Sunday, April 29, 2012

Teacher Appreciation gifts

Since teacher appreciation week (usually the first week in May) is right around the corner I've been trying to get some things put together for H's lovely teachers - without waiting until the last minute (who me? what?). I found these black ruffle canvas bags at Michael's for 6.99 each and with my coupon I think they ended up being close to 5.50 - score! You know I love to make things but some times things that are cuted up are just fine too :-)

So I sewed rick rack on the straps, purple on one, brown on the other and WHY in the world can't I find JUMBO purple rick rack??!! I looked everywhere. Found none. Annoyed me almost to death. Let it go, moved on - obviously ;-) So I tried to go with colors I see each teacher wearing, hopefully I'm guessing right on their preferences.

Then as a final cute-y cuteness I made up some of these flower button pins from Beki's tutorial. Genius - easy and super cute. But I will warn you making them is highly addictive. Highly. You need glass and bead glue and the little metal clasp pins to go with your buttons and you're all set. This is a project for moms though, the glue is not little person friendly.The only tough part now will be trying to decide which ones to actually pin on the bags.

After talking with some other moms in H's class I think we've decided to do a collaborative project for Teacher Appreciation week and save the bigger gifts for the end of the year thank you gifts. Our end of the year is a mere two weeks later! So the two projects we're thinking about are: 1) each student brings a flower for each teacher, one parent supplies a small vase for each and they each have a bouquet by the end of the day or 2) each student brings in a piece or two of fruit, one parent supplies a basket for each teacher and they end up with a nice basket of fresh fruit. I love these because no one has to do too much but the teachers each have a token of our appreciation. If anyone has other group ideas I'd love to hear them!

Oh and the bar cookies from my last post? SUPER rich, delicious but cut them into small squares. I did 16 squares from an 8" pan and they were a lot to eat - impressive I know. I didn't have any problem putting away all the pecan crinkles that were left though ;-)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cookie Heaven

I made some cookies for my dear husband to share at work today - he has a co-worker/friend in from the UK who is nice enough to keep us in Wispa bars, so we like to exchange for favor for yummy baked goods. I thought it would be a good excuse to try these scrumptious looking Brown Sugar Crinkles that I saw over on Bake or Break. Ah, yeah, these might be the best cookies I have ever made or eaten. And I don't say that lightly. Full of butter, dark brown sugar and pecans these taste buttery, caramelly and nutty all in one lovely bite. The added powdered sugar coating (the crinkle) adds just the right sweetness. Cookie heaven I tell you.

Brown Sugar (Pecan) Crinkles from Bake or Break:
Recipe adapted from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion. Read more at Bake or Break.
1 & 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup salted, toasted pecans*

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

 Beat brown sugar, butter, and vanilla until well-blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in baking soda and salt. Add flour and pecans, stirring until smooth. Cover bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease or line baking sheets. Place confectioners’ sugar in a shallow dish. Using about a tablespoonful of dough, roll dough into balls. Roll balls in confectioners’ sugar, coating thoroughly. Place dough balls 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake 12 minutes, or until cookies have spread and cracked on top. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes. Then, transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

*Before toasting pecans, lightly spritz with water and sprinkle with salt.

I also made the Black Bottom Bar cookies, also from Bake or Break. They were super easy to whip up and I loved how distinct the layers stayed.

I'll have to give you a full report on how these tasted once the hubs gets home because I was too busy shoveling the pecan crinkles in my mouth to taste these (insert sheepish grin). I'm sure they were as awesome as everything else I'm made from Bake or Break. She seems to have a love of brown sugar and pecans that rivals my own ;-) Linking up with Debbie for Tuesday at the Table!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Zakka Pincushion

What a cute, quick project this was! I made this for the little person who is almost as obsessed with pins and pincushions as she is with scissors.

I used a little strip of coordinating fabric instead of the lac in the original pattern (it was a use-what's-here kind of day) and I like the contrast it gave. I also used a muslin scrap instead of the twill tape for my H stamp.

Then I got all fancy and used the button maker that Melissa gave me for my birthday and made my own covered button, impressing even myself with my craftiness. Ok, maybe impressing ONLY myself but I'll take it :-)

Hope you're finding some time to do something fun this Saturday too!

I'm linking this up with Lindsey's Zakka Sew-a-long - go check out all the lovely things!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Napkins and Bread

Here's to celebrating the small (and lovely) things! I got my serger for Christmas and was too intimidated to take it out of the box - true story. Thankfully I'd also asked for a serger class to go along with the machine. So last Thursday night three other ladies and I got to get started conquering our serger anxieties with Elle at Whipstitch. First let me say that she is an awesome teacher - knowledgeable and patient - and I left that class feeling like I knew how to thread my machine (huge) and that my fear of it was greatly diminished. Second, I liked it way more than I expected to! I actually finished my four rolled-edge hem napkins and even though I had to re-thread my machine at least 18 times, I'm going to make four MORE! Because four napkins will never be enough if we have anyone else over and I want to show off my new-found napkin making ability (and I will). So here are my gorgeous new napkins - fabric from Hancock's, green platter from Crate and Barrel, white tray from IKEA.

The other thing I accomplished this week was making some of this bread, one of my favorites, Honey Butter Oatmeal Bread. It's goes together quickly and makes wonderful toast. I've also realized that my kiddo LOVES any kitchen project - stirring, measuring, and best of all sprinkling. So this was a good project while Daddy was out of town and she was quite tickled to eat our toast the next morning :-)

This is from an older cookbook in my collection America's Bread Book by Mary Gubser - a great collection of regional favorites from all around the country.

Honey Butter Oatmeal Bread

2 pkgs yeast (4 1/2 tsp)
1/4 C. warm water

combine in a small bowl and let yeast proof for a few minutes. In a separate large bowl combine:

2 C. warm buttermilk
1/3 C. honey
yeast mixture

mix well, then add:

1 C. flour
1 1/3 C. rolled oats (not instant)

Mix well, cover with a towel and let proof 30 minutes or until bubbly. Then add:

1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 C. melted butter

mix until blended then add up to 4 C. flour to make a soft dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Knead 10 minutes by hand (HAhaha - I did about 6 minutes in the kitchenaid) or until smooth and satiny. Divide dough in half and cover, let rest 30 minutes. Grease two 8 1/2" loaf pans, shape dough balls into loaves and place in pans. Let rise an additional 30 minutes. Bake 45 minutes at 325 degrees. Let cool on wire racks. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Another sheep for the flock.

I can't believe another week has passed, seemingly in the blink of an eye. The past month has certainly knocked me off the blogging wagon but I am hoping to hop back on! So lets start the catch up. Last Sunday we celebrated the impending arrival of the newest Shepard with a baby shower for my brother and his wife. We tried to keep it fairly casual and relaxed but we did put a few decorations and I made these sheep cupcakes. Can you tell which ones my assistant "helped" with? I'll give you a hint, they had much fancier ears than the ones I did ;-)

Cupboard spruced up with any and all available sheep, including a sheep painting I did approximately a million years ago.

Tried to come up with a cute quote for the chalkboard (since our "welcome 2012" seemed a little dated) and I've just always loved this Pooh quote. Plus it seems like what you need to remind yourself frequently during those first few sleep-deprived months.

My sister had seen cute "bunting" done with onesies and baby hats - this isn't the best picture but it was very cute. Then they could also take the teeny outfits home after the shower!

The new parents to-be - probably the most attractive couple I personally know, can't wait to see how cute their little peanut will be (a boy by the way).

And a few of the little people who were in attendance. What is it about cheese slices and crackers and teeny, tiny veggies that draws them like moths to the flame? I think mine made a plate for everyone with exactly one of each item on it whether they wanted it or not! I think I see a little bossiness in her, completely mystified where it comes from ;-) Perhaps another teacher in the making? My husband also says possible "middle management" based on her love of endlessly organizing things unnecessarily (and the reorganizing them 5 minutes later), as well as her great capacity to delegate.

Our own little peanut from back in the day - it seems like forever ago that she was so small. And she was HUGE here compared to how teeny tiny she was when she was born (3 lbs, 5 oz).

I've been thinking about what advice new parents REALLY need, what advice we needed. I think the best advice I can give is to breathe deep and know that it IS hard and wonderful in equal measure, but not to let the hard moments overshadow the miraculous ones. Try to be present as much as you can and take in all the little details that will change and be gone in an instant. Be kind to each other as you adjust to your new roles. It's ok to be a little sad when you realize your old life really is gone. You will sleep again, just not as soon as you'd like to. Ask for help when you're at the end of your rope - the people who love you WANT to help (especially when there's a cute baby involved who isn't keeping them up at night).

How can you truly give people any advice who are getting ready to embark on the most life changing adventure they'll ever have? I think all we can really do is wave from the shore and yell "Good Luck! We love you!", knowing that it'll be okay, it'll even be great some days, and try to give them a light to turn to as they try to find their way. I know that I am eternally thankful and grateful to all the people who shone their lights for us as we navigated those HARD first months (alright, really the hard first 18 months but who was counting?). It certainly was the best and worst of times - but then again, isn't that just called being a parent? ;-)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Onion Dip for Onion Haters

Life is just funny. Last week with my dear daughter on "spring break" I figured I'd get NO sewing done. Nada. Zilch. As it were, my car was in the shop for three days (scheduled maintenance than drug on and on and ON) and we had a few glorious days of putzing around. This combined with my brilliant idea to put a second chair at my sewing table made it possible for said child to sit next to me, happy as a clam to draw, glue, what-have-you while I sewed. This might not seem like much to you but to me it was pretty much a miracle. This week it's been back to our normal nuttiness and hardly any sewing has gotten done. BUT we did have family over for Easter and while I mostly took the easy way out I did make this most wonderful of all onion dips. SO wonderful that even I, a self-professed onion HATER since birth, can not eat it fast enough.

I can't really take credit, it's Ina's from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. I give you Pan-fried Onion Dip (insert clouds parting, sunbeams shining and angels singing here). So easy, so delicious. I altered it just slightly from the original. That is the size onion I used just to give you a frame of reference when I say large onion.

Pan-fried Onion Dip
2 large onions - I always use sweet but you could also use yellow

Ina chopped her onions in half, then into 1/8" thick semi-circles. I cut mine smaller (small dice) because I don't like big chunks - you slice 'em however you like. Then saute over medium heat with:

4 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 to 1 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 - 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper - this is optional and I actually used a 1/2 tsp of Aleppo pepper, spicy without being hot, I get it at Penzey's.

The original recipe says to saute for 10 minutes over medium heat, then an additional 20 minutes at medium-low. I'll be honest with you and tell you that it always takes me a LOT longer to get the onions caramelized to that deep, dark golden brown color. But it's worth it, trust me. Just stand there and keep stirring every so often so they don't burn. Your onion will shrink down to a thick, gooey brown layer at the bottom of your pan, then take them off the heat and let them cool a bit.

In a separate bowl combine:
1 8oz block of cream cheese, softened
1 C. sour cream
1 C mayo - I like Hellmans

Mix well with electric mixer then add cooled onions. You can serve this at room temp or chilled from the fridge. I'd love to tell you how long it keeps but the best I can say is not long. I love it with teeny tiny potatoes that have been oven roasted (Trader Joe's sell them by the bag. It's a small bag though, so do yourself a favor and buy 2). It's also wonderful smeared on a bagel. Or you could you go the traditional route and serve it with pita or potato chips. Your call. Just know that you may want to stand by the bowl and just eat it with a spoon. It's that good. So at least if you're not sewing you can be eating something yummy, right?


Proof that I did cook a healthy dinner AND got my child to sit at the table to eat at least once in our lives! Hope you're all making it through your week, it's downhill to the weekend peeps - yay.

Tomorrow night I'm taking the first part of the serger class at Whipstitch and I'm nervous/excited - wish me luck!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Zakka Love

So this is the story of how love conquered triangles and how Lindsey motivated me to get busy. I bought Rashida's book as soon as it was out (ok, ok, I pre-ordered it, I knew it would be great) and I pretty much love every project in it. Then you know how that goes, you get busy, the book sits on the shelf, your husband says "you bought another book?!" and on and on. BUT then Lindsey over at LRStitched put together this awesome Zakka sew-a-long and I'm a sucker for a good sew-a-long.

Here's the other "but", BUT I was terrified of those darn triangles on that gorgeous tote. I've never sewn any triangles at all. Plus quilting math scares me and it makes me nuts when things don't line up right. So Geez. The hardest one right out of the gate. I loved it. I wanted it - if you know me at all you know I LOVE bags. Love love love. So I looked though my stash and I decided that if I was going to climb this mountain I was going to go for it with the good fabric and I busted out some of my Sandi Henderson stash. I'm also proud to say that except for the decor bond interfacing that I ordered this was entirely a from stash project!

Do I say that every project I make is my most favorite thing I've ever made? Yup, I think I do. But come on, this bag ROCKS! I am so proud of getting the triangles to look as good as they do - not perfect but pretty great. I made my straps a little longer (30" instead of 22") and I left out the magnetic snap (just didn't think I'd really use it on a tote). I could not be happier with how this turned out and it feels like a wonderful welcome to April, to finish something for myself and be pleased with how it turned out. Take that Perfectionism! This was my attempt to re-create the bag shot from the book.

So I think it was Essex linen (either that or Waterford but I really think Essex) that I bought at Whipstitch, Sandi Henderson for the only-slightly-wonky zigzags and then a springy green shot cotton for the lining. I used the decor bond on the lining, pocket and straps and it gave the bag a great sturdiness - I think I'm going to be using it in all my bags from now on. I loved the hand stitching Terri did on one of her bags and I could see doing another one and adding that lovely detail. Now I'm ready to bring on the rest of the Zakka sew-a-long projects!

Approximately 1/10th of a second after I finished photographing my new bag it was confiscated for a "turn" with it's "other owner" ;-) I'm just hoping I can save it from being used for the egg hunt in the morning. Maybe I should go hide it now actually. Whether you celebrate Easter or not, I hope you have a wonderful Sunday! See you next week --


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Oh April, so nice to see you!

Whew - I'm very happy indeed to see the month turn on the calendar and April finally arrive. Welcome April, please leave us all healthier and happier than March did!

So here's my Easter mini, one of Rachel's projects from the curves class. I love the way this springy little Drunkard's Path turned out but I can tell you that I do not have the patience to make a bigger quilt out of those - too fussy. But this little guy looks just right in the spring/Easter cupboard. My small assistant helped me pick out the blue gingham for the border and she's referring to this as "mine" so I'm not sure how long it'll actually stay hung.

Here's the cupboard in all it's glory - loads of pink this month. I love the patchwork and chenille eggs, they were purchased at a local flea market (Lakewood, gone but still missed).

A close up of the new mini and all it's bunny and fuzzy accompaniments. The bunny came from Target several years ago and the felt bunny from an etsy seller who doesn't seem to be selling anything anymore (sorry).

Sign and egg wreath also from Target, just last year. Softies on the bottom shelf bought on ebay so many years ago I'm not even sure how many :-)

And finally, one of our finest decisions as parents so far was to dress our darling up in highly entertaining (to us) outfits for almost every holiday for her first year of life. I seriously doubt we'll ever have so much influence in her dress ever again. We did it up right and I love looking at those photos more every year. I know if you have kids you understand and if you don't yet, trust me when I say, get those silly shots while you can!

Finally, Debbie over at A Quilter's Table tagged me a few weeks ago with some fun questions and I thought I'd take a minute to answer them, so here goes:

1. What is your favorite color to use in quilting? GREEN! It's my favorite color to use in pretty much everything :-)

2. Where would you like to visit in the U.S. that you've never been before? Seattle.

3. How old is the car you drive most? 2006 Mazda 5 and I LOVE it. Some of that love probably comes from the fact that it's paid off ;-)

4. What's the last movie you saw and would you recommend it? Saw the Hunger Games and sadly would NOT recommend it, such a bummer after such amazing books. I don't get to the movies as often as I'd like to, when we have babysitting the hubs and I usually go for a meal rather than a movie.

5. What makes a day great? Sleeping in, a kid in a good mood, time to sew - it's the little things!

6. What is your favorite snack? Right now I'm loving the fake Jamocha shakes my husband has been making us, not so good for my waistline but YUM!!

7. Besides quilting, do you have other hobbies? Baking and reading. Can you call avoiding exercise a hobby? If so then that too.

8. What is your least favorite household chore? Can I just make it easy and say ALL?! No, really I think it's the vacuum. I hate the noise, silly right?

9. Where would you live if you could? If all my immediate family wasn't in the South I think I'd really enjoy the pacific northwest. I'm a fall/winter girl and gray, rainy days make for lots of perfect sewing/baking/reading days :-)

10. What is your favorite quilt you've made? The really simple but gorgeous AMH quilt based on Erin's picnic blanket tutorial over at House on Hill Road. I had it quilted by a local long-arm quilter and I absolutely love it! We have it on the back of the couch for TV snuggling and it works great. A good lesson for me that using is better than hoarding for the "right" project :-)

11. What's your "wake up" beverage of choice? I am NOT a coffee drinker (much to my husband and BFF's dismay) so I usually start my day with a Coke. As in Coca Cola. Sometimes with a Chik-fil-A biscuit. That sweet and salty thing totally works for me.

Thanks Debbie for the fun questions!

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