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Friday, December 31, 2010

Leftovers and choices

I didn't cook Christmas dinner at home, as we had our family dinner at our daughter's house. So "leftovers" here are baked goods. I tried a new-to-me Martha Stewart recipe this year, along with a few of our usual favorites, and it was a hit wherever I took it. There's *one* piece left, which I plan to make sure is gone today. ;) This is the last remaining piece of the chocolate coconut cheesecake squares. Yum!

Now for the choices. I've had to give up on my original plan for quilting that Storm at Sea miniature, as I just couldn't make the intersections work out right. Fine. I'll probably use my original idea in the borders instead. Next question: what color thread should I use? Going through what I already had on hand, I thought a cone of turquoise/purple Rainbows polyester might be pretty good, but then I also liked a lighter lavender I have. Decisions, decisions! I'm leaning toward the turquoise/purple, but I'm still thinking ....

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Back to quilting!

Today I added borders to my miniature Storm at Sea. I chose purple for the inner border to give good contrast and teal for the outer border to tie into some of the other colors in the top. Now it measures about 21" x 24". The next step, of course, will be to sandwich and quilt it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My new design wall!

My sewing/computer room is a smallish bedroom, so by the time I have my computer desk, my sewing table, a rocking chair for handwork, and a few little extras, there's very little space left over. I posted a few photos in an early blog post.

One of the problems I ran into was that there was literally no space for a design wall. My solution was to put Command hooks over the closet doors and hang a piece of flannel from them. It worked, but it was awkward and inconvenient. If I needed to get into the closet, where I keep my quilting supplies and stash, I had to either roll up the flannel and clip it out of the way, taking the chance of disturbing whatever was on the flannel at the time, or I had to duck under the flannel and hope not to disturb anything. There had to be a better way!

Then I saw a fancy-dancy roll-up design wall advertised in a magazine. It's gorgeous -- there's no doubt about it -- but it cost way
more than I wanted to spend. However, it gave me an idea. I found a vinyl roll-up shade at Penney's (on sale!) and convinced a friend to help me spray glue flannel to one side of it. So far, so good. Then the roll-up shade stood in a corner for several weeks until my husband had a little time and no particular project in mind. I think I'm going to love having this! When I roll it up, the vinyl backing will prevent the things on the front from shifting, and I'll be able to get into my closet with no trouble at all! :) In this photo, I only have the shade rolled partially down; it will go all the way to the floor.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

To one and all ...

Merry Christmas!! Wishing everyone a joyous holiday season and a very Happy New Year. :)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Taking a break

I'm not completely ready for Christmas, but today I took a bit of a break from that hustle and bustle to work on the miniature I now have in progress. While I was in Houston in November, I bought a kit -- something I never do -- for a Storm at Sea. Why did I buy it, when I could have made a paper-pieced one quite easily? Because the kit's pieces were all laser cut and very accurate; I wanted to give using them a try. Here's what the cover of the kit looked like:

Notice that the label very clearly states that the batiks used in the kit might not be the same as those in the photo, and that was the case.

The kit came from John Flynn, and the pieces went together so easily!

Over the course of the past couple of weeks, I've made all of the blocks (100, though one is an "extra" and won't be in the quilt) and joined them into rows. Now I have six of the eleven rows joined together, and I'm liking the results, though I wouldn't have chosen exactly these colors.

Soon I'll need to start thinking of what to use for borders and how to do the quilting, but I doubt that I'll get much more quilting time for the next week. ;)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Getting ready

It's hard to believe that Christmas will be here in just over a week! :O I think I have the gift shopping finished, but I still need to wrap those gifts, and I will be baking some last-minute things to take to our daughter's home for Christmas dessert. Then there are the inevitable errands that suddenly need to be run, as well as the visiting -- it all adds to the excitement, the joy and the stress of the season. ;) Of course, I'm also trying to do a bit of piecing in spare moments just as a means of relaxation.

This is part of our tree with some of the ornaments we've collected over the years. The fabric candles are some I made a long time ago -- probably at least 25-30 years ago -- and if you make the photo larger (click on it), you may be able to see Disney characters, a dove from the top of our wedding cake, a cocker spaniel, and many more in all sorts of "themes". Some, like most of what you see here, are cute, others are religious, and some are just pretty.

I'd like to wish you and yours a very happy holiday season, no matter which holiday you happen to celebrate.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Holiday traditions

Our family has its share of holiday traditions, as I'm sure most do. Since we celebrate Christmas, ours naturally revolve around that holiday. I used to be a French teacher and liked to share some of the French customs with my students. At one point, I collected several little santons, which represent various people, all arriving with gifts to celebrate the birth of Jesus. They are traditionally dressed in the garb of eighteenth-century France, except for the figures representing the people we Americans usually see in our own nativity scenes.

In France, many families set up entire villages, complete with houses and scenery, but my small home doesn't have room for all of that. As a result, my santons are merely grouped on any flat surface large enough to hold the entire collection.

 Here is the "traditional" grouping: stable, ox, donkey, baby, Joseph, Mary, wise men and a shepherd.

On the left, you see the Simpleton, who hasn't brought a gift but throws up his arms in awe. All of the other figures bring gifts for the baby. Do you see the drummer boy with his drum? the baker with a sack of flour? the woman with a basket of eggs?

Here you see more people with their gifts or preparing their gifts: fishermen, woodcutter, basket weaver, etc.

Aren't they interesting? I love them!


Yesterday was such fun! A friend of mine from our local quilt group invited me to her lovely home to learn to make baklavá. My friend is originally Greek, so you know her baklavá is authentic. What's more is that it's not as sweet as other baklavá I've had, and so I prefer it by far. I'm not sharing this recipe, since it's not mine to share, but suffice it to say that making it wasn't nearly as complicated as I'd assumed it would be. I can see having some in the freezer on a frequent basis. :)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Not the way we planned it ...

Last Sunday our younger daughter invited my husband and the rest of our family over for dinner. Great! Dinner was delicious, right up through dessert. But dessert also brought a new challenge that I thought I'd tell you about.

We love crème brûlée, and that's what she had prepared for us to finish the meal. Great! :) She also asked me to bring along my little kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar. Prior to this, I'd always used a salamander to do this; they do a great job, but they're a mess to clean up afterwards. A salamander, as you might guess from the photo, is rather like a flat, circular branding iron. A torch sounded so much easier!

Okay, time for dessert. I'd read the instructions on how to use the torch -- several times, in fact. My torch looked pretty much like this one. I very carefully started to fill the torch with butane, and that's when things went very wrong. The butane caught fire! Naturally, since I was holding it, my arms were the next to flame up (thank goodness I was wearing short sleeves). In trying to drop my arms away from the flames -- a reflex action -- I then set fire to my three-year-old granddaughter's hair. OMG! I hadn't seen her come over to watch what I was doing. Very fortunately, my elder daughter got the little flames in her daughter's hair extinguished before more than a few hairs were in danger, and there were no burns at all there.

My younger daughter, meanwhile, grabbed my arms and stuck them under the cold water tap, right next to where we were standing. She added ice and burn salve, keeping me from serious burns, bless her.

Eventually, a braver member of the gathering actually tried out the torch, and it's actually no good at what we needed; it doesn't get hot enough to caramelize sugar.

We used the salamander, after all, and the crème brûlée was scrumptious, but do I need to tell you that the torch will never see the light of day again? ;)