Saturday, November 16, 2013

Soup Time and Sewing Troubles

My sewing machine has been humming almost non-stop lately!  When I am in the midst of one quilt, ideas of another one… or two… or three are forming in my mind, and I can’t wait to make a few blocks to see them in actual fabric.    I feel as if I’m racing to get quilts pieced as if the hounds of hell are nipping at my heels, and perhaps they are.  I am getting older, day by day, and more aware of my mortality.  Many of my contemporaries have died or are going into nursing homes, and that is distressing to think about.  But I am still fine, able to live alone in my own home, and free to quilt as much as I please, and that is a good thing. 

My Janome 8050 had begun chirping, whether I was sewing on it or not, and I thought at first there was a cricket that had somehow decided to be my roommate.  However, when it chirped, it did not sew, so I quickly realized who was doing the chirping.  I brought it to my local sewing machine shop for repairs (is it an accident that it happens to be across the street from Hancock's Fabrics?), and discovered the repairs will cost about half the price I paid for the machine.  Now, I love that little Janome, but expected it to last longer than a bit over a year… just long enough to be out of warranty.  It stitches beautifully and had many features only found on more expensive machines. 

While I was at the shop, I was tempted to look at the machines now available on the market… it’s astounding what the new machines are capable of doing!  I think they can do just about everything but cook dinner and iron your clothes.  I was intrigued enough to ask about prices, and found out that most of those beautiful machines cost as much as a new car.  The owner asked me what I was willing to spend, and when I told her, she just looked at me in astonishment and said I would not get the features I wanted at that price!  I was looking for speed (my Viking Mega sews 1600 stitches per minute), scissor function, knee lift, needle up/down, speed control, long throat, and the capability to sew more than a straight stitch.  My Mega is a gorgeous machine, but only does a straight stitch, so if I want to do any mending I need to switch machines, and that is one heavy machine to hoist around.  I was informed that speed and decorative stitches are not compatible, so that was not an option.  After coming home, the owner called me and said she had a new Viking Opal that she could sell me within my price range.  It had all the features but the knee lift and maximum speed of my Viking, and had 200 decorative stitches and 4 fonts, so I could embroider labels for my quilts… plus one-on-one lessons to learn how to get the most benefit from the machine.  So guess who came home with a brand spanking new Viking Opal???  And it does sew beautifully, but when I use the scissor function, the thread will come out of the needle about half the time.  I was told to pull the thread a bit longer after cutting it, before sewing.  But that rather defeats the purpose of the automatic scissor function, in my opinion.   

And speaking of ironing, my lovely Rowenta iron began to smoke and had an internal fire… luckily the flames did not spread outside of the iron.  I carried the smoking gun out my kitchen door and set it on the cement slab and let it burn itself out, keeping an eye on it from time to time to make sure it didn’t start my house on fire!  And my oldest daughter and I went shopping for a new iron.  I wanted an iron that had enough weight to it that it would be good for pressing cotton quilt seams, high wattage, steam function with lots of vents in the soleplate, and no automatic shut-off.  I liked a T-fal, which was 1700 watts, but the automatic shut-off time was 8 minutes, and I thought that would drive me crazy when I was piecing quilt blocks.  Most of the irons did not have as many vents as I thought they should have, or were lower wattage.  I ended up getting a Shark, which was 1800 watts with a lot of steam vents and a longer period before automatically shutting off… 15 minutes, I think it was.  It was not cheap, but less than half what a Rowenta iron costs.   

So now I have a new sewing machine and a new iron… I just need to replace my ironing board cover, onto which the Rowenta tattooed it’s last breath, crisply leaving its mark in its last home.  Incidentally, the Rowenta people sent me a shipping label to send the melted machine back to its origins for its final resting place.  I was happy that they want to see what caused its demise so perhaps other people won’t suffer the same fate. 

Since my sewing was interrupted, I decided to make soup!  Fall weather is looming, with lower nighttime temperatures, so it’s a good time to have soup simmering on the back of the stove.  My oldest daughter loves Olive Garden’s Pasta e Fagioli soup, so I came up with a similar recipe we both like.  Also, I developed a cheesy potato soup, as well. 

Four Bean, Tomato and Pasta Soup
2 pounds ground lean chuck
1 medium chopped onion
2 cups chopped carrots
4 stalks diced celery
2 teaspoons minced garlic (I use bottled)
1 Tablespoon Louisiana Hot Sauce
1 Tablespoon dried Oregano
1 Tablespoon dried Parsley
1 - 28 ounce can diced tomatoes, juice and all
1 (24-ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
1 can red kidney beans
1 can white kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 can garbanzo beans
3 quarts beef broth (I made mine with beef soup paste base)
2 cups macaroni (or other small dried pasta shape)
Cook the ground chuck in a large stockpot, breaking it up, until it starts to brown.  Even with lean meat, you shouldn’t need to put oil in the pan before browning meat.  Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, hot sauce, Oregano, Parsley, tomatoes and spaghetti sauce; cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the beans and beef broth. Simmer until celery and carrots are tender, about 45 minutes. Add the pasta and simmer until it’s cooked. Makes about 6 quarts. (I think, if you can stand the heat, a chopped Jalapeno pepper would be a great addition.  I sprinkled some crushed red pepper on top of the soup in my bowl, and liked that, too.)

 Hearty Potato Soup:
6 to 10 slices lean bacon, diced and fried until crisply in large dutch oven
Add to bacon and grease:
 ½ cup finely diced onions
2 teaspoons chopped garlic (I used bottled)
Fry until onion is tender.
Add ½ cup all-purpose flour to mixture in dutch oven and stir until smooth, to make a rue from the bacon grease.
Slowly add, stirring to keep soup smooth:
2 quarts (8 cups) chicken stock (I made my own with chicken soup paste and water)
2 teaspoons Louisiana Hot Sauce (does not make the soup spicy hot, just enhances the flavor)
8 peeled and diced baked potatoes
1 teaspoon dried basil
Cook over medium heat until hot, stirring frequently.
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 cup Mexican cheese blend
Stir until cheese is mostly melted.
Add 2 cups whipping cream.  Stir until heated through.  Do not boil.   Makes about 5 quarts.

I used my baking potato bag to make the potatoes, in two batches.  Let them cool, then peel and dice.  See one of my prior blogs for instructions on the potato bag.  It worked great for baking the potatoes for this recipe! My daughter said she didn't like the bacon softening in the soup, and would remove the crisp bacon and use it as a garnish when serving the soup.  I didn't think it was too soft the way it was.  I don't much like leftovers, but I ate this soup for a week and didn't get tired of it.  I think it's my new favorite soup, replacing Broccoli Cheese soup and Clam Chowder.

A neighborhood boy came looking for raking jobs, and so now my yard is raked clean of leaves.  There are still a few more falling, but he raked and bagged up about 15 big garbage bags full of leaves!  I was happy, he was happy… so it was a good day.  There are leaves remaining on most of the trees and bushes behind my house, still providing the illusion that there are not houses behind me!   We have had two light snowfalls that melted rather quickly, and the temperatures are back in the 50s and 60s during the daytime.  But winter is coming.  Are you prepared?


  1. Thank you for the recipes. I love soups, especially in colder weather.

    Pondering Cat

    1. hello, fancy 'seeing' you here, it's sure a small world!. x

  2. Hope you enjoy your new machine. I've two brothers (embroidery and sewing) and find they are really good. I had to take my embroidery machine in as it was skipping stitches, never knew before this a person could suffer separation anxiety from a sewing machine! lol.....

  3. Found your blog via Stashbusters. Love reading your postings - they are very chatty and I feel like you are talking to us personally over a cuppa. Hope your new machine and iron look after you. Will call in again......Joy in Australia

  4. I love soup and now I have a couple more to try. Thank you for sharing.