Sunday, November 8, 2015


Hello, quilters and sewists!  This blog post is for you.

This weekend, I went to Pinners Conference in Utah.  I usually go just for Project Life, Wood Connection, and anything related to sewing.  While there, I met Emily Taylor, who has designed several beautiful designs for Riley Blake Designs, a local fabric company.  Emily totally changed my world, introducing me to this wonderfully exciting (and potentially addicting) website, PatternJam. PatternJam is a free website that allows you to design a custom quilt.  You pick the block sizes, sashing size, and a border. As of right now, there's roughly 3000 fabrics you can choose from, and includes designs from Riley Blake, Moda, and Michael Miller.

Check out this video to get a more in-depth overview:

Doesn't it look like fun?  I love that it's free!  You should have seen my face as Emily walked me through the site.  I was completely awe-struck!  Here's a few of the designs I've made so far:

If you would like to try out PatternJam, click HERE to begin.  It really is so easy and fun!

Here's another website I learned about from Emily: Black Bee Quilts. This website allows you to design a quilt and submit it.  Emily's company will then print out the quilt in one piece and quilt it onto minky.  You design your own quilt, and have it made without any insane math, and no piecing of tiny pieces.  The best part is, you get a beautiful, high-quality quilt shipped to you in 7 days!  How crazy is that?!  I love it so much!

A concern is the cost.  At Pinners Conf., Emily had a throw-size quilt on display she had made with her company as a promotion product.  The regular cost of that quilt is $250.  However, if you take into account the cost of fabric, the time for shopping, cutting, piecing together, and quilting the fabric, I personally believe the cost make up for itself!  If you think of how much time it makes a quilt, and if you charged yourself minimum wage ($7.25 in Utah), you would be charging yourself roughly $217 just in labor costs! Like I said, having a quilt done by Black Bee Quilts pretty much pays for itself.

Black Bee Quilts is not yet up and running, but they're working on it.  In the meantime, by signing up you get 10% off your first order.  But, if you get 3 friends to sign up, you get 25% off!  Click HERE to join up!

Good luck, and happy sewing (or designing)!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Is there anything that smells better than freshly baked bread?  I really don't think so.  Bread is one of those things that scares people.  Yeast is a scary thing to work with, let's be honest.  There's so many types of yeast, and you have to know how each one is activated, how it works, what temperature is best for activation, growth of your dough, and what temperature it "dies" at.  Very technical stuff.

A few years ago for Thanksgiving, my sister had the assignment of making rolls for the family dinner.  Mom and I were shocked that she had never made any kind of bread before--muffins, pancakes, nada.  She ended up buying a loaf of Rhodes bread in the freezer section, thinking she could be more economical that way, and split it into rolls.  She later found out that the loaf was pre-baked, meaning it was all set to go in the oven.  She was not able to make her rolls.  Bit of a learning experience for her.

About 8 years ago, I discovered I'm allergic to cinnamon.  When I eat anything with cinnamon, my throat gets hives, and it feels like I have marbles stuck in my throat.  Very uncomfortable.  Then, about 4 years ago, I wanted to know how I could use cinnamon at home without reacting to it, since I had noticed that every now and then, I didn't react.  I searched the internet, and found there were 4 basic types of cinnamon: Saigon, Ceylon, Cassia, and Korintje.  Here's what I found:
  • Cassia cinnamon, which comes from the Middle East, is the most acidic of cinnamons, which is why it is not sold in most European countries.  In America, it is the most widely used cinnamon.
  • Ceylon cinnamon is from Sri Lanka.  I was not able to find much information on this cinnamon type.
  • Korintje cinnamon comes from Southeast Asia and Indonesia.  It is the cheapest type of cinnamon to produce.
  • Saigon Cinnamon comes from Vietnam.  Of the 4 types of cinnamon, it has the highest amount of essential oils, which makes it the most expensive type of cinnamon.
I wanted to know which cinnamons I reacted to, so I bought all 4 on amazon, in the smallest quantity I could find.  When it arrived, I tried out my little experiment.  I got a glass of water, and put 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon in the water, stirred it up, and drank it down.  Food allergies usually show reactions within 15 minutes, so I just waited after trying each type of cinnamon.  I reacted very quickly to cassia and korintje cinnamon, but not at all to ceylon or saigon.  After reacting to the cassia and korintje, I had to take some benedryl, and slept off the effects before trying the next batch.

Now, I know that my experiment was dangerous.  I knew I was taking chances.  Luckily, I don't react to the point where I could go into, say, anaphylactic shock.  If you are reading this, and want to try it because you have allergies that are similar, please, please, please be careful!

Now, I only ever use Saigon cinnamon.  I buy it in bulk at Costco, in a brown bottle with the Kirkland brand label.  I do not use ceylon cinnamon because, frankly, it smells like potpourri.  It's gross.  Saigon cinnamon, however, is amazing, and smells like cinnamon should smell.

Onto the recipe!

I was craving cinnamon bread, so I looked at recipes on pinterest.  Where else?  I found two recipes I really liked, and I combined them.  All credit for the recipes I used go to Mind Over Batter and The Pioneer Woman.  Here goes:

First, you need to make the cinnamon chips:


2/3 c. white granulated sugar
3 T. cinnamon
2 T. butter
2 T. light corn syrup
1/4 t. vanilla extract

Using a hand mixer, combine all ingredients.  Line a 9x9 baking pan with parchment paper. (This will make it sooo much easier to get it out of the pan when it's done, trust me!).  Heat the oven to 275, and bake the cinnamon mixture for 35 minutes.  It will be melted and bubbly.  Cool it down completely.  (I put it in the freezer).  Break it into small pieces, or use a knife, if you can.  Put it in a ziplock baggie, and keep it in the freezer for now.

Now for the bread:


  • 1 cup milk
  • 6 T butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 3 1/2 c flour
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 t instant yeast
  • 1 T butter, for greasing
  • 1 c powdered sugar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2 t milk
  1. Combine flour, salt, and yeast. Set aside.
  2. Melt butter with milk. Heat in microwave safe bowl for 90 seconds. Place it in the fridge, and allow to cool until still warm to the touch, but not hot.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix sugar and eggs with the paddle attachment until combined. Pour in milk/butter/yeast mixture and stir to combine. 
  4. Add half the flour and beat on medium speed until combined. Add the other half and beat until combined.
  5. Switch to the dough hook attachment.  If the dough is sticky, add 1/4 cup flour and combine.  Repeat until dough does not stick to your hand when you touch it. 
  6. Knead dough on medium speed for ten minutes. 
  7. Heat your oven to about 70 degrees. (I set the oven to its lowest temperature setting, and heat for 2 minutes.)  
  8. In a large bowl, drizzle in a little canola oil, then toss the dough in the oil to coat. Cover bowl in plastic wrap and set it in the oven to rise until it is doubled in size (About 30-45 minutes)
  9. Turn dough out onto the work surface. Roll into a neat rectangle no wider than the loaf pan you're going to use, and about 18 to 24 inches long. 
  10. Smear with 2 tablespoons melted butter using a pastry brush. 
  11. Mix sugar and cinnamon together, then sprinkle evenly over the butter-smeared dough. 
  12. Sprinkle cinnamon chips over the cinnamon mixture.  Try to have at least an inch between chips.  You want them to be scattered.
  13. Starting at the far end, roll dough toward you, keeping it tight and contained. Pinch seam to seal.
  14. Smear loaf pan with softened butter using a pastry brush or paper towel. Place dough, seam down, in the pan. 
  15. Cover with plastic wrap, place in warm oven (not hot!) and allow to rise until doubled.
  16. Remove bread from oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  17. Bake 40 minutes.  Bread should be browned, and sound hollow when you lightly knock on it.
  18. Remove from pan, and allow to cool.
  19. Mix together powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk to make a light frosting.  Using a butter knife or spoon, drizzle frosting over the bread.
  20. Slice and serve. Enjoy!