11/13/19

Some Tiny Sewing

There wasn't much on yesterday's agenda beyond sewing, and so I went back to work on the placemats that were started the day before.

Let's all paws here for a moment to admire how purrfectly this fabric matches my furs.


Sadie was my consultant about jazzing these up a little with different fabrics, and this is what I came up with.


Now they're sewn together and sandwiched for quilting. I wish I'd made the strips on the right a little wider, but I'll stick with them as they are. The quilting adds a lot, and so a nice variegated gold thread will spice them up a little too.


Those are going to be set aside for a day or two, however. The next project was to catch up on the Tiny Tuesday blocks. The first one is called Bullseye.


It was set diagonally.


Smitty helped by reading the directions out loud as the cutting progressed.


But you know...cats tire quickly. After a meeting of the minds, they decided to switch places.


Smitty was so worn out, he could barely keep his eyes open, and his lasers needed recharging badly.


Don't let this purrturb you for another minute, Smitty. Let a girl cat take over.


And so she helped me piece together the Split 16 Patch. This went together surprisingly quickly. This is a great scrap block. My tiniest scraps were used in all of these blocks.


The Split 16 Patch was straight set.


Finally, the last block for this Tiny Tuesday quilt was completed. The last one is called Cornerstones. It was diagonally set. As I tried to take a picture...whoops.


Okay, there we go. Since this was to be set diagonally, the center block was fussy cut so that it would be standing upright rather than lying on its side.


Okay...and that's the end of that. There are 44 blocks total...only I think I have 45. Somewhere I ended up with an extra.

So...what to do next? What. To. Do? It seems as good a time as any to tackle my oldest UFO. In fact, this isn't just my current UFO...it's the quilt that has taken me the longest to finish...ever...in the history of quilting at the Three Cats Ranch. I suppose it deserves some kind of medal, wouldn't you agree? These are all the blocks I made for the Mulligan Stew quilt. You can read more about the origin of this quilt right here. It's from a book entitled, "Hobo Quilts," by Deborah Henninger.


If you look at the block second from the right in the second full row, you see a cat. That block is called "Kind-Hearted Lady." You might recall I picked up this little souvenir dust collector during our visit to the American Museum of the House Cat.


Here's the explanatory note on the back:


Getting back to the book and the quilt, I wanted to make every quilt block in the book. There are other projects in Deborah Henninger's book, but this is the one I chose, called "Mulligan Stew."


So, you can see that the blocks are sewn together with a narrow sashing, which is what my plan includes. However, I had in mind to create a border to suggest a railroad track. In my wanderings on Pinterest, I found this pattern from It's Sew Emma. It pretty clearly laid out the measurements for creating a railroad track, and so I'm going to riff off the measurements from this quilt.


Yesterday I spent some time searching through my stash and came out with some fabrics I think will get the job done. (I'm trying not to purchase more fabric.)


So that's where I'll start today, once I get my sewing hat on.

Progress on Tree #7 for Twelve Trees for Christmas continues. I'm hoping I'll finish this tomorrow or the next day. Here's where it stands. 


I've fussed and fussed with this "Braid Stitch," and it is challenging. I wish my stitches were a little more consistent and even, but this is as good as it gets for now. I'm hoping it'll look better when the red beads are added.

11/12/19

A Little of Everything

It was good to get back into the swing of sewing yesterday, but there was also some time in the kitchen. Ever since acquiring a 6-inch bundt pan, I've been itching to try reducing an existing cake recipe into a cake for two. Yesterday was the day. For reference, here's a link to the original recipe from Cooking Light. (Weirdly, the picture at that link is not at all the cake that goes with the recipe. Don't be confused...you're eyes are not deceiving you.)

So, anyway...a 6-inch bundt pan has a volume of 3 cups, while a full-sized bundt pan has a volume of 12 cups. And so...I'm very good at math...I figured out that I could cut any existing recipe down to one-fourth of the original to create a cake for two. And here it is!


It's so cute, I could just eat it up. And I think I will! It needed to cool completely, and then I added the creamy orange glaze. The glaze is made from cream cheese, and I found it hard to mix it up very well. Even though I started with room temperature cream cheese, I ended up giving it a quick shot in the microwave to make it possible to whisk it to a creamy texture. When it was applied to the cake...Ta-Da!


The recipe calls for canned sweet potatoes, but I wanted to use the fresh ones from our CSA share. I peeled and roasted mine, but I actually think boiling would have been a better choice. Roasting gave them a little crust, and boiling would have left them with more moisture. They would have been easier to mash. Or....you can just use canned ones if you like. We each had a piece last night, and it was really so good. With the original from Cooking Light, it's also relatively low in fat.

So, here's my adapted recipe to make this a cake for two. It occurred to me this morning, I could have made it even lower in fat by using two egg whites in place of the whole egg.

Sweet Potato Bundt Cake with Creamy Orange Glaze
adapted from Cooking Light

Cake:
Cooking spray
1/4 teaspoon flour
2 tablespoons fat-free milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 15-oz can sweet potatoes, drained and mashed (about 1/2 cup)
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Glaze:
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 tablespoons (1 oz.) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1/4 teaspoon grated orange rind
3/4 teaspoon  fresh orange juice
3/4 teaspoon fat-free milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

To prepare the cake, coat a 6-inch bundt pan with cooking spray, and dust with flour.  Set prepared pan aside. (I used Baker's Joy and skipped the flour.)

Combine 2 tablespoons milk, oil vinegar, vanilla, egg, and sweet potatoes in a medium bowl.

Lightly spoon 3/4 cups flour and next 7 ingredients (through cinnamon) in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk.

Add milk mixture to flour mixture; beat with a mixer at low speed until blended.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack, remove from pan.  Cool completely on wire rack.

To prepare the glaze, combine powdered sugar and remaining ingredients in a bowl; stir well with a whisk.  Drizzle glaze over cake.

* * * * *

While I was waiting for the cake to bake and cool, I got to work making the quilt back for Semper Fi. Nothing fancy here. I used the fabric you see below.


And then I was ready to cut the strips for the binding from this diagonal stripe. And let me tell you, there was one little kitty who was happy to be back in the sewing room.


Do you think your furriends would like to see my tummy furs?



Now Semper Fi is ready for quilting. I'll get it sandwiched during the Thanksgiving weekend, and then start quilting it in December.

When the back was completed, I decided to make some placemats for the fifth wheel. I've been wanting to make some for quite a while, and then I saw these on Facebook the other day. They were on a continually-running video from Quilter's World. I had a hard time capturing the photo because of the video, but then I saw it while using my phone, and quick-as-a-wink snapped a screen shot as they rolled on by.


And those looked pretty darned simple. I like how they're quilted too. So I went digging through my stash. I wanted to use some of my scraps, and I wanted to use something that wouldn't need to be washed every time we ate a meal...also something sort of appropriate for travel and retirement, and something that would blend in with the browns, grays, golds, and blacks of the RV interior decor. Then I came across this one that was the backing for the Solstice to Solstice quilt.


It has some nice inspirational messages on it: Create a Beautiful Life. Find Joy in Simple Things. Create Happy Moments. Focus on the Good. And that seemed to capture all of the things I was trying to capture with my placemats. So I dug out a couple of other scraps and laid these out for sewing. As I look at the image below, I'm wondering if I should replace the white strip with a black one. I'll check it out this morning and make a decision one way or the other.


I have a lot of that main fabric, and so I'll use the same both front and back. When I have those sewn together, I'll get to work catching up on the Tiny Tuesday blocks. (Note to self: Check to see if there's another one out today.)

Okay, so I'm on Tree #7 of the Twelve Trees for Christmas, and my, oh, my.


The video Mary Corbet made makes the braid stitch look easy, but I fumbled around terribly with this. I tried different things: fabric in the hoop, fabric out of the hoop, fabric loosely hooped, fabric tightly hooped. Also, I thought a longer milliner's needle might help. It did, but I finally decided that reverting to my method of "stabbing" was the best bet for me. If you watch her video to the end, she says her lines are about half an inch apart. Also, her lines are straight. Mine are curved and about an eighth of an inch apart, so my piece is a little more challenging than the demonstration online. This was as far as I got yesterday before I thought I might lose my mind.


Briefly, I considered starting over and just doing a loose chain stitch, but then decided to stick it out. I chose this project because I wanted to learn some new stitches, and so this is a learning project. (Aren't they all?) I'll do the best I can for now, and when I come back to look at it a year from now, I'll be able to see how much progress I've made. At least, that's what I'm telling myself. Besides...there's that masochist in me that needs to be fed sometimes. What better reason could there be for having cats?

Okay, so plenty on the horizon today. Our weather has been lovely for the past week, but we're expecting rain today. Is this it? Has the Big Dark arrived? Time will tell.

11/11/19

Canning and Slow Stitching

Two days in a row with no sewing, and the kitties can hardly believe their eyes. What is this world coming to? Sadie settled herself on the Wine Country quilt to contemplate what it might be like to take up drinking.


Smitty already has the market on catnip cornered, and so she thinks wine might be her only refuge from no-sewing days.

As for Smitty, he keeps parking himself in front of the glass door, hoping it will open again for him some day. He hasn't had a good gopher in weeks.


On the other hand, we did have some excitement yesterday. Smitty was out on his catio, minding his own business when, out of the blue, he came flying in through the kitty door, hair on his back standing on edge, back arched, tail up, eyes wide. So, I wondered what he’d seen, and I stepped outside to see a small bobcat heading off down into the woods. He was just a little guy. Even Smitty might have been bigger. The bobcat was no more than 10 feet from the catio. Smitty was completely safe, but I’ve never seen a bobcat come that close to the house. I suspect he was curious at seeing Smitty sitting there.

Smitty's reaction was priceless. I didn't get a picture yesterday, but here's one I took on a previous bobcat sighting:


If that isn't a "Holy Sh*t!" look, then I don't know what is. So all's well again, although he ran upstairs and stayed there for hours yesterday morning. I'm actually kind of surprised he was so freaked out, but then, I didn't see exactly what happened.

Okay, so while all of that was going on, I was starting on Tree #6. I had all of the trunk and branches finished when I quit for the morning. It was first chain stitched in variegated brown, and then the whole chain was whipped stitched in a light green.


After that, I got busy with my canning. As expected, my yield on the pickled beets was low...just 3 pints. Don't think I'll be sharing any of these with the kids, unfortunately. Maybe I'll get some more beets at the grocery store and do a few more. They're pretty easy. These are about half CSA beets and half grocery store beets.


The beets are pretty easy. You must first cook them and skin them. You can boil them, but I prefer roasting. Then they're packed into jars along with whole cloves, allspice berries, cinnamon sticks, and some pickling salt. Pour over the brine and process in a boiling water bath. Honestly, once the beets are cooked, the rest goes pretty fast. I'm using a recipe from a book entitled, Small Batch Canning, and you can find it right here.

That was followed pretty quickly by 10 half pints of Cranberry Orange Chutney. There are only eight pictured here, which is the maximum number of jars my canner will hold. Since I knew I was going to open some for Thanksgiving and beyond, I refrigerated the two extra jars. This is another easy recipe, and takes just about a half hour to cook. It's really good on turkey sandwiches, and also makes a good spread on crackers with cream cheese. The recipe is from the National Center for Home Food Preservation, and you can find it right here.


And that's a wrap for Canning Season 2019. I'm not completely ruling out the possibility of doing more pickled beets...or something else if I see an irresistible recipe...but I hope I'm finished for the year. This is a list of all the canning I've done this year. I keep a list on my phone so I can tally it up and feel accomplished, but it also makes a good reference for subsequent years.



After that, I did some housework. We had leftovers for dinner, and it was nice not to have to do any more cooking for the day. While the leftovers were heating up, I finished off Tree #6. I'm telling you these are addicting. 


If you're wondering about the two blurry smudges in that image above, it's where I tried to edit out some Sadie hairs. She's my stitching cat, and I end up with her furs all over my stitcheries. I must remember to use my lint roller before taking pictures.

Here are the six I have so far.


This morning I read on Mary Corbet's Needle and Thread blog that she is coming out with a similar series of snowflakes. You can see some examples at her post right here. She says it will be available in the next "few weeks," and you can count on me to be first in line when they come out. The trees have been so much fun. The snowflakes should be fun too.

But snowflakes aside, now I've traced out the next tree. With such fine lines, they're harder to trace than they are to stitch. I'm thinking this project might benefit from the use of some Sticky Fabri-Solvy, but it's too late now. This one is done in a stitch I've never even seen before.


Her ebook for the trees contains excellent instructions and images that describe the stitches beautifully. This stitch, however, was left out. It's called a braid stitch. Fortunately, she's done a nice little video, and I suspect that's why it was left out of the book. You can see it right here. It's probably easier to show and tell rather than to explain in writing.


Okay...so...gulp. I'm heading off to work on that right now. Wish me luck.

11/10/19

A Kitchen Day

As expected, there was no sewing yesterday. I spent practically the whole live-long day in the kitchen. It was my choice, and I'm as much in my happy place there as I am when I'm sewing. Even though I thought I was finished canning for the year, I decided to give it one last gasp for 2019 and planned four projects for the weekend. Two were accomplished yesterday.

First, we got a stalk of Brussels sprouts in our last CSA share. That was quite a treat since they usually don't appear at the farm until the winter share. (We don't ever purchase a winter share since we're usually traveling that time of the year.) It was tempting to make a side dish from them, but I decided to pickle mine instead. Erik loves them pickled, and so do I. I needed to supplement with a few from the grocery store. When they were all finished, I had six pints.

They're kind of a sweet and sour pickle...like a bread and butter pickle. I'm still searching for the perfect recipe for pickled Brussels sprouts, but this one isn't half bad. It's my adaptation of one I found online, and you can find it right here.

After that, I got straight to work on this Cranberry Pepper Jam. I think I made this for the first time last year, since it uses Pomona's pectin. Pomona's was new to me last year. It looks so pretty in the jar. My yield was 8 half-pints.


It's good on turkey sandwiches, or as a condiment with any kind of meat. My favorite way to use it is with cream cheese on crackers. It's a nice little gift item at this time of year. I used up the last of the jalapenos and serrano peppers from the CSA. You can find the recipe right here. I take the ribs and seeds out of two of the four peppers. If you like it less spicy, you can remove all of them...or leave all of them in if you're into masochism. It's your choice.

It would have been nice to take a little break there, but last night's dinner had to cook for 3 hours, and so I went straight to work on that. This is a Beef Bourguignon Soup. The recipe is from Martha Stewart.


It used up some more of the CSA veggies (I'm kind of over-run with veggies right now) in the form of celery and carrots. It also uses beef short ribs, and those cooked down until they were tender and flavorful. Mike was out working on the RV all day yesterday, and he was chilled to the bone by the time he came in. He took a dip in the hot tub, and then we had this stick-to-your ribs soup. It was a nice way to end the day. Serve it up with some bread, and you've got yourself one tasty meal. It made enough for dinner for another night, and I'll probably still have some left over for freezing. I'm freezing a lot of leftovers right now. I'll load it all up in the RV when we head south. (I'm really loving the big freezer in the new fifth wheel.)

The only "not work" part of the day was in the mail delivery. I'm so lucky to have a quilting fairy god mother in my friend Ila. She's often sending me the most generous of gifts. Take a look at this box of Aurifil thread she sent yesterday. Holy moly...so many beautiful colors.


You know I love thread as much as I love fabric, and these colors look good enough to eat. I won't though. For sure I'm going to grab out that dark blue and one of the reds for when I quilt Semper Fi.

Also, she included this cat panel. Last night it occurred to me that I have a few panels in my stash downstairs. These are perfect take-along projects for our "head-south trip." All I need is a fabric for a sashing, and maybe a border, and I can have myself an easy quilt top to sew on the road. Look how precious these are:


And, oh my gosh. This Christmas cat fabric is just too stinking cute.


Thank you, Ila. Your generous gift made my day.

Today I'll be back at it, but it should take less time today. While I was doing yesterday's canning, I was also roasting and skinning beets for today's pickled beet effort. I'm afraid my yield will be low. The volume of beets seems less than expected, but I'll can up what I have. Also, I'm making some cranberry chutney. It can be used the same way as the jam, but it's less spicy. It's dynamite on a turkey sandwich. I'm hoping to get back into the sewing room today, if for no other reason than to vacuum up stray threads.

11/9/19

Oorah!

The Semper Fi quilt top is finished! Since I've worked on it almost nonstop since October 23rd, you can imagine how happy this makes me. Besides, I really wanted to share it with my friend, Andy. I was determined to wait until the top was finished so I could surprise him. And it's just in time for the 244th birthday of the Marine Corps tomorrow (Sunday). So, yeah...OORAH! Here it is:


It's a large quilt at 89 x 102 inches. Mike and I tried getting a straight-on picture of it with me setting the camera up on a tripod, and us standing on chairs. It reaches all the way from floor to ceiling with no room to spare, and then, even with our double-wide wing span, our picture turned out comically bad. So...Plan B was to lay it on the floor. I've already shared it with Andy, and he was thrilled. I knew he would be, but it's always nice when you get an enthusiastic reception to a finished quilt top.

And I was so done sewing for the day. I spent a little time on Tree #5 for Twelve Trees for Christmas yesterday, and then spent some extra time finishing it up this morning. I really like this one. It was stitched all in stem stitch with a single strand of floss. I have a hard time making pretty stitches with a single strand, and often, I default to two strands. In this case, I stuck it out, and then put the beads on this morning.


This one used the other, larger beads purchased for this project.


Several of you have given me some good ideas to avoid "beadtastrophe." My friend Linda suggested using a low-loft batting to keep them from rolling around too much. A few people suggested emptying them onto a saucer. And I think nothing succeeds like overkill, so I did both. I'm glad I did too because I spilled them just getting the cap off that little tube. Aren't they pretty, though?


They're a little larger than the other beads, and so I was able to stitch them on using my regular embroidery needle. It's a little less fiddly in my hands.

So then I traced out Tree #6, and had an impromptu little demonstration about how heat erases Frixion pen ink. The trees are backed with iron-on fusible interfacing. Usually, I can iron all around the traced design, but this time, I managed to iron over it. Oops. And that gave me a reason to put this into the freezer to see if the design would come back, as so many have reported.


Okay, well, it did...sort of, but not enough that I felt confident stitching it that way. Still, I could see well enough to retrace my steps, and now it's hooped up and ready to go for tomorrow's stitching.


There probably won't be any more sewing today. I have quite a few things on my to-do list for the weekend. I'm canning some pickled beets, and pickled brussels sprouts. Also, cranberry chutney and cranberry pepper jam. I'll split it up and do two each day. It shouldn't be too much work. If I do any sewing, it will be to make a back for the Semper Fi quilt. First, I absolutely must vacuum my sewing room. Just take a gander at what lies beneath my ironing board.


Kona solids. Love the colors...hate how much they fray. The whole sewing room looks like this. So I'll get all of that vacuumed up and make the sewing room look a little less scary. With all of that on the list, I have plenty to keep me busy for a day or two. When that's all done, I'll catch up on the Tiny Tuesday blocks.