Thursday, September 27, 2007

Falling off the grid

Many apologies for the long delay between posts. Things have gotten a little crazy and I haven't gotten much of my own quilting done. I did attend the Make A Blanket Day for Project Linus event for the Central Illinois Region -- lots of fun, lots of people attending -- and pieced most of a top there. It's so energizing to be with a group of people all working away! Some of the quilts that people donate are amazingly creative. I also got to demonstrate how to make a Happy Houses quilt from kid-friendly scraps or as a group project. Lynda over at Master of Patience? made some wonderful Happy Houses!

Things have been jumping at work, but the fun part of it is that our chili took home the grand prize this weekend at the Urbana International Beer Tasting & Chili Cook-Off! Here I am with my co-worker Marilyn (also a quilter) and a student, Katie. Note our tacky chili lights and chili necklaces and earrings.

The chili uses textured soy protein and is vegetarian -- I think the judges were very surprised to discover they liked ours better than all the other meaty chilies! It was a blind judging. Our chili really is delicious, with wonderful flavor from the chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, which come from a can. It's very quick and easy to make, too. The recipe is on our website, Illinois Center for Soy Foods.

I am off to the Food & Nutrition Conference & Exhibition in Philadelphia, but will be back quilting by mid-week! I am trying to catch up on my blog reading. I've been so busy with other things this week, and I really miss keeping up with all of you!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sew many things

Those of you who thought I might be setting myself up for a guilt trip with my last post, don't worry! Alas, I never feel compelled to stick to my project list. Sometimes I should, but I don't. Lists help keep me organized, remind me of projects I want to do, but don't stand in the way of enjoying my hobby. I have other lists I can't ignore, but my quilting to-do list is just a reminder.

And just to prove my point, with all I had to do on my list, I took an hour Sunday afternoon to make a little minkee blanket for a friend who's having a baby. Not on my list, but done, and it was fun! There's nothing like the feel of minkee, and that's soft flannel on the other side.

I'm taking Tonya's class and playing around with the letter A. It took me awhile to get started, even though I've been trying some wonky letters on my own. What color scheme? How big? Which letter? I just couldn't get over the hump (life seems so much more secure with a pattern). Finally I decided it didn't matter which colors, what size, which letter. Just do it! So I am using only pieces from my scrap bin, at least to start. I have never made a capital letter, so I'm starting with those. And I'm trying all sorts of sizes, dictated in part by how big a particular scrap is. Here are my first two.
I tried scribbling some A's for inspiration, and found I couldn't loosen up and get creative with them. So I googled "letter A" and this is what I came up with.

Wow! I'm off to have at it!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Keeping up with the Joneses

First off -- Happy Birthday, Jocelyn! My little girl is 23 years old today! And I am turning into one of those crazy adults who mutters things like, "My, how time flies."

Now on to the Joneses. There are some very energetic quilters out there in Blogland. While I don't wish to measure my productivity against the ridiculous standard of what everyone else is accomplishing, I do feel inspired by the start of a new quilting year, so to speak, as the school bells are ringing again and the mornings have a slight nip in the air (actually, the latter hasn't happened yet but, Mr. Weatherman, please take the suggestion). So I am going to lay out a few projects and plans. The list is not definitive, but thinking aloud is helpful.

1. I am back in school! At least, I'm taking an online quilting class with Lazy Gal Tonya to learn to be a little more wonky. You can check out her blog here and scroll down the sidebar to find links to all her tutorials. So far, this has really been a good class and we just got a new assignment today! I'm going to work hard at not letting other things interfere with what I want to do in this course.

2. We need a quilt for the wall behind our couch. I have some ideas (inspired by Sandi Cummings' book, Thinking Outside the Block) but need to JUST DO IT.

3. By September 30, I need to finish the Happy Houses quilt for a Project Linus Make A Blanket Day demo.

4. This past week brought me a couple UPS deliveries. The first was two big boxes from my sister. Her husband is in the military and they are packing up for a tour in Germany. Rather than taking all their t-shirts from past assignments with them, she sent them to me to put into a quilt -- more like ten quilts! She said to use the best and toss the rest. It should be fun, though finding fabrics to coordinate will be a challenge as military colors are not my usual color scheme.
4. I bought some Asian fabrics from a fellow blogger who is clearing out her collection of those to make room for fabrics that fit her current interests. We both win! I love the look of Asian fabrics and have a scrappy quilt I plan to make for someone who is very into all things Asian.
5. And of course -- I want to finish two more I Spy quilts before the holidays (one is almost done), complete my Stroop quilt, make some things for the guild bazaar at the quilt show, and put some patterns on the Hearts for Linus blog I do for the guild.

Hmmm... all this without looking at my list of projects, which is pretty long. I think I can accomplish all this IF I can keep organized and work out a system. Time to hop to it!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Farfalle con fagiolini, mandorle e pomodori

When I was in Italy a few years ago I couldn't resist picking up a copy of one of their cooking magazines, Sale e Pepe. I figured it would help me improve my culinary Italian and provide delicious reading on the airplane home. Right on both counts. With much help from a dictionary, I translated this recipe that has become one of our favorites. It's quick and easy, absolutely divine to eat, and different from the usual everyday American version of pasta. I just made it this weekend for some guests and it's been on my mind ever since, so I thought I'd share the recipe. I hope you like it as much as I do!

My photo of the finished product didn't come out, but here's what it looks like just before you put it all together. Farfalle con fagiolini, mandorle e pomodori
(Bowtie Pasta with Green Beans, Almonds & Tomatoes)

From the July 2004 issue of Sale & Pepe

1/2 cup almonds (50 g)
1 tsp. sweet paprika
4 oz. feta cheese (100 g) (sometimes I use a little more on top)
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice (recipe says juice of half a lemon – I thought this was too much)
1 bunch parsley, leaves only
1 clove of garlic
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup thin (if you have them) green beans (200 g)
1 large round tomato, diced (recipe says 8 cherry tomatoes, sliced)
12 oz. bowtie pasta (320 g) (farfalle means butterfly in Italian - how cute is that?)

1) Toast the almonds in the toaster oven until fragrant. Heat the paprika in a nonstick pan over low heat until the aroma rises up. Let the almonds and paprika cool and put them into the food processer with 80% of the crumbled feta, the lemon juice, chopped parsley leaves, garlic and olive oil. Blend the ingredients into a paste and transfer it into a bowl.

2) Wash and trim the green beans (the thin ones really are the best!), dry them, and cut them on an angle. Cook until crisp tender (the crispness is a nice contrast to the pasta). Wash and dry the tomatoes and cut them into thin slices (I prefer diced).

3) Cook the pasta in boiling salted water and drain it reserving a little of the water, which you should stir into the parsley mixture to thin it to sauce consistency. Mix the pasta and sauce, add the sliced tomatoes and beans, sprinkle it all with the remaining crumbled feta and serve.

Buon appetito!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

It never rains, but it pours!

Why does everything happen at once? My kids have been visiting, we've had other houseguests and dinner guests, extra stuff at work, and my training for my 60-mile, 3-day walk has really picked up -- it wears me out! (I walked 13 miles on Saturday and 9 on Sunday.) I've enjoyed it all, but I've gotten behind in my blogging.

I've had several quilting activities, but not many photos to post. I have put the inner border on my I Spy at last -- it was making me feel guilty just hanging there on my design wall. Borders and backings and the finishing up part of quilting are so much less fun than the designing and piecing!
I'll put an outer border in the same blue that is on the star points, and then back it with a map and bright yellow, just like in my previous I Spy quilts.

I've also started a class with Tonya from Lazy Gal Quilting. It's been great! Once I start having something to show, I'll post those photos. I've also been working on a project I can't yet write about, and am ready to put sashing and borders on the Happy Houses quilt for Project Linus. I've been putting that off because I can't decide on sashing fabric and because, well, I don't much like doing sashing and borders, etc. But I'm giving a short demo on these houses for Central Illinois's Make A Blanket Day later this month, and I need to have the quilt to show!