Thursday, April 14, 2011

Green Beans Delicious

This is one of my favorite side dishes, and it's so very easy to prepare! I hope you try it and enjoy it in your house.

Green Beans Delicious
2 strips bacon
1/2 red onion thinly sliced
15 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 pckg Trader Joe's Thin Green Beans (frozen)
2 T. dijon mustard
3 T. cider vinegar
tarragon, salt and pepper

Cook the bacon strips over medium heat until crispy. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Sautee the onion in the bacon drippings until wilted. While you wait crumble the bacon. Add the tomatoes and cook just until they begin to soften. Move the food aside and add the mustard to the pan, whisk in the cider vinegar, stir to combine all. Add the green beans, a good pinch of salt, some pepper and tarragon to taste. Cover and continue to cook until the beans are heated through, just a few minutes. Return the bacon to the pan, toss and serve.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

North Carolina Quilt Symposium

Yesterday I got my confirmation for the North Carolina Quilt Symposium. (Insert silly girl squeak here.)

I invited three friends to join me and two of them took me up on it. So Hillary and my sister-in-law Leslie plus a friend of of Leslie's will be coming along. The thought of getting Leslie and Hillary in the same room for some giggles really appeals to me. I can't tell you how glad I am to be doing this with them, although I was alone last year and got placed with some lovely ladies who graciously included me in all their fun. I hope I see them again this year.

Last year I registered very late for this event and I was lucky to get anything at all, this year I registered on the first day, so I hoped I would get my first picks, and I did!

Friday Morning: Pushing Creativity
Friday Afternoon: My Stars, My Stars, Sally Collins
Friday Evening: Looking Ahead with Margaret Miller

Saturday Morning: My Stars, My Stars, part two
Saturday Afternoon: Surface Design Madness, Susan Brubaker Knapp
Saturday Evening: Making Time for Quilts

Sunday Morning: Surface Design Madness, part two

Now I just have to hope I am strong enough and healthy enough to enjoy them!

June won't get here too soon!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pasta with Leeks, Peas and Lemon Cream

I don't know if you've seen the March cover of Woman's Day magazine, and even if you did you might not have seen what I saw because they did multiple covers apparently. I'm glad I saw this pasta dish staring at me while I was in the check-out at Publix. It looked beautiful and it tastes great. I've changed the ingredient proportions a bit and got six servings, along with salad. If I had served some grilled fish or chicken along side we might have been eating this for half a week. (Nobody in my house would have complained about that!)

I think, in fact, if you're looking for something with more protein, some flaked salmon or chicken might be a perfect addition to this dish, just add it in with the pasta and peas to finish together and come up to heat.

I love this combination of lemon, nutmeg and tarragon. I'm going to be experimenting a lot with this combination this is amazing food for the spring weather. YUM!

Creamy Pasta with Leeks, Peas and Parmesan
With a salad this will make enough for two meals.

1 lb orchiette pasta (I used croxetti but I think tortellini or mini-raviolis might work well, too)
1 lb bag frozen peas
1 lemon zest removed in wide strips and then sliced fine on the diagonal
2 Tbsp. olive oil
8 leeks or 4 large leeks, cut in quarters lengthwise, rinsed out and then sliced in 1/2” pieces
1.25 c. heavy cream
1/4 t. nutmeg (freshly ground is best)
2 Tbsp. fresh tarragon, chopped fine, plus more for garnish
1/4 c. grated parmesan

Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, prepare vegetables and set up a collander.

Sautee leeks in olive oil over medium heat, season with salt & pepper for 6-8 minutes.

Drop pasta in the water, check the packaging for suggested cooking time. You’ll want to remove the pasta about a minute before it’s finished and let it finish cooking in the sauce.

Add cream, lemon zest and nutmeg to the leeks. Bring to a boil and then simmer until thickened. Dip a measuring cup into the pasta water and transfer one cup’s worth into the pasta sauce (hang on I promise this works). Drain the pasta when it has about a minute left to go and then add it to the sauce along with the peas. Cook it all until the pasta is cooked and the sauce is the proper consistency. Give the dish one last toss with the grated cheese.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Round Barn Quilt

A couple of years ago I became aware of Susan Brubaker Knapp, and while reading her blog I became a fan. I admire the way she works equally well in traditional and art quilting. I was thrilled when I was able to arrange for her to be invited to the ECQG for some workshops. To say that she is a great teacher is an understatement. She really understands the processes that she teaches about and has a great way of enabling students to leave their fears at the door and just go for it. In addition to her teaching skills and artistic gifts, she's a lovely person. I've had the pleasure of meeting quite a few teachers over the years, many of them are "heroes" in the blog world. It was wonderful to meet Susan and find that she is just as wonderful to have lunch with as she is to read on her blog. I've enjoyed our internet friendship very much and I'm hoping to hear this week that I've been accepted into one of her workshops at the NCQS this June.

When she was at the ECQG last year she taught her "Round Barn" quilt which involved taking a photograph through the pattern making process and into thread painting. It was a fun project and the image is perfect because it was easy to work with not a ton of details and yet so much possibility for the confident quilter. I worked with solid red, white, and gray fabric, and a black on black for the window glass, mottled gray for the stonework and a patterned green for the grass.

I really enjoyed this class a lot. I'm confident with free motion quilting but had not ever worked quite as indepth as this class called for. Taking that red fabric from plain to the side of a barn wall was addictive. I actually had to convince myself to stop, kind of like knowing when to take a drawing away from a 5 year old and tell her it's finished just before she takes the purple crayon and scribbles all over it.

The stone wall was fun, too. All the stones were threadsketched in without guidance. It was like meditation to me, just moving it under the needle deciding where the stones would lie and how much thread was needed for each one. The only part I didn't love doing on this was the grass, I loved working the edges into the stone, but over the expanse of the green fabric it was a lot of work without a lot of "pay-off" as it couldn't really be seen well. If I did it again, I'd cut a few inches off the bottom of the quilt and have less grass.
I recently took it out of my unfinished work pile and got it finished. Susan has kindly given me permission to submit this piece to the ECQG Small Treasures Auction in September. It's the first time I've submitted something to the auction, thanks so much Susan for your encouragement and inspiration!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Monthly Accounting

It's been a good month from a quilting perspective. I haven't done everything I had hoped but I have made some significant progress. Looking at last month's "to be done" list, I'm pleased. Chocolate Covered Cherries is going to be fully quilted soon. I cut more fabric for my Hunters' Star quilt and I finished thread painting, quilting and facing the Round Barn quilt for the ECQG Small Treasures Auction.

Quilts that need quilting and binding:

Chocolate Covered Cherries

Quilts that need basting, quilting and finishing:

Sherwood Forest Romance

Briners' Picnic (Yes, I still haven't found the backing I had been planning to use for this quilt, I have found another that would work.)

WIPS that need piecing:

Hunter's Star (I now know how many more blocks I need to make and I've begun cutting fabric for them.)

Green and white chain quilt (I've done no work on this. I haven't pieced except for one day this month, it's been all about the quilting with me.)

I'd like to start another small project, possibly something to enter in the ECQG show, but I'm committed to finishing Chocolate Covered Cherries first. I'm loving the work I'm seeing at LuAnn's blog. I'd like to see what I could do in that same style.

Monday, March 28, 2011

All Wound Up

I hate sitting down to do hours of work to find I have to replace the bobbin 20 minutes in. When I sit down to the machine, before I start quilting the first thing I do is check the bobbin. If I'm going to sewing for hours, I put in a fully wound bobbin. But if, like today, I only have a time to sew a few lines I replace the bobbin with a barely filled one. If it runs out, I can always put in a another one full or not, and then I've got an empty one I can refill.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Am I Blue?

I have a new favorite quilting tool, and thank goodness Melinda shared this tip with me, I really don't know how I would have gotten this far if I had marked this quilt's grid in a traditional way. So what's my great tool? Blue painter's tape. It comes in all kinds of widths, leaves no residue and can be picked up and moved several times before it is no longer tacky enough to be useful. I have not drawn a single line to quilt this piece. I used a ruler to find the place I wanted to lay the tape for one line of quilting, sewed on each side of the tape and then moved it to the next side of the stitching.

I can't say this is not a lot of work I'm doing. I think it will be about seven more afternoons of sewing before I'm done and ready for binding, but I'm really pleased with how it's coming along. I got nearly one whole corner's worth of gridlines done today, plus some of the anchor lines all the way around the outer part of the quilt. It's great to be sewing again though, after nearly a week off.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Confession and Cool Binding Tip

Confession: I have not sewn since Tuesday. We've had family in town and while there has been time to sew, I have been reluctant to pull everything out and make a mess since I don't have a dedicated sewing room. (Something I'm working on fixing... more to come on this.) I have, however, done a lot of reading about quilting this week.

Tomorrow the Piecemakers are making the annual visit to the Bulloch Hall Quilt Show, so between the reading and the show I'm sure I"ll be bursting with more ideas (like I need to make the to-do list longer?).

In other news, I have finished quilting the interior parts of Chocolate Covered Cherries, so now I'm back to grid quilting in the outer white areas. The end is in sight. Also, I finished thread painting and quilting the Round Barn quilt, so I have to apply the facing and get that passed in for the ECQG Small Treasures Auction, hopefully on Friday.

In the mean time, Trisha over at TLC Stitches shared a tutorial about a cool (and easy looking) faux piped binding technique. I can't wait to try it!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Don't Forget!!

We lose an hour tonight, don't forget to set your clocks forward!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Okay, before you decide you don't need to consider this recipe because nobody in your house will eat brussels sprouts, let me encourage you to try them this way. First of all, it's easy, second of all, it's tasty and finally, it's really good for you.

This is not so much a recipe as it is a technique.

Take a package of frozen brussels sprouts out of the freezer and let it defrost. It will take a while. You might have success using a microwave or warm water, but honestly, I usually take it out in the morning, throw it in the sink and forget about it until later in the afternoon. At some point in the afternoon I will open the package (and here is the only part of the recipe that is "work") and cut each sprout in half. You don't have to do this, but I like the way the cut surfaces cook up, personally.

Put the sprout halves in a large mixing bowl and toss with some salad dressing. I usually like a balsamic vinaigrette but last night I used a honey mustard vinaigrette and it came out delicious. Cider vinegar would be good with it too, especially if you make a dressing with bacon drippings and cider vinegar. (How could I be out of balsamic vinegar and not know it?) How much dressing should you use? Good question. Enough. Enough to coat the sprouts but not drown them. You can proceed immediately to cooking or let them marinate for an hour or two first.

Turn the oven on high heat 500F is not out of the question here. You will need to drive off a lot of moisture and the high heat is good for that. I have a convection oven now and use that for this dish, but I used to do it in a regular oven all the time. Spread the sprouts out on a baking sheet, sprinkle with course salt and put in the lower third of a hot oven. The first 15-20 minutes or so you won't see a lot of change as the sprouts are giving up their moisture. Give them a stir at this point and watch them every few minutes or so. You want to let them go until they show some real browning but you don't want them dried out and burnt! If you used a commercial salad dressing (I do sometimes) it probably had sugar in it and it will aid with the browning. All in all, if the sprouts were completely defrosted when you started it will take about 30 minutes in the oven.

Check the seasoning before serving, you may find you need salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Making Progress

I have begun quilting Chocolate Covered Cherries and I can't resist showing you how it's going. I love when I've done enough work to really get a sense of how a piece is going to look when it's finished. The background grid is beautiful. I hope the rest of the quilting goes as well. Back to the machine!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Dear Hannah - ECQG Raffle

The East Cobb Quilters' Guild has created a wonderful quilt to raffle off at our show in September. It is "Dear Hannah" which designer Brenda Papadakis was kind enough to give us permission to use in this fashion. I can't tell you how much I love this quilt. It was pieced and appliqued by the members of the guild. Carol York did a lovely job of managing the project from start to finish. Bella Bamert did the quilting.

Tickets are available for $1 a chance. Leave me a message or email me for purchase.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Kahlua Burgers

Hubby loves the hamburgers I've been making since before we got married. Truth be told, I'd love to branch out and make some other kinds of burgers, but he wants these. Every time. Any time I talk about making something else he says, I really like them the way you always make them. (Sigh) Sometimes it's a good thing to have a man who knows what he likes. LOL

Making the burgers isn't hard, but I do take some care that might seem like overkill to you. I always make a big batch because it's no harder to mix 4 lbs of meat than it is to mix 2 lbs and you can freeze what you don't eat for the first dinner. It's nice to have a bunch of burger patties in the freezer for those nights when you can't or don't want to cook.

Pixie's Kahlua Burgers

2 lb. ground chuck (very cold)
2 lb. ground sirloin (very cold)
2/3 package Lipton onion soup mix
1/3 c. Kahlua
a few shots of Worcestershire sauce

Put all the ingredients into the biggest bowl you own. I pre-chill the bowl because the burgers seem to come out better if everything stays cold. In fact, when I have the time I mix the meat and put the bowl into the fridge, the burgers are better if the flavors have time to meld together for a couple of hours before forming and cooking the burgers. The key to mixing the meat is to break through the meats to allow the seasoning and kahlua to coat as much as possible without squishing it all to death. You aren't making meatloaf so don't mush the heck out of it. Combine all the ingredients as thoroughly as possible without overworking the meat. (Okay, so I've said it three times in three different ways, did you get the message?) Rest it in the fridge if you have the time.

I weigh the meat before forming the burgers. My burgers are 7-8 ounce patties. Hint: I wrap my scale in plastic wrap to make the clean up super easy. I compact them making fairly flat hockey puck shaped burgers. They get laid out on a half sheet pan (which is easy to carry out to the grill) with plastic wrap between layers if I'm making a bunch of them. I have learned from experience to make my burgers wider and flatter than I think necessary, they will draw up as they cook.

I cook over high heat on the grill. I don't squish the burgers flat as they cook, and I don't poke them. I lay them down and leave them alone. Close the lid and walk away, usually to take the dirty sheet pan back into the kitchen, prep a clean tray for removing the burgers and other little chores. About ten minutes. When I come back to the grill I'm looking for little pools of pink juices to gather on top of the patties, also the sides of the burgers are showing "cooked" more than half way up. A quick swish of a spatula and they are all flipped. If I'm going to add cheese I do it now. Close the lid again and walk away again, but just about five minutes. I test my burgers by touching the middle, if it feels bouncy it's done. If it feels soft I leave it for another minute. If someone likes them well done (bless their hearts) I might flip it back over when it's "done" and give it a couple more minutes until it no longer bounces when it's touched (such a shame, in my opinion).

The kahlua causes great carmelization on the burger and gives a little "what is that flavor" yum to the finished product without killing the great taste of beef. Sometimes if I can find a good pineapple I'll grill slices of fresh pineapple go with the burgers, but canned pineapple never works for me, I don't know why. We also grill onion along with the burgers.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cherry Covered Chocolate

It dawned on me the other day that I never showed you my favorite gifty from the Tiny Stitches retreat. Melinda and Maetha always work hard to make the retreat special and the goody bags are very generous but this sweet treat was outstanding. Mary Sullivan deserves a lot of credit for all the hand sewing she did to make 50+ of these donuts.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Monthly Accounting

So this has been an unusual month for me. I started out with much vigor and determination, and promptly sewed through my finger. My heavy duty machine spent most of the the last four weeks in shop, I just got it back yesterday. I've done some piecing but not on the two tops that were listed as needing piecing in my report last month. I also managed to sandwich Chocolate Covered Cherries and tried to do Briners' Picnic, too but I can't find the backing I had set aside for it. That prompted an effort to get my act together and clean up the mess that used to be my storage area. It's coming along. I still having found the backing for that quilt.

So as we head into March things are much as they were on February 1st. I have added one thing to my list. I selected a thread painted piece I started in a class with Susan Brubaker Knapp (she's a wonderful teacher) I'm never going to use it as wall hanging for myself, but I'd like to get it finished for the ECQG Small Treasures Auction. It's mostly finished, just an hour or so of thread painting left and then some light quilting and facing and it's done. I want to hand it in at the next show meeting. Special thanks to Susan for giving me permission to donate one of her designs.

Quilts tops that need basting, quilting and finishing:

Chocolate Covered Cherries (pin basted and ready to go under the needle)

Sherwood Forest Romance

Briners' Picnic (yes, still)

WIPS that need piecing:

Hunter's Star (I've started sketching border possibilities, we'll see where this one goes in March)

Green and white chain quilt (I did get the white blocks cut and the rows pieced, I just need to get it all together)


Round Barn (needs thread painting, quilting, facing)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Seven years ago today we moved into this home. It was not supposed to be our forever home and I didn't really love it a whole lot, but it was a great bargain in the right place and it would be a great place to live for five years while we figured out where we wanted to build.

I had already had my heart (and spirit) broken by our first house and I was exhausted from the search for a new home. I felt like we had looked at every house for sale in a 10 square mile area. Earlier in the morning we had seen a house that I was sure I was going to love in a neighborhood I really wanted to live in, but when we walked through it was clear it was not the right house. I was disappointed, worn out and questioning our decision to move altogether. On the drive across town I said "You know what?" and when my husband asked what I was thinking I thought better of saying "If this next one isn't the one I'm done looking, at least for a while." But that's what I was thinking.

From the minute he crossed over the threshold my husband was sure this was the house and every new room he walked through made him more confident this was "the one". I was ambivalent but willing to trust his judgement (go ahead, ask me who picked the first house) so we put in a bid that same afternoon. It was accepted and the ball was rolling for expedited escrow and we moved in a couple of weeks later.

We weren't in this house for three days before I called his office and said "You know that whole five year plan thing? Forget about it, I'm never moving again." I love my home, my neighbors and neighborhood and I feel blessed to have been here for these seven years.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Chocolate Covered Cherries

This week has just been as crazy as all get out. I've accomplished very little of what I was aiming for and obviously I haven't been writing, but I do have something to share today. I got Chocolate Covered Cherries sandwiched in preparation for when my Bernina returns home. I can't wait to start quilting on it, although I confess when I started laying it out I wasn't at all clear about what I was going to do. That changed as the day went along.

I have a friend who wondered what it was like to sandwich a quilt, so I took pics along the way.

I have been loving Hobbs Wool batting but this time I decided to try Dream Wool. It seems like it might be heavier than the Hobbs, I plan to quilt this piece quite densely, I'm looking forward to seeing how it quilts up.

I tend to get carried away with the pinning. There are worse bad habits in quilting, I suppose.

I have always admired quilts with grid pattern quilting in the backgrounds and I've never done one. As I laid this quilt down I realized it would be perfect for it. I'm a little intimidated about the amount of work it will require but it will be worth it. I really love this quilt, it was the mystery quilt from last year's Tiny Stitches retreat (it's about time to get it quilted, eh?) and the colors and the pattern really appeal to me a lot. It's worth the extra work.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Who are the Mavens?

The Monday Morning Mavens: Jan, Melinda, Danielle and Lynda

As I mentioned before, the Mavens went on a field trip on Monday and we stood together long enough for a picture at Intown Quilters.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Easy "Mexican" Chicken Soup

I don't have a picture to offer you, but I promise you this easy soup is both satisfying and good enough for company:

1 chicken breast cooked and shredded
1 can sweet corn, drained
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 jar salsa (I use Newman's Own "medium heat")
1 box of low sodium chicken broth

Shredded 4 cheese Mexican Blend
Sour Cream

Dump the first five ingredients into a pan and heat them up gently. Ladle into bowls and garnish with shredded cheese and sour cream. Serve with corn bread or tortilla chips.

If you can open a can, you can make this soup. I think I made it up in response to a five ingredient recipe challenge, but I really don't remember, it's been so long. I made it a lot when I was pregnant and it has been a staple in our house ever since.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

You NEVER Know What You'll See at Tiny Stitches

On Monday the Mavens did a mini quilt shop hop. We went to Intown Quilters, Little quilts and Tiny Stitches. While we were there, four men in tuxedos walked in, delivered flowers to Connie (one of the employees) and sang to her. I felt lucky I got to be there to see it!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bernina-less and Still Trying to Be Productive

Today I have read through a huge number of blogs and I am shocked at how many quilters mentioned having their machine in the shop! Of course most of them are just getting cleaned and tuned-up. I'm kind of hoping that's all mine needed too, but we won't know for sure until the repairman is back to work. I took my beloved Bernina in the day after my unfortunate sewing accident and found out that the only man with access to Bernina parts is down with pneumonia and it might be a month before I get my machine back!!!

What's a girl to do? Well, I still have piecing work that can be done on one of my Featherweights. (BTW, I got the call that my new Featherweight is cleaned, oiled and ready to roll so I could give her a spin as soon as I pick her up.) And I could sandwich my finished quilt tops, I even bought more safety pins last weekend at Tiny Stitches thinking that it might be the first time I can remember having so many tops layered and ready to go under the needle at one time.

I have spent a lot more time reading this week than I can remember in a long time. I finished re-reading Shelters of Stone by Jean Auel (I'm getting ready for the release of The Land of Painted Caves) and zipped through a light read called Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen which was a little like Practical Magic set in the south. My next read will probably be Ken Follett's Fall of Giants. I listened to the second book in the series while I was on the retreat last month and loved it, but I'm ready for another big read on the page. Of course, when I say "on the page" I mean on my Nook which hubby gave me for Christmas. It will never take the place of paper for some things like cook books and quilting magazines, but it's much nicer than holding around a 1000 page novel, especially when I'm reading in bed, plus, it's easier to carry around.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Chain, Chain, Chain

When I started making these blocks I thought I would set them as they are shown on the right. I love chains. I love all quilts with a strong diagonal design, really. I'm making this one for a friend going through a difficult divorce. I hope to have it finished by the time he has found a new place to live.

When I had finished a few of the blocks I laid them down and took a picture of them side by each and I really like how they look this way, too. You lose the diagonal appeal but you see so much more of the green. Of course I lose a lot of the blank space for quilting. I had hoped to use this as an opportunity to practice some serious motifs. On the other hand, if I don't have as much quilting, I can be sure to have it done in time.

Decisions, decisions.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pork with White Beans and Cranberries

Clearly I could take some lessons on food styling and photography from my friend Lisa at The Cutting Edge of Ordinary.

I first found this recipe in a magazine several years ago. I had modified it somewhat since then. What drew me to it (besides the headlined pork) is the ample use of fresh sage. I love it's heady perfume and find it perfect for something bland like beans. The original recipe did not call for cinnamon, but I find it works nicely with the sage and shallots that are the stars here. Try it and see if you agree. The nice thing is that it takes about 30 minutes to do the prep work and 2.5 hours in the oven. It's the perfect "quilting day" dish since you don't have to do much once you get it started and it reheats like a dream. It feeds my family of three for several days, lunch and dinner. The left over pork makes lovely sandwiches, too.

Pork with White Beans and Cranberries

1 lb dried navy beans
1 5 lb pork shoulder roast
1 1/2 T. kosher salt
1 t. ground pepper
1/2 t. cinnamon
2 T. fresh sage chopped fine
1 T. canola oil
8 large shallots, sliced thin
5 c. low sodium chicken broth
3 sprigs of fresh sage
1/2 c. dried cranberries

The night before making this dish, place the beans in a large bowl and cover with water to 2" above beans. The beans must soak at least 8 hours.

In a small bowl mix together the salt, pepper and cinnamon.

Preheat oven to 350 F

Dry the pork roast well with paper towels and then rub well with the cinnamon mixture. Pat on the chopped sage all over the roast. (I sometimes do this step the night before, when I'm preparing the beans and put the roast back in the fridge overnight but it's not necessary, you can do it right before you brown the roast and it's still going to be wonderful.) In a large dutch oven warm the oil over medium high heat and brown the roast on all sides. Depending on the size and temperature of the roast this should take about 5 minutes per side. Go for the brown, light golden isn't as flavorful, just don't burn it. Remove the roast. Add the shallots and saute them for a few minutes until they are translucent. Return the roast to the pot. Drain the beans and add them as well, on either side of the roast. If there is any left over rub you can add this to the pot as well (but only if you're using low-sodium chicken broth). Add the chicken broth and sage springs. Cover and bake for 2 hours, remove from oven, add cranberries and bake for another 30 minutes or until the pork is fork tender. Slice or shred the pork if you prefer.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


The Mavens went to Jan's house on Monday to work on a project for the quilt show. I'll tell you more about it later, I don't know if it's supposed to be a surprise and I don't want to publish pictures until I know for sure.

Instead I thought I'd show you the quilt Jan is working on. Isn't it beautiful? She's a great fan of Sue Spargo and does some lovely work in wool.

Speaking of Sue Spargo, she is coming to speak at the ECQG. You can find all our upcoming speakers and workshops at our website.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Pressed On All Sides

My iron is dying. I really have nothing to complain about. She's been a great workhorse for many years. I bought her back when I first got married 14 years ago. A few years back she sprung a leak, but I could still put water in her as long as I didn't fill it past 3/4 cup full. But now she's just not getting as hot as she used to. I've been slow accepting this truth but it was time to shop for a new iron.

Melinda and I have talked about it and she recommended buying the least expensive heaviest iron I could find. I do have to admit though I was rather seduced by the fancy colored lights on this model and stopped my search for something heavier or cheaper once I'd found it. (Perhaps I was part cat in another life? I am easily distracted by sparkly things.)

I am honorably discharging my old iron, and commissioning the new one today.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Super Bolt Sale

Every year on Super Bowl Sunday Maetha and the ladies at Tiny Stitches suit up and prepare their best defense against throngs of sale crazed shoppers. In the end it's a win-win situation.

Preferred shoppers at Tiny Stitches are called "Bag Ladies" and they are invited to start shopping two hours before anyone else is allowed in the store on Super Bolt Sunday. These dedicated Bag Ladies are waiting patiently for the doors to open.

Everything in the main store is 25% off. I was there when the doors opened and by the time I got to the notions area there were no more multi-packs of rotary cutter blades left because others were also stocking up on consumables, but I really can't complain. There wasn't a lot I needed to buy and I got most of it at a great discount.

If that were all I had to talk about it would already be a great sale, but there's the classroom sale, too. In the classroom Maetha piles up tables with bolts she's ready to be rid of. Tables are arranged according to price. You buy whatever is on the bolt for a fixed price, from $5 to $30. I've bought plenty of fabrics for quilt backs in that room over the years.

My haul for the day.

So what did I get? Well, I picked up more green for the borders and back of my chain quilt. Also some blue for a charity quilt Jan and I are making together. I also picked up two jelly rolls from Moda's Lily & Will (green) which I felt fortunate to find still sitting there after passing them up a few days ago when I was in the shop, a travel size bottle of gloves in a bottle, a new Clover marking pen, some safety pins (because I have so many quilts ready to sandwich I might use up all the pins I owned already), some needles and an oversized applique pressing sheet.

The best part? This sale happens at Tiny Stitches, my favorite quilt shop with my favorite people. Even with all the crazy shoppers the lovely ladies at Tiny Stitches are friendly and helpful.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Quilts I Dream of Making

There is, somewhere in the neural pathways of my brain, a collection of quilts yet to be born. Some of them are thoughts, well conceived and just waiting for the breath of inspiration to get underway. Others are just "tho.....". Ideas or beginnings of ideas that have yet to come together fully. Here are some of the quilts I want to make someday, some of these have been on my wishlist for many, many years. The last one is a obviously a very recent add.

  • Bear Paw quilt, preferably in greens and purples
  • Amish Diamond quilt (My quilting is going to have to improve dramatically) for me to want to do this)
  • Feathered Star Medallion quilt
  • a portrait quilt (I have a picture of Melinda and myself that really speaks to me, but there are others, too)
  • French Braid
  • Pickle Dish (I've included a picture of a beautiful one from Show & Tell at the ECQG meeting last week.)
  • Double Wedding Ring
  • Roll, Roll, Cotton Boll (Have you seen these yet? Bonnie Hunter's mystery project that began last year is starting to bear beautiful fruit all over the blog world.)

I'm sure there are more wishful thinking items buried deep in the cortex of my mind and they'll come to surface as soon as I hit the "publish" button.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Baby, Baby

I have been wanting a Featherweight off and on for years and years. A black one. With a scroll plate face. That's what I wanted and nothing else would do. How do I know nothing else would do? Because I already owned a Featherweight, a tan one. It's a bit complicated, but here it is. When my father died my sisters and I cleaned out the attic and found my mother's old sewing machine which had been mouldering for years, she had to have stored it there when she got a new machine back when I was 9 or 10 years old.

By the time this machine was found the storage box had rotted through on the bottom and was no good at all. The machine itself needed cleaning, oiling, and a new belt, it had some rust on the bottom plate and a chip in the chrome knob of the wheel, but it's a great little machine. In the time after my dad's death it was a comfort to me to own it, but it wasn't the Featherweight I had always dreamed of owning. I named her Alice after my mother. During the ECQG quilt show in 2009 one of our vendors was selling replica Featherweight boxes and I bought one (I think it cost me $20). It was black, but it was good to have a box for Alice, much better than the alternative!

So for years I would sometimes look on eBay at the glossy black beauties for sale. I'd bid occasionally but I never won. It's hard to be competitive about buying a machine when you have a perfectly good machine sitting in the closet. I'm far too pragmatic for that. But at the Tiny Stitches retreat there were several ladies using Featherweight machines and it made me wonder why I didn't bring mine. It certainly would have been more convenient than hauling my Bernina to the mountains.

I found myself looking at eBay again. Try very hard to imagine my surprise when I found a black scroll face plate machine up for auction that came with a brown and tan box. Hmmm. The man selling it knows nothing about these machines except that they are "valuable" and after finding one he was trying to flip it for a profit. He didn't have a lot of pictures posted, but from what he had there it was clear it was showing some wear. He had no idea if it would stitch but the motor ran and the light worked. What we had here, ladies and gentlemen was a bargain, maybe. Nobody had bid on it and there were only six hours left before the sale was done. I put in a lowball bid and walked away. I realized the machine might need a fair bit of work before it was good for sewing but I thought it was a sign that it came with the box I needed for Alice. Fifteen minutes before the auction ended I checked in to see I had been outbid but it was still well below my upper limit, I began to think I really had a chance. Sure enough, I won it! Well, then the stress began. What if it was awful? A bargain that costs hundreds of dollars to set right is no bargain, right?

The transaction went very smoothly. She arrived yesterday, the man who sold it to me packed it wonderfully and didn't gouge me on shipping charges. Could it really be that easy? Yes, in fact, it was. I took it out of the box, inserted a needle and threaded her up. She sews a fine stitch. This morning I took her to Ashby's for cleaning and oiling before I really take her for a spin, but I am very excited about my new baby, I've named her Betsy. The bonus, she came with half a dozen feet, the original manuals and the brown and tan box which needs some tender attention but is a perfect home for Alice.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pixie's Carrot Ginger Soup

This delicious and easy to make soup has become a staple for me since I first made it in December. I hope you enjoy it!

Pixie's Carrot Ginger Soup

2 T. butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 lbs. carrots peeled and cut into quarters
2 T. grated fresh ginger
6 c. low sodium chicken broth
1 c. heavy cream
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
salt and pepper

Sautee the onion in the melted butter until it becomes translucent. Add the carrots, ginger, thyme and chicken broth. Cover and simmer for one hour, the carrots should be thoroughly cooked and quite soft. Use tongs to transfer the carrots to a blender or food processor, or use an immersion blender (my personal choice) and process until very smooth. Add remaining chicken broth and heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper as desired. Serve with a loaf of crusty bread.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


I sewed through my middle finger. It hurts like a son of a gun. I guess I'm lucky it didn't go through my fingernail, instead piercing the cuticle and coming straight through and emerging through the pad of my finger. There was a lot of blood initially. I think I got the whole needle out of my finger (it was in two pieces, three if you count the part that was still attached to the machine) washed it with hydrogen peroxide, got the bleeding stopped, (managed to not get any blood on my quilt blocks, that's a ray of sunshine in this mess), used neosporin and a band-aid and now I hope I'm going to be fine. Ice and elevation to keep down the swelling, blah, blah, blah.

I thought you might prefer to see a picture of the weapon, rather than the flesh wound.

Finally I got back to the machine, inserted a new needle, rethreaded and tried it out. No stitch. It's not catching the bobbin thread. Remove the bobbin assembly, no stray threads, reassemble it and try again, now it works. Test and get a fine stitch. Start sewing and now I'm skipping stitches. Grrrr.

I was due for a cleaning anyway but I'd hate to think I ruined something. On the other hand, I have a surprise coming, hopefully this week. If it works out I won't miss this machine quite as much as I would otherwise.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Monthly Accounting and a Word About Batting

So, it's been a long time since I've made a list like this. I'm glad to say that most of the items from my last monthly accounting are truly finished, although one still sits waiting to be quilted.

Quilts tops that need basting, quilting and finishing:

Chocolate Covered Cherries (shown with its red backing fabric)

Sherwood Forest Romance

Briners' Picnic (yes, still)

WIPS that need piecing:

Hunter's Star (I pieced together the blocks I'd made and I love it but it needs to be bigger.

Green and white chain quilt (chain blocks are made, I need to cut the white blocks and piece them together)

It's not as big a list as usual. Maybe I've gotten better at narrowing my focus? I have other unfinished things that have been in a holding pattern for a while. But since I have no plan for them they don't make the list. Obviously there's a lot of quilting in my future.

I have the batting and backing for Chocolate Covered Cherries and Briners' Picnic so there's no reason I couldn't get serious about layering them this month. When I get the chain quilt pieced its going to make it to the top of the list since I"m making it as a gift for a friend. I don't know yet how big it's going to finish. Once I know for sure I'll be ordering the battings I need. I used a wool batting in Flying Rose and I love it! It's more expensive than the Hobbs Heirloom 80/20 which is what I have been using for the past several years but wool is LOVELY to work with and the finished quilt feels wonderful. As hubby says, $20 more per batting is a really a small fraction of the cost of the quilt. Sometimes I really love how he thinks

Monday, January 31, 2011

Quilts at the Capitol

Quilt guilds in Georgia were invited by the Georgia Quilt Council to make quilts to benefit the quilt museum. Today those quilts were displayed at the state capitol so of course the Mavens planned a field trip. Eventually they will be the opening collection for the museum and then they will be auctioned off. It was wonderful to see the quilts, so many of them were truly creative expressions of the guilds that made them. Here are some of my favorites:

Various officials and Mrs. Deal (our governor's wife) were on hand to meet their constituents and so I got to have my picture taken with State Senator Chip Rogers in front of the ECQG quilt.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mystery Solved: Sherwood Forest Romance

I finished applying the borders for my mystery quilt. This quilt is BIG (83 x 110) so big in fact that I had trouble finding a floor space large enough to lay it down on, you can see the borders are bunched up a bit in the picture. I think I might cut it down some in the end. I think there is too much green dwarfing the center of the quilt. If it were a light border as the original mystery called for and it could be quilted with a design to compliment the center design it would be wonderful to have a 10" border to work with but as things stand I think 8" might be sufficient. I'm going to put it aside in my pile of things to be quilted and make that call when I come to it again.

Putting this Debbie Caffrey mystery together was great fun. Thanks to Melinda and Maetha at Tiny Stitches for planning the mystery tour.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

It's a Mystery

Last weekend I participated in the Tiny Stitches mystery project at Amicalola Falls. It was great, even though it's taken me all week to recover from it! Once again Maetha and Melinda chose a wonderful pattern from Debbie Caffrey. The green fabric really grabbed me when I was browsing the quilt shop. It dawned on me that although green is one of my favorite colors I've never done a quilt for myself that was predominantly green. The mystery clues called for a light background but I decided to make this fabric my background choice and I worked backwards from there. As I kept looking around the shop I was taken with a collection of florals featuring violets. I've always liked the way green and purple play together but I had an "aha" moment and remembered that I had yards and yards of a pretty floral at home that might work with the green. So, I bought a half yard of the green to come home and check against my stash. Sure enough the floral I had bought and hoarded worked beautifully.

Back to the quilt store to buy more green plus the red and cream fabrics. There was also plenty of homework, cutting the fabric and placing each "clue" into its own ziplock baggie. I have to say this kind of work really appeals to my sense of crazy.

I'm almost done with the quilt top, one more border to go. I'll show you the whole thing when it's finished.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Flying Rose, Finally!

She is finally finished! I'll be entering her in the ECQG show scheduled for this September.

I have gotten quite a few UFOs off my conscience in the past year and a half. I've also started a handful of other projects, of course. I've missed blogging and often thought of returning to it. I hope you enjoy seeing some of what I've been up to.