Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Glass head pins

Jen introduced me to these, and they were a revelation. You can sew over them and they won't harm your machine. This turned out to be very timely information because I have since began my first "real" quilt and I go through so many pinnings that it has cut down on the prep time by half! They go through fabric with greater ease than my other pins. These guys have quickly been turning into my best friends, so I thought it appropriate to commit a whole blog post just to them!
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Big Smiles

Ok - so, I know this is supposed to be strictly a craft blog, but I had to share this, because dang - this girl is CUTE! And I wanted to show everyone proof that I was able to hold Marian for over 2 minutes AND she smiled! Is that ok that I shared this??
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Mona Lisa Smile

Ok, so my friends said that she looked like the mona lisa. I would never say that about my own painting. But, here she is - my sister, Candace Lee Rhoads.

I finally finished her. Again, photography is not my strong point. I must say that I think it looks a lot better in person. But, I wanted to share it with you guys anyway.

I'll try and take some better photos, rather than always using the camera on my phone. ;)
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pappa al pomodoro

I can't get enough of my Ina Garten cookbook Adam got me for Christmas, Back to Basics. EVERYTHING I've made has been simply delicious! Here is a soup I made for some friends and family recently, that I wanted to share. It was a big hit, so I thought some of you might like it, too.

It goes like this . . .

Cook: 1 hr 30 min
Total: 2 hr 0 min
Serves: 6


  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion (2 onions)
  • 1 cup medium-diced carrots, unpeeled (3 carrots)
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and medium-diced (1 1/2 cups)
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta cubes, crusts removed
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans good Italian plum tomatoes
  • 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

For the topping:

  • 3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta cubes
  • 2 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, chopped
  • 24 to 30 whole fresh basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil, plus more for serving
  • Salt and pepper


Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, fennel, and garlic and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until tender. Add the ciabatta cubes and cook for 5 more minutes. Place the tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process just until coarsely chopped. Add the tomatoes to the pot along with the chicken stock, red wine, basil, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and allow to simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

For the topping, place the ciabatta cubes, pancetta, and basil on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss well. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes, until all the ingredients are crisp. The basil leaves will turn dark and crisp, which is perfectly fine. Reheat the soup, if necessary, beat with a wire whisk until the bread is broken up. Stir in the Parmesan and taste for seasoning. Serve hot sprinkled with the topping and drizzled with additional olive oil.

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Tea Towels

Hi everyone. I hope that your absence from the blog is because you are swamped with fun projects, not because you aren't enjoying it anymore.

Today I wanted to share with you these tea towels that I made at the last sewing group. These were really easy and I was very excited about how they turned out. I bought a packet of 3 giant tea towels that I cut in half to make them more normal sized. I finished off the unfinished side with coordinating fabric and a fabric loop so that it can hang, fastened with a decorative button.

The blue one with the bird, whale and snail were all done with an iron on applique process. The whale has a bit of hand embroidery. The green one is a cute little pair of hedgehogs that were done with my machine embroidery.
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Friday, January 15, 2010

Free "Patchwork + Quilted Gifts" patterns

So, Jen enlightened us with the recommendation for this book:

Well, as I was searching on Martha Stewart's website today for some baby shower ideas, I stumbled upon a very familiar tutorial. Sure enough, it was a tutorial from this very book! Right there on Martha Stewart's website! For free! What's more, there are a whoppin' 4 free patterns with instructions, etc. from this book for you to enjoy.

I hope this news is as exciting to you as it is for me. Go here. If you scroll down to the bottom of the article, you'll find the links.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Any Knitters Out There?

Here I am. I'm sitting on my couch, the football game on in front of me with the volume off, husband next to me and a nicely finished, first-ever stockinette swatch in my lap. It looks good, I must say, and I feel encouraged to begin the pair of baby booties that will become my first knitting project. I cast off my 33 stitches, read the next line of instruction, and . . . . I'm lost. I understand that I need to begin 10 rows of stockinette stitching, but I'm confused - does my cast off row count as the first row of the stockinette stitch? How do I know which is the right and which is the wrong side? Do I start with purl or do I start with knit? These are questions I'm willing to get to the bottom of - but can anyone help me??

You guys are probably way ahead of me on this...

Have you guys heard of the scrapbooker Ali Edwards? I had never heard of her until today, probably because I'm not a scrapbooker. But, looking at her website and seeing the cool things she makes really makes we wish I were a scrapbooker.

The sad truth is: paper crafting is not my forte. Every attempt I make ends up being pretty laughable. Just the other day, I needed to make a card for a baby shower. I have a stack of baby scrap book paper - a nice brand new stack, even. I made some selections, did some cutting, had no idea what kind of adhesive to use so I used double-sided tape. I learned that folding scrapbook paper doesn't really work. The very outermost layer of the paper separated along the crease. The edges were all wonky, the layout kind of off. The heart and soul might have been there, but the final product was definitely not something worth keeping. Really. I'm not just being modest here.

Even still, looking at Ali's website made me really want to create some keepsakes. I loved her December daily book. I look at that and think: I wanna do that! It could be in my own scrappy, rag tag style. But then I realize I don't have near the amount of products it would take to accomplish something like that. The papers, the scissors, the punches, the embellishments, the dodads and gizmos. And I thought of all the many dollars it would take to accumulate that kind of stuff.

For you scrapbookers out there: How did you do it? How did you get all your supplies? I imagine it's an ongoing process, that you're always getting more. But where does one start? And should one who is so imprecise and paper-challenged as myself even TRY to start??

Saturday, January 2, 2010

More handmade gifts

Now that Christmas is over and presents have been delivered and opened, I can disclose the items I made this year for my sister, Stacy (co-author here) and her family. She has an adorable son who is almost a year and a half and she is expecting another baby in February.

For my nephew:

A plush alphabet. Originally, I was going to put little magnets inside these. Until the project template said to never, under any circumstances put magnets in a toy for a child under 3 years old. The instructions were so emphatic, I was too scared to do it anyway. So, I left them out. I had a charm pack of baby-ish fabrics so I used all the boy appropriate ones and backed the letters with yellow flannel. I fringed the edges of the letters. Sorry, the photographs of the letters is a crappy one. The bag was an afterthought. I had all these letters, and was so excited to have them completed. I laid them all out and then wondered how on earth I would send them and how on earth my sweet nephew would keep them all in the same place. So, I grabbed a white scrap out of my basket, some stray blue ribbon, and some green fabric scraps (from another handmade gift I had made for this nephew), and set to work. It didn't take long. I had appliqued the letters on - and not very neatly or precisely, but it did the trick. I was pretty proud of the little bag. It's nothing great, but I did it without a pattern and it only took me an hour or two.

For nephew #2 after he joins us later this year:

A flannel rag quilt. It took 12 flannel fat quarters and 2-ish yards of plan flannel. Each fat quarter was cut into 3 rectangles, 2 small squares, and 1 large square. The 2 yards of plain flannel were cut into as many shapes. You make a 3-layer stack: patterned square, right side out, plain flannel in the middle, and then another patterned square, right side out. Sew an x across the stack. Make a similar stack for each shape, then piece them together (I suppose you'd have to buy the pattern at this point), making sure all seams are on the outside. Snip all the seams every 1/4 inch or so, then wash to get it nice and frayed. This was a really fun and pretty simple little blanket to make...and so cute for a baby gift.

For Stacy and her hubby:

Crocheted dishrags. Great for cleaning off dishes. Can be thrown in the wash to avoid stinkiness and used over and over again.

I had all kinds of other ideas swimming around my head for Christmas things I wanted to make, but time got away from me. Maybe next year...I honestly feel like I'll have to start in June to get all the decorations and things I want by Christmas next year.