Friday, March 7, 2014

Puzzles and Quilts

Baby Boy Rag Quilt 004

If I had to pick two words to describe my winter I would have to go with “puzzles” and “quilts”. 

Baby Boy Quilt 014

I’ve been obsessed with jigsaw puzzles and have completed 5 in the last few weeks and I have also been working like crazy on a couple of rag quilts.  And purchasing way too much fabric for the rag quilts I am assembling in my head. : )

This is my latest completed quilt.  It’s a bit harder to find cute fabrics for little boys but I fell in love with this lizard printed fabric and those lime green argyles and knew I had to make a quilt! 

I really shouldn’t complain about the winter…..for the most part we have gotten off lucky when it comes to the snow and ice.  Nothing like my friends and family are having to deal with back up North and in Michigan.  But it still has kept me indoors a little bit more than I would like.  So…..there have been a lot of puzzles and quilts filling my evenings lately. 

Baby Boy Quilt 004

Here are the fabrics I picked out for my new baby boy quilt.  The orange zig zag fabric really complemented the colors in the lizard fabric but I didn’t have as much of it as I wanted so I saved it and will use it in another quilt that I already have in progress. 

Loved the colors in this one.  I will refrain from doing yet another tutorial on how this one was made.  But if you are new to my blog and would like to know how I did it or see some of my other rag quilts, just do a search of my blog by typing in the words “rag quilts” in the search bar located on my sidebar. 

Baby Boy Rag Quilt 002

I am very happy with this one!  And pay no attention to that stack of books off to the side.  Those are simply a distraction or possibly the next obsession once the “puzzles and quilts” phase subsides. 

Puzzles 001

And besides…instead of real reading….I substituted this Best Sellers Puzzle.  (My first 1000 piece puzzle.)

Kind of like reading a book right?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Baby Rag Quilt

IMG_5182

It’s pretty amazing what you can accomplish when you are trapped indoors by a monster snow storm in February!  We see snow in North Carolina occasionally but not like the wallop of snow that was dumped on us this week.  Nine inches of snow, throw in some sleet, and freezing rain…scatter a few power outages in….Thank God that part missed us and I was able to enjoy all the creature comforts that electricity provides.  But overall, we were house bound for a couple of days so why not cook my brains out and make a quilt I thought to myself and so that is exactly what I did. 

IMG_5158      IMG_5164

This is the first time I’ve tried making a quilt with those pre-assembled fabric squares of coordinating fabric.  They were kind of fun to use because it made the fabric selection quick and easy and they were on sale and they happened to have two bundles with the same fabrics which I thought would be enough to make two Baby Quilts but in reality, it was enough to make just one with only a few extra squares left over. 

IMG_5166

As I have mentioned before, I like to make my squares 8 inches and cut 6 inch squares of batting for in between.  To save money, I usually have a pattern side full of color and then use a solid broadcloth fabric in a coordinating color for the opposite side of the quilt.  The broadcloth is usually half the price of the patterned fabric.  Also, make sure you have lots of pins.  An 8 inch square is a nice tool to have.  And I am in love with the my rotary cutting tool which makes cutting the squares quick and easy…don’t forget the mat that has a measuring grid printed right on it and it will protect you cutting surfaces.  These are only tips for someone new to quilting….and believe me….I am a basic sewer…but if I can make these quilts so can you.  It’s easy, very forgiving, and so satisfying when you finish!

Quilt Assembly     quilt assembly 2 

After I got all the squares cut, I sewed them together with a piece of lightweight batting in between a patterned square and solid pale green square.  The pattern will be part of the top and the solid green will be on the back side.  An easy method to sewing these squares together is to just sew each square on a diagonal tip to tip and to cut keeping feeding them into your sewing machine.  No need to stop or back stitch.  Then when they are all sewn together, snip them apart, and then sew them all again across the opposite diagonal until each of your squares is sewn together with an “X” across them. 

IMG_5193

I taught myself how to make these by watching a couple of videos on Youtube.  You can learn to make anything with a good Youtube video!

Here are the links that really do a great job of explaining how to put one of these together.

Beverly’s How to Make a Rag Quilt

and a link to my blog post on how I made my Colors of Provence Rag Quilt    

Baby Quilt February 2014 004     IMG_5196

After laying out all of your squares in a pleasing pattern, it’s time to sew the squares into rows always being aware the you want the ragged edge on the top side of you quilt and the smooth evenly matched seam lines on the back (and for me the solid side).  And then you will sew all the rows together and form your quilt.  You can never have to many pins for this.  And I highly recommend the pins with the little colored balls on the end…makes your life much easier believe me. 

IMG_5180

For this baby sized quilt my rows were 6 squares across and 7 squares down on the long side.  After it is sewn together, you will run a seam all around the outer edge of your quit and then it is time to let the snipping begin!  You will be snipping all the seams in between all of your squares approximately 1/4 of an inch apart.  You will also have to be careful not to snip into your seam and snip the entire outer edge of you quilt.  This is messy but also kind of fun in a way.  I highly recommend getting a pair of rag quilt snippers that you can get from the Fiscars website or I found mine at Hobby Lobby and used my 40% off coupon. 

After all the snipping is finished, simply pop into the washing machine.  I used a tiny amount of Woolite to wash it but it is in the washing machine (This is where the magic takes place here in the washing machine and in your dryer.)  All of your snipped edges will curl and get that lovely textured “ragged” edge.   I also like to take my fine mesh kitchen colander and swirl it around in the water before the water drains in between cycles to “fish” out a lot of the floating loose treads that will come off of your quilt in the water.  Seems like a smart thing to do to help keep all of that out of my washing machine.  Also, I recommend you also clean your lint screen in your dryer a couple of times too while your quilt dries.  You won’t believe how much lint can come off of these quilts.

IMG_5186

And here it is!  It took me probably about 3 days of working on it off and on.  I cut the squares one evening and then got busy with the sewing during the two snow days I was stuck in the house!  I am going to save it as a gift for the next girl baby that comes into the world that I know.  The colors in this one are so happy but seem a bit too girly for a baby boy.  So, in the meantime, I’d better start looking for some baby boy colored fabric so that I can have a little boy quilt on hand too.    Enjoy your Sunday!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Rag Quilt for the Guys

Evan's Quilt 1

Rag Quilting has been a fun activity for me and I finally finished the one that I have been sitting on for quite some time for my son.  The sunny colors and the cute fabrics you can find for making a baby quilt are addicting but it was time to make a quilt with more of a masculine flair and I finally got it finished.  I used a gray and black geometric pattern and then some solid gray and Black squares.  I turned out great and it is on it’s way to my son as we speak.  Thank you UPS!

Evan's Quilt 9    Evan's Quilt 10

I like to spread the tasks of making one of these out and work on it a little bit at a time.  Of course for me the most fun is selecting the fabrics to use.  And then I will usually take a couple of evenings to cut out the squares.  I like to use 8inch squares and I cut a light weight batting into 6 inch squares.

To see how I make my rag quilts you can check out this tutorial I wrote a while back explaining how to make one of your own!   Here is the link to my Colors of Provence Rag Quilt.  If this is your first time, start small and make a lap or baby sized quilt.  I have finally graduated to making the bigger quilts but I have to say the baby and lap quilts are my favorite to make.

Evan's Quilt 5

This quilt is not a full size bed quilt….more of a larger lap quilt size…perfect for napping and draping across the bottom of the bed kind of quilt.

Evam

Then after all the sewing and piecing together is finished it’s time for the snipping.  I can’t recommend the Fiscar’s Easy Action Rag Quilt Snip Scissors I found at Hobby Lobby enough for this task.  I think I paid around $18.00 for them and they were a great investment. 

Evan's Quilt 6

And Oakley kept me company the entire time I was working on this quilt.  She is has just as much time invested in it as I do!  : )

Rag Quilt February 007

Now…..back to working on something with a bit more color!!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

“A Hot Mess” Super Bowl Dip

Hot Mess Dip 3

This is what I am planning to make for Super Bowl this coming week.  It’s never too late to start putting together your game plan for what you want to serve on Super Bowl Sunday!

I have no stakes in the game this year.   How about you? 

I’m just there for the commercials and of course the food.

Hot Mess Dip 1

I haven’t made this recipe yet…so please excuse the camera phone pictures.  In my daily cheese travels I sometimes run into different  food reps who do food demos and give out samples.  One of my favorite reps from Boar’s Head was in one of my stores this past week and she was giving out samples of her “A Hot Mess” Superbowl dip.  Is that a great name or what?!

And she was kind enough to share the recipe.  So here it is.  Thank you Janet!

A Hot Mess Super Bowl Dip

Ingredients: 

1/2 pound (8oz) Boar’s Head 3-Pepper Colby Jack Cheese

1/2 pound of Boar’s Head Jerk Turkey deli meat (buy a chunk and then dice it very small…leftover chicken would work too)

1 can sweet corn, drained

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 package of Uncle Ben’s brown rice  (my guess is approximately 2 cups if you use regular brown rice and not the Ready Quick)

1 jar Pineapple Habanero Salsa ( I found mine at Harris Teeter…it was their store brand)

1 bag Tostitos Scoops

1 8oz sour cream for garnish if desired.

Dice the 3-pepper cheese and the Jerk Turkey into very small pieces.

Prepare the rice according to the package directions. 

In a large bowl, mix your 3  Pepper Colby Jack ,  Jerk Turkey, sweet corn, black beans, rice, and the Habanero Salsa. 

Hot Mess Dip 2     Hot Mess Dip 4

Place the mixed ingredients into the Tostito Scoops.  Top with a dollop of sour cream.  (Or you can do what I saw Janet do…she place the sour cream in a ziplock sandwich bag…snipped or a corner and use that bag to pipe sour cream on each of the Scoops with dip.)Enjoy! 

Who’s your pick for the Super Bowl this year?  I guess if I had to pick I would go Seattle.  The quarterback there had a great run at North Carolina State before he played for Wisconsin.  And since I am from Michigan and Wisconsin is in the Midwest I feel more tied to the Seahawks than I do to Peyton Mannings Broncos.  So there you have my Super Bowl rationale.  : )

Like I said, I’m just there for the commercials and the food. Winking smile

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Lemon Shortbread Snowflake Squares

 image

I have had this snowflake pan from Nordicware for years.

shortbread 4     shortbread 5

And over the holidays I baked up some of these Lemon Shortbread Squared and gave them to some friends and neighbors.  Shortbread.  An amazingly simple cookie.  Pretty much just butter and flour.  And of course any extra flavoring you might like to add.  There is something about the lemon in this cookie though that makes it one of my favorites.  I use real lemon zest and fresh squeezed juice when I can.  But lemon extract works just fine too.

shortbread 2

And I love, love, love this snowflake pan.  The shortbread always releases easily for me and the cookies are just so darn pretty when you cut them into individual squares.  I love that the cutting lines are built in.  Foolproof and beautiful results every time.  And shop around for the pan…I’ve seen it online from several different sources and the prices vary greatly.   And the snowflakes are perfect for the wintertime not just the holidays.  Most of my baking seems to happen in the colder months and this pan is just plain fun to use.

shortbread 7     shortbread 1     Shortbread 6

Here is a link to the recipe I used:  Lemon Shortbread

Lemon Shortbread Squares

1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice or 2 teaspoons lemon extract
zest of one lemon
2 cups flour  ( I like to use Gold Medal unbleached all purpose flour)

shortbread 8


Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with electric mixer.

Scrape sides of the bowl.

Add lemon juice, zest and flour and mix thoroughly on low speed. 

Pour the shortbread dough into your shortbread pan.  I lightly spray mine with Pam nonstick spray.   

Bake 15-20 minutes until the shortbread is very light brown and golden  in color.  (mine took 25 minutes)

 

And here is a variation that I just tried.  I added

3TBSP of Bailey’s Irish Cream Liquor  and baked them for 25 minutes.  They turned out delicious…not as much of a Bailey’s flavor as I had hoped but delicious just the same. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Beer Label Coasters

coasters 2

My daughter made these beer label coasters to give to her boyfriend for Christmas this year and because I am more than positive that he is not a regular Pickles and Cheese blog reader, I felt it was safe enough to post these photos and not ruin the surprise.  : )

Coasters 1     Coasters 4

It is so nice to see her creative side emerging.  Especially since mine has been on somewhat of a hiatus! 

The idea was spotted on Pinterest and you can get How-To instructions from Attic Lace. 

I will definitely be making a set for myself one of these days.  Just need to start collecting the beer carriers.  Might require some craft brew experimentation!

Tough job but it’s all in the name of a quality craft project.

Merry Christmas Everyone!!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

biscotti 1
My new favorite Christmas cookie this year has to be these Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti.  Gave away most of the last batch I made and will be making another in the next few days.  These are awesome!
Biscotti 3
Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

Original recipe makes 3 dozen

1/4 cup light olive oil

3/4 cup white sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

2 eggs

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1 1/2 cups pistachio nuts

Optional:  1/2 to 1 cup of melted white chocolate chips

Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together oil and sugar until well blended. Mix in the vanilla and almond extracts, then beat in the eggs.
  3. Combine flour, salt, and baking powder; gradually stir into egg mixture. Mix in cranberries and nuts by hand.
  4. Divide dough in half. Form two logs approximately 12x2 inches on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Dough may be sticky; wet hands with cool water to handle dough more easily.
  5. Bake for 35 minutes in the preheated oven, or until logs are light brown. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 275 degrees F (135 degrees C).
  6. Cut logs on diagonal into 3/4 inch thick slices. Lay on sides on parchment covered cookie sheet.
  7. Bake approximately 8 to 10 minutes, or until dry; cool.
  8. After the cookies are cool, hard, and dry, you can drizzle melted white chocolate on them.  Or dip one end into the melted white chocolate.  To do this, I melted the white chocolate chips in a heat proof Pyrex measuring cup and microwaved them for 30 seconds and then gave them a stir.  I mircowaved and stirred them in 30 second intervals until the chips were melted. 
  9. Using a fork I drizzled the melted chocolate back and forth across the cookies till I liked the way way they looked.  Then set them aside to cool and harden. 

Biscotti Bags

I found the recipe on Allrecipes.com and these cookies are worth raving about.  These are a keeper.  Also fun to give away.  I packaged mine up in some Christmas cellophane bags and tied them up with some ribbon. 

biscotti 2