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