7/25/14

Pitted, Cooked, Processed, Canned, Sandwiched, Pinned, Basted

Now, you might think I was cooking up new ways with tuna fish after all that, but I'm not. I'm cooking up cherry chutney and sandwiching a quilt. How's that for a productive day? You have to get up pretty early in the morning, and fortunately, my furry alarm clock insures that I'm wide awake and kicking at the dawn's early light.

This morning I got right to work with my cherries because I was determined to make a quilt sandwich today too.


I pitted and stemmed four pounds of cherries, which makes quite a mess.


Then I tossed in all the other ingredients and cooked it down for about an hour. I was supposed to dice the cherries first, but I forgot. (Duh.) As they cooked, I mashed them with a potato masher. Despite being really careful in the pitting process, I fished out four pits that floated to the top as I cooked them.


Once I had it all cooked down, I ladled it into half pint jars and then processed it 20 minutes. (I have to add five minutes for our elevation.)


And there they are. My yield was 9 half-pint jars...just about what was promised. I like putting chutney in half-pints rather than pints because it is used rather slowly. It also makes a good gift that way.


Of course, I opened one of the jars and tasted it, and it was delicious. The cherry flavor really comes through. It's a little bit tart, and it has a nice kick. Lots of folks ask me what to use it for. It's a condiment, like ketchup, and it's very good on pork, poultry, fish, sandwiches, or else spread on a cracker with some cream cheese. Dee-lish. If you'd like to give this a try, you can find Marisa McClellan's recipe right here. She's become my go-to gal for all things chutney, saucy, and salsa.

When I had that done and things fairly well back in order in the kitchen, I turned my attention to sandwiching the "Where Angels Walk" quilt. As I said in an earlier post, I was going to give a try to Sharon Schamber's method of sandwiching and basting a quilt sandwich. It worked out pretty well, and it was way easier than getting down on hands and knees. So here's how it goes, but watch the video if you really want to know.

First you lay out your quilt backing and top without the batting. In retrospect, it seems to me you could do these one at a time if you're certain your backing is large enough to accommodate your quilt top.


Once I had everything laid out and smooth, I was ready for my boards. I had Mike go with me to pick out some boards. We chose some really inexpensive boards that are nice and smooth and already painted. Thus, no splinters.


Next, you roll the top onto one board, and the bottom onto the other. I used a little painter's tape to keep mine flat on the first roll of the board, and I thought that helped quite a bit.



When you're finished, each is rolled onto its own board. This is why it seems like you could roll them up one at a time rather than smoothing them all out on top of one another. They aren't connected in any way at this point.


Next, you're ready to unroll with the batting between the two. You start by turning both boards around so that you unroll away from yourself.


Sharon Schamber goes into quite a bit of detail about thread basting at this point in the video. I had already decided to pin baste. None of her warnings about it really applied to me, so I ignored them. I had a little trouble keeping the back nice and flat and tight as I was flipping the batting back and forth while rolling the three layers together, but in the end, I think it's fine. When I was all done, I had a nicely sandwiched quilt, and no bruises on my knees.


I'm used to spray basting where everything is stuck tight together, and this pin basting felt kind of loosey-goosey to me. I don't think there's anything wrong with what I did, but it feels loose to me compared to spray baste. Also, I think as a first-timer, this would have been easier with a smaller quilt. I had a huge piece of batting that I cut to size with scissors once I had it all sandwiched, and that worked pretty well. And since this technique is new to me, I'm linking up to:


So that was my day, in a nutshell. I did a lot of stuff today, but those are the highlights. By the time I was finished sandwiching the quilt, my neck was bothering me, and so I quit for the day. Next, I'll start quilting it, but that probably will have to wait until tomorrow or Sunday.

What did you do today?

7/24/14

Fair Lady

Not a whole lot going on here today. I've been working away sewing sleeves and labels onto two of the four quilts I'm entering in this year's Oregon State Fair. And I'm happy to say they are all ready to go now.


They still need to be properly packed up for entry...lots of hoops to jump through, it seems to me, but thems are the rules.

Aside from that, it was boring stuff today: ATM. Post Office. Grocery Store. The weather has been kind of crappy the past two days, but that just means I can hang out in the house and not worry about what's going on in the garden. A couple of days like that in July is fine, but I'm ready for the return of summer now.


They had a pretty good deal on sweet cherries at the grocery store today. I picked up five pounds. Tomorrow I'm going to do my first canning of the season when I turn four of the five pounds into Sweet Cherry Chutney. I found the recipe online earlier this week. It went straight to my to-do list. I just happen to love chutney, and pretty much any flavor will do. I've made plum chutney, blueberry chutney, cranberry chutney, green tomato chutney, and peach chutney before. This will be my first try at cherry. I'm hoping it's a good one.

Mae and I are going to the Portland Farmer's Market on Saturday, and I'm going to pick up some pie cherries and some zucchini. It's time for my annual cherry pie. Martha Stewart had a pretty alternative to lattice top in one of her magazines recently. I'd like to give that a try.

Doesn't that look yummy? It's made pretty much the same way as a lattice top, only instead of weaving those strips of crust together, you twirl them into a corkscrew and then spiral them around from the center out. I'm going to give it a try, and see how it goes.

And since I just have one more jar of zucchini relish left, it's time to make some more of that. A batch usually lasts us a couple of years, with some to give away. Today I checked the tomatoes again, and now there are two red ones! Can salsa and pasta sauce be far behind? So...lots of canning in my future over the next few days. The jars are washed and ready. Also I'm needing to pull together my list of supplies for next week's quilting symposium in Tacoma. I don't leave until Thursday, and so I still have a little time to get that ready.

Tomorrow I'm going to try to get the quilt sandwich made for "Where Angels Walk".


I'm going to do some simple straight line quilting on it. The quilt is wider than will fit on my ping pong table, and so I'm going to try Sharon Schamber's method of sandwiching it. I have the requisite boards now, and so I just need to make the back and clear off my workspace to get started. She thread bastes hers, but I'm going to pin mine with large safety pins. I figure I can pin it in unquilted spaces, and they won't get in my way. I realize I'm dragging my feet a little on this, as I usually do when I try something new. Do you do that too? Once I get going, it usually ends up being easier than I thought it would. Still, it's hard to get started.

So that's the game plan for tomorrow. What's on your list for Friday?


7/23/14

A Day At Home

This morning I settled in for a badly needed day at home. There are lots of little paper-worky things on my to-do list...the kinds of things that take some time, and yet, you don't feel like you've accomplished much when you're finished. I spent the morning getting two quilts packed up for shipping. Those will go out tomorrow. 

As I said in my post yesterday, I have some things to tell you. For one thing, the first tomato has started turning red! This is very exciting.


And these greenies need to get a move on because all my canning has to be done before we leave on August 31st. I was perusing my posts from last year and discovered that I had enough tomatoes to make salsa on August 8th. It's looking promising, but it's never a good idea to count one's tomatoes before they ripen.


All that white dust you see on the foliage is sulfur dust. They get little sucking mites on the foliage if we don't use it. It's an organic product, and we try to avoid using chemicals on our tomatoes.

Karla Alexander spoke at my guild on Monday evening. She's a dynamic and fun speaker, and apparently an inspirational teacher since she was voted Most Inspirational Teacher of the Year at the Sisters (Oregon) Outdoor Quilt Festival earlier this month. That is no small honor, let me tell you.


As I said earlier, I got a chance to meet Karla when she traveled to Ireland with me in June, 2012. The tour organization has professional quilters accompany different tours, and Karla was on our bus. She was delightful, and she has a very good sense of humor. Her latest book is just about to be published, and she showed us the original quilts from the book on Monday night.


Here are the quilts that were on display, and some she brought along to show while she spoke.




I like this take-off on the Irish Chain.




As she showed her quilts, she took time to show us how the blocks were constructed. If you're familiar with Karla's work, then you know she also designs specialized rulers. She explained how some of these blocks are made using her rulers.


The leaves in the next image are pieced, not appliqued.


And she showed us a couple of these rag quilts where the subject of the quilt is pictured from the front,


And from the back.


Cute, huh? Here's another one:



Oh yes, and I had my first observation with the Coffee Creek Quilters yesterday morning. I drove down and met up with one of the other volunteers who lives down the hill from me. Another woman, also from the group, met us and drove. Then, when we got to the prison, there were three more volunteers, one of whom was "lead" instructor. It was enjoyable meeting the other volunteers, although you know I'm not fond of breaking into groups of strangers, particularly when it's a group that has been together a long time. Nevertheless, they were all friendly, and a couple of them had very good senses of humor.

The inmates were delightful, and I found myself wanting to spend more time with them. I was helping one woman learn to sew a quilt binding with mitered corners. I was stepping into a work already in progress, and so it was a little confusing. For one thing, the volunteer who asked for my help has an interesting way of sewing on her bindings, where she cuts four strips, the length and width of the quilt. Then she sews the binding on, and somehow hand stitches mitered corners. (My friend Marei explained this to me via email this morning.) I was thinking about this last night because when the volunteer asked me to help, the strips were cut in those lengths already. I had to show the inmate how to sew the strips together, and then we started sewing the binding on. We ran out of time, and so we only had sewn one side before it was time to quit. 

Also, she (the volunteer instructor) doesn't trim her quilt backs until after the binding is sewn on. In fact, the quilt in question was sandwiched and basted, but not yet quilted. That part occurred to me later. I don't know about you, but I always saw my binding on last. The quilt is quilted, squared up and trimmed, and then the binding is sewn on. Different strokes, I guess.

Anyway, I enjoyed working with the inmates. (I have to think of a better word for them...maybe the students? The quilters?) It's too soon for me to say whether this is a good fit for me. I'm being extra cautious since it seems an awful lot like social work, and I retired from social work because I was seriously burned out. I'm being very careful about committing to this, and so I'm not making any decisions until I've completed all three observations and thought it through completely.

The rest of the afternoon is devoted to getting two out of my four quilts ready for entry into the Oregon State Fair. (The other two have been shown before, and so they're ready to go.) I think I have about two weeks left to get things ready, but time's a-wastin', so I need to get to it. This morning I created the labels for the two remaining quilts,



I still need to print them on off-white fabric, and then I may decide to color in some of the details. I haven't decided for sure yet. Also, I need to add the sleeves. I'm hoping to get the sleeves made and pinned to the back of the quilt today, and then I can do the hand-stitching in the mornings when I would ordinarily do my embroidery.

Since I won't be around during the month of September, I needed someone to pick up my quilts when the fair ends on September 1st. Fortunately, a kindly person from my guild stepped forward for that. Thank you, AnnMarie. The rest of the afternoon will be devoted to the sleeves, followed quickly by getting the quilting under way for the "Where Angels Walk" quilt. I'm hoping to have this ready to gift to someone during the second weekend in August. Think I'll make it?

It's been a rainy day today with fairly heavy rain falling. I think we're all pretty glad for the moisture, although it made things pretty muggy yesterday afternoon. Still, it's nice to wet everything down, and it should help with the wildfires currently burning here in the Pacific Northwest.

How's your day going?

7/22/14

Two Little Finishes

Just a short post at the end of the day today. It's been such a busy month, and today I found myself really very tired. I came home after my Coffee Creek Quilters observation and took a long nap. The rest of the afternoon was devoted to finishing my July doll quilt for the Monthly Doll Quilt Swap.

 Doll Quilters

Usually, I try to have my doll quilts finished first thing during the month. And since it's just about time to assign partners for the August swap, you can imagine that I was feeling under the gun to get this one off to my partner in Australia. All finished now, and I'll be sending it off before the end of the week. I can't show it to you just yet, but here's a little peek until it's in my partner's hands.


Also, yesterday I finished the embroidery for the Embroider's Blessing wall hanging. Most of this was done on the plane flying to and from Southern California.


It's intended to be for framing, but I'm going to make a little quilted wall-hanging from it and hang it in my sewing room.

With that one done, I was ready to move along to the next of the Vintage Tin blocks. This is the last of the six small blocks, and after that I will have three large ones to do to complete all of the blocks for the quilt. I'm thinking this one will go pretty fast.


So, I have a lot more to tell you. For one thing, Karla Alexander spoke at my guild last night, and so I have lots of pictures from her talk...at least, I think I do. I don't know how many of them turned out since I was shooting without flash.


And in my new position with the guild, I need to write a blog post for the guild's blog as well. 

Finally, I have some things I want to say about my first observation with the Coffee Creek Quilters as well, but I'll save that for tomorrow, when I can do it more rested and relaxed. For now, I'm ready to call an end to the day and veg out in front of the TV. Longmire, you know.

I hope you all had a good day, and I'll check back tomorrow with the rest of my news. Sleep tight.

7/21/14

Back to Business

We're back from our weekend at Mt. Rainier, and I have a few things to show you. The weather was lovely, and the mosquitoes didn't bother us too much. We're thinking of it as a little warm-up for our trip to Minnesota in September. It was a good trip for the most part, although there was a lot more snow on the mountain than we anticipated. It was quite surprising given that we've been to Mt. Rainier at almost precisely the same dates on the calendar and found it warm and clear.

We stayed at an little RV park just about a mile from the national park entrance. We've stayed there a few times before. It's quiet and peaceful. The park is under new ownership, and they had us packed in a little like sardines...unnecessarily so, we thought, since there were empty spaces that would have allowed everyone a little more breathing room and privacy.


Here's what we saw looking the other direction. I love the tall trees this park has to offer.


There was a small but reliable wi-fi hot spot in the little building you see just beyond where those men are walking. Any pictures I posted while we were gone were from there. There was also a laundry and a nice public shower in the same building. 

The public shower would have come in handy had we been more fastidious about our personal hygiene. We had a plumbing leak that required bypassing our water heater, meaning we had no hot water on this trip. My father, the consummate RVer even before RVs became very popular in America, had a saying: "Never let an RV problem ruin your day." It's very good advice, and we heed it regularly. 

The camper is our third RV and each one has had its little bugaboos left over from the manufacturing process. For this camper, plumbing has that role. Fittings are either not tightened enough, or, like this one, tightened too much and broken. Mike tried a temporary fix with electrical tape, which only succeeded in turning a drip into a spurting disaster, and so we simply bypassed the water heater and lived with cold water. Oh well. Once we had resigned ourselves to a cold water trip, we took a little walk around the campground, and the pictures I posted earlier were the result.

Saturday morning we settled on the Upper Paradise Valley trail, thinking it was new to us. It starts with this little short leg called 4th Crossing. (I believe this refers to where the road crosses the Paradise River for the 4th time.)


It leads to a junction with the Skyline Trail, where one must decide to turn either left or right. We've made the left turn on a previous visit, but haven't yet gone right, and that was the plan. It started out nice enough with heather in bloom.


And here is the cascading Paradise River.


But we hadn't even reached the junction when we encountered a lot of snow.


Contrast the image above taken July 19, 2014, with the one below, taken on July 23, 2005. 


This is approximately the same section of trail, and the difference is pretty amazing. We have no explanation for this since we've had quite a bit of warm weather this summer. Obviously, there was more snowfall over the winter. 

Mike forged on ahead for a little ways to see if it continued the same way. While he was gone, I happened to glance up, and I saw this:


The sky was so blue, and it smelled so good...very piny and clean.

Mike returned with the bad news that the trail was impassable...at least for our old knees...and so we went back to the truck and drove the loop road from the Nisqualley entrance (where we came in) to the Stevens Canyon entrance. Despite not being able to hike the trails, the scenery was breath-taking, and we enjoyed our day.


We turned out at one of the parking lots. To the west, was the view in the image above. To the north was Mt. Rainier. It was obscured in clouds at this point, but they were sailing by so fast, we stood for a time hoping it would clear for a picture.


As quickly as one cloud blew by, another formed, and the view remained mostly obscured while we waited.


Our shadow selves made an appearance here. They were kind of short at this time of day.


Another five minutes or so passed, 


and we finally gave up and drove on to the Reflection Lakes, where we could see the mountain unobscured.


Here, we took the requisite selfie.


It was so pretty here, and we were able to pick our way over the remaining snow drifts and walk along the lake shore part way.


Also, we got our best up-close views of the wildflowers. There weren't as many as we'd hoped to see since many were only just starting to bud. Still, there were some pretty ones. These reminded us of trilliums. While trilliums have three petals and three leaves on the plant, these had more. Otherwise, they're essentially the same flower. These are known as Avalanche Lily:


The orange Indian paintbrush were well represented, as well as the pink guys you see in the image below. I don't know many of these, and so if you do, then please chime in.


Another purple one I don't know:



I'm thinking these white ones below might be False Hellebore, not completely opened, but I'm not sure.


Here's a common thistle. I wasn't expecting to see these, but there you go.


These next ones are called Beargrass. They were about the size of a softball.



Big clusters of white flowers:


Buttercups:


We saw the lake from different sides as we walked around, then headed back to the truck and drove on.


You know, we love our tunnels. This one was blasted out of solid rock.


Just beyond the tunnel we came to the half-mile Box Canyon Trail, and we got out and walked the short loop.


If you can't read the sign, it tells you that the trail crosses a deep river gorge and follows in a glacier's path. "Rock slabs have been 'polished' by sediment-rich water flowing beneath the glacier. . . Plant life has had a tough time getting a grip" on the smooth rock, although you can see lichens and mosses taking root. Here's a good example:


We crossed over this little bridge


where we could look into the deep river canyon. This picture doesn't capture the depth very well, and of course, hearing the rushing river was very dramatic.


Watch your step:


Would you believe we saw a mother holding her toddler standing on this wall for a picture? Mike joked, "And this is the last picture we have of Matilda." 

From there we left the park and drove a forest road back to the RV park, and then just relaxed for the rest of the day. We were disappointed not to be able to do much hiking, but it was a nice weekend just the same.

And now, here we are at Monday again. Let's just pause here for a moment and consider that July is nearly 2/3 over and my list of goals is barely touched. Oh well. I knew it would be that way, and there is no use stressing over it. I have some housework to do, and I absolutely must get back to my exercise routine. The last couple of weeks have been quite a disruption, but they've been so much fun that it's hard to get too worked up about it. Still, I'm determined to get back on the horse today. Also, I'm hoping to get my doll quilt finished. 

Tomorrow I'm doing the first of three observations of the Coffee Creek Quilters teaching quilting to the inmates at the Coffee Creek Correction Facility. The observations come first, and if I decide I want to continue, there will be quite a bit of training both by the volunteer organization, and the Oregon Department of Corrections. They want to be sure folks are serious about becoming volunteers before investing a lot of time and effort. Thus, the three observations.

I'm meeting one of the volunteers in Newberg, not far from where I live, and we'll ride there together. Some dress code rules: No blue denim, no light blue or lime green tops, no heavy jewelry, and no underwire bras. (What?!?!?) They set off the metal detectors and then you have to be patted down by a corrections officer. Hm. A sports bra will have to do.

Also, tonight is our guild meeting. Karla Alexander is tonight's speaker. Karla was with me when I made my trip to Ireland, so I'm looking forward to seeing her at the meeting. And with that, I guess I'll get on with it. 

What's on your agenda for today?