Sunday, January 24, 2016

More Thank You's

Honestly, it feels like the only cards I have time to make anymore are thank you cards.  That is something I hope I never loose the desire to do. I feel like it's important to share with others how much I appreciate the thought they put into me. I also think it's a good lesson in gratitude for my children, while also helping them with their writing and composition skills.

Our latest batch of thank you's was for christmas presents. My kids were given some wonderful things from various friends and family, and we were right to work to thank everyone. This year, I wrote them for my daughter and had her practice signing her name. My son however, had to write a brief thank you message that I'd scripted for him so he could practice his writing. He was getting pretty creative with his sentence/paragraph structure, but he was practicing his writing so it's all good.

As for the card, I went simple with a window pane look of various christmas papers. I bought a set from JoAnn's a couple years ago that I'm still working through.

The card is a tan color with a red linen paper background that's been sanded down to expose the core. I used "thank you" from a CTMH thankful set I have with SU red ink. I finished it with raffia ribbon for embellishment that was punched with a straight, ribbon threading hand punch.

I always try to make a few extra just in case, but it seems this year I had just enough. Phew! I better plan better next year. I am really happy with how this one turned out. It was fun, colorful, and had a great embellishment touch.

Maybe this year I can spend a little more time on my paper crafts. We'll see. I'd really like to get my daughters first year book done (4 years later) and add some more birthday and thank you cards to make back-up collection.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Block 10 for BlockBusters BOM

There's a pattern here.  Things get all backed up during the holidays and magically, when kids go back to school, the kitchen is shut down and only serving healthy foods, and holiday decor is packed away I suddenly have time to get things done.

I was able to get this block put together pretty easily. The colors are fun, but they're very similar to the background-color theme fabric I've been using, which is the black. Still, it was fun to play with the grays.

I'm trying to be more careful with my points. I feel like I did a better job on this one, but still have work to do.

I've also been thinking about layouts that might work once all the blocks are finished. I have some fun ideas with these spectrum fabrics. Hopefully they'll work out as well in fabric as they do in my head. Whenever I try to draw things out they just don't come out the same so I'm reluctant to do that. We'll see. Until then I have another block down and only two to go for the complete collection. Yeah!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Trying to Find the Right One

Last fall my son went on a field trip to a local apple orchard. He was enthralled by the idea of growing your own food and came home requesting we get some apple trees. I have been wanting to start a garden for years, so the thought of getting our own little orchard going sounds fantastic!  It's time! I started researching which trees do best in our region, when to plant, how to get them, and how to care for them.

I admit, I was pretty bummed to find we are unable to purchase pink lady apple trees. Those are my absolute favorite; most diverse apple ever! You can eat them fresh, can them, make them into applesauce or apple pie filling, and their color and aroma are amazing.  I wish I knew why we can't purchase them. When I read about them, it seems they'd do well in our arid region. Oh well, so down the list I go. 

I discovered Jonathan apples. They taste great fresh and I've read they're great for applesauce, but I tried canning them and they don't keep well. They become too soft and rubbery.

Next I tried Braeburn. They look absolutely beautiful, don't you think?

I haven't yet opened them up to see how well they kept, but as I was processing them they felt more crisp and dense. Hopefully that's a good sign. We'll see. We need to get these ordered and in the ground before the end of March! We need to get to work!

Generous Friend, Delicious Results

Many years ago, more than I'd like to count, I started a new job in my hometown. I had returned after a short two year stint teaching at the next city over, to marry. In the meetings that begin every new school year, I met a wonderful person who was also new to the school. We have had a strong friendship ever since. She's been a great resource for everything from grading, writing emails, raising children, and finding and attending local activities. She's also been helpful as I learn more about canning.

I tell you all this because my most recent canning endeavor was a bittersweet one. She and her family decided it was time to move on to their next adventure and head north. Way north! I'm not going to lie, I always dream of moving to cooler weather with pine trees and snow and running water in creeks and rivers. Then again, it is nice to jog in a tank top in December.

During her preparation to move, she discovered she had a bunch of frozen mixed berries and hated the thought of throwing them away. I couldn't resist! These are homegrown at her in-laws place. They are as fresh as fresh gets!

The mix includes marionberries, blueberries, and raspberries (I think). It's a beautiful dark red color with a rich flavor. Not too sweet, not too tart. I skimmed off some of the seeds before canning, however there are still a lot of seeds in there. If I had it to do again, I'd probably try to remove more of them (maybe I'll have to visit her and get some more).

My son and I have already tried some and it is amazing!  Thank you thank you to my amazing friend who left me with one last fantastic gift before she left. Not to sound too permanent, I'll have to pack up the kids and go visit. I'm sure we will all have a blast seeing rivers with water in them year-round.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Goal Review, and the New Year

When I look back at the goals I set for last year, I feel like things did not go well at all. Here's a review...

10 Things I want to Accomplish in 2015:

1. Finish my Vintage Stars Quilt - quilting and binding 
***It's still sitting there, taunting me. Maybe someday I can finish?

2. Finish my son's Pirate Quilt 
***Complete!! Yeah! I even got a wall hanging done to match.

3. Finish the Alaska Stars Quilt - order more fabric to accomplish this 
***I've concluded that I don't need more fabric, I just need to get to work.

4. Make at least one Alphabet Quilt 
***Complete!! Yes, finally!

5. Complete a quilt from something pinned on Pinterest 
***Not yet, but I've added more choices.

6. Add at least one tutorial to the blog 
***I've concluded that until I get the software to help with the calculations, it's just not my cup of tea. Hopefully I will be able to get the EQ7 soon.

7. Complete a quilt pattern to post on Etsy 
***Not yet, see #6

8. Complete the BOM quilt top 
***I just can't commit to anything. I want to...

9. Make a quilt for the sofa for hubby
***Not yet. fabric limitations and time have prevented this from happening.

10. Minimize fabric purchases to only necessities/work thru stash 
***This actually went well this year. I hope I can keep this up next year while still completing my projects.

When I look at this list, I realize I stalled out on a lot of the projects. Maybe my goals were too specific, maybe I ran out of time. We had a lot of changes around here last year and 2016 seems be promising more consistency in our schedule. We'll see if that pans out, but I think I'll drop my list down and make more general goals.

So...for 2016, my goals are:

1. Work thru my UFO's in an effort to complete at least 5 of them.
2. Minimize fabric purchases to only necessities.
3. Make a quilt for hubby for the couch.
4. Organize my sewing stuff and try to get it out of my daughters room. (so bad, right?!?)
5. Maintain my health, sanity, and relationships with my family by letting go and being okay with prioritizing.

Those seem simple enough, right? I hope I'm able to do more, and the truth is I finished more last year than is listed in my goals. Being so general like this will hopefully allow me more freedom to do what I need while still feeling productive and accomplished. It's the year of streamlining.

Welcome to 2016!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Chocolate Walnut Banana Muffins

I know I already have a recipe for Banana Bread on here, but I found this muffin recipe and it is just too good not to include it in my recipe stash. The muffins are soft, cake-y, and moist. The nuts add a wonderful texture and of course chocolate makes everything better.

I am a super fan of the mini-muffin, too. Easy to freeze, quick to thaw, and fun to add to the kids lunches for a healthier treat. These will definitely be making many appearances over the next few weeks in our house.

Chocolate Walnut Banana Muffins
3 c flour
1 ½ c sugar
1 ½ c chopped walnuts
3 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 c canola oil
2 eggs
3-4 medium to large, ripe bananas, mashed
6 Tbs milk
½ c mini chocolate chips

Pre-heat the oven to 375 F. Mix together the flour, sugar, walnuts, baking soda, and salt in a mixer.  In a bowl, mash the bananas. Add the oil, milk, and eggs and whisk together until creamy. Turn the mixer on and add the wet ingredients slowly.  Do not over-mix. Turn off once incorporated. Add mini chocolate chips and fold into the batter.
Scoop into a greased mini-muffin pan so that each muffin mold is full. Bake for 13-15 minutes. Remove and allow them to cool on the counter a few minutes before taking them out of the pan to finish cooling on a cooling rack.
These freeze wonderfully! I pack them flat in a freezer bag and lay them flat until frozen. Then I can shift them for better storage. If you would like full-size muffins, simply increase your baking time about 5 minutes.

*This recipe is adapted from Williams-Sonoma “Muffins” book. I did very little as it’s a great recipe, but there are a couple changes. I doubled all the ingredients so I could make and freeze more at once.