MK's birthday quilt

I have a friend named MK.  She's fabulous, and she's one of the big reasons why I love the community and town I live in.  We first met three years ago, and our first friend date involved me dragging her around from store to store in search of the perfect black dress (note: we both hate to shop.  and it was raining.).  I'm happy to say it's all be uphill since then: no more shopping, and lots of blueberry and raspberry picking.

She's a gem - really, absolutely, awesomely so.  I'm thankful for this gal in my life!

So, as the world's smallest token of friendship and birthday love, I made her a birthday quilt!  I'm excited at the final product, though I did run into some snags along the way.  (this quilt was inspired by Elissa's first-ever quilt!)

This was my first time trying quilting lines so close together over a whole quilt as well as making my own label for the quilt.

MK's birthday quilt - front (swaying in the wind a little bit)
back of quilt - detail

first time ever labeling a quilt like this ... so much easier than I thought
The quilt measures about 48"x48" and uses fabrics from all my previous projects (I will award you seven points if you can cross-reference at least three of the fabrics you see).  I used a blue-and-white striped sheet on the back, cut to size.  For the label, I used a little scrap of double-sided iron-on interfacing (I used Wonder-Under) on a scrap of white fabric.  I wrote the label with a permanent marker and ironed it to set the ink.  I ironed the label onto the quilt and secured it with a blanket stitch for looks.  So much easier than I thought it would be!

I'm excited to celebrate my sweet friend today!


In Defense of the Casserole

The ugly "C" word ... you cringe when you hear it in relation to dinner, and you feel like a piece of you dies when you give in to making it again? That's right ... the Casserole.  Poor thing.  It's just so ... plain.  And unassuming.  No wonder casseroles get overlooked and badmouthed.

But in defense of lowly Casseroles, they are some of the easiest and heartiest meals out there.   They can be a delicious cacophany of all kinds of ingredients, or simple with three or four ingredients.  And there's just one or two dishes to clean up afterwards - how delightful is that?

I am somewhat hesitant about making my own casseroles (mostly because of a few mishaps with mushy vegetables and a noticeable lack of salt), but I like to make things that are easy and versatile so I find myself coming back.  If you're in a similar boat, I have a few suggestions of ways to revisit the Casserole.  Or, if you're not sure you want to commit to a full revisitation, at least think about putting the Casserole back on your Christmas card list.

Add cooked sausage or cooked bacon - Name one main dish that isn't better with one of those two ingredients (ok smartypants, if you just thought of ice cream, then I want to come have supper at your house.)  But seriously.  Mild sausage, spicy sausage, maple-flavored bacon, hardwood smoked bacon ... excuse me, I need to clean up the drool pooling in my lap.  Paula Deen's lasagna, anyone?

Be creative with toppings - store-bought breadcrumbs stirred into melted butter are the standby that most of my cookbooks call for.  But what about crushed potato chips, fritos, or Doritos?  Or homemade breadcrumbs from yesterday's sourdough bread, pulverized in a blender with fresh rosemary and thyme?  Try a couple of corn muffins, some shredded cheddar cheese, and generous amounts of butter (don't worry, I won't tell how much).  Sprinkle paprika on top for a pretty visual zing.

Make your own sauses - cans are nice, and convenient.  And I like convenient.  But I LOVE homemade.  Making your own brown gravy, white sauce, or cheese sauce is not only rewarding, but so much better tasting that it's worth the extra 8 minutes it takes to do it.  My favorite white sauce (cream of something soup) recipe is here.

Try something a little different - Not so sure if you're ready to wing it with casseroles yet?  Then just try this: when the recipe nonchalantly calls for something plain (say, a can of diced tomatoes), substitute it with the ingredient's older, glitzier city cousin (like a can of fire roasted tomatoes).  There are tons of cheeses out there - use gorgonzola instead of cheddar, swiss in place of mozzarella, and manchego for parmesan.  Same with breads.  Ditch the white bread for some hearty rye crumbs.  You might be surprised.

Find your go-to casserole - A casserole deserves to be liked.  If you try one and don't want to give the follow-up call, try something else.  But a good casserole is just that ... good.  Everyone should know one.


Big Day!

Chocolate cake: check
Birthday banner: check
Conehead hat: check
Blower-thingies: check
One-year-old: CHECK

Happy Birthday Sweet Girl!