My First Sewing Projects

I’ve been wanting to learn to sew for years, and my lovely husband surprised me with a sewing machine for Christmas! I have been having an absolute blast using it! So far I’ve made a few too many pillows, a tote bag, two aprons, and a knitting needle case.

I’d ultimately like to make clothes, or at least learn to alter my own clothes. I have a major fitting problem–for every ten items I take into a fitting room, nine go straight back to the shelves because of fitting issues. Until I can make my own clothing, I made something similar to clothes–an apron! Aprons are one of the reasons I wanted to learn to sew because I really love them. I find half-aprons more comfortable, so that’s what I’ve been making.

My friend Aly helped pick out the material, and I’m so happy with the way they ended up looking together!

I added rickrack to cover my messy seams and make it look a bit more vintage.

It is so satisfying to end up with a product that looks EXACTLY like what you wanted!

I whipped this up yesterday! The green fabric is the left-over from the band of the first apron (amazing how different it looks as the dominant fabric, right?).

Even though I typically only like to buy craft supplies on sale (Hobby Lobby and Joann’s have a lot of sales), I couldn’t resist the cute birdcage fabric.

I finally have a knitting needle case!  I used this wonderful tutorial.

Detail. Nearly-straight stitches! That was the hardest thing for me to get used to.

The case rolls up and ties with ribbon.

My friend Aly helped me pick out this fabric as well, and I couldn’t be happier. It matches my bedspread perfectly!

That little blue pillow in the back was the first thing I sewed! It doesn’t match our living room, but Joseph put it on the couch anyway.

Delicious Tortilla Soup with Mexican Jicama Salad

This is the most delicious soup I’ve ever had. I am a soup connoisseur, so that means something! This recipe replaces my old favorite.

The broth has a rich and deep flavor, and the fresh avocados really knowcks it over the top. Every bite was incredible. The recipe has a serving size of four, but there wasn’t any left over after Joseph and I ate! Everything about it is absolutely delicious–even the little crisps!

We’ve made this salad a few times now–it’s pretty tasty as well! This is the only way I’ve ever had jicama, and it tastes a bit like pear with the creamy dressing.

Tortilla Soup with Spicy Crisps from Relish!

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
½ white onion , chopped
2 Tbs olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ¾ cups beef broth
1 cup chicken broth
½ cup tomato sauce
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder, plus more for crisps
1 jalapeño pepper , chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 10-ounce can Rotel tomatoes with chilies, undrained
4 6-inch corn tortillas
4 Tbs canola oil
2 firm avocadoes , cored and chopped
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese, shredded

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Drop in the chicken breasts and boil for 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Drain chicken in colander and let cool. Remove skin and shred or cube the meat.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and sauté onion and garlic in oil. Pour into the medium pot you used for chicken. Add beef and chicken broth, tomato sauce, cumin, chili powder, jalapeno(to taste), salt, Worcestershire sauce, tomatoes and chicken. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

In the skillet, heat the canola oil until hot. Cut tortillas in narrow strips and fry. Sprinkle with salt and a little chili powder. When done, place on paper towels. Place half of the strips in bowls. Fill with the hot soup. Garnish with more tortilla strips, avocado slices and cheese.

Mexican Jicama Salad

½ head Romaine lettuce
1 jicama root , sliced into batons
2 Roma tomatoes , sliced
¼ cup prepared chunky salsa
2 Tbs sour cream
1 Tbs milk

In a medium bowl, toss lettuce, jicama and tomatoes together to combine.

For dressing: In a small bowl mix salsa, sour cream, and milk to combine.
Toss salad with enough dressing to coat.

Young Christmas 2010

I hope everyone had a nice holiday (or, at least a nice beak from work!). Joseph and I decided to put off making the long trip to Houston for a few more weeks, but his dad’s side of the family visited us a few days after Christmas. I’ve actually known them longer than I’ve known Joseph, so they are always fun to be around.

Joseph and I went out for Christmas Eve brunch, where I had this wonderful waffle (he had chicken fried steak and eggs–what a Texan)

We made gingerbread cookies on Christmas day! Joseph gave up on the decorating after a few tries but was much better than I was at cutting the shapes.

Joseph’s little sisters pampered Cory and Leonardo into oblivion.

Cory had so much fun playing with Caroline and Claire!

If you have musicians in your family, you know they don’t get together to play music–they jam.

Lerin’s boyfriend Chris on guitar, and Joseph’s dad Kevin with his new bass.


The next day we all visited Joseph’s grandparents. This was the first time all their grandkids and spouses had been together, so we had to take a lot of photos.

This, of course, is the best picture of the night.

Wishing you all a wonderful beginning of the new year. See you in 2011!

Happy Holidays!

I want to send a big “Thank you!” to everyone for all the support over the last few days. I never expected my dad’s Oven Hot Dogs to be such a hit! It’s especially interesting to me to hear of other families who had similar meals growing up.

I have a few posts in a queue but know most of you are busy with the holidays. This is our first time being back in the US after celebrating our own Christmases in Italy, and I’m looking forward to seeing all our families.  I have a big stack of presents I’m eager to give away!

Yesterday I went to Petsmart and did something horrible…. I bought my poor animals holiday costumes. I know, I’m awful. Thankfully my pets don’t really mind such abuse.

Poor kitty! I don’t think cat hats are actually designed with cats in mind. It’s too heavy for him to lift his little head! So he’s been wearing it as an antler hoodie and occasional antler necklace.

Fast Handmade Gifts

Need a last-minute homemade gift?

I’m sure many have their shopping finished, but some of us aren’t that perfect, okay? I’m always amazed at my sister-in-law Melissa, who smartly begins shopping months early. The rest of us are just avoiding the mall this week.

So here are things that you can make in just a few hours.

A cloud. You didn’t know you could make a cloud, did you? Well you can. I made this one for my niece’s birthday in August. I rolled up pieces of paper and loosely stitched them together to make the shape and then covered them with quilt batting. It is hung with fishing wire and “raindrops” dangle from the bottom.

Decoupaged frames. I made these using a torn-up map, a cheap wooden frame, and Mod Podge (for the glue as well as the sealant).

This one I made using pages of a spare copy of Pride and Prejudice.

In this one I used the same sacrificed book, but I soaked the pages in coffee and burnt some of the edges to make it look antiqued.

If you know how to crochet, there are lots of things you can do. I personally prefer knitting but find many crochet products faster and easier.

This potholder was the very first thing I ever crocheted. I watched a few YouTube videos and started on this right away. So even if you don’t know how to crochet, there’s time for you to learn. This one is just a granny square with chain-stitched border and a solid back.

I also made all of these headbands the day I learned to crochet!
Ravelry link
The pattern–free

This potholder/trivet/hot pad is so beautiful and took only a few hours for me to make. The red color reminds me of a poinsettia–perfect for the holiday.
I would love to make another one with inverted colors–the set would make a wonderful gift for anyone who loves cooking! I could imagine my mom and grandmother having a few of these in their kitchens.

I had so much fun making the first trivet (the pattern is really cool!) that i immediately had to try it in a different color.  And I use these both all the time.
Ravelry link
The pattern-free

This owl hat also took only a day to make. Though that’s pushing it–you might want to schedule this one so you’ll have two days to work on it. But it’s worth it–who wouldn’t love an owl hat??

This is what the hat looks like with a normal outfit (sorry about the top being cut off!). Yes, I got some stares that day. Except at Hobby Lobby, where everyone understood.
Ravelry link
The pattern–$4.99
Or you can buy the pattern at the Ravelry link above (then you can download it instantly rather than wait for the Etsy seller to email it to you)

A painting. Trust me–a simple, beautiful painting does not require an extraordinary amount of artistry. I like to say I am one of the least artistic people alive but somehow managed to make four paintings this year I’m very proud of.  They’re not going to be in a museum, but they’re good enough to be hung on my walls. A simple painting on a white canvas can be really beautiful, or you can try for something a bit more abstract.

This is the very first thing I painted. I was ecstatic with the way it came out and proud of myself for trying something completely new.

The wonderful thing about crafting is the allowance for mistakes. You don’t need to be scared of making an imperfect product–just roll up your sleeves and try. Everything I’ve made has mistakes, and that’s what gives it character. I love receiving handmade gifts–knowing that someone took the time and thought to physically work on create something for me is unparalleled.

Here’s something that takes less handiwork–homemade spice blends. I sent these to my dad for Christmas last year (in extra large bottles because he cooks so much), and he is still using them. I found the recipes on various websites, mainly
I haven’t tried all the spices, but here is one I would absolutely recommend: Taco Seasoning. Even if you don’t plan on giving these gifts, you need to throw out your store-bought taco seasoning and switch over to this ASAP.

If you enjoy cooking, you might try giving your hard-to-shop-for uncle an assortment of holiday food. You can buy all kinds of cute packaging–I know Hobby Lobby has little boxes made just for that purpose. I would recommend Puppy Chow, Peppermint Bark, and Oreo Truffles

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