Pillows Upon Which to Dream of Sugar Plums (or Chocolate)

So tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.  The strange amorous day that depending who you ask originally had nothing to do with romantic love or plenty to do with it.  In honor of the holiday (that I maintain has nothing to do with love and everything to do with chocolate) I’m serving truffles to 700 people at work tomorrow.  This means I currently have 90 pounds of chocolate in my car.  I have never had to exercise so much restraint in my entire life. I desperately want to throw open the trunk of my car, rip open one of the boxes and gobble down fistfuls of truffles.  (That sounds like the beginning of a romance novel…)  This is the reason the chocolate is safely in the trunk of my car, where I can pretend I have forgotten about it.

I need something to distract myself with.  Pillows.  Pillows are nothing like chocolate.  You never have a trunk full of pillows and yearn devour them.  Frankly I’ve never had the opportunity to purchase an entire trunk full of chocolate so I honestly didn’t know it would be so hard to restrain myself.  Anyway I digress.  Back to pillows.  So I had some material left from the curtains I made for my mom and decided to make a large matching pillow for my mom’s bed.  I finished the pillow the night before her birthday.  For this pillow I purchased cording to edge the pillow, but it is very simple to make trim yourself (and much more cost effective).  I really liked the look of this cording though, so I splurged and bought it.  Mom is worth it!  Some day soon I will post another tutorial for a pillow with homemade trim.

The pillow should take 1-2 hours to make.

Finished pillow with trim!

Simple Pillow with Purchased Trim

What you’ll need:

  • Pillow form (mine is 20″x20″)
  • Fabric 1″ wider than your pillow form (for mine it was 2 squares 21″x21″ each)
  • Cording with lip* – 4″ longer than 2*(length + width) (Mine was 84″)

*If you have a bit more time you can create your own edging for the pillow using bias tape and cording, but to save time it is much easier to purchase cording.

  1. Take your two pieces of fabric wider than your pillow form and lay on top of each other, right sides together.

    Lay back of pillow on to front of pillow, right sides together (note, both squares should be the same size, this picture does not show that).

  2. Starting at a corner, take your cording and sandwich your cording inside the two pieces of fabric, lip of the cording lining up with the edge of your fabric.  Pin in place along the first side.  You’ll want the end of the trim to start 2 inches beyond the corner of the pillow.
  3. When you come to the corner, curve your trim slightly.  Pin in place.
  4. Continue pinning up the other edges and corners until you get back to the start.

    Pin trim inside the pillow, matching the edge up with the lip of the cording.  Note the curve at the corners.

  5. At the corner, pin 2 edges of cording so the cording ends touch.  Eventually the unfinished edge will be inside the pillow.

    Where cording meets other end of cording, press cording against cording and pin, leaving the unfinished edge outside the pillow.  You’ll notice I did this in the center of one side of the pillow – my trim was too thick to do this at the corner, though I wish I had tried, it is a bit less noticeable on the corner.

  6. Using a zipper foot adjust needle and foot so needle is closest to the cording.

    With a zipper foot, stitch as close as possible to the braid of the cording through all 3 layers.

  7. Machine baste around the edges of the pillow with the needle as close to the cording as you can get.  When you get to the corner with the trim edges, back tack here to secure.
  8. Machine stitch around the edge of the pillow as close to the cording as you can get.  Leave a large gap on one side of the pillow so you can easily insert the pillow form into this gap.  Back tack at edges of the gap to secure.
  9. Seam rip the basting stitches on the gap.
  10. Open the gap and secure the cording to front side of the pillow along the gap as in 8, but be sure to leave the back side of the pillow unsecured.

    At gap that you left in pillow, pin trim to front of pillow.

    Stitch trim to front of pillow in the gap you created. Be careful not to catch the back fabric.

  11. Turn pillow case right side out.

    Open out your pillow.

  12. Insert pillow form into case.
  13. Fold under the back material along the gap, which was not sewn to the cording in step 10.
  14. At the gap, pin along the cording from the front of the pillow, catching the folded-under back material.

    Fold back fabric under and pin to the trim, close the braid. Sew close to the braid, avoiding the front face of the pillow as best you can.

  15. Stitch close to the cording, catching the back material to close the gap.  Avoid stitching the pillow front.

Enjoy your pillow!

Mom with her birthday present!  You can see her yoga mat carrier as well – this is version #3 – with a big pocket!  Post soon to come.

 

Posted in Crafts & Sewing | 2 Comments

Crock Pot Pulled Pork (or Fork that Pork)

Will and I have been living a very packed winter of week days.  Here’s our schedule:

  • Monday – Blog/Hobby Night
  • Tuesday – Read by the Fire (or skiing)
  • Wednesday – Board Games
  • Thursday – Skiing (or reading)
  • Friday – Pizza and Movie Night

The schedule is fairly flexible, but aims to accomplish a couple goals.  We want to get our money’s worth of the night passes to Wachusett Ski Mountain we purchased this year and we also want to read more.  Our schedule seems to have worked.  By now the ski passes have already more than paid for themselves and I’ve finished my third book this year!  The only problem with skiing during the week is that we have to run home and take Dany out to play for a while, then scarf down some dinner before heading to the slopes.  This means our dinner menu on Thursday nights is pretty limited.

I started buying the pre-cooked Jack Daniel’s BBQ Pulled Pork from BJ’s to keep on hand for a quick meal.  It is honestly pretty good – my only complaint being that it is extremely fatty.  The 32 oz package is about the right size for a family of 4 or 5 (though it claims 8 servings?) and costs about $11 for the package.  Not bad.  Of course I started making my own pulled pork in the crock pot that costs about half that.  Will thinks it is better than the Jack Daniel’s version, and doesn’t take much more effort.  I throw the meat in the crock pot before I head out for work and by the time I return I have dinner waiting.  Perfect for ski nights!

Lexi’s Crock Pot BBQ Pulled Pork

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs of either Southern Style Boneless Ribs or 2.5 lbs Country Style Bone-in ribs*
  • 1 19oz bottle of your favorite bbq sauce**

*I usually buy whichever is cheaper at the time.  I tend to buy the pork when it is on sale at $2/lb or less and freeze it until I need it.  The recipe works perfectly with either fresh or frozen pork as the starting point.

**I have been using Dinosaur BBQ Wango Tango which has a smidge of a kick.  I get this from Job Lot for $2.50 a bottle which is apparently WAY LESS than what it sells for online!

All you need is a jar of bbq sauce, 2 lbs of pork (half what is shown here) and a crock pot! Grand total for pulled pork for 4 is $7 (less if your pork is <$2/lb)

All you need is a jar of bbq sauce, 2 lbs of pork (half what is shown here) and a crock pot! Grand total for pulled pork for 4 is $7 (less if your pork is <$2/lb)

  1. Put your ribs in the crock pot bone side or fat side down.  (If you froze it as in the note above, just put the ribs in completely frozen.)

    Put 2 lbs of pork in crock pot, frozen or fresh.

    Put 2 lbs of pork in crock pot, frozen or fresh.

  2. Reserve 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce in the fridge for later and pour the rest on top of the pork.

    Pour sauce over meat.

    Pour sauce over meat.

  3. Fill the nearly empty bottle with water, shake to dislodge any BBQ sauce still in the jar and pour around the pork in the crock pot.  Take care not to disturb the BBQ sauce smothering the pork. Use enough water to reach to just below the top of the ribs, or the whole bottle, whichever is less.

    Pour a bottle of water around the meat.

    Pour a bottle of water around the meat.

  4. Put the cover on the crock pot and cook on low for 10 hours.

    Add lid and cook on low 10 hours.

    Add lid and cook on low 10 hours.

  5. Remove pork from crock pot and remove fat and/or bones and discard.  Shred meat with two forks.

    Remove fat then shred pork with forks.

    Remove fat then shred pork with forks.

  6. Pour the reserved 1/2 cup of sauce on the meat and stir to distribute.

    Stir to distribute reserved bbq sauce.

    Stir to distribute reserved bbq sauce.

  7. Bask in the glory of your <$7 pulled pork! Then serve as desired – we like it on toasted french bread!

    Example of a quick meal using your pulled pork!

    Example of a quick meal using your pulled pork!

 

Posted in Culinary Delights | Leave a comment

Take-Half-your-Living-Room-to-the-Beach Bag

Last January I resolved to blog more regularly. More specifically I wanted to blog once a week. Later in the year I started to impose a more strict goal of finishing a blog entry every Monday. I didn’t quite hit every Monday.  A few times I was a couple days late, but looking back I feel pretty proud that I managed to accomplish my original goal! Not only that but I came up with a year of food, craft and sewing tutorials and got a lot of great Pinterest traffic from all you awesome pinners! Plus that blogging goal was all before my early spring decision to make and sell homemade hats at King Richard’s Faire! So I guess you can say I feel pretty accomplished! What a great feeling!

If you can imagine, the whole hat thing ate up a lot of my time (understatement of the year, try 6 months of nights, weekends and holidays), but if you count hat-making as “life” and not “work” (I do) it forced me to keep a more reasonable work/life balance. This year I’m planning to keep to my Monday blogging schedule and attempt to keep that work/life balance I managed to forge. I also want to work on my time management and scheduling skills. More specifically I’d like to be more reasonable with the goals and deadlines I set for myself. I’ll have to come up with a measurable success meter for that.  Handmade hats will not be a goal for this year.  While I’ll always be a mad hatter at heart, I feel that I can also say, “been there done that”.  Oh and you’ll have to stay tuned for some ridiculous vignettes from the faire.

Amidst all the bustle of my hat making and blogging I did manage to fulfill a few custom orders for family and friends. One of those was a neat fold-up beach tote. If you’re like me and have a “to make” list a mile long you’ll want to put this on your list now so you’ll finally get to it by beach season. Or perhaps whipping up this bag will evoke fantasies of laying on the beach and stave away the winter doldrums. This reusable tote was requested by a friend of mine and it is based on a free bag they got at a company give away. My friend lives near the ocean and he and his wife frequently trek down to the beach with lunch, towels, chairs and drinks in hand. This bag can hold it all, and effortlessly hang over your shoulder! The embroidery is optional but adds a nice touch. Unfortunately it was very tricky to successfully embroider on rip-stop nylon without excessive puckering, so take that as a warning!

Look how big this bag is! (Or how tiny I am?!)

Look how big this bag is! (Or how tiny I am?!)

Take-it-all-to-the-beach Bag

Materials:

*Note in the pictures below I used my serger – my new favorite sewing device!  If you don’t have a serger, no worries, you can use just an ordinary straight stitch!

  1. Cut 2 body pieces from pattern above. Cut 4 20″x5″ rectangles for side of bag.  Cut 2 handle pieces to the line on the pattern and 2 3″ by 8″ rectangles for handle reinforcement.  Finally cut 4 5.25″x1.25″ rectangles for the snap closure.
  2. Take 2 of the 20″x5″ rectangles and pin them together along to the length.  Stitch.  Repeat for second set.

    Pin to side rectangles together and stitch.

    Pin to side rectangles together and stitch.

  3. Pin one of sides of the bag from step 2 to the side of one of the body pieces starting at the point below the handles.  Make sure to keep right sides together. Pin second body piece to other side of the side piece from step 2. Stitch both sides.
    Pin side to body of bag, matching top corner of body to corner of side.

    Pin side to body of bag, matching top corner of body to corner of side.

    Repeat for second body piece.

    Repeat for second body piece.

  4. Pin the bottom of the bag together, then pull out sides to see if bag bottom length will line up with sides perfectly.  Adjust pins as necessary.  Stitch bottom of bag.

    Pin bottom of bag, pull taunt to bottom side of bag to see if sizes match.

    Pin bottom of bag, pull taunt to bottom side of bag to see if sizes match.

  5. Pin side bottom of the bag to sides.  They should line up perfectly if you lined things up in step 4.  Stitch.

    Pin bottom of bag to side, stitch.

    Pin bottom of bag to side, stitch.

  6. Pin handles to each other at the top, right sides together.  Stitch
  7.  Pin handle reinforcements to side reinforcements. Stitch.

    Pin handle reinforcement to side reinforcement, stitch. Repeat for other handle piece and other side.

    Pin handle reinforcement to side reinforcement, stitch. Repeat for other handle piece and other side.

  8. Pin handles on reinforcements to each other at the top, right sides together.
  9. Open the bag right side out.  Fold under 1/4″ along unfinished edge of handles and bag top.  Pin.

    Pin handle area to handle reinforcement.

    Pin handle area to handle reinforcement.

  10.  Repeat step 9 with the handle reinforcement.
  11. Slip handle reinforcement inside bag and align the handles.  Pin reinforcement to bag all along the edges you just pinned.  Unfinished edges should be sandwiched in between.20161216_172042
  12. Stitch around “armpits” of the bag. Mark the center back of the bag with a pin. Stitch from 1″ past pin to 1″ from this pin all the way around the handles.

    Stitch around edge of handles.

    Stitch around edge of handles.

  13. Take 2 of the thin strips for the snap closures and iron on a 1.25″x1.25″ square of interfacing to one end of each strip.

    Attach interfacing to strip for snaps.

    Attach interfacing to strip for snaps.

  14. Pin a strip with interfacing to a strip without interfacing, interfacing side out.  Leave the edge opposite the interfacing opened.  Stitch.
  15. Clip corners.

    Trim corners.

    Trim corners.

  16. Turn inside out, press flat and stitch 1/8″ around the edges to reinforce.

    Top stitch 1/8" from the edge.

    Top stitch 1/8″ from the edge.

  17. Attach one edge of the snap following package directions.
  18. Repeat steps 14 through 18 for second snap strip.
  19. Insert unfinished edges of snap fasteners in between the handle and handle reinforcement you left unfinished in step 12. Pin.
  20. Double check your alignment of the snaps.  You want to be able to roll the bag up to the snaps, and the snap pieces to button around the bag like a bracelet.  (See picture of the bag closed below.)  When you’re content you have it right, stitch the remaining edge closed, sandwiching the unfinished ends of the snap fastener pieces inside.
  21. Go to the beach (or optionally add a pocket in steps following!)
  22. Cut a 10″x10″ square.
  23. Fold under 1/2″, press and stitch.  This is the top of the pocket.

    Fold under 1/2" on top of pocket and stitch.

    Fold under 1/2″ on top of pocket and stitch.

  24. Press under 1/2″ all around the remaining edges of the pocket.  Pin the pocket to the center of the bag all around the unfinished edges.  Top stitch 1/4″ from the edges of the pocket to attach to bag.
    Fold under edges 1/2". Pin pocket to center back of bag. Top stitch around edges.

    Fold under edges 1/2″. Pin pocket to center back of bag. Top stitch around edges.

     

    To fold the bag up, just fold up tightly starting at the bottom of the bag. When you get to the top, fold in thirds then fasten the snaps around.

    To fold the bag up, just fold up tightly starting at the bottom of the bag. When you get to the top, fold in thirds then fasten the snaps around.

    Snaps fastened around the bag. It folds up fairly small for such a large bag!

    Snaps fastened around the bag. It folds up fairly small for such a large bag!

    You can fit a novel in the back pocket for beach reading!

    You can fit a novel in the back pocket for beach reading!

    Inside view of the bag. The strips for the snaps just hang inside the bag.

    Inside view of the bag. The strips for the snaps just hang inside the bag.

    I added an optional pocket (steps x through y) to the back.

    I added an optional pocket (steps 22 through 24) to the back.

    My friend wanted the bag to say "Nana's Beach Bag" on the front. HIs wife is now "Nana" to his young grandson!

    My friend wanted the bag to say “Nana’s Beach Bag” on the front. His wife is now “Nana” to his young grandson!

Posted in Crafts & Sewing | Leave a comment

Pussy Hats for Cool Cats

On Saturday Will and I marched with over 100,000 people in the Boston Women’s March. What an amazing, empowering experience to have been a part of. Like many Americans I have felt belittled, insulted or targeted during this election for being different than the man who was just sworn in as president. (And I am a privileged, white, straight female so I can only imagine how the rest of the nation feels.) I marched to support anyone and everyone who was or is being targeted because of their differences. I don’t want the younger generation to grow up believing that racism, bigotry and hatred is the status quo. I never want a child (or adult) to be treated differently because of their gender, color, religion or sexual orientation. I marched as a lover of Mother Earth and an engineer who will not ignore science and global warming. Finally, I marched as a woman, who refuses to have her reproductive rights governed.

One of our favorite signs, "we are the daughter of the witches you didn't burn".

One of our favorite signs, “we are the daughters of the witches you weren’t able to burn”.

The night before the march I found out about the Pussy Hat Project. The idea was to fill the March on Washington with a sea of pink hats (with cat ears) and judging from the pictures it worked out pretty well. Since it was regretfully too late by Friday night to ship any hats to D.C., I decided to make a couple for the march in Boston out of some leftover polar fleece I had lying around. After talking with several women at the march it seems I was very lucky that I had pink polar fleece in my stash because stores across New England were completely sold out of pink fabric the week before the march! Awesome!

Emma, Danielle and I rockin' our hats at the march!

Emma, Danielle and I rockin’ our pussy hats at the march!

Even though the march is over, you can still make and wear a pussy hat with pride. Whatever your reason for wanting a hat, when you wear it think of all the women and allies who stand together with you and refuse to let their voices sink into the masses.

Is that a pussy hat? How stylish!

Is that a pussy hat? How stylish!

Fleece Pussy Hat

(This pattern is made for my 21.5″ head)

  1. Cut out 4 sets of the ear pattern from the fleece (2 on the right side, 2 on the wrong side).

    Cut out ears.

    Cut out ears.

  2. Cut out 4 of the triangles (all on right side of fabric)
  3. Cut out a 22.5″x7″ rectangle for the brim.

    Cut hat band.

    Cut hat band.

  4. Pin cat ears together, right side to wrong side.

    Pin ears together, right side to wrong side.

    Pin ears together, right side to wrong side.

  5. Stitch around the curved edge, trim to 1/4″ and turn out.
    Stitch ear along edge and trim.

    Stitch ear along edge and trim.

    Turn inside out.

    Turn inside out.

  6. Fold the ear along the line in the pattern, wrong side of fabric on the inside of the ear.  Pin.

    Fold ear in 1/3s

    Fold ear in 1/3s

  7. Pin 2 of the triangle pieces together along one side, right sides together.  Stitch.  Repeat for second set of triangles.

    Pin two triangles together on one side.

    Pin two triangles together on one side.

  8. Place one set of triangles right side up on the table.  Put ears on either side of the hat front, about an inch above the bottom of the hat on each side.
  9. Flip ears onto front of hat, right sides down.

    Turn ears into hat.

    Turn ears into hat.

  10. Place hat bottom on top of ears and hat front, right side down.
  11. Pin along to top edge and sew.  Open out.
    Pin and stitch top, bottom and ears of hat together.

    Pin and stitch top, bottom and ears of hat together.

    Finished top of hat!

    Finished top of hat!

  12. Fold band in half the long ways, wrong side in.  Pin along the edge.

    Fold band in half and pin.

    Fold band in half and pin.

  13. Pin short edges together and stitch.

    Stitch edges of brim together.

    Stitch edges of brim together.

  14. Place hat band on top of hat top, unfinished edges together, matching seam on hat band and back of hat. Pin and stitch.

    Stitch brim to top of hat.

    Stitch brim to top of hat.

  15. Wear with pride!

    Check out those hats!

    Check out those hats!

 

Posted in Crafts & Sewing | Leave a comment

Yoga Mat Holder Upgrade

I mentioned that my sister was in town the other day for our New Year’s Eve Party, right? Well it was also her birthday this past week!  I wanted to make something for her that she could easily fit in her carry on and then I remembered my last visit to Denver.  Mandy asked me to join her for her first yoga class.  Now she is hooked!  Not surprising since yoga is so awesome, but I consider getting another person hooked on the joys of yoga a total win!

I decided to make her a mat holder for her birthday, though I wanted to improve on the one I made for myself.  My biggest problem with the holder I made is that the pocket is pretty small.  I can only fit my strap in there.  This is because the curvature of the mat tightens the pocket.  I haven’t completely solved this problem, but in the coming weeks I hope to show you yet another solution I came up with to resolve this problem.    The other issue I did resolve.  The orientation of the straps make it a bit awkward to throw over your shoulder.  I also lengthened them a bit, though I don’t think this was necessary.  Let me know what you think!

Improved Yoga Mat Carrier

What you’ll need:

  • ~1/2 yard of scrap fabric (I used some leftover from the curtains in our lounge)
  • 3.5 yards of 1″ thick nylon heavy webbing
  • 1 foot of velcro
  • 3 inches of covered elastic
  • 1″ button
  1. Cut a 22″x16″ rectangle of your fabric.
  2. Press the sides under 1/2″ then under 1/2″ again.

    Fold edges under and press

    Fold edges under and press

  3. Fold out the corners.  Snip the corner off at the first intersection of your folds.

    Snip off corner at first intersection

    Snip off corner at first intersection

  4. Fold the rest of the corner over at the inner most intersection of your folds. Then fold the edges under 1/2″ and under 1/2″ again following the original folds.

    Mitered corners

    Mitered corners

  5. Repeat for all 4 corners.  Pin & stitch

    Pin and stitch edges

    Pin and stitch edges

  6. Cut an isosceles trapezoid with dimensions as shown in the picture for your pocket.

    Cut trapezoid with dimensions specified.

    Cut trapezoid with dimensions specified.

  7. Press the top (long end) under 1/4″ and then under 1/4″ again.  Stitch.
  8. Fold large rectangle for the bag in half to find the center.  Pin the unfinished edge of the pocket slightly above this line. Stitch, leaving 1/2″ at each end unstitched.

    Pin bottom of pocket to bag.

    Pin bottom of pocket to bag. (The top of your pocket should be finished.)

  9. Fold 1/2″ in along each side. Pull the sides up so they are perpendicular to the bottom that you stitched. Pin the sides of the pocket and stitch on the right side of the pocket.

    Stitch on the right side of the pocket.

    Stitch on the right side of the pocket.

  10. Attach a loop of elastic to the inside of the pocket.

    Attach loop of elastic to inside of pocket.

    Attach loop of elastic to inside of pocket.

  11. Attach a button an inch above where the pocket ends.

    Attach button.

    Attach button.

  12. Attach a 3.5″ piece of velcro vertically to the edge of each side of the top of the “bag” on the the right side of the fabric.

    Attach other side of velcro to opposite side, outside carrier.

    Attach other side of velcro to opposite side, outside carrier.

  13. Attach the other half of the 3.5″ piece of velcro on the edge of each side of the bottom of the “bag” (this is the side with the pocket) on the wrong side of the fabric .

    Attach velcro to sides inside carrier.

    Attach velcro to sides inside carrier.

  14. Take your nylon webbing and toast the edges slightly with a lighter to prevent fraying.

    Burn edges to prevent fraying

    Burn edges to prevent fraying

  15. Form a giant loop with your webbing, making sure the loop is not twisted anywhere.  Pin the ends of the loop together and stitch.

    Stitch nylon together. Fold loop in half, and mark the center on both sides.

    Stitch nylon together. Fold loop in half, and mark the center on both sides.

  16. Fold loop in half and mark the two folds (one should be the part you stitched in step 15).  Once again fold fabric in half and pin one of the center marks of webbing to one side at the fold.   Pin  strap to edge until you are within 5 inches of the top and bottom.  Repeat for second center mark.  Make sure your strap is not twisted.

    Fold carrier in half and pin nylon centers at this mark on each side.

    Fold carrier in half and pin nylon centers at this mark on each side.

  17. Stitch both straps on the edge from 2 inches below the velcro to 2 inches below the velcro on the other side.

Enjoy!

To roll up your yoga mat lay the rectangle flat and put your yoga bag on top.  Pull the side with pocket up first around mat snuggly, then wrap the other side around securing to the velcro.  You can put your yoga strap in the front pocket!

Wrap your yoga mat.

Wrap your yoga mat.

Your pocket can hold small things like a yoga strap!

Your pocket can hold small things like a yoga strap!

Mandy with her yoga mat carrier!

Mandy with her yoga mat carrier!

Posted in Crafts & Sewing | Leave a comment

New Year, Old Friends!

So my sister Mandar came up for New Year’s!  We convinced her to come out by telling her we’d throw a big New Year’s party.  The last New Year’s party we held was exactly 5 years ago when we moved into our house, so we decided to call it a “Quinquennial New Year’s Eve Party”.   My favorite joke was when people responded “no” to the invite and left a comment like “hopefully next year!” I’d tell Will “I guess they didn’t read the invite”.  Get it?  Quinquennial?  They have to wait 5 more years?!  Okay maybe its only funny to me.

Well I thought I’d tell you what we did for the New Year’s Party even though I’m kicking myself for not taking enough pictures (I never do)!  We started the party at 9pm and ended up having over 20 attendees drop by for drinks and appetizers.  The last guests didn’t leave until 5:30am!  I consider that a successful party.

For drinks we served beer and wine in the kitchen and in the bar room we had a DIY mimosa bar with the fixings for Elderberry Kir Royales, apple cider and classic orange juice based mimosas.  We bought a whole case of prosecco for the party and went through most of it in addition to several cases of beer and several bottles of wine.  What a party!

Mimosa bar with all the fixings.

Mimosa bar with all the fixings.

For appetizers and desserts I went a bit overboard as usual.  I had the entire dining room table filled with food.  I had a couple of vegetarians and one person who was lactose and gluten intolerant.  Below is the list of what I served and no one starved.

I like to make things that I can easily prepare beforehand and pop into the oven during the party.  Here’s my secret schedule for the New Year’s menu:

Day before:  Cook and refrigerate shrimp, chop and wash veggies, marinate chicken wings, soak black eyed peas.  Make red velvet cupcakes (350 for 20 minutes) and chocolate chip cookie bars.

Day of:  Make ranch dip.  Toast bread for bruschetta, let cool and put in a bag. Cut bread for crab dip, put in bag.  Assemble crab dip. Make black eyed peas leave on burner on low until party. Mix topping for bruschetta, don’t heat yet, leave on burner for later.  Assemble meatball bombs (use frozen meatballs) cover and refrigerate*. Frost red velvet cupcakes.

An hour before: Put teriyaki wings in 30 minutes before guests are going to arrive then serve as guests arrive. Put crab dip and meatball bombs in the oven when guests arrive and turn on bruschetta topping.  Put out black eyed peas, shrimp cocktail, cheese and crackers, desserts just before guests arrive.

*The meatball bombs were nearly a total disaster from a prep perspective.  The dough kept ripping, making them impossible to wrap.  If you attempt the bombs, be sure to let the refrigerated biscuits come to room temperature before you flatten them since dough has minimal elasticity when cold and will tear easily.

From center front - hazelnut pastry (made by emma), red velvet cupcakes, stollen, veggies, chicken wings, cheese, crackers and bread, crab dip, black eyed peas, shrimp, bruschetta.

From center front – hazelnut pastry (made by emma), red velvet cupcakes, stollen, veggies, chicken wings, cheese, crackers and bread, crab dip, meatball bombs, black eyed peas, shrimp and bruschetta.

Meatball bombs front and center surrounded by crab dip on right, black eyed peas on left and cheese and cracker above.

Meatball bombs front and center surrounded by crab dip on right, black eyed peas on left and cheese and cracker above.

Proof that I had black eyed peas (though the photo is blurry)

Proof that I had black eyed peas (though the photo is blurry)

My sister took this picture and sent it as a snapchat with the caption "A Very Martha Christmas". Check out those reindeer slippers!

My sister took this picture and sent it as a snapchat with the caption “A Very Martha Christmas”. Check out those reindeer slippers!

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Red Velvet Cupcakes

screenshot_20170101-015320

Posted in Culinary Delights, Parties | 1 Comment

Scalloped Valance

About a month before I started this whole hat making business, my mom asked me to make her some new curtains to match her new pottery barn comforter.  She purchased an extra duvet cover and wanted some valances to go over the panel curtains she already had.  Unfortunately my hat venture meant these had to be on hold for a bit.

If you haven’t read my other post about curtains, you should know that curtains are one of the things I seriously procrastinate in making.  I’ve personally made curtains for 3 rooms in my house, but I have plans to make curtains for at least 3 more.  We’ve lived in the house 5 years now.  You can do the math on my laziness.  So given my aversion to curtain making, it won’t surprise you that I was a bit slow to get to my mom’s even after the faire.  To be fair, I wasn’t exactly procrastinating.  I had a backorder of hats to complete after the faire ended, I traveled to Orlando, and kept myself busy with stained glass classes and beer making.  All that aside I finally got to the curtains last week.

My mom had found an example curtain at a thrift store to use as the basis for the pattern.  My first step was to draft a pattern and start cutting.  The curtains came together rather easily after all was said and done, and I’d like to share the pattern and instructions below if you’d like to try your hand at them yourselves.  The pattern is very easy and I may do my kitchen curtains using the same pattern if I can ever get around to them.

Scalloped Valance

What you need (per curtain):

  • 2 yards of curtain material (more if you want to match patterns)
  • 1 yard of contrasting material for pleats
  • 2 yards of white curtain lining
  • scallop curtain pattern

Assume seam allowance of 1/2″ is included everywhere except where specified.

  1. Cut out 3 scallops from your main material and one 13×48″ size rectangle.  My mom’s windows were slightly smaller than 45.5″ across so I adjusted the size of the rectangle and the ends of the outside scallops to compensate later. I made the rectangle 2.5″ larger than the final desired size to account for seam allowance.

    Cut scallops.

    Cut scallops.

  2. Fold your large rectangle in half along the length, if you can see the pattern through the other side cut another 13″x48″ sized rectangle of curtain lining.  If your material is thick enough that you can’t see through it, you can omit this step and jump to step 4.
  3. Pin the wrong side of the 13″x48″ rectangular curtain lining to the wrong side of the 13″x48″ rectangle.  Baste 1/2″ from edges.

    Pin lining to curtain header.

    Pin lining to curtain header.

  4. Cut out two 13″x17″ rectangles from contrasting material for the pleats.

    Cut contrasting material for pleats.

    Cut contrasting material for pleats.

  5. Lay out your scallops and contrasting material as follows:
    • scallop-contrast-scallop-contrast-scallop
  6. Pin contrasting rectangles to scallops, right sides facing.  Stitch.

    Pin pleats to scallops and stitch.

    Pin pleats to scallops and stitch.

  7. Press seams flat.
  8. Lay the entire curtain on the curtain lining, trace and cut out.

    Trace and cut out lining.

    Trace and cut out lining.

  9. Pin curtain back to curtain lining, right sides facing.  Stitch all sides but the top.
  10.  Turn right side out and press seams.

    Turn right side out and press.

    Turn right side out and press.

  11. For each pleat:  Flip curtain to backside.  Press a 1.5″ pleat into contrasting material over each seam.  Press another 1.5″ pleat to the edge of the first pleat on each seam.  On the right side the final result should leave a 2 inch gap between scallops and the final two pleats should meet in the center.

    Pleat as described above.

    Pleat as described above.

  12. Take your 13″x48″ rectangle (and backing if it was required in step 2) and finish the short ends.

    Finish edges

    Finish edges

  13. Fold in 1.25″ on each end. Press.

    Press ends under 1.5"

    Press ends under 1.5″

  14. Fold in half lengthwise.  Press.

    Fold top panel in half, press.

    Fold top panel in half, press.

  15. Pin the folded rectangle to the rest of the valance, right sides facing.  Move the pins so that the back-most piece of material is no longer pinned, except for the 1.25″ folded under in step 12.  Stitch everything that you pinned, make sure that you don’t catch the back most piece of material in your stitching.

    Pin rectangle to scallops

    Pin rectangle to scallops

  16. Open flat and press.
  17. Fold the back side under .5″. Press.  Pin along the fold from the front side. If your pins don’t catch the back side, adjust the .5″ hem until it does.  Stitch in the ditch along the front to finish.
    Stitch in the ditch to finish.

    Stitch in the ditch to finish.

    Finished scalloped valances

    Finished scalloped valances

    Scalloped valances

    Scalloped valances

Posted in Crafts & Sewing, Home Improvement | 1 Comment

Simple Striped Pillow

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Winter Solstice and Happy Holidays!  I hope you had/are having a wonderful time celebrating with your family and friends.

Every year my co-workers and I make each other gifts for Christmas. In the past it has been a food product.  One year it was mulling spices, another it was peppermint bark. This year I wanted to sew my co-workers something since I’ve been on a sewing kick. I also figured that all my extra time on sabbatical would enable me to prep for the holidays more adequately. Boy was I wrong. The sabbatical just gave me the hope that I had infinite time, and encouraged me to create an idyllic time blind list of dozens upon dozens of things I wanted to accomplish. I won’t tell you how many things were on the list or you’d just laugh at my naivety. Let’s just say I’ll have no shortage of blog entries in the coming months.

Honestly this whole sabbatical and hat making adventure has lead me to identify one of my tragic flaws. I’m going to call it over-optimistic time dilation. You see I’ve always been terrible at time management. In college I would stay up for days on end with different partners to finish projects we all thought would get done earlier. At work I’ve learned to purposely increase my estimates for how long things will take, to lengths that seem preposterous to my over enthusiastic mind. My problem is not necessarily knowing how long something will take but instead giving myself overly ambitious deadlines because I don’t take into account interruptions or unforeseen circumstances or am overly enthusiastic about how hard I will want work on the project after a long day at work.

To add to my estimation troubles, I’m a bit of a procrastinator. My theory is that I’ve actually developed this over-aggressive time estimation as a defense mechanism to cure my procrastination. I actually believe that giving myself nearly unachievable deadlines holds me to lofty goals and forces me to work on these goals rather than procrastinate. It works about 50% of the time. Unfortunately this means that the other 50%of the time I spend watching a movie with Will or drinking wine instead of accomplishing something on my endless list of exciting projects to try. Anyway, all this is to say that in addition to the beast of a sabbatical list, I also created myself a Christmas project list and full on over-enthusiastic schedule for Christmas projects I wanted to accomplish. Guess how that turned out? Yeah… let’s just say I finished my co-worker’s presents the day before I left for Nashville, and didn’t make anything for our families. On the bright side I think I have a New Year’s resolution!

One of the presents I made this year is a great stand by for anyone who needs a quick present for a home owner. My co-worker can’t be described by anything other than an “extreme Purdue fan”. His entire apartment is decorated in black and gold. Being a bachelor he doesn’t have much in the way of frivolities like decorative throw pillows so I decided to make him a Purdue colored pillow for his living room. You can adapt this simple striped pillow to any color scheme you see fit.

FInished pillow

Finished pillow

Simple Striped Pillow

  • 1 yard of black material (or color of your choice*)
  • 1 yard of gold material (or color of your choice*)
  • 18″x18″ pillow form

*You can use any materials you want, but make sure that the two fabrics you choose are of a similar structure and weave. For instance, don’t choose a black leather with a knit gold material. I used thick black woven faux suede and a gold pleather.

All measurements below account for 1/2″ seam allowance.

  1. Cut two 7″x19″ rectangles, two 1.5″x19″ rectangles and two 12″x19″ rectangles from black.
  2. Cut one 5″x19″ rectangle and two 2″x19″ rectangles from gold.
Cut fabric into rectangles.

Cut fabric into rectangles.

3. Pin 5″ gold rectangle to both 1.5″ black rectangle lengthwise. Stitch.
4. Pin one 2″ gold rectangle lengthwise to each 1.5″ black rectangle end remaining. Stitch.

Pin black to gold stripe.

Pin black to gold stripe.

5. Pin one black 7″ rectangle lengthwise to each of the 2″ gold rectangles. Stitch.
6. Press on wrong side of pillow. The front of your pillow is complete!

Press

Press

7. Take the 12″ rectangle and fold under a lengthwise edge 1/2″ to form a hem. Repeat for second rectangle.

Pin under 1/2" on back pieces of pillow.

Pin under 1/2″ on back pieces of pillow.

8. Lay the finished edge of one of the rectangles over the finished edge of the second rectangle, overlapping by 2.5″. Pin and baste along the edge of the fabric at the overlap point.

Place hemmed edge of pillow back over other hemmed edge and pin at edges.

Place hemmed edge of pillow back over other hemmed edge and pin at edges.

9. Line up the back square created in 9 by the front square created in 6, right sides together.

Pin pillow back to pillow front, right sides together.

Pin pillow back to pillow front, right sides together.

10. Pin edges and stitch. Trim edges and clip points, turn inside out.
11. Place pillow cover over pillow form by inserting through back opening.
Enjoy!

Finished pillow front.

Finished pillow front.

Finished pillow back.

Finished pillow back.

Posted in Crafts & Sewing | 2 Comments

Flannel Friday for your Christmas Tree

I love flannel.  I confess it.  It is so cozy it feels like you’re being wrapped up in a big warm hug.  Almost scandalous to wear to work its so comfortable.  Anyway I’m working on a flannel dress (to be honest I’ve been working on it since mid sabbatical nearly 8 weeks ago). You see, I used to go all out for “Fancy Fridays”.

Since I’m an engineer, dressing up for work inspires a lot of confused questions from co-workers.  “Hot date tonight?” “Good luck on your job interview.”  Or the plain old, “why are you wearing a dress?”  So I started dressing up on Fridays and using the excuse “Fancy Friday” as a joke.  People thought it was funny and I got a lot of compliments.  Then after work one fall night my co-workers remarked that it was getting too cold for dresses and wondered what would I do.  A work friend was wearing flannel that day so we decided to adopt “Flannel Friday” as a group.  I originally planned to do a combined flannel Friday and fancy Friday, but have you ever tried to find fancy flannel?  It just doesn’t exist.  Hence me working on a dress.  Anyway.

All this is to tell you that I am making ornaments out of the scrap fabric from my dress to make for my Flannel Friday following co-workers.  I hope they don’t read this in the next couple days.  This is a super quick and easy tutorial, so I hope you whip some up for your fabulous co-workers and inspire some flannel-wearing.  Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Voila! Your tree in fabulous flannel!

Voila! Your tree in fabulous flannel!

Flannel Friday Heart Ornament

  • Scrap flannel (about 12″x12″ square)
  • 8″ of 1/2″ satin ribbon
  • heart pattern
  1. Cut out the heart pattern above and trace onto scrap flannel along the bias (This makes the pattern pretty cute, but is a bit trickier to stuff and sew) or lined up with selvedge.
    Trace heart pattern onto flannel.

    Trace heart pattern onto flannel.

    Trace two hearts on flannel on the bias.

    Trace two hearts on flannel on the bias.

  2. Cut 2 heart shapes out leaving 1/2″ seam allowance.

    Cut around heart leave 1/2" seam allowance.

    Cut around heart leave 1/2″ seam allowance.

  3. Pin hearts together, right sides together.

    Pin.

    Pin.

  4. Fold ribbon in half, insert inside the heart the cut edges above the point where both lobes of the heart meet.  Repin.

    Pin ribbon inside heart.

    Pin ribbon inside heart.

  5. Stitch hearts together leaving a 1″ gap opened on one of the straight side seams of the heart.  Clip curves and the “v” of the heart.

    Clip curves and dip in heart.

    Clip curves and dip in heart.

  6. Open out and stuff.

    Stuff.

    Stuff.

  7. Tuck the unfinished seam allowance of the gap inside the heart and and stitch (whip stitch) the 1″ gap closed.
    Hand stitch opening closed.

    Hand stitch opening closed.

    Voila!

    20161221_220746

Posted in Crafts & Sewing | 1 Comment

A few of my favorite things

Well we finally finished decorating our Christmas tree, so I’m happy to say that Santa can come now.  December always seems to fly by, especially this year when I have an extra long list of crafts I want to finish by Christmas.  To keep me in the spirit, I’ve been listening to a lot of Christmas music lately  and “My Favorite Things” from Sound of Music is one that comes up frequently.  A lot of the things she sing about seem so arbitrary yet so poetic.  I have a similar list of arbitrary things that I conjure up when I’m feeling down or scared.  Here’s a snapshot of mine.

  • my sewing machine
  • yoga
  • laughing babies
  • flannel friday
  • fall
  • the smell before a thunderstorm
  • thunderstorms
  • the full moon obscured by clouds
  • pastures of cows
  • fires
  • meteor showers
  • when you exchange glances and share a joke with a complete stranger without saying a word
  • acoustic guitars
  • mashed potatoes and gravy
  • short legged dogs like dachshunds and corgis (one in particular)

I don’t know why but my list’s short legged dogs combined with Maria’s “girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes” had me thinking of Corgis with bows around their necks.  So I decided to make Dany a festive Christmas bow for her collar.  You could change out the velcro portion and attach a hair clip instead for a cute hair accessory.  For a male dog you can omit the tails of the ribbon and make the width of the bow slightly narrower for a bow tie.  For cats, scale down as appropriate.

Okay fine, here's the bow.

Okay fine, here’s the bow.

Dog Bow Christmas Collar Accessory

  • 1/4 yard of festive cotton material
  • a few inches of string/ribbon
  • 1 inch of velcro
  1. Cut a 15″x9″ rectangle for the bow, a 9.5″x7″ rectangle for the tails, and a 9.5″x3.5″ rectangle for the center.
  2. Fold the 15″x9″ bow in half long ways to form a 4.5″x15″ rectangle, right sides together.  Pin and stitch along the open length.

    Fold Bow in half, stitch long end.

    Fold Bow in half, stitch long end.

  3. Open out. Pin and stitch the ends together to form a tube.  The unfinished edge should be in the center of the tube.

    Pin and stitch ends together.

    Pin and stitch ends together.

  4. Take the 9.5″x7″ rectangle for the tails and fold it in half the long ways to form a 3.5″x9.5″ rectangle, right sides together.

    Pin and stitch along the edges of the tail, leaving a 2" gap.

    Pin and stitch along the edges of the tail, leaving a 2″ gap.

  5. Pin along all 3 sides, leaving a 2″ gap in the center of the long side.  Stitch all three sides except the 2″ gap.
  6. Clip corners, open out and press flat.

    Turn inside out and press.

    Turn inside out and press.

  7. Take the center 9.5″x3.5″ rectangle and fold it in half the long ways to form a 9.5″x1.75″ rectangle, right sides together.
  8. Pin and stitch along the open length.

    Fold bow center in half and stitch.

    Fold bow center in half and stitch.

  9. Take your bow tube and put the seam in the center back.  Place the tail directly under the bow tube.

    Line up bow and tails.

    Line up bow and tails.

  10. Scrunch the bow tube along the center and the tail along the center and tie them together with string or ribbon.

    Tie bow and tails together.

    Tie bow and tails together.

  11. Take the center rectangle and wrap around the string.  Form a loop, pin and remove from the bow and tails.  Stitch.

    Form a loop to fit around bow and tails, remove from bow.

    Form a loop to fit around bow and tails, remove from bow.

  12. Measure your dog’s collar width.  Mine was 1″ thick.  Double and add 1/2″ for your strap length.  Stitch velcro on the back of the center loop you formed in 11.  Measure one strap length from the center of your velcro.  Cut.

    Stitch velcro to loop.

    Stitch velcro to loop.

  13. Fold under 1/2″ and stitch.
  14. Attach velcro to folded edge, making sure the velcro will meet the other side of velcro in a loop.

    Stitch velcro to end.

    Stitch velcro to end.

  15. Attach the loop around your dog’s collar and show her off!
    I'm such a pretty Christmas Corg!

    I’m such a pretty Christmas Corg!

    I'll show off my downward dog skills, oh and this bow.

    I’ll show off my downward dog skills, oh and this bow.

    You sure you don't just want a picture of my face?

    You sure you don’t just want a picture of my face?

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