Thursday, December 29, 2016

Post-Christmas Wrap

Things were hopping in the sewing room in the run up to the holidays.  I made a quite a few zipper pouches and Christmas tree mug rugs, and stitched the binding down on a quilt on Christmas Eve.  It didn't feel stressful, though.  I enjoyed every moment of it. 

I baked another loaf of Orange Date-Nut Bread (recipe back one post)
Our family does a gift exchange on Christmas called the "Dirty Santa" game.  You are probably familiar with it.  Everyone brings one gift to the party.  They all get put in the center of the floor when it's time to exchange.  We pick a number (or draw a playing card, as it were).  The person with the lowest number starts by choosing a gift and opening it.  Then the next person can either choose a gift to open or steal one of the previously opened gifts.  If your gift is stolen, you choose and open another one. You want to be a higher number in this game, so you have your pick of a variety of previously opened gifts, or take your chances and open one of the other ones.  

It's fun to see what shows up as a re-gift from prior years.  The current record is a cupcake maker that's been re-gifted five years in a row!  Most gifts are new, though.  Most are of the general sort, maybe something edible or drinkable, oftentimes useful, and sometimes funny or totally off the wall.

I went with "useful" this year, and the gift I brought to exchange was a quilt. One I'd been working on, off and on, since October, when I started piecing it on vacation.

I used the layer cake of Aspen Frost fabric won in the Hands2Help charity quilt project giveaway earlier in the year—very pretty, holiday-themed fabrics.  I followed the tutorial for the Precious Gem quilt, found HERE.  

It turned out to be a nice lap quilt size, just right for relaxing on a cozy winter evening.

This was the first time I'd brought a quilt to the Christmas gift exchange.  Judging by the fact the quilt was stolen twice, though, it won't be the last.  It was fun and encouraging to see a couple people vying to stake their claim on it.

Ultimately, it went home with my niece, who, in her words, was happy to "add it to her collection."  I've given her two baby quilts in the past, when each of her boys was born.

She announced her engagement on Christmas, so that was pretty exciting too.  That's her fiance photo bombing in the background!

In the process of quilting this quilt, I found my missing Kwik Clip!  It had rolled underneath the table of my Juki.

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In the past few days, I've been giving the blog a little facelift.  Made a new header (not at all sure about my design skills, but I gave it a decent effort, anyway).  Also tweaked a few things on the sidebar, did some general cleanup, and updated the gallery tab and a few other things.  Let me know what you think, if you're so inclined.  

Some after-gift-exchange music time.
I've been listening to and reading some year-end reviews in the past few days, and it got me thinking on the events of my own year.  As always, there were ups and downs, good times and not-so-good.  One of the highlights was that Norm and I got new bikes earlier in the year and had fun exploring the trails on them this past summer.  It also gives me something to look forward to in a couple months.  Yep, Christmas is barely over, it's not even the New Year, and I'm already thinking ahead to bike season!

What's near the top of your personal highlight reel for 2016?

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sunday Sundry 12-18-16

Come on over and sit a while!  The chairs are extra cushy!

We've had two very snowy weekends in a row, making things look quite magical.  Mind you, I haven't had to drive in it much, so I'm of a happy and generous mindset looking out at the scenery from the comfort of home.  

Last week's snow reminded me of marshmallow fluff.  I was humming THIS tune all day.
 "It's a marshmallow world in the winter...When the snow comes to cover the ground..."

This morning, the fresh snow was like fine sugar, sparkling in the sunshine.  That made it a little easier to swallow the news that today's high was supposed to be -3 degrees.  I think we actually may have gotten to zero or a tad above.

Meanwhile, I've been cranking out the Christmas in the sewing room.  Quite a few more zipper pouches, mug rugs, and other things have been created.  Some of them have already been gifted as well.

Still, there are a couple more things to finish.

A friend had requested a table mat in the colors of a different season.  I've made her ones with Christmas and spring/summer themes in the past, so I chose fall.  (You can find my string ring table mat tutorial HERE, if you're interested.)

Yesterday I basted a quilt but could not find my Kwik Klip.  That's the gadget I use to help close the safety pins in basting.  I looked and looked, to no avail.  I fear it may have rolled off the table into the wastebasket.  Last I saw it, it was in that general vicinity.

Instead, I grabbed a chopstick that I'd been using to help turn the zipper pouches.  

It worked as well as, maybe even better than, the Kwik Klip!

I've had fun making Christmas Tree minis from Kevin's tutorial.  They're a great mug rug size.  

So far, the "tree farm" has produced a grove of six.  Cute little things, aren't they?

In the kitchen, I've succumbed to the urge to bake for the holidays.  No, that's not really true.  I'm baking for ME.  The holidays couldn't care less if I baked!

When I was a kid, one of the things I remember we had at Christmastime was an Orange Date-Nut Cake.  It was baked in a tube pan and then you poured an orange syrup over it and let it soak in.  It was sort of like a lighter version of a fruit cake, as in not quite as dense and minus the candied cherries.  Really sweet, though.  You needed to have it with a cup of strong black coffee to balance the sweetness.

I can't eat that way anymore (no gluten or dairy, and way less sugar), but I miss those flavors.  So I adapted a gluten-free nut bread recipe and it worked!  Minimally sweet (only 1/3 cup of sugar versus multiple cups), but still rocking the orange-date-nuttiness of the original recipe.  Woo-hoo!

Here is the recipe.  Merry Christmas!

Orange Date-Nut Bread
2 cups gluten-free flour (I mixed my own: ½ c. EACH sorghum, tapioca, rice, and almond flours)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 eggs
1/3 cup brown sugar
¼ cup butter or butter substitute, melted (I use ghee)
¾ cup orange juice, freshly squeezed (about 3 oranges, juiced; add the pulp from squeezing back in)
1 Tablespoon fresh orange zest
1 cup chopped dates (use unsweetened whole dates and cut or snip them into pieces with scissors – I  also soak the chopped dates for 5 minutes in boiling water and then drain the water off)
¾ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Stir the first five dry ingredients together in a small bowl.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl, mix together the eggs, brown sugar, melted butter or substitute, orange juice, and orange zest.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until moistened.  Stir in chopped dates and walnuts, and chocolate chips, if using.  Spread batter into a greased loaf pan.  Sprinkle with 1-2 teaspoons of coarse granulated sugar, if desired.  Bake 40-45 minutes.  Let the loaf cool for 10 minutes in the pan before removing it to a rack to continue cooling.  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Sunday Sundry 12-4-16

I don't know if you know this, but just thinking about a blog post doesn't get it done.  Funny how that works!

I bet I'm not alone, though, in composing something in my head that never makes it to the page.  Most of the time it's while I'm in the middle of work or another task.  The moment passes, several hours or days, maybe, and then it seems like old news.  If I can even remember what it was, that is. 

Anyway, I want to do a Quilty 365 update before the link-up expires. Nothing like a deadline to get something done!

I got on a roll and actually had most of my November circles made before the second week of the month.  That turned out to be a good thing, because then the wind went out of my sails for a little while and there was minimal-to-no sewing.

Deviating from a color of the month theme, I had more or less decided that November would be a free-for-all.  As it turned out, sifting through the scrap boxes, I was drawn to the fabrics that had faces, so I ran with that.  People, animals, and a few other random things that caught my eye.

In the end, 30 circles.  My total tally so far for the project is 307.  I'm feeling good about that, and hanging in there for the rest of December.  I may not get to 365 before I hit the one-year mark, since I started last January, but it'll be enough to put together a quilt.

* * * * *
In reorganizing the basement, we did a pretty major purge.  Sold a big wrought iron aquarium stand on Craigslist.  Drove three carloads of stuff to Goodwill.  The circle of life:  Quite a bit had come from the thrift store, and to the thrift store it was returned.  Now someone else can enjoy those eclectic acquisitions from past years.  Meanwhile, I'll be enjoying a wonderful sense of spaciousness and lightness.

There's still more stuff to sort through and send away, for sure.  It's an ongoing process.

* * * * *
Now I'm doing some Christmas sewing.  The first gift-giving gatherings of the season are taking place this coming week, so I've got to keep my nose to the grindstone if I want to get done what I'd like.

I was gifted a big box of scrubs recently, from the place where I worked part-time for 10 years.  I'm turning some of them into zipper pouches.

So cute!  I'm using THIS tutorial.  They're going together pretty fast.  It's been a few days since I took this picture, and now there are 11 done. 

Have you seen Kevin's latest post?  He has a tutorial for the cutest little mini-quilt!  I had to try it right away.  I've got one ready to sew together, but no pictures yet.

Are you doing any "secret sewing" for the holidays, or have you gotten it all done already?