Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A little progress

I started sewing strips together for my Project Modern quilt! I'm hoping it will come together pretty quickly and not get slowed down too much by other projects I have in the works. I've also got some big baking plans coming up, including an apple challah bread and chocolate croissants... both will be a first for me and I'm a little nervous about the croissants. It's just a long process. I think I might make a test batch this weekend to make sure I know what I'm doing before I make them to bring to share with friends. I know they'll get eaten up in our house! And there are always the friends and neighbors who are willing guinea pigs... I just need to find the chocolate sticks locally... off on a chocolate treasure hunt!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Progress, of sorts...

So I haven't made any progress on my Project Modern quilt, but... I made an entire baby quilt in around 24 hours! Here are some pictures of its creation...

The top, no borders...

Top and bottom borders added...

Borders done!

Sandwiched, pinned and ready to be quilted!

Half-way finished with the quilting...


The plain back...

I used three flannel prints for the top with solid blue and pale yellow for the border and back. This was very much something of an improvisational quilt, I just started cutting strips of fabric, then started sewing them into bigger strips, then pieced those together! I really liked how it turned out, I even teared up a little when I gave it away... but I know it will be used! I still have a little of all the fabrics, so maybe I'll use them in something for Two when I get the time...

I've been doing a decent amount of creative cooking and baking, too! Last two Fridays ago (has it really been that long since I posted?) I made a couple of 9" deep dish pizzas topped with tomatoes, lots of cheese, sweet Italian sausages, peppers and onions. I actually thought to take pictures! Here they are...

The pizzas!

Nice, deep dish with layers! (And a very happy Two in the background)

And I also decided pretty much on a whim to try out the chocolate stout cake recipe from King Arthur Flour. That was pretty good, too! Rich and heavy, but yummy! No pictures of that, but I made it! This last Friday I made thin crust pizzas again, they're so good! Saturday night I tried out Emeril's recipe for pierogis that turned out pretty well. The recipe didn't halve well, so I just made a lot of them and froze a bunch to save for another night. I also tried out KAF's bacon cheddar scones Sunday morning. The recipe called for chives, too, but I didn't have any on hand, so I just left them out. I just made a half recipe of mini scones and they were pretty great! So a lot of baking going on here! And some temporary insanity with quilting! Hopefully I'll have more progress to post, soon!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Some progress...

I actually spent some time with my fabric and rotary cutter yesterday! I got the little guy down for his nap (in my bed... sigh...) and heard pleas coming from my crafting room. So I set up my laptop with Glee, heated up the iron, and starting cutting strips for my Project Modern quilt. I think I'm going to be able to use some strip piecing to speed up the process. I'll take some pictures of all my lovely strips at some point, since plain black and white strips are so interesting... I also set up a new stash storage in the closet that I think will work really well. I got a hanging shoe shelf thing from Target, and it's the perfect size for fat quarters! Now my (still pretty small) stash has moved from its sad little box into the closet where they can breathe and yet be protected!

And... I got a picture of the cute little bag I made for Two's friend! She has been loving it. That makes me so happy! I so love making things that people can use and enjoy!

As you can see, it's definitely handmade, but the quirks are part of what make these things great, right? I had hoped to make it reversible, but that just wasn't in the cards... it's about the size of a small kid's backpack, and it ended up with just the one strap. She wears it across her body, carrying her things around with her. So cute!

I haven't done much interesting baking or cooking in the last couple of days, either. I found a whole bunch of new recipes I really want to try over at King Arthur Flour. They have a very reasonable pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant) recipe, and those are a favorite in our house! Tomorrow night will be my first attempt at making deep-dish pizza, using their Chicago-style recipe. All the reviews are great, so we'll see how the guys like it!

Monday night I was able to go up to downtown LA with my friends Melissa and Kelly and met up with all the lovely people of the LA Modern Quilt Guild! It was so awesome! My first meeting just happened to be the one year anniversary for the guild, the first in the country! I'm going to have to go every month now, there was just so much inspiration in the room. And I won a great door prize! A circle cutter and slotted cutting guide. Not bad for a first meeting... and now I have no excuse to not try circles! One may end up on the back of one of the now two quilts in progress... I'm hoping to get them both done soon! The black and white one has to be finished before the end of November, and I'd like to be able to send the other off for a Christmas present. And there are, of course, other little things I'd like to get done... it would be so awesome if I could just spend all day up in my crafting room as my job! Maybe someday...

Monday, October 4, 2010


So I still haven't gotten to do much crafting, but I have been able to do some cooking. I haven't even talked about the fantastic pizza crust recipe I tried out! I had found the recipe a while ago, and finally decided to try it, and I think it will now be a Friday night tradition. The King Arthur Flour pizza crust recipe really is fantastic! I love King Arthur flour, especially since they are fully employee-owned and from Vermont! They have excellent recipes, various products, and, of course, flours! But back to the pizza! The recipe suggests letting the dough rest in the refrigerator for a few hours, which I did, and I used a preheated pizza stone in the oven with the crust on a sheet of parchment paper to let it go into and out of the oven easily. I got two nicely thin and crispy crusts out of the recipe, the second of which I froze as dough. They also give tips on freezing a pre-baked crust, but the ball of dough just fit better! It turned out great, too, though! So after I pre-baked the first crust, I took it back out, spread out some roasted red pepper tomato sauce (yes, from a jar), covered it with an Italian blend of cheeses, then covered it with some mild Italian sausage broken up into bits, peppers and almost-caramelized onions I had cooked down earlier. It was so delicious! The second crust I topped with cheese, sausage, genoa salami, fresh mozzarella and a little more cheese. The boys loved it!

Last night, I made a "Tess Creation" that turned out really well! I had frozen ravioli (one package of mushroom medley, one of butternut squash) to cook, and didn't think that tomato sauce was necessarily the best topping. So I melted some butter in a skillet over really low heat, added some chopped garlic with a little salt and let it soften, then some walnuts so they could toast a little. Lastly I added some frozen petite peas, let them heat up, then poured it all into the food processor to make the sauce. I pulsed it until it was almost smooth, adding a little olive oil, but still had some texture. I mixed with the drained ravioli and served. I forgot to add the parmesan cheese, I had, but it was still fantastic! Dex's two friends who came over both really liked it, and one even said it was the best vegetarian meal he'd had! I didn't really mean for it to be vegetarian, it's just how it turned out. I bet some prosciutto would be delicious with it, too... hmm... this is definitely a creation that is sticking in the repertoire and will be tried with variations... yum! Oh, and I made apple crisp last night, too! One of my favorite fall desserts! The recipe my mother has always used is my favorite, of course. It doesn't have any oats in the topping, just flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, little bit of salt and lots of butter... it's sooooooo good! I made two pans, the second of which is being baked to bring along to my first Modern Quilt Guild meeting! I'm really excited for that, too! I may even try to finish up that quilt top to bring along... we'll see!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


I haven't gotten too much crafting, or baking, or interesting cooking, or much else done in the past few days. I did create that little backpack (turned into more of a shoulder/messenger bag) and wish I could share it, but I forgot to take a picture of it before I wrapped it up and gave it to the little birthday girl. She loves it, so I must have done something right! I may have to start taking orders from some of my friends, too! That could be a lot of fun, I just don't think I have time to take on too much else. I've been trying to catch up with housework on top of taking care of the little guy and everyone, but with our two really ridiculously hot days (I'm talking over 100 outside, 91 downstairs inside, no A/C hot), I fell even more behind and now have to play catch-up with the chores. Yuck. But, I need to get things back in order and just have maintenance chores so I can get started cutting and piecing my Project Modern quilt in addition to finishing the strippy quilt. I think it's going to need a name. That will probably just have to wait until it's done, and it has less of a deadline than my laundry basket does... yes, my inspiration for the first Project Modern challenge is my laundry basket. The basic design isn't likely to change any more, but I may play with the orientation and coloring of it. Right now it's going to be more or less completely black and white. And I'm kinda liking that. I'm also toying with the idea of doing a little piecing on the back. I've been falling in love with a lot of quilt backs with just one small pieced area, so I may include, that, too. Just have no idea how or what! Maybe mostly black with one asymmetrical white stripe? Hmm..... first, chores!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New goodies!

So, Two has a birthday party to go to on Saturday for one of his "friends". She's turning two. I decided yesterday that it'd be really nice to make her something, like a little backpack. It has now become, in my mind, a quilted, reversible backpack with buttons. In my mind, it's adorable. So of course, I didn't have the fabric in my stash to make it, so I needed to run out to the store. This, of course, is potentially dangerous for the bank account. So I made myself a list. Two fabrics for the backpack, two fabrics to make a quilted, reversible trick-or-treating bag for Two (I've never made or worked with pre-quilted fabrics, so I thought that would be a better first project), four buttons for the backpack, binding to hide the seams in both projects, and possibly some fabric to make myself an apron. One apron really isn't enough. I mean, what I am supposed to do when it needs to be washed? So that was my list. And I walked out with pretty much only that. And thread. And pipe cleaners. Oh, and an accent fabric for the apron. So not too bad, right? These are the fabrics I chose...

Aren't they great? Obviously the jack-o-lanterns and harlequin print are for the trick-or-treat bag. The cherries (with a button) and polka dots are for the backpack, and that awesome coffee print is the main fabric for the apron with the dots as an accent. I'm thinking a couple of pockets, the neck straps and a waistband if I got enough of it.

When I got home and got Two to take his nap, I started to get all set up to pre-quilt his Halloween fabric. Then I discovered I did not have any empty bobbins (this possibility had crossed my mind while in the store...) or bobbins with black thread. If I was just sewing, not an issue, but this is supposed to be reversible! So, I had a little stall in my plan. I guess I need another bobbin or two... because of course I need one for the red thread for the backpack, too! I guess we have to go back tomorrow... just for empty bobbins!!!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Project update and yummy food!

So it's Tuesday, and I haven't posted anything since Friday, and a few experiments and projects have been conducted. The sugar cookies were quite delicious, but I ran out of time to ice them for the block party, so they're just sitting unfrosted in the cookie jar, slowly getting eaten.

Sunday I decided I wanted to try something new for dinner. There are so many beautiful apples available right now, I thought I'd make something with apples and pork, since they go together so well. I ended up with some ground pork and the inspiration to make my own version of a meat pie. I began with some apple-honey cured bacon (six slices of bulk from the meat counter), rendered it down and removed it from the pan. I added in one and a half sliced onions and two diced apples (I used one Granny Smith and one Jonagold) to let them caramelize and cook down. I let those cook for at least half an hour by themselves in the bacon fat. Then I added in the ground pork (about a pound, I think it was) and three diced yukon gold potatoes. I added in some cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, rubbed sage, salt and pepper (I think that was all... I just went with some classic apple and pork spice pairings!) and let the meat brown up. To help soften the potatoes and create a little gravy I added in some chicken stock, then some apple cider and a little flour. I don't really measure much as I'm cooking, so it's all just what looked good to me at the time! I put it all into a homemade pie crust (bottom and top!) and baked it at 375* for about 30 minutes, until the crust was golden. I then let it cool for a few minutes to let it set up and dished it out. It was delicious! Even our friend who does not like fruit (!!!) really enjoyed it! I was happy there were enough leftovers for the three of us for lunch on Monday and not just for the two of them! This is definitely a "Tess creation" that is going to stay in the repertoire! And if I may say so, the crust was perfect! I'm glad I went ahead and practiced making my own... I think it's a good skill to have!

In non-cooking news, I made some decent progress on my quilt. I decided I needed a couple more strips of pieced strips, then I had the revelation that they did not need to be placed vertically, but could go horizontally! I had been struggling with how to form the top with only three strips place vertically and still have it large enough, I made two more and still couldn't make it work in my head, and then I just turned them and voila! I really think this is going to work out wonderfully! Here are some pictures of how it's going together...

The three original strips

The five current strips

This is how I plan on piecing the strips together, with solid charcoal grey. I may end up needing to make some more scrappy strips to make it as large as I want it, and the side sashing is going to be the same grey. Each stripe is 5.5 inches, so roughly 5 inches finished. As is is right now, then, the finished main part of the top will be 55 inches long. I haven't measured the width yet, but I'm thinking it will be a good "lap" quilt to keep on a couch, right? Any criticisms or comments are welcome and appreciated!

Well, I think I may go try to get some more work done up there! I'll update more progress as I go!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ah, Friday...

So the baking bug has hit me the last week or so. Tomorrow evening, we're having a block party and I need to bring a side dish (I'm going to try out a pasta salad with kidney and green beans), but I think I'm going to bring some cookies, too. Or I might just keep the cookies for us and our friends... we'll see. The dough is in the fridge chilling right now. I've been wanting to try the sugar cookie recipe and icing techniques my mother in law introduced me to that she learned from one of her friends who typed them up beautifully. The dough tastes really good! I can't wait to see a finished product. I'm trying to decide what shape to use. Basic circles with pretty designs? Rockets? Fall leaves? The leaf cutter I have is a bit on the big side, and I only made a half recipe, so I'm leaning toward smallish circles... any input or ideas would be appreciated! I'll be sure to take a post photos of the finished product!

Also, yesterday was the first card swap my group held of the school year! I got some great cards from all the ladies in the group. I may take some pictures to put up to share, for sure of the cards I made and perhaps of some others. I have some ideas for other cards I'd like to make, and those will definitely go up to. If I think of it, I'll take photos to show my "process" which is rather organic and haphazard. Most of my friends think I'm somewhat insane for how I work. I rarely have a plan in place before I start, if I do at all, it's just the colors or stamp set. So yes... that is what I'm thinking about right now... sugar cookies, and cards... oh, and the quilt I have in progress.... I'm working on trying to figure out how to finish it, or at least the next step toward finishing... I still need to take and post some photos of the progress I've made... perhaps later today or tomorrow.... ciao ciao!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Happy Day!

This morning the mom's bible study group I'm part of started back up again! It was so nice to be back with that group of ladies, and Two had a great time playing with his friends again! It's wonderful to have those two hours of adult time while he gets to play with the other toddlers!

In crafty news, yesterday I finished up that set of cards for my mother in law, so I should be getting those off to her soon. I think I'm going to make some more of the "hello" cards to bring in to mom's group (part of what we do is send cards off to people in the community) and make more of the "merci" cards for the monthly card swap I participate in. That starts back up tomorrow morning, too! It's great to have some sort of schedule again, the routine helps keep me on top of everything. I got to spend some time working on my quilt in progress during naptime today, too! Now I think it will actually turn into a lap quilt, nothing too big, but I would like to make it a more useful item than just a table runner. And it's going to be a gift for someone, I won't say just in case they're reading... I'll post some pictures of progress later on, probably tomorrow at the soonest.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Long weekend...

It was a long weekend, and not in the good way... I ended up not going out to Beverly Hills Friday night, which was a bummer and I was a bit disappointed. The little guy had a rough weekend with a lot of not sleeping well or taking his naps, so I didn't get that time at home to recharge and take care of the things I like to do. I did, however, get to do some baking! I love having a bread machine to do all the work, and my guys love to eat bread, so I made a loaf of buttermilk bread. I also made some super yummy chocolate cookies. I've been using the same recipe since I was given a Klutz Kids cookbook when I was 9 or so, and it's still one of the best I've ever eaten! Two dozen were baked last night, one of which got sent in to work with Dex to give to a friend for his birthday, and there's still dough in the fridge to bake today! There are only four left, really, so I need to bake some more. They just disappear so quickly! I thought I'd give a little update even though not much was accomplished this weekend. Hopefully it will get better today...

Friday, September 10, 2010


Yes, this is my second post today, but I just have to share this!

I decided I needed a new purse for this evening since I'm going to the Beverly Hills Fashion's Night Out event and decided to just go ahead and make one. This is what came out of that decision, using Kona charcoal grey and white fabrics. I rather like it! It's a little messy inside...

... but that's ok. If I had planned it a little better I would have turned the lining and such, too, but not bad for a morning's work! The only thing I really can't think of from what I have is some kind of closure. I really do not want to use velcro, so it may not really close at all for now. Maybe in the future I'll find magnets or something, but not by tonight. The other thing would be a strap of some kind, but I'm not liking anything I have around. It's good enough to use for tonight as is. I just had to share!


It's been a couple of days, so this is going to be a long one!

First off, here's a photo of a skirt made with the same pattern I plan to use as the base for my new skirt!

Second, this is a set of cards I've been working on to send to my mother in law... and maybe make enough to keep some for myself or stock up for a future swap or who knows! I just really like the way they look... (It's the "Chic Boutique" stamp set from Stampin' Up!, using their Real Red and Not Quite Navy and the new scallop border punch)

Third, I made some pretty yummy calamari last night! Dex wanted fish or pasta, and I wanted something fairly quick and easy along the lines of Italian food, so I opened up the cookbook my father got for me in Boston's North End to the seafood section and decided to try the Calamari with Fresh Tomato Saute, with zucchini to add more veggies. I was also missing a couple of herbs so I just left them out. This was the first calamari I've ever made, and other than all the chopping prep, it was really easy! I tossed in some fresh spaghetti to finish it and everyone loved it! Well, Two really only ate the pasta, but that's to be expected from a two year old!

If I get a chance today, I'm going to try to finish off those cards and make some more progress on my quilt creation. It's really making me feel like it wants to become a table runner, I think, so we'll see how that works out! Tata for now!

Monday, September 6, 2010


I really love the new fabrics I got Saturday from the LA Fashion District! I am going to try to finish the project I'm working on before I start anything else, though. So, I promised pictures! Here they are!

The fabric on the left is for a skirt, from the Drawing Room line by Anna Marie Horner, the purple grouping is Tufted Tweets in Orchid, the red, black and white is from the Poppy Lane collection and then there are the solids.
This is a little gift bag I whipped up yesterday morning from my stash for a friend's birthday present. I thought it turned out pretty well, especially when I filled the top with tulle strips instead of tissue paper, it was really cute!

I'll keep you all posted on what gets worked on next!!!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A very successful day!

Today Melissa and I went on an adventure to the giant Michael Levine fabric store in LA's Fashion District. That store is a dream. There is so much fabric!!! I found the fabrics I was looking for, and was able to restrain myself from getting more than I had planned, other than picking up some really great fabric for a new skirt. I had been considering making a new 50's style dress for myself, but the 2.5 yards needed for the skirt was much more reasonable in my mind than the 4.5 for the dress. I just knew I'd obsess over trying to find it again if I didn't get it today, and it was a lot less than just buying a skirt in a store! I'll take some pictures of my new treasures to post sometime in the near future, as well as one of the skirt I'm going to be making (I've made two from this pattern already) with my fabulous new fabric. I also found some great tiger "fur" to mail to Nana, my mother, who wants to make Two's costume for Halloween this year. It's a lot harder to find than you would think!

This evening, I decided Two and I should make some "cookies" for our friends' puppies we're going to go visit tomorrow. Yes, I let my two-year-old little boy"help" me in the kitchen for the first time. He had a blast, we made a big mess, and there will be two very happy pups tomorrow! I wish I had gotten some pictures while we were working, but Daddy was busy elsewhere and Mommy's hands were just too messy... oh well... I'm sure there will more opportunities to get pictures of my little man working in the kitchen.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Project in Progress...

So here are some of those photos!

The fabrics cut into crazy strips, one of which I pleated for a special texture element

One block... or strip... something pieced together with the remaining strips

I don't think I'll get to work on it much more tonight, but I like where it's starting to go! I think I'm going to use a charcoal grey for sashing, spacing, border, back, etc, to anchor it all together. We'll see where it actually goes!

A work in progress

So the other day my friend Melissa posted about some new fabric she got and since then I have had a very strong sewing itch. I pulled out my stash (yes, it is small enough to actually pull it out... I have a smallish box not quite full) and started considering various fabrics to turn into... something. I've decided to take a very organic approach to it and just start creating. I have a vague idea of what I want to do, but I just want to see where it takes me. Last night I cut some fabric and plan to start piecing today, hopefully. It's definitely going to be a "modern" and "wonky" quilt, but I think it will be fun. I'll try to post some pictures of the work in progress later.

I have also decided to try and participate in Project Modern, a four challenge year-long event by the Modern Quilt Guild. The first challenge was posted yesterday, and I already have two possible designs sketched out! I'm really excited about trying to get back into quilting, and I think a more modern approach may be the way to do it. I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Success! A delicious chorizo and brussel sprout hash!

So a few days ago, I saw some interesting beef chorizo in the meat case. I normally don't do chorizo because it can be spicy, but I thought it was worth a try in an adaptation of a brussel sprout hash I've been making, especially since the meat guy said it wasn't too spicy. That hash usually starts with rendered bacon, onions, potatoes (I like the little baby potatoes in a mix I get at the farmer's market) and brussel sprouts, use a little chicken stock for steam, finish with balsamic vinegar. It's one of the few ways I'll eat sprouts. But I thought it was worth a try to see if I could come up with something a little different. So I started more or less the same, bacon (what isn't better with some bacon?) rendered down, added in the sausage (removed from casings), onion, potatoes (I just let them do all the cooking in there since I use such little ones cut in half or so) then the sprouts and some fresh spinach right at the end for extra greens. I didn't even add any salt or pepper or really any other seasonings. I just let it all cook together until the potatoes were cooked and the sprouts were tender. It was so delicious! I actually really liked the sprouts in it! Both Dex and Two liked it, too! Well, most of it. Two year olds are a little picky at times, but he at least liked the chorizo (he tolerates spicy food better than I do most of the time) and ate some of the potatoes. So all said, it was a dish I will keep in my repertoire!

Hello, world!

Hi, there! I decided it was about time to create a blog and share some of the things I do with the world. I'm Tess, I have a wonderful husband, whom I shall call Dex here, and a little boy I'll call Two for the sake of blogging. I'm a full-time mommy and enjoy a lot of housewifey things like sewing (both by hand, such as cross-stitch and on the machine for clothing and such), quilting, cooking and baking and I'm starting to try to learn to crochet and possibly knitting as well. I am also an avid reader and try to at least keep up a little with current events around the world, since that is more or less what I studied in school.

I plan to use this blog to post progress on various projects, recipes I've tried recently, concoctions I've come up with and the occasional rant perhaps, but I will try to keep those to a minimum! If I get whiny, don't hesitate to remind me to keep it down! I hope you enjoy what I have to say!