Sunday, February 6, 2011

The sewing machine is not to be feared.

Greg and I bought a camper the summer after we were married. It's not a fancy thing, but it's not a hell hole, either. We've used it several times, mostly at the pond in the woods at the farm, but we've taken her out in public, too. Here's a picture:

Shortly after we bought the camper, I decided that it could be cheaply and easily spruced up by adding some curtains. I could buy the fabric, sit down at the sewing machine, and voila! So, I measured the windows and picked out some fabric. Then, I remembered: I'm afraid to sew.

Well, maybe "afraid" is a strong word. Generally speaking, I don't like to do things I'm not good at, and sewing fits into that category. It all started when I was nine years old. Years, from now, when I'm in therapy, I'll blame 4-H. You see, my mom is a fantastic seamstress. So wonderful, she makes it look easy. I signed up for my first 4-H sewing project, and I was confident that I would quickly mimic her abilities. I was wrong.

Year after year, I signed up for sewing projects, and I never quite got the knack of it. Those projects inflicted much trauma. I don't think it was so much that I couldn't sew; it was more that I didn't like the deadline or constraints of a project. The final straw, and the end of my 4-H sewing career, was when I was sewing buttons on pajamas as my mom drove me to judging. Then and there she declared, "You're not taking a sewing project next year."

Fast forward nearly 10 years, and the fabric for my curtains that I bought a year and half ago, was still sitting untouched. I knew I had to do something. Since Greg and I do not have our own sewing machine, he brought home his mom's one day. (To add to my emotional complex, Greg can sew. He's not going to win any blue ribbons, but he sews more than I do, patching his chore clothes and such.) It sat on the dining room table taunting me for weeks. Finally, this week when we had a snow day, I decided I was going to do it.

I started timidly at first, but I gained power with each stitch. I realized that I am what I call a functional seamstress. My creations might not win awards, but they get the job done. I actually had quite a bit of fun, and it was even a bit relaxing. With each curtain that I sewed, more and more of my mom's lessons came back.

So I how did I do? Here are before and after pictures of our camper's kitchen window. The curtains definitely jazz the place up. I was so inspired by the project that we've decided to buy a sewing machine. I might get the hang of it yet.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Days

Snow days don't have quite the same appeal as a teacher as they did as a student, or at least as an ag teacher with 50 things to get done this week! Having an inservice Monday and twosnowdays has thrown a wrench in the schedule, but alas, I am enjoying being home and getting lots of projects done around the house. Look for a future blog on my adventures with the sewing machine. Today, though, I want to share with you some goodies I whipped up in the kitchen.

I love cooking and baking. I don't take nearly enough time to do, and I'm never quite as adventurous as I should be, but nonetheless, I like spending time in the kitchen. I can't say enough good things about Pampered Chef products and how easy they make my life. Today's recipe was a Pampered Chef creation, as a matter of fact, and I used tons of their products to make it. If you're not using P.C., check it out!

Mini Carrot Cake Cups
  • 1 pkg (9 oz) yellow cake mix
  • 1 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled, divided
  • 6 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup thawed frozen whipped topping
  • Chopped walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray each well of a mini muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.
For cups, combine cake mix, allspice, egg, and oil. Stir until ingredients are moistened. (Mixture will be thick.) Grate carrots and stir 3/4 of a cup into the batter; set aside remaining carrots for garnish. Divide batter evenly among wells, filling about 2/3 full. Bake 11-13 minutes or until the cups feel firm to the touch.

Meanwhile, whisk together cream cheese and sugar until smooth; fold in whipped topping. Spoon cream cheese mixture into a resealable plastic bag; secure bag and set aside.

Remove pan from oven and set on cooling rack. Press tops of cups with a ligh
tly floured mini-tart shaper to make slight indentations. Cool in pan 3 minutes. Carefully remove cups from pan; cool 5 minutes. Trim corner of cream cheese-filled bag; pipe filling evenly into cups. Garnish with chopped walnuts and reserved grated carrots, if desired.

My notes:
  • Most cake mix packages are 18.5 oz. I used the full package and doubled all of the other ingredients.
  • Pampered Chef has awesome Cinnamon Crunch Sprinkle. I substituted that for the allspice.
  • Usually when I make carrot cake, I use my food processor to grate the carrots. This time I cheated and bought pre-grated carrots for the first time. They were big. The next time, I'll go back to using the food processor.
Here's the process:
Ingredients mixed. Note that the mixture will be thick.

I may have over-filled the mini-muffin pan. Try to stick to the 2/3 full that the recipe suggests.

Using the mini-tart shaper to make indentations. If you don't have a tart shaper, a spoon would also work.

Finished product, garnished with walnuts.