4/25/15

Cats and More

It's been a prep morning so far this morning. I've been getting things ready to go, typing things into my recipe database, tracing, petting...basically catching up on utilitarian kinds of things.

The first order of business is to report back on my experiment with baking a Blueberry-Rhubarb Pie for two yesterday. If you missed yesterday's Baking on Friday post, I was adapting a Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie recipe for Mr. I-Can't-Eat-Strawberry-Seeds. It was essential since pie waits for no one. Start getting picky about your fruit and you'll be left in the proverbial dust where this fan of all things pie is concerned. And I'm happy to report that it was a huge success. Huge, if you consider pie for two to be huge.


When we cut into it last night, I asked Mike if he thought we should each eat half, or if we should start with a quarter. We opted for each starting with a quarter of the pie, and that was plenty. You may recall from yesterday that I had some concerns about how juicy it would be. The thickener was just right. The pie was plenty juicy without pouring out of the crust all over the pie plate when we removed half of it.


It looks like a small piece when you put it in your bowl (or plate), but it was a good amount of pie.


Especially when served with a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream. Yum.


So I'm kind of excited about this because I can use any kind of fruit with this pie crust. It takes about two cups of fruit to fill it. You will need a 6-inch pie plate. Here's the recipe I made up in my adaptation from the book:

                      
Blueberry Rhubarb Pie for Two
heavily adapted from Desserts for Two

Servings: 2-4     

For Double Crust Pie Crust:

1 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons All-purpose Flour
2 Teaspoons Granulated Sugar
1/4 Teaspoon Table Salt
5 Tablespoons Cold Unsalted Butter -- diced
1/2 Teaspoon Cider Vinegar
4 Tablespoons  Ice Water -- may add up to 1 more tablespoon
1 Lightly Bean Egg White

For filling:

3 Stalks Fresh Rhubarb -- diced (to equal 1 cup)
1 Cup Fresh or Frozen Blueberries (thawed, if frozen)
2/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Orange Zest
3 Tablespoons  Cornstarch

Prepare crust: In a medium- bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add diced butter and work it into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter or with your fingertips. It will be ready when the butter is evenly distributed and flecked throughout the flour mixture. 

Next, mix the vinegar with 4 tablespoons of ice water, and sprinkle it over the flour and butter mixture. Stir with a fork until the dough comes together. If necessary, add up to one additional tablespoon of water until the dough comes together without being overly wet. 

Divide dough roughly half (one side will be a little larger). Form into disks and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425°F. (I used my toaster oven.) Position a rack in the lower third of the oven.

Prepare filling: Combine the diced rhubarb, blueberries, orange zest, sugar, and cornstarch in a medium bowl and set aside.

When ready, remove pie dough from refrigerator. Roll the larger disk on a well-floured surface until it's a few inches larger than your 6-inch pie plate. Place it in the pan for the bottom crust, easing it into the corners without stretching it. Allow excess to hang over the edges.

Roll out the other half of the dough for the top crust. Roll roughly the same size as the pie plate.

Add fruit to bottom crust, then cover with the top crust. Crimp top and bottom crusts together, trimming off any excess. Make a few slits to allow steam to escape.

Brush the entire crust with an egg wash made from one lightly beaten egg white.

Bake for 20 minutes. Open the oven to allow some heat to escape, then turn oven temperature down to 350°F. Continue baking until fruit starts to bubble and ooze out of the ventilation slits, about another 20 minutes. 

Let pie cool completely in the pan before cutting.

This morning, I stitched the April stitchery for My Vintage Kitchen, a free block of the month stitchery from Jenny of Elefantz.


These are very small, and so they can be stitched quickly. With that one finished, I was ready to make up the next block for the Quilting Snowladies. This is block 11 of 12 blocks.


As I was considering where to add the cat, I looked at the last block in the series and realized there is a cat lying on the bed. It's hard to see it in the image on the pattern cover, and so I had to open up the packet and check the drawing just to be sure. Sure enough, a sleeping cat. I've circled it in the image below so that you can see what I saw.


Well...that is a perfect cat for the stitchery I'm doing next, and so I copied the drawing, trimmed out the cat, and added him to the drawing for my tracing. Can you see where I put the cat?


He's positioned in honor of my little night time sleeping buddy, who loves to snuggle under the covers with me at night.

Speaking of cats, Miss Gracie agreed to a photo shoot this morning.


She wants you to see that her furs are starting to grow back, and her wound is almost completely healed over. There is still a little scabby area where the drain was placed, but otherwise, it's looking pretty good.


Her daddy gave her a brushing, and so she's feeling very pretty this morning. I think her scar is a little itchy and some gentle brushing in that area got her purr box running.


We are going to a "celebration of life" for a friend this afternoon, and then we'll go have dinner out at one of our favorite restaurants. We don't eat out often, and so I'm looking forward to that.

Also today I'm hoping to get a start on my next Irish door. This is the one I've selected:


Also, I changed my mind about the last door, and decided to go with this one instead:



I'm going to adapt it a little by shutting the red door. Also, I might change the window a little. There's too much detail in the image for me to reproduce in my block, but I think I can add some of it. The Irish flag would be nice, and maybe a few of the little dogs in their jackets. Just now, I noticed the "Like us on Facebook" sticker in the window. Maybe when I'm finished, I'll post it to their Facebook page and see what they think. These have been fun to plan, and I'm hoping to finish both blocks before the end of the month. After that, I'll be ready to sew them into a quilt.

4/24/15

Baking on Friday: Blueberry-Rhubarb Pie for Two

With the Desserts for Two book, I'm back to my Baking on Friday segments, and we are both loving it. When I started baking desserts on Friday several years ago, it was entertaining and delicious, but I had to stop when we both started packing on the pounds. We were eating rich and delicious desserts every single night because we had dessert leftovers around all week. With these little ones, we can enjoy a good dessert once, and then be back to our usual diet the rest of the week. So far, neither of us is complaining.

Today I continued on with my goal of using another of the bakeware items I purchased for making these itty bitty desserts.


Today I used the 6-inch pie plate. Isn't it cute? 

The recipe in the book was for strawberry-rhubarb pie. Rhubarb is in season right now. We also have strawberries, but they are not Oregon berries. As I've said many times, we are very snooty about our berries, but that's not all. Mike can't eat strawberries because his tender gut can't handle those little seeds. Also off the menu, pretty much any berry with seeds such as raspberries, blackberries, and marionberries. And Boo Hoo because I love berries. He says it's okay for me to eat them anyway, but I have a hard time eating a food he can't eat right in front of him. The one exception will be homemade strawberry ice cream when the Oregon berries come around. Fresh strawberry ice cream is to die for. He'll just have to eat a different flavor. I have to draw the line somewhere, right? 

Anyway...all of that to say that he can eat blueberries, and so I substituted frozen blueberries for the strawberries. I did a little reading of some other recipes online. It seems blueberry-rhubarb pie isn't all that uncommon, even if it does take a backseat to the strawberry-rhubarb combination. As I was doing some investigating, I came across an article in Cook's Illustrated that discussed the juiciness of a strawberry-rhubarb pie in particular. It suggested macerating the fruit in sugar for half an hour or so to rid the fruit of some of the liquid. That I did, but I collected the juices in a bowl under the strainer just to see how much I got.


I changed the proportions of fruit from Christina's book recipe and used a cup of chopped rhubarb and a cup of frozen blueberries. When I was ready to add them to the pie crust, the liquid measured only about two tablespoons, and so I just dumped that in with the fruit. 

These desserts have been small enough to bake in my toaster oven, and so once I had it all put together, into the toaster oven it went.


When it came out...


Mmmmm. Looks pretty good, huh? I'll have to let you know tomorrow what I think of my fruit combination, the flavor, and the juiciness of the fruit. If it's good, I'll give you the recipe I used. 

For now though, I'm afraid I'm going to have to differ with what Christina says in the book. She gives a convincing argument about egg wash on the top of the pie. She really likes just using the beaten egg yolk. Myself, I've been unhappy with the color it gives to things. It could be my eggs, which have a very orange yolk, but it's a little more orange than I like. I'm going to go back to using an egg white mixed with a tiny bit of water. It's personal preference, really, but egg white has always worked just fine for me.

So beyond baking, I finished up the largest of the Vintage Tin stitcheries yesterday evening. I've rinsed out the Sticky Fabri-Solvy now and ironed it, and there you go:


When you see it in the finished quilt, it's the large one right in the middle.


There is just one more stitchery for me to finish up before I start sewing this one together. I'll need to do the one just below the current one. I have all my fabrics washed and pressed, and so very soon, I'll be able to start sewing it together. I'm hoping I'll be able to finish it up for Erik's October birthday.

With that one finished, I made up the next little stitchery for My Vintage Kitchen. These are only 3-1/2 inch pieces and they can be stitched in an hour or so.


When that is finished, I'll be ready to get started on the next of the Quilting Snowladies. That one still needs to be made up.

Also, I selected and made up the next block pattern for Lisa's retirement quilt. It'll be this one from Jeffrey. This one will be fairly easy to do, I think. It'll be mostly applique and a little bit of embroidery.


It was on a large sheet of construction paper, and so I scanned and reduced it, then taped the two sides together, and then resized it to my block size of 6-1/2 inches. Also, I reproduced the "signature" at its original size and included it in the corner. 

Finally, I wanted to tell you about replacing a windchime on our front porch. I love windchimes, and we have them pretty much all over the yard. We had one at the front door that was a sort of miniature Japanese gong. It's been hanging there since we moved into the place about 12 years ago. Occasionally, its strings would break, or a rubber o-ring it had around its clapper that gave it a nice gong sound would fall off, or some other thing would happen and it would need repair. It finally reached the point of no return, and I had in mind to replace it.

It was disappointing when I went looking for one I liked to find that most of them were over $100, and I just didn't want to spend that kind of money on something that was going to sit outside in the weather. Then I remembered Harmony Hollow Bell Works. They have the coolest bells for all occasions and they come with nice little notes attached according to the kind of bell you purchase.If you go to their website, you can even hear the tone of the bell you want to purchase.   

The first one I ever purchased was for a friend nearing 50 who was marrying for the first time. And what do you get a person like that as a wedding gift? It isn't as if she needed towels or small kitchen appliances. At that time, I happened to notice a "wedding bell" in a gift shop and it ended up being the perfect gift for her. Since then, I've also purchased a "friendship bell" for a friend who moved to a different state, a "memory bell" for a young woman I knew who lost her too-young husband to cancer, and a "housewarming bell" for Erik and Mae when they bought their first place. Never, however, have I ever purchased one for myself, even though I love these bells.

So when I remembered them, I was thinking, "Hey! Mike and I are celebrating 40 years of marriage next month. I wonder if they have any anniversary bells." In fact, they did. It arrived today, and I hung it up.


Nice! This anniversary bell came with this note attached:


Awww. So I'm happy with my new bell. We have an anniversary celebration planned next month as well, but I'll say more about that when the time comes.

It was a walking day today, and Sue and I walked the Fanno Creek Trail. The weather forecast was threatening and so we were prepared to be rained on. As is our usual luck, the rain held off until we were literally driving back home, and then it started coming down pretty good. We encountered a few sprinkles on our walk, but nothing of any substance. We also encountered these little ladies, who seemed very glad to see us.


When we said good morning to them, they all came running over to the fence. I imagine they were disappointed when we didn't give them anything to eat.

And that's pretty much my day. Mike will be home soon, and I need to take a shower. We are attending a "celebration of life" for a woman we've both known for decades tomorrow. She hadn't looked good for quite some time and she passed away a couple of weeks ago. Other than that, no plans for the weekend, and so I imagine I'll get a chance to work on my last two Irish doors.

Do you have any plans for your weekend?

4/23/15

Sewing Dessert First

Usually I save my sewing for the afternoon, doing whatever else I have on tap for a day first. This might include walking on the treadmill, watering the flowers, feeding the birds, petting the cats, housekeeping, etc. Sewing doesn't necessarily wait for housekeeping, but sometimes it does. I do have my priorities.

This morning, I was so excited about the most recent block for Lisa's retirement quilt that I decided to sew dessert first. Let me show you the process.

I started with this "beta" pattern image. I've been resizing the images to anywhere between 5 and 6 inches to start so that I make sure I'm staying within the bounds of my 6.5-inch block size. This is a picture of Hannah's original block:


Yesterday afternoon, I fused and top-stitched the applique, and then embroidered the details. When that was all finished, the block looked like this:


Well, I was pretty excited to get on with things, but then Mike came home, and it was time to stop for the day. 

This morning, I headed into the sewing room early. First, I added the gray yarn. It was good to practice with that since I had an unlimited supply. It was so much easier than I thought it would be. I used a tapestry needle, and threading the needle with heavy yarn was the hardest part of the process. I used a stabilizer on the back of the block, and then just wove the strands of hair in and out of the fabric. I only did one or two strands at a time, and just held the needle with excess yarn in my teeth while I couched over the strands I had in place. I used a stylus to move the yarn from side to side to shape the strands the way I wanted. When I was finished with that, the block looked like this:


Then I was ready to do the red yarn. Thank you once again, CinderGal, for your generous gift of red yarn. It was exactly what I needed. I used the original drawing to make a map for myself, numbering the ins and outs and then following the paths like a map in order to minimize the number of stops and starts. When I had it all woven and couched, it was finished. Here is my finished block:


And I'll just say right here that I'm pretty proud of this one.

Also, yesterday I made this mug rug. I'll just say that it's for someone who has a May birthday and leave it at that. (Not sure if she reads my blog.) Anyway...she likes to garden, and so I have a gardening mug on order to go with it. 


While I was considering what I wanted to do for her, I typed this search term into Google: "gardening mug rugs". I came up with an image of a similar mug rug created by "Carol". Mine isn't exactly like hers, but pretty close. It seemed okay to do this since Carol readily admitted to copying her own design from a mug rug created by Anita Peluso. I added a few leaves to my free motion embroidery/quilting and I fussy cut the butterfly to add to mine. Here's how it looks from the back:


It was all sandwiched before I did the stitching, and so it was essentially quilt as you go. Here's a close-up of the stitching on the back:


Finally, I moved my embroidery hoop for the last time on this Vintage Tin stitchery. Just the tree in the center needs stitching. This was a big one, and so I'm glad to have it nearly finished. I started on it March 24th, and so it has taken very nearly an entire month. I'm hoping to get it finished by this evening.


Now it's time to get on with the less fun part of my day. I couldn't end without showing you that Smitty has adopted the cushiest spot in the house for napping lately. He likes to sleep on the quilts-to-be-quilted pile. I covered them with a doll quilt to keep them from being fuzzed to death.


Are you almost finished? I'd like to get some shut-eye, if you don't mind.

Hopefully, I'll be able to get some more sewing done today, but the rest of life awaits. What are you up to today?

4/22/15

Sunny Trio Table Runner

Yesterday, I finished the top for my Let's Book It project for April.

The project I selected this month was this Sunny Trio table runner designed by Patrick Lose. It was featured in the 2010 July/August issue of Fons & Porters Love of Quilting magazine, which gives you some idea how long the pattern has been hanging out in my sewing room.



I matched up fabrics with it long ago, and then I was quite surprised when I finally took it out again. "Wow! I didn't even know I had these fabrics!" I said to myself. It's probably just as well because I would have pirated them for some other project, and then where would I be?

My version sticks pretty close to the original, although it was made with scraps from my stash. Actually, I think that was the point, when I selected the pattern. It was a good pattern to use up those particular scraps. First, I made the blocks. The leaves were made from just one template, and then trimmed to the right shape as I fused them to the background.


After that, I top-stitched them using my machine's blanket stitch.


Then I added the borders. It was a quick project.


It ends up at 12 inches by 32 inches. This is the fabric I'm using for the back, cut to size now.


Also, I'm using a scrap binding leftover from another project. You can see it there on the left of the image below.


This will be quilted next month when I quilt the project for my guild challenge.



These are two small quilts, and they should be easy to finish in just a few days. For the runner, I'll do some pebbling in the center of the flower, some petals in the yellow fabric, some veins in the leaves, and then some kind of filler in the turquoise background. I'll just do some wavy lines in the border. It'll be a nice summer runner and it will fit nicely on my breakfast bar.

Today I'm getting my hair trimmed and doing a few housekeeping chores. The rest of the day will be spent doing some more sewing. The only thing left on my monthly list of goals is to finish the blocks for the Doors of Ireland quilt. First, however, I'm going to make a mug rug for my daughter-in-law for her May 1st birthday. I'll say more about that later.

4/21/15

Moving Through Spring

This morning I went out to water the annuals and feed the birds and I was amazed at the changes in the garden from just a few days ago.

Sunday while Mike was spraying weeds, he asked me to come out and help him determine weed from herb in the herb garden. While we were looking at that, I discovered a vast carpet of Italian parsley coming up from last year. This surprised me since I've never had success at getting parsley to come back. This year, it's coming back with a vengeance. We needed to get some control over it, and so I left some next to the chive plants. The rest was sprayed. Sorry, Mr. Parsley.


This morning while I was out, I noticed the first little cherries on the cherry trees. 


I checked the plum tree, but didn't find any plums yet. There are still living flowers on the tree, and so I imagine it's too early. We've seen mason bees in abundance this year, and so I'm confident the plums will appear soon.

The first color on the rhododendrons is just starting to appear. We have several plants, but this one is the only one with color so far.


Also, the iris are beginning to head up. The white ones always appear and bloom first.


I checked the greenhouse. All of the lettuce is up now,


and most of the sunflowers. A few haven't yet germinated, and I'm starting to lose hope for them. Stupidly, I didn't label any of these, and so I have no idea which ones failed to sprout. That's okay. I have plenty. 


Also the dogwood tree is blooming. Ours has never done very well. Between the deer eating it and the usually too-harsh winters, we don't usually see much in the way of flowers. It needs to shape up or it's going to be dug up and replaced with something else.


Of course my furry friend accompanied me everywhere I went.


The squirrels have been bothering him. He has managed to chase most of the squirrels to the far end of the property. The more recalcitrant among them have been caught and eaten. Except this one:


Just to its left is a hole it pops into and down into a planting area just beyond my flower pots. It is the one remaining squirrel from a huge herd of them. They were so out of hand a couple of summers ago that we needed to trap them. Since then, Smitty has kept them under the control, save for this one.

Today while I was watering the pots, I found signs of his digging. He likes to plant sunflower seeds in my flower pots, and occasionally I'll find great groves of them where he's obviously dug a hole and spit out cheeks full of sunflower seeds he picks up from beneath the bird feeders.


It's hard to see in the image below, and so I've circled a tell-tale depression in the soil there.


Sure enough. When I dug around a little with my fingers, I came upon his crop.


Also, there's this little rock planter that was left behind by the previous owner. Basically, it's a piece of volcanic-appearing rock with a deep depression that has been filled in with crappy soil. Despite the crappiness of the soil, it had a little cactus growing there for several years after we moved in. The cactus died eventually, and I've not replaced it with anything. Until now. 


The squirrel decided it was another good place to plant a sunflower. You certainly can't fault him (or her) for his/her industriousness. It even has its own little weed.


And despite the squirrels' efforts to eradicate the tulips, they continue to come up in little dribs and drabs. The latest one to bloom is this dark purple one.


The bleeding heart is looking beautiful right now.


While I was watering it this morning, I noticed a few volunteer pansies at its feet.


Also, at the upper left is a strawberry plant. The strawberry plants were almost wiped out by November's ice storm. This is how they looked last year:


This year, they look like this:


A few plants have survived, and they will fill in, but they certainly didn't fare well with the ice. Just another reason Oregon will never be the strawberry capital of the world, even if we do love our precious Oregon berries.

Smitty follows me all over the yard. Even when I don't see him, if I walk from one side of the house to the other, he invariably goes galloping past me to meet me on the other end.


This azalea is in full bloom now. It gets more sun than any of the others.


It's neighbor, just a few feet away looks like this. It is in shade in the afternoon.


While I was picking up birdseed yesterday, I picked up another hummingbird feeder. The hummingbird wars have started in earnest. I picked up a second feeder and hung it around the corner from the first feeder so that no one bird can monopolize both feeders. That doesn't stop them from trying, however.


The wisteria is blooming away. It's one of my favorite plantings. Even when its flowers are gone, it will still have beautiful foliage that creates a nice frame around the front porch.


I've seen these around town with trunks as big as tree trunks. Maybe someday we'll wish we hadn't planted it so close to the house, but for now, I'm loving it.


Today is laundry day, but it's also a day at home. I did all my running around yesterday. I still need to do my treadmill time, but then I'll head into the sewing room to sew this afternoon. I'm going to get a start on my summer table runner.

Have a lovely Tuesday!