Monday, March 21, 2011

My new cash envelope system

My husband and I decided at the beginning of the year to get on a budget and save for the crazy stuff happening for us over the course of this year.  I've been a fan of Dave Ramsey and his Total Money Makeover plan for a while, and we're implementing a lot of his ideas.  We're trying out a cash envelope systems for a few of our budget categories.  Of course I had to craft them!

When I did a quick search on Etsy for Dave Ramsey-style cash envelope systems, there were so many to choose from!  I ended up getting the Magnetic Cash Envelope Pattern from tresmarias, along with a set of iron on labels.  I got the magnets from K & J Magentics, and I used fabric from the Acorn fabric line designed by Alice Kennedy for Timeless Treasures. 

I ended up making a little pouch for the envelopes with the left over fabric.  It doesn't *quite* fit, but oh well!  The categories I used are: Groceries, Pharmacy, Restaurants, Pet Sitting, Pet Food & Supplies, Hair, Dry Cleaning, Gifts & Christmas, Richard's Fun Money, and Beth's Fun Money.  I also got a Dollars and Cents Memo Book from Staples.  I ripped out the pages and put a page in each envelope to record the activity for each one.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

2010 Designer Mystery BOM Blocks 9 and 10

This weekend I got two new blocks finished from the 2010 Designer Mystery Block of the Month sponsored by the Fat Quarter Shop.

Block Nine "Matching Ornaments" designed by Joanna Figueroa

Joanna Figueroa designed the fabric line used in the FQS 2011 Designer Mystery Block of the Month

Block Ten "All Tied Up with Pretty Red Tinsel" Designed by Polly Minick and Laurie Simpson

Saturday, March 19, 2011

My first swap!

In April, I'm going to do my first swap!  Swaps have appeared on many sites, like Craftster and flickr groups, but the one I'm doing is hosted by AnneMarie at Gen X Quilters.

Gen X Quilters

For this swap, I'll send in 12 fat quarters of Robert Kaufman's Kona Cotton Solids, and receive back 12 different colors.  I'm sure some people will use it for "stash building," but I've been actually looking forward to swapping since I lurked on the Craftster swap forums a couple years ago.  (Check out the photo galleries!)  I like the idea of picking out fabric and sending it away to AnneMarie, who will divvy up the goods and send them back to the participants.  I'm already excited about it!  Check out all the great colors Kona comes in here: Sew Fresh Fabrics.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Block-a-Palooza First Round of Blocks

Quilt Dad

I'm participating in this Quilt-Along.  It's my first quilt-along, and I'm behind schedule.  Oh well.  Here's what I've done!

Block 1: Flying Over Fields by John Adams Quilt Dad

Block 2: Word Search by Elizabeth Hartman from Oh Fransson!

Block 3: Shoofly Geese by Amanda Sasikirana from sasikirana handmade

Block 4: Gingham Pinwheel by Cherri House from Cherry House Quilts (oops, skipped this one!)

Block 5: Geesy McNinepatch by Kaye Prince from Miss Print

Block 6: You Are Here by Monica Solorio-Snow from Happy Zombie

Block 7: Orange you glad I chose a nine patch by Heather Bostic from House of a la Mode

Block 8: Basket of Geese by Angela Yosten from Moda Home Mom

Block 9: Lemonade Stand by Scott Hansen from Blue Nickel Studios

And here's my Rectangle Reverie, a design from Monica Solorio-Snow from Happy Zombie.  Her link is above.  I'm almost done, but I wanted to share what I have now.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Book Review: The Emporer's Tomb by Steve Berry

I really wanted to love this book.  This is the sixth book in the Cotton Malone series by Steve Berry.  I inhaled the other five and I loved all of them.  The basic formula for the series includes a mystery surrounding a historical artifact, a world issue, and a conspiracy.  Other books have included the Library of Alexandria and a plot to tear apart Judaism, Christianity and Islam; an advanced early civilization previously unknown to science and a cover-up by the Department of the Navy; Alexander the Great and biochemical get the idea.  Steve Berry is great at researching the history behind the elements in his books and integrating them into a compelling (to me) storyline.  I like learning about pieces of history, and Berry always includes an Author's Note telling where he got his research and what parts are his imaginings, which I appreciate greatly.  That's probably the librarian in me.  But somehow, this book didn't appeal to me as much as the others in the series.

This book's historical basis is in Imperial China.  The Terracotta Army was built by the First Emperor of Qin as a part of his burial site.  He included a replica of all of his belongings (including living servants) to take with him into the afterlife.  The burial site is important because it contains a sample of the first oil drilled in China, in fact the world.  A Russian expatriate scientist is now trying to prove that the oil coming from the Chinese oil fields is not biotic (decomposed from living organisms) but abiotic (secretions from the rock itself).  If this is true, China can produce its own oil and cease its dependence on foreign supplies.  And take over the world.  The ancient eunuch system in China originally served as civil servants to the Emperors but it was purged for abusing their power and status in the Imperial courts.  It has survived the purge and has secretly integrated into the Chinese political system and is poised to overthrow the government and return to Imperialism.  Cassiopeia Vitt, friend of the Russian scientist, gets involved to try to save him from the Chinese conspiracy and instead gets trapped.  Cotton Malone comes to rescue Cassiopeia, and together they try to end the conspiracy and save the scientist.  And the world.

The story was great, I thought.  The plot was Steve Berry's usual gripping style, and at least two characters continually switched sides and continually provided intrigue.  I love Cotton Malone's character, plus the fact that he shares a nickname with my husband's favorite grandpa.  I just didn't get into the back story as much as in previous books.  I don't know if it was a lack of interest in Chinese history, or that it was too much scope to absorb, or that I just don't like current Chinese politics; I'm not sure.  I do love history in general, but my interests are more reserved for Europe, Russia, the Middle East, and India.  China has such a rich history full of innovation and culture, it's hard to absorb it all. 

This was my first time hearing about the abiotic oil theory, and it's interesting for sure.  I believe, like the author does, that proving this theory correct would increase dependence on oil as a fuel source.  I like seeing other energy sources explored, like the wind turbines I saw in West Texas around Abilene and the ones around Boston.  I think solar panels are also an interesting new energy source. 

I was glad to learn more about the Terracotta Army and the First Emperor who built it.  I liked the story in general.  This book was just not my favorite of the series.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Our Valentine's Day Fun

My husband and I celebrated Valentine's Day on Saturday the 19th due to scheduling conflicts.  We made cupcakes together and watched a movie.

For our cupcakes we used Pillsbury's Super Moist Vanilla cake mix.  (I know, I know.)  We added tiny pieces of strawberries and baked them into the batter.  For the frosting we made Mark Bittman's Butter Cream Frosting, and we added Ghiradelli's mini chocolate chips.  Richard was in charge of the frosting and he did a great job!  Vanilla with Strawberry Cupcakes with Chocolate Chip Butter Cream Frosting!! They were great.  Especially when Richard added bourbon to the frosting for the last 4 cupcakes.  :)

We went to see Unknown starring Liam Neeson.  This was an odd movie.  It was a good movie with excellent cast, but it wasn't original.  It was a cross between Bourne Identity and Neeson's other movie Taken.  Great effects and fight scenes though.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My new lunch bag

I made a new lunch bag to take to my part-time retail job.  I was bringing my lunch to work in a left over grocery bag, and it was hard to distinguish it from the 20 other grocery bag lunches in the fridge with it.  I don't think I can miss this one!

It's made with two different patterned oil cloth (what's the plural of oil cloth?!?) and lined with a shower curtain.  It's insulated with InsulBrite from the Warm Company, and it's used for thermal insulation-keeping cold things cold!  (Hopefully.)  I used this tutorial from The Long Thread.  I altered mine from the pattern by making mine wider, changing the strap, and adding a top flap.  I wanted to used waterproof material so I could wipe it down to clean it if it got messy.  The strap I actually cannibalized off one of those reusable bags you buy at the grocery store. 

This was my first time using oil cloth and shower curtain in sewing.  I found it a lot easier to work with the products than I was expecting.  It's stiffer, which is nice for the structure of the bag, but sewing and cutting it wasn't hard at all.  The problem came when I turned the bag right side out.  My shower curtain liner ripped more and more as I turned the bag right side out to finish it.  There ended up being a rip in the lining about 7 inches long.  So, I just got some red duct tape to cover it up.  It matches, so it's all good...Right?

I originally wanted red apples instead of green apples on the oil cloth, but I was sent the green by mistake.  My husband says it looks fine, and it's grown on me now.  I'm excited to use it at work!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Snack Recipes: Granola and Salsa

Well, I originally wrote this on one of our big snow days.  I just didn't post it like I should have.  So, without further ado, my snow day cooking adventures!

I live in Northern Connecticut, and today we have a wintery mix of precipitation.  My translation: it's raining ice and it's going to be really scary driving anywhere.  So, I'm at home today.  I thought I'd get some cooking done.  I wanted to share my recipes I'm making today.

First up is homemade granola.  *Caution* This makes a lot.  Like 2 gallons, a lot.  It keeps well as long as it has been thoroughly cooked and dried out.  One batch for our 2-person household lasts about 2 months.  The sweeteners in this is sweetened coconut flakes, dried fruit and honey and that's it!  It's really good mixed in greek yogurt (my favorite) or eaten by itself (hubby's favorite) or eaten like cereal.  Here it is:

Beth's Homemade Granola
1 large container quick 1 minute oats
1 large bag sliced almonds
1 large bag sweetened coconut flakes
3 tablespoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon cloves
2-3 cups water
1 cup honey
1 cup canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large box raisins

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
In a (very) large bowl mix the dry ingredients (oats through cloves).  Mix until all ingredients are equally distributed.  In a large microwave safe bowl, combine wet ingredients (water through vanilla), but reserve 1 cup water.  Heat for about 2 minutes on high in microwave.  Stir wet ingredients together until well combined.  You will still have oil bubbles, but hopefully small ones.  The honey and water and vanilla should be dissolved together.  Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients.  Mix until entire mixture is damp and sticks together a little.  You may have to use reserved water or a little more to accomplish this.
Here's the long part.  Spread into thin layers in baking dishes; I use 4 13x9 casserole pans.  Be sure to use dishes with about 2 inch high sides.  Bake a half at a time for 2 hours, turning after 1 hour.  (So total baking time is 4 hours.)  Let the oats cool and dry out for at least an hour.  Pour raisins evenly over all the pans.  Transfer into 2 1-gallon containers.  Enjoy!

Some substitutions you could use:  different oil, like sunflower oil; other dried fruit like papaya, pineapples, or dried cherries or a combination; different nuts like pecans or walnuts, or both!

My next recipe is my favorite thing to bring to a party:  salsa!  I'll be bringing some of this batch to our friend's Superbowl Party on Sunday.

Beth's Salsa
1/4 onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 jalepeno, seeds removed, coarsely chopped
handful of cilantro leaves
1 can Rotel (diced tomatoes with chilies), liquid drained
1 can whole tomatoes, liquid drained
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin

In a food processor pulse together onion and jalepeno, about 5-6 times.  Add remaining ingredients and mix together until combined to your preferences.  For chunkier salsa, pulse instead.  For more liquid salsa, use liquid from cans.  Makes 1-2 pints.

Enjoy!  Happy cooking!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Castle Peeps Quilt Top

I finished my Castle Peeps Quilt Top!  Here it is!

There's one corner not done, but I'll get that later!  Overall, I still love this fabric.  I probably should have chosen fabric with a smaller print scale so that the patchwork blocks would show better, but now I know for the future.

I now have quite a stack of quilt tops.  At least 5.  I'm not quilting them yet because my mom (who lives in Texas) just got a long arm machine.  Instead of paying rental fees or for quilting by others, I'm going to pay for a plane ticket to go quilt at my mom's house and hang out with her!!  So this won't be totally finished until later in the year.  But I'm okay with that.

What do you think?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My envelope system

I saw a picture of the coupon holder on Jaybird Quilts's blog, I wanted to make it.  I don't really use coupons, but I wanted to make something like this to hold receipts and cash for our budget.  The tutorial is on Moda Bake shop's site.  They have other great projects too.  I'm probably going to make Jaybird's giant pincushion soon.
Jaybird Quilts Coupon Clutch Tutorial
Jaybird Quilts Giant Pincushion Tutorial
 I used half of a charm pack of Awesome by Sandy Gervais.  I used the included PDF card stock dividers, but I flipped them over and wrote my own categories that match our budget categories.


I haven't posted in a while, so here's what I've been doing.  Apologies up front-for some reason I can't import pictures.  So you'll have to use your imagination.  Yay, my camera is working now, so I've added in pictures!

I made chunky clay buttons for my Log Cabin Stockings.  This was my first time using clay, and it was pretty easy.  I used this tutorial.  I used green, white, and red clay to make the buttons.  I'm pleased with how they turned out, except they may be a little soft/plyable.  The red bled all over my hands, so I wonder if it will bleed anymore.  Right now they have a matte finish, and I might go back and put on some varnish to make them shiny.  I'm sort of waiting to see if they harden up a bit more.  I may have to remake them with Fimo, which I understand to be firmer when baked.

Now for a little rant.  The embellishments I want for my log cabin stockings are: a chunky button, Christmas-themed fabric ribbon (not nylon), and a name tag.  Before the new year started, I bought 4 different Christmas ribbons from a seller on Etsy.  I like using Etsy and this is the first time something went wrong.  I didn't hear anything from the seller for 3 weeks.  Not a peep.  I ended up leaving negative comments at this point.  I should have waited.  I finally get a note from the seller, apologizing and offering the option of a refund or shipping me the items.  I say, "Send me the ribbons!  I still want them!"  She gives me a refund.  Not the ribbons.  That I still want. 
I found a couple rolls on sale at CVS, but I still need some more.  I may have to improvise.  I'm not really happy about how that went down.

I caught up on my Designer Block of the Month from the Fat Quarter Shop!  This month's block was a stocking with a Christmas tree on it.  The designer information is not with me at present, either.  This block was designed by Barbara Groves & Mary Jacobson.  I also got some matching fabric to finish the quilt and I've put together two rows.  Next month, I'll make my ninth block and have 3 rows!

Also, I've finished all the Castle Peeps pieced blocks!  I did 4 more block patterns and 8 more blocks for a total of 12 patterns and 24 blocks.  I'm setting the blocks on point and mixing them with a red and off white solid from Kona Cotton as well as bigger pieces of the Castle Peeps fabric.  I've got three rows together and I want to finish putting that together today.  I like it, but I think it would be more successful if I used a smaller scale print, or fabrics that read more solid than the ones in this line.  I still like it.  My husband says that we'll watch Merlin while snuggled under it and he'll call me "milady."  I'm silly, but I'm totally okay with that.

Blogger's Block-a-palooza started yesterday!  The first block from Quilt Dad (John Adams) looks great!  I have to start this quilt-along in February and catch up, because, well, I spent all my fun money for January by the 14th.  But I'm sticking to the budget, since it's a New Year's Resolution for me and hubby.  I've already picked out my fabric though.  I'm going to use some stash fabric and a yellow scrap bag from Pink Chalk Fabrics with some coordinating solids.  It'll be a big scrappy looking, I expect, but oh well!  The total needed yardage is almost 15 yards and with retail price of fabric being about $10/yard, I'll used the scrap bag, thank you very much.

Over the weekend I also watched some (okay, a lot) of my current favorite television shows.  My husband and I watched all the Eureka episodes from Netflix, so we moved on to Merlin.  For some reason, I love Destination Truth.  (I think it's the snarky comments from host Josh Gates.  By the way, he grew up around Boston!!)  I've watched all of the current season (four), so I'm watching seasons 1, 2, and 3 on Netflix.  I'm all caught up on Sanctuary, so I just have to wait for episodes to start again in the spring.  Apparently I totally missed the awesomeness of Battlestar Galactica.  So (you guessed it) I'm watching it on Netflix.  It's odd, because I really want to talk to someone about the show ("OMG, did you see what just happened?!?!), and then I remember that everyone besides me saw that a long time ago.

Yes, I am a Syfy junkie.

(Sorry for the long post sans pictures!)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mug Rugs

I've seen these little quilts popping up everywhere, and I decided that my sister really needed one!  (Nevermind the fact that since I chose the Bento Box pattern, I'd end up with two.)  I used fabric in my stash: a red rose print, a yellow rose print, and a print with a bird on a branch with colored leaves.  Mug rugs I've seen are usually rectangular, but mine are square because I couldn't cut up these blocks!

Here's the block finished:

(I'm so happy the corners all lined up!)

Here's pictures of the two mug mats finished.  You can see a little of the quilting in the close ups.

I sent these to my sister.  She finally got them yesterday and put them right to use!  Here's an action shot:

In the upper right is a picture of me and Ann when I graduated from Basic Military Training.  In the upper left is a cross-stitch piece that Ann did for this Valentine's Day.  AND...on the mug rug is fresh scones that she baked herself!! And coffee.  Of course.

The Hunger Games

I recently finished reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  I was initially intrigued by this book and series because my friend Amanda Gignac constantly raved about these books on her blog and on Twitter.  The free sample I got on my nook didn't get me hooked, but I thought I'd try again since I got some Barnes and Noble gift cards for Christmas.

It was great.  I didn't think I'd care as much about the characters as I did at the end.  I think my favorite thing is that the main character Katniss had character "flaws," but that just made her more real.  I liked Peeta too.  I want to know more about him.  I'll definitely read the rest of the trilogy (Catching Fire and Mockingjay), but I have some other books and series that I want to read. 

I've made a new goal for myself this year:  to read one non-fiction book a month.  I think Linchpin by Seth Godin is going to be January's non-fiction selection.  This book was recommended on the Dave Ramsey Show, and it sounded interesting.  And I love Dave Ramsey, so I take his recommendations seriously.

Right now though, I'm reading one of my favorite authors and favorite series:  Steve Berry's Cotton Malone series.  I'm at book six, The Emporer's Tomb

(So, this is my first book review.  How did I do?)

Monday, January 17, 2011

More Castle Peeps

I have three new Castle Peep blocks to share!

Grandma's Star:

Joseph's Coat:

Rolling Stone:

I have 5 more block patterns to complete, then I can start laying out the whole quilt top.  I want to finish the blocks by the end of the month so I can start on this:

Quilt Dad

Blogger's Block-a-palooza is being hosted by John Adams, aka Quilt Dad.  Head over to his blog or to the flickr group for more information.

More Stockings!

Over the weekend I finished the front of the sixth and final stocking.  I also assembled the stockings and put cuffs and loops on all of them.   Here they are:

I still have the embellishments to do, and I spent all my January crafting budget, so these won't get done until at least next month, possibly later.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Stash #2

New fabric this week:  from the Fat Quarter Shop, Remembrance by Brannock and Patel for Moda Fabrics.  I got a half yard each of Olive Buds, Red Aged Solid, Tan Aged Solid, , and Teal Stars.

I also was pleasantly surprised that I got a $10 gift certificate to Tomorrow's Heirlooms in Corpus Christi, TX, from participating in the October Fab Shop Hop.  There's another going on right now, so hop on over and hop the shops!  There are a lot of prizes up for grabs!  Well, here's what I got:  from Patti Paisley Watermelon Stripe (top) and Watermelon (middle), purple fabric with multicolor dots (I don't have the manufacturer information), and from Michael Miller Fairy Frost in Snow and Aqua.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

More Block of the Month Blocks

I've finished two more Fat Quarter Shop 2010 Designer Mystery Block of the Month blocks.

Block Five: "Peppermint Pinwheels" designed by Carrie Nelson

Block Seven: "Warm Woolen Mitten" designed by Pam Buda

I got a little out of order, but now I'm just one month behind!  Woot! I've also ordered material to finish this quilt, so hopefully I can get some bigger pieces together in the near future.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My 2010 Designer Block of the Month

I'm in a Block-of-the-Month club sponsored by the Fat Quarter Shop.  The fabric is 12 Days of Christmas by Kate Spain.  I'm sort of...well...behind.  I finished the first block in a sort of timely fashion:

During block two, I had equipment gremlins.  That was in November, or so.  I finally pulled it out and finished block two,...and three and four!  These were three of my seven completed blocks when we had a huge snow storm.

Block One: "Gifts Under the Tree" designed by Gudrun Erla. (I made this previously.)

Block Two:  "Santa's Lucky Hat" designed by Bonnie Olaveson and Camille Roskelley. (I started this before Thanksgiving and finished it today.)

Block Three:  "Wreath Over Our Door" designed by Sandy Gervais.

Block Four:  "Oh Christmas Tree" designed by Heather Mulder Peterson.

At least I'm less behind now.  I should be getting block eight soon.  Sigh.