Monday, February 22, 2010

Coupon Caddy Love

I have had it on my creative to-do list to make myself a coupon caddy for almost 3 months now!  I thought it was such a great idea that I ended up making a few as gifts before I got around to sewing one to keep.  I came across this fabric at JoAnn's while looking for fabric for another project and absolutely loved everything about it.

I finished sewing my coupon caddy a couple of weekends ago and got to use for the first time on my grocery shopping trip last week.  I loved it!  It easily attaches with a velcro strap on each end.  There is now a spot for my pen to check items off my list, my calculator for when I need to price check for the best deal, scissors if I need to cut a coupon or two, and pockets to sort the coupons I pulled when writing my list from the ones for products I have already put in my cart so they are ready at check-out. 

I followed this tutorial on Blue Cricket Design after seeing Beckie's version on Infarrantly Creative.  I think the 4th time was the charm for me as far as ease of sewing (and not sticking myself multiple times) because each time I figured out a few tricks that helped during the next round.  I would say I am a beginner to barely intermediate sewer, and there were a few parts of this pattern that were a little bit difficult for me.  I want to share a few of my tips in case any of you want to make a coupon caddy of your own!

 (close-up of the back of the strap)

I found that staples to hold the layers together were hard for me to remove without snagging the fabric.  I really wanted a way to hold the 3 layers together that didn't involve pins and would keep the fabric in place while I stitched on the binding around the edges.  I looked at fusible interfacing, but the double sided fusible was so thick I was worried about my machine sewing through it, especially on the corners which were already thick.  Enter Sulky.  It's a temporary adhesive that the JoAnn's clerk recommended and it worked like a charm.  After I cut out the 3 pieces, I just sprayed each side of the interfacing one at a time and smoothed the fabric on.  It did a great job of holding the 3 pieces together while I worked.

Binding tape.  This was the most frustrating part for me.  The sides were easy, but the corners gave me fits!  At first, I didn't understand from the tutorial that you are supposed to sew it on in one big piece, folding the corners, but instead tried to cut the piece for each side and tuck the raw edges under.  Can you say headache?  It is SO much easier when you sew the binding on in one continuous piece!  I would definitely recommend searching "binding tape corner tutorials" on you tube and watching a few videos to get a rough idea of how to work with binding tape if you haven't ever done it before.  A lot of the examples were for quilting, and were more complicated than I was looking for, so I didn't follow them exactly.  But, they gave me a great starting place to play around and figure out how to fold the corners on my own.  (If anyone is interested in a few more photos of how I folded the corners, I would be happy to take some!  Just leave me a comment.)  I didn't pin the binding tape all the way around before sewing because that was a recipe for sticking myself with pins as I maneuvered the caddy, so I just tried to pin 2 sides ahead of where I was sewing at all times.  This was enough that I had room to work and get the corners folded well without being too close to where the needle was in the fabric, but not so far ahead that I was sticking myself as I turned the fabric to sew.

 (close-up of the folded corner after the binding tape is sewn on)

If you use coupons regularly, I would definitely recommend sewing a coupon caddy!  I can imagine that it would be even more helpful if you often have kids with you at the store that you are trying to manage while also pulling out coupons and referencing your list.  The few opportunities that I've had to mine so far, I have been thrilled with how much more organized and easy it is to shop with coupons when I have this cute addition on my cart!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Food For Friday: Fondue Edition

I am really tired.  I started typing the title of this post and it was Fondue Addition before it became Fondue Edition.  Our travel schedule is crazy this semester!  For January, February and March, we are out of town as many days (if not more) as we are at home each month.  I enjoy and am refreshed by time at home to rest and craft and nest and spend time with Truman and sleep in my own cozy bed, so all of this travel, though it can be fun, also wears me out.

We had a wonderful Valentine's Day last weekend, which inspired this Fondue Food For Friday post.  (Which I bring to you a day late.) With all of the time we are spending away from home right now, we decided to stay in for a nice dinner and relaxing evening at home.  I am so glad we did!  Truman surprised me last Friday with beautiful roses that I got to enjoy on my coffee table during our week at home.

My sweet husband prepared a 3 course dinner for us, and I got to sit on a bar stool at our kitchen counter and hang out with him while he cooked.  He even did the grocery shopping.  I appreciate his thoughtful heart so much.

For our first course, we had my favorite cheese fondue with french bread, apples, and boiled red potatoes.  We were introduced to this cheese fondue by a friend in our Austin small group last year, and it is delicious!  I think warm cheese fondue is a perfect winter treat. (Recipe at the bottom of this post!)

We followed the cheese fondue with steaks, drizzled with melted garlic butter.  Here is my handsome hubby preparing our second course.  (He was stuck wearing my apron.  Poor guy.  I definitely need to be on the lookout for a manly apron for him to wear on the occasions when he's the one in the kitchen treating me to dinner!)

We ended our Valentine's dinner with one of my other absolute favorites, chocolate fondue with strawberries and pound cake.  In my opinion, one of the best parts of having dinner at home is that you can really take your time between courses, and have room for each one.  So often we when go out, I run out of room for one of my favorite parts...dessert!


After years of being single on Valentine's Day, I still appreciate the blessing of having a reason to celebrate and someone special to celebrate with.  What is even sweeter to me is that this often deemed "cheesy Hallmark holiday" is just another reason to do something fun together and take a day or evening to appreciate the love that we enjoy every single day.

Italian Cheese Fondue (serves 4)
8 oz grated Fontina cheese
8 oz grated Gruyere cheese
5 tsp cornstarch
6 oz thinly sliced pancetta, chopped
2 cups dry white wine (such as a Pinot Grigio)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chives

Toss grated fontina and gruyere cheese with the cornstarch in a medium bowl to coat.

Saute the pancetta in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat until crisp and golden, about 8 min.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to a plate and pour off any excess oil. Pour wine into same saucepan and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to medium and whisk in 1 handful of cheese until almost melted. Repeat until cheese is gone, about 4 times.
Continue simmering until fondue bubbles, about 1 min.

Stir in pancetta and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to the fondue pot and serve with boiled red potatoes cut into fourths, cubed french bread and apple slices.

*Notes:  If you can't find fontina or gruyere cheeses or pancetta at your local grocery chain, try a specialty grocery like Sunflower Market, Whole Foods, or Central Market.  

We halved this recipe for the 2 of us.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Oh Baby! (A Dear Friend's, That Is!)

This past Saturday, I threw a baby shower for a dear friend of mine, Jami, to celebrate her little boy who is scheduled to arrive at the end of April.  It was so much fun to shower her (and her husband) with the blessing of celebrating with friends & family and lots of sweet gifts to prepare for Kaiden Judah's arrival.

With the beautiful Mom-to-Be

The hostesses (Jami & her sister in law, Diana)

I found these precious plates that I just adored at Hobby Lobby and thought the blue, white & chocolate brown with polka dots and nursery rhyme toile would be the perfect theme for the shower.

I used 4 fabrics to sew a festive fabric pennant banner that hung over the cake table, and we added baby pictures of Jami and her husband, Naseem, beside the cake.  I baked a white cake decorated with an almond cream cheese frosting and fondant polka dots.

Kaiden is already a very loved little boy!  About 35 ladies came to celebrate, and we had a huge spread of yummy dips, appetizers and desserts to enjoy.


The strawberry topiary was so easy to make!  I wrapped a new, medium sized styrofoam ball in cling wrap, then used toothpicks to stick the strawberries into the ball.  I sat the ball on the tin bucket, then started placing the strawberries around the bottom and worked my way to the top.  I quickly discovered that they stay on much easier if you leave the leaves on to anchor the strawberry to the toothpick!  

The tin markers that labeled each dish are actually garden markers that I found in the dollar bins at Michaels last week.  I wrote on each one with a dry erase marker and they easily wipe off, which makes them perfect for labeling dishes on a buffet!  You could also tape off the center and spray paint them with chalkboard paint, which would be another cute option. 

Dad picked out this adorable bib for his little guy. 
Done!  Opening all those gifts can wear a girl out!
We asked each guest to write a note to the parents and I will add them to a scrapbook with photos of the shower so Jami & Naseem have a keepsake from the day.

Congratulations Jami & Naseem!  I am so excited for you and can't wait to meet your little man!  You are going to be amazing parents.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Food For Friday: Italian Baked Chicken Pasta

This dish just might be my favorite new pasta!  It uses all fresh ingredients, and no canned, pre-made sauce, and the flavors just shine.  With simple ingredients and easy preparation, it's healthy and delicious and will remind you of restaurant pasta at home.  I made a few adaptations to this recipe from Giada, and served it with garlic sauteed zucchini and fresh french bread.

1 cup of any small pasta (I used Barilla Plus Farfalle)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup cubed chicken breast (approximately 1-inch cubes)
1/2 cup diced onion (about 1/2 a small onion)
1 large clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice (I used Hunts Natural Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes)
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs (see note below)
1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan
1/2 tablespoon butter, chopped into pea sized pieces

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender. Drain pasta. 

Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken pieces and cook for approximately 3 minutes. Add the onions and garlic, stirring to combine, and cook until the onions are soft and the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes more. 

Put the chicken mixture into a medium mixing bowl. Add the canned tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Mix in the cooked & drained pasta and cover well.  Spray an 8 x 8 baking dish (2 inches deep) with olive oil or nonstick spray, then place the mixture in the dish. In a small bowl, mix together the bread crumbs and the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over the top of the pasta mixture. Dot the top with small bits of butter. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes. 

(Note:  About 6 months ago, I made the switch to organic, hormone and steroid free meat & dairy, as well as produce on the Dirty Dozen list.  You can find a list of all fruits and vegetables and their pesticide score here.  I have also been trying to remove as many prepared foods filled with chemicals and preservatives as possible from our daily diet.  If I cannot pronounce it, we try not to eat it.  Hydrogenated oils are high on the "banned" list.  I've been blown away by seemingly simple foods that have a long list of chemicals, hydrogenated oils, and preservatives on the label.  One example is breadcrumbs, which I like to use in a few of our recipes.  I have started making our own homemade breadcrumbs by allowing leftover homemade bread to dry out a little until it is firm, cubing it, then chopping it in our food processor.  I store a container of breadcrumbs in our freezer to keep them fresh and at the ready for use in recipes.  Italian herbed bread makes great Italian breadcrumbs, and plain breads like french or sourdough make wonderful plain breadcrumbs.  Since I made the bread in our breadmaker, I know exactly what went into it.  Flour, butter, yeast, herbs, water and a little sugar sounds a lot better to me than high fructose corn syrup, thiamin mononitrate and calcium stearoyl lactylate among other things!)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Rosettes: Felt, Tulle, Organza, Oh My!

I've been wanting to create some of the unique rosettes I've been seeing around blogland for awhile now.  I created several different styles to tuck into my best friend's 30th birthday gift.  I gathered bits of felt, tulle, organza & muslin, and some beads I had on hand from jewelry I've made, and started playing.


I was really happy with how they turned out and they were so fun to make.  They are the perfect project to work on while I catch up on some of my favorite TV shows.  


I used a needle and thread to layer on the petals and just arranged and fluffed as I went.  I backed each rosette with a coordinating piece of felt, and then hot glued flat-backed pins or alligator clips to the back.  They are such cute additions to a shirt, jacket, bag or headband and can be removed for washing.  The alligator clips tuck into a ponytail or beside a barrette for a fun hair accessory.

I kept the colors pretty neutral in making these gift pins so that they could coordinate with many different outfits and colors.  I adored the muslin rosette and will definitely be making a couple to keep for myself.  (Kel, it took willpower to part with that one and tuck it into your package!)  I also have some printed fabric and bright colored felt designs planned for a few pins to add to my own accessory collection, so I hope to post photos of new pins soon!