2016 APQ UFO Challenge List

Saturday, February 6, 2016

January 2016 Recipes

The new year started with a great new recipe! One of my Christmas gifts was an oven proof skillet, so I have a small queue of recipes ready ready to try :) (Just a side note...it is kinda funny to me that my husband does most of the cooking, but I ask for the cooking implements for Christmas...guess that makes them the gift that just keeps giving!!)

This is a recipe I actually made, on January 1st! It was awesome. Everyone in the house liked it and we will definitely make it again...next time, we will add a little more bacon! It is the Chicken-Broccoli Mac and Cheese with Bacon from Cooking Light. The best part for me is that it is just the right amount of cheese - not crazy cheesy, but flavorful. I guess that's the part that makes it "light."
Next up was a cookie recipe that I planned to make for Christmas but never got around to. I had all the ingredients in the house and I actually had picked up this recipe twice (once from a cookie exchange, and once from a magazine)! The Death by Chocolate cookies were the featured treat when I had my quilt bee over at the start of the month, and boy, were they good!  I am not a real big chocolate/chocolate fan, but I could make these every week! I used almonds in them as the optional nut and they were perfect (plus, that's what I had in the house!). I am sure they'd also be good with walnuts or pecans. 
We tried three new dinners after that, all from a cookbook that one of my quilting friends gave me when we were doing our first year of the cooking challenge. 

First up is Balsamic Flank Steak.  This was good and everyone in the house liked it. I will be interested to try it again when it is warm enough to grill. The balsamic vinegar was a little strong for me, so I think it would be a little better on the grill. 
Next was Greek Turkey Burgers (I love turkey burgers and I am always looking forward to a new way to make them, plus I had some feta cheese I wanted to use). These were good - the kids had them without the feta and tomato topping. I am not sure they are the best turkey burgers we've had, but they were solid, and I liked the tangy topping. 

I saved the last recipe for the best. It is called Crunchy Top Ham and Potatoes Casserole. This makes a full 9x11 pan of cheesy, potatoey goodness. The kids thought it was okay, but Mike and I LOVED it! I had a cold the week that we made it, and I think I ate it three days in a row because it was such great comfort food. This would be a really good recipe to make someone who just had a baby or surgery and you're taking a meal to. I would split the recipe in two and keep one pan for us though :) 
Despite the fact that I was sick for half of the month, I think we did pretty well in trying out some new things. My plan for this year is to try out some online recipes and dig a little deeper into the cookbooks we have, since we just scratched the surface on most of them in the first year. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Stash Report - January 2016

I am keeping a monthly stash report this year, as that works out better for me. I started my year well, with a goal to finish a project in progress, my Warm Winter Wishes top that I started last spring at my bee retreat. I got right to work on the 1st of January and got the top finished. When I went to record the amount of stash used, I found that I hadn't counted any of it yet, so I got to count the top and back. I even got the quilt loaded for quilting in that first weekend and have been working on it slowly throughout the month. 

Following that great start, I had my bee workday and finished up the Scrappy Trips top. Once that was done, I cut some yellow for the binding, so it is ready to go once I get the back made and get that one quilted. 

The rest of the month was spent working on a few other projects, but no finishes, and I didn't visit any quilt shops so no fabric came in. I am pleased with this start to my stash report and hope it will be a good sign for the rest of the year! 

Fabric added this month: 0 yards
Fabric used this month: 5 yards

Fabric added year to date: 0 yards
Fabric used year to date: 5 yards

Net fabric used: 5 yards

Hope you had a great January in your sewing area! 


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Two tops and an ornament

It has been an interesting start to 2016. The year started off well and I had a great work day on Monday, January 4, then went to work the next day with a scratchy throat and fought a cold for the remainder of the week. I stayed home for the rest of that week since I had a fever and some massive congestion.  Then came the weekend and I was feeling better and even hosted my bee at my house last Monday. Woke up Tuesday morning with a raging fever and massive sore throat and found out I had the flu.  So, I skipped this week at work too, and spent most of the week in bed.  My doctor doesn't know if the two were related, but I got in early enough with the flu that I could take Tamiflu to speed up the recovery time. I am finally starting to feel better this weekend, but I am not going anywhere! 

In the midst of all that craziness, I had a few good sewing days and got a couple quilt tops finished up, going with my theme of first, a finish. 

First up is the kit that I started at my March retreat last year. I had worked on it a few times at our bee work day, but really needed to buckle down for a few hours to finish up the applique, which I cut out on my Scan n'Cut. I set to work on the afternoon of January 1st, as this is the UFO that was called in the APQ UFO Challenge for January (I might have made my list after I knew what number was called). It only took me a little over an hour to get the top finished, then I made a back and got it loaded onto the quilt frame ready for quilting. I stopped short of starting it, because I didn't know what I really wanted to do...and then all the sickness hit, so it still waits for me. I do have some ideas now, so will be getting it started soon.  I would really, really like to have this one finished - quilted and bound with a hanging sleeve and label - by the end of the month, so I will need to get going on the quilting soon. I even know where I will hang this one in our house during the holidays, so I want to make sure I get it finished before next holiday season!
Warm Winter Wishes finished top - applique thanks to the Scan N'Cut
Next up was the following Monday at our bee workday. I got this Trip Around the World top put together for Diana's Golden Needle, a Girl Scout Gold Award project.  The quilt will go to a child aging out of foster care. The blocks were all made by members of our bee and I think that it turned out pretty well.  There is one block turned the wrong way and I have been debating whether or not to pull it out and turn it...my initial thought was no, but I may still change my mind.  Next up for this one is to get a back made and get it quilted so that I can send it off for donation. 

I had one night of sewing at home before getting sick this week and I am really close to finishing a third top for the year! I think the is the quickest that I will have finished three quilt tops into a year...never mind that they were all well underway when the ball dropped! 

On the stitching front, I joined a Facebook group to stitch ornaments from the Just Cross Stitch Christmas Ornaments 2015 issue throughout the year. The January ornament is called Let it Snow and is from Blue Ribbon Designs.  I am going to try to use existing fabrics for the ornaments that were selected, so I stitched this over one on 28 count Golden Tan Quaker Cloth. As a result, I had to make a few adjustments to the words so that I could fit them in, but I am pleased with how it turned out, just over 1.5" x 2.5". I also substituted the called for green threads with Sampler Threads in Pine and Avocado because I had them on hand and they looked fine :)  My plan is to do the finishing on my ornaments each quarter so that I have a couple at a time to work on.
Hope you enjoy my quick finishes for the start of the year, and  hope I will have more for you soon!  

Saturday, January 16, 2016

November & December Recipes 2015

This should be my last post recapping things from 2015, and this one is the food post. I think the last time I posted about our cooking was in October.  During the month of November, my husband and I spent 10 days in Hawaii, so the days leading up to that trip included eating whatever was left in our house, and the days after meant easy meals that could be put together with no thought...which means that we didn't have any new recipes, until one at the end of the month. 

Our only new recipe in November was an asparagus and salmon soup from Midwest Living called Great Lakes Salmon Chowder. This was a new way for us to eat salmon, the fish that we tend to eat the most, and we really liked it. I wasn't sure how the kids would feel about the asparagus and they weren't crazy about it, but they managed to eat a little. 
In December, we continued the soup theme even though our weather was warm and had Spicy Black Bean and Sausage Soup. We are also big fans of sausage and black beans in our house, so this was a great way to have some of our favorites in a different mix. This soup was god too, but we agreed it could use a little something more. It was pretty bland (despite being called spicy) and more watery than we liked. I am not sure if we'll try this again with a few adjustments or just go back to eating sausage and black beans the way we normally do (with rice). 
Next up was a recipe I've pulled a dozen times since we started this recipe challenge, but it's never made it to the top of the list. This month it did and it was good!  Mediterranean Pasta with Shrimp and Capers was tasty and had a nice blend of pasta, sauce, and savory flavors added by the capers and feta cheese.  I think this will go into the rotation as a good alternative to plain old pasta. 
Next up were some Christmas Cookie recipes.  Once I was off work for the holidays, the kids and I picked a couple of new recipes to use for making Christmas cookies. 

First, Pecan Butter Balls from Midwest Living.  I think these cookies singlehandedly accounted for my holiday weight gain. Everyone else in the house thought they were good, I thought they were amazing! They are very similar to Mexican Wedding Cake cookies, but you start with melted butter instead of creaming soft butter into the flour. These were messy to make and to eat, but well worth the mess in my opinion! 
The other cookie we made is Jelly Filled Thumbprints, which came from a tear-out in some other magazine as part of a Glad containers ad. Ours didn't turn out nearly as pretty as the ones in their picture, but we had a good time pushing our thumbs into them, putting just the right amount of jelly on top, and then drizzling the white chocolate once they were cooked. We made some with red raspberry jam and some with strawberry, and the conclusion is that the red raspberry ones were the best. The recipe I linked to is the one I'd use next time, making our own sugar cookie dough as the base - the one we used had us use Pillsbury sugar cookie dough...it was okay, but you could definitely improve the quality of these with homemade dough. 

The last two recipes of the month were courtesy of one of my gifts - a rice cooker. I have been curious about them for a while and thought it would be fun to try one. We started with Taco Soup in the Rice Cooker, which was quite good. It was a little more like a stew than a soup, and I realized a few nights later that I was probably short in the broth that was supposed to go into it (cause I tried to just eyeball it instead of actually measuring it!). We had chicken in the freezer that we'd cooked on the grill and it really added a lot of flavor. We'll definitely make this one pot meal again, and we'll probably experiment with some different meats too! 
Last up, on New Year's Eve, was Don't Brown the Meat Stew. It was made in the crock pot and then served over rice (used that new toy again!).  The stew was good and very easy to prepare - it will be a good weeknight meal for a busy day. Next time, we'd probably serve it over mashed potatoes instead of rice, just our personal preference. There was no online recipe for this one (I think because it is so easy) - 3 lb. stew mean, 1 envelope onion soup mix, 16-20 oz. bag frozen mixed veggies, and 1 cup of water. Put them all in the slow cooker for 4-6 hours on high or 10-12 on low. 

I should probably count up the number of new recipes we tried through the year - probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-40. I would say that 75% of them are a hit, meaning that we could make them again as is or with some slight alteration.  We try to balance those we've had and enjoyed with the new ones and overall our variety is greatly improved compared to dinners just a few short years ago at our house.  This recipe challenge is one that we will continue to make sure we keep trying new things! 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Quilt #12 - Lois' Large(r) Irish Chain

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know much of this backstory...but for those who are newer, let me share a little about Lois and the gifts that she left me. 

Lois was a good friend of mine and my mom's who was in our bee. She had two sons who hadn't married and she and I took a shine to each other. She especially loved it when I had my first baby and started bringing her to bee. My kids were like grandkids to her - she loved holding them, flirting with them, and talking to them. A little over 6 years ago, Lois went in for a knee replacement and she never made it home. There were complications that spiraled uncontrollably and she lost her life on Dec 30th 2009.  We still miss her in our bee for her wit, her directness, and her ability to keep us all in line! 

She left me a great gift when she passed - one she'd told me about at bee several times, but I didn't actually believe until it happened. She left me her entire stash....which filled my minivan twice and my mom's expedition once. It was quite the stash - and she continued to buy as late as a few weeks before her knee surgery. It took me a full year to get my hands around it all, and in that year, I unearthed more than 55 unfinished projects. There were a few that had a specific recipient, so those were put at the top of the list, then several others that were really close to being done, and a few more that others in the bee thought they'd enjoy finishing. In the first two years after Lois' death, we passed on about 30 finished projects to her family, including a wedding quilt for one niece.  Her sister has done a wonderful job of distributing each quilt to the right family member, sometimes because we knew who it was intended for, and sometimes because she knew who it would be the perfect fit for.  It is time again to turn over a few more quilts to Lois' sister and I look forward to doing that next weekend.  If you'd like to read more about this whole journey, you can click on Letters to Lois and read about the stash, see her UFOs, and a few more fun stories. 

Now, on to quilt #12, the last quilt top that I quilted in 2015.  It is the larger of two Irish chain wall hangings that were mostly pieced. I finished the tops and they both sat for a long time before I figured out how to quilt them. I did a custom job on the first one, and it was easy to maneuver because it was just a little bigger than the space I have available, so I could easily roll it just slightly back and forth on the frame.  This second quilt is quite a bit larger. I decided for this one to do a big freehand loop design all over it, and I am pleased with the way it turned out.  I used Superior Lava thread on top and a combination of Bottom Line and Robison-Anton in the bobbin. I did have to adjust the bobbin a little when I switched threads, but otherwise had no problems on this top.  The batting was a scrap of Warm and White. 

There wasn't enough fabric in the bag that the pieces had been in to make a binding, so I headed to the bin of green fabric and was surprised and thrilled to find the same green as the outer border in the bin, with plenty available to make the binding. I sewed the binding by machine and now it is ready to head back to her family next weekend.  I sure hope the recipient of this one appreciates all the work Lois put into cutting and sewing back together these fabrics! 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

December 2015 Accomplishments

I ended November with a big burst of productivity and hoped to carry that into December. I did keep at it through the month, but forgot how many evening activities hit that time of year! I had a few presents to make, and also wanted to continue to work through the stack of UFOs/WIPs on my cutting table.  Here's what I got done: 

- Made several Bendy bags - in red, orange, a bright print, and green. 

- Finished Midnight mystery quilt blocks (and I love them!)

- Made a Star Wars notebook cover for my daughter's teacher
- Loaded and quilted the L-7 quilt for my mom to give as a Christmas present
- Loaded, quilted, made, and attached binding for Lois' large Irish Chain quilt, another of her UFOs complete!
- Made some black string blocks

I also started working on a quilt top that I started back in March, but didn't get it to a picture worthy state in December. I will show it soon, as it is ready for quilting now!  In the end, I spent 16 1/4 hours in my sewing room during the month, and that doesn't include the time I spent doing a little cleaning out. 

On the cross-stitch side, I finished two projects. 

Harvest by Bent Creek - I bought this one last year with a desire to have a few fall themed, but not Halloween, items. 
Alphabet Tree Ornament, a small card from Prairie Schooler. I sewed this into the ornament size, but made the seam allowance a little too tight (see above in the picture with the green Bendy bag). It will still look okay on the tree, I think! 

In addition to the crafty work, I enjoyed two weeks off with the kids, visited with family, did some fun shopping (some for others and some for me), and ate lots of good food! 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Year end 2016/December Stash Report

I always run my stash report to the last day of the year in hopes that I might use something between the last Sunday (when lots of other people end their reports) and the 31st. This year, I did do some sewing, but I didn't bust any stash in those days. I did, however, do a little shopping with my mom as she had her birthday discounts to take advantage of (I went with her, but didn't use any of her discounts!). 
Bendy bag (one of several I made for gifts)
Bendy bag and Star Wars fabric notebook cover for Teacher gifts
Through the month of December, I worked primarily on unfinished projects. I did make a few gifts, so did get a little usage through them. The fabric I added was from the birthday shopping. 
Purchases from December shopping - except the three in the front (got them from my mom). 
Fabric used in December: 2 3/8 yards
Fabric added in December: 1 1/2 yards

Fabric added year to date: 21 7/8 yards
Fabric used year to date: 143 3/4 yards

That brings my 2016 total to 121 7/8 yards of fabric used. It is my highest net total since I started stash reporting in 2010. A good chunk of it was the 80 yards that I donated to my guild for the quilt show mystery bags.  I am really pleased with the totals for the year and look forward to another good year of using more than I buy in 2016! 

I also like to look back over my totals from year to year, and here's how that looks: 

Added by year Used by year Net Used by year
2010 44.625 137.5 92.875
2011 48.625 126.375 77.75
2012 46.75 108.175 61.375
2013 27 78.875 51.875
2014 48.125 62.875 14.75
2015 22.375 143.75 121.375

Not bad - over 400 yards used in the last 6 years. It hardly makes a dent in the stash, but it does feel good to see the numbers!  I am also glad that this year I bought the least fabric of any year. A fair amount of what I bought this year also was used this year,so in reality, there was only about 10 yards truly stashed. 

I've got a good start already in January and I will be reporting on it the last weekend of the month as I shift to monthly stash report. Hope you're happy with your usage in 2015 and starting off well in 2016!