Monday, July 30, 2012

Stitching Update: July 2012

Submitted by Linda
Did you notice that I've converted Michelle into a stitcher also? You can read about it HERE.) This summer we've both enjoyed the calm of stitching, and the charm of hand embroidery. Here's the freebie pattern from Bird Brain for July:
You can also find this freebie on the same site.
This carrot design is from a pattern entitled "Fresh Picked".
Here's a top secret project I'm working on for someone's Christmas gift! This is all I can show....

Friday, July 20, 2012

Southern Strawberry Cake

Submitted by Michelle
My name is Michelle and I'm a chocoholic. I love all things chocolate.  The darker, the better.   When it comes to desserts, I'm sure you can guess which way I lean 99% of the time.  However, I saw this recipe for a Southern Strawberry Cake on one of my favorite food blogs and had to give it a try, despite it containing no chocolate at all.

I'm a little ashamed to admit these photos are from 10 months ago.  I always meant to write about this cake but haven't gotten around to it until now. Anyway, since it is summer and berries are in season and readily available, here goes.
The recipe starts with a simple strawberry puree, made in the food processor, which is added to cake batter made from all the usual suspects: sugar, butter, flour, oil, buttermilk, etc.
 The strawberries turn the batter a lovely shade of pink with little red flecks.  
A basic cream cheese frosting is used on the cake, but strawberry preserves are added to it to amp up the flavor and make it match the cake.
This cake stand Linda gave me a few years back is perfect for frosting and presenting the cake.
The cake is quite elegant, I think, and tasted as good as it looked.  
I highly recommend this cake.  It is sweet, but not cloying, and would make the perfect addition to any summer dinner table.  The only thing that might improve it would be the addition of chocolate chips to the cake batter or chocolate shavings on top (or both)!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I Want My Life Back

Submitted by Michelle
It is mid-July and I am almost done with my course work for my Master's program.  I will still have a thesis to write, but that pales in comparison to going to class 2 - 3 times a week and every other Saturday for a year.  Many times throughout the program I have longed for free time to cook or craft or blog or read or garden or exercise.  The demands of being a graduate student required my focus to become rather narrow, and now that the end is in sight, I cannot wait to get back to my old life style.  

Despite being a student, I have still squeezed in some stamping, though not as much as I would like.  In June, I created these cards for my stamp club ladies but never posted them guessed it! I was at class or doing homework or something else related to being an academic.  Linda reminded me that they needed to go up, so here they are. 
This gem was inspired by my friend Liz, who is a member of my Claremont Stamp Club.  Almost a year ago she made a similar card and it was the perfect springboard for me to work from.  Many of my club members substituted "Happy Father's Day" for the "Happy Birthday" salutation.
I found this card idea in the Stampin' Up! Idea Book and Catalog (the old one, not the new one.)  It is simple and sweet, just like a baby!
My friend Teri likes all things French inspired, so I designed this card with her in mind.  I'm sure I stole the idea from an online source, though the site escapes my educated brain right now.
Finally, I wanted a bonus for the ladies and this 3X3 gift card was the perfect thing.  My friend Carrie designed it and all I had to do was copy her original.  No reason to re-invent the wheel when I have such a crafty friend.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tshirt Quilt: Never Say Never

Submitted by Linda
My boys are both in college, and I have to admit that one of the things I miss most about having the boys around is Little League Baseball. Both of my boys played well, and Craig often was coaching, so it was a family affair with lots of happy memories tied in.

I was one of those forward-thinking moms (euphemism for 'crazy mom') who saved all of their jerseys from the beginning. Then in the summer of 2004 (Tommy was 13 and Nick 12), my mom and I set out to make them each a blanket/quilt out of their jerseys. We did both in one week (while they were away at summer camp), and we calculated that we spent 55 hours that week creating a pattern, buying supplies, cutting, pressing, stitching, and tying. Here is Tommy with his blanket, after he opened it for Christmas:
It turned out to be a big job, and my mom and I were both so happy when the quilts were done. "Thank goodness we never have to do that again!", we said. But then they played Junior level, and even one year of Senior level, and I kept saving jerseys. It's so hard to throw them away when your family name is imprinted on the back!

As I did my summer purge in my craft room, I came across the tub of shirts, and decided I needed a tshirt quilt to live at our house. Thankfully Mom agreed to help me, so I packed up my shirts, and the backing flannel (which I also had purchased years ago) and headed to her house. Thankfully, we had saved the pattern and measurements:
For the boys' quilts, I had shopped for years at various fabric stores to find MLB fabrics representing many of the teams they had been on. If you look again at Tommy's quilt, you'll notice the variety in the smaller squares. I decided I wanted a simpler look, so we opted out of that step. Here I have laid the shirts on the floor to decide on the layout.
Thank goodness for the quilter's cutting system. I can't imagine my grandmothers cutting out tiny pieces by hand, with scissors!
Shirts are cut, and the denimy-chambray is also ready. Time to start sewing.
The quilt top is laying on the 'warm and natural' batting, which is much thinner than the polyfil batting I used last time.
Here is the final outcome! It is warm and snuggly, and I get dibs on it next time I'm under the weather.Amazingly enough, I still have enough leftover shirts for me to wear on sports day or Halloween. I also saved a few for the distant future when the boys may have Little League players of their own. But for now, I'm done!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Ice Cream Dessert! Tommy's 21st B-Day

Submitted by Linda
Neither of my kids are big dessert fans, and can easily resist cake, even birthday cake. Through the years, my boys always requested a different dessert on birthdays, usually a Razzleberry Pie from Marie's or an upgraded rice krispie treat cake. Well, I've found a new winner, which is always enjoyed by everyone, young or old.
Here is Tommy on his 21st birthday:
This dessert is simply ice cream sandwiches layered with Cool Whip and toffee bits. This time I added a sprinkle of mini chocolate chips on top.
When it's served, it looks like a fancy dessert made with the Famous brand chocolate cookies. Most people don't realize the secret is the prepared ice cream sandwiches. And even if they do, they love it!
You can overachieve and place parchment or wax paper in your pan, so that you can pull out the dessert and put it on a pretty platter. You can also whip up your own heavy cream if you like.

Ice Cream Sandwich Cake
(I usually fill a 9 x 13 pan, but you can do it as large or a small as you like). This recipe fills a 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 loaf pan, and lasts for a week in your freezer!

6 ice cream sandwiches
Cool Whip (or heavy cream whipped with powdered sugar)
toffee bits and/or chocolate chips

Place parchment or wax paper in the pan, hanging over the longer sides.
Put half of the ice cream sandwiches on the bottom of the pan, cutting them to fit. Spread with half of the whip cream and sprinkle toffee/chocolate chips. Layer in the other half of the sandwiches, and top with the remaining cream. Sprinkle with additional candy. Cover with plastic wrap for at least an hour, and up to 1 week. To Serve: Holding both sides of the paper overhang, life the cake out of the pan and transfer to a pretty serving platter. Slice it up, and serve!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Michelle's Happy Birthday Weekend

Submitted by Michelle
clockwise from the purple toes: Teri, Linda, Michelle and Carrie
Three weeks ago I celebrated my 45th birthday with a girls weekend in Encinitas. Linda and I both agree that while we love to plan and attend parties, we don't really like to be the center of attention at a one. We've made a pact to never throw a surprise party for one another, or aid and abet a spouse who is trying to plan a surprise party for one of us. Getting out of town with three of my front row friends was the perfect way to celebrate.
Thanks to generosity of David's brother and sister-in law, we always have a great place to stay when we go to Encinitas. Here's a view from the living room window.
No party is complete without a gift basket. I made fun, beach-themed party favors for the girls which included their favorite candy, nail polish, lip balm, gold fish crackers, handmade cards, and other treats.
We did lots of walking around town. These boat houses are a landmark in Encinitas. Despite looking like real boats, they are made of wood and plaster. The closest they come to water is when it rains.
We also ran into some veggies on the street outside of Whole Foods Market.
Walking on the beach was also a favorite pastime.
That's me, Teri and Carrie in the middle of the staircase, looking out at the ocean.
During several of our walks we were lucky enough to experience extremely low tide which meant we got to check out the tide pools.
The sandbar in the picture above actually looks like this up close.
Doesn't this seagrass look like a star? In the pools of water were sea anemones that Linda had a great time poking with her shoe so we could see them open and close.
All the walking made us hungry so we had to do lots of eating, too. Sometimes we dined on our favorite finger foods.
We also ate at a local favorite, Blue Ribbon Artisan Pizza. Along with amazing wood-fired pizzas, they also have interesting appetizers. The heirloom Wisconsin black seed popcorn with truffle salt and parmesan cheese was delish!
As was the "BLT” Butter Lettuce Salad with artisan bacon, bread crumbs and cherry tomatoes.
Relaxing in the sunshine was a must.
Not bad for half way to 90!
left to right: Linda, Carrie, Michelle Teri
Our weekend was full of crafting, laughing, movie-watching and girl talk. I couldn't have asked for a better group of women to celebrate with, and I feel so blessed that the front row of my life is filled with such great friends!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Zucchini Relish

Submitted by Linda
A pioneer woman I am not. Yet every summer, my parents make their delicious zucchini relish, which doesn't taste at all like zucchini, and has a 'bread and butter pickle' vibe. I decided I ought to know how, so shortly after school was out, I spent two days at their house learning the magic. All I can say is that I'm grateful I live in a day where the grocery store is accessible!

Day one: Grind all the zucchini through the grinder. Next it goes in a big bowl in a salt brine to sit overnight.
Day 2: Rinse the zucchini in small batches and squeeze out all the liquid. This took awhile. My dad and I had to take turns to give our arm muscles a break!
Next we combine spices and sugar and vinegar and bring it to a boil.
Add the zucchini and bell pepper, and cook for 30 minutes. At this point, our air conditioned kitchen seemed hot to me. That's when my parents reminded me that my grandma usually canned quarts and quarts of fruit in the 'summer kitchen', which was outdoors in the humid Nebraska summer. I immediately quit complaining.
Jars are sterilized and ready!
All done! Mission accomplished!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Decorated Clipboard

Submitted by Linda
In the spirit of taking care of my 'health and home' (remember my summer theme?), I have been coming across unfinished projects and bringing them to completion.

When I was a pre-teen, I took a sewing class in junior high. My dad agreed to pay for any fabric my mom or I wanted, as long as we didn't let projects pile up. Apparently I had a great grandmother who had been hoarding fabric for years and years.

I think this is a good mantra to follow, and so I usually collect my supplies and get 'er done in a reasonable amount of time. I will admit, however, to occasionally finding supplies purchased long ago for a project that is no longer appealing. (When this happens, I ease my guilt and bless someone else by sharing it with a friend or donating it to goodwill.)

I love using smallish clipboards at school and at home for keeping track of to do lists, wish lists, schedules and so on. So when I found this cute scalloped clipboard, I knew it would be something I would enjoy using. It's about 9 inches square.
It had sat in my craft room for several years, waiting to get its turn to shine. Recently when I came across it, I decided to get started. Here are some of my options, spread out on the carpet.
I knew I wanted to start with the green polkies and the pink gingham. I cut the scallops as best as I could, then glued it down with ModPodge, then used sanding tools to clean up all of those scalloped edges. The ModPodge smells exactly the way it did when I learned decoupage at summer camp!
Next, I placed my pieces where I thought they should go. I ended up rejecting the number pennants, and punched my own out of coordinating paper.
Here is the final result! I did brush a few more coats on both the back and front, letting it dry well between coats.
On the back, I used one sheet of paper...
...with one small embellishment.
Listed below are the supplies I used.
Thanks for looking!

Front of Clipboard: Green Acres Polka Dot (Pink Paislee), Fruit Stand pink gingham (Pink Paislee), assorted papers for pennant border (Pink Paislee), Hometown Summer Border Stickers (Pink Paislee), Flower Die, Word Stickers, Soda Sticker (Modern Homemaker/October Afternoon), U for Umbrella Flash Card (October Afternoon); Back of Clipboard: Sunnyside Lane (Hometown Summer/Pink Paislee)