6/24/16

Quilting, Cooking, and Stitching

Thursday ended up being a no sewing day. I went for my monthly pedicure, and then I had a few errands to run. What is it with the errands this week? It seems as if they're never-ending. When I got home, I needed to do a few things ahead for dinner...more about that later...and then it just seemed like the day got away from me. It seems as if I need more hours in my day to accomplish all that I want to. Some might say that I need a shorter list of things to accomplish, but where's the fun in that? That's kind of like saying you need fewer cats in your life, and that's obviously...well, I don't think I need to say any more about that, now do I?

So, it's not entirely true that I had no time for sewing. I did get through Lesson 3 of the free motion quilting sampler. Before I did that, however, I wanted to give a try to some other ideas that spawned from Lesson 2. There are some great videos on the Sit Down Free Motion Quilters Facebook group, and the addendum to Lesson 2 was this sort of apple core motif:


I used the cut-off flannel backing from Live, Love, Teach for my practice piece. It wasn't the best choice of fabric, but what else am I going to do with it? So the one above was the motif I was shooting for. When I did it the first time, I got my insies and outsies confused and ended up with this:


Not bad. It's a little like giant pebbling, only with that sort of diamond shaped thingy in between. (Technical quilting terms, so try to keep up.)

Then, I moved on to the "simple swirls" for Lesson 3. Here's my practice piece.


And I was pretty satisfied with that, so I committed it to my sampler:


Here are the three blocks I've quilted into my sampler so far.


This morning I spent some time working on the Gingerbread Square block until it was time to move my hoop. I'm going to say I'm about 25% done with this now. Lots more to do, for sure.


And now it's hooped up ready to go again.


I'll have to set it aside for a day or two, however, because Block 4 is out now on the Bee-utiful Quilt-A-Long. Cute, huh?


Block 5 should be out today, and so there will be more to do on this before I head back over to Gingerbread Square.

So for last night's dinner, I focused my effort on that weird head of sugarloaf radicchio. Also, the recipe for this salad made short work of the one fennel bulb from this week's share. I'm not really a fan of raw fennel since the anise (licorice) flavor is not to my liking. I'm not fond of certain white wines for the same reason. Nevertheless, roasted fennel loses most all of that undesirable flavor, and for this salad, I roasted the radicchio first as well.


It's a Mixed Green Salad with Caramelized Radicchio and Fennel, based loosely on this recipe from Martha Stewart. So, I substituted the oakleaf lettuce  from this week's share for arugula in the original recipe, and I used the root end of the radicchio in place of the two heads of endive from Martha's recipe. I cut about three inches at the root end, and then cut it into wedges leaving the root intact. That worked out just fine. Also, I couldn't find blood oranges, and so I used regular orange oranges. It was pretty good. It's not something I'd probably make on purpose, but now I've defeated the fennel and about 1/3 of the radicchio. I have plans for the remainder of the radicchio that will finish it off once and for all. 

This morning I'm walking with Sue, and so it's time to eat some breakfast. Mike has all the lumber he needs to finish off the catio this weekend, and not a minute too soon. I'm looking forward to seeing it all put together, and I know Smitty will be a happy camper too. 

6/23/16

Dogs and Cats

Yesterday was a grocery shopping day, which limited my time in the sewing room. Even so, I was able to finish the muzzle on Scooter's pawtrait. Here's the image I'm working from:


Here's fabric Scooter:


Of course, these always look more realistic when I'm able to fill in with top-stitching. For Scooter, stitching in the line for the mouth will make a big difference. For this pawtrait, I'm needing to include the window and trim from the car window since Scooter is hidden just slightly by those elements in the photograph. These are fun projects to work on, and completely engrossing. Today I'm hoping to get a start on the ears.

Yesterday, I was thrilled when my cousin's wife Janice, asked me to make a baby quilt for a new baby girl expected in their family in October. You might remember when Sam and Janice came for a visit a few weeks ago. My first sewing task was to look through the many baby quilt patterns I've stockpiled and find one appropriate for a girl. Their only request was to use a "scant" amount of pink.

So here's the pattern I came up with, called Baby Birds. It's a free download from Studio E Fabrics.


I have no idea when I downloaded this pattern originally, but it's been years, at least. Of course, the pattern was originally designed to showcase their fabrics...long gone by now. No problem, because I have plenty of fabric in my stash, mainly from scraps, that I can put to use making a cute version of this quilt, with almost no pink at all. Here's what I pulled from my stash, and this is where I'll start.


There are a few alternatives set aside as well if any of these won't play well with the others. I'm hoping to get started on this soon, and it'll be a good project for June's

Okay, so quite a few of you have expressed ongoing interest in what's going on with the CSA veggies. So, here goes. Remember: you asked for it. Cauliflower and broccoli are well represented in the most recent shares. Cauliflower just happens to be one of the ingredients in my favorite open-faced sandwich of all time, and so I used about half a head in last night's dinner, these Swiss Cheese Veggie Sandwiches. Something about this combination of flavors is very pleasing to the palate.


I've already linked to the recipe for the Melt-In-Your-Mouth Kale salad there on the side, but if you missed it, here's the link to the post from the Food Babe. I actually like kale in all its forms, but Mike is less fond of it. As for this salad, Mikey likes it! 

But to get back to the sandwiches, you can easily grate one carrot, then thinly slice some cauliflowerets, mix that all up with some grated Swiss, chopped tomato, and some dill. Usually, I use dried dill, but there was a nice portion of fresh dill in this week's share, so I used about a teaspoon of that. You toast the English muffin, pile on the filling, then put it in the microwave for about a minute to melt the cheese. Mmmm, mmmm, mmmm. The recipe is from Betty Crocker's Microwave Cookbook, published during the Dark Ages in 1981 when microwaves were a relatively new invention. 


Having been born during the 14th Century, I actually remember a world without microwaves. Shocking, isn't it? And since this book is ancient and written in cuneiform, I don't think Betty will mind if I give you the recipe. Here you go:

Swiss Cheese-Veggie Sandwiches
Source: Betty Crocker's Microwave Cookbook

1 Cup Shredded Swiss Cheese -- (about 4 oz.)
1 Cup Shredded Carrots or Zucchini -- (about 1 small) 
1/2 Cup Chopped Tomato -- (about 1 medium)
1/2 Cup Thinly Sliced Small Cauliflowerets
2 Tablespoons  Mayonnaise
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Dill 
3 English Muffins -- cut into halves and toasted

Mix cheese, carrots (or zucchini), tomato, cauliflower, mayonnaise, salt and dill; spread evenly over toasted muffin halves. Arrange on microwave rack. Microwave uncovered on high (100%) until hot and bubbly, about 1 minute.

They're super quick to make, and so delicious.

As for the rest of the household, Smitty is having a rough time of it. His world has been turned upside-down since Sadie the Interlopurr showed up on the scene. But I'll let him tell you in his own words.

Like I said, my furriends, the news is not good at all. This is purrhaps the rudest cat I've ever met. She lies in the hallway, blocking access to the stairs, and generally lounges in all the places that are reserved for me, Smitty, including my Mom's lap.


She hangs around the treat bowl waiting for treats. Then, she eats her treats,


and noses me out of mine. 


But worst of all, she even goes up into my He-Man Woman Hater's Clubhouse. Maybe she can't read the "Girl Cats Keep Out" sign at the furront door, but it doesn't matter the reason. There she is, and I am powerless to purrvent this intrusion into my purrivacy.


Despite his wailing and moaning about this, they have been having fun playing. While I was in the sewing room yesterday, they played together for about half an hour. Sadie happens to be a pretty smart little kitty, and she figured out how to get into Smitty's clubhouse with no problem at all. She's tiny, however, and so getting down was a bit of a trick. She figured it out on her own, and so now, she's redecorating. It needed a woman's touch anyway. She's considering wallpaper and some new light fixtures.

Today I'm getting my monthly pedicure, and then it's back to the sewing room for me. Oh, and I suppose I might find time for a little housework.

6/22/16

A Mystery Solved

As I've mentioned before, there's an ugly plumbing access panel in my basement sewing room. I've taken to hanging quilts in front of it to cover it up. They're suspended from clip-on rings and a curtain rod (which just happens to be a quick and dirty way to hang a quilt). It works well because it's also easy to move the quilt out of the way when Plumbing Man wants to access said plumbing.

Recently, I've noticed that the quilt keeps getting moved around and slid to one side.


As you might guess, I had a pretty good idea what was going on here, but I was a little unclear on the mechanism of action. Yesterday...


Hmmmmm...what could that be? Oh! It's Sadie! Did you guess?


Having reassured myself of the absence of gremlins in the sewing room, I got to work making the hanging sleeve for Live, Love, Teach.


When I took the last stitch yesterday afternoon, it was officially finished...everything. Binding, label, and hanging sleeve. I'll be putting it in today's mail.


When that was finished, it was time to pick up this week's CSA share. Oh. My. Gosh. Have you ever seen such huge heads of lettuce? That's Romaine on the left, Oakleaf on the right. So pretty. We'll be using the Romaine for a chicken Caesar salad this week. The Oakleaf is a sweet green leaf lettuce, and it will be used in a multitude of ways.


I'm still keeping up with the vegetables. My two weeks of shares of kohlrabi didn't work out so well. I'm still trying to figure that one out. The first share tried to become kohlrabi fritters. I probably didn't get enough moisture out of it, and so the grated kohlrabi wouldn't hang together. It tasted good, but it ended up being more like kohlrabi hashbrowns. There was an excellent sauce recipe that accompanied the kohlrabi fritter recipe, and I got the bright idea to use it to make a slaw. So I shredded the next week's share of kohlrabi with some carrot and doused it with twice the amount of sauce. Neither of us cared for the raw kohlrabi that way. It was kind of hairy and fibrous. There is no kohlrabi in this week's share, so I have some time to rethink my plan of attack.

The other one that confounds me is the radicchio. We aren't fans of bitter lettuce, and so it's one of the vegetables that I struggle to make palatable. Last night, I made Radicchio Flatbread. That was actually pretty good. It's a very sticky dough, and so it requires plenty of flour. It's not difficult. If you'd like to give this a try, you can find Martha Stewart's recipe right here.


This week's share has a head of "sugarloaf radicchio". It looks a lot like a napa cabbage, but it's more moist, like an iceberg lettuce and more bitter than napa.



It's another one I've had difficulty using, but I have some ideas for this week's share. I'll keep you posted on my victories (or defeats) with the vegetables.

When I realized I needed to get a tomato for tonight's dinner, I decided to do my grocery shopping today instead of tomorrow. Not before my morning stitching, however. I've been working on the Gingerbread Square block in fits and starts since it gets shoved aside while I work on other hand-stitching projects. This morning, I committed to finishing the Christmas tree. 


And now, I have no more excuses, so grocery shopping it is. Also, I'm heading to the post office with the Live, Love, Teach quilt. It'll be on its way to Southern California by day's end.

6/21/16

Finishing Touches

After writing my post from yesterday, I wandered out into the yard to fill the bird feeders and just take a little walk around. Lo and behold, one of the sunflowers has opened already. What a nice way to celebrate the summer solstice!


Since I wasn't expecting that for at least a couple of weeks, it was a nice surprise. Just behind me, I checked the cherry trees. I've seen squirrels and crows in the trees. Thankfully, the starlings seem to have moved on. Some of the cherries have been eaten by critters, but there are enough on the trees this year that I think we might actually get some. These are the bings...close to ripe, but still a little too tart.


Our other tree is a Black Tartarian. It was a replacement for our first tree that died, and it almost died a couple of years ago too. This year, it has the most fruit I've seen. Up high in the branches are huge clusters of cherries. 


Since we almost never get any of the fruit from these trees for ourselves, we quit pruning them a while ago and we're just letting them be pretty shade trees that bloom profusely in the spring. Even with these up so high, we can use the bucket on the tractor to get up high enough to pick them. Indeed, we've flirted with death this way before, and you can read an old blog post about it right here, if you're interested.

After admiring the cherries, I checked in on the tomatoes in the greenhouse. There are tomatoes! Only a few for now, but lots and lots of blossoms give the promise more to come.


These being greenhouse tomatoes, we want to give them a little boost when it comes to pollination. The door and window are left open so the wind can blow through and flying insects are free to come and go. Even so, we fondle the flowers with a soft make-up brush, just to be sure.


The last thing I checked on was the plum tree...still loaded with plums. I'm so excited about this!


Since I've spent so much time on hand-stitching the last several days, I promised myself a change by getting to work on my other high-priority item for June, Scooter's Pawtrait. I took this image off of Facebook, and so the detail is lacking a little. Nevertheless, I think it's good enough for my purposes.


Quite a while back, I edited and printed off a posterized version so that I could better see the differences in color.


I'm realizing that dog fur is quite different from cat fur. The strands are much more uniform. A black dog has many strands of black fur, while a cat has a mixture of many different colored strands.

These always start with a transparent overlay and an ultra fine point Sharpie. You must use this pen because any other ink will smear, and you'll end up with ink all over your clothes, your arm, your hands...pretty much everywhere except on the transparency.


It's a little like paint by numbers. You create a map of the color changes.


This being applique, you need to work from a mirror image of the original, and so I flip the transparency over when I put it on my light box. Also, I've taken to making a note to myself to "trace this side". I use the transparency to assist with placement as well, and I'm often forgetting which is the right side and which is the wrong side.


The other thing I'm realizing is that dog eyes are different from cat's eyes. In all the cat pawtraits I've done, the cats appear to be wearing eyeliner, and that informs how I put the eyes together. For example, here are Smitty's eyes.


Also, the iris fills the eyeliner and the pupils are elliptical. I had to ask my friend Marei (Scooter is her dog) what shape Scooter's pupils are. (It's been a long time since I've had a dog.) As it turns out, her pupils are round. Also, she has no eye-liner. Finally, it appears from the picture above that she has a dark inner lid that fills the portion of the eye not filled by the pupil. After studying this for some time, I decided the best course for the eyes was to make the largest portion of her face first, cutting holes for the eyes, and then filling them in from behind. When I took the class from June Jaeger, she taught us to make the eyes from behind to avoid a bug-eyed appearance.

I traced out the applique,


and then cut it out along with the eye holes.


Then I filled in behind the eyes with black fabric,


And then added the iris, cutting holes for the pupils. It was hard to tell if I'd really captured it without adding more color in the fur.


Then, I started adding the portions of the nose. Here's where I left it for the day.


Today, I'll fill in the bottom portions of the muzzle and the mouth, and I think I'll have a start on a pretty good likeness of Scooter. She's a little tough because her colors are fairly uniform. Of course, it always helps when the applique is complete and I can start adding top-stitching.

After that, I finished stitching the last of the binding for Live, Love, Teach, and the quilt was finished. Yahoo! I started this quilt on January 28, 2015, and while it seems like I've been working on it a long time, I have many finished quilts that took much longer. A little commitment to a timeline can go a long way.


Smitty has inspected it and given it his final apurroval.


This morning I sewed on a label, which I've pixelated. I don't want Lisa to see what it says it until she has it in her hands. After that, I'll share it with you too.


The only thing left to do on this is to sew on a hanging sleeve. After that, I'll put it in the mail and get it to Lisa...and not a minute too soon since it's been over a year since she retired.

Today is a CSA pick-up day, and I need to make a quick trip into town to run a few errands. I haven't mentioned the vegetables lately but I'm still holding my own against the onslaught. Last week's share included one small zucchini...the first of the season. I used it last night on these Chicken and Summer Vegetables Tostadas. I used homemade salsa verde in these and added the last of the garlic scapes just to zazz them up some. Dee-lish.


And that pretty much fills you in on the latest here at the Three Cats Ranch. I guess it's time to get on with my day.