Monday, June 30, 2014

Modern Hexies

I made some pretty little hexies!

Aren't they so saturated and lovely? I was so inspired by my Botanics coordinating Kona bundle that I needed to cut into it. My copy of Savor Each Stitch doesn't come for another week, so I decided to make something small to showcase the colors.

A wall hanging it is! I saw this lovely go by a few weeks ago and wanted to make it so badly. Luckily, she posted this tutorial, and talked me into it on Instagram. She is so nice!

Turns out, you should probably mark your grid before you attach your hexies. Oops, lesson learned. I still like the result though!

This is where I stopped last night. Hopefully I can get it bound and on the wall this week! I am soooo excited for some relaxing and sewing over the long weekend.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Facing East Quilt Along

I have a new designer obsession. Carolyn Friedlander. She's basically amazing. If you have never seen her stuff, she is the designer behind Architextures and Botanics. I have actually been obsessed with her work since Architextures was released. It is just sooo original! And now, she is releasing an awesome book called Savor Each Stitch!

I got to peak at the book, and this quilt stole my breath. It is called Facing East. I knew right away that I needed to make it and had a couple friends jump on board with me. Then Carolyn decided she was going to quilt along with us, and we decided to make it a little more formal!

This will not be your typical formal quilt along though. A large part of the participation will be on instagram using #facingeastqal. Stephanie and I will do posts about the different techniques used in the quilt, but giveaways and prizes will be chosen from the #facingeastqal hashtag. If you have never used instagram, I promise, it is really easy and fun!

I am using the Botanics Kona Coordinates for my quilt. They are here, but I am still waiting on my copy of Savor Each Stitch. It releases July 2. Hurry hurry hurry book!!!!!!!

And, if you want to go ahead and buy your fabric while you wait on your book, Carolyn so graciously provided us with this materials list.

I can't wait to get started! Hope you join us!

Friday, June 27, 2014

OAMM: Month 2

I have had so many people asking me how my OAMM (Once A Month Meals) adventure is going on Instagram, I thought I would start giving monthly status updates here. That way I can give a ton of detail, and not bombard the feeds of people who don't care.

First up, last month. Here is what I made:
- Beef Stir Fry with Snap Peas - awesome
- Blackened Tilapia Fish Tacos - would have been good, but I bought a REALLY low grade fish. Mistake 1.
- BLT Pasta - our favorite recipe so far. I did not add all of the chicken broth though because I like a thicker sauce.
- Crockpot hawaiian chicken - good, very summery
- Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken - great! I ate mine in salads
- Honey Balsamic Garlic Chicken - awesome
- Lemon Caper Tilapia Packets - good, but again, the fish I bought ruined them for us.
- Lemon Chicken Asparagus Pasta - We actually haven't eaten it yet!
- Paleo Stuffed Portabello Mushrooms - We did not like this at all. This was the one we considered a fail.
- Paleo Swedish Meatballs and Gravy - Great, but I think I would leave out the celery salt. I also added heavy cream to the gravy.
- Skillet Spaghetti Pie - this one had great flavor, but I think they called for a dish that was way too big. By the time it was heated through, it was dry. Next time, I will use a smaller dish.
- Smokey Monterrey Jack Burgers - Great

Ok, so if you wanted to know what we ate and how we liked it, there you go! As far as how everything held up in the freezer, I was surprised at how successful it all was. Even the pasta defrosted great. The only one that was 'weird' was my gravy for the meatballs. The cornstarch was not thrilled to mix in the second time around. It was still delicious though.

Lemon Caper Tilapia

The other thing that isn't super clear until you start doing it, is that you don't prepare an entire meal and then freeze it. More often than not, you are prepping the main portion of the dish. After you defrost it, it generally takes less than 10 minutes to cook, during which you can also prepare a veggie and a starch. Not every meal is like that. Some are casseroles or entire dishes, but you are not creating homemade versions of lean cuisine. You still serve a fresh, not soggy, not obviously reheated dinner (or breakfast/lunch) to your family. 

My number one TIP would be regarding thawing. Either I have a cold fridge, or the thaw sheet isn't 100% accurate. I would absolutely suggest taking the meal you want to eat from the freezer to the fridge the night before rather than the morning of. Basically, try to give it a full 24 hours in the fridge, not 12.

Cilantro Lime Chicken in a Salad

Best Feature? The labels. Anyone in your family can take a meal out of the freezer and know exactly how to prepare it. It can even be a great way to get kids involved in the cooking if you trust them. Haha. 

My other suggestions would be to read the first timer tips they send out via email and actually follow them. They are so right. I ignored almost all of them and did not have a pen at the grocery store, did not prep ahead of time, did not wear comfy shoes, and somehow forgot to eat breakfast and lunch. If you do the opposite of everything I did, you will be golden.

How did I like it, one month later? I loved it. I absolutely loved it. And I am not just saying that. It removed SO MUCH 'what are we going to eat tonight' stress from my life. It was the equivalent of having a chef. I basically came home to a meal that took minimal time and effort to create, but was still delicious. Often, it was something we otherwise would not have eaten because I could not fit the prep or planning into my schedule. This has truly changed my life. I love to cook, I just don't have the time. This allows me to still eat wonderful homemade stuff, without having to kill myself doing it.

Paleo Swedish Meatballs
So maybe I am not cut out for food glamor shots. Haha. Here is a look at next month's menu!

- Crunchy Chicken Strips
- Summer Chicken Salad
- Asian Meatballs
- Bacon Cheeseburger Sliders
- Balsamic Honey Pulled Pork Sliders
- BBQ Baked Chicken Thighs
- Best Burger Ever with Secret Sauce
- BLT Pasta
- Ginger Soy Salmon
- Grilled Beef Teryaki
- Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken
- Maple Mustard Glazed Chicken
- Paleo Pulled Pork
- Ranch Cheddar Burgers
- Spicy Garlic Lime Chicken

So that's it! Let me know if you have any questions. If you decide to sign up, please click through from here! I get a little something for referring you! If not, be back tomorrow because I have a new quilt along to tell you about!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Twinkle Twinkle

I made a baby quilt! I haven't had time to actually complete very much, so this was pretty exciting. This is the first pattern in the Quick-Sew Baby Quilt Club! Hello there Twinkle Twinkle.

It is super speedy and can be completed in just a few hours. If you missed sign ups before this pattern was released, you can still sign up and you will receive Twinkle Twinkle right away. The second pattern will be released on July 15th!

Now I am going to piece all the blocks of my Ikat quilt! Yes, all the blocks are done!!!!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Once a Month Cooking

I have been busy lately. Exhaustingly busy. Obviously, since I haven't been blogging. I melted down a little (a lot) the other day, and realized I had to change something because I was just stretched way too thin. Luckily, at that exact time, my friend Cori was talking about her adventures with Once A Month Meals. No shit. Once a month cooking. I HATE cooking when I get home from work. I love to cook in general, but not after work. I can do breakfast and lunch, but I am too tired to care by dinner.

I tossed around the idea of freezer cooking, tried out the website. I got really frustrated. (I convinced myself I didn't like the recipes and the website was 'too hard'). I went back to the website on a calmer day, and then after a little patience, figured it out (it's not hard, I was in meltdown mode). It was the perfect solution. At first, I didn't like the prepared menus. They have traditional, whole foods, paleo, diet, vegetarian, baby, gluten free/dairy free, and mini menus, but no complete menu spoke to me. Once I figured out how to customize a menu to fit my tastes though, I was hooked.

The website auto populates shopping lists, prep instructions, cooking day instructions, labels, thaw instructions, storage instructions...basically everything. After my shopping day, I figured out that I spent only about 40% of what I usually spend on groceries in a month. Yes. I cut my bill by 60%!!! For an entire month of dinners!!!! (breakfast for me is yogurt and lunch is leftovers) And did I mention there was no effort involved on my part?

Now that I was invested, I had to see it through. Cooking day arrived. It was time for effort. With 12 hours of cooking ahead of me, I told myself it was worth it. This is my clean kitchen.

This is my '12 hours of cooking say what??' face

I put all my instructions up on the fridge so they were out of the way and got started.

My first 7 recipes were easy. They were 'no cook' which basically means I make a delicious marinade and/or cut up all of the veggies that go in the dish (if you are smart you cut everything the night before like they tell you to), throw it all in a bag, and throw it in the freezer. 3.5 hours and 7 meals down. Boom.

Are these labels not perfect? Even Adham, having not be in on the planning, can pull any meal out of the freezer and know exactly how to prepare it. The website generates these babies. Genius.

This is my freezer with meals 1-3 in it. I was worried about space since we just have a small fridge/freezer in the apartment.

These are gorgeous Tilapia packets. Pull them out of the freezer, instant gourmet dinner, no work for Megan. Yes please.

Freezer getting more and more full.

So my last 5 meals all involved some cooking. My remaining hours were quickly consumed. Above is the sauce for my BLT pasta (which I ate tonight. so good!). I also had to make stuffed mushrooms, meatballs, a lemon asparagus pasta, and a spaghetti bake. Sounds easy, but it was kinda involved. Particularly the mushrooms. They were rough. I think if I hadn't had them on my menu, I could have been done in 9 hours. O well. 

This is what my kitchen was looking like right about when my feet were about to blow off my body, and I realized I hadn't eaten breakfast or lunch. Poor choice. I quickly went out for Chick Fil A, took a 20 minute power nap, and was back at it.

Each thing I put in the freezer made me feel so accomplished. I don't really have words as to why. I just knew I was setting us up to eat well I guess, and that I wouldn't be resorting to spaghetti, tacos, and greek chicken because I was tired.

This was my first 'maybe I should have used a bigger pan' of the day. Had to capture it. Haha.

And then at 7:00 PM (11 hours into my cooking day), I was done. And I had an ENTIRE month of meals prepared. And they all fit in my freezer. And I was so pleased with myself, so proud. I felt like I could do anything.

I had made quite the mess, but I didn't care. Adham brought home a movie, and I finished just in time to sit down with my ice cream and crash. An exhausting, exhilarating, productive day.

After the first week of eating out of my freezer, I can tell you that it has been amazing. I have all this time that I don't even really know what to do with. I can relax (what is that?). And I am not eating the same old gross, boring, easy to make when I am tired food. Once A Month Meals has done me such a favor, I cannot begin to thank them enough. My mom has even jumped on the train. She will be having her first cook day tomorrow!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Quick-Sew Baby Quilt Club

I am so excited to announce the Quick-Sew Baby Quilt Club! I have been working hard to get everything ready for the past couple months, and the day is finally here!

What is it?
The Quick-Sew Baby Quilt Club is a series of 6 patterns delivered to you monthly via email that are tailored to be easy baby quilts that you can whip out in an afternoon. I have so many friends having babies that I just don't have time to make each one a time consuming quilt. I needed a solution, so I found myself designing these quick-sew quilts. By being quick-sew, they don't lose any of the beauty of a modern handmade quilt, the piecing and layout is just designed to be speedy.

Early sign up pricing from June 1- June 8 will be a one time price of $20.00. If you sign up after June 8, it will be a one time price of $25.00 (for 6 patterns!)

When Does it Start?
Patterns will be delivered on the 15th of each month, with the first one arriving on June 15.

What if I sign up After June 15?
If you sign up in late June, July, August, or even December, you will have any pattern that has already been released delivered to you on the day of sign up. Any patterns that have not been released will be sent on the 15th of each coming month.

Time Commitment?
No! :) This is not a club where you must sew-along. You are absolutely welcome to sew each quilt as they come out and share with us, but it is not a have to. This club is designed to provide you with patterns in your arsenal that allow you to whip out beautiful, handmade items without such a lofty time commitment whenever a need arises.

How do I sign up?
Click on the CityStitches Patterns Tab or click here!

Sneak Peaks?
Here are a few!

Naturally! Feel free to grab!

If you have any questions at all, feel free to shoot me an email! I hope you join us and that these patterns are able to help you make wonderful handmade gifts on a time crunch! Please share any quilts you make using the Quick-Sew Patterns in the CityStitches Flickr Group or on Instagram using #citystitchespatterns!