» March 2011 «

Knitted Blanket Update

With one month left of school I feel like I am crawling out of my skin with craft fever. I have been attempting to finish Avynlea’s knitted blanket for the past 2 months and this week I have finally made it about 1/3 of the way. I am now halfway through color number 3 which means I get to start over and finally have a pattern! Although the process is slow it feels so good to see progress.

So, here are some pictures of said progress. Maybe it will inspire those of you who also have half-finished projects lying around. You CAN do it! Perhaps slowly, like me, but slow and steady wins the race… at least that’s what I hear.

Here is a link to the original knitted blanket post complete with instructions.

Best of luck as you finish those pesky projects that never seem to end. I’ll be sure to keep you apprised on Avy’s blankie.

Mandarin Pizza

Jack and I have a slight bias toward our little pizza joint back home, Ugo’s Pizza. Since moving to Tennessee, we have tried our best to find a comparable pizza joint but have had zero luck. Because of this, we now make our own pizzas, with each one becoming increasingly more creative.

This past week we decided to add fruit to our colorful masterpiece and it was delicious. Probably my favorite pizza so far.

As usual, Jack made the crust while I chopped up a variety of veggies. I’ve included a simple crust recipe from All Recipes. We prefer thin crust but feel free to substitute your favorite.

Dough Ingredients:

3 c. flour
1 package of dry yeast
1 c. water
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 package of grape tomatoes
25 pepperoni pieces
1/4 c. green peppers
1/4 c. onions
1 cup mandarin slices
1/2 c. cheese (we used, cheddar and pepperjack)
1/4 c. pesto paste


Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix dough ingredients. Knead dough. Roll to fit your pizza stone.

Spread pesto onto crust. Chop all toppings.

Add meat, veggies, and fruit. I especially liked the sweeter grape tomatoes with the fruit.

Place in oven for 20 minutes. Check the bottom of the crust for crispy-ness and voila! A beautiful and tasty pizza.

Get creative and try substituting veggies with different fruits. Here’s another we’ve tried recently, strawberries!

The combination possibilities are endless. Good luck!

Arrangements from the Garden

Spring is here! After having almost an entire week of beautiful sun, we had one of the first big thunderstorms of spring last night.
When we first moved to Tennessee, I never thought I would get used to the crashing thunder and giant bolts of lightning. Now, I love hearing the sound of heavy raindrops falling on the roof or slamming up against our glass door as the wind whips them every which way. It is soothing to listen to the rain and humbling to think about its mighty power.

In honor of what the beautiful sun and mighty rains bring to us each year (FLOWERS!), I thought I would post some simple arrangements thrown together at the farm in hopes of igniting creativity with your flowers at home.

These arrangements are so simple. Grab one main flower and throw in leaves, grasses, ferns, anything you can find popping up in your backyard or even along the side of the road.

I love color so picking one or two main flowers that are bright and contrasting is my go-to plan. Hosta leaves, honeysuckle vines, grasses, and ferns are great fillers that you can find just about anywhere.

When in doubt, go simple. If you have lots of one beautiful flower, like this next picture, simply throw them all in a plain vase or pitcher to make the flowers stand out.

Don’t worry about making your arrangements perfect and static like FTD. Fun, loose, and wild is the way to go… at least with flowers.

Peonies are a beautiful and full flower. They are abundant around Mother’s Day and make arranging easy and quick. Below is a simple arrangement with only peonies and dianthus.

And of course, daffodils are the perfect spring flower. These bright beauties are perfect by themselves. If you decide to combine them with another plant like forsythia (which is blooming everywhere here in T-town), be sure to wash the stems to get rid of their sap. It is not friendly to other plants.

I hope these pictures have sparked some ideas. Now, go take a walk and explore the wide variety of spring plants and shrubs that will add the perfect flair to your arrangements. Be creative. Good luck and happy spring!

Quick and Simple Meatballs

Have you ever had a late night craving you just can’t shake? Well, I have for the past two weeks! I am not sure why, but suddenly a meatball sandwich sounded glorious. I don’t think I have ever eaten a meatball sandwich but I wanted one none-the-less.

When I realized this craving was not going away, I broke down and went to the store for some ground Italian sausage and made these quick and easy meatballs for my sandwich.


1 package ground Italian Sausage
1/4 c onions
1/2 c bread crumbs
1/4 c shaved parmesan
1 egg
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt


Set oven to 350 degrees. Chop the onion into small pieces. Mix all ingredients.

Roll mixture into 1in. meatballs and place on a cooking sheet. Cook for 20 minutes.

Once the meatballs are done cooking, combine meatballs and a sauce of your choice in a large saucepan. I of course went with what we had in the cupboard which was a simple traditional spaghetti sauce (yes, from a can… gasp).

Only add enough sauce to be able to coat your meatballs after you’ve rolled them around for a bit. I used half of a 16 oz jar. I also added 2 tsp. of Worcestershire, 2 tsp. garlic, 1 tsp. oregano, and a dash of pepper and salt.

Let your meatballs simmer in the sauce for about 10-15 minutes.

If you are looking to make a meatball sandwich as well, slice some onions and mushrooms and saute over medium heat while the meatballs are simmering. Once the meatballs are finished remove your sauteed veggies and create your sub.

Oh so yummy with very little work. Good luck and happy cooking!

Tiered Baby Skirt

As if baby clothes weren’t cute enough, last night I attempted to spruce up my original baby skirt pattern with a few simple additions and I love how it turned out! I mean, basically everything is cuter small, but adding little ruffles…who can resist?!

This is very simple and if you are anything like me, you will feel so accomplished when it is complete.


Most of the piecing together follows the directions for the original baby skirt I made a few posts back. Start by hemming the bottom edge of your main fabric pieces (the front and back).

Before you sew the front and back pieces together, cut 3-5 pieces of the same fabric (how many depends on how much you want them to overlap) that are the same length across as the front of the skirt (11in) and 3in. wide.

Fabric Measurements:

2-11×16 outer fabric
2-11×16 lining
3 or 5-11×3 outer fabric

I chose not to put the lining in this skirt but feel free to include in yours.

Next, hem the 11×3 pieces of fabric lengthwise on one side only (this will be the bottom of your ruffle).

After all the hems are sewn, align and pin these scraps to the front of the skirt. Place the fabrics with right sides touching and with the bottom-hem side at the top (essentially upside down).

Pin the 3in. pieces to the skirt starting at the skirt waist. Overlap the first ruffle by 1-1.5 inches and continue with each subsequent piece.

Sew the non-hemmed edge across the front of the skirt. Start with the bottom ruffle and work your way up. After each strip is sewn, remove pins and fold fabric over the seam so the seam is hidden underneath.

Once you have flipped each piece of fabric over onto itself, iron them down. You should have a piece of fabric that looks something like this…

After all scraps are sewn to the front of the skirt, measure 1in. from each edge and sew vertically down the entire skirt, over the top of all of your scraps. Forgot to get a picture of this before piecing it all together. You can kinda see the seam lines on the picture below however.

The rest, pretty much follows the original tutorial. You’ll need to sew the front and back of the skirt with right sides facing each other, then fold over the top to make a pocket to feed the elastic through, and finally secure your elastic.

And voila! A cute tiered baby skirt to spruce up baby’s wardrobe. I used the same fabric and appliqued a circle on a plain white onesie to make the outfit complete. With this basic idea you can go crazy with creativity and ruffle all sorts of old clothes. Good luck and happy sewing!

How to Hem Jeans

You know that feeling you get when you purchase the perfect pair of jeans and all you want to do is put them on and strut your stuff? Unfortunately, the jeans are way too long and you want to wear them now! This is a common issue in our household seeing as I am obsessed with jeans, have short legs, and am extremely impatient.

I used to think jeans were so difficult to hem and I never liked them quite as much after hemming because they no longer had the original stitching.

Then I discovered an easy way to keep your old hem without cutting off tons of fabric and possibly ruining your brand new pair of jeans. The original tutorial can be found here. For someone like me who tends to have to sew things twice to get it right, this is a great technique.


First, put on those fabulous jeans and decide how much material you need to remove. I love this hemming method because you don’t have to spend an hour pinning and re-pinning to make each cuff match the other. Just measure the excess.

Next, cut that measurement in half. If you need to take off 2 inches, now you are going off of a 1 inch measurement.

Now, make a cuff and measure this amount (the 1 inch) from the original hem edge, not the end of the jeans. Measure and pin all the way around your new cuff.

Stitch along the edge of the original hem. The sides can get tricky. I always start on the outside seam, the one that shows the jean thread. This ensures that when you flip the pant leg right-side-out, the threads that stand out will align all the way down the leg.

Flip the material inside the leg. Iron the new hem down and presto, shorter pants, same old hem. (If having the excess on the inside bothers you, simply cut it off.)

I’ve included a picture of a wide hem as well. I find this hemming technique works best with wide hemmed jeans. It can be a bit trickier with the normal thin hems like the one above.

Estimated hem time is about 10 minutes so you can be in your jeans and feelin’ good in no time. Good luck and happy hemming!

DIY Planter Box

While Jack and I absolutely love our little Tennessee home, living in an apartment has certain disadvantages. Aside from the constant din of teenage neighbor girls bickering over a borrowed sweater, we have no land to garden!

Some might consider this a blessing, never having to mow the lawn or weed the garden, but me, I crave the dirt. There are few things that compare to being outside with the sun on your shoulders and your hands in the ground.

Last summer, Jack and I were surprised to find a ridiculous amount of planting pots available in stores but a severe lack of planting boxes, at least ones that didn’t jump into the hundreds of dollars range. All I wanted was to plant some veggies on our porch and pretend we had our own secret garden.

My dear husband, always willing to help with my ill-planned schemes, devised this simple box to show off my veggies. Did we research how to best go about this task? No, of course not, that would be silly right? Well, the plan worked, mostly. (I’ll get to the “what we learned” section at the end.)

We went to our local Home Depot and figured out the cheapest way to build the planter box, ended up being about $25. We bought two pine boards and had them cut into the following measurements:


1-10ft 1×12
1-3ft 2×2
Cutting Directions
Cut 1×12 into 2-1ft sections and 2-4ft sections
Cut 2×2 into 3-1ft sections
Other Materials
Screen door mesh (or some other screening with tiny holes)

Build a Planter Box

Hopefully, the cutting makes sense. Next is simply a matter of piecing all the boards together. Obviously, your shorter boards are your ends and the longer, your sides. Assemble the pieces using screws (We used nails, but don’t do it. More on this later.)

After the four main boards are nailed together, attach the netting to the bottom of the box. This will help drain water, without draining dirt as well.

Next, attach the 2×2 blocks over the top of the netting, one toward each end and one in the middle. We did this mostly to keep it up off of the porch so there would be no rotting underneath from the drainage.
Flip it over and you have a box for planting in!

Now, a couple things to think about and adjust.Our box worked wonderfully for the summer but had a few issues as we neared the end of growing season.

We used nails to piece our boards together, but with dirt and the expanding roots, eventually the pressure inside the box started to push out the nails and the boards began to separate.

Suggestion #1: use screws, not nails

Also, in Tennessee we have quite a few thunderstorms throughout the summer and the wood took a bit of a beating.

Suggestion #2: try using a different type of wood, one that is more hardy, or try treating it with some sort of outdoor weather sealer
I think that about covers it all. I think this year we are going to try to make smaller individuals boxes instead of the long one and maybe paint them to add more color to the porch! Best of luck and happy growing!

Tags: http://www.staying-awake.org, http://www.whyhcg.com, http://www.myprovigil.com

Caribbean Shrimp Cups

I was so excited to share this post today. I have been wanting to cook this meal for two weeks now and finally made myself take a break from homework to try it out.
I found the original recipe on The Pioneer Woman’s website, posted by one of her followers. You can find the original instructions here. I adapted the recipe to fit the flavors I tend toward and, of course, those that I had on hand. Making the trek to our local grocery store during the 5 o’clock traffic is not exactly ideal.

Now to food…

Ingredients (for 2):

1 c. rice (basmati rice would be my first choice but any rice will do)
8 large lettuce leaves

1/4 c. lime juice
1/4 c. teriyaki sauce
1 tsp pepper

1 tsp. garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 c. cornstarch
16 shrimp, deveined with tails removed

10 grape tomatoes
2 green onions
1/4 c. sweet onion
1/2 stick carrot (peeled and then chopped)
1/2 medium-sized orange (chopped)
lime juice


Start your rice. Prepare marinade by combining all ingredients with shrimp in bag. The original recipe has you marinade for an hour. I only marinated for 20 minutes and it was fabulous so don’t let the hour time frame stop you if you are in a hurry.

While the rice is cooking and shrimp marinating, chop up your salsa ingredients. Make sure you peel the carrots first and then chop up the peels so the salsa doesn’t feel heavy when it is mixed together. You could also use mango or your favorite fruit in place of orange. A citrus-tasting fruit is best. I added about 1 tbsp of lemon juice to my salsa, you can add to taste. I also sprinkled in a dash of garlic and pepper to taste.

Next, peel and wash your lettuce from the head. Head lettuce makes the best cups for eating. Our lettuce was just regular green leaf and it was harder to manage when we attempted to eat. Go ahead and lay your lettuce cups out so they are ready to fill once the shrimp is finished.

Mix cornstarch with garlic and pepper. Coat shrimp with mixture.

Heat 2-3 tbsp of oil in a pan. Make sure the pan is hot before placing in the shrimp. If it sizzles, you are on the right track.

Cook shrimp about 2 minutes on each side. There should be a beautiful golden brown coating when you flip them over. So exciting!

Now comes my favorite part! Dress your plate. The rice should be finished by this point. Scoop a spoonful of rice into each cup, followed by a salsa, and then top each with two golden shrimp.

These can be a bit messy, but they look so beautiful on the plate that I think it is worth the hassle. If you aren’t going for beauty you can always chop up the lettuce and make these into shrimp tacos. Happy cooking!

Honoring Alma Rose

This isn’t one of my typical postings but I figured it fit the “arts” category of this blog because of the musical interest. I wrote this article for Milligan and our local paper to announce a conference session being given by my violin professor, Dr. Kellie Brown. I thought this story was pretty neat and definitely worth sharing. Enjoy.

Dr. Kellie Brown, chair of the Milligan College music department, will present her research on orchestras in concentration camps at the American String Teachers Association (ASTA) National Conference in Kansas City, Mo., on Thursday, March 17.

Brown’s session is titled “Alma Rosé and the Women’s Orchestra at Auschwitz: Lessons for Our Students on Tolerance and the Triumph of the Human Spirit.” Her research focuses on Alma Rosé, a woman whose music brought a glimpse of beauty and hope to hundreds of Auschwitz prisoners and even saved the lives of some of the musicians.

“The study of those who have gone before us and made their indelible mark on history, especially if it was through great personal sacrifice, is a worthy pursuit,” said Brown. “I think any time that type of subject can be part of an ensemble’s curriculum where students can learn more than just the notes, it is beneficial.”

Alma Rosé was the niece of the composer Gustav Mahler and the daughter of renowned violinist Arnold Rosé who founded the Rosé String Quartet. Alma was a successful violinist with a charmed life, but all that changed in 1938 when the Nazis took control of Austria, her homeland. Alma’s Jewish heritage made her a Nazi target, and she was eventually arrested and sent to Auschwitz in July 1943.

Despite all of the horrors associated with Auschwitz, Alma soon discovered the camp’s orchestra. Her fame and her family’s reputation made Alma the ideal candidate to conduct the women’s orchestra, which was, at the time, a mere rag-tag of women prisoners. Alma’s arrival ignited the orchestra’s success and respect, and it quickly grew to 50 members. Not only did orchestra members find hope through the music, but their value among the SS guards gave Alma the leverage to insist members were treated with decency. In this way, Alma was able to save these women’s lives through music.

Brown’s interest in this topic was a long time in the making. Sparked by a novel about a Jewish violinist living in WWII Germany, Brown quickly became interested in the lives of famous musicians during the Holocaust. After watching the movie, “Playing for Time,” which tells the story of the women’s orchestra in Auschwitz, Brown began her research on the life of Alma Rosé.

Brown’s lecture will provide the historical details about Alma Rosé and the Women’s Orchestra at Auschwitz. She will discuss the importance of incorporating this topic into the orchestra curriculum. In November 2009, Brown’s article, “Remembering Alma Rosé and the Women’s Orchestra at Auschwitz,” was published in American String Teacher.

Brown serves as director of the strings program and conductor of the Milligan College Orchestra. She is a frequent clinician and performer, and serves as the assistant conductor of the Johnson City Symphony Orchestra and assistant concertmaster for the Symphony of the Mountains.

In addition, she has written numerous compositions, arrangements and articles. In 2005 her first book, “An Annotated Bibliography of Musical Fiction,” was published by Edwin Mellen Press. Brown has studied at Furman University, East Tennessee State University and Appalachian State University and holds a bachelor’s degree in music education, a master’s degree in violin performance, and a doctoral degree in higher education administration, with an emphasis in music administration.

The ASTA National Conference is held yearly to benefit string teachers, students and performers. The conference provides opportunities to learn the latest teaching techniques and gain important information that will benefit students. The ASTA conference is the premier place to enhance skills and knowledge through sessions on pedagogy, string literature, college curriculum and more. Other topics on which Brown has presented in the past include “Incorporating the Elective Student in the College String Curriculum” and “Technology for the String Teacher.”

For more information, contact the Milligan College music department at 423.461.8723 or music@milligan.edu

Spring on the Farm

Today was the first workshop of spring out at Aunt Willie’s Wildflowers. Twelve women from a local gardening club donned their boots and made the trek out to the farm for a bird’s nest workshop (pictures on website).

I went out to the farm yesterday to help Linda clean up the homeplace and make a few arrangements. We were so excited to be back outside working with the flowers. Yes, you heard right, flowers already! East Tennessee has had quite a few warm days making many of the flowers at Aunt Willies bloom early. This morning was sunny and with all the colorful flowers, I just had to take a few pictures to share with you all.

I couldn’t believe how many arrangements we were able to make from the early bloomers. Small, white pitchers made the spring colors pop. Don’t worry about not having much green filler to add to your arrangements, simple and loose combinations work well with these vibrant spring flowers.

These three pitchers in the window are my favorite arrangement location at the farm. We always have one stem of whatever is blooming in each pitcher. The simplicity of this arrangement against the beautiful landscape outside the window always makes a statement.

So, for those of you with a few bulbs popping out of the ground, grab your favorite jars or pitchers, cut a few stems, and bring some glorious spring into your home.

Apple Spice Soup

My friend Kelly is getting married in a few months and asked me to sew her table runners for the reception. She brought over a sampling of fabric to work with on Tuesday and since I don’t need much of an excuse to make a big pot of soup, I went ahead and experimented with a new combination of veggies for the evening.

This soup was a bit spicy for me but Jack loved it so I recommend deciding what level of spice you can handle before you cut up your jalapeno. If you like just a little kick at the end I would only use 1/4 of a large jalapeno.


2 apples
1 large sweet potato
1/2 onion
1/2 large jalapeno
1/4 c. white wine
1 32oz. box chicken broth
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp. garlic
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp/ pepper


Chop the apples, sweet potato, onion, and jalapeno into thinly sliced chunks. Add ingredients to large soup pan along with 1 tbsp. of butter. Add spices. Mix well. Add 1/4 c. white wine of your choice, mine was a chardonnay. Stir until ingredients are coated. Add half the broth, cover, and bring to a boil. Stir, add the rest of the broth and let simmer for at least 30 minutes.

You only have to let it simmer until the veggies are soft but the flavors are better if you let it simmer longer, plus cooking it longer makes your house smell fabulous!

Finally, pour ingredients into a mixer and puree. Presto your soup is complete! If you want a creamier soup, simply add a small amount of cream to the mix after you puree.

I also made this herb quick bread from allrecipes.com to go with the soup. It was quick (which is what I needed) but had an interesting texture. I added rosemary, garlic, and thyme in mine and it paired well with the soup.

Good luck and happy cooking!

Baby Skirt

Seeing as it is my spring break, I have decided to celebrate this week by working on all the fun little projects I have been dying to try for my new niece. Today’s project, skirts!

Unfortunately, I have no babies or dolls to get a good picture of the skirt, but trust me it’s adorable and the pictures don’t do it justice.

This skirt took me about 30 minutes to complete. All I did was cut two 11×16 pieces of one fabric (the pink) and two 11×16 pieces of cream for the lining. Start by sewing the two pink pieces together (along the 11in sides), right sides facing each other. Same with the inner lining. Then, with the two sets still inside out, slip the lining around the outside of the outside piece and line up your seams.

Next, grab both layers and fold over 1/2 in. at the top of the skirt and sew along the cut edge leaving a pocket to slip elastic through later on. The hem the two layers separately. I suggest hemming the lining at 1/2 inch and the outer layer at 1/4 in.

Last of all, cut a small slit through the top folded edge (be sure to go through both layers on the inside but not to cut all the way through the front of the skirt). Next, attach a 1/8 in. elastic strip to the end of a pencil (I used a pin) and slide it through the hole and all the way around the skirt. Once you have two ends of the elastic pull so it is snug and sew over the two pieces to secure.

Very very simple to make. I’m sure you could all figure these out on your own but hopefully, this will help get your creative juices flowing. I have 4 more fabrics that I am using to make these this week so I’m sure you’ll be seeing more pictures very soon. Happy sewing!

Baby Shoes

I had an itch to sew today and decided to give these baby shoes a try. The pattern is simple to follow and can be found here.

I had a few issues getting equal tension on each foot, but I am pretty pleased at my first attempt. Looking forward to trying some different patterns. Baby Avynlea will have the coolest shoes on the block!

Spring Petal Mosaic

I am one of those individuals who collects pretty much everything I have ever received. You might say I am overly-sentimental. I like to think I simply have incredible insight to possible future uses of said gifts. I mean, you never know when a ceramic lime green elephant will come in handy.

One of the items I have acquired many of over the years are roses. I have dried roses from high school plays, Valentine’s days, and birthdays in jars all around my home. Well, last March, spring cleaning got the best of me and I decided to get rid of the clutter of jars. Of course, I couldn’t bring myself to throw away the entire collection of dried petals so I came up with a way to display the flowers in a more condensed manner.

I took a canvas and painted the sides and background in varying shades of green. Painting the background made it easier to attach the petals without having to worry about covering every tiny hole. After the canvas dried I took craft glue and started attaching different shades of petals in groupings and then blending the groups together with a gradient of petals. I also added a few dried leaves to help make the green underneath blend well with the overall composition.

I couldn’t be happier with how the piece turned out. I now have my own unique piece of spring art that ties together our flowered curtains and green couch in the living room.