All posts filed under “Glimpses of Life

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The New Mexico Sky

The Organ Mountains, Las Cruces, New Mexico

The sky in New Mexico has so many varied colors that appear right before the sun sets.  The photo above of the Organ mountains was taken in Las Cruces.

Simply brilliant!

New Mexico Sky Colors

I can sit and stare at the different hues of Organ Mountains forever – if they were to last that long.

New Mexico Sky

Yes indeed, the New Mexico sky has brilliant colors to calm the nerves and settle one in to mediate.

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The Cardinal

Three inches of snow had fallen overnight.

As I looked out the upstairs window, I saw that our snow plower had come that morning.  The driveway was cleared of snow. Heading downstairs, I walked to the laundry room window and peeked to see if my husband had had a chance to shovel the walkway.  Ahhh – I had to add this to my list of things to do.

After breakfast I headed to the garage and grabbed the snow pusher. I was glad that my brother-in-law had told me about the difference between a snow shovel and a snow pusher.  This pusher made my job a lot easier.

Opening the side door in the garage that led to the outside, I was greeted with a beautiful blue sky. Stepping outside, I shoveled a pathway to the front of the garage doors and over to the front walkway. I was glad that this snowfall was light because it made my life much simpler.

Once the snow was shoveled, I headed indoors, went to the kitchen and started preparing my husband’s lunch for the next day. With the ingredients out on the counter top, I turned around and happened to look out the window where a cardinal was staring at me.  The cardinal kept still then looked this way and that.

I wondered if I could quickly grab my camera to take a picture of him. Moving slowly away from the window, I grabbed my camera, focused and started taking pictures.  “He” kept still with the exception of turning his head this way and that ~ as if he was posing.

I felt blessed by the opportunity to view and take pictures of this beautiful bird.

Approximately 30 minutes later, he flew away.

It has been said that “When cardinals appear, angels are near.”  So glad I had angels visiting me.

 

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A Star Quilt

Star Diamond Quilt

When I first started quilting I made the the mistake of telling my family & friends on Facebook that I was looking for projects so I could practice sewing and quilting.  I had not done either in my life and thought having planned projects would be a good way to learn.

However, the last time I posted pictures of my quilt on Facebook another person said they wanted one.  I currently have four (4) more free quilts to make for people.  This after making six quilts already. So ~ after the four more free quilts I’m planning on charging for making quilts. Gotta pay for the fabric someway …

The star quilt I recently made was for an aunt who is Native American.  She requested the colors of blue, lilac and yellow on a white background with a brushed baby blue back.  She also wanted the size to be anything bigger than a crib but not larger than a full size.

So I made a lap quilt.  It was a little challenging for me since I had never cut in “degrees” before (mainly 45 degrees), had never quilted on flannel and had never sewn with invisible thread.

All these challenges were overcome quickly.  A quilting ruler took care of the measuring and searching on Youtube and the internet gave me lots of ideas from other people’s failures and successes.

Over and over the same problem kept rearing it’s ugly head though ~ sewing the diamonds together. The corners must meet at the correct corners or else the connection is crooked.

Sewing Triangles

MOST of the sewn triangles came out okay and those that didn’t I found I had to go back and re-do.

Sewing Triangles Together

Since lilac was one of the colors that my aunt wanted in this quilt, I had a dilemma.  I wanted the quilt to be a surprise but there are so many variations of lilac ~ from light to dark ~ that I decided to go with different variations ~ both light and dark. I chose darker blues and only one fabric in yellow.

Do you see from the picture below why the diamond and other pieces must be cut and sewn very carefully? They have to fit together in order not to have a crooked large diamond.

Making a large triangle

It was fun to put the colors together and make the diamonds.  Once all the diamonds were completed I put them on the floor to see how they looked.  I was then able to move them around to see which design I liked the best.  I did make a mistake although one wouldn’t know it was a mistake.  In the picture below, I had the two “plum-ish” looking colors across from each other which I really liked.

Star Diamond Quilt

Unfortunately when I finally sewed the diamonds together I made the mistake of sewing them in a different location. No problem though ~ just a different look.

Star Diamond Quilt

I’m not sure why the designer didn’t have us applique the large star on a white piece of fabric. Instead, the white background fabric is cut into triangles and squares and are set into the corners between the diamonds.

I believe appliqueing would have been much easier but I’m one to stick to a design ~ at least the first time.

After I basted the top, back and batting together, I had to decide how to quilt it.  Since I have a small sewing machine I decided on a very simple “line” design.  Normally I would make a quilt in two or three pieces, quilt it and then sew those pieces together.  This design didn’t allow for that.

I’ve learned from a quilting teacher that most of us veer when we sew so she recommends using blue painting tape to help you stay on track.

Quilting with blue painters tape

Once the quilting on the diamonds was completed, I used the masking tape to mark the lines for the rest of my design.

Using blue painters tape to quilt

A major problem I had with this quilt was when one of the middle star pieces was too “short” to meet the other pieces in the middle.  Instead of taking care of it initially, I thought I’d take care of it by hand quilting it in the end.  That was a major mistake as I wound up having to cut another small diamond piece, lay it over the “mistake,” hand quilt it on and also use fabric glue underneath as a “just in case.”

A quilting mistake

Fortunately for me, you can’t see this small hand quilting from afar ~ you have to get really really close.  See how it looks below?

Star Diamond

The quilt came out quite beautifully.  I used a technique that modern quilters use and washed the fabric for the back and the top before cutting.  The batting was not washed initially.  Once the quilt was finished, I washed it all and the batting then shrunk which gives the quilt a nice wrinkled look.

Star Quilt

Star Quilt

And here’s the quilt with a section of the baby blue flannel showing.

Star Quilt

It didn’t take very long to make this quilt. I purchased the pattern on the Craftsy website ~ it’s by Sam Hunter of Hunter’s Design Studio.

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A Warm Winter in Minnesota

Small Pond in Winter, Minnesota

With the month of February now over, we just finished having 23 out of 28 days that were above average.  And, hardly no snow this winter which is way different from the first year we moved to Minnesota which had over 80 inches of snow.

The last 3 winters have been mild in the Twin Cities.

With temperatures in the 40’s, I’ve been able to get out and start walking sooner than normal with no fear of slipping on ice ~ a nice break from the indoors.  I even saw red berries on a tree which is quite uncommon.

Winter Berries, Minnesota

But alas! Warm winters bring more bugs in the summer and living on a wooded acre lot means a LOT of bugs.

For now I’ll enjoy the warmer temperatures as the birds start migrating back ~ pretty soon our local hawk will be building its nest in the neighborhood.

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Does the BBB Give Fair Ratings?

A couple of years ago we went to a local fair and a representative from the Minnesota newspaper The Star Tribune was there and offered us a year’s worth of Sunday papers for only $1.00.

Wow, we thought.  That’s cheap.  They are practically giving it away.  We’ve been told by others that the reason they “give” the paper away is that they have to get a high subscription rate in order to charge advertisers certain rates.  Irregardless, we went ahead and signed up for the paper.

A year later we received a renewal notice for $26.00 for a year’s worth of Sunday papers of the Star Tribune.  I signed up again although we really didn’t read the paper as much as we thought we would.

Towards the end of the subscription, I called to have the paper temporarily stopped as we would be out of town.  When we arrived back home, the paper had been delivered ~ twice.  I called and lodged a complaint and was told by a supervisor to specifically ask to speak to a supervisor and they would make sure the paper was stopped.  The next time we went out of town I called and did as I was told ~ spoke to a supervisor and was assured our paper would be temporarily stopped.

But it wasn’t.  At this point, I called and asked them to cancel our subscription and was assured it would be cancelled.  My online account showed the cancellation and there was no money due yet the Sunday papers kept coming.

After 2.5 months of getting a “free” paper, we again were going to be out of town so I called and told them that they needed to stop the paper as we no longer had a subscription.  I was assured, again, that it would stop.  But it wasn’t.

When we returned from being out of town,  the paper had been delivered again.  Feeling frustration creep into my voice, I called again and was assured they would stop delivery.  The following Sunday ~ guess what? ~ the paper was delivered again.

So I called again.  This was now getting to be ridiculous.  I spoke to a supervisor and was assured … wait, I’m pretty sure I heard that same assurance before so after I hung up with the supervisor I sent an online complaint to the Better Business Bureau here in Minnesota.

When I pulled up the online information on The Star Tribune I was shocked at what I saw. They had 100% negative reviews but an A+ rating.  How can that be?

BBB Rating of The Star Tribune

It seems ridiculous to me that a company that has 100% negative reviews can have an A+ rating.

Recently a friend of mine sent me an article re the BBB and how they appear to have what the article called a “pay for play” scheme. Although the article is from 2010, I have the feeling that it’s still quite applicable.

“To prove the point, a group of Los Angeles business owners paid $425 to the Better Business Bureau and were able to obtain an A minus grade for a non-existent company called Hamas, named after the Middle Eastern terror group.”

I had always believed that I could trust the ratings on the Better Business Bureau site but this is disturbing to me.  My trust in them has fallen to zero.

And the resolution to my problem?  Within 4 days of filing my complaint, I received a response from someone at The Star Tribune letting me know the newspapers would stop being delivered.

Almost 3 months later, I’m glad to say we’ve received no newspaper.  I’ll never subscribe to this company again.

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Spinach, Cheese and Olive Stuffed Chicken Breasts (Paleo)

Spinach, Cheese and Olive Stuffed Chicken Breasts (Paleo)

This paleo Spinach, Cheese and Olive Stuffed Chicken Breast recipe came out absolutely great!

Normally my chicken breasts come out a tad too dry but not this time.  I surprised even myself!

I decided on chicken breasts for tonight’s meal because I haven’t had them in quite awhile and I felt inspiration well inside of me.  If that inspiration ever wells up inside of you, go for it!

As usual, the recipe is simple and uses ingredients that most people already have in their cupboard.

Ingredients

I only used two “slices” of the aged cheddar white cheese and then I chopped it up.  You could use more cheese, but I liked the “hint” of cheese and this white cheddar does not have an overpowering flavor.

Kerrygold Aged Cheddar Cheese

Chopped Kerrygold White Cheddar Cheese

The spinach, olives and cheese will be combined in a bowl after they are all chopped.

Combine Filling Ingredients

After I cleaned and dried the chicken breasts, I sliced it down the middle but not all the way through ~

Slicing A Chicken Breast for Filling

Slice the Chicken Breasts

Next I stuffed them with the spinach mixture ~ (you’ll be tempted to overfill them, but remember that the pocket will be closed up).

Add mixture to chicken breasts

I added a tablespoon of olive oil to the bottom of a casserole dish then the chicken breasts.  Next I seasoned the chicken with salt, white pepper and oregano then closed the chicken pockets with toothpicks.

Season the chicken breasts

I baked the chicken (covered) for approximately 35 minutes before removing it from the oven.  I then added the juice of half of a lemon and a half tablespoon of butter on the top of each of the breasts then back in the oven it went, uncovered, for approximately 5 more minutes.

Add Lemon Juice and Butter

Then ~ perfection.  Moist and tasty.   I’m sure you’re ready to see the recipe, eh?

Spinach, Cheese and Olive Stuffed Chicken Breasts (Paleo)

2 servings

Spinach, Cheese and Olive Stuffed Chicken Breasts (Paleo)

Spinach, Cheese and Olive Stuffed Chicken Breasts (Paleo)

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Olives, a handful, chopped
  • Spinach, 1 cup chopped
  • Aged White Cheddar Cheese, handful, chopped
  • Oregano, a sprinkle
  • White Pepper, a sprinkle
  • Salt, to your taste
  • Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Lemon
  • 1 tablespoon Butter
  • Toothpicks

Instructions

  1. Preheat the convection oven to 375 Fahrenheit.
  2. Clean and dry the chicken breasts then set them aside.
  3. Chop the spinach, olives and cheese and toss them in a small bowl.
  4. Slice the chicken breasts in the middle but not all the way through (you want to make a small pocket).
  5. Fill the pocket with the spinach mixture then use toothpicks to hold the two sides of the chicken breast together.
  6. In a casserole dish, add approximately 1 tablespoon olive oil to the bottom.
  7. Add the chicken breasts to the casserole dish, sprinkle with oregano, white pepper and salt then cover with aluminum foil.
  8. Bake for approximately 35 minutes then remove from the oven.
  9. Squeeze the juice from half a lemon over the chicken breasts, throw the peel in the casserole dish, add 1/2 tablespoon butter to the top of the chicken breasts then return to the oven, uncovered, for another 5 minutes.
  10. Next ~ enjoy!
Recipe Management Powered by Zip Recipes Plugin
http://www.simplynorma.com/2017/02/23/spinach-cheese-and-olive-stuffed-chicken-breasts-paleo/

For additional paleo recipes, click here.

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Paleo Pistachio Chili

Paleo Pistachio Chili

Motivation for a new and simple paleo chili recipe gave me the inspiration for this recipe.

The main spice in this recipe is chili powder. Sounds simple enough, no?

Chili Powder, Pistachio Nuts and Canned Diced Tomatoes

The handful of pistachio nuts were a last minute idea and I was glad I added them.  They gave a nice crunch to every bite.

The veggies I choose to use were cabbage, green onions, onion and green pepper.  I sauteed them in a tablespoon of olive oil to cook them through a little

Saute Vegetables

The chili is served on a bed of shredded lettuce which gives it a crispness when you bite into it.  I sliced the lettuce up, cleaned it with water then put it in a mesh holder to allow the water to drain.  After a few minutes, I take a paper towel and dry it to remove most of the water.

Prepare Lettuce

I like to use the Organic Ground Beef that I purchase at Costco.  It doesn’t taste grainy when cooked like other ground beef I’ve tasted.

Costco Ground Beef

Once the vegetables are sauteed, I added the ground beef to them until the beef browned.

Add Ground Beef to Sauteed Vegetables

Next I seasoned the beef with the chili powder and salt.  Then I added the canned diced tomatoes.

Season the Beef then add the Diced Tomatoes

Once everything is combined and cooked through, I added the pistachios, stirred and it was ready to serve.

Paleo Pistachio Chili

Pretty simple, no?  Check out the recipe and let me know what you think.

Paleo Pistachio Chili

2-4

Paleo Pistachio Chili

Paleo Pistachio Chili

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 green pepper, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3-4 green onions, diced
  • 1/4 head green cabbage, sliced thinly
  • 1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • Handful of pistachio nuts whole or chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 cups loosely chopped lettuce
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1.5 lbs ground beef

Instructions

  1. In a large warmed skillet, add the olive oil and allow it to heat through.
  2. Add the green pepper, onion, green onions and cabbage to the skillet and saute.
  3. Once the vegetables are soft, add the ground beef and cook it through until browned then stir it together with the vegetables.
  4. Season the beef mixture with the chili powder one teaspoon at a time until you get the taste you want.
  5. Season with salt.
  6. Add the can of diced tomatoes to the beef mixture and stir to blend it all together. Allow this to cook through.
  7. Lastly, add the pistachio nuts and stir.
  8. Serve in a bowl with chopped lettuce layered on the bottom.
Recipe Management Powered by Zip Recipes Plugin
http://www.simplynorma.com/2017/01/19/paleo-pistachio-chili/

For additional paleo recipes, click here.

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A Large Heart Quilt – My Own Design

A Large Heart Queen Quilt

When I was gifted a sewing machine a couple or so years back, I needed practice as I had never sewn on a machine before.  Having YouTube videos to teach me along with online classes I take at Craftsy have really helped.

After I made my first king size quilt for my sister (it took me a year because when frustrated I just put it aside), I posted it on Facebook and made a statement to the effect of “anyone want something made so I can practice?”  Oh boy!  The people came out of the woodwork!  I had about 6 people requesting quilts. Unfortunately they all wanted queen size quilts.  Yes, I could have said no ~ well, come to think of it, I SHOULD have said no.

My sewing machine has a very small harp space and it’s hard to get the pieced quilt top, batting and back through the machine to quilt.  After taking a class on Craftsy on how to make a quilt in 2 or 3 pieces, I felt a little more confident. Not 75%, (or 65 or 50) but just a little more confident (laughing).

This quilt is my fourth and it didn’t come out too bad. Most of the quilts I see online are absolutely gorgeous and I admire them.  Then I found out that one of the quilters whose work I really admire sends her quilts out to a “long-armer” who uses a very large sewing machine to do the quilting.  Disappointment set in as I kind’ve feel that’s cheating.  She gives credit to the long-arm quilter who does her work for her but … still … it makes it seem almost an impossibility that any of my quilts will come out as beautiful.

I’m still hopeful though.

My niece requested a heart quilt ~ one large heart in the middle of the quilt.  She didn’t want smaller hearts surrounding it as she didn’t want anything to take the focus away from the large heart.  The colors she was interested in were purple (first choice), blue, red and possibly orange.

Since I could not find a template that was large enough for this heart, I had to create my own.  I did that by purchasing two large pieces of art paper and taping them together.  Then I folded it in half and cut a heart out of it.  An engineer friend of mine gave me this suggestion.

Next, I auditioned the fabric I would be using after cutting them into smaller pieces that would be pieced together.  Needless to say, the red did not make the cut.  Now I was left with the blue and purple.

Quilting Fabric

I measured the heart as if it were a square piece to determine how much fabric I would be needing.  Then I cut the fabric into smaller pieces ~ they didn’t have to be the same width as I wanted a random arrangement. This was suggested to me by a friend whose a graphic designer.

Once I had a pieced square made out of the fabric, I put the cutout paper heart on top of the square I made with the fabric.

Making A Large Heart Template

Then I pinned the paper heart template to the fabric and used my scissors to create a heart out of the fabric.

Making A Large Heart Template

I then pressed the fabric heart with starch.

Making A Large Heart Template

Notice the random fabric colors?  It came out really well …

The quilt was made in 3 parts and the heart was appliqued into the middle section.  I had approximately 6 inches on each side of the middle section which is needed to 1) take into account some shrinkage due to the quilting and 2) make sure there was enough fabric on the sides to sew to the other two pieces.

Making A Large Heart Template

I did not pin this quilt but used a basting spray which works a lot better for me.

Once the three pieces are quilted individually, they are hand sewn together.   Although I thought this would be hard, it’s really easy but takes time.

The seam is on the right in the picture below. I decided to use an angled serpentine stitch throughout the quilt but I left the space between the large purple stripe (I added one on each side) unstitched. This actually brings the eye more to the middle of the quilt.

Making A Large Heart Template

Once the three pieces are sewn together I hand sewed the binding on.  Now ~ THAT took a lot of time as it was my first time doing a binding by hand.  On this queen quilt, it took this newbie 7 hours.  It looks really nice though and I think it was worth it.

The back side of this quilt was made with one fabric color ~ purple.

Making A Large Heart Template

Here’s the quilt on a queen bed ~ it’s washed but not yet ironed so looks more wrinkled than the final quilt.

A Large Heart Quilt

Well, for a fairly new quilter who did her own quilting on a queen sized quilt with her own created heart design, I’d say I did pretty good, eh?

A Large Heart Queen Quilt

A Large Heart Queen Quilt

If you’re being challenged by a quilt you think you can’t make, hang in there!  My next project will be a star quilt.  Now that should be challenging!

Hope you have a peaceful and fantastic day ~

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