Cooking and Quilting

Not as much was accomplished yesterday as I'd hoped, but I still have some things to show for my day's activities. I'll admit I took my cues from Sadie. When I went downstairs after writing yesterday's post, I found her ensconced in Mike's lap, looking very comfortable.

Matthew called early (for him). He wondered if he could come by to work on his van. Of course! we said. That kind of threw my morning off, although I can't say it was Matthew's fault. Any excuse to slug around, you know. When I got myself going, I blanched and froze all the corn I harvested the day before. Eight ears were frozen in gallon zip-lock bags. The rest were stripped of their kernels to freeze in quart bags. 

Except for the husking, it's a pretty quick process. Mike and I took the unhusked ears out and husked them over the garbage can. When I heard we were going to have several days of rain, I harvested as much corn as I could. I'm not sure whether it will be affected by the rain, but I wasn't taking any chances. We've had a good harvest of corn so far, but I'm still hoping we'll get a little more before it's finished for the season.

When that was finished, we had lunch and naps, and then I got busy stitching the binding on the bag ladies. I've turned the third corner now, and I'm about 80% of the way around. It should be no problem finishing it off today.

So, the next thing on my agenda was to get started on the Blue Corn Bread block for New Mexico Kitchen...this one:

These quilt blocks each come with a recipe. Here's the recipe for the blue corn bread. I might actually have to try this if I can find some blue cornmeal.

The blocks all start out by making the foundation. They're split 50-50 between pieced backgrounds and overlay backgrounds. This one is an overlay background. The "tablecloth" is made by fraying the edges of the fabric.

So, I didn't get very far with the applique before it was time to stop. This one is going to require both machine and hand embroidery. I can stitch in the straight lines on my machine, but the lettering will be done by hand. On the left, you can see where there is some "whole kernel corn" in a measuring cup. The measuring cup is not applique, but stitched directly onto the background. If you can't see it, refer to the picture from the pattern cover above. (Okay, well I just scrolled up there and it doesn't show very well. You'll have to take my word for it until the stitching is finished.)

Sadie was my helper for this. I'll just continue on with this block today. I expect to finish the applique and at least get a start on the top-stitching. It's doubtful I'll finish it in one day, but sometimes I can surprise myself.

For last night's dinner, I tried two new recipes. This is Braised Carrot and Sweet Potatoes with Candied Ginger. That's fresh cilantro sprinkled over the top. This turned out to be really good. Despite the candied ginger, it was a savory version of sweet potatoes...often a sweet dish.

Unfortunately, the recipe is a Cook's Illustrated recipe, and so you need a subscription to their magazine or website to be able to see it online. If you really want the recipe, you can email me, and I'll send it to you.

For the main course, we had these Brown Sugar-Pineapple Pork Chops. These were really good. I'm not a big pork eater, but I'm always on the look-out for something to do with pork chops. 

The recipe for these has you frying the pork chops in a skillet. They're first seasoned with salt and pepper and then rubbed with a spicy rub. We did them just as the recipe suggested, but I had Mike grill the pork chops on the barbecue. It made it a lot easier and less messy. The canned pineapple and red onion are sauteed in a skillet with the reserved pineapple juice and "sprinkled" with a quarter cup of brown sugar. I didn't pack the brown sugar when I measured it, figuring that "packed" brown sugar is hard to "sprinkle." So anyway...we both really liked this recipe. The spicy rub is a nice contrast to the sweetness of the pineapple. That's goat cheese crumbled over the top, which seemed like a weird addition, but it tasted good. This recipe is easy enough to do in the RV, and there are leftovers enough for another dinner.

Okay, and so that brings me to the end of the day. Today I'll finish up the bag ladies, and then get back to the New Mexico Kitchen block. Oh yeah, and I guess I'll grudgingly do some housekeeping chores. It should be a pretty easy day. The rain is still coming down today. If I'm remembering correctly, it's supposed to clear up some tomorrow. 


Lots of Sewing

With rain falling for most of the day, it was very nearly sewing all day long. I was brave and did a little housework too. It allowed me to sew without guilt. The morning's slow stitching had me getting a start on the next plate for Pieces of the Past. 

It's a small piece, and so I expect it won't take long to finish it. When I was ready, I did my housekeeping chore, and then rewarded myself with some slow stitching around the binding for the Bag Ladies. I've turned the second corner now.

And time flies, doesn't it, because it was time to collect the mail then. I found my Teal Mini Swap mug rug there along with several fat quarters and fat eighths of fabric. My swap partner completely ghosted me this year. I tried half a dozen times in different ways to contact her. Then, disgusted, I went ahead and made her mug rug and mailed it off. I mention my disgust because I didn't even bother to take a picture of the mug rug I made. It was a mug rug with teal "plus" blocks on a blue crab fabric background. (She lives in North Carolina, and I made use of the blue crab fabric I bought while we were traveling there.)

So, I mailed that off about a month ago, and never heard word one from her. It was kind of a disappointing swap experience. The thing is...in a swap, it's the relationship that comes from it that makes it fun for me. The swap is only secondary. So...anyway...(picks self up, dusts self off), Beth, who organizes this whole thing, also sets up an army of "angels" for just this sort of occurrence. My angel, Nancy, sent me all this cool stuff, and that's my mug rug there at the bottom. The teal spoon was the fabric used in this year's swap. Thank you, Nancy. It was a very fun package to open, and it went a long way toward salving my wounds of disappointment.

Also, I received a fabulous package from Nanette, who decided to unload a bunch of Cynthia England patterns and a Cynthia England book. Someone told Nanette I might be interested in this stuff, and whoa! I forget who told her, but thank you. And thank you, Nanette. If you're unfamiliar with Cynthia England's work, I highly recommend doing a Google search for her name. You can find her gallery right here. If you do a YouTube search, you'll find some video tutorials about her technique. I was lucky enough to see this fabulous quilt when I attended the Northwest Quilting Expo in 2018.

As for yesterday's mail, what a treasure trove this was!

Also included was this pattern and the fabric kit to go along with it.

Well...I'm going to have fun with all of that. Those will make great take-along projects when we head south this winter.

So back in the sewing room, I finished up the three "blanks" for Jenny's Flower Garden. I ended up with a lot of oranges and dark purples for these blocks. Oh well...they'll be spaced randomly throughout the quilt, and so it probably doesn't matter there wasn't more variation.

With those done, I had another row complete. I've laid all the blocks out to show the design of this triple Irish chain. When all the rows are complete, it will be set 7 blocks by 7 blocks.

And with that finished, I was also able to get on with the next block for the Shop Hop 2.0 quilt. This time, I'm using a fabric I picked up at It's Sew Moab from our last trip to Moab, Utah. Mike and I love Moab, and we've visited many times. Our last trip was to ride ATV's. I couldn't find a fabric specific to ATV's, but this Jeep fabric seemed like a good choice. I drive a Jeep, after all.

But on a visit in 2006, Mike and I rented a Jeep and drove Schaffer Canyon Road in nearby Canyonlands National Park. It was great fun. Here, Mike was surveying the view.

Along the way, we passed this immense natural bridge. It was about 5 feet wide and many hundreds of feet above the canyon floor. It was possible to walk across. Ordinarily, this sort of thing would be too scary for me. The width of the bridge was enough that I felt safe venturing out and boldly lying down for this next shot. At least lying down, I wasn't afraid of falling.

Okay, so enough reminiscing...let's get on with this block. A few of you have asked how I do the lettering, and so I'm just about to tell you. I first print it out on a regular sheet of paper. In this case, I'm using a 22 point font called "Banschrift SemiBold." It's a good idea to write down where this file is stored on your computer so that you don't have to reinvent the wheel with every block. I just reopen the old file and put in a new name each time. The font stays consistent.

Then, it's traced out on a large piece of fabric a little wider than what I'll need for the finished block. Also, you need to leave enough room for your embroidery hoop...unless you're one of those hoopless people. Definitely, I am not among you. This one was short, and so it stitched up pretty quick. I'm just using two strands of black floss and a simple backstitch.

Another way to avoid reinventing the wheel with each block is to take a photo of the first one indicating how to trim. In this case, I've lined up the 1-1/2 inch line on my ruler with the bottom of the lettering. 

Trim the top there, and then measure for the bottom and sides, and you have your block's "name plate."

The strips were mostly all cut from the last block I made, and so this one went together pretty quickly.

These are the four blocks I have for this quilt so far.

You can find the tutorial for the photo quilt block right here. The camera quilt block tutorial can be found right here. I like how this is turning out. The photo quilt blocks are especially cute for this quilt. I'm not sure yet how many blocks I'll make before I'm ready to sew it into a flimsy, but the camera block will be right in the middle.

Okay, so for today's sewing, I'll get started on the next block for New Mexico Kitchen. I'll be making the Blue Corn Bread block. Here's the picture from the pattern cover.

These take a while to make, and so I don't expect to finish it today, but I'll get a good start on it.

So there was lots of sewing yesterday, and not a cat in sight. It's hard to get good help these days.


Keeping Calm and Carrying On

The past couple of weeks have been stressful. There's certainly enough in newspaper headlines to scare anyone. Add in a fire near one's home with an evacuation of several days' length, and you have a level of stress that requires a little recovery time. It was an exhausting effort to stay positive while we were evacuated. After yesterday's grocery shopping trip...pretty easy as those things go...my energy was tapped out, and I took a good long nap. By 2:00, grocery shopping was the only thing accomplished for the day. Eventually, I decided some slow-stitching time might get me moving.

Smitty was no help at all with this. He sat across the room having a spa session while I was hard at work with my stitching.

Still, I managed to turn one corner on the Bag Ladies before I was finished. I'd say I'm a little less than 1/3 of the way around on this.

When I was finished, I encouraged Smitty to join me in the sewing room to help with the Jenny's Flower Garden blocks.

Do I *have* to? Oh, bother.

Under protest, he snoopervised the laying out of the squares for randomness.

And he held down the blocks from yesterday. You can't sew with those things running around.

When it was time to make dinner, I had two more "flower" blocks. 

Today, I'll make the three blanks and that will complete another row.

Heading upstairs, Sadie joined Smitty on the catio.

I heard them discussing the upcoming election while I was slicing tomatoes. Neither of them has registered to vote, but they have strong opinions about certain candidates.

The only other thing I did yesterday was to harvest any corn that looked ready. I ended up with 13 ears. We'll eat some of it, and I'll freeze the rest. Also, I picked more tomatoes. Already I had three pounds set aside for some Roasted Tomato Soup with Broiled Cheddar. I'm linking to the recipe there from Smitten Kitchen. It's the second time I've made this. My croutons weren't very good last time around since we were camping, and I was using sliced hoagie rolls. For yesterday's version, I used sliced baguette, and it was vastly improved.

When I canned tomatoes this past month, I first roasted them at a high temperature to remove the skins. It also generated quite a bit of liquid from the tomatoes. All the liquid was saved. Ordinarily, I would use that in canned plain ol' tomatoes, but I didn't do any of those this year. Instead, I froze it as veggie stock, and used it in this soup. It took that bright fresh tomato flavor over the top. Delicious. A little worcestershire was added for more salt and depth. Also, I short-cutted the method for making the cheddar "croutons." The result is what you see above. It was so good, and a nice way to end the day on the first day of fall. So here's how I did it:

Roasted Tomato Soup with Cheddar Croutons
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
serves 4-6


For the soup:
3 pounds plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large or 4 small cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon (or more to taste) dried crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup grated raw onion

For the Croutons:
4 1-inch slices from a large loaf of rye bread, whole wheat sourdough or crusty bread of your choice, toasted and lightly buttered on one side
1 cup coarsely grated cheddar (or more to taste)


Make soup: Preheat oven to 400°F. Wrap garlic cloves in a tight foil packet. Place tomatoes, cut side up, on large rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Drizzle tomatoes with olive oil. Add foil packet of garlic to tray. Roast until tomatoes are brown and tender (garlic will be very tender), about 1 hour. Cool slightly.

Unwrap garlic packet and peel cloves. Transfer cloves, tomatoes and any accumulated juices to a blender or food processor and pulse machine on and off until tomatoes are a chunky puree. Transfer tomatoes to medium pot and add thyme, crushed red pepper, worcestershire, and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Remove from heat and adjust seasonings to taste. Stir grated onion into the warm soup. 

Create Crouton: Generously sprinkle grated cheddar cheese over top sides of toasted bread slices, and toast in a preheated 350 degree oven until cheese melts and croutons are toasty. Float toast slice(s) in each bowl. Serve immediately.

Do ahead: Soup can be prepared one day ahead, and kept covered in the fridge. Rewarm before serving, or before finishing with cheddar croutons.

* * * * *
As I've been writing this post, the rain has started up outside. We're expecting rain all day and for the next few days. It's most welcome. Sadly for me, housework and lack of motivation have returned from their vacation. They missed out on all the evacuation excitement, and so they're raring to go. I'll have to indulge their needs a little today too. Otherwise, it's going to be a mostly sewing day. I'm going to get a start on the next plate for Pieces of the Past.

And then I'll continue stitching on the binding for the bag ladies. And I'll finish up the row for Jenny's Flower Garden. If that doesn't keep me busy for the day, I'll get started on the next block for Shop Hop 2.0. When I last worked on it, I had three blocks made.

After that...I don't know. I'd say the sky's the limit, but with rain falling, I'll be limiting myself to the interior of the house.


First Day of Fall Finishes

Awesome alliteration. Good morning, my friends!

There was a lot of excitement at the Three Cats Ranch yesterday. 

Smitty, I think Mom has a finished quilt for us to inspect!

Oh, yawn, Sadie. There's no honor in quilt inspection these days. Humans are staying inside all the time, and so quilts are finished every day.

Well, I don't care what you say, Smitty. I like this quilt, and I'm keeping it.

Okay, Sadie...well, what's so great about this quilt?

Well, Smitty, these are "bag ladies." And what kinds of "bags" do you think they're carrying. I think they're carrying bags of treats. I want to be a bag lady's cat.

Hm. Well that's certainly something to ponder, Sadie. To be or not to be a bag lady's cat. That is the question.

Look at this one, Smitty. She's catching fish! I want to be *this* bag lady's cat.

As much fun as this conversation was, it was time to sew the binding on the bag ladies. One more time around this quilt, and it'll be a finish.

Earlier in the morning yesterday, I'd stitched the latest barn to very near a finish. It was tempting to finish it off, but I was kind of tired of stitching when I reached this point. You can barely see the one bale of hay that still needs stitching on the right.

This morning, I finished it off. This is the 12th of twelve blocks, called Kentucky Chain.

Here are all 12 barns together.

Now, I'll be setting these blocks aside for just a bit. I'll get them sewn into a quilt within the next month or two. The snowflakes are ahead of the barns.

The only other sewing I did yesterday was to make two of the four "flower" blocks for Jenny's Flower Garden.

I need two more like this, and then three "blanks" to finish off this row. There might be time to get them finished today.

We're heading off to the grocery store this morning. Rain is headed our way, and there's a 100% chance of rain tomorrow. That means I'm going to get out and harvest some more corn. We'll be eating some of it, but I want to take the kernels off the cobs on some of them and for freezing. I probably won't do that today because I want the rest of the day to be nothing but sewing. 

Enjoy this first day of fall. The weather will be turning cold and wet soon enough.