Monday, January 25, 2010

Dishtowel Valance in 15 Minutes. On your mark, get set...


I’ve had these dishtowels kicking around for quite some time.

Too pretty to mess up doing dirty kitchen work.
No sense in having them if I’m not going to use them.

I chose them because I liked the earthy green color and the artichoke motif.

My kitchen has just one window over the sink and I don’t really want to block out the light or the view of the back yard.
So I decided press the towels into service over the window.
Here’s how I did it in 15 minutes, and with 3 sewing steps.
I know, right?

For this project you will need:

3-4 clean kitchen towels that have been
washed and dried and pressed

1 spring-tension curtain rod
(1/2” diameter) that fits the window

Sewing machine with straight and zigzag capabilities

Matching thread


Step 1

Back in home economics class (when dinosaurs roamed the earth) I learned how to install a zipper using scotch tape. I decided to apply the same principals here. Since the seams are already finished and I didn’t want to create bulkiness or a raw edge, I butted the seams of each towel along their side edges and taped them in place.

Next I set my sewing machine on the widest zigzag I have and positioned the foot centered over the trough where the two towels meet and zigzagged right down through the tape catching each towel at the left and right. Repeat with second towel.

Pull off the tape from each side et voila!

You now have all three towels nicely connected into one large rectangular “curtain” piece. (wish I’d taken a picture at this step, but it’s too late now, so close your eyes and picture three towels sewn together at the sides. Nice huh?)

Step 2

Next I folded the curtain piece in half horizontally matching the top and bottom together ALMOST!
Note in the picture above that I did not butt the back EXACTLY along the bottom edge, just to be sure it wouldn’t show from the front.

The artichoke motif is now at the bottom looking at you there’s a fold at the top and the other half can not be seen from the front side but is hanging nicely against the window.

Use your iron to press on the fold.

Measure 1.5” from the fold. Mark with chalk or other invisible/washable marker.
(I keep soap slivers which are great for this!) Recycling yet again. Love that!

Stitch a single, straight line all the way down the marked line.
...and we're sewing...

Step 3

Measure second line repeating Step 2 except
THIS TIME MEASURE FROM THE STITCHED LINE YOU JUST DID instead of the fold, marking and stitching just as before.

You know have a pocket for your curtain rod and a nice ruffle across the top.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

It's Going to be a Great Birthday!

Not a bad way to start a birthday...
I already love "her" and she hasn't even arrived yet!
I'm going to have to think of a great name for one wants to be called, "The Laptop" right? I'm sure we can do better.

Thanks to my Facebook, internet, and cell phone connections, the good wishes started pouring in before I even got out of bed!
It's just wonderful and I am so grateful.
Although it's difficult to accept anything for myself during such troubled times in the world, Haiti, war, poverty, it is great to take note of how much I am loved and what a blessed life I have.
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Friday, January 15, 2010

Three Ingredient Oreo Truffles

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If you want to make friends, and I know I do, then find a place to go (especially where there will be wild women knitting!) where you can bring chocolate.
Specifically these:
Oreo truffles.  If you haven't found them on the Internet yet, they are now here!
Three ingredients:
1 bag Oreo cookies
1 bar Cream Cheese (8 oz)
1 Bag Chocolate Melting wafers
Note: You'll need a food processor

1. Buzz (technical term) the cookies in the food processor using the steel blade.  You'll use 2.5 -3 "sleeves" of cookies to make 3 cups of crumbs.   Reserve extra for garnishing the tops.
2.  Put three cups of crumbs and cream cheese block back into processor and buzz again to a creamy paste consistency.
3.  Drop by rounded teaspoon fulls onto a baking sheet. (I like to line with Silpat or parchment, but waxed paper will do.)
4.  Chill while you melt chocolate.  You don't HAVE to do this, but the mixture is quite wet and chilling makes the dunking a bit easier to manage.
5.  Melt chocolate in your microwave according to package directions.  I usually melt about half the bag on high for 30 seconds, stir and repeat until ALMOST melted, then let it sit for a minute or two and it magically finishes to the perfect consistency.  WARNING TO YOU OUT THERE WITH NO PATIENCE:  If you try to rush this you will burn your chocolate and it's OVA (that means OVER in Boston talk.)
6.  Now dip your little balls of love into the melted chocolate, one at a time, with two forks, tap off excess and return to baking sheet.
7.  Stop giggling from last step or you'll miss this step:  Sprinkle with leftover crumbs, if desired, and BEFORE the chocolate sets.  If you are reading this too late, just brush a little extra chocolate over the top with the back of a spoon or knife and sprinkle at the end.

I keep mine refrigerated because A:  There's cream cheese in them and
B:  They seem to taste better cold to me, but that's your choice.  They can sit out at room temp for a long time and I kept them out for days over Christmas and no one got sick or anything.  The cream cheese is sealed inside the chocolate.
The girls were moaning with delight at knitting group when they bit into them.  It's a guaranteed hit.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lord of the Felt

I have a mountain of sweaters.
It all started one day at a yard sale...

A college girl was moving out of state to a warm one and was off-loading every sweater she owned for a quarter each. A quarter!  Dozens of them! And beautiful! All 100% wool. Some name brands, no hand knits, which for this day was a good thing and you’ll soon know why.

My first choice would have been to put them straight into my own closet, but given that my college girl "ship" had sailed they would not have fit me or the closet and they were styled for someone three to four decades younger than me.
What I really wanted them for was for my felting stash. This means mercilessly (but lovingly!) washing them in hot water, and drying them – ruining them actually. You know, on purpose...

So many projects could be had and by spending so little money,
 I thought, and ...I started to get that Gollum look in my eyes as I started scooping them up by the armful while looking out defensively for other shoppers.
When I had every single one, I headed to the card table checkout where the lovely, innocent looking college girl sat with her metal money box delighted to have made a big sale and even offered a bulk discount thinking that I must have a lovely daughter of my own who would know many future happy moments much like hers in these same sweaters. How could this get any better for either of us? Then I told her, with a tad too much gleam in my eye, that I would be cutting them all up for craft projects...Oops.  All at once her face fell like a cake at a jack hammer site. For one split second I thought she might take them from me and I sure as heck knew she regretted offering the discount.  In my best Schmiegle voice I reassured her that they would be transformed into lovely things with a long second lif.  It seemed to be just enough to quell her regret at handing over twhat were obviously old friends with happy memories to the off-her-rocker crafty woman.  And after a few quick seconds of contemplative reasoning in her own head, I, Crazy Mrs Gollum Big Sale won and the transaction was completed.  Either way I thought it best not to look back as I headed quickly for the car.
I began loading them into the back seat of my friend’s vehicle – I think I may have had 15 or 20 in my arms at once. My friend, now deaf by the way, from the scream I let out when spotting the yard sale sign half an hour ago, gave me that same look Mrs. Parker gave Ralphie’s father in “A Christmas Story” when the leg lamp was pulled from the crate. I ignored her in much the same way and nodded to myself as I acknowledged a short window of safety that was waiting back at my own house where I knew that I could quickly get the contraband into the basement before my loving, but head-shaking husband would get home from his own Saturday morning errands. Not sure Lucy could “esplain” this one to Ricky and neither could I.

I stashed them in a Space Bag in the basement (takes up much less space in a Space Bag - I'm just sayin is all - in case you, the mad shopper, happen to need enabling one day.) Then I spent the next several days scouring books, blogs, and magazines for felting ideas. And there were PA-LENTY!

But the story doesn’t end there.

Along comes half price day at Good Will. It's every Wednesday, and coincidentally (not) timed with my errands that happen to take me right past their parking lot. Driving by on my way to buy bird seed, my car took on a strange life of its own and I drove powerless into the parking lot – with one thing on my mind….PRECIOUS…more sweaters…
It was May and no one was buying sweaters. I made quick work of slicing my way through the racks feeling for 100% wool fiber (A knitter knows that feel without reading the tags.) I told myself I’d allow three to go into the cart. "They were half price," said Gollum. Okay five. "Some as low as 99 cents."  I came out with two Hefty bags trying to twist my justification into some distorted “good cause” scheme. Oh hell. It’ll be fine. Need more Space Bags though.

Fast Forward several months. Time to shelve all projects in order to move half way across the country.

Four HUGE wardrobe-sized boxes of 100% wool sweaters arrived in St. Louis on moving day last October. I anticipated their arrival like Carrie Bradshaw waiting for a Zappos order. I promised them their debut first thing in January, but had to keep them stashed until the holidays were done plowing through. Okay so now I’m talking to them?
Finally, they were broken out, run through the washer, dried with old jeans for extra bashing and shrunk to half their original size. It’s a cold winter and while it lasts I’ll be doing a lot of the woolly felted projects I’ve been dreaming about since that first fateful day at the yard sale. Many I’ll share with you.

Here’s one of them…

Start with two felted sleeves.  Make sure you can get the wrist over your wrist now that it has shrunk.  Note that you will be pulling on your mitt backwards with the finished edge at your wrist - or beyond depending on how far back you want it to go up your arm.  Cut edge goes across your knuckles. See next pic.

Next slice about a 1.5 inch cut into the side where your thumb will be. Note the seam area on the felted sleeve so you can position it comfortably or descreetly- your choice.   WAIT!  Before you cut, make sure you're cutting at the BASE of your thumb (try on and feel for it) and not the top or mid knuckle area. Mark it somehow, but only while not wearing the glove though.  No blood please.

Make its mate - exactly the opposite don't ya know...

Give them both a shave.  Be gentle.  Unless you prefer a fuzzier look.  It's all about you.

I like a blanket stitched edge.  Takes 5 minutes.  But this is optional too.
You could also embellish with beads, appliques, buttons, add a decorative vintagey pin, your choice.
 Go wild.

I think I'm in love!

And now for just a few more...
You thought I was kidding...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Winter Comfort Food

Why is it that we pick January to start eating lighter? Okay, don’t answer that. I know I know. But salads don’t seem to work all that well when the temperatures are in the single digits for weeks at a time – like it is here in St. Louis and with no end in sight.

Last night we were blessed with a 4-6 inch blanket of fresh, fluffy snow slowing things down and driving people indoors to play with their Christmas toys, watch some great movies, and cook comforting foods. Well, that’s what we’re doing at our house anyway and with the mercury headed south to BELOW zero temps over the next couple of days, I am doing what any self respecting girl does and took a bubble bath! Then I drove to the cabinet and grabbed my little friend Mr. the Le Creuset (my big ol’ heavy cast iron pot) to create bubbly things that will make the house smell welcoming when Dave walks in the door.

If you’re in the mood for cozy comfort, here are a few ideas to consider:

Beef stew
Chicken Pot Pie
Chili and home made cornbread (I like Ina Garten’s jalapeno cheddar recipe)
Baked stuffed pork chops with home made applesauce and mashed potatoes
REAL baked mac and cheese (with a toasty crumb topping)
Broccoli Cheese Soup
Creamy Potato Cheese soup with bacon and chives

CHECK OUT ALLRECIPES.COM, COOKSILLUSTRATED.COM (my personal fav), and FOODNETWORK.COM for the best recipes or email me for one of my favs.
or   try one of my most requested comfort recipes that’s kid friendly, feeds a crowd, simple with no measuring required, travels well, is easy to clean up, and takes no time to make:


Hardware Needs:
You’ll need a big, heavy bottomed pot
as well as the pot you use to boil your pasta
A wooden spoon
Strainer for the pasta
Grocery List:
Half stick of butter
1 Large Onion
1 Head Cabbage
1 Ring of Kielbasa smoked sausage (you can use lite or turkey if you wish)
1 Bag of Egg Noodles (wide-ish)
1 Tbsp Caraway seeds (optional, but I really like it)
Salt and Pepper to Taste

1. Heat the butter in the heavy pot over med- hi heat.
2. Chop the cabbage (quarter it and remove the core on each piece)
and slice or chop the onions.
3. Add veggies to melted butter, sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of salt, caraway (if using,) and a few grinds of fresh pepper.
4. Cook for about 20 minutes slowly, stirring occasionally until the veggies are translucent and most of the water has evaporated from the bottom of the pot.
5. Meanwhile, cook the egg noodles according to the package, BUT STOP cooking about 2-3 minutes before it’s done. Drain.
6. Dice kielbasa into fork friendly sized chunks. Add to the pot along with the drained egg noodles.
7. Mix well, taste for seasoning and serve.
You don’t need another thing on the table! So easy, reheats well, and warms the cockles of your cockles! You could even use your electric fry pan if you’re lucky enough to have one – allows you to keep it warm if you’ve got people coming and going.

If you’re shaking your head, please know that I worked out on the day I made this AND had a salad for lunch, but a cold winter’s night calls for drastic measures. Just don't eat the whole freaking pot okay???  Hey, at least I didn’t make something with Cheez Whiz, but if you really need some of that I’ve got a killer comfort recipe using that too…

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year!

So you’re going along, having a life and thinking you’re busy and couldn’t possibly squeeze one more item on your To Do list, and you move to a new home, city and state and then realize you were NEVER busy, but now you are not only busy, but you are busy in a place with nothing familiar about it what-so-ever.

Where have I been? I’ve been moving from PA to St. Louis, MO. I barely had time to unpack some things in order to function and then it was time to have Christmas! Yikes.
After a terrific and meaningful holiday with Dave’s family that involved 15 hours of driving EACH WAY (double yikes) I was pretty happy to turn the calendar page on this year and now am feeling a little more at ease about my situation. No need for big resolutions, but a simple game plan and big dive into the energy pool.

There are many blessings to count every day and so I start every day by giving thanks. After that it’s time to map out the “MUST DO” things on my day. I try to get some exercise, eat good, fresh food, and knit a little every day to keep me feeling in control when it all feels like a very big sprint to get so much done.

This blog is really important to me, so here I am making it a priority again.
I hope you’ve all been well and that you are ready to learn some new things or get inspired in your own life by the things I’m getting into.

So today was a day for changing over files and paperwork, wrapping up 2009 and preparing for a visit to the accountant who is in for some fun times when he or she goes over our stuff which is a wee bit more complicated this year!

After lunch I took a few minutes to cut up my old calendar. As many of you know I’m a huge fan of Susan Branch – artful author of joyful lifestyle books with amazing recipes and decorating ideas and maker of very cool things you can glean from her website and retail places. So I just couldn’t bear to throw away her calendar with so many lovely pictures and inspiring quotes all over it.
I just grabbed the paper scissors and cut away. The cuttings all got tossed into a flower pot for me to grab and insert into a letter, package or make up into a special one-of-a-kind gift tag. The pages are made of heavy weight paper and are a perfect candidate for recycling. Of course if you get one of these calendar clippings from me you might also know when Dave went to Cincinnati last month or what day I got my hair done, but that’s okay. You’ll most likely tack up the fun side on your bulletin board and enjoy its joy. So look at your calendars, if you happen to have a cool one, and start cutting!
See you soon.