Thursday, September 20, 2012

Drawing is a different way to confess

I have always been a doodler.  In the corners and edges of notebooks as far back as 3rd grade.  I learned it from my mother who always drew on the back of envelopes as she talked on the phone.  She was actually a pretty good pen and ink artist when she gave herself the time but that was rare.  I never thought of myself as good.  In fact, I can't remember using a pen or pencil to make pretty shapes thinking I was doing anything but occupying my mind so it wouldn't drift until a few years ago when Pam taught me how to draw a feather for quilting.  I literally took a pile of about 50 pages of scrap paper and drew feathers until I felt I could actually do it with some kind of confidence and then went to my machine and tried sewing them.  It was quite a victory.

I began Zentangle playing a few years ago.  After my second surgery this year, when I stopped falling asleep every 15 minutes I was awake, I found my ability to keep my mind focused on what's going on during a sermon or a meeting or just about anything else is almost comical.  I have begun sketching much more because it keeps my mind from wandering.  Sometimes the sketch is about who I'm with or what the sermon is addressing.

Sometimes it's about ideas for the brain quilt I'm thinking about.

Some of these lines of ink inspire quilting ideas.  Or design ideas.  The eye postcard I showed you I'm making came because I drew an eye during a sermon a few weeks ago.  I no longer take a pretty notebook to church choosing a sketchbook instead.  It yields some interesting things.  Looking back over my sketchbook for the past several months I saw eyes in many of my sketches and didn't realize I was doing it repetitively until recently.

This morning for the first time I spent 15 minutes drawing a mandala after reading an essay about it.  The encouragement was to start with a dot and build out.  I've never tried it before, but I wasn't unhappy with where it took me and it was fun to try to use shapes that describe (at least to me) a little bit of what I am feeling about my life.  My daughter Kay looked at it and decided that the very element that I meant to use to indicate crazy unpredictable health garbage looked like crowns.  It's noon, and I think I just had my favorite moment of the day.  :)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Blueberry Bruschetta and Homemade Ricotta

Of course, I enjoy a little coffee along with breakfast.

Now, I don't know that this is really called bruschetta.  If it were a savory dish with cheese and veggies on toast it would get called bruschetta, so that's what I call it here, too.  :)

I found a picture of it on Pinterest and unlike many other food pics clicking on it didn't really get me to a recipe.  The original picture (still visible on my "Food Other People Make" board is beautiful and shows a slice of ciabatta with ricotta, blueberries, honey and mint.  (How hard can that be?) Well, I have to admit, I love blueberries and until very recently we had free access to as many blueberries as we cared to pick, so we picked a bunch.  I decided to try this for breakfast one morning and it was great.  Since then I have made it without mint (around my yard mint has turned a little bitter so I am not using it) I have made it with raspberries instead of blueberries and I have made it with other kinds of bread and one morning I used agave syrup because I was out of honey.  I have to confess, I much prefer honey and will do without it rather than substituting again.

This isn't just my favorite breakfast, it's my favorite mid-afternoon snack and my favorite late evening treat.  This summer I've learned to make my own ricotta which is so easy it's almost silly.  It's a good thing because I have used a LOT of ricotta since discovering this treat.   I hope you enjoy it, too!

Homemade Ricotta:

1 gallon whole milk
1 t. salt
2/3 c. lemon juice

Heat the milk and salt in a large non-reactive pan.  Stir to keep any from sticking to the bottom.  Bring the temp to 185 F.  Turn off the flame (if you use electric heat, move the pan to a cool burner) and stir in the lemon juice.  Leave it alone for 25 minutes.  The curdling happens almost immediately but let it sit for this short while, in the mean time prepare the colander, have a glass of tea and read some blogs.

Use a large colander lined with cheesecloth (ask about the day I made cheese using coffee filters instead of cheesecloth because I couldn't find my stash) set over a bowl, when the milk has sat for 25 minutes, pour the curds and whey into the colander.  I find it helps to do it kind of slow in the beginning just in case the cheese cloth slips or something else happens.

Honestly, at this point you've done the hard work.  Lift up the colander and empty the bowl.  I have no use for the whey and I throw it away.  If you know a good use, please let me know!  Set the colander back down in the bowl and pour yourself another glass of tea.  You can go work on a quilt this time because it's going to take about an hour.

When you return to the colander you will see that the cheese has drained a lot.  If you like the consistency, GREAT, you're done.  If you like it a little thicker you can squeeze the cheese cloth to force out any excess moisture.  I do this every time.  You can add any seasoning you like (you'll find a use for lemon basil ricotta on my Pinterest page or leave it plain.  Put it in a sealed container in the fridge and use it as you like.

Blueberry Bruschetta:

Ciabatta bread sliced in 1/2" thick slices, I prefer to do it on the diagonal most of the time
Fresh ricotta, I have been making my own, but store bought works, too
Fresh blueberries

Toast your bread slices.  Schmear a good spoonful of ricotta on each piece of toast.  Take handfuls of berries and cover the cheese with them.  I like to push them down into the cheese as I place them.  Drizzle honey over the top and enjoy this lovely treat.  I've tried it with different berries and I'm planning to experiment with melon slices and cherries and asian pears.... all in good time.  :)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Eye am watching you...

I have found that sketching during talks helps me keep my mind in the topic at hand.  It's funny how that happens for me.  Since my surgery if I don't keep the quiet part of my mind busy it can wander and distract me completely.  I have started taking sermon notes in my sketch book, so the notes and drawings grow along with one another.  LOL  A sermon on Dt. 6 involved an eye drawing, which was the result of a very long and a still not final eye appointment last week.  

Funny my eyes aren't green but look like that here.
I think Mavens thought my time with crayons was funny.

The next day I took that picture of my eye and then during Mavens I re-drew the drawing this time using color to flesh it out (literally).  

Then, I started playing with fabric.

I think this is going to be a postcard.  Ask me how you can get it!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pinterest Confession and Tomato Cobbler

I have become addicted to Pinterest.  After resisting for some time I got bitten by the Pin It bug and now I have to say I am completely infected by it and loving it.  LOL.  If I read your blog, chances are I've seen a pic to share and I'm happy to do that, I hope it brings you more people looking at your pages.

Recently I tried this recipe I found there and thought I would share it with you.  I made some changes, not least of all because I'm not a blue cheese fan.  So my version is with goat cheese.  If you want the original recipe there is a very pretty picture on my board called "Food Other People Make" I hope you enjoy!

By the way, this was originally a Martha Stewart recipe that was reworked and posted on the blog "Joy the Baker" and now it's been reworked by me.  :)

Tomato Cobbler with Goat Cheese Biscuits

Biscuit Topping:

2 c. Flour
2 T. Baking Powder
1/2 t. Salt
1 T. Sugar
1/2 t. Ground pepper (I used lemon pepper)
6 T. Butter cut in pieces and made very cold.  I never use unsalted butter in biscuits.
1/2 c. Goat cheese, very cold, broken into crumbles
3/4 c. Buttermilk

Just a couple of notes, if you have self-rising flour, you can use that instead of the first three ingredients listed. I freeze butter because I buy my favorite brand it when it's on sale.  A frozen stick can be chopped up pretty easily and makes the biscuits nicely. Also, buttermilk is easy to buy and keep in the fridge.  It doesn't really start tasting like buttermilk until it's been there for a month.  Now, if you're not a big baker or buttermilk user you might be getting grossed out by this idea, but I promise you it will stay there and get better and better for several months.  Three months old is not out of the question, it just gets thicker and more tasty as it waits for you to bake something, I promise you you'll notice a color change when it begins to go bad, I think it's happened to me once with a jug that was six months old. :)

Put flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and pepper into the food processor and give it a whirl.  Add butter pieces and pulse it to get them started incorporating with the flour, when you're almost done, add the goat cheese pieces too and give a few pulses just to cover them with flour mix.  Now, you can add the buttermilk to the food processor if you like, I often do when I'm in a hurry, but I prefer to pour the flour into a bowl and add the milk by hand.  Incorporate it and turn it out onto a floured surface, I did it on a baking sheet, pat it out.  I know people like to cut biscuits into rounds but I don't like having scraps to reform so I cut the biscuits into squares or rectangles and get them all done in the first time the dough is shaped.  Put the biscuits in the fridge which was part of why I did them on a baking sheet in the first place...  easy transport and less mess to clean up!

Tomato Filling:

2 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
2 onions, very large or 3-4 medium size, sliced thin (I prefer mine cut in half first)
3 cloves of garlic
3 packs of cherry or grape tomatoes (I recommend using red, yellow, and size)
1/4 c. coarsely chopped basil
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. flour
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

Set oven for 375 F

Heat oil and butter in an oven safe large sautee pan if you have one, over medium heat.  Add onions and salt and pepper.  Stir them occasionally and let them get caramelized which takes about 20 minutes.  You can begin at a slightly higher temp, just to get them started and giving off moisture, but turn it down as soon as they start to lose shape you want them to get their color from caramelization and not high heat.

While onions are cooking, either cut the tomatoes in half (if you bought cherry tomatoes) or pierce them with a knife (if you're using grape tomatoes).  This decision came to me after getting spurted by hot tomato innards several times when using whole tomatoes the first time I made this recipe.  Oh, I promise you the pretty picture is lovely if you use whole tomatoes, but your table cloth, shirt and chin will be happier if they are given a break.  It takes 5 minutes and the onions are still cooking, so you have the time.  :)  Place in a large bowl with basil, flour, and pepper flakes.  Toss well.

This is delicious even without biscuits!
When the onions are done, add garlic and cook for one more minute.  Turn off the heat (if you use an electric oven, move the pan to a cool burner) and add the balsamic vinegar and stir well.  Add tomatoes mixture.  If you don't have a sautee pan big enough for this dish, you could pour the onions into the tomatoes and then pour the whole mixture into a baking dish.  I liked making this all in one pan.

Next time I will add 2 less biscuits to the pan.
Bake the tomatoes for 25 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven, top it with biscuits.  You may have more biscuits than you need, they can go in the oven on the baking sheet for other snacking.  :)

Bake for another 15-20 minutes, until the biscuits are browned and juices are starting to bubble around them.  Trust me when I tell you that it's worth waiting to make sure the biscuits are actually cooked all the way through. :)


Friday, July 13, 2012

A Crowded Village

Two weeks ago I gathered fabrics from my stash and went to my first class in 2012.  Getting to plan to attend a workshop that lasts all day is strong testimony to how much better I am.  During the lunch break I actually went and took a nap which allowed me to come back in the afternoon and do more work, which is good because even at the end of the day I didn't get anywhere near done and I chose to let 2/3 of my quilt be NOT a village!  My friend Melinda managed to get a whole piece covered in a village!  I'm glad it was a workshop and not a competition.  
It was especially great to take Karen Eckmeier's workshop because I had wanted to study with her a couple of years ago during the North Carolina Quilt Symposium and couldn't get a spot, so I was really happy to see she was coming to ECQG just as I was ready to try taking a class again.

It was a busy day and it took days to recover but I'm really glad I did it and I'm really grateful to have created the beginning of a project that will almost surely be an auction item for the ECQG Quilt Show next June.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Georgia Pecan Coffee Cake

This recipe makes me giggle.  I actually buy my pecans from a company in Alabama which I drive by on my way to Florida, but I make the cake in Georgia so I guess that's okay.  Also, like many coffee cake recipes it originally called for sour cream but I seldom have that on hand while I often have fat free or low fat greek yogurt, turns out that works perfectly.  
I made it for the Mavens recently and they all seemed to like it so I thought I'd share it with you.  I hope you like it too!

Georgia Pecan Coffee Cake
2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1 T. baking powder
1 c. butter, softened but not melted
1 c. greek yogurt
1.5 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 T. vanilla extract

Streusel Topping:
1 c. pecans 
1 t. ground cinnamon
2 T. butter

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a 9x13 inch pan with aluminum foil, and lightly grease with vegetable oil or cooking spray. 
  2. Prepare a pan, the original recipe called for a 9x13 but I prefer my 8x11 which happens to be pottery rather than metal.  I butter it well and set it aside.  
  3. Put the pecans on a cookie sheet and toast them lightly while getting ingredients together.  Don't let them toast too much, this step is just to keep them well textured after being mixed in the streusel.  If you toast too much then they will burn while baking later on.  Take them out of the oven (I used my toaster oven) and let them cool a bit before chopping a bit, big pieces are nice for this cake.  This whole step takes less then 10 minutes and make a good difference in the quality of your cake.  Mix with brown sugar, cinnamon and melted butter and set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl dry whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. 
  5. In a large bowl use a mixer to cream the butter until light. Add the greek yogurt and mix to combine well and then beat in sugar. Add the eggs one at a time and then the vanilla.  Without the mixer add the dry ingredients, folding it in to combine as quickly as possible.  Pour the batter into the pan.  
  6. I find it's easiest to apply the streusel by hand to make it even across the cake.  Here's where using a slightly smaller pan makes for a better layer of topping.  
  7. The original recipe called for baking 30-35 minutes, but in an even slightly smaller pan it takes about 45 minutes.  Check for doneness by inserting a knife into the center of the cake and make sure it is cooked all the way to the center.  Let it cool 15-30 before cutting into pieces and serve.  

Monday, April 30, 2012

Sew-in Day for (most of the) Mavens

Fabric for spool blocks exchange
Before Mavens got together today I grabbed these fabrics and started cutting them for the blocks that the Piecemakers are making for our annual exchange.  This is what I was looking at when the Piecemakers walked in through the front door.  I thought we were all working on our blocks for this exchange, but Jan was done with hers already which was no surprise, Stella was working on her hand sewing project, and Melinda was working on a project that is due this week.   Somehow I failed to take a picture of Jan's work which was cutting for a quilt she's working on in teal and orange.   The spool block exchange is going to be pretty cool.  I got 12 of them done today, I need to finish another five I'm pretty sure I'm in good shape at this point.  :)  We missed you Lynda!

Stella giving another block of hand stitching.
The spool blocks I got finished
Melinda's exchange project due this week

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Quilts of Valor, Wounded Warriors, Women and oh, something ready to be quilted, finally!

 I made the backing for the Sherwood Forest Romance, so it's going to Melinda tomorrow for long-arm love.  I've only asked her once before and I have to say that I have great emotional attachment to that quilt although I didn't love it at all.  I can't wait for her to quilt this one because I do love it already.
Sherwood Forest Romance & backing

My bee group "The Piecemakers" made quilt tops for Quilts of Valor last week.  My guild did quilt tops for Wounded Warriors.  I managed to work in both sessions through the week. (Then spent days resting, including Saturday which basically took 22 hours of sleep, but unlike our wounded heroes I will get better and be fine in the next few months!)  
Of course JAN finished her quilt top, LOL
Wounded Warriors Quilt

Some of the Piecemakers 
Pam having no fun at all!

Also Quilts of Valor in Progress

A quilt Jan & I made last year... thank goodness she quilted it!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Well, That Didn't Work

 While cleaning up the studio space (which will soon become Kay's bedroom and I'll be moving the studio across the hall to her current bedroom space) I found a lot of things that were practice pieces or workshop try-outs.  I found this block.  I'll be darned if I can remember which teacher had us doing it.  It's got paper scraps in some of the seams, so it was obviously paper pieced.  I love red and would love to use this block, maybe as a round robin style setting.  I love doing groups of borders around a single block.  I also found a ziplock bag with green square in a squares.  I thought they would work.  I put them aside to try with the block.

Last week I put the center block and the setting blocks on the design wall together.  I had six of the square in square blocks.  I could make some more and get the first border done.  Making 10 of them wouldn't take any time at all, right?  LOL  I'm still doing things on the not so impressive schedule of getting things done.  First I had noticed that these blocks had the same background fabric as the center block.  I realized I must have thought of this back when I made the block.  Funny that apparently the same thought came to me then.  I looked through my fabric and miraculously managed to find both the background fabric (not much of it) and the green fabric in my stash.  WOW!  So I made 10 more squares and surrounded the block with them on the design wall.

At which point I decided I HATED them.  Hmmm.  Well, this is maturity.  Deciding before I sew the quilt together with borders I know I'm not going to like it.  This shade of green with this shade of red brown and yellowish cream does not work for me.

So now, I'm thinking about what I might do in the future with this block, and putting the new square in squares back in the ziplock.   There will be another 12" block to be bordered at some point.  Now I can move on a bit.  Also, I'm almost done cleaning the stack & whack quilt top and I've figured out the backs for that one and the one I'm giving to Melinda to quilt.  Today I'll be taking on a new project that I'm hoping to do for a friend's birthday, something really small but fun.  Hopefully I'll have something to say about it (and maybe even pictures) before the end of the week.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Making Progress!

Last week I began working on this quilt top.  I think I've shown you the blocks when they were on the design wall last week.   I had bought some fabric for sashing during shop hop day (my quickest trip EVER to Tiny Stitches) and I think I had two windows of time to work, about 15 minutes long each, and began sewing the vertical pieces to the blocks and making rows but then I discovered I didn't have enough of that fabric for the border around the rows as I was going.  A fret began to grab me, even as I was too tired and weak to work more.  I began to think about what I would do next if I couldn't get more of this fabric, oh, and I called my dear sweet Melinda who works at the shop and in fact was going in to teach that day as luck would have it.  I emailed her pictures of the fabric and asked her to buy me another half yard please.  She was willing but couldn't find the fabric in the green section.  She asked Mindy to look for it the next day.  I was hopeful but beginning to thing I'd have to go to plan b.  Don't ask me what it was, I can't remember any more.  LOL.

A friend of mine came to visit me on the next day and I asked if she could please take me over to Tiny Stitches.  I was still not feeling good but I really wanted to look for myself.  We drove over there and I walked in, Mindy was working and knew immediately that I was coming to find this fabric.  Of course I had a scrap of the green, she looked at it and said, oh that looks blue to me.  She went right to the blue section and found the bolt immediately.  I love Mindy a lot but I really do think it's green fabric, definitely on the blue half of green rather than yellow which is much more popular these days, but green at any rate.  I didn't care, I was just glad she got the bolt.  I bought extra too, so I could use it for binding too when I get there.  These blocks were a little wobbly but I think the quilt will do well when it's quilted out.

It took a lot of work and effort but I did finally get the horizontal sashing on and the inner border and then cut and pieced on the outer border.  There's no way this 1990's fifth ever quilt in my life is ever going to look like anything but a 1990's quilt, but honestly, I love the floral fabric and I'm glad to be getting it re-worked to something I actually might have enjoyed better.  I'm going to use it to practice some of the more challenging quilting options out there that I tend to chicken out on.  Right now it's just a big enough wahoo that I got the top finished.  I'm slowly working my way through it cutting out all the loose threads that are every where from having dismantled the original setting that was so awful.  It's the kind of work that I can do while watching NCIS, it's going to take a while but that's okay.  :)  It enough to say I have a completed top.

Actually, I have 2 completed tops.  For reasons I'll explain another time I was able to put my hands on a lot of UFO's in the past few weeks.  One of them is Sherwood Forest Romance which I loved when I made it during a Tiny Stitches retreat in January 2011, and finished the top the same week of the retreat if I recall correctly (and posted pics here, I think) but didn't love the border I put on.  I showed it to Melinda while she was here recently and agreed that the border doesn't need to be removed, just cut down.  Yesterday I cut it from 12" to 7.5" and I love it so much more.  I turns out I have more of the floral fabric to make the backing I think so I'm going to have Melinda who is a professional quilter go ahead and complete this one for me.  So really, that was finishing 2 tops this week.  Not bad for a girl still doing serious recovery from brain surgery.  LOL