7/25/17

Traveling Gourmet: Lakeside Dining

Most of the day was spent in the kitchen yesterday. Now, almost all the food for our camping trip is prepared, and there will be very little cooking while we're at the lake. My day started making Blue Cherry Hand Pies from the Blue Cherry Pie Filling I made last week. Of course, I opened one jar right away to taste it, and it went straight into the refrigerator. Making a guilty pleasure dessert for our trip seemed a good way to use it.


I used this recipe from King Arthur Flour, which I've made before. Previously, I made the filling as the recipe suggests. This time, I simply substituted a heaping tablespoon of the Blue Cherry Pie Filling. And, honestly, I can't wait to eat one of these.

Next up, I made dinner for tonight, which is this Salmon Baked in Foil recipe from Giada DeLaurentiis. They had some pretty wild-caught King Salmon fillets at the grocery store, and so this seemed like a good choice. It's so simple. You make a sort of Italian "salsa" from tomatoes, onions, and Italian seasonings. Then, you wrap the whole thing up in foil to be baked in the oven.


I like to use the long heavy-duty foil for this. It makes tidy little pouches that are easy to make ahead and pack along. They went into the refrigerator just like this, and we'll bake them for dinner tonight. (It's always nice not to have to cook on the first night out.)


On the second night, we're going to have another of Giada's recipes...her Seared Rib-Eye Steak with Arugula and Roasted Red Pepper Salad. We're not big fans of arugula, and so I substitute spinach in place of the arugula. Also, we prefer hunks of tri-tip to the rib-eye. Tri-tip is a tougher cut, but I marinate it a day ahead in Better-than-A-1 Marinade from America's Test Kitchens. In my first year of blogging, I posted my adaptation of their recipe right here. It's so, so good. We don't eat any kind of steak any more without first using this marinade. For this trip, I made up the marinade and stored it in a jar. I'll pour it into a zip-lock bag with the meat tomorrow morning.

For the third night, we'll just barbecue up some boneless, skinless chicken thighs using the Sweet Cherry Barbecue Sauce I canned recently.


As a side dish, I'll be making some Grilled Green Beans. This is a new-to-me way to cook fresh green beans since we started the Cooking Light Diet. I don't grill them. Instead, I just fry them in a lidded hot frying pan. Otherwise, I do them just as the recipe suggests. They are so tasty that way.  I've also tried it with other vegetables. Broccoli and asparagus are good prepared this way, and I'm guessing just about any vegetable that would be good roasted could probably be done this way as well.

Finally, I made up the mix for yet another of Giada's recipes. (It's not that I'm such a huge Giada fan, but she does create some good recipes that lend themselves well to travel.) This is the sandwich mix for her Curried Chicken and Apple Wraps. It has everything *and* the kitchen sink. It's so tasty, and once it's mixed up, you have lunch for several days.


It has chicken, golden raisins, romaine lettuce, apples, garbanzo beans, goat cheese, curry, onion, mint, and some other stuff, all mixed together. Then you load it into a wrap, and it is delicious. This is one of my favorite sandwiches. We haven't had it in a while since, technically, it isn't on our diet. Still, I don't think we'll be straying too far with any of these meals, unless you count the Blue Cherry Hand Pies. But let's just not, okay? We're on vacation, if it's possible to take a vacation when retired.

So we'll be heading off at around noon today. If all goes well, I'll be able to blog while we're gone, although I might not blog every day. No matter what, I'll be back on Saturday.

7/24/17

Baking and Packing

Today we start packing for a trip to one of our old haunts, Lake Mayfield, in central Washington. We used to go there every summer when the kids were little. We were die-hard tent campers in those years. I kind of forget when we bought our first small fifth wheel, but it was after the boys grew up and stopped going with us. They have gone a few more times since then, and those are special times.

I was looking back through old pictures trying to figure out our last visit to Lake Mayfield. The last time seems to be in 2009, but the boys weren't with us. The last time they came was apparently in 2007. That was when we took one of my favorite family photos.


That's our friend, Sam, hiding behind my head there. I was mad at him for ducking out of the picture at the time, but now I'm kind of glad it was just the five of us. This was pre-Valerie days, and so she wasn't with us. The boys look like little kids then. It was ten years ago, after all...before Erik and Mae were married.


So, this trip down memory lane is brought to you by our new trip, which starts tomorrow. We've always stayed at one of the state parks, but this time, we're staying at a nearby RV park where we can rent a slip for our boat. Not only that, they'll hitch our boat to their tractor and get it launched for us. With the kitties riding along and us in our truck camper, having them launch the boat will save a lot of wear and tear on everyone's nerves. We can just park the truck, set up, and not move it again until we come home. We're looking forward to a relaxing couple of days. Oh yes, and this will be Smitty and Sadie's first trip in the truck camper. They're good travelers when we take the fifth wheel. We're just hoping for fiasco-free feline fun this time around. (Awesome alliteration.)

Today I'm going to be making some Blue Cherry Hand Pies. They're definitely not on our diet, but for the next three days, hand pies will be our one guilty pleasure. Otherwise, we're dragging along the food ball-and-chain (so to speak). Also today, I'm making some sandwich spread that we'll be able to stretch out for the three days we're there. A while back, I made some breakfast muffins from the diet plan. Those have been in the freezer, but we'll take them along for breakfast and I'll poach some eggs to go with them. Mainly, we're just going to hang out and relax, and we'll take our boat out on the lake and bob around. It's a beautiful clear and clean lake, and this time of year, the water is pretty warm. We'll probably do a little swimming while we're at it.

The only sewing I had time for yesterday was to make up the last of the embroidered blocks for the Summer Holiday quilt. This one is the Sunset Picnic. This is the picture of the block from the book:


This is the one I made up.


After I had it all drawn out, I realized the checkered tablecloth doesn't really work with the embroidered basket. The cat will be stitched with long and short stitches, and the stitching will cover the tablecloth pattern. As for the basket, I'm going to do a basket weave satin stitch, and that should cover it. Looking at Lynette Anderson's version above, she's using a plain fabric for her tablecloth. My background fabric also has a pattern, and so one way or another, the basket was going to have mismatched fabrics. I think the solution I've worked out will take care of it. Also, I'm thinking the dog may have had too much fun on this trip. These have always seemed like a real dog and cat to me, and so I can only think that's a bandage on his back.

Depending on how much I'm able to get done today, I'll try to get another post written before we take off. It's possible I won't have time though. I'm taking along my laptop and I'll blog if (1) I have internet access, and (2) I have anything to tell you. No doubt, Smitty and Sadie will want to take you on a tour of the camper, and so they'll want to write a blog post too, I imagine. Sadie, especially, can get fairly talkative when she's in the mood. Either way, we'll be back on Friday afternoon, so look for me on Saturday no matter what happens.

7/23/17

Powerless

The power was off the entire effing day yesterday. It went off around 8:30 a.m. and didn't come back until 5:35 p.m., just as we were heading out the door to get dinner out somewhere. We made due with a small generator. It got fairly warm in the afternoon, and so we unplugged the internet and the laptop and plugged in the refrigerator and freezer. The laptop was our lifeline throughout the day...seriously. How did we ever live without internet? My pulse was weak and thready by the time the power came back on. (I don't even know what that means, exactly, but I've heard it on TV, so it must mean something bad.) Anyway...

After the power had been off for several hours, I checked in with the Newberg-Dundee Citizens Info Group. It's a whole citywide group of gossips, and they always know what's going on. Sure enough, someone had posted this image:


Word was that a semi hit that power pole, and so I guess it took them the whole day to repair(?). Whatever.

Hand-stitching was the activity of the day. I'm closing in on the finish line for Mumm's the Word now. Perhaps the gods of power knew this and decided it was time to crack the whip. (Whips do not require electricity, so it only makes sense.) After stitching and stitching and stitching for hours, I had taken it this far.


And remember where the finish line is?


I'll admit that I'm pretty stoked about having this so close. Since I started this quilt way back in 2012, it's high time to get it finished.

After hours of hand-quilting, I was thoroughly sick of it. That was when my pulse started to grow weak. I flopped around on various pieces of furniture wishing with all my heart that the power would come back on so I could run the vacuum. Ha! As if! Obviously, my sanity was waning by that time too. After a while, I got out the latest embroidery block for the Summer Holiday quilt, and now it is well along too.


There is just one more embroidered block for this quilt to be finished. This one was being saved for our camping trip next week, but I think I'll make up the next one to take along too. That should keep me busy. The pieced blocks are finished for this quilt, and so I just need one more embroidered block before it's ready to be sewn together.

A couple of utilitarian projects are quickly moving into the panic zone. I need to add hanging sleeves and labels to my two quilt entries into this year's Oregon State Fair. I didn't enter any quilts last year because the timing was off for our travel schedule. This year, I can just squeeze in the drop-offs and pick-ups between trips, and so I've decided to enter Gingerbread Square


and Snips and Snails.


Let's hope these are winners. Snips and Snails is a small quilt, and so adding a hanging sleeve won't take long. Gingerbread Square, on the other hand, is fairly large. These need to be dropped off in Salem on August 11th, and so time's a wastin. That needs to be next on the list. (I would have done it yesterday, but see power outage above.)

Today I actually do need to run the vacuum, and I need to make a short trip to the grocery store to get some food for our camping trip. There should still be plenty of time for sewing, however, and so I'll just get going on my day.

7/22/17

A Better Day

After the kitchen calamity of the day before, I was bound to have a better day, right? It's only fair. And I'm happy to report that yesterday found me bathed in success. My first task was to churn the watermelon sorbet. Once I had the ice cream maker set up, I poured in the liquid sorbet and churned away.


After about 20 minutes, it was frozen enough to put it into a container and then into the freezer. It takes a couple of hours in the freezer before it's ready to eat. We had some of this for dessert last night. So yummy.


While that was churning, I opened up all the jars of watermelon jelly, added the remainder of the pectin from an open box, and then boiled it some more. The images and instructions I posted yesterday were very helpful in determining when this would be done. When I did the spoon test, it was first dripping from the spoon in one drop. Eventually it separated into two drops and then ran together and slipped from the spoon more like honey.


I was feeling pretty confident at that point, and so I tried the saucer test. It was supposed to wrinkle rather than run. Look carefully around the perimeter of my finger, and you can see the wrinkle. (Try not to be dazzled by my lovely manicure. Difficult, I know.)


When I did this test on the jelly the day before, it was nothing like this. Since I'm not a jelly aficionado, I wasn't really sure what I was looking for. Now, I was certain it was ready to go back in the jar. Not surprisingly, my yield was 5 1/2 half pints this time around, as opposed to the 8 half pints from the previous day. I didn't care about the yield. I just wanted jelly, rather than syrup. And take a look at that. This is the jar I refrigerated to cool it faster.


When I checked the other jars this morning, they too were well set. I was a little worried I'd overshot the mark by adding more pectin. We had some on our toast this morning, though, and it was perfectly spreadable.

With that in mind, I'm sharing the link to this recipe for Watermelon Jelly from Marisa McClellan. I think in the future, I would add only the original amount of 5 tablespoons of powdered pectin, rather than adding more. However, I would cook it long enough and be certain it passed the tests for doneness before putting it into jars. Be sure to read her entire blog post because there are some helpful hints about it. Finally, there was some talk on Facebook about watermelon (indeed, all melon) not being high enough in acid to be safe for water bath canning. I checked in with Marisa McClellan about this, and she said she'd tested the pH when she developed the recipe. The half cup of bottled lemon juice puts it into the "safe" category, so no worries. Just follow safe canning procedures, as always.

So, finally, I was able to make my way into the sewing room. While I was there, I caught up on the 8th clue for the Welcome Home Small Quilt Mystery. I was to make eight square in a square blocks. These finish at 3 1/2 inches.


When I had those finished, I turned around to find I was no longer alone in the sewing room.


It was my drug-seeking cat, looking for his fix of nip. After snorting up the little bit I gave him in a bowl, he was gone again.


For some reason, I developed an ear worm just then. If you grew up in the 60's you might recognize these lyrics:


Humans, huh, yeah
What are they good for
Absolutely nothing
Humans, huh, yeah
What are they good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it again, why'all


Yeah, it's good to be valued for oneself rather than the services one can provide. I wonder what that feels like.

So anyway...I continued on with the 9th clue for the mystery quilt, which was to add a border around the outside.



And now I'm caught up on my challenges. After that, I took a look at my white board list of to-do's. They're broken up into sections. Try not to notice my spelling errors.

So, yes, "Challengs" are all caught up.



It seems as if the Welcome Home quilt ought to be coming to a close soon. It's a small quilt, and it's moving into lap sized territory if it gets much larger. I believe the Marvelous Mini's will be finished after 12 weeks, but I could be wrong about that. If I'm right, I should have all the blocks finished before we leave on our trip. 

As for the rest of my list, I have three quilts that are sandwiched, but not quilted. August's OMG goal is going to be finishing up the Bee Lovely quilt. The other two will probably sit until next spring when we return home.


The Solstice Challenge is the only one on the "tops to finish" list, but there might be more before we leave. Those are going to be kitted up and carted along. If I have time to sew while we're traveling, I'll work on those.


This one is finished, but not sandwiched. It's unlikely anything will happen on that until spring. Usually, I sandwich several quilts at once. Right now, this is the only one.


As for the embroidery projects, I take these in a rotation. Hocuspocusville has just one more block to finish, and I expect to kit that up for finishing the quilt while we're traveling. Wine Country has farther to go. I'm hoping to finish Mumm's the Word before the end of July, and Summer Holiday is closing in on a finish as well. The Bag Ladies...well, those are a monthly given until the last one is finished in December.


And, finally, my WIP's. These are not far enough along to expect to finish any of them before we leave. I'll keep plugging away at them either a block, section, or row at a time for as long as I can, and then they'll be on hold until we return home next spring.


With that in mind, I'm back to the top of the list and the next Chicken Buffet block, Hawaiian Chicken.


I'm hoping to get some work done on that today, but our power is off. No idea why. It's kind of weird on a sunny and not-too-hot July day. I'd blame air-conditioning, but it's not that hot. We kind of expect this during a winter storm, but no clue what's going on today. I just know we're not alone. I'm typing this blog post on my laptop, which the Resident Engineer has helpfully hooked up to a generator. The power has been off for several hours already, so I'm hoping it won't be much longer.

That was all I did in the sewing room yesterday, and then I went outside to take some pictures. I noticed that the red sunflower had bloomed.


It's smaller yellow cousin was nearly fully opened as well.


Also the echinacea are putting on quite a show. I was thrilled when these survived the winter, and it's even more thrilling to see them blooming now.


As I walked alongside the herb garden, I noticed that last year's parsley had seeded itself and is now growing along the edge of the sidewalk. It's growing in enough abundance that I'm fully stocked with parsley for any cooking I want to do the rest of the season.


Finally, the wisteria is looking very pretty above the front door porch. It was late to blooming this year because it was in the shade of one of the trees that needed planting. Now that it's getting some sunshine, it's blooming in profusion.


So, I still had some time left before I needed to leave for my haircut, and I stitched around the third corner of Wheel Estate.


When I got home, I finished the last of it, and now Wheel Estate is in the finished column. Yay!


Here's how it looks from the back.


This was my 2016 Rainbow Scrap quilt. I didn't start one for 2017, but I'll be linking up today to show off my finish. Also, this is my OMG quilt for July, and so I'll be linking up at the finishing party when it's time.

This morning, I had some time to do some hand-quilting on Mumm's the Word. I've nearly turned the fourth corner on the outer borders.


I just need to stitch to the left and then down to the finish line indicated below, and then this...my oldest UFO...will be ready for binding. I really can't wait to get this into the finished category.


And since the power is still off...it's about the only thing I can do for now. Sadly, I can't run the vacuum. As I'm sure you can imagine, this is a tragedy. It might be worth calling in the National Guard just for that. So, powerless to do any housework, there's nothing but hand quilting on the agenda for a while.

7/21/17

Kitchen Calamity

Okay, well, jumping back to yesterday, you might already know that I was chomping at the bit to get at some watermelon jelly that caught my canning eye. All was going along just fine. Since I had no idea how much watermelon it would take to accumulate 6 cups of pureed juice, I purchased one of the standard-sized seedless melons. I'm guessing it weight about 15 lbs. And you know, even seedless melons have seeds. The recipe said to remove the seeds before pureeing. I figured I could puree away and just strain the resulting juice to remove any seeds. It had the added benefit of straining out any large chunks of melon that escaped my food processor blade of doom. Eventually, I had six cups of nicely pureed watermelon.


Less than half of the watermelon was used in this process, and so I decided to puree another two cups to make some sorbet. We can take that along on our camping trip next week. It's sitting in the refrigerator ready for the ice cream freezer as I'm writing this. Watermelon sorbet is delicious. In the early days of blogging, I wrote a post about making sorbets from all different kinds of fruit. (I've linked to it back there.) When you have dinner guests, it's kind of fun to make several different flavors and give them scoops of each. Their flavors are intense, and your guests can attempt to guess which flavor they are eating. Mango is especially confusing. They get that it's something tropical, but they're hard pressed to figure out what it is.

So, continuing on with the calamity in the kitchen, I chopped up the remainder of the melon (oh yes, there was more) to eat for breakfast for the next six months. Then, I decided to throw all the rinds out onto the compost pile and so I loaded them into my largest bowl. While I was at it, I was going to toss a jar of daikon radish pickles. They weren't as good as the first time I made them, and so nobody was eating them. They're tasty, but very, very stinky. As I took the expensive Weck jar out of the refrigerator, I bumped the door with my hand and dropped it right in front of the refrigerator, breaking the jar. Then I panicked at the realization that all of that stinky pickle juice was just about to run under the fridge. I grabbed the first towel I saw and threw it on the whole mess to prevent Armakitchengeddon. (Phew. Saved.) Nevertheless, I still had a sticky mess full of glass shards, and I was dealing with it all the while I was cooking the jelly.

During that process, I threw the now wet and very stinky towels into the washer and got that running. Absentmindedly, I noticed that the washer was starting to whine on its spin cycle. "I must inform the Resident Engineer of this development," I told myself.  Unbeknownst to me, the washer was issuing its warning that a belt was burning up. It smelled as if something was burning, and I wondered how it could possibly be the jelly when I was stirring it frequently.

About that time, the washer signaled it was finished. When I looked inside I found the towels were still all sudsy with soap. I tried to run a rinse cycle, and that was when I figured out the washer belt had burned up. It filled the tub (conveniently), and then refused to agitate, spin, or (and this is the most important part) drain the tub of water. I might add that the Resident Engineer was in town during all of this, and so he was to be of no help until he returned home and managed to fix the washer all in a single afternoon. (Yay!)

Now, I have a concern about all of this, and here it is: Possibly I've seen too many Terminator movies, but I am growing suspicious of washing machines. I've heard of several abroad that have also joined the Global Washing Machine Resistance Movement. (GWMRM) In fact, you might know that Samsung had to issue a voluntary recall of its top-loaders recently because of this problem:

The drums in these washers may lose balance, triggering excessive vibrations, resulting in the top separating from the washer. This can occur when a high-speed spin cycle is used for bedding, water-resistant or bulky items and presents an injury risk to consumers.
And a picture is worth a thousand words.



So, anyway, I'm just sayin' keep a close eye on your washing machine. And I'm not so sure about the dryers either. Call the authorities if you must.

Heroically, if I do say so myself (and I do), I managed to finish the jelly while simultaneously mopping the floor three times to get the mess cleaned up.


Coincidentally, a nice diversionary package arrived from my friend Karen, who sent me some stuff from her mother's collection. There was cat fabric, embroidery hoops, yarn, embroidery floss, needles, crochet hooks...


and this card game, which gave me quite a chuckle.


"Being catty pays off!"


And, hey, I graduated junior high school. "Catty" is practically my middle name! This will be fun for Mike and me while we're traveling in internet-free zones. So thank you, Karen. You are so sweet. She even sorted all the floss by color!

So despite a rather harrowing day in the kitchen, I did manage to get some sewing done. The second corner has been rounded on the Wheel Estate quilt. It's a little more than halfway to the finish line.


Also, this week's Marvelous Monday Mini block is finished now, and I'm officially all caught up on these.


And I need eight more square-in-a-square blocks for the Welcome Home Mystery Quilt. I have the pieces all cut now, and so it should be short work to get them all sewn together today.


As for my jelly, it has not set up. I've been conversing on one of the Facebook canning groups about the jelly, and I'm convinced I need to cook it longer and add a little more pectin. One person in particular seems to know all about this and sent me some helpful images to check for doneness. I tried this "saucer test" using a different explanation. This one describes it better, and I'm fairly certain I misinterpreted mine.



Also, these descriptions of spoon tests:



There are jars in the dishwasher right now, and as soon as they're finished, I'm going to get it boiling again, add just a little more pectin and then, "boil the hell out of it" as my Facebook expert advises. That jelly will set up or else! While I'm doing that, I can get the sorbet into the ice cream freezer. I'm feeling a little hot and cold about these tasks. Ha! (Did you see what I did there?)

Aside from these kitchen tasks, I'm getting a haircut this afternoon. Nevertheless, I'm hoping to get some time in the sewing room.