Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Progress on Girl Pirate Quilt

My Oldest is thrilled with her pirate quilt.  She comes down when I am sewing and lays down on the blocks I have arranged just so, and tells me how soft and pretty they are, and how much she loves her quilt!  Then she rolls around and messes everything up!  Arrgghhh!!  Doesn't she know I have a method?  It's not much of a method...but it's a method.

My heart does a pitter pat when she loves what I'm doing.  I like to know my children enjoy what I make them.  Someday I know they'll hate everything I create, so I am going to enjoy it while it lasts and will continue to make things for them...as long as they'll let me.

This is the scene in my sewing room.  I don't have a terribly large space to spread things out and so...I make do the best I can....thus blocks heading out the door.  I am sewing this one block at a time, so I want to see the forest as I make the trees.  This is becoming more and more difficult...I guess I can go ahead and plan out every step from this point on...but where's the fun in that.  I like the adrenaline rush of not knowing if I'll have enough fabric, and have to make a last minute change!!  Yes.  You read that correctly...I just said the adrenaline rush in reference to whether I was going to have enough fabric...whatever does it for ya, I guess.

The pile of fabrics that I am working with....on the floor.  Where else would I put them?  I want to be able to look at them and decide what is up next.  There's a reason The Mister tries to avoid this room at all costs...it gives him hives.

Thanks for reading!


Thursday, April 25, 2013


My Oldest is a chip off the old block...and when I say "old" block,  I don't mean old.  No, no, no.  I mean, somewhere pleasantly in the mid-30's and feeling fine!


She loves to watch cooking shows, in particular Chopped and Food Network Challenge.  She loves them so much that she decided we had to put on our own version of Chopped.  Initially she wanted me and The Mister to make some creations using what we have in our kitchen, but...I quickly decided what would be more fun for her and me, would be to have the kids be put on the chopping block.

First we started with this dough, minus the chocolate chips, and gave the kids 4 scoops on a plate so they could create 4 cookies at a time.

We provided many mix-ins for them to choose from, including: Cheesy corn chips, white chocolate covered pretzels, chopped up candy bars, nuts, fun sugar cereals, Skittles, Nerds, Junior Mints, Pop Rocks, popcorn...and goodness only knows what else.  We learned many things along the way...including what is good to put in cookies...and what is not.

Then...we let them go to it.  No restrictions, just unbridled creativity on their parts....

...And it was timed.  HANDS UP!   This added to the excitement.  A little frenzy is good in a cooking competition.

Then the adults taste-tested and judged...and ummmm, I'm not going to say this was the best part of the activity, but it was certainly interesting.   Here's what we learned:

* Doritos in very small amounts, for instance, one decorative shard on top of the cookie...was nice-ish. It added a touch of salty to the sweet.
* Crushing the Doritos into chip powder and completely dousing the cookie throughout with it....bad.  
* Any cereal you use becomes stale once it is cooked.  Stale to the point of being inedible.  Don't use cereal.
* Skittles are fun, but they get quite hard if you decorate the tops of the cookies.  Try and put them in the middle of the dough.
* Popcorn has a very off texture.  Not pleasant.
* If your Rollos are on the outside of the cookie, prepare for them to melt ALL OVER THE PLACE!
* Chocolate covered pretzels were quite nice as were all the candy bars.

And lastly we provided prizes for all the winners.  Luckily they were all winners one way or another.  My Youngest, had the best tasting cookies.  My Oldest...the best use of ingredients...which is a nice way to say...well, anyway, it really was a lot of fun for everyone involved! 

Thanks for reading!

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Nightingale (I think), The girl Ninja Turtle

There's been a lot of pondering and thinking about My Youngest's girl Ninja Turtle.  I knew she needed a mask.  Pink, of course.  I knew she needed a yellow torso and green rest of her body.  I knew she needed a shell...still in my brain...yet to be figured out.  I knew she needed to look spunky and as gorgeous as a crocheted, turtle action figure can look...

 Ohh la la.  What a lovely lady we've got going here.

Her exotic gaze.  I am going to add eyelashes for that feminine touch.

Pink flip flops...coming soon.

The shell might pose a problem for me...I am thinking real hard about possibilities.  I think it might be a trial and error kind of thing.  I think I'm going to make a quilted shell...for dazzle.

She's also going to get a karate...belt...excuse my lack of karate terminology knowledge...and some sweet weapons.  I'm thinking of throwing stars.  Oh yes, this girl's a bad A...make no mistakes.

My Youngest has already been talking about her TMNT party and how the girls need pink ninja turtles and the boys get blue.  I am so excited to give this to her!!!  

Arms, shell and feet bottoms...coming soon.

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Haute Couture by Heather...Tongue in Cheek Tuesday

I have a man.

So clearly, that makes me an expert on how to catch a husband and get married.

This is in no small part due to my style and...the subtle things I do on a daily basis to maintain my level of sophistication.  Men secretly love a woman who has a flair about her.  So, if you are a single woman, looking to get married, please hear my words on style.  Embrace these....words of wisdom, if you will.  And you too will soon find yourself in a loving embrace.

First, make sure to only wear the finest clothing.  A ratty sweater is often a good choice to impress a man.  It lets them know what a classy woman you are....and make sure to wear it often.  Obviously he liked it enough to ask you out, so he clearly wants to see it in frequent rotation.  It's important to take your man's feelings and likes into consideration, and dress to make him feel like he's a real winner because he's got you on his arm. 

Make sure to enhance your sweater's looks and make it...extra special by...embellishing it with sophisticated little touches...like bits of thread and fluff from your sewing.  Can I just say The Mister finds extreme pleasure in de-fluffing me on a daily basis.  Oh yes.  Before I am allowed to leave the house and actually be seen in public, he takes several moments to look me over...head to foot and personally remove any debris that is attached to my person.  You want your man to enjoy the time he spends with you.  Make it fun for you both.

As they say, the way to a man's heart is through his stomach...a good way to show him that you are in fact a good cook and will make him tasty victuals on a daily basis...is to wear a symbol of this, like a badge of honor for all to see.  A smudge of flour strategically placed on the bosom will give a man this knowledge...without much effort.  He's already looking there, why not give him some info at the same time...kind of like your own little infomercial.  We interrupt this programming to let you know, this woman can cook!  Remember ladies, knowledge is power.

A man also likes to see his woman with her hair done....just so.  He likes to know you take time to pretty yourself up for him on a daily basis.  Learn the classic technique of...pony tail, and wear it every.  single.  day. 

And finally, make sure you ALWAYS wear makeup.  Some Burt's Bees lip balm will go a long way to upping the sex appeal.

You can thank me later...once the proposals start rolling in...and they will.  And if you're already married and start using these techniques, your husband won't know what hit him when you come strolling by.  Lucky son of a gun.

Please Click Here for more fun during Tongue in cheek Tuesday!

Thanks for reading!

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Part 8 How to Quilt From The Very Beginning...Leaders and Enders

There's a trick to sewing your seams nicely when you quilt, something I didn't know about until a few years ago.  What is this trick?  Leaders and Enders.  Come again?  Little scraps of fabric that you start and end your blocks with.

The first few and last few stitches of your block, right where the thread is cut from the machine, always unravel. So you typically lose one to two full stitches...they just unwind.  What's the big deal?  That 1/8" to 1/4" snippet is now loose and the two pieces of fabric are no longer tightly secured to each other.  This can cause your seam allowance to no longer be accurate..that little bit opens up and now your seam allowance is off the tiniest bit. Using a leader will help prevent unraveling as well us any bunching that sometimes occurs on your first block.

Using leaders and enders is so simple.  You simply need a small scrap of fabric.  The size I prefer is about 1 inch by 1.5 inches. Bigger and you're just wasting thread and time, smaller and it's difficult to get in and cut your block away from the ender.  

The leader is the scrap that you use before you sew your block.  Sew the leader.  Once the leader is past your needle, put your block in place and sew.  You will have about a 1/2" link of thread between the two.  After your block is past your needle, sew the ender...the scrap you sew after you've sewn your block.

Now cut your block away from the ender.  Just leave the ender there, attached to your machine and all of a sudden it has become the leader for your next block.  You can just start sewing and repeat this process again and again.  If you are chain piecing, which means sewing many blocks that you already have prepped, one after another, with a continuous line of thread then that is the same idea as using L & E's and so you wouldn't need to use leaders and enders, except at the very beginning and end of that chain, as your blocks themselves become the leaders and enders.  Use this technique if you are sewing one block at a time.

This is what your block will look like with the leader and ender still attached.  I keep my L & E's by my machine so they're within grabbing distance, and when I misplace one, or I throw one away...then I just cut another scrap to make a new one.   This process of using leaders and enders will make a big difference in the quality of your blocks.

Thanks for reading!

Other Posts in the Series:
Part 1: The Basics
Part 2: Measuring and What Kind of fabric to buy
Part 3: How to pick your fabric
Part 4: How to cut your fabric without losing a finger
Part 5: Let's start cutting fabric to measure
Part 6: How to Pin Properly
Part 7: How to press your blocks


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Lots of hugs, kisses and listening.

In light of the recent tragedy in Boston, I'm going to use the hearth today to try and give you a little smile and then some advice on how to help your kids cope with what happened.

First thing's first...this is what's happening at the hearth as we speak...

Yeah, Ken and Prince are just taking a cruise...in the buff.  I would like to say these dolls had clothes when we bought them...Barbie's gonna be pissed.

I hope those seats aren't vinyl.

What about our kids and the tragedy in Boston...

Kids are going to see the images and hear the audio from Boston.  It's a topic that you need to discuss with them because even though they are little, they may be scared and worried.  Reassure them the best you can that this is something that shouldn't ever happen to them, but that bad things do happen and that there are bad people out there.  Remind them that this is why we have the Police and Fire Department and all of our emergency responders.  Explain to them that there are rules in place at their schools designed to help keep them safe.  And of course, be there to give them lots of hugs and kisses and just listen to their concerns.

Thanks for reading.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Happy Nat'l Grilled Cheese Day

Today is National Grilled Cheese Day.  I don't really need an excuse to eat a grilled cheese sandwich, but if I did, I guess this is as good a reason as any!  Grilled cheese has everything going for it.  Golden, buttery bread.  Ooey, gooey, cheesy goodness and the  vinegar-y bite of dill pickle slices...if you go for pickles on your grilled cheese...which I do!!

grilled cheese using mayo
This post is actually a repeat from one I did several months ago, and instead of using butter on the outside of the bread, I used mayo.  It is a strategy to use if you commonly burn your grilled cheese sandwich.  The mayo has a higher burn point than butter.  So, use this technique if you're prone to burn your sandwiches.  If you can manage without burning them, I'd say use butter.  I prefer the flavor.

There you go.  The perfect supper...some soup and a grilled cheese sandwich.

Happy Grilled Cheese Day!


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Head to Tail Dining Hearth-Style

The other night, I was having a conversation about head to tail dining. And decided, if I lived under different circumstances, for example, on a rural farm in the middle of Scandinavia, I would be the type of person to eat head to tail.  This means, you use EVERYTHING.  I love this idea of waste not want not and making something good out of the gross parts.

For the record, I don't live in rural Scandinavia. I do not have access to pig entrails, chicken feet or assorted critter parts... I guess I could find them if I looked, but that would take some serious work.  So, I don't eat head to tail, but I do attempt to use what I've got to the best of my abilities.

Like many people out there, we had ham for Easter and there was a lot left over, including the ham bone.  So, in my house the only thing to do after ham dinner is make ham and beans soup.

You have to plan ahead when you make this recipe because you need to pre-soak your beans the night before.  Simple enough.  Take a bag of dry white beans, I used Great Northern, throw them in a dutch oven, sort through them to make sure there aren't any bits of rock or dirt, cover well with water and let soak while you sleep. (Or do the quick-soak method listed on the package)

This recipe takes 2 to 3 hours to cook, so, well in advance of dinner time, drain your beans and put back in your dutch oven.  Cover the beans with 1 quart of chicken stock and enough clean water the liquid covers the beans by two inches.  I did not have any chicken stock, so I used water and some bouillon cubes.

Dice up an onion and about 5 stalks of celery.  I didn't use carrots, but you could and it would be delicious.  Throw veggies in the water.  Season with some pepper, I would hold off on salt at this point because the ham is salty and the chicken stock/ bouillon cubes may be enough.

Toss in your ham bone, but not the leftover meat.  I don't think boiled to death ham is delicious, so I add it at the very end. I typically will turn the ham bone periodically as it simmers to ensure all the hammy goodness enters the soup.

Bring pot to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Top with a lid, slightly ajar, and let simmer for a couple of hours until the beans are nice and soft.  This has taken me as little as two hours and as long as 3 hours. It all depends on your beans, so that's why I say give yourself plenty of time.

When your beans are done remove the bone (be careful, it's bloody hot) and chop up the reserved ham. The best part about doing this yourself is you get to make sure none of the gristly bits go back in.  Shudder.  Even though I like the idea of head to tail, I'm still not going to eat gristle.

This soup only gets more flavorful as it sits in your fridge and will last you a few meals.  We have eaten this for two days straight and The Mister has taken it for lunch as well, and I still have enough for me to have lunch for a couple more days. Quite often, because it makes so much, I throw half the soup in a freezer bag so we can eat it a few months later. This way my kids don't get tired of the leftovers.  If you like a touch of spice, sprinkle on a dash of chilli powder in your individual bowl. You can also eat it like my parents, throw a fresh slice of home-baked bread on a plate and cover it with the soup.

Enjoy eating waste not want not style!

Thanks for reading.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Hardening Off

My beloved Grandpa Ralph was not a born farmer.  He was the son of an electrician, born during the Great Depression.  His mother died when he was just a young boy, and as the youngest of three brothers, he became a home-maker, of sorts, for his family. 

He married my Grandma Evelyn, the child of a sugar beet farmer, and I guess a love of the Earth came with marrying a pretty farmer's daughter.  I spent a good portion of my childhood playing in and around Grandpa Ralph's garden.  The first thing that came up, were the peas.  I can remember picking them and eating them straight off the vine.  Then came the radishes, long and white...and spicy enough to tickle a sneeze out of you!  Then the onions...Grandpa would pick one, brush off the dirt and eat it like an apple.  And finally the pumpkins he would grow for his grandchildren, for carving jack-o-lanterns in the Fall.

I come by my love of the earth honestly enough, even though my Mother tried to weed it out of me by countless hours spent fruitlessly weeding the flower patches.  Luckily for my kids, I don't have the wretched ever green shrubs my mom had that would cause rashes all along our arms.

Almost everything that goes in my vegetable garden each year, I grow from seed.  I love watching for the first sight of a spindly nubbin of a plant push its way through the earth and begin to unfurl.

Here's where they are now.  Doing so great.  The thing about growing your own seeds, is there's a heck of a lot of stuff you don't know.  Luckily I learn a bit more each year.  Today I am helping my plants to "harden off".   The very brush of a breeze over a new plant's leaves and stem cause it to become tougher.  The slight movements enable a reaction in the plant to thicken the stems and make them stronger against the elements and prepare them to be planted.  Look at them...growing big old muscles.

They are currently resting on the trampoline where the dog will not destroy them.  The trampoline is next to my veggie patch...and I just had to take a peak at the project that is to come in the next couple of weeks...you do not want to see what is going on there after a long winter...or do you?

Mmm hmmmm...you ever just sit and think...where do all the socks go? 

Are those carrots...growing?  I clearly did not clean out the garden very well last fall...I think by having left the carrots in all winter, if I left them there they would now grow seeds and I could harvest my own carrot seeds...I'll think about leaving them, just to see.

The raspberry canes!  Did you know that you harvest raspberries from last year's growth?  There you go.  Don't prune your new growth each year or you'll get no berries.

And lastly my lovely perennial herbs.  You know it's spring when the chives, tarragon and mint start growing.  I've got to get the rake out and clear last year's leaves away.

I am loving all the green that is emerging everywhere I look.

Happy spring day everybody!

Thanks for reading.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Part 7 Let's Press...How to Quilt from the Very Beginning

The thing you need to know in quilting is that you press...not iron.  This is an important distinction.  As a newcomer to quilting, you might not be aware that there's a difference, but there is.  When you iron, you move the iron back and forth and probably use a lot of steam to get the wrinkles out.  When you press, you simply lay the iron on the seam and hold it, applying gentle pressure...no wiggling about.  Then you lift and move it to the next spot you want to press.  Repeat.  I do not use steam either, when I press.  Why?

Water causes your cut fabric to stretch.  Stretching is bad in sewing because it makes your squares not be square any more and your triangles to be more like oblongangles...no good.  If I am making something that's seriously complex, I will use starch...but normally I don't use anything other than good old heat and pressure.

There are 3 steps to pressing.  When I first began quilting, I ironed and steamed the heck out of everything I made.  There's a reason none of my seams match up from my early work....that and I didn't pin and I figured as long as I cut within...1/4" or so, it wouldn't matter that much.  It all matters!!!  Also, as long as you start sewing your block with nicely smooth and ironed fabric, your pressing shouldn't be so difficult as you just have to focus on the seams...and not wrinkles.

Step 1

Set your seam.  This means before you fold your fabric open, you press your fabric as it was sewn.  Just lay your iron down, hold for a second, lift and move to the next spot.  What does it mean, exactly to set your seams?  It seems there's a bit of controversy over this step.  My mom does it, so therefor I do it.  I did a little research on what exactly setting your seam does, and this is what I've found:

It causes the thread to shrink a bit into the fabric and gives you a more precise edge.  This is what you want in quilting, because you want your blocks to be the correct size and match up at the seams.  If you do not set your seams, it can cause your block to be off up to 1/8" which even though it doesn't seem like much, it is, in quilting.  It will also help your seams to lay flatter.

Step 2

Open your block, right side down.  Now you can either press to one side of the fabric or press your seams open.  I think pressing seams open is really fiddly, so I always press to one side.  I move my finger along the seam and follow with my iron.  You want to get it to lay as flat as possible, so by finger pressing a bit, you can feel if the fabric is folded over far enough.

Step 3

Flip the fabric again, so this time it's right side up.  Press once again and you should have a nice flat seam, perfect for piecing.

Other Posts in the Series:
Part 1: The Basics
Part 2: Measuring and What Kind of fabric to buy
Part 3: How to pick your fabric
Part 4: How to cut your fabric without losing a finger
Part 5: Let's start cutting fabric to measure
Part 6: How to Pin Properly
Part 8: Leaders and Enders

Thanks for reading!!

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