Festive Fall Colors

Fall is in the air and I'm barely coming to grips with that fact. I'm not quite ready to let go of summer.

Since my kitchen/dining area is the central gathering place, ('cause it's where the food is, baby!) Because of that fact, I always like my table to reflect the colors of every season - even if it's something simple. So for an EASY centerpiece, I've filled $1.00 dessert glasses with fake Fall-colored berries I found on the craft store discount rack last year. Just cut them apart, trim up the stems and arrange them according to color. (I was thrilled to discover the berries, lost in my basement, due to a cleaning emergency.) They look GREAT up on my table and now I can officially get into Fall!
You can find these cool dessert glasses or some like it at Wal-Mart or I just saw some great ones at Ikea that look like old-fashioned milkshake glasses.


The Crochet Pencil Skirt

Old-Fashioned meets Classy here!

This skirt is so stinking cute and couldn't be easier!

I saw a similar skirt at an online boutique site for $38.00! This cost me $4.50 for the yarn and some time.

To go with this skirt, you could dress up a plain colored shirt with a matching crochet flower to stitch on it. This would look SO cute with a little tan blazer, tights, and some cute boots! What a GREAT winter outfit!

Don't forget to put a little slip underneath! You could hand-stitch something on the inside, but I'm not that ambitious.

This skirt is meant to be fitted, so the shape looks a little funny in this picture, but I'm pretty sure it looks better on than off. I'm planning on fine-tuning my pattern a little and maybe making the skirt flare out a little bit instead of hugging the hips so much, but this is a GREAT beginner starter project.

So here's how to get started:
You'll need: size "J" or "K" hook
1 or 2 skeins yarn (depending on the size you're going to make.)

I started with a chain and measured the waistline of my daughter to determine how long it should be. I added a few extra stitches (about 2 inches extra) so she'll be able to get it on and off. The drawstring will help hold it on, so that won't be an issue.

Then I SC (single crochet) a large rectangle like this, careful to pick up the stitches on the sides when I turned my row. Here are some basic SC instructions. See my Double Crochet instructions on how to turn a row.

From where your hook is, join the two ends (right sides together) by slip stitching them together inside the first loop of each chain on either side.

(Put hook through one loop on one side, then the adjoining loop on the other side, grab yarn, pull through all loops. Repeat all the way down.)

Your sides might not be exactly even so you'll have to stretch it into shape to make both ends align at the tops and bottoms.

Remember: It's OKAY if it's not totally perfect! You're not a machine!

Here's what it looks like on the reverse (right) side.

When you're done slip stitching it together, you're already in place now to do a ruffle border. Here's my instructions on ruffle borders.

Crochet a chain in contrasting color for a drawstring. Lace it through the top of the skirt.

To embellish the skirt, make up some cute loopy flowers and hand stitch them in place.

And you're done! Maybe this could be a little family heirloom or something nice to pass down.

REMEMBER: If it's hand made, you should hand wash.

Loopy Crochet Chain Flower

I recently checked out this book from the library "Teach Yourself Visually Crocheting" by Kim Werker and Cecily Keim - GREAT book with very basic instructions for beginners and MUCH better pictures than I can do!

I found this super easy crochet flower in the book that can be used to embellish all sorts of projects such as baby blankets, hats, scarves, skirts, t-shirts, baby headbands, hair clips, etc. You'd have to hand-stitch them on to things, but this flower looks so good and is so easy!

(I'm using this yarn because it's the easiest to view. I probably won't use blue flowers on anything!)

So you start by chain stitching (CH) two stitches...

...and you're going to do 4 Single Crochet (SC) into the 2nd chain from your hook. (The first chain stitch, basically.)

Here's how to SC:
Make your two chains. Put your hook through the 2nd chain from your hook.
You should have two loops now on your hook.

Yarn Over and pull yarn through one loop.

You should still have 2 loops.

Yarn Over again and pull yarn through both loops.

Like this...

And that's what a single crochet looks like. Do this 3 more times in the same spot. (4 SC total)

From there, CH 8

Slip stitch into the first SC in your loop.

Here's a Slip Stitch (sl st):
Put your hook through your loop...

Pull the yarn through both loops

Just like this

And you have a sl St into that spot.

*CH 8 more, sl st into the next SC, CH 8, and then sl st into the same SC.
Repeat from that little * to create a total of 8 loopy petals.

Sl st to join at the base of the first petal.
Then you'll cut your yarn, pull it through the loop to tie it off. You'll have to get a needle and thread your yarn tails into the needle and work them into the flower.
You don't have to work in a large tail - work the tail in for about 2 or 3 inches and then cut the yarn, making sure the last little bit gets inside the stitching to where you don't see any of the tail.


Cooking 101 - German Chocolate Cake Frosting

(Is it because I eat chocolate cake for breakfast that my pants are a little too tight today? Probably not - bring me another piece!)

From the time I was VERY young, I've requested that my mom make this cake for me every year on my birthday. No WAY was I into Barbie cakes or fancy girly cakes - I wanted a serious piece of heaven. After several years, she didn't even have to ask me what kind of cake I wanted - she already knew! And she always saved me a spoonful of the delectable frosting for me to savor. (Afterwards, I'd be licking the pan and any utensil that came in contact with the frosting.)

We had some dinner guests on Sunday and I couldn't resist making up some of this yummy cake with the best-ever frosting.


1 12 oz. can Evaporated Milk
1 c. Sugar
3 Egg yolks
1 stick Butter
1 t. Vanilla
1 1/3 c. shredded, sweetened Coconut
1 c. chopped Pecans (or a little more)

While your cake is baking in the oven: In a medium saucepan, combine evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolks, butter and vanilla. Cook and stir over medium heat until thick (not boiling), about 12 minutes - stirring constantly.

Stir in coconut and pecans. Let the frosting cool for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When your cake comes out of the oven, let it cool for about 20 minutes, as well. For this recipe, it's best not to put hot frosting on a hot cake.


More Miniatures

I don't know why I am going on again with these miniatures - enough with the minis already! But they're SO stinking cute! I'm not really a doll person - I never have been (even as a little girl) but I could get into these miniature houses thing. I'd have myself an entire neighborhood - that I would decorate for every holiday!
So I did a quick search for mini stuff and here's what I found! My jaw hit the floor and I was overwhelmed at how life-like everything was! Unvelievable. The website is Fingertip Fantasies and here are some of my favorites!

Blueberry oatmeal on a tray?! Very cute.

These peaches are so TINY and real-looking!!!

I can't believe the details in this brownie making display. Compare the items with the dime on the left-hand side of the picture. How on earth do they do this?!

STEW?! Amazing.

TACO SALAD?! (amazing)

Of course, I had to add this adorable mini crochet baby blanket.

This reminds me of my grandma's old kitchen chairs.

What modern doll wouldn't love to cook dinner in this great kitchen? (And she wouldn't be embarrased to bring her friends over.)


NOT in the mood to cook...

There are days when you just CAN'T bring yourself around to cooking anything for dinner. You're tired, busy, and don't need the physical and mental stress. I TOTALLY know about that! OR...when there's company coming and you've got 20 minutes to throw together something good. Done that, too! (The more the merrier at our house!)

There are some meals where you can cook double and freeze some for later. I try to do this any chance I can. I am NOT cooking every night! There are some dishes like soup or beans that you can make up, eat one night, and freeze the rest in quart-sized baggies to pull out in a pinch and combine it with some sandwiches or roll up some beans in a tortilla.

Here are some very basic things that I usually ALWAYS have on hand for when I have to be a magician in the kitchen:

White Bean Chili (thaw them out while you throw a batch of cornbread in the oven)

Tortillas (roll up with some beans or make chicken quesadillas)

Mashed Pinto Beans (recipe coming soon) - makes GREAT bean burritos

Lentil Soup (make up some yummy sandwiches to dip with)

Fixings for Molly's Green Chili Stew (most items are all canned and you can toss this soup together in 30 minutes flat.

Roasted Chicken (put this in anything - including that Green Chili Stew, or make chicken salad)

Lunch meat, bread, cheese & fixings

Bag of frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts to throw out on the grill

Fresh fruits & veggies (it doesn't take much time to cut up an apple, grab some baby carrots or dump a bottle of mandarin oranges in a bowl. You can still eat healthy even when you don't have time.)

If, when you're out grocery shopping and planning your weekly menu, you keep the freezer and pantry stocked with these simple things, you'll thank yourself later!

Cooking 101 - White Bean Chili

EVERY time I make this dish, I have requests for the recipe! The green chilies and cilantro give these beans amazing flavor! I usually serve it with corn bread or inside a good whole wheat tortilla.

1 lb. Dried navy beans
5 c. Chicken stock (or 5 bullion cubes & 5 c. water)
½ Stick of butter
1 T. Minced garlic
¾ c. Diced onion
1 ½ c. Chopped green chilies (fresh or canned)
1 lb. Boneless, skinless chicken, finely chopped (uncooked)
1 T. Cumin
1 T. Oregano
1-2 t. Black pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
½ Bunch Cilantro leaves, chopped

Rinse beans well, cover with cool water and soak for 2 hours. Drain. Place beans in large pot with chicken stock, bring to a boil over high heat. In a saucepan, heat butter over medium heat. Add garlic, onion and chilies – sauté for 5 minutes. (it’ll smell SO good!) Add chili mixture to pot with beans. Add chicken and all other seasonings. Lower heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for approximately 1 ½ hours.

Note: This make a big batch – save half in a large freezer bowl for another day

Cooking 101 - The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Trust me when I say that I've tried hundreds of chocolate chip cookies. These are the BEST, by far. You've got to try them to believe me! (This recipe came from a friend of mine, Amy Olson)

You'll need:

1 1/4 c. room temperature butter (the real stuff, not margarine)
3/4 c. brown sugar, packed
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla

1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1/8 or 1/4 t. nutmeg (your preference)
1 t. baking soda
3 c. oats
12 oz. chocolate chips
1 c. chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter, sugars, egg and vanilla on low speed. Don't overmix - but make sure it's all blended well. Add the rest of the ingredients until mixed well.

Spoon medium-sized cookies onto cookie sheet and bake for approximately 9 minutes. Cookies should be a little gooey and slightly browned around the edges. Let cool for a couple of minutes before trying to take them off of the pan.

We actually enjoy our cookies frozen. I know, I know, it sounds crazy - but it's good!


Doll House Bakery

This is a gallery of photos taken by the Turkey Feathers blog author. It's this little doll house that she's turned into a mini-bakery with all of these amazing details! For fun, it's a must-see.

New Website

I just discovered this cool, new website for you digital scrapbookers and bloggers out there - pcLayers. You can download beautiful artwork right onto your computer and use them with your blog formats, print them out for scrapbooking, or use them with your digital scrapbooking.
Can it get any more convenient?!


Two New Bags

I've got to admit - these REVERSIBLE BAGS are fun! I decided to do two at a time today and save myself some time - and because I fell in love with two different styles of fabric and couldn't make up my mind which one I wanted more. The country rose bag is for when I'm in a feminine, "English country tea-party" mood and the green floral bag fits my style more, so I could see it being an everyday bag for me to lug diapers, books, snacks, etc.

Has anyone else made a bag yet? I'd love to see your creations! If I get enough response, I'll start a Flickr page for these beautiful bags. I guarantee that once you do your first bag and see how easy they are - you'll want to do a few of them!