Friday, April 26, 2013

Favorite Things Friday, the Finale

Eek, it's Friday night!  I say that not that it's a bad thing, but because I've been meaning to do a Favourite Things Friday post, probably the last Favourite Things Friday post ever, because our fabulous hostess Shay at Quilting in My Pajamas has declared it to be so, in that she's been doing the Friday linky for two and a half years and has decided it's time to put her baby to bed, which I totally understand, and this is hands down the longest run-on sentence in the history of this blog, I guarantee!


So while Norm is out gathering necessities for the weekend, i.e. good coffee and chocolate at our neighborhood Walgreens, I am going to try and do a post real quick.  Because when he gets back, we've got some Netflixin' to do.  No, that is not code for something, we're going to watch a movie!

So I had some things in the freezer—namely, last year's rhubarb—to do something with before it's rhubarb time all over again in six weeks or so (emphasis on the "so").

I love rhubarb, but because you need to sweeten it to make it palatable, and I have been trying to avoid sugar (and kinda failing at it lately), well, let's just say the rhubarb has been pretty safe in the freezer for almost a year.

But then last weekend a friend (cleaning out his own freezer, I suspect), gave me several packages of strawberries from his garden last year.  And raspberries.

I also had a frozen gluten-free pie crust in there left over from holiday baking.  Pretty much all the main ingredients for a rhubarb-strawberry pie.  Look out sugar, here we come!

But you know what?  Turns out you don't really need all that much sugar for this pie.  I admit I like a tart pie, and my taste buds have adapted to eating less sweets, so factor that in.  Most recipes call for about 1-1/2 cups of sugar in a pie of this sort, but I cut it down to 1/3 cup...and then added in another tablespoon or so as insurance an afterthought.  So essentially I used a scant 1/2 cup sugar total, and it was just fine.  So fine and so yummy that I am declaring it my favorite thing!

Rhubarb-Strawberry Pie 
(Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Lower Sugar)

2-1/2 cups chopped rhubarb (½-inch pieces)
2-1/2 cups strawberries (sliced into halves or quarters is probably best;mine were whole frozen so I didn't bother)
Zest of half a lemon, freshly grated (I pare off a thin part of the lemon rind and chop it very fine)
½ t. cinnamon
3 T. arrowroot and/or tapioca starch flour
1/3 cup + 2 T. sugar (or around a scant ½ cup)

Mix everything together thoroughly in a bowl and spoon mixture into prepared crust* in a pie plate.  (Fits nicely in a regular/shallow Pyrex pie plate).  I didn’t want a top crust, but if you want one, feel free to pop another crust on top and crimp the edges/cut slits.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then decrease to 375 for 40-50 minutes, or until it's bubbling nicely and the rhubarb is soft. You may need to cover the edge of the crust with foil if it’s browning too much. Cool at least one hour before serving (or longer, if you can stand it).  Enjoy!

*I use this gluten-free pie crust recipe but substitute either cold ghee or coconut oil for the butter.  Ghee is clarified butter, but the casein and lactose are removed in making it, which works for casein-intolerant folks like me.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

H2H Progress Update

I have had my Hands2Help charity quilt blocks done and set out on the floor for over a week.  I need to sew them together now.

Here I have auditioned the three borders.  I think this is going to be it.

There is a Hands2Help progress update linky at Confessions of a Fabric Addict.  Lots of pretty quilts in the works!

One more story from the wild kingdom:  We have a pair of mallards that walk through the yard regularly.  This seems to happen every year in spring with a nesting pair. 

The hen (in the dull coloring) leads the drake wherever she feels like going.  Back and forth they waddle, across our yard and the neighbors', checking everything out.  If the hen pauses to look at something, the drake stops a step or two behind her and waits.

It reminds me of a husband dutifully following his wife around a shopping mall.  If the drake were a man, he might be holding her purse.

"Honey, can I ask you something?"

"Sure, babe.  What is it?"

"Just wait here, I'll be right back." 

"I want your opinion."

"Just a sec..."

"Almost ready..."

"Does this tree make my butt look big?"

Have a good day, wherever you may roam!

Monday, April 22, 2013

What Big Sisters Are For

A fellow baby owl watcher sent me these photos of my sister and I taken yesterday.

(Photo: Deb Johnson)
Yes, I was using my sister as a human tripod.  Deb Johnson thought it was hilarious.  I guess it was!

(Photo: Deb Johnson)
Some might call it payback for all those horsey (piggyback) rides when we were kids (I'll let you guess who was the horsey).  Though she is a year older, I was always the "bigger" sister.

I call it being resourceful.  We really would do just about anything for each other.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Owls and Waterfowl

We walked this morning, my sister and I, into a stiff wind on the marsh trail.  Temps held steady in the low 40s and the skies were overcast with occasional snow flurries.  I could easily have stayed in to sew, but it's been a long winter and sometimes you just have to get out there.

Spring has been slow to arrive in Wisconsin, yet there are many signs of new life (as you will see below).

So, clad in long-johns and corduroy, scarves, battery-heated gloves, and hats with faux-fur trimmed ear flaps, we set off along the path. 

The geese ultimately yielded to our advance, but not without honking in protest as they lifted off.  We talked about goose versus human encounters of the too-close kind as they flew away.  You don't want to be on the receiving end of a wing-and-bill lashing.

It was snowing when we stopped near the river.  This is such a peaceful spot, even on a blustery day.

I decided to test the zoom on my new camera by training it on this mallard on the far edge of the water (it was just above and slightly right of dead center in the previous photo).

We heard the haunting bugle of sandhill cranes.  That's a sound we never heard growing up, but due to conservation efforts, cranes have made a dramatic comeback in recent decades.

A cover of Coot (black with white bills) and one Lesser Scaup among them.

But the best was saved for last.  As we walked back to the parking lot, a man whose Irish Setter we were admiring asked if we'd seen the two baby owls that had branched.  We hadn't walked that route, so he redirected us to where they were located and we went back to check it out.

Can you see them? They blended very well into their surroundings.

Owlets exit the nest at about six weeks, but they can't fly yet for about another week after that.  

In the meantime, they will make their way out of the nest and onto a nearby branch.  Their nest was in a crotch of this tree a few yards away.

These are Great Horned Owl owlets.  Notice the one on the left is facing the opposite direction, but his head is swiveled almost completely around to look over his back.  They are still very downy in places.
Very keen observers...and they had many observers themselves.

Funny how in spring we look for new growth in our flower beds and things blooming from the ground.  Birds remind us to look up. 

What an awesome sight!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Tess Waits No More

Tess, fair lass of the tea towel, is done waiting...for me to quilt her, that is.

I had this Tea Towel Challenge quilt basted together and sitting in the middle of the living room floor for several days, with no firm idea how to quilt it.  It needed movement, I knew, as there were too many interesting curves of her skirt and tartan and tendrils of hair to ignore.

Before my trepidation could turn to full-on procrastination, it was time to begin quilting.  Not without a bolster of confidence in the form of coffee and chocolate, though. 

I figured once I got started, the rest would hopefully follow instinctively, so I began with the lower half of the center part, quilting along the lines of her plaid wrap and skirt fluttering in the breeze.  How about continuing those lines out to the edge of the central portion?  Yes.  Honestly, though, I sort of suck at following lines when free-motion quilting, and my stitch length tends to be all over the map.  So I put on a walking foot and got out the painter's tape (my white quilt marking pencil was useless).  I knew I'd have to curve the ends of the stitched lines away from the straight edge of the painter's tape, but at least I'd have a visual reference.  Wonder of wonders, it worked!

(Click any picture to enlarge)
I used a fine variegated thread meant for machine embroidery on top and an off-white Aurifil in the bobbin.  The two different threads were compatible, and when it came time to switch out the walking foot for the quilting foot, I didn't even have to adjust the tension.  Anytime I don't have to mess with the tension is a very good day.

Pretty much as anticipated, one thing led to another and I just went with what seemed the natural next step on the quilting.  I quilted along the tendrils of her hair (the variegated thread added a nice dimension there) and then her necklaces and various other parts of her figure, leaving the face unquilted.

Then the tree trunk (the idea was to quilt an impression of bark) and the green hillsides in the background.  Finally, I did a small meander in the tan area at the top, which I guess is supposed to be either tree tops or clouds, or maybe both.

Then I did a line of curlicues along the left side in the green plaid strip.  They're not perfect but I refused to rip stitches and risk losing my mojo.  Finally, I did a larger meander stipple in the string-pieced drunkard's path parts.  Thought briefly about following the lines of the strings or the curves of the blocks, but then figured that would be too distracting from the central part.  Besides, meandering I can totally do.  Play to your strengths!

Last night the binding went on, and I tell you what, I had juuust enough of that fabric.  I cut all I had left of it into binding strips and, no kidding, I took a scant quarter-inch seam to join the two ends at the finish and squeaked by.  Whew!

Part of the Tea Towel Challenge was to use a new technique you hadn't tried before.  Making string pieced fabric on phone book paper was not new to me, but cutting it into curved pieces and making drunkard's path blocks was.  Following the curves and lines of the tea towel print in the quilting was new to me too.  Working with warm and cool colors to make them play (reasonably) nicely together was certainly one of my major design challenges.

I really enjoyed this project.  As for the finished quilt, I love it!

Tea Towel Tess is hanging in the living room with a watchful eye toward the front door.  That seems right!

Linking to:
A Stitch in Time 2013 Finishes
Link-A-Finish Friday
Can I Get a Whoop Whoop?
March Finishes

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Really Random Thursday 4-11-13

I am a little stumped as to how to quilt Tea Towel Tess, but I went ahead and basted it together yesterday.

If you baste it, it will come...  The idea, I mean.

I'm going to trust that inspiration will ensue.  There will be curves followed.  There will be wavy lines.  This I do know.

I also made some more criss-cross blocks.  The first four can be seen HERE, along with a link to the quilt pattern.

Lots of fun to use up colorful scraps.

I am finding far more strings than scraps, so you know what that means.

Time for a string quilt (or five) soon.

Also have plans to sew some "made fabric" from the bits and bobs.

I am using scraps from the freezer, lately, as well, which makes for some interesting meals.  I am avoiding the beef liver and oxtail for now (though we will eat them eventually).  We had venison pepper steak earlier in the week.  I love venison.  I used the last package of the two Dad gave me last fall.

Then I made something with mettwurst, specifically mettwurst made from a different kind of game.  This kind.

Wild Canada Goose mettwurst.  In this part of Wisconsin, with its heavy German immigrant influence, there are some wonderful, small-town sausage makers, which have adapted to use local ingredients like venison and goose.  If you bag it, they will make it into sausage for you...salami style, hot sticks, bratwurst, mettwurst, etc.

I added some fire-roasted tomatoes and a jar of pasta sauce, and we ate it over spaghetti.  It was awesome.

By the way, I recently tried a different brand of gluten-free spaghetti, which I found at Walmart in the regular pasta aisle.

It is hands down the best gluten-free spaghetti I have tried, and I've tried a lot of them in the past six years.  It holds up to cooking, refrigerating, and rewarming as leftovers, and tastes/looks/feels just about the same as regular spaghetti.  Nobody is paying me to say this; it's just my personal opinion.  Before that, I liked Mrs. Leeper's brand, but that was grainier in texture and didn't fare all that well after refrigerating.

You know what else gets a little sticky?  Wrapping up a post after talking about noodles!
Live A Colorful Life