Thursday, September 26, 2013

Harvest Table

It's that time of year again when the breeze has a bit of coolness, the days are a bit shorter, and we get to bring our sweaters out of storage. Particularly in DC where the summers can be so hot and sticky, the first breezes of fall feel particularly great.
This past weekend we visited Butler's Orchard in Maryland.  We had a fabulous time - we picked raspberries and apples and visited the farm store. We ended up with quite a few goodies, including local farm-grown produce (the first real vine-ripened authentic tomatoes I've found all summer!), preserves, and other cute odds and ends.

Here is our Harvest Table.  Everything here came from Butler Orchard - squash, mini-pumpkins, and lots of freshly picked apples!

Friday, September 6, 2013


The penultimate piece of Baby Miles' gift basket - the chevron pillow!  This was made entirely out of half-square triangles that were left-over from the quilt. 

 I made one of these for Aileen's nursery (which can be seen here), and it has been so useful.  When she was tiny, I would use it to lay on the floor with her while we played or read books, or put it under my arm when I was nursing her, and now, she sometimes sits on it like a cushion on the floor for story time of even uses it as a regular pillow to relax and lounge.

The back is just a simple overlapping envelope type closure - really could not be easier, and is convenient for whipping it off and into the wash.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Burp Cloths

After a little break, here are the burp cloths that were part of Baby Miles' gift basket.  I just took super absorbent, microfiber towels that I got on sale and added bits of flannel for accents.  They were so easy, and, hopefully, useful!

One thing I learned when Aileen was tiny was that you can never have too many burp cloths.  In every room of the house.  And yet, it seemed like I was always caught without one - racing around trying to find one before the spit-up soaked into my clothes or the furniture!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013


To complete the gift basket for Baby Miles, we figured he needed something to tie into his Galapagos themed nursery.  What better than a tiny turtle?  (Well...maybe a giant tortoise, but I wasn't sure a huge stuffed animal would be as appreciated as a cute little one!) 
I found a pattern over at Make-It & Love-It, a site with which I am now obsessed! 
This little guy was really easy to make.  In fact, easy enough for a one-and-a-half year old to help make.  Or maybe she just liked goofing around while talking about Baby Miles.

I think we may have to make a few more of these guys.  You could add a rattle to the stuffing to make it even more interesting for baby.

Watch out!  I think he's getting away!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Blanket for Baby Miles

I've wanted to try my hand at a banky for a while - basically a quilt with no batting.  And, since, overstuffed things are not really great for tiny babies, I figured Baby Miles would be a great guinea pig for my sewing experiment!
This was part of the gift basket of coordinated handmade baby items, posted here.
I definitely liked the way it turned out, how soft it was, and the thinness without any batting.  I left it un-quilted because I thought it could be stuffed (sort of like a baby duvet cover) later.  But, I'm not sure if I would do that again.  I am worried it may cause it to be un-square after washing. 

Aileen was interested - both in the blankey and in Baby Miles.  She has been talking about him non-stop since we met him six weeks ago! 


Friday, August 16, 2013

Lentil Finger Food Patties

I am constantly looking for healthy home-made food to add to Aileen's lunchbox.  Our requirements are that they be tasty and appetizing without being warmed up, low in sugar and salt, high in protein and carbs to power a tiny body all day, and able to be eaten as finger food. 

I have done some experimenting with lentil patties.  You can substitute any spice and flavor profile in, and keep your tiny person's pallet expanding. Here is one option for an Indian-inspired curry/potato lentil patty.

- 1T olive oil or vegetable oil
-1/4 c diced carrots
- 2T diced onion
- 2T Homemade curry powder (mix of tumeric, cardamom, corriander, cumin, paprika)
- 1c red lentils
- 1c vegetable broth
- 1c water
-  2 small potatoes, roasted and diced
- 1 egg

- Saute carrots and onion in a little oil over medium heat, just to start softening a little.  Remember these will be subjected to boiling with the lentils and later cooking in the oven, so no need to overdo the sauteeing, just get them started cooking.
- Add curry powder - or alternative seasoning based on your baby's preferences.  Cook into the vegetables until fragrant.
- Stir in lentils to coat with seasonings.  (Note, you can substitute in beans, split peas, or other kinds of lentils.)
- Add vegetable broth and water.  Bring to a simmer.  Cook according to directions, usually 15 minutes.
- When cooked, remove from heat.
- Mix in diced, roasted potatoes, and egg (when mixture is cool, so you don't scramble the eggs).
- Divide into portions like tiny sliders and cook at 400 degrees until set, about 15 minutes.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Basket for Baby Miles

In order to help welcome handsome Baby Miles to the world, we put together a basket of handmade baby gifts.  I will post more about each item.  But, the inspiration was Miles's Galapagos-themed nursery and the so soft and wonderful Robert Kauffman "Cozy Cotton" collection in aqua blues and browns. 
I used mainly the Robert Kaufman Cozy Cotton flannels, with some supplemental flannel and regular cotton fabric.  And, for those who know Elle, I had to add at least a little blue batik! 
The basket included
- One very puffy baby quilt
- One pieced "blanky" with no batting
- A square chevron pillow
- Four embellished burp cloths
- A little stuffed turtle
- One lined storage bin
I think it turned out well, and it was fun to do so many different things with one consistent line of fabrics.  And, of course, we wanted to do something for Elle.  Without her, our nursery probably would never have come together!  And, of course Elle made two amazing quilts for Aileen! (One full-size, and one from the scraps!)
Aileen helped me make the turtle, and in the end, I think she was unconvinced that we should give it away!  We may have to practice making a few more!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Inspiration Friday: Craft Rooms!

I am very lucky to have a whole room for sewing and other crafts.  The finished attic was definitely a selling point of our house.  We knew we wanted a "bonus room" where I could work on projects and not have to clean everything up at the end of the day.  It is really great being able to leave projects that are still in progress out on the cutting table or near the sewing machine.

There's only one big problem with the room... the window looking out over the backyard is old, rotten, and leaky.  We've known this since we moved into the house, but in Hurricane Sandy it realy became obvious that we need to fix it!  Granted, that was an extreme weather event, but seriously, the enter wall is soaked through. 

So, we are looking for a contractor to not only fix the structural issues with that wall and window, but also to replace the sheetrock and really finish off the space in a polished way.  Oh, and while we're up there, we're hoping to add new insulation under the roof and maybe even install some sort of cooling system so that it's actually possible to be up there during the HOT summers here!

I have already bought a few storage pieces that I love, and have some artwork in mind.  But it is always fun to dream about creating beautiful pieces in a beautiful new studio!

I love this streamlined and perfectly organized storage:

I know Ikea has cubbies like this (we had one in our old apartment).  I don't know if we could fit something like this up the steep staircase to our attic, but I have something similar that I think will work.... if only I can convince my husband to try getting it up there!

I thought this was a cool idea to put wallpaper or fabric behind the shelves to add some life:

And, although I'm not a big fan of shabby chic, the idea of putting beads and small embelishments into old salt and pepper and tiny other tiny glass containers is so sweet.  These are the kinds of things you always see at estate sales for a dollar because most people think they only need one set!

I also love the idea of having narrow shelves for artwork.  It is very clean, and makes it super easy to change out the pieces periodically.

Now, we just have to completely gut and redo our attic!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Anne's Fool-Proof Steak

I have a no-fail steak method that I love to use.  It is easy and works for all different kinds of cuts and thicknesses.  We used it this week on a wonderful locally grown new york strip steak (big enough to share!).

Here's the basic method:

- Season your steak and make sure it is room-temperature before cooking.  This is really important - don't skip this!
- Preheat your oven to 400.
- Heat a skillet on high heat.  When it is hot, add about a tablespoon of butter (more if needed for more steaks or a larger pan). 
- Sear both sides of your steak well.  This is the key to the whole process.  Once you put your steak down in the skillet, don't move it until you've gotten a good sear.  If you start flipping your steak around or moving it, you will not develop the tasty fond in your pan or get a proper sear on your meat.  One way to check if your meat is ready to turn is just to give it a little nudge with a pair of tongs.  If it moves easily, pick up a corner and check.  It should look like this:

- Sear on the second side, same as the first.
- Move the whole skillet into your preheated 400-degree oven.  Cook to desired doneness.  For this new york strip, which was nearly 2" thick, I cooked it for 6 minutes to medium rare.
- Let it rest!  A good rule of thumb is to let it rest for as many minutes as you cooked it.  Don't loose all the good juices you sealed in with the searing by cutting it too soon.
- You will have great flavors in your pan from the searing and cooking process, don't let them go to waste!  So, while the steak is resting, make your pan sauce - it can be as simple or complex as you like. 
(The basic process is: add whatever aromatics you want (onion, shallot, tomato paste), add a spash of wine and scrape up all the good bits from the pan, when the wine is mostly evaporated, add some stock and let it cook down to a sauce-y consistency.  Finish with a dab of butter.)

- Serve and enjoy!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Inspiration Friday: Chevrons!

My friend Elle over at elle-mental recently posted photos of a gorgeous chevron quilt she made out of a partial jelly roll.  It was amazing - the colors were perfectly cool and calming, and - even more amazing - she is donating it to the 100 Quilts for Kids project! 

I have loved the look of these quilts for a long time, and have amassed various inspirational photos in my "wish list" of quilts I would like to make.  Here are a few.

Some are true chevrons . . .

. . . while others are more of zig-zags . . .

But I think I am going to forge ahead using the tutorial on the Hyacinth blog:

I believe Elle's chevron quilt is based on this pattern (although I know from making countless quilts together that Elle never exactly follows someone else's pattern... there is always just enough math and geometry involved in quilting with her that I feel like I've had a real mental workout!).

Maybe if I can shake loose a couple of hours this weekend between multiple play dates, recovering from the week, getting ready for next week, and having our family portrait taken, I'll try to start one of these!

Happy quilting.