Friday, May 20, 2016

Best... Birthday... Ever.

Craftsy is turning 5!!!  Craftsy has been such a fun experience for me and I have loved every minute of my time with them!  They're having a big sale for their birthday...

Get 50% off most-loved Craftsy classes to celebrate their 5th Birthday!

Save today through my affiliate link HERE!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Plated -- a Home Delivered Meal Service

When Dan and I were visiting our friends John and Charlene in North Carolina a few weeks ago, they mentioned that their daughter was working with a company called Plated and had I heard of it. Well, I had! I recently read an article in one of the foodie magazines that compared Plated with a few other meal delivery services and I was, admittedly, curious about it. I'm an avid cook and this would be a new experience!

John & Charlene had been getting the Plated service for a while and liked it a lot; they offered me a couple of free meals to try can bet I took them up on that really quick! So I got on the website and chose three meals, each serving two people. What is nice about this is that you can change preferences as often as you want, from 2 meals to 3 and back again, for instance. You can skip weeks and you can add desserts! Yes!

They don't assume you own anything more than a couple of pots and pans, a knife, some olive oil, salt and pepper and water. Everything else is in the box!

The box arrived around 8pm on Friday; we'd already eaten dinner, so I took everything out of the compost-able recyclable packaging and stuck it in the refrigerator. According to the literature, it should stay fresh in the box for up to 24 hours and once refrigerated should last for the week. That gives you a little latitude as to when you choose to cook it. Everything is grouped together by the meal you are going to cook, so it's very easy to pull out just what you want when prep time comes.
We were really busy over the weekend, so I made the first meal on Sunday night, the Seafood Spaghetti with Spicy Tomato Sauce. There were crab claws, calamari and pollock, garlic, parsley, a Thai chile, fresh spaghetti, an anchovy filet, crushed red pepper, a can of crushed tomatoes and fresh grape tomatoes. It was delicious, but not as spicy as planned because I totally wussed out! I took a very tiny bite of that Thai chile, burned my mouth and only put in a little bit. I should have trusted them and just put it in! In spite of my mishap, it was very good and maybe my favorite of the three.
One thing that surprised me about the three meals is how generous the portions are; each of our meals could have served 3 easily (even though we ate it all anyway!) and probably 4 with the addition of a salad or another side dish. Also, each of the three dishes turned out looking just like the picture, which amazed me because presentation is so not my thing. I just want to get it on the plate and to the fork!!!

 I meant to take pictures during the preparation of the Seafood Spaghetti and the Chicken Marsala with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, but I got into the whole cooking thing and never picked up my camera until the end. By the time I thought to take a picture Monday night when I made the chicken, this was all that was left!

Next I made the Seared Steak with White Asparagus and Red Potatoes.

These were the three packages labeled for that dish. The meat and the asparagus were by themselves, but there were other things in the third package....

...including butter, white wine, a great big shallot and fresh thyme and chives. There were 12 ounces each New York strip steak and red potatoes and 6 ounces of those big stalks of white asparagus.

Started the potatoes boiling,

Then put the asparagus in a skillet with the butter, white wine, a couple of tablespoons of water and a little salt and pepper.

While they steamed, I thinly sliced the shallots, stripped the thyme leaves from their little stems and chopped the chives.

This is one beautiful steak! I seared it for 4 minutes in a tablespoon of olive oil, then flipped it and added the shallots and thyme.

After 10 minutes, took the lid off the asparagus skillet and let the white wine and water evaporate away, then divided it between two dinner plates.

And this is what dinner looked like plated!

All three meals were delicious; I asked Dan tonight which was his favorite and he said he thought all three were excellent and didn't really have a favorite. If I had to rank them, I think I like the chicken best, seafood next best and the steak would be third, although that asparagus was pretty awesome. But that's only if I HAD to, all three of them really rocked. I'm skipping next week's delivery because I'll be in Oklahoma City and Idaho, but have already picked two meals for the following week. Meal selections change weekly and there are a six or seven to choose from, including vegetarian options, that are considered the "standard", which is $48 for two meals + $6 shipping or $72 for three meals with free shipping. And, as I stated, each meal will serve 3 or 4, at least at our house. There are also additional meals to choose from, such as the seafood spaghetti for which there is a slight upcharge.
The good news is that the food is very high quality and you can definitely tell that there is a chef behind each dish. The problem is that this could really spoil me for "normal" cooking -- I was reading a recipe today that had about twenty ingredients in it and found myself thinking "I wonder if I can get this from Plated!" It would be a whole lot easier! So I guess I was hooked from the first bite!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

What I'm Working on Now...

Couldn’t wait to start using some of the beautiful Mettler thread in my sewing room, so started a couple of new projects that I had fabric for (mostly):

First up is a black and white quilt -- I had a jelly roll composed of 20 black strips and 20 white strips that came in a recent Quilty Box as well as a black & white print jelly roll called B and W by Kim Schaefer for Andover Fabrics.  I sewed four patches from the black and white solids and made 5-1/2 bars from the dark and light prints.   All the components are made for a Strips and 4 Patch Quilt that I saw in a Missouri Star Quilt Company video on YouTube.  So that’s all ready to lay out, shuffle around and finish piecing.

For my piecing thread, I used 60 wt. Mettler Silk Finish 100% cotton in color #3000, an off-white.  I love piecing with 60 weight thread!  Because it is so fine, seams press flatter and because there is less thread in the seam, my seam allowances are much more accurate than when I use a standard sewing weight thread.

I also watched a video on a disappearing pinwheel block made with layer cakes, but when I tried to find it again I could only find a completely different block with the same name made out of jelly rolls – not what I wanted at all!  So I started going through my issues of BLOCK magazine from Missouri Star and found it in the very first issue that I ever bought.  It’s called Disappearing Pinwheel and I really like both the block and the border.

First, I made the pinwheels from two layer cakes sewn together around all the edges.  I used Poppy Celebration by Cynthia Coulter for Wilmington for the print layer cake; the solid is Kona cotton solids in Snow.  Then you cut the squares into triangles, press, and piece a pinwheel with them.

Then you cut the pinwheel block up, turn all the pieces around and sew them back together into this block!  This is really fun!

I’ve set up an assembly line system where I’ve got three or four blocks in various stages.  I sew all the parts, stack them up and take them to the ironing board.  Then I’ll press, do any cutting necessary, pile them back up on a small cutting mat and take it all to the machine.  It’s going pretty quick this way!  I’m piecing this one with the same thread manufacturer, type and weight.  Only the color is different; it’s #1531, more of a cream color.

I’ve made 11 blocks over the last couple of days in odd moments between email, packing for my next trip and other work stuff, so they go really fast!



Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Not the Prettiest Thing...

The silicone sheet that presses onto the tray of your machine is not the most attractive thing I’ve ever seen, but it is one of the most useful.  Marketed under various names, including Supreme Slider, Silicone Slider and Free Motion Glider, these sheets have a tacky side which easily adheres to the bed of your machine.  Most of them just have a small hole that is to be positioned right over the needle slot, but I’ve seen one brand that has a big enough opening that the feed dogs are exposed.  I personally have enlarged the hole on my slider to expose the feed dogs because I can then leave it on the machine all the time, not bothering to take it off for straight stitching and back on for free motion.

Why I love this:  I think that it gives you that additional ease of movement for any kind of sewing, not just free motion.  If you like to work with flannel, fleece, Minkee or any of the cuddle type fabrics, they tend to build up static and are a bear to work with.  The slider makes it much easier and I don’t know how anyone sews with that type of fabric without one.

This is not an inexpensive tool, but well worth the $ invested!

Pic copied from Sew Steady.  (Thanks!!)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Foodie Friday (just a little early!)

I know that tomorrow is technically Friday ;)  but I made this last week and couldn't wait any longer to share it with you!  It was healthy and delicious!

Another one of my Make It Tonight dinners from Fine Cooking. This was a spinach salad with shrimp, avocado, oranges and pistachios. The Scotch in the upper left hand corner was strictly for the cook, not part of the recipe!

Brought a pot of water to a boil, salted it lightly and added the shrimp until they were just barely pink.

Put the spinach in a big stainless bowl with the sectioned oranges (I used Cuties that I had on hand) and the cubed avocado, then tossed it with -- you guessed it if you've been reading this very long, the Girard's Light Champagne dressing that I use on practically everything salad-like.

After the salad was plated, a sprinkling of the shelled pistachios (Dan did all the shelling while he was drinking his scotch -- we all have our chores around here) finished it up. The blending of the tastes was excellent, the dish was easy and quick to make, and I would definitely make this again!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Generation Q Magazine

Just got my Spring 2016 issues of Generation Q Magazine and, as always, couldn’t wait to leaf through it!

The first thing I always do is find my ad!  I have advertised in every single issue of Generation Q and am proud to say that I also contributed to the Kickstarter campaign that helped fund and market the first print issue.  Jake Finch, Publisher, is a close friend and I was happy to support her effort from the very beginning.  Then when I actually held print issues in my hands and was able to read all of the quilty, snarky, fun content, my happiness cup just ran over!  This is not a snobby, serious magazine – it’s modern, humorous and did I say snarky?

There are always lots of projects to sew as well as product reviews, book reviews, lots of snippets about different quilters, and a cocktail recipe.  This issue’s is La Sarta (the seamstress) containing Campari, orange bitters, bitter lemon soda and ice.  Looks yummy…and I know I have a bottle of Campari around here somewhere as I like to occasionally drink it with soda….but I digress….

They always have great articles and instructions for things that kids can sew.  Let’s face it – we need a new generation of quilters coming up behind us to carry the torch.  These projects are fun, fast, and encourage young people to make things that they want to make and will enjoy using.

I always love reading “I am genq” which features a quilt artist in their environment and shares their story. 

And I want (translation: am in serious lust!) his sewing room!  Look at how organized his fabric collection is --- and how neatly displayed!  It looks like a quilt store; I’m, like, SO impressed!  Actually being able to find a fabric by looking in one place?  Astonishing!

I’ve seen GenQ in quilt stores, but it is also available by subscription.  Or if you’d like to try an issue for free, I have 8 copies to give away!  Sign up for our email list HERE... the first 8 signups get a free magazine!

Happy reading!


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Cindy Needham Retreat in Auburn CA

If Cindy isn't making rounds, or "blessings" as she calls the walkarounds she does to see what we all are doing and to offer help and suggestions, this is what we see of her -- as much as we can see in the reflection of her machine light! I met Cindy a few years ago when she was teaching a two day design workshop at the Ridgecrest CA quilt guild. I took that class, then a couple more in the Sacramento suburb of Rancho Cordova, then a couple of retreats at the Mercy Retreat Center in Auburn. All of my previous work has been quilting, but I relaxed a little this time and brought a couple of piecing projects.

The retreat is set up with plenty of room; these tables in the front are higher and usually have cutting mats on them. Cindy had just set up to do a mini-workshop explaining the use of her ultimate stencils and the transparencies that can be used with them. I've used the ultimate stencils as well as the ultimate backgrounds and they are an awesome tool! To find out more about their use as well as how to make a set your own, visit her website.  Her retreats take place both in Auburn CA and  McCloud CA.  The 2016 and 2017 retreats are full however interested quilters are encouraged to put their names on the wait lists for any retreats they'd love to attend... plans change and cancellations occur!

There was daily show and share with some very nice quilts being brought to share. I never get as many pictures as I want of this type of thing because people always walk to the front of the room, hold it open for almost enough time to get the camera to my face and then close it up and walk away. Talk a little longer, people!

This beautiful guild raffle quilt was displayed and I'm sure every one of us bought tickets! This was several years in the making and is just stunning. I stood there for about 20 minutes, following the blocks around the quilt and thinking about how the trees looked in each month. I would never do this much work, but sure enjoyed looking at it!

I got the final three borders on the quilt that has been laid out on my work tables for weeks, so happy to have that done...

And I started working on this modern quilt -- when I went to QuiltCon in February, almost every single quilt was made up all of solids, so I decided to try one. The "A" blocks are the bear paw style blocks with the pinwheel in the center and the "B" blocks are the flying geese blocks. I spent all of one day making the components for the "A" blocks; the next morning, pack up day, I got a couple of blocks done so I could see what it was going to look like. I've sewed on it a little bit this week, so the remaining "A" blocks are to the point where the white strips are all on, waiting for all the little triangles to be sewn together.

Cindy is such an inspiring quilter! I have a Pinterest board devoted to her work; to see it, click here!

You might also like My Annual Cindy Needham Fix or  My Designs Workshop with Cindy Needham!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Kwik Klip

Basting your quilt is such an important step in making sure your finished quilt is flat without wrinkles or puckers on the front of the quilt or the back. The first thing to insure a flat quilt is to totally immobilize the back of the quilt before you lay the batting and quilt top on it. To do that, I use two 30” x 96” tables pushed together to give me a total basting surface of 60” by 96”. I secure the quilt back, wrong side up, to my tables by using office binder clips (there are also clips specifically made for this use available in quilt shops) all the way around the edges of the tables, making sure the quilt back is taut, but not stretched. To do this, you will need about 3 dozen 2” clips to secure the back about every 12”. If my quilt back- ing is smaller than the surface of my tables, I secure two or three edges (depending on the size of the quilt back) with the clips and the other edge(s) with masking tape.

Basting with safety pins has become the accepted way to get your quilt ready for machine quilting. Thread basting is not strong enough to hold the layers together through the machine without shifting and the thread can also get caught on the toes of your presser foot, creating puckers in your work.

I've been using the Kwik Klip for many years to help with my pin basting.  I have one in my travel kit that I use when I do demonstrations and another at home for when I pin up a quilt.  The one I use at home has all the printing worn off because it's been used so much!

One of the things we learn as kids is to hold tools in our dominant hands, so using the Kwik Klip was a little counterintuitive for me.  I'm right handed and I hold the Kwik Klip tool in my left hand, leaving my right hand free to manipulate the pins.

Here's a quick, well, clip to show you how to use it.

Visit my website for more tips!!

Happy pinning!


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Fluff & Stuff Demo

A quick demo of my Fluff & Stuff technique!  This is how you get those big quilts through your domestic sewing machine!  I hope to see you at one of my Fluff & Stuff events this year!   Click HERE for a list of event locations.

Happy fluffing!


Friday, April 1, 2016

For Those Who, Like Us, Love Fish!

This is another recipe/dinner from the subscription to Fine Cooking's Make It Tonight. I liked every single thing on the menu this week and I'm home for a couple of weeks, so will probably make them all! Tonight's dinner was Almond-Crusted Halibut, although I sort of play hard and fast with recipes depending on what I have in the pantry. I didn't have almonds, but I had hazelnut meal, so that will work, right? Along with that recipe was a recommended side dish of Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon, making use of the more than sufficient cauliflower purchase that was on the menu/shopping list for later in the week.

Since fish cooks quickly, I started with the cauliflower. Used half a head and cut it up into bite sized pieces, then sprinkled with lemon olive oil from Pasolivo (my very favorite olive oil maker located in Paso Robles CA) and Trader Joe's Everyday Seasoning. This roasts in a 475 degree oven for 20 minutes, so I set a timer for 10 minutes, thinking I would stir it then, and started on the fish prep.

The recipe called for halibut that was to be dipped in seasoned flour, beaten egg, and teensy bits of almond. I used the aforementioned hazelnuts from Bob's Red Mill -- made the whole thing faster and simpler. There is also a bit of lemon rind grated into the nuts.

So did the whole dipping thing and put them on the pan to rest. If I had been thinking about it, I probably would have done this step an hour or so earlier and then put the pan in the refrigerator so that the coating would set. Then I wouldn't have had fingerprints in the coating later when I picked up the fish to sauté it. I guess I was thinking about eating, not photography!

It looked awesome when I flipped it, fingerprints notwithstanding! I go by the 10 minutes per inch rule for fish; this was just under an inch, so sautéed it for 5 minutes on the first side and 4 on the second; it was perfect! That rule works whether you're sautéing, broiling, roasting, simple!

Cauliflower after roasting....then tossed with a little lemon juice and some lemon zest.

To serve, put a little bit of baby field greens tossed with Girard's Light Champagne salad dressing on the plate with the fish on top and the cauliflower on the side. Nice glass of Shiraz.....ahhhhh......

If you're in the mood for a fishy quilt project, check out my seaweed feathers!!

The 10 minutes per inch rule worked again! It was done perfectly!

New to cooking fish?  Check out Secrets to Cooking Fish: Eight Essential Techniques.  It's on sale through my affiliate link!

If you cook something amazing, post pics!!!