Friday, June 30, 2017

Magnetic Pin Cushion

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I've been down in my sewing room quite a bit lately, and one thing you'll notice is that my straight pins are in a tomato pin cushion.  I think my mom gave it to me when she gave me my first sewing machine 20+ years ago.  It does the job of holding the pins, but I've eyed the magnetic ones at the sewing store--but never got around to replacing the perfectly functional tomato with a $20 magnetic one.

Inspiration struck one day when I was looking at the grocery ads.  Harbor Freight Tools always has a coupon ad that comes with my grocery fliers.  One of the items that you could get for free with any purchase was a magnetic screw/nut/bolt holder.  I went to Harbor Freight and the magnetic tray was already on sale for $2--so I bought one and used the coupon to get another one for free.

I could have just opened them up and started using them as is, but I have a love for all things rose gold these days, and I had a can of spray paint in the garage.  I washed them with dish soap to remove the residue of oil that was on them, used tape to cover up the rubber base (I probably could have just left it) and then put 3 light coats of paint on it.  I let it cure/dry for a couple days and voila, magnetic pin cushion.  I like it.  It doesn't seem as strong as others I've seen, but I can turn the dish upside down and the pins stay put.  I might take a neodymium magnet (aka rare earth, super strong mini magnet) and stick it to the side just to see what happens.  

All in all a quick, cheap and easy project that has a useful function.

Monday, June 12, 2017

20 Min Girl's Skirt-Easy!

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I like sewing.  I'd say my skill level is generally "advanced intermediate"--although I've done projects that are advanced (rebuilding a bridesmaid's dress where the bride handed me a strapless dress and a yard of $100/yd matching fabric confident that my skills were adequate to add sleeves (I rebuilt the entire bodice, but had to practice on cheap fabric first).  I rarely do complicated sewing patterns, not because I can't--but because I lack the patience required to get to the finished project.  My style is  to start a project at 8:00 at night with the intention of wearing it the next day--so it really needs to be a simple project.

 I like knit fabric projects.  Knit is pretty forgiving as a fabric, it doesn't unravel or slide around on you and comes in lots of fun prints.  I purchased some adorable "fox-y" knit from GirlCharlee fabrics and made a cute dress for work.  I knew I'd gotten the dress right when I wore it at a conference where I was a presenter --but I think I got more compliments on my dress than my presentation (and I totally rocked my session).  I had originally made my dress as a maxi dress, but once I got it on, it was way too much fox, so I cut it off to knee length--leaving me with a bit of fabric that I wasn't sure what to do with.  It came to me last night--simple skirts for my nieces. 

I cut 2 pieces, 14 inches wide and 16 inches long (you could make it longer if you have more fabric, but I didn't--I'm guessing my nieces will wear the skirts with leggings when at school--they are tall, so the skirt is shorter than they would like for wearing alone).   I actually had enough fabric to do 2 skirts, so I just did everything twice.  Since you are doing an elastic waistband, you can use any fabric, even non-stretchy woven fabrics-just make sure you cut it wide enough to go over any hips and that it has enough room to sit down.

First I placed the rectangles right sides together and sewed up the sides with my serger (you can use a sewing machine with a straight stitch since the side seams don't need to have any "give")

Next, (this is optional) I used my serger to finish the top and bottom edges.  Knit does not ravel, so you can leave the raw edge, but I like the clean look that the serger provides.

I used 1/2" wide elastic, so I folded the top of the skirt down 3/4" and ironed the crease.   Then starting at the back of the skirt, sew around to create a tube or sleeve for the elastic to slide through.  When you get around the skirt, stop sewing about 1 inch before you get back to the spot you started.  This will be where the elastic will go...but not yet.

Next, fold up the hem of the skirt between 1/2-1 inch, press the crease and then sew it with a straight stitch on your machine all the way around.

Last, take your elastic (I cut mine at about 26 inches, which is more than I needed, but I won't know for sure how long until I put the skirt on the kiddo).  Use a safety pin and attach to one end of the elastic, then push/pull the elastic into the casing you sewed earlier.  When you get it back to the beginning, distribute the fabric evenly and put the skirt on your model and decide how long the elastic really needs to be.  Mark the spot (don't cut it yet) and then sew across the elastic a few times.  Try the skirt on your model and when you are sure the elastic is right, cut the ends off and then sew up the gap in the casing.

Ta-da!  This skirt took me a total of about 20 minutes and I know my nieces will love it! 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Sweet Appreciation Printable

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This week is Administrative Assistant appreciation week (aka Secretary's Week).  Teacher appreciation week is the first week of May.  And just in case you forgot, Mother's Day is also just around the corner. Here is a printable done 3 ways that you could use along with a nice treat for someone that you want to show a little appreciation to. Download the from the links below (should be able to print as large as 8x10).

The floral water colors were done by the blog Gold and Berry

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Comfort Food: Cacio e Pepe

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Once upon a time I celebrated a milestone birthday by traveling to France and Italy.  I pretty much ate my way through every town I visited.  When I reached Rome, I enjoyed a lunch break on a very rainy day at a tiny restaurant.  I ordered a very basic dish, Cacio e Pepe, which is a more mature version of mac and cheese--but easy and super tasty.

This is easy to whip up in about 15 minutes and you can make it for one or for a family just as easily.  Chances are you probably have all these ingredients in your house all the time.

Ingredients (serving for 1)
4 oz long pasta noodles
2 Tbs butter
1-1 1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, shredded (don't use the green can stuff)

Get your water boiling and add about 2 tsp of salt and toss in your pasta.  When its cooked to your liking, slide the pot off to the side and put a skillet on the hot burner.  Melt the butter and add the pepper.  Stir and then use tongs to add the cooked noodles.  Stir around and add about 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water.  Remove the skillet from the heat and toss in about 1/4 cup of Parmesan and stir until creamy (if you add the cheese on the heat, it will get clumpy instead). 

You are ready to eat!  Buon appetito!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Pressure Cooker Chile Verde Soup

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I am loving my electric pressure cooker.  I  bought one last year on Black Friday with deals, coupons, etc... so it was less than $50.  I'm finding its awesome for slower-cooker style meals without needing the advanced planning (I am at work early, so sometimes getting a meal in the slow cooker before work isn't practical).

This is a soup recipe, but if you left out the beans, and cooked it down a bit--it would make really awesome sauce for burritos too. 

1.5 lb pork, cut into small cubes
1 medium onion, diced
1  can green enchilada sauce
1  can low sodium chicken broth
1 Tbs cumin
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp oregano
1 Tbs corn starch, dissolved in 2 Tbs of water.
8 4 oz. cans diced green chilies.  Puree 4 of the cans and leave the others diced.
1 Tbs green or red pepper hot sauce
1/2 one jalapeƱo, seeded and chopped
1-2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

sour cream
tortillas or corn chips
shredded jack cheese

Turn the electric pressure cooker to the meat/sautee function and toss in the pork and onions (use 1 Tbs vegetable oil if your pork is lean).  Brown meat for 3-4 minutes.  Dump all the ingredients except the beans and the garnish into the pot and stir until mixed.  Put the lid on the pot and press the soup/stew button and adjust the cook time to 25 minutes.  When the timer goes off, use the quick pressure release and open the pot and add in the beans.

Serve with warm flour tortillas, corn chips, shredded cheese, sour cream and cilantro.  Freezes nicely too.

I tried this with chicken and I didn't love it as much (not enough fat..maybe if I used chicken thighs).  I usually buy the least expensive pork I can find--the pressure cooker makes it cook up tender and delicious.  Buying the chilies in 4 oz cans can be pricey--your store might have frozen ones in the freezer section.  My Hispanic grocery store carried a 32 oz can that was economical.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

RunDisney: A runner's review

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I like running races--it helps keep me motivated to run regularly and keep up my training.  The 5K is my favorite distance, but a 10K is a nice challenge and I try to do at least one half marathon a year.  My very first half marathon was the Disneyland 1/2 Marathon--which was super fun, but I have to say, not a wise choice for my first 13.1 mile run (it was far from home, had 17,000 or so runners and really threw my training off). hooked me on the RunDisney races.  I already love Disneyland--so it shouldn't be surprising that the House of Mouse makes even running more fun.

Since that first 1/2 marathon, I've done a few more RunDisney races and I'm scheduled to do another one in May.

Check out all the different races that are available at

In General, no matter which park  you are running at:

  • Registration is usually 9 months out and they don't have deferrments if your plans change.  Sign up for email alerts at for reminders about registrations (Annual Pass holders can register before the general public). Races sell out quickly.  Shorter races sell out the fastest.  Be online the moment registration opens and be prepared with your credit card.
  • Speaking of credit cards, these races are spendy.  5K's are around $85.  The registration does NOT include a park pass--if you want to play after the race, you'll need to buy a park pass. 
  • Costumes are encouraged.  Pick your favorite character or quote and wear it while you run.  There are some guidelines like no masks or really long costumes--but I wouldn't want to run in that kind of get up anyway (I like to run in a costume that is a nod to a character, but that won't wobble, rub, slip, jingle, bonk or otherwise annoy me or others while I run).  
  • Its one big photo shoot.  If you care about how fast your time is, you'll have to set that aside for a Disney Race (probably).  There are thousands of runners, and you'll get assigned a corral and each corral will start about 5-10 minutes after the previous group.  There are characters and photo ops along the course, so you may want to stop and take advantage.  
  • The medals and t-shirts are really fun.  Pay attention when you register to the shirt size options (some are men/women sizing, others will be unisex)--its tricky to change a shirt if you don't like the size you get.  Feel free to wear the shirt and the medal in the park after your race, LOTS of people do and cast members will offer you a congrats (and at my last race, several stores in Disney Springs offered free swag or discounts to runners with their medals).  

  • When you cross the finish line, you'll get a snack box.  There will also be stations for water, or bags of ice for any sore spots.  

  • You will get crazy enough to do more than one race in one weekend.  Disney even has a name for it--the Dopey Challenge (5K, 10K, 13.1 and 26.2 all in the same week).  I've done two in one weekend.  I'm setting the goal to do the Coast to Coast (a half or full marathon in each of the parks in the same calendar year).

Disneyland Races
  • Transportation is a breeze here--stay at a hotel within walking distance and you can arrive at your required 4:30-5:30 am check in time easily. 
  • For the 5K and the 10K, your run will be almost entirely within the two parks (a little bit of run around the parking lot and the plaza between the parks).  The Half Marathon is a little less magical with the majority of the race out on the roads of Anaheim--but the run through Angel Stadium was fun. 

Disney World Races
  • Stay on a Disney property if you can--all of them provide bus transportation to the race expo and starting line.  There will be road closures, so why add to the stress of running by trying to drive and park (at 3:30 in the morning).  
  • There are tons of volunteers to help you figure out the transportation, how to find the Race Expo, how to pick up your stuff and how to get to your corral.  
  • It is humid and the potential for lightening is high.  Races can be cancelled, delayed (or shortened) if lightening is going on. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Butternut Squash Soup--Thai Style

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I love butternut squash.  But I can almost never purchase pre-made or restaurant items with butternut squash because invariably, they have pumpkin pie spices in them--that does not work for me.  I like it savory-no pie flavors.

I've made butternut squash soup before, I used cumin as my seasoning and cream and it was good.  This recipe is a take on a dish my mom ordered at a Thai place in Mesa, AZ.  Instead of white potatoes in the curry, it had diced pumpkin.  This soup has most of the ingredients of a curry, but then it gets all pureed into a smooth and non-dairy soup.  This soup is a one-pot dish and can be done in about 30 minutes if you have a pressure cooker.


4 cups diced butternut squash
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1 medium onion, rough dice
1 Tbs ginger, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1-2 Tbs Curry paste (red is spicy, massaman is mild)
14 oz can coconut milk
14 oz can chicken broth
Cilantro, lime for garnish

In my electric pressure cooker, I turned it to the meat/saute feature and sauteed the diced onions in oil for about 5 minutes, then added the garlic, ginger and red curry paste and sauteed another minute.  Add in the chicken broth, coconut milk and diced raw butternut squash.  I put the lid on, pressed the stew button and adjusted the time to 20 minutes.  It took my cooker about 10 minutes to come to pressure and then it cooked for the 20 minutes.  I used the quick release method to reduce the pressure and open the pot.  If you have an immersion blender, you could puree the soup right in the pot--if not, scoop it into a blender and puree in batches (use a towel as a lid to avoid the blender lid popping off and soup flying everywhere).

You can doctor up each bowl of soup with diced cilantro, squeeze of lime, sriacha or even add some veggies (mushrooms, bok choy, gnocchis...hmmm all of those sound good at the moment).

This freezes well too.