Thursday, May 29, 2008

Gym Rat

Well, who knew I'd love it so much. It's early in, but I'm finding it amazing that I can do it. I'm amazed that my body, which I ignored and neglected for years is responding to the attention and wants to push on. I look forward to going to class each day and love checking out the schedule to see what class to take next. My branch of the Y is new and probably doesn't have as many classes yet, but there seems to be something every day that I'm interested in checking out and that keeps it interesting. It helps that the kids seem to like going and it gets them out of the house for an hour or so. I like that I'm doing something just for me that promotes my sense of health and well being. I feel good and proud of myself! You go girl!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pattern drafting

I despise it and am more than glad to pay someone else to do it for me. However, I have become obsessed with the Oliver + S pattern but, not the price. Being frugal (read cheap) I have decided to draft my own. I purchased this handy little curved ruler to help me draw a nice curve and I am all set. We'll see how it goes...there might just be a pattern purchase in my future.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I knit!

I really do. I've never actually finished anything,lol...but I've knitted a lot, I just usually rip it out or the kids get a hold off it and do it for me. But, I signed up for a class and last night was the first class. It's a beginning sweater class and I'm going to make a sweater for O. I tried to be conservative and I picked a yarn that wasn't way out of control in terms of cost. I only needed 3 skeins which was a good thing. Some of the other ladies are making things that take 7 and 8 skeins of yarn and if you pay $10+/skein that begins to be a pretty pricey sweater. It's funny, when I pick a hobby...I don't ever seem to find something budget friendly do I? Oh well...I'm really excited about it.
I plan to work on it a bunch between now and the next class. Tonight we just talked about our different experiences...everyone has been knitting for 1-3 years so I don't feel like a total newbie. I think I'll be able to finish the sweater by the time the weather is cool enough for her to wear it. Keep an eye out for the finished project pictures

Monday, May 26, 2008

Monday's Meal

This one is good...this one is rich...this one you'll need to eat with a tall glass of milk. I thought I'd share this recipe for mocha lava cakes after making some and taking them to work, one of my co-workers, Kelly declared "This right here is a little piece of heaven". Well, enough said.

Mocha Lava Cake

2/3 cups Chocolate (it needs to be at least 64% cocoa...I found mine at Aldi's, go figure)
2/3 cup unsalted butter
2 eggs
2/3 cups of sugar
1/3 cup of flour

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Lightly butter and flour 6 ramekins
Melt chocolate and butter on low or 50% power in microwave, whisk together lightly
Add eggs to the chocolate mixture, whisking it in. Then add the sugar, whisk it in. Now add the flour and whisk it in. Scoop the mixture into your prepared ramekins about 3/4 full. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 mins, being careful not to overbake them. They should be cake textured around the rim, but still moist in the middle. Remove from the oven and let sit for 1-2 mins to cool. Remove them from the ramekins onto a plate. Serve with vanilla ice cream, whipped topping or fresh fruit. Heaven! Enjoy!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Six week declutter challenge

Ok! This is basically a challenge to myself. My friend and I were talking about the state of our homes and it got me thinking about purging, decluttering, donating, getting rid of stuff...downsizing. Whatever you want to call it, but it got me thinking that it's all too much. So...I've issued a challenge to myself to get control of it. I know that nobody is going to rescue me from this mess...but if I take it in small bits, focusing on a couple areas/week I should be able to make some great strides. So, not wanting to put things off, my week will run from Friday to Thursday and I'm going to start with books and magazines. I will post on freecycle to see if anyone wants them and I will not be concerned about the money I spent. I'll just let it go. So...week 1, bookshelf, books and magazines. I'll post about this again on Thursday and I'll let you know how it went. I think the next week I'm going to focus on the kitchen. I have alot of dishes and tupperware I need to purge as well as cleaning out the pantry. See, I've already got a game plan. This is good!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Under construction

I decided to change up my blog a bit. I have really contemplated switching to wordpress or typepad, but I'm going to see if I can figure out how to get closer to what I want using blogger for now. It's a lot of work, especially if you're severely technology challenged like I am. I have several more tweaks I need to make to it, but I had to take a break for now since my eyes were beginning to cross.
Along the same vain...I'm also under construction. I joined a real gym today. By real I mean as opposed to the community weight room that I belong to that I find very difficult to go to since there is no childcare or classes. After much research and several club tours I decided on the YMCA. It just seemed to make the most sense even though I have to admit I was swayed by the glitz and glamor of Lifetime Fitness. But, in the end I was still my pragmatic self and it just didn't make sense to drive further and pay twice as much for what boiled down to a nice restaurant and coffee bar that I probably wouldn't have ever used. Anyway, I had lots of errands to run today so I didn't go work out, but I'm going tomorrow to take a Muscle building class. I'm really excited and S. gets to go too since he's officially a teen and they're allowed to work out there after attending a class. So...I'm on my way. Hopefully by the time summer is in full swing I will be in the grove working out and approaching my next weight loss milestone. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Strawberry Fields , a thrift store score and a bit of sewing

Yesterday O. and I went strawberry picking. I did most of the work since 1. O. hates bugs and was worried that one was on her, lol. 2. She said the bucket was too heavy. She's a riot, that one. It was pretty fun though and the berries were beautiful, big and sweet. I froze some to enjoy later and I have some in the fridge that I will make some strawberry bread, jam and strawberry shortcakes. I just love baking and especially when the ingredients are fresh and of a good quality. Good butter, great chocolate, fresh fruit and you have the makings of something fabulous.

Oh and I wanted to share my great score with you. If I haven't said so before I love thrifting. It's the best. I love finding the hidden treasure and the super score! Yesterday was one of those days. For $34 I got 2 pairs of jeans, a pair of slacks, 4 shirts, 2 books and a brand new coach bag that is the perfect size for my camera ($8). I was stoked!!! Gotta love the thrift store.

Last but not least, here's one of the outfits I made for the boys when I was having my day of "clothes for the boys". I think it came out pretty cute and I used my coverstitcher on the shirt (the neckline is fine even though I realize that it looks a bit wonky lying flat for the photo). I also did an applique for the first time. It was completely unintentional, but a happy mistake. Originally I was just doing some embroidery on the tshirt front and I guess I didn't pay close enough attention when I was hooping it because it wasn't until the last color change that I noticed that the shirt was hooped upside down. Never fear...I finished and then cut it out as a patch and put it on the jean shorts. All is well. The raglan tshirt is from Ottobre 3/06 and the jean shorts are from the Kwiksew for Children. I love that book and use it constantly. I think it's a must for any sewist sewing for her children. It gives you master patterns that you can mix and match to create much of your children's wardrobe. Even though the photography is dated, the designs are classic and easily adapted to todays styles.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Monday's Meal

My friend Susan gave me this recipe and although I haven't tried it sounds delicious and seems worth sharing.

Creamy Ham and Potato Casserole

1 med. onion, chopped
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp all purpose flour
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 of an 8 oz neufchatel cheese (or you could use cream cheese)
1 cup gruyere cheese, shredded (4 oz.)
1 tbsp fresh chives or green onions
1 1/2 lbs yukon gold or red potatoes cut into small pieces
8 oz. black forest or country ham, chopped coarsely
1/2 cup of coarsely crushed bagel chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2qt baking dish.
In a medium saucepan cook onion in hot butter over medium heat for appox. 5 mins or until tender, stir constantly. Stir in flour and mustard. Add milk , cook and stir until slightly thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat to low. Whisk in neufchatel cheese until smooth. Gradually add 1/2 cup of gruyere cheese until melted. Stir in chives.
In another bowl combine potatoes, ham and the sauce, mix well. Transfer to your baking dish.
Bake covered for 1 hr or until potatoes are tender. Uncover and stir, sprinkle the remaining cheese and the bagel chips on top. Bake for 15 more minutes or until cheese is melted. Serves 6.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Why I sew?

Interesting question and one that gets discussed frequently on a sewing board I'm a member of. A friend and I were discussing it just the other day in fact. I mean we live in an era where RTW items can be had quite cheaply yet I chose to purchase yardage and create something while not particularly complicated, unique and personal.
I've always been interested in all crafty endeavors, which made me somewhat of an oddity in my family as my mom did not sew and is not crafty in the least. At various points in my life I've done many things including knitting, scrap booking, hook rugs, counted cross stitch and ceramics to name a few. I love the idea of using my imagination and hands to create something beautiful and if its useful too, well all the better. I have to admit I find it extremely relaxing too...the hum of the machine, the rhythm of it. I like knowing if I see something in a magazine that I can probably recreate it. I'm not a great seamstress, but I'm good one though and I have a good eye for fabrics and style. I love a challenge and I love learning new techniques. I guess I sew for the challenge, for the love of it and because I can. When I make something I feel like I'm stitching love in to it. I feel like I'm giving a little part of me with each thing I make.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Breakfast of champions

Last night before heading off to bed I mixed up a batch of cinnamon rolls. I've shared the recipe here before. They are so delicious and so good to wake up to. I left them to rise and this morning popped them into the oven. Ahhhh...the smell! Anyway, it is the perfect sweet indulgence. It's not lowcal or healthy, but every once and awhile it hits the spot. I brewed up some coffee, a dash of half and half and I'm all set to begin my day. It's raining out so I'm thinking this might be the perfect time to sew up a few things for the boys. I spend so much time making things for O. and of course indulging my purse fetish that I might go periods without sewing something for them. Shameful, but true. So today is all about my guys. I think I'll finish that camp shirt for M., a few tshirts with some cool embroideries, a couple pairs of shorts, oh and I have about 6 pairs of boxer briefs cut out. That should keep me busy.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Baby gift bonanza

One of the best things about being able to sew and just being crafty in general is making stuff for other folks. I get a big thrill in gifting homemade. My dear friend Brandy is expecting twin girls any day now. It's a great blessing to her and her family as she has struggled with infertility. I wanted to make her a few special items to welcome her baby girls. Nothing fancy really, but just personal and unique. I made her some bibs, burp cloths and a bag that she can use a diaper bag (I put 2 generous size pockets inside it). The fabric came from my's nice to have a fabric stash. I can usually find something to use whenever I want to make an item. I also didn't want to leave out her little daughter, MacKenzie who will soon be a big sister. I made her a little bag that Brandy can fill with special goodies and Mackenzie can carry them along with her when she goes to meet her new little sisters. I really enjoyed doing the embroidery on the items. I think it added a sweet touch. All the embroidery designs came from a wonderful online site called SewForum they have a great forum for sharing free designs. As soon as I get my software I hope to contribute some of my own designs to share. Anyway,her shower is tomorrow. I hope she likes her gifts.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Monday's Meal

Well, strawberry season is in full bloom here. I plan to take the kids this week as long it doesn't rain. In honor of that I thought I'd share a strawberry shortcake recipe. So, here you go...enjoy!

Strawberry Shortcakes
4 pints of rinsed, hulled and halfed strawberries
1 tbsp of lemon juice
1 tbsp of sugar
2 cups of self rising flour
2 1/2 tbsp of sugar
1/8 tsp of salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) of cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces
3/4 cup milk
2 tbsp heavy whipping cream

Place the strawberries, lemon juice and sugar into a bowl and lightly toss, let rest for 2 hrs.

Now preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a large baking sheet.

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Add butter using a pastry blender or fork mix until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Stir in the milk until a very soft dough is formed. Do not overwork the dough.
Drop the dough in equal portions on the prepared baking sheet. Pat the dough into rounds approx 3 inches in diameter and lightly brush the tops with the heavy cream. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool.
To assemble the shortcakes, cut them in half, place the strawberries and whipping cream inside and reassemble the shortcake top, top with more strawberries and whipping cream. Yummy!

Whipping Cream
2 cups of heavy whipping cream
3 tbsp of confectioners's sugar.
Blend together with hand mixer until cream is light and fluffy. You can use less or more sugar depending on how you prefer it.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Hallelujah! It's done!!!

The Amy Butler weekend travel bag is finished! Even with my many mistakes I'm still proud of how it turned out. I will be popping it in to the mail today, at long last.
What I learned. Well, I won't use such a challenging fabric next time. I have all quilters and home dec for my next foray. I won't use an upholstery zipper, I don't feel like it's opens and closes as smoothly as a sports zipper would have. I will sew the template down earlier in the process and I will put the lining in the way I did by machine and not the way she said which was by hand. It wasn't as hard IMHO...but I only needed to hand stitch it in couple of places and that made me so much happier than doing the whole thing by hand. Oh, and a good thimble is your friend. Also, I learned that it's ok to step back from a tedious project and work on other stuff until you get your mojo back, lol. I hope my mom likes it...I think she will.
There's O. modeling it for me. You can see the bag and I tried to show the detail of the piping and of course the dreaded lining.
I would encourage even a beginner to try this bag. It's not difficult, it just takes a bit of time and patience. The results are well worth it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Yay! My big boy is six! Happy Birthday E! I hope you enjoy your gifts and learn to play that guitar Musicman! We all love you! Make a wish!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Gift of Giving

Well...I was finally able to gift the little girl I bought the sewing machine for with it. I was so excited and she was too. She made a bag tonight and if I had been more organized I would have taken my camera so I could have gotten a picture of it. Next time though. She's getting really good and she's so cute because she is very meticulous about sewing very straight and gets annoyed with herself if it's a bit crooked, which it hardly ever is. She told me again how her friends couldn't believe that she had made her purse and skirt, oh and that she wore the skirt to a school dance. It makes me so happy to be able to share my love of sewing with her and help her develop her own. She proudly toted off her Singer tonight and I told her I would see her again next time. She has decided she wants to make herself another skirt. I'm going to have to look for some more suitable fabric. and perhaps see if she's ready for a zipper.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Pretty in Pink

For many years I was the mother of boys, not a bad thing at all...but the pleasure I get having a little girl to fuss over is hard to explain. And by some gift from the universe she is a girly girl. Loves the pink and purple, glittery, sparkly or shiny anything. She loves for me to make her things and she can spend hours at my feet as a sew up something for her so it's a symbiotic thing I guess. Anyways this is my Hanna Anderrsen knockoff. The main body of the dress came from the Ottobre 3/07 sleeveless tank dress and the sleeves are from 1/05 I believe. I made them puffed and did lettuce edging on the hem and the sleeves. The sweet pink fabric is from Chez Ami...I've had it for over a year and can't recall what line it's from. It's very soft and twirly. The perfect summer playdress.

Monday's Meal

So today I thought I'd share my swiss steak's not mine in the sense I created it, but mine because I collected it from a Southern Living magazine. Great magazine by the way, full of great recipes and they are kind enough to put an annual compilation of them together for us. Anyways this is so yummy and so easy. Great served over rice or egg noodles.

Smothered Swiss Steak
1/2 tsp salt
6 cube steaks
1/2 cup of flour
1 tsp of seasoned pepper
4 1/2 tbsp of vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
1 (14.5 oz) can of petite diced tomatoes
1 (12 oz) can of cola soft drink
1 tbsp of beef bullion granules
2 tbsp of tomato paste

Season steak on both sides w/the salt. Combine the flour and pepper in shallow dish and then dredge the steaks through it.
Brown your steaks in a medium high skillet in about 2-3 tbsp of oil for about 3 minutes on each side. Drain drippings from skillet reserving 1 tbsp in the skillet. Next cook the onions and peppers in the reserved drippings until softened, you may need to add the rest oil now. Add the next 4 ingredients and bring it to a boil to thicken, stir to keep from sticking on the bottom. Now add the steaks and remaining ingredients, reduce heat to medium low and cover. Cook for about 30 minutes. Check for doneness of the meat. Cook a bit longer if need be. Serve over rice or egg noddles along with a nice green salad. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A little diversion (aka procrastination)

Well, Mother's day is a week away and I still have not finished that Amy Butler Bag...I've lost my mojo for it...but I have to finish it since I told my mom she was getting something fabu! So, tomorrow will be a major sew in, all bag, all day! In the meantime I haven't been idle. I've made 2 other bags, hosted a birthday party for ten 5 and 6 year olds and made dd the sweetest peasant dress from a Japanese cotton import fabric. It's covered in fairy tale themes and has the most wonderful hand. It's sort of expensive, but now I'm determined I must have more. I used a pattern that I believe is OOP, simplicity 5222. I love it and so does she, which is to say she's worn her dress all day and if you knew O. you'd know that is high praise indeed. I also made her capri leggings from the Ottobre 1/07 issue. Just to challenge myself I tried something new. I serged down the elastic in the waistband (I normally just make a casing) and then folded it over and used my coverstitch machine to topstitch it in place. I love how it looks. I swear they look like I just got them from Gymbo, if I must say so myself. I can't believe how much better I've gotten at the coverstitching too...well, actually it's taken me almost a year to get half way decent so that just goes to show learning a new machine and new techniques can take awhile, but it's all worth it in the end.
Anyway, here's my girl. Don't mind the looks like that all the time, lol.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Oh so pretty!

Today was my monthly sojourn into Raleigh to go to the fabulous outlet store for the children's clothing designer Patsy Aiken. I'm a bit put out because I was late I mean I didn't get to tailgate with the other diehards and missed getting several of the new prints. It's a long story as to why I was late and I don't want to rehash it lest my head explode!
Anyways I did manage to pick up a few of the new prints...very few (insert frowny crying face here). It's not like I needed the fabric (my new mantra) but I wanted it.
Here's what I was able to grab up though...I may go back. I will go back.
But, look...isn't it pretty and springy?

As usual M. spotted something he liked and wanted me to turn into something for him. The boy has excellent taste. I'll make him a shirt and embroider something on it and finish the ensemble with the sports shorts from the last Ottobre in a navy blue interlock.