05. March 2015 · Comments Off on Quilt Journal: My Momma’s Birthday Quilt · Categories: quilts · Tags: ,

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Eventually, all my immediate family will have a quilt that I made for them. So far, my brothers Jared and Ian and, most recently, my mom have received quilts as birthday gifts from me.  I’ve got ideas for Dad’s quilt and for Carl’s quilt, but I haven’t started on them. Their birthdays are in the fall, so maybe in 2015… maybe.

I knew that I wanted to make a quilt from my friend Elizabeth Dackson‘s book, Becoming a Confident Quilter, and the Precious Stones quilt was one (of many) patterns in the book that appealed to me.

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I modified the piecing a bit. I added more white squares to break up the white sections and make it a little more maze-like.

The most important part: Mom loves it! I made it for her birthday, which is at the end of December, but I didn’t actually finish it until January.  This totally worked out, though, because my husband had a business trip to San Antonio in early February, so I packed it in his suitcase. He hand delivered it to Mom for me. :) Hand delivery is always better than USPS. And because her birthday had come and gone a long while before delivery, she was totally surprised. Score!

 

Quilt Stats:

62 x 74″

Fabrics: Various Madrona Road prints, Navy gingham, Kona Gold, Kona Snow

Warm and Natural 100% Cotton Batting

Gray Minky Backing

Quilted with loopy flowers all over, with a wishbone pattern in the border.

Machine bound.

27. February 2015 · Comments Off on QuiltCon: My Favorite Quilts · Categories: About Me, Events, quilts

Me and Mom and NannyI had never attended a modern quilt show until last weekend. I’ve seen some quilt shows before, full of very traditional quilts honoring echniques and methods established by women from another place in time. Beautiful quilts — don’t get me wrong! Traditional quilts are, perhaps, made more interesting and appealing because of the history and nostalgia embedding with each stitch. Traditional quilts are beautiful (as are art quilts — I’ll discuss the “definitions” of these categories another time), but that just isn’t the type of quilt that speaks to me.  It’s not the type of quilt that I enjoy making.

I love modern quilts. I love the bright, saturated colors, the modern prints, the crisp lines, and I love the effects of breaking away from the traditional quilting rules, visual effects like: abundant negative space, alternate grid layouts, and wonky improvisational shapes. In short, I love modern quilts.

Modern quilting is the art that speaks to me.

QuiltCon is the perfect event for a modern quilter. Workshops and lectures and so many beautiful quilts… But perhaps, best of all, QuiltCon brings scores of like-minded people together in celebration of my kind of quilting. And, because QuiltCon was in Austin, I got to see some family and enjoy some Texas food! What a nice bonus!

Enough talk. Here are my favorite quilts from the show!

 

06. February 2015 · Comments Off on Lunch Lady Peanut Butter Bars: The Binder Recipes · Categories: cravings, kids, recipes · Tags: , , , , ,

lunchladypeanutbutterbars (2)School lunches aren’t what they used to be. My kids don’t buy school lunches because the food is gross, and the servings are too small for their “growing boy” appetites. I loved having peanut butter bars with my school lunches. They were such a special treat, and they were delicious.

 

They weren’t just a school lunchroom treat. My mom made peanut butter bars for us at home, too. The lunchroom version was thinner, and peanuttier. Mom’s was thicker, chewier, and with more frosting.  Both were tasty.  This recipe is a merger between the two.  Enjoy!

 

Thinner, crisper version

Thinner, crisper version

Thicker, chewier version

Thicker, chewier version

Printable recipe here: Lunch Lady Peanut Butter Bars

 

Lunch Lady Peanut Butter Bars

2 sticks butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup peanut butter

2 cups rolled oats (not quick oats)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

Cream the butter and sugars until light in color. Add the eggs and vanilla, then the peanut butter. Mix until it’s all incorporated and then scrape down the bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add to the wet stuff and mix just until combined.

If you want thin bars (and more servings!) spread the mixture into a 18×13” sheet pan, and bake for 15-18 minutes at 350 degrees.

If you want thicker, chewier bars, and you don’t want as many servings, spread the mixture into a 13×9” cake pan, and then bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees.

The bars are done when they are slightly browned and the center is set. While the bars are still hot, spoon 1 ½ cups of peanut butter onto the surface. Do this in small dollops across the surface of the bars, and then wait a minute until the heat of the bars melts the peanut butter. Then spread to cover the whole surface evenly.

This is the hardest part: wait for the bars to cool. (I put my pan in the freezer to speed this part along. I’m so impatient.)

Once the bars have cooled and the peanut butter has lost some of its shine, top with chocolate frosting.

Quick Chocolate Frosting

1 stick butter

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

¼ cup milk

3 cups powdered sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla

With the whisk attachment on the mixer, blend the cocoa with the softened butter, then add the milk, vanilla and powdered sugar (1 cup at a time). Done.

28. May 2014 · Comments Off on Busy Night Dinner: Pesto Tilapia · Categories: fast food, fish, main dish · Tags: , , , , ,

I think it was just yesterday that I was thinking, “I can’t believe it’s already May! This year is going by so fast — too fast!” And now, here it is, the last week of May. How did that happen? I don’t like being this BUSY. When life gets really hectic, dinnertime is one of the first things that suffers. I start reaching for food that is fast, not necessarily “fast food,” but food that gets on the table quickly. It’s not always a success. Sometimes it’s breakfast for dinner — eggs scramble really quickly– and sometimes it’s sandwiches. And sometimes, it’s amazing. I came across the idea for this recipe after forgetting to thaw the fish for dinner.  I’m really good at keeping my freezer stocked, but I’m not so good at remembering to defrost. Usually when I make tilapia for dinner, I just do a quick saute in a skillet, add some lemon juice and serve with rice and green beans or salad. But that’s when I remember to defrost the fish. Tonight, I forgot to defrost. When I make rice, I always make too much. I love to have rice with my lunch, (with a little kimchi and seasoned nori — that’s another post). It’s just as easy to make a lot of rice as it is to make a little, so why not make a lot? I had leftover rice, but nothing else was ready, and the natives where getting restless. aDSC02081 I turned my oven to 400 degrees. While the oven preheated, I trimmed a bundle of asparagus, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. This went on a small tray and into the oven while it preheated. My kids LOVE asparagus. Well, the big kids do.  The little one doesn’t eat green food. His brainwashing is still in progress. The mister doesn’t like asparagus either, but he eats it anyway. What a good man!   aDSC02082 Then I lined another baking tray with foil, sprayed with Pam spray and placed my frozen tilapia fillets on the tray. On each fillet, I smeared a spoonful of prepared pesto (I buy mine at Costco.), followed by a sprinkle of lemon zest, and once my oven was at the right temp, I put the tray in and let it bake until the fish was flaky, about 15-18 minutes. While that baked, I softened some chopped onion and bell pepper in a skillet with some olive oil and added my leftover rice and some Italian seasoning to make a quick fried rice. The asparagus was ready at the same time as the fish, and dinner was served! aDSC02086 That’s my kind of fast food!

28. May 2014 · Comments Off on Drop Dead Gorgeous · Categories: paper piecing, pattern review, quilts · Tags: , , , , ,

 

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My friend, Elizabeth Dackson, is a super talented quilt designer, and I was thrilled when she asked me to test her newest pattern called the Drop Dead Gorgeous block. It’s not for the faint of heart, since there are several paper piecing templates, but it certainly wasn’t difficult, just time consuming. Time spent sewing is time well spent if you ask me, and the results are simply breathtaking!

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I turned my block, which finishes at 16 inches, into a 20″ pillow by adding a border using some 2.5″ strips of black kona cotton. I quilted using my walking foot, and then backed my pillow case with white minky dot fabric and stuffed and stitched it up.

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I do plan to use this pattern for another project. One block just isn’t enough! The secondary patterns that emerge when joining more blocks together are just amazing. Check out Elizabeth’s blog post about this block for more Drop Dead Gorgeous eye candy and to purchase the pattern.

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I’m thinking about trying it out in nothing but solids. I’ve never done a solids-only project… I wonder if I’m brave enough?

11. April 2014 · Comments Off on Breakfast. The non-morning person version · Categories: breakfast, cravings, kids · Tags: , , , , ,

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I am NOT a morning person. I never have been. I doubt I ever will be. I don’t function well before 10am. These are just the facts.

My kids have different ideas about mornings, ideas they certainly didn’t inherit from me. My oldest once bragged that he “slept in” until 7:30am. My kids are morning people.

I’ll admit that we probably eat more bread/pasta/rice than we should. But some days, toast is the easiest thing to make for breakfast. My oldest is perfectly content to eat cereal for breakfast every. single. day. My middle child won’t eat breakfast without some coercion, and the little guy is easy to please.  He usually eats cereal with the oldest and then has a second breakfast with me.

On the days that I make toast, all three kids get excited, even if they have already helped themselves to cereal. It’s a great second breakfast. :)

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I turn on the broiler and then lay slices of regular sandwich bread (we use Nature’s Own Honey Wheat bread, mostly) on a sheet pan.  Half of the slices get butter and a shake of cinnamon and sugar. The other half gets a generous handful of grated cheese and a sprinkle of cracked black pepper. I don’t know how long I broil it, but usually by the time I get everything put away and get plates out, the bread is toasted.

Honestly, I usually have one kid, at least, that insists on standing sentinel at the stove. I turn on the oven light, and he watches the cheese and butter start to bubble… I wish these kids were always so easily entertained!

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Serve with fruit. Today I had strawberries and mangoes. Sometimes these just get piled on a plate, and everyone grabs a banana, and we eat in the car on the way to school. I’ll never understand why my kids get up so stinkin’ early, but can’t get ready for school until the very last minute!

But today, I got to actually sit down and eat breakfast. It was nice. And it was delicious.

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What is breakfast like at your house?

24. March 2014 · Comments Off on Pattern Testing: Modern Gears · Categories: pattern review, quilts · Tags: , ,

a031014_0276I am not a quilt designer. Yet.

I have ideas for quilt designs, but I haven’t taken the time to learn how to properly write a pattern that someone else can follow. It’s on my To Do list… I am so inspired by what others create, and it is fun to see how simple shapes likes rectangles, squares and triangles can be arranged to make so many interesting designs.

I recently had the opportunity to do some pattern testing for my friend, Elizabeth Dackson, of Don’t Call Me Betsy. What fun! I still need to piece a backing and quilt it, but the piecing was really straightforward, and I chain pieced most of it, so it went really quickly!

I love the way Elizabeth writes her patterns. She provides yardage and cutting instructions for multiple sizes, essentially doing all the quilt mathematics. There’s no guesswork if you decide to make a size other than the one she made. And, she even includes a coloring page so you can audition your fabric selections before you commit.aIMG_5038I went with Kona charcoal for the background, a turquoise kona (can’t remember the name of the shade, and I can’t get my hands on a color card right now…), an absolutely luscious gray cross weave, an orange mini gingham from Michael Miller and the purple is Newsprint stripe, part of the Collage collection.  I also used some purple ombre dots by Riley Blake and some scraps of a green dot print.

a030514_0279I’m not usually a fan of pressing seams open, but I like how nice and flat the blocks are with the seams pressed open. I admit, I still pressed the seams of my hst’s to one side.  Old habits die hard, I guess!

aIMG_5098I love turquoise and orange together. Such bright, happy colors!

a030514_0280Honestly, the purple was a real stretch for me. I am usually sewing for boys, to pink and purple are not even on the radar! But, this quilt, when it’s finished, will be mine. I’m the only girl in the house, and it has purple.  Therefore, it is mine. YES!

a031014_0270My only regret with this quilt is that I didn’t make it bigger! I just might make 4 more blocks to extend the quilt a bit before I quilt and bind.  We’ll see.

It’s a great pattern, Elizabeth! Thanks for letting me test it for you!

13. March 2014 · Comments Off on Twill Be at the Beach Quilt · Categories: quilts · Tags: , , , , , ,

My husband has lost quite a bit of weight over the last year or so. Weight loss brings along some really nice perks. He feels better. He sleeps better. He doesn’t snore as badly. He has more energy. He looks awesome… But he also had to buy a bunch of new clothes. His dress shirts still fit fine. They just look better on him. :) His jeans were another story. They were practically falling off of him without a belt.

So, as he retired a pair of jeans, the fabric “collector” in me (I’m not a hoarder, I swear!!) couldn’t bear to part with that much usable yardage! I started stashing them away last summer. I started saving the kids’ outgrown jeans too… And then I started saving twill fabrics from other projects. I didn’t really have a plan until November.

IMG_4232aWe went to St. Augustine for Veteran’s Day weekend. It was a little cold and windy (for Florida) when we went to the beach. Far too cold to get in the water, which turned out to be just fine because the beach we visited had riptide warnings anyway. No swimming allowed.

We didn’t dress for swimming. We took a picnic and played football. We hunted for shells. Even the little one didn’t mind not swimming, and that kid would probably swim in a snowstorm if such a thing ever happened here!IMG_4234a

 

IMG_0736aAs we were leaving the beach, I thought about how nice it was not to be absolutely covered in sand. No sandy shower right before jumping in the car. It was so nice to enjoy the beach and leave the sand behind. It was then that I decided to turn my stash of jeans into a beach quilt. Not that I think it will help so much with the sandy shower situation, but because sometimes it’s nice to have a sand free zone. Ok, sand-free isn’t realistic either… Sometimes it’s nice to have a comfy blanket at the beach, and denim is durable.

I didn’t really follow a pattern. I just cut some squares 9 1/2″ and some 6 1/2″ and some rectangles. Then I laid out the blocks on my design wall– umm floor– and rearranged them until I liked the layout.a021414_0295

 

 

 

I sandwiched the top and bottom together without any batting. Can I still call that a quilt sandwich? There’s no filling! :) I didn’t want my quilt to get too heavy, especially when it’s slightly damp, so I omitted the batting. I also picture sand somehow getting lodged within the batting, and that grosses me out a little…

I free-motioned swirly loops all over the quilt, and then machine bound with a red swirly twill from Premier Prints. (In fact, all the prints you see here are from Premier Prints.) a022014_0290

b022014_0288We had planned on visiting the beach for President’s Day, but I was sick, so we haven’t been able to use the “Twill Be at the Beach” quilt at the beach yet. But, it has been used in some fun backyard picnics!aphoto

12. March 2014 · Comments Off on Honey Molasses Drumsticks: The Binder Recipes · Categories: chicken, main dish, recipes · Tags: , , ,

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I keep a giant 3″ 3 ring notebook in my kitchen.  It is packed with the recipes I love, and this one is definitely in The Binder. I plan to share several of my favorite recipes over the next few weeks and months!

I first found this recipe several years ago in one of my favorite cooking magazines, Cooking Light. After the first time I made it, it earned a page in The Binder, and I’ve made it more times than I can count since then. It’s a family favorite for sure!Honey Molasses Chicken Drumsticks (adapted from Cooking Light)

Take 6 or 7 chicken drumsticks and remove the skin (or don’t. Your choice.), then salt and pepper all over.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix:

1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 rounded tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon molasses
3 minced garlic cloves

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil (or coconut oil) over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken on all sides, then add the honey mixture to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium low, turn the chicken so the glaze is all over the chicken. Put the lid on the pan, and cook for about 15 minutes, turning the chicken every 5 minutes or so, so the glaze will be even and so the chicken will cook evenly. When the chicken is fully cooked, take the lid off and let the glaze reduce to a rich color, and then it’s done!

honeymolassesdrumsticksIt’s messy, but so tasty, and it’s good hot or cold. Give it a try, and let me know if your family enjoys it too!

 

07. March 2014 · Comments Off on The Study Hall/Teddy Bear Jacket · Categories: apparel sewing, kids, pattern review

Vermont Teddy Bear BoxMy friend asked me to make a jacket for her son. He has sensory processing disorder, and his sense of touch is especially sensitive. It’s a struggle to keep the boy clothed because fabrics, with their various textures, bother his tender sense of touch. It’s lucky for him that we live in Florida because tank tops are fine nearly year round! My friend has had trouble getting him to wear a jacket or coat when they visit colder climates, and of course, lots of people have lots to say about a kid wearing a tank top and flip flops in frigid temperatures, as you might imagine. It really is quite a struggle for my friend.

aIMG_4259One fabric texture that he loves is that of his teddy bears from the Vermont Teddy Bear Company. My friend’s idea was to have a jacket made for him and line the jacket with teddy bear fur to make an association of comfort and familiarity into the jacket. Maybe then it won’t be so difficult to keep him warm!

So, I searched and searched for jacket patterns, since I’m not skilled at pattern drafting. But after looking at countless patterns, I kept coming back to the Study Hall Jacket by Andrea Parnell on Go to Patterns. I didn’t get to measure my friend’s son, because then he would know that new clothes were coming, and he would panic. Change has to be gradual for this guy. I bought the pattern, ordered some fabric swatches, and got on the phone to track down some fur.

We selected a navy brushed twill for the outside of the jacket (this one), and I called Vermont Teddy Bear Company to find out how to get my hands on their fur. I talked to a very helpful lady, and I explained to her what I was making and why, and I asked how much it would be for a yard or two of their fur. We went on the website and tried to determine which fur would match the boy’s teddy bear at home. I received a giant box of fur a few days later (sent at no charge!!), but after talking to my friend, we realized I had selected the wrong fur. Drat!

Even the box from Vermont Teddy Bear is full of fun personality!

Even the box from Vermont Teddy Bear is full of fun personality!

So, we called Vermont Teddy Bear back, talked to the same helpful representative again, and explained my mistake. I thought that my friend’s boy loved the classic teddy bear fur, but it was actually the oversized bear fur. “No problem,” she said, and it wasn’t long before I had a second giant box of fur on my doorstep. Again, at no charge! Inside were two mostly assembled teddy bear bodies, which based on their size were for the six foot tall teddy bears. Since I didn’t pay for anything, I was expecting scraps. I was anticipating sewing smaller pieces together to get the yardage that I needed, but all that was unnecessary. The pieces were so huge!

How amazing is this company?! I was fully expecting to pay $15-30 per yard, but they didn’t charge me a dime, not even shipping.
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The hardest part about the construction of the jacket was working with the fur. As it is cut, fluff goes everywhere! And all the seam allowances had to be trimmed, basically giving the fur a haircut before stitching… Cut. Vacuum. Stitch. Vacuum. Lint Roll. Repeat.

This is my middle child modeling the jacket.  It's a little small for my boy, but fit my friend's boy well.

My middle child

Can I show you what happens if you don’t trim fur before you sew it? Okay. Look at this pic: aIMG_4258See how the extra length of the fur gets trapped in the seam? That’s no good, especially when you’re sewing the fur to to twill. It just looks sloppy.  Now look at this pic:find the seam?Do you see the seam? Good! It’s so worth the extra time and mess.  I also trimmed the length of the fur in the pockets, and I tapered the length of the fur around the zipper and around the hood.

The pattern was wonderfully written, easy to follow. It went together so quickly, even with all the extra prep work from working with the fur! I’m excited to make another one (without fur!) for my little one for next winter. I love the way this jacket turned out. It’s so soft and cuddly inside. It’s warm without being bulky.
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And the best part? My friend’s son actually wore it! He loves the furry pockets the best.

 

(I’m not writing this so that everyone will call the company and ask for free fur. I feel like they heard the circumstances of my friend’s situation and genuinely wanted to help out. We need more companies like that in our world! This is not a sponsored post.)