Sunday, December 30, 2012

Easy Street, step 5 and other show & tell

This past week brought some wonderful time to relax and also for part of the time, sew like a fiend!  I finished step 5 of Bonnie's Easy Street mystery:
And I also finished two quilts as gifts, which can now be shown because they've been given.  Both are made from blocks I swapped with SewManySwaps.  First up is batik Jacob's Ladder:

Next up are these fun pinwheels made out of Kaffe (Fassett) and friends. 

I also snapped these pics the other day of the Minglewood top that I finished just before Thanksgiving.  It's a shop sample, so is hanging there and waiting for it's turn for Eula to quilt it. I still couldn't get it all in even two pics, but when it's quilted, I'll find a way.

Finishing up the year on a quilting roll feels good!  Have you checked some things off your to-do list lately?  What's up for you next year?

Thanks for stopping by and Happy New Year!

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

When one of my sister's and I visited our great-aunt Millie over Thanksgiving, her friend Joan brought over a delicious carrot cake.  I asked for the recipe and made it as our contribution for Christmas Dinner with hubby's family.  It came out great - so moist and delicious!  Carrot cake has always been one of my favorites, but I thought it seemed like a lot of work so had never tried it.  Buying already shredded carrots makes this easy!  (Shhh...I won't tell if you don't tell!)

Tropical Carrot Cake

2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon each baking soda and cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon each salt, nutmeg and allspice
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 and 1/4 cups oil
2 cups finely shredded raw carrots
1 8 oz can crushed pinapple, drained (about 3/4 cup)
1 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)
1/2 cup flaked coconut

Stir together flour, baking powder, soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and allspice; set aside.  In large bowl, beat eggs slightly.  Gradually beat in sugar until mixture is thick and lemon-colored. With rubber spatula gradually stir in oil.  Add flour mixture, carrots, pineapple, nuts and coconut; stir until well mixed. Divide among 3 greased, floured 9-inch layer pans or into greased, floured 13x9 pan.  (I used a tube pan.)  Bake in preheated 350 degree oven, 35 mins for layers, 55-60 minutes for sheet cake or tube pan, or until pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pans at least 10 mins, then turn out on racks to finish cooling.

Let cool completely before frosting with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

4 cups powdered sugar
2 8oz pkgs cream cheese (I used neufchatel cheese), at room temp
1/2 cup butter, at room temp
4 teaspoons vanilla

Mix all ingredients until well blended.  Refrigerate until ready to frost cake.

I had leftover carrots and frosting (and no more cake!), so made these muffins.  They're yummy warm, so don't know if they'll make it til they cool to use up the leftover frosting! lol

Thanks for stopping by,

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Chicken Tortilla Soup

A friend of mine asked me to please post more of my crockpot recipes.  She knows I'm the queen of the crockpot, and like me, she'd rather be sewing than cooking! lol  So here goes the hands' down favorite at our house:

Chicken Tortilla Soup

In the morning:

Put three large (or four if they’re small) frozen chicken breasts in the crock pot with a box of chicken broth.  I set my crock pot on “auto-shift” which cooks on high for a while, then shifts down to low some time during the day.

In the evening:

Cut up the chicken.  Add one large or two small cans of Mexican style corn, a can of Mexican style black beans and a can of Mexican style diced tomatoes.  Drain the beans, but leave the tomato & corn juices from the can.  If you like thicker soup, you could drain the tomatoes and corn and/or add a can of tomato paste.  Cook for another hour or so.

Serve with salsa, cheese, sour cream, fritos, etc. – whatever you like.  Watch it disappear before your very eyes!
Enjoy & thanks for stopping by!
P.S. I'd like to add a recipe tab to the top of my blog.  Can someone please tell me how?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Easy Street, parts 3 & 4

Merry Christmas!  I hope your holiday was wonderful. :)  Mine was!  And among the festivities I managed to squeeze in some sewing time.  Once all the have-to's were off my list, I was eager to get back to my big want-to: Bonnie's Easy Street mystery!  (Tab in side bar to right.)

All along I've stayed current on the cutting, but I finished sewing steps 3 and 4 over the weekend.  Here are my shaded four-patches from step 3.

And here are my flying geese from step 4, sewn together with some of the step 2 geese.

I've gotten a start on Step 5, and since Bonnie blessed us with a nice short step for this busy week, I shouldn't have any problem being caught up in time for the next installment, to be released this Friday.

Are you participating?  How are you coming with it?  I love all the parts, so it's hard to imagine that they won't look great in blocks.  I've done a little rearranging of parts to guess the layout, but who knows?  There are so many possible combinations.  Ooohhh, I love a good mystery!  Thanks, Bonnie! See how others are coming along with Bonnie's linky here.

Thanks for stopping by,

Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas (Suffering at Christmastime)

Christmas cards aren't going to happen this year, so here's my e-greeting to you. :)

I am so blessed, and have so much to be grateful for. The love of God and of friends and family are at the top of that list.  Thank you for the role you play in my life.

But my heart is heavy this year.  I have several friends who are in various stages of dealing with cancer.  Other friends have experienced traumatic loss in the past year, times of trials in their lives or the lives of loved ones, or are going through a hard time, but haven't shared with me what.  And surely we all hurt for the families in Newtown, CT as well as those who have suffered other tragic events in the US and around the world.  Whatever the reasons, all are in my thoughts and prayers more than ever right now as I know this will be a difficult Christmas for them.

Suffering isn't something I'm an expert on.  I've had my trials like everyone else, but I feel so fortunate not to have experienced many of the things that these friends, loved ones and strangers are suffering.  Also, many are far more eloquent than I could ever hope to be.  So here are the thoughts of one of our pastors on Newtown, CT as spoken in a children's sermon.  Here are excellent words of advice if you have a friend who is sick.  Here are the words of a friend getting real about his feelings toward his own cancer like I'd never heard from anyone before.  And here is a beautiful Christmas carol I hope you'll enjoy.

And here's my humble attempt to put words to feelings. This morning as I was sewing, listening to Christmas carols and sipping hot chocolate, I should have been happy but I was also hurting for these people.  Then the DJ mentioned Romans 4:19-21 (from The Message)

19 Abraham didn't focus on his own impotence and say, "It's hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child." Nor did he survey Sarah's decades of infertility and give up. 20 He didn't tiptoe around God's promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, 21 sure that God would make good on what he had said. 

The DJ summed it up this way: anxiety comes from comparing our reality to our own abilities.  Faith comes from comparing our reality to God's abilities.  He wrapped it up with Philippians 4:13 (also from The Message).

13 Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.  

I hope this time of year brings you peace, joy and hope.  But even if you're struggling to find peace or joy right now, I pray that you will hold on to God's promises.  No matter what else you have or don't have, we can all have hope!  Praise God.

Thanks for stopping by and Merry Christmas,
P.S. Here's one more carol, if you want to hear it. :)

East Street, step 2

There hasn't been much sewing going on around here lately.  But today I was able to sit and sew for a little while...ahhhh!!!! :)  At the top of my sewing list is Bonnie's current mystery, Easy Street (badge in side bar to the right).  Step 5 was released today, but I've only stayed caught up with the cutting.  So today, I sewed!  And step 2 is now complete.  Woo hoo!
Here are my flying geese, along with parts 3 and 4 all kitted up and ready to sew.  Below is part 1, in case you haven't seen them. The hot pink is in place of Bonnie's gray.  Otherwise I'm using her colors.
Yes, it's a busy time of year for many folks, but I hope you're finding time to do something just for you!

Thanks for stopping by,

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bitten by the Bug

Many of my friends have antique sewing machines.  Some collect them and have "several".  I always thought that was cool, but never had any desire for one of my own.  I like my shiny new Bernina with it's smooth hum and all the modern conveniences.  Until I visited my great-aunt Millie and saw my great-grandmother, Granny Gwinn's, sewing machine!  I did some research and found out it's a Singer 15 clone made in Japan in the 50's or 60's.  The badge says "Dressmaker".  It sits in an old Singer treadle cabinet with the treadle cut out to make room for the foot pedal.  The chrome and shiny powder blue is sleek and reminiscent of cars from the 50's.  You can almost imagine fins!

We have one family quilt, which I am honored to be the custodian of and it was made by Granny Gwinn.  It's probably from the 30's, so not made on that machine, but the thrill of seeing her machine and picturing her sewing there led me to start looking at vintage machines on the market.  Craigslist led me to a machine a short drive away.  An experienced machine collector friend went with me to look at it.  It didn't run but I bought it for $45 and her husband re-wired it for me.  Mark and I cleaned it up, and it's good as new, with a wonderful hum all it's own!

Please meet Virgie (named after Granny Gwinn), a 1937 Singer 201.  Here are some before and after pics:

 Love that fancy scrollwork on the end!

She sits in a pretty art-deco style cabinet that looks great in our dining room/entry way.  I found an owner's manual online and got it threaded and sewing.  The tension isn't right yet, and I'm not sure I even have it threaded right.  But I'll have fun figuring it out and remembering Granny Gwinn. :)

Thanks for stopping by,

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Homemade Hot Chocolate

It's been unseasonably warm during the day here lately.  (Hooray!  I'm in no hurry for winter!)  But the evenings still cool down, and on a cool fall or winter evening, nothing warms me up like hot chocolate.  I decided to look for a homemade hot chocolate recipe and found two that looked good here and here. (That second site is full of all sorts of evil temptation!  The chocolate chip cookie dough fudge is on my list for making for a party this weekend.)  I sort of combined the two recipes and came up with a mix that was ok, but a little bitter.  So I added more powdered sugar, and the second time was the charm! :)

Here's what I ended up with:

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups cocoa
3 cups instant non-fat dry milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons corn starch

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  Fill mug about 1/3 full of mix and stir in hot water. Store mix in an airtight container.

Yummm!  Do you have a good homemade hot chocolate mix?  If so, please share!

Thanks for stopping by,

Monday, December 3, 2012

Mystery sewing

This weekend I found some time to sew, and had a lot of fun getting some things done!  First, I finished step 1 of Bonnie's new mystery, Easy Street. Hot pink is my constant instead of her gray, but otherwise I'm going with her colors.

Next, I powered through Orca Bay (last year's mystery that I started this summer) step 1 and got it finished.

Finally, I got all the cutting done for Easy Street part 1.  These instructions were released on Friday.  I've just barely started sewing it.
It will be so fun to see how everything comes together!  Check out how others are coming along with Easy Street here.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Resistance Is Futile

I love a good mystery.  Always have, going back to when I was a kid & couldn't get enough of Nancy Drew, and now with a good John Grisham thriller.  Combine my love of mysteries with quilting?  Heaven!  But I don't trust just anybody with a mystery quilt.  Bonnie Hunter runs a free mystery every fall through her blog (Easy Street tab at the top, or others under Mystery Quilts tab), and I've never been disappointed with how they come out.  How can I resist?

We got home Sunday afternoon from a wonderful Thanksgiving with my side of the family.  I printed out the Easy Street part 1 directions from my Mom & Dad's house.  My fabrics weren't pulled yet, but I had bought a fun hot pink "constant" and washed it, and decided that my other colors would be the same as Bonnie's.  I started last year's mystery, Orca Bay, over the summer as leaders & enders.  I'm using white on black for the background there, and since I can't seem to stop collecting them I knew I'd have plenty for this mystery, too.

The first thing I needed to do with my sewing time (which started within an hour of getting back in town - could have been shorter if I hadn't needed to make a quick grocery run!) was add the borders to my Minglewood BOM shop sample.  It's a big quilt, so that took a while.  I can't get it all in one pic from home, so here's a preview:
I'll take another pic once it's displayed at the shop.  I'm so excited the top is done!  Eula at the shop is going to quilt it for me.  I think it deserves fancy custom quilting and I just don't feel like doing that much these days.  Metallic thread is also something it might need, and my machine and I haven't had any luck with that in the past.  So it will hang at the shop as a top until my turn comes up with Eula.

But back to the mystery!  My reward for finishing the Minglewood top was starting Easy Street and spending some dedicated time on Orca Bay step 1.

These are my fabs, now pulled and ready!  Everything is stash except the hot pink constant.
Now that I see it in the pic, I think the top lime green isn't hot enough, so it might get the boot.  But it has purple and turquoise in it, so I'll keep it out for now just in case it will work when I see how it's used. 

No finished 4-p's (four-patches) from step 1 to show yet, but I have over half of the strip sets sewn.
After I took this pic I pressed the strips and now they're ready to sub-cut.

And Orca Bay is progressing!
This is 142 qst's (quarter-square triangles).  82 more to go, and I have a bunch cut and some pairs sewn toward that end.

Finally, while I haven't been faithful to an hour a day of "Sewing with Bonnie" handwork, I haven't abandoned my Vintage Tin embroidery either.  Here's the current block.  The BOM has now started at the shop so I need to get back at it if I want to stay ahead of the BOM participants!
 If you look closely at the pic below, you can see that I've got about half of this block done.

Are you keeping up with an hour a day of hand sewing?  How about Easy Street?  Are you jumping on the bus to Easy Street?  See the other blog posts of participants linking up with Bonnie here.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Christmas in October

I have a finish!  I'm not sure there's a better feeling in quilting than finishing.  Except of course, starting.  Which explains why I have so many UnFinished Objects! ;)  This is a UFO from last fall.  I didn't get it done in time for last Christmas, so it fell to the back burner.  It traveled with me to a few retreats, but had gradually made its way to the bottom of my "retreat bag".

This week I decided that I wanted to finish it.  When I pulled it out it wasn't as far along as I remembered. :(  But I spent my sewing time this week working on it and finished it Thursday night.  Bonnie's quilt cam coincided with the last of the machine applique (which I did through all three layers, so it would double as quilting) and the embellishment.  It's fun to sew along with her and other fans.

Here's the project, from Jingle All the Way by Nancy Halvorsen. This is after machine applique, before embellishment.

The pattern called for lots of jingle bells that I didn't have.  I also didn't have the right color green buttons for the hanging tabs at the top.  At first I thought I'd buy what I needed tomorrow.  Drat, I really wanted to finish this up!  So I scrounged around my junk, err, I mean "notions" shelf, and came up with these things:
The scallop border at the bottom was supposed to have five large red jingle bells, one for each scallop. Guess how many cute little bells are in that bag on the left?!?  Five! :)  Since I'm in the bell choir at church, I decided it would be perfect, and my song could be rung, not sung!  I used one of the tiny jingle bells for Santa's hat, and found almost all the buttons I'd need in the middle package.  A little more scrounging around for another holly berry looking button, and I was good to go!

All done!
Finally, here's a close-up of my favorite part.
Thanks for stopping by,

Some show & tell...

I've been busy sewing, and have some pics to share with y'all.

Most exciting is the progress made on my Minglewood BOM.  All the kits for the shop are now cut!  Here are 2/3 of the blocks put together!

I have four more blocks made, and four others cut and ready to sew.

Last week I got the binding tacked down on this cuddle quilt shop sample that I showed you recently:
A couple weeks ago I got this quilt top done. It's only fused now, but I'll machine applique through all three layers.  I think it's so stinkin' cute!  It's also a shop sample. (Notice a theme? lol)
It's called Baby Bunny's Bedtime and is from a really great book called Story Time by Kim Diehl. All the quilt designs tell a story for you to talk about with the child.  What's your favorite thing that Bunny is doing to get ready for bed?  I love the potty block! :)  The machine applique will be done after I quilt it, and the embellishment for the faces will be last.

Finally, I finished the Vintage Tin embroidery block I was working on a few weeks ago and have started the next one. Here's the finished one:
Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Still here!

Things have been so busy since we got home from vacation! And yes...I still promise to finish posting about vacation by telling you about Charleston, and one other stop we made.  Life has just rushed past and I haven't gotten to it yet.  Whenever I have a little free time, I've wanted to sew instead of sit at the computer. A post about that will be coming soon, too.

I had decided that even though our vacation wasn't until late September, it would be warm enough that I could still hold on to summer until after vacation.  And the weather was so beautiful in GA & SC that my plan worked out great.  Of course that meant that by the time we got back home, it was soon October and fall was in full swing.

This is a beautiful flaming red maple tree in our backyard, shortly after we got home.

And after some heavy rain and wind, here is the tree today. :(

Time flies...trite, but true.  It's still fall, and we're enjoying lots of fun fall activities like football, as well as a wonderful visit from my parents.  But before we know it, all the hardwoods will be bare like this one.  But this pic is deceiving.  Today it's 80 degrees!  A little taste of summer is back.  It will be winter all too soon, so I'm cherishing this unusually warm week in Oct!

Pics of my sewing progress and the rest of the vacation pics, soon.

Thanks for stopping by,

Monday, October 1, 2012

Sewing with Bonnie, update

I can't really call this post a "progress report". lol  This is where I was two weeks ago.  Since then I got the next two cut blocks prepared with interfacing and traced. Both blocks are now well traveled, having gone with me on vacation, but I'm afraid I didn't get any embroidery done until yesterday on the way home.  I decided to just enjoy the vacation and not worry about it.  The official commitment was for the month of Sept, but I'm going to keep going and I can make up for lost time this week. :)

So here's the stitching that I got done just before the trip and on the way home yesterday:
This is one of the license plate blocks for Vintage Tin. Eula at the shop drew a customized KS license plate to replace one of the license plates in the pattern.

How are you doing with one hour a day of hand work or other relaxing "me time"?  To check the progress of others sewing along with Bonnie, check here.

Thanks for stopping by,

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Oh, boy! Vacation!

Mark and I got home this afternoon after a wonderful vacation!  As great a time as we had, it feels good to be back home.  If you'd like to see some vacation pics, keep reading. :)

The first stop on our trip was Savannah, GA.  What a beautiful city.  There's so much history there, and all the restored historic houses, plus beautiful squares that are like mini-parks spread all throughout the historic district make Savannah special.  There are also lots of old, old live oaks with spanish moss hanging off the branches.  City leaders negotiated with Sherman to turn over the city without any gunfire in exchange for him not burning the town on his march to the sea, so many historic buildings remain.

Here's the oldest and therefore biggest live oak we saw:
The building in the back was a hospital during the Civil War.  According to a tour guide, the confederate soldiers were hospitalized here.  Union soldiers were "patched up" then put outside under this tree to recuperate.  The circumference of this tree is 16 feet!

Forsyth Park is so beautiful.  Here's a fountain in the park.

This is St. John's Episcopal Church.  We saw it one night while walking but didn't get to go inside. Gen Sherman spent Christmas here in 1863.  He was in Savannah that winter.

This is The Catherdral of St. John the Baptist. (Not to be confused with the Episcopal church above!)

These pics are from the graveyard at Colonial Park Cemetery.  The marker above says, "Here lyeth the body of Theodora Ash who passed this life February 17th, 1770 aged 17 years" I think the detail work of the flowers on the sides and scrollwork at the top are beautiful.  I couldn't read all of the bottom, but it starts out, "If innocence and virtue..."

The marker below says, "..?.daughter of William & Rebecca Pinder died July ? 1794..?." 
I was struck by how many of the gravestones were for people who died before the age of 30.  Most of them were only children.  There were also many graves of people who died from the yellow fever epidemic in the early 1820's.

One morning we had a delicious brunch at Clary's, made famous by the book & movie, "Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil".  We watched it again just before we left, and I found the book at the library and read it on the trip.  Here's Mark posing with his breakfast. :)

This is the Mercer-Williams house, where much of "Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil" was filmed. Mark took this pic from across the street in Monterey Square.  We took a tour of the house and saw the study where Jim Williams killed Danny Hansford. Some of Jim's family still lives in the top floor of the house and the first floor where we were remains much the same as it was when Jim died.

This may look like a mild mannered park, or even a parking lot.  But it's the Dueling Grounds where adversaries would stand back to back, walk 12 paces, then turn and shoot!  Yikes!  I guess that would be "winner take all" competition to the extreme.

The squares in Savannah are so beautiful.  There are 21 in all.  We ran across 3 different weddings over the weekend while we were there.  This bride arrived at the ceremony in a pedal taxi!

We spotted the Independent Presbyterian Church while walking, and decided to worship there on Sunday morning. I admit, I can be a tacky tourist.  Here's the inside which I shamelessly snapped pics of before the service started.  At least I turned off the flash! lol

 This is just a cute gutter ornament that I couldn't resist.
One of the last things we got to do was have lunch with a friend of mine from high school.  What fun to catch up with her!

Mark & I are eager to go back to Savannah some time.  We feel like we barely scratched the surface of this fantastic city. Have you ever been there?  What were your favorite sites?

Next stop, Charleston...stay tuned!

Thanks for stopping by,