Sunday, November 21, 2010

Project: Autumn Inspired Table Setting, Part 2

It's almost time for Thanksgiving, and the perfect time for a fun and festive project! These placemats are cute and simple, and I have received many compliments on them. If you would like to make the tablecloth as well, please see my post about it here.

The autumn table

You will need:
*Felt - multiple colors of the precut rectangle pieces
*Felt - dark brown by the yard for the edges/ backing
*Rotary cutter - optional
*Sewing machine
*Measuring tape
*Straight pins


First, look at the premade pieces of felt, and decide if you want to add another layer to the back for thickness and to create a border. I chose to do this, but you can skip it if you want this project to be really quick and easy. (Just remember your placemats will be a bit smaller)

To make the backing, simply measure your felt by the yard so that it is an inch or two longer on each side than the precut pieces and cut it out. 

Center the precut piece on the piece you just cut, pin it together, and sew!

Trying different stitches can create a fun look.

Next, sketch some accent ideas out on paper. Draw the ones you like best in the size you want, trace around them lightly with a pen or pencil, and cut them out. 

It is important to cut out the entire shape in the base color. For example; I cut out the entire pumpkin in orange, even though I wanted the stem to be brown. The layers will add more volume to the project and make it much easier to put together.

Cut out any detail pieces, such as the stem, in your desired color.

Put the pieces together as you want them, pin them in place on the precut rectangle sheets of felt, and carefully sew around the edges.

Sewing some details in by hand really makes these placemats pop!

Notice the detail work on the pumpkin and the leaf

Make as many placemats as you like, and get ready for a beautiful autumn table and many compliments! My favorite was when my fiancĂ©e asked me where I bought them.

Happy Thanksgiving Week!
The forecast may call for snow, but I am holding onto fall for a little longer.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Grandma's Foolproof Cranberry Sauce

Turkey day is drawing nigh, people.  And I'm hosting this year.  9 people.  This is my first time hosting.


I have at least one recipe, however, that is completely foolproof.  My grandmother's cranberry sauce.*  Because if there wasn't cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving, there is a strong probability my family would riot.

Grandma has been making Thanksgiving dinner for nearly 50 years.  And it is perfect.  And I can't top that.  So I decided to go a different direction with some of the other favorite dishes.  Instead of Grandma's sausage stuffing, I'm making a wild rice stuffing.  Instead of herb-roasted turkey, I'm doing apple-cider-brined turkey.  Because if I were to make Grandma's stuffing, for example, it would be good, don't get me wrong, but not AS good as it would be if Grandma made it.  Because she's been making it for fifty years, you see.  And I haven't.

But her cranberry sauce.  It is so easy.  No one can say it isn't just as good as Grandma's.  Because it will be.

I test ran the recipe this week, partly because I couldn't believe how easy it was.  It was easy, people.  And there is even a secret ingredient.  An apple.  WHAT?!  An apple in cranberry sauce?  That's what makes it foolproof, you see.  The apple keeps it from being too mouth-puckeringly cranberryish, if you know what I mean.  My grandma invented this recipe.  She's a smart woman.  Trust the apple.

While I am going to make another batch closer to the big day, now I have a perfect topping for my morning oatmeal.  Told you this stuff was good.

Grandma's Foolproof Cranberry Sauce

*I neglected to take a picture of the finished product.  But you know what it should look like.**

**If you don't know what it should look like, go to Google images and type in, "cranberry sauce."  Yep.  That's what it should look like.

1 bag whole fresh cranberries
1 apple (Granny Smith is best)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Heat the sugar and the water until the sugar is dissolved, over medium heat.  Sort and wash the cranberries.  Chop up a whole apple (excluding the core of course).  Add both the cranberries and the apple to pot.  You can tell when the cranberries start to get done because they pop.  Stir occasionally, you’ll see when it starts to look done.  Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.  

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Berry-Mint Smoothie

This isn't so much a recipe, as a strong suggestion.  Throw some mint in your smoothie.

Have you seen the commercials for this gum?

A link if you want a lot of this gum

In the commercial, the members of a focus group all start screaming about how the gum shifts flavors from berry to mint, and to calm one another down, they throw water in each other's faces.  While I haven't tried the gum, I'm not sure the experience would be quite as potentially-assault-inducing as the commercial would make it seem.

It did get me thinking, though.  Why not just have berry AND mint together?  (I know there are gums out there that do that, but stay with me here, people.)  And lo, the berry-mint smoothie was born.

Also because I had leftover mint from another recipe and I hate, HATE, wasting herbs, as they are quite expensive.  And I am a cheapskate.

I'm an uncomplicated-smoothie-ingredient kind of woman.  I don't care for bananas in my smoothie at all, and I could take or leave the myriad of juice combinations they present to you at smoothie shops.  I like my smoothies with berries, yogurt, and soy or regular milk, more like a healthy milkshake.  And now, with mint, as it adds that unexpected and delicious twist to your drink.  But if you like all the fruit juices and bananas, go for it.

Berry-Mint Smoothie

Serves 1 (I'm the only one who drinks smoothies in this household)

1/2 cup frozen berries
5-6 mint leaves
2-3 heaping tablespoons yogurt, plain or vanilla (tip: if you used plain, as I did, you are definitely going to want to add a teaspoon or so of sugar.  I use brown sugar, as it works really well with the mint.)
Soy or 1% milk
Optional: half a banana, orange or apple juice

Combine all ingredients in a blender.  Add milk until ingredients are fully covered.  Turn on your blender and leave it running for a few seconds.  Add more milk as needed so smoothie is your desired consistency.  Garnish with mint leaf.  I imagine this would be great doubled, tripled or quadrupled for a breakfast party, just as long as it doesn't overwhelm your blender.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thursday Feature: Coveted Crafts

Every Thursday, Dexter & Dinah will feature a new crafter/artisan whose works are handmade.

My boyfriend drinks a lot of soda.  I mean, a LOT.  We're talking soda at lunch, soda at dinner, and if we're out to eat, as many refills as the wait staff sees fit to bring by.  If I were as crafty as Etsy seller squigglechick (who's located pretty close to me in nearby Bothell, Washington), I would turn all of those sodas into this pretty and useful luggage tag:

Repurposed Coca Cola Luggage Tag

We all know how much I love repurposing!  As squigglechick says: "What a great way to distinguish your luggage from all of the others at baggage claim or to add to your child's backpack just 'in case' it should get misplaced at school or on the bus."

Happy Thursday Crafters!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I have a confession to make.

I've been feeling less then inspired this week.

My boyfriend's been getting a lot of these for lunch:

Granted, that's a good-looking sandwich, with a thick-cut ham steak and swiss cheese, but still.

I did made some pretty fabulous and innovative food for a dinner party last week, including this prosciutto, fennel, and pomegranate salad (result: prosciutto and pomegranate are fabulous together, but next time I'd probably leave out the fennel), and this goat cheese, butternut squash, and penne pasta (in which I switched out the basil for sage, halved the amount of goat cheese, and doubled the amount of parmesan).  But beyond that, I've been cooking really simple food, like turkey burgers, pasta and jarred sauce, stir fry with rice.  I do love quick and simple food, but none of it has really been all that blogworthy.

Tonight, however, that changes - I'm having Alyse and her fiancee over for dinner, where I'm making a pork tenderloin roulade with wild rice dressing and a pumpkin custard for dessert.  Stay tuned for pictures!

Also, here's a sneak peak of the project I've been working on - any guess what it is?  (Your ability to guess might be obscured by the absolutely giant cat filling the frame.  That's Dexter.  Believe it or not, he is on diet food.)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Almost Married Monday

Since Alyse has officially set the date for her wedding, I thought this would be an excellent time to start featuring cute DIY wedding ideas to consider for her big day!  I recently attended a friend's wedding in Idaho, which was at a summer camp and was therefore appropriately fall and forest themed.  I really loved the simplicity of these candlesticks:

They looked good in groups of threes, or by themselves:

Wrapped in raffia with a candle-sized hole drilled in the top and some lovely fall leaves scattered about, these were a creative use for leftover logs from the firewood!  (And, if the bride has too many leftover after the reception, they can always be turned back into firewood.)

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