Friday, January 31, 2014

Friday Finishes- Two Michelle's Patterns Grocery Bags

The past two weeks have not been super productive as far as sewing goes.  I have been baking and reading more.  But, I did get some grocery bags whipped up while I was off work yesterday.  I used my go to pattern, which is Michelle's Patterns Grocery Bag (affiliate link).  It's four pieces, no interfacing, no bias tape, just some fabric and thread.  And the results are super cute.

Here are the two I finished.  The Russian nesting doll fabric is new to my stash (and only bought a half yard), but the rest is all stuff I had on hand.  The red, dog fabric is something I picked up nearly two years ago at my local fabric shop.  

I started another small project last night.  Plus I still have a box of work in progress that need to be finished.  But, it feels good to use up some stash fabric to make something cute and functional.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Craftsy's "Complete Knife Skills" Free Class Review

You guys already know I love Craftsy, right?  Well a few days ago, I got an email from Craftsy telling me about their new class, Complete Knife Skills with Brendan McDermott.  I love to cook and I would consider myself a better than average cook, but prepping my veggies is something that I always feel like I'm not doing right.  Onions make my eyes burn and I never get even sized pieces.  I beat my poor parsley to death.  And don't even get me started on how I peel garlic.

This class consists of four lessons and starts right out with what kind of knives you need.  I expected to be told that I need a dozen different knives and that I had to invest in top of the line cutlery.  Not so, Brendan recommends four different types of knives, and if you don't cook a lot of meat, you can get away with three- the chef knife, the paring knife, and a serrated utility knife.  The rest of the class is spent perfecting how to use these three knives.  He recommends buying investing in good quality knives, but doesn't come off as snobby or make you feel that it would be impossible to do what he does.

The second lesson is about four main cuts, the low cut, high cut, horizontal cut, and pull cut.  He goes into how to cut plateaus, juliennes, and dice your produce.  He goes in how to cut onions, garlic, shallots, carrots, and celery.  The third lesson takes what he's shown so far and works it into peppers, pineapples, herbs, butternut squash, and other odd sized veggies.  The fourth lesson is all about caring for your blades by honing or sharpening them.  He teaches the difference and when to use each one.

The class is great because Brendan never talks down to the class, he shows the wrong way and explains why it's wrong, then shows the correct method, and explains why it's better to how you've probably been doing it.  I picked up a ton of tips and am anxious to try them out next time I make soup or stir fry.

Best of all, this class is FREE!  I'll admit, when I saw it was a free class, I wasn't expecting a whole lot.  But Craftsy and the instructor puts just as much time and effort into it as the paid classes.  The camera work is good, you can really see what he's doing and Brendan is insightful and funny.  You'd think a class about knives would be pretty dull (no pun intended), but it really is interesting and broken down into doable pieces.

So, if you're interested in learning how to improve your knife work, click the link and check it out.  As with all Craftsy classes, you can watch at your own pace and rewatch as much as you want. 

Note, all links are affiliate links, but the review is 100% my own opinion.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Fabric Love Winter 2014

I've been very unmotivated this past week.  I think it's because all the hustle of Christmas is done, the excitement of a fresh, new year is over, and all that's left is snow.  Lots of snow.  And cold.  Lots of cold.  It's been in the negative temps for a few days now.  The only time I go outside is to shovel snow and go to work.  Yuck.

I just finished six days in a row at work, but now I have the next two days off.  Hurray!  So today, I'm venturing out in the cold to go visit my friend who's also my chiropractor.  But, tonight and tomorrow, I plan on getting my sewing mojo back up and running.  I had cut out three reusable grocery bags over a week ago.  I want to get those sewn up and maybe cut out a few more projects.

A few months back I blogged about my fabric stash and how I wanted to scale it down.  I'll admit, I have bought some new fabric since then. I had a gift certificate to one store, there was a going out of business sale at another, and Treasure Bay Fabrics had an awesome sale at the end of the year!  I couldn't resist.  But, I've been much more conscious about what I'm going to do with the fabrics I buy.

Here are some of my favorites from's newest selections.(Note: This is an affiliate link.)

The first row is all from Joel Dewberry's Bungalow collection.  The second row are from Dear Stella's Mercer collection.  And the last row are all from Lizzy House's Cat Nap collection.  But, I'm going to hold off on ordering anything until my stash goes down some in size.  :)  And I'm going to start working on that tonight.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Jolly VoxBox Review

I'm sure a lot of you are familiar with Influenster, but for those of you who aren't, it's a social media thing where you can review products, earn badges, and just share your opinion about products and businesses.  In December, I received the Jolly VoxBox.  It was filled with all sorts of goodies.

Jolly VoxBox

So, here's what was in mine.  A travel pack of Puffs Plus Lotion tissues.  I love these.  In fact, whenever I have a cold, these are the brand I buy. I buy whatever is on sale to just have on hand in the bathroom.  But, when my nose is requiring constant care, I like the Puffs with Lotion.  They're much softer and more gentle than most brands.

There was also a box of Skinny Cow Peanut Butter Creme candy.  There's only 130 calories a package and they're chocolate-ly with a thin layer of peanut butter creme inside.  They're not as good as a Snicker bar, but for a low calorie treat they're definitely edible.  I'd buy them.

There was a roll of pink zebra duct tape.  It's about 1 inch wide and a full side roll.  I haven't done any duct tape crafts, but I think it will be cool when sending a package or something.

There was also a compact of NYC Eyeshadow in "Long Beach Sands".  It's made up of three nice neutral shades.  Since I work at a hospital, I don't have much need for glamming up.  But, I do still wear makeup.  I like these neutral colors and was surprised how nice the colors were.  I always thought of NYC as kind of a teenager line, kind of like Wet-n-Wild.  They make fun colors and are cheap.  These were much nicer than I thought they'd be.  It's hard to get a good picture of the colors since they're so light.  But, if I was looking for a fun color, I'd probably look at NYC.

Finally, there was some Rimmel Lip Laquer in Aurora.  It's kind of a bright pink color, but it's certainly wearable once I smudge it once or twice.  Then it works more like a stain.  It's a brighter color than I'm used to, but it's nice to get out of your comfort zone once in a while.

Well, there you go.  There's what was in my VoxBox.  It was pretty fun to get a bunch of treasures in the mail and try them out.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Few Favorites: Jan 19

Here's what I'm hearting this week.

1.  These Clothespin Wrap Dolls are super cute!  I'm thinking they would be great to make and put in my Operation: Christmas Child shoeboxes this fall.  Pinned it for future reference.

2.  I love this Dandelion Wish Necklace from Etsy.  It is super cute!  I love silver jewelry and the little teardrop bottle holding the dandelion seed is so cute! 

3.  Heidi Shaulis's whole Etsy shop is adorable, but I really love this print, called The Rescue.  There's just something about the whole painting that is nursey rhyme-esque, but I just love it!  I would hang it up in my office without a second thought.

4. This Stars in Formation quilt was featured in the latest issue of Quilty.  There's about three quilts I really like in this issue, but this one is the easiest level.  Since I've never actually made a quilt, I figured if I do get around to it, I should start with an easier one.  The sawtooth star is a traditional design, but I really like this layout, and the contrasting colors.  It's pretty awesome.  Plus, I think I could use up quite a few scraps with it.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Friday Finishes- Super Tote, Pin Tucks, and Old WIPs

So here's what I've finished so far in 2014.  There's not so much quantity, as new qualitites.

First up, I finished my third Noodlehead Super Tote.  I just love this pattern!  And this one is my favorite yet.  I sewed it with some AMH Field Study fabric that had been sitting in my stash for months and months.  Then I accented it with some purple chambray, that's super soft and shiny, and sews like a dream.  I also used a cute geometric purple pattern.

Anna Marie Horner Super Tote
 Then I made my pin tuck pouch, which I talked about last time, but still love just because I've finally done pin tucks and love them.

Pin Tucked Butterfly Pouch
And finally, I finished a work in progress from over a year ago!  It's my second bag using a pattern I had gotten from Aivilo's Etsy shop.  It's the drawstring tote bag pattern.  I like it because it goes together pretty quickly and involves a couple different skills- like gathers, making straps, inserting snaps, etc.  I like the way they have you finish the bag too.  You iron the top of the lining and exterior down 3/4" and then insert the lining into the exterior and just sew around the top.  No, turning the bag inside out, and then pressing, and topstitching, etc.  Just iron and then sew and then you're done.

The fabric has been in my stash since I started sewing.  The inside is a blue and cream ticking.  The outside has some sort of statue of liberty type woman, along with cotton, and bee hives.  What it's all supposed to represent, I'm not really sure, but it kind of grew on me.  The ties are a red floral pattern.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it now that it's done, but I am glad it's finally finished.

Lady Liberty Tote
How about you?  Have you crossed any old WIPs off your last recently?  Doesn't it feel good when you finally finish them?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Sew Crazy Challenge- Pin Tucks!

So I mentioned in my New Year's Resolutions that I was going to try to follow Crazy Little Project's Sew Crazy Monthly Challenge.  Well, last Monday they issued the challenge.  There were four options: begin the learn to sew series, sew a maxi skirt, practice zippers and pin tucks, or work on applique. 

As soon as I saw pin tucks, I knew that's what I wanted to try.  I love pin tucks, but have never sewn any.  I'm pretty proficient with zippers, but their tutorial showed a different method that I hadn't used before so I decided to give that a try too.  The tutorial is at Simple Simon and Co. and after reading it and trying it out, I'm not sure why pin tucks scared me.

Here's my finished project.

Pin tucked, Butterfly Zipper Pouch
I chose some butterfly fabric that's been in my scrap bin for quite a while.  I think I only bought a half a yard of this to start with.  It's a busy print, but it really needed something to jazz it up.  I think the pin tucks worked perfectly.  I put in six tucks, and pressed the first three to the left and the second three to the right, which caused a strip of butterflies in the middle to stand out.  I really think it turned out cute.

It's hard to see the zipper, but by adding a tab of fabric to the start and end of the zipper, it really gives your pouch a more polished look.

I think I'll definitely use this method in the future.
The inside fabric is a bright blue.  I had bought a fat quarter pack of different shades of blue at Joann's a few months ago and I thought this one matched pretty well,

Now that I've taken the plunge and done pin tucks, I can't wait to do more.  I love blouses with pin tucks and I have a pattern, but have always been too nervous to try it.  Maybe now I will.  :)

I also can't wait to see what the February Sew Crazy challenge will be!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Books n Bloggers Swap Sign Up

The Twelve Days of Christmas Swap may have just wrapped up, but I'm already gung ho for another! And there ain't no swap like a Chaotic Goddess Swap so when I saw they were hosting the Books n' Bloggers Swap of course I signed up!


The premise is simple.  You sign up, pair up with your partner and then you send them three books.  One book you've read and loved, one book you haven't read, but you think they'll enjoy, and one book they request.

So what's on my request list?  Why I'm so glad you asked.  There's currently sixteen books on my Amazon Book Wish List, but here are the three of them.  (Clicking on any of the book covers will take you to an affiliate link on Amazon's page that will tell you more about the books.)

Bellman & Black is by Diane Setterfiled, the author of The Thirteenth Tale, which I totally loved in all it's strangeness.  Seriously, it was like one of my favorite books.  This one does not sound as interesting off the bat, but then again The Thirteenth Tale sat on my book shelf for probably two years, because it didn't "sound" very interesting, and I was very wrong about that.

Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde is the fourth book in the "Tuesday Next" series.  I've already talked about my love of his books.  But, I have a really hard time finding anything by him in used bookstores, thrift shops, and at Bookmooch which is where I get most of my books.  I've read the first three books in the series, and stumbled across the sixth somewhere, but I don't want to read it until I've read the fourth and fifth of course.

Amazon recommended this book to me based on my love of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the two corresponding books in the trilogy.  This one is by a Danish author about a detective working the cold case division.  It reminds me of something similar to Into The Woodsby Tana French, which I liked, although the ending left me a little disappointed.  (But I would totally read her other books- in fact a couple of them are on my wish list too.)
I'm always looking for more book recommendations.  Do you have any you think I should be reading?  If so, leave me a comment and I'll check them out.

And, if you're a book reading blogger, you may want to sign up for this swap!  Sign ups close January 14, so hop to it.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Tools of the Trade

I am not a big fan of kitchen gadgets.  I have my Kitchen Aid mixer (which I got as a wedding present- but would definitely get another if mine died), a Magic Bullet blender set (for smoothies and grinding nuts and coffee beans), and an immersion blender that I got at a garage sale (which is super handy for mixing dips and making creamy soups).  

Zulily (affiliate link) is having a sale right now on "Stay Healthy: Kitchen Essentials".  There are several things in this sale that I use pretty frequently in the kitchen that make cooking healthy foods easier and you may want to check out. 

1. A digital kitchen scale is super handy for bread making if you need to way your ingredients instead of just measuring.  This scale does both metric and standard weights of up to fifteen pounds.  I also use my digital scale to way packages.  I hate waiting in line at the post office, plus if I pay for my postage online and print my labels, they usually give you a discount.  So I almost always weigh my stuff at home, print my own postage, tape it on and just drop my stuff off at the post office and go.

2. I bought my mandolin from Pampered Chef, but this one looks to do all the same things and is cheaper than what I paid.  I hate slicing onions.  My eyes water and burn.  But now, I peel the skin off the onion, pop it in the freezer for five to ten minutes, and then slice it with my mandolin, then chop the slices into the size I need and it works much better.  I also use my mandolin for slicing potatoes or sweet potatoes for oven chips, and veggies like zucchini and egg plant for stir fry.  It's great if you have problems getting things to be an equal thickness like I do.  Just watch your fingers

3. I was skeptical about herb keepers, but I was tired of buying fresh herbs and having them turn into black mushy messes inside produce bags.  Basically, you put a little water in the bottom of the keeper and then stick your herbs in so the cut ends are in the water.  (Like you would for a bouquet of flowers). And it really does work.  Herbs stay fresh and usable for weeks.  Plus, the size is compact enough you can just stick it in your refrigerator door and easily find it when you need it.

4. I got my veggie steamer from Pampered Chef too.  It looks very similar to this one, but once again, I paid more for it.  But, I do love it, so I guess it's okay.  Basically, all you do is boil an inch or so of water in the bottom of a pot, with your steamer sitting inside, then add veggies, cover, and presto, steamed veggies in under ten minutes.  I try to eat fresh veggies more than canned, and this is a great way to cook them quickly.  I use my steamer for cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, kale, cabbage, you name it.  You can do pretty much any vegetable, just make sure you don't let all your water steam away on the ones that take longer like carrots.

So, if you're trying to cook healthy and use fresher ingredients, these are tools I would recommend.  What do you think, is there any kitchen gadget that you use all the time that you think I'm missing out on?

Note: All links in this post are affiliate links.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Merry Christmas to Me!

I know Christmas is over, but I forgot to show what I got!!!

What could be under here?
Drum roll....

It's the Janome 5812!  I've used the same sewing machine that my parents bought me in high school- a sturdy little Bernette, that was already used when I got it.  But, this year for Christmas, Mom and Dad surprised me with a new Janome.  It's lighter than the Bernette, but all my presser feet are interchangeable which I was excited about, and it should top stitch much nicer than my old machine.  I'm still keeping my old machine because I'm sentimental and I figured it would be handy if I am ever without a machine for a while.  (I have to drive an hour to get my machine tuned up and then wait a few days and drive an hour to pick it up.)

It's so nice having a new machine!  It's not computerized but it does everything my old machine did and then some, so I'm pretty happy.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Celebrating the New Year & an All New You Giveaway (US Only)

So the new year is here and I'm teaming up with Lauren Paints {a Beautiful Life} and a bunch of other bloggers to host a fun giveaway. 

It's time to Celebrate the New Year & an All New You 
with this giveaway hop hosted by!

So what's my prize?   Glad you asked!  There's a whole hodge podge of things I like.

Here's a little bit about the prizes.


First up is a copy of Sarah Ban Breathnach's A Daybook of Comfort and Joy.  I wrote about how much I loved this book this past summer.  It's all about simplifying your life and being happy with what you have, but still dreaming big dreams for yourself.  It's not preachy or self righteous, but if you really read it, I guarantee it will change your outlook on life.


Next up is a set of three mini lined notebooks and a cinnamon scented pen from Smencils.  These are great if you're trying to get organized.  I carry a little notebook like this in my purse for keeping lists and writing reminders for myself.

Having a cup of coffee every morning is my little ritual to get my day started.  I usually brew up a cup and savor it while I read my email, check in on Facebook, and just ease into the day.  (That's one of the advantages of working predominately afternoons and evenings.  No rush-rush to get ready in the morning.)  So, I'm sending a bag of Cameron's  "African Cinnamon" coffee.  This is a company out of Shakopee, Minnesota, that a lot of the grocery stores around here sell.  I think they're pretty good.  I'm also including Dream coffee mug from my affiliate, Dayspring Cards.  The mug says, "DREAM God can do much, much more than anything we can ask or imagine.  Ephesians 3:20", and 
on the back, "higher than a mountain, deeper than the sea, wider than the world - for the size of our dreams tells not how big we are but how big our God is."


And lastly, I'm all about the natural health and beauty, so I'm including a jar of my homemade sugar scrub- peppermint scented.  (If you want to make your own, you can find the instructions here.  I'm also including a bar of homemade soap that is smells great.  I didn't make it, but it was made locally.  It's oatmeal almond scented and smells great.  Both will come in handy when you need a little pampering.

Estimated retail value of this prize pack is $30.  You can enter using the Rafflecopter form below.  It's mandatory to answer the question, "What's one thing you hope to accomplish in the New Year" with  blog comment, but all other entry options are optional.  Giveaway ends January 20.   And is only open in the US, simply due to the weight of the package.  Don't worry international friends, I still love you and will do my best to include you in future giveaways.  Winner will be notified by email and have 48 hours to respond.  If there is no response after 48 hours a new winner will be drawn.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

After entering my giveaway head over to
to enter to win the Grand Prizes,
One winner will win a $100 Visa GC 
and another will win a $50 Sephora GC!

This event will run from January 3rd {12:01 am EST} through January 20th{11:59 pm EST}
Be sure to check out all of the other giveaways below, there are some GREAT prizes included:

Are you a store or company looking to participate in this Giveaway Hop Event?

Contact to discuss sponsorship opportunities.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's Resolutions

Do you make New Year's Resolutions?  I've given up on vague things like, "Lose 30 pounds." and "Quit eating so much chocolate."  But I do think the new year is a good chance for a fresh start.  There's just something about 365 days spread out before us that makes it seem like the perfect time to refocus or passions and goals.  So, here's what I'm hoping for in 2014.

  • Travel more.  Plan at least four trips that last a day or weekend.  It can be hard to get time off of work, but I do get every other weekend off.  Perfect for a trip to a nearby town or city for the day or weekend.  Plus, both my girl friends like to travel.  There's no reason not to do this more.
  • Go to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan this summer for a couple days.  I've been in love with the U.P. ever sense I went to visit my penpal, Mandy, when I was seventeen.  It has the beauty of Lake Superior without the uber tourism that is Duluth, Minnesota. (Hey- I still love Duluth, but sometimes I want a little less crowds and a little more nature.)  It's beautiful with waterfalls, light houses, and picnic areas.  I would love to spend three or four days up there.  Time to start planning.
  • Plant a real veggie garden this year.  I use pots and grow cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, kale, salad greens, and herbs with some success, but this year I want a real garden area.  I'd like to grow some peas, and maybe some potatoes.
  • Sew more.  This is kind of always a goal.  But this year I found some motivation.  Crazy Little Projects is having a monthly challenge.  It sounds like something up my alley.  Structured but not strict.  Can't wait to check it out.  I'm also hoping I'll be able to make it to a sewing retreat again.  It was so rejuvenating and I really got my sewing mojo going that weekend.
  • Make more of  my Christmas presents.  This year I made two of Noodlehead's Super Totes for Christmas gifts, and they were by far my favorite presents to give.  So, if I start earlier in 2014, there's no reason I can't make the majority of my presents.  If I can get my crochet act together, that will open up a whole new avenue of gift possibilities too.  However, men are always hard to make something for, but I'm keeping my eyes open for gift ideas for my dad, brother, and husband.
  •  Reopen my Etsy shop.  I sell on Etsy, but I don't really do much to promote it.  My tax accountant kind of killed my Etsy dream when she told me I had to pay sales tax on everything I bought on Etsy, and income tax on everything I sold on Etsy.  I was doing it more for fun and not for a second job.  But, I love Etsy and want to get back to sewing for my shop and networking with other sellers again. I think it will be worth all the tax headaches.  :)
  • Be more thankful.  My brother bought me a planner for Christmas.  I already had bought one.  (And of course I didn't tell him this.)  But it's beautifully bound and has lined pages.  I decided it'd be perfect for a little journalling and to include a daily gratitude list in it.  Sarah Ban Breathnach to Ann Voskamp both say it's life changing to keep a gratitude journal.  I could use some life changing.  So starting today, I'm giving it a try.
  • Read at least thirty books this year.  I'm not the world's fastest reader, but I do love to read, so having a number to aim for is a good feeling.  I read twenty-four in 2013, so I'm upping the ante slightly.
  • Help my dad make maple syrup this spring.  I love the outdoors, but most of my hobbies are indoor ones.  Cross country skiing has made me realize how peaceful and de-stressing it can be to just be unplugged and go outside for a while. 
So,  there's what I'm aiming for.  How about you?   Any goals you want to share?   Let me know.  Any tips for me on meeting mine?  Let me know.  I'll check in with you all each quarter and let you know how I'm doing with mine.  Here's best wishes that 2014 brings you good health, good friends, and good memories.