Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Thrifty Chic Living

Recently I was talking to you about personal style. I consider my self a restylist, a secondhand rose, a thrift store diva. I love to shop at thrift stores for many things. Like many of you I've been thrifting well before I got my first apartment at 20, and over the years I think I've perfected it down to a science. First you have to go in with an open mind and a critical eye. Don't be discouraged by an ugly color or some weird detail on the item, those things can be changed very easily. Try to think outside the box. What other uses could an item have, can you change it into something you can use? I'm very big on lamps and mirrors. If I find a lamp in a shape I like at a great price, I will buy it. I believe you just can't have enough light sources. Plus you can change it, rewire it, pop on a new shade and have a little masterpiece. Have you priced lamps lately? They're kind of expensive. Mirrors are always great in a space. You can group a bunch of smaller ones together unifying them by color and have a bit of art and interest for your walls. Old books and calendars are great. Some books have really nice bindings and once the dust jacket is removed you can create a nice little grouping for your shelf or a table. Sometimes the illustrations in old books are stunning. You can frame a favorite picture for one of a kind art work for your walls. Be on the look out for little knickknacks for your home. Again, if you find some weird retro thing from the 1960's, but you like it except for the color...well Sherwin Williams can help you change that. Textiles is another area that is just waiting for you to go crazy. Frame some fabric or make a pillow for a favorite chair. You don't even need to know how to sew. Furniture, ah how I love furniture. You can definitely find that diamond in the rough in this category. Look beyond bad paint jobs, roughed up finishes and hideous fabrics. You can change that lickety split without too much effort or expense. I've painted lots of pieces. The key is time. You really need to let the piece dry well between coats and take your time to get good full coverage. Several coats is better than one thick coat any day.

Case in point. I purchased the little cabinet above ages ago for the tidy sum of $18. I love that it has simple lines, a glass front and is in great condition. What I don't like? The faded blonde finish. I'm a dark wood person. So after thinking on it for months (I was originally thinking paint). I'm going to stain it (using minwax special walnut). I'm hoping it will turn out well and come close to matching my beloved mid century buffet that it sits on top of. I also plan to either paper or apply fabric to back of the shelves for an added pop. I've thought about painting my buffet too in a moment of boredom, lol. But there's something about it's original finish that I adore. Besides it's in great shape. I did switch out the knobs a while back to coordinate with the chest of drawers I painted. So, I'll be spending some time sanding the cabinet down and then staining it in the next few days. Then I will finish it all off with some rub on poly. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Book Review

I love a good book. When I'm trying to learn a new sewing or quilting technique, I prefer to be shown how to do it by someone. I like to ask a lot of questions and I like to have a good reference book at hand. I've recently taken up quilting (after all how many dresses and skirts can one little girl wear?) and I'm trying to build up my quilting reference library. I've asked on many quilting forums and based on suggestions I now own Quilts, quilts, quilts and Your first quilting book, or it should be. However this book wasn't suggested to me. I found it all on my own at a LQS. It's called Piecing the piece o'cake way. I liked that the book's focus was proper piecing techniques. I mean I know how to sew and I can sew two squares together, surely. But, what about piecing a triangle or diamond to make a star? I might need a few pointers. The book also teaches you about adjusting a pattern to make any size quilt you want. That was great to me, because I'm not one that wants to get out the graph paper and have to do a bunch of math. I want to buy a pattern and get stitching. But, I don't have a ton of use for little bitty quilts, I want something that covers my feet and I can cuddle under. I need at least twin size or a generous lap size at minimum. Being able to adjust a favorite pattern and knowing exactly what yardage to buy is top notch in my book. The book has 15 different projects to test your skills. The quilts are fun and use modern fabrics so they are definitely eye candy. The book is also loaded with tons of useful tips. The only negative I saw is that the quilt patterns don't list what size finished block you'll end up with, only what size quilt you will have. I find that disappointing since I might want to use just the block design in my own pattern design and without knowing the block size it's hard to figure out size, yardage and such. All in all I think this is a great book to add to your library and stretch yourself as a quilter.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday's Meal

My oldest son loves these. It's a super quick meal. You just need a bun and you're good to go.

Sloppy Sabrina's

1 3/4 lbs. ground round
1 cup onion
3/4 cup celery
1 clove minced garlic
2 can of diced tomatoes
1 can beef broth
1 can tomato paste
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup parsley
1/3 cup of finely chopped green bell pepper
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp cider vinegar
3 tsp worcestershire sauce

Combine ground round,onions, celery and garlic in large dutch oven. Cook over medium heat until meat is browned and crumbly. Drain well. Add tomatoes, beef broth, tomato paste,pepper, thyme, salt and bay leaf. Stir well. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally so that it doesn't stick. Add parsley, cooking about 5 minutes. Add green peppers, brown suggar, cider vinegar and worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until all of the liquid is absorbed. Serve on a bun.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bag Ladies!

Several months ago I joined a quilting guild. I've long wanted a local sewing community and to increase my knowledge base of fiber arts. I have to admit that I had a ton of reservation about the guild since it meets during the day. I had a preconceived idea of old dowdy women who wouldn't want to include a youngish black mother in their midst. Plus, who except retired people can meet up during the day? I was right, and I was wrong. Many of the ladies are retired, but they are vibrant, funny and incredibly generous with their knowledge. Through the guild I found a weekly bee to join and I've been going each week on Thursday's. I've learned so much in such a short time. They plan fun little sew-ins and do tons of charity sewing. Today is our "Bag Day". We're going to sew bags for 6 hours straight, lol. I'm in heaven. I get to hang out with other sewist and sew up my favorite thing. I cut out my projects last night and can't wait to get started. I'm all packed up and ready to go too! We also meet at great little LQS so there's even time for a bit of shopping on the side.
The bee has been a very positive experience for me and even though it isn't quite what I thought I was looking for, it's been just what I needed. The moral of the story is don't judge a book by it's cover, you never know what's inside and what you'll learn.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Monday's Meal

Better late than never, right. I kept thinking all day long, I needed to post this recipe. I just got busy and then got sucked into watching "Nurse Jackie" and the "United States of Tara". Did you watch them? They are so good! Here's something else that's so good.

Apple turnovers
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 cups water
4 of your favorite baking apples - peeled, cored and
sliced (I love Braeburns myself)
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
1 package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed

Glaze topping

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine the lemon and 4 cups water in a large bowl. Place the sliced apples in the water so that they don't brown. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Remove apples from the water, and place them into the hot skillet. Cook and stir for about 2 minutes. Add brown sugar, and cinnamon, and cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes. Stir together cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water. Pour into the skillet, and mix well. Cook for another minute, or until sauce has thickened. Remove from heat to cool slightly. Unfold puff pastry sheets. Cut each sheet into 4 small squares. Spoon apples onto the center of each squares. Fold over from corner to corner into a triangle shape, and press edges together to seal. Place turnovers on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes or until turnovers are puffed and lightly browned. Cool completely before add glaze . For glaze, mix the confectioners' sugar, milk and vanilla in a small bowl. Glaze should be the thickness of syrup, add additional milk or sugar as needed.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Monday's Meal

Ran into my neighborhood grocery store today and they had Tilapia on special. I just love tilapia. It's light and not at all fishy tasting. I hate a fishy tasting fish, lol. It awesome to toss on the grill. It cooks up so quickly and is just delicious. Here's a quick, simple and tasty version for you to try.

4 tilapia fillets
2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoon Italian bread crumbs
salt and pepper to the taste

Preheat the grill. Meanwhile, stir together the mustard, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, garlic, mayonnaise and Parmesan cheese. Make a packet for fish using aluminum foil. Coat each side of the fish with your mixture and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Place the fish in the aluminum foil and seal in. Cook on a medium high grill for approximately ten minutes, cooking until fish is no longer pink but is still moist and flaky.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Trying for a little style

I'm no longer as young and hip as I used to think I was. But I still want a bit of style. You might remember that I like to sew. I have a pretty sizable stash. However, for the last few years I've concentrated on making items for my kids and a few bags/purses. I've been thinking lately that I'd like to add a bit of style to my routine. I'm sort of a jeans and tshirt gal, maybe a hoodie thrown in for practicality. Yesterday I was browsing through the Vogue pattern website and I realize there are some really cute fashion forward patterns out there. I could make myself some stylish clothes. I'm really inspired by a fellow local sewing mama. I love that Stephanie sews for both her self and her kids. She's got some fun style going on!
Here's a look at what I was thinking about.

Or maybe this

or something like this

or this?

Now the biggest question is where would I wear those to? I mean how would I look all done up in the carpool lane? But, should I let that stop me from having a little style? I think not. I've been trying to put a bit of makeup on and not looking completely dowdy. We shall see. Vogue patterns will be on sale at JoAnn's next week and I'll see what I can pickup. I noticed some nice fashion fabrics there the other day. It's funny to find myself looking at fabric that doesn't have purple princesses on it. Who knows maybe I'll finally finish some of those UFO's I have cut out for myself.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Let there be light!

You may recall my frustration with my camera lighting. I have a canon point and shoot and at this time in my life I'm not ready to upgrade to something fancier. I'd like however to get some better quality photos from it and I think it comes down to my lighting. I shoot a ton indoors and my home is not flooded with natural light. So, today I did a quick internet search and came across some sites on how to make an inexpensive light box. I particularly like this one. I'm going to adapt it a bit in terms of size so that I can show the craft items I make. I'm going to head out to the hardware store and see what I can scrounge up in the way of pvc piping. I think I actually already have a flood light in the garage. I'm thinking I could make it for under $50. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday's Meal is a gorgeous day. It's making me think of summertime and light fare. So, I thought I'd share a chicken salad recipe. You could have it on a bed of lettuce, on a croissant, pita or on plain old wonder bread and it would still be tasty. Don't even worry about cooking up chicken breast, to make it quick you could just pop open a can of cooked chicken breast.

Chicken Salad

3 cups diced, cooked chicken breast meat
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 1/2 cups halved red grapes
1 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup of chopped pecans (optional)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, salt, poultry seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder, pepper, and lemon juice. In a large bowl, toss together the chicken, celery, green onions, pecans and grapes. Add the mayonnaise mixture to the chicken, and stir to coat well. Chill

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Snow day delay and life

So sorry I didn't get to post anything this week about the log cabin quilt along. We had a snow day here and it kind of wrecked havoc with my schedule. Then life just caught up with me and I had to attend to it, lol. I also didn't realize how difficult it was to photograph yourself doing crafty thing. Shout out to all those fabulous blogs and their awesome photos. I realize that I'm going to have to do something about either my lighting or my camera. I'll probably start with the lighting...maybe I need a light box. Anyways, I'm working on it. I need to get either the Mister or S. to help me photograph the action shots. Soon, I promise.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Log Cabin Block Quilt Along & a wonky log cabin block

So, I'm forging full steam ahead into the wonderful world of quilting by participating in a couple of virtual bees.
The fabric arrived last week for the first bee and she has requested a wonky log cabin block. I was overwhelmed by all the options and a little nervous to cut into someone's treasured fabric. I kind of sketched out my design and did a practice block first using some scraps I have lying around. But, if you're interested in doing a more traditional log cabin block here's some simple instructions to get you started.
A log cabin block lends itself well to using those scraps in your stash. Don't feel like you have to follow tradition, have fun.
In quilting you generally use 1/4" seam. If you don't own a 1/4" foot don't worry. Usually if your needle on your machine is centered the edge of your presser foot will be 1/4" or you can take a piece of painters/masking tape and mark your 1/4" on your machine. If for some reason you don't want to use a 1/4" seam the key is to be consistent throughout, that way your blocks will match up (just ask me how I know).

For a 12" block what you will need:
You need 7 different fabrics (traditionally this a combo of 3 light and 3 dark fabrics w/the center square being red)

You will need to cut a center square that is 3.5" (that will give you a 3 square in the center with 1/4" seams on all sides)
The rest of your strips will be 2" wide. You can trim them off as you add them to the block or you can precut them as follows.
Light strips: 3 1/2 inches, 5 inches, 6 1/2 inches, 8 inches, 9 1/2 inches, 11 inches (approx 1.33 yds of fabric)

Dark strips: 5 inches, 6 1/2 inches, 8 inches, 9 1/2 inches, 11 inches, 12 1/2 inches (approx 1.5 yds of fabric)

Gather all your supplies and fabric. Go ahead and prewash your fabric and press it. Then beginning cutting it out as listed above.
Great! We'll start stitching tomorrow.

I just wanted to share with you what fun you can have with a log cabin block, especially once you understand the concept. Now, for the wonky block it was actually pretty easy. You pick a center block and then you begin joining them, rotating your block 90 degrees and adding on until it gets to be your desired size. The block above is pretty big, 15.5 X 15.5 because that was the size requested. Tomorrow I will show you how to start both a traditional and the wonky block, so come on back!
Oh, and I do realize that the block isn't square. I'll take care of that before I send it to it's rightful owner.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Monday's Meal

I love to bake. I'm always looking for new dessert recipes to try out. However, this one is an oldie I've had in my collection. It was written down on a scrap piece of paper and stuffed inside the pocket of my recipe keeper. It was also a bit spotted, maybe it was butter stains. In my opinion that is the sign of a good recipes.


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup butter
2 cups packed brown sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9 x 13 x 1 inch baking pan.
In a small bowl sift flour, baking powder and salt together, and set aside. Melt the butter and then let it cool to room temperature. In a large bowl add brown sugar, stir melted butter. Add the eggs one at a time. Beat well after adding each egg. Add the vanilla. Add the flour mixture, the nuts and the chocolate chips and blend well. Spread in the greased pan. Bake 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven or until the edges begin to pull away from the sides. Cut into small squares when cool.