Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last week of the year...

I'm closing out the year sorting UFO's and cleaning a closet. Sounds like fun no? I did finish my star blocks for the Bonnie's mystery in time for today's new step!

Actually I had a busy week visiting with friends last week and it sort of wore me out. I did make a new Bittersweet Chocolate Cake recipe from the Land O'Lakes web site. It is definitively a keeper! Stays moist for days and is a deep, deep chocolate accented with still my heart!

The photos shows it on one of my favorite cake stands. It was made from the broken propeller of a Gloster Gladiator Aircraft at RAF Ismalia, Egypt in 1937.

This will be a short post. The MS has been acting up and today they put me on a course of steroids...some folks get a bit hyper on them while others get tired and achy...let's say I'll be watching lots of movies from the couch the next few days.

Guess it is a good thing my DH gave me the entire series of the original Upstairs Downstairs, The Tudors (the old boxed set not the current series, and several old Sherlock Holmes movies I hadn't seen before. So with those and the remains of the chocolate cake I should be good for at least 48 hours!

Have a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sorta Keeping up....

What do I mean by sorta keeping up...well, I have all of a few steps done and part of most of the others. Keep on keeping on is my motto...

I do love the stars that we are making this week. I do them in between making the last few paperpieced string blocks and the last 100 of the hst's...those hst seem to take forever (that is not a whine but a statement of fact...)

Bonnie need not worry that I would have a spoiler post...I am still totally puzzled how this will all come together....

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Rest-up for the holidays

Today was break-day before the final Christmas festivities begin. Early my DH and I cleaned the carpet and did the floors then we headed out to an early movie (Sherlock Holmes...very fun) and then dinner. Tonight I rest to get ready for the holiday.

I did stop at the LQS for some thread and to wish them a Merry Christmas. Remember how I was worried about not having enough variety in my black fabrics for my Orca Mystery Quilt...well this yard of fabric should help! (no it is not a black and white photo...each stripe is about 2-1/2 inches wide. Very useful!)

Two of my Christmas Cactus came into bloom this week. How did I do doing nothing. Some years I've worked really hard at it (no water and weeks with the plants in a closet...) but I didn't get it together this year and what happens. Blooms....go figure!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Stollen recipe

A few of you asked for the Stollen recipe so here you go. Hope it works out as well for you as it has for me the past 25 years...can it really have been so long ago!

Stollen (German Christmas Bread)

makes 2 stollens

1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup mixed candied peel (used in fruit cakes)
1 Tablespoon finely shredded lemon peel
1/4 cup brandy (maybe a touch more if the raisins or peel are dry)
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup lukewarm milk (scalded, then cooled)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 eggs
4 to 4-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup blanched almonds, chopped
2 Tablespoons butter, melted

glaze (optional)
1/2 cup confectionery sugar
3 Tablespoons milk
1 Tablespoon shredded lemon peel

12-24 hours before, mix dried fruit/peel, raisins, and 1 tablespoon of lemon peel with brandy.

On the day of breadmaking, drain the liquid from the peel; reserve the brandy. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Stir in the warm milk, butter, granulated sugar, salt, nutmeg, eggs, reserved brandy, and 2 cups of flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in brandied fruit mixture and almonds. Add enough flour until the dough is easy to handle.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured board. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes.) Place dough in a large bowl that is greased on all sides. Turn the dough so the greased/buttered side is up. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size (about 90 minutes.) Dough is ready when an indention remains when touched.

Turn dough out onto a floured board and punch down. Divide into half. Press one half into an oval 10 inches by 7 inches. Brush with melted butter then fold in half lengthwise. Place on a cookie sheet either greased or covered in parchment paper. Slightly turn in ends to make a crescent shape. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover and let rise until double (45 to 60 minutes.) Brush with melted butter. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Brush with melted butter. Allow to cool on the pan for 3-5 minutes. Remove for pan and cool on a rack.

When cool either sprinkle with confectionery sugar or use lemon glaze. (I use the lemon glaze.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Finally decorating for Christmas

A bit more baking and decorating this week.

Above is German Stollen which I make at least once over the holidays. I lived in Germany for three years. Two elderly German women that I met while walking my dog invited me over one Christmas and showed me how to make stollen. Since they didn't speak much English and my German was limited it was an interesting day...however I did get their recipe right! It was a favorite of my Dad and it reminds me of him.

Well I finally got my tree...little as it is...up this week. I only used a third of the ornament boxes.

I love the memories the ornaments carry with them. My sister Kay bought these white santas over 20 years ago and we both still hang them on our trees. The vintage ornament was on my parent's tree while we were growing up.

Also I hung up this little wallhanging that Tonya made for me (note Mac and one of the cats!.) Couldn't believe it when I saw the date on it...'01! Wow....time flies!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mystery Saga Continues...

I started the next step of Bonnie Hunter's mystery last night. I still have 5 of the last step to do but I will do that in between sewing these small triangles onto the hst we made earlier. Even though I used over a dozen black fabrics in this quilt I am feeling the need for some more variety...where and when I wonder did I buy all these polka dots?!

This is the point in the mystery where I find myself trying to figure out where the heck this is going! I lay the pieces out on the table, flip them around, and scratch my head and sigh a lot. I have to admit Bonnie has me mystified!

I worked on my blocks in between baking cookies yesterday. (I am so thankful for oven timers....) In the time it took to bake a pan of cookies I could cut 40-100 triangles or sew about the same number of triangles to the hst. I'm having a more difficult time keeping track of how much I've cut or sewn (this may have to do with a cat-who-is-a-fabric-thief living in the house...she is stalking the piles as I type....) I'm sure I'll find the "lost" blocks when we move the furniture to clean after the New Year but for now it is just easier to make a few extra...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Cookie Marathon....

The past month seems a blur of traveling and doctor's appointments...neither leads to a real festive mood. Need to I am doing some marathon cookie baking today. Nothing says the holidays better than a house smelling of cinnamon, chocolate, and pecans.

On the list to bake are Christmas biscotti (pistachios, apricot, and cranberries), Coconut and chocolate biscotti, Chocolate mint snowtops, molasses cookies, and Linzer torte bars. Should keep me out of trouble for the afternoon. (The coconut biscotti just came out of the oven...they smell great!)

While they are in the oven I will continue working on my Orca Bay/Phynizy Swamp Mystery. I cut out the black triangles last night. Didn't do a great job of keeping count...duh. So I hope a basket-full will be enough!

On the quilting side of things...a few weeks ago I saw some photos of pinecone quilts on either blogs or facebook. Years ago a gentleman brought a quilt made by his mother back in the 1930's to our quilt-show.

This quilt weighed at least ten pounds...maybe more...and the "cones" were almost an inch high. The number of fabrics used was amazing. He remembered several woman working on these quilt blocks but wasn't sure if they went into this quilt or each of the woman were working on quilts of their own.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Keeping up...

Didn't think I could do it but I finished step three of Bonnie's mystery just in the nick of time. Step four went up Friday! She wrote that she is trying to make the steps in this mystery more do-able for the average mortal quilter....phew! Now we are using red strings...ah, red. I did have to move my FW into the kitchen to get better light. Do love sewing by the kitchen window...

I tore off the paper backings while watching the debates last night...had to re-sew a few of the seams. Note to self - do not tear off paper-piecing while yelling at the TV. Between all the seams and the bias these blocks do feel a bit flimsy. I spritzed them with some sizing before trimming but still plan to keep them in the box until they are sewn together so they are handled as little as possible.

A little quilt arrived from Anne Hermes...

it went right up on the wall next to the Patriotic one made by Tonya. Just like I keep some red and green quilts up all year I also keep up some Patriotic ones!

Now back to my pet-slave duties. Macbeth had a bath last night and need to be brushed and the girls need their back paw nails trimmed...

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Christmas Recipes...

Do you have recipes that you only make during the Christmas holidays? I have binders of them! I love German Stollen but only make it after the first of chocolate snowdrop cookies are definitely a "holiday only" item...and then there are my Christmas biscotti that needs no explanation.
Some of my pictures are only hung for the holidays too...

Yesterday I posted a photo of my Fruit-y Pound Cake. I've made these the past few years as a lighter substitute for traditional fruit cake. The recipe is from Land O'Lakes but I checked their website and couldn't find it this instead of emailing it to those of you who asked here we go.

Buttery Fruit Pound Cake

2-1/4 cups flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temp.
4 eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1-1/2 cups candied fruit mix (the type used for fruit cakes)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat together the butter, cream cheese, and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla. Beat in the 1-1/4 cups flour at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed. Stir in remaining 1 cup of flour, candied fruit and nuts by hand.

Pour into 2 greased and floured 8x4 inch loaf pans. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Cool 10 minutes and remove from pans. Cool completely.

Substitutions: I've used chopped up dried apricots and cranberries for the candied fruit with pecans and 1 tsp of lemon peel.

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, December 05, 2011

Dobby celebrates year one!

Today is not a quilting is a "I can't believe Dobby, my "little" grey cat has been with us for a full year!" post.

Dobby at five months...
He sure has grown...he is now taller than my Scottish Terrier Macbeth and weighs in at almost 13 pounds.
Dobby came from the home of a cat hoarder but as he was only 6 weeks when the vet gave him to me I don't think he has any memory of it. By 8 weeks he was stealing Mac's food...good thing Mac loves cats....

Interesting that we got Dobby when we brought Brownie to the vet. She had barely moved for a few days and had lost weight. She has a long term condition and both the vet and my husband thought she may not have long. Since Dobby needed a home (there were 8 orphaned kittens at the vet that day) we decided to take him. Well, those of you who read my blog know Brownie is still around...she rallied and chased Dobby around the house for days....and now at half his weight she still bosses him around!
Dobby at eleven months old...
Unlike my other two cats Dobby isn't a much of a quilt cat. He has his favorite wool one on the couch and will come an look at others what I am sewing but he hasn't stolen any blocks like Brownie does nor has he participated in the block surfing that Goldie loves to do. Only in that way is he a quieter cat than my others!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Still playing with scraps....

In between working on Bonnie's mystery quilt and making some holiday gifts I have continued to use the bowl and bag of left-over half-square triangle blocks I found last month in my sewingroom.
This little red and yellow one goes well with the Christmas decorations in my kitchen so as soon as I get it quilted up it has a place on the wall (where it will be safe from my DH using it as a trivet or a potholder...)

I did a purple and green autumn version of the one I donated to the Mrs. Clause dollbed call-out...I think I like the first two I did better. I may be tiring of this pattern. Time to move on!

I've made about 100 of the 2-inch half square triangles for Bonnie's mystery quilt...not near enough but it is progress!

We have had lots of deer around our yard this year. There is only a low fence separating my garden from the woods and every once and awhile they will try to reach over for the daylillies. Yesterday Dobby jumped on top of the fence and tried to box with the deer...most of the them ran but one just stood there with his head rocking back and forth as if saying " want to take me on?"
It was all too much for the poor cat and he came in immediately for a long nap...

Thursday, December 01, 2011

A new (to me) quilt!

My DH took this afternoon off from work so we could go up to Aiken, SC and visit some antique shops. This was my first sign he had no idea what to get me for Christmas.
Anyway, we found this Scrappy Sugarloaf/Arrowhead quilt that we both liked (trust me that hardly ever happens!) It had some wonderful fabrics in it...I would buy yards of this blue with the faint stripe and the cheddar flower if I found it at a shop today!
The quilting is done in a diamond pattern with off white thread and very even. In places the thread looks darker but I think that may be dye migration from the brown fabrics. The back is plain muslin. There are a few discolorations on the muslin but you have to look close to see them. The binding is back to front. There is no wear on the front of the quilt and only a few spots where the fabric has faded or the dye migrated.