Friday, April 30, 2010

Kim's Quilt, Revealed!

It's done.
I connect this poem to it, by way of a name:

Fishing in the Keep of Silence
by Linda Gregg

There is a hush now while the hills rise up
and God is going to sleep. He trusts the ship
of Heaven to take over and proceed beautifully
as He lies dreaming in the lap of the world.
He knows the owls will guard the sweetness
of the soul in their massive keep of silence,
looking out with eyes open or closed over
the length of Tomales Bay that the herons
conform to, whitely broad in flight, white
and slim in standing. God, who thinks about
poetry all the time, breathes happily as He
repeats to Himself: There are fish in the net,
lots of fish this time in the net of the heart.

The front:

The back, intended to be reversible:

I started with Kim's vision, explained here. I gained impetus from Gee's Bend quilts.

My method:
I used three sizes of patches and then I framed the whole thing with long strips of brown interspersed with a few random patches. I pieced the back with some fabrics from the front, plus a big block of green and a big block of gold; unfortunately, some of the piecing was wonky here. Nervously, I started machine quilting with gold thread. I stitched a long wavy line from corner to corner of the patches; using that as my guide, I stitched on both sides until I ran into the frame. For the frame, I did concentric rectangles in brown thread. I bound the quilt in dark brown.

My satisfaction with the finished quilt was deepened by Kim's pleasure and excitement when I gave it to her. Truly I am dreaming in quilt designs these days because of all this. . .

See the dark green shirt pocket (usable!) patch below Kim's forearm?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Great New Variation of Baked Oatmeal

I told you about regular Baked Oatmeal a while ago , but news flash! here's a great variation, thanks to my friend Peter:

Substitute half of rolled oats with steel cut oats and increase the liquid by 1.5 (so in my original recipe, I use 1.5 c. steel cut oats, 1.5 c. rolled oats and 1.5 c. milk). This version MUST soak overnight, as in the night kitchen method.

Nutty texture - really delicious! We ate applesauce on top.

I had an annoyingly stray bag of steel cut oats in my freezer; sometimes, I just buy random bulk items and then hope I find a way to use them. In this case, it turned out well, but usually I have some weird bag, usually unlabeled, at the bottom of my freezer. Now that we have a compost pile, I should just compost that stuff.

Since I was too hungry and sleepy to take a picture of the steel cut oats baked oatmeal version, I'll just submit to you our compost pile for your viewing pleasure.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Comforter, Felted

Remember that I tied the blue bricks comforter with wool yarn and expected it to felt when I washed it? Well, it's washed now, and beautifully felted. . .sweet polka dots. I like it.



Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Journey Bag

As I made Kim's quilt, I prayed for her, smiled over memories (we've known each other since high school freshman year), and dreamed about her future. This is the third quilt I've completed, but it's the first one that makes me feel like an artist. I recall Kim's vision that started the quilt, fumbling around for fabrics, taking the advice of dear readers regarding Gee's Bend quilts, and getting deeply excited by my vision. Making this quilt has increased my confidence and vision as an artist (I'm an artist!) and given me new ideas to play with.

I can't imagine this quilt going to a stranger; I know Kim will treasure it and I'll see it from time to time, so I can release this quilt with a light heart.

The other morning, I made a traveling bag for the journey so Kim can take it safely back to the big city. I used only my scrap bag and tried to echo the theme of the quilt without using any of the actual fabrics (Kim wants the leftovers for her own projects).

I have a few ends to tie up:
1. name the quilt
2. embroider a name/date tag and attach it
3. "photograph the crap out of it" (says my husband)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sunday Dinner for a Rainy Spring Sunday

Rainy spring days need a warm meal, so as the weekend got chilly, I planned for Sunday. . .

Honey Baked Lentils (from More with Less)
Oven Brown Rice
Asparagus Salad (here, from Jennifer Jo)
Roasted Rhubarb (from Simply in Season) over Vanilla Ice Cream


made roasted rhubarb while roasting asparagus for supper
made asaparagus salad (swapped in feta and rice vinegar)
boiled up the lentils

Sunday morning:
mixed up the Honey Baked Lentils and put on timed bake
assembled oven brown rice and added it to the oven

Sunday noon:
set the table with Genevieve's help
set the roasted rhubarb back in the warm oven

And then I drowsed over a magazine all afternoon - but wait! it was Country Living's section on regional pies with recipes. They have a recipe for Sugar Cream Pie that I'm eager to compare to White Branch. And an unusual lemon pie using whole lemon slices - I must make it! This is a busy week, so I'm not sure I'll be making pies, but I'll let you know when I do.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Potholder for a Friend

My friend Marilou has a new green kitchen, but the potholder on display was blue and not in a good slanted way. I had fun digging through my scrap box and making a pot holder for her; she is funky and colorful, but Ron is less so (and he does a lot of kitchen work too), so I tried not to go overboard.

The value of such a small project, besides blessing a friend:
1. color play
2. using up scraps
3. practice quilting
4. and working with binding (I don't bother to cut it on the bias).

Eventually all my practicing might add up to a masterpiece. . .

Friday, April 23, 2010

Slant Rhyme, Slant Color

I never saw a moor,
I never saw the sea;
Yet know I how the heather looks,
And what a wave must be.

I never spoke with God,
Nor visited in heaven;
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the chart were given.

-Emily Dickinson

Do you know slant rhymes, the almost-rhyme, in poetry? Unlike bat/cat, these rhymes are inexact, a suggestion of rhyme. I've realized I like my colors to be slant too - I play with them until my eye is pleased.

Recently when I was buying thread, the saleslady advised me to take it outside to get "an exact match" and I grinned, remembered my childhood and the exhausting tramp over the mall to match a top to a skirt that wasn't bought together, and bought the thread I liked without any project or material in mind at all. My mother and sister sometimes tease me on my odd color combinations, but I don't pay attention anymore. I know what I like.

I like this nightie! See how both fabrics have white to keep them airy? The green leaves of the cherries do not "match" the aqua stripes, but I love them side by side.

Unlike the pink polka dots, this one was easy to understand and well constructed (the neck and armholes are finished with bias tape - how tidy!).

Genevieve loves it and posed willingly. It appears that the nightie is big enough to serve two summers, which is an unexpected bonus.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lasagne with Homemade Pasta

Because of the dark days challenge this winter, I started making pasta occasionally because I could use local whole wheat pastry flour. The good news is that it's not hard to make pasta and it's cheap, but the GREAT news is that homemade pasta makes the best, absolutely the best, lasagne ever!

I had never found a lasagne recipe to love:  I didn't want to boil noodles first, but the overnight soaking recipes never got the right texture either.

Well, folks, I have found a dependable, delicious and manageable recipe; it's satisfying in its vegetarian version, although you could add some sausage or proscuitto somewhere if you want. It's going to be my standard entertaining fare.

I followed Martha Stewart's recipe in Martha Stewart's Cooking School. I know, I know, Martha is needlessly complicated, but lasagne is complicated to start with and at least Martha says you don't boil the noodles first.

Have ready:
1 batch pasta dough (I use the recipe from Alice Waters in The Art of Simple Food - it uses 2 cups flour to 2 eggs and 2 yolks).
2 cups ricotta mixed with 1 egg, some salt & pepper & nutmeg
3-4 c. really good marinara sauce, herby and garlicky
1 lb. mozzarella cheese, sliced (fresh is preferred)
1 1/2 c. really good parmesan, grated medium
1 greased 9x13 pan

You can roll the pasta and stack it aside or roll it as you go - just grab a golf-ball sized chunk, roll it until you can almost see your countertop through it, flour it and set it aside.

Spread 1 c. marinara in pan.
Cover with a layer of pasta, overlapping if need be.
Cover with 1/3 of the ricotta.
Sprinkle 1/3 parmesan.

Add another layer of pasta.
1 c. marinara
Layer of pasta
1/3 ricotta
Sprinkle parmesan

Another layer of pasta
Layer of mozzarella

Final layer of pasta
Final 1/3 ricotta
Rest of parmesan
Last 2 cups of marinara.
Torn pieces of mozzarella

Bake at 375 for 45-55 minutes, until bubbly. Allow to rest at least 10 minutes before cutting. Martha says you can assemble this up to 12 hours before baking, so I think I will try it sometime for Sunday dinner.

This past time, I had 3 sheets of pasta left over, so I bagged them and put them in the fridge. Today, my husband cut them and boiled them for lunch; the pasta had not suffered at all from the delay. I love that flexibility!

I realize I haven't actually explained step by step how I make pasta, so if you want, I can do that. I will just reassure you that it's not hard like custards, pie crusts, and steaks which take true skill and experience.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ben Turned Two

We have a tradition so far of a simple birthday supper with grandparents and aunts as a children's birthday party (I'm sure we'll have to edge closer to the themed party with friends in the coming years).

For now, decorations are usually just balloons.

I try to choose foods the birthday child likes (when they are older, I want them to choose just as my mother let me). For Ben, we had lasagne, asparagus, green salad, and chocolate cake with ice cream.

I cut a car out of a chocolate sheet cake. (I went here for ideas) . . .

iced it with peanut butter icing and used my terrifying but so convenient icing. . .

and ta da!

When we held the cake in front of him and asked him what it was, he said (hello, Captain Obvious), "cake." No matter, because I didn't slave over it and he LOVED it. Actually, it was a delicious cake.

Ben was totally overwhelmed by the few presents; he burst into tears when we tried to set aside the first gift he opened to move on to the others. Then he wanted Grandpa to help him open gifts.

He loaded his new paper bracelets from his sister into the tractor from "Ganny an Pappaw" (Granny and Grandpa), wearing the hat from "Mimi" (Aunt Mel).

It was a good way to celebrate Ben's birthday, but I am bursting to tell you about the lasagne recipe because it was unbelievably good and I've made it twice now so I know it's not a fluke. Tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sweet Violets

There once was a farmer
who took a young miss
in back of the barn
where he gave her a. . .

lecture on horses and chickens and eggs
and told her that she had such beautiful. . .

manners that suited a girl of her charms
one that he wanted to take in his. . .

washing and ironing and then if she did,
they would get married and raise lots of. . .

Sweet Violets! Sweeter than all the roses!
Covered all over from head to toe,
covered all over with sweet violets.

(an old song I sing to my children and, when I can, in three parts with my mother and sister; do you know it?)

Hopefully Genevieve will sing that song for "entertainment" tonight at Ben's birthday party: he's 2 today! It's a perfect spring day. I'll have a full party report tomorrow.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sunday Dinner, Host Family

(the tulip Genevieve got from children's time at church)

The church I grew up in always had a designated "host family," someone who was supposed to invite the visitors for Sunday dinner. If there weren't enough visitors, you invited whomever from church.

Well, my church now has started up this tradition (have any of you heard of the host family tradition?) and yesterday my family was the host family. This was my second time doing it and it's hard! Not only am I planning a Sunday menu with its time constraints, but I'm planning for unknown peoples' tastes.

My menu:
Roast beef, roasted with carrots, potatoes, mushrooms and onions
Green salad with honey mustard or Caesar dressing
Creamy coleslaw
Hot fudge sundae cake with ice cream

got roast out to thaw in fridge

baked cake
shredded coleslaw mix
made coleslaw dressing
chopped cucumbers for salad
made honey mustard dressing
toasted sunflower seeds for salad
put board in table and tablecloth on

Sunday morning:
made green salad
assembled roast and vegetables and put on timed bake

Sunday noon:
combined coleslaw with dressing (then dumped in more mayo)
sliced roast
made gravy (guest stirred)
set table (my husband and guests)
popped cake in oven to get warm from residual heat

I was little worried about vegetarian visitors and sure enough, one of our guests was an at-home vegetarian, but she graciously eats meat when it is served to her. Whew. But I still felt bad.

Everything turned out fine, and more importantly, we had lovely time of fellowship around our Sunday dinner table. I didn't take photos while dinner was laid or then in full swing, so what you see is from Saturday prep and later Sunday afternoon.

Now, let's talk about the hot fudge sundae cake. I got the recipe from Beth after I posted about Wacky Cake, and it's AMAZING. Truly AMAZING. It's easy, cheap, sorta healthy, and incredibly good. I've been on a hunt for this kind of cake since first making it; I found more recipes and made two other cakes and I'll post about those this week too. But really, make this cake - you will wonder how you kept house without it!

Hot Fudge Sundae Cake

In ungreased, 9x9 baking pan, mix:
1 c. all purpose or WW pastry flour
1/2 or 3/4 c. sugar
2 Tbs. baking cocoa
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Then, dump in and mix with fork until smooth:
1/2 c. milk
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla

Stir in 1 cup nuts, if desired.

Spread batter evenly.
Sprinkle evenly with:
1 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 c. baking cocoa

Pour over all:
1 3/4 c. very hot water

Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until top is dry. Cool at least 10 minutes before serving. Spoon warm cake with its sauce into bowls. Top with ice cream or whipped cream or nothing at all. Try to act like you worked very hard in the kitchen to deserve the lavish compliments. Try not to make more than once a week.

My notes to the recipe: I've made the cake twice now. Once we ate unsweetened whipped cream on it and yesterday, peanut butter ice cream. Because it's cake with its own fudge sauce, it can stand alone too, so don't let your lack of ice cream stop you from making this cake. I've used nuts both times - pecans once, walnuts the other time. I reduce the sugar in the cake part to 1/2 c., but not the brown sugar on top. This cakes keep perfectly, covered, on the counter and you can warm it up to serve it, or you can just take a bite as you walk by doing your afternoon work. You know.

Thanks, Beth, for a wonderful recipe!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Stocking Up on Cheap Cheese

When I go to the Amish store about once a month, I stock up on cheese because their prices are so cheap and I don't go out that way very often. The last two times I was there, the smiling cashier said, "you must eat a lot of cheese." Well, yes, but I was going to freeze most of the stack she was commenting on. Next time, I'll take note of the total poundage, For the Record.

Shredded cheese works best for freezing, because blocks of cheese will get a bit crumbly. However, I usually freeze blocks because that's what we use (I often will used sliced mozzarella on pizza, not shredded, because it's less of a mess).

The photo is of a block of Muenster at $2.35 a pound and some Swiss for about $4 a pound. I also usually get organic local raw milk cheese for $5-6 a pound. I've never seen better prices on cheese!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Goodnight, Sweetheart: A Nightie

Genevieve enjoyed her hand-me-down flannel nightie from friend Leah so much this winter, that I realized she would probably like summer nighties and that said nighties would be a snap to sew. Yup. There are going to be three - this one finished, another one cut out, and a third of such wonderful fabric that I'm not starting it until I have learned enough by making the first two.

The pattern and polka dots come from a dear older lady who is giving me her stash as she sorts through it - I'll have to tell you that story some time.

The neckline gave me fits and I actually cut out a second bodice and started over because the first one was so crappy (experienced friend Rebecca says it was poorly written for shoddy construction - I felt better).

When I asked Genevieve if she would model the nightie, she was eager to cooperate and full of poses. I pretended that this was perfectly normal. (Aunt Maggie, do you recognize the pink bear you gave to Genevieve when she was born? She named "him" Joey, and she chose him for the photo shoot.)

See the yellow button? All that pink and white was sweet, if a bit too boring for me.

Thanks to my friend with the stash, the cost of this nightie to me was less than $.20 (smidge of interfacing, one vintage button, thread).