Thursday, March 31, 2011

HomeSav and a New Mop!

My greener cleaning supplies.  Not shown is the bottle of bleach+water which I do use, even though it's not very green.  I think it's still a good compromise.
Thanks to other bloggers, I have recently discovered a website called HomeSav.  HomeSav highlights different items and brands that are offered at a discounted price, the sale lasting anywhere from 24 to 96 hours.  Most of the items are designer items that have a discounted price that is far above my normal paying range.  However, there have been a couple of good deals, including the one I ordered today.

I have been wanting a steam mop for some time now.  Ever since I went to cleaning "greener" (read the post here), I realized my disgusting mop and bucket of bleach-water is not how I want my floors to be cleaned.  Both Kelly and Stephanie have raved about their steam mops, so I've been keeping my eye on sales.

Today, HomeSav was highlighting a brand called Reliable which sells all sorts of steamers, vacuum cleaners, and irons.  Their steam mop is called the Steamboy T1, and after a bit of research this morning, I found that it is a great runner in the steam mop world.  The Shark, for example, gets up to 110 degrees F; this little guy gets up to 245 degrees F.  That's one hot mop!

I was also very pleased to see that the offer they had was a way better one than Amazon's.  Here's my little comparison:

Amazon: Steamboy T1 with one replacement pad and no extra filters......$75.00 (on sale from $99.00)
HomeSav: Steamboy T1 with SIX replacement pads and one EXTRA filter.......$72.00 (on sale from $99.00)

The only catch is HomeSav didn't give me free shipping, although I e-mailed them (since it said I was supposed to), so maybe they will fix the problem.  Even with their $9.95 shipping fee, however, it still was a better deal.  The replacement pads cost $13 for four, and the replacement filter costs $8.

(UPDATE: HomeSav refunded my shipping charge, so now it's a waaay better deal than Amazon.)

Check out HomeSav by clicking here.  (And if you use this link and buy something, we both earn points!)

My new mop should be here soon.  In the meantime, it's really hard to be motivated to clean my floors knowing I have an awesome cleaning tool arriving this month!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mmm Mmm Marinara Sauce

I love Italian food.  I could probably eat it every day, and with all the variety that it has, I doubt I'd get sick of it!  There is nothing quite like a delicious marinara sauce, so I wanted to share the recipe I've settled on, which is a mix of my mom's recipe, Cooking Light's recipe, and my own little pieces.

First, something to know about my mom's cooking style: She is a "little of this, little of that" type of cook.  When I was first married and called her to get her spaghetti sauce recipe, she could barely even tell me what she did because it was so much by taste.  I managed to get the basics out of her, though, although there is nothing quite like her sauce when she makes it.

Second, this recipe doesn't use fresh tomatoes.  You surely can if you choose, but I like the simplicity and taste of crushed tomatoes in a can, so that's what works for me.

2 cans crushed tomatoes (or one large can)
*Check to make sure that tomatoes is first on the ingredients list, if possible.
1 can tomato sauce
1 can tomato paste
olive oil
red pepper flakes
dried oregano
dried basil
(or use Italian seasoning if you have that)
balsamic or red wine vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped onion (more if you like)
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
fresh ground pepper

1.  In a Dutch oven or large pot, heat 1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add onion and cook about five minutes, until translucent.
2.  Add garlic and cook another couple of minutes.  Be careful not to burn the garlic.
3.  Add 1 - 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, depending on how spicy you like it.
4.  Add dried spices.  I add about a couple of teaspoons of each because I love their flavor, but you may want to start with a teaspoon of each.  Sometimes I throw in other dried herbs, like sage or parsley, or sometimes I add dried Italian seasoning.  Stir them in, so their flavor comes out and mixes with the onion and garlic.
5.  Add crushed tomato, tomato sauce, and tomato paste.  Stir well.
6.  Cover and simmer about 20 minutes.
7.  Add a couple of teaspoons of salt and pepper.  Add 1 T of vinegar.  Taste it!  Add more salt if needed, and add more vinegar to cut the sweetness if you like it a bit more tart (like me).
8.  Serve over pasta and top with chopped fresh basil.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tidbits Tuesday

What's been going on at the Feely's Fresh Nest over the last week?  Read on to find out...
  • Ever since Robby built me my awesome purple planters, I have been trying to grow a few herbs and lettuces from seed.  Things have been slow going, and even though I know the herbs will pick up once it heats up, I finally just gave up.  ( that parallel structure?)  So, I gave in to my instant gratification desires and used that buy-one-get-one-free coupon from Lowe's.  I am pretty excited about all this and can't wait to start snipping and using!
My herb planter.  I didn't dig up my seedlings, so they still might grow.
I bought three basil plants!  I go through basil so fast because I put it on everything Italian.
I was excited about this different variety, called Spicy Globe Basil.  It has smaller leaves and is a fuller, rounder plant, but still tastes just as yummy.  
The onion and garlic popped up in only 8 days.  Fun!
Calla lilies were on sale, so we bought two to place in the sideyard.  I hope they'll be huge someday!
  • Yesterday I had a fab day with Stephanie G (How Sweet It Is) and Ellie as we got pedis together.  (Not Ellie, of course, although she definitely was eyeing the fake nails with the $100 bill painted on them.)  Then we browsed through Target and attempted to get a cupcake from the Frosted Muffin only to realize it was closed.  Again.  I just might have to venture over there in between piano lessons today.  Their vanilla butter cupcake is on my mind!!
I wanted to show off my pretty toes without highlighting my sadly mis-shapen feet, so my feet got their own little photo shoot.  They felt the grass was the most forgiving and liked the contrast between the red and green.
  • I finished writing and recording a song for my cousin Ali in honor of her upcoming wedding day using the very awesome Garageband on my Mac. I was really pleased with how it turned out and even more excited when I gave her the cd and she and her hub-to-be loved it!  Their wedding is this weekend, so we've got a busy week ahead of us with rehearsals, practice, and the ceremony.  It should be fun, though!
  • I got some great fabric from Joanne's to finish a project I was working on for my sister, as well as some cute felt to start on a project for a certain someone who is expecting a certain boy at a very close certain time.  More on that later this week...
  • We've watched great movies and terrible movies this week.  The Tourist?  Don't waste your time.  Young Victoria?  Fantastic!  And it's instant streaming on Netflix, so double points.  (Thanks, Chels, for the recommendation.)
  • I am nearly finished with the first book of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, loaned to me by Kelly.  It is incredible!  I can't believe I haven't read this earlier in my life.  
  • Robby is one of a few leaders at Elevate who will be leading Bible studies with students.  He will be going through Crazy Love beginning tonight, so we're excited about this new opportunity for him.
  • I haven't even begun tackling the make-up situation, as part of my UIU Challenge.  Doctor's appointments and illness stole much of my time, so it's still my challenge for this week.
  • We had a wonderful Bible study last night that really encouraged me.  I am so grateful for our church, this amazing book by Francis Chan, and our gracious God who keeps moving us to where He wants us to be.  
And that's it, a few little pieces of our life here.  Hope all is well in your nests!  Feel free to join me in Tidbits Tuesday today!

Pizza Quest

Source: Suat Eman, Free Digital Photos
After writing my pizza post Sunday, I did a bit more research on Peter Reinhart and found that he has a site called Pizza Quest that looks amazing!  He also includes another pizza dough recipe for those of you who prefer a thicker crust as opposed to the Neapolitan style thin crust.   You could probably still use the techniques I posted but just add the different amounts of flour, etc.  Anyway, there are all sorts of recipes, tutorials, and webisodes all concerning pizza!  I'm especially excited to try his crushed tomato pizza sauce.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


I think Calla likes it when I'm sick.
She gets to lie around on fluffy blankets all day with me.
It's a Sunday morning, and I am home.  That's never a good thing.  Pretty much only one thing keeps me home on church day, and that is illness.  I'm not sure what happened as yesterday I was having a grand time running around with my mom, feeling just fine.  By the time I went to bed, however, I had that heavy, uncomfortable feeling that something wasn't right.  3:30 in the morning, and I'm up with chills, aches, and fever.  Seriously, I feel like I get this once every two months!

Growing up in my family, when one of us was sick, we got to camp out on the couch in the living room.  I still like doing this, so I am in "my corner" (as Robby calls my favorite spot on the couch), waiting to feel better and in the meantime drinking tea and browsing favorite sites.  (Hey, just because I'm sick doesn't mean I have to be completely miserable, does it?)  Then I remembered I have a few things to post, so I'm going to do just that.

Read on to learn about making new candles from old ones and a really great pizza dough.

Best Pizza Dough Ever (so far, at least)

Isn't this a pretty pizza?  The dough was the best ever.  Just look at the bubbles!  Mmm!!
I've been playing with different pizza dough recipes for awhile, and not too long ago, I stumbled across two interesting sites about pizza dough.  The first is a giant article written by the owner of Verasano's Pizzeria, which includes Jeff Verasano's pizza dough experience and final recipe.  He was on the hunt to re-create a New York style pizza in Atlanta and did just that.  The second is a blog called 101 Cookbooks that discussed Peter Reinhart's Napoletana pizza dough, author of Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread and apparently the guy when it comes to bread dough of any kind.

I read both and went ahead and tried to synthesize what was said.  Even though I no doubt did things differently (Verasano swears by having a sourdough culture along with regular yeast...we can't really get that in Visalia), this was the best pizza crust I have made.  They are both onto something here: it is more in technique than in ingredients.  Ingredients are pretty simple and straightforward, but the same ingredients can produce a really great pizza or a really terrible pizza.

4 1/2 c high-gluten flour, like a bread, or AP flour if that's all you have (maybe less flour...go by feel)
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 3/4 c ice cold water
olive oil (optional)
cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting (optional)
  1. Stir together 3/4 of the flour, the salt, the yeast, and the water.  Use a large metal spoon (or even your mixer on low with a dough hook), mix for a couple of minutes, then cover and let it sit for 20 minutes.  The reason this is so important is it takes awhile for water to be absorbed, so these "resting" periods really are crucial.  
  2. After sitting, turn your mixer on low and mix for about 8 minutes, going up to medium about halfway through.  5 minutes into start adding more flour, but remember you want your dough to be a wet dough!  This is where I've gone wrong in the past -- my dough has been too dry.  The dough should be sticky and will clear the sides but still stick to the bottom.  If you add too much flour, put in another teaspoon of cold water. 
  3. A test to see if your dough is ready: It should be sticky, but if you sprinkle just a tiny bit of flour on it, it should feel soft.  Remember that your whole dough doesn't have to feel that way.  You'll add a bit of flour to the outside, making it workable but still wetter on the inside.  
  4. Let rest for 20 minutes.  (Yep.  Again.)
  5. Sprinkle a little flour on your counter and "pour" the dough onto the counter.  (Seriously, it should not be a hard dough at this point.  If it is, it is too dry.)  With floured hands and perhaps a sprinkle of flour on the outside, gently mold it into a mound or multiple mounds.  Do not knead it.  
  6. Your dough balls are now going to go in the fridge, so have containers or plastic bags ready.  Glad containers work the best.  Just put a bit of olive oil on your hands and rub it into the inside of the container.  Put your dough balls in individual containers and let them rest again another 10 minutes.  (That's right.  Yet another rest.)
  7. Place in fridge 1 - 6 days.  *Peter Reinhart says you can even freeze them for up to three months.  Just take and put in the fridge the day you want to use them.
  8. When ready to make the pizza, remove dough from fridge 1 1/2 hours from when you want them in the oven.  Most recipes say the dough needs to double in size, but it doesn't.  About 50% is still a good rise, since the yeast has already been working in the fridge.  Plus, softer, wetter dough rises faster.
  9. When you are ready to spread your dough into a pizza shape, use a little bit of flour and do so, but do not knead or use a roller!  Very gently, push the dough out with your fingertips.  If it's springing back, let it rest a bit.  
  10. Semolina flour or cornmeal can be used on the bottom, especially if you're using a pizza peel.
  11. Move oven rack to lowest position.  Place pizza on stone (you can heat the stone up in the oven if you have a pizza peel) and bake as high as your oven goes.  Mine goes to 530, so that's what I do.  Depending on how hot your oven is, your pizza will bake anywhere from 5 minutes on.  **Peter Reinhart says you can put your stone directly on the bottom of your oven if it's gas, but I haven't tried that yet.  Perhaps this would help my get rid of the next step I do.
  12. I have found that my dough cooks through, but the bottom still isn't as charred as I like it.  After it's baked for about 6 minutes, I put it on a plain pizza rack, so the bottom cooks a bit more.  But this is an annoying step I'd rather not do.  It just works for me.
About pizza toppings:
  1. Use less than you think, from sauce to cheese to other toppings.
  2. The best sauces come from crushed tomatoes that are quickly pureed and have just a few seasonings in them.  Jar sauces usually don't work as well because they've already been cooked too many times.
  3. High quality mozzarella does make a difference, but we can only use what we have.  You may find that cutting it into thin pieces instead of shredding it gets you a more authentic taste.  Again, less is best, especially if you do the next step.
  4. When we were in NY, the bakers added a handful of shredded mozzarella cheese, a handful of basil, and a dash of olive oil after the pizza came out.  I really like doing this.
I know this looks like a lot of steps, but the steps aren't difficult.  If you love good pizza, you should give this a try!  Or come over and we can make it together!

DIY: Salvaged Candles

I love candles.  Whether the scent is spicy apple during the winter holidays or fresh blossom during the spring, candles have a way of adding warmth and comfort to any room.  My favorite scent over the last year or so has been pomegranate, and I have found a couple of candles that were really great.  However, the annoying part about these candles is they always have about an inch left of wax but aren't able to burn anymore.   Not wanting to just throw these out (that would be very anti-use-it-up), I decided to see how hard it would be to melt them to make a new candle.  Turns out, not so hard!  Sure, there are no doubt candle artists out there, but I wasn't going for that.  I just wanted a way to enjoy these scents for a few more hours.

Here are the simple steps, which actually I would have done differently as I found a couple of better how-to's after I was finished.  Check out Design*Sponge for a better way to hold the wick in place and some cool tin ideas.

You need:
jar or tin to pour melted wax
pre-waxed wicks (a whole package costs a couple dollars at Michael's)
double-boiler or pan to melt wax (something you don't mind tossing or using for crafting purposes)

1. Place your old candles in the freezer for a day or so.  When wax freezes, it contracts, so you can easily pop it out of its jar or tin.  Make sure you use scents and colors that will blend well together.

2. Most how-to's tell you to use a double-boiler, making sure the one that the wax goes in is something you can throw out, like an old coffee can or something.  I had a large saute pan that had seen better days, so I decided to see if it worked melting it, knowing I wouldn't use this pan again.  It worked great, but I'm sure either would do, depending on what you have.

3. Break your wax up into smaller chunks and remove any pieces of the wick.  Place the wax in the pan on a medium heat.  The wax will quickly melt and become quite liquid, almost like a juice.

4. Have your jar or tin ready that you will use.  Place the wick inside, using a bit of the melted wax to stick the bottom metal piece to the jar.  Here is where I would do things differently: take a skewer or pencil and place it along the top of the jar and wrap the wick around it, so it stays in its spot.  I came up with a much more difficult contraption (see the clothespins ordeal below), which worked, but took a bit more maneuvering.

5.  Pour in your hot wax.  At this point, you may find that the wick doesn't want to stay stuck to the bottom.  I ended up just pushing it down with something skinny, like a pencil, until it started to set.  It really will take a lot longer to set than you think, a couple of hours, at least.  Another idea I thought of after the fact would be to use a coffee straw stirrer, those tiny red ones, and actually place the wick through that until it begins to set.  You would just need to snip it, so you could still wrap part of the wick around the skewer, and pull it out before the candle hardened completely, so the wax could move in around the wick.  I think I'll try this idea next time.

6. Once your candle has set, trim the wick, light, and enjoy not only the sweet smell, but the satisfying feeling that you saved yourself $10 on a new candle.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Honey-Orange Chicken

I'm pretty excited about this new recipe I tried tonight.  This, along with the yummy potstickers Kelly and I made a couple of weeks ago, is turning my kitchen into a regular PF Chang's.  Okay, maybe that's a stretch, but it's fun having Asian-esque dishes to eat at home.

This recipe was adapted from the Honey-Crisp-Chicken at the Crepes of Wrath.

Ingredients for chicken
  • 1 1/2 - 2 lbs chicken breast (I used one giant piece from the Costco bag, and it was plenty), cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 t each of salt and pepper
  • 1/4 c flour
  • 1/2 c cornstarch
  • oil for frying, enough to cover 1 inch
Ingredients for sauce
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 c finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 t ginger
  • 1/2 t powdered mustard
  • 1/2 t red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 t cayenne
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1 t orange zest
  • 3 T soy sauce
  • 2 T white vinegar
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1/4 c water
  • 1 T cornstarch
  1. Cut chicken into bite-sized cubes and toss with egg.  Toss with flour, salt, pepper, and cornstarch.  Heat oil in pan, so 1 inch is covered.  Add chicken in two or three batches.  Separate chicken if they have stuck together.  Remove chicken and put on paper towel.
  2. For the sauce: Saute garlic and onion a few minutes.  Mix the rest of the ingredients, then add to the garlic and onion.  Heat until it thickens, but don't let it burn.
  3. Add the chicken to the sauce.  
  4. Serve with rice or veggies and enjoy!!!

Kids Praise - A Reflection

Last fall, my friend Courtney and I began a ministry at church called Kids Praise!  Every Sunday during our 10:45 service, we take students from grades K through 6 to a room for a time of worship.  Our time typically includes prayer, songs with hand motions, Scripture reading and memorization, a little "message," and games.

It has been an exciting ministry to be part of and has allowed me to use my gifts of music and teaching.  The church has been blessed by the ministry, as well. We put on a great Christmas program last December, did a little mini-performance in church in February, and are getting ready to perform for the Easter service.  We have gotten to know the children in our church well, which is important for both adults and kids, and Courtney and I have formed a wonderful friendship through this experience.

There are challenges, though.  We have quite a bit of preparation each month, choosing or creating songs and hand motions, planning games, outlining the messages.  And that's all before the actual time.  Once Sunday comes, the real hard part sets in: keeping their attention!  Now that it has become a norm to go with Courtney and me to Kids Praise each Sunday, it is harder to get students to pay attention and listen.  We have to walk a fine line between letting kids be kids while keeping KP a time of focused worship of God.  We are often at a loss as to what to say or do when kids complain.  I find my teaching instincts (or just my fleshly annoyed self) kick in before I'm even aware of it, but at the same time I recognize that I can't treat this as I would a typical class.  Even with all that -- the management, the preparation, the balance -- hands down the hardest part of it is trying to reach the lofty goal we have set, which is to teach kids about worship and help them, with us, enter into a time of focused, dedicated worship.

As I was reading Francis Chan's book Forgotten God this week (more on that sometime...), I was reminded of something very important.  I, in my own strength, cannot teach the kids how to worship. In fact, the truth is I myself am unable to worship without the help of God.  God alone can guide and help us, and he has given each of us the Holy Spirit to live in us and do just that.  The Holy Spirit intercedes for us and instructs us.  The Holy Spirit makes us true worshipers.  Didn't Jesus say that true worshipers will worship in the Spirit and in truth?  Those are the worshipers God seeks.  (John 4)  How amazing it is that God placed His Spirit in us to help us be the worshiper He wants!  

It was both freeing and convicting to remember this.  I couldn't help but evaluate my attitude and heart.  Had I recognized that it is only the Holy Spirit who can instruct us in worship?  Had I taken the time to call upon His help and ask Him to empower me to be a worship leader for these children?  Suddenly, the phrase "in my own strength" finally took meaning for me.

As Christians, we are constantly learning new things about God and ourselves and changing to be more like Him.  I am so grateful to be learning about the role the Holy Spirit has in our lives.  No doubt, the conviction I have about Kids Praise is the first of many to come, but that's a good thing!  I don't want to remain in my old thinking with a false view of God.  I want my life to be characterized by the strength and power of God, knowing that His Spirit lives inside me.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tidbits Tuesday

Stephanie every now and then posts a Miscellany Monday, which is a cute way to write about a bunch of little things going on in one blog post.  For some reason, though, Monday just isn't a good blogging day for me.  It tends to be the day I'm running errands, cleaning, and overall recovering from the weekend while preparing for the week.  Tuesdays, however, are piano lessons day, so there's not a whole lot I can do except teach and then wait for the next student....perfect for squeezing in a blog here and there!  (Not while I'm teaching, of course.)

So here's my first Tidbits Tuesday, a bit of everything going on at the Feely's Fresh Nest :)

1.  Progress has been made on the sideyard!
Remember this?  The scary "before" picture
We now have this!  Cleared away and ready for bark, veggies, and flowers!
2.  New plants have joined our backyard, and I'm pretty thrilled about them!
Big leaf hydrangea, planted near my other hydrangea
Hot pink impatiens, peeking out from beneath the kerria
And my new favorite!  Pink sea thrift
Isn't this a neat plant?
3.  We had a successful youth fundraiser dinner on Sunday night.  Every year, the youth (or more correctly, the leaders) put on a St. Patty's Fundraiser to help raise money for camp.  The evening includes dinner, dessert, entertainment, and a silent auction.  Once again, our church gave generously, so each student can have at least $85 taken off their camp cost.  That means more kids get to come, and more salvations get to take place!  Last year, two of our students gave their lives to Christ, so we're big believers in this whole event.

The youth band leads us in a few praise songs.
Seated and enjoying the night!
4.  Apparently, March is the month for coupons and promotions.  In my e-mail today, I received a 25% off at World Market (it's their Friends and Family month, so if you need this, e-mail me!), 25% off at Joanne's (also Friends and Family!), and 20% off at Philosophy.  Then in the mail I received a 2 for 1 on herbs and plants at Lowe's.  Oh if only I wasn't on such a budget!  Maybe we can crunch some numbers and find a little wiggle room :)

5.  We have started reading Forgotten God by Francis Chan in our small group on Monday nights, and I am loving it!  It is all about the Holy Spirit, who sadly is the part of the God-head that can be de-emphasized to the point of forgetting He exists.  Christ said that it was better He leave so that the Holy Spirit would come to us, and yet we fail to recognize the power the Spirit gives us.  I plan on writing more about this soon, but if you're not reading anything right now, I'd encourage you to give this one a go.

And there's my tidbits to share!  How about you?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Use-it-Up Challenge: Make-up!

So, I have been making progress on my Use-It-Up Challenge.  I've been planning meals using what I have in my freezer and pantry; have put a hold on buying clothes (although I did buy two new pair of shoes); and have limited my craft purchases until I make things from the material and supplies I have.  I even used old candles to make a new one!  (Tutorial on that coming someday...)  But I think it's time to be a bit more focused.  Perhaps you'll join me?  I'm going to pose a challenge every week or so, depending on how difficult it will be, and I will work on that one thing.  This week, I'm starting small.

Use-It-Up Challenge: Make-up
One of my containers of make-up...this will have to be remedied!
One thing I have learned so far is if you can't see it, you most likely won't use it.  (This led me to use lots of clear jars in my pantry, so I actually know what I have.)  If you are like me, you have tons of make-up, some good, some bad, and some just plain ugly.  But I'm guessing it's all in boxes or old make-up bags, completely hidden by bottles of hairspray and the like.  Our goal this week is to go through that make-up and do a few things:

1.  Keep the make-up that is good and useable, clean it up, and put it in a place that you can see, like in a clear plastic container or an open shelf, if you are so lucky to have an open shelf.  You may want to be extra organized here, depending on how much you have, and use different containers for different make-up pieces or seasons.
2.  From the "good make-up," update your daily make-up bag.  You're probably going to find a pretty spring eye color you forgot about!
3.  Throw out what is old, expired, hard-as-rock, etc.  (That Halloween make-up from five years ago probably needs to be trashed, as well as the gooey glitter nail polish.)  You also may find it's time to throw out or give away old make-up bags and brushes.  How many do we really need?
4.  You may want to have a giveaway pile, but this is iffy with make-up.  Most likely, if you won't use it, it needs to be tossed.  But perhaps you have some perfectly good Clinique samples that a friend may love.  By all means, put it in a pretty bag and drop it off at her doorstep this week!

I'll check back this weekend, and hopefully I (and anyone else who wants to accept this challenge) will have made progress!  Take a picture and share it with me!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Prayer

I arise today
through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me,
God's host to secure me...
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Music and Lunch

My sister Chelsea sent me this information about a neat event this Friday.  If you've got a lunch break and love beautiful music, perhaps you should check this out!  

Amazing daisies

The center planter in our backyard is overflowing with these African daisies.  As I was snipping a few to bring inside, I noticed their amazing centers.  Purple, yellow, and blue rings and polkadots, all framed by vibrant petals!  Now that is art.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Japan Response Fund

Today we received a newsletter from our pastor that had information about Japan put out by International Mission Board (IMB).  Check out their website for articles or go here to read updates from a missionary serving in Japan now as he shares on CNNiReport.  Finally, there is a link to give financially to the cause of helping Japan.  If you are interested in doing this, click here to check out the site.

Let us not grow weary in praying and giving!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

EASY Ruffles and Flowers Apron

I am pretty excited about this apron, as it is a much simpler take on the Christmas version I made last November. It all started with these lovely fabrics, which I received as a gift for my birthday. They were part of a fat quarter fabric bundle. Feeling like I needed to do a fun project after the not fun soundboard cover (which I finished, by the way), I laid out the fabrics to decide what to do.
Then I realized something. The size of a fat quarter is about the perfect size for an apron. I realized I could use one of the fabric pieces as the apron back, three of them as the ruffles, and one as the band and ties. So, one fabric bundle=one easy apron.

1.  Choose the fabric for your main piece on which you will sew your ruffles. Hem the edges. I wanted to try to do mitered edges from a tutorial from Design*Sponge, so I did the extra work for that. Tip: In order to make a your hem a perfect 1/4 inch from the edge, mark and pin, then fold along the pins and iron.
Follow the tutorial by clicking here to get a beautiful mitered edge, like this one!
Because the top of your apron will have the band sewn onto it, you only need to hem the sides and bottom. Make sure that your width is longer than the length, so the apron has plenty of room to be a one-size-fits-all.

2.  Choose your ruffles fabric.
Obviously, the size of a fat quarter isn't long enough to make a ruffle, but you can remedy that. Take one piece of fabric and fold the fabric into thirds. Cut carefully, and put one of them aside. (You'll use that for the flowers later.) Sew the other two pieces together, making sure to line up the pattern. Now you have a piece that is double the width of your apron, the perfect size for creating a ruffle! Do this with the other two fabrics. You should have one whole fabric left, plus the three extra pieces from the ruffles fabrics.
3. Create the ruffles. Set your sewing machine on a long, loose stitch and sew 1/8th of an inch from the top. (You can also hand sew this.) Tie a knot on one end, then pull on one of the strings on the other end. I like to pull until the ruffle is the size of the width of the apron, then tie a knot on the other side, so the ruffle won't come undone while I'm pinning. Do this with all three of the ruffles.
4. Create the band. Take your last piece of fabric and fold into thirds, like you did with the ruffles piece. Take one of them and fold in all the edges 1/2 inch, then fold it in half to create a band. You don't need to sew the edges yet. Double-check that it fits nicely over the apron top and also double-check that your ruffles will cover the whole apron. If you need to, simply shorten the length of the apron by folding the top over a bit. Once things look good, mark 1/2 inch up from the bottom of where the band would be. This is where you'll sew your first ruffle.
5. Create the ties. Note that this is going to make a knot, not a bow, since it's not long enough. If you want a bow, you'll need to get additional fabric (or sew two pieces together), so the ties are long. To make the ties, simply fold the pieces so that the right sides are facing each other. Cut a diagonal line a couple inches in on each piece. Sew around the diagonal side and the long open side, leaving the straight short side unsewn. Inside it out.
6. Sew the ruffles on. For the top ruffle, simply pin and sew. The band will cover the raw edge. For the bottom two, you'll sew it upside down with the right sides facing together. That way, the raw edges are hidden under the ruffles and won't be seen. After you sew them, fold them over and iron, so they lay flat.
I find it easiest to sew the top and bottom ruffles first. You want the bottom ruffle to hang over the edge just a bit, but not too much, since you want the whole apron to be covered with the ruffles.
To make sure the middle ruffle is lined up correctly, measure the top and bottom ruffle from seam to seam, and mark the middle. That is where you want your seam, so pin your middle ruffle accordingly and sew.
7. Sew the ties to the back side of the band, like shown. Notice the larger piece is the band, which will be folded over the top of the apron. Make sure the tie diagonals are going the same direction.
8. Fold the band over the top of the apron, pin, and sew all around the edges.9. Your apron is nearly finished! Now for the fun flowers. Debbie showed me how to do these, and they are just too easy and too cute not to try. Cut out a few circles from your leftover fabric, about 3 inches in diameter. You also need some buttons or beads for the middle of the flowers.
10. Hand stitch a loose stitch around the outer edge of the circle, about 1/8th inch in. Pull on it, so that it ruffles into itself, until the hole is hardly noticeable.
Tie a knot in the back, then sew it onto the band of the apron. Take your bead or button and sew it onto the middle of the flower, hiding the raw edge.
Repeat for as many flowers as you'd like to have.And there you go! You have an apron that cost no more than a fat quarter bundle and only takes a couple of hours to create. What a perfect gift! (For yourself, even!)