Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Bread Pudding for Breakfast

I love bread pudding but, I'll admit, I'm lazy about baking sometimes. For some strange reason I woke up this morning with a taste for bread pudding but did not feel up to actually making some. I knew if I made a whole pan, I'd probably end up eating most of it.  Plus, I only had one egg left in the frig.
You know how I love quick recipes made  in a mug -  didn't I show you a recipe for chocolate cake in a mug some time ago? I remembered that last year I also found this recipe for instant bread pudding you make in a mug and cook in the microwave. It's actually not too bad and today it hit the spot. I've tried it with egg beaters and it's okay that way too. Works in a pinch. And it's so much fun to watch it cook.

·         1 egg, beaten
·         1/2 cup milk
·         1 tsp. sugar (optional)
·         1 slice of whole grain bread
·         optional favorites - raisins, chopped apple, cinnamon, vanilla
Break egg into a mug, and beat with a fork. Add the milk and sugar to stir (and any optional ingredients). Tear up one piece of bread into the mug, and with a fork, press the bread pieces into the egg/milk mixture to moisten. Make sure optional ingredients are mixed well.
Microwave for one minute, and then continue cooking but check every 20 - 30 seconds until you see the bread pudding rising out of the mug.

Sometmes, instead of adding sugar to the egg and milk I skip it and just sprinkle a tsp of syrup on top after it's done. Yum.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Yes, You Can

Do you think you don't possibly have time to make a bunch of small quilts this year? In my Yahoo group SmallQuiltTalk we are working our way through 12 quilts this year -  a challege to make one a month - same as we did last year. Every month I assign a quilt to work on from one of my books and it's been fun to see how many of you are joining us.

If you are serious about making a lot of small quilts this year, and make it a goal (as some of you have), then it's fairly easy to accomplish, even if you have other projects you need to work on at the same time. If you can only get around to making a few quilts this year, that's better than none.

Quilts this size take hardly any time at all.

In order to finish one quilt every month, try breaking the sewing into small steps. If you divide your work into weekly sewing sessions that will make it easier for you rather than stressing about finding a big chunk of time to make the whole thing at the end of the month.
Here's my plan and how I've managed to make so many small quilts:

Week 1 - Choose your fabrics and cut the pieces, following the directions in the assigned book. (The quilts for each month are listed in the Files section of the group.) This shouldn't take too long. Just have fun with this part of the process and don't stress about finishing the whole quilt right now. Put it aside and then spend a few hours sewing the pieces together next week. Just don't forget about it. The borders can be sewn the following week in just a little bit of time and, before you know it, you have finished your quilt top. Spend a little time quilting it during the last week.

Week 2 - Sew the pieces together into blocks.

Week 3 - Add the borders.

Week 4 - Layer the quilt with batting and backing and either hand quilt it or quilt it by machine. Add the binding. Before you know it, you're done!

For me, it's key if I stay organized. If I have a messy sewing or cutting table I find I don't get as much done. If you can work in a mess and need that to be creative, then more power to you. I can't and so it's much easier for me if I know where everything is and I manage to keep it somewhat clean. More room for the project to take over and develop itself, I figure! It always seems to do that.

You may want to keep notes in a notebook to help organize your monthly projects and keep to a plan. I am always looking for any good excuse to run to Target and buy cute little notebooks and new pens. Write down your goals for that week and schedule small sewing sessions. Then stick to it. It works for me.

My ongoing 9-patch lap quilt project. The remaining pieces are cut - 10 blocks left to go! 

It really helps me to stay organized. If  I'm working on more than one project at the same time, I will sometimes store my blocks and pieces in one of these slim plastic storage cases (typically used for scrapbooking, I think) -

I can clear it off the sewing table and put it away without worrying about the pieces getting lost while I work on something else.

I bought mine at Michaels and need to run over there for a few more. They also come in different colors  - yippee, more organization! Yes, my family tells me I am a little bit of a control freak . . . but hey, if it works . . . .

And lest you think that I am some kind of crazy, organized perfectionist, preaching at you - don't worry. I am just like you, struggling to keep it all together most days. Do the best you can and go easy on yourself. Reward yourself with fun sewing time after a particularly bad day. Since I work at home I always find myself scrambling around trying to get everything done around the house first so I have time to sew (and write), attempting to find time to shop for and cook healthy meals and lately also trying to find time to run to the gym to exercise too. I'd probably go nuts if I weren't a little organized about some things. And one of these days I will organize my small quilts even more. I promise.

Acckkk! Not sure you even want to look in here!!

My cupboard overfloweth. Sometimes they all come tumbling out when I open the door. 

Remember, these are SMALL quilts we're making, people, so this is definitely something that can be worked into a busy schedule. And you all know that being creative and making something feels sooo good. It's good for your soul and clears your head, look at it that way.

Friday, January 18, 2013

My New Morning Perk Me Up

I love my morning coffee and you can imagine how upset I was this past Christmas when I put my freshly ground coffee into the coffeemaker, turned it on and nothing happened. What?? Oh, come on. If there was ever a time I needed a cup of hot coffee it was Christmas morning before all of the hectic activity began. I had gotten up early before everyone else and just wanted to relax by myself before we opened presents and I had to cook the turkey.

I stood there staring at it, willing it to work. Please please please. The light went on but nothing happened. Not one drip. I even tried plugging it into a different outlet but the heating element seemed to have burned out. What timing! I briefly wondered if there were any stores open on Christmas morning so that I could rush out and buy a coffeemaker. I finally fished out a really old one-cup drip model  from the basement and used it three times. 

The next day I decided I'd had it with drip coffeemakers -  I never really liked them and was tired of replacing one every few years, no matter how expensive the brand. Plus, one thing I hate about all drip coffeemakers is that the coffee never gets hot enough for me or stays hot. Always lukewarm. And, after it sits for a bit, it burns and tastes terrible.  

It was time for a change. I did my research and settled on an old-fashioned percolator based on 500 (!) five-star reviews on Amazon. Can you believe it? I think it must be a new "retro" trend. I couldn't wait for delivery, however, so I went shopping. All the top brand stores were out of this particular one but the last store I tried before giving up - Sears - was the charm. They had a ton of them AND it was on sale! Good old Sears. Now I really felt like I was back in the 60s . . . . 

Isn't it elegant? Every morning I wake up and feel like I'm on the set of Mad Men.  It looks looks so cute sitting on the counter and wow does it give me that good old-fashioned coffee taste. This Presto percolator that I bought keeps the coffee at the perfect piping hot serving temperature for hours without overheating it or burning it.

I've owned both inexpensive drip makers and expensive ones.  The percolator seems to give me a really good, hot cup of coffee. My son is a big fan of the old TV show Twin Peaks and when he saw my new percolator he laughed and said "Oh, THAT'S what a percolator is!" I guess he never bothered to look it up.

[Waitress pours Cooper's coffee:]

Agent Cooper: Wait a minute! Wait a minute! [sips, sighs blissfully] This is-- excuse me--a DAMN fine cup of coffee. I've had I don't know how many cups of coffee in my life, but this is one of the best.

    If it's good enough for Agent Cooper . . .

I'm not a coffee snob and I've heard that coffee "experts" will say that a percolator is about the worst possible way to make coffee. But, I'm sorry  - my experience is that it definitely tastes different from regular drip coffee and I think it's richer, hotter and stronger tasting. And I absolutely LOVE it. Reminds me of the old days. No plastic parts to a percolator and no plastic aftertaste. I read somewhere that perked coffee also contains less caffeine so I guess that means I can drink even more coffee! And it somehow stays hot without burning, unlike coffee sitting on drip burners.

Let's see, I've had my coffee. What stupid things can I accomplish today ?? Maybe I'll make myself one of those frilly aprons . . . or a cherry pie.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Scrap Therapy

I was anxious to organize my scraps last week in anticipation of what arrived in the mail yesterday.

Last week Kathie, on her Inspired by Antique Quilts blog, mentioned this great shop that has reproduction fabric scrap grab bags. She ordered a few, and then, when they arrived she was so pleased she went back and ordered more. A lot  more, in fact, LOL. I knew I had to act quickly because I am a scrapaholic myself and I had to have some new scraps too, before she bought out the entire store. Buying yards of several pretty fabrics is fun and they're very nice but I adore tons of scraps. Really good scraps make me want to jump and sing. I needed some SCRAPS!!

 Did I tell you, these are some really good scraps. I only bought 2 bags to begin with but I will be going back for more too.

As you can see, these are not small pieces.

When I first began to quilt, I used to visit a shop that tossed all of their leftover scraps from classes and kits into a large basket. For $5.00 you could buy as many as you could fit into a large zip-lock bag. Of course, I used to go there often and spend an hour picking through their fabric and filling up bag after bag. That's how my fabric collection started - with scraps. I had fallen in love with scrappy small quilts you see and no scrap was too small for me to use. In fact, I loved having a wonderful variety to comb through  -  hundreds of prints - and I'm sure if I look hard enough I can still find some of those same scraps stored away somewhere in my baskets or in a drawer. The shop owners would laugh at me (and roll their eyes when I wasn't looking, I could tell) because I used to go in there often only for scraps and bought yardage when I needed  fabric for borders or backings. They had no idea what I was doing with them because small quilts hadn't really taken off yet. Well, if you make lots of small scrappy blocks from 1 1/2" or 2" pieces, scraps are the way to go sometimes. At the time, I wasn't making large quilts so I never had any leftovers to use up for my doll quilts.

If you need to increase your stash of reproduction fabrics (Honestly, who doesn't??), then check out what Homestead Hearth - is offering. I e-mailed them this morning to tell them you were coming and they said to mention that, because of the recent extreme demand (Kathie!), processing and shipping of individual orders may take up to 7 -10 days to make sure everyone gets a nice variety. Glad I got my order in early! So now go shopping. Everyone needs some good scraps to make some great scrap quilts.

Made from scraps

Made from scraps

Yes, made from scraps, just in case you were wondering what I do with all those little pieces . . . . 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Scrappy Nine patches

I'm making a scrappy nine-patch lap quilt for my sofa. I started a few blocks before the Christmas rush and just sewed a little on it this past week. It will be very utilitarian and nothing special so that if something spills or the dog drools on it, no problem.

Right now this Calico Comfort quilt from my book Remembering Adelia is being used on the sofa and I love it but really don't want it to get ruined, what with my letting the little dog up on the couch so often to cuddle with me while I read. I keep an old afghan near but she will curl up in a quilt faster than an afghan. I love looking at the scraps I used in it and it gives me so much pleasure to run my fingers over them - over and over again. My grown-up blankie? Don't think I had one as a child. 

I've made 16 blocks so far and need about 30. They don't take long to make - the hardest part (but "funnest") was choosing fabric from my scraps. 
Since I will not be making the small quilts along with you this year (mine are already made!) I figured I'd get some projects done that I've been wanting to make for awhile. A simple one first will be good.

You can see it will be verrry scrappy. I'll set the blocks on point and then decide on a print for the setting.

Poor Dear Jane, so many blocks left to do. They're sitting in their box, waiting for me to have more time to get back to them . . . someday soon, I hope. I have too many ideas for things I want to make and not enough time lately.

Yet, I think it's always a good sign that there are so many projects I really want to make even though I don't have time to get to all of them RIGHT NOW.  Take a look at one I fell in love with recently - 

from American Patchwork & Quilting magazine
This quilt by Jo Morton (featured in the current American Patchwork & Quilting magazine) is one of my goals for the year. Okay, okay, maybe I'll get to it next year. I love the simplicity. Hope I can make time to make it. If I really do get around to doing it, oh well, the dog will probably not be allowed to cuddle on it with me. 

Don't forget - Season 3 of the Masterpiece series Downton Abbey premieres tonight, on PBS, friends. We've been waiting awfully long for it.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year, Quilters

I wasn't sure we would even have a new year - those crazy Mayans, scaring us like that. What's coming up in 2013 for the Sentimental Quilter? This year there will be more free patterns for small quilts to go along with our Second Annual challenge to make One Small Quilt a Month in 2013.

One pattern in particular I know you will love is coming in late January or early Feb (Of course, I have not started on it yet but I will soon). Plus, PLUS, a fantastic giveaway in a few weeks that is so good you will not believe it. So, keep coming back. I've got some other good things planned for this year.

The kick-off quilt for January is a small quilt of your choice from one of my books or patterns. Buy or borrow a book if you don't already have one, or visit my website for some free patterns, then make a quilt. January's quilt was originally planned to be an extension of last year's challenge - one more for good luck - when I thought you were making 12 quilts and STOPPING there. Silly quilters, many of you want to continue making MORE small quilts this year too. So I will do my best to encourage you and nag you to finish them as much as I can. If you weren't able to finish 12 quilts in 2012, then maybe it will happen in 2013, which is still pretty good because I know many of you make lots of other projects as well.


Have  you made this one yet? (from American Doll Quilts)
How about this one?? (Red Schoolhouse from Prairie Children)
These may be among the quilts used for the monthly challenge this year.

One way I hope to encourage you is through my new Twitter account and you may want to follow me and sign up for my inspirational "tweets."  Whaaat? Yes, I know, I said I would never go this far, I would draw the line at doing a blog and that was it. I never ever wanted a Twitter account and still do not want a Facebook page but, what the heck. The times they are a-changing -
"Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'."
                     -The Times They Are A-changing by Bob Dylan (1963)

No siree, I do not wish to sink like a stone. For those of you who are reading this, shaking your heads and looking at me quizzically - Twitter?? What's a Twitter? Here's the deal. Twitter is yet another way to stay connected and share information with people who like the same things. You can get "tweets,"  which are short lines of text (words or sometimes photos or links) from me on your phone (just download the Twitter App on your iPhone or Smartphone) or by going to the Twitter website and reading them there. Probably through e-mail too. (Not sure, I'm still a novice.)
Despite the fact that I hate the high schooly "popularity" aspect of all of these social media platforms - the more friends and likes you have the more successful or popular you must be (yuck, some are really obsessed with this) - I think Twitter may be a really good use of technology to keep some of you on track with annoying reminders from me to get your quilts finished each month. (And perhaps some other fun stuff and inspirational tips as well.) So tune in now and then to see if it's working.

I remember when Ashton Kutcher was once proclaimed the King of Twitter after reaching 1 million followers a few years ago. He now has over 13 million followers on Twitter but has been dramatically upstaged by Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, who are neck in neck with over 35 million followers. Maybe if I can figure out a way to get Ashton or Bieber to follow ME, I will also have a million zillion friends and I can be popular too. The POPE has a Twitter page, for goodness sake, so it can't be all bad.

I promise I will try NOT to tweet about my breakfast or the temperature in Chicago. I don't think. Maybe, I don't know, depends on what I make for breakfast or if I run out of inspiration for this after 3 or 4 days. Can't promise I won't tell you what I am reading or what's for dinner though. First Tweet will be coming soon - Today, January 1st. Be ready, quilters - you don't want to miss any of the many pearls of wisdom that will be spouting from this fount.