Friday, January 30, 2015

Handmade Birthday 2014 Wrap Up

Last year I joined a group started by Susannah Kate called the Handmade Birthday Club.  The idea is that you are in a group with 11 others and about once a month it's someones birthday and you all make something handmade for them.  So, over the course of the year you make 11 gifts and on your birthday you receive 11 lovely, handmade packages!

It worked out really well.   I knew a few people in my group, and got to know them even better, and made some new friends, too.  I made my 11 gifts and got 9 in return, which in terms of swappy things like this, I think isn't too bad.  Plus, the 9 gifts I got were all amazing!

Handmade Birthday Club 2014 - received

The photo above shows the lovely gifts I received.  From the top 1. Liberty patchwork mini by Tammy 2. Heather Ross mini from Karen 3. Stationery set from Sarah 4. & 5. Sewing machine cover, C mini from Di 6. Hexie Trivets from Becca 7. Wallet from Sarah 8.Project Bag from Susannah Kate 9. AMH Mini from Diane 10. & 11. Applique dish towel from Lee

Handmade Birthday Club 2014

And this mosaic shows the gifts I made.  1. Rainbow Mini for Amy (@needledfig on IG) 2. Boxy Pouch (from Patchwork, Please) for Sarah R. 3. Heather Ross mini for Sarah L. 4. & 5. Hand Sewing travel pouch (pattern in Patchwork, Please) for Deborah 6.Rocket Factory Mini for Rebecca 7. Tea Towel and Hexy Trivet for Tammy 8. Flower tote bag for Karen 9. Liberty Potholders for Di 10. Noodlehead Divided Basket for Susannah Kate 11. Tea towel and Hexy trivet for Lee 12. (not pictured) linen napkins with AMH for Diane

It really was a fun year of making (and receiving!) but I took a year off.  I do miss it, so I'll probably go back to it for 2016.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Read Between the Lines {Finished Quilt}

Last fall I became a quilter for the Haven Circle of do. Good Stiches.  I have been involved in do. good stitches for a few years, but only as a stitcher, making my blocks every month and sending them to the quilters.  Our circle lost a quilter, so I decided to step up to the plate.

My first month to be quilter was November 2014.  I wrote a tutorial for a block here.  It was so exciting to see the blocks trickle in and play with them on my design wall.  

I did have a few blocks that measured a little small, so I had to get creative on the layout and turned the corner blocks on point.  I'm really happy I had to make a design change, as I probably never would have without the smaller blocks.

I quilted on the diagonal and used the eco friendly Quilter's Dream Green batting.  Oh my gosh, I don't know if it's the diagonal lines or the batting but it is the softest quilt!  I backed it in this wide ikea print that I bought in a destash from my friend, Lisa.  I love it and love that I have enough left for another quilt back!

Of course the binding had to be text print, so I chose one of my favorites, from Carolyn Friedlander's architextures line.  

I just need to get it labeled and then this will be on its way to comfort someone in the unimaginably difficult circumstance of being in a women's shelter. I've written about this before, but I just love that do. Good Stitches provides such wonderfully beautiful objects of comfort to the recipients.  People that surely have seen one to many hand-me-down or cast off item.  Warms my heart.

So, it looks like I am getting back into the groove of blogging lately!  I'm really enjoying being back in this space and I hope I can keep up the momentum.  Thanks for reading and for your continued support of my creative endeavors.  xoxoxox, Courtney

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Our Favorite Healthy Weeknight Dinner

Is one of your new year's resolutions to eat healthier?  I have been trying to help my family eat more "real food" for the past year or so.  We've always eaten what I thought was pretty healthy, but I've recently started paying attention to the ingredients list more than the nutrition information.  If I can't pronounce an ingredient or don't use it to cook with it, most likely I'm not putting it in the shopping cart.  We are about 90% there.  One of the big stumbling blocks is the hidden sugar.  You know it's going to be plentiful in cookies and juices, but why is it in crackers or tomato sauce?!

I have had such a hard time finding a tomato sauce at the grocery store that has real ingredients and no sugar.  And then I saw this awesome feature in Southern Living magazine.  Soon I saw Nello's Sauce available in my Produce Box delivery and was finally able to try it!  Absolutely delicious.  Like, who needs pasta delicious, just get a spoon.

And look at that clean ingredient list!  Plus vegan, gluten free, non-GMO, real USA grown tomatoes from a 44-farm cooperative, and an awesome company that gives back through "Our Hearts Beat Hunger."  Where can you get this jar of literal awesome sauce?  Here's a list of retailers or you can order online.  I was excited to see the Charlotte-area Publix stores on the list!

So, I have a special announcement:  I'm going to be a Brand Ambassador for Nello's Sauce!  For full disclosure I am not being paid for this post, but I was given free sauce and all opinions expressed are mine - I wouldn't do this with something I didn't love!

Now, onto the easy weeknight recipe.  You will need three things, I know, tough! A large spaghetti squash or two, a jar of Nello's Sauce (I used the Piedmont Pomodoro because I was dying to try the lavender, and it didn't disappoint, plus my house smelled heavenly), and some good quality ricotta.  Again, we're subbing out all the "low-fat" high processed food in favor of the real stuff, so I used whole milk ricotta which packs a protein punch.

I am going to show you how to make spaghetti squash in the oven, which takes almost an hour with about  five minutes of hands on time.  You can also make your squash in the microwave, just prick it with a fork a LOT, and microwave it whole for about 8-10 minutes, depending on the size and the microwave (if it starts hissing vigorously, turn it off!).  Or if you are gone in the day and want it ready when you walk in the door you can cook it in the crock pot, on low for 6 hours with 1.5 Cups water and, again, lots of pokes with a fork or knife.  Exploding squash is not as fun as it sounds.

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  I find the squash hard to chop, so I put it in the warm oven, whole, for 20 minutes and then I easily can chop off the stem, and slice it in half lengthwise.  Make sure to scoop out the seeds.  Now you can place the halves on a cookie sheet and if this is just so easy you feel like you have to do something else, you can brush it with a little olive oil, but it's really not necessary.  Return the squash to the oven for about 20 minutes or until the strands easily separate from the skin and are al dente.  When you have about 5 minutes left, heat up your Nello's Sauce on the stove and enjoy that lovely aroma.

Before I made a spaghetti squash this was the step that intimidated me "use a fork to remove the strands."  I guess I thought the scraping motion of the forks created the spaghetti-like strands and maybe there was some technique I wouldn't be able to figure out.  No.  Absolutely not.  The easiest part. The squash already has strands and the fork just pulls them away from the skin.  Pile them up on your plate.  Top with the Nello's Sauce.  It's wonderful already, but add that ricotta.  Trust me, this is filling, but without the ricotta you're looking at a 100 calorie dinner, so you need the protein and fat from the ricotta to round it out and keep you full.

This pairs really well with a nice salad.  But sometimes I am so rushed during the week that all that chopping and rinsing seems daunting. Enter broccolini, or broccoli or asparagus or whatever veggie you like.  Since your oven is already on a nice high heat, just add some olive oil, salt and pepper and roast the veggies for the last 5-10 minutes the spaghetti squash cooks.  Easy, peasy.  And look at all those veggies in one meal!

Sean had a second bowl which he gleefully ate with his hands as fast as he could shove it in, no time for the cast aside fork.  Notice Bettis, the dog, on high alert for any spills.  No such luck today, Sean was uber careful not to let any drop!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Chai Latte {Finished Quilt}

I was finally able to gift the quilt I made for Hannukah to Andrew's mom last week.  I feel like I have been working on this one forever!  Joan picked out the design from the awesome book, Vintage Quilt Revival.   We used the kona card to pick out the greens, blues, gold and rust that match her home's color scheme.  It was difficult to find these colors in my fabric stash, so most are solid Kona.  The blues from Carolyn Friedlander's Botanics line were perfect.

For the backing I made one huge tea leaf block with some of the leftover kona solids.

I had a lot of fun quilting this one and tried to mimic the free motion quilt designs they used in the book.  There are swirls in the leaves and wavy lines in the background.  Lots of threads to bury, but it was actually pretty quick with my new self threading needles!

It is so nice to give a quilt to someone that really appreciates the work that goes into and enjoys it!  Joan sent me a picture of it on her couch as soon as she got home (and now I can't find the email)!  Sometimes I think it is really hard to work on a project that is not in colors you would pick, and this one I really struggled with.  I was worried she wouldn't like how it turned out because I wasn't sure about it.  The funny thing is, once it came out of the washer, all crinkly and soft and warm, I REALLY liked it! It looked pretty nice folded over my couch!  But, it definitely has a good home and looks great in my mother-in-law's living room!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Sean's Woodland Nursery

Well, this post is just a little late considering baby Sean will be two in a few months!  The light in his room always looks odd in photographs so I think I kept hoping someday I would get better pictures.  I finally decided I needed to post this before he is out of his crib, hopefully I still have quite a while!

Sean's nursery used to be Will's big boy bed.  We bought him the white bed at ikea and he slept in it for about a week when he was nearly three years old.  Unfortunately, that week was the fourth of July and between the fireworks and a few very loud summer storms, he started freaking out at bedtime. The easy solution turned out to be that he felt completely secure in his brother Jack's room.  They have shared a room since.

I didn't want to spend a lot of money on the nursery, since he was the third and most likely, last, child.  However, I was not excited to use the gender neutral baby room things from the last two again.  So we had a bed with a green comforter and a yellow upholstered rocking chair.  I convinced Andrew that I had to recover that rocking chair and I found a lovely remnant of gray matelasse fabric marked down from $40 to $7 a yard, so that sealed the deal.  Luckily, the adorable Fox Hollow fabric line from monaluna organics worked perfectly with the odd green comforter (which I can't wait to replace with a fancy foxes quilt).  Other than that I made everything or found steals at target.  Seeing these pictures makes me wish I had just gone ahead and painted the walls.  That beige drives me crazy.

When you walk into the nursery, the changing table and bed are on the left.  I found the basket with the red sweater knit lining at target on mega clearance after Christmas before Sean was born. 

I made the center pillow from the Fox Hollow cheater print fabric and bought the fox pillow from Maureen Cracknell.   The frames are from Ikea and I bought the prints on Etsy, but I can't remember which seller.

Above the changing table I have a little ledge with Heather Ross prints, a red fox snow globe (again target after-Christmas clearance) and some nesting animal dolls.  I made the "SEAN" banner in Fox Hollow fabric.

Straight ahead is this little dresser.  This is one of my favorite spots in the nursery.  The wooden fox was from target, as well as the ceramic canister with an owl on the lid.  I recovered the lampshade with the mushroom print from Fox Hollow and the trio of framed prints are from Heather Ross' warehouse sale a few years ago.  The "You're a Fox" print is actually a greeting card.

Continuing to the other wall of his room, we have the chair and crib.  This part of the room drives me crazy.  Really, we just had too much furniture for this room, but we knew we would need the bed eventually and where do you put a bed for a few years while you don't need it?  The attic seems kind of yucky to store a mattress and our pull down steps would have made it difficult to get it all up.    I made the crib sheet, the pillow cover and blanket from more Fox Hollow fabric.  

I had a lot of fun painting this nighstand with a toad stool top and little mushroom houses.  I made a noodlehead divided basket to hold books and tissues.

Above the nightstand I made these little felt critters and mushrooms to go in some shadowbox frames from ikea.  The birthday crown was also purchased from Maureen Cracknell.  

This little shadowbox (tutorial in this post) hangs by the door and we have fun switching the pictures out occasionally.

Sean says, "thanks for taking a tour of my room!"

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Happy Hannukah, Merry Christmas!

Well, I'm a little late with this post, but I wanted to share some photos!  First up are the photos of the last minute holiday makes.

First up is a pillow pair I made for my parents to coordinate with the Christmas Quilt I made them.
These amazing paper pieced blocks are part of the Last Minute Christmas Sampler.  I would love to try some more blocks soon, Julianna is amazing! 

Quilted ✅ taking #sewingunderrainbow #lastminutechristmassamplerqal Quite literally!

Since I had some time left I decided to try another block for my brother and his new fiance.  

At this point it was Christmas Eve morning and I had this beautiful Carolyn Gavin charm pack that my friend Christina sent me.  Since Andrew had taken the boys to Target I decided to see if I could make a quilt/mat for the dog, Bettis.  I really had fun using my free motion foot to write "good dog, Bettis" and I did hand sew that opening closed.  He loves his mat, I am happy to report.

Okay, so now some Christmas morning pictures.  First, the three new pillows:

Here are some shots of the boys with their Santa presents.  The big boys only asked for Pokemon cards (well, Will is still into Lego's, obviously) and Sean's favorite right now is Daniel Tiger.

I love this picture of my boys lighting the menorah at my in-laws' house from the first night of Hannukah.

And while I was looking through photos I saw this cutie that Andrew captured of Sean and the dog.

I hope you all had a lovely holiday, whatever you celebrate, and are still enjoying the quiet after the commotion.  I love this week after Christmas.  Hopefully, I'll post again before the new year, but if not, all the best to you and yours.  May 2015 be filled to the brim with love, laughter and beauty!

xo, Courtney

Monday, December 8, 2014

Festive Triangles ::Baby Quilt::

I love making baby sized quilts!  Just enough fun playing with fabric combinations and designs without ever losing interest in the project.  My cousin had her baby shower on Sunday, and while I was not able to attend, I sent this along with my Mom.

I think Sean was a little jealous of this little baby girl to be!  He thought this quilt was for him and wouldn't let me take a photo without him on it.  After I handed the gift bag off to my mom I found the book that was supposed to go with it.   Of course, it's his new favorite book we have to read multiple times a day.

I used an equilateral traingle die for the accuquilt, which I borrowed from my friend Kari.  Thank you, Kari!  So easy to piece with notches to line up.  I love my sizzix and the accuquilt was just as awesome.

The fabric that started the whole thing was the citron background floral print from Carolyn Gavin.  From there I just pulled fabrics from my stash that matched.  The binding is from Lizzy House's Catnap and it's backed in hot pink minkee.

 I used batting besides the minkee, so this is a warm one!  It got all puckery/puffy out of the wash, but I think it makes it extra cozy.   Of course I did my FMQ standby, loop de loops across each row.  The minkee was not my favorite thing for FMQ as it did seem to drag more than a quilting cotton, but luckily it was a small enough quilt to handle!

 Okay, so just four more quilts left to baste, quilt and bind in my WIP pile!  Yep, probably not getting much more than the one that is a holiday gift finished by 2015.  Well, it would have been nice to start the new year with a clean slate, but that was probably a crazy unrealistic goal, ha ha!
xo, Courtney