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Monday, April 14, 2014

Calistoga

Last weekend my husband and I flew to San Francisco to meet our younger daughter and her fiancé for a weekend of wine tasting in Calistoga. We'd never done that before, and we loved it! The scenery was gorgeous, the weather was beautiful, the company was great, and the wine delicious.  This is the path to one of the wineries we visited, though not the first one. Didn't I say it was gorgeous?

Here is our group at the first place, which was the Cosentino winery. We'd just arrived and had our first sip. As a general rule, each couple shared a tasting, so we only had a sip or two each. That kept us from collapsing after just a single visit. ;)



These are some of the huge barrels where the wine rests until it is bottled. We saw more and more of these in different wineries. I don't think there will be a shortage of wine very soon!

This wall of bottles was a focal point of the Charles Krug winery — very impressive!

The Duckhorn winery lined up a row of glasses for our tasting; the others we visited stuck to one glass for the assorted varieties, merely reusing it.

Our daughter's shirt had a cutout in the back that was perfect for holding a wine glass. LOL!

We stayed in a beautiful bed and breakfast, Fanny's in Calistoga. The owner, Deanna, made the most incredible breakfasts!

Deanna also had three adorable dogs, all rescues. This one was the newest addition, coming from a kill shelter, and he was just as affectionate as could be.

The other two looked as though they might be brothers. This one likes to "talk", and he also loved any attention we felt like giving him.

This one was the "top dog" and loves to cuddle. As soon as my husband sat in an easy chair, he hopped aboard.

Don't think, though, that the dogs were pests. We requested that Deanna let them out for us to play with and pet; otherwise, they stay in the private portion of the house.

This last photo is in the living room of Fanny's. It's a beautiful antique Grandmother's Fan. Quilts turn up almost everywhere, don't they?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

French macarons

No — not macaroons, those coconut cookies we all know. These are macarons, a meringue-like cookie made sandwich-style with a yummy filling in between the halves. A friend and I took a class at a local place last night, and I think everyone there had a wonderful time making various kinds of these almond-flavored delights. They're tricky, though.  Here, my little group was beating the hot sugar syrup into the egg whites; a tiny bit of overcooking the syrup, and the batch is ruined!

My group made chocolate-flavored macarons, while the other two groups made the more usual plain ones, simply adding food coloring to go with the filling chosen. The chocolate batter was very stiff before the meringue mixture went in!

Once everything was made into a batter of the right consistency, it was piped onto baking sheets …

… and put into the oven to bake. Anxious eyes watched the baking, waiting for the "legs" to appear on the bottom of each macaron.

When finished, the macarons had to cool before being removed from the baking sheets and sandwiched. Our chocolate macarons had lovely legs, but we didn't pound the cookie sheets enough after piping, so we had some air bubbles. :(

Still, they taste good! This shows a selection of the different ones made by the groups last night. The green ones are filled with chocolate mint, and the pink ones with strawberry. The big pink one with the raspberries has a white chocolate mousse filling. They all looked even better before they were a little mangled on the way home. ;)

The class was really fun, and I hope I'll get to take another sometime soon. :)



Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bloc-Loc Rulers

Rulers — can we quilters ever have enough of them? Naturally, we could all probably get along with a minimal number, but sometimes a ruler or set of rulers comes along that just makes life nicer and easier. The ones I'm talking about today are sort of comparable to Susan Cleveland's Groovin' Piping Trimming Tool, which I love and use frequently. Yes, you can trim piping with a flat ruler, but the groove in Susan's tool just makes it easier, faster, and much more precise.

So that leads me into my topic for today. Last fall I happened upon a booth selling Bloc-Loc rulers, about which I'd only recently heard from a member of my local group. Based upon her glowing review, I bought a small set; they are used for squaring up half-square triangles (HSTs). As it happens, I'm currently making a slew of HSTs for a project this month at that same local group, so I got out one of the rulers.

At the left, you can see (click on each photo for a larger view) a ragged square, ready for trimming. Note the dog ears and not-very-neat edges.

And now note the ruler placement. There is a wide groove on the underside, and this corresponds to the seam allowance, so there's no risk of the ruler tipping or slipping out of alignment. By wiggling the ruler into place so that it "locks" onto the seam, it's ready for me to use my left-handed rotary cutter to trim the first two sides.

Here we go! :) Slice, slice!

The next step is to swivel the entire thing — fabric and ruler together — 90°. Keep the seam allowance inside that same groove and slide the ruler down so that the — in this case — 2" mark is on the outer edges that have already been trimmed. The actual seam line will be exactly in the corner. Now trim those last two sides.

Look how nice the whole finished block looks! As I said above, this can be done (and I've done it for years) with an everyday flat ruler, but this is so much more accurate and so much easier. The rulers are available in a variety of sizes. I have no affiliation with this company, but I am very glad I purchased their product. :)

Back to my cutting!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Fiesta progress

Remember this post? Since then, I made the painful decision to redo that border, so I bought more red  fabric for the narrow strips and more white for the background. This time everything seems to have gone much better, as the fabric didn't bleed as I spritzed out the blue markings. Yay! :)

Once I'd then appliquéd this border onto the center square, the next step was to cut out a lot of colored circles to scatter onto that border. I'm now at the stage of hand appliquéing those circles into place. There are a lot of circles to do!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

New stove

Don't you just love it when you have big plans for a project, and something interferes and ruins it all? About a week ago, I decided to bake some bar cookies for a friend, and all went very well at first. Before taking the pan out of our oven, I did the toothpick test, as suggested in the recipe, and it came out just right. I cooled the pan for a few hours and then began to cut the bars. Oops. They weren't baked all the way through, after all!

Undaunted, I resorted to an old and trusted recipe for lemon bars, but I put a thermometer into the oven on a whim. Oops again. The temperature was registering a lot too low — which explains the previous problem. I adjusted the temperature control, and the lemon bars came out almost perfectly, thank goodness.

We'd been having a few "issues" with the stove, but I hadn't really had a failure up to then. My husband said that we weren't going to fool around with trying to get it fixed, since it was about 15 years old, so a couple of days ago our brand-new stove was installed! :) This is the first time I've had a convection oven (it does conventional baking/roasting, too), so I'm sure there will be a bit of a learning curve, but it all seems very nice so far. The center burner grate can be replaced with a griddle, and that makes my husband happy, since he likes to make breakfast. Oh, and it has a temperature probe for roasting meat, so I'm very pleased about that, too. :)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Yum!

How do you make a choice???
A couple of days ago an old friend came to town to attend a convention. She is the reason I began going to Houston each year for the big quilt show. Sadly, we hadn't seen each other in several years, as she lives in England — it's not all that convenient to get together. ;) At any rate, we spent all day Monday together, and it was lovely! We did some catching up, some shopping, some talking, some eating, some chatting — you get the idea. LOL! The day came to an end all too soon, but it was so nice while it lasted. Oh, and they apparently don't have The Cheesecake Factory in England, so that's where we had lunch. Guess what was for dessert! ;)

Friday, February 28, 2014

Uh-oh ...

I've been working on my appliqué project from the Karen Kay Buckley class I took at the Phoenix AQS show earlier this month. I finished the center block by hand and then began work on the outer border, which has seventeen quarter-inch strips applied to each of the four sides before joining those into a hollow square and adding another strip at each corner.

Once I'd finished the appliqué of these border sections, which I did by machine, I joined the four sections and then realized that I'd better spritz them before pressing these seams and adding those final strips, since I had blue wash-out marker showing in some places. That's when the problem arose.

Despite prewashing that red fabric, it bled all over the white background! Ack! It's difficult to see in this photo, but there's pink in far too many places to be able to cover it all up with the planned appliquéd circles. The borders also look pretty wrinkled, since I'm afraid to press them after the spritzing, thus making that color run really permanent. I'm waiting for my LQS to get a shipment of Synthrapol; then I'll see if the problem can be fixed or whether it's a lost cause.