Christmas Day 2011

On Christmas Day my mom, sister and brother came over to my house for breakfast and gifts. I made my own Christmas tree this year, thanks to an inspiring photo on Pinterest.
one tomato cage + four strands of garland + five strands of lights + tablecloth = Christmas tree!

I got up early and made breakfast for the family. French bread has to soak in an egg mixture overnight, so Christmas morning I only had to add a few more ingredients and put the casserole in the oven. 
melted butter, brown sugar, pecans for french toast bake

I put together a tray of hot chocolate goodies. I didn't know until recently that you can buy around a small number of marshmallows in a tiny package, it was the perfect amount to add to the top of a few hot chocolate cups.
mint and dark chocolate flavored hot chocolate with marshmallow

I had a little time after cooking before the family arrived, so I logged on to Pinterest again to find an interesting way to fold my napkins. I bought these napkins at Target; maybe eventually I will make my own. I love this napkin fold, it creates a little pocket to put your utensils in.

Over breakfast (which included mimosas, yum!) we talked about a possible zombie apocalypse and all the things we would need to do in order to survive. My sister asked lots of thought provoking questions about what each of us would contribute to a new society of humans that was surrounded by zombies. I would sew everyone's clothes and other necessary textile items, of course.

recipe at the end of this post
We took a few family photos; it is hard to look good from this angle, but our silly photos are fun to create. Our 2009 Christmas photo is still my favorite. I printed it on to a pillow that I made for my mom.
Four corner photo
Head Stack 2011
Head Stack 2011 has become our new catch phrase, every time we mention our Christmas Day events.

After that we sat by the tree and opened gifts. I received lots of great things, but the funniest thing was the little surprise I found when I opened a gift from my brother. He is in his first year of college and did a great job shopping for the family and helping my mom to wrap his gifts. (Except for two bags of gifts that he handed to me on Christmas Eve and asked me to wrap for my mom and a few other people. I finished those up at 2:30 in the morning.) But he is still young, and a boy, and so he didn't notice that he added some trash to my gift.
I found a gum wrapper inside a gift from my brother
After gifts we made hot chocolate and egg nog lattes, prepared a snack  and sat down to watch Malibu's Most Wanted.

In the early afternoon my sister left to visit her boyfriend's family, my mom went home to take a nap, and my brother went home to play a new video game. I had a great Christmas with my family, our time together was a lot of fun.
I had the rest of the day to myself to sew, get caught up on some ironing, and plan out some new quilt projects. I made a fire, opened a beer, and appliqued these outfits for a sweet little boy that I know and his sister, she will be born in February.
airplane shirt for Q
butterfly onesie for baby Davis
Side note: When I gave the shirt to Q. a couple of weeks later, he said, "This isn't a Christmas gift. These are just clothes!" He was not impressed with my sewing ability or his one of a kind gift.

Two years in a row I have managed to set off the smoke detectors when I try to light my first fire of the winter season in my fire place. Somehow the flue gets closed during the year, but I don't realize it and the next thing I know my apartment is full of smoke. This year though, I made a successful fire without setting off any alarms...

...and then I tried to iron some laundry. I have a new blouse that is made of some rayon or polyester; I don't know exactly because I removed the tag. It has an undershirt and a sheer top over that, and for some reason the manufacturers put the tag on the inside of the sheer top so it is visible when I wear it. That makes no sense to me and so I cut it out. I thought to myself that the tag probably says Use a Cool Iron, but that never gets any wrinkles out, so I thought I would iron it just a bit. Just for a second or two.
big hole in my new shirt from the iron
the piece of my shirt that was burned off
This set off the smoke alarm nearest to me, which in turn set off all the others ones in the apartment. It didn't take very long to get those quiet again and then I set to work cleaning my iron. And I threw my shirt in the trash. I have decided to make an effort not to buy clothing made of that material anymore.
my poor Rowenta
my hero
looking like new and ready to get back to work
I had a wonderful Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and then a week long holiday from work. I went to Fort Worth to visit my dad's family, which was fun and filled with more adventures. Including this:
my uncle and I attempt to work on my Honda's oil leak in his garage
French Toast Bake

12 day-old French bread
5 eggs
2 ½ c milk
1 c packed brown sugar, divided
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 c chopped pecans
¼ c butter or margarine, melted
2 c fresh or frozen blueberries

Arrange bread in a greased 13 x 9 inch baking dish. In a bowl, combine the eggs, milk, ¾ c brown sugar, vanilla, and nutmeg; pour over bread. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Sprinkle pecans over egg mixture. Combine butter and remaining sugar; drizzle over top. Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with blueberries. Bake 10 minutes longer or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.
Yield: 6 servings


Christmas Eve 2011

I am finally getting around to writing about all the fun activities that happened over Christmas.
My mom's large family always has a Christmas Eve party. We used to have this party at my grandma and grandpa's house, but they are getting older and my grandma has been having a harder time with her leukemia lately and she can't host our holiday gatherings anymore.
One of my aunts lives right down the road from my grandparents and she is so nice to have everyone over to her house for our celebration. I made these delicious sesame seed green beans for the occasion. They are simple to make and so yummy.

My brother is a Christmas Eve baby and my younger sister is usually the baker of our family birthday cakes. (Last year she made me a delicious margarita cake!) But this year she has been so busy that the task sneaked up on her, so I told her that I would make a cake for Ivan.
I looked around at the grocery store trying to come up with something more exciting than a yellow cake mix in a box. I found a recipe for chocolate cake with chocolate frosting on the back of a package of baking chocolate. Then I found a bag of Andes® Crème de Menthe Baking Chips, delicious! I asked my sister to help me figure out how much baking chocolate I could replace with the Andes baking chips without making it too minty or not minty enough. I think it came out well except that I had a hard time getting the icing on the sides to look very good.

When we arrived at my aunt's house I sprinkled some mint baking chips on top and put in those adorable candles. I only wish that I had remembered the glass cake stand that I have at home instead of bringing that plastic one. Ivan seemed to enjoy his cake and I am glad that so many family members were there to celebrate with him.
Ivan's birthday cake
The other exciting thing about Christmas Eve was the quilt that Robin and I made for our grandma for her 82nd birthday. You can read more about that here and here.

Robin, Grandma, Grandpa, me with the side of the quilt that I made
Robin and me, with her bento box side of the quilt


W.i.P Wednesday 07

I don't have much to report here about actual sewing because I still don't have my Janome back from the shop.
I have made some progress in other creative areas so I'll tell you about that.

I bought the white towels that I need to make my Valentine's Day towels. When I am finished they will look something like this.

I bought a basket to house my fabric scraps. New rule in the sewing studio: my amount of fabric scraps may not exceed what can fit into this basket.

I have a custom order to make 40 note cards from a customer that bought two sets of cards from me in December. He was visiting Austin from Washington D.C. and came by my First Thursday booth. It is exciting to have customers from across the country! I have paper, note cards, ink and stamps. Now I just need the time to sit down and assemble them.

I'm also planning to make Valentine's Day cards to send out to friends and family. I have addressed all the envelopes, and chosen the paper, stamps, ink, ribbon and thread. Now I just need to cut up the paper and sew it down onto my cards. Then write in them, seal them up, put stamps on them and mail them out. I have plenty of time, right? There are only 48 cards...

I was cleaning the house the other day and I found the pattern for this purse that I am making. I was so excited to find it, and I also went to the store to get another copy of the instructions for the double sided fusible interfacing that I am using for the purse handles.

I ordered the rest of the fabric that I need for a secret quilt top that I am making for a family member. All I can say for now is...Kona Solids... (and I found it in my mailbox today!)

I haven't made any progress on the baby blanket for my friend Abbey. The blocks call out to me every day when I come home from work, "Square us up! Pin sashing strips to us!" But so far it hasn't happened. (That baby will be here next week! Eek!)

I bought Christmas fabric after the holiday to make two table toppers, one for my sister and one for me. I washed and ironed the fabric. Now I am just waiting for my sister to tell me the width of her table so that I can cut the pieces out.

I am making plans with my cousin Robin to make a quilt for her brother. He is stationed in Afghanistan right now and we are hoping to finish a quilt by April so that he can get it when he comes home on leave. I will post more about that later. We are fabric shopping this weekend.

Oh, yes. Today is my birthday and my family and friends have lots of fun things planned. Yesterday my cousins, aunt and I went to trivia at the sports bar and they brought cupcakes and we had tequila shots! Tonight I am going to Torchy's Tacos with my cousin Sarah for dinner. Tomorrow night I'll have dinner with my good friend Abbey at Monument Cafe. This Friday a group of my cousins along with a couple of friends, Mackenzie and Jenn, are going to see a Master Pancake Theater show at Alamo Drafthouse. On Sunday my mom, brother, sister and a few aunts and cousins will be having lunch at Polvos. I am so excited for all of these fun birthday events, I have already started thinking of how I will design my thank you cards. I'll post some pictures when they are finished.

I am linking up with Freshly Pieced today, check it out!

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced


Pleated Towels

These towels are a birthday gift for my friend Mackenzie. She bought two sets of pot holders that I made using this fun P & B retro kitchen fabric. After receiving those she said she would like to have some matching hand towels. I showed her the pleated pillow tutorial that I had recently read in American Patchwork & Quilting. The tutorial is called Jolly Holiday and was designed by Anna Griffin. At the end of the tutorial is a short explanation by the executive editor on how to dress up a kitchen towel using the same pleated fabric idea.  Mackenzie said that she liked the look but also wanted to add some sort of closure so that her toddler twins wouldn't be able to pull the towel off the rack and drag it around on the floor.

towels with button closures
I found these snap closures on a strip of white fabric at the craft store and cut it into four small sections. Sewing the pieces to the towel proved to be difficult because the presser foot and the buttons kept getting in the way of each other. Eventually, I just removed the foot and sewed them down without it.

sewing the buttons down, without a foot

the pleats
finished toddler proof towel

I made these Aggie towels as a White Elephant gift for my family's Christmas Eve gathering. Lots of my cousins, aunts and uncles are Texas A&M University Alumni, and my brother is a freshman there now.
I used my aunt's embroidery machine to sew the word 'Howdy' on each towel using maroon thread and at the bottom of the towel I added some maroon fabric folded into pleats. There is a one inch strip of fabric at the top of the pleats to give it a clean line.

the pleats require a lot of pins to hold them in place

My aunt Janet received these towels in the White Elephant gift exchange; all three of her kids went to A&M so I think the towels found a good home. My family had lunch at her house yesterday to spend time with my aunt and uncle who are visiting from Colorado, and Aunt Janet had a Howdy towel hanging up at the kitchen sink.

finished Aggie towel
I have plans to make a few sets of Valentine's Day towels, and after making these two sets, I think the Valentine towels will be slightly different. The fabric is cut, the towels have been washed, I bought matching thread yesterday, and I have started folding the pleats and pinning them down.
My sewing machine is being cleaned and serviced, and hopefully soon I will get a phone call letting me know it is ready to be picked up.
I have been without it for eleven days so far and my projects are beginning to stack up.


Benefit for Michael Adams

I don't know Michael Adams. I didn't know anything about him until yesterday afternoon when my friend Mackenzie sent me a link to his benefit website and asked if I would like to make a donation to their silent auction. Mackenzie doesn't know Michael Adams either, but her friend Kristin knows someone who knows him.

I love that the world can work this way. I know someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows Michael and through the powers of generosity of spirit and technology his situation has been brought to my attention.

Michael was recently diagnosed with stage four cancer and his family, which includes a wife and three children, need help paying all of his medical bills. The benefit will be held on Saturday, January 14th at the Salvage Vanguard Theater in Austin from 5 to 8 p.m. There will be local musicians, a silent auction, kids activities and food. Donations can also be made on the website if you are unable to attend the benefit but still want to contribute.

Kristin met with me today and selected three of my things to add to the auction.
baby blanket
set of pot holders
purse with yellow duct tape lining
 I hope that the event will be a success tomorrow and I am glad that I had the opportunity to make my first donation so early in the new year.


W.i.P. Wednesday 06

I am working on several things in the New Year. My work in progress table is stacked high with projects that were started last year, so I am hoping to work twice as much to clear out old projects while still completing new projects.

A good friend of mine is having a baby soon and these are a couple of blocks for that quilt. I fussy cut animals from Michael Miller's Zoology in Lagoon for the centers of these wonky log cabins.

When I was visiting family in Fort Worth after Christmas, my aunt and I cut out the backing, sashing, borders, and binding.

This week my Janome is in the shop having its yearly cleaning and some repairs done. I feel lost without it. But it gives me time this week to square up the 12 blocks and get my binding pinned together so it is ready to sew when my machine comes home this weekend. I am working on the assumption that it will be ready for me to pick up on Saturday, because I really want (need) to have it this weekend.

This purse was started last year in November when the quilt guild went on a retreat. I have the bottom of the purse completed. The outside fabric and interfacing as well as the lining fabric and its interfacing are put together and ready for the handles to be attached. The handles are on hold because I lost the instructions for the double sided fusible interfacing and need to go to the store to get more.
Actually the entire purse is on hold while I try to find the pattern for it.

I was packing up some work to take with me for an evening of babysitting a friend's son and I thought I put the instructions in my bag so that I could sew the flower together while he slept. But I think I may have put the instructions in my bag of recyclables instead. It was by the front door so that I could take it outside on my way to the car. When I got home and looked around the house for the pattern, I realized I may have accidentally recycled it. I went out to the bin at 11 p.m. and tried to look around but I didn't have any luck finding it. So I am going to wait a bit and see if it turns up in my sewing studio, and if not I will buy a new pattern so that I can finish this purse.

I love this flower that will go on the outside of this bag!
I cut out two types of Valentine's fabric so that I could make some more sets of kitchen towels. I made some for Christmas gifts last month. I really like the way these turn out, I am going to try to finish pinning the pleats this week so that this weekend they will be ready to be sewn onto the towels. Also, I have to go to the store and pick up some more white towels.
Valentine's Day fabric for my towels
Valentine's Day fabric for my cousin's towels

I am linking up with Freshly Pieced for this W.i.P. Wednesday! Stop by and check out some other amazing bloggers and what they have been up to lately!

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced


Grandma's quilt for her 82nd birthday

This is a very special quilt that my cousin Robin and I made for our grandma, who turned 82 on December 26, 2011.

Robin and I talked about what kind of quilt to make for our grandma, who is usually a very traditional quilter. Our quilting styles are more modern, and I struggled a bit deciding how to bring traditional and modern quilting styles together into something that I could be proud to have made and that my grandma would enjoy using.

In planning this quilt we decided that it would be fun to each make our own sides of the quilt without telling the other person what we were working on. I had no idea about Robin's choices regarding color palette, block design, or decisions about using a modern vs. traditional style.

I thought about our two quilt tops a lot in the months that we were piecing them together. Will the two sides work together? Will the colors clash? Are we making two very similar things and there won't be enough contrast between the two? Whose crazy idea was this to keep our quilt tops a secret from each other? (It was Robin's, I'm sure. She is the one who usually comes up with the crazy ideas, quilting or otherwise.) 
Robin's side of the lap quilt, bento box blocks
my side of the lap quilt, string pieced blocks
 In the end, our two quilt tops worked together very well. We both used blue and green fabrics, and my batiks have a hint of pink in a few of the fabrics, which works well with her pinks and reds. We quilted it using a light blue thread and a heart pattern, but we set the quilt up on a long arm quilting machine that I wasn't used to using, and to be honest, I did a poor job of quilting it. My hearts were more square than round, my points were more often loops. And so we decided the best thing to do would be to rip out all of the quilting and try again. Ripping out quilting thread on the 48 by 60 quilt took a couple of weeks and then we went back to the quilter's for round two. 

The second time around we chose a light pink thread and Robin quilted it using a free hand meandering pattern and it turned out very well. We squared it up, and realized that we needed to make a couple of repairs to Robin's side, you can read more about that on her blog

We chose one of Robin's Moda red fabrics for the binding to help bring some of Robin's red over to my side of the quilt. Robin pieced the binding together and I sewed it down to the quilt and made the label. 

quilt label includes a Margaret Kennedy quote about family
Robin, Grandma, Grandpa, and me on Christmas Eve