Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Tea Time with the Cats

I'm so excited! This week, I finished my Bear Paw in the Honey Quilt top and now I get to start something new until I get it basted for quilting.  What to do, what to do...

I have had this collection of fabric for Y-E-A-R-S! I think my mom bought it about 10 years ago, and there's actually still more that's pink and still on the bolt, but it was in my sleeping daughters bedroom so I couldn't get it out for the pictures. I have been thinking about what to do with this fabric for a long time, and while re-organizing my stash I came across the black fabric with the cat faces and mice faces on it. All of a sudden, the idea of teacups popped into my head.  Wouldn't it be cute if...

So, I searched on-line for a pattern and found this site. She did a wonderful job describing what size the pieces necessary should be cut to and how to assemble it all.  I ended up having to make some small modifications, but overall it was very smooth.  These are my test blocks.

She actually had mugs and teacups, but I only want teacups for this quilt. I actually thought about adding saucers, but I want to finish a few blocks and give myself some time to think about sashing and borders and the like. Until then, I am just going to enjoy the simplicity of cutting and piecing some blocks together. Should be a nice day.

I'm linking up with Freshly Pieced today for WIP Wednesday. Looking forward to seeing what everyone is working on right now.  Getting ready for the holidays yet? I haven't even thought beyond Halloween. I guess I'd better get to work.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Whole Wheat Pancakes

This last week has been rough.  My oldest came down with Croup; my first round with this.  He's the kind of kid that rarely gets sick, and doesn't complain much when he's not feeling well, so I knew it was bad. I didn't get much done last week because I was taking care of him while trying to keep my daughter healthy. No luck; we seem to be onto round two.  I guess she'll be down for the count this week.  Good thing I have these healthy, yummy pancakes I can make for them.

Being stuck at home, I was playing around with my regular recipes and decided to try my pancake recipe with whole wheat instead of white flour.  They turned out so super yummy! My son even asked for seconds! I was happy I found something he wanted to eat, and couldn't get enough of. Over the weekend, I made pancakes again and forgot to do the whole wheat flour thing.  He asked where the wheat was.  Love him!

I actually didn't use only whole wheat.  I mixed white and whole wheat half and half. I also found that these don't reheat as well if you have leftovers.  The originals reheat pretty well, which is nice for someone like me who can't handle wasting any food. Clearly, my son is willing to help me clean everything up. Maybe some more pancakes? Oh yeah!

I am trying out a new blog link-up at The Prairie Homestead. Come and check out all the cool things everyone is up to.  Such a neat idea for tips to live more simply. I'm on my way to go see what everyone's up to, too. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Trying my Hand at Canning Pears

You know those recipes that you avoid for the longest time because you are certain if it's something you can buy at the store it must be difficult to make at home? I have had that problem with pancakes, biscuits, cream-of soups, and now canned fruit. Peaches were a little difficult because of the time of year; heating up the kitchen was not enticing at all.  Pears on the other hand, me-oh-my they are a cinch!  Peel and slice, place in jars with heated juice, keep in boiling water bath for 30 minutes, and cool. The kids absolutely love them, and we'll have wonderful, fresh pears to enjoy for the next few weeks.

I think I might need to make another trip to the store while they are cheap and get some more pears. This batch used 11 bartlett pears, about 6 lbs. They will be great for pies this winter and, of course snacking all the time. I have been using a couple of websites so far for help, including Pick Your Own and Food In Jars.  There have been others, but these seem to be the ones that are most useful so far.  They recommend heat-packing, but I have chosen to cool-pack the fruit and so far I haven't had any problems.  I am careful to heat up the juice to a boil (I didn't like the sugar/syrup when we tried that, although the kids sure liked it; the fruit tasted candied), and I keep the jars in the boiling water bath for the prescribed amount of time for our elevation.  I am hoping eventually I can get some tutorials together once I've really perfected my skill.  Until then, it's back to practice, practice. So much fun!

I am trying out a new blog link-up at The Prairie Homestead. Come and check out all the cool things everyone is up to.  Such a neat idea for tips to live more simply. I'm on my way to go see what everyone's up to, too. Enjoy!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Honey Chicken Stir Fry

I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but... I LOVE CHINESE FOOD! At first, I think my husband thought it was cute, but he quickly realized it meant he needed to learn to love it as well. He's come a long way, but there are some things I still haven't sold him on.  This meal has made the cut and been bumped to the top of the list!

The honey in this recipe adds such a subtle sweetness.  The meat is succulent, the broccoli adds a freshness, and of course the almonds add a little texture.  It's also a very healthful meal, which is something I look for when cooking for the fam. Oh, I forgot to mention how quick it is! Less than a 30 minute meal; awesome!

I don't remember where I originally found this recipe, although I have made some changes to it. It started off with stir fry sauce, but I didn't like all the extra's in the sauce and wanted something a little more simple.  I replaced the sauce with some soy sauce, and it worked great! The salty flavor of the soy sauce with the sweet of the honey is fantastic! I also love that this recipe calls for one bag of broccoli pieces; the convenience of it is wonderful. I am sure fresh cooked broccoli would be wonderful, too.  If you try it, let me know. Next time you're craving a little chinese food, this is the meal for you.

Honey Chicken Stir Fry

1 lb chicken, cubed
3 Tbs cornstarch
1 bag broccoli florets
3 Tbs light soy sauce
1/4 c water
3 Tbs honey
crushed red pepper to taste
1/4 c almonds (or cashews or peanuts, if you prefer)

Toss the cubed chicken with cornstarch. Heat a couple tablespoons oil in a stir fry pan at medium-high heat. Once the oil is heated, add the chicken and stir fry for 10 minutes or until cooked through. It's important to keep the chicken moving in the pan so it doesn't stick or burn. Heat the broccoli in the microwave and set it aside.
Once the chicken is cooked through, add the soy sauce, water, honey, and red pepper (the pepper adds heat, so the hotter you want, the more you add).  Bring the sauce to a boil.  Stir in the broccoli and almonds, and you're ready to serve with some rice. Enjoy!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Dr Seuss Quilt

This quilt turned out to be more fun than I ever could have imagined! It was so much fun playing with layout and the fun colors and patterns! When I was finishing up the quilting, my son asked if it was going to be his quilt; I don't know if I'm ready to give it up yet. ;) Alas, he looked at me with his sweet, warm eyes and you can guess who's bed this quilt now drapes across. Oh well, it probably is more appropriate in a 4 year olds room.

Many months ago, I received a box of fabric from a dear friend and it included this set of Dr Seuss fabrics.  I wasn't sure what to do with it at first, but wanted to capitalize on the panel that came with it.  As I began cutting, the quilt kind of put itself together. I found the black-with-white-dot fabric at the LQS and it just worked perfect!

After I finished the main part of the quilt, I was wishing for more. I decided to add a border in a solid color. I went to the LQS to pick a color and surprised myself when I went for blue. I  thought red was going to be the color of choice. More evidence that it was meant to be my son's quilt I guess.

When it came to quilting, I was stumped once again with what to do. This quilt is so different than anything I've done before; I knew the quilting would have to be different, too. One night while working on another project, it came to me! This is a pretty modern-style quilt, it should have modern-style quilting.  It was like giving myself license to have fun and be a little wild with my stitching. I used bubbles on one fabric, clamshell scoops on another, squares on another (the scariest one, but it turned out awesome!), horizontal squiggly lines, and finally diagonal squiggly lines on the last. I left the panel blocks alone because I didn't want to impede on the pictures. It was sooo much fun!! I love how it looks and I got a lot of practice in of the different FMQ techniques! I am no longer afraid of squares, bubbles, or clamshells! Yeah!

I decided to hand bind this one.  It is just too special not to. I used simple black (they were out of the black dot fabric and I didn't have enough to finish the binding) and it worked really well.  Created a great frame for the border to pull it into the quilt. The hand-binding went a lot faster than last time.  I'm either getting better or the black did a great job at hiding my poor stitching. Either way, it turned out fantastic!

I am so happy this quilt, and am so excited to share it with everyone! I am linking up with Crazy Mom Quils for Finished Friday! Hope everyone has a great weekend! Let me know what you think of this fun finish!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Finishing the Bear

I am finally closing in on finishing my Bear in the Honey Quilt.  I feel like I've been working on this quilt for a while.  It started as a pseudo quilt-a-long at a LQS, Quilters Market, called Strippers Club.  My mom helped me out by going and getting the materials for me.  I had to get the white, and soon found I hadn't gotten enough. After another trip to the shop, I got back to work and finished the sashing and was afraid I still didn't have enough white.  I think that stalled me on finishing this top (that and all the piecing for the border, maybe), and it's been sitting aside now for several weeks.

I completed another quilt top during our "break" from each other and when that was finished, I felt like it was time to face the music. Find out if, once again, I would be heading back to get more fabric.  After crunching some numbers, I realized I was going to have just enough. I think I'm going to make it!  Yeah! I am all pumped up now. 

I got to work cutting all these puppies out and I am ready to get to it. I am hoping to finish the top this week and try to get it pinned next week. I already ordered the backing, more Honey Honey, so I am ready to get this done! 

Once it's done, the heat will really be on to get my daughter a bed for her room.  It's only a matter of time and we will be ready to put her new quilt into action. 

I'm linking up with Freshly Pieced today for WIP Wednesday.  Here's hoping I can make it a finish quickly. Love to hear from you, if you'd like to leave a message. Have a great Wednesday!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Love me Some Mini Muffins

Oh, mini muffins! So fun and easy to make.  They whip up so quickly, and the kids can't get enough of them. This weekend I had a couple of banana's that needed to be used, so I decided to make some mini muffins for breakfast using this Banana Bread Recipe. I wanted to do something a little different, though, so instead of loaves, I made muffins. And, instead of nuts, I decided to throw in some chocolate chips.  Oh, delight! My son was so excited! He is as much about the chocolate as I am; I love that.

These moist little guys make the whole house smell like yummy goodness. Super soft and airy on the inside, and the chocolate; oh the chocolate! I didn't want to add too much and overwhelm the muffin, and because I was making mini's, the mini chocolate chips really work the best! However, if you don't have any on-hand when you are sparked with the desire to make little mini's, just go with what you have.  Also, when using a mini muffin pan, you need to adjust your bake time only slightly. I baked these at 350F for 12-15 minutes. I tried adjusting my temperature to 325 for the second batch (I need more pans) to see if they would get more color on top, but they did not.  They baked a couple minutes longer, but ended up with the same coloring.

These are great for those busy school mornings when you are running late and looking for something quick, portable, and still homemade and healthy (hello, Monday). They are also a great treat to put into lunches for school. So handy! Okay, now's my chance to eat a few before the kids get up.  I don't know where all your mini muffins went, guys? ;) Oh, it's going to be a great day with the banana-chocolatey goodness.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Haunted House

It was time. I needed a new halloween quilt to hang for the month of October.  Yes, I have other months/holidays that don't have a quilt yet (sorry St. Patrick's Day), but this is a month that is so easy to buy too much fabric for. A few years ago I purchased some sale halloween fabric from a LQS, Cactus Quilt Shop.  I had big plans for it, that were put on hold for various reasons. I'm on a mission this year to work through my fabric stash of projects I've bought for, and I was super excited to work on this one!

I fussy-cut the haunted houses and graveyard scenes out and picked the complimentary purple and orange to frame them. As usual, I wish I'd had more to go around; it would have been nice to have more blocks for this.  I was able to use a couple of the extra blocks that wouldn't fit in the quilt as a table runner. I bordered it with the blue to 'wrap' it all together, and to make the quilt a little bigger.

When it came to quilting, I knew I wanted to put spider webs on the blocks.  It was so fun! There are so many different ways to make spider webs, so I played with one method and maybe I'll just have to make another quilt so I can play with some of the other methods. I decided to match the swirl pattern that is in the fabric of the purple and orange sashing, and then continued that theme in the border of the quilt.

I was so excited to hang this quilt for Halloween!  It's been so long with the same quilt, and this one is bright and fun.  There's lots of things going on in the scenes that my kids like to look at, such as searching for the black cat. Now it's time to get some pumpkins to carve and check fits on costumes! Yeah!

I'm linking with Crazy Mom Quilts for Finished Friday. It's totally the season to get things done; I can't wait to see what everyone else has been finishing up.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Scaredy Cat, Scaredy Cat

I made this quilt so many years ago. It was very early on in my quilting experience and there's a lot of things I would do differently if I made it again.  I LOVE this quilt, though! The cats are so cute! The blue background fabric is so awesome. The moon is a great accent to the otherwise dark quilt.

This was a pattern I found in a magazine so long ago, I can't even remember. I tried to find halloween fabrics in black, which was more challenging than I thought it would be. I also wanted a blue background, and fell in love with the moon and stars fabric.  When I look at it now, I realize the blue was too dark. Oh well, I still love it.

The quilting was done by a friend, Arlys Bjorke, and she did an absolutely beautiful job! I realized when I was taking these pictures that I never put a label on this quilt, so I am guessing when I actually completed it.  I sewed on sleeves so I can hang the quilt on my wall, although it's really too big for that.

This one is my favorite cat. I love the little smiley face on the moon's. I wish I had more of this fabric, although I don't know what I would do with it.  It's just super cute.

I learned so much from this quilt, like all the quilts I make.  This one was so much fun to make. I am going to link up with Crazy Mom Quilts for Finished Friday! So glad it's October and Halloween is coming!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Giving Hand-Stitching Another Try

I am warming up to the idea of hand-stitching the binding on.  I loved the end result when I did it on my last quilt, and it seems to be going a lot faster this time around.  Do I have better technique? Is the black color of the binding fabric hiding my lack of skill? Maybe a little of both, but it's going faster and looking really nice.

I do admit, the black color does help make it easier.  It's also really framing the quilt nicely. My son keeps asking when it's going to be finished; apparently he has some big plans for this Dr. Seuss Quilt.

While working on the quilt, I needed a little bag to hold all of the clips, thimble, scissors, and thread.  I decided to put one of my new dittie bags to work.  It's really supposed to be for food, but this works, too.  And it's quite handy.  I might make some more of these in regular fabrics for this kind of thing.

I am so close to being done with this bad boy, so I'm going to get back to it. I am linking up with Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday. Looking forward to seeing what everyone is working on. Love to hear from you; feel free to leave comments!