Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Unfinished Quilt #1

Quilting is one of the things I truly enjoy, but I have a nasty habit of starting a quilt, and not finishing it.  Right now I have at least five quilts in various stages of non-completion.  My favorite part of quilting is planning a quilt, and piecing a quilt. 

I began quilting a few years ago when I bought Better Homes and Gardens Complete Guide to Quilting.  I love this book, and I consider it a must have for any new quilter.  The book walks you through every step of quilting (both hand and machine quilting).  The pages are filled with easy to follow diagrams and colorful pictures.

This is one of the first quilts I started and was supposed to be a present for Adam.  Originally, it was going to be a Christmas present (several years ago).  Then, it was going to be a wedding gift.  Well that date came and went.  I thought maybe I would finish it for our 1 year anniversary.  Oops.  Now I just want to have it completed by next winter.

I have learned some tricks with planning that I wish I had known when I first planned this quilt.  I love the colors, but I now realize it would have been more visually affective if I had made the blue and tan pieces all lighter in color, and the red and green darker, or vice versa.  Oh well.  Adam still loves the colors, so that's what really matters I guess.

Tonight I started playing around with different looks.  Adam's favorite is straight lines making a rectangle.  I kind of like the diagonal, but I don't think the pattern is as easy to see that way, so I guess straight it is.  I do think that I am going to make it just five rows of five squares and add a thick border.

Don't worry, I will post pictures when I am finished.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Delicious Chicken Pot Pie

My father would be horrified if he knew that I was using perfectly new chicken breasts to make chicken pot pie.  In his opinion, chicken pot pie should only be made with leftovers (and isn't worth wasting the new delicious chicken on).  That being said...he hasn't ever had my chicken pot pie.  Isn't it pretty?  I might be a little too proud of my crust.

People are often surprised to learn, because I am a baker,  that I don't really like cooking, and I don't know how to cook more than a few meals.  (I have been learning more since getting married, but I know that I like to cook more in the summer when I don't have to work all day).

Ingredients
  • Filling
    • 2 1/2 cups chopped veggies (I like 1 cup carrots, 1/2 cup corn, 1/2 cup peas, 1/2 cup celery)
    • 2 large chicken breasts cubed
    • White Pepper Gravy (I tried homemade, and a packet, and they both turned out great!  I think it is worth the time saved to use the packet)
    • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • Pie Crust
    • 1 cup shortening
    • 1 1/3 teaspoon salt
    • 2 cups flour
    • 2/3 cup water
    • 1 egg white for brushing the crust
Supplies
  • Large pot
  • Pie pan
  • Rolling pin
  • Parchment paper
  • Fork
  • Large bowl
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place the chicken and veggies in the pot and cover with water.  Boil over medium heat for 15 minutes, then drain.  Make crust while boiling.
  3. To make pie crust, mix together flour and salt in large bowl.  Cut the shortening into the flour with a pastry blender, or two knives. 
  4. Slowly add water and mix in with fork.  The key to making flaky delicious crust (as taught to me by my mother), is to mix as little as possible.  Take 1/2 the dough and flatten onto the parchment paper.  The dough will seem a little dry, but just mush it together.
  5. Roll out and place in pie crust.  Make sure to poke holes in the bottom and sides for steam to escape.
  6. Fill the pie with the chicken and veggies; then, make the gravy and pour over chicken and veggies.
  7. Roll out the other 1/2 dough and cover pie.  Dab a little water between the top and bottom crusts around the edge to seal, then cut off excess and pleats edges.  Cut holes in the top to let steam escape.
  8. Beat the egg white with a little water, and brush on crust.
  9. Bake for about 35 minutes.  You want the crust to be a golden brown.
  10. Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting.

I will bring this to these parties.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hooded & Pleated Baby Towel

This is one of my favorite baby shower gifts.  These towels are perfect for cradling a baby straight from the tub; the hood cradles the baby's head while the pleats wrap the baby in fluffy softness.  I found this towel and washcloth in the re-style section of Target on sale, and I already had the ribbon.

Supplies/Materials
  • 1 washcloth
  • 1 towel
  • Thread (preferably heavy duty)
  • Accent ribbon
  • Heavy duty needle
Directions
  1. Pin pleats into the towel.  To make the first pleat, measure out 10 inches and mark with a pin.  Fold the pin back so the pleat and the pin match up at 7 inches from the edge.  Measure out 7 inches and mark with a pin; fold the pin back, so the pleat and the pin match up 4 inches from the previous pleat (repeat this pleat step). 
  2. Repeat the process, so the bottom and top pleats match to create folds.  Then repeat on the opposite side of the towel, so the pleats mirror each other on each side.
  3. Sew across the edge of the towel with a straight stitch, then reinforce the pleats by sewing again directly over the pleats.
  4. To make the hood, begin by folding back 3 inches of the washcloth on itself.
  5. Pin your accent ribbon over the fold, then sew in place about 1/8 of an inch from the edge of the ribbon.
  6. If you want a ruffle ribbon, use a long stitch length on your machine to baste a stitch down the center of your ribbon, then pull one thread to gather.  Pin the ruffle to the hood over the other ribbon.  Sew the ribbon down the center, then pull out the basted stitch.
  7. Use a seam ripper to pull out the seam on the other end of the washcloth.  Fold the washcloth in half like a rectangle.  Cut off 1 inch from the corner.  You will fold the corner into the lip left from the first fold you made.  Pin in place.
  8. Sew a seam across the bottom of the hood, then about an inch up the lip to secure the corner you folded into it.
  9. Align the center of the towel with the center of the hood.  (You will want both towel and hood to have the inside facing up)
  10. Pin the hood and the towel together.  Then sew them together, making sure to reinforce your stitches.  Your seam should enclose your ribbon ends, so they won't fray.

I don't have a baby to model it, but I hope you get the picture.  I will be linking this up at these fun parties.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

How To Cover A Cake With Fondant

For this post, I am going to talk about covering a cake with fondant, but I will go more into the decorations later.  Covering a cake with fondant is much easier than I expected it to be.  To prepare, bake and frost a cake (tips here and here).  I recommend the following supplies/tools:
  1. Cake turntable: see my reasons in frosting tips.
  2. Rolling pin with spacers: these make it easy to keep an equal thickness throughout your fondant.
  3. Pizza cutter: this makes it easy to cut a nice clean line at the bottom of the cake.
  4. Fondant smoother: this has been crucial in my cake experience, in getting even and smooth lines.
  5. www.wilton.com
  6. Pin: for removing air holes caught between the fondant and frosting.
  7. Parchment paper: is the best for rolling fondant out on, without sticking.
There are lots of brands of fondant out there, and you can even make your own.  When I have the time, I make marshmallow fondant; I found the recipe I use here.  Sometimes, I don't have time to make fondant, so I buy it (or if I want black--black is not worth the effort).  I have tried Wilton's fondant, Satin Ice, and my latest--Fondarific. 

However silly it may sound, Fondarific is really terrific!  Of all the brands I have tried, this is the easiest to work with, and it tastes the best (no they aren't paying me for this--but maybe they should...).  When I used Fondarific, I didn't have to use sugar, cornstarch, or shortening to keep the fondant from sticking to the parchment or rolling pin.  When I use marshmallow fondant, I use crisco or cornstarch depending on the weather.

Ok!  Now that your cake is ready, flatten your fondant with your fingers and place on parchment paper.

Roll the fondant to desired size and thickness.

Try to center the fondant on your cake.  As you can see, I didn't do a great job.  You can pick the fondant up and try to fix it if it is too bad, but I thought it would work out.

This part is hard to get a picture of, but use the fondant smoother to smooth the top of the cake.  Then, use one hand to pull the fondant gently while you smooth the fondant down the cake with the smoother.  The fondant has some elasticity, so when you get a fold, gently pull it out and smooth down.

If you have any pockets of air between the fondant and the frosting, use a pin to make a tiny hole in the fondant.  Use your fingers to help expel the air from the pocket.

Use your pizza cutter to cut off all excess fondant.

When first decorating cakes, I recommend planning to use a ribbon around the base of each cake to help hide any folds/lines.

I will be linking this up at these fun parties.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Using a Twin Needle

I recently discovered the wonder of a twin needle.  It's actually quite simple to use, and sews perfectly parallel lines.  The most difficult part is threading the needle; I recommend reading your owner's manual.  My machine has a setting specially for the twin needle to prevent the needle hitting the presser foot (and breaking).  If your machine doesn't have a different setting, be sure to sew in a straight line, with the needle centered.

My machine has two different tension plates, so the two top threads each take a side.  I tried taking multiple pictures, but none came out great.



I used three different colored threads to better demonstrate exactly how the twin needle works.  Two of the threads are threaded through the top of the machine, and each threads goes through one side of the needle.  The last thread is the bobbin thread.  I used white for my main thread, brown for my secondary top thread, and red for the bobbin.


Did you know that you can buy twin needles in different widths?  Each width gives you a different look, but functions the same way.


You can sew around curves with the twin needle (like I did on the reversible bag), but be sure to sew very slowly.  If you sew a curve too fast, you will place pressure on the needle, and it will break.

Now go and get a twin needle, so you can sew perfectly parallel lines!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Blog Swap {Sumo from Sumo's Sweet Stuff}



Hello everyone!

I'm so excited to be blog swapping over here today. I always love blog swapping because I get to 'meet' new people!

I'm Sumo, from Sumo's Sweet Stuff!



Sumo's Sweet Stuff

My real name is Summer, but my husband nicknamed me Sumo when we were dating. (Should I be offended?) Now he's got all of my family, as well as lots of our friends, calling me Sumo. I think Aunt Sumo sounds pretty great, don't you? I live in Utah with my husband, and our two beautiful daughters - Remi & Reece!



I started Sumo's Sweet Stuff as a place to keep some of my crafting projects so that my personal blog wasn't overrun with them. Somehow, that developed into a place to host giveaways, share tutorials, share recipes, and feature fellow bloggers' ideas and blogs! I also use my blog to promote my etsy shop, so if you're ever in the market for some baby girl accessories, or even a little something for yourself, come on over! Every Monday is Market Yourself Monday, where you can link up your latest projects, and visit other blogs to get some inspiration!
Sumo Sweet Stuff
If you are looking for a quick and easy (i.e. last minute!) St. Patrick's Day decoration, then I've got just the thing for you! The best part about this decoration? It's not really a commercial decoration, and is something that could stay up year round if you wanted!

Here's what you need:
- paint
- paint stir sticks
- vinyl
- Silhouette or other cutting machine
- ribbon
- hot glue/wood glue, etc.
- some other sort of wood board
Paint those lovely stir sticks whatever hue you've chosen. It's no surprise that I chose black - I'm so boring and predictable!

While your paint is drying, type up those lyrics in using your Silhouette software. I measured my stir sticks, so I knew how big my vinyl could be. I also really love fonts, so I wanted each stick to have its own font. Lucy appreciated me switching it up a bit, too.


Make sure your stir sticks are totally dry before you try to apply the vinyl! If they are even a tiny bit wet, it won't adhere.
Apply your vinyl to your sticks.

Sorry for the fuzzy picture, but here's all the sticks finished.

Next you'll need some other sort of board. I got this baby at Hobby Lobby. Paint it your chosen hue once again!

While it's drying, head on back to your Silhouette and cut out your words for 'The Luckiest'.
Again, make sure your board is 100% dry before you go to apply the vinyl!
Use your glue of choice (I used hot glue) to glue your sticks and board together how you want them.


Use some ribbon to tie around your decoration.

Hang it for the world to admire.

Or for you and your kids to admire, even though they won't appreciate it. :)
Thanks so much for letting me come over here today! I hope to see you all back at Sumo's Sweet Stuff soon!