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

Scraps

Posted July 24th, 2013 by marcella and filed in quilting

It’s Wednesday and time to join in with FreshlyPieced to share what we’re all working on.

My scrap bag is getting pretty full. Normally I donate my scrap bags to the local quilt guild and those ladies put the fabric to good use. However, I haven’t made it to a meeting in a while, so I decided to try making something with some of those scraps myself.

It seems like everyone else has coordinating scraps. They like a style of fabrics or certain colors and it all works together. I like it all, but a little bit of everything doesn’t necessarily look good together. At least, I’ve never managed it.

I’ve been told that if fabrics don’t work together it’s because I haven’t cut them small enough.

So when those clever ladies at Temecula Quilt Co. posted a little basket pattern with the challenge to make a block a day in July, I decided to test that cutting small theory.

Cute, right? The block will finish at 2″ square.

Yep, that’s pretty small.

I didn’t start until after scout camp so I’m a bit behind in my block making. I’ve only made 17 so far but they are awfully fun to piece.

And this small it looks ok with batiks and kaffe’s and 30′s and novelty fabrics and who knows what else in the mix.

So, while cutting small may help my disparate fabrics look better together, I have to say that 2″ blocks really don’t use up many scraps. My scrap bag seems as full as ever.

- – marcella

Back to Quilting

Posted July 17th, 2013 by marcella and filed in quilting

It felt so good to sit down this week and do a little bit of sewing that wasn’t Boy Scout related!

Between getting sick and getting ready for scout camp I hadn’t gotten to do any quilting at all in a while. I had gotten quite behind in my summer stitching club project.

Now I’m all caught up and ready for next Monday’s pattern. I’ve even started sewing them together with the print hexagons and my little table runner is looking pretty cute.

Also, I got my “never ending” quilt back in the mail. I had sent it off to the Las Vegas guild show and it had won second place in its category. Excited by that I decided to enter it into the National Quilt Association show in Columbus, OH and it came back with a third place win! You can see it listed down in category 600 – even if my name is spelled wrong it’s really me.

Next up to work on is another Moda club top to quilt and 18 more boy scout neckerchiefs.

Today I’m linking up with FreshlyPieced for Work in Progress Wednesday. Go visit and see what other quilters are working on this week.

- – marcella

Catching Up

Posted July 10th, 2013 by marcella and filed in food

It’s been busy here, how about with you?

I was sick for a week and then got to play catch up on all I had missed while lying on the couch. I went olallieberry picking and also took a drive to pick up a big box of apricots.

We had a hot week so the fruit that was supposed to be jam is now waiting patiently in the freezer instead.

Scout camp is coming and I’ve been busy preparing for that – sewing patches, making camp neckerchiefs and sewing the patrol flag. It’s been taking up what little quilting time I had left. I’m hopeful next week after camp is over I’ll get to quilt again.

Our veggie box came a couple days early because of the 4th holiday. That made it seem like we were really behind in eating up our produce around here so I tried a few new to us things.

Beet chips made in the oven. They do get pretty crispy like potato chips. My husband thought they tasted like Terra Chips. I used this recipe but I didn’t bother with the baking sheet stacking. Instead I flipped the chips over halfway through baking and they were plenty flat with fewer pans to wash.

I pulled out the dehydrator and dried our abundance of kale, leeks, turnips and bell peppers following these directions. The other night I roasted up some potatoes and added a scoop of this to them before popping them in the oven and it was yummy. Definitely a tasty and clever way of storing up veggies for another day.

I got a new preserving book and it is awesome! Even though I’m still in the middle of reading it I couldn’t resist trying a couple of the recipes right away. I made a batch of cucumber refrigerator pickles and because we are swimming in carrots a batch of pickled carrots as well. We took them to my sisters on the 4th for sharing.

Taqueria Style Pickled Carrots
 

Adapted from a recipe in Saving the Season by Kevin West.
Ingredients
  • 1¼ lb carrots, peeled and sliced into ¼” coins
  • 1 small red onion sliced
  • 1 fresh jalapeno peppers sliced
  • ¼ t cumin seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 C white wine vinegar
  • 1 C water
  • 2 t kosher salt
  • ¼ t black peppercorns
  • 1 t oregano

Instructions
  1. Toast the cumin in a hot pan until fragrant. Pour the cumin into a quart size jar along with the garlic cloves.
  2. In a saucepan bring to a boil the vinegar, water, salt, peppercorns and oregano. Add the onions and peppers and remove from heat. Set aside.
  3. Place a pot of water, large enough to hold all the carrots, on to boil. Add salt to the water and stir in the carrots. Cook the carrots for 2-3 minutes and drain.
  4. Add the drained carrots to the vinegar mixture and give it a stir to combine. Carefully transfer everything to the jar. Cover the jar and refrigerate for 2 – 3 days before eating.

- – marcella

Veggies Week 4

Posted June 27th, 2013 by marcella and filed in food

It even feels like summer around here – quite a change after a drizzly weekend. I picked up a box full of deliciousness today:

Veggies for cooking – kale, broccoli, purple potatoes and red onion.

Things to munch raw – strawberries, carrots, salad mix and cilantro.

Odds and ends – dried cranberry beans, eggs and honey.

I’ve been sick the past few days so not a lot of cooking has happened around here. The combination of being sick and cool weather did mean we managed to make a pot of minestrone which helped use up many of last weeks veggies.

The strawberries weren’t being eaten so I put them into the blender and turned them into a pitcher of strawberry lemonade which is particularly delicious now that the weather has turned warm.

Strawberry Lemonade
Prep time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 4
 

Taste your strawberries first. If they are particularly sweet you may want to hold back some of the sugar syrup so that the final drink doesn’t end up too sweet. This is very strawberry, so if you want more of the lemon to shine through you might want to cut back on the strawberries a bit as well.
Ingredients
  • 1 lb ripe strawberries
  • ¾ C sugar
  • 4½ C water – divided
  • 1 C lemon juice

Instructions
  1. Wash the berries and remove the leaves. Put them into a blender or food processor and let the machine work its magic until the berries are a smooth puree.
  2. Heat together the sugar and ½ C of the water until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. In a pitcher mix together the lemon juice, the strawberry puree and the sugar syrup. Add the remaining 4 C of water and stir to combine. Chill and serve over ice.

Last weeks cabbage was still hanging about so I tried making sauerkraut. I’ll let you know how that experiment turns out in a few weeks.

- – marcella

Summer Veggies

Posted June 20th, 2013 by marcella and filed in food

When I opened my CSA box today it felt like summer, even though summer is a few hours away still.

The is a HUGE bunch of basil. Seriously big with the roots still attached. It’s in a vase on the counter at the moment making my kitchen smell delicious and summery. Pondering other uses besides a giant batch of pesto.

Zucchini! Love this stuff. Debating using it as a savory vegetable or in my sisters delicious zucchini bread.

More of the most amazing strawberries ever. Really. They are that sweet and delicious. These strawberries have ruined me for all others.

Little potatoes ready for steaming with some fresh herbs.

Mr. Conehead cabbage. In all the boxes we’ve received over the years we’ve never seen a cabbage shaped like this. Debating between trying to make sauerkraut or just eat it all up fresh.

Golden beets which I like better than the purple ones. No idea why. Maybe because they don’t stain my cutting board.

Tokyo turnips. Any bright ideas? I haven’t hit upon any recipes yet that cause us to love these; we remain firmly neutral about turnips. Remember, raw with salt is not a recipe :-)

Mercifully only one head of lettuce. It’s really lovely but man have we been eating the salads lately. It will be nice to have a manageable amount this week!

As always, the pretty eggs. Love the happy colors they come in. I’ll be picking up some bread tomorrow from our favorite bakery so I’m thinking egg salad sandwiches might be in order for a weekend lunch.

If you find yourself with some salad in need of dressing, here’s the basic vinaigrette that we usually have on hand in the fridge. Because of my sisters most prolific lemon tree there is always a good supply of lemon juice in our freezer to use in this dressing. Usually I use sherry vinegar but it’s also great made with balsamic or red wine vinegar – use your favorite and see what you think.

Basic Vinaigrette
Serves: 1½ cups
 

Ingredients
  • 1 C olive oil
  • ¼ C freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ C vinegar
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1½ t salt
  • ¼ t pepper
  • 2 t dijon mustard
  • 1½ t honey

Instructions
  1. Pour everything into a jar and secure the lid. Then give it a good shake, shake, shake until it’s well mixed together.
  2. Taste the dressing on a piece of lettuce and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

- – marcella

A Little Quilting

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

I’ve still been spending most of my sewing time on mending and boy scout neckerchiefs – not so exciting to look at. In between I have snuck in a bit of quilting too.

This week is the annual Shop Hop where we drive all over the place to visit 12 quilt shops and also sneak in a few fun extra stops (like the chocolate factory!) A few years ago I had made everyone a huge tote bag to store their purchases in in the car. Not long ago, I found this cute free zip bag pattern and decided to make one up for everyone. At each shop we collect 5″ charm square so I thought the bag would be perfect for keeping those squares in while we shop.

Me, being me, made a few changes to the bag. I made them from a single piece of fabric rather than patchwork. Also, I made them bigger cutting the pieces 10 1/2″ x 11 1/2″. I kept the corners at 1 1/2″ in from the edge and it made a nice square side.

Yes, me being me also got carried away and made 11 of them which is far more than the number of people who fit in my car. This way everyone gets to pick the one they like and no one is stuck with the “last one” in the bag. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

Also, I have been keeping up with my summer embroidery club hexagon project.

Last week was a sunshine:

And this week was a teeny tiny bikini:

And no, I didn’t miss a couple hexagons. That’s so this partial flower can fit up against last weeks flower. Like this:

And I’m linking up today with the quilters over at FreshlyPieced. See what they’re all quilting and then go outside and enjoy some summer!

- – marcella

Lots of Baking

Posted June 18th, 2013 by marcella and filed in food

Saturday was a big baking day over here.  I had volunteered to bake cinnamon rolls for all the men at church for Father’s Day.

We had decided that 100 rolls would do and somehow along the way I got confused and made four batches of dough instead of the three I actually needed.  That is a lot of dough!

I figured it was ok since there would undoubtably be small children begging for a sweet roll too, so extra would be good.

Then it was time to roll out the dough. Sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar and roll it up into a log.

Every recipe I’ve encountered calls for slicing the rolls “with a very sharp knife” but I have to say that no matter how sharp the knife I find that it squishes the roll and sticks a bit. Years ago my dad showed me a trick which I still happily use. I take a piece of dental floss and slide it under the roll. Pull the ends up and cross the floss over the top and pull. It slices off a roll easy as can be and doesn’t squash it out of shape. Before I knew it I had one of these all done.

And not long after that a whole counter full.

I baked them up and wrapped the pans in foil.  The next day at church we warmed them in the oven and frosted them with a basic cream cheese frosting. There were lots of happy men (as well as children and women) enjoying a roll.

Cinnamon Rolls
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 36
 

The dough should be very sticky, almost a batter more than a dough. Sticky is good, sticky makes a moist roll rather than a dry, crumbly bread-y roll. Embrace the sticky!
Ingredients
  • ½ C warm water (about 110 degrees)
  • 2 packages yeast
  • 1 T kosher salt
  • ¾ C granulated sugar
  • 1½ t cinnamon
  • ½ C butter, melted
  • 3 C milk
  • 9 C flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Cinnamon filling:
  • ½ C granulated sugar
  • ½ C brown sugar
  • 2 T ground cinnamon
  • Frosting
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2 C powdered sugar
  • milk or cream

Instructions
  1. Dissolve yeast in the warm water. Add the salt, sugar, cinnamon and butter and stir to mix.
  2. Heat the milk to lukewarm and stir to combine.
  3. Mix in 4 C of the flour and the eggs. Continue to mix for about 2 minutes until it is a smooth batter. Add the remaining flour and mix 3-4 minutes to make a very soft dough. The dough should be very sticky.
  4. Leave the dough in the mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size. Punch down and let rise a second time.
  5. One a well floured surface, roll out half the dough into a rectangle about 20 inches by 12 inches.
  6. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture leaving a half inch border along one long edge clear.
  7. Roll up the dough ending with the un-sugared long edge. Pinch to seal the long edge.
  8. Cut the roll into 18 cinnamon rolls and place cut side down on a baking sheet.
  9. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  10. Allow rolls to rise.
  11. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes until golden brown.
  12. To make the frosting beat together the softened cream cheese and butter until light. Add the vanilla and continue to beat until well blended. Slowly mix in the powdered sugar and then beat on high until smooth and creamy. Add milk or cream by the tablespoonful until the frosting is spreadable.
  13. Frost rolls when they are barely warm or cool.

- – marcella