Monday, August 5, 2019

Mug Rug - DIY Free Pattern

One of the projects that I entered in the county fair this past week was a mug rug. I've wanted to make one for a long time after seeing so many cute patterns online. I ended up choosing a relatively easy one to start with that I found on Pinterest that led to Sew Mama Sew.

This a great project to do if you have a lot of fabric scraps on hand. I chose fabrics in pinks and purples since this will be a gift I give to Sophia in one of the care packages I will be making for her this year when she's at college.

There are only a few supplies needed:

16 – 2″ wide strips of scraps, each 5″ long
Backing fabric (approximately 7″ x 13″)
Thin piece of batting (about 10" x 16")
Binding (about 2 1/2" x the perimeter of the mug rug)

First, cut the 16 strips (each being 2"x5"). Arrange into the pattern that you want for your mug rug.

Separate the strips into two sets of eight strips each. With one of your sets of eight, pair up two of the strips. Align them perpendicular to one another with right sides together as shown below.

Sew the strips together with a diagonal seam from the bottom left corner to the top right corner of the overlapping section. Trim the excess fabric using a quarter inch seam and press the seam open.

Repeat this step with the remaining three pairs, creating four sewn strips containing a diagonal seam.

Repeat these steps with the other set of eight strips, but (and this is important) arrange the strips so that the strip on top extends off to the left, instead of to the right as you did with the first set. See the photo below for how to do this step.

On this new set of eight strips, your diagonal seam should extend from the bottom right to the top left of the overlapping section. This will result in four more sewn strips containing a diagonal seam, but the diagonal seam should appear as a mirror image to the ones sewn from the first set. The picture below shows how the sewn angle differs between the two sets of fabric strips.

Open and press the seams for all the pairs of strips.

Arrange the strips in the order you want them to be sewn. Note: alternate the strips from your first and second sets so that the diagonal seams create a zig-zag effect.

Match the seams as shown in the picture above and sew the strips together to create your mug rug top. Sew the strips together. and iron the seams flat. See the photo below for the sewn top.

Your mug rug will now measure 12.5″ in length. Trim the width as desired. I trimmed mine to 6.5″ wide.

Place the quilt top (right side up), the batting, and then the backing (right side down). Pin the three layers together and quilt them. I followed the seams vertically and horizontally.

Create binding using one of the fabrics from your mug rug or a complementary one. I cut a 2 1/2" strip and cut it the length of the perimeter of the mug rug.

Attach the binding to the mug rug. I followed a YouTube video about how to attach bias tape to a project.

One thing that I would do differently is attach the front of the bias tape following the instructions in the video. Then, rather than machine sewing bias tape to both sides of the mug rug, I would hand-sew the back of the bias tape onto the backing. For me, since I'm not skilled at attaching bias tape, it would look neater if I hand sewed it.

This was a fun, easy project that I would do again. It would be interesting to see what the mug rug would look like in different color combinations and/or various holiday prints.

Pumpkin Cupcakes (with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting)

This past week I participated in our local county fair. One of the food entries I made was pumpkin cupcakes. For the fair, the entry category had to be a non-chocolate cupcake with no frosting.

I found a pumpkin cupcake recipe on Pinterest that has cinnamon cream cheese frosting. The pin led to Just So Tasty. There's a picture of the cupcakes with the frosting on them there.

For my food entry in the fair, I made them without the frosting and they tasted delicious! These cupcakes did not stay around long in our home. They are flavorful, moist, soft, and are perfect for a breakfast as well as a dessert. (They taste similar to a spice or pumpkin muffin.)

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 18 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 18 cupcakes

Ingredients - Pumpkin Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup pure pumpkin
1/3 cup milk

Ingredients - Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
6 ounce cream cheese
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 - 3.5 cups powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons cream, as needed

Directions - Pumpkin Cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Line 18 muffin pans with muffin papers.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl beat together the oil, sugars, eggs, and vanilla extract until no lumps remain (about 1-2 minutes). Mix in the pumpkin.

With the mixer on low speed, mix in the flour mixture about 1/2 at a time alternating with 1/2 of the milk.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan, filling each about 2/3 full.

Bake in the center rack of your oven for 16-19 minutes, or until the tops feel slightly firm to the touch and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Directions - Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

In a large bowl beat the butter until fluffy - about 2 minutes. Then beat in the cream cheese. Add in the cinnamon and vanilla extract.

Beat in the powdered sugar about 1 cup at a time, starting with the mixer on low speed. If the frosting seems too thick, beat in the whipping cream 1 tablespoon at a time.

Frost the cooled cupcakes using a flat knife or piping bag.

Recipe Notes

*Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 days, or in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
**Unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen and thawed in the refrigerator.
***Make ahead tips: Make the cupcakes the day before and store at room temperature in an airtight container. Frosting can be made the day before and kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Before frosting, allow the frosting to warm up at room temperature; and then frost the cupcakes.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

My Favorite Photos - July 2019

Below are some of my favorite photos from July 2019. Trust me when I say that this is a small fraction of what I took. Compared to last year at this time, when we were in the midst of recovering from the fire at our farm that happened in May 2018, I didn't have a lot of flower and outdoor photos.

This one - taken on July 2nd - is the backyard. A month earlier the backyard had not been sodded - it was still mud and covered with straw - a result of heavy equipment and trucks in the backyard for repairs. The barn also had not been painted yet. So, this one represents a lot of hard work on our part (we did all the sod) and a feeling of completion with the barn finally painted.

This is another view of the backyard looking to the west. The tan/cream building is the new garage to replace the hobby shed that burned. Our home is behind the apple and pine trees to the right of the photo. 

Flowers were abundant in our back middle garden including roses and strawflowers:


This is a purple cleome. They grow quite tall and have these beautiful and unusual flowers. 

These purple flowers are by the back door (which is actually our front door since we live in an old farm home).

On a trip with the girls many years ago, I saw these flowers - lantana - in another state. In Minnesota, they are annuals and I get them every year now. I love the variety of colors in each flower.

Our peonies bloomed this year - just in time for Sophia's graduation party last month (June 29th). They aren't receiving as much sunlight, so their flowers haven't been as abundant as in previous years.

This is the front yard - the hostas at the beginning on the month were quite large. Now, at the end of the month, they have purple flowers that stand a couple of feet above the plants themselves. Hummingbirds love them - though the numbers are down this year because apparently during the Spring migration in April in Iowa, many were killed in the blizzard there.

On July 6th, I finished the squares for a quilt I'm working on. It's part of the Minnesota Quilters' annual mystery quilt project. It's a fundraiser and fun project to do throughout the year. Each month, you get clues to do, but you have no idea what the final quilt will look like. We're getting closer, though, because the blocks now are being assembled. These are Blocks 1 and 3.

Each in July, the girls and I went to Willow River State Park in Wisconsin. We had not been there before so it was a pleasant surprise.


There is a very steep walk to get down to the fall (which makes for an ambitious climb back up this hill!). It was a hot day, so the spray from the waterfall felt really good.

During July, Sophia played the harp for quite a few dogs at the humane society. This one enjoyed listening to the music - check out his ears as he listened.

There was a pair of dogs that were from a senior owner who no longer could keep them. This one reminded us of one of our dogs, Danny, who loves to be scratched by his neck and has the same funny facial expression.

A big change for us that we have been enjoying in July was painting four rooms in June before Sophia's graduation party. The dining room has been white since we moved in (I painted over a blue/brown country look paneling board within the first month of moving here). It is now a soft green.

The living room also has the same soft green. Depending on the light and time of the day, it can look like a very light green or a bit darker.

The kitchen walls we painted a light gray (they also have been white since 1995) and did a brighter shade of white for the cabinetry, trim, and doors. The gray walls now match with the flooring which we had installed many years ago when we had water damage from the second floor that went into the first floor and basement.

The main floor half-bath we painted a mint green. Again, the walls had been white since 1995 so it's nice to see some subtle color in the bathroom. The wallpaper was from the previous owner. We kept that. I added the brown towels to tie into the pinecones on the wallpaper.

By mid-July, there were even more flowers blooming in the garden.

They were such pretty, vibrant colors.

We had a lot of purple flowers this year because Sophia's graduation party colors were purple and silver.

The daisies were in full bloom.

The lilies by the driveway also looked beautiful after a rain.

The hydrangeas, by the end of the month, were big snowballs. They about the size of a dinner plate.

I've loved seeing the bumblebees and native bees all over the flowers. There's a constant hum whenever I pass by the flower garden.

We've been seeing more butterflies this year with all the flowers - the ones we've had and the ones we've added.

Earlier in the month, I was filling the bird feeders - including the one on the mudroom roof that is next to the bedroom window. I love seeing the birds up close and watching their expressions. I think they can hear us sometimes - like this bird.

I stopped filling the feeder on the mudroom roof because of multiple visits from the squirrels - gray and red. They drive Cooper crazy and he barks at them to scare them away. Problem is: now they know that even if he barks he poses no threat because he doesn't come after them.

The wrens have been singing daily. They go in and out of their house which leads me to believe they have a family in there. 

In mid-July, the girls competed in the county fair with their 4-H projects. Olivia did very well this year - earning all blues and one red. She entered a lot of projects - with the majority in photography, crafts, and fine arts.

Sophia earned all blues. Her main areas of interest were crafts, fine arts, and self-determined.

On the day that we volunteered at the fair in the 4-H food cafeteria, there was a major storm that was projected for the area. No one knew quite what to expect. It ended up being a serious storm with tornado-like winds, hail, lightening, and downpours that were blinding (both when walking and driving). It was like nothing we had ever experienced. These are the storm clouds moving in.

The people at the county fair had to take shelter at the churches across the street. Power went out, and buildings on the fairgrounds were damaged. No one - people or animals - were hurt. However, the fair closed for that night because of the amount of flooding and no power.

We made it through the rain stopped to get dinner at the Chinese buffet to bring home to celebrate Olivia's 16 1/2 year old birthday. We still do half-birthdays. Somehow I don't think we'll stop - it has become a tradition to celebrate the girls birthdays and half-birthdays since they were young.

July was filled not only with serious storms, but very high temperatures and humidity. We invested in two new fans for the barn. One (shown in the background below) is up higher and gets the air circulating at head-level for Bailey (the black horse).

We got another fan that we put on the floor and aimed it up for Hoss to enjoy. The minute I plugged it in, it was clear that this was where he was going to spend his day. He loved the wind on his forelock and mane.

We went back to the county fair on the 21st to see how the girls did on their projects; and what top ribbons they received. Olivia received a grand champion on her wildlife biology project that focused on killer whales. She will be competing at the State Fair next month with it.

Sophia chose to bring her health project on Sole Hope to the State Fair. She's working on doing a tri-fold display to go along with her booklet to display at the State Fair. Olivia will be doing a booklet to go along with her display. 

The girls received multiple grand champion, reserve champion, and top blue awards for many of their projects. Needless to say, they were happy with the results.

Once the county fair that the girls compete in with their 4-H projects was done, we began focusing our efforts on the county fair that we enter our projects in the open class category. This county fair is the county that we live in, so we've been entering projects into it since Sophia was about 5 years old - 13 years now!

One of the projects Olivia did was a quilted pillow. The pillow itself fits into a pillow holder. This is a major accomplishment because she has never quilted anything so complex before. She was so happy with how it turned out.

What I love about this time of the year is that we do a lot of hands-on projects and sewing that we've wanted to do during the year, but haven't had the time. Our dining room and living room turn into a big crafting area, and we're all working on a variety of projects.

We went to the county fair to see how we did and to see the projects that other people did on July 31st. We were all happy that we got ribbons for our hard work. One of the projects Olivia did very well on was her poetry collection. She got a blue ribbon.

As I look at the display case below, there are five items I made in pottery class during the past year. I was happy to see that my tree platter got first place. It's on the lowest level, left hand side.

Sophia received a blue ribbon for the blue Russian lace necklace she made. She wanted me to wear it for her high school graduation ceremony which I did.

At the county fair, there's a garden area that is maintained by the Master Gardeners. It's a beautiful garden, and the butterflies were loving the flowers.

There were unusual-colored sunflowers which seemed to glow with the sunlight behind them.

On our way out, we saw the cows peeking out behind the fence while they were getting baths.

During July, Olivia continued with her weekly trap shooting lessons on Thursdays. She also started doing 22 and BB gun on Tuesdays. This is a sport she's really enjoying. It's the second year of doing the 4-H Shooting Sports program.

Closing out the month, I saw two sandhill cranes in a nearby field. Almost every day, I hear the cranes. Periodically I see them which is always neat. They are such big birds.

We also saw a Sphinx Month on one of the flowers in the backyard. It is also called a Hummingbird Moth because it is about the same size, hovers, and has the same loud "humming" sound. It stayed around long enough for the girls to be able to see it.

On the last day of July, I found some more monarch caterpillars. We have five now in the butterfly cage. It seems like each time I got out to get some more milkweed leaves, I find another one! This is the most caterpillars we've ever had which is so exciting! 

I can't wait to see them emerge from their chrysalises as monarch butterflies! This is always a highlight of our summer since the girls have been young (around 8 and 6 years old).