Monday, October 31, 2011

What Do Skunks Like to Eat??

Fruit Roll-Ups!!

Ok, so he really didn't get to eat it, but he sure looked cute trying!

Happy Halloween from two handy-guys and a skunk!!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Winter Stitching

I love making lists. I never used to make them, but since having kids I have noticed a distinct lack of short-term memory, so lists are essential now. And it feels so satisfying to make a big line through my tasks when I've accomplished something!

I wasn't around here at the beginning of summer to participate in Sarah's Summer Stitching, but I think it is a fabulous idea. Here is my Winter Stitching list, totally devoid of pictures:

1. Pay-It-Forward gifts...I have three lovely ladies to stitch for and I can't wait to get started on these. It is just a little intimidating to sew for other people, especially super-talented ones who are fabulous stitchers themselves. I have no idea what to make, so I'm open to suggestions!

2. Quillows for the boys using Nova's tutorial...I want to make one for each of the boys, or at least the older two for now. Nearly every day, Carson sees me sewing something and asks if it is his blanket and proceeds to tell me what color blanket he wants. I made the quilt that is on his bed (Ok, part of it...) but I guess he needs another. And it is getting really hard to keep telling him no, so I think he'll be getting one pretty soon.

3. Quilt for Baby M....Some friends of ours are expecting their second baby, due on Christmas Day. Of course this little guy will need a quilt, I just need to plan a little.

4. Christmas stockings...My kids have never had stockings (bad mom!) so I'm determined to get them made this year. I started on some last year, but was 9 months pregnant and quickly lost interest once Max was born.

5. Quilt for Baby G....Another couple that we are friends with are expecting their second child as well. I think she is due in February, but they aren't finding out the gender, so I may wait. Or not, and take up the challenge of the gender neutral quilt.

6. Hometown Quilt... no idea about a pattern, but I think I will use it to make a quilt for my sister-in-law. They are doing a massive remodeling job on their house and from the descriptions of it that I've heard from her, I think Hometown would go really well in their new living room. The quilt may not get done by Christmas, but it can still be a house re-warming gift I guess.

7. My parents' quilt...Not sure about this one yet, either. Their 40th wedding anniversary is in June, so that deserves a quilt, don't you think? Possibly Swoon....

8. Sewing Machine Cover...Pretty self-explanatory, really. I never remember to put the hard cover over it so my machine keeps getting dusty and sad, but I think if I had a pretty quilted one I just might take better care of it.

Hmmm, I keep adding more and more to this list so I better go on and hit "Publish" before this thing gets out of hand! 

Friday, October 28, 2011

FMQ Friday

Round 2 of the FMQ...I didn't get a chance to post my progress last week, so I've combined them into one long one, so prepare yourself...

I am really enjoying playing around with free motion quilting. I've always wanted to be good at it, but never really wanted to take the time to practice. Now I actually find myself looking forward to it. Weird, right?

Last Week's:
This week I made one small change but it made a huge difference for me. Ready for it? I slowed down my machine! I know, every one of you has already done it, but since I cannot seem to get my foot off that pedal I decided to try it. My machine has three speed settings and I found that medium was my optimal speed.

So, this week's pattern was "Slate Tile" from the Free Motion Quilting Project:

I was positive that I would be awful at this pattern. Curvy, swirly designs just seem so much easier, but honestly, I think I did better on this one than the curvy patterns I've tried before.

Here is my first attempt:
and the second...
 I did much better on the rows where I moved from the left side of the fabric to the right. For some reason when I was going the other direction I was very inconsistent about the way I made the square and retraced the same lines more than once. Weird.

Now for this week's pattern...

Bright Star
Seems pretty simple, right?

Maybe not. Really, it wasn't too bad, but I keep stopping before I get to the edge of the box and my traveling stitches leave a little to be desired.
No idea what was going on over there on the right....

On these first two, I left my feed dogs up after reading some people say that works better for them. I didn't have any problems doing it this way, but it seemed a little smoother with them down. Not sure it made too much of a difference, but on the third try I put them down...
Maybe a little better??

Now, if you want to see some professional FMQ-ers, check out Cindy's link-up at FMQ Fridays on Fluffy Sheep Quilting.

Carrie's Kaleidoscope

I know it hasn't been very long since you've seen my Autumn Kaleidoscope quilt, but I wanted to share a few more details about it and who I made it for. (I know that isn't proper grammar, but I don't care!)

This is my beautiful friend Carrie on her wedding day 8 years ago. She had the most amazing wedding outside by a lake on a perfect autumn day. Doesn't she just look like some kind of little fall princess? Like all she's missing is the big red sash that says "Miss Autumn" or something. 
Anyway, Carrie just reminds me of fall, my favorite time of the year, so when I started making this quilt I decided to give it to her for her birthday, which is in late September. She is my best girl-friend, so I thought she needed a little gift to remind her how special she is. Obviously, I didn't get it finished in time for her birthday (or anniversary) but I'm sure she doesn't care!

It is funny, but when we met each other we really didn't hit it off. Neither one of us can say why, but for the longest time we just kind of ignored each other, despite having so many of the same friends and her being at my apartment all the time to see my roommate. One summer we were the only ones that stayed in our college town, so she stopped by where I worked to see if I knew of any people that were hiring. I didn't, but I called her anyway and we went out that night and drove around all over the county talking and laughing and listening to horrible music. We've been great friends ever since. Unfortunately, she lives about three hours away so we don't see each other nearly enough, but when we do it is like no time has passed.

OK, since I know you didn't come here to hear me ramble about my friends, here are some details about the quilt:

Pattern: Kaleidoscope, from the Kaleidoscope QAL with Elizabeth of Don't Call Me Betsy
Fabrics: Solid is Kona Coffee, others are from Joel Dewberry's Heirloom collection, Patty Young's     Grand Bazaar, Denyse Schmidt's Hope Valley, and Lace Elements by Pat Bravo. 
Backing: Same fabrics as front. Wonky stars inspired by this quilt from Deux Petites Souris
Binding:  Links in Orchid from Pick a Bunch by Nancy Mims for Robert Kaufman
Dimensions: Approximately 60" by 72"

I am so excited to be taking part in my first Blogger's Quilt Festival
Thank you so much for visiting and be sure to stop by Amy's Creative Side and see all the other amazing quilts at the festival! Thank you so much, Amy!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Take That, Santa!!

It may not be the squarest block or the flattest block, but I did it! Yes, it may look more Subaru than pick-up truck, but for my first attempt at paper piecing I'm pretty happy!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

WIP Wednesday, vol. 11

Well, I started to say that there hasn't been a lot of sewing going on around here, but that wouldn't be entirely true. I was very productive on our trip to my parents and even got a bit done today. On with the show...


Well, I had to frog it three times, but I did finish that cowl I was so anxious about trying.
It really was such a simple pattern, but I started it last Wednesday after a very long day in the car and well, I really had no business attempting any kind of crafting that night. First I got about three rows in before coming to the conclusion  that I had twisted it when joining the ends, even though I had thought I was so careful! So I started again and got about 6 rows done before calling it a night. I got back at it in the morning and looked and somehow my beginning chain of 55 stitches had slowly dwindled to 29 by the 6th row. No idea. Ripped it again, but after that everything went very quickly. I ended up about 8 yards short because I used a different brand of yarn and didn't read the label closely enough, so imagine two more rows up top, ok? If I try to wear it as a hood like it should be, it doesn't cover the back of my neck, which I think would be annoying. But honestly, I don't see me ever trying to wear it like that anyway.
Just because I know you are dying to see me model it for you, here it is in all it's glory:

I also managed to make 3 pairs of pajama pants for the boys. Two of them were even lined! Crazy!
I almost forgot, but Halloween costumes are done, too. No pictures of those yet, but there will be no goldfish. Did you hear the giant sigh of relief over here? After I made Carson his handyman tool belt, Wyatt decided that he needed one, too, so he didn't want to be a fish anymore. I'm so glad. I had some fun ideas in my head for the goldfish, but I just can't seem to dredge up much excitement for costumes this year. We'll probably only go to about three houses anyway since we don't exactly live in a neighborhood. Getting three kids in costumes in and out of the car isn't the most fun so I try to plan their costumes accordingly.

Still in Progress:

I finished the top for my Christmas tree pants this afternoon. Now I just have to make the back, quilt it, slice it up and bind it. It has been a fun little project to work on when I have little bits of time.

 I got the fabrics for my Dead Simple quilt all cut and ready. I'm wanting to get the tree pants done before I start the piecing, though. Hopefully more on that soon!

Now I need to decide if I'm going to join in the 12 Days of Christmas QAL...I'm pretty sure I will, but that first block is a little intimidating. I'm definitely going to try it though. It looks fun if I can swing it! Who else is in?

I would also like to wish my sweet friend Amorette a very happy birthday today! She is getting settled into their new home in Portland so if you have a minute go say hi and tell her happy birthday, or give her any tips on Portland, OR if you have any!

As usual, linking up to the crazy-talented Lee of Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday. Let's see what everyone else has been up to...

Monday, October 24, 2011

We're Back!

We made it back from Iowa this evening and had a marvelous time! The boys were super troopers both coming and going, which made it much easier!

I hadn't intended to take a vacation from the internet, too, but the connection at my parents' house is pretty sketchy so I decided to not even waste my time trying to wait around for it to work and enjoy the time off instead.

I didn't even take any pictures while I was there, so I have nothing to show you! But if I had, you would be seeing lots of games of Chutes and Ladders, pumpkin whoopie pies, crocheting on the couch, red velvet cupcakes, dueling sewing machines with my mama, chocolate chess pie, and hot dogs roasted on a glorious fall evening in the Midwest. Perfection. Can you tell that I really like to eat??

We got home just as my husband was getting home from work, so we decided to pile into the Scout and take a drive around the neighborhood since it was such a pretty day. So here's the only picture you'll be seeing today...

Can't wait to see what everyone has been up to while I've been away! I've got loads of emails to respond to and I just checked Google Reader and I have 682 unread posts. Yikes!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

WIP Wednesday, vol 10

Let's get right to it, shall we?


That's right, my "Autumn Kaleidoscope" is done! More details here.

In Progress:
The fabrics for my Dead Simple quilt arrived yesterday and I can't wait to get started. I modified my palette just a bit. Here is the original:
 So far I have decided to use Azure instead of Sky, and Coal instead of Medium Gray to get a little more contrast.  I'm considering switching out the Tangerine for a different orange. The tangerine is quite, um...vivid. But, I may just stick with it and see what happens. It could surprise me.

I'm still working on my Christmas Tree "Pants" for the Sew, Mama, Sew Holiday Sew-Along. Here is what I have so far:
I haven't done this week's sewing yet, but there really isn't much to it so I may just wait and do it when we get our instructions for the next step. I still need to pick out my backing and binding fabrics, too.

I've recently decided to attempt to learn crochet and am diving right in to try this project:

I got my yarn and a new crochet hook last weekend, so I'm hoping to get started on this in the next few days. I really have no idea what I'm doing here, so any tips would be appreciated. 

One thing that simply MUST be started (and hopefully finished) this week is Halloween costumes! I'm one of those weirdos who thinks that Halloween costumes and birthday cakes should both be homemade. Maybe after a few more years I'll change my tune, but so far I'm still having fun with it. Last year we had a frog and a chicken. This year we'll have a skunk, a handyman, and possibly a goldfish if I get my act together. If not, we'll have two handymen, which honestly I'm hoping for. So much easier than a goldfish!
Even in their costumes they insisted on wearing boots...
After preschool pickup this morning I will be heading west with the boys to visit my parents...8 hours (please God no more than 8 hours) in the car with three little boys under the age of 5. Pray for my sanity. 

As always, I'm linking up with Lee for WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced. Thanks!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Two for Tuesday

When I was growing up in Tennessee there was an awesome Classic Rock radio station and on Tuesdays they played two songs back-to-back by the same artist/group and for some reason I loved it. Double shot of Bruce Springsteen? Yes, please! They called it Two-fer Tuesday or something like that. I hated that name but it kept popping into my head when I was trying to think of a name for this post.

Today I have two recipes for you. A two-fer if you will. I have been in a bit of a side dish rut lately. With all that we've got going on right now, creative meal planning has kind of been pushed aside for "Oh, crap I hope there's something in the freezer...".  

Somehow, though, the other night I rocked it. I tried a new spice rub on some pork chops that I grilled and had two fabulous side dishes, Easy Parmesan Risotto and Balsamic Honey Glazed Roasted Carrots.

Keep in mind that I am so not a food photographer, so please don't hold that against the recipes. They really are delicious!

Easy Parmesan Risotto

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
kosher salt and black pepper
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, plus more if needed
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (2 ounces), plus more for serving
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium-sized pot over medium heat.
Add the onion, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 6 to 8 minutes.
Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until absorbed.
Add half the broth (1 ¾ cups) and simmer, stirring once, until absorbed, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the remaining broth and simmer, stirring once, until the rice is tender and creamy, 8 to 10 minutes. (If the rice is not cooked through and the mixture is dry, add more broth and continue to cook until tender.)
Stir in the Parmesan and the remaining tablespoon of butter. Sprinkle with the basil and additional Parmesan, if desired.

**I did not use the white wine called for in the recipe. Instead, I just increased the broth amount to 4 cups and skipped the part about adding the wine separately.  I also did not add the basil, because well, I forgot. Still delicious, though!

Source: The Comfort Of Cooking, who adapted it from  Real Simple magazine

Balsamic Honey Glazed Roasted Carrots 
2 lbs baby carrots (or an equivalent of scrubbed sliced regular carrots)
1 TB olive oil
Salt and Pepper

2 TB olive oil
3 TB honey
1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Drizzle the carrots with 1 TB olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Whisk together the remaining oil, honey, and vinegar and toss with the carrots. Return the carrots to the oven and roast for another 5 minutes.

Source: So Wonderful So Marvelous

***If anyone is still reading at this point, thank-you. I cannot for the life of me figure out why the font on the second recipe is smaller than everything else. Does it look that way to you or are my eyes just weird this morning? Any thoughts?

Please stop by Tuesdays at the Table at A Quilter's Table and the Pin-Did Challenge at the Modern Marigold to see what some other wonderfully crafty people have been making lately.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Autumn Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope is DONE!!

Can you feel the excitement?

I started this quilt in August and had to put it aside a few times to finish other projects, but I am so glad to say it is finished!
A lot of times when I'm making a quilt I get to a point where I just kind of want to be done with it and start cutting corners and just quit being excited about it. Not so with this baby. I love it!

We had to run some errands Sunday before soccer so I threw a couple quilts in the car and told my husband we were going to stop at a park and take some pictures. But we ran out of time before the soccer game and afterward my husband really needed to be getting back to the field, so I convinced him to help take a couple pictures as I was dropping him off. Thus, you get these wonderful harvest-y shots!  Unfortunately, I left my camera's memory card in my computer at home so I had to use his phone to take the pictures. 

I was a little stumped about what I wanted to do when it was time to make the back of the quilt. I had lots of smaller pieces of fabric left, so when I saw these scrappy stars that Cinzia of Deux Petites Souris had made, I was inspired to try them.

As always, I was indecisive about my quilting, until Katie suggested that I simply sew along the side of the seams as she and some others had done on their Kaleidoscopes. Easy enough and it made a neat design on the back as well. This was the first time that I used Aurifil thread in my quilting and I was quite impressed. I was always skeptical when others raved about what a difference it made for them, but it went through my machine so smoothly, never broke, and my sewing machine even seemed to sound happier.

Overall, I am very happy with this quilt. Sure, several of my points don't quite match up like they should and the binding fabric seemed to noticeably fade after the first wash, but I really don't mind. I love the autumnal colors, the fabrics, and the design of both front and back.

 Thank you to Elizabeth of Don't Call Me Betsy for designing and sharing such an awesome quilt. I joined the QAL the day after it ended, but I still had fun going back through the Flickr group and seeing how others had interpreted the design.
ETA: I just figured out how to get pictures from the internal memory on my camera to the card, so I added a few more "picnic" shots.

 I'm submitting my "Autumn Kaleidoscope" to Celebrate Color.

So happy to be linking up with Canoe Ridge Creation's {Sew} Modern Monday, Sew Happy Geek's Manic Monday, and Quilt Story's Fabric Tuesday. Thanks Ladies!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Crochet Bug

I have seriously been bitten! 

I keep seeing all of these amazing crochet projects and am dying to try it! My mom taught me just a little, but I have no idea how to read a pattern or what most of the stitches are called. Is stitches even the right word?

Here are a few of the fun things I would love to make:

Don't you love those colors?

So cozy. Supposedly a beginner's pattern. 

I love this stitch. And the color.... Don't think this is for a beginner though.

I love this combination of crochet and fabric. Excellent for baby snuggling!

Don't even get me started on this cuteness!

But, you know that saying about too much of a good thing.....

I think they need an intervention.

Friday, October 14, 2011

FMQ Friday

Ok, everyone is just having too much fun free motion quilting lately, so I had to jump in and try it again.

If you are having a really good day and generally feeling pretty good about yourself, don't FMQ. It will definitely knock you down a peg or two. Wait until you're having a mildly crappy day, then it just might lift your spirits a bit.

I decided to join in FMQ Fridays with Cindy at Fluffy Sheep Quilting. Each week she chooses a pattern from the Free Motion Quilting Project by Leah Day for everyone to attempt, then we can encourage (and laugh with) each other and not feel quite so bad.

Here is this week's pattern:

Appropriately enough, it is called Drop Art. Doesn't look too hard, right?

Here's my first attempt. I started off using cheap green thread so you could see a little contrast, but it kept breaking, so I grabbed the closest better spool which happened to be white. My fabric is aqua, so I thought it would show up a little better than it does.

Here's the back of that one:

And my second attempt:
 Why do my raindrops look like sausages?? Obviously I need to adjust the tension a bit, but I really didn't want to touch it.

I decided to try a different pattern...

 Not terrible, but it just seems like it should be much easier, especially after watching the video! She has such a calm, soothing voice when she is explaining it to you, and her speed is always so consistent. She has such fluid motions, too. Basically the complete opposite of mine!

Here are some things I've noticed...

I feel like if my machine is moving fast then my hands should be, too, but that's not really how it works. For some reason, I have a hard time taking my foot off the pedal. Even when I get stuck and aren't sure what I should do next, my needle is still moving, so I feel like my fabric should be moving, too. It's a vicious cycle, really. Must take foot off pedal!!!

I also need to find that spot where my needle speed and stitch length are happy together. Debbie told me to set it so I can "floor it" and not have to worry about moving my foot, just my hands. I think that is great advice. 

Also, I need the left side of my machine to stick out farther. When I come to the point in the pattern where I need to push the fabric that way, my left hand tends to slip off and mess up everything. I think I may set up some books or something to kind of extend my sewing space next time. One of those sewing tables where your machine is sunk down into the table would be sweet, but I don't see that happening here anytime soon.

Now let's see how everyone else did with their "drops". Stop by FMQ Fridays and leave some encouraging words for the other brave souls!