Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Yo-yo, are you still updating? (Part 2)

Welcome to PART 2 of my update find Part 1 click HERE.

I gave myself a vacation from this project for a few weeks (bad idea) because my husbands business, Harrison Law, PLLC, was BUSY in addition to moving our offices.  By the time the dust settled it was October.  I snatched a few bags out of my out-of-sight, out-of-mind storage area and got to work.  I had no real plan for this part of the project only sew the darn things together.  After about six weeks, I realized that I'd made a fatal flaw in my sewing.  I now had six "squares" that weren't square and weren't oriented correctly.  *SIGH*  I began the slow, laborious process of picking out all of the hand stitching that I had done returning the "squares" back to their "pile of little circles" state.  *SIGH*  However, all of this time spent picking out sloppy stitching was not completely wasted because it gave me a chance to do the planning that I should have done in the first place. 

First, I did this...
Mark each of the segments with a washable sewing marker.

I went back to my geometry roots and made a sewing template.  Each segment is 60 degrees of the circle.  That division separates the circle into six equal segments to assist with the sewing.

As shown above, I divided the yo-yo circles into sixths and marked them using the template I made.  Since some circles are face up and some are face down on the quilt, I mark each circle on the wrong side of the circle.  That way I can see my hash marks as I am sewing.  I have found that different fabrics react differently to the fabric marker.  Some fabrics will hold onto the mark for weeks.  On others, the marker starts to fade the moment I draw on the circle.  The printed designs interfere with the fabric marker too.  This is especially true for the white-on-white yo-yos that border the quilt.  I learned to draw extra-long hash marks to make sure that the mark transferred to the fabric and not just to the printed design.  The marker wipes right off the paint.

From then on sewing together the squares was "simple."  You have to picture those as air quotes because the process was simple-er but I still have to put a lot of thinking into what I'm doing.  I still have to pick out seams on a semi-regular basis.  As soon as I get tired and my concentration slips, I sew something wrong and have to pull out my seam ripper.  (I keep it in the bag with the squares.  It just saves time that way!)

I make a mini-template of the current square as a quick reference so that I don't have to pull out my road map.  It is getting really fragile. 
My tools:  reference photo, mini road map, circle template, fabric pen, circles

I separate each bag of circles into individual strips of six following the photograph to get the correct order.  I use the road map to determine which circles are face up and which are face down.  Then, I do my marking.  I load the lines into plastic zipper bags numbered 1 - 6, and finally, I'm ready to sew. 

Awaiting the needle and thread
Match up the hash marks and whip stitch two circles with the right sides together.  Since the hash marks are on the wrong sides of the yo-yos, it is easy (usually) to see when to stop sewing.  Here I must confess that I did not pre-wash my fabric before making the yo-yos.  This was a HUGE mistake.  Some of the fabric circles shrunk in the wash so not all of the finished yo-yos are the same size.  I have to ease some of the larger circles down to match the smaller segments on the smaller circles.  Also, some of the yo-yos dried funny leaving them misshapen.  Sewing these yo-yos together is more of a challenge.

Let me take another opportunity to laud the glories of Thread Heaven, Thread Conditioner!  As I stated in my first post, Thread Heaven is what I use to make my thread smooth and keep it relatively tangle-free.  (You still need to keep a careful eye on your thread.  It will still tangle if you're not careful, but this eliminates much of the trouble.)I began this project using beeswax, but it just wasn't just working out.  I run my thread back and forth across the conditioner three or four times to get a really good coating.  As per the Thread Heaven directions, I run the coated thread through my fingers once to create a static charge.  Then I'm off...

Ready, Set, SEW!

Line up the hash marks.

Whip Stitch

Stop at the next hash mark and tie off your thread.
Add the next yo-yo onto the chain and stop when all six are connected.  Like this...

Strips of circles, so many strips of circles.

Once all of  your strips are complete, it is time to assemble the finished square.  I chose that the top right corner of every square would be shifted to the right to allow the circles to nest against each other.  (I could have done this project much more quickly and with fewer yo-yos if I had opted to sew the yo-yos together without nesting.)

Here is where it gets a little tricky...(for me, maybe not for you!)  :)

For the strips to be bumped OUT, sew  ONE hash mark up from the strip sewing.  For the strips being bumped IN, sew TWO hash marks from the strip sewing.  WHAT!?!  This is where I mess up all the time!

Look closely.
You will see that the flowered circle is bumped IN.  Two segments are sewn - the first to the tan circle and second to the green circle.  The tan circle is hidden in the back, but it is bumped OUT and the green circle next to it is also sewn once.  See the photos below for a better idea of the finished product.

All of the circles nest together.
 Keep adding strips bumping each odd numbered strip OUT and each even numbered strip IN.

I'm almost done.  It is time to put more thread on the needle. 

As of this posting I am finished with half of the squares for the quilt.  I have a bag that I carry everything around in and work as I have time.  You will notice that the upper pictures have my old carpeting as the backdrop, but the last picture is me working while my children were in swimming lessons (one year later).  I get a lot of work done waiting in the car line at school.  (Before you gasp and clutch your pearls, the car is turned off!  I come early to get a good spot.)

My husband asks me when this project will be done.  I tell him sometime in 2015.  I'm not kidding when I say that.  Every time I update (and sometimes each time I pick up the bag) reconsider spending the $450.00 that Land's End was asking for their yo-yo quilt, but I'm into it now.  I'm not turning back. Also, Land's End isn't even selling it any more. *SIGH*

Click HERE to see my first post about how to make yo-yos, HERE for my first update on this project, and HERE for Part 1 of my second update. 

I would love it if you became a follower of my blog.  You can find me HERE on Facebook and HERE on Pinterest.  Come check me out there!

If you enjoyed this post you might enjoy my post for this Rainbow Jell-o.  Find out how to make your Toddler his or her own textbook HERE.  Get ready for Thanksgiving with some "Give Thanks" Board
Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Updating Again - Yo-Yo! (Part 1)

You may recall that I am making a king-sized bedspread entirely out of yo-yos that are 2" in diameter.  You can read my first post about it HERE and my progress update from last summer HERE.  Since my last update I have finished making all of the  yo-yos necessary to complete the bedspread and two pillow shams - 2,808 to be exact.  I finished the last one while my children were in swimming lessons.  I sat there kind of feeling lost thinking, "Well, now what do I do?"  I knew there was something that I should be doing, I just didn't know what it was.  I celebrated the fact that I was done making yo-yos for a couple of days and then I began phase two - SEWING THE YO-YOS TOGETHER!

That sounds quick and easy right?  Yeah, right!  I popped all 2,808 yo-yos into the washing machine thinking that surely they would all come apart and I would have to begin again.  Blessedly I have only found one that has come apart!  You are asking yourself, "What does a pile of 2,808 yo-yos look like anyway?"  Well a lot like this:

That's a lot of yo-yos. Yo!
I wanted the pattern of the bedspread to be random so I needed to PLAN the randomness.  I prepared myself for a LONG evening and monopolized my entire family room floor.  (No other room is big enough.)  I began laying out the pattern.  I edged the entire quilt in the white on white circles that I showed in the last post.  I made extra so they are scattered throughout the pattern as well.  I know you are dying to see what they looked like all over my carpet........Take a look:

This is the view from my kitchen.  You can just see the laundry basket empty of its yo-yos in the top right corner.

This is the view looking the other direction.  I think it looks incredible!
 I just love how all of the colors blend together and compliment one another with a pop of color here and there of navy, shades of green, and white.

Um, yeah, now what.....I can't just leave them there and sew them together one at a time.  Also, I set them all out with the back/solid side up so that I could get the full effect of the colors for contrast.  That is a gorgeous look, but I love the traditional gathered/top side too.  This was my dilemma.  I'll come back to my solution to that problem later.  At that time, I just needed to get all of my yo-yos off of the floor before my children woke up. 

 My solution involved a bunch of quart-sized Ziploc bags, an unopened package of index cards, and a camera.  I sub-divided the quilt into squares.  Each square contained 36 circles - 6 rows with 6 circles each.  I then numbered the squares beginning with 1 in the top left-hand corner and working down to 9 in columns.  Square 10 was at the top of the second column and so on down and across the quilt.  I wrote the square's number on the index card, placed it next to the square, and took a picture.  Then I removed the 36 squares from the floor, placed them all into a Ziploc bag, and shoved the numbered card in with them.  This process went on for several hours.  

What was my husband doing, you ask, while I was galumphing all Gollum-like across our family room floor?  At first he watched a movie, (I don't remember which one) and then he turned to this...

Yup, Angry Birds...We have it on our ROKU Internet TV box.  WE LOVE IT!

That bird is an-gry!

As I mentioned before, I took photos of every square with the cards next to them.  I did that so that when the time came to sew the squares together, I would not need to guess where I put all of the circles.  I worked hard to keep from repeating colors as I laid them out, and I didn't want to mess that up.  (Even with all of the planning, I did end up with some like colors matching up.) I took the photos to Costco and had the pictures printed out so that I had physical photos.  The next step was to match the photos up to the numbered index cards and put them into the bags with the other items.  There were a few mistakes that I needed to correct when matching up the photos with the bags. 

Now I'm ready to start sewing, or am I?

As I mentioned before, I wanted to show both the solid/back sides of the yo-yos and the gathered/front sides of the yo-yos on the same quilt.  I solved this problem by creating this...

 I made this road map to decide which yo-yos to leave up and which ones to flip over.  The white lines represent the front (gathered) sides and the black lines represent the back (solid) sides of the yo-yos.

My road map

Did you notice that my picture is upside down?  *SIGH*  Oh well, you get the idea.  Or don't you?  If you look closely at the square below, you can see how some of the yo-yos are facing "up" and some of the yo-yos are facing "down."  The road map above helps me remember which is which. 

Some of the yo-yos are facing "up" and some of the yo-yos are facing "down."

This post is getting LOOOONG.  To find out what I did to begin sewing the squares together, come visit again tomorrow!

Click HERE to see my first post about how to make yo-yos and HERE for my first update on this project. 

I would love it if you became a follower of my blog.  You can find me HERE on Facebook and HERE on Pinterest.  Come check me out there!
If you enjoyed this post you might enjoy my post for organizing your Spice Cabinet.  Find out how to make your own vanilla extract just in time for holiday gifting by clicking HERE.  Get ready for Thanksgiving with some Thankful Blocks.  

Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Rainbow Jell-O!

For my son's birthday he wanted an ARTIST PARTY.  The guests decorated the cake, did all kinds of artsy crafts, and we even played "Pin the Beret on the Artist." 

Monet looks like he was wearing a beret for his photo!  (Don't you wish more men would wear flowers in their mustaches?)
The kids had a great time, and instead of ice cream with the cake, we served THIS....

Rainbow Jell-O!

That's right, I made a Rainbow Jell-O!  It was the hit of the party.  One party guest has a severe gluten intolerance and was extra glad to be able to join in some of the party treats.

The idea behind the rainbow stripes is to have a darker layer and a lighter layer for each gelatin color to create a rainbow pattern.  You'll need a bundt pan and a large empty space in your refrigerator.

I'm not going to lie to you about this one...this is an easy project, but it takes a LONG time! It isn't something to throw together in the morning and bring to the church potluck in the evening.  It is this kind of dessert that you throw together the morning the day before you need it for the church potluck.

Put on the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle version of Pride and Prejudice  or maybe Anne of Green Gables with Megan Follows and get busy.  Here is what you need:

JELL-O - LOTS of JELL-O! (And some sour cream)

3 oz. packages of each color of the rainbow of gelatin.  (6 boxes plus 1 for a total of 7)
Violet - Grape
Blue - Berry Blue
Green - Lime
Yellow - Lemon or Pineapple (I like pineapple for this.)
Orange - Orange or Apricot
Red - Strawberry or Cherry
boiling water
1 quart of sour cream, vanilla yogurt, or Cool Whip
1 bundt pan
cooking spray
a paper towel
a kitchen timer

You need TWO packages of the last color of your rainbow.  I began with the violet so I needed two packages of the red gelatin.   If you begin your rainbow with red then you will need two packages of violet. 

TWO packages of the last color. 
 Definitely get two 3oz. packages of the last color instead of one large package.  It will make everything a whole lot easier later.

Stack up the gelatin boxes in the order they will be needed.  You will need to remember: ROY G. BIV.  Begin the stack with red on the bottom and follow the rainbow up from there.

Keeping track of the gelatin.
Let's get to it!

Spray the bundt pan lightly with cooking spray and use a paper towel to wipe out the excess.   Prepare your first color of gelatin with 1 1/4 cup of boiling water.  COOL IT DOWN!  You want the gelatin to be around room temperature before it goes into the bundt pan.  If not, it will take forever to gel properly.l  Pour 3/4 of a cup of prepared gelatin into the bundt pan to make the darker layer.

Put it in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes.  I found that I needed the full 20 minutes with my refrigerator.

Use and ice bath for quick cooling!
Make sure you place your gelatin on a FLAT surface!

Then add a big scoop (about 2 tablespoons) of sour cream to the remaining 3/4 cup of gelatin.  COOL IT DOWN!

You can use vanilla yogurt or Cool Whip instead of the sour cream.  I haven't tried the Cool Whip, but I did try yogurt when I made this recipe once before.  I did not like the texture of the lighter layer.  It kept separating while the darker layer was chilling.  Also, I felt the finished dessert was too sweet for my taste.  I wanted the tarter contrast that sour cream provides.  I have not tried Greek yogurt.  Either plain or vanilla might work beautifully because of the thickness, and the tartness could be just perfect.  Try it and let me know...m-kay?

I wasn't very precise about this!
Here is the whipped layer. 

You can't run errands while you do this because you don't want the gelatin to be completely set.  You want it to be a little bit tacky.  That way the next layer will glue itself to the prior layer.  If the lower layer gets too set, the next layer will just slide off once the dessert gets un-molded.  

The gelatin should stick to the back of a spoon just a little. 
Pour the lighter layer onto the darker layer and chill for 10 - 15 minutes.  Again, I needed the entire 15 minutes.   (I don't think my refrigerator is very cold.)

*Pour the gelatin over the back of a spoon.*  The spoon slows down the descent of the liquid so it does not puncture the previous layer.  This will also happen if the liquid is too hot when you pour it.  



This spot happened because my liquid was too hot. 

Keep building first a darker layer, then the lighter layer with each color of gelatin.

You can make all of your gelatin colors all at once at the beginning or make one at a time as you build each layer.  The gelatin may gel too much sitting out on your counter before going into the fridge so they might need a bit of a warm.  If you make them all at once, you won't need an ice bath for more than the first two colors or so.   Also, just keep them covered with plastic wrap until you need them.   I make my colors one at a time. 

Prepare one whole package of your final color with water and another whole package with water and sour cream.  It makes for easier math. 

Chill the finished mold in the refrigerator overnight!

Just chillin' in the fridge!
To release your mold,  have a platter or pan ready to accept your mold before you begin.  Dip your mold in a sink of warm water for just a FEW SECONDS!!!  If you go any longer than that your mold will begin to melt.  Dry off the bundt pan quickly with a towel.  (You don't want any water dripping onto your beautiful dessert!)

Put your prepared pan or platter over the top of the bundt pan.....and........FLIP!  The pan should slip right off without any resistance whatsoever!  AND...Voila!  Rainbow Jell-o!  You might want to pop it back into the fridge for a few minutes to firm up the outsides, or you can just slice it and serve!


Release the gelatin mold!  Release it, I say!

You are getting sleepy...sleepy!

See, I told you.  SLEEPY!
Your guests will love it better than cake!  (Especially if they are seven.)

Side View!
I would love it if you became a follower of my blog.  You can find me HERE on Facebook and HERE on Pinterest!  Come follow all of the craziness!

You might find these other perfect-for-summer posts at Greetings From the Asylum interesting...What do you think....

Just in time for your summer vacation put together a TRAVEL BACKPACK or two (or more).  My kids loved them and yours will too!  Decorate festively for the Fourth of July with this FABULOUS WREATH!  You'll be the hit of the summer barbecue when you bring either POTATO SALAD or DEVILED EGGS.  They never disappoint! 

Thanks for visiting!  Come back soon!  ;)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Va-Va-Va-Vanilla Extract!

I purchased some Mexican Vanilla Extract from a friend several years ago.  It was completely authentic and easily the BEST Vanilla Extract I have ever tasted.  I savored it.  I used it in everything.  I loved using a teaspoon here and a tablespoon there.  Then, my friend moved away, several states away.  My source for this excellent extract dried up.  The label on the bottle was in Spanish and didn't have an address  so I was at a loss to get more.  I tried a local Mexican market, but unfortunately, all I could find was a "Mexican Vanilla Blend."  Blend?  Huh?  This is unacceptable.  It contained Mexican vanilla, yes, but it also contains an artificial vanilla flavoring - vanillin.  YUUUUUCK!  Nope, that is not for me.  Martha Stewart drilled into my head as a young baker that only pure vanilla extract was good enough to put into my creations. 

What was I to do?  My stores of outstanding vanilla were dwindling, and while I can buy "Pure Vanilla Extract" at my local grocery store, it simply isn't the same as the robustly flavored vanilla extract to which I and my baked goods have become accustomed.  I was just about to get desperate and make a run for the border when I came across THIS.  Kelsey Nixon (remember her from The Next Food Network Star) gives a great, EASY recipe for making your own vanilla extract.  There isn't even any cooking involved!  SAY WHAT?!?  I can make my own vanilla extract!?!  Well alrighty then,  let's get to it.  

To make vanilla extract Kelsey says you need three things...

1. Vanilla Beans
2. 80 proof Vodka
3. A glass bottle with a tight-fitting lid

That's it.  I can totally do that.  Let's get to it!

See -- Three things!
You want to use non-reactive glass bottles with tight fitting tops.  I got mine HERE and HERE.   

Kelsey Nixon used a smaller glass bottle (half the size of mine) and only five beans.  My bottles hold 1 liter of liquid so I am using 12 beans.

These are plump, moist, beautiful beans!  I cannot wait to get working!

 *There are three common varieties of vanilla beans: Mexican, Tahitian, and Madagascar.  Each type of beans has special qualities making each better suited to specific uses.  The Madagascar vanilla bean is the most common type of vanilla.  This is the type that is most often found in grocery store vanilla.  Tahitian vanilla is the most aromatic.  It is best used for things where the smell is the most important factor.  Mexican vanilla beans pack the most flavorful vanilla punch.  Click HERE for more information about vanilla beans.  MMMMM!  They are the beans for me!

Use a sharp knife.  Slice each bean down the center lengthwise.  Keep all of the tiny seeds inside the bean. 

This process smells so great!  Stick the sliced beans into the bottles.  If you use a smaller bottle, you may need to cut the beans in half the other direction too. 

Don't spend a lot of money on fancy vodka.  Don't get anything with a flavor.  The most important thing is the proof.  GET 80 PROOF!  By the way...I don't drink alcohol.  I've never purchased alcohol before.  Should I be offended that I wasn't even carded at Costco?  SIGH!  My 1.75 liter bottle at Costco was $13.99.  Ironically, it was across the isle from a Crystal Skull full of vodka for around $75.00.  Nope, I didn't get that.   That is a little too Indiana Jones for my taste.

Pour (use a funnel)

Glamor Shot!  Notice how clear the vodka is. 


Side-by-Side after a good shake.
Store in a cool, dark place. 
Don't judge my cabinets.  :)  I'm just trying to keep it real!  Take  your bottles out once a week and give them a good shake.  In 6 to 8 weeks your extract will be ready to use!  Now you go make some extract!

This is how the liquid looks after one day of soaking. 

This is what you have after 4 weeks of soaking.  

This is how the extract looks after 6 weeks...

The extract is really smelling more like vanilla and less like vodka.  Yummy!

I waited 8 weeks for maximum potency before I decanted my homemade extract.  Strain the extract through a coffee filter.  Leave the vanilla beans in the bottle.  Cover the beans with new vodka and make more extract.  Add a new bean every now and then.  You'll have new vanilla extract almost indefinitely!

Make sure your bottle is DRY!

Water will ruin your new extract.  Even one drop will destroy all of your patience and hard work.  I let my bottle dry for over a day and a half.  I even used a blow drier.  Blowing down the neck of the bottle was not very effective, but blowing the warm air onto the bottom of the bottle did a great job.  It warmed the glass and caused the small beads of water to evaporate.  It didn't effect the larger beads of water. 

New extract on the left, ready-to-use extract on the right!

I can't wait to try it!

I would love it if you became a follower of my blog.  You can find me HERE on Facebook and HERE on Pinterest!  Come follow all of the craziness!

You might find these other cooking posts at Greetings From the Asylum interesting...What do you think....

Hamburger Cookies make great treats for when it is your turn to bring the snacks to preschool.  I recreated the Orange Blossom Lemonade from my favorite Middle Eastern restaurant that is now a pancake place.  You could also try my recipe for Green Chili Shredded Beef.  It is for the crock pot so it is E-A-S-Y and DELICIOUS!

Thanks for visiting!