Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Folk Dance

This is a Folk Dance quilt. I made it. By myself. Then I gave it to my niece, Addison Isabel for Christmas. It was quite the project, but I enjoyed the whole process (except maybe the sore back at the very end). I am sure that upon inspection by a "quilting expert" I would recieve some hardy criticism, but I think it's pretty good for my first one.

For the top, I used a pattern by sewing goddess, Anna Maria Horner. I chose thirteen different fabrics and sewed lots of alternating triangles into columns, which then make a zig-zag pattern. For the quilting, I took my good friend's advise and purchased a walking or even feed foot attachment for my machine. To give myself good odds for not messing up the beautiful quilt top, I just quilted straight lines. I think I could try hand quilting too. Again, sewing goddess Anna Maria Horner inspires me with confidence that I can do these crazy-sounding things.

Oh, and I also sort of got a new sewing machine! We got an excellent deal on the Singer Curvy, it was my early birthday present, and came in quite useful in finishing my quilt! The back of the quilt is a lovely yellow sheet and I created my own binding strips from the same fabric as the two outer columns.

I found a great tutorial on how to attach the binding strips. When it was time to attach the binding strips to the back of the quilt, I had no energy left to research new stitches, so I used what I call the "invisible" stitch. Even though this was hand stitching, it didn't take too long, and it turned out well I think. I had read something about a "ladder stitch" but I didn't know how to do that one. Recently, when I bothered to google it, I found some tutorials for the ladder stitch, and this helpful video. So next time I will use that stitch. Yes, I said next time. I feel that I have more quilts in me yearning to come to fruition.

She is going to give her babydoll a bottle. So precious.

Ta Da!!!! Exhausted, but happy. Oh yeah, the next morning we packed the car to drive over 1000 miles to Florida.

Details of the lovely fabrics.

The cream colored fabric here has subtle little birds, foxes, and bunnies on it.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Goat Cheese Empanadas with Raspberry Chipotle Salsa

This is one of the "Spectacular Three Ingredient Recipes" from this August's Real Simple magazine. 

The three ingredients are:
4 oz. fresh goat cheese
2 store bought refrigerated, rolled pie crusts 
Store bought salsa 

This makes 16 empanadas.

I'll be honest, I'm all over anything involving a flaky pie crust.

To make these scrumptious appetizers, begin by preheating your oven to 375 degrees.
Unroll the pie crusts and use a 3 inch round cookie cutter to cut out 8 circles from each crust. 
If you don't have a round cookie cutter, use the opening of a drinking glass that is about 3 inches. 

Tip: Cut the circles as close as you can to each other around the rim of the pie crust. This should give you seven dough circles, and then cut the last one from the center. 

Divide the goat cheese up among the 16 dough circles, placing each portion on half the circle. 
Dip your fingertip in water and lightly graze half the rim of each dough circle. Fold them in half and press the edges with a fork. Making each empanada takes a little time (15-20minutes), but I enjoyed the process. I imagined I was one of those busy chefs, making something for Anthony Bourdain to eat, that he will praise by comparing it to sex. Although to make that scenario work, I also had to imagine that I was in the kitchen of the farm where the goat cheese was made that morning, using pie crust made from my great, great-grandmother's recipe, and a salsa made from the fresh fruits of my orchard and vegetables of my garden. A girl can dream. A girl may have been watching too many episodes of No Reservations.  

Bake the yummy cheese-filled dough pouches (empanadas) for about 15-20 minutes or until golden. 

The magazine called for a store bought corn salsa, but I recommend a salsa made with fruit. I used a raspberry chipotle salsa, which was fabulous. Another great fruity salsa is Newman's Own, Peach Salsa. 

The combination of the buttery, flaky crust, the tangy cheese, and the spicy-sweet salsa is superb!

Note: You will have leftover dough. I rolled it all up into a ball and put it in the fridge. No need to waste good pie crust. I will find something to put in that dough. Nutella empanadas? 

Friday, August 13, 2010

I finished my dress! Be impressed.

Behold! The first dress I have ever made! Please feel free to be impressed. 
I wanted a pure white sundress for summer, so I made this one using a pretty, eyelet-like fabric. I used the Honeygirl dress pattern from Pretty Ditty. It was great for a beginner like me, because the stretchy bodice and a-line skirt do not require much fitting or tayloring. I made most of the dress before we moved at the end of May, and then it hung, un-hemmed in my new closet for weeks. Why, you ask? No one knows. Finally yesterday I hemmed the lining with a machine, and then used an invisible stitch to hem the main skirt. Done. 

I had to improvise a lining because the white fabric was too sheer by itself for the skirt. There were no directions for a lining in the pattern, but how hard can it be? You just replicate the skirt right? Mmmm, sort of. Looking back, it might have been helpful if I had looked at the awesome Readers Digest sewing book from the late 70s that my mum gave me. I think I was impatient. I worked through it, and it came out fine. But I did learn some things, and next time I know what I will do differently. 

I had to take it in some while I was constructing it to make it fit better, so I recommend trying it on as you go. I did not line the bodice, because it is shirred with elastic thread, which scrunches the fabric together, and as you can see, there is also a big ruffle on the bust. It also helps that I wear a nude colored strapless bra under it. 

I am happy with how it turned out and I am glad I still have some Summer left to wear it in. The picture of me wearing the yellow wrap sweater is me showcasing more of a "late Summer to early Fall" look.

Nest sewing project is another dress. I am going to make a different version of this dress that the designer posted directions for on her blog here. This time I am using one fabric for the bust and another for the skirt, so stay tuned...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Our Current Room

I have to admit that I love watching HGTV. It's debateable among true interior decorators as to whether HGTV is really good for the average home owner. My opinion is that certain shows are great (Divine Design, Sarah's House), and others not so much (they shall remain nameless). But I watch HGTV because I love home design and decor. So it was a wonderful blessing that my in-laws gave us the go-ahead to do what we wanted with our room here at their house. Even though this is a temporary living situation, we are planning on staying here while we save up the down payment for a house.

Moving to a new state, into a place that isn't really your place, where most of your stuff has to stay in boxes can magnify those uprooted feelings. So given the opportunity to decorate our room (and bathroom) here, we jumped on it. I had ideas ready.

Now, my husband is a designer, musician, artist. Needless to say, I cannot make decorating decisions without him. While this caused some friction early on in our marriage while decorating our first home, we ended up with a great space (which I will have to post photos of some time.) Now we understand each other's aesthetic and we balance and challenge each other, which makes us better at creating a space that is beautiful, that we both love.

Unfortunately, I didn't take before pictures of this room, because a lot of the furniture changing took place the day after we arrived when we were unloading the moving truck. But here is the breakdown of what we did.
1. The room needed painting anyway, so we chose a light warm grey called "Grey Ghost." I should mention that our room is in a daylight/walkout basement, so we wanted to maximize light. This color is light enough, but still gives the room some dimension, and contrasts nicely with the natural wood trim in the room.

2. We switched out the dressers that were in the room with one of our dressers and a desk.

3. I had two large gold-framed mirrors over our bed in our first house. For this room, I painted the frames what I call a "china blue," and placed them over our dresser. I also painted a small bookcase we found in the basement the same color and added a new knob to the flip down door. I put this next to the desk for storing some office supplies and books.

4. Good news: there is a king size bed in this room, which gives a certain someone who used to hog the bed and the covers (cough, John) more room, and both of us better sleep. Bad news: the bed frame has a large gaudy brass headboard and footboard reminiscent of a Price is Right, Showcase Showdown bedroom set from the eighties. For a few weeks we pondered what we could do to get rid of or camouflage the shiny monstrosity. One day I finally just took a wrench and managed to take the foot board off. Yes! Then came the solution for the headboard. I made it look like an upholstered headboard by first stretching a queen-sized mattress cover around the headboard, and strategically pinning it with large safety pins to secure it. This serves as the batting. I then wrapped this with some fabric I bought, and again secured it with safety pins. This is only a temporary solution, not how I would make an upholstered headboard for long term use.

5. My mother-in-law had recently bought some great sheets and a coverlet from the Simply Vera by Vera Wang collection at Kohl's for some crazy 75% off deal. We just added some of our throw pillows, a new bed skirt (found on clearance at Target), and a throw blanket we had.

6. We hung some curtains, added some lamps, put down our favorite vintage area rug (John's grandma bought it from a door-to-door salesman in the 50s or 60s), hung some art and photos, and arranged the knick knacks.

7. The blue ceramic dogs on the dresser have a story, and it's this. I have been searching for a pair of Staffordshire style china or ceramic dogs for a few years. I wanted them ever since reading about Anne Shirley's china dogs, named Gog and Magog, who presided over her hearth. I had been keeping my eyes open for them at every antique store and vintage market I went in. Then one warm Sunday afternoon, shortly after moving here, John and I went with John's sister to an antique festival downtown. About 40 minutes before the festival was scheduled to close I spotted the backs of two ceramic dogs on a shelf. I got excited. I went into the booth and the vendor had actually picked one up in preparation to pack it. I told him I loved the dogs and asked how much he wanted for them. Long story short I got the dogs. I haven't named them yet, so I am open to suggestions.
ps. I saw a blue velvet "donut" cushion at Urban Outfitters that looks like what I imagine the blue "donut" cushion looked like that Anne loved in "Anne at Windy Poplars," so I might have to buy that...

8. I would also like to mention that we have a nice size closet that my father-in-law decided to line with some cedar he had laying around. He also put a new light fixture in it and added upper and lower poles on the back and on one side, as well as some shelves. It's awesome.

9. I normally don't like beds on an angle, but in order to have room for the desk and an end table, it was necessary.

Conclusion: It is a comforting to be in that room and feel that it is truly ours. I like bedrooms to be soothing, comforting, relaxing, but with some character and color.

Monday, August 2, 2010

John's Chicken with Orzo

The result of one of my husband’s culinary experiments, this chicken dish has all the familiar comfort of Chicken Parmesan, with some lemony, peppery intrigue. One night when it was my beloved’s turn to cook dinner, he scraped this together with things we had in the kitchen, and now it is one of my favorite meals! We made this last night for John’s parents and all devoured it happily. 



One small to medium onion, cut in thin strips or minced

Minced garlic, four or five cloves or 2 ½ tsp. of minced from the little jar

Extra virgin olive oil

Four boneless, skinless chicken breasts (not too fat) or cutlets (not too thin) (you know, just right)

Juice from one lemon

One package of orzo pasta

Approx. 2 cups (or more if you like) of spaghetti sauce from a jar, made with red peppers like Bertolli’s Arrabbiata or Newman’s Own Roasted Garlic and Peppers.

Shredded parmesan or mozzarella (or both) to taste

Lemon-pepper seasoning

Salt and pepper


 Bring water to boil in medium-sized pot for pasta. When water boils add pasta (usually about ½ to ¾ of the package). Cook until al dente, about 8 minutes.

 Meanwhile, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan or electric skillet (with high side walls). Sauté onions and most of the garlic in the oil, until the onions turn golden and translucent. Remove from the pan, set aside.

Note: I added the onions to this recipe, because I love onions!

 Add some more olive oil to the pan. Salt and pepper the chicken pieces, and add them to the pan or skillet. Squirt with lemon juice (make sure to save a little for the pasta) and sauté until golden brown on each side (about 4 minutes each depending on thickness). Add the onions back to the pan just before the chicken is done cooking.

Note: Do not cover the pan while the chicken is cooking, you don’t want to steam the chicken. 

 When chicken is done cooking, pour spaghetti sauce generously over each chicken breast or cutlet. Sprinkle as much cheese as you like over each piece of chicken. Cover the pan or skillet until the cheese has melted to form a nice snowcap to your chicken and tomato sauce mountain.

 When the orzo is done, drain and return to the pot or pour into a serving bowl. Stir a generous slice of butter into the pasta (or ½ tablespoon of olive oil) along with some lemon juice, and season with the lemon pepper seasoning to taste (probably about a teaspoon or so).


Serve how you like. John likes his chicken and sauce right on top of the orzo and I like min sort of just overlapping my orzo. Peas or a green salad are a wonderful compliment to this entree.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Perfect Summer Meal

Adapted from the Everyday Food; Great Food Fast cookbook.
Original recipe on page 124. 

1 to 1 1/2 lbs. of ground chicken
4 green onions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons of grated fresh ginger
(from a peeled 2-inch piece)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

4 Whole wheat pitas
Sliced cucumber to taste
1/2 cup fresh cilantro sprigs

Grilling Pam spray for the grill
Original Pam spray

1 Heat grill to medium-high. In a medium bowl place ground chicken, scallions, ginger, lemon juice, paprika, cumin, cardamom, cayenne, sea salt and pepper; remove wedding rings if necessary and mix thoroughly with hands. Set aside for 10 to 30 minutes for meat to marinate. 

2 Separate chicken and form into patties. The ground chicken mixture will likely be quite sticky (but makes for a nice burger), so I recommend spraying some Pam your wax paper or plate before you place the patties on it. 

3 Spray the Grilling Pam on the grill grates and grill burgers for 2-3 minutes per side, or until the patties are cooked through. 

4 Halve pitas or cut so that the pocket will hold one burger patty. Into each pocket place one burger, cucumber slices, and cilantro sprigs. Serve with the cumin yogurt sauce (recipe below).

1/2 cup lain low-fat yogurt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper

1 In a small bowl, combine yogurt, cumin, and salt and pepper. 

I served the chicken burgers with watermelon slices and grilled corn on the cob. When I grill corn, I fashion a packet out of aluminum foil and place the ears of corn inside with about 2 tablespoons of water  and a dash of salt in the pouch and grill for about 10-15 minutes. 

Sorry I didn't take any pictures of the meal. I wasn't planning on posting this when I made them, and then decided I should afterwards! 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

It's all in the lens

I recently lost my point-n-shoot digital camera in a local downtown park. My brother, sister-in-law, and niece were visiting for a day and John and I were giving them a whirlwind tour of Kansas City. Granted, this was not the digital SLR camera of my dreams. It wasn't super expensive, the little flap door that holds in the battery and memory card was broken, and it took too long to load each photo, so that I had to pause between each shot. I never got rid of my old point-n-shoot digital, so I'm at least not without means of taking digital photos. So, I'm sure you can see why I was more upset about losing the photos I had taken of us all that day than about losing the camera itself. Luckily, right before they came, I made the decision to start shooting with my film camera again. I have a Canon Rebel 2000 EOS. My dad gave it to me for Christmas when I was in 10th grade and I took it with me everywhere I went. On my honeymoon in the Canadian Rockies, we took photos with this camera and our little digital one, and the most beautiful photos are from the film camera. The difference is in the lens. I can't wait to buy a digital SLR, but in the mean time, I am going to use what I have. Using film is less cost effective because you have to buy the film and pay for the processing each time. I can't, however, afford a digital SLR at the moment, so using my film camera is a more cost effective way of getting great photos. 

Here are some of my favorite film shots from my family's recent visit with us in Kansas City...