Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Living on a Budget and Crayon Baby Quilts

Living on a Budget and Crayon Baby Quilts:
For many years, I was a single parent without much income, and I learned to budget my money to keep five little tummies full!  I learned to stretch a dollar from my parents and grandparents, and although money wasn’t plentiful, we never felt poor.  My mother sewed beautiful clothing for us, and there was never a day that we didn’t have homemade bread slathered with fresh butter with our meals, and homemade cake and cookies in the pantry.  My cousins, Roger and Art, were the same age as I… our mothers were sisters.  One day, we were arguing about whose mother made the best bread, and Art chimed in with, “My mother makes bread so good you can’t even taste it!”  His mother was the sister who didn’t bake!  I still like to save money on meal planning… it leaves more to spend on my quilting passion! 

Groceries seem to get more expensive all the time, but I can get a 50# bag of bread flour at Costco for under $12.  I often use the bread machine to make the dough, and shape it into dinner rolls or loaves of bread and bake them in the oven.  I can get a lot of bread and rolls from a 50# bag of flour.  One of the cheapest meats lately seems to be chicken.  I can buy a family pack of boneless, skinless chicken breasts for under $2 per pound, and make enough meals to feed a couple of people for a week.  I simmer the breasts in a pot of water, and then cool them.  Sometimes I grill them instead of boiling.  A couple of the chicken breasts are cut up to add to a hearty chef salad, and will make about 4 or 5 large salads.  I shred one or two of them to make chicken and cheese quesadillas or enchiladas for another meal.  Another meal I like is a pasta salad with diced cooked chicken, green onion and green and/or red seedless grapes, with a mayonnaise based dressing but because pasta is high in carbs, I don’t eat that often.   I dice the rest of them (usually about 4 of them are left at this point) and use the water that I cooked them in to make a pot of chicken rice or chicken noodle soup.  The remaining chicken goes into a crock pot to make a Mexican medley to eat as is with cheese, guacamole, and sour cream, or serve over rice or quinoa.  Here are my quick and easy recipes for the last two.

Chicken Rice Soup:
Add enough water to the pot you cooked the chicken in to have about 3 quarts of liquid. 
Add 2 Tablespoons of chicken soup base paste, or to taste… do NOT use boullion, which is saltier.
Add 1 Tablespoon of Mrs. Dash’s for extra flavor.
Bring the liquid to a boil.  Turn down the heat and add 1 cup of long-grained rice, rinsed.
Add one or two diced cooked chicken breasts.  Cover and simmer until rice is cooked.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.  May add diced onion and diced celery to the water before boiling, if desired.  It looks pretty to garnish the soup with some chopped chives or green onions, when served.
Delicious with some crusty garlic breadsticks on the side.  Another of my favorite comfort foods is chicken soup accompanied by a peanut butter sandwich.

Spicy Mexican Bowl:
Put the following ingredients into a 3 quart crock pot:
2 cans RoTel tomatoes with peppers (or 1 large can of diced tomatoes, if peppers aren’t pleasing to you)
1 can black beans
1 can chili beans
1 to 2 cups frozen whole kernel corn
2 Tablespoons dried onions
1 Tablespoon Taco seasoning
1 or 2 cooked chicken breasts, diced
Mix ingredients.  Cover and cook on high for about an hour until it begins to bubble, then turn down to low.  At this point, add 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh Cilantro, optional.  Continue to cook on low for a half hour or until dinnertime.
Serve in a bowl, topped with shredded Mexican blend cheese and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and/or gauacamole.   May serve it on top of rice or quinoa, and garnish with slightly crushed taco chips.

My Minnesota grandchildren spent part of the summer with me, as they usually do.  This year, they have two new babies in their family, so I thought they would enjoy making some baby quilts.  I got some fabric crayons, and thought they would express their artistic talent by drawing their own pictures to transfer to fabric, but they didn’t like that idea.  Instead, we downloaded some simple pictures to color, and the results were excellent! 

Fabric Crayon Baby Quilt:

Cut 8” squares of paper for drawing designs (or printing).
Color designs with fabric crayons, outlining with a dark color to set the colors off best.
Cut 10” squares of white or unbleached muslin or cotton fabric.

(Coloring the pictures with fabric crayons, right)

(Ironing the picture onto fabric, below)
Place one empty 8” square of paper on ironing board to protect the ironing board cover.
Center one 10” square of fabric over paper.  Iron fabric so it is wrinkle-free.
Place one colored picture, crayon side down, on the center of the cotton fabric.
Match edges with the paper under the fabric; it can easily be seen through the fabric.
Iron with a hot iron, without steam, lifting the iron, not sliding it, so that the design is not moved.
Cut 2” strips of a color for sashing the blocks. Cut these into 10” segments to go between the blocks.
Cut 2” squares of a contrasting color for the cornerstones to put between the main color strips, if desired.   
Join the 2” sashing strips to the blocks horizontally.   (Auditioning sashing, below)

Join the 2” sashing strips to 2” contrasting squares for the row between the sashed blocks.
Join all rows.  We used 9 blocks in the quilt top.
Measure one side of the quilt top.
Cut 1-1/2” strips of the contrast color for the first border.  Cut 2 of the strips the length of the quilt.
Sew one strip to each of the 2 opposite sides.
Measure the quilt from side to side, including the borders you just sewed on and cut two9 more 1-1/2” strips that length and sew them on.
Cut 3” strips for the outer border.  Again, measure the length of the quilt and cut 2 strips that length and sew them on.  Repeat for the remaining 2 sides, cutting to the new 
measurement that includes the outer border.

Press the top well.  
(Charlotte, age 6, quilting the quilt, right)
Cut a coordinating backing the size of the front.
Cut the batting the size of the front. 
Place the batting on a hard surface, then place the wrong side of the backing against the batting. 
Place the top, right side down, on the right side of the backing, making a sandwich with right sides together.
Pin at intervals to hold all three layers together.  Sew around quilt, leaving an opening to turn the quilt right side out. 
Remove pins and turn the quilt right side out. This method of making a quilt is called “birthing a quilt” and does not require binding. 
Poke the corners out so they are square.  Turn raw edges left open for turning to the inside. 
Topstitch all around the quilt top, making sure to stitch the opening shut.
Smooth quilt out neatly, and lay on a hard surface.  Tie the quilt, using a heavy thread, crochet cotton, several strands of sewing thread, or yarn.  Knot the ties securely with a double knot or square knot.  
Start by placing knots at the corners of the blocks, center of each sashing strip, center of the cornerstones, etc., and work several ties into each block to secure the layers well.
We chose to quilt the layers with a walking foot instead of tying it. 

Your quilt is done and ready to “hug” a baby in the love you fashioned out of fabric.

You can see the looks of pride on their faces, with the completed quilt for their cousin!
This second quilt is for another cousin, and still waiting to be quilted.
The children picked the pictures, the colors, and fabrics, and signed each block they colored.  
Ava, age 14, went over spots that needed more outlining with a Micron pen.  It was a great project for them to work on with Grandma, and I think they learned a bit more about quilting this summer.  
All three of them got new Kindle Fire tablets, and this last photo shows why the second quilt didn't get quilted by the grandchildren!

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