Does Christmas make you nostalgic for people no longer a part of your life? It does me every year. I find myself thinking of Christmases past, and that always leads to thoughts of people who have passed on. Usually, I make my brother's tart green beans with bacon as a side dish.
These aren't made exactly the same way he made them, but close enough. I found the recipe in an old cookbook he gave me when I got married. You can find the recipe right here.
Also, I bring out the good china for our Christmas dinner. I inherited china and silverware from both sides of our family. The Thanksgiving table is reserved for Mike's grandmother's china. The Christmas table is for my grandmother's china. There are 12 place settings and lots of serving pieces. The silverware came from my Great Aunt Marie (Auntie Ree, as we called her). She was another special person from my past.
My mother and grandmother could never resist holding the china up to the light and remarking about how you could see your hand through it. Each time the china came out, they did this as if they were just noticing it for the first time. I do the same thing, for reasons that I can't explain. Possibly it brings them into the room with me.
Just now I tried to find information about this china. There was nothing, although there are lots of pieces for sale. My mother would have loved the internet, but she passed away before it really became the treasure trove of information it is today.
For now, any history remains a mystery...but it does make a pretty table.
In addition to the green beans, our Christmas dinner consisted of prime rib roast beast, mashed potatoes, a spinach salad with dried cranberries, candied pecans and gorgonzola cheese, Burgundy mushrooms, and Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon. We had to have two vegetables because Mike runs luke warm to ice cold on brussels sprouts, and I love them. I've tried this particular brussels sprouts recipe on him before, and he actually had seconds. This time around...no dice. He stuck with the green beans exclusively. For dessert, we had a Cranberry-Chocolate Tart. I like that dessert because the component parts can be prepared ahead and then assembled a few hours before serving.
We had a wonderful evening. There's always a lot of laughing when my two sons show up on the scene. They are different as night and day, but they are both characters. It's hard for me to remember to take pictures when my family is around. We get so busy talking and laughing, and the camera takes me out of the moment. This year, Santa brought Mike a GoPro for Christmas and he set it up to take a time-lapse video of our dinner together. For a laugh, you can check it out. Watch carefully toward the end, and you'll see me sneak a brussels sprout onto Mike's plate when he goes into the kitchen for a moment. Also, prepare to be amazed at what fast eaters we are!
If you can't see the video, click right here.
As I said earlier, Santa brought Mike a GoPro, and he brought me some beautiful new wind chimes. This isn't a very good picture...I was trying to catch the sunshine in the background as the tubes on the wind chime swayed back and forth. I ended up cutting them off at the top and bottom.
They are beautiful, however...something I've wanted for years and years. Do you have collections of things you never set out to collect? For me, it's wind chimes. We have them hanging all around inside and outside the house. Possibly one day I'll take you on a wind chime tour. For now I'll just say that wind is a constant here at the Three Cats Ranch. And wouldn't you know there hasn't been a breath of wind in days. It's a little like getting a new bicycle for Christmas and then having it pour rain for the next week. I heard them just briefly early yesterday morning...it sounded like the most beautiful pipe organ as it was warming up.
So I did a little bit of sewing yesterday. Pat Sloan is hosting a One Hundred Eighty-two Day Solstice Challenge this year. She'll be posting a block each week, beginning with the Winter Solstice last week and finishing when we reach the Summer Solstice. You can find all the information right here. The first block was a churn dash. Since these are coming out every Wednesday, I decided to get right to work on it. This will be a scrap quilt, but I spent a little time thinking about some kind of theme for my quilt. My goal is to have the blocks (26 in all) somehow tie together in the end. I decided to make them seasonal blocks, and so my first block uses some Christmas fabric.
Also, it seemed like a good time to prepare the first block for the Bag Ladies of the Fat Quarter Club Stitch-along.
There are 12 blocks for this quilt. If you're joining us, you might be doing all of them, or just some of them. There really are no rules for this stitch-along. We'll have a linky party on the last day of the month, and there will be a small prize. You don't need to finish your block, but you must make at least some progress to link up. Feel free to choose whatever block you want to do. I'm starting with the first one, and it just happens to be Ernestine. Isn't she classy?
In an earlier post, I said I'd talk a little about preparing your block for stitching. These blocks have been printed onto fabric, and so there's no tracing or coloring involved. When you take it out of the package, it looks like this, and it has quite a bit of heft.
The "heft" comes from the fact that the paper is still attached, and so you'll want to peel that away. It peels away easily, but use a little care when separating the edges because the fabric will want to fray a little bit.
Once you've separated it from the paper, it's much more lightweight and flexible.
When doing hand embroidery, you should always back your piece with some sort of stabilizer. In addition to stabilizing the fabric, it will prevent any little snipped ends of floss from showing through to the front. I've used several different methods for this. Just plain muslin works great. Cut it to size and spray it with a little bit of basting spray to hold it in place. Also, Pellon SF-101 used for t-shirt quilts works very well too. The one drawback I've found with it is that I like my fabric very tight in the hoop. As I'm pulling the fabric tight, I've actually torn the stabilizer, and so you'll want to be gentle with it.
For this project, I've decided to use the mid to heavyweight Pellon fusible interfacing. This is what I use most often. Its only drawback is that it tends to slip in the hoop a little, and so you'll be tightening your fabric again and again. Still, it gives a nice weight to the blocks, and it works as well as anything else.
I like to cut it just slightly smaller than the fabric I'm working on so that the fusible edges aren't extending beyond the fabric. These pieces will be trimmed when the embroidery is finished, however, and so you need to make sure the fusible will extend to the trimmed edge.
The side with the fusible has little bumps.
Just lay it face up on your ironing board and then lay your embroidery piece over the top. Then iron, holding the iron in place 3-4 seconds.
It works best to iron the fabric rather than the fusible. The fusible doesn't hold up well when a hot iron is applied directly, and it will tend to shrink and bubble up. If that happens, don't worry about it. It will flatten out as you work with it. Here's how it looks from the back.
This piece is ready to be hooped and stitched now. We'll start January 1st, which is just around the corner. Be ready to link up with the first block on January 31st. Did I mention there would be a prize? Also, if you're so inclined, join in our Facebook Group. It'll give you a place to post pictures of your progress and to ask questions. If you don't have a blog, you can post pictures in our FlickR group as well. From there, you can join in the linky party at the end of the month.
Speaking of hooping and stitching, I've progressed about 60% of the way with the latest of the Hocuspocusville blocks.
It should be easy enough to finish this one up before we get started with Ernestine.
It's been a very relaxing Christmas weekend. Even Smitty took advantage of the holiday to relax.
As for my usual projects, I think I've put off those paper-pieced blocks for the Quiltmaker's Garden as long as I can. Today, I'll get started on those.