Tokyo Tie Bag

An acquaintance came into the store the other day with the loveliest little purse. It was a simple design and when I commented on it, she said she bought it in a little arts market in New York City, but a friend of hers had scanned a pattern for something similar.

She forwarded me the pattern and it was for a Tokyo Tie Bag. Here was my first attempt:

If you do a Google search for this, you will find several patterns that resemble the one I made. I recommend this pattern from Darling Petunia's Blog. Her pattern looks like the one I made, but the dimensions are slightly different.

Besides cutting the fabric, it only took about 30 minutes to construct. It's really worth trying.

After whipping out my first one, I decided to tweak the pattern a little. I wanted my next one to have a flat bottom, but to also have a sort of kimono look to it. I was hoping the crossover of the fabric would create a little pocket, but it turned out too floppy so I had to sew it shut. I like how it turned out decoratively, though.

I'm going to have to make a ton of these. I think for my next one I'll make the straps longer. My friend Robert suggested making large versions out of T-shirts, so I'm going to give that some thought. It also dawned on me that thrift store pillowcases could be put to good use with this pattern.


Goofing Around...

Hubby Craft 2

My mother-in-law gave us an antique kitchen scale last week.

My plan was to simply spray paint it a different color. But then I lost motivation. My husband picked up that motivation and went all the way. He got a wire brush that attaches to his power drill and sanded off most of the paint. Then he took acetone to it to get off any remaining paint. Then he spray painted it.

In other words, he did a much better job than I ever would have.

Way to go, Stephen!


Chicken and Asparagus Crêpes

As I've said before, nothing beats a $5 Costco rotisserie chicken. And what to do with the leftovers? Why, make savory crêpes! In this month's Food Network Magazine, they had a recipe for chicken and asparagus crêpes. They call for store bought crêpes, but why buy them if you have the time to make them? The following is the Joy of Cooking's recipe for crêpes. I made them in the blender and refrigerated the batter for about a half an hour before making.

Makes about 12 crêpes

1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup lukewarm water
4 large eggs
1/2 stick of butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt

To make crêpes, heat a 9- or 10-inch frying pan with rounded edges over medium-high heat. When it's heated, rub a stick of butter all around the pan. Then take a paper towel and rub the butter all around the pan. Next, add about 1/3 cup of the batter to the center of the pan while rotating the pan round and round to evenly distribute the batter. It's ok if the batter goes up the sides of the pan. The crêpe will begin to brown around the edges and separate from the pan. When it does so (it always takes a little longer with the first one) use a rubber spatula to separate the edge of the crêpe all the way around.
My favorite way to flip a crêpe is to shake the pan vigorously to loosen it and then using momentum, flip it without using a spatula. Here's a photo of my doing this a few months ago:

Then cook the other side of the crêpe for about 30 seconds or so.

As far as the Food Network recipe goes, I changed it slightly. For the fresh herbs, my dad brought over some of his homegrown.

I ended up using parsley, thyme and oregano. I also only used 1/2 cup of parmesan in the filling and didn't top the the dish with the remaining cheese. Instead of ricotta, I used cottage cheese. We just can't get good ricotta up here.


Thrift Finds 3

I flew up to Fairbanks last weekend to visit with my mother-in-law before she moves out of state. While up there, I had to check out the consignment shops. In addition to some $15 Lucky jeans that fit me miraculously well, I picked up this unusual jacket.

I love the color and I think I can pair it with most of my blouses and several pants. It went really well with my Forever 21 ruffle top.

Price? Four dollars.

Oh yeah. I love thriftin'

My Quilt Finally Has a Home

When I graduated high school, my mom made me a quilt. Not just any patchwork, scrap quilt, but an intricate, well-planned one. Each basket square was given to a close friend, family member, or person who impacted my life. Each was given a fabric pen and instructed to write something on the square and give it back to my mom. These squares traveled as far as England. After the top was pieced, she stitched flowers and grapes and leaves on every square inch of the quilt, save the border, where she stuffed letters to form the first phrase from Shakespeare's 18th sonnet -- "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate."

yeah. my mom's a badass.

She named the quilt, "The Secret Garden." From far away it can be admired, but only when you crawl across it with your nose nearly touching the fabric will you be able to see its true beauty. Each square has  different foliage -- oak leaves for the wisdom of my father, forget-me-nots for my high school boyfriend, evergreen boughs for my now passed-away grandmother. Nothing was overlooked in this masterpiece.

As a young adult I was worried about using the quilt for fear of ruining it. Also, I never had a good bed for it. This quilt needs a regal bed -- and I don't just mean a queen size. It needs to be displayed with care and reverence.

Fast forward 10 years. My husband's mom is moving out of state and she gave us an antique brass bed. Benetfinks & Comp. Made in Cheapside, London.

Thanks to both our mothers. Our guest room truly is fit for a queen.


Tips on Tulips

It was my mom's birthday on Wednesday so on my way to work I stopped by the grocery store to buy her flowers. I brought my own vase and instead of paying a lot of moolah for a pre-made bouquet, I was just going to make my own. Daffodils were only $2 a bunch and there were all sorts of different colored tulips. I decided on a simple arrangement of daffodils and purple tulips. When I went to pay for them, the young woman behind the counter told me that daffodils are toxic to other flowers, so if you mix them, the other flowers will die.
I was surprised that a grocery store clerk knew this. I had worked at this very same flower department when I was 14 and I knew very little. I just loved flowers.
So I took her advice and went for yellow and purple tulips.

She then provided me with some other useful tulip information that I felt like sharing:

  • Tulips grow even after you cut them, which is why the purple ones in the photo look taller than the yellow -- they must have grown faster
  • Tulips like pennies, so drop one in the vase not just for good luck
  • If a tulip is drooping, poke a pinhole just below the bloom and it should perk up

I gave this last advice to my mom upon floral delivery and she told me she tried it out and it totally worked. I guess a little air bubble gets stuck in the stem after it has been cut, so a little hole lets the air escape and get to the bloom.


I love my mama

My mama turned 60 this week. It's hard for me to fully understand this as she's got the spirit of a 20-year-old. She went salsa dancing twice this week and she always makes room for yoga and aerobics (she did, after all, found the aerobics association here in Anchorage in the mid-80s.) She plans on staring up pilates  soon too.

But that's not why I love my mother. She is an exceptional person. Always level-headed. Makes practical choices. She's an incredible quilter and sewer. She gives everything her best.

When I was a teenager, I didn't understand why other girls my age were mortified of being seen with their mothers. My mom was my best friend and my confidante. Sure, she was silly, but that never embarrassed me. I was proud to have such an awesome mom.

As a young woman, she didn't always make the best life choices, but it was those stories of her past that helped shape my future. Her wisdom helped me with some of my toughest decisions. She's the one who solidified my philosophy of life: There's no such thing as a mistake. There are choices you make in life and the best thing you can do is learn from those choices in order to live happily.

Her 60th birthday hasn't fazed her much at all. In fact, it's made her more motivated to live life to its fullest.

So happy birthday mama. I love you.



Homemade Saag Paneer

Saag Paneer, an Indian spinach dish with fresh cow cheese, is one of my favorite foreign dishes. It's creamy and spiceful (as opposed to spicy) and it's got my favorite food -- cheese!

My friend Mat loves to cook. Sometimes he lets me eat his delicious meals. Tonight we made this traditional Indian dish and it was fantastic. The cheese is surprisingly easy to make. I'll provide the recipe. I'll have to ask Mat to give me his recipe for the saag, but from what I watched him add, it seems pretty similar to this recipe by Tyler Florence, although Mat omitted butter and regretted it. :o( So below is a conglomeration of both paneer recipes.

Homemade Paneer 
Saag Paneer with Basmati Rice

Serves 4

Ingredients for the Paneer:
1 gallon of whole milk
3 Tbs. salt
juice of 1 lemon
up to 2 Tbs. white wine vinegar

For the Saag:
2 tbs. butter
2 packages of frozen chopped spinach
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1 cup cream
2 teaspoons garam masala, or curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
salt to taste
3 cups basmati rice

Pour all of the milk into a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add the salt. While the milk heats up, skim off any large amounts of foam (otherwise you won't be able to tell if it starts boiling). Meanwhile, thaw out the spinach and squeeze out some of the liquid. Set aside. Place a large piece of cheesecloth in a colander.

When the milk starts coming to a simmer, turn down the heat and add the lemon, stirring constantly. If it doesn't start to curdle in the next 30 seconds, add a swig of vinegar. Small curds should start developing rapidly. If the milk is still clear of curds, add another swig of vinegar. When you see lots of curds, it's time to drain the milk into the cheesecloth. Let the liquid filter out and loosely gather up the edges of the cheesecloth so none of the curds escape. Do not squeeze the curds or the cheesecloth will stick to it and you won't get as much cheese. Just let it rest for about 10 minutes. When it's slightly cool, place the cheesecloth between two rimmed baking sheets and place a couple of cans of soup on top to weigh it down. Just leave it there till you're ready to prepare the dish.

Prepare the rice according to the bag's directions.

For the saag, heat the butter in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add the onions and saute a couple of minutes, then add the ginger and garlic and cook till onions are translucent. Sprinkle in the garam masala and cinnamon and cook about one minute. Add the spinach and mix well. Cook for about 5 minutes then add the cream. Give it a good stir and transfer to a blender. Blend till blended. Ha!

Cube up the cheese and add it to the pan, browning slightly on all sides. Return the saag to the pan. Serve over basmati rice.


Summertime Mocktail

I hung out with my friend Ashley last night and helped her sew some curtains. She had had a small party the night before and needed me to clear away some left overs. No problem! In addition to halibut chowder and cheesy bread, I downed about five glasses of this deeeelightful concoction:

And here is her recipe for it:

1 bag of frozen strawberries
some lemon slices
2 cans lemon San Pellegrino
2 cups of Sprite
2 cups of lemonade

Check out Ashley's fun photos at her blog.


Funky Ruffle Skirt

I found this skirt pattern and really wanted to make it, but I was afraid Jo Anne's wouldn't have the ruffle fabric it calls for. I was wrong! They had in the discount section a bunch of crazy ruffle fabrics in all sorts of semi-hideous colors. Since this skirt was definitely an experiment, I just decided to go for it.

My machine despised sewing the elastic, but after two broken needles I was pretty satisfied. I made my skirt 20 inches long instead of 26. I'm short so that mid-calf length doesn't do much for me. I could totally go dancing in this skirt! Also, I'm pretty sure the original pattern uses a higher quality ruffle fabric, but this was the best I could do on short notice.

Also, thanks to my friend Ashley for being a great crafter host. I had a really fun time helping her with her new sewing machine. 

So long, winter!

Yesterday was crystal clear and bright and today's looking good too. Stephen and I busted out the horseshoes last night. He beat me, as usual, but I managed to get some ringers of my own.


Baby Beckham Set

I have recently reunited with a high school friend via Blogland and we've been having a good time exchanging ideas and knowledge. She's expecting a baby boy so I sent her a little hat and mitts set.

The pattern for the Stay-Put Mitts are from Sknitty.wordpress.com. I found it on Ravelry. They knitted up quickly and I really liked the twisted rib stitch on the cuff.

The pattern for the hat is as follows:

Worsted weight yarn, a skein of each color (you don't need a whole skein)
size 7 circular needle
size 7 double points
darning needle

Cast on 64 stitches in your main color (MC). Connect the last stitch to the first being sure not to twist your work. Place a stitch marker if you need to. Make a rib of k2, p2 for five rows. Knit 3 rounds of contrast color (CC), then 4 rounds of main color. Either cut the yarn each time you change colors (leaving a six-inch tail), or carry up the yarn when you need to use it. If you do this, don't pull too tightly when you bring in the next color or else it will make a gap in your work. *K 3 rounds CC, K 4 rounds MC* two more times. K 3 rounds CC and cut yarn leaving a six-inch tail. Knit 1 round MC and begin decreasing as follows:
*K2tog, k6*, repeat till end of round.
K 1 round
*K2tog, k5*, repeat till end of round.
K 1 round
*K2tog, k4*, repeat till end of round.
K 1 round. While doing this, transfer to the double points as you go so there are about 14 stitches on each needle (four in all).
*K2tog, k3*, repeat till end of round.
K 1 round
*K2tog, k2*, repeat till end of round.
K 1 round
*K2tog, k1*, repeat till end of round.
K 1 round
*K2tog*, repeat till end of round.
Cut yarn, leaving a long tail and with darning needle, run the yarn through the rest of the stitches and pull shut. Weave in all ends.


Lemon Fizz

It was our first really sunny day this month, so I thought I'd celebrate with this:


  • 1 shot glass of vodka
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ultra fine sugar or Splenda
  • club soda
  • ice
  • lemon slice, for garnish

Fill a highball glass with ice. Add vodka, lemon juice, sugar and top off with club soda. Stir, add lemon garnish and enjoy!


Thread and Scissor Rack -- A Tutorial

While my husband was busy at Lowe's buying tie rack supplies, I found a piece of pegboard for $5.50. An idea popped in my head -- a rack to hold my threads and scissors. So I had the hardware man cut a piece 2-ft.x1.5ft. I'm not woodworker, but with a few inexpensive supplies and a little elbow grease, I came up with this:

And here's how to make it:


  • 1 piece of peg board, cut to a size you prefer
  • 2 long wooden dowels, the thickness to fit snugly inside the holes in the peg board
  • 2 pieces of 1.5x.5-inch wood, the length of your peg board
  • 6 short screws
  • 2 big nails or a way to hang the board like a picture frame
  • spray paint
  • Metal hooks to fit in a pegboard (in the pegs section of Lowe's)


  • Piece of sandpaper, about 120 grit
  • A Saw
  • Drill
  • Wood glue
  • wet rag
  • Newspaper or big plastic bag
  • 2 pieces of scrap wood
  • pencil

Have your pegboard cut to your specifications. Mine is 1.5 ft x 2 ft. Lay out some newspaper in a ventilated area and rest the peg board on two pieces of scrap wood. Spray paint one layer onto the peg board. Let it dry and do one more coat.

Meanwhile, figure out how long you want your pegs to be. I took my longest spool of thread and added the thickness of the board plus a little sticking out the end -- about 3 inches? I didn't measure. I sawed off that length from a dowel and then with a pencil marked that length all the way down the dowel. Saw as many pegs as you see fit. I made 28. It's OK if they splinter a little bit on the edges.

Lay your sandpaper on a table, grit side up, and sand one end of each dowel so the edges and corners are all smooth. It doesn't have to look perfect -- no one is going to be inspecting them.

When the paint is dry, drill the 1.5x.5 pieces of wood to the top and bottom of your board, on the back. For each board, I drilled three screws from the front to the back through the holes in the peg board. Drill one on either end of the wood and one in the center. Here's a picture of the back of my peg board, since I'm absolutely terrible at describing this:

My screws were slightly too long, but that's because I didn't bother to buy screws for this project. I just found some lying around my garage. I'm not a perfectionist so I was fine with it.

Now place the pegs on the board and figure out how you would like the layout to be. I knew I wanted to hang scissors on one side and I wanted room at the bottom for a possible shelf in the future, so I arranged my pegs off-center.

One at a time, remove a peg, add a little wood glue to the rough end, add a little glue in the hole the peg is going into and insert the peg, feeling in the back for the end. Make sure the rough end is as flush as you can get it with the back of the peg board. Make sure the peg is straight and wipe off any excess glue with a wet rag.

Do this for each peg and let dry a couple of hours. When everything is dry, hang up your board like you would a picture frame, if you have the hardware. I just put two fat nails in the wall and hung it up that way. Arrange the metal hooks how you like them. Enjoy an organized craft space!

Hubby Craft!

I'm usually the crafter in my household, but yesterday my husband showed real initiative and made himself a tie rack. I'd like to show it off here:

And here:

Way to go!


How to Reupholster a Dining Chair

Recovering a dining chair is simple. It's about a 30 minute project that can brighten up any drab, thrift store chair. I decided to use a dress I bought at the thrift store to recover a chair that looked as though it needed some love. The frame was in great shape but the seat was all torn up and let's just say....ugly.

Old chair - $5 at thrift store

Sundress - $2 at thrift store

All you need are the following materials:

  • An old chair with a padded seat
  • A piece of fabric 3 inches bigger on all sides than the cushion
  • Screwdriver
  • Staple gun
  • Fabric scissors


  • First, unscrew the cushion from the chair frame. Place the screws somewhere where they won't get lost.

  • Then, iron your fabric and make sure it's big enough for your cushion. My fabric was thin and see-through and the dress came with a lining so I decided to double up the lining and the fabric.
  • Trim the fabric all around the cushion so there's about 3 inches on all sides.

  • With the cushion face down on the fabric, stretch one side tightly around and staple in the middle. Do this on each side, turning the cushion over once in a while to make sure there aren't any wrinkles. 

  • Next, staple the corners of the cushion by gathering up the fabric so it looks nice. Staple all of the corners.

  • Now, staple along the edge of the fabric, stretching it taut as you go. Check the other side of the cushion for wrinkles. If there are any, either pull out the staple by the wrinkle and redo or just tug the fabric and staple it down.
  • When you've stapled all around the edge trim the edge so there's about 1/2 inch of fabric next to the staples. 

  • Finally, screw the cushion back onto the frame.


Before and after!

Thrift Finds 2

My husband and I decided to skip our hometown thrift shops yesterday and drive out to the Matanuska Valley and visit the thrift shops in Palmer and Wasilla. We strolled down the quaint downtown Palmer street after checking out their Bishop's Attic. There I found a couple of cool things.

Boots - $7.50

Sundress - $2

The boots are J.Crew and they are made in Italy. They are suuuuper soft inside. The dress is a girls' XL and I bought it for the fabric. I wasn't sure what I would do with it until we made it to Nugen's Ranch in Wasilla.

Chair - $5

I found this shabby chair and I knew I had to recover the cushion with the dress fabric. That will be today's project besides spring cleaning.


Flannel Ruffle Scarf

Yesterday morning I leaped out of bed and started making the flannel ruffle scarf I saw a couple of months ago on http://www.rufflesandstuff.com.

It was about 18 feet of flannel I ended up sewing and pinning. It was pretty fun to make -- and simple!

I wore it about all day today. It's a tad extravagant, or as my dad described "like a clown," but I love how soft and unique it is.

I didn't add the buttons as she has done in her version. Thanks for the great pattern!

Thrift Finds No.1

In addition to cooking and crafting, my other passion is finding awesome stuff for cheap. I take after my frugal mother. She taught me at a young age that there's nothing wrong with wearing used clothes. When most children hated wearing their older sibling's hand-me-downs, I would be eagerly sitting on my sister's bed as she rifled through her bedroom getting rid of stuff. What can I say? I'm a bit of a scrounger. In my college years I set up a free box in my dorm lounge where people could put things they didn't want. During move-out week that box would turn into a mountain and I would go digging. I would find shelves, lamps, tapestries, Converse All-Stars, tea kettles, and even once a $200 hiking backpack. I furnished my first apartments on mostly thrift-store items.

These days I have a more refined thrifty shopping style. I usually check out the local thrift shops once every couple of weeks and the consignment clothing shop once every three weeks. In the summer I occasionally stop at garage sales after slowly driving by and assessing the type of items.

I've decided to start an ongoing blog column dedicated to my thrifty finds. It isn't just to show off the awesome stuff I find (that's about 90% of the reason), but I'd also like to show people that you don't need a lot of money to look and feel good.

Candy dish - 75 cents
Colorful pot - $3

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when thrift store shopping:

  • Keep an ongoing mental list of things you might need. I'm always on the hunt for queen sized sheets, king-sized pillow cases, cool fabric, belts, useful kitchen gadgets, the perfect pair of jeans, good yarn, neat sewing patterns, flute sheet music, fun stationery and books in French. Having a list will give you more of a focus and will help you hone in on the good stuff. 
  • Be ready to find something awesome or to find absolutely nothing. There are good thrift store days where you might totally score an old Le Creuset frying pan and a Fiestaware pitcher, but often there just isn't anything good. Thrifting takes a certain level of dedication. You can't expect to find that cowboy shirt with pearlized buttons on your first go. Be patient.
  • Don't become a pack rat. Just because you find a good deal on a brand new Target comforter at Salvation Army doesn't mean to have to buy it. Think about how much you actually want and need an item before purchasing it. The last thing you want is a home full of clutter.
  • Be sure of quality. Most thrift stores have a zero-returns policy, so if you're in the market for a bigger-ticket item such as a sofa, make sure you inspect what you're thinking of buying. Make sure there are no funky smells coming from it and take a look at the wear and tear. I'm not against buying an avocado velour wingback chair if the cushion has a stain only on one side. I'd just turn over the cushion and call it good. But if there are visible tears in the upholstery, I'd really consider if it's the chair I'm looking for. With clothing, make sure there aren't any holes, stains or missing buttons. Are you really going to replace that missing button on that houndstooth overcoat? 
  • There is always room for improvement. Find a sewing desk that would work perfectly in your computer room but the finish is terrible? Consider sanding and painting it. My godmother has made a hobby of refurbishing abandoned wooden furniture on the side of the road. All of her kitchen chairs were originally throwaways. She recovered the seats (very easy to do if you have a staple gun) and painted them all to match. The same goes for clothing. My husband has found several high-quality dress shirts at the thrift store that pretty much fit him, but for very inexpensively he took them to an alterations shop and had them fitted for him. If you have a top-loading washing machine, it's easy to professionally dye clothing (as long as it's made of all-natural materials). I once found a white duvet cover at a garage sale and dyed it purple to make it more interesting.
  • Don't forget about Craigslist. If you're looking for something specific, this is always a great place to start. You don't even have to be dressed to shop there! I have found some incredible stuff on this site including a pot-bellied pig! We found our maple expandable dining table and four chairs on Craigslist for $200, our Natuzzi cream leather couch for $700, and our entire modern bedroom set for $300 (valued at over $1,200 when I did the research).
So keep your eyes peeled for my thrifty finds. I'm going out there today and I'll post if I find anything good.

Acrylic paint - 15 cents apiece
Little cactus pot - $1

Thanks for reading.


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