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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mitchell Park Domes

Spent some time in Milwaukee, visiting the Mitchell Park Domes.  The Domes are a conservatory to exhibit plants from all over the world.  One dome is a tropical environment, one has desert plants and the third is the Show Dome - which varies throughout the year. 

I snapped pictures of some of the plants that intrigued me.  I've been known to design quilts based on the colors of flowering plants. 

Here red, white and  yellow peppers are growing amongst the pointsettias.

I love the lilac buds on this pink flower.

I have some pink pointsettia fabric.  Seeing the real ones has inspired me to get that project underway.
Though I've never seen the Domes at night, they do have light shows.  In fact, they were promoting an evening of fun, magic and lights on New Year's Eve. 

For more info, see:

Monday, December 27, 2010

Placemats - Bound

A strange and wonderful thing happened yesterday - there was nothing I HAD to do.  So of course I sat down to sew!  These poor placemats were quilted in November, but got moved to the back burner as Christmas preparations got underway.  This time between Christmas and New Years is a welcome repreive from the hustle and bustle. 

I started some napkin rings, and hope to have then ready to show you soon.  Meanwhile, I'm contemplating projects for 2011.  (There are quite a few I never got to in 2010!) 

I hope we can all enjoy a little "down" time, and begin the new year refreshed!  :)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Hallmark - The Beauty of Birds Series

Got lots of questions about my bird ornaments.  Hallmark started this series in 2005 with the Cardinal.  I didn't catch on until 2007, so my first bird was the Blue Jay.  From that point forward I got one bird each year.  Last Christmas my Sweetie found the Cardinal (2005) for me on e-bay or amazon, and my boys got me the Red-Headed Woodpecker (2009).  I still need to find a 2006 Chickadee.

I just learned there is more than one bird this year.  There is a Lady Cardinal ornament too!  If you have any interest in these ornaments you should get them while they last at the Hallmark stores for $19.99.  Collectors are selling the older ones for over $300.00.

Friday, December 24, 2010

My Tree is Up - Finally!

Its so fitting that this year's bird is the Blue Bird.  This year was the first time I ever saw one in my yard.  Never saw one here before and haven't seen another one since.  A rare treat!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Nativities - Real and Electronic

Still no quilting going on, but the full nativity is up - complete with Baby Jesus, the star, angels, kings, camels and shepherds.
Here's the rest of Bethlehem.  Decided that since the shepherds left their sheep unattended, perhaps one angel stayed behind to look after them (artistic license, you know).
Still can't decide where to put the ducks.  They would get trampled by the camels at the stable, and I doubt the Roman gaurd would pause for them to I guess they will be on the outskirts of town with the sheep. LOL

For a WAY cool techie nativity see:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Baby Quilt & Baby!

Here she is; Savannah Rae at 3 weeks old. What a little peanut!
Those are 8" blocks, so you can see she's got lots of growing room! :)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

GF Cookie Production

Not even 4 hours of shoveling could dampen my enthusiasm for baking Christmas cookies.  (Did'ya notice a few are missing?)  Despite a lot of wind and snow, the storm moved through and was followed by bright blue skies and dry conditions.  In our household, that can only mean one thing:  Its time to make the pink cookies (aka Raspberry Meringue Kisses)! 

Meringues turn out best when made on a sunny day.  For the recipe see:

In addition, I tried a GF butter cookie recipe from Land O Lakes.  Seriously - these  could easily replace my regular recipe.   The search for the perfect GF sugar cookie is over.  Thank you, Land O Lakes!  See:

These cookies are a little putzy, but worth the extra effort.  You make the batter, and then divide it into thirds, which you shape into thick sheets, to be wrapped in plastic film.  Chill these bundles.  Later, you roll them out, only taking one out of the frig at a time.    Unlike other recipes and mixes I've tried, this product handled and baked up just as the recipe indicated.  AND it tastes good too!

Land O Lakes also has a spritz cookie recipe I want to try, and more importantly, both a sandwich bread and multi-grain bread.  Still trying to find the "perfect" loaf.  :)

Pre-Christmas Nativity

Not much stitching going on here.  But my nativity set is up, in its pre-Christmas state.  Mary is still great with child, Joseph is watering the donkey, and the manger is empty.  The shepherds tend their flocks, while the Roman guard is at the gate, taking the census. 

The shepherd's camp is new this year - a 50th birthday gift from my sister.  I'd been wanting that for several years.  Thanks Laura!  The ducks are also new.  All the other animals have had a story card in the box - and the stories are quite dramatic/sappy.  I couldn't imagine what sort of tale the Fontannini family might come up with for Mama Duck and her babies.  Alas, there was no story card.  I guess that's where the Fontannini's draw the line.

The star, angels and magi will be set up closer to Christmas. 

I'd love to do some stitching today, but it looks like (more) snow shoveling will take priority. :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wednesday Weigh In - Diet & Sleep

Ya know what's great about the holidays?  We do things and see people we haven't seen or done all year.  Ya know what's not so great?  Burning the midnight oil - to decorate, shop, wrap, bake and travel.  This often means results in sleeping less and eating more - exactly the opposite of what our bodies need.

People who get only 5 hours of sleep a night are 73% more likely to be overweight than people getting a good night's sleep.  When we're sleep deprived our bodies crank out a hormone that ramps up the appetite and promotes fat storage.  Reliance on caffeine can compound the problem.  It may keep us on the go all day, but it can interfere with the quality and quantity of sleep at night. 

To learn more see:

Star Chain Label

Remember my Star Chain quilt?  Today it is truly finished.  I was waiting for little Savannah Rae's birthdate for the label.  Tomorrow I hope to meet her and see how she likes her quilt. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Its Better with Butter... they say.  Gluten free baking has been a challenge.  I've wasted time, effort and - worst of all - perfectly good butter on recipes that don't pan out.  So imagine my delight when a coworker sent me this link:

Who, but the makers of butter to understand my dilemma?  Land O Lakes is  putting their product and reputation on the line, so I'm guessing these recipes will be tasty and reliable.  Perhaps there's still hope I can enjoy a GF rolled sugar cookie (or two) this holiday season.  Can't wait to get baking!  :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hermione's Purse

Have you seen (or read) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? 
Now I want a purse like THAT!  :)

What's Wrong with This Picture?

Gluten free Bisquick costs 2-3 times regular Bisquick, and the box is a fraction of the size.  Today I discovered that dang little box is only half full!  Gotta find a reliable GF cook book!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas Tree Au Naturale

I took down a spring/summer wall quilt at work, and put this one up.  Its bright and cheery and breaks up the monotony of endless beige cubicles.  Its always fun to get out seasonal items - they look fresh after being packed away for a while!

Some of you may recall this little quilt from last year.  I started it in mid December, to submit in Sew Cal Gal's Virtual Quilt Show.  Entries had to be submitted before the 25th.  I submitted it at 11:51 pm on the 24th - truly the 11th hour! 

Had some lime green fabrics I was itching to play with.  Had seen a Christmas card with a green/lime green tree - so I started sewing strips together until I got the look I wanted.  Once I had the tree shape put together, I decided to base the wildlife on the birds and animals in and around a pine tree in my backyard.  The rabbit and squirrel figures were adapted from cookie cutter shapes.  The critters are hand appliqued.  This was my first experience with embellishments.  Every bead and snowflake was stitched on by hand.  I find hand stitching really relaxing - its a nice contrast to all the annual Christmas hype.

Friends on quilter blogs and Facebook provided suggestions about how to proceed at various junctures - so it was a collaborative process.  Each time I look at it, it makes me happy to think about all of you who contributed to its design.  :)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

GF Peppermint Strips

As a rule, Gluten Free products are more crumbly than their wheat-based original recipes.  Pictured here are Peppermint Strips.  I chose this for my first GF experiment  because the candy on top hardens when it cools.  Even if the GF flour replacer yields a more breakable cookie, the hardened candy will hold it together.  Yesterday I tested this theory and made one pan with Glutino's Gluten Free Pantry All Purpose Flour.  Success!  My theory was correct.  This flour replacer is nice because its a 1-to-1 conversion, and has a nice flavor.
The pans in this picture are made with regular flour.  It would be far too expensive to make multiple batches that are GF.  The flour replacer is $5.00 for about 3 cups of flour. 

Now I'll scrub down everthing in my kitchen to be rid of the (regular) flour dust before I can make any more GF products.  Stay tuned for further experiments.  :)

For the Peppermint Strip recipe, see:

For more info on GF baking see:

Friday, November 26, 2010

Placemats Plus Napkin Rings

Got six placemats quilted today.  Hope to get them bound tomorrow.  Below the mats are some border remnants.  Am looking for a simple pattern for napkin rings.

In Which a Kitchen Table Becomes a Cutting Table

...and a basting table, and a marking table.  Good bye back ache!

Baked Cheese Torte - Regular & GF

Grandma Clara's Baked Cheese Torte

I've intended to make this cheese cake for years.  Past efforts were thwarted by one vexing ingredient.  In Grandma's day they called it Baker's Cheese.  I called my grocery store to find out if they had it; they said they did.  They had Baker's Brand String Cheese.  Not at all what I needed.  Fortunately I found it at another store, under the name of Dry Curd Cottage Cheese. 

I had a list of ingredients and minimal notes for how to make the cheese cake.  I had already combined ALL the wet ingredients and had been mixing forever, but the curds were still lumpy.  So I finally strained the batter, threw the curds in the food processor, then blended the resulting paste back into the liquid.  Whew!

The true test of success was to take a piece to the nursing home and see how Grandma liked it.  She ate every last bite and noted how smooth it was.  At 101 years of age, Grandma would happily survive on bakery alone!  I'd been wondering how she made it before there were food processors?  They did it by pressing the curds through a metal seive.  Food processors are truly something to be thankful for!

2 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs (or GF ginger snap cookie crumbs)
7 TBSP butter, melted
2/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Combine crumbs with butter, sugar and cinnamon.  Reserve 2-3 TBSP crumb mixture for the top of the cake.  Press the remainder into a glass 13 x 9" pan.  Press crumbs along the bottom, and up the sides of pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes.

1 lb baker's cheese
1 lb regular cottage cheese
5 eggs
5 TBSP flour (2 1/2 TBSP cornstarch)
2 tsp vanilla
13 oz. can sweetened and condensed milk

Blend two cheeses in a food processor until smooth.  Add remaining ingredients and mix until smooth.  Pour into prepared crust.  Sprinkle reserved crumb mixture on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Turn oven off, allow cheese cake to remain in oven for an additional 15 minutes.  Then open oven door and allow cheesecake to cool down - (still inside the oven) for 30 minutes.  Allow to cool completely before storing in the refrigerator.

For Thanksgiving we had traditional (non-GF) pumpkin pie, apple pie (non-GF) and my GF cheesecake.  I served the traditional pies from the kitchen table, and placed the GF dessert well away.  I had enough utensils that there would be no temptation to use the pie utensils to dish up the GF cheesecake - thereby contaminating it.  Several people asked me to put some cheesecake on the plate they had already eaten pie on...but that would have contaminated the utensils I used for the GF item.  Just like when you go up for seconds at a buffet, you need a fresh plate.

I can see this will require more practice.  But its good to know I survived my first GF holiday.  Hope yours was happy!  :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

So much to be thankful, family, friends, food and fabric!
Have a Happy Turkey Day!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Adventures in Gluten Free Living

Now that I need to eat gluten free, I'm cleaning out my cupboards.  I love my kitchen with its beautiful spacious pantry.  But oh the gluten lurking there!  I filled five large grocery bags of noodles, oatmeal, cereals, canned soups, gravies, salad dressings, bouillon cubes, seasoning blends, instant this and that.  These were given to friends.  I gave another bag of bread flour, wheat gluten, cornbread and muffin mixes, etc. to a freind who bakes bread regularly.  And still more will go to a food bank.

Yesterday I went through spices and sauces.  Have to give away soy sauce (Kikkoman is made with wheat, La Choy is not), worchestershire sauce, spaghetti sauce, teriyaki, etc. These either contained wheat or non-specified "spices" or "natural or artificial flavors."  

Thankfully, all my McCormick and Wildtree spices were free of non-specified ingredients. Now my spices are gluten free and in alphabetical order.  (Eat your heart out Martha Stewart.)

Food labeling laws require identification of the top 8 allergens, but there's still room for improvement.  Don't Hunts and Heinz know that by listing "spices" in their catsup any one with food sensitivities can't consume their product?   Likewise, Hungry Jack and Aunt Jemima syrups contain "natural and artificial flavors."  Wouldn't it be in their best interest to have the widest possible customer base (including me)? 

And so the search for "safe" everyday foods continues.  Van's has a great frozen waffle.  Which I either top with pure maple syrup (expensive) or today I topped them as I would a potato pancake - with applesauce and plain Greek yogurt in lieu of sour cream.  That was very tasty.  Kinnikinnick makes delicious gluten free gingersnaps.  I'll be using those in place of graham cracker crumbs for a cheesecake crust on Thanksgiving. 

Meanwhile, my mom talked to her butcher about which turkey products are gluten free.  He gave her the 800 number for Jenni-O.  All their turkeys are gluten free, but the gravy packet is not.  My mom returned to the store and told the manager that the butcher deserved an "Atta-boy."  What a great experience!

One funny thing occured when I visited Perkins Restaurant. I asked the waiter if they had any gluten free information (some places do). The waiter asked me to repeat myself, then politely told me, "No, we don't have any free food here."  He asked the manager to stop and talk with me. The manager was quite helpful, and I ordered two fried eggs over hash browns. To his credit, the waiter came back and asked me to explain my question to him so he would understand for future reference.  Another great experience!

I know this transition will take time.  But how reassuring to encounter food industry professionals committed to customer service, consumer safety and education.  :)

Discharge Dying and Fabric Painting

Discharge dying means you are removing color.  Here I tried removing color on two different fabrics.  The one on the left was done using a bleach pen.  On the right I used Soft Scrub with Bleach - you can use the paste or gel.  Aside from bleach, you can use a thicker product called DeColourant.  Your choice of fabric is really important.  The fabric on the left has a white back side, and the fabric on the right is the same color through and through.  You can see which worked better.  I was striving to capture the veins on the leaf.  I got some of what I wanted on the backside of the fabric.  It may have turned out that way if I had let the bleach set a little longer.  After rinsing out the bleach, you saturate the fabric with vinegar or hydrogen peroxide to stop the reaction.  Then you rinse that out and press.
Here is the result when I painted a leaf with gold paint and laid that on fabric.  I was pleasantly surprised when the leaf structure showed up so nicely. 
The following was done using a maple leaf on white fabric.  This is my favorite.  Had the class been longer I would have added some yellow leaves.  The leaf in the upper left was my stencil.  A lady in the class asked if she could use my stencil, and wanted to know where I bought it.  I told her I just picked it up off the ground!  She looked confused until I opened up a book and gave her a (real) pressed leaf to experiment with - and to keep for her very own!  So fun to meet a kindred spirit who shares my enthusiasm for leaves.
This experiment didn't turn out as I hoped, but gave a different and interesting result. 
I love how the white on white pattern became blue on blue.  So often I see a pattern I like, but can't find it in the right color - this might be an option for that situation.

The instructor used Jacquard Paints Textile Color.  The paint has to dry 24 hours.  Then you use your iron to heat set it.  It is then flexible and washable.  The instructors said its a fun way to dress up a tote bag or kids' tee shirts.  I'm thinking it would also be useful in making art quilts - when you want a very specific look.

All in all, this class was a great way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon!  :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Janome Horizon - Part 3

If you own a Janome Horizon, you should know that some of the automatic plate converters are defective.  Mine broke a few weeks ago.  The little tab snapped right off.  I thought I'd made an error, but it was poor craftmanship.

The solution is simple - just replace the entire plate with a new one.  I left my machine in the shop a few days so they could clean it too.  The repair and cleaning were at no cost.  Still, given that the 1/4" foot was also defective and replaced, I can't help but wonder what's next?

At any rate, be aware.

Christmas Placemats

Real life has been interfering with quilting.  
Baaa Humbug to the mundane chores that get in the way! 
I have 365 days to plan, yet every November I realize I have a LOT to do. 
One thing I DID in 2009, was to snatch up some sale items for Christmas 2010.
These panels hadn't been cut properly.  I got them for $0.99.  
They've been patiently awaiting my attention for 11 months.
There are two holiday fundraisers coming up - one at work, the other at church. 
If I get crackin' I may be able to contribute to both.
Today was the start of a three day weekend - to be followed by a three day work week - then a four day weekend. Thank goodness - there's much to do!  :)