Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

  On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered His words.  Luke 24

I wish you a very blessed Easter.
I'll be taking this week off to spend a little time hanging out with my family over Spring Break, but I'll be back soon with some springtime projects, recipes, a preview of our next (fabulous!) newsletter. Have a great week!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

In the Studio Today: Appliqued Butterfly Project & New Art

It's been kind of a weird week here. Some of you may have seen on Facebook that I got called for jury duty on Tuesday. I arrived at the courthouse at 1 pm as instructed, and was met with a line out the door for people just trying to get into the courthouse. Hmmm... that seemed odd. Then they ushered us into a room in the basement which was about 100 degrees and standing room only- at least a hundred people in there and they were bringing in more chairs. Curious-er and curious-er.... I was getting the feeling that this wasn't a breaking-and-entering sort of trial. When they announced that they were running over an hour late because the judge was still with the morning's groups of potential jurors, I knew for sure something was up.

After waiting 3 hours, we went into the courtroom. First I saw a group of people which I assumed were family members, then we met the judge, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and 3 defendants, and found out it was a murder trial. I will be honest and tell you that the whole thing made me really uncomfortable... a little too "real life," you know? The defendants were all young men, about my daughter's age, it's possible that she even went to high school with them. When they turned to address the potential jurors, I got a little choked up... I wondered if they were born into different families in a different city where they might be right now instead of here....  I was relieved to be excused during the first round (due to a scheduling conflict on my part.) I think I would make a terrible juror. I don't know how objective I could be, I think I would spend the rest of my life second-guessing my decision. I frankly don't want the responsibility of deciding whether or not these young men would spend the rest of their lives behind bars. Or what if I voted to acquit them- would that mean justice for the victim and their family??? So while I sat there I just prayed that I would be put on the jury if God had a purpose for me being there, or that I would be excused if not. So I got my answer. Then I said some prayers for the judge, lawyers, defendants, and of course all of the families involved. It will weigh on me over the next few weeks as the trial progresses......

Has anyone ever been a juror, especially on an important trial? How did you feel about it- did you find it fascinating? exhausting? confusing? All of the above?? How did you handle it? I'm just curious- I think it would have been really interesting, but the fact that there are real people involved, instead of actors in an episode of Law & Order, puts things in a different light.

Anyway, onto happier news.... I have actually carved out a little time for painting this week, which I haven't done in it-seems-like-forever. I started this back in the fall, and then I got busy and set it aside. I forced myself to work on it this week, and as soon as I got started, I remembered the joy that I feel when I pick up my brushes and paints and colored pencils.... ahhhhh... the world just melts away.... I really needed that this week....

I also squeezed in a little time for sewing and started to work on a project for my next newsletter. Machine applique- instant gratification, ha ha. Click here for a tutorial on machine applique if you'd like some tips on how I do it, or if you've never done it but would like to give it a try.

What do you do to relax when the world is weighing heavy on you?
I hope you all have a good week and a Happy Easter!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Snow Day!

So, it's the 6th day of Spring, and this is what it looks like:
Unbelievable! We got hardly a flake of snow all winter, and on March 25, less than a week from Easter, this is what happens.... weird. I had an appointment today which I cancelled; daughter's school is actually in session today but I kept her home (she drives herself to school and I didn't want her out in the weather.) So she is baking cookies and I am drinking tea and doing all of those cozy "snow day" things that we didn't get to do all winter :) When my kids were little, I used to look forward to snow days, when we would all just stay in and read and watch movies and do crafts and drink hot chocolate and eat soup.... and then the kids would go outside to play in the snow, and you know you spent more time getting them dressed and then undressed than they actually spent playing...

(Remember A Christmas Story
Ralphie: "My kid brother Randy looked like a tick about to pop.")

So daughter is using her Snow Day to make biscotti (no complaints here...)

We've been busy working on the next newsletter which will come out mid-April. It has a late Spring/early Summer theme. There is a wonderful cookie recipe which I am including- we had a family dinner yesterday after church and everyone sampled them and thought they were delicious- so apparently we have a winner!

Last November, a lot of you gave me suggestions for a new newsletter name... we are still thinking about changing the name, it will probably reflect my new tag line... but I am still mulling over the possibilities. I will have to make up my mind by mid-April when the next issue comes out!

For now, I am doing 2 versions of the newsletter- an email version which you can read right in your inbox, and a magazine version which looks like a real magazine (I love the magazine)!

If you'd like to see our last issue of our digital magazine newsletter, click here.
To see the email version, click here.
You can sign up for your FREE subscription to both versions by clicking here.

What's the weather like where you are today? What are you going to be creative?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Fabric Design Process

Last week I spoke at the Berry Basket Quilter's Guild in Medford, NJ. I met a lovely group of ladies and talked about my wool pins and my fabric design process. (Don't I have a weird look on my face in this picture??)

I also debuted my new book, Child's Play, and showed some samples from the book:

May is rapidly approaching- that means it's almost time for International Quilt Market in Portland, Oregon. I will have a new fabric line debuting at that show. I feel like I have been working on it forever.... This particular line has had many revisions. Sometimes a fabric line will come about quite easily, and other times it seems it takes a million tweaks to get it right.

I wanted to show you a little glimpse into how a fabric design might come about. This is a page from the Better Homes and Gardens June 2012 issue. I liked the pattern in the wall paper, with the alternating circular and diamond shaped motifs, and I thought an idea like this would work well with the line I was working on.

The description in the magazine says that the decorator was influenced by Indian prints. Indian prints are often done with a carved wooden block, which is stamped onto fabric or other surfaces. You can see that the circular motif in the wall paper has 8 "petals" and the center is a circle. Using that for inspiration, I drew a circular design that had 8 petals, but I had a different idea for the center:

 I also drew a square which I could rotate into a diamond shape:

The palette for this line has a lot of blues, so I painted my motifs in a pretty turquoise color. Also, I couldn't get a close look at the details in the wall paper so my design ended up being quite a bit different from the original. The original also had some extra "fan shapes" in the circular motif which I did not include. (Even if I did have a detailed look at the original, I wouldn't copy it- I look at something to inspire me and then do my own thing.)

Then it was time to start laying things out in a repeat in PhotoShop to see what would happen....

(I also had some versions with the circles rotated a bit, but apparently I didn't save those...)

I took the center of the circle:

and repeated it to make a border:

In the end, we ended up not using the circle & diamond repeat, but we did use the border and the individual circle and square motifs that I originally painted. When we get closer to Quilt Market, I will  show you some of the patterns that DID actually make it into the line!

So that is a little bit about the evolution of just one pattern in a fabric line.... And then you figure that there are anywhere from 5-8 patterns in a line... a lot of stuff that you like doesn't make the final cut because it just doesn't work with the rest of the line. It takes a lot of hours... (if I ever actually kept track of how many hours I spend putting a line together, I would probably shock myself!)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Child's Play Book is here!

Well, it's only 3 1/2 weeks behind schedule, but it's finally done (big, big grin!)

I am excited about this book for a bunch of different reasons...  The first reason is that this is the first book that I've self-published. (Actually, at first it was just going to be a quilt pattern... but then I started adding more and more ideas until it turned into a 55 page book with about 8 projects and 3 recipes... but that is just like me: I have said it before and I'll say it again, I am definitely a "more is more" kind of girl!)

When you do a book with a publisher, it takes a very long time- a minimum of a year. I was able to put this together and get it published in about 4 or 5 months' time. In working with a publisher there is also a loss of a certain amount of creative control, and depending on the publisher this can be a lot or a little. (When I worked with Kansas City Star for my first book, they were actually really great about including most of the projects that I wanted to do, etc.)

For Child's Play, I designed & made all of the projects & recipes, laid out the book, provided the artwork & illustrations, did the photography... being a "control-freak," it was appealing to me to be able to have everything exactly the way I wanted it (I have a bit of a rebellious streak and sometimes don't like collaboration... I just want to do things my own way...)

It was a lot of work, and a really huge learning curve for me as far as the technical aspects... Many, many times, through tears of frustration, I wondered what I had gotten myself into and swore that I would never do it again. But then I finally got my copy and held it in my hands and it looked so great and I was so proud of it... and I immediately knew that Yes, I will definitely do it again.... hopefully next time I will have figured a lot of it out and it will be a much easier process!

Another thing that I am super-duper-excited about with this book is that I have ventured into the world of video... talk about a learning curve! I had never made a video in my life, but after some trial and error I think the videos came out fairly decent (again, now that I know a little more I think the next ones will be easier for me to do and come out better.) I did 3 videos to go with the book, and with the digital version (which I'll talk about a little later), you can click right on the link and it will take you to the YouTube video. So, for example, if you are making the stuffed animals and would like some tips on how to turn and stuff those skinny tubes for the arms and legs, just click the link and watch my video! Really convenient, don't you think? (If you buy the printed version, you will also have access to the videos, you will just have to type the provided address into your browser instead of just clicking.)

The book is available in both a print copy and a digital copy. I love books- I have many, many in my collection. Isn't it fun to just sit and look at the pretty pictures while enjoying your cup of tea or coffee?

I wanted this book to be very affordable- at only $15.00 for a 55 page, full color book with 8 projects, 3 recipes, and several kid's activity pages, this is a fabulous value! 

To order your printed version of the book, click here. This will take you to an outside but fully secure website. I looked into several options for printing the book, and decided on this site for several reasons. First, I could keep the price to a minimum. Second, I do not have to warehouse and ship the books myself. This is huge because right now for my other products, I do all of the order processing and shipping myself, and I am finding it harder and harder to keep up with orders. This website ships the book directly from the printer to the customer. And as I said earlier, the quality of the printed book is beautiful.

Now, you also have an option to buy a digital copy of the book. To buy your digital book (e-book), click here. There are many advantages to the digital book also! 
  • First, the price- only $12.00 for all of the full-color content you get in the printed book. That's a lot of content for $12.00- really a great bargain!
  • You don't have to wait for the book to be shipped- you should have your link for your book within 24 hours of your order, which means you can start creating right away!
  • Especially important to international customers: No Shipping Costs!!!
  • You can view it as a "flippable" book (like my newsletter), or you can download the PDF onto your computer or device to read at any time.
  • It looks beautiful on the iPad!
  • Links are easy to use- just click. There are links to the videos as mentioned above, and also to my social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
  • Print out just the pages you need- maybe a recipe or a pattern page or the kids' activity sheets. So much easier to have a single recipe page in the kitchen to work with than a whole book, right? And you don't have to worry about splatters on your book!
  • Never trace a pattern again- just print it out onto inexpensive computer paper and cut the pieces out.
  • For those concerned about using up a lot of expensive color ink, you can save ink when you print pages by choosing "grayscale" in your printer options and printing in black and white.

To see more sample pages, click here. (The quality of the sample pages is greatly decreased- the quality of the actual digital & printed books is much better.)

So, just to re-cap, here is what you get for the price of $12.00 for the digital book or $15.00 for the printed book:

  • 2 quilt patterns (2 colorways each)
  • tote bag pattern
  • patterns for 3 stuffed animals with clothes
  • 2 embroidered wall art projects
  • 3 kids' activity sheets and 2 crafts
  • 3 kid-friendly recipes (easy for the kids to help make, fun & tasty)
(And even though the name of the book is Child's Play, the tote bag and Skip to My Lou Quilt would be great in your favorite "grown-up" fabrics! And the recipe for Sloppy Joe Egg Rolls is a great appetizer for any party. Why should the kids have all the fun?)

I hope you will enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed putting it together. It was a real "labor of love"!
I look forward to your feedback- please tell me what you think!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Irish " Potato" Candy

It's the final day of our Irish Food-a-Palooza..... 
(Earlier this week we had Colcannon & Eggs, and Shepherd's Pie & Roasted Parsnips.)

These Irish Potato Candies are really kind of addictive, and so easy! I wouldn't save them just for St. Patrick's Day- make them anytime. Kids love to make them, and there is no cooking involved. Just mix up a few ingredients and roll into balls.

They don't contain any potato, and I have discovered that they aren't even actually Irish.. But we always had them in school around St. Patrick's Day when I was growing up... maybe because I live near Philadelphia where they originated.

Irish Potato Candy

4 oz. cream cheese
2 tbsp. butter
1 lb. confectioner's sugar
1/2 c. shredded coconut
Cinnamon & sugar mix

Mix cream cheese and butter until creamy. Add coconut and confectioner's sugar. Knead until well blended. Roll dough into balls. Roll balls in the cinnamon- sugar mix. Store covered in refrigerator up to 1 week (if they last that long...)

I hope you will give this recipe a try! It's easy and delicious (aka the perfect recipe...)
Happy Weekend :)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

St. Patrick's Day Recipes : Shepherd's Pie & Roasted Parsnips

Day 2 of St. Patrick's Day recipes..... Did you try the Colcannon recipe from Monday? Wasn't it good? My husband said that I definitely need to make it again... and we have been eating lots of leftovers (without complaint)- it made a really big batch.

The meal that I am sharing today is really good comfort food! It smelled so good while it was in the oven... I have made Shepherd's Pie before but never with red wine, so when I came across a recipe which included red wine, I thought I would give it a try. It added a delicious richness to the dish, and the family was fighting over the leftovers for lunch the next day! I used half ground beef and half lean ground turkey to lighten it up a bit- and honestly it was so rich and delicious, you would never know it was made from ground turkey.

As for the parsnips, the first time I ever had them was on a trip to England a few years ago. My husband's cousin made them for dinner and I just couldn't get enough! If you haven't tried them, you should- they are a nice change of pace from the "normal" vegetables I usually serve like peas or carrots or broccoli. They look like white carrots, but have a unique, kind of sharp flavor which is especially wonderful when you roast them. The recipe is really simple and the maple syrup adds just a tiny bit of sweetness and helps them to caramelize. Hard to believe that veggies could be so good.... I wanted to eat the whole pan by myself. My daughter and I were debating which was better- the parsnips or the Shepherd's Pie- and we couldn't decide.

Roasted Parsnips

1 1/2 pounds parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/4" x 3" pieces
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup
salt and pepper

Place parsnips in a glass or ceramic baking dish in a shallow layer (you don't want the parsnips to be crowded, because they won't caramelize properly. I find that a heavy ceramic casserole, about 9 x 13", works well.) Drizzle with olive oil and maple syrup. Season with salt and pepper and toss.

Bake uncovered in a 425 degree oven for about 30 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time, and checking on them frequently to be sure they don't burn. Bake until tender.

Shepherd's Pie

1 T. olive oil
2 onions, finely diced (about 2 cups)
1 1/4 pound ground beef
1 1/4 pound lean ground turkey
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 Tablespoon butter
1- 16 oz package frozen peas and carrots mix
4 Tablespoons flour
1 cup red wine
3 Tablespoons ketchup
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup water
4 -5 cups mashed potatoes (fresh or leftover; about 2 1/2 pounds)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Saute onion in olive oil in large skillet until translucent; remove to bowl.
In same skillet, brown meat; drain. Add onions back to pan with meat. Season with thyme, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir in butter and peas and carrots.

Sprinkle with flour and stir. Add wine, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. Cook over medium heat about 5-10 minutes until liquid has evaporated. Add water and cook another 10 minutes until thickened.

Place in greased 9 x 13 baking dish.

Mix together mashed potatoes and cheese. Spoon over top of meat mixture.

Bake 20 minutes, covered. Remove cover and bake another 5 minutes.
Makes about 8 servings.

Next post: Irish Potato Candy (it doesn't contain potatoes, it just looks like cute little potatoes.)

P.S. Congratulations to the winner of last week's giveaway- Amy from Amy's Crafty Shenanigans. Everyone had such good suggestions for using up fabric and batting scraps, I ended up just choosing a winner at random. Congratulations Amy, your copy of Quiltmaker magazine is on its way!

Monday, March 11, 2013

St. Patrick's Day Recipe: Colcannon & Eggs

My disclaimer: I am not Irish. I have never been to Ireland. I have never had colcannon. In fact, before this week, I had never even heard of it! But I discovered that colcannon is a traditional Irish dish.

In searching for St. Patrick’s Day recipes, I found several versions of colcannon. Some included parsnips, some included leeks, some included ham or bacon. The main qualification for the dish seemed to be that it is a base of mashed potatoes with shredded cabbage or kale mixed in. Sometimes the cabbage or kale was boiled, sometimes sautéed. I’m sure every Irish grandmother has her own version, just like every Italian grandmother has her own version of Sunday meatballs and “gravy.”

I decided to add cubed ham to mine. Most recipes called for leeks or scallions, which I did not have so I used a white onion. I found one version that used 2 sticks of butter for a 6 serving recipe (that is almost 3 tablespoons of butter per serving, if you’re doing the math!!) Since it is such a hearty dish, I thought that it would almost make a meal all by itself. I remember that sometimes my mom would serve leftover mashed potatoes with a couple of fried eggs for breakfast or dinner, so that is what I have done here. I like my eggs sunny side up or over easy so the yolk can mix with the potato... yum.

Here is the recipe for my version:

Colcannon & Eggs

3 pounds potatoes, peeled
9 T. (1 stick + 1 T.) butter
Small head of white cabbage, cored and finely chopped (about 6 cups)
1 large onion finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 lb ham, finely diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 cups hot milk
3 T. finely chopped parsley

Boil potatoes in lightly salted water until tender (do not overcook.) 

While potatoes are cooking, melt 2 T. butter in a large skillet. Saute cabbage until softened and turns bright green. Remove from skillet to large bowl.
Add 2 T. butter to skillet and saute onion until translucent. Add to cabbage. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss lightly.
Add 1 T. butter to skillet and saute ham until golden. Add to cabbage and onion.

When potatoes are tender, drain. Return to pot. Add 4 T. butter and milk. Mash until creamy. Fold cabbage, onion, ham and parsley into potatoes. Keep warm.

Fry desired number of eggs. Place colcannon on plate and make a small indentation with a large spoon. Place eggs on top.

Makes 8 servings

Friday, March 8, 2013

No- Sew Fabric St. Patrick's Day Project : Shamrock Wall Hanging

This is a very easy, no-sew project. We are not Irish, so I put another family's name on it... You could also do this for Valentine's Day using a heart in place of the shamrock and using red & pink fabrics, or for Christmas with a holly leaf pattern and red & green fabrics.

If you don't want to do your name, or if your name won't fit, you can do this version:

  • Wrapped artist canvas (available at craft store) 8 x 10"    (You could also use a piece of board about 1/2" thick)
  • Scraps of fabric
  • Assorted buttons
  • Ribbon, 12" long piece
  • Fusible webbing (found in fabric store or sewing department)
  • Glue gun
  • Scissors

Write your family name in block letters (or print it out from your computer.) The name should be no longer than 5 1/2", and about 1 1/4 - 2" high (the number of letters in your name will determine how big the letters need to be to fit.)

Flip the paper over and trace so that the letters are reversed.

Trace the reversed letters onto paper side of fusible webbing. For version with name, trace large shamrock (click here for pattern) onto paper side of fusible webbing. For version without name, trace both the large and small shamrocks. Cut out letters and shamrock(s), leaving about 1/8-1/4" around each shape.

Iron letters and shamrock(s) to WRONG sides of fabrics.

(I originally tried using different fabrics for the letters, but then ended up using the same fabric for all of them.)

Cut out letters and shamrock on the line. Peel off the paper backing.

Cut a piece of fabric a couple of inches larger than your canvas. Wrap edges around back of canvas like you are wrapping a present. Glue in place.

Place large shamrock on front of covered canvas, about 1/4" from top of canvas. Iron in place. Arrange letters or smaller shamrock on top of large shamrock and iron in place.

Cut a piece of fabric about 3 1/2" x 12". Place at bottom of canvas, wrapping sides and bottom to back of canvas and gluing in place.

Glue a piece of ribbon to cover the seam. Glue buttons to bottom. Easy!

And now some giveaway updates:
My giveaway ends tonight at midnight. Click here to enter.

(Also, check out the Designer's Link page for this issue of Quiltmaker magazine.)

Lily Pad Quilting is giving away 2 Fat Quarter Bundles of my Happy Town fabric. That giveaway ends on Monday. Click here AND here to enter.

Next week I will be doing some recipes to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Do you have any favorites??
I don't have favorite Irish recipes, per se, but I will say that I have never met a potato that I didn't like....

Have a great weekend!


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