Doll Quilt Tutorial

Thanks to Hurricane Irene and lots of time being stuck inside, I got oodles of crafting done over the weekend. We didn’t lose power, so I was able to use my sewing machine and one of the projects I made was this sweet little doll quilt. I had made one before, over the winter, when I was first giving quilting a try and it turned out incredibly darling. If you’re a beginning  quilter or have never tried one, this is a great beginner’s project. Also, it’s not as time-consuming as a large quilt can be. What a sweet gift for a little girl in your life!

A sweet lil' quilt.
Taking a closer look at the stitching.

Wanna try to make one? Here are the directions I followed, adapted from a tutorial in Sew Darn Cute by Jenny Ryan:

Materials Needed:

  • Nine 4″ by 4″ squares of  cotton fabric (as you can see, I used 2 different flannels, denim, and a bold geometric print)
  • One 10″ by 10″ square of fabric for the back
  • One 10″ by 10″ square of batting
  • Extra-wide double-fold bias tape
  • Coordinating thread

1. Put two small squares right sides together and sew along one edge. Add a third one using the same method to make a strip of 3 squares.

2. Repeat step 1 to make two more strips of 3 squares each.

3. Place two of the strips right side together and sew along one edge. Repeat with the third strip, so you end up with a 3×3 quilt square.

4. Cut the square you have made in half vertically and horizontally, so you end up with 4 new squares.

5. Arrange the new blocks any way that suits your fancy. Now, sew these 4 blocks together using the same methods as described in step 1, except you sew 2 rows of 2 and then connect them.

6. Lay your backing piece face down. Take the batting and lay it on top of this, followed by your quilt top. Pin all 3 layers together.

7. Sew along each seam, quilting the 3 layers together. I also went over each seam using some of my decorative stitches for extra oomph.

8. Pin the extra wide bias tape all along the edges of your quilt. Sew around these edges, mitering the corners.

9. Ta-da! That’s it, you’re all done. Make some little gals day by giving her a new quilt for one of her dollies. (Or save it for Christmas gifts!)

Me? Worry?

Is anyone else out there a worrywart? I have definitely done my share of worrying over the years and still find myself locked in its clutches once in a while. As school is starting in our area on Monday (or is supposed to be!) and my neck of the woods is due to be pounded by Hurricane Irene within the next couple of hours, I was inspired to do a short little bit on worry. As a little example of past worries, I can still remember the day when I shipped my oldest child off to kindergarten. He was scheduled for the afternoon session and our bus didn’t arrive to pick him up until after lunchtime. I couldn’t sleep the night before and literally felt sick to my stomach all that morning. As we waited for the bus, hand in hand, my pulse was racing with anxiety. The bus finally arrived and my little guy tentatively made his way up those steps as the driver introduced herself. I tried to act cool about the whole thing and waved to Daniel as the bus pulled away. As it disappeared down the road, I told my husband, “well, I survived that alright.” Then I promptly burst into tears and he hugged me and assured me that it was going to be fine. As the afternoon passed, I busied myself as much as possible to get my mind off of the whole thing. Relief poured through me as the bus then dropped him off later on.

Now, can anyone else out there relate to my little tale of worry? I have to admit that I still breathe a sigh of relief every time my kids arrive home safely from school or the sound of my husband’s truck comes down the road as he arrives home from work. Perhaps, like in my story, you’re sending a little one off to school for the first time and are starting to fret. Or, if you’re an East Coast resident, you’re preparing for or in the midst of this large hurricane and worried about your home or loved ones. Maybe you’re waiting for a possibly bad diagnosis or have a stack of bills that you have no idea how to pay. My friend, worry is SO destructive. It does nothing but consume us and can affect our physical and mental health. Worrying yourself sick about something isn’t going to do a bit of good or help anyone. Believe me, I know, and I’m sure you know this already too. I thought I’d share some inspiring words about worry and assurances that God is in control. (We are not, by the way!) I hope these words find you all well and may you find comfort and peace in knowing this. 

Lessons from a Wal-Mart Parking Lot

Are you familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan? I know I must have heard this story at least 50 times from my growing up years and now as an adult. I thought I knew all the details of this story and could easily communicate the main gist of the story, along with Jesus’ command to “Go and do likewise” at the very end. If you’re not familiar with this story, I’ll give you a recap: Luke 10:25-37 (NIV)

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

            “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

            He answered:  ”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and ,’Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

            “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

            But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

            In reply Jesus said: ”A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was, and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

            The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

            Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

If you’re observant in your reading, you will notice that I bolded the word “saw.” In a sermon by our pastor several months ago, this point was brought to light. The Samaritan first saw the beaten man before he decided to help him. He wasn’t wrapped up in his own little world, or too busy fighting with his donkey to not notice the injured man. So, with this point in mind, I’ll tell you what happened to me this week and how this story was brought to mind.

First off, it happened on Monday when my husband is usually off. He had gone over to our church to do some work for a couple of hours and I was stuck with 4 out of 5 of the kids. Take note that I used the word “stuck”—I was not in a good mood and felt like the kids and I were having just a bit too much togetherness lately. So, when he came home, I was a big grump and ready for some time alone.  Needing some groceries and other miscellaneous things, I decided to do a WalMart run by myself. On the way there, I heard a radio commentary on this particular story. The commentator also noted the point about the Samaritan seeing the injured man before helping him. Starting to feel a little less grouchy, I breathed a prayer that God would help me to be a “good Samaritan” in whatever circumstances that came my way. I also prayed that I would be able to “see” the needs of others and not too wrapped up in my own issues to not notice them.  To be honest with you, I prayed this and once I got to the store, I completely forgot about my prayer and the story.  I did my shopping and as I was checking out and then loading my van, I started to get a bad headache, something that is not normal for me. I suddenly couldn’t wait to get home and maybe rest for a little bit. When returning my shopping cart, I happened to notice a lady with some kind of wire in her driver’s side door. She wasn’t making a scene, just quietly trying to jimmy the lock of her SUV. Tons of people were passing by, including a carload of capable young men that pulled out right beside her, apparently laughing at the poor woman. I watched her for maybe a minute and then decided to at least ask if she needed help. After all, I didn’t have any children with me vying for my attention and no time limits, things that would normally be my excuse for not stopping to help. As I approached, she looked up and I could clearly see she was upset and frustrated. “Can I help you?” I asked her. When I spoke to her, it was apparent that she was definitely not from our country and spoke with a heavy accent. She told me she had no money to pay for help and that her keys and purse were locked in the vehicle. I assured her that it wouldn’t be a problem, I could at least give it a try or call someone to help, not to worry about paying anyone. I don’t know if she totally understood me, but she nodded, and kept on trying to jimmy her lock. I happened to glance across the parking lot and see a security vehicle with a guard inside of it, one that patrols the parking lot at regular intervals. I told her I’d be right back, flagged him down and explained the situation. He quickly pulled over near her vehicle and assisted the woman.

As I was driving home, my headache even worse, I didn’t give much thought to what had happened. It wasn’t until many hours later, my headache thankfully gone, that what had transpired really struck me. I remembered hearing the radio commentary on the Good Samaritan, how it echoed my pastor’s recent sermon, and breathing a prayer for God to help me see those in need. Then the parallels of the story fell into place for me and I was humbled. First, I was able to see someone truly in need and responded with mercy. No, my story was nowhere near as dramatic as the real Good Samaritan and (thank you Lord!) I didn’t find someone bleeding alongside the road. I didn’t really do all that much, just got a fellow human some help for something as trivial as a set of locked-in keys. The fact that the woman was foreign also formed a parallel in my mind as the Samaritan was helping a foreigner. Also, just as in the real story, people were passing by, obviously aware of her need and not willing to help. In the case of the carload of young men, even scoffing at her. So why am I sharing this story with you all? Because I think the Lord was really teaching me a lesson about being a good neighbor and about being able to see those in need with more of His eyes and not the eyes of a rushed, self-absorbed person, things I have certainly been guilty of many times over. I was also challenged to keep on being a good neighbor in whatever circumstances present themselves. As I sign off here, I will leave you with the words of Jesus, spoken over 2,000 years ago to a bunch of people who were essentially testing him and caught up in the law of the time:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. And Love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27 NIV

Sweet School Lunch Love Notes

6 days to go, the countdown is on! Next week I will officially have a 4th grader, a 3rd grader, a 1st grader, and 2 that are in Pre-K starting the following week. How in the world did that happen already? I guess the days are long but the years are short. Anyway, for the first week of school I like to put special love notes in my kids’ lunches, just to ease any anxieties they may have and let them know I am thinking of them. So, in preparation, I’ve put together some cute ideas for lunch box treats that have special notes attached. All were made using things I had around the house already, no fancy tools or special crafting skills required. Some are ideas I’ve gleaned from online and put my own spin on. I hope you enjoy them!

Tag reads "You're O-Fish-ally a first grader!"

Mom’s Command Center Makeover

I am so ready for school to start back up again and I think my kids are too. Things that I have to look forward to once school starts: less whining, less sibling battles, more of a routine, a little break from kids, and so on. Things I don’t look forward to: more general busyness, homework in the evenings, and all the crazy paperwork that can quickly build up. One area of my home that really needed updating before we get inundated with papers of all sorts is what I think of as my “command center.” It’s the area of my kitchen where we have our phone, calendar, and so forth and where all of our papers and mail seem to end up.

The Before picture.

No, it didn’t look absolutely, positively horrible before. However, there wasn’t a whole lot of organization and papers ended up getting piled all over the place, which drives me nuts. Plus I can’t afford for that to happen once school and all the activities that also begin with the school year begin. If I don’t have my act together things can get a bit hectic. So, I finally updated this area yesterday and was quite pleased with the results.

The After picture.

Not too shabby, eh? The first thing I did was take everything down and clear the whole area. I threw out old papers and things we didn’t need anymore.

My previous yard sale find.

Remember these from one of my thrifty finds posts? I scored this stack of cork tiles at a yard sale for $1.50. I purchased some construction adhesive at the hardware store, popped it into a caulk gun, and started tiling.

I found cork tiles to be quick and easy to install. They didn’t take super long to adhere, but I had a little window of time where I could slide them around and position them so they were flush against each other.

I had just enough to cover this open area and put a bit under the cabinets. As you can see, there was a slice of green paint showing under the cabinets, so I took a box cutter and sliced a tile lengthwise to cover it (just forgot to take a pic!). I now have an entire area to pin up papers that I need to be visible.

Next order of business–paper storage. I already had two wooden magazine holders, but I purchased these green ones at JoAnn Fabric’s for @$2 each. I also placed a basket that I already owned in this spot to act as a catch-all.

What I also wanted for this area was a place to write reminder notes to myself. I took an empty frame that I already had, put a piece of pretty green fabric behind the glass, and now have an instant dry-erase message board.

The next order of business was somewhere to store our pens, pencils, markers, scissors, etc. I took two clean soup cans, wrapped this fun purple polka-dot fabric around it, hot glued it, and glued a ribbon around the bottom of the one can. They are so much prettier than what I had before!

I am thrilled with how my “Command Center” makeover turned out. When my husband came home, he was pleasantly surprised at our newly redone area. Now I need to keep it organized once the school year starts! Oh, to make things even sweeter, want to know how much this makeover cost me? Less than $10!!

Greek Salad

Since I made this for a brunch with some of my favorite ladies the other day, I thought I would share the recipe. Also, since some of these ingredients are still in season where I live, now’s the perfect time to enjoy this colorful and delicious Greek salad. The best part about it? If you don’t like certain ingredients, they can easily be subbed by something else and it still turns out good. For example, I didn’t have any feta cheese or kalamata olives the other day, so I substituted small chunks of mozzarella and black olives (see? I’m really not that with the program). In my humble opinion, it was still yummy. I originally got the recipe from a Penzey’s Spice catalog and make it every summer, sometimes for picnics or events, other times just for us to feast on for dinner.

Tastes just as good as it looks.

Recipe for Greek Salad

  • 10 large ripe tomatoes
  • 1 large cucumber
  • 1 cup kalamata olives, pitted
  • 1 large onion
  • 15 small pickled peppers
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 TB fresh parsley

Dressing:

  • 2 TB Greek Seasoning
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp sugar

Library Tote Tutorial

My new tote.

See this bag? This little baby is my new library tote, meant to haul books back and forth to the good old library. I so wish I had made it at the beginning of summer, because this crew has utilized our local library in a major way these past couple of months. On average, we’ve gone about once a week, sometimes just to browse and check out new books, other times for kids’ events. I am a major bibliophile, as is my husband, and now my kids.

My dream room!

Just to let you know, that picture is not from my house. However, my dream house would have a library/reading room chock full of books and built-in bookshelves, comfy chairs, and lots of light to read by.

How nerdishly fun is this sign?

I just had to include this picture with my book bag post. Just having a little fun with Pinterest. Anyway, back to my bag. I saw a cute idea of a bag somewhere out there where it looked like books on a bookshelf and had to try my hand at making something similar.

I kept this bag  fairly simple, so if you’re more of a beginning sewer, hopefully you can follow along. Wanting to use a heavier fabric for lugging all of our books, I chose a denim that I had on hand already. Originally I was going to do this idea on a pre-made basic canvas bag, but I thought maybe sewing the “books” on would be easier on a not-yet-made bag. Plus I wanted to put in a cute lining to match one of my books.

A sweet lining to complement my bag.

Want to make one of your own? As mentioned before, I tried to keep it simple, so hopefully my instructions are easy to follow. Here we go…

2 pieces of denim

1. Choose a heavier fabric to use on the outside of your bag. Cut out two rectangles that are the same size. Mine were @14×15″, but I probably should have went larger than that. You can do any size you want.

Working on the books.

2. Choose a number of pieces of rectangular fabric. I just raided my scrap bag and cut ones of a variety of sizes and patterns, choosing the longest one to serve as the “bookshelf.” For each rectangle, use an iron to press the piece, folding and pressing each edge under about 1/4″. Pin and sew each one on the designated front piece of your heavy fabric. I did one at a time, trying to mix up my rectangle sizes and color schemes/patterns. Another cute idea to try is to sew on book titles by cutting out and stitching selvage pieces with writing onto the spines of your books. As you can see from the following picture, I also made the book on the end lean into the others.

My finished bookshelf piece.
Choosing fabric for the lining.

3. Choose a fabric to use for the lining. Cut out two rectangles the same exact size as your outer fabric pieces. I chose this hummingbird/floral piece because it matched one of my book fabrics.

Sewing the outside piece together.

4. Sew the two outside pieces on three sides with the right sides together. Do not sew the top yet! Do the same with your two lining pieces.

The outside, inside, and strap pieces all laid out and ready to put together!
Pinning the strap piece in place.

5. Choose something to serve as the strap. I wanted two straps, so I cut a grosgrain ribbon belt that I had thrifted awhile back in  half. You could also use webbing or make a strap from your heavier fabric. Pin on along the top edge of your outside piece so that it faces down and the inside of your strap faces out. Make sure you pin about 2″ down from the top. Do the same on the other side.

Things are coming together now...

6. Note-this is the most complicated step! But you’re almost done, so hang in there….Flip your lining piece so that the good sides are on the inside. Slip your outer piece (with straps pinned on) into this so that all of the “right” sides face each other. Sew the whole way around, taking your time. Leave about 2″ open.

Almost done!

7. Pull your lining out of that 2″ hole you left open and flip everything out so it looks like the picture above. Then stuff the lining inside the outer pieces the correct way.

Topstitching--the final step!

8. Top-stitch around the whole top of your bag for a more finished look. After I did this, I also added rickrack around the top. (You don’t have to do that, I just happen to have a little rickrack fetish.)

9. Enjoy your new bag! Wouldn’t this be a fun teacher’s gift or for someone who loves books? Maybe one using more juvenile prints would be a great kids’ library bag. Or just make one for yourself and enjoy toting a cute bag to your local library. Happy reading 🙂

A Bit of Encouragement…

I love, love, love this Bible verse! I had never been real familiar with the book of Zephaniah, but I discovered this verse several years ago and have been so encouraged by it since. It quickly became one of my favorites. Then I found this beautiful design using this very verse on Pinterest and knew I had to share it with my readers. So, if you’re down for any reason or just had a cruddy day, there’s some wonderful promises in here. It’s a great one to memorize and place somewhere you can see it often. 

The first point is that the Lord your God is with you. That means whoever you are, wherever you are, and whatever you’ve done, the Lord your God is with you! 

The second is that He is mighty to save. We can’t even fathom how mighty and powerful God is and He’s the ONLY one who can save us. No other person or thing can do so.

Thirdly, He takes great delight in us. What an awesome and humbling feeling to know that the Creator of our universe, the Omnipresent, Omniscient God, actually takes delight in me. And in you! Did you know that? I’ll write it again–God takes delight in YOU and loves you beyond measure.

Fourth–He will quiet us with His love. Oh, the peace that can only come from God! It’s incredible. There are so many things in this world that can get us all riled up, stressed out, and fearful. How wonderful it is to feel God’s love and the peace that comes from knowing He is in control. He quiets us with His love. I definitely need some” quiet” from Him and I’m sure you do as well.

Last, but not least. He will rejoice over us with singing. Have you ever had anyone sing to you? If so, wasn’t it a good feeling? Imagine God rejoicing over you with singing!

Oh friend, I hope this brought you a bit of encouragement today as it has done for me. God bless!

Best-Ever Thin Crust Pizza

Who doesn’t love a good slice of pizza once in a while? This may sound like an exaggeration, but this is simply the best homemade pizza I have ever tried. Over my years of married life I’ve fiddled with some different recipes, but we found this one in a recent Cook’s Illustrated magazine. For me, Cook’s Illustrated can be a little over the top about testing and trying things to death, but I have to admit that their recipes are all fabulous. This pizza is now a favorite of our family and I’ve been making it pretty regularly. Since tomatoes are currently in season, it’s the perfect time to share it with all of you. If you think “homemade” pizza with crust, etc. sounds too complicated or beyond your culinary skills, think again. It’s really not hard at all, nor too time consuming. I took the magazine recipe and gave it a few tweaks So, go on, give this one a try. Your family may never want take-out again!

Pizzalicious!

Thin Crust Pizza Dough

  • 3 cups flour (I used 1 1/2 wheat, 1 1/2 white)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 1/3 cups ice-cold water
  • 1 TB veg. oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

Cook’s Illustrated recommended using a food processor, but I used a stand mixer and it was fine. Mix together your flour, sugar, and yeast for several seconds. With mixer running, slowly add ice water until combined. Add oil and salt and mix for an additional minute. Remove dough from bowl and knead briefly on an oiled countertop for a minute. Shape dough into a ball and wrap with Saran Wrap. Place in refrigerator. Cook’s Illustrated recommended letting it sit for a day, but I let mine in there for an hour or two and it was superb. Supposedly you can make this up to 3 days ahead of time.

Pizza Sauce

  • 1 28oz can whole peeled tomatoes, drained (I used fresh tomatoes since they’re in season)
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Process all ingredients in food processor or blender for @30 seconds. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Cheese

  • 1/2 cup parmesan
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 500. Adjust oven rack to 4-5 inches below the top. Divide dough in half. Using floured hands, coat one ball of dough with flour and place on floured countertop. Using your hands, press outward from middle, stretching dough and pressing into approximately 13″ circle. Ladle on tomato sauce and then top with 1/2 of the cheese mixture. Put on whatever other toppings you desire. Make the other pizza with the second half of dough. Bake each for 10-12 minutes, then pull out of oven and let rest for @5 minutes before slicing and serving. Dig in!