Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Best Thrift Store Find of the Year

I frequently shop at Thrift Stores, because I like to reduce, reuse and recycle.  You never know what you  are going to find.  Each shopping trip is an little adventure. 

Over Thanksgiving weekend, we were in Cape May NJ to have a Thanksgiving dinner with my daughter and her family.  She is very pregnant and wasn't able to travel here for the holiday so we packed up the fixings and headed down there first thing Friday morning.  Until recently, there were very few thrift stores in her area.  There was a new one called The Arc on Rt 47 in Rio Grande, so we headed over with the kids on Saturday morning.  Since we had the kids with us, we couldn't spend the amount of time in the shop that we would have liked, but in addition to a Christmas-y tablecloth and a couple of other small things, I found these gems:

I love old things, they have so much character.  So this sugar and creamer set caught my eye, just sitting on the tray on top of a bureau. 

The pieces were very heavy when I picked them up, so I figured I had a good buy on my hands.  I got the three pieces for $9.  Yes, only $9!  The tray does not appear to be an original piece of the set, as there are no markings on it. 

The sugar and creamer are Quadruple-plated by Van Bergh S.P. Co, Rochester, NY, and numbered 468, and apparently date back to the late 1890's.  Parts of them were black when I bought them.  Here is an  'after polishing' picture.  They still need a little work, but here they are after the first go around of cleaning.  I love them, and they look beautiful on the table.

Friday, December 11, 2009

My *Free* Christmas Craft of the Day

No blogging lately - trying to get all of my Christmas Gift Projects finished for the holiday.  I'm a long way off, but I think everyone seems to be in the same situation this year.  We have no specific plans all weekend, for the first time in forever, so I think this will be a sewing and Christmas cookie-baking weekend. 

Here is my Craft of the Day.

I always save the Christmas cards that people send us, in the hopes that I will use them for crafting.  I tuck them away with our Christmas ornaments, etc, and they go in the attic 'til the following year.  Then the next year comes along and I end up throwing them out.  So this year, I decided to go through them all last night, while we were watching a movie (Night at the Museum 2, if you must know).  I found a bunch that had pictures on them that I really liked. So I grabbed some picture frames that we had in a bin, and went to work.  

I really like the one below - it was a card that showed two small boys making snow angels.  I cut the card up to fit the frame.  The picture doesn't do it justice, really - the snow is all glittery and it is really cute.

This next one was also one card that I cut into 2 pieces. 

I liked this next one, it has a folksy look to it.

And, Lastly, my retro-looking card.  I do have several other cards that I need frames for.  Two of the frames had family pictures in them, so I simply tucked the Christmas cards in front of the pictures that were already there.  Once the holiday season is over, I will just take out the cards and the family pics will be there.

The best thing about the craft, is...it cost me NOTHING.  I had all of the materials in the house already.  Yay!  I love crafts like this, that I can throw together on a whim.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Holy Cow, this month really got away from me.  Expect more of the same in December as well, I guess. 

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! I think this holiday reminds people of what they have to be thankful for - but shouldn't we be doing that all year long? 

I love the image of a cornicopia. In addition to the colors of the rainbow, it signifies to me a great bounty of food we should be thankful for, especially in this economic period when more people are doing without.

I am thankful for my husband and children and grandchildren, and our good health and happiness.  I guess I should include the dog and cats in that, even though they can be trying. :)  I am thankful for our extended families and siblings.  I am thankful that my sisters share a love of crafts and sewing and thrift stores!  I am thankful that we are employed and can put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads.  I am thankful for my friends, and even though we don't see each other much, we can always pick up where we left off and rely on each other in a crisis.

 I am thankful for my coworkers and customers at the quilt shop who inspire me to be better at the craft and try new things. I am thankful that our washing machine is still hanging on (it is older than my last three kids, but owes us nothing at this point).  I am thankful I have the privilege of working from home, as it allowed me to spend time with Kara - a luxury I did not have when the other kids were young.  I am thankful that we have the opportunity to live free and especially thankful to our military who are serving to continue to allow us to do so. 

Have a great holiday everyone!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Shop Hop

My sis Sue and I did some shop hopping this past weekend.  My shop participates in an annual Shop Hop with 9 other stores in the area.  Unfortunately I am not eligible to win any of the grand prizes, since I am an employee, but I can still register for the daily gift baskets.  Neither of us won anything. :(

However, we had a nice relaxing afternoon and a peacful lunch, plus ice cream later.  Woohoo!  Neither of us bought a lot, but here are some pics of my Shop Hop pleasures this time.  Two cute patterns,  the first from PatchAbilities.  It is a long skinny wallhanging.

The second, from Lizzie B Cre8ive.  I can't wait to do this appliqued project to hang on the wall in my sewing room.  It is three-dimensional, which you can't tell from the pic.  The sample at the shop was adorable.

A little bit more Figgy Pudding, to use for Binding and other projects.

And lastly, I picked up a bunch of fat quarters in the Farmer's Market line by RJR Fabrics.  These food fabrics always catch my eye when I am shopping, so I finally caved and bought them.  I have a wallhanging planned for the kitchen, and we'll see what is left after that.  If I have enough, I will do napkins and potholders perhaps, or applicance covers.  They would be fun.

My Cute Pencil Cup

I needed a new pencil holder recently, so I made this one out of a clean soup can, and a scrap of Kaffe Fassett that I had.  He would probably be mortified to know that someone added rick-rack to his fabric.  But, we must be psychic-ly linked - he has the same exact fabric line on his sidebars of his website.  Cool.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Soccer Practice this Week

This is Kara's first year for playing soccer for the local Boys and Girls Club.  Apparently it is Club tradition to allow the kids to wear their halloween uniforms to the first practice after Halloween.  So here are a couple of pics of her team playing soccer in their costumes. 

It was tough to get a decent picture because of the lighting on the field.

It was pretty funny to watch.  One boy was Superman, and his cape was flowing behind him as he ran around the field.  They had a good time.

Country BBQ Chicken and Fried Onions-n-Potatoes

I didn't have time to post my last recipe in the challenge until now.  Day 4 was a BBQ sauce recipe I came across.  I have no idea where it came from, I found a copy I had printed or someone had given me.  We eat a lot of chicken, and it is always nice to have a dish you can count on.  The sauce was very easy.

Combine all of the following in a saucepan over medium heat:
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions, sauted briefly to soften (this was my addition to the recipe, the original did not call for sauteeing the onions first.  I prefer the cooked onion flavor)
  • 1 cup ketchup
  •  1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon dry mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  I wouldn't skimp on this part - it really needed the 15 minutes to get the best flavor.  Then I just poured the sauce over a batch of boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  I usually eat the boneless breasts, but we did not have them in.  Bake  in the preheated oven until done and the juices run clear.  This would be even better on the grill, but I didn't have the time to stand outside and watch it.

I served it with just mixed vegatables, pretty ho-hum but I had them in the freezer, and my best fried onions-and-potatoes. 

For my potatoes, I used three large baking potatoes, and microwaved them for 5 minutes after piercing the skins with a fork.  This makes for a much faster side dish.  While they are microwaving, I chop onions, and start them in a frying pan in some olive oil.  After 5 minutes in the mircowave, the potatoes are almost fully cooked.  Remove the skins if you like (I prefer them on but hubby does not), and chop into bite size pieces.  Add to the onions, and let them brown a bit before turning. Stir periodically. 

After about 10 minutes (and here is the part that makes them so yummy), add some chunks of butter to the bottom of the frying pan, and allow that to melt.  Then mix the butter into the potatoes, and let them sit again.  A few minutes later, add a few more chunks of butter (think Paula Deen) and wait for it to melt and mix again.  Add some salt and pepper to taste.  By now, parts of the potatoes and onions have gotten nice and crusty and brown.

Good comfort food.  The BBQ sauce tasted good mixed into everything.

Friday, November 6, 2009

For Newer Quilters - Needle Selection Information

I have only been quilting and sewing for less than two years, so there is much I do not know.  My sister and I started together early last year. As we have taken classes and I've worked at Country Quiltworks, we have picked up a lot of information along the way.

My sis just sent me a link to an article on how to select the right sewing machine needle for a project.  Well, it was eye-opening to me.  Frankly (I can hear you experienced quilters cringing), I've been pretty much using the same needle for everything, unless I am stitching denim - then I would move to a sturdier needle.  Obviously, I needed an education.  So for you less-experienced quilters like myself, here is some information that might be helpful on Choosing a Sewing Machine Needle.

And on a side note - I finally refreshed my memory on how to add bloggy links.  YAY.  So now I can appropriately link to sites when necessary.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Day 3 - Root Beer-Glazed Pork Chops with Caramelized Onions

This was an Emeril Lagasse recipe out of the Food Network Favorites cookbook.  I have to say, while I enjoyed the flavor and look of the dish, I did not enjoy the amount of effort and time spent in the kitchen.  I just picked the wrong day to have to hang out in the kitchen for an hour and a half or two.  Caramelizing onions is not something you can leave on the stove and walk away from for too long, and neither was the sauce reduction. 

That being said, the meal was tasty.  I served it with mashed sweet potatoes with a bit of butter and a bit more brown sugar on top, which was a perfect pairing. 

For the onions, Emeril recommeds 2 pounds of yellow onions, peeled and sliced.  Melt 8 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a large skillet.  Add the onions and cook slowly over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and caramelized, 45 minutes to one hour.  Remove from the heat and keep warm.

For the glaze, combine 2 cups of root beer, and 2 cups of reduced veal stock.  Since I never cook veal, I had no veal stock, so I used pre-made beef cooking stock.Bring to a boil, then rduce heat to medium low and simmer until reduced to a thick syrup, about 1 cup, 45 minutes to an hour. 

Now, mine never reached a syrup stage and took it's good old time reducing.  I'm not sure if the stock I used caused that or not.  I ended up adding it to the frying pan when the chops were cooking a little at a time, in an effort to reduce it that way.  That worked to a point.

Prepare the chops while all that other stuff is going on.  Season each chop with a good sprinkle of Emeril's Essence.  I seared each side for a couple of minutes, then turned the pan on low to simmer.  Emeril's recipe called for then putting them in a 425 degree oven for a bit, but it had already taken too long to get to that point, so just left them on the stove to finish.  Once the chops were done, I plated some sweet pottoes, placed a chop on the side, then mounded the onions on the chop.  Drizzle a healthy amount of the sauce and there you have it.

All in all, good flavor, but I would definitely work on shortening the preparation time.  Us working folks don't have time on weekdays for this.  Plus, it takes forever to clean up after I cook like this - I confess I am a messy cook, and usually dirty way more utensils, etc. than necessary.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My New Scarf

I finally finished the scarf I was working on.  The pattern was in the Fall 2009 issue of Quilts and More.

I used a woven homespun for the base, and sewed a LOT of 1-inch batik strips - 86 I think - on to both sides of the base fabric, 1 inch apart on each side.  Then I frayed each side by cutting in an inch, 1/4 inch apart on both sides.  Then I wet the scarf and tossed it in the dryer with a dry towel.  While it was not a difficult project, it involved a lot of sewing.  I'm happy with it.

And here is a portion of my Figgy Pudding project, in progress.  More to come later on that.

Lastly, my Day 3 recipe smells wonderful, it is cooking while I blog.  All I will say is, it involves caramelized onions.   YUM.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Day 2 of '30 Recipes in 30 Days'

Since I had some of the Green Herb Dip left over from yesterday, I decided to experiment with it in my lunch.    Today I made a Roasted Vegetable Wrap with Green Herb Dip spread for lunch.  I used some nice fresh, young asparagus, red and green peppers, baby bella mushrooms and scallions, and Cole Slaw mix. 

First, I cut the peppers into strips, and cut off an inch of the woody ends of the asparagus.  I left the scallion and the mushrooms whole.    I spread all of the vegetables on a cookie sheet.  While the oven was preheating to 350 degrees, I crushed a small clove of garlic, and mixed that with some olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.  I then drizzled the olive oil mixture over all of the vegetables, making sure everything got a light coating to prevent then from drying out.  Mushrooms do not hold up well for lengthy roasting, they dry out and shrivel, so make sure they are coated well. Pop them in the oven.

The house smelled wonderful in no time - roasting garlic will do that!

While the veggies were roasting, I spread some of the Green Herb Dip on one side of an 8-inch Honey Wheat tortilla and sat back and waited.  And got hungrier and hungrier.  Usually I use hummus in a wrap, but thought the dip would be a nice change.

I cooked the veggies for only about 10 minutes, then moved them to a plate to cool slightly.  I sliced the scallion length-wise, so I would not get a heavy bite of onion together, and cut off the dried up green end.  I also sliced the mushrooms and spread the veggies on my prepared tortilla.  Lastly, to add some cooler crunch, I topped the warm veggies with a small handful of cold Cole Slaw cabbage/carrot mix, that you can buy pre-bagged in the produce aisle.  I like this in wraps better than lettuce. 

Roll it up, cut it in half and you are now ready to eat.  It was delicious - I would eat this for lunch every day.

And for you quilters with a keen eye - Yes, that is some of Moda's Figgy Pudding line under my plate. Working on a small project that I will share when it is completed.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Day 1 of '30 Recipes in 30 Days'

Since this was a hectic weekend, with Halloween activities, having Grandkids Bo and Violet overnight last night, and Kara's soccer game this afternoon, I went easy on myself for the first day of my personal challenge.  We have lasagne, and sausage and peppers leftover for dinner tonight, so for my first recipe I chose a dip to serve with veggies while watching the 2nd half of the Eagles game after soccer. 

I made a Green Herb Dip, from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa At Home cookbook.  I love fresh dill, so this was perfect.  It has a light onion-y flavor and the dill comes through nicely.  We ate it with baby carrots, but I think it would be really nice with crackers or crunchy breadsticks.

Green Herb Dip - makes 2 cups (Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa at Home)

8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream at room temperature
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
3/4 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Place all ingredients in the bowl of food precessor with the steel blade.  Pulse 10 to 12 times, until just blended, but not pureed.  Serve at room temperature.

Couldn't get much easier!  This one is a keeper.  I was tempted to add a little garlic, but I am glad
I did not. I think it would have over-powered the dill. This will go on the list for the next family
party, and we'll see how they like it.

My Fabric Pumpkins

Here is one of several pumpkins I made recently to decorate for Autumn
 around the house.  I used Moda's Pumpkins Gone Wild
line by Sandy Gervais.  I think they are fun!

I used sticks from the backyard as stems, and tied raffia around them.  Each pumpkin uses 6 different fabrics.  Here is a top view.

Next year, I plan to do different sizes and shapes for a pumpkin patch for
 the top of the piano in the living room.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Welcome, and Thanks for stopping by....

Welcome to my new blog! I’ve been wanting to write again and Facebook isn’t exactly the proper medium for lengthy writing. So I decided to start blogging again, about the things that matter most to me – my large family, cooking for them, sewing and quilting, and any other things that happen to come up. Maybe I can get some of my family to do some Guest Posting here, as well. I could probably convince my sisters, at least (hint, hint).  Or maybe a couple of my foodie cousins - you know who you are, ladies. 

Probably because I work full-time from home, blogging over the last two years became almost like a window to the outside world, and with that, brought people into my life I might never encounter otherwise. I have had the opportunity to meet bloggers whose writing I enjoyed, and also people who enjoyed my own. A personal relationship develops when you read someone’s thoughts and dreams, even if you have never met. They become your friends, your family in a way, and perhaps you share things with your readers that you might not share in person. It opens up a whole world of varied thoughts, opinions, pictures, feelings – the list is endless. Oh, and I can’t forget – recipes!

When I first started working from home, I thought I would finally be able to spend time cooking the way I always wanted to. Unfortunately, I was mistaken, since my time is spent working and taking care of my five year old when she is not in school. I often get tired of thinking up new ideas for lunch and dinner. So, to challenge myself during the upcoming month of November, I decided to begin a ‘30 Recipes in 30 Days’ marathon of sorts.

So here are my rules for myself – Every day during November, I must try a new recipe I have never tried before, or make up a new one. To make it more interesting, I cannot use the same cookbook twice. This rule may not work for everyone, but I have a large cookbook collection and decided I should make good use of them. For that reason, I am excluding online recipes from my marathon. I can also use them, but they can’t be my main new recipe of the day. The recipe does not have to be a main dish, but it can’t be a recipe that only I will eat - my husband does not eat seafood so I can’t just cook seafood all month. Crazy, I know, but I love him anyway.  The perk is, I never have to share my food when we go out to eat! 

I suppose I should not just make 30 desserts, either, huh? Maybe I will save that for January's recipe marathon.

Here are just some of my cookbooks that I keep in the kitchen.  The beige cookbook on the bottom right is my much-loved Family cookbook, put together some years ago by my cousin Marge et al.  My copy is getting pretty dirty, which is how you can tell the most-used ones.  As much as I try, I cannot seem to keep my cookbooks clean.

Beginning November 1st, I will start posting about my recipe marathon. Feel free to join me, and let me know how you make out. And be sure to share your recipes and ideas, I am always looking for something new!