Posted in Crafts, Gifts, Sewing

Machine Embroidery – Towels

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Every year, about this time, I volunteer to embroider the state towels for our boy’s and girl’s high school swim teams. Today I spent the day embroidering towels for next weekend’s state event.
Towels are often tricky to embroider so I thought I would take you through the process that I use to make sure my machine embroidery looks clean and concise. Remember that it’s very important to stabilize your work so that the stitching sits on top of the fabric instead of burying itself in the nap of the towel. The stabilizer will also ensure a solid foundation for the design.

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Make sure to choose a thread color that compliments the fabric color. I used maroon thread against the camel colored towel to signify our team colors…maroon and gold.

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Hoop a piece of tear-away stabilizer in the embroidery hoop.

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Carefully spray the stabilizer with a temporary adhesive made specifically for fabric projects. I really like the Sulky brand spray adhesive but my JoAnn Fabrics doesn’t seem to carry it anymore.

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Next, fold the towel in half, length-wise, right sides together. Center the towel over the hoop, carefully placing the fold at the center register marks.

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Open out the towel and smooth it in place. Secure a piece of water soluble stabilizer on top of towel, fitting inside the hoop.

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Slip the hoop into the embroidery module and stitch your design.

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After you’ve completed your design, remove from machine, trim threads and tear away the stabilizer.

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Remove excess soluble stabilizer, I use a burst of steam from the iron to clean up any remaining bits left behind.

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Here’s the finished product. I am currently working on my 12th towel and still have a few more to go. Happy Stitching!

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Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Chocolate, Desserts, Food, Gifts, Homemade Mixes, Kids in the Kitchen, lunch box

Scrumptious 1,2,3 Cake

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This little cake is so light and sweet it’s like eating chocolate cotton candy!
It’s called the (1) One – (2) Two – (3) Three Cake and it’s really delicious. You won’t believe that there are only two ingredients involved here!

This past Christmas, my daughter arrived home from college for her holiday break. Her suitcase was filled with lots of dirty clothes, books to sell after a long semester, and a beautiful jar filled with a taupe colored, powdery mix; a recipe card attached. The jar was wrapped in a ball of crinkled holiday, tissue paper. In the rush of unpacking and catching up, the jar was put aside. A few hours later, I noticed the jar on the kitchen counter. The container was quite beautiful and I was intrigued by the contents so I carefully read the attached index card.

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Well, I couldn’t resist the temptation. I quickly scooped out 3 tablespoons of the mix and added 2 tablespoons of water. I swirled it around in a heat-safe mug and popped it in the microwave. As I looked through the viewing glass, the mix immediately began to rise and puff up. It was like magic, the speed at which it rose. I patiently waited the full minute as the kitchen began to smell like a baker’s wonderland. When the bell went off, I retrieved my creation and quickly ran to tell everyone what had transpired. We all grabbed a spoon and tested the sweet chocolatey mound. Ohhhh, it was so delicious! Now, I really try to stay away from sugar so I took the tiniest of bites but I was delighted that it turned out so spectacular. And, oh, it was so simple!

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So here’s what you do…

(1) One – (2)Two – (3) Three Cake

1 package chocolate cake mix
1 package angel food cake mix

In a large bowl, combine dry cake mix packages; mix well. Carefully pour into an airtight container.

Attach an index card to the jar with baking instructions:

Mix, in a microwave safe cup, 3 tablespoons mix with 2 tablespoons water. Pop it in the microwave for 1 minute. 3,2,1… Enjoy!

Don’t limit yourself… Use any flavor cake mix you like. Add chocolate chips or top with whipped topping and fruit. This would be a great recipe to make with young children. I think you’ll really enjoy this…what fun!

Posted in Crafts, Gifts, holidays, Homemade Mixes

Christmas Treasure Hunt in a Jar

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This is a great kid-friendly Christmas gift for those of you looking for a few last minute ideas. The Treasure Hunt in a Jar can be made with a theme in mind… Make them for holidays, sports fanatics, those that like to craft, sew or bake. Find trinkets at the dollar store or your local craft store to match your theme. I am always amazed at how interested guests are in finding all of the hidden trinkets in the jar. Most times, there are a few people patiently waiting for their turn at finding all the treasures.

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This is a also great little craft project that can easily be made for a fundraising activity. Your group can make several of them to sell at local craft fairs or community fundraisers. Weeks before the event, ask everyone to gather up items to be recycled or repurposed for the project. Collect used jars of all shapes and sizes, lots of small “treasures” to place in the jars, and a big bag of bird seed. This is an ideal project for both the young and the old. Don’t be surprised if the jars sell out quickly. Your group will be quite proud of their accomplishment!

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A Treasure Hunt in a Jar

Recycled jar with tight fitting lid
Bird seed
Found objects to place in the jar like a…
penny
nickel
safety pin
bobby pin
rubber band
macaroni
marble
paper clip
bead
tack
toothpick
red button
screw
bread tie

Make sure jar is thoroughly washed, clean and dry. Pour bird seed into the jar, filling only half-way. Place “treasures” into the jar. Now, continue to fill the jar with bird seed; about 3/4 full, leaving enough space for items to move while searching for treasures. Cover jar, tightly securing the lid. Print up a “treasure” item list and the following saying on colorful card stock or scrap book paper and attach to the jar with a ribbon.

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Attach this little note along with a list of all the treasures to be found:
Here’s a little treasure jar, with lots of hidden things.
See how many you can find, and how much fun it brings!

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Baked goods, Baking, Chocolate, Desserts, Food, Gifts, holidays, lunch box

Mini Brownie Bites

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It’s that time of year…holiday parties, friendly gift giving, festive decorations and enjoying time with family. One of our favorite ways to spend time together seems to revolve around preparing and sharing cherished family recipes.
We have a few favorite cookie and quick bread recipes that we always bake when the holidays roll around…some are time consuming recipes while others can be whipped up in a jiffy.
This recipe for Mini Brownie Bites is a quickie. These flavorful gems are a mouthful of rich, chocolatey goodness and they only take minutes to prepare. Be warned that the recipe yields only a dozen or so bites. You can bake them along with your favorite cookie selection to be added to the holiday dessert tray. I often pack them in colorful tins to give as teacher gifts. They travel well and seem to get more moist and delicious a day or two after baking. Be sure to store them in an air-tight container until just before serving.

Mini Brownie Bites

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional

In a microwave, melt 1/4 cup of chocolate chips and butter; stir until smooth.
Cool slightly. In a small bowl, beat egg and sugar. Stir in vanilla and chocolate mixture. Gradually add flour; fold in remaining chocolate chips and optional walnuts.
Use a small ice cream scoop to fill mini paper or silicone-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-12 minutes (depending on how dry or moist you prefer the brownie center) or until tops begin to crack. Cool completely before removing from pan to a wire rack.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Desserts, Food, Gardening, Gifts, lunch box

Sunflower Lollipop Cookies

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This recipe is from an old cookbook that I have used for years. When my children were little, we lived one block away from their grade school. For school parties, I always made a basket of lollipop cookies reflecting whichever festive holiday season the classroom may be celebrating…sunflowers for the early fall, ghosts and goblins for Halloween, colorful leaves and turkeys for Thanksgiving, Christmas trees and snow people for the winter parties. I’d pack a festive bucket or basket with floral foam, push the lollipop sticks into the foam, wrap the whole thing in cellophane wrap and tie a pretty bow to the outside of the package. Everyone’s eyes would light up as I entered the classroom with my package of goodies.
What I like most about this recipe is that the cookie dough is simple to make with just a few ingredients and that the dough doesn’t have to be chilled before rolling it out. (When I start a project, I want to get it done quick… I have no patience waiting for the dough to chill and harden for an hour.)
Adding food coloring to the dough is also a time-saver…no need for icing. This recipe has always been a holiday favorite in my house!

Sunflower Lollipop Cookies

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

(Extra Supplies)
Flower cookie cutter
Yellow icing color
1 pkg. 8″ lollipop sticks

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add baking powder and flour. Tint cookie dough with icing color. Pinch off a small amount of dough, make twelve to eighteen 1/4″ balls. Place balls, 3″ apart on cookie sheets. This will serve as the cookie base. Press lollipop stick into each ball; flatten slightly. Roll remaining dough out at 1/4″ thick. Cut dough, dipping cookie cutters in flour before use. Place cutout cookie on each stick, press lightly to attached cutout to cookie base. Add chocolate chips to each cutout center. Bake for 8-12 minutes until slightly golden around the edges. Cool completely before carefully removing from cookie sheet.

(Adapted from Wilton Gifts from the Kitchen Cookbook)

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Posted in Crafts, Gifts, Quilting, Sewing

Upcycled Travel Tote

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Upcycled Travel Tote
When I have time, I love to visit resale shops and garage sales to find objects that I can incorporate in my sewing projects. I often buy old backpacks and purses just to cut out the closures and fasteners for other projects. I sometimes buy resale clothes with great looking buttons, only to cut them off and use the buttons to make some of my less expensive clothes look more expensive.
For this tote, I made the actual bag out of pre-quilted fabric that I found at Good Will. I filled the inside of the tote with fasteners and pockets to hide trinkets and valuables that M might need during her travels. Around the top edge of the bag, I stitched a trim that was originally found at the hem of a pair of capri pants that I bought at a garage sale. After all that, I used my embroidery machine to personalize the tote. M seems to love this colorful bag and she smiles when others ask her where she bought it. She proudly replies, “My mom made it especially for me”!

Posted in Crafts, Gifts, Sewing

Denim Purse Upcycle

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I must admit, this is not a newly completed project. I was cleaning out my closets yesterday and I stumbled across this denim bag that I had made months ago. I looked it over and was pleased that I was able to use a junior-sized pair of jeans to make such a darling purse. Like most of you, I am always looking to repurpose things that are past their usefulness in their current state.
About a year ago, while packing up clothes to send to the local resale shop, I found these jeans in my daughter’s drawer. She hadn’t worn them in a while for she had grown and their length was halfway up her ankles. That afternoon, I snipped the legs off at the crotch and rummaged through my trims and sewing notions to try to find the best pieces to adorn my new bag. I had purchased a few clear handbag handles on clearance at JoAnn Fabrics and was thrilled to tack them on to the waistband with a few quick stitches. I really only had one seam to sew across the bottom of the bag. All that was left was to string glittery coordinating ribbon through the belt loops at the waist, glue and stitch on a few embellishments, and voila, a cute-as-a-button handbag was born!

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Posted in Crafts, Gifts

DIY – Plant Markers

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Every spring, when I plant seeds in my garden, I buy unique (often expensive) plant markers to identify my herbs and vegetables. It’s not that I can’t identify my plants without the markers…its just that I like the way the markers look in my garden.
Well, it never fails…by late August, the markers have faded, rusted, or have gone missing. I usually end up throwing the silly things out in November and buying a whole new batch for the next growing season. This year, visiting the paint department at our local hardware store, I got the idea of using paint stirring sticks (that are free) to make my own plant markers. While they may only last one or two seasons, at least they are reasonably priced! The girls and I had fun making them together. This is also a great gift idea for Mother’s or Father’s Day.

DIY – Plant Markers

Visit your local hardware store and ask for a few paint stirring sticks. ( We are painting our bathroom and laundry room so they gave us plenty of sticks with our paint purchase).

Supplies

Paint Stirring Sticks
Craft Paint
Permanent Black Sharpie Marker or Paint Markers
Satin Clear Spray Paint or Spray Sealer

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Paint both sides of the sticks with craft paint; letting them dry thoroughly between coats. Use the permanent marker to write various plant names on the paint sticks. Spray several coats of clear spray paint or sealer over entire stick. Let dry completely before putting them outdoors.

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Posted in Crafts, Gifts

Summer Herb Gift Basket

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To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves. – Mohandas K Gandhi.

A couple of years ago, Jim built several raised beds so that we could grow our own produce to can, freeze, and serve throughout the summer months. Last week, I took a trip to my local garden center to pick out this year’s vegetable plants. I chose Roma tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, celery, peppers, eggplant, and cauliflower. I also grabbed some of my most often used herbs to plant in colorful patio containers.
Here’s a clever gift idea to give to a friend that appreciates the taste of fresh herbs and loves home cooking. For the past couple of years, I have made this for my mother-in-law so that she can grow fresh herbs on her condominium deck.

Summer Herb Gift Basket

Group a few of your favorite herb plants together, arrange them in an attractive basket, bucket, or patio pot. You can add seed packets and gardening tools if you’d like. Wrap the whole thing with cellophane*, secure with twine or raffia and gift it to a friend or relative. Attach a great recipe and you have a winning gift that is sure to please.

* Stock up on clear or colored gift wrapping cellophane right after the Easter and Christmas holidays when prices are reduced to as much as 75% off. Store and use for basket and food gifts throughout the year.

Posted in Baked goods, Desserts, Food, Gifts, lunch box

Melt In Your Mouth Christmas Cut-Outs

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Throughout the month of December, we love to turn up the Christmas music, drag out the baking supplies and bake cookies to celebrate the holiday season. My children love to search through the box of cookie cutters to find the perfect shape for their individual cut-outs. They delight in combing through the baking cabinet for all of the colorful sprinkles and sugars as our tasty treats bake in the oven. These moments create the memories for a lifetime. I hope you enjoy the holiday baking season while making wonderful memories with your family.

Melt In Your Mouth Christmas Cut-Outs

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup butter
1 cup canola oil
1/8 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp almond extract
4 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cream butter, oil, and sugars
Add eggs and extract; beat well
Mix in remaining dry ingredients
Form into a disk and chill for 1 hour
Roll out on floured surface and cut into shapes with cookie cutters
Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges.
Cool completely and glaze cookies with powdered sugar glaze