Thursday, March 25, 2010

Grow Your Own Easter Grass!

I was so excited last week when my friend Cassie showed me how to grow my own Easter grass! It's so simple, and so much fun. She uses wheat berries, soaks them overnight in water, then places them in a shallow layer over soil in a container or basket. Keeping the soil and the wheat damp (not soaked) with a spray bottle in the first few days until the wheat sprouts is key. She even suggests loosely placing plastic wrap over the top of the baskets to help hold in the moisture. Within just a few days, the wheat sprouts, and in a week's time, it is 4 to 5 inches tall! Cassie has written the details and of this process at her blog, and has some beautiful photos of wheat grass she has grown.

One thing I did not anticipate when I planted my grass was the curiosity and involvement of my kids in the whole process---even my oldest teenage boy got involved in spraying the wheat regularly along with everyone else. Every time the kids would walk past the basket, they'd give it a spray and were fascinated to see it sprout and grow.

I'm just starting a new batch tonight to have some more containers growing before Easter. This is such a fun, easy, and rewarding project to create a little springtime magic. You will love it!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patty's Day Dinner Menu and Recipes!

Top o' the mornin' to ye! It's time today for our 2nd annual St. Patty's Day more tradition to accompany our Crazy Halloween and Sweetheart Dinners! Some holidays throughout the year are pretty understated at our house...St. Patty's being one of them, but food is always an easy way to celebrate! A festive, green dinner adds a little pizzazz to the day, and we all have to eat, anyway, right? Might as well make it fun now and then. I have some terrific recipes for you, thanks to some great friends and their blogs!

So what's on the menu this year?

Luck O' the Irish Crock-Pot Turkey Breast (recipe below) I know. Not very Irish, but it works for us.
Blarney Mashed Potatoes (tinted green of course!) and Gravy
Parmesan Roasted Asparagus
(recipe here) My kids actually gobbled this down!

Raw Cukes, Celery, Broccoli and Dip
Clover Rolls (Rhoade's rolls snipped in quarters, and three or four quarters baked together in a muffin tin to resemble a clover)
Rainbow Jello Salad (recipe here) My kids' absolute favorite of the meal!

Lime Kool-Aid and Sprite
Shamrock Cheesecake (recipe below)

Crock-Pot Turkey Breast (Thanks to my neighbor, Tammy, for a great and easy recipe!)

1 turkey breast (5-6 lbs), frozen
2 tsp. vegetable oil
salt and black pepper to taste
1 med. onion (I was out, so I used onion powder)
4 garlic cloves (I used garlic powder)

Rinse the turkey and pat it dry with paper towels. Rub the turkey all over with the oil. Sprinkle the breast lightly with salt and pepper.

Place the turkey, meaty side up, into a 5 quart slow cooker.
Peel the onion, cut it into quarters, and place the pieces around the edges of the pot. Peel the garlic cloves and place them around the sides of the cooker. Cover the cooker and cook the breast on low for 9 hours, or until a meat thermometer registers 170 degrees. Remove the breast from the cooker and let it stand at least 10 minutes before slicing (the internal temperature will continue to rise while the bird is standing.)
Discard the vegetables in the cooker. Slice the breast, and serve.

Shamrock Cheesecake

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 can Sweetened condensed milk
1/3 c. Lemon juice (you could use lime as well)
1 tsp. Vanilla
Green food coloring
Graham Cracker Crust

With electric mixer, cream the cream cheese alone first, then add the milk, juice, vanilla, and coloring. Pour mixture over graham cracker crust and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Garnish with graham cracker crumbs and a gold coin if desired.

With the help of the dollar store, we'll be feasting on green dinnerware with easy clean-up. Enjoy your St. Patty's Day! What green traditions do you have in your family?


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Brian Regan T-Shirt Design Contest: Please Come Vote...(for me)!!!

If funny-man Brian Regan, himself, were to autograph your t-shirt at the end of his sold-out, high-energy, hilariously entertaining comedy show, what would he write? It just might be a line from his comedy act that would describe it all:

It's true and it's crazy...I happen to be one of five finalists in a t-shirt design contest at for his 2010 Tour! This is the design that I entered with those thoughts in the back of my brain as I was creating.

The public gets to vote for the winning design, and I would be oh, so grateful to all of you if you could find it in your big hearts to stop over there to give me your vote!

The direct link is here: My design is #1: Shelli Christiansen. And I would triple {heart} you all with sugar and cherries on top if you'd be willing to tweet, text, blog, post on Facebook, or anything else to spread the word! My boys, especially, are my biggest cheerleaders to date, and would appreciate that more than anyone! Read on if you want to hear how I ended up on this crazy adventure...

Who's Brian Regan, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. He is a comedian that our family became enamored with a few years ago. He's brilliantly gifted in finding the humor in the simple experiences of every-day life. On top of that, his act is clean and very family friendly, which has made it possible for my whole crew to enjoy. As I mentioned, my boys, especially, are huge fans. They have everything possibly downloadable of his on their i-pods, and many of his jokes have wormed their way into our family's day-to-day vocabulary.

Can you see why we love this guy?! So a few months ago, we noticed on the Brian Regan website that he was sponsoring a t-shirt design contest. I immediately suggested the idea to my oldest son who is a terrific artist. He was interested, and excited, but struggled getting it put together with school and other activities he was involved in at the time. We had talked so much about it, that I started fiddling with ideas myself and came up with a few designs of my own.

The day before the deadline, with my boys egging me on, I threw together a final draft and FedEx-ed the designs to the contest address. I rolled my eyes on the way home thinking, "there goes twenty bucks on overnight shipping that I'll never see again..." Imagine our great surprise when we checked the website just the other night to see that my design was one of the final five! My little family erupted in cheers, and we were all amazed to discover our great luck!

To vote is easy. Simply click on this link which will take you directly to the contest finalists. My design is #1: Shelli Christiansen. Again, I would be so happy (as would my kids!) for your vote! (My littlest one said to me when we discovered I was a finalist, "Mommy, if we win, can we go to Disneyland?" I had to grin and reply, "Absolutely.") And one of the prizes for winning would be backstage passes to meet Brian himself. The boys would be in heaven for that.

Now a word about my may notice that it is simple and not as flashy as some of the other finalist's designs; like I said earlier, a line from his act that he might write in a message or as part of his autograph.

When I think of Brian Regan, to me, he is a simple, hometown boy with an inner-nerd who has learned to laugh at himself, and that we can easily connect with. You know, he was the little kid playing center field only so he could have a snow cone at the end of the game; the kid whose science fair project was a cup of dirt; the guy who says "Take Luck" at the wrong moment when he jumbles up the phrases, "Take Care," and "Good Luck!"

The brilliance of his humor lies in the simplicity of finding the absurd and hilarity in daily occurrences. Hopefully, my design reflects that simplicity of his humor.

I can't thank you enough for your vote and for spreading the word!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Let's Talk Some Quilting Techniques and Quilt a Free Table Topper for Spring: "I'ts Hip to Be Square!"

For those of us who grew up during the eighties, that title makes you wanna break out in song, doesn't it?

It's also the name of my latest project over at You Can Make This and it's free! If you're new to quilting and you've wanted to create something but are not quite ready to tackle an entire quilt, this may be just the perfect project for you. It's a 24" square table topper made from a charm pack of fabric (a variety of 5" pre-cut squares). If you can mark and sew straight lines, you can totally do this quilting project. I promise!

With photos and detailed instructions and the help of Quilting 101, I will walk you through the whole process. It will make a great spring-time (or any-time!) addition to your decor, and with so many beautiful charm packs available, you can't go wrong when choosing one.

The Moda fabric lines are my favorite, and you can find some here: And with Moda charm packs, you can easily create two of these toppers from one for you and one for a friend.

Now a little note about quilting your table topper: When you have completed sewing the top panel and you are ready for the table topper to be quilted (the top panel, batting, and backing layers all sewn together), there are several options. Quilting 101 over at You Can Quilt This is a marvelous resource for some quilting techniques. Two of the most common (and easy) types of quilting with the sewing machine are "Stitching in the Ditch" and "Outline Quilting" as some call it.

"Stitching in the Ditch" involves sewing the three quilt layers together right along the seam lines of the top panel so the new seams are nearly hidden. It works best if you have a walking foot for your machine which prevents the quilt layers from shifting (you can find a walking foot for your machine at your local sewing machine dealer, or check online. I actually purchased one on Ebay). You can see an example of Stitching in the Ditch here in this photo:

With "Outline Stitching," you are sewing quilting seams about 1/4" from the seams of the front panel. This type of quilting adds an additional level of dimension, and also works best with a walking foot.

Another style of quilting that takes a little more practice is "Stippling". One of my testers and friends, Micki, did a beautiful job of stippling her table topper that you can see here.

In fact, I was so impressed with her skills, that I asked her to stipple my table topper that you see in the project. With this type of quilting, you drop the feed dogs of your machine, add the darning foot, and freestyle-sew squiggly or curvy lines. (I'm trying to twist Micki's arm to write up a tutorial for this when she gets some time!) I was so thrilled with the results and the unique look it gave to the topper.

Quilting can be so rewarding when you realize what a beautiful work of art you have created for your home. Give it a try! And if you have any questions about this project, I'd love to help you any way I can. What quilting techniques do you prefer?

Friday, March 5, 2010

"Miracle" - New Embroidery Design and the Inspiration Behind It.

At one time or another, everyone hopes for a miracle. We hope for that which sometimes feels impossible...unknown...perhaps unrealistic. Yet we still hope and we believe that it can come to pass. Sometimes the heavens answer with a miracle, and sometimes we are left without the miracle we originally desired, but instead, a myriad of tiny other miracles we hadn't even considered. Sometimes we can't easily recognize the gifts and blessings given to us in times of trial, and it is only with our 20/20 hindsight vision that we can see they were, in reality, miracles.

About 14 years ago, my oldest sister Ronda was diagnosed with a brain tumor; A mother of six children, her youngest a teenager; lots of life to still live. She was granted a miracle then, and after surgery and radiation, she was deemed cancer-free. About two years ago, the cancer sneaked up on her again, finding her with yet another brain tumor. She needed another miracle.

After more surgery and more treatments, she is not considered completely cancer-free this time, but feels as though she has been given another miracle still. The cancer is being held at bay, she feels well, is leading a productive life, and is enjoying her children and grandchildren. Her mantra and strength through this new trial has been "Fear not: Believe only," (Luke 8:50, King James Version)

Another sister of mine stumbled upon the movie, "The Blue Butterfly," the true story of a young boy with terminal cancer who desires to capture a Blue Morpho Butterfly from the rainforests of South America. This particular butterfly is revered as a symbol of healing and hope by those inhabitants.

When my sister saw this movie, she immediately wanted to give Ronda something to represent that same hope. She requested me to design something along those same lines. This is the story behind my latest design and pattern.

Last November, we five sisters got together for a sister's weekend and had such a great time together.

We made quilt blocks and hot pads from our mother's stash of fabric, we got pedicures, went to lunch, stayed up late, and laughed the whole time.

We also got to present Ronda with an embroidered dish towel that my sister had stitched with the design I had created. (Being the practical gal that Ronda is, we figured that she'd probably appreciate the usefulness of a dishtowel rather than one more framed piece of art to find a spot for in her house. We were right!) Every time she dries the dishes she can be reminded of our love for her and the miracles she has been blessed with.

This design is a message of faith and optimism for anyone needing a miracle, or needing to recognize a miracle. Although this design was inspired by my sister's situation, it has come to have great meaning for myself. I am learning that for me, part of "believing" is not necessarily believing only in the miracles I hope for, but believing that God knows me, loves me, and will bless me with what I need most. That, in and of itself, is truly a miracle. To "capture" a miracle may be as simple as "noticing" all my blessings and capturing the memory of them in my heart. And when I when I think of life in that way, my eyesight improves and I soon find that tiny miracles occur every day.

This design is available in machine embroidery format here at SWAK Embroidery. The hand-embroidery pattern is available here at You Can Make This.

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