» February 2011 «

Knitted Blanket for Avynlea

I’ve been working on this blanket for my soon-to-be niece, Avynlea. Her mommy asked for pink to match the room. I ended up with 2 shades of pink that are girly but not necessarily little girl, girly. I like to think these colors are a bit sophisticated as well.

I chose Loops & Threads brand Country Loom thread. I love this thread because it is a little fluffy so it hides mistakes well. My colors are (from right to left below), Rodeo, Warm Cream, and Snapdragon. Snapdragon is my favorite!

I like to knit while doing other things (watching Biggest Loser)so I decided not to count rows because I know I’ll get distracted. Instead I am knitting one whole ball of yarn (104 yards/95m) for each pink color (ends up being 16 whole rows-32 single rows) and separating them with 8 whole (whole=”down and back”) rows of cream. Another great striped blanket pattern can be found here.


Stitch: garter (knit every row)
Yarn: 4 snapdragon, 2 rodeo, 2 cream
No. of Stitches: 115
Needle Size: 9-10mm (mine is 9 wish I would have done a 10)

Honey Ginger Shrimp with Rice


10-15 Shrimp (precooked, detailed, and de-veined)
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp fresh chopped sage
1/4 c. onion (chopped)
1/2 c. mushrooms (sliced)
1 tsp pepper
2 cloves minced garlic
1 c. rice


Follow the directions for your rice of choice. Add 2 tbsp soy sauce and 1 tsp ginger to the rice before covering. Set the rice aside to cook and get started on the shrimp and veggies.

Warm the olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add shrimp, honey, pepper, sage, and garlic. Wait until shrimp is lightly browned and add mushrooms and onion. Cook until veggies are tender.

The rice should be done by now. So, now for the best part, dress your plate and enjoy!

Rummy Shortbread Cookies

I made these cookies for our New Year’s Eve get together this year and they were a hit. The cookie is a simple shortbread recipe that takes about 10 minutes to throw together and the frosting was a combination of ideas from Linda (Aunt Willies Wildflowers) and the Pioneer Woman. You can see her original hard sauce recipe here.

I also made these more recently for a catering event and added chocolate shavings to the top, making the shortbread look much more elegant.

Cookie Ingredients:
2 c. butter
4 c. flour
1 c. white sugar
2-3 tsp. vanilla extract (I always put more vanilla)

Cookie Prep:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Soften the butter. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla. Add flour. Mix well. Place dough balls onto a non-stick sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Some recipes have you cook these longer but they tend to harden once you pull them out of the oven so I like to pull mine out early so they are still somewhat soft.

The frosting combines Linda’s powdered sugar frosting and the Pioneer Woman’s idea to add liquor to the mix, she uses whiskey, I went for rum.

Frosting Ingredients:

1 stick of butter
1-1.5 c. powdered sugar
2-3 tbsp rum

Frosting Prep:

Barely soften the butter and mix it around in the bowl. Add in the powdered sugar. I don’t normally measure this out. When Linda makes her frosting she uses more of a pour and stir, pour and stir effort until you get the consistency you want to frost with. Once that is all mixed together, add in the rum. This is really to taste so you might as well start out slow and taste as you go until you are satisfied.

Before you frost the cookies make sure they are cool. If the cookies are not completely cool you will have runny rum sauce all over the place.

Once cool, frost the cookies. My last addition to these cookies was to add a dusting of cocoa powder, really yummy addition. You could also try coffee grounds, brown sugar, chocolate shavings, the possibilities are endless.

A Quilt for Mom

This was my first real attempt to finish a quilt. I must admit that I have completed multiple quilt tops but this is the first I’ve actually finished. It took a good cause to get me motivated, so Happy Birthday, mom!

I didn’t use a pattern, my first mistake. Instead I figured out the dimensions I would need for her bed and started buying fabric. This is NOT a method I would suggest. Patterns are good, guessing is bad. However, if you’re anything like me and you just want to DO, then I wish you the best of luck and suggest you learn from my mistakes and buy much more fabric than you think you’ll need… because you’ll need it.

I started this quilt by sewing together strips of varied widths. Once they were sewn together, I cut them all apart into strips of strips. I then flipped the direction of every other strip and sewed them back together with a spacer color in between. You can make all sorts of creative quilts with varied hues of one color in varied patterns. Don’t be afraid to mix and match. Just have fun with spontaneity and see where your creative juices take you.

Baby Skirt
Sequin Shirt
ETSY Shop: Sweet Little Peonies

Lemon Tilapia with Zesty Salsa


1 cup rice
2 Tilapia fillets
1/2 bunch of cilantro (chopped)
2 roma tomatoes (diced)
3 stalks of green onion (chopped)
1/4 c. red onion (chopped)
1/2 small zucchini (chopped)
2tbsp olive oil
1tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp lime juice
pepper/salt/garlic powder


The rice takes the longest amount of time to prepare so go ahead and boil your water and get the rice going before you start in on the following steps.

Chop all the vegetables. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan on low. Add in the vegetables and let them warm up slowly in the pan (do not add in the cilantro now). Add in just a dash of pepper and garlic (or more if you’re like us and can’t get enough garlic).Sprinkle in a bit of lime juice (1-2 tsp). Stir occasionally and leave the vegetables to warm up while you prepare the fish.

Heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil in skillet. If you have a large enough skillet feel free to cook both fillets at the same time. We eat so much fish that we buy the prepackaged fillets in the seafood section of the store. These kind are thin enough where they only take about 3 minutes to cook so it doesn’t take long if you choose to cook them separately. Once the olive oil is hot drop in the tilapia and cook about 1.5 minutes on each side (may be longer depending on how thick your fillet is). Sprinkle each side of your fish with pepper and just a touch of salt and well as a spray or two of lemon juice.

Go ahead and add the cilantro to the vegetables and mix it up. With any luck your rice will be finished by this point. This is when I dress the plate. I use about a 1/2 c. of the rice as my base, then I lay the tilapia on top of the rice bed and go back over to the pan of veggies (make sure the cilantro is warm but not soggy looking) to dish the salsa on top of the fish.

Key Lime Pie

This is an extremely simple pie to make and one that I wish I would have added cool whip and a few shavings of lime on top for the picture, but you’ll all do better right?


5 beaten egg yolks
1/2 c. key lime juice
1 (14 oz) can of sweetened condensed milk
6 tbsp butter
1/3 c. white sugar
1-1/2 c. finely ground graham cracker crumbs


Combine melted butter, sugar and crumbs until well-mixed. Press mixture into 8- or 9-inch pan. Bake shell at 375 degrees for 5-7 minutes to harden.

Combine lime juice, yolks, and milk. Mix well and pour into crust. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Allow to cool and top with cool whip and graded lime rind.

Chicken Feeder Centerpiece

chicken feeder lettuceMany of the projects you will find here on Sweet Peonies come from the Doan farm or are at the very least inspired by the farm.

The Doans run a specialty cut-flower farm called Aunt Willie’s Wildflowers. Linda spends most of the spring and summer growing cut flowers for farmer’s markets. She also teaches various flower arranging workshops and arranges flowers for weddings. Her workshops feature a variety of creative arrangements–from teapots to stumps, you name it, she can arrange in it. Check out Linda’s website Aunt Willie’s Wildflowers.

Linda used this centerpiece for one of the workshops last spring and I, of course, fell in love with the idea. All she did was take an old chicken feeder, fill it with soil & plant multiple lettuce varieties. The centerpiece at the workshop lunch was this feeder and the ladies were able to pick leaves of lettuce to add to their salads.

chicken feeder lettuce

For any of you looking to bring a bit of country to your next get together, I highly recommend giving this a try.

Diaper Bag

I made these diaper bags for a friend and also for my sister-in-law when we heard the big news. The bags are very very simple to make and require little sewing expertise, which is perfect for me.

Diaper Bag

The pattern is available at www.makebabystuff.com. The website has a printable pattern making it easy to place right on top of your fabric and cut the right proportions. They have lots of other neat patterns as well but this is my favorite.

Diaper Bag

I loved this pattern and instructions because once you’ve completed one bag you can play around with the dimensions of your paper pattern to make pretty much any shape/type of bag you want using the same instructions (will post pictures of some of my favorites later).

Diaper Bag

I have listed the materials below so you can quickly see how little is required for this project. Full instructions and pattern can be found here.

Diaper Bag


1.5 yards canvas or other sturdy fabric 1.5 yards lining fabric 1/2 yard patterned fabric magnetic snap, 7″ zipper & velcro interfacing (optional) pins, scissors, sewing machine, etc

Sweet Success

I thought I would start off my blog with an article I wrote for Milligan College on a recent graduate, Autumn Pruitt, opening her own bakery. Check out her website (www.blissbakery.com) to see some mouthwatering treats!

The article and its beautiful layout (courtesy of Art Brown) can be seen at here.

Sweet Success
by Tiffany Weinbender

When it comes to successfully beating the current economic climate, 23-year-old Autumn (Hardy ’09) Pruitt, seems to have found the recipe for success. When Pruitt arrived at Milligan as a freshman, her love of baking was nothing more than an enjoyable pastime. Now, equipped with a business degree and a liberal arts education, Pruitt has turned her passion into a reality.

Pruitt and her husband, Luke, recently purchased the former Bickford Bakery in Omaha, Nebraska. On May 1, 2010, with a new name and a bright future ahead, Bliss Old Market Bakery opened its doors releasing the smell of fresh pastries into the Eastern Nebraska air. Since the grand opening, Pruitt has been baking relentlessly to facilitate the high demand for her tasty sweets.

As a Christian institution that offers a liberal arts education, Milligan was the natural choice for Pruitt, who graduated in the spring of 2009 with a double major in humanities and business with an emphasis in management. Pruitt applied every aspect of her Milligan education to turn her business into a reality. She even used her senior humanities project as an opportunity to develop the business plan for Bliss Old Market Bakery. The project served as the capstone of both her humanities and business majors.

“So much of the confidence I had in approaching the business plan for the bakery can be attributed to the painstaking process of writing one as a student with the guidance of my project advisers: Dr. Heather Hoover, Dr. Phil Kenneson and Dr. David Campbell,” said Pruitt. “I felt like I had the tested tools to tackle the process here in Omaha after going through a similar process in the classroom.”

Pruitt credits much of her success to the format of the business program and the way each class builds on those before. “My humanities 490 project was extremely helpful, but I wouldn’t have been prepared for that project, or my new endeavor, had I not had the less glamorous classes like accounting, business law, corporate finance and marketing, among others.”

Pruitt’s dream of opening her own bakery and coffeehouse began at the age of 19, although her love of baking goes back much further. In fact, she can’t remember a time when she didn’t love baking with her family. Pruitt acquired her baking expertise from her mother and began adding to her recipe collection weekly after graduating high school. Pruitt continues to experiment with ingredients and add her own personal recipes to the bakery’s recipe box.

As for the current economic climate, Pruitt believes that despite the downturn, this is a great time in her life to fully pour herself into her dream. Although Pruitt did not expect to open her business this soon, she felt the opportunity was simply too good to pass. She completed extensive market research on Omaha’s growing industry and more specifically the culture and climate of the downtown area, not least of which was obtaining a job in the bakery long before any talk of buying it. In doing so, she was able to learn about the equipment, recipes and tricks of the trade before committing to the process. It only took one day for her to realize that she didn’t just like the idea of owning a bakery but fell head over heels for it.

Pruitt is well aware of the hardships that come to small business owners, but she remains confident that her education, skills and enthusiasm will make this venture a success.

“The life of an entrepreneur sounds glamorous sometimes, but unless you are really passionate about the industry and have had a chance to wrap your mind around the immense amount of time it will require, you will not be satisfied. That being said, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing your dream realized and to have the opportunity to nurture its growth” said Pruitt.

Pruitt is an ideal example of how a liberal arts college like Milligan equips individuals to successfully reach their personal and professional goals. The college’s emphasis on applying faith to every facet of the world has impacted the way Pruitt runs her business.

“Milligan has reinforced the fact that you don’t need a religious title to be a servant leader or to minister. I treat people with respect. I provide my employee with a steady income and a healthy work environment. I listen to customers’ problems and we have become a part of each others’ daily lives. I try to live life with integrity and good character and to take a genuine interest in others,” said Pruitt. “Selling delicious baked goods is a good way to come in contact with my neighbors and develop a relationship with people I wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to meet.”