Saturday, July 12, 2014

Creating A Fairy Garden

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The beginnings of a Fairy Garden!  This is something I’ve wanted to make for a long time.  Ever since I saw a Fairy Garden put together in a little red wagon a few years ago on a blog lost somewhere in time because for the life of me I can’t remember where I saw it but the image lives on in my mind…I have wanted to create one!  So I started out small with an old basket that I used to gather vegetables in back in the days when I had a big garden.  The Bermuda grass here has made that all but impossible for me to garden now and I actually threw in the towel and let the grass take over and now I garden in small pots on my deck and visit the Farmer’s Market on a regular basis.  (And to my high school English teacher Mrs. Lonteen…I apologize in advance for the lengthy run-on sentences that I will continue to use.)  : )

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I actually found the starter plants for my Fairy Garden at said Farmer’s Market last weekend.  That lovely pale green mound of moss with the tiniest of white flowers is called Scottish moss and it perfect for a project like this.  I also picked up a small pot of “Coccineus”  which is a Red Wild Thyme and promises to get tiny red…but possibly hot pink flowers.  I’ll let you know when it blooms.  And I also picked up a pot of a creeping Wooly Thyme. 

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I lined the basket with a black plastic trash bag that I cut out and trimmed to fit my basket.

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  Then filled it with black Miracle Grow Potting Mix and potted my plants. 

 

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Now for the fun part.  Let’s add some charm shall we?  It’s only a start but I painted a rock with outdoor craft paint and made welcome stone.  I scrounged around under the big oak tree in the backyard for some acorn caps and made a path.  I still need more charming elements to add to this.  My next addition will be some red and white spotted mushrooms that I plan to make.  Perhaps a bridge over some water, an adorable fairy sized banner and maybe a place to sit?  How about a house for my fairy to live in?

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I have only just started but love it already!

Have you ever made a Fairy Garden?

Help me finish mine!  Please!

I would love to hear your ideas and what are some of the things you used and put in yours!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

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What can I say but these were awesome!  They came from a cookbook that I have had for a while now called Our Best Bites and they were quick easy and delicious.   I love it when I try something new and it’s a success!  Not much else to say except they were yummy and I served them with Jasmine Rice and my favorite vegetable broccoli.  Another nice thing about them is that you can double up the recipe and freeze half of it for later.  Stove top or crock options too.  This one is a keeper!

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

1 pound extra-lean ground beef

2 tablespoons dehydrated onions

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup bread crumbs

In a medium bowl, combine meatball ingredients. 

Shape into 1-inch balls and place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil spray with non-stick spray.  

You can use a cookie scoop for even sized meat balls.  AND don’t forget the non-stick spray like I did!  Very important!

Place under the broiler in your oven for 5-7 minutes or until the meat balls begin to brown.  (I baked mine for 25 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees.) 

Sauce

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

3 tablespoons flour

1  1/2 cups water or pineapple juice  (Go with the pineapple juice….amazing flavor!)

1/4 cup white vinegar

3 tablespoons soy sauce

In a large saucepan, whisk together the sauce ingredients and bring to a boil.  Add the meatballs and reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often.  ( Or you can do like I did and put everything in the slow cooker and cook on high or low depending on how much time you have till they are done.  I cooked mine for about 1 hourson high and another hour on low but only because I cooked them all the way through in the oven first.)

To make ahead and freeze simply make the meatballs as directed above and broil or bake them.  When they come out of the oven, place them in a freezer-safe container and pour the sauce over them.  Freeze for up to 3 months.  When ready to cook, invert the container into the slow cooker and cook on low for 4-5 hours. 

Cookbook     Meatballs - Copy

This was honestly a tasty dinner and these would also be delicious served as an appetizer meatball too.  And lot’s of other great easy family style recipes in this book too.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

How to Make Burlap Placemats

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Way back in 2009 when I was self taught novice blogger,  : )  I wrote a blog post showing how I made a set of Burlap Placemats.  Pottery Barn was showing lots of items in their stores and catalogs at the time with numbers on them and that is what inspired me make them. I was busy finding all kinds of things to make with burlap and became very preoccupied with the idea of stenciling numbers on anything I could get my hands on! I was obsessed with numbers and kind of sort of still am.   : )

Well little did I know that that little project would take on a life of it’s own.  It has turned out to be one of my most popular blog posts and projects.

And then just a few weeks ago I received an exciting email from someone at Taunton Press asking me if I would like to have my placemats featured in a book on burlap projects they were putting together! Yes please!   So it was time to get to work.  I decided to re-write my How To blog post on how to make these placemats.  My original blog post can be seen here Pottery Barn Inspired Burlap Placemats if you’d like to take a peek.

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In my original blog post, the set of burlap placemats I made used only two numbers.  I decided to make the new set stenciled with three numbers and I like the effect better.  But of course that is all up to you!  It’s kind of fun deciding which numbers to use. 

 

How to Make Burlap Placemats

Here’s what you need to make 6 placemats

3 yards of burlap

Spool of matching thread

Quilting pins, Scissors, Measuring Tape, Sewing Machine

Black craft paint

Stencil Brush

clear packaging tape

Number Stencils *

    

I purchased 3 yards of burlap at $2.99 a yard.  Quite the bargain.  Three yards actually gave me enough to cut out 7 placemats.  I was just shy of having enough for that eighth placemat so if you want a set of 8 placemats which is probably the case…I would purchase an additional 1/4 yard to be sure you have enough.

Step One:  Cutting Out The Burlap Pieces

The burlap that you buy off of the bolt is usually folded in half lengthwise, which is what you want.  This way you can cut out two pieces at a time.  These two pieces will be sewn together to make one placemat.  My placemats are a bit different than some I have seen for sale on Etsy and on other sites in that mine are double sided.  This is what gives the placemats a nice weight and make stenciling on them easier.  (And the paint wont bleed through two pieces to the other side.)    I took the black and white checked placemat in the photo above and used it as my template/pattern to cut out my burlap pieces.  Use any placemat you have as a pattern or cut out your own pattern out of paper if you like.  The dimensions of my placemats are 19 X 14 inches.

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Step Two:  Sewing Placemats Together

After you have all of your placemat pieces cut out, sew two of the identical pieces that you cut out together around all four edges with a matching colored thread approximately 1 inch from the raw outer edge.  When you get near a corner, place your machine needle into the burlap and pivot to the direction you want to sew for a neatly stitched corner.   This seam is important because it is what is going to hold your placemat together and help you control how much fringe your edges will have. 

 

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Step Three:  Fringing the Edges

Once all of your placemats are sewn together it’s time to fringe the edges.  Burlap can be incredibly messy in that it sheds little fibers and sticks to everything!  I recommend you do this step outside.  With your fingers, gently pull the outermost burlap thread and remove it.  Continue to gently remove the threads one after another until you meet resistance.    When you do, Do Not Pull Hard, simple take your scissors and very carefully snip the thread as close to the seam line with out cutting into the seam itself.  Do this to all four sides of your placemat.  After you have finished fringing all of the edges, you might notice some of the edges are uneven.  Take a sharp pair of scissors and trim all the edges so you get an even and uniform fringed edge.

 

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Step Four: Stenciling

Now comes the fun part where you give your placemats some personality!  I use regular black acrylic craft paint.  You could of course use black fabric paint if you like.   I also prefer to work with a stencil brush instead of the sponge dabbers.  I get much better results with a stencil brush.  Decide what numbers and how many you would like to use and place them down near the lower right corner of your placemat.  I stencil my numbers on one at a time and work from the outer edge inwards.  Once you like the placement of your number, use some clear packaging tape to secure the stencil.  The tape also helps keep your brush from accidentally smearing any excess paint past the stencil edges.  Once you have finished stenciling your number, gently peel back the stencil and admire your work!  Repeat until you have all of your numbers stenciled in place.  Set aside and let dry. 

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My biggest tip when stenciling is to not use too much paint on your brush.  Use a paper towel if you need to dab off any excess paint.  You will have cleaner and crisper edges.  I also get the best results when I use an up and down pouncing motion.  Do not dab and smear…if you do the paint could end up collecting under your stencil edges and there goes your crisp edges! It is also important not to use too much paint because you do not want it to bleed through to the back side of your stencil.  I have never had this happen.  But if you are new to stenciling you might want to do a practice stencil on a leftover scrap of burlap.      

               

I get asked all the time where I get my number stencils.  My favorite source for stencils is Maison de Stencils and I have been ordering stencils from them for years.    These are the best and highest quality stencils I have found!!   The set I used is called the Old World Number 1 Numbers and I ordered the 3 x 3 stencil set.

I love working with their stencils and I always get good results.  I am also happy to say that my placemats are also featured on their website in their client gallery!  They have such unique stencils and a huge variety that you just  can’t find anywhere else.  I have also had them make me a custom stencil that I used to create this Grains pillow below and I got great results!!   The other pillow in the basket photo was sewn out of burlap and I used a Maison de Stencils stencil on that one too. 

French Pillow 015    burlap pillow 001

But I am burlap and stencil digressing……Back to the placemats!

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I love that rustic look you get with burlap and making a set of these placemats couldn’t be any easier.  And when you stencil on some numbers you can create something really useful that looks great on the table.  And these are great for gift giving too. 

    Burlap Placemats

Let me know if you have any questions as I am always happy to help!

I will also keep you all posted on when Taunton Press releases the burlap projects book!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Pickled Jalapeno Peppers

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So I was at cookout about a week ago during the Memorial Day weekend and it seemed everyone was in the mood for Mexican appetizers.  I brought a bowl of homemade guacamole….awesome…recipe to be posted very soon….and someone else made one of those baked re-fried bean and cheese and salsa dips.  It too was delicious and I found myself picking around the dip in search of the mini jalapeno rings that the dip was garnished with.  But that was the sad part about it…there were only a few being used as a garnish.  And I felt a little bit guilty every time I lifted one of the decorative pepper rings off the top of the dip!  I was eating all the jalapeno peppers. 

Well, long story short, I made a point of finally finding a recipe to try and made my own.   That way I could have as many as I wanted.   I’ve only wanted to make these for years now and honestly…they are so inexpensive to make.   And by the time summer is in full swing…the prices on these little babies at the Farmer’s Market is bound to go way down and will be even less money to make….and way more tasty than the rings you can buy at the grocery store. 

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Caution!  These babies are hot!  The heat from a jalapeno comes from the seeds and the white membrane inside the peppers so you can somewhat control how hot you want these to be by keeping or tossing more of the seeds and white membranes. 

Caution # 2:  Wear gloves when you cut these!  Or place a  couple of sandwich baggies on your hands. Otherwise the skin on your hands will burn later and heaven help you if you should accidentally touch your eye while working with these.  Ere on the side of caution.  : )

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Pickled Jalapeno Peppers

22 to 25 Jalapeno Peppers

1 cup water

1 cup white vinegar

2 1/2 TBSP Kosher salt

1/4 cup sugar

6 garlic cloves, sliced

Makes 4 jelly size jars

Slice up the peppers into little wheels and set aside in a bowl. 

Mix the water, white vinegar, Kosher salt, sugar and garlic in a medium size pot over medium heat.  Bring to a gentle boil. 

Add the pepper rings and stir to make sure they are all mixed in well and let sit and boil for about two minutes and then turn off the heat.  Let them sit in the solution.  They will change from a bright green color to more of an olive green color. 

While the peppers are resting in the pickling solution, sterilize your jars lids, and ring. 

Scoop out the peppers and pickling solution and fill your jars. 

Add your lids and rings and set aside to cool. 

Store in the refrigerator for a few days for best flavor and these should keep in the fridge for about a month. 

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Add them to everything!  And if you make one of those baked bean and cheese dip recipes….don’t be stingy with the jalapeno peppers!  Sprinkle those babies on!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Puzzles and Quilts

Baby Boy Rag Quilt 004

If I had to pick two words to describe my winter I would have to go with “puzzles” and “quilts”. 

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I’ve been obsessed with jigsaw puzzles and have completed 5 in the last few weeks and I have also been working like crazy on a couple of rag quilts.  And purchasing way too much fabric for the rag quilts I am assembling in my head. : )

This is my latest completed quilt.  It’s a bit harder to find cute fabrics for little boys but I fell in love with this lizard printed fabric and those lime green argyles and knew I had to make a quilt! 

I really shouldn’t complain about the winter…..for the most part we have gotten off lucky when it comes to the snow and ice.  Nothing like my friends and family are having to deal with back up North and in Michigan.  But it still has kept me indoors a little bit more than I would like.  So…..there have been a lot of puzzles and quilts filling my evenings lately. 

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Here are the fabrics I picked out for my new baby boy quilt.  The orange zig zag fabric really complemented the colors in the lizard fabric but I didn’t have as much of it as I wanted so I saved it and will use it in another quilt that I already have in progress. 

Loved the colors in this one.  I will refrain from doing yet another tutorial on how this one was made.  But if you are new to my blog and would like to know how I did it or see some of my other rag quilts, just do a search of my blog by typing in the words “rag quilts” in the search bar located on my sidebar. 

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I am very happy with this one!  And pay no attention to that stack of books off to the side.  Those are simply a distraction or possibly the next obsession once the “puzzles and quilts” phase subsides. 

Puzzles 001

And besides…instead of real reading….I substituted this Best Sellers Puzzle.  (My first 1000 piece puzzle.)

Kind of like reading a book right?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Baby Rag Quilt

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It’s pretty amazing what you can accomplish when you are trapped indoors by a monster snow storm in February!  We see snow in North Carolina occasionally but not like the wallop of snow that was dumped on us this week.  Nine inches of snow, throw in some sleet, and freezing rain…scatter a few power outages in….Thank God that part missed us and I was able to enjoy all the creature comforts that electricity provides.  But overall, we were house bound for a couple of days so why not cook my brains out and make a quilt I thought to myself and so that is exactly what I did. 

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This is the first time I’ve tried making a quilt with those pre-assembled fabric squares of coordinating fabric.  They were kind of fun to use because it made the fabric selection quick and easy and they were on sale and they happened to have two bundles with the same fabrics which I thought would be enough to make two Baby Quilts but in reality, it was enough to make just one with only a few extra squares left over. 

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As I have mentioned before, I like to make my squares 8 inches and cut 6 inch squares of batting for in between.  To save money, I usually have a pattern side full of color and then use a solid broadcloth fabric in a coordinating color for the opposite side of the quilt.  The broadcloth is usually half the price of the patterned fabric.  Also, make sure you have lots of pins.  An 8 inch square is a nice tool to have.  And I am in love with the my rotary cutting tool which makes cutting the squares quick and easy…don’t forget the mat that has a measuring grid printed right on it and it will protect you cutting surfaces.  These are only tips for someone new to quilting….and believe me….I am a basic sewer…but if I can make these quilts so can you.  It’s easy, very forgiving, and so satisfying when you finish!

Quilt Assembly     quilt assembly 2 

After I got all the squares cut, I sewed them together with a piece of lightweight batting in between a patterned square and solid pale green square.  The pattern will be part of the top and the solid green will be on the back side.  An easy method to sewing these squares together is to just sew each square on a diagonal tip to tip and to cut keeping feeding them into your sewing machine.  No need to stop or back stitch.  Then when they are all sewn together, snip them apart, and then sew them all again across the opposite diagonal until each of your squares is sewn together with an “X” across them. 

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I taught myself how to make these by watching a couple of videos on Youtube.  You can learn to make anything with a good Youtube video!

Here are the links that really do a great job of explaining how to put one of these together.

Beverly’s How to Make a Rag Quilt

and a link to my blog post on how I made my Colors of Provence Rag Quilt    

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After laying out all of your squares in a pleasing pattern, it’s time to sew the squares into rows always being aware the you want the ragged edge on the top side of you quilt and the smooth evenly matched seam lines on the back (and for me the solid side).  And then you will sew all the rows together and form your quilt.  You can never have to many pins for this.  And I highly recommend the pins with the little colored balls on the end…makes your life much easier believe me. 

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For this baby sized quilt my rows were 6 squares across and 7 squares down on the long side.  After it is sewn together, you will run a seam all around the outer edge of your quit and then it is time to let the snipping begin!  You will be snipping all the seams in between all of your squares approximately 1/4 of an inch apart.  You will also have to be careful not to snip into your seam and snip the entire outer edge of you quilt.  This is messy but also kind of fun in a way.  I highly recommend getting a pair of rag quilt snippers that you can get from the Fiscars website or I found mine at Hobby Lobby and used my 40% off coupon. 

After all the snipping is finished, simply pop into the washing machine.  I used a tiny amount of Woolite to wash it but it is in the washing machine (This is where the magic takes place here in the washing machine and in your dryer.)  All of your snipped edges will curl and get that lovely textured “ragged” edge.   I also like to take my fine mesh kitchen colander and swirl it around in the water before the water drains in between cycles to “fish” out a lot of the floating loose treads that will come off of your quilt in the water.  Seems like a smart thing to do to help keep all of that out of my washing machine.  Also, I recommend you also clean your lint screen in your dryer a couple of times too while your quilt dries.  You won’t believe how much lint can come off of these quilts.

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And here it is!  It took me probably about 3 days of working on it off and on.  I cut the squares one evening and then got busy with the sewing during the two snow days I was stuck in the house!  I am going to save it as a gift for the next girl baby that comes into the world that I know.  The colors in this one are so happy but seem a bit too girly for a baby boy.  So, in the meantime, I’d better start looking for some baby boy colored fabric so that I can have a little boy quilt on hand too.    Enjoy your Sunday!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Rag Quilt for the Guys

Evan's Quilt 1

Rag Quilting has been a fun activity for me and I finally finished the one that I have been sitting on for quite some time for my son.  The sunny colors and the cute fabrics you can find for making a baby quilt are addicting but it was time to make a quilt with more of a masculine flair and I finally got it finished.  I used a gray and black geometric pattern and then some solid gray and Black squares.  I turned out great and it is on it’s way to my son as we speak.  Thank you UPS!

Evan's Quilt 9    Evan's Quilt 10

I like to spread the tasks of making one of these out and work on it a little bit at a time.  Of course for me the most fun is selecting the fabrics to use.  And then I will usually take a couple of evenings to cut out the squares.  I like to use 8inch squares and I cut a light weight batting into 6 inch squares.

To see how I make my rag quilts you can check out this tutorial I wrote a while back explaining how to make one of your own!   Here is the link to my Colors of Provence Rag Quilt.  If this is your first time, start small and make a lap or baby sized quilt.  I have finally graduated to making the bigger quilts but I have to say the baby and lap quilts are my favorite to make.

Evan's Quilt 5

This quilt is not a full size bed quilt….more of a larger lap quilt size…perfect for napping and draping across the bottom of the bed kind of quilt.

Evam

Then after all the sewing and piecing together is finished it’s time for the snipping.  I can’t recommend the Fiscar’s Easy Action Rag Quilt Snip Scissors I found at Hobby Lobby enough for this task.  I think I paid around $18.00 for them and they were a great investment. 

Evan's Quilt 6

And Oakley kept me company the entire time I was working on this quilt.  She is has just as much time invested in it as I do!  : )

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Now…..back to working on something with a bit more color!!