Saturday, November 18, 2017

Taco Meatballs and Rice

An easy recipe today. Albondigas-flavored meatballs simmered in risotto-style rice. Comfort food at it's best for a cold wintry day.


  • 1 pound Jennie-Oh Taco-Flavored Ground Turkey*
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup stale tortilla chips pulverized in a food processor to make 1/4 cup fine crumbs
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion (1 medium)
  • 1 1/4 cups Jasmine rice
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 2 1/4 cups chicken broth


  1. Combine ground turkey, chips, egg, and milk in large mixing bowl. Form into 1-inch (golf-ball sized) meatballs.
  2. Heat olive oil in large saute pan over medium heat. Cook meatballs, turning occasionally until browned on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Add onion to pan; saute until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add in garlic and saute for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Season with a dash of salt and pepper.
  4. Stir in rice to coat. Add the wine; cook until rice has absorbed almost all of the liquid, about 1 minute. Add broth; return the meatballs to the pan bring to a boil.
  5. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 20-22 minutes until rice is tender. Taste and add more salt, if necessary.
  6. Serve immediately and enjoy!

*If you do not have "taco-flavored ground turkey" you may substitute the following:

  • 1 pound of 93 percent ground turkey or lean ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Recycled Cookies

I have a confession to make. Yesterday, I rediscovered the cookie jar in the back of the pantry. I don't know how it got there. My heart breaks thinking of the lonely days (weeks?) it might have spent back there feeling unappreciated, neglected, and alone.

And yes, there were cookies within. Oatmeal cookies with pumpkin kisses. The kisses still look wonderful, but the cookie part is horribly stale. The kisses can be snapped off and are "as good as new," but what about the oatmeal cookie that was left behind?

I can't and won't throw them away; my frugal heart just won't allow that. 

Well, years ago I was lucky enough to get a recipe from my local bakery--Recycled Cookies. (This was long before recyling was in vogue). This recipe is the perfect answer for those times when you have cookies, cake, or (at New Years?) fruitcake that seems past it's prime.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Being Real

THERE was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning, he was really splendid. He was fat and bunchy, as a rabbit should be; his coat was spotted brown and white, he had real thread whiskers, and his ears were lined with pink sateen. On Christmas morning, when he sat wedged in the top of the Boy's stocking, with a sprig of holly between his paws, the effect was charming.

For a long time he lived in the toy cupboard or on the nursery floor, and no one thought very much about him. He was naturally shy and being only made of velveteen, some of the more expensive toys quite snubbed him. The mechanical toys were very superior, and looked down upon every one else; they were full of modern ideas and pretended they were real. The model boat, who had lived through two seasons and lost most of his paint, caught the tone from them and never missed an opportunity of referring to his rigging in technical terms. The Rabbit could not claim to be a model of anything, for he didn't know that real rabbits existed; he thought they were all stuffed with sawdust like himself, and he understood that sawdust was quite out-of-date and should never be mentioned in modern circles.

The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Free Pattern - Christmas Tree Skirt, Part 3

How are you doing with your Christmas tree skirt? If you have completed all of the wedges, you should have 16 units that look something like this:

Looks a bit ragged, doesn't it? But don't worry. Using your straight edge ruler you can trim the sides to a perfect 1/4 inch. Line up the edge of your ruler with the right side of the segment. Actually, you want the edge of the ruler to extend 1/4 inch beyond the pattern so that, after you trim, you will be left with 1/4 inch of fabric for your seam allowance. 

Here is what that will look like:

a closer look

And then, this is what it looks like when the edge is trimmed.

Much better, don't you think? You will need to do this on all of the pattern pieces, on all four sides. Yes I know, it will take a while, but then we're almost done.

Once all of your pieces are trimmed, it's time to start sewing them together. Line up all of your pieces, wrong side up, on your work table. Place them in order (A, B, C, D, etc.) The right-hand side of Segment A will be joined to the left-hand side of Segment B.

Then the right-hand side of Segment B will be joined to the left-hand side of Segment C, and so on, and so on. 

Be careful to line up the seams on each side. Use your straight pins. My personal experience is that every time I do NOT use pins (because I'm in a hurry), I end up making a mistake; the seams don't align and I have to spend all the time I "saved" (plus more) to rip out the bad stitches, pin, and re-sew.

When all of your segments are sewn together, you should have a tree skirt top that looks something like this:

We're almost finished!

  • Iron the skirt and snip any loose threads. 
  • Iron your lining fabric and place it good side UP on your work surface.
  • Center your tree skirt on top of it, good side DOWN (right sides are together).
  • Pin the skirt to the lining, I pinned at the top and bottom of EVERY segment and in the middle too. 

Here it is, all pinned and ready to sew

And so....I sewed. Your tree skirt is not a complete circle. There are two straight edges so that you can encircle the base of your tree. 

  • Beginning two inches up from the hem, on the right-hand straight side, sew down to the hem. Then sew around the entire bottom hem (going counter-clockwise).
  • Next, you will be stitching up the left-hand straight side,
  • then around the top edge,
  • and THEN, about 2 or 3 inches down on the right-hand side again. You are leaving about 9 inches open so that you can turn the skirt right-side out.
  • Here's a diagram to help you visualize the process of sewing the skirt and backing together.

  • Trim your seam allowances to 1/4 inch (top hem, bottom hem, and straight sides.
  • Turn right-side out. Press lightly.
Here's my completed skirt. I hope you've enjoyed this project; I had fun sharing it with you.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Free Pattern--Christmas Tree Skirt, Part 2

Last week we drew a pattern for the Christmas tree skirt pictured above. Today we'll continue with labeling the pattern pieces, marking where each color of fabric (you have 8 different colors plus two background fabrics) will go, and learn how to "stitch and flip."

Label the Pattern Pieces
Line up your pattern pieces (all 16 of them). Each piece will be assigned a letter (write it on the top, narrow end). The first piece will be "A," the second one will be "B", the third "C", and so on. Simply write on each pattern piece with a #2 pencil or ballpoint pen.

Label Your Fabrics
The next step is determining how to arrange your fabrics to create the woven design.

What makes this design work is (1) the selection of bright colors with good contrast and (2) the use of a dark background (navy blue or black) to make those colors POP. Assign a number to each of your colored fabrics, 1 through 8.

Mark Each Pattern Piece
Look at Illustration No. 7. Notice that each pattern piece is composed of eight triangles that are bisected (divided in two) by a dotted line. The top part of each triangle (the point) is where the dark background fabric will be placed. And the bottom of each triangle will have one of the 8 colors. Notice that there are 8 triangles and 8 colors? Not a coincidence.

However, we won't be randomly placing the colors on each wedge. Actually, we will need to be very careful with our color placement to achieve the woven-ribbon effect. The chart below shows in which order the 8 colors will be used on your pattern pieces. Column A corresponds with Pattern Piece A (remember that you labeled all of them)? 

The first triangle (the one closest to the top) will have color #1 placed in the bottom half of the first triangle. Color 8 will be placed in the bottom half of the next triangle, Color 4 in the third triangle, and so on. 

A     B     C    D    E    F    G    H    I     J    K    L     M    N    O     P
 1     8      2     7     3     6     4     5     1     8     2    7      3     6      4      5

 8     1      7     2     6     3     5     4     8     1     7    2      6     3      5      4

 4     7      1     6     2     5     3     8     4     7     1    6     2      5      3      8

 7     4      6     1     5     2     8     3     7     4     6    1     5      2      8      3

 3     6      4     5     1     8     2     7     3     6     4    5     1      8      2      7

 6     3      5     4     8     1     7     2     6     3     5    4     8      1      7      2

 2     5      3     8     4     7     1     6     2     5     3    8     4      7      1      6

 5     2      8     3     7     4     6    1     5     2     8    3      7      4      6      1

You're probably wondering how this apparently random placement of colors works. Look at what happens to the diagram when we start to assign colors to each of the numbers:

A     B     C    D    E    F    G    H    I     J    K   L     M    N    O     P
 1      8      2     7     3    6    4     5    1    8    2    7     3     6     4     5

 8      1      7     2     6    3    5     4    8    1    7    2     6     3     5     4

 4      7      1     6     2    5    3     8    4    7    1    6    2      5     3     8

 7      4      6     1     5    2    8     3      4    6    1    5      2     8     3

 3      6      4     5     1      2     7    3    6    4    5    1      8     2     7

 6      3      5     4     8    1    7     2    6    3    5    4    8      1     7     2

 2      5      3     8     4    7    1     6    2    5    3    8    4      7     1     6

 5      2      8     3     7    4    6     1    5    2    8    3    7     4      6     1

This next step will take a bit of your time and concentration. Be careful, Write on each pattern piece (with No. 2 pencil or ballpoint pen) and then we'll prepare our fabrics and begin sewing.

Here is the first pattern piece, "A"

Prepare Your Fabric and Start Sewing!
The person who created the original tree skirt (see the photo at the top of this blog) used black as the background fabric and yellow/gold for the top-most segment. What color have you chosen for the background? Let's pretend that you chose black.

The first piece you will sew will be the very bottom segment of the pattern (the triangle below the Number 5). Cut a piece of black fabric 3 1/2 inches high and 8 1/2 inches wide.

The next piece to cut is your Color #5. Cut a strip 1 3/4 inches high and 8 1/2 inches wide. Place it wrong side DOWN on your work surface. 

Position the black piece of fabric on top of it, wrong side UP; line up the top edges. Then, finally place your pattern piece on top, Here's the trickiest part (but it's also where the magic begins). The solid black line that separates the bottom triangle from Color Section #5 is your stitching line. That means that you will need to have 1/4-inch of fabric above the line (for your seam allowance). This next illustration shows you what that will look like.

Use a few straight pins to secure this little sandwich together (the Color 5 on the bottom, the pattern on top, and the black background section in the middle). Sew on the solid line. This is what it will look like.

Now, here's the "magic" part. Remove the pins. Fold open the black and Color 5 sections and press. Here's what it looks like from the wrong side and the right side:

Can you guess what happens next? You will sew a black background segment above Color #5 to complete that triangle.

From now on, all of the strips of fabric you will need (except for the top-most piece) will be 1 3/4 inches high. The width will vary because as you work up the pattern the shape gradually narrows. 

I'm going to share just a few more photos with you. Once you have these next two steps down, you are ready (yes, really you are!) to complete this segment of the pattern. And then...guess what? You get to do 15 more (whoop whoop!).

Sew on the background piece
And, here it is, right side
Here it is, wrong side

This last step is pretty important. Look at the photo to the right ("here it is, wrong side"). Your next stitching line will be the solid line above #5 and below #2. BUT, there is excess fabric in the way of where you should be lining up your fabric for #2. We're going to trim it away.

Don't worry. I'm right beside you.

Fold your pattern on the solid line that separates Color sections #5 and #2. Just like this:

Then trim off all but 1/4 inch of the excess fabric (in other words, there will be 1/4 inch of fabric beyond the fold line). Like this:

OK, I'm going to leave you for now. You have lots of measuring, cutting, stitching, trimming, and folding to do. But I have confidence in you. Take your time. You have a week. You can do this. 

Next time, we'll trim the sides of our individual pattern pieces so that the excess fabric is trimmed down to just a 1/4 seam allowance. And then we'll stitch the 16 segments together. In the meantime, if you have questions please feel free to leave me a note in the comments. I look at my mail several times every day.

Good luck!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Free Pattern--Christmas Tree Skirt, Part 1

We are barely into the month of October, but I am already finding Christmas decorations at Costco, Wal-Mart and the big box stores. That seems a bit premature.

However, if you are making your own decorations, time's a-wasting. 

The photo above is NOT something I made. I found it on Pinterest about a year ago. There was no pattern, no link to instructions, no "you can purchase it on Etsy". Nothing. Dead end. I have searched everywhere, and come up empty-handed. Well, there's no "quit" in this girl. I decided that if I couldn't find the pattern, I'd do it myself. And so, this blog post.

I haven't completed my version of the Christmas tree skirt, so you are going to be sitting in the passenger seat while we go on this unmapped journey together. Are you ready?

Materials and Equipment You Will Need:
  • light-weight interfacing 
  • pen
  • ruler
  • straight-edge ruler
  • rotary cutter
  • rotary cutter mat
  • scissors
  • straight pins
  • sewing machine
  • iron and ironing board
  • neutral color all-purpose sewing thread 
  • an assortment of fabric scraps (about 1/4 yard each of 8 colors)
  • 1/2 yard each of two background colors (I used dark navy and white)
  • 1 1/2 yards fabric for lining
Draw the Pattern
  1. The tree skirt is made up of 16 equal-sized wedges. Sewn together the 16 wedges make a full circle. Begin by using your straight edge and ruler to draw a line on your interfacing 16.5 inches long. Envision that this is the vertical portion of a letter "L".
  2. Next, draw the horizontal line that makes up the bottom portion of the "L". This line will be 7.5 inches (Illustration No. 1).
  3. Draw a horizontal line 1.25 inches long from the top and a second line 1.5 inches up from the bottom (Illustration No. 2)
  4. Join these two new line segments to create a solid geometric shape (Illustration No. 3)
  5. Draw a line from the upper right-hand corner to the left. The endpoint will be 0.25 inch from the upper left-hand corner (dotted line at top of Illustration No. 4).
  6. And finally, draw a line from the lower left corner to the top of the 1.5-inch line segment, lower right (dotted line at bottom of Illustration No. 4).
  7. Cut on the dotted lines. You now have the correct shape for your template. (YEA TEAM!!)
We Still Have a Ways to Go, But Getting Closer (Don't Give Up)
  1. Next, we'll draw the lines on the template that create the woven ribbon effect.
  2. Beginning on the left side of the wedge measure down 2 inches from the top and make a mark. Measure 3 inches down from that point and make another mark, and then 3 more, each spaced exactly 3 inches apart.
  3. On the right side measure down 4 inches from the top and make a mark. Measure 3 inches down from that point and make another mark, and then 3 more, each spaced exactly 3 inches apart (Illustration No. 5).
  4. You're now going to connect the dots, from left to right and right to left. Look at Illustration No. 6
  5. You now have a zig-zag line that forms a series of triangles. The final step in completing this pattern is bisecting each of those triangles. See Illustration No. 7 for this final step (see the dotted lines).

Now that you have one pattern complete, guess what? You need to trace it 15 times. Use a dark pen so that you will be able to see the lines from the front and the back. That will take a while, so let's break for today. Check back next week and I'll show you how to

  • Determine which fabrics to use, and where
  • Pre-cut your fabric for easy assembly
  • Use stitch-and-flip to construct 16 wedges on which all of the intersecting lines and seams will match up PERFECTLY. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Fifty Eight Crosses in Las Vegas

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; 
my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief.
Psalm 31:9