Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Meal calendar

The other night I was out with a bunch of friends.  As we were talking about our grocery budgets, I shared how we keep our expenses on the low end.  The biggest thing we do, is use a meal calendar.  I plan each month's menu, and when I do this, I try to keep in mind my actual life.  There are certain days I don't get home until 6 pm, that means I either need a crockpot meal, or a quick meal.  There are some days my kids get home and leave at different times, meaning we need a meal that can be eaten at various times.  I take all these things into account, and make the plan accordingly.  

One thing that has made planning easier, is picking a day of the week for certain foods.  For example,  Monday is soup, Tuesday is Pasta, Wednesday is Mexican, Thursday is Chicken, Friday is Easy Foods..etc...  Think of what works best for you, and your family, and your situation.

I try to make all my meals healthy.   But, honestly, I am just trying to keep my family fed in the best way I know how.  That means somedays we serve fish and brown rice.  Other days it means Spaghetti.  I am not professing to be a gourmet cook.  I am not. I am like every other person, doing the best I can, with what I have been given.

Some of the women asked that I put my menu online, so they could see what we were up to, and maybe use the calendar themselves.  So, here it is.

I notice the writing is not particularly clear in the picture.  So here is a list:
Turkey Burgers
Crockpot Tacos
Chicken Pitas
Eat Out (birthday)
White Chicken Chili
Lemon Pasta
Coconut Curry
Chicken Apple Sausages
Fish tacos
Pork Roast
Taco Soup
Pasta Carbonara
Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Chili and Potatoes
Grilled Chicken 
Creamy Chicken and Rice
Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup
Spicy Chicken Pasta
Swedish Meatballs
Apricot Chicken
Tomato Soup and Sandwich
Pasta Salad
BBQ Sandwiches

I hope this helps.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Creative Eye Thursday - Fast Piece Appliqué by Rose Hughes

Martingale, 2014; used by permission. Photos by Brent Kane. All rights reserved

Creative books like, Fat Piece Appliqué, are the best kind of creative book.  I love that there are projects, but what you will really get from this book is a new way to appliqué.  I have tried a variety of appliqué methods, but I have never done it the way the author, Rose Hughes, illustrates in this book.

Trying new ways is always fun, and what I really like about this book, there are plenty of pictures to illustrate her instructions.  Anyone reading this book will know exactly what they need to do, to achieve the desired results.

Rose walks us through the basics, teaching all about preparing to piece the quilt, keeping a notebook, the right supplies, art concepts, and more.  I loved too, that she gives a variety of methods for enlarging designs.  These methods will work for any design, not just hers.

She also teaches to group the appliqué objects together first, and piece them together.  After smaller groups have been pieced together, then they are appliqued to the larger quilt.

Where Rose really takes the cake, is in the embellishment of her quilts.  This is the time to break out the beads, the quilting, and couching.  It makes me wonder if I should spend a little more time embellishing my quilts after I finish piecing them.  I am always so excited to finish piecing, that I quilt it and bind it in a hurry.  But, maybe I am missing an opportunity to make it, really special.  Hmmm, maybe I need some more beads.

Martingale, 2014; used by permission. Photos by Brent Kane. All rights reserved

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Friday I had about 20 minutes between dropping off and picking up kids, and I was aching to do a little something for our home.  I stopped by home goods and found....some goods.  I found this Diner sign above, and some of these goodies below.

I found the LOVE OFTEN picture, the Octopus, and Do All Things With Love, at Home Goods.  

Lately I've been really wanting to decorate my home.  However, 1) I'm not rich.  2) My idea bucket was dry.  So, I was so happy when I found some items that I actually liked, and that didn't cost a ton. When I got home, I knew we needed a little something extra to balance it all out.  This is when I do best, I need a jumping off point.  Starting from nothing, no ideas, is tricky for me.  But, I finally had a little jump start.

So, I got to work.  I positioned all the frames, and saw I needed something to fill the upper left square, and the lower right rectangle area.  I had a VERY OLD forest green square frame with a botanical print inside.  No problem, I used my Silhouette, cut out my super awesome state, and left a heart cut out for my favorite AZ city, and painted the background gold.  Then I had some trusty black spray paint, and painted the frame.  Lastly, I had to paint the mat (it was also a lovely forest green) with some acrylic paint.

Next came the arrows.  After looking for some idea, something that sparked my interest on pinterest for a bit,  my daughter and I came up with arrows.  We luckily have a garage full of spare wood, and pallet wood, I pulled a couple planks out, sprayed them with gold and black spray paint, and then got to work with the silhouette.  We cut out an arrow shape, and used vinyl as my template (it might be best to use another medium, but it's what I had), and then painted the arrows.

Can I just say....so simple.  I did all of this in about 1 1/2 hours, from start to finish.  Just in my pjs, gathering stuff from my garage.  Sometimes I just need a kick in the bum to get started.

And then here comes my joyful plug for the day.  Sometimes, I am just so happy we do our own projects.  It seems crazy at moments, and it is.  But on Saturday, when I wanted to get a little something done to brighten my home, I already had all the supplies I needed.  Not because of good planning.....heavens no....but because I was stocked with goodies from before.  If you ever feel like you really wish you could just get rid of your three thousand can of stain, paint, or other stuff.  Just wait, and be glad that you have all that stuff.  Because you can do amazing things with it on the fly.
Next came the shelf below.  I kid you not, this came together in about fifteen minutes.  Tutorial can be found here.  My hubby had some wood left over from making me desks, shelves, etc..  And I noticed that the DINER sign needed something else with it.
  Enter a tiny little shelf idea.  Hmmmm, we can put that under the sign and put in little tiny herb plants.

So, he built it in like 10 minutes.  I stained it in about 10 min.  Done.  Sweet goodness, this was fun.

And now we get this, so maybe there aren't plants yet.  That may take me actually visiting the store.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Creative Eye Thursday- Free Motion Quilting For Beginners

Martingale, 2014; used by permission. Photos by Brent Kane. All rights reserved

I absolutely love books like this one.  Technique books, that help us all improve our skills, and not just make a project warm my heart.  This is actually how I learned how to quilt.  Each week I would go to our local library and check out at least 4 different quilting books.  And that week, I would read them from cover to cover.  Some were great, some were average, but I found the ones I learned most from, were books like this.  Books that I could take the principles, and apply them to my quilts.

This book covers all the things you will need to know, to make yourself successful in learning to quilt.  She covers these points:
  • Necessary Tools:  Molly is a little like myself, a minimalist.  She shares what can make the biggest impact in being successful.  And, somethings she appreciates, but aren't needful.  One thing she doesn't love, but I DO, are quilting gloves.  She doesn't like feeling restricted, and I love the feeling of being able to grab the quilt.
  • Setting Up Your Space:  This is an important aspect of quilting, nothing is left to chance here.  And she even shares a tutorial link of how to build your own custom sewing table.
  • Prepping Your Project:  She shares three different basting methods..{even though I am converted to only one}.
  • Thread and Tension:  This is such an important discussion, and one that beginning quilters sometimes think is less important than it is.
  • Sketching:  Seriously, this is the only way I learned how to quilt.  Sketch, sketch, sketch, over and over again, until that muscle memory kicks in
  • Five Prep Steps for Free-Motion quilting:  Wish I had had this list when I started quilting, I might have saved myself some headaches.
I love that in addition to teaching the methods of quilting, she also gives a BUNCH of projects to practice these techniques.  These projects aren't big or overwhelming.  You don't have to wait until your quilt top is pieced to try it out.  Nope, here's a little project for you to practice on, and master a new skill.  She doesn't take quilting to seriously either...YES!  This is about learning.  About improving.  

My favorite quote from her book...{and yes, I rarely quote quilt books} is..
"under absolutely no circumstances has freaking out ever helped me."

That has always been my biggest belief about quilting. Relax, don't freak out, and just enjoy it.  

I loved her pebbles.   I even tried them out.  I agree with her, this is time consuming.  And uses tons of thread.
Martingale, 2014; used by permission. Photos by Brent Kane. All rights reserved

What do you think of my pebble quilting?  It took a long time, but it was also pretty fun.

One of my favorite quilting looks is this wood grain.  So easy to accomplish, but it transforms this bag, from a neutral colored bag, to looking like modern art.  Just love it.  I have used it on a couple wall hangings, and it always makes me smile.  Maybe I just love trees.

If you are looking to learn more about quilting, definitely check out this book.

Martingale, 2014; used by permission. Photos by Brent Kane. All rights reserved

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Creative Eye Thursday - Simple Appeal

Simple Appeal By Kim Diehl
 Martingale, 2015; used by permission. Photos by Brent Kane. All rights reserved

For this weeks Creative Eye Thursday, I got to work with Kim Diehl's new book, Simple Appeal.  I really enjoyed looking through each page, and seeing the new patterns.  I love that some of her quilts have a little brighter take than her quilts from the past, yet they still have that Kim Diehl feel and look.

As I was thinking about which quilt or quilt block to make, I was drawn to a few.  I absolutely love all the wool projects.  I am such a fan of working with wool.  Every time I get to touch wool, its like a little piece of peace comes to my heart.    I love the quilt on the right below.  I think its the symmetry, to order, the clean lines.  This definitely is a quilt I would like to work on, when I have a little more time than a few days.
 Martingale, 2015; used by permission. Photos by Brent Kane. All rights reserved

I decided on this tiny little quilt below.  Quite honestly, I didn't realize how small things actually were.  If I were to go back, I might make my quilt a little different.  When you make a quilt with such small pieces.  Large scale fabrics are out of the question.  But, even medium scale fabrics don't work particularly well either.

Here's my take on her quilt.  The goal was a red, aqua, and gray thing.  Clearly, the wool work hasn't happened yet.  I look forward to that part.  Finding fabric for this was hard for me.  For such a small quilt I hated cutting into my fabric (yes...I struggle with that too).  So, I searched my scraps, and used what I could find.  These are super small pieces.  1", 1 1/2" that's as big as it gets here.  If I could go back in time, and stitching (and I guess I could), but I would use smaller scale, and deeper colors of blue.  When I put them against each other, there was enough variation in the fabric when they were 5", but at 1" it lost some of it's strength.  

Honestly, this is what I love about quilting.  This is what I love about art.  The learning process.  I have always known that I need a small scale fabric in small quilts, but until I really go to work, I didn't realize how vital that is.  And small scale is relative, depending on the work that is being done.

What I am really looking forward to, spending a little time with a needle and embroidery floss, and working with that wool.  (Dear WOOL...I LOVE YOU).

Go get some wool and this book today, you won't be sad you did.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Making A Floor Quilt

A few months ago I went to Utah to attend the guilds Quilt Fest.  It's always fun to go and learn new things.  This year I signed up for the Floor Quilt class.   This a totally new concept for me..  here is what I learned.

What is a floor quilt?  So, really, it is like a rug. Or a mat.

How do you make one?

1.  Get a piece of linoleum. You can find scraps at floor places.  Get which ever size works best for you.

2.  Paint the back side of the linoleum, and paint it with whichever color suits your floor quilt.

3. Figure out the pattern you want for your floor quilt.  

4.  Use a wonder under or heat and bond on your fabric. Cut your pattern from your wonder under pieces.

5.  Use Mod Podge to adhere pieces to linoleum.  Dilute modge podge to 3 parts modge podge to 1 part water.  And place on the linoleum.  Using a foam brush will work well here.  put it on front and back.

***Note.  there is no sewing here.  If you do sew your blocks together, there will be a bulkiness, and it might be weird.

6.  Put another few layers of Modge Podge over the top to make sure it is adhered well.

7.  Put another couple of layers of PolyAcrylic to protect the floor quilt.  DO NOT USE a foam brush for this part.  I did, and then I started noticing my brush was flaking all over the quilt, because the mode podge had made the fabric hard...hard enough to tear apart the brush.

8.  Let Dry.  Then place it in its rightful spot, and enjoy.

I plan on putting mine outside my door to my backyard. I know some people put it in their front entry, or do a different holiday one, or place it in the kitchen.  If you make one, I totally want to see what you do.

**Idea from Cindy Hutchison

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Change the World, with Priority Parenting

How's that for a title? But I honestly think when we can change the world, one family at a time.  One heart at a time.

This has been an interesting week.  We got back from Disneyland, and it was honestly amazing to be with my family, creating fun memories.  But, while we were there, my littlest one and I were sick.  Coming back, I thought we would get better, but not so much.  Now we know that he has walking pneumonia, and that I'm lucky enough to have a Dr. who will just call in a Rx when I know I need help too.

Being productive while sick is tricky.
Needless to say, time to quilt or be creative is almost laughable.  I've barely been able to do the bare minimum around here.  But... I have been able to think. (A blessing and a curse really).  And choices in parenting have really been on my mind.  There are days when I feel successful, and there are days when I feel like I've worked so hard, and yet, I didn't have a meaningful moment with my family.

As I was driving my cherubs to and fro, we were listening to a General Conference talk by L. Tom Perry called Finding Lasting Peace and Building Eternal Families.  As I was listening, this quote struck a cord with me:

We must carefully continue to evaluate our performance as parents. The most powerful teaching a child will ever receive will come from concerned and righteous fathers and mothers. Let us first look at the role of the mother. Listen to this quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley:

“Women who make a house a home make a far greater contribution to society than those who command large armies or stand at the head of impressive corporations. Who can put a price tag on the influence a mother has on her children, a grandmother on her posterity, or aunts and sisters on their extended family?

“We cannot begin to measure or calculate the influence of women who, in their own ways, build stable family life and nurture for everlasting good the generations of the future. The decisions made by the women of this generation will be eternal in their consequences. May I suggest that the mothers of today have no greater opportunity and no more serious challenge than to do all they can to strengthen the [home]” (Standing for Something: 10 Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes [2000], 152).

These simple statements share the truth, that parents influence the world.  When we, as a country, as a world, focus on creating strong families, we have a HUGE influence for good. The things we teach our children, go on for generations.  On the flip side,  the things we neglect to teach our children, will be lost.

It reminded me of an article that I had read a few years ago from Julie Beck,  Nourishing and Protecting the Family.   Reading this article is a definite must, but I'll share a simple insight from it.  Parenting cannot be what is left over at the end of the day.  We have to prioritize, decide what will benefit our families most, schedule those things, reserve energy for those things, and let everything else find the left over moments.  I think too often, I have let parenting just happen, instead of making and creating teaching moments, I have waited for them to be presented to me.

When I first heard of this, I felt humbled.  I was not doing this.  I was definitely doing the best I could in the moment. But I was more  of a crazy mom running around.  At the time, I had 4 kids, 3 in different schools, and 1 kid in preschool (does that count as 4 kids in 4 different schools?).  I was trying to give each of my kids the best situation for them in that moment.  One kid at the junior high, one at a Charter school best suited for their abilities, one at the elementary school, and one at preschool.  We had just moved, buses for 2 of the kids weren't a possibility.  I spent, bare minimum 2 hours driving my kids to school and back, each day.  Plus there was piano, gymnastics, soccer, etc... I was trying to give my kids the best.  Catering to their needs, giving all I could.  Working hard during the day while they were gone, so I could get it all accomplished by driving time.

BUT....I was exhausted.  By the time I got home from the drive, I was beat.  And often, I would run upstairs once they got home and take a 10-15 minute nap.  Then I would run and get dinner ready, then start driving again to take them to their night time activities.

Yep.  I was there.  We were doing stuff.  I was trying hard.  But, was it what they needed?  So, I changed my thinking.  I needed to change my priorities.  Each day I got exhausted, it's just the truth. So, I started reserving some time before the carpool, to take the 10-15 minute nap, so I wasn't falling asleep on the drive.  Did that cut into my time of getting laundry done, and dishes, and budgeting, and church duties, and all the other to do's?  Yep. But did my laundry need me to be awake?  Or do my kids?  I was reserving my best work for my chores, and not for my children.

Now enter, priority parenting. I am not perfect at this, but I keep working on it.  There are important things I want to teach my kids.  Are they just going to learn it by osmosis? Or do I actually have to put some effort into it.  Parenting can't be something that just happens, I have to plan for it.  What I have noticed, when I am successful at planning for this, I feel happy.  I accomplish the things I need to.  It isn't harder.  There isn't more to do.  I don't feel more overwhelmed. Things just work.

Each family will want to prioritize different things.  But, in our family these are our priorities:

1. Teach the gospel.  Yes, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but I think all people need to make a special effort to teach children their beliefs about God.  Love, respect, morals, kindness, obedience, honesty.  There is so much we all can gain by making gospel study an important part of our day.

2. Be there.  Not everyone can be a stay at home mom.  But I can.  For me, and our family, I know the best thing for us, is for me to be at home, to be there to teach and nurture our children.  Not every family has the same chance.  I haven't always felt strongly about being a stay at home mom, but I have seen the difference this can make in a family.  This has been a serious blessing for our family.

3.  Eat Homemade Dinner Together.  There's a couple things here.  Eating dinner provides a time to chat, discuss the things of the day, to slow down a bit.  But, back it up a bit.  Making a homemade dinner does a couple other things.  It teaches children how to...make dinner, they will need that someday.  It also teaches the importance of nutrition, and working together.  There's lots of good things here, just by simply making a dinner and eating it together.

4.  Make Learning a Priority-  Make a time each day to teach your child something.  Maybe it's reading.  Maybe math.  Maybe they are in high school, and they need to learn to drive.  Whatever it is, make time for it. Let your kids know that learning is important, and actually FUN.  My biggest plug here is, it doesn't have to take tons of time.  5 minutes here, 10 minutes there.  But mindfully making the time to learn makes a difference.

5.  The Purpose of the Task is to Strengthen the Relationship-  I have this on my wall.  This helps me remember to change my focus.  The point of parenting isn't to get stuff done.  And accomplish all sorts of things, it's to strengthen the relationship.  It's to learn.  It's to grow.  I have to remind myself of this ALL THE TIME.

6. Listen- Take the time to listen to your kids.  Tuning out is easy.  But tuning in can be one of the biggest rewards.  Kids say amazing things, and they share their hearts. We have to listen when it's inconvenient, so our kids know they can trust us to listen when it is most important.

7. Let them See you have other Priorities-  I know this seems weird.  But, kids need to know the world doesn't revolve around them.  And they need to see you have interests in things unrelated to them.  I believe kids need to see mom/dad wanting to learn and grow.  They need to know the world continues to be interesting even when you get OLD.  Of course, these interests don't take over your life.  It's one of the priorities...but balanced.   I know for me, this is quilting. And photography.  And digital arts.  And decorating.  The thing I love about it, is I can get my kids involved with me.  My husband works with wood.  In these times where we get to do what we love, we can share our skills with our kids.  We grow.  Our kids grow.  And we all have fun together.

These are just a portion of the things I think we need to do as a family.  Each family should come up with their own priorities, but most importantly, I think we need to change our focus to purposeful priority parenting (alliteration rocks).  When we parent with a purpose, we can make a huge difference in the lives of our children.  That difference can be felt for generations. Let's not just spin our wheels, let's put some grips on them, and go somewhere.