Sunday, February 28, 2010

February Schnibbles - DONE!

I'm a little shocked myself to say (type) it, but I completely finished my February Schnibbles pattern, soup to nuts, cutting to binding, etc. I even had time to throw it in the wash this morning to "quiltify" it and make it all puffy. Mark this month on your calendars folks because such an event may never happen again.

Now, about the pattern, fabric, etc... As I've said before, Mom gave me lots of her unwanted fabric a few weeks back. Included in this haul were a few pre-cuts, these charm packs being part of said haul. I remember when this line came out in stores. I usually like April Cornell, but I was less impressed. When I was going through the stuff Mom gave me, I thought to myself, "ulgh, I can't believe Mom bought this." It was just a little too cutesy, with all the tone on tone puppies and kitties in every color in the collection. All the pink, green, and purple reminded me of purple-haired old ladies' parlors, where they sit with their cats in their laps and natter on about the unruliness of the neighborhood kids. But I was determined to start using the fabric that Mom gave me, so despite my initial aversion to the collection, I pulled out the charm packs, some white yardage and started trimming all my little squares and rectangles.

It wasn't until I actually quilted the top yesterday that the fabric started to grow on me. (I'm still not a fan of the tone on tone puppy and kitty prints, but I made sure to slice those prints up as small as possible for the pieced border.)

We went to the mall yesterday to exchange some wedding gifts, and after a quick stroll through the Pottery Barn and PB Kids, I realized that the colors from A Little Romance are quite the rage among the kiddos' home dec right now. I suppose it all goes to show you that there are some fabrics out there that look a lot better sliced and diced in a quilt than they do on the bolt. I don't quite have the vision and talent it takes to see the potential in these less pretty fabrics, but maybe it will come one day.

For the quilting, I stippled in all the white space, a la Heather Mulder Peterson, then, I just did curvy outlines on the inside of the bowtie blocks.

Vital stats...
Started: February 2010
Finished: February 2010
Machine-pieced, machine-quilted
Fabric Collection: A Little Romance by April Cornell

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Parade of Tablerunners, Day 3

Today's the last day of my tablerunner parade for now. Today's runner is made out of leftover quilt blocks. I've heard of some folks who save all their leftover blocks from various quilts, then they make one big "leftover" scrap quilt using the various blocks. I like this idea, but even more, I still like for my quilts to be matchy-matchy (hence my love of pre-cuts). Whenever I use the layercakes, jelly rolls, etc, inevitably, I end up with a few extra blocks than what I need. So I make table runners out of the leftovers. This time around, I even had some extra border and binding fabric to complement the original quilt that I made for Merissa last year for being in our wedding.

Vital stats...
Fabric: 1974 from Urban Chicks
Started: August 2009
Finished: February 2010
Machine-pieced, machine-quilted

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Parade of Tablerunners, Day 2

Today's tablerunner is brought to you by two of my favorite peeps in the quilting world: April Cornell and Heather Mulder Peterson. I made the top for this tablerunner about a year ago out of a charm pack that I wasn't really all that into, using a pattern that didn't really excite me all that much when I started it.

After a few months, I realized that admittedly, yes, it's true. None of the fabric really matches anything else I've done before, but that's alright. And it's true that none of my points in the pattern matched up, despite the fact that I actually followed the directions closely (a novel thing for me).

But once I pulled it out of the rubbermaid bin to quilt it last week, it hit me that I LOVE this tablerunner. As I was binding it the other night, I just kept smiling because the thought of it hanging in my cubicle at work is pretty exciting (If you could see my drab cubicle, you'd understand.) I dunno why it took me so long to come around to it. Maybe sometimes these things just need to percolate for a bit.

Vital stats...
Collection: Maypole from April Cornell
Pattern: Everyday TableTopper from Charmed and Dangerous by Heather Mulder Peterson
Started: February 2009
Finished: February 2010
Machine-pieced, machine-quilted

Monday, February 22, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - February 21-27

Um, so again, we ran out of grocery money before we ran out of month. I blame the Costco. I mean seriously, what could be better than whole QUARTS of cheese dip and hummus? Sigh. At least I had a few meals stashed away in the freezer. Here's our frugally-minded week.

Sunday - Foster's Market Macaroni and Cheese (had a batch of the filling in the freezer)
Monday - Roasted Vegetables with Tortellini (in which I roasted a little of lots of fridge leftovers and tossed them with some homemade alfredo sauce and pasta)
Tuesday - Black Bean Burgers and Tater Tots (thanks, Costco!)
Wednesday - Bean and Rice Burritos
Thursday - Stir-Fried Vegetables
Friday - Frozen Pizza
Saturday - Chicken and Broccoli Casserole (from the freezer)

For more menus, check out OrgJunkie's website!!

Parade of Tablerunners will continue tomorrow...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Parade of Tablerunners, Day 1

Like I mentioned last weekend, I finished up some tablerunners while I watched TV this week. Now, they're all bound and ready to decorate my somewhat cluttered table. Since there are 3 of them, I've decided to have a tablerunner mini-parade. Here's Day 1:

For this pattern, I used the Petits Fours pattern from Moda Bake Shop. It was a great tutorial with easy to follow instructions. The best part? It takes only one charm pack and a teeny bit of yardage to make the top of this table runner. I used a Patisserie charm pack from Fig Tree Quilts that I won off ebay last summer. I'm a big fan of how the bright red pops against the more neutrals and tans in this collection. I'm toying with the idea of tracking down more pre-cuts and yardage from this collection to make a bigger project, since I need more projects ;)

Vital stats...
Started: August 2009
Finished: February 2010
Machine-pieced, machine-quilted.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Best of My World This Week, through 2/20

  • Green Fairy Quilts Feather Quilting Video - Judi is one of the best quilters I've seen out in blogland, and I could watch her quilt all day long, hoping to absorb some of her talent. If you're as awed as I am, be sure to check out some of the other videos she's posted.
  • Creative Pre-Cut Storage - Brought to you by Carrie - I thought this was a great way to store your pre-cuts so you can drool over, I mean, see them.
  • The Knitting Olympics - The challenge: While you watch the Olympics, have a specific project to finish. Yes, the Olympics are almost over, but think there's a project you can finish before the closing bars of the last medals ceremony?
  • Roman Blind Curtains - Almost all the curtains in our house were hideous when we moved in, but I'm on the lookout for easy-ish tutorials to make some replacements.

  • Irish Soda Bread - Get your Irish on in preparation for St. Patrick's Day.
  • Filling Breakfasts - For some reason, once I hit college, it was a like someone flipped a switch in my brain, and all of a sudden, I LOVED breakfast food. Ever since I graduated, one of the things I miss most about school is a huge buffet of breakfast food that I don't have to fix or clean up. Sigh.
  • Baked Eggplant Parmesan - First you bake (not fry) the breaded eggplant, then you bake them again with the pasta and sauce. My kind of easy low-mess recipe.
  • Cinnamon Bun Recipe (Bread Baker's Apprentice) - To anyone who reads this and knows such things, can I freeze these buns and save them to bake one or two or three at a time later?
  • Rustic Cocoa Cream Loaf Cake - Um, can we say yum?

  • Vintage Ad Browser - I don't know why they're so appealing to me, but I don't think there's a single room in my house where I wouldn't put a vintage ad poster. Even the bathrooms, maybe especially the bathrooms.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Motivation and Honesty

Last night, I read this post from Judy @ Patchwork Times. I hate to say it's sobering, because it didn't really make me sad to read it, but it was pretty convicting. If you're a quilter/crafter who has a few issues starting everything you finish, I would encourage you to go read it now. It's not long. I'll wait here. :)

So here's my quandary. Over the past year or so, I've been merrily making tops, with the secret hope that in a few years, I'll be the proud owner of a cute longarm quilting machine. (I guess it's not such a secret hope since I just announced it to blogland.) And at that point, I'll need lots of tops to practice using my longarm machine. But then I read that article and was hit pretty hard by the part about the quilt tops in the estate sales. Call me morbid, but my first thought was, "If anything happens to me, I don't want the fam to be stuck with all those tops. I want someone to see my finished quilts and fall in love with them, be it a stranger or family member." My next thought was, "Gee, I'm awfully vain." [Cue Carly Simon music here.]

What you see above are 10 quilt tops of varying sizes. My plan: Quilt these 10 tops by the end of the year, with the understanding that I'm probably going to be generating other quilt tops by the by. But that's okay, as long as these 10 are quilted, I'll feel a lot better.

These other quilt tops I speak of? Probably inspired by books like these. Of course the same night I make this kind of resolution I unpack these books. If you like the pre-cuts and you haven't taken a look at these books, take a look at them the next time you're in your quilt shop. Heather always designs great patterns that are fun to put together.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - February 14-20

So it might look like we keep eating some of the same foods each week. But what's really going on is that I don't really feel like making dinner some nights, and we chow down on our many leftovers. So I just push the unmade meals into the next week. I think this might be the 3rd week in a row that Spinach Shells shows up on our menu. Honest to goodness, we're eating it this week.

Sunday - Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells
Monday - Baked Potato with Vegetarian Cincinnati Chili
Tuesday - Breakfast for Dinner - Hashbrown Casserole (1/2 recipe), Scrambled Eggs, Sourdough Toast
[A word about the hashbrown casserole: This is one of the most lethal dishes I make. Seriously, I've made cakes that have better Nutrition Data ratings than this casserole. Even using the Cooking Light version, which is linked, the nutrition analysis indicates there's a higher percentage of calories from fat than calories from carbs in a serving - this hardly EVER happens. I think Cooking Light took the cheater's way out on this one and just increased the number of servings in the dish, rather than lighten anything up significantly. In summary, this dish is OH SO TASTY, but I don't recommend making this any more than once every couple of months. Everything in moderation, okay, y'all?]
Wednesday - Black Bean and Sweet Potato Quesadillas
Thursday - (Fake) Chicken Divan Casserole
Friday - Frozen Pizza
Saturday - Chilean Bean Stew and Cornbread

Also, I've included our Sweet Potato Chili recipe below...

1 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 sweet potatoes, chopped in 1/2" cubes
1/4 c chili powder - we like lots of chili powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
2 cans red kidney beans, drained
1 (14.5) oz can crushed tomatoes
1 c water (or beer or broth)
2 chipotle peppers (or less/more) and 1 T of adobo sauce from can

In a saute pan heat the olive oil; brown the next 4 ingredients until onions are transluscent. Add the spices and stir to coat the vegetables. Transfer the spiced vegetables to a greased slow-cooker. Add the remaining ingredients and stir. Cover and heat on low 8-ish hours.

Serve with cornbread or cornbread muffins for a great cold-weather meal! I like to brown the vegetables and put all the ingredients in the crock pot the night before. Then all I have to do the next morning is set the crock down in the pot, plug it in, turn it on, and go.

For more menu plans, be sure to check OrgJunkie's website.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Best of My World This Week, through 2/14

  • New Book from Heather @ Trends & Traditions - Be on the lookout for Heather's new book on how to make pillows to match all those quilts that you make. Best news? NO piping required!! And while you're there, sign up for the giveaway.
  • Off the Grid Sliced 9-Patch - I'm a big fan of 9-patches and all their variations. This pattern is a great one, not only because it looks super-cool when you're done, but it also uses the cheapest pre-cuts - 2 charm packs and a honey bun.
  • 9-Patch Lattice Quilt - this past week was a great week for 9-patches. This pattern is also on my to-do list.
  • Swanky Turnover Quilt - Okay, I lied. Turnovers are also pretty cheap pre-cuts. The genius behind this pattern is that I look at the finished product and don't see it coming from giant triangles. I haven't worked with a turnover yet, but this one definitely inspires me.

  • Bananas Foster Cupcakes - The first time my dad tried to make the original dish, he almost set the kitchen on fire. Ever since then, I've had a soft spot for bananas foster and its many spinoffs.
  • Healthy Baked Macaroni and Cheese - I'm not sure how healthy this is, except for the fact that there's loads of spinach in it. But I'm willing to try anything that has "macaroni and cheese" in the title, regardless of its effect on my calorie counts.
  • Butternut Squash Risotto - Sure would be tasty, served with some asparagus or kale.
  • Pasta with Spinach and Ricotta Cheese - So simple, but oh so tasty.
  • Black Bean Soup with Avocado Salsa - One of our favorite Chapel Hill restaurants, Margaret's Cantina, serves the best black bean soup I've ever had. It's always so dark and tasty. I think I've figured out their secret - they cook the beans in the soup, so all the bean broth stays in the soup instead of being drained out when beans are cooked separately.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Oh Dorie, I do love you, but...

why do your recipes always require that I wash so many dishes???

For Valentine's Day, I told the Hubz I would make him a cake, any cake from any of our cookbooks. He chose this one. I am not exaggerating at all when I tell you that it has never taken me this long to make a cake in my life. I should have known, since the recipe is 2 1/2 pages long. Luckily, most of that text consists of really good directions. I made the chocolate creams last night, and this morning I made the actual cake, which stuck to the pan and was not salvageable. I blame the vacuum cleaner salesmen that showed up at our door in the middle of the process. So I just now finished making the cake again. Next, we get to assemble it. In the name of love, right?

In between the cake fiascos, I've been getting some sewing done. When I was on the phone with Mom one night last week, I pinned together the sandwiches for a few table runners. Pinning the sandwiches is my least favorite part of the quilting process, hands down. I've discovered that speaker phone has made it much more tolerable. Today, I stippled the runners, then made and attached the bindings. Now they're all ready for me to tack down by hand. I'll actually have something to work on when we watch movies now.

I also finished up the blocks for the modern siggy swap! Can't wait until next month when I get a bag full of everyone else's blocks! It will probably end up being my scrappiest creation to date. Well, unless I make good on one of my New Year's Resolutions and haul out my scraps for a scrappy top before the blocks arrive.

All in all, a productive day (except for the pile of laundry I haven't folded). We still have our Valentine's Dinner tonight, which will be Chinese takeout. I know it doesn't sound very romantic, but we didn't feel like fighting the crowds. Although we did want to try a new restaurant. So I declared it a low-maintenance holiday with Chinese takeout, since I've never had it before. I've had Chinese food, and I've had takeout, but I've never had Chinese takeout. And in all the chicklit books I read, the love-struck heroine and her luv interest consume Chinese takeout at some point during the plot. I feel like I'm really missing out on something. Maybe? I dunno. At least, it will be a new experience. If all goes well, maybe we'll even have cake for dessert.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Resolution Update #1

So I'd like to hold myself to some level of accountability with the resolutions I so boldly proclaimed last month. Here's the ugly truth...

1) Flossing 4x/week: Epic fail. Although when I went to the dentist a week and a half ago, I didn't get the usual finger-wagging lecture on the importance of flossing. I can't decide if I'm lucky or if the electric toothbrush I've been using the past 7 months or so is compensating for my bad habits.

2) 10,000 steps/day: Success, followed by failure. I was REALLY good about this for about 3 weeks. Heck, I even lost 8 pounds, count them - EIGHT. That's a whole BABY. Then work got busy, it got stinkin' cold, and I'm kind of right back where I started - averaging anywhere between 5000 and 8000 steps/day. February will be better. It must be better. My back hurt all weekend, and besides that, spring's coming. I can't hide my rolls under my fleece jacket forever.

3) Cutting into fat quarter bundles: not yet, but I have plans.

4) Scrap quilt top: not yet, but the ideas are percolating.

5) Exploring new restaurants in Durham: wildly successful. Thus far, we've tried Thai Cafe, Rockwood Filling Station, and El Corral, all restaurants we would gladly visit again.

So there it is, my brutally honest resolution update. Does anyone else have any happy resolution updates?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Menu Plan Monday and a Schnibbles Finish!

I had a great weekend, but I didn't spend much time at the house, meaning I didn't have much time to get organized for the week, like I usually do. So here it is Monday, and I feel slightly off-kilter and disorganized. All that being said, I'm aiming for a low-key week in the kitchen, so as not to perpetuate the disorganization.

Sunday - Super Bowl snacks
Monday - Leftovers; Make BANANA Bread
Tuesday - Creamy Orzo, Asparagus
Wednesday - Potato-Ale Cheese Soup
Thursday - Baked Latkes, Applesauce, Asparagus
Friday - Frozen Pizza
Saturday - Eat out/Take out?

For more menu plans, be sure to check out OrgJunkie's website.

In exciting weekend news, while I was home, I worked on my Picnic Schnibbles top (outstanding since November, oops). I ended up with 36 baskets altogether (in this quilt. I have 32 more that I haven't decided what to do with.), and I used a completely different setting than Carrie suggests (see previous posts about not following directions). It's not quite as Schnibbly as the other quilts on parade, not all of my points matched (eh, maybe someday), but I love this one just the same. But seriously, y'all. Quilt patterns like this, with all the triangles to be cut, pressed, and trimmed, were NOT meant to be doubled. I should have known better. I'm making a pact that from here on out, I'm not doubling, tripling, etc the number of blocks in Carrie's patterns. I know, I'm probably going to be eating my words in a couple of months. But it makes it a lot more manageable to just follow the directions.

I used a layer cake - Figgy Pudding by Basic Grey - and plain cream for the backgrounds. The colors in this collection are so fun and fresh. I think they look like prints you would find in a Pottery Barn catalog. What I'm most excited about is that, as of today, I am caught up on the Schnibbles challenge. Thank goodness Sinta and Sherry are counting flimsies as finishes. Otherwise, I'd be toast.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Best Of My World This Week (2-week Edition)

  • Skinny Verna Table Runner - The perfect pattern for all those lone charm packs I have sitting around. For most charm projects, I like to use 2 charm packs, but sometimes I just don't like a collection enough to buy two, so the packs sit around for months (years). Here's to using one up with this pattern.
  • Pretty Organization - For the file cabinet I inherited from Mom and Dad. The Hubz won't even know what hit him.
  • Decoupaging Furniture - Mom and Dad also gave me an ugly brown desk. It's in good condition but just not very pretty. Once I decided where it goes, I'll get to work.
  • Lace-Trimmed T-Shirt - I realized that in the spring/summer, I live in T-shirts from Old Navy and Target. Maybe I can dress up a few so I don't look like I'm still in college.
  • Graduation Quilt Pattern - I've been thinking about a similar style of quilt for our bedroom. Maybe just a plain cream with a stripe of coordinating prints going down one side?
  • Fabric Wrap Photo Mat - For any last-minute Valentine's Day gifts you need to crank out.
  • Pizza Bites - Just in case you haven't decided what you're going to fix for your Super Bowl Party (Go Saints!)
  • Chicken Corn and Potato Chowder - Maybe it's because it's been so stinkin' cold for the past few months, but this sounds sooo tasty.
  • Pear Crostata - Don't worry. If you scroll down, the recipe's in English.
  • Indoor Herb Garden Tips - 1) I'm tired of paying too much $$ for basil in the middle of winter. 2) The previous owners of our house left a boatload of small flower pots on the backporch with dead cactus plants in them. It's time to put them to work.
  • Cookbook Exploitation Month - The author estimates that 95% of the recipes sitting on his shelf have never even been tried. Eep. I've been trying to use my cookbooks more often. It's so easy to get stuck in my usual routine of the 15-25 recipes or so that I know from memory and just make those over and over again. This next week, I'm trying some new recipes from our Moosewood Restaurant cookbook. (More on that in a few days)
  • More Month Than Money - This handy little booklet has been a pretty good guide for me as I've started worrying about sticking within our monthly grocery budget and putting healthy food on the table.
  • Fruit Salad to Rival the Cheese Plate - The very few times that the Mother In Law actually asks me to bring something to family get togethers, it's always fruit salad. And somehow, my salad is always an epic fail. Next time, I'll be prepared with this recipe.
  • The Top 10 Top 10 Food Lists - Because every vh1 fan likes a good countdown.
  • Fudgy Kahlua Brownies with Brown Butter Icing - 'Nough said.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Menu Plan Monday, 1st week of February

We had a great weekend - it snowed about 5" or so on Friday night then iced over Saturday, and we didn't go anywhere. We made our grocery run Thursday night and stocked up on firewood so we wouldn't have to leave the house again. The snow is oh so pretty, but this area of the country is not so well-equipped for heavy-duty snow plowing, so we're still stranded at the house. When I was madly planning our menu the other night, I knew we were about to get hit with the winter storm, so there are lots of soups and comfort food on the menu for this week.

Sunday - Vegetable Lasagna, Salad, Homemade Focaccia
Monday - Butternut Squash Soup, Focaccia
Tuesday - Breakfast for Dinner = Hashbrown Casserole, Scrambled Eggs, Fruit, Sourdough Toast
Wednesday - Bean & Rice Burritos
Thursday - Tortellini and White Bean Soup
Friday - Frozen Pizza, Salad
Saturday - Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

For more of this week's menus, be sure to check out OrgJunkie's website.