Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing all who are celebrating a very Happy Thanksgiving, 
and a very Happy Thursday to those that aren't!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Quilt Squares II

Today is finally the day for the second installment of Quilt Squares for Christmas! I've been waiting several days for enough light to take photos as I want to show these beautiful squares at their best.

These were all made by John's oldest sister, sil1. She is probably the most creative person I know, and expresses this in sewing (drapes and slipcovers!), embroidery, knitting, gardening, making elderberry cordial, cataloging and growing heirloom apples from seed, in her career as a family practice physician, and the way she lives her life. Not only is she incredibly creative, she also has the patience, persistence, and craftsmanship to carry out her ideas. She is the person I look to when I start whining about not having enough time for everything. She knows the value of time, rarely wastes any on pursuits that aren't fulfilling, is a person that makes reasoned and thoughtful choices, and isn't afraid to express her opinion. I first met her when we sat next to each other in our Great Books class in high school, and was a little bit in awe even then!

In 1993, we decided that we would also make quilt squares for birthdays in addition to Christmas. These are birthday gifts to me in 1994 and 1995. I had never heard the poem "Interior" by Sir John Squires, but if the shoe fits ... and it does.

I and myself swore enmity. Alack,
Myself has tied my hands behind my back.
Yielding, I know there is no excuse in them --
I was accomplice to the stratagem.

The one on the right is a beautiful crazy quilt square. We went to a quilt show about a month before my birthday where I admired the embroidery and textures of the crazy quilts, so I was lucky to be gifted with one of my own.

The ocean and starfish square on the left was inspired when our families spent a week at the shore together in 1993. I love the shaded ocean strips, applique, and embroidery.

On the right is a gorgeous cathedral window square. I've never made one myself, but it looks technically difficult and fiddly, and I admire all the perfectly matched points. I really love this one.

This is an imaginative square from Christmas 1995. You probably can't tell, but Merry Christmas and the stars are embroidered in gold, and the planets are well-represented in their fabric versions. I think Jupiter might be from the fabric sil1 used to make a shirt for her husband and matching dress for herself when they got married, and I think I recognize Mars as a leftover from the cushion covers she made for their living room.

If I had to pick a favorite square, it would most likely be this amazing knitting basket from my birthday in 1993. I don't know what the technique is called but it's three different layers, cut and embroidered to show different parts of each layer. It's kind of like trapunto, but isn't padded with batting. The addition of some real knitting on the needles makes it even more special.

See why I'm in awe?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Ten on Tuesday - Let Us Be Thankful

I'm so sure that today's Ten on Tuesday topic is going to be 10 Things I'm Thankful For that I'm going to take a chance and write it ahead of time on Saturday. *

* To avoid repetition, Carole has tweaked the topic just a bit to 10 Things I'm Thankful For Right Now. I'm so grateful for some of the big things that they have to remain on the list year after year. I'm also thankful that what I wrote on Saturday still works (with only a few minor revisions) on Tuesday!  

I'm thankful for games like Scrabble, Mahjong, and St. Petersburg that I can play online because my husband won't play games due to some childhood trauma involving tears and being hit on the head with a Monopoly board.

1.   My Family - A wonderful husband, two terrific sons, a loving and accepting extended family - I couldn't ask for a more wonderful bunch of people.

2.   A roof over my head and a comfortable home - I am so grateful that we have been able to afford a house, as it's something not to be taken for granted. It takes a lot of maintenance and I've been known to complain about the increasing property taxes, but I'm also glad we have the ability to pay those.

3.   Enough money for a comfortable life - This one is huge and I'm thankful every day.

4.   The ability to read - I'm thankful that Mrs. Neusch taught me to read in first grade, that my mother always supported my reading habit by not telling me to go outside and play too often when I was immersed in a book, that I have access to some great libraries, and that I can find out almost anything I'm curious about by reading.

5.   The ability to knit - I'm thankful that my grandmother taught me how to knit, my mother reinforced it and helped me when I got stuck, that I can buy yarn even when I don't need it, and I can show people how much I care by knitting for them.

6.   Health - Overall I'm in good health, and so is much of my family. We've had some years where this hasn't been the case, so we try to take care of ourselves and I don't take good health for granted.

7.   Access to health care - We have health insurance, and while it has a very high deductible, we can afford it and it is insurance. I hope we never meet the deductible because that would mean someone is quite ill, but it is comforting knowing that insurance and access to health care is there if we need it.

8.   Ironing - This one comes with a caveat. I'm not especially thankful for ironing, but I am thankful that I finally quit procrastinating and spent all of Sunday afternoon working on a mountain of ironing. What I'm really thankful for is that it's all done!

9.  Tea - It's a small thing compared to my family and a comfortable home, but I really am gratified that somebody thousands of years ago thought to put some tea leaves in hot water. It wakes me up in the morning, warms me when I'm chilly, and calms me when I'm feeling stressed.

10.  I am thankful that my list this year is remarkably similar to last year's; I am so incredibly lucky to have this much good fortune on an ongoing basis.

I'm also thankful for everyone that takes the time to read my ramblings. Thank you!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Hmm ... That's Interesting.

I've seen some interesting things over the past several weeks ...

Proper use of semicolons is a good thing;
omitting periods is not.

This sign makes me cringe every time I walk past it.

 Some things should not be pumpkin flavored.

 Some things should not be emblazoned with odd renditions of Chewbacca.
(I was so amused/apalled at how bad Chewbacca looked that I didn't even notice
 the ugly Darth Vader until I uploaded the photo.)

My humble opinion is that poinsettias should be left alone to show their
 natural beauty and not be "Color Splashed".
(At least they aren't also sprinkled with glitter.)

I wonder if Kohl's sells many of these fluorescent green men's dress socks?
 (Not to my husband!)

There are lots of interesting things in the world, especially if you are
 looking everywhere and taking pictures of everything like crazy,
desperately hoping to come up with a NaBloPoMo post!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday Supper

Today was the day to make cranberry orange relish for Thanksgiving. I'm really the only one that likes it, but since I'm the cook, it's on the menu. I like it tart and more orangey, so I use less sugar and more oranges. Sometimes I add a little orange oil, but that's another benefit of being the cook; you get to make things just the way you like them.

While I was chopping cranberries in the food processor, it dawned on me that this would also be the perfect time to make one of my favorite recipes, Nantucket Cranberry Pie. Laurie Colwin wrote two absolutely excellent cookbooks, Home Cooking and More Home Cooking. I hesitate to call them cookbooks because they are really collections of wonderful essays about food along with some chatty recipes. She wrote articles for Gourmet in addition to some good fiction before her untimely death when she was just 48.

"People who feel they must make a real dessert are often looking for something simple and wonderful, two words often felt to be mutually exclusive. I like a cake that takes about four seconds to put together and gives an ambrosial result. Fortunately there are such cakes, and you usually get them at the homes of others. You then purloin the recipe (since you have taken care to acquire generous friends) and serve it to other friends, who then serve it to others. This is the way in which nations are unified and relationships made solid.

My candidate for an easy spectacular dessert is something called Nantucket Cranberry Pie, which is not a pie, but a cake, and was served to me in the country by my friend Ann Gold, who lives on a dairy farm and got this recipe from her mother, who can no longer remember where it came from. It is a Gold family staple, and the buck stops there.

In an effort to find the true roots of this cake I looked into Yankee Cooking by Imogen Walcott, a classic tome that contains everything anyone needs to know about New England cooking. There in the index was Cape Cod Cranberry Pie, but this turned out to be a real live pie, whereas Nantucket Cranberry Pie is a cake. Furthermore, it is a snap, and, last but not least, it is truly good.

Nantucket Cranberry Pie

1. Chop enough cranberries to make 2 cups and enough walnuts to make 1/2 cup.

2. In the bottom of a 10-inch pie plate or springform pan, place chopped cranberries, chopped walnuts, and 1/2 cup sugar.

3. Mix 2 eggs, 3/4 cup melted butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, and 1 teaspoon almond extract. Stir till smooth.

4. Pour over cranberry-walnut mixture and bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees.

There is something about the tartness of the cranberries and the smooth, sweet, buttery taste of the cake that is irresistible. This cake is so easy a child could do it, and if you happen to have a child or two lying around, I suggest you set them to work for your next dinner party."

I usually rough chop the cranberries with a knife when I make this, but this time I used the food processor so they are chopped pretty finely. I also folded the cranberries into the batter just because I felt like it (cook's prerogative again!) and left out the walnuts because I didn't have any. It's always delicious, no matter how I've made it. I'm not exactly sure what we're having for Sunday supper, but there will be cake Nantucket Cranberry Pie!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Friday, November 20, 2015

Amaryllis Cam(aryllis) - Week Two

My amaryllis have been clamoring for a group photo shoot, so here they are in week two.

Scarlet, Minerva, and Sakura - Week Two

You might notice an addition to the bunch. I was shopping at my least favorite big box store when I spied a display of hundreds of packaged amaryllis. The bulbs had red tissue paper crammed down on top of them with the whole package then tightly wrapped in clear plastic. When I examined them more closely I could see that at least half of the bulbs had started growing and were struggling to escape their tissue paper and plastic prisons. I could only bring one rescue amaryllis home, so Minerva (that was really the name on her tag!) now lives here.

The original two seemed a little put out that they didn't yet have names, so I'm pleased to introduce Scarlet and Sakura (the Japanese pink flowering cherry and also an anime character with pink hair). I know one is red and the other pink, but I wasn't paying attention when I planted them so they may be misnamed. They haven't yet objected.

Scarlet and Sakura - Week One

My husband has questioned whether we have room to adopt any more amaryllis from the orphanage soulless big box store, but I have pointed out that our empty nest is now occupied by living things that don't talk back, argue with each other, or need financial support. :-)