Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sweet Dreams Quilt

Last week I posted my Sweet Dreams Quilt on the web site and mentioned it in the newsletter. I followed the instructions in the "Best Friends" book by Suzn Quilts (Sue Marth, author). It's a great book, brimming with great ideas for quilts, pillows, table toppers, and recipes! My quilt was made using Sanctuary fabrics by Moda, which gave a very girlie/shabby chic quality to the quilt. This is a really fast and easy to put together quilt, and here are some of the images from my sewing experience: First I organized everything I needed. The iron for pressing my backing nice and smooth, some Mary Ellen's Best Press for the same, 505 spray adhesive for basting my batting to my backing, some wide blue painters tape for securing my backing, scissors for trimming, and a chalk wheel and ruler for marking my batting according to the pattern instrucions.

Next I taped my pressed backing wrong side up on my kitchen island and I used the painter's tape to secure it to the countertop. Usually I baste on my dining room table and use binder clips to hold my backing, but this backing is not that wide and it fit nicely on the island, so that is where I did the basting. (besides, the dining room table had fabric on it!)

In this picture, I think you can see how I have taken rather long pieces of the painter's tape and I have secured the backing on both sides and also at the top and bottom.

Once the backing is taped, I give it the "pinch test". I try to pinch up a piece of the backing off the table. Hard as I try, I can barely pinch 1/4" off the table. That tells me I am good to go, proceeding with basting my batting on to the backing.

I take my Warm and Natural Batting (recommended in the pattern) and fold it in half lengthwise. I lay that lengthwise down the center of my backing. Using 505 spray, I carefully stand at the edge of my island and spray from the edge closest to my body, toward the batting. I move quickly down the island until on half of my backing is sprayed. Then I smooth the batting over the sticky backing and repeat the process on the other side of the backing. I just fold the batting back until I reach the sticky part and spray the backing fabric. Then I smooth out the batting and I am all ready to go.

I used 2 (6" x 24") rulers "end to end" to measure up from the bottom of my backing and marked a line according to the pattern instructions. I found a blue chalk wheel worked really well for the marking.

Once my marking was completed, I slipped a rotary cutting mat underneath my backing and used my rotary cutter and ruler to trim the batting.

Next I grabbed my Jelly Roll of Sanctuary (2 1/2" strips) and headed to the sewing machine!

I followed the instructions for the quilt to the letter, except I used a different quote in my quilt. I used "Sweet Dreams" rather than "Mother" or "Sister" or "Friend". As I was stitching my mind was going crazy with all the variations of this quilt I would love to do. How about smaller in baby fabrics with the baby's name and birth date and weight? Or in bright kids fabrics for a child and have their name in block letters? Or for a guy in masculine fabrics? It could say "Dad" or "Son" or have any sentiment. (Happy Birthday, Happy Retirement, I Love You (in any language), Hero, Army, Navy, Air Force, etc. with patriotic fabrics). Does that happen to you? Does your mind just go crazy with possibilities while you are sewing? Please tell me I am not CRAZY! Once the quilt was finished I opted for some Free Motion Quilting (FMQ) rather than the suggested grid quilting. Grid quilting with a walking foot is surely easy enough but it is not "me". I'm a curly swirly girl. Rich and I did a little video for you, showing how to design a curly quilting design for this quilt. I hope you like it. Please feel free to post comments and questions!
Click on the arrow to view it:

Sweet Dreams Quilting Demo

Friday, February 5, 2010

Super Bowl Sunday Sew In - The Pillowcase Challenge

This Sunday is the Super Bowl and we are having an online "sew in". Since we are spread all over the globe, we would like you to sew in with us and post onto the web site about your progress. Most of us will be making pillowcases for the 1 million pillow case challenge during the Super Bowl.

If you have family members who require food and munchies during the game, it's best to organize ahead of time so they don't bother you for food while you are sewing. That way you can get your stitching done! Of course, you can order pizza, or some ready made sandwiches. My family is somewhat spoiled and they expect a special treat. It would certainly have to be homemade and not "take out". And besides, I like to cook!

One of my favorite things to do is to plate up cheese, crackers and fruit, or fresh veggies and a dip. An antipasti platter is also nice. Our absolute favorite is a baked brie, which usually serves as a hot appetizer at any family party or function.
There is a great video demonstration on how to do this on the Food Network. I usually use nuts and 1/4 cup of brown sugar in my brie (rather than the jam used in the recipe in the video) and the steps I use are exactly as it appears on the
baked brie video by Paula Deen.

My other favorite dish for Super Bowl Sunday is my Crock Pot (or slow cooker) meatballs and sausage. These can be made days ahead and then warmed the day of the game, or you can start them up in the crock pot in the morning and they will be yummy by game time.

Here's my meatball recipe:
1 pound ground round beef (you may use ground turkey or a mix of beef, veal and pork if you wish)
1 small onion finely chopped
1 clove garlic finely chopped
1/2 c seasoned bread crumbs
1 egg
2 large cans peeled Italian tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
1 pound sweet Italian Sausage links
2 large carrots
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground peper
1 tsp dried oregano
Fresh Basil
Fresh Parmesean cheese

Step 1. Brown Sausage
In a heavy skillet, heat 1 TBL olive oil, and brown your sausage links, turning frequently.
When the links are browned, remove from the skillet and allow to drain on paper towels. When they are cooled enough to handle, slice them.

Step 2. Prepare Crock Pot
Place the crock pot on High and add 2 large cans of peeled Italian tomatoes. Include all liquid. Squeeze the tomatoes through your fingers to crush them.
Add your sliced sausage to the tomatoes.
Take the carrots and grate them, rather finely. I like to use a rasp, but a grater with a fine grate is fine. The carrots will add sweetness to your sauce, and they are good for you!
Add seasonings (1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper and 1 tsp dried oregano)

Step3. Prepare Meatballs
Take your ground beef, bread crumbs, onion, garlic, and egg and blend completely with your hands.
Shape into meatballs about the size of a ping pong ball.
Place the meatballs into your tomato sauce, pressing gently so that all the meatballs and all the sausages are below the level of the tomato liquid.

Continue cooking on High for about 4-5 hours. Your sauce will be bubbling and quite hot. Lower the temperature to low and add 1/2 cup rich red wine. Cover and simmer until you are ready to eat. This will simmer for a few more hours and will be perfect to eat. Or, if you prefer, you can refrigerate, and then reheat for your meal.

When you are ready to serve, you may serve the meatballs and sausage over pasta of any kind. Or, if you prefer (and this requires no additional cooking), split open fresh rolls and make meatball heros.
Sprinkle with julienned fresh basil and freshly grated parmesean cheese.

For anyone who prefers the addition of peppers to their hero, you can place a side dish of sauteed peppers and onions on the table and that is a nice addition as well.

I hope you enjoy! A nice complement to this meal is a platter of fresh mozzarella slices alternating with slices of hothouse tomatoes, sprinkled with salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of julienned basil.

For a simple dessert, serve a frozen low fat yogurt or ice cream. Put out toppings and let people make their own ice cream sundaes.

Happy stitching and Happy eating! Please share your favorite game time recipes!!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Taking Care of our Furry Friends

I'd like to introduce you to our "boys" as we call them, Oliver James and Jack Nicholas Remkus - Sullivan. They are pictured here snuggling in the sun on our Simply Squared Quilt. Oliver is 7 years old and a few months and Jack is almost 6. My how time flies I remember taking Ollie home from the shelter in 2002 in Albany, and I'll never forget the day I picked Jack out of a laundry sac in front of our building in Brooklyn. (He was born in our apartment building and the owners of his parents were desperately looking for homes for the kittens).

We always try to feed our cats a mix of wet and dry food, and as in many multi cat households, we could never tell who was eating what, and both Ollie and Jack got pretty heavy. Recently we put them on a diet and Oliver responded very well and lost a ton of weight, but Jack didn't and that had us a little worried. Then last week Oliver developed a large swollen cheek, and we rushed him to the vet. It seems he had an abcess, common in diabetic cats. Wait, did he just say "diabetic cat"? ***gulp****

Yes it seems Ollie is diabetic. Which explains his weight loss and also his thirst. Lately he's been obsessed with water - drinking out of glasses on the coffee table, the sinks, tubs, wherever he can find drips of water we find him. The vet tested his blood before knocking him out to extract the infected tooth and his glucose tested very high. After sending out for tests to confirm it he positively diagnosed Ollie with diabetes. We started a special diet feeding them both wet food every 12 hours, and after three days of that we started insulin injections at home. Surprisingly it's really not all that bad. I find it easier to give him a shot then a pill by a long shot, as he really doesn't seem to notice the needles at all.

Why am I writing to tell you this story? Well I find that many quilter's share a love for fabric as well as a love of cats. So I'm writing to give you the advice I wish someone had given me a few years ago before Ollie was on his way to diabetes. DON'T LET YOUR CATS BE OVERWEIGHT! Skinny cats don't get diabetes. If you're cat seems to be gaining weight head to the vet and get a plan together. It is possible to get them to loose weight on a prescription or high protein diet before they require shots 2x per day.

I'll keep you posted on Ollie's condition as we go. The good news is that diabetes in cats is treatable. We're lucky to have caught it when we did and to have a great local vet to work with. We found the website to be very helpful in getting us started, although the shots really aren't as scary as they make them out to be on the message boards here.

Today Ollie spent the afternoon hanging by the side of my lap top monitor as a I wrote the latest
Newsletter. He periodically gave me kisses, his way of begging for food, and otherwise laid there very peaceful and quiet somehow without sending every piece of paper on my desk flying, a modern day miracle in our house for sure. Here's a photo of him this afternoon:

Are you reading this blog with your cat? If so we'd love to hear from you! Say hi and tell us your cat's or dog's name in the comments section below, send us a pic if you can. Ollie tells me he's excited to meet some friends in cyberspace :) and I'm betting that lots of our readers are Quilter's with cats or dogs too.

-Ingrid & Ollie