5/27/16

Binding On

My friend Sue and I walked this morning. When we started out the sky was black and threatening, although there was only a 15% chance of rain. From where we stood, it looked like a 100% chance. Nevertheless, we managed our walk of around five miles with just a few sprinkles. As you might guess, I took pictures of every blooming thing along the way. Since loading the "Like That Garden" app on my phone, I've become much more aware of the blooming things along the path. Here are some of today's flowers:

The path was lined with wild roses all in bloom. These also produce pretty red rose hips in the fall, and so they are a dual purpose plant.


This next one is probably Victorian Laurel, but there are a lot of similar looking plants and flowers suggested in the app.


Sue and I think this one is probably viburnum, although again, there were several suggestions.


This one is White Meadowsweet, or spiraea alba, if you're feeling like showing off your Latin.


Sorry for the blur on this next one. Sometimes it's hard to see what you're getting on your phone in the bright sunlight. The app couldn't identify this one. It has a hard berry about the size of a glass pinhead that looks like it would crunch if you smashed it with your finger. If I'm remembering right, it begins with some tiny white flowers. There is one growing wild along our driveway, but I don't know its name. Maybe one of you knows. It's not a very good image, but maybe you can identify it anyway. The birds certainly go after its berries like there is no tomorrow.


The app easily identified this one as Jewelweeds. So pretty, and very tiny.


On the way home, I stopped off at the market. While I was standing at the cash register, Sue texted me to let me know it was pouring and acknowledging that, as walkers, we lead charmed lives. We do. It's true. There's no denying it. And check out these Hood Strawberries grown just over the hill in Cornelius, Oregon. Yum, yum, yum, As I've said before, Mike can't have those tiny seeds in strawberries, and so consumption of strawberries is limited around here. He loves them, and I can't bear to eat them in front of him knowing they mean death to him. Not death literally, but close. 


These are set to be eaten straight from the box by me, but first, I'm going to cut the seeds off the largest of them and make some strawberry ice cream. I can probably manage the tedium of this seed-cutting-off exercise for us to enjoy a couple of evenings of strawberry shortcake too. It's hard to get scale in this image, but some of them are good sized, and so it's easier to cut the seeds off of them. I'll use the naked ones in the ice cream. I save the seed sides and eat those myself in the strawberry shortcake and then give him the naked ones. Oregon strawberries are worth the effort. And, if you get right down to it, so is he.

When I got home, I fed the birds. Along the way I noticed that the rose buds are beginning to open. This is the most fragrant rose you can imagine. It was given to me many moons ago for my 50th birthday. It's a little tree rose, but it's been so neglected that it no long has it's nice little tree shape, and looks more like a traditional rose. It's a mini-rose however, and it packs a punch in fragrance when the blooms are fully opened. It didn't bloom for several years because the deer simply couldn't leave it alone. Last year, it bloomed for the first time in a long time, and so I'm happy to see a repeat showing this year.


Finally, the binding is on the Yard Art quilt. Since I started this project in November of 2012, I'm very happy to finally have it nearing the finish line. It'll probably take me a couple of days to hand-stitch the binding, and then I can check it off in the finished column. Yay!


And I'm happy to report that I can declare victory over our CSA share for Week 1. Yes, we are already into Week 2, but I still had a couple of things left over from Week 1 in the form of the celeriac (celery root) and the radish greens. Yesterday I made this Celeriac and Carrot Soup there on the right in the image below. It's a pureed soup and those are some chunks of Granny Smith apple there. I made a few changes to the recipe. I used the whole celery root instead of just half, and I used a whole 5.3 oz. container of plain yogurt, so about half a cup. Just so you know, I used the carrots from Week 2, so this is a meal that spans two CSA shares. Also, I used my homemade veggie stock instead of the water. When it was finished, I thought it needed just a little more zip and so I put in a dash of cayenne.


On the left of the image above are some little Radish Green and Avocado Mini Quiches. Those were adapted from this recipe. The original recipe was written by a woman originally from Hongkong who lives in Barcelona now. Reading the recipe, I believe a few ingredients were "lost in translation". For one thing, I couldn't find mini quiche shells, and so I used mini phyllo shells, and those worked out great. Also, I added half a teaspoon of lime juice because I made the filling ahead and I didn't want the avocado to turn brown. I just put it into the refrigerator with some plastic wrap snug over the top of the filling to cut its exposure to air, and that worked out great. Finally, I used a multi-pepper blend rather than the green peppercorns. It was really pretty simple and a nice accompaniment to the soup. I think a pureed soup needs something crunchy served alongside. I don't know about you, but my teeth tend to get into mischief if I don't give them something to do.

And then, anything that was sliced, diced, peeled, cut, trimmed, slashed, gashed, clipped, snipped, or otherwise fell off of a vegetable went into a bin in my refrigerator to be used for stock. This week's yield was four quarts. Think of it as honey from the vegetables. It's going to make a lovely soup someday.


So that's about it for Friday. Tomorrow Mae and I are going to the Beaverton Farmer's Market. I promised Mae an outing to purchase plants for her garden for her birthday that was way back on May 1st. We've both had things getting in the way of this outing until now, but finally, finally, finally, we're going to get it done. Looking forward to spending the morning with my dear daughter-in-law. Such a peach, that one.

We're looking forward to this three-day weekend. Lots to keep us busy. I hope you have something good planned for the weekend, even if your plan is simple relaxation....always a favorite around here.

5/26/16

A Near Finish

There was housework to do yesterday, but I sacrificed that time (cough) so that I could get back to quilting the Yard Art quilt. It's been nearly a week since I last worked on it. To be honest, I needed to sew as much as I wanted to sew. There was just one more row of blocks to quilt, and then I moved along to the borders where I had in mind to do this piano key sort of straight line quilting.


When it comes to quilting on Eliza, I've created a rule for myself that every quilt is a practice quilt and every quilt offers an opportunity to learn. This has the dual purpose of making every quilt a successful quilt if I gain practice (pretty much a given), and if I learn something (hard not to do). Yard Art is a quilt that is allowing me to practice straight line quilting, and just in a nick of time since I'm doing nothing but straight line quilting on the Live, Love, Teach quilt scheduled to be under the needle next month.

Yesterday I was able to give this new tool acquisition a good workout, and I am very pleased with how it performed. I've told you about this tool in a previous post. It's a sort of ruler template available at Four Paws Quilting and you can see a video demonstration by Patsy Thompson right here. I've used it before for stitching in the ditch. The only problem I encountered was that my "ditch" wasn't always as straight as it should be. Yesterday, I was trying to follow the lines printed on my fabric, and it was very helpful. Simply choose a spot where you can line up some aspect of the template with your fabric line. In this case, I've lined up the left edge of the ruler with the outside edge of that bright pink line. You can see that the ruler extends down both sides of the machine foot, effectively trapping the foot between the two sides of the template and forcing a straight line.


The problem I've had with regular ruler templates is that I can't watch the ruler and the needle at the same time. If I take my eyes off the ruler, it can slide out of place. Take my eyes off the needle, and I tend to sew away from the edge of the ruler. With this ruler, one need only watch the placement of ruler. If I keep the ruler lined up correctly, the needle must stay in that track. Nifty, huh? And there you go...a nice straight line of stitching.


When you come to the end, you can simply shift the ruler around and move to the next line. In the image below, I've lined up the hash mark on the ruler with the needle.


Then, I stitched in the ditch to the end of the ruler, and then shifted it around again, lining it up for the next line of stitching.


When I finished the first side (the right side in the image below), I took the quilt off the machine and laid it out flat so that I could see how I was liking it.


I called for the quilt inspector but was disappointed to learn that he's joined the International Brotherhood of Quilt Inspectors Union. He was waiting for help to arrive, as written in his labor contract.


Nope. Nothin' doin'. I'm not inspecting any more quilts by myself.


Oh well. We're short of help around here right now since the other inspector quit rather abruptly. She didn't even leave a note. It's going to take a few weeks or more before we can hire anyone new. In the meantime, I checked on it myself, and it's looking pretty good to me.


Back to the machine, and I was able to finish three of four borders before it was time to quilt. 

We went out to dinner last night to celebrate our wedding anniversary: 41 miserable years, as Mike likes to say. Our small town of Newberg, and indeed all of the small towns that comprise Oregon wine country, are fortunate in that we have a wealth of very good restaurants. The Painted Lady in Newberg is one of our favorites. Just this year their chef, Allen Routt received a "Best Chef" nomination from the James Beard Foundation. Not bad for our little one-cow town. The restaurant is located in an old home in downtown Newberg.


The dining room is small and intimate. We selected a bottle of wine from our own wine cellar (aka, a nook in my sewing room) and took it with us. It's had some time to age, and it was wonderful.


And then the show got under way. We were served up this little "amuse", which consisted of a fried Japanese cracker, some fried porcini mushrooms, and on that spoon is a little "sponge" of cucumber. I don't know how this works, but it was kind of the consistency of a marshmallow with the distinct flavor of cucumber. Everything you see here was light as a feather.


Here's the menu we were working from: 8 courses, so try to keep up.


This was a rather sophisticated menu, and a bit of a challenge to our palates. Everything was delicious, however, and we ate every single bite. In the image below is the Sous Vide Egg Yolk. (Just now I looked up the translation of sous vide. It means "under vacuum". Yeah. Don't ask me.) It looks for all the world like a raw egg yolk separated from its white, but it was warm like a sunny-side-up egg yolk. That's a little cracker it's sitting on and there was some broth under the cracker. We broke the yolk with a spoon and then used the cracker like a chip to eat it. It was really wonderful if a little scary to look at.


Next up, the Composition of Spring Vegetables. Very light and tasty.


Okay, now this next course challenged our courage a little bit. In fact, I was so anxious about it that I started eating before taking a picture. This is the Potato Gnocci, but if you look at that menu up there, you'll see that it includes "glazed sweetbreads". You can see them at the top of the image there...sort of brown little globs. Now, I've only eaten sweetbreads one other time. They were breaded a fried light as a feather. They were delicious. It was only after we got home that night (around 20 years ago) that I looked them up to see what they were. It was before the age of iPhones and instant access to Google. So, go ahead...I dare you: Google sweetbreads. In fact, here you go, I'll link to them so you can see what they are. Scary, huh?

The first time I had them, they were all hidden in the breading, and I had the advantage of ignorance fueling my appetite. When these arrived, so up front, naked, and forward, it was a bit of a challenge. I sort of disguised mine in among everything else and swallowed them without chewing too much. Then, I waited to fall off my chair and start wretching. Nothing happened, and as you can see, I'm still alive and writing this blog post. A culinary close call, to say the least.


Okay...putting that behind us, we moved on to more familiar territory. This was the first place where we had to choose between two menu items. We each chose the "Colors of Spring" which was pretty much fresh asparagus in whole stalks and also peeled lengthwise into strips. It came with a wonderful selection of stuff for dipping. We enjoyed that very much, and I stopped thinking about the sweetbreads.


After that, the main course was served. We could choose between the salmon and the filet mignon. The smoked oysters convinced us that the filet mignon was the wiser of the two, although it was hard not to choose both.


After that, the cheese course. Yum.


Then we cleansed our palates with a sorbet of carrot and ginger. That little white cookie there is very light, like a meringue, and made from coconut. The combination was delicious. The sorbet was so tasty that I'm motivated to see if I can find a recipe to make it at home.


And here, was our third and final choice...dessert. One choice included strawberries which is pretty much death for Mike. He can't have those little seeds. Instead, he chose death by chocolate in the form of the Chocolate and Hazelnuts.


I chose the Berry Vacherin (Vacherin translates to "cheese"). That little scoop there in the lower left side of the image was a cheesy sort of thing with the flavor of strawberries. In the middle at the top is a raspberry meringue cookie of sorts.


Want to see what's under that little cookie? As it turns out it was more of a cake than a cookie with fresh raspberries and a semifreddo underneath. Yum.


Oh wait, did you think we were finished? Well. We were still starving, but fortunately, they brought out this little tiered tray of goodies. At the top is a sort of fruity gumdrop. In the middle white and dark chocolate candies. At the bottom, some little macaroons and what I thought might be Bit O' Honey wrapped up fancy. Actually, it was a salted caramel little candy. 


And after that, we rolled on out of the restaurant and headed for home. What a nice night.

This morning it's back to the grind. I started the new Wine Country stitchery. When I took the first few stitches, I was working backstitch, but I took those out. I'm going to work this one in stem stitch. I like the heavier line, and it's a little more elegant to my eye.


And then I finished up the fourth side of the Yard Art quilt. And that means the quilting is finished!


Here's how it looks from the back. 


Today I'm getting my hair permed, and I might make a quick stop at the grocery store (depending on whether I think I can subject the general public to the smell of my hair). Hopefully, I'll be home early enough to get the binding sewn on by machine. Oh yes, and I suppose I should get back to the housework I had planned for yesterday. Maybe I will, and maybe I won't. I think life should be full of surprises, don't you?

5/25/16

Life Goes On

We're moving along, reluctantly. There's still no sign of Maggie, and at this point, we're not expecting to see her again. Many of you have told stories of cats who returned home after being gone for long periods of time. In fact, we have our own story about our cat named (very originally) Tom, who was missing for five days and returned. There's always a possibility she'll come back, but we're not counting on it. Part of me hopes that by writing these words I'll give many of you the chance to say "I told you so." Nothing would make us happier. For now, we are moving ahead while continuing to leave the door open for her for at least a little while longer. We have to close off the laundry room at night to keep Smitty inside, but Maggie is free to come inside to her favorite flannel quilt if she returns.

This morning I finished the last of the embroidery for the Written in Thread wallhanging.


Then I trimmed the edges to 1 1/4 inch from the seam line. That was scary. I was careful to make sure there was still at least a quarter inch seam allowance around the outside of the stitching.


The last thing it needs is a pieced border around the outside, and then it will be ready for quilting and binding.

Yesterday I left early to pick up our CSA share and allowed time for a trip to JoAnn's. I wanted to pick up some floss for the next embroidery project to enter the line-up: Wine Country, a gift from my dear friend Marei. These are the colors of floss I'll be using. The one on the right there is a silvery gray, not the lavender that it appears to be. The red in the center is a brick red.


I thought I would use that piece of Kona solid in the background of the image above, but then remembered that I still have about a yard of some tea-dyed muslin left over from the Quilting Snowladies. I decided to go for the more rustic look and use that. The paper transfers are cut apart now and numbered (so that I can keep track of where I am). First up will be the Pinot Noir block since this is Oregon, and that's what we do best here. What a luxury to be able to iron on the transfers rather than tracing them! Stitching begins on this one tomorrow.


Also at JoAnn's I picked up a hand quilting hoop. Already I had the larger 15-inch one, but I wanted a smaller one as well. 


I've decided to go out on a really long limb here and hand quilt the Mumm's the Word quilt. To my eyes, it seems to be begging for hand quilting.


The only other quilt I've ever hand quilted is this whole cloth doll quilt made when I took an online class from Quilt University (no longer operating). This one was done in the traditional way with hand quilting thread. "Traditional" if you're a stabber like me.


Recently I've become aware of another hand-quilting method known as "big stitch". It's done with #8 Perle cotton and a running stitch. Supposedly it goes quickly, and so I'm going to give it a try. I found a pretty good tutorial right here, if you're interested in learning more about this.

After my trip to JoAnn's I needed a few things at the grocery store and then headed over to pick up week 2 of our CSA share. Pretty veggies again. You can't see them well in this image, but on the right-hand side toward the back are some collard greens large enough to use for sailing the Pacific ocean. We'll probably eat ours instead of setting sail, but it's always good to dream big.


Experimentation is ongoing with these. In the image below is Monday's dinner. On the left is a mixed green salad, to which I added roasted beets and some quick pickled radishes. Six radishes were sliced thinly along with one shallot, then pickled in a combination of 1/4 cup of bottled lime juice, 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of pickling salt. Then they were allowed to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes and then drained and added to the salad. You can wait an hour to serve them, but I'm told they'll start turning gray after that. Those were very nice added to the salad.


On the right is a dish of Pasta with Kale Pesto and Roasted Butternut Squash. The kale pesto was very nice on the pasta. I happen to like kale. Mike likes it better if it no longer looks like kale. The combination of the kale pesto, pasta, and roasted butternut squash was delicious.

So that's life at the Three Cats Ranch, now sadly down to just one cat. As I've already said, we've searched high and low, inside and out, and not seen any sign of Maggie whatsoever. Along the way I noticed that the rose is going to bloom despite repeated assaults from a rather friendly deer.


As the rhododendron blossoms fade in the background, the daylilies are heading up and should be blooming by next week. I always love seeing these bloom. They were a gift from Erik and Mae.


The two zucchini plants seemed to come to a complete standstill after I transplanted them into the ground. Now they're growing again and starting to form blossoms. Looks like I need to sprinkle some "candy" for the slugs. 


The lavender is heading up and ready to bloom...my favorite fragrance.


Additionally, I wanted to say what we've been thinking about the future of kitties here at the Three Cats Ranch. There are differing schools of thought about whether cats should be allowed outside or kept inside exclusively. We happen to be in the camp that believes they have better lives if they are allowed outside with certain restrictions. The restrictions here have always been that they come in at night when predators roam the land. Also, they don't go outside when we take them in the RV except to use the catio or unless they are leashed...which they don't like, and thus, they don't go outside much. But thems are the rules.

Losing Maggie has hit us very hard. We haven't had her long, but we both grew attached to her very quickly. Her vulnerability made her easy to love, and she has some very endearing qualities to boot. Further, she has virtually no bad habits, which is unusual in any living thing. And so we're very saddened by her disappearance. It doesn't help that we lost Gracie just six months ago.

With that said, we've decided to amend our outside kitty rules to accommodate the use of an outdoor shelter. Yesterday I did some shopping and found a company in Seattle that will sell plans for a DIY version. We're planning to build their "Sanctuary" plan.


 As pictured, its dimensions are 8 x 10, but Mike plans to make it 8 x 12 by adding one more vertical section. He also plans to put it on casters so that it can be moved in order to clean our deck which has a membrane surface. When it's in place, it will attach to the exterior wall of the house with eye bolts and hooks. Mike has purchased the plans, and he expects to have it completed within the next couple of weeks.

We continue to believe that cats live the best lives possible if they are allowed to be outside. Smitty, in particular, loves to run and hunt, and keeping him inside will make him unhappy. We still plan to allow him out when we can be outside with him. We can't bear to restrain him from his "galumphing" back and forth in pure kitty joy when he follows us around the yard. On the other hand, Mike and I are growing weary of this worry over predators. It's time to make a change, and it will no doubt evolve over time.

Today I have a day at home. Originally I thought I'd be making another trip the the grocery store today, but then remembered that we are eating dinner out tonight to celebrate our anniversary yesterday. (We would have gone yesterday, but the restaurant is closed on Tuesdays.) That means I'll have some time to get back to quilting the Yard Art quilt today. Also there's a little housework and some weeding to do.

We're keeping our fingers crossed about Maggie, but really not expecting to see her again. Keep your fingers crossed too, okay? If she returns, all greetings that begin with "I told you so" will be gladly accepted.