Guilty Pleasures

Sunday, January 22, 2012 9 Comments »
There are certain "reality" shows I'm addicted to.  Don't get me wrong, I like Downton Abbey, American Masters, and all of those shows that improve my mind.  They allow me to pretend that TV really isn't a vast wasteland, and converse intellectually with my friends.   There is a special appeal, however, to shows like Swamp Loggers and Hillbilly Handfishing. 

I find many of these shows perfect to watch while I sew.  Some shows, however,  make me really uncomfortable, and are such a train wreck that I can't watch them.  Those would be Toddlers and Tiaras, Dance Moms, Bridezilla, and any of the Housewives.  Sorry, but the women on those shows should be put in padded rooms somewhere and made to watch reruns of those shows over and over. 

The shows I really like involve some sort of contest:  Top Chef (and Top Chef Masters), Chopped, HGTV Design Stars, All American Handyman, and Project Runway.  LOVE Project Runway, especially the current spin-off Project Runway All Stars (I want to take Mondo home).   On a lesser tier are the ones that try to determine America's Best anything:  Hairdresser, Dog Groomer, or Accessorizer.  Then there are the ones with happy endings, like House Hunters, Say Yes to the Dress, and Holmes on Holmes.  I like those too.  And the all-time train wreck that I could not stop watching, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.

Come on, fess up.  What are YOUR guilty TV pleasures. 

Snow and Soup

Saturday, January 21, 2012 3 Comments »

We had our first real snow here in the northwestern suburbs of Philadelphia.  It wasn't much of a snow, but it still made all of the snow reflexes kick in:  fill the car's gas tank and park it in the driveway facing out towards the street; get enough food and supplies for an army; bring in firewood to keep it dry; make soup.  And after some shoveling, hubby was sure ready for that soup.

I have a couple of go-to soup recipes that are ideal for days like today.  Both are based recipes that the lovely owners of our quilting retreat bed and breakfast were kind enough to share.  White Oak, the bed and breakfast,  is in Lancaster County, PA, in the heart of Amish country;  these soups are made for guests by the proprietors' Amish neighbor, Annie. 

The soup I made today is Turkey Barley, a rich tomato based soup that uses ground turkey and lots of veggies.  As with any good soup, it's nice the first day, but ever so much better the second.  One of the great things about this soup is that you can have it ready to serve in just over an hour. 

I had a ball of bread dough left in the fridge, along with the caramelized onions I made earlier in the week, so I added some shredded cheese and made a cheese and onion stromboli-like concoction.  It was the perfect to a big bowl of soup on a snowy night. 

I never make just a single batch of soup; today I quadrupled the recipe. I'll take a big container to daughter Kate and her family tomorrow, pack some up in lunch-sized containers to take to work, make another container for hubby to eat for dinner through the week, and freeze the rest. I do the same thing when I make chili or pasta sauce. To me, having those containers of in the freezer is like having money in the bank.

Here is the recipe for Pat's version of White Oak Turkey Barley Soup. 

Getting My Chop On Without the Tears

Monday, January 16, 2012 4 Comments »
My quilting friends have me pegged as a gadget lady.  Guilty as charged!  Anything to make a process easier or faster, has my name written all over it.  This gadgeticy extends to the kitchen s well.

DD Kate had these on her Christmas list.  Both of us adore onions.  Along with garlic, they are one of our major food groups.  Unfortunately, we also suffer from an extreme sensitivity to onion fumes. making it difficult to cut onions, in even the smallest amount, without having to keep wet rags at hand to wipe and sooth our eyes after every slice. 

I found the goggles on Amazon at a great price (free shipping with Amazon Prime, heh heh), and ordered 3 pair -- one for Kate, one for my sister Sue, and one por moi.  Seriously folks, these have changed my life.  I made caramelized onions yesterday, cutting up roughly 8 lbs of onions, and shed nary a tear.  Sis used them yesterday as well, even sending me a phone picture of her looking really really silly wearing them, but attesting to their life altering qualities. 

If you get a pair, you can look silly too, and then make this recipe for caramelized onions.  I LOVE caramelized onions.  So good on top of any meat, on burgers or on pizza (my fave)!  This recipe would well for cooking the onions to make a dynomite onion soup, too. 

Slow Cooker Caremelized Onions

  • Lots and lots of onions.  I use Texas Sweet or Vidalia, but yellow would work just fine.
  • 1 stick of butter (1/4 lb), cut into 8 pieces
Put on your goggles!  Slice your onions whichever way you like & dump them in the slow cooker.  You can fill it to the top, and pack it tight -- the onions will cook down to less than a third of the original volume.  Scatter the butter pieces on the top.  Cook on low for about 16 hours.  I have a cooker that can be set for 8 or 10 hours on low, so I started it in the early afternoon on 8 hours, then reset it before I went to bed.

How easy is that?   We are having pizza tonight, so I'll just make one little pie for me with a schmear of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), a load of the caramelized onions, some mozzarella & parmesan cheese, and a sprinkling of italian spices.  And that little pie will be mine, all mine. 

Posse Presents (and some Kaffe)

Friday, January 13, 2012 3 Comments »
I saw some pictures of very small pin cushions on Etsy, and decided they would make good gifts for my quilting friends, those wonderful ladies that form our local Quilting Posse.

Many of those friends meet once a month for an evening of hand stitching. These little pin cushions are designed to be worn like a brooch, and to provide a place for a needle and a few pins; they are about 2.25" - 2.5" across, with those buttons less than the size of a dime.  Each one has a pinback sewn on the bottom. 

If one is afraid of unwittingly stabbing "the girls" with that needle and/or pins, the pinback can be removed so that the pin cushion sits flat, just looking cute as the dickens.   Yep, I kept one for myself too. 

I am making progress on the Kaffe wedding quilt.  Here are 16 of the 32 square-in-a-square 9 patches that form the center of the quilt. 

They will be sashed with a solid yellowish lime green and random colored cornerstones.  I'll probably finish the rest the blocks this weekend, along with the sashing, then move on to the courthouse steps border.  What a joy to work with all of these lush, saturated colors!   It will be a wild quilt when it is done, and very much out of my usual comfort zone.  Hopefully my SIL's cousin and his bride will like it. 

Impediments to sewing

Monday, January 09, 2012 2 Comments »
Have you seen my foot pedal?

I know it was under my machine just a minute ago.

It's a Mystery

Sunday, January 08, 2012 7 Comments »
A few months ago, I got a subscription offer from McCall's Quilting.  If I renewed my subscription, I could gift another to a friend for free.  I thought of my buddy Marsha, sent off the subscription, and then forgot about it.  When the first magazine arrived, Marsha promtly noticed that it contained the first part of a 3-part mystery quilt -- "new & easy", it said, and "only 4 fabrics".  Little did I know that doing a mystery quilt was on Marsha's bucket list of quilting things to do.  Would I do it with her?  Please?

The quilters addiction enablement alarm bell went off in my head;  too many project coming up, not sure about the commitment. yada yada yada.  But this was Marsha asking.  I love Marsha, and I am weak.  So very weak. 

I also happen to enjoy doing mystery quilts.  Although they are not everyone's cup of tea, an occasional mystery is a challenge for me -- an entertaining break, and a chance to do something out of my comfort zone, and now a chance to share the experience with a friend. 

The folks at McCalls set everything up quite nicely, especially for a beginner.  The hardest part of doing a mystery is choosing the fabrics.  How the heck to you pick fabrics when you have no idea where they will be going?  This mystery uses only 4 fabrics and there are very clear directions about what values to pick: 

  • Fabric A is a multi-color fabric that will be the focus fabric;
  • Fabric B is a non-directional tone-on-tone, and is the opposite value of Fabric C (for instance, if you choose light for B, the C will be dark, and vice-versa);
  • Fabric C is a non-directional small-to-medium scale print that is the opposite value of B;
  • Fabric D is another fabric that plays well with the others, it can be light or dark, directional or not.  
Not only did they give these clues for choosing fabrics, they provided 4 sets of exacmples that their editors had chosen -- this extra step, which I have not seen in other mysteries, made choosing the fabrics ever so much easier.  

Here are the fabrics I chose,  and my start on the first part of the mystery.  I need to do 40 of those hour glass blocks, and 20 of the other block.  They are 6" unfinished, and will finish at 5.5". 

I think Marsha has hers done already, but I'm not racing -- I'm just enjoying the ride!

By the way, don't let any of my granddaughters see this post.  I have a feeling the finished quilt is destined for one of them.