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3341  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Craftalongs / Re: 12 Quilt Projects in 2012 Along on: January 19, 2012 06:58:26 AM
Adorable Kwilty!
3342  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Craftalongs / Re: Five-Dollar-Dinner Cookalong? on: January 17, 2012 07:53:16 AM
Both of these meals came in under $5, and both included 2 specific ingredients: a bag of dried Spinach & Cheese Tortellini from Aldi ($1.20) and a huge loaf of Sesame Seed Bread found on the quick-sale rack at Walmart ($.99).  Since my husband hates eating "the same thing every day", I tried to use both ingredients differently.

Chicken Parmesan with Tortellini & Garlic Bread
Tortellini (dried, 1/2 package from Aldi) $.69
Marinara Sauce (1/2 jar) $.95
2 chicken tenders (frozen) $1.20
1/3 loaf Sesame Seed Bread $.33
Butter $.40
Parsley $.10
Garlic Powder $.05
Grated Parmesan $.10
Shredded Mozzarella $.25
TOTAL: $4.07

Bake the chicken tenders according to package directions (about 20 mins).  Meanwhile, start a pot of water for the tortellini on high heat.  While that is heating, split the loaf of bread and butter both sides.  Sprinkle with garlic powder, parsley, and just a little bit of grated Parmesan & Mozzarella.  Add the tortellini to the boiling water, with a large pinch of Kosher salt, and boil according to package directions (about 13-15 mins).  Put the Marinara sauce in a small pan and heat over medium, stirring occasionally.  During the last 8 minutes of cooking for the chicken tenders, add the garlic bread to the oven to toast.  Drain the tortellini & divide between two plates. Top with a little of the Marinara sauce.  Add the chicken tenders on top of the tortellini and top with more sauce.  While still piping hot, sprinkle on some shredded Mozzarella & grated Parmesan.  Top with a little dried parsley for color.  Serve with hot Garlic Bread.

VERDICT: This was an amazing meal, and easily could have fed 3 people with the addition of an extra chicken tender.  Very satisfying and comforting on a winter night.  I tend to avoid making Chicken Parmesan because I hate breading the chicken, and it makes too much food for 2 people.  This was the perfect solution.  My husband doesn't care for pasta or tomato sauce, but even he cleaned his plate.  Oh, and don't forget the sprinkle of parsley on top of the finished dish!  We eat with our eyes as much as our mouths, and making a simple (and cheap) meal look pretty can make it feel utterly indulgent.

Chicken & Spinach Tortellini Soup with Toasted Sesame Seed Bread
Tortellini (dried, 1/2 package from Aldi) $.69
32 oz. box chicken broth (I buy this at Dollar Tree) $1.00
Chicken breast $1.00
1 tsp. garlic (from a jar) $.05
2 Carrots, peeled & chopped $.20
1 rib Celery, chopped $.15
2 Green Onions $.15
2-3 cups fresh Baby Spinach $.75
1 tsp. Italian Seasoning .05
1 T Parsley $.10
Salt & Pepper
1/3 loaf Sesame Seed Bread $.33
Butter $.20
TOTAL: $4.67

Boil the chicken breast in a pot of water until cooked through.  (About 15-20 minutes).  Meanwhile, peel and chop the veggies.  When the chicken breast is done, fill a pan with the chicken broth, garlic, parsley & Italian seasoning.  Heat on high until just beginning to boil.  Add the carrots and simmer 5 minutes.  Add the celery and simmer 5 minutes more.  Add the tortellini and simmer according to package directions (about 13 minutes).  While the tortellini is cooking, chop the chicken breast and pick over the spinach for any stems or wilty pieces.  Toast the bread and top with butter.  During the last minute of cooking toss in the chopped chicken and green onions.  Remove from heat and stir in the spinach.  You want to wilt the spinach, which will turn a bright beautiful green.  (Do NOT cook it longer, or it will go from bright green to grey very fast.)  Serve immediately.

VERDICT: This was an excellent meal.  Fresh tasting and hearty.  The veggies were cooked perfectly.  Soft, but still al dente.  It made 3 full bowls, served with toast.  If you'd like to serve more people, and still keep it under $5, I'd recommend adding another 2 carrots, 1 rib of celery, and an extra handful of spinach, along with some water.  You can also add another chicken breast, if you swap out the chicken broth for bullion instead. 
3343  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Craftalongs / Re: Five-Dollar-Dinner Cookalong? on: January 17, 2012 05:59:32 AM
I posted two $5 dinners yesterday, and somehow when I stopped by this morning, they're not here!  It looks like web gremlins ate them.  I guess I'll start typing them up again....
3344  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Craftalongs / Re: 12 Quilt Projects in 2012 Along on: January 16, 2012 07:54:50 AM
P.S.  I rendered another quilt in Photoshop using the 1001 Peeps line, but I'm not sure which sashing & binding colors to use.  Take a look at my little GALLERY and vote on one of the color combinations I came up with or feel free to suggest your own ideas!  If the fabrics arrive soon, I'm hoping to start piecing the baby quilts this weekend.  Cheesy
3345  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Craftalongs / Re: 12 Quilt Projects in 2012 Along on: January 15, 2012 08:31:46 AM
P.S.  There is lots of Dora fabric available on eBay, and if you have a hard time finding things you like, remember to check out Dora bed sheet sets.  They can always be cut up to provide fabric.  Cheesy
3346  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Craftalongs / Re: 12 Quilt Projects in 2012 Along on: January 15, 2012 08:20:05 AM
Honestly, it also depends heavily on your skill level.  Not to sound snooty, but I sew for a living and I've had to deal with this problem a LOT.  

Background:  I have a Bachelor's in Theatre Design (where I worked in costume shops for all 4 years of school) and a Master's degree in costume design & construction.  I have been sewing since the age of 6.  When I was in my teens, people used to ask me to sew for them.  I had a really hard time charging my friends then.  Even when I charged what I felt were really reasonable prices (like I was making $2 per hour), people often balked at the cost.  As I got older, and my skills increased dramatically, and my time became more full, my prices went up.  People got more angry.  My favorite retort from miserly customers is "My grandma can sew!"  I always answer with "Well then, why aren't you asking your grandma to make you a custom-fit Jedi costume out of wool and linen for $30?"  There's usually a lot of stammering at this point.

You have to look at sewing as a SKILL, on par with any other craftsman.  It is a skill after all, and one that not everyone has.  Would you expect a good plummer to fix your pipes for free?  An experienced carpenter to build you a house for $2 an hour?  No.  And if you did find one who wanted to work for that little, they would be highly suspect.  It has long been a pet peeve of mine that women especially, tend to undervalue their work.  I honestly feel this is a hangover from a time when "women's work" was something undervalued by society as a whole.  Embroidery was something wealthy ladies did to pass the hours, as they were allowed no other occupation, and sewing clothing was something poor women did, either for their families, or to provide extra income.

Now, getting off my soap box, try to look at this logically.  Start with some basic questions.  What size is my quilt?  How much yardage of fabrics do I need?  What will the costs of those yardages be?  Start by recording the full price for all that fabric, thread, batting, quilt backing, etc.  You can always "shop smart" and get things on sale, but start your estimate with the full cost.  This can be a huge help later, if your hours estimate is wrong.  And if you are good on your labor estimates, you can always decrease your price LATER.  (Believe me, no one is going to be pissed when you tell them it cost $20 less after the fact.)

Next, you need to estimate labor.  Start with questions like these:  Is this a pattern I've done before?  How difficult are my blocks?  Am I going to be making a bunch of the same thing, or lots of different ones?  Am I able to cut lots of items at once (stack & whack) with a rotary cutter?  Then list the estimated hours by type of work.  Cutting, sewing blocks, piecing the quilt front, adding borders, basting the quilt sandwich, quilting the layers, trimming & binding the edges.  Then add in a column for "thinking time".  I'm not kidding on this one.  Do not consider your thinking time to be your own to spend.  Figure in a healthy hour or two.  After all, we've all gotten to a rough point on a project, and needed to stop and reconsider how to proceed.  If you don't end up needing it, then again, you can always take it off the cost later.

Finally, you have to figure out what your work is worth per hour.  This can vary depending on how skilled YOU are, and sadly, what are of the country you are in.  (For example, if I worked in a costume shop in NYC, I would make $35+ per hour.  In a large regional theatre, about $25-30.  Currently I work at a university in Kentucky, and I'm making about $20 per hour.)  Figure out your skill level compared to OTHER jobs as well.  Do you have a best friend who is a web designer?  Landscaper?  Dog Groomer?  Ask what they make per hour.  What do you make per hour at your "day job"?  Is that more or less skilled?  For example, let's say you make $8 per hour as a Toast Maker.  Lots of people can make toast, so the value on labor wouldn't be high.  Is your sewing more skilled than that?  Less?  But what if you're a neurosurgeon and you make $500 an hour to save people's lives?  Your sewing skills would probably be valued lower than your day job.  The final component in figuring cost per hour is related to the person you are working for.  A close friend might cause you to be willing to work for less.  But do at least start with what you deserve per hour if you were working for full pay, for a stranger.  Then adjust according to your conscience.

As a rough guide, here are some sewing labor estimates.
Beginner, who has never made a quilt before: $8-10 per hour
Moderate stitcher, who has quilted a few times: $10-15 per hour
Experienced stitcher, who can work quickly & effectively: $15-30 per hour

Now you have to add all those various estimates together.  I usually do this with a "high" and a "low".  For example, I might figure that it would take me 2-3 hours to cut all my blocks.  I'll use 2 hours on my low estimate and 3 on my high estimate.  Add all the items up and give that person a range.  I try to make sure it's a reasonable range to plan for.  Say not more than about $50 apart, max.  (Somewhere between $100 and $1000 is NOT a reasonable range.  $300-350 is a fair distance.)

Give the person your honest estimates, low and high, and let them know you will be happy to keep them updated on your progress.  And if they give you a hard time, remind them that we all work for a living, and your time is not worth less than theirs is.  If it seems too hard to reason with the person, walk away from the job.  It won't be worth the heartache of straining a friendship, and working yourself for less than you deserve.
3347  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Craftalongs / Re: 12 Quilt Projects in 2012 Along on: January 10, 2012 08:23:20 PM
Thanks Melly!
3348  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Craftalongs / Re: Five-Dollar-Dinner Cookalong? on: January 10, 2012 06:57:43 AM
Tonight's dinner isn't going to fit the $5 budget, but that's because we're having people over.  I've got a crockpot full of Beef Stew simmering away in my kitchen right now, so I won't have to worry about anything later.  But it does come in around $11 to feed 5 adults, which I think is a pretty good deal.

3349  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Craftalongs / Re: 12 Quilt Projects in 2012 Along on: January 10, 2012 06:52:23 AM
I've done an Irish Chain with a black background.  It was really stunning.  You can see it here:  http://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=277262.0
3350  HOME SWEET HOME / Crafty Housewares: Completed Projects: General / Re: Bead Curtain of Craftster Love *pic heavy* on: January 10, 2012 06:50:14 AM
Yay!  I'm so glad you were able to make something lovely for yourself with what was sent.  I love my fellow Craftster-ers!
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