Winter warmth

My first window quilt is complete, after sitting in various stages of progress for literally years!

Completed Window Quilt

Completed window quilt

The window-facing side is made from a patch work of old jeans, inspired by the Quilts of Gee’s Bend. The jeans were hard to work with because I didn’t use the most stained regions (this means lots of old jeans) and the denim had lots of variability due to the variety of original weave, amount of wear, and that I didn’t align the grain. The conglomeration wanted to stretch in unpredictable ways.

Old Jeans and Bras

Old jeans and bras

The batting is fleece from a neighbor’s stash. It was bought for a project and never used.

The room facing fabric is from the thrift store. It was just big enough for this one window.

The new quilt can be opened!

The new quilt can be opened!

The hardware was from the Roman shade that was in the window when we bought the house. The pull had come apart some time ago and the shade was permanently in the closed position.

The replaced shade

The replaced shade

Fabulously, I was able to use hardware that I saved from old bras to route the pull cord. Before you start thinking that I lead a depraved life to gain such satisfaction from reusing bits of old underwear, note that the rings don’t quite match. That’s because I’ve enjoyed a variety of colored underwear: white, pink, tan. Also, each set of hardware represents new underwear. New underwear provides a joy akin to that of new shoes. If you haven’t experienced this, perhaps you have too many clothes. Or perhaps you are more spiritually advanced than I. To dispel you the notion that I have an unhealthy fascination with underwear, I also collect hardware from bib overalls. Still not convinced? Oh well. Artists are rarely appreciated in their own time.

Hardware for future projects

Hardware for future projects

What will I do differently next time? First of all, I will use whole cloth or match the grain on the window side of the quilt, mostly to expedite the process. Secondly, I will use a double-fold binding instead of self-binding the edges. This should give the quilt a tidier look. I like the haphazard look of the jeans-side, but the not-quite-even edge on the striped side isn’t as pleasing to me. Third, I would sew the bra hardware on by machine, so that the stitching holds all of the layers together. I sewed this one by hand, only through the denim.

I would use fleece again for a batting. It is light weight, insulating, and easy to sew through. Used blankets should be a good source of fleece. Did I mention this is my first machine quilting project of any size? It is.

Now what to do with the old shade? Do you need a short chicken fence? That will have to wait until next spring. Until then, enjoy the warmth of winter by bundling up!

Inspired Vegetarian Chili

Steamy Chili

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 c olive oil
  • 2 c sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 c finely chopped onion
  • 1 c chopped carrot
  • 3/4 c chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/4 c chopped celery
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 1 t medium hot chili powder (I used Penzeys Spices)
  • 1 T ground cumin
  • 1 1/8 t salt
  • 3/4 t ground black pepper
  • 3/4 t dried basil
  • 3/4 t dried oregano
  • 2 quarts tomato juice, no seeds or skins
  • 3 c cooked black beans, drained and rinsed (about 26.5 oz canned)
  • hot pepper sauce to taste

Optional, advanced ingredients: Evenly diced sweet potato, parsnip, rutabaga, potato, and/or salsify.

  1. Heat olive oil in the large pot that that you’re going to add all the ingredients to. Add mushrooms, onion, carrot, green bell pepper, celery, garlic, chili powder, cumin, salt, black pepper, basil, and oregano. Stir and cook until the onion begins to soften, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Stir in tomatoes and bring to a simmering boil until the carrots are the consistency you’d like.
  3. In a separate pot, steam the optional root vegetables to your desired consistency.
  4. Add the black beans and root vegetables to the chili. Re-heat to a boil and serve.

Some cooks get their inspiration from flavors, texture, color, or culture. My primary inspiration is ingredient volume. My vegetarian chili (and all other chili, for that matter) is extremely variable due to random harvesting, dumping, and jumbling of whatever is on hand. The first attempt at this vegetarian chili started with a recipe, highly rated from the reliable resource of the internet. Immediately and purposefully, I mangled the recipe to suit my tomato format, which is wonderfully canned in quart jars, without seeds or skins, by my dearly beloved George. Why add tomato paste and water, when you can just add tomatoes? I love fresh ingredients too. They never come in neat sizes. Perhaps the perfectly medium-sized bell pepper is 3/4 of a cup, but certainly not one from the store or my garden. The carrots came from the garden and were very fresh. In fact they needed to be dug, topped, scrubbed, diced, and then cut into tiny pieces by my favorite chopper. Yes, a real chef would never use one of these things. If you eat my food, you want me to use one. My hand chopping of hard vegetables flings them all over, mostly onto the floor. You don’t want to eat off my floor. Another thing about the carrots, they are wonderful and fresh, but by the time I’m done preparing them, I’m cranky. We did have some beautiful carrots out of the garden. But now we’re down to the ones that weren’t properly thinned and the carrots are pinky-sized, at best. Prepping homemade baby carrots isn’t my idea of fun. Following this stream of consciousness, this will be my second winter that I plan to glue carrot seeds onto a long strip of toilet paper, at the proper spacing. By time time glue and toilet paper season had rolled around last year it was long past the baby carrot harvest and gluing carrot seeds to toilet paper seemed ridiculous. May my current conviction lead to greater follow through this year! Jumping ahead to the conclusion of the first batch of chili: I followed my adaptation of the recipe and left lots of containers of leftovers in the refrigerator (3 T diced bell pepper, the extra carrots, etc.). No root vegetables were added. In the end I found the chili too spicy without enough depth of flavor (the internet recipe called for 1 T chili powder and 3/4 t hot pepper sauce).

The next three batches found me only measuring what was easy (quarts of tomatoes, spices) and just chopping and dumping the rest. I think the final batch was the best. Certainly not repeatable since I didn’t really measure, however I did use about two quarts of diced root vegetables in addition to the other ingredients. As far as spiciness, it isn’t too spicy, but I figure the eater can add that with hot pepper sauce.

Pretty kale that has nothing to do with chili October 16, 2014

Pretty kale that has nothing to do with chili
October 16, 2014

Grandma’s chicken in corn bread

I’m cleaning up some papers (picture a laundry basket with paper of all types piled in it, odd items (like a bike lock) interspersed throughout, and lots of dust and dog hair). This recipe for Grandma Elma’s chicken in corn bread surfaced. The dish was common in my childhood, especially for special events like the Fourth of July picnic on the farm. The chicken in cut into pieces, with skin and bone left in place, and baked. About half way through the baking, a corn meal batter is poured over the chicken. This recipe calls for the dish to be prepared in a 2 quart casserole, but I remember it in a 9″ x  13″  aluminum cake pan.

3 lb chicken, cut into pieces
1/4 c four
2 T oleo

Coat chicken with 1/4 c flour. Place 2 T oleo and chicken in 2 quart casserole and bake at 350 F for 30 minutes.

2 T oleo
1 c chopped celery
1 c chopped onion
1 T flour
1/2 t salt
1/8 t pepper

Sauté 2 T oleo, celery, and onion. Blend in 1 T flour, salt, and pepper. Place around chicken.

1/2 c flour
1/2 c corn meal
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 t sage
1/4 t thyme
1/8 t pepper
1 T oleo
3 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 c milk

Combine dry ingredients. Blend in oleo, eggs, and milk.  Spoon this topping over chicken.

2 T chicken soup base
1.5 c water

Dissolve soup base in water. Pour over topping. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. Serve hot or cold.

Enjoy this rich and savory dish under the shade trees while the sun shines above. Pair with watermelon and volleyball on the lawn.

Just the right size

The title says it all: Just the Right Size: Why Big Animals are Big and Little Animals are Little.

Just the Right Size by Nicola Davies

Just the Right Size by Nicola Davies

This great science picture book explores the size of living things from microbes to whales and the factors that influence their size. There is math (length, surface area, cross section, volume, and mass) to explain the Big Thing, Little Thing (BTLT) rule, but wait, there’s more! Flight, surface tension, walking on walls, strength, digestion, respiration, circulation, habitat, temperature, and migration, and communication all come into play. I recommend this book for everyone, especially those who can share it with nine to twelve year old children.

If this book sounds too serious, read it for the superhero debunking, giant spiders that break their legs, and whale guts.

My Shelfies

It has been written “Shelfies: Like Selfies, But for Book Nerds“. Since I fit in the book nerd category quite comfortably, here is one of my shelfies.
Sue shelf

This is one of my favorite spots in the house because everything in it has a special meaning to me. The bookshelf was built by my dad for a nook at mom’s house. At that time, the green recliner sat near it and my dad would read in it after school. I could snuggle in dad’s lap before bed. Now that mom has a built-in bookshelf in that nook that holds a small portion of her photo albums and art books, dad’s bookshelf lives with us. Identification guides live in the upper right (flowers, birds, and fossils). Vintage books are found below them. Beautiful Joe: An Autobiography by Marshall Saunders includes this inscription:

Dec 1896

The book is from George’s family and the book was just published in 1896, the year it was given as a Christmas gift. Can you tell who the book was for? Irvy? Orvy? The shelf below holds paperbacks, along with a reprint of Beeton’s Book of Household Management, which strangely enough, George likes. Other books on the shelf include those of travel stories; Alaska and other cold places; and Pat McManus humor.
The blue heron carving was handcrafted by Arnold Rasmusen of Withee, Wisconsin and once lived at Aunt Anita and Uncle Carl’s home. The batik lily original by Christine M. Huffman (1989) was found at a neighbor’s garage sale. Kay gave me the frog crock, made by Jim and Gina Mahoney (1998). Jack built the ash shelf from lumber that was harvested on mom’s land. He gave it to me last weekend and I haven’t decided what to put in it yet. As you might guess, not just anything gets thrown in this corner. The chair was purchased, along with a sofa, recliner, book shelf, and table lamp, from our friend Pat when we moved last year. Mom says the fabric reminds her of the print fabric of her grandmother’s dresses. The chair is of the type that was at George’s family farm and one that my parents received from Uncle Arno when I was young.

fish tank

Around the corner is George’s new toy, an aquarium from his colleague Bill. Ellen provided us with a few guppies from her tank yesterday and they haven’t died yet, so it seems that fish are in my future. How did I ever get involved with a man who loves domestic animals so much?
Besides the fact that this corner contains many things I love, it also doesn’t have any of that stuff that is essential around the home, but doesn’t have any internal beauty. Those are the magnetic knife strip, notes on my refrigerator, and toilet brush that will likely never be photographed or blogged about.
Back to the shelfie theme, here is George’s shelfie. It is the pile of books that he is reading. Is it coincidence that the spines are all facing the wall, or is he hiding what he is reading?

George's shelf