"Lo, Children Are An Heritage of the LORD: and the Fruit of the Womb is His Reward" - Psalm 127:3

Sunday, January 10, 2010

See, I really did accomplish something...

See, I really did complete a project ... Technically, I still have some work to do. I've decided it's too low cut, so I'm going to hand stitch it a little farther closed, and I want to add a small frog closure just below the neck (that's one of those Japanese looking braided coil buttons for those of you picturing jumping green animals).

It is my goal this year to focus more on sewing clothing for myself and learning new techniques. This is a start in the right direction. This is the first time I have sewn such a stretchy material, and it did not go smoothly. In fact, overall, I was a lot less productive over this weekend than I expected to be. First of all, I expected to have much more time to sew, but it turned out that I ended up with a little less than a full day (when you account for going out for dinner and everything). Also, I dearly missed my boys. I realized that even though I don't get as much time at home in one sitting as I did over the weekend, I do accomplish more because I know I only have a few minutes at a time, so I focus more. Plus, I don't have to wonder where I packed this or that.

Now, as for the challenges ... The fabric is something I found for $2/yard at Walmart. They didn't have anything else like it and I forgot to read the pattern to see what it was called. It stretches as much or more than swimsuit material, and sort of feels like a swimsuit except it is not nearly as thick. It is VERY thin in fact. I didn't think about the fact that sewing it would require anything different. The pattern suggested a roller foot, which I tried, but found that to be a total failure. So I went back to my regular foot, loosened the pressure, and switched to the zigzag stitch they recommended. That went fairly well, but there were a few skipped stitches here and there. Not sure why, but if anyone knows how to cure that, please let me know. I used Simplicity pattern 3697, view a from the Khaliah Ali collection. I love her patterns but I think a lot of them look very similar. I also have pattern 2634 which I didn't realize at the time is almost identical to 3697. I had planned to make three different shirts from these two patterns, then realized that they will all three be very similar, so I had to re-think how I wanted to use them. I am very thankful though that they are producing stylish clothing patterns in plus sizes now. This is stuff I really want to wear, not something that makes me feel like I'm 80 years old.

(You didn't think I could get away with taking pictures without someone else jumping in too, did you? In fact, when we got the camera out, the baby made a beeline for it and started posing too.)

I thought this pattern would be really interesting around the bottom. Not sure what it is supposed to be, but it is interesting. You can't really tell it from the pictures, but the fabric is bright, true red, leaning toward maroon. I will also say that I hate pictures of myself and I am not at all happy with my size. It was frustrating to spend all that time sewing and not look like what I pictured in my head - (i.e. slimmer.) Ugh.

Waiting Game

Well, I really did finish an entire shirt over the weekend, but you'll have to take my word for it for now. My son took pictures of me wearing it last night ... around 1 am. You can guess how wonderful those pictures turned out. Hence, no picture for now. Instead, I leave you with quilt scraps. Can't reveal the details of this girly quilt yet because it's part of a surprise gift and no, we are not expecting.

I did very little sewing today or else that quilt top would be done. I had to check out of the hotel by noon, so now I'm sitting at a Barnes and Noble, waiting for my son to be finished with Reserve duty so we can make the 4 hour drive home.

I have to mention the place I had lunch yesterday. I was without a vehicle, so I walked to the restaurant next to our hotel - Famous Dave's Barbecue. I had an incredible loaded potato with brisket on it. Now that's the way to eat a potato! The funniest thing though was that all the workers were wearing shirts with different slogans on the back. The hostess' shirt said, "Welcome to hog heaven" some of the waiters shirts said things like, "pig in or pig out", "you'll squeal for more" and my personal favorite, "a rib a day keeps the vegans away". Aren't those great? Then there's the barbecue sauce. If you want the hottest one, it's called "devil's spit." Yum. Really it wasn't bad. I did have to try it. You know, how can you have a bottle of devil's spit on your table, and not at least taste it? Personally, I preferred the Georgia mustard over all the sauces.

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Sewing Adventure

Well, for the first time in my life, I'm on a little sewing adventure in a hotel near Hill AFB in Ogden, Utah. My son has his first weekend of Air Force Reserve training, so I tagged along. Okay that sounds a lot worse than it is. You have to understand that last month, exactly one week before Christmas, he did this to my car:

We are soooo thankful to God that he wasn't injured and nobody else was either. Unfortunately we only had liability coverage on the car, which means we were short a vehicle. Thankfully, my inlaws loaned us "old blue" - the most faithful and well-loved truck ever...

We love this truck and are very grateful to have the use of it. It does present a few challenges though. For one thing, it won't seat our family of 6. Thankfully we have a big Ford Excursion which we love, so this has been a great second vehicle - especially to get my husband back and forth to work. However, my son needed to get to Hill AFB, which is nearly a 500 mile round trip. That would have been difficult in old blue, which lacks power steering and sucks gas. And, do you think I was going to give him the use of our only remaining vehicle? NOT. So, I tagged along (or should I say drove?) In my defense, I am staying completely out of his way, letting him do as he pleases, and happily sewing away in a hotel off base. I gave him the use of the Excursion on base, so nobody has to know I'm tucked away, happily pinning, cutting, basting and stitching.

I'm determined to finish a project or two for me this weekend. I've been wanting to do more personal clothing sewing, so this is my weekend for that. Actually, I couldn't decide what I wanted to work on, so I brought way more projects than I would have time to complete in a month!!! But hey, at least I have options, right?

So far about all I've managed to make is a huge mess. I have come to realize though that what I thought was going to be a full 2 1/2 days of sewing will more likely be 1 full day, plus a couple hours. We didn't get checked into the hotel until late, then had dinner and did some shopping. I only had about an hour to do any layout and cutting before bed. I almost have one shirt entirely cut out though, so I'm anxious to start sewing tomorrow. Then Sunday, I will have to check out early so I'll have to wander around town until he's done at 5. Maybe I'll find a Barnes and Noble or a Starbucks and work on some hand embroidery projects I brought along.....

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Pepperminty Swirl Cookies

YUMMY! We made these fun cookies for a very late "after Christmas" teen youth group party. They were a hit. They are from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookie Classics cookbook.

1 cup butter (we used margarine)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract (we used 4 drops of peppermint oil)
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Red food coloring paste

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, then add sugar, baking powder and salt. Beat until combined. Beat in the egg, vanilla and peppermint. Beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in remaining flour.

Divide dough in half. Tint one portion with food coloring paste. Knead in coloring until well mixed. If necessary, wrap dough in waxed paper or plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator 1 hour or until easy to handle.

On a lightly floured surface, roll each color of dough into a 12x8 inch rectangle 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick. Using a large spatula and your hands, place one rectangle on top of the other. Press gently to seal. Tightly roll up, jelly roll style, starting from one of the long sides. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill 2-4 hours.

Using a sharp knife, cut log into 1/4 inch thick slices. Place slices about 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake cookies at 375* for 8-10 minutes. Take them out when you're sure they still need a minute or two. The ones I waited to see brown were fine when they came out of the oven, but later were hard and not chewy at all. The others I was sure were undercooked were perfect. Makes 48 cookies (or in our case, 36). We never get the right number of cookies out of a batch.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Flannel Pajama Pants

Since New Year's Day, I've been working on some new matching pajama pants for my little boys. (HA - I don't think my 19-year-old would be impressed with puppies and stick horses - not to mention matching his little brothers!) I had two pair done on New Year's Day, then picked up some more great flannel fabric on the 2nd for a steal. The picture above shows the boys in their puppy dog pj's. I wanted to include them in the picture below with the other three pairs, but not badly enough to wake the boys up after I finished the last two pair at 11 pm ;) So this will have to do. The puppy pants picture was taken first thing this morning, and it was impossible to get the baby to let go of his morning milk, so there you have it.

I made the soon-to-be-six year old's pants in a size 6, but I really think they're closer to a 7. That's fine with me. He grows fast and will be able to wear these a long time. For the baby's (who is nearly 14 months old) I made a pattern based on a pair of 18 month sleeper pants from Carter's. They fit closer to a baggy 12 month size, but that's all good too, since he still wears a lot of 6-9 month clothes. I think he's finally getting close to the 12 months size, so these are about perfect.

I had the green fabric with the fish on it in my stash - for at least a year or two. I picked it up at either Hancock's or Joann's on a really good sale - maybe $1/yd or something. The puppy fabric was bought about a year ago from Walmart when I was trying to figure out what to sew for a boy, whom I had been told was supposed to be a girl. (You ought to see my stash of cute little baby girl dresses! Oh well. If I don't have more kids, I will eventually have grandkids, and one of them is going to be the best dressed little girl you've ever met - ha!)

Anyway, I made up the pants with the fish and puppies on New Year's Day. Then our local quilt shop had a big sale on the 2nd, and the earlier you came in, the better the discount. 30% off if you were there between 7:30 and 9 am. I had been home alone with the boys since Wednesday, when my husband and daughter went to volunteer with a work group for the half-week at a Bible camp. Well, there was no way I was going to wake up these boys any earlier than necessary, so we arrived at the store at 8:50 am. They were giving an extra 5% off to anyone who shopped in their pajamas. Now, first of all, I don't own any real pajamas, and second, if I did, you would have to be offering 90% off to get me to go out in public wearing them!!! I'm sorry. I'm just not into the "wear your pajamas and slippers to the grocery store" look. Ugh! Don't get me started. Anyway, I did bring the boys in their pajamas, and they gave me the discount - YIPPEE - and, I used the gift certificate I won from entering their contests to pay for it, so it didn't cost me a dime - and I still have a lot of credit left on the certificate!!! I'm also really proud of the fact that I managed to eek out two pairs of pants from a yard and a half of fabric. Note to self: flannel is narrow!!! Anyway, I feel really productive this year and am looking forward to more creativity in 2010.

By the way, did you ever wonder why they bother to put that little label on flannel that says "not suitable for children's sleepwear" when it's quite obvious by the patterns that they intend you to use if for just that??? I mean really, what else - besides maybe a blanket - are you going to do with baby-themed flannel?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Time with my Boys

The boys and I had fun reading some of our favorite books tonight. I figure if I accomplish nothing else, at least my children will grow up with a love of reading. We read a lot. We homeschool and reading is a part of our daily routine both during school and after - quiet times, evenings, and any other time they can pin me down with a book, which is pretty often. We have a few definite favorites. Here are a couple:

For the baby/toddler crowd, my favorite book is I Love You As Much... by Laura Krauss Melmed. When my 17-year-old daughter was little, her favorite was My Goodnight Book by Eloise Wilkin.

My favorite read-aloud for my soon to be 6 year old (which we have loved since we discovered it when he was 3) is How I Spent My Summer Vacation by Mark Teague. Another favorite of mine is Aunt Minnie McGranahan by Mary Skillings Prigger. As you can tell these books are "well-loved." I wouldn't have it any other way :)

A Yummy Day

We had a bit of fun today making the Chocolate Dipped Peppermint Cookies posted on My Baking Addition. What fun! I should have taken a picture of the chocolate dipping part, but I was a little busy making sure that the cookies were the only thing being dipped! We used our left over almond bark - both chocolate and white - to dip them in, and our leftover candy canes inside and on top of the cookies. We used twice as many candy canes as she did, which used up all our leftovers. These are incredible cookies, but if I were to give one bit of advise, it would be to make sure to crush the candies pretty small. You have to roll the dough into a log, refrigerate it and cut it later, which was a crumbly mess thanks to my chunky candy cane pieces. I also think the ones with the candy cane "powder" on top look prettier. I doubled the peppermint oil and thought it really tasted great. If nothing else, the house smelled divine! There were a lot more chocolate ones than the picture shows, but they were done first, so guess what happened to them???

This is my soon to be 6 year old chef. His favorite things to cook include anything with sugar, but he loves to help with whatever I'll let him do. He has his very own race car apron, which I made for him maybe a year ago. I made a matching tote bag and pencil bag for him to carry his Bible, a notebook and pencils to church. He's very artistic, a ton of fun, very orderly, and usually pretty obedient ;) Yeah, usually. He loves to take care of his baby brother too. It was a fun day ... and yummy too!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Overnight Success

Well, I had to title this "Overnight Success" because I literally stayed up overnight - until 5 am as a matter of fact - the night before Christmas in order to get this quilt done. This was a gift for my oldest son, who had recently returned home after being gone for Air Force boot camp and tech school in San Antonio, TX.

I had started the quilt a month earlier, ignorantly assuming I could whip it out in a weekend - ha! It was supposed to be all done in the fabrics used as the border. I had taken my pattern into a fabric store, and asked them to calculate how much fabric I would need to change this from a 9-block wall hanging into a twin sized quilt. This is one of those patterns where you make the individual circles, then sew the circles together. It is a quilt-as-you-go kind of thing, which I (again ignorantly) assumed would be easier to wrangle on my machine. I'm pretty good at making quilt tops, but horrible at actually turning them into quilts because the quilting part is so intimidating to me. I should really take a class on that, but that will have to wait for now.

Anyway, problem number one was that the quilt shop figured the yardage wrong. They forgot to account for the fact that the size of the circles is NOT the size of the block - you have to fold the circles over and sew them together, making them squares in essence. So, after working diligently with all my stripes and dots, and feeling like I was cruising through my quilt, I started putting my circles together. It was only then that I realized to my horror that I was only going to have enough blocks for a crib quilt!!!! I was so disappointed that I nearly gave up the whole project. I knew I couldn't get more of the same fabric, and even if I did, I wouldn't have time to cut and piece all those 9-patch blocks I was using for the centers. When I did the math I realized I didn’t quite have HALF as many as I needed. So, I was ready to give up. I went to bed very disappointed, and in the morning, woke up realizing I could do something with solids instead, and long story short, the results are in the photos.

Of course I had other problems ... it was HEAVY. There's no good way to put together one of these quilts in a large size. My 17 year old daughter thankfully held my hand all night and encouraged me to finish the quilt. She did a lot of pinning, thread clipping and most importantly, held the quilt up while I struggled with it in the last stages of trying to get everything sewn down. The difficulty is in the fact that once the strips are sewn together, you have to top stitch down the flaps. I did this as I went, and worked in small groups which I then sewed together, but the two long side borders were added last, and then had to be sewn down, which was really hard. I will definitely NOT be doing this pattern again. It took WAY too much fabric (because of all the doubling over). I do like it though, and it is my first entirely finished quilt. I've shared some of my other quilt tops with you, and the one wall hanging that is complete, but this is the first time I've completely finished a full sized quilt. YAY for me! :)

Oh, and one thing I have to say is the unexpected blessing of seeing crosses in the border. This was totally unintentional, but I love it. God is Good! Originally the whole quilt was going to be made out of these fabrics, but I’m actually glad it didn’t work out. I think it would have been way too busy. I like the solids on the body of the quilt.