Giveaway from Sew Fantastic

I just got a goodie in the mail that I ordered and I am so excited about it. I had seen the Sew Fantastic blog with so many fun things awhile back when Sew Mama Sew had their giveway. I fell in love with her carryall clutch and was waiting for the chance to order one. Well, I finally did and I am already feeling more organized.

AND, when I went to her blog to thank her for it I found that she is hosting an amazingly generous giveaway to celebrate 1000 sales on Etsy. What an accomplishment! And, as someone who would love to have my own Etsy shoppe one day I really am in amazement at her success!

So, stop by HERE to enter the giveway...and if you don't win you should consider ordering one of her carryall clutches from her Etsy shoppe HERE to get yourself organized. Afterall, it's a new school year and that calls for new modes of organization.

* one note: I asked and the $50 bill does not come with the clutch.


My new favorite fridge calendar (and it should be yours, too).

I was looking for a template for gift enclosures to make for Little E to use on birthday presents, since cards are expensive and often annoy me. Well, no luck (so if you have any you know of let me know), but I did find this great blog (that is now in my favorites) with this awesome calendar. It's already at home on my fridge with dates filled in until next spring. Thanks Cottage Industrialist!

Click HERE for the calendar post on her blog.


Count me in.

I'm ready to join the pajama party, are you? Sew Mama Sew is hosting a pajama making party as their virtual project for the month of September. I have had a 4 different fabrics set aside to make new PJ's for my boys for a couple of months now and this is just the push I have needed to get it done. As you might remember I wanted to do a make-your-own-PJ-pattern tutorial awhile back but have procrastinated as the pile of fabric to made into PJ's has grown right along with it. SO, here's to a PJ party in the making!
If you are interested HERE is the link for the sew-along.

Headband Tutorial

I've been making these headbands a lot lately, as they are addictive to make once you get started. Part of the appeal is that you can't have too many headbands, and also it literally takes scraps of fabric to make them. I had been using the wonderful free pattern found HERE on Heather Bailey's blog, but decided to remake a pattern that would work better for me, as I don't always like the flair of the tie sticking out of my hair in the back. I know this is a very basic pattern and you can probably find a zillion free versions somewhere online, but I thought it would be a great chance to spread my wings and try my hand at a tutorial. Please do extend me a little grace for not being as clear as I could have been with the instructions, AND I know the pictures are a little blurry, too. I am very open to comments, espcially from those that have experience with tutorials. So, here we go:

Step #1::

You will need a rectangle of fabric measuring 17"x4" and one measuring 12"x2". You will also need a piece of 1/2" wide elastic measuring 6". These measurements should fit the average women's head. Play around with the measurements and you could make one for a child or adjust to fit a smaller or larger head.
Step #2::

Fold and pin larger rectangle on the long side with wrong sides of fabric together and sew a 3/8" seam (which should be the outer edge of your presser foot). Make sure to reinforce the beginning and ends of your seams.

Step #3::

Repeat step #2 for smaller rectangle.

Step #4::

Attach a safety pin to the opening of one of the sides of your tube and wiggle it through to turn the tube inside out.

Step #5::

Repeat step #4 for other rectangle.

Step #6::

Iron both tubes flat with the seam in the middle of the back side of the tube. Fold in ends of larger tube only and iron flat.

Step #7::
Take your elastic piece and anchor one side with a safety pin to one of the open ends of the smaller tube. Attach another safety pin to the other side of elastic and wiggle through the tube.

Step #8::
Unattach safety pins and anchor the elastic onto both sides of tube with a few alternating forward and reverse stitches. Don't worry if it's messy, as this seam will be tucked into the larger tube and won't show.

Step #9::
Your tube with anchored elastic should now look like this:

Step #10::
Stick one end of the smaller elastic tube inside a folded end of the larger tube making sure that the seams of both tubes are on the same side.

Step #11::
With your fingers tuck in the ends of the larger tube on each side so they are the same width as the smaller tube. In preparation for sewing you might want to anchor with a pin or hold together with your fingers as you move over to the sewing machine. I don't use a lot of pins, so I find holding it together and laying my presser foot on it does the trick.

Step #12::
Carefully (this seam will show) sew together to anchor smaller elastic tube with larger tube tucked around it using forward and reverse seams. Tie off and trim thread to finish.
Step #13::
Repeat step #12 for other side, making sure you don't get the headband twisted.

Voile! You are done. Here's what a few of my finished products look like:


Update on things creative

I'm still here (for the three people that check this blog out). Between daily electricity blackouts and a cranky child who thinks every time I get on the computer it's his chance to watch Thomas the Tank Engine videos on You Tube I have hardly had the time or energy to update.

Little E and I just whipped up another batch of the Oatmeal Cookies I shared in my last post. We actually omitted the white sugar and just added the brown sugar to cut back on the amount of sugar and they worked great. Not as sweet, but still great. Now, I can certainly feed them to him for breakfast without feeling guilty, right?

I have been crafting a little lately, mostly utilitarian projects like making Little E's long PJ's into shorts (did I mention it's hot as blazes here). We went to my all-time favorite beach with Big E's family two weeks ago and I made headbands for each of the Tia's and Prima's on the trip. Didn't get a chance to take a picture of all of us together and was too rushed trying to get out the door with all of our things beforehand to take a picture.

The big project I have been working on is THIS felt barn with animals. My friend Mandie came up with idea to make the farm for our boys and I just kind of went along for the ride because she wanted to make it. Well, it's been a fun and challenging project for me, because it's a lot of hand sewing and there are so many little pieces. I think I will probably work on it a little here and there and save it for a Christmas present for Little E. I am also making THIS doll for a friend of mine who is having her baby today! I am still sewing on the mouth and need to make the dress, but it should be ready to pass along to new baby Daniela by the time I visit her.
I am still LOVING my time with the women of Cercadillo on Fridays. We are taking a break from sewing for right now as the director is out of town. I have had a couple of requests from relatives and friends to buy or sell the bags the women are making. They would make a great Christmas present if anyone is thinking about it. Each bag comes with a tag that includes the name of the lady who made it. They are selling for $20 and all of the proceeds go back to the women of Cercadillo.

Here is a picture of the bag I actually purchased myself:


Kid-Friendly Cookies

I made some pretty yummy cookies yesterday. One of Little E's first words was "coco" which is his version of cookie. We buy these cracker cookies here called Marias that are a Latino staple and because they are like a sweet cracker I didn't feel so bad giving them to him. But the other day I was thinking about the nice hint of coconut I tasted, thinking to myself that of course they taste like coconut because I am in the Caribbean. THEN, it dawned on me that they taste like coconut because they are most likely made with coconut oil, the death oil! So, I decided to make cookies from now on (well, mostly from now on), so I can control what kind of oil and stuff we are putting in our mouths. Now, I LOVE to make cookies (thanks to my college friend Julie who I made thousands of dozens of cookies with back then), but they always spread out too much in the oven down here with all of the humidity. So, the other day I broke down and bought the $4.50 chocolate chips, rolled up my sleeves, put on my thinking cap and apron and adapted a recipe so that the cookies would keep their shape and I wouldn't be forced to substitute Crisco, the other death oil. AND, they worked out and are worth sharing. Of course, because they have natural sugar, oatmeal and raisins I feel like they are "healthy". Actually, Little E is munching on a few for breakfast right now...yikes, don't tell that his mama is letting him eat cookies for breakfast!

OATMEAL COOKIES (my own recipe adapted from the Joy of Cooking)

1 cup flour
3/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
1/8 cup sugar (I used raw sugar called "Azucar Crema" here)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups oatmeal
1/2 cup of any mix-ins you want (I used 1/4 cup each of raisins and chocolate chips, but you could use nuts or other dried fruits)

Sift together flour, soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon & nutmeg. Set aside. Cream butter & sugars together in a mixer until light and fluffy. Add to butter mixture egg & vanilla and blend. Add in flour mixture a little at a time to give time to incorporate. Then, add in your mix-ins & oatmeal.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 12 minutes. This recipe will yield about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

ALSO, since I am in a cookie state of mind (as I usually am with my sweet tooth), here is another somewhat healthy kid-friendly cookie recipe I made the other day. I say kid-friendly because it has molasses in it, which is loaded with iron and has immune boosting properties. Of course, that is if you take it by the tablespoonful. It probably loses some of those properties when you mix it with butter and sugar, but oh well. They remind me of the ginger snaps I had when I was a kid at my Grosmama's house (paternal German grandmother).

GINGER SNAPS (from the Joy of Cooking)

1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
6 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup dark molasses
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon or orange zest (I used lime zest)
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Sift together flour, soda, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, & cloves. Set aside. Cream together butter & sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, molasses, zest & lemon juice and blend. Add dry ingredients a little at a time to fully incorporate.

Form dough into tablespoonful balls and arrange on a greased cookie sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart. You can sprinkle each ball with a bit of raw sugar if you would like a little extra sweet touch. Balls will flatten in the oven. Bake at 350 for 12 minutes. This recipe yields about 3 dozen cookies.

NOTE: Both of these recipes are adapted from the Joy of Cooking cookbook. If you are looking for a classic, informative, basic, never-fail cookbook this is the one you should buy. I have the 75th Anniversary edition. This is the cookbook that has truly taught me how to adapt my own recipes and has never once failed me!

This is a bonus picture of Little E with a mouthful of those yummy cookies I let him eat for breakfast.


Visiting Cercadillo

My heart is singing today because I just got back from Cercadillo. I have been going out for the past couple of weeks to help the women of the village sew. What a beautiful ministry my friend Ina has with these women. They live in a campo outside of town with no electricity and only water accessible by a well put in by the ministry. The campo consists of very simple colorful wooden houses bleached by the sun that are scattered all along the dirt road and a colmado that does triple duty as the grocery store, hardware store and beauty salon. The bumpy dirt road is lined with people walking on foot as there are very few cars, if any at all. Moms carrying water buckets on their heads from the well, kids running barefoot with sticks chasing our jeep, a group of althetic boys jogging toward the baseball field wearing their hopes for being scouted by the American leagues with every flex of their muscles.

When we drove up to the ministry site today the Bible study was already in full swing, women sitting on green benches and yellow plastic chairs listening intently. A few children were running around from one mama to antother, dirty shirts and shoeless feet smiles a mile wide. The open air pavillion we meet under is painted bright yellow and turquoise with a concrete floor.

After the prayer time ends it's time to get busy and set up the sewing machines and work tables. Eight sewing machines are set up and plugged into the bright red Honda generator that soon hums to life. Everyone retrieves the projects leftover from the past week out of the big blue plastic bin and starts to get to work. Some are cutting out patterns, some are pinning their seams together and some are at the sewing machines. Patterns become bags before our eyes as these women use their new talents to create something they can sell. The money they earn from selling their bags will feed their families.

It's a beautiful thing to see these women learning a new skill that brings them a sense of confidence they can use this to change their future. Some sew with relative ease, while others struggle with the simple things like sewing a straight seam, but all are diligent and eager to do their work. The finished bags made from a pattern I helped create lie in a neat pile with colorful tags attached bearing the name of the person who made them. What a gift it is to help them for a few hours, using the basic sewing skills my grandmothers taught me, helping Yaquelin tear out a bad seam and then helping Dona Carmen (a sweet grandmotherly woman with weathered hands and cataracts) finish her bag on the sewing machine. I've learned new words to help them along...hilo (thread), tejiras (scissors), agujas (needles).

Today I walked away with a new bag sewn by Marleni and a necklace made by Yaquelin, everytime I use them I will think of their faces. But, as tired and sweaty I was returning to my home I wore a smile for the rest of the day because I knew my time spent there nourished my soul. Lending a few hours and a hand once a week is a small sacrifice, and yet I am doing something that is making an immediate difference in their lives. It's hard to say who is more blessed...me or those lovely ladies of Cercadillo.


So loving my new book!

Heather Ross' book Weekend Sewing is no disappointment, friends. Since I received her book for Mother's Day I have made three fun projects! Here is a picture of my new summer tablecloth and napkins. She has directions on how to hem the edge and miter corners to make a tablecloth and a pattern for napkins, which includes a dinner napkin (18X18) and a cocktail napkin (9X9). If made my napkins a little larger than a cocktail, but not as big as a dinner because I always feel like there is too much fabric to deal with in your lap.
I also completed this fun new blouse. I am wearing it today for the first time and am about to retreat to a pedicure as an escape from all the rain and while my son is enjoying day camp. So, I better go and enjoy as much of this precious me time as I can! Oh, and I modified the sleeves making them a little shorter to accomodate our tropical weather.

(OK...so the picture is blurry. I'm too lazy to retake it and want to get out the door. Forgive me.)



Headbands, handbags and friends.

Well, despite the fact that we have had spotty electricity over the past few days I have been able to get some good sewing time in...and some it with friends, which is even better. I usually sew alone during naptime, which is an escape of sorts for me. In fact, I often think a great name for a blog would be called something like "Naptime Projects" or "Hey, my kid was asleep and I did this!" I digress...anyway, it's a lot of fun to do a project together.

First, let me share a picture of a whole bunch of fun Heather Bailey Hooray for Headbands. Head over to her BLOG so you can whip a few up, too. So easy, so funny, literally made out of scraps. I leave the elastic out because a.) I don't like elastic in mine because it makes the headband slide up and b.) when you are making them for gifts, as these were, you never know the size of someone's head. These were for a couple of great friends and two daughters of one of them in Nashville who so extravagantly lavished me with a care package last week including magazines in ENGLISH, music for my Ipod and dried herbs I can't find here.

Next, I had a great afternoon with Gabriela, one of Big E's cousins visiting the capital from Santiago for some summer fun. We started out making cards with some assorted stamps and lots of little scraps of paper and ribbon. The real fun started when she picked out some fabric from my fabric pile and I taught her how to make one of my Cercadillo Bags. See HERE for the story of the bag. She was a natural on the sewing machine and I quickly named here the speed demon for her lead foot on the pedal. She loves her new bag and can't wait to tell everyone she made it. Maybe she will learn to love sewing as much as I do.

Then, if that wasn't enough, my friend Kirsten came over for our sewing date. We had plans to make the Summer Blouse from Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross. She loved my book so much that she put in a special order for one from her visiting mother-in-law, who as luck would have it was flying down for a visit two days later. So, side by side we got our blouses started, but had to postpone until Friday night because the power "se fue" or went out and dashed our plans. It's all I can do to keep myself from picking up where we left off and finishing because I can't wait to wear it I love it so much. Pictures of the finished products to come.

Enjoy your week. Here's hoping you all have a cool glass of lemonade you can drink on a breezy front porch or (what I am dreaming of) an air-conditioned living room.


Market Bag Pattern Giveaway.

Hey...look at this awesome bag!

Sew Take A Hike is selling the pattern to make this bag for yourself. What a great idea! AND, she is giving away one of the patterns and a bag in a drawing. Jump on over THERE to check it out and enter.
Guess what? I won! Yea!


Mango Lime Bread

As I was purusing THIS great blog about baking I found a fabulous recipe that is right up my alley (or island, if you will). I am always looking for fun recipes to use local ingredients and this one really delivers, as it uses mangoes (in season right now) and limes (we have limes, no lemons). I was a little curious about how it might taste, as the ingredient combination was an odd bunch of things to make into bread, but it is so yummy! I am serving it up to a couple of visiting friends with cafe con leche. Wish you could join us.

Also, if you are up for a little mango fun, check out my FAMILY BLOG about how to eat a mango.

How to Make Brown Sugar (the old fashioned way)

I have become a resourceful woman since moving to a 3rd World Country (I like to call it an emerging country). Partly because of cost and party because of limited resources I find myself making a LOT of things from scratch that we readily have available in the U.S. One such thing is brown sugar. The funny thing about not being able to find brown sugar down here is that all brown sugar consists of is white refined sugar with molasses mixed in, AND raw sugar (which we have readily and cheaply available by the pound) is actually made here. I thought I could use the raw kind in my recipes calling for brown sugar, but it doesn't react the same way. For one thing, the crystals are a lot coarser, so it doesn't break down as easily when you cook leaving your baked goods a little cruchier and gritty in texture. You would think brown sugar would be manufactured here, along with the other sugar options we have like raw sugar, refined sugar, and powdered sugar. Well, after a little research I discovered how easy it is to make brown sugar and my problem is solved. AND, I can make cinnamon rolls, coffee cake, and lots of other goodies requiring brown sugar!

For all who want to know how easy it is to make it, follow along:

First, measure out 2 cups of white sugar into a fairly deep bowl with a flat bottom. You will need the extra room for work space.

Next, measure out 3 teaspoons of molasses.
Then, begin working the molasses in with a pastry cutter or a large fork until blended.

That's it! Here's what you end up with:

So easy, works in a pinch when you are in the middle of baking and discover you ran out, and it's economical as one jar of molasses will make at least 100 batches.

NOTE: The ration of sugar to molasses is 1 cup sugar to 1-2 teaspoons of molasses, depending on how dark you want your brown sugar. I use 1 cup sugar to 1 1/2 teaspoons of molasses.


Look what I bought.

I took a trip to my favorite (and one of the only good fabric stores in this country) today with my friend Kirsten. We have a sewing date set for next week to sew a goodie from my new book Weekend Sewing. Here's what I came home with. What do you suppose I'll be making with all of this goodness? Well, you'll just have to stay tuned and come back to see!

Chinola Heaven.

That's what I'm in these days. Chinola is what they call Passion Fruit in Spanish and it's in season right now. I thought my favorite fruit was mango, but now I don't know because I am loving the sweet, tangy and slightly tart citrusy taste of Chinola. It's a bit like a mix between a mandarin orange and a mango. You can order jugo de Chinola at most restaurants and up until this week that is how I enjoyed it I was a little intimidated by the fruit not knowing exactly how to pick them out at the supermarket and how to extrac the juice, as it is filled with a kind of slimy goo and black seeds. Well, like most things in my life the fear was unfounded as they are about the easiest fruit to make juice from.

A ripe Chinola looks almost rotten, as it is slightly discolored (most fruit here is because they don't use as many pesticides...can we all say yea for that!) and it's really bumpy and misshapen. Here is what they look like when you buy them:

All you do is cut them open and scoop out the flesh, seeds and all, into a blender:

Add water and some sugar, and strain after it's liquified and this is the end product:

Can I get an umbrella with that?

After enjoying my first homemade batch I was inspired to add a little "passion" to my 4th of July dessert. I made a chocolate bundt cake with a chinola icing. It was yummy.

To make your own "Jugo de Chinola":

1. Scoop out the insides of 4-5 chinola

2. Add fruit and 3X's that amount of water to blender with about a 1/4 cup sugar (you can adjust according to your taste)

3. Mix until most of the seeds have become pulverized

4. Strain into your pitcher and add about as much water as you have juice

5. Enjoy a true taste of the Caribbean


Mother's Day Gifts.

Guess what came today? The rest of my Mother's Day gift from my wonderful husband who allowed me to order whatever I wanted and generously paid the shipping to get in down here. You might remember that part of my gift was a quilting board with rotary cutter. BUT, the other half are these two items...

Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross and The Creative Family by Amanda Blake Soule. So many ideas of fun things to make that I can't wait to get started. With these two books and a Diet Coke, can you guess what I did during naptime? Of course, read through them!


PJ bottoms

Well, scratch PJ bottoms off the my growing list of projects to complete. My pictures leave something lacking, for sure. I wasn't feeling creative, nor was the lighting good, but I wanted to post the finished project. I am going to try my hand at a real tutorial soon and post how I made these. They are so easy and after searching the internet for a free pattern I took two tutorials, pieced together the instructions and made my own pattern. Once you have the pattern you can make them in about 30 minutes, even with trim. I made three out of really soft, cottony men's shirt fabric I found at my favorite Dominican fabric store. And, then just for pure fun I made a girly pair for my 18-month old niece. Big E liked them so much he wants a matching pair for himself. I am waiting for my Mother's Day copy of Weekend Sewing to make down here in the mail before I tackle that one.
And, just for kicks I am sharing this ridiculously, hilarious picture of Little E sporting his new jammies. Big E thought it would be funny to pull them up to his armpits, like an old man. He didn't seem to mind...

On another note, I made some yummy muffins the other day I am going to share the recipe when I have time. And, did I mention we don't have lemons down here, just limes? Who would have expected the Caribbean to be void of a such a common citrus fruit staple? Well, I have been making limonada or limeade lately to satisfy my craving for lemonade. YUM...and I REALLY wanted to make a margarita the other night, but the colmado doesn't carry tequila, so we couldn't get it delivered (although they said they could get me some...haha only in the Dominican Republic...and I was too lazy to go buy some. Definately on my list.


Summer Sanity-Savers

OK...anyone with kids has absolutely got to look at THIS BLOGPOST immediately. It's from one of my favorite blogs The Long Thread. There are so many ideas for crafts and activities to do with kids of all ages. I am already making a mental list of the things we are going to do....

homemade bubbles

painted picture rocks

vacation memory jar


Oh, the fun we are going to have on those stir crazy days!


New Bag!

I made a fabulous new bag to carry around. I found the tutorial HERE from "My Spare Time" awhile back and had been looking for just the right fabric to make my new bag. I finally found just the right fabric at my favorite store. It was so easy to make! I mean it. Her directions were great. Thanks for the tutorial!

On my list of things in process are:

- headbands for a friend and a new baby from HERE

- PJ bottoms for Little E and my niece from my own pattern

- more fabric boxes from HERE (I am going to download her customizable pattern)

- new dress from a de-constructed dress pattern of my favorite beach/pool dress ever (it's stretchy cotton t-shirt material and I'm a little scared to start because it's new territory for me)

AND, I am slowly collecting old dress shirts from my Big E to make THIS for Little E. It's pretty sad that I am almost happy when he comes home with a dry erase marker stain on his shirt from a teaching mishap.


Fabric Box

Well, here's a little something I made this morning that I am super excited about. My mind is swirling with every little thing in my house that needs to be contained by these super cute fabric boxes. There are little trains and matchbox cars that need a new home on the toy shelf, a very unorganized and quite unsightly desk where I am currently sitting, all of my sewing supplies that are stuffed into a box way too small to stay organized, etc.
I found this little goody on the Sometimes Crafter blog. She has very clear and easy directions for the tutorial, and this box literally took a large scrap of two kinds of fabric, plus some stablizer inbetween to make. I need to work on one of the sides with the iron to get it to hold it's boxy shape a little better, but naptime is over and I am working on stolen moments even getting this post up. You know how it goes. She also sells a PDF pattern that shows how to customize the pattern for whatever size box you want. After making this little one I am definately going to buy the downloadable pattern so I can make more in all different sizes.
Just a little side note. You might notice two things about the picture. 1. Little E was pushing his trains around the table at just the right moment to look up and smile for the camera, a new talent of his which I hope is going to make taking pictures of him a lot easier, since most have him sucking his thumb. 2. My new little fabric box is sitting on top of 1/2 of my Mother's Day present...a quilting board with this awesome acrylic grid ruler and rotary cutter. This has made measuring and cutting a breeze. What in the world I did without it, I do not know. The other half of my gift is on it's way and I can't wait to pick it up from the mail service!

A Twist on Black Beans and Rice

I am much more of a cook than I am a sewer. I love to do both, but I am more confident in the kitchen than I am behind my sewing machine. I have been reading about all of these great summer recipes using in season fruit. Living in the Caribbean it's summer all the time, but there are so many good summer fruits we miss out on...peaches, strawberries (although we do get some in the winter months, nectarines, plums, blueberries, etc.) How I would love a fresh peach cobbler on my table tonight for dinner, but alas there are no peaches to be found here unless you buy them from the canned fruit aisle (which under desperate measures I have been known to do to get my cobbler fix). SO, I thought I would offer a tropical summer spin on an old favorite in our house.

I usually use a fabulous recipe for black beans and rice from my friend Kristi. Today I took it for a little spin around the local block and added pineapple. I would have sided it with a good ripe avocado, but they are a little hard to find around here right now.

Here's the adapted version I created for our lunch:

1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 small tomato, chopped
1/4 red onion, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup pineapple, cut-up into bite sized chunks
juice from 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine water, brown rice and 1/4 teaspoon salt in saucepan. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer and put lid on pan. Simmer for 40 minutes. Then, add can of black beans and return lid to simmer for another 10 minutes. Mix in tomato, red onion, parsley, pineapple, lime juice, cumin, salt and pepper. That's it!

We served it with grilled chicken. But, it's pretty good by itself or could be good with fish, as well.

The original recipe calls for 1/3 cup grated cheese, which gives it a creamy, cheesy texture and goes so well with the onion and other flavors. Here are some other ingredients you could add that would taste yummy:
lemon juice instead of lime juice
chopped mango
green onion instead of red onion
and, of course the avocado


Feeling Skirty

I am "feeling skirty" most days. I live in a tropical environment and most days I am trying to stay as comfortable and cool as possible. Shorts can sometimes be...less than flattering...although I am liking bermudas these days and have already made one pair of white cropped pants into bermudas. BUT, skirts are always comfy, most always flattering (if you find the right style that works for you), can be dressed up or down, and always fun! Oh, and they are so easy to make, too!

This is my latest:
I found this fabulous fabric at our local fabric warehouse. So many fun fabrics, so cheap...so many ideas in my head...oh mercy. Well, here is a close up of the fabric.

Now, let me tell you a little story about this skirt. I cut a pattern from my all-time favorite A-line-Gap-sale-rack-skirt. I have made it three times already and will most definately make more in the future. All I did was fold the skirt in half and lay it on a big piece of paper. I traced around the skirt leaving a little bit all around to accomodate the seams and hem. I marked where the fold would be (since you actually have a quarter of the skirt that you are tracing). I then cut out two of the pattern in my fabric, making sure to be aware of alignment with the design of the fabric and to lay it on the fold. (If your fabric is a lighter weight you will want to make the same exact skirt pattern in a lightweight lining fabric-see note below). For this skirt I made it a couple of inches longer than the original skirt.

If your skirt has a zipper and you are not making a lining you will want to cut a yoke out of the same fabric for the waistline. I have found the best way to do this is to cut a 6-inch long version of the skirt. You just follow the curve of the waistband and only make it 6-inches long (this is kind of hard to explain, but you want to have a little more fabric weight at the waistband so that it lays flat). Yours might have elastic which doesn't require a yoke. Also, a skirt with a lining doesn't require a yoke either.

The rest of my directions are for a skirt that includes a zipper.

Ok, so you zig-zap stitch or hem the bottom of your yoke, pin it to your waistband right sides together (RST) and stitch. Press the seam open with an iron, turn right side out and press the seam so it lays flat.
Next, you need to mark how long your zipper is and sew up the side of your skirt RST only until that point. Sew up the entire other side of the skirt.

For installing the zipper, I will let you follow the instructions in the package of the zipper or in the instruction manual of your sewing machine. I find that using an invisible zipper is nicer looking and actually easier to sew in.
All you have to do now is try it on and pin your hem length. Turn the bottom under twice and hem.

There you go! So easy! This is my first time to explain something like this, so excuse me if it's not so clear. You can always leave a question in the comments.
Note about lining the skirt: To make a lining, cut two pattern pieces from your lining fabric. Start by sewing your sides together, remembering to leave room for the zipper. Then, pin your lining to the skirt fabric RST at the waistband and sew together. Press the seam open and then turn the lining inside of the skirt and press the waistband flat. You might want to topstitch the waistband to make it lay a little more flat. I don't remember what I did with the skirt I made lining for, but I don't think I did this step. You should have all of the unfinished seams from the skirt and the lining facing each other inside of each other. Next, when you sew in the zipper, you will need to sew it into two layers, both the skirt and the lining. Lastly, you will want to hem the skirt and the lining separately and it helps to hem the lining a bit shorter so it doesn't show at the bottom.


Project Near and Dear to My Heart.

I have been volunteering little bits of time with a ministry I have come to adore here in the Dominican Republic called The Cercadillo Project. My friend Ina (who has the coolest name ever, if you ask me) moved here 3 years ago to devote herself to a small village outside of the capital. Cercadillo has no running water, no electricity, no schools, and really no self-sustaining jobs for the people who live there. In the short amount of time Ina has been there she has been able to coordinate a group to put in a city well and start a program where kids can go to school in the neighboring community. If you want to read more about what Ina does click here.
The project that has captured my heart is her sewing and handcraft ministry she has started with the women. All of the men leave the village in the morning to find work leaving the women behind. Some of the women buy meat scraps from a butcher, carry them in a tub on their heads and sell them to whoever they can find keeping the profits they earn, which as you can imagine is not much. Ina had a dream to start some kind of co-op where the women could sell things they make and have some sustainable income. SO, every Friday morning she and a few volunteers set up at her outdoor community center with donated sewing machines and a generator and they teach the women how to sew and make handcrafts. They have been crocheting necklaces lately that they have been selling to volunteer teams as souvenirs. When one woman in the project received $100 pesos (the equivalent of $3.50) for necklaces that sold she started crying saying she didn't know how she was going to feed her family that night and that day she would be able to. This ministry is changing lives and helping people meet critical needs.
I have developed two patterns for a very simple bucket style bag that can either be made long and worn over the chest or shorter to be worn over the shoulder. Soon the women will be able to sew these bags with donated fabric and make ever more money to take care of their families.
As I was testing out the pattern I made several for two friends who work with other ministries headed back to the United States for the summer months. They eagerly agreed to donate the money they would have used to buy the bags from the women to the ministry instead of paying me for making them. So, 21 bags later I think I have the major kinks worked out of the pattern and I've been able to help out both the women in The Cercadillo Project and my other friends. I never in a million years thought that the sewing skills my grandmothers taught me could be used to give back to others and the Lord.
It's an exciting thing and I hope you take a look at Ina's website to see the short video about Cercadillo.


I'm coming back.

I know I sound like a broken record (which we don't really have in our culture anymore), but now that we are settled into our new life in the Dominican Republic and are finding our own groove I have decided to give some new life to this blog. As my life is growing and expanding each day I am going let this blog follow along. What started out as a blog about making your own baby food is going to grow into much more. I am going to use this blog as an outlet for all of my "from scratch" things from cooking, baking, sewing, crafting, creative play time, and baby and kid food, too. I hope someone will follow along or decide to visit every now and then. SO, here we go...

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