Monday, May 28, 2012

Give the Gift of Lavender

Looking for a handmade gift for your mom, friends, or a bride-to-be?  This weekend I was invited to two showers and a wedding, but was only able to attend one shower and wedding.  Both my friends LOVE lavender - it's relaxing and calming - so I included a handcrafted sachet filled with beautiful, dried lavender to each gift.

I found a free cross stitch lavender patten that used only four floss colors (two purples, a pink, and green) and sewed it to a piece of purple Batik fabric.  I left a small opening and added the dried lavender; then I hand stitched the sachet closed.  The finished scented bag measured about 2 1/2" x 3 3/4" and took a few hours from start to finish.   

With the gift, I also included culinary French lavender packets and attached the recipes for lavender tea and lavender lemonade on note cards. Such a simple, but thoughtful gift that you can make too!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Strawberry Bruschetta with Goat Cheese, Mint and Basil

This strawberry bruschetta with goat cheese, mint and basil was elegant, easy, and a HUGE hit at last night's bridal shower!  The ladies loved it and this appetizer complemented the hot pink and black theme very nicely, I must add.

I originally saw the recipe here, and but thanks to my BF he suggested we change two components to make it even more delicious. He has an amazing palate and eye for all things culinary, not to mention he saved this dish.  I purchased a French bread, not a baguette, which did not work.  Literally, ten minutes before I was supposed to leave the sliced bread was a failure. It was all different sizes and some were smooched because the bread was so fresh and soft.  There was no way I could pull it off as an acceptable app and present it to a room full of women - many of whom I had never met. I thought I was going to have to purchase a store-bought dessert on my way to the party, but my BF to the rescue...he sped to the store, bought the correct French loaf, and we were back in business.

I had time to toast the baguette for an extra crunch, per his suggestion, and assembled them at the party.  He also thought we should use BOTH mint and basil.  When you bite into the toast you are intrigued by the flavors and question: Is this mint or basil?  Well, it's both, and it was FABULOUS!  I am definitely making this again for my next soiree.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

First Very Hungry Caterpillar Quilt

I have been creating handmade gifts, like onesies and quilts, for the new babies in my life.  The above Very Hungry Caterpillar quilt is the first of many.  You'll be seeing more of my Eric Carle creations in the upcoming weeks and months.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Old Sweater Becomes New Cardigan

Old, purple, Banana Republic sweater

A few weeks ago on Pinterest, I saw a pin to make a 10-minute cardigan and then I saw it again this weekend.  Sunday night I told my boyfriend that I was going to clean my closet because I was creating an avalanche.  What he thought would take me thirty minutes, turned into an hour and a half project, but I found some old sweaters to reintroduce into my current transforming them into cardigans.  

The 10-minute tutorial was very easy to follow and accurate.  I did not have 5/8" Heat n' Bond, so I used the roll I had and cut into 1/2" strips (close enough).  I used a zigzag stitch and sewed all the way up. (She said not to do this, but my thread was so dark that you couldn't see it anyway.  I will probably take her advice for the other sweaters.)  The material was very hard to sew and keep straight.  In the picture below, you can see that the sides are a bit wavy.  However, I didn't notice these imperfections when it was on and looked in the mirror.  

New cardigan

The cardigan took me longer than 10-minutes, not because of her directions, but because my thread was stale, kept breaking, and I had to re-thread my machine several times.  (Yes old thread gets stale and breaks easily and often.)  So, I do believe the cardigan would have been finished in the said time, if it wasn't for my thread.  I will be making more from the avalanche pile soon. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fava Bean Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette and Shaved Cheeses

I purchased some fava beans at the market a few weeks ago because they looked cool - long and stringy like the Witch's fingers in the Wizard of Oz.  Apparently, they are a seasonal vegetable so I thought I'd give them a try.  I had no idea what I'd do with them - that's why they had been sitting in my refrigerator for so long.  Last night I finally cooked them and turned the beans into a salad thanks to Bobby Flay. 

After some research, I found it can be very labor intensive to remove the inedible outer shell.  The easiest way to purge the pod is to grill them; I put a few at a time on the George Foreman Grill.  This worked wonderfully!  I was eager to open the beans, a little too eager, and boy were they HOT!

I changed up Bobby's recipe because I did not have a few ingredients in the house, and only made enough for two salads.  

For the lemon vinaigrette dressing I used:
1 clove of garlic
juice from half a lemon
about a teaspoon of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste 

On a bed of red leaf lettuce I placed the de-shelled fava beans and topped it with the dressing and a mixture of freshly shaved Parmesan, Romano, and Asiago cheese I purchased from Trader Joe's.  We all eat with our eyes first and this salad was very uninspiring.  The fava beans tasted like Lima beans - not too exciting.  Honestly, the best parts were the dressing (which I definitely will make again) and cheese.

This dish would have been more interesting if there were other components to it.  If I purchased fava beans next spring, I will be a bit more creative and add more colorful ingredients to the salad.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

It's onesie time!

It's onesie time!  Many of my friends and family members are having babies.  I created handmade onesies for the last two baby showers I was invited to - thanks to some inspiration from Pinterest here and here.

This is a great NO sewing machine project! Some of the sites sew the fabric on the sewing machine, but these onesies are adhered with Heat n' Bond and hand sewn with DMC floss.  They are strong enough to machine wash too.

onesies and scraps of fabric - which must be washed and dried first
Heat 'n Bond
DMC floss
buttons for eyes
bows (optional)
iron and ironing board   

For my niece I made a cupcake, butterfly, elephant, "B," and fish:

My friends and I made various water-themed animals for our friends who are having a baby in July. The baby-to-be will be born under the cancer sign, so we wanted to incorporate the water element into our creations.  We bought the onesies in various sizes so she can wear them throughout the year.

I added orange button eyes for the crab, a button fish eye, and a blue and white polka dot bow to the octopus.

These onesies were easy to design, inexpensive, original, and adorable! Happy onesie making!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Matrishka/Matryoshka note cards

When I saw these matryoshka thank you cards on Pinterest, I knew Baci would adore them.  She sends mail to her grandchildren and other family members on a regular basis and appreciates original and unique stationery.   Also, we both have a weakness for nesting dolls, so I knew they would be perfect for her.  The tutorial on Vintage Umbrella explains how to make these cute cards.

I used different card stock colors for the background (these were done on either emerald green or tan), complimentary scrapbook paper for the dress and babushka, white paper for the head, thin Crayola markers for the face and hair, scissors, mounting squares to attach the scrapbook paper to the card stock, and a black pen for the outlining.

Below are five separate cards; each one was made with three connecting dolls.  The three dolls fold into one another to fit inside the envelope.  

I also created other cards with one individual nesting doll. 

However many dolls you decide to join together, I'm sure your recipient will smile when he/she receives your handmade matrishka!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Bacon Pancakes

The Hash House A-Go-Go, a farm fresh over-the-top restaurant in Las Vegas and San Diego, serves bacon pancakes.  Not bacon and pancakes, but bacon IN your pancakes.  Actually, you only get one pancake at The Hash House.  However, it is 13" in diameter, no joke, with several strips of juicy bacon embedded in it.  I could not finish mine and had leftovers from breakfast.  What restaurant serves breakfast portions so enormous that you go home with a doggie bag?

They also serve other original flapjack and waffles like: Snickers, Blueberry Pecan, Blackberry Granola, Mango Coconut, and Strawberry Frosted Flake.  Check out their menu

My boyfriend and I enjoy cooking and eating.  This morning he had a hankering for bacon pancakes.  We decided to make our own bacon pancakes - inspired by The Hash House - but on the smaller side.

Once again, I microwaved the bacon in between paper towels on a microwave-safe dish for less than one-minute/slice.  I made about eight slices of bacon for six pancakes.  While the bacon was cooking, we followed the directions on the box of the Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancake Mix.   (We had been using Bisquick to make our pancakes - a suggestion from Baci - but lately they were lack-luster. Sorry, Baci, I know how much you love Bisquick; maybe our Bisquick mix is old.  If anyone has a delicious homemade pancake recipe they'd like to share, we'd love to try it.)

We cooked two pancakes at a time on our griddle and when the bubbles started to form in the middle and around the edges, we added a strip of bacon.  Some of the pancakes had a piece and a half of bacon.  Then we flipped them over and cooked until they were golden brown.  We repeated this process for the remainder of the batter.

These round whole wheat bacon breakfast cakes, were moist, fluffy, and what's not to love about bacon.  We topped our hotcakes with butter and real maple syrup.

If you are going to go through the trouble of making any type of pancakes or waffles, please do yourself a favor and use 100% pure maple syrup. It's more expense, but it is authentic, has no added sugars, and boy is it delicious!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Spinach and Mushroom Quiche

Quiche recipes usually call for a TON of eggs, which are high in cholesterol.  However, this quiche recipe is different.  You only use 4 eggs and it serves 8 people, which is less than 1 egg per person.  You could also substitute Egg Beaters, if you are watching your cholesterol. 

This is a delicious dish for an Easter or Mother's Day brunch.  Baci had two servings of it one Easter, which speaks volumes.  

Yesterday I made it with bacon and substituted the cottage cheese for an individual serving of  non-fat PLAIN Greek yogurt.  Make sure it's plain, not vanilla.   Also, check out MealsandMoves Blog, for all the uses of Greek Yogurt in your cooking. 

Spinach and Mushroom Quiche Ingredients:

12 ounces baby spinach
1 medium onion, diced
1 10-ounce container of mushrooms, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 eggs
4 - 6 slices of bacon (optional)
1/2 teaspoon thyme 
1/2 teaspoon oregano 
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste 
3/4 cup milk
8 ounces cottage cheese OR individual serving (about 4 or 5 oz.) of non-fat plain Greek yogurt 
1/2 cup shredded cheese (like mozzarella cheese)
1 pie crust
baking spray 
quiche dish, or pie pan 


1. Heat oil in saucepan.  Sauté onions, mushrooms and garlic. Add thyme, oregano, salt and pepper. Next add the baby spinach and cook until spinach is wilted. Set aside to cool.

2. While the vegetables are cooking, fry the bacon in a separate pan.  Or if you're like me, microwave your bacon on a microwave-safe dish in between paper towels.  Four minutes was the perfect time for six slices of crispy bacon, but that may depend on your microwave. Years ago, with a lesser-powered microwave, the rule in our house was one minute per slice.  

3. Beat the eggs in a large bowl.  Add milk, plain Greek yogurt, and spinach mixture to the eggs. Stir until blended. Set aside. I add a bit more thyme, oregano, salt and pepper here too. 

4. Spray the bottom and sides of a quiche dish/pie pan and unfold the pie crust into the pan.  You may have to stretch it, depending on the size of the dish. Poke bottom of pastry crust with a fork.  

5. Pour spinach mixture into pie crust. 

6. Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes or until golden brown.  Enjoy!

NOTE - Do not forget to spray your dish before you put down the pie crust.  

Monday, May 14, 2012

Felt matrishka/matryoshka ornament

Growing up, I'd play with my Baci's nesting doll collection for hours.  I enjoyed taking the wooden dolls apart and lining them up from largest to smallest.  We call them matrishkas in Polish, but many people call them matryoshkas or babushkas.

When I went to Poland and Ukraine a few years ago, I bought my grandparents a few matrishkas from each country to add to their collection, since so many were lost or broken from all the years of us grandchildren playing with them.

For my Dziadziu's 86th birthday, a made him a felt matryoshka doll ornament from a pattern I saw on pinterest. I changed the flower in the middle to a heart flower and used complimentary DMC floss for the stitching, as well as a brown satin ribbon to hang the doll. I made another doll with yellow felt and pink rick rack at the top to display her. 

This green and red matrishka/matryoshka (yes, I will use the Polish and Ukrainian/Russian forms of the word on this blog) took me about 3+ hours to make and it is only about 6" high.  She is so super cute and was well worth the time!  Dziadziu adored her too!