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1  HOME SWEET HOME / Crafty Housewares: Completed Projects: General / Travel Pillow From Men's Button-Up Shirt on: November 29, 2008 09:47:04 PM
My mother-in-law and I spent our Black Friday figuring out how to make travel-size pillows from my husband's brother's old button-up shirts and I was so thrilled about how well they turned out when we basically just made the whole thing up from scratch, that I wanted to share the pictures of what we ended up with.  We started with a size XL men's shirt and then ended up with a pillow that was about 15 inches high and 20 inches wide.  It's also very inexpensive to make - no expensive pillow inserts or polyfill to buy!

I blogged the full tutorial here if anyone wants specific instructions on how to make these nifty little things.  You could repurpose some old clothes into neat Christmas gifts this way - and they look good, not really all that homemade. 

We used a bed pillow from Target that cost $5 and then we chopped it in half, sewed up the cut edges, and used the button placket from the shirt as a built-in opening in the back of the pillow.  No button-holing, no button sewing, just straight stitch and zigzag.  You could work these in an assembly line if you have a lot of shirts to turn into pillows - one person cut the pieces out while the other person keeps sewing!

Edit: Please ignore the food in the pictures!  We were snacking as we worked!
2  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / Cute Stuffed Toy OR Dog Usurper? YOU Decide on: May 12, 2008 08:14:13 PM
So lately Ive been busy with a variety of projects, which I havent posted about yet because I made some of them for a swap, and I don't want to spoil the surprise.  But I've been dying to post about them (hopefully my package will arrive soon)!

After I finished my swap project and got it sent off, I had a couple of other little things in mind that I wanted to work on. One of them is related to my increasing obsession with the idea of making cute stuffed animals, so Ive been researching books on the topic, and one of them that I recently took out of the library was a brief volume titled Soft Animals A to Z. It has some of the more thorough patterns that Ive looked at, so I copied a few of them off and started working on a little elephant this weekend, using some scrap flannel I had around. I was originally going to make it all pink, but I had some soft floral print as well, and decided to use it for the insides of his ears, as well as his tusks, tail, and footpads. I am so glad I decided to do this.

This was a great project for me to work on at this stage in my sewing skills, because it gave me some practice working with very small seam allowances, as well as with turning and stuffing small bits and pieces. It also was small enough that I was able to finish it in a weekend. So Saturday night after I finished potting the herb plants I bought while out with onthinice, I laid out the pieces and started working on the little elephant. It only took a few hours to get him nearly finished, and by midnight I was almost ready to turn his body inside out and start stuffing.

I found the pattern fairly easy to follow, and didn't have much trouble putting things together, based on the helpful diagrams, well-labeled pattern pieces which are referred to clearly with all capped names in the text, and the combined clarity and brevity of the instructions.  I didn't follow it exactly.  It called for a different type of material, like microsuede or felt, but I decided flannel would be just fine.  I like the way it turned out, and how soft it is.  The only thing I might do differently is that I think the pale color I chose might get dingy too quickly, especially if given to a child.  Still, I really like the way it turned out. 

The pattern called for me to cut 1.5 inch cardboard or plastic circles to push into the bottoms of his feet for stability, but I decided this would only frustrate me, as I was not able to get his footpads sewn on quite uniformly enough for this to work without some adjustment. I don't think it's really too noticeable, but they are not quite round, and not quite all the same as each other.  So instead of struggling with that, I poured two tablespoons of poly pellets into the bottom of each leg, then used a chopstick to stuff polyfill down into the legs.

I am extremely proud of this elephant. It is one of my greatest sewing accomplishments to date. My boyfriend pronounced it a totally great elephant, and when I went out to dinner with my coworker friend tonight I took the elephant along in the car to show off, and even she agreed that it was a very cute little elephant.

To explain the title of this post, last night after I completed the elephant, I was holding it on my lap looking at it, and my boyfriend was lying on the other couch with the dog curled up against him. Hey, Ill trade you, he said. I handed him the elephant and called the dog over. He looked at the elephant, then tucked it under his arm where the dog had been.

The dog began staring at the toy elephant, which was sitting where she had been, enjoying the affection and attention she had been. My boyfriend noticed this and pointed it out to me. He moved the elephant a little bit, and the dog perked up and pricked her ears forward. This is the same thing she does when she thinks a mouse is around. She jumped down and stared up at the elephant, which he then handed to me. She immediately resumed the spot the elephant had been occupying.

I found this completely hilarious, so I began fussing over the elephant and petting it, and telling it how it was good and maybe it needed a treat. The dog watched bitterly from her perch in my boyfriends arms. Honey, thats cruel, he accused, in a way that suggested he found it as humorous as I did. So I stood up with the elephant and walked over to put it on the table. The dog got up and followed me suspiciously.

Then this morning when I was getting ready to leave the house, I picked up the elephant to put it in a bag, and the dog kept a watchful eye on it the entire time.

Good dog. She wont be allowing any elephant shenanigans in this house!
3  COOKING / Vegetarian / Vegan / African Peanut Stew on: April 09, 2008 07:49:30 PM
I blogged about this today, then realized it would be a good thing to post in this forum.  I know I'm being lazy by ripping off from my own blog post, but why go to the effort of writing this up two different ways?

Anyway, today I prepared my first vegetarian dish.  I'm not planning to convert, but I wanted to try this out.  I'm considering a couple of meatless meals a week. I think this recipe is vegan too, but Im not 100% sure because it seems like there are tons of little things that can make food not vegan. Vegan wasnt a requirement for me, anyhow. I went to the library after work yesterday and got some books about vegetarian eating. One of the books I checked out was The Vegetarian Family Cookbook, by Nava Atlas.

I was a little afraid of how this would go over at my house, since my boyfriend is what you might consider a meat fan. I think if he could have beef cookies, pork toothpaste, and ham soda, hed be happy. Hes the kind of person who would purchase bacon candy if it ever appeared on the market. Last night I read him a list of recipes Id flagged from a couple of the vegetarian cookbooks. After I finished going through the list I looked up at him quickly, expecting to see a look of abject terror on his face, even though hes had some time while I've been talking about this, to prepare for this possibility.

Well, he said. I cant guarantee Ill like them, but Ill at least try them once. Any of those sound okay.  In other words, he is a keeper.

So I picked a recipe for an African peanut stew, which sounded promising to me. I changed it a tiny bit.

* 1 tbsp canola oil
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 5 garlic cloves, minced
* 2 cups shredded green cabbage
* 2 medium sweet potatoes, diced
* 1 16-oz can diced tomatoes
* 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
* 2 cups frozen okra (or use green beans if you hate okra)
* 1/2 cup reduced fat chunky peanut butter
* 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
* 1 tsp salt

Heat the oil in a soup pot and cook the onion and garlic in it for a couple minutes over medium heat until they get tender. If it starts to stick, add a little water to unstick it. Then add the cabbage, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and ginger, along with 3 or so cups of water. It doesnt have to be exact. You can eyeball it. Bring it all to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Then add the frozen okra and stir in the peanut butter, little by little, until it melts into the broth. Add the red pepper flakes and salt and stir well. Simmer for another 10 minutes or so. If needed, add some hot water to thin it out a little. Serve over hot rice or with bread.

We rated this recipe a B- or so. It has good potential, but it felt like something was missing. We didnt have any rice ready, so we just ate it with bread instead, so maybe it would be better with rice. I liked it pretty well overall. I feel a little bad admitting this, but maybe what its missing ismeat? I kind of thought it might be good with shrimp, crab meat, or a smidge of finely chopped chicken.  Either way, I think this is more of a once-in-a-while dish.  Peanut butter has so much fat in it that this is not really all that light, even though I love it.  It would kind of defeat my whole vegetarian health agenda if I picked only the really fatty, delicious meat-free dishes.  I mean, hell, I could eat cake all day and call myself a vegetarian. 

I was hungry again about an hour after I ate, but that happens to me with regular meals sometimes, too.  This is my first try.  I'll see how my other ventures go.  We're having chicken stir fry tomorrow night, since I figure the boyfriend was a good sport about this.  Maybe this weekend I'll try another while he's not around, or next week sometime.  I found a mushroom stroganoff that sounds promising.  This book also has a bunch of good sounding baking recipes, most of which call for very little fat - big relief - those are hard to find, a lot of times.  Thanks, Vegetarian Family Cookbook!
4  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Two Potato Chicken Soup on: March 23, 2008 03:16:26 PM
We have an old-fashioned stove from the 1950s, and a couple of months ago the heating element went out in the oven.  We haven't been able to get a new part yet because it's on backorder, and we're kind of reluctant to go buy a new one when we might still be able to fix this one, so we've been getting pretty creative trying to come up with new meals to eat that don't involve using the oven!  We have been eating a LOT of soup!  I had decided to share a couple of my recipes on my blog, just because it might be fun, and then I remembered today that there was a recipe sharing board here.

This is a chicken soup recipe I made up last winter and that we've had a few times since the oven went out.  It's really more of an autumn dish, but it tastes good regardless of when you eat it, I guess!

Oh, and let me explain something about the Kitchen Basics stock. The carton is expensive, and I think it is totally worth it. You will notice this when you pour it out of the carton for the first time. Other brands of broth or stock are a pale yellowish color. This stuff is high octane. Im not a huge name brand person for most things, but for this, we just can't stand to go back to the regular old Swanson stuff!  If you really need to save the money, it is not the end of the world to use the cheaper broth.  The rest of the ingredients are pretty inexpensive, since it is mainly vegetables.  This is also a very light recipe with very little fat, if you are trying to watch what you eat. 

    * 1 tsp canola oil
    * 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
    * 1 small can apple juice (about 5-6 oz)
    * 3/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
    * 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped
    * 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
    * 4 carrots, peeled and sliced
    * 1 32-oz carton Kitchen Basics chicken stock
    * 1 tsp dried thyme
    * salt to taste

While cutting the vegetables, start a soup pot heating over medium heat. Cut up the onions first. Add the oil to the pot and saute the onions for a few minutes until they soften and begin to turn translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the can of apple juice and deglaze the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken breast and let it poach in the liquid while you cut up the potatoes and carrots. When they are cut up, add them to the pot and pour the chicken stock in. Add the thyme. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Pull the chicken out of the pot with a fork and slap it on a cutting board.  Using the fork to hold it in place, use a sharp knife to cut it into bite-sized pieces.  Return the chicken to the pot.  Salt to taste and serve with crusty bread or rolls.
5  NEEDLEWORK / Needlework: Completed Projects / Embroidered Patches for a Baby's Crazy Quilt on: March 19, 2008 07:20:09 PM
Hi!  This is my first project to share here on Craftster.  I'm almost a beginner to embroidery, other than cross stitch.  I just got a sewing machine a few weeks ago, and I know some people who are having babies, so I decided to make a baby-sized crazy quilt as a practice project.  The book I was reading had an example of crazy patchwork, where a bunch of the patches had cute little things embroidered on it.  So I thought it would be fun to do that for this quilt. 

The giraffe was the first one I did, and my first attempt at ever doing satin stitch.  I actually think the giraffe's eye and spots turned out better than the eyes on the mouse and squirrel, whose eyes look sort of mean to me.  Oh, well.  I am not the one who will have to tend to a toddler who wakes up shrieking because of nightmares about the evil mouse and squirrel on her blanky.  I am a bad friend.  I am not going to warn the mother of the child who ultimately receives this quilt.

This guy looked awful before I added leaves to the picture. WHAT WAS HE TRYING TO LICK? 

This is Hunca Munca from Beatrix Potter's "A Tale of Two Bad Mice". It is a touching story about two mice who break a doll's house to look for food, but then become frustrated and trash the place. They steal a bunch of the dolls' things and take them back to their mousehole. Then after committing these atrocities, they voluntarily clean the dolls' house every day for the rest of their lives. Well, it was 1905. I guess they didn't know about recidivism then.

This is Squirrel Nutkin, who is apparently getting ready to throw some type of projectile at someone or something. What a hoodlum. I think he drinks and smokes on school nights.

The weird blue marks are from the water soluble fabric pen I used to transfer the patterns onto the material.  I realized after I uploaded the pictures that I had forgotten to wet the fabric to get rid of them.  So try to pretend it isn't there!
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