Thursday, July 11, 2013

Fleece Pillows and Steak and Spotsons:

What a wonderful summer we’ve had!  Plenty of fabric, sewing machines that perform as expected, skeins of yarn waiting to become stockings and a multitude of other things… and the time to work on any of those projects I feel motivated to do.  The past month, my quilting and knitting have taken a back seat while I spent time with a couple of special little grandchildren, but it is a good break from my usual routine.  Yesterday, Quentin and I were planning to go to see Monster University in 3D, but a gaggle of workers with heavy equipment had our driveway blocked, so we were unable to leave.  We thought it was a good thing we stayed home when a storm hit less than two hours later, and strong winds whipped the tall trees behind our house, and rains pounded the ground, pouring off the downspouts as if someone had opened the flood gates!  We would have been on our way home from the movie about that time, and caught in the downpour.  It lasted about a half hour, and we were glad we could watch it from inside the dry house!

Last Sunday, my middle son took Quentin to the movie Despicable Me 2, took him shopping for a new game for his Nintendo DS, and got him several other things.  He took him to lunch at McDonald’s, where Quentin got a Minion figure that was featured in the movie.  He has wanted to make his very own Monster pillow on the sewing machine when he came, and decided he would rather make a Minion pillow, so that is the project we did today.  Quentin loves anything soft, so we made it out of fleece. It was a fun time!

Minion Pillow:
Gold fleece, cut double, 14” by 20”.  Fold both pieces in half the long way.  Use a DVD disk or bowl to cut rounded corner at top of folded fabric.
Make either one or two large eyes.  Quentin wanted just one eye on his Minion. 
Strap:  black fleece, ½” wide by 14” long
Eye:  Beige Fleece:  4” circle
          White Fleece: 3” circle
          Black Fleece: 1-1/4” circle
Pocket:  10” X 14” Navy Fleece (we used purple, since that was what I had). Turn top under 1” and stitch down.  I used a fancy stitch for this step.

Sew black strap onto front of Minion, about 7” from top of head, topstitching along both edges.

Sew beige circle to center of strap.  Center white circle on the beige circle and topstitch.  Sew black circle to center of white circle and topstitch. 

Sew the pocket to the bottom half of the front, with hemmed edge at the top, against the Minion front.  He can put his pajamas in the pocket, or use it to store his Nintendo DS, if he chooses.

Quentin started sewing around the outside of the Minion, leaving an opening in the bottom for stuffing, but I had to finish it because my
machine was breaking thread.  The beige fabric I used for the base of the eye (the goggles?) was a plush and it gummed up my needle and made a royal mess of the thread! 
He turned it right side out and stuffed it, and I sewed the bottom opening shut on the machine. 
Quentin noticed that it didn’t have arms or a mouth… I told him pillows don’t need arms, but he drew a mouth on with a permanent marking pen, and then he was happy.  He was delighted with how it turned out, and said he didn’t think it would look so much like a Minion! 

We had a piece of gold fleece left, and we cut a rectangle the same size of purple fleece.  I cut slashes about 4” deep about every ½” to ¾” around the edges of the rectangles, with them pinned together. I cut out the 4” corner squares before cutting the slashes.  We knotted the fringe all the way around, leaving part of one end open for stuffing.   Quentin stuffed the little neck pillow and we finished knotting the strands, completing the pillow.  My sons are all Minnesota Vikings fans, and their colors are purple and gold, so this will make a good little pillow to accompany Mark’s Vikings fleece throw.  And maybe he won’t confiscate Quentin’s gold and purple Minion! 

My daughters usually come over on Thursday evenings, and tonight was no exception.  I made steak and spotsons for dinner, which is a family favorite.  My Bohemian grandmother used to make them… actually, they are much like the German Spaetzle.  My sister makes the best spotsons, and I watched how she did it the last time she was here… she just makes the dough much “wetter” and kind of scrapes them into the boiling water, cutting the batter as it pours in.  The way I learned to make them was using a stiffer batter, and the spotsons were heavier than hers.  Here’s the recipe:

Steak and Spotsons:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of water
Mix, adding additional water to make a thinner batter, about the consistency of heavy pancake batter.  I usually make at least a double batch.  Scrape them into a pot of boiling water.   As they cook, they will rise to the top of the water.  I used a slotted spoon to scoop them out into a colander, which is placed over a plate or bowl to catch any water that might drain off.  The smaller the pieces of the dough, the better the spotsons are.  Meanwhile, brown the steak (sirloin is best) in butter… I use a stick of butter in my large electric frying pan.  Salt and pepper the steak, turning when brown.  When I turn the steak, I toss about 6 or so cloves of garlic into the butter along with the steak.  This is a step I have added, not one my grandmother used… but we all like the flavor garlic adds.  When the steak is browned nicely, remove it from the pan and pour the cooked and drained spotsons into the frying pan, turning them well to coat them with the drippings. Heat them through, salt and pepper, as desired, and they are ready to serve.  Delicious with a green salad. 

My German/Hungarian husband made something similar, but with pork, and he put the dough on a cutting board and cut it into the boiling water… he called them Noodlies.  I think many nationalities have similar dishes, with slight variations, no matter what we make.  I wonder if, in this time of canned and processed foods, we will lose these traditions of homemade ethnic-based fare.  I certainly hope not!

While my daughters were here, I told Michelle about my sewing machine jamming up, and she got out a screwdriver and needle-nosed pliers, took the cover off the machine, and worked about a half hour at pulling out all kinds of thread jammed around the spindle or whatever it’s called.  Some was so jammed in with some kind of gunk (possibly more than the plush used today), that it had actually hardened from the friction.  Now, that Janome 8050 sews just as smoothly as when it was brand new a year ago!  Thank goodness for talented children!

Ava called just before bedtime, all excited to tell us she was just on her way home from rock-wall climbing with her maternal grandmother.  She said the wall was around 22 feet high, and it was only scary if she looked down!    She is more adventurous than I am. 

This month of time with the grandchildren has sped by far too quickly.  It’s so nice to have each of the children separately, so they have plenty of one-on-one time, and we can do special things with each of them.  Their other grandmother is the adventure grandma… I am the one who sews, does handcrafts, and bakes with them, and both of us are appreciated for different reasons.  We complement each other’s gifts well. 

Quentin keeps reminding me all day that he has just one more day with me, and he feels sad that
the time has gone so quickly… but then, being the optimist he is, he brightly says he’s very glad we get to see each other two times each year, at least… over spring break and again for summer break.  I used to visit them more often, but this year I have not felt able to make those trips so easily.  I have my home set up to accommodate my handicaps, and it is more comfortable to just stay at home than to visit where there are not lifted toilets or recliners, and even rest areas are difficult to access on the road.  But I miss spending more time with these wonderful children, while they are still young enough to look forward to time spent with Grandma! 

Last night, Quentin  asked me why I think he hasn’t slept in the “big bed” upstairs that is his favorite bed in  my house (and Griffin’s too)… it’s an old antique iron bed, and without thinking when I
moved it, I discarded the steel spring that fit down into the rails.  My son-in-law had to drill holes and screw on the new modern box spring, so it really is very high now… the littler grandchildren need a stool to get into bed, just like the antique beds used to be!  I told him I think it’s because this year, he wanted more to snuggle with his grandma… and he giggled.  Right now, he is fast asleep snuggled with his new Minion under his head.  He might think he’ll miss me when he leaves, but this grandma will cry herself to sleep a few nights, I fear, missing that sweet red-headed little man! 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Big Boys and Bannock, too!

My new favorite age is eight!  Grandson, Quentin, who is 8 years old, is staying with me for two weeks, and he is a delight!  He is still young enough to listen without needing to have the last word, and is eager to please and excited over just about everything.  We have explored stories and games and just had some silly pillow talk… and we’ve giggled together often, too.  Eight year old boys have a plethora of silly things traveling through their thoughts and many of them explode out into words, keeping me on my toes.  Every night, when tucking the grandchildren in, I always say… “Goodnight, don’t let the bedbugs bite”, and they answer, “And if they do, hit them with your shoe until they’re all black and blue.”  When Ava was about a year and a half old and visiting, I said that to her for the first time… and she answered, “Okay.”  And Mark told me when they got upstairs, she looked all through the bed for the bedbugs, which, of course, did not live in my house.  (Now, those bedbugs are a real threat in many areas, even existing in department stores and movie theaters!) 

Well, last night, Quentin was curious about bedbugs, so we looked them up on the internet and discovered what they looked like and all sorts of facts about them.  It’s good reading practice for him, as well.  He asked me if I remember last summer when we were looking up planets… so our research treks on the internet obviously make an impact in his memory, which I was overjoyed to learn!  We learned that bedbugs can live for as long as five months without needing to feed on blood, which is kind of frightening.  This summer, he is again reading to me from Thornton W. Burgess's books... the Mother West Wind series.  My 92-year old mother used to read those to us when my sisters and I were children.  Do any of you remember growing up with those books?  They are repetitive and boring by today's standards, but they taught good lessons in how to be good and get along with your friends and family.  I'm glad Quentin is enjoying them with me.

Thanks to the internet and Skype, he can Skype and play internet games with his little sister, which I’m sure my son appreciates, since he is home alone with four-year-old Charlotte!  Quentin can entertain her while Mark is cooking dinner.  Since today is a holiday, they’ve played and Skyped a couple of times.  These modern technologies intimidate me, but even Charlotte can initiate a Skype call!  For me, it’s kind of similar to what I know about a car… I can turn them on and hope they perform as they are supposed to! 

This morning, we made fried bread, Native American Indian style, or Bannock, as it is called.  The recipe is easy, and does not require any yeast so there is no waiting for it to raise, and it can be made while the oil is heating.  I cannot take a photo of the plate of fried bread, because I sent it home with my youngest daughter for my older grandchildren to enjoy.  But… here is a photo of Quentin with the one piece that is left as I write this.

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 Cups warm milk

Mix all ingredients and turn out onto a board to knead until the dough is well-mixed, just a few minutes.  Cover with a tea towel and let “rest” for about 15 minutes.  Heat olive oil in a deep frying pan until hot.  Divide the dough into 12 pieces (these will make “bread” about the size of a slice of bread… make them bigger if you want bigger breads).  Press each piece into a thin “round” of dough.  Deep fry in the hot oil until golden, and using tongs, turn the bread and fry the other side.  Drain on a paper towel covered plate.  The golden bubbly fried Bannock may be dusted with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar, if desired.  It may be used as a “wrap” for a sandwich or as the base for a taco or pizza topping. 

 We had a little neighborhood parade here in our area of Finneytown, an annual event.  It was over in about 5 minutes, but it was fun for Quentin, just the same, and he told everyone he went to the “festival” for the Fourth.  It was drizzling rain, but he stood at the curb in front of our house, anyway, and managed to get two pieces of candy thrown his way.  Youngest daughter brought us dinner tonight, and then drove us to watch fireworks in the area.  I still am excited to see fireworks.  I guess I’m just a kid at heart.  It was still raining, but we could watch from the car, and thankfully they were not cancelled. 

I hope you all have a wonderful, safe 4th of July holiday weekend.  Quentin reminded me that now summer is almost half over!