Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Holiday

I spent the better part of Easter Sunday with my four children working on a house. We split up into 3 separate groups and went to work on our specific areas. Josie was working on her old room, Jessica and my youngest were cleaning out the kitchen and Matt and I were cleaning the outside.

Matt and Jessica
Pictured above is Matt (26) and Jessica (19). The following picture is of Josie (17) and Sasha (the family dog -- 12).

Josie and Sasha
Josie has decided that she doesn't like pictures, what can I say. Meanwhile, Sasha doesn't mind being in the middle of any and every thing. Sasha kind of adopted us several years ago. She's a Rat Terrier mix and has an ability to get loose when she feels she has not gotten to scratch and sniff enough.

It's really good to have my kids all working together towards the same goal, getting our house cleared out. I would like it to be ready about a month of so from now. 

I also had my girls look through some of my bins of fabric and tell me what they liked so I could bring it home, wash it and then find a pattern close to their ideas. Now that I've got more time I'd like to sew some clothes for both my girls. Then, I'd like to embroidery some things for my boys (and my girls).

I will miss my house in Spring Valley, but, at 2800 sq. ft., it's too large for me to care for by myself. Also, Steve works in Oneida, which is only 4 miles from our new house and his parents are just 6 blocks or so down the street. I like not having to worry about him making a long drive home when the weather is bad.

The other thing I can't wait to do is lift my irises and move some of them to my new house. The yellow ones came with the house and the purple ones are older bearded irises. I started with 6 of them many years ago. The have a wonderful smell and always lift my spirits to see them bloom.

After that, I have several different types of hostas to lift at another property and bring the "babies" to my new house and start adding some landscaping besides the ugly bushes. I want to plant deep purple Pansies and oak-leaf Dusty Millers. I've got several Dusty Miller at my SV house that are going on their third year. I think being near the Illinois River makes the difference, making the winter weather more mild.

I'm sure these hostas will be ready to lift and divide this year, also. I have at least a dozen different hostas. I also have some beautiful Ostrich ferns at one of my houses. Then I plan to plant some Morning Glory, Hollyhocks, Purple Coneflowers, Bachelor's Button and Sunflowers. If I get energetic, I will get the first of several raised beds and get some tomatoes and cucumbers planted, but I'm not going to rush. If I don't get one built this year, next year will be just fine.

And, a picture of my Purple Coneflowers to end this post. These are so beautiful.


Easter Preview

I actually made my Easter dinner Saturday because Sunday I will be 75 miles from home working on a house. I will meet my girls and oldest son there and we will break into teams and get about 4 to 5 hours of work done. At least, that's the plan.

Easter dinner this year, Cheesy Potatoes, Brown Sugar & Butter Sweet Potatoes, Fresh Green Bean Casserole, and Brown Sugar & Mustard Baked Ham.

Brown Sugar & Mustard Baked Ham actually came out beautifully. I used spicy brown mustard rather than yellow and instead of Coca Cola, I used a bit of Vimto cola.

The brown sugar and mustard blended together for form a paste that gets spread over the ham after it's placed in the roaster. Then, the cola gets pour around the ham and the whole thing, covered, goes into a 350 degree oven for a couple hours.

Brown Sugar and Mustard Glaze
1 cup Brown Sugar, packed
1/2 cup Mustard, yellow, dijon, spicy brown ... all work
1 Bone-In Smoked Ham (not a picnic or fresh shoulder)
Mix the sugar and mustard together to make a grainy paste. Spread on the ham. (At this point I added the cola, but I think you could just use 1/2 cup or so of chicken broth or water)
Bake at 350 degrees F for 18 minutes per pound of ham.
Let rest 10 minutes before slicing (so the juices settle in the meat).

Serve with your choice of sides.

Happy Easter!!!


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ironing Board

My ironing board bit the dust several months ago. It was not even an old one, although, it always had issues when I wanted to fold it up and put it away.

While folding it up this last time the rivets holding the top of the legs to the board just both snapped. I've had old ironing boards that folded better and lasted longer than this metal contraption. I have it in the basement as my husband said he might look at it and see if a couple screws would fix the issue.

Meanwhile, this left me with nothing but my dinning room table to iron on. The table is also my crafting surface, my cutting surface and has to be clean by 4:30 so we can eat dinner there. So, repeatedly setting up layers of towels or sheets to iron and then having to move them over and over just was not going to work.

On Wednesdays, the local PBS station airs a knitting show, a quilting show, two sewing shows with a beading show between. Two weeks ago, the Quilting Arts show featured sewing room organizing and part of that was making a pressing board.

A pressing board is a piece of plywood layered with batting, a cotton lining, a decorative cotton front. On the show, they taped the edges down with decorative duct tape. I chose to use a piece of ultrasuede I had on hand and to use tacks to decoratively hold the edges down.

I used a 1/4 inch piece of plywood and two layers of batting followed by a cream cotton and then this gorgeous dusky rose morning glory print for the front.

The directions for building the board are on their website, but to make it easier, I'll link it right hereNow you can collect the supplies and make one for yourself. This is a perfect size at two feet by two feet (squares like this can be purchased at the lumber store, mine's from Menards). I can slip it underneath or behind my hutch for storage. When you use your sewing room as a dining room, being able to easily store anything is important. It also has to be light enough for me to move around by myself.

This sits right on top my cutting board and slides easily under my hutch. It's light enough that I can lean it alongside the table when I need the full cutting surface and small enough that I can put it on one side and still have some cutting surface available.

Now it's on to another layer on my garden project and then to begin my next stash project.

The tape holds the glass in place until it dries.


The Butterfly Top

My Butterfly top is finally complete, that is as far as being sewn. Styled off McCalls 6205, following a design idea I found on the internet.

Pattern Description:  Raglan top with sleeve variations and scarf.
Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? I think the front looks pretty much like the pattern envelope. The back is where all the changes were made. I'm still considering if I want to embellish the front or keep it plain.
Were the instructions easy to follow? If you are looking for a very simple floating summer top, this is it. The instructions are easy to follow. I only used them to help me keep my pattern pieces organized. My alteration to the back made 3 more pieces to keep track of.
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I like the lines of this pattern. The original is only 4 pieces and would sew up quick. I had no dislikes to this pattern. 
Fabric Used: The fabric of this top is a polyester chiffon in a solid baby blue. This is a very slippery fabric and that made working with it a bit challenging. Also, the front and back are very similar so it was a real challenge keeping the sleeve pieces organized.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I changed the back of this top to be three pieces. The first combines with the back sleeve and just comes together at the back of the neck and along the side seams. The second piece is the lace inset with the butterflies. The lower piece had width added to it to create a delicate ruffle. Also, since my shoulders are smaller, I traced the pattern as a large at the top, widening to extra large in the middle. I did not add any extra to the bottom besides the back.
Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? This is an easy pattern. I would recommend this to someone with beginning sewing skills, just not using something slippery like chiffon. I do want to make one with the long sleeves for fall. I'm thinking maybe leopard knit.

Conclusion: I am very happy with how this top turned out, but next time I will use wash-away or heat removable stabilizer for making my own lace. The tear-away has proved particularly difficult to remove. I still have some hand-work to finish this top including adding a hanging ribbon to it hangs properly on a hanger, and maybe adding some ribbonwork and beading. I know that I will need to make a camisole to wear under this. I will have to see which of my patterns will work the best.

And, next time, I will ask my husband or my son to take pictures. It is impossible to take pictures of a garment on yourself adequately with a cell phone! I think I have more wall the me in this picture.

It also shows exactly how sheer this top is. I had a neutral colored bra on and even I thought I looked a bit naked underneath. Definitely needs a sweet cami ... maybe lace or even another layer of chiffon?

Now I need to decide if I want to make pants in a matching color. At 5 ft. 2 in. I always look taller in a similar color up and down.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

McCalls 6205 in Progress

I've been working on my first stash pattern, McCalls 6205. I thought this would make quick summer tops when I bought the pattern. It was only when looking through my stash for this contest that I found that there was a resemblance to a top I saw online.

I traced off all my pieces, including making the alterations the the back panel and spent an afternoon deciding how I wanted to make the lace for the back inset. Since I knew I wanted to use some blue chiffon I bought last fall, I was trying to figure out what I already had on hand for lace.

I knew I wanted butterflies and that I would be following up with some handwork and beading, but none of the lace I had on hand fit the bill. Here's what I decided to do...

None of these butterflies are embroidery patterns. The satin stitch on this machine is very easy to set up and there is an option that allows you to use the speed slider to easily change the width of the satin stitch.

Each butterfly was outlined on tear-away stabilizer and then tacked to a double layer of pale blue netting with a straight stitch. I chose several shades of blue and set up my satin stitch. The harder part was keeping both sides symmetrical.

Here are all the butterflies completed. I am still planning to add some handwork -- beading, ribbonwork, maybe some embroidery. Then, while the back is busy, the front is very plain so I'm considering using some scrap and making a couple butterflies in cream and then hand-sewing them on the front of the top. I was considering putting a pocket on the front for my cell phone, but the chiffon is so soft, I think it would just drag the top down.

I have the sleeves constructed including the slit in each sleeve. I only have to do the French seams to join the front and back, then it's just hems. I've been challenging myself to use some seam finishes I've not done before. With the chiffon being very ravelly, I decided French seams enclosing the seam would be interest.

I've always been a firm believer in making the inside of your garment look as good as the outside. This sometimes makes more work, but in the long run it is worth it. Even if know one else knows it's there, you will and that sometimes can make all the difference.

I'll definitely be ready to post a full review tomorrow. I can't wait to see it all finished. And, then move on to the next top in the plan. I'll also post my finished pressing board that I made to replace my broken ironing board. The link to the how-to at Quilting Arts TV is here.

And, here's a little peak at another project I'm working on.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Irish Pizza!

Or Reuben Pizza, whichever you'd like to call it. Two of my loves ... I love to read old cookbooks and I love to cook. After making braised corned beef dinner for St. Pat's, we thought that a Reuben pizza would be an interesting idea.

I made a homemade dough for the pizza crust from an interesting book my mother gave me. You can see from the picture below that I've used this pizza crust recipe a lot, like the book just opens right to the proper page.

This book is "Homemade Bread" written by the Food Editors of Farm Journal. There are a lot of interesting bread recipes in this book along with tips and techniques. I've modified this recipe a little and then used some techniques from a book on easy everyday bread to minimize work.

1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees to 115)
3 1/2 to 4 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt (don't leave out the salt, trust me)
4 Tbsp. butter, softened (this is not in the original recipe, but it makes a huge difference)
Pour water in your mixer bowl, add the yeast. With the paddle, give the water/yeast mix a turn or two.
Add 1 cup flour with the paddle running on low. Add the butter and the salt, then add one more cup of flour.
Change out paddle for kneading paddle and add remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until you've got a smooth dough ball.
Leave dough in the bowl, lift the kneading paddle and cover the bowl with a towel and leave for an hour until doubled. Punch down and cover again. Let rise until doubled again.
Sprinkle counter with flour. Divide into two pieces and roll out to fit your pizza pan (greased).
Makes 2 crusts.

This dough can be frozen until you need it, so you could make a batch or two during a weekend, divide it into individual pies and then just thaw one for a quick meal. And, to make it easy, I never took it out of the bowl until I was ready to roll it. If you want to do it the more hands-on way, feel free. I have carpal tunnel and issues with my shoulders, so this is so much easier, really.

So here's the recipe for the rest of the pizza ...

REUBEN PIZZA with a stuffed crust
1 Batch of Popular Pizza Dough
1 lb. Deli Corned Beef, shredded (you could use leftover from a boiled corned beef dinner, if you have leftovers ... )
One 8-oz. bottle Thousand Island Dressing
One 15-oz. can Sauerkraut, rinsed and squeezed as dry possible
2 cups Swiss Cheese, grated
1 cup Provolone/Mozzarella grated blend (optional, you could always use more Swiss instead)
1 egg
1 Tbsp. water
Coarse Salt
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease 2 round pizza pans.
Divide dough into two balls. Sprinkle flour on counter and dust rolling pin, roll dough to fit a pizza pan.
Fold dough in half, and then half again. Place on pan and unfold. Stretch so leaves 3/4 inch dough over the edge of the pan all around.
Spread a generous amount of Thousand Island Dressing over dough. Divide sauerkraut and sprinkle half over each pizza. Divide cheese into four parts and sprinkle one part over pizza, then top with half shredded corned beef.
Spread about a half cup of Provolone/Mozzarella mix around edges and fold dough over to make stuffed crust. Sprinkle the second part of Swiss cheese over pizza. Use remaining Thousand Island, cheese(s), sauerkraut and corned beef on second pizza.
Break egg in small bowl. Add a tablespoon of water and whisk to combine. Brush onto crusts of pizzas and sprinkle with coarse salt.
Bake for 20 minutes at 425 degrees F until cheese is melted and crust is gold brown. Recipe makes 2 pizzas.

I did not put the egg wash and salt on mine, but I think it would have made it better, adding that little extra reason to eat the crust besides that fact it's stuff with cheese. Homemade pizzas of any type are so much better than those you buy and really are super easy. If you pre-make the dough, you could easily go from dough to fully cooked pizza in less than a hour.

The best compliment ... no leftovers.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Yesterday was so beautiful you could almost believe spring had really arrived. Today looks more like December outside. Beautiful puffy snowflakes flying around, decorating the trees with lacy white patterns. As one of nature's last hurrahs, we know that this snow will be gone just as fast as warm cookies in a kitchen full of teenagers as soon as the temperature turns.

Cold snowy weather makes for a perfect excuse to stay inside watching Nascar racing and sewing my first stash pattern.

McCalls 6205 version B is traced off and waiting for me to decide do I want to use blue chiffon? Or brown chiffon? Do I want to make my own lace or use something I already have? I've already modified the back and sleeve to make this ...

This is the backside sketch of a top I saw online. I'm not going to even mention how much they wanted for this simple top. With this pattern stash challenge, I am also going to work at using fabrics already in my fabric stash as well.

I am thinking I might want to work up some lace with butterflies making it unique. I have a large collection of vintage and new lace that I can piece together and add custom bits from my embroidery machine, or use some of it's quilting stitches to sew them together.

I'm also going to place a pocket onto the front to hold my cell phone. This is one of the best things about sewing for yourself. First you can adjust the pattern as needed to fit and, second, you can customize for features you need. For me, a cell phone pocket is a necessity.

I have never quite understood why so many women's clothing lines are designed without pockets? Where are you supposed to carry your phone? A couple coins for the vending machine? Or even just a pen? I don't want to carry my purse everywhere!

Not that I dislike my purse. I made this for another Pattern Review contest making purses. I got a couple votes besides my own, which is awesome. I was thrilled to complete the purse in time to post my review in the contest.

Here's one of my favorite features. Perfect size pocket to hold medications that I need to take with me all the time. I love how the selvage made a perfect fringe around the pocket facing.

I also used the selvage to trim the facing of the pocket on the other side. It's just the perfect size to hold my cell phone, address book and pens, while I can put my wallet in the middle and still have room to carry a magazine or other paperwork.

Now, looks like I'd better get the dough made for my pizza for dinner. I'm sure there are recipes for this, but I'm just going to wing it. How hard could it be to make a Rueben pizza? I'm thinking Thousand Island on the bottom, drained sauerkraut sprinkled over the top, then maybe a little swiss cheese, a layer of corned beef, then more swiss cheese, baked at 350 degrees F for about 18 minutes or so until hot and bubbly.

Sounds pretty good, now to just remember to take pictures!


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Out of the Boxes!!

Yeah! The table is finally finished. It was so hard to wait and do the job properly, but I think it was worth it. I think it could only have been better if I had taken it outside to the garage and completely sanded the top down, filled it, sanded it, primed it and sanded again and then applied finish color and then sealed it.

Since I have two of these tables, the second one is going to get done outside! Spray paint smells nasty and if you read the cans, do you really want to be breathing what carries the paint?

A couple days ago ... while filling the holes. Then ...

I shrouded half the room with plastic while I sprayed the color coat over the primer coat. Two thin layers of black to get a good solid coverage. Then let this dry overnight.

Here is the finished table after it's sealer coat. I was so happy to see that plastic go! This is a huge improvement from before. It almost looks like a totally different table. I cannot wait to get the other table here so I can start on it.

And, here is why I spent a week working on the table ... 

And, after giving the body a bit of a break and writing, I am going to sit down with a couple spools of thread, the manual and some cotton fabric. This machine is such a large jump from my Innovis 1000 that I'm going to take my time and learn how to use a lot of it's features.

Then I am going to cut 8x10 squares from the cotton and make a stitch book. A stitch book shows each stitch and then you make variations to that and write down what the settings were for each one. Then you can put them into page protectors in a 3-ring binder. I already have a binder with a custom cover just waiting for me to fill it up.

I have never done this for any of my other machines and it would have never occurred to me to do this until I saw it on a Quilting Arts show. What a good idea. Then when you want to repeat a particular stitch, you open your book and there are the settings for you to enter into your sewing machine.

This machine features a touch screen to set up your stitches. The main screen has a sewing section, embroidery section and one labeled Disney with preloaded Disney images. You can even sew without changing out the embroidery unit. And, no more unthreading the machine for winding a bobbin.

The Dreamweaver also features a knee-lifter, USB cable to connect direct to your computer and two sizes of embroidery hoops with the option to purchase others.

Next I want to get a desk setup to the right where I can put my computer and paperwork. Then I've a cabinet I want to finish and some storage I need to move around.

And, now I'm off to cut fabric squares to start learning!


Friday, March 22, 2013

Admitting to being an APP newbie

Seriously, I am truly an APP newbie. I could be the granny in the commercials looking at all the features cell phones do and then asking "does it make phone calls?". For a very long time, that is all I ever used my cell phone for. Then phones became computers (computers are becoming phones, too). Even then, my use of APPs was limited to those loaded on my phone.

Look for one? Why?

I had to become a housewife and become tired of looking through my purse only to find I’d either a) left the entire list at home, b) wrote my list on so many scraps I missed one or lost one, or c) left the phone home instead. None of which was good.

Enter the world of APPs.

Once I started using a smart-type phone, the first thing that would happen when I got home was one teenager or another borrowing it and loading game APPs and then playing until the phone battery died, leaving me with a mostly dead phone and a reason to own extra chargers. Exactly what followed is that soon each teenager had their own smartphone so that I could have mine when needed.

Then I stopped working outside the home, so more and more often the phone would be on the phone charger in the dining room and I’d be anywhere but where my phone was, then miss important calls or need it to summon assistance.

The first APP I loaded on my phone was for the convenience of my husband (then fiancĂ©e). He would play solitaire on his phone in the evening (if he’d been home, he’d have been watching sports of some type, but I didn’t have TV). Eventually, he’d run out of juice well before he wanted to stop. So, I downloaded solitaire on my phone. Then I downloaded Mah Jong.

Getting back to the grocery list, when I’d forgotten my phone yet again at home and missed yet another call (I really hate voicemail), I figured that there had to be something that I could do with my phone so that I’d remember it or need to have it with me.

Enter the APP store.

Wow. You mean they write little programs for this?

I started with craigslist, then Joann Fabrics, Kohls and Hyvee. Then I found an APP that does fabric calculations for quilting. Now we’re on a role. Then I found Out of Milk.

Grocery & To Do Lists … On Your Phone …. Seriously? Awesome!

With this APP you have the option to create a pantry list (I picture the What's In Your Wallet redone as What's in your Pantry), a shopping list or a to-do list. They also have a local grocery deals link. Inside the grocery list, you can put in the item you need, you can designate categories, add quantity needed, price information and add notes. There’s a bar code scanner that lets you scan items you purchase frequently right into your list (it’s not always right, but handy when it is).

I have my categories arranged by store. Now I can easily put what I need on a list in my phone then just open that list when I’m at the store. As I am developing this list, I’m also adding pricing information and I can get a good idea of how much groceries are going to cost, allowing me to see if I can’t pare that list down if I think it needs it. I also like being able to “cross off” an item from my list and it goes to the bottom, with needed items still at the top. I have not even begun to figure out all the features of this APP.

I almost never leave my phone at home now. I also often have it in or near the kitchen while cooking so I can easily add something I run out of. Now, not only do I not forget I have run out, it’s right there on my grocery list to purchase at my next trip out.

I’ve not even got into the part with sharing my list with others (which would be handy having students now in other cities). And, then there is the online feature that syncs with my phone’s list and vice-versa.

I think its love.

p.s. this is not a paid review. I just happen to like this app a lot. Ok, a little more than a lot. I just like to share interesting things!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Learning to braise

Yes, I know St. Pat's was Sunday. Since I wanted to try a new method besides the basic boiled dinner. So corned beef went onto my menu planner for today. I decided to try a braised recipe as I have never had the luxury of time to do a proper braise.
After the first turn
A braise involves taking a piece of meat that if you could it fast, it would become tough, and cooking it slowly in liquid at a lower temperature. My braise is currently working it's way along at 250 degrees F in my oven. I am hoping for a beautiful succulent piece of corned beef by about 6 p.m., just in time for dinner!

Yes, I've got turkey broth working in there, too.
While my oven is doing the work (insert awesome smell here), I am organizing my sewing area, including repairing the surface of my sewing table. I have a pair of science tables with the black tops I bought at an auction from a middle school. My tops bear the markings of countless bored science students that I've not had a chance to repair. I decided today, while making room to set up my new machine, that fixing the top of my table would be the thing to do.

I'm using a water mix filler that I added black acrylic paint to so the repairs will blend in with the black surface area of the top. Some of the holes are a pretty good size, so I have been putting in several layers of filler. Once I've got them fairly filled and looking reasonable, then I will spray on some sealer and, hopefully (!), start setting up my new machine. I almost can't wait.
You can see the larger holes still drying, so I will be working on this tomorrow and possibly finishing it up Friday. I cannot wait to see the way the table looks finished. Here's a picture of the table mid-process.

And where did the mess go?

Yeah, that's my dining table ... I've got a couple hours to use those plastic tubs to organize all of those things out, so I'll accomplish two things at the same time.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

My New Baby

The new machine came home yesterday afternoon. 

Unfortunately I had a full schedule and could not even do more than just get it in the house. Today is also busy and I won't be able to do more than just read the manual until later. I will have to clean and re-organize my space ... really ...

This is one of my work spaces. I've been working on bedroom sheers and table napkins, amongst other things. This is my Brother Project Runway machine. Very reliable and hard working machine. And, my creative space looks much like anyone else's, I hope.

So this afternoon, once I'm home, I will work on putting things were they go, organizing with some of the boxes I bought and some I've made to hold things and move the Runway machine to the storage shelf where I keep my machines when not in use. My Nouvelle is there and my serger.

Here's the new sweetie ...

Still in her bag. The boxes for this machine came in boxes! The carry case had it's own box. The ruler is there for scale. This machine is very big. And, this is just the machine, not the embroidery unit, which is in it's own box ...

And, then the manuals and misc. parts and pieces ...

And ....

That is not quite an inch thick. And, I am going to start reading before I running my errands because I can't wait to start playing with this machine.

The second best part to a new machine besides all the new features and the warranty ... the follow up service. I can get lessons on any features of this machine that don't make sense. And, I know that the people at Galesburg Sewing Center in Galesburg, IL, know this machine and what it can do.

I can never tell new sewists enough to find a good sewing center and buy a good quality machine. Yes, they are more expensive than the one's from MallMart or other places, but, unless you've just inherited your grandmother's beautifully maintained machine, your local sewing center is the place to go. They usually have used machines for sale as well as new ones, plus they usually have on-site repair people if your machine should need service (yes, they need regular service just like your car, really!).

Here's the link for the Galesburg Sewing Center. They have two Illinois locations and I can tell you for sure, the Galesburg folks are great to work with, even if you are just coming in to ask a question.