Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 - A Few Non-Quilting Highlights

In October, Randy and I attended a charity function and decided to really
go all out with a long dress and a tux. It was fun to play dress-up.

Our beautiful baby girl married her wonderful guy in January. In the second photo,
Randy and I try valiantly not to cry as they dance their first dance.

Early summer we enjoyed the fruits of a fairly successful vegetable and herb garden.

We vacationed with our son, daughter-in-law, three grandchildren ages 15, 13, and 11, and our daughter and son-in-law at a really neat vacation rental house in Bulverde, TX and had our picture made at a nearby Mexican restaurant.

I am a trained storm spotter and self-declared weather nerd, so during spring and summer I can't wait to see storm clouds rolling across the horizon.

In October and November we traveled to see our daughter near Dallas and Randy's family near Tulsa, Oklahoma. We stayed in hotels instead of with our families which surprisingly made our visits more fun!

Top photo: Dallas skyline - we used to live near Dallas, and this sight is always a thrill for us. In the next photos are quick car shots of my beloved Oklahoma - beautiful skies, rolling hills, gorgeous fall trees.

December has been very happy. Randy retired,
so we bought a red Ford F150 to celebrate!

Christmas was so much fun. Even Buddy and Katy celebrated. We went to our son's house early Christmas morning, then came home to our cozy house.

It was a great year! I am looking forward to 2015 and will have my resolutions in hand by tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Winterlude Table Runner

Several months ago I bought a kit for a Winterlude Table Runner Kit by 3 Sisters for Moda, which will eventually resemble the photo above. I procrastinated and didn't get started on it until yesterday. I spent several hours cutting and then pairing up 420 tiny pieces of fabric, laid them out in rows on my design board, then stacked up the rows in preparation for sewing.

I took pictures from several angles, just in case a piece got misplaced.

As I was transporting the board to my sewing machine, this happened:

Everything is now in a bag in my closet. I'll think about it after Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Patchwork Christmas Tree Skirt

On Sunday I realized that my Christmas tree was lacking a skirt. I looked online for something simple and was inspired by an image I found featuring simple patchwork. I found a great tutorial and adjusted the size to fit my needs.

I couldn't wait to use a small fat quarter bundle of Christmasy fabrics I had purchased at my LQS in August. I don't know the makers of the fabrics, but I love the gentle metallics and the darker greens and reds mixed with blue.

I quilted it in a mix of straight and curvy lines, added a binding of dark emerald green batik, and was pleased at how quickly it all came together.

I debated putting ties on the opening, but my husband suggested buttons instead. I thought that was an excellent idea, so I added a couple of loops from the binding fabric and sewed on some pretty buttons.

Now our gifts don't look quite so lonely.

I'm linking this to Amanda's Finish It Up Friday and to Lily's Quilts Small Blog Meet

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Baked Orange Cranberry Sauce

Every year I count down the days until fresh cranberries are available so that I can make cranberry sauce from scratch. I used to like the canned stuff, but I've loved homemade since I first made Allrecipes Pear Honey Cranberry Sauce in 2005. I love all things cranberry and have an entire folder with recipes and bookmarks devoted to cranberries in sauce, cakes, scones, beverages, and cookies.

I decided to try one of the baked recipes this year, and I might even like the baked version better than cooked. The sauce is more chunky, tender, and mellow. Orange really enhances the tart berries, and adding a touch of cinnamon and vanilla to the sauce makes it a true comfort food.

Baked Orange Cranberry Sauce
Yields about 1-1/2 cups

1 - 12-ounce package fresh cranberries, washed and drained
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice, reserve orange peel and pulp
1 teaspoon vanilla

After squeezing orange juice, quarter the peel/pulp and place in 1-quart baking dish with cranberries. Pour orange juice over all. Mix sugars with cinnamon and sprinkle over top. Cover with foil and bake at 325° for 45 minutes. Remove from oven, take out orange peels, and stir in vanilla. Refrigerate leftovers.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Jingle Bell Rock Quilt Back

One more step is done on my Jingle Bell Rock quilt. I finished the back this morning.

I picked up an idea for the back from Crazy Mom Quilts Mini Trees Quilt with simple strips of color representing a Christmas tree. I drew out the design on graph paper, performed a bit of math, and got busy cutting from some of the leftover pieces of fabric plus some extra wide white yardage I purchased at Hobby Lobby.

I think it will be a nice quiet contrast to the riot of colors on the front of the quilt.

Now I must find a floor space large enough to sandwich the quilt and close the door to keep Katy the kitty out. Every time I sandwich a quilt on the floor, she thinks there's a new game in town!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Texas Pralines II

My husband loves loves pralines. He regularly made them in our early married life but has been out of the habit for many years.

His go-to candy cookbook is Farm Journal Homemade Candy cookbook, published in 1970. We have tried two recipes for pralines from that book, and I thought the Texas Pralines recipe was a bit too creamy when I made them in January, but he wanted to give it a try.

I'm sure New Orleans folks would take exception to the name "Texas Pralines", but the description on the recipe indicates a yield of 12 "big, Texas-style" pralines. My husband makes them smaller and gets about 18-24 pieces. He used heavy cream in place of the half-and-half but otherwise followed the recipe exactly.

And he truly is the Master of Pralines. These are buttery and creamy, but firmer than mine were - probably the best he has ever made!

Texas Pralines
from Farm Journal Homemade Candy Cookbook

3 cups brown sugar
1 cup half-and-half (we only had heavy cream)
3 tablespoons light or dark corn syrup (we used light)
1/3 cup salted butter (if you don't use salted butter, add a pinch of salt)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped

Combine sugar, half-and-half, corn syrup, and butter in heavy saucepan. Stir to combine; bring to boil over medium-high heat then reduce to medium-low, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Cook to soft ball stage - 238 degrees. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm - 110 degrees - without stirring.

Add vanilla and pecans; beat until mixture changes color and begins to thicken.

Quickly drop by large spoonfuls onto parchment paper. If mixture gets too thick, stir in a teaspoon or so of water until mixture is spreadable again. You can alternately pour into a buttered 9-inch baking pan and cut into pieces when cool.

Makes 12 large or 18-24 small pralines.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Jingle Bell Rock Quilt

My husband and I started dated on December 17, 1962. We were both 14, and our date was a school bus trip to go roller skating. The first song we skated to was Jingle Bell Rock by Bobby Helms, so that has become "our" Christmas song.

When I saw this Jingle Bell Rock pattern, designed by Kimberly Jolly for Robert Kaufman, I had to make it! Little holiday birds on bright green from Ann Kelle's Jingle collection was my inspiration, and I pulled from my stash to mirror the boldness of the colors. I thought the blue diagonal stripe, Curiosities by Nancy Halvorsen, would make a nice contrast to the bright colors and white sashing.

This week I'll sew on the borders and start piecing the back. I haven't decided yet whether or not to bind it. I can't wait to see how it turns out!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Felt Stockings and Other Things

A dear friend who helped me prepare dinners this past fall for our church's Wednesday Night Dinners asked me if I would help her with a Christmas project in which she participates. Each year volunteers sew hundreds of Christmas stockings to be filled with goodies and delivered to homeless vets. She already had the felt pieces cut out - all I had to do was decorate them and sew them up.

My confidence in my sewing led me to ask her for two dozen, and I have to confess that I ended up asking another friend to take a dozen of them to complete! These little stockings were more of a challenge than I anticipated! I have little imagination when it comes to decorating, so I turned to Pinterest to find samples of felt stockings. Decorations couldn't just be glued on - everything had to be sewn on just to make sure the stockings remain intact from the time they are filled until they are delivered. Some of the decorations were too small to attach with a sewing machine, so I did a lot of hand sewing. And I had to search for a tutorial to see how to sew the stockings together to hide the seams of the cuff at the top. It was like it was my first time sewing.

In spite of my difficulties, it was a joy and an honor to do these stockings. How sad that the words "homeless" and "vets" are even in the same sentence; nevertheless there is apparently a disproportionately large percentage of homeless people who are veterans. As I worked on the stockings I prayed and thought about who would receive them and that they would be blessed in some way.

My cat Katy was involved in her very special way.

In other news Randy and I celebrated 45 years of marriage and traveled to Dallas to visit our daughter and son-in-law. Our anniversary is the day before our baby girl's birthday, so we often get together for our two events. We ate at Gordon Biersch and had a wonderful evening. I gave her the Secrets and Dreams Journal to use for her iPad or as a journal - she was delighted - yay!