Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sunday Sundry 2-28-16

This little wall hanging is now quilted and bound and hanging on the sewing room wall.  I may not have gotten it done by Valentine's Day, which was an arbitrary deadline, but a couple weeks later is fine by me.

As usual, what stalled me was how to quilt it.  I finally began with some circles or pebbles in the red sashing and curlicues in the black and white inner borders, then went back and did straight line ditch quilting in the whirligigs and a meander in the outer border.

(Quilting as seen from the back)
You know what I have a problem with?  Quilting exactly over the same line or curve.  I can do it, sort of, but I really want to wander.

I don't know if it's a lack of attention, some kind of neurological thing that makes me a little shaky, a contrariness about following rules, or a general reluctance to go over the same ground I've already covered. 

(I don't always overthink things, but when I do...)

Anyway, the struggle is real.

But what ultimately went through my mind was remembering to just "embrace the shake."  If you've seen this TED talk by artist Phil Hansen, you know what I mean.  If not, it's definitely worth a few minutes to watch it.  It's about working creatively within your limitations.  Limitations in function, limitations in resources can inspire an abundantly creative life.  I love that kind of thing.

And that also relates back to this wall hanging, because it started with a baggie of scrap pieces.  

There was only a certain number of dark red pieces with which to make the whirligig blocks, and then there were some red and white print pieces.  Those lighter bits made three whirligigs that recede into the background.  You have to look at little bit harder to see them, but they're there.

* * * * *
The Joy in the Evening quilt has been donated to an upcoming local fundraiser for Badger Honor Flight.  The Honor Flight Network flies WWII and terminally ill veterans to Washington, D.C. to see the memorials erected in their honor. 

I wish my father-in-law would have been able to participate in an Honor Flight, but he passed away a few years before the program was begun.

At any rate, it makes me happy to be able to participate in a very small way so that another veteran can be part of an Honor Flight experience.

* * * * *
I've had a cruddy cold this past week, which zapped my energy.  Things are starting to feel more normal again, finally.  My voice still sounds pretty ragged and gravelly, but it's getting better.

My face is healing too.

PSA:  A few days into a cruddy cold with frequent nose-wiping and blowing is NOT the day to decide to Nair your upper lip.

I'm just sayin'.

* * * * *
So let's talk about food, specifically, cookies.  More specifically, using a mashed avocado in cookies.

An avocado?  Oh yes!  The mushy green fruit of a mashed avocado makes these cookies delightfully delish.  Well, that and the chocolate.  This is one of the keepers in my recent experiments in gluten-free baking.

Now if you like a crunchy cookie, this is not the droid you are looking for.  But if you crave a cakier morsel with a tender chocolatey crumb, then read on, my friend.

Chocolate Chip Avocado Cookies (Gluten-Free)

Blend together dry ingredients in a small bowl:

3/4 cup almond meal (almond flour)
1/4 cup coconut flour
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder (I use raw cacao powder)
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Whisk wet ingredients together in a mixing bowl:

One-half avocado, mashed
1 egg
1/4 cup melted coconut oil or melted butter (I used ghee)
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix well.  Stir in 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Let the cookie dough sit while the oven preheats, or about 5-10 minutes.  This gives the dough time to absorb all of the moisture and become scooping consistency.  Then scoop by tablespoonfuls onto a cookie sheet, pressing down slightly if you want them more flat than fat (they don't spread much with baking).  Bake for 11 minutes.  Let cool on cookie sheet for about 5 minutes before removing to rack to continue cooling.


* * * * *
Linking to:  Confessions of a Fabric Addict's Can I Get A Whoop Whoop!

Monday, February 22, 2016

String Diamond Quilt Finish

I finished this little string diamond quilt over the weekend. It ended up about 36x48 inches, just right for a baby quilt.  (See how I went about putting it together HERE.)

My niece and her husband are expecting their first baby in June.  This may go to them, unless I have a different inspiration or specific request (for certain colors, etc.) between now and then.

I sure like the bright scrappy look and hope baby and family do too.  If you ask me, there's hours of visual entertainment right there.  And naps.

It was a nice weekend for walking outdoors, with temps in the mid 30s to 40s.  We did that instead of assemble a treadmill (which we did this afternoon; all systems go).

We walked the trail on the wildlife refuge nearby.  Not a whole lot of wildlife to be seen or heard, but midwinter has an appeal all its own.

Pops of color in the thawing snow.

Shadows and reflections on the ice.

The leaning of trees over the frozen marsh.  Ashes, ashes, we all fall down...

The tangle of tree roots and limbs.

We did see some small creatures out for a stroll, little woolly bear caterpillars.  They're pretty bad at predicting the weather.  It's not spring yet, little buddy.

But it's right around the corner.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Waiting on Freight

The good news is that after my last post, the cravings have calmed down.  Never did find the ONE THING. 

I did, however, find a couple new gluten-free cookie recipes.  Both were keepers.  One was called "The Perfect Molasses Cookie" and it was just that.  Perfectly delicious.

The bad news is that my treadmill picked the wrong week to break.

There's never a right time for anything to break, but you know what I'm saying.  At any rate, I am awaiting shipment of a new one as I write this.

And it just arrived!

No kidding, the truck just came and delivered it, in a box.  Some assembly required (oh joy).

This one is made right here in Wisconsin.  The things you find on the internet, friends.  I did a Google search for treadmills, read a few reviews, and ended up in my own backyard, so to speak.  Who knew they made a highly-rated treadmill just down the road a piece?

But I don't want to get ahead of myself with an endorsement when I haven't even opened the box. I'll let you know after I've used it a while.  It is replacing a NordicTrack treadmill which lasted 13 years.  That may be tough to beat.

In the meantime, I've been using our NordicTrack ski machine that we picked up for $25 at Goodwill a few years ago.  It was like new, and Norm enjoys using it, but I hate the blasted thing.  However, one must work off the aforementioned cookies somehow, so the ski machine it was.  Glad that's over.

This week I've been sewing Quilty 365 circles.  I have all of February's red and pink ones done and have started on March's greens.  They are fun and fast to do when I've got a few minutes here and there.

As you may have suspected, the circles have also been a means of procrastinating on a couple things awaiting quilting.  

But I will circle back to those.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

What is That Thing?

Man, you guys, I've been on a feeding frenzy lately.  I want to eat all day long, and that's not good.

Oh, I probably know why, or at least have some reliable theories, not that it matters.  Usually it's because I've gotten in the habit of eating more carbs than I really need, which messes with my blood sugar.  And then those carbs want more and more carbs to keep them company.  Needy, greedy little buggers.

Maybe the carb sitch would be okay but I'm not exercising enough to burn the carbs.  Maybe I'm stress eating.  Maybe it's a pre-lady time thing, but that's kind of funny because that's in the realm of the great unknown these days.  Or maybe I've finally passed into the post-lady-time phase and this is how it's going to be.  I am going to want to eat all the time and wear nothing but elastic waist pants.

And yes, there's a part of me that says, What's wrong with that?


So I find myself wishing I could just eat one more thing, one last thing.  The ONE THING that would stop the cravings and make me not want to eat anymore.  Something to just flip the switch, hit the reset button.


I ask myself as I stare into the refrigerator and pantry.  Is it protein?  Eggs?  Bacon?  Chicken, salmon, steak?  More salads and greens?  Fruit?  Something fatty?  Yes, please.  Yes, yes, yes.  All of it.

It certainly can't be cookies, tortilla chips, nuts, popcorn, brownies, chocolate, more chocolate, peanut butter, and did I mention chocolate?  Because I've tried all those.  And yum.

Look, I know this sounds ridiculous.  As if the key to solving a food issue is more food.  Crazier still, ONE food.

But wouldn't it be awesome if it were?  And the ONE THING was easy to find, and everyone could just go to the store and buy the ONE THING that would cure their cravings.  Or just drive out to the ONE THING orchard, where ONE THINGS are always in season, and pick a big ole fresh, juicy, tasty, mouthwatering, satisfying THING.

Ah, it's nice to dream.

More likely, realistically, it's not a ONE but NONE.  As in just stop it already.  Maybe do a short fast (ugh...), and then go back to more sensible eating. Maybe do a Whole 30.

Ha ha!  Now I'm really dreaming. 

Well, at least while I was writing this, I wasn't eating.  Now if only the way to the treadmill didn't take me through the kitchen.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Rays of Light

I tell you what, these first six weeks of my husband's retirement have been an adjustment period.  I am not retired myself yet; that's not on the horizon for at least a half dozen or more years.  

One of my jobs is done from home, and both jobs are somewhat flexible.  Nevertheless, I used to have my own weekday routine, of a sort.

Now?  Not so much.  It feels pretty boggy and nebulous to me.

These days I wake up and smell the coffee, literally, and wonder what day it is (used to be I only woke to the smell of coffee on the weekend, when Norm made it).  There is a sameness to each day, and although I've tried to maintain some of the former touchstones, the days seem to blur together and slip by, one into the next.  Also, it's midwinter, and I'm sure there's some cabin fever that factors into that equation.
One thing I continue to do is throw open my bedroom window first thing in the morning and let all the heat out of the room the direct sunshine warm my face for 15 minutes or so.  There's science behind that strategy, with sunlight and seratonin and Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.  When the sun's not shining, I park myself in front of a light box at breakfast during the winter months.  Have for years.  It definitely helps keep the winter blues at bay.

[Icicles on the river birch outside my window]
One of the upshots of Norm being retired is that he's been going for walks with me on milder days, i.e., above 30 degrees.  I'm not a particularly cold-loving gal.  Mostly, I don't want to wipe out on an icy sidewalk.  It's good to be able to grab a supportive arm as I totter over the slippery bits.

And so we're finding our new groove, little by little.

Speaking of sunshine, this lovely little runner brightened my day when it arrived in my mailbox recently, a gift from fellow quilter Marei.

What a lovely surprise!  Wonderful piecing and quilting, isn't it?  I love it!

The news from my sewing room is that I finished the Joy in the Evening quilt this past weekend.  

The multicolored thread I ordered came in, looking somewhat different than the first spool, but close enough that I don't think anyone will notice.

I really like how it turned out.  It makes a cute kid's quilt or lap quilt.  I will probably be donating it, unless someone in the family makes a claim.  (Edited:  Donated to Badger Honor Flight fundraiser.)

Also worked on the Quilty 365 circles for February.  I'm enjoying using various reds and pinks from the stash and scrap bins.

I've also managed to temporarily sidetrack myself with another task, sorting through several decades' worth of old photos which belonged to my in-laws.  They've sat in a big storage box since 1999, when my father-in-law passed away and the house was sold.
[Father-in-law Ed on the far right]
I was looking for an old photo of my sister-in-law the other day, to surprise her with on her birthday.  Didn't find the photo I went searching for, found another instead, and one thing led to another.  
[Ed in the Civil Conservation Corps, late 1930s; mother-in-law Marion, 1940s, lower right]
Pretty soon I had my whole cutting table covered in piles of old photos.  Why this job has fallen to me is another story, albeit somewhat of a mystery.  I think every family has its "keeper of things," and/or its family historian.  Perhaps it defaults to the person who shows anything resembling an interest.  I bet you could name the person who holds that honor in your family.  Is it you?

[Ed was a tank driver in the 7th Armored Division at the Battle of the Bulge in WWII]
Anyway, it may take a while to dig out.  

If you don't hear from me in a couple weeks, send reinforcements.  Or cookies.  That works too.

Monday, February 1, 2016

January Blues for Quilty 365

It's time once again to party with the Quilty 365 quilt along.  I'm linking up with my first month's worth of circles.  Thirty-one days' worth of blues.

I decided to do one color a month for my circles.  It was really fun to poke through the stash and scraps to find blue fabrics that caught my fancy.

Admittedly, I didn't make just one circle a day.  I did several at a time when the mood struck, and that turned out to be a good way of working for me.

A couple of my favorites from the month were the fussy cut house block...

And the bluebird.

But honestly, I like each and every one of them.  There is part of a repurposed '80s dress my sister gave me, a thrifted shirt or two, fabric from friends, and others with their own special story.

February's colors will be red and pink.  I haven't made one yet today so I better get busy.

Pop over to Audrey's blog, Quilty Folk, to explore the links.  It's fascinating to see the creative variations on the Quilty 365 theme.

Of course, when I think of the blues, I think of some great music.  I recently saw the band Lake Street Dive on Stephen Colbert's late night show.  Here's an earlier bluesy song by their amazing lead singer, Rachael Price.  Ooh, I'm telling you, that girl can sing!