Friday, December 31, 2010

Gift Clutches

I made these cute gathered clutches as Christmas gifts for friends.  I found the idea on Sew, Mama, Sew! blog - Handmade Holiday's post. The original pattern came from Anna Graham, and she has a great tutorial on her blog, Noodlehead.

I made ten of these clutches and found that the tutorial was very clear and easy to use from the first clutch to the last. I didn't change anything. I only left out one optional step and that was not to make the divider piece.

I tried to match fabrics to my friends' personalities, so two of my friends received a variation of this tea fabric clutch. I'm hoping to make one of these for myself too! 

The inside of the clutch has two credit card pockets which makes it great for downsizing your purse, but still keeping your important items organized.
 I will definitely be making these again! Thanks Anna and Sew, Mama, Sew!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Tea with Steph!

When I found out that my friend Steph was coming for a short, 24 hour visit right before Christmas, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to host a Christmas tea for her and a few friends. Not only was I looking forward to spending time with Steph, I was also looking forward to christening a vintage china set that I generously received from friend, a few months ago.

The menu was simple. We started with a white bean - rosemary soup accompanied by our favorite tea sandwiches, egg salad, chicken salad, and cucumber.
At the suggestion of Amy, I served festive cranberry orange scones with orange marmalade and cranberry relish. Followed by a simple dessert of a few varieties of Christmas cookies and candies, that I pulled out of the freezer, and sweet and salty chocolate cupcakes.
The china set also included matching crystal water goblets and dessert cups. The dessert cups were a perfect way to display the cupcakes.

It was such a blessing to spend time with Steph, even though it was brief. I had a lovely afternoon spent with good friends, followed by a quiet evening with just Amy and Steph as we enjoyed a few appetizers and the pretty downtown Christmas lights!

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Walk Through Leonard Springs

Mac's class adopted the trail at Leonard Springs Nature Park, which means that they are responsible for the upkeep of the trail. The kids volunteer to walk the trail once a month; they are suppose to pick up trash, remove debris and small branches from the trail. They also submit a report to the city noting any fallen trees or soil erosion. Mac volunteered to take the month of November so the boys, Pongo, and I headed out for an evening hike through the woods.

 There are many things to see along the trail including wetlands, streams, waterfalls and caves. On the day that we went, the trail was in pretty good shape except for this large fallen tree that was hanging by the branches of other trees.

Leonard Springs reservoir was used as the municipal water supply until about the mid 1900's. It was acquired by Bloomington Parks and Recreation in 1998 and dedicated as a park in October of 1999.

We had a nice hike on the cool autumnal day. Even Pongo enjoyed chasing the squirrels and rabbits through the woods.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A little Beethoven and a little Bach!

Ethan - Minuet in G Major from the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach........C. Petzold

Mac - Sonatina in G Major, Anh.5............................L. van Beethoven

Mac - Haunted Mansion..........M.Kutnowksi

Today completed our whirlwind week of concerts! In the past week we've had 4 orchestra concerts and 1 piano recital, not to mention all the practicing, lessons, homework, and Mac's birthday that some how managed to fit into the week as well. Needless to say, the kids were real troopers and hardly complained that there wasn't time for much else. There were a lot of late nights, and time spent in the car driving to the out-of-town venues, but somehow we all made it through. Bravo to the boys for their hard work and dedication!! Now it's time to relax and celebrate the week's accomplishments with a little Harry Potter!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Veterans Day Assembly

These videos are small excerpts from the Veterans Day assembly at Mac's school. The assembly was quite impressive. In addition to the eloquent guest speaker, a retired marine, there were also performances by the BHS North choir, the middle school band, and orchestra, as well as a vocal solo and trumpet solo. It was a lovely way to honor the men and women who have served in our nation's military, both past and present.

Of  the patriotic pieces that the orchestra played,  Mac asked me to post the pieces, Marines' Hymn, Caisson Song, and Fields of Glory. I also chose to post the piece America the Beautiful followed by God Bless America, because it includes a beautiful cello solo of Mac's friend, Gabe.

However, I am disappointed in the quality of the video and am sure that it has to do with my poor video recording skills. I am still learning how to use the camera correctly. It was a generous hand-me-down from my sister that came without the user manual. I wanted to share the video anyway so that the grandparents could get a small glimpse of Mac's concerts since they haven't been able to attend one yet.  It is hard to spot Mac but he is sitting first chair violin, to the left of the conductor. Also keep in mind that this is in the school gym, during an assembly so the setting and acoustics are not ideal.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Christmas Baking in October

It has also become a tradition to do Christmas cookie baking while we’re in Arizona over fall break. This year Mom, Kelly, and I had help from Madelyn who enjoyed sampling the cookies and licking the spoons as much as she did helping us decorate the cookies. 

 Yum! Caramel!

A few years ago Mom made all of us matching aprons, and each year mine gets packed in my suitcase to wear for our baking day. Mom always does a lot of prep work ahead of time in order for us to be able to make all of our favorite recipes in just one day. This year we made, chocolate chip, ginger snaps, spritz, almond butter balls, chocolate-caramel cookies rolled in nuts, cutout cookies, my grandma’s frosted molasses cookies, peanut butter kiss cookies, lemon bars, mounds bars, peanut bars, and chocolate-caramel-almond bars.
 Grandma and Madelyn
 Madelyn and her Mom

I have to bring an extra suitcase in order to bring all the containers of cookies home.I also place bubble wrap in the containers to keep the cookies from breaking while being transported on the airplane. Once we get home, into the freezer they go. It’s so nice to have a stash of cookies to pull out for our holiday guests.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pumpkin Carving with Cousins

After a fun day at the farm we went back to my sister’s house so the kids to could get together with their other cousins, Owen and Olivia, to carve pumpkins.

Auntie Kelly treated all the kids to some matching Paul Frank pjs. The kids had dinner, got showered and put on their new pjs just in time for Owen and Olivia to show up with their pumpkins.

First the kids picked out patterns from books that they wanted to carve. Madelyn chose an owl, Ethan a werewolf, Owen a spider web, Olivia an owl, and Mac chose a bat.

It took a little while to tape the patterns and trace them on to the pumpkins. Uncle Chris and Uncle Rick helped the kids trace and carve, some designs were more intricate than others and they took longer, but everyone finally finished after about an hour and a half, and the pumpkins turned out great!

 When the pumpkin carving was finished, we got the kids together to take a picture of everyone in their matching pajamas.
They had a little trouble getting lined up on  the floor, but eventually we got a them all to cooperate for the camera!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Schnepf Farms

 It has become a yearly tradition to spend fall break with family in Arizona. Since Halloween fell on a Sunday this year, and the kids weren't going to be able to trick-or-treat with their cousins, we decided to take the kids to a pumpkin patch. My sister found Schnepf Farms in Queen Creek, Arizona which turned out to be much more than just a pumpkin patch.
The kids had a great time at the farm. As per Madelyn's request our first stop was the petting zoo.  The pygmy goats were a big hit. The kids could enter the pen via a slide, and the goats even had their own ladder and goat walk that was high above the ground.

After the petting zoo the kids watched some pig races, and Madelyn took a pony ride. The kids also enjoyed the amusement park rides, including riding on a vintage carousel built in 1912. The highlight for Madelyn, and the boys too, was the mini roller coaster.  Madelyn got off saying she wanted to ride two more times. When she got of the roller coaster for the second time she asked to ride it just three more times. We finally diverted her attention away from the coaster by promising her lemonade. The kids also enjoyed riding pedal cars and walking through the corn maze. 

 Pig races
 pedal cars
 roller coaster

We all had a fun day at the farm despite the high temperature of almost 100 degrees.  On the way out of the farm Uncle Chris let the kids pick a pumpkin to bring home for carving. Madelyn had a difficult time choosing which one she wanted, after all there were so many to choose from. She finally found the perfect one that was just her size.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pink and Brown Cupcakes

Cupcakes that I made for a baby shower. The colors were pink and brown so I made vanilla cupcakes with pink buttercream icing, and chocolate cupcakes with cocoa buttercream.


Cast Iron Teapot

I wanted to share a picture of my pretty new cast iron teapot, a gift from a friend. The teapot has a stainless steel infuser, and it keeps my tea toasty warm for a long time! It also works well with our wood burning stove!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Making of Madelyn's Quilt

My sister asked if I would make a blanket for Madelyn's "big girl" bed, so a couple of months ago, I began the process of making this quilt for my niece. This was my first attempt at a big quilting project. I've made several  quilted craft items, and a few patchwork bags, blankets, and tablecloths, but nothing this big.

When I was visiting my family in July, my sister and I went fabric shopping in hopes of finding the perfect fabrics for Madelyn's quilt. Kelly wanted colors to match Madelyn's room which were mostly pink, green, and a little red.

Dolly Dresses 
Fabric line by Holly Holderman for LakeHouse Dry Goods

After going to several fabric and quilt stores and not finding what we wanted, we decided to try our luck online. I came across several different fabrics before Kelly and I decided on the fabric line, Dolly Dresses by Holly Holderman for LakeHouse Dry Goods. I had used LakeHouse fabrics for other projects and absolutely loved the prints and quality. Kelly was drawn to the line because of the pink bunny fabric, bunnies are a favorite of Madelyn and it was perfect to be able to include them into her quilt.

I was like a kid in a candy store picking out which fabrics to order! I used 3 different online quilt stores to get the Dolly Dresses fabrics that I wanted. My favorite quilt shop was The Quilted B. They were wonderful to deal with and even sent me a quilted pin cushion with my order!! Got to love the freebies!

I decided I would make a Rail Fence quilt which is a perfect pattern for beginners like myself. I asked a quilter friend of mine for advice on quilt making and after meeting with her one afternoon, I walked away with many great techniques to help my quilting project go smoothly. I learned so much in the two hours that I spent with her, and knew my project would be a success thanks to her invaluable help.

The first step in my quilt making was cutting the fabrics in to 4inch strips. After the strips were cut I sewed three different fabrics strips together, side by side, making one big strip. Then I used a 10 1/2 inch square ruler to cut the strips into squares.  Once all the squares were cut, it was time to figure out my pattern. I used the living room floor to lay out the 63 squares and played with arranging them until I was happy with the design.

After I figured out the pattern of the squares,I numbered each square with a sticky note so it would save me any confusion while sewing them together.  I sewed squares together, one row at a time, and then sewing the rows together as a new one was completed. Below is the finished top of the quilt.

The next step was pin basting. First I taped the bottom piece of the quilt to the floor, making it taut without wrinkles. Then I placed the cotton batting on top of that, followed by the quilt squares. After the 3 pieces were in place I started pinning. I used about 400 large safety pins to hold the pieces together. The pin basting is what keeps the three pieces of fabric held together, without bunching up while sewing.

When all the pins were in place I started the machine quilting and I chose to "stitch in the ditch."  I thought this would be the easiest technique for me since I would be using my sewing machine which isn't a special quilting machine. The fabric was a little bulky to fit under the sewing machine arm, but I managed it fine, and it was easier than I expected it to be. 

After the three pieces were quilted together, I made the bias. My friend gave me a great print out on how to make and sew quilting bias so this went very smoothly. The tedious part for me was the hand-sewing. The bias is machine sewed on to the front of the quilt but hand-sewed on to the back. It took a good 12 hours to complete the hand sewing. This was hard for me because I'm not a TV watcher, and find it difficult to sit down for long periods of time without being able to multitask. I think if I could have packed the quilt into my suitcase, and worked on it during all of my airport appreciation time, it would have gone faster but unfortunately it was too big to fit into my suitcase. I did, however, take it to a couple of  the boys' piano lessons, and managed to watch a movie or two while stitching. 

And here's the finished quilt!! I also made a matching pillow sham. I didn't have a pattern and had very limited fabric leftover so I did what I could to make it cute.

This is the front of the sham......


And the back.

And here's the "big girl" sitting on her big bed with the new quilt!

Yay! It's done! I enjoyed every part of making it and think I might have caught the quilting bug!!