Happy Thanksgiving

My day started out pretty well yesterday when the grocery store was surprisingly calm. I was in and out in less time than it took to find a parking space! It kind of went down hill from there thanks to my efforts at quilting the Doors of Ireland. It actually kept me awake last night.

I've come to some conclusions about what I can and can't accomplish with Eliza; mainly, I'm going to have to use the same thread top and bottom or I'm going to continue to feel frustrated by it. I could go on and on about this, but I'll spare both of us a tiresome litany of whining.

It's going to be a busy day here. I didn't do any cooking yesterday, partly because of quilting woes, but also because I decided it was too soon to do what I'd intended. I think I'll get better results for having waited a day. It seems a good time for sharing an article from last year out of the New York Times, entitled "The United States of Thanksgiving". It contains recipes from all 50 states. Check out your state and see if you agree.

For Oregon, the recipe was Cranberry Sauce with Pinot Noir. It was a good choice for our state since cranberries are grown in Bandon, Oregon. We've driven by the bogs at this time of year, and they are beautiful when they are full of the red berries. Here's a little video from the Oregon State University Extension Service that shows the cranberry harvest in Bandon.

If you can't see the video, then click right here.

And of course, we are very proud of our Oregon Pinot Noirs. So, this was a good choice for Oregon, and I tried it last year.

(photo credit: Leah Nash for The New York Times)

At this point, I can't even remember how it tasted, but I typed it into my recipe database, so it must have been worth the effort. Here are the notes I wrote about it at the time:
This was a little runny even after cooking it down for 25 minutes. It was worth trying again, but I would reduce the amounts of liquid next time around. This is the original recipe, as written. Try reducing all liquids by 1/4 cup.
Also, I would strip the rosemary sprigs and chop the rosemary. I was not able to remove all the "needles" of rosemary after this was cooked down, and I didn't like the look or texture in my finished sauce.
This is best made a few days ahead to allow the flavors to blend. It was delicious, and definitely worth making again with the suggested changes.

That's all well and good, but I'm back to my old standby this year, and it's a good one. It's quick to make and the addition of dried cherries means that you get a little surprise in most mouthfuls. The cherries are very nice with the tartness of the cranberries. I found the recipe in our local newspaper a long time ago. I looked for it online, but couldn't find it anywhere, and so I'm going to share it here:

Cranberry Cherry Marmalade

1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup dried cherries
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon firmly packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 whole cinnamon stick -- broken in half
2 teaspoons grated orange zest

Combine water and granulated sugar in medium, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat.  Stir until sugar is dissolved, then bring to a boil without stirring.

Add cranberries, cherries, vinegar, brown sugar, ginger and cinnamon.  Stir to mix, then bring to a simmer, lower heat slightly and cook until mixture is thickened, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in orange zest.  Carefully, with tongs or a slotted spoon, remove and discard cinnamon stick halves.  Cool mixture to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate.

NOTES : Marmalade can be prepared 5 days ahead; bring to room temperature 15-20 minutes before serving.  It can also be frozen; defrost in the refrigerator a day ahead.

And before I leave this topic, let me just say that Thanksgiving isn't Thanksgiving without the jellied cranberry sauce from the can. Just sayin'...

* * * * *

Usually I've already done my stitching for the day before I sit down to write this "letter to friends". Today I'm letting you know I'm taking the Thanksgiving weekend off from blogging. There's just too much to do, and if I do any quilting, I know my posts will consist mainly of complaining. I'm just going to give thanks for the immense privilege I enjoy at being retired and having the resources I need to enjoy my passion.

This morning I enjoyed reading Kathy Matthews' post about First World Quilter Problems, and it put everything in perspective. Take a look at that link I've given you and see if you don't agree.

For now...have a very Happy Thanksgiving. I'll be right back here on Monday, hopefully with a finished quilt.


No Go on the Snow

It's raining and 33°F here this morning. As so often happens when snow is predicted in Portland, it warmed up too fast, or else the rain started too late...or something. Occasionally, we get an honest-to-goodness snow or ice storm. Most often, we get snow or ice in the transition from warm to cold or vice versa. We're transitioning from cold to warm and back to cold right now, and the precipitation seems to have timed itself badly. We're expecting cold temperatures and sunshine for the rest of the week.

I'll admit I was excited about the possibility of snow until I realized with a panic that I absolutely, positively have to go down the hill to the grocery store this morning. There are a few essentials I put off until the last minute...fresh mushrooms, for one thing...and I simply must have them to make my holiday side dishes. Perhaps the gods of weather sensed my panic and put off the snow for another time. Whatever the case, now my panic is reserved for the grocery store itself...which is bound to be sheer madness today. Fortunately, my list is short. It could get shorter depending on the atmosphere inside the grocery store doors.

Speaking of doors, I did get some quilting done yesterday. (Impressive segue, no?) Since I hadn't done any sewing for two days, I started yesterday's agenda with sewing at the top of the list. I started by stitching some lines around the top-stitching on Cyclelogical. These blocks are small in comparison to the Irish chain blocks, and so the quilting on the doors is more for definition and detail than it is for function. A little later, I went back with blue thread and stitched around the window posters again. The posters are printed on fabric that is wanting to fray pretty badly. I'm going to need to go around the edges with fray check just to be sure they won't come apart.

I still had gray thread on the machine at that point, and so I stitched the mortar on the stone wall of the yellow door. This is the door to a residence that I probably snapped as we sped by on our bus. I have no idea where this door was located. I still want to do a little more on this one. I'm planning to stitch some stems and leaves onto my fussy cut flowers in the window box, and then call it good.

Then I moved up and stitched some cobblestones into the road in front of the Galway Pet Store. Also, I added a little outline stitching to the dog statue chained out front, just to give it a little more definition. That brought me to the end of the gray thread, and I switched to royal blue. I used that to outline the door and window. I'll come back and do a little more on this once I've switched to red thread.

When that was finished, I put my needle down in the O'Brien's Bakery block, but I didn't do any more stitching for the day. 

Since quilting was first on the agenda, I had some other things to do. I needed to do some housework and make the cranberries for Thanksgiving. Also, I remembered that I needed to finish going through the freezers inside the house and moving some stuff to the new freezer in the garage. That was quite a revelation in items that had been lost to time and space in the smaller refrigerator freezers. Some stuff just needed to be thrown out, but I found some real treasures. 

Do you ever open a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, take out one pepper, and then wonder what to do with the rest of the can? Well...if you're me, you put the rest of the can into a sandwich bag and stick it into your freezer for future use, never to be seen again. Yes, I found four of those. Also, I found two sandwich bags of anchovies packed in oil, and three packets of tomatillo puree, nicely measured out for use when I make Enchiladas Suizas. I guess the enchiladas will be appearing on the menu soon. And often! Fortunately, it's a favorite around here. 

Let's see....what else? Oh yes, several packets of a partial can of tomato paste and tomato sauce, yet another quart of veggie stock, and some filling for stuffed poblano peppers. A pretty good haul, all from one freezer. The other freezer was less interesting. Now the freezers seem so roomy and well organized! That should last at least through the end of the week.

This morning I finished up the little sewing machine for the Written in Thread quilt.

The bulk of the housework was done yesterday, but I still have a few little things to do today. For one thing, I'm making the component parts of my green bean casserole. I make the classic green bean casserole, only mine is made from scratch with fresh ingredients. It takes a while, but it is delicious; thus, the need for fresh mushrooms. Hopefully, I'll have some time for quilting this afternoon.

As I mentioned, I'm taking my life in my hands and actually entering the grocery store today. I'll keep my head down and walk straight to those fresh mushrooms. Once I have those, I'll decide whether to continue on into the bowels of the store or save that adventure for another day. It might be good to take an umbrella...the kind with the pointy end...that way one has weaponry at one's disposal, and you just never know. It's a trick I learned when I used to have to board a crowded bus coming home from work in downtown Portland. Those last-minute grocery shoppers had better make way because an experienced crowd buster is coming through...and where fresh mushrooms are concerned, I will not be denied.


Freeze, Froze, Frozen, Freezing

It's cold here...in so many ways. For one thing, our temperatures have dropped substantially, and there's a good chance we'll wake up to snow here at the Three Cats Ranch tomorrow. Here's one of our outdoor thermometers. It's hard to read, I know. It says 34.9°F, and it's getting colder by the minute.

With the possibility of snow and/or ice, it seemed a good time to get out and fill the birdfeeders this morning. I feel sorry for the birdies when the ground is covered with snow and ice, and I didn't want to risk life and limb traipsing out there tomorrow. As I went, the weeds in the field were crunchy with frost under my feet.

Smitty has been hanging out inside the house in this cold weather, generally making a pest of himself in his boredom. Fortunately, he went outside with me and has stayed out for a while. He'll come in shivering with cold, and then sleep the rest of the day next to the fireplace. It will be a blessed relief for all concerned.

There's been no more progress quilting the Doors of Ireland. I had big ideas about spending the day on it yesterday, but then Mike came into my office and told me he'd found a freezer. I've been lusting after one for years, but recently became downright insistent about getting one. If we're going to continue with the CSA shares (and we are), then I need one if I'm going to have the capacity to put all of the veggies to use. That meant driving down to McMinnville to pick it up at the Sears store down there.  

We brought it home and used the forks on the front of the tractor to unload it. That caused me to bite my fingernails down to the quick, but we got 'er done. It's 17.5 cubic feet, which should be big enough to hide several bodies, don't you think?

Once we had it set up and turned on, I wasted no time emptying the smaller freezers of their contents. We have three refrigerators (long story), and we've limped along on their small freezers just fine up until the CSA came into our life. With me making vats of veggie stock, purchasing meats on the bargain meat counters, and keeping lots of different specialty flours, germs, and brans for baking, there wasn't much room left for the day-to-day stuff. (Yes, I am showing you pictures of the inside of my new freezer. It'll never look this neat and clean again.) 

We got the chest style so that it would fit under the window in our garage, and I like the bins. It came with four that can be moved around or slid back and forth. I loaded it with 18 quarts of vegetable stock. There would have been more, but I ran out of room. Also, you can see all those specialty flours, brans, meals, and germs that I use in baking. Those took up almost the entire freezer in one of the refrigerators. The packages of meats purchased when the butcher shop marks them down took up all of the space in another one of the freezers.

As much as I loved the CSA this year, we got burned out on some of the greens. There was a bundle of greens in every share, and our appetite just wasn't big enough. I'm looking forward to blanching and freezing them, or else making soups up for freezing next year. I'll be able to give some of that stuff to the kids too. Grateful as I am to be finished with this year's CSA season, I'm excited to get started on the next one now. My head is full of ideas with more room to store more food. We'll be ready for the Big One, if nothing else.

This morning I finished off the little Blankets of Love stitchery.

And I got quite a bit done on the little sewing machine too.

Today I really am going to do some quilting. Thanksgiving is at our house again this year. I got a free turkey with my groceries last week, but Erik is bringing his fryer up and he's going to deep fry it. He claims it's the best turkey ever. Matthew is going to make the sweet potatoes. I'll be doing the rest, but most of it can be done ahead. I think I have cranberries on the agenda for today, and a little housework.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. With a little planning and help, the stress can be kept to a minimum. And with that in mind, I'd better get going on it.


Stitching, and More Stitching

Yesterday morning I finished stitching the latest of the Live, Love, Teach blocks. Block #35 is for the Fifth Grade Team, designed by Nancy. Here's the original drawing.

Here it is rendered in fabric and floss.

And every finish requires a new start, so I wasted no time tracing out the next blocks for the Written in Thread wall-hanging. This is a pattern from Bareroots, and here's how it looked when I saw it made up in a quilt shop.

This is the image from the pattern cover. I'm using this image to choose my background fabrics.

The next ones I'm doing are in the mid to upper right hand corner. Blankets of love:

Does anybody else hear the Doobie Brothers singing? I'm sure they meant "blankets" of love, rather than "echoes" of love when they wrote that song. (Please tell me you're old enough to remember the Doobie Brothers.)

Also, the sewing machine...the background is a leftover scrap from the Quilting Snowladies. (Yes, I *am* going to sew the snowladies together eventually...just hold your horses.)

Finally, Stitch, Sew, Create. These are all small, so the three together make up a reasonable amount of stitching for any one project.

This morning I got a good start on the Blankets of Love, with the Doobies singing in my ear the whole time.

I might have finished it off, but those lazy daisy stitches are a little tedious and time-consuming. They are tedious, yes, but I still enjoy doing them. My last three stitcheries have all been in black floss, and so it's nice to be using some color again.

There was no more quilting on the Doors of Ireland yesterday. I think I needed a break from it. It's taking me so much longer than I anticipated. Instead of quilting, I spent a good part of the day in the kitchen. First, I roasted the two pumpkins that were in our final CSA share. Aren't those long pumpkins interesting? I've seen vintage stitcheries with pumpkins like that, but I always just thought it was a design decision. Now I know...they're the real deal.

While those were roasting, I tried another recipe for pickled Brussels sprouts. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, my first try was so strong of vinegar that the Brussels sprouts were rendered practically inedible. Undaunted, I went in search of a recipe that included some sugar and found this one from the Home Preserving Bible website. There are several variations included in this link. I made the "Sweet Pickled Brussels Sprouts". I always want a little bit of heat when I make something like this, and so I added 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes to the recipe. 

Although these are best if left to sit for three days, I couldn't resist popping the lid on one of the jars as soon as it was cool enough to handle. They were a little bit sweet and a little bit sour like a bread and butter pickle, and so I was happy with the flavor until something better comes along. For now, I'll stick with this one. 

Although I stuffed the jars with sprouts, pressing down to fit as many as I could, you can see that they still shrunk and floated to the top after they were processed. I'm thinking these sprouts were not as fresh as my first batch. After all, I made the first batch about a month ago. I purchased a stalk the first time I saw them in the local vegetable stand in our little town of Newberg. This batch from yesterday was purchased from our local megamart, and it's a month hence. It makes sense that they aren't as fresh as the first ones. As an experiment, I'd like to try this again and see if I can find some fresher sprouts. For now that's my theory, and I'm sticking to it.

By the time I had those processed, I was ready to scoop out the pulp from my pumpkins. The yield was 8 cups of puree. 

There are only 7 cups pictured in this image. That's because I'd set aside an additional cup to make pumpkin bread. And here it is...fresh from the oven. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. Baked goods fresh from the oven always smell so good.

And that was pretty much my foray into the kitchen yesterday.

In yesterday's mail, I received a kit from Bird Brain Designs. I saw this on Facebook, and instantly fell in love with it. Of course, I had to spring for the whole kit, and I'm thinking of putting all my other projects aside so that I can make it for this Christmas.

When I saw it originally, I went immediately to the website only to find they were sold out. Noooooooooooooooooo! Fortunately, there was a link to sign up for an email when they were back in stock. Now it is mine. Mine. MINE! Of course, it's all fabric and embellishment. I'll have to give it a little love before it looks like the one in the picture.

There's nothing on today's agenda except quilting, and so I should be able to get plenty done on the Doors of Ireland. I had dreams of finishing it by Thanksgiving so that I could have plenty of hands to hold it up for a picture. It doesn't look like I'm going to make it, but that's okay. Now I have dreams of finishing it by the end of the month. There will be extra hands here at Christmas too.

Our weather has turned cool and crisp. Most of the leaves are down from the trees, especially following the wind storm we had last week. The tree at our front door is the last holdout. There are three colors of leaves all on the same tree.

This next image was taken from the same tree. I'm thinking of making a quilt from it. It would be good practice to try this one before trying to do my Sonora Desert. (Did you see how craftily I postponed working on that scary project?)

Truly though, I think it would be pretty to use a dark brown background with another fabric for the trunk of the tree. I could piece the background and then applique the leaves. The red stems could be stitched in. It would make a pretty fall wall-hanging. Yep. I'm going to get right on that, because I really don't have enough projects to work on right now.

So there you have it. The latest news from the Three Cats Ranch. What's going on at your place?


Quilting Continues

Yesterday I was able to continue on quilting the doors on the Doors of Ireland quilt. It's always a challenge to keep my tension right, and especially when I start quilting directly onto applique. It makes for slow going because I'll quilt a little, then stop and check, then quilt a little more, then stop and check. Sometimes things are stitching along smoothly. Other times, they're not. But on and on it goes, and I'm starting to feel restless for this one to come to a close. There is still lots to do, and so patience and perseverance are my watchwords today. Here's what I did yesterday:

For the Mad Hatters Dingle, I simply outlined the doors and windows and the little placard. and then, I outlined around the sign to give it some definition.

For the castle below, I added mortar to the stone and outlined around the details.

For Druid Lane, I gave the stone some mortar and then outlined around the sign, the door, and the window.

I'm working only with gray thread for now, and there are still quite a few doors that are in need of that color. It's a pain to rethread Eliza, and so I'm working with one thread color at a time, even if it means working on multiple doors. With the Irish chain blocks all quilted, the quilt is pretty well held-together at this point, and I can move it around at will.

Yesterday Sue and I had a nice morning walk. It's been stormy and rainy all week, but we awoke to a nice sunny day. We started with our favorite oatmeal breakfast at the South Store Cafe, and then took a walk at the bottom of our hill. Usually I take pictures of this barn from a different angle, but yesterday I took a shot straight on. I'll probably add this one to my Barns of America quilt if I live long enough to make it. I think I have some weird setting going on with my camera because everything yesterday seemed overly pixelated.

As we approached our starting point, we came across these deer grazing on one of the grassy lawns.

They were pretty tame and stood while we talked to them. We could approach surprisingly close.

When I turned in the other direction, there were three more off in the distance, and there may have been more that we couldn't see. These were all does and young ones...no bucks that we could see, although I've seen one running around our field.

Sunny days at this time of year usually mean cold temperatures, and it was 35°F. when we got up this morning.

Gracie knows what to do. I usually turn on the electric blanket for her when the temperatures get colder. It feels good on older bones, and yes, my cats are spoiled.

Today I'm taking a second stab at some pickled Brussels sprouts. The first batch I made is so strong of vinegar that I've taken to calling them the "cruel food". Don't be fooled by their pretty faces.

I'm all for sour pickles, but sometimes enough is too much. I'm opting for a recipe this morning that has more sugar and a little more seasoning in the form of turmeric and mustard seed. Fortunately Brussels sprouts are cheap right now. I was "talking" with another reader recently about Brussels sprouts being widely available on the stalk right now. Usually, when I see them they've been pulled from the stock and are in bulk bins. It's kind of fun to find those little trees of sprouts, and I can only think they are fresher when I see them that way. It's tempting to try a recipe for Thanksgiving when I have some other sprouts lovers sitting at the table. When it's just Mike and me, I'm the only one who will eat them.

Also, I'm still working away on this week's block for the Live, Love, Teach quilt. I should finish it up this morning, and that's where I'm headed right now.


As Luck Would Have It

This morning I decided to finish quilting the Irish chain blocks for the Doors of Ireland. There were only two left, and so I told myself it would be quick. As luck would have it, the Universe took this on as a personal challenge, and I ended up taking out as much as I left in. Nevertheless, the chain blocks are finished now, and I can get on with quilting the details into the door blocks.

Smitty thinks quilting is boring, and so it seemed like a good time to kill this felted cat. When it fell behind the table, he started knocking other things to the floor as well. Just helping me stay organized, you know.

Since I was sewing next to this door, I added some thatch to the roof. I included some when I made the block originally, but I'd always intended to add more with the quilting.

When I'd finished all the chain blocks, I took it downstairs to the living room where the light from the windows usually gives me the best contrast for hard-to-see quilting.

Mind the sentry there...no one gets past these doors!

So, the light doesn't help much for pictures, but you can sort of see it.

My lines are far from perfectly straight, but when one looks at the quilt as a whole, it isn't noticeable. That has been my experience with free motion quilting. As the quilter, it's easy to feel as if you're ruining the quilt because you see every little bobble and wiggle as it happens. When you look at the quilt as a whole, all of that disappears. A perfectionist could find those errors, for sure, but I try to avoid allowing perfectionists near my quilts. A perfectionist is someone who is always looking for the flaw, you know.

Then I flipped it over to look at the back. It's still hard to see the quilting. Especially when there are

so many obstacles.

It's easier to see a little closer up.

We're back to rain today, but we had a nice little respite yesterday. I took advantage of the sunshine to dump our compost pail, fill the bird feeders, and take a little walk around. Look out there in the distance, and you can see that we were above the clouds here on our hill.

I discovered the cover on our hot tub had blown open sometime during the storm...not securely latched, I assume. No harm done except to the balance on our electric bill.

Pause here for a moment to admire this healthy patch of weeds we've grown this season. Impressive, no?

Can you tell the winds have been ferocious the past few days. Sadly, three people lost their lives in Washington when trees fell onto their cars in separate incidents. Indeed, when I went to pick up our final CSA share, there was a large branch down across the road. A crew was there cleaning it up. They're pretty quick on the scene when something like that happens.

The last week of our CSA share was two weeks combined. Man, oh, man. What a lot of vegetables. Fortunately, most are root vegetables and squash, and so they will keep for quite a while. I had accumulated such an abundance of carrots that I spent some time making more of the spicy dilled carrot spears. (The recipe is right here.) The carrots in our share are short fat ones, and they are a perfect size for the 12 oz. jars I've been using.

Can you tell these are dug fresh from the Hillsboro soil? One pound will yield two jars of carrots. I was hoping to get six more jars, and there were plenty for that with enough left over for the recipes on this week's menu.

And there they are. I'll give a jar to each of the kids and keep the rest for snacking on. They are so flavorful and satisfying that I'm hopelessly addicted to them. Fortunately, carrots are available year-round.

Part of the reason for finishing my quilting this morning is that I have a huge grocery trip in store for myself today...more than 60 items on my list. If we even remotely needed anything, I added it to the list. If I spend enough money, I get my turkey for free and free is a very good price. And all of that to say that this marks the day when going out into public leaves me a little frazzled. It seems everyone is frazzled at this time of the year, and it easily rubs off on me. I know I'll want a nap when I get home.

So...wish my luck. A holiday storm is brewing, and it won't be over for another six weeks or so.