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May 30, 2012

Blocks!

I've ignored my various quilting projects for the last month or so, while I was working on projects for Caitlyn and the siggy blocks. I'm now playing catch-up, chasing down the cool kids, waving my rulers, bits of fabric fluttering behind me: "Wait for me!"

First up, the Bloggers' Block of the Month blocks:
Block 7
Bloggers' BOM, block 7
Block 8
Bloggers' BOM, block 8
Block 9Bloggers' BOM, block 9

Block 9 is my favorite of this bunch. Note to self, though: don't try to assemble this one at the very end or the very start of the day. I unpicked seams so many times on this one and still kept putting the corner triangles in upside down!

And here's all 9 of my Blogger BOM blocks (sorry about the questionable lighting):
Bloggers' BOM so far
I think there are 3 more blocks to go and then I think we're on our own for layout and finishing. I'm currently thinking about putting them all on point with big white spacer squares between them. It's also looking like I'll have leftovers of the fabric I'm using, so I could do second versions of my favorite blocks for a total of 16 blocks and then do a 4x4 layout with sashing. Mock-ups ahead!

May 23, 2012

Pantry Inspection

Once the farmers' market starts up around here, it's time to review the pantry. What's left of the things I put up last summer? What did we run out of and what are we still eating? Do the storage goals for this year need to be adjusted? Will I be able to defrost the chest freezer before it's time to start putting new things in it?

I seem to recall that in previous years, this process usually produced a surprise or two. Dried carrots aren't good for much more than soup, for instance, and that only grudgingly. Bing cherries are amazing dried; Rainiers are not. Spinach should be well-packed into quart jars, otherwise a single baking dish of spanikopita can use a entire stash of loosely-packed pints, leaving the freezer bare of spinach for the rest of the winter. A little broccoli is a nice thing to have.

This year, I think the only surprise is that we did eat our way through most of the strawberries. Or Caitlyn did. (She likes to have berries in her lunches at school and she switches off between frozen blueberries and frozen strawberries. We pack them the evening before and they've thawed nicely by lunchtime.) But otherwise, our quantities worked out about right. If anything, I could scale back a little since we still have a quart of broccoli, a few jars of peas, a few more of corn, several small jars of dried peppers, some extra shredded zucchini.

I have a Food Storage Goals list stuck to the wall in the pantry with the targets for this year's food storage projects. I've even managed to add in the notes from last year (eg: 5 pints of small - cherry or grape - tomatoes from Alvarez Farms dries down to 4 half-pints) to help with the awkward question of how much produce to buy. This year, fewer Asian pears - no matter how good the deal. I've also customized the freezer inventory page from NW Edible Life so I've got one in the pantry and one on the freezer. I can mark down packed units (gallon bags of strawberries, quarts of tomatoes) as they come in and then check them off as they get eaten. Maybe next spring's pantry inspection will involve more review of spreadsheets and less unpack-what's-left-in-the-freezer-so-I-can-count-it.

For this year, I don't anticipate a lot of changes to my food storage habits. I did just splurge on a new kitchen scale and Canning for a New Generation so maybe there will be some small batches of new things tried. Like roasted tomatoes. Or dried blueberries. Maybe a salsa? Who wants to batch test?

May 21, 2012

57 Siggy Blocks

siggy blocks!

I've launched these on their journey to Ohio, where they will meet and mingle with siggy blocks from 56 other people before selecting a representative to bring 56 blocks home to me. The end result: a quilt with the names and locations of all the 57 quilters participating in this swap!

The blocks are easy to make. I'd love to find a better way of signing them, though, since my pen tends to catch and drag on the fabric a bit. Maybe a slightly fatter pen tip?

May 18, 2012

Rhubarb Binge-ing

When Caitlyn spotted the rhubarb at Wade's booth at opening day at our farmers' market three weeks ago (Eeek! Anyone else wondering where May is going in such a hurry??), she immediately requested rhubarb crisp. Naturally I bought too much rhubarb, forgetting that there was still a bag left in the freezer from last year.

So, a festival of rhubarb! We've had crisp twice. I like rhubarb muffins, but I think Caitlyn will like them better if I roll the rhubarb pieces in sugar before folding them into the muffin batter. I made a batch of this awesome rhubarb and rosewater syrup.
Rhubarb and Rosewater syrup
I don't know if I didn't boil it down long enough or if I was more thorough about straining out the juice (or maybe I was just a bit free with my interpretation of "1 pound rhubarb" and instead just used up the rhubarb from the freezer), but I got lots more than the recipe suggested I would. It would indeed be lovely on yogurt as suggested, or over pancakes or vanilla ice cream. Mostly, we've been drinking it.
Rhubarb and Rosewater spritzer
A completely gratuitous photo of club soda bubbles on a spoon.
Rhubarb and Rosewater spritzer
A finger worth of syrup, a couple of ice cubes, and club soda. A little sweet, a little tart, totally bubbly. It's worth it for the extremely silly faces Caitlyn makes when she drinks it.

Oh, and it works well with rum, too.

The one down side to making the syrup is the leftover rhubarb mush. I couldn't bear to throw it out. But it turns out that finding a recipe for something that includes rhubarb mush is harder than you'd think. Lots of crisps and cakes and muffins, but all the ones I found assumed you had raw rhubarb chunks.

So I went off-road with mixed success. I used this recipe from Not Without Salt, substituted about 1 1/2 cups of mush for the raw rhubarb, and added a streusel topping. Since the sun was out, I baked it in the Sun Oven:
Rhubarb cake in the sun oven
It came out dense. Moist, but dense. I blamed the Sun Oven (the oven didn't quite make it to 300 degrees) and since there was still more rhubarb mush, I tried again. Same recipe, roughly the same amount of mush, with an added teaspoon of baking powder. The batter looked right when it went into the oven - a lot like most any other cake batter. I baked this second version inside.

And pretty much got the same thing. It's not really a cake. It holds it's cake shape, but it's dense and moist, kinda like a very stiff pudding. It's tasty, but it's a bit strange. So, maybe a different cake recipe to start from? More leavening? More eggs? Because I might make that syrup again and then I'll have rhubarb mush to put somewhere.

But I think I'll stick with crisp for the rest of this season.

May 17, 2012

Not about sewing at all

I keep meaning to get out side with the camera and show off the garden, but it's just not happening. Meanwhile, the garden isn't slowing down. It's a real spring this year, and things are off to a good start.

In the backyard, the peas are close to 10 inches tall. The potatoes are in and sprouting; it's actually almost time to add some more soil around the new plants (more soil depth now equals more potatoes later). So far, I've remembered to keep the carrot seedlings watered. The basil and squashes I started in the sunroom last month are hardening off and should move into the veggie beds this weekend, which will probably require another round of kale harvesting, since the kale is in the bed destined for this summer's beans and squash. Tomatoes will arrive early next month.

The cherry tree is loaded with green cherries, the pear tree with tiny pears. I'll need to remember to thin the pears this year since I didn't last year and lost a significant branch due to the weight. The apple tree and blueberry bushes have finished blooming, the strawberries are just getting started and the raspberries haven't quite gotten there yet. The lawn is full of tiny daisies and alyssum that I can't bring myself to mow down, the columbine and shasta daisies are approaching hip-high, and the clematis by the garage door is so covered with blossoms that not only can't you see the plant, it's pulling down the trellis.

Out in the p-patch plot, I've got more potatoes and two varieties of onions. The asparagus looks great - next year, I get to eat it! I'll add a couple squashes out there, but that's probably it, with the exception of a single tomato plant for the Urban Pollination Project.

Last year, I kept our p-patch plot to low maintenance things so that I could come out and water and weed as the weather required but mostly just let the plants do their own thing. This works well for me since one of the requirements for keeping your plot is that you have to "actively garden" it. Plants that need frequent harvesting, like peas or tomatoes, easily show off how infrequently I "actively garden" there, so I keep the plants that need more attention closer to the house, where they can remind me of their needs. Onions, potatoes and winter squash need water and then a thorough round of harvesting and that's it. I'm actively gardening with a minimum of activity!

May 10, 2012

Somewhat Spontaneous Skirt

And one last Clothing Caitlyn post before I move on to quilt blocks and garden photos...

While suffering through one of my fabric acquisition outings for non-Caitlyn-related projects, Caitlyn picked out this blue fabric. I thought it was sweet, so I picked a pink for contrast and planned to make her a skirt.

I really need to think things through before I start them.

I had a simple skirt-with-flounce in mind when I bought the fabric. That shifted to a tiered spin-able skirt when I started measuring and cutting. And when it was all done, I realized that what I wanted to have done was more like an a-line.
blue and pink skirt
It's not that it's a bad skirt or even an unattractive one. I think I bought 1 yard of the blue fabric, which didn't work out to feeling like quite enough. It's just not as full as I'd like at the waist. And the single tier is a little weird.
blue and pink skirt
I should have stayed with the original, non-tiered plan. I think that would have worked out to being 16 inches of blue length (cut the yard length in half, remember to save a few inches for the waistband). Maybe I didn't have enough of the pink to make a 4 inch ruffle (I'm aiming to make 20 inch skirts for Caitlyn these days - maximize the growing room), but a simple contrast band without the ruffle would have worked.

Less about the volume or the speed of the turn-around. A little bit more about the Making a Solid Plan.

May 09, 2012

Simple Daffodil Dress

And here's the last of my completed KCWC things.
daffodil dress
This is McCalls 6387. I picked up the fabric on a whim while at Stash, and while I love the print, I think it's too small for this dress. It's got these sweet little daffodils on it and you totally can't tell for all the gathers.

It's cute and simple... and a bit too big. I held the pattern pieces up to Caitlyn several times but there's almost two inches of extra space in the width of the finished bodice.
daffodil dress
Check out how much fabric is bunched up there between her hands! Grrr!

Oh, well. At least it spins.
daffodil dress
It's loose and breezy, good for summer. I guess it's not a total wash.

May 08, 2012

Tunic the First

So, KCWC is over. I didn't finish everything I'd cut out, so I guess we can officially call me Over-Ambitious. And with Caitlyn's illness last week, I still have one item left to do. That one will wait - I have 57 siggy blocks to make!

But first: the other things I did finish. Can I say they are KCWC finishes if they weren't finished in the proper week since they were part of my KCWC plans?

a top
This is McCall's 6062, view A, cousin to this dress. I've not made a lot of tops, if you don't count shirts for Ian, which could explain why this looks more like a dress than a shirt. Tunic? Is that the technical term?

The red floral is an inherited something that's been in the stash for years. I've thought about turning it into a dress for Caitlyn since she was about 3. The pink is a Kona, although I couldn't tell you which one.
a top

I gave the blind hemming thing another whirl, thinking the thinner fabric would result in something more... well, blind than the hem on the purple shorts. At first, it didn't look too promising.
blind sleeve hem
But then I ironed.
blind sleeve hem
A good pressing and the hem is much less visible. I think the stitches are still bigger than I'd like them to be, but maybe that has to do with how I'm folding the fabric or using the blind hem foot?

Caitlyn's first thought at seeing this was that it was a dress. It's just a tiny bit too short to wear without something underneath (although if I'd added an extra inch above and below the elastic band in the middle it would totally work). The photos on the pattern envelope suggest this should be worn with pants (the pattern includes elastic waist pants), but I'm pretty sure their version is shorter than mine. When Caitlyn put this on over jeans yesterday morning, I was less than enthusiastic. It's too short to be a dress and too long to be a shirt. And I really don't like the dress-over-jeans look. Maybe it would work if the pants were not jeans? We'll see if we can't find some black or grey leggings and see how that looks. Alternatively, I've made a top that should look great with jeans in about a year or two.