Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What I've Been Up To

You may have noticed the complete lack of Farmer's Wife Sampler blocks in the last few weeks. Yes, I did burn out. I knew I would. It was partly the templates, partly the lack of squareness to the blocks, and I just plain got bored.

Today I read a post on genxquilters Annemarie's blog about how she has been reinspired by paper piecing the blocks. She signed up for the Yahoo group, and that is where she got the printable paper piecing sheets. She had heard about it from Michelle at http://cityhousestudio.blogspot.com/ . Now I know I was not the only one struggling to complete the sampler quilt! Now I can give this another shot and get better at paper piecing too. All the other blog posts I've read about paper piecing these blocks are rave reviews about perfect points and square blocks.

Just to be sure I am doing it correctly, I found this video tutorial on paper piecing.

In other news, I finished the back to the Island Chain quilt and dropped that off for quilting, sold the American Sweetheart quilt, made 4 more pairs of infant play pants for my friend's granddaughter, and appliqued a bit more on my Fall projects from last year.

Then I needed a total break from sewing so I hit the bookstore. I wanted to get "the Count of Monte Cristo" because I love the movie versions, but instead I chose others. And of course I bought books for Tyler while I was there! Duh! He was very excited to have a big book of Backyardigans tales, Mr. Seahorse, and a new copy of "Goodnight, Moon." How he loves his moon book. I got the hardcover version after our board book totally fell apart from use. If you need recommendations on childrens books, I am a childrens book fanatic. Ask me! For Tyler, bedtime always means story time. Whether we tell stories in the dark, or read books after his bath, there is no sleeping without stories.

For me, I bought "the Alchemist" by Paolo Coelho and read it in 24 hours. It is so interesting. It is sort of a combination of Hemingway and fable in its writing style. You could take some very deep lessons about life and perspective away from it. I will have to read it again to really take it all in. This is not a life-changing motivational book or a new form of spiritualism or anything (at least it is not for me) but it is definitely not one of those summer beach reads that are totally forgettable. It makes you think about things.

I also bought "My Antonia" by Willa Cather, because Nicole of Sister's Choice Quilts blogged about it a while back. I love literature, but, sadly, I fall far short of having read all the classics. I'm about half way through this one and like it very much.

When I get involved in reading, I am totally absorbed. I do not sew at all. But I will be back at the design wall again soon. I have tshirt quilt to finish and loads of ideas for my stash. I'll be back!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

3 Fabric Tube and French Seams Pillowcase Tutorial

How many of us have made a pillowcase for the Million Pillowcase Challenge? Or made one to accompany a quilt for Quilts of Valor? There are tutorials everywhere, and I am adding mine to the mix. Google "pillowcase tutorial" and you'll get over 600,000 results. Those are just tutorials. And then there are all the blogs that have been done about making these. I've seen people fancy theirs up with prairie points, crocheted edges, lace, piping, ric rac, bows, but I am going to keep it manageable and durable because these are for my toddler grandson. Making them is so easy and fun, it may be addicting.

To start off, you'll need fabric for the body, the trim and the border (cuff.) You must have the full width of fabric and you'll need that for all 3 pieces. For the main body of our pillowcase, you want 26 1/2" by the width of the fabric for a twin/queen sized pillow. Trim to make it squared up. I had bought this colorful alien print with the idea of making a crib sheet, but never got around to it. And because I bought that much in one length of yardage, there is plenty enough to make a set of two!

Looking in my stash, I found the black with tiny lime green specks print - just enough for 2 trim pieces! and the lime green with bright green triangles print for the border (or cuff, or whatever you want to call it.) Once you have made your decision, it is all downhill from there.

Cut the trim piece 3" wide x WOF, then press with wrong sides together so that you have a long, 1 1/2" wide strip. Set aside.

Cut the cuff fabric 10" wide x WOF. Now you should have all three fabrics cut and ready to sew!

Lay your cuff fabric face up on your work surface. Next will be the fabric for the main pillowcase, also face up, aligning the top and side edges with the cuff piece. On top of both of those you'll line up the trim piece, folded edge away from the top. You can pin a bit here to keep them lined up.

Here's the fun part. Roll up the main body fabric so that you can see the cuff fabric below and above it. Bring the cuff fabric up over the roll and pin to that you have a roll that sandwiches the main part of the pillowcase inside it like a burrito. You want your roll to be small enough to not get caught in the seam. Stitch a 1/2" seam along the pinned edge. Backstitch the start and end for stability.

Now reach inside the tube and gently pull the body of the pillowcase out. 

Now you are ready to make your French seam! Go ahead and even up the sides trimming off the selvages to get to a 42" width and give it a quick press. Fold the case in half, matching up the trim and cuff top. Make sure that the fold of the trim piece is not pointing toward the top, but toward the bottom, on both ends. Pin the sides together all the way down and along the bottom. You will sew a 1/4" seam, pivoting at the bottom corner for a continuous seam. When you are done, trim off the point on the corner so there is less bulk inside the seam.

Trim up any fraying threads, then turn your pillowcase inside out. Wrong sides together. Push the corners out so they have a nice crisp point and press. You can spray starch too if you like. It is not a bad idea to put a few pins in the keep the top edge and the trim even at this point too. Now you'll make a 3/8" to 1/2" seam all the way down and around again, pivoting at the corner.

And VOILA! A beautiful pillowcase with all the seams locked inside!

Repeat the steps as needed so that every bed in your house has fun, colorful pillows waiting for sleepyheads!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Few Finishes

Remember this post about the Island Chain quilt top and the Fourth of July quilt top? This is a little follow up to that, now that I have completed the backing for Island Chain and the other quilt "American Sweetheart" has its outer border, been quilted and bound. Also back from the quilter: Ginger Belle.

"American Sweetheart" was a 2006 McCall's Quilting pattern. It is funny that I put it away almost complete. It is ironic (if that is the right word) that most of the fabrics are 2006 or older. Even the border fabric I found at the last minute is a 2006 1930's reproduction print!

The back I made for Island Chain was inspired by a quilt called the Skinny Strips quilt in American Patchwork and Quilting. The link here is to their free downloadable pattern on All People Quilt. I chose that pattern because after making the Island Chain from a jelly roll of Oh My! I had all these leftovers that really don't go with any of my scrap stash. Not wanting them to waste away in the bin forever, this seemed to be the perfect answer. And it is going to be 2 quilts in one when it is quilted! 

The fabrics in Island Chain are not what I would buy for myself, but I LOVE THEM! My daughter picked it out for my Mother's Day gift. I swear that girl will someday admit she is a quilter at heart and stop denying any interest in the craft!

When I took the Island Chain class from Kim Brackett (author of Scrap Basket Sensations) everyone else used a Bali Pop. I was the odd one. It just proves that we should all step out of our habits, our comfort zone, and be surprised at what is waiting!

I think this is going to be one of my all time favorites.

Finally, the completed, quilted and bound "Ginger Belle" from Miss Rosie's Quilt Company patterns. It is in the book "Spice of Life Quilts."  The quilting is gorgeous. Exactly what it needed. And I didn't buy one piece of fabric for this quilt. Total stash buster!

Have you ever made a quilt from Kim Brackett or Carrie Nelson? You will not be able to stop!!! I want to make each and every one in their books.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

More Adventures with Zucchini

Okay, I tried a Zucchini Banana Bread recipe from Cooks.com and it was just that. OKAY. Not great. It made a huge loaf, and that is always nice. But the banana was very hard to detect. I want a wow factor.

While the bread was baking I got out my late grandmother's recipe box and looked through her desserts section. Wouldn't you know she had a Zucchini Cake recipe in there, and I had all the ingredients out? Is that fate or what? And seeing Gramma's handwriting made me all sentimental. I had to make it.

The following was made in a bundt pan. Picture borrowed from the web (lickthebowlgood.blogspot.com to be exact.) You know. My camera sucks.

Zucchini Cake

3 large eggs at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract - don't fake it, use real vanilla extract!
3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups coarsely shredded zucchini, unpeeled, loosely packed
1/2 cups finely chopped nuts (I used pecans)
optional 1/2 cup raisins (I used 1 1/2 cups Nestle Chocolate Chunks cause what is life without chocolate?)

In your large mixing bowl, blend the eggs for 30 seconds on low speed then add the oil, baking powder, soda, spices, vanilla and sugar on medium speed. Beat for 1 minute. Mixture should be smooth. Keep scraping the sides of the bowl while you do the mixing part.

Now mix in the flour using a wooden spoon, alternately adding the zucchini. When this is well blended, stir in the nuts, raisins, chocolate etc.

Pour this yummy batter into a greased and floured bundt pan (or other cake pan) and bake at 350 degrees for 70 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean from the center. Let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, loosen the edges with a knife, then invert onto a plate.

Some choose to sprinkle powdered sugar on the cooled cake, or a thin chocolate icing drizzled down the sides.

If you make this, and especially if you have some healthier conversions (like applesauce as an alternative to how much oil?) let me know! I'd also like to hear if you made the cake and your thoughts!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Food Trials and Gardening in Florida

I made Cheesy Zucchini Bake the other day. Not bad and very healthy. Its just that it is a tough sell at my house where loads of flavor are normal fare. Since I made the recipe about 1/3 bigger by adding fresh mushrooms and extra squash, I was not going to toss it out. Can't really freeze zucchini well. The alternative?

Please note, the picture to the left is from another blog, not my actual dinner. Most of you know my camera stinks, especially with food pics.

I drained off the juices that were in the bottom of the pan, browned 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef with some minced garlic and diced fresh sweet onion in a large skillet, added 2 jars of marinara sauce, and slid all the leftover squash in to simmer. Voila! A chili-like dish that can stand alone, or be served over pasta or rice. Sort of like this recipe, which reminded me of my childhood.

Once upon a time, we had a garden and my mother made something wonderful out of nearly baseball bat sized zucchini. (I think she learned not to skip checking the garden for more than a day at a time after that crop!)  She sliced the zucchinis down the middle lengthwise, parboiled them, scooped out the seeds and filled them with a meatsauce mixture like you would make into lasagna. Topped with Italian cheeses and baked, it really was like lasagna without noodles when you got a slice of that on your plate. The end.

Next up for me will be the Zucchini-Banana-Flaxseed Muffins as found in Everyday Food magazine. Minus the flax seed. I don't have any. I am pretty sure if I bought it, it would be much more than I'll ever use. What is flax seed? Is it like Wheat Germ? That stuff is not right. Like sawdust mixed into perfectly good food and ruining it. Seriously.  I'll make the zucchini banana muffins straight up, thank you.

I must admit I am jealous of all the bloggers who have grown big crops this summer and are now canning their rewards for winter. They must be in much more temperate climates than our lovely Pensacola. I dare them to come here and try to have a Summer garden with a full time job. I was spoiled by the ease of gardening in Southern California. There, you can literally throw a peach pit over your shoulder and have a fruit-bearing tree in a few years. Here, you will look like a Swamp Creature just trying to fight the weeds, the heat, the awful humidity, the fire ants, the Cow Ants, snakes, mosquitoes, berry vines, etc after work.  ( I think we should have a European type schedule, where everyone takes August off, because even the corn has given up and burned out by August. )

Market prices have never seemed so bad after a season of coming into the house drenched in sweat and a bad attitude.

And on that note, Bon Appetit!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I won an award!

I won a One Lovely Blog Award from Cook and Be Merry!  Isn't that nice? Thanks Lynne!

You may remember my post about the delicious Chicken and Sausage, Mushroom and Asparagus Pasta dish? That is Lynne's recipe! I guarantee that if you follow her blog, your mouth will be watering on a regular basis.

As part of the award, I am supposed to share 7 random facts about me! What a coincidence that I have been thinking of doing just that after reading it on other blogs.

1. Due to having to wear a full torso back brace in junior high for scoliosis, I can pick up most things with my toes. Everyone says I have monkey toes. My grandson and daughter also have the talent, so maybe the brace is just how I perfected it?

2. My favorite color is red, but I have very little of that color in my fabric stash. I make up for it with a red car and a red kitchen wall, pots and pans and Kitchenaid mixer.

3. I became a grandmother at 44. This pretty much goes with family history. I absolutely love being Nana! I've started making lots of clothing and accessories again since he came along.

4. Women in my family live to be an average of 89 years old. One great grandmother passed away at 99.
(I still have both maternal grandparents. That makes 5 generations here in Pensacola.)

5. I was in an art exhibition during my senior year. I drew a charcoal portrait of an old woman. How I wish the public schools allowed for more elective classes! I really wanted to take pottery, sculpture and other art classes, but there was never room in my schedule. Now I have to find the time and money in my busy life for art classes!

6. The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising accepted my application, but at 17 I was terrified of driving to and from Los Angeles by myself, so I never went. Sad, but true.

7. My second cousin and I are 4 days apart due to a $2 bet between his Marine dad and my Marine dad. You can probably figure the details out. I am the older. Yep, my dad won $2 and started a family.

That's a pretty good start on trivial facts, I guess.

Now to pass the award to some recently discovered blogs:


I hope you will visit them and enjoy them as much as I do. Please leave a comment so they’ll know you stopped by.

Blog Award conditions:

1. Post a link back to the person that gave you the award.
2. Share 7 random things about yourself.
3. Pass the award to recently discovered blogs. It is supposed to be 15, but I am going with 10. ;)
4. Drop them a note and tell them about it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I Can't Help It

I said I was going to slow down. I said I would only make 2 blocks a week from now on to avoid burning out, but I started 5 blocks yesterday. I finished the last 2 this morning. So there you go, 5 more blocks!