Now that everyone has gotten whatever surprises there were, here are some of the things I’ve been working on in past months. Mostly, though, I forget to take photos before I give things away.
I enjoyed making these cute little felt “sugar cookies” with beaded “sprinkles” wrapped up in a little bag.
I made at least 10 of these from October 2015 to January 2016. Three were part of an auction at St. David of Wales Episcopal Church in Portland. I made four others for gifts, and someone who saw the items at the auction commissioned another three. Payment for those was a donation to the church.
The sugar cookie sacks are one of many cute designs in the book Zakka Style, compiled by Rashida Coleman-Hale (Stash Books).
Here’s a redwork quilt I made for my grandson, Augie. That’s Robert behind the quilt. The cartoons are from a booklet called Animal Behavior by Marytime Design of Portland. The cover advertises 10 designs, but there were actually 12.
I don’t have a picture of the socks I knitted Robert, but, quickly, here are some other things I’ve worked on recently.
The photo doesn’t do this small red quilt justice–the reds are all blown out, and the one block that’s a coffee cup rather than a star is hard to see. But Catherine and Anne like it, and because Robert and I did too, I’m hand-piecing another one like it.
A couple of aprons made from large men’s shirts.
An apron with simple embroidery.
In an interview in the Sunday Business section of Sunday’s (Feb. 7) New York Times, Adam Bryant asked Walt Bettinger, C.E.O. of the Charles Schwab Corporation, about lessons he had learned in college. Here’s Bettinger’s response:
A business strategy course in my senior year stands out. I had maintained a 4.0 average all the way through, and I wanted to graduate with a perfect average. It came down to the final exam, and I had spent many hours studying and memorizing formulas to do calculations for the case studies.
The teacher handed out the final exam, and it was on one piece of paper, which really surprised me because I figured it would be longer than that. Once everyone had their paper, he said, “Go ahead and turn it over.” Both sides were blank.
And the professor said, “I’ve taught you everything I can teach you about business in the last 10 weeks, but the most important message, the most important question, is this: What’s the name of the lady who cleans this building?”
And that had a powerful impact. It was the only test I ever failed, and I got the B I deserved. Her name was Dottie, and I didn’t know Dottie. I’d seen her, but I’d never taken the time to ask her name. I’ve tried to know every Dottie I’ve worked with ever since.
I appreciate my blog. I do. I appreciate my daughter Lyza for quietly renewing the URL every year. It’s just that there are so many other things to do than write entries in it. Things mostly involving fabric and yarn, but also physical exertion and eating.
Last night, to put myself to sleep, I started counting ongoing or recently completed or even envisioned projects instead of sheep. I drifted off around #18. Here are a few that I’m working on or just finished.
- Knitting socks for a friend
- Knitting a wrap with the popular Wingspan pattern, probably for myself
- Red work embroidery patches for a child’s quilt. Other recent embroidery projects include dishtowels and an apron.
- Four quilts in various stages of construction.
- At least one quilt being actively planned [I think of it as “Roosters Up the Ying-yang” as rooster-themed fabric is everywhere. Along with chickens, eggs, and chickenwire.]
- Which leads to thinking about other quilts using barnyard animal patchwork, possibly with plaid or checked fabric as borders.
- Two patchwork chair pads using random piecing techniques from the book “15 Minutes of Play.”
- Knitting a seat pad for my car with huge #32 needles and a double strand of strips of waste fabric. Like the rag rug I knitted for my bedroom.
- Fifteen individual blocks from the Sunshine and Stitches shop hop in June,
where I visited 1 quilt shops, ving materials for one lock at each. I found some great resources and spent agreat deal of money.
- Ten yards or so of 2-1/2-inch pieced quilt
border. My sister Catherine clued me into a clever technique: Sewing the scraps to 3-inch register tape.
- Six 12-inch pieced blocks for the Northwest Quilter’s block of the month, which will net me six chances to win everyone’s blocks for that month. If not, someone gets mine.
There are many more projects, conceived, begun or even finished. Some of them are gifts.I have lots of other things to do besides play with fabric and yarn: cooking, baking, playing the fiddle, taking my scooter to the library, working out at the gym, reading, downsizing my hundreds of books, listening to audiobooks. … But mostly, I just want to immerse myself in making things.
Writing for this blog is far, far down the list.
I did my 6-week pass at Facebook today and found two requests for recipes I helped publish when I was working for The Oregonian’s FoodDay section in the late ’90s.
I remember battling another editor to the mat over publishing the rutabaga recipe as one of the best of 1997. But it really is that good!
The second recipe, for macadamia nuts with curry and coconut, is addictive, worth the cost of the nuts. Still, I’d forgotten all about it until an old FoodDay colleague asked for the recipe.
Union Square Cafe’s Puree of Rutabaga With Crispy Shallots
Makes 6 servings
2 medium rutabagas, about 3 pounds, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium all-purpose potato, peeled and cut into 1-1/2 -inch pieces
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 to 3 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground white pepper
1½ tablespoons peanut oil
3 large shallots, peeled and thinly slice
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
In a large saucepan, bring plenty of salted water to a boil, add the rutabagas and potato, and cook until both vegetables are very tender. Drain well and transfer the vegetables to a food processor together with 3 tablespoons of the butter and 2 tablespoons of the sour cream. Season with salt and pepper. If the mixture is not quite creamy, add the remaining tablespoon of sour cream. Transfer to an ovenproof dish, cover, and set in the center of the oven to keep warm.
In a heavy 8-inch skillet, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter together with the oil over medium high heat. Add the shallots and saute until nicely browned and crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Fold the shallots into the potato and rutabaga mixture and correct the seasoning.
From Fresh From the Garden by Perla Meyers
Coconut Curry Macadamia Nuts
Time 30 minutes
1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1-1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 egg whites
5 cups macadamia nuts
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
Preheat oven to 300.
Combine ginger, cumin, curry powder, cayenne, brown sugar and salt then set aside. Beat egg whites with small whisk until frothy then whisk in reserve spice mix. Stir in nuts and coconut then spread in a single layer onto 2 lightly greased baking sheets.
Bake, stirring nuts and rotating pans halfway through cooking, for 25 minutes (less time in a convection oven).
Transfer to parchment paper to cool then store in airtight container at room temperature.
I think this recipe is from Martha Stewart’s appetizer book.
I’ve known for several years that home cooks could bake artisan-type bread, the kind with the crispy crust and the chewy interior with lots of air holes, in a Dutch oven, but a recipe published in The Oregonian in about 2012 finally got me going.
I’ve always baked bread, and in the past had perfected several shortcuts, such as kneading the dough in a food processor and even letting it rise in the processor’s bowl, then using the blade to “punch” it down before forming the bread on a floured surface.
But this new recipe is far easier. It takes less than 10 minutes to whip up enough dough for a week’s worth of bread for Robert and me–about five smallish loaves. Keep the dough in the fridge, pull off a chunk from time to time, and enjoy fresh bread every day.
- 6 1/2 cups flour
- 3 cups water, cold or lukewarm
- 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher or sea salt
- 1 scant tablespoon dry yeast, or one packet (see below for sourdough instructions)
I’ll explain the ingredients in more detail below, but here’s how the bread works.
1. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. There’s no need to knead. The dough should be very sticky almost wet. Cover and refrigerate.
2. When it’s time to bake a new loaf, scoop out a chunk of dough, form it, let it rise 40 minutes, then bake for 30-35 minutes at 450° F. See more detailed instructions about baking below.
I usually use
- 4 cups bread flour (Bob’s Red Mill, Stone-Buhr, King Arthur),
- 2 cups whole-wheat and/or rye (use dark rye flour, which is whole-grain)
- 1/2 cup (or a bit more) Bob’s Red Mill rolled cereal mix (I’ve used 5-grain and 7-grain, and there’s also a 10-grain variety), which add a wonderful texture. Other options include oatmeal, rye flakes, barley flakes, etc. If making rye bread, try 1/4 to 1/2 cup pumpernickel (whole rye groats) and a generous 1 tablespoon caraway seeds.
- About 2 tablespoons flax meal
Have fun experimenting with the mix of flours, but beware of using too much whole-wheat or rye. The gluten in the bread flour is what supports the bread. I tried adding vital wheat gluten to help dough with large amounts of whole grains to rise better, but it made the bread too tough.
Sometimes I add a teaspoon or two of sugar or barley malt syrup to help the yeast grow. Maybe it works … I like the bread either way.
In My Bread, the book that started the home-baked artisan bread revolution, Jim Lahey uses 1 teaspoon of yeast and cold water to make a dough that rises very slowly. Since I always refrigerate the dough at least overnight before baking at, it really doesn’t matter what temperature the water is. I often use lukewarm water from my electric kettle.
One packet, or a scant 1 tablespoon of active dry yeast is plenty to leaven this whole recipe. You could use even less, a la Lahey, if you are using loose yeast. Bulk dry yeast keeps for years in the freezer, but if it’s been awhile, to proof it to make sure it’s viable.
In the fall of 2013, my friend Steve from Taborgrass gave me some sourdough starter, and I have adapted the bread recipe to use that. Every time I open the container from my fridge, I think “happy, happy, happy!” If it sits for quite awhile, a gray layer of liquid forms on top that is mostly alcohol. I usually mix most of it back into the starter, then lift out about 1 cup to add to my ingredients for the bread. I feed the remaining starter with 1 cup flour and 3/4 cup filtered water.
To compensate for the liquid in the starter, I reduce the amount of water in the recipe to about 2 cups.
The amount of salt, 1-1/2 tablespoons, may seem like a lot, and you could use as little as 1 tablespoon. However, the bread really tastes better with the larger amount of salt.
So, every day or two I scoop out a good fistful of dough, about the size of large grapefruit, and let it rise for 20 minutes on a floured cloth. The dough is wet, remember, so it helps to dust it and the hands with flour. Roll it about on the floured cloth, quickly forming the dough ball into a comfortable loaf shape. This only takes a few seconds. Sprinkle a little more flour on top of the dough and let it sit for 20 minutes. Total rising time is 40 minutes; it takes just 20 minutes to preheat my oven.
After 20 minutes, turn on the oven to 450° F and put a cast-iron Dutch oven and its lid in the oven to preheat. When the oven is hot, working quickly, open the oven, pick up the dough by putting a hand under the cloth, and gently tip the dough into the hot cast-iron pot. Sometimes I slash the top with a sharp knife, but that step isn’t necessary (my son-on-law has since given me a handy French razor for just that purpose; it has a plastic sheath that protects the blade). Quickly replace the lid and close the oven, then set the timer for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, reset the heat in the oven to 425° before opening the oven and taking the cover off the pot. The lower heat helps the interior cook more thoroughly. Bake for another 10 to 13 minutes, until the loaf is a strong brown–as Lahey writes, almost mahogany. Set the pot on top of the stove and immediately scoop out the loaf with a spoon or spatula; put it on a rack to cool. Try not to cut into it until it is completely cool, otherwise the interior will be gummy.