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

Monday, October 15, 2012

Movie Mondays

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

Wuthering Heights (2009): My favorite book gets the Masterpiece treatment.  It's also been sexed up... I think it's well cast, but if you are familiar with the book you will notice many changes.

Wuthering Heights
Cathy and Heathcliff!

The Graduate (1967): A coming of age drama starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft.  This is a cult classic.  It's a time capsule, it's thoughtfully filmed, the plot is engaging, the soundtrack amazing.  Give it a watch!

The Graduate
One word: Plastics

Star Trek TOS (1966).... lots of Star Trek TOS... hours of Star Trek TOS

John Oliver NY Stand Up (2010): Stand up specials hosted by John Oliver.  A lot of these multiple comedian stand up specials are just awful, but give this a watch- it's got some good acts!  And John Oliver is hilarious and endearing.

Daydream Believers: The Monkees Story (2000):  I went in to this thinking it was a documentary about the Monkees... but it's a dramatic retelling.  A genre I normally don't enjoy... but this was pretty watchable (though I don't know how accurate).  It also starred a cast that each looked so like their respective Monkee, they could have been paid impersonators.

Daydream Believers
Those silly Monkees!

Amazing Stories (1985): This old TV show hatched by Steven Spielburg is sort of a kid's Twilight Zone.  It featured every actor and actress from the 1980s.  Most of the episodes I watched were very corny and tiresome.  If I had watched this as a child, it would have blown. my. mind. 

Microplanet (2012):  Nature documentary about... not really small creatures so much as small ecosystems.  I think Netflix recommended it to me because of last week's Fireants.  I thought I was going to enjoy it (I am a huge sucker for nature docs) until this high pitched child's voice comes on as narration.  Either I wasn't the target audience for this thing, or the director is unable to say 'no' to his child.

Pick of the Week:
Puppet (2010):  Documentary that is a little bit about the history puppetry, but more about one man's creative journey from conception to stage of an original puppet show.  I was so pleasantly surprised at this one.  Here are some thoughts that played out in my head as I put this movie on: "I am a grown woman, it's the middle of the day, and I'm about to watch a documentary on puppets...."
But this was very artsy and interesting and poignant at times.  Huge bonus: I discovered Disfarmer, who is right up my alley.


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!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Random Fall and Food

Fall bouquet

Bartlett pear, granny smith apple, golden delicious apple

Fall cooking is my favorite of the year.  I've eaten lots of warm, cheesy dishes.

Fennel, olive, and goat cheese tart

Korean rice bowl

The two recipes above are from my favorite,
America's Test Kitchen
If' you've never cooked any recipes from America's Test Kitchen, you are in for a treat.  They test each recipe so thoroughly, and write the directions so well that the dishes are almost fool-proof!  I cook almost exclusively with their recipes. 
It sounds like I'm on the pay-roll, but I really believe anyone can cook anything with their help!

Korean rice bowl includes: marinated steak, shiitake mushroom and spinach saute, pickled veggies, rice, and purchased kimchi.  Korean food is one of my favorite things.

Pick up the magazine here; it includes both of the above recipes.

Autumn in the desert is wonderful.  The air is so crisp.. without humidity it is the definition of crisp.  The sun is shining.  The sun always shines and there are few places of shade; but the intense heat is gone.  No rustling leaves- none have fallen.  All is bright, cool, quiet.


Earlier this week a storm blew through.  It hailed in the evening and the balls of ice melted as quickly as they fell.  The heat of my hand began to turn this one to a puddle as I held it.

I've started a new quilt!  More on that later!

Frida girl!!  Look at that goatee! ;)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Movie Mondays

A recap of this weeks screenings.  Proof in writing that I watch too many movies.

Fire Ants (2011): A lower budget but well done documentary on the invasive species of fire ants.  They are a remarkable insect.  As a girl I spent my summers in Alabama... so I've had plenty of encounters with fire ants- and they suck!  Man and beast learn that the hard way.  Bonus childhood memory: a young calf licking a fire ant mound and bucking around the pasture in pain.

Fire Ants
Yup.. he's throwing a ball of fireants

Monarchy (2006): British series about the monarchs of England.  Of course, by telling the story of the monarchs, you also tell the story of England, so it is more of a 'life and times' thing.  I love this documentary!  I've seen it at least two times through.  I like that the episodes are divided more by eras than by bloodline or centuries.  There are very little re-enactments, but instead lots of well written commentary and shots of art, manuscripts, and locations where key events played out.  Well done!

W.E. (2011): Drama that overlays the story of an unhappy wife in the late 1990s and Wallis Simpson (later Duchess of Windsor).  This was another movie that pleasantly surprised me.  I thought I wouldn't like it very much, but it had me hooked from the first shot.  Things I loved: the mood and sets and costumes, all worked well (though I don't remember the 90s looking so classy).  I also loved the great sense of a woman's touch on this film (it was co-written and directed by Madonna).  I can always tell when a woman directs a film.  With an overwhelming majority of films being directed by men, it's pretty easy to tell when scenes aren't driven by a male's fantasy or ego!

Wallis Simpson cutting a rug

...And God Spoke (1993): Mockumentary about the making of a biblical epic movie.  This movie worked sometimes and didn't other times.  If you want to, give it a watch I guess.  (That was my generation x attitude)

Arabian Nights (2000): TV miniseries about.. yup- the Arabian Nights!  It's a solid job all around.  Nicely filmed and a pretty good pace throughout, though it loses steam a few times.

Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan (1982) --and--
Start Trek III Search for Spock (1984):
The second and third of the Star Trek movies. I guess I'm a purist, but there's nothing like tight young 1960s Spock. These movies were good, but don't expect the fun and sometimes silly sci-fi goodness of TOS.

Our Hospitality (1923): An early Buster Keaton movie.  He finds himself (unwillingly) in the middle of an old southern feud.  Gags ensue.  It's not my favorite Buster Keaton film, but I love everything he does.  There are some great great scenes in this one, but if you're new to Keaton, I would recommend The General or Steamboat Bill Jr.

Our Hospitality
Buster Keaton!!

Chaplin, The Movie (1992):  Biopic about the great Charlie Chaplin, starring Robert Downey Jr.  I'd seen this years ago, but it had been a while.  Entertaining movie... but even at 2 1/2 hours it seems rushed to cover Chaplin's long and eventful life.  Plus Chaplin was never my favorite (I'm a Buster Keaton girl; see above).

Mill and the Cross (2011):  A painting comes to life.  This imaginary period piece puts the viewer in the world of Breugel's painting, The Procession to Calvary.  I love being surprised by a movie- I put this one on thinking I probably wouldn't like it, or that it would be slow, but I couldn't take my eyes off it from the first shot.  With some very well done digital effects, it looks unreal

Mill and the Cross
The whole movie is gorgeous

Raw (1987):  Eddie Murphy's stand up special.  This was funny stuff; a lot of good parts.  Apparently, it set some record for the number of times the word f*** is used.  What does it say about me that I barely noticed?  What have I learned?  Eddie Murphy's looked real good in leather pants.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Crocheted Rug

Crocheted rug

Last night I parked it on the couch, turned on the netflix, and crocheted a rug!  The pattern I used is sort of granny square.  I am happy with the way it turned out.  I've wanted to crocheted a rug for years and can't believe I've finally gotten around to it!

But first, a little background..

When I was a girl my mom, who is a super crafty lady, crocheted several rugs for the house.  Two of them were on my bedroom floor for years and, as these things go, I have managed to hang on to one of them.  I keep it in my spare bedroom, and I really treasure it.  It's held up well over the years.

Crocheted Rug,
Stitched up by my mom when I was a young one!

The vogue of crocheting fabric rugs has definitely waned.  Once, you were able to buy rolls of cut fabric for this purpose, but I've never seen any for sale. 

I used to work at a fabric store with this kind older lady.  She was sweet and gave me several rolls of fabric and I've been lugging them around for years with the intent of crocheting them up.


Pre-cut fabric rolls for crocheting rugs

For now I've got my rug in front of the fireplace.  I didn't make it with a particular spot in mind, but it makes a nice hearth rug.

The Yoko seal of approval

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Apple Sewing Kit

apple sewing kit

I love my new sewing kit!  When I saw one stitched up in my local quilt store, I knew I had to make one for myself. 

The pattern is designed by the Straight Stitch Society.  I included the optional needle pad because I do a lot of embroidery and thought it would be useful. 
Note: After turning the zipper side but before stitching up the hole, I put a little batting in between the layers so that it holds its shape like the pincushion side.

It came together easily, and took about an afternoon and half to finish.  I put in my earbuds, cranked up some fuzz rock, and got in the zone.  I'd like to make an orange too...



Needle pad on the right, covering the zipper

Monday, October 1, 2012

Movie Mondays

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

Casanova (miniseries 2005)- TV miniseries based on Casanova's life (with some liberties taken).  Stars David Tennant and Peter O'Toole.  I really enjoyed this one-- it was fun and colorful.  It was silly and serious.  It was well filmed and acted.  I had seen David Tennant in He knew he was right, but he didn't make much of an impression on me, but as a young Casanova.. sensitive, intelligent, good listener, funny- in other words, the perfect man.  On a side note, Laura Fraser as Casanova's love interest also starred in He knew he was right.  If you watch much British TV, you will recognize many faces.

Casanova (TV 2005)
Colorful balls in half a dozen countries

Emma (1996)- Based on Jane Austen's novel of the same name and starring Gwenyth Paltrow.  I don't want to say how many times I've seen this, because I'll sound weird.  The movie isn't perfect, but it has a great pace and atmosphere.  Beautiful costumes and in general well cast.  My only complaint is the actress who plays Harriet Smith.. I just don't think she fit the role well.  I love Jane Austen's novels, and I love this period in British history.  What a great time for fashion and literature!  And I love a man in Napoleonic dress...

Emma (1996)
Emma and Mr. Knightley!

I will preface these Mystery Science Theater 3000 movies with this: I love MST3K so hard!  There is a certain nostalgia, as these were always on TV in my teen years.  I also have a love of bad movies.  I watch these and just laugh and laugh.. my husband's favorite parts are the invention exchanges and live action parts, while my favorite parts are the theater scenes.  What are your favorites?

MST3K The Magic Sword- Now we're getting into a 60s genre of movies that I don't like: see the mom witch.  This movie was bad, but I guess that's the point!

MST3K The Viking Women and the Sea Serpent- Oh boy... lots of walking in this one (as Joel and the bots will point out), with a boring  and silly plot. 

MST3K Rocketship X-M- This might be the worst movie I've ever seen.  I could barely stay awake... so boring, so very boring.  Joel and the bots did all they could, but it was really bad.

MST3K Daddy-O- I giggled throughout this one.  There were some good cut sequences with Joel.  I was cackling when he breaks into 'Hike your pants up'

MST3K Untamed Youth- A solid MST3K.  And I actually halfway enjoyed the movie!

This is a sad week for movies!  I spent most of the week cleaning or watching King of the Hill and Dirty Jobs.  I've got to get screening- this queue won't watch itself!