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)