» June 2011 «

Rosette Tote

A gal can never have too many bags, at least that was my rationale for making this latest tote. Totes come in all shapes and sizes, patterns and colors, and of course price tags. Since the price tags are usually uncomfortably out of my price range, I choose to make my own after scrounging around in the $2 bin at the fabric store.

My first bag-sewing attempt was a diaper bag from Make Baby Stuff.com. You can find the original tutorial here. This tutorial is extremely easy to follow, even if you are a beginner.

After my first successful diaper bag, I began to draw my own patterns in order to make different shaped purses and totes with a variety of pocket combinations. The instructions in the link can be used for pretty much any type of bag combination you can think up.

The rosettes I attached with hot glue. These are very simple to make. Cut a strip of fabric about 2 in. wide and 10 in. long. The actual size doesn’t really matter, the wider you cut the fabric the fatter your twist will be. The longer you cut the fabric, the more times you will be able to wrap it around itself.

Once the strip is cut, simply hold one end still while twisting at the other. With the fabric completely twisted, place it on a flat surface and start to wrap it around itself. Have sewing pins ready to hold the flower in place while you continue to wrap. Am I confusing you yet?

I’ll try to make a better rosette tutorial with pictures at a later date. Basically, once you have wrapped all of the twisted fabric around itself (so it looks like a rose), pin it, hot glue it onto another piece of fabric, cut around the edges and glue to your tote!

Here are the measurements I used minus the lining. The diaper bag tutorial gives more details with images if you need them.


4-15X21 (green, 2 for each side to reinforce)
1-10X21 (pattern)
2-5X21 strips (pattern for straps)
1-8×23 strip (green for bottom)
2-3×11 strips (purely decorative straps on the front pocket)

I didn’t have enough of the two colors of fabric to make a lining for this bag (yes, I suppose I could have used another color). Here is the order of my sewing:

1. fold over the top edge of pocket lining (the 21 in. side) and sew a 1/2 in. hem
2. align pocket with the 2-15X21 pieces of fabric (I use 2 to reinforce the walls, making them more sturdy)
3. pin the vanity strips of fabric over the pocket and sew each side down (that’s 4 lines of stitching through four pieces of fabric)
4. pin this front piece to the two remaining 15X21 pieces (right sides facing in)
5. sew up the 15 in. sides making sure to catch all pieces of fabric in the stitch
6. pin the bottom piece to the bottom edges and sew (this one’s tricky, check out the tutorial)
7. flip the tote right side out, fold over the top edges 1/2 in. and stitch
8. fold strap fabric (5X21) in half (hotdog style) with wrong side facing out, sew along the long edge, turn right side out
9. pin straps 5 in. from each side and sew in place

Shrimp Creole Recipe

Have you ever had that feeling of dread when you reach into the dark recesses of your cabinets only to find an empty space in place of that vital ingredient necessary for your meal? I had such a feeling a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, I did not discover the lacking ingredients (yes, multiple) until I was fully emerged in cooking the meal, already at the point of no return.

After a small mental tantrum, I pulled myself together and set to work finding and making substitutes.

Here is the link to the original recipe.

And here are the ingredients to our version, which, by the way, turned out to taste fantastic.


2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups tomato sauce
1 teaspoon of chili powder (I also sprinkled more haphazardly throughout the cooking process to our liking)
1/2 tsp. salad supreme seasoning
1 tbsp of all purpose flour
2 tbsp water
1/2 lb of large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tsp Soy sauce
1/4 jalapeno chopped finely
3 green onions chopped
2 tbsp parsley
1 tsp oregano
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 c. white rice

*I know that seems like a lot of seasoning but it was in lieu of the Cajun seasoning which includes all of those ingredients and a few more.


Begin by preparing your rice. Follow instructions on bag.

Heat olive oil on medium heat and add onion, bell pepper, celery, and minced garlic. Once the vegetables are tender, add tomato sauce, soy sauce, and all seasonings. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a low heat. Simmer 15-20 minutes.

Lightly season shrimp with garlic, paprika, chili powder, and lemon juice. Warm 1 tbsp of olive oil in a separate pan and cook shrimp. Add shrimp to sauce. Cook 5 minutes.

Mix flour and water and add to tomato mixture. Cook 5 more minutes.

Add chopped green onions. Taste, taste, taste! Adjust any seasonings necessary to fit your preference.

Serve over rice and enjoy!

house becomes home: bench + lanterns

It’s the little seemingly insignificant details that make a house a home. In these posts, I will be highlighting some on the little details in our home that make it stand out as unique, creative, and simply put, ours.

I would love to also feature images from you readers, showcasing some of the little details in your house that make it feel like home. Please send me an email with your photo submissions and I will highlight a different reader’s photo every other week.

Parties and Paella

Jack and I flew out West (California) last week to help celebrate three momentous events: grandparents 50th wedding anniversary, aunt and uncle’s 25th anniversary, and uncle’s 50th birthday

In the middle of the party, the grandparents decided to surprise the guests by throwing a second wedding and renewing their vows. It was a beautiful day full of friends, family, and lots and lots of food.

[![](jekyll_uploads/2011/06/cali-2011-076-575x431.jpg "paella closeup")](http://www.sweetpeonies.com/2011/06/parties-and-paella/cali-2011-076/) Paella Closeup

Other ingredients for this spectacular bash: 200 guests, 300 BBQ Oysters, 3 roasted pigs, 1 giant pan of paella, 4 bands,  and lots and lots of appetizers

I thought you all might enjoy pictures of the beautiful paella dish. For those of you who may not be familiar with this dish, I will attempt to explain.

Paella is a type of Spanish rice dish, associated with the region of Valencia. Paella can take on many forms with many different combinations of ingredients which may or may not contain the following:

chicken, pork, shellfish, fish, eel, squid, beans, peas, artichokes or peppers

The essential spice is saffron, which also turns the rice a golden color.

What I believe is most intriguing about paella is the way in which it must be cooked. Paella is cooked in a giant flat pan over an open fire. The meat is browned first on a higher heat and later reduced to simmer the rice.

Our paella included clams, sausage, chicken, rice, asparagus, red peppers, and much more.

[![](jekyll_uploads/2011/06/cali-2011-075-575x431.jpg "Paella Pan")](http://www.sweetpeonies.com/2011/06/parties-and-paella/cali-2011-075/) Large Paella Pan

The final pictures are absolutely beautiful and reinforce my belief that beautiful looking food is the key to wonderful tasting food.

Mosaic Patio Table

While I desperately miss my Oregon home, family, and friends, there are many aspects of Tennessee life that I absolutely love.

For those of you unfamiliar with my rantings, allow me to clarify…

Aspects I do not love: tornadoes, golf ball sized hail, banana spiders, distance from home

Aspects I love: rolling hills, 4 distinct seasons, summer heat that sticks around for more than 4 days, insanely energetic football fans, new friends, and finally…

the southern sun rooms!

Since we currently rent a little apartment, the chances of me actually having one of these beautiful sun rooms in a state where I can enjoy it, are slim-to-none. However, I have been working hard to bring life and color to our tiny, yet well-loved porch.

My latest project involves our patio table. Up until this spring, we were sporting some lovely lime green $5 fold-out chairs. However, we decided this was the year to really enjoy sitting out at night to watch the fireflies flicker so we bought two new chairs and a glass table.

This last week, I set to work turning our table into a glass mosaic, glass shards courtesy of my lovely friend and neighbor, Kristin.

I took this fabric (see below) and taped it underneath the glass so I would have an outline to follow. Then I simply filled in the outlines with various colors of glass, glued them down, and grouted in between.

It looks like a lot of white but half of the white sections are actually pearly so they shine different colors in the sun.

I also stapled the fabric around canvas frames and am hoping to make hooks on the porch railings to hang the frames in order to make the porch look more like an outdoor room this summer.

This project took me about 4 days to complete.

White Wedding Bridal Luncheon

This past Friday, I helped Linda host a beautiful bridal luncheon. The weather was fantastic, sitting in the mid-eighties and the flowers were absolutely exquisite.

The bride requested only white flowers for her big day and, in the end, decided to add a few splashes of green to the palette. We have never before catered to an all-white wedding at Aunt Willies Wildflowers but the combination of flowers turned out to be my favorite yet. So much so that I spent the entire day mentally redesigning my own wedding.

So, are you wondering which beautiful flowers we were able to work with?

Spider Mums


Poppy Pods and Hosta Leaves



As you can see from the following pictures, the finished bouquets were beautiful.

Bouquet #1

Bouquet #2

Bouquet #3

Bouquet #4 (I think this is actually 3 bouquets together.)

Bride’s Bouquet

I would highly recommend this color scheme for those of you in the midst of planning your wedding. These flowers (except the lilies) are also relatively inexpensive to purchase.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these pictures from my day on the farm. Be sure to check out more flower images in the “Farm Photos” tab.

Frosted Banana Bars

These banana bars were absolutely delightful. I added a hint of rum to the batter and topped them off with rum frosting. Best of all, they are actually not too terrible of a calorie killer, sitting at about 130 calories per bar.

Banana Bar Ingredients:

3 tbsp. butter
1-1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1/4 c. applesauce
2 or 3 mashed ripe bananas
2 tsp. rum
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt

Frosting Ingredient:

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


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar on low with an electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time. Mix in mashed ripe bananas (3 will make them more moist). Add remaining ingredients and blend well.

Pour batter into a large dish. These bars rise quite a bit. I used a 9×13. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

For the frosting, barely soften the butter and blend with powdered sugar until the sugar binds to the butter. Add rum. If the consistency looks too runny, simply add more powdered sugar until the mixture is spreadable.

Once the bars are baked, let them cool completely before cutting and frosting.

Happy baking!

Summer Adoption Auction

Those of you who know me personally, know that my experiences living in Ukraine have made me a passionate supporter of international adoption. After working in Ukrainian orphanages for 9 months, I firmly believe adoption is somewhere in the Weinbender future.

Because of this belief, I am taking a break from my usual posts to help spread the word about the Chase family Summer Adoption Auction. Please head over to the Team Chase blog to read their story and follow their journey as they raise money to adopt two little ones from Ethiopia.

Even if you choose not to buy anything from the auction, I think an encouraging word would go a long way as they move closer toward bringing home their Ethiopian children.

You can also purchase coffee that will go toward their adoption fund here.

Team Chase 4 and Counting

Mocha Frosted Chocolate Cake

On Memorial Day, we had a few of our close friends over for a little BBQ. The evening was enjoyable, filled with food, cornhole and a backstabbing game of phase10 twist. However, the evening was also a bit solemn as we said goodbye to two of our closest friends, Adam and Leslie Bean. A fabulous couple whom we feel privileged to have known these past 6 years. Adam was recently accepted to Johns Hopkins University so they will be moving to Baltimore after spending the summer at an archeological dig in Jordan.

I have never been good at saying goodbye to those I love. I usually end up awkwardly changing the subject. To this day I cringe when I remember my response to my favorite youth pastor of all time when he and his wife told me they were moving away…

“You’re moving? Well, you sure didn’t give us much time to throw you a going away party!” This is what I really wanted to say, “But, I love you! Why are you doing this to me! You can’t go!”

As you can see, I am definitely not one for goodbyes. So, what is my secret to dealing with them now? Cake!

You can tell my degree of sadness by either the size of the cake or the amount of sugar added to it. I think the picture above should clue you in on how much we love the Beans.

This recipe is from the May issue of Real Simple magazine which had a section devoted to different cake, filling, and frosting combinations to mix and match.

This is what I came up with…

Mocha frosted double layer chocolate cake with white chocolate chips and chocolate shavings on top. If that doesn’t make saying goodbye easier, I don’t know what does.

Chocolate Cake Ingredients:

1 c. unsalted butter
3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1-1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs
1-1/2 c. milk

Chocolate Cake Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two circular pans, line with parchment paper, butter and sprinkle with cocoa powder.

Mix butter and sugar on high until fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs. On low, slowly add flour, then milk, flour, then milk, until all ingredients are mixed together. Pour batter into pans and bake until toothpick comes out clean.

I used two 9-inch round pans and baked them for 30 minutes. Let the cake cool completely before trying to remove from the pan.

Coffee Frosting Ingredients:

1 tbsp. instant coffee powder
1 tbsp. hot water
2 c. butter
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Coffee Frosting Instructions:

Combine instant coffee powder and water. Stir until powder is completely dissolved. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix butter on high until fluffy. Slowly add sugar, coffee mixture, and vanilla. Mix on low until smooth.

I ended up adding a second 1/2 batch of the coffee mixture to my icing (because I really like coffee), if you do this you must also add a little bit more powdered sugar or your icing will be too runny.

Frosting Tips:

1. Frost the top of the first layer, then stack the layers.
2. Frost the top of the cake before moving to the sides.
3. Allow the icing to firm in the fridge before adding toppings.

I hope your cake tastes as delicious as ours did. Happy baking!

Google Recipes

A guest post from a very talented individual Jack and I have had the pleasure of getting to know over the past 2 years. I love this new feature on Google. If you haven’t tried it yet, give it a shot. It is fabulous!

I am Mary Jackson, friend of Tiffany and co-worker (and friend) of Jack. I was talking with Tiffany about a blog post I was writing for the Milligan library blog that related to cooking. Tiffany suggested that it might be a good choice for her blog (which I love).

This spring Google launched a new feature, Google Recipes. I stumbled across it when I was craving lemon meringue pie. I did a regular Google search for lemon meringue pie, then realized while scanning the recipes that I didn’t have a required ingredient, cream of tartar. I went back to revise my search and what did I see:

I could now filter my results: by ingredients that I did (or did not) have, by cook time and by calories. WOW! I quickly clicked the NO box next to cream of tartar and instantly I had a new list of recipes that did not require me to make a trip to the store. The best part is you don’t have to do anything. If you type search terms into the regular Google search box and it yields results including recipes, the recipe features automatically pops up on the left hand side of the results. I love it! And the lemon meringue pie made without cream of tartar? Delicious.