Thursday, January 4, 2018

Paradise in Bloom Quilt - Part 1

I did it. I finally picked the fabric for my Paradise in Bloom Quilt. I ordered about 22 yards of fabric and the box was huge. It was big and full of fabric! I ordered from I really like their design wall feature and I played with colors for a long time. What I didn't like is that some colors, specifically dark greens, for some reason all required a 2 yard minimum purchase. I think everything is at least a 1 yard minimum but why 2 yards on certain colors? So needless to say that was annoying especially when I only need about 1/2 yard of 5 different green colors but this way if I mess up I'll have extra fabric and all these colors might make a pretty binding.

Anyway, I went with an orange center surrounded by blues that ranged from very dark to very light, add in some dark brown and cream with the blue and orange and that's the main parts of the quilt. The appliques will be greens and multiple hues of color for the flowers. I still need to buy about 4 yards of fabric for the border since I'm not going to do the original border. I wasn't sure which color I wanted so I thought I'd figure it out later.

Here's a picture of some of the fabric. I have to admit, I wasn't happy with 2 of the fabrics. The brown fabric seems like its got more black in it than I would've liked and my "oatmeal" is too yellowy for me but since those are about 4 yards each I guess I have to use them.

If you've never done a Quiltworx paper pieced quilt, then I highly recommend that before doing anything you read the directions twice then read them again. My very first paper pieced quilt was a Judy Neimeyer pattern, which I believe was the Fourth of July. I enjoyed the paper piecing, once I got used to it, and the curved sewing was a challenge but I got through it.

I've also completed the Amazon Star and the Wedding Ring bedrunner so I've got some experience with their patterns. I have found the instructions for these patterns to be well thought out and clearly written, which I like. I can't tell you how many sewing instructions I've come across that were horrible and clearly written for people who have been sewing for a hundred years instead of someone who's just starting out.

Anyway, the patterns come with a large master layout of the quilt with all of the units and how they all fit together which is really helpful. Then you have your fabric cutting sheets and of course your paper piecing units.

This is the fabric cutting sheet. The instructions will tell you to lay out your fabric (for this particular unit) and you take your rotary cutter and cut all the pieces out. These are the fabric pieces you will use for the units.

Below is a sheet of the units M and L. These units are cut out and I store them individually in bags that are labeled. You wouldn't think that cutting out all the units would take a long time but it does. I'd estimate that you need around 20 hours to cut all the units out. I certainly can't operate a pair of scissors for the entire duration it would take to cut them all out so I break it up into 2-3 hour sessions then go do something else. After all the units are cut out and bagged, then I put the cut fabric pieces in the bags with the units.

The trick is to keep everything together. I like paper piecing while some people hate it. I found that when I started sewing, the paper piecing really kept me focused on that 1/4" seam and sewing along pre-printed lines keeping everything straight was a god send. The draw back to this kind of project is the amount of trash it generates and pulling off the paper once everything is sewed together is a giant pain.

Next up, is cutting fabric pieces..

Monday, January 1, 2018

Goodbye 2017

Another year has passed and for me it was a fairly quiet one. We didn't go on vacation and I'm pretty sure I sewed less this year than last year and I definitely posted less. I had around 30 blog posts from bluebirds to quilts to cooking classes. There were no anniversary parties this year but I did take my grandmother to OSU Orton Museum to speak with someone about her rock collection.

My grandmother is 89 and fondly remembers the time she spent traveling out west with her husband in the 1980's. During their traveling she picked up rocks from all the states they visited and they came back with the trunk full. It's a wonder they didn't break the car she has so many rocks.

She loves her rocks but she doesn't really know what type of rock they are and some are very unique. She's wanted to go over her rock collection with a geologist for years and often spoke of inviting someone from OSU to her house to see her rock collection. Now that she's 89 and feeling her age she wanted to get a few things off her bucket list, so I arranged for a meeting with Dale Gnidovec at Orton Museum at OSU to meet with her and go over some of her more unique rocks.

One rock grandma was interested in finding out about is this one. It's fairly large so we didn't take it with us but this is pink quartz. My grandmother has a ton of quartz both white and pink but quartz normally looks like a crystal and more transparent. This quartz grew more like flint so it's opaque and smooth looking.

Grandma loved speaking with Dale and said it was a dream come true for her. She spoke to Dale for 2 hours about her rocks and there are a few rocks that are still a mystery but that's okay.

I also finished a quilt of my grandmother. It's hand drawn and painted with portraits of grandma and things she loves like OSU, birds and her german shepard. I also made it in the shape of the State of Ohio so that was a sewing challenge for me.

River and I didn't enter in many trials for 2017 for scent or barn hunting. This year we just took weekly classes in Rally and Tracking.

And of course, I got some pictures of some birds that I don't normally see. I took some really good pictures of bluebirds, cedar waxwings and of a Cooper's hawk that perched on the neighbors roof for a minute or two. Well, at least I think it's a Cooper's hawk...

I also finished two quilt tops. A four patch charm quilt and a kaleidoscope quilt.

I'm still working on my second horse quilt. The horses are painted and each horse represents a season. It's not completely painted yet but it's getting there. Hopefully, I'll get this finished this winter.

I put a red glittery ribbon on River's collar for her last dog class of the year. So farewell 2017 and happy 2018. I'm looking forward to more cooking classes, taking pictures, painting and quilting.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

French Cooking Class - Shellfish

The last class of 2017 was shellfish. We cooked 5 different shellfish dishes: A bouillabaisse with fish and shrimp with a potato topped crouton on top, shrimp calamari vegetable tempura, shrimp poached in broth with a cocktail mayonnaise, a tomato wine broth with mussels and garlic toast and scallops with corn ragu and salad.

We shelled and cleaned a lot of shrimp, mussels and clams for this class and everything turned out great. I really enjoyed the tomato wine broth. It was light and all the shellfish in it was filling.

So this was the last cooking class for 2017 and our 10 week of cooking. I've already learned a lot and my fellow classmates are fun to cook with so that makes it even more enjoyable. I'm looking forward to the remaining 20 weeks of this class in 2018.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

French Cooking Class - Fish

For two weeks we cooked fish. We learned a lot about what to look for in purchasing fish and of course how to cook it.

In our first class on fish, we learned what to look for when buying fish fillets or whole fish.

We sauted some trout in brown butter, lemon and capers and served it over rice with soft skillet fried croutons. We also made a clam chowder and a dish with fish and vegetables baked in parchment with wine. The fish dishes were both light and filling and easy to cook.

The second class, we made a flounder with mushroom sauce, a red pepper risotto, a lobster bisque and a salmon salad on crouton. The lobster bisque is very labor intensive. It's not really difficult to make but definitely time consuming. The risotto was also a bit labor intensive but 2 cups of arborio rice easily fed 12 people.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

French Cooking Class - Potato

It's week 8 of the French cooking class and we made 6 dishes with potatoes. Yep, 6 different dishes and it's the week after Thanksgiving and I'm pretty sure I don't want any more potatoes for at least 2 weeks.

We learned how to "turn" potatoes and make little footballs. This is an effort to make all your potatoes the same size so they cook evenly. We also made a spicy sweet potato soup, mashed potatoes, a gratin with rosemary and Gruyere, potatoes anna, and latkes. I'd say the most time consuming to make were the potatoes anna and latkes. The anna dish requires the potatoes to be sliced on a mandolin very thinly, layered around a skillet with clarified butter then baked. The latkes were made using shredded onion and potatoes on a box grater, squeezing the water out then frying. Of course a food processor would've saved us some time on the grating but we do things by hand so we learn. We also made a tossed salad with a honey mustard vinaigrette and some cooked apples.

Everything we made was quite good and carb loaded. I'll definitely be making more gratins and latkes in the future just to switch it up from a french fry or baked potato.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Turkey Stock

A lot of people are intimidated by gravy but you don't have to be. Once you do it, you'll see how easy it can be. Two things you MUST have when making a really good gravy is stock and brown bits. So in order to get ready for our gravy we need to make stock.

Yes, you can buy turkey or chicken stock to make this and you can even start with turkey stock from the store or start with water. Either one is fine but the stock you make at home will be 10x more flavorful then the store bought stock. And that's what you want - flavor.

So in my stock, I'm going to start with turkey stock bought at the store instead of water. I figure the more layers of flavor I can add to the stock the merrier. The purchased turkey stock (pictured below) was a nice dark color, which I was pretty happy with. You can use this as is or reduce it further to concentrate the flavor but I'm going to add more meat and vegetables.

I bought 4 turkey legs and 4 thighs for my stock but I also had in my freezer 3 chicken carcasses (2 uncooked and 1 from a store bought roasted chicken) along with some wings. I started by lightly coating the raw poultry in some olive oil then I sprinkled them with salt, pepper and sage and I put all the parts onto a cookie sheet and roasted them at 450 for 45min. - to 1 hour.

I got a lot of brown bits on the cookie sheet. Do not throw out the brown bits. That's flavor and that my friend is what makes gravy.  Deglaze the pan with a bit of white wine or even water will work and scrape those bits into a bowl.

Next, in a large stock pot, saute the onion, carrot, leeks and celery until the onion is starting to brown. Add your roasted poultry and add enough liquid (purchased stock  and/or water) until it covers the whole thing by an inch or so. You can use a lot of different vegetables and even herbs if you want to but for this stock, I went with just the basic veg and meat.

Now, simmer the stock. Do not boil. Simmer the stock and don't stir it for about 3 hours. During the 3 hours you can skim any fat that comes to the top and use that fat when you make the gravy. After the 3 hours is up, you can drain off the stock and start the process again starting with cold water. Take the meat off the turkey legs/thighs that you roasted earlier and pop those bones back into the stock pot. In the picture below, you can see that the stock reduced around 2 inches from where it started.

The second batch of stock may look really cloudy but that's okay. It probably won't be as dark as the first batch of stock but it will still have good flavor.

Once your stock is cooled let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. The fat will rise to the top and you can skim that off and use the fat to start the roux for your gravy. The stock will now look and shake like brown turkey flavored jello. It may look scary and weird but that's what it's supposed to do. The gelatin in the bones sets the stock up like... well jello. Below is a picture of the stock after 3 hours of simmering with the fat layer at the top.

Friday, November 17, 2017

French Cooking Class - Sauces

At my cooking class, we learned how to make emulsion type sauces. We learned how to make a hollandaise sauce, which we put over the classic poached egg and toast.

We also made a mayonnaise and roasted potatoes.

And we made a white wine sauce for our hamburgers with caramelized onions, along with a ceasar salad with dressing. All of that was in just one day! Needless to say, I'm usually stuffed at the end of class.

The following week was salad week and all we did was chop a lot of veggies and make salad dressings and a pumpkin soup. It was definitely a lighter meal but I was still just as full.