Monday, March 30, 2015

block of the month

Back in February, I posted about a "Block of the Month" quilt that ladies in my quilt group are doing.
My friend, Joan passes out instructions for a different block each month and at the end of a year we will each have enough blocks made for a quilt.

I have my February, March and now my April blocks finished (actually we are doing two blocks per month...a positive/negative pair).

Since I am making  my block sets in different colors, I made a little crayoned cheat sheet to make sure I don't end up with two of the same colored blocks next to each other.
Even though I did this and I only have  three sets made...I have already cut from the wrong fabric...geez! 

You can see by the above drawing that the blocks will have sashing between them. 
I laid them out on this tan with black print fabric to see how that would look for the sashing. I'm not sure if I like it or not.
I will be able to have a better idea as I get more blocks made.

Also I will not have enough of that light fabric in the blocks to use it in all of them. I will have to dig around to see if I have anything else that  can be used...or maybe a few different light colors to make it look like it was planned that way.
I like a lot of variety in my quilts!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

what I have been reading

I have just finished reading this book that was also recently made into a movie...

"wild" by Cheryl Strayed.

A couple of years ago, when the book first came out, I read some reviews that mentioned the author's use of drugs being discussed in the book, and I got the impression that it was a story that I would not enjoy reading.

Since then, this book has gotten rave reviews, been selected as an Oprah's Book Club pick, and was also a New York Times best seller...and now it's been made into a movie.

Okay, I got the message and read the book. It is a good book!

This story is the author's account of hiking more than a thousand miles, alone, on the Pacific Crest Trail (which is like the Appalachian Trail but goes through California, Oregon, and Washington).

She chose to do this as sort of a way to step back from her life awhile...after a divorce, losing her mother, hooking up with a drug using new boyfriend, and fighting against becoming a drug abuser herself.

Ms Strayed tells a good tale as she describes how she made the decision to do the hike and how she was under-prepared in terms of being physically ready, but over-prepared with the gear and equipment she set out with at the beginning.

Throughout the book the author describes the challenges of the hike and dangers she encountered...from snakes, bears,  people,snow and ice. But also she talks about the beauty of the scenery and of the night sky, the generosity and concern from people she met, and her determination to keep going.
She alternates this with stories of her life...the break up of her marriage, bad choices of men, and being consumed with grief after seeing her mother fight a loosing battle with cancer.

Some parts are funny, some are sad, and there are also nerve wracking parts that make you want to read through them real fast until she is out of when she was at risk of sliding off a mountain because the trail was iced over with hard packed snow.

This book is very inspirational, you can't help admiring Ms Strayed for her courage and sheer force of will.

I would recommend this book and I am looking forward to seeing the movie, too!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

planting trees

For about three years I've had 4 small evergreen trees in planters on the back porch...near the door to dress things up a bit.
Even though I have added fertilizer each spring and tried to keep them watered, I could see the little trees were beginning to resent being confined to a flower pot.  So, I had to decide where to plant them in the ground.

I thought I had the perfect solution, I was going to plant them in the front yard, between our house and the windows of this house that recently was built in the new neighborhood across the street.

this is the 4 little trees in their planters

I set the trees out there in their pots and looked at them from all angles. I really didn't like them there because, as they got bigger, they would be sort of blocking off the left side of our property.

My second idea was to put them along the right side of the front yard...because there are also houses over there that also didn't use to be there.

hard to see from here -- but I drew red circles around the potted trees

That seemed like the right spot. It's easy to dig holes this time of year. The ground was soft but not muddy.
Here they are from a different angle.

This is the view we see when looking that way from our front window. You can see that in twenty years or so when these little trees are mature they will give us back a little privacy  from that direction.

But in the meantime they will be something pleasant to look at over that way.

Speaking of daffodils are blooming!  These are dwarfs or larger ones are not blooming  yet.

I've been looking at plant catalogs...thinking of adding a few new things around the yard this year.
Possibly more flowers and shrubs that attract butterflies, for nectar and as a host plant for their larvae.
It's hard to narrow down the choices - they all look so pretty in the catalogs!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

it's still cold enough for soup

Last week, when I was shopping at "Sams", I noticed that an industrial sized can of diced tomatoes was only $2.88.
That's 6 lbs. 6 oz. of tomatoes !
Well, I couldn't just leave them sitting there, could I?   I thought I might be able to use them for a big pot of tomato soup.   We are still having some cool days when soup just hits the spot.

Here is what I started with...not really a recipe.

I diced up the veggies and sauteed them in olive oil and butter.(I only used a couple of cloves of garlic - not the whole bulb).

Then I added the tomatoes including the juice, and spices.

After it simmered about an hour, I pureed a bit with the immersion blender. I didn't want it to be completely smooth...we like some chunkiness.

Next, some half &half.  

 Then I diced up about 3 ounces of queso cheese (not shown) and stirred it in until it melted. That helped to thicken it up a little and gave it a rich creamy taste.

At the table we spooned in some reheated leftover yellow  rice and added a dash of hot sauce.
It's a healthy soup because of the vitamin C, fiber, and lycopene...but the butter, half &half and cheese keeps it from being low calorie.

My other good deal at Sams...these 4 pack cans of black beans, the larger 30 oz. size...$2.91 for 4 cans.  That's just under 73 cents per can.

Hmmm....bean soup, beans and rice, corn and bean salsa,  beef and bean burritos.........

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

finally quilted and bound

I finally finished up my last charity donation quilt...all it needed was the binding.

It's been quilted for awhile. I tried out something different with the machine quilting this time...Baptist Fans, a nice change from the usual meandering that I do.

I did this by just eyeballing it , not marking the design on the quilt - which sounds time consuming and not fun.
 Baptist Fans were a favorite of mine when I was hand quiling everything,  so it was fun to give it a try on the machine.

I don't mind the irregularities in the arched stitch lines. It gives it more of a homey, hand made look...much more than the usual meandering, which sort of reminds me of a mattress pad.
 I will improve on getting the lines smoother and more evenly spaced with more practice. 

Since it was a beautiful day, I brought out the second batch of  the Mt Washington Quilting Bees group charity quilts to get a photo.

Nice quilts!  Some are made entirely by one member and others are a joint member making the blocks, another sewing them all together, and yet another doing the quilting.

A few more charity quilts will be finished and turned in at our April, another quilting group, Coat of many Colors from Fisherville, gave us about 20 small quilts to be donated along with ours.  

Quilters have been busy over the long snowy winter!

Monday, March 23, 2015

didn't even know I needed one

Last month when we came back from our trip, I discovered a surprise in the basement when I took the laundry down.

A wooden stand to elevate my jug of laundry detergent so the measuring cup will fit underneath!

My younger son made it.  He had stayed here to house-sit for us and he must have been grossed out by the fuzz encrusted, dried puddle of Tide that had accumulated on the washing machine, underneath the spout of the jug.

He cobbled this stand together from wood scraps in my basement and  some leftover paint that was down there too. He even cleaned up the soapy mess!

How cute! 
Now I can leave the measuring cup under the spout to catch the drips. No waste - no mess.
Nice surprise...very thoughtful too!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

happy birthday to my dad

Happy Birthday to my Dad, today!

I baked a cake to take over there earlier this week, but you know how it is sometimes when you want something to turn out especially well...that's when things go wrong.

Chocolate is not his favorite, so I looked online for a recipe for a different kind of cake.  I found this recipe for Caramel Pound Cake.  You can click through to the recipe HERE .

It looks good, right? It had good reviews and I had all the ingredients.

Everything seemed to be going fine. It came out of the oven like this...

I let it cool a bit and tumped it out of the pan. It immediately started collapsing in on it's self!

When I put the cooked icing on, it smooshed down even more! 

you can't even see the hole anymore

The icing got grainy and cooled into a hard armor-like coating.

He was nice about the whole thing and said it tasted like a big caramel brownie.

 I will give this recipe another try sometime and see if I can get better results.

Here is the birthday boy and me...

And with my Mom....

They have another big day next month...their 57th wedding anniversary !

Hmmm.....wonder if they would like a cake?

Friday, March 20, 2015

the Sasquatch cooks

My younger son, the Sasquatch, was telling me how he made egg and cheese biscuits by baking the eggs while the biscuits are baking.

It seemed like such a good idea that I asked him to take some photos to show how he does it.

He uses this cast iron pan.....

Instructions (per the Sasquatch)

Lazy Egg and Cheese Biscuits
- Preheat oven with the pan in it
- Mix biscuit dough and add to pan leaving two empty spots
- Cook for 4 minutes
- Put a small pat of butter in each of the two empty spots
- Add eggs
- Cook 6 more minutes
- Eat

He told me he just spoons the biscuit mix in, rather than rolling them out.

 He uses a counter top toaster oven. It has convection but I'm not sure if he uses it for these,

These look pretty good, don't they?  I need to show up at his house at breakfast time.

He even figured the cost per unit...he is very thrifty!

Eggs 12 for $1.99 - 17 cents each
Biscuit mix 70 cents - 14 cents each biscuit
Cheese $1.99 - about 10 cents worth per biscuit

That comes to 41 cents per egg and cheese biscuit

Sasquatch has a lot of different cast iron pans he has collected over the years. Take a look at these!

15" Lodge skillet 12" Lodge skillet 10" Lodge skillet 8" Lodge skillet 8" imported skillet 3" unmarked spoon rest/ashtray Mini hammer finished Virginia skillet Wagner bacon and eggs breakfast skillet Lodge 7 piece corn stick muffin pan Lodge Perch muffin pan Lodge 6 piece Turks Head muffin pan Lodge cornbread wedge pan Birmingham Stove and range company mini cornbread wedge pan Lodge drop biscuit pan Lodge 10" round griddle Imported double sided rectangle griddle Lodge oval serving/heating dish Lodge bread loaf pan Lodge fajita pan Rome waffle iron Rome pie iron Lodge 5 quart Dutch oven Lodge 6 quart Boy Scout camp dutch oven Lodge 1 pint country kettle with lid Lodge 8" trivet #16 Le Creuset sauce pan #18 Le Creuset sauce pan

His favorite brand is "Lodge" , but they don't make a small stovetop cooking pot...that's why he has a couple of the "Le Creuset" coated cast iron pieces.
I think he has one of about everything else they make, though!

Sasquatch has a lot of different cast iron pans

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Italian beef

My older brother recently mentioned a recipe similar to this that he had tried. It reminded me that we haven't had Italian beef in a while, so that's what was on the menu for Sunday dinner.

A chuck roast ( 4-5 lbs.) is perfect for this because it cooks down so tender and shreds easily. The only other things you need are a jar of sliced peperoncini and a couple of packets of dry Italian dressing mix.

So, first cook the roast. I have an electric pressure cooker that I use, but it can be cooked in the oven.

When the roast is tender, let it cool, then shred it up, removing the extra fat and other unpleasant matter.
Pour the broth in a fat separator. 

Add the shredded beef back to the pan, sprinkle with 2 packets of  the dry Italian salad dressing mix.
Pour in the whole jar of peppers...including the liquid.

 Add back some of the separated broth, enough to make it very moist but not soupy.

Cover and cook a bit longer. About 7 minutes in the pressure cooker or 40 minutes in the oven. 

It's good on it's own or on sandwich buns with a slice of Swiss cheese.

It makes a lot but it freezes really well.

See that potato on the right side of the photo?   It is Pioneer Woman's "Crash Hot Potatoes" recipe...and it's really good.   I use parsley (instead of rosemary) when I make them.
You can see the recipe on her site by clicking    HERE .
Oh, and I like a mixture of butter and olive oil, rather than all olive oil for the potatoes.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

like a summer day

What a welcome change from the weather we had earlier this month! A lovely sunny day with temperatures in the 70's.

I wanted to get outside and do something but the ground is saturated...I didn't want to be slogging around in mud.

I decided to try pruning off a tree limb that is touching our roof.

I could reach it easily with my pole pruner (there is a saw on the end) from up on the deck, but I couldn't apply enough downward pressure to get the saw teeth to really bite into the wood.  

So I gave up on that.    Oh well, there are a few more that need trimmed off anyway...ones that we can't reach...we will have someone come out to do it.

I did see my first spring bloom! A crocus.

 I n the evening I was sitting on the back porch and I saw a coyote. He was passing through and I didn't have my camera, but later I saw him again from inside the house,

Can you see him? I've drawn a red arrow pointing to him.  I hope he's not here to eat the bunnies!

Monday, March 16, 2015

quilter's day out

This past Saturday was Quilter's Day Out.  It is an event that takes place every year in March.  All the quilt guilds in the area (I think about 18 of them) set up booths at a conference center.

In each guild's booth,  quilts and other items made by the members are on display. They may also do some sort of demonstration of needlework...or hand out a pattern or an instruction sheet for a quilty item.

Hundreds of ladies and three or four men visited the show to browse the booths and also a "vendor room" where local quilt shops bring a sampling of their goods to sell...fabric, patterns, books and quilting tools.

Here is a look at the "Mt. Washington Quilting Bees booth (my guild). This was the day before the show...hanging the quilts and getting everything set up.

 And this is the day of the show.  At this end of the booth we had a game where visitors could spin a wheel to win back issues of quilting magazines our members donated. Look at those lovely quilts behind the tables!

Here is Jackie, Bobbie, and Shirley.

Jackie was demonstrating making "yo yos" so fast, her hands are just a blur!

Here is the other end of our booth...Phyllis, Carol...who was demonstrating hand quilting with a hoop, Diane and Jackie.  More pretty quilts behind them!

Then down a little further we had set up the game I devised for last years event,"Quilt Hole".

Made from a bag toss game board...covered by a small quilt top.  Visitors could choose a fat quarter (a quarter yard of fabric folded into a small square and tied) and try to toss it through the hole.  
If it went through...they got to keep the fat quarter...if not, it's all over...only one toss per guest.

That's Michelle in the photo above(in the black tee shirt), who helped me all day with the game.

The ladies who won a fat quarter were so tickled when they's like they had won a huge prize. Some squealed or did a happy dance. Some were just shocked that they had actually got theirs through the hole.
It was really fun to see the winners.  

I should have taken a photo of the rest of the room with the other guilds and their booths. You can see a little in the background of this photo if you biggie size it.

And hanging across from the game area is this amazing quilt that Diane made. It is just the isn't layered and quilted yet...and the light from the window behind it makes it difficult to see all the detail...but it is adorable.  So many people stopped to look at it for the longest time. There is so much to see there!

I have made a few sections of that same pattern. It's one of the things I want to finish this year. Mine won't look this good but I can get a lot of good ideas on color and value placement from Diane's quilt.

This striking red and black quilt was made by Isolde. She is a member of the Bees, but was on duty registering people at the door that day.

We Bees did win the "Best Booth" award...which is a certificate, and bragging rights until the show next year!