Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

Sewing, knitting and then some more sewing and maybe a bit more knitting. That's it, that's what I'm doing.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Holiday Gift Planning

It's know it's only April, but my abundance of yarn and fabric, along with the sage words of my dear friend Linda have inspired me to do handmade gifts for the majority of gifts I will be giving this year. I have been carefully considering all the people in my life and what would be the perfect gift for them. I've scoured magazine, my patterns (both knitting and sewing), looked through my abundant stash and I think I'm ready to begin. I have some birthday presents that I need to get done and then it's full steam ahead for Christmas sewing/knitting. It's kind of exciting and a real challenge to myself to endeavor to gift handmade. I'm not the fastest knitter in the world and while I can sew quite well, finding the time and motivation to do so isn't always a reality. I hope others will join in and try to gift more handmade items, even if you didn't make them yourself. I think it's wonderful to support the artisans in our communities.
What will I be making you ask? Well, I can't tell you now can I, or it wouldn't be surprise.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday's Meal

I love a good steak. Porterhouse, T-bone, Ribeye, you name it, I love it! Well this recipe can be used with any cut of steak you'd like, but try it with a less expensive yet tasty Flat Iron Steak and see if you don't fall in love. Cooked on the grill, or in a pinch in the oven it super fast and easy. Serve it with mashed potatoes, a nice green salad and a good red wine. Now that's what I call a meal!

Steak with blue cheese butter

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt (kosher if you have it)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 pounds flat iron steak
3 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
1 ounce crumbled blue cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Whisk together vinegar, garlic, 1 tablespoon black pepper, rosemary, oregano, and salt in a bowl along with the olive oil. Place the flat iron steak into a resealable plastic bag, and pour in the marinade . Squeeze the excess air from the bag and seal. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat and lightly oil grate. Remove steak from the marinade and discard the remaining marinade. Allow the steak to stand at room temperature for 15 minutes as the grill warms. Mash together the butter, blue cheese, chives, and black pepper; set aside. Cook the steak on the preheated grill to desired degree of doneness. Allow the steak to rest for 10 minutes before slicing thinly across the grain. Serve with a dollop of blue cheese butter.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Quilting...part deux

It's like night and day. First off, just cutting out the pieces has gone so much faster this time. I don't know what was wrong with me the last time, but I'm using the strip cutting technique and those blocks were cut up lickety split...thank goodness. Also I am using a pattern from a magazine called Kids Quilts. I don't have to think about anything, it's really all done for me. I'm jazzed about that. Even though quilt patterns might seem like a waste of money since it's all square, triangles and what have you, I've quickly come to realize that it is so worth it in my book to have someone else figure out all the yardage, how many blocks to cut and how big to make them, amen for quilt pattern designers! However I can't seem to do things the easy way. I had purchased some fabric at the quilt show that I wanted to use and the after fussy cutting the design into squares to make my blocks from I realized that they don't measure out exactly to the pattern and hence once I get all my blocks assembled I will have to cut some of them down to match the design of my fussy cut squares. It'll be worth it though because the fabric is perfect for the quilt I want to make. I'll probably make this pattern again though because I really like the looks of it. Wait a minute, did I just type that?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

Today I'm going to prep for my sew in that I have planned for when I go on vacation in a couple weeks. I'm going to pick out all the fabric, make sure it's washed and ready to go, cut or trace the patterns and fabric and get everything ready so that when I sit down to sew I can work efficiently. As I mentioned before I'm making the spring and summer stuff for O. & the boys. I will start with E. because although he remains reed thin, his legs are getting longer and he is due for some pants that don't show off what color socks he's wearing. I'll be using mostly patterns from Ottobre, KS and a couple vintage New Looks I have. I'm hopeful that the latest Ottobre issue will arrive in my mailbox before I begin since it's up on the website and usually the hard copy isn't too far behind that.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Bermuda triangle

I think it's located in the cutlery drawer of my kitchen. You see, for some reason my spoons keep disappearing. Until recently I only had three. We're a family of six, so only having three spoons could get a little complicated. Yesterday I made a stop in to the local Goodwill to pick up a couple of spoons and realized that there must be some kind of weird phenomenon that occurs with spoon because although they literally had 300 butter knives, I could only find six spoons. I purchased them, but now I find myself wondering where all the worlds spoons are disappearing to. I mean is there some alternate universe where the spoon is worshipped as a god? I really do wonder. So, if you happen to come across an odd collection of random spoons in your travels, please send them my way.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Monday's Meal

You know I love a good casserole. I mean what's not to love? It's all there and just one dish to clean up after and many times they taste better the next day so that's a thumbs up for leftovers.
So, this recipe is for a mystery meat casserole. The mystery is not that you found some random piece of meat in the back of the freezer, but that you can use whatever type of meat you want, ground turkey, beef, chicken, pork...really, seriously, whatever you want.

Mystery Meat Casserole

2 lbs of the ground meat of your choice
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/8 cup of green peppers, minced
1/2 cup of sour cream
1/2 cup of grated swiss cheese
8 ounce pkg of egg noodles
16 ounces of cottage cheese
1/3 cup of green onions, chopped
2 cups of tomato sauce

Preheat the oven to 375 degree f. Grease a 9 X 13 inch casserole and set aside. In a large pot boil noodles in salted water until done according to package. Drain and set aside (toss with a bit of olive oil so they don't stick together). In a large bowl mix together the cream cheese, cottage cheese and sour cream until well blended. Add the onion and green peppers. Set those aside. Brown your chosen meat until done, drain off any fat. Add the tomato sauce and warm through. In the casserole make the following layers, noodles, cheese mixture, meat mixture and repeat. Top with grated Swiss cheese. Bake for 30 minutes uncovered.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Prayer Shawl KAL

I'm a very novice knitter, which isn't exactly the same thing as a new knitter. I actually learned the rudimentary stitches for knitting in my teens, revisiting them again in my twenties until I finally said...hey, I actually want to learn to make something in my thirties. Fast forward, a couple of classes, countless hours on knitty and knittinghelp, hundreds of dollars in yarn and knitting needles and I'm addicted. However, I'm by no means a fast or even a good knitter, but nonetheless I do enjoy it. I like to challenge myself a bit from time to time. I mean how many scarves do you really need? So, I've learned to knit socks using both dpn and two circulars and now I thought I should step beyond knitting and purling. So, I've joined a KAL (knit along) on ravelry to knit a prayer shawl. I plan to gift this one to someone special...can't say who though, it's a secret. I've decided to do LaLa Simple Shawl. I wanted to put this out there so that my dear blogging sisters will keep me on task. Ask me about the shawl from time to time so I don't fade as I've been known to do. It started yesterday, but I'm going to cast on today since I was caught up in the Family Night Festivities yesterday.
I'm thinking I'm going to use some yarn from my stash in worsted weight or perhaps I will use this KP shine I have and double strand it to give it a bit more body. I'll try and post some WIP pix from time to time.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Family Night!!

My son E. is a real family man, the original Mr. Family Values. Whenever I don't have to work on the weekend he plans out our entire itinerary for the day from breakfast to bedtime. He loves doing things together as a family and it makes me glad to know that these times are so special to him. Luckily, because I'm home with my kids during the week we do lots of activities together, but there is nothing like the times when all six of us are together, like tonight. We are having homemade pizza (made by my resident pizza chef, Mr. Family Values himself), dessert fondue and board games. What's so special about this you ask? Well, it's really all in the details. You can't quite appreciate all the planning that has gone into this evenings festivities. And it's all been planned by E. He began planning it out yesterday and hasn't stopped talking about it since. And I mean this literally. He has left no detail to chance. From how he would decorate the dinning room to which dishes we should use and what games we should play. He planned out the menu. Agonizing over which fruits would go best with the fondue. At one point he suggested that we wear formal attire. I had to put the kibosh on that idea. Bless his little planning heart, he's driven me crazy!!! But, when you think about it, it is kind of sweet. He told me recently that he loves family day (the official name given to the times when all six of us are together), and I have to agree...I love it too.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The accidental homesteader

Recently I have been wanting to have a garden and because of that I've been doing a lot of reading and research. One word keeps coming up that I find intriguing. That word is homesteader and in my case urban homesteader. Loosely defined it can be viewed as a simple living lifestyle, incorporating small-scale agriculture, sustainable and permaculture gardening, and home food production and storage into suburban or city living. I didn't realize that many of the life choices I've made were so in line with the homesteading mindset. These were purposeful choices I made because of how I want to live, but I not conscious of embracing any one idea. It's ironic that I didn't get it because the essence of my life and who I am is "home". I love being at home and pursuing simple domestic arts. I try to think about my impact on the environment. I try to cook from scratch, I try and reduce, reuse and recycle every day. In my mind it's just how things should be. Don't get me wrong...I love gadgets, technology and stuff! I like to eat out occasionally or buy something new. But, apparently and overwhelmingly I homestead.
So, what does it take to be a homesteader you ask? Well I can list some activities I do and while not all encompassing or inclusive it gives you an idea of what it means to be a homesteader in my world.
Baking Bread
Cooking from scratch and using whole ingredients
Sewing clothing, crafts, household items and useful things
Knitting useful items
Growing own kitchen garden whether indoors or out
Canning and Preserving fruits, vegetables, meats, soups, stocks
Making my own cleaners
Shopping thrift
Reusing, reducing and recycling

I would also like to try my hand at candle making and soap making but, haven't gotten around to it yet.
None of the activities I listed above are hard or particularly time consuming. I look at it as just something I do. If you're reading this and you're hardcore homesteading you probably think I'm not doing enough, but I guess my point is that we can all make small changes in our lives that move us closer to the earth. Happy Homesteading!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

Taking a break from household projects and kicking my gift giving plans in to high gear. Mother's day is next month and I'd like to get my gift to my mother finished and mailed off on time. Can't say what it is since I know she checks on here and it's a surprise. Also I need to figure out what to make E. for his birthday, plus book his party venue now. So, I'll just be working hard on these things. S.'s birthday is next month too, but he's much easier to shop for since he just wants cash to buy clothes, fashion plate that he is! Just working on the homefront in a different way.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Follow Me

This isn't meant to offend anyone at all and believe me I feel honored and flattered by those of you who enjoy checking out my blog. However, recently I've been feeling pretty troubled by one of the elements of blogger. I was just discussing with a couple of my bloggy friends the newish Blogger feature of "Followers" and how I was a bit uncomfortable with the whole concept. First, I don't like the name they've given it...followers. It makes me think of a cult or worse, it harkens back to high school and the pursuit of popularity. Ironically I was part of the "in" crowd at my tiny Texas school (not sure how or why) and I do recall vividly the pressure to have the right clothes, right shoes and be at the right parties. I don't ever want to live that life again. Number one, I'm not in high school anymore and I don't want to feel like I'm in a popularity contest to see how many followers I have (or don't have). I don't blog for the masses, I blog to have an additional creative outlet and to share with my family and friends far and wide. I enjoy folks stopping by, but I don't want to be influenced or censored by who just might be following me. I want to feel free to say what I'd like. I don't want to feel like my blog isn't cool enough, witty enough or hip enough. I don't want to wonder, "hey ten people stopped by and didn't comment on my newest creation" or think yesterday I had five followers and now I only have four...who did I piss off? Am I not follower worthy? I don't want blogging to become work or something I become neurotic about; where I begin to agonize countless hours on the look of my blog or what I should post next, or if my pictures are nice enough. I mean this is just something fun I do and a natural progression for that ten year old girl that first started keeping a diary. Lastly, it's sort of the same reason I haven't joined the facebook revolution and don't twitter. This is enough for me. This is just me being me. As much as I love knowing there are people that want to keep up with my blog and I'm happy that you've chosen to be a subscriber ( a much less offensive term in my opinion) I'm going to disable the followers feature. In the end it may seem like it's about semantics, but it's just something I feel I have to do. I hope you'll add me to your blogroll. Please know that I love your comments and emails, I hope you'll continue to leave them. I read every one of them and I'm so glad to hear from you, and by all means stop by regularly...I just won't be thinking of you as a follower.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday's Meal

Sometimes you want something that is so good, but not necessarily good for you. Spring is here and it has me thinking about the farmer's market and all the great things that are there. That got me thinking about onions. I really think they are delicious and you know what's even more delicious? Fried onion rings. Yummo!

Fried Onion Rings
3 large onions ( I like vidalia or spanish onions)
2 cups of buttermilk
2 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp pepper
1 1/2 cup of flour
1/4 cup of yellow cornmeal
oil for frying

Peel and slice onion to your desired thickness, 1/4"- 1/2" is probably good. Separate them into rings. Combine the buttermilk, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp of pepper in a bowl. Add the onions and toss well, allow them to marinate for at least 20 mins, but an hour or two is better. In another bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, 1 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper. Set aside for now.
Now heat up your oil to approx. 375 degrees F, it's best to use a dutch oven or large pot versus a skillet to avoid a lot of mess, but either works well. Next get a cookie sheet and line it with parchment paper. Now dip your onions into your buttermilk mixture and then your flour mixture. Allow them to set so that the coating isn't dripping off them. Place them in the hot oil without crowding, cook until golden brown about 2 or 3 mins. Remove to drain on a paper towel and sprinkle with more salt if desired.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Spring Sewing

I found this cool info online about Sewing with a plan. The idea is to make 11 interchangeable items to make up a wardrobe. I want to story board my ideas for the kids wardrobes, but I'm having a tough time figuring out how to do it(not the most computer savvy person around, lol). Nonetheless I'll just tell you what I have planned. So for each child I'm going to make 11 interchangeable items. For E & M. who are essentially the same size it will be like they have double the clothes. So I'll be making the following for each boy.
2 t-shirts from the Simple + 1 book
2 raglan t-shirts with color blocking or embroidery
2 double layer t-shirts/or campshirts
3 pairs of shorts (fabrics will be knit,denim and twill)
2 pairs of knit sweatpants

I do also plan to make a couple pairs of pj pants and some underwear for them too, but that's outside of my wardrobe plan.

For O. I plan to make
2 tshirts (from a favorite Ottobre pattern)
2 tunic tops
2 capris
1 skirt
1 sundress
3 pairs of shorts/skorts

I'll also make a couple of knit nightgowns and underwear for O. too.
This should keep me busy for a bit. I need to pick out the fabric, make sure it's been prewashed and then I'll will do mass cuttings. I'll probably work on one child's clothes at a time to keep from having too many ufo's at once and getting overwhelmed. I'll keep you up on my progress. So, there you have it, my personal SWAP. Ah, if only I was better with the computer. It would look so cool storyboarded. Maybe after I figure out the fabrics and all the patterns I plan to use I can get Mister to help me.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A little bloom in the air

I've had this fabric from Chez Ami curing in my stash for oh, I don't know three years. Finally, I decided it would make the perfect spring/easter dress for O. Here it is. I love the print with the pindots. I'm almost out of the green pindots and was reluctant to use it,but I think it looks great so I have no regrets. Oh and here's a strongly coaxed model shot. Now you understand why I just usually take a picture of the garment on a hanger, lol.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

Well the kids are out for Spring Break so my schedule is much less demanding. As a result this entire week has been a bit of a work on it. I have a few quick things I want to work on. There's a book shelf in the alcove that I have some of the kids books on and since they generally put them away they are a haphazard mess, so I'm going to get those straightened up. I also think I have time to paint the half bathroom. I finally settled on color, it's a light yellow called "melting sun". I like it. I'm also planning a small vegetable garden and if the weather holds, I'm going to start preparing the area. I've been researching online to get the information about how to proceed since I haven't gardened in forever and then it was just a small herb garden. I'm excited. But, I better get started, I should be able to begin planting after the 15th. I'd also like to paint the second piece of the furniture from Mister's grandmother. I did put the poly on the other piece and it really looks nice, I can't believe I didn't do it sooner.
Of course the kids have wanted to go and do things this week too so we'll be doing a bit of running around too. Anyway, enjoy your Spring!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Monday's Meal

Still have a ton of chicken so I've had to dig through my recipe banks and think of some interesting things to make with it. I remembered I had this fabulous recipe for a Wonton Chicken Salad that was given to me probably twelve years ago by a co-worker. She was a fantastic cook so any recipe she shared I absolutely cherish. It's quick and delicious...oh and it has chicken in it.

Wonton Chicken Salad
1 head of iceberg lettuce, shredded
2 bunches of green onions, chopped finely
4 cooked chicken breast, cut into small pieces
1/2 pkg of wontons
1/4 cup of toasted almonds
Small ammount of powdered sugar for dusting

1/4 cup of oil
2 tsp of salt
1/4 cup of sugar
1 tsp of pepper
1/4 cup of rice wine vinegar (or regular is fine)
2 tsp of soy sauce

Prepare the dressing right before you make the salad by combining all the ingredients for dressing in a carafe, mixing well. Set aside
Cut the wontons into strips, heat a skillet with a few tablespoons of oil and add them to the skillet and fry them. They only need to cook for a few seconds on each side to crisp. Take them out and while hot sprinkle a dusting of powdered sugar on them. Let them drain on paper towels to cool.
In a large salad bowl combine the iceberg lettuce, chicken, green onions and toasted almonds. Allow salad to chill. Just before serving add the prepared wontons and salad dressing, tossing it all together. Serve immediately.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I flip for this!!!

WooHoo! It's here my new flip video camera. It's okay, it was purchased prior to going no spend for April. I've wanted one for awhile and I've been stalking Woot forever. Finally last week they had a Woot off and I scored one. I got a pink one! Way cool!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

Feeling better and ready to tackle some of this mess. It's amazing how a couple days of not staying on top of stuff can really add up. I have plans to do a room by room deep spring clean. First though, I need to tackle that Master bedroom closet. It's getting a bit crazy in there. In fact I really need to go through all the closets and purge some clothes. Luckily I should have more time since the boys don't have school and I can devote much of the day to this task. If I have time I also need to work on my couponing. I'm finding it a bit overwhelming to keep up with them and to remember to use them. Maybe I'm just not a coupon kind of girl. It was an experiment and while I'm not giving up yet, I haven't seen any big economic advantages to couponing for me. I still shop Aldi's and other loss leaders and do pretty well. We're spending about $600-700/month on food for our family and that includes paper goods and cleaning supplies. I'm sure others do better, but I'm pretty satisfied with that amount, it's about 50% less than I used to spend.
Last, but not least I need to sew up O.'s Easter dress so she can wear it to school for their program. I have it all cut out, I just need to stitch it up.
Wow...that's actually a pretty extensive list. I guess I have a lot to work on.
Oh and before I forget, today starts the April no spend challenge. I'm sure you'll hear me complain about it since I'll have to avoid the thrift stores. It's going to be hard, but maybe I can channel my energy into letting go of some stuff...yeah, that's it.