Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Treats

While Christmas is quickly approaching, I haven't really gotten in the spirit of Christmas.  We have our tree up.  I've shopped some.  We sent off two big packages for the Letters to Santa project.  I've got my mom's gift and a few things for LBK and the niece and nephew.  Not even a lovely Christmas party this weekend really got me into the mood.  I hoped baking would, and I am quite pleased with how these packages of biscotti came out.  (I've edited my full name out of the stamped label.)  I'm trying to plan a cookie date with a couple of friends and am thinking about what to make.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Birthday T shirt

Emma's birthday is coming up. Last year, I made her a shirt with a branch, two little birds and the number 2.  Here's last year's shirt:

This year, I stayed with the bird theme with these little owls, but dropped the number.  It's hard to get good pics at night, but I want to mail this tomorrow.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lap Quilt Swap - 2 More

Two more squares for the swap.  I had a 3rd done, but realized when uploading the pic that I have two corners facing the wrong way.  I have a 4th almost finished.  Only two more to go after that!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Quilt Swap block 2

This block is called Antique Tile Block and is from  Quilters' Cache.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Quilt Swap block 1

This is the first block of 12 that I completed for the Craftster Lap Quilt 5 swap. It's for chinarockfish, our organizer. There were a few reasons I signed up for the swap.

I wanted to release control of a project. This was also my goal in doing the half square triangle quilt. I hold too tightly to control sometimes. I'm trying to get myself to release some of that in small ways here and there. Hopefully it will start to work on the big things, too.

I wanted to be challenged to complete more complicated blocks. Doing only one seems so much more manageable than doing 12 or more for a whole quilt.

I wanted to be inspired within the constraints of other's expectations. What would I do given the parameters of fabric type, quantity, and directions of others.

I wanted to work with fabrics I might not choose myself to learn to see with a different vision.

I knew the previous swaps resulted in beautiful, creative, well made blocks.

China's fabrics meet this last criteria for sure. Not ones I ever would choose for myself. Here they are individually, from Anna Marie Horner's Garden Party collection.

I used the far right fabric for the center, then built out from there.  I made a couple of sketches in colored pencil to try to figure out color placement, then labeled each piece with cutting instructions to make sure I had enough fabric.  I was nervous about combining such large scale, diverse patterns.  I shifted my focus from the patterns to the colors, refocused, trying to see what the designer and the person who had chosen these saw in them.  I think I was successful.  I love the finished block, and can't wait to see how it works with the other blocks created by other swappers. 

One down, eleven more to go.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Easiest dessert ever

Toasted slices of poundcake - homemade or Sara Lee, doesn't matter, this one is homemade
Mascarpone - dolloped on top of cake
Apricot jam - heated gently and spiked with Amaretto
Almonds - slivered or sliced, but definitely toasted

Add coffee and fork.  Thanks, Giada de Laurentis.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Felt Food

I started making felt food for my niece and nephew after my niece got a kitchen set for Christmas. To go along with her kitchen set, we bought some of the nice food sets at Target. They are well made, however, the selection is limited and they are a bit pricey. On, lots of people have been making felt food. They are on, I think, round five of a swap. Inspired by all the variety, I made some felt food items for the kids. They are pretty easy to make. It is taking some experimentation to figure out what type of sewing I prefer. I want the sturdiness of machine sewing, but it sometimes looks too thready, if you know what I mean. Anyways, here's what I've made so far:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Half square triangle quilt

I trimmed all the squares last Friday while chatting with a friend. Over the weekend, I put them together in pairs, then in 4's. Here they are laid out on the floor waiting for the rows to be put together. While it's a simple project, I needed something that I didn't really have to think about. It's also been a bit of a lesson in giving up control. I only paid attention enough to not have the same fabric next to itself. I did try to not have color concentrated in the final layout, but I only swapped a few sections, for example, when I had 7 reds in a vertical column. I really love the way it looks. Hopefully, I can get the top together this weekend. It will be a lap quilt size, unless I decide to add some large borders. I don't think I will.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Pop Tarts

Over on eGullet, they've been making pop tarts. One of the teams at work won breakfast last week, so we have to deliver on Monday. We laughed at their request for Eggs Benedict, but I think they will like these brown sugar, apricot, and nutella poptarts. These are unfrosted, but I also frosted some with a 10x sugar and milk glaze. They taste almost exactly like pop tarts, but are more tender and buttery. The brown sugar filling is excellent. I haven't tried one of the Nutella ones yet, as they are in the oven now.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Jack and the Beanstalk

I finished this quilt over a year ago, but forgot to take pictures before gifting it. I borrowed it back to snap a few pics. This was another collaboration and was started after the Princess and the Pea quilt for Sofia. LBK drew the pattern for me full size on bulletin board paper. I cut apart his drawing and used it as a template for the applique pieces. It is all hand appliqued and machine quilted with hand embroidery details on the house, the bean stalk, the giant's hands and Jack's face and belt.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Saturday is baking day

While it was 80 yesterday, the nights are very cool and Fall is definitely coming. LBK asked for some soup on last week's grocery trip. He takes soup for lunch most days in the winter. When I started baking bread last winter from the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, he thought I was going to keep him supplied with yummy bread all winter. Unfortunately, he never really expressed that to me, and in a an effort to keep all those carbs from piling on the pounds, I tried to resist baking bread very often. However, he recently made a comment about wishing for bread to go with his soup, so I'm stocking the freezer with bread for him. He can grab one in the morning for his lunch and just give it a quick refresh in a toaster oven or eat it as is. It will be thawed by lunch for sure. Here are the results of today's baking: 8 mini loaves like these and 2 larger boules.

I have to work on sizing and slashing. I think these are a bit too big, though he may think they are fine.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

St Basil's Serbian Festival

Saturday, we went to St. Basil's Serbian Festival. It's not so much a festival as it is a feast. Roast lamb and pig, grilled sausages, cabbage rolls, and lots of desserts. Pictured above is the best dessert we had: krempita, a vanilla custard lightened with whipped cream, then sandwiched between superthin layers of puff pastry or filo. It looks like it might be heavy, but in fact is very light.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

LGD #2 Finished

I am really pleased with this version. The bodice is lined, making the inside very finished. The zipper was much easier. I just need to practice them more often. I didn't press out much of the puckeriness this time either, although that makes seams and hem less crisp. They're ok, though. I wish the finishing at the top of the zipper and the hook were better. I probably could have trimmed seam allowances in the arm scye closer, or it could be the lack of pressing. The hem on this one isn't quite as nice as the first one, also attributing that to ironing.

Friday, August 28, 2009

KC Update

In Kansas City, a journalist for the Kansas City Star and a photographer were with us the entire weekend. My first clue was when the guy across from me at Lidia's asked me my name and where I was from and started taking notes. I was a little taken aback, but he seemed so amazed by our group and all the events, food, and drink of the weekend, that I quickly became rather amused by him. The article is in this week's Kansas City Star magazine and is posted online here. Thankfully, there are no pics of me, but I do get a very, very brief mention in the article.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Little Girl Dress #2

Sorry, no pics of LGD #1. I gave it to Little Girl #1 yesterday to test out. It was a similar fabric to LGD #2 fabric, but in blue with blue and yellow dots. I'll take a pic of a scrap later. Here is fabric for LGD #2, a cute green, pink and yellow one with some texture.

When I pressed seams on the first one, the texture of the fabric was lost. I thought it would come back when washed, but it really didn't after the first wash. Maybe longer in the dryer, maybe more washings.

This time, I am going to line the bodice instead of using facings and bias tape. I'm also going to use one of the "fake serger" stitches on my machine on the side seams. The hem on LGD #1 was perfect. I stitched a 1/4" seam then turned the hem on the stitching and folded once more. It was perfectly even. Such a simple technique to give such a great finish.

Monday, August 17, 2009


This quilt has taken me forever to finish. It was really, really challenging. It's entirely made of diamonds, which are really challenging to cut and piece. The directions are confusing and the piecing is done by offsetting the pieces so when you sew them, they are aligned. There was much seam ripping done during the piecing of this quilt. I love the fabrics and I love the finished quilt.



Friday, August 14, 2009

The Quintessential Summer Dinner

What could say summer better then bbq chicken, sweet corn, cole slaw and nectarine blueberry grunt? Or slump, or cobbler?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Chocolate Tasting Notes

I loved most of the chocolates I bought from Christopher Elbow. I gave the turtles as a gift, and heard they were outstanding. Here are the ones in my box of 21. (I had a few duplicates. The pic is from the website.)

  1. Fleur de Sel - In a word - awesome. I love salty sweet combos and this was one of my favorites
  2. Banana Foster - the first banana foster chocolate I had was John de Paula's at the Niagara Chocolate Conference in the spring. I liked Elbow's. It had a strong banana flavor. I like JdP's better.
  3. Bourbon Pecan - I bought two of these since they are flavors we both like. This was a miss. There was no real taste or smell of bourbon to these, just the pecan.
  4. Persian - I don't really remember this one, but my notes say "sticky center, must like marzipan (duh)" Which probably means I'd eat it if you gave it to me, but if I was ordering I'd get the fleur de sel.
  5. Strawberry Balsamic Caramel - I just attempted, and failed at, a strawberry balsamic white chocolate ganache, so I was eager to try this one. I really like these flavors in a caramel. The balsamic definitely comes through on the back end. I might try this before attempting the ganache again.
  6. Yuzu - I bought two on Rona's recommendation that yuzu is one of her favorite flavors. I liked it, but have no other yuzu experience to compare it to. Again, I'd eat it if you gave it to me, but if I was ordering I'd get the fleur de sel.
  7. Vanilla caramel - My notes say, "Really good! Favorite" Very vanilla. It's a top runner with, you guessed it, the Fleur de Sel.
  8. Macadamia Praline - I liked the texture and it had good flavor. Not a nut I eat often, but I liked this chocolate.
  9. Cabernet - Pav thought it tasted like grape jelly. I thought it was very wine-y and matched well with the chocolate. It's not something to eat a bunch of, for sure.
  10. Coffee - Just tasted of chocolate to me.
  11. Lavendar - This is NOT a flavor I usually care for, often making me feel like I am eating old lady soap. I figured I'd try it because the odds of it being well done were pretty high. I liked it more than I thought I would. It was strongly lavendar at first, then fading somewhat as the chocolate came up. Not soapy at all. I wouldn't be unhappy to see this one in my box again.
  12. Rosemary - Again, not one I would choose or pair with chocolate, but it worked. I can see why some people would like it. It's not really for me, though. I would be happier to see the Lavendar one.
  13. Spiced Caramel - It was spicy up front with a slight heat developing in the back of the throat. Pretty good.
  14. Raspberry - One of my favorites, this was somewhat unusual to me, although it's probably really not anymore at this level of chocolate, that there was a pate de fruits and a ganache layer, making for a very intense raspberry flavor. This was excellent.
  15. Venezuelan Spice - Described by Pav as "pumpkin-pie-ish" this was definitely fallish in feel to me, too.
  16. Mystery chocolate - not identified on the insert - It was good, rather boozy. Jamaican rum maybe.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Kansas City

I spent the weekend in Kansas City, eating my way across town. I arrived Thursday and had just enough time to freshen up and hop in a cab to meet the eGullet group at Lidia's. We were kind of crammed into the bar area, but were seated soon after I arrived. Our group took up almost the entire back section of the restaurant. It's a beautiful, open space. I especially liked the huge glass light fixtures. (click on pic for a closer look). I had the frico with sausage for a starter, followed by lasagne bolognese and the dessert from the seasonal corn menu - Copa di Mais (from the menu)
"A sundae made with sweet corn ice cream and black cherry ice cream, with double cherry topping, conrmeal crumble and fresh caramel corn." The table, or at least my end of it, shared a couple of bottles of Cantele Salice Salentino. This was a delicious wine that retails for about $10.

After Lidia's, we walked a couple of blocks to Manifesto, a speakeasy-ish cocktail lounge. We had a sampling of drinks to share for the first round, then a second round where we could choose our drink. We simply asked for another round to share. Everything was good, though some I liked less than others. My favorite was the Smoke 'n Choke, which had applewood smoked bourbon and Cynar, an artichoke based liqueur, hence the "choke" in the name. I really liked Manifesto, in some ways more than the Violet Hour. The drinks were of high quality, the bartenders and servers just as enthusiastic, educational, and entertaining as the Violet Hour (although I have never sat at the bar there), but the setting felt more casual, more drop-in-able, less like a destination or occasion place, which is how the Violet Hour feels to me. Neither is better than the other, just different. And since dropping into Wicker Park is a hell of a lot easier than dropping into Kansas City, the Violet Hour has the edge. If they were in the same city, well, that's a choice I'm glad I don't have to make.

Friday, we visited four (4) bbq joints: Arthur Bryant's, LC's, Oklahoma Joes, and a fourth one whose name escapes me. Smokehouse, Woodshack, something like that. I think it was pretty unanimous that LC's was the best. KC is known for it's beef bbq, especially brisket, and especially burnt ends, which are the crispy, slightly to very charred ends of the brisket. Mike said that they are so popular that "fake" burnt ends are common. It all tasted good to me! I do wish LC's had focused a bit more on the cleaning. Bryants, too.

Saturday night, Bluestem hosted us for a special eGullet dinner. This was really the first tasting menu type dinner I have had, and I really enjoyed it. The food was amazing, the wines were delicious. I ate everything, including the bay scallops and the walu fish. Yep. All of it.

Saturday morning, the group went to City Market to shop for the dinner. I went to the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. I only toured the "old" building which has a nice collection of European, American, and Asian art. Later this year they will open a significant permanent collection of Native American art. Only later did I realize I should have started in the other building, which houses the Modern Art collection, which I would have preferred. There is also a large lawn with the shuttlecock sculpture on it, and a nice shady path around the lawn with many other sculptures, including many by Henry Moore.

The rear entrance from the lawn and sculpture garden

The front entrance and the building that houses the Modern collection

One of the 4 shuttlecock sculptures

Close up of another shuttlecock sculpture

After my trip to the museum, I walked back to our hotel through the swanky shopping area. I stopped in two or three shops, mostly to soak in some free air conditioning, and did a little browsing. I didn't buy a single thing Saturday morning except a latte. Even the museum has free admission. I learned I had a ride to the dinner, so I freshened up and headed downstairs to be picked up. We headed over to Christopher Elbow, a chocolatier, and I bought a 21 piece box that we are working our way through after dinner. I'll post tasting notes in another post. This is the kind of stuff I am working towards, though. Everything has been interesting and delicious.

Dinner Saturday is prepared by the group. Our organizers this year found a great space at a food photography studio. My pics of the food didn't come out very well, so I'll redirect you to eGullet, where there are details and photos of all the food we prepared. I do have a good pic of my favorite dish, the pulled pork on cornbread.

I also really loved trying all the cheeses, something I didn't really do last year. I didn't cook anything, so I washed dishes between courses and helped clean up afterward.

More to come. . . can you believe there's more?!?