Monday, December 31, 2012

Homemade holiday gifts

Here are some of the homemade gifts I made this holiday season.

Journal cover, detail

Journal cover, completed
Main fabric: linen cotton blend
Pattern by Ms. Hauser of Stitched in Color,
applique design by me

Heating pad cover, chevron pattern

Heating pad cover, detail

Brobee doll, approx 3' tall, fleece 

Coin purses,
Amy Butler's key keeper coin purse

Amy Butler's key keeper coin purse

Zakka cat pillow, linen and homespun

Zakka cat purse, detail

I love making homemade gifts.  I just have to remember to start earlier next year!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Super simple herb cream cheese

New York everything bagel, well toasted
with herb cream cheese

My first job (at 16) was in a bagel shop/cafe.  The lady who owned the bakery was a native New Yorker and we baked the most amazing authentic New York bagels.  This ignited in me a love of these chewy, versatile, circular goodies-- though I am normally disappointed by the fare baked up in my local bagel shops. awesome sister in law recently returned from a trip to New York, and brought me home a half dozen bagels!  When she ran them over to me, I immediately opened the bag and took a bite of the nearest everything.  It didn't disappoint!  (Thanks Miss!)

I like my everything with plain cream cheese, but I figured for a special bagel that traveled so far I could come up with something a little more flavorful.  So with some pantry ingredients I had on hand I whipped up this super simple herb cream cheese spread.

Super simple herb cream cheese spread

8 oz cream cheese
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
dash of salt
fresh herbs on hand, chopped or dried herbs
Scant tbls club soda

Note on the herbs: I happened to have fresh parsley, basil and thyme.  I used a couple leaves of basil, a sprig of parsley and a sprig of thyme.  If you don't have any fresh herbs, just throw in some dried herbs of your preference.  I happen to love fresh thyme, but a little goes a long way as it can overshadow other flavors.

Note on the club soda: This was the technique of the bagel shop I worked for- club soda in the cream cheese!  Why?  Have you ever tasted cream cheese that had a whipped, airy quality to it?  Chances are there was a little club soda mixed in it!  Start with a scant tbls, then add more to get the desired texture.  Be careful not to add too much or the cream cheese will be too soft and runny.  Of course if you don't have club soda on hand, just omit it- the cream cheese will be thicker and not as spreadable, but it won't affect the taste.

Blend all ingredients in food processor with metal blade attachment until herbs are chopped nicely.  Taste, then add more salt, garlic powder, and onion powder if desired.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Long time, no see.. random, random

Mountains, sky, and strip in the distance

It's been weeks hasn't it?  We've survived the Mayan apocalypse and the holiday season (well there is still New Years I guess)- I can't be the only one relieved, can I? 

The holidays were really stressful for me this year and I'm not sure why.  Oh yeah-- it's because I procrastinated until 2 weeks before before xmas to start making handmade gifts!
Consequently I really crapped out on the dinner (thanks to my awesome sis and sis-in-law for the potluck; sorry I burnt the rolls).


I might not have posted anything in almost a month, but I've kept the blogger mentality. I've taken photos of most of the stuff I made and some of the noteworthy food I've cooked--  so there's no shortage of material!

But some of my presents haven't reached their recipients yet (did I mention I procrastinated this year?) so I think I will wait on the show and tell....

Instead, lets talk kolaches!!

ricotta cheese kolaches

What is a kolache?  Well if you are from the Czech republic or Texas-- who ever thought a sentence would start like that?-- then you know they are a delicious sort of danish pastry thing. 

I am neither from the Czech republic or Texas, but I am an avid reader of America's Test Kitchen, and when I saw the kolache recipe in the newest Cooks Country I knew I wanted to make them.

Mixed berry kolaches

This is just the type of thing I love to bake.  Complicated and delicate.  Precise and impressive.  Because in general, you can't rationalize the act of baking, so if you are going to bother with the time and expense it might as well be something amazing!

Ricotta cheese kolache

The recipe makes 16 pastries, and they stay fresh for about 3 days.... perfect for two people right?  Half are a lemon ricotta cheese, and half are a mixed berry filling.  They are dusted with a streusel.  The dough has a fine, firm crumb and a slightly sweet taste.

You can get the recipe here (you must sign up for a free trial).  Happy baking!


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Movie Monday

Here's a recap of this week's screenings.  Proof in writing that I watch too many movies.

Casa de mi Padre (2012)- Will Ferrell stars as a Mexican cattle rancher.  He speaks Spanish throughout the entire film.  The cinematography is beautiful done; I love the look and atmosphere of the film.  Of course Will Ferrell is silly throughout.  I found the whole thing entertaining.

Casa de mi Padre

Pink Ribbons Inc. (2011)- Documentary exposing some of the truths behind all those pink ribbon campaigns you see when you walk in a store or turn on the TV.  I found a lot of this documentary disturbing and sad.  Watch this one for its information, but expect to probably be pissed and depressed.
I'd like to share a small bit of personal advice.  About a year ago, I took stock of all the personal beauty products I used on myself daily, and it varied from 12-15 a day.  Then I flipped the bottles around and started to read and research the ingredient lists.  What I found was scary!  Our skin is full of holes you know, and the chemicals commonly found in beauty products (many known carcinogens) seep right in.
You have to make the choice of what you buy and use on your person, as the manufacturers and FDA are not taking the responsibility.  I have now reduced my personal beauty product list down to 6 daily, almost all of which are all natural.
Warning!  I learned the hard way that natural ingredients are not necessarily more gentle, in fact it can be the opposite.  The chemicals made in a lab are created to be hypoallergenic while plant based ingredients can cause allergic reactions.  I recommend spot testing any new product before using.  Who would have thought I was allergic to calendula?

Office Space (1999)- A dissatisfied computer tech worker finds his life turned around after an encounter with a hypnotherapist.  This comedy by Mike Judge is a cult classic and I must have watched it a dozen times.  It doesn't really get old.

Office Space
His extreme flexibility cracks me up every time

Bel Ami (2012)- This costume drama based on the novel of the same name by Guy de Maupassant.  It is about a poor but ambitious ex-soldier who seduces woman to gain money and power.  It stars Robert Pattinson in the lead and Uma Thurman in support.  This was watchable I guess (I love costume dramas), but Pattinson was sort of sickly looking throughout.  I do get why the woman took him as a lover and it wasn't really about his looks... maybe I'll read the book someday.

Bel Ami
You're gonna see this expression a lot

Life in a Day (2011)- Documentary collage of people all filmed on one particular day all over the world.  This is one that you know you have to be in the mood for to turn on.  I was relaxing the day before Thanksgiving after a night marathon of prep work in the kitchen, my husband had just woken up and had no plans.  So we happened to be in the very mood!  There is a clip to evoke every emotion, but of course that is the point right?

Enter the Dragon (1973)- Bruce Lee stars in this classic kung fu movie.  Lee's character is asked to infiltrate a shady character's private island and find out what he's up to.  If you like kung fu, of course you've seen this; if you've never seen any of the genre, this is a pretty good one to start with.

Enter the Dragon
This is what zero percent body fat looks like

Thor (2011)- Action comic book based movie about the hero (god?) Thor.  It is sort of a coming of age story because even though Thor is super buff and... grown up looking, he's also immature.  I'd seen this before, but watched it again with my husband, as he'd never seen it.

Treasure Island (2012)- Made for TV mini series (based on the book by the same name) starring Eddie Izzard as Long John Silver.  This was very watchable.  The UK always does the made for TV genre well, and this is no exception.  Eddie Izzard does a great job as the iconic Capt.

Treasure Island

The Pyramid Code (2009)- This 4 part series poses many questions about the true role of the great pyramid.  There were many interesting ideas and theories.  I am skeptical that the great pyramid was a tomb- there are no interior indications that it was a place of burial.  Do we just accept this theory because it is easiest?  This show is a little silly, but not as silly as some of the Ancient Alien shows.  Believe the theories proposed or not, it is still entertaining.

Patriocracy (2011)- Documentary examining why the US seems so polarized politically.  As someone who watches very little news I am always grossly ill informed about politics, so for me a lot of the stories of the past decade or so were new to me.  I thought it was interesting that these news commentary shows that are so popular on every network are in fact not news at all.  They are heavily biased entertainment shows that masquerade and give the appearance as news casts.

Abel Raises Cain (2005)- Documentary by Jenny Abel about the life of her father, professional prankster Alan Abel.  I enjoyed this one so hard- it was hilarious!  Why don't we know more about this guy?  He has been making new reporters and others in the entertainment industry look like jackasses for 50 years! 

America the Beautiful (2007)- Documentary that examines America's obsession with youth and beauty.  This was pretty good if a little long winded and slightly amateurish.  It asked lots of questions, but they have all been asked before.  I think young girls might benefit from seeing this, because that is such a hard time (self esteem wise) and this documentary might help expose some of the lies about the images of the perfect woman we are constantly inundated with.

Pick of the Week:

Walking Dead (2010)- Season 2 of Walking Dead is finally on Netflix.  This series, based on the popular comic books series, follows a man trying to survive after the world is overrun with zombies.  I've been a fan of zombie movies for ten years- ever since my husband made me watch Night of the Living Dead.  I hated horror films up until then, but that all changed after seeing Romero's genius!  Why is this the pick of the week?  Because even though I've screened some great films this week, none had me with biting nails, pounding heart, uncontrollably squealing, wondering why I kept pressing the next episode besides a desire for torturing myself like this one did!

Walking Dead

That's all of this week's screenings. I hope some of these films seemed interesting enough for you to check out. I usually watch movies on Netflix instant streaming, and you can find most of the films there.

Thank you for reading!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Block of the Month; Month 2

My mom and I finished month 2 of our block of the month sampler!

This month's pattern: log cabin of course!

We are both pleased with how our blocks turned out and have already picked the pattern we are doing next month.

Block of the month; log cabin
mine on left, Mom's on right

If you are interested in quilting along, or just want the book for yourself, it is:

Underground Railroad Sampler by Eleanor Burns and Sue Bouchard

Happy quilting!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Movie Monday

Where to start?!  The charm (for me) of movie Mondays is to document both the good and the bad films that I subject myself to on a weekly basis.  Otherwise I wouldn’t know why I wake up with eyeball pain.

But I haven’t written a movie Monday in a month… and I’ve probably watched 100 movies and the temperature drops below 70 at night and my wrists are cold and won’t let my fingers move right and I don’t want to subject you to 100 movie reviews in one post because you’d get angry.

So here’s what I’ll do… I’ve seen some amazing movies this month and I’ve seen some real turkeys too- so let’s look at the best of both then start next week on a clean slate?


So with that out of the way-

Here’s a recap of this month’s screenings.  Proof in writing that I watch too many movies.


The Warrior’s Way (2010) - A ninja assassin moves to a broken American western town.  I enjoyed the hell out of this movie that I had never heard of.  Of course, I don’t watch TV so I never see trailers so I hardly hear of any movies.  The lead is a sexy assassin; there are lots of interesting characters and exciting action scenes.  My only complaint—a little too much obvious green screen.
The Warrior's Way

The Musketeer (2001) - You know this story right?  D’Artagnan wants to be a musketeer.  Lots of sword fighting and king protecting ensues.  But, I deserve your pity.  Why?  Because I have in my life accidently watched The Musketeer twice.  Yes, this movie is so bad (in every way) yet so forgettable that I accidently watched it again tonight and didn’t realize it until an hour in.  If you have seen this turkey, you would understand my pain.

Vernon, Florida (1981) - Documentary about the little town of- yes you guessed right!  Vernon, Florida!  I liked this film from the first shot.  It reminded me instantly of the little town in Alabama where most of my relatives live and where I spent my summers as a girl.  And when the people started speaking I felt a little homesick.  Vernon is in the panhandle of Florida and very close to the border of Alabama, and the accents and cadences are very similar.  The turkey hunter in particular sounds like my uncle. 
I will say that people may feel the film maker is making fun of the residents of this town, but I couldn't disagree more.  Any feeling of ridicule is in the viewer's preconception that the residents are, by being simply themselves, ridiculous.

 I don’t even think the residents are very ‘eccentric’as the description boasts.  What I see are people that are at once familiar to me.  I think there is a dignity and a reserve to the people of the south, and keep in mind the film maker lived in Vernon for a year and befriended the residents before he got these relaxed interviews.
Vernon, Florida


How about some cult classics that I had never gotten around to seeing?

Footloose (1984)- Young city boy loves to dance.  He’s also the new guy in a small, conservative (Texas?) town.  This is a classic teen flick.  I’ve seen several spoofs of Footloose (Brett’s dance in the Flight of the Conchords comes to mind) so it was extra entertaining to see what people had been spoofing.  Of course this one is silly, but I like the genre so I enjoyed it in general.
The 80s: Bowling shoes and sweats. 
Is it any wonder I grew up thinking mix-matched socks were cool?

Teenwolf (1985)- Boy doesn’t realize he’s turning in to a werewolf- isn’t high school hard enough already?  This one had a few good parts, but it fell a little flat I think!  Something about it never took off and the pace was all over the place.

 Harold and Maude (1971)- An odd couple movie; young unsure teenage boy obsessed with his own death and a cooky 70 something lady who’s eating life!  Oh how I enjoyed this!  Lots of things rolled in one; comedy, romance, drama, satire.  I loved the backgrounds and soundtrack too.
Harold and Maude
Harold with his therapist.  They are dressed the same...
which is hilarious

 Rain man (1988) – A slick 80s man meets his autistic brother for the first time.  Eh- I could take this or leave it really.  It was ok I guess… sort of predictable, shallow, sad.  I’m really not sure why this one was so popular.  Love Dustin Hoffman in general though.


Blank City (2010) – This is a documentary about the late 70s/ early 80s in New York City.  There was a new form of music (punk rock) and a new art form (graffiti art) and, as this documentary focuses on, a new style of movie making.  You could almost think of this as a companion piece to Kill Your Idols.  It features lots of interviews with people who are a little on the pretentious and narcissistic side… I am aware of the hypocrisy of a statement like that coming from a lady who has a personal blog.  Unrelated question: why is it impossible for someone from New York City to tell a story without first naming the street they were on?

Amadeus (1984) - Story about Mozart, some real elements and real life people woven in to a fictional story.  What can I say about this masterpiece?  It is… so good.  I can’t think of a flaw in this movie.  There is such an attention to every detail.  It’s three hours long, but doesn’t feel it.  If you’ve never seen this one, I can’t recommend it enough!

The Van (1977)- Teen flick from the late 70s about a boy and his van.  This one is silly and a lot of the gags miss the mark, but I’m such a sucker for films from this era that I excused it a lot.  I had to verify with my mom that shitty Dodge vans with carpet in the back were really the height of cool… because I really don’t get it!  (She confirmed and told me her cousin had one with custom paint and shag carpet).
The Van

Dragon Tattoo Trilogy (2009) – These movies are based on a book series by Swedish author, Stieg Larsson.  The main character is a girl named Lisbeth; she’s a little troubled and she’s a hacker and she has bum luck a lot of the time.  I watched the Swedish language films (later found out there was a Hollywood version of the first movie as well).  I don’t normally enjoy modern day intrigue/thriller type movies, but I enjoyed these, especially the first one.

All’s Faire in Love (2009) –Rom-com that takes place at a renaissance fair.  A jock is forced by his professor to spend three weeks at a ren-fair and he meets a whole group of new friends.  The other night I had watched several heavy things (H.H. Holmes documentary, etc) and I was really in the mood for something light!  This hit the spot.  It was dumb in a few spots, but I thought the romance was well represented.  In general a solid average flick and great for its intended purpose.
All's Faire in Love
Pick of the Month:
I couldn't decide, so there are two!
The Artist (2011) – This is a modern silent film. It had a huge buzz when it was released and it won a lot of awards. It is about the rise of one Hollywood star and the fall of another. If you’ve read my movie Monday’s in the past, you know I love silent films, so I was so excited when this one showed up in the new releases section of Netflix. I enjoyed this one so hard. If you read some reviews, you’ll find that haters are gonna hate, but don’t believe it! This movie is a great revival/homage to a style of filmmaking that has sadly fallen out of use.
Super 8 (2011) – Some kid friends are making a zombie movie on their super 8 camera. But something unexpected happens… I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this one. I put it on as background while I worked on other things, but ended up only watching the movie! It’s very goonies but with crazy good special effects. I’m going to make my husband watch it with me.
Super 8


Sunday, November 11, 2012

TEDtalks; Crochet Pillow

Crochet pillow front, unstuffed

I've been listening to TEDtalks and working on a crochet pillow. 
The pillow pattern is from a vintage (1978 is vintage right?) book, of which most of the patterns are pretty hideous by any decades' standards.  "Fantasy coat" anybody?  But the pillow pattern is great, and I finished it up last night.  It looks bad on my couch.

Note:  Though I got through it ok, but the pattern is definitely not written in modern terms and there was enough 'you fill in the blanks of where to put this stitch' to get annoying.  I like my crochet patterns Precise with a capital 'P'!

Book: Design Crochet, 1978.  Edited by Mark Dittrick (the first 'crochet dude' maybe?)

Crochet pillow done

Crochet pillow backed with brown linen

I love TEDtalks! All the 'Ancient Clues' ones were really good.. mapping the genomes of early forms of humans and finding genetic markers in our own DNA. Neanderthal lovin! 

I also liked a talk on the 'Head Games' series about the power of smiling. Someone studied baseball cards from the 40s or 50s (I think it was) and compared how much the player was smiling vs. how long they lived. Those with the biggest smiles lived the longest!

Crochet pillow looks great on mid-century chair!

I'm still plugging away on my afghan sampler.  Must..finish....

How bout a photo of a mum?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Misc. food, Leaf garland tutorial

It's my favorite time of year in the kitchen.  For one thing, it doesn't get unbearably hot in front of the stove like it does in the summertime.
I become a more adventurous cook as well. 

Summer is all about quick prep times, fresh produce, throwing things on the grill and then sitting back to relax.  But in the fall, I indulge myself with unique ingredients and decadent dishes..

Butternut squash, onion, pancetta, thyme, basil
This smelled SO good while sauteing

Butternut squash, bleu cheese, and pancetta pizza

Portabello stuffed mushrooms

I came across a packet of basil seeds while rifling through a drawer the other day.  I remembered getting the seed packet free with a magazine years ago.  I had clipped most of my basil plant's leaves off, and I figured it couldn't hurt to toss the seeds in my old basil plant's soil.  I didn't bury them, just sort of sprinkled them right on top of the soil and watered.
To my delight, they sprouted!  I'm so bad at keeping plants alive, (I don't even have one house plant, and I've been know to kill even the hardiest of cactus) but I'm going to try my best to grow these little buddies.
This little fall leaf garland was easy to do, and took me less than an afternoon!
Fall leaf garland
Leaf garland instructions:

-Approx a fat eighth or so of fall colored fabric or a novelty print
- quilter's cotton solid for backing
- iron-on interfacing
-package of rick rack
- length of twill tape 1 1/2 yds approx

1. Lay your fabric, right sides together on a square of iron-on interfacing.  Iron to set.

Note: I had some novelty print leaf fabric on hand, but several smaller squares of any fabric will work!

2. Lay the quilter's cotton wrong sides together with the main fabric and sparsely pin in place

3. Cutting through all the layers (main fabric, interfacing, and cotton backing), cut the fabric out in various leaf shapes.  If you prefer, you can draw the shapes out with a fabric pen before cutting out.

4. With main fabric and backing edges even, sew around close to the outside edge of each leaf with a zig zag stitch.

5. Lay leaves out in desired order on work table

6. Working without pins, lay rick rack on top of twill tape and begin to sew down the middle of the rick rack.  After an few inches, tuck a leaf in between rick rack and twill tape and then continue sewing up the center of the rick rack, being sure to catch the tip of the leaf.  Continue in the this manner until all the leaves are sewn, varying the space between leaves and angling some leaves to the left or right for visual interest.

Hang and enjoy!

Leaf garland, detail

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Block of the Month; Month 1

My mom and I have just started a block of the month project!  Exciting!

It is a sampler quilt, with each block having been used as code in the underground railroad.  For this first block we started simple with the 'crossroads' pattern.

My mom loves civil war era reproduction fabric, and she's hoping to clear out some of her stash with this project! 

I've went a little more modern, pulling fabric from my stash in blacks and greys, pinks and reds, and mustard yellows. 

If you are interested in quilting along, or just want the book for yourself, it is:

Underground Railroad Sampler by Eleanor Burns and Sue Bouchard

Mom's block

My block

Planned fabric

Hopefully, we'll both have a finished quilt by next holiday!

Trip to Houston

My husband recently took a trip to Houston.  He drove down to Galveston and walked on the beach.

I thought I'd share a few of his vacation photos!

Pier at Galveston
Beach at Galveston

Back end of statue

Did you know Houston public libary won't issue out of state library cards?  There's always a silver lining though- a trip to Barnes and Noble became more interesting with these posters made of old gift cards!
Redeemed Barnes and Noble
gift card art

Superman made of redeemed gift cards