Friday, June 27, 2014

Now What to Do...

I was really hoping to have a quilt finish, but it just didn't work out that way. I finally got some fabric for the binding of my Marmalade ZigZag Quilt, and it's attached to the quilt, but I still need to sew it down and I am trying to decide whether to hand-bind or cheat and finish it with the sewing machine.

While I think about that, I've been working away on my Vintage Star Quilt. I am so excited about this quilt! I have the picture in my head of what it's going to look like when I'm finished. I was trying to make it a little bigger than usual (more like a twin size).  Unfortunately, my plans have been thwarted and I have to decide whether to hunt down more gray and white, or if I should change the sashing so I will have enough.  What do you think?

#1, Loose some sashing so I have enough:

#2, Hunt for more gray and white for the original plan:

Does it matter? Does it look better having the pattern fabric right up against the star or does it look better to have a buffer in the gray? Any input is greatly appreciated.  Feel free to leave a comment for me.  Meanwhile, I am going to keep humming and hawing about it. Such a bummer when this happens, but I am still so excited to see the finished product!

I hope having all my stars done counts as a finish! I was super happy about that! I'm linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish Friday. Can't wait to hear from everyone, and to check out what everyone else has been working on!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Honey Chicken Kabobs

I have been on a total kabob kick!  Whether it be steak kabobs, chicken kabobs, or veggie kabobs; it doesn't matter. They are all so wonderful! I made this particular recipe I found on my fave blog, Mel's Kitchen, and my husband couldn't get enough of it.  He asked if there were any leftovers and literally said he could have eaten everyone's serving! He liked it that much!

Well after that comment, what girl could resist trying to find ways to increase the batch for the hubby.  I thought I would try making it as a stir fry as it does have a bit of an oriental flavor, but it just didn't come out as well. There's something about marinating the meat and veggies for an hour or two for the flavors and tenderness to develop. This meat is juicy, soft, it has a wonderful grilled flavor to it, and of course it can be cooked outside, which means no heating up the kitchen.  Yeah! (Of course, I still end up giving directions for inside as that is where my griddle is for now. Outside is much hotter than my kitchen heated up, as scary as that is).

This recipe is a must for anyone interested in a clean protein, high fruit and veggie dish.  The flavor is just amazing, and I could hardly change much from what Mel did because it was just so amazing! Thanks Mel! If you haven't been to her blog before, you have to check it out! Amazing, simple, down to earth meals! I can't say enough good things about it.  Okay, I'm done. I am also linking up with Hun, What's for Dinner; come check out what everyone is cooking up. Here's the recipe you MUST try! Enjoy!

Honey Chicken Kabobs
1 lb chicken, cubed
1 green bell pepper, cut into large pieces
1 onion, cut into large pieces
2 c white button mushrooms
2 c pineapple chunks (fresh is best but canned works)
1/2 c lite soy sauce
1/2 c honey
1/2 tsp pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 c olive oil

In a bowl, mix the marinade together. If you'd like, set a 1/4 c of the marinade aside for grilling. Also, if you want to marinade the meat and veggies separately, set aside half of the mix for veggies to be added later. Place the chicken in the marinade and refrigerate for 1-2 hours (it can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours if you are good at planning ahead).
When you're ready to start making your skewers, place the fruit and veggies into the marinade you set aside for them. Prepare your skewers. When making a skewer, place something on the end that will help with flavor and foundation. I use pepper or onion as it holds things together well. Alternate your chicken, fruits and veggies down the skewer until you reach the end. Make sure to leave yourself a couple of inches so you can pick it up while grilling, and make sure you end it with something that will hold things together like onion or pepper.
Grill at a medium heat for 7-10 minutes, making sure to turn them every couple of minutes.  There might be a little charring because of the sugars in the honey; no worries. I usually finish them in the broiler for a couple minutes just to make sure the chicken is cooked thru. Serve immediately with rice.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Churn Dash Farmers Quilt

I found this beautiful piece of farm print fabric so many years ago and have been trying to figure out what to do with it.  I new I wanted to fussy-cut the barns out and go from there, and a few months ago during some downtime on another project I finally decided what to do. It feels so good when finally decide.

I chose the churn dash pattern because it felt very farm-ish to me. I found out later it has another name; something like the 'barn door', which totally fits! I was super excited to hear that!

Man, that sun is bright!

I started off making the giant churn dash in red and quickly realized I wasn't going to have enough of the farm print to complete all the blocks, which is why I switched to the smaller blocks.

I thought about leaving the big one out, but felt like it belonged in the quilt. It breaks up the pattern and gives the quilt a twist from the traditional blocks-in-a-row look.

I got to practice my template quilting again, which if getting better and better. For the larger block, I had to improvise and free-hand the pattern to match but be on a bigger scale. Worked really well and fits right in with the others. I used a thread I had leftover from my grandmothers collection, which is actually a heavier weight because it's an embroidery thread. I have to admit I like the thicker look! I would like to use this weight again; need to do some investigative work.

I had some fun with the border. I wanted the quilting on the border to match the quilting on the blocks, so I used one corner of the pattern over and over again to create to swoops.  I am SUPER happy with how it turned out! Looks really cool, and on a side note would make a great border pattern for a valentines quilt with a little bit of a heart look.

As for the binding, I wanted to hand-bind this one and use one of the labels to date and sign the quilt. The only downfall to that is there is no official name on the quilt.  That's okay, though. The date is necessary (I can never remember), but the rest is for fun. I need to make my labels a little darker; they are a bit hard to see.

Oh, I almost forgot about the backing! I found this on the sale rack at the LQS and fell in love! Such a sweet clamshell-like pattern.  My favorite is the little barn and the ducks swimming in the pond. Perfect fabric for a backing. I wish I could remember the name, but I totally blanked on keeping that information.

I can see this gracing the crib of a beautiful baby someday (I don't know who, but some baby). Until then I get to enjoy my finished product. I'm linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts for Finished Friday. Have a great weekend, and thanks so much for stopping by!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Trying to Organize

My craft closet is pretty much out of control. I've reached that point that I don't actually remember what I have so when I'm working on a scrapbook or some cards I end up buying new things instead. Of course, now I find it all.  Now I am totally inspired to get to work on whatever project I might have had in mind for each item. But no! I need to clean out! Soooooo hard!

So, why does all this matter? During the clean out I found my old colored pencils (from my high school years; yikes!) and they are stored in a big, bulky box that takes up way too much space and really isn't very portable. I decided to change that, and give myself a little practice with my zippers and bags that I've been working on.

Pretty cute, huh? I found this fabric in my Mom's stash while looking for something else and wondered if I could make some little bags with it. One of the scraps was really long and narrow and I thought it would be perfect for my pencils.

The nice, wide opening makes it easier to find the color you're looking for, and the yellow interior makes things easier to see inside. I suppose the pattern on the exterior would be more appropriate for a sewing notions bag, but this is what I needed right now. I still have more scraps, so maybe that will be my next little project.

My zippers are getting easier and easier to install.  I have quite a method down now, and I'm super happy with the end results I'm getting. I might try to put together a tutorial about it at some point here because it's such a cool little trick.

As usual, this was just a little side project I did while working on another project. I am so super excited about the quilt I'm working on right now and I'm hoping to share a bit of it next week.  I might need some input from everyone about sashing; I have a couple different ideas and I'm not quite what to go with; yet.

Hope everyone's having a great week! I'm linking up with Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation. Stop on by to see what everyone's working on!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Block of the Month, #3

Oh, they just keep getting better and better! I am lovin' this block of the month! The colors are amazing, and it is just so much fun looking for the flower pattern in the block. And this month was PINK! One of my favorite colors! Oh, I couldn't wait to get this one put together.

First, I just want to recap. I finished these two already...

The names for these two blocks weren't flower names, but rather hawaiian terms, like 'aloha'. I decided when I started this party I was going to try and find a flower in each block. It didn't have to be a particular flower, and of course I had to follow the pattern provided and use the colors provided, so the first one was a couple of generic flowers. The second one,  though, looks like a Bird of Paradise flower to me, or at least that was my inspiration.

For this third block, the actual name of the block was plumeria. I looked up some images on-line and they are G-O-R-G-E-O-U-S! Various shades of pinks on the edge with yellows and golds leading down to the center. Oh my goodness, just beautiful.

So, I did something that I was actually hoping I'd be able to do as we completed blocks. I used some of the leftover orange from the last block to add a little more richness to this block. I needed to break up the yellow and this orange was perfect for the job. I think it will make more sense when I've finished the whole thing and can quilt the flower petals onto the block.

Considering pink is one of my favorite colors, I wish I could have gotten more into the block, but that's okay. I have plans.  I am thinking about putting some of the leftover pink into the first block to liven it up a little. That could be an amazing block! My two absolute favorite colors, in one block.  It might not be fair to the other blocks; it might become my favorite. With nine more still to go, I think all the blocks will be safe from favoritism. :)

I'm linking up with Needle and Thread Thursday. Hope everyone is having a great week!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

French Country Nesting Bags

A while back I completed this French Country Bag to practice making patterns.  It was interesting working with pre-quilted fabric, and I wasn't so sold on it after making this first bag.  But, I had leftovers, and you just can't let leftovers go to waste, so I decided to make some little bags.

These little bags were fun.  They nest inside each other, making it easier for storage, and of course they coordinate. I used the different patterns the fabric made to create the three different looks.

It also gave me a chance to practice more with zippers; something I have little practice with and want to be able to do better. I've not done many zippers and this is a good way to practice them. I am super happy with how they turned out.  I think I'm finally figuring out how to use them fast and efficient. Cool!

So cute all tucked inside each other. Happy little bags! I also put one of my labels on the outside bag, but not on the inside ones.  Partly because I forgot to do it on the others, but also because I figured they were a set and they only needed one label.

I finished these little guys and still have fabric left over.  I would have kept going, but I ran out of zippers, so I need to get some more before I can make more. Always something dragging me to the craft shops; bummer. ;) Well, now it's off to work on some other projects. What else can I get done!

I'm linking up with Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday. Only one of the many projects I have going on right now.  Can't wait to see what everyone else is working on!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Vintage and Quilting; Hand in Hand

As I have cruised to everyone's different blogs, I notice a common theme.  A lot of quilting people are also into vintage items.  For me, quilting feels like a connection to a simpler time, and helps me connect to my grandmother who was a wonderful seamstress (and incidentally didn't enjoy quilting so much).  I think back and envision women sitting together at a quilting bee, stitching away on someones quilt to help her finish it more quickly, meanwhile children playing, and animals wondering about. I think vintage items do the same thing.

I am always keeping an eye out for vintage things, and I came across this collection of Glasbake Ovenware. They were so sweet and cute, I couldn't resist.  Then I brought them home and found that I already have several of the pieces in my collection. I suppose that's no surprise. :)

So, I have decided to sell them on my Etsy site. Some great pieces in wonderful condition.  And totally functional! These are items that you can use in your kitchen right now, and add a little style to your dinner table. Come on by and see what's new at Crooked Tail Crafts on Etsy! I also have them linked in my Crafts for Sale section of my blog. Love the support! Thanks so much!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Who'd have Thought...

The last couple of weeks have been pretty brutal as far as temperatures go.  We have been hitting records of 106-107 degrees, and I am loving every minute of it! Why, you ask? A wonderful thing happened in our house last month...we removed the evaporative cooler from our house and replaced it with an air conditioning unit! It has been the most wonderful birthday/mothers day present ever! EVER! I am so comfortable in the house now, even though we are breaking records outside. On top of all that, I am actually willing to use the stove and oven.  I don't live in fear of heating up the kitchen with basic household appliances.  I don't melt to a puddle on the floor when I need to open the oven.  Don't get me wrong, I still don't want to unnecessarily heat up the kitchen, but sometimes you just gotta get your cookie fix, right? Right?

So, I tell you that to tell you about an interesting discovery I made today.  I absolutely love to bake and "practice" on a regular basis, so when it comes to making a recipe that I have memorized and therefore don't need to pull the recipe card out, I go pretty fast.  I know the order, I know the amounts, I got this; or so I thought.

I made my chocolate chip cookies as usual, but when placing them on the baking sheet, I found the dough was a little dry.  The cookies still taste good, but this means we will have to eat them faster because they will dry out quickly.  Bummer for us; eat more cookies, and eat them faster!

When I mentioned it to my husband, he pointed out the fact that I've been baking with an evap cooler for so many years now maybe the A/C means I need to adjust the recipes? What?!? Could it be?!? That's wild! You know those times you feel like the last one to the party? Well, I'm just glad I'm here, and I can't wait to "practice" baking all over again. It should be interesting, and exciting, to see what differences there will be in some of my fave's, like the Potato Pan Rolls or my Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies. Mmmm, time to get to work.

A BIG thank you to those that read through my goofiness! I'm just so excited about this.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Final Stages, Times Three

Somehow I ended up with three different projects going at about the same pace.  They are all about the same size, and I think I just started working on another when the first (or second) was at a stopping point.  However it happened,  I am pretty excited to see these three finished.  I have been trying different techniques with each of them, specifically with the quilting.

The one closest to the end is the Farmers Churn Dash Quilt. I used templates for the quilting and had to modify the template a bit to fit an oversized block that is within the quilt top. All I have left is to make the binding and attach it. I don't know what's holding me up other than distractions with these other two that are also in the final stages.

So, the second one that's super close is the zig zag quilt. This is a very modern style for me, and I wanted to use a more modern quilting pattern as well.  I am not used to using my walking foot for quilting; it feels so slow compared to using FMQ. I'm getting there, though.  I am still planning out the quilting on the border as I go, but I definitely want it to be something that incorporates the zig zags of the quilt.  I also need to figure out the binding still.  I have some ideas, but I need to look thru my stash to see if I can find what I'm looking for. Can't wait to see this one finished!

Finally, the third in my trio of projects that have been keeping me busy is an alphabet quilt. I have gained such a fascination with alphabet fabric I actually have a couple more alphabet panels to put together. I am hoping to do a trapunto method again, which means I need to go get more batting, so this one also might take a little time still.  That's okay. I know there's more projects I can pull out and start working on in the meantime.

Hope everyone is as productive as I have been.  I am linking up with Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday. Now it's back to work.

Chicken Penne with Cream Sauce

I don't know if that name does this dish justice.  It is sooo creamy, sooo zingy! One of those, 'melts in your mouth' type of dishes! Right now it's pepper season, too, so it's the perfect dish to use up some of those tangy red peppers you have. They add a little bit more fun to this already rockin' recipe.  In fact, there are nights I make this a completely vegetarian dish by adding more peppers and mushrooms and eliminating the chicken, and it's still an amazing meal!

Great for a weeknight, it goes together quickly and easily. It's all done in one skillet, minimizing dishes (except the pasta of course) and making for an easy clean up.  I can't say enough good things about this one. It's a great meal to eat the night before a big bike ride or run, too.  It gives me all the energy I need to have a great next day. Wonderful balance between protein, carbs, and veggies. And who can resist a little garlic bread to go with it!?! Oh, makes my mouth water just writing about it!

Although it needs to be served immediately for the creamiest of sauces, it re-heats like a dream! Even when re-heated, the sauce is creamy and dreamy, and of course the pasta, chicken and veggies hold it together to make the dish taste as good as the night you made it! Love when leftovers do that!

Chicken Penne with Cream Sauce

1 Tbs Olive Oil
1 - 1 1/2 lbs chicken cut into chunks
2 red bell peppers, cut into strips
8 oz white button mushrooms, quartered
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 c dry penne pasta
1 c reserved pasta water
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
3 Tbs parsley, chopped (optional)

Boil the penne pasta according to package instructions.  Make sure to flavor with a little salt. Reserve one cup of pasta water before draining the rest. Set that aside for now.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot but not smoking, season the chicken with a little salt and pepper and place in the skillet.  Brown on all sides, about 10 minutes, but don't cook through. Add the peppers and mushrooms and cook until softened and chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Most of the liquid created from the meat and veggies should be cooked down at this point.

Add the garlic and allow to cook for 1 minute. Then, add the reserved pasta water, the cream cheese (cut into small chunks for easier melting), and the heavy cream. Bring to a simmer and allow the cheese to completely soften. Add the 1/2 tsp of salt and pepper, and the parsley and stir. Finally, add the parmesan and the pasta and stir together. Serve immediately, and enjoy!

Recipe Source: Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe; Creamy Orzo with Chicken, Mushrooms, and Red Peppers.