Monday, September 27, 2010

Autumn Baking Has Begun!

It seems like everyone around me has been anticipating the arrival of Fall for months now. I've never gotten that excited about decorating for the season, but perhaps that because orange and yellow are two of my least favorite colors and I couldn't care less about Halloween decorations. Now, my perspective has changed and I'm excited to make some Fall decorations for my house and have even enjoyed wearing Fall colors (usually I'm big into Spring and Summer colors). My favorite thing about Fall is making different foods. I'm branching out and trying new soup recipes and can't wait for holiday baking. I got my last issue of Taste of Home magazine in the mail the other day and found a few yummy cookie recipes that I'd love to try. One was a cross between a cinnamon roll and a snickerdoodle, both of which I absolutely adore! Oh I can feel the extra pounds around my waistline now! Ugh!

Alex had asked me to bake a carrot cake the other day, so I bought carrots and cream cheese and then ended up using the latter to make a cheese ball. Oops! A week later, I did bake him a cake from scratch. Thank you, Betty Crocker! I told Alex that I was Betty Crocker and he thought I'd said "Betty Crockett" as in "Davy Crockett". Hilarious! Anyway, for my first from-scratch cake, it turned out delish! I followed the recipe but instead of using 1 cup of oil, I used 1/2 a cup of sour cream and 1/2 a cup of oil to make it moist. I could have used a whole cup of sour cream, but then I wouldn't have had any for my taco salad later that night!

I probably added a little too much milk to the icing because it was ooey-gooey, but still oh so yummy! Making carrot cake wasn't as hard as some people make it out to be. I mean, they complain about shredding carrots, but that's what a food processor is for! We live in the 21st century and don't have to do everything by hand anymore! My mother-in-law bought me a big Black and Decker food processor for Christmas a few years ago and I've only used it a handful of times, but it's worth it. What kinds of things do you bake during the holidays?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Play Tent is Complete!

I've decided that I totally stink at coming up with creative blog post titles. Seriously, how original is "Play Tent is Complete!"? Anyway, obviously, I've finished my latest sewing project and am thrilled with the results!

I fretted and procrastinated and recruited a friend for help with the scary parts, but looking back, it really wasn't hard, even for a beginner seamstress! I think there are so many possibilities for cute tents, like pink with a zebra print "roof" and tie-backs for girls. I want one for my master bedroom! Well, maybe that's a stretch, but I've always wanted some sort of canopy for my bed and have never had one. Maybe I'll conquer that project someday years from now...

The tutorial for this project came from and just as the creator said, the supplies were around $15. I really want to make some more!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Taco Soup

In my attempt to try new foods and eat healthier, I tried a new recipe last week. A girl at work makes taco soup all the time during the Fall and even her kids love it. It looks and tastes similar to chili. Here's the recipe:

1 can whole kernel corn
2 cans petite diced tomatoes
1 can pinto beans
1 can chili beans
1 pkg Ranch dressing mix
1 pkg taco seasoning
1/2 medium to large onion (I used yellow onion) chopped finely
1 pound ground beef or turkey

Brown the meat, add ranch mix and taco seasoning (you could probably add the onion here, but I forgot, so I added it to the soup after everything else was mixed). I drained the corn and pinto beans before adding them to the pot, but I suppose you wouldn't have to do that. I didn't drain the chili beans or tomatoes. I had to add about 3/4 can of water to the soup to get it to the consistency I was looking for. Plus, I think the liquid in the pinto beans and corn is gross. I'm not a lover of canned veggies. Not at all. Combine all canned ingredients in large pot, add seasoned meat. Simmer and enjoy!

It makes about 8 servings. If you don't want to eat soup for several days in a row, use 1/2 cup frozen corn, leave out the pinto beans, use 1 can of tomatoes, and half a packet of ranch and taco seasoning.

You can experiment with the spiciness of the soup if you prefer mild or hot flavors. Chili beans usually come in mild, medium and hot varieties as does taco seasoning. Another lady at work added some hot sauce to her soup. Personally, Alex and I like mild spiciness because he gets heartburn at the drop of a hat. You can add cheddar cheese and/or sour cream to your bowl and I ate mine with blue corn chips. If you've never tried blue corn chips, they are thicker and crunchier than regular tortilla chips and have the same flavor. I get mine for less than $2 a bag at Aldi and they're all natural. No artificial colors or flavors. There's my plug for Aldi! I love that store!

Recipes like this were made for Fall weather and by the looks of it, Fall is almost here to stay! Thank the Lord for a break in 90 degree weather!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Wedding Gift

One of our good friends got married this weekend in between rainstorms and power outages during what was probably some of the worst weather we've had in a while. And the wedding was outside! But, thankfully for them, the storm passed so that the ceremony and reception could take place with no further interruptions. I wanted to make them a personalized wedding gift, so I copied an idea from another friend (because I can't come up with original designs! I'm not creative, I'm just a good imitator!). Remember my faux painting project from the other day? Here's what it transformed into:

I really hope they like it! I think it's neutral enough to go with any decor. I used my Cricut and Sure Cuts A Lot software to cut out all the letters in vinyl and reused the pretty mat that came with the original picture that I had painted over. Of course, now that I really love it, I want to make one for myself! We'll see if that ever happens. I attempted it once and it's not nearly as pretty as this one.

Nancy Yard Sale Adventure

Every year in my mom and dad's quaint little country town there is a 15-mile yard sale. I went last year with my mom and could only shop for a little while, but I got several great bargains. I've been looking forward to this year's sale forever. And then it wouldn't stop raining. My plan was to be up and at it by 8 or so in the morning. Instead, I slept till 7:50, and it was raining when I woke up. Our backyard was flooded, our roof was still leaking even though we thought we had fixed the problem, and my eager mood was waning into sadness. My mom and I were going to venture out despite the inclement weather, but I changed my mind and was willing to give up and skip my long-anticipated adventure. Thankfully, the weather cleared up and we decided to give it a go around 11 a.m.

We sloshed around in soggy yards for a while and it was worth it! I found a big old window with no glass that I am going to touch up with white paint and hang in my bedroom with a small wreath on it

a tool bench/desk for Sky for Christmas

(isn't it too cute?! And for $5!), a brand new Gap down vest and black work pants for me, two fleece pullovers for Alex and clothes for one of my nieces, a knick-knack rack for thread and scrapbooking supplies (I will be making this over with white or black paint for another post sometime in the future), and four blueberry bushes! I had forgotten about blueberry bushes being for sale and had wanted to buy some in the Spring but never got around to it. I'm so excited to have my own little patch of heaven in my backyard. Now the strawberries will have company (if they survived being crowded out by weeds this year. The blueberry bushes have already produced this year, so I'm sure to have a harvest next year, too! If I can ever get rid of the weeds. I am embarrassed of my yard and what used to be my garden. Lets not talk about that anymore. Moving on....I am so glad that we still got to go on this little adventure and have some mother-daughter time. I'm going to miss yard sales when winter comes. This has been the first summer in a loooong time that I've been able to go to so many sales. Did you find any good bargains this weekend?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tent Progress

In the midst of my sewing spree, I started Sky's tent. Things started off well; I thought I had figured out the confusing tutorial, my pieces resembled the pictures online, I was excited. But now I'm ready to sew the sides of the tent and have no idea what to do. And my "roof" isn't as tall and pretty as the tutorial. It's shorter and un-dramatic. Here's what mine looks like without being pinned to the hula hoop:

This project may be over my head. Only time will tell. Thankfully, a friend has offered to look at it with me, so hopefully her experience will come in handy and help me along before I really mess it up. Good thing I got started early on this present!

Brussell Sprouts and Faux Finishes

My first attempt at eating a wider variety of fruits and veggies was not quite successful tonight. I cooked about 8 brussell sprouts so that Alex and I could each have 4. Surely he'd eat that many without too much complaining, right? Wrong! He flat out refuse to touch them and pretty much dared me to even spoon them onto his plate. Score: Alex 1, Amanda 0. I, however, did enjoy them and will now be having the leftovers in my lunch tomorrow. Maybe at least one of us with be healthier.

On a radically different note, I started working on a wedding present for friends who are getting married this weekend. While at work today, I realized that I hadn't started the making the gift and precious time was ticking away. Thankfully, I was able to use my lunch break to find the right size picture frame to make a personalized wall hanging. I wish I had taken a "before" picture, but, as usual, the thought didn't enter my mind until the frame was completely disassembled. I bought a 12x24 inch frame and had to pull a zillion staples out of the back just to get the picture out so that I could paint over it. It's impossible to find this size frame for a reasonable price (read: cheap), so I had to improvise and tear apart one of those hideous pictures that you'd probably find in a motel. Luckily, the frame and mat were pretty and I didn't break anything while tearing it apart. (It is always my fear that I'll break the glass) A friend gave me the idea to paint a faux finish over the ugly picture to make a background for my design. This way I wouldn't have to scour our tiny town for 12x24 inch paper and I'd add depth at the same time. To accomplish this, I took leftover paint from our kitchen and family room and poured them into separate foam plates.

The third plate (on the bottom of the picture) was to dab off extra paint. I wadded up two plastic grocery bags, one for each paint color, and dabbed them into each paint color. Then I dabbed them on the extra plate to remove excess paint and then dabbed the paint all over the cardboard from the picture frame. I overlapped the colors often to blend them. I didn't want the background to stand out too much, but wanted it to be more interesting than just plain, smooth paint.

Now I am waiting for the paint to dry and have to play with my design. I'm going to spell out the couple's last name and add some other details with vinyl. When it's complete, I'll post pictures. The paint colors reminded me of chocolate and vanilla ice cream, so I had to indulge in some left over Spongebob ice cream cake from my dad's birthday get together on Sunday. Yes, my fifty-something year old father likes Spongebob. What is the world coming to???

Looking at this picture, the Spongebob detail looks like green, yellow and blue mold. Ew. And one last picture for good measure. My faithful blogging companion, tired from a day of playing at Grandma's:

Isn't she the cutest?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

New Favorite Hobby

I had my first sewing lesson today from my friend, Hannah, and got to break in my new machine. Thankfully, everything worked smoothly and my bargain buy wasn't a dud! My mom and other friends have shown me how to do a few things on the sewing machine, but I wasn't comfortable cutting patterns and didn't know how to applique. Our first project of the day was sewing my niece, Kalei, a kitty cat for Christmas. I named her "Kalei Kat". I'd say she turned out pretty great!

Here's where the pattern came from.It was also my first experience with elastic. I don't know what I was so worried about. Elastic is easy and fun! I can't wait to make a skirt for myself now!

I was so excited about sewing that I went home and started on the monogrammed pillows I planned to make for Kalei's two older sisters. I used my Cricut and Sure Cuts a Lot to choose a font and cut out the first letter of the girls' names to use as a pattern. Then, I ironed fusable interfacing onto the back of the fabric, pinned on the pattern, and cut out the letters. Hannah made me a pattern for the pillowcase so that it would overlap in the back like a pillow sham instead of having an opening on the end like a traditional pillowcase. I slowly and carefully sewed a straight stitch all around the edge of the letters since we decided that applique would be too difficult with the curves of the letters. Eventually, the edges will fray and look shabby chic (I hope!). These are so adorable that I want one for myself!

D for Drea

A for Allura

I had a blast sewing and learning, but absolutely no housework got accomplished today. My excuse is that I have a three-day weekend and can make up for it on Monday. We'll see about that. Sky's birthday tent project is calling my name!

Friday, September 3, 2010

First Fabric Purchase

While away at girl's weekend, I had the pleasure of shopping at Joann, Etc. where aisles and shelves were full of enticing fabrics, buttons and scrapbooking supplies. I was probably in the store for two hours and could have stayed longer, but then i would have left with no money in the bank! My mom worked part-time at a Joann's when I was a toddler and she told me how she'd blow her whole paycheck buying fabric. Now I totally understand how that is possible!

I got these fabrics to make this purse:

I just need to find buttons to go with it. I looked at Joann's for some, but couldn't make up my mind. I was just a little overwhelmed by all the choices since there was only an entire aisle full of just buttons! Sheesh!

I also got some lightweight canvas to make Sky a toolbelt for Christmas so he can carry around his play tools and help "fix" stuff around the house. His 5th birthday is coming up in a month and I have big plans to sew this tent using Two Little Hooligans' tutorial. He always builds tents with pillows and blankets when he stays at our house, so I think he'll really love having a real one!

A friend recently found sewing patterns on Etsy for cute stuffed animals. With her help, I'm going to sew a kitty cat and lion as Christmas gifts for my two youngest nieces who are 1 and 3. These are the fabrics for the animals:

Aren't they so cute and girly?! I'm also going to use these fabrics to sew pillows for two of my other nieces who will be 3 and 5 at Christmas. They are rather difficult to shop for, but I thought they'd like a pillow with the first letter of their names sewn on them.

Lastly, I need to find fabric to sew this purse for my oldest niece:

and a ruffled skirt for her younger sister. If you've lost count, I have 6 nieces ages 7 and under! I think we need more boys in the family to give poor Sky someone to play rough with!. It's going to be fun to make personalized gifts for all the kids. If I stick to my plans, I'll be saving a ton of money by making gifts instead of spending gobs of cash on toys that may or may not be played with.

I'm clearly going to be up to my neck in sewing projects from now until Christmas, but I'm so stinkin' excited to finally try out my $10 sewing machine and learn more than just sewing straight lines! Wish me luck! Anyone else out there thinking about Christmas gift ideas in September? I hope I'm not the only one!