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Archive for the month “June, 2013”

the story of a wedding gift

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Encoded in this gift are the bride and groom’s shared professional field, what each wore on their wedding day, where they were wed, and even the day they were wed.

Here’s the story.

A little over a week ago, we were invited to our friends’ house for a solstice party. It was June 21, the longest day of the year, a lovely, sunny Friday. We arrived to learn that actually we were attending a wedding reception: Jason and Amy had been married at their home a few hours earlier–what a wonderful surprise and a delightful party! I knew the jars of pickles and salsa we had brought, though appreciated, would not do as a wedding gift. The next day, as I recalled Amy’s wedding dress, I remembered a spare quilt block in my stash with the same coral color. It was a leftover from a still-unfinished quilt top I made using a pattern (called Neighborhood) in Elizabeth Hartman’s book, Modern Patchwork. Here was my inspiration.

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For borders, I used fabric from Carolyn Friedlander’s Architextures collection, which gives a nod to the bride and groom’s professions (he’s an architect; she’s an interior designer).

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For the back, I found a blue and coral stripe that reminded me of the tie Jason wore.

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And to hide the zipper, I used a strip of white on white with various-sized dots. It made me think of the sun and the planets–a subtle reference to their solstice wedding day.

Congratulations and best wishes, Amy & Jason!

limey grilled chicken tacos

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The other day, I thought I’d make grilled fish tacos for dinner, so I found some recipes, made a list, and went to the store. There I found chicken tenderloins on sale, so change in plan: dinner became grilled chicken tacos.

I took the elements of a few different recipes and came up with this recipe. I love the fresh summery taste of limes and cilantro, so I embraced that flavor combo. Because all three kids are home this summer, I cook in larger quantities so there is extra for lunches and late-night kitchen forays. I quadrupled the marinade and chicken (used 4 lb) and doubled the corn salsa. The white sauce recipe makes over a cup, which lasted for the 4 lb of chicken.

The family declared this one a keeper–in fact, I made it again two days later. The corn salsa is terrific on its own and you can add whatever veggies you have in the frig. Of course, it’s better with fresh corn than canned, but use what you have on hand with the time you want to spend.

Someday I might even try this with tilapia–when it goes on sale!

kudus and kudos

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Daughter #2 leaves early tomorrow morning with fellow St. Louis Zoo interns for Costa Rica, so we have spent the past few days getting her ready for departure. D#2 decided that she’d like to bring along some needlepoint to do, so we designed a couple of keychains as thank-yous for Eve and Laura, the patient Zoo educators who will be accompanying this posse. She plans to work on them during layovers and downtime. We incorporated the St. Louis Zoo’s logo, a stylized image of the male lesser kudu (a shy east African antelope) and the educators’ first initials. I am grateful to these wonderful professionals who are chaperoning this group of teenagers/young adults and enthusiastically sharing their knowledge and love of the environment, nature and animals.

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Although preoccupied with D#2’s travel preparations (and the associated worry), I did manage to get a couple of quilts mailed off to the quilter. Boy, did that feel good!

an ode to highway lilies

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When we first moved into our house almost 20 years ago, we had zero money for landscaping. We quickly realized the value of perennials, learned never to decline the offer of a division, and became guerrilla rescue gardeners when house teardowns began happening in our neighborhood.

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These daylilies began as divisions from our dear across-the-street neighbor, Pat. We have a sloping sideyard garden that gets blazing sun in the afternoon–we needed something there to hold the soil in place, that could tolerate drought conditions and very full sun, and that wasn’t on our resident voles’ menu. We planted the lilies there, and over the years they have multiplied and spread.

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Also known as tiger lilies or ditch lilies, these simple generic daylilies are ubiquitous along roads and near abandoned homesteads. Some gardeners speak of them in disparaging terms, calling them common, but we find them beautiful. I am fond of their mix of orange and yellow. Every time I look at them, I think of Pat, who died several years ago and whose house has since been torn down.

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They now form a pretty border, and their show this time of year is glorious. Their only shortcoming is that their bloom time is limited–only two weeks in early summer–but that makes their display all the sweeter.

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My husband is working to rebuild the brick edging along this bed–it will likely take all summer!

fennel frond pesto

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The other day I cut back the fennel fronds because they were crowding the dill. I ended up with a huge licorice-fragrant pile.

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What to do with it? When I poked around online, I came across an excellent suggestion from one of my favorite food writers, Melissa Clark: fennel frond pesto.

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I followed Melissa’s recipe, but I left out the nuts (otherwise I’d kill my husband) and I added some basil and additional olive oil.

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I stored it in little containers and stashed them in the freezer. Some friends’ birthdays are coming up in the next couple of weeks. I think a loaf of focaccia and a container of pesto will make a nice summer birthday gift.

cathedral windows demystified

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A friend who is a violinist with the St. Louis Symphony is celebrating a significant birthday today, so I thought I’d finish a little project for her as a gift.

I pieced this mini-quilt a few years ago following a Sew Mama Sew tutorial by Elizabeth Hartman of Oh Fransson fame. It sounds weird, but you fuse the squares to lightweight fusible interfacing and then fold and sew the rows. For the beginner quilter (me!), it was very satisfying to have the seams of these bitty 2-inch squares match perfectly. At the time, I made several, and over the years I have reached up to my works-in-progress (WIP) shelf and quilted one every so often as a birthday gift for a friend. This process has allowed me to experiment with different quilting designs in a small (14-inch square) venue. “Mistakes” are hard to detect–it helps that I used no solid fabrics. I gained practice and confidence, and the gift recipients were none the wiser (I think!).

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Here are a couple of others I did. The one with the yellow border I quilted with an all-over free-motion curly-que–very brave of me. For the orange-bordered one, I used an Elizabeth Hartman-esque free-motion wonky-box pattern (it’s in her book)–even braver.

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This time around, I had fun with a new technique for me: cathedral windows/orange peel quilting. I have admired it but thought it was beyond my abilities. Then I read a blog entry by Katy of I’m a Ginger Monkey in which she confesses to being a reluctant quilter (I can certainly relate) and then explains how to do this orange peel quilting with a walking foot–cool! I had to try it out, and it worked like a charm. I am pleased to have another quilting technique in my repertoire.

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It looks great with the backing I chose.

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For the borders I used my other favorite walking-foot quilting design (explained here by Faith of Fresh Lemons Quilts). It created a little puzzle-piece pattern in the corners.

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I added a hanging sleeve so it can either be hung on a wall or used as a decorative piece on a table.

Happy Birthday, Wendy!

plumes abloom

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The butterfly bush has extended an open invitation to the bees and butterflies to dine. I believe this variety is called Black Knight.

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I had never seen bottlebrush buckeye till I moved here. It is a slow grower and a gentle giant (it can reach 8 to 12 feet tall), but its display is worth the wait. The horizontal bands of palmate leaves look like rows of little open umbrellas, and the aptly named bottlebrush blooms have the appearance of floating white candles–very Hogswartian! We had a good-looking patch beneath an aging redbud tree, but when the tree fell over in a storm, the bottlebrush buckeye was left exposed to full sun and began to suffer. So last summer my husband and I worked to transplant the lot to a small rise under a maple tree. It seems to appreciate its new home and is sending up lots of new growth. In a couple of years, it should look spectacular. When we admire our bottlebrush buckeye patch, we think of our friends Sue, Marcia and Walt who gave us the original divisions.

pickles soon

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I am astonished at how quickly cucumbers grow. Look at this crop!

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My husband and I put these posts and twine in place to corral the asparagus and give the dill some breathing room. When I reached inside the twine ball to find the free end, I found a mouse nest–ish! Fortunately, the residents had moved out awhile ago.

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The dill smells wonderful. I think we’ll be canning pickles this next weekend.

HSTs and Bloc-Loc rulers

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Last week I read a post by Rita of Red Pepper Quilts about Bloc-Loc rulers, which she was using to square up flying geese blocks. When she mentioned that Bloc-Loc also makes half-square triangle (HST) rulers, I checked out reviews and the Bloc-Loc website. Despite my best efforts, I struggle to accurately trim HST blocks–I find it hard to maintain adequate pressure on the ruler while I cut. Too often the ruler shifts, and I am left with a wonky block. So based on Rita’s and others’ positive responses, I ordered a set of three HST rulers: 2 1/2″, 4 1/2″ and 6 1/2″. They arrived in just a couple of days.

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There’s a groove milled into the underside of the ruler that, when placed atop a pieced HST unit, fits snugly against the center seam. No more slipping–genius. Paired with a revolving cutting mat, these rulers make trimming HST blocks a piece of cake. Thanks to Rita for sharing this tip!

tops & bottoms

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The harvest yesterday was all root vegetables or “bottoms” as my family calls them.

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When my kids were little, they were tickled by Tops & Bottoms by Janet Stevens–we read our well-worn copy over and over. In this clever trickster tale, an industrious laborer rabbit and a lazy landowner bear agree to “split” the harvest, with the rabbit on the winning end until the bear realizes he needs to do his own farm work.

Tomorrow it’ll be time to harvest some “tops”–lettuce, fennel fronds and rhubarb.

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