Thursday, April 6, 2017

Soup and Chocolate - Ultimate comfort foods

It's April, and we woke up to a blanket of snow.  I haven't blogged about food in a long while.  With the weather being so unpredictable, I thought the best comfort for today has got to be a nice pot of soup and for dessert, what's better than a warm cup of Italian hot chocolate?  There is a cookbook in my collection that I truly love and use more often than any other.   I bought it from a bookshop in the UK about 6 years ago.  It's called, "New Covent Garden Food Co. - A Soup for Every Day".  When I purchased it I had no idea how good and valuable these recipes would be.    Today I made Celery, Potato and Mature Cheddar Cheese soup. It's amazing and like most all soups, it's extremely easy to make.

Celery, Potato & Mature Cheddar Cheese Soup
Serves 4-6
50g. (3Tbsp) unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large head of celery, finely chopped (I only had 4 stalks left in my produce drawer)
450g. (2 large) potatoes, peeled and sliced (I used 3 large russets to use up what I had on hand)
725 ml. (about 3 cups) chicken stock (I used vegetable stock)
750 ml (3 cups). double cream (I used 1 cup of 1% milk)
To Garnish:
50g. (2-3 Tbsp) mature cheddar cheese, grated (I omitted the cheese)

Melt the butter in a soup pot, add vegetables and cover.  Cook gently for 10 minutes without browning.
Add the stock, season well.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Simmer gently for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
Blend 1/2 the soup finely with a stick blender and the other half blend coarse.
Return the soup to the pan, stir in the cream (or milk) and season to taste.  Reheat and serve with grated cheese.

I am watching the Masters Golf tournament this week.  Most of the time people talk about the awesome fare offered at the Masters and how cheap it is.   For decades, they've hand made their egg salad and pimento cheese sandwiches for $1.50 each.  These are easy to make and satisfying in that southern climate along with lemonade or iced tea (sweet tea if you're southern).  For me, the sandwich has got to be cut into quarters and served with hot English tea.    I know, you can't take the Brit out of me.

Egg Salad

6 hard cooked eggs, diced finely
1 Tbsp. fresh chives, chopped
1 tsp. dried dill weed
1 stalk celery, diced
salt and ground pepper to taste
3-4 Tbsp. Mayonnaise (I use light mayo)
1 tsp. stone ground prepared mustard or Dijon mustard
Whole Wheat or White sandwich bread (I use Delightful Multi-grain light loaf by Sara Lee)

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well.  Spread about 2-3 Tbsp. onto 1 slice of bread. Top with a plain slice of bread and cut into quarters, maybe even cut the crusts off?  Not me.

As I mentioned above, I love English tea, but sometimes I gotta have a cup of coffee.  Italian coffee is superior to me.  They really know what they are doing.  Who doesn't love Espresso or Cappuccino?   I've started to find Illy and Lavazza coffee in my supermarket, but you can find them online.  The smooth, not bitter taste is not like almost every national brand and I love it with a bit of foamy milk.   Sidetracked...anyway, one day I purchased a can of Illy and it came with a free box of Italian hot chocolate.  It's thick, rich chocolaty taste just brought back memories of sitting in a cafe I used to frequent where I had a chocolate taster tray for dessert once.  Yes, only once, darn it!   On it was a small demitasse of hot chocolate along with a selection of chocolate pastries and confections.   When I tried the hot chocolate, it was like having a rich dark chocolate bar melted in a cup.   As you can tell, memorable and worth trying if you should ever come across it.  Here, my cup of hot chocolate is topped with a little whipped cream and cinnamon.  Oh yes I did!

Well, enough about food, it's time to get back in the studio.  I'm finishing up kennel quilts to mail off next week.  Then, it will be time again to clean up the studio and update my UFO list.   :o)

Friday, March 31, 2017

Inspiring air and space museum

 Just a little inspiration from a recent visit of the Air and Space Museum at Petersen Air base, Colorado Springs...
The terminal was built in 1941 and was Colorado Springs first airport terminal.  It has stylized eagle entryway and art deco architectural detailed features. 

Adjacent to the air base is this structure..."Airplane Restaurant"  Covering the walls, nooks, crannies from the ceiling to floor are artifacts of flight, signed photographs and amazing history.   You can be served on the plane in retrofitted booths.  

Interesting shots taken by my DS.  This museum had artifacts from WWII to the Cold War.  The evolution of flight and communications was interesting.  In the Broadmoor hangar, you will find displays, a fighter, and a test simulator for airmen going to missile silo duty. 
In the Broadmoor Hangar...
Test Simulator
EB-57E Canberra

EC-121T Warning Star or Conny as they call it.  This was a flying radar ship that tracked enemies and directed our fighting resources.  
CF-188A Hornet

You can visit this link to find out more information on the Peterson Museum

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Colorado Improv quilt

I started out with a basket full of scraps.  I dumped it out on my studio floor and sorted them by color and by solids, setting the solids aside.   Seeing the strips and squares I had, I decided to make a scrappy improv quilt for my DH with Colorado as my inspiration.  He has a view of the mountains on his way to work everyday along with the lights of the city and freeways surrounding the area.  Crudely, I drew out an outline sketch of this idea in my journal.  In the sketch, I knew I wanted the Rocky Mountain   range and some city elements.  So on the design board, I placed some triangles for the mountains, and placed squares with surrounding strips to represent city blocks.  The solid strips were added after the city blocks were decided on.  

Working from the top, I broke the elements down into sections to sew.   The first section was the mountain range on a white background.  I will thread paint the snow caps before sandwiching together, but to apply them onto the background, I used glue stick, used dryer sheets for stabilizers, and machine applique techniques.  Layering from furthest to closest,  I sewed down the furthest mountain using a zigzag stitch, then laid down the next mountain until finally the closest mountain was stitched.  They look like they are floating in the air, which is fine to me, they look this way sometimes when the weather is foggy or snowy.
 The next section was the grassy/water section. There are valleys and meadows with reservoirs and lakes around.  I sewed these strips together in a staggered fashion so no seams would match.  
The hardest section was the bottom section which represents the city and streets.  The solid strips break up the city blocks.  I moved these pieces around quite a bit until I was pleased with the layout, then sewed them into row/blocks.  

Again, trying not to match any seam sections so that it can look as scrappy as possible.  These sections were sewn together then, squared up with a rotary cutter.  Now, I am contemplating the quilting and backing.   I will not bind the quilt traditionally as I don't want a bound edge even if it were pieced to match the different colored edges.  I will sew using the pillowcase method, then quilt the top.   For now, it's hanging on my design board.   My DH is patiently waiting for the outcome and I hope to have it ready by his Birthday in a month.  This piece measures 24" almost square and will hang in his work place.   It looks similar to the other improv pieces I've done and I would say I've exhausted this technique and want to move onto other techniques.  
DS is coming in today so we can spend time together.  It will be so nice to have him stay with us.  He is wanting me to finish the Blue Sapphire quilt so he can hang it in his place.  Since my foot has been bothering me, I haven't done much sewing/quilting in the past 3 or 4 days.  Seems longer, but I know I should rest it.  :o)

Friday, March 3, 2017

Quilting - Blue Sapphire UFO

I just purchased a #15 foot for my Bernina.  Using the BSR feet are OK, however I wanted this foot to replace an embroidery foot that broke a few years ago on me (#29) which had a clear plastic oval presser.  So, I dug out a UFO waiting for machine quilting and went to town free-motion quilting the top with clear polyester filament.   My results so far are excellent and I love this foot.  

As you can see here I thread basted my sandwich together.  Big mistake, but I knew we would be moving and I wouldn't have time to quilt this right away.  It takes time to pick out the basting thread and sometimes can get stuck in the quilting stitches.  I usually pin baste tops I plan to machine quilt.  The pins can leave larger holes than needle holes, so I try to pin baste just before quilting, not letting the top stay too long with the pins.  Oh yes, I have done that before as well.  Big mistake...holes are unsightly, but most did disappear after a gentle washing if you are able to wash.  Personally, I don't recommend washing an embellished or art wall hanging.  

This quilt started out as an experiment.  The experiment (or challenge) is to make a perfectly circular piece and applique it onto a whole-cloth piece.   The pathway to the left was also a challenge in that I had to piece different blue fabrics in slashed bits that would meander like a path.  I used freezer paper to help me shape the pathway and cut it, then appliqued it onto the whole-cloth piece. The machine quilting is just free motioned, no planning, no marking...just whatever I fancy on the particular day I work on it.  
The round appliques have intersecting lines in a cobalt color polyester thread, so it gives off a sheen.  The pathway and echo next to it is also quilted with this thread.  

 Here is the back of the quilt so far...

After looking at these pictures, I'm thinking this needs another challenge.  Beading?  How about surface design interest like painting or stenciling?  I know, I've already started the quilting, but I wouldn't be saturating the top...and it's just to see if it would work.  It's an after thought, but it wouldn't have to look that way...or so what if it does, it may be a good thing.  This is just an experimental piece and it may turn out to be a work of art.  

I've made a commitment to myself to work on a UFO at least one hour everyday so I can possibly finish the projects in my UFO basket.  Maybe even by the end of the year.  So far, I've been able to keep this commitment, however warmer days are coming and the garden will need some attention soon.  For now, I am going to keep at it.  :o)  

Friday, February 24, 2017

Mug cozy's

I've made quilted and crocheted mug rugs before and thought I would give crocheted mug cozy's a try.  Super simple to make and cute.  However, being familiar with the art of crocheting is very helpful.  These took about 20 - 30 minutes each to make...only because I had to search for some buttons.  I used yarn balls leftover from other projects, so other than acrylic fiber, I have no idea what brand or weight I used here, sorry.   I made changes to a pattern created by Karine Larose and found on facebook (click on the link).  

The pig cozy is a little larger to fit on a thermal travel mug.  
These are both worked as a rectangle using HDC for 5-7 rows depending on your yarn type, in the final row work the ears by measuring about mid-point, stop turn back, ch.2, HDC 3, turn, ch.2, HDC 2 decrease by one, turn, ch. 2, HDC 1 decrease by one, turn, slst down the edge of ear to rectangle, HDC 4 sts. make second ear same way then HDC to the end of row and tie off.
For the loop, at about mid-point attach yarn and work 10 chains, skip 3-4 sts, then tie off.  Find some buttons for eyes and one button for the loop.  For the pigs nose, ch.4, slst, in the center work 8 HDC, slst and tie off leaving a tail.  Pull through to back side and tie a knot to hold in place. Sew on eyes and secure nose from the back.  Sew on button to the opposite side for the loop closure.  For the fox, work the same rectangle only the first 2 rows are worked in light color yarn, change color for final 4-5 rows, work the ears in the same way as for pig.  For the snout, tie on same color as face between ears (oops, my snout and eyes are not lined up properly, but that's OK, still cute) on the color line, ch.2, work HDC for 3 st, ch2, turn, decrease 1 st, ch. 2, turn, work 1 HDC, tie off leaving a tail.  Pull tail to back side and tie off.  Thread black upholstery thread and satin stitch nose pulling to back side to secure.  Add buttons for eyes and loop closure, same as for the pig.  All sewing is done using the black upholstery thread and a large eye wool applique needle.  

I am sure you could easily make other animals with this basic instruction, maybe a cow, or a monkey?  See what you can create with just a little bit of leftover yarn.  

Monday, February 20, 2017

Finish Line - A UFO

Back in 2009/10 I purchased a bunch of fabrics from the Cath Kidston store with a bed size quilt on my mind.  Shortly after purchasing, I cut some of the pieces out for pinwheels and didn't have a plan further than that.  So it sat in my UFO basket for years...and years.  Not that I hadn't thought about it and pulled it out in those years, I have, but it just didn't go anywhere.

 January 2017 rolls around and I am flipping through the basket and finally decide to give this one last chance to become something.  Making the commitment to work on this at least 1 hour everyday, I start to work.  Finishing the pinwheels and placing them on my design board.  Ok, now what?  Forget about the colors as I posted previously, that thought is a stall.  I pulled out several books from Kaffe Fassett and think with all the flowery prints going on here, just keep it simple.  So, I start the borders.  One thin pink polka dot, then a paisley print, a 4 patch, another pink polka dot and a final wide paisley print.   There was no pattern, plan, or precise measuring.  I only had in mind that I wanted it to fit on our full size bed with a drop.  The final measurements are 76" X 82" and I am not only happy it's out of my UFO basket, but it's completed AND I actually like it.  It will be a good weight (cotton batting) for a summer time bed covering.   It's a relief to be finished with the top, but also rewarding and exhausting at the same time.  Time to clean up my studio so I can move on to something else.   There's always something else.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Singin' the Blues

Years ago, actually 30+...I told myself, "I will never ever, ever make another pink and blue color quilt.  Period."  Well, here I am.  Making a pink and blue QUEEN size summer weight quilt for my bed.  That was the original idea anyway, in a pseudo Kaffe Fassett style.  Why, I ask myself?   It's been lurking in my UFO basket for 8+ years.  I dug it out about a week ago and thought I had a clear vision for it.  But, now I'm staring at it and wondering....

Yeah, I know, it looks like a baby quilt.  I bought these fabrics from the Cath Kidston stores because I just love them, but together they look perfect for baby quilts.  What was I thinking? 
QUEEN?  Really? 
 I am not at a point of no return, I could give up here and complete it as is without further border work, so it could well be a baby size quilt.  Some one some where would love it, I'm sure.  

This is where UFO's go to die.  It seems there is always one lurking around gathering dust in my basket, as if smirking at me saying "you don't have the guts to finish me off, do you?"  Those old pepperami commercials come to mind here.  

My DH came in the room and suggested adding more blues.  He's right.....I am adding more blues to this whole thing than I need to.  I love blues.  It's my favorite color.  And music.  "No body gets outta this place without singin' the blues".  I suppose that's true with a lot of my quilts.  Not that I'm complaining about my process, it's more of a rite of passage, like the blues.  It's time to cut and run, I suppose.  If I keep pondering the issue, it will never become an FO, and how many more years would it linger on as a UFO?  

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Sparked Inspiration

I took one of the pictures I posted the other day and made a rough sketch, picturing in my mind what elements I want to convey, textures and techniques to work on including threads and any other elements. 
The sketch is just a rough estimate of where I want to place my elements.  I've drawn the tree larger and forefront so it looks more substantial than in the original picture.  

The next thing is to choose the fabrics in the colorways that closely resemble the original picture, but not exactly and you could actually change any of them or add a different color.  The cream on cream fabric is used as my foundation.  At this point I could have drawn onto the foundation to show where the placement of my elements will go.  However, since this only measures around 11" square, I thought I would just eyeball it.

Then, working from the background out as if it were a 3D form, lay the foundation piece which is cut roughly to your desired size (mine is 11").   Then lay on a piece of Steam-A-Seam 2 (SAS2).  Now, place your background color element, tap down slightly to make it stick.  I used the snippet technique.  This requires no measuring, no specific shapes at all, just start cutting keeping them fairly small overall. I used at least 6 different greens.   The SAS2 product is sticky before ironing and allows you to change position of any shapes before ironing down.   My greens are cut in snippets, no actual shape, although some look like tiny triangles, or size.  The large green area in the center of the background is where the flowers will go with some of the green peeking through.  I could have cut this green piece into snippets as well, but thought this would be easier to manage and place down the flower elements.  

In this picture above, I am showing the addition of SAS2 on top of the large green element for the tree placement and the flowers.  In hindsight I might not have used the Steam-A-Seam 2 product here as stitching through 2 layers of glue is a technical issue, but not impossible.  

Now,  I've placed my tree trunk to the left on top of the SAS2.  I've snipped the flower colors and placed them around the tree almost forming a path.  Take a flat edge (I used my bone tool) and slightly push a few snippets under the trunk edge, just so it doesn't look like a defined line.  

Using a clear or white see thru organza, cut a rough 11" square and place over the piece.  Make sure this is how you want it, you will not be able to change anything after the organza is sewn in place.  Cover the top with a pressing sheet and gently press and hold for 8-10 seconds so the glues will fuse underneath.  Remove the pressing sheet and carefully transfer it to your sewing station.  
Choose what types of threads you want to use.  I used variegated cotton, variegated polyester, and solid cotton threads in 40 weight.   Now, use a piece of batting or wadding of your choice.  I used a product called byAnnie Soft and Stable.  It is used for tote bags and such.

Sew all around the edges to secure the organza.  

Thread paint or sew down as you wish.  I used free motion quilting stitches on the snippets and changed to a walking foot for the tree trunk.

This is as far as I've gotten on this piece, but it is not done.  I am thinking of adding some beading and possibly another element on top, but in the coming days I'll get back to it and play around with it.
As you can see, this is not an exact replica of my original picture, it's merely a representation.  

Monday, January 16, 2017

Inspiration in January

January is my least favorite month in the year.  Freezing cold days with a mix of snow and ice storms that seem to last forever even though the days are short.  For me, sleeping is interrupted by the glow of moonlight and snow coming through the windows.  Though I feel rested, coffee is still needed to give me that boost in the mornings.   It should be a good time to stay inside and plan, organize and finish any lingering UFO's.  However, I find myself at a stand still.   

Turning to my pictures, spring blooms cheer me up and give the inspiration I am craving. The carpets of crocus's winding around trees in bright happy colors gives me ideas like scraps of prints in these colors winding through a background of green grass and using thread painting techniques and beads to add interest and texture.  

I love this crocus with the water droplets.  I would like to experiment using threads and/or beads to get the look and depth of the droplets.   Dying, painting or even discharging the dye in a fabric patch would look flat to me, so possibly using trapunto work would make it more visually appealing.

This Hellebore would be a great subject for discharge dying, thread painting, embroidery, and bead work.  

Glancing through these pictures gives me inspiration in not only new projects, but to finish the UFO's I've started.   

I suppose this winter picture could be inspiring, but for me, winter is not my season and I anticipate spring and the promise it brings.