove top in a pan and it also works great!)
Add reserved sauce to the meat and heat to a simmer. Mix water and cornstarch together and add it to the meat. Heat through and allow sauce to thicken.
Meanwhile, toast the rolls with 2 slices of cheese on each. Add the meat to the roll and serve. If desired, serve with pineapple slices (grilled or not).  You can also saute some onions and add that to the sandwich; tastes amazing.

*Quick Tip: To slice meat super thin, put it in the freezer for a little bit before cutting.  You don't want it frozen solid, but it's easier to slice thin if it's a little more firm on the outside.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Hand Stitching the Binding. Why?

For years many of my fellow quilters have been trying to get me to try hand-binding a quilt.  I admit, it looks really nice to have a clean, invisible finish to a quilt, but man is it time-consuming.  And let's face it, with kiddos at home you just don't have much time.  My priority has always been elsewhere.

Then I started working on my latest seashell quilt.  I am really trying to use up the fabric I have (the top is made completely from leftovers from a previous quilt) and I only had enough fabric left in the blue to make a 2 1/4 inch binding. Pretty small.  So, to maximize my fabric's capabilities, I decided it was time to try this hand-binding thing.

First, I need to get the cat off the quilt.  He was holding it hostage until I handed out the good treats. :)  Once I got the cat off, I pulled out my needle, thread, and scissors and got to work. That first night I learned the value of a thimble.  My finger was literally bloody from working the needle, and I only got one side done in 2 hours! This was going to take a while.

The next day I bought a thimble and was back to work.  I am getting faster and managed to finished the second side in half the time (of course it was half the length, but I am sure that's not related, right?!?).  The third night I almost finished the third side, and now I am super close to being done.  What usually takes me an hour or so has taken a few days.  I have to admit, though, it looks super awesome and professional.  I still need to work on my stitches, but this has me interested in applique work (something else I have been dreading) and I am feeling better about giving that a shot next.  When I find the time. ;)

Linking up with Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday. I am really hoping to have a finish to report by the end of the week.  We'll see...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Crispy Oven Baked Chicken

So, everyone has their own way of making crispy chicken.  It could be bread crumbs, or crackers, or in our house, corn flakes.  The trick is making chicken that is juicy and not dried out. Chicken that is flavorful, not bland. So many years of trying to figure out how to make a good baked chicken that is yummy and people want more of and finally, I found the winner!
A couple of years ago, when my daughter was born, family friends came to visit and meet the new addition.  She made this wonderful chicken, and I wanted to replicate it. I've tried several things to get it just right, and found a couple of tricks to enhance the flavors. Now, it has become a regularly requested meal.  Even the kids are on this meal; we just call them chicken nuggets and they are all over it. It's a real versatile dish, too. I can pair it with potato salad, mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, french fries, and all sorts of other wonderful things!

Crispy Oven Baked Chicken
4 chicken breasts (I use 2 tenders per breast instead)
3 c corn flakes
2 eggs, scrambled
1 Tbs water
2 c flour
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt (or garlic salt)
4 Tbs butter

Preheat the oven to 375F. Crush the corn flakes in a plastic bag with a rolling pin and place them in a bowl. In a second bowl, combine the 2 eggs with the water.  In a third bowl, combine the flour with the pepper and salt.  Have a baking dish buttered and ready for the chicken to be placed into. Finally, pat the chicken dry. Now, you are ready to start dipping chicken.
Dip the chicken in the flour mix.  Coat it completely, and then dip it into the egg.  Finally, dip it into the corn flake mix and place it into the baking dish.  Repeat this process for each of the chicken pieces. When finished, place the chicken into the oven for 40-50 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink. About 5 minutes before the chicken is pulled out of the oven, melt the butter.  When the chicken is finished, pull it out and pour the melted butter evenly on each piece of chicken.  Let it sit for a few minutes before serving (it needs time to rest and become a little more crusty).

Monday, August 5, 2013

Trying New Things

I have been experimenting with all sorts of things lately.  I have been looking through my recipes and am finding a large number of them include onion soup mix or cream of something soup.  In my pursuit to find alternatives, I have found that beef bouillon has MSG in it, as does onion soup mix. I'll have to keep looking.  I have found some cream soup recipes, including methods to make them in large batches that I am going to try out.  I'll keep you posted as I see what works.

In the meantime, I have really wanted to try more of the canning.  I tried one of the jars of jam I made, and it turned out better than I thought.  The kids really liked it! They were asking for more! Fantastic! I will continue practicing that.  But I also wanted to try canning whole peaches and pears. Soo...

I got everything ready and plan to try it out tomorrow.  I have read a few different methods of cool packing and hot packing, and of course methods on skinning, which I have never tried either. It should be all new and interesting.  Hoping it goes well.

In the meantime, I had to make some of these chocolate-peanut buttery yummies.  I'm just playing with the recipe for now, but I am hoping to add it to my recipe box soon. My son thinks they are pretty awesome and was willing to do extra chores and eat extra veggies at dinner to get some of these little guys. Rock on!

So, I guess it's time to get back to the serious business of taste-testing my latest creation. Hoping to have more finished with the canning, etc., next week!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Can't Decide on Layouts

So, I am working on this new quilt and I am so super stumped on how to layout the blocks.  I still have some more fabric and want to make a few more blocks, but I don't want to commit/cut anything until I am ready.  The different choice could change what blocks I cut and sew.  These are not the best pictures, sorry. My best quilting time is usually around 10pm.

So, option #1:

And, option #2:

I am trying for a 'rainbow of flowers' type of look.  What do you think?  Leave me a comment on which you like best, or if there's another layout I haven't thought of yet and might be super cool! Thanks so much!

I am linking up with Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday.  Hoping there is some good advice over there :).

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Cat's Meow

This quilt evolved from an unfortunate addiction to buying fabric, and too much of it to boot. It was a lot of fun to work with, though.  Here's what happened; my Mom found this Cat fabric line at Hancock's and loved it so much, she literally purchased the bolts. We weren't sure what we would do with it, but figured it would come to us.
Fast forward a couple years and I came across these cute color-on-color fabrics at JoAnn's. I immediately thought of these Cat fabrics, and wondered if they would go well together in a quilt. I had been wanting to try the Churn Dash pattern, and decided to go for it.

I really was trying to maximize the use of the fabric.  It's very bright and fun.  When I made it, I really had no idea what it would be for, other than great practice, but my daughter just loves it! She likes all the kitty faces on the pink fabric the best.

The orange border helped break up the cat fabric a bit, and really jumps out at you.  (Can you tell the different days of pictures? Some sunny days, some rainy days; neither provided good light. Oh well).

Again, trying to use up as much of the fabric as possible, I pieced together some of the fabric on the back.

I also got to practice some quilting.  I made my own cat templates.  They kind of look like snowmen with pointy ears on top.  It was some of my early quilting, so not my best, but it turned out pretty well.  I was very happy with it. 

The crazy thing is, I still have more fabric left.  Six years later I am still not sure what to do with the fabric that's still left. 

I am linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish Friday. Look forward to seeing what everyone else has finished up. Have a great weekend!