A Pledge and Some Sunshine

A pledge:

I promise not to purchase any more paper or fabric until I use what I have, which is plenty.  Plenty.  I need to become inspired and productive with what I have.*

*exceptions: blank note cards, envelopes, plain backing fabric such as terry cloth, or anything to do with a large custom order

Some sunshine:

On our latest trek to Lowe's, it was pouring.  And then it wasn't.  And then this happened:

Totally awesome!  It was probably the largest, clearest, brightest rainbow we've ever seen (so we agreed), and Gus got to see it, which made it even better.

And did you enter the giveaway yet??  An awesome print is just waiting for you!

Happy Friday!

Pinterest: I Tried It (Car Garbage)


Welcome Pinners and friends!  If you've tried something from one of your pinboards this week and blogged about it, you can link up your post at the bottom of this one.  I really love to see what you come up with and how you interpret your pins.

Ok, so you probably saw the title of this one and was like, "What??" but I can explain.  I thought I'd take a break from doing sewing things since I have been on that track for weeks and thought you might like to see something else.  I wasn't quite in the mood or prepared to do any new cooking, so I hit up my generic Things To Try board, which houses all the stuff I think is a great idea but don't have a specific board for it.  Case in point:

The description said, "Cereal dispenser trash can. Such a good idea."  And it is!  Let me explain further: my husband's job has him in the car a lot.  Said job also required collecting business cards, sticky name tags, and, apparently, colds from people he meets and places he goes, so he often has things like Kleenex to throw away, and because he is a man and therefore handbag-less, he has no place to stash such things.  Now, he could just put a trash bag on the floor in the car, but that's just as sloppy looking, and hanging one over the seat is a good idea, except it's always behind you.  Not good.  This one (from Better Homes and Gardens, how can you go wrong?) suggests using one of those plastic cereal keepers lined with a small bag to use to hold garbage, and they put it on the floor under the passenger-side dash.  We had one of those cereal holders in our pantry closet doing nothing, so I thought it was about time to put it to use, since I pinned the idea months ago.

It works great! We've had it in there for just under a week.  It's kind of wedged up under the dash, so it doesn't tip over, and the flap opening is just large enough for most on-the-go trash, but keeps it closed and secure.  A very easy solution to a silly problem.

So how about you?  How were your pinning experiments this week?  Link up below or leave a comment!  And remember- same time next week!  I had a lot of fun trying this one out and may stick to the sewing board for a little while.

Feel free to grab a botton to add to your post to share this link-up with your readers!

life by the book

Macaroni and Cheese, Please!

There is no more perfect meal than macaroni and cheese.  And I don't mean from out of the box (although Annie's isn't too bad).  Thick, rich, and cheesy, I think this is one of the best cold-weather foods around.  My favorite, found by my mom while watching the Food Network back in 2001 (the date is on the Internet printout), is still found online (here):

Chat n' Chew Macaroni and Cheese

1/2 pound butter, plus extra for the baking dish
1 1/4 pounds elbow macaroni
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 small (1/4 to 1/3 pound) onion, diced small (about 1/2 cup)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup flour
5 cups (1 1/4 pounds) shredded sharp cheddar
8 slices American cheese, broken into small pieces
2 cups (1/2 pound) grated Parmesan
3 tablespoons green hot chile sauce1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9 by 13 by 4-inch baking dish.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat and cook the macaroni until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain.

In a small bowl, combine the cream and milk. (I just pour them in the same measuring cup.)

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the 1/2 pound of butter and cook the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent, about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the flour, stirring constantly for 3 minutes. Add the cream mixture in a steady stream and whisk until smooth. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes.

Stir in 4 cups of the cheddar, the American cheese, 1 cup of the grated Parmesan, the hot pepper sauce, and cumin. Stir until all the cheese has melted; the sauce will be very thick and creamy. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the pasta. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining Cheddar, then the Parmesan, and finally the bread crumbs.

Bake uncovered on the middle shelf for about 20 minutes, until bubbling and brown on top.

Now let me tell you, friends, this makes a ginormous amount of macaroni and cheese.  Enough for a large family party.  I am the only person in my house that likes mac and cheese at the moment (nope, not even Gus), so when I want it, I make an 1/8 recipe (halved, then halved again, then halved again).

My copy, with the Post-It divided measurements

As you can see, I don't stick to the recipe.  I don't usually have cream so I use half and half, skim milk, onion powder, and cheaters garlic.  FYI- if you can, use really good cheddar.  It comes out less oily.  This one was NOT really good.

The finished product- 1/8 of the recipe in an 8-inch "round" pan.

And I have lots of leftovers!

Kitchen Gadgets

I am not huge on kitchen gadgets.  And by gadgets I mean all those things that are supposed to make whatever task it is handier and easier, but never really do.  You've seen them- the various holders/slicers/arrangers in all those fancy kitchen shops.  I always wonder who buys them and if they actually get used.  However, I have come across a few that are so wonderful and useful that I just had to share.

1. Olive oil mister (Crate and Barrel)

I would never have bought this, especially from Crate and Barrel at whatever ridiculous price it was, but I had a gift certificate.  And thank goodness.  This handy bugger is like all-natural olive oil Pam.  It is amazing to spray pans with, and even better when it says, "Brush said piece of chicken with olive oil...." Nope! Just pump this up and spray a nice even coat.  Amazing I tell you.

2. Mr. Coffee Iced Tea Maker (Bed, Bath, and Beyond; other big box stores)

I swear I have used this every other day this summer.  You put the water in like a coffee maker, tea bags in the blue "filter", turn it on and viola!  Fresh brewed iced tea in minutes.  Fill the pitcher with ice first, and it's cold and ready to drink as soon as it's done.  I add a little sugar to the basket before brewing and give it a quick stir when it's finished.  Perfection.

3. Divided loaf pan (Bed, Bath, and Beyond)

This was a wedding shower gift I was so thrilled to receive.  I made a lot of quick breads (banana, blueberry, cinnamon swirl), especially around the holidays.  But sometimes you don't want/need/have the ingredients for a whole bread.  And you can't just make half a bread in a full loaf pan.  This solves the whole problem.  Divide a full recipe into four and give the breads as gifts, or make a half recipe and divide into two of the pans for mini loaves for yourself.

Are you a kitchen gadget master? Do you have one you just love?  Do you have some you never do anything with?

All Things Pumpkin

Even though we've hit a little bit of a humid warm-up here (happens every year) my mind has been on fall food.  My husband says there is no difference between warm-weather and cold-weather food, but I totally disagree.  Who wants a big pot of hot stew in July??  (Well, my husband does, but that doesn't count.)  In my opinion, there are some key ingredients to fall food; pumpkin and apple are two of them.  Mainly in the form of hot drinks and desserts.  Some things I have my eye on to make:

And this month Martha has a suggestion to steep tea in hot apple cider.  I'm drooling already.

Do you have any go-to fall foods?  Recipes you're gearing up to try?  Do share!

Happy Friday!

Pinterest: I Tried It (Burp Cloths)

Welcome Pinners! (And faithful readers, of course!) If you've tried something from one of your pinboards this week and blogged about it, you can link up your post at the bottom of this one.  I really love to see what you come up with and how you interpret your pins.

Once again I hit up my sewing board for this week's project.  I guess I am just in a sewing mood, and I have to tell you that I am feeling more in control of the sewing machine than I have before.  I can actually step on the pedal now without it taking off on me like it's trying to take flight.  Anyway, I was in Joann's looking for fabric for Gus's Halloween costume (more on that to come), and they are having Coupon Commotion this week, so of course I found myself wandering, and of course I found something I wanted to play with.  Luckily I had already scouted this tutorial beforehand:

Pretty, aren't they?  I was pretty sure that I would be able to pull these off, and so off I went with some different backing fabrics so I could see what I liked best.  I ended up making three sets of three!

Cotton backed with flannel

Flannel backed with terry cloth
Cotton backed with cuddle plush minky
I wanted to do something gender neutral and, for the most part, stylish enough for moms and dads.  I found the terry cloth to be the easiest to work with because it didn't pull at all, but I loved the cuddle plush minky the best.  If you don't have kids and or haven't wandered through Joann's in awhile and don't know what that is, it's the softest, most luxurient piece of material you'll ever touch.  They make blankets out of it (we have one!) but I can't remember what it might be called at the store.  Joann's calls it cuddle plush.  I just want to wrap up in it completely.  I thought it would be nice for the burp cloths to lay the plush side up and lay baby's face on it.  It would be so comforting and soothing.

Anyhoo, this was a nice tutorial, easy to follow, and I had fun being able to play around with whatever kinds of fabrics I wanted.  And three sets of burp cloths later, I decided to list them.  In my shop.  Even though it's all paper.  I'm really not ready to have a second shop, nor do I have the inventory for such and endeavor.  So for now, it's going to be a mix of fabric and paper.  I have several of those diaper straps (almost!) ready to go.  Hopefully if you check in with my shop tomorrow, my banner will have been changed to say "by the book" instead of "by the book paper" to account for this change.  (Oh, and as I write this, that first set with the owls is already sold!)

So how about you?  How were your pinning experiments this week?  Link up below or leave a comment!  And remember- same time next week!  I had a lot of fun trying this one out and may stick to the sewing board for a little while.

Feel free to grab a botton to add to your post to share this link-up with your readers!
life by the book

More Printables

I really can be the ultimate list maker.  Especially if there is a big project ahead.  I like to have everything laid out in front of me, and I get total satisfaction from crossing or checking something off that's on the list.  So in an effort to add a few more printables to my page, I tried to think of some big projects that required long lists.

Both moving and packing for me have been a big deal and I need to be totally organized or I will forget the ten million things I need to do.  Given the fact that I have to pack not just for me, but for Gus and Casey the poodle too, complicates things.  Thank goodness the hubs is a packing master and doesn't require a list.  And moving.  What a chore!  The ultimate do-not-forgot-to-pack-this! project.  I hope they help.

(And if you do happen to print these and use them, or have printed the others and used them, let me know how they work for you. I have been too busy to print them for myself!!)

One for the Team

If you are on Etsy, then you are likely to be a member of at least one of the teams.  Teams usually have some kind of common theme, and anyone who meets the membership criteria can join.  They are a great means for promotion and interaction with other Etsy members, and are a good place to get advice and seek camaraderie.

So imagine my happiness when a new Pinterest team was started!  You all know how much I love my Pinterest boards and am thoroughly enjoying my Pinterest Thursday projects, so of course I jumped at the chance to join!  And crazy enough, once it got rolling and more members started applying, the captain needed some help, and now I'm a team leader.  Holy moly, I am in a position of power.

If any of you Pinterest faithful would like to come and join, anyone with a valid Pinterest account is welcome.  Find some new people to follow, get some new followers, participate in some fun pinning activities (like my linky party!), or get one of your items pinned by other members.  It's all in good fun!

Happy Friday!

Pinterest: I Tried It (Divided Clutch)

Welcome Pinners! (And faithful readers, of course!) If you've tried something from one of your pinboards this week and blogged about it, you can link up your post at the bottom of this one.  I really love to see what you come up with and how you interpret your pins.

It was back to sewing for me this week.  I have to tell you, I was so excited by my tea wallet, that I actually made this divided clutch that I chose as my next project last Friday- I just couldn't wait:

This required a little bit of effort at Joann's (drat) where I found two very cool coordinating fabrics, and I figured out what interfacing is (it's like a giant sheet of iron-on webbing that strengthens thinner material).  So, made a clutch- check!  Learned something new in the process- check!  I was really quite proud of myself.  Then I made the clutch and I was so totally proud of myself.

It turned out so well, I am amazed with myself.  My mother would actually like one in a slightly smaller size.  I admit that I did stray from the tutorial right at the end, where it says, "And now make a button hole and sew a button on," like creating your own button hole is standard practice.  Yeah.  I made my way back to Joann's and got some sew-on snaps, which I actually like better for a closure.  I was toying with the idea of sewing a button on the front for decoration, but the pattern is so busy I don't think it needs it.  I love the size; you could use it tucked into a larger handbag for coupons, or even a diaper and a wipes pack, or just use it as a fun going-out handbag on its own.  I seriously think I am going to list this in my shop, that's how awesome I think it is.

This line of thinking got me ahead of myself, though, and I actually tried another pin thinking I could make a neat-o set:

It was very similar in construction to the tea wallet, just a different size.  I don't know what happened.

Not exactly the sewing maven I had convinced myself I had become.  It was a total disappointment.  At some point I will probably seam-rip it and try it again, but for now the wallet and I are spending some time apart.

So how about you?  How were your pinning experiments this week?  Link up below or leave a comment!  And remember- same time next week!  I had a lot of fun trying this one out and may stick to the sewing board for a little while.

Feel free to grab a botton to add to your post to share this link-up with your readers!

life by the book
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Do you ever find yourself in a creative rut?  Or, really, any kind of rut for that matter?

Last night on Twitter I was chatting with my pals Heidi of Rowhouse14 and Rachel of RWKrafts and what started out as a chat on the ridiculousness of the commotion over the Missoni collection for Target turned into a discovery that all three of us felt that we were in a rut or starting to get in one as far as our Etsy shops go.  The reasons are varied: work demands, family demands, low views, low sales, and so on.  And I know for me, it just kind of happens suddenly.  I'll be really productive and make new stuff, get really excited about it, list it, and then....blah.  Don't feel like doing anything anymore.  This particular rut-realization started yesterday when I noticed that a handful of my listings had expired and I didn't even know it was going to happen.  What have I been doing??  Oh yea....

So I was just wondering what puts you into a rut and how do you pull out of it?  Do you get a sudden inspiration to get you going again?  Do you need to have some free time by yourself to sit and work?  Do you plow through and keep making stuff even if you don't feel like it?  Do you just decide to give up for awhile until inspiration strikes?

The Library

When is the last time you visited your local library?  I mean, for anything- books, movies, research for school?  If you had asked me that a year or two ago, I would have drawn a blank.  We lived in a very small town for five years before we moved to where we are now, and the only time I went to the library was to donate books we didn't want to take with us when we moved out of town.

Then we became parents and homeowners, both in a short span of time, with me not returning to work in order to stay home with Gus and my husband taking a new job with a pay cut so he could be home with us more often (previous job: 3 to 4 months gone at a time).  So the days of buying new books and video games, cable television, etc. are behind us for the moment in the name of budget-consciousness.  In turn, we have been using our local libraries often.  And I love them and cannot believe we weren't using them more before.  I realized this today as I was standing there loaded down with books because I didn't think I'd need a tote bag.  Silly me.

We have been taking books out for ourselves and Gus like fiends, and honestly, they have just about anything you could want to read.  I love finding a new author that I like, and then there's multiple books by that person just waiting for me to take out.  Today I discovered five whole shelves of knitting, crocheting, quilting, and cross stitching books.  I forgot that libraries had such things.  Now that our basement is done, we have taken to a Friday night date night with a movie and popcorn right in our own home after we put Gus down- movie provided by the lovely folks at the library.  They have so many to pick from, and not just the Disney classics of days gone by.  In the past few weeks we have watched The King's Speech, The Informant!, Julie and Julia, and Batman: The Dark Knight, all of which are relatively new.  We take turns deciding what to watch because my romantic comedies conflict with his tear-jerker dramas.  And in addition to all of the materials there, we have been taking advantage of the children's programs, which have been a good way for Gus to see other people his own size.  All for free.

The funny thing is, I know I'm not even using the library to its full advantage.  I believe they have passes to get into nearby attractions that you can "check out", they have e-books and courses to download, they have children's movies and CDs that we haven't even touched yet, and so on.  It's pretty amazing.  Now, I know we pay into the library being that we are taxpayers and all, so it's not like it's "free", but that's all the more reason to use it and take advantage of what we're already paying for.

I think in my professional life I should have been a librarian.  I'm certainly organized and type-A enough to be pretty good at it, and I like the idea of being surrounded by all those books.  But seeing as I don't have $1500 a credit laying around to advance my education, I don't think that will be happening any time soon.  Maybe one day.

Pinterest: I Tried It

Let me start off by saying that I have become completely excited over Pinterest Thursday.  I look forward to the project I'm going to make every week, and then I can't wait to tell you all about it.  I am having the best time with this.

If you've tried something from one of you pin boards this week and blogged about it, you can link up your post at the bottom of this one.  I was so happy to have two links to follow last week- both were fun posts to read.  I'm hoping to see even more this week!

On the last day of August, I posted this about how much I love tea (and I do).  One of the photos I used was from my I Love Tea board:

And as I usually carry a tea bag in my handbag (yes, I do- big nerd) in case I'm somewhere that I want tea and can't find some that I like, I thought that this would actually be the perfect next project.  It looked easy enough- all straight-line sewing again- so I went for it, and I'm so happy I did.

The tutorial calls for either quilting cotton bonded with fusable interface (say what??) or home decor-weight fabric, which I had, leftover from the previous house owner who made her own curtains.  And I actually love the fabric and always planned on using it for something, I just didn't know what.  I can't tell you what it's made from since it was left behind, but it's the kind of fabric you make curtains out of (duh), or recover a chair with.

It's a totally rocking country pastel plaid.  Love.  Anyway, I used that for the outer layer and I used some gray-blue cotton quilting fabric that I got out of the Walmart remnant bin on this trip that just happened to match up perfectly.  The tutorial is really easy to follow, the wallet is really easy to make, and I am absolutely tickled pink by how well it came out.  I am actually pretty much grinning like an idiot just looking at it.  And I have to say that this is probably one of the better-sewn things I've ever made, so I'm pretty proud of that, too.  The only thing I would change (and may still fix) is the step where you turn the wallet inside out and then topstitch the little opening closed.  I think I would probably just needle sew it on the hem to make sure it takes.  Mine looks a little loose in that spot, but that's really minor.

The best part is, I have a ton of this fabric left, so I'll still have enough to use it for other projects.  Can you tell I'm excited about this??

So how about you?  How were your pinning experiments this week?  Link up below or leave a comment!  And remember- same time next week!  I had a lot of fun trying this one out and may stick to the sewing board for a little while.

Feel free to grab a botton to add to your post to share this link-up with your readers!

life by the book

If you link up, please leave just the name of what you made this week.  Thank you for participating!