Finished!

Posted December 18th, 2013 by marcella and filed in remodel

We’ve actually been able to use the family room since just before Thanksgiving, but on Thursday we passed final inspection, paid our contractor and so feel finally done.

In the meantime, little bits of the holidays have been showing up.

Last year we went with no tree. This year I put up my little wire tree in the family room and hung a few favorite ornaments on it. It does look a little bit Charlie Brown and could use some other decorations to fill it out, but I think it’s what we’re going with this year…unless an unreasonable burst of energy hits that is.

Backing up in time…the Monday before Thanksgiving with company in the house the carpet man came followed closely by the furniture guys.

Our old couch had gone from this:

To this:

We decided to do the chair in something different. Also, since we now have much more room with that giant brick hearth gone there is finally space for the ottoman.

It’s quite easy to swing the chair and ottoman around and sit with a book in front of this:

Though I only recommend it if you have a good chunk of time. It’s awfully tempting to just sit and read or snooze and hard to pull yourself out of the chair and away from that cozy spot.

The big delay was that black surround on the fireplace. It had arrived bent so finishing off the fireplace was an exercise in patiently waiting for the delivery man to bring a new one and install it. The delay did give us time to paint the room which was also needed.

Even with a bit of a mess downstairs, we did manage to turn out two pretty turkeys for Thanksgiving. The one on the left was done in the smoker; the other was roasted in the oven.

They were both really delicious. In spite of that being far too much turkey for the number of guests we had, we didn’t have any trouble eating it all up.

And now Christmas is just a week away! How can that even be true?

 

- – marcella

What’s in Progress

Posted November 19th, 2013 by marcella and filed in quilting

We’ve been working on all sorts of things around here.

First up, we’ve finally decided to change our family room. When we bought the house it was the perfect replica of the Brady Bunch house down to the harvest gold double ovens and metallic wallpaper. Our family room has one wall that is a huge brick fireplace. We’ve never loved the look nor how much space the giant hearth took up.

So, our friendly contractor took it all out. Actually he took more than just the brick and old fireplace out. The hole went up to the ceiling!

Because he had to remove the whole chimney, it meant that he needed to remove a big piece of our nice living room wall too. You know, we really thought that room was done, but soon I’ll be painting up there again.

And since he was on a roll cutting holes in things he added a few to the family room ceiling. I guess I’ll be painting that soon too. But oh, how nice it will be to have a well lit room!

Yesterday the fireplace man came and installed the new gas fireplace into our family room. Things are starting to get put back together, which is a wonderful thing!

With luck it will all pass inspection today and the sheetrock can be installed. We had hoped to have this room all done before Thanksgiving, but I think it will still be in progress. We seem to have a knack for remodeling at the same time we’re hosting a holiday. Keeps things exciting I suppose.

Meanwhile, life moves on and we’re hosting 12 for Thanksgiving. For our Thanksgiving table I needed a little treat. We have a tradition of putting little goodie at each place for family events. I found this cute printable and bought some candy bars and have these all ready for next week. I added a few orange dots to match my napkins and a little sticker on the back that tells what flavor the chocolate bar is. That way, if people don’t like what they get they can trade.

While all this construction has been going on I decided to hole up in my sewing room and make something pretty. I had bought a jelly roll of Scrumptious and decided to use the Lattice Bones pattern I had seen online. I’m really happy with how it is turning out.

The top is all put together. I’m thinking it needs flannel on the back and some simple all over quilting. However, I need to go shopping for the backing before I can go any further.  Also, a friend sent me a stack of fat quarters to make something for my new great nephew so I think I’ll start on that and let this top wait a bit.

- – marcella

Delicious!

Posted November 8th, 2013 by marcella and filed in food

Lately I’ve been eating out a lot. I was a tacky diner and pulled out my camera at the table a few times because I just couldn’t resist saving a memory of some dishes.

While shopping in San Francisco with some friends we decided we must have lunch. Someone (and this time it really wasn’t me) suggested that ice cream would be the perfect meal. We’d been wanting to try Humphrey Slocombe for a while so we ventured over. This place has lots of unusual flavors of ice cream! We sampled a few and I decided on a sundae with ice cream, bananas, homemade marshmallow fluff and caramel. I picked vanilla and malted dulce de leche for the ice cream. It was delicious but really, I think I need real food for meals from now on.

One lunch date I enjoy is a “tea”. All those little sandwiches and just the variety of things to try always makes me happy. I’d heard about tea being served at Charles Chocolates and wanted to try it. Because I knew it wasn’t going to be the frilly, chintz and flowered covered affair of most tea shops I convinced my husband that he would enjoy it.

Instead of a stacked plate stand in the middle of the table, we each got our own long wooden platter with a line up of delicious things – all much bigger than a bite.

From the left there were two types of chocolate eclairs, next a chocolate macaroon, a sandwich with duck confit, a smoked salmon sandwich, an egg salad sandwich, some sort of savory sesame cracker, a chocolate chip scone and blueberry lemon bread with a little dish of lemon curd up top. Besides tea they offered their famous hot chocolate. They let us sample the hot chocolate and to say it was intense doesn’t give it enough credit. Somehow it was a combination of melted chocolate and chocolate pudding – thick and extremely rich. That thimble sized sample couldn’t even be finished. The food was all very delicious but servings were large so most of the desserts went home with us for an evening treat. And that duck confit sandwich? Hands down the best duck I’ve ever eaten and actually, I’m not a fan of duck at all.

I can also state that I was right. No frilly tea shop. It was a really nice outdoor patio with huge picnic tables to eat at. We lucked into perfect weather and had a seat in the shade.

We snuck in a very quick trip to Arizona to surprise my father in law for his birthday. One morning we were able to all go out to breakfast and the specialty of the restaurant was beignets. Naturally we had to try them.

They were wicked. The one person who’d eaten real beignets in New Orleans said these weren’t the same but we all happily ate them anyway. After this I had really wonderful eggs benedict but I was too busy diving into my plate to take a picture.

I also joined the local Baker’s Dozen group and just recently attended my first meeting at Foreign Cinema. Craig Ponsford was the main speaker and kept us all entertained and interested with his talk about where our ingredients come from. I think I need a field trip up to his bakery to sample his whole grain items. It’s a bit of a drive for us though so I think this will have to go on the “someday” list. After the lecture we had lunch. It started out with a tomato porridge which I was again too busy eating to photograph. Then we had a really lovely cobb salad.

Followed by a creme brûlée that we all guessed must have had some orange in it and a little ginger cookie.

And after such a lunch I was very grateful that I had a few blocks to walk it off in order to catch the train home.

- – marcella

Sewing Update

Posted October 30th, 2013 by marcella and filed in quilting

Really, I meant to do a quick sewing catch up right away. Busy got the best of me.

We took a little trip to surprise my father in law for his birthday. Amazingly, it worked and he didn’t expect we were coming. Always nice when a surprise works. On the way to their house we saw some fun things.

I saw something growing in the fields that I didn’t recognize. My husband is a good sport and will pull off to let me satisfy my curiosity. It was cotton!

I didn’t expect to see that growing in the desert. We also took a short walk in Popago park. It was very pretty but also very hot so short was the order of the day.

We’re also gearing up here for another house project. The fireplace in the family room is being torn out and a new gas insert will be installed. The removal of the room long hearth means we’ll need new carpet and exposing the wall behind that wall of brick means painting. Since all that’s happening, it seemed the perfect time to add some lighting to the room and get the worn out couch reupholstered. I dream that while the workmen are working I’ll be banished to my sewing room and forced to spend the days working on sewing projects. I don’t think that will really happen, but that’s the dream for now.

I have gotten a little sewing done in between travel and house project shopping. I made up a little halloween candy bucket from this tutorial. It went together really fast, and now I finally have something cute to put our halloween candy in.

I did make a couple of changes – what’s new, right? I inserted some rick rack along the top edge (if you do this cut the outer fabric and the lining the same size) and I made the bucket 8″ tall instead of 5″ tall.

I’ve also been trying to keep up with the Autumn Embroidery Club project. I am a little bit behind because I did a really effective job of slicing open my index finger while replacing the weatherstripping on the front door. The cut is on my sewing hand and in just the most inconvenient spot if trying to hold a needle. Here’s the ones I’ve done so far:

I haven’t sewn them into hexagons yet. I’m still debating what I’m going to make with them and until I know that I won’t know which way to orient them.

After a long absence, I’m linking up with Freshly Pieced. Take a peek and see what other quilters are working on this week.

- – marcella

Summer Harvest

Posted October 9th, 2013 by marcella and filed in food

We’ve been very busy in the kitchen over here. I haven’t been as good about photographing or sharing as I should, but here’s a quick recap of the highlights.

After seeing ravioli made on a tv show my husband who likes to make pasta was intrigued. Shortly after that the local paper posted a yummy looking ravioli recipe. A ravioli maker was ordered and conveniently enough zucchini arrived in our CSA box. It was a delicious dinner and easier than expected. Being only two of us we packaged up half the sauce and half the ravioli and stashed it in the freezer for a quick dinner another night.

A drive over the hill to Gizdich Ranch for some apples. We had perfect weather and let me just say that apple picking is loads quicker than berry picking! I didn’t bring home too many apples as I’d already dehydrated 40 pounds of Gravenstein apples from the farmer’s market, but just enough for some caramel apples, a batch of apple sauce to can and a few left over for snacking.

I’d been wanting to can tomatoes again this year after a couple years of skipping that chore. Finally our former CSA posted that they had cases of tomatoes for sale at a good price and to be delivered at a time that worked with our schedule.

This year I was armed with a new gadget – a tomato press. Wow, did that make quick work of the tomatoes! No blanching and peeling and seeding required. Just wash and quarter the tomatoes and into the funnel they go. The skins and seeds are pushed out the end into a bowl and the tomato pulp comes out the side into the larger bowl. It made quick work of the 50 pounds of tomatoes I’d ordered. I made one batch of marinara sauce and the rest became plain tomato sauce.

I had also used the press to make apple sauce and it worked great for that. I’m thinking this could make seedless berry jam a much quicker process than with my little food mill.

After an amazing trip to Mexico we were definitely in the groove for some more spicy food. We came home and made this wonderful salsa verde. We also made sriracha sauce and hot sauce. We liked the salsa verde so much that I tweaked the recipe a little and canned more of it for later. I swapped out the fresh lime juice for bottled lemon juice and adjusted the volume of onions and cilantro using the guidelines here.

Finally I just had to do something about all the turnips that were piling up. We’ve tried many a turnip recipe but honestly we really only seem to love them in soups and stews. It has not been soup and stew weather around here so we had to find something else that might appeal. I had some pickled turnips at a local mediterranean restaurant and loved them. How happy was I to find a recipe?

It was a very simple process of making a brine and pouring it over peeled and cut up turnips and one peeled and cut up beet. The liquid started to turn pink immediately. Now the jars sit on the counter for a week and then should be ready to eat. They are turning really pink; it’s amazing how dark that one beet is making all those turnips!

And, my sauerkraut is still hanging out on the counter fermenting. It should be ready to taste this weekend and then I’ll have to decide if it’s ready or needs a bit more time. I’m hopeful that this time it’s working – no signs of black cabbage or mold so far.

I feel like are cupboards are full and ready for winter – if only the rain would come! We could sure use some rain around here.

- – marcella

Summer Embroidery Finish!

Posted September 13th, 2013 by marcella and filed in quilting

This summer I joined Mollie’s Summer Embroidery Club and each Monday a little pattern appeared in my in-box. I tried hard to keep up each week and get my little bit of stitching done.

I did pretty well, but as usual for me, I had to depart from the pattern. Instead of sewing them together in rows I mixed them up with a charm pack of cute prints I had hanging out in my sewing room. The plan was to turn them into a little table runner.

So, although August ended a few weeks back, it took me a bit of time to sew it all together and fill in the gaps around the edge with some half-hexagons. I’m quite happy with it and have already found a good spot for it in our dining room.

I did a simple stitch and turn to finish it off and was quite proud of myself for stacking everything in the correct order – I often mess something up and then have to do a lot of unpicking. The only quilting is the stitching around the edge. I can’t decide if I want to do more or not but that can wait for someday if I’m ever inspired.

The autumn stitching club  just started so it’s not too late to join the fun for this season! I need to pick out some fabrics for this and get going before I’m too behind.

So nice to have a finish after months of puttering on odds and ends of projects!  I’m hooking up today with  TGIFF (thank goodness it’s finally finished) at QuiltMatters today. Go and check out lots of other finished projects!

- – marcella

Progress and Travel

Posted September 11th, 2013 by marcella and filed in quilting

It’s been crazy as usual here and I’ve gotten quite behind in my quilting progress.

I had pulled out an old unfinished appliqué project and was determined to get the background pieced and the appliqué pieces in place. This will be my project to take to quilt bee and work on each month. It had originally gotten put aside because the original pattern in a Japanese book had almost no instructions (and I do have a Japanese reading friend to help me) and the directions the kit maker had written didn’t add up at all. While a very organized person when it came to labeling a zillion little pieces of fabric, she does not have math skills. I had packed it up in frustration of getting things to fit together and pieces of fabric that weren’t large enough for their intended purpose.

This time I was really determined and after substituting some fabrics from my stash and a lot of measuring and re-drafting I got the rest of the background pieced together into units.

The units on the left side had been completed a couple of years ago. All pieced and the hand appliqué is finished. The middle section now has the little baskets ready to appliqué in place. In the center there will be one large basket with flowers. One the right I still need to add all the little baskets. Adding the rest of the  appliqué pieces should go fairly quickly.

At that point it was time to pack and leave for my embroidery class. Yippee!

I flew into Portland where I was picked up by my quilting friend and we took off driving along the Columbia River. Lots of fun things to see though I think we spent far more time talking than looking.

After a lunch stop for burgers and giant onion rings, it was across the river and into Washington. Rolling hills and lots of farms. It was very pretty.

And wheat, lots of wheat. I guess the farm kick still hasn’t ended.

We stayed in Spokane and each morning took the drive to Reardan. Class was held in the grange hall. We loved this little house we passed each trip.

Class was wonderful we spent two full days playing with embroidery stitches and all sorts of different threads and even some beads.

Looking now it doesn’t seem like I finished enough circles to represent two days but honest, I was really working!

I was very glad I had basted the circles onto a linen background. It was soft and easy to handle. Also, the first day of class I wore shorts and the fabric got flipped while I was working and some of the circles rested on my knees. That gave me really itchy spots! I was glad I wasn’t dealing with a whole piece of wool or I would have been in trouble. As it was, I wore long pants on day two just to be safe.

That night we got to head out to the Buggy Barn shop and enjoy some treats and listen to the teachers speak and share their quilts. It was fun to see the variety of projects that were going on and oogle some very lovely quilts.

Next morning it was back on the road. We did make time for a couple of detours on the way back to the airport.

We saw giant sturgeon at the fish hatchery. There is even a pond with a glass wall so you can watch those huge fish swimming around at your eye level.

To further stretch our legs we stopped at Multnomah falls and walked a couple of short trails.

Then it was back in the car to brave rush hour traffic to the airport.

I’m sure the quilters at FreshlyPieced have been more productive than me. Go see what they’ve been working on lately.

I’m hoping to share my summer embroidery project on Friday, we’ll see if I can finish it off in time.

- – marcella

 

 

Down on the Farm

Posted September 9th, 2013 by marcella and filed in random fun

For my birthday I wanted to go and tour a goat farm. I know, I know, not the usual birthday celebration. It was something I had wanted to do for a while and my birthday seemed like the perfect excuse to go. Also, less fuss from the peanut gallery regarding my idea of fun since it was a birthday wish.

We took a little walk out to the pasture and got to see all the goats and their guard llamas. Then we got to enter the pasture and discover how very friendly goats are.

It was hilarious how they just swarmed us and wanted to rub up against us and be petted. It was like a bunch of excited puppies except much bigger and with nubby horns. They also loved to nibble on buttons, zippers and any other little bobble hanging off your clothes.

After that we donned most attractive hair nets and got to watch some cheese making. We went home with some yummy cheese.

At that point I suspect my husband felt pretty safe that we were over the farm thing for a while. That would be wrong though. We got an invite to tour another farm the following Saturday. I’d ordered meat and eggs from them previously and they decided to invite their customers for a little tour.

It was actually two farms in one. Two different producers share the land. One raises cattle and the other raises poultry and pigs. The cows and birds rotate through the pastures keeping everything healthy and in balance. The pigs forage in the forest.

We walked out into the pasture and hung out with the cows a bit while we learned about how that side of the ranch works. We also got to “herd” them into a new pasture area. Let’s just say they weren’t terribly interested. Eventually the men who work there got behind them and got the cows to move along. Then we saw some chickens and turkeys and heard about that part of the ranch.

Up by the barn a small area had been fenced off and a couple of pigs had been brought in so we could see them. This one was too lazy to stand up and eat and he just yanked what he could out of the ground while lying there. Such a rough life for a pig. Perhaps he was disheartened by the smell of all the beef they were grilling down by the barn.

It was delicious though and we went home with quite a few tasty meat packages in our cooler.

Now I think we’ve probably done enough farm visits to last us for a while :-)

- – marcella

Dotty

Posted August 14th, 2013 by marcella and filed in Uncategorized

I've been sewing in circles lately.

Next week I get to take an embroidery class from Sue Spargo. I've been wanting to take this class for a long while, but every time I have tried to register her class is full. Finally and friend and I were able to get spots (sorry, I couldn't help myself with that one) at the Buggy Barn show near Spokane.

As part of the class we are sent a kit of wool to prepare in advance. There are about a zillion (or maybe in my case just 83) little squares of wool that are to be cut into 1″ circles and hand sewn down onto the wool background. We are supposed to sew 96 circles onto the provided background in little regimented rows to make a little 16″ x 24″ project.

Naturally, I had to change all that. First off, wool makes me itch. So while I kept the little circles I changed the background to Essex linen in sand. Since I had a bigger piece of background I was able to play around a bit with the layout and also was able to give the circles a little more breathing room and spread them out a bit.

Also, since my friend is far more speedy than I, she had her dots all cut out and basted in nothing flat and she gave me her extra circles. That gave me enough to do what I wanted, and I ended up using 98 dots.

For the past couple of weeks I've been slowly hand sewing each circle down. Today I finally finished the very last dot. Can't wait for class next week when we get to embellish each dot with some fancy embroidery stitches!

Yes, I am packing my allergy medicine and hoping for no hives from the wool.

- – marcella

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Sticky

Posted August 2nd, 2013 by marcella and filed in food

My kitchen has been very sticky this week.

Last month a friend and I went berry picking followed by a trip down the highway to an apricot orchard for 20 pound boxes of blenheim apricots. The car smelled amazing! However, we were having a heat wave so there was no way I was going to do anything other than put all that fruit into the freezer.

The weather has cooled off quite a bit and my need for freezer space is growing so I decided it was a good time to do some jam making.

It was a long afternoon as I made four batches of my favorite apricot butter. Twenty half pints, countless dishes and a really splattered floor and stove to wash and I was done.

I love these canning jar labels! They were a birthday gift from my husband.

The next day it was time for some olallieberry jam. I just wanted a single batch of this kind, so it was a much shorter venture and produced 7 half pint jars.

For this jam I use commercial pectin as it allows me to cook the jam for a much shorter time. I prefer this as I think the berry flavor is better with less cooking. I buy the low sugar variety of pectin and mostly follow the blackberry recipe.

Rather than crushing the berries I run them through the food mill. This removes most of the seeds though some do sneak through. I use 6 cups of the berries rather than 5 but follow the recipe for the rest.

An olallieberry loving friend is due to arrive this weekend to stay for a few days. I suspect we’ll be having some of this jam with our breakfast. I might have to pull some more berries out of the freezer and bake up a pie as well.

I think I’m done with jam making for a bit. Tomatoes are next on the canning list.

- – marcella