Monday, 21 January 2013

Baby It's Cold Outside - Time For Soup

We've had nothing but really cold weather and lots of fog for the past week.  Usually, we all get super excited about the cold temps, because it might mean a rare snow day.  Sadly, the only moisture in the air is in the form of REALLY thick fog. 

I couldn't resist snapping a few photos of the frozen trees.

A cold day, combined with feeling under the weather, calls for some homemade chicken soup. I used my new electric pressure cooker.  I'm kinda loving this new appliance.

Breville Fast Slow Cooker

Here's what I did:

I used the saute feature first.
I put a little olive oil in the pot,
followed by 1/2 a diced onion,
2 cloves diced garlic,
1 diced carrot, and
1 diced celery stalk.

Then I added some leftover chicken I had in the freezer,
6 cups of chicken stock,
 about 1/2 cup uncooked brown rice,
and turned the pressure cooker on high for 9 minutes.
After 9 minutes, I let it cool for about 15 minutes to release the pressure naturally.

Maybe it's because it's cold outside, or maybe it's because I don't feel too well, but that soup tasted so good!  I asked my hubby if he loved it as much as I did because it's really good, or if I was just loving it because I'm feeling pathetic.  He thought it might be a little of both.  My kids on the other hand, thought it was the best soup they'd ever eaten.  They both went back for seconds.

(Side story:  When my son was just learning to feel himself, as a baby, if he really loved something, he'd start kind of humming as he was eating.  You could just tell he was perfectly content and loving his meal. I was almost like he was saying, "Yummm, yummm, yummm." as he was eating. To this day (he's almost 12 now), when he eats something that he really loves he does the humming thing when he eats.  At the dinner table tonight, my hubby and I just looked at each other and burst out laughing because my son was in his humming mode as he was eating this soup.  Needless to say, he really enjoyed this recipe.)

Stay warm, friends!

Posted by Picasa

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Vintage Rectangle Quilt

In my opinion, there are several different types of quilters.  There are people who like to find a pattern, pick their fabric, and then follow the instructions.  Some people like to fly by the seat of their pants and buy pretty fabric and then just start sewing.  There are also quilters with an eye for design.  They find beautiful fabrics, get inspired, and draft out their own pattern.  I tend to be a follow-the-instructions type of quilter.  Flying by the seat of my pants is just way too uncomfortable for me.  I've tried it, and I just don't like it.  I tend to freeze and then my quilting project ends up looking really pathetic.

I've always admired people who can design their own patterns, figuring the yardage they need, keeping seam allowance in mind, and always creating with an artists' eye.  Over the past few months, I've been trying my hand at designing quilt patterns.  Although I don't think I will EVER have an artists' eye, I've certainly been having a lot of fun creating.  I've been buying fabric, or using fabric I already own, and then designing from there.

Last week I showed this quilt top to you.

I had purchased this Honeybun from the Moda line and really didn't know how I wanted to use it.

It sat on my shelf for a really long time, because as much as I loved the fabric, I just didn't know what I wanted to do and I didn't want to waste it or start something and make a mistake.  Well, I finally got inspired.  I found a Jellyroll pattern that I liked.  I knew it would be slightly different, by using a Honeybun, so I needed to plan it out. (Remember, a Honeybun is a smaller version of a Jellyroll.)

Here's the picture I created to help me wrap my head around the way I wanted it to turn out.

To make this quilt, you need one Honeybun and 1 5/8 of a yard of light fabric.

I started by sewing the Honeybun strips together, in pairs.
Then, I cut the strips into 2 1/2 inch blocks.
By sewing the 2 1/2 inch block to another 2 1/2 inch block, I got the little "block of four".
Finally, it was time to sew the blocks to white rectangles (2 x 4 1/2 inch rectangles).
It always makes me happy to sew the strips together because the quilt finishes up so quickly. A little 2 1/2 inch border on the edge and the quilt top was complete.

It looks like a lot of work, but because I used the strip piecing method, it actually came together very quickly.

Happy quilting!

Because I Needed Another Hobby!

I came home with yarn and knitting needles one day and my hubby just looked at me, shook his head, and asked, "Why?"

To me, the answer was obvious, "Because I needed another hobby!"

It's cold out and I can't garden in the winter.  I'm trying not to bake as much because we really don't need to be eating warm cookies all through the winter.... those soft, warm, yummy cookies... sorry... got distracted.  Anyway, my hubby and kids say I always have my nose in the computer and I thought knitting might keep me busy when I just feel like I need to sit down for a bit.  (I tend to curl up with my iPad and start pinning fun ideas when we're watching movies or relaxing in the evening.  I call it multi-tasking.  They think I'm being anti-social.)  Well, my friend at school helped me get started and I'm happy to report that I have a pretty new scarf!

I bought the chunkiest yarn I could find and some really big knitting needles.  I bought a size 13 needle, if that means anything to you knitters out there.

Yep, feeling kinda proud of my new hobby!

Happy knitting!
Posted by Picasa

Friday, 18 January 2013

The Class Quilt

Most of you know I'm a teacher and most of you know I work in a job-share.  I feel so lucky to be able to have a great career and also have one extra day off each week.
(So thankful for great teaching partners too!)

Today I spent the day in my daughter's second grade classroom.  I taught second grade for many years, before moving to kindergarten, and I really do miss the independence and confidence that second graders bring to the classroom.  Well, it's auction time at my kids' school and I'm helping out with our class auction project.  We're making a Friendship Quilt, with Moda's Double Chocolate fabric line.  Oh, how I love those colors!

I pulled out a few of my favorite fabrics from the bundle and precut the squares that we needed for the project.

After a quick introduction in the classroom, I started pulling kids out to the hallway to start sewing with me.  They LOVED sewing!  I've gotten pretty good at sewing sideways.  I let the kids sit right in front of the machine and they really do the sewing.  I just make sure to sit right next to them, looking sideways at the machine, and help guide them when they need support.  No one will  be sewing their fingers into the quilt on my watch!!!

Once we had the triangles pieced, the kids started arranging the squares into the Friendship Star.  

It always amazes me the way some kids just "see" how shapes fit together and others really have to work at it.  I'm one of those that really needs to work at it, so I think I'm a bit envious of those people who can quickly make beautiful arrangements with shapes.  I love the conversations the kids have as they are arranging their shapes too.  Working with these little guys just makes me happy!

Once they figured out how to arrange their pieces, we were ready to sew the small blocks into a larger block.

I'm kind of in love with the colors in this quilt!

Some kids talked about how their moms or grandmas sew, and others had never even seen a real sewing machine before.  Some kids talked about the old fashioned foot pedal machines that they had seen in cartoons, and others talked about family members who own multiple machines.  Regardless of kids' experience sewing, they all had a great time!  There were happy giggles, lots of questions about how the machine works, and lots of kids who were eager to convince their parents to let them sew at home.  One little boy even said, "I'm totally going to ask for one of these for Christmas!"  How cute is that?

Twelve little Friendship blocks are ready to be sewn together.  I'll be spending my next day off finishing the blocks with kids who were absent, and working with kids to sew the blocks together.

The quilt will be auctioned off at the school auction, in March.  I can't wait to hear which lucky child will get to take home a quilt made by all of his or her friends!  I think it's turning out pretty enough that the parents will be excited to have this in their home too!

Happy quilting!
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, 17 January 2013

My Two Favorite Sewing Books - Right Now

I stopped by the library the other day to pick up a little inspiration.  As I've mentioned a time or two, I really love Moda Fabrics.  Camille Roskelley is one of their designers.  I was introduced to her blog by my friend whose house looks SO much like Camille's.  Anyway, I love the light and bright colors she uses in her quilts.  Suddenly, my own quilts felt very dark.  She inspired me and I want to try something new.

(And is that polka dot chair the cutest thing EVER?)

I own the first Moda Bake Shop book and use the quilt patterns all the time. When Sweet Celebrations came out I was dying to get my hands on it.  I was not disappointed.  The projects are so pretty and I was excited to see a few of the fabrics that I already have in my stash. 

Sweet Celebrations with Moda Bakeshop Chefs: 35 Projects to Sew from Jelly Rolls, Layer Cakes, Fat Quarters, Charm Squares & More

Quilts, runners, bags, and gifts.  Oh, where do I begin?

Happy sewing!
what i'm reading

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Moda Fabrics

Dear Moda,

I really, really, really love your fabrics.  You have a jellyroll to fit every season and mood I'm in.  Right now I'm loving Double Chocolat.  French General is always right up there with my favorites too.  Tans, browns, and reds just make me happy.  Throw in a little icy blue and those little stacks of  loveliness are just about perfection.

I don't know what I'm going to sew yet, but I'm sure your designers will have some new patterns to inspire me.  Jellyrolls, Layer Cakes, and Charm Packs make me so sew happy.

Your Friend,
Posted by Picasa

Monday, 14 January 2013

Cinnamon Sugar Pull Apart Bread

Saw it.  Pinned it.  Tried it.  Loved it!

I made the cinnamon sugar pull apart bread that I saw on Pinterest, for our Seahawks football watching morning.  I changed things up from the original recipe and used my bread machine on the dough cycle.  Mine doesn't look quite as pretty as the Pinterest version, but WOW was it good..

Happy baking!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

A Quilting Kind of Weekend

I've spent quite a bit of time in my sewing room over the past few weekends.  Two new quilts tops are products of the quality time with my sewing machine.

This one is made from a Moda Honeybun.  (A Honeybun is like a Jellyroll, with strips that are a bit thinner.)  I love the vintage looking fabrics.  I've been inspired by some fun new quilting books and really wanted to add lots of white to these fabrics.

The Salt Air Jelly Roll (also from Moda) has been sitting in my sewing room since Summer.  I couldn't decide what I wanted to do with it, so I did nothing.

A few weeks ago I decided to use the Jellyroll in my favorite "go-to" quilt pattern.  I love colorwash quilts, and I'm loving the way this one turned out.

Happy quilting!
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Individual Chocolate Chip Cookie Cups

Recipe for 4 individual Cookie Cups:

 8 tbsp Melted Butter
4 tbsp White Sugar
4 tbsp Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp Vanilla

1 Cup Flour 
1 small pinch of Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
About 40 chocolate chips - 10 per cup

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.  I used a cereal bowl.
Divide mixture evenly into small microwavable dishes.
I added a few extra chocolate chips to the top, just so it would make a pretty picture.
Microwave all 4 dishes, at the same time, for 1 minute.
If it looks too gooey, try 10 more seconds.

 Easiest Dessert Ever = Happy Kids (and happy mom)

Happy cookie making!

Posted by Picasa

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Cleaning Your Sewing Machine

I've spent a lot of time at my sewing machine over the past few days, but I started having a problem.  I was using my ruffler foot (the strange looking contraption below) and the needle kept breaking.  I broke 4 needles in about 20 minutes.

Side story:  One of the needles actually flew up and hit me right in the eye!  Have you ever had that happen before?  Crazy!  I never would have thought that I needed protective eyewear for sewing.  It hurt, but it just so happened that my daughter had her eye doctor appointment the next day, and he looked at my eye and said it would heal just fine.

Anyway, I decided to take my machine to my local Quality Sewing and Vacuum center, where I bought it.  The ladies there are always very helpful.  When you use a ruffler foot, you need to align it to your specific machine and needle.  I assumed I was doing something wrong.  Well, the nice lady who helped me took a look at it and said I had done everything right.  It turns out I was just using a fabric that was too heavy for the ruffler.  But, she said that we should probably take a look to see if there was any damage when the needle hit the machine in the wrong place.  She took out the bobbin, took off the plates, and looked inside.

"Um, honey, do you ever clean out your machine?" she asked.

I think she knew the answer when she started pulling dust bunnies out of it.  I've been sewing for years.  YEARS.  I've never cleaned out my machine.  I didn't even know that the little brush that came with the machine was used to brush lint out of the interior workings of the machine.  I suppose I should have known, but I didn't.  I asked the nice lady how often I was supposed to clean out the inside.  She said she cleans her machine every time she uses it.

I laughed out loud and I'm not even kidding!

Lesson learned.  I'll be cleaning my machine more frequently. I found several videos on You Tube, describing how to take your machine apart, clean it, and put it back together.  Please tell me I'm not the only person out there who does not take their machine apart and clean it every time they use it  ever.

Happy cleaning.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, 4 January 2013

What Are You Going To Do?

My kids went back to school this week, but the district that I work in doesn't go back until Monday.  That meant TWO FULL DAYS, at home, all by myself.  Let me say that again, ALL BY MYSELF.  I love my family to pieces, but.... wow.... does a little alone time do a person some good!

People kept asking, "What are you going to do with your time?"

Does that photo answer the question?

My craft room was filled with boxes, tape, ribbons, and wrapping from the post Christmas blizzard that happened in our living room.  I was able to reclaim the rest of the house by the day after Christmas, but this room had not been touched.

I worked on closets too, but I'll save that post for another time.

Ahhh. That's better.  Not perfect, but better.
(I can't tell you how happy it would make me to put all of those fabrics onto little miniature fabric bolts.)
We're taking baby steps right now, friends.

Happy sewing!
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

A Nice Surprise

Friday morning I woke up and my hubby said he had a surprise for me.

My friend, Diane, was taking our kids for the night and he had made reservations for dinner downtown.  He had also booked a hotel room and told me I needed to pack for a night out!

Wow!  For those of you who don't know me (in real life), you should know that a fancy night out usually includes dinner at the local Applebees, the kids tagging along, and if we order the 2 for $20 deal, we'll get a mini dessert too!  In addition, I don't go to Seattle.  My hubby works downtown, but I don't do the Big City.    If I do have to drive down there, I lock the doors and break out the bullet-proof vest.  I usually get lost down there, because every time I think I know where I'm going, it turns out to be a one way road.  Ugh.  I'll stick to small towns and backroads.

Anyway, back to our night out on the town!!!

We checked into our hotel, went to Pike Place Chowder for lunch, and then saw a movie.  I can't even remember the last movie I saw that wasn't rated G.

My hubby had made reservations at Matt's In The Market, for a 6pm dinner.
(Side story:  When I went to food blogging conference last summer, it was obvious that Matt's was the place to go.  All of the foodies were in town and it was all I heard about.  Literally, I think I heard people talking about it nonstop for three days straight.)  So, as you might be able to guess, Matt's is known for amazing food.  We've never eaten there, but have always wanted to you.  You see, a good friend from high school is the owner. When my hubby called to make reservations, our friend answered the phone!  Bugge (pronounced Buggy)  is one of those guys who you can sit and talk to, and it's like time hasn't even passed.

Ok, on to the food...

You'll have to excuse the quality of my photos.  They don't do the food justice!  I took the pictures with my phone, so they're a bit blurry and the color is off.  Let me just tell you, this food is amazing!
Best. Food.  Ever.

Bugge set us up at the perfect table.  We had a view of the market, city lights, water, and new ferris wheel.

We started with steamed clams and crab salad.  (Thanks Bugge!) The clams had amazing flavor.  I can't even describe it!  It had this heat to the broth that was like nothing else I've ever tasted.  The crab salad was perfect.  I can honestly say, it was the best salad I've ever had.  It was light, fresh, and there's nothing better than crab.

The seafood stew was To Die For!  It had scallops, mussels, clams, and this salmon that had an intense smokey flavor.  I was so glad there was bread served with it because the broth was either the same as, or similar to, the broth that the clams were steamed in.  If you're a seafood lover, you know that the best part of seafood is dunking bread in the leftover broth.

Let's talk dessert.... I'm not supposed to have chocolate, but I just couldn't resist.
Oh. My. Goodness.
That chocolate truffle cake, with huckleberry ice cream, and chocolate branches was the best thing I have EVER eaten.  My hubby agreed.  It was truly amazing!

We don't get out too often, so this was a really nice surprise.  The great dinner and staying downtown were just icing on the cake  huckleberry ice cream on the chocolate cake!

Surprises always make me happy!
Posted by Picasa

White Chicken Chili Recipe

Please excuse the lame food styling in this photo.  My kids were starving and there were lots of groans when I said that I needed a picture before we ate.

My hubby has been asking me to make white chicken chili for YEARS.  Honestly, I have never had white chicken chili... well except for that one time that he decided to make it himself and the kids named it Dad's Throw-up Soup.  It tasted as bad as it looked.

I decided that over the break I'd give it a try.  I had several recipes pinned for White Chicken Chili, but none of them sounded like exactly what I was looking for.  So, I decided to combine a few and make my own recipe. 

Here's what I did:

I started by cooking a pound of chicken breast in the crockpot. 
It cooked for about 4 hours on high.
Into the crockpot, with the cooked chicken, went
6 cups of water
6 chicken bouillon cubes
(use 6 cups of chicken stock if you'd rather)
1/2 of an onion, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, finely diced
1 can of diced tomatoes, drained and rinsed
(or chop your own)
1 diced yellow pepper
(corn would be good too, if you are not a fan of peppers)
1 can of white beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
dash of pepper

That sat in the crockpot for 3 more hours on high.
Then came the thickening.

In a pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter.
Add 1/2 cup flour and mix
Slowly add 1 cup of half and half and 1 cup of milk
Add 8 oz of light cream cheese
Add 1 1/2 cup of Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
This mixture makes kind of a mac and cheese type sauce.

Next, I added some of the chili broth from the crockpot into to cheesy mixture to thin it out a bit.
Finally, I poured everything back into the crockpot and stirred it all together. 

It made a thick, yummy, cheesy, chicken chili that everyone loved.

My hubby says this recipe needs to go in our regular rotation. The kids both loved it too!
By the way, those little tortilla strips on top were just cut and tossed with olive oil and a bit of taco seasoning.  Then I baked them for about 5 minutes to crisp them up.  They were a perfect little topping for the chili.

Happy cooking!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Cinnamon Sugar Donuts

Don't tell my family how easy these were! 

My boys were watching a movie and my daughter was playing with her toys, while I was working in the kitchen.  Next thing they knew, I had homemade donuts for everyone to try!  There were oohs and aahhs about how yummy these were, and what a nice surprise.  My son told me several times that I should sell the recipe to Frost (our favorite donut shop).

Ready for my secret?
It's canned biscuit dough.  It's not even name brand biscuit dough.  I bought plain old buttermilk biscuits, used my donut cutter to shape them, fried them for about 40 seconds on each side, and coated them with cinnamon sugar.

Like I said... don't tell.  They think I spent hours making a special treat!

Happy baking!