Stitching of All Kinds

We made an unexpected trip into town yesterday. Mike decided he needed to have the fluids in one of the radiators exchanged. Since he needed to leave the car, I needed to follow him into town and drive him back home. As long as we were in town, we ran a few errands. And then, of course, we had to go back to town to retrieve the car when it was all done. Oh well. There was still plenty of time to sew.

Before we left, I stitched up what remained in the hoop for Friendship's Garden.

It's about 3/4 finished now, and I've moved the hoop to the extreme left. It doesn't quite fit into the hoop for the finish, but it's very close.

From there I got ready to go into town. When I came back downstairs...uh-oh. This is never a good sign.

They'd brought in a little shrew. And let me tell you...those things are lightning fast. On the other side of the china cabinet, Smitty was lying in wait.

We haven't seen it since, and so we assume the kitties disposed of it while we were gone. There is no evidence of any kind to be seen anywhere, and the kitties have gone back to their usual business of bothering the quilter.

When I was able to get back to the quilt, I finished off the house and small tree section and added some clouds. I still need to add some clouds in the upper left, but I'll get at those when I get back across to that side.

From there, I moved back to the right side of the quilt above the daisies from the day before and started working on the large dogwood tree and blossoms.

By the time I'd had enough, the whole of the right side was quilted.

Now I've rotated the quilt so the bulk of it is rolled up on the table under the machine, and I'll be stitching upside down across the top. Since I'm just top-stitching it really makes no difference which way I go. This way, the bulk of the quilt isn't dragging across my lap, pulling off applique pieces as I go. If any fall off now, they'll be captured in the folds of the quilt. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that everything stays put.

I was kind of tired of working on it, and so I went down to the basement sewing room and started top-stitching the November Tuxedo's Tales block. It's a lot more trouble to do it on Pfelicity, but we kept after it until I had it this far. I've machine embroidered the stems of the wheat stalks, and I've marked where I'll make some lazy daisy stitches by hand to finish off their tops. I stitched a little up in the right hand corner where the leaves and stems are there, but didn't take a picture when I quit for the day.

Today will be pretty much a repeat of what I did yesterday. I'm hoping to finish the Tuxedo block today. Probably I won't get Wind in the Whiskers finished today, but I'll get pretty close. It looks like November's OMG will get finished this month.

So that's where it stands here at the Three Cats Ranch. We're expecting another sunny and cold day, but we're expecting the rain to return by tomorrow.


Red Sky at Morning

Sailors take warning. There's a change in the weather coming. It isn't really as ominous as all that, however. We're just going to go from sunny and cold to rainy and warmer. That's how it is in our part of the world. We get sunshine with the coldest temperatures...rain when it warms up.

But remember when we took our tree down, I said I thought we might be able to see Mt. Adams again? Well there it is.

When we bought our place, we had a three mountain view, including Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams. Over time, the trees grew up so we couldn't see Mt. Adams from the house. For that, we had to go out into the field. It's good to see it from my office window again.

So, you know we've been on diets for about 300 years. One of the gifts from our diet is Oatmeal Pancakes. They're made with quick-cooking oatmeal and nonfat buttermilk, and so they're low in fat and also low in sugar (not counting the syrup). We like them so much that we have them every Sunday. (I add some frozen blueberries to mine.) Mike tells me that he wakes up Sunday morning with pancakes on his mind. So it gave me a chuckle when I finished my blog post yesterday and went downstairs to find the place settings ready for our pancake breakfast. And even if you, like me, find pancakes too heavy for breakfast, these are very light and nice. The oatmeal gives them a nice texture.

So after breakfast I trudged back to the Wind in the Whiskers quilt. It looked just like it did when I left it, no quilting elves having come in the night.

The quilting started up again at this cat.

After that, I did the daisies to its left and the bee above its head.

The top-stitching is also serving as the quilting, and it's looking pretty good from the back.

After that, I took a break to make a dessert for last night's dinner...this Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread.

Now remember that Proclamation from a few weeks ago about First Friday Desserts? Well...never mind. We asked our neighbor to join us for dinner last night since he's alone and we had way more food than we needed. And so I'm amending the Proclamation to exclude holidays and nights when we invite someone over. Dessert is required on those nights. Am I right about that? I knew you'd agree.

So, I didn't take a picture of the inside, but I borrowed this one that accompanied the recipe in the New York Times. (I'm going to return it as soon as I'm finished with it.)

(image credit: Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times)

I made this for the first time two years ago, and it's so good. You make a sort of cranberry sauce and then plop it over the top of the cake batter. The cake bakes up and envelopes the cranberries, which end up on the bottom of the cake. So, so yummy. I served it with a little dollop of whipped cream.

Mike was out yesterday to get the oil changed in his car. He had to pick up some sugar too since I'd used up all of mine when I did the canning yesterday. While he was out, he picked up an amaryllis bulb. Amaryllis is one of those things I love, but I never get one for myself. I only get them for other people. Mike came through with one for me, and so I'm showing you its little green shoot here. 

If you've never seen an amaryllis grow, then you're in for a treat as I document this one's progress.

So that was a nice little interlude, but (sound of whip cracking) let's just get back to that quilting, shall we? The next step was to quilt in some hills...maybe a few too many, but whatever.

And then the merciful cat paid me a visit. I couldn't quilt with him standing there, and so I loved him up some, encouraging him to stay.

He really just wanted treats, and once I'd dispensed those, he was gone from the scene.

And then I started on the section above the hills. It was getting close to time for getting back to my dinner, and so I didn't do much more beyond this.

When I got up from my chair to finish for the day, I was horrified to find a flower on the floor and to realize also that some other pieces were missing. I found all of them, but this is the thing I've been most afraid of with this quilt. The very detailed and tiny applique pieces are coming loose as I maneuver the quilt around. Now, I'm pinning any loose ones, and hopefully I can get through this process without losing any of them.

I've had some problems with thread breakage. At one point yesterday I decided to change my needle to see if that would help. It didn't, but in the process I consulted the machine's manual to reassure myself I was putting the needle in the right way. While looking through the manual, I noted that it said 80/12 needles were available. I'd searched for needles once before and the smallest I could find were 90/14. Enter the love of my life, Amazon.com (♥♥♥), and I found some 80/12 Groz-Beckert needles there. They should arrive on Tuesday, and that will help a little.

So today, there's nothing on the agenda but sewing. I'm hoping to get well along with the quilting. Fingers crossed about the applique pieces. If I get through this without losing any, it will be something of a miracle.


Yes, I Can

When I started cooking cranberries yesterday, I had three recipes on my mind. I wondered if I could get them all done in one day. I'm happy to report: Yes, I can. First, I tried this Cranberry Pepper Jam. I'm going to give you the link to the recipe, but I must first warn you that the yield is seriously underestimated. The recipe promised me 3 half-pint jars. Since I was thinking of giving it as little gifts this holiday season, I decided to use 6 quarter-pint jars instead. They'll fit in a pocket, and so I can just take them with me easily and hand them out like candy. And look how pretty this is:

And if you're saying to yourself, "Hey, that looks like a half-pint jar! WTF?" Or maybe you aren't as potty-mouthed as I am and so you left off the "F" part of that. Well...here's what happened. 

I made the recipe exactly as written, and I had eight (not six) quarter-pint jars ready to go thinking that even if there was extra, I should have plenty of jars. Well, I filled those jars, and still had lots of jam in the pot. And I hate that because I didn't have any more clean jars or clean lids prepared. So I quickly washed some more half-pint jars and some more lids and finished off with three more half-pint jars. All-in-all, I ended up with 8 quarter-pints and 3 half pints. If I'd done it in half-pint jars from the get-go, I'd have had 7 half-pint jars...not the 3 suggested in the recipe. So, I ask again, WTF?

So anyway...I can highly recommend it because it's very tasty. Someone always asks me what one does with pepper jams, and here's what I tell them: It's wonderful spread on crackers with a little cream cheese. It's also wonderful served with meat...just like ketchup or steak sauce. And it's good on sandwiches, especially roast beef. And if you're just in a mood, it's great spooned straight from the jar directly into your open mouth. That's often how I'm eating it. So, anyway...it's easy, and it's pretty. You can find the recipe right here. I should note that I removed the seeds and ribs from both serrano peppers and one of the jalapenos. It has plenty of kick.

So there was that.

A day or so earlier, I'd boiled and skinned some CSA beets for pickling. I used my old standby recipe for Easy Spiced Pickled Beets. They're a family favorite. I ended up with three pints from two pounds of beets. The recipe I use is from Small Batch Preserving. Here's the recipe for those:

Easy Spiced Pickled Beets
Yield: About 3 pint jars

2 Pounds Fresh Beets
2 Cups Granulated Sugar
2 Cups White Vinegar
1/3 Cup Water
16 Whole Cloves
8 Whole Allspice Berries
2 Cinnamon Sticks (about 4 Inches Long)
2 Teaspoons Pickling Salt

Trim beets, leaving 1 inch of stem and tap root attached. Place beets in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 25-45 minutes or until tender. Drain and rinse under cold water. Remove skins and cut beets into large pieces

Combine sugar, vinegar, and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally.

Remove hot jars from canner and place 4 whole cloves, 2 allspice berries, 1/2 cinnamon stick and 1/2 teaspoon salt in each jar. Pack beets into jars.

Pour hot liquid over beets to within 1/2 inch of rim. Process 30 minutes for pints and 35 minutes for quart jars.

Note: For an interesting variation, add 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes to each jar.

While those were processing, I got to work on the Brussels sprouts. And here again, the author of the recipe seriously underestimated how many jars I would need. Fortunately, I had plenty of jars and lids ready, but it still annoys me when I end up with more veggies than I have prepared jars. So anyway...the Brussels sprouts have to sit for a week or more before they're ready...which is pure torture for this Brussels-sprouts-loving-person. Nevertheless, I opened one of the jars and tried one. I'm happy to say that after waiting just a few hours, this just might be a winner. I'll tell you more about it when I've given it a week to pickle and a true taste test.

So I ended up with a lot of jars and a lot of yummy stuff by day's end.

There was time to sew, but after all that, I sat on my behind for the rest of the day.

Ever feel like you're being watched?

So today I'm putting a recipe for Old-Fashioned Chicken and Dumplings in the crockpot. My housework is done. My canning is done. I'm going to spend the day quilting Wind in the Whiskers.


A Canning We Will Go

When I finished canning for the summer season (well over 200 jars this year), I'll admit I hoped never to lay eyes on a Ball jar again. But here we are a few weeks later, and I'm ready to fire up the kettle and run with it. This weekend I'll be making cranberry pepper jelly, pickled beets, and pickled brussels sprouts. The cranberry pepper jelly will be a new recipe. The pickled beets will be my old stand-by recipe. Matthew loves them and snags a jar every time he comes for a visit. Honestly, I'm not sure we'd see him if it weren't for the pickled carrots and pickled beets. Whatever works if it means I get to see my kiddos.

As for the pickled brussels sprouts, I'm still looking for the perfect recipe. I made them one year, and they were so sour they nearly turned our faces inside out. Here are those puckery suckers now:

Yeah, I posted that picture back in 2015, and I wasn't able to taste them until the following week, and so...never mind. They look good though. I tried them again another time, using a recipe that included more sugar. Those turned out too sweet. This time, I'm trying a recipe with about a 1:2 sugar to vinegar ratio and some spices to give them a little kick. We'll see if that produces the perfect pickled sprout. Of course, I will report back on all of it as soon as I test it all out.

Sue and I walked yesterday morning for the first time in many weeks. We walked the Fanno Creek Trail. We found one place that was impassable because of water, but we were able to cross the road above the flooded trail. Beyond that, it was smooth walking until we came to a place where some habitat restoration work has been going on for the past year or so. The sidewalk was closed there and so we turned around and headed back. Along the way, we saw this pretty tree.

Our showy leaves are waning in the rest of the metro area. I expect they'll be gone within another week or two.

When I got home, I had every intention of getting back to quilting Wind in the Whiskers. Mike came home early, as he often does on Fridays. He was napping upstairs where the mid-arm is located, and so I decided instead to head into the basement sewing room and get started on November's block for Tuxedo's Tales.

This is a Bonnie Sullivan pattern, and it was originally done in wool. I've been doing the blocks from my own cotton stash, and this is what I came up with.

Everything is fused down now. The button eyes are not yet sewn on, but I've drawn in the lines for machine and hand embroidery. I'd rather wait for Big Bertha to return before doing the top-stitching. Pfelicity does all the stitches I need, but she lacks Big Bertha's knee lift for the presser foot...a feature I find particularly nice when I'm doing machine top-stitching and machine embroidery. If it takes too long, I'll finish it off with Pfelicity. My fingers are tightly crossed about Big Bertha.

So that's about it from yesterday. I expect today's activities will be canning from start to finish. If there's time, I'll get back to quilting Wind in the Whiskers. I expect you'll find me in the kitchen all day, so look there first.


Starting Line

Yesterday I finished the first hooping of Friendship's Garden.

This was Sadie's contribution. It was too chilly to be outside yesterday morning, and so she opted for the comfort of my quilt-covered lap.

Chilly or no, I got outside to empty the compost pail and fill the bird feeders. The seed feeders are good for about a week to 10 days this time of year, when we have fewer birds. The peanut feeder never lasts more than about an hour. Peanuts are kind of expensive, and so the blue jays have to wait between fillings. Once I've filled it, it takes them only a few minutes to find the peanuts and start their siege.

There was housework to do, but I decided to cut myself some slack and sew together the Rainbow Jubilee blocks first. That takes care of November's color.

There are 44 blocks now, with four more to go. It makes for a big stack of blocks.

After finishing up my housework, I vowed to get a start on Wind in the Whiskers. Just getting the machine set up and the tension adjusted takes some time. If that was the only thing I could finish in a day, it would be enough. So I opened up a new cone of monofilment thread. Finding the open thread end is quite a challenge, but I got 'er done.

Some of the little applique pieces have peeled up in places in the years it's been waiting for its time under the quilting needle.

For that, I set up my little travel iron, and I'll give them a pressing as I come to them. Hopefully, I won't find any lost pieces, although I do have scraps of fabric left over if I need them.

This butterfly's wings are three dimensional, held in place by the tiny body of the butterfly, and so I stitched that down right away. I feared my shifting the quilt around would cause it to come loose.

Stitching the edges of the applique is going to serve as the quilting for the vast bulk of this quilt, although I will quilt in some clouds and lines of hills in the larger open areas. I'm using a 90/14 needle, which is the smallest needle I can find for my mid-arm machine. Unfortunately, it's leaving holes in the batik. I'm not sure what to do about that, but I'm hoping it will heal as I go. Things always look worse to my eye as I stitch. When I stand back and look at the whole quilt, I lose track of the things I didn't like in the moment.

Also, I'm taking three stitches at the beginning and ending of each piece, and then just traveling with the thread to the next one rather than cutting thread each time. As I finish each small section, I clip the traveling threads and call it good.

By the time I quit for the day, I'd stitched all around the darkest green, the kittens, the basket, and the lower half of the tree trunk.

Little by little will be the name of the game to finish this off.

Here's where I'll pick up my slow stitching this morning.

Sue and I are walking for the first time in months. We have a chilly, but sunny morning to get back at it, and we'll walk the Fanno Creek Trail. We're both hoping it isn't partially under water, as it sometimes is. When I get home, I'll get back to my quilting. It's good to have it started. When I've been dreading a project for a long time, I find just getting started is enough to motivate me to finish.


A Little of Everything

Yesterday ended up being a day for everything. When I went back downstairs to do some slow-stitching, the kitties were looking no more lively than they had an hour earlier. Smitty, at least, had roused himself to peer outside.

Sadie was still snuggled into her quilt.

There was about an hour to slow stitch before I needed to leave for my monthly pedicure. While I was out, I stopped off at Wholly Too Expensive Foods to see if I could score some chanterelle mushrooms. Chanterelles are a wild mushroom, and so they are only available at certain times of the year. It's possible to go hunting for them in our area, but it's a long drive. They're expensive in the stores, but no more costly than paying for the gas it takes to drive where we might find some. Also, I can get them without getting my shoes muddy.

When I picked up our CSA on Tuesday, there was the most beautiful bundle of red chard included. And here's the thing about chard: We are pretty lukewarm on greens of any kind. Except lettuce. Would you call lettuce a green? We like lettuce. As for the rest...and I'm talking kale, chard, bok choy, collards...we try very hard to like them. I've found a way to use chard in meatloaf that's pretty darned good. (You can find the link to the recipe right here, if you're interested.) The only other way we've found to like it a lot is in Chanterelle Mushroom Risotto. In that, it is divine. So all of that to say that Wholly Too Expensive Foods did not let me down yesterday. After the sewing machine debacle of the day before, the chanterelles were a real day brightener.

When I got home, I roasted those puppies along with some red onion. The recipe calls for shallots, but I'm overrun by red onions from the CSA. So, red onion it was. Risotto is a dish that makes a lot of dirty pans, and it takes a while to make it. It isn't hard, but it takes time. It's best to roast the chanterelles ahead of time and that makes dinner time prep a whole lot easier. So, feast your eyes:

It's hard not to eat them right away after taking them out of the oven. Mine sat through the afternoon, and I gazed lovingly at them every time I walked by. And as long as I was at it, I boiled a bag of CSA beets for pickling this weekend. Now that they're boiled and skinned, it'll be pretty quick to can them.

I've admitted to a few of you that I was a little bummed yesterday about the sewing machine. Ordinarily, it's not a big deal, but yesterday I was pretty darned tired of crawling around on my hands and knees to unplug the thing and switch it out for The Little Sewing Machine that Could. And Big Bertha is a heavy sucker. When Mike is home, he can help me. Yesterday, I hefted it into its carrying case on my own. I briefly considered using it to do some Bicep Curls, but nah. I figure if I can lift it, I'm probably strong enough. I'll leave the weight-lifting to the weaklings. Who's with me on that?

So anyway, I dragged my feet for about an hour, but then decided sewing was preferable to moping and I got 'er done. Then I sewed together the black and white strips I need for the Rainbow Jubilee blocks, trimmed them, and cut them into halves.

By that time, it was getting close to dinner, and so I laid them out on my work table and called it a sewing day.

And then I got to work on the risotto. Oh, my. It is so tasty. I only make this every couple of years...when my supply of CSA red chard coincides with chanterelle mushroom season. It is the tastiest stuff.

When I made this way back in my earlier years of blogging, I wrote a little tutorial about how to make it and included the recipe originally found in Sunset magazine. You can see that post right here. It makes a pile of risotto. We had it for dinner last night, and we'll have leftovers on Friday. Mike took some for his lunch today.

So that brings me to this morning. I'm going nowhere today, but I do have more housekeeping to do. I really need to rework my schedule so that I don't have weeks of feast and famine. Anyway...when that's done, I'll finish sewing those Rainbow blocks together and then I'll gird up my loins to get a start on quilting Wind in the Whiskers. I'll try not to drag my feet today.



Yesterday ended up being more of a run-around day than anticipated. While I was getting my hair cut, I got a message that Big Bertha was ready to be picked up. I needed to make a stop at a specialty grocery along the way, and then I headed across town to pick up my sewing machine. When I got her home and set her up, she was looking pretty good. No error code on the screen, and the green light there, just left of center indicated she was raring to go.

So I got to work sewing together the strips for the November Rainbow Jubilee blocks. I didn't really expect to finish them, but there they are. I'll be starting on the black and white ones...today, hopefully.

While I was sewing, I noticed the machine was making a new noise not heard previously. It's not that I'd never heard it, but it was happening every time I stopped sewing and then started up again. It was a mechanical noise...like a spring "spronging" (my word for the noise), every time the feed dogs re-engaged. I watched carefully as I took the first stitches each time, tried pulling out and reinserting the knee lift lever, turning the hand crank, cleaning under the stitch plate (although it was perfectly clean having just come from service), rethreading the machine, removing the bobbin case...nothing made any difference. It bothered my ears every time it happened, which was at the beginning of every line of stitching.

When Mike got home, I asked him to come downstairs and listen. He's pretty good with mechanical things, and so I thought he might even be able to fix it. When I turned the machine on (third time since I got it home), the error code reappeared. PUCK!!! Only, I was kind of glad it happened so fast because this is all fresh in everybody's mind now. I called the shop immediately and told them I want the circuit board replaced, and no more pucking around. So that's what will happen. I've turned the machine on and off five more times since then, and I'm not able to clear the code. I guess Pfelicity will be back in service faster than you can say "Bob's your uncle." The one positive in all of this is that it's no longer an intermittent problem, which is the most exasperating kind. Now it's consistent and persistent, and just maybe it'll get fixed.

So that happened.

The only other sewing-related thing I did yesterday was to get a start on Block 6 of Friendship's Garden. My first task on a new block is to use up the little leftover bits from the last time I worked on it.

Now my little floss bobbins are all neat and tidy, and I can start fresh with fresh floss. It's an OCD thing, if you must know.

Our temperatures haven't dipped below freezing yet, but it is decidedly cooler than it has been. Neither kitty is beating a path to the door this morning. Sadie is contentedly tucked into her quilt.

Smitty is on his pole next to the window. He isn't even looking out the window, apparently believing it's too cold even to cast his gaze outside.

I'll be getting my monthly pedicure this morning, and then I'll be heading for home. I'm hoping there will be enough time left in the day to get started on those black and white strips for the Rainbow Jubilee blocks. When those are finished, I'll be biting the bullet and starting to quilt Wind in the Whiskers. I've been dragging my feet for about two years on that quilt. Time to get it finished and off my mind. It won't be finished until next month, but once I get started on something, I can usually follow through to the bitter end.

There is some canning in my future too. I'm thinking this weekend, I'll be trying a new recipe for cranberry pepper jam. Also, I'll be pickling some beets and some brussels sprouts. There's never a shortage of things to do.