Monday, February 22, 2010

My Finished Quilt

It was an uphill battle from the start. You see, I pieced it, and was full of good intentions to finish it in a timely manner when the first hurdle appeared. We announced our engagement. With a wedding looming on the horizon, a dress to make for the special day, and non-stop dates with a realtor in our search for a home, it laid dormant for a year. That second winter, I picked it up again and kept at it, stabbing it with the needle in tiny stitches. A few stitches here, a couple more there. A whole block. Sigh. It would take forever and I was already so tired of seeing it. I didn't even like the looks of it anymore! And then the snow days happened, providing endless time to stitch away, until finally, one winter night, the last "X" was quilted on a corner square and the hard part was done. It was finally time to dig out the old binding that I made a hundred years ago and sew it on.

But then, to just put the binding on without any complications would not be in line with this quilting odyssey. So one evening last week there was a flat tire that set off a whole chain of events that ended with a time-pressing crunch as I attempted to get to my sewing spot to finish it off. I finally did arrive, and in just a few hours had the binding sewn on my ancient "eternity" quilt that took an eternity to finish. (It's actually not an eternity design- it's called a "variable star" pattern.)

The specs: Variable Star lap quilt, finished size 45"x45"
Machine pieced, Hand quilted
Fabric: Cheap stuff from JoAnn (because I wasn't confident on how this was going to turn out and didn't want to invest a lot in good fabric. Also, there were no nearby quilt shops around when I started this, but in the time it took me to complete this project, two have since opened!)

Yes, I'm glad that's over. I am not someone who likes unfinished projects hanging around that never seem to get done, so you could probably hear my sigh of relief when this was finished from wherever you are located.

February is always the hardest month for me. My energy level is LOW Low low and I'm worn out from the weather. It's hard to find balance during the darkest moment of the year, but let me try...

I'm thankful for finished projects.

I'm giving thanks for the ten pounds of venison sausage that was given to us by a generous coworker of my husband's. That should make for some easy meals.

I'm enormously thankful that when that flat tire happened on the interstate, at rush hour, a nice man from the state Dept. of Trans. was nearby and saw me right away, put on my spare tire, and got me back on the road in under twenty minutes! Talk about tax dollars at work.

I'm barely surviving the mud, but giving thanks that I saw something green under melted snow this morning. And a robin in the front yard last week.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Of Fasnachts and Failed Plans

Every year I miss the opportunity to buy some fasnachts on that one special Tuesday known as Fasnacht Day in Pennsylvania. It sneaks up on me, and I somehow think I'm going to come up with a few hours to drive out to the county and get some, and it never works out. This year, it really seemed like it would happen until a combination of snow and holidays caused me to miss work, so it is just not possible to make a trip out for a dozen of those special donuts once again. For those who don't know, fasnachts are fried yeast donuts, and many churches and bakeries sell them on the last Tuesday before Lent. For years I did not know what Shrove Tuesday was, or even "Fat Tuesday" having only ever heard of Fasnacht Day. My grandmother told me how her mother would use up all her lard and sugar making the donuts, and then hide them on a long tray under furniture so they wouldn't be eaten all at once! Since the Mister did not grow up with this tradition, I have always wanted to get him some fasnachts to taste so he can see what all of the fuss is about. Well, better luck to that project next year.

Oh, and don't ask me to make them, because that is a big and messy project for a week day.

I finally know what it takes to get some serious quilting done fast. It takes a lot of snow! In fact, I've nearly completed a four-year-old hand quilting project and am already coming together with ideas for my next one. It won't be hand quilted, though. Do you think I can do something with this lovely pallet?

During one of the snow days, I cleaned out my big binder of recipes and found this moist muffin recipe which I had been meaning to try. There were a cup of frozen raspberries in the freezer, so this was good timing. I'm working on cleaning out the freezer too, because I like to start the growing season with a lot of empty freezer space.

Lemon Raspberry Muffins

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup half and half cream
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. lemon extract
1 cup raspberries

In a a large mixing bowl, combine flower, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another, combine eggs, cream, oil, and extract. Stir into dry mixture. Fold in raspberries. Fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes. These are extra good warm.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Rascal and The Mister

So. All of the snow has amounted to plenty of time around the home. This morning I tried for almost two hours to get my car out of the driveway before giving up and retreating back inside. The Mister, who was stranded for the night at my mother's house, had not yet arrived home to help. Thankfully, the sun came out today and melted quite a bit of the ice, so perhaps better things are on the way. Okay, not really. More snow is supposed to arrive early next week.

We have this dog we call Rascal, an Australian Cattle Dog. Rascal idolizes my husband. That dog never stops looking at him, following him, and waiting for his return. We had read that this breed of dog gets very attached to their owners, but we had no idea. Whenever my husband goes outside to clear more snow, Rascal sits there and stares at the door waiting for the Mister's return. If it takes a while, the devoted dog just falls alseep on the floor, facing in the direction of the door. Anyway, here she is in action....

Do I even need to tell you how much my husband enjoys this?

While Rascal entertains us with her loyalty, I tried my hand at some candy making. For an upcoming bake sale at the library, I signed up to make homemade chocolate peanut butter cups. This was rather daring as I am not a candy maker at all. The recipe looked easy enough, but I'm glad that I did a trial run to figure out the challenges ahead of time! The recipe was from Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It and Other Cooking Projects by Karen Solomon.

Makes 12

The Filling:
1 and 1/3 cups fresh roasted and salted peanuts
2 tsp. honey
1 tsp. canola oil
2 T confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt

2 cups chopped chocolate

You will also need: A cupcake or muffin pan filled with cupcake liners.

To make the peanut butter filling, puree the peanuts for 3-4 minutes in your food processor until very smooth. Add the honey, oil, sugar, vanilla, and salt and puree until completely combined, scraping down the sides as you work.

Take about 2 tsp. of the peanut butter mixture in your hand and make a tiny hamburger patty that will fit into the center of your cupcake liner without touching the sides. Shape the remaining 11 centers.

To prepare the coating, you need to melt the chopped chcolate in one of two ways. You can use the double boiler method, but in the interest of speed, I prefer the microwave. Place about half the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat on high for a minute. Stir, then heat again for 30 seconds. Stir. Keep heating as needed until the chocolate is melted and satiny and drops like ribbons from the end of a fork. I will note that the recipe suggests using chocolate chips, but I really advise against that. Chocolate chips are designed not to melt and as such are difficult to melt in the microwave.

Once your chocolate is melted, working quickly, spoon about 2 tsp. of chocolate in the bottom of the cupcake liners, being careful to completely coat the bottom in a thin layer. Gently drop the peanut butter discks into the center of each cup and give it a gentle tap to secure it in the chocolate (but do not puch it all the way to the bottom). Cover each center with additional chocolate until the disk is covered and the sides are coated. Chocolate should be evenly distributed. Finally, let it sit undisturbed for four hours until the cups harden completely.

Store up to two weeks in an airtight container, but do not refrigerate.

We found these to be good, not nearly as salty as commercial pb cups, and much more generous with the chocolate.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

You Know You've Had It with Winter When...

  • The reading pile that you thought would last until May might not make it through March.
  • You forgot what it was like to open a window.
  • You know all events are canceled before someone calls to tell you, and you're surprised that the person delivering the news sounds surprised.
  • A discussion on how much snow is in the forecast suddenly counts as meaningful communication among friends.
  • Due to random power outages, you and your friend have given up trying to e-mail each other and have reverted to written letters and stamps.
  • You see the filled parking lot at the store and decide you really don't need milk after all.
  • You're baking just because it's a warm activity.
  • You feel competitive when comparing the size of snow drifts on your property with other people's.
  • You no longer remember where the flower pots you forgot to take in are located, as they've been buried for so long.
  • You are acutely aware that there are 39 more days until spring!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My Chicken Potpie

So I told the Mister that due to a particularly busy week combined with a many social obligations, that there would just not be enough time for me to clean the bathroom or get some baking done. His reaction?
"What?! No dessert?" Because really, isn't dessert a priority over a clean bathroom?

Instead, I made one of his favorite meals.

This is the perfect time of year to make potpie. You can boil the chicken and then place it outside in a pan to cool off quickly before taking it apart. Even better if there is snow on the ground. Just make sure you don't have any loose animals outside because a cooked chicken unattended will attract attention. This is a hearty meal.

Chicken Potpie
Serves 8

1 chicken 3-4 lbs.
water to cover
1 T salt
1 cup chopped celery
4 med. potatoes, cut into cubes
a pinch of saffron (optional)
2 T fresh chopped parsley or 1 T dried

Put chicken in a large kettle and boil with water. Add salt, pepper, and celery. Cook until tender, about 90 minutes. Remove chicken from pot and cool. Debone, and set aside. Add potatoes to simmering broth. Finally, add potpie squares and parsley. Simmer for 20 minutes.

To make potpie squares:

Short cut: Buy them from your local Amish market or bulk foods store. Don't have one? They are easy to make.

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
2-3 T of water

Make a well in the flour and add eggs and salt. Work together into a stiff dough. If it gets too dry, add water. Roll out the dough very thin (1/8 inch) and cut into 1 inch squares (a pastry wheel works nice for this.) Drop into boiling broth and cook 10-15 minutes. Add chopped parsley and serve.

Serves 8


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