Tuesday, February 28, 2012

they say it's your birthday

Remember last year when I posted a tutorial about how we make birthday cards?  Well this year, we took a different approach and I am so pleased with how they turned out! 

Using up fabric scraps is an ongoing project for me.  It's like the more I sew, the more the scraps multiply.  I love it when I can fill a need by using scraps and these cards were a great way to do just that. 

I cut rectangles of fabric that were a little smaller than the front of each card.  Then I used a glue stick to attach the fabric to the paper, just enough so that it wouldn't slide around. 

Then I sewed a line of stitches around the edge of the fabric, permanently attaching it to the paper. 

Meanwhile, Steve printed out a page of "Happy Birthday"s and cut them into rectangles with the paper cutter.  I can still remember paying $30 for my paper cutter- probably about 15 years ago- and being appalled by the price.  Now, I can't imagine life without one. 

After I finished sewing all the fabric to the cards, I sewed a "Happy Birthday" rectangle in the middle of each one.  "Middle" is a pretty general term here- I just eyeballed it. 

In general, I think that this year's cards took about the same amount of time as previous years.  The sewing was an extra step, but it replaced all the detailed cutting that we had previously done.  And it was a relief not to have to write "Happy Birthday" 25 times in my best handwriting. 

We made these cards the week after Christmas and our stack has already gotten pretty low!  Can you believe that out of our 10 immediate family members, 7 of them have birthdays before spring begins?  It always makes the beginning of the year feel as though it's flying by! 

Speaking of flying by, today was the final winter sewing session class!  I can hardly believe that it's over and was a little sad to see everyone leave for the last time.  I got some great feedback though and have already been working on the syllabus and schedule for spring classes, which will be starting in just a few weeks.  I'll keep you posted!

Monday, February 27, 2012

every day is a gift

We had dinner out and stayed up late talking and then said our goodbyes after a breakfast of fruit and muffins.  My grandparent's visit was short, but full. 

I loved showing them our home and the quilt I'm working on and the bird feeder and all the other things that I just knew they would like. 

We asked a few questions and did a lot of listening and I found myself wanting to write it all down because I don't want to forget any of the details.  About how they met in Paris, how Grandpa proposed over the phone, how they moved all over the world and had babies and adventures and ended up here together, still. 

Their visit left us talking about if we are taking enough risks and doing enough big things.  I want to have stories that will fascinate my grandchildren.  And I may not ever live in a tent in the jungle, but I want to do my own big things.  Our own big things. 

And when Memaw squeezed my hand and said, "Every day is a gift", I knew it- sometimes older really is wiser.  This thing that I've been trying to learn, this discipline that I've been working on- she gets it.

This morning, I loaded up my journal with ways that today is a gift: because I'm home, which is exactly where I want to be; because I have projects to work on that I enjoy; because we're both healthy right now. 

Hope today feels like a gift to you as well. 

*ps- I've posted the sesame chicken recipe.  Enjoy!

Friday, February 24, 2012

a much needed weekend

What started out as a short week has turned into something quite busy and I am thrilled that it's Friday.  Beyond thrilled.  A weekend at home after a weekend away is so sweet. 

Plus, we're expecting my grandparents for a quick visit, which is very exciting.  I'm making banana muffins and cheese dip this afternoon in preparation.  Not to be eaten together.  I think I'll also cut some of our eager daffodils and put them in the guest room for a treat. 

In other news, I have been waiting for a big fabric order that should be arriving today.  We've been scheming and working up plans for a fabulous spring collection and I can't wait to get started on the actual sewing part! 

This week, I came across a basket full of skinny belts and lanyards that I made back in the fall.  I checked the shop and most of them weren't even in there!  Far be it from me to deprive the world of colorful accessories, so I took some pictures and they can now all be viewed online, instead of just on the bookshelf in my sewing room.  It's been a productive week. 

Here's hoping that your weekend is restful and happy!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

sesame chicken

I grew up eating Chinese food every Saturday night.  I'd say that it may have been my first solid food, but I think I discovered cheese first. 

In our small downtown, there was (and still is) a family owned restaurant called "Charlie's Chinese".  They were never very crowded.  And as a family of six trying to eat out on a Saturday night, that was pretty important. 

Charlie and his wife, Mary, treated us like family.  They gave us the best table, right in the center of the restaurant.  They knew our drink orders by heart.  They brought out special dishes or desserts for us to try that weren't even on the menu.  One time, for a birthday celebration, they brought a large bowl of some type of punch that went in the middle of the table with six long straws to drink out of it.  Strange, but certainly memorable. 

I still love Chinese food, although I no longer have a weekly date with an egg roll.  As much as I love it though, I have very seldom tried to make Chinese food at home because it always seems to disappoint. 

But this week, feeling somewhat adventurous, I attempted to make sesame chicken.  I came across a recipe that seemed pretty authentic.  I even purchased strange looking sauces and oils from the "international foods" aisle at the grocery store.  I pulled the long-neglected soy sauce out of the refrigerator. 

And, I am happy to report, that I consider it a cooking victory!  The meal was delicious and it really tasted like Chinese food! 

Here's the recipe, so you can try it out:

5 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. sesame oil
5 tsp. honey
1 1/4 lb. chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch chunks
2 Tbsp. oil (canola, olive, vegetable)
2 green onions, white parts thinly sliced and green tops reserved
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
4 tsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. chili paste
1 small head broccoli (or 1 bag frozen), cut into florets, steamed until crisp-tender, 4-5 minutes
3 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds (toast them in a skillet on the stove for about 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring often)
hot cooked rice

1-In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 Tbsp. of the soy sauce, 1 tsp. sesame oil, and 2 tsp. honey.  Add chicken, toss to coat, marinate 20 minutes.  Discard marinade.

2-In a large skillet heat 2 tsp. of oil over medium high heat.  Cook half the chicken at a time for 6 minutes until cooked through, truning once or twice.  Transfer chicken to serving place and cook remaining chicken in 2 more tsp. oil.  Transfer chicken to serving plate. 

3-In the same skillet, heat remaining 2 tsp. oil.  Add white parts of onion, ginger, and garlic.  Cook and stir for 1-2 minutes.  In a small bowl, whisk together broth, remaining soy sauce, remaining honey, cornstarch, vinegar, and chili paste.  Add sauce to skillet.  Cook and stir for 2-3 minutes until thickened and dark in color.  Stir in remaining 1 tsp. sesame oil.

4-Serve chicken and sauce over rice and broccoli.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onion tops. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

we saw snow

The combination of living in the south and an unseasonably warm winter all over the place have made snow a novelty.  Gone are the days of my childhood- of being sick of the slushy, dirty snow lining the streets for weeks on end.  The times that I have been disappointed about an event being cancelled due to snow are but a distant memory. 

We didn't even see it fall.  Is that cheating?  We spent the weekend in Northern Virginia, possibly the only part of Virginia that did not get snow.  But as we drove home, the reflective white covered more and more of the grass and trees until we couldn't take it anymore.  We pulled off on a farm road and jumped out of the car to take snow pictures like it was our own snow.  I was a little excited to have to kick my shoes against the side of the car before getting back in.  It's the little things, right?

And then, of course, long before we got home, it was gone.  We stopped for lunch at Jumbo Family Restaurant.  Please notice that, according to the sign, its defining characteristic is air conditioning.  Thankfully, they did not have it on while we were there. 

What they did have were waitresses who call you "sweetie", vinyl covered booths, and a menu that included a grilled cheese sandwich for $1.60.  We filled up on country fried steak and mashed potatoes and gravy and it was almost like someone had invited us over to their grandmother's house for lunch. 

Our weekend was fun too.  We went to the Mall and in several of the Smithsonian buildings, which I hadn't done in years.  We shopped and went to nurseries and played pool (very poorly, I might add).  We watched the season finale of Downton Abbey.  Am I the last person on earth to discover this show?  I fear it could be addicting. 

Oh, and we ate cake.  Chocolate cake with mocha filling that was over the top delicious.  Can I say that when I made it?  I think so.  I try not to be biased when it comes to important things, like cake. 

I love a long weekend, but it always makes the week seem a little more frantic.  I'm off to tackle the laundry and work on a fabric order and hope that makes me feel caught up again. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

let them eat cake

Last night, Steve took some beautiful pictures of the paper whites on our mantle.  Although I usually don't mention which one of us has taken a particular picture, I wanted to be sure to give photo credit on this one because it is so fancy.  And I'm not sure if I could have figured out how to take pictures in the dark like that. 

So- have you seen the daily deal today?  Pretty exciting, yes?  This green scarf was probably my favorite of the four scarf patterns I chose to make this winter, yet it's the only one that has yet to make it into the shop.  I made one for myself and I wear it all the time and what keeps happening is that people see it, ask to buy one, and then I sell out of the fabric and have to order more, all before I get any great pictures.  But I happen to have two in stock right now and thought it would be the perfect time to share them with you.  I haven't worn a knitted scarf at all this winter, but these cotton scarves have been the perfect thing for just a little extra warmth. 

My main task for the day is baking a chocolate cake for Steve's mom's birthday celebration this weekend.  I love baking cakes and it's pretty rainy and gray out today, which makes it even better.  The oven warming up the kitchen, the smell of chocolate all through the house- I'm living the dream over here. 

Hope your weekend is lovely!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

m & m's are the way to my heart

I hope that you had a lovely day yesterday.  I know I sure did.  It started with heart shaped pancakes and ended with mini cannoli.  And squished into the middle, all cozy-like, were sewing class and visiting with friends, and phone calls from people I love.  It was a great kind of day.

Here I am, flipping pancakes.  Of course I wore pink.  What fun is Valentine's day if you don't dress for it a little bit? (I had a roommate once- and I assure you it was not Steve- who felt it was important to wear pink underwear on Valentine's day.  I have yet to reach that level of holiday cheer.)

I moved a little table in by the fire for dinner and we had such a good time, eating and talking.  It's not hard to make a day special. 

This week, I continue to work on shop projects for the spring. I love shopping for just the right fabric and trying out a pattern idea several times to get it just right.  

I have been thinking all week about which item to offer for the daily deal tomorrow and I think it's going to be one that hasn't even been posted in the shop yet!  I hope you'll stop in to check it out, and remember- when they're gone, they're gone- so get yours early!

Monday, February 13, 2012

book report

I rarely buy books without reading them first.  We don't have unlimited bookshelf space and I want to make sure each book is worth its width on the shelf, so to speak. 

So you can take it as a glowing recommendation that as soon as I finished my library copy of "One Thousand Gifts", I decided to purchase it immediately.  It is a book with so much truth on every page, I knew I'd need to read it at least a dozen times over, just to take it all in. 

The main idea behind the book is so simple, you'd almost wonder how it could fill up all those pages: thanksgiving.  In everything.  All the time.  Everywhere. 

And this-

"The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world."

This makes me want to keep trying hard and honing my focus and couldn't I be a change agent?  Wouldn't I love to bring more Light to the world? 

Yes and yes. 

The author, Ann Voskamp, starts keeping a list of all the gifts and it changes everything for her.  She counts up to one thousand and then keeps counting because she just can't stop. 

And I know how she feels because I've started my own list.  What used to just be four red cardinals in a tree becomes #42.  I love red cardinals- what a treat to see so many at the same time.  What used to be a day wasted by sickness and lack of energy becomes #72- having quiet time to plan out new sewing projects. 

You see how it goes. 

The more I look for things to give thanks for, the more things I find...

#9- the smell of chestnuts roasting in the oven

#34- a baby bouncing and wiggling with joy

#69- every single sale in my shop

They're stacking up like planes over Kennedy and I can't stop and I don't want to stop.  The thankful life is the full life. 

So my recommendation?  Read it.  Then do something about it.  Because I will warn you, it's the type of book that requires action. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

the story of us, on a Friday


gets up at 5am with me when the coughing is too much and makes tea and speaks kindly and almost even turns it into a joy, to be awake and together for a little extra.


press fabric and run errands and try to use the time wisely, but am secretly just ticking off the minutes until he comes home.


works hard and calls to check in and will help me in the kitchen this weekend, apron and all.


stir soup on the stove and think how much he'll like it and plan out in my head what I'll wear on our date tomorrow night. 


will be inseparable for two whole days and that's the best part about weekends. 

Thursday, February 09, 2012

a place for everything

Today I'm linking up with Gussy Sews to talk about organization.  I love to be organized.  When I was looking around the house today for my favorite organizational tools, I realized that I hadn't yet shown you our new tea chest.  It was a Christmas gift from the Winters and we are just crazy about it.  I get an irrational amount of joy out of putting the different types of tea in the little slots. 

Along those same lines is my thread shadowbox.  Being able to see all of my thread, sorted by color, is just super helpful.  I remember the old days of having to dig to the bottom of a container for the right shade.  Those days are a distant memory now.  (ps- recently, Steve told someone that I made the thread shadowbox.  I did not.  But I was real flattered that he thought I did.)

Several of the pictures on the inspiration board I've been working on have an organizational theme.  You may be wondering how I can be inspired towards a sewing project by tiny vegetables in little boxes.  I honestly can't wait to show you. 

I also can't wait any longer to tell you about an exciting new feature on my blog!  You may have already noticed today's "Daily Deal" in the sidebar.  Every Thursday, I will be offering a new "Daily Deal" to my blog readers.  It may be an item from my shop, or it may be something I've whipped up that hasn't made it to the shop yet.  Here is what it will be though:
        - really cute and probably something you've been wanting/needing
        - at least 20% off the regular price
        - only available for 24 hours

The daily deal items will also be pretty exclusive, meaning I only have one or two of them to sell.  So be sure to check in early and if you see something you like, snap it up before someone else gets it! 
As I get ready to launch some exciting new products this spring (some of them inspired by tiny vegetable bins), I need to make a little room, so I think this will be a great way to offer an amazing value to my customers, while freeing up some space!  I can't wait to see who gets today's deal!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012


Have you seen those H & R Block commercials?  The ones where there is a big room full of people, having some sort of rally, and the person on stage opens up an envelope and shouts the amount of their refund- "Three thousand, two hundred and ninety-eight dollars!!!"  And then everybody cheers and and the person fans themselves with the envelope, like they may just pass out over their good fortune. 

I find these commercials hilarious, and a little disturbing.  I worry that there are people out there who don't actually know that their tax refund is their money.  It's not like winning the lottery. 

This is not to say that I'm not super thrilled to get a tax refund.  And what is really fun is when I do our taxes during the day and then get to tell Steve what the refund is when he gets home at night.  So I decided to make a little ceremony out of it, ala H & R Block, and give him the amount to open on a piece of paper.  And then I snapped pictures, to fully capture the joy of the moment. 

Speaking of joy, we have paper whites blooming in the kitchen.  I catch whiffs of them as I am cooking or doing the dishes and the scent is so perfumey-sweet that I feel a little light headed.  In a good way.  I don't know why we haven't had paper whites in the kitchen every winter. 

We also have daffodils blooming in the front yard.  I recorded the date of the first bloom this year: January 27th.  Last year it was February 21st, and I thought that was early.  For someone who doesn't believe in global warming, this weather is posing quite a problem. 

This morning we had another sewing class and it was lovely, as usual.  I am having so much fun with these classes.  I hope that my students are having at least half as much fun as I am. 

I'm looking forward to an afternoon of shop work today.  I am working on a fabric list that is enormously long and getting excited about a fabric shopping date with Steve this coming weekend.  "Someone who will shop for fabric with me" was not specifically on my list of things to look for in a mate, but I sure am glad it came as a bonus. 


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