Thursday, March 16, 2017

Rag Quilts

 I realized near the end of last year that within the next two years almost half of my nieces and nephews will be heading off to college and then they will be starting families and becoming adults. So, just before Christmas last year I decided that I need to make my nieces and nephews a special present that is representative of their individual personalities. After a lot of thought I decided to put my sewing talents to go use and to create unique quilts for each of my nieces and nephews. The quilt I am starting with is a Dallas Cowboys denim rag quilt for my oldest nephew who is a die hard Cowboys fan.

A few years ago I found a pattern for making rag quilts in the shape of turtles. I had never made any sort of quilt at this point but I was dying to learn how. Once I mastered the turtle I branched out and tried my hand at making large denim rag quilts. Denim rag quilts are heavy duty, super warm, comfy and are a great way to put to use old shirts and jeans.

First you need to decide how large you want your rag quilt to be, now you need to decide size and design before you purchase fabric.

I design my denim rag quilts with a pencil, ruler and a piece of paper.



After I layout the dimensions of the quilt I can determine how much fabric I need to purchase.

***Warning this post contains math! (I know UGH!)***

 Now most denim comes in a 60in wide piece. So 1 yard (36 inches) of denim at 60 inches wide will produce 24 9x9 inch squares. You will be cutting the fabric into 9x9 inch squares, once stitched these will become 7x7 inch squares that have a 1inch seam all around for creating the rag effect.

For this 63 x 70 inch quilt you will need 4 yards of denim.

On to the cotton fabrics, which can range in width from 45-60 inches wide, if you are working with a 45-52 inch wide fabric you will need 4.5 yards. If you are using a 60 inch fabric then you will be able to use 4 yards of cotton.

 ( If  you want to use more than one fabric/pattern remember to get your fabric cut so that you can achieve multiples of 9, meaning if you get 3/8 of a yard of fabric you will only be able to get one row of 9x9 inch squares from that cut of fabric. You would get more use out of a half of a yard .5 yrd = 2 rows of 9x9 inch squares)

When you start cutting make sure your edges are straight and your size is accurate, to do this I use my rotary cutting tool and mat with ruler to cut the fabric and have nice clean straight edges that line up easily for sewing. You can pick one up on Amazon.com by clicking here plus you will save $19 right now.


Start cutting your squares out.




Once you cut all of your squares out now you can lay out your pattern. My pattern for this quilt is a simple checkerboard pattern with dark blue alternating with white on the top side of the quilt and the denim is all the same color on the back side.



Now that we have the pattern laid out we will take each square and draw an X across the top of it. This X will guide your sewing when you stitch the top and bottom pieces together. Now take your marked squares and stitch over the stenciled X you marked out. You will also need to add a stencil for the 1 inch seam for the outside edges and corners of your quilt.





Stitch the outer edge seams. Make sure to back stitch every seam you make, the denim is heavy and with repeated use the seams can work themselves loose.



Once you have all of your top cotton layers stitched to the bottom denim layer and it is time to stitch the squares together into rows. Lets get started!



Stitch the bottom edge of one square to the top edge of the next one to create a row. It is easiest to do this by placing one square on top of the other with denim sides facing each other. ( I prefer to make my quilt rows from top to bottom in other words I stitch down the length of the quilt first then I stitch the width)



Continue making your rows

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Once your rows are finished you will stitch them together

Rows laid out

Stack the rows just as you did the squares one on top of the other with denim sides facing. Stitch up to the intersecting seam and stop.

Stitch your first section together, don't forget to back stitch your seam. Then fold the intersecting seam (I am holding said seam in my hand above) away from you and begin stitching the next section, don't forget the intersecting seam on the underside.


When your quilt is finished you will take a pair of sturdy scissors or snips as seen below and cut the 1 inch seam edges of the quilt.



There is no uniform distance between cuts because the more uneven the cuts are the more they will fray and leave the quilt looking beautiful. Just make sure the cuts are not less than 1 inch apart because the frays will rip away from the quilt if they are too thin.





Now that you have your quilt edges cut you need to wash the quilt to create a beautiful frayed look. I use my front loading washer to wash these heavy blankets, if you have a top loading washer or do not want to have to clean denim lint out of your washer and dryer for weeks then I suggest taking your quilt to a Laundromat.



Monday, March 13, 2017

Addictive Fried Chicken and Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Many women through the years have touted the old adage, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”

I am a firm believer in this saying and here's why.


My husband works 60+ hours a week, if dinner is already prepared and he eats right away then he spends the rest of the evening in individual pursuits i.e. video games. But, if I wait until he gets home to really get in the swing of making dinner, meaning I prep everything before he gets home and I begin cooking when he gets there, he drops everything as soon as dinner is plated and can't wait to sit down to dinner at the table which gives us more family time.

My go to recipe that always calls my husband to the dinner table is Fried Chicken and Garlic Mashed Potatoes.

If you are itching to try this recipe tonight visit Amazon Fresh and have everything delivered!

Now here is how you pull off this easy and tasty meal:

Ingredients (feeds 2)

2 good size boneless skinless chicken breast
1 cup of flour
2 eggs
1/3 cup of Caldo de Tomate Con Polo Sabor
4 cups cooking oil

2-3 lbs russet potatoes
1-2 tablespoons garlic salt
¼ cup of margarine
2 cups of milk

Wash and cut potatoes into ½ inch slices. Place into a large pot and boil until fork tender.









Place oil into frying pan and turn on to setting half way between medium and high.

Trim chicken breasts to remove skin and fat then cut either into strips or smaller nugget size pieces.



Scramble two eggs in a bowl.




Place flour and Caldo into a separate large bowl and mix well.





Dredge chicken pieces in the egg and then place in the flour and coat evenly. Shake pieces slightly before removing from bowl and putting in the oil.




The oil should be hot, you can test it by sprinkling a small amount of flour onto the surface, if it begins to boil then the temperature is right.

Place strips into the oil and begun frying them, after 3-5 minutes turn the pieces over and allow to fry for an additional 3-5 minutes. (You may need to cook your pieces longer depending on the thickness of the piece, you definitely don't want to be eating raw chicken)






 Remove chicken and let the excess oil run off, either place in a colander or on a plate with paper towels. Continue to fry your chicken in batches until finished.

Check potatoes periodically to see when fork tender, when ready drain the water off and put I to a large bowl. Place butter and garlic salt into the bowl and using a potato masher to mash the potatoes.




Once you have a consistency you like, add the milk and stir. Depending on your preference you may need to add extra milk if they are too dry or less if too moist.



Now comes the best part, plate the chicken and mashed potatoes and inform the hungry masses.




Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Embroidered Roses



It is time to finish of the beautiful stem and leaves you have been working on with a beautiful rose! Roses are elegant, beautiful and easy, they will as beauty and class to any item you embroider them on.


If you love the look of the radiant satin embroidery floss by  DMC you can pick up here on Amazon and the best part is they are on sale right now!





Now let's get started!


Monday, March 6, 2017

Embroidering Leaves

In continuation of my embroidery post last week, today I am showing you how to make leaves. These leaves are beautiful and are the perfect compliment to the rose that I will be demonstrating later this week.


Now the base of this leaf is a stem stitch, if you would like to review stem stitches you can see my tutorial here


Now lets get started!




Don't forget to check back on Wednesday to learn how to make a lovely rose.



Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Embroidering Stems and Lazy Daisies


I come from a long line of fabric artists. My grandfather could reproduce any item of clothing he saw, my grandmother and great grandmother were amazing embroidery artist and could make beautiful dolls all by hand. I was introduced to sewing at the age of 8 and have since learned to embroider. My favorite way to spend my free time making quilts, clothes, costumes and embroidering items. Here is a quick tutorial on how to easily embroider a running stem pattern with lazy daisies. 

I used these stitches to embroider a cloak when my daughter wanted to be Little Red Riding Hood for Halloween. These two stitches will get you the biggest bang for your buck, they are easy to accomplish and come out beautifully.




When embroidering you need a few key items. 
Cloth to embroider, cotton cloth is preferable.

****Tip: You can embroider satin, sateen, and silk but they require quite a bit of patience and a delicate hand.**** 

When learning how to embroider or learning a new stitch it is best to keep fabric squares on hand so you can perfect your stitching technique before you use more expensive fabric. I prefer to use embroidery squares. They are easy to practice on and are fairly inexpensive. 

Lets get started!





Saturday, February 25, 2017

Meal Planning

Everyone has to eat, right? I grew up in a large family full of boys and my mother really had to stretch every dollar to be able to keep us all fed, clothed and have money for our home, hobbies and activities. When my Hubby and I got married we were poor college students and we were forced to find ways to make our money stretch for our food budget as well. My childhood growing up seeing my mother budget for groceries and then my own experience as a young wife has lead me to develop an easy to follow and well rounded way to plan your meals that is budget friendly. 

First I start out with a calendar, I go online and find a calendar that I think is cute and print it on my home printer. Calendarlabs.com is a great resource for free printable calendars. I mark out the dates that I will be buying groceries this can be based on when you get paid or when you have time. Make sure to mark out any special meals you will be having such as holidays, birthdays or nights out. This ensures you will buy just the right amount of food. 


  
I plan my meals for a week to 10 days at a time, even up to 2 weeks around the holidays so I can avoid long lines and packed stores. And, I set a weekly budget, which is capped at $120 for the three of us. Now you can spend much less but it takes work to gather coupons and other discounts. I wish I could coupon but I don't have the time or patience to do it so my meal planning and budgeting is the best I can do for my family right now. Maybe one day I will learn and actually try couponing. 

Now first things first, plan your meals, put foods you like and don't be afraid to make a large meal and eat it for leftovers the next day. For example, I will make Crock-Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup and we will eat the leftovers the next night

Once you have made your meal plan for the next week, you can make your grocery list. I always start with the basics, milk, bread, juice. Then I go through the calendar and write the ingredients I need for each meal. Now when you plan meals there will be things that you already have. I buy ground beef in bulk, so when I meal plan I do not need to buy ground beef. 

My grocery list will look like this:




Now when you buy groceries try not to buy prepackaged foods, they are more expensive than their individual ingredients. It doesn't take too much more time to make meals from scratch and it also will taste so much better. 


****Tip: I purchase my meats from a grocery store's meat department. There are two grocery chains near my home and they generally switch off on meat sales. I can usually pick boneless skinless chicken breasts for $1.99 or less as compared to most prepackaged chicken breasts that sells for $2.50 or more a pound.****

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Crock-Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup

It is the tail end of winter here in Texas, which means very little considering we have been seeing 75-80 degree weather for several weeks. However, we are lucky enough to get a few spurts of cold weather here and there. These cold spurts make for fun meal planning because I like to make my husband a good dinner but when it is hot he does not want soup on the menu. This week we were lucky enough to get a good rainy cloudy couple of days that brought the temperature down just enough that I was able to sneak in of one of my favorite soups!

Chicken Tortilla soup is delicious and is actually quite easy to make with the right recipe, plus if you have a cold a little pepper and chili can clear out those sinuses while filling your tummy. 

Ingredients

1 boneless skin-less chicken breast
1 14.5oz can petit diced tomatoes
1 15.5 oz can black beans
1 10oz can green chile enchilada sauce
1 4oz can chopped green chilies
1 10oz bag of Steamfresh corn
1 small onion chopped
1tablespoon Garlic salt
2 tablespoons Caldo de Tomate
1/2 tablespoon Cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons Chili powder
4 cups of water
Shredded taco cheese
Tortilla chips

I used my 2 quart Crock-Pot for the soup because it would be too warm for us to have soup again the next day. When it is cold I bring out my 8 quart Crock-Pot and scale the recipe up because this soup is a leftover favorite.




Place your chicken at the bottom of your Crock-Pot.



Dice your onion and drain the black beans before adding to the Crock-Pot.
Next, add corn, tomatoes, chopped green chilies, and enchilada sauce.



Now to season your soup! Add 2 tablespoons of garlic salt.



 2 tablespoons chili powder.



1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)



 3 tablespoons Caldo de Tomate


Add the water and stir the ingredients making sure to keep the chicken at the bottom of the pot. 
Cook on high for 6 hours.



At 6 hours of cook time take out the chicken breast and shred it with a fork. It will be very tender and shred easily, add the chicken back into the Crock-Pot and let cook for another 10 minutes. 


This soup tastes and smells amazing and is even better with cheddar-jack cheese and tortilla chips! The Hubby usually enjoys 2 bowls before he can stop himself. So the next time you find yourself needing something warm and comforting throw this in the Crock-Pot, I promise it will not disappoint!