Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sewing Summer Dresses

Every year I make a few dresses for myself - these are the ones I made last year.  The pink one is stretch twill, the one with black pockets a very slippery polyester (but it was a nice weight and I think I paid $1 meter for it) and the 2 on the right were lightweight knits - sort-ov with the feel of a swimsuit, but a bit heavier.  The brown one I made to pop on over my bathing suit for beach trips.  And the long-sleeved one was for colder Spring weather.  I got lots of use out of all these dresses and will still wear them in warmer weather.
For this year - I think I will make another version of the pink one - in a stretch denim.  I also want to make 1 or 2 more of the funny one with black pockets.  I will omit the pockets, plus add an inch to the length.  There is also a sleeve option on the pattern so 1 dress I will do short-sleeves.  It is a nice, simple dress and I wore it all the time last summer.  So, I need 2 more!  Even though I didn't like the directions, had to change the keyhole opening to make it lay flat and added lots more top stitching - I think I said while making it that I would never make it again - but I just love wearing it, so there you go.  Maybe 1 in a print and a second in a solid color.  But they will have to wait until I get back to Canada where my patterns are! 
Both of those dresses have an A-frame shape and zippers up the back.  Don't be afraid of zippers - they aren't so bad once you get used to them.  One trick my sister taught me was to baste the zipper opening closed with a large stitch and press it open.  Zip the zipper shut and place it right on that seam and sew it into place.  Undo the basting.  Perfect!  I don't understand why the pattern directions usually do it differently - it is soooo much more complicated the way the direction say and it never seems to line up perfectly either.  So, try my sister's way - she is a great sewer!
In the meantime, I have found a pattern magazine over here that has THREE dresses in there that have caught my eye!  Now - if I can just find a fabric store where fabric is not 20 Euros and up PER metre and get some tracing paper - I will be ready to start on my summer dresses.  Most my dresses usually cost $7 - $10  to make when I use a coupon for the zipper and thread and pick out a sale fabric.  I almost always buy the patterns for $1 when Joanne's is having a pattern sale.  So, 20 Euros a meter just for the fabric alone won't do!  I think I would be too scared to even cut into the fabric if I paid that much for it!  I sew to have fun and to relax, not be scared!
Day 3 of antibiotics and I am starting to feel a little better, but not good enough to really get up for long yet.  I haven't been this sick since my son was 3 - but he has been a good sport and brings board games and cards into the bedroom to play with me.  And - at least I can lay in bed and dream about summer dresses while I get my rest!  I guess that is a good activity on cold, winter days!
Are YOU thinking of making any summer clothes for this year?  Now is a good time to get a head-start!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Winter Cooking

Winter always seems so cold and dreary to me - so to keep things entertaining around here - I like to try out least one new recipe, or ingredients or a method of cooking a week.   I always tell my son - cooking is not hard.  You just need to plan ahead.  Some meals take longer than others to cook so you need to know your times before you even start.  He likes to look at the sales flyers with me, helps with the menu planning and the grocery shopping list.  It is just a process that's all.  Look at this rolled beef.  Looks hard, right?  Nope - it was easy - just had to POUND that beef very flat (that means you can use a fairly cheap cut of beef!).  Stuff it with feta, spices, peppers, onions.  Roll it up, brown it, and put it in the oven on low for what seems like an extra long  time.  Next time around I will try a higher temp and shorter cooking time.  The sauce is a red wine/tomatoe sauce with sauteed onions.  The left-over tomato juice went right into the weekly soup pot!  I knew ahead of time that the dish needed those green beans for a splash of color!  I have several cutting boards - they all fit in the dishwasher and make clean-up a snap!  Anyway - DH and I both loved this meal and will be serving it next time we have company because so much of it can be done ahead of time.

Not that we eat "fancy" every day!  These sausages filled with cheese, flavored rice, carrots and a salad is a quick and easy meal to put together.  This is one of my sons favorite meals.  Everything is done by the time the rice is cooked!  Actually, just about every meal I make - I put on either rice, noodles or potatoe, and by the time that is done - the rest of the meal is also done.  I think my rice pan is pretty so use it as the serving dish.  I love that little blue pan.

This dish is mini flavored hamburgers over fresh veggies with a creme freche sauce (it is in the bottom of the pan so you can't see it - but it sure tasted good!).  I brown the burgers first and then bake everything together.  I used a new seasoning mix for the burgers - I thought it was a bit salty, but might be worth trying again with less mix.  Served with rice.  In anycase - trying new things gives us variety!

I love fresh veggies!  Since we are a small family and you can't really buy - say - just 1/2 a package of mushrooms - I tend to put fresh veggies in just about everything I make.  Got to use it up before it goes bad!  Amazing how many of my meals start out with a veggie platter that looks like the one above.  I arrange them on the platter as I cut them because they have different cooking times.  I sautee the onions first and then when they are glassy - I start adding other veggies finishing with the mushrooms.  These veggies are pretty easy to get in the winter, but the zuchinni was a find!  We also eat alot of carrots and brussel sprouts.  I make a big soup 2 + times a week and whatever needs to be used - goes into the pot!  We almost always put ziti in our soup so when I make it as a side dish - I make extra to put in the fridge for soup.
This interesting vegetable caught my attention at the store - I had never seen it before, but the store always has them and people buy them, so they must be edible, right?  I asked my husband.  It is a Kohlrabi - like a turnip.  OK, let's try it.  You chop off the leaves, peel it and chop it up.  I put it in with my potatoes and carrots with honey roasted chicken.  Next time I will chop it so it looks different than the potato chunks because I never knew what I was eating until it hit my tastebuds!  Kohlrabi and potato look the same, LOL.  Interestingly enough - this one Kohlrabi cost 78 Euro cents and I can buy an entire bag of potatoes on sale for 80 Euro cents.  I am not sure why they are so expensive?  They are a cold weather hardy plant that are easy to grow, so I bought some seeds to bring back to Canada with me.  Move over potatoe farmers, here I come with my Kohlrabi seeds!  Here is a photo of the chicken right after it was sliced open.  Yum.  If you rub the skin with paprika it will get a nice color when it roasts.

I was going to try Judy's chicken-paprikash as my new recipe this week, but I am sick.  I went to the DR yesterday and only had 50% lung capacity.  I am afraid that I have been ordered to take meds and rest.  Yesterday and today DH walked our son to/from school - so that saves me 80 minutes of walking each day - that counts as resting, right?  Yesterday I made a big lentil soup with ziti that should last another 2 days.  Today I am just going to make honey roasted chicken with garlic under the skin.  DH will peel the potatoes and carrots and it all can just go into the oven.  Easy.  Tomorrow is sausages.  And Sunday will be pasta with left-over chicken on the side.  Hopefully by Monday I will be feeling better - but in the mean time I re-arranged the menu for very easy things to make.  All the other meat dishes I was going to make - I would have to stand up too much, so I put all that into the freezer for now because it just isn't going to happen in the next few days.
Go ahead and try 1 new recipe this week!  You just might find a new family favorite.  Can't cook?  Neither could I when I first started out - I have some funny kitchen stories.  But, I can read - so I figured it out.  Except hard boiled eggs.  How come cookbooks never tell you how to hard boil an egg?  I had to call my Nana long-distance to learn how to do that when I first was learning to cook!  Boy did she think that was funny - she was a retired chicken farmer and here she had a grand-daughter that didn't even know how to hardboil and egg!  But I learned!  Have a small family?  So do I.  I often cut the recipes in 1/2 and go from there.  If it is something that will freeze well - then I freeze some portions.  And all those fresh veggies that you have to buy for a recipe that are left over?  It all makes a great soup.  Sometimes I will cream all the leftovers (cook them first)  together with my stick blender, add milk, add some bouillon if it needs more flavor, add flour if it needs thickening and potato chunks and it is like a creamy potato soup.  You would be surprised how many veggies I can "hide" from my son doing this, although he does like many, many vegetables so I am lucky in that department.  He does not like rice in his soup so pureeing it is one way that I use the left-overs secretly!  DH is always amazed at how I use up left-overs - you just have to be creative.  If you do cook something new this week, I would love to hear what it was and how you liked it!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Keeping Busy in January

I'll start with something quilty:  Well, I finished the little Doll Quilt #3.  I was going to hand quilt it, like #1 and #2, but I ended up doing some simple line quilting on my sewing machine instead.  It is a DOLL quilt afterall.  If I was making it as a wall hanging - then I would have hand quilted it. So just ignore any slight ripple you may see and the fact that it doesn't have much quilting.   I know I just showed it  - but here it is with the binding.  See - all finished!
I am teaching a new friend how to sew and what fun we are having!   We agreed on  Bonnie Hunter's Trip Around the World pattern.  What a great beginner's pattern!  Rotary cutting, straight seaming.  My friend had never even sewn a seam on a sewing machine before.  I bring fabric with me from the states so I had plenty on hand to share.  Here is the fabric she picked out for the main part of the quilt (not all ironed yet) - not sure I have fabric on hand for the borders, but we will deal with that when we get to it!  We are also going to make a dress for her daughter, who is my son's age.  They are classmates and friends and that is how we became friends.

My friend right away was lucky enough to get a beautiful sewing machine for an excellent price over the internet, in our city (no shipping costs!).  But - it was having a problem with the bottom tension so her husband brought it over today and I took the bobbin area all apart, showed her how to clean it, how to thread it, tightened the loose feed dog and we tried again - and it is perfect!  Didn't even need to change the needle.  She walked with the baby/stroller and her husband came with the car - I just re-read that and thought it sounded a bit funny that I would say her DH brought the machine over.  Actually, her husband brought more than the sewing machine - he brought her rice cooker too and she set about cooking a super meal for all of us!  She is from Taiwan and this is what she cooked:

The trout was well salted and stuffed with sliced ginger.  Cooked in a very HOT pan with a little oil, she added a little soy sauce right before serving.  The Chinese cabbage, bok choy & carrots chopped and cooked in water (with cover on pot) with tofu and baby shrimp and a bit of soy sauce.  The chicken was sauteed in a very hot pan with pineapple and ketchup & a bit of soy sauce.  The eggs were fried with scallons (and a bit of soy sauce!).  I know she put garlic in something, but I lost track somewhere along the way.  Plus the sticky rice.  And her older son made a pumpkin seed oil cake that was very tasty!  Everything was soooo good.  The baby was just a doll the entire time we were in the kitchen.  He actually eats more than our 2  6 year olds combined, LOL!  Plus we spent all day visiting - while the kids played.  It was really fun.
This week is bound to be as busy as ever.  Tomorrow is Sunday already - again!  My son and I like to go out to that McDonald's Cafe for our Sunday sundaes!  Then starts the school week.  I walk my son back and forth to school and that is 20 minutes each way.  2 days a week he goes to a gym for children's exercise and that is another 20 minutes each way.  It is an hour class so I wait at the gym.  I really need to put together a little project to take there with me.  Last week I waited in the cafe and had hot tea.  But I found another room I can wait in and I will just bring my own tea in my Thermos.  I love my Termos!
 I walk ALOT, but still would really like to take a Yoga class.  I think it will be good for my nerves!  I never much like January and February, but try to stay busy and am happy that January is coming to an end and Feb. is such a short month (plus my son has a 1 week vacation in Feb.) so the days are only going to get easier now.  It is just sooooo gray every day, day after day.  I will be happy to see some sun!  In anticipation I bought a few little packages of seed this week to start out on my balcony when it warms up.  City living!
Also this week my husband has 2 DR's appts. and I am going with him for those, but the good news is that he continues to recover and is doing well.  I went grocery shopping yesterday, but will have to go again this week for potatoes and onions as I could not possibly carry them this last trip!  If that is all I have to get maybe I will be able to go to the gardening store too - for the stuff I need for my seeds.  My friend is coming on Weds. for more sewing and then we are going to a boutique that I just love - just to look and oooh and aaah.  It will be fun.  I am sure my son will have a playdate at some point in the week.  And then of course, there is the normal assortment of housework, cooking and my endless paperwork chase that keep me very occupied.  It is a wonder that I even have time to knit or sew, but I squeeze it in here and there.  A little bit here and there really does add up!
Last week when I went grocery shopping they had these planted bulbs on sale for 89 cents.  My son was with me and I told him we could get one as long as he would carry it home.  Oh, he was soooo very careful holding that planted bulb on the tram coming home - a real treasure indeed.  And after a few days it opened up.  He is just so thrilled with this flower - he carries it from room to room.  And yes, I do have it staked with a spare knitting needle, but that is all I had that would work.  89 cents sure does buy alot of enjoyment for my little guy.  He just loves plants - I think more than toys, except maybe Legos.

So, I am keeping busy.  By bedtime I am very tired indeed!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Some Things From This Week

Scrap bin project:  Using a long-skinny piece of red plaid from a border - so far I have made these blocks.  That tiny block is going to become a pin-cushion.  I am really proud of myself because I used a fabric that I considered very ugly for the star block below - and as I thought - it blends in with the rest of the blocks even though it is a bit darker than the other background fabrics and a much bigger print.  The block itself was fiddly and had way too many pieces for such a simple block - there are easier ways to go about making this block.  But it is done - and looks pretty nice in my block collection.

Don't be afraid to use your "ugly" fabrics!  And the block used up a fair bit of that fabric, phew. I bought this piece of fabric over the internet and it just wasn't what I thought.  But I am starting to use it (1 yard cut, sigh), so progress.  I will work it in with another few blocks for this collection and when the blocks are turned into a quilt and all quilted up pretty - I won't even believe I ever thought the fabric was ugly in the first place!  Go ahead - you can do it too - use your uglies!
Cooking:  I made this very simple lentil soup yesterday and my husband loved it.  Easy!  1 can of lentils, 1 can stewed tomatoes, 1 sauteed onion (at the end of sauting add 2 tsp curry, 1 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp salt), 2 carrots, finely chopped and cooked, 1/2 box of chopped spinach and a little more than 1/2 liter of water with vegetable bouillon in it.  So very good!  Oh - and I added the left-over ziti in the fridge - when I make any kind of pasta I always make an extra 2 portions for another meal.  Yes, I use seperate pans for sauteeing the onions and cooking the carrots while everything else is warming up in the stew pot, but I find it quicker that way.  Just my weird way of cooking - but if I start the carrots 1st and then the onions - while those 2 things are going I can start the rest of the soup and it all gets done at the same time.  Parm. cheese on top when served.

Thread:  I have new thread!  Lots of it!!!  Yes, it is 100% polyester, but I don't really care.  I use 100% poly all the time for piecing - just can't set my press all the way hot because it might melt the thread (hasn't happened yet though).  I am happy with my new thread - it should last me awhile.  It was on sale 1 day only at the grocery store for 4 Euros.  Usually I pay 3 Euros for 1 spool of 1000 meters, so this was a really good price.  So - off I went on that day to the grocery store (via walking and tram) with my trusty back-pack - got a few groceries and 1 pack of thread.  I came home and DH asked why I didn't get 2 packs.  I think 1 pack will last me just fine and by the  time I use this thread up - it probably will be on sale again.  So, I got 1 pack.  I was down to 1/2 a spool of thread in gray and maybe 1/4 a spool in white so the timing was perfect!  And - I am very lucky to have a nice, old sewing machine that is not one bit picky about what kind of thread I use.  Yeah!  There are advantages to having an old machine - some of those newer machines are very finiky about what thread you use.

Photos from today:  My son with one of his very favorite playmates!  I love how this photo turned out because that black dog is very hard to photograph!

The days and weeks just seem to be flying by!  I have a running list of things that I want to blog about, but time's up for tonight - bedtime kisses time and all - so it will have to keep.  Thanks for visiting and all your nice comments!  Until I sign on again...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Pressing the Quilt Blocks

The final step for me in piecing a top is a good final pressing!  Nothing presses seams flatter than my good old Elna press from 1969 - it is heavy and gets hot!  Usually I press individual blocks, but this quilt is so little I just did it all at once.  This press has a tiny key that goes on top to unlock the unit and we lost it.  But you know what - the store that originally sold this machine to the previous owner (who is now dead, which is how I got the machine) is still there (that is Austria for you - stores stay forever!) and the man had a key.  So, I am back in pressing business.  I have also lost my little spray bottle - no problem - my iron has a sprayer so 1st I spray with the iron and then press.  I use that speghetti jar for my iron water.  Pressing does not distort your fabric like ironing will.  And yes, I know you aren't supposed to spray your blocks with water, but I do anyway!  And if they are a bit wonky - a little spray starch and a tiny tug usually fixes them right up.  Shhhh.
See that blue fabric on the ironing board?  It has a tiny pink design on it.  Well - a few weeks ago Omi was here and somehow or another our house became the dropping off spot for things to go to Goodwill.  She left several bags of stuff.  I snagged that fabric right off - it is from a skirt.  I am happy to use it for the backing and binding for this little doll quilt because this quilt is going to Omi's great-grand daughter.  I also set aside a few sweaters to cut up into mittens.  I could have taken lots of things, but I don't like to clutter up my space so I just took a few things that I thought would entertain me with their fabric in a timely fashion without stock piling "stuff".  Ohhh, but one sweater is a well-worn cashmere sweater, but still has some very usuable parts!  Score. 
Anyway, Doll Quilt #3 is now throughly pressed and basted - ready for hand quilting.  Doll Quilt #1 and #2 were the same pattern as this one.
Here is a close-up - before pressing!  Maybe you can see that I did not have enough of any one fabric for the tan setting triangles so I used 3 different ones that are all similar.  Yup - using up little itty bitty scraps in my scrap bin!  Each block is 5.25" finished.

Monday, January 11, 2010

2 More Sampler Blocks & Gray City Days

12.5" and 5.5".  That small block was made with left over HST's from my block that I posted yesterday.  I just can't bear to trim off those triangles and throw them out - I always piece the smaller segments together - I thought this block was the perfect one for using them!  These particular triangle squares measured 1 3/4" unfinished so I just cut the matching plain squares 1 3/4".  Anyway -  2 more blocks from my scrap tote!
I spent most of my day slogging through the cold, wet city on an endless paperwork circle.  Yuck.  So, it was nice to spend part of my evening puttering around with my fabrics.  Because at least I feel like I accomplished something today since the paperwork trail - well no end in sight for the near future, sigh.  Oh well, tomorrow is another day, right?

It snowed on Saturday - a wet, sticky snow.  One thing I love about this city is that they have lots of trees and alot of them are right in the middle of the road!  Anyway - my son and I made tracks for the park to go sledding - it really doesn't snow all that much in Graz so when it does - I really like to make sure that he gets to go sledding. 

By the time we left the park - there were several snowmen dotting the landscape!  My son started back to school today after a long Christmas break and they sent a note home - wear snowsuits tomorrow and bring extra mittens for gym - they are going to make snowmen in the field.  Yup, that wet, sticky snow while not fun to slog through the streets in - is perfect for snowmen.
To make it even more interesting navigating the sidewalks - the sticks are out.  This is a well-traveled sidewalk so very well cleared - not all of them are so cleared although it is mandatory to take care of the sidewalk in front of your building.

These are short sticks - most of the sticks are much longer and go almost to the edge of the sidewalk.  Alot of them are painted red/white stripped - especially the government buildings.

This photo clearly illustrates the need for the sticks below!  They are a good reminder to keep clear of the buildings.  Most of the roofs have little fences up there to hold back the snow, but there is still that edge.
And - have you ever heard of a McDonald's Cafe?  My son and I went out for icecream on Sunday.  The 1st McD's - the machine was broken.  So -we went home and Googled to find another McD's.  Yes, we really wanted our 1 Euro sundae!  We had to take the tram out there and boy was it ever crowded!  Well no wonder - it had this huge coffee section - seperate line and style of chairs and everything.  Fancy McDonald's!  I guess people are used to good coffee over here.  If I go on a quiet afternoon I will bring my camera to take a photo of the inside -because it is worth seeing!  Also - you can't throw your trash away there.  Rubbish removal is expensive so the employees sort everything out into the correct recycling bins.  I always find these cultural differences interesting!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Friday Quilt Blocks

In that tote of scraps I am trying to empty out - long pieces of red plaid left-over from a border.  Lots of odds and ends of various cream prints.  And some fall colors.  I think I have enough to eck out a sampler quilt using the red plaid in all the blocks and  I probably will even have enough of that red for a narrow inner border.  All the other fabrics will vary depending what I have.
With that in mind, I've joined Friday Block Party .  It is a bit of a challenge because so far the directions call for strips and then sub-cutting into segments.  Most of my scraps are not big enough for the strip part so I have to take a 2nd look to figure out the individual segment directions.  But so far, I am pleased!  That 2nd block was supposed to be 9", but another quilter posted cutting directions for 12" which I thought would work better for me.  Samplers can be a bit fiddly, but I like samplers so think the extra effort is worth it.
Here is a look at my cutting/ironing center - which is smack dab in the kitchen. 

The bread slicer lives on that counter so I just work around it.  I really wipe down the counter good before I take out my fabrics!  When I am done ironing - the iron just folds back into the cabinet and the iron goes underneath.  I am lucky to have a big fridge, freezer, fridge and bottom drawer cool storage.  Probably considered small in the USA, but over here in Austria  - it is huge!  Then I have my sink area.  Kitchen sinks over here are tiny, for some reason - so there is my tiny sink.  That counter has the electric tea pot and espresso maker.  Under there is my invisible dishwasher.  The other side is the stove top, wall oven and micowave, plus a tower cabinet.  I love my kitchen!  My last aparment had a tiny kitchen - a 2 burner stove, counter top oven, tiny fridge - really a very small kitchen!  I wouldn't remember all the details about my last kitchen except I was looking at photos of it the other day and laughing about it.  I will have to post photos someday.  So, really - this kitchen is ideal! 
I don't mind having to put my things away for cooking time.  It helps keep me organized and efficient - I only take out what I am going to work on!  Same goes for my son - he does all his drawing and homework on the table which you can see in the front of the photo.  I like being right in the center of my home for sewing - I really think my DH was so clever when he put that ironing center in for me.  When I have to iron something really big, I do have a full sized ironing board in the closet, but the little one is really so handy!

Friday, January 08, 2010

Colorful Scraps

9 patches don't take long to make, especially when you don't even try to make them match.  I think I like them set 4 blocks together with a wide sashing.  Wider than I could make them fit on my kitchen floor.  Each 9-patch is 6.5" unfinished, so combining them would give me 12" blocks.  At this point in time, I've used all the "easy" scraps of this size.  I would really like this quilt to be another row long and another row wide so now I have figure out if I have enough of these scraps left to do that.  It will involve cutting 2.5" squares (instead of strips) from what scraps remain.  I am thinking that I actually do have enough fabric to do that - it will just take a bit of time.
But really - look at these fabrics - where else will I use these scraps if I don't take the time now to cut more pieces to make this quilt bigger now?  And besides - I want to empty out that scrap tote!  Definately an odd combination of fabrics.  Usually I like to sort my fabrics into color schemes, but remember - most of these were alerady pre-sewn strips from a previous project (where I wanted big contrast), so sorting them wasn't an option.  I thought for sure that the end result of these mis-matched 9 patches would be ugly.  But I figured - what did I have to lose?  Some thread and a bit of time, that's all.  And now look, I am thinking that it is pretty!  I wonder what color I should use for sashing?  How does one decide on such a quilt?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Contemplating My Fabrics

This is the fabric that I have here.  The tote on the right is mostly 1 yard cuts of "spring/summer" colors.  The middle tote is mostly scraps, but also background fabric.  The left tote is quilts in progress.  Then I have a beautiful collection of some fabric line neatly folded on the top.  They are on my heater - I just put them there for a quick photo and then they got moved back into their tower formation in my closet - 3 on top of each other.  We only have 2 heaters in our entire apartment - they are very effective.  They are full of stone and at night after energy costs go down - they start heating up.  They store the heat all day and you can set the fan underneath to come on when the room gets cold.  But if you set the fan to come on too much - then you run out of heat because you have to wait until night time for it to re-charge or else your energy bill will be through the roof.  If the sun is out - we don't need any heat at all - so generally we look at the weather forcast for the next day before setting the units to charge at night.  Our water heaters only come on at night too.  But my heat and hot water really have nothing to do with fabric!
Back to my fabrics - the tote of scraps annoys me.  I mean - how often do you purposely go to your scrap bin to look for fabric before cutting new fabric?  Really - it is so much easier to just cut new fabric.  That tote is just taking up space in my closet.  I got to thinking tonight that I should take a closer look in that scrap tote and see what I can put together in the way of quilt blocks using some scraps.  Because that tote - one way or another - I want it empty!  So that eventually I can put more "useful" fabric in there.  I only have so much space, so if I want something new, I need to clear the space I am already using.

First up - I have a whole bunch of these left-over segments - 2.5" strips all pieced together.  So, I just cut them 2.5" wide and started piecing them together in mis-matched 9 patch blocks.  It will be interesting to see how this project turns out.  But no matter - I am sure the end result will be much more pleasing than a tote of unused scraps in my closet.  I already know I don't have background fabric to set the blocks together with, but at least I will have a pile of blocks instead of a mis-mash of scraps.
Look at my sad cutting mat - it is a Friskars and I cut right through it the very first week I had it.  At the last minute I packed it - fully thinking I had a beautiful, big, green cutting board over here.   But there is no green mat here.  So, I am happy to have the Friskars one - I am just being careful to try to avoid the cut through area to make the mat last through the winter.
And that is a bowl of peanuts and apples.  I like to decorate with food.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Special Meals

This is our table set for New Year's Eve dinner, just before the fondu pot filled with hot oil was set in place.  I really like our fondu pot because it has a very stable base with a wide area for the pot.  Just the same - I always make my son move away from the table until the pot is safely set into place.  We had pork and chicken fondu, green salad, rolls, egg/onion salad, vegetable salad, sauteed mushrooms/tomatoes/onions, potato croquettes, garlic/parmessean rice pilaf and carrot sticks and pickles.  Those carrot sticks were a little nibbler to tide a little someone over until we ate - although we did eat very early.
A special meal calls for special linens and my son had fun picking out just the right table cloth, center cloth and napkins.  I don't really care if everything "matches" - it is his job to pick the linens and that is an important part of setting the table.  DH had to take a leaf out of the table to accomodate the choices.  We have little New Year's good luck charms for our place settings too.  DH and I re-used ones that we had previously (mine is 2 pigs, his is a bottle of champaign in a bucket with a tiny red mushroom).  My son usually gets a stuffed pig for New Year's but didn't want one this year, so we picked out a good luck plant instead with a little chimney sweep figure.  In Austria there are vendors all along the streets just before New Year's and you can buy all sorts of "lucky charms".  Pigs are the most popular, but also lady bugs, chimney sweeps, mushrooms, bags of gold, horseshoes, etc.  Getting a new plant seems to be a tradition.  And of course, we had to wedge a candle somewhere on that crowded table - I like short, sturdy candles that are not prone to tipping over.  We always have a water pitcher on the table too.

A special family fondu meal for 3 is our family tradition for New Year's Eve.  This year we ate on schedule and put my son to bed at bedtime.  We woke him up just before mid-night to go up on the roof to enjoy the city fireworks, which were just amazing!  Some of our neighbors did the same thing so we toasted in the New Year together.
DH laughs at me because I dirty so many dishes per meal - because I like to put food in serving dishes, even if it IS just the 3 of us.  I don't like serving food from the stove.  What difference does it make - we run the dishwasher just about every day anyway.  Because I don't like to have piles and piles of seasonal stuff (nor do I have the storage room for them!), I really like my white plates because they tend to go with every holiday.  They are from Ikea so cheap - so I don't cry if I break one!  I also like white table linens, although we have other colors too.  I know - I am boring.  But, I think it looks really pretty.  Sometimes we buy paper napkins with a holiday theme.  And, we have little seasonal accents that we put around the house.  And candles.
We even like to play board games with a candle on the table.  It just seems like a nice, relaxing way to wind down an evening.

Yesterday we had some unexpected guests for dinner and it was so nice to be able to quickly set a pretty looking table because it is routine for us.  Also, because I keep a running meal plan in my head, I was able to change the menu to accomodate extra people knowing I had the ingredients on hand and was able to serve a nice meal with very little effort.  Nice table clothes, a water pitcher, mats or tiles for hot dishes, serving bowls and utensils - these are all little touches that make me happy.  And it makes meal time a special time in our day.  Because every meal should be special.

But for art projects and cookie making - we have plastic clothes too!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Starting a small project, finishing a big one!

I finished this little cross stitch yesterday.  There is one small error, but probably no-one is going to notice, so I'll call this part finished.  This is going to be the center of a small decorative pillow.  I am planning on doing some strips of fabric and lace and maybe a row of buttons - got to find a small pillow first before I know exactly how big the pillow (really a pillow case so it can be removed to be washed) will be.
I've decided that I would like to do more small projects through-out the year for seasonal decorations.  Just little bittys that I can pick up here and there and work on.  I would like to make some cross-sttich Christmas tree decorations, knit some Easter Egg ornaments, make some banners to go on our plain door - that type of thing.  Oh - and I think it would be fun to cross-stitch some sachets - I found the orange stuck full of cloves in my son's sock drawer yesterday - he said it was to make his drawer smell nice!  Oh that boy!
Quilt wise I have a big Ocean Waves quilt that is almost complete - except I lost some of the final triangles needed.  How can I lose triangles?  But, I did.  I have the matching fabric here to cut out more triangles, so that is the big quilt project I am working on right now.  Maybe sometime this week I will get those triangels cut out, sewn on and get the rows sewn together.

OK - here is the photo of what it looked like yesterday.  The triangles I am missing are the final triangles that go around some of the white pieces.  Not a complete triangle set because you can see I have the little squares in the bottom corner - just the triangles that go on either side.  So - really a very small piece of the quilt to be lost which is preventing me from finishing this project up (for years, might I add - I keep moving this from country to country and I always seem to leave 1 piece or another somewhere - so finally I have all the blocks, the border and the extra fabric all in one place - time to get this project into a completed top stage!  Every fabric except the white is plaid - very stretchy!  What was I thinking?  But I like it.

Friday, January 01, 2010

No Stopping Time

Every January I like to look through my year's photos and pick a happy moment.  Here is my son and I at the mountain summit in October.  We had a great time hiking this mountain and we have already put moutain hiking on our list for things to do this coming year!
Good thing I take photos along the way or else I would not remember most of my year.  Why is that?  For some reason this year the days just seemed to slip one into another, into weeks, into months and then a year!  Our life this past year just seemed to be a series of routines and I just did whatever the calendar dictated.  I seemed to have a hard time concentrating and relied on schedules and lists - right down to meal planning and housecleaning!  There is no stopping time, whether you are ready or not it keeps marching right along.  But with lists in hand -  my household ran on schedule, phew!
My photos tell the story though... birthday cakes, new babies in the family, puppies, kittens, trips to the zoo, museum, our gardens, nature hikes, the weather & seasons, the beach, cooking, sewing, knitting, craft projects, camping, car trips, train trips, plane trips, boat trips (yeah, we travel a fair bit just getting from Point A to Point B).  Family visits and all the family dogs too!  Some home-improvement and odd projects.  All the normal stuff for us.  Usual.  Just a record of the normal routines of our life, day by day.  Really - all stuff that I love! 
And then, horribly - November when my husband was in the hospital for 3 weeks with cancer (they got it all thankfully - neatly contained in a 6.6 pound tumor). And then a quick overnight hospital stay for my son with a high fever - it is awful to see a small child in a hospital bed.  And then I think - normal and usual - we had a peaceful year.  Yes, we had our share of hard work, struggles, challenges and tough times.  I tend to have to juggle alot of things all at once and that is not always easy.  But we had our laughs and smiles and good times too.  And at the start of a new year, we are all together.  Healthy.  And ready to keep marching together toward the top - because the view at the summit - is definately worth the hike!  But - don't forget to have fun along the way!