Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dandelions and Caramel Apple Puffed Pancake

My yard is a riotous patchwork of color... filled with patches of violets and golden dandelions.  I'm sure my citified neighbors don't appreciate the fact that I refuse to put weed killer on my yard.  These so-called weeds are wonderful healers... whether in tincture form or flower essences.  The Native American root doctor, Tis-Mal Crow, taught that the plants know before we do what we need, and to watch for the plants that "volunteer" in our yards.  I am not yet familiar with the plants in this area of Ohio, but I do know the value of Dandelions!  

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), rich in minerals, was probably introduced into European medicine by the Arabian physicians who were writing about its virtues in the tenth century, and it has sustained its strong medicinal reputation ever since!  Young maidens used the feathery seed balls of the Dandelion to determine if their true loves were really true: a maiden would blow on the Dandelion three times and if at least one of the fuzzy seeds remained, it meant her sweetheart was thinking about her. Dandelion leaf is a good natural source of potassium, rather than depleting the body’s potassium supply as is the case with diuretic drugs.  It makes an ideally balanced diuretic, and modern herbalists still value it as the diuretic of choice for treating rheumatism, gout, edema, heart disease, high blood pressure and in inflammation and congestion of the liver and gall bladder.  Dandelion has a reputation as a blood-cleanser and is considered helpful for many eczema-like skin problems that result when the kidneys or liver don’t remove impurities from the blood, as well as being a specific in cases of congestive jaundice. It is also suggested for women’s hormonal imbalances and PMS, and has been found to reduce blood sugar.  Even the most serious cases of hepatitis have rapidly been cured, sometimes within a week, with Dandelion Root tea, taken 4 to six cups daily with a light diet.  Young dandelion leaves are traditionally eaten in salads for their taste.  The roots may be roasted to produce an excellent coffee substitute that is naturally caffeine-free.  All parts of the plant are used for wine or tonic beers.  About 93 species of insects visit Dandelion for its nectar, and it is an important honey plant.  Possible side effects:  The fresh latex that appears as white sticky liquid in the root and stem can be caustic and cause skin irritations.  One advantage of this property, however, is that it removes warts if applied religiously a few times a day. Since the pain in my ankles and feet is especially bad today, I think I need to go out and pick some of those fresh leaves and flowers and brew myself some tea!  

As a flower essence, Dandelion may be beneficial for compulsive 'doers' who tend to cram too much into their lives, pushing themselves and leaving little time for relaxation, Dandelion releases the physical and emotional tension that accumulates in the body, particularly in the neck and shoulders; brings courage and endurance to those who feel worn out or discouraged. Dandelion reminds us we have right to be here. An excellent essence for those who are hindered by their own shyness. Excellent purifiers of intention, allowing us to look carefully at our deepest motives and impulses.

A few months ago, my daughter took me to the Original Pancake House, and she ordered a German Caramel Apple Pancake.  It reminded me that I used to make a similar oven puffed-pancake when my children were young, so I came home and dug up the recipe and tried it several times!  My daughter-in-law made these Caramel Apple Puffed Pancakes for brunch today for her family. It's a cloudy, gloomy day here in Cincinnati today, so it's a good day to put this recipe up on my blog!

Caramel Apple Puffed Pancake:
Put 3 Tablespoons butter to melt in a 9" glass pie plate in oven while oven is preheating.  When melted, add 3 Tablespoons brown sugar and stir well.  The butter will still separate a bit, but that's okay.  While butter is melting, peel and thinly slice 1 or 2 tart apples (I used Gala). You can add a Tablespoon or two of white corn syrup to make a softer caramel topping, if desired.

Mix in small bowl: 
2 large eggs, whisked until well blended
Add & whisk together:
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
few grinds of nutmeg (or can use ground, about 1/8 teaspoon), optional
Pour batter over butter/brown sugar mixture. Put sliced apples on top of batter. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon.
Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Pancake will be cooked and puffed around the edges.
Turn onto plate.  EAT & enjoy!  

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Rag Quilts and Ramblings

It's hard to believe that just a few days ago I had the air conditioner on... and now I have the heat going again!  I finally gave in and turned the heat on when the thermostat in my house dropped to  62 degrees and I was freezing.  We have warmer weather on the way again, but evidently the circuit board for my air conditioning unit hasn't come in yet, as the repairman hasn't been back to fix it.  He rigged it so it works, but the fan runs continuously.  He said it is actually preferable to run the fan always, as it circulates the air better whether it is heating or cooling, and is minimal in cost, estimating around an additional $15.00 per year.  He also said it is less stressful to the furnace or air conditioning unit to run the fan continuously.  My oldest son was here when the repairman came, and he said from an energy standpoint, he thought it's preferable to put the strain on the unit rather than further deplete our energy sources!  He's the quietest of my children, but has always been an activist for human rights and our environment.  He's the one I go to for advice, politically, also.  He's informed and not shy about expressing his opinions to me.  

Cool weather brings thoughts of quilts again.  Our quilting group at church has made a lot of Rag Quilts for Project Linus, which distributes them to babies in hospitals.  A few of us do the actual sewing, while others do the pinning and snipping.  I have learned through experience NOT to wash and dry them in my own laundry room, as I clogged the dryer and had to have a repairman come and fix it.  Next time, I will bring them to the laundromat and do them there... and save my appliances.

Supplies needed:
sharp scissors
rotary cutter
cutting ruler/guide
cutting mat
sewing machine
neutral colored thread  (white or off-white)
quilting pins

You will need:
7" squares of flannel for the front and back of each square and 6" squares of batting to sandwich between.  You can use any weight, but should be consistent throughout the quilt.
You might want to use the same fabric for the backing squares, with a variety of prints for the front.  This is a quilt where just about anything goes and you can use up your leftover fabrics and pieces of batting left from other projects. 
 Amount of fabric needed (Figures are based on fabric that is 44” wide):
Each 7" strip of fabric will yield 6 squares, and your finished block size will be 6", with 1/2" seams on all sides.  You can compute the total yardage needed by figuring out how big you want your quilt, how many squares of fabric you will need, and multiplying it out. 
Baby quilt, 36" square:  36 squares of backing flannel and 36 squares for the front, plus 36 batting squares = 6 squares per 7” strip, and since you need 36 squares, that is 6 strips, so you will need a total of 42” of fabric each for the backing and front (7” strips yielding 6 squares each, 6 strips X 7” = 42”), approximately 1-1/4 yards each, front and back.  Baby quilt, 36 X 42":  42 squares of backing flannel, 42 squares front squares, plus 42 batting squares.  Fabric needed:  approximately 49” (approximately 1-1/2 yards each).
Of course, you can make them bigger, using these guidelines to figure the amount of fabric needed.
Sandwich batting square between a back and front square, with the right side of both pieces of flannel facing out and the batting on the inside.  Pin at each side of the square through all thicknesses (4 pins parallel to the edges) and sew diagonally across all thicknesses, stitching an “X” on the square, corner to corner.  When all “sandwiches” have been completed, sew them together in strips (I use 3 pins on each seam, with the 1/2” seam on the right side.  The back side will look finished when it is sewn.  Sew strips together to form the quilt, and sew around all four outside edges, ½” from edge.  Clip ALL seams just to stitching, every ¼”, including the outer edge.  Be careful not to clip into stitching line, but clip as close to the seam as possible.  When all seams have been clipped, wash and dry your quilt to form the shaggy look.  
 Note:  You can use any size squares or rectangles you wish.  Just make sure your batting is about 1” smaller than the front and back, and that the front and back are the same size.  You can also use denim or homespun, as these will fray easily, as well.  I do not pre-wash any of the fabrics.  

I found some special "snippers" at JoAnn Fabrics made especially for snipping these types of quilts, and they really simplify the job and make it much less stressful on the "scissor hands".  These quilts are soft and as colorful as you want to make them.  Since I quilt, I like having a pattern that uses up all the little pieces left over from quilting bigger quilts.  I sew pajamas for my grandchildren and lounge pants for my children, so the leftover flannel is put to good use in these Rag quilts, also.  My granddaughter, Maddie, made one of these Rag quilts for her nephew when he was born, almost a couple of years ago.  It was a fun project for her, and a good way for a beginner to learn to sew.  

I was planning to make a trip to Minnesota this coming weekend to help Quentin celebrate his 7th birthday on April 2nd, but cancelled my plans today.  (The photo to the right is Quentin Howard with my father, Howard, his namesake.  It was taken about 3 years ago... would you believe my dad was just a few years from 90 there?)  I will go at the end of April instead, and babysit all three of my Minnesota grandchildren while their parents take a romantic weekend trip together.  They think I'm doing them a favor... and I KNOW I am the one on the receiving end... they are giving me a wonderful opportunity to be a live-in grandma, enjoying my grandbabies for that time!  Perhaps I will have to do a little spoiling, while I'm at it!  I hope you have children around you, too, reminding you to look at the world through their eyes of innocence and wonder.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Blogging and Time

Tax time again... I don't know why I tend to put it off for so long, when I could just take the bull by the horns and tackle it on February 1st... or 15th... or even at the end of the month.  But... I wait until March rolls around... and rolls... and then before I know it, there's only a couple of weeks to the deadline!  And I am feeling stressed.  There really aren't many reasons for me to be stressed these days.  I'm retired!  And it's the best job I've ever had.  I can do what I want to do when I want to do it and for as long as I want to do it... or not.  I can work on a project until 4:00 a.m. and sleep until I wake up (or the phone wakes me).  Retirement can lead to a lack of scheduling altogether, and perhaps that isn't such a positive thing.  It's far too easy to put things off.  When I was working, I was forced to make better use of my time.

Now I have time... time to write a blog and read others' blogs. One blog that really caught my eye today is Michele's "With Heart and Hands".  Today's blog was especially appropriate, I thought... Coloring Outside the Lines:
Too often we restrict ourselves by staying inside the lines, and it's good to give ourselves permission to stray outside occasionally.  And while you're at her site, read about her  Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative.  The quilts can be no larger than 9" by 12", and they are auctioned off to support  Alzheimer's research.  Hers is a very moving story, and introduces us first-hand to an extremely worthy cause.  All that's needed is the time it takes to sew a lot of love and hope into a little bit of fabric.  There are pages of photos of quilts that have been donated.  Michele's site also links to a  lot of free block patterns.

Another blog that I enjoyed today was Laurie's KniceKnitties:
Laurie's blog today teaches you how to crochet Scrunchies... so colorful, cute and easy!  Both of these blogs link to other pages, as well.

Blogging might be seen as a waste of time to some, but for me it's a lifeline to the outside world.  Moving from the small town of Chisholm on Minnesota's Iron Range to the big city of Cincinnati, Ohio, I missed my friends of over 40 years terribly!  My telephone and computer keep me in touch with most of them.  And unlike years past when we had only snail mail or expensive telephone bills if we wanted to communicate with friends and family, today we can be in touch in an instant.  With Skype, we can even see our loved ones while we talk to them.

If you like making use of your time by multi-tasking, try crocheting these nylon net Scrubbies while you watch TV or visit.  They have many uses:  my youngest daughter says they are great for scrubbing foot callouses.  My youngest son loves them for cleaning his white-wall tires.  Most of us find them nearly indispensable in the kitchen or bathroom.

Cut 1 ½” strips across the width (72”) of stiff nylon net.   I usually get 2 yards of each color and put cut ends together to make a 1-yard piece.  Fold in half lengthwise, and again, in quarters, so you have a piece that is 1 yard long and about 5” wide when folded.  It works well to use a rotary cutter and ruler.  Each 2 yard piece makes 4 or 5 scrubbies (depending on how wide you cut your strips), with a few extra pieces leftover, which can be put together with other colors to make “scrappy scrubbies”.   Each scrubbie takes 8 strips.  Size J crochet hook.
Tie 8 lengths together with tails about 6” to 8” long.  If the net isn’t really stiff, I tie longer tails so it is more firmly stuffed when finished (the tails provide stuffing for ball).  Wind them loosely into a ball before beginning, if you choose.  I usually cut and wind all the balls before I begin to crochet the scrubbies.  Place them all in a bag and you are ready to go whenever you need some “pick up” work. 

Chain 3.  Join with slip stitch. Chain 1 (1st single crochet); Work 2 single crochet in the top of each chain (6 stitches). Row 2 & 3:  Work 2 single crochets in each stitch around for 2 more rows (24 stitches around). 
Rows 4 and following rows:  1 single crochet in the top of each single crochet around. 
When 6 tails (7 strips) have been used, turn right side out and using 8th strip, begin to decrease, working one single crochet in the top of every other single crochet until top is closed.   End with slip stitch in last stitch.  Pull remaining end through to knot and hide in center of ball.

When I was visiting my son and his family last year, his cats got into my tote bag of nylon balls waiting to be crocheted... and there were bits of colorful nylon net shredded all over the floor!  What fun they had!!!  I'm glad I could put some joy in their life, however unwittingly.  Gabriella and Griffin helped me clean up the mess, all of us laughing hilariously while we worked.  The cats sat innocently on the sidelines, pretending not to notice us.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Marching into Spring

Cincinnati didn’t have much winter weather this year!   Here, in mid-March, we are having record-breaking high temperatures in the 80s.  Unbelievable!  The Bradford Pear trees on my boulevard are blossoming.  The bushes and trees that border my back yard are leafing out, once again giving the impression that I am alone in the “woods”, as they block out the view of any houses beyond the trees (see the photo below).  The Forsythia bushes around my deck are blooming, and the bright yellow blossoms are a welcome sight and good eye candy.  Squirrels scamper along the cables beyond the deck, performing on the high wire.

Today, there was someone mowing across the street from me, but my grass isn’t long enough to mow yet.  The weather has been dry, and I lost 2 majestic pine trees in the last two years.  The lovely Dogwood tree in my front yard died the first winter I was here, and I haven’t replaced it yet.  I would love to put in some fruit trees… dark cherry and peach… but I am sure the squirrels and birds would eat the fruit before it ripens enough for me to pick.  It wasn’t warm enough in northern Minnesota to plant any fruit trees other than apple, and I had three varieties of apple trees in my back yard there. There are berry trees edging my back yard here, and we’ve only tasted the berries a time or two… otherwise, the birds and animals pick them clean. 

My children were all here this past weekend, and it was so hot we turned the air conditioner on.  By Monday, it had stopped cooling and I had to call a repairman (thank goodness for home warranty insurance!).  He "hotwired" it to work, but had to order a new circuit board.  Without the air conditioning, our allergies were having a hay-day!  Now, it's nice and cool again, and the air is allergen-free.   

This is the season for allergies and colds to flare up.  I have atomizers in my bathrooms, and fill them with Thieve’s Blend Essential Oil, especially when I have company coming.  If I feel a scratchy throat heralding a cold, I tuck a tissue with a few drops of the oil into my shirt, so I am inhaling it all day, and it usually wards off the cold.  Herbal legend tells us that robbers looted homes during the Black Plague, and the blend of essential oils prevented them from contracting the disease, hence the name “Thieve’s Blend”. Here is the “recipe” I use.  I use the dropper in the oil to measure each one.  I don’t count out drops, but fill the dropper about ¾ full, so the balance between all oils is roughly accurate.

Thieve’s Blend Essential Oil: 

18 droppers Clove essential oil
9 droppers Lemon essential oil
9 droppers Cinnamon Leaf essential oil
5 droppers Eucalyptus essential oil
5 droppers Rosemary essential oil
Combine in 1 oz. bottle. NOTE: NEVER use the essential oils directly on your skin.

Another natural remedy that is available to everyone is Garlic.  We use fresh minced Garlic on our salads daily, as well as in many of our foods. We love the flavor fresh Garlic adds, so it's easy for us to include in our daily diet.  Garlic supplements are available over-the-counter, if you prefer to take it in that form.  My younger sister told me that people mentioned to her that she smells like Garlic, and offered her breath mints!  She looked at the bottle of Garlic supplements that she was taking, and it was not odor-free, as she had thought.  So be aware that is available in odorless or regular form.  

I looked for a photo of some of the herbs in my garden in Minnesota, but didn't find any of the plants in this essential oil blend.  I did find a picture of the prettiest flower in my garden... granddaughter Madelyn, who loved to sit on the terrace and smell the flowers.  Now that lovely flower is blossoming into womanhood at 13, but I think she would still enjoy smelling the flowers.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Artisan Bread and Poetry

It isn't sunny in Cincinnati today!  In fact, it's been raining most of the day... softly pelleting the earth, not hard and angry as is sometimes the case.  I just heard that one of my good friends lost her mother, and it reminds me of a short poem I wrote once, many years ago:

It’s raining in my heart
Soft, liquid love
Seeping iridescent drops
feeding rainbows of the soul.

Rest well, blessed lady... you have enriched many lives, and will be missed by many!

A rainy day cries out for the comforting smell of bread baking... and here is a recipe for delicious artisan bread that  my son discovered on the internet, from an old newspaper article.  I've tried for years to  make a good artisan bread without success, so this was a wonderful place to begin making breads that are even better than the expensive European breads in the grocery store!  Unfortunately, it isn't low-carb, so I don't make it very often... mostly just when company is coming so I'm not tempted to eat the whole loaf by myself!  The photo is one my sister took of one of her first attempts, and it tastes even better than it looks.  The crust is crisp and chewy and the inside texture is actually moist, reminiscent of the inside of a cream puff.  We've experimented with different flours and additions, so you are only limited by your imagination.  It takes only moments to mix the batter up. 

No-Knead Artisan Bread

3 cups bread flour 
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1 to 2 teaspoons salt, according to your taste
Cornmeal or bran as needed.
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball.  Sprinkle a piece of parchment paper with flour, put dough seam side down on paper and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. May score the top with a sharp knife, if desired.  Cover with a cotton tea towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than doubled in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 2 to 6 quart heavy covered pot or casserole (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven and take cover off.  (Don't burn yourself!)  Lift paper with the dough carefully and put it in the casserole, leaving the dough on the paper.  it may look like a mess, but that is okay.  Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 5 to 10 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.
The dough is slightly sour from raising for so long, and I have left a bit of the dough in the bowl and added the new ingredients to that, using the left over dough as sourdough starter.  I've also developed a delicious multi-grain recipe that I will share in another blog.  Try variations:  about 10 or 12 whole peeled garlic cloves stuck into the raw dough before it raises, folding it over itself to enclose the garlic cloves; Greek olives sliced and sprinkled with grated cheese, laid on the raw dough before raising, then folded over itself to enclose them.  I haven't yet tried dried red and green peppers in the dough, but wouldn't that be a beautiful holiday bread?  There are so many possibilities... tell me what you've tried!

My break time is over... time to get some laundry done and do some more housecleaning.  I have company coming this weekend, and all of my chicks will be back in the nest!  Nothing makes me happier than when all of my family is together.  Last August was the last time we were all together, and my oldest daughter took some family pictures.   One of my favorite Christmas gifts was the framed enlargement (about 18 x 24) that she gave me of most of the grandchildren... one granddaughter was missing from the portrait, because she was working... but nine of them are included in the photo.  They range in age from 3 to 22, and each one of them is a delight!

Have a wonderful day where ever you are.  Make a phone call or visit to someone you love... we never know how long we'll be together.  

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Springtime and the Scrappy Snowball Quilt

It's another beautiful sunny day here in Cincinnati.  I think spring is my favorite times of year... but when the other seasons make themselves known, each one is appreciated in its own way... as long as it isn't extreme!  People here in Cincinnati complain about the cold during the winter, but coming from northern Minnesota, this is not cold to me!  In fact, this past winter was so mild that I never wore a winter coat once (although the natives were bundled up as if it was 40 degrees below zero)... and never had to shovel my sidewalks.  The worst weather we had was a weekend my son and his wife drove down here from lower Michigan... the trip that usually takes them 4 hours took them over 6!  We had an ice storm that weekend, and driving was treacherous.  He sprinkled salt on my sidewalks, but that was the only time it was necessary.  I called and told them not to come, but it was the first time they came without their children, and my son said it was as much for the process of getting away alone together as anything!  I loved having them, but I have to say I missed seeing my grandchildren. 

This quilt top is one I finished several months ago, hoping to give it as a Christmas present, but that didn't come to pass, as it never got quilted yet.  I call it a Scrappy Snowball, and adapted the pattern to work with 2-1/2" squares left over from making a series of baby quilts with our church quilting group.  Literally ALL of the pieces were in my "scrap" basket, except for the muslin.  You will notice that by using that sized piece, the triangles on the corners of the "snowball" block don't match perfectly with the squares of the patchwork block, but I think that adds to its scrappy charm.  There are two very simple blocks that make up this quilt... the patchwork block is made up of 16 - 2" finished squares, 4 across and 4 down in each block.  I didn't even try to alternate light and dark squares, and it turned out nicely, anyway.  The other block is made up of 4-1/2" squares of muslin ( 4 of them) with a 2-1/2" square on 2 opposite corners of the muslin square.  Right sides together, I sewed diagonaly across the colored square and then snipped off the outside triangle and actually THREW IT AWAY!  I've never done that before... but these were already made from scraps, after all, so I adopted one more quick quilting method.  And I felt exceedingly proud of myself that I wasn't compelled to save the bits I cut off for another project!  Back to the pattern... the four snowball squares are sewn together, forming an X with the colored triangles meeting to form larger triangles.  It looks much more complicated than it is, and is truly a scrap quilt.

One thing I did to try in order to keep the quilt unified was to put a green, blue or purple square on the corners of each snowball unit.  Otherwise, there is every color under the sun in the quilt, and it looks charming and old-fashioned.  I put a simple medium green calico border on the quilt.  Perhaps I will have it quilted by next Christmas... but with five children, I will have to get four more made so everyone gets one.  I have  my eye on a couple of other patterns for some of the children.  They will be large lap quilts... big enough probably for a twin sized bed so they look pretty on a sofa but will be comfortable to wrap up in when the cold winds of winter are rattling the windows.

When they are machine quilted, it's much easier to pop them in the washer and dryer... the hand-quilted heirloom quality quilts my mother and father make are treasures that shouldn't be treated so casually. 

My parents will be 91 this year, and have been married over 70 years!  They still live in their own home, and are still making quilts.  My mother pieces the quilt tops and my father quilts them.  They are breathtakingly beautiful works of art, and will be treasured for many generations to come.  They have given several quilts to me and my sisters that grace all of our bedrooms, and all of the grandchildren have quilts, and even the great-grandchildren have quilts stacked in their parent's closets, waiting for their wedding day.  My mother also writes poetry and makes them into counted cross-stitch framed pieces. She has several notebooks filled with pictures of her works.... and they have several notebooks filled with pictures of their quilts.  They have made literally hundreds of quilts, and my father is often proud to point out tiny rust-colored specks of his blood on the backs of the quilts that are a testimony to the hundreds of hours he spends quilting.  They are a badge of honor, and never washed out before gifting the quilt.  Mom says she thinks she will quit quilting because they have many stacked in their closets already, and "you can buy a patchwork quilt at Target for $50!"  But she's said that before, and the fabric always calls out to her and she starts another quilt.  The  last few quilts she made were Grandmother's Flower Garden, and a Dahlia-type applique, all hand pieced while she "listens" to TV.

I started a Cathedral Window quilt top years ago, because it was something I could have as "handwork".  Mom says our Finnish heritage prevents us from having idle hands!   But I have not yet unpacked the bag or box that contains that quilt, and perhaps it was lost in the shuffle of moving.  I got rid of so much "stuff" when I moved that had accumulated through forty years of living in that house... and now, when I unpack another box and find a treasure I'd been missing... it's like Christmas! 

This is one of the baby quilts I made for our church group (we give quilts to Project Linus, who distributes them to children in hospitals)... can you spot some of the leftover fabrics that went into my Scrappy Snowball quilt?

Have a wonder-filled Sunday!  And share a smile with someone who doesn't have one of their own...

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Country Crossroads Quilt Pattern

These three simple blocks compose this quilt in progress I call Nebraska Country Crossroads, named for the state I grew up in.  Pheasants abound there, and the pheasant fabric was perfect for this quilt!  The pattern forms "roads" across the quilt diagonally, framing the pheasant print.  The block size is 6", finished.  The pheasant print was cut into 6-1/2" strips, then cutting those strips into 6-1/2" lengths to form a square.  The other two blocks use 2-1/2" strips.  One block is a Rail Fence pattern, using 3 strips joined and cut into 6-1/2" segments.  The last block is a simple 9-Patch, made up of the dark and medium colors.  One strip set was dark/light/dark and the other was light/dark/light, and these were cut into 2-1/2" segments and joined alternately, as shown.  Be aware of the contrasting colors, as they will form your pattern.  The next photo shows some of the blocks joined to form the pattern of the quilt top. Note that there are three rows joined at this point.  From the right top edge, there is a 9-Patch, then a Rail Fence block, then another 9-Patch, then another Rail Fence, then another 9-Patch. 
Second row down on the right side:  Rail Fence block, Pheasant print block, Rail Fence block, 9-Patch block, Rail Fence block, and so on.  The dark fabric of the Rail Fence block forms the frame around the Pheasant print. The finished 2" dark squares of the 9-Patch blocks form chains or "roads" across the quilt top diagonally. This patteren would be lovely in any color combination, and could be based on one focal fabric that you love, adding complementary colors for the other three fabrics.  A good distinction between light and dark is important for this pattern, with a nice medium tone that blends everything together and gives the eye a place to rest.  Here are a couple of photos of another color combination, based on a beautiful blue floral fabric I had purchased.  The center blocks were fussy-cut in this case.  The photo on the right shows three rows joined, as in the pheasant quilt above.  If you have any questions, please ask me.  Happy quilting!

Springtime in Ohio

March heralds sunny days filled with the promise of springtime... leaf buds are beginning to form on branches and the grass is greening.  Soon the roar of mowers will drown out the melodies of birdsong.  This lovely time of balmly weather and new beginnings, after the icy winds of winter and before the sultry heavy air of summer, is the perfect time to begin new projects.  

I've been busy beading, time consuming when one has glaucoma and can't see the beads as easily as I once did!   I bought a small Ottlite with a magnifying glass on a bendable gooseneck, and that is a big help. I am crocheting granny squares for an afghan in my family room and a knitted stained-glass type afghan is in progress in my living room, so where ever I am sitting there is a project close at hand. But my sewing machine is calling me... there are quilt blocks cluttering my mind and I need to transfer them to fabric.  Speaking of new beginnings... my niece is pregnant with her first baby also, which means one more beloved member of our family tree... and one more reason to make a baby quilt!  I'll be posting photos and instructions for various projects on upcoming blogs, but for now... here's a great muffin recipe from my low-carb list on Yahoo Groups:

Low Carb  Muffin (Muffin in a Minute):
2 Tablespoons ground flax seed or flax meal
2 Tablespoons almond meal or oat bran or oat fiber
2 Tablespoons whipping cream or 1 Tablespoon melted butter
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp baking powder
Cinnamon, generous sprinkle
1 packet Splenda or other low-carb sweetener
(or 1 teaspoon sugar, but it will add carbs)
½ teaspoon vanilla
Mix and put all ingredients into a large mug or bowl, sprayed with cooking spray, and microwave about 1 to 1-1/2 minutes, until done.  It will pop right out of the container. Makes one large muffin, less than 2 countable carbs if you use the flax, almond meal or oat fiber, and artificial sweetener.  I've also added dried cherries or apricots, and that was delicious, too.

What are your passions?  Notice I used the plural... do any of us have just one? 

Have a lovely day, filled with the warmth of love... and peppered with new ideas!