Monday, July 29, 2013

Faux barbecue

This recipe for slow-and-low dry rub oven chicken is a must try for a person who loves barbecue but doesn't have a barbecue. And it's another smitten kitchen keeper. I've never done a brine before and it's totally worth the extra step (and sloshed gooey chicken brine on my fridge shelf).

The dry rub was an amazingly aromatic and tasty blend of smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, cumin, nutmeg and freshly ground black pepper. And so pretty ...

The picture of the chicken is not so pretty, but damn it is tasty. I'm not usually so keen on a big piece of chicken, but I hoovered a whole breast and resisted the terrible urge to have more after the long wait for it to finally be done its long sojourn in the oven.

I made this dish for a crafternoon with wonderful friends. The potluck theme was picnic, so we ate the chicken cold and it was still super yummy.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A dozen done

Finally my dozen Hawaiian napkins are done! I'm glad to cross them off my list, although they were doing a good job keeping the dust off my beading table. A few pairs were given as gifts.

I think I'll hold off on the other two hibiscus prints I bought in Hawaii for more napkins.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Simply good

I really enjoy trying new recipes, but sometimes a simple and familiar meal is what I crave. Today for me that was a childhood favourite and about as simple as you can get - mini pizzas on English muffins with a ketchup base. Sounds odd, but it tastes good and saves opening a jar of sauce. Top it with marble cheese, bacon, red onions and mushrooms and you've got one tasty dinner for a quiet Saturday at home.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Crafty Saturday (aka Don't leave me alone with a whole wheel of brie)

This Saturday I enjoyed the perfect combination of good company, crafting and tasty food. Two CFFs came to my place and my mom the Crafting Guru took us through the Wiksten Tova top from start to finish. Talk about patience!

Of course, what would a crafting day be without lots of great food? For lunch I made the ridiculously yummy New York Breakfast Casserole from Smitten Kitchen's cookbook with bagels, cream cheese, onions, tomatoes, eggs and cream. Seriously, go make this now.

Us four hungry crafters put a good dent in the casserole, served up with salad and smoked salmon. With full bellies, it was back to the work! Along with offering lots of guidance and great tips, my mom really kept us going. On my own, I'm sure I would have called it a day a couple steps in.

A few rough spots, mid-afternoon grumpiness (totally only on the students' side and helped by a buffet of tasty snacks) and seemingly endless steps, we actually finished our shirts! I'm still grappling with the realization I made a shirt! A whole freaking shirt! Me! So many exclamation points!!!

I used a cheery Jay McCarroll fabric I snagged months ago from Greenwood's sale rack when we first hatched the crazy plan to do this workshop.

Best of all, this shirt looks damn good! I even managed to sew mostly straight on the top stitching. I'm still admiring the details, like the front neckline and ruffled cuff. CFF Tara's shirt turned out beautifully, too.

This was definitely a bigger challenge than the Wiksten tank, yet still it went together surprisingly well. The pattern is well written and illustrated, but most of the credit goes to the excellent teacher. Not only did she explain everything so simply and patiently and instinctively knew when to step in to avert a total crafting meltdown, but also showed us better ways of doing a few steps.

The day's only downside - the busy crafters never got to the brie.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Welcome soon, baby

A dear friend is having her first baby in September, a girl. Feeling ambitious and having an early start after spotting a nice rag quilt kit in the spring, I got the blanket made with plenty of time to spare before the baby shower. Because it turned out so nice and baby sewing is fun (small = soon done = crafting happiness), I decided I'd make some more.

I picked up green checkered flannel to make burp cloths using Prudent Baby's how-to. I shoulda washed the flannel before because it definitely shrunk compared to the cotton. Lesson learned when using different fabric types. But I reminded myself a baby will be spitting up on them and they'll be in the laundry tons, so it's not the end of the world. (Of course, the perfectionist in me is still bristling.) They're bright and cheery with the Robert Kaufman London Calling print that looks like a field of flowers.

Then I made a tag blanket, which apparently babies really love. This tutorial was my starting point, but I made changes. (Perfectly spaced ribbons - why!?!) Intent on using every last bit of the crazy awesome monkey and banana flannel, I pieced together one side. Then since it was basically now a patchwork quilt, I added a light flannel in the middle and tacked all the layers together with a diamond-pattern stitch. I delved into my trim stash and found a bunch of lovely ribbon and giant ric-rac. The result is so cute/pretty/crazy.

All the projects were done last weekend, but that must have felt wrong for my deadline-driven brain. So the morning of the baby shower, I decided to sew a drawstring bag to slip everything in. It took a bit longer because of all the piecing for the giant bag - first because of the directional doggy fabric and then because I'm an idiot. This seemed the perfect project for the Sherbet Pip fabric I've been hoarding. (It's too cute to use!) The lining is the same pink print from the line I used for the tag blanket.

These drawstring bags (courtesy of Martha Stewart's sewing bible) are so handy. I made a set for travelling and have gifted many. They're super versatile and, if they get dirty, you can just toss them in the wash. I figured a bag like that would be handy with a baby because, oh boy, they do not travel light.

Here's the final product of all the sewing, topped off with a sweet bunny letterpress card from starshaped press on etsy. Now I can't wait to finally meet the little one when she arrives!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Going bananas

When I spotted these monkeys, I couldn't resist. I just had to bring them home with me and make them into something. After cutting, cutting, and more cutting, I had big cushy piles of five-by-five squares to start a rag quilt.

This one went together so fast. From buying the fabric to pulling the fluffy blanket out of the dryer was a week! I can barely believe I'm capable of such focused crafting. I didn't even have a deadline or occasion, I just was so freaking thrilled by those monkeys!

A rag quilt is a pretty relaxing project because it's very forgiving. After all, you're just gonna snip all the seams and that covers all sorts of sewing sins. On the downside, my thumb is still numb from all the scissoring.

How freaking adorable are those monkeys and bananas?! It was a bit tough to let it go. When I was sewing it and feeling residual grumpiness from an annoying day, I looked at one of those silly monkeys, smiled and continued sewing happily. But I got the most awesome reaction ever from the sweet little girl who I made it for. My friend emailed that night to say her daughter was in her crib, "snuggling her new blanket and screaming happily 'he's got bananas.' " Best reaction to a homemade gift ever!

You can see my planters are filling in nicely. Those petunias are growing machines! Last year I put way too many plants in there and several varieties disappeared under the petunias. But big surprise - some of those plants that perished are back! There's even a bunch growing in the grass near the planter. Survival of the floral fittest!