Giveaway Winners

>> Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The handy random number generator offered 10 (Sarah) & 5 (Anya). I'll email you for your addresses and send packages on their way. Congratulations!

To address a couple questions and comments:
*The fabric is made by Trendtex, but the remaining selvedge doesn't have a name.

*A "fat quarter" is a piece of fabric 18" x 22" whereas a regular quarter is 9" x 44".

*And yes, I'll definitely make and bring matching purple/gold belts to our 10 year reunion for the swimmin' & divin' women. Excellent suggestion!


Vegetarian Menu Planning

>> Sunday, March 29, 2009

For anyone looking for a vegetarian menu (rather than just the recipes), head over here. Marie*Jolie at Permission to Unwind has posted her family's 2-week vegetarian (and mostly gluten-free) menu. She'll be posting shopping lists and recipes as the week progresses.

I suppose a certain amount of actual menu planning occurs when one is cooking for more than oneself -- which is not my life at the present. I tend to make 1-2 big things (soup, lentils, baked ziti, etc) for the week and eat it for lunch and/or dinner. I mix it up with some stir-fries, quick-and-easy burritos (open can, drain beans, place on tortilla, add some cheese, place in microwave, add veggies + toppings), and hearty salads.

One of the things that impressed me most about the 2-week veg menu is the variety of breakfast foods. For me, cereal, oatmeal, and english muffins rotate through, and that's about it -- which works for me. In the end, I think healthy (vegetarian) eating is more about figuring out what foods, recipes, and cooking framework works for you than following any plan, book, or diet rigidly.

With Passover soon arriving, I'll be posting a few veg-friendly Passover recipes that help create a little variety for those abstaining from leavened things for 8 days.

And finally, the giveaway remains open until Tuesday night. Leave a comment here to participate.


151: Imperfect Giveaway

>> Friday, March 27, 2009

I'd been planning on doing a giveaway for my 150th post. When I started this blog last summer, it was simply a way to streamline showing friends and family the things I made. It still does that, but it's become a lot more -- a way of meeting people, a document of in-process projects, an online journal, and forth. All of which are good things. Somehow post #150 came and went without my deciding what I would give away. Hard to have a giveaway without that.

Not such a big deal, that first imperfection.

Then came the trial of my sewing machine, which decided to aggravate me thing week. In the midst of making some giveaway gifts, it started acting all funny. Huge loops kept appearing on the bottom of the fabric, usually a sign of loose tension. I tightened the tension, to no avail. And then I kept finding that the bobbin was being uncooperative. It doesn't stay threaded. And for the life of me, I can't figure out why. I've cleaned out all the lint, oiled the machine, rethreaded the machine, wound a new bobbin, and no luck. [Any suggestions or thoughts would be most appreciated. It's a fairly cheap Brother machine I got for free, so it's not the best thing out there, but it's worked for me thus far.]

So in the midst of belt-making, I almost called this off. I somehow mismeasured and they are shorter than intended. My sewing machine made the stitching process annoying to say the least. How could I distribute pretty imperfect belts? And then I realized that few handmade items are truly perfect, and these belts are still pretty nice, and I would still wear them, and it's better to use them than to throw them away.

So in that spirit, I offer 2 belts and 2 (possibly imperfect) fat quarters.

Belt 1 (~38 inches): Belt 2 (~39.5 inches):

Fat quarters will be this material:

The fine print:
1. Leave a comment on this post to enter. I will select 2 random winners on Tuesday night.
2. Each winner will receive 1 belt and 1 fat quarter.
3. If you don't want either the belt or the fat quarter, I will draw a new winner for either item.


Whirligigs and Ladybugs

>> Sunday, March 22, 2009

One of my goals for the past week was to start and finish a baby quilt in time for a bris (Jewish ritual circumcision) this afternoon. I can check that one off the list. The quilt is done and delivered, and the new parents were quite pleased. It was lovely to hear their sweet thank you voicemail tonight.

Here's the binding. The quilt is mostly red, black, and white, with a large dose of yellow thrown in on the pieced back. I made the binding out of most of the black and white fabric I used in the quilt.

A whirligig, and probably my favorite of the black-and-white fabrics I selected for the quilt (I only had a fat quarter of it, so I had to use it sparingly).

Twelve whirligigs comprise the quilt front. Though it's impossible to see in the picture, the white is actually a white-on-white design and the black is a black-on-black design. In between there are shades of black-and-white prints. The baby's father's family is in the fabric business; as Ari once said to me "we moved from the schmatta [Yiddish for rags] to the garment to the fabric industry." As a result, I felt some pressure to not only come up with a good design but also to pick fabrics, ideally all purchased at independent retailers. If memory serves on all the prints, I accomplished that goal.

This is the first time I've pieced a back for a quilt (I first experimented with a pieced back on a table runner). At first I played around with the front black-and-white prints as well as the red. Then I decided it needed a splash of something new, and in came the ladybugs on yellow. I'm getting into the black, white, and yellow combination. I think it has a future with me.

Full view of the pieced back. I free-motion quilted it, with wavy lines moving all over. And I think I might like the back even better than the front. And that's ok, because it doesn't really matter which is technically the front and the back.

This is post #150, and in honor of it a giveaway will be coming your way sometime this week. Stay tuned.


Friday Recipe: Salads Galore

>> Friday, March 20, 2009

A couple days ago I got out my bike, I only had to wear a light jacket, I went for a run in shorts, and I saw a line outside multiple ice cream shops. Alas the cold air reappeared since then, but my calendar tells me that spring has arrived. In light of this change of seasons, today's recipe is less recipe and more salad combos. I eat a lot of salad, and spring promises the return of the farmer's market and more fresh veggies.

Woodbridge Salad
This was the Sunday night regular my senior year of college when I lived in -- wait, very surprising, a house named Woodbridge. The 13 residents plus a couple hangers-on (you know who you are), and our faculty associate gathered for dinner weekly. We cooked in pairs and had a range of meals, but this salad provided one constant.

*baby corn
*peppers (often cut out to spell "Woodbridge" but you can slice, dice, or julienne as you please)
*hearts of palm
*goat cheese
*redwine/balsamic/mustard [choose one or more] vinaigrette

Spinach-Fruit Salad
I like making this salad when I want a sweet-tangy combination. It's also a good winter salad as it can use canned items more easily than many salads.

*pomegranate seeds
*mandarin oranges
*raspberries (frozen can work if defrosted carefully)
*chickpeas or hard-boiled egg whites (for some protein)
*red-wine vinaigrette
[sometimes I add corn and/or hearts of palm as well, for color and saltiness]

Greek Salad
I love olives.

*Romaine lettuce
*green/red peppers
*red onions
*kalamata olives
*feta (crumbled)
[some would add cucumbers; I don't like cucumbers so none for my salad]

High-Protein Salad
Keeps the vegetarians happy. This is basically a greens salad with a heavy dose of beans/tofu/eggs. The veggies you use can easily change to accommodate color/taste/texture preferences. Likewise, you can shift around the proteins as you like; the list simply gives some easy ways to make a salad into something more than a side dish.

*hard-boiled eggs (I only use whites but use what you like)
*kidney beans
*cubed tofu (you can make with a marinade or use plain)
*shredded carrots
*red onions
*snow peas
*cheese to sprinkle on top
*dressing of choice

For me, salads depend on my mood and cravings, and change regularly. Hearts of palm always make me happy and thus appear as often as affordable. Chickpeas are another easy source of salad happiness and get tossed into my salads more often than not. I love tomatoes (as a child I would steal them off other people's plates....somehow my parents managed to be more amused by this pluckiness than horrified at my manners and somehow I stopped this). But I love really good tomatoes and so their presence is somewhat seasonable (or, admittedly, dependent on the quality of the tomatoes that make their way to the grocery store in winter. Yes I buy out-of-season vegetables). Again, know what you like but feel comfortable experimenting.

And I'm sure you have many more salad ideas -- feel free to add them in the comments section.

A Note on Vinaigrettes
I think there's some "rule" that vinaigrettes should be 2/3 oil to 1/3 vinegar. I break this rule all the time, favoring half-and-half or 1/3 oil to 2/3 vinegar. I prefer vinegar's tang, and adjust accoridngly. Depending on the salad and my cupboard, I may use balsamic, red-wine, or apple-cider vinegar. Taste them and figure out what you like. Sometimes I add mustard to either red-wine or balsamic vinegars. Sometimes I add lemon juice. Sometimes I add syrup or olasses (sweet + thickener).

The point is that there is no single way to dress a salad or make a dressing, and you should feel liberated to experiment. Using an old (but clean) glass jar, start adding ingredients, shake, and taste. Continue until you like the taste. Try and remember what you did for future reference.


I Shouldn't Have, But....

>> Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I am a terrible person to take shopping. Really. I am awful. I am the last person you want to drag along to buy clothes, shoes, whatever. Just ask my mom, my sister, my friends. The smart ones know not to even ask. The rest learn. I warn them, but often they have to experience it to believe it.

Fabric, however, is different. I can spend many hours looking, touching, deciding. The same is often true for paper, but these days fabric wins out. It wins out even more when I can do it from my computer and there are really. good. sales.

Above All Fabric got some business from me. Three - five dollar yards of good-quality fabric are hard to pass up, especially when 1/2 yards are available for purchase and shipping is free. Check out the specials here. Except for the ones I killed off, like the Rio Squares. [Rio Flowers pictured below...1 yard left....$3]. Hat tip to True Up for the sale and free shipping info.

And then there is Quilt Arts. They're having a tremendous sale, including $1.25 fat quarters and 50% off everything. That's right. Half-Off. Everything. Like Kaffe Fassett fabrics. I've long admired Paperweight

and Roman Glass

and so I got myself some of each, and some of others. Hat tip to my swap partner, Quilt Dad.

My stash will be pleased, my bank account less so. But it's been a while since I purchased fabric, and I'm justifying this as planning for the many fabric-items I'll be making in future months. And I limited myself to many fewer fabrics than I would have purchased if I had unlimited fabric funds, which I most certainly do not. I did realize, after I clicked "purchase" that I yet again went for blue, red, and brown fabrics. Which is great, because I love them.

But I'm horrible at buying yellow, green, and orange (though I'm getting better on the orange front). My eye is never drawn to them as much. How should I fix this and even out the colors of the stash? I'm ok on green for the moment,but yellow is sorely missing, much to my mother's yellow-loving chagrin.


On a Roll

>> Monday, March 16, 2009

I just learned I won one of these tech cozies from the SMS Free Fabric Friday Giveaway:

I'm sure my camera (or iPod, they might have to duel it out with one another) will enjoy a more colorful home than the current functional but ugly black case. Thank you SMS! And I know I've had a few new visitors thanks to SMS links, so welcome, please look around, and feel free to ask questions in the comment section.

While I haven't finished this quilt, I cut fabric for a new baby quilt last night. I'd like to have it done by Sunday. We'll see about that.

I'm inching toward post 150, and still thinking about the giveaway possibilities. I'm open to suggestions in the comment section...


Friday Recipe: Rugelach

>> Friday, March 13, 2009

Rugelach are a rolled pastry of Ashkenazic (central/eastern-European) descent. Apparently one can make them with all sorts of fillings, though I'm of the belief that chocolate is the only good way to go. I might make an occasional exception for cinnamon-sugar, maybe.

I happen to think my rugelach (based off a Joan Nathan recipe) are pretty good; I don't, however, claim that they ascend to heights anywhere near that of the rugelach one buys at Marzipan (in Machane Yehudah, Jerusalm). On the plus side, I'm pretty sure the caloric content of mine is minor compared to those. And this recipe only requires 6 ingredients. How easy can you get?

Chocolate Rugelach
Makes 32

2 sticks non-salted butter, softened
8 oz. low-fat cream-cheese
2 c. flour

6 oz. chocolate chips
1 tbsp sugar

1. Cream together butter and cream-cheese.

2. Slowly add flour to the creamy mix. Use hands as necessary to fully integrate the flour.

3. Place dough in refridgerator for at least 1 hour.

4. Make topping: in a food processor, chop chocolate chips into small pieces and add sugar/cinnamon (a couple dashes) to mix.

5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

6. Remove dough and halve. Take one half and roll into a ball. Then roll out ball of dough into a circle of dough, about 1/16" thick.

7. Sprinkle half the topping over the dough. Using a knife or a pizza cutter, divide circle into 16 parts. Roll each section up, starting at the wide end and rolling toward the center of the circle. If necessary, use water to "seal" the rolled up dough. Place on cookie sheet.

Repeat for second ball of dough.

8. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes, checking once halfway through. If necessary, coat with melted butter to keep the rugelach shiny (I rarely need to do this).

9. Enjoy!

*These are dairy, but there are rugelach recipes that are pareve/lactose-free, so go a-searching for them.

*I suppose you could use another topping -- fruit jam, chopped nuts and sugar, cinnamon-sugar, whatever else strikes yor fancy.

*I cover my baking sheets with aluminum foil to contain the mess. This is optional.

*I find it easiest to dip my fingers in water before rolling the rugelach as it helps the dough to stick.


Spring Ahead

The shift to Daylight Savings Time last weekend threw me all week. I naturally wake up with the sun, so the altered clock meant it was still dark when the alarm clock tried to rouse me. That's the thing, a week ago I didn't need anything to rouse me and this week the voices of NPR interrupted my sleepy state. But the benefit of light later in the day is worth it and, even more worth it, is the anticipation of spring. I like to believe that the swirling snowflakes that greeted me on Wednesday (?) morning were simply a mirage. In any event, I'm looking forward to more sun, warmth, and daffodils (there are some buds in the front yard).

I've been wanting to figure out how to make an apron for a while now (I do cook, after all). Using this tutorial from lululollylegs, I made this (very spring-like, if I do say so myself) last night:

I modified the tutorial slightly, choosing not to gather the skirt and stick to a plain edge. Having never made a skirt or apron before and thus having never gathered any edges, I thought it was wise to keep it simple. Lacking ric-rac, I opted for the grosgrain ribbon.

This picture doesn't do the colors justice, but I like the ribbon and the colors work well with all the fabric. The ribbon also creates some crinkly-ness, so while there is no gathered skirt, there is some texture. I used blue dragonfly fabric for the back and ties, as it coordinates with the multi-color dragonflies on the pocket and waistband.

It's a little awkard trying to quickly take a picture of the apron on me, but so it goes. This will be in the mail shortly as a thank you gift for a friend who let me stay at her apartment while I was over at the archives a few weeks ago. I'll definitely be making some more of these as they're fun, useful, and an evening's project. I think I'll enlarge the pocket and the waistband on the next one.


Project Improv Update

>> Wednesday, March 11, 2009

image from here

Jacquie has been quite busy getting the Project Improv quilts pieced together. Her post today indicated that one of quilts with one of my blocks is fully pieced. can you see my block?

Also from the blog reader today, a link to this free bag pattern from Made by Rae. I might just have to try my hand at making it.

image from here


Always Inspire

>> Saturday, March 7, 2009

It's been a long time since I won a contest or giveaway I've entered. I did win a Washington Metro poster contest in second grade ("Be safe on Metro/Stay off the tracks" made out of cut paper, as part of a school project. My mom still has the framed poster and certificate. And going to the prize ceremony provided me with my first time on the red line, having previously stuck to the orange line that moved my family and I from the suburbs into DC to see the Smithsonian and other things downtown.) But I digress.

I don't think I started entering web/blog-based giveaways until I started this blog. My usual process was see giveaway, dutifully comment, and never hear back. But yesterday that changed. I won the giveaway over at Always Inspire, and chose this lovely scarf as my prize (the bibs and burp cloths use fantastic fabric but that's not exactly my life these days).

Speaking of scarves, I spent a few days at the National Archives a week and a half ago. One morning I was in the audio-film records area* and I overheard two men at the research desk talking about a recent email and phone exchange, noting somewhat derisively that the caller/emailer is "one of those scarf-wearing women, you know how they are." At that moment I walk up to the desk to ask a question, and I happen to be wearing a soft knit blue scarf wrapped around my neck (for warmth, not fashion). The [very nice and helpful to me] man looks up, smiles, and stammers out a "scarves are ok" line. I chuckled internally at the whole situation because I know the academic, scarf-wearing population to whom they were referring, if somewhat stereotypically and unfairly.

Julie from Always Inspire may be helping me transition into one of those academic scarf-wearers, and that's just fine. Thank you, Julie! You can check out her work on her blog and in her etsy shop. She uses bright and fun material, and her wares are very reasonably priced.

Speaking of giveaways, I'm inching closer to post #150 which may call for a giveaway. For the moment I'll leave you with this image -- perhaps inspiring, perhaps mouth-watering.


Friday Recipe: Spinach Pie

>> Friday, March 6, 2009

This is an easy dish packed with all the vitamins spinach has to offer. It's simple to multiply the recipe which makes it great for dinners at home or potlucks. Add a salad and soup, and you've got a dinner.

Spinach Pies
Makes 2 pies

Crust (look here for a simple recipe)
20 oz. frozen, chopped spinach
16 oz. ricotta (part-skim okay)
2 eggs
garlic powder
shredded cheese (your choice -- mozzarella and cheddar both work but yield different tastes)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Defrost spinach and squeeze out excess water (I usually put it in my metal strainer and use a potato masher to remove the water).

3. Place the spinach in a large bowl, add spices to taste, and mix well.

4. Add ricotta and eggs (beaten or beat in the bowl) and mix well.

5. Pour into crusts.

6. Top with shredded cheese.

7. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

8. Enjoy!


Another Tree Option

I want to paint the tree on my dining room wall this spring. So I think about it a lot. And today I came across this image, via design*sponge.

It's from Natalie Friedman, and you can see more of her work on her blog. I like this option because it conveys trees without needing technical precision which, frankly, I'm not sure I have. I think I would change the oranges to pomegranates and possibly add some leaves, but I still have some time to think about it.


If you missed out

If you missed out on some of the February Fat Quarter swaps or just want to do another one, LFinnDesigns is hosting one. Go here to get the info and sign up.

Spinach Pie recipe coming later today.


Two More

>> Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Two more lovely fabrics arrived in the mail via the SMS swap. Rachel sent these:

I particularly like the leaf fabric. I like the designs within the leaves as well as the color combo and I'm thinking of what I can use it with -- perhaps something for myself. Or not.


Black and White and Turquoise

>> Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I've recently acquired information that tells me multiple baby quilts, several challah covers/table runners, and a chuppah are in my future. In my to-make future, that is. I'm already behind on one baby quilt, but I figure the kid doesn't need this blanket immediately. Which is good, since she was born almost 3 months ago at this point.

I had a group of about 5 fabrics that I wanted to use together, and this quilt provided a good opportunity. Then a (semi-simple) plan for the quilt struck me, in say, January. And then in early February I thought I should really get on this project. And then last week I learned I'll be making at least 3 more baby quilts in the coming months (any other news I should know about?). And then I figured I should really get on this one because grad school prevents me from being quilter extraordinaire, at least time-to-completion wise.

So this weekend, I began cutting and sewing. At which point 5 fabrics became 7 fabrics, and several of the blocks became semi-improv style blocks. Well they're totoally improv in that I didn't plan them out. They're not totally improv in that the conform to a square shape with single fabrics comprising each square. But that works for me. And I hope it works for the quilt. Here's a little preview of some blocks.

More to come. Later. Maybe.


Three Facts

>> Monday, March 2, 2009

1) Polar bears cover their black noses with snow to better camouflage themselves while hunting.
2) Polar bear liver is poisonous to humans.
3) Polar bears easily overheat which is why they prefer walking to running.

Why do I know this random trivia? The short answer is that I learned these particular facts from a polar bear calendar many moons ago. The long answer to why this information continues to occupy space in my brain is I don't know.

But polar bears have long been my favorite animal, and my mom very nicely purchased some polar bear fabric for me (on sale! 70% off! in Florida!). Since winter doesn't seem to be leaving 2009 at a very rapid pace, at least up here in the northeastern midwest, I'll have to take solace in somewhat inaccurate (er, fanciful?) polar bear depictions printed on cotton. I think I may hold off using it until next fall, in a vain attempt to limit the reach of this year's winter.


A Rainbow of Fabric

>> Sunday, March 1, 2009

I returned home to a bevy of new fat quarters. You never know what you're going to receive through a swap, and I think I made out quite well. I don't have any of the fabrics I got, which nicely adds to my stash and gives me some new variations to think about using.

From Darci's swap, I received these 2 blue FQs from John over at QuiltDad.

From Kaye over at NanaB Follows NanaT I found an envelope with fireworks, wine, and a donut pincushion (also through Darci's swap).

The SMS Swap matched me with 4 partners, and so far three envelopes have made their way to me.

Regina sent me two lovely pinks. I especially love the paisley one. Check out her blog here.

This batik-y green print arrived from Sabra:

And from slightly north of my old Bay Area stomping grounds, Sara mailed an orange tree print that she notes is one of her favorites and reminded her of a Michigan fall. The snow has melted (though more flakes are falling), and I'm looking forward to spring, which I hope will arrive sooner rather than later.

Thank you to all of my partners. I hope my bundles of fabric have arrived at their respective destinations. I know John and Kaye received theirs, so I'm hoping the US Postal Service managed to get the SMS envelopes distributed in a timely manner.


  © Blogger template Autumn Leaves by 2008

Back to TOP