Friday, December 14, 2012

Holidays are coming....

Store front window, picture taken in France.
With the help of DS and DH, we got the house decorated for Christmas.  I love seeing all the decorations I've made over the years come out of the boxes and take their place in the room.  I fill the empty boxes with everyday decorations that are out all year, like pictures, nic-nacs, extra dishes and kitchen towels (as I have a couple dozen Christmas themed towels).  Yes, this time of year is special to us.  We spend our Christmas day together starting with a homemade hearty breakfast.  I make french toast from the Finnish Pulla bread I make a week before.  My recipe makes 4 loaves, so 2 go in the freezer for later.  We open presents and listen to Christmas music.  Every year, Santa brings a 1000 or more piece puzzle that we build on the dining room table.  The turkey roast goes in the oven around 1:00pm while we clean up the wrapping and stack our treasures.  By 3:00pm we are sitting down to Christmas dinner with stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, roasted potatoes and parsnips and turkey breast with gravy.  Sometimes I don't bother with a dessert as most times Santa is very generous in stuffing our stockings with chocolates and goodies.  As the sun sets and the fire slowly burns down, we share our hopes and dreams for the coming New Year.  Most importantly, we thank God for all His blessings on us.  May God bless you and your family at this time and always.  I want to share some recipes we enjoy every Christmas. 

Pulla
1 pkg. dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups scalded milk, cooled
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
7-8 whole white cardamom seeds, crushed 
4 eggs, beaten
8-9 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
Scald the milk and melt the butter, set both aside. In a large mixer bowl,dissolve yeast in the warm water and let sit for 5 minutes.
Stir in milk, sugar, salt, cardamon, eggs and about 2 cups flour.  Beat until smooth. Add 3 cups flour and beat well.  Add melted butter, stir well. Beat until glossy. Stir in remaining flour until a stiff dough forms.  Turn out on a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes.  Cover and let rise until doubled.  Divide dough into 4 parts.  Divide each part into 3 equal pieces.  Roll each into a rope and braid the 3 pieces together.  You should have 4 braided loaves. Place 2 loaves on a greased baking tray leaving about an inch gap between.  Glaze each loaf with beaten egg white and sprinkle with sugar.  Repeat with the next 2 loaves.  Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.  Let cool slightly before removing to a cooling rack and cool completely before wrapping tightly and storing. 

Cranberry Sauce
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons orange zest
Juice from 1/2 orange (or 1/4 cup orange juice)
In a saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 3 minutes.  Add the cranberries and gently cook, maintaining the boil, for about 12 minutes stirring occassionally.  Do not let boil down and burn.  The berries will pop and get soft and thicken. Remove from the heat after 12 minutes and add the juice and zest.  Stir and let cool slightly.  Using a bowl and sieve, spoon in some of the sauce to strain off the skins and give the sauce a smooth texture and ruby color.  Transfer to a serving bowl and chill for about 1 hour before serving.  Keep covered and refrigerated for up to a week or freeze in a tightly covered container for up to 2 months.   


Monday, November 19, 2012

Finishing up

It's that time of year...no not Black Friday, not the holidays, not the gloomy dark days of November....it's that time when you realize there are only a few weeks left in the year to fulfill your hopes and resolutions you had made back in January.  For me, it's the ongoing pursuit to finish UFO's and start projects to satisfy my need to keep my mind and hands busy. 
 
The first thing I want to show you is my holiday card holder.  Our group is doing a Christmas fabric challenge.  You choose from a selection of long 1/4 yard cuts and do anything you want with it.  So, I knew I wanted a card holder and just started gathering the ribbon, buttons, felt for the holly and cut the fabrics.  This picture really doesn't do the quilt justice.  I used iron-on pellon to make it stiff, but I also used a poly batting to give it more heft and body.  I quilted it using a meandering pattern all over.  I know the ribbons aren't perfectly spaced, but I'm OK with it, when I add the cards, you won't be able to tell it's off a bit. 
I crocheted slippers for everyone in my family.  Just in time for the start of the colder months.  
My DH works with a man who has 5 daughters all under the age of 9!  He loves quilts and would like his daughters to have one each, so I have committed myself to make him 3 quilts for his older girls.  The 2 younger ones are twins under 12 months old!  Here is a picture of the first one I've completed.  I'm just finishing up the binding.

I'm leaving you with, what else, food!   In case you don't have enough leftover recipes, here's an easy one.  Why does food look so good photographed?  This looks as good as it tastes, especially if you love the flavors of Thanksgiving and Christmas.  In our family, the Christmas meal is a carbon copy of our Thanksgiving meal.  We love turkey so much, we have it again at Christmas.  Here is a recipe for my festive turkey sandwich to use up those leftovers.  
 2 slices of good bread, I like 50/50 bread
sliced turkey breast, one layer to cover the bread
1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1-2 Tbsp. homemade cranberry sauce
1-2 Tbsp. homemade stuffing
On one slice of bread spread the mayonnaise, on the other spread on the cranberry sauce.  Place the turkey on top of the mayonnaise.  Place the stuffing on top of the cranberry sauce.  Gently bring the sandwich together and slice in half.   Enjoy!  ;o)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Hiatus

I'm sorry I haven't posted anything for a couple months now.  It's been a chaotic summer and now fall.
However, I am working on my projects at a snails pace.  So I will update you on my progress as I finish things. 

I've gotten back into crocheting, I find it more relaxing than quilting, so after having just a couple odd balls of yarn laying around, I now have 2 storage tubs full of yarn balls with ideas rolling around in my head for projects to work on through the long winter days ahead.   This bag/purse is just one of the projects I've completed.
Crocheted bag with magnetic closure.  Wrapped suede leather handles with Owl print interior lining.  The handles were just cheap plastic sew on handles, but adding the leather strips took this bag to the next level.

Showing the inside of my bag/purse.  This bag is more durable than I thought it would be and because it is lined with a decorator weight fabric, nothing will poke through.  You can find the pattern for this and hundreds more projects here.


This is DH wearing a cap with matching mittens crocheted with jiffy yarn.  I am wearing a cowl crocheted with homespun.  I had to devise my own mitten pattern as I could not find anything I liked.   This is a set for a friend.   They fit close to the hand, as you can tell.  And, they are so soft and warm.  
  
Well, that's all I have for now.  With the bowling season underway and my 4 day/week 3 mile walks, I really am pressed for time away to work on what I love to do.  Maybe this is why I love to crochet.  I can stop in the middle of something and get back to it right away.  With quilting, I feel like I have to put things away and drag them out, clear off surfaces to work and cut and iron.  It's a major process.  But, I am not giving up on quilting......just taking a much deserved hiatus.    ;o) 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer's Winding Down

With only 10 days left in August, I have to think back at where the summer went and how I can get the most out of the final 10 days.  I preserved 4 jars of Summer Berry jam this year.  So good and so easy. 
While at retreat, I finished 3 quilts and an apron.  It was a productive weekend.  We also got to see our friends new house and Potfest in the Pens.   Would have loved to have purchased one of everything at this festival.  All the potters were so talented.   DH and I couldn't resist the urge to pick fresh red raspberries, so we brought some home with us. 
We went on a coach trip to Scotland for 7 days.  It was wonderful.  We visited National Trust properties including some walled gardens and Culzean Castle.    This sounds spooky like the horror movie with Vincent Price, but we also visited  Hill House which was commissioned to Rennie Macintosh to furnish and decorate in his signature style.   Another place we visited was Falkland Palace and Garden which was just gorgeous inside and out.  Even the village of Falkland was quaint with historic buildings and locals ready to welcome visitors to their corner of the world.   Johnny Cash visited here several times, there is a memorial bench in the village green in his honour. 
Of course, the International Quilt Festival of Ireland was in June and I must mention this as one of our highlights of the summer.  If you go to this link, they are planning next years event, so you may not see much of this years festival.  Attending the festival in a venue like Galway was an experience of a lifetime.  If you plan to go in the future, I would suggest you stay in the downtown area of Galway and not in the outer lying hotels.  Parking is expensive, when you can find it, and you cannot park on campus so you will be walking anyway.  From Eyre square, the campus is just a short walk past the Cathedral.  We stayed at Park House Hotel.  Everyone was very eager to please.  The bus station was just around the corner.  A ticket to the airport was incredibly reasonable.  From Shannon airport, the bus to Galway only took about 80 minutes. 
I don't want summer to end.  Often, I look back on these days and they seem so far away.  We always take hundreds of digital photographs and sift through them discarding only 10-20%.   They all become precious as our tour here is also winding down.  Some day we will move to a new location with new places to discover.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Blueberry...my favorite

After the peach pie was gone, I felt we needed to have my absolute favorite...blueberry. 
Blueberries are so delicious as jam, syrup on pancakes, whole in pancakes, fresh dropped on greek yogurt, or in cereal, by the handful out of the box, or carefully and lovingly baked in a tender pastry crust with just the right amount of sugar and spice and oh so nice.  Enjoy another one of my pie recipes! ;o)



Blueberry Pie
1 prepared recipe for 2 crust pie (I use the Betty Crocker cookbook recipe)
6 cups fresh blueberries (*see my note if using frozen berries)
3/4 cup sugar
6 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Divide pastry into 2 parts.  Roll one into a 12 inch circle.  Carefully place in a 9 inch pie plate without stretching.  Set aside.  In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients, then mix in the berries, juice and lemon zest.  Stir gently until completely coated. 
 
Transfer the berry mixture into the pastry lined pie plate.  Roll out second pastry and gently place on top of the berries. Trim and crimp edges.  Cut slits in the top or use a lattice cutter for the top crust.  Bake for 25-30 minutes for fresh berries or 50-55 minutes for frozen berries.  Remove from the oven and cool for at least 1 hour. Store covered in the refrigerator.  Use within 5 days. 

*NOTE:  If you are using frozen berries, prepare the filling first before the pastry so that it can sit at room temperature for about 40 minutes.  Measure the frozen berries to the mixing bowl and add 2 additional Tablespoons of flour.  I aslo add 1 Tablespoon cornstarch, just to be certain the filling is not too loose.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Pure Heaven

Once in a while, I have to indulge my family and myself in what I call pure heaven.  Yes, of course, I'm talking about food.  I certainly hope in the afterlife there is food to enjoy.   
My breakfast above is not the healthiest thing to eat, but once in a great while there's nothing wrong with indulging in something you really crave.  I made all the components from scratch.  And enjoyed the entire process.  I guess for most, cooking has to be fun in order for them to even enter the kitchen.  Or maybe it's the idea that after all the chaos, there will inevitably be the cleanup.  To me, the result is worth all the stuff that goes with it. 
Later, I made my peach pie from scratch.  It was so delicious!  I can't resist fruit pies.  Enjoy my recipe. ;o)
Old Fashioned Peach Pie
1 prepared recipe for 2 crust pie  (I use the one in the old Betty Crocker Cookbook)
3 lbs. or 6-7 ripe peaches, peeled, stoned and sliced
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup all purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 Tablespoon butter, cut into pieces
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Toss sliced peaches with lemon juice.  Stir in sugar, flour, lemon zest and nutmeg.  Roll half the pastry into an 11" circle.  Place in a 9" pie plate.  Spoon the peaches in the crust.  Dot with butter pieces.  Roll out remaining pastry for the top crust.  Place over the peaches, trim edges and crimp.  Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar (optional).  Cut slits in the top crust.  Bake for 45 to 50 minutes.  Cover edges with foil if it browns too quickly.  Remove and let cool completely.  Store covered in the refrigerator.  Use within 5 days. 



Hopping.....

Hopping around...visited 3 formal gardens over the last week
Hopping mad.....at my connectivity, old house, old wiring, country living....take the good with the bad
Hopping in the sack....tired of housework, cooking, and ironing.....need a holiday vacation from it all
Hopping to it.....filing through UFO's to finish....an ongoing process
HOP, HOP, HOP.....break to go shop hopping.......everyone needs a break from something

FabShop Hop


Friday, June 29, 2012

Stroll in the Garden

Yesterday was just glorious.  It's summer in England, so you never leave home without an umbrella no matter what the weather.  I decided to take a stroll through our local garden spot.  To my delight I was not disappointed.  With my umbrella in hand I set off .  As soon as I entered I was greeted with full shrubs like hostas, green grassy nooks and meadows and flowers in all their glory.  Here is just a sample of what I encountered.

Can you tell I am a purple lover?  When it comes to flowers I can't resist blue and purple.  Here in England the wind is never still.  It was challenging to take photos in the winds we've had and when I got home I was afraid only a few would actually be worth saving.  To my surprize, over 100 pictures and only 8 have been deleted.  I really do love my point and shoot Canon PowerShot SX210 IS, and of course, it's purple. 
Anyway, as I came up to the Kitchen garden I was in awe of how wonderful all the vegetables looked while taking in the aroma of blooming sweet peas.
So tempted to pick this lettuce and take it home.  It was all neat and tidy in raised beds.  I really love this way of gardening.  I think back to my mother's garden many years ago, it was a large garden and she used a roto tiller.  Our squash plants used to get so huge with big orangy yellow blossoms.  I doubt these beds would hold plants like squash or melons. 


As the pathway winds downhill you come upon a tiny cottage like building and today they had an art exhibition so I wandered through, bought a couple cards and started out the door when it started to downpour.  I waited in the doorway for a few minutes, then darted out with my umbrella to a nice greenhouse like enclosure.
Yep, even dodging in this space to avoid a few drops of rain was worth while.  It was serene.  The rain subsided in minutes and the sun started to shine through, so I exited this hidden jewel.  If I hadn't had 3 cups of coffee before setting out, I would have stayed here longer to enjoy some Betty's coffee.  Maybe another day.....
Along the path were just hundreds of foxgloves.  They are just beautiful.  I don't recall seeing all white before.  This one above was the only one among a sea of pink ones. 
The children that live in this area take field trips to Harlow Carr gardens and are very lucky as there is a teaching garden here along with a working garden, greenhouse and a library filled with books and publications about  vegetable plants, herbs, just everything having to do with gardening and horticulture.  There are adult learning programs as well. 


One final splash of purple before I go.  Off to get creative in my sewing room.  Maybe I've sparked some inspiration in you today?  ;o)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

IQFOI - part 4


The Claddagh ring is a symbol of Love, Loyality and Friendship.  Here in the city of Galway, the Claddagh fishing village has been consumed long ago.  But there remain remnants of the past all around. 



The Chocolate exhibit was unusual in that as you entered the building the scent of chocolates was in the air and candy themed music was all around.  The quilts lined the entry way and in the center were 2 pedestals.  One with a giant fabric cupcake and the other with a faux box of chocolates that looked real enough to eat. 



Of all the chocolate quilts, this one by far was my favorite.  It is 3 dimensional with the chocolate poking out of a gold lame wrapper.  The chocolate was made from either faux or real leather.  It looked real.  It must have been very challenging to work with. 

This isn't a very good picture, but it shows a closeup view of the 3D chocolate poking through the top. 


This was another one of my favorites of the chocolate themed quilts.  The stripped border pieces were pretty small.  This quilt measured about 30 inches square (I'm guessing). 
You had to climb a flight of stairs and go out a sky-walk to the next building where the classrooms were, or school house.  These classrooms were a good size.  Pfaff sponsored the event so in class we used their new basic machine.  From this area you passed through double doors down a long corridor to the Promenade where the miniature quilts, 3 D quilts, Round Robins,  and more were displayed.  I took hundreds of pictures but will only share my favorites with you. 


On the first day of the festival I saw this quilt being hung, by the way, it is facing a wall so I had to take it at an angle.  They didn't have the black lights on this display yet, so I thought "hmmm 3 color quilt not very interesting".  The next day I returned and the lights were turned on and as you see above, the black light really made this quilt glow.   There were a couple more 2 and 3 fabric quilts in this display, but this one really made that statement. 


This is my son's favorite quilt.  He would love to have one like it for his media room.  I liked this one as well.  My picture doesn't do a lot of these quilts justice and the quilting detail doesn't show up well.  I will have to learn more about my settings in my camera and work with difficult lighting. 


This lily pad quilt was sprawled in the middle of the floor in one of the exhibits.  I really liked this one, but I thought it was very risky to just lay it there.  I am sure it got stepped on. 


Ribbon winners


Miniature quilt winner.  I didn't have a ruler, but I would say it was not bigger than 16 inches square.  The pieces were incredibly tiny.  I love this one.  I must have taken a dozen pictures of this one alone.  I don't know why I was mesmerized by it even before they pinned the ribbon on. 



All the miniatures were amazing.  I am sure most were made using a foundation, but it was incredible to see such precision in a tiny piece.  The pink fans above were only 1.5 inches square (I'm guessing here).  Next time I will have to remember to bring my tape measure.  They all look so even and perfect.  I always wanted to do a super small miniature quilt.  I even have a couple books on the subject.  I've attempted a couple charm quilts and they look too much like a doll quilt, not a miniature. 
Overall it was an amazing festival in a wonderful city.  Visit IQFOI to see more about this year's festival.  I hope you've enjoyed seeing my view of the show.  Maybe this has inspired you as this trip has inspired me.
Until next time, have a good day and take some time out to do the thing (s) you love.  ;o)