When people ask me why I live here, I usually say “I like having 4 different seasons.” Some might argue we have winter, winter, winter, 2 days of spring and a week of summer, but you can tell the difference!
Ask any cat: winter is a good time for a nap.
But cats do wake up and wish for a tree to climb: The Tree House! I cleared out a shelf (that was the Black Hole of Storage). David built the artificial “tree”. Cooper and Izzy figured out the rest.
While the cats play, I make a chai tea latte with my Capresso Froth Pro and tea concentrate. Yum!
Decadent chocolate desserts are great but I do eat other things. Tonight I made my first recipe from a book I received for Christmas. It’s Jerusalem, A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, published by Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, California c. 2013. There are 120 recipes from their diverse cross-cultual perspectives. Each man was born in the same year but on opposite sides of the city: one on the Arab east side and the other on the Jewish west side of the city.
It’s a beautiful book with stories and photographs of the city and the food. The cover is soft and is bound in a way that allows it to open and lay flat. Here is my three course meal for tonight.
I made Chicken Sofrito, described as a kind of comfort food. Sofrito comes from the Spanish word “sofreir” meaning to fry. This dish combines browned chicken, quartered onion, fried Yukon potatoes and garlic- all in a Dutch oven, left to cook slowly over a lot of time.
Start by browning the chicken in the Dutch oven, then stir in the paprika, tumeric, pinch of sugar, and lemon juice to coat the chicken pieces. While the chicken braises in its own juices, fry the Yukon potatoes and garlic. Lots of garlic: 25 cloves, still in their skin. I chose organic baby Yukon potatoes, cut in half. Drain. After 30-60 minutes, add the garlic and potatoes to the Dutch oven, placing the chicken on top. By now the onion is falling apart. Let it. Continue braising until the potatoes and garlic are creamy soft and the chicken falls off the bone. YUM.
Look again at this plate of comfort food. Everything is cooke perfectly (without much bother) and has a caramelized hint of lemon flavor. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Unless there is a chocolate dessert hiding somewhere.
I have always been a “a place for everything and everything in its place” kind of obsessive organizer, but lately, I want to see the stuff I like.
Also, if I can see it, I’m more likely to get out of my purse and clothing rut, and grab a tote and a scarf on my way out the door.
The tote bags hang from hooks on the closet door. From left to right, you can see my small round purse (Echino), large snap tote (fabric from IKEA), owl tote with zippers (grocery type bag), small “Perfect Pouch” by Christine Drumright in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and 3 bags from SaraBella (sarabella.com) by Sara Weiner.
For the scarves, I wrapped a strip of muslin around the slick pole of the floor lamp. This gives something for the scarves to grip.
The mix of colors and textures makes my sewing room a bit crowded, but helps make this room a creative sanctuary.
Above is a detail photo that shows the quilting lines (in purple) and the water-soluble thread lines (white). I quilted each of the four sections with Sulky 30 wt. solid color thread (purple-top; blue-bobbin).
Also, here are detail shots of 2 of the many patches on this quilt. Most of the wear & tear occurred along the outside edges, but some patches were needed in the middle too.
I put the sections in the wash, two at at time. I needed to melt the water-soluble thread, but I also wanted to get out the “grubbiness” of a lap/couch quilt used for 12-13 years. I started with a dish soap soak for 20-30 minutes, followed by a laundry detergent long wash with plenty of agitation. After the washer came to a stop, I started all over again with a cup of vinegar and a long wash with agitation. It worked. The fabrics seemed to sparkle with that ground-in-gray washed out.
It did shrink. The new wool batting plus the new quilting plus the washing and drying all adds up to shrinkage. The finished quilt is about 84″-85″ square now (it started at 91″-92″).
So, the four sections must be reunited. I’m using sashing this time, so the bulky seam allowance fills up the space inside the sashing. (An alternative method- sewing the seams RST and covering up the seam with fabric seam covers would not work- just too bulky.) Follow the steps: line up the sections (with the help of a cat); place the front sashing RST with the front (cut 2″- 1/2″ seam allowance, plus 1″ finished width); place the back sashing RST (cut 3 1/4″ to fold in half <<1 1/2 times 2>> plus 1/4″ to allow for bulk); the folded edge of the sashing pinned in place; in progress shot showing covering up the seam allowances.
I had to hand blindstitch the sashing in place, because it was too thick to stitch by machine, at least, by my little Bernina 155. It looks nicer and really didn’t take all that long. My thumbs, hands, and wrists are worn out though- it is a heavy quilt and pinching a needle is tough.
Follow the photos to see the finished quilt top. As a reminder, when I cut this quilt into four sections, the blocks no longer lined up in neat columns and rows. Instead, these lines wiggled, as the original blocks had stretched over 12-13 years of use and cleaning. I chose to cut along the seam lines instead of cutting across the original blocks just to create straight lines. This meant the sashing couldn’t be perfectly straight either, but the blocks are intact.
The original outside edge also wiggles, and the original binding had frayed against the topstiching. Instead of cutting off the old binding, I added the new binding over it. Why? It was a 50-50 decision, so I went one way when I could have just as easily gone the other direction.
Final Thoughts: For some reason, I managed to break 3 sewing machine needles in a row. I think I was yanking on the quilt and bent the needle. After I paid attention, I stopped breaking needles.
I know there is a “rule” about not using sheets for the backing. I think it’s because high thread count sheets are impossible to hand quilt and I’ve heard are also tough to machine quilt. If you have to rip out a line of stitching, it will leave holes that won’t close up. These “luxurious” flannel sheets worked out great. For $25 I have 2 pillowcases to add to my eclectic collection, and there was plenty of fabric for the back, the sashing, the patches, and the binding.
What Could Go Wrong?
1) After spray basting (505) the wool batting to the back of the 92″ by 92″ quilt, I thought “this is kind of wimpy”. If one batt is good, then another batt would be better!” Wrong. Adding the bamboo batting made it 2″ thick: impossible to stitch through and 10 times heavier (about half a ton!).
2) With the spray basting still moist, I ripped the flannel and bamboo batt off the quilt sandwich, and replaced the flannel backing fabric onto the wool batting. Ta Da! The layers stuck together.
3) But trying to machine baste the quilt with Superior Vanish Lite water soluble thread proved difficult. The sewing machine sewed with skipped stitches, and even my Big Girl Lap could not accommodate a 100 pound quilt.
I kept thinking to myself: that’s why I constructed it in 9 sections the first time around. The quilt top is all flannel, with the original Hobbs 80/20 dense batting, plus the new Hobbs wool batting, plus the luxurious flannel backing fabric: it’s darn heavy!
So, without thinking too much about it, I whacked it into four sections. (Note: I did plan how to put the sections back together first.) Now, with each section about 46″ by 46″, the real quilting will be doable.
4) I decided to quilt closely spaced arcs, as I did with my huge quilt “ColorBlind”, also quilted in sections. If I had thought it through, I might have realized that ColorBlind had one layer of batting: Quilters Dream Request Loft- a very thin batting. ColorBlind turned out very flexible after the quilting, but with 10 concentric arcs, my lofty soft cuddly quilt transformed into cardboard in front of my eyes. Time to rip it out and start over.
I decided to stitch in a grid, roughly 1 3/4″ apart, but not in measured straight lines. I achieved great stitch quality with my Sulky 30 wt. solid color threads (purple in the bobbin and navy on top). The quilt is held together well but is still soft, flexible and cuddly, as a lap quilt should be.
It’s ready for the wash. Stay tuned for Part 3.
P.S. Yes, shopping at Macy’s for a new comforter has definitely crossed my mind.
I started this quilt in the early 1990′s but didn’t finish it until 2001. I always planned to construct it in 9 sections, connecting the sections RST and covering up the seams with a “seam cover”. The back is a giant 9-Patch design (no professional photo; see below). This might be the first time I used this method on a full size quilt: 92″ by 92″.
Since 2001, this quilt has been used and enjoyed by humans and cats alike. It’s been in the wash many, many times: I mean thrown in the washer, agitated, spun out and then thrown in the dryer until damp dry. Ruth, (quilter from Sisters who is a stickler for the tender bathtub soak), you’ll be happier to know I do let the quilt air dry the rest of the way. Or as Pat said, if Ruth could see her bathrub, she wouldn’t suggest washing a quilt there. Ha ha- the same goes for me too.
Here is the back, some 12-13 years later. The Kaffe Fasset fabrics, manufactured in India, didn’t hold up so well with all those trips through the washer and dryer, but the front is in pretty good shape. Some fading, a couple of wear spots around the outside edge, but overall in decent shape. With the thinned out batting, this quilt is not so warm anymore. A quick look in stores for a “store-bought” blanket didn’t reveal ones that were this big, this washable, never mind good price range. Hey, we are tall people with a long couch. Hence the name of the quilt: Double Skinny (2 tall people with a 2 sided quilt).
Rehabbing the quilt seemed like a good idea! I had a queen size wool batt in the closet and I found beautiful, luxurious flannel sheets at Costco for $25. What could go wrong? Stay tuned for Part 2.
Oh yes they do!
I’m “rehabbing” an old, used-everyday-for-12-years lap quilt right now. I unrolled the wool batting to let it relax. I should have known it would be a cat magnet.
BEFORE: In 2010, I participated in a Quilting Arts Magazine challenge called “Let Your Inner Animal Out”. I created this up-close view of the side of a zebra. All the little quilts had to be 11″ high by 8.5″ wide. We had to write an art statement about how our animal relates to us.
I hate writing this kind of stuff, but I will brave the laughter and show you what I wrote: “Zebras are tall, social animals that travel in herds. The stripes of the zebra, like fingerprints, are unique to each animal. I, too, am a tall, social animal, frequently seen in groups with other humans. But like a zebra, I am a unique individual, with my own world view.” It was not included in their magazine article.
AFTER: Fast Forward to 2014. Studio Art Quilt Associates is having their annual trunk show with 10″ high by 7″ wide. As a new member, I did not want to rush into making a new little quilt. I rustled up my zebra quilt, dusted it off, cut it down and renamed it “Up-Close”. My son pointed out how there is a similarity between the lines in wind-blown sand dunes, the water lines on a beach as the tide goes out, and zebra stripes. I agree.
Here is the new, upcycled, refurbished, dusted off quilt, now a bit smaller.
Of course, we had to write an art statement. I decided to let the viewer decide what the heck this is: ”When viewed up-close, patterns share similarities: the stripes of a zebra; the waves in wind-blown sand dunes; dried water lines on packed sand, and so on. What can you see? What do you see when you pay attention- up close?”
I made 2 recipes of Kransekake (Norwegian almond cookie ring “cake”) and a batch of tens of dozens Almond Butter Cookies. That added up to 4 Ring Cakes and lots of cookies to give away.
I had to make another recipe from my new cookbook, Mast Brothers: A Family Cookbook, by brothers Rick and Michael Mast, published by Little, Brown and Company, October 2013.
The cake is a magical conconction of 8 egg whites (leftover from the ring cake and almond butter cookies!), almond flour (sold out in December; found it in the 3rd store I looked), all purpose flour, confectioner’s sugar, almond oil, browned butter (noisette, the French Way), chopped almonds, cream, and lots and lots and lots of chocolate. Eighteen ounces of chocolate, to be exact (I used a blend of Theo Dark, Chocolove 77% Dark, and Moonstruck Milk Chocolate). My sister-in-law, Barbara, chopped the chocolate and almonds for the ganache topping. This is my third ganache, and it turned out perfectly- melted right away into a creamy spread, not too thick, not too thin. Goldilocks Ganache!
Why magical? It came out of the oven looking like a dense, heavy, clunky brownie. Topped with ganache and almonds, it looked pretty, but picking up the pan made me wish I had stronger arms. And yet, with the first bite, the flavors washed over us: not too sweet; not too chocolatey; not too dense; not too light, not too rich. Goldilocks Cake!
But the cake is definitely addictive. The man in the group just had a second piece, not ashamed to admit he wanted more. With our plates licked clean, the women found it necessary to “straighten” the edge of the remaining cake, and keep straightening it, until we finally had to stop. Had To Stop!
I love this cookbook and maybe you would to. Check it out, IF you like chocolate and stories of families cooking together over the years.
If only we could “upgrade” with the New Year, like I did with these Kong brand cat toys. Cooper and Izzy love their Kong toys!
Idea: Crazy Kong Lady embellishment! What if I made jewelry or a purse embellishment with one of these Kong toys? Or how about an entire tote slathered in Kong toys? Something to think about, don’t you agree? Just Say Yes.