August 31, 2011

Banana, Chocolate-Chip, Pecan & Cinnamon Bread

The other day, I found 5 bananas on my counter... five very, very, very ripe bananas.  I knew I didn't buy them, but I immediatley made plans to dispose of them.  And what better way to dispose of over-the-hill bananas that in banana bread?? 

Oohhhhh, what a banana bread it was!!  As you (likely) already know, I don't follow recipes very closely, but this time, I just picked three coffee cake recipes I had (they all agreed on flour, salt, baking soda, vanilla, cinnamon, milk, and sugar).  I also added a box of banana cream pudding mix, 5 (mashed) bananas, approximately 1/4 cup chocolate chips, 1/4 cup pecans, and sprinkled brown sugar on the bottom of the greased pan.

This isn't my bread... borrowed
from Cherry Hill Cottage
An hour later, I had two golden-brown, warm, DELICIOUS loaves of banana, chocolate chip, pecan, cinnamon bread.  The best part is that you can use whatever coffee cake or streusel recipe you already have and toss in a few extras, and you're done! 

What additions do you make to your coffee cakes??

~ Sarah

August 30, 2011

Tribute to Pennsylvania

Where do you live?  What is it like?

Every place has its own uniqueness, its own beauty... but although I have seen a number of beautiful places, I’ve never found one I love so much as my home, especially now – when the summer is coming to a close, and Autumn (oh, lovely Autumn!) is nearly here. 

Jayson and I were off to the fair last week.  Our usual M.O. is to meet friends of ours on the last night of the fair for the Demolition Derby (yes, yes, ‘you know you’re a redneck if...’) Our friends couldn’t make it this year, but we went ourselves.  The fair was alright, but the ride was divine!  It was a perfect late-summer afternoon.
As Jayson curved, climbed and crawled through the charming countryside that is our home, I rolled down the windows, closed my eyes, and let my hand and hair be carried in the breeze.  We passed through glorious, rolling mountains, petite farm houses and beautiful, dainty gardens.  The signs of Autumn are beginning to peek out from behind summer... a colorful leaf here, a wild tree speckled with blushing apples there, a cool breeze feathering through the tall grasses.

We drove in comfortable, companionable silence, enjoying our journey.  Then, the car slowed, and I heard a turn signal as we prepared to turn onto the interstate.  I felt my heart sadden.  “Is there no back road we can take?”

A half-smile from his lips and a twinkle in his eye... yes, there were back roads, and we would travel them today.

I love Pennsylvania.

~ Sarah

August 29, 2011

Lone Star Quilt - Fail

I seem to have come down with some sort of quilting bug.  It's kept me bent over my sewing maching for the last couple of weeks.  As with all viruses, some people are more prone to catching this than others.  If you tend to catch creative infections (or have experienced quilting bug symptoms in the past) you may wish to steer clear of me for a while, as it is highly contagious.  Naturally, I suggested that Jayson quarantine me, as this will limit the scope of the infection to my living room, but he seems convinced that exposure to sunlight and the real world will help to reduce the symptoms more quickly.  We will, of course, keep you apprised if there are any changes in my condition.  : )

I visited the fair last week.  We saw the sheep, the tractors, the bunnies, the horses... and then, we stopped in the quilting house.  After making his third round of the building and returning to find me still inspecting the stitches on the first quilt, Jayson agreed to leave me there, enraptured, and come back a while later.  I spent the better part of an hour carefully studying the quilts and trying to remember each detail that I would like to try, myself. 

My poor log cabin quilt from a few weeks ago... it's sitting patiently now.  Why?  Because I wanted (no, needed) to start this new quilt before I forgot it. 

I could've drawn a diagram, planned it, etc., but I rarely do that.  So I just started cutting and sewing, and this was one of the few times I horribly regretted it.  I've actually made the top twice, because the first attempt was such a disaster that I had to start over (and it was only Jayson coming to my rescue that helped me figure it out the second time!)

After that, I wised up and drew this...

Generally speaking, Lone Star quilts are made up only of 'diamond' shapes, starting with a darker color in the center and lighter on the end.  This much I DID know: you need to cut strips of the fabrics, sew the strips together in order, and then cut them on a 45 degree angle together.

So, that part was right.  And that was all that was right. 

I didn't realize that each point of the star makes one large diamond-shaped piece, which is what you put together first (if I had a diagram, that would've been obvious, of course.)  I started sewing at the place where the large diamonds should meet, and worked my way out. 


Looking at this picture now, I can see that it obviously wouldn't work.  But believe it or not, I actually sewed on several more strips before I became completely puzzled as to what the problem could be.  When I finally realized my enormous mistake, I had the choice of ripping a thousand seams, or starting over.  So I started over.   lol

Pics to follow as I encounter more success than I have so far (hopefully!)  : )

~ Sarah

August 24, 2011

The NEPA Tremor of 2011

So, did you hear there was an earthquake yesterday?

If you lived on the east coast, you almost certainly heard, and may have even felt it.  Or you feel left out that you didn't.  lol 

I have some creative friends who wrote creative statuses (stati?) about the earthquake.  If you're my FB friend, you probably already read these, but I'm sharing them again, anyway.  ;)

{Please note -- I am not making light of the earthquake itself -- I know that there were injuries and damage close to the epicenter, and I wouldn't want anyone to think I don't consider that to be serious.  But where I live, the shockwave we felt was little more than a tremor, and it was enormous news.  I am enjoying what people had to say about it; that is all.}

  • "Is it strange to consult Fb for an earthquake update prior to turning on CNN?"
  • "Perfect time to {be} down in the coal mine tour...During an earthquate...Really???  Just my luck!"
  • "Don't worry guys, apparently a bunch of people in China just jumped at the same time."
  • "Things I've learned today: Earthquakes are scary, Scranton will panic even if it's not near the epicenter; Goucher's emergency notification system does not consider earthquakes to be an emergency."
And, my personal favorite:
  • "A large truck rolled by at the same time the house started to shake.  You can have your earthquake theory, but Optimus Prime just shook my house."
And finally, a photograph posted by another friend depicting the local earthquake destruction:

Hope you chuckled, like I did.  :)

~ Sarah

August 23, 2011

Brownie S'Mores

Happy Tuesday! 

There's nothing particularly special about the end of August, is there?  Unless you have a family member with an August birthday, there are no celebrated holidays.  Back-to-school sales, for sure, but that brings with it the sadness that summer is over.

Not for me.  :)  Our August has been a tad chilly the past several days, at least in the morning and evening, which is bringing with it the sense that the summer is about to change.  I always force myself not to look ahead to the next season, enjoying each in its turn, but around this time of year, I feel an excitement building up in me that I have no control over, an excitement that constantly reminds me of one thing... Autumn is coming.  I spend more time outside during Autumn than any other time of year (yes, even summer).  There are apples to pick, pumpkin patches to visit, hayrides to enjoy, fires to warm up next to, hot cider to drink, corn mazes to get lost in... and all while wearing snug, brightly-colored sweaters.  It's delightful!

Thanks to this Autumn-anticipation, I have a sudden urge to be outside.  So I dragged my husband to the Drive-In the other night, and I threw together this little snack for us to enjoy while we were there.  I have to admit -- part of the reason I made something so sweet was to increase Jayson's chances of staying awake through an entire movie (something that is always a miracle).  It didn't exactly work... but we still enjoyed it.  : )

What you will need:
  1. Brownie Mix, and ingredients listed on the box
  2. Marshmallows (I used micro-mini marshmallows)
  3. Semi-sweet or milk chocolate morsels
  4. Graham Crackers
  5. Pecans (optional)
First, pre-heat your oven and mix your brownies as directed on the box.  Add chocolate chips, some marshmallows (saving most for the top!) and pecans.

Crumble your graham crackers (I used 4) and spread on the bottom of your greased pan.  Pour your brownie mix over top.

Bake as directed.  When your brownies are nearly done, spread the rest of your marshmallows around the top, and bake until they're slightly toasted. 

Serve hot, with a tall glass of milk (or a thermos, in our case.)

Sugar shock?  You bet!  Delish?  Absolutely!  : )

~ Sarah

August 18, 2011

Log Cabin Quilt (Sneak Peak #2)

Alright, fair warning... when I start quilting, weird things start happening.  I forget other things, like cooking, cleaning, sleeping, eating... I enter a whole new world.  I even dream of a humming sewing machine (when I actually go to bed.)  It is, admittedly, a full-blown obsession (which is why I go long periods of time without quilting!)

That being said, I've made a few more squares for my log cabin quilt, and I think I've finally settled on a design.  What do you think?

Now, that's a queen-sized bed, so I think "lap quilt" will be a little under-stated.  But that's alright... it will be a lap quilt for two.  ;-)

~ Sarah

August 16, 2011

Log Cabin Quilt (Sneak Peak)

Hey there!

As stated yesterday, I've been caught up working on a new quilt.  It's been forever since I've quilted (at least it seems that way), and it feels so wonderful to have fabric in my hands again.

I love quilts that let me delve into my basket of scraps.  I have many, most of them from other quilts or projects.  I like keeping them in this basket so I can periodically look at them affectionately.  {Yes, I feel affectionate about my fabric.  Don't you?}

For my newest quilt, I chose fabrics that are more-or-less in the browns/greens/maroons/beige color wheel, with a few different ones, and cut them into 2" strips.

Some of my finished squares...

There's no rhyme or reason.  I use whatever pattern stands up,
waves its hand at me and says, "hey, hey!" at that moment.

So far, I've finished 17 squares, and I played around last night with the design a little bit.  I love log cabin quilts because you can make many different designs just by turning the squares one way or the other.  This is the most common, with the light and dark sections appearing as diagonal lines.

Jayson calls this the "Zig-Zag."

But I liked this one, as well:

Jayson calls this the "What Exactly is It?"

Anyways... I haven't decided how exactly I want to position them, but it doesn't really matter.  I'll keep sewing until I run out of scraps, and make the coolest design possible from the squares I happen to finish.  :)

~ Sarah

August 15, 2011

Iron Chef Camper - Whipped Cream

Wow... another whole week without a word from me.  This is becoming a rather bad habit.  Alas, when I have no immediate and impending projects, I find one to become lost in.  (Lately, it's been a log cabin quilt... yes, I'll share when I'm done.) 

It's been a week since we did ICC, and I've been putting off posting about it because I'm a little ashamed.  See, my phone died the very first day, and rather than charge it in the car (which would have been the actions of a responsible blogger), I tossed it in the tent and said with a shrug, "Oh, well." 

As delicious as all the food was, it would be rather tiresome to just tell you what everything was called and not show you pictures.  But rest assured, from the first salad with marinated beef, bleu cheese and vinagrette dressing, to the applesauce and gingerbread cobbler, to the stuffed French toast, to the hot crab dip in a bread bowl, to the homemade strawberry shortcake with hand-whipped cream... let me just tell you... it was fabulous!!!!!!!!

Today, I'll share the hand-whipped cream for the strawberry shortcake.  (The rest of the recipe is pretty simple -- I made shortbreads with bisquick, sugar, salt, and milk and covered with a strawberry/sugar glaze). 

What you will need:
  1. 1 container of heavy cream
  2. powdered sugar
  3. vanilla
Empty your heavy cream container into a bowl, and wisk until it's very thick.  Depending on how vigorous of a whipper you are, this could take 5-10 minutes.   Once it is a satisfactory consistency, add 1/4 cup powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla an mix.

Dollop on top of strawberry shortcake.

It's amazing, better than any whipped cream you will ever find in the store (and, let's face it... there's no food like the food eaten with friends around a fire in the pouring rain.)  ;)

Crab dip in a bread bowl later this week (hopefully.)

~  Sarah

August 9, 2011

Dear Photograph,

Hey, Readers!
I had a FANTASTIC weekend with my husband and dear friends!  I plan to share all about our Iron Chef Camper recipes, but I'm not quite ready to do so yet.  (*sheepish smile*)

In the meantime, I thought I'd share a site that I stumbled on this morning.  It's pretty awesome; check it out: Dear Photograph.

~ Sarah

August 5, 2011

Iron Chef Camper

A dutch oven
Well, the weekend for Iron Chef Camper is almost here!  Only 7 1/2 more hours chained to my desk before I can break free and eat like a pig for three days.

I intend to share photographs of our awesome meals with you, but for now, how about a little guessing game?  Jayson and I did a lot of research, and came up with some pretty kick-butt recipes.  Here are some of the ingredients...can you guess what we're making??  (Remember, there are two meals, two side dishes, one appetizer, and one dessert.)  Guess big, because we researched big. 
  1. Strawberries
  2. Bisquick
  3. Cream cheese
  4. Crab meat
  5. Worcestershire sauce (<--- is that even close??)
  6. Potatoes
  7. Mayonnaise
  8. Dill Relish
  9. Ketchup
  10. more onion
  11. Vinegar
  12. Hash browns
  13. Eggs
  14. Potatoes
Okay, that's enough.  I can't give too much away... I know at least one of my worthy opponents reads my blog faithfully.  ;)

So, what are your guesses??

~ Sarah

August 3, 2011

Delightful Little Breakfast

I love summertime.  I love enjoying time with close friends, sitting out on the deck, eating delicious food... and if they can all be done at once?  Well, there's no better life than that.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband learned that one of his good friends was taking an overnight kayaking trip by himself, and decided to crash the party.  He showed up at his friend's campsite in the middle of the night.  lol   And, since his lovely wife (who happens to be one of my besties!) was forced to go out of her way to drop my husband off at home the next morning, I made a surprise breakfast for the four of us on the deck.  I felt it was the least I could do.  : )

And, of course, why would you serve breakfast when, with a tad more effort, you can serve breakfast with styyyyyyyyle?

Fruit, juice, fresh coffee, and that on the left is Christmas Morning Casserole

And, of course, our little Remi, happy to help with any messes.

How do YOU serve breakfast with style?

~ Sarah

August 2, 2011

A Room of One's Own

According to Virginia Woolf, a woman must have a room of her own if she is to write (or, in Sarah's version, to create!)

I have a wonderful opportunity ahead of me.  My husband has decided to give me the garage for my studio... the concrete, cold, smelly, humid, unfinished garage. 

I know what you would assume I'm thinking: "Gee, hunny, thanks.  You really shouldn't have."  But don't, for he is giving me much, much more.  He plans to finish the garage.  He'll start by moving his things - motorcycle, 4-wheeler, spare parts, tools and ladders, and then he'll insulate, drywall, spackle, paint, furnish, and otherwise turn a dirty, grungy place into a whole new world. 

So he is giving me the transformed garage for my new studio. 

Be still, my heart!!!!!

Once I recovered from the shock of this announcement, I set out looking for inspiration.  I thought I'd share some.  :)

The first five are images that came up through google (search words: "amazing craft rooms").  Honestly, I'm not sure of the sources {Help, anyone?}  The last three are from Alicia Paulson's studio (her blog is Posie Gets Cozy.)  She is my hero, and I would live in her craft room, if she would let me. 

What I've noticed is that I tend to be drawn towards bright, colorful, organized spaces that don't overpower me.  I certainly have enough stuff to fill my garage, but hopefully, with my brilliant husband's organizing and my inspirations, it won't be such an overwhelming task. 

So, what do you think??  Any suggestions??

~ Sarah

August 1, 2011

The Cake Decorating Party

Blogcation (blog-KAY-shun): noun.  An absense from blogging on the part of the blogger, sometimes planned, sometimes unplanned.  This one was unplanned.  I'm sorry I've been neglecting you lovely Readers, but you'll see why today. 

On Saturday, I planned and executed a birthday party for a lovely 12-year-old girl.  She actually had attended the Pink and Green birthday party last month, and booked her party the very next day.  While pink and green are her very favorite colors, she decided that she also wanted her theme to be cake decorating.  So I went to town!!

She had a relatively small group coming - only 10-12 girls - so I thought I could make it a little more special and intimate.  Instead of little cupcakes, I made each girl a 4" funfetti cake (using a spring form pan from AC Moore).  And just look at what I placed them on...

These glass cake pedestals were the creation of the lovely and talented Strawberry Chic designer.  Her original post can be seen here.  All you need are glass candle holders and plates from the dollar store, and clear Gorilla glue (I purchased mine at AC Moore for $3.99).  Then I placed a 6" doily on each pedestal.
Suggestion:  make these outside.  My house smelled like the glue for days.

I placed pink and green icing in decorator bags.  (Note that I didn't bother using tips.)  I merely cut different designs into the bottom of the bags, and they passed around the shapes they wanted.  Also, I stuck with two icing colors (as well as a basic white that they initially frosted with) and pastel non pareils.  I also used lovely little flowers that my wonderful friend Katie Scoda made for me.

And, they went to town!


I love how unique all their little cakes turned out to be. 

Once they were finished, I had them each decorate a box to take home.  While they ran off to enjoy water balloon fights, I tied a red and white string around each box (so it looked like it came from a bakery).  It was such a delightful, fun activity.  And the birthday girl loved it, which is by far the most important.  :)

Also, I'll talk about those aprons (yes, I made them) another day.  :)

~ Sarah