A Ducky Nursery (and thoughts on baby stuff)

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One of the first things I discovered when I started to research what things I needed for this coming addition to our family is that the amount of stuff out there you can get for a new baby is, frankly, overwhelming. Back in November, when I went to make a registry at Target before my baby shower, I had a minor breakdown because there was so. much. stuff–and so many opinions on what stuff you should get. Try researching strollers–that’s a scary vortex to get sucked into. As soon as you start comparison shopping, all the reviews start conflicting with each other and it’s madness. (I ended up just going with my sister-in-law’s recommendation, especially since it was one of the ones I had liked originally. Just in case you were wondering.)

I don’t want to be one of those people whose entire house and life becomes devoted to everything baby. I mean, yes, of course, we need some baby things. But all the giant plastic things kind of freak me out. I really just want the important stuff, not every single baby item under the sun.

It’s interesting when you don’t find out if you’re having a boy or a girl–some people (especially my students at school) just can’t understand how you can possibly wait to find out. Don’t we need to know so that everything we get can be appropriate for a boy or a girl? Actually no…not everything must be pink or blue. Really.

My favorite was when the first reaction was, “But how will you know how to decorate the nursery?” Clearly these people do not realize that interior decorating is not my thing. Sometimes I kind of wish it was, because I love it when I go to someone else’s house and see a beautifully-put-together room. But realistically, I just don’t have that gift. I like things to be clean and neat and practical, but I’m not real talented beyond that. I don’t mind painting, in general, but all of our walls at home are still white. For one thing, I really don’t mind white. For another, by the time I got around to considering painting last year after we moved in, I had just spent an entire day with my mom hanging all of our pictures and I really didn’t feel like having to undo that entire process right away. (When you have an old house with plaster walls, picture hanging is much more complicated than just sticking a small nail in the wall.)

I vaguely considered painting the baby’s room, but it just didn’t seem worth the effort. Instead I made new curtains–which not only spruced up the room, but gave me a chance to sew something! (It’s hard to make clothing for yourself when your middle is expanding, and hard to make clothing for the baby when you don’t know if it’s a boy or girl!) They’re striped with yellow, brown, blue, and green, but yellow is the predominant color.

Since my baby shower, though, a theme of yellow/turquoise has begun to emerge, which I quite like (though I never really planned it that way).

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2 views of the room–this one was a couple of weeks ago and taken at night, but you can see the curtains better without any light coming through.

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Taken today in the daylight–not much changed except for the addition of a chair.

You can see that not everything matches–the bedspread really doesn’t fit at all; it’s purple because that’s the only twin bedspread I had! (I think it’s the one I got for my birthday when I was 11…) You can also spy the quilt I made at the foot of the bed–I love it, but it certainly wasn’t made with any particular color scheme in mind!

DSCF1272The crib was second-hand but still in great shape. The picture’s kind of blurry, but if you look you can see the yellow crib sheets. Inside the crib (free storage space!) is the bassinet, also with a yellow scheme.

DSCF1269One thing I absolutely needed for the baby’s room was a bookshelf–and now I even have books to put on it. Anyone recognize that red one on top? I loved that book when I was a kid.

DSCF1271My mom got a good deal on this shelf and the drawers for me.

DSCF1270This part is my favorite. Ducks! They must be popular in the stores this year, because not only did I get these ones, but several duck-decorated blankets and onesies and things like that. They’re so cute! The blue knit hat on top of the large duck is the other project I made for the baby–I got the yarn on sale and there wasn’t a whole lot of color choice, but I don’t see any reason such a pretty pale blue wouldn’t work just fine for either a boy or a girl.

Overall, I’m really pleased with how the room has come together. I felt a little overwhelmed after my baby shower, trying to figure out where to put everything, but the shelves really helped organize the room. As did my wonderful husband and my mom!

DIY Woven Wrap

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One item of baby gear I have been interested in from the start is a baby carrier. I love the idea of being able to carry your baby around and still have your hands free if necessary. Everybody wins! Problem is, there are so many options out there. This link talks about the different styles of carriers, without even listing all the different brands, etc. And they are pricey! Most seem to run in the $100 range–some even more. I was not really interested in spending that much, but I wanted to try something.

I was intrigued by the idea of a woven wrap–they’re quite versatile, the only con being you actually have to learn how to tie them. The internet is full of videos and tutorials, though, and I’m pretty sure I can figure it out. However, once again, the price problem–I didn’t want to pay $100 for what is essentially just a big length of fabric, hemmed, no matter how pretty or soft or special the fabric is. This, my friends, is why I own a sewing machine.

After a little bit of research, I headed to JoAnn’s armed with coupons. A brief hunt through the red-tag fabrics yielded a nice linen/cotton blend with a not-too-girly print (important since baby’s sex is still a mystery), and the final damage was….$16. That, to me, is a much more reasonable price for trying something out. If it doesn’t work out, I won’t feel bad. If it does, I got a major deal and I wouldn’t feel so bad about putting more money down on something more expensive if I know I’ll use it.

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I dig the print.

Yesterday afternoon I tackled the massive length of fabric. The process wasn’t difficult at all, just a little unwieldy because of the length of fabric I had to work with. I had bought some extra to allow for shrinkage in the wash, so first I trimmed it down to 5 yards (this is a pretty standard size for most average-sized moms, or so the Internet says), then trimmed the width to 30″. I tapered the ends (like a parallelogram) so they’d be easier to tie, then hemmed the whole thing as narrow as I could.

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You can see the tapered ends here.

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I honestly thought it would take longer (pressing up long hems always seems to take me forever, and this was essentially about 11 yards of hemming), but the whole thing, start-to-finish, took maybe 2 hours.

Of course, I can’t speak yet to the effectiveness of my wrap, but it’s all ready to go and I look forward to trying it out when Baby T arrives!

Finished Quilt!

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I haven’t quite got back to posting regularly, but this is a gap of only 2 months or so instead of 6, so that’s progress, right?

Right.

Anyways, I finished my quilt and I love the final product!

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Don’t worry about the disembodied hand; I brought the quilt down to the quilt shop to show it off and one of the ladies there was helping me hold it up from behind while my friend Bonnie took a picture.

It’s a lot bigger than I originally envisioned, but that’s ok–it will have many years of usefulness, instead of just being a baby-sized blanket! I love how the random combination of colors worked out, too. I didn’t have a grand color scheme, I just used whatever pieces I had around that I could cut to the right size. Still, there are a few things that tie it together–several different reds and blues, a couple of different fabrics with polka dots, and some combinations that were planned originally to go together (because I originally bought those fabrics together).

I am also unreasonably pleased with the fact that I made this whole project for $27.  Most of the fabric I already had, of course. I did have to make a trip to JoAnns for the border/binding/backing fabric (I used the same grey dot print for all 3). With a coupon, that came to $25. Then I spent $2 at the thrift shop for an old sheet to use for batting (I wanted to keep the whole thing pretty lightweight).

My sister-in-law helped me with putting everything together. We basted the layers together with some awesome spray-basting stuff–I don’t remember what it was called but it was infinitely better than using safety pins, which is what I did with my last quilt. It did take longer than expected to get all the layers nice and flat, but I think that would be a challenge no matter what. I decided to keep the quilting simple–I just stitched in the ditch along the big seams where the blocks went together. We originally thought of maybe stippling the border, but after a little practice at that I realized it would take way more time than I was interested in spending. Straight lines might be boring, but they’re quick and easy!

DSCF1263Or at least semi-straight lines. You can see my piecing was not perfect in some places because my corners don’t match exactly. This is probably mainly a product of the fact that I don’t have a quarter-inch foot for my machine and my estimation of exactly where 1/4″ lies is not perfect. I should fix that, someday. In this case, it’s not enough to bother me.

DSCF1260Of course, after I finished this project (over Christmas break), I had 2 baby showers and got a bunch of lovely hand-made baby blankets from other people. Maybe I should have planned a different kind of project? But I’m not sorry. I loved making it and I hope to use it for years!

Quilt + other things in the works!

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It’s a little embarrassing to realize I haven’t posted since July. I have no real excuse. Well, maybe a little bit of an excuse. You see, in June I found out I’m pregnant…which is lovely and very exciting, but not very conducive to taking photos of me wearing clothing I have sewn. Most of which does not currently fit me. I have a new Archer that never got photographed, and I think there’s something else as well, but beats me if I can remember it today. I also have an adorable baby sweater I knitted for a cousin that I photographed but never posted about. And I really haven’t done any clothing-sewing lately…it seems a bit pointless!

As for why no cooking posts…well, there I really do have no excuse. Just pure laziness! But over this Christmas break I’ve really been wanting to get back into blogging and so here I am, all set with a new project!

Ever since finding out I was pregnant, I wanted to make something for the baby. Since we’re not finding out whether we’re having a boy or a girl, I couldn’t make any cute little clothes. So I decided this would be a great excuse to make a quilt, something I’ve been wanting to do for ages. I’ve only made one quilt before, a wedding present for a good friend.

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It was a very basic pattern and I had a lot of help and advice from the ladies at the quilt shop where I got all the supplies. I didn’t mind the expense at the time, especially since it was a wedding present. But as someone who’s used to the smaller scale of garment-sewing projects, the price of a quilt from beginning to end, including all the supplies (rotary cutter, mat, etc.) is a little overwhelming. I mean, I know when I sew clothing the cost tallies up just the same…fabric isn’t cheap, nor are patterns. But it’s a smaller chunk at each time, instead of one big purchase and then a project that you work on for weeks/months. So I’ve always wanted to do a little more quilting, but never really wanted to spend that kind of money.

But after a while, all those garment projects build up quite a nice pile of scraps that really aren’t big enough to use in clothing projects. They’re too big to just toss, though, so they sit there taking up space. What better use for a bunch of my fabric scraps than a scrap quilt for Baby T?  Quilt problem solved. Admittedly, it will lean a little more toward the feminine side, since most of the fabric was bought to make clothing for me. But oh well.

I had some help from my sister-in-law with the planning and cutting on this project (quilting cutting, squaring up the fabric, measurements…ugh, it is harder for me than it should be. I like clothing patterns so much better…). I decided to use the Yellow Brick Road pattern by Atkinson designs. Which, now that I look at it, is a lot like the pattern I used for my other quilt! But I didn’t want to do anything very complicated, pattern-wise. Just something simple, especially since I have a limited amount of time to complete this project! (Till the end of February, that is.)

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It’s been nice having something to work on in bits and pieces over evenings and weekends this fall. Then, Christmas came, along with a lovely 2-week break from school, and I decided to really put some time into it. I’ve now finished the quilt top, with the border, and I just need to get some batting before I consult with my sister-in-law on putting it all together and quilting it. (I’ve never actually quilted anything…my other quilt, I took the cheater’s route and just tied it.)  Here’s a sneak preview:

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I’ll post more (and better!) pictures when I’m finished. You can see there isn’t much rhyme or reason with the colors and fabrics…I didn’t have a lot of choice, since I had to work with the pieces that I had. You might recognize the fabric from my Hollyburn skirt in there, as well as the red fabric from the dress I made for my niece last summer. Most of the other fabrics are from older projects that were never blogged here. I rather like how it all looks together, though. The only fabric I purchased was the grey dot for the border (that will be the backing as well). I wanted to tie it all together with something neutral-ish and non-gender-specific (to counteract some of the more flowery fabrics). Also, there are two polka-dot fabrics in the main quilt, so it kind of ties in with those.

I’m very pleased with this project and excited to get it all put together, hopefully sooner rather than later. I’m also excited to be posting something on my blog once again…hopefully I won’t completely fall off the radar again once the end of February hits!

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:

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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.

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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:

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

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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!

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This is some kind of verbena.

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The flower bed from another angle.

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No garden is complete without a geranium somewhere!

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Yellow portulaca or moss roses.

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Petunias!

DSCF0818This is another flower bed in the front yard:

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

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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:

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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.

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Try not to eat it all in one sitting.

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New Curtains!

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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

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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:

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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!

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