Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Summer Lovin' Roundup

It's been sort of dreary and rainy this past few days and over the weekend. It really makes me nostalgic for changing seasons on the way to summer and those half warm/half chilly spring days in Kentucky. Here's a little Summer Lovin' to fuel your cabin fever.

1. Scallop Hem Shorts
2. Old-Fashioned Stripey Paper Straws
3. DIY Summer Tent for Kids
4. Color Block stripey T
5. Beach Umbrella Art Print
6. Delicate Silver Sandals

Monday, February 27, 2012

Hand Embroidered Baby Pants

My sweet friend C had her baby a couple of weeks ago, so I got busy working on a little gift for him. This Handcut Chenille Baby Blanket and little bitty pair of soft, gray, wide wale corduroy pants.

They have a comfy elastic waist and they're long in the rise so there is plenty of wiggle and diaper room. I used Made by Rae's Basic Baby Pants Pattern (free HERE), but I added a little to the length because she only calls for a 1/4" hem and I like a wider hem. I also topstitched the side seams and rise because I like the look and makes them a bit more sturdy.

I decided to personalize them, hand embroidering little man's name along the hem.

I added a little twill tag in the back. I've learned from experience that new dads do not appreciate having to guess which is the front and which is the back when dressing a squalling little one.

I used a disappearing marker to draw the letters, emroidered the main outline in white then added a little extra so that I would have some areas to fill in with color. These were just free hand for me, but you could play around with fonts on your computer or sketch them out until you have what you want. I was envisioning bright, vintagey circus posters when I did this. Boys clothes need some color too!

Can't wait to meet this little guy in person!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Chevron Faux Chenille Baby Blanket

I love a good chevron print! This one is home decor weight cotton from Hancocks (scored on sale!). After seeing a few great examples of these faux chenille baby blankets (HERE and HERE), I dcided to give it a try! Blankets are such a traditional gift for a baby, but this one seems to have just a little something different and special about it. I absolutely love the way it feels, kind of heavy like a quilt, but soft and fluffy because of the flannel. I will be making more and doing a couple of things differently, even though I am really happy with how this one turned out! 

(NOTE: I just updated this post with a few pictures of a second blanket I made recently, you'll see some different colors, but the process is the same!)

a rectangle or square of home decor weight fabric in your chosen size (don't pre-shrink)
3 pieces of flannel in the same size (also, don't pre-wash/shrink)
a piece of bias binding long enough to cover the edges of your blanket.

1) Layer the cotton and flannels together with wrong sides together. I laid my cotton right side down on the floor then spread the flannels all right sides up on top of that. Pin every few inches so that they don't slip as you are quilting. I recommend a walking foot. If you use a chevron patterned fabric, like I did, just stitch with the design, the rows need to be no more than an inch apart. This step takes a few hours to complete.

If you just want to make stripes instead of following a chevron, stitch your lines on the bias so that the flannel frays without unraveling.

2) Next, put on a good movie, grab a really sharp pair of scissors and cut through the 3 layers of flannel between every row of stitches-be sure not to snip the home decor weight cotton.

3) Then you bind your blanket. I used pre-made, double fold bias tape. You could keep square corners like the yellow and blue blanket above or round them like this green and yellow one (TUTORIAL here). 

After binding, wash and dry the blanket a few times and you get magic!! 

The flannel frays and curls up and gets all soft and textured. It's a great floor blanket! Babies love to look and grab at it.

(bias tape for binding above and flannel binding below--the flannel didn't hold up to washing quite as well as the bias tape, on both blankets I stitched several times over the edging, I just liked the look)


1) Next time, I will range my flannels from lightest on the outside to dark the closest to the cotton (I did gray, red, blue from the bottom up, but I wish I had done gray on the outside). The gray (which I love paired with the mustard yellow) got a little lost against the back of the cotton. I think that would also have given a little more depth to the overall look. I like the idea of neutrals with pops of bold color peeking out.

2) Flannel worked ok for the binding, but it didn't wash quite as well as I had hoped. It pills a bit. I used bias tape for my most recent blanket and couldn't be happier with how it washed up.

I know I would be ecstatic to get one of these as a gift, heck, I'm ecstatic to GIVE a couple of these as gifts!


Last week, I ran across a neat recipe on Pinterest, easy homemade donuts using canned, Pilsbury biscuit dough. I guess they're more of a semi-homemade item (See the original post HERE) I like to do fun things for breakfast on weekends, so we gave them a try!

They were gooooood! Just be sure to eat them while they're hot. They definitely lose the magic after they cool off and the texture gets heavy, they're light and tender right out of the pan.

Here's the bad news:
You fry them up in about 1 inch of oil then you dip them in melted butter, then sprinkle liberally with cinnamon and sugar. Keep these in the "Only in Moderation" section of your recipe box.

Also, they make your house smell like a roller skating rink, something about that hot oil/frying smell takes me right back to elementary school birthday parties at Champs. Let's just say, not the best memories, I was not a cool kid.

All you need for these are:
1 can of Pilsbury "Grands" biscuits (you don't want flaky)
Cooking oil
1 stick of butter

Use the donut holes for practice while you're getting the oil to the right temperature. Too hot and the middles will be raw, too cool and they will be greasy. I burned one or two...

I got it eventually...

Cool enough to cook about 3 minutes on each side and hot enough to bubble. Pop them out and onto a paper towel lined plate then dip in the butter and sugar.

Yummy, yum!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine's Day

We had a nice day yesterday, beautiful 70 degree weather and W got home early from work. I made these "Break My Heart" Valentines for the boys. P's was filled with M&M's, he loved it! I made W's with these really delicious chocolate cherry swirl Dove chocolates. There is a tutorial HERE. The only thing I did differently was to reduce my stitch width for the perforation step so that it would tear a little easier.

We (generally) don't do big gifts at Valetine's Day, maybe a card or some candy and flowers. For W, I decided to make a really fantastic meal. I have to say, it might be one of the best meals I have ever made. We had lamb shank braised with rosemary, onions, carrots and white wine (recipe, Creating a Stir) because W LOVES lamb and we rarely buy nice cuts of meat like that. I also made Pioneer Woman's burgundy mushrooms (I 4th'd the recipe and it was still way more than we needed for two people). These were absolutely TO. DIE. FOR. Truly, the flavor is out of this world, and the broth...I have no words. You'll want to lap it right out of the pan. I combined it with some of the braising liquid to make a delicious sauce that I drizzled over the lamb, mushrooms and creamy mashed potatoes.

It was so good, but we were too full to eat after just a few bites and will be feasting on leftovers this week. This isn't a great picture, it was really dark!

W was so sweet, he gave me a beautiful fleur-de-lis necklace. I love it! It's such a symbol of New Orleans, something fun to remember this year by.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sweets for the Sweet: Chocolate-Raspberry-Coconut Squares

Today, I'm sharing one of my all-time favorite recipes from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks (Creating a Stir, put out by the Lexington Medical Society Auxiliary). Every recipe I've tried from this book has been fantastic and a definite "I'll make this again." Great cookbook!

Today's "Sweets for the Sweet" are Chocolate-Raspberry-Coconut Squares. They are bar cookies, made in several layers with a few of, in my opinion, the best flavors in the world! There is something irresistable about chocolate and raspberry paired together, top that with coconut and you've got yourself a deal! Not to mention, they are very easy and sure to turn out perfectly. They also seem 'special,' so I wouldn't hesitate to package them up and give them as a gift, serve them when friends come over, or send with my "Sweet" for a little Valentine's Day lunch surprise.

How it's done and what you need:

1 c. all-purpse flour
1/4 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 c. butter, chilled and cut into pieces

Middle Layer:
1 c. sweetened condensed milk (yes, please!!)
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 c. flaked coconut
1/2 c. chopped pecans

1/2 c. raspberry preserves
1/3 c. flaked coconut, toasted

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine flour and brown sugar, cut in chilled butter with a fork or pastry cutter until uniformly crumbly. Press into greased 9" square pan. Bake for 15 minutes.

While the crust is baking, mix up the middle layer. In a large bowl, combine condensed milk, flour, baking powder, salt, and eggs. Mix well then stir in chocolate chips, coconut and pecans.

Spread middle layer mixture over the prepared crust. Spread gently to avoid breaking up the crust. (The condensed milk really makes this delicious!)

After spreading evenly, bake 20-25 minutes, until a knife in the center comes out clean. Mine was perfect at 20.

While this is baking, toast the coconut for topping. It's not hard, just watch it like a hawk. Spread coconut in a thin layer on a baking sheet and stick under the broiler with the oven door open. Pull it out the instant you start to see color, stir and put back in if needed. Never walk away!

After baking, spread the raspberry preserves evenly over the hot cookie and sprinkle with toasted coconut. Let cool completely before slicing them up.

These are absolutely decadent and delicious! You won't be able to stop eating them. Enjoy and treat your sweetie!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sweets for the Sweet:"Love Letters"

In honor of Valentine's Day, I thought for the next few days I would feature some sweet treats. Some old, some new, all delectable and all destined to make your holiday just a little...sweeter!

I posted about the "Brownies of My Dreams" (above) not too long ago, they are rich and decadent and perfect when eaten warm with maybe a fresh strawberry and a dollop of whipped cream. Yummy-yum!

Today, I tried a new recipe, from a very old book. My grandmother gives these books to each granddaughter who gets married. It's such a neat book, with recipes from the 1920's through the 60's. There are standards like sugar cookies and chocolate chip, and also the old-fashioned versions that are a little more time consuming or call for ingredients we don't use so often anymore. There are cookies filled with jam, citrus zest or folded into intricate patterns. It's a treasure, I enjoy just flipping through it and I always make something new from this book at Christmas.

I saw this recipe and thought I would give it a try. "Love Letters."

I halved the recipe above, used only orange zest, added a little vanilla and a drop or two of food coloring and used mini m&m's instead of candied cherry.

Cute little envelopes, folded and sealed with a sweet bite of chocolate...or a kiss. The orange zest makes this cookie bright, fragrant and fresh and the sour cream adds a little creaminess. They aren't super sweet, so they're the perfect bite with a cup of hot, black tea.

These are simple to make, mix dry ingredients as described above. Then cut in the cold butter with a fork and knife or a pastry cutter. It should look crumbly.

Add the sour cream and dab of food coloring if you want, mix well, roll into a ball and CHILL IN THE REFRIGERATOR FOR ABOUT 30 minutes. Believe me, this step will make your life easier!

After chilling, roll out the dough on a well floured surface. I used a pizza cutter to cut strips then a spatula to lop off the corners. Fold points in and seal with a small piece of candy.
Bake about 6 minutes at 400 F. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Think it Through Thursday

I just started reading Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts. If you haven't read it, put it on your list and have a box of tissues ready at your side. It's a book you should read slowly, to be digested slowly. She deals with big, hard questions in this book and talks about real, hard life issues. It's convicting and inspiring in so many ways, God speaks through scripture on every page  In the book, the author is struggling, (at least in the first 5 chapters) to grasp and fully know the joy that God promises in a world that is full of pain and loss. Ann's premise is that ingratitude is what keeps us from seeing and knowing God's grace, at the challenge of a friend she begins to list one thousand gifts. Many are simple, everyday things. Noticing beauty in the common, in the details. She looks at this list as a way to learn gratitude, to be thankful and to see God's grace in the big things, one has to be thankful for (and notice) the small. Here is a section of the book that I found particularly convicting.

"It is true, I never stop wanting to learn the hard eucharisteo (thanksgiving) for the deathbeds and dark skies and the prodigal sons. But I accept this is the way to begin, and all hard things come in due time and with practice. [...] Gratitude for the seemingly insignifican--a seed--this plants the giant miracle. The miracle of eucharisteo, like the Last Supper, is in the eating of crumbs, the swallowing down one mouthful. Do not disdain the small. The whole of the life--even the hard--is made up of the minute parts, and if I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole. These are new language lessons, and I live them out. There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things. It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing. The moments will add up.

I, too, had read it often, the oft-quoted verse: " And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 5:20). And I, too, would nod and say straight-faced, "I'm thankful for everything." But in this counting gifts, to one thousand, more, I discover that slapping a sloppy brush of thanksgiving over everything in my life leaves me deeply thankful for very few things in my life. A lifetime of sermons on "thanks in all things" and the shelves sagging with books on these things and I testify: life-changing gratitude does not fasten to a life unless nailed through with one very specific nail at a time." (p. 57)

I am so guilty of that "slapping a sloppy brush of thanksgiving," especially in my prayers. "Lord, thank you for your many blessings." Does not acknowledging each blessing keep me from fully seeing the incredible gift? I think this acknowledging would definitely focus my mind and heart on what I have been given, on the grace, rather than on what I don't have. Contentment starts here. I'm tempted to start a list of my own, train my eyes and mind and heart to see the grace in everyday things. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Valetine's Day Pinterest Love

I don't think I need to talk up Pinterest because everyone is addicted, but I do have a little Pinterest love for you today. A few Valentine's Day ideas to get those creative juices flowing!

 1. Fabric appliqued Valentines
 2.  Easy Felt Heart Garland
 3. "You Break My Heart" Candy filled paper Valentines
 4. Fun idea for a child's friends or class: Heart shaped crayon Valentines.
 5. Super simple felt fortune cookies! Love this!
 6. Swirly Sugar Cookies

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Boy Belt in a Snap Tutorial

Since P has gotten a little bigger and is wearing more pants with beltloops, I've been wanting to make him a belt. Toddler size belts are in limited supply out there. The other day, I noticed this one of my husband's, it gave me a few ideas.

Palmetto Navy and White Belt

You've probably seen belts like this, made of simple woven cotton belting covered with fabric and sometimes sports insignias. I thought it would be a relatively easy thing to reproduce with some neat variations to make it a little more young and fun. I went with a striped, linen look fabric, but it would also be really fun to use a bright print, embroider designs or use fabric paint to stamp or stencil.

I've included two different 'routes' in this tutorial. Both are very quick, less than an hour, but one is much simpler and the other is a little more involved. Either way, you'll end up with a great toddler belt that no one will believe you made!

Here's what you need:

     *If you want to take the simpler method, use two, one inch d-rings and no snaps.
       If you want snaps, also pick up some gel super glue or liquid stitches.
     *I used one inch wide belting, you could go a little wider for an older child (with
       bigger pants ;).
     *I just realized the picture below could be a bit confusing, the cardstock is three
      quarters of an inch wide and for the belting length take your child's waist plus 5 or
      6 inches.

Prepping the Fabric
Take the fabric for the belt front and back and the cardstock strip to your ironing board. (P.S. If you're going to be using the snaps, choose a fairly thin cloth, mine is really thin, linen-look. I only needed 1/8 yd). Center the cardstock on the fabric, fold the edges over and iron.

Do this for both pieces of fabric, now you have two lovely, straight strips of single fold bias tape (although it's not cut on the bias) that are exactly 3/4" wide.

(Sooo...obviously what I should be sewing is a new ironing board cover...)

Attaching Fabric to Belting:
Take the shorter piece of fabric, starting at one end of the belting, center the fabric and pin in place.

Set your machine to a dense zig-zag and stitch across the raw end as shown. (I tucked the sides in a little so that the stitches will be hidden behind the fabric on the other side.)

Return to a straight stitch and edgestitch all the way around the shorter fabric piece, attaching it to belting. Next, take the longer fabric strip, center and pin in place on the other side of the belt. Sew around the edges. Trim ends if needed.

End Tab:
Now grab your 2" x 2" square, it's going to be a tab to cover the raw end of the belt that has fabric on both sides.

OK! If you are taking the simple route, this is your last step!! If you are going it the other way, you're almost to the tricky part :).

SIMPLE ROUTE (D-Ring Belt Buckle):
Thread the raw end of the belt through TWO one inch d-rings (photo below only shows one, but they're attached the same way).  Fold the raw end under and sew across the fold, forward and backstitching securely. That's it! You have a cool, grown up boy belt with tons of easy variations. Different colored belting, bright fabrics, you name it! To fasten, thread tabbed end through both d-rings, then (reverse direction) around the first d-ring and through the second. Easy to adjust and it keeps those pants up around the waist instead of the knees!

Attach ONE one inch d-ring to the raw end of the belt, shown below. On to the next step!

(Ignore the fact that I started out using a 1 1/4" d-ring here)

I recommend starting with one snap stud and decorative prong cap on the tabbed end of the belt. The side with the shorter piece of fabric is what will show when the belt is pulled through the d-ring then back over itself to snap closed. So the decorative side will be on the shorter piece of fabric. Go ahead and set this snap. (See my tips for snap setting further down the page).

Now, try the belt on your child, while he is wearing a pair of pants with belt loops. Pull the end until it fits, make a mark where the snap socket side should go (this is going to be the tightest setting on your belt). Go ahead and set the socket snap in place

Where you add the other snap sockets so that the belt has adjustable lengths is up to you, tape them in place then experiment before you set them. I used decorative prong caps (with sockets or studs) anywhere that they would show. I like the look of them across the front of the belt.

*The bottom belt was my first sample, see how the Dritz snap setter indented the cap? I like the top belt better, using matching prong caps where they show turned out nicer.

Snap Setting Tips:
1) Don't try to use the Dritz snap setter recommended for size 24 snaps. It only works for one side and bends up the snaps horribly. Go with the spool of thread/hammer method described on the snap packaging. I found that if I started with light taps as I rotated the spool of thread (the snap is only in contact with those four plastic spokes) the snap closed more evenly and securely. Then several hard taps, still rotating the spool.

2)  The snaps are the part I love most from my original idea/sketches of this belt, they look so cool and industrial. BUT...there are a few limitations and endless variations on snap placement. The problem arises when a snap hits squarely at the d-ring. There are ways around it, but it limits the adjustability of your belt (this is a little hard to explain until you start fiddling around with snap placement, you'll see what I mean). If you decide to depart from my recommendations below, definitely tape them in place and experiment before you do anything permanent.

3) The belting is quite thick, but the snaps go through it pretty well. Thin fabric helps, but I had some snaps pull out of my first belt trial. After adding a few little dabs of super glue to the prongs, they worked perfectly. The gel is good because it doesn't bleed.

Rather than setting all the snaps at once, you could just add snaps as your child grows...although I could see myself doing that and having a Sunday morning that goes a little something like this :

Husband: "Are you ready yet?"
Me: "Yes, just one second, where's the hammer?"
Husband: "Hammer, what are you doing? We're going to be late and P's pants are falling down."
Me: "I. Know. That. Just get in the car, I'll be right there."

So cute! I'm going to have fun experimenting with patterns and colors. This could be a great women's belt as well!

P.S. If you make one, let me know how it went. Leave comments or add photos to the Flickr pool, "You Sewed!"

(I was browsing Elsie Marley's tutorials and saw she posted a really similar belt for boys on her site. I swear, I think the third belt down in the first photo is the same fabric! I like her solution to the snaps...)

Sunday, February 5, 2012


P has been babbling like crazy the past few weeks and saying some recognizable words more consistently. After Mama and Papa, his favorite word is 'ball,' which sounds like 'baw' with a big 'w' at the end. It's very cute and he says it all the time, over and over, and points and says 'ball' when he sees them. Last night he started saying 'yay'! The husband and I both say it all the time and hearing it come out of his little baby face, perfectly articulated is just too much. We spent all of dinner time trying to get him to say it. Fun!

At church this morning I got a really nice surprise! My friend, Mrs. D, our pastor's wife, beckoned me over and handed me a gigantic bag of buttons! YAY!

It was so sweet of her to share them, many came from her mother, but she saw this post and knew how much I adore unique buttons. I am definitely enjoying them already and I'm going to have to come up with some projects specifically to fit some of these cool buttons.

I spent a little time this afternoon watching a movie and sorting them out by color on a big baking sheet. It was exactly my kind of fun, so many different sizes, shapes, colors, and materials. (In the car on the way home from church, I was 'oohing' and 'ahhing' over them and my husband said I was like a seven-year-old girl excited about a hobby.) There were a bunch of vintage glass buttons-those milky white ones on the left above are all glass. There were some really interesting things too...

These are smaller than a pea, made of black glass and set with a rhinestone, very 'special occasion.'  

There were six of these "Indian Head" nickel buttons, when in the world were they manufacturing "Indian Head" nickel buttons and for what purpose? There were some other really neat metal buttons in shapes and designs I'd never seen before.

These are large, painted plastic and are a bit worn and chipped, but would be really special with a coat of bright, glossy spray paint.

Here are a few of my favorites. Love the colors and interesting shapes.

This one is tiny, clear glass with an etched design. So dainty!

These might be my favorite of the whole bunch! They are heavy and made of glass. I'm kind of nuts about them!

Thanks, Mrs. D! If you're seeing some of these for the first time and thinking: "Maybe I'd like to take those back now," you just let me know! :)

Are you like me? Looking at all these beauties makes me think I should have been snipping the buttons off my clothes before giving them to Goodwill all these years. But if you snip off the cute ones, do you have to replace them with plain ones so you're not just donating junk?

It's a conundrum indeed.