Thursday, December 31, 2009

Resolutions are made to be Broken!

Happy New Years to all my fellow internet friends! 
For my last post of 2009, I'd like to put into writing my resolutions for 2010:

#1  Post to my blog like it's the month of November, not the month of December.  The holidays and work seemed to really get in the way of blogging, so here's to less working and more blogging!

#2  Study, take, and pass the AREs.  This is the resolution I'm making instead of one of those notorious diet you see where I'm going with this? 

Have a safe and happy night, and see you next year!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Chocolate Chocolate Everywhere!

One of my favorite Christmas treats to make is chocolate covered Oreos, and in the process, I always manage to get chocolate everywhere!  Luckily, all I have to do is tangle one in front of my husband's eyes to make him forget the mess...and to keep more on hand for those random drips of chocolate he'll find in the next few days.

I have an awesome tempering unit that makes covering anything in chocolate very simple!  This year I dipped my usual double-stuff oreos and added Reese Peanut Butter sprinkles to the top.  In addition to my oreos, I tried dipping brownies!  They turned out to be a total mess, and when sampled by my husband, "very intense" in chocolatiness!

Tomorrow: Dark Chocolate!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Handmade Glass Ornaments

The snow swirls outside and the stereo practically blasts Christmas music.  'Tis finally the season!  And I finally got around/was in the mood to "hang" my handmade blown glass ornaments!  They're not exactly hanging on our tree, but up high on one of our antique light fixtures so that cats won't find them...

My husband and I spent some chummy time together and took a hand blown glass ornament class through the community education program in our area.  (Did you read about the other glass ornaments I made??)  With torches and hot glass involved, I knew we were in for a good time!

The whole process was intimidating at first, but turned out to be very simple:

 We started with pre-fabricated glass tubes and added glass frit to them.

Using a torch, we heated the glass until the frit stuck to the edges and the glass glowed warm orange.

 When the glass tube was toasty warm, we blew into them and our little ornaments took shape!


It was so much fun, and they're really quick to make!  You just have to be patient while they cool. Now we have twenty unique glass ornaments to deck our halls with! 

Thursday, December 17, 2009


 "Marley was dead, to begin with."

Grab your quillow and snuggle up; it's story time!  Well, in blog world, that means it's a short story, so don't worry about having to read all of Dickens's The Christmas Carol in this blog post.  (FYI, Every year I never fail to watch my favorite version of the story as reenacted by the Muppets!  The Great Gonzo portrays Mr. Dickens telling the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, while Rizzo the Rat,  playing his humorous self with a bag a jelly beans, journeys through the story with him.)  This quintessential example of Christmas spirit introduces us to the three spirits of Christmas: the ghost of Christmas Past, the ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Future.  Or is it the ghost of Christmas presents?

What if they were the ghosts of Christmas presents?  Well, since I don't have a crystal ball, I have no clue about Christmas future's hard enough getting them together for this year, forget about next! And if I say anything about Christmas present presents, then that wouldn't that just ruin some of the fun of Christmas Day?  But, Christmas presents past, now that's something I can share.

Last year I was almost as busy as this year, devoting most of my pre-Christmas time to making a quillow.  I'd always wanted to make a quillow!  You know, a cute little quilt that folds up into a pillow.  I made this adorable one sporting colorful puppies as a Christmas gift for my one-year-old nephew.  (I'll update with the pattern name and creator.)  He adored it Christmas morning and snuggled right into it the moment he got it!

Now that he's gotten a little sibling on the way, he's excited about decorating his "big boy" to match.  How sweet!  Way to go Aunt Jill!

This year I've been really busy, but I haven't been making any quillows.  I'll have to share Christmas present presents when they're Christmas past's presents!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

My Christmas Book Wish List

Photo from

I'm basking in the glory of a lazy Saturday morning.  Having fallen victim to a supermarket endcap, I'm enjoying some delicious Peppermint Mocha Coffee-mate in my brew this morning before I decide to wake up and get around to the usual pre-Christmas shenanigans. 

I'll be busy this weekend with Christmas shopping, crafting, decorating, cookie baking and a little bit of real work (yuck to that on the weekends!)  But you know, I've been extra good this year too!  So here's my Christmas wish list of books that I would love to add to my bookshelf.   Eat your heart out, Amazon!  (Yes, that stinkin' Kindle is on my wish list too!)

Sew What Fleece by Carol Jessop

Super cute fleecy designs!  And as she says on the back cover, "Give Fleece a Chance!"  I've enjoyed my copy of  Sew What Skirts, so I hope this book will be equally as pleasing to flip through.

Sew Liberated: Twenty Stylish Projects for the Modern Sewist by Meg McElwee

I've never really had a style that's all my own(I walked into the Gap yesterday wearing Gap jeans, a sweater and socks.  I then proceeded to cinch my jacket more tightly shut.)  I've really want to try to start displaying my interior craftiness on the outside!  Of course, I hope my recent jewelry purchases from Etsy will help too.  

Applique Your Way by Kayte Terry

 I've been attempting a lot of applique recently.  This book seems to have some great ideas and inspirations!

One Yard Wonders: 101 Sewing Fabric Projects; Look How Much You Can Make With Just One Yard of Fabric!  by Rebecca Yaker

Say that five times fast or even in one breath!  With 101 projects inside, I'm sure I'll find at least a couple things to dream about making.

Handmade Home: Simple Ways to Repurpose Old Materials into New Family Treasures by Amanda Blake Soule

I'm very into being green, at least I try to be.  I've been saving up old shirts and sweaters until I can find a way to resew them into a treasure.  Hopefully this book with be helpful!

Have you read or own any of these books??  Let me know what you think!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Last Year's Snowflake Ornaments

Hurray!  Finally a moment to pull some Christmas decorations out of the attic!  The tree is assembled (yes, my husband firmly believes in the artificial, renewable, reusable and recycled from year to year tree), but it has yet to don the sparkles of Christmas.  So in order to soak in some Christmas cheer, I'm sitting in the living room, enjoying our two smaller trees.  Daylight illuminates the living room of our little bungalow through two bay window, but during the holidays at night, the windows each twinkle with their own mini Christmas tree! 

Thinking ahead last year, these came perfectly out of the attic this year with lights, tinsel and sparkles ready to plug in!  (Finally, something simple!)  When I find another spurt of decorating energy, I'm off to find the homemade Plexiglas ornaments that adorned them last year. 

My husband designed the snowflakes using CAD, cut them with a laser cutter, then spray painted them with a silvery metallic paint.  I tied them with red ribbon, then hung them all over these trees.  They added a homemade Christmas touch to the room, and everyone who came to our Open House Party last year got to take one home with them!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

'Tis the Season to be Busy!

...and not having much time to blog.

This evening, after a full day of work, taking care of some chores at home, and running around doing errands and Christmas shopping, I finally got around to being me, which means sewing and crafting!

Of course, 'tis the season to be making gifts, so I can't show too much of what I'm working on....but I'm beaming at the progress I made tonight on these fabric snowflakes!  I love the way making gifts really gets me into the Christmas spirit, more than listening to Christmas carols or admiring all the houses aglow with decorations.  As I progress along on the gift, my thoughts anxiously stew on the anticipated reaction from the recipient opening a hand made gift on Christmas Day.  I have a lot of those recipients this year, so I just hope I can get them all done by the 25th!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

December Snow!

We're getting our first taste of December snow today!  It's starting the next months of winter weather off with a little more of magic than misery and is definetly more welcome than rain.  Luckily, I have nothing more to do than stay inside, warm and cozy, and day dream out the window at the falling puffs of white.

The snow makes me anxious to crawl into the attic for the Christmas decorations, but we have a couple home improvement projects to clean up first.  So for now, I'm going to focus my excitement on the glass fusion Christmas ornaments I finally got back from the kiln!

I love the way they came out and am excited to get them on the tree!

Here's a before and after of the one I made of Zorro, my cat!  (I couldn't decide what to do, so someone suggested a pet.)



Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It's December and I Can't Wait to Decorate!

When it rains, it pours!  I'm still running my marathon from last week. I won't go into all details and drama, but let's just say, I'm still trying to catch my breath!  (In other words, I still haven't done any sewing yet...)

I hope my schedule will clear up soon, because I'm really excited about finding time to decorate my house for Christmas!  Last year, my sweetie and I threw a big Christmas Open House party and decked our halls with as much tinsel and holly as we could stand!  So I'm looking forward to opening up the boxes of decorations again and donning them all over the house!

One of my favorite decorations that I created last year was this "Merry Christmas" Garland.  I chose some holiday fabrics that I loved, then followed the Name Garland pattern in Winsome Baby by Art to Heart.  I bought the book a while ago, hoping to make the same garland as a baby gift, but everyone seems to completely decorate their nurseries before they name their babies.  Doesn't make much room for this cute garland!   (So make sure you name the baby first, so I can finally make this cute garland for him/her.)  I love the way this turned out!  The "merry" and "Christmas" hung in the shape of a tree, so I had to add the star at the top!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Missing My Precious

I'm a little bummed out.  I dropped my sewing machine off at the "spa" last Monday, picked it up yesterday, but my embroidery module is now on the fritz!  I had to leave it at the shop.  I guess I can get back to sewing, but it doesn't really help me out with the onesie I need to make...

Since I haven't been doing much crafting myself, here's some exciting news: one of my creations finally made it into an actual Etsy treasury! 

Fabric Bowl: Julian by SewBeans

The treasury will soon disappear, but here's a few of my favorite items from it:

Circle Pin Cushions by Lupin

Notepad Stocking Stuffers by paperbyforgetmeknot

Stocking Stuffer/Pencil Pouch by KaraMiaSofia

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!   

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

With so many holidays and events to celebrate, I enjoy Thanksgiving the most.   Truly a holiday to be spent with those most dear, we cherish one another and the country as a whole, as we all enjoy a ubiquitous meal of turkey, potatoes, stuffing and gravy.  

This year was especially difficult in my family;  the economy took its toll on us.  As a result, I think we've been able to spend more time together, and for that, I'm thankful.  With December around the corner, I'm really looking forward to 2010.  I have a positive outlook for next year, and for once in my life, I've started to get excited about my work, and for that, I'm thankful.  Most importantly, although my immediate family is not celebrating this holiday at my house, we're all celebrating somewhere and raising a glass to having a roof over our heads, clothing on our backs, and each other.  And for that, I'm truly thankful.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Storybook Ending with Rumpled Quilt Skins

As a creature of habit, I travel familiar roads.  And so, as one of the many things I've done this busy week, I made my way back to Pennington Quilt Works!  Enduring the traverse through New Jersey proved well worth it for a little bit of pre-Black Friday shopping!

I just love this shop!  Surrounded by a great selection ranging from modern to batik to reproduction, you'll find PQW's shelves stocked with fresh fabrics, not stuff you know has been hanging around for years...and years...  Even the "bargain bin" is filled with good picks!

After probaby an hour's worth of debating and considering between what I could afford and what I could manage to make before Christmas, I chose a few items. I did some Christmas shopping, but I also picked up something fun for me!  (to make eventually...)  They're truly adorable, quilted stuffed animals called Rumpled Quilt Skins by Kathy Barbaro.  (She's on Etsy!!)  Made with batiks, these have a charm that you don't find in an everyday child's toy.  I only purchased the giraffe, but I can't wait to add to my collection!

If you decide you've got to have these too, the sales associate informed me that their pattern maker recommends adding an extra 1/8th yard to the fabric requirements.  Better to be safe than sorry! 

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A little side note, I stopped at a small Italian restaurant just south of the quilt store for lunch, on the opposide side of Royute 31 from the shop...don't go there.  Among other restaurant faux pas, I was served the exact same salad before my panini as was served beside my panini...weird.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Happy Turkey Week!

It's going to be a busy week, but I'm handling it, for now.  Mom and I are off to a couple quilt stores today.  Then she's leaving tomorrow and friends are coming Wednesday for Thanksgiving!  On top of it all, I'm currently juggling four jobs...I think my favorite blog might fall off the radar...  See you all soon, I hope!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Musical Wines

I love being "in theme."  So while I shopped for musically inspired wines on Friday, I was excited to happen upon a Wolfgang Gru-Vee from Austria!  I also purchased a bottle of Red Guitar's Navarra to continue with my "Musical Wine" theme.  I will be playing in my local concert band's Fall Concert today and am looking forward to hosting an after concert wine and cheese party with my friends and family!

In Pennsylvania, we have to purchase all our wine and liquor at one store, and they often don't have an extensive collection of wines.  I searched the store for musical inspired wine labels and names, and only came up with two.  I'm curious to know if anyone else knows of some musical wines??  Or maybe you've sampled a bottle of Red Guitar or Wolfgang?  

...I better go, it will be time to start warming up soon enough!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Warmed up like biscuits! Cheddar Biscuits!

Third time's a charm, because I finally got perfectly round biscuits!  Just look at it!  Don't you want to reach into your screen and take that yummy, cheddary, flaky goodness?  That's right, they were flaky!  I'm so proud.

When attempting this recipe before, I would have to revert to drop biscuits when left with a sticky, blobby, yet still delicious biscuit batter.  This time, instead of pulling out the mixer, I learned how to correctly combine everything together with my hands.  I made scones recently that specified cutting in the butter with two knives, and I realized I needed to try that with this biscuit recipe!  Certainly a labor of love cutting in butter, I alternated between knives and my fingers, and it did the trick.  They happily cut into perfectly round biscuits.

Cheddar Cheese Biscuits

2        cups all purpose flour
1        tablespoon of sugar
2 1/2  teaspoons of baking powder
1/2     teaspoon of baking soda
1/2     teaspoon of salt
6        tablespoons of chilled, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/4 cups of cheddar cheese
1       cup cold buttermilk (I use the instant powder)
1       egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of milk (glaze)

1. Preheat over to 400°.  Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Add butter and cut in, using a couple knives, a dough cutter, or even your fingers until a fine meal forms.  Add cheese and mix until combined.

2.  Add buttermilk (or water if you added powdered buttermilk in with dry ingredients) and gently mix together to bind dough.  Turn onto a well floured surface and knead about 10 turns until combined.

3. Pat out dough to 3/4" thickness, and using a biscuit cutter or glass, cut out biscuits.  Gather scraps, gently knead together and repeat to make additional biscuits.

4. Transfer biscuits to parchment lined or Silpat lined cookie sheet.  Brush biscuits with egg glaze and bake until golden brown and firm to touch, about 18 minutes.  Serve warm!

I think I'm becoming a better baker!  But practice makes perfect...and more biscuits to eat!  Here's a couple of things this baker has added to her Christmas wish list for the next time I make this recipe:

a Pastry Blender

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Getting Over the Camera Strap Cover Craze

Woot!  Woot!  I just mailed out two camera strap covers, and there's now only two left in my shop!  They've been on clearance quite some time now, as I'm happy to report that I'm phasing them out of my shop.  What helped begin my small business career may soon be sold out (fingers crossed!!)... or extinct.

I began my Esty shop with bookmarks and camera strap covers.  I still love to make the bookmarks, but  it took me most of yesterday evening to make just one camera strap cover.   They're simple to make, and unfortunately, have virtually no creative input after choosing the fabrics.  So "ADD Jill," as my husband so affectionately calls me, kicks in.  I probably wasted two hours instead of twenty minutes.  However, the camera strap covers have become a very important part of the history of SewBeans.

Starting something new is always difficult, but especially when it's as personal as your own business!  It is very exciting at first, but once you dive in, you realize how much time a business, even a small one, takes.  A lot of time, energy, decisions and money went into starting my shop.   What I wanted to make, who I wanted to sell to, how to price, how to photography my items, how to describe my items, how to re-photograph my items, what I wanted my avatar to be....  There was quite a learning curve, and the camera strap covers suffered through it.  I had to start exploring my business with something...I'm so excited to be moving on!

It's my choice not to make camera strap covers anymore;  I want to keep moving forward, soul searching and reinventing myself.  One thing I have realized, is that I don't want a camera strap cover shop.  But if it weren't for those camera strap covers, I might not even have a shop!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Things in the Mail

I get a lot of junk in the mail.  Mostly catalogs from places I've never ordered, followed by yet another ad for Comcast.  And no, I don't consider that "comcastic."  I try to do my part and recycle most of what comes in the mail, though every so often, I actually get something I want to keep.  Either a purchase from Etsy (hoorah!), or one of my many magazine subscriptions!

I've subscribed to plenty of magazines in my life, but recently due not only to financial reasons, but also because it's been difficult finding the time to read them all, I've widdled down my list and chosen only to subscribe to magazines that truly inspire me.  So without further ado, here's the list of magazines that have entered my mailbox this month:

1.  This Old House

 This might be my favorite magazine to find in my mailbox.  To me, this is real architecture.  I used to scour through old issues at my in-law's house while they sat and chatting around me...I decided I should be a little more polite and just recieve TOH at home.

2.  Martha Stewart Living

After all my posts about her, are we surprised?  The designers at Living get two-thumbs up from me.  I love this magazine's layout, and although I've probably never tried any of the crafts, the colors and images are always so inspirational that they truly get me in the mood for whatever's festive that month.

3.  Everyday Food

 Not more Martha!  Yes...  A recent addition to my collection, I've started cooking a lot more at home and thought a monthly cooking magazine would be a great inspiration.  Last night, I tried the December issue's recipe for Chicken and Chickpea got rave reviews in my house!

4. Better Homes and Gardens

This is what I read instead of People for the latest gossip...well, I at least consider it my equivalent.  It's cheap to subscribe to, filled with easy to read articles, and has enough decent home and garden designs and ideas to keep me subscribing.  I usually read it in an evening, then leave it laying around, thinking that I might try out one or two of the recipes.  I should probably go find those and dust them off now...

5.  Bottom Line/Personal

 Somewhat kitschy, this is actually a bi-monthly newsletter filled with little tid-bits and tips from health, to finance, to common sense.  It's usually a quick read, and my husband and I always find many interesting to discuss from the latest issue. 

 6.  American Patchwork & Quilting

 A better Homes and Gardens family member, this magazine usually is a gift subscription from my mom.  Always great for color inspiration, I maybe once a year actually make one of the quilts and really just love it for reading up on the latest notions and books.  Another favorite is their news stand only Shop Hop edition, that makes me want to jump in my car and travel the country to all the "best" shops.  

7-ish.  Real Simple

This one was a gift subscription that just ended, and I'm including it, because I just got my last one in the mail.  I debated renewing, but this one fell to the axe when I realized my favorite part of it was not the articles, but the clever section dividers in the magazine that appear to be scenes totally made out of paper...not exactly worth the subscription price.

8-ish.  Quilter's Home Magazine

 A guilty pleasure, this one is also an "ish" because I don't subscribe to it, but usually purchase it in the store when I see it.  If it's not silly enough that I don't subscribe to one of my favorites, this is probably the only magazine I read from cover to cover.  The wittiest quilting magazine you'll ever find, there's something to be said about a craft magazine that always includes a recipe for a new cocktail!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fun with Shards of Glass

Last night, I entered a room I never thought I would lay eyes on again...the high school chemistry classroom!  However, this time, I was not afraid of being surrounded by the night before's chemistry homework that I refused to do.  (Looking back, I'm proud of myself for never actually doing my homework and copying the answers off the board the next day.  Sure I didn't learn chemistry (not a missed opportunity), but how else would I have the accomplishment of seeing every episode of Saved By the Bell if I had actually spent that time doing homework?)  I freely entered the high school chemistry classroom to attend a fused glass class provided by my local community education program!

I never took any art classes in grade school (I was and still am a band geek,) but I'm certainly making up for it now!   I signed up for the fused glass class only because it sounded like fun, and glass is not a medium I've had an opportunity to dabble in yet.  I went into the class having not a clue what "fused glass" entailed, but after a quick 5 minute explanation, I was off to create two fused glass ornaments.

I was given two clear, about 2.5" diameter glass circles that would be the bases for my glass ornaments.  Then, with the choices of a whole spectrum of colored glass, glass stringers, and glass frit, I was left to compose designs and glue them into place with small dabs of white craft glue.   Armed with a  loaner glass scoring tool and pliers for breaking on the score, I found that breaking glass on a small scale was actually a little difficult...

I think the next glass class I take (in three weeks!), I'll do a little research, so I at least have a clue of what I want to design.  After much contemplation and a couple hours, I finished my two little ornaments.  The instructor now has them and is taking them to add another piece of glass to the bottom and a wire hook for hanging, then fusing them in a kiln.

Of course, I'm excited about picking them up in two weeks and can't wait to share the finished pieces!  Here's a sneak peak at one of my ornaments:

Okay, something actually sewing related:  I just saw this in an email, and it couldn't go un-noted!  This monkey pattern is too cute!