Quilting – Going Where I’ve Never Gone Before

Aside

I just recently became a quilter.  When my grandson was born, it was something I was just driven to do.  My mother never quilted – said she didn’t have the patience – but that was before the days of machine quilting.  I was actually out on YouTube looking for a tutorial on making my own bias tape for the miles of it needed for his nursery, and I came across a quilting video from the Missouri Star Quilt Company on how to bind a quilt.  I made a pot of coffee and spent the morning with my new bff Jenny Doan!  She’s an absolutely amazing instructor and she makes you feel like you can do anything!  So I stop by the MSQC Quilter’s Daily Deal every morning and that’s how I’ve built my stash and gotten some pretty cool rulers.

My first project I thought I could handle Jenny taught me was this Christmas Table Runner with Fa-La-La.  I stitched in the ditch and it came out kinda lumpy, but I really like it.Fa La La Charm Pack Dec 11

Well, the MSQC website landed me somehow on the Moda Bake Shop website and one post last year was a Moda Stash Link Party.  From there I found MADE and StitcheryDickoryDock, SewMamaSew, and TracieJay Quilts (just a few my faves I start my day with).  The Internet is an amazing thing, isn’t it?

Feeling incredibly ambitious after that table runner, I decided to tackle this.  It’s Gallantly Streaming and OMG – it was SO HARD!!  I knew absolutely nothing about how important a 1/4 inch seam was.  Most of the tips are missing off the stars, and this thing is a complete mess.  I’ve still yet to quilt it.  It’s just one of those UFOs (unfinished objects) that I can’t bring myself to spend the money on to get it quilted or waste the time and money to rent the long arm myself at my local quilt shop.Gallantly Streaming

After I was finished licking my wounds from Gallantly Streaming, on MBS one day there was this Pinwheel Baby Quilt with Prairie Points (another new thing for me).  I had a charm pack from MSQC in 10 Little Things and it was perfect for this little treasure o’mine.  Perfect quilt?  Nope.  An heirloom for my perfect little man?  You bet!10ltlthngs

Amy Gibson from StitcheryDickoryDoc has a Block of the Month going on with the promise that I’ll have a beautiful quilt at the end of the year.  Of course I couldn’t resist.  Working full time, I find this to be a perfect way to get some quilting blocks in without feeling like I’m behind or overwhelmed.  One thing about quilting, every project makes you better.  This is definitely a skill where you improve with practice.

January1-Jan

February – a paper piecing nightmare.  It came out right, but it wasn’t fun.  Paper piecing is something my analytical brain has a hard time wrapping around.2-Feb

March – a blessedly easy Forget Me Not.3-Mar

One very cool thing about quilting?  It finds a way to bring a group together.  Here is a  a gorgeous little number called Old Glory I found on MBS one day and I thought it would be a great project for all the Daughters in my DAR group to tackle.  We all took a part of it and would bring our completed strips to meetings and had so much fun putting it together.  I just finished the borders yesterday and it’s ready to go to the long armer.  I took a class at Scrappy Quilter and will do this one myself I think. OldGloryQuilt When it’s finished, we’ll donate it to a wounded vet at the Center for the Intrepid at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.  Come to think of it, maybe that’s a good place for my Gallantly Streaming to land.  Perhaps I’ll finish it afterall.

Mr. Birdseye Would Be Proud

As you might imagine, I’m all about food storage and preservation.  And while canning is a great way to go, it’s not a good solution for fresh, fleshy vegetables.  Last year I discovered the poor man’s way to flash freeze veggies and it’s a perfect way to keep seasonal veggies.

Most veggies have a lot of water in them which, when frozen and then thawed, they become very soggy and mushy.  If you can them, they are then only good for soups & stews where you cook the fire out of them anyway.  But what if you want to use them in a stir fry or other recipe that calls for fresh vegetables?  The solution is called flash-freezing and it was patented by Mr. Clarence Birdseye back in the 1920’s.  Here’s how to do it at home.  I usually do this with zucchini, yellow squash, onions, green pepper, avocados, and citrus.  First slice the veggie into no more than 1/2”-thick slices or 1/6 wedge if freezing lemons or limes.

IMG_0039Then lay them out in a single layer on freezer paper that covers a tray that fits in your freezer.  Do not allow them to overlap at all.  I normally use the freezy-thingy that goes inside my Pampered Chef cold vegetable server.  (What is that called?)  Anyway, a cookie sheet will work too.  IMG_0038If you have too many slices, you can layer them with cookie cooling racks in between.  Just be sure that you allow enough room for air to circulate between the layers.

IMG_0040IMG_0042 IMG_0041There’s no need to cover them, just put in the freezer where they can sit there and chill out.

IMG_0043Here’s a very important part.  Freeze them for absolutely no more than one hour.  I set my timer on the microwave for 55 minutes so I don’t go past.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this and when the timer goes off, I think “What’s cooking?  Oh yeah!”  I get so busy doing other things I totally forget that there’s magic going on in my freezer so a timer is an absolute must.

IMG_0049Immediately after removing from the freezer, seal in airtight bags.  If you only have zipper bags, that will work but won’t keep as long.  If you use zipper bags, be sure to “burp” as much air out of them as you can.  This will prevent freezer crystals from forming.

IMG_0057If sealed in the airtight bags, these will keep for months – better than the ones you buy in bags at the store actually.  And when you defrost them to use in a recipe, they will taste and feel as fresh as if you just cut them!

Yankee Blood & Sauerkraut

Now I know profiling is wrong.  But there has got to be some reason that compels people to do what it is they do.  For instance, we went on a short trip to Zapata, Texas last weekend to be part of a cook team for a fish fry that was to feed about 350 of a company’s best customers.  This is an annual jaunt we take to be part of a slave-labor team at the fryers and we all absolutely love it and have the best time.   The company pays for the entire trip including the hotel so it’s free entertainment as far as we’re concerned.  This group hubby and I hang with love to cook.  (I will be posting about BBQ cookoffs as the summer rolls on).

Kim, me, and Connie - my hometown girls.

Kim, me, and Connie – my hometown girls.

 

Working the fish fry.

Working the fish fry.  Don’t worry, the cigar isn’t lit.  That’s just Lloyd’s wishful thinking I guess.

Along with fried fish, coleslaw was served (of course).  So we all get back from our trip and my friend Kim tells me she still has 20 pounds of coleslaw cabbage mix leftover in the ice chest and she has no idea what she’s going to do with it.  For some reason known only to God Himself, I blurt out, “I’ll buy half of it from you.”  Seriously.   HALF?  So some unknown force has placed me in her boat and now I don’t know what I’m going to do with 10 pounds of cabbage any more than she did with 20!

cabbage

Why did I do that?  I can only blame it on being a Yankee by birth.  Even though I was raised as a Texan, I shop for and prepare food in bulk like I need to make it through 6 more months of winter.  My favorite grocery store is Sam’s and I get some sense of wholeness and earthy-well being from canning.  It’s completely inexplicable.  I buy rice and flour in 50 pound bags and keep them in two food vaults, and I’ve always got at least 20 extra rolls of toilet paper.   My panty has a pantry.  It’s almost embarrassing.  But you know what?  “You never know”.  And that’s reason enough I guess.  Besides, we could have another ice age one day…you never know.

Prepper?  ...almost.

Prepper? …almost.

 

So Kim and I get the bright idea that we will both make sauerkraut from the cabbage.  I’ve never made sauerkraut and hubby and I don’t eat much of it but by golly, I’m in now for some sauerkraut!  I scrounge the internet for some recipes and how-to’s and finally settle on one from Food.com.  The directions and ingredients were kind of sketchy but hey, I’ve canned before so I think I can swing it.  Water, vinegar, salt, cabbage.  Got it.  I like a recipe with reviews so I can see what worked best and what didn’t and maybe tweak the recipe some to my liking.  So here’s my version.

Homemade Sauerkraut

2.5  lbs shredded caggage
4 cups water
1 pint vinegar (2 cups)
1 cup salt**

Put some canning lids in a pot of water to simmer (not boil) on the stove.  When the water begins to simmer, shut off the heat.

Put the water, vinegar, and salt in a pot on the stove and warm it until the salt is dissolved, stirring occasionally.  Pack (and I mean REALLY pack) the cabbage into quart canning jars – do this over a very large bowl because the cabbage goes everywhere.  Ladle the liquid on top of the cabbage to the neck of the jar.  Poke the handle of a wooden spoon down into the jars to release any air bubbles.  Let sit a few minutes and the cabbage will shrink some.  Put the wooden spoon to work again and push the cabbage all down in the liquid.  Put a lid on the jar and hand-tighten the ring.  Label the lid and put in a cool room that stays in the mid-70 temp range for 2 months.  When fermenting is complete, bring the cabbage-now-sauerkraut to a boil in a pot, and can as normal.

And note to self next time…Do not mix in the purple cabbage packet included in the bag.  Hence, pink sauerkraut.  But hey, it’s February right?

 

Pink for February!  (wups)

Pink for February! (wups)

** Salt.  Salt is not salt.  There are different types of salt and I tried two different kinds to see which would work best.

salts

Dextrose = Sugar

Dextrose = Sugar

I used Canning & Pickling Salt on some of the jars, which is about the same grind as table salt but does not contain iodine or sugar.  Yes, sugar.  Look at the box of Morton’s, my favorite table salt.  It’s cut with sugar – which makes it good for table salt but not so good for canning.   And then I used Kosher salt on the rest of the jars.  That is a little less “salty” if you will, and has a more mellow flavor than canning salt.  There’s also Sea Salt, but that gets pretty pricey.  I strongly suspect I’ll prefer the sauerkraut with the Kosher salt but we shall see in 8 weeks.

 

 

 

Paper Towell-Less

I totally hate waste.  I know hate is a strong word, and my mother told me to never use it toward a person, but think it is completely OK to use it toward waste – especially when that waste pertains to money.  Since my grandbaby was born, I don’t know what happened, but I think I’m becomming more like my grandmother.  It’s like an obsession to do the same with less:  re-purpose, re-use, and do it yourself.  And going through rolls and rolls of paper towels rates right up there near the top of my list of complete useless waste.

So last year, on 1 Oct 2011 (that’s military date talk for you civilians) I went “paper towel free”. Well, almost free. But definitely paper towel-less. I know that sounds drastic right?  But I was going through an $18-$20 bundle of 8 rolls of paper towels every other month or so. It used to kill me to use them for a few swipes or to dry my hands and then throw them away. Think of it.  $100 a year in paper towels in the trash! So I thought, how did Grandma do it? I mean, the paper towel boon didn’t happen until the 70’s or close to it so she certainly didn’t grow up with them.  But she had kitchen towels…and LOTS of them!  I retired the paper towel holder that was proudly sitting on my countertop and announced the change in plans to hubby who responded with raised eyebrows and a snide “Yeah right”.  Game on.  I became committed.

I went to Wally World and bought a big plastic red tub (that matches my front loaders of course) and put the tub right next to the machines. My laundry room is just off the kitchen so the tub is there when I’m feeling particularly NBA-ish and I go in for the 3-pointer. Then I purchased a bunch of white kitchen towels and made room in a kitchen drawer for them. I figured if they got stained, I’d just move them to the car towel pile (re-use right?). frontloader-bucket But then hubby started tossing his car towels into the same red bucket (men can’t resist tossing things into buckets) and after I washed them, I was undecided if the slight stain on the used-to-be-white-towel had the last job of wiping my counter top or scrubbing a big bug off a headlight (blech!). So…I retired the white towels permanently to the car towel pile and got more kitchen towels in colors to know exactly which are which.

towel-drawer

There used to be a point in my life where I considered myself a germ-a-phobe and was fairly proud of it.  But then I got real.  And while I still never eat from the drive thru or put my hands near my mouth, nose, or eyes without a quick hand sanitizer rub first, I’m also cognizant of the fact that running kitchen towels through a hot soapy cycle in the washing machine will get rid of any bacteria from counter tops and hand drying.  I’m very proud to say that I’ve only purchased two bundles of paper towels since October of 2011.   And every time I re-load the towel drawer with clean kitchen towels, I think of my grandma and smile.

 

Love Me Some Jars

Jars.  Better yet?  Glass jars with lids!  They go great in the dishwasher and last forever.  I store them with the lids screwed on so no MIA lid covers.  Instead of using plastic disposable tubs or zipper bags, when I have extra anything, I cut the label off the original container, tape it to a jar, date it, and feel very proud of myself for not being wasteful!  It really helps when I get the year right on the date too.

IMG_0049

Fiesta San Antonio Dress

Bear with me on the background…One of my proudest things – I’m a member of the Susanna Dickinson Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). My mother jokes that she spends more time with dead relatives than live ones, and did all the digging (pardon the expression!) to find 13 ancestors who fought in the American Revolutionary War.  Before DAR, I was a member of Children of the American Revolution, so doing all things historical appeal to me at a deep level.

There is an annual event every April in San Antonio called Fiesta, put on by a Texas historical society, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT) (we are frequently confused with them) and there are a ton of events and activities that cover a span of 10 days.  My DAR group participates in a somber event called Pilgrimage to the Alamo.  Hundreds of participants from every group you can think of from the Junior League to the Scouts, walk in silence through downtown San Antonio and eventually end up at the Alamo where we lay a wreath in honor of the Texas patriots who lost their lives there.  There are thousands of people in attendance with everyone from state senators to military 4-star generals.

Fellow Daughters of the American Revolution waiting for the event to begin.

Fellow Daughters of the American Revolution waiting for the event to begin.

Fiesta San Antonio 2012 - Pilgrimage to the Alamo

Fiesta San Antonio 2012 – Pilgrimage to the Alamo

Last year, my group went in costume and I rented an outfit.  I’m in the rose dress.   My dress was a tad too small and needed a ton of mending before I could even wear it.  And while I felt like a stuffed sausage in this dress, it was still so cool to stand out from the masses in costume and have tourists and locals alike to point, ohh and ahhh, take pics, and run into the “parade” to get a photo with you.   I understand that members of the Fiesta Commission noticed and decided to create a contest for best costumes.  So this year I decided I make my own.  (Finally!  Getting to the sewing part…)

I chose a History pattern from Simplicity and started months in advance to buy fabric and all the notions.  This is an advanced pattern and not for the faint of heart.  But how hard can it be right?  I mean, just follow the instructions.  I’ve never attempted piping before but used a Groovin’ Piping Trimming Tool by Susan Cleveland and it was a total breeze.  I was feeling very full of myself and oh-so-proud because the piping on the shoulder where the sleeve attached turned out beautifully.  That is until I looked at the cuff and noticed I sewed the sleeve on inside out.  Ah well…

insideoutfleeve

So I’ll post pics throughout the stitching process to share my progress.  April will be here before I know it!

UPDATE

The dress turned out great.  I really should have captured some images of the sewing along the way but this was my first blog post, so I’ll get better.

I dressed hubs up in period attire as well.  He even grew the ‘stache to make himself look more authentic.  He liked it so much, it’s September and he’s still wearing it.  The parasol was white and I used fabric paint to turn it gray and then hot glued some lace to the edge.  Fripperies of course!  In this image, I look mad, but I’m really squinting to see the name tag of the Air Force photographer who is taking this photo.  I found him later and he sent me these images.130422-F-AE629-770

I love my hair.  I found this old hat at a resale antique shop and added the gray bow to the front.130423-F-ZU607-304I also added two rows of gray ribbon to the bottom of the dress to add some character.  We are placing a wreath at the Alamo to honor the Texan Patriots.130423-F-ZU607-305

The dress was worn again in March for the placement of a Texas Historical Marker.