Friday, August 31, 2012

Blueberry Goodies

We still have fresh blueberries available at a local farm and it seems a waste not to take advantage of them while they are fresh and in season so I did a little blueberry baking recently. This is the Classic Blueberry Crumb Cake from Martha Stewart. I've been making this one for years and still love it - particularly a little warm from the oven with a dollop of French Vanilla ice cream, but it's great plain with a cup of tea or coffee too.

If you make it just be certain to adjust the pan size to 9" x 13" - it is a huge recipe and if you use the   9" x 9" as suggested in the recipe you will have a cake that is either raw in the middle or poured out over the sides into your oven, or both. At first I thought it was just me but if you read the comments that accompany the recipe you'll see a common refrain. Not sure why they haven't updated it online. I also make the crumble first and put it in the fridge while I mix the cake so that it's ready to go when the batter is poured into the pan.

And then yesterday I had the two lovely young gals that come to the Christmas Cookie Bakeoff every year, Meghan and Emily, in for lunch so I decided that we deserved a treat and made Raspberry Sour Cream Tart. It's a recipe that I got from Martin, via Jane, and I think it might have come from the Bon Appetit magazine originally. It is dead easy and SOOO good.

The job of placing the berries went to the girls (gotta keep them in practice for the bakeoff!) so they thought it would be fun to get creative and mix a blueberries in with the raspberries. They toyed with several design options, including a smiley face, but ended up staying with classic concentric rings. Meghan applied the finishing touches before we put it back into the fridge to set.

Raspberry Sour Cream Tart
1 1/4 c graham cracker crumbs
1/4 c brown sugar, packed
1/4 c unsalted butter, melted
Mix together and press firmly into the bottom and sides of a 9" tart pan with a removable bottom (I used a springform pan). Bake until firm to the touch, approximately 8 minutes. Cool.

Filling & Topping:
6 oz (170 g) cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 c sugar
1/2 c sour cream
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 pint raspberries
1/4 c seedless raspberry jam
Beat cream cheese & sugar in a medium bowl til smooth. Beat in sour cream, lemon juice & vanilla. Spread over cooled crust. Chill until firm, at least 4 hours. Arrange berries over filling. Whisk jam in a small bowl to loose consistency (I put it in the microwave for 15 - 20 seconds as well). Drizzle over berries. Serve immediately or chill up to 3 hours.

I say again - delish!...M

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A New Little Nest

Believe it or not, Between The Lines is finished so baby will have a new blankie delivered this weekend to nestle in to.

After hesitating a fair bit before sitting down to quilt it things actually went very smoothly. I had a little bit of juggling to do because one of the outside corners shifted a bit when it was sewn, and since I was aligning my quilting with the strips with the seams going across the quilt it needed some attention. But I managed to keep things straight and then followed the seams for the vertical strips as well and am well pleased with how it turned out.

I adore bias gingham bindings so I used an orange that I had that tied in nicely with both the front and the back.

And I used the hair clips again when attaching the binding. I am lovin' those things! I cannot believe how much faster and easier they are than pins - much less blood-letting too!

I also tried these new little oval finger thimble adhesives called Thimble-It on my middle finger. I've never caught on to using a thimble, which is a shame because my mother-in-law left me a beautiful silver one, but my finger was getting pretty raw from a lot of recent hand sewing so I gave them a shot.

You can get 64 for $6 and it looks like they might be re-usable. I have to say I was amazed at how much faster things go (and how much less painful it is) when you aren't trying to pull the end of the needle out of your calloused finger. I'll definitely be using these from here on in. Maybe I'll work my way up to a real thimble one of these days.

Yesterday was a beautiful summer day so I took my hand sewing outside to finish it off. I couldn't help but notice that the tin for my clips is from lozenges named Tangerine Sours and thought how appropriate it was given the colours in the quilt.

And so it's done, without ever being added to the TO DO list. Here's the front...

...and the back - I used a cozy turquoise flannelette with lots of bright, happy flowers to keep a little mind occupied.

A lovely little nest for a sweet little girl to curl up into.....M

Monday, August 27, 2012

Holly Bazaar Test Drive

Journal cover
This is what I was in the middle of when I decided to make my latest baby quilt. Every year as we approach September I start thinking about what I can make for the Holly Bazaar at our church which lands around the first week of November. I'm always finishing things for it at the last minute regardless of how early I start, but I do like to feel that I have some measure of control by starting things a few months out.

Anyway, quite a while back I saw this tutorial that Wanda had posted for making quilted journal covers so I went out and bought a few little notebooks and waited for the inspiration to hit. She uses a lot of large Kaffe prints and batiks and I wanted to try it with the leftover batiks from my Neighbour's Fence quilts. So, as I was busy cutting blocks for my Flying Geese I decided to switch over and try making one of these (does it sound like I have a hard time focusing?).

I have to say that I am quite pleased with my first effort. It did include using a fusible batting, which I wasn't too keen on as I don't have much luck with them, but I did okay. Sometimes Wanda machine quilts them and sometimes she doesn't but I like the look of the quilted ones and I was still a little paranoid about the batting moving around so I quilted mine too. I started quilting in the seams but prefer the look of the thread cutting through the fabric and the randomness of the stitching rows. I had picked up a really lovely varegated green/blue/beige thread when I thought I might actually machine quilt Neighbour's Fence myself (not!) so I used that and it was perfect.

This is the full cover, front and back.

The books are spiral bound and about 6" x 8"; I'm going to check the dollar store for a less expensive one - I think these were about $8 each. Regardless, they feel really nice in your hand. I mentioned that I was making these to the gals that organize the bazaar and they suggested making a few that would fit a bible, so I think I'll try a few of those as well, maybe in more traditional prints. Oh, the options!...M.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Coming Up For Air

I've spent much of the last day and a half down in the sewing room working on a new project and it's time for a break. Yesterday I decided to make a baby quilt for one of my brother-in-law's new step grandchild, and, since there is a very good chance that we will be seeing them next weekend it had to be something that I could whip up in fairly short order. Between The Lines fit the bill.

Remember Grandma Mary's Five Patch from last fall? Well, I went back to that pile and cut 2.5" strips from many of the same fabrics, plus a few new ones - brights and florals and graphic prints that would suit a little girl - lots of yellow, pink, turquoise, green and a little blue.

You just sew the strips together, trim 2 strips of equal width from the length of the quilt, insert a double row of staggered short strips vertically and then re-attach the original strips. Easy peasy. The part that seemed to take the longest was ironing the seams; this is a project that would go very quickly with one person sewing and a second pressing the seams.

My fabrics turned out to be a variety of widths but I just started sewing and decided to do all of the trimming when everything was together, but another time I would trim them all to a similar length first. I had to undo one of the seams and shift it a little to get the most out of the fabric, which slowed things down a bit. Then, at the end I undid one of the vertical seams to cut out a bit more of from the centre panel so that the entire top would fit the width of my backing - might have been a good idea to work to that measure in the first place! More ripping and wasted time, but it's all togther now and very cute.

I've got everything layered and ready to pin and then I'll machine quilt it, but I need a break from it first. If I get this one finished by next weekend it will be one for the record books - it was such a last minute decision to make it that it won't even have had a chance to get onto my TO DO list!...M

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Linda's Show & Tell

Of course my visit to Linda last week wouldn't have been complete without being able to peek into a few bags & boxes to see what else she's been working on besides Aowyn's quilt, and what an adventure that was!

A few years ago she took a fibre arts course at Haliburton School of The Arts and made this beautiful cushion top. It's layered pieces of fabric and fibres stabilized with Solvy, secured with tulle and then overstitched with the sewing machine.

It was spectacular and inspired her to create this small wallhanging...

...some of the embellishments were sewn overtop of the tulle for additional texture and interest.

And then a gorgeous scarf for herself.

The edges are established with the blue fabric but then the centre is more open and filled with various mulit-coloured fibres and yarns - you could spend a lot of time just looking at all of the different elements. It is really beautiful and the perfect colours for her.

She's also knitting a gorgeous felted bag for her daughter Sheri. This is the pattern...

and this is her bag so far. Instead of the leather handles she is knitting a long strap for over the shoulder. It is a good-sized bag, about 18" wide and is SO thick and durable after the felting and nice and soft at the same time. Lucky Sheri!

And of course now that she has all that time on her hands from finishing up Aowyn's quilts she's got another one waiting in the wings and ready to go. It's from Donna Lynn Thomas' book Scrappy Duos...

...and this is the pattern. Pretty, isn't it? Talk about an inspirational visit!...M

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Very Special Gift

A week ago I spent the afternoon stitching with my friend Linda M. I had taken my Spot blocks with me and she was busy working to deadline - her granddaughter Aowyn is celebrating her birthday this week and she had some quilting to do to finish up a gift that she was making.

It's a darling creation of flowers and bugs inspired by Aowyn's love of both with patterns pulled from two differnent books. One had lots of flower designs; it's from Kim Shaefer's Flower Festival book...

... and the second had lots of great bugs. Love the bumblebees...

So she selected the blocks that suited best and came up with this lovely design. She had to adapt the patterns a bit because they were designed for machine appliqué and she did her appliqué by hand.

I don't know if you noticed or not but Aowyn is feaured front and centre in the quilt.

And here is the birthday girl herself showing off the fruits of her labour. Linda had given her sunflower seeds in the spring to plant and they are coming along gangbusters. Linda's pretty sure that her choice of flowers and bugs are a good match for Aowyn's taste, and I couldn't agree more....M

Friday, August 17, 2012

See Spot Grow

I've been able to add a few rows to Spot and so it continues to grow and grow. I'm tempted to make it larger than a baby quilt but we'll see how the gingham holds out. If I stayed with a baby quilt I'd have it finished sooner but I do think it would be nice large. Maybe I'd make it large in a larger block. Decision, decisions.

There was also a little time cutting and sitting at my machine the other day and I got all 42 of the border blocks for Spring Garden put together and pressed. They are sweet. I had run out of the white that I had used and the white that I had on hand was not a match so I found a white-on-white print and used it. There will be a transition between the current edge and the border that I'm adding so this just makes it a subtle change.

And yesterday I needed to make some cookies for an evening meeting so I pulled out a favourite recipe - Sigrid's Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies. They whip up really quickly and are pretty addictive so I made two batches so that the Official Cookie Tester would have a supply on hand too.

Here's the recipe:
Mix in large bowl: 1 c pumpkin, 1 c sugar, 1/2 c oil, 1 egg

Add: 2 c flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp soda mixed with 1 tsp milk

Stir in: 1 c chocolate chips, 1/2 c nuts

Drop by teaspoons onto a lightly greased cookie sheet/parchment. Bake @ 350F for 12 - 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Makes 36 cookies.

Note: If you are making a large batch, make two batches instead of doubling the recipe - you'll get nicer cookies. Once the soda/milk is added to the batter it reacts quite quickly so it's a good idea to get your cookies onto the pan and into the oven in short order.

Did I mention that they are delicious warm out of the oven with a cold glass of milk?

Now back to Spot blocks....M

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Flight of the Bumblebee

I think that's probably the best description for my stitching efforts at the cottage (this is the last entry about the August long weekend - I promise!). There were so many beautiful creations happening around me that my head was on a swivel and I had a hard time getting down to business on my own hand work. At one point we counted the makings of 8 different quilts on the kitchen table.

But I did get some work done. I finished off two more candied hexagons, bringing my total to 74.

And, I inadvertently forgot the makings of one more block when I was packing up so Jane kindly finished it up for me, taking the grand total to 75. Thanks so much, Jane. And Anne brought me a pile of blocks that she has been working on for my Postage Stamp. At this rate I think I'll just farm out my projects and see how much I get done :).

I also found the perfect spot to work on Spot. Who doesn't love hand stitching in a hammock?! I could have stayed there all week.

Spot is coming along nicely. The blocks are 4.5" finished so this panel is now about 21" x 27" and I have 8 more blocks ready to add on. The more it grows, the more I like it....M

Monday, August 13, 2012

Fruit Salad, Anyone?

One thing we do very well when we are at the cottage is eat. I think I have savoured some of my best meals lakeside, including my wonderful 50th birthday dinner a few years ago. Is it the result of culling what everyone brings with them that turns into such wonderful menus? I think so. And this time was no exception. Betty made fabulous chicken on the BBQ in her cast iron fry pan - perfect seasonings and a white wine reduction. Yum.

I made Summer Fruit Crostata from a recipe by my patron saint, Ina Garten (aka The Barefoot Contessa). I LUV this dessert and make it several times once peaches and plums come into season. Not only is it great for dessert it is wonderful for breakfast with plain yogourt.

Unlike most of the recipes that I like this one doesn't have that much sugar so the fruit really shines through. And the rustic, free form crust makes it easy to whip.

But I digress. I'm really supposed to be sharing quilt tales with you, aren't I? In keeping with the fruit theme it seems the perfect time to share Betty's amazing Fruit Salad quilt that she started working on last fall.

The inspiration came from Kaffe Fassett's pattern in Quilts en Provence. Anne gave me this book last fall and I have to say that with the exception of Fruit Salad (which is on my TO DO list) and maybe two or three other patterns, I wasn't that impressed with it. I have several of his books but this one just seemed like it was a rush job to meet a printing commitment.

Anyway, the pattern is based on equilateral triangles but Betty has elongated hers and gone with a deep, rich blue/organic palette that is just amazing. It is a feast for the eyes. Her triangles are about 3" at the base and about 5" long.

The individual strips are gorgeous enough in and of themselves but when they were all laid out together it was a true feast for the eyes.

Now she is going to add golds & browns to the ends of the rows to create a bit of a border and then we'll see where it goes from there.

I left the cottage on Sunday but rumour has it that Jane was so inspired that she started cutting fabrics for the same quilt in a very similar palette. Great minds think alike. At the speed she moves she's probably got it half finished by now!...M