Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Tables Are Sooo Much Fun!!!

All my little chicks are home in the nest for Easter so all work on the sleeveless blouse has stopped to make way for family Easter traditions.  I was a bit stressed/sad about not getting any sewing done this Spring Break, but ended up letting it go and living in the moment.  And...what a reward! First, I spent two amazing days reconnecting with one of my closest friends (my college roommate) and with my grown up daughter in Norfolk,

When I got home, I knew that I would not have the kind of uninterrupted time that I like to have for sewing so I relaxed, let it go, and ended up having great fun setting up the Easter tables, decorating, and meal planning a bit before the kiddos arrived on Friday. When the kids walked in the door, I was totally in the Easter mood and ready to together.  What started as a stressor turned out to be such an Easter Blessing!

Cute little nests picked up for a song!

My roommate and I visited so many cute little shops jammed packed with adorable spring decorations!

I picked up a few little goodies and a lot of decorating inspiration and went to work on our tables here at home.

A mix of old and new Easter decorations for the Breakfast nook
I decided to go for a more monochromatic theme for the Dining Room inspired by an adorable little Country French store we visited.

Today was a perfect Holy Saturday.  It started with a nice long walk with my oldest daughter and a family breakfast.  Then, baking with my sous-chef middle girl (cake pictures tomorrow!).  In the afternoon we had egg dying with my sister's family and my cousins on my sister's sunny deck (Did I mention that the weather was perfect!).  It ended with a delicious beef brisket dinner with all my children around the table. (I'll post the recipe and pictures the next time I make it because it was delicious!)  

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday.  I am looking forward to Easter Mass with the whole family together and another wonderful feast with the whole extended family at my parents' house. 

I felt like I sort of wandered through this lent with no real direction, then at the last moment, when I wasn't even looking, the lesson was so clear.  Take time to stop and focus on the things that really matter.  Recognize the blessings that surround you each day. The biggest blessings are often the everyday moments that can slip away without notice if you are not careful.  

Happy Easter everyone!  
Wishing each of you days full of everyday, ordinary blessings!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Snow Day Spring Break Sewing

For my sewing friends...I did manage to get a bit of sewing in today - after lesson planning and laundry, etc...

I have not had the courage to work with a full bust adjustment for a pattern yet and have mainly done the cheater version of using a stretch fabric and adding a bit to the side seams.  That usually doesn't give the best results unless there is a lot of ease built into the pattern.  Especially as I have been losing weight, most of me is getting smaller while the "girls" are pretty much the same.  The days of buying patterns to fit my bust have to come to an end.  Then I found:  
Simplicity 1886
I have heard about and seen the patterns with cup sizes built in and have been dying to try one just to try the fit.  I have had this pattern pattern and fabric for some time, but other project beckoned and then it was winter.  Now with Spring officially here, I decided it was time to jump in.  

Today I decided to take this project nice and slow and made a muslin (something I am usually too impatient to do - I just tissue fit and hope for the best!).  I figure that I have plenty of time to play with this since Spring does not seem to be in any great hurry to get here!
Whew!  I look crazy good on days off!  Haha!
The fit was pretty good just cutting a straight size 16.  I needed to add a little to the waist area to accommodate my super-straight-no-waist shape, but just about 1/4 inch  - not too bad.  

I also cut the real fabric today - realizing that this blouse has a center front seam and that the design on the front would need to be matched and I'd have to be careful about design placement with this print.  I think I got it...Keep your fingers crossed!
Center front seam taped together for patter matching
I might get to some sewing tomorrow...we shall see.  I want to be patient with this one - remembering that I can take my time with it - Looks like it will be another boots and sweater day again tomorrow!

Turkey Sausage with Tomato Sauce and Polenta

Well...  I am supposed to be on Spring Break, but is sure seems more like Winter Break! 
The view from my window this morning.
So if it is going to feel like winter, I guess that we need a warm and filling dinner.  The Turkey Sausage and Tomato Sauce with Creamy Polenta from Clean Eating Magazine (3/13) fit the bill perfectly!  

A little saucy. A little spicy.  Warm and nice and filling.
Turkey Sausage and Tomato Sauce with Creamy polenta and minted zucchini.
Since I am trying to get in some sewing in between the usual chores and lesson planning that somehow tries to sneak into every break, I wanted something fast, but healthy.  This dinner was on the table in 20 minutes flat!  And that included the sautéed zucchini with garlic and mint.

My husband voted this a do-over and it got my vote too!  It is a great weeknight meal because it goes together in such a hurry, but tastes long-simmered.  And...326 calories for a 2 cup serving!!! 

Try it and tell me what you think...Do-over or once was enough?  

Turkey Sausage and Tomato Sauce
Clean Eating March 2013

  • Olive Oil Cooking Spray
  • 12 oz sweet or hot low-fat turkey sausage, casings removed and crumbled
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 green and 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups jarred all-natural marinara (Be sure to read those labels!  Sugar can run from 2g/serving to 8g or more/serving!)
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1 cup finely ground cornmeal
  • 6 fresh basil leaves coarsely chopped
1.   In a medium pot, bring 3 cups water to a boil.

2.  Mist a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray (while not on the heat!) and heat the pan on medium-high.  Add sausage and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until browned and cooked through, about 3 minutes.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate

3.  Return pan to medium-high.  Add onion and peppers and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 4 minutes.  Return sausage to pan and stir in marinara sauce.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 6 minutes, until thickened slightly.  Add pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper.

4.  While sauce is simmering, whisk cornmeal into boiling water in a slow, thin stream, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until incorporated.  Reduce heat to low and continue to stir polenta for 5 to 8 minutes, until thick.  Season with salt and pepper as desired

5.  Divide polenta among serving plates and top evenly with sausage mixture.  Top with basil.  I also added a touch of grated parmesan - because cheese makes everything better!  :-)

Serves 4

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Steak Salad with Dates and Blue Cheese

The weather turned warm for a split second yesterday and we decided to make something light and summery and grilled.
Steak Salad from Clean Eating Magazine
I found some amazing grape tomatoes in the store this week.  Aren't they beautiful!  It just made me think of summer.
These are not touched up.
They were really that red!  And Sweet too!
This recipe was fast, easy and makes 4 generous servings so by the time dinner was made I had lunch packed!  Cannot beat that.

Remember that I am a teacher so having a lunch packed is an obsession for me.  It is critical cafeteria avoidance!  

Although it is a salad, it has steak and blue cheese so it feels more like a hearty meal.  This one was definitely a do-over for us.

Steak Salad 
with Medjool Dates and Blue Cheese
Clean Eating March 2013

  • 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 1 tsp chile powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp each sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 8 oz flank steak (I used more - where do you find an 8 oz flank steak???)
  • Cooking Spray
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 8 lightly packed cups baby arugula
  • 8 lightly packed cups baby spinach
  • 1/4 sweet onion (such as Vidalia), thinly sliced
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 3-4 pitted and chopped dates
  • 2 oz blue cheese, crumbled
1.  In a large bowl, whisk together 2 tbsp lemon juice, chile powder, cumin, salt and pepper.  Add steak and rub seasoning into meat.  Mist both sides of steak with cooking spray.  Set aside.

2.  Prepare dressing:  In a small bowl, whisk together remaining 1 tbsp lemon juice, oil, vinegar, Dijon and honey.  Set aside.

3.  Grill the steak until desired doneness (145 degrees is the USDA recommendation)  Transfer to a cutting board, cover loosely with foil and let stand at least 3 minutes. (Clean Eating has you sear it in a skillet, but isn't food so much better on the grill - and - no dirty pan to clean!)

4.  In a large bowl, toss arugula and spinach with dressing.  Divide greens, onion, tomatoes and dates between serving plates.  Thinly slice steak into 1/4 inch strips against the grain.  Divide steak and blue cheese evenly over each salad.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The "Science" of Making Baby Towels

Rules for Weeknight Sewing 
That Ensure More Than 5 Hours of Sleep

1.  Do not wait until the night before the gift is supposed to be given to start making the gift.

2.  Especially do not wait until the night before the gift is supposed to be given if you have a workout scheduled after work and have to go grocery shopping because you have no lunch food to pack and you said that you would make pasta salad for the shower.

3.  Remember that even though the embroidery machine is very slick and does most of the sewing itself, you still have to fiddle with the proper placement in the hoop and babysit it to change threads and make sure you are there when the needle breaks (two times in this little project).  All of this takes time.

Baby Blanket for a New Little Cutie

That said...I am really happy with how the science themed towel came out.
 My friend is a Chemistry teacher - hence the test tubes, etc- and the crossed swords are our school's logo.

The towel itself goes together pretty quickly.  

1.  Make the hood:
The hood is a wash cloth folded leaving about a 1 inch tab hanging down to sew to the body of the towel.  Zigzag or serge a seam sewn diagonally from the opening edge to 2 inches into the folded side.  Cut off the little triangle of fabric that is outside the seam.  

2.  Pleat the towel:
I like to make a little pleat in the middle of the back of the main towel so I fold the towel in half and then sew a seam about 1 1/2 in from the fold and down about 4 inches.  I flatten out the folded fabric on either side of the pleat seam and then zigzag down the center to attach. 

3.  Attach the hood:
The final step is to center the hood flap on the towel on the pleated side and zigzag around the edges of the hood. I have the folded pleat and the hood flap on the inside of the towel.
Hooded Baby towel complete!
I'm planning to make another of these soon so I'll post some how-to pictures.  It was getting so late last night that I wasn't thinking straight!  

Monday, March 18, 2013

Baby Burp Rags with Style

One of my best work buddies and classroom-mates is expecting her first baby soon.  Saturday was her baby shower and so I wanted to make her something handmade for the baby.  I needed something cute and quick because this has been a crazy week (But wait...what week is not crazy this time of year?!)
3 Fancy Burp Rags that wouldn't be too bad to throw over your shoulder!
These are just embellished cloth diapers and truly the hardest part was finding the tri-fold cotton diapers with the thicker middle part.  I thought for sure they would have them at Walmart, but they only had the really big thin diapers.  I think I finally found them at Target.

These were not only fun and easy to make, but they are great scrap busters - fabric and trims.  You only need a tiny bit of fabric and you can decide how much.  Make the bands wider if you have more fabric- narrower if you have less.  If you really wanted to get fancy, you could even piece some scraps to fit across.  I have seen some on pinterest that cover the entire middle of the diaper like these at Stacysews.  I just try to keep it simple - after all-remember the actual purpose of these!  :-)

I have another gift set up for her work shower, but it is top secret until tomorrow when we have the celebration!  Oh, and until I finish the gift tonight!  

Until tomorrow...Pam

Sunday, March 17, 2013

St Patty's Day Feasting

Being half Irish, I couldn't let St. Patty's go by without pictures of our celebration...
Flowers from the yard brightened the St. Patty's table.

We had the requisite Corned Beef and Cabbage - the easiest meal to make ever!  
Corned Beef and Cabbage

I bought the corned beef (flat cuts) at Wegmans and then all it needs is quick rinse and a stay in a pot with boiling water for about 3 hours.  

I throw in the veggies - onions, carrots, potatoes and cabbage in the last 20-30 minutes.  

Serve with a grainy mustard.  We had a grainy mustard with Guinness.  Mmmm!

To top off the night my wonderful husband made us all Irish coffees with some Jamison's whiskey.  Now I am not a coffee drinker, but apparently I like Irish coffee.  Who knew how good coffee could be with a bunch of sugar, whiskey and whipped cream to top it off!

These are my Grandmother's Irish coffee glasses with scenes from her hometown - Dubuque, Iowa on them.  My grandmother was pure German but she married an Irishman and was born on St. Patty's day so we let her be an honorary Irishwoman.  :-)

To go with the coffee my mother made some Guinness Black and Tan Brownies from Cooking Light.  I'm mad that I forgot to take a picture of them because she dressed them up with cute green sparkly sprinkles and all.  And...they were delicious!

It was a fun family night with representatives from multiple generations around the table.  We toasted my (really) Irish grandfathers and my honorary Irish grandmother and knew that they were smiling down and lifting their glasses with us!  

St. Patrick's Day Blessings Upon You!  

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Snow Day Sewing and Quick Beef Stroganoff

Today it finally happened!  Our long-awaited snow day!
Snow Day!
We didn't get anything like the 6-10 inches our panic-y weathermen predicted - more like someone dumped a slurpy on the grassy areas, but it was pretty and we got to have a SNOW DAY!!!

So what to do on a snow day?  Sew of course!  And cook a yummy comfort meal for dinner.  And...if you are a teacher...Do those lesson plans and grade those papers that you never have time to work on because you are busy - teaching.  Imagine! Ha!

It was cold and gloomy and the snow was falling in big snowballs so it seemed like the perfect day for hand sewing.  I cuddled up in the recliner by the windows with the view above and finished up one of the projects from my Charleston trip.
Linen Bag from Stitchin Charleston Style
This was so fun to stitch up and I love all the little details that Laura Jenkins Thompson includes when she designs these projects. 
Detail of the embroider work

I especially love the stump work nest with the freshwater pearl eggs.  It is hard to tell from the picture, but the nest is really raised so it is 3-D.

Laura had us do a super quick lining for the bag so everything is neat and tidy when you are finished. 

Now I have to figure out what is precious enough to put in my little linen bag...

So after all that stitching and snow watching I was definitely in the mood for some comfort food.  I turned to my old faithful Cooking Light Magazine and it did not disappoint.  

Quick Beef Stronganoff
with Grainy Mustard Brussel Sprouts

The Jan/Feb issue had a recipe for Quick Beef Stroganoff with Grainy Mustard Brussels Sprouts.  (My parents will faint when they see this because, until recently, brussels sprouts have been on my very short list of Foods I Don't Like.

This recipe was delicious!  It came together quickly and made 4 generous servings at only 357 calories each.  Guess what we are having for lunch tomorrow!  :-)

Sure beats a PBJ!

Here is the link to the recipe on the Cooking Light site.

Wishing everyone a snow day full of things you love to do with a yummy comfort meal to wrap it all up!

Share you favorite snow day fun/food in the comments.  You don't have to have an account to comment.  Choose the Name/URL and you can put in your first name, initials, special symbol, whatever.  Can't wait to hear what you have to say!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Snow Day/Sew Day?

It could happen...I'm just saying...
And I have sooo many projects I will have a hard time deciding which to do...

Think Snow!  :-)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Soup and Make Your Own Grilled Cheese Bar

This weekend - in addition to sewing lessons with DD #1 - we hosted DD #2 and her alternate Spring break group for dinner and a good night's rest before heading to the airport for Honduras.  Being Catholic and all and being Friday during lent,  we needed a good meatless meal that would appeal to a variety of tastes.

I decided on a Soup and Make Your Own Grilled Cheese Bar.  We had two types of soup:  Crockpot Minestrone and Thai Butternut Squash Soup

Crockpot Veggie Minestrone

Thai Butternut Squash Soup

Both soups were "super" easy to make and appealed to a variety of different tastes...and...the leftovers have been even better!  

Some of the ingredients for the grilled cheeses

To go with the soups, I set up a grilled cheese bar.  The kids put their unique sandwiches together and I grilled them up on the griddle while they were serving up the soup.  No muss, no fuss.  

I was surprised at how adventurous the kids were.  I guess after a certain number of cafeteria meals anything goes!

Potential ingredients included tomatoes, avocado, basil leaves, artichoke hearts, apples, my special grainy mustard/apricot jam spread (1 part mustard to 2 parts apricot jam) and three types of bread.  If it wasn't meatless Friday, I would have included some prosciutto, regular ham, maybe bacon - all the best pork products!

The whole affair was easy to set up - the veggie soup cooked while I was at work - and the Butternut squash soup was together in 20 minutes.  The rest was just putting out the ingredients.  Clean up was a snap and I think the kids had fun getting to "make their own."

What's your favorite Feed-a-Crowd trick?

Vegetarian Minestrone Soup
By Connie Johnson from Fix It and Forget It
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small zucchini, cubed
  • 1 handful fresh kale, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry barley (I about 1/3 cup because that's all I had)
  • 1 can chickpeas or white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tbsp parsley
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 28 oz can crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • Grated cheese (for topping)
  • (I cooked up some digitali pasta to add into each bowl at the last minute.  Do not add this to the crockpot.  It will soak up all the liquid.)
1.  Combine all ingredients except the cheese and pasta to the slow cooker.
2. Cover. Cook on Low 6-8 hours, or until vegetables are tender.  (I put mine on the timer for 8 hours on low and then warmed until I got home and we served and it was perfect!)
3.  Add pasta if desired and sprinkle with cheese.  

Makes 6 HUGE servings!

Thai Butternut Soup
Cooking Light March 2013

  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 1/2 tsp red curry paste
  • 1 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1 cup fat-free, lower sodium chicken broth (I used veggie broth to keep it meat-free)
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 (12 oz) packages frozen pureed butternut squash. (The packages I found called in frozen winter squash.. same-o, same-o.)
  • 1 (14 oz) can light coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 lime, cut into 8 wedges
1.  Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add oil; swirl to coat.  Add onion; sauté 3 minutes.  Add curry paste, garlic and ginger; sauté 45 seconds, stirring constantly.
2.  Add broth and next 5 ingredients (through salt); cover.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Place half of squash mixture in blender.  Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape);  secure blender lid on blender.  Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters).  Blend until smooth.  Pour into a large bowl.  REpeat with remaining squash mixture.  
Or...Do what I did and use your immersion blender and skip all that blender mess.  Was it perfectly smooth?  No.  But I'll take that trade off to skip all that blender mess.
3.  Spoon about 1 cup soup into each of 4 bowls; top with 2 Tbsp peanuts and 1 Tbsp cilantro.  Serve with lime wedges.

Serves 4 - 1 cup servings.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

New Sewist in our midst!

My oldest daughter is interested in sewing!  Yay!

She has always played around on my machine, but never really had the time or interest to work through a project of her own.  The other day she texted me the links for several used sewing machines on Craig's list.  I looked at them and said they were ok, but what she should really be looking for was a used Bernina like mine...but wait!  Duh, I have an old Bernina that is just like mine...  
The old faithful Bernina 930
It was my Mother-in-law's machine that I inherited.  My Mother-in-Law, Shirley was an amazing sewist who convinced me to buy my Bernina waaay back in 1987 a year or two after she purchased her 930.  I now have a newer Pfaff sewing/embroidery machine too, but I do all my basic sewing on my old faithful Bernina.  It is just that good of a machine. 

I know that Shirley would have loved for my daughter to have her machine!

So my DD (Dear Daughter) came up for the weekend to visit and have a quick sewing lesson. 

We decided to make one of the Tahoe bags that I have posted about before here and here and here.  I think this is the 6th one of these I have made!  I might need to look for a new TNT bag pattern!  LOL!  

It was the perfect bag for our mini-lesson because it is such any easy bag to make so I knew that we could get it done in the few hours that we had.  
Here she is trying out the "new" machine.

We were able to use fabric from my fabric stash and - bonus and so appropriate for the occasion - the lining actually came from Shirley's stash.  

Here is the outside of the bag all ready for the lining.

The lining from my mother-in-law's fabric stash

We used the "new" Pfaff machine to add a spiffy monogram to the front.

I wasn't very happy with Sulky thread, though.  When I wet the fabric to erase the temporary alignment marks, the red thread ran a bit onto the white canvas.  I thought Sulky was supposed to be colorfast!  Boo!

The completed bag and the new sewist!
Didn't she do a great job!!!!

It was so much fun sewing with my daughter!  It was exciting to pass down one of my favorite pastimes to my daughter and even more exciting to know that she is getting to use the tools that her grandmother used.  A very sentimental day overall!

We miss you, Shirley, but you were in our hearts and we know that you were right there with us today guiding our hands as we sewed together!