December 31, 2011

Mimi's Sugar Cookies

These cookies are special because unlike the vast majority of things I make that come to me from the internet, this recipe is from my family. Mimi was my great-great-grandmother, on my father's side. She died a week before her 100th birthday in 1983, so I never had the opportunity to meet her. By all accounts, though, she was quite a remarkable individual.

However, my uncle recently unearthed her sugar cookie recipe and I thought it might be nice to share them since I am making them later today. As trendy as making nontraditional things seems to be nowadays (which I love), I still think everyone can use a solid sugar cookie dough. I haven't changed the recipe at all, it is exactly as it appears when she wrote it down.

Mimi's Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter
1½ cups sugar
2 well beaten eggs
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons vanilla

Mix the butter, sugar, and eggs with 3 cups of sifted flour. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1½ teaspoons of vanilla. Chill well and roll thin. Sprinkle with sugar and bake at 350 for about 8 minutes.

I hope you all have a lovely new year's eve! Best of luck in 2012 to you!

December 26, 2011

Happy Holidays!

With Christmas over and Chanukah winding down, I hope you all had lovely holidays with your families. Hubby and I spent the weekend with his family, which unfortunately involved an 8 hour drive each way. I think I need a vacation from the drive home, but we had such a wonderful time while we were visiting.

Yup, I spent Christmas at a waterpark.
I have many projects to jump back into, so tomorrow I will be right back into it. There are several quilts that are mid-way and there's no time like the present to get them finished up. Hopefully I can get them finished in time to start the new year off with a clean quilting slate. I will also be posting a monogramming update soon!

Winter wonderland!

December 21, 2011

Singer L-500: First Impressions

I spent a good deal of time on the machine today. I did some basic straight stitches as well as some zigzags on some appliqués. I was working on a last minute holiday gift that I had been putting off in order to test the machine out with it.

Very happy with how the appliqué turned out.
 So far, I am fairly impressed with its performance and features. First and foremost, I love the throat space. My old machine, like most standard home sewing machines, had just a hair under 6" of throat space. This machine has 9" and I am already in love with it. It is going to make quilting a lot easier and more enjoyable.

The LCD display is informative and easy to use, as well. It's quick to read and changing your settings is simple right from the start. It will even sew itself without the use of the presser foot by hitting a button. You can stop it by pushing the button again. One of the more nifty features is that it will cut the threads for you when you're done sewing.

My only major beef (so far, anyway) is the bobbin set up. It's a front loading bobbin, which sounds really handy. It is, in fact, a major pain in the ass. To get to it, you have to slide the table/accessory box off (just like you would to use the free arm). Then you have to flip open a hatch under the needle plate to access the bobbin holder. You have to pop out the bobbin holder, and then take the bobbin out of it.  That doesn't even address setting up the bobbin in the holder in the first place (which is also a pain).

Changing the bobbin while sewing a pile of 5"x5" squares together is inconvenient at best. However, doing so, say, in the middle of quilting a top, would be no less of an interruption than a top loading bobbin, except that it takes three times as long to load the bobbin in. I will definitely miss, even mourn, the loss of my top loading bobbin.

I'm hoping that sometime tomorrow I will get a chance to practice with the monogramming. I also have to pack for our holiday trip to visit family. I may also try to get a jump start on my cleaning the house from tip to tail because we're having a friend stay with us for a few weeks after the holidays. After I try out some more things on the machine I will give an additional review.

December 20, 2011

Hellooo Singer L-500!

I have a new love- and it has a long arm and dual-feed system. I will probably not be seen or heard from for weeks because I will be swallowed up by all the sewing projects I have started but not yet finished. It has features I've never had before, including two alphabets. I believe there is much monogramming in my future.

Technically speaking, it was my holiday gift from my wonderful hubby and both our families, but I managed to get it early due to our holiday travel schedule. Which means tomorrow I will be testing out as many bells and whistles as I can manage to pack into one day. The manual is the size of a small novella, so I have some light reading to do before I can try anything too new.

December 14, 2011

New Year's Eve Sari

A good friend of mine and his wife are having a big New Year's Eve party, and this year's theme is India. In keeping with the theme, they've asked that everyone wear traditional Indian clothing, which means I finally have an excuse to wear a sari.

Saris are the beautiful, long fabric wraps traditionally worn by Indian women. I have always been fascinated by the gorgeous fabrics and embroidery that go into one. However, I have been unable to find a place nearby where I can purchase one. Most website ship directly from India, which means the sari might not arrive in time for the party. This left me with one option- to buy some fabric and make my own (it's tragic, really).

Now, it turns out that your neighborhood Big Box Fabric Store actually sells sari fabric. It's in the brocade section. Both edges are finished with a traditional border and all you need to do is buy enough yardage to wrap it and make your matching blouse (called a choli), which is about 6 yards. I thought, lucky me! But unfortunately, none of the stores in my area had enough yardage on the bolts I wanted.

Not to be discouraged, I searched around and found a home dec taffeta in a gorgeous dark red. I knew I had to make my sari out of it. I even found a golden embroidery thread to coordinate. I got 7 yards because it was on sale for $4 a yard (from $25 a yard, I believe) and I wanted to make sure I'd have enough extra to practice the embroidery. I had never done free motion machine embroidery before, but I imagined it couldn't be much more different from free motion quilting than using embroidery specific needle and thread.

December 12, 2011

Vegetable Stir Fry

We meet again, Monday. I have got a tasty recipe for today's venture into vegetarianism. It's a simple fried rice recipe that cooks up quick and is nice and comforting.

You don't need a wok for this recipe, but it helps, and no matter what you want your pan to be very hot when you add the rice. You also don't have to use sesame seed oil, but it gives it a little extra depth that I like.

Now, I am of the opinion that eggs are not meat, therefore I have included some in my stir fry. If you disagree or simply don't like eggs, just omit them. It doesn't dramatically change the dish to exclude them, I just like eggs in my stir fries.

What You'll Need:
2 Tbs oil for cooking
2 cups cooked old rice, separated
1/4 tsp ginger
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp minced onions (dried or fresh)
2 Tbs sesame seeds (optional)
1 1/2 cups cut vegetables (I used broccoli, carrots, and peas, but you could also use bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, corn, or a frozen medley- whatever you prefer)
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
freshly ground black pepper

The Process:
Heat the oil in your wok on medium heat. Add your ginger, garlic, minced onions, sesame seeds and cook for a few minutes until the onions are soft. Turn up the heat to high and add your vegetables. You want to add them one at a time, by which ones will take longer to cook. I added my broccoli first, then the carrots, then peas. That way your broccoli doesn't end up uncooked while your peas are overcooked.

Once your vegetables are almost tender, add the rice, soy sauce, sesame oil, and pepper. Heat on high until rice is heated through. Make a well in the center and pour in your eggs. Let cook through and then break it up and mix it in. Taste and add a little more soy sauce if necessary. Serve immediately.

December 9, 2011

Ode to My Sewing Machine

Oh Singer 2639, how good you have been to me. You were my first sewing machine, and we've been together a long time. It seems like yesterday I was just learning to quilt and you've been an integral part of every project I've worked on since- from mending to quilting to making my own clothes.

My simple but effective machine.
I didn't do the best job of taking care of you in the beginning (I didn't actually know you required occasional maintenance). Despite that, you've been a faithful workhorse for ten years, and I know you're tired. When you finally gave out, it was not a shock. I got more out of you than I ever hope to.

It is with a twinge of regret that I must retire you now. My sewing needs have changed so much since we first met that I cannot justify spending twice your purchase price to fix what's broken. RIP, my friend.

December 1, 2011

3D Pinwheel Blocks Tutorial

I had a lightbulb moment a few days ago when I opened up the fat quarter bundle of Indian Summer fabrics I bought for the twin baby quilts. Initially, I wanted to use a charm pack, but I couldn't get the number of each pattern that I wanted with them, so I opted to just cut what I need from the fat quarters. They were all folded up and it occurred to me that instead of traditional pinwheels, I should do 3D ones!

The fabrics I'm using for these quilts- all but 5 in the collection
In order to make these 3D pinwheels, you only need 8 fabric squares of any size you like. Mine all were 5"x5". If you use a charm pack, these blocks will fly together, because all the cutting is already finished! But, the larger your starting squares, the larger the block will be. My finished blocks were just over 9".

I decided to use the same background color for all the pinwheels, for the first quilt that is the pink.  Next you want to pick 4 coordinating fabrics to be the pinwheels- I chose all different ones but you could do them all the same if you'd like.

The pink floral is the background for all the pinwheels.
You want to fold each piece in half, (corner to corner) press, and then fold them in half a second time and press to get small triangles.

Press them all in half (the circles are my ironing board)
Then all in half again, to get small triangles.
I spent a good while just pressing all of the pinwheels for both quilts (there are lots of them). I like to watch TV shows while I sew, so I just popped in the first season of The Wire (It's the best television show ever made, bar none) and pressed triangles for a couple episodes.

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