Garden Pictures


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Buying a house comes with many new responsibilities, but one that I am most excited about is having our own yard and garden.  I’ve always wanted to have a nice, well-cared for lawn and to grow my own flowers and vegetables. This house has plenty of opportunity for that!

When we moved in last November it was clear that nothing much had been done with the yard lately, but it was too late in the season (and we were too busy) to do much about it. You could see that there was a time when the yard (and all the flowerbeds) had been carefully taken care of, but as the weather warmed up this spring it was all a bit weedy and unkempt. I actually took a day off from school and got some extra help from my parents to strike the first blow against the enormous quantity of weeds. I’m pretty sure we filled the back of my husband’s pickup with weeds…and that doesn’t even count the load of branches and such that came from trimming bushes. I went to bed that night exhausted but satisfied to have made such a good start. Since then I’ve been out to the greenhouse a few times and spent a little more time digging the weeds around here and I’m excited to share my results so far!

Here is the vegetable garden in the back yard:


In the back is a large rhubarb plant and a raspberry bush. Front right, strawberries. Far right, looks like empty dirt–lettuce. Middle, tomatoes. Left, green peppers. Far left (seeded but not sprouted yet), cucumbers.


Close-up of the tomatoes and peppers.

Before we set to work, this bed was completely weeds. It’s so much nicer now! The only downside is…it’s about time to go out and weed it again! Fortunately it rained yesterday so I think it should go pretty easily.

My lettuce is already coming up!

DSCF0815I just love garden lettuce. It makes eating salad so much more appealing!

Here are some pics from the front yard:


I kind of like this twisted dead tree. It’s mysterious and interesting-looking.


I wondered for quite a while what this lovely flower was. Thanks to the research of a friend, I now can tell you that it is Heartleaf Bergenia. It was really beautiful when it first bloomed, and had a wonderful scent!


This is some kind of verbena.


The flower bed from another angle.


No garden is complete without a geranium somewhere!


Yellow portulaca or moss roses.



DSCF0818This is another flower bed in the front yard:


Earlier in spring, this bed had orange tulips and yellow daffodils blooming. Gorgeous! I’ve planted some cosmos…I hope they come up!


I think this is some variety of “hen and chicks.”

Altogether, I’m pretty pleased with my garden so far. Now I just have to stay on top of the weeding so it doesn’t end up like it was before!

Renfrew top


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I’ve been a bit absent on this blog lately. Somewhere in the middle of the school year I just lost my motivation…I think it was around the time I was cast in a play and started driving 60 miles round trip multiple times a week for rehearsals! However, that’s all over and done now, school is winding down, and I’ve got some things to share with you!

Despite all the different things I like to try with sewing, I haven’t sewn with knits much.  My only foray into the land of stretchy fabric was this dress I made several years ago:



I’m not sure why I haven’t done more with knits, since this project was very successful–it fit beautifully, went together easily, I love how it looks and feels, and I still wear it! (In fact, looking at this picture, I kind of want to make another dress off that pattern now…)

All that has changed, now, though! I’ve cherished dreams of making Sewaholic’s Renfrew top ever since the pattern was released. This winter, Sewaholic had a nice pattern sale, so I seized the moment and ordered the pattern.

It really was fun and pretty simple to sew. I know there are various techniques for sewing with knits, but the one that has worked best for me is just using the stretch stitch on my machine. It slows down your sewing a bit, since it double- or triple-stitches each stitch, but I like the end result and it feels very secure. I don’t have a serger or anything special like that, but I’m quite happy with what I can produce using my good old Sears Kenmore.

I used a lightweight red striped print from JoAnn Fabrics. I’ve been really attracted to reds lately. Forgive the imperfect pictures–they were the best I could do on my self-timer on the camera!DSCF0595DSCF0597I’m quite happy with my new shirt. It’s a little big–I went with a straight size 12 according to my measurements but I’m beginning to see (after making Renfrew, Cambie, and Hollyburn) that I’m a bit smaller than a Sewaholic 12. However, I actually like the relaxed fit on this shirt. It’s soft and comfortable–it doesn’t need to be totally fitted.

DSCF0596I like that the sleeves come down past my wrists. I despise sleeves that are too short.

DSCF0599In the above picture you can see how baggy the shirt is in the sleeve area. I think when I make this again I will take it in somewhat at the sleeve seams and the side seams and see if I can make a more fitted version.

DSCF0594Forgive the slightly awkward pose here. Just wanted to show how it looks with my yellow scarf! I’ve actually worn this combination several times–I like the bright colors.

I really like this pattern and I definitely foresee using it again in the future. It’s so versatile! I like being able to sew more basic, everyday garments, and this fits the bill perfectly. Maybe next time I will try the V-neck option.

Chocolate Oatmeal Cake


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I have a slight problem with baked goods involving oatmeal. As in, I can’t get enough of them. Basically, if you put oatmeal in it, I want to eat more of it than is probably healthy. I have been known to single-handedly demolish pretty much an entire pan of Caramel-Oat bars…which is a recipe for another day.  And I’ve definitely been making Peanut Butter-Banana Oatmeal for breakfast almost every morning lately…it’s not “baked goods” but it sure is tasty.

This is an old standby that you may have seen before, but it’s still delicious and amazing. Double whammy of deliciousness: oats AND chocolate! Even better, it’s quick, easy, and uses all ingredients that you probably have in your pantry.

Chocolate Oatmeal Cake

1 cup oatmeal
1 3/4 cups boiling water
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup nuts (optional; I think nuts are gross in most baked goods)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9×13 cake pan.

In a large bowl, pour boiling water over oatmeal. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Add brown sugar, white sugar, vanilla, and butter, stirring until butter melts. (If your butter is cold, you might want to help it along by microwaving it a bit before adding to the mix.) Beat in eggs. Then add flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa. Mix. Add 2/3 cup chocolate chips.

Pour into greased and floured pan. Sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips and nuts (if using). Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.


Try not to eat it all in one sitting.


New Curtains!


I’m pretty sure the only curtains that ever hung in my parents’ house that weren’t homemade were the heavy drapes we used to have in the living room. (Those are long gone, now replaced by much nicer blinds.) My mom has always outfitted every room in curtains she sews herself, and has for as long as I can remember. When I was little, I had at least 3 dresses made from old sets of curtains. My particular favorite was made with blue fabric that had hung in my parents’ bedroom–it had little white flowers and eyelet lace trim, and my mom made it into a full-skirted dress with little puffy sleeves. That dress made me happy!

When it was time to get new curtains in our bedrooms, Mom let us choose the fabric. I remember one particularly unfortunate choice of hot pink fabric decorated with cats. Those curtains didn’t stay up long–they made my room a constant shade of pink that felt a little weird.

My 15th birthday present from my parents was to re-decorate my room. Thrilled to have a blank slate, I chose purpley-blue walls with sea-green trim and a floral border. I actually still really like the wall color and even the wallpaper border, but I kind of wonder what I was thinking with that green trim. However, my favorite part was (and still is) the white eyelet curtains that my mom made to my specifications, with a valance and everything. I still admire them every time I go home!  If I could, I think I’d hang white eyelet curtains everywhere in my house.

Now we have a new house and plenty of blank windows to decorate. A few had to be taken care of right away–I did not want to leave my living room and bedroom windows without any coverings until my life slowed down enough to make curtains. We got some plain, cream-colored curtains at Target for the living room, and light-blocking ones for the bedroom (my husband often works a night shift and sleeps during the day).

With the madness of the holidays over, I finally had a chance to visit JoAnn’s with my mom for the important task of fabric selection. I have to say, I was pretty proud of myself for how fast I made my fabric choices–and I really like all of them.  Curtains are super easy to sew–once you figure out where to cut for the right-sized panels (thank you, Mom, for doing the math for me), it’s just a matter of hemming and casings. All straight lines…I rarely get to sew so quickly!

Here are the results:

Kitchen valance


Isn’t this striped fabric delightful? It looks like old-fashioned wall paper.

Bathroom–this will be changing slightly. The white valance was here in the house when we moved in, but it doesn’t really work well with the new curtains. We’re actually going to take that down and put up a valance made with matching blue fabric.

DSCF0583Sewing room/music room/still don’t know what to call this room:


The green print kind of matches my sewing machine. Totally unintentional!

DSCF0582I love my new curtains! They make the rooms look so much more finished. I still have a couple of blinds lying around that I need to put up on various windows, but overall, things are starting to come together and have less of a “just-moved-in” feel!

Peanut Butter-Banana Oatmeal


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When I was a kid, I hated eating oatmeal. It wasn’t so much the flavor, but the appearance…I thought it looked like barf.

Actually, objectively and honestly, I kind of still think it looks like barf. However, I have come to terms with the appearance of oatmeal and learned to appreciate its flavor…especially when you add things to it. Some of my favorite mix-ins are Craisins, brown sugar, maple syrup, apples & cinnamon, applesauce, pear sauce, cranberry sauce….basically any fruit.  I make quick oats in the microwave now….1/3 cup oatmeal, 2/3 cup water, nuke it for a minute and add some extras.

This post isn’t really about quick oats, though. I would like to share with you my new favorite oatmeal, that I could probably eat every day. It’s more delicious and more satisfying than my usual oatmeal, and only takes a little longer to make. It’s PEANUT BUTTER BANANA OATMEAL. I mean, I love peanut butter and bananas. I even like bananas in oatmeal. So why not combine them?

This is the original recipe. 

Please go read it and look at the beautiful pictures. They will convince you that you need to make this for breakfast tomorrow.

However, the original poster includes some weird ingredients like “non-dairy butter” (seriously? does such a thing exist?) and “chia seeds.” (ummm…what?) This is my more basic version with stuff that normal people (read: ME) actually have in their cupboards. (Which pretty much just means I ignored the non-dairy and the chia seeds and did everything else. Also, this is a slightly more normal sized portion. 1/2 cup of oatmeal, dry, makes a much larger amount than I usually eat for breakfast.)

1. Melt about a teaspoon of butter in a pot over medium heat. Slice up half a banana and mush it around in the butter until it’s all soft and caramelized (takes a couple of minutes).

2. Add a dollop of peanut butter (I don’t measure it…I just take a nice hearty spoonful), 1/3 cup dry rolled oats, 2/3 cup milk (OR WATER….I didn’t have milk the other day and water worked just fine). You can also add a pinch of salt, but I keep forgetting to do that and it still turns out all right. Stir it all up and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or so, until it’s all smooth and the oatmeal is cooked through.  Scoop it into a bowl and add any or all of the following (or just eat it the way it is, ’cause that’s pretty great too): maple syrup, chopped nuts, a little bit of vanilla extract, cinnamon, more peanut butter, or whatever else your heart desires.

Sorry there are no photos of this creation. The light it my kitchen at 7 am is not great, and I ate all the oatmeal before I thought of photographing it…oops. Let that be the recommendation for this recipe!

Diva Frame Wallet


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While I love garment sewing best, sometimes it’s fun to do a different kind of project. Our local quilt shop was offering a class today on the Diva Frame Wallet pattern from Sew Many Creations. The samples looked fantastic so I thought it would be fun to join in. Here are the results:

DSCF0570DSCF0572The ladies teaching the class gave us a couple of modifications to the original pattern, like adding the elastic in the middle to hold the pen.

They also suggested adding a lining to the zipper pocket so you wouldn’t be looking at the wrong side of the fabric when it’s unzipped:

DSCF0573The whole project took just 2 fat quarters (though I think you could do it with scraps, for the most part–the biggest piece is 8 1/2″ x 9″), some interfacing, a zipper, and the hardware.

DSCF0574I needed a new wallet anyways. I’ve been using the same boring old brown one for years. This is much more fun!

I can’t comment much on the pattern directions–since I was doing it at the class, everything was demonstrated. But everything went together very easily and only took about 2 hours from start to finish. I imagine it would be even quicker if I did it again.  I might have to try one again sometime using some scraps from my bin of leftovers…heaven knows I have enough!

Colette “Zinnia” Skirt + Grainline “Archer” shirt


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I hadn’t sewn anything since summer, so it was time for some new projects!

For some time I have been interested in Colette Patterns. They have some really cute designs. But I’ve never got around to ordering any of their patterns–until I saw the Zinnia skirt. I’ve seen some mixed reviews of this pattern online, saying it’s too basic and has some odd instructions on the waistband. However, I knew as soon as I saw it that the silhouette is just what I wanted. I’ve been trying to sew some more practical skirts–as in, practical for being a music teacher. I find myself wearing skirts to school quite frequently, and the ones I enjoy most are the slightly longer, fuller skirts. This is because at some point in almost every day, I have to sit on the floor, “criss-cross applesauce”, to sing or play a game with my students. Let me tell you about how well that works in a pencil skirt…

I was specifically drawn to the pleated version of the skirt–I just love that detail. So, on impulse, I ordered the pattern. Then it languished in my sewing box throughout the fall and moving and all the chaos December.

Finally, the weekend before Christmas, my husband and I were able to take a trip to “town” to do some grocery shopping and errand-running–including fabric shopping!  I got a great deal at JoAnn’s on this beautiful, deep-red linen blend. I mostly thought of this project as something I would have to work on over Christmas break, no big rush.

Then I realized what a lovely, Christmas-y red color the fabric was, and how nice it would be to have something new to wear on Christmas. So, in between preparing to host 16 people for Christmas dinner at our new house, I got my skirt put together. I ended up hemming it at 6:30 am on Christmas day…no big rush, right? Ha. The good news is, the pattern was straightforward, it went together smoothly, it fits great, and it looks beautiful!

First some teaser pictures:


Aren’t those stitched-down pleats pretty? Oh, and please forgive the wrinkles–I’ve worn this skirt a couple of times already, and it’s linen!

Regarding the waistband directions given in the pattern: I did not follow their directions. I’d read in a couple of different places that the given instructions were not the usual way of applying a waistband and that they seemed unnecessarily confusing. When I read the directions, I agreed. I just applied the waistband in the usual way and it worked just fine. In fact, I have to say, it’s one of the best waistbands I’ve done. Usually when I stitch-in-the-ditch to finish the waistband, I end up missing a lot of it and have to go back and finish it by hand. So much so, that sometimes I just sew the whole inner part of the waistband by hand in the first place to make it look neater (as on my Hollyburn skirt). This one, however, worked like a charm and I didn’t have to tack it by hand at all. That’s what I call success!


I like the lapped button closure on the waistband, and I really dig this black button I found!

The only thing I did by hand on this skirt was the zipper. Thanks to Tasia (of Sewaholic Patterns) and her tutorials and pictures on the subject, I am a hand-picked zipper convert! I don’t mind invisible zippers, as those usually go quite well for me, but I love the neat and easy finish of doing it by hand. I think I like it best because I feel like I am more in control.


I had just the right color of thread; you really can’t see the zipper stitching at all unless you’re quite close-up.

I’ve also seen a lot of buzz on the internet about the Grainline “Archer” button-up shirt pattern. I’ve been interested in sewing a button-up shirt for a while, so I decided to buy some coordinating fabric and make a shirt to go with my skirt. This floral-print lightweight cotton fabric was the first thing that caught my eye when I went into Jo-Anns…I actually debated using it for the skirt, but then after I found the red linen for the skirt I realized the floral would go with it very nicely as a shirt.

Don’t you agree?

DSCF0537I have to say, I’m not wild about e-patterns that you have to print and piece together yourself. Granted, it’s handy–instant pattern gratification, as opposed to waiting several days for it to come in the mail. But seriously, pattern-cutting is arguably my least favorite part of the sewing process, and piecing it all together before cutting it out just extends the misery. Ugh. However, I will say that is is much more bearable now that I have a real kitchen table on which to spread things out, as opposed to my dinky little round 4-person table.


Otherwise, I really enjoyed making this pattern and I love the finished product. I am especially happy with the fit–I just cut a straight size 8 according to my measurements, and it’s perfect! How often does that happen with patterns? (With Simplicity, etc….NEVER.) I was a little worried that the sleeves were going to be too long, but they ended up just right. I’d rather have them longer than shorter, anyways. Besides, you can always roll up the cuffs.

DSCF0545I didn’t have any real trouble with this pattern, but it’s definitely not for the total novice. There weren’t a lot of illustrations and a couple of times I didn’t quite understand the instructions till I looked online at the Archer Sew Along. For one thing, I interfaced the wrong piece of the button placket…oops. At least that was an easy fix. I also found the collar stand a little tricky, but the video in the sew-along cleared that all up. Seriously, though, how are you supposed to make sense of doing that just from the instructions in the pattern, if you’ve never done a collar stand before? There isn’t even an illustration for that step!

Really, though, my collar went together just fine, once I figured out how to do it. The oddest part was that the collar seemed to have grown–it was too big for the neckline! Not sure how that happened. Maybe my collar stand pieces stretched when I wasn’t looking, or maybe I wasn’t careful in my cutting. I ended up easing the outside layer of stitching, but on the inside layer, which was top stitched, I just made some tucks. Not the most beautiful solution, but it works.


DSCF0566Altogether I’m very happy with the details on this shirt. The top stitching isn’t perfect in some places and if you look at my shoulder seams closely you’ll notice they’re different on the inside (I misunderstood the instructions on the first seam and then I couldn’t fix it because by the time I realized it was wrong, I’d already trimmed the seam allowance). But all the really visible stuff looks fine, and I’m especially thrilled with my buttons and buttonholes. I got the measurements right and they all line up! I french-seamed the sleeves and side seams, which worked great with this lightweight fabric.



I really like this combination; I’ve worn it twice already!DSCF0542 DSCF0541 DSCF0539I’m really happy with the style and fit of this shirt. It’s not very fitted, but it still looks flattering and not just like a sack. I wore it to school yesterday and got several compliments–and no one asked me if I made it myself! I consider that success. I like this shirt so much that I kind of want to make another one. And another Zinnia skirt….I might have a problem.

DSCF0554 DSCF0553 DSCF0551 DSCF0550




Last month felt so overwhelming to me. Of course, December is always a busy month if you are a music teacher. I had all the usual rounds of elementary and high school programs and concerts, plus church commitments. I actually ended up singing and playing at 3 different church services on Christmas Eve—I figured I might as well, since my husband was working and I didn’t have any other plans for the evening. On top of all that, we moved over Thanksgiving weekend. Then I decided to host the whole family (16 people) for Christmas dinner.  It took doing pretty much nothing for the rest of the 2-week break from school for me to recover from that month. I haven’t even sent my thank-you notes yet—and forget about Christmas cards.

As I look back at last month, I feel somehow disappointed in myself because it made me so crazy. I feel like it shouldn’t have been so overwhelming, like I should have been more on top of things. I mean, I know and see other people who do many more “things” than I do (especially people in the music community), and it doesn’t seem to bother them. In some ways, I want to be like that—to be able to take on all those commitments, those new endeavors and challenges, without feeling like they would eat my soul.

But I’m not like that. I like to be busy and creative; I like to have things to do. But at the end of the day, I want to have time to come home and cook dinner and eat with my husband. I want to fold the laundry and wash the dishes and play the piano (or flute, or violin, or guitar…). I want to sit down and work on my sewing or knitting project; read a book, watch a movie. I want to keep my home running well. Ultimately, I’m a homebody.  And I like that about myself.

A New Home



Mrs T. has a new home! Quite literally, actually. My husband and I bought a house last month and moved out of our rental. This is part of my excuse for why I haven’t updated my blog almost two months. (The fact that I am a music teacher and it is holiday season is the other part of my excuse. Multiple concerts and programs, both elementary and secondary, plus church commitments. It’s been a little crazy.)

We’re pretty excited to have our own place. When we got married, Mr. T (hee hee) moved in with me, in the apartment I’d been renting since I moved here. It was a pretty great little house, but we’ve had our eyes open for some time, looking for some place with a little more room and a yard and all that jazz. (Our poor dog has been living out at the ranch for quite  a while now, since we didn’t have a yard for her. ) When we saw this place for sale and heard the price, everything lined up and we knew we had a winner.

We moved in over Thanksgiving weekend (I had some time off from school to do that kind of stuff), and we’ve been happily settling in for the last month now. Here are a few pictures as a preview (more to come in future posts!):


Too bad that dishwasher doesn’t actually work…


I’m not wild about the color of my cabinets, but they have clearly been painted recently so at least they’re fresh and neat looking. Someday I will repaint them. I do like that I have a lot of cupboard space.


This is our new table and hutch. Well, new to us–actually we bought them on Craigslist. It’s so great to have the space of a full-sized table!


Chicken Pot Pie

When I was growing up, birthdays in our family came with certain privileges. Most importantly, my brother usually had to do my chores for me (and, of course, I did his when his birthday came around). One day without anyone breathing down my neck for doing a sketchy job of picking up the dog poop was always a good thing. Especially since my birthday is in February, a time of year when picking up the dog poop usually involved finding it hidden in the snow and kicking the frozen piles with your boot until they dislodged enough to scoop them up and throw them away.

During our homeschool years, sometimes we even convinced Mom to excuse us from school if it was our birthday. This did not always succeed, but it was always worth trying for.

Another privilege of birthdays was choosing what we got to have for birthday dinner. For me, it was generally one of two items: Parmesan chicken or this chicken pot pie. It still is, actually–my parents came up for my birthday last year, and this is what I made while they were here, because it’s one of my favorite foods in the whole world.


Because how can you not love something that looks this amazing?

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Chicken Pot Pie

1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/3 cup chopped onion (my mom says this is optional but I’m not sure why you wouldn’t use it)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
2 cups cut-up cooked chicken
1 cooked, diced potato
Assorted vegetables (whatever you have on hand or prefer)
1 double pie crust, uncooked

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Blend in flour, onion, salt, and pepper. Cook and stir over low heat until smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat; stir in broth and milk. Heat to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. Cook, stirring, one minute. Stir in chicken and veggies. Pour into uncooked pie crust and cover with top crust. Cut several slits to vent. Bake at 425 for 30-35 minutes. You may wish to cover the edges with foil to keep them from browning too quickly. Also, it’s not a bad idea to put a cookie sheet or something underneath to catch drips if it runs over.

Notes: I didn’t have cooked chicken or chicken broth on hand, so I took two raw chicken breast and covered with water, then simmered with some celery, onion, salt, and pepper for about an hour. This gave me 2+ cups cooked chicken + about a quart of chicken broth. I microwaved the potato, since I didn’t have that on hand either.

For veggies, I used 2 sliced carrots and about half a cup each of frozen peas and frozen corn. You can use whatever you like and have on hand.

Notes on pie crust: It is, in my opinion, perfectly acceptable to use a store-bought refrigerated pie crust (like Pillsbury’s) for something like this, especially if you are in a time crunch. However, if you have the time, nothing is as delicious as real home made pie crust. I made a big batch of pie dough a while back and froze it in single-crust portions, so all I had to do was thaw it and roll it out. This was almost as speedy as using store-bought pie crust and way tastier.  Besides, it also resulted in pie crust cookies–you know, when you take the extra pie crust and roll it out and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and cut it into strips and bake it?

Note after eating this pie for dinner: My stomach is so happy right now.

One more note because apparently I like notes: I’ve realized, over the last several years of reading cookbooks and such, that apparently when most people talk about or write about chicken pot pie, they are referring to something that does not have a bottom crust, only a top. However, we’ve always made chicken pot pie with 2 crusts and quite honestly, I think the more pie crust in this world, the better.



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