Guest blogger: Becky the townie

Well, I've been busy in the last week or so with traveling, eating, and of course Christmasing.  When the electricity went out at my parents' house due to a fierce ice storm, my plans for posting this guest column got postponed.  But now, I am visiting with the awesome columnist herself - my only girl cousin on this side of the family and my partner in Eurotravel.  She's done a great job of showing me around Carrboro and Chapel Hill - home to UNC basketball, Carrburritos, a rocking PTA thrift store, and Cousin Becky's Easter-egg purple house.
According to Becky, she felt inspired to guest post because she wanted to take the burden off me to be creative all the time.  Really, I think it's that she's so talented and awesome herself that she couldn't help but overflow her creativity into rhymeswithquilt.  She is a talented seamstress (she told me to write that) who learned to sew in high school.  
She's now completed a number of dresses, "pillow paintings" (as she calls them... see above), 4 or 5 quilts, and this tree skirt that she wanted to share with the rhymeswithquilt community.  So, here goes ...

Here's my story:
My family has been using the same Christmas tree skirt for as long as I can remember and, given my advanced age, it has definitely joined the ranks of scrunchies, acid wash, and other thoroughly eighties memorabilia.  The aforementioned Christmas tree skirt was made by our grandmother, Mimi, and is red with frilly lace around the edges and adorned with teddy bear elves, Santas, and angels.  To give some background, this is the same grandmother that gave Katherine and me (the only two girls in the family) matching nightgowns with a kitty kat on them that was wearing the same nightgown we were... it happened to be Katherine's 18th birthday that day. 
My mother would not dare throw away the Christmas tree skirt for fear that our 85 year-old grandmother would show up on our doorstep unannounced one day and not see her timeless skirt under the tree.  I did the dirty work for her and decided that I was going to make one this year.  When I told my mom that I was making it and I wasn't sure that she would like the fabric choices I had she replied, "Anything is better than teddy bear angels."  Truth.
So I set to work on constructing a Christmas tree skirt with no idea where to begin.  I started with a square (about a yard) of green polka dot fabric and added a 4-inch trim of a matching fabric.  I repeated the same pattern with red fabric on the other side so that it could be reversible (versatility for the coming decades!) and laid a piece of quilting batting in between the two sides.  To get the perfect size of our tree stand I laid out newspaper and traced the outline, cut it out and placed it on the skirt.  I then outlined the perimeter of the stand with tape and cut it out.  I decided to only quilt the outer border (and not the polka dots) because I didn't want it to be too busy.  The skirt came to a finish with a hand sewn border and poinsettia beads that my mom picked out.  The whole project, start to finish, probably took about 4 hours.
It made all the difference at the family Christmas this year and finally brought us into the new millenium.  Now that we've left the teddy elves and Santas behind along with big hair and shoulder pads, we're ready to welcome 2010 in style. 
Check the rhymeswithquilt blog again in twenty years for my granddaughter making fun of my super-outdated polka dots.
Happy sewing!



4 days without power + holiday travel = delayed blogposting.

Updates coming soon.

I promise.


4 days without power + holiday travel = delayed blogposting.

Updates coming soon.

I promise.


Front Porch Salad

A good cabbage salad (invented by Mom)

1/2 head green cabbage, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp. ranch dressing
1-2 Tbsp. balsamic vinaigrette dressing
1/4 c. bleu cheese crumbles
1/4 c. feta cheese crumbles

Place chopped cabbage in a bowl.  Add ranch dressing and mix until all the cabbage pieces are coated.  Add vinaigrette dressing, adjusting for taste (adding more makes it a bit spicier).  Stir in cheeses and serve.

Yes, it's a little ridiculous to name a salad after a front porch when the front porch looks like this:

But there's a story behind the name, so I'll go ahead and give it to you so it makes sense.  Last week my parents celebrated their 32nd anniversary and took each other and my two younger brothers to an Australian-themed national chain steakhouse for dinner.  Mom liked the salad that Dad ordered so much that she decided to try making it herself at home.  But of course she didn't want to name it after the restaurant so she called it "Front Porch Salad" instead.  Perfect name, actually.  My parents' front porch is the summer fellowship venue; the kitchen table is the wintertime rendezvous point.  We're getting a lot of use out of it this week as we're together to celebrate Christmas.  Though the details are somewhat sketchy, we think that it has been somewhere around 5 years, possibly 6, since the entire family was last together over Christmas.  So, we're REALLY enjoying this time we're getting to spend around the kitchen table, our winter-time front porch!


a nod to blue

I got inspired to make this quilt when I found an awesome blue-and-white striped sheet at my favorite thrift store.  Twin size, great shape, already soft.  I couldn't help it - I KNEW that it was going to be the back of a quilt.  I started thinking of what I wanted the front to look like, and this is what happened:  

It became the back of this wonky log cabin quilt that I gave to some friends who are UNC-CH graduates.  I went with blues and whites (for obvious reasons) but I LOVE the simplicity of a quilt with lots of white.  White is so forgiving!  And I think it makes the log cabin blocks pop out.  The finished size of the quilt is somewhere around 75" x 90", depending on where you measure. (HA!  I have yet to get the exact-measurement thing down)  

I did a pieced binding with the leftovers of the sheet that were wide enough when I trimmed the quilt and some tarheel fabric that I think my mom passed along to me from one of her projects.  I love it.

Here's to finding more inspiration in the most unlikely places!



Four 79 cent fat quarters and a big blue button ... 



A pie for Roy

Roy is not anyone that I personally know.  I just know of him.  More about Roy later.

Pumpkin Pie Spectacular
from November 2009 Southern Living, adapted to the way I made it

1 deep-dish 9-inch pie crust (buy it or make your own)

2 cups crushed gingersnaps (about 40 gingersnaps)
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 (15-oz.) can pumpkin
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Pecan Streusel (see below)
Ginger-Spice Topping (see further below)

Preheat oven to 350°. Fit piecrust into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate according to package directions; fold edges under, and crimp.

Stir together crushed gingersnaps and next 3 ingredients. Press mixture on bottom and 1/2 inch up sides of piecrust, to make a crust-within-a-crust.  Yum.

Bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack (about 30 minutes).

Watch the rerun episode of The Office where Jim and Pam start dating.  Sigh profusely and wish the happy couple lots of joy.

Stir together pumpkin and next 6 ingredients until well blended. Pour into prepared crust. Place pie on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet.  If there's extra batter, pour it into little souflee cups or a smaller pie pan to bake with the rest.

Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Sprinkle Pecan Streusel around edge of crust. Bake 40 to 45 minutes more or until set, shielding edges with aluminum foil during last 25 to 30 minutes of baking, if necessary. Let cool completely on a wire rack (about 1 hour). Dollop slices with Ginger-Spice Topping.

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

Stir together flour, brown sugar, melted butter, and chopped pecans.

1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Beat whipping cream with mixer at high speed until soft peaks form.  Stir in cinnamon and ginger.  (Substitute frozen whipped topping if desired - just stir in the cinnamon and ginger).

I made this pie for Thanksgiving (yeah, so I'm a little late in posting the recipe).  It was definitely a process (3 hours of process actually), but worth every minute.  The gingersnap crust-within-a-crust is incredible, and the struesel on top is like candy.  Hmmm.  So good.

I would like to dedicate this pie to Mr. Roy Blount Jr.  The name may sound familiar to those of you who listen to Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, the NPR news quiz that airs on weekends.  He's an occasional guest on there, as well as appearing on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion every so often.  He is perhaps the dryest, funniest Southerner I've ever heard.  I encourage you to google him or find him on youtube, just for the sake of hearing a genius with a Southern accent (they're not as rare as some think).  My favorite essay of his, and the reason I'm dedicating this pie to him, is called "The Way Folks Were Meant To Eat." 

Try it out (the pie or Mr. Roy Blount Jr., I don't care which).

And let me know what you think. 


my vegetative state

Over the summer I had a fortuitous encounter with Freecycle.  I posted a request for fabric scraps, and was answered by a lady whose grandmother had collected BAGS of scraps from her lifetime of projects.  (BAGS = 5 large black trash bags full).  Some of the scraps were tiny, less than 1"x1", while there was yardage of others.  There was even a kimono in there.  Boo yah.  Let the games begin.

My first job was to sort everything (loosely) by "color" - I wish I had taken a picture to show you my billowing piles of blues, greens, pinks/oranges, yellows, denims, flannels, polyesters (yuk), stripes, and faux furs.  I sorted for hours.

Then came the fun part ... doing something with these scraps!

Our garden was bountiful at the time, so I had vegetables on the brain ...

So, here's what I did: I put a scrap on a white background.  I set up my machine as if I were going to free-motion quilt (lower the feed dogs, attach my darning foot, and change the stitch length to "0"), and then I literally drew my design over the scraps.  In the one above, I went for a set of green peas.  Below, some carrots and a radish (whose design my friend Laura helped me come up with):

So, well, maybe I got carried away.  I don't care, though.  They're just so much fun ... carrots are my particular favorite, probably because they're so distinctive.  (I confess: I tried to do a pear.  It ended up looking somewhat like a green egg.  DISCARD!)

So, a lot of them have gotten turned into pot holders.
Some became wall hangings.
Others are still waiting.

More ideas?


baby baby

For the first time ever, I sewed something for a baby doll.  Since I was one of those girls who was all about her dolls when I was growing up, I know how important it is for the little mommy to make sure that the dolls are properly clothed, fed, and warmed.  And, since I've got a plethora of friends with babies these days, I thought I could pass along a little love in the form of a doll quilt.  This little quilt (16"x24") is for a friend's daughter for Christmas.  My mom, who was visiting me this weekend, helped me come up with the idea and encouraged me to try something new with the quilting pattern.  I tried a little loop-de-loop deal -  it did go pretty quickly though it took me a few minutes to get the feel for it.  Don't look too closely ... I had a few snaffoos, but I kept them in there and just kept going.  Sorry for the dark photo quality.

In other baby news (no, not me silly), congrats to my dear friends Katie and Adam R. on the birth of their first daughter, Rylie Joy, last night!  Apparently, the text message announcement read "6 lb 14 oz beautiful" (I don't actually know first-hand what it said, because we may or may not have blocked text messaging from our phone ...).  However, I can't wait to hold 6 lb 14 oz beautiful in my arms!


I want you all to check out my friend Sara Beth's Christmas candies.

So.  Yummy.

She has three kids AND comes up with things like that.  What a superhero.



I found some coarse red linen fabric on sale at Walmart for $1.50/yd and have used most of it for a Christmas project.  I had these little squares leftover and some down time at work.  That, paired with some white thread and an etsy.com search of "snowflakes" for inspiration led me to these:

Coasters, maybe?  Ornaments?  Still not sure.  I'm feeling the ornaments thing, but I like them as a set.  They measure about 4.5" x 4.5" ... too big for ornaments?  Hmmm.

Hand stitching is actually more fun than I thought it would be. 

Oh, joy!


Four corners, part dos

It's done!

I am in love with this quilt ... really, I've considered buying more of the same fabrics to make another one exactly like it. 

Check out the back - such an awesome green!

Some things I'm particularly excited about:
-the way the brown pops out
-the improv-ness (improvisationalism?) of each block
-the way the binding blends in with the back and shows up more on the front - a little edging effect
-the size - about 39"x39" - a little bigger than other baby quilts I've done, but perfect for a baby to lay/play/roll on

I ended up going with brown for the stitching.  Bold, I know.  It really contrasts with the white and pink, but (surprisingly) it works well with the backing fabric, and (unsurprisingly) it matches the brown on the front.  Check it out:

Here's one more picture, just a close-up of one of the blocks ...


More to come ... I've been a busy bee ...



This recipe for Chocolate-Chocolate Chip-Coconut cookies is a slight variation on last December's Triple Chocolate Cookies, in case you're wondering why it looks so familiar.  Variations marked in bold.

1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, melted
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Melt butter in a small pan over medium heat, stirring frequently.  Continue stirring until butter separates.  Add to mixing bowl. Cream butter and sugars together until smooth (this won't look like your traditional "creamed butter and sugar" fluffiness, but go with it anyway.  Scrape the sides of the bowl a few times), and beat in the egg and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and mix until almost blended. Add the chocolate chips and coconut and mix. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place on an ungreased baking sheet 2 inches apart. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, and store in an airtight container up to 7 days. Makes 2 to 3 dozen (depends on the size of the cookie!).

OK.  This was a little bit of an experiment.  My general rule is to not experiment with baking, only with cooking ... but I ran into a snag when I went to make these cookies: the only butter I had was frozen, and I didn't have time or a microwave to defrost it.  So, I had to come up with something.  I remembered a friend had made chocolate chip cookies with browned, melted butter because the test kitchens of Cook's Illustrated had suggested it. 

Browned butter?  Hmmm.

I decided just to melt it and let it sit in the pan for a few over medium-low heat to see if I got anything brown.  I didn't.  Maybe I didn't let it heat long enough.  What I DID get, though, was butter separation.  The oily stuff stayed on the bottom and foamy stuff came to the top.  I didn't skim it, though that seemed like something logical to do.  Again, hmmm.

Well, cookies are cookies, and I'll be dadgummed if I didn't just decide to use the mysterious melt anyway.  I poured it into my mixing bowl and added the sugars and mixed away.  As I mentioned in the directions above, this didn't look like the usual "Cream butter and sugar" outcome.  I thought the cookies would be runny because of the melt.  Of course, that didn't keep me from plowing ahead ... there were cookies on the horizon and nothing was going to stop me!  So I proceeded to add everything else, following the directions.  I threw in some coconut at the end because (a) I love coconut (b) I found half a bag of it in my freezer and (c) I thought it would add an exotic flair.

Pleasant surprise:

The cookies held up nicely.

They didn't run and flatten out at all.

In fact, the dough was pretty sturdy, and when I rolled it into balls it wasn't sticky at all.

What I don't know is if the sturdiness of the dough is due to the melted butter or the coconut.  Hmmm.

Mmmmmostaccioli Salad

Mostaccioli Salad

3/4 c. canola oil
1 c. white vinegar
3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. dried mustard
1 medium red onion
1 green pepper
1 can chickpeas
1 can diced tomatoes (or 3/4 c. chopped fresh tomatoes)
1 package mostaccioli pasta

Cook pasta according to package and drain.
Mix oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dried mustard in a bowl for dressing.
Chop onion and pepper.  Add with chickpeas and tomatoes to the dressing.
Stir in the pasta.
Cover and chill for 24 hours.

I confess that I didn't know that mostaccioli existed, much less was edible, until this salad showed up.  But now I know.  And, oh, goodness.  Am I ever glad I know about it now.  The longer this sticks around, the better it gets.  24 hours is good, but don't be afraid to let it sit longer.  The flavor of the dressing gets all up in the pasta's space ... proof of this: our friends Aaron and Catherine brought this to the bloggiversary Friday night potluck; there was one serving left in the bottom of the bowl that we kept in the fridge for a week (yes!  a week!) that I promptly consumed upon returning to town from our Thanksgiving travels.  Incredible, yes, delightfully incredible. 

I'm making this one again. 

Now, if I can only find the mostaccioli aisle in Kroger ...


Four Corners

As I write today, I've got this spread out on the dining room table: 

I'm a little frenzied about finishing it, though no one is pressuring me except me ... for some reason, I feel as though I must finish today or I'm going to bust.  The tough thing, though, is that I don't know what color to quilt it in.  I tend towards white because it's standard, but I like the boldness of the chocolate brown so much that I'm afraid a white-on-brown deal would let me down.  So I've called my friend Rebecca (this is for her neice) and am waiting on her to tell me what she wants.  My guess is that she's going to "trust my judgment" and "leave it up to me" and all that stuff, because she's nice and trusting like that.  Haha!  

Maybe light pink?  Or light green?  Or light brown?


early bird gets the warm

Santa came just a wee bit early to our house ...

My husband was just so cold now that winter has decided to set in, and Mr. Claus must have known that my dear needed this to keep him comfy and cozy before Christmas.

The pattern is a "Wonky Log Cabin" inspired by the crazymomquilts and tallgrassprairiestudio blogs.  I'll put a link up to their tutorials when I get a chance but I encourage you to check them out in the meantime!

The back is a simple pieced deal, once again inspired by crazymomquilts (I've got a lot of props to give her because, despite the fact that she doesn't know this, she's my quilting guru.)

I don't know if you can tell or not, but the binding is made from the leftover strips that I had from the backing when I trimmed it, offset around the edge, plus this awesome candy-cane-striped deal that I think my grandmother gave me a long time ago.

Here's some detail of the stippling also.  I'm still not great at it and the quilting is still pretty wide apart, but I like the effect anyway.



I've decided to add something new to my plate.

A quilting and sewing blog.

I'm new at quilting so I can't really promise much, but I want to share what I am doing. And this is the time to do it ... I've got my Christmas projects underway, lots of plans for next year, and a few completed projects laying around the house. At least I'll have the first few posts taken care of ...


favoritas: Spicy Sweet Potatoes

Spicy Sweet Potatoes
4 side-dish servings

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 lb sweet potatoes, cut into chunks

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon ground coriander

juice of 1 lime or lemon

1 teaspoon sugar


1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

Saute the potatoes in the oil for 10 minutes until golden all over.

Add spices, juice, sugar and salt.

Cover and cook for 10 - 15 more minutes, until potatoes are tender.

Sprinkle with chopped fresh herbs, toss and serve.

Rebecca (who first introduced me to this recipe) suggests to go heavier on the spices, light on the sugar, use 1 teaspoon of dried basil instead of fresh, and omit cilantro. I made it her way and loved it. It's nice to have a spicy little twist on sweet potatoes. It's like seeing your granny put on red lipstick and her dancing shoes.

Sweet potatoes are my favorite fall vegetable*. I absolutely love them. I fixed these for the Thanksgiving 2009 meal with my husband's family. Actually, I should clarify: I fixed these for the Thanksgiving 2009 meal for myself and my father-in-law. He warned me that no one else would eat them, but in naive hope I disregarded his advice and peeled/cubed/spiced two pounds of potatoes. Oh, well. I brought home leftovers and promptly put them in a burrito with rice and beans. I had the rest of them for lunch today with some cheddar cheese on top. I think that this might be my standard sweet potato recipe from here on out. I'll miss the casserole with marshmallows on top but I like the chili and lime kick.

I'm into this sweet potato thing. A few weeks ago I tried this sweet potato pound cake that I heard about on All Things Considered (yes, I listen to NPR and I'm under 65) and it was great. Butter? Check. Sugar? Check. Mashed sweet potatoes? Checkity check.

If you like sweet potatoes, try out Rebecca's spicy ones. If not, make them for me when I come over for dinner.

*Technically, I think sweet potatoes are tubers, not vegetables. I just have a hard time saying that I have a favorite tuber. Doesn't sound right.