Sunday, November 25, 2012

Broccoli & Chicken Casserole

Tonight, I made a delightful casserole. I got the recipe from the Better Homes & Gardens website. Have you ever looked at their recipes? You really should.

I first made this dish in May one evening when Boyfriend and I were joined for dinner by our dear friend Jason. I made some adjustments to the recipe when I made it. Some major adjustments: 

-I used ham instead of chicken. 
-I used cheddar cheese instead of Swiss. 
-I didn't use the green onion (not tonight, anyway. I can't remember what I did in May). 
-I used cream of celery soup instead of cream of mushroom. 
-I didn't use the paprika at the end. 
-I used a broccoli/cauliflower combo. 

Okayyyy... wait.

I basically changed everything about this recipe. Haha. It worked out really well, though. It was well received both times I made it, and that's all I ever really want. It takes a little bit of time, but I promise it is worth it.

P.S. I do not want this holiday weekend to end. Do I really have to go back to the office tomorrow? Dang.

Fabric Binge

Confession: I may be on a fabric buying binge right now.

I know, I knowwwwww. It's ridiculous.

I found a few sites that had some fabric that I couldn't live without yesterday and Boyfriend bought me some things as part of my Christmas present. I ordered from:

Hawthorne Threads
The Fabric Fairy 
Shabby Fabrics 

I have some Christmas gifts in mind for this fabric so I won't tell you which patterns I chose, but I. Am. Psyched.

I may need an intervention. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Simple Skirt

Clearly, my sewing machine and I are best friends lately. I've been churning out projects like it's my job. Earlier this week, I decided that I wanted to make a skirt. I wasn't sure what I would wear to Thanksgiving dinner, so I thought it would be fun to try to wear something of my own creation. Happily, the tutorial I used, from Sweet Verbena, was very easy. I'm looking forward to trying some of her other tutorials in the future.

I used a vacation day on Wednesday, so I added a trip to Joann's to my list of errands to run. Since it was suggested that I use a knit fabric of some kind, I spent a while perusing the selections available before deciding on what I would call a rosy sort of color. It's a blend. Pretty sure it contains some rayon. It's so soft and comfy. As soon as I touched it, I loved it. I also picked up a couple of cute fabric quarters while I was there. They looked perfect for a Duck project. I'll get to that post at some point.

Later in the afternoon, I got down to business. Here is the fabric, folded in half on the long side with a little bit of the back side hanging over to add a little length to the skirt. Make sense?

I bought 1.5 inch elastic while I was out and, in order to make sure the casing for it was the correct size, I lined the elastic up at the top of the skirt and pinned just below.

I then sewed straight across the entire length of the fabric.

See? These are the stitches up close. I think the thread I picked was a good selection. It blends in nicely.

After this, I had to put the elastic through the casing and that, my friends, was no easy task. I attached a safety pin to the end of the elastic but it took forever. I think my fingers were just too jumbled up to make it an easy job. The tutorial said to cut the elastic one inch longer than what is a comfortable fit around where I wanted the skirt to be, but I think I made it much too long. I'll get to that.

All that was left was to sew the sides together to create the actual skirt. I turned the skirt inside out and sewed it together so the seam wouldn't be so visible on the outside. It was a lot more difficult to sew through the elastic than I anticipated and I wonder if I shouldn't have used a different needle. Next time, I suppose. I also sewed a smaller seam on the opposite side of the skirt so it would be even on both sides.

So after I put the skirt on the first time, I realized it was MUCH too loose. I undid the stitching where the two sides of the elastic met and cut off 1.5 to 2 inches from each side of the elastic. This made it a LOT better. It looked better, it felt better and I wasn't worried that I would lose the skirt while going about the day.

I wore the skirt to the Thanksgiving festivities at Boyfriend's sister's house and it seemed to go over well. I discovered that the bottom of the skirt may be a little bit asymmetrical, but Boyfriend's mom said she thought it was supposed to be that way so I'll roll with it. Here is a picture of my whole Thanksgiving outfit (sorry I'm not wearing shoes, haha). I'm posing with my dog friend, Regan. She's Boyfriend's dad's dog and I love her. I'm really happy that I was able to make a piece of clothing for myself and it turned out nicely enough that I could actually wear it the next day. Go me!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Giving Thanks

It seems like, this year, people have been posting lists of things they are thankful for on Facebook. This isn't a bad idea of course, but I have decided that I will express my thanks here instead. I have a lot to be thankful for every day of my life.

-I have a wonderful family. I'm so thankful that we are as close as we are, even though we are not geographically near one another. 
-I have a job. That alone is something to be thankful for. 
-I'm grateful to have dear and true friends in my life.
-I'm glad that I was fortunate enough to be able to get a good education
-I'm thankful for Boyfriend. He's so good to me, he takes care of me and he loves me. I don't know what I would do without him.

I could go on and on for ages, I think. The point I'm trying to make is: I feel very lucky. I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving yesterday and that you were able to spend time with loved ones and friends.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Girls Weekend 2012

On Veteran's Day weekend, my mom and my sister, Holly, came to visit me! We had tossed around the idea of converging in Pennsylvania for a girls weekend for some time, but took a little while to iron out the details. Since Holly lives in Michigan and Marmee lives in North Carolina, I am sort of in the middle.

Marmee was able to find a good price on a plane ticket, so she came in early on that Friday. Very early. My bed was sad to see me leave it, but I was excited to get to the airport to retrieve my dearest madre. She came with me to get my haircut that afternoon and we got to visit the Duck for a few minutes. Marmee hadn't seen her since last Thanksgiving and she has, of course, changed a LOT since then. The Duck was happy to have an audience. She sang to us, let us wear her bracelets, and tried to convince us that it was nap time so we would read her stories. We had fun. After our visit with the Duck, Marmee and I went grocery shopping and prepped for Holly to arrive. She was driving, so it took her a wee bit longer and we were getting too excited to contain ourselves. Finally, after a grueling day on the road, she arrived and we ate tacos. Here are Marmee and Holly, reunited:

On Saturday morning, Boyfriend and I dragged them out of bed and took them to an awesome breakfast place we discovered while on one of our driving adventures. It's called Gab N Eat and it. is. delicious. If you go, you MUST get some sausage. Trust me. Later that afternoon, we went to Phipps Conservatory, cameras in tow. We're a pretty big camera family, you see, and the chance to photograph thousands of beautiful plants and flowers was too good for us to pass up. We had an excellent time. Here is one of the beauties I captured on my phone (I haven't taken the photos from my camera off yet...):

While we were strolling around Phipps, we took this self portrait of the three of us on Holly's phone (thanks for the picture, Pooks!). I think it turned out really well. I love it.

This is my fair Pookie, camera strap around her neck, while we were at Phipps. I think she looks pretty spectacular.

After our excursion to Phipps, we came home, rounded up Boyfriend, and went to Luciano's for dinner. Luciano's is one of my favorite local restaurants. It is, if you couldn't guess from the name, an Italian place and their food is pretty awesome. If you go, you should get the bruschetta. And wedding soup. And meatballs. And everything. For the most part, everyone was happy with their food and we had a delightful time.

When we got back to my house, we commenced one of our major project schedule for this visit. See, when we see each other normally, we are typically in the middle of some major family event (reunion, wedding, graduation, etc) or holiday so we are pretty much always running around and never get to spend as much quality time together as we would like. We decided it would be awesome to do some crafty type things together. Holly brought the supplies for two crafts. I had supplies for the third. Below you can see Holly working diligently on our first craft, painting wine glasses. We watched 27 Dresses while we did this and it was a fabulous evening.

On Sunday, we made breakfast at home and then met up with a good family friend who also lives around Pittsburgh for lunch and went shopping afterward. We took the shot below while we were waiting for our friend to arrive at Rock Bottom Brewery.

We ended up going all the way to Ikea because Marmee had never been to one and we needed to remedy that. I bought a couple of pieces too large to comfortably fit into the trunk, so my wonderful mother crammed herself in the back seat with the boxes. What a trooper.

On our way home, we stopped at the Duquesne Incline so we could view Pittsburgh from a beautiful place. I didn't have my camera with me, which was sad. Here, though, is Holly:

When we got back to my house, we worked on our other two projects: making fabric covered button earrings, and also making little Thanksgiving banners that say "Give Thanks" on muslin, backed by burlap. Everything turned out beautifully. Why don't I have any good pictures? I don't even know. I'm sorry. We did watch a couple of movies while we worked on these crafts: The Duchess and The Wedding Date. We stayed up waaaaaaaaay too late, which was sort of regretable, but not really because we had a really good time.

On Monday, Holly had to hit the road back to the Great Lakes state pretty early, which was a bummer. She did have quite a lengthy drive ahead of her, so I guess I can forgive that. Marmee and I were able to hang out for most of the day, though. We went to lunch, did some window shopping, and just spent time together before I had to take her to the airport.

Overall, it was a wonderful weekend. It was nice to spend time with them without having to worry about rushing off to something or another. We got to be silly, talk, and just do what we wanted. I can't wait to do it again. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Baby Reversible Tote Bag

I think this is probably my most exciting creation yet! A reversible tote bag!!! I'm so excited about it that, while I was doing the final stitches, I was yelling triumphantly. Not kidding.

Anyway, you should know that I got the tutorial to make said lovely bag over at Sew Caroline, a blog I really love. She has so many cute ideas and I can't wait to try another tutorial. 

As I mentioned previously, this bag is for the little Duck. Since she is about two and a half, I decided to take the measurements in the tutorial and cut them in half. She is a small human, you see. Fabric-wise, I used some cute remnants that I had picked up at Joann's when I first got my machine in August. It's easy to find cute fabric that would be good for a little person, so I was excited about my options. You may notice that the fabric I used for the bag straps I also used for the ties on the apron I made for her recently. She'll match, I guess.

So here is a picture of me sewing one part of the bag together. Just three sides at this point. The top will be sewn alllllll together at the very end.

And here are the straps, post sewing. I halved the measurements for those, too, but I think maybe I should have made them a bit longer. Thank goodness the Duck is pretty little. I think she can make it work.

After all of the bag pieces were sewn and the straps were together, I had to attach the straps to one part of the bag. Since everything gets sewn together at the very end, one piece of the bag was left inside out (that part will go inside the other part, which will be turned right side out before the final sewing). I attached the straps each about 2.5 inches from the sides of the bag.

I used, per Caroline's instructions, a zig zag stitch and went over each strap a few times to give them some stability. The first one I did, I started the stitch over a couple of times. The second one, I realized I could just backstitch and then go forward again and that looked good, so I did that several times for each remaining strap.

After the straps were on both sides of the inside part of the bag, I had to press about half an inch toward the "wrong side" of the fabric on both pieces and then stick the inside part in the outside part. Does that make sense? It seems confusing after rereading it. Maybe not.

Anyway, once all of the bag pieces were together, I pinned the pieces together, making sure to pull the straps out. See?

And then I stitched everything together, just a bit below the top of the fabric. I realized that I could take part of my machine off and put the bag actually on the machine and just rotate it around for a nice, even stitch all the way around the top. Super proud of myself for that realization, let me tell you. So, without further ado, here is the finished product.

The butterfly side:

And the striped side:


Can we just talk about how awesome this is?? I can't wait to try out some full size bags. Maybe I can make some in time for Christmas gifts! That would be so awesome. I am also excited about all of the different fabrics I can use. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Kitchen Satisfaction

I have decided that there is something really satisfying about having a clean kitchen. This morning, I made eggs, bacon and toast for Boyfriend and I to eat for breakfast. After we ate, I unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher, washed some things by hand, cleaned off my counters and stovetop and lit a candle. You should know, by the by, that I was listening to my O-Town Pandora station the whole time. Now the kitchen looks nice and clean, there is sunlight peeking in my windows and it's still only noon! Let me just pat myself on the back.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Baby Apron

Friends, I've made an apron. I used a tutorial that I found on a blog called Stitches in Play. The original tutorial is meant to make an apron for an adult, but I decided to make one half the size to give to our dear little Duck. She loves playing in her pretend kitchen, cooking up an imaginary storm.

My chosen fabric came from some beautiful remnants that I purchased at Joann's a while back. I think they work well together, especially for a toddler. Hahaha. When I give it to her, I will probably ask her to discuss the colors featured on the fabric and we will probably then talk about flowers. Maybe then she will cook me something in her little kitchen.

 Below is a strap in progress. So much folding, pinning and ironing!

Since the tutorial aimed to make sure that no seams were exposed, the trim was attached like so:

And then I attached the strap to the top of the apron body:

And here is the beautiful finished product! I think I'll give it to the Duck at Thanksgiving, because I probably can't contain my excitement until Christmas.

My next project for the Duck: a tote bag! Stay tuned!

Sausage & Corn Chowder

A couple of weeks ago, I made a sausage & corn chowder for dinner. It was pretty easy and very delicious. I'd made a corn & cheese chowder earlier in the year, but I think this one may have turned out better. Probably due to the sausage. Sausage makes everything awesome. Just saying.

Anywayyyy, I got the recipe from The Country Cook. I liked it because it wasn't overly complicated, but tasted like I slaved all day. You should try it!

Oh! I should tell you that I didn't use the can of diced potatoes that the recipe called for. I used a couple of regular old potatoes (I love potatoes, okay?), peeled them, cubed them and rolled with it.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Last But Not Least: Bandit!

Good day to you! Guess what? I think it is time to discuss the third feline that lives in my house: Bandit. Yes, indeed.

Boyfriend got Bandit because he looked awesome. Not kidding. He went to Petco, where one of the Pittsburgh animal rescue groups has an adoption area, saw Bandit and bought him. Can cats be considered impulse buys? This one can.

Bandit is... unique. Here are some fun facts:

-He is a Hemingway cat (aka polydactyl). He has extra toes on all of his feet (pretty sure, last time I asked, Boyfriend said Bandit has 24 toes). More on the back feet than the front, I think. You can sort of see some of the toes in the picture.
-He only recently learned how to make a sort of meow. He normally makes a noise that can best be described as a "brrr."
-He sometimes bites my hair while I am asleep.
-He loves to carry his toys around the house and give them to me.
-He loves my kitchen rugs.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my crazy gatos. They sure keep me busy. I don't mind. It's nice to have a little warm, purring creature to sit with.

Monday, November 5, 2012

What a Day!

Today was... special. So special. I guess you could say it began being crazy last night. When I went into the bedroom to go to sleep, I instantly became wide awake. Boyfriend was out like a light (that's what a fourteen hour work day over the weekend will do to a person) and I got up and down a few times before convincing myself to go to sleep. Unfortunately, I then woke up approximately every two hours. A lot of these wake ups were cat-related (they never let me sleep when I want to!), but some of them were just lay-wide-awake-in-the-dark-for-no-reason-related.

When I first got up to get ready for work, things were going along just fine. Sure, I was rushing, but that isn't unusual. I decided to wear some newish black flats that I had lurking in my closet. The last time I wore them, my feet were not happy. I figured I needed to try to break them in. I put some band-aids in my pocket as an insurance policy (this is probably where everything went downhill. What kind of day are you anticipating if you pack band-aids on your person??). 

When I got downstairs, I got my lunch together, my water bottle filled, etc. I gave Booper his medicine and I went to grab the tote bag that I put all of that extra crap in to carry to the office. When I put my coat on, I checked my pocket for my work ID. I usually leave it in my coat. It was not there. I vaguely remembered taking it out over the weekend and attaching it, with the clippy thing, to my tote bag. Not there either. WHERE THE HECK WAS IT?!! I was running out of time, so I had to leave the house without it. Also, right before I left the house, I noticed a hole in my pants. Near my waist region, so it was covered by my sweater, thankfully. Good thing, because I didn't have time to change my clothes. DANG IT.

Now, the first through the fifth of each month is the most insane for me. My co-secretary had a vacation day scheduled today, so I was on my own. And it was nuts. SO nuts. It was also my mail and fax day, so I was basically just running around the office all day. My phone was ringing like crazy and I could not answer every call. I didn't even have time to check my voicemail or that of my co-secretary. I had to eat my lunch at noon instead of one because I had to cover the front desk from one until two. UGHHHHHHH.

Today was just ridiculous. Thankfully, it is over and I am home. I have cute felines nearby, a cute boyfriend upstairs and I can forget about the office for a little while. Whew.

Sorry for the long, rambling, possibly whiny post. Just needed to put that out there.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

And Here's Booper!

Let me introduce you to the second in my trio of crazy felines. This is Booper. His given name is Chicken, but he only answers to Booper, so we never call him that. Only our veterinarian and apothecary (yes, recently I had to go to an apothecary to get him some medicine) call him Chicken.

Boyfriend acquired Booper because he felt like Kittnins would be better off having a friend around when he was not at home. He was chosen because he was the only cat of around the same age that did not have kennel cough and seemed nice enough. (P.S. His shelter name was Lester, which is hilarious to me.) Booper was definitely a good choice.

He is, like all of our cats, quite an individual. Here are some facts about him:

-Booper's signature sound can best be described as a "kreach." If you say his name, he responds with it (sometimes without making a noise and just opening his mouth).
-Whatever breed he is means that he has a little fat pad on his belly. This makes him extra cuddly.
-He loves scratching posts.
-He has a recurring virus that comes around and makes him have sneeze fits every few months.
-He loves to spoon.

Coming soon, last but certainly not least... Bandit!

OMG, Crackers!

Okay. I want you to know that I have been planning to make these delicious crackers for... a couple of weeks. Yes, I'm sure that's it. I had the ingredients ready for a week. Yesterday, I finally did it.

Tracy made these right when Joy the Baker posted the recipe and was basically shouting from the rooftops about how amazing they were, so I knew I had to try them out. I had a vacation day scheduled yesterday, so I spent the day cleaning, watching tv, doing laundry, going grocery shopping and then... making crackers. DELICIOUS CRACKERS.

Here are my finished crackers. Plain cheese are on the left, chili powder/garlic powder spiced crackers are on the right (I didn't have the other spices Joy recommended... why don't I have paprika??). They. Are. Amazing. I want to be eating them now. Probably when I'm done here, I'll go get some. Not kidding.

What are you waiting for?? Get in your kitchen and make some!