The Best Laid Plans

Yesterday's plan was always to take a short nap, then get up and make a dessert for last night and some Grown-Up Mac & Cheese for dinner. The mac and cheese is a bit of a production, but it makes dinner for two nights plus a bonus for Mike when I'm not home for dinner. And I can't say I'm a big fan of mac and cheese, but Ina Garten's version is practically the definition of comfort food. After a full summer of veggies and lots of kale, I figure we can eat the mac and cheese once per year. So, anyway...

My plan went awry when I fell asleep and slept soundly until Mike called to say he was on his way home. Holy sh*t! I'd slept the afternoon away. And what about dessert!?! (I do have my priorities.) I was itching for that Cranberry Crunch. It didn't photograph very well, but what it lacked in photogenicity, it made up for in deliciousness.

It's a lot like an apple crisp, but the topping is thicker and crunchier. The one bag of cranberries makes for a rather thin fruit layer. It's a little like a fruit bar, but serve it up in a bowl.

Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and you've got yourself a treat for the season. I've only made this once before. This year's version seemed to be a little more tart than the previous version. No doubt, the cranberries are different from season to season. I suggest tasting your filling before adding the topping and add a little bit of sugar if you think it needs it. Ours could have been a little sweeter this time around, but the ice cream picked up the slack.

This morning I continued on with my "seed culture". The seed culture is the first step in an effort to create the "mother starter" for the loaf of Artos that will follow. The mother starter is referred to as the "barm". The author points out that the full flavor of the barm will not develop until it has been refreshed 2-3 times over a two-week period. That is the time required for the organisms that exist naturally in my area to take charge of the mixture. While I can use the barm the day after it is created, the loaf I am making now will taste different from the variation I plan to make next time using the same barm. It's like a chemistry project taking place right in my own kitchen. Thankfully, this one is measured in amounts that make more sense to me than the ones we used to do our calculations in chemistry class...a subject matter for which I am wholly unsuited. Also, no slide rules required. (Yes, I was taking chemistry during the 14th Century, when slide rules were all the rage.)

So this morning I checked my seed culture again. I was told not to expect much, and I was not disappointed. It looks pretty much the same as yesterday, although gravity has flattened it out some and it's a little more solid. If I turn this cup on its side, it stays put.

While yesterday's mixture was made from pumpernickel flour and water, today's mixture will add in some bread flour. I'm still working on this bag of Gold Medal, but I should have it all used up by the time I finish with this loaf.

Today I'm adding a half cup of water to a cup of bread flour. I'm giving you the amounts in volume, but this is more accurately done by weight. A cup of bread flour weighs 4.5 ounces.

So I mixed that up

and then added it to yesterday's mixture and pressed it down.

Then I moved my tape so I could observe any rise that takes place.

The author says I might notice a 50% rise by tomorrow morning, but I should also notice the "strong, unpleasant aroma of the dough." He says I shouldn't be put off by that and that it will "eventually brighten as it nears the finish line." Okay...I can live with that if I end up with a nice loaf of bread. Two more additions to go with this before I create the barm. 

So the other thing I did this morning was a little more hand quilting on Mumm's the Word. I didn't get the cat finished, but I'm tired of working on this. I'll put it aside and work on my embroidery projects for a while.

Sadie seemed terribly disappointed that I didn't finish the cat.

You can see in the image below the areas where the quilting is finished. 

The image below shows where I left off last time. It doesn't look like a lot of progress. Only the southeast corner there. Like I said...this is very slow going.

I'm not sorry I started hand quilting this, but I doubt I'll do it again. Never say never though. I imagine when the sting wears off, I'll consider it for another quilt if it seems like the right thing to do.

For the rest of today I'm going to work on the barn quilt. Last night I was gazing at it and a vision started to formulate for where to go with the stitched details. 

This quilt was started when I was pretty much a beginner, and it has some structural problems. If I were to start it today, I would do some things differently. Nevertheless, I think it's going to work. It will be a quilt for the wall rather than a quilt for the wash, but that's okay. Onward we go.


Quilting with Cats

There's never a dull quilting moment when my furry friends are here to help out. What follows is a compendium of cat photos dressed up as quilt photos. First, I moved the hoop on Mumm's the Word yesterday and lo and behold, there was a cat on the quilt...and not just one cat.

When I finished up my last embroidery block, I promised myself I'd work on this hand quilting for two weeks. At this point, I've nearly served all the time in that sentence. I'll probably finish up the two blocks on the right and the cat and then move onto something else. On the bright side, nearly the whole center of this quilt is quilted now. 

After that, I wasn't quite sure what to work on next, but decided to go ahead and finish quilting the Poinsettia Sampler. Then I got it trimmed up and my binding strips sewn together (I used the same fabric from the quilt back). When the binding strips were ready, I turned around for the quilt and saw...oh, well there seems to be an impediment to my pawgress.

But I plied him out of the way with some dried catnip and managed to get the binding sewn on by machine. This morning, bright and early, I had it all finished. When I laid it on the floor to take its picture...uh-oh.

Of course, you've laid this down here so that you can take my picture.

Which do you think is my better side? This one?

Or this one?

And with some purrserverence, I was able to get this shot of it. Actually, I took this one with my phone, and it seems to have achieved the truest color of that red.

Here are a couple of close-ups of the quilting.

I went around the outside with two rows of wavy lines and then a row of holly leaves and berries between the two.

After finishing the quilting yesterday, I got a pretty good start stitching down the pieces for the Barn Quilt. The Invisifil thread is working great. I really like it. It's very fine and strong, and I've had no trouble with it whatsoever...unless you consider the difficulty my eyes have threading my sewing machine with it. I'm using a 60/8 needle, and so I can't use the automatic threader on my machine. The eye of the needle is too small. This one has to be done the old-fashioned way, and my eyesight isn't as sharp as it once was.

Most of the pieces are stitched down now...just the smallest ones remain, and then I'll start filling in details with some machine embroidery thread.

Finally, after a week's wait, the specialty flour I ordered was delivered.

Here's what you need to know about it.

The next bread I'm making is "Artos" which is a Greek celebration bread. I'm starting with the basic loaf. This bread begins with a seed culture made from the pumpernickel flour and water, the idea being that I'll be capturing wild yeast from the environment. For this first of four days, I mixed 1 cup of pumpernickel flour with 3/4 cup of water. Presumably the wild yeast jumped into the mix.

Isn't it weird thinking that there are little yeast beasts floating all around us, lounging around on the surfaces where we eat and prepare our food? I suspect they're listening in on our conversations, hiding our eyeglasses in places we'll never think to look, and ordering fabrics online. Imagine the mischief they can get into. Peter Reinhart, the author of the Bread Baker's Apprentice tells me that they account for the powdery sheen you find on plums and grapes. Yeast...who knew?

So after I mixed that up, I was told the put it into a four cup glass measure and mark the top so that I can see how much it rises. I'll check it again tomorrow, although I've been told not to expect much after just one day.

Tomorrow I'll do something else to it and let it sit for another 24 hours. Isn't this exciting? The seed culture takes four days, and then it will take another two days to make the starter. Then and only then will I be ready to bake some bread. Like I said...it falls somewhere between watching grass grow and watching paint dry. 

Sue and I had dry weather for most of our walk this morning, but it started raining when we were about halfway back. We got plenty wet. I foisted off the last jar of apple pie filling on her, and we also picked the little key chain pouches Sharon V. gifted us. This picture is for you, Sharon, and we sure had fun taking it.

Sue sends her undying gratitude. Surprises are so much fun.

Usually we start at the far end of the trail, but today we started at the opposite end. It's been raining enough that we fear the other end is flooded. This end is more forgiving, and so we parked at the library and then set out. Fanno Creek is running pretty high, but we didn't encounter any flooding.

Neither of us visits this end of town much any more, although I used to live nearby. They've been engaging in some "urban renewal" which mostly seems to involve the purchase of undeniably expensive and seriously ugly art work. Nevertheless, we were smitten with these little sidewalk sculptures. No idea what their purpose is, but we liked them anyway.

Padsworth, this one is for you.

And then I ran some errands, and then I came home. And then I iced my knee, and then I wrote this blog post.

And now, I think I'll take a nap. I've walked over 7 miles so far today, and the day is still young. Definitely...a nap will be good just about now.


Barn Again

You thought I was kidding with the "Barn Again" title, didn't you? Actually, I did work on the barn again, and all the pieces are in place now.

Did you notice the cat? Every barn needs a cat, right?

So the next task will be to stitch down all the pieces. Keep your fingers crossed for me, because I may have shot myself in the foot by using spray baste rather than fusing them down. It occurs to me that this is a good use for the lightweight Invisafil set I acquired recently via Massdrop. If you've been following along, you know I've been experimenting with different threads recently. The Massdrop sets are a bargain for someone who's wanting to try something new. These are 100 weight polyester threads.

Some of the barn pieces are tiny, and so I'm going to want to use a 60/8 microtex needle and fine thread to keep them from fraying as I stitch around the edges. The set I purchased comes with many colors to choose from.

The barn is trimmed now and basted to a batting. I'll stitch down the pieces and then add the details before giving it a quilt back and quilting it. There is still much to do, but I have another free day today. I'm hoping to get well along.

Also, I finished quilting the background of the Poinsettia Sampler yesterday. There were four sections left. In one section, I was trying to copy Lori Kennedy's "Happy Flowers" motif, which didn't work out at all. I ended up doing a motif of my own creation. If I've learned anything from these samplers it is that free motion quilting is very forgiving. As long as you have your tension adjusted correctly, you can pretty much do what you want. Trying to copy without success? No problem. Just do whatever you're doing and it'll be fine.

In another section, I did what our Sit Down FMQ group called "tucking in the baby". These wedge shapes are hard to gauge when it comes to the sizes of things, and so I added that "string of pearls" in the middle.

The next design was my adaptation of what Leah Day calls "Star Flower Flow". Again, the wedge shapes made it difficult to do just the way Leah Day did it, but it works.

Finally, this divided loop de loop thing.

Here's how the piece is looking so far.

The barn is my top priority today, but I'm still hoping I'll have time to work on this some more. I'll be switching back to the white thread now and stitching two wavy borders around the outside edges. Inside the two lines, I'll fill in with holly leaves and berries. When that's finished, it'll be ready for binding. Kind of a fun little project.

As I'm writing this, the loaf of Crusty Cranberry Walnut Bread is in the oven. It's a little scary to bake. When I got up this morning, I pretty much doused it in flour and then enfolded it in a tea towel for a second rise. After about two hours, I was supposed to heat the oven and the Dutch oven to 475°F...so HOT! When the oven was ready, I was supposed to use the towel to "flip" the bread dough into the hot Dutch oven. Since I was trying mightily not to burn myself in the process, I managed to throw flour all over the room. Nevertheless, the bread is in the oven now. Possibly all the flour has had a chance to settle while I've been writing to you. Between vanilla and flour, there's never a dull moment in my kitchen, nor a clean moment either. Perhaps I need a sous chef...or a housekeeper. As if.

December Goals and Progress Report

November was a busy, but fairly productive month. My goals are looking pretty good this time around. Let's see how I did.

1. I have a perfectly good pumpkin top to quilt, I'm going to put that on my list to quilt in November. And that will be my goal for: Complete!

Elm Street Quilts

2. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'd like to take this Barn Quilt, my oldest UFO, to flimsy stage. In Progress.

Monthly Challenges
3. I'd still like to give the Happy Villages a try from my October goals (pictured above), and so I'll attempt to complete that goal in November. Complete! It was a good choice for the last Let's Book It challenge.

4. I didn't make a block for last month's Block Lotto, but I want to put myself back into the lotto in November. Of course, it always depends on the block, and I haven't seen November's block yet.  
November's block turned out to be paper-piecing, and you know how much I hate paper-piecing. That means I crossed this goal off my list. Better luck next month.

5. I'd still like to complete a row of blocks for the Hobo Quilt, pictured above, and so I'll continue on with that goal in November. Complete!

6. Make the 5th block for the Chicken Buffet quilt. Complete!

7. I won the block lotto earlier this summer, 48 of leaf blocks. Also, I won the September block Lotto of some Barn Door blocks. 

Initially, I was going to make them into a quilt top, but then thought better of it. I'm not looking to add any large projects to my list of WIP's, and so I decided to give the Block Lotto blocks to my friend, Marei. I know she'll make good use of them and she'll enjoy it more than I will. Maybe another time I'll be ready to use some Block Lotto winnings, but for this month's goals, I've crossed these blocks off my list. That's one way to finish your WIP's!

I always assign myself something for Bonus Points. This month, and with great trepidation, my goal was to start sewing together the Wind in the Whiskers quilt. No Progress.

No bonus points for me this month. 😿

December is a busy month for many, including us here at the Three Cats Ranch. It's made less busy since our decision not to exchange Christmas gifts with our adult children a couple of years ago. As some of you know, we plan a family weekend together in lieu of Christmas gifts, and it certainly has made the season a lot less stressful.

So let's see what's on my wish list of goals for the month.

Quilting and Flimsies

1. Quilt and bind the Gingerbread Square quilt. 

This one is my choice for

Elm Street Quilts

2. Stitch in the details, quilt and bind the Barn Quilt. I'm determined to get this oldest UFO finished. (Pictured above.)


3. Make the first appliqued and embroidered block for Summer Holiday. Here's the picture from the book. This one is called Packing the Suitcase.

4. Complete the fifth and final section for A Quiltmaker's Garden. Here's what I'll be working on next:

Yes, there is paper-piecing to be done. Commence wailing and moaning in three, two, one...

5. Depending on the block, I'll make a block for

Join me on the Block Lotto Blog
Generally, I'll cross this off my list if it contains templates or paper-piecing, but there's no way to know until I see the block. I've missed the last two months, and so I'm hopeful December's block will be agreeable to my tender piecing sensibilities. In any case, I always have good intentions.
I'm keeping my list fairly short this month because those projects I've listed will probably take more time than I expect. Nevertheless, you know I always give myself something for
Since I made no progress sewing together the sections for Wind in the Whiskers in November, I'll keep that as my project for bonus points in December (pictured above).
That list ought to keep me out of trouble. What are you planning to keep you out of trouble in December?