December 2008 Archives
December 23, 2008
Bonjour, mes amis! I know that you are all tired from shopping for Christmas presents, planning the holiday menu, and sewing those gifts for the little ones. Put your needle and thread down, sit down and have a cup of tea. You have done a fine job as usual so let me help you with the Christmas Eve menu. I, personally, have had enough turkey and ham. This menu is delicious and will take only a little preparation. Have a glass of wine and all your cares will float away.
Teriyaki London Broil
Ingredients for Teriyaki London Broil:
1 (1-1 1/2 lb.) flank steak
1/2 c vegetable oil
1/2 c red wine vinegar
2 Tbs. Worcestershire Sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsps. dry mustard
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Dash of ground red pepper
Dash of hot sauce or not
Trim excess fat from steak with a sharp knife: score steak on both sides in 1 1/2'' squares. Place steak in a large shallow dish or heavy duty, zip-top plastic bag.
Combine oil and vinegar; reserve 1/4 c of the mixture. Pour remaining mixture over steak. Marinate in refrigerator 8 hours or overnight, turning occasionally.
Drain steak, discarding marinade, Grill, covered, over medium coals (300 to 350 degrees) 6-8 minutes on each side or to desired degree of doness, basting twice with the reserved 1/4 cup mixture. to serve, slice steak across the grain into thin slices. You may also use your broiler, if you wish.
Prepare fettuccine according to package instructions. Drain and toss with parmesan cheese and butter.
Serve with a green leafy salad of your choice.
Have a Merry Christmas from Chef Bubba and the Redneck Cafe.
December 16, 2008
If you are anything like me, you may have overcommitted to making your own presents this year. I will be able to meet most of my deadlines, but a few might slip. Of course, I also have some friends who are such good sewers that I prefer to give them notions that they can use. I have a few suggestions that you might consider.
As far I am concerned the best notion is the Sidewinder Portable Bobbin Winder (NR-473). This sells for $29.98. If you give this to a friend, you will have a friend forever. When we first put this into inventory, I thought who would ever buy this. It is a good thing that I am good at eating my words. I own one and I do not know how I ever lived without one. In fact, I ask myself why I could not have invented this machine myself. I sent one to my sister for Christmas. She has already opened it and used it. She loves it.
If that is not to your liking perhaps you would like to prepare a little stocking stuffer of:
1. Craft needle compact- $1.79 (NR-453) This is a variety of craft needles from cross stitch -tapestry needles
2, Coats and Clark thread in basic colors of black, natural and white. A 500-yard spool is $2.85.
3. Fiskars Thread Trimmer for $7.95 (NR-418)
4. Steam-A-Seam 2 Double Stick Fusible Web- $4.50 (NR-185)
For under $20.00, you have created a good basic stocking stuffer package.
Do you know anyone who has the wool felting bug? We have recently added a whole line of wool felting products.
Last, but not least, Merchandising has just added a new notion - The Seam Squizzers. This seems to be a very popular notion. I checked several websites and they were all sold out.
Also check out the holiday store for some great deals. We have aprons, sewing baskets, market bags and more. There are many items for the non-sewer on your list.
December 12, 2008
When I was approached by Victoria and the Fabric Maverick to do a "12 days of Christmas" blog, for once I was reluctant because I had no idea what to do. Usually the holidays are a huge time for inspiration for me but I'm still getting used to having a six month old, and most of the time my brain is dominated by thoughts of doctor's checkups, teething and finding clothes to fit him (really long and slender... especially hard to fit since good boys clothes are hard to find anyway, but I digress). That same day, Laurie Eady (marketing manager and my boss) were discussing fun things we see in sewing magazines, and she mentioned finding a small blurb on Christmas lights that look like spools of thread. At that moment the metaphorical light bulb went off and I knew what to do - a "Sewer's Christmas Tree"!
First things first, we ordered 8 strands of the adorable lights from our vendor (while we don't carry them, you can easily find them by doing a quick google search for "mini spool lights"). Next, I went to work thinking of various ways I could use notions as ornaments. The goal was to make each ornament as specific to sewing as possible. Here are the few that made it past the drawing board and to the tree:
The Yo-Yo Christmas Tree
Our new graphic artist, Valerie, told me of a great ornament she had seen a while back where you alternate various sized yo-yos (small to large) with stacks of buttons to make little Christmas trees. Now, I know yo-yos aren't really notions, but they are making a HUGE comeback right now and are being used on everything from pillows to dresses and purses. You can even find yo-yo makers. So I used some Christmas fabric we had laying around here and some of buttons and came up with these ornaments. They don't take too long to make, and would be easy for older children to make. One quick tip for making them: use thin jewelry wire instead of thread to assemble them. It's much easier, faster and structurally secure that way (Thanks to Moniqa figuring that one out!).
Embroidery Hoop Ornaments
These were super easy to make. Simply get a small (5") embroidery hoop, cut out a small motif from fabric, and put it in the hoop like you would if you were going to embroider it (I secured it with a little glue). Next, I added some ribbon accents around the hoop, a bow at the top and a bow to hang it from. If you have a little extra time and creative ambition, you could actually start some embroidered accents and maybe leave a needle (a blunt one) and thread in the fabric, like you stopped mid-project.
Tomato Pin-Cushion Ornaments
Pin cushion + ribbon loop + hot glue = the easiest and most obvious ornament.
Victoria's "Fat-Quarter" Ornament
As I was coming to the conclusion that not many notions lend themselves to ornaments and this project wasn't as easy as I thought, Victoria swooped down like an angel (in many ways, but more about that later) and blessed me with her "Moda Fat Quarter Ornament." She wrapped a foam cube in stripped material (the stripes look like stacks of fabric), then tied the whole thing up in a Moda ribbon just like a fat quarter. Adorable and easy as pie!
Measuring Tape Bows
I gathered a few of the heavy duty, 10" measuring tapes for an attempt at a tree topper (more on that later) and ended not using them. Instead, I decided to make little bows to put all around the tree. I formed the bows (held by hot glue), and ran a chenille wire tie through the back and then just twisted them onto branches. Once again, this was quick and simple.
Measuring Tape Bows
"Stash Buster" Ornaments
Having acquired a bunch of little scraps of Christmas fabric to use for the embroidery hoop ornaments, I noticed that a lot of them had some adorable motifs but were too big for the hoops and too small to use for anything else. Doesn't every seamstress have that problem? I took a few of the cutest ones (some Scottie dogs, birds and cookies), cut them out and fused them to just some scrap fabric with Peltex II Two Sided Fusible Ultra Firm Stabilizer. I looped some ribbon through a small hole I made at the top to hang, and I "iced" the cookies by going over the frosting design with puffy paint (any child of the 90's knows ALL about the glory of puffy paint). These ornaments don't necessarily fit the notions-as-ornaments criteria, but I felt the philosophy was in-line.
Tree-Topper Trials and Tribulations
Originally, I wanted to make a large, grand bow out of the aforementioned measuring tapes. To my despair, the tape was just too thick, floppy and shapeless. After toying with a couple other ideas that would involve yarn, foam balls, toying with the laws of physics and a Christmas miracle, Victoria swooped in like an angel with... well, an angel.
Years ago she was playing with some scraps she had and came up with what she dubbed "the bag lady angel." She hadn't done anything with it, and told me to go ahead and have fun with it. With a lot of help from Moniqa (what can't that woman do!), we were able to retro-fit her with a beaded halo and a smaller bow made of measuring tape that we allowed to just kind of drape down the tree. On one hand it looks like a bow, but on the other it almost looks like she's got quite an armful that isn't all together - kind of reminiscent of how I looked trying to make my tree topper (although I wouldn't exactly consider myself angelic...).
In closing, I would like to thank Victoria, Valerie and Moniqa for all their help in making ornaments and getting the tree up, and Nancy for her adorable gum-drop pillows that make it look less empty (every tree needs gifts).
I had some other ornament ideas that never quite made it through production, but I also found myself running out of creativity. What kind of ornaments would you make for your "Sewer's Christmas Tree"?
December 11, 2008
Victoria did a fine job giving us tips on working with children on holiday projects. So I threw down the gauntlet and asked someone to check her theories. Bridget who works in customer service set out to prove or disprove Victoria's ideas. Bridget is the perfect person for this. She has three children with the ages of 8 mos, 3 years and 8 years. Of course, the 8 month old is too young. Mya who is 3 years old and Briana who is 8 years old are the perfect ages to test our theories.
Bridget selected the Moda Christmas Stuffies kit. The kit contains several designs including a candy cane, gingerbread man, snowman, Santa Claus and more. Bridget said everything she needed was included in the kit. It received a 4 thumbs up from the children. Bridget said that Briana (8 years old) had no trouble cutting out the individual stuffies. Mya who is 3 years old only needed minor supervision helping stuff the ornaments. I thought that you would like to sew them at work:
These look like some pretty happy kids to me!
December 10, 2008
This year Amy Butler offers several free holiday pattern downloads on her website www.amybutlerdesign.com. I fell in love with her Tree Forest creation the minute that I saw it. I had visions of these crafty holiday trees flowing throughout my house. Well the "power doer" took over and I started making my own tree garden. Easy, Easy, Easy. I am talking minutes to make these up!
Instead of groupings nestled around my house, my tree forest is going to be the centerpiece for my holiday brunch buffet. For my base I used a ½ yard piece of natural canvas UR-128 and trimmed the ends with Michael Miller's Pindot bias tape HDDR-392 in apple green. After arranging my trees I added clear glass stones, twigs, tree greenery, glitter ball ornaments, candles and several strands of battery operated mini bulb tree lights. The picture does not do this justice...It looks so cute!
The choices are endless of the patterns, colors and embellishments you can use.
This is my type of winter gardening!!!
HO! HO! HO!
December 9, 2008
December 8, 2008
Part of the fun of Christmas is creating a table everyone wants to be at. Are you whimsical, contemporary or traditional? You are probably a blend. I am much more whimsical. Like my own life, everything is patched together. A business aquaintance invited me to a Christmas brunch several years ago. Her table was elegantly set with lovely tableware and placemats. I was complimenting her on her glassware and she started laughing. She told me that these were glasses she received as a promotional item from a fast food chain! She combined them in such a way that everything looked very elegant and expensive. Look around your house. I bet you have everything you need. It doesn't have to be expensive to look great. As you may guess, I never throw anything away. This, of course, includes fabric scraps. The Dollar Tree even had green goblets for $1.00. This is my new favorite place.
December 7, 2008
When I first married many years ago, my husband and I were assigned to Nicaragua in Central America. I was young so it was very exciting. The country was beautiful and the weather was very mild. As it approached the holidays, I began missing the cold weather, Christmas trees, shopping, the hustle and bustle of the holidays. In ohter words, I was homesick. It is very difficult to decorate a palm tree! I thought long and hard about how I could create my own special holiday without a lot of the things I would usually use. One of things I missed was the smell of cinnamon. I decided to make my house smell like Christmas even if it would not look like a traditional American Christmas. Here is my recipe for a simmering potpourri.
1 bay leaf
3 cinnamon sticks
1/4 cup whole cloves
Cut the lemon and orange into pieces and place in a saucepan. Cover with a generous amount of water. Add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Check water occasionally and replace water as needed. In no time, your house will smell like Christmas even if you are on the equator!
December 6, 2008
Mes amis, I have just finished the morning rush at The Redneck Cafe. So many biscuits and gravy! I say to myself "Ah, I know the Fabric Maverick would love to have an easy breakfast for Christmas morning !" She is so pampered that one, but amazingly sweet. Her talents lie somewhere other than the kitchen. I need to help her as much as possible. Most of the preparation for this dish is the night before, so you will have time to open your many presents.
1 (8 oz) can refrigerated crescent rolls
1 lb. hot or mild pork sausage
1 (32 oz) package frozen hash browns w/ onions and peppers
1 cup Cheddar cheese
4 large eggs
1/2 c milk
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1. Spray 13" x 9" baking dish with no stick cooking spray. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Unroll crescent roll dough, and press on bottom and partially sides of 13" x 9" baking dish. Press perforations to seal. Bake at 375 degrees for 5 minutes.
3. Cook sausage in large skillet over medium high heat, stirring until sausage crumbles and is no longer pink. Drain well, and sprinkle evenly over crust.
4. Prepare frozen hash browns according to package directions, and spoon evenly over sausage. Sprinkle cheddar cheese evenly over hash browns. (Cover and chill up to 24 hours, if you wish) Whisk together eggs and next 3 ingredients: pour evenly over cheese.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until set.
This will make 8 servings. You may also use a 12" deep dish pizza pan.
I love to serve this with sweet rolls and a fruit dish such as ambrosia.
Enjoy, mes amis.
December 5, 2008
I have persuaded our own Robin Montgomery in Customer Service to share her instructions for her wine bottle wrappers. It is good to have someone share their ideas with us.
Here is a picture of Robin's wraps:
1/2 yard of fabric
Cut 2 pieces of fabric that measure 18'' wide x 16'' tall. If your bottle is larger or smaller, just measure the bottle and cut 2 pieces of fabric to the measurement of your bottle, allowing 1-2 inches for hem.
Cut 1 piece of fabric 2 1/2 inches x 13 inches long. Fold in half on the long side, right sides together, Stitch a 1/4 inch seam and turn to the right side. Press. Stitch ends. Fold fabric in half. When you stitch the body of the bag together insert the folded fabric tie about 1- 1 1/2 inches from the top. The folded edge will be caught in the seam. You will never lose your tie.
Do a double rolled hem on one of the 18 inch wide sides of the main fabric.
I like to finish all of my seams, so I do enclosed or French seams on my bags. To do this, fold the fabric in half with the hemmed edge being the top of the bag. Fold the fabric so that it is wrong sides together and do a ¼ inch seam. Turn bag inside out. Right sides will be together. Sew 1/4 seam along the same seam. This is where your tie is inserted. Turn right side out and you will not have any unfinished seams. This will make one unlined bag.
I love the way the tie is sewn into the seam of the wrap, so when you insert your bottle or jar the tie can be tied around the neck of the bottle.You will never lose the tie.
I hope that you enjoy this as much as I did. Thank you, Robin.
December 4, 2008
It is no secret that I am very fond of Amy Butler's Gum Drop pillow pattern. As a matter of fact around here I am known as the Gum Drop Queen! I have them in my home, on my deck and yes even in my office. To me, the Gum Drop pillow is the little black dress for home decor so naturally a holiday themed version has to be created.
In my mind, it had to be velveteen...soft, rich velveteen. "Whoa Nelly!" My head was off to the races with ideas! I honed in on a few thoughts, put my power sewer hat on and went to work this past weekend.
My first thought was to embellish the top of the pillow with tree ornaments and a bow!
Create a festive crown if you will.
Velveteen + Tissue Lame Bow + Tree Ornaments + Gum Drop Pillow pattern = Fabulous Holiday Decor!
Velveteen + Organza ribbon + Gum Drop Pillow pattern = Fabulous Holiday Accent Pillow!
Velveteen + Monogram + Gum Drop Pillow pattern = Fabulous Holiday Gift!
Every year I look forward to my girlfriend Chelle's "Chicks'" holiday party. We all bring a wrapped gift and draw numbers for the gift selection line. You know this is the kind of party where you can steal someone else's gift and the higher number the better? Yeah, it gets kind of crazy, but it so much fun! Thanks to my employment at the best fabric store in the world I have a bit of a reputation for bringing unique handmade gifts. Last year tears were shed over the many thefts of a simple velvet wrap that I made. I have been feeling the pressure of what to bring all year.
Velveteen + Tissue Lame Bow + Tree Ornaments + Gum Drop Pillow = My Rabbit in the Hat!
I wish you all a wonderful and blessed holiday!
Note: This is the 4th day of Christmas. There is still lots of time to make one of the these gorgeous pillows for yourself. Enjoy!
December 3, 2008
One of the traditions of Christmas is the cookie swap party. How many of you have been to a cookie swap party? I have been to a couple. It is a great way to connect with your friends during the holidays. It is also a great way to end up with several different kinds of cookies for sharing with your family and friends.
Domino Sugar has created a great section on their website on how to plan a cookie swap party. It includes invitations, recipe labels and more! Can't think of a cookie to make? They will help you there, too. They have recipes from cinnamon stars to tiramisu cookies.
- Party should be planned to allow at least 2 hours on a weekend or during the week if that is convenient to all the party goers. I know that I am a weekend person.
- Party should be planned 2 weeks to 1 month ahead. Send out invitations. This website has some cute invitations to download.
- Each person should bake one dozen cookies for each person invited. In other words, if there are four people, you should bake 4 dozen cookies.
- Let the hostess know what kind of cookie you will be bringing. No one wants to end up with 20 dozen chocolate chip cookies.
- Most cookie parties have between 8-12 guests. Remember to keep the list manageable. You do not want to get overwhelmed.
- Bring copies of your recipe to share.
- Take pictures
- Do not forget to bring containers to carry your cookies home with you.
Better Homes and Gardens is sponsoring a Cookie Swap House Party on
Here are some tips from BHG on making your cookie swap party more fun:
- Share recipes
- Listen to holiday music
- Exchange holiday stories
- Plan a cookie contest in several categories
There is still time to plan your own party. Let me leave you with at least one cookie recipe from Domino Sugar.
There is still time to plan your own party. Let me leave you with at least one cookie recipe from Domino Sugar.
A list of ingredients you will need: 1 cup (1/2 lb.) - butter, at room temperature 1/2 cup - Domino® Granulated Sugar 1 teaspoon - vanilla 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1/8 teaspoon - salt 1/2 cup - raspberry jam About 1/3 cup - Domino® Confectioners Sugar In a bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat butter, granulated sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Add flour and salt and mix on low speed until dough comes together in a ball. Transfer to a lightly floured surface.
Raspberry Shortbread Sandwiches
Divide dough in half. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll each portion to about 1/8 inch thick. With a floured 2- to 3-inch star-shaped cutter, cut out cookies. If desired, cut a 1/2-inch star out of the center of half of the cookies to make a window for the jam filling (see tips). Place cookies 1 inch apart on buttered 12- by 15-inch baking sheets. Gather excess dough into a ball, re-roll, and cut out remaining cookies.
Bake in a 325°F regular or 300°F convection oven until edges are just beginning to brown, 10 to 12 minutes. If baking more than one sheet at a time in one oven, switch positions halfway through baking. Transfer cookies to racks to cool completely.
Spread the flat side of each of half the cookies (those without holes) with about 1/2 tablespoon jam. Top each with a remaining cookie (with a hole), flat side toward filling. Dust tops of cookies evenly with confectioners sugar.
Tips: Use a sharp knife, a 1/2-inch cookie cutter, or the narrow end of a 1/2-inch plain pastry tip to cut holes out of half the cookies before baking. These cookies are best eaten the day they are filled, but you can store cooled, unfilled cookies airtight at room temperature up to 3 days; freeze to store longer.
A list of ingredients you will need:
1 cup (1/2 lb.) - butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup - Domino® Granulated Sugar
1 teaspoon - vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon - salt
1/2 cup - raspberry jam
About 1/3 cup - Domino® Confectioners Sugar
In a bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat butter, granulated sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Add flour and salt and mix on low speed until dough comes together in a ball. Transfer to a lightly floured surface.
December 2, 2008
It is the 2nd day of our 12 days of Christmas. There will be no turtle doves, but two Christmas stockings. This can be a very enjoyable time to work with children to create their own special memories of Christmas.
My seven-year old consultant, Jade, and I selected the Christmas stocking kit to make. This kit contains two premade stockings- one is red and the other is winter white. These are excellent quality felt stockings. Included in the kit are colorful ribbons in gingham and polka dots, cotton ball fringe, beads and sequins, patterns, and six rectangles of felt in two each of white, red and green. This is all packaged in a vintage inspired reusable container. The patterns include a Christmas tree, two snowflakes, two different sized stars, berries and a simple poinsettia. I chose a quiet Sunday afternoon to begin this project.
Walt Disney was a brilliant man. He made his movies to run no longer than 90 minutes. His reasoning was that children's attention span is only 90 minutes. The younger the child, the fewer minutes should be allowed. Working with children can be fun if you follow the tips:
1. Plan on 1- 1.5 hours for the project.
2. Select an area that easy to clean up. There will be a mess. Do not work in a carpeted area. It is much easier to clean a linoleum floor.
3. Precut the patterns and cut the shapes out of the felt. I used the snowflakes and it took awhile to cut out the shapes. These were intricate, but well worth the effort. The other patterns are much simpler. Cutting the fabric would probably be best for ages 12 and above.
4. Turn off the TV. Play soft music or Christmas music. We had a great time talking about what was going on in each of our lives and deciding how to design our stockings.
5. Glue is not included in the kit. I tried several and selected Elmer's craft glue. It dries clear and is easy to clean up. It also worked well to adhere the felt patterns and sequins/beads to the stocking. It also allows a little "wiggle" room before the glue sets up if you want to make a change. Fabri-tac is good but is much more difficult to work with and sets up very fast.
6. Provide some guidance to children about placement of materials, but do not dictate everything. This is their stocking. So what if their name or letters are off-centered and lop-sided. There is joy in the fact that they did this themselves.
7. For young children, I would add glitter and fabric paint. This is much easier for them to handle. Who doesn't like glitter? My seven-year old consultant had no trouble with the sequins. She was very meticulous about the placement of the sequins.
At the end of the day, we enjoyed our time together and had some beautiful stockings. We shared adventures at school, talked about favorite teachers and not so very favorite teachers. If you are lucky, you will find out what they really want for Christmas. As Mastercard says "Priceless", but I did not need to use a credit card.
December 1, 2008
Today is Day 1 of our 12 Days of Christmas! I hope that you will find them helpful, fun and informative. Now more than ever it is important to watch every penny you spend for the holidays. I allowed myself a $20.00 budget and saddled up the Honda to begin my search for my Christmas trimmings.
I have not been to a "dollar" store in years. I know some of you will be astounded. When I was born I did not receive the shopping gene that most women are born with. Shopping to me is a chore to be endured. My first stop was the "Dollar Tree". I was amazed at the variety of items for sale for just $1.00.There were gift wraps, ornaments, boxed Christmas cards, coloring books, children's books, tableware, cleaning supplies and more! This is a great place for stocking stuffers.
For $10.00, I bought a box of silver bells, a Christmas coloring book, cookie/basket wrappers, a green and red Christmas basket, 2 Christmas trays for candy, a toothbrush, tube of Crest toothpaste and a snowman themed plastic container to be used for juice or gift to friend. Then I journeyed to the Land of Big Lots. The prices were a little more expensive. I bought 2 serving tins and a tin box. These were each $2.00. I spent a total of $16.00. Here is a picture of my booty.
Now I am ready to start baking. One note on baking: look for sales on butter, chocolate and cream cheese to keep your costs down. I have already calculated how much I will need and I am ready to buy when I find a sale.
Once you have taken care of these small details, you will have time to enjoy Christmas. On the second day of Christmas, Victoria will share her tips for working with children to make those projects special for everyone! Have fun!