Monday, March 30, 2015

Playing with Half-Square Triangles

I am working on a new baby blanket. I love the fabrics, all bright colors and Eric Carle prints from the Very Hungry Caterpillar.  The half square triangles that are the basis of the quilt are fun to play with.  I ended up spending a good 45 minutes flipping them this way and that to see the different patterns formed by the white and the bright colors.  All the different patterns were made by simply rotating easy square where it lay.  None of the blocks have been switched or moved to a different spot.  It is amazing how different each variation looks.

My Original plan:

How about zig zags? I think Marshmallow approves.  Oh, if I haven't mentioned it before we adopted a pair of half grown street cat kittens. Meet Marshmallow, he is "helping" me this morning.

Stripes?  This one turned out to be my least favorite. 

Squares?  I think I am leaning toward this one right now.  Marshmallow approves.  David suggested this one last night and I didn't like it then, so if I choose this one I will hear about it. Sigh. 

The other kitten Orerow  jumped in to help Marshmallow check out the quilt pattern. After their "help" a few square may have been moved around. (About his name, there was a mix up the the vet papers and Oreo became Orerow.  Sounds like Scooby Doo trying to say Oreo.)

I like this pinwheel/hourglass pattern but I had such a hard time trying to lay it out that I think I will wait until I have a little more experience before trying this one.  In this pic you can see the coordinating fabrics.  The Hungry Caterpillar is the backing and the green numbers will be the edging. 

This is the last variation I tried.  I tried it two ways, one with a  white center and one with a dark center.  For some reason I like the dark center better. 

I can't seem to make up my mind which I like the best.  I may have to buy some more fabric and make more quilts just so I can try them all out.  Darn. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Project Updates January - I Have Fabric!

Let the crafting begin.  YAY!

My favorite fabric company had a bunch of specials over the holidays and I spoiled myself by ordering a few things.  Look at all the pretty colors.

If you look carefully you'll realize they are all tossed on top of the project in progress from a few months ago.  That quilt top got sidelined while I waited for shipments, but everything to finish it has arrived and I am back on track.  The top is finished, the quilt is sandwiched and basted and I am trying to decide how to quilt this one.

While I think about that, here's a closer look at the goodies I have received.

Some pretty pink and brown fabrics for the second little girls quilt I have planned.  I can't wait to get started on this one.  Both the pink quilts, this one and the one on the table underneath all the new fabric, will be going to the same family for their special little girls.  I wanted them to be quite different from each other.  I hope the girls love the soft Minky backings I choose. It feels like heaven so fluffy and warm, but I am a little freaked out about sewing it.  The free motion foot I ordered arrived broken and in pieces. The walking foot is still MIA in the mail system.  I hope when it does show up it's in better shape than the free motion foot.  All the tutorials I have watched suggest using a walking foot for dealing with Minky and its tendency to creep and stretch.  I may just have have to cross my fingers and give it a go with a regular presser foot.

These three charm pack were freebies.  Two were ones I picked out with the quilters cash I collected for spending so much money, The third was the daily deal.  I just got lucky that the colors for all three match almost perfectly.  I have no idea yet what I am going to make with those, but I think it might be something just for me.  I'll figure that one out later.  I love free fabric. And spending hours daydreaming my way through Pinterest searching for ideas for new projects. Win Win.

If you look carefully at the picture above there are two Eric Carle prints from the book the Very Hungry Caterpillar and a matching charm pack. These are for little boy's baby quilt going to a dear freind.  I love the bright happy colors.  It should be fun  to work up.  That project is on the to-do the list right after the two pink quilts.  Hopefully I'll have it done by the end of February, insha'Allah.

And finally these fabrics are for my own (not so) little munchkin who loves bugs and I-Spy books.  I want to try a quilt as you go method for this one, but will have to wait for a new, and hopefully not broken, free motion foot to arrive before I can start on this one.  I think I have enough to keep me busy until then.

What projects are you working on?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

New Favorite Word of all Time


Like magic all fights stop and, everyone scrambles to find what ever they didn't pack.

There are always things not packed even though Mom -that's me- spent at least 20 minutes last night interrogating various children, "Are you totally packed and ready for school? Are you sure? Do you have your PE kit?  Flute/Euphonium/Recorder?  Swim suit towel? Homework?  iPad charged? BlahBlahBlahBlah...." Lots of eye rolling and "Yessssss Motheerrrrrr" in response.  And still, every morning, the scramble.


Looks of panic. Fights stopped mid sentence. 2 minutes of mad scramble. Blessed quiet.  I can finally drink my coffee. Clean the mess left in the kitchen from 3 kids making breakfast and 1 dad making 3 lunches.  Put my feet up and just enjoy a moment of peace.


My new favorite word ever.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Making Bread In a KitchenAid

This post is for my fabulous Sister-In-Law who just got a KitchenAid stand mixer.  She knows I use my mixer to make bread all the time, so she asked for a how-to.  I almost always use my KitchenAid to do the hard part of bread making.  When you make all the bread your family eats for 3 years in while living in Africa, you will take what short-cuts modern technology can offer. 

I am making overnight cinnamon rolls using this recipe I found on Pinterest.  It's a nice basic sweet roll recipe. You can use this technique with pretty much any bread recipe, as long as isn't too much dough for your mixer.

See how it is all bubbly and foamy?  Live yeast!  
With any bread recipe I always start by proofing the yeast.  This just means checking to see if the yeast is alive.  Mix the yeast with a bit of warm water and a pinch of sugar. Let it sit for about 10 minutes.  If the yeast is alive it will foam up.  If nothing happens, throw it out, buy new yeast and try again.
Batter paddle doing its thing.
Since I am using my KitchenAid at this point I begin ignoring the instructions as written and do my own thing.  I dump in all the milk, sugar, eggs, butter, salt, egg, and 2 cups of flour. Basically everything but half of the flour. Using the batter paddle I let the machine mix everything up for me. You do want to make sure that any liquid ingredients are warm, not hot. Think about the temp of a baby bottle.  You don't want to kill all that lovely yeast. 

I let it mix for a good 3 or 4 minutes to get the gluten development going.  In yeast breads gluten is what makes it all stretchy, and what you are trying to develop by kneading the dough.  At this point it should be about the consistency of a cake batter. 

Now it is time to switch to the hook and add the rest of the flour. At first it will look shaggy and rough but after a few minutes, it will begin to look smooth and start to pull away from the sides.  If if doesn't pull away you can add a little extra flour a couple of tablespoons at a time. When the dough is kneaded enough it will be almost shiny and not so sticky any more. 

The dough starts of a bit shaggy.

5 minutes later and all done. Notice how it has pulled from the sides a bit. 
At this point if you are going to need your mixer for something else transfer the dough to a greased bowl, turn the dough once to coat with oil, cover and let rise. If you aren't going to need the mixer again take a piece of plastic wrap, smear with a little butter or spray with a bit of Pam, cover your mixing bowl and let rise.  Why make more dishes?? 

Covered dough waiting to rise. 
A bit over an hour later and the dough is all risen.
Now you can go back the recipe and follow the instructions as written to form the cinnamon rolls.  Roll out the dough on a floured surface, smear with butter, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, slice and put in the pan.  You should end up with something like this. Cover with a bit of buttered (or sprayed with Pam) plastic wrap and pop in the fridge overnight. 

I cut it into 16 rolls instead of 12.
Sorry it's blurry, at some point I put a buttery finger on the lens.  Sigh! 

In the morning pull the rolls out of the fridge, they will have risen slightly overnight, but will still need to rise for about 30 minutes or so.  Since the dough is cold you can put it in the oven with the light on, that will give just enough warmth to bring the dough back to life. Or you can just stick them on top of the range while the oven preheats.  Either way.  Just be sure to take the rolls out of the oven BEFORE you preheat the oven.  It's a bit irritating to ruin everything at this point by baking the rolls with plastic wrap still on them.  Trust me. While the rolls are rising you can go ahead and enjoy your coffee since you did all the hard work last night. 

Risen and ready to bake. 
Bake the rolls 25 minutes or so. They will be lovely and golden brown. 

Actually my rolls should be slightly browner.  I was making them for a brunch later in the morning and was going to be reheating them, so I pulled them out about 5 minutes early.  I forgot to take a picture after I reheated them and they were browned the rest of the way. 

Time to make the frosting, just follow the recipe.  Use the whisk attachment to make the frosting.  I use the whisk for frosting, whipped cream, whipping egg whites, and making marshmallows.  Not much else.  You can make the frosting ahead and store covered in the fridge so that the morning is easy-peasy, and nothing interferes with the coffee. 

Frosting, so much frosting. 
The cream cheese frosting recipe that is included with the recipe makes an awesome frosting but it made a heck of a lot.  I used what I needed and tossed the rest in a ziploc and froze it until next time.

1. If you are doing a larger recipe you can still use the KitchenAid until it is time to switch to the bread hook, then finish up by hand.  It will make kneading go a lot faster. 
2.  If you don't want to do this recipe as an overnight don't put the rolls in the fridge, just let rise and  bake. 
3. If you are going to reheat the rolls like I did cover them with tin foil until warmed through then uncover just long enough to brown. 

Teri - If I left anything out, or you have any questions Leave a comment.  Good luck! 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Project Update November

I have been working on several different crafty projects, and really enjoying myself, but I haven't taken the time to blog about it.  Surprised?  Yeah, I didn't think so.

The  piecing on the small half square triangle quilt is finished.  The fabric for the border and backing has arrived.  As soon as I remember to order a quilting foot for my machine I will get the final assembly done. Yes, I am machine quilting this one.

For my new fabric I decided to go with the Disappearing Hourglass pattern after all.  I really like the stars in the blocks, and I could make them with 10 inch precuts, which is handy because that is what I have.  I decided to not use a solid paired with a print to make each block like the directions suggest, but then when have I ever followed directions the way they are written?  I decided to use only "batik" printed fabric. Whoever decided to call this stuff batik has never served at a post in Indonesia or Africa.  It's pretty, but it is NOT batik.

I wasn't sure it would work, but I am pretty happy with how it is turning out so far. I like the way the marbly colors swirl and flow into each other. Trying to match up the colors took some time, for a few days my living room floor looked like this, with me periodically switching fabrics around until I was happy with all the pairings.  

Some day I am going to have a dedicated craft room where I can set things up and leave them and not have to hurry up and clear everything away in time to serve dinner.

The piecing process has not been without mistakes.  I guess that is to be expected when you are trying to teach yourself a new skill from youtube videos.  I have ruined one square beyond help so I threw that piece into my scrap bag, maybe someday I can find a use for it. Other squares I have been able to rescue by picking out my mistakes and trying again. I'm getting a lot of practice at picking out my mistakes.  I usually spot them before I am finished with a square, but sometimes I don't see them until I am laying things out to take a picture.  Like this mistake.  Three of these things belong together, three of these things are kinda the same….can you spot the one that is different?

Hint: bottom left.  My mistake actually makes a pretty cool quilt square on its own, but it doesn't match the other squares. Of course it is the middle section that I messed up on.  Lots of picking out on that one, but it is all back together and looking the way it should.

The kids want to get in on the sewing machine action.  I'm not about to let them touch the quilt blocks, but I have a bunch of Christmas fabric I ordered the day after Christmas to make gift bags for this Christmas.  Wrapping paper can be hard to find overseas, and my little tree huggers aren't too happy about trees being murdered for pretty holiday paper.  So we are slowly moving to reusable cloth bags to wrap presents in.  The gift bag idea was just the ticket. Colin got the privilege of sewing the first bag.  Very basic straight-line stitching but I am sure we will be using it for years to come.

Friday, October 17, 2014

I've Got Fabric!

I have new fabric. YAY!  I love new fabric.

Fabric, lots of pretty fabric. 

 It's actually two different layer cakes (a layer cake is 42 squares of fabric, each square is 10 inches) but I love the way the colors from both sets flow together all blues and greens with hints of purple.

Ohhhh the colors! 
 Now if I could just decide what I am going to do with all this lovely fabric. I had intended to use them to make a disappearing hourglass quilt, but every example I can find has a solid combines with a variety of prints.  I had planned to make it with only batik prints for a swirl of color, but now I am second guessing myself. It's never good when I start second guessing myself.

Disappearing Hourglass Quilt

Now instead of industriously cutting and sewing I am now caught up in Pinterest hell.


Exclaim, "Ohhhh That's cool!"

Pin it

Stare at computer, stare at fabric, stare at computer some more. Mutter, "Maybe for a different fabric."


Repeat ad nauseum. 

Accomplish nothing. 


At least I have some really cool fabric and an internet connections.  What would you do with all this fabric?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Current Craft Project

I really like making things, it doesn't matter if it is redoing a kitchen, cooking, or playing with yarn and fabric. I like seeing it all the pieces come together into a finished form.  Currently I am quilting, or trying to anyway.  I made my first little baby quilt in 22 years last spring.  I am really happy with how it came out so I am trying another.  So far I am really happy with how it is looking so far.

Aren't the colors so bright and cheerful?  I kinda wish this were a full sized quilt for my bed not a baby quilt for a friend. 

Here is my sewing set up on a lovely Drexel table. And yes maybe I am watching a little KLG on AFN  while I SEW. 

Here is my hand drawn quilt layout plan.  It took me a ridiculous amount of time to find an idea I like then draw out the plan and count squares to make sure I had enough of each color to do what I wanted to do.  This is my umpteenth attempt at a plan.  I am sure there is an easier way to do this, but it was fun playing around with ideas and staring at the fabrics and ideas on Pinterest before I finally worked it all out.  

Friday, September 12, 2014

I'm Not Dead, and Neither is this Blog

But I really, really hope this guy is truly, completely, and totally dead.

He (She? It??)  is the boys' newest treasure found tossed up on the beach. It now resides on the book shelf next to our dining room table where it sits and watches while we eat dinner each night.

The kids swear it is a puffer fish skull.  Personally I think it is proof that aliens exist and should be shipped to Area 51 pronto.

What do you think it is?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Big yellow Taxi: You don’t know what you got till its gone!

It’s been 41 days 22 hours 14 minutes since my wife and mother of my children left me… but who’s counting? Me! that’s who!

I can count on one hand the number of meals I have actually fix for the kids and me since my wife left. My wife and I usually divide and concur when it come to doing things around the house. My tasks involve the morning routine, which includes waking and feeding kids and making lunches and the nightly routine, which includes doing homework, reading, and chores. The remainder of the “other” things she does.

I say “other” things because I think that is how most of us see what our significant other does… I do all of this (see above) and they do the “other” things… hence significant “other”. Right? It sounds kind of bad when you say it that way, and well, frankly it is! I am not even going to try and attempt to write all the “other” things that she does… it would take too long and I am certain I would forget something.

Please don’t feel sorry for me though… I am a very capable person. For any of you that know my wife’s cooking, I can hold my own right up there with her. I was a product of a single dad with two older brothers and two older sisters and in that house we had chores and had to learn how to do everything: cook, clean, and sew. I am not sure how many people can actually cook, clean, and sew now a day… well I say I can, but in all actually reality, I don’t!

What do I do? You may ask.

Well… I work! We are a single income family. I like to think of us as a 1950’s family with all the modern day problems families experience with kids and technology. Ninety nine percent of the time Shannon makes dinner and has it waiting for when the kids and I come home from work and school. We eat at the dinner table and try to pry out of the kids the events of the day.

How was school?

That’s it for school. The topic most often turns to world facts from Alonzo – our very own little Poindexter. We often talk about world events and see what the kids think about what is going on. You would be surprised what kids think.

Since my wife left, less than three percent of the means have been made and dinner is never waiting for the kids and me when I get home. But we do still eat at the table and we still have our conversations. It was tonight’s conversation with Alonzo that brought me to writing this post.

Me: How’s dinner?
Alonzo: I can’t wait to see mom.
Me: why?
Alonzo: I can’t wait to eat something healthy!
Me: You don’t like what we are having for dinner… you picked it!
Alonzo: I know. I just want moms food. She cooks it from scratch.

It was at that point that the other two started to chime in about how much they miss their moms cooking.

*note: the kids chose dinner and it was pizza from Papa Johns.

To me this was profound. My kids finally realized that they missed their mom and enjoy eating healthy.

I too cannot wait to be back with my wife! She cooks!… from scratch!… and it’s healthy!!!

I have come to have a great appreciation for Shannon and all the “other” things she does. I can tell you other stories from earlier on in our marriage where I learned appreciation, but will save that for another time.

I am grateful for my wife and everything she does for the kids and me.  I am so blessed to have her and a job that allows her to stay home and do what she love to do… taking care of her family.

You don’t know what you got till its gone!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Tape, Miles and Miles of Tape

It's another kitchen reno update.  I know I'm obsessing about the kitchen, but seriously it is all I am doing morning to night right  now, so it's all I've got to blog about.  And if you've ever lived in government housing where you have no choice in furnishings, curtains, or even the house itself, then you understand  how excited I am to be playing with my own little house.

Today I got up and decided I would knock out the backsplash on the second side of the kitchen,  I figured I could do it all in one day, no problem.  I already know what to do since I did the other side of my little galley kitchen last week.  Yeah, that worked. Either I am an incurable optimist when it comes to DIY projects in spite of being a glass half empty kind person in the rest of my life, or the paint fumes have gotten to me. I didn't even come close to finishing up today.

10 am blocking in the area to be painted with wide tape to protect the cabinets, counters, window and what ever I can possibly splash paint on while creating the faux tiles.

At this point I thought I was making good progress. Paint fumes I tell you, paint fumes. I worked pretty steadily until around 2:30 or so when some family dropped by to see the progress.  I love being someplace where family can just drop by.  We visited for a while, it was great.  You never realize what a luxury that is until you live some place where it takes a couple day's travel for family to "drop by."

After they left I got back to work, but realized fairly quickly that I probably won't be painting today, but I was confident I would finish up the taping at a reasonable hour (paint fumes!!) and have a relaxing evening.  Yeah, that didn't work either.

6:00 still have the part of the area behind the fridge and most of the area around the window to do, plus all the little vertical pieces that make it look like tile instead of stripes. At this point I'm starting to think it's going to be long night, but I was still confident I would finish up before I headed to bed. Yeah, riiiight! It has to be paint fumes, no one is this delusion, I mean optimistic. Yeah, I totally meant optimistic, not delusional. Whose delusional?  I don't know what you are talking about.

9:00  The window.  Oh the window.  At this point I should probably apologize to my high school geometry teacher.  Perhaps if I had paid more attention to Ms. Lange that window would have been easier to tape. Suffice it to say that stupid window was taped and untaped and retaped several times today.  There has to be an easier way than the way I did it. I measured, marked, and taped only to find when I got to the top of the window the two sides didn't match up.  Starting at the ceiling and working down didn't work either, apparently the ceiling isn't level. The result were even worse.

10:30 VICTORY!!!  The window is finally taped.  Whew!  I finally taped the very top of the window, and then worked up and down from there.  Several rows are a tiny bit wider or narrower than the rest to make it all work.  The difference is so small I don't think anyone will ever be able to tell unless they take a ruler to the wall.

I still need to add in most of the little vertical stripes. I will be spending several hours in the morning doing this.  Yay, more tape.  I'm so excited. No really, I am.

I am confident that by bedtime tomorrow I will be done with the backslashes, except for applying the polycrylic sealer in a few days. Please don't let this be paint fumes talking.  I really want to be finished with this step.

In the meantime I am going to enjoy some beer and brats with a side of salad for a very late dinner. Good night y'all!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

It's Starting To Come Together.

All of my cabinets have doors again.

Finally I can see how it's going to look when it's all done.  The little space above the microwave will be a wine rack which David will install when he gets here, along with crown molding, handles, and shelves.  I think it is going to look amazing.

There is work for me too. The opposite side of the room still needs the backsplash painted, and both sides need to sealed with polycrylic to make protect the faux tile and make it scrubbable. The wine rack needs to be sanded and painted to match the cabinets.  I still need to  clear away the the painting gear and pack it up for another day. And I probably should mow the lawn before David shows up.

It looks so plain without the backsplash painted. I can hardly wait to see how it looks when it is finished.

In the dining room it is out with the sawhorses and in with the carpet, table and chairs.  It feels like a house again, instead of a disaster area.

I am wrapping up another busy day with a celebratory dinner.

Yes, Oman friends, those are pork chops. Pork chops, baked potato, and salad...Yummm!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Kitchen Update

I had planned on blogging the kitchen as I went a bit each day.  What I hadn't counted on was the amount of work, and the amount of time it would take to do that work solo.  It all sounded so easy.  Move the cabinets up a bit, slap a little paint on the cabinets add a few shelves and viola a whole new kitchen!  Yeah. Not exactly.  The only easy part of this was moving the cabinet, and that was easy because I paid someone to come move them for me.

Just to review my kitchen started like this

Not bad, a little generic but not bad.

By the next day it looked like this.

I call this stage the Oh My Gawd!  What have I done?? stage. It is too late to turn back, but there seems to be no end in sight. It just goes on

And on

And on.

And just when you think you are making progress the Mother Nature decides to make things more interesting.

I am using oil paints even though they smell horrible and are awful to clean up.  They give the most amazing hard smooth finish, perfect for kitchen cabinets.  I learned something else about oil paint. If it's raining they don't dry.  I had all the doors set up in the garage to keep the stench in the house to a minimum. A friend who has done this a time or two told me to move everything into the house and drop the A/C to help control the humidity.  It worked like a charm.  Of course now my house looks like this. And it smells.

But I finally started seeing thing slowly come back together.

 At last I could start on the back splashes. The tutorial I found on line said it took her 2 - 4 hours depending on the complexity of the design. Add 10 hours to that and thats about right.  I started at 10 in the morning and finished up at 11:45 at night.  By the time I cleaned up and realized I never ate supper (not too sure if I ate lunch come to think of it) it was after midnight.  I ate my sandwich while staring at the wall.  It makes me smile very time I walk by it.

Yes that is all painters tape.  Miles and miles of skinny tape.

Paint in progress

Finished product.  I love it!!!

There is still plenty to do, like the backslash on the other side of the kitchen. Today I put the last coat of paint on the top doors, YAY!! I am waiting for them to dry completely so I can hang them in the morning. Here is a shot of a finished door.

I love the way the wood grain shows.  I can't wait to get it all back together.  There are a few things David will take care of when he gets here: new light over sink, shelves at the height of the cabinets before I moved them and of course some cabinet jewelry (handles and drawer pulls).  Then it will be finished.  And totally uniquely ours.