‘Tis the Season to do all the things…

What a whirlwind this holiday break has been so far!  It seems like I have not finished anything that I planned to do, but I’m not really surprised or upset.  2016 has been a bugger for lots of reasons and so this December has been one long lesson for me in trying to go with the flow–or maybe to go against the flow?

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In the flow or out of the flow?

Anyway, at the beginning of our break, we jetted up to TN to visit family and friends for a few days and to celebrate (early) my husband’s and my 25th wedding anniversary.  We were married in March 1992 and we knew that there was NO WAY we would be able to get up to TN to see anyone during the time of our real 25th anniversary, so we had a little party a few months early.  We saw my mom and dad and our best friends in TN and before long it was time to come back to GA.  During our time in TN, our daughter Drew flew in from Chicago to Nashville, but our daughter Zoë was in AL participating in a University of Georgia IMPACT trip…so our little family all converged at home just a couple of days ago.

I had planned to finish Tracey’s mom’s quilt so Tracey could take it to her, but alas, it was not to be.  I did get the top finished, the batting and back and top all pinned together and the stitching path chalked on for the machine quilting:

I’m really happy with the piecing of the top, even though some of my 4 points are just a bit off….but since this is only my 2nd quilt (if you don’t count the 2 t-shirt quilts that I made for my girls) I am pretty proud of how it turned out.  Hopefully I will get it quilted and bound before the end of January, which is when Tracey’s mom is hoping to be in her new house.  Since I was trying to finish the quilt, bestie Tracey only got part of her Christmas box while I was in TN (we alternate each year filling a box with gifts for each other) but she is coming to GA in January to celebrate her 50th birthday, so I’ll be sure to have all her Christmas box AND birthday presents done by then 🙂  One thing she did get, however, is her annual fix of Chocolate Almond Biscotti–more about that below…

In the meantime, the kitchen here has been abuzz with all manner of goodie-making.  Bourbon Sea Salt Caramels are the favorite of my other best friend, Dianne, and David and I made several batches of those:

We gave them to our colleagues at our respective universities as well for some holiday cheer…they are tasty, if I do say so myself.

Today, I decided to whip up two family favorites.  First I made some Boiled Custard.  Have you ever had it?  It is a real tradition in my family but most people that I meet, even in the south, have never even heard of it.  It is quite easy to find in Middle TN during the holidays–Kroger makes a version and so does Purity Dairies and Mayfield.  Our family recipe has been passed down through my great-grandmother (Granny) and calls for milk, eggs, flour and sugar.  The funny thing is, even though it is called “boiled” custard, it is NOT boiled, it is all heated in a double boiler until thick and creamy.  Then you chill and add vanilla and drink it with a generous dollop of whipped cream with your favorite holiday desserts.  It is RICH and DELICIOUS.  My husband and daughter Drew like the Kroger version, so we usually just buy some, but this year, the commercial boiled custard has been scarce.  So I made a batch this morning, using cornstarch instead of flour to make it gluten-free.  It is chilling in 2 quart mason jars in the fridge.  YUM.

I also made another batch of biscotti–this time GF.  Zoë and I are both GF out of necessity, not fashion.  I’ve spent a good portion of the last 5 years researching and experimenting with GF cooking and baking–using different flours and ratios of fat to flour, etc. to come up with delicious GF things to eat.  I have to credit a lot of the GF bloggers and cookbook authors out there–especially La Tartine Gourmande and Fat Free Vegan and Gluten Free Girl.  And all hail, Alice Medrich’s Flavor Flours!  What an amazing baking book for gluten free bakers!

I adapted this recipe from one I already had:

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I used 1 cup almond meal and 1/4 cup rice flour and 1/2 cup ivory teff flour.  I also cheat and just use sliced almonds so I don’t have to chop the almonds…I don’t toast them either.

Place the flour, soda, salt, cocoa, sugar, coffee and chocolate (I use Ghiradelli Bittersweet chips) into a food processor.  Process for about 20-30 seconds.  Add eggs, vanilla and almond extract.  Pulse until the dough forms a ball around the blade.  (sometimes I have to add a bit of water–usually this happens with the GLUTEN stuff, not the GF)  The dough will be really sticky.  Flour your hands (I used some of the rice flour) and form two long logs of dough on a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet.

Bake for 50 minutes at 300º.  Let cool completely.  These are the unscotti.  They are baked once.  When cool, slice into the familiar biscotti slices and arrange again on your pan.  Bake again at 300º for 40 minutes and then cool completely on a rack.  These keep for weeks stored in an airtight container or a sealed bag.

So good.  Makes a BUNCH!  Also a good gift and if you want to gild the lily you can dip the in melted semisweet chocolate or white chocolate after they are baked the second time and cooled.

I’m off now to wrap some presents and enjoy the rest of the day with my family.  I’ll leave you with these random pics of some of the Christmasy bits around our home.  Merry Christmas to all!

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Working with Tools and Reality…

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This weekend I made substantial progress on the quilt that I am working on….got all of the squares assembled and started sewing rows together for the top.  I started to realize, as I was making this beauty, that there are a few things I can’t do without in the process:

  1.  My Gingher shears img_4358I do love scissors and have multiple pairs in many sizes, shapes and brands, but mostly Ginghers after discovering them in grad school.  They are sharp and stay sharp (unless you try to cut through a pin or someone cuts some PAPER or ANY THING ELSE with your fabric shears….) aeabric-cutting-toolsb-b-do-not-use-on-anything-but-3463339                But no worries, with Ginghers, for $12, you can send them in to be sharpened and this includes return postage!

 

  1. Cheap ass Inexpensive snips img_4356

I never used to use snips when I was sewing, but these little metal ones were gifted to me by the check out person at Fine Fabrics in Atlanta when I bought an obscene amount of fabric from them.  You can’t get any cheaper than free, y’all! (My husband hates when I use the word “cheap”–he prefers “inexpensive”–but cheap is cheap!)  These things are SHARP and very convenient to just snip off the excess threads as you sew–which is one of my biggest OCD sewing issues—I have to get rid of that “spaghetti”!  So these have become a real staple for me on my machine table.

 

3. 1/4″ Presser Foot img_4355

It goes without saying that I love my Bernina 1008–I’ve had my machine for 17 years now and it never lets me down.  I bought this presser foot a little over a year ago when I got the bright idea that I was going to make my first quilt for our best friends and for machine piecing, it is the bomb dot com.  No more trying to see that TINY mark on my machine in front of the feed dog slot to line up my seam allowance while I am sewing my pieces.  It rocks.

So, I have learned, in the process of making this quilt and the other one that I made last year that I love doing the piecing, but not so much the pressing open of the seams…and that even though I wear progressive lenses now, I still need a second pair of glasses when I sew.img_4353

Yes, I am a goober, but at least I am a goober that can see what I am doing!

All in all, I think the quilt is going to turn out like I wanted and I hope that Tracey’s mom will like it.  The squares are 10″ finished, so the quilt will be a throw-size, about 5’X6′.

Here are some of the finished squares and the first two rows sewn together.

In the interest of full disclosure, I want to show you what my studio and work area looks like when I am WORKING.  I see so many blogs that show PRISTINE studios with NEAT stacks of fabric and IMMACULATE surfaces and floors and I wonder to myself everytime–HOW DOES ANY WORK HAPPEN IN THAT PLACE?????  It seems really unrealistic to expect that you can make things and keep your studio looking like it is ready for a photo shoot with Where Women Create.  I mean, I do clean up my studio and put things away but when I am in mid-project, it is messy, y’all.  Work is not always neat and clean, especially cutting and sewing fabric.  I tend to work out of piles, just my style 🙂 and maybe others have some Marie Kondo method that works for them, but my working style is not tidy.  So this is what it really looks like when I work:

So this is what I expect a working studio to look like…like work is being done in it!

I’ll post more pics soon when I finish the quilt 🙂

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

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This is my time of year…when I get a bit of time off from my teaching to get into the studio more and dig into making–art, clothes, gifts–you name it!  Time in my studio has been a bit lean since I became chair of my department of art and design at the university where I teach, but I still find ways to keep the making fire burning.  Winter break gives me a little extra fire!

What am I making at the moment?  Well, I will certainly post photos soon (except for the super secret present-y stuff that will have to be revealed after the holidays) but, at the moment I am working on a quilt for one of my best friend’s mom.  She is an extraordinary quilter and her house recently burned–and with it most of her gorgeous quilts. Thankfully she and her great-grandson who were in the house when the fire started are fine. She made me (and my mom) beautiful quilts when Tracey and I graduated from college, so I had been thinking for a while I would like to make her a quilt.  Now I have even more reason.  Here is the idea for the pattern:

On the left is the pattern I plan to use and the right shows my pieces for the squares.  A bit tricky with the patterned fabric because the birds are definitely directional and had to be cut as such.  The dark purple (Tracey’s mom’s favorite colors are purple and red–I LOVE THAT) looks black in the photo, but it is really quite pretty in person.

This is only the 2nd real quilt that I have ever made so everybody think good thoughts, OK?

I have a lot more in the works, so I’ll post more pics soon…but for now, off to the studio!