Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Book Club Book Review

The Help

This was the selection for this month's book club. I thought I'd share what the consensus was about this book and what everyone thought without giving away any spoilers for those of you who haven't read it.
The Help is the story of a group of African American maids (domestic help), the women they work for and one progressive young white woman who wants to tell their story during the turbulent times of 1963 Jackson, Mississippi. First off, we loved it. Most people found the characters memorable and very realistic. There were a few people who were dissatisfied with the ending. I however thought the ending was pretty realistic. It couldn't have a classic "happy ending" because of the subject matter and the time the story was set in.
I thought the author who isn't an African American did a great job in taping into what it must have been like to be a domestic during the civil rights movement in Mississippi where even the wrong look could get you killed. The characters were fully developed and were people you wanted to know more about. I liked that she showed the lives of the "Help" outside of their workplace. She also challenged convention by showing that there were strong bonds that could exist between the white employers and their black "Help". She showed that even though not everyone felt that way, there was real humanity and care that existed despite the times they lived in. I liked that even though it wasn't all happy, you got some degree of closure on the characters lives at the end of the book.
All in all the "Help" was a well developed, entertaining, thought provoking piece of literary delight. I think I speak for all in our book club when I say, two thumbs up.
I've heard that "The Help" has been optioned into a movie and I can't wait to see it and who plays all the main characters. Who will be Miss Skeeter and that horrible Hilly?
Our next selection is Little Bee. Check back next month to hear how we like it.
I've heard that "The Help" has been optioned into a movie and I can't wait to see it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Monday's Meal

My all time favorite vegetable is squash. I love all varieties. I feel like you can't go wrong if you have some squash on your plate. I'm also a fan of soup. I know some people think of soup as winter time, but to me it's anytime. Try this golden delicious soup and tell me I'm not right.

Butternut Squash Soup

6 tablespoons chopped onion
4 tablespoons butter
6 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese

In a medium dutch oven, saute onions in butter until tender. Add squash, chicken broth, marjoram, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Bring to boil; cook 20 minutes, or until squash is tender. Puree squash and cream cheese in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return to dutch oven, and heat until warm through, but do not bring to a boil.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Finding my mojo

You've heard me talk about diet and exercise before. Well, it's something I seem to be really struggling with lately. While I never have loved to exercise I was committed and consistent in doing it. Lately though, I can't seem to get my butt in gear. I don't seem to be very motivated. I've also noticed that I've been eating things that I had sworn off. Maybe this is just a phase and I need to power through it. But, I know for me I need some accountability in my life so I'm going to start reporting here weekly as sort of a fitness wrap up, call it fitness Friday. I hope you will join me in encouraging each other to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I'd really like to lose 15 lbs by Sept 1st, but I can tell you that I'm going to have to change the way I'm doing things. I'm going to have to recommit to keeping a food journal, doing regular exercise, drinking my water and seeking support and encouragement from others. I know that my life has been beyond crazy stressful lately, but I can't let that be an excuse to backslide. I have to get a handle on this and continue to make my health a priority.
Today I'm meeting up with my friend, Heather. It's so nice to have someone to workout with. It helps keep me motivated and helps to have someone encouraging me.
What did you move to lose today?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A must have...a book review

I mentioned that I'm in the process of building my quilting reference library . Well, I want to recommend a must have for any quilter's book shelf. Judy Hopkins 501 Rotary-Cut Quilt Blocks.

I love that she gives specific cutting and assembling instructions for various block sizes, not just one size per design. What a life saver. Although I'm getting better at figuring that out on my own, it's nice not to do the math to figure out how I can take a 8" block design to a 12" block design. I used it for a couple of the blocks I made in my recent TMQG swap and know that I will be reaching for it for years to come as I continue on my quilting journey. I think it's an invaluable book to own. It's incredibly versatile and offers so much inspiration. The block assembly instructions are detailed, yet concise. Run out and get it today to add to your shelf.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Work on it Wednesday

Today I've been giving Miss O. sewing lessons. She's been begging to learn for ages and now that she can reach the foot pedal and the machine bed at the same time, I couldn't put her off any longer. I don't believe in toy sewing machines. I think you should have the proper equipment for the job and that means a machine that actually sews. It'll prevent frustration and foster a love of sewing IMHO. I let her pick out her own machine from my collection awhile back. The girl has her standards. She was drawn to a Bernina 801 sport. It's actually a nice little machine for her. It all metal, mechanical and only has 6 different stitches. Nothing for her to mess up or break. She's super proud of "her sewing machine". We also put together a little sewing basket. She has her own pin cushion, scissors, seam ripper and thread. Initially I had her working on scrap fabrics, but she became easily bored with that. I have to admit, she's pretty good. She can sew fairly straight and she has pretty good speed control with the foot pedal. She always remembers to lift and lower the presser. Today she announced that she wanted to make a skirt. She picked out some fabric from my stash and we roughly measured her for a little skirt. She informed me that she thought she needed "a yard" (perhaps she's been to the fabric store one too many times). She didn't need a yard, actually she really only needed about 1/2 yard, lol. I set her to work. She did everything except the ironing and putting in the elastic. Great job! Project Runway, watch out!!!
I don't have time to do it right now, but I'll get a picture of Miss O. and her space skirt as soon as I can. Too cute!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

On Hope...

A funny thing happened to me recently. Not funny ha ha, but funny in the way that teaches you a lesson and refocuses your priorities. Last fall I participated in a prayer shawl swap through Ravelry. My swap partner, Maria knitted me a beautiful shawl in my favorite color, red and it's brought me endless comfort. However she also sent me two other items that I would never have thought I needed, but I did. She sent me a book of psalms and a coffee mug. Now, the mug is what I want to talk to you about. I'm a big coffee drinker and almost every day I would grab my mug and pour myself a cup of joe. What's special about this mug you ask? Well, it has a quote from Psalms 62 5-6 printed on it. It's a quote about hope and it goes like this "Let all that I am wait quietly before God. For my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken". I can't begin to tell you how challenging this past year has been for me and my family. I try to be optimistic and not get easily discouraged but sometimes it's really hard. But, then I remember that things happen for a reason and that which does not kill you makes you stronger. I also remember all the great friends and family I have. I remember how they have offered their support, their shoulders to cry on and their ears to listen and I count myself so lucky. How did Maria know that I needed reminding of that? How did she know that I needed comforting. I believe that there are people who touch you, who are there in your life however briefly to remind you and to help you find your way. So, each day whenever I look down at my mug, it gives me comfort...it gives me hope for the future.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Monday's Meal

Baby it's hot outside and I find myself desiring something sweet and frosty. As my friends will tell you, I'm not a fan of coconut (it's a texture thing), but this is the absolute one exception. A pina colada is worth a little hair on the tongue, lol.

1 cup of cream of coconut
1 cup crushed pineapple with juice
1 cup vanilla ice cream
1 cup rum (try it with flavored rum)
1/2 cup whipping cream
8 ice cubes

In a blender, combine cream of coconut , pineapple with juice, ice cream, rum and ice. Blend until smooth. Pour whipping cream into a bowl and whip until soft peaks form, fold into pina colada mixture and blend. Pour into chilled glasses and enjoy.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Work on it Wednesday

I have so much personal sewing to catch up on. I can't believe how I've let these unfinished projects pile up. I think it was the mad rush to finish the TMQG blocks and the quilt for O's teacher. Well that's all behind me now and I have to get back to my UFO basket. What's in there you ask? Well, I have a lunch bag for my mom, a backpack for O, a top for me, a quilt for me and a quilt for E. That should keep me busy for the next six months, lol.
Oh, I almost forgot, I took the foot pedal to my neechi apart to rewire it. I really need to get that back together and back on the machine.
But best of all I found an inexpensive singer 15-91 at the thrift store last week. I'm jazzed. It's suppose to a wonderful machine to quilt on. Speaking of quilting, that was an education for me. A machine you use for piecing might not be the best machine to quilt on. So, even though I adore my Brother PC6000, the harp area is pretty small. I have quilted a full size quilt on it, but it's not ideal or easy. The harp area on the 15-91 is over 7". Nice! It's also a straight stitch, direct gear driven machine, so super powerful with a lovely looking stitch. I found so much useful info online about this classic singer. I'm also going to attempt my first full rewiring job. I've rewired foot pedals before, but I'm a bit intimidated about the machine motor. My TMQG friend Lisa's husband, Mike just finished doing her 15-91 (and an awesome job he did) so I hope he can walk me through the process.
I can't decide what to do first. I know I should finish the sewing first, but I'm anxious to tear apart the 15-91. Decision, decision. Hmmm....sewing first!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A day at the zoo

We recently went to the zoo. It was a blast. Unlike so many of the other trips, the animal were actually out and could be viewed. I got some great shots. I'm trying to be better about taking pictures.
We were able to spend the day with a good friend and her son. The weather was perfect and best of all all the walking tired the kids out and I had a quiet ride home, lol.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday's Meal

Scored an awesome deal on whole pork loins at the grocery store. Here's a super easy delicious way to serve one up.
For those of you who checked in earlier. Sorry about the snafu. Somehow two different pork recipes got merged into a mishmash of nonsense. That's what happens when you sit down late at night and try and blog, lol.
The recipe below should all make sense as well as be tasty.

Apples and Pork

1 (1.5 lbs) whole pork loin
3 large apples- peeled, cored and sliced
3 tsp of minced garlic
1/2 cup dry sherry
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1 tbsp of paprika
grated zest of one lemon
1/2 tsp of nutmeg
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp of cumin
1 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of pepper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a large skillet, brown your pork loin, about 5 minutes each side; set it aside.
Arrange apple slices in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Add paprika, lemon, nutmeg, cinnamon,brown sugar, cumin, salt and pepper to sherry and mix well. Pour the sherry mixture over the pork loin. Cover and bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour or until tender and internal temperature of pork has reached 160 degrees F (70 degrees C).

Friday, June 11, 2010

Traditional with a modern twist

I have to send props out to Lisa for telling me the name of the style of quilting I like. I realize that I'm not a true "modernist". I don't really dig free form quilting. I don't always like wonkiness. I like things to look like what they're suppose to be. But, I love modern fabrics.
To try to stretch my quilting muscles I'm participating in a block swap with the TMQG. All I can say is that I'm relieved it's over. I find making stuff for other's entirely too stressful. I'm not a perfectionist with things I make for myself or as gifts in general. But, somehow knowing that these are going to other quilters has filled me with dread. Will they be checking my seam allowance, which way I pressed the seam. Is my block square? Did I clip all the threads. It just doesn't seem worth it to me. The swap was fun in principle, yet in reality...not. I am however excited to see what blocks I might get. I asked for square in square and I hope that I can piece them all together for a little throw. I have a bit of left over fabric that I can make a few more blocks if I need to.
Anyway...I finished. I did it. Take a look. The inspiration fabric is Oydessa by MoMo for Moda with bits from my own fabric stash thrown in for good measure. Each participant was to make 12 blocks. The people you were making the blocks for could request a specific type of block. Most people were open to anything so that was nice for me. I think my favorite block is the wonky stars and the crosses. The fabric was really fun.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Flickr bee blocks

I'm participating in a couple of block swaps through flickr. These blocks are for Tammie and Rick. I hope that they likes them. I really liked the fabric choices. I loved making the log cabin block and the map of states allowed me to do a bit of paper piecing using freezer paper. It was a new technique for me, but I will definitely try it again. The cross block was so fun and Rick's instructions were the best. I've filed them away to use again in the future.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Decline

Oh my gracious! I think I want to die! Ok, maybe not die exactly, but go to bed for a week. Here's the back story. I began running last August using the couch to 5k method. Through starts and stops I kept up with it and by the winter I was up to being able to run continuously for 30 minutes without feeling like I was going to pass out. I kept that up until about January. For the last few months my workouts have suffered and been sporadic at best. I rarely ran and when I did it was on the treadmill, which in my opinion is vastly easier than running outdoors. Well, I got a bee in my bonnet to get back out on the road. Reality check. I could barely run 50 feet without panting and gasping. I have to admit, I am deconditioned and will need to start the whole couch to 5k thing over again. Bummer! I don't even like running. But, the harsh reality is that I've accepted that exercise has to be a regular part of my life. Not just for the health benefits, but for the psychological benefits too. I feel more relaxed when I get regular exercise. I don't get that whole runner's high thing, but in general I do get some benefit from the satisfaction of knowing I'm making my health a priority.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Monday's Meal

I love to read and once upon a time I belonged to a great book club. It kind of floundered and I stopped going, but recently a friend (hey Jamie!) decided we all needed to get reading again. Our first meeting is this month and we're reading "The Help". It's a great book full of southern charm and real issues. In honor of the book I thought I'd share a recipe for cornbread. I mean really, what's more southern than that? Be warned, I like a sweet cornbread.

Corn Bread

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup corn meal
1 cup all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Grease and flour an 8 inch pan.
Cream together butter, brown sugar, egg and milk in medium bowl. Set aside. In another bowl sift together baking soda, cream of tartar, cornmeal and flour. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, mix well. Pour batter into your prepared pan and bake for 25 mins. or until a fork comes out clean.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Me and My Iphone

I'm in a few internet personal interest forums and I have the bad habit of posting from my iphone. Now, if you've followed my blog at all you know there's a better chance than average that there will be some typo or misspelled word. I don't let it worry me too much. I don't have the benefit of a proofreader and having read many books that had the benefit of proofreading and editing I know that errors can still get by. However, to add even more challenge to my already poor editing skills I've started posting stuff from my Iphone. Huge mistake. It has some kind of auto correction feature that frequently will change a word to something inexplicable. Don't get me wrong, I love my iphone beyond all reason. I'm not even tempted by the fancy new ipad. We're that close, me and my iphone! I just wanted to mention that if you occasionally read some bizarrely written sentence and wonder, what in the heck is she saying? Chances are that it's just me and my iphone trying to get our point across.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Off the wagon

I didn't just fall of the blogging wagon I got pushed! I can't believe how hectic things have been around here. I thought it was almost summer and things should be easy and relaxing. Well in the past two weeks I've spent more time at the doctors, ER and hospital than I care to discuss. Now M. is having a horrible asthma flare-up. Poor little fellow. I've spent a lot of time trying to keep him breathing so haven't been doing much else. I'm in desperate need of sleep and Merry Maids.
Hopefully, things will settle down soon. I have some great recipes to share and I few things I have been working on.
Hope all is well with everyone out in blog land and that you and yours are healthy.