Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Making the Most of Fabric Remnants

Custom window treatments can be pricey.  Even making your own can add up when you tend to like expensive fabric, like me!  I don't think I've ever purchased decorator fabric at full price, because you can always wait for a sale, a coupon, or my favorite:  shop fabric outlets.  If you don't have a specific fabric in mind, but you know what color scheme you want, fabric outlet shopping is for you.  I thought I would share with you a few tips on how I choose fabric remnants and how to make the most out of them. 

1. Look through every remnant at the store.  This can be time-consuming, but it's great for inspiration, sometimes the fabrics get mixed up (our store has them sorted by color, but there's usually at least one in the wrong spot), and you might change your mind on the colors when you spot something great. 

2. Have a general idea of how you will use the fabric.  I don't follow the rule that I need to know exactly what the fabric will be for, but I try not to buy big pieces of remnant fabrics that might just sit in my closet forever.  

3. Know basic fabric requirements for sewing projects.  This is important because you might find a great remnant but it's only 2 yards and you want to use it for a duvet cover.  Sorry, but that won't be enough!  You can usually google 'fabric requirement for _______' and some great sites will come up with your answer.  Most of the time the fabric outlet will also have a chart in the store that you can use, so be sure to ask them if you get stuck.  

4. Be willing to purchase additional fabric from another retailer if you need more.  You're still saving money in the end if only some of your fabric is purchased as a remnant.  I ended up doing this with the drapes in my dining room, which you can read about here.  

5. Look at the yardage amount on the remnant piece, and even open it up to check for its validity.  Usually each piece will be marked correctly, but what you may not know from that marking is the width of the fabric.  

I made this last mistake when I purchased some gorgeous P. Kaufmann fabric for $4/yard.  It looked like I was getting a total of 5 yards, but one was actually less than had been marked.  When I finally decided that I wanted to use this fabric for drapes, there wasn't enough.  So, what to do?  

I decided to make up my own type of drapery panel (which is the main point of this post).  Using the color swatch on the fabric,

I chose a neutral color and purchased linen apparel fabric from Joann's, enough to add to my main fabric so that I could make two drapery panels.  My first attempt to create my own drape turned out pretty bad (that was pre-blogging, so I don't have a picture); in fact, my husband and mother-in-law said it looked like I had made a mistake.  I'm so grateful for honest input!  So, my mother-in-law helped me to think through it a bit more and come up with a plan that would work.  This is how they ended up:

I'm really pleased with them and I love the fact that it's designer fabric, which retails for $26/yard, the colors are perfect in this room, and we designed them!  Thanks, Mom!

Do you have any remnant fabrics laying around?  What do you plan to do with them?  I'd love to hear!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Homemade Granola

Granola has always been one of my favorite breakfast foods.  I've never been a huge fan of boxed cereal, as it gets soggy too fast and I normally can't eat the same cereal more than 3 days in a row.  My mom started making this granola when I was in college and I loved it.  It's wonderful with milk, yogurt, or just plain to munch on.  One of the great things about granola is that you can pretty much add whatever you want to it to suit your tastes. Craisins, nuts, sunflower seeds, raisins...the options are many!

Printable Version

5 cups oats
1/2 cup wheat or white flour
1/2 cup wheat germ (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coconut (optional)
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Stir dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.  In a small saucepan, heat remaining ingredients until sugar is melted.  Pour liquid over dry ingredients in the bowl and stir to combine.  Bake at 250F for 1-2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes.

Monday, August 29, 2011

My New Chalkboard for the Kitchen

Ever since we moved into our new home I've been wanting a chalkboard for the kitchen.  My first inspiration came from Janell at Isabella & Max Rooms.  She has a great tutorial on how to build your own chalkboard message board, which you can find here.  I would have loved to do this, but decided to go with something a bit simpler.  During a recent trip to Goodwill, I stumbled upon this beauty:

For $4 I couldn't pass up such a great wooden frame.  I didn't want a huge board, so this was just the right size, and I loved the depth of the wood--perfect for what I wanted. 

After removing the glass and picture from the frame, I spray painted the entire frame with Krylon gloss white (sorry, no pictures).  When I turned it over to finish, I didn't check to make sure the paint was dry, so when I thought I was ready to complete my project, there was newspaper stuck to the frame!  Distressing hadn't been in my original plan, but thanks to my moment of neglect the chalkboard frame is beautifully distressed and I love it!

My husband told me a few weeks ago that if I was going to distress anything else I needed to research more how to do it.  This was his gentle way of saying that what I had tried didn't look right.  He agreed that I did a much better job with this distressing job.  Thanks, honey.

The chalkboard is simply the original picture and glass, just spray painted with chalkboard spray paint.  I applied 4 coats of paint, allowed it to dry for 24 hours, and then rubbed chalk over the entire surface.  It sat like this for a couple of weeks until we finally got around to hanging it last night. 

Here's a little tip for hanging large frames that might move around (such as when writing on a chalkboard):
Cut triangle shaped pieces of felt for each corner of your frame.  Then attach with hot glue.  

The hardware needed to be replaced, so Bradley attached some new hooks and placed a piece of wire across the entire frame.  

Here's the finished product:

I love that I can use this chalkboard for all kinds of things, but right now it's a scriptural reminder of what I need to work on this week.  

The breakfast nook with new chalkboard and fresh flowers from a sweet friend.
 Linking to:
End of August Thrifty Treasures at Southern Hospitality

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Still, My Soul Be Still

Today, I thought I would share one of my favorite songs.  May it be an encouragement and a blessing to you.  The song is written by Keith and Kristyn Getty & Stuart Townsend.  If you'd like to listen to it, feel free to click the link below.  

Still, My Soul Be Still
Still my soul be still, and do not fear though winds of change may rage tomorrow.
God is at your side, no longer dread the fires of unexpected sorrow.

Chorus:God You are my God, and I will trust in You and not be shaken.
Lord of peace renew a steadfast spirit within me to rest in You alone.

Still my soul be still, do not be moved by lesser lights and fleeting shadows.
Hold onto His ways with shield of faith against temptations flaming arrows.

Still my soul be still, do not forsake the Truth you learned in the beginning.
Wait upon the Lord and hope will rise as stars appear when day is dimming.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Faux Roman Shades for the Kitchen

Does anyone else have a difficult time treating windows?  And by treating, I mean window treatments, not cleaning or preparing for the elements.  Making this decision is always a long process for me for several reasons:

1. They need to look good.
2. Spending a lot of money is not an option.
3. DIY is a preference.
4. Easy is better.

Meeting all of this criteria can be a challenge, specifically for someone as fickle as me in my decorating choices!  Oh, to be able to take the time to go back to school for some interior design classes...

My kitchen opens up right to the family room, so my choices in there needed to coordinate/flow with the choices I made in the family room. (You can read about  my family room drapes here). The kitchen was my first project, so I started with picking fabric.  After perusing the fabric outlet in town, the internet, and finally Joann's, I decided on this gorgeous fabric:

One of the colors in the pattern matches perfectly the color that we chose for paint (you can read about my paint choices here), which is why we chose that paint color!  I love the linen background and the floral pattern.  Plus, the pattern has the blues and greens which I wanted to keep going throughout the downstairs of our home.

After choosing the fabric, the next step was determining how to use it.  I knew that I wanted a top treatment, not something that would hang to the floor, for the kitchen.  There are a ton of patterns out there for valances and other top-treatments, but nothing really caught my eye.  What was left?  Roman Shades.  Ugh!  I have always loved the look of these, but the thought of actually making one terrified me!  But, this was the only thing I liked, so I had to do it.  I decided on the 'faux' kind, simply because it used less fabric (economical-meets the criteria).

I waited for a big sale at Joann's, and then purchased my fabric and supplies.  I became more terrified as the ladies were cutting my fabric and cording for the shades when they started bombarding me with tips on how to make sure the shades were perfect, saying things like, "If you don't line everything up perfectly your shade will open crooked and won't look right".  I finally told them to stop because I thought for sure I'd never be able to make it work!

Thankfully, I used a pattern for these, but I've also seen some great tutorials in blogland for making Roman Shades, in case you don't want to spend the money on a pattern.  (Just google 'tutorial for Roman Shades').

I think I literally sat for 4 hours reading the pattern trying to decipher what the directions were telling me to do.  Am I the only one who has this trouble with patterns?  Finally, it clicked and I dove in.  Once I started it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be, just some simple seam-sewing.  The challenging part was measuring the placement for the rings (where the cord would hang) and rigging the cord.  My mom happened to be in town the weekend after I had sewn the shades, so she graciously assisted me in this process, since she had done it before.

I love the way they turned out and I really like having this style in the kitchen.  It keeps it open, fairly casual, but still dressed nicely.

Now, since we have neighbors in the back, blinds will be a necessity!  Maybe we'll get those up this weekend...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Baked Oatmeal

Now that everyone has started back to school, the rush is on to get kids out of bed, dressed, and fed before sending them out the door.  This recipe is great for something different to eat during the week that doesn't require a ton of work or time.  And, it's hearty and healthy!

When I lived overseas, at various times, boxed cereal was always very expensive, at least $5 for a small box, and usually Corn Flakes was the only kind available.  This oatmeal recipe became a favorite alternative, and we had it often.

Printable Version
4 cups of oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar or 1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup oil
1 1/2 - 2 cups milk
dash of cinnamon, if desired

Mix all together and place in a pie pan or casserole dish.  Bake at 375F (190C) until firm, about 30 minutes.  Serve warm, with milk, if desired.

source: my Mom

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fettucini Alfredo with Sausage, Peppers, Onions and Tomatoes

Fettucini Alfredo is one of my favorite pasta dishes, but I rarely make it or order it at a restaurant because it's so terribly fattening!  However, I feel that if you make it at home, you know exactly how many calories you're eating, and that makes me feel a bit better about it.  Every now and then, indulging is okay--'everything in moderation', as my mom has always said.

I've added a new feature on this post:  a printable version of the recipe.  This was a suggestion by a sweet friend/reader, and I'm glad she suggested it!  Just click on the words "Printable Version" and you'll be taken to a page of just the recipe and you can print it out and add it to your recipe collection.  Hope this is helpful to those of you who like to have recipes in hand!  I'll be going back through my recipes and doing this to each one, so hang in there--that will be a big project!

Printable Version
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 lb. smoked sausage, grilled
1/2 tomato, diced
olive oil

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup heavy cream or half and half (I used a combination of these)
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

12 ounces Fettucini noodles (approximately, I used a little more than half of a one pound box)

Begin boiling water in a large pot for the noodles.  When water has come to a boil, add noodles and cook according to directions on the box.

While the noodles are cooking, heat olive oil in a large skillet.  Add peppers and onions and saute over medium heat until tender, but not mushy, about 5 minutes.  Add chopped tomatoes and continue cooking over low heat for 3 more minutes.

Slice grilled sausage into small chunks.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan heat butter and cream, until butter has melted.  Remove from heat, add Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.  Stir until cheese has melted.

In a large bowl combine drained noodles, vegetables and sausage.  Pour alfredo sauce on top and toss.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Message On a Bottle

Whenever I went to the beach as a kid I always looked for bottles as I jumped through the waves.  I thought it would be amazing to find a message tucked away in a bottle.  It never happened, in case you were wondering.

This project is really simple:  dress up an old bottle and use it to send messages to people in your home.  It's not quite as romantic as finding a message in a bottle that has washed up on the shore.  But, it can achieve the same purpose of romance with your spouse, encouragement to your kids, or words of inspiration and welcome to guests.

-an old bottle (mine was from my cream sherry that ran out--need to get some more!)
-scrap piece of burlap
-hot glue gun
-ribbon or other item(s) for embellishing

Lay the bottle on the piece of burlap and wrap burlap around the bottle to desired size (leave a bit of an overhang to fold over for a nice finish).

Place a strip of hot glue and attach one end of burlap, being careful not to burn your fingers as the glue will come through the fabric. 

Put another strip of glue, little by little, to attach the other end of the burlap.  Pull tightly on the burlap as you glue so there are no bumps around the bottle.

Fold this end over and glue again, leaving a finished edge.

This is what it will look like when the burlap is glued on

I wanted the majority of my bottle covered, so I cut my burlap a bit long.  I like the frayed edges.

Find  a piece of paper to use for your message.  I didn't have a hole punch, so used a push pin to make a hole in the paper to slip the ribbon through.

Embellish the bottle as you like.  I was 'sending' a  message to my husband so I made it pretty simple with just a black ribbon.  I can picture scrap fabrics, rosettes, all kinds of things--be creative!

Place your message where your desired recipient will find it easily.  I wanted my husband to see it when he went to bed, so I left it on his nightstand.  He loved it and said that it really encouraged him!  Mission accomplished.

One of the nice things about this bottle is that your husband could easily reciprocate by writing and attaching his own message.  Perhaps, he might even leave a single rose in the bottle for an added touch.  This is just a small way to express your love, but it might have a great impact.  

Friday, August 19, 2011

My First Canning Experiences

I've secretly always wanted to live on a farm with lots of land for vegetable gardens, an orchard, chickens, and fields of wildflowers.  Maybe I'm living in the wrong era, but going out everyday with my basket and apron to collect eggs and pick the latest produce from the vine, sounds wonderful!  My older sister used to tease me about this saying I would end up 'making my own baby food, having a garden, homeschooling my kids, and wearing Keds and jean jumpers'.  Well, I do make my own baby food and I have a garden,  we're still debating about homeschooling our children one day (I think this same sister is contemplating the same!) but the Keds and jean jumpers have not and will not enter my wardrobe!

When we planted our garden this spring I was so excited thinking about all of the tomatoes, beans and other items I could can.  Well, our beans were attacked by bugs and all died; the tomatoes are growing like crazy with tons of flowers, but only a handful of tomatoes, and our cucumbers were mostly bitter.  So much for my great ideas of learning how to can!

I did have just enough cucumbers to make one batch of Bread and Butter Pickles.  My Grandmother always had pickles and relish at her house, from my Grandfather's garden, and to this day these are the only ones I like!  She graciously gave me her recipe (sorry I'm not sharing it here) and I've already eaten a whole jar!

Because our garden isn't producing enough this year, I decided against purchasing canning equipment right now.  But, I have learned that it's possible to can some things with just a stockpot.  My freezer is running out of space for freezer jam (check out the strawberry freezer jam recipe), so I decided to buy some peaches and make some cooked peach jam.

In order to set the stage here, I have to explain that our windows were open on this particular day of canning. The morning temperatures had gotten down to the 60's, so we decided to open up and save a little money on our electric bill.  This is a big mistake on the day when you plan to can something!  Our house was almost 90F when I started the process and it didn't cool down one bit!  We closed our windows the next day.

Everything went pretty smoothly until the jam that I was cooking spilled over the pot onto my cooktop.  Now, there is sugary jam caked onto my favorite burner.  Any suggestions for how to get it off?  I've tried warm soapy water and baking soda.  

Next time, I'll be sure to use a bigger pot.

We now have six jars of homemade peach jam in the pantry and I can't wait to try it!  

I used the recipe inside of a box of Sure Jell fruit pectin for cooked peach jam.

My first experiences canning went fairly well and I'm looking forward to maybe finding some tomatoes somewhere to work on trying spaghetti sauce and salsa.  

Have you canned anything this year?  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Look of Linen for Less

Linen is my absolute favorite textile, both in home decor and fashion.  Linen pants are super comfortable and somehow I always feel thinner when I wear them.  And, regardless of what fabric store I'm shopping in, I always pick up linen fabrics first, whether I plan on it or not.  Although linen is classic and beautiful, it also comes with a high price tag.  Most linen fabrics, even linen blend fabrics, are over $20 a yard, if not much more.  I decided to find an alternative to spending this much money but still have something that looked similar to linen.

Look at this fabric:

Now, look at this one:

Which one is real linen?  It's hard to tell, isn't it?  The second is the non-linen, which I used for drapery panels in the Family Room.  My original plan was to go with burlap drapes, which I had seen in a Ballard Designs catalog, something like these


But, my daughter broke out with a rash when she touched it, so that was a no go.  I searched the internet for alternatives, because I really just wanted a plain, neutral colored fabric, with no pattern on it.  Muslin was recommended for drapes, but it was a bit too lightweight for me.

I browsed through the utility fabric section at Joann's one day and discovered Osnaburg (I think that's what it's called).  It's a Roc Ion fabric, and it only costs $3.99/yard.  This was perfect!  It had the textured look of linen, the neutral color I was looking for, and with my coupon that week I only had to pay (wait a minute while I get out my calculator...) $2.40/yard.  When you need to purchase 15 yards, this is a great deal!

These panels were easy to make.  Because I hate cutting fabric, as mentioned in my Easy Drapery Panels post, I made each panel as wide as the fabric so I only had to cut it the length that I needed.  I sewed a small hem down the side of each panel, made a rod pocket at the top, and then used stitch witchery (actually my mom did this part for me) to make the hem.

I love that the sunlight comes in through the fabric, they hang nicely, the wind blows them just right when the windows are open, and they are the simple drapes I wanted.

You don't have to spend a lot of money on fabric.  Be creative and utilize other fabrics to get what you want while being a frugal, yet tasteful, decorator.

Linking to:

Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Brown Sugar Glazed Grilled Salmon

Last night was a monumental occasion for me:  I cooked and ate salmon.  It's been about 9 years since I tried my first salmon, and nearly gagged it down.  Since that dinner, I've refused to eat it but always secretly hoped that I would like it.  I'm happy to report that I like it!  Surprisingly, so did my toddlers.  I couldn't believe it when they started eating it without questioning what it was, gagging, or putting up a fuss.  Since it is a more expensive dish, it probably won't end up on our weekly menu, but we will enjoy it from time to time.

This recipe is so easy and the glaze is quite delicious!  It does contain sugar and butter, so it's probably not the most healthy way to eat salmon, but certainly yummy!

What's your favorite way to cook salmon?

1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard (I used honey Dijon)
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 whole salmon fillet, skin on, 3/4 to 1-inch thick

In a small saute' pan over medium heat, melt brown sugar with honey and butter.  Remove from heat and whisk in mustard, soy sauce, olive oil and ginger.  Cool (oops!  I didn't see the cool portion when I made this last night, which is probably why it was pretty runny when I spread it on).

Place salmon, skin side down, on a large sheet of aluminum foil.  Trim foil to leave a border of 1/4 to 1/2 inch around the edge of the salmon.  Coat the flesh of the salmon with the brown sugar mixture.

Grill salmon indirectly over medium heat until the edges begin to brown and inside is opaque, 25 to 30 minutes.  The internal temperature should be about 125F.  Carefully transfer salmon with the foil to a cutting board.  Cut the salmon crosswise into 6-8 pieces, but do not cut through the skin.  Slide a spatula between the skin and flesh and remove salmon pieces to a serving platter.  Serve immediately.

source: Weber's Art of the Grill Deck