Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

I am a big one for making lists - grocery lists, to do lists, lists of quilts I've made and of quilts I would like to make. So that I am working on a list of New Year's resolutions isn't a surprise to anyone who knows me!

I will not bore you with the lose weight, walk more, be better about taking my meds stuff and just focus on the Quilting and travel "fun" stuff.

First - organize my quilting and sewing room. OK, this has been on my list every years since I first started quilting. Lets just say it is a process! I am planning however clear out the fabrics I have no plan on using in the next two years and donate it. I also want to finally clear out some craft things that I don't want to pack up and move back to the U.S. again. When we go back to the U.S. my DH has consented to my having the largest of the spare bedrooms to use for my quilting room. This gives me a much larger closet which I can fit out with shelves for my fabric.

Second - Try new things. I feel like I have stagnated a bit in the past year. I am cruising the internet and my piles of books and magazines to make a list of some new techniques or projects for the new year. I'm going to start with improving my machine quilting....

Third - Make the best use of the last year I have here in England. That is right. It looks like we will be going back to the states at the end of this year. So all the trips I have been putting off and all the folks I want to to visit I have to do soon!

Fourth - Simplify. If I don't use it or love it I will pack it away. If I don't miss it by the time we leave for the states than I will get rid of it. This extends to the large piles of recipes, home decorating idea pages, and paint chips!

Notice what is not on the list this year - finishing projects. (That usually follows cleaning the sewing room.) I'm accepting this as a non-finish/play year. I don't want to use up time working on projects I am no longer excited about just because they are half done. I think I will be more careful with my time and focus it on things I really want to do.

I was asked for the Bourbon Apple Pecan Bread recipe so here goes....

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1-1/4 cups vegetable oil
3/4 cup bourbon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large or 6 small peeled, cored, and chopped apples scuh as Granny Smith or Golden Delicious
1-1/2 cups raisins
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 340 degrees. Butter and flour two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans and set aside.

Mix 3-3/4 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.

In a large bowl cream together brown sugar, sugar, eggs, oil, bourbon, and vanilla.

Add flour mixture to egg mixture and stir until just mixed.

Crush apples with a masher or place in a food processor and pulse several times.

Mix raisins and pecans with remaining 1/4 cup of flour in a small bowl. Add apples, raisins, and pecans to batter and stir until blended. (Don't over-mix or the bread will be tough.) Divide into the two pans and bake in center or oven for 50-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let rest for 5 minutes before removing from pans.

Serve with cream cheese sprinkled with a bit of cinnamon.

(I apologize for not siting which magazine this came was in the middle of the ripped pages that I mentioned earlier in my resolutions! It could be an old Country Living or Home Companion?! Who knows!)

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Well I am back from the states and slowly recovering from the holidays. Didn't realize how tired I was until I woke up in my own bed with a very angry cat staring me in the face and a persistent terrier throwing himself against the bed demanding his morning walk. It is good to be home.

I didn't get to travel as much around New England because of snow...lots of snow! I did get to Scituate which is where I took the photo above of the lighthouse. It is one of my favorite towns in Massachusetts. The photo below is the view towards the lighthouse from the town pier.
I didn't get any sewing done at all. At one point during a lull in the storms I did venture out to a yarn store and pick up a crochet hook and some yarn just to have something to do with my hands! You can only make so many batches of cookies before you need a fabric/craft fix!

I also stayed home to spend time with my Mom. She turns 88 this year! I think she liked having the Christmas Eve party at her house again this year. It is easier for her than traveling to one of my sisters's houses. The photo is of her and her great-grandson Kai sitting together on Christmas Eve.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and a preparing for a wonderful New Year!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas notes

I love the holidays but I do tend to over-do it. The past week I have been cooking, cleaning, traveling, and attending holiday events like a crazy person. I took yesterday and today off to try and rest up for my flight back to the states Wednesday.

My choral group sang on Sunday at the Pittville Pump Room in Cheltenham. It is a beautiful Regency style building. There were two new members so I ended up having to make more capes this year. As usual I put it off until the last minutes ...literally. I was hemming the last cape as I drank my Sunday morning coffee!

I have made dozens of cookies this past week. My mint chocolate chip, lemon sugar, spice, coconut biscotti, and toffee cookies were loaded into bags and given out to neighbors this week. Somehow I also gained 3 pounds! The photo on the top is a loaf (prior to slicing for second baking) of my favorite biscotti. My family calls it California holiday biscotti. Here's the recipe.

1/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2-1/4 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons aniseed
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup whole shelled pistachios
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
egg wash

Beat butter in a mixing bowl for 30 seconds. add sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir together eggs, vanilla, and almond extract. Beat into butter mixture. Beat in the flour until stiff. Stir in the anise, fennel seeds, cranberries, pistachios and apricots. Turn mixture out onto a lightly floured board and lightly knead in the remaining flour. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours or until easy to handle.

Divide mixture into thirds. Shape each into a log 1-1/2 by 12 inches long. Place the logs 3-inches apart on greased cookie sheets. Pat each log to 3/4-inch thick. Brush with egg wash (one egg beaten with a tablespoon of water.) Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until light brown. Remove from oven and cool for at least one hour. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Place cookie logs on a cutting board. Cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place vertically on a cookie sheet; bake for 5-8 minutes.

I did finish a couple of table runners as Christmas gifts. I was so tired I forgot to take photos before I wrapped them!

I just started reading A Thousand Splendid Suns. I really enjoyed his first book The Kite Runner.