While I haven’t been doing as much on my “to do” list as I would like, I have been keeping busy with all sorts of random things around here.
Not too much gardening going on this year. The lone strawberry plant in a pot that hadn’t been dug up and eaten by squirrels had lots of baby plants and I’ve had two bowls like this of strawberries to enjoy. Yes, I hogged them all for myself and didn’t share.
Then I actually won something! I read a lot of blogs and every week there are all sorts of contests and giveaways of cookbooks or kitchen gadgets or fabric or quilt patterns or something. I comment and mostly forget about it. On occasion though, I’ll open my e-mail and see that I actually won something. It’s very, very exciting when that happens. Not long ago Sherri from A Quilting Life shared her adventures at spring quilt market and gave away some quilting goodies she had picked up there. I was lucky winner 2 and won some low volume fat quarters to play with.
My husband loves to collect e-book cookbooks. He finds all sorts of interesting ones and they appear on my kindle. Recently he got me a copy of Nathalie Dupree’s “Southern Biscuits” and we decided we had to try a new recipe. We decided to make “Big Nasty Biscuits” because they sounded rich and delicious and unlike the ones we usually make were nestled close in a pan to bake up softer. Even the leftovers were yummy and usually day old biscuits are nothing to get excited about.
It’s county fair week here. A friend and I again sponsored a special quilting award and it’s always fun to get to go see the quilts early and choose the winner. This year the award was for Best Two Color Quilt. There were nearly 30 quilts to choose from and we had a tough time picking a winner after narrowing it down to our top three. We finally decided on this pretty red and white star quilt.
This year I only entered two kinds of jam into the fair. I had made the Blueberry Lime jam from Saving the Season and the Lemon Vanilla Marmalade from Epicurious. Both won 2nd place which was pretty exciting.
While at my sisters house I saw that she had a big pan of plums on her counter. Since she’s still hobbling around on crutches I decided to steal her plums (because she couldn’t catch me) no really it was to be nice and turn them in to jam for her so she wouldn’t try to do it herself.
Super easy and basic recipe. The plums she had were Santa Rosa plums which have a lovely color and make the prettiest jam, I think. Just wash them and chop them up (no peeling required) and measure out 5 1/2 cups of plums. Cook them in a heavy pan with about 3 cups of sugar (these were tart and I ended up using 3 1/2 cups of sugar) and cook about 20 minutes until it all jells. I like to check by temperature and cook the jam to 220 degrees. Two batches and nine bottles of jam later I was done. Too bad the biscuits were all gone. Guess I should make some more.
And yes, I did take her jars of the finished jam to enjoy. I can be a nice sister, sometimes.
I ended the week by going ollalieberry picking. It was not a banner year for berries – they were pretty sparse on the bushes and much smaller than usual. I did manage to fill one box with just over ten pounds of berries that are now in the freezer until the next time I’m in a jam making mood.
– – marcella
When I was a kid I loved to watch Mr. Rogers especially when you got to watch a film of a factory tour. I still remember watching crayons being made and thinking it was the coolest thing. Even now, put a factory tour in front of me and I am ready to go.
Today I got to tour a local bakery with my baking group. We headed over to Alameda to visit this place:
In the lobby was a collection of awards and articles, their original mixer, oven, and bread slicer along with these pretty loaves:
After a brief introduction we all donned very fashionable hair nets and got to go tour the production floor. While they didn’t allow any pictures, they do have this very nice video where you can see some of their delicious baked goods being made.
Honestly, watching those bakers braid that challah was amazing. Their hands were just a blur they moved so quickly.
At the end of the tour we each got a goodie bag. I was very excited to see two of my very favorite things they make in my bag – the seeded baguette and the croutons.
There is also a loaf of challah, a croissant and some biscotti to enjoy. Whomever packed the bags was very clever as they even thought to include napkins in case we couldn’t wait to get home to eat. Tucked in the bottom were two Semifreddi’s tattoos – not sure when I might use those. Maybe if I put one on my bread shaping skills will improve.
– – marcella
All kinds of fun things have been happening around here.
I just got back from a cruise through the Panama Canal. My friend Anita was hired by a quilting tour to teach some classes on board. She was generous enough to invite me along as her room mate, or maybe I should say entourage
We had a great time touring all over and had fun on the ship. We even got these fancy little certificates to show our Panama Canal swimming skills.
Ok, we didn’t really swim _in_ the canal. They had an activity where you could swim across the pool – pushing an inflatable cruise ship no less – while the ship was actually crossing the canal. They even tossed in a bucket of canal water for authenticity. No one got sick so I’m guessing the chemicals in the pool were enough to kill all the creepy stuff in that scary looking bucket of water.
The other unique thing I got to do was attend a Passover Seder dinner. I’d never attended one before. There were about 16 of us and we all got copies of the Haggadah and took turns reading sections. I was able to read my part but had to skip the singing as I didn’t know the tunes and there were no notes in the book to follow. For fun, there was a little song at the end (not part of the service) that I could sing along with since it went to the tune of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame!”
Take me out to the Seder, Take me out with the crowd.
Feed me on matzoh and chicken legs, I don’t care for the hard-boiled eggs.
And it’s root, root, root for Elijah
That he will soon reappear.
And let’s hope, hope, hope that we’ll meet
Once again next year!
The cruise ship provided a nice section of a restaurant to meet in and prepared a really lovely dinner for us as well.
The rest of the time I had a lot of fun running around and participating in tons of activities like the book group (we read The Kitchen House which I quite enjoyed), working on jig saw puzzles, an Easter Egg Scavenger Hunt (alas, my team got second place), trivia games (Anita and I won the Sweet Treat edition) and even some cooking classes.
The cooking class room was pretty fancy. They had overhead cameras and monitors mounted on the walls so we could see what was happening in the pots and pans up on stage. At each demonstration we got copies of the recipes and got to taste a sample of what they were making.
Home last week and quickly back to the reality of laundry and life. Why is it that vacation seems to somehow generate twice as much laundry as staying home?
But all is not work. I was able to attend a rehearsal of the San Francisco Ballet program 8 which was so fun. On Saturday we took a wander through the farmer’s market and spring has really sprung here! We came home with a bit more produce than expected as there were white peaches and cherries and lovely vegetables that we haven’t seen in months.
While I didn’t sew a stitch on the cruise, I have done a bit of work on my spring embroidery project. Here’s one of the patterns:
Hope your spring has started out well too!
– – marcella
Well, this last month hasn’t been what I thought.
I thought I would head off to Las Vegas and visit my family and attend a quilting retreat in Bryce Canyon. Instead of going to the airport I headed off to the hospital and had my appendix removed.
I thought I’d make some progress on some quilts – I had two quilts cut out for the workshops I’d signed up for, and I’d been making good progress on a quilt for my new grand-nephew. Instead I spent a whole lot of time lying about and reading. I did get to watch much more of the Olympics than I’d ever imagined however.
But now I’m feeling much better and spent some time this past weekend in my sewing room.
The spring embroidery club just began. I decided I should really turn each season into a small table runner and so I began plotting designs for my fall and winter hexagons and this upcoming spring project.
In my fabric drawer I found two packets of 2 1/2″ charm squares of Posy that I was given at QuiltCon last year. I started cutting them up for my spring design.
I lucked out being able to center that little rabbit in the diamond. With just a small square of fabric to work with there’s not much room to get picky with pattern placement. The paper diamonds are 1″ on a side. They look like little wrapped candies to me. Now to cut out and baste the rest of them.
I also took some time to sew up a little zippered bag.
I’ve been wanting to make one of these Open Wide zippered pouches for a really long time. I love that typewriter key fabric and was so happy to find some type fabric for the lining to go with it. The bag really went together easily and quickly (even for me!) so if you’re looking for a bag this is a good one to try.
I did add a grommet to one side so I could use the bag for knitting. This way, hopefully, the ball of yarn won’t go racing across the room as I knit. I made the bag in the medium size on the pattern and it seems perfect for a ball of yarn or other sewing things to fit.
Hopefully we will be going back to life as planned around here!
Although you never know. Next weekend I’m headed off to Las Vegas for that delayed visit. I told my husband that his appendix had better behave.
– – marcella
“something that makes you uneasy or unsettles you”
Before Christmas my husband’s office had a little party and gift exchange. They played that game where a person picks from a pile of wrapped gifts and opens it and then the others have the option to steal that gift away. The gift my husband received was one of those sandwich makers just like you see advertised on late night TV, should you watch such a thing.
Because he likes breakfast sandwiches and because it is always amusing to try out silly gadgets he decided to give it a try. After a trip to the grocery store for english muffins and cheese he set to work and turned out this:
The gadget more or less worked. The sandwich was eaten, the gadget packed up and it is now collecting dust in the garage.
However, still sitting on the counter are these:
Apparently as fresh as the day they were bought. Yep, here it is, well into February, at least two months after the sell by date on the tag and these things are sitting on the counter looking just as they did when bought.
They aren’t hard or stale. They don’t have any mold spots that I can find. I shudder to think what odd ingredients are in there keeping them life like for so long. It seems there has to be something wrong about bread that doesn’t get moldy.
Like I said, disconcerting.
– – marcella
Baked up a batch of these yummy cupcakes yesterday using this recipe. Delivered a few to the neighbors and had some for dessert. Wish I could share with you all!
Hope you have a sweet day!
– – marcella
I’ve been having some fun this week baking out of my new bread book.
I pulled my starter out of hibernation in the fridge and got it bubbling again. The first recipe I tried is the first in the book Ode to Bourdon a whole wheat loaf. The bread is made with a mix of regular whole wheat, sifted wheat flour and white whole wheat flour. I had ordered my favorite (so far) wheat flour but had to run to the store for the white whole wheat…twice. When I finally started baking I realized that I had forgotten to buy wheat germ so I simply skipped that ingredient. I figured we were healthy and fiber-filled enough as it was and I had had enough trips to the store.
I also forgot to halve the recipe so we ended up with two large rounds of bread. Thankfully our next door neighbor was happy to take one of the loaves off our hands. The top loaf had to rise in a mixing bowl because I only have one basket. It “missed” the dutch oven for baking and had to be repositioned a bit so that it sat on the bottom of the pan and not half up the side. Sliding things around caused it to deflate a bit so it’s a bit flat on top. Considering all it went through it turned out pretty well.
I love the technique of baking hearth breads in a dutch oven – I get great color and the perfect crust, but boy is it hard for me to get the loaves out of the basket/bowl and into it with those high sides in the way. Having the pan pre-heated to 500 degrees does not help matters. At least I managed to avoid burning myself.
We made quite a dent in the loaf at dinner that night and I had some avocado toast for breakfast the next morning. I think we’ll make short work of this bread. It’s not as “wheaty” tasting as I expected and it’s not bitter at all. I definitely am not a fan of that bitter whole wheat taste. The author said using a mix of flours would help and he was right.
I had ordered some barley kernels for my next bread attempt, but they didn’t show up in my delivery. Hopefully I’ll find some good sources for some of these unusual grains and can try some other bread recipes from the book soon.
There’s also been time for some sewing. I’ve been chain piecing away on the quilt for my new nephew. Lots and lots of triangles!
Hope you’ve been making progress on your projects this week.
– – marcella
I’ve never been much for resolutions. However, I do like a good “to-do” list. I have a few fun things on my list for the coming year.
For Christmas I was very excited to get the new Tartine bread book. I have loved baking bread out of book 2 and am really excited to try some whole grain breads from this new book.
Before Christmas I made this lovely loaf of bread from his first bread book.
And I’m looking forward to trying a bunch of new recipes in the months ahead.
I have a little bit of travel planned.
In February I’m going with my mom and one sister to Bryce Canyon for a quilting retreat. There are zillions of classes offered but I only signed up for two – a Scrappy Trip Around the World Class with Sherri McConnell (who blogged about this retreat last year and made it sound so fun) and a quilt project that also will use up some scraps and teach some speed piecing techniques (which I the slow quilter could surely use) with Krisanne Watkins. Other than that, I hope to spend the rest of the three and a half days sewing with maybe a little exploring thrown in.
Then in April I’m going a bit further afield
I’m going with a friend on a quilting cruise. She’s teaching, I’m accompanying. I hope to come home very tan, well rested and having had lots of fun adventures.
Finally some quilting
I have plans for two quilts this year. This first one is (hopefully) going to use up lots of scraps. I’m getting knee deep with scraps around here. Also Curves. I haven’t done too many patterns with curves so it will be a bit of a challenge to do I am sure.
It’s a big – 8″ – clamshell quilt. I found the pattern by Latifah Saafir for free on Craftsy!
Also, before the holidays I had cut out the fabric a friend had sent me to make a quilt for my new great nephew. I am going to make the quilt using Allison Harris’ adorable Pow Wow pattern.
I think the baking, traveling and quilting will keep me plenty busy in the upcoming months.
How about you? What’s on your to do list?
– – marcella
I hope you all have a wonderful day today!
We’ve been busy getting ready for today around here:
Every year we make a little something for neighbors and friends. This year it was herb salt – so delicious on everything savory! Last night we had it on our green beans.
We also tried a new treat – toffee. Most of it went to the office with my husband to share with his coworkers, but a bit was saved for us to enjoy. The recipe gives a range of temperatures to cook to; we went with 290 and found it just right.
I also had pulled out the sourdough starter and made this loaf of wheat sourdough. We’ve had the very best toast for breakfast this week!
And last night we took a walk through a local neighborhood known for their extravagant Christmas lights. We’ve enjoyed doing this the last couple of years. Then it’s home for cookies – these ones this year – and a holiday movie – Elf was this years pick – and off to bed so Santa can come.
Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas Day!
– – marcella
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:
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