Best Laid Plans

It was a good day yesterday, even if things didn't go exactly as planned. It was a day for baking bread, and so I had bread dough rising when I wrote yesterday's post. This loaf is made from the No-Knead Crusty White Bread recipe from King Arthur Flour. I like this recipe because the dough can be refrigerated for up to a week, and it will make three loaves.

It's also very tasty...kind of a no-frills approach to bread-baking. The longer it sits in the refrigerator, the more tangy it gets. When I made this last time, the final loaf was baked on the 7th day, and it had a nice sourdough flavor, although it's made with commercial yeast. And that was the only part of the day that went off the way I thought it would.

Matthew called in the morning to say he and Lyndsey would be arriving in about an hour. I didn't really want to get too involved in anything because I anticipated everything would be on hold after they arrived. So, I did my morning's slow stitching, and then spent some time sewing on the binding for the Cardinal Mosaic. I've turned two corners now, and I'm inches from the third corner.

When they were late arriving, I decided I'd at least get started cutting the fabrics for the Guatemala quilt. The blocks look complicated, but the piecing instructions make it look easy. I'll just be sewing lots of short seams for lots of blocks...48 in all. Here's where I'm starting.

The woven fabric is quite different from manufactured cottons. I gave up trying to keep all the lines straight. It's very stretchy, and so accurate cutting is also difficult. It's going to be a soft and puffy quilt when it's finished, I think. I decided to do the cutting as I go with this, and so I cut just the first two pieces for Step 1 along with the short lattice strip. There are five fabrics, and so I cut ten from each. My goal is to piece the blocks randomly with each fabric in use in each part of each block (if that makes sense).

I was just getting started sewing the first pieces together when Mike came home early from work. With this being a 3-day weekend, he's taking today off to make it a 4-day weekend. And then he left early yesterday too...making it a 4 1/2-day weekend.

So it doesn't seem as if much was accomplished yesterday, but it's not a bad showing. With all the cutting done for the first section of the quilt, it should go pretty fast until I need to do more cutting. It'll be mindless sewing...good for listening to an audiobook.

We had a nice dinner with Matthew and Lyndsey. It was good to get a chance to meet Lyndsey. I don't know where their friendship is headed, but they are very cute together. Here's a picture taken while they were still in Guatemala.

Today is our 44th wedding anniversary. Take a look at these two little kids. Mike was barely 23, and I was barely 21.

My mother made my dress and veil. It was a good day. We had just the three-day weekend to honeymoon, and so we spent our wedding night at the Hilton Hotel in San Diego. We arrived at the hotel around 4:30 p.m. and had a drink in the bar before dinner. I can recall the two of us sitting on barstools giggling about what we'd just done. It felt as if we'd crossed some sort of magic threshold into a new dimension. We ate dinner at the hotel restaurant where we ordered a Caesar salad for two, made at the table by our waiter who looked like Telly Savalas. He asked if we were newlyweds, saying we had "the look," and he made the evening special and memorable. As our main course, we ordered chateaubriand for two.

The next day we flew to Las Vegas for a quick honeymoon excursion. We set a gambling limit of $30 for ourselves, and we had the most fun when we reached our last silver dollar. We played roulette, betting only red or black or odd or even, so 50-50 odds. Eventually, we earned back $6 for a total of $7. In the end, we lost it all, but it was good inexpensive fun for about an hour's worth of play. Our plan was to stay in Vista, California, until September, when we moved to Arizona where Mike went to engineering school. A lot of water has passed under that bridge in our 44 years together.

Tonight we'll eat dinner out to celebrate. This morning I'm walking with Sue. After our walk, I need to pick up a few things at the grocery store...just to get through the weekend. Hopefully, I can get back to my sewing this afternoon. We're expecting good weather through the weekend, and so it will feel a little like a staycation for the Memorial Day weekend.


Little Kitchen Things

There was quilting and slow-stitching yesterday, and there was also activity in the kitchen that I like to refer to as my "little kitchen things." I'll show you what I'm talking about in a minute. But first, let's take a little stroll through the garden, shall we?

I'm still waiting for the dappled willow to do whatever it's going to do. Things got a burst of energy when we had about ten days of summer weather at the beginning of the month. Now they seem to have gone back into dormancy, and not much is happening.

What I think is going to happen is that these little tendrils of new growth will get longer and longer, creating the sprays of pink that I expect to see. As they mature, they'll turn green and match the older foliage. I'm guessing now, but let's see if I'm right. We're going to have to wait a little longer to find out.

Our little rose bush is covered in buds. So far they've escaped the notice of the deer. It would be nice to get some flowers because this rose is very fragrant.

There are some baby pine cones on one of the pine trees. There are probably more on the trees that line the driveway, but this one is planted up close to the house, and so I pay more attention to it.

And then there's this. I'll probably get old and die before it opens.

While I was outside, I picked some chive blossoms and started the chive blossom vinegar. This constitutes a "little kitchen thing." Little kitchen things might be defined as things that take a long time to finish, but almost no hands-on time. To make chive blossom vinegar, one picks an appropriate number of chive blossoms to fit in one's container, whatever that might be. Then they are given a good wash because they have little bugs in them that you can't see. I use my salad spinner for that. Then, one puts them in a glass jug of some kind. Then, pour white vinegar over them to cover. You can see that mine have floated above the surface of the vinegar here, but they'll sink down as they absorb more liquid. Then, you put it in a cool darkish room and wait two weeks. After two weeks, I'll strain out the solids and put the vinegar in bottles, and that little task will be done for the year. (Pictures of the finished vinegar to come.)

Here's another little kitchen thing. I saved up all the things I've cut off and peeled off the CSA veggies. To that, I added some half-dead vegetables from the crisper and some beef bones I've been saving up. I threw all that in my stockpot and boiled the snot out of it. Then, I strained out the solids and boiled, and boiled, and boiled it some more to condense it somewhat. Then, I let it cool and refrigerated it overnight so that I could skim the fat off this morning. Just before sitting down here, I poured it into freezer containers and now I have myself three quarts of beef stock. Those will go into the freezer for later use. It's a good thing because I was down to my last quart from last year.

Usually, I just do veggie stock, but for this batch, I used the beef bones I've been saving up. Before the CSA season is over, I'll have a whole lot more. This is only the beginning.

The only other little kitchen thing I did was to mix up some bread dough. It's been in the refrigerator, and I yanked off a hunk this morning. It's rising downstairs as I write this, and I'll bake some bread later in the day today. I didn't take any pictures of this, so you'll have to take my word for it. Of course, I'll show you the baked bread in tomorrow's post, and so the proof will be in the, um, bread pudding...only no pudding will be involved.

So then, I got busy with my quilting. I still needed to finish off the bird beak, the tree branch, and the outer border. For the outer border, I did these roundy-roundy things. (As always, these are technical quilting terms, so try to keep up.)

When the border was finished, the quilting was finished, and I took it downstairs for its picture.

It's hard to see the quilting from the back, but here's how that looks.

No cats were assisting me in this process, but when I took it downstairs to sew on the binding, Miss Sadie showed up.

Whatcha' doing? Sewing?

Oh, this bird looks delicious...and it's so soft.

Removing the cat, I gave the quilt a green binding.

There was a nearly-empty spool of green thread. I figured I'd use it until it ran out, but when the binding was finished, there was still this much thread left.

When I took it back upstairs to start on the hand-sewing, I left Sadie here. She likes to bring her toys into bed with her. I'll admit, I did the same thing when I was her age.

By mid afternoon, I'd turned the first corner on the binding, and I'm very close to turning the second corner. Also, I'm still working on that same spool of thread. Perhaps it's a magic spool, and it will never run out.

Okay, so here's what we had for dinner last night. In my ongoing quest to use weird and unfamiliar vegetables, I made this Roasted Hot-Honey Shrimp with Bok Choy and Kimchi Rice. It isn't the first time I've made this. I tried it for the first time last year. The original recipe uses baby bok choy, which is a lot easier to use than the bigger heads. If you click on the link to the recipe, you'll see how they prepared it. For my large adult-sized head of bok choy, I simply cut off the root end, and then cut the rest cross-wise into 1/2-inch wide pieces and then followed the recipe as written. This is really quite delicious. Heck, I might even by bok choy on purpose to make it.

Mike is not a fan of kimchi, and so I left it out of his rice. Also, no sesame seeds for him.

So that was a full day. Now, all of my monthly assignments are finished, and so I get to spend the remainder of the month on a new project. It's from this book...

It's a great book. The pattern for the recently-finished Rainbow Jubilee quilt is contained therein.

The new project will be this Tile Works lap quilt.

For the dark fabrics, I'm using these pretty fabrics Matthew brought me from Guatemala.

And then, for the white lattice, I'm going to use the homespun purchased recently for that purpose.

Yesterday I spent some time looking at the pattern and seeing how the blocks are constructed. I actually think it will go together fairly quickly. I'm hoping to have the quilt top finished before June 1st hits, and then I'll have to get back to the "meat and potatoes" of my sewing projects. I realize nobody really cares whether I keep up month-to-month, but it's my personal attempt at appearing to have some discipline. Which reminds me...I need to make the current Tiny Tuesday block before I can do anything else. That shouldn't take too long.

So, I have a fun and busy day lined up for myself, made even more fun by a surprise visit from Matthew. He's flying in (maybe already flew in) from Las Vegas and coming up here to get his van before driving it back to Las Vegas and his new home. Lyndsey (his roommate in Guatemala) is picking him up at the airport, and so I'll get a chance to meet her too. So far, we've only chatted via Whatsapp while they were both still in Guatemala. Matthew will be in Portland for several weeks, and he'll be here for our family weekend get-together in June too. It's all good news on the family front.

And with that, I'm going to get going on my morning's slow-stitching. Hopefully, I'll get the cardinal finished today.


Closing in on a Finish

The cardinal is nearly ready for binding. When I started working on it yesterday, I was ready to switch to the black thread. From there, I quilted some feathers into the black portion of the face.

Then some zig-zaggy lines on the legs. This didn't turn out exactly as I'd envisioned it, but it's fine.

Then I was ready to switch to the blue thread to quilt the background. So far, I've been using different colors of the same YLI quilting thread, and so the tension adjustment has been the same. The background motif was inspired by an image I'd pinned in my "fillers" folder on Pinterest at some point in time.

From there, I switched off to an Aurifil thread, which was a different weight. Even so, the tension was good, and I quilted some stylized veins into the holly leaves.

After that, I switched to brown thread and was just getting started on the small sections of brown branch. I'll finish that up today. After that I'll just need to go around the outer border, and my quilt will be ready for binding. I haven't decided yet on a binding fabric. I'll have to go shopping in Ye Olde Fabric Stashe to see what's available.

My slow-stitched barn has progressed far enough that I decided to move my hoop to the left yesterday.

Now I have all of the left side within the boundary of the hoop, and I'll pick it up there this morning.

It's a nice day out. Sunny and warmer temperatures. I'm considering going down to a local produce stand where I think they might have local strawberries. Recently, I found a recipe for strawberry mousse for two that looked so tasty. All the seeds and pulp are strained out so that only the strawberry juice is used. It's a good way to use the strawberries so that we both can eat them. The recipe found me a couple of weeks ago, and it's been on my mind ever since. If I decide to head out for those, I'll probably go for a walk on our Main Street and see what else I can find along the way.


A New Day

Surprisingly, I survived my trip to the dentist yesterday. No problems, and so I'm good for another year. I had a couple of other errands to run before heading for home. When I got there, kitties were chomping at the bit to get outside.

Sadie has been helping me with the poppy watch. She's watching the squirrels. The poppy is still looking about the same as ever, although the interior shows a little more each day.

On the positive side, I noticed two more buds on it yesterday for a total of six. We just need a warm sunny day, and I think it will pop open.

While I was out, I checked the greenhouse and I was happy to find the butter lettuce has germinated.

Also, the sunflowers I replanted last week are almost all sprouted now. There's another tray of these to the left of the frame below, and those are mostly sprouted. The tray to the right are new sunflowers and new plantings, and I don't see any activity there yet.

There wasn't much sewing yesterday because I napped during the afternoon. Any time I leave home, I come back exhausted and badly in need of a nap. Sometimes I power on through, but yesterday I succumbed. Still, I did all the quilting on the red part of the bird, filling it in with feathers. (What else?)

I'm a novice when it comes to feathers, and I haven't tried doing anything particularly fancy yet. For these, I made loops on both sides of the spine, making my way across the quilt and filling in the space.

When I reached the end, I made a loop, and then stitched back along the spine, making random flourishes inside a few of the loops. I liked this because it better defined the spine, but it also gave me a way to make any loops too large or misshapen look a little better. The flourish seemed to hide or disguise any problems I perceived.

After filling in the body of the bird, I made one long feather extending down to the tip of the tail.

Here's how it's looking from the back. It's a little hard to see that light blue thread.

While I was making dinner last night, the kitties were lounging in the afternoon sunshine.

Doesn't this rug match my furs beautifully?

I might have thought Smitty was dead if his eyes hadn't been open.

For dinner last night, I used more of the CSA veggies. This one did away with the remaining green onions and the butter lettuce. The lettuce is sauteed along with the other veggies until it wilts. It's an interesting way to use lettuce. The prosciutto gives it a nice salty taste while I used almost no salt at all in the remainder of the dish.

This is Pasta with Peas, Asparagus, Butter Lettuce, and Prosciutto and you can find the recipe right here. I made just half the recipe, and I used frozen peas instead of fresh. If you're using frozen peas, there's no need to cook them in boiling water. Just add them to the cooked asparagus, and you're good to go.

So that was yesterday. Today, I'll continue on quilting the cardinal. I'm hoping to get well along with it today, although I doubt I'll finish. It's a CSA pick-up day, and there's always a little housework to do, it seems. We're expecting drier and warmer weather this week. Fingers crossed the poppy opens soon.


The Worst Day of the Year

It's the day I go to the dentist. (Sigh.) Who doesn't hate going to the dentist? I'm just going in for a check-up and cleaning...I hope. One never knows with the dentist. I think we should just dispel the notion that going to the dentist is ever good news. One can only be let down from the moment one walks in the door. It can be a "Look Ma! No cavities!" kind of day, and I suppose there's some relief in that. You still have to sit through the cleaning. I'm certain some of those techniques originated sometime during the Spanish Inquisition. On the other hand, instead of relief, you might get something much, much worse. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the torture of getting my teeth cleaned will be the worst of my worries. It makes those days when I get my hair permed sound downright blissful.

So let's see...what's happening besides the maiming of my mouth? I sat for a good long time stitching yesterday. Some days are like that, and slow-stitching is an excellent way to accomplish something while simultaneously procrastinating. I do like multi-tasking, you know.

After that, I checked on the poppy. It's slightly more open, and there's a little bit of red color showing. Still...no dice. Maybe today. I haven't checked yet.

When I finally made my way into the sewing room yesterday morning, my goal was to make two more blocks for the Countdown to Christmas sew-along. These blocks were posted by Moda before Christmas last year. They were all in red and white, but I'm trying to use my blue and green scraps for this quilt. I'm going to have to give it a different name. I'm thinking something like "Caribbean Waters" or something along those lines.

The first block was called Candy Cane Christmas and designed by Jen Van Orman of Heritage Threads. Since mine is a different quilt, I'm calling my block "The Gift." This was an excellent tutorial, and the block went together very easily.

The next one is called Grammy's Staircase, and it was designed by Heather Long of Coffee and Quilts. This is rather complicated to sew together, but it was easy with Heather Long's excellent instructions.

Here are all the blocks I've made for this quilt so far. This is only about half of all the ones I'm going to make, but they'll continue with the same colors of white, blue, and green. What would you call it?

Edited to say I'm linking up to the CDTC Linky Party at Mama Spark's World.

From there, I was ready to choose some threads for quilting the Cardinal Mosaic.

It's a small quilt...lap sized, or wall hanging...and so it shouldn't take too long. I have a lot of partially used spools of thread, and so I'm hoping I'll have enough of each to finish it off. First, I have a wound bobbin and a nearly full spool of this thread for the quilt back. If I run out, I have another spool that is close enough to the same color that no one would notice the difference.

For the blue background on the quilt top, I'm hoping I have enough of this variegated dark blue. I'm pretty sure I do.

I'll be quilting feathers into the cardinal, and I expect I have enough of this red variegated to do that.

There is just a little bit of black on the bird's face and legs. I should have plenty of this black, and in any case, I always have lots of black thread on hand.

This is one of the green variegated spools my friend Ila sent me a few weeks ago. I'll use that for the holly leaves.

And this variegated brown for the tree branches.

So, I spent some time yesterday getting my tension set right, and I practiced doing the feathers I'll use for the bird's body. It's looking pretty good here. (I flipped the extra quilt back over the excess of the batting and practiced there.)

Checking the back, it looks pretty good there too, and I think that blue is the right color for the quilt back.

Just as I was getting ready to start quilting in earnest, my furry friend's feet showed up. Here, I had to paws. (Ha! I'm so punny.) Sometimes a guy just needs to nuzzle for a bit.

And then, I started quilting just to see how it was going to look. I only did just a few loops of feathers when I quit for the day. I'll pick it up here this afternoon if I survive my trip to the dentist...and there's no guarantee that I will. Fortunately, I've given you instructions so you can finish this off for me if I die of tooth trauma.

It was time to quit because I was trying something new with our CSA veggies last night. Mike was smoking/grilling a flank steak. I'm constantly on the lookout for recipes that use greens of all kinds. Think, kale, bok choy, chard, spinach...that sort of thing. We were combining two recipes. We marinated the flank steak, and then it was served up with this "leafy greens salsa verde," made from kale. I spread it out on a warm plate...

And then, we put the sliced flank steak over the top and then topped off the whole thing with some grilled scallions. Oh my, that was so yummy.

The salsa verde can be made with a clove of garlic, but our CSA share has garlic scapes, and so I used one of those. I made the salsa verde using my food processor, and I chopped things finely, but not to puree stage. This recipe did away with half a bunch of kale, half the green onions, and one of the five garlic scapes from last week's share. I have plans for the rest of all three, but our next pick-up is tomorrow. Right now the vegetables are winning the race. So anyway...here's my adaptation of the two recipes I was combining.

Flank Steak with Leafy Greens Salsa Verde

Marinade for Flank Steak:
2 pounds flank steak
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup worcestershire sauce
5 cloves garlic, crushed
juice of two limes

Leafy Greens Salsa Verde:
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 scallions
½ small bunch kale, Swiss chard, collard greens or mustard greens, leaves and stems very finely chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 whole garlic scape, finely chopped, OR garlic clove, finely grated
⅓ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon canola or grapeseed oil
1 lemon or lime, halved
Flaky salt

In a large bowl combine red wine, vegetable oil, black pepper, salt, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic and lime juice.

Place flank steak in a ziplock bag and pour marinade over. Push out as much air as possible. Refrigerate for 8 hours. You can use vegetable oil instead of olive oil so the marinade doesn't solidify in the refrigerator.

When ready to cook, start Traeger grill on Smoke with the lid open until the fire is established (4-5 minutes). Set the temperature to 225°F and preheat, lid closed, for 30 minutes. Smoke for 3 hours.

Pull the steak off the grill, wrap in foil, and let sit for 10-15 minutes.

While steak is smoking, make leafy greens salsa. Salsa should be made at least one hour before steak is ready to serve to allow greens to soften and flavors to meld.

Cut 4 of the scallions into 2-inch pieces; set aside. Finely chop remaining scallions and add to a medium bowl with kale, garlic and olive oil; season with salt and pepper. The mixture won’t exactly be saucy yet, but as it sits the kale will soften and loosen up.

When ready to serve, spread salsa verde on a warm plate. 
Thinly slice the steak and return to plate with salsa verde. Top with seared scallions. Squeeze lemon or lime over everything and sprinkle with flaky salt. 

* * * * *

So, I think I have time to get in a little slow stitching before I need to take off for downtown. Wish me luck. I hope to be back here tomorrow to tell about my ordeal.