red flannel pantry

creative pursuits in the kitchen, garden, library and sewing room

Archive for the month “August, 2012”

in the ‘hood

The chicken looks like she is ready to move in!

I just finished piecing this quilt top using Elizabeth Hartman’s Neighborhood quilt design (I am sure it is clear by now that I am kind of obsessed with her latest book.). I made it only three rows long because the only available wall space in my house can’t accommodate anything larger.

I chose a fabric/color palette similar to the one shown here. I like how the windows pop.

The brown neutral background resembles our yard these days.

Now comes the hardest decision: how to quilt it. Here is when procrastination usually sets in. I will probably set it aside for a couple of weeks till inspiration strikes.

tons of tomatoes

Despite the lack of rain this summer, our vegetable garden has produced . . . and produced . . . and produced. The soaker hoses and the timer on the spigot helped.

After sharing the bounty with neighbors and friends and eating as much as we can, we have been preserving the rest by canning (we have jars and jars of pickles and salsa) and dehydrating.

I am new to dehydrating–my family gave me a dehydrator for my birthday–and I am sold! I have been running it practically everyday. It takes pounds and pounds of tomatoes and reduces them to a few handfuls of concentrated tomatoey goodness, which I put in labeled bags and toss in the freezer.

The Roma tomato plants have been the most prolific this year. I cut them in quarter-wedges to dry them. The larger tomatoes I cut into slices. It takes about 10-12 hours to dry them at 135 degrees F.

Sometimes I sprinkle dried basil over the cut-up tomatoes before drying them–it makes the house smell delicious.

I like this dehydrator model because you can use as few or as many (up to eight) drying trays as you need. (Bonus: it is also made here in the Midwest.) It does take a huge chunk of counter space though, so once I scale down production, I’ll store it on a basement shelf.

Next up: fruit (would be perfect for snacks and granola) and jerky (would make my husband and his poker buddies happy!).

corgis galore!

Last week I received this really cool fabric from Spoonflower (designed by DianeF and appropriately called “everyone loves a corgi“). Corgis have always been a favorite of my oldest daughter, and who could not love them after seeing them trot beside the Queen and Daniel Craig during the Olympic opening ceremonies?!

Yet another friend is turning 50, and since she owns a corgi, I thought I’d poke around online to see if I could find some fun corgi fabric for the back of a wall hanging. I hit the jackpot on Spoonflower! But now that I have it in hand, I don’t think I can hide all of it on the back.

I find the corgis’ psychedelic colors and smiling faces charming, and the brown-gray background is perfect.

When I finally decide what to do, I will share photos–I have two weeks till the birthday!

milkweed feast

Today I saw a monarch butterfly feed from our marsh milkweed (asclepias incarnata) for the first time this season–it was lovely. Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed and then their larvae eat it. Last fall I blew the silky seeds from the pods, thinking they’d take root all over the neighborhood. Nope–they had a different idea. They sprouted in the front of my garden beds, so I now have these 4-foot-high milkweed plants bobbing and waving in the wind like those blow-up guys in front of car dealerships. I didn’t have the heart to tear them out, so I have let them be–I will transplant them after they bloom.

Because of the proliferation of Monsanto’s RoundUp-ready genetically modified crops and milkweed’s susceptibility to glyphosate (generic name for RoundUp), milkweed is being eradicated from millions of acres here in the Midwest, causing a decline in the monarch butterfly population.

I have had this pink marsh milkweed, which is now a well-established clump and multiplying, for a couple of years. I bought a white variety this spring at Garden Heights Nursery and put it in a different part of my garden. Although the plants are doing well, no flowers have appeared yet.

My friend, Anne, encouraged me to plant “Dallas Red” lantana in my pots, saying it would attract hummingbirds and butterflies–what a great recommendation! The traffic around these pots has been nonstop.

Other butterfly attractions in my garden that have done well despite the drought are bloodflower (an annual milkweed–asclepias curassavica–that reseeds, another Anne recommendation), butterfly bush, cardinal flower, liatris, coneflower, and zinnia.

go-to goldfish

My daughter asked today if I could make seasoned fish crackers for her cross-country team sleepover. Her teammates have been asking for them, and since I usually have all the ingredients on hand, I was happy to oblige.

You can find the recipe I use here. Variations of it can be found on the ranch dressing mix box and recipe websites. You can use oyster crackers instead of the goldfish, but the fish are much more fun.

These fish are yummy and addicting, but I am not crazy about the MSG and other funky ingredients (carboxymethylcellulose??)  in the store-bought ranch salad dressing mix. So next time I am going to try to come up with my own mix. I’ll update the recipe if I get good results (as determined by my resident taste-testers and college care-package recipients!).

“just another Wednesday”

I have been happily rifling through Elizabeth Hartman’s new book, Modern Patchwork. One of the many things I enjoy about her book is that with every quilt design she offers a section called Alternate Ideas, with mini-quilts demonstrating ways a design can be tweaked.

One riff she suggests for her Xylophone quilt (a stunner that reminds me of chopped carrots, cucumbers and onions on a cutting board) is to cut the strip sets into simple strips instead of wedges—manageable for a newbie like me.

Aha—inspiration for another birthday wall hanging!

I pulled a bunch of reds and grays and hijacked some linen-patterned cotton that I had been saving for the back of another quilt—oh well.

I was taken with the way one of the Alternate Ideas examples was quilted with intersecting straight lines of quilting, so I tried it here using white thread and blue painter’s tape as a guide. I also did some more scrappy binding—it along with the quilting add a sense of imbalance that I like. The wall hanging ended up being 11″ x 25″.

As I assembled the pieces, I decided I would have the wall hanging hang vertically. To me, it resembles an uneven stack of dishes, which brought to mind a Billy Collins’ poem, so I included it on the quilt label.

Here it is, in case you want to read it and not go all squinty trying to read it in my not-so-good photo:


Each one is a gift, no doubt,
mysteriously placed in your waking hand
or set upon your forehead
moments before you open your eyes.

Today begins cold and bright,
the ground heavy with snow
and the thick masonry of ice,
the sun glinting off the turrets of clouds.

Through the calm eye of the window
everything is in its place
but so precariously
this day might be resting somehow

on the one before it,
all the days of the past stacked high
like the impossible tower of dishes
entertainers used to build on stage.

No wonder you find yourself
perched on the top of a tall ladder
hoping to add one more.
Just another Wednesday,

you whisper,
then holding your breath,
place this cup on yesterday’s saucer
without the slightest clink.

—Billy Collins                                                                                                                Sailing Alone Around the Room

A lovely birthday poem, don’t you think?

happy birthday to you!

birthday cake

Many of my friends are celebrating significant birthdays these days (the kind that end in 0), so I have been making wall hangings as gifts. They are a great way for me to try new techniques in miniature form.

I was looking through some favorite blogs when I stumbled across a fabulous idea on 42quilts for a monument block. As Jenifer points out, if you use fun fabric, it looks like a birthday cake–perfect for a monumental birthday and zero calories to boot!

I used 2-inch–wide strips since I had a bunch of the red fabric already cut that width from another project, alternated the cake layers, and added sashing all the way around to frame it.

On the binding I added a bit of red. In Elizabeth Hartman’s new book, I noticed how she often added funky scrappy pieces to her binding, so I thought I’d be brave and give it a go here. It was not hard at all–it just required a little planning so the red landed where I wanted it.

birthday cake quilting

I used curlicue free-motion quilting in the cake and borders and straight-line quilting in the red, which kind of makes the cake look like it’s on fire!

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