Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Lunchtime Packaging

Now that my son has started eating lunch at school, I have found that I am flying thru disposable sandwich bags! I don't like it. Not only is it bad for the environment, but it's bad for my wallet. I am having to buy so many baggies to be used once. Not cool man!

I admit, when I was packing a lunch for myself, I would re-use the baggies again and again, but it's hard to explain that to a 5 year old. So, I decided to try making some lunch bags for him to use. I actually had a friend recommend this a while ago, and I've tried some different patterns, but I guess I needed to live it to know what they needed to be.

I'm still not so thrilled with these designs, but I'm getting closer. I have more ideas for tweaking, I just need to get the materials.

This first is a flip over sack; a traditional baggie style.

I like it, but I worry it's not a very good seal.

Will it keep food from drying out? Will it keep messes contained? I don't know, and I have some ideas as to how I want to modify this bad boy.

The second style has a base to sit upright on.

It can be handy to have your snack bag upright, but I don't know if it works for kids. They don't quite get the concept and spill things everywhere anyway.

This is a nice design, but I don't know if it will make the final cut for us. We'll see.

The other project I've been working on is my block of the month block. I am so in love with the colors for this project! Every month I wonder if they'll be as good as the last, and every month I love the new colors even more!

I don't know if I'm loosing energy or if the patterns are getting more challenging for what I'm trying to do with the flowers, but this one was another struggle. I literally had to cut the pieces out of the fabric so that I could maximize my fabric use, and then play around with them and see how it would all work. Probably not the best approach, but hey, it works for me!

I really wish I had more of the dark teal to make this look more like a flower and less like a bird...or a bunch of arrows pointing up. Oh well.  It's all good. I need to stick to the plan!

Those are just a couple of the projects I've been working on. Had to share. Looking forward to seeing what everyone else is working on over at Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday. Come on by!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Dressing it Up!

My daughter has had access to hearing for 18 months now! She is flourishing; babbling up a storm and listening as well as she can at this point.  Expecting a 2 year old to keep track of her cochlear implant device however, is like expecting a fish to go for a walk. It's just not going to happen.

So, I came up with this little tether last year to help me (and her) so they don't get lost.

At first, she did not appreciate the clip on her shirt but that didn't last long.  She also didn't want the cochlear implant on either; at first.  Once she realized she could still play and run around with them on, she was good to go.

I decided to make my own because the selection out there was very medical-device looking. I wanted something fun, colorful, fashionable, and of course it had to go with a lot of different colors and outfits; wouldn't want her tether to clash with her outfit. ;)

Now she actually has two cochlear implants to keep track of, and she's more rough-and-tumble than ever. We've gone to the beach, on trail hikes, out to play in the mud you name it and we all have peace-of-mind that they aren't going to be lost, even if they fall off.  She's actually gotten to the point where she sees me carrying the tethers and hands me one CI at a time so I can clip it and put it back on. It's wonderful! I'm so glad she's likes having hearing as much as we enjoy hearing her.

I am thinking of updating the style of these handy little tethers so they're even easier to use (I think I need to update the pictures of them on, too. She's just a babe in this picture!). Stay tuned to see what I come up with, and for more up-to-date pictures of this girl sporting her amazing gear.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Watermelon Placemats

Well, I am totally off task right now. I really should be cleaning the house, or starting dinner, or even working on one of the many projects that are stacking up, but after a photo shoot with these placemats, I absolutely cannot wait another moment to tell you about them.

I am so in love with these fabrics! They are actually leftover Swanky by Chez Moi from my Goody Gumdrops Quilt.  I was playing around with them and thought they looked a lot like watermelon slices, so I found a nice striped fabric to make the 'rind' of the watermelon. Perfect!

This summer, while on my annual trip to Rosie's in San Diego, I found the beige fabric called Linen from Robert Kaufman. My first thought was boring, but it will work.  I couldn't find any yellows I liked or super-pale pinks that would work, so beige it is. But...when I got home and started assembling the placemats, I couldn't believe how amazing they looked!

Seriously, I'm ready to order a whole bolt of this fabric. It such a wonderful alternative to white while still being light enough to allow the other colors to pop.  The texture of the print on the fabric gives it dimension and movement.  It goes with all sorts of things! I am so excited to use it again.

For the quilting, I was trying to do a more modern pattern that would be quick and relatively easy.  I also felt like the beige was almost the color of a wooden picnic bench, so the elongated stitches made it look like wood grain to me.

Finally, I completed the project with binding in more beige to create a simple frame that allowed the watermelon pieces to be the pop-out stars! SO MUCH FUN!

I love this so much I think I want to make a quilt with it. I also wanted to make a matching table runner, so maybe I'll go with that. I am going to post these on my Etsy Store so they can grace someone's beautiful table.

I'm linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts for Finished Friday. I am super excited to share this finish! Can't wait to see what everyone else is finishing up.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Double Chocolate Banana Bread

I'm all about healthy, especially when it's subtle and I can sneak it into the recipe. I am also all about chocolate; I mean, who isn't!? So when I saw this recipe it was love at first sight.

I have had this recipe for so long, I actually can't remember where I found it. I didn't adjust it too much, some decrease in the sugar amount and I list the nuts as optional because I have a need to increase the chocolate ratio in each bite so I add more chips instead. Because you can always use more chocolate, right? Right?

I've also tried this in a lot of different pans. These pictures were taken with my fave mini bread pan.  I can make a bunch of small loaves to keep in the freezer for those surprise visitor or gifting to someone suddenly, or of course if I get a chocolate attack. I've also made it in one large loaf pan and as muffins (my sons favorite, more portable so he can eat on the run).

This bread comes out moist; soft, and amazing texture! The crust has a wonderful slight crisp immediately after baking, and becomes a wonderful moist crust if it's kept for later.

 Either way, it's awesome. So easy to make, it just takes a couple of ripe bananas and you're set. Get ready for the most delicious, chocolate-y healthy bread you've had.

Chocolate Banana Bread

1/2 c butter, softened
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 c mashed bananas (~2 bananas)
1/4c milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
1/4 c baking cocoa
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 c chopped nuts (optional)
1 c chocolate chips

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Once creamed, add eggs one at a time, mix until creamed and then add vanilla. In another bowl, combine mashed bananas with milk, set aside. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Alternate scooping in the banana mix and the flour mix into the mixer while it's on; one scoop at a time. Mix only until incorporated and then add more.  Continue with this method until it's all been added. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the chocolate chips and nuts by hand.
Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan and place it in the preheated oven. Bake for about 60 minutes, or until a testing stick poked into the center of the loaf comes out clean. If you want to use the smaller pans, pour the batter into three greased mini loaf pans and bake for about 30 minutes, using a testing stick to see if it's done. Muffins are a little less time.
Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Place on wire rack to allow for a complete cool.
 Linking up with Hun...What's for Dinner and The Prairie Homestead. Come on by and find some great new recipes and some tips and tricks for everyday living.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Counting with Bean Bags

I am not sure where the inspiration came from, but it's there! I have been having SO MUCH FUN with making rice-bean bags! After making a few, I started to think how fun it would be to have a set with numbers on them.  The games you could play with them are endless!

I tried a few prototypes, and then... BRAINSTORM! Use my kids play-do cookie cutters to make the numbers!

It worked great! I used the black felt left over from the Creature Power Suits for the numbers and my quilting puff for tracing them.

Then, I had another brainstorm...what if I had ribbons on them as part of sensory development; and what if the number of ribbons corresponded with the number on the particular bag! Awesome!

Again, super happy with how they turned out.  It was totally worth the extra effort to put the ribbons on. I ran out of the the striped ribbon, so I decided to mix in some of the beige ribbon. It actually worked well.  It gave more texture and provided a different look.

I was worried making a bag for them out of fleece would be too stretchy; it wouldn't hold up.  Felt, on the other hand, is sturdy so I make a bag with a double drawstring on it.  You pull the two strings in different directions to cinch it shut; works great!

The bag also doubles as the first of many games that can be had with these.  Pick a distance and toss the numbers in; keep stepping back as the numbers get bigger.  Who gets the most? My kids made it up, and are loving it!

I am super happy to have found something to do with all the fleece I have. Yeah!! I am linking up with Finish Friday on Crazy Mom Quilts.  It's not a quilt, but it's a really fun finish! Can't wait to see what everyone else has been working on.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Really am Working

Yes, I really have been working on things and trying to get stuff done.  I am also trying to figure out our new schedule with everyone's different school programs and back-to-school craziness.  Hopefully I can get caught up on what's been going on.

A few weeks ago I pulled out some leftover fabric from my Goody Gumdrops quilt. I wanted to try making some strip-pieced triangles that, to me, looked like watermelon slices. I started putting them together and thought they'd make great placemats.

I just needed to get some background fabric, which I selected at Rosies during my annual visit. I admit, I wasn't so crazy about the brown when I selected it. I chose it because I thought it looked a bit like a burlap sack or a picnic table so I went with it. Now that I see it all together I love it and want more! Such a cool, clean, textured fabric. It would be amazing as an alternative to white in a quilt because it's so subtle.

It took me a bit to think about quilting on these little guys, too. I finally decided the brown looked a bit like wood planks on a picnic table and wanted to do something that looked like wood grains. I am really happy with how it's turning out so far. Unfortunately, I ran out of the beige color thread I was using.

Project on hold...until I get some more thread. Hopefully I can get back to work on these soon. I'm interested to see how they turn out. It seems I have more projects going at once than I've ever had before.

#1 watermelon placemats - need to finish the quilting

#2 flower garden quilt - needs quilting

#3 vintage modern stars quilt - needs sandwiching and quilting

#4 alaskan stars quilt - needs piecework still, many stars to go

#5 some secret projects - more to come on this

That's okay.  They will all get done...someday...maybe...for sure! I am linking up with WIP Wednesday on Freshly Pieced. Hopefully I will be able to report some finishes soon!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Homemade Trail Mix

I am trying so very hard to improve my eating...again.  I feel like I've done this before; oh wait, I have. Kids have this magical ability to cause me to forget how to eat properly, even though I work so hard to make sure they are eating properly.  How does that work?!?

Many years ago I was able to loose a lot of weight and get to a comfortable size. I'd like to return to that but man, it feels a lot tougher this time around. Not sure why...What changed? I am on a mission. It's going to happen!

One of the things I know I did every week was go work my horse on Friday evenings (yes, date night with the horse; he loved every minute of it :P). It doesn't sound like much, but I ate trail mix on my way to the barn and then essentially exercised (if you've never worked a horse for an hour, I'm telling you it's a workout) and went home for the night. I lost a ton of weight and didn't even notice it was happening.

So, I realize the trail mix was not the magic bullet in this equation but I unfortunately do not have the horses anymore so I have to go with the trail mix. I used to buy this mix at Costco, but I decided to make my own so I could increase the ratio of good nuts (like almonds) and the less productive nuts (like peanuts). I also wanted more raisins in the mix and I wanted to reduce the salt content.  I wait for some good bulk sales and stock up on my fave's.

It's actually chopped full of good things.  Lots of proteins and good fats that your body needs to be productive with a lot less carbs.  There are still some carbs because, frankly, I still need a hook to get me into the mix. A little chocolate, a few raisins and you have a nicely balanced mix that will keep your taste buds happy while still consuming a food that will keep your body satisfied so you can get things done. Now, if I could just figure out how to get back into the workout I had steps, baby steps.

Homemade Trail Mix

2 c cashew nuts ( raw, salted or unsalted)
2 c almonds (raw, unsalted)
2 c peanuts (raw, salted or unsalted)
2 c raisins
12.6 oz plain m&m candies (about 2 cups)

Measure each of the ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  Mix the ingredients well and store in a gallon-size ziploc bag. I have made larger mixes and divided them up and put them in the freezer to save. However if you do that, reserve your raisins and add them when you pull the mix out of the freezer.